Saturday, January 31, 2015

Wizards of the Coast Cannot Win

There has been quite a bit of discussion, some negative, over the release schedule WotC has revealed through the coming summer.

Before we get into that, we need to realize that since 5th Edition's launch we've had six table top rpg products, a DM screen, several spell card, and miniatures releases from Gale Force 9, blind box miniatures and a miniatures game from WizKids and two novels (not counting the Sundering), as well as an expansion for an MMORPG, all of that in a seven month span.

This does not include the Adventurer's League Expeditions or Epic convention events, and also overlooks the Basic DnD PDFs.

I don't know what the future holds for D&D 5E, but that's a pretty heavy release schedule.

Looking at the first six months of 2015, we only have one table top rpg product (which I'm disappointed about), but I think we need to realize that Hasbro/WotC is delegating releases, so instead of the Elemental Evil board game and miniature game products being developed in house, they're still support for DnD and are being led/driven by WotC.  Its an unusual plan, but its where DnD lives right now.

There has also been quite a bit of anger of two recent lay-offs (and losing your job sucks), but looking at Chris and Jennifer's design credits in 5E products, I think it was more of a corporate mandate being fulfilled, and less of a let's "screw DnD over".  Who knows, maybe Chris and Jennifer will follow several other talented former WotC employees and create their own company and still contribute to the industry (I can only hope).

On top of the already released products, we've had about 18 months of DnD releases on  I think its important to acknowledge these, because I truly think WotC expects us to mine all editions moving forward.  Would I like a series of conversion guides?  Sure.  But let's be honest, either your comfortable doing the conversions, or your not going to go to the hassle, or some creative soul online is going to do it for fun.

Would I like WotC farther along on some fronts?  Sure.  Do I get frustrated at their lack of digital tools?  Yes (but in watching Project: Morningstar and what they had achieved in the time given them and their kickstarter track record, I think WotC made the right decision to part ways).

I think, like always, those in charge of DnD are truly trying to shepherd the best line they can while being a part of an international corporation that merely wants to replicate the success of Magic: the Gathering.

Here is what I know from running a gaming store:  I've sold close to 100 Player's Handbooks in these first six months and my Adventurer's League nights have swelled from 5 players to over 30.  While, some stores may have had that level of success with Pathfinder and Pathfinder Society, I never did.  95% of those 30 players are taking advantage of my preorder and discount programs for participating in the League, but sadly 80% of my Pathfinder players subscribe to Paizo for product (not that I hold it against them, its a brilliant program, but it hurts me).

So, we can gossip about what WotC has or has not done, but meanwhile I'm going to be very busy finding and training Dungeon Master's to run some games of DnD.

Closing out January

Its been a good month.  A very good month.  This weekend I get to celebrate my beautiful wife's birthday and root for the Patriots (the far lesser of two evils, in my opinions, #ravensnation).

I've been thinking about the blog.  I've managed to keep up my every other day pace and have been looking back at its direction since last summer.

Back then, I decided I wanted to move away from Actual Play Reports and work on content.

I think I've done that, but I'm now focusing on quality.

And I keep thinking that WotC's lack of traditional support on the table top RPG side could be an opportunity for me.  But it's hard to find time to write a product, commission art and then lay it out when running a family business, being married and raising four kids.

So for now, publishing, is merely an idea.

However, this blog is more than that and I'm really working on trying to galvanize its content.

Have a great weekend!

Tuesday, January 27, 2015 Releases for 1/27/15

I'm always surprised how difficult it is for me to find out what are the new releases on each week (aside from this thread on RPG.Net).

Then it occurred to me that I have a Blog and I'm always looking for subjects to post about!

So this weeks releases are:

Also a big thanks to the terrific spreadsheet about all of the releases created and maintained by Jurgen Hubert (creator of Urbis)

D&D 5th Edition's Feedback Survey is Available

Wizards of the Coast is looking for your Feedback on DnD 5th Edition, staring today.

Go here for the survey.

I hope we get some goodies soon.  Even if we don't get Dungeon and Dragon Magazines, just some content on their website would be good.

Monday, January 26, 2015


I haven't picked up Bruce Heard's Calidar setting, yet.

I was a fan of the Voyages of the Princess Ark and of his writing.  But I wonder how much those article's charm (and Mystara's) he channels?

So, my question for those who have taking the Calidar plunge, is it worth it?  

Do you recommend it?

And why?

A Good Book: London Falling by Paul Cornell

This is going to hurt my geek cred, but when I picked up London Falling (its sample was mind boggling good), I didn't realize he'd been writing comics for ages (Demon Knights for DC).

