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Ed Greenwood on Spellstorm

Wizards of the Coast D&D - Tue, 06/02/2015 - 11:00
Type: InterviewsAuthor: Susan J. MorrisSubtitle: Spotlight InterviewBanner: Thumbnail (869x490): Text: 

About Spellstorm:

Rumors race around Cormyr regarding the mythical Lost Spell, a powerful enchantment designed centuries ago by the presumed dead god of spells—a spell long thought lost to the ages. Found by some magickless merchant, rumor has it the Lost Spell is to be auctioned off to the highest bidder.
It is a powerful lure, and archwizards of every stripe descend upon the merchant, only to be trapped with him inside his manor by a vicious spellstorm—escape impossible, and their magic useless with the interference from the storm.

Moreover—they find themselves faced with the infamous Elminster of Shadowdale, who claims he’s just there to decide who gets the Lost Spell, but who clearly has an agenda of his own.

But before Elimster can put whatever plan he has in motion, archwizards start dying.

Find out more on the official product page.

Susan Morris: Spellstorm is fairly unusual for the Realms in that, in addition to being an adventuresome romp, it’s also a closed circle murder mystery! Was that more difficult to write than a classic adventure, or did you find that the limitations actually helped spur the creative process?

Ed Greenwood: It was easier to write a closed circle murder mystery than a more usual “freewheeling high magic” Realms novel rather than more difficult, because limiting the magic cuts down on “rabbit spell up my sleeve” moments and forces the group of frankly antisocial, powerful archmages thrown together in Spellstorm to have to interact with each other far more than they otherwise would. They can’t blast someone with a spell or throw up a magical barrier because, due to the spellstorm, they can’t trust their spells— and they’re stuck in a rotting old country mansion with many other spoiled, angry, frightened veteran archmages. At least one of whom is a murderer—an active murderer. So very soon they’re all under pressure, and very much wanting to blast others or throw up string barriers, and the reader gets to see something of what they’re really like.

Susan: What was the inspiration behind Spellstorm? Was there a particular moment or scene that strikes you as the heart of the book?

Ed: For a long time I’ve wanted to write a book that combines suspense and action with a prolonged spotlight on character development, and some time ago it struck me that the “country house” style of murder mystery (in which all the characters are isolated by some force or other in a wilderness or other remote locale, so the reader knows the murderer must be someone onstage, not “someone, somewhere in this sprawling and crowded city”) would be the ideal way to do this. Eventually Elminster’s wayward career came to a point at which it was possible—so here we are.

I would say that the scene at the heart of the book is a brief discussion Elminster and Alusair has about “preening idiots.” Elminster is jesting, but he sees clearly what he essentially is (in the context of the wider world), and admits it, and is content with his role (rebounding from the “I’m tired and just want to die” state he was in for much of the Sage of Shadowdale trilogy). Readers who re-read Spellstorm after enjoying it as a mystery, the first time through, might want to watch for moments when various members of the cast see themselves clearly. They meet or embrace their fates more readily, when they can.

Susan: Spellstorm is incredibly atmospheric—both in that I could see the manor, and in the sense of foreboding and stuff. How did you craft such a rich and creepy atmosphere?

Ed: Description (not hold-everything exhaustive passages, but taking care not to neglect the passing scene) and dialogue that reflects the tension. Which readers can see I contrast, from time to time, with what’s said by characters who aren’t feeling that tension. Make the rising stakes clear, and keep the mansion creepy. After all, most of what goes on in a fantasy novel deals with age-old themes and familiar situations; it’s the way in which it’s told that imparts the richness. Or as the saying goes: all of our lives end at the same final destination. It’s the journey that makes a life rich, or otherwise.

Susan: There might be fewer characters in Spellstorm than in most of your books, but each of those characters plays a substantial role, with his or her own goals and methods of achieving those goals. How did you go about keeping them all distinct, and weaving together all those different plotlines?

Ed: First, map the house. Second, as scenes are being written, move character markers around—meeples or “little men” from family boardgames work just fine, as do gaming miniatures—to make sure people have time to make any movements described in the story, and to check for chance meeting “intercepts.” That’s the rock-bottom “blocking” (as they call it in theater: moving bodies around the stage, not just for traffic reasons, but to reinforce the way in which particular characters or scenes will strike the audience; the impressions that will be created and amplified).

Third, keep a very clear idea in mind whilst writing of what each character wants. If that changes during the story, mark the point of each change, and clearly understand why.

So at any one “freeze frame” moment, I could go around the house in my mind (“the king was in his counting house, counting out his money/the queen was in the parlor, eating bread and honey” as the old nursery rhyme goes) and know what every character was aiming for . . . so that made it much easier to figure out what they were actually up to. And make sure the “eat, sleep, garderobe breaks” needs were timed in, even if not shown to the reader.

Susan: All those archmages in one house—I remember Philip Athans talking about writing Annihilation, and how hard it was to write the battle between the lich Dyrr and Gromph Baenre, because they were both so intelligent, so crafty, and so powerful. And there are eleven intelligent, crafty, and powerful archmages in Spellstorm! (Not even counting Elminster.) How do you keep them all in line?

