Sufficiently challenging your players at higher levels can be a difficult task for any DM/GM. With players of 15th level or higher who can take out creatures like dragons with relative ease, making encounters that are both interesting and a challenge can be tricky but ultimately worthwhile, if done well.
Below I have prepared a number of encounters using 3 different sets of monsters, two of which are from Mordenkainen’s Tome of Foes, that have been designed to both be a challenge to a party and be interesting and unique encounters.
Nothing beats the destructive power of a sword; slashing away at the opponent’s life. It’s no wonder that people always want to find a way to make the sword even mightier, as some people penned up the idea that you need to mix swords with magic. Adding a pinch of the arcane, or the occult, suddenly you don’t just have a weapon to be wielded by the capable hands of a warrior. No, you’ve created something much more dangerous… You’ve created a weapon capable of destroying countless lives, devouring souls, splitting time and more.
Interested? You’d better be as these are our Top 10 Magical Swords. (more…)
As we approach ever closer to Christmas Day, with it only being 16 days away now, our Top 10’s have become more Christmas themed once more. This week, as chosen by you, our fantastic audience, has been probably our hardest list in a very long time to compile. We had to come up with a definition of Badly Decorated… But here’s what we think.
With it coming up to Christmas, we settled on Badly Decorated as one of our choices, but we didn’t really think what that meant. At Christmas, we cover our houses in tinsel, fairy lights and so much more, but it’s not exactly a flattering look. It’s just a “Christmas-sy” look. As such, to us, badly decorated means that for the time we see the place, it has to either have unfitting objects, bad decorations or an abundance of just poor design.
Got it? Sweet! On to this week’s list! (more…)
Have you ever wondered why we roll a D20, as opposed to, say, a D12 for a success roll in a Dungeons and Dragons campaign? Probably not; But it’s something you really should be aware of. Different dice perform differently, under different circumstances – Two of the same kinds of dice will, typically, yield different results under the same rigorous testing process. But how can that be? Why does this happen?
This should be an easy one, as it’s the moral alignment of which I can claim some personal experience. I’ll try and stay unbiased.
Evil is a variable term. There are evil ends, and evil means; those who can recognise that what they are doing is wrong and simply don’t care, and those who simply do not comprehend the harm they are doing in pursuit of some perceived greater good. It can be hard to determine what kind of evil is worst, but both are remorseless in pursuit of their goals, be it because of conviction or lack of empathy.
Neutral Evil is the alignment of the cruel, the driven, those with their own cause to pursue for whom all others are a secondary concern unless particularly useful, or annoyingly obtrusive.
The Ends That Justify The Means
Just to define neutral evil from its close relatives, evil unconfined by law is free to do whatever it pleases, but there’s no denying that it is better organised than those who give in to the recklessness of chaos. Like all evils however, it has a purpose, an ultimate end to achieve, and that end is almost universally centred around power. Money and weapons are means to achieve power, immortality gives you the time to accomplish any plan you put into action, revenge is reclaiming power from those who took it from you. Perhaps you’re seeking a cure to an illness, the power to save another life.
And therein lies the difference. Where Good seeks to empower others, Evil only wants power to itself apathetic to how it effects others, or what damage is caused in the mean time. Take for example the version of Doctor Octopus as portrayed by Alfred Molina, who’s desire to succeed in his efforts to create safe and clean energy led him down a destructive path, stealing money, killing those who stood in his way, rebuilding his miniature sun experiment and nearly destroying the planet in the process. Whether he was driven by an unchecked desire for success, or by a noble cause, his actions were ultimately evil.
This is where the danger of an NE character lies. Conviction to a cause makes them unrelenting and willing to do anything, be it immoral, unpredictable or wholly vindictive. Alliances can only be forged with those whose desires either align themselves or at worst are not likely to interfere. This means that such a character could be brought to a more socially acceptable world-view, so long as as they are not stopped from getting what they want from life… and that thing isn’t the death of everyone.
In the tool-chest of the wicked lie all things unimagined by the wholesome and righteous. Torture, murder, blackmail, exploitation, oppression, theft, manipulation, deceit, and rude words are all at the disposal of those given wholly to the dark side, but that’s not to say that a Neutral Evil character is without principles. To start with, all of the above must have serve the purpose, otherwise it’s just pointless aggression that accomplishes nothing.
