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    Monday, 15th September, 2014
    Dungeon Master's Guide Delayed Until December 9th! 
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    The D&D 5th Edition Dungeon Master's Guide has been delayed by three weeks from November 18th until December 9th. WotC's Mike Mearls says "The new release date for the Dungeon Master's Guide is December 9th. For those stores that take part in our early release program, the book goes on sale November 28th." The delay is due to "an entire additional cycle of design and editing to ensure that the books were as close to perfect as humanly possible". Thanks to Jeremy for the scoop. Click on the image below for more release schedule information. [61 comments]



    WotC has posted a piece of art from the book, though! Modron fans should like this!


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    Dungeons & Dragons News



    Pathfinder RPG News

    • If you're looking for a roundup of recent Paizo news, watch this video from Chaotic Campaign!




    Other News

    Monday, 15th September, 2014
    Monster Manual Art of Christopher Burdett 
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    Artist Christopher Burdett has produced a number of pieces for the D&D 5E Monster Manual. I thought I'd highlight some of his work here. Click on the image below to go to his website, where you'll see his latest preview, the Salamander!


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    Dungeons & Dragons News





    Pathfinder RPG News

    • Click for more about the Pathfinder RPGThrough Gamer Goggles has an audio interview with Paizo's Erik Mona from Gen Con.
    • Paizo Developer Adam Daigle shares some info on Lords of Rust, #86 in Paizo's Adventure Path series. "I'll mention that it takes place in a giant junkyard and the PCs have to navigate all sorts of dangers and complicated relationships between various gangs. It was also written by a maniac. Most people know him by his human name, Nicolas Logue."


    Other News

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    Dungeons & Dragons News

    • If you're on Facebook, you can win yourself a copy of the 5E Player's Handbook. "LIKE EN World's Facebook page and enter the draw for a chance to win a brand new copy of the D&D 5th Edition Player's Handbook! Simply LIKE the page and tell me the name of Click for more about D&Dyour D&D character, and a random winner will be chosen on Tuesday, 16th September. If you've already LIKED the page, you can skip that step! If you win, you will be contacted via Facebook message for your mailing address."
    • The Dungeons & Dragons team at WotC is leading an effort to help children through the Extra Life event. Find out how to participate!
    • Monster Manual? Aside from the excellent Critical Hits Monster Manual review I mentioned yesterday, Rob Donoghue has been working his way through the monsters. He's reached Owlbear, and he's writing a brief paragraph on each. Dread Gazebo also has a preview of the book.
    • Also, Chris Burdett the artist of the Kraken has posted a blog entry on the Kraken in the MM. (thanks to Kobold Avenger for spotting that!)
    • Sly Flourish has an excellent article full of tips on running Lost Mine of Phandelver, the adventure in the D&D Starter Set.
    • Check out this awesome Google-based 5E character sheet from Daniel Rivera. You can copy a version of it over to your own Google docs thing. Click on the image below!





    Other News

    • The Lone Wolf Adventure Game Kickstarter has just a few days left. It's funded and headed towards some great stretch goals.
    • The 13th Age in Glorantha Kickstarter has reached its first stretch goal and is headed for the next, which is a variant barbarian class.
    • I spoke to Kevin Kulp, author of the upcoming TimeWatch RPG from Pelgrane Press, about the game, the Cuban Missile Crisis, dinosaurs, Kickstarters, and much more.



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    Margaret Weis, Tracy and Laura Hickman, and Larry Elmore; 30th Aniversary of Dragonlance

    MerricB
    has authored a detailed review of the classic Dragonlance module, Dragons of Despair, first published in 1984 and written by Tracy Hickman. The Dragonlance saga was a 16-part advanture path long before the term "adventure path" had been coined; it was also a "trans-media" event (an event like WotC's current Tyranny of Dragons which spans comics, books, RPGs, and other things) long before that term had been coined. In short - at the time it was Big Thing. Personally, the associated novels - the Dragonlance Chronicles and the Dragonlance Legends - are probably responsible for my teenaged interest in AD&D and indirectly responsible for my hobbies and career to this day. Here's Merric's review, posted here with his permission (though I recommend you check out his blog for more detailed reviews and articles!):

    With Dragons of Despair, TSR launched the Dragonlance property, and we moved into a new era of D&D.

