Category: Dungeon Masters Guild

Today’s Pick takes us back (after much too long, I admit) to the realm of the Dungeon Masters Guild (the sister site to DriveThruRPG that is a showcase for all things D&D, including fan creations). One interesting development in recent years is the desire to make “the little guys” of the D&D world a far-greater threat than most players care to allow for. This adventure is all about making heroes respect kobolds… or die from the lack of it.

From the creator of platinum best seller Journey Through the Center of the Underdark comes the next level of action – Killer Kobolds! – A high octane, edge of your seat, seat of your pants, run and gun thrill ride for your 5th Edition Dungeons and Dragons game.

(You’re reading that with that movie trailer guy’s voice in your head, right? Ok good. On with the pitch…)

Life was peaceful in the pleasant village of Thornyfoot… until the Kobolds of nearby Crag Canyon started kidnapping their kids! Now the distraught villagers turn to a rag tag group of adventurers, who just happened to be having a drink at the local inn, to save the day. 

Do your heroes have what it takes, the right stuff, the metal, the intestinal fortitude, to fend off the Kobold Hunting Drakes, face the Kobold Commandos, take down the Kobold Air Cavalry and yes… defeat the Kobold Covergirl with the Gun? Will they climb the treacherous canyon, survive the forest gauntlet, storm the fortified keep, raid the dastardly dungeon and thwart the big bad evil nefarious kobold plot? Or will they die a horrible, brutal, violent, traumatic, explosive death?

There’s only one way to find out.

Killer Kobolds! Action just leveled up.

Killer Kobolds is designed for a party of four to eight characters of levels 8 through 12, but could readily be tweaked to accommodate parties of lesser or greater strength. Intentionally set in an entirely generic small village in need, Killer Kobolds can be easily dropped into any Dungeons and Dragons setting. The content within could readily be worked in to your Tyranny of Dragons, Elemental Evil, Rage of Demons or Storm King’s Thunder campaign – heck, the guy writing this ran it between the first and second half of Out of the Abyss. Piece of cake.

Featuring original art by Glen Cooper, a gorgeous (as always) cover by Dean Spencer, and original thrills, spills and chills galore, Killer Kobolds should provide 10 to 15 hours of outstanding dice rolling excitement.

Sean Patrick Fannon
Writer & Game Designer: Shaintar, Star Wars, Savage Rifts, much more
Please check out my Patreon and get involved directly with my next projects!

I don’t know if all of my 5e readers know this, but the slew of official adventures coming out of WotC’s Adventurers League, normally only available to play at conventions, are being released via the Dungeon Masters GuildShawn Merwin kindly let me know about this one –

“Previously only available at conventions, this adventure is now for sale on the DM’s Guild. It is the first Adventurers League adventure in the Storm King’s Thunder storyline. The adventure consists of 5 mini-adventures for 1st and 2nd level characters. Each mini-adventure is meant to be playable in 60-90 minutes, and it both introduces players to the Storm King’s Thunder storyline and acts as an introduction for players new to D&D.”

A famous relic hunter seeks adventurers to help her find caches of treasure hidden by the now-defeated followers of the Cult of the Dragon.

Her maps and notes may lead the way to great wealth—or a terrible death.

And do other parties have designs on the treasure as well?

What a very cool time to be a gaming fan! Seriously, let me date myself here – I started with the first boxed set (1977, the John Eric Holmes version, with the David C. Sutherland III cover). There were no computers in the home (I think we had our “Pong” TV game then, maybe); computers were those huge, elaborate things that NASA and major corporations had stored in rooms.

Now? Now we have serious conversations about the Singularity and what our laptop may be plotting with our phone and tablet…

Regardless, these incredible tools also provide us the change to play online, at great distances, or even right at the table, but with amazing electronic applications that massively enhance the experience. Fantasy Grounds is arguably the premiere such electronic tool set for gaming, and now you have it available for your D&D 5e gaming needs.

(The description below comes from the D&D Complete Core Class Pack; this link, and the link for the image, goes to the full category page.)

