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Updated: 4 hours 11 min ago

D&D in the Classroom

Fri, 10/02/2015 - 02:00
Release date: 10/02/2015Description: Learn how a Texas high school teacher is changing education through the power of D&D!Thumbnail: Category: D&D podcastsBanner: Introduction: Learn how a Texas high school teacher is changing education through the power of D&D!Text: 

Kade Wells is a teacher in the Houston, TX area and he uses Dungeons & Dragons in his 9th grade classroom to teach writing, reading and critical thinking skills in his language arts classes. He presented his technique at the World Literacy Conference this summer in Austria, reporting on how using D&D improved his student’s scores across the board. Listen to learn how Kade is changing education through the power of D&D!

Podcast link: http://media.wizards.com/2015/podcasts/dnd/DnDPodcast_09_22_2015.mp3Suscribe link: http://itunes.apple.com/us/podcast/the-dungeons-dragons-podcast/id189053885Banner video: 

Nine Ways to Kick Off Your Rage of Demons Campaign

Fri, 09/18/2015 - 11:00
Type: FeaturesAuthor: Tara TheoharisSubtitle: D&D DIYBanner: Thumbnail (869x490): Text: 

The Rage of Demons storyline season is here, and I’ve got to start planning. I mean, what snacks does one make when running a campaign about demon lords, anyway? So if you’re also looking forward to cozy, long nights with the fireplace on and the dice rolling freely, I’ve got nine ways to kick off your Rage of Demons campaign, based on nine demons featured in this storyline season.


Let Demogorgon and his ability to provoke insanity be the DJ for the evening. Select instrumental pieces from horror movie soundtracks and Halloween party albums, or pick out some dubstep where the drop never comes. For something a little more esoteric, Godspeed You! Black Emperor is a great band to get you started. If you have the ability to do so, have your music tracks backed up with recordings of faint, nonsensical whispers. Play this throughout the campaign to keep your players on edge.


What do you make your players to introduce them to the Demon Queen of Fungi? Zuggtmoy stuffed mushrooms, of course!


When not killing and eating everything around him, the demon lord Yeenoghu gets a little crafty by making armor, masks, costumes, and necklaces out of body parts. For a slightly more appetizing take on this pastime, pick up some “Body Parts” gummy Halloween candies. Then stack them onto kebab sticks or thread them onto string to form a necklace. Set them out so that each player attending your game session is greeted by this creepy and delicious snack. It will definitely set the mood for the campaign!


The demon lord Graz’zt is a creature of lust and desire, and his followers crave power and prestige. Invite your players to a session of Rage of Demons as Graz’zt would: with flowery, romantic invitations. Sign them from the Dark Prince and see if your players can resist him. Don’t be afraid to get humorous with your wording and go overboard with the lettering. Use calligraphy or a flowery font, call your players pet names Graz’zt might use for them, and spray the invitations with a strong and musky cologne.


Germs seem to run rampant in the fall, so keep your game on track by keeping everyone in good health. Just as the characters in your campaign must resist disease when crossing Orcus’s path, you can help your players resist disease before they come into your house. Make your sick friends stay home and sleep it off instead of playing in the campaign, and be willing to reschedule or cancel your session if you’re feeling under the weather. At the table, encourage your players to use their own sets of dice and keep things like hand sanitizer and tissues available for anyone who might be showing signs of illness.


Belaphoss might not be a demon lord yet, but this villain from the new D&D game Sword Coast Legends is doing everything he can to remedy this oversight. He loves tricking mortals in civilized and cunning ways, and is an obsessive student of demonic magic. Take a note from him and teach yourself a trick that will impress your players! Incorporate cards or some sleight of hand into your campaign for a bit of added flair. Check out youtube.com/magictricks to get you started.


Baphomet wants to reduce all creatures to their basest, most animalistic desires, and the Horned Lord encourages risky — and often deadly — games among his followers. You obviously don’t want to do anything that might put your players in harm’s way in real life, but there are some fun ways to safely bring a bit of that risk-taking spirit to your game. Have a variety of unmarked envelopes, plastic Easter eggs, or small wrapped packages on the table when your players arrive. Tell them that many of these packages contain information on fun and helpful items their characters will receive at the start of the campaign. However, one or two of the packages instead contains a note that will reduce a character’s starting hit points. Let the players decide if they want to participate, and take turns opening up the packages until everyone receives their helpful items or hit point penalty.


Juiblex, the gelatinous, glutinous Faceless Lord, is the perfect inspiration for an appetizing dessert. Right? Use a Bundt cake pan as a base, and fill it with green Jell-O mix. Place candy eyeballs throughout the Jell-O, then let it solidify. When the Jell-O is set, turn the mold over on a plate, carefully lift the cake pan off, and serve.


Fraz-Urb’luu is all about stepping out of reality and trying on a new personality — or an actual person — for size. Encourage your players to dress up as their characters, and to stay in character the whole time they’re at your place. And yes, the bard better be prepared to entertain everyone with a song during your dinner break!

These are just a few ideas you can play with while exploring the madness and wonders of the Underdark. What will you be doing to make your Rage of Demons campaign unique?

About the Author

Tara Theoharis is the creator of The Geeky Hostess, a geek party and recipe site and brand. When she's not coming up with weird cupcake flavors and punny foods, she spends her time playing tabletop games, attending cons, and binge-watching TV.

Publication date: 09/18/2015Introduction: The leaves are starting to change and the air’s getting crisp. While others are already talking about the comeback of their pumpkin spice lattes, the arrival of fall means something a bit different to me. Tags: Featuresexternal_urls: Texture banner: ShowBanner video: 

The Unconventional Challenge

Fri, 09/11/2015 - 16:25
Type: FeaturesAuthor: Bart CarrollSubtitle: Behind the ScreensBanner: Thumbnail (869x490): Text: 

This is a process whereby the designers are taken to some random location—a dollar store, a storage locker facility, an abattoir—to collect the themed materials for their next project. (Or so I’m told. Not that I’ve ever watched the show myself. Or Top Chef. Or Big Brother. And definitely not House Hunters regularly; and I certainly did not apply to be on that show, making it past two rounds of interviews.)

At its heart, the unconventional challenge is about competitive kit bashing—an activity I’ve always appreciated, and have heartily recommended for tabletop gaming. After all, D&D has its very roots in kit bashing. The original rules of the game were born from a combination of wargaming, fantasy, and roleplaying in a process that had never been done before. The first dragons to ever hit the gaming table were remodeled from plastic dinosaurs, and the rust monster, bulette, and owl bear originated from dime store toys. In fact, a good portion of the game’s bestiary is gleefully cobbled together from any number of inspirational sources, mythologies, and genres.

In this installment of Behind the Screens, I wanted to offer a few suggestions for modding and kit bashing at your gaming table, whether it’s with materials, settings, or other options.


In one of my earliest campaigns, the players decided to rebuild a fallen stronghold. Without a pre-drawn map at hand, we mutually agreed to stand in our Post Exchange (we were all Army brats)—we knew the place by heart and could quickly imagine where things were happening, even when the party split up to defend different areas from later incursions. Sure, it broke a certain verisimilitude referring to the castle’s video arcade, sub shop and commissary, but it worked as a very convenient shorthand.

Ultimately, bringing in this real world location ended up making for a great gaming experience. Defending the PX created a stronger connection for the players than it would have for a more generic castle, and they ended up holding the place for long months afterward as their base of operations.

Even if playing in a known campaign world, the use of real-world maps can help better flesh out a setting for the players. Whether it’s maps of individual buildings, a city, or a broader territory, incorporating the real world can help players imagine and identify locations in the game more easily. Certainly, this makes immediate sense in modern or future settings (think d20 Modern, Rifts, or Shadowrun set in your own home city). But it can work just as well for fantasy settings. After all, the World of Greyhawk originated from an older campaign setting built around a map of North America, with downtown Chicago inspiring the layout of the great free city.

When it comes to finding real-world maps, an enormous number are available online. Take New York City as just one example—you might allow the Metropolitan Museum to stand in as a grand palace, use Central Park as a wilderness or druid glen, or turn the subway system into a map of known roads, caravan routes, or hunting trails laid down by monsters or bandits.


In another campaign a few years later, my group alternated between playing D&D and Magic: The Gathering. This meant that Magic cards were often scattered around the game table along with character sheets and rulebooks. At some point, I had the notion to grab a handful of cards and incorporate them into the game.

Players and monsters had equal access to these cards, which they carried around as single-use scrolls. Whenever someone wanted to “cast” a card, they flipped it onto the table. As the DM, I quickly adjudicated the card’s effect in terms of a roughly equivalent spell; the higher the card’s cost and rarity, the more powerful the effect. A lightning bolt card was self-evident. A crazed goblin worked as a summon monster spell. A living wall conjured a magical barrier that could be horridly hacked through in order to bypass it, and so on. We even played Nevinyrral’s Disk, which wiped out all monsters in play but also dropped the characters to 0 hit points, forcing them to stabilize in order to survive.

You might consider using Magic cards as physical tokens representing magical scrolls or charms (see chapter 7 of the Dungeon Master’s Guide). Many other RPGs use cards in this way already. Deadlands, for example, uses a standard deck of playing cards as part of its spellcasting and combat system, matching the flavor of its Old West setting.


