Sunday, 6 September 2020

Scooby Doo Betrayal at Mystery Mansion Review

Review copy courtesy of Wizards of the Coast.


Board game for 3-5 players.


Pros:

  • Thematic gameplay that leads to fun situations. There are some very entertaining cards and there's quite a bit of fun to be had watching people fail at the events depicted. It very much helps to be able to get into the situation and enjoy the story that results. It's a Betrayal game after all.

  • Many new themed haunts, though not as many as some other versions of the game.

  • The Scooby Doo theme is given some attention, if you're into that part of it. This is mostly obviously seen in the haunts, and even the instruction manual got a change for this version. I think it's not a bad job at all. I'm not sure if it's as big a change as the D&D one though.


Could Go Either Way:

  • It's a Betrayal game. While there are changes, it is still very much the same system and if you didn't like the original it probably isn't enough for you to like this one. This goes for any variant. It’s best to think of it as a reskin.

  • While many of the cards do have art (much more than the Adventure System games), there are still many cards that are just descriptions.

  • The layout of the street level can get quite confused due to the combination of street and building tiles over the course of play. It makes for some interesting gameplay due to variety but often doesn't lead to the most sensible results.

  • It’s heavily dependant on luck. Go in expecting an hour or an hour and a half of luck centred high jinx. If you prefer more strategy and less luck, this might not be your thing.

Cons:

  • The chips/markers used to mark your stats stills aren't very good. They will cause damage to your character cards. You can kind of get away with not fully pushing them on, but that will obviously make it far easier to knock them off. This was a problem in the earlier version I reviewed. I’m a bit disappointed it wasn’t fixed in some way.

  • Wish the rules were provided online in PDF form or some other alternative in case of damage to the included ones.*

* Denotes nitpicking.


Scooby Doo Betray at Mystery Mansion Box
The box of Betrayal at Mystery Mansion.


Introduction

A new Scooby Doo movie is on the loose. What’s a fitting board game to tie in? Well, you could do much worse than Betrayal at House on the Hill. There’s the whole betrayer concept that doesn’t really fit, but that can be fixed with some writing. What do we get after all that? Well, this. So with that let’s go and jump right in. After all, execution matters.


It's Betrayal ... Again

I’ve already done a review of a version of Betrayal at House on the Hill. That one was D&D flavoured though. This is very similar in approach. The haunts and scenarios change a bit, and the characters are now characters from Scooby Doo, but otherwise the game is unchanged. This means if you have one of the other versions of the game, you’re unlikely to need another unless you think it’d appeal to a younger family member more. As a result, I’ll be repeating myself for completeness sake. That way you don’t have to read the other review if you don’t want to.


One thing I did notice is that the cards had more art and the box itself was made in a way to make it easier to store the pieces inside. I think both of these are good changes, but obviously by themselves they aren’t enough if you already own a different version of the game.


Betrayal at Mystery Mansion Pieces
Pieces for Betrayal at Mystery Mansion.


The Game Itself

The basis of the game should be familiar to anyone you read my review of the Baldur’s Gate version. If you’re reading this in order to get a feeling for what the game is like, you may want to look at that too. You explore a location by laying down tiles. So as you explore, the map is created. As you do, you draw cards which result in you picking up items, omens, running into bad situations, that sort of thing. Eventually, things change. One player is chosen to be the “traitor”, though given that it’s Scooby Doo it’s flavoured as them being captured/put out of commission by the villain of the week. The players then do their best to accomplish their conflicting goals.


Just like the other variants, luck is a major factor. Rolling dice, and drawing cards remain big parts of the game. This means sometimes someone will lose due to a series of bad rolls. As I said before “In my opinion it is one of those games where you need to lose yourself in the game and enjoy the story that is coming about over the course of play. Sometimes that story will be the heroes making an easy time of the villain. Sometimes it will basically be a slasher movie as the betrayer knocks out the other players one by one. It's just the nature of the game.”


