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

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

5e Ravenloft Resources

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I’m gearing up for a Campaign set in the Ravenloft setting, so I’ve been scouring the DM’s Guild for a few resources to help out. Since I went ahead and purchased many of them sight unseen I thought I’d let you all know my thoughts. I will say before I even spell out details about each product that I suggest them all as a purchase.

NEW CLASSES, ARCHETYPES, & RACES

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Author: Jeremy Forbing                     Price Point: $2.80

Ravenloft Archetypes I: Nightmares of Barovia

In this fiendish supplement the character choices presented typically take on a darker tone, as they are representative of character options for actual denizens of the Ravenloft setting. When Curse of Strahd hit the scene it was all about characters from Forgotten Realms being drawn into the Demiplane of Dread, not so here.

There are no new classes to speak of in this supplement but there is at least one new archetype for each of the core classes represented in the pages. Archetypes like the Oath of Blood for a Paladin striving to hold off their vampire nature after suffering the curse or the Reanimated archetype for a Sorcerer who has already died but now roams the plane as a risen magic user particularly stand out as unique to the setting.

There are three new races to choose from. The Vistani, bold choice to go full blooded, the Crag Dwarf, a version of the classic dwarf that has evolved a bit of dexterity not seen in its cousins, and the Dusk Elf, which represents more of a stylistic choice than a trait based one (thought it does offer access to some supplement specific feats).

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There isn’t a ton of art, but where there is it’s really good stuff.

Other items of interest in the supplement are new spells, feats, and even some monsters and NPCs for the GM of your game to play around with.

My review would be that the archetypes are strong, setting specific, choices. essentially they are worth the price of the book alone. The only thing I didn’t like about the book were the races, the author boldly went for something new rather than cribbing from the past but it just didn’t pan out. The remaining character options are great though!

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Author: Jeremy Forbing                   Price Point $3.28 

Ravenloft Archetypes II: Core Domains Adventurer’s Guide

I liked the first foray into new Archetypes from Jeremy that I figured I’d pick this one up as well. I am not disappointed. Not only does this second helping include more in the way of character options for players but we get a healthy dose of setting lore for GMs to utilize.

Once again every character class gets a new Archetype to play around with. I especially love the Rulership Domain for Clerics, just thinking of playing as some zealot of the Lawgiver is giving me flashbacks to being an Inquisitor in an old Warhammer Dark Heresy RPG I played in. Other options added are more Races and subrace options, we finally see the Caliban which is represented as a variant of the half-orc here. The Ravenkin is a really neat idea too, no where near alike to any character class you’d normally play as. You are basically an intelligent, slightly larger, Raven. Crazy fun spellcaster class.

The new GM stuff is my favorite thing though. Love getting my hands on any details I can regarding the Core.

There are some redundancies in this book, as in things seen in the previous one. So keep that in mind.

HEROES OF MIST

Author: David “Jester” Gibson       Price Point: $3.00

Heroes of the Mists

Over the years I have turned to the website The Fraternity of Shadows often for game prep in Ravenloft, and often just to read some good gaming concepts. My buddy Jacob B. introduced me to the site when he was running Ravenloft for us in 4th Edition D&D because he was using a version of the 4th Edition Ravenloft Campaign Setting crafted by David “Jester” Gibson, the author of this entry into the DM’s Guild.

So, obviously this is a different version of the same thing the previous two items offered. Character options for the most part and a smattering of GM tools. If I were to choose between Heroes of the Mists and the Ravenloft Archetypes books I’d go with this product here, although it would be a tough choice. Jester, and the gang over at The Fraternity of Shadows, are simply more familiar to me and are a bit more closer to the original feel of Ravenloft.

The most glaring flaw is the lack of a table of contents but after reading through you get a great selection of Races, Class options, etc. but in this supplement they do a great job of adding in Backgrounds and even some setting specific items\magic items.

Towards the end of the pdf there is an excellent chapter to help a struggling GM run a game in Ravenloft. Teaching you the basics of mood and even adding in rules for Madness and Horror.

MONSTERS

Children of the Night

Authors: David “Jester” Gibson & Andrew “alhoon” Pavlides                                     Price Point: $3.00

Children of the Night

There’s only one supplement I felt I needed to grab for setting specific monsters and that was Children of the Night, also from our friends over at The Fraternity of Shadows and their publisher 5 Minute Workday Publishing.

Once again written by David “Jester” Gibbons, with help from another Fraternity member Andrew “alhoon” Pavlides, Children of the Night contains over 100 pages of just the right type of skin crawl inducing beasties you need to fuel your late night excursions into the Demiplane of Dread.

The vast majority of these monsters are updated versions of creatures found in the pages of Ravenloft supplements of old. The mechanics all appear to be well fleshed out for the new 5th edition, I can’t wait to throw some of these guys at my players.

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The artwork is simplistic but that actually adds to the feel of the manual, as if it were hand drawn by a chronicler of these creatures.

PREMADE ADVENTURES

SONG OF ARACOS

Author: Lucas Curell                         Price Point: $4.95

The Song of Aracos

*This review is lifted straight from my review of Curse of Strahd*

From Ember Design Studios LLC. author Lucas Curell, The Song of Aracos is considered to be a companion piece to Curse of Strahd that takes a paragraph from the introduction in CoS, written by Tracy Hickman, to heart…

 

 

“Strahd isn’t a villain who remains out of sight until the final scene. Far from it – he travels as he desires to any place in his realm or his castle, and (from his perspective) the more often he encounters the characters, the better. The characters can and should meet him multiple times before the final encounter…”

— Curse of Strahd pg 10

The adventure is a ghost story, written for five characters of 6th-level and centers on a child’s struggle to reunite with her mother. After an introductory piece of fiction, that perfectly fits the Ravenloft flair I love, the adventure starts right out of the gate with some action with an encounter that makes pulling the players into the story-line easy for the DM. From there the players are led down the rabbit hole of helping not only another man recently trapped in Strahd’s realm but a spirit in need of respite. The trouble is, Strahd is well aware of the character’s movements and of those who seek their aid, and he is not one to lay dormant as the playthings in his interest make their moves.

