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Converting the 2e Realms to 5e

Sun, 09/28/2014 - 23:46

In a previous post I wrote about setting my home game in the Forgotten Realms around the time period of the 2nd edition version of D&D, which would put us in Faerun in 1368DR. For those of you keeping track at home, the original boxed set of the Forgotten Reams placed the timeline at 1357DR, the second edition, which is the one I’m using, advanced the timeline a decade, and the third edition takes place in 1372DR. The fourth edition version of the Realms moves the timeline up to 1479, and the 5th edition of the Realms begins in 1489. The reason I chose to play in the 2nd Edition version is because I own a lot of material for it, there are tons of materials for it online, and for me it is a good on-ramp, since I have a lot of access to what’s been written for it.

See, while I own a lot of stuff, it mostly went unused. I’ve never had an encyclopedic knowledge of the Realms, mostly general knowledge stuff (Elminster is a Gandalf type, Drizzt is a good drow). Reading D&D fiction ain’t my bag, so most of what I know has been from reading some rpg stuff here or there. I’ve never ran nor played a Realms campaign until now. I figured that 5e is trying real hard to be a throwback, and the Realms are the implied setting… why not? Plus, again, I’ve amassed a lot of 2e stuff through the years.

DSC09625So, playing in the Realms requires some decision making, primarily, where in the Realms do you want to play? I wasn’t going to wrack my brain thinking about it. My boxed set brings a book dedicated entirely to one location, Shadowdale, so that’s where we’ll start. If it’s good enough to devote a book to, it’s good enough for my game.

Shadowdale as a starting locale is in fact recommended by the designers for players adventuring in the Realms for the first time. It’s a small town where the players can make a name for themselves (even if some major NPCs live there), there are some good low level adventuring areas, and the sorroundings are fairly typical fantasy stuff. The Dalelands are pretty much a fantasy version of rural England anyway.

So, I have a starting location. I digested the fluff in the boxed set, along with some other material I have (Richard Baker’s The Dalelands is a good source of information, along with Volo’s Guide to the Dalelands).  There are also some really good web sites with information available. The Realms wiki is a great resource, for example, and there are others out there with more than enough material to help you out.

The Shadowdale book includes an adventure aimed at beginning PCs, which makes my job as a DM easier. I still had to jump through some hoops to get the party together and ready to go on a quest together, something the adventure doesn’t really do, but that’s fine.

One thing I did was find a reason to get rid of the über-NPCs. The Realms has always faced criticism for being the land of the super NPCs that overshadow the players. Guys like Elminster and Drizzt are so powerful, that why would the world need the PCs? Well, I got rid of Elminster. Right at the first session. I gave him a reason to disappear which directly tied into one of the players, and off he went. He won’t come back either, he’s off on a mission for the duration of the campaign that directly ties into the story. His reason for not being around is important and matters. It isn’t arbitrary. So in Shadowdale, one of the the über-NPCs is now gone. Once the characters were brought into the story and everyone had a reason to hit the adventure, off we went. Of course, I had to make adjustments and conversions.

The crest of Shadowdale, the Twisted Tower of Ashaba.

The crest of Shadowdale, the Twisted Tower of Ashaba.

The adventure included is called “Beneath the Twisted Tower”, and it is a dungeon crawl set under the tower that houses Shadowdale’s ruler. It’s a pretty straight forward crawl, good enough to take the 5e rules for a spin, but it requires some adjustments.

***Spolier Alert***

Yes, I get that it’s a module from the late 80’s/early 90’s, but I’m still putting a spoiler tag, even if just for my players. If you play in my game, stay away. That means you, Diaz. :)

The first thing I did was go through the list of enemies the players could or would face off against in the module, and made a list. Why? I needed to see if there were any 5e stats available for them, or something relatively close I could just reskin. Right at the beginning, I ran into trouble. The first monster the PCs could possibly face is called a Gambado, a creature with no 5e stats. That meant I had to create. The Gambado, if you remember, is a pretty strange creature. It basically appears as a skull on the ground, and when approached it jumps out of a pit like a spring to fully reveal itself. Since 5e has no Gambado, I made one up, giving it my best shot at creating a 5e monster without any guides available yet. I think it came out okay.

Then I made my way further down the list: Quaggoths, huge spiders, Moray Rat, Boogins, Mud-Man, Aballin, etc. They all had equivalents, or near equivalents I could use. For example, a Mud-Man is nowhere to be found in the Monster Manual, but a Mud Mephit, which is in the 5e MM, could serve the same purpose and have similar powers. The Aballin, described in the module as “living water” became a water elemental with some of its numbers dialed down (it’s a CR 5 monster, too strong for a 1st level party). There’s another encounter that calls for 30 rats, which can be handled with the Rat Swarm MM entry, so in general, it’s pretty easy to convert this adventure.

