9 Reasons your Next D&D Character Should be a Monk

I asked Twitter which Dungeons & Dragons class I should write about. Twitter chose one of my favourite classes: the monk. Let me convince you that your next D&D character should be a monk.

Monks can learn to catch incoming missiles and throw them back.

That’s pretty cool with arrows and darts, but you can do the same when you’re attacked with spells like fire bolt or ray of frost too.

If you like one-one-on combat, you could make a monk who wants to duel with every character they meet.

This might be about testing and improving your own character’s skill or knowing how your allies fight.

You could make a monk who’s physically graceful, but socially awkward.

When you’re making a monk character, you always want to make Dexterity their strongest ability. With this kind of character, you also need to make Charisma their weakest.

While we’re on the theme of contradictions, you could make a monk who is an accomplished fighter but lacks discipline.

Maybe their lack of discipline is why they have had to leave their monastery and take up the life of an adventurer?

When you’re playing as a monk, you can just ask strangers for money and it’s not inappropriate.

Maybe your monk character always needs to ask for money because they’ve given their money away to others? Or maybe they don’t need the money, but they’re greedy?

You can make a character who masters the elements by choosing the genasi race and making a monk who follows the way of the four elements.

When choosing elemental disciplines, you could choose disciplines that match the element of your character’s subrace. Or you could disciplines that manipulate a range of different elements, to make an elemental all-rounder.

Your monk could be a tabaxi character who always lands on their feet.

If you choose to follow the way of the long death, it could seem like your character has nine lives.

If you make a goblin monk, your character could be just like Yoda.

Just check with your dungeon master if they’ll let you have a sun blade.

Lastly, you could coordinate with your D&D group and make a party of ninja tortles.

I’d suggest using subclasses like way of the open hand and way of the kensei. You could do this for a one-shot adventure or for a whole campaign, set in  the sewers of Waterdeep, Sharn or your own urban setting.

Review: Waterdeep: Dragon Heist

Friday last week was the early release date for Waterdeep: Dragon Heist, the latest Dungeons & Dragons hardcover adventure from Wizards of the Coast. (The official release is on September 18.) While previous 5th Edition D&D adventures have focused on the large-scale apocalyptic plots of dragons, giants and demons, Dragon Heist is much more small-scale and down-to-earth. Adventurers explore Waterdeep, the city of splendours, racing against underworld rivals to find a stash of 500 000 gold pieces. (In Waterdeep, gold coins are known as ‘dragons’.)

As well as being a much more localized adventure, Dragon Heist isn’t designed to be used a long campaign. Unlike previous 5th Edition hardcovers, Dragon Heist is only designed to progress player characters from first to fifth level. For this reason, I think Dragon Heist will serve well as a new introductory adventure – an alternative to Lost Mine of Phandelver or In Volo’s Wake. Those who are keen to continue on all the way to level twenty will be able to, with Waterdeep: Dungeon of the Mad Mage dropping soon after, in November.

Because this adventure only spans levels one to five, WotC have been able to use the extra space to provide four different ways of running the adventure. Each version of the adventure is set in a different season and features different villains, so it has a lot of replay value.

I think this adventure also has a greater emphasis on roleplay and diplomacy than previous 5th Edition hardcovers – in fact, adventurers who try to fight their way through the adventure will probably find themselves in trouble with the law or being hunted down by one of the city’s underworld factions.

Early on in the adventure there is an opportunity for the party to begin running their own Waterdeep tavern, which I expect will be of interest to those players who enjoy the social side of D&D.

The five Sword Coast factions (as well as some local groups like Force Grey) are well integrated into the adventure. There are a lot of ways for adventurers pursue renown within their faction, and there are lots of opportunities for faction members to call in favors from their faction, particularly toward the end of the adventure.

I’m not planning to run this adventure as it is written straight away, but my Thursday night D&D group is currently not far from Waterdeep, and I’m looking forward to using some of the content from this book if they end up in the city of splendors. There’s one chapter where Volo gives an overview of each area of the city, and the adventure proper gives a lot of detail about the lairs of a number of Waterdeep operatives that adventurers could cross paths with. The bestiary provides stats for a lot of powerful non-player characters, presented like the superheroes and criminal masterminds of a renaissance city.


We’re playing through Waterdeep: Dragon Heist on our Twitch stream this season from 5pm Mondays US Eastern Standard Time. You can watch session zero here.

You can preorder a copy of Waterdeep: Dragon Heist via Amazon here.

How to Use an Ooze

Last week I asked Twitter what kind of Dungeons & Dragons monsters I should write about. I’ve been running Out of the Abyss most of this year, so I listed a few Underdark monsters I’ve used a lot. The clear winner was oozes.

One of the big limitations of oozes is that almost all of them are slower than most player characters. Most player characters can run away from an ooze. In order for an ooze to be a problem, you’ve often got to put your player characters in a tight spot where they can’t run, such as a tight dungeon. Since most oozes can squeeze trough small cracks you could have oozes coming out of the walls to attack and then disappearing back into tiny cracks where the player characters can’t attack them. You’re kind of treating them less like a ‘monster’ and more like a dungeon hazard – something the player characters have to get past in order to get to the business end of the dungeon. Hopefully it’s going to take off a chunk of their hit points, and maybe it will even ruin some of their armor or weapons, so they’re more vulnerable when they face the boss.

