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Friday, July 1, 2016

Dungeons & Dragons - Dragon Plus Issue 8

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Or you can check out this issue on a desktop computer here.

It's been two months, which means that it is time for the new issue of Dragon Plus! I was hoping we'd get piles of stuff about Storm King's Thunder in this issue, but we didn't. They did give us some art, but they made it black and white. Bums me out!

I want to see what this looks like in color:

I Miss Dungeon Magazine: Does anyone else miss Dungeon Magazine? I understand why the D&D team is keeping things simple and focused, but I would like it if we got more content complete with professional art and maps.

I think I first subscribed to Dungeon with issue 21 when I was a kid and I wish it was still around in some form. I've been going through old 4e issues of Dungeon and there is so much cool stuff that is completely forgotten.

Anyway! Let's go through this issue and pull out the stuff I find most interesting. Dragon Plus is completely free, so there's no reason not to check it out!

Letter From the Editor: We start off with a piece written by Chris Perkins about Storm King's Thunder. We learn a bit more about the new storyline:
  • This adventure follows up on what happened in Tyranny of Dragons.
  • "Our assumption is that the heroes of Tyranny of Dragons are either dead or retired."
  • The main giant villains are modeled after the villains in the classic AD&D "Against the Giants" series by Gary Gygax.
  • You can skip the low level stuff if you want to with no problem.
  • Rune Magic: You can inscribe symbols on magic items to give them special powers.
  • The Kirg Rune: This rune grants draconic abilities.
  • Five different known dragons from previous Forgotten Realms products appear.
  • I wonder if Voaraghamanthar will make an appearance?
D&D Meltdown: We get a big discussion of the Meltdown event and how tricky it was to produce.

You kind of get the feeling Meltdown is the beginning of something big. This D&D livestream thing has caught on in a big way and it seems like it's just going to get bigger. I bet they will refine this Meltdown type of concept in the years ahead.

The one thing I could see killing the momentum of everything is if the D&D movie is awful. But even then, I'm not sure how much it would hurt the popularity of the tabletop game.

I think right now we are living in a time when all these new shows are popping up and the "classic" episodes of shows like Dice, Camera, Action are on their way. You, the reader, are in on the ground floor of something. What it is and what it will all amount to, I don't know.

From Startup to IPO: This article talks with the Acquisitions Inc. guys about the growth of their live PAX shows and how they are bewildered by their success. We get a reference to Binwin's Boner Patrol, which sounds like an epic spinoff.

Apparently something big happens on an episode of Acquisitions Inc, soon. I get the feeling someone dies. That actually kind of bums me out because I like all of the characters.

The game at PAX West is going to use some stuff from Storm King's Thunder.

Volo's Guide to Befriending Giants: This is by Ed Greenwood. It's a story about Volo, who goes to try to meet some giants. He ends up in all sorts of trouble and he is saved by Harshnag, who I believe is a friendly ice giant from Tyranny of Dragons.

There is a mention that Ostoria will rise again. Ostoria is apparently the greatest giant empire from long ago. We also learn a giant swear: "Strength of Stronmaus." I'll try to add this to my games post-haste. My favorite Ed Greenwood swear is still "Dark and Empty."

This isn't as good as his Ravenloft Volo story, but I like reading Ed's stuff. It's so easy to read! You just fly through it. I still think Ed Greenwood is wildly underappreciated. He needs to do a D&D show.

d100 Dungeon Master Tips: Mike Shea fires off 100 things for DMs to try in their games.  Lots of good stuff in here! Some of my favorites:
  • Spend some time looking over the random tables of the Dungeon Master's Guide to inspire some wild ideas. Pick one table to use in your next game.
  • Not all players enjoy the explosive creativity of storytelling. Let each player play the game the way they most enjoy.
  • Build fantastic locations with scale. Describe mile-high waterfalls, hundred-story ziggurats, enormous statues of dead gods, and cyclopean fifty-foot-high doors.
There are a number of people out there like Mike Shea who have been creating a lot of great D&D stuff for a long time and I really like seeing their work in official D&D products.

Best of the Dungeon Master's Guild: This time they actually offer a few DMs Guild products for free.
  • The Pugilist: A new class.
  • Battle for the Undercity: An adventure for characters levels 7-9. It has 3 scenarios in it.
The Tiny History of D&D: We get an article by Shannon Appelcline that gives us the complete history of minis in D&D from beginning to end. Shannon is one of those writers that, in my opinion, always puts out top-quality work. I am in awe of Shannon's in-depth history stuff, and I absolutely love the old actual play threads on RPG.net.

Forging the Forgotten Realms: We talk with Ed Greenwood about the origin of the Forgotten Realms. Ed says that he had read all his dads books by the age of five. How is that possible?

The Forgotten Realms began as a setting for Ed's short stories. The first Realms stories were about a swindler named Mirt the Moneylender.

Ed started playing D&D in 1978 and got into the habit of creating lore every day. He still does it, daily. So that's why he has so many details on food, drinks, and swears! I really admire his commitment and creativity.

He says that he spent months mapping out Undermountain way back when. Ed also says that he will have a product on the DMs Guild site in November! Awesome.

Overall

I liked the last issue better, but this one is pretty good. I don't think I'll be happy until this completely morphs into a modern version of the Dragon or Dungeon Magazine from the Paizo era.

I want new Demonomicon of Iggwilv articles, new adventures, new lore on underdeveloped D&D entities, that kind of thing. I'm not sure if that is something that fits their current plans, but if you can't do all that stuff in Dragon Plus then it kind of makes me wonder: What the heck can they put in it?

I'd like to see interviews with authors of old adventures and great artists of the past like Larry Elmore and Clyde Caldwell (my favorite). That seems doable, right?

The primary focus of Dragon Plus seems to be hype. But when you only have a couple of products to promote, that kind of leaves a bit of a gaping void to fill.

Walkthrough Maps: I'd also really like it if we got a new Jason Thompson walkthrough map in every issue. This month had Against the Giants maps that were originally released years ago. There are plenty of old adventures for him to make walkthrough maps of such as Gates of Firestorm Peak, The Whispering Cairn from Age of Worms, and Dragon Mountain. I'd also love to see a massive map that combines the dungeons of Undermountain from every published source into one sprawling complex.

For the most part, each issue of Dragon Plus is an improvement over the one before.

2 comments:

Jason Raabis said...

I loved Dungeon too. Paizo Dungeon was just such great material. Whatever reasons WotC had for scrapping it and Dragon I imagine still stand, and that is a pity. Has the creative output been successfully taken up by those distributing their adventures directly via DriveThru RPG and the like? It's not quite the same kinda thing in my view. Kobold Quarterly took a kick at it, not sure what happened there.

Their Dragon Plus publication is as you said, meant to hype up the latest or upcoming release, rather than being a stand alone creative source like Dungeon was. I like Chris Perkins from way back when he was just an enthusiast contributing to Dungeon himself, but I still hold WotC in kind of dubious regard at present. They have certainly refined their business model, which I will summarize as "everyone in the hobby playing our current adventure at the same time." I don't doubt it's working for them, but it bores me to tears. I'm VERY VERY glad you resisted the urge to pack in your excellent Planescape campaign in favour of Strahd, as you'd be just one of a million doing so.

Sean said...

Jason Raabis: Thanks, I think I made the right decision to keep going with my campaign. Dungeon was awesome! The new storyline model does seem to be working in the big picture. I guess we could always use the Adventurer's League DMs Guild adventures, but paying 3 or 4 bucks for an adventure I'm probably not going to use isn't really high on my priority list. I have no ideas which ones are good. And they're mostly set in the realms, which is a setting that I'm not very into. I just want more development on cool D&D concepts.