Besides creature stats, I also had to look at actual challenges the PCs face in the adventure, that aren’t fight related. There’s a scene set on a bridge that works as a perfect example. Lets take a look:

Once they are underground, the module calls for the PCs to cross a “20 foot long, single span, unrailed, stone bridge… wet with water”. The adventure calls for Dexterity checks to see if they slip as they cross. It also offers other alternatives, such as long jumping over the 12 foot wide chasm or climbing the chasm walls up and down to avoid the bridge altogether. This created some issues for me, so I had to make adjustments. In 5e, players can easily jump the 12 foot chasm without even having to roll, but I wanted this to be a challenge. So I extended both the chasm and the bridge, leading them to choosing to cross the bridge. My 5e adjustment of this challenge was to use the Advantage/Disadvantage rules. I had them make Dexterity checks like the module called for, but they got clever and decided to use a rope as support. Bam! Advantage on the Dexterity checks. So easy. And it was a challenging encounter for them that forced them to rely on their wits.

I want to touch on two things I was asked about when I mentioned on twitter I was doing this. One was about converting NPCs, and the other was how to run this if you have no Realms knowledge whatsoever.

As far as the NPCs are concerned, I’m not too concerned about converting any of them to 5e. First, and most important, is asking myself if I’ll really need those stats. Only of the PCs choose to fight an NPC will I ever need that stat block. And if it comes to that, well, I have premade solutions. Lets look at the guards in the tower, for example. The Men-at-Arms are (remember these are 2e stats) 2nd level fighters wearing chain mail and using swords. The “Guard” entry in the 5e Monster Manual is good enough for me. He’s a 1/8 CR enemy I can throw waves of at the PCs if they foolishly decide to attack the Men-at-Arms. The lord of Shadowdale? If they decide to attack him I’ll use the “Knight” entry in the Monster Manual, as the Lord is described as a former knight in the book. Easy.

And as far as Realms knowledge? Listen, all you need to know is where your party is when you begin. Starting in Shadowdale? Read up on Shadowdale and the general area. You don’t need to know the rest of the world’s history or current political climate. Who cares? My party is here on a dungeon crawl under the town’s tower. They are starting here and I gave them enough info to care about this particular place. I gave them a region to create backstories from, linking them to the wiki in the process. That’s it. I’m no Realms expert. You don’t have to be either. Once our adventures take us elsewhere, I’ll read about elsewhere. Right now it’s Shadowdale and the surroundings, and that’s what I’ll care about.

As my campaign progresses I’ll write about what challenges I faced, and tips I can share along the way.

For now, here’s a tip I found useful: Every single monster I expected the party to fight, I wrote down on a note card (index card), including its full stats and attacks. That way I didn’t have to flip through the Monster Manual, and I can build a monster rolodex as time goes on.

I’ll have more to write about converting my game to 5e as this campaign progresses. If you have any thoughts, let me know in the comments below or at

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

World of Greyhawk AD&D Boxed Set

Menzoberranzan AD&D Boxed Set

Conquest of Nerath: A D&D Boardgame

Legend of Drizzt: A D&D Boardgame

Setting my campaign in the 2e Forgotten Realms

Sun, 09/14/2014 - 10:10

So I’m taking my 5e home game back in time a bit. After playing a session of Hoard of the Dragon Queen, I felt a bit dissatisfied with the adventure (mostly due to the way it played with my group), so I’m going to do a bit of a do over. I’m going to usse 5e’s launch as a chance to do something I’ve never done before, and that’s use my old Realms’ stuff for a campaign. I have my 2nd Ed. boxed set which I love, so I’m going to set my game in that era of the Realms, 1367DR, about 120 years before the 5e Realms are supposedly set.

The 2e realms box

The 2e realms box

This will allow me to use all the material (and it’s a hell of a lot) that’s available for the 2e Realms, and give me the chance to actually use the stuff in the damn box for the first time. There’s a neat dungeon crawl intro adventure in there which I’m already looking at converting monsters for, and I know that we’ll all enjoy using the old poster maps, etc. The Realms wiki page is a great aid, and between it, the boxed set, and my 3rd Ed. hardcover (which only advanced the timeline by maybe 5-6 years) I should be okay.

