DMs Guild Masterpieces: By Blade and Claw

claudio pozasLook, I don’t want to mince words here. My first-ever D&D character was a ranger. As was my second. My third wasn’t a ranger but only because I rolled awful stats, so I had to be a cleric of nature instead, and then it was right back to ranger for character number four. I’ve played a ranger in every single system of D&D, and I’ve never regretted it… until 5e. I’ve never enjoyed animal companions, and the Hunter just doesn’t have that spark that draws me in. The ranger just doesn’t feel dynamic enough compared to the rest of the released classes. When even Christopher Perkins turns D&D’s most iconic ranger, Drizzt Do’urden, into a fighter, you know things are bad.

Since the beginning of DMs Guild, I have spent far too much time searching for a quick fix to a class which seems too underwhelming to live up to my hopes and dreams. And it’s obvious there are many of us who feel the same way because there are just so many of them! While there are plenty of ways to make the ranger different from the version found in the PHB, it takes a certain level of skill to build something that is interesting without going completely overboard to get every ranger concept into a single class. Do you want a spellcaster or a beastmaster? A silent stalker or an urban investigator? The list of two star reviews is staggering, as no one seems to be able to hit the perfect vision of what the ranger class should be.

After a series of dashed hopes, I caught a glimmer of wonder when I saw the name Claudio Pozas attached to a recent release. I’ve been following Claudio’s artistic work for years online, and I was very excited when he broke through and helped write multiple books for 4E as well as becoming an artistic contributor to the 5E PHB. With his recent experience, I knew that By Blade and Claw would be something very exciting to bring into a campaign.

Do you want to play a ranger without spells, but with a more Tolkein-esque ability to move and heal using herbs and poultices? Check. Or what about a beastmaster ranger that uses powerful new Bond spells to permanently enhance their pet at the cost of some spell slots? Yup. Or an entirely new Seeker archetype, with archery cantrips and options to allow your spirit companion to wreak havoc on the battlefield? Claudio’s got that too. Plus new animal training options and a host of new animal companion stat blocks. And best of all? The entire document is filled with original and fantastic artwork.

Clearly, Claudio takes my own point of view: that rangers are like, totally rad. The options presented in By Blade and Claw are very powerful, and DMs looking for a more low-powered game may want to read closely and consider how well they fit into their campaign. The archery cantrips provide strong and unlimited firepower to a ranger, and the Seeker gains a lot of options compared to the PHB ranger archetypes. But in the right hands, this supplement will make your ranger truly shine.

By Blade and Claw is a fun and inventive take on the ranger class which will bring powerful new options to your story and campaign! Listen in for more on why it caught my attention in Episode 176!

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Are you a 5E D&D Superfan? Then the DMs Guild is for you! Check out this marketplace of fantasy ideas for the latest in what D&D fans are writing, all using an official license from Wizards of the Coast and the official Forgotten Realms setting! Every episode, Rich scours the Guild for the most clever and ingenious options to add to your campaign. 

DMs Guild Masterpieces: Death in the Cornfields

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There’s something about a side quest that gives me a great deal of satisfaction, both as a DM and a player. Maybe it’s a lifetime of playing video games like Dragon Age, where I’d wrap up everything I could before moving onto the main storyline. But even in a tabletop RPG, sometimes I just want to skip out on the epic plot and deal with something minor, interesting, and most importantly, finite. But making that something worth playing can be tough to do.

A side quest needs to reinforce the themes of the campaign and allow for character growth, while not really advancing the overall story. So it can’t just be a random villain-of-the-week, because stopping that villain just stalls the plot without adding to the overall sense of lore in the game. And I don’t play D&D to live in the world of CSI. I need some serious character advancement, even when we’re taking a break from the plot.

So I was extremely happy to see the release of a fantastic standalone adventure from DMs Guild author Merric Blackman. Death in the Cornfields is a horror themed short story, which any DM can run in just a single night. And it should certainly be played at night! Merric writes in his summary that his Barovian-inspired adventure “does not have a happy ending.” With a warning like that, you should probably play it by candlelight.

