Are your quest rewards rewarding enough? - Mon, 10/05/2015 - 00:54
So our hero plumber has eaten some mushrooms, stomped a few goomba’s, and booted King Koopa himself into a lava pit. Only to be informed yet again that his princess is not there– leaving our poor...

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Putting the MAGIC back into ‘magical items’ - Sun, 09/27/2015 - 22:32
Imagine the scene– the players kill the big boss of the dungeon, bust down the door to his hidden vault, check for traps, unlock the chest, and open it to find a glowing magical longsword; only to...

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Is the D&D module dead?

Newbie DM - Tue, 09/22/2015 - 09:31

I know this question is maybe a little sensationalist, but I think it’s fair.

Is the module dead? Screen Shot 2015-09-22 at 10.24.46 AM

First, what do I mean by module? I see modules as cheap, short, low prep adventures that a DM can run in a few sessions and be done with it. The kind of adventures we’d get in Dungeon mag, or on the shelves of the local game store. The kind of product you would only pay a couple of bucks for.

Yeah, I think it’s dead.

A lot is said of the price of entry for D&D, and what you’re basically talking about is the “big three” books, PHB, DMG and MM, and lets not forget the starter box (and more about that in a minute…). Usually, and correct me if I’m wrong, the burden of owning most of the books falls on the DM, who is usually also the one that has to corral a gaming group together and get things grooving.

So if we look at the price of entry, (and I’ll use Amazon prices here, so we can see how cheap it ~can~ be) we are talking about an $85 investment at its lowest price.

But there’s no adventure.

We have a lot of tools to create adventures with, sure, but if you are a newbie… well…. you’re kind of out of luck, unless you go with yet another hardback. The newest one, Out of the Abyss, will run you $31 on Amazon. Now we’re talking about a $116 investment if you decide that you need a pre published adventure because you either don’t feel confident in writing your own, don’t have the time, etc etc.

What about the starter set? Yes. It’s a great product. Yes, it includes a very good adventure. Yes, it’s cheap. Yes I highly recommend it. It’s going to cost you about $13 at Amazon, and it’ll give you a REALLY nice entry ramp into D&D, for sure. But once you get past it, you still need to have something to run. So you are still looking to drop more cash on a hardback that to be honest, might not be very newbie friendly to run. Hell, I had trouble with the Hoard of the Dragon Queen adventure when I started it. I actually didn’t finish it.

Let me be a realist for a second.

I know modules are probably not very economically sound for WOTC. At least not the cheap ones. I get it. And print magazines are dead. I get it. I don’t think it’s realistic to ask for a trip Back to the Future for the way things used to be.

Here’s what I’d love to see, and you tell me how realistic you think this is… How about officially sanctioned short scenarios, that can be easily dropped into existing campaigns? Maybe written by the community, with the D&D Seal of Approval ®.

How about DNDClassics? That place is FULL of modules. D&D’s past is riddled with Tombs of Lizard Kings, Frost Giant Jarls, and Tombs of Horrors. Lets take advantage of that. I’d love to see conversion guides for those old adventures.

I should point out that some of what I’m asking for is being done…. ENWorld is running a patreon that produces adventures. I’ve never read them, so I can’t tell you if they are good or not, but someone saw an opening and took it. :)

I think there is an untapped market for shorter modules. Not everyone has the time or patience to run a large hardback. Not everyone is going to find the storyline in the big hardback adventure interesting enough to run. So there is a place for smaller adventures.

Maybe it’s the community’s job to get this done. Maybe it’s for third parties to tackle (where’s the license?… I keep hearing Fall).

I know I’d love more shorter modules. But it seems that for now the module is dead. Long live the module.


I was reminded by @alphastream about a few sources of third party modules… First, Merric B (a prolific and well known member of the D&D community) keeps a 5e review site with tons of third party content information and there’s also the D&D Adventurer’s League, which has modules available that require public play to get access to. Public play is something I don’t really write much about because my experience with it is nil. Perhaps somebody can comment.

