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

Monday, September 26, 2022

Monstrous Mondays: Twilight Fables (5e & OSR)

Taking a break from Pathfinder for a bit on this first Monstrous Monday of Fall 2022 to do something a little darker.  There is a chill in the air here in Chicago. I have a flannel shirt on and my mood ever shifts more and more to Halloween.  A Halloween bestiary would be nice and thankfully Izegrim Creations has just the thing I need.

Twilight Fables

Twilight Fables

I swear the Kickstarter for this had just ended and I got my DriveThruRPG notification that the hardcovers were available. 

So for this I Monstrous Monday, I want to talk about both the 5e and OSR versions of this book, the Print on Demand and PDF versions, plus all the other material that makes up this line. 

OSR and 5e

Overview

Both books are huge volumes at 336 pages (5e) and 326 pages (OSR) each. The covers are full color as is all the interior art.  And the art is fantastic.  

Twilight Fables books

Twilight Fables books

Both books have a solid 5e aesthetic to them; colorful art and backgrounds, text describing the creature and its place in the environment/land/myths, and followed by a stat block.

art

The 5e book features a standard-looking 5e stat block, the OSR one is largely a modified Basic-era stat block. It includes everything you would expect along with descending and ascending AC, an entry for THAC0, and XP. The art for both books is the same.  There is a good reason for this, the OSR version was added on a little bit later in the Kickstarter.  The 5e version, with art, was done before the kickstart began (minus some edits I am told) so adding on the OSR version was a matter of adding the new stat blocks.  One nitpick there are listings for "DCs" in the OSR version for magic item creation (more on that later). I would have preferred something that felt a little more pre-2000.

Now in most situations, I would fear translation errors, but the author Roderic Waibel had already developed that very successful Chromatic Dungeons RPG (reviewed here) which is solid OSR.  So I know he knows OSR.  My only gripe is kinda wanted the OSR stat blocks to look as nice as the 5e ones!  But that is only a gripe for people that own both.

Like many of Waibel's publications we get nice sidebar discussions from the intelligent and rather civilized Gnoll "Fleabag." It is a very nice touch (I have done something similar with my 'From the Journal of Larina Nix') and it gives these (and his other books) character. 

Regardless of which one you get (get both!) you are in for a treat.

I grabbed both and will be using the OSR version in my Old-School Essentials game. My oldest grabbed the 5e version and is using it in his weekly 5e game. So far he says it is great and he loves all the different sorts of monsters it offers.

The Fables

The name of the book is Twilight Fables.  So you can expect that these are monsters from various myths, legends, and tales. And you would be 100% correct. Waibel has done his reading and there are a lot of great creatures here.  Even ones that might be familiar get new life and feel "new."  

For example, I mentioned one of my favorites, the Basajaun who appears in three different monster books. 

statblocks

Each one is a little different and yet each one 'feels' right. Perfect for DMs that want a familiar, yet different creature.

The creatures largely come from the myths, legends, and folklore of Europe. This is also what is advertised and leads to the logical assumption of Twilight Fables of other lands for future volumes. One for Africa, one for Asia, one for the Americas, all are possible.

In addition to the monsters, there are various legendary NPCs like Baba Yaga, Beowulf, Cailleach Beira, Cú Chulainn, Guy of Warwick, King Arthur, Little Red Riding Hood, Merlin, Morgan Le Fay, Robin Hood, Scáthach, Queen Úna of Faerie, and Väinämöinen. So yeah. Lots.

Cú Chulainn

There is a section on Mythological Treasures and Magic items. This includes some rules on how to make magic items as well. It is a very nice value add.  You saw this sort of thing with the old Mayfair "Fantastic Treasures" and something you see Troll Lord Games do with their Monster and Treasure books.

Both books also have rules for new character species (wanna play a Pech? You can!) and for 5e there are class options such as Warlock patrons and cleric domains.

There is even a small adventure (20 pages) to introduce these new monsters. 

The Monsters

All that is gravy.  The real meat here are the monsters.

In both cases, the monsters take up full pages. This includes the background and descriptions, the stat blocks, and whatever else is involved with this particular creature such as "Lore & Rumors", any special treasures, habitat, behaviors, and more.  In some cases, the material bleeds over to another entry, but not so much as to be an issue. 

There are, by my count, nearly 220 monsters here ranging in HD from 1-1 to 30+ (OSR) and CR 1/8 to 30 (5e).  So plenty of creatures to challenge any level of characters.

I have to say these are great books and well worth grabbing for your games, 5e or OSR, or both.  There is a lot of material here and plenty to keep many groups engaged for some time.

Extras

When you get the digital copy from DriveThruRPG you also get a bunch of tokens that can be printed and used in f2f table games or digitally online. It is another value add this game offers. There is also an RTF version of the book, a printer-friendly/no background version, and maps for the included adventure.

If you love monsters like I do then this is a must-buy.

Twilight Fables 5eTwilight Fables OSR


100 Days of Halloween: Runewild Preview 1: Missus Switch, Swine Witch

Runewild Preview 1: Missus Switch, Swine Witch
A couple of nights ago I reviewed a Worm Witch. Tonight, why not a swine witch?

This preview for the Runewild Setting is worth the time to download.

As always I will be following my rules for these reviews.

Runewild Preview 1: Missus Switch, Swine Witch

PDF. 8 pages. Color cover and interior art. Price: Free.

This small 8-page book (1 cover, 1 ad, 1 page of OGL) introduces us to the Ruenwild setting I reviewed last year

We are given a little bit of background on the Runewild (coming soon to Kickstarter!) and the witches of the Runewild. 