Curell weaves elements of the main Adventure Path into his adventure with deftness, you’ll never feel that your playing through something not of WotC’s make. He even includes the randomization of the Taroka Deck. The setting, and NPCs involved all fit perfectly with Strahd just as terrifying as ever. Adding in a win and lose circumstance for the players matches up well with the way such things are handled within the actual Adventure Path. I especially like the potential rewards that players can obtain from doing well.

In my opinion this is a must have for anyone planning to run Curse of Strahd for their table, though it can be used as a stand alone adventure. Honestly, it’s a perfect example of what a great idea it was for Wizards of the Coast to open up their content for talented creators through the Dungeon Master’s Guild. Head on over and pick it up!

Rats in Street

Author: Lucas Curell                             Price Point: $4.95

Rats in the Street (5e)

Rats in the Streets is the newest offering from Ember Designs Studios for a party of adventurer’s of 3rd level. I loved The Song of Aracos so much I had to get my hands on it. After paging through it I think it will make a great side quest for one of the game nights in our Ravenloft Campaign.

While mostly an urban adventure, with much less stress on the horror elements present in Song, we do still have some of the trappings of Ravenloft. Namely in the lead villain’s cursed nature.

The fact I plan to use Rat’s in the Street for Ravenloft goes a long way in showing its versatility as an adventure for your table. This is a great little urban crawl for any group that gives them a satisfying romp against a gang of criminals terrorizing the streets.

By the time my table gets here they might actually welcome something a bit more straight-forward as a fight against a group of street toughs. Though, there are plenty of fun surprises in store for them too.

Scrupple

 

So there you have it, those are the items I picked up to help me out. Plus, I plan to utilize Battlebards heavily now that I have a hang of their site. Not sure what I’m talking about when I reference Battlebards? See my recent review.

 

Gen Con 2016

Just like that the thunderous rolling of thousands of dice has finally ceased as the 49th Gen Con has come to a close. Once again I had the privilege of attending, and once again I more than enjoyed myself as I dabbled in old traditions and fresh wonders. Every year has its reasons to be memorable, and maybe it’s simply because I am fresh from attending but this one feels like it may go down as one of the best ever, well… for me at least. I’ll try to unpack everything as best I can but to be honest, with so much having occurred, I’m certain to leave a few things out.

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WEDNESDAY

Once again I had the pleasure of hooking up with the gang from the Gamerstable Podcast (whom I understand will be ending their podcast run in roughly 20 episodes WHAT!?) for some shared driving, room, and board. After a lengthy goodbye to my wife and two lovely kids (I missed them terribly all con), I made the trek to Illinois for the carpool. We left mid-morning and made Indianapolis in good time and the first thing we noticed was dear sweet Drowzee was Indy a hotbed for Pokestops and ‘mons! After a quick check in at the Sheraton we were off to The Ram!

The Ram has become the go to watering hole for the yearly Gamerstable meetup, and historically I’ve always had something else to do that night. This year I was free and clear to join the festivities though and I’m certainly glad to have done so. Getting the chance to catch up with the guys and gals of Gamerstable was a highlight for me the entire convention. I live within and hour or two of most of them but typically during the year life gets in the way of spending all that much together. I spent the night meeting up with old friends and made a number of new ones. Highlights include having the entire Of Dreams and Magic (ODAM) team come by to pay a visit, meeting Pete Petrusha in person finally, and Toju…TOJU my awesome buddy, and fellow Vagabond Gamer, from Australia that I finally met in person as well!

The Ram was highlighting the new EATdition from Privateer Press this year! ;P

The Ram was highlighting the new EATdition from Privateer Press this year! ;P

The Ram was an awesome hangout spot but that was the only place I needed to stop by Wednesday night. So I took a leisurely walk down to the Union Station Ballroom to catch up with Michael Ross from The RPG Academy. It felt like I was walking into a pocket plane wherein AcadeCon lay within Gen Con. I happened to walk into numerous games already in progress and, not seeing an opening anytime soon, I made due with some brief “nice to see-yas” and made my way back to The Ram to finish the night. I had kind of ditched the ODAM team anyway, so I wanted to get back and resume chatting with them, and others.

The night ended with a glance at the Will Call line and a hearty “Hell no I ain’t standing in that!”. I made my way back to the hotel and collapsed, ready to awaken in like 4-5 more hours to jump in the Press line!

THURSDAY

Thursday morning came real early for me. I woke at 5 a.m. and quietly stole from my hotel room into the dark morning. This year someone made the decision to limit press access to the con floor to just the first 90 press badge holders to jump in line that morning at the press room and I wanted that early access. As I was walking to the line I noticed there was an absence of a line for Will Call so I walked up and got my tickets in less than five mins (looks like skipping it the night before was the right call). I was fortunate to get in line as the number 29th line guy and Michael Ross was number 27! He willingly slid back a spot in line so we could chat about our excitement for the convention. The press line is always a fun time, I get to see a lot of familiar faces. Later on a few other buddies showed up further down the line so Michael and I had some fun tweeting back and forth with Rohit from Gamersplane and Bryce. Bryce made a crack about my beardless face & it hurt me deeply.

Press Badge in hand I realized I left my camera back at the room (I’m really good at this “reporting thing”) so I hoofed it back to the hotel. The trip back and forth from the hotel clocked in at .6 of a mile one way. Perfect distance in my opinion, just far enough away to dissuade me from spending too much time there but close enough for a walk.

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The early access line(s)

After grabbing my camera I made it back to the early access line just in time to discover the snafu that had occurred regarding it. Two lines had formed, I had no way of discerning which was the “true line” so I made the call to just sit near a wall outlet and charge my phone figuring I’d get in early no matter what line I was in. This marks the only time at the convention I ever noticed people actually seeming frustrated enough to cast aspersions on others. I totally got it too, see most of the early access folks were VIG’s (Very Important Gamers), they had paid good money for the privilege of early access and they wanted to ensure they got to the booths they were interested in in order to buy the games they feared were limited. So this two line business meant that effectively many were cutting in front of others. I wanted no part in that, had no interest in buying things right away anyhow.