In Dungeons & Dragons, a class is the primary definition of what your character can do. In this module, you get all twelve core classes converted for play in Fantasy Grounds. You get the class description, special features, spells and abilities used by your class and general character customization options such as equipment and feats.

Players purchasing this module can use it to create characters offline and bring those characters into games with any Dungeon Master (DM). Dungeon Masters who own this product can allow players to access it while they are connected to the DM by using the sharing option built into Fantasy Grounds. The players will no longer have access to the reference material upon disconnecting from the DM unless they also own the module.

This Module Includes everything from the individual class packs and the character customization pack in one complete module.

  • 328 fantasy character portraits taken from various official D&D sources
  • A custom theme derived in the same style as the Player’s Handbook
  • All Races from the Player’s Handbook that can be dragged to your character sheet
  • Random tables for rolling background bonds, flaws, ideals, origins, etc.
  • A list of all feats from the Player’s Handbook, organized alphabetically and searchable, that can be dragged to a character for ease of reference during play
  • Equipment tables containing items that can be dragged to character sheets, treasure parcels or NPCs for ease of reference, encumbrance calculations and ease of disbursement. The searchable lists contain all items listed in the Player’s Handbook (Adventuring Gear, Tools, Armor, Weapons, Mounts, Tack and Harness, Vehicles.)
  • Draggable weapons that auto-enter the inventory, weight, attack type (melee, ranged, thrown) and the damage (with damage type.)
  • Reference material and artwork which is not specific to any one particular character class
  • All spells from the D&D Player’s Handbook, ready to drag and drop to your character sheet
  • The class description from the Player’s Handbook for all 12 core classes: barbarian, bard, cleric, druid, fighter, monk, paladin, ranger, rogue, sorcerer, warlock and wizard
  • Details and features from levels 1-20 for all core classes
  • Automatic addition of new class features when you drag the class link to your character’s level summary

Requirements: This content requires an active subscription or license of Fantasy Grounds and an account on the forums at www.fantasygrounds.com to download and use this product.

The BECMI edition of the original Dungeons & Dragons is regarded very highly by many gaming enthusiasts and historians as the best presentation of the D&D experience. Created by the illustrious Frank Mentzer, it’s called “BECMI” due to the various releases in the series – the Basic sets – the Player’s Manual and the DM’s Rulebook – followed by the Expert Set, the Companion Set, the Master Set (the focus of today’s Pick), and the Immortal Set. As you can guess, this scheme was set up to graduate folks’ campaigns from initial adventures all the way to godhood. If you are an Old School enthusiast or just someone who wants to see how folks really played it back in the day, this is an excellent series of PDFs to grab.

At last, the cycle is complete. Players and Dungeon Masters alike may experience the wonder of reaching for the ultimate levels of mortal might with the D&D Master Set.

In the Basic Set you learned to crawl through dungeons and defeat the minions of evil. In the Expert Set you set out on wanderings through the wilderness. In the Companion Set you climbed to the pinnacle of success and founded kingdoms, conquered wild lands, and battled barbarian hordes. Now, in the Master Set, you can soar across the sky and into the pages of legend.

These books are written for the experienced D&D player. The Master Player’s Book expands on the known abilities of characters with new skills and spells. The Dungeon Masters Book features three sections that have become a standard for each rules set: New Procedures, Monsters, and Magical Treasures, all designed with the Master Level characters in mind.

Now, you are only limited by your imagination. Answer the clarion call to adventure; the lands of legend await!

Product History (Excerpts)

The D&D Master Rules Set (1985), by Frank Mentzer, is the fourth volume in Mentzer’s BECMI rules series. It was published in June 1985.

Origins (I): Moving Toward BECMI. The BECMI line was a strongly themed and carefully constructed series of boxes for the third edition of Basic D&D (1983-1991). The Basic Rules (1983) focused on dungeon exploration for levels 1-3, the Expert Rules (1983) introduced wilderness exploration for levels 4-14, and the Companion Rules debuted kingdom building for levels 15-25. Now the Master Rules finished the collection with a march to immortality for levels 26-36.