At one point, I wanted to run a group through the classic Tomb of Horrors adventure—specifically, players that had never entered its legendary corridors before. The adventure is renowned as a meat grinder, and for being capricious and arbitrary (to quote one Cosmo Kramer) to boot.

In order to preserve the deadly nature of the adventure, but also trying to avoid frustration on behalf of the players, I opted for a bit of an experiment. The game made use of the original adventure, but was set within a slightly more science fiction/Gamma World version of the D&D game. Players were tasked with completing the dungeon, but their patron (a highly advanced version of the monster known as the brain in a jar) had established an elaborate cloning station at the entrance.

Each time the characters died (and they died often), they reappeared back at that entrance as cloned versions of themselves, ready to assault the tomb again. This instant resurrection didn’t come without cost, though. Think the six-pack of clones in the classic Paranoia game, or Hank and Dean in the Venture Brothers animated series. Or, better yet, Michael Keaton in Multiplicity, a film in which each clone was an imperfect copy of the one before. For the Tomb of Horrors, this meant that each clone returned with a further mutation—handled through Gamma World alpha mutation cards. The only cure? To complete and finally exit the dungeon!

Science-fiction elements have long been a part of D&D, from Dave Arneson’s Temple of the Frog (the first prewritten adventure for the original Dungeons & Dragons game) to Expedition to the Barrier Peaks and the legendary artifact the Machine of Lum the Mad. However, if SF isn’t to your particular taste, you might approach a meat-grinder dungeon through the use of a large number of minions for the party—the followers and hirelings of old, revisited in chapter 4 of the Dungeon Master’s Guide. Such NPCs shouldn’t function simply as door openers and trap testers, however. The more collective risks these minions take for the party, the more shares of the final treasure they earn as a group—all of it taken from the player characters’ shares.

Likewise, in a fifth edition game, the accumulated drawbacks of being repeatedly cloned might be handled by gaining disadvantage for an increasing number of die rolls, or perhaps added (or exaggerated) background flaws (chapter 4 of the Player’s Handbook). Minor or major detrimental properties from artifacts (chapter 7 of the Dungeon Master’s Guide) or specific types of madness (as seen in the forthcoming Out of the Abyss adventure) could also do the job.


The spirit of kit bashing in D&D is exemplified in the simple elegance and utility of the trinkets table in chapter 5 of the Player’s Handbook. Good heavens, how I love that table—and the notion of trinkets in general. We’ve solicited and published further elemental-themed trinkets, and would encourage DMs to not only expand the trinket table for their own campaigns (with options that speak to both the characters as well as the players), but to further sprinkle trinkets throughout treasure troves, inside giants’ bags, or whenever players rifle through an otherwise empty storeroom’s sacks, crates and barrels in search of loot.

I recently had the privilege to DM a game at Bungie Studios (running a group through the D&D Adventurers League scenario Defiance in Phlan). During character creation, one of the players rolled for a trinket and came up with number 22 on the table: a small wooden statuette of a smug halfling. The player happened to be playing a halfling thief, and loved the idea that he carried around a miniature model of himself. No later treasure found during the game compared to that trinket.

Similarly, I’ve had players forgo newfound +2 weapons in favor of keeping older +1 weapons of a specific type they preferred, or weapons that had no other powers but simply happened to be named. Players like owning items with memorable details, and they value them accordingly. After all, it’s one thing to find a ten-dollar bill on the ground; it’s something else to find the torn half of a hundred-dollar bill and know that the other half is somewhere nearby. In Raiders of the Lost Ark, Indiana Jones treasured his fedora more than that golden idol, I’d argue. To that end, consider more hats and fewer golden idols in your game!


Over the years, a good deal has been written on the subject of props, mods, and variants in D&D—as demonstrated in the Unearthed Arcana section of this website. The following are a few additional references and points of inspiration worth looking at:

  • Penny Arcade published several reports from Gabe’s own game, where he creature a real-life light and mirror puzzle and 3D foam worlds (part 1 and part 2).
  • The inimitable Steve Winter wrote a series on crafting table props and scenery for the D&D Miniatures line.
  • The Geeky Hostess (who recently contributed an elemental-themed dinner menu to the Wizards website) runs her own site with advice galore on tricking out game nights.
  • And, as always, check out the many excellent articles on fine-tuning your game from NewbieDM, Sly Flourish, and any of the ENnie-nominated websites offering further tips, tricks, suggestions, and tutorials!
About the Author

Bart Carroll once kit-bashed all the monsters of a Creature Competition together into a single adventure. He then mashed up Gamma World, RoboRally, and Christmas. He blogs at bartjcarroll.com, tweets at @bart_carroll, and would love to hear about your own tabletop tricks (so he can steal them for his own game, naturally).

Publication date: 09/11/2015Introduction: Every season on Project Runway, one episode is devoted to “the unconventional challenge.”Tags: Behind the ScreensRelated content: Column_BehindScreensexternal_urls: Texture banner: ShowBanner video: 

Psionics Survey Results

Wed, 09/09/2015 - 12:30
Type: FeaturesAuthor: Mike MearlsBanner: Thumbnail (869x490): Text: 

If I were actually a master of psionic power, I’d know the results of the survey before we asked. Since I’m not, I had to look over the data and read through the comments. Living in a world without supernatural abilities is kind of annoying sometimes.

The overall ratings for the core psionics rules represent a good start to the process of developing and refining those rules. More than 75 percent of you rated the overall rules a 4 or 5 out of 5. The rules for psi points and using disciplines fell just below that mark. Only the rules for the interaction of psionics and magic ranked below 70 percent, at 68 percent. Overall, we’re seeing more people settle on a rating of 4 than 5, and our goal is to flip that as we revise and improve the design. You like the rules, and our first attempt was a great starting point that shows we’re on the right track. But we still have a lot of work ahead of us.

The mystic shows similar feedback numbers, though with slightly lower overall rankings. Classes are always a little tricky to rate at this stage. My sense is that people tend to give lower rankings until they see a full range of levels and options for a class. But I also think there’s an overall sense that the mystic is too narrowly focused. The class might need some more flexibility in its features and the way it spends psi points.

In terms of psionic orders, the Order of the Awakened garnered a similar reaction. Of special note, the Mind Thrust feature and the intellect fortress discipline had some amount of unhappiness attached to them. Intellect fortress looks odd compared to other disciplines, so it might be suffering due to that. Mind Thrust is unique in that it targets Intelligence directly, rather than calling for an Intelligence saving throw. I like that mechanic but it makes the feature wildly effective, so there’s a good chance it will change. Some comments also noted that Object Reading might make it too easy to uncover a campaign’s secrets, so we’ll look at ways to make that feature easier for DMs to manage.

The Order of the Immortal graded well, but Psionic Regeneration and the psionic weapon discipline received the lowest rankings. The overall feedback was that the order doesn’t do enough with a character’s Intelligence score, that it might be too strong compared to the core classes, and that it needs some work to become more flexible.

Overall, I think increased flexibility would be good for the mystic. We need to make sure the class’s abilities are balanced, and that’s something we’ll take care of as the playtest develops. As well, it looks as if the class is a little too locked into using one ability at a time. As such, I’m thinking of making the concentration mechanic an additive benefit for a given discipline, rather than a requirement. Concentrating on a discipline might give an added benefit when it’s used, provide you with a static buff, allow you to access a subset of its options, and so on. For example, an immortal might concentrate on celerity to gain a bonus to speed and advantage on initiative rolls. But even while concentrating on that discipline, she would be able to spend psi points to activate the bonus damage for the psionic weapon discipline. She wouldn’t gain the benefits for concentrating on psionic weapon, though, and might need to concentrate on that discipline to activate its ethereal weapon option.

In any case, we have several thousand comments to work through. The reactions here are based on an initial analysis, but the results indicate that we need to dig deeper into psionics and the mystic to go from good to great. However, that means we won’t have another draft of the rules for a couple of months. If the rules had been terribly received, we’d have a quicker turnaround, but the path before us requires more detailed revision and analysis.

Thanks for playtesting. I hope that the scope and ambition of the next two Unearthed Arcana articles tides you over until the next revision of the psionics rules.

The Latest Survey

Thanks for taking the time to complete our seventh feedback survey on the fifth edition of the Dungeons & Dragons tabletop roleplaying game (TRPG), covering various areas of D&D play.

Publication date: 09/11/2015Introduction: Last month, we asked you to rate the mystic character class and the rules for psionics released alongside it.Tags: FeaturesRelated content: TRPG_PHBexternal_urls: Texture banner: ShowBanner video: 

Rage of Demons Preview

Thu, 09/03/2015 - 22:19
Type: FeaturesSubtitle: D&D PodcastBanner: Thumbnail (869x490): Text: 

In today’s episode we talk to R.A. Salvatore on his upcoming novel Archmage as well as get some exclusive information for the second book in the Homecoming series, Maestro. After Bob wows us with his knowledge of James Joyce and baseball (and some Drizzt talk), we spend some time with Chris Pramas and Steve Kenson from Green Ronin Productions discussing the demon lords of Out of the Abyss adventure available soon!

