Showing posts with label 5e. Show all posts
Showing posts with label 5e. Show all posts

Wednesday, October 20, 2021

The NPCs of "The Wild Beyond The Witchlight"

Skylla, my ex
While "The Wild Beyond The Witchlight" has a lot going for it the reason, well one of the reasons, I really wanted it was because we were getting some official D&D 5th Edition stats to some classic NPCs, in particular, Skylla and Kelek two "iconic" characters that I am using in my War of the Witch Queens campaign. So I want to look at these old friends and maybe a couple of new ones too.  I'll leave poor old Thaco alone with his pipe and bitterness today.  Plus it is October and Horror month, so I really just want to talk about my favorites, the bad guys.

Who Are These Characters?

Long before the use of the term Iconic Characters to refer to reoccurring D&D characters in publication, there were names like Warduke, Strongheart, Ringlerun, and Kelek.  They appeared in the AD&D toy line from LJN and in other media including coloring books, stickers, adventures, and sometimes even the Dungeons & Dragons cartoon.   It is also one of the reasons why I have to laugh when people today will see a stuffed Owlbear and complain that "WotC is selling out and ruining D&D."  They must have forgotten the Official Advanced Dungeons & Dragons Yoyo or Sunglasses.

Of all of these characters, there were a few standouts who got extra attention.  Ringlerun, the Good Wizard would be the cover boy for the Jeff Easley recover of the AD&D Player's Handook, although many at the time did not see the connection.  Kelek and Warduke would go on to get a guest spot on the D&D cartoon.  Warduke in particular would go on to be a minor celebrity in D&D iconic circles, getting 1st Ed (well...Basic really), 3rd Ed, and now 5th Ed Ed stats.

LJN D&D Toys

We would get all their official D&D Basic and Expert set stats, not AD&D, in the product AC1 The Shady Dragon Inn.  This was sort of a Rogues Gallery for BECMI D&D. You can read my review of it here

What I would like to do here today is compare these characters from the Wild Beyond the Witchlight to their Shady Dragon Inn and Quest for the Heartstone counterparts. 

Bad guys

The League of Malevolence

Heroes are great, but give me a "good" villain any day of the week.  Here are five iconic D&D villains. I will compare them to their D&D Basic versions to see what has changed and what has stayed the same.

Kelek

First up is the leader of the League of Malevolence, our Legion of Doom for D&D.  All these characters are Chaotic Evil which tracks well to their original alignments of Chaotic.  

In Basic D&D Kelek was an "Evil Sorcerer" of course at this time a "Sorcerer" was the level title for a 7th level Magic-user.  In 5e his class has become a Sorcerer.  This actually make a lot of sense and I approve of this change.  His stats are pretty much the same from edition to edition with the exception of his Charisma which goes from 7 to 17.  Charisma is the "prime" stat for sorcerers. Here he is described as a sociopath. That tracks with how I have seen him in the past

Part of this adventure is searching for a lost Unicorn horn. Well that was more or less the plot of the only D&D Cartoon to feature Kelek.  If nothing else I am saying he is still after unicorn horns. 

Skylla

Ah. My beloved Skylla.  I was the most excited and the most worried to see what the Wizard's dev team was going to do to you.  I have to say I am not disappointed. In Quest of the Heartstone, she is listed as a 6th level Warlock. Again, this time "Warlock" meaning 6th level magic-user. I do note that the TSR team avoided calling her a "Witch" at the time. Likely due to the Satanic Panic (but Warlock is fine?).  Like her former boss Kelek, the level title is translated to Class here and she is a 6th level Warlock. It fits well if you ask me

Skylla's stats are mostly the same with some tweaks to improve what she needs to be a Warlock.  Though the best changes are in her background.  For starters, her patron is not a demon (like I did) but rather with Baba Yaga (like...I did).  Additionally they tackle the Skylla/Charmay art issue head-on as sometimes Skylla goes by the name Charmay.  It's different than what I do with her, but it works out fine in my mind.

For the record, they got Skylla as close to a "witch: as D&D 5e's rules will currently allow.  I think they did a great job with her.  Kelek too.

Warduke

I do have to ask. Why does everyone like this guy so much? I never quite got it, but hey someone out there is looking at my nearly 30 posts about Skylla and scratching their head. 

That all being said, Warduke here is fairly impressive. I think the fans will be happy.  His stats are all the same in both versions.  His Dread Helm in Basic gave him Infravision to 60'.  The D&D 5e version only makes his eyes glow red.  Well, as I have said many times, I have a pencil.

