A Review of the 5th Edition D&D Monster Manual

My review of the Player’s Handbook, here, was fairly positive. Okay, perhaps overwhelmingly so. Beyond a few fairly glaring indexing issues in the magic section, I found the book to be delightful and highly useable. Having now received the second in the holy trinity of rulebooks, can the same be said for the Monster Manual?

The book is, of course, quite different than the Player’s Handbook, and this review will reflect that. As more of a reference tool, or as a collection of pieces for the DM to use, there’s simply less to review. But, I am sure I can find quite a bit to say.

 

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A Review of the 5th Edition D&D Monster Manual

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A Review of the 5th Edition D&D Player’s Handbook

I’ve had the PHB since the 19th, but I didn’t want to churn out a review as soon as a I got my grubby paws on it. I kind of wanted to play around with it, let it simmer a bit. Flip through it at my leisure, what have you.

What actually happened is that I’ve managed to read it front to back three times now. Let’s just say I’m a bit obsessed with RPGs anyway, so a new edition of my favorite game is hard to resist consuming (multiple times).

Anyway, here are some of my principal impressions. I’m going to try to keep it simple, though this post will end up long. The main question I’ll be leading with is: Is this a book that compels me to play the new edition, and lends itself to table use?

My review will be separated into First Impressions, which will mainly concern the book, art, and layout, and then Digging Into It, in which I will speak about the crunch and fluff and the use of the book in play. Then of course I will wrap up with some closing thoughts.

 

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A Review of the 5th Edition D&D Player’s Handbook

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East, to the Holy Mountain

Fair warning: this post is very rambling, going in every which direction. This is because I’m coming up with ideas while talking about my inspirations as I write. Hopefully it’s not too weird.

I like to consider myself a writer, however amateurish I might be. I write a lot of stuff that never sees the light of day, I participate yearly in “NaNoWriMo“, and I feel like I have a pretty good handle on the basics of cultivating creativity. What I need to work is the back-end stuff. The finishing, the editing, the taking that creativity and turning it into something worthwhile.

One of the biggest fonts for creativity for me is music. We are all affected by music emotionally, and that definitely feeds into my creativity. When I am writing, I am almost always doing so with music playing. Usually this music is Metal, Rock, or some variation of Folk music, which I think provides such a wide range of ideas and emotions.

Another source of inspiration that I draw from frequently is mythology, folklore, and spirituality. I’m sure this has been pretty evident from anyone that has read this blog for a while.

Anyway, the reason why I’m talking about this is because recently I’ve been fomenting different things in my brain pan in order to come up with an adventure I’d like to write that would be a little bit different from other things I’ve done. At its core would be the Holy Mountain, a symbolic stand in for the sacred places, paths, and goals of mysticism, esoteric philosophies, and religions all over the world. Much of the inspiration and the blueprint will be based on pilgrimages and sacred journeys. I want to couple this with the symbolic ideas behind a lot of metal and other music that I enjoy. I’d like to write an adventure that draws its ideas out of both mysticism and that emotional rush and adrenaline that I get from heavier music.

This post will essentially be me talking about this adventure I’d like to write. Feel free to take the ideas and run with them. Hopefully I will have the actual adventure written sometime this year. I’m actually going to be using NaNoWriMo as a “rebel” this november, spending the 50,000 word count exclusively on my blog. I’m hoping a good chunk of that will be on this adventure.

 

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East to the Holy Mountain

An Adventure Idea

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The Hill Dwarves of Trobal’Brae and the Fenglennarry Highlands, Part III

Here it is! The third and final part of this setting module about Hill Dwarves. I hope I’ve given you something to work with, maybe helping you make Hill Dwarves a little more than the boring cousins of Mountain Dwarves.

This section will detail the Northern Taiga, that wild land north of the Fenglennary Highlands. The focus of this post will be adventure ideas and lore. Please enjoy!

 

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(Snowy Forest – Andreas Achenbach)

The Northern Taiga

North of the Fenglennary Highlands

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The Hill Dwarves of Trobal’Brae and the Fenglennarry Highlands, Part II

Finally! I’ve struggled through this post due to some writer’s block, but here it is. First, however, if you don’t mind clicking here and voting on that poll, I’d be appreciative. That is the first post I’ve ever done on the blog, and I still look to that poll to lead the content. So if you haven’t voted on what you’d like to see, please do so!

In this second part, I will go into detail about the Hill Dwarf town of Trobal’Brae and the people and places you can find within.

These two posts together should provide you with a good setting springboard for an adventure or two, or as a place to stick somewhere in your hex crawl. As always, feedback and suggestions are not only welcome but urged.

The third and final post will focus on the northern wilds, called The Taiga, expanding on the adventure oppurtunities.

 

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Trobal’Brae

What is there to say about the Trobal’brae? Everything’s muddy; the streets, the dogs, the dwarves, even the ale. I suppose it’s also home.

-Gwil Goldensong, King of the Fenglennarry Highlands

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The Hill Dwarves of Trobal’Brae and the Fenglennarry Highlands, Part I

Tales abound of the staunch and heroic mountain dwarves, and of the vile schemes of the shadowy deep dwarves. But of the hill dwarves, there seems to be little to tell. The most humble of the dwarven tribes, civilizations, or subraces, they seem to fit seamlessly into human and halfling society.

Those that look, however, will find that there are some things to tell after all.

This first part will detail the Hill Dwarves of the Fenglennarry Highlands as well as the Highlands themselves. The second part will detail the town of Trobal’brae as well as mention locations near the highlands, like the northern taiga.

Trobal’brae is a town for use in your campaign, centered on a Hill Dwarf society. My goal with the town and it’s surroundings is to be easily slipped into a campaign, or plopped down somewhere in a hexcrawl. While not containing any sort of complete adventures, it will provide you with a good amount of adventure seeds and NPCs to get your own ball rolling.

The idea for this setting module actually comes from a campaign that I am a part of that my group plays off and on, in which all of the PCs are Dwarven Kings. It was an ‘epic’ level campaign, and my particular King was actually a bard. Sort of the odd man out, his kingdom was a small highland region of hill dwarves. I’ve enjoyed playing him, so in a way this is sort of an ode to that character. I sort of just lifted the kingdom out of our home world (Taern) and detailed it more thoroughly, so that you might use it.

(As an aside, I was recently invited on the podcast Warmachine V. Warhorse to discuss dark fairy tales and to insult the hosts. It’s a good podcast featuring comparative reviews of movies. The episode I was in (the only important one) can be found here.)

 

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The Hill Dwarves of Trobal’brae and the Fenglennary Highlands

A highland region of hill dwarfs for use in your role playing campaign.

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The Overly Complicated Weapons and Armor Module

Edit: This blog post will be updated multiple times to reflect changes due to feedback, so check back to see if things have changed!

Change Log: (changes based on feedback include the person that inspired the change) 

  • AP values on weapons messed with. (mikemonaco)
  • Flail ability added for nullifying shields. (mikemonaco)
  • Initiative is no longer rolled each round; rather, the modifiers change your initial initiative roll and thus can move you in the order, making it a little less fiddly. (daganev from the WotC forums)
  • Clarified some weapon attributes. (me)
  • Created a list of all of the playtest weapons to make changes more easily to all of them. Messed around with AP and Initiative modifiers. (me)
  • Changed how AC works completely. Now AC is a score made up of your Dex modifier, any Shield bonuses, and a base AC of 10. Armor provides DR only. AC can now be seen as purely defense/parrying/dodging. (mikemonaco/me/bawlie)
  • Completely removed initiative modifiers/weapon speeds. Way too fiddly in practice. Couldn’t find a way to make it work and fit seamlessly into the rules. The rest of the module should be complicated enough. (me)
  • Added Weapon Attributes Clumsy and Parrying, which effect AC negatively/positively. (me)
  • Shields changed; removed AR, they instead give an AC bonus based on your prof. Proficiency taken out of the AC equation. (bawlie)
  • Added a section for weapon and combat tactics to help spice up combat. Only one tactic added so far (pushing). Can you help me with some more? (me)

It’s certainly an exciting time to be a fan of Dungeons and Dragons. If you’re reading a blog about RPGs, then you are already probably aware of the various book announcements as well as the announcement of a free ‘Basic’ D&D PDF from Wizards of the Coast. The front page of Enworld is a good place to catch up. I could wax poetic about how good of a move this is, but I think the near universal approval is resounding enough.

Instead, today I wanted to work on a rules module for use with D&D Next, or Fifth Edition as it stands now. This is definitely the first ‘draft’, trying to catch a rough idea right now to polish off later when the game has been released.

This module focuses on weapons and armor, and seeks to, in plain terms, make them more complicated. Generally the direction of the game has been to make it  simpler, and this is a noble goal. I thought, however, that since Combat was really rather quick with this edition, it might not hurt to throw a few complications into it. The idea is to make weapons and armor have more mechanical crunch so that they feel like they have more weight in the narrative, if that makes sense. I think these could be made more three dimensional, making some weapons better in certain circumstances, as well as providing a useful reason for choosing a certain armor type over another.

Now, since this IS a rough draft you will not find balance here. I guarantee it. It’s something that needs playtested. If, in fact, you are currently running the playtest (or will be), please feel free to playtest this module as well. I would love some feedback to make the end module that much better. Of course, a lot will factor into how different weapons and armor look in the final product as opposed to the playtest documents I am using currently. I suspect there won’t be much change, however.

 

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The Overly Complicated Weapons and Armor Module

The Very Rough Playtest Draft Version

 

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Reviewing Yellow Dawn: The Age of Hastur

Full disclosure: Back around the beginning of March, I was researching medieval mysticism, woodcuts, and tomes for my Ghartha series when I came across a blog post by David J. Rodger, discussing the Polanski film The Ninth Gate. It was a well written post (and made me go look up the movie and watch it on Netflix) and I liked what David was talking about, so I left a comment and followed the blog.

Soon after, he got a hold of me and asked if I’d write up a piece about his game Yellow Dawn (34.53USD), and I agreed, so he sent me a copy. This was in mid-March, and when I received the book I was surprised by two things: One, how highly detailed and complete the game system and setting were; two: this is the work of one dude. The credits mention playtesters, but the entirety of the system and writing is the work of David Rodger himself.

And that is insane. This book is highly detailed, featuring everything you need system wise, setting wise, with a healthy number of appendices and tables. The editing seems great. I just can’t wrap my head around the amount of work this game must have had put into it. Most definitely it’s a labor of love.

I was a little nervous when the game was on it’s way that it wouldn’t be good, to be honest. I’m a supporter of Indie game development (as it is something I want to get into), but I understand that for every gem there are five pieces of coal, so to speak. Luckily, I soon realized this was one of the gems. Not simply because it’s a good system, but because of the amount of value that you can get out of it even for other games.

As a quick note, I abhor numerical or graded reviews. Opinions are far too subjective for those to be worth a damn, so I’ll present to you what I think and hopefully that helps you make an informed decision about purchasing this game.

Shall we get into it?

Yellow Dawn Cover

Yellow Dawn Cover Art

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Rebuilding the Realms of Twilight

Howdy folks! Sorry about the lack of posts here lately, the job has had me stretched pretty thin when it comes to time, so my next (and final) Ghartha post will be just a little bit. I also have a review of the Role Playing game Yellow Dawn by author David J Roger which will be coming before that (a very nicely detailed setting and system), so keep an eye out!

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public domain image

I did want to give notice about a KickStarter I’m pretty excited about. The Realms of Twilight is a campaign world for Pathfinder created by Silver Crescent Publishing that offers a unique and dark twist on the usual epic fantasy fare. As I’m sure you’re aware, I like my fantasy pretty dark. The original product was a quality third party campaign setting, so having a new version coming out that really digs into the history of Relistan and offers a whole host of new goodies is pretty exciting. This is the sort of product I usually put in for, and is the sort of product that I hope to be one day making.

There are 13 days to go as of this writing, and it definitely needs some love. If the original product is any indication, then this is almost certainly worth your time.

Oh, did I mention that Ed Greenwood would be making an appearance as a guest author?

Anyway, just wanted to try and spread the word about this because this sort of third party RPG support is really my favorite thing about the hobby as a whole. I hope you back it, or at least go check it out.

Until next time, au revoir!