Full disclosure: The Amazon links above are linked to my Amazon Associates account.

If you would like to support, perhaps you’d consider visiting for your next rpg related purchase. Check out the following products:

World of Greyhawk AD&D Boxed Set

Menzoberranzan AD&D Boxed Set

Conquest of Nerath: A D&D Boardgame

Legend of Drizzt: A D&D Boardgame

Racial heritage: more than skin-deep… - Sun, 09/20/2015 - 22:15
I was reading the latest release in the current D&D Adventure’s League Season, Harried in Hillsfar, and one sentence leapt out at me: “Rampant xenophobia, steeped in years of...

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Save on Entertainment Costs and Play Free Online Games - Mon, 09/14/2015 - 16:20
Taking care of your cash and not getting into debt is an important topic these days and with a little thought and organisation you can arrange your budget to ensure you do not fall into the debt...

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Have you tried other group sizes on for size? The results might just surprise you… - Mon, 09/14/2015 - 00:16
For DMs getting the right sized group size can be a real headache. This is especially true when preparing for a new campaign where your options are often limited by the availability of players.  Or...

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NewbieDM Review: Encounter Decks 3 by Inkwell Ideas

Newbie DM - Wed, 09/02/2015 - 13:20

During Gencon, I saw that my friend Mike, who runs SlyFlourish, picked up a deck of cards with what looked like an encounter and a map on them. These cards intrigued me, so I looked around and picked up a batch from Drivethru RPG. I picked up the bundle that includes the PDF of the deck, and the physical products. I’ll give me thoughts on this print-on-demand service at the end of the review, but first let me get to the cards…

Encounter Decks are basically a set of cards with a ready made map and plot ideas for a nights worth of gaming.

The deck includes 54 cards.

The deck includes 54 numbered cards, with one side showing a quick line or two about the hook of the adventure, suggestions for getting the PCs involved, encounter ideas, and suggestions on how to expand the story past the presented adventure. The other side includes a map suitable for the adventure. Here’s the map for card #25 “And the Children Shall Lead” from the picture above:


As you can see, they cram a lot into a regular poker sized card, perhaps too much, but in essence you are getting a solid framework for a night’s worth of gaming in each card. A good GM might take these cards and be able to randomly pull one for that night’s one shot or side trek.


Each card has either a Sword & Sorcery or a Science Fantasy theme, although it would probably be easy to re-skin these into any theme you need for your campaign. The plots range from dragon cults stealing livestock in the area, to stopping a brain connected to a super computer from taking over the city….

To me what’s most valuable about these cards are the hooks and encounters. The maps don’t do much for me because in order for them to be useful I’d need to blow them up larger, and they aren’t keyed anyway, so they can really just serve as inspiration for making my own maps or by hand or whatever. The fact that they managed to cram so much into a regular playing card is enough for me though, and I appreciate the effort, I just don’t know if I’ll get to use the maps. They even suggest using maps from other cards interchangeably, so they are playing fast and loose with them as it is.

There’s probably going to be some bit of prep time for the average GM that chooses to use these cards. I know that I’d probably take the time and flesh out the plots a bit and make them custom for my game, tie them in to my setting, etc, but some people may be content with a beer and pretzel “shuffle the cards” and lets see what comes up. For both those types of gamers, I think the product shines.

As far as Drivethru’s physical quality, I was really impressed. The cards are strong, not flimsy at all, rounded corners and have a gloss to them. They came packaged in a sturdy acrylic box with a removable lid, and I paid about $12 for the whole thing.


Overall, I think these Encounter Decks are a solid product from Inkwell Ideas. I appreciate having 54 adventures ready to go, and even if the maps are perhaps a bit too small for the cards to use as intended, there are workarounds and ways to use them effectively, so I feel comfortable recommending the product.