Zarak

The half-orc Assassin was just an odd dude in Basic D&D that didn't have half-orcs as monsters, let alone as a character race, nor did it have assassins.  Yet there he is on page 18 of my Quest for the Heartstone. In D&D 5 he also has some strangeness. He is a full orc here BUT he is a short one to fit the AD&D/D&D Basic orcs.  Though he is still a Chaotic Evil Assassin.  His Dexterity gets a buff in 5e, but he loses his "boomerang" dagger!

Zargash

The evil cleric is back.  He is 7th level, so that makes him an evil Bishop. Zargash is still Chaotic Evil and he worships Orcus. Stats are tweaked a bit, but otherwise he is largely the same.

Missing Evil Characters include, Grimsword (Evil Knight aka Anti-Paladin), Zorgan (Evil Barbarian) and Drex (Evil Warrior) all from Quest for the Heartstone. Fox Fingers (Thief) and Raven (Evil Cleric) from Shaddy Dragon Inn.  In might be fun to make Raven. She is evil (but maybe not totally), and in love with Warduke. She was once friend with Mericon. Who is up in the next batch.

Valor's Call

Our group of good hereos had the real chance of being boring on one hand and overly sanctimonious on the other.  Thankfully were spared the worse.  They are not as interesting as our bad guys, but they are still fun and there are still some tweaks that make them worth reading and using.

Elkhorn

Our Lawful Good dwarf might have been one of the more popular figures right behind Warduke.  His stats are the same in both versions.  I do like how they took an essentially blank canvas and made a dwarf that is not a Flint Fireforge clone or a Dime store Thorin and gave him some goals.  He is a staunch enemy of evil.  If Strongheart is the founder of Valor's call, then Elkhorn is its heart.

Mercion

Ok. She is no Aleena, but Mercion is the cleric of the group. Her stats are tweaked a bit to give her better Strength and a higher level, but the Mercion in 5e is much more interesting.  In what I feel is a real homage to her Basic D&D roots, she does not worship a god but rather an ideal. She believes that truth gives life to artistry and beauty.  It's kind of a cool concept. If I were to use her as an NPC I would make sure she never lies about anything, ever. In fact, the brutal truth is better for her than a sweet lie. 

Molliver

Molliver the good thief was not in the Shady Dragon Inn product but can be found in the Quest for the Heartstone. In Quest no gender is given for Molliver, so in the 5e book their pronouns are "they."  I like it. I like it because a.) it works for the character and b.) it will certainly piss off the ones that need pissing off.

Molliver is also the only Chaotic Good member of the party. A "Lawful" thief does not make much sense really. Stats are largely the same with a buff for Dex. They even have their boots of levitation, handy for a thief.  

Ringlerun

Our Lawful Good Wizard from Basic remains a Lawful Good Wizard in 5e.  Never as interesting as Kelek, Elminster, or Mordenkainen he was on the cover of the Player's Handbook and a popular figure. 

Ringlerun
His arm must be tired

He is still largely a generic wizard. He has kind of a James Randi in his later years look about him.  In my games he is dead; died of old age, but that doesn't really make sense for a wizard I guess.  I have some ideas forming that I might explore later.  Or not. After all he was never very interesting.

Strongheart

If I have one purely AD&D gripe it is that I rarely see anyone playing a paladin a good way.  "Sanctimonious Asshole" is not a Paladin. Neither is "Grim, tortured because there is so much evil in the world" isn't either.   I was worried that Strongheart was going to fall into one of those two camps. Or even worse, weak Sturm Brightblade clone.

Thankfully, that is not what we got. Instead, 5e Strongheart is the kind of paladin who is all about "we should get together to defeat evil because there is so much good in the world to enjoy!" He makes a good leader.  Again his stats are slightly tweaked to give him a better Strength (13 to 15) which, by the way, his D&D Basic stats were not good enough to make him an AD&D Paladin!

He was the character I was prepared to dislike the most (I have played paladins in EVERY version of D&D) and his actually was pretty cool.

It is mentioned that there are more characters in Valor's Call, off doing Good elsewhere.  They do have a solid feel of "The Superfriends" here. Not s big surprise I guess. Potential other members from Quest of the Heartstone include Peralay (Elf Fighter/Mage), Figgen (Halfling Fighter or Fighter/Theif), Deeth (Fighter), Hawkler (a totally NOT the Beastmaster Ranger), Bowmarc (Good "Crusader") and Valkeer, a half-giant warrior.  Of these Valkeer might the most fun to update to 5e.  Of these Peralay also appears in The Shady Dragon Inn.  

Strongheart and Warduke

Other NPCs

There are plenty of other really interesting NPCs in this book.  Many I plan to lift and convert back to D&D Basic for use in my War of the Witch Queens campaign.

