Friday, September 28, 2018

Review: Tome of Holding

In a hoard of gaming accessories, it is hard to stand out in the crowd. I think Alex Ingram has done just that with the Tome of Holding Kickstarter. I waited to post my review until after I had an opportunity to use this crafty tool during a game session. It did not disappoint, with the consensus this is an amazing product.

First, let us talk aesthetics though, as the Tome is a gorgeous piece. I am personally a big fan of anything crafted from wood at the game table. When playing RPGs, it is another thing to help with immersion.

Crafted from cherry, maple or walnut, this is a just beautiful. The inner pages are lovingly fitted with dice holding slots (LOTS), a rolling tray, and even a small space that could serve as a dice jail! Other options include adding a pencil slot. All of these areas are lined with a nice red or green flocking, with a charcoal version a stretch goal!

The tome is approximately 8” high and 5” wide closed. Perfect for transport to your favorite gaming venue. Even when fully opened, it does not take up a premium amount of table space. 

All the carving is meticulously done with routers designed by Alex during his RPG Coasters campaigns. You can read my review of those here and here. I am a big fan of this style as you see enough from a distance to become intrigued. Then when you pick up the product all the details become apparent. For this reason, I believe everything Alex crafts to be wonderful conversation pieces.

The construction of the Tome is really well done. Everything fits together seamlessly and it looks like a book. The magnets…WOW are they strong! It takes a couple times before you get the gist of opening the Tome. However, rest assured; even if you dropped it from a great height, it is not inadvertently opening!

As I get older, quality is something that is more important to me. I want things that will last, things I may even pass down to someone else. The Tome of Holding definitely fits that category as a beautiful gaming heirloom.

The hinges are very sturdy.

Alex is using magnets +5 on these!

This is a great addition to any gaming space.

The Tome is a perfect conversation piece.

The Tome looks great on any shelf!

The Kickstarter is currently live and funded. With an estimated delivery of July 2019, this may be the perfect present next year for that gamer that has everything. Check it out!

Thursday, August 23, 2018

Dragons: Unique Breath Weapons

Dragons. The most iconic monster ever. Their name is in the title of the D&D game. Over the years, there have been countless iterations. Admittedly, I have never been very keen with how they are represented. In my own campaign world, dragons are separated into two piles. The published versions, which are the younger of their ilk. Then my home-brewed dragons, which are the antediluvian horrors of the realm. These are elder creatures, which have seen kingdoms rise and fall, and cataclysms change the face of the planet.

These dragons have special abilities, which make them nigh impossible to defeat. Even the mightiest of heroes have scars both physical and emotional after crossing their paths. You would be wise to take the advice of that old woman in the tavern. Stay away from them. It’s a fool’s errand. The horror she witnessed so many years ago…it is true.

Below are four types of special breath weapon to use when beefing up your own dragons. These will help keep even the most veteran (or meta gaming) players on their toes. In addition, they will help forge legends at your table, untarnished by time!

Unique Breath Weapons

1. Double Breath (Recharge 3-6): this dragon was born with twin organs, which produce its breath weapon. This causes the creature to regenerate the use of its attack much faster.

Special: If the dragon has legendary actions, it can spend two points to use both organs at once. This produces a super breath weapon, which does double the normal damage. Afterward the recharge becomes to 5-6 for two rounds. This dragon should have terror heaped upon its name.

2. Pinpoint Breath: this dragon is an expert at using its breath weapon to hit small targets. This power disregards whether it normally has a line, cone, or cloud attack. The dragon can choose to use its breath normally or focus it into a singular attack. The target has disadvantage on its saving throw to avoid this damage.

Special: If the dragon has legendary actions, it can spend one point to double the range of its pinpoint breath for the next attack. If two points are spent then the range is tripled. This is a devastating tactic when combined with the dragon’s ability to keep distance with flight.

3. Incendiary Breath: this dragon’s breath weapon also contains a sticky, adhesive goo, which ignites when exposed to air. The terrible smelling jelly burns extremely hot, doing 5d6 fire damage every round. A creature can end this damage by using its action to make a DC 15 Dexterity check to scrape off the burning substance.

Special: If the dragon has legendary actions, it can spend one point to cough up extra incendiary goo on its next breath attack. The damage caused by it will then ignore fire resistance. If two points are spent, also increase the damage to 10d6.

4. Smog Breath: this dragon was born with a second breath organ, which has a congenital defect. Instead of fire, it produces a fog of toxic smoke and ash particles. Every time the dragon uses its normal breath weapon the smog also issues forth. This 30-foot cone causes targets to cough and gag uncontrollably. Each creature in that area must make a DC 15 Constitution saving throw or become unable to breathe. A creature affected in this way is Incapacitated and Suffocating. As long as it is conscious, a creature can repeat the saving throw at the end of each of its turns, ending the effect on it on a success. The Lesser Restoration spell can also end the effect on a creature.

Special: If the dragon has legendary actions, it can spend two points to cause its next smog attack to linger. The radius is 30-feet anywhere within the range of the attack. This area is heavily obscured until a wind of at least 10 miles per hour blows it away, or until the duration ends.

Monday, July 16, 2018

Review: Hand of the Zombie Dice Tray

Recently my Hand of the Zombie Dice Tray arrived from Darksilver Forge. I wanted to take some pictures and share them with everyone. This is definitely a very cool piece of gaming swag. At 6” in width and 12” in length, you really have a nice runway to roll dice in. The design also allows for horizontal or vertical use, which is good when table space is at a premium.

I really like how the red interior is in stark contrast to the synthetic black leather. In addition, the zombie hand is just metal as hell. It's almost beckoning you to roll 20s! In a sea of game aids and various table tools this one makes the grade. If you're looking for a gift for that gamer that has everything the Hand of the Zombie Dice Tray is a good choice.

As of this posting, the tray appears to be on sale. For more information, or to purchase your own check the product page here.

The front of the packaging.

The back of the packaging.

The tray was sealed very nicely

View of the 1" depth

The well crafted stitching

The tray fits behind a DM screen just fine

Another view of the tray depth

The tray is a very nice conversation piece

Tuesday, June 26, 2018

Review: Fiend Folio Dice Cup

Last year I reviewed the Demon Idol dice cup by Foster Leathercraft. Well I decided to commission a new one and wow it's just epic. This cup is an interpretation of the original wraparound cover for the 1981 Fiend Folio by artist Emmanuel. I will never forget seeing that bright blue book with the awesome skeletal creature the first time. As a young DM the githyanki really resonated with me. They were alien like with withered skin stretched over bone, wielding super awesome swords! For the uninitiated, the githyanki are astral sea dwellers who were once enslaved by a malevolent and cthulhu-esque race known as the illithid or mind flayers.

Just like my last dice cup, this is a very well-constructed item. The design features beautiful stitching, vibrant colors, and just screams old school Dungeons & Dragons. I wanted to add some bling to make it really eye catching so there are multiple gems riveted into the leather. After all, githyanki have to look good in their bejeweled armor. This cup is a tad taller then the last one, which will allow for more dice to fill it.

Close-up view of the front

Close-up view of the back

Close-up view of the lid

The deep interior for dice

The dice cup bottom

The sword and skull

The castle

The infamous githyanki

Size comparison

I'm very happy with this amazing piece of gaming swag and already dreaming up my next one. Foster Leathercraft offers other leather goods and is more than capable of doing custom work. Please visit their Etsy store to view more fantastic gaming accessories, or perhaps order your own dice cup!

Githyanki History

Dungeons and Dragons players were first treated to the githyanki by Charles Stross in the pages of White Dwarf magazine. The artwork of Russ Nicholson really brought them to life. Furthermore, the word githyanki was originally coined by no other then George R. R. Martin himself in his novel Dying of the Light. Now decades later, the githyanki have survived multiple iterations of the D&D game. They symbolize everything that is metal, lethal and off the hook.

Page from the Fiend Factory, White Dwarf #12, 1979

Original wraparound cover for the 1981 Fiend Folio by artist Emmanuel

The Brood Ventricle adventure. Click to download

Wednesday, June 6, 2018

Save Your Game Session: DM Burnout

It has happened to us all. You scheduled the game weeks ago. It is finally here. You just worked a gazillion hours or were up to a million o’clock the night before. You are tired, not in the mood, but don't want to cancel the game. After all, it is super hard to get the gang together!

Everyone arrives. You catch up, since you have not interacted which each other beyond social media. Some time passes and everyone is finally ready to start. You feel a little better now, a tad more relaxed. An hour into the game you have the 1000-mile stare. You start hand waving things you should not. Monster stats become meaningless. Hell, you just want them to die and the game to end.

Someone is building dice towers. Maybe someone else is on his or her phone. There is almost definitely someone doodling. Yikes, can you salvage this? Yes, you can! Remember Dungeons & Dragons is a storytelling game. If you are tired and the game is dragging, it is time to get back to basics. Referencing character sheets and rules minutia is enough to cast a Sleep Spell on anyone.

I have been though the scenario outlined above many times. To escape the mire I developed some tools to get me back on track. The first one is a character card. On it, I have bullet points, which detail the motivations, goals, quirks, and weaknesses of each character. When things start to drag, or the scenario I prepared is not turning out great, I turn to those cards. After all this is their story, and you are just helping to direct it.

Players will immediately perk up when suddenly passed the story ball. I have to tell you, that energy at the game table is very contagious. As Dungeon Master, you should be on the lookout for when the players pass you the story ball also. That cool idea they just came up with? Go with it! Especially if you are feeling session burnout and things are bland.

Nothing is more exciting than when the players take the story in some unexpected direction. It is fun to be surprised as the Dungeon Master occasionally. That is the essence of collaborative story telling. It makes you not have to do all the heavy lifting, especially if you are having an off night.

Another technique I use when tired is intravenous coffee. OK, jokes aside I have yet another set of cards on hand. On them, I have detailed in one paragraph or less, various colorful NPCs and points of interest. These immediately create a “shiny” for the players to latch onto. Some are outlandish, like a kobold selling dyed scarfs in the middle of the dungeon, whoa…what is her story? Others are just fascinating, like the countenance of a man upon the door of a rotted cottage, his eyes almost lifelike.

When dreaming these up I have no idea where they may go. This is by design. I have even run entire game sessions this way, setting aside my original plans. They have created some of the most memorable encounters. However, most importantly they helped to get this tired Dungeon Master back on track. I hope this post inspires you with some of these ideas. In the instances where life has you failing your tired save, the game sessions are salvageable. You just need to jump-start your engine!

If these solutions don’t work for you, it may be best to end your game early and regroup at a later date. It is definitely not worth forging on if everyone is not having a good time. If you are experiencing dungeon master burnout constantly, it may be time for a break. Maybe schedule a board game night. Alternatively, switch things up and run a low crunch one shot to rekindle that game master fire.  For some it may be simple as handing over the reins to another game master for a while.

If you have any tips or tricks to bounce back from a dragging game session, please feel free to share! Just remember the challenge not unique to you. We all have been there!

Sleep Spell - Larry Elmore (1983)

Tuesday, May 29, 2018

A Dungeons & Dragons Birthday Party

This past weekend I took part in amazing party for our friend’s son who was turning 9-years old. It all started last year when my wife and I offered the use of the Game Tavern for his birthday. The family lives 6-hours away, but that did not stop them making sure this epic quest occurred! Our friend Tanya has always been super crafty, with many amazing parties under her belt. Her son Brokk comes from his love of Dungeons & Dragons honestly, as I have been playing the game with his dad for decades.

Most of our friends have kids between the ages of 6 and 13; so many different activities would need planning. Tanya definitely delivered that and then some, which I will detail below. If you are planning a similar party for your own children, I hope this post serves as inspiration. This is the stuff of legends and great memories!

The party started with outside activities. Since there were many younger kids, they were ready to jump right into the fun. In addition, it was important for the older kids to get some energy out also. When it comes to D&D, the mind can only absorb what the seat can endure. This could not ring any truer with children and teens. Below are pictures of the various crafts and activities all put together for the party.
The character sheet shirt.

All of the children received these home made dice chests.

Each chest is guarded by a dragon. Their curled tail holds a D20!

Inside the dice chests, complete with Brokk's birthday d6s.

Outside included a bouncy joust with rings.

A refreshment tent.
Bottled Water Weird was on hand!

An area for birthday presents (loot) to be placed.
Of course there was alchemy!

The slime recipe was a big favorite with the kids!

A water balloon siege engine!

What monster to attack?

A goblin target!

A Gnoll target!

An of course an Owlbear...I missed it every time!

This station had target dummies and shield making!

Homemade pillory for photo ops!

A home made BEHOLDER Pinata!!! This was amazing.

The poor Beholder did not last many rounds against a dozen kids!

A home made MIMIC Birthday Cake!!!

This is what it looks like after taking critical damage.

A lock picking station for rogues in training.

Home made Kobold Kandy inside!

My own son is 11-years old, and a new Dungeon Master. With about a dozen game sessions under his belt, he was quick to volunteer to DM for the party. Over the past few weeks, we worked on a 3-hour dungeon together. It was linear on purpose, after all this was a party and things needed to keep moving. The star of the show of course was the birthday boy, Brokk. The story being he was attempting to recover his lost family sword from the vile dragon Acidmaw!

The adventure featured many classic monsters such as a Water Weird, Gelatinous Cube and, Piercers. Many times during the adventure, some of the adults stepped in to quietly watch the adventure unfold. It was really cool experiencing the next generation playing a session together. All I could think was, wow...wish I had parents like us when I first learned about the game in 1983!

The players were given pre-made characters complete with custom paper miniatures. They also received a Bag of Holding which contained all sorts of accouterments such as pencils, paper, etc.

The kids had a blast and were thrilled to battle a dragon. Brokk's character found his magic sword, Dragonslayer and it launched to his hand. We ordered a cool foam sword and had it waiting for that very moment. My son handed it to him and the surprise was priceless! The group eventually slayed the evil dragon, with the birthday boy landing the final blow.

The Game Tavern ready for the adventure.

The game session. Faces blurred for privacy.

If if you have any questions about some of crafted items in this post Tanya can be reached on Twitter @Tuneses. Dungeons and Dragons is such a wonderful hobby. I'm really happy that our own children all love playing it. Keep gaming and remember you're never to old to be a kid at heart!