Publication date: 09/04/2015Introduction: In today's D&D podcast we talk to R.A. Salvatore and the Green Ronin team behind Out of the Abyss.Tags: PodcastRelated content: Rage of Demonsexternal_urls:  External url: http://media.wizards.com/2015/podcasts/dnd/DnDPodcast_09_04_2015.mp3External url description: Podcast: Rage of Demons Preview Texture banner: ShowBanner video: 

Orcus: Demon Prince of Undeath

Thu, 09/03/2015 - 18:46
Type: FeaturesAuthor: Shannon AppelclineSubtitle: D&D AlumniBanner: Thumbnail (869x490): Text: 

With eight different demon lords making their appearance in Out of the Abyss and the rest of the Rage of Demons storyline, a new generation of players has a chance to embrace the complex history of the Demon Prince of Undeath.


Demonkind first appeared in 1976 in the Eldritch Wizardry supplement for the original D&D box set. Seven demon types debuted in that book (which became well known for its provocative cover): the imaginatively named demons Type I to VI, as well as the succubus. Eldritch Wizardry also revealed that demons had lords, even as it introduced two of them: Demogorgon and his eternal foe Orcus.

Orcus appeared in that book in the same form he’s held to the present day, with a ram’s head, bat’s wings, and goat’s legs. He was also revealed as the prince of the undead—able to summon wights, wraiths, specters, and vampires—and the holder of the skull-tipped “wand of death.” This description was largely consistent with Orcus’s appearance in 1977’s Monster Manual for Advanced Dungeons & Dragons, even as that book upgraded him to “one of the most powerful and strongest of all demons.”

Despite his early introduction, Orcus wasn’t the first demon lord to appear in an adventure. That was Lolth, the archvillain of the eponymous Queen of the Demonweb Pits (1980).

However, Orcus would soon follow her lead.


The Bloodstone Pass saga (which came to be set in the Forgotten Realms) consisted of four adventures released from 1985 to 1988: Bloodstone Pass, The Mines of Bloodstone, The Bloodstone Wars, and The Throne of Bloodstone. The main purpose of those adventure modules was to show off TSR’s new Battlesystem mass combat rules, but they also told an epic story with an epic villain: Orcus.

Fortunately for the characters, Orcus doesn’t actually appear in the first three Bloodstone Pass adventures. The presence of the demon lord is nonetheless clear as the heroes fight a priest of Orcus, raid a temple of Orcus, and work against a witch-king possessed by the Prince of the Undead. In the fourth and final adventure, the saga comes to a head after the player characters battle through a laundry list of lordly lairs to arrive at the 333rd layer of the Abyss—the Realm of the Undead and Orcus’s home.

The ultimate goal of The Throne of Bloodstone is to destroy Orcus’s wand. If the characters do so, the adventure claims that he won’t be able to rebuild it for a hundred years. However, the fallout of the Bloodstone Saga for Orcus was even more dire.


Demonkind faced a major setback with the release of second edition AD&D in 1989. Demons and devils alike were kicked to the curb because TSR wanted to produce a game less likely to anger the mothers of its players. When demons finally found their way back to the Great Wheel with the release of the Monstrous Compendium: Outer Planes Appendix in 1991, they had been saddled with the unlikely new name of “tanar’ri” and were missing their abyssal lords.

It was the start of a really bad decade for Orcus.

The Prince of Undeath was still missing in action when Planescape emerged in 1994. Planes of Chaos, published that same year, also ignored Orcus—even as it detailed the 113th layer of the Abyss, call “Thanatos, the Belly of Death.” That supplement stated that the goddess Kiaransalee had recently taken Thanatos from “the former Abyssal lord of the undead,” whose name was no longer spoken. Despite the change in the plane’s numbered location, this seemed to be the home of Orcus, last seen in The Throne of Bloodstone.

Hellbound: The Blood War (1996) confirmed that Orcus had been slain or deposed by Kiaransalee. However, you can’t keep a demon lord down indefinitely. Orcus’s death was part of a metaplot for Planescape, featuring his secret return in The Great Modron March in 1997, before Dead Gods revealed the whole story that same year. After being slain by Kiaransalee, Orcus had been reborn as the undead god Tenebrous—and was now ready to take back his realm, his wand, and his power.


The third edition Manual of the Planes (2001) continued Orcus’s story, stating that “there are strong clues that Orcus is not quite as dead as many have thought.” From there, the reborn Orcus appeared throughout the third edition era. He was one of five demon lords detailed in the original Book of Vile Darkness, then reappeared in Fiendish Codex I: Hordes of the Abyss. His alter ego of Tenebrous even got some attention, in Tome of Magic: Pact, Shadow, and Truename Magic in 2006.

Orcus’s most important appearance since his resurrection occurred in fourth edition D&D’s World Axis cosmology, where he was the archvillain of the so-called HPE adventure path (covering the heroic, paragon, and epic tiers) from 2008 to 2009. In a callback to the old Bloodstone Pass adventures, his appearance was heralded by a priest in Keep on the Shadowfell. A reminder of his presence came in Demon Queen’s Enclave, which featured his exarch. Orcus then appeared as the strong focus of three epic tier adventures detailing his plots against the goddess known as the Raven Queen. The adventure path culminated with Prince of Undeath, in which the adventurers must dive into the Abyss to fight Orcus directly—perhaps destroying the legendary Wand of Orcus and slaying the demon lord yet again.

Orcus returns for the first time in fifth edition D&D in the Rage of Demons storyline. There, his battle against his ancient enemy Demogorgon is on display—harking back to Eldritch Wizardry and the origin of both demon lords.

About the Author

Shannon Appelcline has been roleplaying since his dad taught him Basic D&D in the early ’80s. He’s the editor-in-chief of RPGnet and the author of Designers & Dragons, a four-volume history of the roleplaying industry told one company at a time.

Publication date: 09/04/2015Introduction: Orcus was one of the first rulers of the Abyss, and has proven one of the most popular demon lords over the years.Tags: D&D AlumniRelated content: Rage of Demonsexternal_urls: Texture banner: ShowBanner video: 

D&D Extra Life

Fri, 08/07/2015 - 11:39
Type: FeaturesAuthor: Bart Carroll, Shelly Mazzanoble, Trevor Kidd, Greg TitoSubtitle: D&D PodcastBanner: Thumbnail (869x490): Text: 

In today’s episode, we’ll meet Deborah Davitt, fantasy author of the The Valkyrie and The Goddess Denied, the first two books in her Edda-Earth series. And then, the D&D Team’s Greg Bilsland joins us, to talk about this year’s Extra Life charity event.

Find out more on the Extra Life Tabletop Appreciation Weekend, as well as The Edda Earth Saga (with an excerpt right here for your enjoyment). And subscribe to the D&D Podcast on iTunes!

Publication date: 08/07/2015Introduction: A look at the challenges of fantasy writing, and then how you can get involved in this year's D&D Extra Life charity event.Tags: PodcastRelated content: Rage of Demonsexternal_urls:  External url: http://media.wizards.com/2015/podcasts/dnd/DnDPodcast_08_07_2015.mp3External url description: Podcast: D&D Extra Life External url: http://media.wizards.com/2015/downloads/dnd/TheGoddessEmbraced_excerpt.pdfExternal url description: Excerpt: The Goddess Embraced Texture banner: ShowBanner video: 

D&D Extra Life Team Returns, Levels Up!

Thu, 08/06/2015 - 11:00
Type: FeaturesAuthor: Greg BilslandBanner: Thumbnail (869x490): Text: 

We’re joining Magic: The Gathering and Hasbro in the inaugural Extra Life Tabletop Appreciation Weekend, with support from partners Fantasy Grounds, WizKids Games, Gale Force 9, and OneBookShelf. 

What’s Our Goal?

Last year, the team played D&D for twenty-five hours straight and raised over $85,000 for the kids at Children’s Miracle Network Hospitals. This year, our goal is $100,000, and we’re almost doubling the length of the game. That’s right—forty-eight hours of D&D! In the interest of keeping our intrepid Dungeon Master and players sane, though, we’ll be sharing the load with a rotation of twelve DMs and dozens of players throughout the event. Each DM will tailor his or her own adventure to fit into a larger, connected campaign, and we’ll be streaming the whole thing, assuming rust monsters don’t devour the routers.

(Also, we kind of want to beat the Magic team.)

When Can I Watch?

The 48-hour-marathon starts at 12pm PST on Friday, October 2, and will feature twelve in-house teams and two off-site teams throughout the weekend. Each four-hour game will be livestreamed on the D&D Twitch Channel, and will focus on one of the new demon lords featured in the newest storyline, Rage of Demons, using the fifth edition D&D rules set. The game will conclude at 8pm PST on Sunday, October 4.

Donors can contribute to Dungeon Masters and players alike to grant them benefits before and during the game. Not only can donors change gameplay, but they can also win D&D swag and exclusive content! Prizes may include rare miniatures, signed TRPG books and comics, and even D&D-themed clothing. Below is a play calendar, a full list of participating members, and some of their Extra Life pages. Our goal is to beat last year’s final donation, and raise over $100,000!

Visit the Dungeons & Dragons Extra Life page for more information on the event, how to contribute, and what you can do to participate!

