Tuesday, April 16, 2019

Review: Stranger Things D&D Starter Set

UPDATE 06/28/19: The Amazon price has dropped to $16 on this box. This makes the value of the set a bit better. It is possible it might drop down toward the $12 - 14 range if it doesn't sell well after Stranger Things season 3 starts up.

Introduction & Disclaimer


Stranger Things D&D box cover
In writing this review, I've tried to set aside my biases (which is not always easy). In reviewing the product, I've considered 4 potential consumers types.
  1. Someone who has heard of D&D but never played, and is intrigued by the Stranger Things connection.
  2. Someone who may have played many years ago and is thinking of trying D&D again after having watched Stranger Things.
  3. Someone not as familiar with Stranger Things, but heard of and recognized the D&D brand at a large chain (like a Target, Barnes & Noble, Waterstones, etc).
  4. A D&D enthusiast who collects various books, sets,  memorabilia, etc...
Given that I'm more in the 4th camp, I've tried to realign my thoughts toward consumers #1,  #2, and #3 who are really the "new players" that Hasbro/Wizards is attempting to target.

I've read and re-read the Stranger Things D&D Starter Set with the goal of the review in mind: Is this a good introduction for a new D&D player who was attracted by Stranger Things?

I will also compare and contrast the box contents against the original D&D Starter Set for 5th Edition. There will be some mild spoilers in this review and I will further warn the reader of any major spoilers this post may contain.

Wednesday, April 10, 2019

Amazing Alternatives to D&D

Dungeons & Dragons is the big brand that everyone recognizes, but there are dozens and dozens of other table top role-playing games out there. Here is just a small sampling of fantasy and science fiction games that you might also enjoy.

Shoot! I totally forgot to mention Numenera which is also Kickstarting a source book for 5th Edition, to add some science-fantasy to your D&D!



00:00 Introduction - 45 Years of Dungeons & Dragons
02:15 The One Ring / Adventures in Middle Earth
07:20 Castles & Crusades
09:30 Other Old School Revival Games
     OSRIC
     Swords & Wizardry
     Labyrith Lord
     Basic Fantasy
10:35 Runequest
12:00 13th Age
     I didn't spend enough time on 13th Age - Backgrounds and ICONS are awesome.
13:00 Tunnels & Trolls
14:20 Lone Wolf Adventure Game
20:20 Dungeon Crawl Classics
22:30 Mutant Crawl Classics
24:30 Hackmaster
29:00 Mouse Guard
31:30 Savage Worlds 
33:40 GURPS Dungeon Fantasy
36:15 The Expanse
39:00 Paranoia
40:40 Deadlands, Metamorphosis Alpha, Dragon Age, Fantasy Age, Dungeon World, Apocalypse World, Shadow of the Demon Lord, Warhammer Fantasy Roleplaying, Dr Who

Monday, April 1, 2019

GM 101: Memorable D&D NPCs in 5 Minutes

Episode 6: A discussion on social media led me to record some of my ideas on making NPCs memorable. Although the explanation of the ideas in this video goes a wee bit more than 5 minutes, the method itself is quick and dirty, and takes very little prep time for a large return. Hopefully, this will give you ideas on how to pull memorable NPC rabbits out of their respective hats.

This was also recorded as a companion piece to an earlier post:
GM 101: Quick & Dirty Memorable NPCs



00:35 How do you make characters care about NPCs?
     01:30 Player will do what you least expect, including by-pass your favorite NPCs.
     02:30 Ways to make your NPCs stand out.
     03:10 Quick steps for generating an NPC on-the-fly.
     04:20 "I need an NPCs right now!"
 05:20 The 5-Minute NPC Worksheet
     06:00 The Four... or five-ish... Things that can make NPCs memorable.
     05:50 NPC Worksheet - List of Names, Personalities, Quirks, Catch-Phrases / Accents, Picutres
07:40 Prepare a list of NPC names.
     08:12 Picking a name out of thin air can go... poorly.
     08:30 Lots of places to find name lists including Xanathar's
     10:25 "Pay no attention to the man behind the curtain!"
     11:10 Pick names that fit the culture of the region.
     12:45 Also select a few names that are foreign/exotic to the adventure setting.
15:25 Prepare your list of personality types and quirks
     15:35 Lots of resources for personality types and quirks on the Internet
     15:55 AD&D Dungeon Master's Guide, page 101
     18:55 Use tropes. Use pop culture references.
     21:20 Play against type.
     21:40 Everybody loves Party Dwarf!
     22:10 Don't be afraid to be over the top. Larger than life NPCs are memorable.
23:10 Catch Phrases
     24:30 It can be a way of speaking, instead of a specific phrase.
     26:10 The tropes can work for you, or you can work against tropes.
27:05 Catch Phrases, for real this time.
     27:30 Google translate can give you a phrase in other languages.
28:45 Voices and Accents
     29:25 Nobody is really good at accents (who isn't an actor).
     29:55 Your players won't care! They will love the effort.
     30:15 Creating the "Hondo" character.
32:15 The Big Mistake - Do not kill off your players' favorite NPC!
     34:45 Don't kill NPCs they like OR hate.
35:10 Back to Voices
     35:15 Don't portray a horrible cultural or racial stereotype!
     37:15 Use phrases in another language to bring a differing cultural flavor.
38:40 Bonus Points - Visuals
     39:00 Use the NPC artwork from Wizards of the Coast or other sources. Don't Pirate!
     40:35 Pathfinder Face Cards
     41:10 Guard Guy, Femme Fatale, Vampire Guy, and Freaky Helmet Guy
43:15 Pick names that fits the genre, but try not to get too "weird" with the names.
44:45 Recap
45:10 They will remember the NPCs that are portrayed as larger than life.
45:45 Write down where you used that NPC name/personality.

