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!

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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.

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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!

-Melvs 

 

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Feeling Thankful

SPOILER ALERT: If you are one of the teens in my gaming group you may want to avoid reading this blog entry.

November is coming to a close, and the Thanksgiving holiday I celebrate every year has come and gone. Thanksgiving, despite any historical inaccuracies that may surround it, has some very wonderful concepts behind it. The idea of giving thanks for all your good fortunes is a lovely tradition, and I am a lucky person. Today I wanted to discuss a recent event specifically related to this gaming hobby I love so much that I am very thankful for.

A little over a week ago I was pining over what to do for the kids who show up to my gaming club this holiday season. I wanted to give them a pen and paper RPG themed gift. In the past I have purchased, and have had donated, D&D 5e Player’s Handbooks for some of the earlier members of the group. I have also used my Hirst Arts molds to make ornaments on one of my leaner years. This year I wanted to do something special and I landed on an idea that I wasn’t quite able to fund. That’s where some amazing people came into action.

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Seriously great group of kids

All I had to do was mention my idea, which was buying twenty copies of Pinnacle Entertainment Group’s Core, Explorer’s Edition, Rulebook for Savage Worlds, and I immediately had people ready to assist me financially to buy this book for some kids they’ve never met. The only thing in common? A shared love of tabletop RPGs. It took less than half a day for me to amass more than enough to buy all twenty copies of the book.

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This is exactly the type of attitude I want to show the kids that our community has. Sometimes our fandom can catch a bad rap, we have a few bad actors too, but for the most part I have found that we are a wonderfully generous and inclusive group. Stuff like this highlights it all the more. It is my hope that as they grow, and age out of my club, they take such displays of generosity to heart (even if they never play the game again). Kindness, compassion, and generosity are things our world needs, more than ever these days it seems.

So again, thank you to those who donated. Thank you to those who donated beyond the amount I needed, even after I told you I no longer needed funds (those funds will be put to good use no worries)! If you missed the donation drive, because it lasted mere hours, and want to help out I’ve actually thought of something. This time it doesn’t cost a thing!

I want to include messages in the covers of each book, and I’m hoping you can help by writing these quotes. I want it to be something you love about gaming, or some good advice about it. Take your pick, write it in the comments and I’ll add my favorite 19 (because I’ve got to write at least one, yeah?) to the books. If you feel weird about writing it in the comments, hit me up with a Direct Message on Twitter @sharndm. Also, let me know how you want me to sign it on your behalf. Thanks everyone!

-Melvs

XANATHAR’S GUIDE TO EVERYTHING: A DEEPER DELVE

My initial “review” on Xanathar’s Guide to Everything was merely a “hot take” on the book, I wanted to ensure you all got some information right up front about the bare bones essentials of this important new product for 5e. I had always intended to present a more in depth review but then something even better came along. A good friend of mine wanted to try their hand at contributing to the site and this gave me the opportunity to share the wealth a bit by letting him borrow one of my copies for a time. I always love involving my friends’ voices to this site, gives people a chance to hear things from a different point of view than my own. So without further delay here is a deeper delve into Xanathar’s guide by none other than my friend Conzo! -Melvs

When I read through Volo’s Guide to Monsters, its contents primarily spoke to my DMing side. While it presented a variety of new PC races, the creature-specific lore made me want to introduce my players to entire societies I’d never considered before, and the stat blocks helped me spice up combat encounters. In order to restore the cosmic balance Wizards of the Coast is releasing Xanathar’s Guide to Everything, a 5th Edition supplement that’s much ado about the players.

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Like Volo’s, Xanathar’s Guide is justified with a little in-world setup: the infamous beholder crime lord Xanathar (featured on the cover) has documented all sorts of fantastical things in his life, and for some reason he’s sharing some of his records with the reader. This flavor manifests as goofy little jokes interjected by the many-eyed menace, which I could’ve done without. Luckily they’re restricted to the margins of the book. We’re here for rules text, after all.

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If you’ve already bought some of the supplements for 5E and you’ve been following the Unearthed Arcana site, most of the material in Xanathar’s Guide will be familiar to you. A few of the subclasses from Sword Coast Adventurer’s Guide and the spells added in Princes of the Apocalypse are reprinted here, just for any players who didn’t catch them the first time. However, the meat of this book comes from Unearthed Arcana, where Wizards of the Coast has been posting 5E test material for free since 2015 (side note: that’s a super-cool way to crowdsource your playtesting). In theory, a miserly player could forgo this book by searching through pages of complimentary pdfs, but Wizards has considered player feedback and made some significant changes to the classes. The most striking change in this regard was transforming the peace-loving Way of Tranquility monastic tradition into the paladin’s Oath of Redemption. When you buy Xanathar’s, you’re buying polish, balance, and some flavorful art.

The guide immediately jumps into the new subclasses, and even if you disregard the reprints it presents a cornucopia of options. While there is only one new arcane tradition for wizards, there are two to three brand-new subclasses for everyone else that expand on what it might mean to be a cleric or a fighter or whatever. For example, warlocks have been making pacts with dark and disturbing entities for ages, but what if you wish to deal with a force of good? Ask your doctor if the Celestial is right for you. What if your rogue prefers solving mysteries over stabbing people in the back? Check out the Inquisitive. Every class gets a boost of characterization, as well as mechanical diversity: players are getting all kinds of new ways to heal and defend, find a tactical upper-hand, or straight-up blast the bad guys (and that’s to say nothing of the new multiclassing opportunities). Personally I wasn’t ever interested in playing a ranger before, but the portal-finding, teleporting Horizon Walker and the invisible-to-darkvision Gloom Stalker have piqued my interest.