I have maps (both 2e and 3e), sourcebooks, and tons of modules and books on pdf, so I can adventure in that era of the Realms for a long time. 5e was supposed to be the edition that made it easy to use all that old stuff, right? Lets put it to the test. :)

On another note, I’ve been wanting to try out monster design for 5e, so I’m using this as a good opportunity to, since there are plenty of critters in this box and adventure that aren’t available for 5e. So far I’ve created a Mongrelfolk and a Gambado. Check them out and tell me what you think!

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

World of Greyhawk AD&D Boxed Set

Menzoberranzan AD&D Boxed Set

Conquest of Nerath: A D&D Boardgame

Legend of Drizzt: A D&D Boardgame

Campaign building with the Monster Manual

Wed, 09/10/2014 - 08:46

“This bestiary is for storytellers and world-builders.” – Monster Manual introduction


The D&D 5th Ed. Monster Manual releases on September 19th for those stores that take part in the WOTC WPN program, and on September 30th for everyone else. A few Monster Manuals saw the light of day at Gencon, and we’ve seen some bits of it come out here or there. For example, there was @geekylindsay‘s excellent article on worldbuilding using the MM (btw this article will have some overlap with hers), while Jerry from Dread Gazebo showed off a bit of what the book will offer.

I’ll have a full review of the book later, but I wanted to write a bit on one of my favorite parts of the Monster Manual, and something I think I’ll be using plenty of for the next few years, the Legendary Creatures and their regional effects.  Legendary Creatures are those special solo monsters that make up epic encounters, like the dragons, beholders, vampires, and so on. They are special, have slightly different combat rules, and affect both their immediate environment (Lair Actions) but also the world around them (Regional Effects), and that’s the part that caught my eye.

You see, I’ve always had trouble coming up with big fantasy plot ideas. Sure, raiding an orc camp or dungeon crawling a crypt is easy enough to come up with, but the big over-arching plots are a challenge for me to imagine. So as soon as I read these regional effects entries in the book, it’s like a light bulb went off in my head. These effects right there are prime material for campaign ideas. Why? Because they are big deals that mean something to the world, and only the heroic PCs can fix them. And that right there is what adventures are made out of. So let’s look at an example from the book, the Red Dragon.

The region where a red dragon makes its lair is warped by the dragon’s magic, affecting the land around it in several ways. For example:

  • Small earthquakes are  felt as far as 6 miles from the lair
  • Water sources 1 mile of the lair are tainted by sulfur and are supernaturally warm
  • Portals to the elemental plane of fire open near the lair, allowing elemental creatures to come into the world

So as DM’s, what can we do with that information? Well, you can certainly create adventures and scenarios that don’t directly deal with the problem of the dragon itself (because likely 1st level PCs wouldn’t have a clue it involves a dragon anyway), but deal with the complications brought on by these effects.

So, earthquakes. What can happen? Towns in the area may see some destruction, which may lead to looting from bandits, or bands of humanoids looking to cause trouble. The earthquakes may be large enough to cause openings in the ground leading to the Underdark, where things may crawl out to the surface from. Bands of slaver drows? How about a wizard’s tower collapses and she may need adventurers to help her find x or y thing that she lost in the earthquake.

Water sources tainted by sulfur? Water is a precious commodity, and if people’s water supplies are affected, you can bet that trouble will ensue. Generally sulfur in the water isn’t unhealthy, but if people and animals are getting diarreah, and the water stinks, well, that’s an issue. Plus. Who says that the dragon’s presence isn’t causing hte sulfur levels to rise so much that it is in fact unhealthy? Also, water scarcity affects the environment, which can lead to side adventures for the PCs to tackle. Warm waters? All the fish are dying in the normally cold lake. These things are important. 

And portals to the elemental planes of fire? Well, that’s self explanatory. That should tip off the players that something larger is afoot.

Perhaps there’s enough with these hooks to take you on a 1-20 campaign, or perhaps not, maybe shorter episodic mini-campaigns would work better. The point is that looking for high concept ideas is probably easier than you think, and wracking your brain is unnecessary.

This all may seem like old news for old timers in the DMing business, but for newbies jumping behind the screen for the first time, my advice is to start small, and work your way out. Want to end your big campaign with the PCs fighting an epic red dragon? That’s great. Make sure they deal with the bandits taking advantage of the earthquakes in the area first.

I’ll have more of the Monster Manual next week.


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

World of Greyhawk AD&D Boxed Set

Menzoberranzan AD&D Boxed Set

Conquest of Nerath: A D&D Boardgame

Legend of Drizzt: A D&D Boardgame

Bringing back the Minicast for 5e

Sun, 09/07/2014 - 09:37

So 5th Ed. launched and it’s a thing, and I want to get back to doing what I like with D&D, which is talking with and helping DMs with their games. So I’m bringing back my old (and ENnie nominated) NewbieDM Minicast. It’s been far too long. 

