Sunday, March 20, 2022

Thoughts about the Dungeons & Dragons Movie Due in 2023

Chris Pine spoke a bit about the Dungeons and Dragons film that is due in March of 2023 during an interview with Collider and had this to say about it, "The way that I've been describing it, it's like Game of Thrones mixed with a little Princess Bride, just a smidge of Holy Grail".

I'm not a fan of the previous Dungeons and Dragons films and these influences are tonally very different from one another in my opinion.

I keep asking myself why wouldn't Hasbro, Wizards of the Coast, and their Production Company, eOne use the Icewind Dale trilogy or the first Dragonlance trilogy (yes, I know there was an animated feature some years ago)?

Drizzt, in particular, and his Companions, are a proven commodity and the Forgotten Realms has to have a fair amount of traction within pop culture. If you wanted streaming tie-ins you can easily produce the Dark Elf trilogy and their plenty of characters that spend time as both antagonists and protagonists to accommodate for anti-heroes or whatever Hollywood is looking for at the moment.

I think a Drizzt series is in development but it seems like such a waste of perfectly good intellectual property for a film series.

As I prepare to turn 50 I don't pretend to think that Hollywood is that worried about my demographic, and that is not a knock but merely a statement of fact. The 13 to 40 demo seems to be what most projects aim for but I don't believe that Drizzt's stories are outside of that group. 

The new DnD film could be excellent and I'm not writing it off I'm just confused by the fact that Hasbro isn't exploiting its existing IPs better.

Saturday, March 19, 2022

Hyperborea: The Black Gulf, a D&D 5E Campaign


North Wind Adventure's Hyperborea 3rd Edition is fantastic and I'm using it as the setting of my Dungeons and Dragons 5th Edition campaign. We just wrapped up or first Adventure (a mash-up Late Trapper's Lament and Orbital Vampire Tower--both are excellent) and next session we will jump ahead about 6 months in time and the Characters will go from 3rd to 6th Level (as a group we have completed several DnD 5E campaigns and my intention is to move them up to about Level 8-10 pretty fast).

Here are the Setting rules I'm using:

Characters can only be Variant Humans. For Sword and Sorcery I feel this is a good fit and I'm just kind of sick of Elves and Dwarves. I might expand it to Tcho-Tcho (Halflings), Tieflings, and Cambions or I might not.

At Level 4 the Characters get a +1 bonus to 1 Ability Score and a Feat. I read about this on Reddit and thought I'd give it a go. I had contemplated a bonus Feat at Level 1 and this satisfies that idea for me, we might choose this option through Level 20.

I'm ignoring the need for specific types of weapons (silver for instance agains Lycanthropes) and the need for magical weapons to harm a creature. To me that isn't something Conan or the Grey Mouser worried about, but I could be wrong. I'm going to keep the bonus from magic weapons to account for 5E's Bounded Accuracy though. I don't really intend for magic items to be that important to the whole campaign.

I'm focusing on the Weird as much as I am the Swords and Sorcery. The Characters were transported to a space station of a Vampire named Regulus Onar via a Weird Science Teleporter and dealt with the owner and a couple of aberrations and then discovered a lost world of ancient technology not that far away via a cavern system. I got some looks but I'm kind of just letting my sensibilities as a Dungeon Master take center stage. I like Weird Tales and if nothing else that trip to the Manse of Onar will be a running subplot. The adventure I used for their journey into the night sky above Hyperborea was the brilliant Orbital Vampire Station from Dungeon Age Adventures and Joseph R. Lewis. The layout was so DM friendly and I've since bought everything he's releases. I urge everyone to check it out.

Thursday, March 17, 2022

5E: Valda's Spire of Secrets' Necromancer Class

After running Hyperborea 3E for several sessions my group and I decided to use the setting but switch over to DnD 5th Edition. One of my players was a Necromancer and we were both underwhelmed by the Necromancy tradition in the Player's Handbook. After looking through the PDFs of things we had Crowdsourced I remembered that Valda's Spire of Secrets had sever new Classes and dozens of new Sub-Classes.

The Necromancer caught my attention with the new Cantrips available to it like Eye of Anubis that deals necrotic damage and prevents the target from taking the Disengage action until the end of your next turn or Minor Life Steal that damages your target and gives you that many Temporary Hit Points. 

The Class itself has d6 Hit Dice with Saving Throws in Constitution and Intelligence and at Level 1 it gets Spellcasting and Charnel Touch which is the reverse of a Paladin's Lay On Hands but doesn't affect Constructs and Heals Undead.

At 2nd Level they gain Thralls that lets your animate small and medium dead creatures with a CR cap that grows as you level. As written the undead you use Raise Dead on count agains this cap but a an optional rule is presented if you want to throw caution to the wind. 

Also at 2nd Level they gain the Bag of Bones feature that lets them store Undead.

At 3rd Level they choose a Grave Ambition that includes Blood Ascendant where they become a vampire, Death Knight where they focus on becoming a dark warrior, Overlord where they excel in manipulation and are backed up by their undead minions, Pale Master where they focus on the "traditional" type of Necromancer, Pharoh which is a more balanced focus on Arcane and Divine magics, Plague Lord where their magic focuses on plagues, Reanimator that mixes science and magic, and the Reaper where you adopt the aspects of Death itself. Additionally, they can expend a Spell Slot to replenish your Charnel Tough pool.

At 5th Level if a creature rolls a natural 1 on a Saving Throw against one of their Spells they automatically fail their Save and take double damage. Additionally, your Critical Success range on Spell Attack Rolls is 19 and 20.

At 7th Level their Thralls are immune to being Turned

At 18th Level they can use their Reaction to Heal a Thrall.

And at 20th Level they perform the Rite of Lichdom.

