Free Adventure: The Gribbits Detective Agency

Dragon Friends is a Dungeons & Dragons live comedy show and podcast, which normally takes place at Giant Dwarf in Sydney, but they’ve also played at Wizards of the Coast in Seattle and at PAX Australia in Melbourne. The cast has changed a little, but the core has been Dave Harmon as dungeon master, Ben Jenkins as the non-player characters, Alex Lee as Philge the sexy half-orc barbarian, Simon Greiner as Bobby Pancakes the halfling rogue, Michael Hing as Freezo the homeschooled elf warlock/baker/murderer, and Benny Davis as live bard. This Saturday they’re doing a live show at the Melbourne Comedy Festival. The most recent issue of Dragon+ included a free Dragon Friends urban investigation adventure, The Gribbits Detective Agency, written by Jenkins and Harmon; and illustrated by Greiner.

In the first season of the show, the Dragon Friends expose a conspiracy of the Artificer Cult in Waterdeep, burning down a lot of the city in the process. In the months since, the city has begun to rebuild, but a lot of people have been left homeless, putting pressure on the city’s almshouses and temples. Janos Meer, Beggar King of Waterdeep, has been investigating what the Artificers were up to. Now he’s disappeared. Gribbits the goblin lawyer is worried about the power struggles that will happen when folks in the underworld realise… Gribbits recruits some fledgeling adventurers to find Janos Meer, but (unfortunately) the Dragon Friends are also on the case. As usual, their approach involves indiscriminate smashing, burning and killing.

The adventure provides five locations (including Freezo’s bakery and the ruins of the House of the Artificers) that Janos had investigated before he went missing, each which may provide the adventurers with clues as to what has happened to the Beggar King and what the Artificers were up to.

It should be noted that this adventure takes place in Dragon Friends’ uniquely twisted version of the Forgotten Realms. Waterdeep as presented in Dragon Friends includes many references to contemporary real world city life such as bureaucracies, unions, gentrification/urban renewal, firearms and suspicious public service contracts.

You can download The Gribbits Detective Agency for free here.
You can listen to the podcast here.
You can book tickets for Saturday’s show at the Melbourne Comedy Festival here.
You can book tickets for Sydney shows here.

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Unfortunately, this will be my last weekly column on Encounter Roleplay, at least for a while. I’m hoping that at some stage I’ll be back though!

By Chris Booth Twitter  Instagram  Website

Black Void Kickstarter

At the time of the Babylonian Empire, humanity was sucked from the safety and order of the Cosmos into a realm of chaos called the Void. Humanity was scattered among the stars. Some managed to find their way to the eternal city of Llyhn, where they were able to band together in order to survive in the alien cosmopolis. This is the scene that Christoffer Schultz Sevaldsen has set for us in his cosmic survival horror RPG Black Void.

What I like about what I’ve seen of Black Void is that it depicts humanity in a weak and vulnerable position. In Llynh, humans have managed to carve out their own district, but it is a slum in comparison to the opulent alien districts nearby. In this caste-based urban society, humans are at the bottom of the ladder, and there are a lot of aliens who would like to destroy or enslave them. Because the city is so diversely alien there is no standard morality. Morals are a point of view. The city is founded at the border between the Cosmos and the Void, where the veil between the two is thin, and it seems like this makes it an attractive place for alien cults who worship the strange and powerful entities that live there.

When it comes to making player characters, Black Void is very nonlinear and modular. All player characters are human (although there are options for creating ‘halfbreed’ characters with alien traits) and abilities are acquired or improved using a point-buy system. At the game master’s discression, player characters can also increase in enlightenment (by increasing their knowledge of the Void) or influence (by gaining power over others).

In the quickstart rules there are options for gaining boons through blood magic. To use blood magic, a character has to ritually sacrifice another creature. Depending on how the ceremony goes, they will get access to a range of beneficial options. There’s also a chance of a botched ritual, which might lead to negative effects. I like the fact that this makes magic seem a bit more dangerous and costly. It seems more like how I would expect magic to work in the ancient human world, and also helps to make the setting seem strange and alien.