Friday, Oct. 2

Dungeon Master






12 PM – 4 PM

Sarah Keortge

Christopher Lindsay

Andrew Shultz

Kirgan Peacock

Heather Fleming

Doug Hawkins

4 PM – 8 PM

Greg Tito

Chuck Arnett

Liz Leo

Gavin Verhey

Demitrios Feredinos


8 PM – 12 AM

Rodney Thompson

Emi Tanji

Bree Heiss

William Benham

David McDarby



Saturday, Oct. 3

Dungeon Master






12 AM – 4 AM

Katy Laurance

Jordan Comar

Christopher D'Andrea

Boyan Radakovich

Erik de Bie


4 AM – 8 AM

Christopher Lindsay

Derek Guder

Nelly Guderstein

Krupal Desai

Ben Petrisor


8 AM – 12 PM

Susan Morris

Erin Evans

Bruce Cordell

Keith Baker

Teos Abadia


12 PM – 4 PM

Jeremy Petter

Tally Heilke

Chris Tulach

Joe Louie

Kiri Callaghan

Nika Harper

4 PM – 8 PM

Greg Bilsland

Kristen Jensen

Greg Tito

David Peppel

Elyssa Grant


8 PM – 12 AM

Chloe Monroe

Mike Fehlauer

Meris Mullaley

Greg Bilsland

Andy Munich



Sunday, Oct. 4

Dungeon Master






12 AM – 4 AM

Andy Munich

Jaden Maher

Chris Sims

Shiboo Blalack

Chris Dupuis


4 AM – 8 PM

Chris Dupuis

Thomas Ourada

Kiri Callaghan

Mike Selinker

Matt Sernett

Nika Harper

8 AM – 12 PM

Christopher Perkins

Tara Theoharis

Alexander Theoharis

Jeremy Petter

Tally Heilke


12 PM – 4 PM

Mason McDaniel

Erika Ishii / Tyler Rhoades

David Crennen

Amy Vorpahl

Shawn Graham

Benjamin Dunn

How Can I Support Your Team?

It’s never too early to support the cause. You can visit the D&D team page to donate to any of our members. A few folks have already started raising money!

You can also show your support by adding the D&D Twibbon to your Twitter or Facebook profile. Also, check out our Extra Life Media Kit.

How Do I Play?

Come join our Extra Life team! Join a D&D group, or try out a digital game—either newer titles such as Sword Coast Legends or Neverwinter, or classics like Baldur’s Gate II and Icewind Dale. Alternatively, join some friends and play D&D board games like Dungeon!Lords of Waterdeep, or Temple of Elemental Evil.

To participate, follow these steps:

  • Join Extra Life and set a personal goal.
  • When creating your Extra Life account, choose “Join a Team” and select “Dungeons & Dragons.”
  • Complete the remaining steps for creating an account.
  • Customize your page. For tips on customizing your page to help generate donations, download this toolkit.
  • Decide what you want to play and when you want to play it, then spread the word to potential donors.
Can I Organize My Own Event?

Want to organize your own group? After you’ve joined the D&D team, take the following additional steps:

  • Reach out to other D&D players in your community (including online). Walk them through the sign-up steps and have them download the toolkit.
  • Customize your page and share it with your players. Encourage them to customize their own pages.
  • Find a place to play. Talk to your local game store, or find a space where no one’s going to mind if you’re gaming for long hours.
  • Create a schedule. Players don’t need to play for the entire weekend. Having a rotating cast of players keeps things exciting and energized.
  • Join the Extra Life Tabletop Event on Facebook to promote your event to others and share your success.
What Are the Rewards?

Members of the D&D Extra Life team who raise $50 and respond to a survey after the event will receive the following:

  • a certificate for use in D&D Adventurers League play.
  • a code for a sentient gelatinous cube companion in the Neverwinter MMORPG
  • a code for $5 off your purchase of a PDF on dndclassics.com

In addition, we’ll be previewing parts of the Sword Coast Adventurer’s Guide, releasing November 3, as part of our fundraising efforts. Below, you’ll find a chart of what we’ll preview based on total money our team raises:




Table of Contents


New Cantrip: Greenflame Blade


New Background: Urban Bounty Hunter


New Roguish Archetype: Mastermind


Duergar race entry, including subrace traits.


Full, updated, high res, labeled map of the northwest portion of Faerün, from Amn to Icewind Dale and the Moonshae Isles to the Dalelands.

More Questions?

Check out the Extra Life FAQ or contact @gregbilsland on Twitter.


Publication date: 09/09/2015Introduction: The Dungeons & Dragons team is leveling up its game this year for Extra Life. Tags: FeaturesRelated content: Rage of Demonsexternal_urls: Texture banner: ShowBanner video: 

Streaming D&D on Twitch

Mon, 08/03/2015 - 14:32
Type: FeaturesAuthor: Greg BilslandSubtitle: Behind the ScreensBanner: Thumbnail (869x490): Text: 

D&D can be a game of inside jokes, twisting continuity, and periodic lulls in action—not to mention that a single game session might run for hours. Would people want to sit and watch someone else’s D&D game when they could be playing their own game or watching Netflix? As it turns out, the answer is a resounding “Yes.” Livestreaming D&D has become increasingly popular, as the game goes from an activity played in living rooms, game stores, and basements to an activity shared across the Internet. (As a warning, some of the livestream channels and archives linked to in this article contain strong language.)

It was the Acquisitions Inc. live game at PAX Prime in 2010 that first suggested the potential for livestreaming D&D. The popularity of that game and its followup games in 2011 and 2012 made it an easy decision for the Dungeons & Dragons team to start streaming D&D games online back in July of 2013, debuting Against the Slave Lords as part of the D&D Next playtest process. The Acquisitions Inc. live games had been an audio podcast for several years, but the subsequent rise of Twitch.tv, Google Hangouts on Air, and Ustream.tv made it suddenly practical for any D&D game to go fully online.

The D&D games we livestreamed in summer 2013 were a testing ground for what would become our twenty-five-hour Extra Life livestream in November 2013. After that, we kept the livestreaming going, eventually revisiting Extra Life in 2014 and setting up a regular schedule of games for 2015. The full archive of Wizards livestream games includes the following:

  • Against the Slave Lords—a low-level game run by DM Mike Mearls, using the classic AD&D scenario and the D&D Next playtest rules.
  • The Lich-Queen’s Beloved—a high-level game run by Rodney Thompson, who converted the popular Dungeon adventure to the D&D Next playtest rules.
  • D&D Extra Life 2013—a twenty-five-hour D&D game featuring the Ghosts of Dragonspear Castle adventure. The game was run by me, and the team raised over $21,000 for Children’s Miracle Network Hospitals.
  • Scourge of the Sword Coast—a low-level game with me as DM, using the D&D Encounters adventure.
  • Lost Mine of Phandelver—a low-level game run by me, using the Dungeons & Dragons Starter Set adventure.
  • The Rise of Tiamat—a mid-level game using the second Tyranny of Dragons adventure, run by Rodney Thompson.
  • D&D Extra Life 2014—our second twenty-five-hour D&D game, featuring the first Tyranny of Dragons adventure, Hoard of the Dragon Queen. The game was run by me, and the team raised $85,000 for Children’s Miracle Network Hospitals.
  • Princes of the Apocalypse—a game using the hardcover adventure from the Elemental Evil storyline, featuring D&D brand manager Chris Lindsay as DM.
  • The Temple of Elemental Evilthe classic AD&D adventure converted to fifth edition D&D by DM Mike Mearls.

I’m not an expert on streaming compared to many of the excellent folks out there running popular video games such as League of Legends, Dota 2, and Minecraft. However, a lot of the rules for video game streaming hold true for tabletop. If you’re interested in getting your own D&D stream going, here are some things to keep in mind.

Audio is Everything

You don’t need a mixer or a set of lavalier lapel microphones to have great audio. Any low- to mid-range microphone with a good surround setting can do the job. For my home game, I’m fond of Yeti microphones for their simplicity. Make sure you test the audio on your streaming program before you start, and shut down any other microphone inputs (such as your computer’s built-in mic or the built-in mics on your web cams), unless you have a mixing board or an equivalent app.

Video is a Close Second

Viewers are typically more willing to tolerate substandard video compared to audio. Still, it’s worth investing in an affordable mid-range webcam. I like the Logitech HD Pro Webcam C920, which runs for under $70 on Amazon. In my home game, I use the Logitech for the players because it has a wide angle, and then use the built-in camera on my Mac for the DM camera. One thing to note: if you’re on a Mac like me, you’ll have limited USB inputs. A lot of USB splitters won’t accept more than one video signal, so if you’re using more than a couple of cameras, you’ll probably need a Mac docking station. Of course, if you’re livestreaming a game in which everyone is participating remotely, this is less of an issue.


In my opinion, the best options for livestreaming software are Xplit for Windows users and OBS for Mac and Linux users. Both these programs are pretty straightforward. You’ll need your stream key, which you can get on Twitch by going to your dashboard and selecting the Stream Key tab. This key is what allows your software to talk to the streaming service. One major advantage of these services is the ability to use graphic overlays, which can include cool graphic frames, name plaques, maps, and other images you want to share with viewers.


