Friday, 11 October 2019

A new warrior!

A fiend of mine is getting ready to run a Dungeon Crawl Classics one-shot for Halloween and I needed to create a new 3rd level character.  I think as far as Dungeon Crawl Classics is concerned I've only ever had one character legitimately 'earn' his way up to 3rd level so a one-shot is my best chance to play a mid to high level character.

Oddly enough even though in D&D I regularly play fairly vanilla human fighters I've never played a simple warrior in DCC.  That is until now.  Meet Fergal:


Fergal is a Reaper Bones human paladin miniature that I got to try something new on.  Originally I planned to go with the same blue shield and tabbard as my last few fantasy figures again with an eye towards eventually re-purposing them as a warband but then I took a slight turn.  I've always liked the idea of white clothes for fantasy holy warriors but I've never been able to do an even passable job painting white on miniatures.  This time out I decided to try the new Citadel Contrast Apothecary White paint.  I'm fairly happy with how it turned out and I may try it again on another model soon.

Anyway Fergal's got; his sword, his board and he's ready to lay waste to some monsters.  Either that or meet the fate of most DCC characters and go to the graveyard or ripped up character sheets.

-Jay

Sunday, 6 October 2019

Pseudo Dragon

While exploring the good ship Sea Ghost (I still want to rename it 'The Fiend') during the second half of Sinister Secret Of Saltmarsh our party liberated a Pseudo Dragon!  In our next game the Pseudo Dragon will be added to our adventuring party so I was really excited to find out that WizKids had released a model for it.


I think the two things I like most about this model are the fact that the pose (including the books the dragon is perched on) is a perfect reproduction of the actual image from the Monster Manual along with the fact that although the model is quite small it's not so tiny that its details can't be distinguished.  Truthfully before I got this miniature I had another Pseudo Dragon model from a different miniature company that was closer in correct scale to a 28mm adventurer model and that made it so tiny that it really just looked like a blob with minuscule wings.  This is definitely one of those times where taking liberties with scale and/or proportions was the right choice.

I'm looking forward to the Pseudo Dragon joining our group and if I can find a suitable figure for Oceanus we may cross the point where we have as many NPCs as PCs in our adventuring party.

-Jay

Sunday, 29 September 2019

Review - Grimm Encounters II

The quest for the perfect Halloween one-shot continues today as I go through Grimm Encounters II.

Grimm Encounters II follows the theme of it's predecessor given the DM another dozen encounters blending fairy tale and horror mythology.  One of the improvements over the first collection is that the page count has increased to 42 pages giving each encounter a slightly longer word count which in general seems to have allowed for a bit more background and NPC motivation to be detailed than the previous instalment.  This second collection also includes a few more unique creatures which I enjoy as it keeps experienced players who also DM from inadvertently meta-gaming their way through challenging encounters.  The final thing I'll call out before getting into specifics will be taken either as a positive or a negative depending on your personal tastes, as the first volume used many of the more popular Grimm stories as inspiration this time around I wasn't familiar with most of the starting points for these encounters.  Personally as much as like the familiar feeling of "D&Ding" existing stories the unfamiliar adds that sense of newness and wonder to the game for me.

Once again I find myself drawn to more than one encounter from this anthology but today I'll limit my praise to two encounters.
Beyond the Realms Of Madness by Ken Carcas (inspired by How Some Children Played At Slaughtering) is a Tier 2 encounter that feels like a hybrid of a Grimm and Lovecraft story.  As I've mentioned many times in the past I enjoy a horror story with a twist and the twist here (especially in the context of D&D) works really well.  The party is tasked with helping a grieving father who is haunted by the ghosts of his slain family.  In the context of D&D most players will no doubt assuming they are in fact dealing with a haunting and go about planning strategies to lay to rest the souls of the fallen family.  When the twist is worked out and the players discover they are dealing with something just as supernatural but not quite what they expected they will need to be able to think quickly on the fly to come up with a new solution in real time.  I really enjoyed this encounter and supplanting one horror with a different horror will guarantee that even if this isn't the one-shot I end up running I have a specific player in mind who would love to play through this as a one-on-one encounter.
Two Dozen Devils by JVC Parry (inspired by The Twelve Huntsmen) is another Tier 2 encounter and a great balance of combat and/vs role-play.  In practise one of the things that makes hauntings or curses work really well in D&D as opposed to actual 'mysteries' is that a haunting or curse can frequently be concluded or resolved even if they players aren't successful in working out all the details.  In this encounter a nobleman is the victim of a curse that the party has been drawn into breaking.  Depending on play-style and decisions made by the group this encounter can play out in a variety of different ways and depending on  how things are resolved success or failure is definitely on a spectrum rather than a black and white win versus lose binary end.