    It’s really hard to understate how important Dragonlance is to the history of D&D. The story was told through both adventures and novels, and for the first time TSR were concentrating on telling a really big story through their products.

    We’d seen hints of this approach to storytelling through adventures through the work of TSR UK and Tracy Hickman’s previous adventures, but this was on another scale altogether. Paizo’s Adventure Paths and Wizards’ Tyranny of Dragons have their beginnings here. Dragonlance got a lot of things wrong, as is to be expected of any ground-breaking product, but it got a lot of things right as well.

    One of the things it got absolutely right was the trilogy of accompanying novels. Stylistically, they have their flaws, but the story they tell is compelling. (They worked especially well for the teenage me, back almost thirty years ago). However, the release of those books cast a long shadow over the adventure modules. If you’ve read the novels, what can the adventures offer that the novels can’t? And, perhaps more pertinently, does reading the novels spoil the experience of playing the adventures?

    And then there’s the biggest of all problems about presenting a story through both adventures and novels: Are you telling the same story in both? For Dragonlance, the answer was yes (for the most part). The correspondence between the plot of the adventures and the plot of the novels would be the biggest issue in how these adventures were received. When the adventure starts to tell you how a player must act for the story to proceed, then problems can arise. The term we use for this is railroading, and there’s more than a little of this in the series.

    However, it’s quite odd to discover that isn’t actually the problem with Dragons of Despair. Yes, the players have to perform certain actions, but Dragons of Despair tries other tactics rather than just telling the players where to go.

    The basic plot of the adventure is that the player characters have returned to their hometown being apart for five years. They have been seeking proof of the existence of the gods; the gods having abandoned the world hundreds of years ago after an event known as the Cataclysm. Back home, they discover that numerous groups – including a strange group of reptile men – are seeking the Blue Crystal Staff. They meet up with the bearer of the staff and eventually make their way with her to Xak Tsaroth, where they learn that the gods are indeed real and they are returning to the world, with one of the characters becoming the first true cleric since the Cataclysm.

    Oh, and dragons have also returned to the world, and a great army is now conquering their land!

    Yes, it’s a lot to get through. Tracy Hickman is the designer of this adventure and the entire Dragonlance series was his idea (although aided by many other TSR staff along the way). As TSR’s best adventure designer, it’s a good thing he was starting off the series, but it is a bumpy start.

    Dragons of Despair drops the characters into an unfamiliar world and then expects them to work out what to do, with a few hints that there is a lot of interest in a Blue Crystal Staff. Hickman designed a large section of the local countryside for the initial section of the adventure. There are a number of clues pointing the characters towards Xak Tsaroth, from which the Blue Crystal Staff came, but my experience running it is that the players are quite lost at the beginning. The initial encounter doesn’t really drive in the point – there’s a throw-away reference to the staff and then the party is attacked by goblins. The reaction of the characters in the book actually drives this home – they’re concerned by goblins being around their home rather than any mention of a Blue Crystal Staff!

    With thirty more years’ knowledge of adventure-design techniques, we can see the problems with the initial part of Dragons of Despair. It needs the techniques of event-driven play, but those techniques are in their infancy; most adventures of the time were site-based (certainly most D&D ones!) Dragons of Despair takes steps towards this approach by having several Events that take place dependent on time, not location, but their use is still fairly clumsy and limited, the most notable use being the invasion of the Dragonarmies, which cause the countryside and towns to fall to their forces (and probably force the players towards Xak Tsaroth if they’re still unsure of where to go).

    The actual clues to get the characters moving towards Xak Tsaroth can be rather blunt. An old storyteller in the Inn of the Last Home just straight-out tells the group they need to go there. The first time I ran the adventure, with players who had read the books, they listened to his advice and went straight there, completely bypassing the initial stages of the adventure. It was probably a mercy for all concerned, as I was a very inexperienced DM in those days!

    These days, I can see what Tracy Hickman was aiming for – my comprehension aided a lot by reading how the initial stages proceed in the novel – but the first section of the adventure definitely has its problems.

    Once the adventure gets to Xak Tsaroth, however, things get much better. Tracy Hickman had already made a name for himself as a designer of interesting dungeons, and Xak Tsaroth is no exception: it is a ruined city, cast down the side of a cliff so that the buildings are now on many levels, and the players must crawl over treacherous pathways (or use a primitive elevator controlled by the enemy) to negotiate it. The city’s map, drawn in isomorphic fashion by David “Diesel” LaForce, is a masterpiece.