When you think about it, there are actually a lot of ways villains could make use of oozes. Oozes could be used in traps. There could be a trap that drops your players into a pit full of oozes. Or a trap that drops oozes on their heads. There could be a potion bottle that actually has a tiny ooze in it.

While we’re talking about bottles of ooze, maybe your villain could be an alchemist who throws vials with oozes in them at your player characters?

If you’re running an adventure that involves a murder investigation, maybe the villain has used an ooze to clean up the evidence like a slimy Roomba?

If the villain manages to capture a prisoner and is trying to get information out of them, maybe their interrogation involves an ooze? The torture could be dipping their hand in a container of corrosive ooze. Or it could be allowing an ooze to eat away at them until they provide answers.

If the player characters are searching a dungeon for an ancient artefact, you could have them find that it’s already been found by another adventurer – maybe a rival. If they take the time to search for clues, they discover a gelatinous cube that devoured the adventurer and the artefact. If the player characters want the artefact, they’ll need to get it out of the ooze.

Oozes aren’t normally sentient, but if your adventure features an intelligent ooze you’ll need to think about how to characterise your ooze non-player character. I’d suggest portraying an ooze as lethargic but ravenous.

If the ooze has consumed a lot of people, I’d have it talking with many different voices. I might even describe the faces of the ooze’s victims appearing briefly in its shifting form.

 

Player Characters for your Ravnica Adventure

A few weeks back Wizards of the Coast announced two new settings, Eberron and Ravnica. There’s a significant crossover between the fandoms of Dungeons & Dragons and Magic: The Gathering, two of WOTC’s biggest properties, but not everyone is familiar with both. Ravnica is a setting from the collectable card game Magic: The Gathering, and the first to be getting a hardcover D&D book. Ravnica is a planet covered by one megacity, co-ruled by ten competing guilds.

Whether MTG was your gateway drug into D&D or you hadn’t heard of Ravnica until a few weeks ago, this article will take a quick look at each of Ravnica’s guilds, and the kind of characters you might make for a game set in Ravnica.

Update:

WOTC has released some playtest material for races of Ravnica, which you can find here. Includes loxodon (humanoid elephants), vedalken, viashino and Simic hybrids.

Azorius Senate

Azorius are the law enforcers of Ravnica, mostly cops.

 

Races: human, vedalken

Classes: wizard, paladin, fighter

Backgrounds: city watch / investigator, soldier

To me, one of the most iconic Azorius cards is Detention Sphere:

Detention Sphere makes me think of making a control wizard, probably a human wizard with the city watch background and spells like friends, lightning lure, shocking grasp, charm person, color spray, grease, sleep, snare. If you were using the variant human you could choose the moderately armored feat to give your squishy wizard a bit more protection in the line of duty, unless you’re happy with just the mage armor spell.

Boros Legion

Boros and Azorius seem  kind of similar. If Azorius are the cops, Boros are the troops.

 

Races: human, minotaur, goblin, viashino (use lizardfolk)

Classes: fighter, paladin

Background: soldier, mercenary veteran

While they have a lot of human, minotaur and goblin soldiers, they also have fire elemental soldiers. If you wanted to make one of these, I’d suggest a fire genasi fighter with the champion subclass for increased crits, and the soldier background.

Another option is a human paladin (soldier) on a griffin, specializing in great weapon combat.  (Azorius have ‘skyknights’ too, so you could do something similar for an Azorius character.) Obviously you’d want to make sure your dungeon master was on board with this plan.

 

House Dimir

Dimir are Ravnica’s crime syndicate. Most of Ravnica doesn’t know they exist. Some of their most valuable business is information stolen from other guilds.

 

Races: human, shapeshifter (use changeling), vampire

Classes: rogue, wizard

Background: charlatan, criminal / spy, urban bounty hunter

I’d suggest using the changeling race (from the Eberron playtest material) to make a rogue character using the criminal background. One of the quirks of the new changeling rules is that one of their tool proficiencies is enhanced when they adopt a persona associated with it. So, if the tool proficiency was alchemy, they might take on the persona of a member of a rival guild (perhaps Izzet or Simic) in order to steal that guild’s secrets.

Golgari Swarm

Golgari are the castoffs of Ravnica’s society, living in the sewers beneath the city, recycling the city’s waste, creating life out of death.

 

Races: elf (shadar-kai or drow), human

Classes: cleric, druid

Backgrounds: far traveler, outlander, urchin

For a Golgari character, I’d suggest an shadar-kai cleric using either the life or death domain. If you’re creating a zombie, say that it’s being held together by animated vines. If you’re healing your comrades, say that their wounds are filled in with fungal growths.

Gruul Clans

Gruul are the barbarians and anarchists of Ravnica.

 

Races: human, goblin, minotaur, centaur, viashino (use lizardfolk)

Classes: barbarian, druid

Background: far traveler, folk hero, outlander, uthgardt tribe member

This card makes me want to have a go at making a Gruul earth genasi barbarian:

Izzet League

Speaking of genasi, I think they could make good Izzet characters too. Izzet are mad scientists and alchemists.

 

Races: human, goblin, weird (use genasi)

Classes: sorcerer (wild mage or storm), wizard

Backgrounds: cloistered scholar, sage

One of the most iconic Izzet creations are weirds – elementals created from opposing substances. In order to make a weird character, I’d make a water genasi sorcerer (probably wild mage) and choose lots of spells that do different kinds of elemental damage.

