Sunday, 17 January 2021

Icewind Dale: Rime of the Frostmaiden Review

Review copy courtesy of Wizards of the Coast.

 

Pros

  • Lots of full colour art (as we have come to expect of this edition). I really like the cover on this one. Probably my second favourite of the edition. The art inside is also better than usual for my tastes. Perhaps it’s all the snow.

  • The separate map that can be torn away is still included. I really like this. Keep this going for as long as you can.

  • It's got great atmosphere and the storming north is a great place for danger to dwell.

  • Aids such as the adventure flowchart and character guides make a return, and I’m happy to see it. These sorts of aids go a long way to making an adventure easier to run.

  • Many non-creature hazards like cold weather, cold water, and avalanches.


Could Go Either Way

  • Adventure is open ended and requires serious Dungeon Master preparation (for those who like the control, it's a massive pro). This should be fairly normal by now to those who read my reviews of these modules.

  • Some examples for certain features would be handy and reduce confusion. A good example would be a turn by turn for avalanches. While it’s not necessary to have it in the book, I believe it should at least be available through the website. I know I did one myself before trying to run the first part of the adventure to help me get my head around it.

Cons

  • Some of the encounters will take serious time to prepare, and won’t make sense as written.

  • No PDF*

 

* Denotes nitpicking.


Rime of the Frost Maiden Cover
Cover of Rime of the Frost Maiden.

Introduction

The last adventure for Dungeons & Dragons in 2020 was Rime of the Frost Maiden. It’s an adventure set in the cold region of Icewind Dale in the Forgotten Realms, but can be transplanted to the icy region of your home brew world with some work. A fitting adventure for winter I think.

In generally, I like many aspects of this one. The setting itself is probably a big reason for this, with cold weather playing an important role. I also like that the central conflict that the region is stuck in perpetual night and cold is there from the very beginning. It leans a bit into horror. That said, there are some encounters that will take serious preparation and care if you don’t want a total party kill. Or to be able to run them at all reasonably. I’m left scratching my head about multiple of them. How should I tie these together? One pretty big one doesn’t seem to work as written. I’d say this is as hard or harder than Curse of Strahd. But without further ado, let’s jump into the meat of it.


Rime of the Frostmaiden Docks Art
An example of the art in Icewind Dale: Rime of the Frostmaiden

The Adventure

New Player Options

There is basically nothing here. There are some player secrets that are used to spice the group’s motivations (I quite like this mechanic), there are some ties to the location based on background, there are some trinkets, and there are some magic items. They take up 1-2 pages per point, meaning that


New Monsters

There are a few monsters provided for this adventure, as we've come to expect. They take up about 45 pages, and they cover a pretty wide range. From vampire and zombie kobolds, new types of illithids and yetis. Most aren’t very easily transplanted, or like reindeer don’t really make for a good combat encounter.


What You Need to Play

The Monster Manual, Player's Handbook and Dungeon Master's Guide are referenced at the start of the adventure. This is normal now, though I do miss the old days when adventures could be run with the basic rules only.


The Adventure Itself

Rime of the Frostmaiden is an adventure that takes players from levels 1 to level 10. It starts with introducing the players to the location and certain non-player characters. These mini-adventures are easily can be easily repurposed for your own home brew campaign. I particularly like the murder case. It can easily be adapted to being related to devils or demons instead too. In fact, I’d say these early chapters with the party moving from town to town, learning about the situation, and encountering the danger of the cold are the strongest part of the book.

A big part of this is the setting. Settlements and towns are small, the weather is cold, and even deadly. This deadliness comes from just dying from the cold, dying from the cold while in water, suffocating after being buried alive in an avalanche and many more. This smaller setting and the brutal environment between settlements is something that helps make the adventure feel different. 2500 people is considered large, and many people are out so far because they are running away from something.

There are many horror like moments that occur. Sacrifices, discovering bodies, that sort of thing. It may also be why the adventure appeals to me, as my opinion of Curse of Strahd may have shown. This also translates to our cover villain, the Frostmaiden herself. There’s an air of mystery around them, and why they are doing what they are doing. This makes them different than many other villains/antagonists that feature in such adventures. And being a force of nature, this reflection in the setting is an element I greatly appreciate.

The later parts of the adventure take more time to prepare, or even to understand. These start to have many different moving parts, and often have a time element to them as well. However, as written, it’s a bit confusing and will take a Dungeon Master some preparation. In some cases you may opt to partially rewrite it for your campaign, but I’ll go into specifics in the spoiler section below.