The Black Void Kickstarter campaign launches April 11. In the meantime, you can get the quickstart rules and adventure via the form here.

By Chris Booth Twitter  Instagram  Website

Dragons Conquer America Kickstarter

What if Saint George didn’t slay the dragon, but instead converted it to Christianity? That’s part of the backstory to Dragons Conquer America, a new tabletop RPG that is currently being Kickstarted by Burning Games. (This is a second attempt. Last year’s Kickstarter had some hiccups and was cancelled, but the new campaign seems much more viable.) The Spanish conquistadors arrive in the Americas with their trained dragons. It turns out the Mexica (you might have also heard them referred to as Aztecs) have their own dragons – and theirs are untamable.

I’m quite excited to play this game not just as a break from the familiar medieval European style fantasy but because it also has some interesting mechanics which could also be used to add new elements to other tabletop RPGs.

One of the elements that I think will be most interesting is the prejudice mechanic. To reflect the Sixteenth Century era, player characters start off with some prejudices that make it difficult for them to get along with other characters because of their race, religion, gender or sexual orientation. You can develop your character by overcoming your prejudices.

Another aspect that I think you should take a look at is the corruption mechanic. Player characters use a statistic called Spirit to cast spells, which represents their holiness. The thing is, each player character doesn’t know exactly how holy they are. Only the game master knows that. This means it is possible for a player character to overreach when they cast spells (especially if they believe they are exceptionally holy) and open themselves up to corruption. Corruption manifests itself as various forms of curse, derived from the player character’s religion.

I should acknowledge that not everyone has been happy about the news of this game. There have been concerns about the portrayal of Mexica and a perceived lack of involvement of Mexica in the development of the game. It seems to me like Burning Games is listening to those concerns, and I’m not sure that the critiques are entirely accurate. That doesn’t mean that there will not be problems, but I hope that when problems do come up there they can be discussed and addressed. I think a game like this could be an opportunity for intercultural collaboration if we’re open to it.

If this sounds like the kind of game you want to play, get behind their Kickstarter! In the meantime you can also play an introductory adventure that has been released as a preview – The Coatli Stone.

You can find the Kickstarter for Dragons Conquer America here. It ends on April 12. It costs €39 if you just want the basic PDF set, with larger pledges for paper books.
You can also download the free quickstart adventure, The Coatli Stone here. If you don’t mind spoilers, there’s also a playthrough of the adventure, which Carlos from Burning Games ran on our stream last year, and you can watch that here.

By Chris Booth Twitter  Instagram  Website

Pathfinder Playtest

Pathfinder Playtest

It’s ten years on from when the original Pathfinder playtest began in 2008, and Paizo are about to start the process all over again. The playtest for Pathfinder 2nd Edition will begin on August 2 this year. In the meantime, Paizo are previewing some of the features of the new iteration.

I think it makes sense to develop a new ruleset at this point because the pool of people who play tabletop roleplaying has changed (it’s become larger and broader). I think that’s partly because of the accessibility of Dungeons & Dragons’ 5th Edition rules, which I think have lowered the barrier to entry for many people, myself included. I think the original Pathfinder rules still create a high barrier to entry, like previous editions of D&D. It sounds like Paizo wants to make sure Pathfinder 2nd Edition is more easily accessible while still offering plenty of crunch.

So what do we know at this stage? Alchemists will be included from the start as one of twelve iconic classes. Goblins will also be included as an option for player characters from the outset. I think that makes a lot of sense since goblins are one of the most recognisable things about Pathfinder. 10th-level spells will also be included from the beginning.

Pathfinder 2nd Edition will focus on exploration and encounters (encounters means combat, punctuated by breaks for downtime. Hazards such as traps, poisons and diseases will be more dangerous. There’ll be traps that player character have to actively fight against in order to survive. Rangers will also have the ability to set traps. It should also be easier for game masters to design or modify monsters.