My experience is primarily with Twitch, so I can speak to that better than Ustream or Google Hangouts on Air. Twitch allows users to follow your channel and engage with the players through a chat. In my home livestream, we keep the Twitch chat posted up on a TV screen, so that players can respond to suggestions from the audience. The chat room helps foster a sense of community, which has been a huge part of the development of popular livestream games. If players aren’t in a shared space, you can use a third-party virtual tabletop service such as Fantasy Grounds or Roll20.net to facilitate play. To broadcast your D&D game from these services, use Xplit or OBS to transmit the window where play is taking place online. Alternatively, you can use these virtual tabletops to supplement your in-person games. For example, I use Chromecast to transmit my Roll20 virtual tabletop from my computer to my TV. Players and stream viewers can see the screen, and I can use a stylus to modify the maps and draw illustrations.

Creating a Group and Community

Living in Seattle and being part of Wizards of the Coast, I’ve never had a problem finding players interested in Dungeons & Dragons. As a result, whenever I set out to create a group for D&D livestreaming—whether it’s my home game, the D&D Extra Life team, or a Wizards livestream—I can try to create a group that’s entertaining. If you’re just interested in broadcasting your home group for fun, you needn’t worry about group composition. But if you’re going for viewership and entertainment value, you might consider player motivations (from the introduction of the Dungeon Master’s Guide) and having a mix of new and experienced players. In addition, having a space online where people can find your play schedule (such as a blog) or talk about your game (including Reddit or Obsidian Portal) can really help to foster community. If you’re part of the D&D Extra Life team, having a list of donation rewards can also give viewers a sense of participation in the game.

Spread the Word, Keep a Schedule

Keeping a regular schedule will help promote viewership, but you’ll also need to spread the word. Use TweetDeck to schedule tweets announcing your event in the time leading up to it, and try to avoid canceling games. Five players is a good number to shoot for, so that even if one or two people cancel, you can still play. Watch other tabletop game streams and interact with fellow D&D streamers to get them involved.


The Wizards of the Coast D&D Twitch channel broadcasts D&D games featuring members of WotC and D&D R&D, typically every other week. But you can also catch a number of other games online.

  • JP and our friends over at RollPlay have a variety of tabletop game streams, including a fifth edition D&D stream called the West Marches run by Steve Lumpkin, and one called Solum run by Neal Erickson.
  • Critical Role is a new D&D livestream on Geek & Sundry’s channel. Many of the players, including Dungeon Master Matthew Mercer, are voice actors. The game is typically on Thursday evenings.
  • ItsDatto is a Destiny streamer who also runs a semi-regular D&D game currently set in Baldur’s Gate. The games are typically on Saturday nights.
  • Neal also runs a D&D livestream game on Saturdays on his own channel called Age of Strife.
  • The Misscliks Twitch channel runs a D&D variant called Demigods regularly on Tuesdays.
  • Dragons of Miryndir is my home game, which I run semimonthly on Sundays on my personal Twitch channel. You can catch up on the archive here.
  • Dave over at Table_Topping runs a couple fifth edition D&D games, as well as Dungeon Master workshops. His channel has an interesting system for accruing “XP” for viewers.

You can find more games currently streaming on Twitch in the Dungeons & Dragons category using the directory.

The D&D Extra Life team will also be returning this year. Tthis year’s game will be even longer, and will feature more participants. Whether you’re streaming the game or not, you can join now or catch the archive of the 2013 game and 2014 game.

About the Author

Greg Bilsland is digital marketing manager and senior owlbear wrangler for the Dungeons & Dragons R&D team. When he’s not wrangling, he spends his time gallivanting around the world, making costumes, and, of course, playing games. Follow him on Twitter at @gregbilsland.

Publication date: 08/10/2015Introduction: If you'd asked me five years ago whether streaming the Dungeons & Dragons tabletop game online would one day become "a thing," my response would have been a firm . . . "Maybe?"Tags: Behind the ScreensRelated content: Column_BehindScreensexternal_urls: Texture banner: ShowBanner video: 

Modern Magic

Mon, 08/03/2015 - 11:00
Type: FeaturesAuthor: Dan HelmickSubtitle: Unearthed ArcanaBanner: Thumbnail (869x490): Text: 

A few months ago, Daniel Helmick described his adaptation for d20 Modern in a Behind the Screens article. He expanded on the rules for using firearms and explosives in the Dungeon Master’s Guide. Now, what if we extended the D&D rules to cover a campaign not only touched by, but actually set in a modern era? The newest iteration of D&D features various archetypes, traditions, domains, and other options for the base classes, all of which present opportunities for customization. With that in mind, this article presents new rules for expanding the repertoire of spellcasting characters in a modern setting.

You can think of the material presented in this series as similar to the first wave of the fifth edition playtest. These game mechanics are in draft form, usable in your campaign but not fully tempered by playtests and design iterations. They are highly volatile and might be unstable; if you use them, be ready to rule on any issues that come up. They’re written in pencil, not ink. For these reasons, material in this column is not legal in D&D Organized Play events.

The material presented in Unearthed Arcana will range from mechanics that we expect one day to publish in a supplement to house rules from our home campaigns that we want to share, from core system options to setting-specific material. Once it’s out there, you can expect us to check in with you to see how it’s working out and what we can do to improve it.

Publication date: 08/03/2015Introduction: When the fifth edition Dungeon Master’s Guide was released in 2014, two pages in chapter 9, “Dungeon Master’s Workshop,” attracted a lot of attention. Tags: Unearthed ArcanaRelated content: Column_UnearthedArcanaexternal_urls:  External url: http://media.wizards.com/2015/downloads/dnd/UA_ModernMagic.pdfExternal url description: UNEARTHED ARCANA: MODERN MAGIC Texture banner: ShowBanner video: 

Rage of Demons: Set 1

Wed, 07/29/2015 - 13:31
Description: The Demon Lords have arisen out of the abyss to terrorize the denizens of the Underdark.Picture: Type: WallpapersDisplay Mode thumbnail: LargeTitle: Rage of Demons: Set 1Image : 

D&D Monthly Survey

Tue, 07/28/2015 - 11:00
Type: FeaturesAuthor: Mike MearlsBanner: Thumbnail (869x490): Text: 

Last time, we asked you to tell us which classic D&D settings, character concepts, and character races you want to see updated. Not surprisingly, it turns out that a lot of people cared about these topics, and we had one of our biggest turnouts ever for a survey. So what did we learn?

The popularity of settings in the survey fell into three distinct clusters. Not surprisingly, our most popular settings from prior editions landed at the top of the rankings, with Eberron, Ravenloft, Dark Sun, Planescape, and the Forgotten Realms all proving equally popular. Greyhawk, Dragonlance, and Spelljammer all shared a similar level of second-tier popularity, followed by a fairly steep drop-off to the rest of the settings. My sense is that Spelljammer has often lagged behind the broad popularity of other settings, falling into love-it-or-hate-it status depending on personal tastes. Greyhawk and Dragonlance hew fairly close to the assumptions we used in creating the fifth edition rulebooks, making them much easier to run with material from past editions. Of the top five settings, four require significant new material to function and the fifth is by far our most popular world.

(A few people asked about Al-Qadim in the comments field, since it wasn’t included in the survey. The reason for that is because we think of that setting as part of the Forgotten Realms. Why did Kara-Tur end up on the list, then? Because I make mistakes!)

Before addressing the character types question, it’s important to focus on how we look at this question. The word “type,” as opposed to “class,” is a key part of the query. The concepts embodied by a warden or runepriest could be character classes, or they could be subtypes within a class. For any character type, we’ll try out a few design approaches and see which one works best.

The artificer, the shaman, and the alchemist finished well in front in the survey. The alchemist is particularly interesting because we’ve never presented that as a class in a Player’s Handbook before. The crazy game designer in me thinks that all three of those character types could be represented in a single class (imagine a shaman who binds spirits by creating talismans). But that might just be all the caffeine I’ve consumed today talking.

Most of the remaining options formed a cluster about 10 to 15 points below those leading three. My sense is that the samurai is a pretty good example of how we’ll handle those types, making them most likely to show up as options for existing classes. For instance, a samurai could fall under a fighter archetype that I would tentatively call the devoted defender—a character whose obedience to a code of conduct and unbreakable loyalty makes her an implacable force in battle.

Races fell into three tiers of popularity, with the thri-kreen, the goblin, and the aasimar at the top—an interesting mix. In my own campaigns, I’ve seen people play goblins for comedic value. Thri-kreen are pretty tough to model using our existing races, but are key to the Dark Sun setting. Aasimar would be a lot of fun to work on. Personally, I’d want them to be as interesting and compelling as tieflings. My personal bias might be showing (since aasimars are my favorite race), but it’s easy to make good guys kind of boring and lame. I’d love to recast the aasimar a little bit, giving the race a few unique traits and a visual appearance attuned to a holy avenger out to kick ass.

The next most popular tier of races includes catfolk, devas, githyanki, githzerai, gnolls, half-giants, hobgoblins, kender, kobolds, lizardfolk, pixies, and revenants. Personally, I’d love to pick up Mystara’s rakasta as our catfolk race, but all these options have strong legacies to build on. The less-popular races are by no means off the table, but they’re likely at the back of the R&D queue—and might run the risk of other races beyond those addressed in this survey cutting in line ahead of them.

The Latest Survey

This month, our survey looks at the mystic character class and our first draft of psionics rules for fifth edition. Your input is an invaluable tool that helps shape how we develop new material for D&D. If you love the rules, hate them, or have a specific issue you want to address, let us know.

