It’s been a couple of months since I talked about Dungeons & Dragons. This has been primarily because of two things. First, it’s been extremely difficult for me to find time to play with my current work schedule. In fact, my family and I have not had a session since October. Second, there’s been no new products released in 2019. So with that in mind, I wanted to take a moment to discuss what is probably one of the highest quality third-party products for Fifth Edition D&D; Tome of Beasts by Kobold Press.
Tome of Beasts is actually a product that was made possible thanks to a wildly successful Kickstarter project. It contains over 400 new monsters for D&D 5E. Many of the beasts included in this book are completely unique, giving DMs something new and exciting to throw at their players. Of course, there are also handful of monsters from previous editions of D&D that, at the time this book was printed, had not yet made their official debut in Fifth Edition. (For example, the Red Cap – a classic D&D baddie that wasn’t officially brought into 5E until the release of Volo’s Guide to Monsters.)
Anytime you deal with third-party products you never really know what to expect. Traditionally speaking, there’s always been a number of really good quality supplements available to those interested enough to seek them out. But as any old DM can tell you, there’s also plenty of third-party releases that are barely worth the paper they are printed on. Thankfully, this is not one of those books. Over the years, Kolbold Press has earned a reputation for putting out some real quality material. Tome of Beasts is a prime example of that.
The monsters included in this book range from the exotic (Ravenfolk and Lich Hound) to the mundane (Swamp Snakes and Night Scorpions). Of course, there’s also a handful of new variants for everybody’s favorite monsters; Giants, Devils, Golems, etc.
I’ve had this book in my library for a few years now. During that time, I spent countless hours pouring over the beasties contained within and planning out fun and creative ways to spring them on my players. This is a collection that I highly recommend to any DM that wants to surprise their players with something they’ve never seen before.
Tome of Beasts is available on Amazon and most retail bookstores where D&D material is sold.
Ever since Wizards of the Coast purchased D&D back in 1999, I’ve often wondered if they would ever consider merging it with their flagship trading card game Magic the Gathering. Well, it took almost twenty years, but with the release of the Guildmasters’ Guide to Ravnica, it has finally happened. That’s right, the lore-rich world of Ravnica is now an official D&D campaign setting. I will admit that while I’m glad to see 5E expand beyond the Forgotten Realms, Ravnica was not exactly what I was hoping for. – Regardless, let’s see where this book takes us.
As you might assume, this is essentially a sourcebook for anyone interested in playing a game set in the world of Ravnica. In case you are unaware, Ravnica is an enchanted city that encompasses the surface of an entire world. Prior to this, it existed only in the lore of the Magic the Gathering universe. The book provides a summary of Ravnica, it’s denizens, currency, guilds, political structure, etc. Due to the massive size for the world itself, the book focuses largely on an area called The Tenth District. This zone is more than large enough to keep players busy for years to come.
A large part of this book details the ten guilds that each strive for dominance in Ravnica. Players creating a character in this world are urged to affiliate with one of these organizations. The book does a great job at helping players choose a guild that suits their playing style and even provides some tips for role playing, etc. For DMs that decide not run a game set in the world of Ravnica itself, it’s still possible to incorporate these guilds into a homebrew campaign if they so choose.
One of the main selling points for this book is the introduction of new playable races; Centaurs, Goblins, Loxodons, Minotaurs, Simic Hybrids and Vedalken. Naturally, several of these races are either exclusive to Ravnica or unique variants of traditional creatures. But, crafty DMs are always able to draw inspiration for their own games using the information found here. This book also offers two new sub-classes that, despite being very Ravnica-specific, could also be adapted to other campaign worlds with a little effort. Aside from the information detailed above, this book also contains a trove of new magical items and monsters.
To me, the majority of the information found in this book is really only useful for DMs and players that actually intend to run a campaign set in this world. Sure, some of the monsters from the bestiary can be plucked out and used elsewhere. But everything else seems tied to campaign setting itself. With this in mind, if you’re a fan of MTG and D&D, this is the moment you’ve been waiting for. There’s more than enough information in this book to get yourself started. If not, this might be one supplement worth skipping.
I’ve been a fan of D&D for nearly all of my life. And in that time I’ve dabbled a bit with every version of the game. With that in mind, I can honestly tell you that 5E has been my absolute favorite edition of the game. And Waterdeep: Dungeon of the Mad Mage is a prime example of why. Here, we have an adventure that takes one of D&D’s most iconic settings, The Underdark, and not only gives us an epic adventure, but provides us with a sourcebook that will be used by DMs for years to come.