Burly the Hobgoblin

Before D&D, a hobgoblin was more a trickster as exemplified by Puck or Robin Goodfellow. In Witchlight we have Burly a Neutral Good Hobgoblin.  Ok, I'll go with that. My favorite bit is he is a hobgoblin who wears a pumpkin on his head.  Now, where have I seen that before?

Pumpkin head

Bugbear. Hobgoblin.  The differences are largely academic.

Likewise, Chucklehead is a goblin with a  head shaped like a taffy apple.

Iggwilv the Witch Queen

Yes! Getting Skylla was one thing, getting a new Iggwilv?  That's just crazy good.

This is Iggwilv after she has left the Abyss and has been hiding out in the Feywild for centuries. Here she is also known as Tasha, Natasha, and Zybilna.  There is an interaction here with Kelek that plays so well into my plans it is hard not to use it all.  There is an interesting Maiden-Mother-Crone aspect of Iggwilv here in the form of Tasha-Zybilna-Iggwilv.

Iggwilv

Now I am perfectly happy with the formerly Chaotic Evil Iggwilv becoming more Chaotic Neutral as time goes on.  What I am not 100% sure about is her desire to abandon all her research on the Abyss and Demons in favor of learning about the Feywild instead.  But...I can live with it.

The Hour Glass Coven

I like them. Very interesting bunch of witches and hags.

The Minis

This is such an interesting group of NPCs it makes sense that there is also an equally interesting group of minis to go with them.  Sadly the supply chain breakdown has pushed many of these minis till 2022.  But I am really looking forward to them.

Kelek
Kelek

Skylla
Skylla

Zyblina
Zyblina


Looking forward to them.

Tuesday, October 19, 2021

Thoughts on "The Wild Beyond The Witchlight"

The Wild Beyond The Witchlight
The newest D&D 5e book is now out and so far it is a lot of fun.  I have not had the chance to read through it enough for a full review, but I do have some thoughts on it. 

It's An Adventure, Not A Source Book

Unlike Van Richten's Guide, or any of the other "name" books, this book is designed to be an adventure first and a source guide second.  The guide part comes into play for the setting, the Feywild D&D's version of the lands of Faerie, but that is the situation the adventure finds itself in.  The key piece here is the Carnival.

There are some "crunchy" bits here. But most of them deal with the adventure and its surroundings themselves.

There is a Non-Combat Solution to the Adventure

I have seen some complaints about this online and the question I have is "why are you complaining?"  I applaud the designers for trying something new.  I have often longed for a good adventure that you can get through without combat and get through on skill and cleverness alone.  Yes, D&D is a combat game and yes the monsters in this book still have stats, hitpoints, and alignments.  So you could very well murder hobo your way through it.   OR you can be more intelligent about it and try to get through it without combat.  I understand though that some gamers are not up to that challenge and might never get there.

The NPCs

I wanted this most of all for the NPCs.  I now have 5e stats for my beloved Skylla along with Kelek, Warduke, and more. I actually want to get into the NPCs in a future post. But I want to start with I am remarkably pleased with how the 5e versions of some classic villains (and let's be honest, the bad guys were always more interesting) turned out.

Bad guys

And then there are the new NPCs and among them is one of my favorites.  Thaco the kid-hating clown.  I began my D&D playing LONG before "THAC0" was a term used except informally.  And I have to say this about Thaco.

Thaco
I think he is fucking hilarious!

Are they poking fun at a certain set of Grognards, many of which are actually younger than I am? Very likely.  But look, if you can't stand a little poke like this then maybe you stay off of the Internet for a while.  I have seen some insane and stupid shit like "oh WotC is making fun of us" and "I won't buy their books."  Well, they might be, get over it, and their marketing data shows that only 5% or so of their sales are to people age 45 or over.  WotC is approaching $1B in sales now.  Not Hasbro. Wizards of the Coast.   

I am going to tell you this now.  WotC does not NEED the old-school gamers anymore. They need to cater to the Grogs and the sooner they drop that bowing in fealty to a group that doesn't even buy their product the sooner they can move on to serving the people that buy their product. 

Our season in the sun is over and that is ok.  

Plays Well With Others

There are some obvious callbacks to older D&D here and that is always fun.  It also makes adding more material a little easier with that hook.

Want to know more about the League of Malevolence or Valor's Call? Simple grab a copy of Quest for the Heartstone and use it as an introduction.  Need an inn to stay at?  Why not The Shady Dragon Inn? I reviewed it a while back and it works fine with 5e, you just need to redo the characters. Well, guess what TWBTW has? Yup.  Again, some more about that in a bit.

Given that this place in the Feywild you could easily add, and I say get a great benefit from, the Tome of Beasts series from Kobold Press. Tome of Beasts and Tome of Beasts II both have a large number of Faerie Lords that would work very well here as well as a fair number of fey creatures.