There are 5 characters to choose from, each one being a main character from the show. This makes sense given it is Scooby Doo, but it is a decrease from the 12 in Betrayal at Baldur's Gate. Each character still has their own stats and their own abilty. This is still welcome, as it mixes things up on repeated playthroughs, which is a necessary part of the game. It really is meant to be played multiple times, and each time being different than the last.


A big consideration with so many flavours of the same game being out will be the tone you’re looking for. The original is a common favourite in my circles on Halloween. It sets the scene well, and really radiates that tone. This is somewhat close in that way compared to Betrayal at Baldur's Gate, which is more like an adventure, but not quite as horror movie-esque. Really, this would be a great one to play with kids, especially if they’re fans of the show.


The Game Pieces

The game pieces are in line with the quality of the previous game I reviewed, Betrayal at Baldur’s Gate. However, one place where this release is notably worse is in the player tokens. These here have a stand and cardboard cutout similar to some of the Pathfinder boxes. In the previous one I looked at, they had proper painted miniatures. I would have liked to see the characters modelled and painted.


As you should be used to with these types of board games, there are pages of tokens you need to push out before use. These include the tiles that will later make up the map you’re exploring. The material is card stock commonly found in these sorts of games. Just think Settlers of Catan or the D&D Adventure System (like Castle Ravenloft Board Game).


Betrayal at Mystery Mansion Storage
The box storage design.


The Art and Build Quality

The quality of the tiles is in line with the other versions of the game that I’ve seen. The art on things such as the cards is simple, but very fitting for what the card shows. This is important since they are on the smaller side compared to the Adventure System, so they need to look good, get the idea of the room across, but not be too busy. And on those points I believe it hits. Plenty of board games just have plain description on coloured cards, so I’m happy to see that this version has art on the cards. The one I previously reviewed was pure description.


The tokens are also what you’d expect. Art on simple backgrounds to ensure it stands out. This extends to other parts, such as the character cutouts. However, it still looks like the clips can damage these cutouts like they could in Betrayal At Baldur’s Gate, which is rather disappointing. Keep this in mind when using them. You could only partially push them on, or just leave them on the ground and lay it on top. You could also get lucky and have clips that don’t do that.


Where it dropped the ball in comparison to other versions of the game is the player miniatures. Well, there aren’t any. Instead it’s cardboard cutouts with a plastic platform. If they could’ve gotten some decent sculpts, I think it would’ve really added to the game. They wouldn’t be as reusable for D&D, but seeing sculpts on the board really does add something.


Reusable For D&D

Not really. There’s no miniatures, the tiles aren’t good for D&D maps. I guess you could use some of the cards, but the Adventure System board games are much better for that, as well as tiles for maps and they have miniatures too. Really, this is a board game you buy for the board game itself.


Price

The suggested US price is $50. This seems to be the same as the suggest price for the original Betrayal game, though depending on when you search you may be able to find it for cheaper.


What I felt was Missing

I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again: I hope they put the rules online. These often get damages or lost, so having a printable backup without scanning my own book would be greatly appreciated.And if they have since I posted? Link me. I'd love to have a link to it right here. 

As well, there's fewer haunts in this one than the D&D version, and now there's also one less player due to all the players being part of the Scooby gang.


Summary

So it’s the same good old game that’s we’re accustomed to. There’s still a betrayer mechanic, at which point things switch from being about exploring the location to accomplishing a goal. The art is well done and consistently present throughout, even on the cards. We did lose out on miniatures like the D&D flavoured version though. All in all, it really depends on the flavour you want. Want the classic horror movie style theme? Not here. Want the D&D style adventure? Not here. Want the more relaxed Scooby Doo style, which will probably go over much better with the younger among us? Here we are.

Saturday, 20 June 2020

Eberron: Rising from the Last War Review

Review copy courtesy of Wizards of the Coast.

Pros
  • Lots of full cover art.
  • On the longer side for these books at 320 pages long. These setting books should be 300-400 pages at least in my opinion, not the 200 or so of your typical adventures.
  • The descriptions of the houses, backgrounds, and the world is very nicely done. The Group Patrons are a particularly nice section, which I hope to see a return in the future for different settings.
  • This was probably in my top 3 of next settings to do for this edition (other two being Planescape and Dark Sun). Now let’s get some adventures for it.
  • Some new NPCs/monsters for us Dungeon Masters (37 pages). Honestly, I’d have liked to see more.
  • The alternate cover looks amazing in my opinion. Much better than the normal one.