In the leadup to the beginning of the playtest, Paizo are publishing regular previews on their blog. Here’s what I’ve gleaned from them so far:


In this new ruleset, Paizo is trying to simplify actions. In combat, player characters will be able to take three per turn. If they choose to they can use all their actions to move or use all of them to attack. (If you use all your actions to attack, the attacks will grow progressively less accurate, though.) Most spells take two actions to cast, but some only take one – so I’m guessing player characters will be able to cast two spells in a turn if they have a one-action spell available? Player characters also get one reaction (such as making a classic attack of opportunity) each round, which can be used outside their turn if the circumstances are correct.

Levelling up

In Pathfinder 2nd Edition, player characters will level up whenever they earn another 1000 experience points, and there will be choices to make each time. Every time a character levels up they will have the opportunity to choose feats rather than getting set abilities. The feats a player chooses for their character will determine that character’s abilities and actions. It sounds like there will be a lot of options from the beginning. Paizo say they’ve created a formatting system which should make it easy to see what feats do with just a glance. If a player changes their mind about the feats they’ve chosen for their character, they will have the option of retraining.

If you want to participate in the playtest you will be able to download the playtest rulebook and the playtest adventure Doomsday Dawn on August 2 2018. If you want to make sure you get your paper copies, you will be able to preorder from March 20 (that’s Tuesday next week). Pathfinder 2nd Edition will officially launch in August 2019.

By Chris Booth Twitter  Instagram  Website

Trapped in the Birdcage

Trapped in the Birdcage

Two weeks ago Holly Conrad (who plays Strix on Dice Camera Action) launched a new streamed game called Trapped in the Birdcage, set in Sigil, Planescape’s city of doors.

The party offers plenty of variety:

  • Wilhelmena, a compulsive thief, played by Anna Prosser Robinson
  • Saturn, a triangle-playing bard who seems to get in a lot of trouble, played by Jimmy Whetzel
  • Nejma, a wizard who thinks fire solves everything, played by Hadeel Al-Massari
  • Reader, a warforged who’s keeping notes on the others’ crimes, played by Chad Quandt

I’ve made a custom alignment axis which I think sums them up to some extent:

To explain:

  • It seems like Nejma and Wil are both pretty streetwise or capable. Saturn and Reader both aren’t.
  • It seems like Wil and Saturn are both looking to cause trouble. Reader and Nejma are looking to stay out of it – although they aren’t necessarily great at that.

Having watched the first two episodes I have to say it’s well-paced and flows well. I think that’s because Conrad doesn’t allow the story to get bogged down by the vast amounts of Planescape lore from previous editions. Just describing Sigil the first time a party visits takes up a lot of time. And that’s just the start of it. If a dungeon master isn’t careful they might end up spending a whole session explaining the Lady of Pain, planar cant, the fifteen factions, the dabus, the Blood War… and not leave much space for adventuring.

I think these two introductory episodes are a good example of how to introduce setting by starting small and focussed. You can’t get much more small and focussed than the first episode. The beginning of the show has the four adventures arriving and meeting in a closet, which turns out to be in a teahouse. For the whole first episode, the adventurers don’t leave the shop.

In the second episode, they get to see some of the city, causing havoc in the Great Bazaar, visiting a diner and meeting one of Sigil’s most iconic characters at the Great Gymnasium. A few of the factions are also introduced fleetingly.

From what they’ve been told, the player characters seem to be an interesting situation. It seems they are on the other end of a summoning spell: they’ve been summoned and compelled to the do the will of a wereraven who watches over Sigil. With the exception of Reader, they’ve been causing a fair bit of trouble in the city already, which might create complications as they try to fulfil their contract.

Trapped in the Birdcage is on again tonight (Thursday 5-7pm US Pacific time) on the official Dungeons & Dragons Twitch stream, so hopefully you’ve got time to catch up on the first two episodes before then!

