I am so against the DDI. Just the idea of it makes me upset. For a one year subscription they charge $60. I could by two gaming books for that price. I don't like the idea of renting information. Like the encyclopedia salesman coming to your door and offering you a beautiful set of leather bound encyclopedias, they are $20 a month. Buy? No, you can't buy these encyclopedias. They are for lease only.
The whole sales model is rotten to me. But, I came into some money that I didn't think I deserved, but that I couldn't turn down, so I bought 3 month's worth. $20. Thinking that even if I didn't like it, I could save all the pdf's and keep the character builder. Those are worth $20. Maybe.
So, yesterday, I did not even go beyond the character builder. I built Therryk. I built a Warden, just in case. I built a 30th level, just for fun. It was. . .nice. I wasn't sold, though. Not until today.
I came home from school intending to mess around with Gimp some, I have a couple encounters for my eventual turn that might require me to design a map in advance, and I'd like to try Gimp for that, rather than graph paper and a pencil, when I should be paying attention in Physics. I wanted to finish the creatures in the encounter, first, and thought I would try the encounter builder.
Not impressed, not at all. Well, I was getting impressed slowly as I went along. Ooh, chose the creature and it adds the XP, nice. Wow, I can sort by role, or keyword, handy. But, when I got to the end, and it did not give me the option to print the statblocks, I was. . .disappointed. A totally missed opportunity. How handy to have the whole thing in one package.
I found the statblocks I wanted in the Rules Compendium, however, and was impressed even more by the functionality of that tool. Allowing you to sort even more than the encounter creator, and allowing you to page through the whole statblocks when your results popped up meant that I had a whole host of options available again.
Of course, those two tools alone are not really worth the price. It is the fact that they include every published adventure, supplement, splatbook, and pdf that makes it work. Monsters from RPGA adventures and the Scales of War and any other regularly released adventure are included, and those include leveled versions of some Monster Manual creeps. I never even got to Gimp. I ended up finishing up and printing out 6 encounters this afternoon, where before they were nebulous ideas, now I have creatures to go with them, calculated to the appropriate challenge rating from the Encounter Builder (I also typed up short little tactics blocs, since I sometimes get nervous and fudge these. Or copypasta from a Dragon magazine article).
So, yeah, for DMing these tools are *huge* time savers, and tremendous for adding new and different foes for your party. I hate that Wizards has hooked me like this, but at the same time, they delivered on a pretty good product. If they could only get the interface smoothed out (my suggestion would be merging the encounter builder into the Compendium, it is easier to navigate, and you could print out the stat blocks all at once) , but that is a nitpick. I am duped. I am sold. I am ashamed...