Publication date: 07/28/2015Introduction: Once again, it’s time to sound off with your thoughts on D&D.Tags: Featuresexternal_urls: Texture banner: ShowBanner video: 

Adventure Party

Tue, 07/28/2015 - 11:00
Type: FeaturesAuthor: Katy LauranceSubtitle: Behind the ScreensBanner: Thumbnail (869x490): Text: 

And so, for my husband’s recent milestone birthday, I went all out. A cabin weekend with fifteen friends, and snow and games, and fondue, and yeah, the piñata. And since he’s a nice D&D-loving fellow, I set out to create a special birthday-themed one-off adventure that our extended group of friends could play in.

But this was tricky, for a number of reasons:

  • I’m a newish DM, and rather scared of writing my own adventures.
  • Turnout was a crapshoot. I might get thirteen people interested in playing, or three.
  • Only some of the party attendees had ever played anything resembling D&D.

But I knew it could be great, because:

  • Birthday themed adventure = fun + funny, right!?
  • Party-planning adrenaline and optimism kicked in.
  • Friends and coworkers took pity on me and offered to help.


After I decided to add this D&D game to my party itinerary, I spent a lot of time online looking for setting and plot ideas. Since I didn’t know in advance how many of my friends might want to join the game—and with so many of them being new to roleplaying—I needed an adventure that was flexible, fast, and straightforward. But above all else, it needed to be interesting. Those were a lot of notes to hit, and I worried that my first test as an adventure writer might be too great a challenge.

Enter Hero Number One. After sending some pings out in the office looking for help finding a setting, Greg Bilsland reached out and suggested I leverage Confrontation at Candlekeep. This adventure was run at GenCon in 2013, and it featured a multitable, multiphase cooperative plot that could be scaled up or down depending on attendance. Convention-caliber storytelling and classic D&D flavor. Bingo.


Confrontation at Candlekeep was also a great choice because it was written for 2nd-level characters. Since almost all my potential players were new, this seemed like a good fit. After all, it’s one level more interesting than 1st level, but the characters’ abilities aren’t so complex that play becomes overwhelming.

I knew, however, that even 2nd-level characters would be hard for such a large group of new players to create on their own. Creating and adjusting characters can be a highlight of the game, but when I look back on my early days as a player, I remember one thing: creating a character is hard. Before I knew what D&D really was, or how it was actually played, I remember how daunting it felt to try to wade through a myriad of options and come up with something that wouldn’t embarrass my new shiny d20. Never mind dreaming up a character who would be effective against deadly traps or an orc raid.

I decided that if I wanted a decent chance at convincing my friends they could totally handle (and enjoy!) a game of D&D, I would need to skip character building. That meant pregens. Luckily for me, Greg also sent me a bunch of pregenerated character sheets, so I printed out a nice variety of adventurers and thanked him. Now I didn’t have “Create a zillion different characters” on my to-do list.


Any way I sliced it, I knew that splitting the players into multiple tables was my best bet. New players, being new and all, can sometimes need extra time on their turns as they get the feel for the game and their characters. And since I always want to show off D&D at its best (and hopefully hook people into the game), I especially wanted to avoid the adventure getting bogged down by a long turn order.

Luckily, one of my good friends—a D&D lore expert, as well as a player in the ongoing campaign I’m currently running—became Hero Number Two and offered to run a second table if needed.


Confrontation at Candlekeep drops an oddball collection of characters into a classic D&D locale, and then challenges them with an immediate threat that they must eliminate to save the keep. When cultists of Asmodeus infiltrate Candlekeep’s famous library, the adventurers are split into parties by the head monk, tasked with raising wards and seeking and fighting off enemies in various areas of the keep.

The full adventure has two forty-five-minute phases. I decided to run only one of those phases, hoping this would allow us to complete the game in an hour and a half (we had a busy party itinerary). The first phase had content for eight challenges around the library that the adventuring parties could be tasked with. It was difficult to choose which areas to send the parties into, but I ended up selecting two that met my criteria:

  • They taxed both brawn and brains.
  • They featured interesting enemies to take down (acolytes lurking in closets, giant stone frogs, and so on).
  • They paired together well and drove the parties to meet up for the surprise ending (read on for that one).

We ended up with seven players who stayed up late enough to take part in the adventure. Rather than explain the whole adventure process at once, I decided to dole out information piecemeal. All the players knew what D&D was as a rough concept, but they didn’t know what a game actually looked or felt like. I decided to abide by the storytelling advice of “show, don’t tell.” It went something like this:

  • Gather together.
  • Bathroom break and regather.
  • Let everyone pick a character sheet. Most players chose their characters based on a quick glance at name and background. But for those who wanted more information, I offered up quick explanations of character stats and how they impacted the game, particularly combat.
  • Assume the character of the head monk of Candlekeep and introduce the setting.
  • Divide the players into two parties. I split up spouses and mixed new and experienced players to heighten the ragtag nature of the challenges.
  • Ensure at least one person at the table, besides the DM, knew what in the world was going on.
  • Protect the keep! Our intrepid adventurers, having split up to fight doppelgangers and mercenaries, were also tasked with recovering a mysterious spellbook and activating a precious runestone. Once the parties brought these magical items back together at the shrine of Oghma, the head monk would use them in a feat of magic to protect the keep.

As the game unfolded, I’m happy to say that I learned a few things. First, “sink or swim” works well with eager participants. I and my assisting DM launched into the story right away. Initially, this was confronted with two or three faces full of “So . . . what do I do?” But once we pointed out one or two actions their characters could take, the players ran with it.

Second, lack of spellcasting simplifies things. By happenstance, only one person out of seven chose a spellcaster as a character (a minimally magic paladin). This ended up being a boon, since we had only two Player’s Handbooks and didn’t need to worry about multiple players needing to look up spells at the same time. Because the adventure was short and had plenty of flavor, the lack of splashy magic didn’t seem to dull the experience.

Lastly, it was great to see roleplaying come from unexpected sources. My friends are totally rad, but though I knew they’d be good-natured about playing, I didn’t expect some of them to so wholly embrace their characters and the setting. As players, they slipped into the skins of their half-orcs and wood elves, so that every action and decision was in step with their backgrounds and stats. It was so cool.


If I were asked to visualize what I enjoy about D&D, it might look something like this:

I wanted my game to celebrate all these things. And so although it was lucky to have an adventure like Confrontation at Candlekeep written and available, I also knew I wanted to adjust and rewrite sections to boost the flavor and foreshadow a surprise birthday-themed ending, all wrapped up in a neat package. This included small adjustments, such as describing how light in the keep was cast by multicolored balloon-like orbs floating in the halls, or noting that thirty candles flickered to life when the runestone was activated on a round stone altar. But the big reveal happened at the end.

With the magic items brought to the shrine, the head monk (me) and his acolyte (my DM friend) used them to try to raise “the great shield” that would protect the library from further intrusion. As both parties watched, with fallen cultists at their feet and the sounds of battle raging outside the keep, the monks began chanting unintelligible syllables out of the spellbook. Alas, they had not the power to raise the shield. Not alone. So they turned to the adventurers and beseeched them to add their strength and join in a slow chant:

HAaaaaa PPYeeeeeB IRrrrrrrrTHD AaaaaaYT Oooooo YOUuuuuuu (Repeat)

It took a little while for our friends to realize what they were chanting, but when they did, we sped up the chant and started singing the birthday song for real. With the players laughing, we finished the song and described a thundering crash outside the keep and the thirty candles blowing out. When more colorful orbs appeared to bring the room out of darkness, magical confetti started falling from the rafters, and all the ‘dead’ enemies stood up smiling, giving each other high fives and hugging my husband’s bewildered character. HAPPY BIRTHDAY!


Of course, after the fact, I thought of a whole heap of other ways I could have flavored a birthday adventure. (I still can’t believe I didn’t dress all the enemies in pointy cone hats.) That said, I think I hit a good balance, because none of the players realized the true nature of the adventure until its enjoyable end. Moreover, my edits worked, my hooks stuck, gameplay was entertaining, and I now have a new batch of D&D initiates ready for a new adventure.

About the Author

Katy Laurance is a senior business intelligence analyst for Wizards of the Coast, and well on her way to lifelong D&D fandom. Not even her love of code and charts can get in the way of a good tabletop game. She’s also a dab hand with a glue gun.

Publication date: 07/28/2015Introduction: Birthday parties are kind of my thing. Streamers and piñatas. Costumed pub crawls and Nerf gun battles. Homemade cakes frosted to look like farm scenes, Transformers, or the Seahawks logo. Not to mention to-do lists and shopping lists and color-coded production schedules. All. Of. It.Tags: Behind the ScreensRelated content: Column_BehindScreensexternal_urls: Texture banner: HideBanner video: 

Kids & Stories

Fri, 07/24/2015 - 11:59
Type: FeaturesAuthor: Bart Carroll, Shelly Mazzanoble, Trevor Kidd, Greg TitoSubtitle: D&D PodcastBanner: Thumbnail (869x490): Text: 

In today's episode, R&D's Chris Perkins takes a look at the game’s continuing campaign storylines. Then, Tom Olsen and Susan Morris join us to discuss the subject of teaching and playing D&D with kids. 