We are also introduced to the titular Missus Switch, something known as a "Swine Hag" (yes there are stats) and a small background "Adventure," actually an adventure location. Runewild is a hex crawl-friendly setting for 5e.

For free we get a good introduction to the Runewild and Missus Switch. 

It would play well with the Worm Witch and Wickerpunk books.


The Other Side - 100 Days of Halloween




Sunday, September 25, 2022

100 Days of Halloween: Wickerpunk

Wickerpunk
Time to move to 5e for something a little more flavorful.  One of my favorite themes is the struggle of paganism vs the rise of monotheism.  The dark twisted child of this struggle is Folk Horror. This new book looks like covers a little bit of all the above.

As always I will be following my rules for these reviews.

Wickerpunk

PDF. 276 pages. Color cover. Black & White (as appropriate) interior art.

First things first. I love this name. I am kicking myself for not coming up with it first.

We get an introduction that, "Wickerpunk is where heroic fantasy and folk horror meet."  Interesting premise.

Chapter 1: What is Wickerpunk

Here we learn how a "Wickerpunk" game differs from your normal heroic fantasy.  It is not grim-dark, but it is dark. Nature is more dangerous, strange pagan gods still roam the land, and the locals still practice forgotten rites and ceremonies. 

The author also lets us know that "wickerpunk" could be called "wyrdpunk" due to horror elements added to the game. This is not quite a gothic horror, but we can see that genre from here. The author is careful to let us know this is not horror and that horror-fiction and wickerpunk are cousins, not siblings. But kissing cousins to be sure.

Like my fascination with Pagans vs. Monotheists, this book covers the Wyld vs. Industry. The extension of this is Arcane vs. Divine magic. Where one is wrong and the other is a gift. My "old-faith vs. new-faith" is even covered later on.

There is a lot here, more than I will detail in this review, but suffice to say there is a lot of great ideas here on setting up your games. 

Just under 25 pages I am now wanting to rip out the roots of my "War of the Witch Queens" campaign to add more of these ideas. 

Chapter 2: Campaign Elements

This chapter details how a wickerpunk campaign affects your rules.  up first is alignment. Law and Chaos are replaced by Industry and Wyld. Good and evil are replaced by Benevolence and Malice.  Again...I want to use this instead of what I am using now.

Planes of existence have little use here since all that matters is the struggle of Industry and Wyld in the world of humans. 

This chapter also covers various time periods from Stone Age to Victorian. And adventures from Mysteries, Treasure Seeking, and exploration among the eight presented.

There are some encounter tables which include types, places and motivations. 

Chapter 3: Players and Characters

This chapter covers the 5e base classes and how they are altered in a wickerpunk game; both in terms of Wyld and Industry.  These changes are not really mechanical, but rather thematic. They also include player hooks, example adventures, enemy hooks and NPC hooks. Throughout the book, inspirational reading or viewing is presented in a sidebar.

The same is done for the main PC species. 

Chapter 4: Monsters

This chapter takes the types of monsters and discusses how they can be used in a wickerpunk game. There are more details on fey, fiends and undead as expected, but nearly every type of monster is considered. It is very flavorful. There is not much or anything in the way of "crunch" or game mechanics, but honestly, it is not needed here since the material is so good. It reminds me a bit of the old Ravenloft materials.

Chapter 5: Enemy Organisations

What is "The Wicker Man" without Lord Summerisle and his cult? Or "Children of the Corn" without the children? Not much really. This chapter covers the various organizations, or Cults and Cult Hunters.  The PCs find themselves between the Wyld Cults (and Gods) and the Industry Inquisition. 

Yes, this chapter also includes ideas for witches (even though 5e does not have a real witch class). 

Chapter 6: Magic and Technology

The tools of the Wyld and Industry.  There are some new ideas for magic items and spells, but only one spell is presented, "The Evil Eye."

Chapter 7: Sample Campaigns

There is a sample campaign here, the Island of Eye. Which looks a lot like England. Detailed here are what the humans and the older inhabitants of the land are doing.  Plenty of locations and adventure hooks are detailed here. As well as plenty of interesting NPCs 

Chapter 8: Appendix N

A nod to the famous Appendix N in the 1st Ed AD&D DMG. This covers various campaign periods. Each section includes movies, novels, television, comics, and video games. With commentary. 

--

There is very, very little game-specific information here. If you are looking for mechanics or "crunch" then you are likely to be disappointed.  But if you are looking for something more thematic or "fluff" then this is fantastic.

This is also this book's greatest unadvertised strength. It can be used with any version of D&D you like. While reading I kept thinking about how can I use this with say Old-School Essentials or even B/X D&D and the answer is "Easy."   In fact one of the few actual bits of game material, the Evil Eye spell, is something I did years ago in my first witch book.  But even then the conversion is super simple. 

There are a lot of things I can use here for my War of the Witch Queens campaign, but I would also suspect that any D&D 5e DM could use these ideas for their Ravenloft or the Wild Beyond the Witchlight campaigns.

In any case, there is so much here to love.


The Other Side - 100 Days of Halloween



Tuesday, September 13, 2022

100 Days of Halloween: Book of Lost Spells (PF1 & D&D5)

Frog God Games has long been producing great gaming products for a variety of systems. Their dedication to old-school style play comes from their earliest years when they were associated with Necromancer Games. So to see a couple of new spell books (and you know I love spells!)  for D&D 5e AND Pathfinder featuring all sorts of old-school spells?  Yeah. Put me down for one of each, please.

Book of Lost Spells (Pathfinder) Book of Lost Spells (5e)

Book of Lost Spells (Pathfinder) and Book of Lost Spells (5e)

PDF. 201 pages (PF) and 137 pages (5e).  Color covers. Black & white interior art.