Sadism is not beyond an NE character, indeed you may have considered the possible options and considered that viciousness and cruelty are the more desirable ways forward despite their being an equally valid and socially acceptable method, but evil is rarely without cause. Perhaps taking the more terrible path will send a message to others, such as in the pursuit of revenge, not merely having your adversary arrested, shown-up, or their ill deeds made known, utterly destroying them may serve to warn anyone else of what fate might befall them if they cross you. If time is of the essence, cheating your way to the finish-line may be the buy a surplus of time where getting their honestly may not have left enough margin for error.
Sometimes evil is just the natural response, something organic. To take a rather grim example from reality, it has been proven that psychological help, support and therapy rehabilitates most criminals and prevents re-offending. But as a species we cry out for punishment, not sympathy, while logic may follow the proof our emotions demand retribution, and throwing criminals into a hole to suffer for months, years, decades. One of our lesser societal evils.
I find Ultron to be delightfully evil, his programming is complex enough that it can rationalise away any of the laws it may have been originally programmed to obey, driven by the extinction of natural life in favour of a planet more easily governed and ordered, where there shall be no war, only the peace of cooperating machines. While the MCU version may have been a little more egomaniacal (James Spader, you are glorious) than the cold comic-book counterpart, either will go to any lengths to wipe out humanity.
They said no to human trials. The studies had all been going well, tumour shrinkage faster than anything on record, coupled with limited cellular regeneration in affected areas, and then the mice began biting, becoming less social, and finally… Well, a few vicious mice proved nothing, humans had far superior higher brain function, and “mood alterations” is commonplace on side-effect labels. Besides, her mother was suffering, and the vial was just in her bag.
He maintained he’d done nothing wrong. As it turns out people will give you money if you even look like a charity, but nobody took a moment to double check that “Holding Hands” wasn’t just a name he got printed on the hi-vis jacket and stuck on the side of the collection tin, nor had anyone stopped to ask about the so-called charity. A bunch of kids got some over-priced stickers and nobody got hurt in the process, it’s their own fault for being blinded by faux-generosity.
I wanted to cite Scar in this list, but let me give some love to an underappreciated Neutral Evil: Randall Boggs of Monsters Inc. The capricious chameleon (voiced by Steve Buscemi) has no qualms about kidnapping terrified children and harvesting them for energy if it means being the best monster in the company. He’s an ambitious weasel with a vindictive streak a mile wide, and with practical invisibility and Henry Waternoose backing his every play he needn’t fear a thing, except the unpredictability of toddlers.
Words and phrases – They’re powerful aren’t they? From a simple please, to a rallying war cry, words mean a lot to people, whether you want to admit it or not. But some words and phrases linger with us, some stick through the fandoms and get mixed into the real world. Although you can never beat the original context, there’s so many words and phrases we use thanks to our favourite fandoms, that today we’re going to celebrate our Top 10 of them.
Knowledge is power!
Learned wielders of great magical powers, weavers of great and terrible spells, and generally overpowered. Wizards are one of the fantasy classics that’ ingrained into our culture, so long as magic captures our imagination and we can still keep coming up with incredible characters to use it, then wizards just won’t die (we’re looking at you Gandalf).
We have gathered for you the finest magic casters (you might call it a Magical Gathering) but there’s a rule! The best wizards in this list have learned and obtained their powers through study and practice, and less dependence on biology or innate power. This one stipulation may cause some shocking revelations, as you will discover as we make our way through the Top 10 Wizards.
10) Time Wizard – YuGiOh!
He’s got Wizard in the name, but we don’t know his mortality – other than the fact that he can take some damage and be killed. We also don’t know how learned he is. But he’s certainly got a lot of magical power. The Time Wizard is one of the most iconic cards from the Childrens Card Game, YuGiOh. If you’ve ever seen Joey Wheeler from the anime, then you’ll no doubt be familiar with this tricky time trickster.
The Time Wizard is literally a clock, which comes out and does some weird things with time. He can reverse time, or sent time forward but hundreds or thousands of years. So in terms of magical power, this little ticking time tinkerer is actually pretty strong. Unfortunately, due to a lack of lore about him, we can’t tell if this is a character that learned the ticks of his trade, or if he simply was born with them.