Tomes of Beasts

If you are like me you also will look at this product and think, yeah it is great and all, but it needs more horror. Say along the lines of "Something Wicked This Way Comes" or "Carnival of Souls" or even "Freaks"

As it turns out the answers are not that far away over in the Demi-plane of Dread.  The AD&D 2nd Ed Ravenloft product Carnival has what you need.  There are many parallels between both traveling carnivals and their relationship to their respective planes.  Sadly, Carnival is not set up as a Print on Demand yet and print copies are super rare.  But the PDF is on sale and the "new" scan is 1000x better than the scan WotC used to give out for free on their website back in the  2000s.

The Wild Beyond the Witchlight has a lot going for it and is something I would love to use. I might even convert it over to an old-school ruleset, say like OSE.

Thursday, October 7, 2021

No, 5e Devils are Not Misunderstood. But Alignment Is.

why is this Devil smiling?
Misunderstood?
It's October and one of my favorite things to talk about are devils, demons, and all sorts of fiends.

You know what I don't like talking about? Alignment.  

Why? It is boring and tedious and so many people get confused with what is written down in the rules and what they understand it to be, or not to be.  And frankly, the conversations are never very interesting. 

Conversations about alignment in the pages of Dragon actually predate The Dragon and go all the way back to The Strategic Review.  Very little new light has been shed on the topic ever since.

So alignment has largely been one of those things I give lip service to because pulling out would make a bunch of other things break.  Like the spells Detect Evil or Protection from Evil are just two examples.  There needs to be something in place so they work.  Swords with intelligence and ego. Other magic items on the small scale and the planes of existence on the larger scale.

Most of the other RPGs I play don't have alignment. D&D is the only holdout.

I am not saying I don't want universal Good or Evil, or even Law and Chaos, in my games.  I do.  I want my devils to be evil, or even better yet, Evil, with a capital E.  Demons? I want creatures that make the Devils go "whoa, hold on there dude."  But I also have creatures Beyond Good and Evil.  Not just in a Nietzscheian way, but in ways that are unmeasurable and unknowable by mortal kind.   

So when the "new" publisher (they have been publishing D&D for longer than the "old" publisher) wants to try something new like say "Unaligned" or "Typically Chaotic Evil" then I applaud the effort.  When they want to do something really interesting like remove monster alignment altogether my response is "interesting, tell me more..."

But of course, there are going to be those that freak out about it and claim ridiculous notions that "Devils are no longer evil."  This is of course a complete stretch of what the D&D 5 team, and Jeremey Crawford actually said.  Plus the examples given are NOT for all of D&D nor even for the upcoming 5.5 or 5r, though they could be.  In this case, these only apply to the optional adventure The Wild Beyond the Witchlight.  

Typically
My 2e books list them as Neutral

Still Chaotic Evil
Still Chaotic Evil, 100% of the time

Will we see some of these ideas in the upcoming D&D 5 update? Most certainly. Will we see them all in this exact manner? Maybe. 2024 is still a bit off and WotC has demonstrated they want to take in fan feedback and the editing process is a pain in the ass.  Tasha's Cauldron of Everything dropped alignments (and they were not missed) Witchlight brought them back.  So obviously they are still experimenting.

This is nothing new.  We saw this in the early days of AD&D 2nd Ed.

Monsters and Alignment

Monsters and Alignment

Monsters and Alignment

But let's say for the sake of argument they drop alignments from all monsters.  What does that mean?

In 5.5/5r it means monsters won't have an alignment.  

That is the absolute sum total of it.  It does not affect my Basic-era-B/X-OSE games.  It does not affect NIGHT SHIFT games. And you know what, it doesn't even affect my current D&D 5e games. 

They are not doing anything terribly new or innovative here. Even by adding "typically" to the alignment they are still only explicitly doing what we implicitly knew or at least did anyway.

Devils will still be evil. Demons will still be evil. Maybe, maybe there will be an odd Devil that seeks out redemption or maybe even understanding to the point where they are not evil anymore.  Or not.  I don't care about redeeming devils, I only care how quickly my player's characters can put the fiends down.  

Seriously though the only people online complaining about this are people who loudly and often will exclaim with pride that they "never bought any WotC D&D and never will."  Fine. Whatever. It's ok not to like the newest version of D&D.  It's fine to prefer older versions.  But if you complain every single time WotC does something with D&D I am going to assume your hobby isn't playing D&D but rather complaining about it.

I am reminded of the Chicken Littleing that went on last year about Oriental Adventures and the big pile of nothing that happened after.  