As and aside, and I’ve struggled with whether or not to even bring this up, I feel Gen Con has an issue with the various access levels that they give Press. Now, being a member of the press pool at Gen Con it may seem like I’m complaining from a bit of a “first world standing” but hear me out. Right now the best access the press has to those on the exhibit room floor is the one hour early access on day one of the Con. We are given the same one hour that the VIG’s and various other specialty groups are given, and this year only 90 of us were even given that. The VIG’s are there to shop, they are going to storm the doors and fill up lines and time with the biggest names out there the second they get through those doors. While I have no qualms talking with some of the smaller groups out there, this is an impediment to our ability to catch some of the bigger fish ad hoc. We are certainly capable of setting up our own interview times, mine you, but it just feels like we should have a bit more access. In my opinion Press should be allowed in an hour early or an hour later on some other day. Give the VIG’s their initial day and let press have a day all their own. Maybe even one hour early on Sunday. Right now, other than the novelty (though I really love and appreciate that novelty!), there isn’t a lot of reason for press to be in there with the horde of VIG’s.

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So lovely

Moving on. That first hour on the floor was nice, if not particularly useful. I got to take in the sights without the crush of people you usually run into. I also noticed immediately that the fine folks of Gen Con made huge efforts to lower the crowds with a large increase in exhibit hall space! Later on in the con weekend I noticed the extra space made for a much more open exhibit floor.  I did get to speak with the creators of one particularly interesting game I’d never seen before. Fate of the Norns: Ragnarok has actually been around in some way since 1993 but it’s most current edition originates in 2005 and now has a second edition that came out in 2012. The books are gorgeous and the mechanics rely on the pulling of runes rather than die rolls, this style is called the “Runic Game System” or RGS. Looks like they were there repping their new book FotN:Ragnarok: Denizens of the North on top of their older, core books. Man these books looked very cool and I wish I’d been able to lay down cash right then and there!

The early access hour evaporated very quickly and after watching the hordes descend onto the con floor I grabbed some lunch, headed back to the hotel to chill for a bit, and then grabbed my Orc Stomp 5k packet! I’m always excited about the 5k, despite some thinking I’m nuts for even doing it. It’s fun just chatting with others getting ready for it too, so packet pickup is a nice easy going experience. After that I hit the exhibit hall floor for just a little longer and then it was back to the hotel yet again to get myself all dressed up for the annual Gamerstable Award Dinner at St. Elmos Steakhouse.

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Eric presenting Monte Cook the coveted Gamerstable Award

This year’s award recipient was Monte Cook, and his plus one was none other than Shanna Germain. I am consistently impressed by the ability Eric Austley has to draw in big names for this award, his recipients all deserve the accolades too. Monte and Shanna were excellent dinner table companions, despite the fact Monte convinced Shanna and I to try a Sichuan Button.  Don’t get me wrong, I like trying new things but… let’s just say it was not for me, not big into “electrocuting” my tongue. There were numerous folks I enjoyed chatting with in attendance as well. I got to meet Chris Hussey, in fact I sat next to him having a pleasurable conversation for about an hour before I finally realized who he was! I was able to catch up with my buddy Scott, The Angry GM. Running back into Michael Ross & Pete Petrusha was great too. Of course I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention that this was the prime spot to run into Eric (and of course most of the Gamerstable crew; Shannon, Jayson, Mike, Dan, etc.) who was apparently super busy all con because he disappeared like a ghost after that night!

In the afterglow of the dinner I offered to run a pickup game of Savage Worlds: Sundered Skies for a group of us in attendance and I had a blast doing so. I witnessed a new friend of mine, Jason Butz, roll up one of the biggest exploding die continuations ever. His sorcerer meant to just freeze a railing in order to bust it and the grappling hooks attached to it but ended up freezing the entire side of the ship! They lost the cannons on that side of the airship but the pirates who were after them lost 3/4 of the men attempting to board. It was crazy!

Realizing it was midnight and Shannon and I both had to be up at 5 a.m. to run a 5k we called it a night.

FRIDAY

A mere 4-5 hours after going to sleep I found my eyes creaking open and somehow willed myself from my bed to get out the door and head to the Orc Stomp 5k. The second I was out in the cool morning air I found myself waking up instantly, it was a damn fine morning. As with every other time I walked to and from the hotel I casually had Pokemon Go running to grab stops and the myriad of Pokemon that crawled across the city streets of Indy. Many feel like you can’t truly enjoy your surroundings while playing the game but I find I can easily glance at the game off and on while taking in the sites quite well. not to mention I was made aware of some cool historical markers in Downtown Indy that I would have never paid any mind to before. Somehow I wasn’t even aware the Capitol building was right there near the convention center but, I know now!

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The Orc Stomp 5k was held, once again, along the White River Trail. Honestly this is one of the most gorgeous 5k runs I do every year. I met up with a fellow blogger friend of mine, Rob, who two years ago introduced me to the race by letting me run it under one of the free passes obtained by his sponsorship of the run. It was great catching up with him while we all prepped for the race. We had a few laughs about the last time I ran, where I overslept, drove frantically to the race, and then posted my best 5k time ever (something like 27 mins) just trying to finish the already started race! I enjoyed all the costumes immensely and reminded myself I’d like to dress up one year, I then found out that one of the costumed groups actually had a role in the run itself. The “Raptors” were associated with Exile Game Studio, specifically their game Hallow Earth Expeditions. As you can see in the image they dressed up like Raptors and “chased” us throughout the race. Essentially there were two main raptor types, fast and not as fast. If you beat the faster raptor you’d get a gold ribbon, and if you beat the next fastest you’d get a green ribbon. I loved this concept because I’m never going to win a 5k but I can sure beat at least one of them raptors!

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Waiting for the race to start was pretty fun. We discovered the starting line camped two Pokestops and we made use of them while chatting with fellow racers. I never got the name of the racer wielding the giant mallet, but I learned the next day after speaking with my buddies at Dog Might Games that the mallet was theirs, it was pretty damn heavy, and the guy who held it through the entire race had won the 5k the year before. Needless to say he didn’t win this year but man what an achievement to run 3.1 miles carrying that monstrous thing! Soon, the race was off. I made the mistake of running the thing as if I were actually in shape and earned myself a pulled calf muscle for my hubris. Still, I clocked a time of 33 mins, only three mins longer than my average. I was a blast and I even earned myself a green ribbon! I stuck around for the rest of my buddies finishing the race and then we headed back to the hotel.