Without giving too much away, let me just say that Death in the Cornfields does two things very well. First, it’s a great side trek into Ravenloft. It’s mysterious without being too big of a mystery for one session. It’s concise, creepy, and best of all, complete. Merric has done an excellent job telling a full story in such a short moment. Players are going to remember this one.

And really, that’s my favorite part of this adventure. By ensuring from the outset that there won’t be a happy ending, players are forced to confront how an unhappy conclusion affects their characters. The session after you play Death in the Cornfields will certainly start with a conversation about how everyone dealt with the horrific events of that dark day. Small events that lead to meaningful character growth? I couldn’t ask for anything more perfect from a little side quest.

Death in the Cornfields is an outstanding short adventure that will surely bring some mystery and horror to your campaign! Listen in for more on why it caught my attention in Episode 175!

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Are you a 5E D&D Superfan? Then the DMs Guild is for you! Check out this marketplace of fantasy ideas for the latest in what D&D fans are writing, all using an official license from Wizards of the Coast and the official Forgotten Realms setting! Every episode, Rich scours the Guild for the most clever and ingenious options to add to your campaign. 

DMs Guild Masterpieces: 5E Player Cheat Sheet

Screen Shot 2016-04-15 at 2.34.32 PMI’m a big fan of introducing games to new players. Whether that’s running Pathfinder Society or Phoenix: Dawn Command, or even just Settlers of Catan, I want to bring my love of games to someone who’s never seen it before. And an amazing trend in board gaming is to create a brief rules summary that every player can keep in front of them during the game. Finding out the solution for yourself is always a better option than simply being told the answer… I mean, that’s a professional teacher answer, sure. But since I’m a professional teacher, there you are.

So look, RPGs. Your books are enormous. Massive. And while that gives me so many options to play with, it also gives me too many choices to show to a new player before the first session. I need help. I need a document that’s short and outlines the important rules a new player is likely to need in a game.

I need the D&D 5E Player’s Cheat Sheet by Sean Wickett.

This document is a single page, front and back, which outlines most of the rules your character will need in a combat situation. All of the Actions, Conditions, Spell Effects, and more are all laid out in a simple fashion where anyone can find their answers in record time. Even for experienced players, it’s such a handy reference that I know I’ll be printing it out every time I play from now on.

Is there anything new in this guide? Absolutely not, but that was never the intention. The Cheat Sheet is just the simplest reference outside of memorizing the PHB that I’ve ever seen. And with its clear layout and structure, it’s a steal at a Pay What You Want price. This may be the most useful document I’ve grabbed yet from DMs Guild.

The D&D 5E Player’s Cheat Sheet is an excellent resource for DMs and players alike who just want to reference the rules in a quick and easy fashion. Listen in for more on why it caught my eye in Episode 174!

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Are you a 5E D&D Superfan? Then the DMs Guild is for you! Check out this marketplace of fantasy ideas for the latest in what D&D fans are writing, all using an official license from Wizards of the Coast and the official Forgotten Realms setting! Every episode, Rich scours the Guild for the most clever and ingenious options to add to your campaign. 

DMs Guild Masterpieces: Adversaries & Allies

A few weeks back, I decided to try my hand Adversaries and Alliesat a brand spanking new campaign world. I’ve played a lot of pre-written adventures set in Golarion and Forgotten Realms in the last five years or so, and it turns out that I’ve lost my knack for building NPCs. Personalities? Fine. But if one of my players wants to make a Diplomacy check, I need to know what kind of stats my little shopkeeper has! And making it up on the spot always left me feeling a little cold. So books like Paizo’s NPC Codex easily find a place on my shelf. 

And yet, I felt a bit of trepidation when my gaze landed on Adversaries & Allies by Dan Layman-Kennedy. Sometimes, an NPC guide is too focused on building commoners rather than villains. But if it swings too far the other way, you lose the ability to populate your world. Without a solid mix of both, an NPC book loses its usefulness to a DM like me. Would this 38 page document be able to make the cut?