If you’ve never heard of the minicast, it was a 5-6 minute long podcast where a DM from the #dnd community and I would answer a listener’s voicemail with a question about his game. It was fun to do, and it was well received. 

I can’t do it without community involvement though, so here’s the number to call in: 305-349-3026

Help me get the minicast back online. Feel free to repost, share and let others know! Thanks. 


Critical effects on 20/20 rolls with Advantage

Thu, 09/04/2014 - 23:34

Back in the old days, we played D&D with the Loremaster Critical Hit/Fumble charts. They added some nasty effects to the game, making it really deadly. Like, sever someone’s spine and leave them paralyzed for the rest of their lives deadly… I thought that it would be cool to introduce something similar to my game and see if the players bite. The idea is that on an attack roll made with Advantage that results in a double 20 roll, a critical effect is triggered. The player would then roll a percentage roll and the chart would generate the result. A double 20 on Advantage has a 1 in 400 chance of happening, so this is not very game breaking, btw. I wrote it so that it is easy to narrate for both spell effects and martial attacks. I may come up with a Fumble chart later, but I wanted to put this out there before my next home game.

Critical Effects

On a 20/20 Attack Roll made with Advantage, resolve all damage and effects due to the attack, then roll percentage dice and consult this chart to generate a Critical Effect:

01-10 Your attack knocks your target prone.

11-20 Your attack severely slows down your target. Its speed is halved for the duration of the encounter.

21-25 Your attack severely injures your target, causing it to suffer 3HP of damage at the start of its turn for the duration of the encounter.

26-30 Your attack causes your target to become exhausted (level 1). Any further successful attacks agains this creature will increase its exhaustion level by 1.

31-35 Your powerful attack frightens your target for the duration of the encounter.

36-40 Your potent attack severely impairs your target, its speed is halved and it is blinded for the duration of the encounter.

41-45 What a hit! You stun your target for 2 rounds!

46-50 Your attack destroys your target’s weapon arm (or if natural weapons, it’s main attack limb). It’s pain causes it to suffer Disadvantage on all attack rolls for the duration of the encounter.

51-55 Your attack disarms your target, sending its weapon flying 10 feet in a direction of your choice. If your target had no weapons, you push it back 10 feet in a direction of your choice instead.

56-60 You sever your target’s spine. It immediately falls prone and is paralyzed. If your target has no spine, the same effects apply. Narrate accordingly.

61-65 Your attack causes permanent mobility damage to your target. Its speed is reduced to 5 feet.

66-70 Your attack is so powerful it affects your target as if it were affected by a Confusion spell (PHB pg 224).

71-75 Your vicious attack rips through your target’s defenses, causing it to suffer  -5 to its Armor Class  for the duration of the encounter.

76-80 Your attack blinds your opponent and also causes it to become deafened for the duration of the encounter.

81-85 Your attack damages your opponent’s nervous system. It suffers disadvantage on any saving throw for the duration of the encounter.

86-90 Your attack severely dazes your opponent. It suffers disadvantage on any roll for the duration of the encounter.

91-98 You go in for the kill. Your opponent suffers vulnerability to all damage types you inflict on it for the rest of the encounter.

99 You instantly kill your opponent. No questions asked. Where did this burst of strength come from?

100 Your frightfully powerful attack instantly kills your opponent. If another hostile creature is within 5′ of it, your attack kills that creature as well. Your incredible victory will be spoken about for years to come.


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

World of Greyhawk AD&D Boxed Set

Menzoberranzan AD&D Boxed Set

Conquest of Nerath: A D&D Boardgame

Legend of Drizzt: A D&D Boardgame

A quick note for new D&D players

Thu, 09/04/2014 - 21:49

Public service announcement time:  You may be curious about D&D, you may be starting out with the game, as there has been a lot of press lately about it. There’s a new edition, the game is celebrating its 40th anniversary, so there is a lot of D&D noise being made.

I wanted to help you out, because you might run into a situation if you go to a big box bookstore  like Barnes and Noble to look for D&D in  that you may find a lot of books on the shelf and be a little confused about what exactly you need to buy for the game.

If you see these books on the shelf (and chances are you will), do not buy them. They are the unsupported previous edition books and are incompatible with the new 5th Edition you are probably looking for.

4E Players HandbookDungeonMastersGuide


The shelves on some big box stores can be a bit messy, so just be aware of what you are picking up. The current version looks like this:


This may be a silly post to write, but i have seen people at my local B&N stare at the bookshelf and wonder what to get. It’s kind of a pet peeve of mine…. :)


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.