Forbidden Lands by Free League Publishing Worldwide Release

By Jacky Leung     Twitter

Enjoy the chaotic, the grim yet heroic world of settings such as Conan the Barbarian, John Carter of Mars, or Fire and Ice? What about iconic settings like Dark Sun or Mad Max but with a fantasy twist to do them? What about Netflix’s the Dragon Prince or He-Man and the Masters of the Universe? Strap on your raider’s mask, delve for lost and forgotten treasures from a bygone age and face harrowing adventures in Free League Publishing’s Forbidden Lands, released today for worldwide distribution.

Check out their YouTube trailer:
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WgpOkhsvPvM

Forbidden Lands is a grimdark fantasy tabletop roleplaying game with a detailed history that provides many legends, secrets, and mysteries for players to find and solve. Players will assume roles of the many possible races and creatures that have endured in the Forbidden Lands since the creation of the Iron Lock. Character creation is something that can be a personal choice or randomly generated by dice rolls. Most of the major dice rolls utilize a d3, 2d6, and d66 with the occasional d8, d10, and d12. The d66 is a unique percentile dice, with one die referring to the tens place and the other representing the single digits with results ranging from 11 to 66 as outcomes.

Set in a fantasy world, where elves, dwarves, and humans lived separated by a mountain range called the Divide. After several centuries of peace, war erupted, a powerful sorcerer took over the region north of the Divide, demons poured through a mystical gate which made the area inhospitable. An effort to create a great wall severed the lands to the north from the south which became known as the Forbidden Lands. Travel was made impossible due to the Blood Mist for nearly three centuries until it inexplicably vanished. New opportunities for exploration and conquest have risen, with many secrets of the land hidden, waiting to be discovered. Additionally, the Gamemaster’s Guide provides tips and details about incorporating the game’s mechanics and sandbox campaign setting into your settings and games.

 

The Forbidden Lands boxed set, includes the Player’s and Gamemaster’s Guides


Each character has four primary attributes: Strength, Agility, Wits, and Empathy. A character’s race or “kin” and profession affect their attributes, while each kin entry provides suggested professions they are not necessarily bound to them. A character’s Dark Secret and relationship with the other player characters are essential to developing the bonds of the party to adventure together. There are some remarkably familiar aspects of character creation akin to Cubicle 7’s Warhammer Fantasy RPG 4th Edition except minus the percentile statistics and percentile dice though I found Forbidden Lands to be quick and painless with smaller numbers for attribute and skill assignment.  

The game mechanics can be best described as an admixture of d6 dice pools determined by attribute, skills, and gear. Success is defined by having at least dice result with a 6, while failure is any result with no 6’s rolled. There is a mechanic to allow a character to “push” their rolls, which offers a reroll of any dice that did not come up as a 6 or any 1’s. Any 1’s that appear after pushing your dice can result in wounds, exhaustion, or damaged gear depending on the dice category. It’s heavily suggested that you have three colored sets of d6s, along with a d8, d10, and a d12. The latter group of dice is reserved for magical artifacts that players will come across during their adventures, which are rolled along the gear dice.
Characters in the Forbidden Lands have a varied set of tricks and abilities which are defined as talents, separated by three categories: kin talents, profession talents, and general talents. Kin and Profession talents are more potent than general talents and require the expenditure of Willpower to activate. Willpower is generated whenever a player character pushes on their dice rolls. Each kin has a primary talent, then each profession has a trio of talents to select, and then a more extensive list of general talents. Players may invest ranks into some of these talents to unlock additional features, up to a maximum of rank 3. Casting spells in Forbidden Lands will always happen but require expending Willpower which may have the chance to either overcharge the spell, or the player suffers a magical mishap. Ultimately, the hope is that players will incur riches, boons, reputation, and influence to establish their own stronghold. After all, while the nomadic adventurer’s life can be glamorous, having a safe place to return after an excursion is always lovely.

Many creatures, dangers, and mysteries wait in the Forbidden Lands

The setting brings many unexplored horizons, taking less the role of heroes and more of individuals thriving under a dark regime. While delving into the material, the inclusion of additional legends and backstories for the players during character creation enrich the experience and the setting.  Especially if the group decides to go the alternative character creation route which includes a randomized generation of race and professions. This is a game about thriving in a bleak existence where evil reigns but vast treasures from centuries ago lie hidden and forgotten by time. When players tally experience for their characters, it’s in the form of a questionnaire (you’ll find this familiar with games like Tales from the Loop), as the premise stems from the idea of the characters learning from their adventures to become wiser and smarter. Additionally, your character’s pride, dark secrets, and relationships are free to be changed across gameplay which provides a profound metaphor on the nature of growth and development.

You can find Free League Publishing’s Forbidden Lands in their storefront here: http://frialigan.se/en/store/?collection_id=84541866032

Additionally, Free League Publishing also launched the Raven’s Purge Campaign Book which as an epic campaign module for Forbidden Lands that can have a profound influence over the region. Unlike traditional story modules, there are no clear objectives but plenty of material for legends, locales, and individuals to interact.