This adventure is a continuation of the previously released; Waterdeep: Dragon Heist. As such, it is designed for players of 5th-20th level. I use the word “adventure” very lightly when referring to this book. Yes, there’s a set-up and story included in these pages. But to be completely honest, what we really have between the covers of this book is one completely massive mega-dungeon. That’s right, Dungeon of the Mad Mage features no less than twenty-three floors of sheer dungeon-crawling delight.
Being set in The Underdark, the game designers pulled content from nearly every prior edition of D&D and revised/repackaged it for inclusion in this product. I don’t say that to imply that this module is nothing more that recycled material – it’s certainly not. If anything, I tell you this to convey just how much care and respect Wizards of the Coast is showing to legacy players by making sure they cross all the T’s and dot all the I’s. The fact that this modern version of D&D is being made by fans for fans has never been more obvious. Aside from being used in this adventure, all of the maps and content included in this book is a virtual treasure trove of reference material for DMs.
The sheer volume of content in this book cannot be understated. There’s hours and hours of material here. With that in mind, this adventure is not for rookie DMs. On second thought, it’s not for rookie players either. Everything about this product is aimed at an experienced audience. Old school players will likely find themselves smiling at a number of hidden references and Easter Eggs as they playthrough this adventure.
Considering that this adventure is very focused on dungeon crawling, it’s safe to say that it might not appeal to everyone. Many players and DMs (especially old-school players) enjoy this type of gameplay, while others do not. Personally, this is one adventure I’m really looking forward to running.
It’s been a while, but we finally have a new Dungeons & Dragons adventure to sink our teeth into. Now, I admit that I probably won’t get around to actually running this adventure for quite a while. But let me just state up front that Waterdeep – Dragon Heist is probably one of the most intriguing and well written modules that I’ve ever had the pleasure of reading. I can’t wait to DM this adventure!
So, what is so great about Waterdeep – Dragon Heist? To start with, it is masterfully written. D&D designer Chris Perkins has really proven his worth with this product. In this book he manages to capture that old school D&D feel, but with a presentation that feels fresh and new. He does this by taking all of the elements that made classic D&D great (dungeon delving, the inclusion of classic characters and settings), and mixing it with a more modern, open approach. For example, the adventure is laid out in a very opened ended format (much like other 5th edition modules). It’s an interesting combination. But it works extremely well. I hope to see this trend continue in future releases.
In a nutshell, this adventure is one great big treasure hunt set in one of D&D’s most popular cities. Being a city-focused adventure means there’s lots of opportunities for roleplaying. As you might have suspected by the title, this adventure takes place largely in the city of Waterdeep. So yes, Wizards is still favoring the Forgotten Realms setting. But that’s ok. As much as I find myself pining for adventures in other worlds, the Realms are starting to grow on me. Plus, by this point, it’s getting easy to see how the lore from the various modules are starting bleed over into each other. It’s little touches like that I often find impressive.
While the adventure itself if designed for 1st level players. I wouldn’t recommend this for inexperienced DMs. The open nature of the adventure and the complexity seems to lend itself better to someone with a bit more experience. That being said, don’t let this adventure scare you off. The story in it is just too good to pass up. As I mentioned earlier, I can’t wait for the day to run this module.
It’s been about two months since I first shared my progress on my family’s D&D adventures. Unlike many D&D players who can clock in whole afternoons or weekend-long marathon sessions, my family typically only has a few hours a week in which to play. So it’s taken us about two months to get about six-eight hours of playtime in. But things are going well!
Since my last post, my wife and children searched the site of the ambush and discovered the trail back to the goblin’s cave lair. When encountering some goblins outside of the cave entrance, they decided to take one of the goblin guards captive. Hence, the character of “Gronk” was born. Despite trying to follow the adventure as detailed in the book, Gronk ended up being a creation all my own, but one that is also likely to be one of the more memorable parts of the story.
Gronk provided the party with various bits of information (and misinformation) regarding the goblin’s hideout. My youngest son actually became quite fond of the character, and as a result was vastly disappointed when Gronk seized the first opportunity to alert the other goblins in the cave to the party’s presence. As the PCs explored the hideout they came across both the goblin’s bugbear leader and his ambitious second-in-command (who was more than willing to trade a human captive in exchange for the bugbear’s head).
