I was fortunate enough to attend the inaugural PAX Unplugged with my wife this past weekend, and while I (quite wisely, we needed a vacation darn it) wasn’t attending in any sort of official CHG capacity I was still viewing the convention as a whole with a critic’s eye. So what worked, what didn’t, and would going yourself next year be worth it?
After much hype and hullabaloo, Wizards of the Coast has released Xanathar’s Guide to Everything, the first rules supplement for the Fifth Edition of Dungeons and Dragons. While there is nothing revolutionary within this volume, it offers some great new options for both mechanical and story aspects of D&D. I’d say it’s nice to have for players but more recommended for GMs due to the expanded proficiency and downtime rules, trap creation and encounter expansions, and the solidly integrated rivals system.
Elves that can take to the sky on wings they are born with. Elves that view even other elves with suspicion, sticking to the deep forests of Greyhawk. Elves that took to the oceans instead of the forest, following currents instead of wooded paths. Elves that swore service to the Raven Queen, now wreathed in the darkness of the Shadowfell. There has always been more than just one variety of elf in Dungeons and Dragons, and with the latest Unearthed Arcana a lot more of them are coming out of the woodwork (or the sky, or the sea, or a plane of shadow) to take their shot at being options for player characters in 5th Edition!
Before Halloween, Wizards of the Coast took the hype level for their new D&D supplement, Xanathar’s Guide to Everything, and turned it up to 11 by releasing the table of contents. Now it’s known what’s in the book and what we can expect to use in upcoming games once the book is released on November 21st. Also important though is what didn’t make the cut. New classes like the Mystic and the Artificer were left behind, and so was a set of mass combat rules. Even if the mass combat rules have not been built into a sanctioned product yet, the version released in Unearthed Arcana has some neat uses and is definitely worth considering for use in your game.
Fantasy Flight Games is at it again with their open beta tests, this time for the Legend of the Five Rings RPG! L5R, as it is often abbreviated as, was originally published back in ’95 by Alderac Entertainment Group, and is set in the feudal-pseudo-Japan setting of Rokugan, a land of samurai, shugenja, and courtiers fulfilling their duties and struggling amongst themselves in the Emerald Empire. The roleplaying game got through four editions under AEG before the property was sold to FFG in late 2015, and fans have been waiting to see what FFG would make of it since. Now that the beta version is in our hands (for free, thankfully), let’s see what they’ve put together!
Keandra Hunt spent a long time working the journalism beat in Halcyon City, eventually rising to Editor-in-Chief of the Halcyon City Herald and its many associated publications. Nobody can stay in this business forever though, tracking down the truth of the City and its many superpowered events. Hunt is finally moving on, but she’s got one last bit of editing to do. She’s leaving behind a portfolio of interviews, articles, reports, and pictures all selected from her time as Editor-in-Chief. Her successor will get it as an inspiration, a challenge, and a warning. We get it as the Halcyon City Herald Collection, the first supplement for Masks: A New Generation!
Dungeons and Dragons, by many standards, lives up to Wizards of the Coast’s claim of “The World’s Greatest Role-Playing Game”. It has the longest history and the greatest impact of any game, paving the way for the expansive role-playing hobby we have today. And the versions published in the 1980s are those which had the strongest impact on one of the earliest generations of gamers. Between TSR’s mismanagement and the limitations of technology, though, these early versions were almost lost to history. The desire to rekindle support for the playstyle of Basic D&D was one of the collective motivations which kindled the OSR, or Old School Revival, movement. Today’s System Split splits four ways, looking both at two versions of Basic D&D (B/X and Rules Cyclopedia) and Retroclones which were designed to give them renewed accessibility: Labyrinth Lord and Dark Dungeons.
Just because Asmodeus is top dog in the Nine Hells doesn’t mean he’s the only source of fiendish influence on the material plane. Even the Nine Hells as a whole don’t have a monopoly on it; the demons of the Abyss certainly have their own goals and influence, decidedly messier though they may be. From different breeds of Tiefling to infernal cults to abyssal champions, the latest Unearthed Arcana presents us with all sorts of new Fiendish Options, for both sides of the DM’s screen.
The history of Dungeons and Dragons, especially recent history, is all about the mystical notion of game balance. Fourth Edition was designed the way it was in part to repent for the excesses of Third Edition, and Fifth Edition was designed the way it was in part to repent for the excesses of Fourth. Fifth Edition also comes closest of any edition of D&D (save maybe the very first) to accepting a more broad axiomatic truth: Mechanical game balance doesn’t actually matter.
Creating characters is ultimately the launchpad of any gaming experience. This is equally true for the GM, which can present an interesting set of challenges. While each player need only focus on who they’re playing for the game, the GM must populate the whole rest of the world. The balance is, like any other number of storytelling strategies, making the world seem real while not doing an exhausting amount of work. The key strategies for writing memorable NPCs are differentiation, motivation, and improvisation. That last one in particular can take on a couple of different forms…so if you don’t think of yourself as an “improv GM”, fear not!