In the latest issue of Dragon+ magazine, we get our first helping of information regarding Standing Stone Games' next expansion for Dungeons & Dragons Online, which will be set in Eberron's Sharn: City of Towers. Interestingly, the interview places the add-on as arriving in Spring 2019, which could mean that we'll be embarking on some vertical adventures with a tiefling character in the next six months:
As part of that continual journey of discovery, players will soon be able to venture forth to a new location. Appearing at the heart of the Eberron campaign setting will be a towering, vertical metropolis that stretches high into the skies above and plummets down into the depths below At the top the wealthy reside, while at the bottom its inner- workings can be found. This is the city of Sharn. Players must travel there in search of a stolen artifact that was taken during the Disciples of Rage storyline. What the thief intends to do with the artifact remains a mystery so players must cross the sea, enter Sharn, and learn to navigate its unique threats and power players in order to return the item back to its rightful place.
"Sharn is the biggest city in Eberron and one of the things about it is it's not horizontal, it's vertical. As were laying out the actual pieces of Sharn for the players to adventure in, they can look up and down and may experience content in the highest heights and then the lowest depths," Ciccolini explains.
The team at Standing Stone Games has used all that space to its full potential. Quests and dungeons will offer players different types of adventuring experiences depending on where they choose to go in the city. "Going from all the way down into the very bowels of the city into the highest echelons where players will deal with the nobles offers a great variety of storylines for the upcoming Sharn event," Ciccolini continues. "Players can go down into an area called the Cogs, where all the weird gear and magical pieces that make the city run exist. This has been overrun and is a dangerous place. But they can also interact with high society, which is a nice juxtaposition." Ciccolini describes this urban adventure as being full of "villains that are characters rather than monsters," adding with a smile: "Not that there won't be plenty of stuff like that dwelling in the Cogs for the players to find and maybe get eaten by!"
That's not the only way Standing Stone Games is experimenting with its approach to adventuring in the Sharn expansion. While previously established elements will still be in evidence, the team is introducing exciting new changes to provide a greater sense of exploration and a few surprises along the way." Sharn will have a lot of raid content but will also have more exploratory content in the Cogs that's a little different," Ciccolini says. "Not only will you have dungeons in the main storyline, but you'll also be able to explore the Cogs and have some more surprising encounters."
"It's a bit of a departure," Crow adds. "Traditionally players are used to interacting with a collection of quest givers who tell them which dungeons they can visit, and that lets them know these dungeons are just sitting there. But having a space where they can roam around and find opportunities for adventures themselves adventures they may not know the exact location of or when they'll be available — adds another option for play."
Alongside new gameplay, the Sharn expansion also adds the popular tiefiing race to the MMORPG for the first time. The developers have spent a lot of time working out the different aspects of how this race will look and function in game. "We're working on how were going to create the tails, and as tieflings are a horned race we are also thinking how we want those horns to look with various character options. Our animators have always been very good at giving little animation layers to the races so we can provide a wide variety of looks to various characters," reveals Ciccolini. "And the animators are obviously excited because creating a new race always involves creating a new dance. So how are tieflings going to dance?" Players who want to immediately dive in with the new race can opt to play an 'iconic' tiefling, which provides them with a pre-built 15th level character ready to journey into Sharn.
The Sharn expansion for Dungeons & Dragons Online once again shows how this MMORPG has taken the tabletop game and created something that allows players to hop online, find like-minded players and be a part of an adventure within minutes. "It's not only a love letter to Dungeon & Dragons, it's also a love letter to all of the people who play and the process of grouping together and forming parties to enjoy it," says Ciccolini.
"We allow you to play the way you want to play and for me that embodies the spirit of D&D. DDO has always lent itself very well to that concept," echoes Crow. "It's having adventures and fun with your friends in a way that is enjoyable for you. Because there's something to be said for all those quirky moments that happen at the table where your friend did a really neat thing or those cool ideas that somebody built from scratch."
That spirit will continue beyond the upcoming Sharn expansion and into the future of Dungeons & Dragons Online. Because while the current focus is on the Spring 2019 release for Sharn, the team is already toying with other potential iconic locations and settings from D&D history. The Isle of Dread, anyone? So expect many years of adventures still to come once the cake has been cut for the 13th anniversary celebrations in February!