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Tag: DMs Guild

The Lion & The Blades, by Weston Prestage

The DMs Guild is the resource that keeps on giving and I never fail to be astonished by the creativity and industry of the many many contributors enlarging the Dungeons & Dragons multiverse. Expanded monster manuals, epic compendiums of NPC statblocks, planar guides, warlock handbooks, and my own guide to magic weapons (get a free sample here!), there’s so much rich material to add to your game.

For all the handbooks, player options, and new lore, for my money there’s nothing quite as romantic as an adventure, especially when it takes you back – Stranger Things-style – to a pre-digital world of kids riding their BMXes through the rain to clatter dice together during the school holidays. And so, without further ado, let me give over the reins to Weston Prestage, whose adventure, The Lion and the Blades, is steeped in 2nd edition nostalgia…

Tell us about your adventure, The Lion and the Blades…

It’s a city / dock / sewer adventure for a 1st level party. Taking place over one intense speed run with no breaks or hit point boosting power naps. It starts a group off like being shot from a cannon into the intensity of what D&D always was for me. Hot, fast and often brutal… grim meat hook realities… lying in wait for bad choices and bad rolls… and the rewards of REAL emotion at your success or failures.

I made this adventure when I was 14, and it was written in the twisted yet simplistic style of the mind of a 14-year-old Dungeon Master who ran a group of four to six players in a small town in rural New Zealand in the year 1991. I have brought it up to 5e standards without losing the old school 2nd edition – mostly made up as you go along, out of total imagination and written in the back of your math book in class, feel.

The Lion and the Blades is a “Linear” Adventure to a degree… the players are not wandering about mission-less, paralyzed by sandy boxy free choice.

Buy The Lion & The Blades on the DMs Guild

Why did you write it?

Back in the early days, I always had a hard time starting off adventurers on their first few levels, as most of what was available back in the early 90s was high level stuff or pretty dull, orc and goblins in rooms or caves in the hills stuff… I wanted to start guys off with a bang… and so I would make adventures where a powerful NPC mentored them… kind of.

I had big goals that my games and adventures were always going to be amazing. That the players will be faced with challenge after challenge and it will possibly be too much for them, mentally. My adventures have been known to cause grown men to lie down on the floor and refuse to get up until the mad merry go round stops. Others enjoy the carnie roller-coaster feel of my adventures. When, back in 91, the guys showed up at my house after riding in the rain for an hour – they needed something to bring them back to life. My adventures did just that.

How about a little taster then?

Knowing how much players love swimming their characters through freezing cold water toward adventure I made sure to include this:

The party comes to a large pipe with sea sounds and sea smells from the seashore issuing from it – a salty and refreshing change from the slimy sewers. Leon asks if someone would scout stoutly ahead to make sure the coast is clear. He also says that if anyone has anything that water would ruin, to leave it here as now they will be swimming aways.

After 20 feet of crawling, the pipe ends underneath a wharf. Leon jumps out and starts swimming strongly through the cold dark salty seawater, towards a huge and terrifying, Black and Blue painted Galleon, bristling with gun hatches (if you run a gunpowder game) and vicious barnacles. This is the Black and Blue Lass. The wooden pillars that support the wharf are spaced 20 feet apart and the players must swim through the freezing water with attendant penalties from the cold. Bad swimmers can swim/ from wharf pillar to wharf pillar clutching and sputtering at each of these, on the way to the galleon…

Who the hell are you by the way?

I’ve been playing since January 1985… I met a kid called Ben, who introduced me to a game called Tunnels and Trolls.

Ben and I played this game a lot over that summer in a sweltering little caravan…with my characters Rambo I, II and III.

My foolish and reckless play style got me killed often but undaunted I made my own dungeon and killed other people’s characters.

When I was 11, I could finally understand the Red Box I got for Xmas when I was 10. Then a teenager sold me all his 1st ed books at the same time 2nd ed came out. By 13 I’m playing a twisted house ruled out of control bastard mix of all of the above and did so until 16. Every weekend and holiday… A good 20 hours a week + 15 hours creating adventures with my gaming group of 6 players.

I resisted 3.0 – 3.5 all the way until I was 26 when I was up in a cabin in the wilds of Canada hanging with some hippies and one day one of them said “The way you speak… You sound like a Dungeon Master… I made the outrageous claim that I was not only a 47th level Dungeon master, but one of the top 10 on the planet…and the only difference between myself and Dungeon Masters …. is that I am a Dungeon Master.

He produced a 3.0 players handbook and some battered dice and the twisted hippies forced me to read the book cover to cover and kept me as a captive in a cabin for 26 straight days while I took them on an immense campaign 1st level to 17th – all adventures run from memory …seamlessly and flawlessly.

I have taken breaks now and then to work and get things done, but when I get rolling on playing its fully immersed.

Now Im 42 – I have a “D and D room” in my house and every book worth having since 1977– EVERY Dungeon magazine, Every Dragon Magazine, and my poor 7 year old son starts every second sentence with “In D & D…”

I kept playing right into the unplayable mass of piddling plusses and minuses that pathfinder became before almost going into a brain dead coma from it all… then 5e liberated me like a firebird from the sooty nightmare realm of min maxed optimized builds and pictures of cartoony monsters wielding giant weapons.

If someone had told me as a child that I would spend countless hours over the next 35 years scribbling into notebooks, rolling dice, making funny voices and would go without food, sleep and even destroy perfectly good relationships with perfectly proportioned women all for the thrill of helping others follow me through a glowing green portal into an imaginary world populated with fairies, elves and gremlins I would have grabbed them by the arm and said…

“THERE’S A” PORTAL????!!!!!”

And what else have you written?

I have written about 20 other adventures, a number I converted to 3.5 and were very popular on old D&D websites back in the day. They are almost all insanely epic in scope 40+ hours each – not the stuff for beer and pretzels play… but more like group of 14 year olds living in a remote area fodder. In their original note form, each adventure filled 3-4 school notebooks. One is almost 400 pages long. If I had the strength … I would convert them to 5e for DMs guild.