Like many other adventures in this edition, I do recommend reading through the book and taking serious time to prepare. In this regard, it may one of the hardest adventures to prepare in this edition. I think the setting and feel of the adventure makes it worth it, but it needs to hit you right for that. First there’s the multiple towns that have their own casts and adventures. This is done in the early part of the adventure to help get players used to the setting. However, some will force the party to travel to other settlements which are often chosen by the Dungeon Master. Since players can choose the order they travel around, and this portion being more open is part of what contributes to its appeal, you’ll need to have them ready to drop in based on the player’s choices. Eventually the big things start occurring, but that’s also where those confusing things I mentioned earlier need to be handled. It’ll also help to know where things are going in order to help make all the parts fit together thematically.

One thing I’ll say is to keep an eye on the difficulty. Players can get themselves into situations they can’t really win. I do wish they’d note what combat encounters they actually expect players to get through, and which ones are just covering bases. There’s a demilich in one part of the adventure, but do the designers expect the combat encounter to happen? I’d recommend establishing this early with your players so they know what they’re getting into.

That said, if you can figure those sections out, it has the potential to be an amazing experience. Time is often a factor, and lasting consequences occur. Though combat can be difficult and it’s possible to make unwinnable situations if you’re not careful as the Dungeon Master, with care it can make really engaging situations. It can also be some of the most memorable in this edition.


Spoiler Corner

Here I’ll talk about specific things from the adventure. If you’re a player or think you will be a player, jump down to the art section below. You have been warned.

There is an encounter where a giant constructed dragon is unleashed upon the towns of Icewind Dale. The problem is that the times used don’t give players much of a chance to stop it. If they do too much damage, it’s supposed to fly away. You may want to consider making it take longer to destroy a town to give players more time to head it off at a different town. Or if you do enough damage maybe break a wing to keep it around. To make it worse, a table of travel times is provider, and in text the times to destroy a settlement are given. Meaning you have to do the math yourself. Remember what I said about preparation being needed?

There is the lich I mentioned earlier. Yeah, read this part carefully and try to figure it out. By Challenge Rating, this fight shouldn’t happen. So be careful when running this part or risk the wrath of a lich.

And of course, there’s the Frostmaiden herself. There’s a section of the adventure where she could be fought, and stats are given to fight her. One of the places where this fight can happen would be very difficult for players. My conclusion is that the operation is designed so the players avoid her until later. However, reading it, you might not get that fact. Keep this in mind when running this chapter of the adventure.

Rime of the Frostmaiden Docks Map
The sort of map found in Rime of the Frostmaiden.


The Art and Book Build Quality

To begin, the standard cover is my favourite in a good long while. I love how the eyes of the creatures glow, the detail, and the slight dimness. The alternate limited edition cover is also good, but I’ve come to expect at this point. They’re more stylized and higher contrast in appearance, but also solid. These books also perfectly fit the style we’re used to seeing, and look perfectly at home lined up in a bookshelf with other books from this edition.  The maps are also often in colour this time, and I like the style they're done in.

I’m also happy to report that my copies were solid in terms of physical condition. One corner was slightly bent, but you can look for that when you pick it out at your local bookstore. Even if you don’t, it’s not a major thing. What I would recommend is flipping through the pages to make sure they’ve all been cut properly, and that none are stuck together. This isn’t a problem for me this time, but I have run into that before.


Price

For the suggested retail price of this product, you can check here. The cost is the same we are used to for adventures of this size at $49.95 in the States and $64.95 in Canada. However, as usual, most places have the book at a lower price.


What I felt was Missing

A PDF of the adventure would be nice (like always I mention this). Having the supplement containing all of the creatures to run the adventure would also be nice. It was much nicer from a buyer perspective when all that was needed was the adventure. The rest would be provided by the supplement online and the basic rules (now we have the SRD but it doesn't cover everything), and I’ll keep saying so.

You once again need to find grids on your own. I’d have also liked some examples for things like dealing with an avalanche. Just having a turn by turn log for free on the website would help a lot of people understand what it’s meant to look like at the table.

There is a part of the adventure that includes a race against time. You will need to do some calculations beforehand to know how long players have. It would be nice if the adventure did that math for you though.


Free Stuff

Nothing here this time. Move along.

Rime of the Frostmaiden Docks Map Art Revel's End
An example of the art found within and how it's formatted. Not bad, right?


