Friday, 25 October 2019

Baldur's Gate: Descent Into Avernus Dice & Miscellany Review

Review copy courtesy of Wizards of the Coast.

  • Lots more full colour art. The map in particular is a real stand out. I absolutely love the style.
  • The dice themselves are a massive improvement compared to the Essentials set. It’s not a solid colour, but a nice marbled appearance.
  • The box is a standout part of the set. The symbol of Bhaal on one side looks amazing, and the inside of the box is also padded. Looks great on a bookshelf.
  • 2 D20s. Oh yeah, keep this going for as long as advantage is a mechanic.

Could Go Either Way
  • Like all of these Miscellany sets, it’s not mandatory. You can run the adventure just using your book, and if you have enough dice another set won’t be enticing.
  • Elements, such as the guide to different kinds of devils, aren’t as useful as I’d like. You can use the cards to show the appearance of the devils to your players. In fact, I recommend you do. The other side isn’t as useful though, being just a high level introduction by Volo. That said, this set has fewer of these useless elements than some of the previous ones.
  • There should be a font included on the website ready to download. The alphabet page included is very nice to look at and I’m happy to have it, but it’s power comes from being able to give it to your players and have them translate the abyssal message. I’d like to reuse it in my own campaigns but to do so, I need to be able to write my own message. And to do that, I’d like a font.
  • It’s packaged in a plastic case that’s not the easiest to open. And being plastic, it has a better chance of cutting your fingers or scrapping back the skin on your nails. Beware.
  • No PDF* included

* Denotes nitpicking.


Baldur’s Gate: Descent into Avernus is the newest adventure for Dungeons & Dragons, and it came with Miscellany sets. The goal of these sets has been to provide additional bits such as maps for games at the table.

The Package

It comes with a set of dice, cards for each kind of devil, 2 cards for encounters, 2 for trinkets, a map of Avernus with scale representation of devils on the other side, and a very nice box. All of that is wrapped up in a plastic cover which was actually a bit annoying to remove. Thankfully some leverage fixed that problem.

The Components

The appearance of the dice is a big improvement over the Essentials set. It’s got a red and gold colour very fitting for an adventure based around a level of hell, and looks far less boring than a solid colour.

The case is a standout part of the set. The art is absolutely beautiful. That said, I do have a bias towards the symbol of Bhaal. Might be too much time spent playing Baldur’s Gate way back when. The inside is padded and the box itself is made from thick card. It feels and is around the thickness of the rule book covers.

The cards are on the thinner side, but the are all double sided. The ones dealing with types of devils have a fairly well done drawing on one side, and an in world story involving that type of devil by Volo on the other. These sorts of things are great as aids to put on the table as players run across a devil. That said, I wish the art was done in a more photo real style. There is some absolutely stunning work in the adventure itself.

The map is not as large as the ones in the main adventure. It feel felt thinner to me as well, but it does look amazing. In general, this is the best looking set due to the art style and liberal art throughout. The maps in the previous one tended to be very simple in design.

There’s also a card for infernal, but that’s also at the end of the adventure book. It is nice to be able to put the card in the middle of the table, and it’s a very compact design, but it’s still a luxury.

PDF or Digital Version

I do wish a digital code came with the set. They did that with the essentials set, and I hoped it would be the beginning of a trend. It’s really too bad because being able to bring or mark up the map a bit before giving it to players would make it incredibly useful for my own campaigns.


I think my typical opinion comes into play here. If you’ve got your eye on an adventure and can only pick one, get the adventure. That’ll be a better use of your money as you’ll get hours of campaign out of it. That said, especially on sale, the dice and box alone could be worth it. As always look at the picture, look at the price, and decide for yourself if you think it’s worth it.


As with the previous set, I think it’s a luxury item. The illustrated devil cards are nice to have to show to your players as they run across a devil, but a good description will still work well. That said, it looks amazing. The small case/box that comes with the set looks incredibly from the outside. I think this moved in the right direction since the one for Dungeon of the Mad Mage had maps that were already present in the adventure, and this set is mostly composed of new elements, but it still has some ways to go to be something that I’d say increases the experience of running the adventure so much it’s almost a necessary addition.

Sunday, 6 October 2019

Dungeon Master: Voicing Characters

If you sit down to run a session of D&D you’ll have to take the role of different characters. You could have an empty dungeon that players are just thrown into, but even in that sort of situation it’s common they’ll run across a talkative ghost or fellow tomb robber. You might have a temptation to voice act all of the characters the players run across. However, this comes with difficulties and that’s what I hope to go over today.

You’re A Story Teller First

The first responsibility of the Dungeon Master is to be a story teller. The nature of collaborative story telling is that the players also have a story telling role, particularly deciding the actions of their characters, but the Dungeon Master is the head story teller and controls what comes their way. In this role voice acting is not necessary. I’ve played with plenty of Dungeon Masters who did not voice act any of their characters. They did change their manner of speaking, added certain words or constructs to give each character a personality, but they did little in regards to changing the tone of their voice. People were engaged enough with the story that their imagination filled in the blanks.

The Problem Of Long Gaming Sessions

Remember that Voice Actors take breaks and need to be careful not to strain their voices. You often don’t have that luxury when running a gaming session. Lasting 5 hours when voicing many different characters is a trail of endurance. If you’re unsure that you can last that period of time, don’t risk it. It’s better that you keep your voice for the other things you need to do that week, and also are in good shape for the next session.

Too Many Characters

If you have a campaign that lasts years, your players will run across many different characters. Bandits, villagers, mages, a magic talking skull where the soul of a mage who died 600 years ago is trapped, and many more! Most voice actors can’t voice every character in a TV series.

Pick Your Battles/Characters

So what’s the answer? First, I’d say it’s not worth voice acting a random villager in the street. Give them regional slang if you must, but giving them a unique voice isn’t worth it. It’s also unlikely your players will be able to easily tell all of your characters apart by voice alone unless the cast is kept short.

You don’t always know which characters will become long term fixtures in a campaign. A shopkeeper you meant as a one-off may become the player’s favourite place to sell their unneeded loot. This means that sometimes you’ll need to voice act characters after they’ve already spoken and made their introduction.

I’d suggest to pick a small number of characters who are important to your campaign, and voice act those. The main villain is a great choice, but not always doable. It’s rather hard to imitate the voice of a very deep voiced villain if your voice just doesn’t go that low. Keep this number low. For most I’d say don’t go past 3 characters.

Using Technology (Recording Ahead)

I once played in a one-shot where the Dungeon Master was a good voice actor. However, he also couldn’t voice all of the characters. So what did he do? He asked his friends to record lines for some of the other characters. When the character was introduced, he’d play the recording. It was 1-2 lines that established the character of their voice. After that, it was back to him speaking their lines with modified mannerisms.

This techniques works well and can help you if you’re on your own and get a bit of stage fright. However, the overhead of recording lines multiple times to get your ideal take can be too much and not feasible if you run sessions ever week and every two weeks. If you’re planning a one-shot, it’s far more reasonable if you have the prep time. In fact, I’d like to see more published adventures use this approach. I’d love to have a bunch of files I could play to introduce characters to my players.

Mannerisms and Lines Over Voice Acting

The title says it all here, and I’ve been mentioning this repeatedly but let’s get this stated explicitly. It also works as my closing statement. Focus on the story, what’s going to be said, and the mannerisms. If you do that, even without voice acting, people’s imagination will take over and your voice will fall away as they get immersed in the story. I’ve heard quite a few great story tellers in my time. Some did voices. Others didn’t, and I could still get lost in the stories they told.