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

 

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Playing Against Type

I am a Roleplayer. When I play a tabletop RPG, I invest in my character & their relationships. When I GM a game, my NPCs have at least a thread of a backstory, or at least I’m ready and willing to invent one on the spot. Suffice it to say, I love to invest more time into characters and their drivers than I do the mechanics of the game itself. So when my good friend Tyler Beckett asked me to pass along the word of his research study into how people approach playing their PC’s and NPCs it got me thinking about the type of characters I’ve brought to the table as a player and a GM.

First and foremost I want to introduce Tyler’s research study, namely with the hope you will participate. I very rarely ask my readers to actually do something, basically I’m a “if you dig it, go for it” kind of guy, but this time I’m straight up asking you to take his surveys. Tyler’s research study is titled “The Effect of Gender & Sexuality on Character Attachment in Tabletop Role-Playing Games” and he is interested in how you approach playing RPGs. Whether you relish playing against your current standing in life (for reference I am a White, Heterosexual, Able Bodied, Male), or maybe you tend to adopt a similar character (or NPC) to who you are. Right below this paragraph I’m going to place two survey choices. I want you to answer one of them, if it isn’t too much of a bother. It will really help Tyler out!

Survey One: Have you ever played a Character with a different gender/sexuality? Take this Survey

Survey Two: Have you ever played characters who had the same gender and/or sexuality as you? Take this survey

With that out of the way, I want to talk a little bit about my own experiences.

I’m one of those people who will play the most interesting character (as I see it) for the game. If I encounter a game where the characters are pre-made I’m choosing who interests me the most, they don’t have to match my real life identifiers. I think this hearkens back to my days as an actor, as short lived as they were, I simply adore the improvisational storytelling that can lie at the heart of RPGs. I will say though, I’ve only once chosen to play against type when crafting a character of my own. More on that later.

When my core group and I play an RPG we typically play mostly along the lines of type. Our group is almost of the same sex that we identify with ourselves, and likely the same sexual orientation, if we ever really let that into the game. See, our RPG sessions have almost never allowed even the concept of having sex into the game. We are far more interested in the standard concepts of heroics to be our main drivers. I can’t point to a single gaming session where the love of a PC\NPC played any role in our gameplay. I haven’t even seem it in our casual side play. Keep in mind this is largely unrealistic but in core group’s RPGs we don’t always focus on realism, we focus on the parts that intrigue us as a whole, and a love life practically never figures into that.

As I have progressed as a player and GM, away from my core group, I’ve encountered a few situations where love\lust have been critical to the story. These situations were always really interesting to me, namely because they were a fresh perspective in tabletop gaming. Most notably was the game run by Mr. Hussman at Gen Con 2016. Love was at the center of the game and due to my relative inexperience with the concept “in game” it was wildly refreshing. Even when i had to take the mantle of a character against my real life “type”.

In the end I’d recommend anyone who plays an RPG to try and break the mold a little bit. It really refreshes the entire gameplay. Even if you find yourself more enthralled with mechanics than Roleplay, give it a try.

-Melvs

P.S. Please help Tyler by answering his surveys!

 

 

 

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

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