Orb and Arrow: Duty – #BookReview

Note: this review was first posted on Reedsy Discovery, an awesome website that pairs independent authors and readers. To see the post there click here.

If you are a book reviewer and want to contribute reviews on Reedsy Discovery, click here.

SYNOPSIS

The lords of southern Dereff have asked Brillar and Elden to establish a House of the Four Powers near Obreth. They have accepted the challenge and travel north to recruit from both Great Houses. Those who agree will have to say their farewells to friends and relatives, cross the Wild with their families and take up new duties in the south.
But deep in the earth, evil is stirring. The Mother has been roused, the maker of the Savic, enraged by the death of her daughters at the hands of the mages and their supporters. She has summoned a quartet of daughters, vowing vengeance. Brillar must die and her friends with her; then the House of Life must be destroyed and the town of Laurenfell laid waste.
For the first time in a thousand years, the north will be at war!

REVIEW

4/5 Stars

Brillar and Elden, master and apprentice are returning from Obreth in the south. It’s been decided that they will start a House of the Four Powers, a magic school, to help those in need there. To do this, the pair will need to return to their homes in the north and enlist the help of the Great Houses. The story follows the two of them as they make their way past old friends, solidify new alliances, and face ancient threats from the Savic.

This time the story starts off with Elden and Brillar in a new type of relationship. Husband and wife rather than master and apprentice. Their journeys have taken them far from home and they have come to realize where they truly belong. In the south, helping as many people as they can. Brillar wants to recruit Sisters and Elden wants to recruit Brothers from the Great Houses. This could prove difficult since Brillar has killed, which goes against the oath of the Great Houses and Elden has been gone from his home for a great deal of time.

Much of the book deals with the diplomacy of the situation which is quite interesting. As the pair are making their moves, the darkness is growing. Brillar is still recovering mentally from the events of the last book. Her trauma is real and it is impressive to see mental trauma actually dealt with in a fantasy setting. This book manages that extremely well. The enemies that Brillar and Elden face are threatening and intelligent and that makes the story seem much more real.

Like the other books in the series, there are a frustrating amount of grammar errors, however, the content of the story is enough to make this a worthy read for anyone who like fantasy. If you love books where heroes full of light and goodness fight against darkness and the forces of evil, this series is for you. The final book in Orb and Arrow is interesting, impactful and utterly satisfying.

Sincerely yours,

Slick Dungeon

This page contains affiliate links. If you purchase a product through one of them, I will receive a commission (at no additional cost to you). I only ever endorse products I have personally used. Thank you for your support!

Curse of Strahd – Campaign Diary Session 4

Classic Dungeons & Dragons back in print! - Available now @ Dungeon Masters Guild

Well hello you little dungeon monsters you. It’s Slick Dungeon back again with a little campaign diary for the ultimate RPG vampire Strahd Van Zarovich.

Before I go to far, fair warning that this has spoilers for The Curse of Strahd.

You can read the first three campaign diaries here, here and here if you want to.

I am going to tell you how I prepared for the session, what happened in the session, and what I would change if I ran this again.

Preparation

First, of course, I read the part of the book that deals with the village of Barovia since that’s where the characters are. There are a good number of NPC’s there to manage but it’s not a huge village so it’s more or less manageable. I took notes about each one since I wasn’t 100% sure what the characters would choose to do.

I also took a look at the reddit thread here. There is a great section on beefing up the village of Barovia since there aren’t a ton of obvious missions to do there. I also re-watched the video below.

This is just one of a great series of Strahd DM videos

The Fourth Session

At the start of this session, Ismark who is now the Burgomaster of Barovia because his father recently died, has two goals. First, he wants to bury his father. Second, he wants to get his sister Ireena to the town of Vallaki so that she might be safe from Strahd’s clutches. The players basically have one goal. They want to get the heck out of Dodge which is proving very difficult right now. They do keep having dreams that feature Madame Eva, a powerful Vistani psychic. They even find a Tarokka card once they wake up. Ismark has told the players he knows where a Vistani camp is and that he will accompany the players to it, if the players help him to bury his father and get Ireena to Vallaki in exchange. Everyone readily agreed.

My players also seem to have some idea that vampires must be invited to enter a building. To my players what this means is that, they want to become experts in Barovian real estate law, and say that Strahd is not rightfully invited to his own castle. I think that’s their plan anyway? It can be hard to tell with players sometimes.

As the players were waiting around to have the funeral start, they explored town a bit. There they ran into a woman with a cart who is selling meat pies. Now, my players are musical theater fans and so the instant they heard the words meat pies, their suspicions were up. If you have read the Strahd module you will know why. And of course, they are right. But so far, the woman has only presented herself as a sweet old lady. A lot of people around town seem to be really into the pies though. My players bought some but then gave them away. Then they bought some more but never ate them. Honestly, I don’t think that the characters actually have to eat these things for the part that comes later in the book to still be horrifying.

Once the party had wandered around, it was time for the funeral. It was a somber affair with a good portion of town showing up. Ismark was of course sad and Ireena was nearly inconsolable. Ismark didn’t even want Ireena to go to the funeral, figuring it was not safe.

Ireena

If you read far enough into Curse of Strahd, you will get to a character called Rahadin and to me this is one of the most interesting and awesome NPC’s in the book. The guy simply radiates evil. He has killed so many people that if you get within ten feet of the guy, you can hear the screams of all the men and women he has killed in his lifetime. When I first read the module, I felt he was sorely underused. Thankfully the reddit thread I have linked to above gave him a great cameo and I used that.

So, the players meet the Priest, father Donavich. He has a bandage on his hand but is a kindly man. He brings everyone out to the graveyard, not going through the church, but rather around the back, and has a quiet service for Ismark and Ireena’s father.