Friday, October 1, 2021

Character Creation Challenge: D&D 5th Edition, Van Richten's and Tasha's

 It's the 1st of October and that means a new Character! 

The Game: D&D 5th Edition
Van Richten's Guide to Ravenloft & Tasha's Cauldron of Everything

D&D 5 books and BloodRayne

While I did 5e way back in January, I wanted to revisit character creation with the new details from Van Richten's Guide to Ravenloft and Tasha's Cauldron of Everything.   This is also the closest I can get right now to what might be the standards for D&D 5 Revised

For this build, I went with the Soulknife Rogue from Tasha's and the Dhampir from Van Richten's. Yes. I had something in mind already.

The Character: BloodRayne

BloodRayne
One of the best ways for me to test out a character in a new system is to take a character I already know well.   If I am going to test out the Dhampir rules in D&D then I am going to need a dhampir I know well, and that means Rayne.

I have done stats for Rayne, the titular character of the BloodRayne video game series (and movie series from Uwe Boll), for both Unisystem and Superbabes.  She does have a D&D 5e connection with Laura "Jester" Bailey voicing the character in the video games long before she rose to geek fame in Critical Role.

Rebuilding Rayne with the new features in both Tasha's and Van Richten's was actually rather easy.  I had a concept in mind and the rules allowed me to re-create her with no issues.  Mind you this is a "D&D Rayne" not the BloodRayne from the video games.  Despite the grief D&D 5 gets for being "superheroic" I could not emulate all her moves or powers.  I suppose I could have gone with a little bit of warlock and in particular a Hexblade (and I still might). But I wanted something that would fit in well enough with a D&D party. 

I wanted to take advantage of all the new features, so I used D&D Beyond.  You can see her character sheets here and PDF version here.

Monday, September 27, 2021

D&D 5.5 Announcement

Over the weekend WotC/Hasbro and D&D team had their D&D Celebration.  Lots of things were discussed including the new gift box I talked about yesterday.  

Of course, the big announcement was D&D 5.5 or D&D 5 Revised coming out in 2024.

Personally, I think this is a good idea.

D&D 5e Collection

Right now D&D 5 is 7 years old. The "Basic Rules" PDF and the Starter Set were released in July 2014. In 2024, the proposed release date, D&D 5 will be close to 10 years old.  That is about the same amount of time AD&D 1st and 2nd Ed were around each.  That is counting the unofficial ".5" versions of post Unearthed Arcana (AD&D 1) and the Revised AD&D 2nd ed books.  This puts D&D 5e and 5.5 combined to be the longest-lasting version of D&D.

There are a ton of reasons why 2024 is a good date for this.

D&D Celebration

The Hype

I have been saying EVERYWHERE that WotC will not do anything until the 50th anniversary of D&D in 2024.  They can spend the first two-quarters of 2024 hyping D&D from its roots and evolution.  Expect a huge deep dive into nostalgia.  Then third quarter (or even fourth to get that Christmas dollar) D&D 5.5 will hit the shelves.  The message from WotC will be clear, you have enjoyed D&D for 50 years now and THIS is the ultimate edition.  It's not just good marketing, they would be negligent if they didn't do it.

The Rules

When I heard about this I mentioned it to my son last night when he got home from work.  His response was, "oh cool!"  I have seen similar responses from others in the D&D 5 community.  With the publication of Tasha's and other books, there have been enough rule additions and alternates to make a Revised Core Rule Set a welcome publication. 

Right now we are being told these are just going to be rule clarifications and reorganizations.  Everything will be 100% backward compatible.  This is smart given the number of people that play D&D 5 now.  It also makes sense given how poorly Pathfinder 2 was received by the fans of Pathfinder 1.  

Plus D&D 5 was designed to be more modular, so adding in rules should be easy.  Maybe not as modular as D&D 4e was nor as modular as D&D 5 was originally advertised as, but still better than D&D 3 and anything that came before it.

Of there are critics.  I note that most of the complaining is coming from people that have self-admitted that they actually don't play D&D 5.  So I guess their opinions really don't matter.

Expectations

What am I expecting with these new rules?

Well, "race" will be gone and we will get something closer to the Ancestry and Culture mods other games have been doing.  Mechanically speaking it will largely be the same at the end.  Instead of choosing a race and getting a baked-in mod and language; you will choose ancestry, culture and there will be guidelines for mods, languages, and other features.   So what if you were a human raised by elves? Or an orc raised by dwarves?  These things can now happen.  Well, in truth you could always do these you just needed a DM that would work out the details with you and not be dogmatic. 

There will still be a Basic Rules style game with the four basic classes (Cleric, Fighter, Rogue, Wizard) and the four basic "races" (Human, Elf, Dwarf, Halfling) they will just be worked up in terms of the new ancestry rules.  But mechanically a 5.0 elf will work as a 5.5 elf. 