I was very fortunate to have plenty of time to shower and ready myself for a very exciting portion of my day, the RPG Academy Network Panel.We had a decent crop of network folks at the con so Michael had decided to set up an open panel. It was a lot of fun, the podcasters fielded the majority of the questions early on because, let’s face it, podcasting is sexy as hell. Later in the session though we started delving into some blog, game mastering, advocacy, and regular old gaming questions that I was more than happy to jump in on. Little pleases me more than chatting with others who hold a reverence for this hobby and I enjoyed every moment of it (finally got to meet @theworstDM in person too!). Not to mention after the panel we got to get a little bit of gaming in as Senda and Emily introduced us to their 5 min RPG concept, and by “introduced” I mean slaughtering us mercilessly one after another…in 5 mins or less! This was recorded so you might later hear our downfalls.

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Left to right: Chris, Lucas, Senda, Michael, Emily, Myself

After lunch I stopped by the press room to debate drinking coffee or going back to the hotel for some sleep. While there I ran into Michael Long from Tribality and had a nice chat, then saw Rob Stith in the hall. By then the general lack of sleep had finally caught up to me and I trudged back to the hotel for a nap. Sadly this meant I ended up sleeping through the Phoenix Dawn Command & Shes’s a Super Geek panels that I wanted to attend but I know I needed it!

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I did make it to one of the panels I scheduled that day though. Privateer Press put on a development panel regarding Warmachine and Hordes. In years past I’ve attended panels by these folks regarding new upcoming products so it was interesting to listen in on one that comes on the heels of the major release of the third edition of the game. Many in the crowd, myself included, were hoping for a reveal of the newest faction that has been teased for some time now but we were left wanting. The majority of the panel consisted of some discussion regarding the way they go about creating a concept and the various channels it then goes through before becoming a retail piece. I could tell the room wanted to know more about upcoming items but frankly they didn’t have a ton to show off. If you recall two years ago, in the Unleashed panel, they had computer issues and luckily were able to use my computer to show off their images and such. Well, they had computer issues again and this time I did not bring my own so i couldn’t save the day. One tease we got for the new faction was that they intend to have them use feats completely differently from the other factions, but this is all still in development.  I asked about the Roleplaying Game (because of course I did) and I learned they want to expand on Piracy some more, which sounds fantastic!

Title

One thing I knew I had to do at Gen Con this year was visit with my friends behind Trapdoor Technologies and the Playbook app. In case you are unaware they have now aligned themselves with Paizo and Pathfinder (their app is even more polished  now than ever before). They were holed away in the Sagamore Ballroom with the rest of the massive Pathfinder realm. The place was truly daunting in size. It was great catching up with Chris and

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The last scheduled event I had for the night was the big one for me, the ENnies. If you are a regular reader you know this but this year I had the esteemed pleasure of actually being nominated for the Best Website category. I was pretty damn certain I wasn’t going to win even the Silver ENnie but I knew I needed to go to the event if only to see my site’s banner flash across the big screen in the front (which I totally neglected to get a photo of… luckily someone else did)! The best part for me was when my site popped up on the screen Kevin Kulp made the comment that my banner was the “Happiest he’d ever seen”, high praise to Wes of Nameless PC’s! Well folks, I didn’t win anything but I am certainly excited that I’ll forever be an ENnie nominated writer. Can’t take that from me eh? I sat there just long enough to see if Michael won Best Podcast for The RPG Academy (sadly he did not), and decided to catch the rest of my group at Giorgio’s Pizza for some excellent deep dish.

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We finished the night with a pick up game of ad-hoc Pathfinder run by Mike Bridges, of Gamerstable fame, where I was so slap happy tired that I ran a rogue modeled loosely after Emperor Norton , the first and last Emperor of these United States. His name was Vernon Lundman, he dressed in the finest of rags, knew everyone, and even minted his own currency known as the “Lundmark”. It was an awesome ending to a crazy day.

SATURDAY

Saturday was much more laid back than the previous two days. I spent most of my time running into friends and chatting a bit. Forgive me if you’re one of those I ran into and you aren’t getting a mention! I really had nothing planned until early afternoon. I ate an awesome Gyro from the Ali Baba’s food truck, which is starting to become a tradition for me. Then I spent some time in the park near the JW Marriott catching Cubones on Pokemon Go until I could evolve to a Marowak, as one does. Soon it was time for me to head to my scheduled game run by none other than Chris Hussman!

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Michael claimed this guy looked like Freddie Mercury

I was joined by Michael Ross and one of his podcast’s faculty members Brad. It ende dup being just the three of us as we weaved our way through a story filled with heartache, high adventure, and good old fashioned “end of days” stopping. I don’t want to go into too much detail, just in case some of you have the chance to ever play in this specific game. I really wouldn’t want to ruin it’s many twists. Suffice it to say it was my favorite game of the con. Michael, Brad, and I played really well off one another and in the end Chris even had some high praise for our roleplay and decisions throughout. I really got into character and loved every moment of it. Reminded me of why I love these games in the first place.

After the game we ran through a playtest of a neat game concept Michael is working on and I went looking for my crew for dinner. At this point, basking in the glow of completing all my scheduled fun I got to be a bit homesick if I’m to be honest. I missed my family a ton but knew I still had some fun times in store.

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Dinner was fun, we sat with the incredible Anna Myers at Champs where she had hung up her massive map of Greyhawk that she had crafted on her own. She is truly a master Cartographer. It was at dinner I where I was convinced to go to the Gencon dance, namely because Toju was going and I hadn’t spent nearly enough time with him. It was one Hell of a way to end the day, I’ll tell you that. The Union Station was filled to the brim with scores of us nerds just dancing (and drinking) the night away. Tons of fun, I only wish my wife could have been there, some of the most fun we have together is hitting the dance floor!

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The dance ended and I hit the hotel, instead of going to sleep I sat up with a number of my roommates. Shannon’s boyfriend Brandon and I chatted about how Goku is kind of a jerk among other awesome anime talk. After that it was lights out.

SUNDAY

Hard to believe the con ever really came to a close. I wandered around aimlessly with Shannon, Brandon, and Jason B. for a bit, then tracked down Michael at his Post Con deal where I ran into Dani and John. We sent a little love via snapchat to our buddy Pierce, who should have been at Gen Con running a Ravenloft game for us (had some weak excuse about buying a house). I then headed back to the con floor to debate once more if I’d make my one purchase of a Hirst Arts Mold but decided against it as I figured I’d spent plenty that weekend already. Thus, I made it through all of Gen Con purchasing nothing but food and lodging.