I can send people the 3.5 PDFs if anyone is interested.

And just for fun…

What’s your current PC?

I have never really played in anyone’s game before, I’ve always DMed… what I do is make up insane NPCs and kind of play them along with the players… like Glambrax. A demented mullet wearing alcoholic human afflicted with dwarfism. He is numb from years of self-abuse and wild with rage at his own existence. When not trying to win prizefights, he lives in a barrel in the slums and sells roasted rats and a crude beer fermented from acorns.

Both rats and acorns being gathered for him by street urchins he has befriended.

What’s your favorite character class?

Dwarven Rogue. Tough and rough, low Charisma, low dex, high strength and constitution, chops through chests instead of picking them, crowbars traps apart instead of disarming them and screams at people instead of persuading them…

What’s your favorite monster?

Twisted NPCs… it could be a deranged fisherman… a crazed orphan Elf or a human with dwarfism that has racially appropriated the Duergar race. The kookier and more intense the better.

What’s your favorite official D&D adventure?

The UK Series… they are all amazing, but the shining gem is When a Star Falls. I love massive wilderness adventures that have many plots and twists going on at once.

You can get in touch with me, Weston Prestage, via email: agentfestaskull@gmail.com

Buy The Lion & The Blades on the DMs Guild

Killer Kobolds, by Tony Petrecca

One of the most well-known and well-loved adventures on the DMs Guild is Killer Kobolds, an adventure that pits your players against wave after devious wave of the eponymous little critters.

Who better to introduce the best seller than the author himself!?

Dear Tony…

Tell us about your book, Killer Kobolds…

The Kobolds of Crag Canyon have kidnapped the children of the pleasant village of Thornyfoot, and it’s up to the heroes to charge in and save the day. Killer Kobolds is a fast paced 5th Edition D&D adventure meant to provide an unforgettable challenge for characters from levels 8-12.

With its simple, straightforward premise, Killer Kobolds quite purposefully sidesteps any and all moral quandaries in order to provide hours of thrilling, high octane, action packed fun.

Looking for Die Hard meets Aliens meets John Wick meets Thunder Road in a D&D session? Well then, have I got the Kobolds for you. Killer Kobolds! Action just levelled UP!

You can buy Killer Kobolds on the DMs Guild for $4.95.

Why did you write it?

The scenario that would eventually become Killer Kobolds grew naturally from my long running home game. My players, having recently taken possession of a small keep guarding a mountain pass, had the opportunity to negotiate with a couple of kobold traders from a nearby canyon enclave. Goliath Barbarian Eglath couldn’t bring himself to believe that the kobolds were negotiating in good faith, thus he opened negotiations with his great club, launching a war.

Knowing full well things were going to get ugly quick, the party set out to kobold territory to take the battle to the little beasties. What ensued was an ever-escalating series of action scenes featuring a vast array of kobold kin harassing the party from all angles using a wide and constantly changing variety of tactics, building ultimately to a thrilling showdown with a big bad kobold ally. The gameplay was filled with foolhardy charges, desperate retreats, harrowing escapes, and a crescendo of action whose final resolution brought about cheers and applause at the table.

When it was done our table agreed that it was some of the most entertaining D&D any of us had been involved in. I realized that the Killer Kobolds could be readily extracted from their original campaign and turned into a stand-alone, drop anywhere action adventure with a simple plot hook change, and I set about making that happen, so I could share the fun with the rest of the world.

How about a little taster then?

Killer Kobolds is NOT Tomb of Horrors. It is not meant to be a TPK waiting to happen. Like any great action movie, I want the characters to find themselves breathless, brutalized, and proudly victorious scene after scene, but I don’t want them slaughtered. Thus, the adventure has simple guidelines in place to help the DM modulate the action, allowing the adventure to continue its pace, which should be a gradual crescendo of action all building to the shocking BBEG reveal at the end.

Like any great action movie, Killer Kobolds contains several set piece scenes that play out as exciting, fluid, dynamic battles. Similarly, like any great action movie, Killer Kobolds has its share of memorable enemies the heroes must overcome, from the brilliant cover girl Levexi the kobold sniper, through flying kobold war priests, to a surprise big bad evil that, when revealed, should inspire jaws to drop.

One such enemy that never fails to infuriate in play is the kobold sorcerer Rerecross. Rerecross uses his skills to hit and run, frustrating the PCs as they give chase through a gauntlet that includes several traps and a collapsing bridge guarded by Kobold Commandos and Kobold Air Cavalry.

He manages to inspire the chase thusly:

Rerecross, prepped and ready to defend the ritual in the best kobold manner he knows how, is at the western door of area 1, using it for three-quarters cover. He will toss a fireball at the party and then retreat, closing the door behind him. He takes a position at the bolthole (2) and readies another fireball to throw into area 1 should its door be opened by anyone but a kobold….

….Rerecross knows the layout well and will target the fireball for maximum effect – centering it on the square that is fifteen feet behind the open door. If the party pursues he’ll retreat, using the dash action, a misty step or dimension door if necessary, to get past area 3, across the bridge, and into area 4. From that vantage he’ll take three quarters cover, peaking around a corner to harass with ranged spells while the kobold squads and air cavalry engage in area 3.

… Rerecross, in area 4, will continue to harass from cover until he gets somebody’s attention, at which point he will retreat to the middle of area 5. He hopes an eager pursuer, split from the party, will somehow cross the collapsed bridge and come at him solo. But solo or not, once pursued he retreats to the middle of area five, behind the Catapult of Doom, hoping to draw his pursuers through two brutal trap areas.

It works like a charm, every time I run it. Inevitably at this point a brave Paladin, brash Fighter or enraged Barbarian tears off in pursuit… first setting off The Four Pillars of Destruction, and then turning to find Rerecross beckon from the middle of a large open room, a sly grin upon his face, as his pursuer triggers The Catapult of Doom and finds themselves hurled over the grinning kobold’s head to smash against the opposite wall.