Find out more on the latest campaign storylines, as well as D&D for kids with the Monster Slayers adventure. And subscribe to the D&D Podcast on iTunes!

Publication date: 07/24/2015Introduction: A conversation about the game's developing storylines, and then teaching and playing D&D with kids.Tags: PodcastRelated content: Rage of Demonsexternal_urls:  External url: http://media.wizards.com/2015/podcasts/dnd/DnDPodcast_08_07_2015.mp3External url description: D&D Extra Life Texture banner: ShowBanner video: 

Sword Coast Adventurer’s Guide

Wed, 07/22/2015 - 11:43
Related products: D&D Starter SetPlayer's HandbookSword Coast LegendsOut of the AbyssRelated content: Sword Coast LegendsInline blocks: Basic Rules for D&DTRPG_Resource_CharacterSheetSubtitle: A Sword Coast Campaign Sourcebook for D&D Players and Dungeon MastersSynopsis: 

Explore the Sword Coast in this campaign sourcebook for the world’s greatest roleplaying game.


WELCOME TO THE SWORD COAST—a region of Faerûn that comprises shining paragons of civilization and culture, perilous locales fraught with dread and evil, and encompassing them all, a wilderness that offers every explorer vast opportunity and simultaneously promises great danger.

While the Sword Coast Adventurer’s Guide is a valuable resource for Dungeon Masters, it was crafted with players and their characters foremost in mind. There is a plethora of new character options to intrigue and inspire every member of the adventuring party.

For use with the fifth edition Player’s Handbook, Monster Manual, and Dungeon Master’s Guide, the Sword Coast Adventurer’s Guide provides the setting, story, and character options needed to participate in a game anywhere along the Sword Coast of the Forgotten Realms.

Image thumbnail: Image left: Banner: Game type: RPG ProductsRelease date: 11/03/2015Price ($): USD39.95Price (C$): CAD46.00Banner video: 

Spice Up Your Story

Wed, 07/22/2015 - 11:34
Type: NewsAuthor: Greg TitoSubtitle: With the Sword Coast Adventurer's Guide This FallBanner: Thumbnail (869x490): Text: 

Get everything you need to adventure in the Forgotten Realms on the exciting Sword Coast, home to the cities of Baldur’s Gate, Waterdeep, and Neverwinter! A collaboration between Green Ronin Publishing and the Dungeons & Dragons team at Wizards of the Coast, the Sword Coast Adventurer’s Guide provides D&D fans with a wealth of detail on the places, cultures, and deities of northwestern Faerûn.

The Sword Coast Adventurer’s Guide is also a great way to catch up on recent events in the Forgotten Realms, to get background on locations featured in the Rage of Demons storyline coming in September, and to learn the lore behind video games like Neverwinter and Sword Coast Legends.

Here are just a few of the features you’ll find in the Sword Coast Adventurer’s Guide:

  • Immersive Adventuring: This campaign sourcebook provides players and Dungeon Masters material for creating vibrant fantasy stories along the Sword Coast.
  • New Character Options: The book offers new subclass options, such as the Purple Dragon Knight and the Swashbuckler, for many of the classes presented in the Player’s Handbook, as well as new subraces and backgrounds specific to the Forgotten Realms.
  • Adventure in the Forgotten Realms: Discover the current state of the Forgotten Realms and its deities after the Spellplague and the second Sundering. You’ll also get updated maps of this area of the Realms.
  • Compatible with Rage of Demons storyline: Make characters for use with the Out of the Abyss adventure and fight back the influence of the demon lords in the Underdark below the Sword Coast.
  • Insider Information: Learn the background behind locations, such as Luskan and Gracklstugh, featured in the upcoming digital RPG, Sword Coast Legends, from n-Space.

With new character backgrounds and class options, players will love the storytelling possibilities of playing a noble of Waterdeep, an elf bladesinger, or one of the other new options, while Dungeon Masters will relish a book full of mysterious locations and story hooks to keep players adventuring on the Sword Coast for years to come.

Look for the Sword Coast Adventurer’s Guide to be available on November 3.

Publication date: 07/22/2015Introduction: New class options, character backgrounds, and deity descriptions from the Forgotten Realms.Tags: NewsRelated content: Sword Coast Legendsexternal_urls: Texture banner: ShowBanner video: 

Rules Answers: July 2015

Mon, 07/20/2015 - 11:00
Type: FeaturesAuthor: Jeremy CrawfordSubtitle: Sage AdviceBanner: Thumbnail (869x490): Text: 

After last month’s rules roundup, we return to the main work of Sage Advice: answering D&D rules questions. For the foreseeable future, I’ll use Sage Advice to gather rules answers I’ve given on Twitter, and I’ll often expand on those answers, since here I’m not limited to 140 characters! Each month, I’ll also continue to answer questions from the Sage Advice inbox.

If you have questions for a future installment of Sage Advice, please send them to sageadvice@wizards.com, or reach me on Twitter (@JeremyECrawford).

Class Features

Is the Dueling fighting style intended to support a shield? Yes. A character with the Dueling option usually pairs a one-handed weapon with a shield, a spellcasting focus, or a free hand.

Does Uncanny Dodge work automatically against every attack a rogue or ranger gets hit by? Spell attacks too? A use of Uncanny Dodge works against only one attack, since it expends your reaction, and only if you can see the attacker. It works against attacks of all sorts, including spell attacks, but it is no help against a spell or other effect, such as fireball, that delivers its damage through a saving throw rather than an attack roll.

Does a monk need to spend any ki points to cast minor illusion granted by the Shadow Arts feature? No. The ki point cost in the feature applies only to the other spells in it.

Does a monk’s Purity of Body feature grant immunity to poison damage, the poisoned condition, or both? That feature grants immunity to both. As a result, a monk with Purity of Body can, for example, inhale a green dragon’s poison breath unharmed.

Does a sorcerer’s Wild Magic Surge effect replace the effect of the spell that triggered it, or do both effects happen? The spell and the Wild Magic Surge effect both happen.

Does the warlock’s Awakened Mind feature allow two-way telepathic communication? The feature is intended to provide one-way communication. The warlock can use the feature to speak telepathically to a creature, but the feature doesn’t give that creature the ability to telepathically reply. In contrast, the telepathy ability that some monsters have (MM, 9) does make two-way communication possible.

Is an abjurer’s Arcane Ward healed only when the ward has 0 hit points? The ward regains hit points whenever the abjurer casts an abjuration spell of 1st level or higher, not just when the ward has 0 hit points.

Does casting alarm as a ritual heal Arcane Ward? Any abjuration spell of 1st level or higher cast by an abjurer can restore hit points to his or her Arcane Ward. As is normal for healing, the ward can’t regain more hit points than its hit point maximum: twice the wizard’s level + the wizard’s Intelligence modifier.

How does Arcane Ward interact with temporary hit points and damage resistance that an abjurer might have? An Arcane Ward is not an extension of the wizard who creates it. It is a magical effect with its own hit points. Any temporary hit points, immunities, or resistances that the wizard has don’t apply to the ward.

The ward takes damage first. Any leftover damage is taken by the wizard and goes through the following game elements in order: (1) any relevant damage immunity, (2) any relevant damage resistance, (3) any temporary hit points, and (4) real hit points.

Does the wizard’s Potent Cantrip feature apply to cantrips with attack rolls or only to saves? Potent Cantrip affects only cantrips that require a saving throw, such as acid splash and poison spray.


Can a bonus action be used as an action or vice versa? For example, can a bard use a bonus action to grant a Bardic Inspiration die and an action to cast healing word? No. Actions and bonus actions aren’t interchangeable. In the example, the bard could use Bardic Inspiration or healing word on a turn, not both.

How does a reach weapon work with opportunity attacks? An opportunity attack is normally triggered when a creature you can see moves beyond your reach (PH, 195). If you want to make an opportunity attack with a reach weapon, such as a glaive or a halberd, you can do so when a creature leaves the reach you have with that weapon. For example, if you’re wielding a halberd, a creature that is right next to you could move 5 feet away without triggering an opportunity attack. If that creature tries to move an additional 5 feet—beyond your 10-foot reach—the creature then triggers an opportunity attack.

Can you use the Ready action to take the Dash action on someone else’s turn and then combine the Charger feat with it? No, since you can’t take a bonus action on someone else’s turn.


Can spell attacks score critical hits? A spell attack can definitely score a critical hit. The rule on critical hits applies to attack rolls of any sort.

If I have 10 temporary hit points and I take 30 damage from an attack while concentrating on a spell, what is the DC of the Constitution save to maintain my concentration? The DC is 15 in that case. When temporary hit points absorb damage for you, you’re still taking damage, just not to your real hit points.

In contrast, a feature like the wizard’s Arcane Ward can take damage for you, potentially eliminating the need to make a Constitution saving throw or, at least, lowering the DC of that save.

When you cast a spell like conjure woodland beings, does the spellcaster or the DM choose the creatures that are conjured? A number of spells in the game let you summon creatures. Conjure animals, conjure celestial, conjure minor elementals, and conjure woodland beings are just a few examples.

Some spells of this sort specify that the spellcaster chooses the creature conjured. For example, find familiar gives the caster a list of animals to choose from.