The premise is essentially, a police procedural mixed with witches and ghosts mixed with football (soccer).  As good as it is (its damn fine), I think if I were a brit, it would punch me even harder on levels that I can't relate to as I'm no soccer fan.

The writing is robust and gritty and hurtful and the characters have grown and evolved and I'm not quite half way through.

I can't recommend this enough.  Its kind of EXACTLY the kind of monster hunter story I've been looking forward to reading.

Don't waste a minute, pick it up today.

Friday, January 23, 2015

1st Edition Feel, 5th Edition Rules

I just got my PDF of Necromancer Games/Frog God Games Fifth Edition Foes.

I'm really glad I back this.

These are some great monsters and its nice to have some new material while I wait for Princes of the Apocalypse and contemplate the demise of the (Elemental) Adventurer's Handbook.

If you enjoy 5th Edition, I really recommend this book, many of the monsters are from the original ADnD Monster Manual II and Fiend Folio.

I'm still working my way through it, but it was great seeing vegepygmys.

More as I work my way through it.

Marvel's Agent Carter

So I've watched the first three episodes of Marvel's Agent Carter.

Let me add, that while I'm enjoying all DC's TV shows, I am not a fan of Marvel's Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.

I can say I like Agent Carter better, but I'm still unsure of Marvel's foray into TV.

From a Super Hero standpoint, why the reluctance to feature Superh Heroes as the central protagonists?

While, I love Agent Carter's era and believe they are handling her fellow agent's reactions to a female agent, its gets a bit heavy sometimes.  Especially, as the series has progressed, I wonder if Carter is the central character or if its Jarvis or even her fellow agent?

Now here is where I turn things on their ear, if you look at Agent Carter as mere adventure TV, it works very, very well.  In fact, as recruiter for a more general and female audience, its brilliant.
And Marvel Studios has proven they understand how to recruit audiences.

I just wish we'd get a real Super Hero show on ABC.

Maybe the Netflix Defender tie-ins will offer a bit more of my central desire?

But, at least I can watch Agent Carter until then and its worlds above S.H.I.E.L.D.

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

Their First Dungeon

So this past friday, I introduced five new players to DnD.

It went well, and I occasionally forget how exciting it is to experience DnD from a fresh set of eyes.

I ended up choosing a dungeon from, the Titan's Burden, and it has worked well.

The adventure is loosely based in the Dalelands of the Forgotten Realms, south of the High Dale and west of the Vast Bog and north of the Sembian border.

Derbydale (a creation of my own) has heard that the nearby settlement of Hacksford was sacked by gnolls several nights ago, just after a strange, 800 foot tall "titan" appeared several miles away.

A sage, Devero Hollingswood has hired the PC's to explore the "titan" offering to give them 60% of the haul and the bounty for the gnolls (as he believes they are connected to the "titan").

They fought a blind basilisk, freed some wildlings.  Refused to enter a section of the dungeon they believe is haunted (wails and ectoplasm).  And encountered and defeated a mysterious sorceress who apparently had created one "mist golem" and was working on a second.

But, they only finished half the dungeon, so friday we continue.

Elemental Evil

So WotC showed us a bit of the future for DnD 5th Edition today.

Princes of the Apocalypse

Temple of Elemental Evil Adventure Game

Elemental Evil expansion for Neverwinter

But, all of a sudden, no (Elemental) Adventurer's Handbook...

I hope someone gives us a better idea of what's coming down the pike this year at WotC.  Is this the only book released until the next storyline?

I respect paired back releases, but 2-3 books a year seems like a poor decision.

I can say that, as a playtester for WotC, your going to like the new stuff for characters.

And I need to mention that giving the player section away with bonus material is a big win.

I hope I can throw more money at them in May or June.

Wednesday, January 14, 2015

Transmedia D&D?

So as I've consumed the launch of DnD 5th Edition, which, Wizards has advertised as transmedia, a thought keeps coming to me as I run/play Tyranny of Dragons.

Where is the novel?

We've got the campaign books and the Neverwinter MMO "module", but before the term transmedia was coined, TSR used to have novel tie-ins with modules/campaigns.

Where is that?

We read about the Sundering, but didn't really play through it.

Now we're playing through Tyranny of Dragons, at the table and massively, but there is no novel.

I understand that the RPG division at WotC is probably smaller than ever before, but a segment of their fans like having the synergy between published material and novels.  I don't assume they don't know this, and I'm certain novel sales are down (if for no other reason than a sorely limited publishing schedule...akin to how Paizo "took over" the RPG market with little to no competition from DnD).  But this seems like a poor idea.