Lastly the gang and I met up with Toju, where we quietly chatted in the back of the exhibit hall until they shut the thing down signaling the end of another great year. After that the car ride home seemed to take forever as I yearned to get back to my family. Man, what a great time though.

Last thought? Sure wish Wizards of the Coast had been there this year…

Feel free to share Gen Con stories in the comments! Also, if you’ve got a hankering for another con, check out AcadeCon (meet me there!)! There are still passes availiable

-Melvs

PICTURES!

So there were a number of things I now realize I forgot to mention, namely because I can’t recall what day they occurred! I’m going to be lazy and simply put the pictures up with some blurbs.

 

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The Porkchop Express was in town for the event

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Some cool cats eh? Left to right The Carpe DM, myself and Rohit from Gamersplane

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Always awesome catching up with author Hans Cummings

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The RPG Academy Podcast pre-con meetup

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Finally worked up the nerve to shake Jolly Blackburn’s hand

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The ODAM team drops by The Ram

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TOJU! We look eerily similar in the face in this picture.

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Toju and Shannon

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More shots of the Gamerstable meetup at The Ram

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One of many fine brews I had the pleasure of sampling

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Dan and Mike strike a cool pose

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Pete and Jayson.

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Shannon and Rob

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Be proud of carrying that thing man!

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THE RAPTORS!

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The Pathfinder room was HUGE

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Got to the ENnies early enough to get a picture of the empty hall

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Had great fun with this crowd all weekend

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I witnessed the CarpeDM win a goblet scoop of dice from these guys

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Dogmight Games always has me salivating over their products

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My actual roll at the Crit for Success booth

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Cardhalla

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Anna Myers’ full map!

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Brandi & Toju

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The dance was most excellent

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Toju & Mike

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Shannon and Babs got to meet Andy Looney!

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Shannon’s Ash Ketchum was great!

COSPLAY PICS

Here are some great cosplay pictures that Shannon’s cousin Brandon was more than happy to pass my way.

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Gen Con Schedule

GenCon2016

If you follow me on any social media you are likely quite aware that I will be in Indianapolis August 3-7 for Gen Con 2016! Just wanted to put out a little schedule of events in case you want to try and catch up with me somewhere, which I fully support you doing.

WEDNESDAY 8-3

Early Afternoon: Arrive in Indianapolis, check into hotel

Rest of the night: I plan to swing between two events.

  • A: Hanging out with the Gamerstable folks at The Ram
  • B: Playing some games with folks over at The RPG Academy Podcast’s Pre-Con Gaming event ZED16102815

 

THURSDAY 8-4

6:00 am (likely earlier): Get in line for my Press Badge and hopefully one of the early access passes to the Exhibition Hall

8:00 am-5:00 pm: At some point grab my Orc Stomp 5k Packet, other than that I’m free!

5:00 pm – 7:00 pm: Gamerstable Award dinner at St. Elmos Steakhouse. Every year at Gen Con the folks from the Gamerstable Podcast award one or more in the RPG industry for their contributions to the gaming world we love. This year they will be presenting their award to Monte Cook of Monte Cook Games. I look forward to sharing some good times and good food with this industry legend.

7:00 pm – Midnight (and beyond): I’m torn between two events:

  • A Deadlands LARP: I love Savage Worlds, I love Deadlands, and good friends are also set to play the game.
  • VIP Kickoff Party @ the Playbook Mansion: I met the Trapdoor Technologies folks at a press event back in 2014 for their then Project Morningstar…err project. So most of us know Wizards dropped the ball there but another company picked it right back up. Now they are with Paizo and they are kicking off their Pathfinder Gaming app, known as Playbook, in style. It would be really great catching up with them as I count them as good friends as well as interesting tech designers.

FRIDAY 8-5

6:00 am – 8:00 am: Orc Stomp 5k: Oh lord what was I thinking… why can’t I ever just see a run and not sign up for it? The BEST case scenario for the 5k is I choose the LARP the night before so I don’t have a hangover. Though… I will say that a three mile run has often kicked some of my hangovers to the curb. I have many friends running this with me. Shout outs to Shannon, Rob, and anyone else I might be forgetting!

9:00 am – 11:00 am: RPG Academy Network Panel SEM1686145! Join a group of us from the RPGAN, we’ll be fielding questions and generally just chatting with you all about whatever you want to know. Come ask me questions about starting a blog and learn how little I actually know about it!

2:00 pm-3:00 pm: All About Phoenix Dawn Command SEM1689664: I’ve been a Keith Baker fan since Eberron first appeared on the scene. It remains the Campaign Setting I’ve run the most games in. So naturally I’m interested in Phoenix Dawn. I’ll admit, I only know a little about it at this point. Excited to learn more!

3:00 pm – 4:00 pm: She’s a Super Geek Panel SEM1689926: My friends, and fellow Network members, over at She’s a Super Geek are having a panel. I urge you to join me there too!

5:00 pm – 12:00 am – The ENnies & more: The ENnies starts at 5:oo pm and runs until at least 10:30 pm. You probably know this but I have been nominated for “Best Website” so even though I always go to this I actually have a vested interest in attending this year! Even if I wasn’t nominated though I have good friends nominated all over the place (even some in my own category) so I’ll have plenty of folks to root for!

SATURDAY 8-6

I literally have nothing scheduled except for a pickup game in the afternoon.

SUNDAY 8-7

Zero scheduled.

 

Overall I’m really looking forward to this year’s Gen Con. I’m very unscheduled so pickup games will be a must I’m sure! Looking forward to seeing a bunch of old and new friends, even a few that I’ve never actually met in person (looking at you Toju)! Hopefully I’ll get some great gaming in, because I know I’m going to get some great face time with buddies.

Take care and good gaming!