 

 

Of course, all the mages out there get some extra attention by way of an expanded spell list. Xanathar’s Guide includes 22 pages of spells, from cantrip to 9th level, bard to wizard. As previously mentioned, the elemental evocations and manipulations from Princes of the Apocalypse make an appearance, but Xanathar’s list includes necromantic attacks and beams of radiance, arcane transmutations and enchantments, and summoning rituals for hordes of demons and magic fortresses. A lot of this section was withheld from Unearthed Arcana testing, so its novelty is definitely one of the highlights of the book. I don’t want to spoil the specifics of any given spell, but I’ll tease you with a sentence of rules text that I found more entertaining than any of Xanathar’s quips: “If a target is killed by this damage, its head explodes, assuming it has one.”

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While players are getting a lot of rules to study and abuse, Xanathar’s Guide also has some optional characterization resources to support the storytelling side of D&D. As someone who’s played a “fighter who just likes to fight” before, I can say these tables of ideas are a great way to break past a writer’s block or start investing yourself in a character. Some of these tables are class-specific, like a barbarian’s superstition or that one awful performance a bard wishes she could forget. Some are background-specific explanations of why the character became a sailor or an acolyte. The table I found most interesting was a set of randomized life events, Adventures and Tragedies and Weird Stuff to be rolled more frequently depending on how old your character is. Maybe that Horizon Walker I was thinking about is an elderly man that’s been around the world before the campaign even begins.

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While most of the book is devoted to player materials, there are a handful of DM resources that are presented somewhat randomly. There’s clarifications on sleeping and flying, lists of simple magic items, the contents of each tool kit and sample DCs for using them, tips for designing rival NPCs and complicated traps, and an appendix about running a game with multiple DMs. There are also some very expansive tables for rolling random encounters, divided by environment and party level, that seem really useful. Whether it was the scattered presentation or the fact that I was still thinking about character creation, this information didn’t excite me, but it’s a resource I might take a second look at in the future.

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As I wrap up, I should mention that while I tried to note everything in Xanathar’s Guide to Everything, I almost certainly did not. The supplement abounds with eclectic information worthy of a beholder’s library, and there are a few pages of information that didn’t make it into this review. That said, even if I never see those pages again, Xanathar’s Guide is a great supplement to the core rules of Fifth Edition D&D. If you’re a player, or you have a group of players, looking for ways to give your next adventuring party a zesty new flavor, this book should keep you entertained for many campaigns to come. Your current characters might even start taking foolhardy risks, just so they can be replaced by newer ones. Unless Melvin lets me keep one of his copies, I’ll be picking up my own after November 21.

-Conzo

XANATHAR’S GUIDE TO EVERYTHING

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Wizards of the Coast has been trying something different with the 5th edition of Dungeons & Dragons. With a redirected focus off of the glut and supplement driven sales tactics of the past, we have instead seen solidly written adventure campaigns hitting shelves regularly. I feel strongly that this has been a boon for the edition in the long run but I’m not going to lie and say that I haven’t also been craving at least a taste of that oh so addictive PC supplemental material. Enter Xanathar’s Guide.

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They say that absence makes the heart grow fonder. So when I heard we’d be getting a book that details an enormous influx of new character options, Dungeon Master toys, and other new goodies I was very excited. let’s take a look at some of the new items available in this treasure trove of a book.

  • We see every base class presented in the Player’s Handbook receiving two new archetypes for players to utilize (with the exception of the Wizard who only gets one). Most of these were vetted via entry onto the Unearthed Arcana site, so you know they’ve faced some scrutiny from fans and the in house team. Much in the way 5th Edition itself was playtested.
  •  A beefed up system of character background generation
  • New feats to play around with, this time focusing on the player character’s race. Reading through these reminded me that I need to pay a little bit more attention to this aspect of the game, feats are actually pretty cool options.
  • New spells are bandied about, many are long time favorites that didn’t make the cut in the first foray into 5th edition.
  • Numerous Dungeon Master tools are also available. Namely these tools serve to expand upon situations a DM might have run into and adds some needed assistance in how one might handle them.

I’ve read through a good chunk of the book already and have to say I’m impressed, and very happy with the items WotC has chosen to include. The campaign adventures have been incredible and I am very glad to own them all but this is the first book I would claim as a “must have” for everyone who enjoys playing Dungeons and Dragons 5th Edition. Players and DMs alike should really want to get their hands on a copy.

Speaking of getting your hands on a copy, you should also note that buying in you local game store can actually net you something cool beyond just the satisfaction of helping them out. You can get your hands on an alternate cover of the book! Pictured here are the two copies sent to me for review. I was so incredibly happy two get both versions of the book!

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On the left we see the standard cover by artist Jason Rainville. Certainly an awesome image, Xanathar, the beholder, peering through his fish’s tank is excellent imagery. The cover on the right, by Hydro74, stands out as something very different than what we’ve seen before in this edition, and I very much love the decision to spice things up with an alternate cover.

Hope you all pick this one up and love it as much as I do.

