Top 5 Horror One Shots for Dungeons & Dragons

Guild Adept PDFs - Available exclusively @ Dungeon Masters Guild

Hey all, Slick Dungeon here. I hate long intros to top 5 lists so we’ll get right into it. These are my five favorite horror one shots for Dungeons & Dragons.

(Note: this post contains affiliate links. If you purchase something through this post I will get a small commission at no extra cost to you)

5. The House of Lament from Van Richten’s Guide to Ravenloft

Spirit Board from House of Lament

The House of Lament is a highly customizable haunted house adventure made for a party of 4-6 1st level characters who will advance to 3rd level by the end. The idea is pretty simple here, there is a house that is not at rest. The party will be lead there by whatever adventure hook you want to come up with (if you decide to do a longer campaign in Ravenloft you’ll definitely want to incorporate the mists somehow). Once the part is there they will meet some friendly NPC’s who are trying to figure out why the house is haunted and want to shut it down. I won’t go into too much detail for fear of spoilers but the players get to conduct a few seances with the help of a spirit board that leads them to clues about why the house is haunted. For the DM there are several scenarios this can take so you may want to pick which spirits are haunting the house ahead of time. The goal is for the players to go through the house and help or in some cases defeat the spirits and put the house back at rest. Whether or not you turn this into a longer campaign is up to you. Right now you can only find this adventure in Van Richten’s Guide to Ravenloft. I have a full review of that book here and I highly recommend picking it up. Also handy are these handouts you can find on the Dungeon Master’s Guild Van Richten’s Guide to Ravenloft: The House of Lament DM Resources Pack and Van Richten’s Guide to Ravenloft: House of Lament Props & Handouts. Because it’s so customizable it can be a bit difficult to run for a newer Dungeon Master so be sure to read through before playing.

4. The Haunt

The Haunt

The Haunt is another haunted manor style campaign. It can definitely be run in about 3-4 hours or less, depending on how many obstacles you put in your players way. It’s made for a party of 4th-5th level characters. There are several good scares in here and some unique monsters to fight. The first one you can adapt to play with kids if your kids are okay with somewhat scary happenings but be forewarned that the sequels get pretty dark pretty fast. If you are into that sort of thing there is a great special hardcover edition you can get for $54.95 but I would still recommend starting with the first one and seeing how you like it. The original The Haunt is on the DM’s Guild for just $6.95. There’s a very well thought out back story and reason for the strange events in the adventure and when I played this with my gaming group they were all in on the frights.

3. Death House

Death House One Shot Adventure

Death House is a one shot adventure that was printed in Curse of Strahd but also was released online for free. You can download it right from the image above at the cost of nothing. While there are some issues with it, this does work great as an introduction to Curse of Strahd but I think it’s more fun to run as a stand alone adventure as a horror one shot on a dark Halloween night. This is yet another haunted house adventure. It’s for first level characters who could go up to level three by the end. It’s got a great moody introduction with a couple of very memorable kids involved. The back story is pretty twisted but you could definitely make a few adjustments and run this with kids. My party really liked the exploration aspects of this one because there is a lot to find in the house. When I ran it this only took 2-3 hours but your results will vary.

2. Tomb of Horrors

Tomb of Horrors

Full of deadly traps and vicious monsters, Tomb of Horrors has long been considered one of the most difficult adventures for players, even skilled and experienced ones. Gary Gygax wrote the original module because he felt players were feeling too sure of themselves surviving an adventure and pulled this out to warp their perceptions. The most current version (the one you can use for 5e) can be found as a standalone adventure on D&D Beyond or you can purchase the book of collected adventures Tales From the Yawning Portal and find it there. Personally, I like getting the book because there are several other fun adventures adapted from older editions included but you do you. This is a pretty complex dungeon with lots of tricks to figure out so it can be a challenge to players. But if you love survival horror, this is an excellent adventure to play. There are a variety of monsters here and there are tons of traps so starting around 14th level is probably a good idea for your party but if you want to make it really nasty you could start at lower levels.

