Adventuring through an old-school-style sandbox setting, or mapping your way through a sprawling hexcrawl? The biggest challenge of playing a game where the characters can go any direction they want is making sure there’s something worth finding in every direction they can possibly go – even more so if the world is functionally boundless. From vast ancient cities consumed by the forest to a monastery of living mummies, from a desert falling into a black hole serving as the hourglass for the world’s life to a barge-bound casino-temple to the god of luck and gambling, there are plenty of options to be found in the Lands of Legends from Axian Spice!
Recounting the deeds of an evil wizard over metal riffage and proggy synths. A fuzz-laden journey into the sanctuary of snake worshippers, A trippy story of haunted nobles hiding a dark secret. A cautionary tale that pits a demi-lich against grave robbers. Goth rock through the halls of Castle Ravenloft. An Americana-tinged ode to a remote beacon of civilization. A campaign with an all-bard party going on various famous adventures? Well, possibly, it’s not a bad idea, but not quite. If you like Dungeons and Dragons and/or rocking out, you’ll want to give a listen to Hex Volume 1 from Loot the Body!
Raat shi anaa. The story begins. Rising from the Last War brought Keith Baker’s dungeon punk setting of Eberron back to 5th Edition in hardcover form, but it was the earlier Wayfinder’s Guide to Eberron that first brought a world of pulp, noir, and wide magic to the latest version of Dungeons and Dragons – and it also opened up the door for anyone to create Eberron content on the DM’s Guild. When I talked with Baker at PAX Unplugged 2019, the curious implications of that came up. Since it made it to the final three of the Setting Search in 2002 Wizards of the Coast has owned Eberron; while Baker was often brought back to work on supplements and novels, the final creative control didn’t belong to him. He could talk about ‘his’ Eberron, and thankfully did so quite often and at length, building a great rapport with the community, but plenty of material he came up with would never see the pages of a hardcover book. The Wayfinder’s Guide changed that, and now we have Exploring Eberron, Rising’s “perfect companion” straight from the man himself. So let’s go through chapter by chapter and section by section to see how an already big world had even more in its uncharted depths!
Dungeons and Dragons is the 800 pound gorilla of the role-playing game world. For what is arguably such a small slice of the space (swords and sorcery fantasy), D&D is utterly dominant, commanding a plurality of the hobby’s mind and market share (and that’s a majority if you count all games which are direct derivatives, like Pathfinder and many OSR games). For this reason, when someone lists “overtake D&D” as one of their design goals, even if it’s just part of a Twitter thread, your ears perk up. Indeed, TC Sottek did post those words, in that order, on Twitter. But people are listening. TC Sottek is the designer of Quest.
Few segments of the RPG fandom are as misunderstood as the OSR. At least, that’s what they keep saying on Twitter. The OSR, or “Old-School Renaissance”, are gamers who appreciate both the mechanics and implied playstyle of older editions of D&D, any of the TSR versions but usually Basic D&D and usually the versions of it (B/X, BECMI, or Rules Cyclopedia) that existed roughly from 1981 to 1991. The real problem with the OSR is a marketing problem; in the past it has been hard to distinguish those genuinely interested in the play philosophies of older D&D from those who were merely retreating to older games. Every time I’ve tried to look into the OSR and OSR games, I’ve come away asking the same question: “why are there so many hacks of Basic D&D and why exactly should I care?”
The strong increase in popularity of Dungeons and Dragons brought about both by the increased accessibility of D&D’s Fifth Edition as well as the growth of the nascent streaming and actual play communities has meant that there are a whole lot of people getting introduced to D&D. Now that this growth has been going on for a few years, there is burgeoning realization that role-playing games as a medium are capable of a lot more than dungeon crawls and Tolkien derivatives. This is great news for everyone, right? We all know there’s a whole world of RPGs out there, from the big glossy traditional games to indie zines and everything in between. Well, something’s getting lost in translation for some, and in the #dnd world on Twitter you’ve likely seen questions like this:
“How can I make John Wick in D&D?”
“What can you do to run Star Trek in D&D?”
“It would be really cool if I could run Harry Potter in D&D!”
Fortunately, these all have easy answers: Don’t, please don’t, and I don’t think it would.
I was fortunate enough to catch up with Keith Baker at PAX Unplugged 2019, and was doubly so that he was able and willing to take the time to sit down with me for an interview! What follows is our conversation as Baker talks about the Eberron setting, Rising from the Last War, exploring things further, the DM’s Guild, telling stories in The Adventure Zone with Twogether Studios, his favorite among a wide variety of hats, and what he finds most compelling about the roleplaying game experience.
The real trouble with edition changes, once you get past the nit-picking, is the missed experiences. Different editions of a game can offer very unique things to their players, but die-hard fans of the older variety miss out on the active ecosystem of the current edition, while newer players miss out on the playstyle of older dungeon delving that they might very well love. Stepping in to bridge the gap is Five Torches Deep from Jessica and Ben Dutter and Sigil Stone Publishing, a “streamlined adventure game combining the best mechanics and principles of 5e, the OSR, and modern game design.” So how bright does FTD shine? Let’s go chapter by chapter to find out!
A Gatekeeper druid, wielding primal magic passed down by a dragon to save the world. A duur’kala bard, inspiring her people while trying to preserve their ways against the worst. A shocktrooper of the Empire who has gone native among the orcs, fighting as a barbarian alongside their spirits. A hero artificer of the goblins, trying to build the ultimate arcane weapon to send the horrors of madness back from whence they came. We’re diving deep into the history of Eberron with a ready-to-play orc, hobgoblin, bugbear, and goblin fighting to save the world from the aberrant daelkyr of Xoriat!
A Psychic Warrior who shields their fellows and strikes their foes with the power of their awakened mind. A Soulknife who cuts at the very minds of their enemies with blades of psychic force A wizard of the Psionics tradition, who manifests as pure psionic energy. I hope you’re ready to use your head, because the latest Unearthed Arcana is revisiting psionics with options for the fighter, rogue, and wizard as well as some new spells and feats. Let’s see what these intelligent adventurers can do, and then address the big psionics questions for Dungeons and Dragons 5th Edition! Continue reading Unearthing Psionic Fighters, Rogues, and Wizards