After the service the players notice a man standing in the shadows. He comes over to the party and they hear the screaming of tons of voices that sounds like it comes directly from him. (Note: I did not use this trait in a combat sense for this encounter because the players were never threatening toward him and vice versa). This of course was Rahadin and he delivered a letter to Ireena and faded away. It was a fairly sympathetic letter from Strahd himself. Hopefully by now my players are realizing that Strahd is fond of correspondence and can basically drop a letter to anyone anytime anywhere.

Miles, the human Acolyte sorcerer player asked Rahadin if he was okay and if he could hear anything odd. Rahadin said no and wished everyone a good day and disappeared into the mists.

That left the players pretty well freaked out. Ismark and Ireena are none too happy either. They said their good nights and got some rest. But before they left, Ismark asked Miles to look into the fact that people have been disappearing in town lately. He’s pretty sure it’s not Strahd’s doing but he hasn’t had time to figure out what’s up. Miles agrees and Ismark tells them that they have a couple of days to get it sorted out since they need to pack at any rate. Also, Miles asked Father Donavich to look around for books related to Barovian real estate law. He said he’d give it a shot.

Father Donavich

Wandering around town the next day, the players made it to Mad Mary’s house. To tell you this next part, I need to tell you a little history of Mad Mary. Also, this part is more or less from that reddit thread, with a little from the book. Mad Mary has a daughter named Getruda who she never told anyone about. Gertruda has been locked up in Mary’s house for ages. Well, Gertruda is a fifteen year old girl who wants to see the world. The week before the players arrived, she escaped her house. She has disappeared but it’s totally unrelated to the missing people in town.

Gertruda is the owner of the dog that has been palling around with the players. So as they walked by the house, Lancelot, the dog, runs into the house and sits in Mary’s lap. Mary has been essentially driven insane so she doesn’t make a ton of sense when she speaks to the characters. (That was fun but also a little difficult to role play) The characters do get out of Mary that she has a daughter who is missing but she’s confused on when it might have happened. She also saw someone dragging a body through the streets. She’s sure that the body wasn’t Gertruda and that it was not the same night that she left. The fact that the two events were not the same event wasn’t conveyed very well but then again, Mary is not in her right mind.

The characters explore a little more around town and find a house that seems to have been broken into and has a bloody candlestick holder on the ground. Eventually they made it up to the church. It turns out that Father Donavich had a son who went off to fight Strahd. It did not go as planned and the son who was in his twenties or so, was turned into a vampire spawn. With a little intimidation and some persuasion, Lady Elarian and Miles got the priest to admit the fact that he has been knocking people out and then feeding them to his son to sate his blood thirst.

The players were smart enough to not want to tangle with a vampire spawn on their own so they convinced Donavich to do the right and noble thing and kill the thing in the basement. They helped him sharpen some wood into stakes and waited until the deed was done.

With that accomplished they went back to Ismark and told him what had happened. They also ran across the meat pie woman once more but still did not eat any pies. Shame.

Ismark let them know he and Ireena were ready to go and they are provisioned up and going to set out at dawn.

That’s where our session ended and I’m really looking forward to the next session or two because very likely we will be doing the Tarokka reading for the players which should be quite fun.

What I would do different

For this session, there is not a huge amount of stuff I would change. I did have a couple points though.

  1. It was really difficult to get my players to understand that Gertruda is missing but no one knows who she is because she has never been revealed to the world. The only real clue to her is the dog and it’s not even guaranteed that the players will come across her in the game but now they think that they have to find and rescue this girl. We’ll see what happens with that because they also think it’s possible this happened years ago, since Mary has not been in her right mind in a long time. They got that impression from an offhand remark Ismark made about Mary being “mad Mary” for a long time. I think I would have someone else provide the clues about missing people if I went with this scenario again.
  2. You can never fully predict players so I seriously did not expect them to want to become experts on ancient Barovian real estate law. But they do want to be which makes sense in a roundabout way. They also have a deed for a house and windmill so technically there has to be some law surrounding property in these lands. This is not something I would change since I didn’t predict this whole thing, but I think I am going to do all I can as a Dungeon Master to have these characters running around all over Barovia looking for the one guy who knows real estate law. I haven’t exactly figured out how to do it but for now, they were just told to check in the town of Vallaki. In the town of Vallaki I will have someone tell them to go somewhere else and so on until I finally give in and let them meet some random NPC who just loves real estate law. That should be entertaining.

I’ll be back next time to tell you if the characters make it to Madam Eva and what she tells them if she does a reading for them after we have our next session.

If you want to get a physical copy of Curse of Strahd for yourself, check it out below.

Cursedly Yours,

Slick Dungeon

This page contains affiliate links. If you purchase a product through one of them, I will receive a commission (at no additional cost to you). I only ever endorse products I have personally used. Thank you for your support!

The Empire Strikes Back Turns 40 today!

And I Explain Why I can’t Review Star Wars Films

Hi out there internet people. This blog post is going to be a little different than most of mine. This is not a review but rather a few thoughts I want to share on my favorite franchise and favorite film of all time. I have a duty as a Star Wars fan to notify anyone reading this that there are HUGE spoilers in this essay for several Star Wars films. I know, it’s a forty year old film and perhaps the timeline on that warning has expired but for anyone who hasn’t seen these films, missing out on the twists in this movie is an experience I do not want to burden anyone with.

The Empire Strikes Back has turned 40 today. It’s probably the most highly regarded Star Wars film of all time and it’s absolutely my favorite film. If you were a kid back when this premiered and got to see it in the theaters like I did, before there was Return of the Jedi, or any of the prequels, sequels and spinoffs, this movie likely takes up real estate in your imagination.

After I saw the film, my friends and I were absolutely blown away. Darth Vader is Luke’s father?! Wait, is Lando a good guy or a bad guy? I mean he seemed friends with Han but then let the stormtroopers take him and then tried to help but still, what if he is in league with the Empire? Did you see those bounty hunters? Man, I want to see a whole movie about those guys! And the one with the jet pack who captured Han Solo, what’s his story? Will Luke be able to save Han? Is Luke in love with Leia? Leia is definitely in love with Han and vice versa though! And of course, my favorite question of all time when it comes to Star Wars, who is Yoda? Where did he come from and what is his story?

I used to want answers to all of those things so badly it drove me wild. I spent hours playing with my friends, pretending to be these characters. As I grew older, I would have hotly contested debates about the franchise and most often about this movie. We all loved this one the most, even after Return of the Jedi answered a lot of the questions we had. The fact remained though, that we never got all the answers. We still wanted to know more about Darth Vader’s origins and where Leia had been before she met Luke and company. We were given novels, comics, and other speculation as to those answers for years. And again, when the prequel films came out, we got some answers but not all.

The truth is, I don’t want all the answers provided in Star Wars. I know that now we have a fierce drive and desire to see every plot hole filled, all characters have an arc, and a satisfying conclusion to a saga once it is time to be wrapped up. This is why I can totally understand how much people love the MCU. That franchise is exceptionally good at tying up almost everything in a neat package with a neat little bow on top. Of course there are some things in those movies that are still open ended but many times these things are explained away in an interview or with a tweet or a timeline flow chart. Once the answer is officially given, it’s cannon and we don’t have to wonder so much anymore.

Yet in Star Wars, what is left unanswered fuels the imagination of tons of creators. Not only are there gaps in plots, there are gaping holes. Those holes can be filled with more stories but those tend to bring up even more questions. I love that. It makes the universe of Star Wars feel so much more alive. Here on earth, in our current time, our lives have plot holes. We don’t have a character arc. Sure we can learn and grow as people but for the most part we are, “just a simple man (or woman or person or pick your pronoun), trying to make my way in the universe.” That means that we don’t get all of our questions answered. And you know what? That, to me, is what makes Star Wars seem real and full. It’s a fully realized universe because it is so lived in that you can’t find all of the answers.

When Rise of Skywalker came out, I was in line to see it on opening day. Most of my friends were too. I know, that there is a lot of criticism of this film and I completely understand that. We don’t know a lot of the answers to the questions this movie brings up. And while I am hesitant to give any spoilers of this movie because it is more recent, I do see how at least one major plot point doesn’t make a ton of sense. You know what though? I don’t care. I still loved it. Why? Because it left me with questions that I want answers to, just like The Empire Strikes Back did.

Now, that’s not to say that I think all Star Wars films are perfect. Far from it. From the early movies which hardly featured a single female character (Leia excepted of course) and virtually no people of color, to the still currently lacking LGBTQ representation, there are quite valid criticisms of these movies. What I don’t think they should be criticized for is for leaving your imagination open to wonder what more there is to the story.

There are character arcs in the sequel films that were changed mid stream. There are characters who unjustly got far less screen time than they deserved. And there are huge unexplained plot holes. I understand how someone can find all of that frustrating. But, with Empire at least, those things fueled my imagination and the imagination of countless people world wide. I suspect Rise of Skywalker will actually do the same.

While that one is not my favorite Star Wars film, it has a place in my heart, just as anything Star Wars does. That’s why I can’t bring myself to ever review a Star Wars movie. I know that I genuinely cannot be objective about it. I’ve loved it for too long and that’s never going to stop. I personally think we could use more films like Empire, that force our imaginations to ask questions. Be honest with yourself for a minute, is it really that bad to come out of a film wondering about something that happened in it? Is it so awful to wish that there was more of an answer? I don’t think so. And the reason I don’t think that is because those questions propel the story forward like the Falcon entering hyperspace.

Don’t you want more out of film? Don’t you want to be asking questions because of a movie you saw? With Empire Strikes Back, my deep love of film was truly born. And not because of the fact that every twist, turn and event was spoon fed to me with nothing left to know. No, it’s precisely because it made me ask questions that this is and always will be my favorite film.

I can’t wait to see what the next forty years of questions brings me from a long time ago in a galaxy far, far away.

May the force be with you.

Always,

Slick Dungeon

Orb and Arrow: Honor – #BookReview

Note: this review was first posted on Reedsy Discovery, an awesome website that pairs independent authors and readers. To see the post there click here.

If you are a book reviewer and want to contribute reviews on Reedsy Discovery, click here.

SYNOPSIS

A thousand years have passed since the Great War that banished magic users from southern Dereff. Not knowing about the ban, Brillar has chosen to travel to southern cities as apprentice to Master Elden, Mage of the Four Powers. Her unique skills are needed in the southern towns; his would be feared.Their plans for a peaceful journey are shattered when they reach Obreth where a terrible pestilence rages and is devastating the city. They quickly learn that all their Powers are needed to combat the plague and find the man who set it in motion. But struggling with the pestilence has left them vulnerable and now – Brillar is missing!

REVIEW

4/5 Stars

Brillar has been apprenticed to her master Elden, Mage of the Four Powers, for about half a year. The two decide to make their way across the Wilds and down south to explore regions they have never seen. Dark powers including undead warriors, evil potion makers and Dark mages known as the Savic all threaten the pair. They make it to a town threatened by illness and just when things seem like they might turn out okay, Brillar goes missing.

In this second volume of Orb and Arrowthe stakes are higher, the emotions run deeper and the intensity is heightened. While this volume doesn’t have as many action scenes as the first book, it was a more gripping read. Brillar and Elden make some powerful friends and some powerful enemies. On top of that, Brillar has taken lives in the past out of necessity and is now unable to take the Oath of the healers. When Elden and Brillar make it to a southern town all her healing skills will be needed. Yet there is an unseen threat that could be the end for both Brillar and Elden.

It was fascinating to read how Elden and Brillar react when they are separated. There were parts of the book that I found incredibly dark. That’s not a criticism of the book, it made me want to keep reading, but it was very intense. A few more scenes of action would have been welcome in this volume but the narrative doesn’t suffer much from the lack of it. What could have been improved in my mind was a bit more detail on how Elden reacts to Brillar’s disappearance. That was a subject that left me wanting to know more.

