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Tuesday, November 7, 2017

Dragon+ Issue 16

You can read this issue of Dragon+ right here.

Dragon+ is back with a brand new invention! Let's see what we got here in this little digital doodad. We'll go through it one article at a time.

Imagining the Ampersand: An interview with the cover artist, Leah Palmer Preiss. She makes very detailed art and likes to sneak secret messages into it whenever possible.

Xanathar's Guide Preview: An interview with the cover artist to Xanathar's. He played D&D growing up and sounds to me like hi group really tortured him.

Then there's an interview with Xanathar, the beholder crime lord. He loves his fish and he doesn't undertand pants.

The Art of Storytelling: This is an interview with a group of creators about D&D and storytelling. Bruce Cordell, Ed Greenwood, R.A. Salvatore,

I did not know that Minsc from the Baldur's Gate PC game was actually a real D&D character first.

My favorite quote in thi article is from Ed Greenwood: "Roleplaying gives you practice in letting a story 'breathe,' giving its characters freedom to do the unexpected, and in vividly but briefly imparting surroundings and setting."

and...

"An experienced storyteller knows what to leave out, too, to heighten the stakes and urgency and move precious at-the-table gaming time to the juicy encounters and scenes everyone wants to savor."

Hell yeah!

Spider Shark: There was a panel at HasCon run by Mike Mearls and Chris Lindsay where the participants got to make their own owlbear-type creature. 'Tis a spider shark.

We get the stat block. Wow. It has 162 hit points and it can launch barbed webs and nets at you. Pretty cool.

Figuratively Speaking: We learn a bit about the upcoming Icons of the Realms: Classic Creatures miniatures set. This set digs up monsters from 1st edition and modernizes them. They selected monters such as boar-headed orcs. Apparently, Demogorgon's in this set!

Richard Whitters talks about D&D art. He says that 3rd edition had the "dungeonpunk" look, which some people hated.

He goes on to say that 4th edition art was solid, but in some cases lacked the "D&D feeling."

I sort of see what he's saying. There was a definite world of warcraft influence that sometimes made the characters in the art look too bright and action figure-y, if that makes sense.

He thinks 5th is where the art coalesced into its best form.

I know that he's talking about the overall collection of art from each edition, but I think that the 2e art was far more effective, even though the artists didn't adhere to a "house style." DiTerlizzi, Elmore, Easley, Caldwell, Brom, Baxa and Holloway each had their own style, but each of them created classic D&D art that in some cases defined products or even entire settings.

There are some 5e books that I own that, if you asked me right now, I couldn't even remember what is on the cover. That is not the case for me with 4e books or 2e books.
Qawasha & Kupalue Part Two: This is a story about two of the NPC guides in Tomb of Annihilation. There's tons of tidbits to pull out and put in your campaign.

These NPCs took a trip to Mezro:
  • Samrith Vess: An accomplished researcher and scribe. She spent most of her life learning. She has decided to actually leave the library and experience the place she's read so much about.
  • Zara: A warrior guardian with a face that is like stone.
The vegepygmy makes a structure: A splendid pavilion with a mat roof made of blue-green leaves woven across a frame made with stiff, fibrous bark, and tied to the trunks of young trees with lashings of a strong, supple vine."

That's the kind of sentence I'd like to be able to write. I'd have never thought to use the word "fibrous" or "lashings of a strong, supple vine."

I've been noticing more and more that good D&D creators tend to pepper their work with these breezy, elegant sentences. I have a very hard time with this, and I'm trying to get better. I've never used the word "fibrous" in my life, but it adds a lot to what he wrote.

Chatali: A special tea made from the crushed seeds and leaves of a plant found only in Chult. It was a favorite drink of Mezroan royalty.

Mezro History: Mezro is a city built by the hand and mind of Ubtao, a god of Chult.
  • Mezro has buildings made of stone that even the most skilled masons cannot replicate.
  • The outer city was made by humans. The core was fashioned by Ubtao.
  • Ubtao made a temple in Mezro that has walls of interlocked crystal and a dome of pure gold.
  • The temple contains the Maze of Life! It takes you to another world.
  • Those who walk in the maze with truth in their hearts can enter a trial within their own being. The diligent and humble will find the true nature of themselves if hey solve the maze.
  • Those wise enough to solve the maze are bathed in the energy of the maze's glittering heart and emerge transformed.
Awesome!

Click or Die: An article about Idle Champions, a computer game. The thing I like most is that they use characters from Force Grey and characters from the D&D novels, like Bruenor. I'd like them to use Farideh from the Brimstone Angels books more in these things. Why does she always get overlooked?

Character's Spotlight: Hey! Character sheets for Dice, Camera, Action characters! Diath and Paultin! Diath is 9th level. He has an 8 Strength. Paultin's level 8??

Behind the Screen: Driving a Stake In It: This one talks about movies, characters and motivation. What drives your character? That kind of thing.

D&D Classic: We are given three short stories that appeared in really old issues of Dragon. I remember reading a comment in an issue of Dragon Magazine, where an editor stated that they got tons of short story submissions for Dragon Magazine, but the readers of Dragon weren't too enthusiastic about them. Everyone wanted to write fantasy short stories, but nobody wanted to read them.

Chronicle of the Plane of Shale: Planescape stuff?! Wow. Holy.. there is a PDF here that has complete 5th edition monster entries for some of the unique monsters from Planescape: Torment!

Gronks: Stone beasts that roam the outlands. Their reproductive organs are on their foreheads. They reproduce by smashing their heads together. I'm in awe.

I feel like a horrible person for daring to look this gift horse in the mouth, but I feel the need to point out that this would have benefited from new art. They use really old CGI art from the game and I think younger people might be very turned off by it.

Grillig: Long-armed reptiles. Nobody knows how they breed. "more of them simply seem to appear when their numbers become thin." That's a cool adventure in the making right there. These are also very low level monsters (CR 1/2).

Sohmien: Freaky horse-type creatures with dead white eyes. They leave a trail of mist in their wake and their hooves kill any vegetation they touch. Hey...! "According to legend, the last of the nightmare lords was lured to the Gloom Meet by his subjects, then attacked by by fiends who had tired of bartering for permission to use his nightmares."

The Gloom Meet! I've been planning a Gloom Meet adventure for a few years now. Who are the nightmare lords? That sounds incredibly cool.

Anyway, Sohmien hate nightmares and attack them on sight. "..the ride of the sohmien will not end until they kill every nightmare in existence."

Trelon: Monsters who are a "mixture of orange and shadow." They have two long arms that end in curved spikes. They were created to exterminate mages on a long-dead Prime world.

The lore here is absolutely tremendous. Very inspiring!

There is a massive Planescape story attached. It involves Estavan, one of the major merchant NPCs in the original Planescape boxed set. There's a whole description of the Plain of Shale, which is in the Outlands (a central plane containing gate towns that lead to most major planes of existence).

I'm going to need to go over this with a fine-toothed comb later.

Best of the DMs Guild: We get free previews of four Guild Adept products:

Maps of the Month: Free Tomb maps by Mike Schley. Sweet Jaysus. Why would you not download these?! They're free! They're awesome! Ataaz Muhahah, the Heart of Ubtao and more from Tomb of Annihilation.

Unearthed Arcana: A link to the pdf that gives subtypes of tieflings linked to the different archdevils. Obviously, I 100% love this.

Tremendous issue! Tremendous! I think a lot of the stuff presented here is a bit niche and won't appeal to everyone, but it's right in my wheelhouse. Great issue.

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