Could Go Either Way
  • I’m not a fan of the new races. Where before human was uninspired but workable, here we have outright extra damage for some of these. These shouldn’t be why you buy the book. I think I’m feeling some power creep.
  • I’m not a fan of the new classes either. There are elements, such as magic item creation, that sort of step on the toes of the magic item creation rules that exist. It also takes away some power from the Dungeon Master which I think is usually best to let the group figure out. And I’ve never been a fan of a class that has a companion as part of the way it operates. That said they don’t seem overpowered to me. I haven’t had a chance to run a player as one though.
  • Besides the map, there wasn’t as much art that wowed me compared to previous books. Except the alternate cover. That one looks absolutely outstanding.
Cons
  • No PDF*
* Denotes nitpicking.

Eberron: Rising from the Last War Covers
Both versions of the cover. I personally love the one on the right.

Introduction

D&D has a long tradition of many interesting settings. From the Forgotten Realms, to Greyhawk, to Planescape and Eberron. Oh yeah there’s also Dragon Lance, and Ravenloft. And Dark Sun. I’ll stop there. And now we have Eberron making its return. I’ve never run Eberron before, but have played in some mini-campaigns and one shots, and liked what I see. I hope that we’ll eventually get all of the classic settings brought back. However, how’s this one? Well, let’s jump right into it.

New Player Options

There’s a fair amount of player options here. There are 4 new classes (artificer, alchemist, artillerist, and battle smith), 13 dragon marks, and 8 races for a total of 11 sub races (I think, globinoids get 3 different, non-overlapping stats). There’s also about 6 pages worth of magic items that the Dungeon Master gives out, but they decide how to use. So all in all, not a bad amount for a player.

However, I’m not a big fan of these new options. Artificer takes control from the Dungeon Master regarding magic items, and now we have magic item creation rules along with this. The battle smith has an iron pet as part of their class. I’ve never been a fan of including creatures as part of a class because let’s say I give the fighter a couple of soldiers they order around. Well, aren’t I sort of stepping on the toes of a class that has a creature companion baked into its class? It becomes even more of a problem if a party member get a wolf companion or something.

Eberron: Rising from the Last War Elves
The kind of art that you throughout the book. Pictured here are elves.

New Monsters

Oh yeah, here we go. There’s 37 pages of these guys for a total of 38 different creature stat blocks. Some of these share a main type, but still, not bad at all. If anything, I wish there’d be more. Standouts include the Overlords (ancient extremely powerful beings trapped for now), and the Quori (creatures from the dreaming dark, possessing hosts to act upon the world).

What You Need to Play

Well, you’ll need the basic rules and the Monster Manual to fill out more of the creatures not given here, as well as rules. What else? Oh yeah, you’ll need to come up with your own adventure as this is just a settings guide.

The Contents Itself

The rest of the book is dealing with the tone of the settings, locations, characters, and events that occurred and shaped the current state of the setting. I’ve already gone over the monsters and classes so I won’t repeat what I said. That said, there's quite a few interesting monsters here that could be used for mini or complete campaigns.

When it comes to Eberron, my experience before this was planning in a mini-campaign. That makes me not as well versed as some others, but that playing experience has stayed with me. And the reason behind that is the setting itself is fascinating, and warforged were so well tied into the setting.

What this book does very well is set up opportunities for players and parties. Factions are well outlined, as well as occupations and patrons for player parties. This hasn’t featured in other published material before, but the basic idea is someone is working, financing, or somehow otherwise involved with what the players are doing. They could be running a news paper, running a security agency, working for a government, and much more. It’s expanded on very well, and having players invested in the world is often good for player engagement.