Origins (II): Developers & Designers. Back in the ’70s and ’80s, developers and revisers didn’t get a lot of credit at TSR. Prior to the release of the Master Rules, the Basic D&D books all said “by Gary Gygax and Dave Arneson”, despite the fact that they’d only created the original OD&D (1974) system and none of the text in the continuing line of Basic D&D games. Thus the “B/X” series said that it was “edited” by Tom Moldvay, David “Zeb” Cook, and Steve Marsh, while the new BECMI series similarly gave Frank Mentzer a mere “revised” credit for the Basic Rules and Expert Rules. He got a full byline in the Companion Rules, but it was under a “Gary Gygax and Dave Arneson” byline.

The Master Rules were even more an original work by Frank Mentzer than the books that came before it, but this time he was dropped back to a “compiled by” credit. Surprisingly, the main credit goes only to Gary Gygax, with no reference to Dave Arneson. It was a curious omission of one of the two creators of D&D when a more accurate byline would have highlighted Mentzer’s name alone. Mentzer explains: “TSR had enough problems between Gygax & Arneson, no sense giving me grounds to add my name to the list. However, the further it went, the greater the amount I ‘compiled’ from my own ideas; there’s very very little in Masters and nearly nothing in Immortals that had ever appeared before.”

There were probably other political reasons for how the credits appeared, including: the attempt to move aware from credit (and royalties) to Arneson, who hadn’t worked on the game in years; and a push to put Gygax’s name forward in a year when TSR badly needed the attention and sales that might result.

What a Difference an Edition Makes. The Companion Rules had been an innovative and ground-breaking expansion of the D&D game, the first of its sort in several years. Meanwhile, the Master Rules came out the same month as Unearthed Arcana and unfortunately loses out in comparison. Where Unearthed Arcana was a groundbreaking expansion for AD&D, the Master Rules was a more simplistic continuation of the Basic D&D books that came before it; it expands classes, spell, and weapons to the ultimate levels of mortal D&D, but it’s evolutionary, not revolutionary.

Light of the Universe, at long, long last I can replace one of the most important and beloved books I ever had in my gaming collection!

Folks, I cannot say enough about how amazing this book – written and designed by the amazing Richard Baker – is, or how important it was to my early career as a game designer and a world builder. I am not even a little bit hesitant to declare that my own Shaintar setting would be nowhere near as complete and detailed and effective without the vital tools and information I got from this book.

In short, the World Builder’s Guidebook was, by far, the single most important and beloved D&D book I ever owned. If you don’t add this to your digital library, there will always be a terrible hole where it’s missing. Game Masters and would-be world designers especially take heed!

Admit it. . . you’ve always wanted to design your own fantasy world. But the job was just too big and complicated, so you either quit in frustration or didn’t start at all.

Get out your pencils and markers, because it’s time to make that dream come true! From the first steps of picking a campaign book to the final details of crafting a kingdom or city, World Builder’s Guidebook leads you stage by stage through the process of creating your own, unique campaign world. Build a world modeled after your favorite movies or books, detail a portion of an existing world, or create your own fantasy world from scratch!

Some of the features you’ll find in the World Builder’s Guidebook include:

  • An introduction to the art of world building
  • Guidelines and random tables for creating continents, kingdoms, societies, local areas, towns and cities, ecologies, pantheons, histories, and sites of interest
  • A pad of 32 copyable forms, mapping paper, and hex sheets?an indispensable set of tools for your world-building efforts!

You’re the master architect of an entire world. What are you going to build?

Product History

“World Builder’s Guidebook” (1996), by Richard Baker, is a GM’s book on creating fantasy worlds. It was published in October 1996.

Origins (I): The Generic Books. The AD&D 2e (1989-2000) era was all about TSR’s many settings. However, TSR also published the occasional setting-generic book; by the mid ’90s they were marking this line with a black-bordered cover.

In 1994, a new line of generic books appeared intended to help GMs fill out their worlds. “City Sites” (1994) and its successors featured fully detailed location for use in any world. “World Builder’s Guidebook” took the next step by allowing GMs to actually create whole worlds.

