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Posts tagged “Dungeons & Dragons

Top 10 – Elves

GeekOut Top 10s

Elves are a strange category to cover, when you think about how much difference there is between the term. Some people just see the pointy ears and immediately call them an elf. Other people believe there must be some innate magical property in order for them to be elves. Whatever you believe, today we’re going to look at our Top 10 Elves in film, literature, video games and more. (more…)


Review – Eberron: Rising From the Last War

Hmm… ok…

Eberron is certainly the first and may be the only campaign setting to see a physical print in fifth edition. While the edition as a whole has held up Forgotten Realms for campaigns, and of course draws a great deal upon Dragonlance and Greyhawk to build a “core” of information, cosmology, gods, and history, the big settings have received little supportive nods here and there in sidebars and appendices and the like, but Eberron has also seen some pretty thorough Unearthed Arcana support, followed by a small, cheapish pdf publication late last year… or maybe early this year? I forget, I’ve been busy.

Rising from the Last War is double the length in terms of pages, with written content padded out with artificer rules only slightly modified from the last playtest edition, some pretty artwork, a few rule ideas, monster statblocks, and a few extended descriptions of factions, regions, history, and essential details.

Which begs the question… is it worth it?

 

Financially, that’s a maybe, the books aren’t cheap, let’s be realistic here. If you bought the Wayfinder’s Guide (the pdf I was talking about) you might have enough, but it’s better if you have access to some of the third edition lore books that can help pad out Keith Baker’s world with locations and people, although it’s not strictly necessary, just interesting.

In terms of content, well certainly the new book has some rules updates, and while I haven’t been through everything yet there’s certainly a few notable examples I’ve picked out.

Warforged rules have been altered, although I might argue that the rules from either book are balanced sufficiently to use, and given the manufactured nature of warforged I’d also make the case that you could use either rule-set in any given game, rather than choosing one or the other. Changelings have been simplified, perhaps diminished having lost an ability that makes them a little harder to hit, Kalashtar don’t appear changed from a quick once-over, and Shifters have been altered a little to make them notably more diverse depending on the subtype. On the subject of racial rules, the rules for building dragonmarked characters have been altered, and certainly the new rules seem simplified, but I’m still undecided on which rules I prefer.

So far as the artificer goes, I have to say that the artwork really helps bring the subclasses to life, I wasn’t entirely certain about translating some of the rules into narrative components. Seeing things like the alchemical homunculus and the artillerist’s collection of wands given artwork is far more evocative, and I say this as someone who loves artificers whatever the edition.

Points of interest, there is a section on choosing a patron that reads as advice for players and dungeon masters alike, and I love the notion of using it as part of a session zero character building discussion because it gives players ideas on the kind of games available to them and what kind of world they’re stepping into. If you run a game that’s faction-heavy it’s easily worth a read for ideas on how to market those factions to your players.

In terms of building the themes of the major continent, Khorvairre, I love the flavour texts. Where previous books have included annotations from famous NPCs, here we have newspaper cuttings to drive home the modernity of Eberron life. Propaganda pieces, inflammatory and fear-mongering snippets that read like they were written to panic the populus, but instead give the DMs and players some twisted ideas. Tales of drug abuse in the city of towers, living weapons and armour forged in the dwarven annex – the Mror Holds – painted as grotesque abominations, but written in a paper sold to the nation that raised its own dead in the last war.

Certainly the book goes into far greater detail than the Wayfinder’s Guide, and presumably it supersedes the majority of the content being the newer publication, and while I’ll never be satisfied with the amount of detail (having read most of the Eberron companion books from 3.5) it’s certainly quite a thorough volume, and to go properly in-depth would have required a far bigger, and more expensive book. I was also saddened by the absence of psionic rules, however…

A new Unearthed Arcana came out recently giving subclass options for fighters, rogues, and wizards, that focus on psionic power, and Eberron is not the only major campaign setting that could warrant a full-sized publication. There is another for whom psionics are a far bigger deal…


Taking the Tarrasque Seriously

The highest challenge rating in D&D, dropped into every monster manual, the fantasy Godzilla, has become something of a joke. Everyone who’s been in the game long enough has a “Tarrasque plan” or a story of how they one-shot or would one-shot the Tarrasque, and every DM has thrown the word around as the monster equivalent of “Rocks Fall, Everybody Dies”.