The content of these two books is largely the same. The 5e smaller page count comes from the rules ability to cast spells at higher levels for increased effects, while Pathfinder (like the games that came before it) needs a different spell at higher levels.  Also, Pathfinder has more spell-using classes, so their spell lists take up more page count.

There are other minor differences depending on what spells each of their respective core rules already has, but the focus of both books is to provide classic "1st Edition" era spells to the new editions.

In both cases, the books have the spell lists by class and level first then followed by the spells and descriptions in alphabetical order.  

The spells are largely SRD derived and are certainly like the feel of 1st edition spells. Frog God is very, very good at doing this. I have not yet found any specifically from 1st ed AD&D that is not in the SRD but is also here.  There are a few that have new names that essentially do the same thing, which is fine by the OGL really.  

If you are a Pathfinder or 5e player and you want/need more spells then these books are a treasure trove, whether you played AD&D 1st or not. If you did then you will find something that feels familiar and new at the same time. 

Unless you play both games (or level spell books) then you don't need both, but I am happy to have them both to be honest.

In both cases, I have found them incredibly useful. 


The Other Side - 100 Days of Halloween


Friday, September 2, 2022

Kickstart Your Weekend: Amethyst (5E) - Magic & Technology Collide (Collection)

A new Kickstarter this week for a 5e sci-fi magic and tech RPG that you might be familiar with.

Amethyst (5E) - Magic & Technology Collide (Collection)

Amethyst (5E) - Magic & Technology Collide (Collection)


I have been looking for a good 5e Sci-fi RPG for a while and I am familiar with Amethyst from previous editions.

This one looks like it has everything. It has already blown past its funding goal and knocking out the stretch goals in record time.

There is so much here too, DEM from Chris Dias seems to be pulling out all the stops for this and it is working well for him.

I just now have to figure out what level I want to get in on!


Friday, August 26, 2022

100 Days of Halloween: Wayne Robert's O5E Classes

Wayne Robert's O5E Warlock
Going a little bit old-school and a little bit new-school tonight.

Earlier in the year Wayne Robert released what he was calling O5E classes. His first batch includes the Warlock and Sorcerer for Old School Essentials.

Wayne Robert's O5E Warlock

PDF. 8 pages. 1 cover, 1 title, 2 blank, 1 back page. 3 pages of content. $1.50.

Presently this version does not have art. There was a version before this that did have art, but the author made the choice to remove it for now.

The class is done up in OSE style. There are obvious nods to the 5e Warlock, which is by design.  The warlock does have spells and which spell list you use will depend on the warlock's pact.  Four Patrons are detailed, The Archfiend, The Faerie Regent, The Whisperer, and the Primordial. 

In truth a very serviceable class. Though some new, Warlock-only spells, would have been a nice add.


Wayne Robert's O5E Sorcerer
Wayne Robert's O5E Sorcerer

PDF. 8 pages. 1 cover, 1 title, 2 blank, 1 back page. 3 pages of content. $1.50.

Presently this version does not have art. There was a version before this that did have art, but the author made the choice to remove it for now.

The class is done up in OSE style. Much like his warlock book this one borrows from the OGC Sorcerer (though there is no OGL page here). 

Sorcerer's gain their magic via their sorcerous bloodlines. These are Celestial, Chaos, Dragon, and Serpent. So a nice little switch-up. 

They cast magic-user spells and gain access to meta-magic powers.  Each bloodline also gains some powers.

A really neat application of the Sorcerer for OSE or B/X.


Of the two I rather like the Sorcerer a little bit more.


The Other Side - 100 Days of Halloween




 

Sunday, August 21, 2022

100 Days of Halloween: Lilith, Demonqueen of Vampires Boss Stats (5E)

Lilith, Demonqueen of Vampires Boss Stats (5E)
Now for something a little different. You can't spend all the time researching witches like I have and not run into to Lilith.  I have always been fascinated with the character, so much so that she is on the cover of two of my witch books; Eldritch Witchery and Daughters of Darkness.

So yes. I am a fan.

I thought I would look into some products that feature Lilith in one form or another. Tonight I will start with a 5e version of her. 

Lilith, Demonqueen of Vampires Boss Stats (5E)

PDF. 7 pages. 1 cover. 1 OGL. 5 pages of content.

This is pretty much what it says on the cover.  We get some background on Lilith, altered to fit D&D. 

Included are a CR 5 monster, Spawn of Lilith, and Lilith herself a CR 25 Medium Undead Fiend.

There are details about her lair and tactics. There are some adventure hooks added as well.

For just under $2 not a bad deal at all. 

The OGL statement does not indicate how much of this document is Open or PI. 

Not at all bad if you want/need a quick Boss-Level demon to fight.


The Other Side - 100 Days of Halloween

Thursday, August 18, 2022

The Launch of One D&D

Today Wizards of the Coast announced the next phase of D&D with the code name "One D&D."

One D&D

The playtest is being run out of the D&D Beyond Environment, so you will need a Twitch account to get access.

https://www.dndbeyond.com/one-dnd

The first playtest packet covers Character Backgrounds/Origins

What do we know so far?

The new core rules will be backward compatible with D&D 5 to the point of all existing D&D 5 materials work with the new rules.  This fits my prediction that rules were going to be closer to something D&D 5R or Edition 5.5.

They will be taking feedback, giving people time to playtest first. 

The new edition/revision will have new core rule books.  There will be a closer tie to the books and D&D Beyond as well as their own new digital service.   [source]

Wizards will also be including more features for inclusivity, so among other things I expect more species options as PCs and dropping the default alignment for characters, but maybe not necessarily so for monsters.  I think we have seen some of these changes for monsters in the Spelljammer Monstrous Compendium and Monsters of the Multiverse.