    Part of what makes Dragons of Despair and the entire Dragonlance series so memorable is the sheer amount of invention here. There was a very clear desire to distance the adventure from the influences of Tolkien. Orcs are absent from Krynn and the halflings have been entirely recast as kender, inquisitive kleptomaniacs with no fear – about as far as the hobbits of the Shire as you can imagine! The chief soldiers of the Dragonarmies, Draconians – reptile men of mysterious origins – are introduced in a manner to increase the mystery of their origins. Tracy Hickman’s ability to write inspiring prose and descriptions is also in full view here, as the adventure is filled with evocative descriptions of the things the players find.

    Although I’ve criticised how the adventure doesn’t really give the players enough of an idea of their home lands, it does at least attempt to ground them in the mythic underpinnings of the world: the story of the first great fight against the dragons, which led to their banishing from the realm, and the Cataclysm that occurred when the gods turned their faces from the world. This is done through a magnificent eight-stanza poem, the Canticle of the Dragon, most likely written by Michael Williams (who was working as an editor at TSR at the time, and, indeed, edited this adventure). The module also includes – of all things – a song! Unfortunately, the printing of the song in the book ran into a few technical hitches, so that the notes aren’t properly placed on the staves. (My teenage self was still able to work out where they should have been, and rather enjoyed playing it and the other music that would come in later modules). [Update- Frank Mentzer dropped me a note to say he wrote the sheet music, and Michael wrote most of the words. - Morrus]

    The artwork, by Jeff Easley and Clyde Caldwell, is superb. One thing Dragonlance did was really display what a talented team of artists could do. If I have one complaint with the production values of the adventure, it is in the DM’s wilderness map, which is a blurry black & white reproduction of the players’ map; it is very hard to distinguish features on it. However, Hickman made one great innovation with the map: he divided it up to regions where the encounters would occur whenever the region was entered rather than just a specific hex; this greatly enhanced the play of the adventure.

    This then is Dragons of Despair, the first of the Dragonlance adventures. It’s an ambitious adventure, and one that has a lot of great design in it, along with some parts that don’t quite work as intended. Despite its flaws, it’s one of my favourite adventures ever written for D&D. The real problems with the Dragonlance adventures would appear in later adventures, with the next adventure, Dragons of Flame showing exactly what the perils were with the novels and adventure story going hand-in-hand…

    (Dragons of Despair is available in pdf-format from dndclassics.com. It’s a pretty good scan, although the map of Xak Tsaroth has been split into two pieces that are separated: at the beginning and end of the book.)


    Wednesday, 10th September, 2014
    First Review of the MONSTER MANUAL - plus LORD SOTH! 
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    Critical Hits has posted the very first review of the D&D 5th Edition Monster Manual. And they like it - a lot! In fact, they say "Well, you can sit back and relax. With a fantastic design, writing that inspires the imagination, and mechanics that make monsters fun to run and fun to fight, the Dungeons & Dragons 5th Edition Monster Manual may very well be the best monster book ever written." Click on the Lord Soth, the iconic death knight from Dragonlance below for the review (yep, he's the death knight featured in the MM - no Power Word: Kill, though he has a Hellfire Orb and advantage on saves vs magic, plus he's a 19th level spellcaster with a bunch of paladin spells, and is CR 17).


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    From a conversation over on the WotC forums, writer Steve Winter answered a few questions about Hoard of the Dragon Queen, the first adventure in the Tyranny of Dragons storyline. Most of these questions were asked by WotC forum member CitizenKeen, with a few by Lady_Auralla, Osgood, and dipplayer. [6 comments]

    The Map of Greenest: As discussed elsewhere (I assume from the Encounters version of Hoard), the map of Greenest (page 10) lacks a [complete] key. It is numbered without anything referring to those numbers numbers three and four.

    Once upon a time, certain mission headings included numbers to indicate which map keys they were associated with. Somewhere along the way, those numbers disappeared. 1 is the Keep, 2 is where the tunnel emerges along the stream, 3 is the temple, and 4 is the mill.

    Camp: On page 48 in the Castle Naerytar description, it refers to the Red Wizard Azbara Jos being in the camp of the cultists, but there is no reference to him being in the camp.