One thing I feel the need to call out is that while this is a horror anthology and the author did put a content warning in the preface of the collection there may be some encounters in here that may go 'too far' for some audiences.  Personally I really liked The Trial Of Little Franecker Finn but I know for a fact that one of the players at my regular table would have to get up and physically leave if I ran that encounter.  This is really just a good reminder, and applies to many adventures, that when running horror content check in and make sure your players are comfortable with the themes and content of your game. 

I highly recommend Grimm Encounters II and am definitely looking forward to a Grimm Encounters III.

Grimm Encounters II is currently available from DMsGuild for $4.95 at https://www.dmsguild.com/product/256980/Grimm-Encounters-II?term=grimm&affiliate_id=329977

-Jay

Saturday, 28 September 2019

Review - Grimm Encounters (I)

As I start planning out a Halloween session for my local group of victims/players I've begun scouring DMsGuild for some suitable one-shots.

Before I got into any new adventures I was reminded last night that I had already downloaded and printed Grimm Encounters by JVC Parry and Jeff Stevens along with contributions from five other authors.  As I'm sure you can tell by that quick preface Grimm Encounters is an anthology collection of adventures.

The book itself comes in at 28 pages and manages to pack 12 encounters between its covers.  The overall theme of the collection is Brothers Grimm fairy tales with a slight D&D/horror re-imagining.   As I believe I referenced in the past this is the kind of material I really like as it combines the unknown with somethings that begin with a familiar backdrop.  Typically I find that's the kind of flavour and background my players can deeply and quickly immerse themselves in which makes encounters like this ideal for one-shots where you won't necessarily be investing in world-building ahead of time.

Overall the quality of the writing is excellent and the artwork is suitably dark and thematically appropriate to the content.  I appreciate the choice to pull the references for the monster stat locations out of the individual encounters and collecting them in an appendix at the back of the book as it removes mechanical distractions from absorbing the narrative content on a first pass through.  Although I haven't yet run any of the encounters yet upon a first read through they all seems very well balanced to the suggested party levels.  Having said that I really like the fact that 'The Tailor And The Giant' includes an element (sarcastic spoiler warning; it's 'the giant') that if players make bad choices will quickly break the notion that D&D 5E is a non-lethal RPG for player characters.

Normally with an anthology I try to focus on a single scenario that I was really excited about but in this case three of the encounters really appealed to me and I will definitely be using in the near future.
The Marquis Of Carabas by JVC Parry (inspired by Puss In Boots) caught my eye by having a very non-traditional jumping off point for a D&D adventure, using a mysterious cat just showing up rather than an overly contrived 'hired for a mission' start.  At first the players might be inclined to think they're dealing with a Cheshire Cat type of antagonist but after some investigation the twist will reveal itself and the true villain of the story will appear.  It's a short encounter but starts off with a little fun and whimsy before taking a dark turn and it should appeal to both players who like to use their brains to work through a problem as well as those who like to use their brawn to get things done.
Not Another Cinderella Story by Tony Petrecca (inspired by Cinderella) was my next selection.  For most players the setup for this adventure should feel very familiar and many groups will probably guess who/what they'll be fighting at the end (incorrectly) before what's really going on reveals itself.  I like twists in my adventures but I really like twists that make sense and follow narrative logic and this encounter delivers on both fronts.  In addition to being a potentially great one shot this adventure feels like it would fit very well into an existing Old Margreve campaign.
The Tailor And The Giant by Jeff C Stevens (inspired by The Brave Little Tailor) is my final choice for a must-run.  Outside of the narrative itself I will start off by saying that one of the things this encounter does extremely well is break the feeling that the D&D world is like a video game where higher level areas are bordered off until you are ready to deal with them.  Just because you're level one doesn't mean giants don't exist in this world or they'll leave you alone until you're suitably high level to fight them.  This encounter really encourages the use of role-play and soft-skills to get through, it's really nice to see an encounter structured this way as it will give groups a completely different type of experience than a traditional D&D game.  As an aside I can't help but wonder if inexperienced players are more likely to be successful in this encounter than more experienced players.

Overall Grimm Encounters delivers a high quality take on Fairy-Tale-Horror and I highly recommend it to any DMs looking for something fun and dark to run this Halloween season.

Grimm Encounters is currently available from DMsGuild at https://www.dmsguild.com/product/224651/Grimm-Encounters?term=Grimm&affiliate_ID=329977 for $3.95 and is a bargain at that price.