It appears in no famous campaigns, it has very little by way of back-story, it just sleeps beneath the world waiting for the time when it must rise and destroy, a thing as old or perhaps older than gods, with no motive other than to smash and destroy. And to be honest, by the time your party have reached an adequate level to defeat it, it’s actually pretty easy because it’s incredibly dimwitted, sluggish, and while it has hit points for days, a bucket of resistances, and can deflect certain magical effects, it can be overwhelmed and destroyed in time.

Now, fifth edition did a lot to lend personality to monsters, to contextualise them in potential scenarios and use evocative descriptions to bring out the best in even the most obscure creatures, such that one could imagine including them in any number of adventures. And yet the Tarrasque remains a law unto itself, the party benchtest, the DM’s biggest and nastiest threat, that arrives without warning, wants nothing but destruction, and needs to be put down the old fashioned way.

Let’s do some work:

People Are Crazy

The Tarrasque represents a force of nature, if you’re looking for a story, look no further than Godzilla for some ideas, although more specifically look at the human elements. The stirrings of the Tarrasque might raise cults or dark scholars who embrace the idea of a world-wide extinction, or perhaps there are lunatic agents who believe they can control the rampaging beast. Necromancers – hells, Vecna himself – might invoke the beast to rise to cause untold death to swell their ranks.

In this scenario we have cults of madness and death, possibly demons, likely necromancers. Players will have to prevent them from seeking rituals, or journey to the place where the Tarrasque slumbers, and go to war against the creatures that wish to awaken it, without doing their job for them.

Times Are Strange

The ground shakes, sinkholes swallow entire forests, hurricanes scour cities, mountains fall, the underground spills out into the overworld, bringing with it every nightmare that had previously remained hidden.

You could run a perfectly ordinary campaign filled with enemies and disasters, all of which stemming from mysterious natural disasters, or perhaps riddled with villains who seem desperate and fearful, or knowing and gleeful. The whole campaign would be almost “business as usual” but riddled with hints at a greater evil or some bigger disaster still to come.

And that’s what the Tarrasque should be, a disaster, not just a big monster, but surrounded by fear, and chaos. Perhaps it’s right that there’s no reflection in the monster’s stat block, that the awakening of the Tarrasque causes the ground to heave and shake, but the concept of the creature is that it is as much a disaster as a tidal wave. Consider adding regional effects, except that its “region” is the size of a continent, and the effects get progressively worse the closer it comes to awakening.

King of Monsters

Go leafing through monster manuals and you’ll find a lot of monsters that could rival the Tarrasque in power, although very few of them are material creatures. Elementals like the Leviathan and the Phoenix, weapons of the gods like the Kraken or the Empyrean, demon princes, arch devils, aberrations, and of course ancient dragons. Want to cast your players in the roles of hapless victims of a war between titans.

There’s potential in that campaign, the desperate struggle for survival, the search for a solution, that ultimately culminates in titan after titan being killed or returned to its slumber through ancient rituals, or cunning on the part of the players. So long as they feel they have some agency in the war, they’ll slowly gather in power until they are ready to murder the king of the monsters himself, Godzi- the Tarrasque.

Changing Things Up

Quick last thing, lets throw some ideas of how to make the Tarrasque more horrifying… because that’s a good idea.