Oh sure, cautious, careful adventurers might notice and avoid the traps,“but who treads carefully when in hot pursuit of an infuriating kobold sorcerer?”

Who the hell are you by the way?

Well, I’m a 50-year-old Indianapolis resident, Purdue grad, husband, dad, dude with a day job, DEVO fan, and a DM – not necessarily in that order. I got introduced to D&D sometime last century when a friend of mine sent me In Search of the Unknown in a place called Quasqueton and I’ve been hooked ever since.

I’ve always been a fan of creating my own scenarios in any game I’ve played, thus jumping into DMing seemed a natural fit. I’ve got an amazing table of friends, many of whom have been gaming together since early childhood, and I love devising new and creative ways to entertain them. Alas, we’re all parents with day jobs and such, thus we can’t game as often as we used to, though we do our best to play for a couple hours at least once a week.

And what else have you written?

My first forays into publication were Journey Through the Center of the Underdark 1 & 2, companion pieces to Out of the Abyss. They were remarkably well received and went on to become platinum best sellers. Eventually I compiled the two into one convenient bundle available here.

After completing Killer Kobolds I wanted to turn my attention towards something more emotionally complex, an adventure where investigators, explorers, and role players would have their day in the sun, while still providing fans of combat with their dice rolling opportunities. Inspired in no small part by Dean Spencer’s amazing cover art, Hunted was born. Folks can take a look at Hunted here.

I’ve also had the opportunity to contribute to several other DMsGuild projects, most notably Jeff C Steven’s Savage Encounter’s series. I’m particularly proud of the work Jeff, Shawn Merwin, and I did on The Mines of Chult.

You can find all of the above, and plenty more I’ve gotten to contribute to on my DMs Guild page.

And just for fun…

What’s your current PC?

Wendilisa Delirious – Tiefling Bard.

What’s your favourite character class?

I’m a clutz in real life, so I’m drawn to dex builds in my RPGs. I love my bards, rogues, swashbucklers, and dex based fighters. Stout halfling barbarian, anyone?

What’s your favourite monster?

You have to ask? Kobolds of course. I’ve loved em since the first time I read about Tucker’s.

What’s your favourite official D&D adventure?

Of all time? 3rd Edition’s Red Hand of Doom gets high marks from me. For 5th Edition I’ve got a big soft spot for Out of the Abyss.

What’s your favourite unofficial D&D adventure?

Oh no, there are way too many outstanding adventures from amazingly talented authors on the DMsGuild to pick just one. I do keep a reasonably up to date collection of many of my favorites, with reviews, here.

What’s your D&D alter ego?

Oh, the player in me would love to be my OG original AD&D bard Sprite Silverlocks, or perhaps my current tiefling Wendilisa. The DM in me likes to think he’s the Arch Mage Accertep or the Silver Dragon Zephrym. But at this point, realistically I’m the retired adventurer, safely running the inn with his wife and daughter, happy to sit by the fire swapping tales of glory with those who’ll listen.

Thanks Tony, was great getting to know you. How can we stay in touch on the interwebs?

Well on the Facebooks I’ve got an Author’s page, @DMTonyPetrecca, and my personal Facebook presence where I play Tony Petrecca. On the Twitters I’m @TonyPetrecca and, finally, I’ve got a Google+ presence where, I know, this’ll be a big surprise, I’m Tony Petrecca.

10 FREE Magic Weapons For Your Game

To celebrate the launch of my latest title, Esquiel’s Guide to Magic Weapons (available to buy on the DM’s Guild), I would like to offer my readers my ten favourite weapons in the book, for free, for their 5th edition Dungeons & Dragons gameplay.

Now available on the the DMs Guild

One of my main goals in writing the guide was to craft at least one magical arm for every weapon type in the Player’s Handbook, particularly as the Dungeon Master’s Guide offers very few options besides swords. I wanted to offer gamers way more variety, and to ensure that, no matter what obscure weapon a PC fights with, the owner of this book has a ready-made magic arm for them.

Of course, it was also crucial to create balanced weapons, so that DMs can confidently drop these creations into their sessions without causing headaches for themselves. For this reason 90% of the mechanics are ones you’ve seen somewhere else in the game… ie. you know they work!

Hopefully these 10 sample weapons will prove a lot of fun at your table, and may even inspire you to go ahead and invest in the book.

My Ten Favourite Weapons

1. Bloodthirsty Battleaxe

Battleaxe, very rare (requires attunement)
This vicious battleaxe craves the fury of combat, filling its wielder with bloodlust as it scythes down the enemy. You gain a +1 bonus to attack and damage rolls made with this magic weapon. Additionally, when you reduce a creature to 0 hit points with this weapon, you gain 1d6 temporary hit points and can make one melee attack with the axe as a bonus action.

This axe is perfect for a mass brawl against a horde of lower level baddies. It borrows one of the features of the Greater Weapon Fighting feat that I love, and lets someone who fights with a one-handed weapon use it as well.

2. Rogue Bow

Shortbow, legendary (requires attunement by a rogue)
The magic weapon has 5 charges for the following properties. It regains 1d4+1 charges daily at dawn.

Poison Arrow. You speak a command and expend 1 charge to coat an arrow you have nocked with thick black venom. A creature hit by the arrow must make a DC 15 Constitution saving throw. On a failed save, they take an additional 4d4 poison damage and become poisoned for one minute. On a success, they take half as much damage and are not poisoned.

Sleep Arrow. You speak a command and expend 1 charge to place a charm on an arrow you have nocked. Should you hit your target, roll 5d8. If the number is equal or greater than the target’s hit points, it falls into a magical slumber. They remain unconscious for one minute, awakening only if they take damage, or another creature spends their action to shake or slap them awake.

Smoke Bomb. You can use an action and expend 1 charge to fire an arcane arrow, which lands at a point within range and starts to emit a cloud of smoke. One round after it lands, the smoke creates a heavily obscured area in a 20-foot-radius. A moderate wind disperses the smoke in 4 rounds; a strong wind disperses it in 1 round.

