You can read this whole issue for free right here.
It is time once again for some of that sweet, sweet Dragon Plus digital freebie speculum. I know that is not the correct usage of the word "speculum" but I really just want to use it more in my life, so I'm shoehorning it in.
As always, this magazine is worth checking out at the very least for the free download. There's some nice Volo's Guide to Monsters previews and a big pile of free Curse of Strahd maps, each with a DM and a player version.
I'm pretty sure last month we had a new editor. That person appears to be gone already. This time, Bart Carroll is running the show.
In the editorial, he says he will be "...providing you, the readers, with material that supports your roleplaying campaigns, that entertains you between sessions, and that informs you of products that we and our partners are hard at work creating."
Wow. This is crazy. It's an adventure! Basically, they give you the option of running/"re-skinning" one of the dungeons in Storm King's Thunder so that it is combined with Ravenloft. Madame Eva is in it and one of the stone giants is transformed into a stone giant variation that will be in Volo's Guide to Monsters.
You actually do a tarokka deck reading and just like in Curse of Strahd, this determines plot points of the adventure.
They give us a link to a pdf of the new stone giant type. The link didn't work for me, but I was able to find the location.
- Carving the Pumpkin Cover: The artist is ridiculously talented. They have a picture of a sand sculpture he did.. of Dante's Inferno! Fun fact: In college, I wrote an edgy short story called Dante's Inferno: Special Edition that was not well-received by the class due to the celebrities that I portrayed as being in Hell.
- Dungeonology: They give us a metric ton of images of pages from the book. I swear the book has about 30 pages and we get around 10 of them here. They are giving away 30% of the book!
- Betrayal on the House on the Hill Board Game Expansion: The people who worked on this thing are really, really fired up about it.
- Making the Gold Dragon Costume: We get a bunch of info on how the costume that Chris Perkins wore at the Acquisitions Inc game was made.
Holly: We also get an article where Holly, who plays Strix on Dice, Camera, Action, gives cosplay tips. She shows how to make scars, blood, pointy teeth, pointy ears. She is so awesome at this stuff and she's very versatile. She's good at sculpting, making props, making costumes, you name it.
Drizzt: There is an interview with R.A. Salvatore on the new Drizzt book. From what I understand, the entire line of D&D books is ending, so I guess this is the final Drizzt book? Here's what he says reader reaction to the end will be: "OK, now what? Wait. What?"
Best of the DMs Guild: We get a spotlight on a few products:
- Hag Traits and Names: I love the list of names. Here's my favorite combo: Rickety Agnes Wormwiggle. "Rickety" is a word that needs more use, in my opinion. Same with "jostle," "percolate," and "miasma."
- Annis Hag: It is not pronounced "anus." She can hug you and do 36 damage to you. It is extremely painful.
- Slithering Tracker: They look different than I remember them. They have sort of a John Carpetner's The Thing vibe going for them now.
Shannon Appelcline whips up an article on Demogorgon and Stranger Things. This was too brief, but I liked what was there. I think Shannon had already written a big Demogorgon overview for the wizards site and maybe they didn't want to rehash it. Still good stuff, though.
Map of the Month
Then we get free maps! A bunch of the maps from Curse of Strahd, both tagged and untagged, all by Mike Schley. They even have my favorite, Baba Lysaga's Creeping Hut. This alone makes this issue worth it.
Unearthed Arcana: The Ranger
Mike Mearls writes about fixing the ranger class. I really appreciate the approach they take with this edition, which I think is the key to its massive success. They just listen to what people want and try to give it to them. They don't let personal preferences get in the way. I'd imagine this can be hard to do sometimes, but they do a really great job with it.
He actually says this: "Over the past year, you've seen us try a number of new approaches to the ranger, all aimed at addressing the class's high levels of player dissatisfaction and its ranking as D&D's weakest class by a significant margin."
It's really disorienting to see such frankness. There's no ego at all. All they care about is making a class that works.
Then we get to the best thing of all. A walkthrough map of the entire Storm Giant dungeon from Storm King's Thunder! It's just awesome and really useful as a DM. The level of detail is insane.
I could say the same things every month. Dragon Plus is what it is. This issue feels better than some of the others and there's a lot less shilling in it. I also really appreciate the stab at presenting an adventure.
Dice Camera Action: As a DCA fan, I'd like if they would write an article about the campaign each issue. They could ask the players for insight into why they made the decisions they did. Actually, I'd like to see character sheets and a written background for each hero.
Essential Stuff: The most important thing to me each issue is that there is a walkthrough map, an Appelcline article and free stuff. This issue didn't have an Ed Greenwood article in it, which is a bummer. He should be in every issue, too.
Needs More: I still feel like there is not enough tabletop content. At the very least, I'd like some lists of stuff like in the back of old Paizo Dragon issues. "10 Inns," "40 weird NPCs," that kind of thing.