So to me, this feels like the changes 2nd ed did to 2nd ed revised, 3.0 did to 3.5, or 4e did to Essentials. 

Beth Rimmels over at ENWorld has a complete coverage of what is going on.
https://www.enworld.org/threads/one-d-d-takes-5e-to-new-digital-places.690754/

In any case, it is going to be fun to see where this new D&D goes.

Grabbed the playtest. Looks like we get a "Primal" spell source for Druids now. No Goblins though as a playable species!

Friday, August 5, 2022

Kickstart Your Weekend: Twilight Fables Goes OSR

So this was posted earlier this week.

Twilight Fables OSR

So I guess that makes it official. You can get Twilight Fables in 5e AND OSE/OSR flavors.

There are new OSR tiers to choose from. I just updated mine to include both the OSE and 5e versions of the book.

--

Twilight Fables

Twilight Fables OSR

https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/1693797308/twilight-fables?ref=theotherside

Really looking forward to this one. It is for 5e and it looks AMAZING.  Rod was the mastermind behind Chromatic Dungeons, so you know the quality is good, but he has upped his game to the next level on this one. In addition to a Print on Demand version, there will be the ubiquitous PDF and Print-friendly PDF, and there will also be an accessible RTF file.  There is also an option for a glossy offset print if the stretch goal is made.

Additionally, you get a zip file containing tokens and markdown files of every creature, as well as dozens of printable images of the monsters. To be used at your table or virtual table. 

The book has a ton of monsters from myth and legend and more to the point the book is already done. That's correct, there might be some minor edits here and there, but the book is done, art is in place, and you will get your digital rewards (PDF, RTF, tokens) as soon as the funding is done.

That's the way to do it honestly.

And NOW an OSR option too!

Saturday, July 23, 2022

100 Days of Halloween: Lady of the Soil Warlock Patron

Lady of the Soil
Kicking this off with a very summery sort of "Witch." And this one is a bit different than most of my fare here.  It is a Warlock Patron for 5e warlocks and it is on Itch.io, a platform I really don't use much.

The Lady of the Soil - a 5e Warlock Patron

This warlock Patron was written by Harlen Eherenman and based on the patron of Ginny Di's warlock character Aisling.  I like Ginny Di. She is super enthusiastic about all things D&D and she is a joy to watch.  Likewise, Aisling is also a very enjoyable character. I can see Aisling and Morelia the Wood Witch both making guest appearances in my War of the Witch Queens campaign as "celebrity NPCs." 

How is this product though?

Again it is on Itch.io and I typically see prices much higher than I see for similar content on DriveThruRPG.  If I am using a rule of thumb of 10 cents per page at DriveThru then I should likely expect 25 cents per page here.  Sill, I am going to follow my rules for these reviews. 

This is $3.50 for four pages.  One page is for the cover and the last page is a half-page, so here we are doing $1.00 per page.  The PDF is full color.

What is included here is some background on the Lady of the Soil. What spells she grants her warlocks and what powers they gain at various levels.  There are four new invocations, but no new spells.

The cover mentions that this uses the OGL, but there is no copy of the OGL included (as required) and while there is a notice of Product Identity, there is no explicit declaration of what is being claimed.  The assumption I guess is the whole document.

Ok, it is fun, but there isn't really enough here.  This really is for the Ginny Di fans out there. Without Aisling to make this interesting there is not enough here to justify the price tag.  

Sorry. I really, really wanted to like it a lot more. 

The Other Side - 100 Days of Halloween

Monday, June 20, 2022

Monstrous Mondays: Die Hüne

David faces Goliath in this 1888 lithograph by Osmar Schindler
Today I want to delve a bit more into an idea I had been playing around with a little while ago, the combined pantheon of Greek and Norse mythos into a Roman-Norse syncretism. Both groups have many common features, but one that sticks out is the use of a race of giants that predate the gods that represent the forces of chaos.

In my syncretized myths these creatures are called Die Hüne, (plural. Singular: Der Hüne).  This is what I said about them before:

Die Hüne are the Titans and the Giants of both myths. Primordial beings of great power that the gods defeated but still trouble them. In this myth, the Gods fought Die Hüne and brought order out of chaos. These are not just giants and titans, these creatures are the demons of this mythology.

In my mind, they are something of a combination of giant, elemental, and demon. The Gigantes of Greek myth (not AD&D) were more monstrous creatures.  The jötunn of Norse myth likewise were more demonic. As time goes on these titans and jötunn become more and more human-looking till we have something like the giants of D&D. 

My goal with Der Hüne is to get back to those older, more monstrous giants. Given that this mythology is half-Roman, these people will have been familiar with some of the tales of Goliath, the Anakim, and others from Jewish mythology.  So maybe some of those tales entered into their thinking.

Here is how they will be used in my various D&D/OSR/FRPG games.

The giants Fafner and Fasolt seize Freyja in Arthur Rackham's illustration of Richard Wagner's Der Ring des Nibelungen.
Erde Hüne

These creatures are also known as Earth Giants.  They are the forebearers of the Hill, Mountain, and Stone giants as well as ogres.  They stand 12 ft tall and are said to have bones made of stone.

These creatures are Chaotic Evil and have the most dealings with humans. While some certainly are stupid brutes, others are sufficiently intelligent and sophisticated enough to lead human armies. They have a taste for human flesh; both in the culinary and carnal appetites. There are some very tall, very evil humans that can trace their ancestry to one of these creatures.  We get the word "Hun" from "Hüne."