Anti-Magic Breath Weapon – It’s different, it imparts a limitation on the antimagic ability so as not to make it too potent, but it also adds a layer of intimidation to the wizards hiding behind layers and layers of protective magic. It also suggests that the Tarrasque in question is a force designed to end magic in the world, it could herald a time of diminished magic in the world.
The Lionfish Problem – Give it poisonous quills on top of the impervious carapace to casually remind your group that there’s always a bigger fish.
Ranged Weapon – The biggest weakness of the Tarrasque is that it is heavily reliant on its melee reach to have any effect. Maybe just a thrown rock, but with a several hundred foot range, and with an area effect.
Or Burrowing – The ground’s already shaking, and why wouldn’t the Tarrasque be able to tunnel through the ground like it was swimming through water? That bite attack becomes far more harrowing when it’s rising from beneath you.
Corrupted – I included some ideas above for Tarrasque cults, they could probably change the creature into something more demonic, or even undead.
Flying Tarrasque – Why not, that’s hilarious.

Oh! Last thing, someone’s trying to get a Tarrasque mini kickstarted, and the stretch goals are “bigger mini” which I like. Not a fan of the design myself, but I respect the idea and what they’re trying to do. Here’s a link, check it out, no doubt other people will like the design.


Oswestry Library 2020 – Shropshire DM

At the time of writing, I’m about an hour away from publishing the dates for next year’s games at Oswestry Library, currently my most dependable source of income, and at this point places are so hard fought for that I am going to be disappointing more people than I will be entertaining… which is nice… I think.

By the time this article is published, this will already be plastered all over the local Facebook pages:

Here’s a quick rundown of the plans:

Wizards Only, Fools: January 11th, under 16’s D&D, and it’s an all-wizard party. Currently I’m thinking level 6 so we have lots of spells to play with but not so many that we’ll be overwhelmed. And of course with everyone playing as students of the arcane, something magic is bound to go wrong.

Bury Me Deep: January 11th, over 16’s D&D. An odd stipulation to find in someone’s will, a ten foot deep grave and a lead sheet over the coffin. Players will be a standard team at level five, and they might need a few extra magic items to get to the bottom of this mystery.

End of the World: A three session D&D game for the under 16’s, 8th and 22nd of February, and the 14th of March. Over three sessions a group of level 5 players will witness the beginning of the end, and maybe there’s nothing they can do about it.

Bear Hunt: A three session D&D game for the over 16’s, 8th and 22nd of February, and the 14th of March. Mighty hunters (level 4) will face a pack of bears that cooperate too well, fight too ferociously, and threaten a local settlement with complete extermination.

Sci-Fi Month, Era the Consortium: 11th of April, and yeah, I think April will remain sci-fi month for the foreseeable future. Another team of expendable mercenaries take up a job for one company in order to screw over another.

Night of Demons: 9th of May under 16’s systemless game. From the pit arise a new host of demons, insubstantial wisps of malice barely capable of influencing their surroundings, but bent on causing chaos however they can, in order to grow in power and return home stronger than ever.

The Train Heist: 9th of May, over 16’s systemless game. Flat caps a must, because a band of gangsters are hopping a train to lift something priceless on board. Screw this one up and you’ll end up on the wrong side of the next train going through, capeesh?

Dungeon: Now with Real Dragon! A three session D&D game, 13th and 27th of June, and the 11th of July. It’s a straight forward dungeon crawl for level 6 characters. Light on the story, heavy on the monsters and traps, possibly a dragon, I guess we’ll find out! You might even make it to the end.

Character Building Workshop: Twenty spaces in the morning and twenty in the afternoon, 25th of July. We’ll spend some time creating characters for roleplaying games, but easy on the rules, heavy on the roleplay, psychology, and creative writing.

Improv Month: 8th of August, D&D. Who wants to see me winging a whole game? Utilising some limited random writing prompts and a few suggestions from the players, I’ll be pushing my DM skills to the limit, with zero prep-time and all made up on the spot. Coherence is not guaranteed.

