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My homebrew 5e DM Screen

Mon, 09/01/2014 - 23:03

Since WOTC has yet to release a screen, I decided to make my own. I bought a customizable GM Screen from Amazon recently, and printed out some charts and stuff I found online.  One thing I did add to my screen now that 5e’s Bounded Accuracy makes monsters more threatening to PCs on a wider range of levels, is monster stats. I thought of a few generic enemies, like cultists, bandits, orcs, trolls, hobgoblins, etc, and added their stat blocks to one of the panels. In a pinch, it can come in handy. Random encounter during a night’s rest? I have a few stats handy in front of me.

Here’s where I got the charts I used. Keep in mind I screen grabbed, manipulated, resized, etc. to come up with my layout. I am not going to make it available because  the works weren’t originally mine. I will link to where I got the charts from instead.

DM David

Erydin’s post on Reddit

For the player’s side, I went old school and found some of my favorite older D&D art.

The charts I used, in case the pics aren’t clear, are the following:

  • Generic rules (adv/dis, Inspiration, starting wealth, carrying capacity… that sort of thing)
  • Monster stats (Bandit, Guard, Troll, Cultist, Hobgoblin, Orc)
  • DC numbers
  • Movement types
  • Actions
  • Cover
  • Conditions
  • Light ranges


Bwf3ZulIMAAyKOm Bwfsn3bIYAALztY Bwfu6N3IYAEonXM


I also made a mini version of a DM Screen using CD Cases, based on a post I saw on G+.  But I don’t think that I’ll use it as much. I love the idea of a smaller screen, but my 42 year old eyes don’t. :)




So there you go. 5e is getting me motivated to create for D&D again. I think that’s a good sign. :)



Quick Look at the DnD 5e Player’s Handbook’s Part 1

Fri, 08/08/2014 - 13:27

Well, the day is finally here. After speculation, announcements, and years of play-testing, the 5th Edition of Dungeons and Dragons has finally arrived as a hardcover book, with the release of the Player’s Handbook. We finally have in our hands “Everything a player needs to create heroic characters for the world’s greatest roleplaying game.” And you know what? It is a beautiful book, with artwork so evocative and elegant, it graces each page it’s on. It’s a book that can sit proudly on a shelf next to your favorite edition of the game as part of the tapestry of DnD. So lets take a look at what’s inside in Part One of the book.


The cover by Tyler Jacobson depicts the fire giant King Snurre taking care of some unwelcome visitors.

The 5th Edition Player’s Handbook packs 317 pages of content (and we’ve seen a lot of it in the Basic PDF). There are nine chapters, and five appendixes. There is also a four page index and a character sheet. A “What’s Next?” ad rounds out the book, basically promoting the Dungeon Master’s Guide, Monster Manual, and Encounters events. The layout is clear and easy on the eyes. The contrast works, the headers stand out with their red colored letters and the font is clear.

One thing that needs to be talked about before we even touch the actual content is the artwork. It is gorgeous. It’s evocative, fresh, diverse, inclusive, and flavorful.  The artwork in this book is fantastic, and in my opinion is leaps and bounds over 4th Edition artwork. While my favorite stuff is still my nostalgia driven rose colored glasses work of Easley and Elmore, this art created by 62 credited interior artists, sets a new standard for D&D. Producer Greg Bilsland told me via twitter that the art and graphic design was one of his favorite parts of this book, and I can see why.

The 5e Bard, ready to strum the guitar and send you to hell.

The 5e Bard, ready to strum the guitar and send you to hell.

The book opens with a preface by Mike Mearls, and its basic gist is about how special D&D is in creating friendship, memories, and building confidence to go on and be creative.

“The friendships you make around the table will be unique to you.” – Mike Mearls, PHB Preface

It is a nice piece, and I appreciate that the book has one. It didn’t fall into the trap of mentioning other editions, or why this edition exists, etc… No. It’s all about D&D’s strengths and uniqueness. It’s a solid preface.

Next we get a formal introduction to the book, with a short play example and the typical “what is roleplaying” type stuff. We’ve seen this before, and we’ll one day see it again. Nothing new here, except maybe the parts where it hilites some of the new rules of 5th Edition like Advantage/Disadvantage, and mentions the three pillars of adventure: Exploration, Social Interaction, and Combat. I suspect that order was deliberate… We then get into part one of the book, Creating a Character.

Part one opens with a full color splash page piece of art we’ve seen before, as the cover to the “Gencon Exclusive” D&D Next adventure “Ghosts of Dragonspear Castle”.




So yeah, it’s recycled art… kind of… but it’s good recycled art.



Chapter 1: Step-by-Step Characters

This chapter teaches you how to build your first 5th Edition character, using the example of “Bob” building Bruenor the dwarf. The instructions are clear, and

important terms are in bold as to attract attention. It’s a short chapter, only 5 pages, but it puts forth the concepts of character creation effectively.