Locations are described as well as we can expect, and in line with previously published books. The nations, factions, rulers, and important cultural aspects are explained first. After this, the nations, kingdoms, and other areas are detailed. The differences and details of each area are covered in broad strokes. Sharn gets its own little section as well. Just under 50 pages are devoted to all of the areas of Eberron except Sharn, though part of this count is devoted to the faiths of the areas. This translates to a couple of pages per area, with many different areas detailed. The 5 nations that resulted from the fall of the Kingdom of Galifar are detailed, but there are many other areas and parties at play as well. An additional 30 are devoted to Sharn alone. The aftermath sections are particularly interesting, and help set the world as having scars that have yet to heal from the recent conflict, as well as the current state being fragile. Combine that with the maps, and it becomes a very interesting package. I’d have liked to see more art of the ruins though, given the emphasis on the scars left after the last war.

The section on villains is also interesting, and combined with some of the new creatures included are begging to be used. There’s even tables to roll story development and ideas. Now, I wouldn’t recommend doing your gaming session purely by dice rolls ... though that does sound like an interesting challenge. Instead it gives you ideas inline with what intended in the settings. The themes, the tone, those important elements that help provide a starting off point. Combine that with the examples of possible antagonists and villains in the setting, as well as things to keep in mind while making an Eberron adventure, and you get something that makes me want to run a session in that world. I want to see more for future settings, and actually more in this one too. Examples go a long way and while I feel adventures are the best examples you can make, what we have here is pretty good.

Eberron: Rising from the Last War Over Body
One of my favourite pieces of art from this book.

The Art and Book Build Quality

What you’re used to is what you get. The build quality is the same hard bound book. The binding is done in the same manner. Both of mine were perfect, but I’d suggest opening to the middle of the book and checking the binding there. However, I’ve seen previous books with issues, and if you’ve already got the book in your hands, I’d suggest checking it.

The large scale maps in particular are beautiful, as is the alternate cover. Large regions, such as Islands, continents and cities, are beautifully detailed with full colour art. Unfortunately, I wasn’t wowed by the art as much as usual. There were fewer pieces done in that pseudo realistic style I so love seeing in these books. That style makes for particularly stunning art for locations, and I feel it was a wasted opportunity not to include it in this book. The exception here are the maps I mentioned. They are stunning like usual. Interior locations are unfortunately mostly done in black and white. I would have loved to see them with more detail and colour, but at the least they get the impression across. Don’t get me wrong, the art is good, as are those interior maps. They get what they need across and it’s better than no art at all. There are also some really impressive pieces. The picture of the Cathedral of the Silver Flame is a standout, as are the illustrations of all of the dragon marks. But it isn’t as awe inspiring as some other books in this edition.

Price

The price is the standard MSRP of $49.99 USD. Nothing new here.

What I felt was Missing

Up until now books functioned as settings and also as adventures. Curse of Strahd is one such example. This one is basically begging for a published adventure, but it’s not here. Even a short one on the website or in a magazine would do wonders. When we got the Forgotten Realms book, we had already had quite a few adventures set there already. This does wonders for expanding characters and giving the setting its character.

Please Do Planescape Already

I’m happy to see another setting in this edition. In fact, I want to see more. In particular Planescape would be a great next choice. I wouldn’t mind Dark Sun either.

Free Stuff

Nothing to see here.

Eberron: Rising from the Last War Fighting Ghosts

Summary

And here we are: another campaign setting. Eberron has stuck with me ever since I my first campaign. It was one of the settings I really hoped to see covered sooner or later. The war forged, constructs made for the last war that are playable, elves dabbling in necromancy, and sleeping beings of great power all combine together to make a setting you’d never want to leave in the right Dungeon Master’s hands. Overall, it’s a solid campaign setting book. The art is what we’ve come to expect, though I didn’t find as many standout pieces as some other books in this edition. The maps are gorgeous, I just wish the interior maps of building had more colour. The ones detailing kingdoms and continents are what you’d expect to see in an in world atlas. The emphasis on in world business and occupation is very nice to see, as is the section detailing villains and conflicts you can cook up for your players. All of this begs for an adventure. One thing books like Curse of Strahd had going for them is their dual nature as a setting and adventure in one. However, here you have just the setting. I hope we get it soon, and I guess that’s a good sign.