For me DnD 5E has brought me perilously close to the joy I felt with ADnD 2E, now give me the novels.  Give me transmedia!

Tuesday, January 13, 2015

Cross Planes Drifter: Sith Apprentice for D&D 5th Edition

SITH APPRENTICE                                                                                          Medium humanoid (human), lawful evil                                        ________________________________________________

Armor Class 15 (studded leather armor)
Hit Points 50 (10d8 -10) 
Speed 50 ft.
   Str            Dex         Con           Int         Wis         Cha
11 (+0)     17 (+3)     9 (-1)     13 (+1)    16 (+3)     12 (+1)

Saving Throws Dex +5, Wis +5
Skills Arcana +5, Acrobatics +5, Perception +5
Tools Land Vehicle
Senses passive Perception 13
Languages Any 2
Challenge 2 (450 XP)




Multiattack. The sith apprentice makes two melee attacks with its light saber or one ranged attack with its force push.

Light Saber. Melee Weapon Attack: +5 to hit, reach 10 ft., one target. Hit: 11 (3d4) radiant damage.

Force Push. Ranged Attack: Strength Save vs DC 13 , range 30 ft., one target takes 1d8 force damage and is knocked prone on a failed save.

Hard Times in Jarlsburg: Pawns to Knights in One (Winter)

The Hard Times is Jarlsburg's premier source of news (not necessarily truth) and routinely outsells it's competitor, The Cryer.



The last several weeks have been uncharacteristically quiet in the City of Thunder.

As we've previously reported, crime is down close to 30%, nearly 12% of the city's populace has emigrated from our fair city (see crime being down to see whose left first), and winter has struck a long and somber attack at our city (with many rumblings that its the Blizzard King's opening salvo of invasion!)

However, amidst the chaos of the few months, the Prime Minister's new Special Task Force on Cult Activity has stalwartly been the first, last, and perhaps only line of defense from the downright creepiness that has plagued our beloved Jarlsburg.

Wether its smashing demoniac cultists, rescuing wayward nobility, or being a voice of reason and strategy amongst the city's elite, the STFCA has not left us, from our lowliest hobo to our most potent nobility, wanting for champions.

Word has come to me that not only are the Council's current battle plans the brainchild of the STFCA, but that the Task Force will be leading our forces against the dreaded Blizzard King, himself!

Rumors are circulating that key members of the STFCA have personally devised a plan involving a "super weapon" which is sure to end this war before it begins.

We can only pray, to the Old Gods or to the New, that the rumors are true.

More as the story develops.

Pathos Gibraltar, Council Reporter
Evening Edition on the 22nd Day of Jary in the Second Hundred and Twenty Second Year of Thronehold

On Being A Game Master: Saying Yes

I'm very grateful that my store's Adventurer's League for DnD 5th Edition is growing.  We've moved from 1 table to 3 in a fairly short period of time.

While I was enjoying playing in Ben B.'s game, the third table was a group of excited player's who were new to the hobby and I felt like I should be the one to guide them into our hobby.

I'm not trying to be vainglorious, it simply seemed that part of my job was to be the guy to introduce them to DnD.

A shortage of DM's was also a factor :)

Since I didn't have much time to prepare a session and I'm not terribly fond of Hoard of the Dragon Queen, we simply made characters.

At the end of character creation, I was overjoyed to see that every player had a name and goal for their PC.

One of player's goals was to find a light saber so that he could defeat the necromancer who killed his brother.  A purple light saber, in fact.

We all laughed and I pointed out he really wanted a magic sword and the player happily accepted this, as we were "playing DnD, not Star Wars."

Except we are playing DnD and why can't there be light sabers?  This occurred to me on the drive home.  I meant no disrespect at my earlier answer to the player, but why couldn't he get a light saber?
How would that break the game?

I'm an experienced enough DM that I don't mind saying "yes" to something and seeing where it goes. I'm philosophically geared to the game being about the players, especially if those players are brand new.

There is no need to filter my preconceived notions about what fantasy is in a game with trolls, vorpal swords, and Tiamat.

In short, the game isn't about me, its about my players.  Wether you call them wizards or jedi, its all just magic.

And in thinking about how that player could could get a light saber, I realized that his nemesis, the necromancer, could in fact be a Dark Lord of the Sith...