    The locations where Azbara Jos hangs out are noted on page 54, entry "1V, West Guest Rooms" (which should actually read "1V, W. Guest Rooms").

    Dragon Hatchery: The Cave Entrance (page 21) says that there are two dragonclaws guarding the entrance in section 1. However, in section 12, Guard Barracks (page 27), it says that any given time, four of the guards are keeping watch in section 1.

    This is a relic of the changes in stat blocks during writing. One entry refers to dragonclaws (challenge 1), the other to guards and cultists (challenge 1/8). When the episode was written, some if not all of those types had names and stat blocks that were different from what they have now. We tried to smooth all that out before the adventure went to press, but we undoubtedly missed a few spots, and this is one. Given what lies ahead, I'd go with two dragonclaws at the entrance and change entry 12 to indicate that the guards maintain a two-man watch at the entrance.

    Trade Way Events: The table doesn't match the described events. While I assume "7. The Golden Hind" refers to "The Golden Stag" (though that means they changed the gender at some point), "8. High Holy Day" doesn't appear in the descriptions. "Payback" is the only mini-episode that doesn't appear on the table, and is described after the Golden Stag, but that's not a nothing error.

    High Holy Day was removed from the adventure late in the development process and replaced with Payback. Obviously, the table should have been corrected, but wasn't. [Thaumaturgical note: Steve mentioned this event during one of the session at Gen Con. Check out the Tome Show Podcast about Hoard of the Dragon Queen if you want more info.]

    Roadhouse: Strongroom: On page 40, the trap door requires a DC 10 Wisdom (Perception) check to find. On page 41, the trap door requires a DC 15 Wisdom (Perception) check to find.

    Ideally, characters will devote time to searching the room thoroughly and therefore will find the trapdoor without a die roll. If they talk to the stable boys or to Gristle Pete, they'll get the clue that makes them suspicious of this room. If they do none of those things but just rely on a quick die roll, then DC 10 probably is preferable to prevent them from hitting a dead end. My recommendation, though, is to make them think through the mystery and not just toss dice around.

    Briferhew's Room: Listed as item 7 in the descriptions, it does not appear on the map.

    The small room in the upper left corner of level 1 should be labeled 7. It should also have a door.

    Hunting Lodge Map: There are numbered rooms/areas 1-15 but no label for 12, even though it is described in text (page 67, map page 66). Surmised that area 12 is the top-right room with a window.

    Castle Naerytar: Castle map (page 51) descriptions indicates 5 is a moat and 6 is a gate, but no 6 on map and 5 is where the gate is.


    Correct in both cases.

    Hazirawn: The magic item (page 94) has inconsistent damage when attuned. In the first paragraph, it says that you deal an additional 1d6 damage when you are attuned with the weapon. In the second paragraph under Increased Potency, it says that when you are attuned, "you deal an extra 2d6 necrotic damage (instead of 1d6).

    The error is in the the last sentence of the first paragraph. It should state, "If you are _not_ attuned to Hazirawn, you deal an extra 1d6 necrotic damage when you hit with the weapon." Then everything else falls into place and makes sense.

    Also, please feel free to discuss the lack of clarity regarding passive Perception in Hoard.

    Like monster stat blocks, the Perception rules were not yet in their final form while we were writing. Several skills, but Perception and Stealth in particular, took an approximately 175-degree turn in how they work somewhere around the middle of the project*, necessitating significant, retroactive sweeps through the manuscript trying to keep everything up to date. Because we knew things would be missed in those sweeps, we also minimized our references to certain rules, to cut down on the amount of work, delay, and risk those searches and redesigns involved.

    * I saw another relic of this process while answering one of your questions on episode 3. The guards at the mouth of the dragon nursery are noted as having "normal readiness." When the episode was written, that phrase had a specific, rules-related meaning, according to the then-current DMG manuscript. I don't think that rule will exist anymore when the DMG is published. That's one of the many unavoidable hazards of simultaneous development.


    My one concern above: IIRC (don't have Hoard in front of me) the Castle episode refers to Azbara's presence at the cultist camp, episode 2.

    At the camp (episode 2), Jos would stay in Rezmir's command tent (2).