Orzhov Syndicate

Orzhov is a church ruled by a council of ghosts who worship wealth and power. Orzhov exerts control over the masses through debt and extortion.

 

Races: human, vampire, revenant

Classes: cleric, rogue (spy, assassin, inquisitive), warlock

Backgrounds: acolyte, criminal / spy, haunted one, inheritor, noble

I could imagine running an adventure with three different Orzhov characters:

  • an innocent life cleric whose eyes haven’t yet been opened to the corruption of the church
  • a cynical grave cleric who can’t leave because they’re indebted to the church hierarchy. Maybe they’re a revenant, forced to pay off their debt beyond death?
  • an evil death cleric (perhaps a vampire) on a quest for power
Cult of Rakdos

Rakdos is an insane, demon-worshipping clown cult who provide sadistic forms of ‘entertainment’.

 

Races: human, goblin, devil (use tiefling)

Classes: bard, fighter, wizard (necromancer), warlock (the fiend)

Backgrounds: entertainer, gladiator, haunted one

Selesnya Conclave

Selesnya is a kind of utopian environmentalist collective, led by dryads.

 

Races: elf (high or wood), human, centaur

Classes: druid, fighter

Backgrounds: acolyte, outlander, sage

Simic Combine

Simic are a group of mad bioengeneers who create strange combinations of different creatures. Many of them have experimented on themselves.

 

Races: sea elf, triton or anything that you can reskin as a hybrid

Classes: wizard, sorcerer barbarian

Backgrounds: cloistered scholar, far traveler, hermit, outlander, sage

One of my favourite ideas is using existing character races to make characters who are results of Simic experiments. For example, to make a giant predatory lizard-frog, I’d make a bugbear barbarian with the totem warrior subclass. Choosing the tiger totem would allow them to make large jumps between buildings, just like a giant frog mutant. The urban bounty hunter background would help them hunt prey on the streets of Ravnica.

What kind of characters would you make for a Ravnica adventure?

Review: Wayfarer’s Guide to Eberron

Earlier this week (in a fairly confusing announcement!) Wizards of the Coast announced the release of some substantial playtest material for Dungeons & Dragons’ Eberron setting. You can purchase the Wayfinder’s Guide to Eberron for US$20 on DriveThruRPG or D&D Beyondbut remember this is playtest material. It’s unfinished and unofficial.

What is Eberron? I would describe the Eberron setting as noir magepunk set in a period of renaissance cold war with a focus on high adventure and cinematic action.

That seems like a lot of themes, but I think these themes are well integrated. In Eberron magic has been industrialised and is largely controlled by groups called Dragonmarked Houses, a lot like corporations. Magic is widespread, but most people only have access to low-level magic.

Wayfarer’s Guide provides an overview of the nations of Khorvaire, a continent where the borders have been recently redrawn in the wake of a world war. Questions have arisen about the rights of warforged (sentient constructs manufactured to fight in the war) and traditional ‘monsters’ like goblins and orcs. There’s an overview of each nation, with info about places to explore; local factions and their plots; and suggestions for creating characters from that region. There is also information about more distant lands and about Eberron’s cosmology. This world doesn’t fit into the standard Dungeons & Dragons multiverse – the planes seem to have a much more direct impact on the material world, and there’s a sense that Eberron is cut off from the wider multiverse.

This playtest material includes rules for four new player races: warforged, changelings, shifters and kalashtar. Some of these options seem a bit more complex and powerful than those in the Player’s Handbook. I think that’s okay given that Eberron isn’t the core setting for Dungeons & Dragons. Most new players will probably be making a character using the basic options in the Player’s Handbook. However, I would prefer that the rules for dragonmarks were more consistent. At the moment, there are three different ways that they can be applied, depending on character race. I’d like to see all the dragonmarks depicted as feats. In Eberron all player characters could get a feat at first level, which would also mean you could make a level 1 magewright character without having to choose a spellcasting class.

Wayfarer’s Guide includes a lot of new magic items: specialised arcane focuses, common items representing industrialised magic, items that can only be used by dragonmarked characters and augmentations for warforged. There are also lots of powerful magepunk maguffins, many of which would fit into the plot of a campaign’s big bads. There are also guidelines for manufacture of magic items, which could be used in other settings.

Wayfarer’s Guide ends with a strong section about the very vertical city of Sharn, which provides a good place to start off adventuring in Eberron. There are details about the levels of each district: who lives where, what kind of conflicts exist and what adventures may be in store. Three locations get more in-depth treatment, and each one could be used as a base for an adventuring party. One is a university where you could run a Harry-Potter-style coming-of-age campaign. This chapter also includes some tables for generating plot ideas and simple urban encounters (which could become side quests or plot hooks).

You can purchase the Wayfinder’s Guide to Eberron at DriveThruRPG here or at D&D Beyond here.

We also published this article earlier in the week to clarify the confusion about the Ravnica and Eberron setting announcements.

Ravnica & Eberron Announced – Tale of Two Settings

By Jacky Leung     Twitter

The long-awaited announcement for the Dungeons and Dragons settings came Monday morning (Pacific Time) on July 23rd was met with overall excitement from the D&D community though not without some hiccups. Wizards of the Coast released details on their collaboration with D&D and Magic: the Gathering to bring Guildmaster’s Guide to Ravnica with a release date on November 20th and that the Eberron setting will be making its triumphant return to the franchise as well. Eberron’s return starts with a digital PDF release of Wayfinder’s Guide to Eberron on the DMsGuild marketplace by Keith Baker in collaboration with the creative team at Wizards of the Coast.