-Melvs

 

REVIEW:5e Adventure Path Curse of Strahd

*Hey guys! Melvin here. Please remember that there is still time to head over to the Acadecon 2016 Kickstarter to get your badge to meet me, and plenty of even cooler people, in Ohio this November! Can’t make the trip? Grab four friends and pick up a virtual game run by myself or one of the other special GMs available!*

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Curse of Strahd is the newest Adventure Path out from Wizards of the Coast, this time in partnership with the original minds behind the iconic vampire lord, Tracy & Laura Hickman. Essentially an updated, and certainly expanded, version of the I6 adventure “Ravenloft”, Curse of Strahd hits the nostalgia levels on all points. If you have a place in your heart for this compelling story of love, despair, and jealousy (mixed with truly unnerving supernatural mystery) you’ll certainly enjoy the update. So if you’ve never had the chance to experience I6, or maybe you have and feel compelled to run the game this book is for you! Those content to merely play the game? I can’t see a compelling reason you’d ever pick up this book beyond enjoying a well crafted product for Dungeon Masters.

If you’ve never had a chance to delve into the world of Ravenloft, or have never met its ultimate baddie Strahd von Zarovich, your players’ characters will be introduced to a cursed realm. The terrified populace of Barovia cowers under Strahd and the dark monstrosities that roam nightly to keep all in check. The adventurers will find themselves ensnared by whatever curses the place, and even more horrifying they will discover that the vampire lord himself takes pleasure in their vain attempts. He knows they are there, he fears them not, and he delights in orchestrating their demise. Their only hope is to take heed of the warnings issued by a mysterious fortune teller, and hopefully discover the means to put Strahd down.

Village of Barovia

Curse of Strahd is gorgeously laid out, has fantastic artwork, and really expands on the original module without taking anything away. I feel like a Dungeon Master would have some real fun running this game for their table. They’ll find the book easy to navigate and will likely find some perverse joy at throwing the supernatural threats within at the player characters. I simply love the eerie feeling to the adventure. I feel the best part of this book is the attention to detail reserved to mapping the adventure. Strahd’s castle is a crazy 45 pages worth of content! I’d also like to point out that many of the encounters within could easily be remapped for use outside of this adventure path. The organization of the book can’t be lauded enough (I think this is roughly the third time I’ve mentioned this fact).

Taroka Deck

Your players will need certain details (location of a powerful weapon, symbols of power, etc.) before they can finally attack the dreaded lord of the realm and that is where fortune telling and a chance meeting with Madam Eva and her Taroka Deck.  The work done to bring the Taroka Deck into the game is great. It randomizes every delve into Curse of Strahd, thus ensuring this Adventure Path actually has what few Pre-Written adventure do, a replay value. I’ve had a chance to see the actual Taroka Deck put out by Wizards of the Coast and it would be an excellent companion purchase with Curse of Strahd. The deck adds something special to the game, and comes with rules for its own card game. Don’t despair though, a standard deck of cards will suffice.

My only complaint is what I alluded to in my introduction. There’s nothing in this book for players beyond one background (Haunted One), a new pack (Monster Hunter’s Pack), and some new “Gothic” trinkets. The Haunted One background is a very well crafted and fits the scene well but man is that a thin offering for a book tied to the Ravenloft Campaign setting. There are a vast quantity of races, classes, and other character options out there to bring to 5e but this book has none of it. My only hope is that we get something Ravenloft specific down the line to explain the absence here.

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If you’re a Dumgeon Master looking to bring some Gothic horror to your 5e D&D table, this is most certainly the place to go. I highly suggest picking it up. Another quality entry into 5e’s Adventure Path line.

Curse of Strahd
Retail: US $49.95 CAN $63.95

BONUS REVIEW: THE SONG OF ARACOS

Song of Aracos

From Ember Design Studios LLC. author Lucas Curell, The Song of Aracos is considered to be a companion piece to Curse of Strahd that takes a paragraph from the introduction in CoS, written by Tracy Hickman, to heart…

“Strahd isn’t a villain who remains out of sight until the final scene. Far from it – he travels as he desires to any place in his realm or his castle, and (from his perspective) the more often he encounters the characters, the better. The characters can and should meet him multiple times before the final encounter…”

— Curse of Strahd pg 10

The adventure is a ghost story, written for five characters of 6th-level and centers on a child’s struggle to reunite with her mother. After an introductory piece of fiction, that perfectly fits the Ravenloft flair I love, the adventure starts right out of the gate with some action with an encounter that makes pulling the players into the story-line easy for the DM. From there the players are led down the rabbit hole of helping not only another man recently trapped in Strahd’s realm but a spirit in need of respite. The trouble is, Strahd is well aware of the character’s movements and of those who seek their aid, and he is not one to lay dormant as the playthings in his interest make their moves.

Curell weaves elements of the main Adventure Path into his adventure with deftness, you’ll never feel that your playing through something not of WotC’s make. He even includes the randomization of the Taroka Deck. The setting, and NPCs involved all fit perfectly with Strahd just as terrifying as ever. Adding in a win and lose circumstance for the players matches up well with the way such things are handled within the actual Adventure Path. I especially like the potential rewards that players can obtain from doing well.

In my opinion this is a must have for anyone planning to run Curse of Strahd for their table, though it can be used as a stand alone adventure. Honestly, it’s a perfect example of what a great idea it was for Wizards of the Coast to open up their content for talented creators through the Dungeon Master’s Guild. Head on over and pick it up!

The Song of Aracos is available via the Dungeon Master’s Guild\Drive Thru RPG for $4.95

-Melvs

 

 

I’m Back!

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…and boy do I have some exciting articles\plans incoming over the next few days, weeks, and months!

I know I’ve been gone a while, but I needed the break. I’m a lone writer out here folks and though I endeavor to keep the posts flowing week to week I needed the downtime to recharge. You probably want to hear more about the teased plans mentioned above though right? Well, I can’t spill all the details just yet but I can offer a taste.