Monday, 18 May 2020

Forgotten Realms Laeral Silverhand's Explorer's Kit

Pros
  • Complete set, including 2 D20 (for advantage/disadvantage), 1 D12, 1 D10, 1 D8, 4 D6, 1 D4, 1 D100 (in 10 increments)
  • The additional of informational cards is a nice touch. They outline locations and factions in the Sword Coast, and also provide a map. The added value here is great, I just wish they’d extent this further. Potion trackers, condition cards, that sort of thing.
  • The card box with inner felt is nice, and closes well.

Could Go Either Way
  • If you’re already an expert on the Forgotten Realms, the cards are going to be of no help to you. The map is still nice though.
  • The two D20s are oversized compared to normal dice. I’ve personally always preferred the smaller ones as it easily allows me to grab a D20 and a D8 for my long sword, and roll both at once. I would prefer if the extra material just went to more dice. That said, if it’s your thing, no complaints.
Cons
  • Similar to the other dice sets in this edition, this set can be a bit pricey compared to other dice manufacturers. These sets often go on sale making them more affordable, but the MSRP is rather high when you can buy sets for 10 bucks at your local game store. With sales though, it can be a far easier sale. That said, I’m happy to see that they added more to it than some previous sets they’ve released.


Introduction

We got yet more dice, this time aimed at the Forgotten Realms. The set, called the D&D Forgotten Realms Laeral Silverhand's Explorer's Kit, features 4 d6s, 2 d20, 1d12, 1d10, 1d8, 1d6, 1d4, and 1d100. To actually use the D100, you need to roll both the D10 and the D100. One gives you the one’s column, the other gives you the 10s. This is pretty standard. And the appearance of the dice look quite nice. However, there’s more to the box than just the dice.

The Box

There’s a card box that comes with the set as well. The inside is nicely padded, and the artwork on the outside is very striking. I think it’s more of a display piece though, as I wouldn’t trust it around water, and I can see it being scratched up. Instead I think it belongs on a shelf. I’d suggest actually going to a game with a dice bag if you care about preserving the box. When you’re at home though that consideration goes away.

Cards

Included are a range of cards with descriptions of characters, locations, and factions found in the Sword Coast. Now these I like. You can keep them in the middle of the table for players to consult regularly, re-read quickly if there’s been a pretty serious break, or just put down on the table when meeting with a particular person as a visual aid, in in a particular area. Of course, if you’re not going to play in the Forgotten Realms this goes unused though.

Oversized Dice

I prefer normal dice. I find it harder to properly roll two dice at once when some are normal size and some are large, so I generally prefer the plastic to be used on more dice. I recognize this is a thing specific to me, but I could also see this view point being shared by others.

Sunday, 26 April 2020

Free Dungeons & Dragons Content Through D&D Website

Recently there has been a slew of free content provided for D&D on the official website. Quarantine? Time off? D&D? Sounds like my kind of time. I'm really happy to see this sort of thing, and free content makes it all the easier if you're new to the hobby or otherwise. Thanks again.That said, there's a few things that should be known. And they are...

What You Need
Basic rules 
SRD  Extras (Use with basic rules for things like more monsters, and more classes)

Manually Check
So, the bad news is that you have to manually check the page as far as I can tell. No email group so you can easily get them as they get posted. If you know otherwise, please point it out.

Mix Of Links
There's also a mix of stuff hosted right on the website, and others pointing to the Dungeon Masters Guild. Which means actually getting the free stuff can require you to log in, and others can be downloaded right from the link. Well, can't complain too much about free.

Some Expire
Some of the links expire, or have already expired. Get them quickly. That said, I really wish they'd update the expired links. Striking out expired offers or some other visual indicator would make combing through the page far easier. 