Flashbang. You can use an action and expend 2 charges to fire an arcane arrow at a point within range. It explodes with a deafening crack and blinding flash of light. Each creature within 20 feet of the impact point must succeed on a DC 15 Intelligence saving throw or be stunned until the start of your next turn.

Grappling Arrow. You may expend 1 charge to transform an ordinary arrow into a slender but durable grappling hook. You may fire the grappling hook at bow range, and a thin gossamer rope will magically uncoil behind it, matching the distance of the arrow flight. If you successfully secure the grappling hook (DM to determine difficulty), the rope is strong enough to support 1000 lbs. of weight. After ten minutes, the grappling hook transforms back into an arrow and the magic rope dissolves into nothingness.

Frag Grenade. You can use an action and expend 2 charges to fire an arcane arrow at a point within range. It explodes on impact, spraying the area with razor sharp pieces of rock. Each creature within 20 feet of the impact point must make a DC 15 Dexterity saving throw, taking 5d6 piercing damage on a failed save, or half as much on a successful one.

This is the ultimate utility weapon for the rogue, and gives them a nice range of abilities that perfectly complement their sneaky ways.

3. Earthquaker

Greatclub, legendary (requires attunement, by someone with at least 15 Strength)
This greatclub appears to be no more than a large and gnarly piece of black and deadened wood, with nothing in the way of adornment, however, it is infused with earth-shattering power.

You gain a +3 bonus to attack and damage rolls made with this magic weapon.

The weapon magic weapon has 5 charges for the following properties. It regains 1d4+1 charges daily at dawn.

Giant Blow. While holding the weapon, you can use a bonus action and expend 1 charge to temporarily invoke the strength of a stone giant. For the rest of your turn, when you make a melee attack with the weapon, your Strength modifier is +6, and the weapon deals 3d8 bludgeoning damage.

Earthquake. Smashing the ground in front of you with the club, you can use an action and expend 3 charges to create an earthquake. You create a fissure 10 feet wide that extends 2d6 x 10 feet in front of you and is 1d10 x 10 feet deep. A creature standing on a spot where the fissure opens must succeed on a DC 15 Dexterity saving throw or fall in, and take bludgeoning damage from the fall. A creature that successfully saves moves with the fissure’s edge as it opens. As the earth tremors and shakes, the ground within 20 feet of the fissure becomes difficult terrain until the start of your next turn, and any creature standing in this area must succeed on a DC 12 Dexterity saving throw or fall prone. Any spellcaster concentrating in this area must make a DC 10 Constitution saving throw. On a failed save, the caster’s concentration is broken.

Fans of the Dungeons & Dragons cartoon from the 80s will recognise this weapon, wielded by Bobby the Barbarian. To limit its powers I simply added the charges mechanic, which is one I love in general, as it constantly poses a choice for characters… should I use a charge now, or might I need it more later! Also included in the book are a whole range of Hank style bows, that do different types of energy damage (each has a secondary minor effect), and one master Energy Bow suitable for epic level PCs, plus the Acrobat Staff.

4. Krakentooth

Dagger, very rare
This dagger is fashioned from the tooth of a kraken and is steeped in the magic essence of this ancient leviathan.

You gain a +1 bonus to attack rolls and damage rolls made with this magic weapon.

While holding this dagger you can breathe underwater, and you have advantage on melee attack rolls made with this weapon while underwater.

I wanted to make a Dragontooth dagger, but then I stumbled upon this. I’m glad I did because I think it prompted me to make a more interesting weapon.

5. Scream Stealer

Dagger, very rare
The demonic nature of this blade steals your victim’s screams as you strike them. When you hit a creature with an attack using this magic weapon, the creature is unable to speak, scream, or vocalise any sound, until the start of your next turn.

You gain a +2 bonus to attack and damage rolls made with this magic weapon.

This is my favourite weapon in the whole book. If you manage to stab a magic user every round they wouldn’t be able to cast any spells that requires vocal components.

6. Commander’s Hammer

Warhammer, very rare (requires attunement)
You gain a +1 bonus to attack and damage rolls made with this magic weapon. The hammer has 5 charges, and it regains 1d4+1 expended charges daily at dawn.

Commander’s Strike. You may use a bonus action and expend 1 charge to direct one of your companions to strike. When you do so, choose a friendly creature who can see or hear you. That creature can immediately use its reaction to make one weapon attack.

Compelled Duel. You may use a bonus action and expend 1 charge to compel an opponent into facing you in battle. Use the rules that govern the spell compelled duel but, whenever a Wisdom saving throw is called for, replace it with a Charisma contest.

Manoeuvering Attack. When you hit a creature with this magic weapon, you can expend 1 charge to manoeuvre one of your comrades into a more advantageous position. You choose a friendly creature who can see or hear you. That creature can use its reaction to move up to half its speed without provoking opportunity attacks from the target of your attack.

Rallying Cry. You may use an action and expend 1 charge to bolster the resolve of your companions. When you do so, all friendly creatures within 30 feet of you, who can see or hear you, gain temporary hit points equal to 1d8 plus your Charisma modifier. Once a creature has benefitted from this effect, it must finish a short or long rest before being able to benefit from it again.

I like the versatility of this weapon, which packages up several cool abilities that already exist in 5e D&D but rarely get used in my experience.

7. Thunderstar

Morningstar, very rare
You gain a +1 bonus to attack and damage rolls made with this magic weapon.

This weapon has 5 charges and regains 1d4+1 expended charges daily at dawn. If you expend the last charge, roll a d20. On a 1, the weapon explodes with a mighty crack of thunder and any creature within 30 feet must make a DC 15 Constitution saving throw. On a failed save, the creature takes 3d6 thunder damage and is deafened for the next 10 minutes. On a successful save, the creature takes half as much damage and isn’t deafened.

While holding the morningstar, you can use a bonus action and expend 1 charge to call forth its thunderous energy. The next time you hit with a melee attack using this weapon it unleashes a thundercrack that is audible within 300 feet of you, and the attack deals an extra 2d6 thunder damage to the target. Additionally, if the target is a Large-sized creature or smaller, it must succeed on a DC 15 Strength saving throw or be pushed 10 feet away from you and knocked prone.