Chapter 2: Races

If you’re familiar with the Basic PDF then you know what this chapter looks like, albeit with more races and artwork thrown in. A total of 9 races are featured in this chapter, and it makes a point to single out Dwarf, Elf, Halflings, and Humans as the most common races, with Humans being the most common of all. 

unnamed (1)

Some races have at least two subraces, sometimes three (obviously half elves and half orcs have no subraces, and humans or tieflings don’t have any either). The Human entry also includes nine different ethnic groups native to the Forgotten Realms, that can help serve as inspiration when creating a character. I’m not too crazy about the Realms being so prevalent in the PHB, but it is what it is. The chapter runs 28 pages long,


Chapter 3: Classes

This chapter opens with a quick write up about what a class is, and then presents a handy chart listing all the classes, a quick description, their Hit Die (for Hit Point purposes), primary ability, saving throws proficiencies, and armor/weapon proficiencies. I can already see it useful when trying to decide which class to play. There are twelve classes in the book:

  • Barbarian
  • Bard
  • Cleric
  • Druid
  • Fighter
  • Monk
  • Paladin
  • Ranger
  • Rogue
  • Sorcerer
  • Warlock
  • Wizard

Each class gets its write up, some artwork, its advancement table, features, and different class options a player can pick from. Again, it is worth singling out the artwork here, each class is represented with flavorful artwork that is sure to inspire. Different ethnicities are well represented too. 

unnamed (2)


Chapter 4: Personality and Backgrounds

The Hermit...

The Hermit…

This is a short chapter, just 5 pages, where you’ll find charts for height and weight, languages, background (13), alignment (nine like the old days), etc. A neat thing… sample alphabets for the Draconic, Elvish, and Dwarvish scripts. It would be great if WOTC released these as fonts for DMs to make handout with, props, etc. 

Chapter 5: Equipment

unnamed (4)

I wish these weapons had captions identifying them

The equipment chapter covers obviously all the gear needed for adventure, including weapon and armor, tools, gear, mounts, vehicles, etc. Charts include container capacity, time to don and doff armor, coinage exchange rates, and starting wealth by class. There are others, like weapon and armor costs.

The art is really good here, but I wish I saw each weapon and armor identified like I think we’ve had in previous versions of the game. Coins take on various shapes and aren’t limited to just being round, for example a gold coin is anvil shaped and a silver coin is a triangle. The chapter is rounded out with the “100 trinkets” chart found in the Basic PDF.

Chapter 6: Customization Options

The last chapter in Part One has rules for multiclassing and feats. There are 42 feats in the game, and some of those I wouldn’t think twice about getting, like the Spell Sniper if I were playing a Wizard. It doubles the range of any spell I would have to roll for and it ignores half or three-quarters cover. 

A sample of the Feats section

          A sample of the Feats section

This is a short chapter, leading us into Part Two of the PHB… which I’ll get to later.

So, my thoughts on this book? I really, really like it. It’s D&D, first and foremost. If the goal was to create a new game that hit certain buttons and from the game’s 40-year history, well, they’ve succeeded. The artwork is perhaps a bit of a deviation from what we’ve been used to in D&D. It has a different type of look from some of the things we’ve seen before, a lot of paintings, a lot more non-traditional fantasy types perhaps, but it’s good. A high point. There is a lot of that Basic PDF in here too. When they said they were giving us the game for free, they meant it. This book really expands on what the PDF made available. If you’re sitting on the fence over 5e, try the PDF first. In fact, WOTC released a supplement today for Hoard of the Dragon Queen for free, and it includes monsters and magic items. You can certainly play the 5e experience for free before you commit to this book’s $50.00 price point. Although I suspect if you enjoy what you see in the PDF, you’ll want this gorgeous book.

It may just be one of my favorite D&D Player Handbooks yet. It is that pretty.  I’ll take a look at Part 2 later. 

Player’s Handbook Credits:


  • D&D Lead Designers: Mike Mearls & Jeremy Crawford
  • Rules Development: Rodney Thompson & Peter Lee 
  • Writing: James Wyatt, Robert J. Schwalb, Bruce R. Cordell 

Full Disclosure: I received a complementary review copy of this book 









Win a 5e Player’s Handbook!

Tue, 08/05/2014 - 07:00


Hey! 5e is finally here and the fine folks at Gator Games thought it would be cool to celebrate by giving away a PHB to one lucky reader. We ran some great giveaways together during the 4e days, and we thought it would be great to do it again… So here’s the deal, starting today, through next Tuesday (8/12/14) at 3:00AM eastern/12AM pac, we will be running a contest and giving away one of these bad boys… Here are the simple rules:

Follow both @gatorgames and @newbiedm on twitter (yes, that’s part of the deal… having a twitter account).

Leave a comment here telling us what Race/Class combo you plan on making for your first 5e game. Please include your  twitter handle in your comment.

That’s it! You’ll be automatically entered to win. I will randomly select a winner at the end of the contest.

Only one entry is allowed per person, and only entries from inside the continental United States will be accepted. We will not ship anywhere outside the USA.   Good luck, and while you’re here, why don’t you take a moment to read about, and visit our sponsor, Gator Games,  below….