The small hideout detailed in this part of the adventure served as a fantastic introduction to the concept of the “dungeon crawl”. By the time my family was ready to exit the cave, they were very careful to check for traps and other unexpected nastiness around every corner. (Experience can be a brutal teacher). So far, this adventure has truly proven to be a fantastic introduction to Dungeons & Dragons. Next session (assuming my family doesn’t do something completely unexpected), they should end up in the town of Phandelver itself. So far, any actual roleplaying interactions have limited to conversations with Gronk (who was not much of a conversationalist), so I’m interested to see their interactions with actual NPCs over the next few sessions.
If you follow the Dungeons & Dragons posts on this site, then you’ll know that my ultimate plan has always been to chronicle an ongoing D&D campaign. Ever since I was first introduced to the game as a child, I’ve been a rabid fan. However, my desires to play were often squashed by my inability to find other like-minded people. Growing up in a rural area certainly contributed to this. And, when I did manage to find other people interested in the game, I was often put off by various things about them. For example, their immaturity, drug use, or sometimes even their personal hygiene. Yes, as sad as it is to admit, many of the stereotypes about greasy, neck-bearded nerds are sometimes very true. Thankfully, with the popularity of the Internet, it is easier than ever to find normal people to play with. Of course, my biggest obstacle today is finding the time to actually sit down and play the game. So, I decided to take the problem into my own hands and start a game at home. This way, I can play with my family on a timetable that works for us.
I’ve toyed with launching a family campaign for quite a while now. Of course, I needed some time to collect materials, brush up on the rules, and prepare myself mentally for the task of hosting the game. Now, I feel that I’m finally ready. Yesterday afternoon, I sat behind the Dungeon Master’s Screen for the first time in over twenty years.
Our family game consists of myself as Dungeon Master, my lovely wife (who has never played D&D), as a tiefling sorcerer, my fourteen-year-old son (who has played), as an elf sorcerer, and my-ten year-old (who also has never played), as a human fighter. To simplify things, I helped my wife and oldest son create characters several weeks ago. We then revisited them a few days ago to tweak some of the smaller details, (character backgrounds, flaws, etc). For my youngest son, however, I decided to simply provide him with a pre-generated character. (His focus is on the actual experience, and not the number crunching).
Considering that it had been a while since I last played and that most of my family was new to the game, I decided to start with a simple adventure scenario. In this case, I chose the Lost Mine of Phandelver module that is actually included with the Dungeons & Dragons Starter Set. This scenario is written specifically for both new DMs and Players. The text itself offers a little hand-holding so that new DMs will be able to ease into their role. I spent about a week reading over the module in my free time, so that I would have a pretty firm grasp on the material.
Despite all my preparation, as soon as I sat down behind the DM screen, I began to feel apprehensive. In fact, I was downright nervous. I suddenly felt extremely unprepared and I was worried that I wouldn’t live up to my oldest son’s expectations. A part of me wanted to retreat and call off the game, but I knew he would be even more disappointed if I did – so we continued. Before beginning, I gifted each one of them with a polyhedral dice set to call their own. I broke the ice by having everyone discuss their character backgrounds a little. We fleshed out how the characters met and I provided the set up for the adventure.
Like all of the early 5E content, this adventure takes place in the Forgotten Realms. I toyed with the idea of converting it to a homebrew world, but in the end, I decided to keep things as simple as possible.
Now, if you have not played this scenario and plan to, you may wish to stop reading now. The next couple paragraphs are going to be very spoiler heavy. You’ve been warned! Spoiler alert!!! :
In the first part of the adventure, the characters are tasked with escorting a supply wagon from the city of Neverwinter to the small mining town of Phandelver to the south-east. The journey is largely uneventful until the party is a few miles from their goal, where they come across evidence of a previous ambush. While stopping to investigate the scene, the party is attacked by four goblins lying in wait in the forest on the side of the road.
This encounter serves as an early introduction to combat. Having never refereed combat in this edition of D&D, I was a bit worried that I’d mess something up, but we took our time to read over the rules and it didn’t take long for things to click. The party was able to defeat the goblins with little effort. It was after this encounter that we ended the game for the afternoon, with plans to pick it back up Thursday evening.