What you need to know about Guildmaster’s Guide to Ravnica:

  • Release Date: 20 November 2018
  • Price: $49.95 USD
  • Accessories include a Map Pack and a premium dice set featuring the Guilds of Ravnica
  • Ravnica is a plane of existence in Wizard of the Coast’s Magic the Gathering franchise, released originally in 2005 in Ravnica: City of Guilds, followed with a revisit in Return to Ravnica in 2012, with a planned third Ravnica return in Guilds of Ravnica to be released in October 2018 & spring 2019.
  • Ravnica is an ecumenopolis, a vast city that encompasses an entire planet. Like Coruscant in Star Wars
  • There are ten iconic guilds in Ravnica that serve unique functions in the daily life within the city, with their brand of rivalries and adversaries, all governed by an oath known as the Guildpact. Not every citizen is part of a guild, but their presence is felt throughout Ravnica.
  • The current price point suggests a product akin to Sword Coast Adventurer’s Guide.

The news about Ravnica was unintentionally leaked on Amazon Brazil’s website site with product pages screenshotted across Reddit and later on other social platforms such as Facebook and Twitter sometime on Sunday, July 22nd. News and speculation on the authenticity of the screenshots & cover art were eventually confirmed by the cover artist later on. The story left many fans with a mixed reception.

There was even a poll on the r/Dndnext subreddit with close to half of voters displeased with the setting choice.

While Nathan Stewart, director of D&D, indicated that “fans of Dungeons & Dragons and Magic: The Gathering have been asking for years about when these two amazing brands would play together.” Impressions from the Magic: the Gathering community seemed pleased with the official product news. Various MtG pundits were excited upon the leak on Sunday, with notable individuals such as Evan Erwin showcasing his excitement. The early leak only heightened the general anticipation for the Monday announcements from Wizards of the Coast.

The second setting announced was Eberron, a beloved setting created by Keith Baker for the Fantasy Setting Search in 2002. Content creators on the DMsGuild took note of a new setting category option titled “Eberron” early Monday morning almost 6 hours before any formal declaration. Wizards revealed an ebook product, Wayfinder’s Guide to Eberron, with a collaboration between the creative team and Keith Baker that would serve as a “living document” for feedback before any official product is released.

What you need to know about Wayfinder’s Guide to Eberron:

 

  • Product Type: Digital PDF
  • Price: $19.99 USD
  • A 175-page book that encompasses playtest materials that include unique races, an overview of Khorvaire and the city of Sharn, dragonmarks, magic items, and a host of backgrounds to jumpstart players and DMs to their Eberron adventures
  • Iconic races: Shifters, Changelings, and Warforged make their 5th Edition debut from the mind of its creator, Keith Baker.
  • The release of Wayfinder grants DMsGuild content creators the ability to create and distribute content within the Eberron setting.
  • According to the Introduction by Keith Baker, this content is considered a playtest or a draft and therefore is not applicable for official Adventurer’s League use. If an official Eberron product is released, Wayfinders will complement the officially released material according to D&D creative lead, Mike Mearls. Mearls also commented that the product would eventually have a Print-on-Demand option for purchase later.

Initial confusion of the “official” status of Wayfinders as an official D&D resource left fans, and consumers concerned with their purchase of this playtest document.

Previous playtest documents by Wizards have been free in the past. When the official announcement was published, the lack of a playtest description on the official Twitter and Facebook posts felt misleading. At the time of this article, official Wizards staff have clarified that Wayfinder’s Guide to Eberron is indeed a playtest document and the DMsGuild product includes this detail.

There is an “if” in front of the possibility for an Eberron print product with a clarification of additional content in THAT product with Wayfinder to complement it. You’re paying for two products, one that is not an official product that is labeled as a living playtest document (until otherwise), and then the probable (but not guaranteed) Eberron product.

Warning Signs?

Playtest documents for tabletop RPGs tend to change, as with the case of Wizard’s Unearthed Arcana column where some content was adjusted from player feedback. The practice to buy playtests seems to secure capital from dedicated die-hard fans possibly to ensure a quality product. The video game industry suffered backlash to Early Access business models for games due to extended production times and incomplete work with some games suffering from the inability to fulfill expectations. The practice has become unpopular, with many developers returning to traditional development timelines.

This Early Access practice has been seen with Paizo’s Pathfinder 2nd Edition playtest where prospective fans can purchase physical hardcover copies of the material. Paizo is a leading competitor for Wizards of the Coast on tabletop RPGs, though there are no sales figures to make any conclusions, the initial hype from the 2nd Edition announcement was met with enthusiasm.

Ultimately, Monday was supposedly Wizard of the Coast’s big day to shine and present their newest offerings. Instead, half of the surprise was leaked prematurely, and the other half was miscommunicated to the fans but before over a thousand copies were sold. One cannot help but feel somewhat entertained by the mishaps this Monday, the 23rd of July. Nonetheless, I am excited about the latest offerings and look forward to Ravnica and the future of Eberron.

Gnine Gnomes your Game Gneeds

Gnome is one of my favourite Dungeons & Dragons races. I’ve played a gnome druid in a couple of one-shots, and I played as a gnome warlock in a Planescape mini-campaign.

Actually, I think everyone likes gnomes because the group I dungeon master for has had three gnome player characters as well as a number of svirfneblin (deep gnome) non-player companions.

 

I’ve made a list of Gnine Gnomes your Game Gneeds, so now everyone gets a gnome. You could use these as concepts for player characters or DMPCs non-player characters.

1. The gnome who always talks to animals.

This gnome prefers the company of small forest creatures over other humanoids. If you choose the forest gnome subrace, you automatically gain the ability to talk to small animals, so it wouldn’t matter what class you choose. However, I reckon it would make the most sense for this character to be a druid, ranger or barbarian.

2. The gnome who is always making contraptions.

This gnome is always working on a new invention during downtime. Rock gnomes can make a few simple mechanical devices. If your group is okay with it, I would suggest choosing a spellcasting class and re-flavouring each spell as a contraption. Invisible servant becomes an automaton, mage hand becomes go-go-gadget-hand, et cetera.

3. The gnome with the golden gun.

Because why the hell gnot? Actually, check if your group is okay with this one too, because, let’s face it, guns could really break the mood of some games. You could use the gunsmith subclass from the artificer playtest material or you could use Matt Mercer’s gunslinger class. I let one of my players go with the gunsmith, but maybe I shouldn’t have. If you do manage to convince everyone this is okay, I’d highly recommend saying that the gun is encrusted in gems and shoots slugs.

4. The thief who is just a little bit magical.

Choose the forest gnome for their ability to cast minor illusion. Another other option is to go svirf and choose the svirf magic feat. With either of these options, you can work your way up to a level 20 rogue (a.k.a. super sneaky boi) who is also just a little bit magical.

5. The gnome with a silly gname.

Gnomes often have ridiculously long, funny-sounding names. When you’re making your character, ask everyone in your life to put a few words into a hat. Pull a few out in a random order and stick them together to make your gnomish gname. Everyone is going to love Spongespindle Wafflebadger.

6. The gnome who likes to do jokes and pranks.

I think either a rogue with the arcane trickster subclass or an illusionist wizard would lend itself to gnomish mischief.

7. The gnome sculptor.

This gnome is a bard from the college of whispers, who sculpts small, grotesque effigies of others in order to mess with their minds, playing on every insecurity.

8. The gnome who the rest of the party doesn’t know about.

This character is probably a svirfneblin rogue using the svirfneblin magic feat. This gnome might be secretly following the party in order to protect them and keep them out of trouble. Or they might be stalking them, looking for the perfect moment for an ambush.

9. The gnome who makes traps.

If the rest of your group is okay with it, you could choose a spellcasting class and reflavour some spells (eg. acid splash, poison spray, web) to represent traps.

 

9 Reasons Why Githyanki and Githzerai are identical

It’s an unending war between two cosmic races… who are exactly the same. You may tell me that the githyanki are chaotic evil raiders from the Astral Plane, totally different from the lawful neutral githzerai monks of Limbo, but just how different are they?

1. The githyanki and the githzerai are both descended from the slaves of mind flayers. (They parted ways soon after they freed themselves.)
2. Both the githyanki and the githzerai are focussed on hunting down the remaining mind flayers.
3. Mind flayers are about the only thing they hate more than each other.
4. Both races have psionic abilities that they received from their former masters.
5. Each of the gith races is ruled by an ancient, powerful figure – an ancestral hero from the war against the mind flayers.
6. In both cases, the leader is so ancient that it’s not entirely clear whether they are alive or dead.
7. In both cases, the leader’s immense age means that they’re dependent on their followers.
8. Both races expect the return of a long-departed hero – a kind of gith Jesus.
9. Both believe in a promise of paradise in the afterlife.

If you are using the gith races in your adventure, you should do everything you can to show how ridiculously similar they are to each other, but how much they hate each other all the same.

One of the ways that the two races are differentiated in Mordenkainen’s Tome of Foes is in the way their leaders are portrayed. Both are depicted straddling the boundary between life and death. It’s suggested that Vlaakith, tyrant of the githyanki, is actually consuming the souls of those who’ve ‘ascended’ to paradise. Menyar-Ag, leader of the githzerai, is portrayed as an ancient master whose psionic strength keeps him vital as his decrepit body withers away. He’s dependent on his disciples to care for his physical body. I would suggest finding ways to give the impression that Menyar-Ag is no different to his githyanki counterpart, and that he may also be consuming the souls of his followers. (It doesn’t have to be solid evidence, just enough to make your players suspicious.)

This would also muddy up the alignment of the githzerai, suggesting that their leader, if not the race in general, is actually evil. You could also suggest that their lawful nature is just a facade. Maybe their practice of stabilising Limbo is a metaphor for the stabilisation of their own chaotic nature? Every now and then, you could have a githzerai’s calm exterior crack, revealing the chaos that lies within.

Think of these two races as sects of the same religion, who have a violent disagreement about how many celestials can dance on the head of a pin. It’s a darkly comical way of saying that we may be just the same as the people who go to war against.

If you want to learn more about the gith, pick up a copy of Mordenkainen’s Tome of Foes.

Mordenkainen’s Bestiary: More Humanoids

I’ve recently been reading through Mordenkainen’s Tome of Foes and reviewing the content here. A couple of weeks ago I wrote about the elves and duergar featured in the bestiary section of the book. Today I’m looking at the bestiary’s remaining humanoids.

Derro

The derro have already been featured in Out of the Abyss, but in Tome of Foes we get more information about their gods and their origins. Since they’re inclined toward insanity, there’s a random table for describing the nature of a derro’s madness. There are also some small changes to the derro stat blocks, which make the derro savant a little more distinct.

Giff

There was a lot of excitement when it was revealed that the giff would be included in Tome of Foes. They’re eccentric and regimented hippos who love their guns. I don’t think regular guns fit too well in Dungeons & Dragons, but I wouldn’t say the giff’s guns are very overpowered. Any player character who manages to get their hands on a giff firearm is going to also need to find a way to get ammunition and gunpowder in order to use it, so I don’t think it’s likely to warp the feel of the game a lot.

Gith

Tome of Foes has a whole chapter on the gith, which I plan to review next week. The bestiary also provides us with stat blocks for five new kinds of gith. I think the githzerai that are included here are most interesting. The anarch is a githzerai whose psionic abilities allow them to stabilise an area of the plane of Limbo in order to establish githzerai colonies. While in their colony they can access a number of lair actions, including casting lightning bolt with the ability to modify the damage type. They also have a number of legendary actions, including the ability to reverse gravity. The other githzerai in the bestiary is the enlightened, who has the ability to punch an opponent a little way into the future.

Meazel

These don’t come across to me as a very strong concept, but they appear to be descended from people who’ve gone to the Shadowfell to dwell on their misery. It seems like they sneak up on people and drag them into the Shadowfell for stronger creatures to deal with. Why do they do that? I guess they’re just hateful and misanthropic?

Nagpa

These folks were once elven mages who plotted against the Raven Queen. She turned them into hunch-backed vulture-people. Now they can only acquire new knowledge and power from dead societies, so they plot behind the scenes to destroy societies. They’re equipped with a lot of spells that they can use to get others to do their dirty work.

Skulk

These humanoids are travellers who have lost their identity while wandering the Shadowfell. They’re normally invisible, except to children, so Mordenkainen says that a child’s imaginary friend could actually be a skulk. A summoned skulk can take on some of the summoner’s appearance. As a dungeon master, I like the idea of using having a villain who uses a summoned skulk to do their dirty work, because the skulk’s appearance (if the player characters are able to see it, or get a description from someone who can) could help lead them to the summoner.

By Chris Booth Twitter  Instagram  Website

Call to Adventure: “Betrayal at Death House”

An Adventure Hook Written By: Dice Prophet

Introduction

Can your players survive a night trapped within a haunted mansion? Will they check out in the morning or will they extend their stay indefinitely? Test their fledgling ghost-busting skills in this macabre mystery for Dungeons & Dragons 5th Edition!

This unpredictable dungeon crawl is intended for a party of four to five 3rd level adventurers and can serve as an alternative to the introductory “Appendix B: Death House” mission from the “Curse of Strahd” (page 211 or this link) official campaign. It can also be adapted to any horror-themed setting.

Setup

The main premise of this haunted house is that the layout is created as the party explores it. In order to implement the map auto-generation mechanic you will need map tiles from a board game called “Betrayal at House on the Hill.” To keep things simple, you will only need the following sets (see image below):

  1. Starting Area → contains the Entrance Hall, Foyer, and Grand Staircase
  2. Upper Landing
  3. Stack of universal tiles (can be a Basement, Ground, or Upper tile)
  4. Basement Landing
  5. Stack of Upper tiles
  6. Stack of Ground tiles
  7. Stack of Basement tiles

All the PCs begin at the Entrance Hall in the Starting Area (example of a four-person party shown below).

Development

Whenever a character explores a new room (i.e. they pass through a door for the first time), draw the first tile from the appropriate stack and place it in a way that connects adjacent passageways. Sometimes a door will lead into a wall, but that’s okay. It’s a haunted house; it doesn’t need to make 100% sense. To handle movement and exploration, treat each room as a 15ft x 15ft chamber (see diagram below), and any additional terrain modifications (low/high ceiling, difficult terrain, obstacles, etc.) are at the Dungeon Master’s discretion.


After a few turns the game board could look something like this (consult the configuration example below).

  1. The elf rogue stayed on the ground level and found the Dining Room. Judging by the putrid scent and gore stains on the tablecloths, she discerns that something horrific happened here.
  2. The human fighter hit a dead end at the Graveyard and plans to regroup with the rogue.
  3. The gnome druid rummaged the upstairs area and found the Mystic Elevator! Now she can travel to and from any room using its teleporting abilities!
  4. After accidentally falling down a Coal Chute and into the basement, the halfling wizard found a room strewn with junk. Maybe he can find something useful in this mess.

 

Special Events

Some of these rooms have special text on them that can be either incorporated into gameplay or ignored entirely at the Dungeon Master’s behest. For example, if a player draws a tile with the words “You can attempt a Speed Roll of 3+ to cross. If you fall, stop moving.” consider forcing the player character to roll an Athletics (Strength) Check DC 20 or take fall damage.

