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Wednesday, April 27, 2016

Dungeons & Dragons - Dragon Plus Issue 7

It's that time again! Dragon Plus Issue 7 is out. Let's roll up our sleeves and put on our pointy wizard hats.

You can read this issue here.

As always, I am focusing on the tabletop D&D stuff in this issue. There's also articles about the Baldur's Gate expansion, the Tyrants of the Underdark minis game, and more. Each of these articles is gigantic and seem like they are full of useful material.

My biggest beef with the first bunch of issues of Dragon Plus was that it felt shallow. That is no longer the case. Each article is well thought out.

Letters From The Editor

Matt Chapman talks about how he watches about 16 hours of streaming D&D games per week. Wow. He actually uses the phrase "celebrity DMs." What a weird time we live in.

I kind of feel like I should be checking these shows out, but it feels like a significant investment of time. This is coming from a dude with piles of free time!

Dice Camera Action: D&D as Entertainment

In this article, we get quotes from a number of DMs who stream online. They talk about how good audio equipment is important, the importance of improv skills to keep the game from being boring to watch and making rules calls on the fly.

They also talk a bit about the weirdness of having people watch you play. I imagine it must be quite nerve-wracking. I suppose the watchers who don't like it will just leave.

I'd like to see another article that describes what a streaming session is like, from setting up the software to wrapping up. What kind of technical glitches can happen? What kind of feedback do you get? Do you need a tech person there? That kind of thing.

The Journal of Ezmerelda D'Avenir

Ezmerelda's Wagon
Here we go. I'm most interested in Curse of Strahd stuff. One of the things I like most about Dragon Plus is that they use "clean art" from 5e products. It is shockingly hard to find the original art online. In this one we get the full version of Ezmerlda's cart, which is something I dug around on the internet to find in vain.

The journal starts off like this: "In the event of my death, it is my wish that someone take up a sharpened stake of silver and bury it in the chest of Strahd von Zarovich, who I believe to be a grand progenitor of vampires, and possibly the first of their kind. "

That's pretty awesome. There are passages on vampire spawn, Strahd, and holy water.

If you have a player in your Curse of Strahd campaign who is up for reading in between sessions, you might want to have the heroes find this journal.

In my opinion, the group should meet Ezmerelda at around 6th level. So I'd say the group should find her journal on the road to Vallaki. Maybe she was attacked by wolves, was wounded and staggered off, inadvertently leaving some of her stuff behind.

Making Madam Eva

My Madame Eva Twitter Fortune
This article is about how they made the twitter bot that tweeted out fortunes to everyone. I got a fortune back then, it was fun.

The best quote from this is: "Determined to capture Barovia's dank vibe..." I have to work "dank vibe" into a real life sentence.

These developers have made other apps, including this weird one:

"Neither of which is as weird as Kazemi’s killer app. Every month $50 worth of goodies turn up at his door, purchased by an automated shopper that randomly scours Amazon for him. “Everyone loves that thing but me because we have to live with the stuff it sends,” says Stanton..."

So.. what does it buy? I don't understand why anyone would want this.

Unearthed Arcana: Gothic Heroes

This has a .pdf with rules for you to make a revenant character (!), as well as some new builds. There's a monster hunter and the inquisitive.

They suggest the idea of letting a slain character rise up as a revenant. That's pretty awesome.

Community: Is No Fun, Is No Blinsky

One of the more amusing weirdos in Curse of Strahd is Blinsky, the toymaker. His creepy toys are strewn all throughout the adventure.

This article is loaded with creepy Blinsky toys. Some of them even get art. Really fun stuff, very useful!

Tavern Tales

Mike Mearls talks about some of the best stuff from the DMs Guild so far. He talks about:
  • Blood Magic: A mechanic that allows casters to burn hit dice for special abilities.
  • Book Of Beasts: Stats for a number of demons from previous editions that I like, including the gnaw demon and the blood demon.
  • Battle for the Undercity: A collection of three short scenarios to drop into a city campaign.
I have a hunch, old chum. DMs Guild authors, you might want to title your products starting with the letter "b."

Return to Ravenloft 
Holy Crap. A Curse of Strahd walkthrough map! Get this now! Right here.


This was a pretty awesome issue. No article can touch Ed Greenwood's Barovia tour from last issue, but this has plenty of useful stuff.  You get a heck of a lot of material for free.

I personally would have liked to see an article detailing possible encounters with Strahd in Curse of Strahd. That seems like a part DMs are struggling with. But I am thinking that this publication really isn't about articles like that.

This issue is worth looking at, just for the walkthrough map alone.


Luciano Petersen said...

I absolutely adore those walkthrough maps! Had a lot of fun reading all that I could find. Now, I would seriously advise you to watch Critical Role with Matt Mercer and crew. It's quite a ride, and absurdly enjoyable. They were what got me into D&D, to be honest, which in turn led me to find your blog!

Granted it's indeed a lot of time, but it's worth it. Matt Mercer is an amazing DM, the way he weaves words and descriptions is astonishing. On top of that, you've got top-notch role-players in the group, portraying their characters ably while still being entertaining to watch. They are professional actors after all. Especially Travis Willingham and Sam Riegel, the group's barbarian and bard respectively, always coming up with clever ideas and jokes.

Seriously, watch it. I'd love to read your opinion on it.

Luciano Petersen said...

Also, I don't know if I can post links here, but tell me if this doesn't make D&D look badass as hell:

Sean said...

Luciano: Do you think I should watch Critical Role from the beginning? If I were to watch one episode, which one should I watch?

Luciano Petersen said...

Yes, I think you should. When you start watching it can be a bit confusing before you get familiar with everyone's names and such, even though they have an intro with everyone's backstory.

Now, as for one episode to try and showcase it... That's a tough question. I'd suggest a later episode because in the first ones their setup is not quite so good and they have a few technical difficulties, but if don't mind it too much then just go from the start. It's not a new campaign at all, they are continuing their own homebrewed campaign (translated from Pathfinder into 5e) and the show starts with the party at level 9; but it's the beginning of a new story arc, something involving an artifact called the Horn of Orcus.

Otherwise, I'd suggest you watch episode 18, Trial of the Take. Even though it doesn't have the whole group, it shows well their usual dynamic and has a few interesting guests.

Sean said...

Luciano Petersen: OK, I think I'm going to watch episode 1 sometime soon and write a review. This show seems to be bringing in a lot of new players so I think I should watch it at least once. Thanks for helping me out!