-Melvs

Decades of Tales from the Yawning Portal

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Tales from the Yawning Portal features seven iconic adventures and dungeons collected from the 40+ year history of Dungeons and Dragons. Updated for the fifth edition of the game we are treated with some of the most famous titles out there, not only from the early days but with many picked from the pages of years recently past as well. Another nice little touch is adding in details of the Yawning Portal itself in the introduction for GMs to use in their campaigns.

I love the idea of this book, it holds so much use for just about any Game Master out there. If you are a beginner, the wealth of resources provided to you by having all of these adventures close at hand is simply fantastic. It provides you something to run for your group if you find you aren’t up to crafting one on your own. If, rather, you feel like taking your first crack at adventure design, how could you do worse than some of the most famous quests ever built? Experienced GMs will likely use this book to run some of these iconic games for fun or pull ideas from the pages. Either way, this book has some serious use!

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The book itself is as gorgeous and well crafted as always. Binding seems solid and the artwork excellent. I especially like that though the book maintains a cohesive look there are dozens of little touches to each adventure to mark their uniqueness. It’ll look really nice on the shelf next to my other 5e products, and will certainly shine behind the screen.

Let’s dive into what adventures have been chosen shall we? The book prints the adventures in the ideal order you’d want, by character level. You’ll soon see that if you were to play these adventures from one end to the other you’d have a nice character progression!

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Chapter 1 – The Sunless Citadel – by Bruce Cordell, published in 2000. Original Edition, 3rd.

A buried citadel brings the dangers of blighted nature and your more typical monsters in this dungeon run for players of 1st level in anticipation of advancing to 3rd. Looking through this one I can see that this would be a great starter adventure for new GMs and new players alike. As cool as everything leading up to it is, I think the best part of this adventure lands on the climactic battle. I don’t want to reveal much, but the final challenge is really where it’s at.

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Chapter 2 – The Forge of Fury – by Richard Baker, published in 2000. Original Edition, 3rd.

The Forge of Fury was originally designed to be a direct sequel to The Sunless Citadel so it’s no surprise that it works best for characters starting at 3rd level, it should take them to the 5th level. You could easily slide this adventure into any campaign though. Once more the players will find themselves in some ruins, this time an old Dwarven Stronghold. As you’d imagine, it’s brimming with dangerous monsters just waiting to get a piece of the PCs. That’s not where the adventure ends though, they’ll find themselves deeper and deeper into the goings on and the earth itself. The last fight is about as iconic as it gets!

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Chapter 3 – The Hidden Shrine of Tamoachan – by Harold Johnson & Jeff R. Leason, published in 1980. Original Edition, 1st.

Let’s do the Time Warp folks! Hailing from before I was born we have an adventure that gets off to a thunderous start, quickly pitting the PCs against its foes. One of the coolest aspects of this adventure comes from its homage to Mayan and Aztec imagery & design. From all accounts the authors went to great lengths to study the cultures before producing the story-line. The result is really immersive and feels very different from your traditional crawl. I really love this one and plan to run it for my group first chance I get! Oh, and this one is geared toward PCs of 5th level and will take them to, or near, 8th level.

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Chapter 4 – White Plume Mountain – by Lawrence Schick, published 1979. Original Edition, 1st.

White Plume Mountain is one of the better known adventures from the early days. The concept is pretty excellent, there’s a village near a volcano and superstitious chatter abounds! People near the volcano tend to disappear as well. Now some highly valued magical weapons have disappeared and White Plume Mountain seems to be mixed up in the whole ordeal. Hosting some great baddies to fight, plenty of magic items to grab, and intriguing rooms inside a volcano, this adventure is a great place to delve into! As expected this adventure runs best for characters of 8th level and will likely end up around 9th-10th level.

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Chapter 5 – Dead in Thay – by Scott Fitzgerald, published 2014. Original Edition 5th.

Technically Dead in Thay was crafted during the playtest period leading into 5th Edition, but now its been fully developed. This adventure is a sprawling dungeon that pits the adventurers against some truly renown evildoers in the Forgotten Realms, the Red Wizards of Thay. The Red Wizards have obtained ownership of a dungeon, known as The Doomvault, that frankly grants them access to too much power. It has tipped the scales too much in their favor and they need to be stopped. This is an all out dungeon crawl of epic proportions for PCs beginning at 9th level and should end with them at 11th. It’ll take time though, this place is huge, easily the largest dungeon in the book!

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Chapter 6 – Against the Giants – by Gary Gygax, published 1981. Original Edition AD&D

Written by Gygax himself, Against the Giants was originally a compilation of adventures written that pre-date the official release of Dungeons and Dragons. The concept begins simple enough, giants roam the civilized lands antagonizing the populace. The PCs are tasked with removing the threat. As high level adventurers now, 11th level or higher, they are to be considered some of the “go to” folks for handling such a menace. I really like the fact that this adventure hold so many named enemies who can harry the adventurers later if not dealt with in full when first encountered. You get a taste of a lot of giants and their strongholds here, truly a feat to take them all out! This adventure would fit nicely into Storm King’s Thunder if you can find a place for it.

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Chapter 7 – Tomb of Horrors – by Gary Gygax, published 1978. Original Edition OD&D

We knew it would make the cut. Even some who have never played a game of D&D in their lives know a thing or two about this one. It’s even iconic enough to have earned a place in the book Ready Player One as one of the first big pop culture references. To hear Gary Gygax say it, Tomb of Horrors is an adventure for players who crave a mental challenge. It doesn’t feature a ton of baddies but it makes up for that with trap after trap, and puzzle after puzzle. Personally, I’ve never seen the appeal, but you can bet I’m going to read over the 5th edition version to see if I can suss out what makes this dungeon tick. This is the penultimate adventure of the book though and were your players to play them all back to back (and a decent GM would easily find a way to connect them all) your PCs will likely enter this dungeon at around level 15 or higher and end at level… well they probably won’t survive it to be honest.