If you enjoy fantasy fiction books like The Lord of the Rings, you will most likely enjoy the Orb and Arrow series. The end leaves the reader curious to know more and I look forward to reading the next volume.

Sincerely yours,

Slick Dungeon

This page contains affiliate links. If you purchase a product through one of them, I will receive a commission (at no additional cost to you). I only ever endorse products I have personally used. Thank you for your support!

Girl on the Third Floor – #MovieReview

Hey all, it’s Slick Dungeon here and I wanted to give you my take on the dramatic drywall antics of the film Girl on the Third Floor. Be forewarned, before you read on, there will be spoilers right in the very foundation of this review. If you really want to watch the movie before you read the review, go for it and then come back. If you don’t mind spoilers, read on. You do you.

The film stars CM Punk (aka Phil Brooks), Trieste Kelly Dunn, Sarah Brooks and Tonya Kay.

I’ll give you a quick run down of the plot but then I had a few questions about this movie.

Don, a class A jerk, who has defrauded a bunch of clients of their retirement money has moved into an old house. As is typical with horror films, the purchase of an old house is a poor investment and to make matters worse, the dude is trying to fix up the place on his own. He needs to fix it up before his pregnant wife moves in. About the first thirty minutes of the film is watching CM Punk listen to angry metal and totally mess up drywall. There are also lots of shots of him walking slowly as if he thinks someone is in the house and wondering where his dog got off to. Plus he picks up a lot of marbles that roll around out of nowhere and he doesn’t seem to think this is a big deal.

Guess what? Don is still a jerk when he meets an attractive woman named, Sarah, and then instantly sleeps with her despite the fact that he has a pregnant wife. We also get to see him talk to his neighbor across the street and go to a bowling alley. I had major questions about the bowling alley but we’ll get to those in a bit.

Don, despite being a jerk who likes angry metal, yelling at his dog, and cheating on his wife, also has a friend named Milo. His friend, who is innocent in all this, finds out that Don is still a class A jerk and had an affair. After a fun day of doing more drywall and then going to a bar, Milo goes back to work on the house only to end up talking with Sarah for a moment and then getting his head crushed in with a sledge hammer. To finish up the job, the also innocent dog is killed, cut up and stuffed into the dryer for Don to find. So for those keeping track, Don has ruined peoples lives, cheated on his wife, gotten his buddy and his dog killed and also been rude to the pretty odd bowling alley owner all because he wouldn’t just admit he sucks at drywall and hire some contractors with that money he defrauded people of. If you are getting the impression I don’t have a lot of sympathy for Don, you would be right. That guy sucked.

Turns out that the woman who Don had an affair with is a ghost. Yeah, you probably saw that coming. Or, if you were watching the film you would. The house they are renovating used to be a house of ill repute, if you know what I mean. And bad stuff happened there and then it seems bodies were buried and hidden and those spirits don’t exactly like it when renovations to the house are made. The rest of the movie is basically seeing if Don will survive, it his pregnant wife will end up dead and if anyone will figure out where the heck all those marbles are coming from. I won’t spoil the end but yes all those questions get answered.

The performances were interesting and the pacing of the film was overall good if a little too slow at times but I still wondered a few things about this movie.

  1. Don shows up and starts poking around in the house. This disgusting black goo starts coming out of the wall. Okay, so maybe that doesn’t instantly make you think the house is haunted but I would think that maybe you would want to find out if that stuff is some kind of leak or dangerous chemical or something but Don is just like yeah okay. Why didn’t he watch more home improvement videos before starting?
  2. Similarly, this white goo comes through the electrical outlets at which point, I would think you would freak out. Not thinking that the house is haunted still but definitely, like, man I need an electrician here because, like, I don’t want my new baby to get electrocuted because I am pretty sure there is something wrong with the wiring. Why would you ignore that?
  3. Next Don talks to his neighbor who seems to give cryptic hints about life choices and the house he just bought. Why wouldn’t you want to know more here?!
  4. Then the dude goes to this bowling alley. There is no one there and there are only three lanes. The owner makes Don some food and asks him if he is visiting or new in town. Don tells him about the house he bought. At which point the owner asks Don if he is gay and tells him that the house has a history of being, “bad for straight men.” Dude. Someone tells you that about the house you just bought and your impulse is not to say, what do you mean by that tell me more?!?!? Really, I would be like that is one of the weirdest things anyone said to me but all Don does is say, “You’ve got a real nice way of welcoming people to town” angrily at the dude. I get missing the dry wall, the white electrical goo and rolling marbles not tipping you off about your haunted murder house but if a bowling alley owner tells you the place is bad for straight men and you don’t follow up, that is entirely on you.
  5. What did Milo ever do? This house seems to kill men who are bad to women because it has a bad history, but that Milo guy was just there doing some home chores. While the house doesn’t seem to like it, I’m not sure that the rules as this movie has set things out should have had Milo die. He didn’t cheat on anyone or anything. All he did was say that Sarah probably shouldn’t be there and he gets a hammer to his head for that? Come on murder house, stick to your own rules!
  6. When Milo comes in the first place he is baffled by the fact that Don hardly has any tools. Why didn’t Don look this stuff up? I’m gonna renovate a whole house. You know what I’m not gonna do? Read about how to do that!
  7. Okay so again spoiler here but Sarah is a ghost who died in like the twenties maybe but she seems to be up on modern lingo and able to use a cell phone. Do ghosts still get to learn stuff after they are dead? Also she can totally touch stuff all the time and Don even sleeps with her but she is dead, so uh, how does she even feel warm to him?
  8. Later the bowling alley is packed and there are a ton of people there. Does no one else there know that Don bought a murder house? If they do, then it’s pretty messed up that they didn’t warn him. Then again, Don is a class A jerk so I guess it’s all good.
  9. In the end one of the characters lives but then does more renovation on the house. The thing is that there are still at least two bodies in the place. This character knows about the house and why it is haunted yet they don’t check everywhere for other bodies. What the heck man? If you find one, you check the whole house, that’s the rule.
  10. A major plot point in this is this hidden third floor that Don finds when the roof of his bedroom basically collapses. His reaction to that? Just seal it back up. Okay, I get that you don’t get creeped out by a ton of marbles rolling around unexplained. I get that when you hear a laughing voice at all hours, you think it’s in your own mind, I get how you ignore that weird white goo coming out of electrical sockets, and I guess I get why you didn’t ask more at the bowling alley (although I totally would have) but how in the world do you look at a surprise third floor and not at least call someone about it?!?!?!
  11. I’m pretty sure that a neon sign flashing that said this was a bordello where people got murdered so you should probably stay away Don, would not have been enough for this guy to forget about the amateur dry walling. But when you find your dog murdered in the dryer for any reason, it is time to leave. What kind of an idiot stays in a house like this?!
  12. I guess a class A jerk is your answer.

I hope you enjoyed this review and remember that if you are about to take a sledge hammer to a wall because there is weird black goo coming out of it, you are probably better off going to the bowling alley and finding out why it isn’t a good house for straight guys. Or you know, watching some home improvement videos first at least.

Handily yours,

Slick Dungeon

This page contains affiliate links. If you purchase a product through one of them, I will receive a commission (at no additional cost to you). I only ever endorse products I have personally used. Thank you for your support!

Kids Kill Monsters – How to Prepare to play Dungeons & Dragons with Kids Part 5

D&D Campaign Adventures for Storm King's Thunder - Available now @ Dungeon Masters Guild

Hi Everyone! It’s your friendly Dungeon Master, Slick Dungeon here. Today I want to talk more about how to role play with kids. In my last posts I talked about whether you should play D&D with kidswhy playing D&D was healthy for kids, I showed you who does what at the table, gave you a tour of the dice and told you to read through the simple ruleswent through the Introduction of the simple rules with you, walked you through the first section of the simple rules and talked about choosing a race and role playing a dwarf. Today we are going to continue by talking about role playing Elves with children.

Elves are mystical and ethereal creatures in Dungeons & Dragons. They tend to be thin and just slightly under average human height. They are very long lived and can be well over 700 years old.

For a kid, those are a lot of fun traits to portray. Who doesn’t want to feel like they can live forever, be beautiful and graceful, and know more than most of the people around you? Still, this can be challenging to role play. But remember that kids are the ones driving their characters so if they want to role play the Elf they play as being younger and not knowing as much, there’s no problem with that. And if they start acting like their Elf knows everything, but you know in fact that what they are saying is silly, don’t spoil it for the kid. Let them believe their character has vast and deep knowledge if that’s how they want to play it. Don’t let your own worldview cloud what they think is deep insight. Elves also tend to be diplomatic. For most kids, that’s not an easy thing to role play but it can be done. As long as they understand that their character would be the one that is trying to smooth a situation over, they’ll be able to give it a shot.

Most elves come from woodlands and tend to be more in tune to nature than shorter lived races such as humans. The most common reason that elves take up adventuring in the first place is more or less out of boredom. They have long lives and want to see the world, so after a few centuries of hanging out with your family, you’d probably want to get out for a bit too. That doesn’t have to be why your kid’s character plays one but it’s pretty easy reason to give if they need one.

Another cool thing about elves is that they get to choose when they are adults. No one declares it for them. A lot of kids can get behind that for sure. In the basic rules they give child names and adult names for elves. This can be confusing, so make sure you know if your kid is playing an Elf who is a child or an adult.

Elf Traits

There are a few things you get for being an Elf.

Ability Score Increase

Elves get a Dexterity increase of 2. Again, if you don’t want to have to do complex math with your kids, just let them know that Elves are fast and flexible. Dexterity is one of the six abilities their character will be good at.

Age

As stated above, the ages can range hugely with elves. Typically a 100 year old elf is going to be a young adult and one who is in their 700s is getting on in age.

Alignment

Elves tend to be a little chaotic in their alignment but tend to be more on the good side. The definite exception to that is the Drow, which we will talk about when it gets to subraces below.

Size

For this I would just think slightly shorter, somewhat skinnier human. Mechanically speaking, their size is medium which can be important in game play.

Speed

The speed for elves is 30 feet which makes them pretty much the same speed as humans.

Darkvision

One of the cool things about being an elf is that you can see in dark and dim lighting. If it’s dim light to everyone else, it’s bright light to you. If it’s dark to everyone else, it’s dim to you. That effect extends out 60 feet. But when you are in darkness, you can only see shades of gray and not colors.

Keen Senses

In the rules it says that Elves have proficiency in the perception skill. The main thing to remember if you are the Dungeon Master is that elves are far more likely to notice a threat before others do.

Fey Ancestry

If you are new to D&D and you read, “You have advantage on saving throws against being charmed, and magic can’t put you to sleep.” the second half probably seems fine but the first half of that sentence may be confusing. There are some magical ways that a creature can be “charmed” which is a condition that affects the character. Basically elves are hard to sweet talk into doing anything they don’t want to do, even when someone tries to do it magically. That’s one of the advantages of being an elf,

Trance

This is honestly my favorite thing about elves in D&D. They don’t have to sleep! They basically meditate for four hours a day and they are fully rested. Between this trait and their high perception, elves make the best creatures to take watch in almost any situation. They are much more likely to detect a threat and rouse the party. That can be a ton of fun to role play.

Languages

Elves speak common and elvish. The elvish language is beautiful and melodic. This is perfect for bards to weave into song, that is, if they can get a grasp on the complex language. While it can be nice for other characters to be able to speak elvish as well, I don’t think it is as vital as having at least one character be able to read Dwarvish characters.

Subraces

There are three basic subraces for elves and I definitely have one that I prefer when it comes to kids.