Episode 1
Episode 2

By Chris Booth Twitter  Instagram  Website

Good Society: A Jane Austen RPG

Good Society: A Jane Austen RPG

By Chris Booth Twitter  Instagram  Website

Good Society is a tabletop roleplaying game currently being developed by Story Brewers, based in Sydney. They’re currently running a Kickstarter campaign to publish the game. Good Society seeks to recreate the feel of Jane Austen’s novels, with a focus on reputation, family obligations, ambition and secret longing.

Good Society has a focus on collaboration between the game master (referred to as the facilitator) and the players. Before the game begins, the facilitator and players work out together what kind of story they want to tell – for example whether the game will be historically accurate or whether it will mess around with regency era gender roles; whether the storyline will be dramatic or comedic.

Players each control a create a main character, but they also control a minor character who is connected to another player’s main character. Each player’s main character also has an established connection with another main character. Part of the character creation stage includes assigning each main a secret desire that they are persuing throughout the game.

Good Society doesn’t use dice, and the mechanics seem to encourage a lot of free roleplaying roleplaying. However, players get a few tokens each session which they can use to direct the story. Players and the facilitator can spend tokens to cause a significant event to interrupt the story. This might create a setback for another player’s main character, although the rules emphasis the importance of the other player’s consent, so as to emphasis collaboration. Players also have the opportunity during to spend a token to compell another player to perform an interior monologue, so that the other players know what their main character is thinking and planning at that moment.

Each session of the game cycles through five phases:

  • the novel phase, when players roleplay a social situation (such as a dinner party, a meeting or a ball) in which main character try to pursue their goals while also minding their manners and protecting their reputation
  • the rumors and scandal phase, when each player gets two opportunities to either start a new rumour or confirm an existing rumour
  • the third phase is the epistlatory phase, when each character has the opportunity to narrate a letter that their main character is writing to another character
  • after the first three phases there is a second novel phase and a second epistlatory phase completing the cycle – although a session of Good Society may consist of more than one complete cycle.

If you’re not so into the Jane Austen theme, I think this idea could also be reskinned as a more ruthless intrigue-type game set in a fantasy city like Menzoberranzan, Kings Landing or Ankh-Morepork. A couple of the stretch goals also add expansions which integrate magic and swordplay into the game which would come in handy if you were attempting this.

You can get behind the Good Society Kickstarter campaign for AU$10. (There’s also a discounted option for folks experiencing financial hardship.) The Kickstarter ends on Tuesday March 6, Sydney time. If you’d like to watch a demonstration, you can find live play videos here and here.

Return of the Lazy Dungeon Master

Return of the Lazy Dungeon Master

By Chris Booth Twitter  Instagram  Website

The suggestions presented in Mike Shea (Sly Flourish)’s book The Lazy Dungeon Master have had a bigger impact on how I prepare to run RPGs than any of the official Dungeons & Dragons books. Don’t get me wrong, I reference the Player’s Handbook, Dungeon Master’s Guide, and Monster Manual every session, but The Lazy DM helped me work out how to prepare and what to prepare.

It’s a year since I purchased The Lazy DM. Mike Shea is currently running a very successful Kickstarter for a follow-up volume, Return of the Lazy Dungeon Master. When I say it’s been very successful, I mean that Mike has met all the planned stretch goals, made some new stretch goals, beat them, and decided against adding more stretch goals.

Running a game can take so much preparation. You may put hours into preparing a game only to have your players the game in a direction you didn’t plan for. In fact, over-preparing can lead you into running games where you force the story to follow a particular direction because you’ve invested too many hours of preparation into a particular storyline.

Mike’s approach is a smart and simple way to minimise preparation, freeing yourself up for a more improvised and collaborative game where you really are cooperating with your players to tell a story. Thanks to this approach, these days my notes are often just a small pile of index cards, each with a few notes about an NPC, a location, a quest or a monster. I can easily shuffle through them depending on what ends up being needed.

In Return of the Lazy Dungeon Master, Mike has refined his Lazy DM approach and tailored it for 5th Edition Dungeons & Dragons. Because the Kickstarter has gone so well, backers will also be getting some extra resources that are also intended to help DMs run games with less (and smarter) preparation:

  • a printable Lazy DM workbook full of sheets to help you keep track of characters and prepare things like traps, magic items, random encounters so they’re on hand when needed
  • Lazy Lairs – ten lairs that you can easily drop into a lot of different adventures, complete with maps (by Daniel Walthall, Derek Ruiz, and Miska Fredman) and one-page descriptions.

The Return of the Lazy Dungeon Master Kickstarter runs until March 10. You can back for just US$8 if you only want the PDF version or US$13 if you want the option of buying a print copy at cost price. Delivery is expected in November.

You can find the Return of the Lazy Dungeon Master Kickstarter here.
You can have a look at the table of contents and some sample chapters here.
Mike also posts a lot of helpful DMing advice and research on his blog and on his Twitter.

Xanathar’s Guide to Everything: War Wizard

Xanathar’s Guide to Everything: War Wizard

By Chris Booth Twitter  Instagram  Website

Since Xanathar’s Guide to Everything was released late last year I’ve been gradually reading through all of the new subclass options that are included. Today I’ve reached the last one: the lone wizard class. Wizards have had it good for a long time, with one subclass for each of the eight schools of magic included in the Players Handbook, so it’s kind of fair that they only get one new option in Xanathar’s Guide.

Those eight original subclasses are nice and neat, but the war wizard from Xanathar’s Guide is here to mess things up. The eight original subclasses help to give the sense that wizards learn magic through academic study of a particular, compartmentalised field of magic. Rather than sticking to a pure, compartmentalised discipline, the war wizard takes what it finds useful from two schools, evocation and abjuration. This wizard is much more interested in the practical application of wizardry than knowledge for knowledge’s sake.

The war wizard uses what they know of abjuration to protect themselves in battle and uses their evocation to turn up the knobs for the damage on their attack spells. When a wizard chooses the war wizard specialisation, they gain the ability to use their reaction to raise their armour class in response to a specific attack or to add a bonus to a saving throw. They can also add their Intelligence modifier to their initiative rolls, as a way of representing tactical expertise. At higher levels, the war wizard can store magical energy which they can use to increase the damage their spells inflict, can increase their armour class whenever they concentrate on a spell and can even turn magical attacks back on their enemies.

I have to confess that I don’t think I’ve ever played as a wizard. Something about them has always seemed a bit too academic and clinical for me. I like the idea of a wizard who is a bit more of a generalist, integrating and applying knowledge from different areas of study. I’d be interested in seeing how other, more traditional wizards respond to a war wizard. Would they see them as ill-disciplined and unorthodox? Would they question the way that magical research is being applied by a war wizard? My guess is that the war wizard would find these concerns a luxury afforded only to some confined to an ivory tower.

What’s next?

I’m pretty excited about the May release Mordenkainen’s Tome of Foes, but that’s still a while off! In the meantime I’ll still be publishing a review each Thursday, so let me know if there’s something you reckon I should cover here.

Xanathar’s Guide to Everything: Warlocks

Xanathar’s Guide to Everything: Warlocks

By Chris Booth Twitter  Instagram  Website

Since Xanathar’s Guide to Everything came out way back in 2017, I’ve been gradually reading through all the new class options and thinking about how I’d use them. This week I’m almost at the end of them. Here’s my review of the new warlock options:

Celestial Warlock

The celestial warlock’s patron is a good entity from the Upper Planes, who mostly grants abilities associated with healing and radiant damage. This warlock has a pool of d6s that they can use to hand out healing. They receive superior healing during rests, which they can share with their allies in a more limited capacity. At higher levels the celestial warlock receives an ability that allows them to regain half their hitpoints instead of making a death saving throw, at the same time dealing radiant damage to enemies in the area. It’s a kind of resurrection with a vengeance.

