Eberron: Rising from the Last War


I’m late to the review game here folks, but I’d never forget to do a write up on my favorite Campaign Setting for Dungeons and Dragons. Eberron!

If you want to get my thoughts right out front, Eberron: Rising from the Last War is great. Coming in at 320 pages it is very meaty, and long on assistance for the Dungeon Master. Has some excellent tidbits for players too. It’s pretty much what I expect to see from an Eberron Campaign setting book. We’ve seen this before in two previous editions of D&D. This setting in particular always does a great job of introducing the world, without getting long winded. You get the perfect bare bones rundown, and are then handed the tools necessary to run with it. That’s the book in a nutshell. If you want to run games in this Campaign Setting, grab this book and you’ll have all the setup you will likely ever need.

Now, let’s flesh this out!

I’d be remiss if I didn’t start with a toast to the alternate cover art. It is one of my favorites since they started down this road of providing such a thing. If you have a choice between the standard cover and the alternate it is really a no-brainer here. Vance Kelly knocked it out of the park. A perfect companion to this weird little pulpy, noir, high fantasy, steampunk world. Does everything you need to set the tone. As for the standard cover (pictured above) I’m not a huge fan, simply because it highlights an area of the world setting I never really play around in, personally I preferred the working cover art, which does make an appearance in the book at least.

The first part of the book spends some needed time introducing players to the basics of Eberron. The background of the world, and what to expect about play style. Eberron has always been set almost immediately after a shaky peace has been negotiated between countries that have been at war for a generation. This sets up a very conflicted world that really allows a DM to play around. With this many groups vying to find their place in a newfound world you can go in a myriad of directions. The best thing about how this has always been handled, and continues to be handled, is that there is very little hand holding for the DM. You get the info you need to create, but aren’t told specifically which direction to go with it. We don’t even get to know what caused the major cataclysm that instigated the world to sit up and force a peace! That’s on you to explore. It can make for a somewhat advanced treatment for a DM on where to go, some may need a little more help than that, but I have always appreciated the freedom to stretch my imagination some.

Chapter One kicks off some character creation stuff, and this is where player characters will be spending most of their time. This isn’t a tidbit chunk added to appease folks looking for a few new character options, here we get a solid rundown of the changes you’ll find for races of old, and four whole new races to look at.

  • Changelings – Descended from doppelgangers these individuals can change appearances with ease. Often choosing a static humanoid form to be their day to day appearance because their natural form typically earns them nothing but mistrust. Changeling
  • Kalashtar – Tough to describe but they are essentially the blending of humans and psychic spirits. Certainly new type of race to play around with. In fact I’m reminded that I’ve never done much with them personally. Maybe that should change. Kalashtar
  • Shifters – Descended from Lychanthropes, can take on bestial characteristics in order to enhance their natural abilities.Shifter
  • Warforged – Metallic constructs given sentience for the purposes of war. Where they fit in during a peace time their race has never encountered is up to the player. One of my personal favorite additions.Warforged

We are also given a new class to play with known as the Artificer. This is a classic Eberron class that approaches magic with a mixture of tech, often giving a steampunk feel to the style. The Artificer can currently advance in their roles as Alchemists, who delve into potions and other mixtures, Artillerists, that essentially bring a magical turret to the battlemat, or Battle Smiths who function almost like a combat medic. Overall the Artificer is very setting appropriate, but certainly a class for players who have a bit of experience under their belt. There seems to be a lot going on with this class and you’ll want to be prepped.


Another great element to the character creation chapter is the addition of Dragonmarks, which have always been a staple of Eberron, namely I like how they are implemented in 5e. In fact this is probably my favorite implementation to date. In 5e, choosing to take on a Dragonmark replaces your chosen racial/subracial traits. It basically pot commits you to the choice. Really forces a PC’s hand to make use of the role-play aspects of their chosen Dragonmarked house. Definitely a go-to for someone wanting to try something a little different that is setting unique.


Chapter Two delves into Khorvaire, the core of the Eberron world. Here we are informed on the major countries, organizations, faiths, etc. of the lands where the bulk of the action seems to take place in Eberron. At the center of this land mass lies the ever elusive, and highly dangerous, Mournland. The Mournland used to be the country of Cyre until a magical cataclysm turned it into a wasteland of horrific monstrosities and magical hazards. This destruction helped force the uneasy peace that keeps the other powers at be in check, no one wants such a thing to happen in their own backyard.


Anyone familiar with Eberron will recognize this iconic artwork.

Chapter Three highlights just one city located on the continent of Khorvaire. What can be so special about the city of Sharn that it gets a chapter all its own? Just to whet your appetite, the city is so massive it must be contained via magic to support it’s growth upwards rather than out. The city of Sharn is aptly referred to as the City of Towers for this reason. If you’re looking for the noir aspects claimed by lovers of this campaign setting here is where you might want to set down some roots. Shadows loom lengthy in a city where those above you get richer as the layers get laid. Mysteries abound around every corner as groups like the Boromar Clan operate like gangsters, or the Tyrants utilize Changelings for information dealing. I’ve personally used Sharn frequently for some excellent adventures. Truly a unique city for tabletop rpgs. The book gives some great detail on districts and organizations. Just enough for you to work with as usual.

Chapter 4 is the Dungeon Master’s toolbox essentially. Lots of great embellishment of villainous groups, and some morally gray ones at that. With the exception of perhaps the Emerald Claw most groups aren’t outright evil, they just find themselves at odds with what many would consider “good” when they start looking out for themselves. You’ll find details of places beyond Khorvaire here, some good maps, travel considerations, and more. Plus, lots and lots of random roll tables to help pad some stuff out. Rounding thing out, we are gifted with a nice little adventure, titled Forgotten Relics, for a DM to either use or peruse in order to get an idea of what an adventure in this setting might look like. Looks to be a one shot that could last two or three sessions.

Emerald Claw Adv Hooks

Chapter 5 focuses on treasure specific to Eberron. Everything here is something you’d find unique to such a world. It isn’t the highlight chapter of the book for me but it is a nice added touch. With over 20 new magic items to dole out it will be easy to nudge one of these items out for the players.

Chapter 6 is a 40 page highlight of some of the NPCs and foes you might run into in this world. I’m always a fan of more baddies to throw at my players, especially ones fresh to a setting so they might not be privy to all the information about the beast. I mean, we need to know what lurks in the Mournland right, or the jungles of Xen’Drik? If the players are foolis…I mean brave enough to try and muck about in such places, I need to be prepared!

My opening remarks stand. Eberron: Rising from the Last War is a gem. One of the best additions to this particular edition’s line of books. If future Campaign Setting source books follow suit we are looking at some great content. It is doubly fun because I could see this book working for the player and the Dungeon Master equally (with a slight edge to the DM, which is to be expected). Quality books or no, the line of large campaign books we’ve seen of late are typically just a DM’s tool with little to offer the players. Here we have some added content that a player character will enjoy. Would have loved to see such a thing for Ravenloft rather than the adventure we received honestly, not that it was a bad adventure just left a lot of opportunity on the table.

I feel like Eberron: Rising from the Last War is a must have.