Bring Some Scares with These Horror RPGs

It’s October, and everything has become dark and spooky, so why not your tabletop roleplaying games? There are a plethora of games written to bring and maximize the essence of horror, with many of these games touching on different aspects of the genre. Some of the RPGs on this list will be familiar, but hopefully, there will be something here to bring the scare for your Halloween game night. So prepare some candles, turn down the lights, and get ready to be spooky.

Call of Cthulhu

Lovecraftian horror deserves mention as a genre that truly gets under your skin and sometimes leaves you a little insane. Chaosium, Inc.’s 7th Edition of this iconic game expands on the Cthulhu mythos, implementing a system where investigators become exposed to eldritch horrors, ancient forbidden truths through the Necronomicon, and die horrifically against the Great Old Ones. Most Call of Cthulhu settings take place during the turn of the century of the Industrial Revolution, but there are additional variants such as Pulp Cthulhu that brings it close to the Atomic Age with secret organizations, spies, and other deadly dangers. Lovecraft’s atmosphere along with Chaosium’s expanded Cthulhu mythos resonates into this wonderful tale of suspense and horror.

If you’re interested in learning how to create your Call of Cthulhu character, we have you covered with some quick and easy tutorial videos.

Dread

Dread is an indie narrative survival-horror RPG that does not utilize any dice mechanics or stats, but instead, players resolve their actions through a tower of wooden blocks that entirely resemble a Jenga tower. Instead of character sheets, players have character questionnaires tailored by their game masters for the particular scenario. What I love and enjoy about this game comes from the physical and emotional sensation of dread that builds throughout the game, because if the tower falls, the last player to touch it has their character suffer a tragic and possibly horrible end. The book itself provides useful tips, advice, and strategies to create your own scenarios, player expectations, and how to formulate your questionnaires. Additionally, there are four scenarios provided with pre-generated questionnaires. This is a great game to introduce someone to roleplaying games without the learning curve of game mechanics.

Ten Candles

If Dread is to be considered the epitome of survival-horror, then I would consider Ten Candles to be the epitome of tragic-horror. The game utilizes the simple setup of ten candles, some index cards to serve as character traits, several d6s with two different colors, a fireproof bowl, a tape recorder for your characters’ final thoughts before their imminent demise. Finally, it’s heavily suggested that this game is played in the dark with only the light of the candles to be the barrier against the setting’s dark apocalypse.

Unlike other games where players strive and hope to survive, in Ten Candles, the characters’ fate is inevitable and predetermined. Whenever a character fails a test, a candle is snuffed out, and the scene ends, but players can choose to “burn” away one of their character traits to prevent this failure. But ultimately, once there is only one candle remaining, the game enters its final end phase, and the players will all die. In other words, in this hopeless game, players will try to seek hope for their characters in this dark setting.

The game’s psychological degradation is appealing especially with other horror movies such as the Descent, the Final Destination series, Silent Hill, or even Friday the 13th. The desperation to keep these candles lit to delay this looming inevitability will undoubtedly have players feel the pressure after a few candles go out. The tape recorder mentioned previously? Whenever a character dies, their recording is replayed from the recorder as a final testament.

Don’t Rest Your Head

Evil Hat Productions’ Don’t Rest Your Head makes it to this list for the surreal and psychedelic atmosphere presented in its setting of the Mad City. The players are insomniacs who become aware of a metaphysical reality and entities are known merely as Nightmares. While awake, the players act like any normal human being, but their actions will eventually wear them down which runs the risk of the character drifting to sleep. While a character sleeps, the Nightmares stalk and attempt to kill your character. Survival requires another awakened character to assist, but alternatively, a character can choose to accrue madness in the face of their growing exhaustion.

The game employs a growing dice pool mechanic between its three attributes of Discipline, Exhaustion, and Madness. Players roll dice using their base Discipline plus any Exhaustion gained and any permanent Madness dice. For most mundane actions, a player character may roll their Discipline within a sense of control, but by incurring an Exhaustion die, the dice pool increases and grants a chance to succeed their rolled tests. But players can choose instead of using their Exhaustion pool, they can add a die to their Madness pool. Besides the onset of psychological strain and mental breakdowns, there are more devastating results such as the decrease in their Discipline trait followed by permanent Madness die.

Additionally, the game utilizes a meta-currency of Hope and Despair, with the former being a means for player characters to combat against the debilitating journey of living with insomnia. Despair is a currency for the GM to impose a significant challenge against a character, but between these two features, when one is spent, it is added into the coffers of the other which establishes the metaphor for give-and-take presentation of the harsh reality of life.