Are you holding your breath? Go ahead and let it out, because Dan figured out the ideal balance.

Look, this book is filled with fantastic NPCs. Your world certainly needs sailors, farmers, rulers, and scholars. But it’s also going to need to fill out every rank of an evil wizards’ guild. Or a host of rogues and fighters. You need skalds, oracles, masterminds, and diabolists. Some of the entries even have variants just in case you find yourself in the mood for something a little different.

Finally, like many of my favorite DMs Guild resources, Adversaries & Allies includes two pages of design notes from Dan about his choices throughout the document. Dan seems to be well versed in the kinds of characters a DM truly needs to make a world seem filled with developed characters, even if the DM doesn’t quite have the time to round out every single NPC. This is clearly a labour of love, and I am so satisfied with the results.

Adversaries & Allies is an excellent resource for anyone looking to build their own world and fill it with a horde of realistic NPCs. Listen in for more on why it caught my eye in Episode 173!

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Are you a 5E D&D Superfan? Then the DMs Guild is for you! Check out this marketplace of fantasy ideas for the latest in what D&D fans are writing, all using an official license from Wizards of the Coast and the official Forgotten Realms setting! Every episode, Rich scours the Guild for the most clever and ingenious options to add to your campaign. 

Episode 172

This episode we wrap two RPGs we’ve been playing in, look forward to Ravenloft and marvel at the ongoing developments in DMs Guild. We also are looking forward to several board game Kickstarters and catch up with how a few kickstarters are finding mainstream publishing! So much to cover!

Fortnight in Nerddom, Two Sennights in Sorcery:

Gaming News:

DMs Guild Masterpieces:

Kickstarters:

Pickstarters: [K] Kenna & {R} Rich

Questions:

DMs Guild Masterpieces: Ravenloft Archetypes

Ravenloft ArchetypesI remember one bright, perfect summer back in high school. I was outside all the time, teaching and working out in the sun and heat, which meant it was the ideal opportunity to play Ravenloft. You know, the horror-themed setting of D&D featuring Count Strahd von Zarovich, the vampire lord of his own little dreary demi-plane called Barovia. Brought us all right out of the light and into darkness and dread and the overwhelming sense of impending doom. No matter how much I played Ravenloft, that remains the clearest memory: a setting so encompassing that it made me shiver on a sunny day.

Fortunately for all of us, Wizards of the Coast has finally brought back the wonders of Ravenloft! And with the recent release of Curse of Strahd, Wizards moved quickly to make sure the entire D&D publishing community had access to the entire Ravenloft campaign setting for their own macabre adventures. Plenty of folks have already tried their hand, and the absolute best right now is Ravenloft Adventures: Nightmares of Barovia by Jeremy Forbing.

This fantastic 37-page document is absolutely dripping with the gritty feel of Ravenloft. From paladins suffering from vampirism, to rangers and rogues dedicated to stalking and staking their way through history, the new archetypes in this book bring a lot of new options based around living in a world of terror and rooting out its darkest secrets. And then there are the new races, spells and monsters. Is there anything more I need in my game than a creepy halfling vampire named Meriadoc casting create poison? Probably not.

With supplements set in both Ravenloft and Al-Qadim, Jeremy Forbing is developing a strong reputation on DMs Guild for creating setting appropriate products that are just dripping with thematic flavor. While this is the kind of work I’d prefer to see closer to $5, the price is currently only $1 for this exceptional document which is absolutely worth it. Jeremy also has a few Pay What You Want products if you’re looking for a preview.

Ravenloft Adventures: Nightmares of Barovia is a fantastic addition to any Ravenloft campaign. Listen in for more on why it caught my eye in Episode 172!

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Are you a 5E D&D Superfan? Then the DMs Guild is for you! Check out this marketplace of fantasy ideas for the latest in what D&D fans are writing, all using an official license from Wizards of the Coast and the official Forgotten Realms setting! Every episode, Rich scours the Guild for the most clever and ingenious options to add to your campaign. 