P.S. If you’re looking for more Eberron lore to pad your adventures I’d suggest looking into some of the books from previous editions. One of the great things about never advancing the timeline for the setting is that those source books hold up. I personally love Sharn: City of Towers and Five Nations the most. Also, we are starting to see a full crop of Eberron support on DMs Guild (including the pdfs of the two books I mentioned above).



Baldur’s Gate: Descent into Avernus

Splash Page

Baldur’s Gate. Just hearing the name of this iconic fantasy locale conjures the allure of adventure for so many who have spent time with the Forgotten Realms over the years. It is certainly fitting that this sprawling tale begins in the famed city. Baldur’s Gate: Descent into Avernus starts innocently enough with the players simply aiding the city in ridding itself of some typical bad actors, but by the time events come to a head they find themselves far from home, and more powerful than they could have dreamed. How will they fare against the denizens of the first layer of the Nine Hells itself!?

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Cover imagery by Tyler Jacobson shows the symbol of Bhaal in all its splendor with Zariel leading the charge.

Descent into Avernus (DiA) really is sprawling, certainly a roll back to campaign style printings that launched the supplements stylings of 5e. The adventure paths your characters will take in this book start things off at level 1 and should take them all the way to 13 before things are said and done. Going from street level goons in Baldur’s Gate to the big bads of the Nine Hells. A very satisfying arc. Lots of interesting choices to be made as well because there’s more than one way to skin a Tressym.

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The alt cover by Hydro74 features Bhaal’s flame-ringed skull.

The book is almost exclusively geared towards the Dungeon Master, as one would assume with a Campaign of this length. The adventure itself is contained in the first 154 pages of the book. I won’t spoil the story for you, but I find the progression from street level to literal pits of Hell to be natural and well executed. Sometimes adventures this grand can feel forced, but this plays out like one would expect one of the better book series written in Fearun to play out. Normal men and women pushed more and more into fantastic destinies.


Before running the story the DM will want to delve into the Baldur’s Gate Gazetteer chapter so they can freshen up their knowledge base on this dicey Sword Coast town. Here you have fifty pages of details on governance , economy, the citizenry, and all the dangers your players may face. The city is splayed out over the pages in as much detail as you will likely ever need for this campaign and beyond. Almost worth the price of admission for this piece of the book alone if you just wanted background on another Forgotten Realms locale.

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Lastly for the DM we have the appendixes. These cover some of the standard fare like new creatures and magic items that play right into this campaign arc but there are a few unique ones. Appendix A highlights something spoken of often in D&D but rarely given any kind of rules, a deal with a devil. I had a lot of fun reading this section, there is some frightening imagery surrounding these nefarious pacts, I particularly liked the descriptions of how a contract my visually be formed, like kissing a lemur tattooed with infernal runes marking the contract for example! Other appendixes go into infernal war machines, a menu written in infernal, and even some infernal script to play around with.

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Player Characters aren’t fully bereft of options in this book, despite the main focus being on how to help a Dungeon Master run the adventure. In the Baldur’s Gate Gazetteer section the players will find character backgrounds, old ones given a bit of flare specific to the city and a new one called “Faceless” which focuses on characters who might don a disguise to hide who they really are as they take on the scum of villainry in the city! Following backgrounds there is a section unique to this adventure where characters are encouraged to roll randomly for a Dark Secret to add to their character’s history. Also, remember those Infernal War machines I kindof glossed over above? Well, they are seriously awesome and I hope all PCs get a chance to muck about in them. Mad Max eat your heart out (or maybe a demon and or devil will, who knows).

IV 1

IV 2

The team at Wizards of the Coast, with story consultants Joe Manganiello and Jim Zub, have cobbled together an excellent campaign here. Dungeon Masters wanting to run an epic game will certainly find what they need to do so. From the adventure itself to ways to bring that adventure to life with details of Baldur’s Gate and other lore, WotC has made it easy for a DM to bring game night to life for their players. Admittedly players don’t get much here in the way of concrete additions to the character sheet, but there are plenty of details included in the lore to help flesh them out. I find myself easily recommending this book for your table.


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Along with these two excellent books I received some campaign specific dice and information cards on devils and demons, and an expansion pack for Dungeon Mayhem!




Salvage Operation Rewrite: A Ghosts of Saltmarsh Tale

Ghosts of Saltmarsh dropped at a very convenient time in my household. Summer’s approach means a lot of time opening up for my family. This meant I could actually run some Dungeons and Dragons for a change! Wizards of the Coast sent me a review copy of Ghosts, but I didn’t receive it until fairly late in June so at this point I’m fairly certain if you wanted a review of the entire book, you’ve gotten it elsewhere by now. So instead I’ve decided to focus on one adventure in the book, and the many changes I invoked before putting it in front of my players.

*WARNING* this post will contain spoilers for the Ghosts of Saltmarsh adventure Salvage Operation. This is mostly for Dungeon Masters looking to run the adventure a little different than as written.

Salvage Operation, built for a party of 4th level or higher, starts with a great hook, years ago a local lord lost a boat with important documents aboard that essentially prove up most of his wealth. He hasn’t been fairing so well since. However, recently it has been reported that a ghost ship was spotted floating in the open sea five or so days out from Saltmarsh’s harbor. It has also been reported to bear the name of the very ship our lord lost at sea many years ago. In comes your adventurers. They are tasked with sailing out to sea, boarding this floating wreck, and retrieving the lord’s lost paperwork. Should be easy enough yeah?..

Obviously it won’t be or else where is the adventure eh? I loved the concept of this adventure and felt like it would set a great starting tone for my group. Especially since I was starting them at 4th level to make up for the last time we played for a while before having to call it quits. It does a great job of introducing the sea into the mix, and that was something everyone was craving. My only issue with the adventure? Almost none of the encounters on the ghost ship were themed in a manner befitting an adventure on the open seas.

Behold! The ghost ship “Emperor of the Waves”!

I’ll link my excel doc that has the mock up for these floor plans below. I just cut them out and glue them to foam board typically.

There is absolutely nothing wrong with the original author’s concept, a mad half-orc druid has launched the ship off their original island seeking new ground to lay down stakes, I loved that skeleton of an idea. My changes were all wrapped up in who that druid was, and the types of critters he commanded. As written the half-orc druid reveres Lolth, and boy does it show. You have a creepy scene where spiders of all ilk roam over this ship. Swarms, Ettercaps, Giant Spiders, and Giant Wolf Spiders, the ship is lousy with them. It’s deeply disturbing, and haunting. I wanted things to be a little more nautical though so here are a few changes I made.

Spiders became crabs…and a few giant toads

I really liked the idea of the spiders crawling over everything, and wanted to keep that creepy vibe, so pretty much every instance of a spider became either swarms of crabs, giant crabs. These guys didn’t always pack the same kind of punch though so I also added a few Giant toads. Giant toads are great fun by the way, bite and swallow makes for some frightening encounters for players.

Webbing morphed into writhing seaweed

The spiders brought a ton of webbing, and that added some nice aesthetics I wanted to keep. For me it wasn’t a huge stretch to believe that our new ocean based druid (more on him in a bit) might use seaweed to help keep this wreck afloat by wrapping itself around broken timbers and clogging holes in the boat. The players were very uneasy around this slimy stuff. Plus it was easy to add difficult terrain where I needed. Slippery stuff!