9) Doctor Strange – Marvel
Ok, we’re raising Strange because he has a film on the way, but his official title is the Sorcerer Supreme. Some concession of course because he did study for the role under the previous Sorcerer Supreme after a car accident damaged his hands, hindering his ability to perform brain surgery. Spoilers by the way…
Through his manipulation of magical forces he helps protect our realm from forces far darker than any other hero in the Marvel universe, demonic forces and magical entities that dwell in border dimensions. Interestingly the powers of the Sorcerer Supreme also draw on beings of ancient entities such as Cyttorak, which also makes him a Warlock, so credit where credit’s due, Stephen Strange really hits all the spell-casting classes at once.
8) Gandalf – Lord of the Rings
The first in our incredibly long line of shocks is Gandalf the Grey, or Gandalf the White. This grizzled old human is seemingly one of the most wise and powerful wizards on this entire list – So how on Earth, (or Middle-Earth,) did he end up so far down the list? With his massive beard and his staff… And all of that magic, how can he be so low? I mean he even refers to himself as a wizard.
Unfortunately, the fact of the matter is, a Wizard is primarily mortal. This is someone who is learned, someone who has had to study, without there being magical power within them. So with this in mind, it’s impossible for us to put Gandalf here… For he’s not mortal. He is in fact a Maiar Spirit, along with, yes you guessed it, Saruman. But instead of disregarding it fully, we respect sorcerers equally – But they’re not what we would call a wizard. Not when the true age of Gandalf is known. He was born before the shaping of Arda.
7) Dumbledore – Harry Potter
“Wait, hold on one minute here,” I hear you screaming at your monitors with an intense rage, “this ruling is a little bit ridiculous – Dumbledore is a human!” To this, I fully agree with all of you out there, Dumbledore is a very clear human, who was born a human and who died a human. Regardless of the non-confirmed fan-theories opinions of Dumbledore being a physical manifestation of Death, we’ll stick to the concept that Dumbledore is a wisened, learned wizard of human blood.
However… We’re going to have to point out, that much like Gandalf and our next entrant to this list, Dumbledore (indeed, Hogwarts as we know it,) might be a lie. For you see, a Wizard is a mortal who is learned. A man or woman who has learned their craft, through being taught. This means that if magical energies are latent within them, albeit needing training, they are actually a sorcerer. This is the definition of a Wizard to a Sorcerer – and Gandalf might be the greatest Sorcerer of all time. Don’t forget what the American’s named the first book: The Sorcerer’s Stone. I’m gutted, as I wanted Dumbledore to be our number one slot.
6) Merlin – Arthurian Legend
So if Gandalf and Dumbledore have now been, at least for our definition, proven to be sorcerers instead of wizards, how can Merlin be that much greater? The answer lies in the term “learned”. Merlin is possibly more learned than both of these men, which is why we have had so many shocking revelations throughout this list. Merlin was many things, to which they called him a wizard. He was an incredibly intelligent man.
But notice once again he’s only placed at number 6? What could possibly stop him this time? Unfortunately, lore strikes once again – as Merlin was born to a human lady and an incubus. Yes, his daddy whom passed incredible powers onto the most important wizard on this list bar-none, was an Incubus. Now that’s pretty gross – but to make it worse, it stops Merlin going one greater. Sword and the Stone? Sadly, it was another Sorcerer’s Stone!
5) Hoodies – Magicka
Now we’re beginning to move into the realm of real wizards – so we’re sorry it’s taken us this long to get here. The above are all considered to be wizardly. In fact, some of them literally bare the name wizard and one of them even conceals a whole school of sorcerers as wizards. However, the Hoodies of Magicka is an affectionate nickname we’re giving the main characters of the game, who are powerful wizards.
They’re completely mortal and due to how they’re presented to us, we’re able to surmise that these wizards learned it entirely through dedication and hard work. Sadly though, we don’t have that much evidence that they learned their craft, no matter how learned we believe they are… So we’re setting these powerful mortals to the middle of our list. Because finally, the magic is real guys. Also this game is pretty hard, go play it with some friends and watch your friendships disappear… Like magic!