Ed: That third factor I mentioned: keeping in mind what characters want, at any given point in the story. Then it’s a matter of deciding where the writer’s eye, that guides the reader’s eye, focuses. Who are we paying attention to, at what times during the story, and for how long? Writers and editors often talk about Point Of View, and generally want to avoid “head-hopping” where that viewpoint switches from one character to another within the same scene—but what underlies that general rule isn’t (or shouldn’t be) “because this editor doesn’t like when a writer does that” but rather, what works most effectively.

With this many characters who are all powerful personalities who all use arcane magic and who are all used to getting their own way all in play, bouncing off each other, the reader should be kept aware of how they are different (so as to keep them all “straight” in mind), and should be immersed in the moment, so the reader feels the limitations and frustrations the characters are feeling, and sees why they do what they do. The writer can then use shifting scenes and different pacing to “cleanse the reader’s palate” between interactions of various characters to help the reader keep everyone straight, and to remind the reader about what’s at stake.

Which is a very analytical, calculating and long-winded way of saying what I tend to do instinctively; if when writing a scene I’m getting mentally tired of this conversation or that confrontation, it’s time to move the reader’s eye elsewhere (even if we’re going to jump back later).

Susan: One of the characters, Maraunth Torr, struck me very much as a young Manshoon, and I found the contrast between them was perfect for drawing out the ways Manshoon had changed over the years. Was that intentional? How would Manshoon and Maraunth each feel about the comparison?

Ed: Yes, that was indeed intentional. Both characters are egocentric and would be irritated by the comparison (but would know it was valid). They would not want to discuss it. What I’ve been exploring with Manshoon over the past thirty years or so is how a gleeful villain of a ruthless evil archmage mellows as he ages, how he tastes the mantle of absolute tyranny and tires of it (Fzoul “beat” Manshoon because Manshoon let him; Manshoon was already looking for a way out of being “top man of the Zhentarim and top target”), how he finds satisfaction in different ways and achievements as he gets older . . . and by the time of Spellstorm, what stage in his self-judgment and in his re-evaluation of his relationship with Mystra (he was offered the mantle of being a Chosen, and repudiated it, because he feared and mistrusted Mystra and everyone else, and trusted only in himself and going it alone) he had reached.

Maraunth Torr is very much what Manshoon used to be, and Manshoon dismisses him as a rash young fool. Maraunth Torr looks at Manshoon with scorn and a little fear—not just because of what Manshoon can do, but because he’s afraid that he’ll one day become the Manshoon he sees, and he doesn’t want to become that “weak” older person. Manshoon sees Maraunth Torr as a callow, headstrong idiot—such a dolt that he mistakes the wisdom of experience for weakness.

One of my later Forging the Realms columns was all about the stages in the life of Manshoon. I’ve been exploring the effects of aging on Elminster too, of course, and it’s been interesting to me that some readers don’t seem to want Manshoon to grow and change; they see the later Manshoons as “wrong” because they don’t match the earlier versions of Manshoon they saw in Spellfire and contemporary Realms fiction.

Susan: Without giving anything away, we learn some secrets about Alusair and her nature in this book—are we going to get to hear more about her story, and what those revelations mean? I could think of a number of interesting implications!

Ed: Time will tell in what way and how much more I’ll be able to explore Alusair; there are so many characters in the Realms I’d love to delve more deeply into (her mother Queen Filfaeril, just to name one off the top of my head). I want to keep Alusair as mysterious as I can right now, because I have some juicy ideas and untold moments of her past sizzling away, awaiting the right moment and right venue to present. I also want to avoid leaving the impression that “she’s a super-character, this flying, invisible-when-she-wants-to-be ghost!” Super spy, maybe—but for whom, and why? What motivates her? A love for Cormyr, obviously, but what else? For so long she lived her life in contrast to her parents—but they’re gone now, and she as a ghost can obviously learn and grow and change as a “person,” so. For her, what now? (Time to tease by adding: We’ll just have to see.)

Susan: Do you have a favorite secondary character from Spellstorm about whom you’d love to tell more stories?

Ed: Mirt, of course, but Alusair especially. If you take both of those off the table, then Myrmeen Lhal. And to mention a character we see very little of: Vangerdahast. Like Elminster, Vangey is good for a 12-book series any chance I get to sit down and write it! So is Manshoon, of course, and for that matter every one of the archmages we see trapped in the mansion together in Spellstorm. I would need a dozen potions of longevity to have years enough left to write about them all. Hmm . . .

Susan: What part was the trickiest to get right?

Ed: The shift from slowly unfolding menace to the “chasing around the house” scenes—without draining away all the tension by having it be lost in the sudden outbreak of action. Those changes in atmosphere are harder and more crucial than mere changes in pace.

Susan: Do you have a favorite section?

Ed: The highsunfeast (supper) scene. It’s very short, because it gets interrupted by events (behold a not-so-adroit avoidance of spoiler, folks), but I found the venomous dialogue great fun to write and great fun to read, and had to actively stomp on my personal desire to airily write a long, long chapter of the diners slanging each other about life, the Realms, and everything. I could have filled pages upon pages with jests, philosophy, and colorful little tales from the pasts of all of these fascinating characters—pages that would have had little or nothing to do with the main story. The temptation was there, and I oh-so-manfully/womanfully resisted it, but that temptation existed because it was my favorite bit of the book.

Susan: One thing I love about this book is that it has two themes—that of the fight between freedom and binding law, and the fight between selfishness and altruism—that don’t stand alone, but instead actively engage with each other, making kind of a super theme about the importance of scope. How did you go about creating this complex thematic structure?

Ed: By linking them with a third theme: there are no easy choices. Or rather, choices made quickly and without thought are rarely the right ones. Every choice has its price; do we ignore that price or fool ourselves about it to make the choosing easier or to do what we emotionally want to do? Or do we try to “take the long view,” to consider the wider implications for others, to weigh them as heavily as “how it will benefit me”? Do we go for short-term gain, or short-term pain for long-term gain?

By keeping the focus on characters choosing, in the heat of the moment, the story stays practical and avoids getting preachy about philosophies except when characters are deliberately getting preachy.

Almost every one of the cast of Spellstorm is powerful enough that they make or define (by their support or enforcement, or at least interpretation) law/local rules in some situations, or consider themselves above the law either all the time or in certain circumstances, so in that debate, freedom almost always wins; “law” is used for self-justification or for judging others. So I kept it as personal as possible, in dangerous action situations, to avoid lengthy philosophical discourse (or to put it very simply, I hewed to the old writers’ maxim: “show, don’t tell”).

Susan: As a follow-up, it strikes me how those themes essentially embrace the classic themes of D&D—that of lawful versus chaotic, and good versus evil. (That’s awesome!) Are you making an argument for a particular alignment, with Spellstorm?

Ed: Oh, no, I’m not advocating one alignment over another. Life is about making moral choices, and I want to explore that complex, real people (and fictional characters) will sometimes go one way, and at other times go another, as their lives unfold. Every choice has consequences; every decision of law versus chaos or good versus evil in a novel should show the reader those consequences. Not to be preachy, but to share the stakes: “If you do thus, the cost will be this. Yet if you do thus-and-so, the outcome will be that.”

The cheat, in fiction, is to have actions without consequences, and impart the message of: Do as you please, following your whims or being truly random, because none of it matters in the slightest. It does matter. Not just to those who become casualties, but to those who survive and even flourish.

Susan: Does Mystra really trust Elminster with the fate of the Lost Spell? Or is it a test? Will she step in if Elminster “gets it wrong”?

Ed: Yes, it’s a test. Of Elminster as well as the archmages. And of herself. Although she anticipates that these archmages—most of them real troublemakers to Mystra’s aim of getting magic universally embraced and used, because they have used their magic in ways that make people hate and fear them—will whittle each other down, when shut in together, and thereby lessen the problem she has with them, Mystra is testing herself because she has seen that the more deities meddle with mortals, the more they corrupt and taint those mortals, and the more they cheapen the worship they receive and blunt the aims and causes they promote. She is seeing if she can bear to remain more aloof than she has been in the past, if she can manage to keep herself apart from the deepening fray.

However, I do think that if Elminster had turned tyrant or abetted the “wrong” person in the mansion and allowed them to become a tyrant, wielding the Lost Spell, Mystra would have stepped in and squashed the tyrant, then and there, and administered whatever “justice” she deemed necessary to everyone else within the walls, while she still had them all together, and before they got loose marauding across the Realms.

She is of course hoping the archmages can be forced into working together, because that’s what she wants mortals to do more of (and reasoning that if they know each other personally, they’ll both be able to “read” each other better and they’ll be unable to casually lash out at each other because the “faceless foe” has been replaced by someone they know). Yet Mystra is wise enough to know that it’s a slim chance this brightest outcome will happen.

Susan: Would you want the Lost Spell, if you were one of the archmages in Spellstorm? If you had to give it to one of the characters, which one would you choose?

Ed: Probably I would, if I was one of those characters (the power would be irresistible). However, if it was really “me as me,” put in the place of one of the archmages in the mansion, I’d refuse it—because I see the downside as overwhelming the possible good outcomes. I know I can’t be trusted with that sort of magic—and I know I’d make a mess of it. (And the world would be a better place if more people admitted to themselves what they’ll make a mess of, and what they can’t be trusted with.)

Susan: Elminster’s tale is quite substantial at this point! Do readers need to start with Elminster: The Making of a Mage, or can they dive right in with Spellstorm?

Ed: Readers can start with this book, by all means. Longtime Realms fans will enjoy the nuances more because they know more of the back stories of the wacky collection of folks trapped together in the mansion—but Spellstorm can be enjoyed as a straight-ahead mystery novel by someone new to all of the characters.

My Elminster saga has several good “starting points,” from Spellfire and Elminster: The Making Of A Mage and the short story “Elminster At The MageFair” to Elminster Must Die! and this book, Spellstorm. My next Realms novel is shaping up to work well for a newcomer to the Realms to enjoy by itself and then go back to read my earlier books, too. I seem to be all about two-way travel.

Susan: How do you balance writing for new readers and writing for established Realms fans?

Ed: I provide Easter eggs and tiny asides that answer outstanding lore or check-ins with characters from earlier tales, for the established fans, but the story must and should stand on its own (and hopefully satisfy), for new readers.

Susan: What’s next for Elminster? Anything you can tell us?

Ed: I’m just about finished my next Realms novel, and whereas Spellstorm finds El in an isolated locale in the countryside of Cormyr, the next one takes him somewhere familiar and a bit more populous, for a very different sort of tale. (No, I’m not starting an “Elminster Murder Mystery” series. Not that it wouldn’t be a fun idea to do one . . .)


ED GREENWOOD is the creator of the Forgotten Realms® fantasy world setting and the New York Times best-selling author of almost 200 books and thousands upon thousands of articles, short stories, game modules, campaign settings and more. His novels alone have sold more than 20 million copies in over 30 languages; there are an estimated 50 million-plus copies of Ed Greenwood creations “out there,” and whenever Ed isn’t writing—he’s writing something else! He lives with his wife Jenny and has been trying to train Missy, The Cat Who Must Be Obeyed, to catalog the more than one million items in his personal library. (Missy feels she needs an intern.)

SUSAN J. MORRIS is a fantasy author and editor. She also wrote a critically acclaimed writing advice column for Amazon’s Omnivoracious blog, worked for over six years as the editor of the Forgotten Realms novels, and worked for just over a year in the Books department at Amazon.com. In her spare time, she has published four middle-grade books and designed Dungeons & Dragons for kids. She was delighted to be a 2012 Industry Insider Guest of Honor at Gen Con.

Publication date: 06/02/2015Introduction: Ed discusses his latest novel set in the Forgotten Realms, where Elminster must solve the mystery of the mythical Lost Spell!Tags: Spotlight Interviewsexternal_urls: Texture banner: HideBanner video: 


Flickr Dungeons and Dragons Tag Feed - Tue, 06/02/2015 - 08:29

Alma de Boneca has added a photo to the pool:


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Fiery instruments of celestial vengeance, the Asura are... um, fiery.

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These monsters live in dungeons and feed on filth!

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What's next? A ducksnake?

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Being a Dungeon Master for Kids

Wizards of the Coast D&D - Mon, 06/01/2015 - 11:00
Type: FeaturesAuthor: Tom OlsenSubtitle: Behind the ScreensBanner: Thumbnail (869x490): Text: 

After recruiting several other parent-and-kid combos, I set up a gaming night at my house, with a pool of players ranging from 2nd- to 6th-graders and their parents. Here’s how it went for me.

Preparations and Pregens

This might come as a shock, but not every kid wants to roll dice and slay goblins. In fact, one of those not-every-kids is none other than my own son. A couple of parents brought multiple kids, so I wasn’t surprised as things got going that my son and several of his fifth-grade friends just weren’t interested—as was also the case for a parent or two.

As a DM, it’s important to not take this personally. I told the players (kids and adults) that they were free to go play video games. What remained were two parents, a sixth-grader, a fifth-grader, an incredibly excited 2nd-grader, and my 2nd-grade daughter who just wanted to co-DM and roll the dice for me.

Because this was going to be the first time playing D&D for all the players, I wanted to run something I was familiar with so I could focus on different hooks to get them into the adventure. I opted for the Lost Mine of Phandelver adventure in the D&D Starter Set, having played it once or twice with coworkers.

Conveniently, the Starter Set also comes with a number of pregenerated characters. Though rolling up a character is great fun, I quickly realized that doing so would have taken up our whole first gaming session as I tried to help all the players create characters for the first time. It was important to get to the fun as fast as possible, and pregens are the best way to get everyone playing the game quickly.

Characters, Not Stat Blocks

As the players got ready, I went over possible character choices by focusing on play styles. For example, do you want to sneak in the shadows? Hit monsters with a sword up close, or shoot arrows from a distance? Cast magic spells? I focused on what type of heroes the players wanted to be, not on how much damage each class dealt or which race had the best features.

I did a really high-level overview of combat. Here’s a d20. On your character sheet, here’s the number you add to hit the monster. If you hit, here’s what you roll for damage. Here’s the number the monster needs to hit you. Here’s your health. For everything else, I just left it for explanation if and when it came up in the game. New players—kids and adults alike—often have short attention spans that don’t want or need a math lesson or a discussion of mechanics.

Action Heroes

A player’s first time roleplaying can be awkward, so I quickly worked through the adventure background and right into the goblin ambush to get everyone focused on the game. Once the dice were rolling, the real fun began. The party encountered a goblin ambush that turned into a classic battle of heroic successes and humorous failures. I found that the key to keeping the players hooked was spinning good dice rolls into flavored descriptions and poor rolls into comedic moments. This made the players feel like action heroes in a movie.

For example, one of the parents decided to have a character jump from a ledge down onto a goblin below. I explained that there could be consequences for stumbling on this 20-foot jump, but the player went for it anyway—and rolled low, missing the goblin. Given a chance to land without harm, the character then failed a Dexterity save, so I got to describe how the hero plummeted to the ground and landed face-first at the goblin’s feet.

At this point, one of the kids decided to try the jumping trick to save the fallen character. This time, the roll was high and the second character crashed onto the goblin. As DM, I wanted to keep the action-hero feel going, so I told the player whose character was prone on the ground to make another Dexterity check. Another low roll, so I got to describe how the kid’s character crashed down onto the goblin, which crashed into the fallen hero—who wound up taking more damage from the ally than if the goblin had just attacked with its sword.

Short and Sweet

In the end, that moment in the ambush turned out to be a pivotal point in the game, with everyone laughing and engaged in the adventure. To try to hold onto that engagement, I kept the play session short and focused. We played for about an hour and a half before pizza arrived—at which point, we lost the bulk of the players to food and video games. That was okay, though, because that was all the time it took for the night to be a huge success.

Over subsequent sessions, that first game has evolved into semi-monthly game nights that have included a Magic: The Gathering mini-tournament and a few different board games. We keep coming back to D&D, though, and I hope to write more about our games in upcoming installments of Behind the Screens.

Heroes of Hesiod

In the past, we’ve also published a shorter version of a D&D experience: The Heroes of Hesiod. An updated version of The Heroes of Hesiod will soon be available in a forthcoming Dragon+ issue.

About the Author

Tom Olsen is a senior game designer on the Dungeons & Dragons team, focusing primarily on digital projects. Tom has worked on multiple teams and projects, including D&D Insider, Magic: The Gathering Online, and various D&D licensed games, but is most proud of his work on Lords of Waterdeep for iOS.

Publication date: 06/01/2015Introduction: A couple of months ago, a friend asked me if I’d teach him and his 6th-grade son how to play D&D. I’d been thinking for a while about playing with my own kids, so this seemed like a perfect opportunity. Tags: Behind the ScreensRelated content: Column_BehindScreensexternal_urls:  External url: http://media.wizards.com/downloads/dnd/StarterSet_Charactersv2.pdfExternal url description: Starter Set Pregenerated Characters Texture banner: HideBanner video: 

Some magic items of Undermountain converted to 5e

Newbie DM - Sat, 05/30/2015 - 22:30

I’m working on slowly converting the first Undermountain boxed set (2nd Ed.) to 5e for my home game. I’ve already converted a few of the magical items included in the set, and figured I’d share them here.

They are:

  • Arrow of Holding
  • Glim Gauntlets
  • Grzeenstone Amulet
  • Ring of Gargoyles
  • Stone of Shielding
  • Spellblade
  • Scepter of Entrapment

Here’s a link to the pdf. 

If you would like to support NewbieDM.com, perhaps you’d consider visiting Amazon.com 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

Which Elemental Cult Should You Join

Wizards of the Coast D&D - Thu, 05/28/2015 - 16:37
Type: FeaturesAuthor: Tara TheoharisSubtitle: Take the QuizBanner: Thumbnail (869x490): Text: 

The forces of elemental evil are growing in the Sumber Hills, and four rival cults with it. Although the cults don’t technically “get along,” there aint no mountain high enough to keep them from coming together and wreaking havoc. With their forces combined, nothing will stop these elemental cults, but individually, they each have their own unique strengths, weaknesses, and motivations.

Are you strong like the members of the Cult of the Black Earth? Or clever like the members of the Cult of the Howling Hatred? Take this quiz and then share your results with your friends! 

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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. 

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Publication date: 05/29/2015Introduction: The Elements are recruiting! Who will you join?Tags: FeaturesRelated content: Elemental Evilexternal_urls: Texture banner: ShowBanner video: 

You Got Science in My Fantasy!

Wizards of the Coast D&D - Thu, 05/28/2015 - 11:00
Type: FeaturesAuthor: Shannon AppelclineSubtitle: D&D AlumniBanner: Thumbnail (869x490): Text: 

As it turns out, both those ideas have a very long history, with the idea of science fantasy in Dungeons & Dragons dating all the way back to the creation of the game.

Science Fantasy Origins: 1975–1985

To see that science fantasy was in the DNA of D&D from the start, you need look no further than the famous “Appendix N” from the original Dungeon Masters Guide from 1979. Appendix N’s inspirational reading lists pure fantasy series such as Robert E. Howard’s Conan books, Fritz Leiber’s tales of Fafhrd and the Gray Mouser, and Michael Moorcock’s Elric novels. But it also contains science fantasy offerings like Edgar Rice Burroughs’ Mars books, Philip José Farmer’s World of Tiers series, and Sterling Lanier’s Hiero’s Journey—a post-apocalyptic novel full of mutated animals and psychic powers!

Science fantasy was an idea that was prevalent in the 1970s, a time when genre boundaries weren’t as strict as they are today. As a result, you could find science fantasy throughout the early RPG scene. Bob Bledsaw’s Wilderlands RPG (from 1976) was full of technological artifacts, including a crashed MiG fighter jet. Dave Hargrave’s Arduin Grimoires (1977) featured aliens and space monsters. However, it was D&D cocreator Dave Arneson who brought science fantasy into D&D proper.

Like many early fantasy roleplaying settings, Arneson’s Blackmoor featured ancient technology—an idea that he introduced to the world in the 1975 Blackmoor supplement to the original D&D game. That supplement featured TSR’s first published D&D adventure, “The Temple of the Frog,” in which Arneson reveals that the temple is controlled by Stephen the Rock—“an intelligent humanoid from another world/dimension.”

A few years later, Gary Gygax’s Advanced Dungeons & Dragons adventure Expedition to the Barrier Peaks initiated a new generation of players to the ideas of science fantasy. Gygax’s adventure was first run at the Origins II Game Fair in 1976, emphasizing the early origins of science fantasy in D&D. It then came to more widespread attention with its publication four years later. Where Arneson’s “Temple of the Frog” had lightly touched upon science fantasy, Gygax’s Expedition to the Barrier Peaks dove into the genre whole-heartedly. The entire adventure is a delve into a crashed spaceship—a craft based on the Warden from TSR’s science fantasy RPG Metamorphosis Alpha (1976). Monsters like the mind flayers became alien races, while complex charts allowed players to fiddle with future tech.

After that, science fantasy quickly faded from AD&D’s adventures, though it lingered on in the Basic D&D line, which was becoming more light-hearted and experimental. Two Basic D&D adventures are of particular note. Earthshaker! (released in 1985) gave players the opportunity to delve into what was essentially a giant mecha. Later that year, Where Chaos Reigns pitted players against the futuristic oard, who had conquered the world by traveling through time. Besides having a science fantasy premise, that adventure also included futuristic technology and monsters (the latter imagined as standard D&D critters).

After 1985, players would have to seek out specially designed settings for their science fantasy fix. Fortunately, there were an ever-increasing number of them.

Science Fantasy Settings: 1984–2014

It’s not surprising that Gary Gygax and Dave Arneson were responsible for the introduction of science fantasy to D&D. Their influenced continued into the mid 1980s, when Dave Arneson returned to TSR to publish a series of Blackmoor adventures for the Basic D&D game.

Though Arneson has said that the Blackmoor setting isn’t quite as science fantasy oriented as fans might think, that impression comes from the “DA” adventures that he coauthored in the mid-1980s. These supplements included The Temple of the Frog, which was a new iteration of the classic Blackmoor dungeon that focused more than ever on its technological aspects, and City of the Gods, which detailed an entire “alien city” fallen from the sky. The science fantasy theming of the Basic D&D version of Blackmoor was so strong that some fans even used Arneson’s ancient kingdom as an explanation for the tech revealed in Earthshaker! a few years earlier.

The 1980s also saw the advent of a new proponent of science fantasy at TSR: Jeff Grubb. His earliest science fantasy contributions were to the Dragonlance world of Krynn, where he introduced the “tinker gnomes” he describes as the “technologists of Krynn.” Gnomes were mentioned here and there in the early Dragonlance adventures, but they first came to center stage in the brief visit to Mount Nevermind that occurs in Dragons of War. They’ve grown in popularity ever since.

The tinker gnomes reappeared in 1989 in Spelljammer, which was D&D’s strongest science fantasy setting ever. Much like the gnomes, the overall Spelljammer setting has a very steampunk feel to it, even though the genre was a few years away from being well recognized. It’s Jules-Verne-meets-D&D. Spaceships travel through the void, and standard monsters such as mind flayers, beholders, and lizard men have once more become alien races.

The 1990s was the age of D&D campaign settings. Two of the best known of those settings leaned toward science fantasy themes, though they were more distant from the genre than Spelljammer. The Dark Sun campaign setting (1991) told the story of a dying world, built on the planetary romance genre created by Edgar Rice Burroughs, Leigh Brackett, and others. Though it was more swords than spaceships, Dark Sun was just a small step from a full-blown science fantasy setting. The Planescape campaign setting (1994) was essentially a new way to look at the Outer Planes. However, it focused on a much more urban setting than was typical for D&D in its exploration of Sigil, the City of Doors. Planescape also adopted a “cant” language that mixed Dickensian and Elizabethan slang. Even without spaceships or ray guns, the setting felt very much like a modern fantasy world.

It took until 2004, well into the third edition of D&D, for another setting to appear that was fully steeped in science fantasy. Keith Baker’s Eberron setting was chosen as the winner of a campaign setting search organized by Wizards of the Coast. It proved that science fantasy ideas were still a valuable tool for D&D, with its inclusion of lightning-driven trains, elemental vessels, living constructs called warforged, and more—all tightly integrated into the world’s design. Of all of D&D’s science fantasy settings, Eberron has been the best supported in recent years, with core books for both third edition (Eberron Campaign Setting) and fourth edition (Eberron Campaign Guide). As well, the setting featured numerous supplements and even a computer game—the original incarnation of Atari’s Dungeons & Dragons Online in 2006.

A Gunfighting Coda

The incursions of the science fantasy genre into Dungeons & Dragons have introduced plenty of ray guns and other tech weapons. Expedition to the Barrier Peaks alone included blasters, lasers, needlers, paralysis pistols, and grenades. More commonly, D&D’s designers have opted not to go all the way to the future for their tech, instead settling on more primitive guns—but those can still do plenty to shake up a fantasy roleplaying game.

D&D’s earliest GMs were encouraged to bring guns into their fantasy worlds in the AD&D Dungeon Masters Guide, which included a short section called “Sixguns & Sorcery.” This provided not only rules for converting between AD&D and Boot Hill (TSR’s Wild West roleplaying game, first published in 1975), but it also statted up several different guns. Derringers did 1d4 damage, while other handguns did 1d8 damage. Dynamite did a whopping 4d6 damage—or 6d6 if the DM allowed a saving throw!

Firearms more fully entered the D&D game by way of the Forgotten Realms campaign setting. As a result of the Time of Troubles, Gond the Wondermaker gave the Lantanese the secret of making accurate and safe “smokepowder” guns. The Forgotten Realms Adventures supplement introduced a number of new black powder guns, including the blunderbuss (1d4 damage), the musket (1d12 damage), and the cannon-like bombard (an incredible 2d20 damage).

However, it was a one-off setting that made the most extensive use ever of guns in D&D. The campaign sourcebook A Mighty Fortress, released in 1992, was a historical campaign set in the Elizabethan Age of 16th- and 17th-century Europe. Its weaponry was a close match for the Realms’ smokepowder weaponry, but guns were much more ubiquitous in the historical setting, creating a very different dynamic.

TSR moved even further forward in time with Masque of the Red Death and Other Tales (1994), a Ravenloft supplement set in the 1890s of “Gothic Earth.” That book included a couple of pages of firearms noted as “quite accurate and reasonably safe.” That accuracy is underlined by the weapons’ stopping power, with derringers dealing 1d6 damage, larger pistols averaging 2d6 damage, and shotguns dealing 3d6 damage!

To the Future and Beyond: 2014–Present

Campaign settings such as the Forgotten Realms, Eberron, and Dark Sun have remained important in recent years. However, the fifth edition of D&D has moved technology back into the core rules—albeit as a DM’s option. Pistols (1d10 piercing damage), shotguns (2d8 piercing damage), and even antimatter rifles (6d8 necrotic damage) appear in the Dungeon Master’s Guide and are all now an official part of the D&D game. However, like so much in fifth edition, this new development is really more a matter of the game going back to its basics—because science fantasy has been at the heart of D&D since the very beginning.

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: 05/28/2015Introduction: The new Dungeon Master’s Guide is full of options for fifth edition Dungeons & Dragons, even going so far as to provide rules for explosives and alien tech in a D&D campaign. Sound weird? Tags: Featuresexternal_urls: Texture banner: HideBanner video: 


Flickr Dungeons and Dragons Tag Feed - Wed, 05/27/2015 - 18:11

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Paeta is a phase spider, and her webs travel further than the eye can see...

Categories: Dungeons and Dragons

Gnoll Warrior

Flickr Dungeons and Dragons Tag Feed - Wed, 05/27/2015 - 18:11

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Gnoll Warrior

These jackalmen are a plague on society!

Categories: Dungeons and Dragons

Veteran Players: Challenge and Opportunity

Wizards of the Coast D&D - Tue, 05/26/2015 - 11:28
Type: FeaturesAuthor: Chris LindsaySubtitle: Behind the ScreensBanner: Thumbnail (869x490): Text: 

Over the years, I’ve run D&D games for players with a variety of experience levels—from fresh-faced novitiates to thirty-year vets. And while I’ve enjoyed every minute of my gaming, I’ve found running games for experienced players to be especially rewarding. This installment of Behind the Screens looks at four broad strategies for maximizing the fun of playing with experienced players.

Make the Familiar New Again

Veteran players have seen it all. They’ve explored—and likely perished many times within—the Tomb of Horrors. The Ghost Tower of Inverness is a distant memory. Ravenloft, Planescape, Birthright, Greyhawk, Al-Qadim, and the Forgotten Realms are all familiar stomping grounds for these folks. Perhaps they’ve even taken to the stars in Spelljammer or tromped through the jungles of Maztica. They’ve fought every monster in every manual ever written, them come back for more. So how do you keep the game alive and fresh for these stalwart heroes?

One easy option is to take familiar characters and iconic adventure elements and put them into new settings. So the characters have conquered Strahd von Zarovich on his home turf of Castle Ravenloft—but did they know that he could be found haunting the streets of Waterdeep as well? Find a campaign villain that the players are accustomed to encountering in a given manner and switch that up. Get creative with it. The elder vampire becomes much more formidable when his vampire spawn are legion, creating an undead plague that threatens the folk of the city both above- and belowground. Imagine using the Xanathar Thieves’ Guild as a quest giver in this situation. Even beholder crime bosses can’t have vampires running rampant on their home turf.

Provide Focus for the Players’ Efforts

My home game is set in a post-apocalyptic fantasy world in which the population of a single large city managed to relocate (using no small amount of magic) to a place where the cataclysm that destroyed the rest of the world couldn’t reach. The downside? The location is so remote that those living in the city can’t ever leave it. Push the timeline forward a hundred years, and the denizens of the city have managed to turn their self-inflicted prison into a relatively independent and self-sustaining civilization.

So where’s the adventure? In this setting, all the characters are either members of the city’s constabulary or contractors who work directly with the constabulary on a case-by-case basis. Imagine Victorian London with no way out, or perhaps the TV series COPS with a touch of steampunk. I’ve observed that veteran players thrive on putting as much into the campaign setting as the DM does, so by providing an interesting structure for your campaign, you and the players can all focus in on stories that’ll bring the milieu to life.

Mash-Up Monsters

Whenever the outside world starts seeping into my fantasy city, all manner of problems occur. One of those problems is a race of mutant fish folk with a paralytic poison attack and the ability to implant their eggs in a host body—which then explodes if the eggs are given time to gestate. These creatures broke into the city by way of the sewer, becoming a real problem in a section of town called “the Pontoons” because it floods whenever there’s too much rain.

Now, this might sound like a creature that took a lot of time and effort to create. But it’s actually not so hard when you take the bullywug, add the poison from a carrion crawler, plus a modified version of the red slaad’s ability to implant its eggs with a melee attack. By kit-bashing these three classic critters, you can create something horrifically unrecognizable to even the most experienced players. Do keep in mind that when you create something new like this, it can play havoc with game balance. So start slow and introduce one or two such creatures to see what kind of effect they have before swarming your players with them.

And the Road Goes Ever On

There are so many stories you can engage with in your game, so don’t be afraid to include outside influences if it means you can have fun with them. Veteran players are often more flexible about such things, willing to explore all manner of rules options and paradigm changes in the interest of experiencing something new. Let the players know that you plan to monkey around with game elements in your efforts to do something cool. Missteps are inevitable, but they can also lead to unexpected fun. Don’t be afraid of failing before you start, and don’t be afraid to make adjustments on the fly if things aren’t quite working the way you want. You never know when sudden inspiration will turn into a fresh experience.

