Dungeons and Dragons Online: A Second Look at DDO

Updated Mon, Sep 26, 2011 by jeffprime

dungeons and dragons online - second look at ddo

We’ve been taking a second look at many games recently here at Ten Ton Hammer. Most of those second looks were undertaken to see how the games had changed and if they were worth going back to once they made the decision to go free-to-play (Champions Online, Age of Conan). Now it’s time to look at the game that started the revolution of the hybrid F2P/paid subscription model sweeping the industry: Dungeons and Dragons Online

Let’s begin with a little bit of background information. I’ve been a lifelong gamer, playing everything from video games to board games. However, one of my favorite style of games is pen-and-paper role-playing games. I started playing Dungeons and Dragons way back in 1981 (when it was known as Advanced Dungeons and Dragons!) and have since continued playing to the present day. When Dungeons and Dragons Online was announced, I was therefore eager with anticipation over finally playing online in the game world that I had spent so much time adventuring within my imagination. While I was initially disappointed that the game setting wasn’t Forgotten Realms (or Greyhawk), but rather Eberron, I eventually came around and embraced the setting.

dungeons and dragons online - second look at ddo
The latest class for DDO: the Artificer.

Overall, I thought that Turbine did a good job of capturing the feel of the pen-and-paper game, and had made good choices in tweaking the mechanics for online gaming. My gaming group spent many hours adventuring in Eberron, but we eventually drifted away to other games over time. When the new model was introduced, I decided to return to DDO to see what changes and additions had been made to the game.

Hybrid Subscription

The biggest difference in Dungeons and Dragons Online is how you choose to play the game. Turbine introduced a hybrid subscription model that ranged from free to the paid monthly subscription that we’re all familiar with. There are three levels of subscription in DDO: free, premium, and VIP. Free players have two character slots, limited gold capacity, and limits on chat, auction house posting, forum posting, and in-game mail. In addition, there are many adventures in DDO that are unavailable for free players as well as some character races and classes. If a player wishes to get access to these classes, races, and aventures, then they must purchase them from the DDO Store.

Premium players are players who have purchased Turbine Points, the currency you use to buy things from the DDO Store. They do not have limits on forum posting, auction house listing, or gold capacity. They also receive a total of four character slots. Like free players, if they want access to certain races, classes, and adventures, then they need to purchase them from the cash shop.

dungeons and dragons online - second look at ddo
It burns!

VIP members are those who pay a monthly subscription fee to play the game. They get a total of ten character slots and full access to adventures, races, and classes. The exceptions are favor based races (Drow) and classes (Favored Soul and Artificer). (Currently, the Artificer class in only available through purchase, but Turbine has stated that, in the upcoming Update 12, players will be able to gain Artificers through favor.) VIP players also get 500 points per month to spend in the cash shop.

Does this mean that a player can play the entire game for free? The answer to that is no. You will eventually want to spend some money to buy various adventure packs, which are groups of themed adventures bundled together. You can gain free points to spend in the cash shop by gaining favor, but you’ll have to grind like a madman for a very long time to get enough points to buy more than a few adventure packs. This talk of buying leads us to….


With Dungeons and Dragons Online going to their hybrid model, microtransactions came to the game in the form of their cash shop. The store contains many items for sale, including experience boosts, vanity items, tomes to enhance stats, hirelings, adventure packs, gear, and more. The prices are, overall, pretty reasonable, and there is always a sale of some kind going on. The best feature of microtransactions in DDO is that when you purchase a class, race, or adventure pack, it unlocks for your entire account on the server you are on. If you wish to level a bard after playing a rogue to end-game, you’ll have access to all the adventure packs that you’ve purchased. This is a welcome change from the cash shops found in Eastern games, where items are bought only for a limited time or for a single character.

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