B/X-5 Design Log: Revised Elf

In creating B/X-5, a 5th Edition  homage to early D&D, I've tried to stay close to the spirit of the early Basic box sets. As such, I've tried to model Race-as-Class in such a way that would make sense within the bounds of D&D 5th Edition, giving them a familiar flavor of B/X while making them mechanically similar to a 5th Edition class. You can read more about B/X-5 here. Without further ado, the Elf. (No, this is not an April Fool's joke).


Source: Wizards of the Coast
Elves are human-like fey whose origins are wrapped in myth and legends. Elves have a strong magical tie to Feydheim, a plane of existence where nature and magic exist in a chaotic union. Because of this, they live in close harmony with nature -- their cities and dwellings often interwoven with their natural surroundings rather than carved from them. This Fey ancestry also extends their lives well past most other mortal humanoids.

Elves have a reputation for being haughty, aloof, or reclusive, but that is largely due to a misunderstanding their culture. Due to their extended lifespan, they harbor a perspective much different than most other sentient beings. Most other creatures live and die at a frenetic pace as compared to Elves, and as such, they are ambivalent in becoming emotionally involved with those who pass quickly from the world.

Elves also do not comprehend the tendency toward specialization by other humanoids. Due to their long lives, Elves have time to pursue the martial and arcane arts at leisure. To only use magic, or to only brandish a sword in combat is a concept alien to an Elf. To them, it is akin to going into battle with one hand tied. They wield swords, bows, and magic in equal measure. As such, there is no such thing as an "Elven Fighter" or "Elven Wizard"... They are just Elves, utilizing their martial and arcane arts together.

Elves do not worship individual gods as much as they venerate the pantheon of Elvish deities. The gods of Elves, whether good or evil, all represent aspects of the Elvish existence. Even "good" Elves will pay homage to the "evil" Elven gods, depending upon the needs of the individual or the customs of a particular religious ceremony. Elvish morality and ethics are a bit more complex than what one might witness or understand as an outsider.

Elf 


Genus Traits
Ability Scores. +2 to either Wisdom or Dexterity. +1 to one other ability score.
Speed. Your base walking speed is 30 feet.
Fey Ancestry. You have advantage on saving throws against being charmed or paralyzed, and magic cannot put you to sleep.
Innate Detection. You gain Advantage on Investigation or Perception rolls related to finding secret or concealed doors.
Low Light Vision. You can see in dim light within 60 feet of you as if it were normal light. In non-magical darkness, you can see the outlines or silhouettes of creatures and objects within 20’.
Natural Stealth. You gain advantage on Stealth checks in outdoor or similar natural environments.
Languages. You can speak, read, and write Common and Elvish.

Class Traits
Hit Dice. 1d8 per level
Armor. Light or Medium non-metal armors, or Elven Chain. Wooden shields.
Weapons. Simple weapons, martial weapons.
Spell Casting. Your spell casting bonus is based upon your Wisdom ability bonus.
Cantrip Recovery. During a short rest, recover 0th level slots equal to ½ your level (rounded up).
Combat Specialization. At 1st level, Elves may select one combat specialization: Archer, Duelist, or Two-Weapon Fighter.
Saving Throws. Wisdom, Charisma


Level
Bonus
Features
Cantrips
Known
Spells
Known
0th*
1st
2nd
3rd
1st
+2
Combat Specialization, Cantrips
2
̶
3
̶
̶
̶
2nd
+2
Spellcasting, Cantrip Recovery
2
2
3
2
̶
̶
3rd
+2
Natural Explorer
3
3
3
3
̶
̶
4th
+2
Ability Score +2, Specialization Talent**
3
3
4
3
̶
̶
5th
+3
Primeval Awareness
3
4
4
4
2
̶
6th
+3
Extra Attack
3
4
4
4
2
̶
7th
+3
Natural Explorer
4
5
5
4
3
̶
8th
+3
Ability Score +2, Specialization Talent**
4
5
5
4
3
̶
9th
+4
Land's Stride
4
6
5
4
3
2
10th
+4
Natural Explorer
4
6
6
4
3
2
11th
+4
Hide in Plain Sight
5
7
6
4
3
3
12th
+4
Ability Score +2, Specialization Talent**
5
7
6
4
3
3

** Specialization Talents are like mini-feats, giving a small bump to a PC's melee, ranged, or spell abilities. They are less powerful than 5th Edition Feats, so B/X-5 classes get the full ability score bump in additional to the Talent.


Elf Spell List

Cantrips
1st Level
2nd Level
3rd Level
Arcane Flame Blade
Dancing Lights
Light
Lightning Lash
Mending
Produce Flame
Ray of Frost
Resistance
Shillelagh
Sweeping Blades
Befriend Animal
Charm Person
Cure Wounds
Create or Destroy Water
Detect Magic
Detect Poison/Disease
Ensnaring Strike
Entangle
Faerie Fire
Fog Cloud
Hail of Arrows
Hunter’s Quarry
Jump
Purify Food and Drink
Speak with Animals
Animal Messenger
Barkskin
Darkvision
Enhance Ability
Flame Blade
Gust of Wind
Heat Metal
Lesser Restoration
Locate Animals/Plants
Magic Weapon
Moonbeam
Pass without Trace
Protection from Poison
Spider Climb
Spike Growth
Call Lightning
Conjure Animals
Daylight
Dispel Magic
Nondetection
Plant Growth
Protection from Energy
Sleet Storm
Speak with Plants
Water Breathing
Water Walk
Wind Wall

For more about B/X-5, such as my variants on Combat Specialization, Healing, and old school resource management, view my B/X-5 work-in-progress document here.


Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...