Wednesday, January 7, 2015

Cross Planes Drifter: Gunslinger for D&D 5th Edition

GUNSLINGER                                                                                         Medium humanoid (human), neutral                                       ________________________________________________

Armor Class 15 (leather armor)
Hit Points 60 (10d8 + 10) 
Speed 30 ft.
   Str            Dex         Con           Int         Wis         Cha
12 (+1)     16 (+3)     13 (+1)     10 (+0)    15 (+2)     11 (+0)

Saving Throws Dex +5, Wis +4
Skills Athletics +5, Perception +5
Tools Land Vehicle (Horse)
Senses passive Perception 12
Languages Any 2
Challenge 2 (450 XP)




Multiattack. The gunslinger makethree ranged attacks with its revolver or one with its knife.

Revolver. Ranged Weapon Attack: +5 to hit, range 60/120 ft., one target. Hit: 10 (2d6 + 3) piercing damage

Knife. Melee Attack: +5 to hit, reach 5 ft., one target. Hit6 (1d4 + 3piercing damage. 

On Being a Game Master: No Drama

Drama is something that has rocked my gaming groups for most of the twenty plus years I've been in the hobby.  As I've admitted in earlier posts, I'm at least 50% of any conflict or drama resulting from conflict that I've been apart of.

But, I've made concerted efforts to avoid drama both in my life and in my gaming life over the last decade.  Taking a sabbatical from gaming was a great first step in trying to reach this point in my life and I've worked diligently to avoid falling into old patterns.

Recently, a player in several of our group's games began a new romance.  And then he, well found a second romance.  Everyone's an adult, no one's married, its his life.  We noticed he was making excuses, constant excuses about showing up.  The group did a good job of letting him know they understood, but they missed him when he returned for a session and introduced us to one of his interests, who was welcomed at the table.

The following week, I sent out our reminder and he replied he was busy.  I asked if maybe he wanted to take a break and he said that he did because, "(he) felt bullied by two of the players because they made me feel guilty for not showing up."

I was there, no bullying occurred, it was obvious this player was looking to take a break, but maybe didn't no how.  So we talked honestly, and I think we both felt better.  I think he understood the group was trying to be supportive but not clingy.

The old me would have mishandled this, I freely admit it.  I would have missed that he needed help communicating his turmoil and would have been offended at his tactic.

The new me basically said take some time away and enjoy your new romances.  It's okay to do that, and you don't have to make excuses.

The old me would have burned that bridge.

The new me hopes my friend is enjoying himself and wishes him well, wherever that takes him.

The point is, sometimes you have a group and sometimes you don't, but no gaming is better than toxic gaming.  And there isn't a single conflict I've had over my beloved hobby that was ever worth it.

Sometimes you need to take break.  Give yourself permission.

Hard Times In Jarlsburg: Fall of the House of Dwyer?

The Hard Times is Jarlsburg's premier source of news (not necessarily truth) and routinely outsells it's competitor, The Cryer.



Just as House of Dwyer reals from yet more scandal due to the Bruth's eldest son, Kieron, this reporter is investigating reports that an unknown assailant has somehow entered into the Dwyer Suite at the Imperial Hotel and that both Kireon and his uncle Darius have been murdered!

An anonymous source has confirmed that Bruth was so angry over his son's over the involvement in the death of Tibido Hammerstone, Ambassador to Iron Hall, that he had his youngest brother Darius and a crack security team to keep round the clock watch on the Dwyer heir.

Word has come to me that at least two members of the Prime Minister's new Special Task Force on Cult Activity interviewed Kireon either prior to or during the assailant's attack.

While, the security detail were not injured, I am following up reports that one of their number had to be escorted out due to "something unnatural, something not right, something out of a nightmare", according to Yuber Yatos on staff with the Imperial Hotel.

No members of the Task Force could be reached for comment and House Dwyer is not being even remotely cooperative.

More as the story develops.

Pathos Gibraltar, Council Reporter
Evening Edition on the 1st Day of Jary in the Second Hundred and Twenty Second Year of Thronehold

Sunday, January 4, 2015

Going Ape!

With the dawn of a New Year, I've been contemplating flexing my world building muscles.  While I love Jarlsburg as a setting (including the neighboring Duchy of St. Cuthbert), I'm contemplating a larger area to work within.

One of the first ideas I've been toying with the idea of replacing orcs with intelligent apes.

From there...well, I'm still figuring that out, including wether the apes are the classic version or the newer version.

I'm trying to decide if the apes are merely replacements for orcs or if I take a page from the Planet of the Apes series and have their civilization be dominant and the humans of the setting merely trying to survive...taking an additional cue from Points of Light theme.

Here is a link to a Intelligent Chimpanzee I worked up back in July.

More soon.

Thundarr the Movie

As a life-long comics fan and a retailer with a quarter century of experience, I was today years old when I discovered that Buzz Dixon and ...