Start the New Year with Some New RPGs

By Jacky Leung     Twitter

It’s the New Year and what a great time to play new roleplaying games or try new systems. But starting a new RPG rules system can be costly, especially many hardcover books can set you back roughly $50 USD or more. Even with the advent of digital books and PDFs, those can still set you back almost $20 USD and up. Such an investment can sometimes be a deterrent for curious RPG players to acquire these new systems. Also, the time it would take for at least one of the players to become acquainted with the rulesets to introduce it to their playgroup presents a temporal investment. Luckily, some publishers have created starter kits or quick play kits to help interested parties learn the basics of a rules system, and even present a short scenario that can be played within a game night. Here are some RPG rule systems that offer starter kits, where to buy them, and what each of them entails to get started on your New RPG Year.

Dungeons & Dragons

Dungeons & Dragons 5th Edition currently has a system reference document that presents all of the basic rules of the game freely available for consumption and play. Thankfully, Wizards of the Coast has their D&D Starter Kit: Mines of Phandelver product to help introduce players to the world’s greatest roleplaying game. Inside, you will find pre-generated character sheets, an adventure, some dice, and a rules booklet. The Starter Set will only set you back rough $20 USD, which is not a bad way to go for your first introduction into D&D.

You can learn more about the product & where to purchase your copy under the Wizards of the Coast product link here.

Call of Cthulhu

Chaosium, Inc’s Call of Cthulhu has reached the pinnacle of Lovecraftian horror and mystery wrapped neatly in an RPG that has investigators combating against various eldritch monsters. Utilizing a d100 dice system, where the goal is to roll up to your statistic or below or risk failure, and in some let’s not forget losing sanity. This Starter Set was recently released in late 2018 and offers a plethora of resources to help playgroups dive into their first adventure. The box contains an introductory adventure to help players become acquainted with the rules and three starter adventures with additional handouts. There’s a rules booklet, blank investigator sheets, six sets of dice, and also five pre-generated characters. According to the product description, the box set offers over twenty hours of gameplay. The Call of Cthulhu Starter Set will cost your playgroup $25 USD, which is a fraction of the $110 USD to acquire both the Investigators Handbook and Keeper Handbook.

If you have ever been curious about delving into the world of Lovecraft’s mythos and losing your sanity, you can find more using the product link here.

Warhammer Fantasy

Cubicle 7’s latest edition of Warhammer Fantasy has brought new life to the grimdark fantasy setting with polished mechanics and innovative character creation. Unlike your typical higher fantasy settings, Warhammer has players part of the common folk that may rise to call, but they are ultimately mortal like everything else when combating against deadly creatures and ancient powers. You can be a human villager or even a huffer (a sort of river warden), and even the invocation of magic is not always reliable. The game utilizes a variant of the d100 system but with the resources to provide fast rolls to adjust the game to fit your storytelling needs. At the time of this article, the Warhammer Fantasy Starter Set is currently available as a preorder with an intended release date in the first quarter of 2019. The starter set is sold for $30 USD and includes advantage tokens, rules references, pre-generated characters, and a simple GM screen. The Adventure Book provided offers an excellent starting point for new players to the game, with additional pages for experienced players and scenarios to your games. There is also a 60-page guidebook to the setting of Ubersreik with a plethora of adventure hooks, locations, NPCs, and lore of the region. According to the product description, this starter set can “keep your WFRP group busy for months.”

You can learn more about the product and the Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay game in the provided link here.

Vampire: the Masquerade

Vampire: the Masquerade broke ground in 1991 as the game vampire of political intrigue and horror in a world of darkness. Across the years, the game has evolved and changed with the current Vampire: the Masquerade 5th Edition (V5) released by White Wolf Publishing in August 2018, and the release of the V20 Anniversary Edition from Onyx Path Publishing in 2011. Vampire is typically a mature game that often deals with serious and disturbing themes, as the players assume the roles of nocturnal bloodsucking vampires. The game utilizes a d10 dice pool system based on a combination of attributes and skills while promoting narrative agency for the players.

Presently, there is no V5 Starter Set, but there is a free PDF Quickstart available for free distribution by Modiphius Entertainment. You can read my review on the new Vampire 5th Edition here. You can download the Vampire V5 Quickstarter with the provided link here.

Alternatively, you can use the ruleset that has become polished and refined from the original edition. The V20 Anniversary Edition is the original Masquerade experience, and if you get the V20 Starter Kit from DriveThurRPG, you get several other books which include the V20 Lore & Clans book, the V20 Companion, pre-generated characters, a V20 ST Screen, and the Dust to Dust adventure book. The bundle typically retails for $75 USD for the digital PDFs, but this set will only set your group back $48 USD at the time of this article. You can purchase the PDF V20 Starter Set with the provided link here.

