Feeling Thankful

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

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

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

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Seriously great group of kids

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

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

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

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

-Melvs

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Dragons Conquer America – Kickstarter Canceled

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Back in 2015 a company by the name of Burning Games took Kickstarter by storm with a brand new Role Playing Game, FAITH: The SciFi RPG. The concepts put forth by the Kickstarter were well received by fans of RPGs and critics alike. Set in a SciFi setting the game utilized a poker deck in a unique fashion to set forth a gameplay that was less based on luck and more so some resource management for players. I was certainly on board.

When the Kickstarter had run its course FAITH had been successfully funded and Burning Games had a success on their hands. It wouldn’t be their last either. Since then they’ve gone on to great success getting three other Kickstarters funded. So when they launched the Kickstarter for Dragons Conquer America, there was likely a lot of optimism, they’d been here before. A unique product, not much like what people have seen before (even in a gorgeous time of a veritable treasure trove of RPG concepts), with a touch of resemblance to FAITH by utilizing the same poker deck based system backbone, known as the “RPC Engine”. However, not far into its run backers started to stall and ultimately the creators decided to go back to the drawing board. What happened?

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It is evident by their offered Starter Set, The Coatli Stone (free to download by the way), that this game has been worked on, in depth, prior to the Kickstarter. So while you may shrug and say “at least they aren’t out much, good thing they had Kickstarter!” You’d be partially correct of course but I imagine plenty has already gone into this product already. It wasn’t just a concept like some companies are fortunate enough to be able to utilize. Blood, sweat, tears, and capital likely went into what they have now, and if you check out the download mentioned above they have a cool idea.

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In Dragons Conquer America you are transported to a fictionalized history of the 16th century invasion of the Americas. In this version all the trappings of fantasy are also prevalent. You have magic, from both the indigenous peoples of the Americas and a religious based magic from the European invaders, there are fantasy creatures to contend with as well, especially…well Dragons.  That’s not all though. The creators decided to try something a little different with the lore this time around. They want the community that plays this game to help guide that lore. A living game if you will. It’s been done before but this would be the chance to essentially be a part of establishing a game world from the get go. Even using the outcomes of the Starter Set adventure.

So as you can see, Burning Games has a pretty cool concept at play here. Obviously it didn’t grab the same level of attention as their previous games did though. I have a few personal thoughts.

One area I noticed was the high dollar figure they aimed for. With FAITH they went for €30k (roughly $35k). That’s no slacker of a ticket price but they ended up with €41k at the end of the day. Perhaps that’s what played into their decision to set the goal this time to €42k (nearly $50k). To me getting into numbers that high for a brand new game setting can be a tough sell to some, even if you are a company like Burning Games who has a proven track record of delivering very quality merchandise.

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Another potential issue at play might be the recent release of the revamped 7th Sea game by John Wick and company. It gives players a chance to run around a similar time period in an already established setting. Granted the loose system present in 7th Sea isn’t nearly as crunchy as the RPC Engine, so they are very different games, but it does provide another avenue to play explorer in an age of flintlock and boats. In this same vein, perhaps the core fans of Burning Games’ stuff just prefer Science Fiction.

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I think what might be affecting it the most though is how the game lands in our current world climate. In DCA you can play as either the invading Europeans or the Indigenous peoples, this is true, but considering how we are currently looking back on those times, how would you ever want to be a conquistador? There is even a sub system within the rules that takes into account a character’s personal prejudices. That is some loaded shit right now, no matter how you view “political correctness”. To me I would have concerns running one of these games at a con, expecting everyone at the table to treat their character’s in game prejudices in an adult fashion. Yeah, it sounds ridiculous that I would be concerned about something like that, but it’s an inherent truth that many in our hobby have trouble with this. Granted, this is your game and you can be as good a guy in game as you want or as bad. It just seems like adding in a system that expects you to roleplay a prejudice might be uncomfortable for many (as a caveat you are expected to build you “tolerances” over time and are rewarded for it).

Maybe I touched upon some problems, perhaps not. In my last paragraph I might have even gone too deep into the system and found something personal when it might just be some surface stuff they need to tweak. In the end I truly hope they work out the kinks and bring this back to the table, I do actually love the conceptual time period as an area to play around in. I also know that Burning Games knows how to produce very quality work with interesting lore and solid mechanics. I’m positive this is merely a setback and not a barricade to future work. I wish them nothing but success!