1. Curse of Strahd

That’s right, you can play this entire campaign as a one-shot adventure. It takes a fair amount of tweaks and adjustments ahead of time but it’s doable. It’s definitely a longer game sessions but Curse of Strahd is a blast to play in a single evening. It’s also easier to keep the mood going for just one night rather than multiple nights. There is great article on D&D Beyond that tells you exactly how to do this. You do have to have the campaign book obviously and you’ll need the Tarokka deck, whether you print that yourself or just buy a deck. A one hour timer is also very helpful. This adventure still remains the best example of gothic horror you can find in Dungeons & Dragons and that makes it extremely well suited to an evening of horrific fun on a dark Halloween night.

Do you have any favorite horror one shots you’ve run? Let me know it the comments and Happy Halloween month!

Horrifically yours,

Slick Dungeon

Learn to Play Call of Cthulhu by Yourself for Free

Alone Against the Flame

Hey horror rpg fanatics, Slick Dungeon here and I want to tell you how you can learn to play Call of Cthulhu 7th edition for free, on your own time, with nothing to bother you except the terror of your own imagination.

(Note: this post contains affiliate links. If you purchase something through this post I will get a small commission at no extra cost to you)

Last week I named in my Top 5 Horror Tabletop Roleplaying Games post Call of Cthulhu as the number one horror RPG. I realize I haven’t talked much about this game on my blog but I have played and enjoyed it quite a lot.

However, one of my favorite ways to play this game is not with a gaming group at all but inside on a dark and dreary night with low lighting all by lonesome. I find this increases the scare factor considerably and luckily Chaosium has published several scenarios (what you would think of as an adventure or one-shot in D&D) where you don’t need a GM. You pretty much just need some dice, some paper, and something to write with.

While there are some options to purchase items in this post, if you just get the Alone Against the Flames and Call of Cthulhu 7th Edition Quick Start Rules PDF’s you don’t have to pay anything to learn to play this game. I recommend starting there before getting your wallet out for anything else. Of course, if you’re like me you may be hooked and want to buy some further scenarios and rulebooks.

The way I learned to play the 7th edition of this game was with a scenario called Alone Against the Flames. To play the scenario you will need the Call of Cthulhu 7th Edition Quick Start Rules. You can get the PDF of both of these for $0. If you’re willing to spend just a bit of cash you can get a softcover edition of both of these books for $11 and $10 respectively. If you decide to pay the higher price, be sure to select the option that gives you both the PDF and the softcover. When you select the softcover you get the PDF for free so take advantage of that.

Personally, I recommend the softcover for Alone Against the Flames just because it’s easier to write in a book than on printed out pages that fly all over the place. I think it’s less essential for the rules but it can be nice to have a book to flip through.

Alright so what exactly is this scenario and why should you play it? That’s an excellent question I have asked myself. Here’s the answer. This scenario is set in the 1920’s in America, the classic setting for most of the CoC scenarios. This gives you a good feel for the tone of the game and the encroaching cosmic horror you will be facing off against.

In many ways it is like a choose your own adventure book but at the same time you will be building a character and learning how the rules of the game operate. Truth be told, as much as I love Dungeons & Dragons, I wish they had something like this. It can be hard to learn a new rule system in front of people so having an adventure (or scenario in this case) you can play to get a feel of both story and mechanics is extremely valuable.

I don’t want to give away spoilers for the scenario here but suffice it to say your character will end up somewhere that is not friendly and things are not at all what they seem.

I definitely recommend playing this alone because it just makes it more fun. It’s pretty easy to scare yourself but when you play with someone else there isn’t the same amount of terror you can feel. However, if you really want to play this with someone else, you definitely can. One of you would need to be the Keeper (Game Master) and the other the player. The scenario will still walk both of you through the rules and gives a great intro story.

Watch out for the ancient ones

If you do play this there are also some great follow up scenarios, although you are going to have to pay for those. To play them you would need the Call of Cthulhu 7th Edition Keeper’s Rulebook. You can also get this on drivethrurpg as a PDF but it’s going to cost you $27.95. If you’d rather have a hardcover you’ll need to go to the game publisher Chaosium’s website where you can get it for a heftier $54.95. While it’s costlier I do recommend the hardcover for this since it’s a book you’ll likely reuse.