If you would like to support, perhaps you’d consider visiting for your next rpg related purchase. Check out the following products:

World of Greyhawk AD&D Boxed Set

Menzoberranzan AD&D Boxed Set

Conquest of Nerath: A D&D Boardgame

Legend of Drizzt: A D&D Boardgame

DMs should fear these things from Fear the Walking Dead - Mon, 08/31/2015 - 01:52
Movies and television are always a fertile source for ideas to use in D&D.  Especially horror.  You’ve probably heard that AMC’s the Walking Dead has a spinoff called (ugh)...

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Crashing markets in the D&D world - Fri, 08/28/2015 - 21:45
Recent financial craziness from China illustrates how interwoven economies are in a modern world. But how would this play out in D&D and what affect would they have on the PCs?  Well as Master Of...

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If Quentin Tarantino designed a D&D adventure - Sun, 08/23/2015 - 19:06
While we’re writing a piece on the Walking Dead spinoff, I thought I’d tie-in a few things cinema to D&D.  Because now that he’s finished creating another excuse for Samuel L....

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Dungeons and Dragons Books – The Dungeon Master’s Guide - Sun, 08/23/2015 - 06:04
While there are numerous Dungeons and Dragons books available to those that want to be a DM, the best is the Dungeon’s Master’s Guide. This guide is often referred to as the “DMG” or the “DM’s...

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Forgotten Realms and other D&D comics are available now as part of a Humble Bundle

A Hero Twice a Month - Thu, 08/20/2015 - 01:18

Sorry for the delay in posting, but things have been crazy at work recently.  However, considering how much time on this blog I have spent recapping the old DC/TSR Forgotten Realms comic book series, I would be remiss if I didn’t note that the entire series is now available as part of a Humble (Book) Bundle.

And it is not just the old Forgotten Realms series either.  The old Advanced Dungeons & Dragons series is also part of the bundle, not to mention several of the newer Dungeons & Dragons series produced by IDW.

This is a seriously good deal and at the time of this post it is still available for five days or so.  So if you have enjoyed my postings on the old comic series and want to check it out for yourself, now is the perfect time to do so.

The Journey As The Destination - Sat, 08/15/2015 - 00:39
Recently, the perfect storm of perspective had me experiencing, in short succession: A family driving trip 1,500 miles from Western, NY to Texas Reading a book on Magellan’s circumnavigation of...

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Dungeon Mastering Dungeons and Dragons 3.5 - Tue, 08/11/2015 - 22:56
Dungeon mastering Dungeons and Dragons 3.5 is no easy feat, but, it is an exceptionally rewarding one. The dungeon master, or “DM” for short, plays a highly pivotal role with the imaginary-based...

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Real world problems for D&D characters: taxes, fees, and surcharges - Mon, 08/10/2015 - 01:51
Today we’ll start talking about stressful stuff that happens throughout our daily lives that, realistically should happen also to people in fantasy worlds. The inspiration for this comes from...

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The Top 3 Strangest Dungeons and Dragons Characters of All Time - Thu, 08/06/2015 - 09:49
Several strange Dungeons and Dragons characters are currently in existence. As a dungeon mastering professional, it is important that you learn as much as you are able to regarding these unique...

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A quick programming note and Gen Con quick hits

A Hero Twice a Month - Mon, 08/03/2015 - 10:00

This weekend I had some issues with the Windows 10 upgrade to my study PC that ultimately took the better part of Saturday to resolve.  Since that is when I was planning on finishing up my Monday blog post, it will be postponed to my normal Thursday post.

In lieu of a full post, here are a few quick Gen Con news items:

Tribality  posted the demon lord write ups from the upcoming D&D Adventure League storyline Rage of Demons.

Wizards of the Coast and D&D 5e did really well at the ENnies, winning the gold in thirteen catagories.  The full list of ENnie Award winners can be found here.