Introduction to my Thanoi Druid, and his polar bear friend

I’m not always a fan of grabbing stuff from unofficial D&D sources but I was really into these Thanoi guys when I came across them. Essentially they are walrus people. Pretty barbaric types typically, but it seemed like a lot of fun slapping one in this adventure as our druid who revered Umberlee, The Bitch Queen herself, instead of Lolth. Plus I gave him a polar bear animal companion rather than the Phase Spider the original guy had. For this I had a fun pairing the Druid NPC stat block with the Thanoi one, cutting spells that just don’t thematically work as well and adding new ones like Ice Knife, and adjusting flaming sphere to be a ball of ice instead!

Lastly, that fight in the hold

In the original adventure the cargo hold, where the thing the players want resides, contains some ghasts that were originally sailors on the ship. This works fine but I went with something new here as well. In my narrative our Thanoi trapped a Sea Lion (not the cuddly type) below deck with the intention of trying to tame it for his purposes but has so far been less than successful.

This made for a suitable last fight for the players.

All of these changes made for some fantastic fun with the group. I have a lot of pretty cool resources generated from this as well. I’m happy to share them with you too!

Floor Plan for “Emperor of the Waves” – Boat QuarterDeck

Floor Plan for “Emperor of the Waves” – Boat Main Deck

Floor Plan for “Emperor of the Waves” – Boat Lower Deck

Floor Plan for “Emperor of the Waves” – Boat Cargo

MONSTERS – Salvage Operation

Krell – Thanoi Druid


P.S. Ghosts of Saltmarsh, on the whole, is an excellent book for DMs who want to add some coastal flair to their campaigns. If you’re looking to add things like boats, sea baddies, pirates, etc. into your games I’d highly tout this reference manual as a great accessory. 

The Fellowship is Broken

“Then it has all been in vain, the Fellowship has failed… Not if we hold true to each other.” – Gimli and Aragorn, LotR

It was truly an honor to be a part of this ride.

Hail to all those out there in the Geekery! I return from a long time absent with some bittersweet news. The RPG Academy Network, of which I was proudly a member, has disbanded after years of work in the community promoting gaming to the masses with information, fun, and creative works. It was certainly a grand experiment, one that I know forged a myriad of new friendships and helped highlight some truly creative producers of content. I look back fondly over the years I was actively involved and am ever thankful for the grace in which I remained under banner during the years I slipped away into a less involved state.

So what does this mean for the numerous podcasters, bloggers, and content creators involved? We shall carry on as we will, producing great stuff for our many followers. We will simply be doing so under our own steam for a time, though I imagine help will still be found from the friendships we have crafted if needed, it will just be a less sophisticated form of assistance. Every one of these groups can stand on their own merit, and I like to think that the Network played a good part in getting us there. We can keep that fire going easily enough though. Specifically related to our flagship group, The RPG Academy, they still plan to continue podcasting and AcadeCon is still a go!

I also want to stress that this is an amicable parting of the ways, frankly the stress and effort of running a Network is nothing to sneeze at and recently, with the growing needs of his own show(s), AcadeCon, and day to day life for that matter, I imagine our fearless leader Michael simply needed to step aside from the additional taxing work of managing a large Network of others. I can’t say I blame him. I certainly haven’t been very active of late on my own blog, let alone the Network.

If you are new to my site and find yourself wondering who I am referencing, check out my separate page now titled “Friends of MSG” where you can see a list of many of the talented folks I’m talking about. It was truly an honor to be a part of this ride. I want to thank Michael and Caleb for reaching out those many years back.

As for me? I’m hoping to get back into the swing of posting here. The break has been nice, and very much needed, but I enjoy what I do on this blog too much to simply walk away forever. Keep an eye out for future content, and remember the RPG Academy motto as you go about your gaming “If you’re having fun, you’re doing it right.” Truly some words to live by!


Wayfinder’s Guide to Eberron

Before you direct you attention to the post below can I be so bold as to interest you in a gaming Convention? This November in downtown Dayton, Ohio The RPG Academy will be hosting AcadeCon for their 6th year! Registration is now live and you’d be hard pressed to find a convention this intimate boasting as many special guests as they do, games designers, podcasters, bloggers you name it! Plus, tons of great Game Masters and great games to play. Now, onto the post!


Anyone who has paid any attention to my work over the last few years knows I’m a huge fan of the Eberron Campaign setting. It’s the home of many of my favorite Dungeons and Dragons memories, namely my longest running campaign (a 4th edition run that I meticulously chronicled here). Since 5e hit the scene I’ve spent no small amount of time begging Wizards of the Coast to give us some kind of official content, outside of Unearthed Arcana that is, and not long ago my desires came to fruition! Even better, they went the smart route and tapped Keith Baker as Lead Designer. One can only hope this signals a trend of WotC granting folks the settings they yearn for.

Also, a huge thanks to  my good friend John Appleton, someone who truly loves the hobby and wants to spread that love, for purchasing the book for me simply to ensure I had it so I can introduce my love of Eberron to my library club. Thanks again John, the kids will love the setting!

Wayfinders was released digitally with a caveat that it is possibly still a work in process. No reason for concern in that regard though because once purchased you will have access to all the errata in real-time as they make adjustments to the book. From what I see though we have a wonderfully concise write-up of what we need to know in order to bridge The Dragon Between into this newest edition. Namely the fluff of Eberron is only touched upon in enough detail to ensure newcomers aren’t totally lost, but the mechanics are spelled out in excellent detail.


One of the best ideas Mr. Baker ever had with his setting was to make the timeline static. No matter how many editions this setting ends up rolling through it is unlikely we will ever see a version of Eberron set beyond the date 1001 YK, or rather five years after the official end of the Last War. With relative peace in such infancy you open up so many possibilities for a Game Master to make this world their own. All the lore details in this book are more than enough to work with and there are plenty of instances where we are reminded that certain things are left vague with purpose. You get to decode the story about some of the biggest events and people in this game.



Mechanics wise we get to see some things brought to life that I have really been waiting on. New races like Warforged, Shifters, Changelings, and the Kalashtar are certainly welcomed sights. If I ever get to play in a game, rather than run it, I might take another crack at my Changeling Reality Seeker concept or just run a Warforged again, always loved their unique place in the mythos. The rules for the Dragonmarked Houses look to be more interesting in 5th edition than I’ve ever seen them. We see a new Background called the House Agent that really adds flavor to someone going this route. The Dragon Marks themselves allow you to modify a chosen race as their abilities replace the ones you’d typically get. This seems like an excellent direction to run with while not allowing for those in the houses to seem overpowered. Lot’s of great versatility here.



A couple of other nice additions are a section on magic items, and my favorite fantasy city Sharn, City of Towers. In the magic items chapter we get a good look at what makes magic in Eberron so interesting. Namely, we get to see typical magical equipment, yes, but the best part is the flavor of it all. Eberron comes with a bit of Steampunk mixed with its magic so it’s no surprise that many of the creations here also feel a bit like machines imbued with magic rather than your typical mystical items. I really dig the addition of Warforged components. The section on Sharn, the city where I derived my twitter handle’s name from many years back, is exactly what you’d expect in a book that merely brushes the surface of the world. Personally I own Sharn: City of Towers, but I still loved the addition! What is new though are tons of brand new Backgrounds for Sharn, and some that were simply modified for the city.