Another set of special events are: Items, Events, and Haunts. These are denoted by a Ram Skull, Spiral, and Raven icon respectively (see example set below) in the bottom right-hand corner. The general rule for resolving these special situations are thus:

  • ITEM (Ram Skull)
    • The first player to enter this room finds a special item that is relevant to the plot.
    • This can be a powerful magic weapon, plot-critical MacGuffin, or something that explains more of the background and histories of the paranormal event.
    • For example, in an alternative Death House scenario, an Item room may contain the cultists robes, along with the letter from Strahd voicing his displeasure with their activities.
  • EVENT (Spiral)
    • These are random occurrences and challenges that allow for a sense of spontaneity and unpredictability.
    • These can include random combat encounters with undead, conversations with angry spirits, sudden environmental dangers, or horrific visions.
    • For example, in an altered Death House scenario, an Event can bring the party into contact with the midwife’s specter, whose soul was unable to find rest after she was stabbed to death.
  • HAUNT (Raven)
    • Use this moment to progress the plot. These are the story beats that represent an escalation of tension and urgency. Each one makes the situation more intense and dire.
    • For example, in a modified Death House scenario, each Haunt triggers an encounter with the remnants of the cultists, and reveals more of the mansion’s bloody past. After an arbitrary amount of Haunts (DM’s decision) occur, allow the party in finally meet Rose and Thorn’s spirits.

Call to Adventure: “Pursuit of Knowledge”

An Adventure Hook Written By: Dice Prophet

Type: Dungeon, Puzzles, Riddles

System: D&D 5th Edition or Pathfinder

Ideal Party Size: 4-6

Recommended Levels: 3-5

Introduction

There comes a time in every adventurer’s career when they simply do not possess the required facts in order to complete a quest. Perhaps a key factoid is considered strictly forbidden or the last person who would’ve known died centuries ago? Thankfully, sphinxes are known to acquire vast knowledge throughout their long and storied existences, and can even be persuaded to share that information with others. Unfortunately, these magical immortal beasts can also be fickle and ferocious. In this adventure, a party of experienced travelers gambles their lives in the pursuit of forbidden knowledge. To succeed, they must pass a series of devious riddles.

Setup

This mission is centered around a gynosphinx, which is the female variant of the mythical species. Physically, they are composed of a human woman’s head atop the body of a lion with falcon wings. For the D&D 5th Edition statistics, refer to page 282 of the Monster Manual or this link. For the Pathfinder version, consult page 257 of Bestiary #1 or this link.

The purpose of the adventure is to wrangle some plot-relevant information from their target, not slay it. (Although the PCs can certainly try and suffer the likely lethal consequences.) The specifics of the sphinx’s personality are subject to change at DM’s discretion, but at the very least they must be willing to parlay with the party after succeeding the cloister of trials.

Development

The sphinx’s lair is a four-level descending dungeon in which the party must overcome and solve a variety of challenges. Allow the PCs to try out solutions before feeding them clues. The goal is to help them solve the puzzles themselves, not give them the answer once they roll high enough. The following encounters can be easily modified or changed entirely in order to fit your campaign setting and game mastering style.

Level B1: Gate Guardian

In order to enter the sphinx’ lair, they must first request access, and then contend with the guardian. Within a sand-filled room there is single hole on the ceiling from which descends a pillar of light upon the carved marble statue of a gynosphinx. The eyes are missing; in their place there are a pair of circular indents. There are also words chiseled into the figure’s base which read:

“Knowledge is a double-edged sword. Do you seek it nonetheless?”

The players simply have to answer, “Yes” to begin the first challenge. The light will cease, shrouding the environment to complete darkness. Some hidden rooms will open, dumping additional sand into the room. And one of these spaces houses a creature composed of animated sand. This creature is based upon the amphisbaena, and is a snake with a head on each end. Here are the stats for the Pathfinder and homebrew D&D 5e versions.

The sand snake contains a red jewel within each of its two heads. Once defeated in combat, the slithering construct dissipates, leaving behind the two gems with which they can unlock the entrance. Place the gems into the sphinx statue’s eyeholes to continue.

Level B2: Welcoming Party

The path downward takes them to a hallway filled with undead. These can be simple skeletons (D&D/Pathfinder) and zombies (D&D/Pathfinder). Another statuesque sentinel stands before the PCs, but this time its base is inscribed with the words:

“Those with blood of red shall join the dead. Those of a different shade will not be delayed.”

The undead spring into action and begin swarming the party. The PCs can either defeat the large swarm through attrition or solve the riddle to avoid risking injury. The “different shade” is a metaphor for “blue blood,” indicating nobility. Sphinxes are proud creatures after all, and will not grant an audience to anyone they deem of a lesser make. To successfully pass unhindered, those with blood ties to someone in authority (village chief, feudal lord, guard captain, etc.) must declare their heritage openly. If none of them have noble lineage, they can attempt a Bluff or Deception (Charisma) DC 20.

Level B3: Sinking Feeling

Beyond the hall of undeath stands a perfectly flat and pristine pit of sand. The top layer is perfectly smooth; not a single grain appears to have been disturbed. The same sphinx figure emerges from the center of the area as if magically sculpted from the surrounding material. This one reads:

“The fear that gives you wings shall also send you to the depths.

Whenever the players walk upon the sand, it will feel as if unseen hands are grasping them and pulling downwards, increasing in force with each progressive tug. The PCs subsequent efforts to remain afloat and the enchanted sand’s attempts to pull them through will result in a hapless character eventually getting stuck until they inevitably suffocate to death. To cross over to the other side, one must stand on the sand and relax; let go of the fear that makes you want to move up. The invisible force will gently pull them through the secret passage and into the final chamber within 30 seconds.

