Sean's Picks of the Week (1226-1230) - Shaintar, D&D, Timewatch, and Middle Earth!

Aaaanndd... we're back! Took a bit of time off as the Christmas season rolled through, and readjusting for the switch back to the original Pick of the Day site, but here's this Week of Picks for you to peruse as we say goodbye to a... challenging year, shall we say? Yes, lots of losses and things to concern folks, but it's also been a fantastic year for gamers and gaming, so let's cleave to the great things of this hobby that takes us away from the dramas of real life and into realms of adventure and goodness, shall we?


Bringing it back, post-holidays, with this latest in the very-nearly-over March to the Finish of the Shaintar releases. One of the most dangerous factions in Shaintar is also one of the most mysterious, but this Black Lantern report lays bare some important details the heroes will need to prevent a fiery armageddon for the world.

The Dragon Cult! Feindish group dedicated to bringing Dragons (an unholy union between a Demon and a Fae) back to Shaintar to rule.

The report, written by Brother Shen who is embedded withing the cult tells of the “Wings” or cells of the cult, what those in charge are called and the tasks of The Breath, Scales, Fangs and other members are. Shen also provides details of the inner workings and goals of the cult and their mission to return Dragons to their rightful place as rulers of Shaintar with all others their slaves and food. Some new secrets are revealed as is the Headquarters of the the Cult, a city named Drak Tor.

There’s also a number of people detailed should you every go up against the Cult so the Lanterns know some of their strengths and weaknesses, including some new magic and gear. The intelligence reports provide other areas that may need to be investigated. We hope you enjoy this report and GMs find a number of ways to incorporate the Dragon Cult into their games.


Kevin Kulp leads a pretty spectacular cast of creators in bringing this RPG to gamers – an RPG dealing with the trickiest concept to manage in any fiction, but especially in the gaming arena. It’s yet another complete game featuring the clever and innovative GUMSHOE System.

History isn’t written by the victors. It’s written by the people with the time machines.

“Well, that doesn’t look right.” All around you are the abandoned ruins of medieval Paris, with a hundred thousand rotted skulls piled up in a mountain. Your partner draws her pistol and checks the historical record on her holographic tether. “Looks like the Khan didn’t die of alcoholism, and his hordes didn’t stop at Vienna,” she says.

“Then we’d better find whoever decided to save his life.” You punch in the coordinates for Karakorum in the year 1241, and fire up the time machine. As you disappear from the 13th century, you silently hope that it isn’t the roaches again…

In the TimeWatch RPG, your band of TimeWatch agents defend the timestream from radioactive cockroaches, psychic velociraptors, and human meddlers. Go back in time to help yourself in a fight, thwart your foes by targeting their ancestors, or gain a vital clue by checking a scroll out from the Library of Alexandria. But watch out for paradoxes that may erase you from existence… or worse.

If you’ve ever dreamed of going on world-changing adventures from the age of the dinosaurs to the end of the universe, the TimeWatch RPG is for you! The game includes:

  • Rules for thrilling time chases, combat in every era, and the dangers of paradox, powered by the GUMSHOE investigative system.
  • Extensive GM advice for creating and running games where PCs can travel anywhere, anywhen.
  • Fourteen settings where you can face Mythos horrors, slide between alternate universes, steal the treasures of the ages, and more.
  • More than a dozen ready-to-play time seeds, iconic pregenerated characters, and three full adventures.
  • Plenty of options, so you can easily customize the game to match your group’s preferred style of play.

You’ve got a time machine, high-powered weaponry and a whole lot of history to save.


Evil Beagle Games did another thing – specifically, another Michael Surbrook Presents thing. Michael is one of those very special breed of game writers who delves mightily into research, especially where history is concerned. He’s a good friend and a top-notch creator who brings something special to every project. If you’re a DM ready to challenge your players’ preconceptions about some classic monsters and other creatures, this is the 5e supplement you need.

You’ve fought basilisks, dragons, manticores, and wyverns… but have you really?

History buff and accomplished game designer Michael Surbrook welcomes you to rediscover all the incredible monsters, beasts, and strange beings of the Medieval Age in a way you’ve never encountered them before. With deep research and completely re-engineered 5e mechanics that eschew “standard gaming” for “what were they believed to be like,” you and your mighty band of heroes might just find out that Old World imagined lion is far more frightening than that last standard hippogriff you tackled.

Then again, the Medieval hippogriff is far nastier, still!

From a short history of medieval beasts and monsters (and a look at the georgraphical world through European Middle Age eyes) to a thorough presentation of both magical monsters and mundane creatures, Here Be Dragons is a monster manual for the history fan in all of us. It’s also a powerful tool for any Dungeon Master looking to make the Old World all-new for players who think they know everything about the monsters they fight.