One of the things about warlocks is that they don’t necessarily share their patron’s alignment, which can lead to drama – or humour. One of the things I’d like to try with this subclass is making a good warlock who, nevertheless, cannot live up to their patron’s high expectations.


Now this is an interesting one… It’s not clear excatly who is the patron of this warlock subclass. Xanathar’s Guide suggests that the hexblade patron is a kind of arms dealer based in the Shadowfell, and that it might be the Raven Queen, but it’s left very open ended. For that reason, I think this class could be a lot of fun for a dungeon master. If you’re a dungeon master with a hexblade in your group I’d suggest having a chat with that player about who they think their patron might be, but I wouldn’t let them know what I was planning.

A lot of the features for this subclass centre around bestowing a curse on enemies. The hexblade can target another creature with their curse, which give the hexblade a bonus to damage rolls against the cursed creature. It’s also easier for the hexblade to make a critical hit against the target of the curse. If the cursed creature dies, the hexblade regains a few lost hitpoints. At higher levels, the hexblade can use their reaction to try to avoid a successful attack from the cursed creature.

As well as these curse features, the hexblade can choose to channel their will through a weapon. This means they can use their Charisma bonus instead of Strength or Dexterity when using that weapon. The hexblade can also gain the ability to briefly enslave the soul of a slain enemy, which takes the form of a spectre with low hit points.

Xanathar’s Guide to Everything: Sorcerers

Xanathar’s Guide to Everything: Sorcerers

By Chris Booth Twitter  Instagram  Website

Since Xanathar’s Guide to Everything was released late last year, I’ve been reading through the new subclasses and considering how I’d like to use them. this week I’ve been having a look at the new sorcerous origins.

Divine Soul

The divine soul is a sorcerer whose magical abilities come from connection to a divine being such as a god or an angel. They might be descended from a divine entity or they might have been chosen by a god. Xanathar’s Guide says that these sorcerers may be perceived as a threat to institutional religion. I mean, why go a church or temple when you could hang out with your god’s scion?

Divine souls have access to the sorcerer and cleric spell lists, as well as one extra spell related to the alignment of their divine source. From the outset, divine protection can help them improve disappointing saving throws or attack rolls. Later on, the divine soul can also spend sorcery points to reroll healing dice and at the highest levels they can use a bonus action to regain up to half of their hitpoints, providing that they’ve already lost at least half.

All of these benefits add up to a character who will appear to be especially blessed or lucky, as though someone out there is looking out for them. What I’d like to do with this class option is make a character who’s an aspiring cult leader, mixing religion with ‘infinite potential’ ideas. Another thing I wouldn’t mind trying (which could go along with the cult leader idea) is making a character who is actually a reincarnation of a dead god, seeking to return to glory.

Shadow Sorcerer

This subclass option represents a sorcerer whose magical abilities come from the Shadowfell, the material plane’s dark parallel. They tend to have a dark and gloomy disposition, to the point where they might seem a bit dead. I’m picturing someone like Professor Snape from the Harry Potter series. (If you’re using this option, just use Alan Rickman’s voice.)

This subclass grants darkvision and the darkness spell, and an ability to drop to one hitpoint when they character should drop to zero. But the feature I find most interesting is the shadow sorcerer’s ability to summon a shadow hound. The summoned hound seems like it could pose a decent threat, but it only has a few hitpoints, so it will dissolve after only a little bit of damage. I could see a cruel and manipulative shadow sorcerer summoning one of these to attack an opponent, then suggesting that they might have imagined it. After all, the hound disappeared as soon as it was hit. Later on, this subclass grants the ability to teleport between shadows and at the highest levels they can take on a shadowy form themselves, allowing them to move through solid objects and resist most kinds of damage.

Xanathar’s Guide to Everything: Rangers

Xanathar’s Guide to Everything: Rangers

By Chris Booth Twitter  Instagram  Website

Since Xanathar’s Guide to Everything was released late last year, I’ve been gradually reading through all of the new player class options. This time I’m looking at the new ranger archetypes.