Rangers will get tweaked. Again. Cause no one is ever happy with them.  This goes all the way back to the beginning really.

Warlock might get some changes, as will the monks.  We MIGHT get a Core Rule psionic class, but the chances are very low.

I am expecting some new Session 0 verbiage.

Monsters will have a "typical" alignment with sentient races not having one required.  The new Wild Beyond the Witchlight monsters all have alignments listed.  The idea will be that Ancestry plays a role in alignment, but individuals have a choice. I DO expect to see a group of good or at least neutrally aligned Drow.

There are spellcasting changes coming to monsters that we will get a preview of in 2023 with the Multiverse of Monsters book.

I am also expecting more on non-combat play like we have in the Wild Beyond the Witchlight.

I am sure there will be more and many of the changes will be minor, less than the changes between 3.0 and 3.5 for example. OR even the differences between 2nd Ed and Revised 2nd Ed.

Looking forward to seeing what happens.

Sunday, September 26, 2021

D&D Rules Expansion Gift Set

This week the social media networks were all a-buzz with a mysterious new product for D&D.  Some were saying new boxed set or even D&D 6th ed (which was highly unlikely in any event) we learned today what we will be getting.

So this,

Amazon mystery

Has now been replaced by this, 

D&D 5e Gift Set

and this,

D&D 5e Gift Set, Special Ed

The set includes Xanathar's Guide to Everything, Tasha's Cauldron of Everything, and the new Mordenkainen Presents Monsters of the Multiverse.

It was supposed to be for Christmas, but the global supply chain is still screwed up.  

In any case, it looks really cool. Typically I get one for me and the special edition one for my son.  But I think I might get the special ed version for myself as well.  They look so great. 

Sunday, September 19, 2021

Back Home from GenCon 2021!

I just got back home from GenCon 2021.  We had a great time.  We stayed in masks a lot and we spent a little more time playing games in our room and outside, but all in all, we took a lot of precautions, washed hands a lot, and of course got vaccinated a while back.  

For this Con, I did not continue the Order of the Platinum Dragon campaign.  I have been building something cool for it and taking it to Gen Con would have been a pain in the ass.  Instead, we continued on with the War of the Witch Queens campaign.  Everyone really took to Basic Ear D&D well and my son even bought his own copies of Old-School Essentials.

Basic D&D

We picked up our Old-School Essentials at the Games Plus booth. They had a bunch on Day 1 and were completely sold out by Day 3!

Games Plus' Booth

Games Plus' Booth

Games Plus' Booth

Oh. And despite some claims to the contrary, Gen Con was still full and there were plenty of people here.  We spoke to a few of the restaurant workers and a few owners and they were thrilled that Gen Con was back, even in this limited fashion.

Still crowded

Still crowded

Still crowded

People stayed in masks, for the most part. Though we are still going to quarantine for a bit just to be safe. 

We picked up some great games too.  The kids both work now so they were able to spend their own money. Which is great, cause I bought a lot for me.

Games

Games

Games

So far our favorite has been The Red Dragon Inn by Slugfest Games.  We had a blast with it. I have been wanting it for a bit now and I am glad we got it.

We played some NIGHT SHIFT and that was great.  While we were playing this guy stopped to see what we were playing. He mentioned he wanted to introduce his 10-year-old daughter to D&D.  Long story short, the drummer of the band Shinedown watched our game. I gave him a copy of NIGHT SHIFT, which he loved. 

Not sure what our plans are for next year, but we had a great time this year.  Glad to be back at Gen Con.

Friday, August 20, 2021

#RPGaDAY2021 Day 20 Lineage

RPGaDAY2021 Day 20

Today's alt-word has been on my mind a lot lately.  I have been wanting to talk more about it so today feels like the day. 

Day 20 Lineage

Since its inception, D&D has had race as a feature of the game.  However, since its inception race has been more or less been misused.  Really Elves, Dwarves, Halflings, and Humans are different species.  Now while it is true humans can interbreed with elves and orcs I am going to stick with the notion here that they are species.  

Race, as a term, has a lot of negative connotations about it.  There is the idea of ethnic or phenotype determiners of race. There is the colonialism notion of races, and how that was used to justify all sorts of crimes against humanity for centuries.  There are even the Theosophical ideas of races which seem to be the well that D&D has drawn from.  In the end "Race" is not only not even the proper word, it is a woefully loaded word.