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The book rounds itself off with some pretty good appendixes. There are certain magic items and monsters found within the pages of this book that can’t be found elsewhere, so it’s obviously nice to have some extra space to store those. If I’m being honest I would love to have every magic item and every monster referenced in each adventure located at the end of each chapter they are found in, but I get the idea of not creating extra bulk for the printers. The new items and monsters are some really cool treats too.

As I said before this book is really useful and would make an excellent addition to an aspiring GM, or even an old hat’s bookshelf. Each adventure is really well laid out and the updates help it fit really finely into this new age of Dungeons and Dragons. I hope to see more inventive additions to this line of books!

-Melvs

 

WotC Con Schedule Will Not Include Gen Con

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Wizards of the Coast has announced their convention schedule for 2017 and despite adding a few new conventions this year I am sad to report that Gen Con will not be among them. Here is the current list of conventions they plan to attend in an official capacity.

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JAN 27-29, 2017 PAX SOUTH

Henry B. Gonzalez Convention Center
900 E Market St.
San Antonio, TX

Chris Perkins and Trevor Kidd will be at PAX South at the end of this month. Chris will have the honor of delivering the key note Story Time with Chris Perkins on Friday morning, as well as stepping onto the main stage to serve as Dungeon Master for Acquisitions Incorporated, live for the first time from sunny San Antonio. Many Dungeons & Dragons games will be playable in the open gaming spaces scheduled through the D&D Adventurers League. We definitely won’t be playing in the basement of the Alamo, thankfully.

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FEB 1-5, 2017 WINTER FANTASY

Grand Wayne Convention Center
120 West Jefferson Blvd
Fort Wayne, IN

Chris Lindsay will be returning to Fort Wayne for Winter Fantasy and will be available to speak about the D&D Adventurers League and Dungeon Masters Guild. We will debut a brand-new D&D Adventurers League EPIC by Will Doyle here, giving attendees the first chance to overcome new challenges and collect loot. Chris will be running unique D&D Adventurers League sessions with loot and magic items you can’t get anywhere else.

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MAR 10-12, 2017 PAX EAST

Boston Convention & Exhibition Center
415 Summer Street
Boston, MA

Chris Perkins and Trevor Kidd will be in Boston at PAX East again this year. Chris will serve as Dungeon Master for another Acquisitions Incorporated live show with Mike, Jerry, Scott, and Pat. There will be many opportunities to play Dungeons & Dragons in the open gaming spaces of PAX scheduled through the D&D Adventurers League.

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MAR 23-26, 2017 GARY CON

Grand Geneva Resort & Spa
7036 Grand Geneva Way
Lake Geneva, WI
We’re heading back to Gary Con in Lake Geneva again this year! Mike Mearls, Jeremy Crawford, and Chris Lindsay will be panelists in a discussion of D&D Across the Editions. Mike Mearls will be DMing a celebrity game using his Greyhawk house rules for 5e in one of the deadliest dungeons he’s run in his personal campaign: the dreaded Path of Blades. Mearls will also run a home brew horror RPG based on the Avalon Hill board game Betrayal at House on the Hill. Chris Lindsay will head up a host of Dungeon Masters as we present the Hidden Shrine of Tamoachan and the Tomb of Horrors as competitive events for the first time in decades. Also, don’t miss the EPIC designed by Chris Lindsay, featuring the Keep on the Borderlands.

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JUNE 14-18, 2017 ORIGINS GAME FAIR

Greater Columbus Convention Center
400 N High Street
Columbus, OH
Mike Mearls, Chris Lindsay, Chris Perkins, Trevor Kidd, and Jeremy Crawford will be returning to Origins for the D&D tabletop gaming event of the year: The D&D Open. Bring your favorite Adventurers League character and risk life and limb to bring glory upon your adventuring party. We’ll also have D&D board game tournaments, exclusive DMs Guild panels, exclusive Origins swag, and even more!

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SEP 1-4, 2017 PAX WEST

Washington State Convention Center
800 Convention Place
Seattle, WA
Chris Perkins, Trevor Kidd, and many more folks from the Dungeons & Dragons team will be at PAX West. Chris will be on panels and serving as Dungeon Master for the live Acquisitions Incorporated game with Jerry, Mike, Scott, and Pat. Many of us will be around in the Dungeons & Dragons area and there will be tons of opportunities to play D&D in the open gaming area scheduled through the D&D Adventurers League.

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SEPT 9-10, 2017 HASCON

Rhode Island Convention Center & Dunkin Donuts Center
1 La Salle Square & 1 Sabin St
Providence, RI
Join us in Providence for the debut of HASCON, a new convention event in September focusing on all of Hasbro’s brands including Transformers, My Little Pony, Magic the Gathering and, of course, Dungeons & Dragons! You will get to peek behind the curtain of our characters and stories through interactive experiences, exclusive products, talent appearances, panels and much more.

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NOV 2-5, 2017 GAMEHOLE CON

Alliant Energy Center Exhibition Hall
1919 Alliant Energy Center Way
Madison, WI
Mike Mearls and Chris Lindsay will return to the Midwest in November for Gamehole Con in Madison. Mike and Chris will be attending panels, serving as Dungeon Masters in unique Adventurers League scenarios, and hanging out and answering any questions you might have.

Con list and descriptions courtesy of EN World & Wizards of the Coast Website

When I heard Wizards wasn’t attending Gen Con 2016 I somewhat got it, even if I disagreed with it. Wizards didn’t need to attend Gen Con to be “present” there. There will always be plenty of merchants hawking the newest D&D books, as always Dungeons and Dragons continues to have enough “word of mouth” power that they don’t really need to attend the largest tabletop gaming convention there is.

This year though? They aren’t attending Gen Con 50 in some capacity!? I find it frankly baffling. Why the biggest name in the game wouldn’t want to be present in some official capacity at the biggest con’s 50th anniversary is beyond me. Granted I’ve no special privilege to behind the scenes knowledge, but as a games lover… it rankles. I applaud the desire to spread the love to newer cons but Gen Con feels a bit hollow to some extent without Dungeons and Dragons having a full showing. Personally, I think they should have waited until after GC50 to make this move. At least it’s better they started last year then spring it on folks attending GC 50.

I’d love to get your thoughts on this. Am I being too unrealistic to want D&D at Gen Con in ways akin to years past, or am I spot on? Is it obvious I’m also simply saddened they won’t be attending the only con I can likely make it to this year? You be the judge!

-Melvs

The 2017 Geekery New Year’s Address!

Welcome 2017! Also, welcome back to the Geekery. I’ve been absent for quite some time, I know, but I feel refreshed and ready to bring you all the gaming news, reviews, and tidbits from my day to day gaming you desire. There are plenty of things in the pipe for this year for potential changes to the site, I’ll get to those in a moment.

GIFTS!

I hope all my fellow gamers, who celebrate the holidays with gift giving, received gifts as cool as what I received. I figured I’d do a little bragging about these right up front, this is my blog and all.

Dungeonology

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This book is an interesting little bird (big thanks to my awesome sis in law for getting it for me!). Obviously it’s more for beginners or collectors of cool D&D books than for the use of a seasoned Dungeon Master, but it has some really cool features on the inside that bring me back to the days when the concepts of D&D were shiny and new. I’ll be giving this book a more thorough run down in a later post but it’s certainly a fun book to own. A great way to introduce new players to the concepts and challenges of a good dungeon delve.

Board Games!

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Sarah and I love them, and you can never have too many. This year we received two and an expansion to one. Sarah made out huge in the board game arena, Machi Koro is one of her all time favs and as much as we both love Smash Up she typically has the edge on me so our good buddy Jake got her the Pretty Pretty Expansion. We also received Forbidden Island, which if you’ve never tried it it’s a great game for introducing others to the newer generation of games, especially because it’s cooperative.

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Chessex Gaming Mat!

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Thanks go to Uncle Grumps for this bad boy. My old mat was tiny, and stained to Hell. We’ve been using a dry erase board for a while now. Awesome to have this now.

Dice and Dice Bags

So my sister in law and my mother in law teamed up here. My mother in law is an enormously talented crafter, who actually has a crafting business now that she has retired. Well, she took some time to make me a bunch of dice bags and then they got me a Big Bag of Dice so I can put together some dice bags to hand out to the kids in my Library games who don’t have dice yet! Giving me the ability to gift to others makes this probably one of the best gifts I received this year.

Cool Notebook

I saw this cool little journal in a hole in the wall bookstore that Sarah and I love to visit near our church. I mentioned offhandedly that someone could use such a thing to keep notes on gaming campaigns, and look nerdily cool whilst doing so. She bought the thing right under my nose. I tried to take a pic of the note she wrote me but It’s hard to get it in focus. It reads:

Kevin,

With love and admiration, I give you this journel to keep your adventures, creativity, and words of a world full of wonder! Best wishes on all your journeys beyond our realms.

Love,

Your wife Sarah

I’m a lucky guy ♥.

Secret Gift

There’s one gift I’m not going to picture just yet but will at a later date. Suffice it to say it’s my favorite and I hope to premier it at Gen Con 50. May have tipped you off with that last sentence though ;P.

IN GAMING NEWS

I haven’t spent much time talking about it but I’ve been running a game of Storm King’s Thunder for my group. It’s been a pretty fun experience so far, even if we have been plagued by the inability to truly string together consistent play time (people have lives apparently 😛). Despite our issues getting together we’ve moved along at a decent clip, just now beginning the gargantuan chapter three. It’ll be a challenging portion of the game, for a pre-made, there’s a lot of information for the would-be Dungeon Master to digest and organize for the players but, it’ll also be the most sandbox portion of the adventure and my players will certainly dig that. After all, it took a lot of convincing to get them to take a ride in Zephryos’ Tower (and after they were aboard they mentioned if they’d know about the wizard hat that crowned the thing they would have flat out refused on principle lol).

A couple of cool things about this campaign in general is that one of my players, Nick (you may know him as Uncle Grumps from his previous contribution efforts), is running a descendant from a game we played together back in our High School days. In fact the way I got their party to board Zephryos’ flying tower was by having my old character (still alive because..elf) be already aboard and waiting to meet the grandson of Rizzen the Great. Another cool aspect of the game is the return of an old friend to our gaming group who’s been out of state for a long time as he is in the Navy. Somehow he landed a recruitment position here in Missouri and we are all very thankful to have him back with us.