Thunderous Smite is one of my favourite spells… and now you don’t have to be a paladin to use it! It could have been thunder-anything, but thunderstar somehow felt right…

8. Moonsong

Greatsword, legendary (requires attunement by a lawful good creature)
You gain a +2 bonus to attack and damage rolls made with this magic weapon.

This holy blade is able to detect evil. Whenever it is within 60 feet of an aberration, fiend or undead, it emits a low humming sound, and glows with a dim blueish-white light in a 15-foot radius.

When a paladin of devotion uses their Sacred Weapon Channel Divinity ability on Moonsong, it blazes with bright moonlight in a 30-foot radius, shedding dim light 30 feet beyond that, and sings with celestial fervour. For the duration of your Sacred Weapon ability, any aberration, fiend or undead within 30 feet of you has disadvantage on attack rolls. During this time, you cannot be charmed, frightened or possessed by them.

Paladin’s of devotion are the poor cousin of paladins of vengeance, so this weapon is a great reward for any PC who decided to play an old school lawful good paladin, providing a nice boost to their Sacred Weapon ability. I actually invented it for a PC of mine, Estelle, a kind of Joan of Arc style warrior. The glowing light is pretty handy if you’re a human!

9. Rakish Rapier

Rapier, legendary (requires attunement)
You gain a +2 bonus to attack and damage rolls made with this magic weapon.

The weapon has 5 charges and regains 1d4+1 expended charges daily at dawn.

Flurry of Blows. When you select the Attack action, you may expend 1 charge to make a melee attack against every creature within 5 feet of you.

Flurry of Parries. When a creature hits you with a melee attack, you can use your reaction and expend 1 charge to add your proficiency bonus to your AC for that attack, potentially causing the attack to miss you. You continue to benefit from this bonus against all further melee attacks against you, until the start of your next turn.

Riposte. If a creature misses you with a melee attack, you can use your reaction and expend 1 charge to make a melee attack against the creature.

Another weapon I invented for one of my PCs, the swashbuckler Drake Griffonheart (check my guide to playing a swashbuckler if you fancy playing a similarly stylish prince of panache), this rapier is deadly in the right hands. Using the riposte skill you can get a second sneak attack a round, whilst the flurry of parries and flurry of blows abilities help compensate for the fact the rogue only gets one main attack a round per round. This extra power is bounded by the charges mechanism, and therefore shouldn’t get out of hand!

10. Screamhoarder

Greatsword, legendary (requires attunement)
The hilt of this merciless blade is decorated with ghostly visages screaming in pain. The weapon stores the dying screams of those it strikes down, releasing their agony on its next victims.

When you hit a living creature with this weapon it must succeed on a DC 15 Wisdom saving throw or take an extra 5 hit points of psychic damage, as the death cries of the blade’s previous foes reverberate through the target’s very being.

For every creature with an Intelligence of 4 or above that you kill with this blade, add an additional 1 hit point to the psychic damage inflicted on a failed save.

When you roll a 20 on an attack roll made with this weapon, the trapped screams fly from the blade to assail the psyche of the target with their full force. The target has no saving throw against the extra psychic damage, and must make a DC 17 Wisdom saving throw or suffer from short-term madness ( p.259, DMG). When this happens, the sword’s additional psychic damage is reset to 5 hit points, as just the residual echoes of its victims’ death screams remain.

Curse. The imprisoned screams of the dead also threaten the sanity of anyone wielding the blade, wearing down their psyche over time. Whenever you score a critical hit with this weapon, you must succeed on a DC 15 Wisdom saving throw or roll on the indefinite madness table (p.260, DMG). You may suffer from multiple effects from this table. While sane you may choose to unattune to this weapon at any time. While suffering the effects of madness, all the usual rules of unattuning to a cursed weapon apply.

This is a very rare example of me moving away from tried and tested existing 5e mechanics to deliver something quite new and different. There are reasons why I didn’t do this very often, but in this case I think I am very pleased with the result, and it’s definitely one of the more memorable weapons in the guide!

Esquiel’s Guide to Magic Weapons

So there you go, my ten favourite magical arms, but it wasn’t easy to choose them. After all I made 110 more, and I’m confident you’ll like the majority of them.

The book also includes 20 new sets of magic armour, highlight amongst which are the Displacer Hide, Lizard Skin, Rogue Suit, Armour of the Golden Dawn and Arcane Shield.

Plus rules for superior, nonmagical weapons and armour (great if your PCs have a lot of cash but nothing to spend it on!).

An example of the interior layout and artwork.

Probably my favourite part of the entire guide is the DM’s Magic Weapon generator though, where you can randomly assemble 10,000s of unique arms using a list of tables that determine weapon type, bonus modifier, and magic property (around 70 cool properties, including curses, plus additional variations). This tool is particularly useful for generating weapons appropriate for low and mid-tier characters.

Within a few days of being available to buy, the book has already became a best seller of the DM’s Guilds, so don’t wait around… grab a copy, using the link below!

Buy Esquiel’s Guide to Magic Weapons on the DMs Guild

Jeff C. Stevens Introduces: Encounters in the Savage Cities

You’ve probably heard me mention the DMs Guild one or two times on the blog by now. It’s an amazing marketplace where Dungeons and Dragons lovers can publish and sell their own homebrew content… including myself!

I often check by to gaze at the latest releases, looking for inspiration, but I rarely have time to read many of the enticing-looking titles cover to cover and review them (something I’d love to do in an ideal world where my job was to live and breath D&D every day! Sadly it’s not, although writing about Barcelona is hardly the worst 9-to-5 in the world either…).

That’s when I had the bright idea of inviting the authors of the Guild to introduce their own work, in their own words, and as well to find out a little more about these men and women at the creative coalface of the homebrew industry.

