May 29, 2014

D&D: Products, Organized Play... oh, and One More Thing

Big news in the realm of Dungeons and Dragons over the last week. Wizards of the Coast made a number or announcements, each one seemingly more impressive than the last.

  1. First up. Details on what products for D&D will be released in the upcoming months. Check out this page for more details (You may need to click on the TRPG link on the page to see the info): D&D Product Info.
         Highlights for me included info on a Starter Set in July, and the PHB in Aug (probably available starting GenCon weekend).
         Unlike previous Starter Sets, this one will include info on playing characters through 5th level (clearly someone took a look at the Pathfinder Starter Box).
  2. If that wasn't enough, a few days later, they released info on the future of their Organized Play program. This is the umbrella for such in-store programs as D&D Encounters, and the defunct D&D Lair Assault.
         Going forward, the program will be known as the D&D Adventurers League, and will include three different options. One, Epics, seems to be something like the multi-table events they've run in the past (the Candlekeep adventure at last year's GenCon, and the Vault of the Dracolich come to mind). The second option, Expeditions, harkens back to the old days of the 4 hour convention adventure. And lastly, Encounters follows the very successful 1 hour event, where you can come back week after week and over a few months get a complete story.
         I personally look forward to playing and running these events at a local story.
  3. And finally, the latest and most pleasantly shocking announcement. Starting along side the July release of the Starter Set, Wizards will be releasing what they call D&D Basic (but don't let the name confuse you, it's not a return of the D&D Basic/AD&D divide back during first edition). This new D&D Basic will actually be enough rules for Player to run a character from 1st to 20 level. For DMs, the Basic package will have enough monsters and items to run a campaign.
         Best of all, D&D Basic will be a FREE PDF download. Yes, that's FREE. No cost. Now while it will have rules for classes from 1st to 20, it will only have the core four, and while it will have items and monsters, it won't be as extensive as the upcoming DMG or MM.
         I think this is a great way to get new players to try the game, or get lapsed players back into D&D with no initial investment on either a Player or DM. And later, if said Player or DM wants more options, they can opt-in to the appropriate book(s).
All said, it's an exciting time to be a D&D fan, and the next few months are only going to get better.

May 16, 2014

D&D Next Events for GenCon

Seems the D&D Next events for GenCon are finally viewable in the GenCon system.

Time to go update those wish lists before Sunday. 

May 15, 2014

GenCon and the Mysterious WotC Events

So, with GenCon Event Registration this Sun, I've been frantically pouring over the event catalog that was made available just last week, plotting out this event, and that seminar and while everything started out smoothly, I soon hit a snag.

It seems none of the WotC events (D&D or MTG) were on the event list. The reason for this, I won't even begin to speculate, but WotC did soon post event names and a brief description on their site. Looking over this list, you'll see many of the events don't have listed times. But have no fear, Baldman Games, the company that actually runs the D&D events at GenCon (and a few other cons) posted info about when events will be running. Check out this forum post for more details.

Not the best solution, but at least I was able to know when the events would be running to plot other events around those.

Hopefully the events will go live before Sunday, so I can get my Wish List in order!

May 8, 2014

GenCon Event List available Tomorrow!

If you're not on the GenCon mailing list, you may have missed this recent press release.

Item number two on the list states that the Event Listing will be available starting Friday at 9pm ET. The event registration is still Sun May 18th (starting at noon).

Having access to the catalog now just helps everyone plan out what they want to do, and when they want to do it. I know it can take me hours to pour over everything, build a master list of events and then try to distill it down into something manageable over the four days.

<self promo plug here>
And if you have some time in your schedule, you may want to check out SEM1459558, a seminar I'm running about using Lego-like products into your game.

If you've checked out any of my lego-themed posts, you'll have some idea what to expect.

May 1, 2014

What to do while waiting for D&D Next

So, if you're like me, and waiting for the next edition of Dungeons and Dragons to be released, you probably have some free time on your hands. Time that might have been spent pouring over the latest game release, or Dragon magazine, is now time you have nothing to do. Or is it?

There are plenty of ways to spend time with your favorite hobby, even during this rare lull in gaming material.