Dungeon Master: Magic Weapon Flavour

Unfortunately, even swords channelling the power of the plane of elemental fire can get dull. It starts off by being a cool new item, and dealing significantly more damage. A few more sessions later, it can become nothing more than a stick that hits +2 harder, or more likely 1D6. Of course, it doesn’t have to be this way. There are many different methods, from complex magic items that simply can’t be forgotten due to their combat options and out of combat personality, to little extra touches. I hope to cover the second option today.

Make It Cool In Use

My players like to have the scene set. It doesn’t matter that it takes longer to run a session. They enjoy the story telling, and part of that for them is the little details of the scene. It’s not enough to roll a critical and see they killed the bandit, they want me to describe it. Or describe it themselves. Amazing magic items greatly change these scenes. The reaction from a vampire to a sun blade is far different than being beaten by a non-magic mace.

Elemental Damage Is Fun

Elemental damage is one of the most common, and also one of the easiest to add flavour to. Flame based weapons can leave scorch marks on armour, and even walls and furniture on misses. +3 weapons can make loud crunch noises and crack armour. Even if the armour holds from a near miss, it might still crack or shave pieces off where before it was piercing through. I’ve even seen a player who would stick their cold damage dagger into their drink to cool it down. And of course, in rainy weather your flaming weapon may create steam.

Electric and force damage is often trickier, but still possible to work with. Your player might get a minor and harmless static shock when trying to look over the body that they shocked. Maybe even make smoke rise from them Star Wars style. Near by items could get shifted and fall for force damage.

Critical hits that result in one hit KOs can be a lot of fun too. You might freeze kobolds solid, or shatter parts of them. Perhaps their water skin is frozen solid from the hit too. Even if their target is still standing, you can freeze some terrain like a shallow nearby puddle, or maybe for a moment the rain turns to hail. Or maybe have the enemy shiver from a near miss. Have fun with it if it’s your thing.

Don’t Overdue It

Like all things, moderation is the key. However, one or two details per combat encounter can really help make players excited about their magic items. Part of that involves having a good memory. If they have a sun blade, don’t forget that they lit up a good portion of the cave and can see who was attacking them in the dark. Even players can forget some of the less obvious combat effects of items, and those “oh yeah, cool” moments go a long way over the course of a campaign.

However, it’s really still about their characters so a couple details to show that their magic sword is still cool is often appreciated. If they are the ones bringing it up, and trying to use their item in a cool way, of course let them. But I’d suggest not making the items the focus more often than a couple of times per combat encounter, and be careful going too far. Turning on your sun blade won’t blind everyone within range, but describing the now revealed bandits covering their eyes for a moment before attacking isn’t too much.

It’s a tool at your disposal and I think it is best used when combined with techniques to make more interesting magic items, and situations that give chances for your characters and magic items to shine.

Sunday, 1 March 2020

Dungeon Master: Riddles

Riddles are a classic element of adventures and fantasy works. From cryptic clues left by an old wizard in one of their books for no-one other than themselves, to elaborate death traps created by malicious gods, it comes up sooner or later. However, tabletop gaming is different than a fantasy movie or book. The game needs to keep moving. Your players can’t spend a week straight on a riddle like a character can. So to prevent a game from stalling, there are a few techniques I’ve seen used, and I hope to share them today.

Roll For Success

Sometimes you can just let a character roll for a solution. They meet the DC, they get the result. I’m generally not a fan of this solution because it makes the riddle just another roll. That said, it’s a trick to keep in your back pocket if everything else fails.

Research Mechanics

Often time is important for a quest. One thing you can do is allow players to trade in-game time for hints. If you present it to the party, and they can’t figure it out, they can spend time researching the book, or looking over the area, and as a result they get a hint that makes the answer easier to figure out.

Find An Alternate Solution

There are often alternate solutions to a problem. Can’t figure out the puzzle on a tomb door? A scroll of fireball could do the trick. One moment that stands out from my games is where the party, including myself since I was a player, decided the best course of action was to buy 500 gold worth of alchemists fire, and burn their way through. It worked though we had to wait an extra couple hours for the smoke to clear.