Dungeon Master’s Guide: Twenty spaces in the morning, twenty in the afternoon of the 29th of August. Ever wanted to do what I do? Good, everyone should at some point, you’ll finally appreciate how much furious paddling is going on behind the screen. Everyone will leave the room with an idea for an adventure, ready (or nearly ready) to run!

Weird West: 12th of September for both the over and under 16s, let’s dabble in Savage Worlds and the Weird West, a jaunt into a version of nineteenth century America, but we’re not just talking guns and gold. This frontier is crawling with stranger things than scorpions and bandits.

The Thing in the Ice: A three session D&D game for the under 16’s, 10th and 31st of October, and the 14th of November. Humans will raise a town just about anywhere, and while you’re stuck in a frozen port town in the middle of nowhere, strange occurrences surround the iceberg that’s floating in the middle of the bay. Characters should be 4th level.

Grave Dirt: A three session D&D game for the over 16’s, 10th and 31st of October, and the 14th of November. The death of a senior in the church hierarchy starts arguments about who is best to bring spiritual guidance to the people. Players will be required to keep the peace, as society begins to crumble during the “debate”. Level 5 characters most likely.

Christmas Special: 12th of December, another D&D game with a shameless seasonal theme because good goddamn I love Christmas and I love writing Christmassy games. Character levels tbd.

Now, I mention character levels for a reason, a lot of you have been asking about bringing your own characters. I’ve planned out as much of the year as possible because I’m usually happy for people to bring their own sheets but I rarely knew this year what I’d be running from month to month. If you want to bring your own character, talk to me first, I reserve the right to make alterations or outright veto a character but I’d still prefer you had characters that you really wanted to play.

And on the subject of reserved rights, a couple of important notes: All of the dates and game titles are subject to change and availability is extremely limited, in fact in the last hour and a half since I started writing this piece I’ve sold most of the under 16’s places for the year.


Top 10 – Effigies

I have travelled far and wide to find the object, the one object that will destroy my arch-nemesis. But I really never imagined the effigy that I must destroy would be… A plushie? Well, effigies come in all shapes and sizes, along with varying degrees of strangeness. Nevertheless today we’re going to look at our Top 10 Effigies that are in film, TV, video games, anime and more. (more…)


Top 10 Basilisks

GeekOut Top 10s

Creatures of immense size and power, a Basilisk has become synonymous with power, cunning and intimidation. Whatever serpentine thoughts these slithering snakes have, you know their gaze will be captivating. No matter what you think of them, they’ve been in pop culture for ages, as well as ancient texts. Fear not, for today we’re going to uncover the Top 10 Basilisks in pop culture.

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Endless Character Sheets

Today’s article is late, that is a fact. Which is not to say that I’m sat staring at a blank page in desperation trying to reach a deadline, no I’m being quite productive. Folder after folder is filling up with 5e character sheets ready for this Summer’s Insomnia, at which I will again play ten games in four days, and as each session is only two hours long, better to get the character sheets ready than to have people prepare their characters at the table.

With such efforts comes practice, and better yet comes an abundance of other characters from which I can copy and paste important content like class features that require a certain amount of abridging to be made palatable to new players who might be daunted by enormous blocks of text. It’s now very little effort to actually fill in the basics, but with that comes a freedom to get experimental, and at I65, I’ll be bringing a few experiments, because we’re playing a few Plane Shift games. And so as not to give away too much, I’ll only be introducing you to one team…

Khef Crop: Amonkhet

Welcome one and all to the trial of strength! Pulling a few rules from the guidelines set out in Plane Shift: Amonkhet article, the group will step into the sandals of the surviving members of Khef Crop, each bearing the cartouches of both the trials of solidarity and knowledge, now they fight their way along the Luxa river, the mighty god Rhonas looming nearby as a beatific tutor and pitiless judge. For these heroes, there is only one class, Initiate, but in each case I have multiclassed like mad and modified a hell of a lot. I’ve also been going by a slightly more old-school approach to character creation, rolling stats in order having already decided on the race. Here are some of the characters I’ve come up with…