Origins (II): Building Worlds. TSR encouraged building worlds from its earliest days. In fact, they didn’t produce their own setting until the release of The World of Greyhawk Fantasy World Setting (1980) because they figured people would want to create their own. Meanwhile, TSR was publishing books like the “Dungeon Geomorphs” (1976-1977, 1981) and the “Monster and Treasure Assortments” (1977-1978, 1980) to encourage the creativity of their players.

Prior to the release of the “World Builder’s Guidebook” (1996), TSR’s most notable creative release was the “Dungeon Master’s Design Kit” (1988), but that focused on encounters and adventures. World building had to wait for the “World Builder’s Guidebook” eight years later. The result was unlike most other GM’s advice books for fantasy games. With its focus on the creation of a physically-correct, holistic world, the “World Builder’s Guidebook” had more in common with science-fiction world building releases like GDW’s World Builder’s Handbook (1989) and World Tamer’s Handbook (1993) for their Traveller RPG (1977+). This offered an interesting new twist on fantasy world design.

Exploring a New Setting. “World Builder’s Guidebook” doesn’t explore any existing D&D world; it instead gives GMs the opportunity to create something new. And that might be something very new: the options it offers allow for the creation of worlds quite unlike the official D&D worlds of the ’90s.

To start with, much like those Traveller supplements, “World Builder’s Guidebook” begins with a polyhedral world map, giving GMs the ability to lay out an entire globe. This was almost unknown for D&D’s fantasy worlds, with the exception of Basic D&D’s Known World. The “World Builder’s Guidebook” also includes some very nuts & bolts game systems for determining populations, geographies, and even climates. This was more simulationistic than most of the D&D worlds — though The World of Greyhawk Fantasy Game Setting (1983) offered a rare weather system that was comparable.

However, one final element of the “World Builder’s Guidebook” was more in tune with D&D’s worlds of the ’90s. The “Guidebook” suggests starting creation with unusual setting ideas and also encourages twisting standard elements like the traditional D&D races. Here, one can see the influence of settings like Dark Sun (1991), one of the most twisted and unique settings during the generally innovative setting design of the ’90s.

Future History. The “Dungeon Builder’s Guidebook” (1998) was an explicit sequel to this book.

About the Creators. Baker had been writing for TSR since 1992, focusing on the Dark Sun and Birthright lines. This was one of his last books for D&D until the ’00s, because he was about to dive into the Alternity (1997, 1998) line.


Just got back from Chupacabracon (what a fantastic game con in Austin, TX!), and still digging out after about a week away. We’re going to the Dungeon Masters Guild site for our Pick today, a callback to an important release in D&D history. The Battlesystem brought things full-circle, opening the way for D&D groups to go even more tactical for some encounters, and go really epic with full-scale battles in their D&D campaigns.

Excerpts from the product page –

This book, a full-scale revision and expansion of the rules in the original Battlesystem Fantasy Combat Supplement, gives you all the information you need to set up and play battles with miniature figures.

These rules can be used without the AD&D game books, but you can also convert characters and creatures from an AD&D game campaign and use them in Battlesystem scenarios.

Lavishly illustrated in full color, this book is an attractive addition to any gaming library.

Product History

Battlesystem Miniatures Rules (1989), by Douglas Niles, is the second edition of the Battlesystem mass-combat system for AD&D. It was published in November 1989.

About the Title. The original Battlesystem (1985) was meant to be played with or without miniatures, and so came in a box full of fold-up figures and lots (and lots) of army counters. That changed with the second edition Battlesystem Miniatures Rules (1989), which put the word “miniatures” front and center.

Origins (I): Four Years Later. The original Battlesystem was an oddly positioned AD&D product. It came in a big box, full of expensive components — in an era before TSR regularly produced overly-stuffed boxed sets. It was clearly meant to be a big, showpiece item for TSR. And, it could have been very successful in selling TSR’s D&D miniatures if (1) the boxed set weren’t designed to be used without miniatures and (2) TSR hadn’t shut down its miniatures production just as Battlesystem appeared.

