Kobold Press deals a winning hand with Deck of Beasts
Greetings Nerdarchy readers! Has anyone told you that you are awesome today? Well you are, and I believe that awesome people deserve equally awesome things. That being said, I have had the immense pleasure to speak to Kobold Press’s Wolfgang Baur and Inkwell Ideas’ Joe Wetzel about a product they created that has not only amazed me but impressed me. Their creative minds have shuffled together to deal us the amazing, the stupendous, the inspiring Deck of Beasts and Sidequest Decks!
What are these items I speak of you ask? Well let me tell you dear Nerdarchy reader about a dark age in gaming where one would have to lug around entire books just to include one monster. These days, the dark ages if you will, your Dungeon Master would have to turn and reference things which could take up valuable time. As a Dungeon Master, I always wanted to show the amazing artwork detailing the monster they were facing.
Despite my illustrious ability to spout adjectives with prolific prose, a picture is indeed worth a thousand words. Well this is where the Deck of Beasts comes in.
Each card in this deck has a great work of art coordinated by Marc Radle depicting the monster in question. You may even recognize the work of Eva Widermann of Hearthstone and Magic: The Gathering fame. On the other side of each card is the stat block for the monster, ready to be clipped to your Dungeon Master Screen for simple and easy reference. I know my Dungeon Master and I both enjoyed making hands of cards to show combined encounters. Like how goblins and ogres group together is as easy as having two cards out as opposed to bouncing from one end of a book to another. [EDITOR’S NOTE: Nerdarchy has a review of the Dungeon Master’s Screen Reincarnated on our YouTube channel here.]
The trump card is that the Deck of Beasts are not done. Joe Wetzel and Wolfgang Baur have both shown not just an ability but an eagerness to continue and create. Like the numerically inclined Monster Manuals of yesteryear, Kobold Press is demonstrating a propensity for creation akin to Frankenstein. Not just the inkling to do so, but an all consuming drive. To this end, I believe that you can safely place your bets on enough product to sate your appetite for some time to come.
Now for me, I need to let you know something that impressed me about this deck. Every single creature within the Deck of Beasts is original. That isn’t to say they are wild and crazy things without ties to Dungeons & Dragons. No, they are expansions to existing creatures or applying the worlds of magic to creatures of the ordinary. From clockwork spiders to mole bears – things that my ranger hates with a passion. These creatures have ties to the worlds of fifth edition D&D that allow you to fit them into your world easily. Through massive amounts of beta testing, the Deck of Beasts is not going to break your game either. In fact, rangers could use some as animal companions and the druid could wildshape to some. I am sure a Path of the Totem barbarian could use many as a totem guide as well. The possibilities are endless. Imagine a kingdom where domestic animals are replaced by clockworks!
Deck of Beasts interview
Below is my quick Q&A with Joe Wetzel and Wolfgang Baur. Wolfgang is in Blue, while Joe is in red.
1. What was your inspiration on these decks? Some cards are amazingly unique while still retaining the breath and flavor of the game in general.
This is mostly Joe. For my side, the Tome of Beasts was created to bring a TON of new monsters to 5th Edition, just because I love monsters. And Joe Wetzel did an amazing job condensing those big writeups into convenient, portable cards that you can throw into an adventure book or keep clipped to your DM screen during play.
I found the Tome of Beasts to be filled with inspiring monsters with unique abilities. One in the Deck of Beasts: Low-Level Creatures is the Eonic Drifter who can do a cool time-shift ability. It is nice to see designers step outside of the box. We took those great Tome of Beasts monsters and condensed 90+ of them to a more portable format, while keeping all the game rule information.
All Joe: I know he has plans for more decks, and has a bunch already in print.For me, the follow up to Tome of Beasts is a new monster book that we’re already working on. Title is still under discussion, and if all goes well, the Kickstarter will launch in October or November.We are mostly done with a second deck focusing on creatures with challenge ratings 3 through 5. The first deck (Deck of Beasts: Low-Level Creatures) had all the creatures with challenge ratings 0 through 2 – plus a few creatures that naturally fit together such as the higher challenge clockworks because the deck already had most of the clockworks. The second deck will likewise add a few higher challenge creatures where there is a natural fit. This new deck should be ready in about a month.
As I said above I like creatures with unusual abilities, but I also like creatures that fit a purpose in a dungeon or environment. I’ll go with the map mimic because I’m also the creator of the map-making software Hexographer, Dungeonographer, Cityographer & Worldographer and that creature gives players who have been desensitized to mimics a new one they may not anticipate.
Sure, the Tome of Beasts went through a two-year design and development process. The monsters were created, sent out to several hundred playtesters, and the stats and CR were revised based on actual play (with a few exceptions: the Challenge 20+ monsters were tough to find playtest groups for!). Kobold Press also had the chance to work with Wizards of the Coast developer Steve Winter, who created his own reverse-engineered math for 5th Edition monsters (published on the Kobold Press blog), and who has a keen eye for playability and potential pitfalls. Mostly, we spent time looking at what happened at tables as much as what happened on spreadsheets.
Wolfgang’s answered this well.
Art director Marc Radle worked with artists who have done amazing work over the years for Kobold Press, plus some newcomers like Eva Widermann, who has done work for Hearthstone and Magic: the Gathering. The monster’s look is a key part of its appeal, so our art budget for the project was much higher than a typical 400-page sourcebook. We strive to make the images rich enough to draw you in, and then the text be inspiring enough to lead to a cool encounter.To add to Wolfgang’s answer, in the Deck of Beasts we’ve added backgrounds to most of the creature art as a bonus and a way to know the creature’s usual environment.
Our RPG resource card deck line will continue to expand with more NPC Portraits Decks (portrait on one side and system neutral personality/background on the other side) and Sidequest Decks (mini-adventure on each card: one side is the map, the other side is an adventure outline) as well as more Creature Decks. As for room feature/action cards, we’ve got a pretty full slate but I like that idea… I’ll have to let it percolate.
Definitely! What are your stats? And what special attacks do you have? :)
While we have a sharp 5th Edition focus, Kobold Press does plenty of Pathfinder products. Inkwell supports 5th Edition, Pathfinder, FATE, OSR, and …. Dungeon World, I think.In addition to 5E we (Inkwell Ideas) do support Pathfinder, Fate, and OSR. We did do some Dungeon World, but I can’t think well in that system. We’re looking at what we can do in Starfinder. And many of our products are system neutral such as the map software, the NPC and Sidequest cards, among others.
Hoo boy, definitely not for Kobold Press! Those are hugely complex games and best left to much larger companies.So many ideas, so little time!
I think Inkwell Ideas already offers one!
Yep, we’ve done several already. Four decks cover all the official creatures we can legally republish, broken down by creature type (Aberrations, Fiends, & More; Beasts, Oozes, & Plants; Constructs, Giants, Humanoids, & Undead; and Dragons & Monstrosities). And three more decks have creatures converted from 3.5. They are in our store ( https://store.inkwellideas.com/collections/5e-creature-decks ) or on DriveThru/RPGNow (http://www.rpgnow.com/browse/pub/4450/Inkwell-Ideas/subcategory/8587_25422/5e-Creature-Decks)
So those are my thoughts on the Deck of Beasts. I can say that I wish this creation from Kobold Press and Inkwell Ideas was created years ago. From my need to memorize stats to sheer time saving and organization, the Deck of Beasts is a creation every gamer should invest in. Trust me, you will not regret it.
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Nubz hails from the American Pacific Northwest where he has spent the last 24 years living the gamer life and running campaigns of all kinds. Through this he has managed to sate his acting bug and entertain many. Now a father, he wishes to pursue writing to leave a legacy in Nerd culture for his offspring to enjoy.