Baldur’s Gate: Descent into Avernus

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

-Melvin

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

 

 

 

Salvage Operation Rewrite: A Ghosts of Saltmarsh Tale

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Spiders became crabs…and a few giant toads

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

Webbing morphed into writhing seaweed

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

Introduction to my Thanoi Druid, and his polar bear friend

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

Lastly, that fight in the hold

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

This made for a suitable last fight for the players.

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

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

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

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

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

MONSTERS – Salvage Operation

Krell – Thanoi Druid

-Melvs

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

Temple of the Spider – D&D 5e Adventure

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

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

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

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

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

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

-Melvs 

 

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

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