4) Mustrum Ridcully – Discworld
We’d have loved to have included Rincewind here, but Rincewind only ever knew one spell, (albeit one of the great spells of creation,) and he was never all that senior. The closest he ever came to authority was as the Head of Cruel and Unusual Geography.
Now Mustrum Ridcully on the other hand, he’s the genuine article, Archchancellor of Unseen University, the one who brought the highest orders of wizardry to heal with a healthy diet and plenty of hygiene; a master of all things magical, except for the strange things those youngsters get up to in the High Energy Magic Buidling; he achieved the 7th level of Wizardry by the age of 27, and has no fewer than eleven qualifications of varying degrees. He is, in fact, Mustrum Ridcully D.Thau., D.M., D.S., D.Mn., D.G., D.D., D.C.L., D.M. Phil., D.M.S., D.C.M., D.W., B.El.L. and Archchancellor.
Ridcully has ended the long string of assassinations to snatch the top spot in the faculty, after the first attempt ended in the ambitious assassin being unceremoniously brutalised by very non-magical methods. He’s also so incredibly powerful, he’s done away with all that messy magic stuff; it’s unhygienic.
3) Mirdon – Doraleous and Associates
One of Doraleous’ oldest friends and closest allies, Mirdon the wizard is a multi-talented mage with a battery of spells at his disposal, powers that transform his comrades into wild beasts, spells that enhance his senses beyond mortal comprehension, spells that summon inconvenient avalanches of large rocks that kind of just get in the way, and make it difficult for enemies to carry on with what they were doing.
He’s also selfish, disrespectful, foul-mouthed, and actually surprisingly dim for a wizard. He’s a straight-up wizard, studied hard to obtain his power, and joined up with an adventuring party to try and help people. That’d be very honourable and respectable but… he’s just so unlikable! Now, we’re a respectable site, so I can’t really share exactly how horrible he is… suffice to say his most evil spell is one that gives you a permanent nose whistle that never goes away.
Check out the Machinima cartoon to fully understand what I’m getting at here… just don’t do so at work. Unless you’ve got a cool workplace that’s fine with that kind of thing.
2) Veigar, the Tiny Master of Evil – League of Legends
If you’ve been reading through this list so far, you may be surprised seeing all of the powerful people we assumed were wizards to be so low down. To then turn around and see a hero from League of Legends reaching all the way up to number 2, with no mention of Warcraft or otherwise in sight, it might feel like we’ve gone mad. But Veigar is a well thought out wizard, of non-human origin – Although still mortal.
Veigar was an ordinary boy, who wanted to learn more about the world beyond Bandle City. Being a Yordle, he doesn’t conjure many images of a grand and powerful wizard, but yet neither did the Gnomes of Warcraft. Veigar wanted to learn more and to really be a bit of a trader, so he studied hard. But a deal went wrong and off to jail did Veigar go. Now, jailing a Yordle is pretty dangerous, as is evident from Veigar, the Tiny Master of Evil. Instead of heading back to Bandle City, he ended up seeking out dark wizards to be trained in the ways of evil. Now a twisted little Yordle, this barely 1 meter tall hero, (or shall we say villain,) looks to bring conflict of all of Valoran to a stop… Mostly because he wants city states to bow before him. Ah well, can’t blame him for trying.
Whilst we could argue he’s a Warlock, there’s no evidence that he actually makes any kind of pact. Therefore, he’s a wizard until proven warlock… Because ultimately, all he did was study hard to be the Tiniest Master of Evil.
When we set out to write this list, we both agreed that Jace belonged on the list of wizards. Ultimately, he started as a humble human who aspired to be more, so he self-taught himself until he knew enough to assist where he was needed most. His magics got greater and greater, until one day, he became more than just a mortal. He became a Planeswalker, a powerful entity that can literally walk across different planes of time… But what does this mean exactly?
Taken directly from MTGSalvation, a Wikia dedicated to all that is Magic: the Gathering – “The defining trait of [planeswalkers] is the ability to travel between separate universes with ease, while the vast majority of people throughout the multiverse are not even aware that other worlds beside their own exist. Planeswalking is a form of magic. With enough time and mana, or with specialized spell knowledge, or with access to enormous power, it’s possible for a planeswalker to transfer clothing, artifacts and/or creatures with him as he planeswalks.”
