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.
Like Nerdarchists Dave and Ted and Nate the Nerdarch mention in the video above, psionics has been a part of Dungeons & Dragons since 1st edition Advanced Dungeons & Dragons. In the interest of utmost accuracy, the supernatural power of psionics were first introduced to D&D in Eldritch Wizardry, a 1976 supplemental rulebook for the original edition. Also of note are the other now-iconic facets of D&D included in that 60-page digest: the druid class, demons and demon lords like Orcus and Demogorgon, mind flayers, and artifacts like the Rod of Seven Parts and Axe of the Dwarvish Lords.
With those bits of long forgotten secrets behind us now, let’s turn our clairsentience to the future. Based on hints and bits of information shared through social media and in interviews, a fifth edition D&D iteration of Dark Sun is almost certain.
We’ve already got the mystic class available through the Dungeon Master’s Guild, giving D&D players the opportunity to utilize the awesome power of psionics in D&D 5E.
There are two approaches to scaling encounters for players when using lower CR monsters. The first is to just add more of the same. The second is to change how they are used, or use them in a way in which they act in concert with another monster type or mechanic.
As you might guess, I am more of a fan of the latter over the former. Changing perspectives or tactics is what “Out of the Box” is all about. Furthermore, I like to draw upon other games or activities as inspirations at times.
The game I would like to call upon this time is one that was a tactical tabletop game that I used to play that involved, well, let’s say giant battle robots with pilots inside. There are a few out there. Pick your favourite as a reference and we’ll call it fair. The game in question isn’t as important as the visual.
Furthermore, the visual from inside this construct isn’t as important as the visual from those facing these constructs.
The gift that keeps on giving! Nord Games’ Ultimate Bestiary: Revenge of the Horde inspired not one but TWO videos on the Nerdarchy YouTube channel, plus a review here on the website. And now its generating another post.
In the video above, Nerdarchists Dave and Ted and Nate the Nerdarch talk about their favorite monstrous humanoids in fifth edition Dungeons & Dragons. They each choose two, discuss the appeal and explore a bit why and how they’ve used them in games, either as player characters or as a Dungeon Master.
It’s worth noting that there is no official “monstrous humanoid” designation in D&D. There’s just straight-up humanoids. Many of them are most certainly monstrous though! Also, despite appearing in the Revenge of the Horde book, ogres and trolls are not humanoids – they’re giants. But in defense of the book, there is no claim made limiting the creature types to humanoids, simply “classic monstrous races.”
And minotaurs are monstrosities.
According to the current D&D Beyond monster database containing material up to and including Tales from the Yawning Portal, there are 231 humanoids in official D&D content. Many are individuals from various adventures and campaigns like Pharblex Spattergoo, an NPC from Hoard of the Dragon Queen. Aside from official sources, there’s plenty of third-party material like the Ultimate Bestiary. Continue reading Top Ten D&D Monstrous Humanoids
One of the greatest inspirations any Dungeon Master can have is actually pretty obvious: Other DMs. Seeing how others create and design encounters can colour how we do things, sometimes for years to follow. I’ve had two great DMs in my own past with radically different styles who both create brilliant worlds to both imagine and play in, as well as create investment in their players.
Their styles, though different, achieve this by inspiring the players with their challenges and their point of view. Celebrity DMs like Matt Mercer, Chris Perkins and Matt Colville are also different, and all are brilliant in their own way…but I’d like to include one more in that list. Jerry Holkins. Jerry is more familiar to most as “Omin Dran” in Chris Perkins’ Acquisitions Incorporated campaign. Jerry is also a brilliant DM in his own right and has such a unique point of view as to make him my inspiration for this article. [EDITOR’S NOTE: Jerry Holkins can be seen weekly as the DM for Acquisitions Incorporated: The C Team.]
Since 2012, the Kobold Press imprint has produced some of the best-received third-party content for fifth edition Dungeons & Dragons. Their biggest release – both in terms of sheer size and tabletop roleplaying game culture penetration – is the Tome of Beasts. The 433-page book of monsters is a staple on the shelf of countless D&D players, as iconic and indispensable as the Monster Manual for many Dungeon Masters (myself included).
If I hear any refrain commonly online and with other Dungeon Masters, it’s “but my players are X level. How do I challenge them?”
Truth be told, challenging players of any level isn’t hard. It only requires you address the players behind the characters and not the sheets those players use as references. Setting up the encounter ahead of time properly will really set up any encounter correctly. The setting may add to any deception or misdirection as needed.
Some DMs forget their player characters may be optimized for certain aspects, considering others to be either unimportant or “unfair.” I’ve seen tables where the Old School brigade of D&D players tank their Charisma scores for physical or spellcasting characteristics (unless they need them to do so). I’ve seen others completely take the minimum on Strength or Intelligence scores, and argue they lack any importance to the game outside of specific circumstances.
A couple of days have passed since returning home from Gen Con 50 adventure. Decompression and recovery efforts were successful – getting back to the gym and catching up on sleep work wonders!
All the physical stuff is unpacked, flipped through wistfully, played again, read, and admired now on the shelf. So I thought I’d unpack the intangibles to share. The memories, experiences and lessons for fellow nerds and gamers.
Last week I did a review on a fifth edition Dungeons & Dragons homebrew I particularly liked. Namely the Dark Arts Player’s Companion. This week has been an interesting one. I have gotten rave reviews, decently high traffic, and some not so nice rants too. I have learned a few things that people like and things they don’t like. The most important thing, I have learned what people like to see. Here is what I have learned, and I hope it helps you in your own homebrew. Continue reading D&D Homebrew: What I’ve Learned
In a previous installment on Spelljammer content for fifth edition Dungeons & Dragons, the warlock peered into oblivion and came back with some nifty new options courtesy of Deep Magic: Void Magic from Kobold Press. But can darkness exist without light? (Actually, yes – in physics terms darkness is an absence of radiation.) But where’s the fun in that? New options for a D&D game is the juice!
There is a balance to the encroaching Void in my home campaign of D&D taking place in a Spelljammer-esque setting. A warlock can strike a bargain with a star drake in the same fashion as with a void dragon. The Illumination Pact warlock acts as a counterpoint to the Void Pact. In both situations, excellent material from Kobold Press does the heavy lifting. For the Illumination warlock, Deep Magic: Illumination Magic is the source material.
Star drakes and void dragons both appear in the Tome of Beasts. Both of these amazing creatures fired my imagination on all cylinders when I began conceptualizing the Spelljammer elements introduced to a traditional D&D campaign early on. I won’t reveal too much about the specifics here, since my players read these articles. But as more is revealed to them through our gameplay sessions those details will be shared.
When D&D players, and indeed player characters, think of monsters, they tend to think of them as simply combat applications or access roads to treasure. They forget the majority are born, live, mate, grow and live full lives until the PCs find them. In these unknown moments, there are a lot of ways to take a simple monster encounter.
Some old school D&D dungeons would present moments where goblin or orc young would be encountered, giving the PCs a moral dilemma. This same opportunity exists for an entire range of monsters and beasts, be they bears, owlbears, werebears, or giant zombie were-dino-bears (any use of that last entry is entirely upon the Dungeon Master. I’m not to blame).
Many (if not all or some) types of monsters are almost exclusively seen in their adult form, and are androgynous sacks of hit points with a certain number of attacks. This is especially true if the exact nature of these creatures is not fully known. Whereas it is true creatures like demons or devils are not “born” per se, this truth is not upheld for other monsters from other non-prime material plane locales. This is a lost opportunity.
You know how sometimes D&D characters come off as too perfect? There’s hardly anything as annoying as a character who can do absolutely no wrong, the one the player steps in the way and has to backpedal and retcon endlessly because “Oh, that was a mistake and my precious character wouldn’t have made one.” That character.