Bluebeard’s Bride

Fan of the Brothers Grimm’s fairy tales? This RPG focuses on two characters, Bluebeard and his Bride, with the players’ roles as aspects of the Bride’s psyche. Throughout the game, players explore Bluebeard’s house through the eyes of the Bride, each player takes turns to act as their aspect of her psyche to make decisions, speak as the Bride, and pushing the Bride forward to explore this mysterious house only to encounter new horrors along the way.

This game is another excellent tragic horror game that harkens back to such classics as Disney’s Beauty and the Beast if it had become a full-fledged horror movie. As the Bride explores the house, the psyches (players) are confronted with various revelations and horrors about their beloved Bluebeard. The game reminds and encourages discourse between players with their Bride actions to represent the conflicting internal mental struggles of this central figure.

Ultimately, by the end of the game, the Bride will face the final door that Bluebeard forbade this Bride to enter. Depending on the actions of the Bride throughout this haunting tale, the Gamemaster has a unique track to determine the Bride’s faithfulness, treachery, or defiance. Whichever becomes the dominating mentality at the end of the game, each psyche will have a chance to narrate the final scene. This RPG combines the hallmarks of a collaborative storytelling experience yet encourages discourse between the players while taking turns to control a central character to serve as a vehicle for the narrative.

Little Fears

Little Fears harkens back to those classic childhood fears but turns the dial to eleven as players play as everyday kids that face both real and imagined monsters. Players have character sheets like any other roleplaying game but also includes a questionnaire to help flesh out their fears and the various aspects of their troubles, which your gamemaster will employ and build your stories around. Additionally, the game utilizes other features that are iconic from one’s own childhood, such Belief and Rituals to dispel the monsters that haunt us. The game has a very “Monster of the Week” infrastructure for longer campaigns but definitely can work under a one-shot capacity. Unlike other roleplaying games, many of the character aspects are strictly narrative or abstract in nature, fans with familiar to games such as Fate Core will feel right at home with this sort of game.

As an honorable mention, if you wish to play a game set in childhood horror, Kids on Bikes follows the same archetypes, but while Little Fears is explicitly focused on childhood horrors and traumas, the former fits into a wider variety of genres. Though Kids on Bikes can be presented with horror elements and just like Little Fears, both are narrative-focused games.

Old Friends

This indie entry by Bully Pulpit Games, written by Jason Morningstar (creator of Fiasco) and Ode Peder, is more of a ghost story than a horror RPG but there plenty of avenues to expand on the genre. In the premise for this game, the players were once former ghost hunters who found a way to bridge the worlds of the living and the dead together to put the spirits to rest. Unfortunately, one of these ghost hunters died and never found rest. Your group has returned to the place of your former friends’ passing to finish the job once and for all. The game does not require a gamemaster, but does suggest at least one game organizer prepare materials and moderate the game, as the players must enact a secret ritual to summon spirits to possess them. A mask is heavily suggested and required as a prop for this game, to represent the possessed character. Most of the character creation is done through cards that can be printed out before gameplay that establish roles, relationships, and backstories. While a character becomes possessed by the ghost, they make direct instructions or commands to other characters and they must obey them. Possessions pass across the playgroup until the end of the game. The rules are loose and abstract to fit for every number of playstyles and groups.

The Happiest Apocalypse on Earth

Another game to bring some nightmare to your childhood memories, The Happiest Apocalypse on Earth brings you the magic and joys of your iconic theme parks and turns them into a carnival of despair and dread. Just as the title suggests, this is a hack using the Powered by the Apocalypse system, but the atmosphere and themes touch on a satirical outlook with a dark representation for a sinister children’s theme park called Mouse Park. The game adopts a monster-of-the-week structure for longer campaigns, but it is also suited for one-shots as well. Characters acquire talents and abilities that can be cut and pasted onto their sheets which reduces a whole lot of reference to the rulebook and more time to focus on the gameplay.

The satirical undertones feel like a George Romero horror movie, but within the setting of The Happiest Apocalypse on Earth, you have the added caveat of ancient evils, demonic circles, strange experiments, and rogue animatronics. Plus, who doesn’t love the idea of an evil theme park full of unknown terrors? For longer campaigns, the book does offer advice to bring the player characters back every time, with each visitation revealing a new dark facet of Mouse Park.

The Esoterrorists

The Esoterrorists marries investigation and horror under the GUMSHOE system. Unlike most investigative driven RPGs, the GUMSHOE system focuses on the interpretation of the clues. This system inspired another Cthulhu RPG called Trail of Cthulhu which deserves an honorable mention here, but the real honor belongs to The Esoterrorists for being the progenitor. In The Esoterrorists, the players battle against fanatical occult terrorists who seek to shatter the fabric of reality to bring forth otherworldly monstrosities to our present realm.