-Melvs

If you wish to weigh in and voice why you think things went belly up for the time being feel free to comment below! Also let me know if you think I’m completely off base!

XANATHAR’S GUIDE TO EVERYTHING: A DEEPER DELVE

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

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

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

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

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

-Conzo

XANATHAR’S GUIDE TO EVERYTHING

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

-Melvs

#RPGaDAY 2017

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AUGUST 1 – WHAT PUBLISHED RPG DO YOU WISH YOU WERE PLAYING RIGHT NOW?

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Frankly I’d love to be playing any RPG at any time but there is one published product line out there at the moment that I’d love to check out above the others. Tales from the Loop comes to us from creator Free League Publishing (aka Fria Ligan). The very successful Kickstarter is one I somehow missed out on and have been lamenting it ever since.  I find this project very intriguing because the art and concept for the world actually predate the roleplaying game, stemming from the excellent crowdfunded project by Simon Stålenhag.

The world is an alternate version of the 1980’s with retro type tech and stylistic choices reminiscent of Stranger Things and E.T. In fact I’d probably thank Stranger Things for playing at least a small role in making this project even more enticing to backers. I really want to dive into this world and see what kind of character or story-line I can drum up. Looks like you can now pre-order the paperback rulebook, set to come out in September. Here’s hoping someone notices it on my wish list! My birthday is August 14th after all!

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AUGUST 2 – WHAT IS AN RPG YOU WOULD LIKE TO SEE PUBLISHED?

Harry Potter. Now, I know there are a few decent homebrew versions of a Harry Potter Tabletop RPG, but I’d love to see the real deal get published. Certainly some mountains would need moving, because it’s got to be wildly expensive to license anything out of that world, but I hold out hope that something official will come our way.

Inherently there are balance issues associated with any kind of combat system, but I’ve never exactly been attracted to the world of Harry Potter for its wand fights. I want to role-play in that realm and an official tabletop rpg would likely bring even more lore into the Harry Potter space. Maybe they start things out with rules for going to school at Hogwarts (or other schools) and expand into the world as a whole later, or maybe we are introduced to everything all at once. Just give me an official product to work off of!

AUGUST 3 – HOW DO YOU FIND OUT ABOUT NEW RPGS?

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Almost exclusively through twitter but I also have access to some great podcasts these days. Namely through my association with The RPG Academy Network. The RPG Academy Podcast itself is a great place to find new games, namely through listening to their excellent Show and Tell series.

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Another great Podcast for catching new stuff is She’s a Super Geek. They typically grab a new game for a one shot every episode so it gets you some great insight into games you might never of heard about.

 

AUGUST 4 – WHICH RPG HAVE YOU PLAYED THE MOST SINCE AUGUST 2016?

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Just plain ol’ Dungeons and Dragons 5e, nothing too outrageous. I ran a few games for my home group (namely Storm King’s Thunder) and, in turn they ran a game here and there. Even when my home group wasn’t playing a game I still had my monthly gaming with my library kids to count on. We’ve been playing through Horde of the Dragon Queen forever! What can you expect when you’re running a game once a month, AND for 15 Player Characters, it’s going to take some time ;P.

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There have been a few dalliances into other product lines though. One of my favorites this year was running a game of FAITH: The Sci-Fi RPG, showcasing their excellent starter campaign A Garden in Hell, for a select group of my library teens. We even broadcast the event over twitch, to 10’s of people! I messed up and didn’t get an actual video recording sadly. I do have the audio, should probably do something with that sometime. I also got to play a few Dreamchaser games, and even a game of Bedlam Hall.

 

For me I would still say this was a slow year for gaming. Hope I can pick it up soem over the next few months. My buddy Mike is running a 4th Edition game at the moment. I’m pretty stoked about that!

-Melvs

Pathfinder: Bestiary 6

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Ask anyone, I’m not a Pathfinder guy. I played decades of Dungeons & Dragons 3.X and walked away satisfied, but also with no real desire to play the system again. Even the enhanced version of the rules put out by the wonderful folks over at Paizo didn’t really give me an urge to dive back in. I don’t want to cause any confusion though, I have watch Paizo succeed, and give them nothing but praise for their, practically doting, attention to their fan base and quality product line. In my hands now is their 6th Bestiary. I think it’s high time I delve back in and check out some of these new monsters!