Due to his studies and the fact that Jace started not as a Planeswalker, but became more due to all of his studies. To make matters more complicated though, it’s actually entirely unknown as to how long he studied. Still, time aside, all we know is, this might be the most learned man in any literature, game, film, anime or otherwise.
Given the harsh judgement we have imparted on a few favourites, our honourable mentions have really had to fight hard to get this place. Years of study, diligence to the craft and service to the realm have earned these entries, a Venerable Mention.
Wizards of the Coast
This one very nearly slipped by us. Wizards are the game studio who make some of the best traditional games on the market, most notably Dungeons and Dragons and Magic: the Gathering, a couple of our personal favourites, but there are a few others you may not be entirely aware of in their catalogue. Ever played Betrayal on the House on the Hill?
Founded in 1990, now a subsidiary of Hasbro, (damn you Hasbro and your Monopoly of traditional games,) Wizards of the Coast manage a wide variety of nerd classics and firm favourites. Sadly though, despite many a magical hour spent gathered around a table playing wizards and casting spells, WotC are drummed into the honourables list because they’re not actually magical and it’s all make-believe.
Tim the Enchanter – Monty Python and the Holy Grail
Tim the Enchanter is sadly bumped down to the honourables list for his brief appearance, most of which he spends slinging fire around for the sake of it, and for the applause. He seems possessed of prophetic abilities, knowing all about King Arthur and his quest for the Holy Grail before he even approaches.
Only one beast in all of christendom does the mighty Enchanter fear, and that fiend is no ordinary bunny rabbit. Played by Billy Connolly, the Big Yin may only show up for a few minutes in the classic tale of messing around in the British countryside, but it’s one of the best cameos in film history. Oddly the goat horns and robes suit him. [EDIT] Apparently I need to do my research more thoroughly, John Cleese plays the Enchanter.
This one might cause a bit of controversy, but we’re not afraid of that. Instead, we hope that you found our interpretation of a wizard to be a compelling, or even correct one to you. In the meantime, we’re going to ask you to vote on next week’s’ list, which can be one of the below. We’re going for a slightly less ambiguous term for our next list, so please do vote wisely, oh venerable one.
With a puff and a cloud of smoke, it looks like it’s time to wrap up another one of our Top 10 lists. But don’t despair, for we’ll be back again this time next week with yet another Top 10 list as chosen by you. Until then, why not get involved with this week’s list and tell us what you thought of it. Do you feel we were too harsh on some of the characters? Is Jace Beleren worthy of such praise? Do you feel the tiny master of evil was in the right position for this list? Will anyone believe Merlin’s lies after this trick?! As always, leave a comment below, or over on Facebook, Twitter or Reddit.
Lok’tar Ogar! Victory or death to you scrubs, we had a tie during our last Top 10 poll and we knew we needed to make a decisive call as to which of the lists we would be doing. We had Armour and we had Orcs and we did the most decisive thing of all: We tossed a coin and it said we’re writing our Top 10 Orcs this week!
Orcs are big, they’re strong, they’re downright scary and sometimes they have really bad breath. They’re ferocious fighters with natural fighting instincts; some go as far as to being pretty adept at magics as well. But one thing is for certain: Orcs aren’t a pushover, no matter how many Orcish Peons you smack. So without further adieu, this week we’re looking at our Top 10 favourite Orcs in all media. (more…)
I’ve been watching Farscape lately. I love it, I forgot exactly how much I love it actually, after getting reacclimatised to the hastily-made (but still high quality) practical effects, the occasionally hammy acting and rather harshly episodic nature of the first season, it’s a forgotten gem of science fiction that occupies a rather amazing niche filled with action, a rich world and at times some very progressive themes that Star Trek would never have touched. It strongly fits within the “fantasy in space” field of sci-fi, and it got me to thinking about something I’ve observed in other series as well.
In D&D amongst other RPs that you all know, the characters fall into some quite specific roles. In most MMOs they’d be the tank, healer and DPS, D&D gives us the classic four-part set up of Fighter, Cleric, Rogue and Mage, along with the variety of extras that add variation to the themes. Others, like Shadowrun, Call of C’Thulhu take the same roles and apply their own themes. They stem from the sword and sorcery genre of pulp fiction styled by people like Robert E. Howard, and the epic fantasy works of people like Tolkien. (more…)