Four years on, the advent of AD&D 2e (1989) offered the obvious opportunity for TSR to revamp their Battlesystem game. This time, they produced a much smaller product: a 128-page paperback supplement. Fans of fantasy mass-combat were still being served, but the new Battlesystem was obviously no longer intended to be a cornerstone of TSR’s production.

 

Expanding D&D. The new version of Battlesystem is no longer dependent on the AD&D rules. It also includes far fewer AD&D magic spells than the original did. With that said, it still contains full conversion rules and can still be used as the mass-combat system for AD&D.

Revising Battlesystem. TSR didn’t just revamp (and simplify) the Battlesystem product; they also massively revamped (and simplified) the Battlesystem mechanics. As Niles says, the new edition has “some resemblance to the original [rules]”.

A few of the biggest simplifications:

  • In 1e Battlesystem units had very extensive stats, usually laid out in a quarter-page of text. In 2e Battlesystem, that was condensed down to a single line of text — reminiscent of the simple stats of old-school D&D.
  • In 1e Battlesystem, combat required players to do addition, subtraction, and even multiplication — all while consulting a complex combat results table. In 2e Battlesystem, each individual figure instead throws its own die, with the results revealing both if they hit and how well. The defenders then get to throw a huge pool of dice in return.
  • In 1e Battlesystem, counters could represent between 2 and 10 individuals. In 2e Battlesystem, they always represent 10.

Overall, 1e Battlesystem was a more simulationist and more complex gaming system that hewed closer to roleplaying’s wargaming roots. 2e Battlesystem instead moves toward the sort of streamlined gaming systems that would become more common in the roleplaying fields of the ’90s and ’00s. It was an understandable change given the overall evolution of roleplaying games … but it was a surprise to see this simplification while the game was simultaneously positioning itself as a standalone miniatures system.

Just a reminder there’s this awesome place for all your D&D digital products, called the Dungeon Masters Guild. Not only is it a place to create, sell, and buy 5e material, it’s where all the editions of Dungeons & Dragons are supported. This particular gem is great for anyone interested in the Forgotten Realms, regardless of edition.

The heroes of the Forgotten Realms are as diverse and varied as the regions from which they hail. This collection of Faerûnian lore and arcana allows you to create and equip an endless array of characters braced for the challenges they’ll encounter. From races, feats, and spells to prestige classes, magic items, and more, Player’s Guide to Faerûnprovides a v.3.5 update to the Forgotten Realms setting, reintroduces some old favorites from 1st and 2nd Edition, and offers all-new character-building material.

Includes

  • Over 60 feats
  • Over 30 prestige classes
  • Over 90 spells

To use this supplement, you also need the Forgotten Realms Campaign Setting, the Player’s Handbook, the Dungeon Master’s Guide, and the Monster Manual.

Product History

Player’s Guide to Faerûn (2004), by Richard Baker, Travis Stout, and James Wyatt, is the core book for the 3.5e Forgotten Realms. It was released in March 2004.

Beginning the 3.5e Forgotten Realms (Again). Though the 3.5e Forgotten Realms product line had already begun with Underdark (2003), Player’s Guide to Faerûn was the book that really brought the line into the new edition.

Origins (I): The New Edition. The fundamental goal behind Player’s Guide to Faerûn was to update the Forgotten Realms setting from 3.0e to 3.5e. That didn’t mean just revamping the Forgotten Realms Campaign Setting (2001), but also the other Realms source books that had been released in the previous three years.

However, the Player’s Guide goes beyond that: in a process that James Wyatt compares to Andy Collin’s revision of the 3.5e Player’s Handbook (2003), the development team also worked through the rules systems in the Campaign Setting, polishing and adjusting them to make improvements based on lessons learned from three years of play. The regional feat system would see the biggest changes, but spells also got adjusted and other mechanics got tweaked.

The end result was a crunchy book of updated mechanics for the Realms. The Player’s Guide doesn’t repeat the setting material of the Campaign Setting (though it offers some expansions), and thus it doesn’t try and replace the core 3.0e Realms book … just complement it.

[For more history, click the link.]