This narrative-centric game utilizes a pool of points to perform investigative abilities, with other generic tests conducted with a six-sided die and its own point pool. As the players find clues, the story advances. To find the clues, the players will need to use their investigative abilities that correlate with it. All investigative skills always work, but again, the novelty from this system applies to the players’ and groups’ interpretation of these story clues. Spending their investigative points usually grants additional clues which are often additional information or benefits. Since the point pools can be adjusted and tailored for any scenario, a gamemaster can customize their tales to fit any kind of difficulty and length.

Fate Horror Toolkit

Fans of Evil Hat Production’s Fate Core and Fate Accelerated have a new toolkit for bringing horror to their games. While Fate provides a full breadth of narrative creativity with the interpretations of their aspects, this book offers advice and tips to maintain the tension often found in the horror genre without sacrifice the system’s ingenuity and freedom. There are mechanical elements such as the descent (very similar to mechanics found in the sanity mechanic from Call of Cthulhu) and methods for coping with trauma. Additionally, the supplement discusses the playgroup’s buy-in through impending doom and storytelling advice for crafting a survival horror scenario.

For the survival horror rules, there is a clock mechanic and a system for the gamemaster to establish finite resources that the players can freely utilize throughout the game. However, when those resources run out, there will most definitely be consequences which can range from reducing results to skill rolls and possibly even alterations to established aspects. As for the mechanics to define impending doom, there are some great tips and advice for setting this early buy-in with your players. Additionally, the toolkit adds a clock mechanic that is reminiscent in other games such as Apocalypse World or Blades in the Dark. Overall, this book provides solid advice to incorporate horror into your Fate games, whether to an existing campaign, a new one or even as a one-shot. Fate’s adaptive storytelling system allows for a full breadth of actions, moments, and creativity but in the vein of horror, some exercised limitations and restrictions will draft the necessary atmosphere needed.

There are plenty of horror-inspired RPGs out there, and whether or not your favorites made this list, just remember the core elements of horror: limited resources and inevitability. Atmosphere and mood are essential whether it be darkening a room or having appropriate music as a backdrop. Of course, the last key ingredient to any good horror game comes from the players and their acceptance of their fate within the game. Have the players aware of the context of their game, set expectations, and provide a safe means to express their discomforts. These elements can be found in the roleplaying games listed above, as it’s essential that every be comfortable and safe to tell the best tales possible. Enjoy, and may your nights be full of terror.

Return to the Loop with Free League’s New Adventures for Tales from the Loop

Imagine a setting in the 1980s and machines roam the landscape all connected to a mysterious facility and an equally mysterious power source used to generate various odd experiments that occasionally run rampant in your suburban life. The caveat? You’re all playing as kids, and only you can stop the machine menace. Free League Publishing released their ENnie awarding Tales from the Loop in 2015 which would later become of the “must play games” of 2017, and the game continues to grow with their first campaign book, Tales from the Loop: Our Friends the Machines and Other Mysteries.

The new campaign book consists of three mysteries, eight shorter mysteries inspired by songs from the 1980s, a chapter on machine blueprints, and a section dedicated to making your hometown the center of the Loop for your games. The chapters, design, and layout are identical to the core rulebook and honestly are aesthetically pleasing as they harken back to Swedish artist, Simon Stålenhag’s paintings.

  • Our Friends the Machines is a great mystery that encompasses everything from Transformers, to Toy Soldiers or Toy Story if you’re so inclined mixed with opposing AIs and mind-control chips. There’s plenty of information for the game master to run these fully established mysteries and have the kids (players) investigating the strange happenings in their small town. There are a lot of alternate paths and endings, and it’ll be a reoccurring design choice you will notice with subsequent mysteries.
  • Horror Movie Mayhem takes the moral panic of the 80s and adds the twist of subliminal messages and awful televised programs. It’s the classic “something went terribly wrong” sort of brainwashing and creepy PTA members to boot. There are some other elements that I feel I shouldn’t spoil but if anyone who grew up during this period of the moral panic, this one is for you.
  • The Mummy in the Mist brings the ideas of H.G. Wells’ The Invisible Man meets Stephen King’s the Mist but with less blood and gore. This will have the kids exploring and investigating in several locations before it all leads to the showdown which has some great choices and equally great endings.
  • The Mixtape of Mysteries are all mysteries with titles borrowed from iconic songs from the 80s, and each one is distinct in their flavor and stories. One of my personal favorites “Every Breath You Take” is a great twist from the original song that served as its inspiration into some perverse and somewhat grim which had my full attention. All eight of these mysteries set up the premise, the truth, provide hooks, and countdowns to help narrate the story but leave the ending open-ended enough for the players to draw their conclusions.
  • The Machine blueprints provide insightful lore for the machines that roam within the Loop and provides suggested mysteries if the game master wishes to implement them.
  • The Hometown Hack chapter is probably my favorite chapter for game masters to transplant their hometowns into the mechanics and aesthetics of the Loop. There are some useful tips for defining your town, establishing the Loop, and fleshing out the details of your characters’ hometown. After all, the players will be spending the majority of their time in this area, so it’s helpful to have them participate in the worldbuilding process.

