Wizards of the Coast recently released a new core rulebook for Dungeons & Dragons called Monsters of the Multiverse. In it, readers can find new information on over 30 playable character races and 250-ish monsters. That’s …a lot. Much of the content reflects updates and redesigns of existing races and monsters, replete with lore, background, and added flavor for any game where you want to drop them in. Need the new version of the Kenku race to make playing one more balanced and fun? This book has got you covered. Want to see the newly formatted and balanced stat block for a juiblex, whatever the heck that is? Flip to it and get going.
There’s just one problem at the moment. If you want the new Monsters of the Multiverse book, you’ll have to spend around $170 MSRP.
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Not because it’s nine feet tall and will make you dinner. That price is because you can’t buy the book by itself right now. You have to buy the “Rules Expansion Gift Set” which includes Xanathar’s Guide to Everything, Tasha’s Cauldron of Everything, and a Dungeon Master’s Screen. And you may not want to because all that other stuff has been out for a while and most dedicated players –the kind who would drop $170 on something like this– probably already own them. The Monsters of the Multiverse book will eventually be for individual sale, but not until the middle of May, almost four months after the box set release.
Cynics out there are complaining that this bundling of unwanted stuff with the new hotness is just an ugly cash grab on the publisher’s part.1 And that they’re relying on the psychology of collecting to get people to drop $170 just so they have a complete collection of rulebooks. Some people feel like they have to own every official product that gets shipped. People generally hate to leave collections unfinished and we may fear losing out on the opportunity to buy something once a limited run is complete. Things that are rare or dwindling in availability are usually seen as more valuable because that’s a simple mental shortcut that has served us well throughout our evolution. I’ve written about this before in the context of collecting.
It’s annoying. But you all, it could have been worse. Allow me to explain.
We tend to apply this “rare/dwindling = valuable” shortcut to things that are, well, rare or dwindling. But this isn’t the case with the box set in question. First, Monsters of the Multiverse will eventually be for sale by itself come May. That’s the opposite of dwindling. It’s …windling? It will actually become more common.
Second, a close examination of the product reveals that there’s nothing you get from buying it now versus picking up everything separately. I think it’s just the slipcase box that the books come in. Even the DM screen appears to be the same as what’s in the DM Essentials kit. So there’s not even any fear of missing out except timing.
All in all, that’s pretty weak. If Wizards of the Coast had REALLY wanted to go for this cash grab with both hands and a foot, it would have activated a sense of scarcity by making the box set the only way to get the collector’s edition with the special cover.
Because, like an overzealous comic book publisher from the 1990s, Wizards always releases special editions of their books with variant covers in limited runs. There is also a version of the Rules Expansion Gift Set that has the collector’s editions of all three books, including the never-available-before Monsters of the Multiverse. Typically these sell out pretty quickly and they don’t go through additional printings. Which triggers feelings of GENUINE scarcity and the corresponding bump in value.
So if Wizards of the Coast were to create artificial scarcity by making this boxed set the only way to get the alternate cover for the new book, they’d trigger a lot more inflated perceptions of value and I think a lot more people would buy it. Just to be clear, they’re NOT doing this. But things could always be worse.
Nobody tell them, just to be safe.