Friday, February 15, 2019

D&D 5e: Stranger Things Starter Set in Greyhawk?

Breaking News!

Ok, maybe breaking speculation... However, I asked a few questions of Steven "Stan!" Brown, one of the authors of the new Stranger Things D&D Starter Set.

@RagingOwlbear:
How much can you reveal?
1) New adventure written by you?
2) Still FR backdrop or set in generic fantasy land?
3) Any rewrite/re-presentation of the basic rules from the old starter set?

@stannex:
As always, I mostly can be coy and non-specific. But here goes:
1) I was the primary designer on the adventure;
2) ST [Stranger Things] is set in 1983/84 and the FR [Forgotten Realms] boxed set wasn't published until 1987;
3) The rules book was updated by the D&D design team.

This tie-in might be a nice way to
re-introduce Greyhawk to D&D fans.
So... #3 was a given since they want to tie in Stranger Things with some look and feel elements, but I think the Forgotten Realms question reveals a lot... Or at least, it notes that Forgotten Realms is specifically not available as a setting for that time period.

It goes on...

@RagingOwlbear
Did I just get a scoop?
#dnd #Greyhawk #IHaveADream

@stannex:
In that no one else has asked me these questions, kinda. But then, I didn't tell you anything that isn't already announced elsewhere ... so kinda not. See? I'm coy like that.

Mike Mearls has specifically mentioned Greyhawk on more than one occasion on his Twitter feed. Even though Stan doesn't specifically confirm Greyhawk, there is a strong implication. Could Greyhawk fans finally get a small taste after all this time? We won't know for sure until May... but to quote another 80's icon, "Signs point to yes".

UPDATE: As noted in my comment, there is minute possibility that it could be Mystara (Grand Duchy of Karameikos is in the original Expert Set).  However, I believe it is likely that the new set may contain Greyhawk references, but without a specifically mapped locations. This, however, leaves the door open for a DM's Guild "Guide to Greyhawk" release similar to what we've seen with Eberron.

But I'm often wrong.

You can read the thread here:




Thursday, February 14, 2019

State of the Owlbear: 45 years of D&D

Happy 45th Birthday!
The state of the blog is strong!

Happy 45th Birthday to Dungeons & Dragons which was released at the end of January in 1974!

There are too many ways to recount how this game has made a direct and lasting impact on my life. I am forever grateful for Gary Gygax and Dave Arneson as well as all the designers who came after to ensure its legacy.

Unfortunately, Raging Owlbear experienced its own shut down in January. Google did not inform Blogger users that comments were being taken off the blogs as of February until just a few days before the take down. Many of us who thought we had until April to migrate Google+ comments were caught out.

I had already started migrating the comments when the threads were expunged, but I hadn't finished... and it's a laborious process to cut/paste 5 years of blogging which I'm still working on... so that happened...

The Good News


Raging Owlbear passed 800,000 total views at the end of 2018, and is well on the way to 850K. If I focus on the blog in 2019, I think I could reach 1 million before 2020... but that's a stretch goal. I've never quite had the time to consistently post. However, I did nothing in January (no posts, no marketing) and still passed 11,500 "organic" page views, so that's a good sign. July through October in 2018 averaged over 20,000 views per month when I was more active. If I could re-harness that energy and post at the same pace this year, one million views is within reach.

There are still many posts over the last few years that consistently pull in dozens if not hundreds of views every day. Hero Forge posts still rank at the top (even though their Google rank has dropped a bit) and tips related to terrain and miniatures tend to do well.

The Meh News


Unfortunately, I think the loss of Google+ will mean lower search engine rankings and likely fewer organic views from Google. I'll have to promote in targeted ways to make up for that. Facebook groups consistently drive good traffic, but I will miss the Google+ community which has been super supportive, if much smaller.

I recognize a lot of the same users again and again in the comments sections, and they have generally engaged in more positive ways than many on Facebook. Even though Google+ users were a small fraction of the audience, I will miss the service. It was where I cut my teeth on blogging and made a large number of social media acquaintances.

