Growing in popularity thanks to their frequent reoccurrence in Critical Role’s second campaign, the race of gentle fey giants appearing in Volo’s Guide to Monsters are forest-dwelling wardens and guardians, living peacefully and quietly with nature until situation demands that they act to protect their sworn homes. Despite their incredible size, they are more adept in matters of stealth and ambuscade, and are better fit to silently exterminate interlopers in the night than to assault them head-on.
A quick review of firbolgs as they appear in Volo’s, they’re tough to fit into an adventuring party without some heavy modifications to narrative: they abhor greed, prefer not to leave their homes, and are generally peaceful and slow to resort to violence. They also utterly lack a physical description, but general opinion seems to lean more toward hints of the bovine, hircine, or cervine elements mixed into an oversized humanoid body.
Here I present ten ideas on how to use this race, in which I will be including a few variations on the theme, none of which will be characters from Critical Role (although some artwork from the series may appear). (more…)
As promised a while back, it’s time to bring back Dungeon Situational; a weekly series where I present content designed for Dungeons & Dragons 5th edition, but broadly adaptable for other editions and systems.
This week, as promised in a previous article, I will be creating five levels of a new class that reflects a few minor grievances and absences I find in the D&D class system. None of the material is play-tested, so if you try out this class or any of the class features please do let me know how it goes. At the bottom of the article you can also vote on what you’d like me to create next week. (more…)
A three-way tie between the choices: three dragons, three NPCs, and three extra-planar threats. This can only mean one thing. You get one of each.
As usual I will generally be drawing upon Dungeons & Dragons 5th edition rules, but most of the content here should easily be modifiable to any other system or edition you choose. (more…)
Your players have just reached the end of their first major plot arc, you suddenly have a lot of planning to do, and while you reach for ideas for next session, your group have a few plans of their own to execute. And maybe it all goes well, maybe they know exactly how to spend their hard-earned cash, or have some personal loose ends to tie up. And maybe you spend a session staring blankly at each other. What fortune for you that the ground has begun to quake, and skies in the east have begun to blacken.
Presented below is a short dungeon for 4-6 level 5 players, and as in all Dungeon Situational articles presumes Dungeons & Dragons 5e, but can be readily adapted to other levels or systems in a high-fantasy setting. This adventure is presented without a map, but can easily be mapped using the descriptions given, and random encounters can be placed in specific locations rather than stumbled across. (more…)
Most commonly Dungeons & Dragons tends to be sequences of role-play, exploration, broken up by combat situations and the occasional shopping trip. There’s variety in the proportions of course, but there are some very rare opportunities for the DM to call for initiative where an actual fight is unlikely because there are more important things to worry about.
I’ll be using rules and skills for D&D 5th edition (5th edition is best edition, all hail 5th edition) but will be left loose enough for you to modify the rules for different systems and editions to suit your campaign. (more…)
Deep beneath the ocean, a creature of immeasurable power slumbers eternally, utterly alien in form, a great winged beast with tremendous psychic sway that spreads across the world.
Considering human beings trap small Pokemon and train them to fight, there are some terrifying entities higher up in their ranks. Creatures wrought of legend, gods and fiends, ancient and terrible monstrosities that can end worlds, or create them. And apparently they can be contained and made to fight in very terrestrial competitions.
So as I sit writing entries for my personal Pokenomicon, I find that I’m building from the inside out. Taking my combination of Cthulhu and Lugia as my central point I’m designing the rest of my maniacal menagerie from concept of that deep and ancient terror, Cthulugia. Let’s take a look at the components: (more…)
Last week I took a handful of classic D&D creatures and proposed new uses for their stat-blocks, something to lend a bit of diversity to the current roster with minimal need to create, change or modify. If your campaign has a flavour that the Monster Manual simply doesn’t cater for, there are ways and means of accommodating to your tastes. This week I’ll approach from the other side of the coin, declaring what I need for my campaign and using the tools at hand to make a solution.
Once again I’ll be using D&D 5th edition because it’s what I know best… (more…)
This is something of a review, because one area I must criticise 4th edition D&D on was the support it received online.
Enjoying 4th edition places you in something of a minority, but it had it’s truly beneficial features. Stripping away to the bare bones of the system and starting again from scratch was a bold step better executed this time around, but in so doing Wizards of the Coast learned a few valuable lessons. However, for players new to the format the at-will/encounter/daily breakdown of powers, spells and abilities made for a readily comprehendible set-up for combat that was easy to grasp, and for DMs it made the process of creating new monsters, traps and various other key elements much easier.