Episode 171

This episode, Rich plays games about beautiful trees while I gain victory points through utter draconic destruction! We’ve also got all the latest in news and kickstarters – coming up!

Fortnight in Nerddom, Two Sennights in Sorcery

Gaming News:

DM’s Guild THING OF THE EPISODE

Kickstarters:

Pickstarters: [K] Kenna & {R} Rich

DMs Guild Masterpieces: Bringing your Characters to the Forest!

SAdditional Archetypes screenshotince 5E has been out for more than a year and a half, I’ve had plenty of great opportunities to jump in and play all of the amazing character classes that were designed in the Player’s Handbook. And my favorite part is when I get to make them special. That moment when you get to pick a domain, school, or archetype just feels fantastic. Finally, my character does what I’ve always wanted them to do! My rogue? Nay, foolish reader. Don’t you mean my arcane trickster? Or my assassin? But here’s the thing. I’ve already built my assassin. And my arcane trickster. So what’s the fun of playing a rogue again?

Oh, because someone made some new options for every character class. PERFECT. Tell me more!

My favorite offering on DMs Guild at the moment is Additional Archetypes by Kyle Consolver, featuring TWELVE brand new subclasses! This outstanding pdf has new options for the Bardic College of Dance, Arcane Archers, Clerics of the Hunt, Shadow Warlocks, and my all-time favorite, the Wizardly School of Botany. You can tell that Kyle was missing some Nature influences in the PHB, because this book is chock full of them.

If you’re looking for real game-changers, this book has a couple interesting options. Not all of these options shine quite as brightly as the rest, but this is absolutely the right level of new content I’m looking for. And the price? $1. You just can’t beat that.

Listen in for more on why Additional Archetypes caught my eye in Episode 170!

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Are you a 5E D&D Superfan? Then the DMs Guild is for you! Check out this marketplace of fantasy ideas for the latest in what D&D fans are writing, all using an official license from Wizards of the Coast and the official Forgotten Realms setting! Every episode, Rich scours the Guild for the most clever and ingenious options to add to your campaign. 

Kickstarter Review: YAGER by Maribel Lopez

Yager titleIs this a game? Is it art? Can it be both? We don’t know! Yager is a quirky little woodcut game by first time designer Maribel Lopez. While this is a tiny little limited Kickstarter run that will certainly be able to reach fulfillment with access to a woodshop and some hard work, we’re not quite sure how much of a game this actually is. In Yager, you play the Cocori—four weird wooden pawns that feel a lot like those creepy woodland spirits in your favorite Miyazaki film. The Cocori wander around trying to avoid the Beast. But they might turn into it through clever and/or random game play? There’s also a Bird. The Bird might fly overhead and is probably spooky because it’s made out of origami? Or you can play the Environment?

Okay fine, you caught us. We know these are all pieces, but we don’t actually know how to play Yager. But as far as we can tell, neither does anyone else. However, as little as we know about it, the game has caught my eye. I’m a big fan of the artwork and the general design, and I’m willing to have this sit on my bookshelf if nothing else. I wish I was able to find out what it’s like, but the print run is already filled!

Check out the Yager campaign on Kickstarter or listen into Episode 170 (starts around 1:18:30) to learn more about what Kenna and I thought about this quirky little game!

Episode 168

Happy 2016 to our FAVORITE listeners! Yes, we mean you! We spend Boxing Day, UNBOXING our unopened games and played some doozies! We also have a lot to unpack in gaming news thanks to Wizards of the Coast dropping the 5th Ed. OGL and Asmodee continuing to gobble up the world. And not to worry, we also cover kickstarters and your favorite segment: Kenna’s Licensing Korner!

Fortnight in Nerddom, Two Sennights in Sorcery

Gaming News:

Kenna’s Licensing Korner:

Kickstarters:

Pickstarter Picks: [K] Kenna & {R} Rich

Questions: