Friday, October 23, 2020
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Three Dungeons and Dragons Podcasts to listen to before you die

Not everyone has skydiving, rocket sledding or cruel cow tipping on their bucket list. Others would prefer to hear the stories of interesting people before they commence their journey to the afterlife. If that sounds like you and you want to fill your daily commute with interesting here are the podcasts to load up on.

1. Chris Perkins and Tracy Hickman on Curse of Strahd

This Official Dragon Talk episode provides the ultimate backstory to the most popular 5th edition adventure Curse of Strahd. Tracey Hickman discusses the gensis of the adventures creation and the discusses the personality and mindset behind Strahd and the true vilian a vampire is meant to represent.

Curse of Strahd on Dragontalk

2. Chris Perkins (Between the Sheets)

Christopher Perkins current 5e adventure path designer and creator at Wizards of the Coast and former Editor of Dungeon Magazine sits down with Brian W. Foster to discuss his childhood, pathway into Dungeons and Dragons, his hopes for the future of the game and what he plans to do when he eventually decides to retire.

Between the Sheets Episode with Chris Perkins

3. Episode 30 Medieval Podcast by Web DM

This episode is locked behind a Patreon paywall but its definatley worth shelling out $5 for a month to listen to this and the other podcast episodes Web DM has.

Jim Davis (who has completed post graduate studies in medieval history – specialising in mounted horse combat) talks about how Dungeons and Dragons is not representative of the medieval world.

Web DM Patron: https://www.patreon.com/webdm

Review: Dungeons & Dragons – The Chapel on the Cliffs

It’s been fifty years since the curse struck Kennmouth. Since then, few have dared brave the dangers of the abandoned village, but even fewer came back in one piece. Will you be the heroes who finally rid Kennmouth of its denizens?

The Chapel on the Cliffs by Goblin Stone is a lightly themed horror adventure or a group of 4-5 characters of 3rd level and will provide 6 and 10 hours of entertaining gameplay.

This thirty-five page adventure is outstanding. The adventure is clear in what is sets out to do and players will have no ambiguity as to what they can do – but neither is it forceful in the way it presents this. Those looking to produce their own 5e content are recommended to read this product to learn how to present an adventure to a modern mainstream audience.

What makes the adventure unique (provided the PCs don’t die – a real possibility) is there are a number of ways for players to both approach and conclude the adventure. The potential to have the adventure to end in multiple ways is important as is trains the Dungeon Masters to understand the joy of having an adventure not going quite the way they planned – and happiness this creates.

In my own running of the game the player characters were almost killed outright twice before defeating the horror within. The first time they were saved by the light cleric channel divinity special ability, and the second by the fighter making a reckless gambit. It is rare for an adventure to create moments of extreme tension followed by either finality through death or sweet survival.

As Kennmouth village is presented as a small sandbox a Dungeon Master can quickly and easily drop their own creative ideas to extend or modify the adventure.

The adventure’s appendix also includes useful information to assist with the running of Sieges and Chases both of which are possibilities.

Layout, artwork and cartography is first class and a benchmark as to what a premium adventure product is. If you intend to be putting product on Kickstarter this adventure sets of the benchmark against which other adventures should be compared.

Virtual Table Top players are supported with a separate pack of VTT suitable tokens and maps.

Rules support is provided for scaling the adventure from Average Party Level 2 to 6.

Originally sold as a Kickstarter Project the adventure is now available in Print and Electronic Format on DrivThruRPG should you wish to purchase a copy.

Review: Kobold Press: Tome of Beasts 2

Tome of Beasts II (ToB2) is a 2020 Kickstarter which raised USD$413,021 to bring more than 400 new monsters created by both game designers and backer contributors to the 5th edition Dungeons and Dragons game. This is the third monster book published by Kobold Press with the others being the Tome of Beasts and the Creature Codex.

Kobold Press publishes many titles and their monster books contain the highest quality art of all their publications possessing an art style of art which conforms closely to the 5th edition feel established by Wizards of the Coast.

This is most likely by design as the Chief Editor and owner of Kobold Press is Wolfgang Bauer who was a long-time editor of TSR’s Dungeon Magazine and former Wizards of the Coast employee. Wolfgang knows from experience this that you have to build not only great content but support and look and feel of the base game so that it is both useable and attractive to the customer.

So how does this book compare to the official Monster Manual published by Wizards of the Coast and its predecessors?

Tome of Beasts 2, like its monster book predecessors contains monsters that hit much harder…

When comparing it to the Monster Manual, Tome of Beasts 2, like its monster book predecessors contains monsters that hit much harder than the equivalent CR rated monster in the Monster Manual and the monsters have more variety in mechanics. This is by design with Kobold Press recognising that people likely to purchase additional monster books are running games for players that understand how to play their characters effectively and relish the surprise of a creature that is unknown and untested.

Unknown and untested is what this book delivers in spades.

“Oh a skeleton” says the player who raises a mace to squish it when it invariably runs over. Nope! the skeleton stops 60ft away and a whirlwind of bone fragments shoot at you and you have to make a strength save.

ToB2 contains creatures ranging from CR0 to CR28 and is filled with monsters of all creature types. Dungeon Masters who are looking for the less common creature types including Aberrations, Fey, Fiends, Plants and Undead will have plenty of choice as will Dungeon Masters looking for creatures suitable for artic, underwater and coastal locales.

ToB2 includes more creature which have their origins in Kobold Press’ Midgard Campaign Setting including Void, Leng, Trollkin, Eonic, and Ahu-Nixta.

Dragons, Elementals, Golems, Ghouls, Kobolds, Giants, Drakes, and Derro which are all staple monsters from Kobold Press have new variants but none are overdone. An appreciated inclusion in the book are statistics for wildlife creatures, including Alligators, Bilby, Bull, Goat, Fox, and giant Leeches, Honeybees, Scorpions, Mongooses, and Owl. These additions will make druid players happy.

ToB2 also contains many creatures of good alignment which is helpful to a Dungeon Master looking for a new type of ally to help the party.

If you are interested in monsters should you purchase this book? the answer is a resounding yes! Ah but which should I purchase first Tome of Beasts, Creature Codex or Tome of Beats 2 – I’m not made of money you know.

Which Kobold Press monster book should i Purchase First?

My recommendation is to purchase Tome of Beasts 2 if you intend to run Icewind Dale: Rime of the Frost Maiden as it contains many artic and coastal creatures which you can add or substitute in the adventure. Select Creature Codex if you want to add humanoid NPC variety with a smattering of the truly unique and bizarre, and Tome of Beasts if you want a start or peak into the Midgard Campaign setting and have access to the lore associated with the creatures in the other two books. But honestly you won’t go wrong whichever you choose first.

Kobold Press has been one of the shining independent publishes operating under the 5e licence made available by Wizards of the Coast. The Dungeons and Dragons community should be thankful for the 5e licence as it allows for the creation of excellent niche gaming products which larger companies find un-economic to produce. Wizards of the Coast should be thankful for the 5e licence as independent publishers produce what they cannot as these titles add the popularity and longevity of the game.

We can only hope for Creature Codex 2 as a fourth book will provide Dungeon Masters with nearly an extra 2000 monsters to play – best start whipping the kobolds!

Review: Icewind Dale: Rime of the Frost Maiden

Icewind Dale: Rime of the Frost Maiden (IDRoM) is the signature adventure from Wizards of the Coast for 2020. The adventure is set about 100 years after the events portrayed in the novel The Crystal Shard which introduced both the Icewind Dale region and the drow elf Drizzt Do’Urden into collective focus of Dungeons and Dragons fans.

Wizards of the Coast describes this adventure as: “a tale of dark terror that revisits the forlorn, flickering candlelights of civilization known as Ten-Towns and sheds light on the many bone-chilling locations that surround these frontier settlements.

The notable word of this description is the word “adventure”. This book feels more like a series of adventures rather than a campaign styled adventure like Storm King’s Thunder, Curse of Strahd, or Waterdeep: Dragon Heist. It’s a slight differentiation and this doesn’t add or subtract from the quality of the book and play experience – just that the central plot doesn’t drive the adventure from the first to the last page. For many this is a good thing as the path feels more open and allowed Wizards of the Coast to have an end path which is different to that typical of a campaign, or for the creative Dungeon Master an ending of their own choosing or custom design.

IDRoM delivers in providing an environment which is not hospitable. The region is living in an everlasting winter with eternal darkness perpetuated by 4 hours of twilight each day. Mechanically creating the feeling of darkness and cold is highly reliant upon the Dungeon Master as the mechanics provided within the book aren’t that threatening and many possible risks are mitigated by simply wearing weather appropriate clothing. Then again 5e Dungeons and Dragons is largely about heroic action and there are other game options if you wish to play a purely survival game.

The book starts as a sandbox in the locality of Ten Towns a collective of villages and one town which is the bastion of civilisation in this cold desolate land. Running this in the intended style requires both the Dungeon Master and Players to think of the location as having a a series of orbiting adventure opportunities from which the Player Characters will choose some and not others.

From this central location the adventure spirals outwards leading with a series of small adventures each of which are well crafted and diverse. The diversity reflects IDRoM having many contributing authors most drawn from authors who have established themselves on DMsGuild. Overall this diversity steered by Wizards of the Coast works well and I expect that this will occur in more official products in future.

The adventure falters and falls flat at the mid-point when it presents a series of dream-sequence equivalent scenarios with topics that run counter to the heroic nature of most adventuring parties, and likely motivations and role-playing personalities the players characters will have established for themselves. Like Baldur’s Gate: Descent into Avernus the 2019 signature adventure from Wizards of the Coast this is the moment when the authors focused on providing what they perceived as a cool moment rather than focusing on ensuring story relevance to the characters. It is a notable and surprising stumble, and in the same way community authors created an adventure to give Baldur’s Gate: Descent into Avernus a beginning that actually provided players with both incentive and meaningful adventure I expect the community to develop an replacement for this misstep or skip the dream-like component element entirely.

The mid-point of the book can also be the end point of the IDRoM adventure. This is a handy option as not all groups can commit to a very long campaign.

The adventure concludes with a new location which can be run stand alone as an adventure apart but its not disjointed from the rest of the book either. The adventure location fits tightly with the lore of the Forgotten Realms and will be highly appealing to fans of Dungeons and Dragons lore.

At 320 pages IDRoM is a large adventure book and the space is well used with the front part of the book used to help onboard new DM’s and refresh experienced DMs on those elements important to running a cold and horror themed adventure. Some 70 pages of appendices accompany the adventure which are filled with monster statistics, and tools to run the game.

Despite the page count and attempts to provide everything the book fails to provide distance scales on key maps, travel times between locations are poorly explained and are essential to understanding how a key climactic sequence of the adventure operates. Fear not as the Dungeons and Dragons community has come to the rescue for DM’s desperate for this information.

Finally Wizards of the Coast have returned to providing colour maps which will make virtual role players much happier. The artwork in the book is of the highest quality.

Icewind Dale: Rime of the Frost Maiden is an adventure that will be well regarded, it provides Dungeon Masters and players with a well defined imaginary playground for adventure into which a creative Dungeon Master can add a lot. It has a couple of jump-off points and its entirely possible for components to be used stand alone with the main story line abandoned. It is a very good adventure.

IDRoM teeters on the edge of being one of the classic all time Dungeons and Dragons adventures but its let down by a couple of flaws in the story. The template and structure of the book is masterful and I expect more adventures to follow on build upon this. If you would like to see how to create an adventure locale as an author or creator of your own worlds the book should be on your purchase list.

How Environmentally Sustainable is Your 5e Dungeons and Dragons Book?

Unicorns, elves, pixies, sprites, and treants just some of the many and varied creatures that flesh out and live within the natural worlds portrayed by Dungeons and Dragons. Endless forests, clear rivers, majestic mountains and untamed wilderness are hallmarks of imaginary worlds,

In Icewind Dale: Rime of the Frostmaiden environmental catastrophe is at hand due to magic but in the real world just how environmentally sustainable are the Dungeons and Dragons books I have been purchasing for the last 5 years, and what can a consumer (in this case me), easily find out to determine how sustainably sourced and produced is my Dungeons and Dragons book?

In many books the first page or credits section will often state the place where the book was printed and sometimes indicate whether the paper is certified as sustainably sourced. The most common certifications are FSCTM (Forest Stewardship Council ) and PEFCTM (Programme for the Endorsement of Forest Certification). The free alternative is to include a comment that the paper is 100% recycled or some variant (e.g. 30% virgin 70% recycled paper).

In case you didn’t know – paper comes from trees. There are not many trees in Icewind Dale – I wonder if they were cut down to make my adventure book?

In the recently released 1st printing of Icewind Dale: Rime of the Frostmaiden the information provided indicates that the book is printed in the USA and was manufactured by Hasbro SA, Rue Emile-Boechat 31, 2800 Delemont, CH. But there no mention of what type of paper or materials the book is made from. Neither do the 1st printings of Ghosts of Saltmarsh, Ebberon Rising From the Last War, or Players Handbook answer this question.

..didn’t seam to discuss paper sustainability..

The book does contain the CE marking which is a mark that signifies the product has conformity with health, safety, and environmental protection standards for products sold within the European Economic Area. Whilst I am most certainly a novice in this area my guess is this marking was obtained for the toy category and the directive I could find for this didn’t seam to discuss paper sustainability in a way that would be simple for the average purchaser to determine how sustainable the book is.

Okay, so no answer in the book for the average consumer. Well then how about the Wizards of the Coast website and their corporate values?

Hmmmm….: inclusivity, community, collaboration, excellence, empowerment, fun and stewardship – hey stewardship looks promising they have a tree picture! – nope not very enlightening on the environment at all.

Hey Wizards! How about including a bit more about the environmental sustainability of my water in your Values please? Would the odds improve if I were a dog called Milo?

Hasbro

Well – as Wizards is a Hasbro owned company perhaps they have some material that might help with a guess – and indeed they do on their corporate and socially responsible page. This information might be the best we have as Hasbro is listed as the manufacturer of Rime of the Frostmaiden.

Delving into their website I was able to find their 2016 Corporate Social Responsibility Report and within that a reference to Hasbro having a Paper and Forest Procurement Policy which is (as best I can tell) still current.

The Policy States:

  • Hasbro expects all suppliers of forest products to demonstrate compliance with all applicable international and national legal requirements for forest management, harvest, manufacturing and trade.
     
  • If a supplier is sourcing wood products from areas determined to be high risk for illegal forest management practices and trade, third party verification of legality shall be obtained. Credible certification may also provide a means for Verification of Legality.
     
  • Over time, Hasbro expects its suppliers to become credibly certified and supply credibly certified wood products. If credibly certified wood products are not available, as an interim measure, suppliers must maintain chain of custody documentation of the origin of wood products and must continue to do so until credibly certified supplies are developed. We reserve the right at any time to request Verification of Legality.
     
  • No sources of Mixed Tropical Hardwood (MTH) virgin fiber shall be used in Hasbro products, including packaging. However, it is recognized that some MTH fiber may be present in recycled paper which is acceptable under the terms of this policy.
     
  • Forest products that originate from High Conservation Value Forests (HCVFs) shall not be purchased unless these operations are credibly certified.
     
  • Forest products that originate from Controversial Sources shall not be purchased.
     
  • Forest products that are manufactured without chlorine are preferred (e.g., “processed chlorine free” or PCF for recycled products or “totally chlorine free” or TCF for virgin products).
     
  • Hasbro expects suppliers to source recycled paper with as much post-consumer recycled content as practical and viable. A minimum of 30% post-consumer recycled content is preferred.
     
  • Hasbro will conduct audits in the form of random testing of paper from high risk regions to ensure compliance with policy requirements. The supply chain review will follow the guidelines set by The Global Forest & Trade Network (GFTN) Guide to Legal and Responsible Sourcing. If a supplier is not in compliance with any applicable provisions of this policy, Hasbro will take appropriate corrective action to address such non-compliance, up to and including termination.
     
  • Hasbro will publicly report bi-annually on progress made to achieve goals under this policy, including a break-down of sustainable fiber types based on testing conducted under this policy. Additionally, we will regularly review this policy and targets to ensure it is appropriately updated to reflect any material changes in sustainable forest management.
     
  • and Hasbro has a target of At least 90 percent of paperboard packaging and in-box game content will be derived from recycled material or sources that practice sustainable forest management

This wording means it could be anything from zero to 100%

This wording means your 5e Dungeons and Dragons book (if it is printed by them) could be anything from zero to 100%, but Hasbro has specified a preference for at least 30% recycled content target so I doubt its less than that. Hasbro is explicit that any virgin wood fibre contains no mixed tropical hardwood virgin content and any wood from a High Conservation Value Forest – which is excellent.

I noted the Policy states that: Hasbro will publicly report bi-annually on progress made to achieve goals under this policy, including a break-down of sustainable fibre types based on testing conducted under this policy. Additionally, we will regularly review this policy and targets to ensure it is appropriately updated to reflect any material changes in sustainable forest management.

I was unable to locate such an update in the CSR section on how Hasbro was going with this policy but their CSR highlights for 2019 states that 90% of paper packaging and inbox content from recycled material of from sources that practice sustainable forest management (which is pretty broad as highlights of complex topics are want to do). Perhaps this wasn’t investigated in detail as Hasbro’s 2019 Annual Report (page 10) indicates that all their inhouse printing capabilities were outsourced to China or in the US to Cartamundi whose website confirmed they are a printer for Wizards of the Coasts – cash maker – Magic the Gathering. Sadly I was unable to find anything on the paper they use on Cartamundi’s website.

…I have failed to Exactly determine what TYPE OF paper is being used…

It could also be that I am crap at finding stuff – but this exercise is all about determining if a purchaser of a Dungeons and Dragons 5e book can easily find out if they are buying a sustainably made book. In this regard I have failed to exactly determine what type paper is being used in the book and therefore how sustainable the pages in the book are, but there is a good chance that it has been sustainably sourced paper and contains at least 30% recycled content.

Greenhouse emissions

Hasbro provides information on Greenhouse Gas Emissions. In their 2019 Report Hasbro reports they have offset 100% of all greenhouse gas emission but its 99% on the CSR highlights page.

…but its not the same as 100% renewable and sustainable ENERGY which is ZERO Emission.

Interestingly it appears they are allowed to count the burning of landfill gas as a CO2 offset. As a person currently working within the waste industry and with landfills – burning landfill gas is a good outcome compared to allowing it to escape to atmosphere as methane is a really bad greenhouse gas but its not the same as 100% renewable and sustainable energy which is zero emission.

Longer term it would be nice to see their Climate Change Commitment Policy amended to exclude the burning of fuels as an allowable offset and instead rely solely upon renewable energy sources including: wind, solar, wave energy, and sustainable hydro.

In 2020 solar is cheaper than coal energy but in Icewind Dale: Rime of the Frostmaiden there is no sun to make it work.

the answer is I couldn’t….

Hasbro provides more information on environmentally sustainability (water) and human rights and ethical sourcing (which is also important – although the list of suppliers on their website is nearly two years old) but this was the point which I got tired of searching and the aim of the exercise was to determine if the average consumer (me) could easily find out if my 5e Dungeons and Dragons book was sustainably produced and the answer is I couldn’t determine this. Despite this I feel confident to conclude that Wizards of the Coast or Hasbro probably have made an effort to achieve an environmentally sustainable book for me to purchase.

Room for improvement

All businesses, organisations and individuals (yes me too) eventually discover gaps and oversights where they need to improve. Resources and time are finite necessitating focus on some areas until a need necessitate a change of focus.

In an era when sustainability is important I think it would be appropriate for Wizards of the Coast to improve the transparency around how sustainable their products are to consumers like me who aren’t rouge inquisitives in real life – it would probably make a good Dragon Talk podcast episode provided its not too corporate in its delivery.

In summary, I would guess that the boxes of Lost Mine of Phandelver and the Essential Kit and the covers of the Dungeons and Dragons hardback adventures are likely to contain a higher percentage of recycled content as they are packaging (possibly 90%). When it comes to the pages of the books I am less certain – my best guess would be the pages are at least 30% recycled paper and there to be zero net emissions of greenhouse gases in production and transport.

There is room for improvement in energy sourcing as they are not a zero emissions operation business but what they have achieved is pragmatic and zero emissions is a lofty goal.

Our planet will need powerful magic or tender care by individuals and corporations if we intend it to survive.

Hopefully the future printings of Dungeons and Dragons books will include more information on the composition of the paper, ink, and paper source and the Wizards of the Coast website provides more detailed information on the sustainability of their products (Dungeons and Dragons and Magic the Gathering). I would be delighted to know if the lab grown sapphire for their sapphire die was done for environmental reasons or not?

Placeholder in advance: Hopefully a link can be added here to simple to understand information on the sustainability of Dungeons and Dragons products after this article was written – that would be great!

5 Reasons why you should DM Naked…

Yes that right – I Dungeon Master in the nude and you should too. Here’s why your DMing style and table should be run nude:

1. You owe your players the truth! Don’t fudge the dice rolls! If your players realise they are playing a character that isn’t at risk of imaginary death or unintended consequence at your table then your players won’t experience the highs (when the character gets out of a tight scrape) or lows (death or loss). The tension of possible unknown consequence or success is what makes roll playing games fun to play.

2. Be transparent about the rules and expectations. Being a Dungeon Master, or a player taking on an imaginary role is not an opportunity for a practice run at dictatorship. Collectively agree beforehand on the style of game to be played and the rules around it. You won’t think of everything to discuss but if you have already started having good conversations as a group then you already have the framework in place to resolve problems as a mature group.

Magic allows anyone to become a Peeping Tom

3. Deal with the issues at the table. The vast majority of gamers get along but if you play with enough people you will come across someone or someone’s playstyle you do not enjoy or takes away from the experience of others. In such situations it doesn’t help to hide behind the veneer of acceptability. Being rude and insensitive about the issue won’t make the situation better – be honest and upfront – in most cases what has transpired wasn’t intended, apologies will be offered and accepted and everyone will more on. If it this doesn’t happen then you need to make a decision about who stays and who goes. Don’t feel too bad about it – all parties will eventually find people they will resonate and be happy playing with.

This is what happens to your players if you take a little too much off.

4. Be responsive to player ideas. You have a campaign full of ideas and then the players come up with another and its better than yours – use it! One of the reasons why England established the world’s largest empire was in-part (history has no absolutes) because the English were masters of drawing ideas and resources from others and using them to their advantage. The English language and culture is filled with words (dungeon – from the word don-jon: French origin) and products from other cultures: the potato (South America), gunpowder (China), silk (China), chocolate (Amazon Basin), spices (Indonesia), and architecture (take you pick). Taking the ideas and incorporating it into your story will improve your campaign.

5. You are playing a virtual table top game with no cameras. If you play Dungeons and Dragons using a virtual table top and don’t use cameras then not wearing clothes while you run a game is perfectly okay without asking if others mind. Depending on your age and physical condition – looking down will either inspire you or fill you with terror and fear – emotions that you can then use to invigorate your adventure ideas and roleplaying.

Things You Shouldn’t do if you want to Stream or Podcast D&D

Fame and fortune – most of us desire it – and for many their perceived pathway to success is through the digital social media avenues including YouTube and Twitch.

The actual pathway to success is hard to fathom – having charisma and tenacity to perservere to building and audience is likely essential but there are a few things that will make your pathway to your success goals harder to if you overlook them.

To help you on your way here are a few things you should probably consider addressing either before or soon after you begin your quest for fame and/or notoriety.

  • Ignore Sound Quality

Sound quality is the very first thing that people will notice so before you start down this path focus on sound.

Your inbuilt smartphone and laptop computer screen will sound terrible – they are not designed for broadcasting. A headset microphone is better, but a dynamic USB dynamic microphone such as the Samsung Qu2 is better. If you don’t want the microphone to be on screen you will need to consider a shotgun microphone but these are typically much more expensive.

Rule 1: You can make a good recording sound bad but its impossible to make a poor quality recording good – don’t believe the marketing hype of software and plugin companies.

  • Don’t address Echo….Echo….Echo (Reverb)

Have you ever heard an echo when you have listened to audio? If not, go a clap your hands in your tiled bathroom. That sound you hear is the echo of the original sound reverberating around the room and back into the microphone. You can address this to a degree by having the microphone closer to your mouth but its more effective to use soft furnishings and blankets to absorb the sound. Furniture blankets are a popular option.

Echo will really catch your attention when you hear it

When selecting where to place noise absorbing material focus on the walls first, then the floor (if you are on a tiled or concrete floor) and ceiling last. Most noise travels across the room and then back and not up and down. Don’t forget the wall behind your computer monitor that’s the first place the noise goes after you speak when watching a screen.

If you still aren’t sure what reverb sounds like you can hear in it in the Down with D&D Podcast episode about Traps when the very talented Teos Abadia speaks in a room which sounds like has blank walls and a tiled floor making the perfect echo chamber.

  • Buy a Shure SM7B Because You Think It Must be the Best

This is a prolific internet microphone – the Shure SM7B is a classic microphone with its dark tones doing wonders for many voices. But it is expensive to own, and to make it work you have to shove if up in your face which if you are streaming video really ensures that your audience can’t see you – like this guy.

Shure SM7B in video action: Given the level of satire of the No Pun Intended Crew this choice could be deliberate, but a serious video streamer should look elsewhere for a microphone that suits the end purpose.

A microphone should be selected for the tone it provides your voice, the application you intend to use it for, the budget you have and the quality of the end user device.

A Shure SM7B is a great microphone but most videos are watched on a smartphone or tablet and neither will provide the audio quality of the recording and there is a good chance that the compression used by your streaming service will take the edge of your beautiful mix as well.

  • Talk into the top of a Blue Yeti Microphone

Yes. You need need help. Go check out this episode of Podcaststage for all you want to learn about Microphones and this YouTuble Video by Curtis Judd on selecting a microphone for streaming.

All the best finding fame and fortune!

The Adventure all Dungeon Masters should read

If you were to ask any avid fan of Dungeons and Dragons adventures name the classic adventures the names that come up time again are Tomb of Horrors, Expedition To The Barrier Peaks, The Temple of Elemental Evil, and most likely either Ravenloft or the 5e version Curse of Strahd.

Whist these adventures are indeed classic it this doesn’t actually mean they are the adventure a Dungeon Master should turn for inspiration when they decided they want to create their own campaign within a homebrew world. For that Dungeon Masters are advised to an adventure created by TSR UK Night’s Dark Terror for the expert set which veteran blogger DM David decided was the greatest Dungeons and Dragons adventure since 1985 (a viewpoint with which I agree).

Within its 64 pages this adventure contains an entire world of play including wilderness, sizeable town, factions, characters, challenges, intrigue, mysteries, unique locations setbacks and plenty of opportunities for heroics all within levels 2-4.

It does all this with the bare minimum of fuss. Information is where you need it. Boxed text is no longer or shorter than what you need to set the scene. Rooms and locations are compactly described and there are lots of maps including a very large early location map for miniature play.

Night’s Dark Terror: Goblins at the Siege of Sukiskyn

There is much within this adventure that has made its way to 5th edition Dungeons and Dragons. The Code Legal in Waterdeep: Dragon Heist looks inspired by the Laws of the Clerical Court of the city of Threshold, the Dellmon Ranch encounter in 5e Princes of the Apocalypse is a simple rift on the Siege of Sukiskyn, and the 5e Winter Wolf is the adventures Ice Wolf.

For Dungeon Masters the adventure highlights how staying compact with your ideas and word count combined with good presentation achieves everything you need. It also subtly demonstrates how to create an adventure has a clear path through it without appearing linear. At all times the players are provided with information that allows them to decided how they should proceed without being forced.

Mastering this style enables two important things to occur at your gaming table: 1) the players do feel like they are having an adventure of their choosing and become immersed in the world and motivated to continue on and 2) the Dungeon Master doesn’t have to worry about creating mountains of material just in case the players will go off-book.

Whether you decided to run this adventure or not it will help any DM who takes the time to read it with a template to success. Nights Dark Terror can be purchased from the DMsGuild.

Review: Out of the Box Encounters by Nerdarchy

Out of the Box: Encounters for 5th Edition created by the ZZ Top look-a-likes of the Dungeons and Dragons creators community “Nerdarchy” is a Kickstarter project which raised USD $256,734 from 4,057 backers.

Unlike many Kickstarter projects for 5th edition this product is not a campaign setting, epic adventure, monster, or class feats and expansion book. This book comprises small scenes best described as adventure scenarios. These can be small as a single room that can be dropped into your own campaign. The premise for this title is simple – provide something short and sharp that is inspiring and fun.

From the Adventure Scenario: Coin Flip

Inspiring and fun is where this title succeeds. The book contains fifty-five adventure scenarios suitable for inclusion in dungeons, cities, rural areas, when airborne or seafaring. Regardless of who you are as a game master you will find many adventure scenarios that will suit you are your play style and gaming group.

Looking for a mystery – check, looking for an encounter that will result in a fight – check, looking for that puzzle that will make your players think without pulling their hair out – check, looking for some outhouse humour – check.

Hags, undead, golems, lizard folk, devils, and exploding sheep are some of the delights that fill the pages. At least eight different and well known authors wrote for this book and the diversity of ideas shows through.

Cartography and illustrations throughout the book are very good. The art style varies throughout the book but nothing jars and the art variance reflects the variance of adventure scenarios in the title.

Where this title suffers is in its design, editing and layout.

From Adventure Scenario: Auntie Knows Best

The book lacks an index to tell game masters the level range of each adventure. This means a GM has to flip back and forth through the entire book to see which adventure scenarios might be suitable. Its a simple oversight but a major problem when you have fifty-five options.

The graphic design for layout can best be described as inconsistent. Sometimes there are spaces between paragraphs and sometimes you are just presented with a wall of text without spacing between paragraphs.

Sometimes the book has three columns of text and sometimes two. Key paragraphs that a game master might want to refer to in a adventure are flagged with bullet points and sometimes they are flagged with a bolded word or phrase.

From Adventure Scenario: Fire for Effect

The Quick Reference Guide sidebar text is too small and has a weird font choice compared to the font chosen for the text body. There is no synergy between the fonts – each clashes with the other – much like the heavy metal music that Nerdarchy used for their Kickstarter promotional video.

Monsters statistics are allowed to flip over the page which is a no-no if you want to make a gamemasters life easier at the table. Maps containing few details are presented in a large size while maps that contains lots of details are displayed very small on the page.

These layout choices combined with the decision to run with unjustified paragraph text results in a book that is difficult to scan to find the content you are searching for.

If the Nerdarchy Team were to produce another 5e product then my recommendation for them is to include in their budget funds to hire an editor like Scott Fitzgerald-Gray or Kim Mohan and to find a professional graphic designer who is trained in font and layout theory rather than taking on the project yourself. As much as the Nerdarchy team members like to do things themselves when you are taking money (and USD $256,734 is a lot of money) the Nerdarchy should have pushed out a product with a presentation quality that either beats or at least compete with the best of the amateurs on the DMs Guild.

From Adventure Scenario: One Crew, Two Crow, Three Crow, Scarecrow

Despite the books poor layout and design choices that affects game table usability this is a good product from Nerdrachy. The adventure scenario content is good, the art inspiring and the maps very useful. If you are after a big book of short ideas for your gaming table this is a solid choice and you are unlikely to be disappointed.

How Popular is Dungeons and Dragons in your Country Compared to Others?

There has been much general commentary about the popularity of 5th edition Dungeons and Dragons. Certainly all reports indicates that sales are up but how popular is the game by country?

As it happens Google keeps tabs on how popular search terms are by country but how does Google measure popularity? After all popularity is a fairly subjective metric.

Google determines popularity by calculating popularity on scale from 0 to 100, where 100 is the location with the most popularity as a fraction of total searches in that location, a value of 50 indicates a location which is half as popular. A value of 0 indicates a location where there was not enough data for this term (ie. you can assume its not popular).

Note: A higher value means a higher proportion of all queries, not a higher absolute query count. So a tiny country where 80% of the queries are for “bananas” will get twice the score of a giant country where only 40% of the queries are for “bananas”.

Quick Insights from the Data

  • Western countries where the official language includes English top the popularity list
  • Dungeons and Dragons is about half as popular in the Netherlands as it is in Canada where the game is most popular.
  • Dungeons and Dragons is most popular in the Philippines and Singapore within the Asian region.
  • The game has a degree of popularity in Muslim countries with the game about 1/10th as popular in Malaysia as Canada and 1/50th as popular in Indonesia which has the most following this faith.
CountryDungeons and Dragons:
Relative Popularity By Country
Period 1 January 2015 to 23 August 2020
Canada100
United States97
New Zealand77
Australia75
Denmark66
United Kingdom64
Norway59
Puerto Rico58
Sweden57
Ireland54
Netherlands46
Finland36
Portugal36
Austria33
Philippines33
Singapore32
Germany31
Belgium29
Italy29
South Africa27
Croatia25
Greece24
Spain24
Hungary24
Czechia24
Slovakia22
Switzerland20
Brazil20
Bulgaria19
Romania19
Serbia19
Chile16
Poland15
Mexico15
Argentina14
Israel11
Malaysia11
South Korea7
Russia7
Colombia6
Peru6
Turkey5
France5
Ukraine5
Vietnam3
Thailand3
India3
Indonesia2
Japan2
Relative popularity of Dungeons and Dragons by country. If a country is not listed there isn’t enough data which means its not popular.

The Best 5e Dungeons and Dragons Character Sheet

There are a vast arrange of character sheets available including the ones produced by Wizards of the Coast which can be downloaded for free.

The best 5e character sheet for use at the gaming table is the one designed by William Lu whose masterpiece is available for free from his Art Station page.

While the simple clear design is very nice what distinguishes this character sheet from others is that it helps you build your character at first level, a feature useful to any player.

William makes the character sheets available in both printable and editable PDF format. This is very helpful for those of us that burn through our character sheets with an eraser over time as hit points go up and down.

Dungeon Masters are also catered for with William producing a simple and clear monster template for you to write down key statistics (very handy for NPCs)

We highly recommend you take a look.

Review: Heroic Maps

Heroic Maps is a small family business which commenced producing maps in 2013.

Like many game creatives the founders of Heroic Maps founders (Joe and Sarah) map making was a secondary business but in 2018 they achieved their dream of becoming full-time map makers who now serve customers through DrivThruRPG and a Heroic Maps Patreon account. At the time of review Heroic Maps has more than 700 supporters paying USD$5 or more.

Heroic maps focus is largely for fantasy with dungeons and adventure location maps for tabletop role-playing games. However, at least once a month they produce a map suitable for science fiction fans, and from time to time a map suitable for modern gameplay.

Heroic maps produces at resolution which enables the maps to be printed at a high enough resolution for with 25mm – 30mm miniature play. Ffiles are also provided at 140px resolution for those who are fans of virtual table tops (VTT). In both cases files are provided both with and without grids.

Map sizes when printed range from 20″ x 20″ in size to 50″ x 50″ in size which is more than large enough to cover a good sized kitchen table for gameplay. From time to time Heroic Maps teams make tile sets which a game master can clip together in photo editing software such as Affinity Photo to make a larger and more customer map.

Tiled maps include outdoor and indoor option. In some cases the tiles don’t align perfectly but it is close enough in most instances where they don’t perfectly align a few seconds with Affinity Photo’s inpainting tool hides the joins perfectly.

The range of maps available is excellent – ranging from forests, swamps, mountains, to large buildings, cities, and of course dungeons. As a virtual tabletop gamer I do find myself wanting their maps to seamless join up with their tile sets (such as their hinterland series) but this would be a trade-off against artistic freedom.

One hallmark of the art style is the quality of the stone work whether walls or floors.

This can likely be attributed to Joe being a trained geologist.

Oh! and the maps are all produced using a mouse with no tablet in sight (it bends my mind that someone is that persistent with a mouse).

If you are interested the cheapest way to obtain them is through the Heroic Maps Patreon with backers receiving about 7 maps a month for USD$5. In addtion Patreon supporters are provided with higher discounts to maps on DriveThruRPG (usually at least once a map).

Our favourite maps is the turtle with a village on its back going through the sea.