Dungeons and Dragons Online: A Second Look at DDO

Dungeons and Dragons Online started the hybrid F2P revolution and has since added tons of new content and features. Jeffprime ventures into the world of Eberron to give DDO a second look.

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.

New Content and Gameplay

Content is key to online games, and Dungeons and Dragons Online has been steadily adding new content since their change. Turbine has added new races (Half-Elf, Half-Orc), new classes (Favored Soul, Artificer - start making those new builds!), new areas (Lordsmarch Plaza, House Cannith), and new adventures. So far in 2011, Turbine has released three updates, with Update 11 being the most recent. A fourth update, Update 12, is expected towards the end of the year.

dungeons and dragons online - second look at ddo
Half-Elves are hot...

dungeons and dragons online - second look at ddo
...while Half-Orcs are ugly!

DDO has also added an Epic setting for their adventures. Now level-capped players can go back and play earlier adventures, but with a difficulty that will suit their demi-god status.

Gameplay hasn’t changed much, except for the addition of hirelings, guild housing and rewards, and crafting. The meat-and-potatoes of the game is still adventuring in instanced quests and wilderness areas. I absolutely love the fact that you can get a quest, spend 30 seconds walking to the entrance point, and then going into your adventure. I hate with the fury of a million suns having to spend a lot of wasted time running to where I need to go to do a quest. I still get nightmares of Stranglethorn Vale in World of Warcraft or spending 15 minutes flying on a griffon to get to another zone.


Hirelings are an awesome addition to DDO. These adventurers-for-hire are used to fill out a group if needed and will accompany you on your quests. You can purchase them from the cash shop or purchase them from in-game vendors. The difference between purchase types is that you can only have one hireling active from an in-game vendor and you must summon them from the entrance of the quest. If you purchase the hirelings from the cash shop, you can have as many as you wish and can summon them anywhere within a dungeon.

dungeons and dragons online - second look at ddo
Buying a hireling.

I like hirelings as they fulfill a basic need. If a friend and I only have an hour to play for the night, we don’t have to waste time trying to get a group together. We can grab some hirelings and hit the dungeon right away. While hirelings are useful, they do not fully replace having a player take that party slot.


Update 9 brought crafting to DDO. Before this introduction, there was only the very limited crafting of perhaps adding a small bonus to an item by using a Stone of Change. With the new crafting system, players can create their own items. The crafting method in DDO is that you can strip essences off a magic item in the crafting hall. You then create shards of differing magical effects from the different essences. Lastly, you combine the shards with a blank item (say a sword, ring, or piece of armor) to create your new item. There are three schools of crafting and players can learn all three.

dungeons and dragons online - second look at ddo
Doing some crafting.

An interesting feature of the system is that you don’t learn recipes like you do normally in other MMOGs. Here, you can see all the choices available to you, but each recipe has a level associated with it. You can try to create an item using a recipe higher in level than your crafting level, but your chances decrease as the level gap widens.

The crafting system is decent, but a trifle cumbersome. The best feature is that it allows players some flexibility in creating magical items.


Dungeons and Dragons Online has added quite a bit to the game since going to their hybrid free-to-play model. Is the game worth going back to? My answer is definitely yes. Even if you only want to play for free, you can play for quite some time without spending a dime. I would recommend buying adventure packs as most of the really good adventures, especially higher level, are not free-to-play. If you keep a sharp eye out for promotions and sales, you can easily stretch your gaming dollar.

dungeons and dragons online - second look at ddo
Traps in a MMOG? Madness!

There are still some weaknesses in Dungeons and Dragons Online. First, PvP still blows. It’s essentially dueling and team skirmishing at the present time. There are also no rewards for playing PvP; it’s just fluff. While I normally don’t do much PvP, I wouldn’t mind seeing some improvements by having different scenarios and perhaps vanity items or such given out as rewards. There also needs to be more end-game content for players. Update 11 has added some much needed end-game content (as will Update 12), but end-game players could definitely use more.

Overall, DDO has become a stronger game since it changed to the hybrid F2P. There have been additions to gameplay and lots of new content, and Turbine has done a good job of pumping out new updates on a regular basis. I can’t recommend the game enough. How can you not love a game where a rogue gets regular party invites because they’re actually useful? Only in DDO, my friends. Grab some friends and do some dungeon crawling, but keep an eye out for traps!

To read the latest guides, news, and features you can visit our Dungeons & Dragons Online: Eberron Unlimited Game Page.

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