Wayfinder’s Guide is an excellent mix of player and GM tools. Tomorrow I start my first adventure in years within Eberron, I’m even building off of the story arc created long ago with the Folly Investigations crew. Here’s hoping I can keep just as good of notes this time around. If nothing else I have some cool new 5e rules to work with, and a brand new table of players. What more can a GM ask for? Thanks agin to Keith and WotC for this wonderful gift to my gaming table. I hope to create some great stories!



Temple of the Spider – D&D 5e Adventure

Before you direct you attention to the post below can I be so bold as to interest you in a gaming Convention? This November in downtown Dayton, Ohio The RPG Academy will be hosting AcadeCon for their 6th year! Registration is now live and you’d be hard pressed to find a convention this intimate boasting as many special guests as they do, games designers, podcasters, bloggers you name it! Plus, tons of great Game Masters and great games to play. Now, onto the post!


Eric Ausley, of Gamerstable Podcast fame, has a certain flavor when it comes to his tabletop creations. Spend any time listening to some of the excellent Gamerstable audio dramas and you can pick up on some of his typical machinations. He likes to surprise his players with a vast array of unique NPCs and villains, that range from flavorful to outright depraved. He also likes to add plenty of dark and slimey to his work. Weirdly though, he has a way of toeing the line between outright grossness that would turn someone off and genuinely interesting, despite that touch of madness. I’d be really interested in what a team up between Ausley and Robert Schwalb would look like. Temple of the Spider is all sorts of Eric Ausley.

Eric Ausley’s “pay what you want” adventure Temple of the Spider, recommended for players of 4th level and currently available on Drive Thru RPG, takes you to some mean streets in a town best known for its mining (and corruption by the sound of it). It’s a grungy town that is simply brimming with political and mercantile intrigue, numerous forces are at play and the common folk are terrified of running afoul of pretty much anyone in power. The PCs represent some options for certain powers trying to get back an important asset that was stolen from them, and your players will be in for a wild ride.

Everything in this module is well crafted and easy to parse. It contains deep dives on NPCs and their motivations and some grim villains as well. All of this leads to a truly shocking final battle that you should certainly enjoy throwing at your players. For me personally I really dig the style that Eric has gone with here.


The adventure is written within a world of Eric’s own creation, Kaleteona, and what tidbits he lays out in this module it seems like a realm I’d like to explore more. I know it is the setting for his Tales of Valevictor games so it certainly holds interest for me. He has a plethora of new Character Backgrounds available here as well. That isn’t to say you couldn’t easily drop this into another setting. I am immediately considering what it would look like to run this adventure in the Cogs beneath the City of Towers, Sharn, now that we have some official Eberron content (a review on this is coming, I promise). Honestly the dirt and grim of the Cogs would suit this very nicely.

I’d suggest this adventure for a more mature audience, of course, but I’d certainly suggest it. Considering it comes with the “pay what you want” price tag you could technically grab it for free, but I typically pay something to the creators of these. You won’t regret your purchase!



Gencon 2018

Good day everyone! Melv here, I know… it’s been a spell, but hey I have a treat for you! Please welcome to the page Gabriel Paduganan aka @LibraryRPG whom I was most fortunate to wrangle into writing up a piece on his Gencon experiences, and they sound like some excellent ones! I was more than happy to lend my Press Badge, for the quality of his writing and because of his work within the community through his library club run for kids (which obviously holds a dear place in my heart).  So sit back and enjoy! Oh, if you have a moment maybe check out Gabriel’s “Go Fund Me” page that is just shy of its goal. The proceeds help kids learn about Tabletop RPGs! -Melvs 


Let me state this up front:  I love games; I’m just not crazy about people.  Most folks are generally tolerable, and I love the gaming community, but I am an introvert through and through.

I’m a father of three children (eight, six, and three years old), and tabletop games have been one of our favorite methods of spending time together.  My older two kids love playing card, dice, and strategy games in all varieties. Their three year-old sister has become my personal dice roller.

I’m also the Dungeon Master for the teen club at our local public library.  For the past year I’ve been guiding younglings through the Lost Mines of Phandelver, and have helped a pair of my players to try DM’ing their own games.  Although I’m not participating in any of my own face-to-face groups at the moment, I’m active in several online RPG communities via Discord and Roll20. Presently, I’m either DM or player in Curse of Strahd, Lost Mines, Laser and Liches, Starfinder (organized play and adventure path), a D&D homebrew campaign, and Midgard.  Seeing that in writing helps me realize why I have very little time to do other things.

Going to GenCon had been a personal goal of mine for several years, but it wasn’t until mid-July that I decided that this would be the year to make it happen.  I’ve been volunteering at various conferences and conventions for over a decade, but rarely go to them as a member of the general public. I purchased a four-day GenCon badge, finalized travel plans and hotel reservations, pre-paid for parking, and selected a handful of events to attend.  It still wasn’t real.

A week prior to GenCon, I received a direct message asking if I’d be interested in writing an article for the highly-regarded Melvin Smif’s Geekery as their representative at the con.  This was literally a dream of mine.  In high school, I was on the newspaper staff and had aspirations of being a journalist before life happened and I decided to become a social worker.  I still enjoy writing quite a bit, but it is usually expressed in the form of campaign notes and character backstories. I’m a little out of practice for formal writing and have always tended toward being a long-winded writer; if you are still reading, you have my thanks and my apologies.

I live in Northwest Alabama; just over the state lines of both Mississippi and Tennessee.  It takes about 6 ½ hours to drive to Indianapolis by way of Interstate 65, passing through Nashville and Louisville and several lesser-villes.  I had planned on taking a long nap on Thursday evening, leaving my house around midnight, and arriving at GenCon early enough on Friday to pick up my badge before the morning rush of attendees.  Unfortunately, travel jitters made my nap ineffectual, and by the time I reached Kentucky I realized that it would be imprudent to drive any further. Somehow I managed to sleep better in the middle row of my van than I had in my bed at home; I managed a four hour nap at a rest stop off of I-65.

Travelling can be an art form, and I like to think that I’m fairly good at it.  I try to spend a little time researching local tips and tricks before heading to a new city.  As part of my pre-GenCon prep, I found that the common complaints surrounding attendance is parking in Downtown Indy.  Luckily, I was able to reserve a parking spot through ParkWhiz.com for $6.00/day, and it was less than a five-minute walk from Lucas Oil Stadium and the convention center.  I pulled into my pre-paid parking spot just after 8 AM, and was walking into GenCon just a few moments later.

Here follows a shameless personal disclosure:  I live with a chronic mental health issue, which results in frequent episodes of depression and/or anxiety.  There were several years of my life in which my worst nightmare was having to go grocery shopping for fear that I’d have to interact with other humans.  Thankfully, I’ve learned some excellent coping strategies and have an excellent primary-care physician. Unfortunately, I ran out of medication the day prior to leaving for GenCon and didn’t have time to visit the pharmacy before leaving town.

