Category: Dungeon Masters Guild

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.