The follow up scenarios are Alone Against the Dark another solo scenario which takes you to the year 1931 where you will travel from New York City to Greece, Egypt, Germany, and Antarctica. It’s guaranteed dangerous, meaning the scenario is going to be more challenging than Alone Against the Flames but if you have played that scenario, you’ll have a much better idea of how to survive this one. You can get this one for $6.95. Then there is Alone Against the Frost for $9.99 but this one can be used with the starter set if you have that. Here you go into the Canadian Northwest Territories in the 1920’s. this time they give you a character to play rather than one to create. Finally there is Alone Agains the Tide for $6.95 which can also be used with the starter set. In this one you take on the role of an investigator traveling to a remote lakeside town where strange things are happening. This one has a pre-generated character but you could also use one you have made yourself. All of these are pretty fun scenarios to play by yourself or with one friend. All of them are also good introductions to how to play the game. If you play all of these you’ll definitely understand how it works and maybe you’ll be inspired to play a live game with others or even become a Keeper.

My recommendation is to play at that time of night when you hear bumps and creaks at home and think, “what was that noise?” and answer, “It could be anything.” It makes it a lot more terrifying.

Horrifically yours,

Slick Dungeon

Book Review – Van Richten’s Guide to Ravenloft

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

Rating: 5 out of 5.

Hey everyone, Slick Dungeon here. I don’t usually review D&D books on this site although I do post a lot of D&D content. I wanted to review Van Richten’s Guide to Ravenloft because I have not been this excited about a Dungeons & Dragons book in a long time. I’m going to give a brief review of the sections in the book and give you my overall opinion of it, as well as a tip or two on how you can use this book to amp up your own horror campaigns. I’ll likely do further posts on content in this book as well because it has given me a lot to think about so watch out for those.

(Note: this post contains affiliate links. If you purchase something through this post I will get a small commission at no extra cost to you)

Also, I know this is not the most recent book Wizards of the Coast has put out but I am not reviewing the most recent one because I don’t have it yet and Van Richten’s Guide fits a lot better with the month of October because, uh… Halloween of course!

So let’s get into it.

chapter 1: Character Creation

This chapter gives several new character options. There are lineages, subclass options and backgrounds. Some of these are going to be familiar with those who follow unearthed arcana. You can create a Dhampir which is basically a vampire who can walk in daylight (think Blade from Marvel for reference), a Hexblood, basically a character who has made a bad deal with a Hag and now has some cool powers but is in debt to the Hag, and a Reborn which is pretty much Frankenstein’s monster although that’s not the only way to play it.

While those lineages are cool, the stuff I really like in this chapter is the dark gifts and the backgrounds. They give several options that can allow your players to really lean into horror if they want to. If there is a horror character or trope you want to play, you can probably find it in one of these backgrounds. Dark gifts are serious powers you gain but at a cost, be it physical, mental, or spiritual.

In addition to all of that, this chapter gives us a Horror Trinket table with lots of horror related objects players could find or have. If I was running a Ravenloft campaign I would probably drop a lot of these trinkets in odd or unsettling places for my players to find.

Chapter 2: Creating Domains of Dread

This chapter is really cool. If you’ve ever played Curse of Strahd you know that Strahd Von Zarovitch is a vampire cursed to live in his own domain, subtly tortured by his own past, destined to see horrors of his own making come to pass over and over again. Well guess what? You can make your own dark lord! This can be anything from the most twisted soul you can imagine, say a barber who is out for revenge and likes to cut throats while singing, to something much less frightening but still fun like an old man who is trying to keep those meddling kids out of his amusement park. I love this idea. They walk you through how to create this dark lord of your own realm and then they tell you how to create the domain they are trapped in. There is great advice on how to tie this dark lord’s actions into the domain so it’s sort of their own personal version of Hell but everyone there just sort of endures it because they don’t know any different.

Another fantastic feature of this chapter is the overview and breakdown of different types of horror. They go over body horror, cosmic horror, dark fantasy, Ghost stories and a host of others. They even give some recommendations of what monsters from the Monster Manual work well within each genre.