I continue to run my once a month game at the local library for teens interested in learning about D&D and I’m happy to say that, despite the fact I still run the game for about 10-15 kids at a time, the legacy players are getting really adept at the game and are very capable of assisting newcomers. There were a number of times in the recent past I couldn’t make it to a session and they had no issue picking up the slack and running a game themselves. I’m now entering my third year of doing this and I’m happy to report that I’m probably not even necessary at this point. Still, I love going and the kids are enjoying my run through of Hoard of the Dragon Queen so I’ll keep at it! Now that I have some extra Dice Bags to hand out I can’t wait to see the kids again.

COMING SOON IN 2017

There are so many cool things coming this year that I’ll likely forget a bunch while putting them to print here. I’ll give it a go though.

CONS

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Right off the bat I feel I need to mention Geekway to the West 2017. The 13th Annual Geekway to the West is set for May 18-21, 2017 at the St. Charles Convention Center in St. Charles, Missouri. If you love Board Games I can’t name a better convention to attend. They’ve only got a little over 400 badges remaining though, and considering badges went on sale on January 2nd they will sell out, and fast. For $60 you can attend the con all four days, you receive a random free board game (a quality one at that, twice now the game I received had a Market Price that matched my badge fee), and so much more. Seriously check out the site, make the trip and visit me in Missouri.

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Gen Con 50 folks. I fully intend to be there this year and, with a  little pressure and luck, I might bring a few buddies with me this time (buddies beyond what twitter and the blog have helped me garner that is).

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Really, Acadecon is one of the best little big cons out there. I truly wish I’d of been able to make it to Acadecon 2016, but I wasn’t going to miss the wedding of a good friend. Two of my best friends are getting married to some awesome gals in the fall of 2017, one wedding is in late October and then the other takes place the week after Acadecon 2017 so chances might be thin I can make it but I’m sure going to try! I love the good folks of the RPG Academy Network and the other attendees of this Con are fantastic as well. Here’s hoping!

GAMERSTABLE PODCAST COMING TO A CLOSE

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After years of podcasting, and 300 episodes, the Gamerstable Podcast is ending its run. Back when I first started really getting into the world of folks gabbing about tabletop RPGs on social media it seemed crazy to me that regular folks were coming together and podcasting about this game I love so much. First it was the Monkey in the Cage podcast who really welcomed me into the fold (I will always have a special place in my heart for Matt, Robert, Karen, and Ramses) but soon to follow was a crazy group of gamers who I was surprised to find lived just across the river in Illinois. Matt Fuller introduced me to them, and they didn’t have to give me the time of day. Instead they became close friends.

The Gamerstable Podcast has put forth some of the coolest content over its run. Frankly I find their style of taking actual play content and editing it to sound like a radio drama to be the best in the business. That’s beyond the discussion roundtable style they cut their teeth on though, and you can find a ton of great gaming advice throughout their many episodes. Plus, I’ve always enjoyed their bite sized chunks (most eps. are about 30 mins in length). Feel free to catch their last episode here, and when you’re done check the rest of the site.

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I’d be remiss if I failed to mention that this won’t be the complete disappearance of what I call the “Gamerstable Crew”. Eric Austley, the initiator and leader for Gamerstable, is going to pour more of his energy into his newest project that builds on the success of the Actual Plays put out by Gamerstable. Openly Gamer Theater currently houses a ton of great content and will more than likely feature many of the voices you heard over the years on Gamerstable too! Also, OGT is a yet another proud member of the RPG Academy Network, so you know it’s quality.

STUFF FOR MY SITE

So I need to pull this article to a close and nothing fits better than detailing a few things about the site!

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In late 2016 Privateer Press increased its level of involvement with my site for review of their materials and this means I will hopefully have even more Warmachine\Hordes models and products to review going into 2017. To help with this Nick, a.k.a. Uncle Grumps, has made mention of the desire to continue writing pieces on various items associated with WarmaHordes, and hopes to even run something big for our group of players. Also, if you’ve paid attention to the photo gallery on my Warmachine\Hordes page on the site you will have likely seen some of Mike “The Meatfist” Bortz’s excellent work painting his miniatures. Not only will he continue to send me photos of his art but he has promised me a step by step painting guide of one of the newer models to come out for the Trollbloods hordes unit, Madrak, Great Chieftain (Madrak 3). I hope to unveil this soon! Lastly, Topher has been talking about throwing a post or two on here about board games, an excellent candidate for such a thing. I hope he can get around to it (he is getting married this year, me might be somewhat busy).

Here’s to some great gaming in 2017! If you feel I missed some news, hit me up in the Comments. What are you excited about this year?

-Melvs

D&D Inducted into Toy Hall of Fame

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For 42 years people of all ages have found themselves seated around a table with a group of friends crafting stories and rolling dice as they adopted new adventurous personas. Yesterday I received the news from Wizards of the Coast that the original Tabletop Roleplaying game Dungeons and Dragons was to be inducted into the Toy Hall of Fame. Games are imbedded into our daily lives these days. Even if you have never played D&D or one of the thousands of other tabletop roleplaying games out there, you likely grew up playing videos games, or have been introduced to games via your smart devices. We take the style of games these days for granted, not knowing that so many of the “common” game concepts we utilize stem directly from D&D. The idea of a character having a pool of health points, accepting a quest of some sort, and most evident of all gaining experience points and becoming stronger for it. These were all originated in this 42 year old product.