This is another in a series of products Evil Beagle Games is proud to bring you, from the creative and prolific mind and talents of Michael Surbrook. Look for many more useful, well-researched, and highly creative products from him in the future.


One of my new adventures in the coming year will be as a professional GM for the great folks at Total Escape Games here in the Denver area. Seriously, I never thought that was a possible, real thing, but here I am, studying up on a new game product and getting ready to run it as part of a program to support the sale of new RPGs in the brick-and-mortar venue. Having played and greatly enjoyed D&D 5th Edition, I am pretty keen about bringing the world of Middle-earth to life – albeit, with a heavy leaning to the cinematic style, as is my wont.

In Adventures in Middle-earth™ the greatest fantasy setting of all time comes to the world’s favourite roleplaying game rules! Take your gaming group to Middle-earth with this thematic and atmospheric, OGL-compatible setting guide.

Smaug has been defeated, the Battle of Five Armies has been won, and Bilbo has returned to the Shire. But much danger still remains, and from the Orc-holds of the mountains to the dark and corrupt depths of Mirkwood a darkness waits, recovering its strength, laying its plans, and slowly extending its shadow…

In Dale, King Bard sends out a call for brave adventurers to journey to Laketown and assist him in restoring the glory of the North.

Adventurers come from all the Free Peoples of Wilderland and beyond, all heeding the call to adventure. Spurred on by diverse callings – whether it be the lure of the road, the hunger for ancient lore, or the simple urge to defend hearth and kin, adventurers from across Wilderland are preparing to explore Middle-earth and to battle the rising threat of The Shadow wherever it may be found.

The Player’s Guide gives you the Middle-earth setting-specific rules and guidance to create your characters and adventure in the world of The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings using the OGL 5e ruleset.

Character creation features Cultures and Classes designed for Middle-earth to help you get deep into the setting from the very start of your adventures. New rules add excitement to your journeys and encounters, and chart the corruption of the Shadow in the unwary or unwise.

The Quest begins with this lavishly illustrated, hardcover Adventures in Middle-earth Player’s Guide, followed by the equally beautiful and useful Adventures in Middle-earth Loremaster’s Guide. You can start playing right away with this Player’s Guide, and the latest edition of the world’s most popular roleplaying game rules.

Adventures in Middle-earth: Players Guide contains:
• 11 Middle-earth specific playable Cultures
• 6 New and unique Classes
• 13 New Backgrounds custom-made for Middle-earth
• Middle-earth appropriate arms and armour
• Unique Journey rules
• New rules for Corruption
• New Audience rules
• Rules for The Fellowship Phase
• Middle-earth maps (as the end papers) for Players and Loremasters


One of the best things about D&D 5e is how easily you can use material from just about any other edition (and any OGL-driven source, for that matter) with just a little effort in your 5e games. When it comes to a classic like the first boxed set for Ravenloft, created by the legendary Bruce Nesmith with Andria Hayday, this makes for a true gem mine to delve for incredible story and adventure in one of the most famous settings ever.

A New Realm of Horror Adventures

In the dead of night, as mists cloak the land, a traveler walks a country road. Footsteps echo behind him, in pace with his beating heart. Is it Death who follows? The man turns, and so turns the phantom. A flash of fang, a bloodcurdling howl, red eyes fueled by a passion from beyond the grave. The traveler discovers what others have learned before him: all roads lead to Ravenloft.

Ravenloft is a new realm of terror for AD&D adventures,rooted in the Gothic tradition. It is a demiplane of dread and desire, a world whose misty fingers can reach into any other campaign setting and draw unsuspecting heroes into its midst. Once it holds them in its icy embrace, it may never let them go…

What lurks beneath the covers of this box?

  • A 144-page book detailing a complete, terrifying new campaign world, which was inspired by the classic TSR adventure “Ravenloft.” You’ll find new twists on magic and the AD&D rules, tips for adding fear to your games, plus a portrait of over 30 new lands and the powerful lords who rule them – from vampires, ghosts, and werewolves to men who are even more monstrous.
  • 4 big, full-color maps, detailing deadly domains and shadowy settlements.
  • 24 full-color sheets, featuring haunted castles, horrid houses, and fiendish folk.

Product History [EXCERPTS]

Ravenloft: Realm of Terror (1990), by Bruce Nesmith with Andria Hayday, is the first boxed set for the Ravenloft campaign setting. It was published in June 1990.