Chapter 3: Domains of Ravenloft

Here is where the meat of the book can be found. This chapter gives a deep dive into Ravenloft as a whole and then gives a deep dive into several of the domains of dread.

There are seventeen domains they fully flesh out and give several pages on. They start with Barovia and I will say if you are playing or have played Curse of Strahd this section is still worth a read because there are some great tips on ways to change it up and surprise your players. In addition to those seventeen domains they also give twenty-two domains the short treatment where it’s a paragraph or two but it leaves your imagination running wild.

My favorite one out of these shorter ones is the last train leaving from Eberron where a mysterious passenger shows up, holds the train up and demands to be let on and kicks a bunch of other passengers off so they can have their stuff loaded. No one on the train knows it but they did not make it away from the explosion and they’ve all been dead traveling with this person who caused their deaths. I really want to make a campaign out of that.

Out of all of these domains there was really only one or two where I didn’t quite get it and wasn’t that interested in running as a horror campaign. All the rest have huge potential for a great setting for part or all of a fantastic campaign.

The chapter also highlights some of the natives you can find wandering the mists of Ravenloft, including Van Richten himself, the Vistani, and some characters sure to be familiar with those who love older editions of the game.

chapter 4: Horror Adventures

This chapter is very helpful to Dungeon Masters because is gives some solid advice on making sure people can enjoy a horror campaign without suffering actual trauma. Safety is always a concern when running horror because while it’s fun to be scared in an imaginary way, it’s never good when someone’s actual trauma or phobias are triggered. They give some standard advice about safety tools such as having a session zero (which I think you should have no matter what kind of campaign you are running) and subtle ways players can signal the DM that a line they are not comfortable with is getting crossed. I think though, the main thing to take away, is you should always keep your lines of communication open and make sure people are having fun.

There is also some advice on ways to set the mood for horror. If you already watch a lot of horror or have played these types of campaigns you might not get as much use out of this advice as others would. Still, it’s got some good reminders about setting the mood but also making sure the game is accessible to all. There is also advice on how to talk to players after an intense session.

They go over the use of props and handouts as well but for that, it really depends on what your gaming groups like. A lot of groups love handouts but not every group does and it sort of depends on what kind of handout you are talking about in the first place. I know if I get a handout that’s supposed to be a handwritten note and it’s illegible, I would much rather someone had read me the text to begin with.

The end of the chapter has an adventure that can be used as a way to get a party entered into the mists of Ravenloft, after which you can have them land wherever you want. It’s a solid adventure that is balanced for four to six characters starting at level one who advance to level three by the end. I don’t want to give spoilers away here but you could definitely use some of the NPC’s found in here as a springboard to a larger adventure.

Technically there already is an adventure like this called Death House that pairs with Curse of Strahd so if you plan to go into Barovia, you may want to use that one instead.

Chapter 5: Monsters of Ravenloft

This chapter is exactly what it sounds like. There is a bestiary here with stat blocks and all that good crunchy rules stuff you need for a game. There are some new takes on old monsters which are interesting and sound fun. But there are some absolutely fantastic new monsters in here as well. Let me just say that the Bagman is going to haunt my players dreams without a doubt.

There are monsters that are terrifying and ones that are silly which is great. You could absolutely run an Invasion of the Body Snatchers style campaign but it could also just as easily be a Little Shop of Horrors campaign based around the plant creatures they give here.

There is also the ridiculous like Brain in a Jar perfect for lovers of old weird movies and definitely surprising to those who don’t watch them.

In Summary

Dungeons & Dragons has a long history of horror campaigns. Some of the oldest modules out there have less to do with finding treasure and more to do with facing your character’s fears. In all those years there has never been a book as good at getting down into how to think about, create, and run horror campaigns as Van Richten’s Guide to Ravenloft. While it’s not perfect and there are some sections which could have been a little more robust this book is absolutely worth the money. Even if you actually love running other RPG’s like Call of Cthulhu there is still some great advice in this book you could pluck out and use.