I honestly enjoyed this campaign book, and if you already own Tales from the Loop, I highly suggest picking up this book as well. It’s a great companion piece to help give some meaning mysteries, provide hooks for some others, and great tips for bringing to the Loop to your small town. The last section on the Hometown Hack is worth buying this book already, very insightful information that allows a gamemaster to transfer the Loop to practically anywhere. The book is very well organized, the layout is easy to read and navigate, and expands on the setting provided from the core rulebook.

You can acquire your copy of Our Friends the Machines and Other Mysteries here and currently, at the time of this article, the book is sold out, but there are plenty of 3rd-party distributors that should have copies available. Additionally, Free League Publishing launched a Kickstarter, Things from the Flood, that is meant as a sequel to Tales from the Loop. If you haven’t picked up your copy of Tales from the Loop, the game is essentially the Goonies meets Eerie Indiana, and it just works with all of these different niche genres.

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.

Call of Cthulhu Goes Mobile

By Jacky Leung     Twitter

Call of Cthulhu is one of the definitive tabletop roleplaying games that portray H.P. Lovecraft’s stories full of madness, eldritch horrors, and ancient creatures called the Great Old Ones. The legacy of H.P. Lovecraft’s stories continue to inspire and terrify audiences with an upcoming video game, various tabletop board games, and plenty of movies, music, and tv shows that have drawn influence from the material. Mobile games have adapted several board games and various other adventure style games. MetaArcade’s Cthulhu Chronicles, partnered with Chaosium, Inc,  brings the classic stories from Lovecraft to life as Choose-Your-Own-Adventure (CYOA) tales. The game was featured at Gen Con with a massive screen demo, and I had a pleasant chat with MetaArcade about plans for this platform of storytelling.

First Cthulhu Campaign

The first Cthulhu Chronicles campaign contains nine stories; most are iconic Lovecraft stories brought into the CYOA genre with a few original pieces to bridge the narrative together into a cohesive experience. During the demo, I had the pleasure of playing Alone Against the Flames. The atmosphere, the aesthetic, and the gameplay were easy to pick up and learn. I quickly became immersed into the story and tried my best to escape but ultimately succumbed to a grisly fate. The game sports multiple different characters with different stats and each story has clues that act as a sort of achievement system. Some stories and sections are more accessible for certain characters than others, but the challenge to get them makes the experience all the more satisfying.

Fans Already In Love

During my interview with MetaArcade, I inquired about the overall reception the mobile app game has received. As of the time of this article, Cthulhu Chronicles is only available on the Apple App Store, but I was assured that an Android version would be made available in the coming months. But overall, the mobile app has received some considerable download numbers, with many fans in between the US and Japan being the bulk of interest. The Asian mobile environment is vibrant, with the US as a close second place, and the opportunities for both a CYOA adventure mobile platform and the love for Lovecraft’s suspenseful tales will undoubtedly improve once the app opens to the Android app marketplace.

Update: As for September 13, MetaArcade has released Cthulhu Chronicles on the Google Play App Store

Familiar Mechanics

Cthulhu Chronicles utilizes the Call of Cthulhu ruleset from Chaosium, Inc but with a streamlined integration and implementation of the iconic horror mystery game. The mobile game acts as a shell for the CYOA narrative along with the unseen game mechanics. Instead of a full-fledged character sheet, prospective players have three primary skills: Appearance, Athleticism, and Intelligence. During the game, players will have encounters and tests that can either open or restrict specific narrative paths. While the tabletop game utilizes a d100 percentile dice, the mobile version incorporates that three skills and the d100 roll through a spin wheel graphic interface. Players will still have the ability to choose specific directions for their adventure, but the addition of tests yield an opportunity to explore new pathways or at least attempt to study them.

Atmosphere and Mood

In Cthulhu Chronicles, players will have a feel of Lovecraft’s Arkham, with pictures and graphics taken from source material set in the turn of the 20th century (supplied from the Library of Congress) and a soundtrack that genuinely gives that Cthulhu vibe. The text, layout, and even color schemes help to immerse a player into the narrative without feeling like you’re playing a game at all. Even the spin wheel interface sports the lost language of the Great Old Ones.

Free to Play

Cthulhu Chronicles is free to download from the app store, with three free plays a day. In other words, you get three attempts with any of the nine stories available. If you wish to unlock unlimited plays, you can purchase tickets for each story. Given the large bundle packages, I was assured to me that this was not a one a done deal for Cthulhu Chronicles, but hopefully a sampling for more great content ahead. The game is expected to release a second campaign as well though there was no announcement date determined yet.  