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Pathfinder has always been a game of excesses. They are great about providing a plethora of anything a player or GM might want to get their hands on. The Bestiary 6 sports over 200 new monsters & playable races for the table. Growing up I always had a thing for wolves, this has survived into adulthood so of the many new playable races I really love the look of the wolf-headed humanoid known as the Rougarou. I love the lore surrounding them, they are often mistaken as werewolves but actually detest lycanthropes and hunt them mercilessly. I think I’d really enjoy playing around with these guys. They can even shift to wolf form!

The biggest draw to this book, for Game Masters that is, are the inclusion of some really excellent new archdevils and a really cool Horsemen of the Apocalypse angle. I really like that the Horsemens’ steeds each have their own special stats and abilities. The Horsemen themselves are nasty creatures to go up against, the lowest CR being a 27. These are some truly epic level foes to throw at a party. Their lore is extensive too.

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Even Krampus makes an appearance.

The book is laid out very well. I’ve always enjoyed Pathfinder’s commitment to maintaining an artwork style that flows smoothly over all of its products. Keeping a similar look. This bestiary also sports a huge variety of appendixes to make searching for that perfect foe for your table very easy. The layout and variety of appendixes is something for other tabletop games to emulate.

While I may not find myself playing Pathfinder any time soon, I can eassily say that if you do this book will make for an excellent addition to your library. I have to say, with Starfinder on its way, I am very happy to be starting to dig a little deeper into Paizo’s line of work. They produce really quality items and I know their next line will be the same. Let me know if you have any further questions about Pathfinder’s 6th Bestiary below!

-Melvs

AcadeCon 2017

The Kickstarter is winding down, and they are looking good to fund. I opted to write my post a little later than usual this year, and hopefully I can urge a few readers to join us at the coolest (not quite as little anymore) gaming convention out there! 

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AcadeCon is the realized dream of Michael, Caleb, and the whole RPG Academy Podcast crew. This year will mark the fifth such time the convention has been put on but 2015 was when they truly threw caution into the wind and put forth the first publicly open AcadeCon, held at the Hueston Lodge in Oxford, Ohio. I had the pleasure of attending and it was some of the best gaming time I’ve spent at a convention to date! There’s a deep love of gaming that bubbles within every attendee I’ve encountered at AcadeCon. In 2016 AcadeCon was growing, thus they moved things to a bigger venue, the Dayton Convention Center, in Dayton, Ohio where they will also host this year’s event. Sadly I was unable to attend AcadeCon 2016 due to the wedding of a friend, but by all accounts it was yet one more step up for the group.

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One of the hallmarks of any AcadeCon is the special guest list. RPG Creators, Authors, Podcasters, and Bloggers adorn this list. I can attest to playing beside some really cool people at AcadeCon 2015. It almost feels like a bit of a retreat for those in the industry at times. Instead of panel after panel they can play side by side with the people who love their games.

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Some of the other perks are possibly getting into a game with the You Too Can Cthulhu crew, back again for the third year running. This group really knows how to pull together some great Lovecraftian Horror for you to play, often corralling the players into secreted locations to really up the ambiance.  The Double Exposure Envoy program is joining AcadeCon this year, allowing con attendees to play brand new games. Every time you play a demo, you are entered into a drawing to possibly win that game. According to the Kickstarter continued plays net you more chances at the same game, or maybe you just try your hand at all of them.

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Honestly I could drone on all day, espousing the joys of gaming with this crowd, but you would be even better served just visiting the Kickstarter, helps get you closer to that pledge button anyway. I’m truly hoping to attend myself this year but more weddings seem to be in the way (I have one the weekend before and one the weekend after!) and I’d not miss these weddings for the world. However, I hope you get the chance to attend, I really do. You’ll not find better gaming anywhere in my opinion!