As I stepped out of the balmy Midwestern summer heat and into the climate-controlled atmosphere of the Indianapolis Convention Center, I began to panic a little.  Without the aid of my prescribed medication, I was venturing into the presence of tens of thousands of strangers, with no real direction as to where I needed to go or what I was expected to do, other than to submit a readable article at the end of the convention, and to not completely tarnish the good name of Melvin Smif in the process.

Yes, I realize that was a run-on sentence.  Hopefully it conveys the sense of anxiety I felt upon my arrival at GenCon.

Luckily, it didn’t persist very long.  With a healthy measure of controlled breathing and positive self-talk, I ventured into the massive crowd of humanoids, determined that I would not be hindered by my own biochemistry.  I navigated through the seas of geekdom to the press room and retrieved a badge to prove that I was, in fact, a Geekery representative, and was further directed to the customer service desk where I could request a refund for the general admission badge I had purchased one month earlier.  The money that was returned to my bank account will be important later: keep reading.

After picking up the event tickets for seminars and games that I’d pre-registered for, I made my way toward the exhibit hall to check in on a handful of companies that I’ve been following.  For the most part, I steered clear of the major publishers, preferring spend my time and money with smaller-scale and/or family-run companies.

  • Weird Giraffe Games, based out of Huntsville, Alabama (near my home), were promoting Fire in the Library, a press-your-luck game that is currently in production.

  • Junk Spirit Games, who have produced two of my favorite recent games, JunKing and By Order of the Queen, were showing off two of their newer offerings: Battle of the Bards, and Ravens.  They’ll definitely be getting more of my Kickstarter money soon.

  • Bear Food, Inc., makers of the ubiquitous Exploding Kittens, have published several equally fun games.  My kids and I are big fans of Bears vs Babies. If creating fanciful beasts to combat mutant babies sounds like fun to you, I heartily recommend you check it out.

  • Roxley Games was easily the largest company that I’d deemed a must visit.  They picked up Dice Throne from Mind Bottling Games during a highly anticipated Kickstarter campaign, and I commend them greatly for doing so.  Dice Throne was my favorite game last year, and I’m eagerly waiting for the upcoming release of Season Two.

I’d been poring over the exhibit hall map for a week before the con, mapping out my plan of attack so that I could make the most of my time and visit as many booths as possible.  Of course, there were several vendors that caught my eye and relieved me of my dollars. I picked up a paperback copy of the Pathfinder Playtest, as I prefer physical books to digital ones for reference purposes.  The Starfinder Armory was tempting, but the stack of books on my desk is already tall enough without adding another non-essential Starfinder title. There were so many dice and gaming supply vendors that I decided to skip all of them, knowing that bargain hunting would take too much of my time.

My favorite purchase was from the Wyrmwood booth.  By now, most gamers are familiar with their top-quality gaming accessories, including deck boxes, dice trays, and towers.  As an amateur woodworker, I have a lot of appreciation for Wyrmwood’s work, but my admiration goes much further. As I previously mentioned, I’ve been volunteering at conventions for several years.  My organization of choice is Take This, which provides mental health support and education, primarily for gamers and geeks of all kinds. Wyrmwood is also a supporter of Take This, and raises funds for their organization through sales of the Box of Hope, a token made from of one of the same sixteen species of wood that they use for their gaming products.  The type of wood each Hope Shield is made of is random, with a chance to receive a Gabon Ebony shield with a rare inlay. I had determined that since I wasn’t giving my time to Take This during GenCon, I’d purchase a Box of Hope to show my support. In case you’re wondering, the Hope Shield I received was made of Aromatic Cedar (one of my favorite species).  The Wyrmwood sales rep chuckled a little when, upon opening the Box of Hope, I immediately held the shield to my nose to make sure it really smelled like cedar (it did).

After I’d had my fill of the crowded exhibit hall, I left the convention center to check in at my hotel room and to catch a little nap before the evening’s festivities.  As a result of my refunded badge monies, and more than a little luck, I was able to purchase a single ticket for Critical Role Live. I’ve been a big fan of Critical Role since early in their first campaign, and have wanted to see a live performance for quite a while.  The Mighty Nein did not disappoint. In order to prevent spoiling the episode for any who haven’t seen it yet, I’ll refrain from further discussion of the live show, other than to say that it was one of the best events I’ve ever attended.


It was almost two in the morning before my head hit the pillow, so I decided to forgo my scheduled Saturday morning Starfinder Society game in favor of much needed sleep.  My brain and body were not pleased with me for discontinuing my medication regimen, and I was beginning to feel as if I developing a sinus infection. Convinced that I was not contagious, I ate an early lunch and headed back downtown for a day of organized play.

I had previously registered for three Starfinder Society (SFS) sessions with my Ysoki Operative (the Starfinder version of a ratfolk rogue), but, on account of my tenuous grasp on wellness, decided to cancel the early morning Sunday session.  As fate would have it, I was able to trade in my Sunday event ticket for the Saturday night Starfinder Special. During the afternoon session, I participated in a quick SFS game with an excellent GM, and advanced to 6th level. Of course, that meant that I also spent about an hour with the core rulebook, poring over character options, adding skill increases, and ensuring that my stats were all properly crunched in preparation for the evening session.

Rather than wandering around downtown in search of foodstuffs, I dined on granola bars, beef jerky, and an unhealthy amount of energy drinks.  Somehow I consumed no coffee during GenCon, but did not lack in caffeine intake. The remainder of my downtime between SFS sessions was spent searching for the Midgard RPG room.  For those not familiar with Midgard, it is a campaign setting for D&D 5th edition and Pathfinder, published by Kobold Press. They have designed or reworked a figurative metric ton of races, classes, backgrounds, feats, and spells for the setting.  The lore is rich and the character options are nearly limitless. I’ve been playing Midgard with a Discord collective for a couple of months, and wanted to meet one of the organizers in person to thank him for the many hours of work he has put into dungeon mastering for us.  Unfortunately, I was not able to locate the Kobold Press RPG room, despite several circuitous laps around the convention center. Sorry, Mike. I’ll shake your hand next time.

Knowing that the Sagamore Ballroom was soon to be awash with eager Starfinders, I arrived an hour early to get in line even though I’d pre-registered for a seat.  There were at least a hundred players waiting with generic tickets to join in the session, and I didn’t want to take the chance of being late and having my spot given to a walk-on participant.  I was seated at a table with six other players: a couple from Indiana, a trio of buddies from Illinois, and an individual player who proudly displayed his new Wyrmwood dice tower on the table. Our GM was a Starfinder convert from Pathfinder and had been running organized play Paizo games since their inception.  He was gruff and irritable, but had a fantastically snarky sense of humor.

The Paizo organized play system is well-written and executed.  The SFS special events, in particular, require dozens of tables comprised of 6-7 players to work toward common goals.  Once again, I’ll keep from discussing it too much so that I don’t spoil the module for those who want to play it in the future.  I must state, however, that the Paizo organized plan specials are the highlight of most conventions that I’ve attended. If you like playing RPGs, I highly recommend them.