Still I have come to appreciate 4th’s failings, and it’s hideous decline into Essentials – VAMPIRE IS NOT A CLASS YOU ~cough~ – anyway, and I can almost fully understand the outrage many of the die-hards and old school players felt during the releases. I’ve refuted some of it’s so-called weaknesses, espoused it’s strengths, admitted graciously it’s failures, and recognised how the mistakes I made as a 4th edition DM have hardened me into a far stronger practitioner.
But that’s not what this article is about, no edition wars in the comments please!
Wizards of the Coast offered up four pieces of support to subscribers to their Insider services: The Dungeon and Dragon magazines offered supplementary rules, errata updates and useful lore to DMs and players respectively, the former with regular dungeons and/or mini-campaigns, the other expanding on class, race and character options.
The Character Builder began as an excellent tool for… well building characters, and better yet it was a piece of downloadable software you could continue to use long after your subscription had ended, but could only be updated while you’re subscribed, seems reasonable. But when Essentials came around the software became restricted to in-browser only, and there were no more updates. Alright, not a great loss, right?
Adventure Tools started life with a catalogue of monsters that the DM could filter by level, role, and keywords, as well as searching by name. It allowed for easy encounter building, and also included a fantastic monster-building tool that did all the essential maths on your behalf, as well as offering up necessary guidelines to help prevent over- or under-powering your creations. Like the character builder it was available to download and update to subscribers, but subscribers never got the one thing they wanted most from the adventure tools, any other adventure tools. The software lived and died as the monster compendium.
Mini rant out of the way, now credit where credit is due.
5th edition began life as a series of .pdf files that were freely available to everyone with a request for as much playtest feedback as possible so that they could refine the game into a cleanly finished product that could be enjoyed by all, and it worked beautifully. What’s even better is that they have not finished the process.
If you have any kind of internet-capable mobile device that is able, get the Dragon+ app or get it straight to browser, which features a free monthly magazine with news, articles, lore, podcasts, and even better, new character options that are in a constant state of playtest. For example, the Mystic class – a psychic of many talents that falls somewhere between monk and spell-caster – is currently in its second iteration after a few months of being trialled, and is still subject to change as a final version may never reach a published book, and only ever appear in the hands of those who read regularly. The same is true of some Eberron-specific races like Shifters and Warforged, available somewhere in the archives of Dragon+, I forget where.
Free core rules are readily available for anyone to download including basics on character building for players and a limited selection of classes, races and spells to pick and choose from (although 114 pages is most of the Players Handbook, so you’re not losing all that much), and for DMs a collection of monsters, how to build encounters with them, and some magic items to hand out afterwards. Without spending a penny you can have enough to dabble into the full game, but they’ve given just enough to make the books well worth buying. If you own the books already get these downloaded onto your phone or tablet though, it helps when travelling light, or for sudden and unexpected gaming situations.
So that’s it, right? All the core rules and a nice little collection of extra supplementary material for free. They can’t give any more away, surely?
No, hypothetical reader, I am not done! And stop interrupting me!
If you’re a stalwart of the WotC flagship product then there’s a few other online tools you’ll be familiar with that some consider an absolute must for play. The virtual tabletops Fantasy Grounds and Roll20 are both now fully endorsed by Wizards and have official support for new releases, making it easier for people who prefer to play online – or are forced to by time and distance – to join in and get a richer experience. Granted that support isn’t free, but there’s a limit as to how much can just be handed out.
The DMs Guild powered by the DriveThru team who support content creators for RPGs is a dedicated platform for writers wanting to generate content for D&D within the official guidelines laid down by WotC. That may sound limiting, especially when you can just use the normal DriveThru RPG platform and make money the same way, but if you play by their rules Wizards might just pick up your content to go official, and the chance to have your work appear alongside the official staff writers. It’s a great way for Wizards to source the best material straight from the fan community, but it’s also a great way for writers to make money and get publicity at the same time.
There’s more, there is so much more, from the fan site toolkit, the Podcast (which featured the writer of Rat Queens one time and I squealed like a fangirl), the Open Gaming License, to associations and respective nods to other major companies, many of which fan-made that have grown to industry giants, some of which seemingly unrelated… like My Little Pony… just, click that link, you’ll be richer for the experience. Is it all perfect? No, but it is a huge step towards improving company-customer relations, and one that a company like Wizards sorely needs in order to keep revenue flowing. Those books aren’t cheap, but when you feel like your money is put to good use it all suddenly becomes a little more worthwhile.
Dammit Hasbro, you cunning puppet-masters, you made me love you a little bit.