A new company is offering players a premium Dungeons & Dragons experience, complete with high-quality props, handouts, maps, and just about everything a Dungeon Master (DM) needs to run a game with minimal prep time.
Earlier this month, my gaming table sat in awe of Beadle & Grimm's Platinum Edition of Waterdeep: Dragon Heist, a deluxe, premium version of the Dungeons & Dragons adventure released last fall. They eyed the massive box shaped like an oversized tome complete with faux-leather cover, and tenderly handled the pins, rings, necklaces, and strange stones that sat inside of it. While we're only two chapters into a massive six-part adventure, several of the players eagerly asked when we could start Dragon Heist and play with all of the goods inside Beadle & Grimm's fantastic new product.
Beadle & Grimm's is a new company founded by actor Matthew Lillard and four members of his longtime D&D group. "We are a bunch of middle-aged guys that sat around our gaming table and talked about all the stuff we wanted to do," Lillard told ComicBook.com in a phone interview. "We're at this point in our lives where we have great careers and we have families and kids, and we were just looking for something else fun to do that utilized all the things that we come together to enjoy. We were talking about doing and creating an escape room. We were talking doing a mystery box. That conversation went on for years, bullshitting while ordering pizza before you start to play D&D."
Lilliard then explained the pitch that eventually launched Beadle & Grimm's: "My buddy Bill said, 'If you're a fan of Pearl Jam, and they drop a new record, people will download the music. Then there's another level of fan that will go out and buy the vinyl. But the super fan, the incredible fan, is gonna go out and buy the boxed edition with the liner notes and the tour lists, and the pictures behind the scene that you can't find anywhere else."
Lillard pitched the idea to the Wizards of the Coast team during Dungeons & Dragons' Stream of Annihilation, a weekend-long streaming event in 2017 where D&D unveiled its new adventure for the year. Beadle & Grimm's then officially launched just ahead of the Stream of Many Eyes in 2018, debuting just in time for the announcement of Waterdeep: Dragon Heist.
Of course, the Platinum Edition is more than a "must have" collector's item -- it's also a great resource for a DM to build a premium version of Dragon Heist. Beadle and Grimm's came up with a ton of great tools for a DM, all designed to cut down on prep time and making running the game a more pleasant experience. In addition to splitting the actual adventure into nine pamphlets, the company also designed encounter cards that are meant to hang on a DM's screen. The encounter card allows players to see the monster they're facing, while the DM has access to that monster's relevant stats right in front of them. Honestly, the encounter cards are probably the most useful tool in the Platinum Edition, and Lillard said they're seeing if the company can eventually make them for sale individually. "We would love to do it, but that's not necessarily up to us," Lillard said, implying that Wizards would ultimately make that decision.
"Our mission statement is to deliver to the DM opportunities to make the game better for the players," Lillard explained when asked how the company decided what went into the box. "Our North Star is 'do the players get a lot of touches?' Do the players get to see a lot of the encounter cards? We want your experience when you're gaming with one of our boxes, to have lots of touches. We want you to see our stuff a lot so that you know that we're delivering value to the DM and to the player."
Lillard elaborated that he and his business partners often fell back on their experiences playing together for 28 years. He noted that his DM (who is also a co-founder of Beadle and Grimm's) showed visual references, pulling up pictures of monsters on his computer to show to the player. Those visual references turned not only into the encounter cards, but also exclusive pieces of artwork commissioned just for the box.
While Beadle & Grimm's sold out of the Platinum Edition, a major conversation surrounding the box was its hefty price tag. At $500 a box, Lillard and his co-founders had to a lot of work to do in order to convince the D&D community that the company was adding value to the game. "Our idea of a $500 price point is that you have five players and everyone kicks in $100," he noted. "If that game takes you 18 to 22 months to finish, amortized out, that's nothing." Supposing that your party of five needs only 40 hours to play through Dragon Heist, the box's price comes out to about $3.25 per hour of play, per player, which is a lot less intimidating than the Platinum Edition's actual price tag.
Beadle & Grimm's is also planning on releasing lower-priced tiers of boxes in the future. Lillard noted that Beadle & Grimm's next release would be a "Silver Edition," which won't have as much stuff, but will still strive towards that "North Star" of delivering lots of touches and a killer experience for players. One of their goals with their upcoming Silver Edition will be to give interested players a much less expensive opportunity to try out the Beadle & Grimm's experience.
Lillard also recognized that Beadle & Grimm's first year was very much a learning process. Because the company didn't launch until Dragon Heist's official announcement, it was well behind the eight ball in terms of timing. That led to the Platinum Edition coming out a few months after the adventure was released. There were also some learning on the fly; Lillard told us that the company decided to reprint some of the extra art on a better paper stock at the 11th hour as it wasn't satisfied with the paper quality on the first batch of prints. However, now that Beadle & Grimm's is on the same timeline as other licensors and it has a successful product under its belt, the process of building its next product is going a lot smoother.
Beadle & Grimm's isn't resting after selling out of its Platinum Edition, either. Lillard revealed that it has three products planned for this year, and that the company is constantly looking for feedback to make the boxes better. In addition to spending "hours and hours" on Reddit reading and responding to feedback before the boxes were released -- Lillard said that the first comment he received on Reddit was that the boxes were a scam -- he's also seeking out ideas on how to incorporate other players' play styles. "We're building boxes based on our style of game," Lillard said. "I want to build boxes based on other people's styles of game."
Although the Platinum Edition is sold out, and Beadle & Grimm's has no plans to make a second run of the box, the company is still selling some of the items that appear in the box. Pins representing the various factions in Waterdeep are still available for sale on its website, as are Dragon coins and Trollskull Tavern cups. To me, these pins and rings represent something special -- a physical token of the worlds I spend so much of my time in. Sure, I have D&D miniatures and art pieces and books and T-shirts, but holding a Harper's pin just brought an unbridled smile to my face.0comments
After chatting with Lillard about Beadle & Grimm's, it's clear that he's genuinely trying to build a new kind of Dungeons & Dragons experience. "What we decided to put in the box is dictated by the principles of great game play, what we think is bitchin'," Lillard said. "It may not be the most profitable business model, but it's our business model today." That enthusiasm definitely translates into the quality and thoughtfulness of the Platinum Edition, a box that could be the harbinger for a brand-new kind of D&D experience.
Beadle & Grimm's currently has a select number of individual pieces on sale at its website. Future product announcements and pre-orders will also be made on their site.