  • in just TWO days the Kickstarter for AcadeCon 2016 will launch. Most of you are aware that I am a proud member of the RPG Academy Network. Due to this I am heavily interested in seeing this convention fund. Though honestly I’m probably less involved in the process than you’d assume due to my membership and I stand to gain less than you likely believe from its funding. When I write my article later this week know that my cheer leading for Michael & Caleb’s little-big convention is coming more from a place of love for the convention and its leadership itself than from anything I actually stand to gain from its funding. I want it to succeed so I have an awesome convention to go to in November, and I want to see you there. As many of you as can make the trip. Let’s sell this thing out folks! I’ll be putting some of my hard earned money toward it even though I don’t have to, I believe in seeing it succeed that much!
  • I have an article to write for Wizards of the Coast. It has taken me a while but I finally finished looking over Curse of Strahd. You may have caught some of my thought’s on Twitter recently but they deserve a full spread.
  • Privateer Press is rolling out a new edition of Warmachine and Hordes. This is huge, the latest edition was released back in 2010 people, it is time for an update. Details are flying around about this new edition and I want to get on top of things and begin to parse down the nitty gritty that you need to know in case you’re interested in how it’ll effect your factions now or, even better, you are just taking notice of this tabletop skirmish game and want to know the best time to get into it (hint: soon).
  • Speaking of WarmaHordes. I’m currently embroiled in an exciting Map Based Campaign titled “The Battle for the Athanc” (basically a high octane version of Risk where actual battles are fought using our WarmaHordes factions). I and my buddy who is running the Campaign have been keeping some battle report type notes and if we actually get our business together I hope to set up a bit of a battlelog for what we’ve done thus far and for how the remaining turns play out. It’s been a blast, even if I’ve had some of the the worst die rolling luck ever throughout.
  • A few fastballs here. I’ll be back at Gencon this year, once more rising with the Gamerstable crew. I’ll be rocking some games at Geekway to the West with Toby from Roll and Groove. I hope to get a bit more serious about writing some helpful essays on how volunteering and\or just gaming with the youth in your community can help foster growth in our hobby. I might even sneak in a post about The Division since that game currently has its talons in me.
  • This last one is going to be vague and for that I’m sorry (well…only a little sorry). I have some plans for the site, I want to become a little more polished. The one thing I can say is I want to drop that pesky little “dot wordpress dot com” from the tail end of my web address. Other than that there are just some things I want to work at for making this site a better place to get gaming information, and more frequent information. Hopefully I can fulfill these self-imposed demands, but one good thing about not running a Patreon or some other form of “actually getting paid for any of this” is I am only really beholden to myself eh?

So there you have it folks. Hope you’re excited to have me back, I’m at least excited to be writing again whether or not you all are happy to have me! 😛

-Melvs

 

 

 

 

Out of the Abyss: Adventures Three & Four

ADVENTURE’S THREE & FOUR

underdark 01

SYNOPSIS:

The brave adventurers crawl through the darkness barely keeping ahead of their pursuers while battling the denizens of the Underdark’s nooks and crannies.

PREPARATION:

Monster tokens… HO BOY was this the chapter for Monster Tokens. These two adventures took place using the details laid out in Chapter 2 of Out of the Abyss so I went crazy and made Monster Tokens for anything they could potentially run into during their long trek through the Underdark facing random encounters.

Another item of prep was rolling randomly on the tables provided in Chapter 2 to set up the myriad of random places\creatures\events that cropped up. I accepted the fact that there was the potential for deviation here but for the most part things fell into line.

OTHER ITEMS OF PREP:

MAPS: I created a variety of maps for potential encounters. I also printed out a map for The Lost Tomb location since that was something I rolled randomly and they found.

  • Lost Tomb – Pulled from the book.
  • Camping Encounter 01 – A nice big map purple circles are giant Mushrooms
  • Camping Encounter 02 – A small map near a pool of fresh water
  • Random Encounter 01 – Never got to use this one but I like it a lot. Ground glows eerily light green. The square block is an old alter of sorts
  • Random Encounter 02 – Used this for the Rocktopus encounter. The craggy semicircles represent a valley they had to go through
  • Dark Lake Encounter 01 – Characters would have been in a boat for this one. Circles are pillars under the water

THE GAME:

THE PLAYERS:

Solaris – Half-Elven Bard.

Hunar Brawnanvil – Dwarven Cleric, Brother of Rurick, from Mithral Hall

Rurick Brawnanvil – Dwarven Barbarian, Brother of Hunar, from Mithral Hall

Ander – Half-Elven Paladin, Spent some time in the Underdark before his capture. Wielder of Dawnbringer

Corbin Honeyhump – Half-Elven Sorcerer, Has sworn revenge on Ilvara for her role in the deaths of Tosy & Turvy

NOTABLE NPCS:

COHORTS

BUPPIDO – Derro. Surprisingly affable.
PRINCE DERENDIL – Quaggoth who claims to truly be a cursed elven prince.
ELDETH FELDRUN – Shield Dwarf from Gaultlgrym. Heroic to a fault. Willing to sacrifice herself for the good of the group.
JIMJAR – Taking all in stride this Deep Gnome is also a compulsive gambler. Even when there’s nothing to gamble.
SARITH KZEKARIT – A drow imprisoned for the murder of another drow. Though he claims no memory of it.
SHUUSHAR THE AWAKENED – A Kuo-toa pacifist. He hopes to one day spread his message to others of his kind.
STOOL aka (“TimTum”) – A childlike Mychonid Sprout. Bonded from day one to Rurick
DAWNBRINGER – Sentient Longsword, was locked away for ages. Fears the dark, wishes only to be brought out and to shine a light against it’s enemies. She has now bonded to Ander.

ENEMIES

The Pursuit Party:

ILVARA MIZZRYM – Drow Priestess of Lloth. Recently imprisoned the PCs and their Cohorts with intention to turn them into slaves. Now she hunts them all across the Underdaaarrrrrk! (“I’ll get you!”).
ASHA VANDREE – Junior Preistess of Lloth.
SHOOR VANDREE – Drow Elite, current lover to Ilvara.
JORLAN DUSKRYN – Drow Elite, spurned lover to Ilvara. Assited in the PC’s escape to spite Ilvara.

OTHERS

Runnar Haftholder – Dwarven Scout, had just left the city of Sloobludop. Was convinced to return with the PC’s and NPC Cohorts in tow.

ADVENTURES THREE & FOUR:

Battlebards Cue: “Dark Elf Temple” by Mike Bridge

I combined these two adventures because they represent the long, 8 day, crawl through the Underdark the players had to accomplish as they proceeded to their next destination of Sloobludop, city of the Kuo-Toa (Look… I know Gary Gygax created the Kuo-Toa, but I’m not certain if he is the one to blame for their F$%*ing names. If he is… man is he lucky I have so much more to thank him for…).