Level B4: Numbers Game

In the final room, the party finally comes face-to-face with the gynosphinx. She will beckon to them with one last challenge. If they can prove themselves worthy of her time, she will give them the information they seek. The win conditions are either to reduce her to half hit points, or solve the following riddle during combat.

“I shall divide you and conquer. When I was in my prime, I was untouchable.”

The room is a 50 ft. by 50 ft. chamber with balconies jutting out at all four corners at 20 ft. elevations. The sphinx can easily fly between the platforms to harass the players from afar. If provoked, it will land on the ground level to engage in melee. The floor is segmented like titles, and a closer inspection of the surrounding walls indicates that the rows and columns are labeled with numbers.

To be untouchable and thus unbeatable, stand upon the tiles in which a prime number would be inscribed. The prime numbers between 1-100 are 2, 3, 5, 7, 11, 13, 17, 19, 23, 29, 31, 37, 41, 43, 47, 53, 59,61, 67, 71, 73, 79, 83, 89, 97. These numbers are tinted red on the sample map below.

The darkened borders on the 5 and 6 squares indicate the entrance points to the final room. The optionally greyed out regions indicate areas in which the ground has caved in from impact or the passage of time, forming lethal drops into a black void. Once all players are standing on the correct positions on a 10 x 10 grid, the test is passed.

Conclusion

Upon completing the final task, the gynosphinx agrees to converse with the party and divulges whatever information they were seeking. If the ensuing conversation goes favorable, consider gifting them with magical loot taken from the previous visitors, who expired in the final test and thus have no further use for their gear.

Call to Adventure: “Garden of Stone”

An Adventure Hook Written By: Dice Prophet

Type: Dungeon Dive, Hunting Quest, Wilderness Exploration, Rescue Mission

System: D&D 5th Edition or Pathfinder

Ideal Party Size: 4-6

Recommended Level: 3-5

Introduction

In this adventure, a routine monster hunting quest becomes deathly complicated as the party encounters uncovers an unusual alliance! A gargoyle band, along with their bizarre pets, have enacted a reign of terror!  Will the heroes break through the enemy lines, or will the monuments of their failures stand for all time?

Read the following flavor text to the PCs at the beginning of the quest:

“A month ago, a dreaded basilisk was spotted roaming the nearby canyon and turning hapless travelers into stone! And although several trained hunters were dispatched to end the slinking reptilian menace, none of them have returned!

Investigate the canyon and slay this beast! We offer a 1000 gold piece reward for whomever returns with this creature’s hide. An additional reward will be provided for any travelers rescued from the petrification process.”

Setup

The simple-minded basilisk (consult page 24 of the Monster Manual for more information) is a merely patrolling the canyon and searching for food; it transforms its prey into stone with its magical gaze and feasts upon their frozen bodies at its leisure. This particular creature has been raised in captivity and is capable of obeying simple commands from its owners. But who are these shadowy puppet masters?

The true villains are a tribe of vicious gargoyles (also referred to as a “nastiness”) that have take refuge in the earthen labyrinth. Page 140 of the Monster Manual will give you more information about these winged stone monsters. They lurk among the strewn-about humanoid pillars created by their pet, making them nearly impossible to detect. Whatever their faithful serpent fails to petrify, they brutally slaughter. Feel free to adjust the number of gargoyles present to the desired difficulty (2-3 for medium and 4-5 for hard).

The nastiness is exploiting the presence of a hungry and all-consuming black pudding to dispose of the evidence of their misdeeds. This monster’s statistics are found on page 241 of the Monster Manual or at this link. This creature does not understand anything and acts purely on instinct. The fact that the gargoyles are unaffected by its caustic nature is purely coincidental.

Development

The canyon is an expansive multi-tier dungeon with several places in which the players and monsters can hide. Traversal is difficult and frequently requires challenges such as Athletics (Strength) to scale cliffs and Survival (Wisdom) to avoid getting lost.

When they first arrive, allow them to briefly explore the premises and drop hints about the true enemy. Eventually, bring them into contact with the basilisk. Then surprise them with a gargoyle ambush. After that, the PCs become the hunted, and must evade, outsmart, and overcome their nefarious pursuers. Allow the outcomes of the pursuits to unfold organically through opposed checks such as Stealth (Dexterity) vs. Perception (Wisdom) and role-play.

Secret: The Master’s Quarters

But where did these creatures come from? If the PCs successfully explore and investigate their surroundings they will find a secret path into a wizard’s chambers at the heart of canyon. The nameless reclusive spellcaster had long-since expired from some unknown happenstance, but his familiar (the basilisk) and his sentries (the gargoyles) lingered behind. Over the years, the guardians grew bored and took to terrorizing the locals to pass the time. Use the wizard’s quarters as a means of rewarding the perceptive and inquisitive party with magical loot for their troubles.

Optional Objective: Rescuing NPCs

Throughout the adventure, the players can attempt to rescue anyone who has been petrified but hasn’t been killed or eaten yet. This can be accomplished by applying basilisk gullet oil, or through alternative magical means. As long as vital parts are still attached to the afflicted the de-petrification will yield a viable character.

The specific nature of each of these NPCs is up to Dungeon Master’s discretion. If they are having too much trouble, perhaps grant them a powerful ally who could help turn the tide against the gargoyles? Maybe one of the people they rescue yield a larger reward due to their higher social status? This could lead to other plot developments down the line. Experiment with the idea and have fun with it!