Drow

There is one subrace of elves that I personally don’t recommend much for kids to play. That’s the Drow. The reason? Almost all Drow are supposed to be evil. The most famous Drow of all is Drizzt Do’Urden, ranger of the North. He has had tons of books written about him and gained the trust of most of the people who have fought by his side. But guess what? It’s really complex to play a dark elf how is just trying to break through and be good. Some kids, of course can run with this and make it work but in my experience I wouldn’t recommend this for a kid under 12 or so. If your kid just really wants to play a Drow, there is no reason you can’t have Drow be good aligned in your campaign. And again, this is just me but I think most kids want to be the hero of their story rather than the villain, which is just much easier if you don’t come from an evil group to begin with.

High Elf

These elves are a bit more knowledgeable than others and therefore they get to increase their intelligence score by 1. They are good at using the longsword, shortsword, shortbow, and longbow. In addition they get to learn a spell from the wizard cantrip list which is always fun. It can be a little complicated when you get into spellcasting so that can be a barrier for kids when there is too much to figure out. These elves also get to speak an additional language. When I picture this type of elf in my mind, the character that comes to me is always Elrond from Lord of the Rings. That’s just my take on this subclass though, it doesn’t have to be yours.

Wood Elf

Wood elves are my favorite for kids. These creatures get to increase their Wisdom score by one, they get to have proficiency with the longsword, shortsword, shortbow, and longbow, they get to add 5 feet or movement to their movement speed, and can attempt to hide even when they are only lightly obscured by foliage, heavy rain, falling snow, mist, and other natural phenomena. Which makes them exceedingly useful in any campaign that might take place with some woods or some bad weather. I love to see it when kids try to sneak up on their enemies and are successful. Plus this subrace is more in tune with nature and plenty of kids can relate to that. I just think this kind of elf is a whole lot of fun and the role play potential is huge.

Slick Dungeon’s tips on Elf characters

As always, everything I put up above is totally subject to change based on how you want to run your campaign. Elves can be a little difficult to role play since they are supposed to be aloof. Some kids interpret that as silence. I can see why too. If you watch Lord of the Rings, Legolas does a lot of standing around staring and looking graceful. He spends a lot less time chit chatting than the other characters. While that works awesome in a movie, that’s hard to pull off with kids. If you kid wants to play a talkative wood elf, there is no reason she can’t do that. If your kid wants his elf to be clumsy and a bit silly, that works too and could be really fun. I think getting some of the mechanical stuff in this class is really useful. Like I said, they make great lookouts and they are very good at stealth a lot of the time. Plus elves are generally deadly when it comes to combat. I would just make sure that your kid really wants to play one and understands, not necessarily what elves are supposed to be like according to the rules, but how they want to play an elf. Make sure it’s something you can get on board with and that won’t just turn into the role player staying silent to seem aloof.

As far as playing Elf NPC’s, that can be a little easier. You just need to make sure you understand the culture of the elves in your campaign. Are they a secluded society or do they tend to blend in with everyone? Would it be uncommon for someone to encounter elves in your campaign? If so, why? The typical trope is to play elves with English or Welsh accents but you don’t have to do that. You can have an elf who sounds like he is from New Jersey or Boston or whatever if you want to. They don’t have to have any kind of accent either, but since elves do tend to be ethereal creatures, there is usually something to make them stand out. Other than the pointy ears of course. Just decide what that is for your game and lean into it, I’m sure you and your kids will have a blast.

Thanks for reading the post. I hope you got a couple of good tips out of this and I would love to hear how your games with kids go. Feel free to let me know in the comments.

Next time I will be writing about role playing a Halfling.

Adventuringly yours,

Slick Dungeon

This page contains affiliate links. If you purchase a product through one of them, I will receive a commission (at no additional cost to you). I only ever endorse products I have personally used. Thank you for your support!

Curse of Strahd – Campaign Diary Session 3

Guild Adept PDFs - Available exclusively @ Dungeon Masters Guild

Hi all you dungeon creatures, Slick Dungeon your friendly Dungeon Master back with more campaign diaries for the Curse of Strahd.

You can read the first two campaign diaries here and here if you want to.

I am going to tell you how I prepared for the session, what happened in the session, and what I would change if I ran this again.

And once again, warning that there are spoilers below so if you are playing Curse of Strahdwait until you finish to read this post. That goes for my players too!

Preparation

After being stranded in the lands of Barovia and defeating the “Death House”, my players were ready to see more of the area. They basically had two choices, try and go through the deadly mists (that they didn’t know yet were deadly) or head toward the village of Barovia. Guess which they ended up choosing?

I knew they would have to walk down the road so I was ready to roll on some random encounter tables and I had stat blocks handy for what they might run into. I also took a look at the reddit thread here. There is a great section on beefing up the village of Barovia since there aren’t a ton of obvious missions to do there. I also made a lot of notes on NPC’s because, there are quite a few in this book.

Finally I took a look at this video to prepare.

With that all set up, we were ready to play.

The Third Session

Right off the bat, I told the players that they were on a road and on one side was a mist and in the opposite direction there was a sign pointing toward the Village of Barovia. They were pretty freaked out by Strahd from the last session so they wanted to try to get out of there as quick as they could. Unfortunately for Lady Ellarian Brysalor and Miles Adelard just entering the mist gives you one level of exhaustion. It didn’t take them long to figure out that they were going nowhere that way. They headed towards the village, along with the dog they found in the Death House.

I rolled on the random encounter table and it came up with four wolves. I was pretty sure that they would totally kill the party if any roles went really bad so the wolves followed and kept getting closer. In addition to that there was a raven that seemed to be leading the part along, although I don’t think my players actually made the connection there. That’s fine though because the raven is actually a Wereraven and will come into play later in the game.

It took them about two in game nights to get there and the wolves did end up attacking. Miles rolled really low again so none of his spells worked (he’s a sorcerer at level 3 at this point). Luckily before the wolves totally overwhelmed them, a swarm of ravens attacked the wolves and the characters made it out of there.