About Gator Games:

Gator Games is an FLGS (Friendly Local Gaming Store) operating in San Mateo, CA., and if you are in the area then do yourself a favor and make them your gaming store.  But if you are not, it doesn’t matter, because Gator Games has a website with a great “Used Items” online store that is certain to satisfy all of your hobby needs with some really great deals.  Gator Games also offers German games and an expanded selection of RPG’s, card games, miniatures, dice and boardgames.  Visit Gator Games’ revamped website today at



The giveaway is now closed, and we randomly selected @diebry as the winner! Congratulations! And thanks to all of you for entering.

My Quick 5e Thoughts

Sat, 07/19/2014 - 16:16

I wanted to give a quick and dirty “opinion post” on 5e, and this is not meant to be a comprehensive review, just quick thoughts… By now I’ve had a chance (and hopefully if you’re interested in 5e, you have as well) of reading and playing with both the basic rules pdf and the Starter Set for the new 5th edition of D&D. My thoughts on the game are generally positive, and I’ve been able to see it from both sides of the screen.  That said, we are still looking at a very incomplete picture here… no PHB, DMG or MM, so we must keep that in mind…

On the player’s side of things, I appreciate the new lighter approach the rules have taken. Everything is fairly streamlined, ability score bonuses play an important part in the game, and fidgety bonuses have been condensed to Advantage/Disadvantage and proficiency bonuses that don’t change too much through the character’s career.   I also appreciate the game’s attempt at making backgrounds, flaws and other character traits take center stage, granting mechanical rewards for using them in play. D&D has rarely been too interested in how its players role-play, so seeing the new inspiration rule in play brings a smile to my face. I like to see good role-playing at the table, whether I am playing or DMing.

The game just including (for now) the classic races and classes is fine, in my opinion. If for example, Lord of the Rings is your only source of a fantasy frame of reference, you know what a dwarf is, or an elf. A wizard is like Gandalf and a rogue is like Bilbo. No Eladrin, Shardminds or Wilden need apply. We’ll get all that stuff later on in the game’s life, and that’s fine by me.

The short and sweet combat rules are another aspect I like, although I admit that they read to me like a grid game that purposely decides to not mention it is a grid game. Creatures still occupy a 5′ space, which is entirely arbitrary and comes from the game’s previous grid based rules. Nevertheless, the game’s attempt at not requiring a grid is fine, although I feel that there aren’t enough adequate examples for new players on how to run a combat off the grid, just using your imagination. FWIW, I used a grid when I DM’ed the game here at home. I’m also really enjoying the magic pseudo-vancian rules they’ve come up with. Some spells can be cast as rituals, and low level spells can be cast using a higher level spell slot for a stronger effect. We’ll see how the magic vs. martial thing pans out as the edition gets played, as this has been one of the biggest concerns amongst 4e players regarding 5e.

As a DM who came over from 4e, I’m missing rules on encounter building, and the elegance of the 4e stat block for the monsters. There was just something about the way that stat block was laid out that popped and drew your eyes to certain spots on the page. 5e isn’t as nice for me in that regard, and although it wasn’t hard to read or run with, I’m sticking with 4e as my favorite D&D stat block yet. The starter set includes enough in the adventure to give you a few good meaty sessions of play, so that not having the hard covers will affect your play time, but once you get past it you’ll have no use for it again. It brings no maps, tokens, or anything of the sort. It’s really meant to (A) draw in new players, and (B) give fans of D&D something to get started with and try out 5e before it’s really out later this year.

Overall, I’m happy with the direction 5e took. There’s a certain something about it that draws me back to 2e (the edition I played the most in the old days). The writing and  prose used in the basic set draws me in and makes me want to tell stories in these worlds, and I know that  this is entirely subjective and you may not agree with me, but that’s the feel of this game for me. Right now I’m cautiously optimistic with D&D. The tone, the attempts at inclusivity, the call backs to older fiction and worlds, and it’s attempt at reaching out to players of all editions of the game are hitting the right notes for me. I’m on board.


If you’d like to help support, you can by using these Amazon links if you decide to purchase these D&D products at Amazon:


D&D Starter Set






D&D Player’s Handbook





dmgD&D Dungeon Master’s Guide


Talking about the 5e Dungeons & Dragons Starter Set

Sun, 07/06/2014 - 17:04

I’ll review the product soon, but I wanted to post this here for now… Mike Shea from and I recorded a google hangout where we talk about the new 5e starter box for about an hour. If you’re into watching grown men talk about elves and dwarves, I invite you to check it out.


WOTC Posts a D&D Starter Set Unboxing Video

Tue, 06/24/2014 - 00:03

WOTC published an unboxing video today of its upcoming Starter Set box, and I have to say that at first glance, I’m impressed and hopeful that it’ll be a good product. Based on what I can see on the video, it looks like a high quality product (expected from a publisher like WOTC). Full disclosure: I’ve pre ordered one already, although I’m hoping to land a review copy anyway, but in the case I don’t, I’ve bought one to make sure I give it a thorough review here on my site. It’s time to start writing about D&D again.

I was not a fan of the 4e red box, and I’m hoping that this product really is a starter set suitable for new DMs to pick up the game and get rolling right away.

Anyway, here’s the video, and here’s a link to its Amazon’s pre-order page (in case you’d like to support the site a bit).