Note: These take the role of the "evil giants in the bibles and other tales" giants like the Anakim.  Though I covered some of this ground with Gog and Magog. I had Gog and Magog as a type of Balor or Baalor in my games.  Maybe I could turn up the demonic influences on them and make Gog and Magog the named Erde Hüne.  Balor are also 12' tall.  The myths about Gog and Magog certainly have them more human-looking. This would also bring them closer to the Ogre idea I originally had.  Worth thinking over to be sure and it would give me the demonic influences I want. 

I think just to be "that guy" I am going to make them 13' tall.

Meer Hüne

These giants are found in the oceans to the far north. They are related to the Frost and Sea giants. They are not the progenitors of these creatures but are the offspring of the Rime Jötunn along with the Frost Giants. Sea Giants are the offspring of the Meer Hüne.  

These creatures avoid humans but are no less evil. They have been known to wreck ships where they keep all the treasure and eat the humans aboard. In my myths, they would also be the forebearers of the Viking raiders that would swoop down and raid the villages of these people. 

Note: On Earth, these giants populate the North Sea, the Baltic Sea, and the Norwegian Sea. In my desire to have my cake and eat it too I would picture these guys looking like the stereotypical Vikings. Including "Hägar the Horrible" horned helmets, though no idea how they make such helms. 

Feuer Hüne

These creatures are made of pure living fire.  They are the generation after the Inferno Jötunn and the "older brothers" to the Fire Giants.

Note: Right now these creatures are not significantly different enough from either the Fire Giants or the Inferno Jötunn to merit another distinct monster entry.  

Äther Hüne

These creatures are massive with some towering as high as 36 feet tall. It is said their bones are made of clouds and their muscles are made of storms.  They are the progenitors of the Cloud, Storm, and Fog giants. 

Note: This is my "Jack and the Beanstalk" Giant (though in truth an evil Cloud Giant covers that readily). 

Though anytime I work on giants this image comes to mind.

giants

This image comes from the Creationist idea that there were giants in biblical times. This speculation all grows out of Genesis 6:4 "There were giants in the earth in those days", meaning the fallen angels or Nephelim or whatever.  I spent a lot of time talking about this on my old Atheism blog, The Freedom of Nonbelief

Here is how I use that image above.  These are closer to AD&D heights than D&D 5e. 

  1. Human
  2. Stone Giant
  3. Troll
  4. Ogre
  5. Hill Giant / Erde Hüne
  6. Fire Giant
  7. Frost Giant
  8. Cloud Giant
  9. Storm Giant

There. That is far more useful. 

How do I work through the Square-Cube Law?  Magic!

Of all these creatures I think I will develop the Erde Hüne (Earth Giants) and the Meer Hüne (Sea Giants) more. Fire and Frost are already covered well in the various jötunn of Norse myths. The progenitors of the Storm and Cloud Giants I think are also handled well by the Greek myths.

Wednesday, June 8, 2022

Review: Xanathar's Guide to Everything (D&D 5e)

Xanathar's Guide to Everything (D&D 5e)
Less of a full review but more along the lines of reveiw/my thoughts on what was essentially the Unearthed Arcana of D&D 5th Edition.

Why this particular book now?  There are a few of the classes that I am considering back-porting over to B/X era D&D that my kids have expressed an interest in playing.  I may or may not post those.  They are not OGC and I have no plans to even "file the serial numbers off" to try an post them.  Sometime I do things just for me or for fun.

Xanathar's Guide to Everything

2017, Hardcover. 192 pages. Full-color covers and interior art. 

I called this book the "Unearthed Arcana" of D&D 5 and that is more or less on point. Much of the material here appeared in the pages of the online version of Unearthed Arcana.

The book has a wide variety of tools for Players and the DM and all are listed as being optional. This was published in 2017 so there is no hint here of anything that might be "5.5" or "5r" related.

The book is divided into an introduction, three chapters and two appendices.

Introduction

This covers what the book is about, and its origins from the online Unearthed Arcana. Wizards of the Coast has worked to get the layout of their D&D 5th ed books to be one of clean efficiency.  Maybe not as much as say Necrotic Gnome has with OSE, but still really nice.  For example their Table of Contents fits on a single page.

We get a (tiny) bit of background on who Xanathar is. Not being a huge FR fan I did not know but figured it had to be the same beholder from the 1st Edition AD&D Waterdeep and the North.

Xanathar's Guide to Everything pages


There is a page on "The Core Rules" which is really nice to have. There are ten rules that cover most situations.  These are all from the PHB and DMG, but nice to have them repeated here.

Chapter 1: Character Options

We start with a listing of the 31 new subclasses for the twelve base character classes.  Now before someone start screaming "rules bloat" these are not subclasses in the way that AD&D 1st Ed meant them.  These are archetypes of the main twelve classes. So for example the Cleric has the Life and War domains (among others) in the PHB now gains the Forge and Grave domains here.  Each subclass is tailored to the main class. So with Clerics they are "Domains" for Bards they are "Colleges" and Warlocks have "Pacts."   So they are more like the AD&D 2nd Edition Kits.  Both in good and bad ways. There is not much power creep yet. 

This chapter covers about 65 or so pages, so a third of the book. Each main class gets some details that worked for any subclass of that class (Bards get more instruments, clerics have more details on their temples for example). There are a lot of classes in this book. I am not going to get into every subclass here. But I would like to point out a few.