I'm really curious how this class will perform at the table and should see it in action this coming weekend.

One of my favorite aspects of Valda's Spire of Secrets is the tone of the book and the innovations I see in the Classes and my intention is to use large swaths of it at my table.

Tuesday, March 15, 2022

5E: Third Party Products for D&D 5th Edition

For most of my time playing DnD 5E we avoided 3rd party stuff. Some of that early stuff wasn't very well balanced and once DnD Beyond launched it was super convenient to use it and not worry about 3rd Party stuff. However, as we played through one Campaign after another we started seeing some of the warts of DnD 5E, especially the Monster Manual and its "Challenge Rating" system. One of our Dungeon Masters found that Kobold Press' Tome of Beasts were far more challenging than anything in the Monster Manual and, in my opinion, understands CR far better than I do.

This year will be my 30th Anniversary as a Dungeon Master and for most of that time I didn't worry about Encounter design or CR and I just used what I though would be good for the Story. Our Friday group is usually 7 or 8 Players and most of them are really good at 5E. Its hard to challenge them and the more I tried to embrace Encounter design and CR the less fun it got for me as a DM.

I've decided that in this Hyperborea campaign I'm going to allow 3rd Party Player options and I'm going to run combats like I used but with a better understanding of how to approach it with double the Party size and exceptional Player skill.

We'll see how it goes. I hope I'll make fun and dynamic fights but I might have to revert back to using mechanically planned Encounters. My players will let me know pretty quick how that will work and I'm looking forward to that.

In fact, I'm preparing to use some rules I've stumbled upon online to spice things up. The one House Rule I'm looking at right now is that when you gain an Ability Score Increase you gain +1 to an Ability Score and a Feat. I realize that I am giving more levers to my highly skilled Players but I also think I'm going to help them round their Character's out. Again we'll see.

The 3rd Party product I'm currently looking at is Velda's Spire of Secrets which has an interesting Necromancer class as an option for one of my players. 

Actually, it has a lot of interesting Classes, Sub-Classes, Feats, and other cool rules. I intend to review in the coming days. 

You can Preorder Velda's Spire of Secrets here.

Sunday, March 13, 2022

The OSR & 5E

This blog doesn't exist without the OSR because it was Grognardia and Basic Fantasy that led me to better understand DnD Editions prior to 3.X and begin to write about them. As luck would have it, I started playtesting DnD Next within several weeks of my first post and many of those early posts were bout those Campaigns I was running.

In April this blog turns 10 years old and that means I've been playing an iteration of 5E, in one form or another, for 10 years. That is a pretty good run in my opinion.

One of the early draws for me to 5E was how the design team looked at the OSR for some of its inspiration and I still appreciate that. While the team learned a lot about Class Balance in 4E they used terminology from older Editions to disguise much of those innovations which were brought forward to 5E. However, some of the products Wizards of the Coast has released in the last few years hasn't interested me as a Dungeon Master or Player very much and I'm okay with that. I'm a DnD player with 30 years experience and WotC has millions of new or returning player to engage and their goals shouldn't always line up with the products I desire. On top of that, playing a rules set for so long got a bit boring which pushed me to explore OSR games like Hyperborea, Barbaric!, and Stars Without Number.

However, I kept noticing that there were elements of 5E I wanted to import into those games because I think those innovations were excellent rules additions. On top of that, taking some time away from 5E reminded me that it is the version of DnD closest to my ideal/ rules set, it has DnD Beyond, and my group really loves it.

In the past when I'd toyed with running an OSR game I kept coming back to the conclusion that the system mattered far less than the fun we had at the table with out shenanigans and my detour running the previously mentioned games simply reinforced that. 

I'll never lose my love for the OSR because it is rooted squarely in my love for DnD but for me 5E and the OSR don't have to be mutually exclusive, nor crossover as O5R, and I don't need to buy every 5E product WotC makes. I'm not WotC's core audiences in my opinion because I know squarely what I want from DnD and am willing to ignore products that don't fit that mold and use DnD Classics to acquire older products that do work for me. 

WotC needs to engage customers who aren't experienced enough to fully understand what DnD is to them and there are millions of those players to appeal to. No matter what WotC does in the future I have plenty of material for 5E to get me through years and years of Campaigns without ever making a dent in the OSR and when those two are combined I don't have enough hours in a day to consume all of those products.

Tuesday, March 8, 2022

Conan The Barbarian: Thog the Ancient for Dungeons & Dragons

Thog is a terrifying and grisly demon, stalking the dreaming corridors of Xuthal in the form of a great shadow, consuming those who stumble across his path. It is described by Thalis as the ‘God of Xuthal’, who has been in the city ever since its founding. It is uncertain whether Thog or Xuthal came first, but whichever, the creature has always stalked the corridors of Xuthal in search of prey. The people of Xuthal fear Thog, but accept their fate as necessary sacrifices. It is largely Thog’s fault that their numbers have falled from thousands to mere hundreds.

Tuesday, March 1, 2022

Journey Into Mystery: Orogo for White Star


Orogo! for White Star Galaxy Edition

Armor Class: 3 [16]
HDE/XP: 8/400
Total Hit Bonus: +8
Movement: 30
Special: Charm Person 
Attack: Unarmed (3d6)
Hit Dice: 8
Saving Throw: 11

Orogo may cast charm person 3 x Day and any sentient being that can see him is affected for 24 hours. Additionally, he may use a planet's world wide communication network to cast this Meditation and affect sentient beings watching him on any device.

"Orogo, a robot from another galaxy, lands on Earth planning to enslave humanity using mass hypnosis. Its plan is going swimmingly until it meets an old man and finds out he's immune. Orogo increases its power so much that it destroys itself. It turns out that the old man is completely blind."

Thundarr the Movie

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