I’ve always loved playing horror campaigns, or at least campaigns with a few horrific elements here and there, but with this book I feel like I have been given a whole new arsenal and way to think about these campaigns. If you are a horror fan and a Dungeons & Dragons fan you should pick this book up.

Also, if you want to run campaigns more on the spooky but not scary side, you can definitely do that with this book. You may have to make adjustments based on how intense you want things to be but there is enough flexibility in the domains of dread that you can definitely do it.

In future posts I plan to break down and dive much deeper into the sections of this book and not only talk about them in general but also about how you could use this book with kids if you are running a game with younger players. I’ve got a few other ideas in mind as well but I’ll get into those in future posts.

For now I hope you liked my review and I’ll see you next time.

Horrifically yours,

Slick Dungeon

Dungeon Master Tool Review – Scary Stories to Play in the Dark

Spooky Stories to Play in the Dark

Hi all, Slick Dungeon here. I was messing around in the DM’s Guild recently because I was thinking about writing something with advice about running horror campaigns for kids. It can be both super fun and a difficult challenge all at once.

Imagine my surprise when I came upon some creators who already did this for adapting games from famous horror books suitable for kids 8-12 years old.

I’ll still be giving my take on this sort of thing later this month but Thomas and Rachel Kolar have basically knocked it out of the park in a nutshell with this little supplement.

The authors give general advice on running games involving horror with kids, give some solid examples of horror kids are reading (both old and newer), and give general advice on how to increase or decrease the horror level on your campaigns.

They take films or books you are likely familiar with, give a bit of advice on how to adapt so the players are the stars of the show but shouldn’t be overly traumatized by the scary things that can happen, and give an excellent list of recommended reading.

The best part? It’s 100% free on the DM’s guild. I will say though, that the Kolar’s obviously put some time and effort into this so if you can please support them by giving them a few cents for it.

Also, they have a more in-depth guide that I plan to check out myself called Ravenloft Gives Me Goosebumps: Genres of Horror for only $0.99! In this one they go through how to run games with kids 8-12 using the Genres of Horror section in Van Richten’s Guide to Ravenloft. That makes two ideas I was going to post about they thought of before I did!

Horrifically yours,

Slick Dungeon

Top 5 Horror Tabletop Role Playing Games

Storytellers Vault

Hello internet, it’s Slick Dungeon here. I hate when people go on with long intros in their top 5 lists so I will get right to the point. These games are fun to play if you like horror. Check ’em out!

(Note: this post contains affiliate links. If you purchase something through this post I will get a small commission at no extra cost to you)

5. Vampire the Masquerade

Vampire the Masquerade 5th Edition

Most people think the world is how it seems. Nothing supernatural or strange happens to most of us. Until you are turned into a vampire and enter a complex, violent world full of political intrigue, horror, and most of all a never ending hunger that cannot be ignored. The fifth edition of Vampire the Masquerade is the most current but this game has been around for decades. The idea of it was that players could get to be the monsters. This one is definitely not for children and comes with a warning that it’s for the mature. If you play this game with your gaming group, make certain everyone understands what lines they would not want crossed while playing. It can be a ton of fun to play a bloodsucker in the night who not only has to control their hunger but also needs to keep from ticking off the much older, much badder vampire who doesn’t want them around. It’s a surprisingly complex game but the rules are pretty quick to learn and it has endless opportunity to touch on themes of horror, death, and what it truly means to live. You can get the core rulebook as a PDF from the Storytellers Vault for just $25.

4. Alien: The Role playing Game

Alien: The Role Playing Game Starter Set

In space and on your tabletop no one can hear you scream. Watching Alien was one of the first times in my life when a film experience truly terrified me. The tabletop RPG is great at evoking the same feeling. I recommend dipping your toes in with the starter set which comes with the rulebook, a scenario to play and 5 pre-generated characters plus a bunch of supporting materials like maps, markers and cards. You can get it on drivethrurpg for just $20. The rules take a minute to get used to but if you are an experienced role player, you’ll catch on fairly quickly. This one is also not recommended for kids but if your kid loves watching scary movies like I did, you can always adapt it a bit and make it more action-oriented and a little less graphic. It is pretty heavy on the body horror so if that is not for you, well, you’re probably not an Alien fan in the first place. One thing to note is that the starter set does not involve the Xenomorph, the most well known of the creatures from Alien. Some people complain about this but when they do I remind them that Ripley doesn’t really go toe to toe with the queen until the end of the movie, so it makes sense not to just pull that out right off the bat.