First to step up to the plate is Jeff C. Stevens, who introduces us to his favourite work within his Savage Encounters series of publications…

Tell us all about your book: Encounters in the Savage Cities…

Encounters in the Savage Cities is a collection of 26 short, urban-themed encounters / adventures written by some of the best-selling writers on the Dungeon Masters Guild.

The encounters are fully-developed and most include challenge rating scaling suggestions, which makes it easy for a Dungeon Master to drop them into their own game.

Maps are also included, both in the PDF and as separate downloadable files.

Buy Encounters in the Savage Cities

Why did you write it?

I like short encounters and adventures. There are times when a DM may need more time to prepare for a session, when only a little bit more experience is needed before the party levels up, when not everyone can make the game night, or times when the party turned left instead of right, and these short encounters really help in those situations. They also help inspire current campaigns, adding to and building off what is written, making it your own or expanding on what occurred when you ran the encounter.

I also wanted to showcase the great writers on the Dungeon Masters Guild. It’s tough establishing your name and products in this industry, I thought this would be a good way to give consumers a sample of writing from many different writers and styles. 23 writers contributed to Encounters in the Savage Cities, and each writer did an incredible job.

How about a little taster then?

Certainly! Here’s a snippet from ‘Trouble in the Docks’, an encounter MT Black wrote for the supplement:

The docks smell of saltwater, tar, and rotting fish. Above the din of the crowded streets, you can hear the slap of water against sodden piers, the clank of chains, and the rustle of canvas. The sky is shrouded in dark, heavy clouds, and the odd spot of rain begins to appear on the dirt road you are walking on.

A halfling pushes through the crowd, coming directly toward you. She holds a clipboard in one hand and has a pencil behind her ear. “Please,” she says. “Can you help me? I just need a few minutes.”

The halfling tells them her name is Seraphina Redport, and that she is a planner employed by the city council. She is currently trying to interview a broad selection of people in the area. Assuming the party talk to her, she will ask several questions…

Who the hell are you by the way?

I’m Jeff C. Stevens – a 47-year-old dude from Missouri living his childhood dream of writing D&D adventures. I started playing in the early 1980’s and I can still remember the all-night games we played over the weekends at a buddy’s house, living off soda, chips, and pizza while we rolled dice and slayed bad guys. It was fantastic! I took a long break from the game, but I came back when 5th edition was released. I’m glad I did!

Unless I’m at a gaming convention, those marathon D&D sessions don’t happen anymore. Now, I’m lucky to get in two games a month, even one game a month can be difficult with all the adulting we have to do. Plus, being a creator takes a lot of time. I wish I could be a full-time writer/producer but it’s tough to do in the RPG industry. I love writing, it’s been one of my life goals for a very long time. I wish I had studied writing in college, but I chose to instead learn about Criminal Justice – a field in which I do not work (LOL).

And what else have you written?

I have an entire product line built around the Savage Encounters idea. The first Savage Encounters product was Encounters in the Savage Frontier, which was inspired by the Storm King’s Thunder campaign. Then came Savage Cities, Savage Jungles, The Mines of Chult, and most recently, Savage Wilderness. Each time I use a mix of writers to provide writing for the books. Very soon, there will be a new Savage Encounters supplement available – Villains & Lairs. You can find my entire catalogue here, on the DMs Guilds.

I have also written 14 adventures. Several are also available for Fantasy Grounds and two are Adventurers League legal.

And just for fun…

Who is your current PC?

I have a couple PCs I use. My favorite is Gruntog the Half-Orc Bard.

Your favourite character class?

Bard. I’m a drummer and I love roleplaying. It’s a good fit for me.

Your favourite monster?

Mimic. There are just too many cool ways a party can encounter a mimic!

Your favourite official D&D adventure?

I’m running Tomb of Annihilation for my group. I like the jungle setting, the lost ruins, and the zombified creatures. It’s a great area to explore even if you aren’t running the official campaign as it’s written.

Your favourite unofficial D&D adventure?

My group had a great time playing Scarab of Death by Benoit de Bernardy. There’s a good mix of all three pillars of play.

Your D&D alter ego if you were beamed into the Forgotten Realms?

I would be Finnian Brushrunner – halfling Paladin to Tymora. He’s my character from the Curse of Strahd campaign I played in. He survived that campaign, so I think I’ll stick with him!

Thanks Jeff, it was great getting to know you. How can we find you on the multi-webs?

On Twitter @jcorvinstevens or Facebook.

Review: Dungeon Tales volume 1

I received an exciting email from a gentleman by the name of Travis Legge a few weeks ago. He was collaborating on new project with prodigious DMs Guild publisher M.T. Black called Dungeon Tales, the remit of which is to bring together some of the Guild’s finer, but lesser-known, adventures into one affordable volume. My own Gleaming Cloud Citadel had been selected for inclusion!

Naturally I was delighted. Aside from collecting a few extra coins in royalties, it means my adventure will be seen – and hopefully played – by many more worldwide gamers.

A major side bonus of being involved in the release was I received a complimentary copy of the anthology, ie. eight (not including my own) awesome adventures compiled by some seriously creative fantasy writers.

You can find, and read more about, Dungeon Tales volume 1 on the DMs Guild, but because I wanted to make it easier for people to understand what they’re (potentially) buying I’ve created this handy contents table / menu for you, which displays the adventures in order of levels, and has some handy additional data, like number of expected sessions to play, and individual price and rating. The individual price is worth knowing because, as you’ll see, bought individually the adventures would set you back close to 30 dollars, whereas the anthology is very reasonably priced at $9.95, saving you close to 20 of America’s finest.

>> DUNGEON TALES CONTENTS TABLE <<

Review of Dungeon Tales

Nine stellar 5th edition adventures in one volume

Dungeons Tales Review

Reviewing the anthology in general, I was first of all impressed with the level of presentation, writing and editing of all the adventures. Of course with different authors using different formatting programmes, layout techniques and artists, there is no overarching consistency to the anthology, but all of the volumes within model themselves on official Dungeons & Dragons products and offer a professional front. If you’ve had mixed experiences buying from the Guilds and you’re worried that you’re buying into some slip-shod two-bit products, I can assure you you’re not! One or two are actually better presented than the average WoTC product in terms of attractiveness and ease of use.