Upcoming


I do have some exciting plans for upcoming posts. Look for refreshed reviews of Hero Forge's latest miniature offerings, more advice for starting campaigns, 3D printing, terrain, and some additional content for Storm King's Thunder. I'm also hoping to finish off the character class section of B/X-5 for play testing.

Thanks to all my regular readers, and if you're just coming across the blog for the first time, welcome!

T1 - The Village of Hommlet
Artist: David Trampier

Thursday, December 13, 2018

GM 101, Ep 4 - Cheap & Easy D&D Terrain

You don't need to spend a fortune to put some cool visuals on your table. If you're playing on the grid there are cheap and easy ways to put a little pizzazz into your encounters.

In this episode, I review the various inexpensive terrain solutions from off-the-shelf dungeon tiles to do-it-yourself paper and styrofoam crafting. Links to resources are below the video.



Links
Pathfinder Flip Mats (and Forests)
D&D Dungeon Tiles and Adventure Grid

Papercraft Terrain
Fat Dragon
Dave Graffam
Hovel model
Coach House model

Crafting for Beginners (YouTube)
DMs Craft (DM Scotty)
DMG Info
Black Magic Craft

Pictures from some of my adventures in crafting:





Wednesday, December 12, 2018

Daytime D&D

The dragon was not so keen about the sorcerer's lightning bolts.
Due to the vagaries of holiday scheduling with our normal campaign, my group decided we would take a work day off to just play D&D all day long.

I gotta tell ya, if your group is like ours and can only get together every other week on average (and you have the vacation availability), I highly recommend you try this in a given month where scheduling might otherwise be challenging.

On a typical night, after we have our pre-game chat and distractions, we often only get about 3 hours of game in on a good night, with some of that eaten up by recap and catch-up discussions. That means we're really only gaming about 6 to 7 hours per month. When you compare that to a solid 6+ hours of straight gaming in a day...

Piper blasts another lightning bolt up the dragon's tail pipe.
Packing styro makes a decent ice cave.


Daytime D&D is like daytime drinking... Addictive and potentially detrimental to your employment. You go outside all high on the adrenaline and you're like "Oh, geez. The sun is still up." I was certainly a still floating after 6 hours of D&D... until the adrenaline (and sugar) crash.

But seriously, I forgot how much fun an extended session can be... and how far you can progress! My players took out their first dragon of the campaign. I hope we get to do it again soon!

Grehk (Mike F), Piper (Kelly) and Marcus Drinksblood (Al). Not pictured Bartholomew (Chris), and Crow (Mike R).

Wednesday, December 5, 2018

PAX Unplugged: A First Time Critique

Ran into some friendly faces at the Loews bar.
So, I started to write this PAX Unplugged post and it appears on the surface to be a bit of a polemic. I had a lot of fun as a first-time attendee, but I also experienced its shortcomings.

This post is not intended to be a hit job. However, my critiques are unabashed. It would be inaccurate to assume I was disappointed overall as I quite enjoyed the convention. However, I saw a lot of potential unfulfilled. So, here’s your trigger warning:

The following post is unflinching in its critique of PAX Unplugged.

The TLDR version is that it’s a good convention that could be a lot better with some relatively simple adjustments. So, that’s my disclaimer.

Security


I have mixed feelings about the security at PAX Unplugged. I understand that a large event like this needs to appear secure, but it’s almost entirely theater.

First Day lines were pretty long, and there was an big
issue letting people by the queue for the main theater.
Of the several times I had to pass through the security line, the security workers barely glanced inside the backpack and passed it along the table past the metal detectors (meaning any concealed weapon would not have been found). Only once did one of the gatekeepers actually look inside with real effort.

Secondly, the groups of people bunched up in lines by the doors would have provided a juicy target for any crazies. So basically, security is an inconvenience for attendees, raises the costs of the event, and offers only a tissue paper shield of safety against anyone who actually intends harm. I guess that’s just the world we live in now because that’s true of most event security, not just at a PAX event.

Monday, November 26, 2018

Wizards quietly updates D&D Basic Rules PDF

You may have already read that Wizards of the Coast updated the errata PDFs for the Player's Handbook, Monster Manual, and Dungeon Master's Guide found here. But you may not have noticed that the D&D Basic Rules PDF has also been updated as of November 2018.