Gloom Stalker

The gloom stalker is a ranger who is particularly good at hiding in shadows. This archetype gives a player character a number of abilities that will protect or hide them from monsters … like the Xanathar. Xanathar’s dismissive annotation about this subclass says,

‘You sneak around in the dark? You know most everything but humans can see in the dark, right? We all see you. Tiptoeing doesn’t turn you invisible.’

This shows that the Xanathar may not be as informed as he thinks he is … One of the gloomstalker’s most basic abilities allows them to avoid detection by darkvision, meaning that the actually could remain undetected by beholders, orcs or drow while in darkness.

Horizon Walker

When I first started playing Dungeons & Dragons I found it hard to get my head around what a ranger was. They seemed to have traits of all the basic classes (fighter, rogue, cleric and wizard) and it was hard for me to work out what their focus was. Now I would say that a ranger is someone who patrols the boundaries between wilds and civilisation, bringing some form of law and order to the frontier. (I suppose you could also say that they patrol the boundaries between the basic classes.)

The horizon walker archetype takes this concept and raises it to a planar level, patrolling the boundaries between the planes and protecting folks from extraplanar threats, kind of like how The Doctor protects Earth from alien threats in Doctor Who.

I think having a party that includes a horizon walker really opens up the possibilities for planar adventures, with their ability to detect nearby planar portals. This subclass also allows a character to momentarily travel to other planes in order to create the effect of teleporting during combat or in order to avoid damage from opponents’ attacks. (It’s not clear with every feature which plane is travelled through, so I guess that’s up to the player’s and/or dungeon master’s choice?)

Monster Slayer

The monster slayer is a ranger who hunts down monsters and evil magic-users. A lot of the monster slayer’s unique abilities involve their ability to focus in on one opponent, increasing the damage that opponent takes from attacks. At higher levels, this feature can also provide protection for the monster slayer from the opponent they’re focussed on or to respond to saving throws with an extra attack.

Xanathar’s Guide to Everything: Paladins

Xanathar’s Guide to Everything: Paladins

By Chris Booth Twitter  Instagram  Website

Week by week I’ve been reading through the new class options in Xanathar’s Guide to Everything and having a think about how I could imagine using these subclasses in a game. This week it’s the new paladin oaths, which I think make a good mirrored pair.

Oath of conquest

A couple of weeks ago I was saying that a lot of the subclasses in Xanathar’s Guide seem to have connections to the planes and I was saying I think we should expect planar adventures soon… and I missed this one, which has a connection to the first layer of the Nine Hells.

I think it’s fair to say that this is a kind of antipaladin, or perhaps the shadow side of a paladin. This subclass might make some folks uncomfortable, but I think it’s an antipaladin we need to have. The outward appearance of a stereotypical paladin is that they are are good and noble knights, often motivated by religious fervour, based on a romantic vision fo the Christian crusaders of the middle ages. As far as I understand, the reality of the crusades was quite morally questionable and the conduct of crusaders was often less that noble. I think the oath of conquest represents that ugly side of the paladin or crusader. Xanathar’s Guide even says that some of these paladins are actually serving the archdevil Bel, ruler of the first layer of Hell.

Oath of redemption

This is the polar opposite to the oath of conquest. A paladin under the oath or redemption has such faith in their adversaries’ capacity for change that they will avoid using violence and only fight as a last option. This oath grants abilities that allow the character to rebuke those who commit violence (dealing equal damage) or to use their reaction to shield allies, soaking up damage themselves.

As I was reading this class description I was reminded of the tortle fighter character, Yog, who I played as in Scratticus’ 30 hour stream on the weekend. I joined an exisiting party who’d just burned down the last city they visited, and I decided that Yog was going to be a wiser, more responsible adventurer who was almost like a social worker, trying to keep them out of trouble and make honorable heroes out of them. Now I reckon this paladin subclass would actually be a better way of representing that kind of character, so if I play as Yog again I’ll probably remake him as an oath of redemption paladin.