Star Trek Adventures

You and your fellow players command a mighty starship set in the world of Star Trek universe. Utilizing the 2d20 rules system from Modiphius Entertainment, Star Trek Adventures allows the players to explore strange new worlds, find new life, and boldly go where no one has gone before. The book is primarily set during a turbulent time for Starfleet, centered on the Dominion crisis from Deep Space Nine to the pretext that would start the Voyager series. You will find a catalog of content for gamemasters and players new or familiar with the franchise. The rules and the game allow you to create your own Star Trek series.

Presently, there is no boxed starter set, but there is a free PDF Quickstart which provides a quick 30-page introduction of the game mechanics, the setting, six pre-generated characters, and a short, self-contained adventure. You can find the Quickstart in the link provided here.

Star Wars Roleplaying Game

Want to dive into a galaxy full of lightsabers, blasters, starfighter dogfights, and the best scum & villainy possible? Fantasy Flight Games established a series of Star Wars products as part of their Star Wars Roleplaying Game system that utilizes a new narrative-dice driven system that would later fall under the umbrella called the Genesys system. Under the Star Wars banner, Fantasy Flight Games presents three standalone games for different character types. Edge of Empire for the smugglers, bounty hunters, and pirates; Age of Rebellion for the rebel soldiers and freedom fighters during the Galatic Civil War against the Empire; and Force and Destiny for playing the last of the Jedi during the reign of the Empire. Each game genre has a Beginner Game that will only set you back $30 USD, providing a 32-page adventure booklet, a 48-page rules booklet, four pre-generated characters, several unique Genesys dice, and tokens.

You can purchase the Star Wars Beginner Games in the following links:

City of Mist

Ever imagine being something mythical or legendary in a previous life? Heroes, monsters, and deities are reborn as mortals but remain tethered to their mythical egos. In City of Mist, players assume the roles of ordinary humans who have a legendary Mythos awakened inside them, where now they must balance a normal life and a world of magic. The game offers a noir investigative feel but set in the tone of the supernatural. If you’re a fan of the Dresden Files or the October Daye series, this is an RPG for you to consider. Using the Powered by the Apocalypse system, Son of Oak Game Studio has elevated the mechanics to incorporate worldbuilding, themes, and produced a sophisticated character creation system.

The PDF Starter Set is available for free through email subscription on the City of Mist free downloads page. The PDF Starter Set includes the basic rules, seven pre-generated characters, four sample crew themes, and additional player aids. You can go to the provided link to snag your Starter Set here.

Best of Encounter Roleplay

Want something to binge before the new season starts or still need to catch up? Great news! You can find everything over on our youtube.

Here are some of our top picks of the playlists:

DUNGEONS AND DRAGONS
From the modules to Kobold Press’ Midgard setting, we got you covered!

Curse of Strahd

Tomb of Annihilation

Waterdeep: Dragon Heist

The World Tree Burns Season 1 & Season 2

CALL OF CTHULHU (Full 2017-2018 Campaign)

The brand new Masks of Nyarlathotep campaign will continue this season live every Wednesday and if that isn’t enough content for you there’s the return of our podcast Tomes and Tentacles.

Horror on the Orient Express

Masks of Nyarlathotep

Nameless Horrors

Doors to Darkness

WARHAMMER FANTASY

Gritty fantasy with grimdark heresy and warpstone mutations.

(2E) Beneath Dark Boughs

(4E)The Great Conspiracy

CITY OF MIST

The King’s Hustle continues this season! Take a dive into a world that blends noir, mythos and superpowers together.

Larkspur Sequence

New Season starts Monday 7th of January! Looking for a way to join in the fun? We run weekly viewer games as well as post about other opportunities on our twitter and discord.

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.

8 Reasons Mind Flayers Still Rule the Multiverse

You’ve heard it said that the mind flayers (a.k.a. illithids) once ruled the multiverse, until they were overthrown and decimated by their gith slaves. But what if I told you that they’re still in control, manipulating everything from behind the scenes?

1. Mind flayers (as presented in the Monster Manual) are too weak to have ever had a multiplanar empire.

Sure, they can use their psionics to cast dominate monster, but they can only do that once per day, and may not succeed. Even an elder brain can only cast it once per day.

2. That said, they might make smart use of guerrilla tactics.

A lone mind flayer who sneaks up on a victim to try and mind control them could planeshift away before being seen if they fail. The victim would just get a creepy feeling that something’s been probing their brain. Not empire-building material though.