Tomorrow I go into the hospital for my life-extending bariatric surgery, and I suspect I am going to be less-than-enthusiastic about spending a lot of time at my desk. So, as I’ve done a few times before, I am front-loading this week’s Picks for you, starting with…

Shadows of Rebellion (SW/Eldritch)

My brother-of-choice and dear friend, Shawn Gore, is a rising star in the RPG world, and I recommend you keep an eye out for future work from him. He’s the writer and designer of this scenario, which links the Continuum world of Shaintar to Ainerêve in a plot-point campaign.

The worlds of Ainerêve and Shaintar collide as agents from both worlds fight to gain a foothold and secure more power. Help assist a group of rebels trying to break free from the tyranny of the Kal-A-Nar Empire, but find that a much deeper plot and more powerful foe work in the shadows. This adventure is a crossover event written to bridge the worlds of Ainerêve and Shaintar. The module is written in a “plot point” campaign style, allowing the GM to sculpt the specifics of each encounter. It can be used for a wide range of player/character/gm experience levels, and run with any rule set that a GM desires. However, it is suggested to use either Eldritch RPG (Revised) by Crossroads Games, or Savage Worlds by Pinnacle Entertainment Group.

AZ: After Zombies

With a focus on people simply being who they are in the wake of a zombie apocalypse, industry veteran Charles Rice brings his own special vision to this still-popular genre of end-times gaming.

The world as you know it is gone. In the wake of a terrible disease, the dead have risen to walk the Earth and humans are no longer at the top of the food chain and civilization has collapsed. Welcome to the world AFTER ZOMBIES.

After Zombies is a d% RPG with no character classes. All skill and combat checks are rolled on percentile dice and 2-5 d10’s are all you need to play the game, along with pencil and paper. Advancement is based on survival by any means necessary. Hide. Run. Fight. It makes no difference. Surviving one more day is all that matters.

Shadowrun: Runner’s Black Book

Fans of the 20th Anniversary Edition of Shadowrun will appreciate this collection of tons of material from other sources, updated and expanded with new stuff.

You’ve got the talent. You hopefully have lived long enough to collect a decent amount of nuyen. So show it off! Get a better gun. A bigger boat. A zeppelin that can sneak you across borders where no one thinks to look. All these toys are here, and many, many more. Runner’s Black Book is a shopping catalog for the ambitious and successful runner—and it’s a guide to the weapons, drones, and vehicles that the various forces of the Sixth World may send against you as you sneak through the shadows.

Runner’s Black Book collects material from Shadowrun’s successful PDF line of products, compiling Deadly Waves, Gun Heaven, MilSpecTech, This Old Drone, and Unfriendly Skies in their entirety, along with updated art and information. On top of that, the book includes new pieces of gear developed specifically for this volume, including the punishing Kriss X Submachine Gun and small, smooth TPP light pistol. Each piece of gear is accompanied by a full color illustration providing a look at the item’s complete details and features.

Runner’s Black Book is for use with Shadowrun, Twentieth Anniversary Edition.

Unearthed Arcana (1e)

One of the best things about 5e is how easy it is to port over material from previous editions; just boil down the concept to the essentials and interpret it for the foundationally easy core of D&D’s best iteration (in this gamer’s humble opinion). This particular tome is well worth the effort, chock full of game-changing ideas. This one’s featured on the Dungeon Master’s Guild (remember; your log-in for DriveThruRPG is the same for the DM Guild).

The original 1985 release of Unearthed Arcana™ changed Dungeons & Dragons® forever by introducing new races, classes, magical items, and rules written by Gary Gygax. This new printing will appeal to nostalgic D&D® fans looking to add this classic to their collections.

The most complete version of Unearthed Arcana ever printed!
The original Unearthed Arcana was corrected and updated through articles published in Dragon® magazine. Completists will want to pick up this version because it has been, for the first time ever, painstakingly edited to include the original errata and supplements created in the 1980’s under the supervision of Mr. Gygax himself. 

