Oct 30, 2014

Dungeonscape Undone

Seems tis the season for projects to go belly up. Last week the UpWorks KS was shutdown, with a note saying that it would probably never be revived. 

This week is word that Dungeonscape, the Dungeons and Dragons 5e online toolset from Trapdoor Technologies, was cancelled by Wizards of the Coast, and that the existing beta would be shut down shortly. Dungeonscape, originally announced as Project Morningstar, seemed to be on track for a 2014, or early 2015 release, and while they only had a character creator available for the beta, the application had received high praise from those who used it. Prior to this announcement, there was no indication that the project was in any jeopardy of being released. 
This marks yet another failure of Wizards to release software in a timely manner for their table top games going all the way back to second edition. Second edition software, released manny years after the hardback edition of the rules, was plagued with content bugs and included a stripped down Campaign Mapper program, instead of the more popular (at the time) Campaign Cartographer. 
Third edition included a Character Creator that was supposed to preview a full featured character creator/campaign manager tool. Several years later, e-Tools was released, eventually moving from one development company to another, and never having the all the features originally promised. 
For Fourth Edition, once again the originally promised feature set never arrived. It took years before a virtual tabletop was available as well as web based (and therefore Mac usable) tools. 
Dungeonscape was shaping up to be the first time D&D tabletop software was going to ready in a timely manner, with a full feature set, and be web and tablet ready out of the gate. Sadly, with today's announcement, fifth edition is shaping up to be just like previous editions (but not in a good way).

Oct 24, 2014


Monsters are the life blood of any good Dungeons and Dragons game. How many past stories do you tell that hing on encountering the imposing dragon or the horrific lich?

There are plenty of Monster Manuals and Bestiaries available for you to choose from, but every so often you may want something original.

For new monster inspiration, I often look to Animal Planet and other nature channels and websites. Recently, I can across a web channel Earth Unplugged and a great video about Bizarre Animals.

Check this out if you want some ideas for easily tweaking animals for your next adventure.

Some of my favorites include the pig-nose turtle (possibly a companion to an underwater ranger, the pig-noose granting some bonus to perception), the thorny devil (lizard with thorny/sharp hide) and the blue dragon (sea slug).

For the blue dragon, I envision a monstrous land based slug with tentacles (which naturally include grapple capabilities) and maybe an ability where if it is hit with poison, not only is it immune, but then it's next attack includes poison damage.

Check out the video here.

Oct 17, 2014

Upworks KS - Cancelled

I'm sad to report that the Upworks KS that launched a few weeks ago has been cancelled by the project creators, citing personal reasons.

Not only has the KS been cancelled, but the company has already sold the Upworks domain (and moved over to Upworksgames.com), in an attempt to recover some of their costs of the project so far. From the updates on the KS page, it doesn't look like Upworks will be starting up anytime soon.

In the meantime, the Miniature Building Authority KS is still in full swing, and close to quadrupling their funding goal, with 4 more days to go. If you're looking for some castle pieces for your game, this might be worth checking out.

Oct 16, 2014

D&D - Back in the day

I saw a recent post of an article about Dungeons and Dragons from 1985. It includes all the typical D&D-hysteria, and quotes from all the usual suspects, like Patricia Pulling and Thomas Radecki.

What I found surprising about the article was the fact that at least some nod was paid to journalistic balance, in the form of positive comments about D&D from The Association for Gifted-Creative Children, Steven Spielberg, and Dr. Joyce Brothers.

Check out the article yourself here.

For some previous posts about D&D Controversies, check out this list.

Oct 9, 2014

Game Session: When Kobolds Fly! (Part 1)

After the events of the last adventure, Duncan and Ataraxia decided to follow up on the rumors they had previously hear about even more kobold activity in the area.

Traveling northward in the Southern Dargaard Mountains, the duo came across a lone man hanging upside down from a tree calling out for help. The man appeared exhausted and weakened from being out in the elements for days. After being rescued, the old man explained that he was a passenger on a road carriage heading for Saltmarsh.

The man, who identified himself as Erik Frause, was in route to the city on behalf of his employee, Diam uth Wathor. He traveled with several other people, including a young boy, a pair of men he recognized as Oswald and Hubert Fastralli (sons of a wealthy gem merchant from Saltmarsh), and the carriage driver.