Onyx Path Publishing has announced Vampire: The Masquerade 4th Edition.  I find this a bit odd as they are already publishing both twentieth anniversary versions of their classic World of Darkness material and a second edition of their new World of Darkness material.

Dungeon Mastering Guide – Helping Your Players Create Dungeons and Dragons Characters - Sat, 08/01/2015 - 11:01
Helping your players create Dungeons and Dragons characters is an important aspect of dungeon mastering. While you are likely to create your own system for achieving success in this endeavor, this...

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Random Reviews: Ant-Man

A Hero Twice a Month - Thu, 07/30/2015 - 10:00

The first thing any good burgler does is show his face to the people he is burgling.

My feelings about the Ant-Man movie are complicated.  I was really excited about Ant-Man when it was first announced that Edgar Wright (Shaun of the Dead, Scott Pilgrim vs. the World) was going to be directing it.   Needless to say I was disappointed when he left due to creative differences with Marvel Studios.  So for me Ant-Man will always have to compete with the pure Edgar Wright version of the movie that only exists in my head, and like anytime when reality has to compete with fantasy it is tough for reality to compete.

That said, Ant-Man is a fun movie.  Marvel Studios seems to have making superhero movies down to a science now, even when translating their lesser known properties to the screen.  Also, with the sheer number of movies Marvel Studios has produced in recent years they have smartly started to play with the genre a bit.  The Captain America: The First Avenger was naturally a superhero film mixed with a period piece, but the Captain America: The Winter Soldier was also a mix, this time of superhero film and a spy thriller.  Ant-Man is a superhero film mixed with a heist movie.

Like any heist movie, Ant-Man establishes what needs to be stolen, then establishes all the reasons why it is impossible to steal the item.  It then has the ringleader establish a crew with specialized skills that can overcome the security around the item to be stolen.  Of course, the heist has complications which are only overcome by quick thinking on the part of the crewmembers during the heist.  In the end, despite these complications the heist is successful.

Of course, since it is not a pure heist movie Ant-Man also has to fit in time for a traditional superhero origin story and a big supervillain battle before the movie is over.  Like Avengers: Age of Ultron it also takes some time away from the main plot to establish ties to the greater Marvel Cinematic Universe by having Ant-Man fight an Avenger to get a MacGuffin “needed” for the main heist.  Personally, I wish they had kept it closer to the traditional heist film structure and eliminated the battle at the end, merely leaving Darren Cross raging at how Hank Pym had pulled one over on him.  I am guessing my opinion is in the minority on this though.

As someone of Latino descent, I would be remiss if I didn’t talk a bit about Luis.  Played by Michael Peña, Luis is one of the first* Latino characters in the Marvel Cinematic Universe.  While I wish he was more then a comedy sidekick, he is genuinely funny and gets the most to do of any of the secondary characters.  Welcome to the MCU Luis, hopefully we will see you in the sequel.

All and all I enjoyed Ant-Man.  It had a good mixture of action and humor.  I don’t feel it was quite as enjoyable as last summer’s Guardians of the Galaxy but I would definitely recommend it to superhero movie fans.


3.5 carpenter ants out of 5 


*Maria Hill is Latina in the comics, but in the MCU she is played by a white actress (Cobie Smulders).  Conversely, Agent Sitwell is white in the comics, but is played by a Latino actor (Maximiliano Hernández) in the MCU.

Game Recap: Princes of the Apocalypse Session 3–The Temple of Sacred Stone

A Hero Twice a Month - Mon, 07/27/2015 - 10:00

Looks Peaceful Enough

Dramatis Personae

Glidion: High Elf Wizard (Enchanter) who exaggerates stories of his past triumphs. Unwitting pawn of the Zhentarim.

Gracealyn “Darkeyes” Droverson: Tethyarian Human Noble Fighter (Champion) who seeks to restore her lost family fortunes.  Member of the Lords Alliance.