-Melvs

Decades of Tales from the Yawning Portal

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

-Melvs

 

I Implore you, Kickstart this Geek: Bedlam Hall

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It twas merely a little over two years past that a small confederacy of role play designers, known under the droll moniker of “Monkeyfun Studios, LLC”, put forth a role playing game entitled Spirit of ’77. This bizarre little game placed an onus on its players of crafting stories one might find from that era of ill repute known colloquially as “the 70’s”. This game premise inevitably succeeded and procured more than enough funding to be a successful enterprise. Thus the myriads began to frolic as odd men and women from popular culture of that time. I even found myself dabbling in a distraction or two, once wearing the mantle of character similar to Colonel Sanders of all people. It twas naught but silliness, though I’d be remiss if I did not make mention that it could be said I rather enjoyed the experience. Let it not be said that I am without a sense of humor.

It appears that Spirit of ’77 will not remain the only production from this company however, as even now a new venture has taken shape. A member of this illustrious group, David Kizzia,  has designed a game entitled Bedlam Hall and placed its creation, once more, into the hands of potential investors via the website Kickstarter. Apparently it has generated some interest as it has reached already the agreed upon amount to which was needed for its funding. Were I one to resort to such base celebratory expressions as “whooping”, or “hollering”, now would be such a time as to exhibit such behavior. I will however simply offer a stoic nod and offer my felicitations.

What is Bedlam Hall you may ask? Well, if one cannot seek the answers themselves I suppose it behooves me to make it my duty to inform. I am but a servant in such regards after all. Bedlam Hall has the purpose of placing its players in the roles of much put upon servants in the great household of the Blackwood Family. They will then have the esteemed pleasure of serving at their masters’ beck and call diligently, and securing for themselves the prestige of being useful members of the staff. It is truly that simple, nothing else to worry one’s head about. What’s that? Rumors of the macabre? Well now, certainly every great family holds its own secrets and machinations. Who are we to question their day to day activities? We are there to serve and if that includes having to survive meager bouts of insanity or a run in with some eldritch horror, that strikes me as part of the job and need not be remarked upon! Honestly, you should be more careful not to besmirch the good Blackwood name!

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There are many ways to invest in this ghoulish enterprise but let me regal you with the price points that most intrigue me.

15

At merely fifteen dollars you can find yourself receiving this property in a digital format. This strikes me as the ideal manner to lay purchase on this product if you are of the same like as myself and fear overextending your meager, servant’s, earnings. It is at this level I found myself investing and I shall wait patiently to receive my earned reward.

40

 

If you’ve a mind to be a mite more spendthrift my suggestion would be to find your way to the transaction value of forty dollars. At this level not only would you receive a physical book and the digital copy, but it allows you access to all of the treacherous stretch goals I will go on to further explain if you’ll permit me to elaborate below. Keep mindful of the fact that this price point is by no means the most costly you can find yourself within. If you’ve the financial means to do so your potential rewards for backing can be quite intense!

 

As I made mention above this funding ask has already been met with success. Therefore if you were to wish to involve yourself with its investment you would find, with certainty, in receipt of a final product. At this point they are even successfully unlocking what many call “stretch goals”, or rather items in excess of the initial product itself. Currently those who have invested at a price point of fifteen dollars or more will also find themselves obtaining an adventure entitled Terrible Tale #1, my my no attempt to bury lede on that title eh? There are more terrible little goals in store in the event funding levels reach such heights. If, God forbid, they reach a level of funding that exceeds twenty thousand dollars we will all be subjected to a truly monstrous horror. There would be actual efforts made to create a roleplaying game surrounding the concept of a “Gruel Truck” in some fanciful setting. Why they would subject us to such a morbidly frivolous, indecent game is beyond me. It is simply out of taste! What improper individuals would want such a thing?! Alas, if things keep going as they are you may just see this come to fruition. Lord help us all.

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If it were put upon me to suggest whether or not to back this project I would be forced to lay bare my honest opine on the subject, and emphatically implore you to do so. It is with no regrets that I personally made purchase myself after all and it would be silly of me not to expect the same of you. Do yourself the justice of acquiring this offering will you? I do not doubt you will find yourself pleased. Now, off with you. You’ve a Kickstarter to explore!

Your humble servant,

Melvin

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I suppose you’ll be wanting a “sneak peak”, if you will. Well, if you must. Here is an example of a potential character one might play.

Kickstart that Geek! Dreamchaser

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Find the Kickstarter HERE!