A hungry wolf looking for supper

When the pair (or trio if you count the dog and yeah, my players totally count the dog) got to the gates of Barovia they were a bit weary. They knocked on the first door they saw and found a Barovian family with a sick father. Miles leaped into action to cure the father but rather than be appreciative, the people just seemed kind of hollow. This is because they don’t have souls as is written for many Barovians in the campaign book. The players thought it was a little weird that they weren’t more appreciative but didn’t think too much of it.

Gates of Barovia

They made their way over to the Blood of the Vine tavern where they met a few Vistani. Considering the experiences they have had with Vistani so far, my players are not very trusting of those people and I can’t say I blame them, what with them getting tricked into going to Barovia and all. They also met Ismark Kolyanovich, a pretty major NPC in the book. He asked the party to help him protect his sister from the vampire Strahd and so far they have an uneasy trust of him.

They explored the town a bit and made it to Bildrath’s mercantile where they met Bildrath who gave them a quest in exchange for a discount at his store. They ended up finding and fighting an Ankheg, and successfully brought the goods back. Even so, Bildrath is a real cheapskate in this book so he still tried to take advantage of the characters.

Later that day, Ismark wanted to show the players just how dangerous it was to take on Strahd. He told them he would help them find a Vistani encampment in exchange for helping him to escort his sister Ireena to the town of Vallaki where he thinks she will be safe from Strahd. Then he showed them that there was an army of ghosts that walk toward Castle Ravenloft at midnight every night. This is all that’s left of the previous adventurers that tried to take on the vampire. I think Ismark showing them that before he allowed them to agree to their mutual deal gained him a lot of trust from the party.

Ismark

At that point the players decided it was time for a good long rest but they did spend a few minutes talking to the bartender at the Tavern and to the Vistani there. The bartender is soulless and so that gave the characters a good chance to ask about what was wrong with the guy. They learned that not everyone here has a soul and in fact, there are a lot of people that don’t. The Vistani told them a little bit about what they knew about Strahd but not much. The characters also wanted to know how they could get their hands on Stanimir for bringing them here in the first place. They’re not too happy with that guy.

The next day, Ismark plans to go with Ireena to bury his father’s body. We ended our third session here so I will be back more with what happened next in later posts.

What I would do different

I think most of this session went well but there are a couple of things I would change if I ran this again.

  1. I think I would roll ahead on the encounter table prior to the session to make sure that whatever the players encounter wasn’t going to wipe out the party at the earliest levels. (I do usually do this but wanted to give it a shot the other way this time)
  2. Honestly, I am kind of tired of playing merchants who can’t stand their customers so I think I would make Bildrath less miserly the next time I played this. I know it’s kind of a common trope to have merchants that are overpriced and just don’t like that characters and while that fits well with this story, it gets old just telling players that everything is way out of their price range.
  3. I think the thing that worked best was Ismark earning the trust of the characters but I will be honest, I didn’t feel like I role played him that well. I should have read up on him a little more before the start of the session.

I’ll be back next time to tell you how it goes with the burial of the Buromaster in our next session.

If you want to get a physical copy of Curse of Strahd for yourself, check it out below.

Cursedly Yours,

Slick Dungeon

This page contains affiliate links. If you purchase a product through one of them, I will receive a commission (at no additional cost to you). I only ever endorse products I have personally used. Thank you for your support!

Orb and Arrow – #BookReview

Note: this review was first posted on Reedsy Discovery, an awesome website that pairs independent authors and readers. To see the post there click here.

If you are a book reviewer and want to contribute reviews on Reedsy Discovery, click here.

SYNOPSIS

Brillar was expected to follow in her mother’s footsteps and become a healer but she had other plans. Now a highly skilled archer, she has been forced to kill to release a bound mage. It may have been self-defense, but that is no excuse for a healer. Releasing such a skilled War mage from bondage could get you killed…or apprenticed. When she chooses the latter, Brillar finds herself on a desperate journey to stop the rising tide of Darkness. Her decision to apprentice herself to Elden, the man she rescued, sets her further from the healer’s calling. Still, her healing spells serve them both well as they face the dangers of a world often torn between the Light and Darkness.

REVIEW

3/5 Stars

Brillar is a healer but is also skilled with a bow. She sets out to learn more about the world and gets more than she bargained for when she happens upon a mage trapped in a cruel lock. Brillar must decide if she should take a chance on the mage and ease his suffering or leave him to die. Brillar chooses to free Elden to find that he is a powerful mage and a worthy teacher. She apprentices herself to Elden and they spend the next year traveling, learning, teaching and fighting evil together.

This was a sprawling adventure that covered a lot of ground. The dimlock that Brillar has to free Elden from exudes evil and everything about it in the book is fascinating. It would have been nice to see a little bit more about the background of it and where it got its power but I suspect that may come up in future volumes. The relationship between Brillar and Elden was entertaining and it was enjoyable to see how their relationship developed.

There was a portion of the book that was a little bit slow, when Brillar and Elden go out into the wilds. But even then, by the end the story and the action picked up enough pace to make that section work. The only other negative in the book is that there are quite a few typos but the story was compelling enough that it was forgivable.

In some ways this book is reminiscent of The Witcher series although, the protagonists are quite different from the ones in that series. Elden and Brillar are basically good at their core unlike some of the protagonists in The Witcher. What the two series have in common is this sort of open world feel where the characters wander around and do what good they can when they can. If you like fantasy adventure series, this one is a good addition to your bookshelf and I look forward to reading the future volumes.

Sincerely yours,

Slick Dungeon

This page contains affiliate links. If you purchase a product through one of them, I will receive a commission (at no additional cost to you). I only ever endorse products I have personally used. Thank you for your support!

The Fog (1980) – #MovieReview

“Eleven fifty-five. Almost midnight. Enough time for one more story. One more story before twelve. Just to keep us warm.” That’s how John Carpenter chose to start his masterful follow up to Halloween and prove that he is one of the all time horror greats. He showed us he could take a shoestring budget, a simple ghost story, a menacing tone and a crap ton of dry ice and fuel nightmares for decades.