Thematically and there’s a very strong Fey presence indeed to Dungeon Tales, with Midnight Revelry, Ring Out, Wild Bells and The Sylvan Harp all containing Fey foes… whilst the Labyrinth of Thorns, also has a dreamy, fairytale feel to it.

Of the other inclusions, two are classic D&D adventures, with The Temple of the Opal Goddess inviting adventurers to steal into an orc stronghold to deal with a demonic presence, and my own The Gleaming Cloud Citadel challenging PCs to take on a classic wizard’s tower full of traps and guardians, with some politicking and intrigue thrown into the mix.

The three remaining volumes struck me as particularly original in terms of concept: Forget Me Not, where the party encounters a magically displaced band of gnolls and uncovers a plot of fiendish betrayal. Modrons, Mephits & Mayhem in which the party journeys to an abandoned modron research facility, only to find its elemental guardians still active and other hostile parties sniffing around, and Seized Fire for the Ceasefire, in which the PCs find themselves in an icy setting, where a wizard’s tower holds an enchanted staff and a village of whale-folk need saving from a pair of remorhazes.

I haven’t had time to read every word of each of these, so let me concentrate on reviewing those I’ve had the opportunity to look at in more depth.

Sylvan Harp

By Simon Collins
This is a well-constructed adventure, in which the PCs are asked to intervene in the case of missing magic harp and prove that a human village have nothing to do with its theft – before continuing to thwart the plans of a rather nasty Thorn Hag. It plays out like a mini-sandbox, and the PCs are given free rein to explore the region, but at the same time there is a clear timeline of events that rewards the party for acting swiftly and good investigation and decision making. It also makes excellent use of Volo’s Guide to Monsters, so if you bought that, but have not really had a chance to employ many of its beasties, look no further…

I am a big fan of Mr. Collin’s works and you can read more reviews of his adventures elsewhere on this very website.

Ring Out, Wild Bells

By Emmet Byrne
A malevolent spirit called Mr. Grin torments a local village in this adventure that has more than a touch fairytale about it, and would also be perfect as a Halloween one shot. What I like about this story is that the victims are not the innocent villagers they seem, leaving the PCs with something of a moral dilemma – at least if they bother to investigate the back story (for that reason I’d recommend this adventure for more inquisitive groups, as trigger happy parties will just wade through the combats without uncovering the story’s main charm. In addition to great story telling, awesome presentation and maps give a really high quality feel to Ring Out, Wild Bells.

By the way Emmet has also produced some massively popular character sheets, one specifically tailored for each class. I would highly recommend you check them out (I already started using them)! They are free to download, although I’m sure he’d appreciate a few coppers for his efforts.

Labyrinth of Thorns

By Ashley Warren
If I wanted to describe Labyrinth of Thorns in a phrase it would be “a St. Valentine’s one shot”. The adventure is in fact very simple in structure: the PCs must enter a mystical maze in order to retrieve the lost bride of a world-renowned baker, encountering a variety of obstacles en route (a mix of puzzles, riddles and combats). What makes it special is the atmosphere, details and deft touches the author has woven into the story that seems to have been heavily influenced by both the romance of Italy, with a slice of Pan’s Labyrinth as well. These two qualities – simplicity and atmosphere – make it a perfect one shot adventure to run, especially if it does happen to be February the 14th.

Modrons, Mephits & Mayhem

By Tim Bannock
I absolutely love the concept of this adventure in which several groups, including the PCs, converge on an abandoned and sinister modron research facility (it was once used to experiment on innocent flumphs) to try to tap into the arcane power that resides there. There’s plenty of backstory and flavour and the adventure plays out like a very intelligent dungeon crawl, in which the PCs are actually able to recalibrate parts of the dungeon using the various control stations that crop up. If this was a Hollywood film it would be pitched to producers as a “high concept” movie, and whilst I think it would trickier than average to run, it’s one I’m definitely considering fitting into my campaign, or at the very least plundering for ideas.

Overall I’ve been very impressed with the contents of this volume, and it provides great value for DMs, whilst also saving them a lot of time trying to source worthwhile material from the Guild. That’s perhaps the major draw of this product, in that it’s made up of adventures carefully selected by the hands of two experienced creators, giving buyers some much appreciated quality assurance.

Saboteur: A New Roguish Archetype by the Kind GM

So recently I got in touch with fellow DM, blogger and Rogue-lover, Chris from the Kind GM and he was nice enough to send me a free copy of his 5e homebrew Roguish archetype, the Saboteur, which he co-authored with his friend Anastasios. I quote:

A cloaked figure slinks down a dark alleyway, and soon after the building behind it explodes in flames. A man hidden high in a tree watches with a grin as a flurry of spikes erupt from the forest floor, impaling a group of bandits. Saboteurs are experts at constructing traps and various other mechanisms and substances that allow them to create mayhem without placing themselves in direct danger.

A kind of arcane terrorist, the Saboteur’s weapon of choice are the traps he (or she) carries around with him (or her… I’m just going to continue using masculine form, from now!), which number his Rogue level times two. The archetype lists eight different types of trap, such as the Blaster Bomb (think hand grenade), Fire Nova Mine (think flaming landmine) and Thunderblast Trap (think Thunderwave in mine form), and a 3rd level Saboteur knows how to construct three of them.

Deploying a trap takes one action, whilst restocking them takes a long rest (they work a bit like spell slots in that respect). A PC can deploy different types of triggers such as pressure plate, tripwire or timer (and when they reach 9th level a remote trigger).

The result is a sneaky bastard who can cause absolute havoc on the battlefield… especially if he is expecting you.

Pros

I think this is a highly original archetype, and a chance to play a completely different type of character than exists in the Player’s Handbook.

A lot of creativity has gone into the traps and as well I think it opens the path for a lot of creativity for the PC on how they would deploy their arcane snares and wreak maximum chaos.

The archetype is properly laid out in the form of an official Rogue archetype.