Origins (I): Continuing the AD&D 2e Worlds. When TSR produced Spelljammer (1989) shortly after the release of AD&D 2e (1989), it seemed like a wonderful one-off — a new campaign world to complement the classic settings of Greyhawk, Dragonlance, and the Forgotten Realms. But when Ravenloft: Realm of Terror (1990) followed, it suddenly became apparent that TSR was pushing hard on settings for their new edition — and that their appearance might just be a yearly event. In fact, yearly releases of new settings is exactly what happened, and it would cause TSR big problems down the line as setting piled atop setting. But, for now, Ravenloft was just the fifth major world for AD&D.

Like Greyhawk, the Forgotten Realms, and Spelljammer, Ravenloft began with a box. Fans call Ravenloft: Realm of Terror (1990) the “black box” to differentiate it from the red-boxed Ravenloft Campaign Setting (1994) that followed several years later. However, that boxed format was Ravenloft’s only major similarity to the settings that came before it.

TSR’s three AD&D 1e campaign worlds walked the line between high fantasy and sword & sorcery, but that was changing with the new 2e worlds. Spelljammer started the trend by moving into a very different genre: science fantasy. Ravenloft similarly focused on something new: gothic horror. The idea of new settings featuring new genres was one that would continue through most of TSR’s campaign settings of the ’90s.

Origins (II): Continuing the Ravenloft Line. Ravenloft was, of course, not the first appearance of gothic horror in AD&D. It all began with I6: “Ravenloft” (1983), an adventure by Tracy and Laura Hickman that introduced Count Strahd von Zarovich and his dark land of Barovia. A few years later the Hickmans returned with I10: “Ravenloft II: The House on Gryphon Hill” (1986), which revived Strahd in the village of Mordentshire.

Fast forward to the 2e era. I6: “Ravenloft” continued to be a very popular adventure, but at TSR adventures were out-of-favor and settings were in. So in 1989, Bruce Nesmith and Andria Hayday were asked to turn the Hickmans’ popular module into a full world of adventure.

Nesmith and Hayday soon decided that Strahd’s realm of Barovia wasn’t really suited for a campaign. It didn’t offer flexibility or variety. So, the creators opted instead to concentrate on the adventure’s atmosphere. The result was a “demiplane of dread” that included many horrific lands, including the lands of Barovia and Mordent from the two “Ravenloft” modules. Strahd’s backstory from the original “Ravenloft” was even incorporated into the story of how Ravenloft, the demiplane of dread, came to be.

Expanding D&D. Though Dragonlance required some minor changes to the D&D rules, particularly in its days without gods, Ravenloft was the first D&D setting that made major shifts to the D&D game — both through rules variations and through new rule systems. Many classes, spells, and magic items were revamped, either to create a feeling of horror or to account for the fact that Ravenloft was a demiplane.

Ravenloft also contained the game’s first major rules for psychological responses, with its fear checks and horror checks. This sort of “psychological saving throw” originated with Call of Cthulhu’s sanity checks and soon become de rigeur for the horror genre. Ravenloft would add one more check with the publication of Forbidden Lore (1992): the madness check.

As part of its focus on horror, Ravenloft also put more attention than ever on the idea of characters doing evil, outlining rules for what happened as characters started to slip over to the dark side. It was somewhat surprising given TSR’s general move away from controversial elements such as demons, devils, and assassins at the time. However, it wouldn’t be the last time that Ravenloft touched upon things that the rest of the D&D line wasn’t willing to.

Finally, Ravenloft also included rules for curses and for fortune-telling; both of these systems would be further expanded in Forbidden Lore as well.

About the Creators. Ravenloft was designed by Bruce Nesmith and developed by Andria Hayday. Nesmith had been writing for TSR since 1984, with much of his prior focus on Marvel Super Heroes. He would continue to work on the Ravenloft line through 1994. Hayday had also been working for TSR since the early ’80s (with a gap for her time at Pacesetter). As an editor and developer, she didn’t often receive top-line credit, but was nonetheless crucial to the creation of lines like Ravenloft and Al-Qadim (1992).

As the year closes out, I am excited about a lot of what lies ahead. Granted, it's an uncertain time in a lot of ways, but from the gaming side of things, there's some great stuff in the works. For myself, there's a whole new batch of Savage Rifts material going into development. I've also got my Modern Gods and Freedom Squadron projects underway; if you want to know more about them, check out my Patreon, where I am sharing day-to-day developments.

My colleagues across the world are working on dozens - hundreds, really - of amazing projects, and I look forward to sharing a great many of them with you as we roll into 2017.

Here's hoping you've got great gaming - and other happy, fulfilling, and exciting things - ahead of you for the new year!

Note that I use affiliate links in all my posts as a way to generate additional revenue for my efforts; I make my Picks and other article choices, however, based on the desire to share a wide variety of things with you. Thank you for your support.

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!



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