When the carriage was attacked, Erik was thrown from the vehicle and beaten by a group of kobolds. They then stripped him and hung him upside down from the tree. Erik was able to see some of the kobolds leading the other humans away on foot. In near delirium, he also saw a pair of kobolds seemingly grab a hold of the sky and begin to fly.

This last statement confused Duncan, and Ataraxia. They tried to get Erik to clarify what he meant, but the herald could not explain better what he had seen, other than noting that shortly afterward he passed out from the beating he had received.

The pair gave the old man some clothing, supplies and directions back to Sandyford, and then set off in the direction of the kobold lair.

After crossing the nearby ravine, the duo found themselves before the cave opening where Erik's instructions lead them. The unlit cave was about thirty feet wide at the opening, but quickly narrowed to a tight five foot opening just 12-15 feet inside. The cave roof, at a mere six feet, just cleared Duncan's head. With Duncan's sunrod, the light cut through the darkness and showed the narrow path quickly opening up into a roughly semi circular room with an exit at the opposite end.

Ataraxia noticed something wasn't right in the room. The monk saw that all the tracks in the room followed the right side only. A little poking around revealed that most of the room was covered in a sticky tar substance topped with a layer of dust for camouflage, and only the path to the right seemed clear. After going around it, the pair found the exit hallway covered in shattered glass, which only would be an issue if they weren't wearing their shoes.

The next room was really just a ledge on both sides of the room, with a huge, gaping natural cavern in the middle. On the ledge near the party, a quartet of kobolds were scrambling to react. Two were drawing weapons to attack while the other two were fumbling with some strange harnesses and tarps.

After defeating the two attackers, the other two drew weapons to attack. Soon they were defeated as well. Duncan and Ataraxia examined the strange harnesses and realized that it was some kind of wing contraption. After looking it over for a few moments, it seemed to match the herald's description. Unfortunately these flying devices were only sized for the small and lighter kobolds, neither the cleric nor the monk were willing to test these devices across  the huge cavern separating them from the rest of the cave system.

Instead the monk climbed down the cavern wall to the floor, about 60 feet below. Once there, Ataraxia was attacked by a bunch of huge rats that lived off the trash and waste here. After fighting off a few of the rodents, the rest ran back to their dark corners.

Ataraxia started climbing up the other side of the cavern when the monk found a rough natural stairway. Soon the monk and Duncan were standing on the far side of the cavern.

After confronting a few more kobolds, who were quickly defeated before raising any alarms, the pair came across a secret room in the middle of the hallway. Going inside, they found the room cold and damp, stale area filled their lungs, and a palpable stench filled their noses as a demonic beast lumbered out of the darkness. The mindless creature attacked Duncan with it's powerful arms, but the cleric and monk soon defeated the otherworldly creature. In the room they found the remains of a long dead black-robed wizard and the summoning circle that failed to contain the creature.

Journeying further into the caverns, the pair entered a room full of bat guano, which was also the lair of a swarm of bats. After chasing them off, they found a crude door at one end of the room and another hallway at the other end.

Thinking they might find more demon creatures, or kobold warriors, Duncan and Ataraxia were surprised to find instead a young man, who looked to be a recent prisoner of the kobold tribe.

Oct 7, 2014

Comic Review: Rat Queens vol 1

As I've written about before, I'm a big fan of fantasy comics, and recently I had a chance to read the first Rat Queens collection: Rat Queens Volume 1: Sass & Sorcery.

First let me state the obvious. This is not a book for young kids. The characters use "rough" language, there are references to drug use, and there might be more graphic violence than you would expect. It's a sword and sorcery comic, so I expect a certain level of violence, and being a comic, I expect it to be graphic. That said, if you think seeing one of the heroes covered in the blood spray of a slain enemy is a bit too much, this might not be the book for you.
All that said, I loved this book. It reads like an adapted D&D game in graphic form. The characters get their mission from the town guard as pardon for past minor crimes. This setup feels like the start of a game session, with the town guard serving as the DM and the mission objective seems like just the kind of assignment a low-level party might get. 

Not surprisingly, the mission goes sideways and there's more going on than appears at first glance; again, like a good D&D session.