Other spells of this sort let the spellcaster choose from among several broad options. For example, conjure minor elementals offers four options. Here are the first two:

  • One elemental of challenge rating 2 or lower
  • Two elementals of challenge rating 1 or lower

The design intent for options like these is that the spellcaster chooses one of them, and then the DM decides what creatures appear that fit the chosen option. For example, if you pick the second option, the DM chooses the two elementals that have a challenge rating of 1 or lower.

A spellcaster can certainly express a preference for what creatures shows up, but it’s up to the DM to determine if they do. The DM will often choose creatures that are appropriate for the campaign and that will be fun to introduce in a scene.

If I cast shillelagh on my quarterstaff and have the Polearm Master feat, does the bonus attack use a d4 or a d8 for damage? The bonus attack uses a d4. That attack is a function of the feat, not the weapon being used.


Is natural armor considered light armor? No. Natural armor doesn’t fit into the categories of light, medium, and heavy armor, and when you have it, it isn’t considered to be an armor you’re wearing.

Does natural armor cap a creature’s Dexterity bonus? Natural armor doesn’t limit a creature’s Dexterity bonus.

Sage Advice Compendium

This month’s questions and answers are now part of the Sage Advice Compendium.

Bio: Jeremy Crawford is the co-lead designer of fifth edition Dungeons & Dragons. He was the lead designer of the new Player’s Handbook and one of the leads on the Dungeon Master’s Guide. He has worked on many other D&D books since coming to Wizards of the Coast in 2007. You can reach him on Twitter (@JeremyECrawford).

Publication date: 07/20/2015Introduction: Conjurations, Arcane Ward, reach weapons, and more!Tags: Sage AdviceRelated content: Column_SageAdviceexternal_urls:  External url: http://media.wizards.com/2015/downloads/dnd/SA_Compendium_1.01.pdfExternal url description: Sage Advice Compendium Texture banner: ShowBanner video: 

Neverwinter: Strongholds

Wed, 07/15/2015 - 12:49
Type: NewsSubtitle: Launches August 11Banner: Thumbnail (869x490): Text: 

The initial launch will focus on player-versus-environment gameplay in order to allow guilds the opportunity to build their strongholds before taking the fight to other players when large scale player-versus-player content launches in September.

Reminiscent of early Dungeons & Dragons gameplay, Neverwinter: Strongholds empowers guilds to reclaim a keep and its surrounding wilderness areas from monsters. As the lands are cleared, guilds will need to decide how to properly run their stronghold and which of the many paths it can take to fit the guild’s needs. Perhaps your guild wants to focus on strengthening its members with boons and gear? Or preparing for the eventual launch of PvP? Or perhaps even increasing the rate at which your stronghold grows? No matter the decision, it’s your stronghold, your way.

For more information on Neverwinter: Strongholds, visit the developer hub, which contains all the blogs straight from the Neverwinter dev team with more to come. Strongholds will be released for Xbox One later in the year. Make sure to follow Neverwinter on Twitter and like them on Facebook.

Discuss in the official Neverwinter forums.

Publication date: 07/15/2015Introduction: Strongholds introduces the largest playable map released for Neverwinter, which sees adventurers banding together to take back a stronghold from the wild.Tags: NewsRelated content: Neverwinterexternal_urls: Texture banner: ShowBanner video: 

Play Rage of Demons at Gen Con 2015!

Wed, 07/15/2015 - 11:58
Type: NewsAuthor: D&D TeamSubtitle: New preview adventure debuting in IndianapolisBanner: Thumbnail (869x490): Text: 

Gen Con is two weeks away—July 30th will be here soon enough! Attendees of the annual gaming conference in Indianapolis will be the first to dive into the mayhem and madness of the Underdark by playing through the first of many adventures that will get the story rolling for the Rage of Demons Adventurers League season starting in September at stores worldwide. But that’s not all D&D has in store for Gen Con this year.

Play D&D Adventurer’s League at Gen Con

You can also roll some dice with hundreds of D&D players while you’re in Indianapolis. Create a new character and play in the introductory adventures to the Rage of Demons story. For existing characters, Gen Con Indy marks the debut of our first high level adventure. In addition, a massive multi-table D&D Epics adventure will be available here first.

Gen Con
Hall D
Thursday – Sunday, July 30th – August 2nd
All day! Check the Gen Con website for scheduling

  • DDEX3-1 Harried in Hillsfar
    In the village of Elventree, near the oppressive city of Hillsfar, a recent string of strange occurrences has the locals on edge. The factions have gathered here on the borders of the forest of Cormanthor to determine what’s happening. Is this the machinations of Hillsfar, or something more? Five one hour mini-adventures for 1st-2nd level characters.
  • DDEX3-2 Shackles of Blood
    The Red Plumes have increased patrols in the region surrounding Hillsfar, and a string of disappearances has followed in their wake. Naturally, this has roused the suspicion of the factions. Join your factions and find out the truth behind the missing farmers. A four-hour adventure for 1st-4th level characters.
  • DDEX3-3 The Occupation of Szith Morcane
    Agents of the fire giants of Maerimydra, a city in the Underdark, have overtaken the drow outpost of Szith Morcane. The factions seek out adventurers to free the outpost’s leaders for questioning on the giants’ activities. Can you extricate them before it’s too late? A four-hour adventure for 5th-10th level characters.
  • DDEX3-4 It’s All in the Blood
    Rumors of faceless demonic creatures have been steadily rising in the Hillsfar region, and it is said that far below the surface of Faerun, nestled in the bowels of the underdark, ancient terrors are stirring.  The imperiled drow of Szith Morcaine have extended an intriguing offer, but can the drow be trusted, and for how long? An eight-hour adventure for 11th-16th level characters.
  • DDEP3 Blood Above, Blood Below
    In two different arenas, the call for blood has been sounded. The five factions now seek out bold adventurers willing to brave death in order to draw attention away from Szith Morcane, and in so doing allow a small group to infiltrate the drow outpost and return it to the hands of the drow. What role will you play in this deadly game? A special four-hour D&D Epics adventure for 1st-16th level characters.

And if you would like to jump in and participate in some adventures from the previous season:

  • Past adventures from the Elemental Evil season are available on Thursday, including the D&D Epics adventure DDEP2 Mulmaster Undone.
Ask the Sages Office Hours!

Mike Mearls and Jeremy Crawford, two of the minds behind D&D fifth edition, will be on hand to answer your questions, regale you with stories of the development, and generally be awesome. They’ll be in the D&D organized play area in Hall D at a special table each day at the show from 3pm – 4pm.  Drop by to talk about D&D with the people who make it!

Office Hours with Mike Mearls and Jeremy Crawford
Thursday – Saturday, July 30th – August 1st
3pm – 4pm

You Really Like Me!

The Ennie Awards are Friday night and we’re ecstatic to have several D&D products up for awards this year.

  • Hoard of the Dragon Queen, a collaboration with our friends at Kobold Press, is up for Best Adventure.
  • Michael Komarck’s stunning depiction of Tiamat earned a Best Cover Art nomination for Rise of Tiamat.
  • A literal horde of artists, ably directed by Kate Irwin, earned a Best Interior Art nomination for the Monster Manual, standing alongside that book’s other nomination as Best Monster/Adversary product.
  • The Basic Rules for D&D earned nominations for Best Electronic Book and Best Free Product.
  • The D&D Starter Set is up for Best Family Game and Best Production Values.
  • The Player’s Handbook is nominated for Best Game, Best Rules, Best Writing, and Product of the year.

A whole bunch of our licensing partners also earned nominations. WizKids is up for Best RPG Related Product and Best Miniature Product for the Temple of Elemental Evil board game and D&D Icons of the Realms: Elemental Evil Boosters respectively. The D&D Complete Core Monster Pack for Fantasy Grounds earned a nomination in the Best Software category for SmiteWorks.

2014 was a great year for D&D and it’s great to see so much of our hard work up for recognition at Gen Con’s premier awards event. We can’t wait to celebrate the entire year of gaming at the Ennies!

The Ennie Awards Ceremony
Union Station Grand Hall
July 31st, 6pm bar opens & pre-entertainment, 8pm ceremony officially starts.

Have fun in Indianapolis at Gen Con 2015!

Publication date: 07/30/2015Introduction: Gen Con attendees will get the chance to play content from the upcoming adventure Out of the Abyss.Tags: NewsRelated content: Rage of Demonsexternal_urls: Texture banner: HideBanner video: 

State of the Game

Fri, 07/10/2015 - 11:00
Type: FeaturesSubtitle: D&D PodcastBanner: Thumbnail (869x490): Text: 

In today’s episode, we’ll speak with R&D’s Mike Mearls, taking a look at the current state of the game—including Unearthed Arcana’s new psionic material.

We’ll also speak with Paul Barrington from Ontario’s Comics Conspiracy stores. Paul talk about his partnership with a local school, running D&D games for kids.

You can find out more on psionics at Unearthed Arcana, as well as D&D for kids with the Monster Slayers adventure.

And subscribe to the D&D Podcast on iTunes.

Publication date: 07/10/2015Introduction: A look at the game, including the latest psionic rules, and advice for running D&D session with kids!Tags: Podcastexternal_urls:  External url: http://media.wizards.com/2015/podcasts/dnd/DnDPodcast_07_10_2015.mp3External url description: Strongholds Podcast Texture banner: HideBanner video: