Review: Hunted!

Posted by Benoit de Bernardy on Saturday, September 16, 2017

“Hunted!” is a Dungeons and Dragons adventure for characters of levels 5 to 7 written by critically acclaimed author Tony Petrecca. It’s a three to five hour module in which the PCs try to discover who or what is raiding the winter stores of the friendly thorp of Northwood's Rest. The villagers will be quick to blame the Hunting Claw orcs to the North, but the culprits are much more sinister.

“Hunted!” is the type of adventure I enjoy the most. It’s a series of encounters and places in which the story behind the livestock attacks gradually unfolds, while at the same time, offering an interesting mix of combat, exploration, and social interactions. Players who enjoy story-focused adventures will absolute love this one.

Besides the great backstory, the module is also a delight to read. Tony has a unique style that combines captivating descriptions, a proper choice of words without sounding pompous, and a bit of humor to lighten the mood. The adventure also has clean and functional layouts, color maps by Elven Tower, and awesome new monsters!

My only problem with the module is that sometimes, Tony is a bit too brief in his explanations. Most DMs will be able to improvise in these situations, but I prefer having all the information in a published adventure and decide which parts to use, than not having the information at all. I find that building on top of someone else’s ideas yields better results than filling the gaps. Ultimately, this is just a design choice that Tony made, not a flaw, and I’m sure many DMs out there prefer more compact adventures.

Fletcher's Rest

Posted by Josh Kelly on Monday, July 10, 2017

"My fellow guests at this arboreal wonderland were kind enough to treat me to a mug of ale or four in exchange for a song and a story. By morning, the courage that made me sleep in one of the infamous hammocks had fled. I found myself grabbing on to the nearest branch with all my strength, transfixed by the ground one hundred feet below. There I remained until the innkeeper’s son could pry me loose and sit me down at the breakfast table."

- Talia Talespinner

Fletcher’s Rest is a tavern and road house that sits near the banks of the Kingsblood, a wide and swiftly flowing river with few safe places to cross for hundreds of miles in either direction. It is built within and around the trunk of a massive sequoia tree. The tree, rumored to be fey in origin, is the largest of the many giant sequoias in the dense forest around the tavern.

The only building on the ground floor is the stable. From there, a wide staircase winds up around the trunk of the tree to the feasting hall and the kitchen, a hundred feet above the forest floor. These main rooms have been partially burrowed inside the trunk of the tree. From there, a dozen rope bridges lead to small cottages scattered throughout the tree’s branches. Lodgings at Fletcher's Rest don’t come cheap, though open-air hammocks are available for guests who have more sense of thrift than fear of heights.

Review: Arcane Armoury Vol. 1

Posted by Benoit de Bernardy on Friday, March 17, 2017

Arcane Armoury Vol. 1 is a Dungeons and Dragons 5th edition supplement that you can download for free on the Dungeon Master’s Guild. The book is composed of two chapters of uneven length: a large one with 40ish new magic items, and a smaller one with a few special materials.

The selection of magic items in the first part of the book is truly spectacular. It ranges from nearly useless trinkets for an adventure, such as the Potion of Absolution which makes everybody forget you exist, to must have items, such as the Eyes of the Spectator which allow you to shoot beholder-like rays from your eyes. It also includes some funny magic items, such as the Claws of Chaos which turn your hands into ludicrous weapons, to near-artifacts with crippling side effects, such as the Circlet of Netherdeath which makes you immune to death at the cost of aging a year per day you wear it.

I was unimpressed with the second chapter of Arcane Armoury. The special materials allow you to tinker with non-magical items. You get a benefit in exchange for a penalty. For example, heavy armor made of Darksteel grants you a +1 bonus to AC but imposed a 5 feet penalty to your speed. There’s nothing inherently wrong with the special materials, I just find magic items more interesting!

Review: Wolves of Welton

Posted by Benoit de Bernardy on Friday, March 3, 2017

The Wolves of Welton is a 5th edition Dungeons and Dragons module for characters of 2nd or 3rd level by Winghorn Press. It’s a one-shot investigation in which the PCs try to discover why a pack of wolves has suddenly become more cunning and aggressive. It features a decent mix of exploration, roleplaying, and combat, which is an absolute rarity for an adventure this short.

The module is fairly straightforward. In the first scene of the adventure, the PCs help a group of shepherds defend their herd against wolves. The characters then learn that this wasn’t the first attack, and that the wolves have been plaguing Welton for weeks. The adventurers then need to locate the wolves’ den and find a solution to the problem.

What surprised me the most when reading this adventure was how well-written it was. The descriptions are captivating and evocative, and they really help set the mood. The NPCs at the end of the module are also charming and convincing, and make Welton stand out from the dozens of other D&D villages that DMs have imaged over the years.

Review: Reign of the Ice King

Posted by Benoit de Bernardy on Friday, February 17, 2017

Reign of the Ice King is a short Dungeons and Dragons 5th edition module for characters of around level 10. It’s a classic dungeon crawl in which the PCs help the people of Termalaine get rid of a self-proclaimed frost giant king and his minions. The adventure normally takes place in the Forgotten Realms but you can easily adapt it to just about any town during the winter.

Reign of the Ice King is as old school as it gets, and reading it made me oddly nostalgic. The plot is spot on what you would expect from an adventure in the Forgotten Realms—kill the frost giant who is extorting money from the villagers—and the eBook really reminded me of the modules TSR used to publish back in the 90s (especially the cover by Eugene Jaworski). While the dungeon delve is mostly Diablo-like hack’n slash, Reign of the Ice King still features an interesting combat on a bridge against a white dragon, and an opportunity to use ruse and trickery to make the rest of the dungeon crawl easier. Because the plot is so basic, the module is very easy to prepare, making it ideal for any DM who only has an hour left before his game session!

Goblin’s Guide to Self-Publishing

Posted by Benoit de Bernardy on Wednesday, January 25, 2017

When I first started working on Goblin Stone, I had no idea what I was doing. It took me time to figure everything out, and I made many mistakes that cost me a lot of money. I turns out that publishing a book isn’t that difficult, it’s just a matter of knowing the steps involved in the process, and more importantly, the order in which to do them.

Step 1: Writing the Draft

This is the most obvious step, but it’s also one of the hardest. Writing for others is not the same as writing for yourself: you need to be extra clear in your explanations and make sure that you properly introduce all the mechanical terms, NPCs, places, and plot elements before you use them. Writing an adventure is even harder because you’ll need to organize your document in a clear and logical way, otherwise, DMs will spend too much time finding the information they’re looking for, nobody will have fun because of the waiting, and those bad reviews will quickly kill your book.

At this step, you shouldn’t waste your energy on polishing your writing. By the time you’re done with your first draft, you’ll probably have rewritten nearly every paragraph twice, and you’ll most likely make more changes after you show your draft to your friends and family.

Review: Shadows on the Long Road

Posted by Benoit de Bernardy on Thursday, January 19, 2017

Shadows on the Long Road is a one-shot Dungeon and Dragons 5th edition adventure for characters of 3rd or 4th level. The module is supposed to take place in the Forgotten Realms but you can easily adapt it to pretty much anywhere. You can get the adventure as a standalone product, or as part of M.T. Black’s latest bundle, both of which are available on the Dungeon Master’s Guild.

At its core, Shadows on the Long Road is a dungeon crawl. As the PCs are traveling along the Long Road, they accidently get trapped into a gloomy demi-plane (Ravenloft?), and then have to find a way to get out. The characters eventually come across Saltmarsh Manor where they receive a warm welcome, and are even invited for dinner and to stay over for the night…

Unfortunately, the life of an adventure isn’t so easy. Something bad will happen to the characters if they linger around, and they will have to explore the manor if they are to escape. The dungeon crawl awaiting the PCs is exquisite! M.T. uses a clever combination of compelling descriptions and classic horror movie clichés to set the mood, and the result is simply outstanding. The structure of the adventure is also solid (you’ll only need to read it once to run it), and there are surprisingly few mistakes for a self-edited document.

Review: Encounters in the Savage Frontier

Posted by Benoit de Bernardy on Friday, January 13, 2017

Encounters in the Savage Frontier is a collection of 24 side treks for the 5th edition of Dungeons and Dragons written by some of the most prolific and talented authors of the Dungeon Master’s Guild. With the quality of the encounters ranging from good to excellent, this is the perfect supplement for DMs looking to spice up their games and keep their players busy when their characters go off the beaten path.

What makes this product truly noteworthy is the broad number of situations the side treks cover. Encounter in the Savage Frontier features some tactical combats, small dungeon crawls, serious and humorous roleplaying encounters, dark mysteries, and even a poetic fox hunt. There’s a little bit of everything for everybody, except for high level characters.

Even though the entire content is excellent, some things really stood out when I first read this eBook. I had noticed Richard Jansen-Parkes’s name while skimming through the Dungeon Master’s Guild but I had never actually read his work. It turns out he’s an incredibly talented writer and I’m looking forward to reading more of his adventures. I knew of Glen Cooper’s vivid imagination but he really surpassed himself with The Tree with No Name. JVC Parry's Omnius the Many-Eyed surprised me because of its original way to get the PCs back on track in an adventure, and Tony Petrecca's Pa Tol was a blast to read.

The Noble Knight

Posted by Benoit de Bernardy on Thursday, December 22, 2016

A couple of months ago, I opened a history book for the first time since high school, and I realized I had no idea what a knight was. I imaged them as noble warriors who lived by a strict code of conduct and defended the weak from tyranny and oppression. The reality, however, wasn’t as glamourous…

In this article, I’m going to talk about knights and nobles. I’ll explain what they were, how to include them in your Dungeons and Dragons world, and what the latter implies. Hopefully, it will also mean the beginning of many fun adventures you never thought were possible.

The Tiny Kings

For most of the Middles Ages, when a king wanted to reward one of his warriors for his valor in combat, he would make him a knight and let him rule over a portion of his kingdom. On their land, knights could raise taxes, make their own laws (to some extent), and exercised justice. They also possessed an army to defend it.

The kings’ favorite warriors could also award a parcel of their domain to their subordinates and make them knights. The person receiving the land was the vassal, and the one granting the land was the liege. These rulers, named nobles, controlled a territory, which was their manor or fief.

This system ensured that every town and village had someone to protect it from bandits and “barbarian” invasions, but it also had problems of its own. Nobles mostly lived to fight, and they often went to war with each other. During most of the Middle Ages, the kings didn’t have the military power to keep their knights in check, and the nobles were the de facto kings of their own small country.

Review: The Fasting Worm at the Spider Feast

Posted by Benoit de Bernardy on Sunday, December 18, 2016

“The Fasting Worm at the Spider Feast” is a Dungeons and Dragons 5th Edition module for a party of 3-5 players around level 8. The adventure is a one-shot dungeon dive into a demon lord’s snake-like carcass that will delight any player who enjoys discovering the world and its lore.

The module features some interesting NPCs, a few cleverly thought-out encounters, a morally challenging dilemma, and a perfect introduction to the Underdark and to drow society. What makes this adventure truly exceptional, though, is the backstory, and in particular, Remley Farr’s original take on the origins of the purple worm.

The strength of the module, however, is also its weakness. The adventure sometimes feels like a short novel about the demon lord Shomarrah and her confrontation with Lolth, and it will probably leave the more action-orientated players wanting more.

The art is very good and enhances the immersion of the reader, the editing is impeccable, and the layout is basic but clean and easy to navigate. Overall, this is a solid adventure that is well worth the download (it’s free), even if you only intend to shameless steal the backstory.