-Jay

Sunday, 8 September 2019

First Thoughts - Harper's Tale

Normally when I get excited about an upcoming gaming product I'm quite content to wait until release and absorb it in it's entirety, writing my reviews after I have the finished product in hand.  Today however I want to talk about a new D&D adventure that's currently seeking funding on Indiegogo and I honestly hope I can encourage some of you to give it a look and hopefully back it.

Harper's Tale is a 10 chapter D&D adventure co-created by Matt Corley and his daughter Harper with the goal of benefiting Friends Of Kids With Cancer.  Please check out their crowdfunding page at https://www.indiegogo.com/projects/harper-s-tale-an-adventure-path-for-dnd-5e#/ for full details and the story behind the adventure's creation.  After reading Harper's story I was ready to back the project regardless but after looking at the art, and since then getting a backer's copy of the first chapter of the adventure I'm blown away by how great this project looks and I can't wait to start running it.

The first chapter 'Welcome To Grove' starts with the PCs investigating an abandoned town and mixing a combination of exploration and trying to determine what has happened to the inhabitants.  One of the things that immediately appealed to me about Welcome To Grove is that it is family-friendly without being in any way childish.  There is a definite mystery to be solved, a dark secret to uncover and combat to be had but nothing that would be objectionable to running with a younger audience or a school D&D club.  Welcome To Grove is also a great potential introduction to D&D for new players as the players will have the opportunity to engage in; skill check, role-playing, social interactions with NPCs, and combats scaled well for 1st level PCs.  I don't want to spoil any details but the mystery of the town follows a logical but not overly simplistic investigative path and solving it should give players a real sense of accomplishment and establish them as folk heroes in the community.

From an objective point of view I have to say that the quality of the writing and the style of the art are extremely professional and even though the first chapter I received as a backer made it clear it was not a final edit, it was very polished and ready to be played as is.  I didn't find any gaps, logical fallacies or even simple editing issues common to early drafts that crowdfunders tend to share with backers.

I sincerely hope everyone reading this will check out Harper's Tale and consider backing it.  The opportunity to get an interesting, well thought out D&D adventure while also supporting a good cause doesn't come along every day.

Harper's Tale is currently funding on Indiegogo at https://www.indiegogo.com/projects/harper-s-tale-an-adventure-path-for-dnd-5e#/

-Jay

Sunday, 25 August 2019

Review - A Requiem Of Wings (series)

I'm going to try something a little different today.  Although I've gotten a lot of stand-alone adventures I have also gotten a few modules that are part of linked series.  Today I'm going to be looking at (the first?) three adventures in Ashley Warren's A Requiem Of Wings series.

As an aside if any of this seems a bit familiar I had previously covered my group's experience with the second adventure in the series here http://worlds-in-conflict.blogspot.com/2019/02/labyrinth-of-thorns-contains-encounter.html I will be re-covering the adventure from a more critical point of view this time.

A Requiem Of Wings is set in a pocket of the Forgotten Realms against a backdrop of a conflict between celestials and abyssals but could easily be transposed into Ravenloft (which it almost certainly will be in my case) and feels like it would make a great prequel to Descent Into Avernus.

The first adventure in the series is A Night Of Masks And Monsters.

Before I get into the adventure proper I want to call out something awesome about this adventure that more authors creating unique content should emulate.  When you purchase A Night Of Masks And Monsters in addition to the adventure PDF you will receive a separate 7 page primer on the background for the campaign/adventure that maps out the influences and lays out how the world of A Requiem Of Wings differs from the traditional backdrop of the Forgotten Realms.  I really like this feature as it helps the DM fill in any blanks that may not be directly covered in the adventures and closes the gap between the writer's understanding of their setting and the reader's.

Onto the adventure itself.
A Night Of Masks And Monsters is a role-play heavy adventure primarily in the setting of a fancy party with a mysterious death hanging over the whole thing.  The adventure is radically different from anything I've played in the past and actually makes me want to go back a re-plot some existing adventures I've run that use a party as a set piece.  What makes the adventure different is almost the entirety of it is set within the party.  The bulk of the players' time will be spent interacting with the other party guests, playing games set within the party itself and absorbing the flavour of the setting.  I feel like I say this a lot about Ashley Warren's writing but one of the great strengths of this adventure is how well she conveys the themes and atmosphere of her setting.  For a 23 page adventure A Night Of Masks And Monsters does a tremendous amount of world building and should leave most groups wanting further adventures set in Emberez.