Community Content

One of the unique features that MetaArcade is hoping to implement with Cthulhu Chronicles is a community content service, much like other marketplaces as such as the DMsGuild for D&D and the Storyteller’s Vault for White Wolf, this platform has the potential to grow and hopes to do so in the near future with a pilot program for content creation. MetaArcade hopes to expand into other genres, and adapt this opportunity beyond the Cthulhu mythos. Presently, the program has not been established, but prospective writers and creators can sign up to join the pilot program once it launches. There is no definitive date at the time of this article, as such a development may take several months but interested parties are encouraged to sign up to stay informed for any progress

Not Their First Rodeo

Cthulhu Chronicles is not MetaArcade’s first rodeo they have another mobile app that utilizes a game that somewhat resembles Dungeons & Dragons called Tunnels and Trolls. A very similar CYOA style dungeon crawl experience, though the shell is not as refined as Cthulhu Chronicles, though I found myself still enjoying the game with my short time with it. Again, this again showcases MetaArcade’s app platform can work with a variety of different genres in the future and I hope to see this developer’s name more often in future apps

Sample Screenshots of Cthulhu Chronicles

Additional Links

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.

 

Top Upcoming Releases by Green Ronin Publishing

By Jacky Leung     Twitter

Green Ronin Publishing is a renowned roleplaying game company with a reputation for innovative quality games since 2000. Some of their notable roleplaying game products include Dragon Age, A Song of Fire and Ice Roleplaying, and Mutants & Masterminds. The Seattle-based publisher continues to be hard at work to produce expansions to their existing properties while broadening into new systems and projects. For example, a week before Gen Con 2018, Green Ronin launched their Expanse RPG Kickstarter campaign and highlighted the release of their new Modern Age system, the contemporary-to-futuristic successor to their Fantasy Age ruleset.

It’s been a month since Gen Con, but there are still plenty of projects Green Ronin has in development, soon-to-be-released, or recently completed. These are my top picks for most anticipated projects or products, but they encompass most of Green Ronin’s product offerings.

The Expanse Roleplaying Game

This upcoming game system brings James S.A. Corey’s award-winning science-fiction novels to your tabletop. Fans of the SyFy Channel series based on the same novel series can look forward to the same fast-paced action and intrigue-filled storytelling. Using the new Modern Age ruleset, the game offers unique features such as Fortune instead of Health, Interludes for those breaks between encounters, and of course, spaceship battles. You can snag a copy of the quickstart for The Expanse RPG here.

Modern AGE

Fancy some adventures during the Industrial Revolution? Or perhaps some urban fantasy noir game? Or maybe head into a dystopian future reminiscent of settings such as Blade Runner or Ghost in the Shell? The latest iteration and expansion to the Adventure Game Engine (AGE) now features a classless implementation through talents, focuses, and specializations. The iconic stunt system makes a return in this new high octane, fast-paced combat, a sleek new interface for a plethora of games and genres. The new system includes new mechanics for running chases, along with options to add magic and psychic powers to your games. The World of Lazurus will serve as the Modern Age‘s first campaign setting with a dystopian noir flair. Additionally, there are plans for a companion book be released sometime in late 2018 to 2019. You can take a glance at the new Modern Age ruleset with a quickstart PD here.

Dragon Age/Fantasy AGE

Fans of this video game turned tabletop game, as seen on Geek and Sundry’s Tabletop, inspired the Fantasy AGE ruleset but the folks at Green Ronin have been hard at work to produce new content for this beloved franchise. According to announcements and planned releases for both Dragon Age and Fantasy Age, longtime fans can expect several new supplements to arrive over the course of 2019. Notable products include a new “Faces of Thedas” supplement series, a rules compendium, and a campaign builders handbook. I will enjoy reading the campaign builder book, I love the AGE system and would not mind have some more ideas on crafting my campaign settings.

Mutants & Masterminds

The superhero inclined RPG system has received some cosmetic and linguistic updates in the latest edition. Green Ronin’s partnership with DC Comics produced iconic heroic stats for Superman, Batman, and Wonder Woman to name a few. At the Gen Con panel, designers announced a quickstarter’s guide to introducing new prospective players to the game, a Super Team handbook, and an “Astonishing Adventures” series as their modular adventure entry. Additionally, the game recently launched a new Basic Hero’s Handbook to present a streamlined presentation of their third edition rules, and a Rogues Gallery supplement, containing all of their iconic villains from M&M under one cover.  I have not personally played Mutants & Masterminds since their 2nd Edition book sometime back in the mid-2000s and would love to read up on the changes over the past decade. The system is quite adaptable and exemplifies one of the most authentic superhero RPGs with an ample blend of mechanics to narrative design.

Freeport: the City of Adventure

Green Ronin has partnered with Drowned Monkeys Games to create a computer roleplaying game (CRPG) based on the publisher’s original campaign setting of Freeport: the City of Adventure. According to Drowned Monkeys Games, the game will feature a virtual room hosted by a virtual gamemaster on a virtual table. The entire experience is akin to a full-fledged simulation that includes “dice rolls, playing with friends, painting miniatures, dioramas, character sheets, etc. are represented in the play space.” The game is slated for release during the holiday season of 2019.