The book features a great collection of female lead characters, all of whom are empowered, self-sufficient, if a bit flawed, people. Likewise, we're introduced to a number of interesting side characters, like the Four Daves and Sawyer.

While Rat Queens is an ongoing series, this first arc does a good job of setting the stage, introducing the characters, and providing a fun, exciting opening adventure, with just enough loose ends to keep the book going.

I look forward to reading the further adventures of the Rat Queens.

Oct 1, 2014

A bag of holding full of usefull links for Dungeons and Dragons 5e

It seems it's been a while since Dungeons and Dragons 5e came out, which means it's a good time to round up some links you may or may not be aware of.

Basic Rules

Your first and most important link is here:
  • http://dnd.wizards.com/articles/features/basicrules?x=dnd/basicrules
Here you can get the latest version of the free Basic rules. Don't know what the Basic rules are? Basic is a free PDF which contains a subset of the rules from the 5e PHB. There's all the core rules need to create characters, advance those characters all the way up to 20th level, and everything you need for roleplaying and combat.

So then, what's the difference between Basic and the PHB? The PHB has more--more race options, more class options, more spells, and finally PHB is the only place for the optional feat system, and rules on multiclassing.

It represents a great way to let anyone try D&D for no money down, as you can use the Basic rules to create a dwarf fighter, or human rogue, or even an elven wizard, complete with iconic spells like magic missile and fireball.

Also on the basic rules page is another free PDF, the Basic DMG. This is a brief subset of what may eventually appear in the still-to-be-released DMG book. It also includes a bunch of monsters, a few magic items, and rules on building encounters. Again, enough for you to get started running your own adventures.

Horde of the Dragon Queen Supplement

Another useful link is this one:
  • https://dnd.wizards.com/products/tabletop-games/rpg-products/hoard-dragon-queen
This is a free supplement to the first 5e adventure, Horde of the Dragon Queen. If you're running this adventure, then the supplement is a no-brainer.

Even if you're a DM not running the adventure, you might still want to pick this up as there are some magic items detailed, along with some monsters and spells, that can be useful for anyone creating their own adventures.

Adventures League

  • https://dnd.wizards.com/articles/events/adventurers-league-resources
If you're interested in any of the D&D in-store/convention options for playing, you'll want to check out this page. There are a number of links, including a free player's guide PDF on how to create characters and background on the five factions you have to choose from for your character. Note, there is some DM info in this guide, regardless of the name on the file. Also, this page has links for, log sheets (important for recording the details of your characters adventures, and the treasures they've earned), character sheets, and the Twitter, Facebook, and G+ pages they're active on.

Monster Manual

  • http://dnd.wizards.com/products/tabletop-games/rpg-products/monster-manual
This page is only useful right now if you have the new Monster Manual, and are interested in building encounters for your own games, as the only file on this page is a free chart breaking down monster by CR.

The upcoming DMG is supposed to have monster breakdowns by CR, as well as environment, in case you need a low level aquatic monster to plague your players!

Encounter Building Video (may not be SFW)

This next link arose when AngryDM was trying to figure out how exactly the Encounter Buiding rules as presented in the Basic DMG (and presumable the forthcoming DMG) actually work. While they may seem familiar to folks comfortable with previous editions, they are not, and if you're not careful, you can end up building encounters that are way out of balance, usually against your players.

If you have any questions about encounter building, check out this video, it should answer all your questions:
  • https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RReMb3s4Zao %E2%80%A6 

5e Encounter Calculator

If you still need some help with encounter building, or just don't have the time to do all the math by hand (and why would you), here's an excel spreadsheet that will do the number crunching for you:
  • http://runagame.blogspot.com/2014/08/bonus-post.html

Rules Clarification

Here a like to what looks like a living document attempting to gather and track all the rules questions and answers that have been asked and answered since the release of 5e. Not only is it worth the read, but I've bookmarked it so I can come back again and again. You might want to do the same.
  • http://community.wizards.com/sites/mtgcommunity/files/%E2%87%B2%20Rules%20Clarification%20%28Sage%20Advise%29%20v1%20%5Bseptember%202014%5D_0.pdf

Actual bag of holding

And if all that's not enough, here's an actual bag of holding for all your new 5e materials
  • http://www.thinkgeek.com/product/aaa5/