The Starfinder session ended at nearly 1AM Sunday morning.  After walking back to my car, with sore feet and bloodshot eyes, I drove through Taco Bell on my way back to the hotel.  Apparently the good fortune I’d experienced at GenCon had run its course, as my hotel key card was no longer working, and I had to wait for thirty minutes for the clerk to let me into the hotel and my room.  I ended up sleeping too late again, and got back on the road an hour later than I’d planned. Preferably, I’d have stayed at GenCon for the final day of events, but I had to get back home for a weekly Starfinder campaign.  Priorities, ya know?

All in all, GenCon 2018 was everything I’d hoped it would be.  My modus operandi is to overbook my convention schedule, and then reduce the number of events I attend by necessity, whether due to more interesting opportunities, lack of sleep, or the realization that I’m not capable of being in two places (or more) at any given moment in time.  I recognize that there will never be enough hours in the day to experience more than a small fraction of what the Best Four Days in Gaming has to offer, but I feel that I did the best I could have in light of my physical and mental capabilities. Next time (probably not next year), I’ll try to do a better job of connecting with other gamers and creators.  I’ll eat healthier food (probably not). I’ll play more games, both RPG and otherwise. I’ll remember to buy gifts for my kids. Hopefully, I’ll remember to take my meds. One thing I know for certain, though; I’ll have a most excellent time alongside thousands of folks who share my passion for games.

-Gabriel Paduganan

I would like to once again thank Gabriel for sharing his unique perspective of Gen Con. What really sticks with me is how different the con is for everyone who goes and I truly relish giving voice to these stories on the years I personally cannot attend. Hopefully I can meet up with Gabriel at a future con (maybe Acadecon perhaps? eh? EH!?). One more plug if you’ll allow me, please check out Gabriel’s “Go Fund Me” , I highly doubt he even expected me to plug it but it’s good stuff! Trust me, I run games for library kids too. They need stuff and they are poor! -Melvs

Mordenkainen’s Tome of Foes


The great wizard Mordenkainen puts pen to paper with this thoughtful tome detailing some of his favorite conflicts throughout the multiverse! I mean honestly, he must have been thinking of us when he decided to hover, by magelight, over a desk in his study regaling us with tales of these embittered battles (via dictation to Bigby if I’m told correctly) that often span eons. Actually, I’ve heard this work may have been somewhat pilfered, but surely he meant it to help one day yes? Well, whatever the case I’m digging it. This is an excellent way to give us some choice cuts of lore. All followed by even more details on subraces and racial choices a character might make. Lastly, just in case we need even more, this record rounds things out with a bestiary of truly devious monsters to contend with and a touch or two of more details on favored races. Let’s dive in shall we? (CAUTION: Be wary of Sahuagin as you dive).

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Mordenkainen’s Tome of Foes is divided into five chapters detailing some of the more iconic clashes in Dungeons & Dragons lore, with a lead in Preface that adds a little touch of intrigue about the book and what we are in for (and possibly how we received it). The Gith, Devils and Demons, etc. fill the pages of these first chapters followed by a sixth chapter which brings us a large bestiary with some truly bizarre and dangerous additions to any Dungeon Master’s regime. I’ll regal you with details from each chapter…

But first…

I feel I need to begin every review of any new tome, book, manual, or what-have-you from Wizards these days with pure praise on it’s quality craftsmanship and dedication to high quality artwork. The books in the 5th edition line have somehow managed to capture the nostalgic essence many of us crave from bygone years while updating the pages to match the “new” that 5e has brought to the table as well.


I also can’t help but truly applaud the choice to craft alternate covers for their latest fare as well. It would be enough to maintain the already excellent artwork by Jason Rainville but here we also have a cover, by artist Vance Kelly, that evokes not only the machinations of Mordenkainen but also his view from afar on the denizens involved in the dark battles they wage across the Multiverse. Thank you WotC team, for this additional bit of pleasure to our eyes.

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Devils and Demons loathe one another, and those of the material plane fear both. With good reason of course. What many may not know, or at least not fully understand, is the basic fact that these two factions of our nightmares are locked in an eternal struggle known as the Blood War. Regimented Devils rule the Nine Hells and constantly maintain a line of battle against their chaos driven Demonic foes from the Abyss.


In this chapter the reasons these two immortal races wage war is laid bare for us to ponder. I really enjoyed the two early portions of this where we get to read each group’s mindset for why they find themselves in bitter conflict. For the archdevils and their well defined forces it’s as much as you would guess but I love the passage explaining the why of the demonic leaders and their swarms, it belies a canniness one might not expect from the howling horde. It’s also interesting to get their separate view on the use of mortals.

The rest of this chapter lays out each individual archdevil and lord of the demons, with a deep dive into each one’s personal lore. With that comes a few pages of extra spice you might add to cultists who follow the devils and powers for the those foolhardy enough to seek the boon of a demon lord. We are also introduced to some more information about Infernal and Demonic Cambions, being those born of mortals with devilish or demonic parentage as well.


As for the Player Character – This is your chapter that lays out some solid subrace additions to the Tiefling. We are introduced to traits from each of the archdevils your character might have a special link to. This will allow players to have a little bit more malleability with their core stats boosts, as each of the Nine Hells Lords have their own specialties.  Each subrace is also equipped with a “legacy” related to your chosen path. This will grant your character a cantrip initially followed by further spells as they gain levels. I think there’s a lot here for Tiefling lovers.


For those who love the long lived grace of the Elves you’ll find yourself revealing in this chapter. So much excellent detail on their history and especially what divided them into their “light” and “dark” paths. This chapter is interesting to me because though the Drow and the surface Elves hate one another their conflict doesn’t define them the way it does for devils and demons and the Gith, even the Dwarves and Duergar are a bit more at each other’s throats directly. That Elves and Drow are in conflict isn’t up for debate, they certainly are, but both groups spend plenty of energy on other facets of day to day living. The Drow have their desire to reign with superiority over all creatures, surface elves may hold some special disdain but “the Drow rule supreme” if one were to put it into a quote. Surface Elves of course have so much more to concern themselves with than just focusing on their cousins well beneath.


A fair bit of time is spent on detailing the Seldarine (the elven gods), both light and Dark. Lore like this has always held interest to me. I am personally a religious individual so the idea that a player character I might run would, at least in part, be driven by the desires and characteristics of their chosen deity appeals to me greatly. Another nice touch in this chapter is the inclusion of more information on the Feywild. With that, of course, comes the addition of one of my favorite 4th Edition Player Character choices,the Eladrin.

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As for the Player Character – Beyond the excellent storytelling you’ll find here to round out your character’s backstory, and reasoning for actions, there are some more concrete options for the character sheet. Three new elven subraces grace these pages. We have the Eladrin, Sea Elves, and Shadar-Kai.

The Eladrin are far more fey than they were represented in 4e, but despite this change in pace I’m loving the new look. They now appear to be almost impossible to pin down when it comes to understanding their raw emotion, and as for actual looks, they take after the seasons. Love that vibe. They still have Fey Step though, such a great little power. Now though this power works through the conduit of whatever season your Eladrin bears the shroud of, with pretty cool effect.