Right from the start they realize that they are going to have to rely on someone very unreliable to guide them… the Drow, Sarith Kzekarit. He was the only one who truly knew his way to Dark Lake where Sloobludop lay. Shuushar could assist if they got near Dark Lake but he had no clue how to get there. The fact that their Drow captors quickly revealed that they were in pursuit ensured that the matter was quickly put to rest and they pushed on.

Funny thing about the depths of Fearun, you can never tell when it’s day or night. However, the heroes had to rest at some point. Beaten and bedraggled they prayed for a full rest. They were not so lucky. Only a matter of hours later they were beset by an Orcan..Orcian…ORCISH raiding party. The fight was fortunately brief but they were really starting to feel their wounds. They opted to move out rather than attempt to rest again, fearing the pursuing Drow. They opted for a normal speed of travel. They could have moved faster, with penalties to perception checks, or slower, to improve stealth and foraging, they were pretty good on supplies from when they luckily found their gear though.

Trudging through the next day they were relieved to encounter no beasts and to get a full rest beneath the protective domes of some giant shrooms. Three more days passed like this with only one brief encounter with some forward scouts from their pursuers and a cave-in that they barely survived. Sarith had a rare moment of pleasant chatter when he mentioned that the cave-in would at least slow down Ilvara and company.

Joy at that was short lived however when they happened upon the lair of a Rocktopus! It really wanted to have a few adventurers for dinner. Turns out things went the other way for the beastie.

On the sixth night all were awoken by a ruckus as they discovered a crazed Sarith treating Shuushar to a frenzied beating. They pulled the slavering drow off the poor wretched Kou-toa and restrained him. While most of the group tended to Shuushar Solaris worked up the nerve to delve into the deranged Drow’s mind. Casting Detect Thoughts he was immediately beset by waves of terror and madness that permeated every inch of his surface thoughts. Probing deeper, because Sarith had little willpower to resist anything at this point, Solaris began to feel the Drow’s connection to some great entity. An obsession to find & serve her. He could go no further though, the madness was too much.

Day seven of their trudge brought about something strange. They began to feel almost a whisper in their minds. Soon it began to take form. They discover they are hearing a mental communication. A feminine voice echoes in their mind claiming to be lost and in need of rescue. Fearful of the dark. The group was almost split in its decision of whether or not to follow the vague impressions being given to them of where to follow. Eventually they decided to trust that someone truly did need their aid and they followed. They happened upon an ornate door.

The players left the NPCs behind for this one, asking Derindel to keep a close eye on Sarith, thought the Drow had been silent for most the day. They entered the structure beyond the door. Upon entering they discovered a diorama depicting the fact that this was the tomb of a long dead sorcerer, Brysis Khaem. They continued searching, often being urged on by the mysterious voice. They found what appeared to be the room of the main Sarcophagi. It turned out to be a ruse however, as a curse burst forth while a Magic Mouth uttered a dire threat. Rurick found himself disadvantaged on Attack Rolls and Saving Throws as a result of failing the saving throw. They fought a group of Spectres in a room filled with small coffins, Rurick laboring under the effects of the curse.

After fighting the Spectres Rurick was done, simply raging at his misfortune. He wanted to leave. However, another of the adventurers spotted some rollers affixed to one of the smaller tombs and they pushed it aside revealing a final room in the tomb. Within it was the true resting place of Brysis Khaem, but the sorcerer had arisen once more in the dark form of a Wraith! A battle ensued, throughout the fight the voice continued to cry out that it was “Right here, come grab me! Please! I can help!”. 

It wasn’t until after the fight that the players discovered the source of the pleas for help. A long sword, finely crafted and apparently sentient. Her name was Dawnbringer. She immediately felt a kinship to the party’s Paladin, Ander. They were soon bonded.

Upon leaving the tomb, and discovering to their relief nothing amiss had occurred while they delved, they moved on. Near the end of their long day they discovered the lapping shore of Dark Lake. It’s size was immense, they knew of no way to cross it. However they did notice a small flicker of flame coming from a nearby cave. They decided to brave it.

Within the cave was a Dwarven scout by the name of Runnar Haftholder. Runnar had actually just come from Sloobudop, and had no desire to return. He quickly changed his mind however when told of the impending Drow slaver group heading this way. Grumbling about the crazy Kuo-toa he finally agreed to take the group on the boat he had “acquired” from the fish people.

They slept, knowing the next day they might at last be in some form of civilization, despite Runnar’s harsh words for Shuushar’s people.

POST GAME THOUGHTS:

THINGS I SHOULD HAVE DONE:

I fully believe I could have made the Underdark more interesting. I spent a lot of time prepping physical props for these games and less on just how I was going to package the oddity of the place to the group. I did better on their second night of Underdark crawlin’, especially with the Lost Tomb, but I could sense they were just ready to get to civilization. Though, Sloobludop was a terrible place anyway, so they weren’t all that excited to get there (more on that in the next write-up as I realize I’ve tipped my hand at being late to write these up).

In the Lost Tomb I forgot that the place was infested with an essence known to inhabit portions of the Underdark known as faerzress. This chaotic magic causes magic to react weirldy and can spawn rolls on the Wild Magic Surge table from the PHB. Really bummed I missed my chance at wielding that tool.

THINGS I LIKE/DISLIKE ABOUT OotA: Chapter Two

  • LIKES:
    • Chapter 2’s Random Generation tables and details are legit. They take care to have encounters based on the denizens of the deep and some interesting locales. Often times both.
    • Chapter 2 doesn’t only craft the encounters for the trip to Sloobludop (though that will almost always be the direction the characters will first head), it covers any trek through the Underdark, and some of these treks are a Month or more long in game time!
    • Random encounters aren’t always bad, plenty of desirable things can happen as well.
    • Careful attention was paid to include some BIG encounters as well, my players found the Lost Tomb and
  • DISLIKES:
    • There is a strong chance your players might tire of trudging through the Underdark and from the look of things, this is going to happen a lot. It is becoming apparent that it may take a lot of time for the players to be doing ANYTHING beyond struggling around and getting mixed up in things they probably don’t care about.
      • The trick I need to work on is figuring out how to get them more invested in things beyond survival alone.

Well, that’s it for these two adventures! Join me soon for Adventure 5! If you have any questions or wish for some embellishment on something I mentioned hit me up in the comments. Or on Twitter @SharnDM.

-Melvs