All in all, I felt our first session went pretty well. Looking back, I was able to identify some mistakes that I made when presenting some of the material. For example, during the goblin encounter, two goblins were supposed to rush forward and attack the party while the other two were supposed to keep their distance and attack from afar. In the heat of the moment, I overlooked that block of text and had all four rush out to meet the adventurers.
As for my family, everyone did wonderfully. My wife enjoyed herself more than she expected to, and both of my sons were very excited to play. I was glad to see that my youngest was attentive and actually thought things out before simply rushing in blind. In closing, it was a very positive experience!
I’m excited to see how things progress and I will post an update after a few sessions.
I’ve been waiting a couple of months before posting a discussion of this book so that I could fully digest its contents. Mordenkainen’s Tome of Foes is not your everyday D&D release. Aside from a few optional races/subraces, there’s not much here for players to enjoy. Instead, it is a book that is aimed mainly at Dungeon Masters. If I had to describe this tome in a nutshell, I guess I’d say that it is mostly a lore book filled with campaign-building material. However, the last section of the book is filled with stats for new monsters (many of which are found in the outer planes).
Yes, I said the outer planes! One of my favorite pieces of D&D lore. Long have I waited for a 5th Edition Manual of Planes. Well, this book is NOT that, but it’s the closest we’ve seen so far. This books is broken into six chapters. The first chapter focuses heavily on outer planes lore, namely 5th edition details for the Blood War. Fiendish lore has long been a favorite subject mine when it comes to D&D. Ever since the old days of 1E, I’ve been fascinated with the war between the Demons and Devils of the lower planes. This section of the book provides plenty of details regarding the current state of the war, and it does not disappoint.
The second thru fifth chapters focus on lore and background information for some of the various races in the game. These chapters also include optional rules for playing some of the the more obscure, but long requested subraces. For example, Eladrin, Deep Gnomes, Duergar Dwarves, and even a whole chapter dedicated to Gith. These subraces can certainly add color to any campaign, but playing characters of these heritages can often prove troublesome. That being said, it is great to finally have some official rules and stats.
The sixth and final chapter is a bestiary. It is comprised mostly of monsters related to the first five chapters of the book. That means there’s plenty of outer planes baddies as well as a number of subrace specific monsters. This chapter alone makes the book worth getting for nearly any DM.
All in all, I was extremely pleased with this book. It is refreshing to see WotC ramping up their D&D release schedule. They’ve already announced a pair of upcoming adventures for this fall, and I can’t wait to see what supplements they provide in the future.
I love to read. When it comes to books I consume everything I can get my hands on. Most of the time I read fiction, but occasionally I enjoy non-fiction as well – especially biographies. A while back I posted a review of Richard Garriott’s autobiography Explore/Create. Being a fan of RPG games, it was just the type of non-fiction I enjoy. A few months later, I found myself itching to read something similar. That’s when I found Empire of Imagination, a biography about the the Dungeons & Dragons founder, Gary Gygax.
That’s right. For those that might not be familiar with Mr. Gygax, he is the original inventor of Dungeons & Dragons. A game that he created out of love rather than for profit. This book covers Gygax’s life from his early youth all the way until his final days, with of course, the main focus being his time as CEO of TSR. Gary, while beloved by many gamers and grognards, was infamous for his temper and over-indulgent behavior. This book takes a very unabashed look at every aspect of his life. Nothing is off the table here.
Each chapter starts with a mock D&D session that ties-in with the overall theme of the upcoming content. This is an interesting presentation that starts off strong, but eventually ends up feeling a bit weak after a few chapters. Despite being a biography, the book is written in a strange mixture of both historical narration and dramatization. I found this to be a bit odd. Writing out real-life events in a fictional-style narrative tends to cast doubt on the authenticity of the story being told. I have no doubt that the author took a number of liberties when discussing Gary’s life in this regard. However, in the end, I feel like this was nothing more than an artistic decision.
Having been a fan of D&D for many years, I thought I knew nearly everything there was to know about Gary Gygax. This book opened my eyes to a number of details about his life I was unfamiliar with. Namely, how his youth and his deep-rooted love to his hometown inspired his artistic vision. For this alone, I found it to be an excellent read.
If you’re a fan of D&D and you’re interested in learning some of what went on behind the scenes in the glory days of the game, this might be a book for you.
Story: Despite the odd presentation, this book is well written and interesting. Gary Gygax is an interesting case-study. When it comes to running a business Gary seemed to have his heart in the right place, but ultimately made a number of bad decisions that he ended up paying for until the end of his days.