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Sea Elves… always sounds like a cool idea, but I don’t know if I would ever take on the challenge of an underwater campaign! Of course, saying that now I kind of want to try it out somehow. It would be a challenge, that’s for sure. As for these guys themselves they come packaged with everything you’d expect, swim speed and the ability to somewhat “Aquaman” with sea creatures. We are introduced to a new conflict though, that between the Sea Elves and the Sahuagin (told you to look out). This conflict is even more dynamic than that between surface and underdark elves. If only because the Sahuagin are unrelenting savages who feel the concept of any other intelligent being residing under the waves to be an affront. Honestly it would have been interesting to hear a little more about this particular conflict but for now we only have a few snippets.

I really enjoyed the portion of this chapter that detailed more information on the Shadar-kai, it really is an excellent read. As for their subrace details I feel like they are somewhat disappointing compared to their flashy mirror opposites, the Eladrin. Only because there is only one subrace choice though, and it has some cool aspects to it. It would have been interesting to try and make some darker reflections of the seasons to add some spice to this subrace but it is pretty cool on its own.

Rounding things out in this chapter we have some tables that help you pad the character sheet for and elven player character, or even an NPC. Trinkets and story hooks, plus a table detailing Drow House specialties.


I always felt like Duergar had the potential to be far more interesting to me than their elven counterparts the Drow. Probably only because I grew up during the heyday of R.A. Salvatore‘s Drizzt novels and was frankly over saturated with Drow knowledge. I like the lesser known things oft times, and Duergar weren’t nearly as touched upon. So I immediately made a beeline for this chapter, as those who follow me on Twitter can attest.  I don’t know if the story in these pages detailing the schism between the Dwarves and Duergar has been embellished to this point before, but if it was I missed it and am grateful for the story told in full here. I mean, I knew about the involvement of the Illithid in the twisting of the Duergar, but I’ve never heard it told like this. A great read if you’re a fan of these races, and their bitter conflict with one another. I mean damn… the dwarves kind of deserve these enemies. I have a newfound respect for the Duergar, despite finding their methods loathsome.


For the dwarves in this chapter we are treated to discussions about their what drives them, their strongholds, and their deities. What I think is kind of interesting is there is a portion of the chapter dedicated to information about dwarves in differing portions of the multiverse. Specifically the dwarves of Greyhawk, The Forgotten Realms, and Dragonlance. This wasn’t present in the other two chapters really but seems like an excellent addition. Honestly it makes some sense considering how dwarves tend to differ in various realms a bit more than elves do.

As you can probably tell I have found the Duergar to hold most of my interest in this chapter. This has been my favorite introduction to their society I’ve encountered thus far. This book would make a most welcomed resource for the Dungeon Master attempting to run Out of the Abyss for this alone, not to forget the details on the Drow in the previous chapters. Enough so that it almost becomes a must have for anyone attempting the campaign. Laduguer, one of only two deities regarded by the Duergar, is a truly interesting character to be fleshed out by this chapter. There’s even a small side note story regarding how he made his deal with Amadeus and how his stoicism helped pave the Three Rules of Conduct followed by Duergar society. Quite the shrewd fable.


As for the Player Character – There are no new dwarven subraces to mention but we are given a stat block for the Duergar. They have some pretty nice additions, including Superior Darkvision that allows for even better sight in the deep darkness where they live. So you can’t have Duergar without a touch of psionics. Considering there aren’t really any rules set forth for such a thing yet these skills take the form of some innate magic spells they can cast. Honestly I await the day we see some true psionics in 5e, which may not be too long as they have done some work on it in Unearthed Arcana, but this does well for now.

We also have a ton of useful tables to help you pad up character traits and background details like clan statuses and allies. The Duergar allies are especial interesting!


Mind Flayers. Why is it always Mind Flayers!? They corrupted the Duergar and we are soon informed in this chapter that the Gith were similarly enslaved. They also overthrew their Illithid overseers but upon doing so disagreement over their future society rent them into two factions, the Githyanki and the Githzerai. The two forces have been in bitter conflict ever since, though it appears both like to take a crack at their previous slavers from time to time.


The bulk of this chapter provides background lore for the Githyanki. Laid bare are details about their litch queen Vlaakith and her promises to the loyal warriors who do her bidding. We also learn about the method the Githyanki use to terrorize the realms of the Multiverse, in fact we learn a great deal about their airships. Lastly the fabled “City of Death” Tu’narath is revealed to us. I love a good rundown of interesting cityscapes (my twitter name is Sharndm mind, you) and Tu’narath is highly interesting. It’s carved from the calcified remains of a long deceased deity for goodness sake! Definitely a fun read there. I love the little inroad allowed by the District of Discards by the way.


The portion on the Githzerai may be a bit shorter but there’s some good lore to pad a character sheet available here as well. Here we are introduced to their physically powerless leader, Menyar-Ag, who hosts a mental aptitude of titanic proportions despite being unable to lift a finger. Their major cities are described in good detail as well, allowing for a number of interesting locales to derive stories from, or host them. Lastly we learn about how the Githzerai function beyond their borders in Limbo. This portion of the text would be great for helping a player flesh out their nomad Githzerai.

As for the Player Character – Traits for both Githyanki and Githzerai are available here. Again, the psionics inherent to this race has been presented in the same way a racially known spell would be added rather than craft actual psionic rules. The remaining details presented here in the form of tables that help round out player characters with names, personality traits, ideal, etc.


Perhaps no contest of arms, no bloodbath, no other contest of divided peoples can measure up to the horrific warfare between the Halflings and the Gnomes. SCORES of these smaller folk perish at the hungry blades they wield against one anoth… ok, ok I’ve had my fun. I actually like this chapter plenty. I think its focus on the ability of these two races to work behind, between, and beneath the scenes of these larger conflicts makes for some excellent reading. Plus, I’m really digging the extra details on all these other gnome types!


First we explore the Halflings, a people I think I would love to be a part of. The natural innocence, the ability to roll with the punches and disregard some of the more troubling aspects of what’s going on in the world around them (certainly a desirable trait in real life right now!) makes for a lifestyle I find myself envying. The Halflings presented here honestly come across far more “hobbit-like” than some iterations of the D&D Halflings, there’s even a bit on “Bad Apples” in the Halfling race that allow evil to twist them into paranoid, crueler, creatur *cough**GOLLUM!**GOLLUM!**hack*… whew… sorry, something got caught in my throat there.

The Halfling gods and myths are fun stuff to parse, especially as deities in D&D are often times such ponderous things to read about. I really like the addition of the tactics each community studies put forth by their war god Arvoreen, even prepping for combat in a Halfling village sounds like fun.

Following this we dig into what drives the Halfling adventurer, because the race as a whole does not come off as a very exciting group. Far more prone to enjoying the simpler pleasures in life. Adventurers are born though, and can certainly rise to the same levels of legend as any of the larger folk out there!