3. It takes an illithid a day to make a thrall. 

Volo’s Guide to Monsters says that if they have the opportunity to spend 24 hours gently mindblasting another creature, they can eventually turn that creature into a thrall. But that’s still not exactly efficient. It’s no way to rule the planes.

4. These are fake mind flayers.

I suggest that the mind flayers I’m describing are just decoys, a distraction from more powerful mind flayers who are controlling things from behind the scenes. Making the world thing that your species is weak and close to extinction would be a perfect way of hiding.

5. The illithid empire never ended.

Volo’s Guide questions how the gith could have possibly overthrown their illithid masters, pointing out that no ruins of the illithid empire can be found in the Astral Plane they ruled from. Volo’s suggestion is that they may have transported their empire into the future. Maybe the illithid empire is just moments away?

6. You just don’t remember them when they’re out of sight.

Alternatively, maybe the real mind flayers have an ability similar to the Silence from Doctor Who, meaning that anyone who sees them is unable to remember them? Maybe they’re constantly present, but never remembered?

7. Perhaps the gith never actually liberated themselves?

Maybe the mind flayers noticed that their slaves were looking for opportunities to rebel and created false memories of a revolution? Maybe they sowed conflict among the gith so they would fight amongst themselves, not realising they are still enslaved? (Volo’s Guide says that when an elder brain infiltrates someone’s mind, it can alter their perception.) My theory is that the warring gith races are actually the same, but the mind flayers give the githyanki a higher dose of testosterone.

8. There are also clues that the mind flayers still control the duergar.

Volo’s Guide talks about the mind flayers giving their slaves metal implants (eg. flensing claws). In Mordenkainen’s Tome of Foes we see that some of the duergar have new body mods. Maybe these are the result of continuing mind flayer experiments? We also see that the psionic abilities that the mindflayers gave them are continuing to develop…

A couple of months ago I ran Rrakkma!, an adventure that pits a party of gith against mind flayers, trying to stop them from enslaving the gith race again. My party of four gith ended up dying in the final stage of the adventure, and the mind flayers ended up enslaving the gith once again. This got me thinking about how it would be cool run an adventure where the rulers of the multiverse once again, and the gith have to stage another revolution. But then I thought, maybe the mind flayers would try to make the gith think they were free, while secretly pulling the puppet strings? If you wanted, you could run a campaign where everything seems normal, but players gradually figure out that the world is being secretly controlled by the mind flayers.

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.

Mistborne Souls – Session Fifteen: The Living Soul

By: Sandra – Twitter

Can’t find last week’s recap? Sadly, because of an update, some posts are temporarily lost and waiting to be recovered. Apologies for the inconvenience.

Mistborne Souls is a weekly recap of an ongoing game set in the land of Barovia. While Curse of Strahd lies at its core, the world of Mistborne Souls is a variation of the adventure of my own making.

 

While making their way down the mountainside toward Krezk, Artem asks Asha if she knows anything about golems made with “priest magic”. Asha says that she doesn’t, she hasn’t even heard of a golem before, but Izi has. Having noticed that Artem’s concept of magic isn’t as broad as her own, Izi explains the different types of magic and how they’re not always limited to one type of spellcaster. She says that druids, wizards, warlocks and clerics are like “jobs” for magic wielders and that it’s the source of their magic that differs. Since Artem believes that Izi is a druid, Izi uses this to explain that she can use some of the same magic, but that her power comes from her fey patron. Izi says that a lot of different types of magic go into making a golem, and she believes that a priest with enough power probably could.

Artem tells the others that she has someone she wants to visit and the group part ways. At the cottage Asha helps tidy up and set the table while Izi and Wynne help Anna with getting the animals fed and settled for the evening.
Down the road Artem arrives at a small cottage belonging to Janek, an old acquaintance of hers that used to work for the Martikovs at the Wizard of Wines, and his partner Andrej. The two men are happy to see her and let her inside for tea. She says that she is out travelling because of her father’s death and that she has come to Janek for him to share some of all the stories she knows he has gathered over the years. They talk about the vampire, about Argynvostholt and about some local beliefs from this part of Barovia. When Artem asks about Krezk and the abbey, Andrej lets her know that some villagers believe that the abbey either is the devil count in disguise, or at least in league with it. Before Artem leaves, Andrej says that while the village doesn’t have a church, they do have a shrine to the Morninglord where people sometimes go to pray.