The Bard College of Swords is the spiritual descendent of the AD&D 2nd Bard kit known as the Blade; aka the moment I knew 2nd Ed Power Creep was happening.  The Blade Kit sucked. The fiction for it sucked and the NPC they used as their iconic Blade REALLY sucked. The College of Swords Bards are also called Blades. Their AD&D 2nd ed origins are very plain, BUT there is none of the power creep and thankfully the edgy NPC "Dark" is also gone.

Grave Domain Clerics are the other side of the coin of the Life Domain Clerics.  Where the Life Cleric (PHB) tries to preserve life, the Grave Domain Clerics make sure the dead stay at rest. They are the "good" option of the Death Domain Clerics (DMG).  Cleric Domains have their origin in 2nd Ed and were expanded greatly in 3rd Ed.

Fighters now have an Arcane Archer subclass (known as a Martial Archetype here). This is the 5e update of the 3rd Edition Prestige Class.   Monks (Monastic Traditions) get a Way of the Drunken Master and a Way of the Kensei. Paladins get new Oaths. Rangers get new Archetypes including the Gloom Stalker, a Ranger adept at working in dark places but my favorite is the Monster Slayer.  Rogues get the Mastermind and Scout Archetypes.

The Sorcerers are next.  Their subclasses are known as Arcane Origins, or essentially how you became a sorcerer. In addition to these are some tables on various supernatural marks (think witch mark) and other weirdness due to your bloodline. The one I wanted to convert is the Divine Soul. You have a bit of divinity in your blood.  I would convert these as a B/X Magic-user and allow them to have some free cleric spells based on their divine blood. Cure Light Wounds and Bless for Lawful for example.  Their Charisma would need to be high, like 14 and that would be their Prime Requisite ability too.  While they get the spell for free, they can only still cast it once per day. At the 14th level, they gain their Otherworldly Wings.  There is also the Shadow Magic Sorcerer. This feel like it is from the Shadowfell Player's book from 4e. 

Xanathar's Guide to Everything pages


Warlocks also get new marks and new invocations. There is a Celestial Pact for people that want to play "good" warlocks.  Before anyone dismisses this idea remember that Aleister Crowley had a pact with an angel he called Aiwass and believed was his personal guardian angel to who he made invocations to every day. 

Wizards have Arcane Traditions that more or less equated to "Schools of Magic."

The next section of this chapter covers a variety of character background ideas such as origins and life events with lots of random tables. Like an Old-School collection of random tables.  ALL of them are also perfectly adaptable for use in ANY version of D&D.  They remind me a lot of the tables from the 1st Ed AD&D Unearthed Arcana.  

There are some new racial feats, but unlike 3e or even 4e, 5e is not feat centric. You can even have a character that never takes a feat at all.  These are largely mechanical rule manifestations of possible background ideas.  Have weird eyes? Ok, you have weird eyes, jot it down on your sheet. Do these weird eyes do something special? Well, you might need to take a feat for that then.

Honestly, I did not see anything in this chapter that I could not easily convert to an earlier edition of and D&D. 

Chapter 2: Dungeon Master's Tools

This chapter covers a wide variety of topics but mostly expands on material already in the DMG. Topics like Falling, Sleep, Tying Knots, Adamantine Weapons, and Tool Proficiencies are all discussed. Lots of tools. 

Spellcasting gets a bit of special treatment here. The area of effects on a grid is detailed. d6s are used as visual aids to show how to set up on a grid. 

Some more detail on building monster encounters is also discussed, including single and multiple different types of monsters. There is an eye towards balance, but there is no requirement to do so. The only real advice is "avoid monsters that can drop a character in a single hit."  I have seen more than a few TPKs in D&D 5e. 

Again we are treated to what I can only describe as pages of old-school-style random encounter tables. 

Xanathar's Guide to Everything pages

There is also a section on Traps that while not quite as gleeful as a Grimtooth product, will still make that Chaotic Evil DM smile. How much?  One trap has a save DC of 20 and does 24d10 damage.

There is a discussion on downtime and the reason why my youngest bought this book, magic item creation rules. More magic items are also detailed.

Chapter 3: Spells

This last full chapter covers new spells. About 30 pages worth. The spell economy of 5e is different. There are no Cure Light Wounds, Cure Moderate Wounds, and Cure Serious Wounds spells for example. There is only Cure Wounds and it is a low-level spell for Bards, Clerics, Druids, Paladins, and Rangers.  IF you want a more powerful version you cast it at a higher spell level. So instead of a 1st level spell, it is treated as a 5th level spell for example. This means less print space is needed for spells. 

Xanathar's Guide to Everything pages

Appendix A: Shared Campaign

This covers working on interlinked campaigns and working details out.  Not everything you need to know is here, some more could have been written, but it is a great start.

Appendix B: Character Names

This section is just tables and tables of names. Various cultures (English, French, Egyptian, and more) as well as other nonhuman ones ( Elf, Dwarf, Dragonborn, and more).  The nonhuman includes a personal name and a family or clan name as well.  I did notice that two Tieflings from "Brimstone Angels," Farideh and Havilar, are listed under the Dragonborn names.  Why? Well their adoptive father Mehen (51-52 on a d100) was a Dragonborn so he gave them Dragonborn names. 

So. I picked up this book for the various subclasses, but found a wealth here for many of my other D&D games.

I would say that most of this book is easily adaptable to any version of D&D you choose to try it with.  The exception might be 4e. There are some seriously interlinked mechanics there.

Xanathar's did quite well for a splat book and was even listed as one of Publisher's Weekly best-selling books for December of 2017

Despite his name and picture on the cover there is not a lot of material on Xanathar himself outside of the sidebars.  Wizards would later do a much better job with Tasha in her book.

Xanathar's Guide to Everything covers

The art is amazing as to be expected.  The layout is a step up from the Core Rules and shows what the design team has learned in the last few years.