Where dwarves work their forges and dig their mines out of stoic duty and honor Gnomes seem filled with a never ending lust for knowledge to drive them. We are introduced to a few varieties of gnomes here. The Rock Gnomes are incredible tinkerers, approaching their alchemy and artifice with a veritable scientific methodology not seen in other races. The Forest Gnomes seek to assist animal kind and master the craft of illusion. Lastly we meet the Deep Gnomes, otherwise known by the moniker Svirfneblin (the name that one player at the table insists the dungeon master always use, and expects phonetic perfection). Unlike their other Underdark counterparts, the Drow or Duergar, Deep Gnomes aren’t a full on danger to their surface kin. No, while they are certainly a bit grumpier and more stoic this is simply because they endure the hardships of the Underdark to seek their gain.

The gnomish gods are many and hold a large array of domains, here they are all given a nice background. I especially loved reading about how Garl Glittergold instigated a forever hardship between Gnomes and Kobolds. There is even a place for evil among the pantheon that might surprise some. There is also an aside that details how many Gnomish gods like to travel the multiverse disguised as ordinary gnomes. A rarity among D&D gods.

Lastly we visit a few Gnomish communities and then dive into what makes for a Gnome adventurer. As one would expect there’s a lot of curiosity and desire to learn behind most. Many communities may send their young adults away with a purpose to hope for new knowledge to be brought back.

As for the Player Character – Less than the other chapters. We are presented with the traits for the Deep Gnome only, but there is also an optional feat called “Svirfneblin Magic” that may be of interest to the player who picks these sturdy Gnomes as their character’s race. Interestingly Deep Gnomes are not subject to Sunlight Sensitivity.



Here we have the second half of this book. More than a hundred additional monsters and humanoids span these pages for the Dungeon Master to throw at his table. Plenty are old favorites, that missed inclusion in the Monster manual resurrected for the new edition. I always liked the Boneclaw for example. One would have to suspect that many wizards fail in their attempts to become a litch, and fall even further into depravity as a Boneclaw. Plenty likely try long before they amass the power to do so. Such an eerie creature, can’t wait to use it again.

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Beyond that we see a lot of stat blocks for creatures brought to life by the conflicts described ion the earlier chapters. The different types of Eladrin, or the many ways to make up a Dueragar or Drow raiding party can be found here. Devils and Demons that have not yet gotten he privilege of being presented in earlier 5e books finally find a home. We also have tons of Gith choices to help expand what a group met on your travels might look like. Perhaps one of those Githyanki airships appears before your hapless players’ eyes.

For challenge ratings the Bestiary ranges from CR 1/8 all the way to CR 26. There’s a good mix there too, you could likely run entire campaigns with only the monsters located within these pages.


This was a glaring omission in the Monster Manual that is thankfully added, in many fashions, here. The table of contents lists the monsters in alphabetical order, not by page number. Here in the appendix we have three other methods available. Stat blocks by Creature type comes first, Constructs, Humanoids, Fey, etc. Secondly there is the ever important stat block by Challenge Rating, Lastly we have creatures listed by environments. I’ve always liked that last one.


I’ve obviously gushed, I like the book a lot. I’m sure there’s something here I will think of later that I feel is missing, or could have rounding things out a bit nicer, but everything I’ve read thus far has been really great. Granted, I’m a lore hound and this book has that in spades. I think the fashion in which they’ve presented this lore is very creative and I really hope they continue this trend. The book feels alive, it isn’t just a glut of dry information put out there for us. Great care was taken to make this manual fun and interactive. I actually enjoyed reading it! I continue to be impressed with the team behind this edition of the game.

Mordenkinen’s Tome of Foes is an excellent read, full of lore on the great conflicts that rage across the multiverse and finishes with a veritable gush of monsters for the Dungeon Master to play with. This manual will serve the needs of both Dungeon Master and Player alike with the edge of most use being to the DM, though there are new character options available in nearly every chapter.


Price: $49.95
Release Date: 29 May, 2018
Format: Hardcover
Item Code: 978-0-7869-6624-0


Pre-order at your local game store, book stores such as Barnes & Noble, or online at retailers like Amazon. You can also pre-order now at D&D Beyond.

You can find more information about this book via a “Podcast of Foes” event where the WotC team chats with notable RPG Podcasts about the book that is currently underway, you can listen in on either iTunes or Google Play, (please note the strong RPG Academy Network presence here! Proud of my network as always!) here is the schedule:



P.S. Dear Wizards of the Coast team. Thank you for the stickers! My library kids will love them!

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Spellslingers: The Fastest Game of Wit and Wizardry

While I may be a huge fan of long, ponderous, board games that take an entire afternoon for my buddies and I to crawl through. Sometimes you need to shake things up a bit, sometimes you need a fast and loose style of game. I introduce to you, Spellslingers!


Vincent Baker, of Vindicated Entertainment, has brought us a game that feels reminiscent of a game of Uno played backwards. Rather than trying to rid yourself of cards you covet them, all while using them to attempt to rid your fellow players of their own hands. The base game is quick and chaotic, you can play with 2-10 players after all. Each card in your hand has an effect and upon playing it you are typically targeting another player forcing them to react with their own cards or even discard them to avoid an even more devastating effect.


The base deck of cards, as you can see each card has a value and a description of what the card does. 

Basic Spellslingers is a quick game to play with friends but within the package you receive there are already new variants of the game available.

Signature Spells: Vastly more powerful. Suggested play styles include adding them to the regular deck to be drawn randomly to your foe’s despair or, even better, as a separate deck to be gained upon defeating a fellow player. I even had an idea to grant a draw from the deck for the remaining players who didn’t defeat an opponent to add an element of “they are getting desperate” to the game.


Spellslinger Characters: To give the game a more thematic flair characters have been added that are chosen either purposefully or at random in the beginning of the game. They add special effects to what you as a player can do.


Other variants of note include an Epic Enemy that you can play against if you’ve got some solo time to kill, ways to play against the deck with fellow players, and even a variant where you can all team up on one stronger player.

Spellslingers is a fast paced game that’s easy to learn. I love the touch that the game includes numerous variants on how to play so you can pinpoint your own favorite style of play. It really is pretty versatile for a quick and easy card game. If it has any faults I’d say the chance someone gets teamed up on can be fairly high, but considering how quick one game is over and a new one begun that’s not going to hold it back too much.

If you are interested in buying this game, which comes in at a price of $14.99, you can simply follow this link to the Vindicated Entertainment store. While you’re there check out some of the other games offered. Hope you enjoy!

Want to see the game in action?


Mordenkainen’s Tome of Foes – Spring 2018

Coming to your shelves this Spring Wizards of the Coast brings us Mordenkainen’s Tome of Foes!


It looks like WotC has decided to continue its recent trend of shying away from Adventure Paths\Campaigns and is providing another resource for those playing Dungeons and Dragons. This time it looks like they are focusing mostly on the Dungeon Master but with a nod to the players as well mentioning potential hooks they can use to round out their character. Who doesn’t love a mortal enemy eh?


I’m really looking forward to getting my hands on this book of tools, should be some fun stuff. Maybe I’ll find somone sinister to throw at my library kids (insert evil and\or maniacal laughter).

A few key links for you:

Main Site Page: Mordenkainen’s Tome of Foes

Keep your eyes on Twitch: twitch.tv/dnd

D&D Beyond YouTube Channel: https://www.youtube.com/c/dndbeyond