About the Author

A member of the Dungeons & Dragons brand team, Chris Lindsay is focused primarily on product development, which is a lot like herding cats in a darkened room with no doors and no windows.

Publication date: 05/26/2015Introduction: Veteran players can be one of the greatest challenges you’ll ever face as a Dungeon Master. But at the same time, veteran players are already enthusiastically invested in the hobby—so they can be a liberating opportunity as well. Tags: FeaturesRelated content: TRPG_DMGexternal_urls: Texture banner: ShowBanner video: 

Dragonlance Chronicles

Flickr Dungeons and Dragons Tag Feed - Mon, 05/25/2015 - 08:51

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Dragonlance Chronicles

Dragonlance Chronicles by Margaret Weis & Tracy Hickman, British Collector's Edition, TSR/Penguin, 1988. ISBN 0-14-011540-4.

Categories: Dungeons and Dragons

Lessons from Memorializing D&D characters

dungeonmastering.com - Mon, 05/25/2015 - 01:55
Happy Memorial Day from all of us here at DungeonMastering.com & we hope it was a good ‘long weekend’ for everyone.  Previously we’ve written a somewhat solemn tribute to those...

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Dekanter Goblin

Flickr Dungeons and Dragons Tag Feed - Sat, 05/23/2015 - 18:30

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Dekanter Goblin

Bizarre, mutated goblinoids from the Dekanter mines little resemble their kin.

Categories: Dungeons and Dragons

Caller In Darkness

Flickr Dungeons and Dragons Tag Feed - Sat, 05/23/2015 - 18:30

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Caller In Darkness

Many spirits have joined together, becoming a cacophany of the netherworld.

Categories: Dungeons and Dragons

April Survey Results

Wizards of the Coast D&D - Fri, 05/22/2015 - 23:10
Type: NewsBanner: Thumbnail (869x490): Text: 

With another month behind us, it’s time for another D&D survey. First of all, thanks to everyone who takes the time to fill these out. The feedback loop we’ve established is hugely important to keep the game healthy. There are many ways you can spend your time, and devoting a few minutes each month to providing feedback goes a long way. So, thanks for helping out!

Last time, we asked you some basic questions about how often you play D&D, the life cycle of your campaigns, what you thought of the character races in comparison to each other, and if you enjoyed the Adventurers League content we’ve produced.

Let’s talk a bit about the nature of the typical D&D fifth edition campaign. According to survey results, the typical campaign meets once per week and has been running since the game’s release. It takes place in the Forgotten Realms. If the game ends, it will be because scheduling becomes too difficult. Luckily, within a month people involved in a game that ended have already launched a new one.

Most of you are still playing in the 1st to 6th level range. You pine for a game that runs all the way to 20th level, but agree that your most likely end point is around levels 10 to 12. You’ve been happy with the adventures we’ve published so far, but seem to have a preference more open-ended, sandbox style adventures.

Regarding races, we saw a definite trend that the smaller races (halflings, gnomes) are seen as the weakest options by the community. It’s dangerous for us to delve into why that is at this point, but it is an overall trend that we will examine in the future. As we’ve noted in the past, when it comes to any potential changes to the game we’ll take a slow, considered approach. The first step will be to develop a clearer understanding of why trends emerge, the root causes behind them, and if they need any sort of mechanical option to address them.

Overall, as a group you’re quite happy with the Adventurers League. The Adventurers League staff has done a great job in producing adventures that people have been happy to play and run. The adventures designed specifically for the Adventurers League mostly scored higher than the adaptation of the Tyranny of Dragons adventures for D&D Encounters. There is definitely a tension between creating an adventure that covers levels 1 to 15 and is meant for weekly, home play, versus the more episodic approach taken with the rest of the Adventurers League content. It’s a topic we’ve talked about and brainstormed some ways in which we can improve on an already strong program.

Once more, thanks for providing your input and helping guide the future of a game we all play and love.

The Latest Survey

We’re also looking for participation in our latest survey.

Publication date: 05/26/2015Introduction: Another month brings another D&D feedback survey.Tags: Newsexternal_urls: Texture banner: ShowBanner video: 


Flickr Dungeons and Dragons Tag Feed - Fri, 05/22/2015 - 12:00

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Categories: Dungeons and Dragons

Di Undici Foglie - Subcreation of the First Illustration - Dino Olivieri

Flickr Dungeons and Dragons Tag Feed - Thu, 05/21/2015 - 08:15

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Di Undici Foglie - Subcreation of the First Illustration - Dino Olivieri

this is the subcreation process of the first illustration of my next real book (not an ebook) "Di Undici Foglie".

Please support me and pre-order at:

illustrazione tratta dal mio nuovo romanzo cartaceo (non un ebook) "Di Undici Foglie".

Perfavore contribuite alla causa e pre-acquistate su:

Illustration from ebook "Di Undici Foglie" by Dino Olivieri
Luce - Di Undici Foglie © Dino Olivieri (low res)
all rights reserved.

More amazing stories on www.onyrix.com
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Categories: Dungeons and Dragons

In honor of Letterman: Top 10 Funniest Things PC’s Said

dungeonmastering.com - Thu, 05/21/2015 - 01:57
Tonight, David Letterman (along with the help of the irreplaceable Bill Murray) read his very last Top Ten List.  In homage to Dave & the countless laughs he caused, here is a D&D list of the...

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