  1. Check out some of the great products from past editions at Dungeons and Dragons Classics. Over the last sixth months, I've been really impressed at the amount of old material on the site. Have a favorite setting? There's certainly some older edition products available, and often at great prices. For example, the site currently has the first 6 modules in the original Dragonlance series (the basis for the Chronicles Trilogy of novels). Each is priced at only 4.99 each, and playing through the original trilogy could be a fun way to pass the time.
         These modules are for first edition, but should be easily convertible to most other editions. Running them with the last preview rules is only difficult when trying to stat DL-specific monsters. Note: module DL5 - Dragons of Mystery, is NOT an adventure, but actually a mini sourcebook, and is in most ways inferior to any of the other sourcebooks that came out afterward (Dragonlance Adventures, Time of the Lance box set, or any of the 3.5 books). Since none of those are available for download yet, you might want to pick this up in the mean time, or check out some of the better Dragonlance reference sites on the Internet (such as the Dragonlance Lexicon site.
         And if you're looking for new material, the Classics site is the place for recent adventures using the playtest rules, like Ghosts of Dragonspear Castle and the adventures for the last two seasons of D&D Encounters.
  2. Another way to spend this free time is catching up on some good books. While the game may be on hiatus, the novel line is still moving along, with new Forgotten Realms books coming out almost every other month. Most of the novels all center around The Sundering, the epic storyline (played out in novels and game products) that is intended to move the Realms from it's 4e version to what will be the new landscape in Next.
          Or you can pick up older books, many are available from second hand dealers, or in electronic form. If audio books are your thing (like me), you can get many of the older novels in unabridged format from
  3. Lastly, another way to spend your time, especially if you are a DM is to either start planning your first Next campaign, or just reading things that will help inspire you. While all of the above suggestions can certain aid in that regard, I, myself, have recently been reading up on Ed Greenwood's Forging the Realms columns on the Wizards website. All the columns are free and offer a lot of great detail about the Realms, which can easily be imported to another setting. The earliest columns offer DM advice around keeping players surprised, ways to easily seed adventure ideas to the players/PCs, and tips for easily running short term campaigns.
          Along the same lines, Ed's various Volo Guides to the realms (also available on D&D Classics) presents a lot of great details about key cities and towns, each offering up countless adventure ideas for parties of all levels.
I don't know about you, but even with lack of new product coming out for D&D, I still have plenty to keep me busy.

Apr 17, 2014

DIY: Terrain Examples

One of my players recently did some work on building a set of custom terrain pieces.

Here's the link to the video:

One of the things I really like is the flexibility of what he built. As the video shows, so many of the pieces can easily and quickly be reused in different configurations.

I hope you'll give the video a look, and feel free to leave comments here, or on the YouTube page.

Apr 10, 2014

DM Tools: Know Your Enemy

Do you know the enemy?
Do you know your enemy?
Well, gotta know the enemy
-- Green Day - Know Your Enemy

Images can be a powerful tool for DMs. Some of the earliest D&D modules (i.e. Tomb of Horrors) included illustration books that helped DMs to further show what the PCs were seeing at certain key moments and locations in an adventure.

Also, along those same lines, miniatures not only help show where everyone is during a given moment of combat, but the sculpts and paint jobs also help clarify who or what the PCs are fighting (otherwise you could just use chess pieces for positioning).

Another area where images can be very useful is for key NPCs. In any adventure there are usually one or two antagonists for the PCs to face, from the town mayor, to "the evil necromancer" to the "goblin king". For some of these characters (the necromancer and the goblin king) miniatures might be useful, but for the town mayor, a miniature isn't probably very useful, especially if he doesn't fight the PCs.

For some of these non-combat NPCs, images can really help the players know just who they are dealing with. Fortunately there are a number of ways to find just the right face for your NPC.

A simple Google image search can give you plenty of images, but most will probably not fit in to your game setting (unless you are playing in a modern setting). The images can still be useful for a DM as the right image can really help solidify who a character is, even if the original source material isn't something you can show at the game table. For instance, I once based a female warrior character on an image of model Angie Everhart I had seen. Something about the image (an ad for some product), and the toughness she displayed felt right for the character I was coming up with.

deviantART is another great resource for images. When looking for something, I typically start there. Also, it's free and easy to sign up, and having an account allows you to bookmark favorite images. Recently, for my weekly game, I needed an image of a bone devil, and was able to find something useful there I could use in my game.

A couple of other resources not to forget, especially if you're looking for fantasy images.

Your own collections. If you have any copies of Dungeon, Dragon, modules from any edition or system, don't forget to give them a once over for images you can copy and use in your home game.

Wizards of the Coast posts art galleries for most, if not all, of it's print releases. If you have a DDI account, then you can access galleries from various 4th edition products, to the monthly Dungeon and Dragon online magazines.

If you don't have a DDI subscription (like me), the Wizards of the Coast site still has useful places to visit. For instance, back in the days before the walled garden, the WotC site posted the art galleries for free. Check out this archive page fora list of galleries from older products. This can be a great source, especially for monsters, but also for various adventurer types.

When WotC had outsourced the production of Dungeon magazine to Paizo, Paizo would post a free PDF supplement for that month's issue. Check out their downloads page to get free supplements, often with key art and maps for the various modules in each issue. I've used these supplements in several sessions when running a module from the magazine in my home game.

Now while all the above suggestions are free (or products you already own), one last source for NPC images are from the various GameMastery decks Paizo puts out. In addition to their equipment decks, and decks specific to their various Adventure Paths, Paizo also has decks of face cards, like their Enemies, and Dungeon Dwellers decks. For a few bucks (even less if you take advantage of their current Scratch-'n-Dent sale), you can get plenty of images for all types of NPCs. And the nice thing about the cards is that the backs are blank for the DM to keep track of any important details for each NPC.

This list, while offering you a lot of ideas, just begins to scratch the surface of what you can utilize to find the right image for the right NPC.

If you liked this article, or have other suggestions for other DMs to consider, please consider leaving a comment.