Summary

Overall, I’m enjoying Rime of the Frostmaiden. It certainly is one of my favourites setting wise, and the early part of the adventure that introduces the party to Icewind Dale is particularly well done. It’s a bleak, cold place that plays a bit into horror themes. This coldness is also prominently features in much of the art, which I enjoyed more than usual. After that, though the elements can be executed extremely well, it’ll take preparation time to get it to that point. I think that's partly because it’s not very easy to understand, and will take some time to do so. However, it also is because some aspects are left vague to allow the Dungeon Master to leave their own mark and handle the specifics. Or just because something was missed. If done correctly, it has amazing highs that make players make tough choices. However, I also think it’s not as focused or comes together as tightly as Curse of Strahd. If what I wrote sounds interesting to you, I think you’ll enjoy this one, but be ready to do your homework.

Sunday, 8 November 2020

D&D 5e Critical Hit and Fumble Charts Review

Pros

  • Collection of fumbles and critical hit options for D&D 5th edition

  • Outcomes are well varied

  • Fits on one page for easy reference

  • Free!

Cons

  • Bleeding effect ending not specified in the description (this could have still fit on the page)

  • Too many options to remember (will need to use the one page reference mentioned above)

  • If you've been playing a while, you've most likely developed your own table if you like the idea


Introduction

Fumbles and critical hits are a classic part of D&D. I remember the very first game I played had one. The idea of players expecting something awesome after they roll a natural 20 is an iconic part of the game. However, sometimes the fumble and critical tables we are used to don't exactly translate over well to a new edition. For those of us who need a new set of tables, there is the 5e Critical Hit and Fumble Chart.


The Details

The chart is quite nice and straight forward. Not every option is equally likely and instead ranges on a D100 are given. As you can imagine, some criticals are better than others so such a setup makes sense. If you like most of the table but take issue with a couple of areas, this table makes a great starting point. You can just cross out the one that is there and add your own at the now freed slot. I also like how the last page has the entire contents of the file fit on one page. This makes it work as a great reference.


There are a couple of nice options as well in order to make criticals or fumbles less common as well as provide advantages to some classes. I like having extra options provided and considered, as anyone who has read my item descriptions would know.


Issues

Some of the effects mention bleeding but the description itself does not mention how to stop the bleeding. A clever Dungeon Master can use rules similar to alchemist fire or to other bleeding effects. However, be aware that the Dungeon Master will need to figure out the specifics (maybe you want a certain DC to be met before it ends). For some people, it's best that way. If you are newer and wanted it all written, you'll consider it incomplete.


The table isn't the kind of thing you memorize. Since there are many options and uneven number ranges, you will need to use the last page as a reference. However, since the author had the foresight to provide such a reference page, it's really only a minor issue at most. If, however, you are the kind of person who prefers to do as little looking up as possible, you might prefer to use the default critical hit and critical failure rules.


Conclusion

If you need a critical hit and fumble table for the current edition of Dungeons & Dragons, this is a good place to start. It's easy enough to modify but is generally fine as is. Be aware that you might need to come up with your own way to end the bleeding effects specified in the document. The last page is also easy to print and use as a reference. If you want to make your own, you may also want to look at this one for inspiration.

Saturday, 17 October 2020

Icewind Dale: Rime Of The Frostmaiden Dice & Miscellany

So, a large part of this will be duplicated from my previous reviews. That’s because this set is almost identical to the other sets.


Differences

  • The D20s are both normal size. I really do prefer it this way.

  • The map has a reverse side with maps of locations found on the big, overall area map. Also a good choice. It would be cool though if it was printed on small cards. That way you could place them down as they arrive, and also gives the Dungeon Master more freedom to choose which maps they want the players to see and when.

  • Everything is Icewind Dale themed, and meant to go with the adventure released along side, Icewind Dale: Rime of the Frostmaiden.

 

 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 factions and enemies that can be found in Icewind Dale, all written from the perspective of Drizzt. They 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, and Icewind Dale in particular. the cards are going to be of no help to you. The map is still nice though.

  • The reverse side of the map has a reverse side that goes into more detail of certain locations found on the main map. It’d be nice to have these on cards though, so you could place them over the area when they’re there.

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.


Everything below the image is duplicated from a previous review, which can be found here. I’ve done so for your convenience.


Rime Of The Frostmaiden Dice & Miscellany
Contents of the set: Dice, cards, map, and box.



Introduction

We got yet more dice, this time aimed at the Forgotten Realms. The set 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. 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, factions and enemies found in Icewind Dale. 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 Icewind Dale this goes unused though.

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.