3. Dungeons & Dragons: The Curse of Strahd

I know, D&D is it’s own RPG but when it comes to 5th edition there is no horror campaign that surpasses Curse of Strahd. What’s great about this book is how flexible it is. While it touches on dark themes and can be as scary as Vampire the Masquerade if you want it to be, you can also make it a bit goofy and silly making it a good one for kids. Just read ahead before you play with kids so you aren’t caught off guard by the hags who cook children or anything along those lines. While it’s definitely on the pricier side, I really like Curse of Strahd: Revamped. This gives you the book, maps, a super cool stat block for the big bad guy, a tarokka deck to use in the adventure and some gothic postcards that perfectly capture the feeling of Barovia in the domains of dread. This particular campaign is super fun to both DM and to play in.

2. Kids on Bikes

Kids on Bikes

The Goonies, E.T., Stranger Things, what do they all have in common? There are kids. They are on bikes. As simple as it sounds this is the perfect set up for a horror themed RPG. It’s set in the days before your mom could text you to make sure you were safe or you could google who died in the creepy old mansion before you enter it on a dare. The rules are very quick to learn and the game play starts right up. You can sort of ratchet the horror level to what you like as far as fear goes so this is good with a group of kids or adults. You can get the core PDF for just $10 on drivethrurpg. Another really interesting aspect of this one is that you co-create the town as you play and it has powered characters who can be influenced by both the GM and the players. This makes things go from predictable to unpredictable very quickly.

1. Call of Cthulhu

Call of Cthulhu

There is a reason this RPG shows up at the top of everyone’s horror list. There is no better game at setting the mood for terror and delivering abject horror to your players. While it’s most often set in the 1920’s America, you can actually place this game in virtually any time period. The game is based on Lovecraftian stories and creatures but it does incorporate more than that if you want it to. This is another one where I recommend first getting a little taste with the starter set. You can get the starter set on drivethrurpg for just $6 at the time of this posting. In there you get an intro book, a rule book, three starter adventures, five pre-generated investigator sheets, some blank investigator sheets, and player handouts. In total you get four different adventures in one box which is more than I can say for any other starter set I know of. The theme of the game is cosmic horror but it touches on all kinds of terrors. Your characters aren’t wizards and barbarians who don’t ever truly feel threatened because they can just heal after combat. Instead you are human investigators, susceptible to all the pain and damage a human can take and your job is to take on strange, alien creatures from deep in the cosmos, all while hoping to retain whatever sanity you have. This is a game where some kids can handle it and some can’t. If you play with kids who grow super attached to their characters, this game is not recommended because they are extremely likely to die. Also, one thing I do like about this game is that they make several solo adventures (one of which is included in the set) so even if you can’t get your gaming group together, you can still play.

Well, Happy October everyone! I hope you liked my list. Did I miss your favorite horror game? If so, let me know in the comments! Also, if you have played one of these, how did you like it?

Horrifically yours,

Slick Dungeon

RPG Review: Stealing Stories for the Devil Free Primer

Stealing Stories for the Devil by Monte Cook Games
Huge Discounts on your Favorite RPGs @ DriveThruRPG.com

Hello internet people, Slick Dungeon here. I came across a tabletop RPG title on DriveThruRPG.com that I wanted to review. I’ve read the free primer for the game which you can get here at the cost of absolutely free.

I’m going to give a review of the primer and let you know who this game is for and what the pros and cons of it are in my mind. Before I get into the review I want to make sure it is understood what exactly I am reviewing.

I will only be reviewing the free primer from DriveThruRPG. This game will be released via kickstarter and if you are interested in it you can learn more about it by watching the video below. I have no affiliation whatsoever with Monte Cook games or this product. I want to give a fair and objective review for what I can based on the primer.