[Excerpts from the “Product History” section]

Origins (I): Gygax Waning. Gary Gygax’s major contributions to the D&D game began to fade around 1980. A few last Greyhawk adventures appeared, thanks largely to Rob Kuntz coming on board in 1981 to finish up S4: “The Lost Caverns of Tsojcanth” (1982) and others. But other than that, Gygax just didn’t have the time to produce gaming material, first because he was running TSR Hobbies and later because he was off in Hollywood, running TSR Entertainment.

As a result, others picked up the mantle of leadership in TSR’s design studio: Lawrence Schick created the studio and brought on Basic D&D designers David Cook and Tom Moldvay, then Gygax’s hand-picked right-hand-men Frank Mentzer and Francois Marcela-Froideval led much of the D&D design work afterward.

A Different Sort of Players Handbook. In 1985, AD&D had been around in a “finished” form for six years. The only hardcovers released during that period were books of deities and monsters, not rules. These were also the years of D&D’s greatest growth, so it’s pretty safe to say that by 1985 most players of AD&D never knew anything but the status quo. This is why Unearthed Arcana was entirely ground-breaking to those fans; it was the sort of revamp of the system that most players had never seen.

Now, players delved into what was essentially a supplementary Players Handbook, full of new character classes, new races, and new rules. The changes were so large, thatUnearthed Arcana is now used to mark the beginning of AD&D 1.5e, an expansion of the core game that also included Oriental Adventures (1985), the Dungeoneer’s Survival Guide (1986), and the Wilderness Survival Guide (1986).

Unearthed Arcana has a section for GMs too — a split that would be repeated through several of the later AD&D hardcovers. However it was the player’s section that really revamped and relaunched the game.

Expanding D&D. Unearthed Arcana is full of expansions to the D&D game. Besides the aforementioned new classes and new races, AD&D also picked up a 7th attribute, Comeliness — which was meant to be different from Charisma, but was never that popular. Unearthed Arcana also contains plenty of new magic items and spells, including the introduction of 0-level cantrips — an idea that’s been much more long-lived.

Various existing character classes got adjustments too, the most notable of which was the fighter’s new “weapon specialization”, which allowed improvement in a weapon of choice. It was a somewhat ironic addition, because back in The Dragon #16 (July 1978), in a much earlier Sorcerer’s Scroll, Gygax wrote, “There are a number of foolish misconceptions which tend to periodically crop up also. Weapons expertise is one. … For those who insist on giving weapons expertise bonuses due to the supposed extra training and ability of the character, I reply: What character could be more familiar and expert with a chosen weapon type than are monsters born and bred to their fangs, claws, hooves, horns, and other body weaponry?”

Blades in the Dark

Kind of a “Holy Grail” for long-time gamers, the idea of a caper-oriented game – heists, criminal enterprises, super-spy operations – is usually stronger in the mind than at the table, where everything breaks down into long, over-analyzed, argued-to-death planning sessions by folks who frankly don’t have the actual experience or know-how to actually plan an operation like this.

Looks like someone’s taken a very interesting crack at the problem with an increasingly-popular effort. They’ve also taken the interesting approach of letting you into the process before they’re completely done with it.

DIGITAL EARLY ACCESS EDITION

This is the digital early access edition of the game. When you purchase this product, you’ll receive a PDF of the game in progress as well as every update of the PDF including the final, complete version of the game book. If you’d rather wait and buy the game once it’s fully finished, then this product isn’t for you! If you want to jump in and start playing now with the core materials of the game, then this PDF will serve you well.

THE CONCEPT
The streets of Duskwall are haunted. By vengeful ghosts and cruel demons. By the masked spirit wardens and their lightning-hooks. By sharp-eyed inspectors and their gossiping crows. By the alluring hawkers of vice and pleasure. By thieves and killers and scoundrels like you — the Blades in the Dark.

The noble elite grow ever richer from the profits of their leviathan-hunting fleets and electroplasm refineries. The Bluecoats of the constabulary crack skulls and line their pockets with graft. The powerful crime syndicates leech coin from every business, brothel, drug den, and gambling house. And then there’s your crew of scoundrels: all the way down at the bottom rung. Can you make it to the top? What are you willing to do to get there? There’s only one way to find out…

THE GAME
Blades in the Dark is a tabletop role-playing game about a gang of criminals seeking their fortunes on the haunted streets of Duskwall. There are heists, chases, occult mysteries, dangerous bargains, bloody skirmishes, and, above all, riches to be had if you’re bold enough.