You can see bits and pieces of D&D's DNA from all editions here, though this is largely true for 5th edition in general. 

Monday, May 30, 2022

Monstrous Mondays: Spelljammer Monstrous Compendium for 5e

Monstrous Compendium Vol One: Spelljamer Creatures
Getting back to my Monstrous Mondays with a review of a Monstrous Compendium, but this is a new Monstrous Compendium for 5th Edition D&D. 

This might very well be the new format for monsters for D&D 5.5/5r.  

Monstrous Compendium Vol One: Spelljamer Creatures

Wizards of the Coast released this free in PDF format and on DnDBeyond.  

Inside are 10 new (to D&D 5) monsters.  They are,:Asteroid Spider, Clockwork Horror, Eldritch Lich, Fractine, Gadabout, Goon Balloon, Nightmare Beast, Puppeteer Parasite, Star Lancer, and Yggdrasti.  They range from CR 1/8 to 15. 

It is a fun little sampling, a nice appetizer till we get some proper Spelljamer materials later this year.

What I find interesting is the switch from Wildspace to the Astral Sea. Personally, that is what I wanted to do back in the 2nd ed days, but the point became moot when I never got my Spelljammer game off the ground, literally and figuratively. 

So I am really looking forward to the new setting this summer.

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This is my, rather late, contribution to this month's RPG Blog Carnival.  This month hosted by Rising Phoenix Games. Check out all the posts about Spelljammer from this month.


Monday, May 2, 2022

Monstrous Mondays: Greys (Zeta Reticulians)

Nice meeting of topics here today.  It is May which this year will be the start of my Sci-Fi month.  We have the normal May the Fourth celebrations, and Mayday for Traveller was yesterday.  Plus we get Star Trek Strange New World premiering this week.  AND there is a new D&D Spelljamer on the horizon. So there are a lot of great reasons to celebrate SciFi. 

I also just got finished with my A to Z Challenge for April where I did Conspiracy Theories.  I leaned heavily on a lot of UFO-based ones.  So my appetite has been whetted for more.  And today is Monstrous Monday!  So I thought I would bring all of these ideas together today into a special Monstrous Monday!

Greys (Zeta Reticulians)

Grey Aliens

Of all the alien species that have purportedly visited the Earth few are as popular as the Greys.  These creatures are also known as Zeta Reticulians since they supposedly come from the Zeta Reticuli star system, approximately 40 ly from Earth.  This is based on a drawing from one of the most famous alien abductees ever, Betty Hill.  

Greys are called such due to their skin color. The skin seems to be a uniform grey.  While some are depicted as not wearing clothes, others have suggested that they are wearing skin-tight suits of the same color as their skin to protect them from Earth's atmosphere.  They typically stand 4 to 5ft in height (1.2 to 1.5 meters), are hairless, with large black eyes.  They have no ears nor a nose, save for small slits or holes where such external sense organs would be.  Their bodies are small, thin, and somewhat elongated. Their heads however are large with large foreheads giving the impression of large brains inside. Their hands are long with long delicate fingers. They typically only have four fingers (three fingers and a thumb) per hand, though there are reports of "hybrids" that appear to be greys with human eyes and five fingers per hand.

They do not speak but instead communicate via a form of telepathy. 

Their purpose with humanity is still unknown.  They may not even know themselves just yet since all evidence seems to point to them observing and experimenting on humans. Their experiments in removing eggs and sperm as reported by abductees, and the existence of hybrid forms at least point to an interest in our reproductive abilities.  It is postulated that they are using humans to help deplete their own lessening numbers.

Grey (Dungeons & Dragons 5e)

Grey for 5e

Grey (NIGHT SHIFT)

No. Appearing: 3-12 (3d4)
AC: 6
Move: 30 ft.
Hit Dice: 2-4
Special: Cause fear, psychic abilities (chosen at random), telekinesis, telepathy, Can't use magic
XP Value: Varies

Greys are aliens from the Zeta Reticuli star system. They have enhanced psychic abilities, but are vulnerable to all forms of magic.  They never speak but communicate via telepathy.  A group of Greys are typically a scouting party with various scientists onboard their spaceship. They will abduct humans or cattle, do experiments on them, erase their memories and return them to where they found them.

Grey (OSR)

Frequency: Very Rare
Number Appearing: 1d4+3 (1d10+2)
Alignment: Neutral [True Neutral]
Movement: 90' (30') [9"]
Armor Class: 7-5 [12-14]
Hit Dice: 
   Scientist: 2d8+2* (11 hp)
   Monitor: 3d8+3** (17 hp)
   Leader: 4d8+8** (26 hp)
To Hit AC 0: 18, 16, 15  (+1, +3, +4)
Attacks: 0 or 1
Damage: None, stun 
Special: Cause fear, paralysis, mind blank, telepathy, vulnerable to magic
Save: Monster 3
Morale: 10 (10)
Treasure Hoard Class: Special
XP:
   Scientist: 35 (OSE) 47 (LL)
   Monitor: 100 (OSE) 135 (LL)
   Leader: 275 (OSE) 290 (LL)

Str: 7,9, 11 (-1, 0, 0) Dex: 16 (+2) Con: 14, 14, 16 (+1, +1, +2) Int: 22, 18, 18 (+5, +3, +3) Wis: 16 (+2) Cha: 14 (+1)

Greys come in three castes; Scientists, Monitors, and Leaders.  Scientists perform the experiments, leaders lead the missions, and are the fighters of the group.  Monitors are a blend of the two, acting as leaders amongst the scientists.  The castes are not hierarchical, they are designed so that each role is filled by the most capable individual.  A group of greys encountered outside of the ships will all be scientists with at least one member a monitor or leader. 