Recommended: This is a book that’s likely to only be appreciated by hardcore D&D grognards or those with a working interest in tabletop role playing. I personally found the book to be insightful and interesting, but admittedly it’s only going to appeal to a specific audience.
Anyone who has followed D&D since the older days will recognize the words “Unearthed Arcana“. This was title of a rules supplement for the first edition of AD&D. That book added a plethora of new optional classes and rules to the core game. Over the years since, there have been other Unearthed Arcana books released for various editions. These days, “Unearthed Arcana” comes in the form of downloadable rules and options that Wizards of the Coast release to players for testing purposes. This book, Xanathar’s Guide to Everything is a compilation and a refinement of several of those releases.
This should not really be looked at as a core rulebook. But instead, as a compendium of options for both the players and Dungeon Masters to consider. It contains information that should interest both. Let’s take a look at what’s included:
New Character Subclasses and backgrounds
New optional rules for DMs (resting, player skills, situational damage, traps, items, encounters, etc)
New magical items
Tables for name generation
The bulk of the book focuses on new options for existing character classes. Many of these options were previously presented in Unearthed Arcana articles, but they appear here more polished and refined. These, combined with the new spells and magical items really make up the most appealing content. The middle section contains new rules and options for Dungeon Masters. A lot these are very specific and situational, but come in handy nonetheless.
I personally find the subclasses included here to be of exceptional quality. There’s so many good options presented here! But, players hoping for entirely new classes and races are out of luck. It seems that Wizards of the Coast is a bit gun shy about releasing such things. (Although we did get a taste of some new races in Volo’s Guide). Regardless, this book makes a fine addition to the 5E lineup. In my mind, this is a resource that DMs and players can borrow from in pieces. It has the potential to enhance and expand an already excellent game.But without stepping on the toes of the DM but overriding whatever house rules he or she might already have in place. That being said, I would like to see something a little more substantial in the future. I think 5E has played it safe long enough. It’s time to see some new campaign settings, classes, etc. I want to see a Manual of the Planes, a DragonLance book, a Monster Manual II.… something! May 2018 will see the release of Mordenkainen’s Tome of Foes, this new rule expansion will include monsters and playable races. So we’re getting there.
With this post, I am now all caught up on official Fifth Edition releases. From now on, posts will be made as products are released. I may occasionally take a look at some of the more popular third-party releases. I also plan to post updates on the site in regards to my upcoming home campaign. So stay tuned!
Finally! We are up the most recent D&D adventure for 5th Edition. In fact, at the time of this writing, this is the adventure that is currently being run in official game sessions. Of course, I’m talking about Tomb of Annihilation.
Tomb of Annihilation is an adventure set in the world of Forgotten Realms. It takes place in tropical region of Chult. This is an area that could be best be compared to the jungles of South America. Chult is also popular as a location populated with Dinosaurs! Yes, we finally have some official dinosaur action in fifth edition D&D. The adventure is designed for players of level 1 and will take them to level 11 or even higher.
The storyline to this adventure is an interesting one and it actually ties-in to the classic D&D adventure Tomb of Horrors (which can be found in the 5E book, Tales from the Yawning Portal). The focus of this adventure revolves around something called The Death Curse. This mysterious event is causing anyone who has been raised from the dead by magical means to begin rotting away into nothing. The source of this curse has been identified as coming from a strange tomb hidden in the depths of the jungle. Players must brave this deadly dungeon and eliminate the cause of the curse.
This seems to be a very well put together adventure. The book contains more than enough information and resources to give the DM everything he needs to referee the game. There’s also plenty of content here. This will not be a short adventure at all. So expect this to provide weeks or even months of entertainment. The biggest challenge to this adventure seems to be the sheer difficulty level of the dungeon itself. This is certainly not a storyline to present to rookie players. It’s also not one that should be attempted by an inexperienced DM. The traps and encounters in this book are downright brutal and punishing. This is made more so due to the fact that the Death Curse prevents any normal means of resurrection. It’s also worthy of mentioning that this book also contains two new background options for players. But this alone does not make it a worthy purchase for players, in my opinion.
I’m looking forward to diving into this book once I have managed to get my DM skills up to snuff. But I don’t expect that to be any time soon. Regardless, Tomb of Annihilation appears to make a fine addition to the growing selection of adventures for 5E.