Ork! The Roleplaying Game

Longtime Green Ronin fans will recall this familiar product, Ork! The Roleplaying Game was the company’s first product released over eighteen years ago. This casual, “beer-n-pretzel” roleplaying game is chock full of wild antics that will often leave your playgroup reeling in laughs. After years of no additional releases, the company has returned to their roots and announced before Gen Con a new standalone second edition printing. The updated book is currently still on preorder at the time of this article, but if you are looking for a fun, casual antic-inlined tabletop RPG, Ork is the right game for you.

Green Ronin is undoubtedly going to be busy the rest of 2018 and well into 2019. Dungeons & Dragons fans may recall the company’s previous entries which include Sword Coast Adventurer’s Guide and in the Critical Role: Tal’ Dorei Campaign Setting. For D&D fans looking for new roleplaying games, this is an excellent opportunity to expand your horizons with a trusted company with years of experience crafting quality games.

Additional Links

Playing Pathfinder Playtest

In March, Paizo announced the Pathfinder 2nd Edition playtest. Now the playtest is well under way. Today I had a go at running the playtest adventure path, Doomsday Dawn, which is a Lovecraftian apocalyptic. It makes sense to mark the upheaval of a new edition with an apocalyptic adventure!

My biggest problem with the playtest material is that character generation is a huge obstacle. This is one thing that has put me of Pathfinder previously. However, this playtest material is at least more straightforward than Pathfinder 1st Edition. I just don’t think making a character requires that many numbers –that’s why I like Dungeons & Dragons 5th Edition! I just want to get playing as quickly as possible.

The character generation problem could be solved by providing plenty of pregenerated character options (at least so that players can learn how characters work) or with a digital toolset. I found some pregens here, and two of my players opted to use a pregen. We found that the goblin alchemist was a lot of fun but the human paladin didn’t make sense. It’s kind of annoying having a character with a thievery proficiency whose code of conduct forbids them from stealing.

Another unhelpful obstacle to was the amount of details the dungeon master and players need to consider when making a check, a save or an attack. You shouldn’t need this many stats for a roleplaying game.

Those are my main gripes. I understand that Paizo will be trying to make Pathfinder more accessible to new players while also retaining what the existing Pathfinder community likes – which apparently includes lots of stats! There’s always going to be some barrier to entry in any community, because it’s the barrier that defines the community.

One thing I really like about the material is the feat system. You have opportunities to choose new feats at each level, making character advancement very flexible. Each ancestry and class provides feats that are available only to characters of that ancestry or class. More powerful feats only become available at certain levels. Some advanced  feats have simpler feats as prerequisites, so it works a bit like a skill tree in an MMORPG.

I’m impressed by the wide range of feats offered. It seems like Paizo are really trying to make sure the ruleset is comprehensive from the beginning. On top of the feats there are thirty-eight cleric domains. If the finished product contains all of these, it should mean you don’t need to carry around a mountain of splat books just to run a game.

As well as choosing feats as you level up, there are opportunities to improve your skill proficiencies. If you’re a spellcaster, your cantrips improve as you level up too.

Something that stands out to me is that a lot of flavor is built into the class rules. This is stuff that D&D 5E players would roleplay, but here it seems baked in a lot more. The way the bard’s feats are written, they sound like performances. A number of classes have taboos built in, based around their god or their totem. Some feats and spells also have particular alignment restrictions, making sure alignment matters.

In short, I would say that the playtest material is a lot of fun if you can get past the (still rather high) barrier to entry.


You can download the free Pathfinder playtest package from Paizo here.

You can also buy paper copies of the playtest books on Amazon or at your local store, while stock lasts.

Return to the Night with the new Vampire the Masquerade

By Jacky Leung     Twitter

Sometime in the early 2000’s, I entered into a world of darkness and terror, where monsters wore a human face and a great plot lurked underneath the pale moonlight. Vampire the Masquerade 5th Edition by White Wolf Entertainment brings the nostalgia of the revolutionary vampire tabletop roleplaying game to the 21st century. Since its original publication in 1991, White Wolf has published games to tell captivating stories about the horrors of the night, touching on mature content compared to the fantasy roleplaying games of yore. 

What you need to know about Vampire the Masquerade 5th Edition (V5):

  • Storyteller Roleplaying System: a dice pool of d10s with difficulty determined by the number of successful die results (a result of 6 or above). The dice pool is usually determined by combining the dots or value in an attribute stat and skill together.
  • Vampire has strong themes that parallel the real world, which may contain dark and mature undertones but in a safe environment.
  • Updated mechanics from previous editions that offer a streamlined entry for new and veteran fans, especially fans who haven’t played a game of Vampire in many years. I love the new Hunger dice mechanics.
  • The Second Crusade and the Gehenna War has caused many powerful vampires to be gone, with greater danger now for the Kindred than ever before in a continually changing world. The metaplot within Vampire sets the stage for new opportunities for unique narratives within playgroups.
  • Players have nine clans to choose during character creation which includes the original seven clans of the Camarilla, the Caitiff, and Thin-blooded.

