D&D: Family Game – Lost Mine of Phandelver (pt 2)

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.

More to come.

Dungeons & Dragons: Mordenkainen’s Tome of Foes

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.

 

Dungeons & Dragons Fifth Edition Products:

Starter Set

Core Books:  

Player’s Handbook   –   Dungeon Master’s Guide   –   Monster Manual

Supplements:

Volo’s Guide to Monsters    –   Sword Coast Adventurer’s Guide  – Xanthar’s Guide to Everything – Mordenkainen’s Tome of Foes

Adventures:

Hoard of the Dragon Queen   –  Rise of Tiamat    – Princes of the Apocalypse  –  Out of the Abyss   – Curse of Strahd   –   Storm King’s Thunder  –  Tales from the Yawning Portal  – Tomb of Annihilation  –  Waterdeep: Dragon Heist   –   Waterdeep: Dungeon of the Mad Mage

Dungeons & Dragons: Xanathar’s Guide to Everything

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
  • New spells
  • 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!

Dungeons & Dragons Fifth Edition Products:

Starter Set

Core Books:  

Player’s Handbook   –   Dungeon Master’s Guide   –   Monster Manual

Supplements:

Volo’s Guide to Monsters    –   Sword Coast Adventurer’s Guide  – Xanthar’s Guide to Everything – Mordenkainen’s Tome of Foes

Adventures:

Hoard of the Dragon Queen   –  Rise of Tiamat    – Princes of the Apocalypse  –  Out of the Abyss   – Curse of Strahd   –   Storm King’s Thunder  –  Tales from the Yawning Portal  – Tomb of Annihilation  –  Waterdeep: Dragon Heist   –   Waterdeep: Dungeon of the Mad Mage

Dungeons & Dragons: Curse of Strahd

My first Dungeons & Dragons post of the new year is a look at the long awaited adventure: Curse of Strahd. For those of you who might not know, “Strahd” is a popular villain. Count Strahd von Zarovich is an infamous vampire. Essentially, he’s D&D’s version of Count Dracula. He rules over the mysterious country of Barovia (which is actually not a country, but its own demi-plane), from his castle Ravenloft. This adventure is actually a 5E remake of the original “Ravenloft” module that was released back in the days of 1E. When I learned that Wizards of the Coast were modernizing Raventloft for fifth edition, I was elated. This is an adventure that I had read about countless times, but never had the opportunity to play or host.

Curse of Strahd is the first 5E product that doesn’t take place exclusively in the world of Forgotten Realms. Instead, players find themselves mysteriously trapped in the plane of Barovia. Their goal is to escape and return to their homeworld. The book does include a few mini “hook adventures” to help DMs get the players to Barovia. One of these is a Forgotten Realms specific hook, (so we still haven’t broken those Forgotten Realms chains completely). The adventure is designed for players of level 1-10.

Curse of Strahd is a very open-ended adventure. The entire story takes place in a relatively small area, but players are not railroaded down a particular path. The flow of the adventure is unlike anything published for 5E thus far.  This can make the adventure a bit of a challenge for rookie DMs, so be warned.

With that being said, it is the mood and setting of this module is what really sets it apart from other adventures published so far.  This is a classic horror campaign and it’s done very well.  Instead of a medieval swords & sorcery, this adventure has a very “Transylvanian Gothic” feel to it. Personally, that is a something that I find very appealing. And I’m not alone in that assessment. Barovia was so popular at one time, that back in the 2E days, it was even given its own campaign setting: Ravenloft.

This is an adventure that I can’t wait to experience firsthand. But, just like with the previous adventure Out of the Abyss, I’m certain I’ll need a little more experience before trying to DM something on this scale. But the day will come! I’m glad to see WOTC modernizing and reprinting some classic modules, I hope the trend continues

Dungeons & Dragons Fifth Edition Products:

Starter Set

Core Books:  

Player’s Handbook   –   Dungeon Master’s Guide   –   Monster Manual

Supplements:

Volo’s Guide to Monsters    –   Sword Coast Adventurer’s Guide  – Xanthar’s Guide to Everything – Mordenkainen’s Tome of Foes

Adventures:

Hoard of the Dragon Queen   –  Rise of Tiamat    – Princes of the Apocalypse  –  Out of the Abyss   – Curse of Strahd   –   Storm King’s Thunder  –  Tales from the Yawning Portal  – Tomb of Annihilation  –  Waterdeep: Dragon Heist   –   Waterdeep: Dungeon of the Mad Mage

Dungeons & Dragons: Out of the Abyss

Next up in D&D product lineup is another adventure/campaign: Out of the Abyss. This is adventure is part of the “Rage of Demons” campaign, and was designed to give modern players a heavy dose of 1st edition nostalgia. It pits players against classic fiends and monsters, straight out of the pages of early first-edition texts.

This module is set in the Forgotten Realms and designed for players level 1-15. However, despite starting at a low level, it’s not one that is recommended for beginners. The open-ended feel and campaign-specific ruleset would likely end up being too much of a challenge for rookie Dungeon Masters. Even the content of the adventure itself is best enjoyed by experienced players. Being an adventure that pits players against demons and other powerful creatures, it will be all to easy for inexperienced players to find their brand new character dead and gone after just a few sessions. This one will require some thought and discipline to complete.

That being said, what we have here is a very memorable adventure that takes place almost entirely in the Underdark. The book contains official 5e stats for a handful of classic Underdark monsters as well as official stats for some legendary demonic characters. So, it can also be quite a valuable resource for DMs who are looking to add to their fifth-edition library – even if they don’t plan on running the campaign itself.

As usual, I’m not giving a chapter-by-chapter review of the adventure, as I haven’t actually played through it. But after studying the product in detail, I’m excited to see that Wizards of the Coast is actually making good on their promise to make 5E a version of D&D that will appeal to players of all generations. Being a huge fan of 1E, this product really hits all the right nostalgia buttons for me, while managing to stay true to the modern ruleset. This is one that I cannot wait to experience in the future. But before I tackle an adventure of this magnitude, I feel like I will need a little bit more experience under my belt.

Dungeons & Dragons Fifth Edition Products:

Starter Set

Core Books:  

Player’s Handbook   –   Dungeon Master’s Guide   –   Monster Manual

Supplements:

Volo’s Guide to Monsters    –   Sword Coast Adventurer’s Guide  – Xanthar’s Guide to Everything – Mordenkainen’s Tome of Foes

Adventures:

Hoard of the Dragon Queen   –  Rise of Tiamat    – Princes of the Apocalypse  –  Out of the Abyss   – Curse of Strahd   –   Storm King’s Thunder  –  Tales from the Yawning Portal  – Tomb of Annihilation  –  Waterdeep: Dragon Heist   –   Waterdeep: Dungeon of the Mad Mage

Dungeons & Dragons: Princes of the Apocalypse

Moving right along with my summary of 5E Dungeons & Dragons releases, we have the third official adventure (and second campaign) released by WoTC: Princes of the Apocalypse.

This adventure is part of their “Elemental Evil” campaign. This might sound familiar to long time players… The Temple of Elemental Evil is a classic, heralded adventure from back in the 1E days. This release is a bit of a re-modernization of that classic adventure. But, rather than being a simple 1e-to-5e conversion, this release takes the basic premise of the original story and adapts it to Forgotten Realms setting. So, while the core concept is the same, the locations and situations are radically different. This makes for a new a refreshing experience, even for long time players are are familiar with the lore behind “elemental evil”.

This adventure is designed for players of level 3 and will take them all the way up to level 15. However, this book also contains a special section that includes a number of mini-adventures and sidequests, that can easily be adapted for level 1 players. These serve as the perfect buffer, allowing DMs to run their players through these scenarios – in order to toughen them up enough for the main quest. There’s even a hook provided in this book that ties in to the sample adventure included in the D&D Starter Set. So players who have cut their teeth on that adventure, will feel right at home with Princes of the Apocalypse.

In many ways, this release represents a step up from some of the errors and criticisms seen in the prior Tyranny of Dragons campaign. First, we have the entire storyline packed into one book, instead of being spread out between two separate releases. Also, it seems to dwell in the nice middle-ground between being an “on rails” campaign and a bit of a sandbox.  Something that is sort of a “best of both worlds” for all DMs.

This release also includes an appendix that features some new spells and a new optional playable race. However, it’s worthy to note that this is merely a condensed version of “Elemental Evil Player’s Companion” that was released online for free.

In a nutshell, Princes of the Apocalypse does a fantastic job of taking the modern version of D&D and giving it that classic old-school feel.  Personally, I’d have preferred to see this as the debut adventure for 5E. In my opinion, everything that’s great about D&D is represented right here.

Dungeons & Dragons Fifth Edition Products:

Starter Set

Core Books:  

Player’s Handbook   –   Dungeon Master’s Guide   –   Monster Manual

Supplements:

Volo’s Guide to Monsters    –   Sword Coast Adventurer’s Guide  – Xanthar’s Guide to Everything – Mordenkainen’s Tome of Foes

Adventures:

Hoard of the Dragon Queen   –  Rise of Tiamat    – Princes of the Apocalypse  –  Out of the Abyss   – Curse of Strahd   –   Storm King’s Thunder  –  Tales from the Yawning Portal  – Tomb of Annihilation  –  Waterdeep: Dragon Heist   –   Waterdeep: Dungeon of the Mad Mage

Dungeons & Dragons: Hoard of the Dragon Queen

As promised, I’m making my first post playing catch-up with the current line of D&D releases. So far, I’ve touched on all of the core rule books and even a couple of the supplements.  This will be my first post on an official “module” or adventure. Now, I want to state up front that this is not a review. But rather a summary of the product itself. In this case, I have actually played through this particular module. But I won’t be able to say that for many of the books I’ll be touching on in the near future.

Hoard of the Dragon Queen is the first adventure published for the 5th Edition Dungeons & Dragons and it is the first chapter of the Tyranny of Dragons campaign. A few years ago, when I participated in an official sanctioned game, this was actually the storyline that we played through. This module takes place in the Forgotten Realms world (the official setting for 5th edition) and it is designed for players of first level. By the end of the adventure players are expected to reach 7th or 8th level. So it takes a character pretty far along in their career.

The module focuses on the Cult of the Dragon; an evil group working to summon the ancient demonic dragon Tiamat.  The main goal of the adventure focuses around the players uncovering and attempting to stop this evil plot.

This adventure features many classic D&D elements. It’s filled with classic monsters and locations. It’s got a little bit of everything. There’s good opportunity for role playing, NPC interactions, dungeon crawling, etc. However, many have expressed that the adventure seems very “firewalled”. Meaning, it really pushes players to follow a pre-set expectation. There’s an encounter early in the story with an extremely powerful monster. One that most players will realize there’s no way to reasonably defeat. Therefore, most players will rightfully assume that they have “story immunity” and as a result don’t take the encounter seriously. These types of encounters can certainly occur in any Dungeons & Dragons game, but it often requires a very skilled DM to be able to make the scenario seem believable. Otherwise, it comes across as being cheesy.

All in all, Hoard of the Dragon Queen is a pretty good opener to the fifth edition of Dungeons & Dragons. Its very epic in scope. Some argue it is perhaps a little too ambitious for an introduction to the hobby. I say that all depends on the skills of the individual hosting the game.

Dungeons & Dragons Fifth Edition Products:

Starter Set

Core Books:  

Player’s Handbook   –   Dungeon Master’s Guide   –   Monster Manual

Supplements:

Volo’s Guide to Monsters    –   Sword Coast Adventurer’s Guide  – Xanthar’s Guide to Everything – Mordenkainen’s Tome of Foes

Adventures:

Hoard of the Dragon Queen   –  Rise of Tiamat    – Princes of the Apocalypse  –  Out of the Abyss   – Curse of Strahd   –   Storm King’s Thunder  –  Tales from the Yawning Portal  – Tomb of Annihilation  –  Waterdeep: Dragon Heist   –   Waterdeep: Dungeon of the Mad Mage

Update: Dungeons & Dragons Plans

As the new year quickly approaches, I wanted to share my plans regarding D&D. If you read my D&D posts, you’ll know that my son and I spent a large portion of this year attending D&D games at a local hobby store. However, a change in my work schedule put an end to those outings. So, instead, I’ve been in the planning stages of starting a home-based campaign. My current goal in regards to D&D is catch up on my book reviews before the end of the year. Then, when we start our home campaign in 2018, I’ll make regular posts and updates on our progress.

Despite have a little 5E experience under my belt at this point, I’m still very much a greenhorn. My decades away from the game really took their toll on me, so it’s like learning all over again. I’ll start making some D&D related posts next week. So if you’re a follower with an interest in this subject, stay tuned!

Dungeons & Dragons: Volo’s Guide to Monsters

Wow! It’s been a while since I made a Dungeons & Dragons post. Almost two years. But, it’s also been that long since Wizard’s  released a core supplement. Everything they’ve put out in the meantime has either been adventure modules or campaign source material. But finally we have something of interest to talk about;  Volo’s Guide to Monsters.

What we have here is an interesting combination of both a reference book and a monster manual, all rolled into one. The first half of this book deals strictly with monster lore. This is mainly of interest to Dungeon masters who may wish to know more “scientific” details behind some of the more iconic monsters in the game. It’s written much like a research paper. For example, there’s a section on Beholders that includes everything you could ever want to know: life cycle information, physical details, diet, etc.

Second, there’s small area that introduces a handful of optional playable races to the 5th Edition game. That’s always interesting, albeit controversial.

Finally, we have the real gem. The Bestiary. And it is filled with tons of classic, forgotten 1e monsters! (Including some of my old favorites; Darklings, Flail Snails, Red Caps…. classic stuff!)

Sadly, I haven’t been playing much D&D lately. But, I’m still relentlessly collecting every official 5E supplement. I know the time will come sooner or later when I will be able to pick up one of my favorite hobbies again.  So, if you’re just getting back into the game, or even if you’ve been trucking along the whole time, Volo’s Guide to Monsters is a quality release. No 5E DM should be without it, in my opinion.

Dungeons & Dragons Fifth Edition Products:

Starter Set

Core Books:  

Player’s Handbook   –   Dungeon Master’s Guide   –   Monster Manual

Supplements:

Volo’s Guide to Monsters    –   Sword Coast Adventurer’s Guide  – Xanthar’s Guide to Everything – Mordenkainen’s Tome of Foes

Adventures:

Hoard of the Dragon Queen   –  Rise of Tiamat    – Princes of the Apocalypse  –  Out of the Abyss   – Curse of Strahd   –   Storm King’s Thunder  –  Tales from the Yawning Portal  – Tomb of Annihilation  –  Waterdeep: Dragon Heist   –   Waterdeep: Dungeon of the Mad Mage