Cons

I have a few questions about the gameplay, and how it would pan out in a session. For example Chris and Anastasios write:

When someone aware of your traps triggers one of them, they make the saving throws for its effects with advantage.

But one imagines that if a creature spots a trap they would then take care not to trigger it. Also there is a DC calculator for trap saving throws, but not for spotting the traps. (One imagines it might be the same however).

Also I found the mechanic that traps are automatically restocked during a long rest and kept in a magic satchel a bit too convenient. It seems that arcane traps should take some time to construct and not be something that effectively construct themselves when you’re having a nice sleep. So maybe I’d have advocated a saboteur with less traps, that are more powerful, but kept in a normal satchel (Bags of Holding, which is effectively what these satchels seem to be, are something I loathe about D&D… but I’ll write about that another time). The traps needn’t be that big, especially as they seem to be constructed at least partially using magic, so I don’t see a need for an additional magical item to hold them in. Related to this point, I think a more accurate name for this class would be Arcane Saboteur.

Finally, whilst I feel the class is pretty balanced, I think at lower levels this class is going to feel a bit overpowered compared to other Rogues. Maybe the number of traps should be more in line with the number of spell slots of an Arcane Trickster.

Final Verdict

Overall this is a really fun archetype, that might need a tiny bit of fine-tuning in order to fit on your table. A lot of creativity has gone into it and if you’re looking to play a Rogue with new potential this could be just the product for you.

You can buy it on the DM’s Guild right here. Average rating is 4.5/5 and it costs just 99 cents, so a low risk investment.

I would also highly advise you to check out Chris’ blog, which has a tonne of useful reviews and extensive lists of 5th edition resources.

Pssst… if you love Rogues don’t forget to read about my homebrew 5e Assassins Guild (The White Scorpions), my sample Rogue Assassin and my guide on how to play a cold-blooded contractual killer!

The White Scorpions: An Assassins’ Guild (5e D&D)

A bit like a football defense, festival ticket system, or wedding seating plan, crime is better when it’s organised. The lone wolf assassin may be good at the actual art of killing people, but who answers his emails, does his PR and marketing and collects his invoices? If he lives anywhere in the multiverse, then the answer should be his guild.

Admin. aside, there’s a reason every Dungeons & Dragons player should sign up their Rogue Assassin to a local guild, and that’s because a well thought out guild adds so much flavour to your PC, as they become part of a credible entity with a mission statement, code of conduct, mode of operations, insignia and other fantasy lore that will make roleplaying said character that much more enjoyable.

Every Dungeons & Dragons player should sign up their Rogue Assassin to a local guild… because a well thought out guild adds so much flavour to your PC, as they become part of a credible entity with a mission statement, code of conduct, mode of operations, insignia and other fantasy lore…

One of the first things I did after I was given an Assassin to play in my first 5e D&D session (after a 20 year hiatus from the game!) was start to work on the background of my cold-blooded killer. I asked myself many questions, such as: what could have happened to get her into the killing game? How did she attain her knowledge of stealth, poison and dealing deadly blows? But perhaps the most formative question I asked was how could she still be a nice person to be around, if slitting people’s throats was her profession? I didn’t want her to be that forever menacing character of slim principles who none of the other PCs could trust, mostly because it’s no fun for the rest of the party wondering if their beloved character who they’ve been playing for months / years is likely to be poisoned in the night by someone who is supposed to be on their side (this inter-party tension might be fun for a short time, but it soon wears thin!), but also because I myself prefer to play D&D as a team game, using our collective minds and abilities to overcome obstacles and challenges that come before us.

In short I wanted to play a good-aligned assassin.

So I asked myself, who kills without mercy, using any means necessary, but still has their principles and moral high ground. The answer was: vigilantes. People with a belief system, that in their mind at least, vindicates them going above and beyond the law to deliver their own vision of justice. And from this seed The Order of the White Scorpions were born.

As someone who enjoys attention to detail I created enough lore about the White Scorpions to publish a small book… and so that’s exactly what I’ve done, in the hope that others will enjoy playing an agent of this guild as much as I have over the last year or two.

The guide is on sale via the DMsGuide for the princely sum of $2.99. For the price of a cheap coffee here’s what you get:

What do you get with this e-book?

  • An introduction to The White Scorpions
  • A history of The White Scorpions
  • A mission statement
  • Secret signs for identifying one another
  • Three Maxims
  • Official Motto
  • Unofficial Motto
  • Organisational structure of the guild
  • Details on the Order’s secret tongue / cant
  • Favoured killing methods
  • Details on Necrodicta (death sentences)
  • Details and rules for a new poison – Deathstalker Scorpion Venom
  • A special dagger owned by each agent in the Order
  • Training methods
  • Scary initiation ceremony (including gameplay rules)
  • Duties, rules and regulations – a table of rules and punishments
  • Role of religion in the Order (and a prophecy)
  • Rules for adventuring as a White Scorpion
  • A fully developed new background: Trainee Assassin (for those characters who wish to join the guild at Level 1).
  • Character backgrounds and stat blocks of four prominent guild members, including Grandmaster Oblivion, and Xenia ‘Nightsting’ Zanetti.
  • Dungeon Master’s Class – 15 strong adventure hooks, and some general tips for bringing an assassin’s backstory into the game.

Who should buy this e-book and why?

1) Anyone playing a Rogue Assassin in 5th edition D&D. Because, for some loose change, you’ll be able to add so much more depth to your character and increase the amount of fun you have at the table with your PC.

2) Dungeon Masters with a Rogue Assassin in their party, especially if your adventure hasn’t begun yet. The Adventure Hooks section of the guide is very thorough and gives you 15 ideas you incorporate or base an adventure around, along with some advice on DMing with a Rogue Assassin at the table.

>>> Buy The White Scorpions Assassins Guild for 5th Edition Dungeons & Dragons <<<

This is my first ever product, so I’m excited to release it online into the www.ilderness. And if I make a few sales here and there I might even be able to carve out the time to write more material!

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