Here is the official press release:

It’s been 42 years in the making! Today, we’re excited to announce Dungeon & Dragons as a 2016 inductee to the National Toy Hall of Fame at the Strong Museum for Play in Rochester, NY. Since it was first published in 1974, Dungeons & Dragons has inspired millions of gamers to create stories and adventures and it has brought people from all backgrounds together to share those experiences.

Director of D&D at Wizards of the Coast, Nathan Stewart, was in Rochester to accept the award and witness history, as D&D was officially inducted into the National Toy Hall of Fame. It is not just a proud moment for Wizards of the Coast, but also for parent company, Hasbro. John Frascotti, president of Hasbro Brands said, “Dungeons & Dragons embodies Hasbro’s goal of creating the world’s best play and entertainment experiences and we are extremely proud to see D&D be inducted into the National Toy Hall of Fame alongside many other brands in our portfolio like Twister, Candy Land, The Game of Life, Mr. Potato Head and the Easy-Bake Oven. D&D has enabled fans to create their own stories for more than 40 years and we look forward to continuing to inspire imaginations by providing amazing play experiences.”

These long time players and fans of the brand at Wizards of the Coast were elated by the nomination, noting:

“D&D has become a rite of passage for children of a creative temperament. It’s incredible to think that what started as the marriage of tabletop wargames and pulp fantasy novels has become the iconic storytelling pastime for multiple generations.” ­­Mike Mearls, lead designer, Dungeons & Dragons

“Perhaps the greatest innovation of Dungeons & Dragons is that it provides a way to play pretend with rules. I think when older kids and adults discover the game, they tap into a style of play from early childhood that they’ve forgotten. The game unleashes the individual imagination of each player while, at the same time, it draws them together to tell a story. You can discover a lot about yourself and each other in a very short time and in a fun way. Friendships that last a lifetime frequently form while playing Dungeons & Dragons.” – Matt Sernett, game designer

“Dungeons & Dragons is not just a game – its legacy has been a part of our culture for generations. But perhaps its most important influence is with the positive impact it has made on children and adults in the form of enhanced social, math, analytical, reading, writing, and creative skills and friendships that have lasted for decades. It is an honor to be part of a team that continues to fuel an inextinguishable spark of imagination for years to come.” – Shelly Mazzanoble, associate brand manager, Wizards of the Coast

For more information on the 2016 National Toy Hall of Fame Inductee ceremony, please check out http://dnd.wizards.com/ or http://www.toyhalloffame.org/.

Congratulations are certainly in order, and a big thank you from me. D&D has had an immense impact on my life.

-Melvs

Storm King’s Thunder

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Since the onset of 5th edition Wizards of the Coast has endeavored to bring us grand adventure concepts, Dragons, Devils, Demons, a villain of legend. In Storm King’s Thunder they certainly don’t go smaller in scale, and I’m not just talking about the physical size of the main adversaries either. Even beyond the size of the giants faced throughout we are faced with the Savage Frontier, one of the most enormous untamed regions in all of the Forgotten Realms, and a tale as big as any Shakespearean drama. Something is amiss with the giants of the land, they are simply out of control. The characters may be dwarfed in size but someone will have to help stop the madness, the smallfolk must be put to the task.

Storm King’s Thunder represents the fifth such Super Adventure produced by Wizards of the Coast since the switch to it’s 5th Edition of the game. In the past many of these adventures included heavy involvement from third party game makers, like Kobold Press or Sasquatch Game Studio. This time, beyond having additional assistance from the whole WotC team & Forgotten Realms elite R.A. Salvatore, this story is almost exclusively Chris Perkins’ baby. Frankly it is yet another strong entry into the Super Adventure pool of games available for DMs to run for their player. I’m excited to say I’ll be running it myself.

Quality of the Product

Now that their are five adventures, spread over six books, I can really start to showcase these books on my shelf. I’ve put some of these books through the ringer too. Lent them to kids at the Library, paged through them multiple times, and they have really held up well over the years. I have no reason to suspect this new addition to the ranks will fare any worse.

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The artwork isn’t just pretty to look at. The art team recognized it’s duty to really add to the grand feeling to it all. As mentioned above, the story structure of this adventure has a real Shakespearean feel to it, and they did well to bring that feeling to the page with some amazing two page spreads and some we fleshed major players.

The Campaign

The course of this campaign will bring characters from level one to level ten and beyond. It is interesting to note that, without giving too much away, the problems being faced here all stem from a major shift among the race of giants themselves. The players represent the smallfolk of the world trying desperately to save themselves from that fall out, and it may just require issuing a helping hand to some giants themselves to return some order. Things will get very messy for the more diminutive races of the world if they don’t step in.

A quick read through of this adventure makes it feel a mite linear but there are actually several points where the characters will be choosing a path that, while not changing the story as a whole, certainly offer a different perspective. Things are not as Sandbox driven as the previous two installments, but I honestly can’t see why the players would care. If they are interested in helping out the choice to continue this adventure is never going to feel forced, it really does flow very well.

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Additional Content

I want to give a particular shout out to the layout of this book and to some specific design choices. I love that right at the beginning of the book the DM is given a rundown on the main NPCs for their arsenal. This “Dramatis Personae” section is a two page breakdown of the NPCs, each getting a brief description and direction to where in the book you can find more information on them. I’m also a huge fan of the Adventure Flowchart, for a quick reference of the various chapters each portion of this book has and for information on what level your characters should likely be when they get there. I wish I could show this, but that would be a bit of a spoiler for those prepping to play this game.