What’s going on everyone? Slick Dungeon here and I just re-watched this classic from 1980 and wanted to give my thoughts on it and a little bit about horror in general. It has been a long time since I saw this movie so although, I certainly remember thinking it was a decent film, I had forgotten how good it actually is. Needless to say, I will be giving some mild spoilers here so be forewarned.

The beginning of the film is a story around a campfire. At this point in cinema history, that’s probably over done and most of the time would not work. But here, in this film, the whole movie is what amounts to a campfire story so it makes a lot of sense. Also, by framing it this way at the beginning, Carpenter is able to set up the atmosphere, give us most of the information that we need to understand the story, and introduce us to the town the story is set in. He takes the time do one very important thing that I think a lot of modern horror films lack. He sets the tone. If you think about one of the best horror films to come out in recent decades, Get Out, does the exact same thing. I know that gore splatter and body horror films are popular but they never scare me as much as a film willing to be patient enough to make the scares matter.

We’re told the legend of the founding of Antonio Bay, involving a tragic shipwreck and it’s obvious from the start that even if every word of this legend is not going to turn out to be true, it will still be deadly. Even more so because the teller of the tale is able to time the tale so that it is finished at the very second that it is 100 years to the date that the shipwreck happened. We know there are ghosts coming for someone from the depths of the bay, through the fog.

Around the same time, a priest in town discovers an old journal belonging to his grandfather, full of murder and secrets buried for a century.

It turns out that the campfire story was only partly true. The shipwreck was deliberate and six men met their deaths because of it. Now, one hundred years after, these six men are coming back through the fog to take revenge on six victims.

Simultaneously, a ship out to sea is enveloped with fog, and a radio station operator starts seeing the impossible. The fog moves against the wind.

The rest of the movie is basically what amounts to guessing who will get killed and who will survive. And to be honest, the effects don’t all hold up that well. But it still works for a few reasons. First, Carpenter waits long enough to truly show us the monsters that they don’t have to look that good. Second, the performances by everyone in this are outstanding. To top that off, the film stars high quality actors including the ever entertaining Hal Holbrook, scream queen Jamie Lee Curtis and of course, the most famous Hitchcock blond of them all, Janet Leigh. Finally, Carpenter makes the stakes high immediately by murdering everyone on the ship at sea.

It’s a fascinating psychological portrait and while there are things that jump out at you and startle you, it never has to rely on that to be frightening. I wish more films could learn these lessons. Jump cuts are fun and entertaining but they simply don’t make for the greatest tone, and personally, I usually notice the edit and think, “yeah okay that was a jump cut, let’s move on.”

I can see how a lot of horror fans may have missed this film as it was never as popular as Halloween and it’s sequels and while it doesn’t quite grip you as well as The Thing, it is still masterful cinema. If you love a good ghost tale and have about ninety minutes, you should definitely check this movie out. And if, like me you haven’t seen it in years, it’s a great and fun look back on when horror took it’s time to creep up behind you before striking out.

Foggily yours,

Slick Dungeon

This page contains affiliate links. If you purchase a product through one of them, I will receive a commission (at no additional cost to you). I only ever endorse products I have personally used. Thank you for your support!

The Emperor’s Railroad (The Dreaming Cities Book 1) – #BookReview

Note: this review was first posted on Reedsy Discovery, an awesome website that pairs independent authors and readers. To see the post there click here.

SYNOPSIS

Global war devastated the environment, a zombie-like plague wiped out much of humanity, and civilization as we once understood it came to a standstill. But that was a thousand years ago, and the world is now a very different place.

Conflict between city states is constant, superstition is rife, and machine relics, mutant creatures and resurrected prehistoric beasts trouble the land. Watching over all are the silent Dreaming Cities. Homes of the angels, bastion outposts of heaven on Earth. Or so the church claims. Very few go in, and nobody ever comes out.

Until now…

REVIEW

3/5 Stars

Young Abney doesn’t have a lot in this world. He has his mother, his wits, and a whole lot of undead creatures threatening their existence. Over a thousand years ago the world was thrown into war between angels, a zombie plague broke out, and civilization was thrown into a standstill. In the kingdom of Virginia, Abney and his mother decide they need to go to the town of Charleston, Virginia, along the Emperor’s railroad. When they get into a spot of trouble, a Knight of the Dreaming City of Atlantis arrives and saves the day. Quinn, the heavily armed knight, brandishing sword, falchion and gun befriends the pair and is hired to escort them to Charleston. Even when the road seems clear, what they find is mostly trouble. Will they survive the next moment, let alone the next day?

When I first picked this up, I was expecting a traditional fantasy with maybe some modern technology added in (I admit I judged this one on the cover), but what I got was a lot more interesting than that. The blend of angels, who are not infallible, zombies, and a lethal dragon made for a fairly gripping read. And that’s to say nothing of the plain old human threats that faced the trio of Abney, Quinn and Abney’s mother. It was not what I had expected but that didn’t make it a bad read at all. I’m not sure how much I liked the story being told from the point of view of Abney and it did make me wonder how this series will progress. Will we get different tales of Quinn from other people’s perspective or will it be something entirely different? It was also a little jarring to read about these things happening in America, albeit far in the future but occasionally, the mention of some landmark would take me out of the story for a bit.

If you like books full of wandering adventure, fantasy, or dystopian post apocalyptic books you’ll probably enjoy this. It was sort of a mash up of Lord of the Rings, The Walking Dead and True Grit. While it’s easy to like all of those things separately, not everyone will love them all being thrown together. I am definitely interested in where the series will ultimately go with this.

Sincerely yours,

Slick Dungeon

This page contains affiliate links. If you purchase a product through one of them, I will receive a commission (at no additional cost to you). I only ever endorse products I have personally used. Thank you for your support!