These solutions are often non-ideal and come with a cost. The alchemist's fire cost money. It also cost us time since we had to go back to the city, and back to the tomb. They might petition their deity for help, or talk to a nearby corpse using good old necromancy (speak with dead is a good way to get another riddle). These are slightly different since they will end up using the ideal solution in the end. However, they are taking some extra steps because they couldn’t figure it out themselves. Hiring a local wizard for consultation is another variant of this.

Failure Is Not The End

They got the combination on the chest wrong? It explodes, sending pieces of wood throughout the room. I lost 12 hit points, and the potion inside was destroyed, but now it’s open! A failure to a riddle doesn’t need to block the progress of the party. That said, there should be a cost. In this style, failure will open a new path for the players, but it’s less than ideal.

One particularly interesting example I saw was that another group of adventurers got into the tomb and solved the riddle. They are still there, and they’re not friendly. And one of them fell to their death with some of the loot, making it unreachable.

Layered Solutions

Any of the above can be combined. You can allow a roll (DC 16 arcana check to realize it’s an arcane lock spell, but they need to realize its magical), alternate solutions (using detect magic would reveal magic is a foot, dispel magic would remove the obstacle, they could still break down the door even with the DC 10 addition from arcane lock), or they can do it as expected and solve the riddle in the wizard’s book they found on his body. Now, I wouldn’t use this as a puzzle outside of low level without some changes, but it’s already sounding better than having them stuck.

Be Flexible

I’ve played and ran many a session where the players come up with a more interesting solution to a riddle than the Dungeon Master (or author of the published adventure). And you know what I did? I made it the solution. It worked based on everything that was provided, and it was even better. Why not reward cleverness? That said, you have to be a little careful not to have every riddle end up this way. Some of your riddles should be solvable.

Be Careful

Sometimes even seemingly easy riddles can be hard for people that aren’t in your frame of mind. There’s nothing wrong with having a few easy ones too. Makes players feel smart, and the game go at a good pace. Besides, didn’t they earn it by retrieving that wizard’s journal from those bandits? Generally, the more leaps of logic that need to be done, the less likely that it’ll be solved. That said, it’s very hard writing good riddles and puzzles. It also depends on your group.

Don’t Be Afraid To Reuse

We’ve had years of tabletop RPGs and video games, and more books than can be read in a life time. Don’t be afraid to reuse a cool riddle you find, especially from more obscure sources. Also, remember what’s considered obscure depends on your players. Also, don’t be afraid of putting a slight twist on the puzzle. Instead of answering the riddle of the sphinx, maybe they need to arrange 3 idols in three areas. One has a sunrise design, one has a sunset design, and one has a high noon design. Same problem, slightly different delivery.

Friday, 14 February 2020

Dungeons & Dragons vs Rick and Morty Review

Review copy courtesy of Wizards of the Coast.

Pros
  • Includes a comedy adventure that can be a lot of fun. It’s a dungeon delve style where each encounter has some comedy element to it.
  • Whoo, more dice!
  • Quite a lot of Rick & Morty style art. If that’s your thing. I always like new art. It even extends to the Dungeon Master’s screen (contains all the same rules that previous screen included).

Could Go Either Way
  • It’s the basic D&D rules as you’ve seen before. You can even find them for free on the website. What you’ll be missing is the comedy included along side them. This is again a double edged sword, because you need to be aware that the blurbs are entertainment, and not necessarily good advice. Can be very dangerous for the wrong new Dungeon Master.
  • There’s not really any extra reusable.
Cons
  • This is a comedy adventure. Comedy is fun the first time, but if you’re the kind to get bored when hearing the same joke a second time, running the same joke is probably even worse. That's assuming you found it funny the first time, as comedy is subjective.
  • No PDF*
* Denotes nitpicking.

Dungeons & Dragons vs Rick and Morty set
The set in all of its glory.


Introduction

Like D&D? How about Rick & Morty? Well, good news for you! There was a newish D&D starter set released that is heavily influenced by Rick & Morty. In practice that means that the adventure is written like it’s actually made by Rick, and the rules themselves have blurbs of “advice”. Much of this I wouldn’t actually follow but it’s there for the entertainment value. That’s the high level overview. Look below for a closer look.