You play to find out if your fledgling crew can thrive amidst the threats of rival gangs, powerful noble families, malicious ghosts, the Bluecoats of the city watch, and the siren song of your scoundrel’s own vices.

Gameplay focuses on criminal endeavors called scores. A session of play usually consists of 1 or 2 scores, each followed by recovery, downtime projects, and advancement for the scoundrels and the crew.

In Blades in the Dark, your crew gets its own “character sheet” (chosen from different crew classes, like Cult, Thieves, or Smugglers), earns XP, and levels up alongside the characters. As you advance the crew, you unlock new options and abilities for the scoundrels and climb up the ladder of factions within the city.

The game features a robust core resolution mechanic which asks the group to characterize actions as desperaterisky, or dominant. Each choice provides a range of multiple outcomes, beyond simple success or failure. To highlight the roguish nature of the characters, players can accept a devil’s bargain (a bonus die with strings attached) to bolster their chances.

A good teamwork system is critical to making a game about a crew of scoundrels work. Blades in the Dark features a fun and intuitive teamwork mechanic that shifts the spotlight from one character to another as they go “on point” with their teammates backing them up.

Many RPG sessions grind to a halt when planning is required. The group ends up discussing options for hours — talking about the game rather than playing the game. Blades in the Darkcuts through all that with a lightning-fast planning technique that takes less than one minute. You make a few simple decisions and you’re off and running. In addition, the players can use flashback scenes to roll for a setup actions their characters performed in the past.

Barely days in, and there’s already some really interesting stuff popping up on the new Dungeon Masters Guild site, your only official site for D&D 5e digital content. To clarify, yes, it’s part of the DriveThruRPG network; your same login that works for DTRPG works also for DMG. If you want a full description and explanation of what the Dungeon Master’s Guild is and how it works (including how you can participate by creating and posting your own content), check out this very useful “What is the Dungeon Master’s Guild?” page.

Today’s Pick – the Gunslinger Martial Archetype for Fighters – is a fine example of exactly what is possible for anyone with a desire to create and share their 5th Edition ideas. This one is from Matthew Mercer, with fantastic art by Nick Robles. Pretty fair example of just how to do this.

Most warriors and combat specialists spend their years perfecting the classic arts of swordplay, archery, or polearm tactics. Whether duelist or infantry, martial weapons were seemingly perfected long ago, and the true challenge is to master them.

However, some minds couldn’t stop with the innovation of the crossbow. Experimentation with alchemical components and rare metals have unlocked the secrets of controlled explosive force. The few who survive these trivals of ingenuity may become the first to create, and deftly wield, the first firearms.

This archetype focuses on the ability to design, craft, and utilize powerful, yet dangerous ranged weapons. Through creative innovation and immaculate aim, you become a distant force of death on the battlefield. 

Inspired by converting from the Pathfinder class, retooled and altered for 5e and making it more my own, I hope you enjoy.

This is one of those times when I feel it’s very important to use the SPOD to get the word out about something important to all of us.

Dungeons & Dragons is all about creativity. For more than 40 years, the folks who spent the bulk of their time creating amazing adventures, those noble Dungeon Masters, did not have a convenient outlet to share them with the gamers who weren’t sitting at their table. You either had to raise money to publish a physical book or zine on your own, or convince a publisher you had the chops.

Now, the Dungeon Master’s Guild puts the power to share that creativity firmly in the hands of the DM.

The Dungeon Masters Guild is a collaboration between Dungeons & Dragons and our friends at DriveThruRPG, and it is designed to support and reward you – whether you’re an experienced DM or just starting out. Today, you can upload your creations to the DMs Guild website, as well as browse submissions from some of gaming’s most esteemed designers.

Read more of the news at my friends’ site – Flames Rising – or click to logo to go straight to the Guild page.