During dinner at the Burgomaster’s cottage Anna gives Artem a letter. She tells the others that it’s from the Baroness but doesn’t give them specific details about its contents. However, she tells the Burgomaster that after the group’s visit to Vallaki, she worries that it’s unstable. The Burgomaster says that she might be right to worry but that he isn’t quite sure if there is anything that he, or any of them, can do about it. As the conversation turns into Artem asking further about life in Krezk, there is a loud knock on the door.
A frantic looking girl tells Anna that she needs to hurry and come because a woman named Dimira is in labour. Anna gathers her supplies and asks Izi to come along and help her. Izi quickly agrees and Asha gets to her feet and offers to help as well.

The birth is long and tiring. Anna and Izi work in quiet concentration, giving Asha orders on what to do and how to help. After several hours they have successfully delivered a healthy baby boy. However, the child doesn’t cry, something that unsettles Izi and Asha. The two attempt to figure out if there is something magical, perhaps a curse, happening but their quiet efforts come up empty.
When they are alone with Anna on their way back to the cottage, Izi asks Anna if she is used to babies not crying. Anna explains that she believes that the child lacks a soul. She tells them that she was brought up with the belief that most Barovians, herself and her husband included, lack souls. It makes them feel things less than people with souls, like the Vistani, and it causes them to not express emotion.

Back at the cottage they find Artem drinking warm apple wine and reading the book they had the abbott dispel the illusion from. Izi asks Artem if she knows anything about what Anna has told them and it’s clear that Artem has a hard time believing it to be true. Anna says that while she has no proof other than what she has been taught, she says she has seen it happen with her own eyes in her children, only one of which had a soul. She says that this isn’t a bad thing, it’s just how things are. Before Anna goes to bed, Izi tells her that she thinks she feels things differently to other people where she’s from too, but that there’s nothing less about people who do..

After Anna says goodnight, Asha asks Artem if at least what Anna said about Barovian children, that most don’t play or laugh or cry, is true. Artem shrugs and says that this is just how it is in Barovia. When Artem seems to not want to speak anymore about the subject, Asha asks about the letter from the Baroness. Artem says that it’s about the missing servants from the Vallakovich household, but that she isn’t sure what the Baroness wants her to do about these issues. The letter also mentions that the Baron is holding a speech in two days time and that the town is in unrest after the group’s visit. Artem says that there are two noble families of Vallaki that might end up battling for power and that she is worried about both families’ plans. Asha suggests that the Baroness might not actually want anything from Artem except someone to confide in.

Following a few moments of silence, Izi asks Artem what she has found in the book and Artem hands it to her to read. Once she finishes, she hands the book to Asha who reads it in silence as well. The text appears to be the beginnings of a memoir, detailing the life and death of Tatyana von Zarovich. She was once a commoner of the land and she was courted by Strahd von Zarovich, a count who ruled over the valley of Barovia. Tatyana however, fell in love with Strahd’s sister Sasja von Zarovich but their love was not to be. Tatyana was betrothed to Strahd, and when she and Sasja attempted to elope on the night before Tatyana’s and Strahd’s wedding, they were caught and Sasja killed. Strahd made Tatyana marry him that night, but when Tatyana found out that Strahd had made a deal with dark powers she ran and hid in the castle. Strahd killed Sasja, and when Tatyana found out, furious, she ambushed Strahd and killed him herself. When she did, the dark powers called to her, convincing her to seal the deal that Strahd had started by drinking his blood. As the castle guards turned against her for killing the count, she turned into a vampire.  

Artem says that they might need to go back to Vallaki for a wedding dress, but in light of the contents of the book, the vampire might not take well to an arranged marriage. As they discuss, Artem suggests that perhaps they can find the ghost of Sasja and make the ghost reason with the vampire to solve their problems. When the others express their doubts on how to hunt a ghost, Artem blames being drunk off the wine for this idea.

In the very early morning Asha awakes to hear Artem frantically speak to someone, asking if they are alive. When Asha asks Artem if she’s okay, Artem tells Asha that it was only a bad dream. Soon enough, they both go back to sleep.

Heading out after breakfast to go visit the Abbey again, Artem feels a strange tug, similar to one she felt near the wall of mist at Yester Hill. She tells the others that she wishes to follow it and they all walk north through the village together. Soon they arrive at a shining pool of water next to a gazebo with a shrine to the Morninglord. When Artem feels herself being called to the water she grabs a hold of Asha’s arm and tells her to not let her go into the water whatever happens.
The others watch as Artem and Asha approach the pool. Artem leans over and looks into it, her expression serene. For several moments she stands perfectly still and then a hand made out of water reaches up through the pool’s surface. Artem looks at the hand, but grabs a tighter hold of Asha and pulls herself back. At this, the sky darkens overhead. A loud thunderclap is heard and lightning strikes the pool. The ground trembles with the impact and everyone but Artem tumbles to the ground. Next to them, they see the old wooden gazebo fall.

And that is where we ended our session.