The Adventure

New Player Options

I mean, it’s a starter box. So no. Closest we have to new player options is 5 new pre-made character sheets.

New Monsters

Once again the answer is nope. The descriptions for many have been Rick & Morty-ified, but that’s about it. And when I say that, I mean there’s more humour in them. It’s not that they’ve been massively changed in terms of gameplay. Because they haven’t.

What You Need to Play

You know how I always complain that you need to refer to the Monster Manual for adventures? Well, all of the creatures are included! The basic rules? Are included! Dice? Included. It is a starter set, so this is what I’d expect.

Dungeons & Dragons vs Rick and Morty art 2
Nice looking critter, eh?

The Adventure Itself

The adventure itself takes the form of a dungeon delve. You enter and go from room to room, experiencing encounters that all have some comedic twist. Some involve combat, some less, but there is generally some joke or punchline to every room. I ran through it with some friends and we had quite a few laughs. That said, in the nature of D&D, quite a bit of that laughing wasn’t written in the adventure’s script. It was spontaneous because a bunch of friends were playing D&D.

Now, this being a humour adventure, I think it’s very hard to describe and talk about. Humour is very subjective. However, because of how it’s structured, I don’t think it’s very repayable. If you do, it’s more like going through the same stand up comedy set. This is in opposition to adventures such as the classic Ravenloft, where elements would be randomized, and as a result allowing you to replay it every year at Halloween if you so wanted, with differences every time.

Alright. Fine. You won’t run it more than once for the same group probably. Well, I think most Dungeon Masters wouldn’t run it more than once for that same reason. They don’t want the same jokes again, and it doesn’t have a creepy atmosphere you could use for Halloween, or to see how someone new would go through Mines of Phandelver. If they do, it’s to be a joke teller like I described before. That makes it more niche than many other adventures. That said, there’s not many adventures in this niche, and basically no official ones. At best you’ll find traces of it in the full blown adventures.

Dungeons & Dragons vs Rick and Morty art
Example of the what the new art looks like.

The Art and Book Build Quality

The pages themselves are the thinner type we’ve come to expect from starter sets. If you saw the original starter set, you know what to expect. It’s glossy and thin, unlike the full hardcover books. This also extends to the screen. It’s not thick card like the one from the Christmas set a little while back, which felt like it was made from book covers. It’s thinner card.

The art itself is a mixture of art from previous work, and new art in the style of Rick & Morty. The old art still looks good, but anyone who has been around this edition for a while wouldn’t get exited from seeing it again. It’s limited to only the rules section of the book. The new art is quite common, both throughout the

Price

It’s the standard start set price of $29.99 USD. No surprises here.

What I felt was Missing

As far as low priced starter sets go, it has just about what I’d expect. What I would really like to see, however, is something reusable in general campaigns like dungeon tiles. Here, you can reuse the screen, and dice obviously, but some more would go a long way. Here’s an idea: let’s have a big zip of random stuff to help Dungeon Masters prepare. One example would be pages you can just add text to for handouts. Just print it out, and write on it with black pen. It’d go a long way if a starter set also helped players with the building blocks of their campaign for elements such as battle maps and handouts.

I’d also like to have seen some handouts we could show our players so they could see what the room looks like. Some old TSR era adventures did this, and given that it’s in the style of Rick & Morty, it’d be great to be able to show scenes to players in that style. Instead, a lot of it is in the rules and adventure itself, which will probably end up only seen by the eyes of the Dungeon Master.

Free Stuff

Nope.

Summary

There we have it. It’s a self contained box that has everything you need to run the adventure. The adventure itself is a dungeon delve where each encounter has a comedic twist or punchline to it. This makes it unique and fit a different niche, but I’m afraid that the replay value isn’t as high as other published adventures for this edition. As a general recommendation, I’d still suggest the original starter set to new players. That said, there’s enjoyment to be had here if you’d prefer a more comedic game. The other thing is that comedy being subjective, it's hard to say if a particular person or group will find it funny. I just wish it had more replay value, and more tools were provided for the Dungeon Masters of the future who pick it up.