A Night Of Masks And Monsters is currently available from DMsGuild at https://www.dmsguild.com/product/229708/A-Night-of-Masks-and-Monsters-A-Requiem-of-Wings-1?term=a+night+of+masks for FREE!  I would definitely recommend picking this one up as it both stands tall on its own and also has some great party ideas that could be transplanted into other adventures as a DM requires.

Our second adventure is Labyrinth Of Thorns.

Labyrinth Of Thorns is more combat-heavy than it's predecessor but still finds a ton of time in its 18 pages to tell an engaging story.  The titular labyrinth is a mix of problem solving and combat that I believe any and every party would find enjoyable.  The adventure is a dark take on a Valentine themed story with some of A Requiem Of Wings thematic and  celestial links thrown in to keep up the flow of the campaign.  The central villain is an engaging flip on a traditional trope and the adventure includes some classic iconic D&D monsters as well.  Of the three adventures in the series (thus far) Labyrinth Of Thorns could probably be described as the most 'traditional', this is not in any way a criticism as the execution and flavour of the adventure makes it an exceptional take on traditional adventure structure.  Although its hardly a critical evaluation I would also like to add that my gaming group played this adventure about 8 months ago in one session and two of my players still reference this adventure fondly and regularly.

A Labyrinth Of Thorns is currently available for DMsGuild at https://www.dmsguild.com/product/234066/Labyrinth-of-Thorns-A-Requiem-of-Wings-2?term=labyrinth for $1.99 and as I mentioned in a previous review it is easily the best $2 I have ever spent!  A memorable satisfying adventure that should appeal to everyone.

The third adventure in the series is The Starlight Relic.

The Starlight Relic takes the players outside the urban environment of the previous adventures and into the wilderness of Emberez.  In addition to exploring a wilderness setting the adventure potentially exposes more elements and a character involved in the ongoing conflict between celestials and abyssals.  The Starlight Relic takes the group on a quest to recover an artifact that is also of interest to others in the area.  Clues are hidden in one song to be sung and one song to be deciphered  adding a layer to the flavour that has pervaded and enriched the series thus far.  The Starlight Relic strikes a balance between its two predecessors in that there is more combat and less role-playing than A Night Of Mask And Monsters but more role-playing and less combat than Labyrinth Of Thorns.

The Starlight Relic is currently available for DMsGuild at   https://www.dmsguild.com/product/237562/The-Starlight-Relic-A-Requiem-of-Wings-3?term=starlight for $1.99.

Taken as a whole A Requiem Of Wings gives players and DMs a LOT of content for a more than fair price.  The main draw for me in the series is the background and the subtle goings-on in the back ground.  For groups looking for traditional D&D adventure and discovery all three adventures more than deliver and for groups looking for a deep, rich back story with intrigue and politics that is there with the ability for the players to influence the bigger picture.

I highly recommend A Requiem Of Wings and I sincerely hope that as I'm writing this Ashley Warren is working on a fourth instalment in the series.

-Jay


 

Friday, 23 August 2019

Review - The Proving Glade

After a brief hiatus I'm back tonight with my review of The Proving Glade.
The Proving Glade is a Level 4-5 adventure by Jonathan Ball one of the co-authors of the D&D Duets series.

The Proving Glade is a quick (14 page) one shot adventure that is more exploration than combat themed (although there is combat to be had) as the player(s) search for a missing hunter and a many mouthed beast dwelling in the forest.  The adventure proper is laid out in three distinct chapters.  The first is primarily focused on exploring the forest with a variety of woodland encounters.  The second chapter is comprised of two encounters that require the player(s) to make choices about how to overcome some obstacles.  Traditionally these are the kind of  'moral choice' type of encounter that video games like to throw in to add a 'are you good or are you evil?' measure that ultimately doesn't mean anything, I'm pleased to say that this is implemented to much greater impact and effect (whether the player realises it immediately or not) and should be a pair of fun encounters for the player(s) and something that will be equally as satisfying for the DM.  The final chapter starts with a role-play encounter that really lays on the theme and the flavour of the setting and then concludes with the showdown with this adventure's big bad.  This final chapter is where the player(s) earlier moral choices will come to reward or punish them.

Once again the Ball family has used the new Sidekick mechanic to to support their small-party/solo play style and it works really well within the narrative here.

The Proving Glade has classic fantasy-story vibe about it, and in spite of being relatively combat-lite manages to integrate a good number of classic D&D monsters into it's encounters.

If you're looking for an easy-to-run one-shot that is hiding some surprising depth under it's straight-forward veneer please check out The Proving Ground available from DMsGuild at  https://www.dmsguild.com/product/284455/The-Proving-Glade?affiliate_id=1869853

-Jay