The Naga: A mixture of the cleric of strength and a worshipper of Rhonas himself, and a fighter battle-master. The character has spells to lend a degree of utility outside of combat, much of which is healing but still potentially useful, and I added the maneuvre Sidewind, which allows the Naga to make a heavy hitting attack and immediately disengage from combat, allowing him or her to evade the worst of retaliation, or perhaps land somewhere to threaten someone new. The cleric elements reflect the Naga’s ability to overcome the trials that came before, but here is where he or she is most desperate to shine.

The Devotee: Revering the God Pharaoh first and foremost (hey, it’s not their fault he’s a manipulative dragon planeswalker), and borrowing some inspiration from these warlock invocations that I absolutely adore, this character uses the one listed as Blades of Demogorgon and makes it Horns of the God Pharaoh. I also added Torment of Scarabs because this pdf doesn’t have invocations for Xanathar’s Guide to Everything cantrips, this makes Infestation a concentration spell that consumes your bonus action to maintain. The Devotee has a little bit of rogue in them to add greater potency to their weapon attacks, and lend a bit of evasiveness to the famous glass-cannon.

The Khenra: Khenra come in pairs, it is very rare for the jackal-headed folk to be born as anything other than twins, so hey, let’s stay in-lore shall we? Both are a classic blend of barbarian and fighter, and I added an element of an Amonkhet card I liked and threw in some mechanics I knew would work. Consuming Fervour (fervor in the American spelling) steals a little from the Scourge Aasimar, upping the damage of the barbarian Rage, and taking some extra damage back in kind. Well that’s fine, right? You can just end the Rage whenever? Well not if you’ve got a mean spirited DM who decided to make it impossible to end a rage unless your doused in water.

I might change one of these two subtly, possibly lending a complimentary variation of Rage, or perhaps shifting the balance of classes more in favour of fighter than barbarian… TBD.

The Aven: The Aven might end up as the only pure-class character in the crop, but lately I have been making a lot of wizard subclasses, so expect some homebrew materials no matter what. Having an Aven in the Crop makes my designs a lot more three-dimensional, so there should be a few options to make other people fly in there as well so that everyone can enjoy.

And that makes five… leaving one more. So far I have characters reflecting four colours, leaving only white to go…

Well I have to leave something a surprise for the day. And I still have two more planes to work on.


Ultimate Games Master – Preview

You probably already know that I build web-based applications for people to fund my nerdy habits. With the launch of the now popular DnD Beyond, I began to wonder just how long it might take someone to come along and challenge it. If there was any way you could beat the behemoth that is Wizards Of The Coast, it would be to design an app that did more than just Dungeons & Dragons, which is precisely what Ultimate Games Master (UGM) does.

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Dungeon Situational – A Magic: the Gathering Adventurer

As Wizards of the Coast have already, very kindly, bridged the gap between both M:tG and D&D, this should be nice and easy, right?

But that’s not the point of these articles, a shamelessly self-indulgent stretching of the creative muscles made public for anyone to use, and a bit of mental exercise at the same time. So as we have Planeshift articles for Amonkhet, Dominaria, Innistrad, Ixalan, and Zendikar, and a large guide attached to Ravnica, I’ll have to look to another plane of Magic’s collection to make things a little harder. Theros is too easy, Phyrexia is my favourite plane so probably one of the easiest options for me… (more…)


Top 10 Different Dimensions

And thus the universe was doomed, for finally the dregs from Dimension 9 hath cometh. Or something like that, because today we’re going to be checking out our Top 10 Different Dimensions. To qualify as a dimension, the places simply have to be another plane of existence, meaning that it can literally be the exact same places as the real world, but so long as there’s an alternate group of people living there (even evil selves count). Sound good? Let’s go.

GeekOut Top 10s

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