I like Species myself.  But you might say "but species can't interbreed!" except of course when they do.  There are sterile hybrids between species, there are even fertile ones. These range from plants to animals and even mammals.   Even in humans, there are fossils that may be human-neanderthal hybrids and many scientists think that we may have killed all the other archaic hominids or we may have bred with them until their genome was absorbed into ours.  We know from mitochondrial DNA scans that Neanderthals share more alleles with Eurasians than with sub-Saharah Africans.  

I also remember having debates in my Philosophy of Science class that species only serve the needs of scientists making taxonomic nomenclature.   

So can all the D&D Player Characters be different species? Of course. Can they interbreed? Absolutely some of them can.  But this is not really the full picture either.

Let's take the term used by the latest D&D 5e book, Lineage.  

Lineage has none of the baggage that race does. Nor does it have to overly complicated scientific logic that species does.  Lineage allows you to build what your character is.  

From Tasha's Cauldron of Everything:

At the first level you choose:

  • Creature type. You are a humanoid. You determine your appearance and whether you resemble any of your kin.
  • Size. You are Small or Medium (your choice).
  • Speed. Your base walking speed is 30 feet.
  • Ability Score Increase. One ability score of your choice increases by 2.
  • Feat. You gain one feat of your choice for which you qualify.
  • Variable Trait. You gain one of the following options of your choice:
    • Darkvision with a range of 60 feet.
    • Proficiency in one skill of your choice.
  • Languages. You can speak, read, and write Common and one other language that you and your DM agree is appropriate for your character.

Simple.  You can rebuild any race you want.  

Just prior to Tasha's Arcanist Press released their Ancestry & Culture: An Alternative to Race in 5e.  A fantastic guide.  Where Tasha's uses "Lineage" this uses "Ancestry," which is in my opinion just as good.  But this product also includes "Culture" in the mix.   So what if you are a human raised by elves?  Or in the case of my own Sharis Val, a drow raised by dwarven clerics in a monastery.  It can even explain the already established differences in the three types of halflings/hobbits with fallohides/tallfellows having halfling lineage and living near elven culture.  Yeah, they are taller and the like, this is a blog post not comparative biology. 

Ancestry & Culture: An Alternative to Race in 5e

You can also vote for Ancestry & Culture: An Alternative to Race in 5e for the 2021 ENnies awards. It is up for:

Pathfinder 2nd Ed also does something with all of this too.  Their system is more mechanically oriented.

Personally, I prefer this over the systems we have been using.  

I would adapt these to Old-School play, but I am going to wait to see how Chromatic Dungeons does it first. 


RPGaDAY2021

Tuesday, August 17, 2021

#RPGaDAY2021 Day 17 Trap

RPGaDAY2021 Day 17

Traps seem ubiquitous in D&D. But honestly, I have never cared for them. The same goes for mimics.

Day 17 Trap

Traps.  Back in the early days of D&D traps were everywhere.  Their existence was one of the early reasons for the thief class.  These days the trap finding and removing the role of the thief is somewhat lessened and for me that is fine.  Because honestly I never really cared for traps.

Sure I don't mind them in small amounts and I like to include at least one or two in a dungeon I don't like to go nuts with them.

What's "nuts?"  Tomb of Horrors always struck me as excessive.  

Back in the 80s traps were all the rage, with Grimtooth's Traps as something of the gold standard.  Back in Jr. High I got my then DM a copy of one of the Grimtooth's Traps books, Traps Too, I think. Big mistake. I got characters trapped in something he had added to the A Series, he never made it out alive.  I let my kids know this when we played the series. I suggested if they found maybe his body was still there and they could loot it!  Sadly (or luckily) they never found him and I honestly could not recall where the trap was added.

Today the traps of choice are Mimics.  

Like traps, I never used a lot of mimics. They are great once, but then after that, they lose their appeal to me.  

In a 5e game, my lack of desire for traps is no big deal. The thief/rogue class has a lot more to do than be the trap finder/trap remover.    But in my War of the Witch Queens, which is a D&D B/X game, I really should have more. 


RPGaDAY2021


Friday, July 23, 2021

Kickstart Your Weekend: Celts, Demon City, and Anime

A few Kickstarters today that look like a lot of fun.

Heroes of Tara Player's Guide

Heroes of Tara
https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/1955128460/heroes-of-tara-players-guide?ref=theotherside

5e? Irish myths?  Yes, please!  I mean what else do I need to know here?  No. That's pretty much all I need!

Pixies, Wyrms, Demon City – Three Mini Role-Playing Games

Demon City

https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/dyskami/pixies-wyrms-demonicity-three-mini-role-playing-games?ref=theotherside

While Dyskami Publishing has some issues left over from the Guardians of Order days and...I am not quite sure how I feel about that, I did love BESM.  These new books for TriStat are exactly the sort of things I loved.  Hell, I even had my own Demon City in the works, but I am happy to put that down of other projects. 