At Gen Con 2018, I had the opportunity to sit down with White Wolf to discuss Vampire’s changes from its previous editions, what people should expect in the new edition, and White Wolf’s plans for the future (trust me, it’s good).

Mechanically, Vampire 5th Edition sports many new options to streamline gameplay and resolution into a robust system that emphasizes story and its progression. Sure obstacles still matter, but they are no longer a detriment for narrative advancement.

For returning and new fans of the franchise, 5th edition sports some refined concepts:

  • While the dice still uses pools of d10s, the difficulty is defined by the number of success. Successful results are determined by any die results of 6 or more. Criticals occur for each pair of die results with a 10, which count as two successes.
  • Winning at a cost is a new feature, where if the rolls possess some successes, but the test fails, a player can achieve their goal, but a situation worsens. A much more narrative focused option but one that adds stakes and tension.
  • Checks are single d10 rolls, attempting to achieve a target number of 6 or higher. Typically used to determine any Hunger gain for the vampire.
  • Taking Half is one of my favorite additions to the game. As a way to reduce the number of dice rolls, Storytellers can take half for SPCs (storyteller-played characters) for rolls in contests (such as combat for example). The Storyteller takes half the value of the final dice pool, rounded down, and treats that result as successes.
  • Predator Types are similar to D&D 5th Edition’s background, except focused on the way your vampire character hunts for their blood. There are additional boons and flaws acquired that grant some areas of specialization and narrative opportunities.
  • Vampire focuses on the group dynamics with coterie creation and relationship maps, which provide an excellent tool for players to reference the overall climate of their character plots, but also as an influential tool for Storytellers to assess where to tug for story beats.
  • Hunger and the Hunger dice mechanic is significantly streamlined compared to older iterations, criticals and failures create new story avenues and opportunities. A much more narrative implementation compared to the mechanical presentations from earlier editions.
  • Disciplines offer a suite of options based on the level of investment, choosing a new power each time the vampire gains a dot in it. Characters normally have an equal number of dots and discipline powers.

One of the novel additions to the game that I love is the introduction of the loresheets, which provide a context in a character’s background and establish them as a facet of the Vampire lore and metaplot. While players should consult with their Storytellers on what loresheets are allowed, they provide a fantastic way for players to engage with the setting. The physical print sports fifteen loresheets for players and Storytellers to utilize but the digital PDF includes additional loresheet that did not make the final cut.

Additionally, the core rulebook includes advance mechanics and systems that expand on the test mechanic, explores interpretations for combat, and includes new implementations with blood and hunger.

Fun Tip: While I was at Gen Con, Karim, the lead editor for Vampire, introduced me to a novel approach for incurring Hunger. Should the vampire accrue enough damage to fill their health boxes, they gain one Hunger die. Give it a try in your game.

Some of the upcoming ventures and products from White Wolf ahead:

  • The upcoming Anarch and Camarilla sourcebooks are expected to be released later in the Fall of 2018 and include additional lore information with some mechanical inclusions as well.
  • White Wolf has partnered with Onyx Path Publishing to bring the iconic Chicago by Night setting book to the V5 system.
  • A new Legacy-format board game called Vampire: the Masquerade Heritage will be released in SPIEL 2019. In the game, players build a vampiric bloodline with characters to complete historical missions and battle against other clans in a chronicle that spans 700 years.
  • The World of Darkness – the Documentary is set to be released on Netflix, Hulu, and Amazon later in 2018. The documentary explores the history of White Wolf Entertainment, the impact Vampire had on pop culture and media, with interviews from many creators, fans, and artists who were inspired by this IP for over 25 years.
  • White Wolf has also partnered with Belladonna’s Cupboard for a Vampire: the Masquerade-themed makeup line.
  • Additionally, there will be new upcoming Vampire LARP events in the coming future including one in Austin, TX in November 2018 called The Night in Question. You can find other LARP events and support at World of Darkness’ community hub.

Vampire’s 25-year legacy lives on in the latest 5th Edition and is prompted with possibly the most ambitious media resurgence that would be akin to a Second Coming. The growth of the tabletop roleplaying hobby presents a substantial audience from Vampire’s initial release in 1991. The system is accessible, the setting is vibrant, and the story is still just as dark. It almost makes me hopeful to see a Kindred: the Embraced television series reboot. Time to grab your black chain jeans and leather shirts, it’s time to return to the Masquerade. 

Additional Links:

  • Purchase Vampire: the Masquerade (V5) here.
  • Learn more about Vampire: the Masquerade on the World of Darkness site.
  • Get a sneak peek at Vampire: the Masquerade Heritage board game.

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.