Greys have psionic abilities to cause fear, paralysis by touch (save vs. Paralysis or be frozen for one minute), and to erase the memories of their victims.   Scientists do not attack. They leave this to the Leaders and if needed the monitors. 

Additionally, greys have no concept of magic, they save at -2 against all spells and take an additional +1 point damage from magical attacks. 

--

I might tweak these a bit more, but so far they look great to me.

Friday, April 15, 2022

Kickstart Your Weekend: Adventure! Romance! Chaos! Horror!

Lots of new Kickstarters out there.  So many in fact. Let's have a look!

Mini-Adventure #1: Shadow of the Necromancer 1E/5E & Box Set

Shadow of the Necromancer


https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/marktaormino/mini-adventure-1-shadow-of-the-necromancer-1e-5e-and-box-set

Mark Taormino and Dark Wizard Games has another gonzo adventure for us, this time for both 1st Ed and 5th Ed D&D. As always it looks like great fun.

Swords & Chaos

Swords & Chaos

https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/blackspirefantasy/swords-and-chaos

Swords & Chaos is powered by the SIEGE Engine, the same system in Castles & Crusades. Looks like it is cut from the same cloth as AS&SH or Barbarians of Lemuria.

Tome of Adventure Design

Tome of Adventure Design

https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/adventuredesigntome/tome-of-adventure-design

A revised and updated Tome of Adventure design for 2022.  I have the original and it is really useful to whip up something in a pinch.

An Unexpected Wedding Invitation (5e)

An Unexpected Wedding Invitation (5e)

https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/midnight-tower/an-unexpected-wedding-invitation

A bit of change here is a Jane Austin-ish-inspired wedding mystery for 5e. Looks like a lot of fun.

Shield Maidens: A New Viking/Cyberpunk Tabletop RPG

Shield Maidens: A New Viking/Cyberpunk Tabletop RPG

https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/1990654819/shield-maidens-a-new-viking-cyberpunk-tabletop-rpg

Ok, this one sounds interesting.  Mixing cyberpunk, pre-apocalypse, and Norse myth.  There is also a free preview to get your first shield maiden built.  It is its own system, but it still looks fun.

The Art of Ménage à 3

The Art of Ménage à 3

https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/pixietrixcomix/the-art-of-menage-a-3

Now for something completely different.  Ménage à 3 was a fantastic webcomic about three roommates hopelessly in love with each other.  But that did not mean things worked out! It also launched the career of  Gisèle Lagacé.  This has art from the comic and new pieces.

Old Gods of Appalachia Roleplaying Game

Old Gods of Appalachia Roleplaying Game

https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/montecookgames/old-gods-of-appalachia-roleplaying-game

Dark weird folk horror from Monte Cook? YEAH! Sign me the hell up! It is the Cypher system and you know the production values will be high.

FAST Core Rulebook - Multi-Genre RPG System

FAST Core Rulebook - Multi-Genre RPG System

https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/563681582/fast-core-rulebook-multi-genre-rpg-system

A new multi-genre system that looks like it has a LOT of potential.  I like multi-genre systems since I tend to mix a lot of things together in one game. 


Swords of Cthulhu

Swords of Cthulhu

https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/brwgames/swords-of-cthulhu

Another cool one from Joseph Bloch who has a stellar Kickstarter track record.  This one brings the Lovecraftian mythos back (or back again) to AD&D/OSRIC.


Lots of choices!

Thursday, February 24, 2022

The Legend of Vox Machina

My family finished watching the Amazon Prime series "The Legend of Vox Machina" from Critical Role and honestly it was a lot of fun.

The Legend of Vox Machina

It was funny, exciting, and really just a lot of great gamer humor without feeling like gamer humor.

A big problem I have with most gamer-related fiction is you can often, as I say, "hear the dice rolling in the background."  Not so with this.  Yes there are the expected name drops, the occasional mention of a power (Grog wanting to "rage") or a spell (Keyleth saying she can only do that one once a day) but that all took a backseat to what makes any bit of fiction good; good story and characters you can care about.

I have not listened to any of the Critical Role episodes, but my oldest LOVES them.  So we backed the Kickstarter and honestly, we have been very pleased.  He let me know later how the animated series differs from the actual play episodes.  So now I do want to go back to those older Campaign One episodes and listen to them all.

Also not since the Dungeons & Dragons cartoon has D&D seen this much success in a televised medium.  Amazon already renewed it for a second season before season one even premiered.

It has met with critical success, including a 100% Fresh rating on Rotten Tomatoes, and a 94% audience score. 

Whether you are a fan or not one thing is certain, Critical Role is one of D&D greatest achievements in terms of getting more people interested in our little game.  Born out of an odd combination of Pathfinder and D&D 5 the World of Tal'dorei has also seen quite a bit of success in the D&D 5 printed world with three (soon to be four) books.

Critical Role books

In addition to the series, the actual play episodes, and the gaming material there are comic books, action figures, clothes, and gear.  There is even a 1/6th scale statue of the characters Vex and Vax from Vox Machina coming out.  You know for a fact if there were statues of Keyleth and Jester coming out they would never be able to keep them in stock. Yes even at the nearly $200 price tag.

When was the last time one of your campaigns did all of that?  Ok. I do have 1/6th scale versions of two of my own iconic witches. No, I am not going to share how much I spent on them.

So the show was a lot of fun, maybe a touch adult for some, a lot of swearing some nudity, lots of gore. But seriously, does no one remember gaming when they were 14? 

I wish them the best of luck and hope for their continued success.