The 8 people who made Dungeons & Dragons cool just launched their answer to the game. Hasbro and its game empire should be very, very nervous.

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  • Dungeons & Dragons' most famous players have an answer to the game they've played on Twitch since 2015.

  • The cast of "Critical Role" launched the open beta for their new gaming system, Daggerheart, on Tuesday.

  • D&D's publisher, Wizards of the Coast, a subsidiary of the gaming giant Hasbro, should be afraid.

Nerd royalty has spoken, and a new era of tabletop role-playing games has begun.

Last year, people packed into a sold-out Wembley Arena to watch the eight-person cast of "Critical Role" play Dungeons & Dragons. The team effectively brought the game out of nerd-dom and into the mainstream. But on Tuesday night, they took a break from the game that made them famous and launched Daggerheart, their answer to Dungeons & Dragons.

Led by their game master, Matthew Mercer, the team went on Twitch to give a four-hour live demonstration of its new gaming system. Thousands of viewers tuned in. It's not often that the launch of a new board game gets the airtime this one is getting: "Critical Role" has more than 1.3 million followers on Twitch, and the cast members have dedicated fanbases of their own.

Daggerheart comes with its own lore, magic, and monsters, but it's still built around classic elements of role-playing games rolling dice, character sheets, and combat mechanics. The game also involves a card system that outlines a character's history and experience.

The cast also introduced its audience to a new slate of character types. Ever wanted to be a monkey with healing powers or a wizard who also happens to be a beetle? Yep, that's possible, since it's not just about elves, dwarves, and goblins anymore.

Critical Role Productions CEO Travis Willingham, who's a core cast member, told Business Insider in September that the company's investment in Darrington Press — the publishing arm through which these gaming systems are being released — had been "incredibly exciting and rewarding."

"We were frankly just overjoyed with the response," Willingham said of the game systems' early playtest at 2023 Gen Con. "A lot of this is us just kind of figuring it out as we go and giving it our best shot. And we know that won't always be enough, but when there's a positive reception to it, it's extremely rewarding."

While it's too soon to say how successful the new launch will be, the Daggerheart open beta is a potential game changer for RPG fans.

This year marks the 50th anniversary of the publication of the first edition of Dungeons & Dragons — a game that counts millions of people, including Elon Musk, among its fans. To celebrate the anniversary, Wizards of the Coast, the game's current owner, is launching One D&D, a codename for a new generation of the game with updated rulesets and digital play options. This launch comes with a series of books, set to be released in late 2024, that can be used with the immensely popular fifth edition of the game — which "Critical Role" helped to popularize.

The release of One D&D wasn't without controversy. The previous edition's Open Game License allowed creators to publish and profit from work compatible with the game.

But in 2023, Wizards of the Coast tried to introduce a new version of the OGL that would require independent creators — whose work helped the game's pop-culture resurgence — to report sales and give Hasbro a cut of 20-25% of sales above $750,000, Gizmodo reported, citing a leaked copy of the license.

In January 2023, The Motley Fool reported that while D&D provided 22% of Hasbro's annual revenue, it created 78% of its profit. The attempted cash grab associated with the new OGL caused prominent third-party publishers to balk, and they began working on their own systems. Fans revolted and vowed to burn the game to the ground. Hasbro went into damage-control mode, eventually spinning a reversal as a win for shareholders.

"Dungeons & Dragons welcomes all creators," Dan Rawson, senior vice president of Dungeons & Dragons at Wizards of the Coast, told BI.

"Everyone is welcome to play their way, and every creator that gets more people excited about playing and running RPGs is awesome in my book," he added. "The entire cast and crew at Critical Role has made great contributions to D&D and TTRPG gaming, and we look forward to seeing what's next."

Fans of "Critical Role" may not see Daggerheart being played regularly on the crew's Twitch channel yet. But fans can play the game for free now, and it's undeniable that the open beta of Daggerheart poses a direct threat to the Hasbro-owned legacy brand. It's possible to rebuild your Dungeons & Dragons characters in Daggerheart, and the complex capabilities built into the game allow for extended narrative-driven campaigns.

And there's a lot of money to be made here.

March 15, 9:07 a.m. — This story has been updated with a response from Wizards of the Coast.

Read the original article on Business Insider