Milo Miller: Lightfoot Halfling Cleric of Pelor (Life Domain). Seeks to spread worship of his god to Faerun.  Watcher of the Harpers.

Salazar Tomoki: Shou Human Monk (Way of the Open Hand).  Hermit who walks Faerun seeking enlightenment like Caine from Kung Fu.

Wrenna: Forest Gnome Rogue (Thief).  Little is known of Wrenna’s past other then that she has been on the wrong side of the law from a young age.


Having defeated the gargoyles and deciding that their suspicions about the monastery being a haven for evil were correct, the party decided to throw caution to the wind.  Well, not entirely to the wind as Wrenna snuck a peak into the central temple area prior to the group kicking open the doors.  Wrenna reported that there were a priest and two guards inside gathered around an altar at the far end, with four large columns of natural stone dominating the room and a large set of stairs heading down in the center.

The party seized the initiative and attacked.  Glidion lead the attack with a fireball to “soften them up”, followed quickly by the a fleet-footed and stealthy Salazar armed with shurikens.  Wrenna used her bow to great effect while Darkeyes was less effective with her javelin as she tried to close the gap.  Milo used a guiding bolt of magic to both attack and assist his comrades.  Glidion was able to take down the weakened priest and guards using magic to put them to sleep.

Tying the three up, they proceeded to wake the priest and interrogate him.  The priest, a man named Qarbo, was quite talkative if openly contemptuous of his captors.  He told the group that no matter what they did, they could not stop the rise of the Cult of the Black Earth.  When asked if the Cult of Black Earth was behind the attack on the party by monks wearing wingwear, he spat and said those “vulture riding fools from the Cult of Howling Hatred” were weak and would be “the first to fall when the Black Earth ascended”.  When asked what was below, Qarbo told the party to “go down and find out, but do not be surprised if the Black Earth devours you.” Having enough of his attitude, Darkeyes literally picked him up by the ankles and shook him, and was gratified when a pair of keys on a chain around his neck fell to the ground.

Meanwhile the group discovered a bronze lever close to the altar.  Wrenna could not determine its purpose, but Glidion had a hypotheses it might have to do with the stairs.  Deciding to test this, the party placed the three tied up cultists on the edge of the stairs.  Qarbo was asked if he had anything to say before the lever was pulled.  While he looked nervous, he did not give the party any more information.  The lever was pulled, the stairs collapsed, and the three cultists slid into the darkness below.  More mechanical noises were heard in the distance, followed by screams, followed by a clacking, scrabbling noise as the umber hulk below tried to make it up the ramp.  The party decided it was best to explore elsewhere.

Leaving out the small doors to the west, the party entered a hallway with Wrenna in the lead.  Her sensitive gnomish nose detected the smell of baking bread.  Making their way through the empty dining area, the group entered the kitchen where four monks in dun colored robes were preparing food.  Seeing the party they hastily donned gargoyle masks and attacked.  The monks proved no match for the party however, and once they were vanquished the party use the opportunity to restock their provisions.  The deceased monks were also liberated of their robes and masks.

Heading back out the way they came and travelling south, Wrenna listened at a door and heard some people speaking in what she thought was a dialect of dwarvish.  Darkeyes decided to have a little fun, donned a gargoyle mask, put a (poorly fitting) robe over her armor, and charged into the room to attack.  The dwarves, actually duergar, were taken off guard by this unorthodox attack. Only three of the six duergar in the room were awake and the group worked to push their advantage while they could.  Two of the duergar used the strange powers innate to their race to grow to gigantic proportions.  Regardless, the party took the day and defeated the evil dwarves.

Continuing their explorations, the party found another dormitory with four sleeping monks who were slaughtered before they were even fully awake.  The group then discovered the sleeping quarters of the priest and his guards they encountered earlier.  One of the keys they had liberated from the priest opened an iron coffer containing priestly vestments, gold bracelets, and several magical scrolls which were claimed by Glidion.

To be continued…

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