I had a conversation with Pete Petrusha, creator of Dreamchaser and owner of Imagining Games, on twitter about his game. After getting the chance to play it, with notorious RPG Academy hosts Michael and Caleb, I stated that we had “played pretend with just enough crunch to make it a specific game”. I eventually followed it up with mentioning that “That’s all Tabletop games are right? Playing pretend with varying degrees of crunch”. Now, I’m not even the 100th person to say this, it is no special revelation, but there is something special about the Tabletop RPG Dreamchaser that call to mind the “let’s play pretend” aspect of these games more than anything I’ve played in recent memory.

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Dreamchaser is a Tabletop RPG that eschews a specific setting, concrete character classes, or even character abilities. The game outs the onus on the players and the GM to craft these things solely through their own imaginations. Players are encouraged to dream up simple scenarios they might have always wanted to do in an RPG that, for whatever reason, systems in the past haven’t been conducive to. Keeping things within simple phrases, maybe they’ve always wanted to “Climb the (mountain, world tree, tallest building)”, or defeat the (dragon, BBEG, evil god)” you get the idea…maybe even they simply want to “Make the perfect sandwich”, though that is not nearly as simple as it seems from what we found out! This then becomes how your story ends, and getting there requires some milestones and your own imagination.

Obviously it’s is an open system, and one that puts no small amount of pressure on the players to help with crafting the game the group plays. I have not always been a fan of this personally. Many players love it and you’d think I would as well given my background in Improv Theatre and general love of both playing and running games. Frankly though, when I play I like to react to my environment, and effect change to the narrative in that fashion, more than I like to be the impetus of everything going on around me. If I wanted to control the narrative, I’d simply run the game. For example, when I played G.I. Joe Wushu almost a year ago on the RPG Academy Podcast I had fun but the constant need for me to explain the details around me was a bit overwhelming. I didn’t think I’d like playing another game where the I had to be a driving force for so much of the plot itself, but I was wrong.

 

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Where Dreamchaser succeeds is how it handles these player driven narratives in a more collaborative fashion. Sure there are aspects of the game that only you can come up with (mostly character details), but even from the onset when people are adding their “dreams” to the pile of potential picks they get to play off each other’s choices and come together with the ultimate end game scheme. Throughout the game there are numerous times where everyone works together to drive the story along, but it is almost always collaborative. Every now and then, in a heated situation, a player will have to strike out on their own and relay the scene to everyone else but by then the player has developed skills and abilities that can be easily used to narrate the sequence. Add in a simple rolling system, 2d10’s where you are attempting to roll beneath whatever target number is being dictated by your skill and style of approach to the confrontation, and you have just enough crunch to ground the game into a pretty smooth flow.

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I think Pete has something special here. Granted if you’re a crunch lover who genuinely likes the rigidity of systems requiring tactical moves, group balancing, etc. you’ll not find as much of that here, and that’s ok. However, if you want to play a game that leans toward a player driven story-line with a strong enough mechanic backing it to allow for surprises and interesting challenges, you’ll find it here. Plus, the fact that Imagining Games found a way to incorporate starting from the end to truly make the game about the journey adds a remarkably satisfying gameplay element to it. For a game so new, it feels polished.

In my opinion, this game is a no brainer. Buy it, love it. Adore the amazing artwork! Here are my suggestions for levels to back at.

I personally backed this Kickstarter (something I don’t always do, even if I adore the product). I loved the game and I trust Pete to deliver. However, I don’t have a lot of capital so I backed at my reccomended “poor guy” level “Electric Dreams”.

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As you can see, it gets you everything you need to play the game. It just doesn’t provide that satisfying tangibility of a physical book.

If a physical copy, but don’t want to raise your cost much maybe the softcover version is more your speed at prices in the $24-$30 ranges. In my opinion though, if I had the money I’d hit up the “Pretend Box

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For a level that’s pretty much the “get it all” level, $65 is a pretty great price point.

So head on over to the Kickstarter folks! Let me know your thoughts below and, by all means, if you have any questions about the game you feel I didn’t address ask away. Having had the unique pleasure of playing I can likely give you an answer or I can always punt to Pete who I’m sure will answer quickly. Take care dreamers!

-Melv