The Appendixes are very helpful for the DM, as one would expect. Of these Appendix A is the most interesting as it gives helpful advice on how to bridge other adventures into this one. I particularly like the way they suggest weaving Out of the Abyss and Storm King’s Thunder together.

A glaring omission for Storm King’s Thunder is the lack of any character options at all. To me it has become apparent that WotC has made the decision to allow the Dungeon Master’s guild be the main resource for players, and by that I mean if we want player option we have to make them ourselves. I was really hoping for at least some new character backgrounds for the Savage Frontier. The closest we get to something like that is a section at the beginning of Chapter 3 that adds details to the denizens of the Savage Frontier. I will note that while writing this I asked Chris Perkins himself about the decision not to include character options this time around and he directed me to the Sword Coast Adventurer’s Guide. I need to actually look at this book, pretty sure it’s the only one Wizards didn’t send me for review.

In Conclusion

Another solid outing. I continue to be impressed by the content WotC is churning out, if a bit let down that it is solely focused on selling to the Dungeon Master. This adventure shows me that while Wizards can utilize third party studios really well for great content, they don’t need them. There are some excellent, creative, minds at work in this company. I’m excited to see what comes next!

-Melvs

 

Gaming in Gothic Horror

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Obviously this topic is on my mind of late, as my upcoming Ravenloft game lurks ever present in the back of my mind. A horror is tough to run at a table, let alone going further down the niche of Gothic style horror. So what sets this style of play apart from your regular gaming campaign? What kind of work behind the scenes and on game night must you do to correctly set the tone? Well, here’s hoping some of the ideas I have for my upcoming Ravenloft run might assist you.

UNDERSTANDING GOTHIC HORROR

I think the first step for something like this is to understand just what Gothic horror represents as a genre. While all your regular horror tropes may appear in this subgenre, your slashers, beasts, death, and despair, a truly Gothic setting must also up the ante on pure tragedy. It’s villains are best when served up as either heroes gone bad or someone who gave into their craven desires and then strive for said desires, never to be sated. Ravenloft is filled to brim with horrifying figures of tragic circumstances. Strahd von Zarovich is the prime example, namely because so few do not know his legacy, he forever seeks someone to fill the place of his one true love whom he will never again be with. His jealousy and rage caused his downfall and he became the horror he is to this date.

I think one of the best things in the Curse of Strahd Adventure Path was the fact that the vampire lord was not idle, true villains of Gothic horror rarely are. They are not eveil lords content to sit back in their strongholds awaiting the PC’s to storm the gates after conquering their minions. In a Gothic setting if you draw the eye of the monster you seek, you will become wrapped in their games.

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Gothics are often referred to as Romances, and with good reason. Even if there is not the physical love between two or more people it is all about “romantic” ideals. Look to the typical hero of a Gothic tale. Victor Frankenstein can hardly be called a hero but his romantic notion to bring the dead back to life created his own horror on Earth. The best of heroes in a Gothic setting are typically less capable than you would see in other genres. The hero of Dracula was Professor Van Helsing, not the crossbow wielding adventurous guy you may have seen in other depictions, but instead an older gentleman with his own set of flaws. He doesn’t discern the true nature of the issue until it is too late for one life and he is not capable of saving all in his care as he drives them to track Dracula back to Transylvania. Heroes in these stories are rare, they are also often flawed.

Essentially the truly Gothic tale will be one where the heroes clutch and claw about, looking for the cause of the dismay and confusion that surrounds them, only to eventually have all the clues snap into place. The best realization of the horror that surrounds them then should be a simultaneous feeling of dread and despair, sometimes even for the monster they seek.

HOW TO BRING THAT TO THE TABLE

To give a Gothic game that truly dreamlike grandness it deserves can be hard, both the players and the GM often need to be invested in the story. This isn’t the type of game that lends itself to a “battle a week” format very well. There needs to be a leadup to that point, and it can often work best when the fight isn’t even entirely fair. Though I will say I have no intention of going full on Lovecraftian on them, if I wanted them to have no chance I’d just run a Call of Cthulhu based game.

I know I’m already urging my players to have connections to one another but I think I’m going to go one step further and have them, for whatever reasons their characters have, residents of the same small village. In this move I plan to start their troubles somewhat small, get them involved on a personal basis early on. Their characters will know, and presumably care, for every member in the village. I can’t go too much further into this though because some of my players actually read this stuff.

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Potential game night location

For some of the ambiance, I plan to incorporate music and sound into my game as much as possible, utilizing Battlebards as I’ve mentioned many times over the last few articles. Hopefully I can even dim the lights or something but I have learned that D&D by candlelight doesn’t work well, people just can’t see a damn thing. I’ll ask that phones be placed away from the table, I can’t stand people on their phones while I’m running a game.

In game I’ll be pulling creatures from the Children of the Mists supplement I described in my previous article a lot. Ravenloft can be a place of straightforward dangers like banditry and such, but I want my enemies to have dark purpose and I hope to convey it.

IN CONCLUSION

There are a ton of things I could throw onto this page about my plans but it might ruin some of what’s to come. I hope the guys go for it, I’m pretty excited. Stay tuned to the site because I’ll probably work up a few post game write ups, or at least let you know some of the things that have worked\not worked for me. If you have advice for a burgeoning Gothic Horror GM, let me know in the comments! I don’t profess to be an expert yet, this is my first run at it.

-Melvs