This update includes a fairly major overhaul of the content and layout. A good amount of artwork and stylistic improvements have been added to the text. The grayscale line art is particularly nice for a document which will be printed primarily on a home or office printer.

While previous versions of the Basic Rules separated the Player and Dungeon Master rules into two PDFs, the new document incorporates all the rules together. This is a big improvement... However, there is still a lot to be desired even with the combined rules document.

Wizards of the Coast has not addressed the organization of the monster stat blocks. Dragons are still not found under "D" and Giants are not found under "G". Instead of any categorization, there is literal alphabetization such as "Adult Red Dragon" appearing under "A" and "Young Green Dragon" appearing under "Y". These are also the only two dragons appearing in the entire document.

While I don't expect every monster in the SRD to appear in the Basic Rules, the fact that there are only two dragons contained in the Basic Rules is a massive failure. The name of the game is Dungeons & DRAGONS, for Pete's sake. The Basic Rules should at least contain some variety of dragon types -- a wyrmling or two, a couple examples of young dragons, a couple examples of adult dragons, at the least.

I'm really glad to see re-released, cleaner version of the Basic Rules that includes artwork, but the decision to overhaul the document without fixing the monster stat section and adding at least a few more selected creatures from the SRD has me scratching my head.

Warduke, by Richard Whitters (source: Basic Rules)
So, Mike Mearls, if your are listening, here's what you should do.
  1. Add more dragons. Seriously. This is a no-brainer. I mean... C'mon. Perhaps also pick a few others creatures from the SRD not currently in the Basic Rules.

  2. Put a Print-On-Demand version of the Basic Rules (with a really cool cover) on the DM's Guild for a relatively low price point ($10 - $15 if possible). 
Obviously, you would not want to put the Basic Rules into retail as this could cause consumer confusion and competition for the PHB, Monster Manual, etc. I get that. However, for D&D fans who want a cheap, introductory game to give to friends, a Print-On-Demand Basic Rules set (with a few more monsters) would make an amazing low-barrier-to-entry gift for non-gamers. I guarantee it would make enough money to be worth the minor amount of additional editing, and another great way to introduce new players.

Edit: For clarity, one thing to note is that the D&D Starter Set does not include the section on the Basic classes with the character generation rules, all the class features, and spells, etc. A PoD Basic would be a low-cost, portable and complete rule set with monsters stats.

Saturday, November 24, 2018

Ep 9: Kraken's Gamble - Running Storm King's Thunder

In Episode 9 of Running Storm King's Thunder, I recap my group's run through Kraken's Gamble with an emphasis on what I did right and wrong and how you can adjust the encounters to make an exciting adventure for your group.



  0:00  Introduction to Kraken's Gamble (only $3!)
  1:25  The Kraken's Motivational Gaps
  3:30  Integrating Kraken's Gamble into larger SKT plot
  5:20  Oosith's Motives
  7:10  Developing new hooks into Yartar
  7:30  Giant Slayer Sword (Triboar Quest)
  8:06  Oosith and the Hand of Yartar
11:30  Missing Nobles
14:55  Challenging higher level PCs
16:00  Ramping up the Koa Toa encounter
17:30  Koa Toa tactics
18:40  Encounter balance considerations
19:10  Spreading out PC damage output
22:45  Simple ways to enhance the grid with 3D elements
28:30  Ramping up the Aboleth encounter
29:50  Dealing with Banishment
34:10  Using Domination wisely
36:00  Misdirection with Phantasmal Force
38:20  Limiting meta-gaming
40:45  Aboleth tactics
42:10  Concealment and Escape
43:10  Lair and Legendary actions
44:40  Using Domination on PCs
47:20  Altering the water flow to create more danger
50:40  Aboleth tactics recap
54:15  Aftermath and Future Yartar Hooks

Here are the pics from the terrain I set up (or created from scratch):

While the party is distracted by the Otyough, the Koa Toa attack from behind.

Level 2 - In the Aboleth lair, I simply carved and painted packing styrofoam to add some depth to the reservoir.


Level 1 - I combined 3D printed tiles alongside Dwarven Forge to build the full sewer layout

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