Tuesday, July 13, 2021

Van Richten's Guide to Ravenloft, Part 5. Plays Well With Others

I touched briefly on this with my posts on Building a Darklord, Castle Amber, and Horror Adventures, but one of the key strengths of  Ravenloft has always been its mutability.  It can go anywhere, it be what you need it to be and while some might bemoan its pastiche of horror literature stereotypes, that same familiarity allows it to work in a lot of ways with other books and games.

While I am perfectly happy, indeed happier now, that Ravenloft is more amorphous and less of a "world" there are plenty of sources out there if you want to expand it beyond what lives in between the book covers now to a larger world.

Here are some resources I am planning on using to make my Ravenloft campaign (whenever I can get that going!) a little more personalized.

Ravenloft and Cthulhu

While this seems to be a "no-brainer" just slapping Cthulhu into a game almost never works.  Sure there are some great monsters here, but the real value-add here are the sections on running a cosmic horror game.  This is a great overall resource, and a fantastic one when running an adventure in Bluetspur.

Ravenloft and Fantasy Horror

I mentioned already the utility that Pathfinder's Horror Adventures provides in setting up some details for a Dark Fantasy Horror game.  The 3.x d20 system in Pathfinder is similar enough to the 5e one in Ravenloft to provide plenty of ideas with a minimum of conversion needed.   If you must have them, the Fear, Sanity, and Corruption rules can be ported over to 5e Ravenloft.  Even some of the Feats can be used (but used sparingly).  Spells and Magic items can be ported over almost as is really. 

In fact, I have found it so useful in the last few days that I have moved it from my "Pathfinder" shelf to my "Horror" shelf.

BlackRose

Going back to some of the earliest posts on this blog are my ideas for a BlackRose game.  Now with the new 5e Blue Rose out, it is practically begging me to use it for this.  For me, the ideas behind BlackRose have changed a bit.  I think a Domain that is similar to Aldea, but maybe more of one of sadness.  Not Aldea, but using a lot of the ideas and rules.  Something more akin to my Kingdom of Rain.  Which has one foot planted squarely in Blue Rose and another in a melancholic sort of Folk Horror that would find a home in Ravenloft.  I ran an adventure under the title "Kingdom of Rain" a while back. It was a little Aldea, a little bit Innsmouth, and a little bit Alton, Illinois.  There are some solid Fey elements to it as well; I introduced my River Hags here.  A version of Kingdom of Rain is set to be published under the name "Witching Weather," so watch this space for more on that.

Ravenloft and the Runewild


Speaking of fey lands, the Runewild from Sneak Attack Press also provides a bit of a wilder fey world with tinges of Horror and Dark Fantasy.  If you ever wanted to expand on the Domain of Tepset then this is a fantastic source.  Again, as with the Horror Adventures and Blue Rose, there is material here that can be dropped into Ravenloft "as is" with very little modification.  The Runewild also help build up that "dream-like feeling" I like to use in Ravenloft before hitting characters with the Nightmares.

My Kingdom of Rain lives in the intersection of the triquetra-shaped Venn diagram of Ravenloft, Blue Rose, and Runewild.  I can also use this for expanding my new Domain with The Snow Queen as the Darklord.  Though do I REALLY want my Kingdom of Rain converted to a Dark Domain?  I'll have to suss that one out as I go through my books here.

Ravenloft and Ravenloft


Sounds odd, but most of the grief the new book is getting online is "it's not like the old Ravenloft." Ok, fine. If you must, make it like it.   Most of the Ravenloft books are fluff anyway.  Grab what you want from any of the old books and reuse it.  Want Viktor back instead of Viktra? Ok, do that.  I might create a Domain where they are both there and there is an intense rivalry between them.  I am thinking Father and Daughter.  Their creations of course are caught in this battle.  Rival evil scientists. Using their creations to get at the other.  Both wanting to capture their opponents' creations to learn their secrets. Viktor is intensely jealous of his daughter fearing her creation Else is superior, all the wile claiming she knows nothing that he did not teach her.  Viktra hates her father for never sharing his work and finds Adam to be an abomination.  

The more I type this, the more I like it.  Go all Hammer Horror for Viktor and Giallo horror for Viktra.  Set them on different sides of Lamordia where their minions search the countryside for parts for their experiments and to hopefully capture one of the more successful ones of their rival Darklords. 

It's one part Frankenstein Created Woman (1967), one part Lady Frankenstein (1971), and one part War of the Gargantuas (1966).  All set in Fantasy Gothic Horror Switzerland. Sprinkle in a little bit of Reanimator and I am good to go. 

Horror is my favorite seasoning for most games.  Ravenloft lets me do this with everything.