    I noticed two other things while searching for answers to some of these questions.
    The bodyguards outside Rezmir's tent in episode 2 are meant to be impossible for PCs to overpower. At one time, Guards filled that role, but they were since downgraded to challenge 1/8. Those guards should be replaced with Veterans (challenge 3).
    On the Level 2 map of Castle Naerytar, key letters H and K should be transposed. The arsenal is above the forge, and the three vacant rooms are in the NE tower.


    Can you give us a run down on how the readiness was going to work so we can decide wether to include it or not in our own games please.

    The rules on surprise at one time contained this:

    Each creature and character makes a Wisdom saving throw against a DC that corresponds to its readiness. The readiness DC for characters is determined by their travel pace. For monsters, it depends on their degree of alertness, as shown below.
    Alertness / Readiness DC
    Low = 15
    Normal = 10
    High = 5


    I take it that a failed roll meant discovery or suspicion?

    A failed roll meant the monster or NPC was surprised.

    Glad I found these clarifications. Any chance we will see an erata document with updated maps and the like Steve?

    That would be a question for Wizards of the Coast. Wolf and I wrote the adventure and Kobold Press packaged it, but WotC is the publisher.

    In episode 6, I don't see where the NPC Dralmorrer Borngrey is expected to be, except the limited time when he is in his sleeping chambers. And there is a conflict between some text that seems to indicate that Rezmir will be in the castle (page 48) and then some text that seems to indicate she won't be (page 46).

    Any guidance?

    There is also a lack of direction on how the overall situation at the castle might develop, especially what the denizens thereof might do if the PCs are holed up somewhere taking a long rest, for instance.


    The situation in episode 6 is entirely open-ended. We didn't want to script NPCs' locations or motions. Guidance is given in certain cases; where nothing is said, it's up to the DM. When Rezmir is at the castle, she's in charge, and she could be anywhere the person in charge might go: in the library, in her chambers, in the Great Hall supervising the sorting of loot, outside the castle dealing with bullywugs or lizardfolk, in her office consulting with Borngray and Jos, in the dungeon watching loot being transported to the Lodge, in the courtyard watching lizardfolk at drill. As SiC, Borngray has most of the same options. The castle is meant to be a site in motion, not a store window display where everything and everyone is frozen in place until PCs come to attack them.

    Rezmir is definitely at the castle when characters arrive, but she might not be around for long. She evacuates immediately if an attack develops. She leaves within a day or two if characters drag things out.

    Until castle denizens become aware of the characters' presence, they go about their normal routine. Once they become aware of non-Cult infiltrators in the area, they'll react in whatever manner the DM thinks is most appropriate and most exciting for the players. There are too many possibilities for us to enumerate all of them. That's one of the facets of D&D that makes it so brilliant; there's a human brain behind the screen, constantly reacting to the changing situation and intelligently guiding NPCs by weighing far more factors than any remote author or programmer can account for.

    So my guidance is, internalize the personalities of the principal NPCs and the factions, look at the developing situation from their viewpoints, and have the NPCs do what it makes most sense for them to do.




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  • Dungeon Master's Guide Delayed Until December 9th!

    The D&D 5th Edition Dungeon Master's Guide has been delayed by three weeks from November 18th until December 9th. WotC's Mike Mearls says "The new release date for the Dungeon Master's Guide is December 9th. For those stores that take part in our early release program, the book goes on sale...

    Read More

    FULL D&D 5TH EDITION RELEASE SCHEDULE &...

    Details of official D&D 5th Edition products coming in 2014 - rulebooks, boxed sets, adventures, miniatures, digital tools, PDFs, and more!

    Read More

    Monster Manual Art of Christopher Burdett

    Artist Christopher Burdett has produced a number of pieces for the D&D 5E Monster Manual. I thought I'd highlight some of his work here. Click on the image below to go to his website, where you'll see his latest preview, the Salamander!

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    Thri-Kreen! 5E Style!

    Courtesy of Athas.org. http://www.enworld.org/forum/showthread.php?361951-Preview-Thri-Kreen

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    And the Escapist has a MANTICORE!

    Courtesy of The Escapist. http://www.enworld.org/forum/showthread.php?361978-Preview-Manticore Check out the Thri-Kreen from earlier today...

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    More 5E Resources Galore!; PATHFINDER News...

    Dungeons & Dragons News The Monster Manual is two weeks away! Or, if you're near a xWizards Play Network store, just five days! Secrets of the Shadowend has a 5E Leshii...

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