I also have not had the opportunity to play in a game session yet but if I do, I will give a more full review of the overall game. But first I’ll need to find a group of liars to play with. (We’ll get into that more in a bit)

Stealing Stories for the Devil Kickstarter

If you don’t know, a tabletop role playing game, or RPG for short, is a game where you gather a group of friends and play through a scenario in a cooperative storytelling style. There are many of these games on the market, the most famous of which is Dungeons & Dragons. But there is a treasure trove of other RPG’s that can be just as fun to play.

Most of them have a rule set you use to help craft the narrative and typically there is one person who leads the story along, usually called a game master.

Stealing Stories for the Devil is similar in most aspects to these games but does have some stand out differences. Whether you enjoy these differences or not depends on what kind of player you are and how comfortable you are with a bit of improvisation.

What is it?

The game has an interesting premise. You are from the future. Somewhere around the 39th century. You boarded a ship where you expected to be put to sleep and woken up years later in another universe. Instead the ship with its preprogrammed artificial intelligence ended up on Earth in the 21st century.

Aboard the ship there were two types of people, sleepers and scions. Sleepers as the name implies slept as expected. Scions are actually the descendants of people who originally boarded the ship but for some reason did not go into stasis as expected.

There’s a lot more background to this in the primer but it boils down to this. Both sleepers and scions can affect reality, reshaping it to fit their own narratives. Sleepers do this through advanced technology while scions do this through natural ability.

When a Scion or Sleeper does this, they steal a little bit of the reality they are in and lie to the universe to make it do what they want. Therefore the player characters in this game are all called Liars.

There is a Game Master for this game who leads the narrative but unlike most other RPG’s there is a lot more freedom for the players to influence what happens in the game. After all, they are lying to reality so they get to say what should happen. The world is not without its obstacles though, as the GM must then think of ways to challenge the player characters to keep the story interesting.

How does this game work?

There are some similarities to most RPG’s. You get to choose some traits your character is good at and you have to choose some detriments your character has. Unlike most RPG’s the designers leave this extremely open ended and up to interpretation. While they give several examples of traits such as agile, fast, etc. they also encourage the group to come up with their own traits. This makes the game exceedingly flexible to fit a scenario you think would be fun.

In the primer there are three types of Liars. These are Planners, Plotters and Schemers. I won’t go into too much detail here on what those things mean but you can think of them like character subclasses. They add a bit of different flavor to your character and depending on what you think would be cool to play, you choose which type of Liar you want to be.

You also get a bit of starting equipment based on if you are a scion or sleeper.

Once you have your group of liars together and have a Game Master, you just need a quick read of the rules and you are ready to play. There is surprisingly little math involved in this game and even the defined terms are not necessarily absolute.

That doesn’t mean there is not structure, it just means the players really do get to star in the game.

DriveThruRPG.com

The game is about heisting reality so the players and Game Master come up with a scenario where something has gone wrong with reality and it is up to the players to fix it. There are three acts to each game session. Game sessions can be their own one shot adventures, can be a series of 12 sessions that aadd up to a “season” or an ongoing campaign that can last as long as the players and Game Master want it to.

Each session is broken up into three acts. In the first act, the players get a mission briefing and together map out a location where the players will be performing a heist on reality. The Game Master might say something like, you need to recover a key that unlocks a safe deposit box from a bank. The players then might say, the bank is in the center of the city and we are going to sneak in at night. Then the Game Master could reply, while no one is around at night there are security cameras everywhere and the police do tend to drive by on occasion. Play keeps going like that until the mission briefing is over.

Act two is where the bulk of the game play takes place. This is where the characters act out their actions and the Game Master gets to put obstacles in their way. There will also be twists and turns placed in the scenario by the Game Master. The action plays out until the GM decides the act is over and then the players head into act three.

Act three is the climax where the players ultimately find out if they succeed or fail in their mission.

Along the way the Game Master can ask for players to make dice rolls to see what direction the story takes.

Who is this game for?

If you love improvisation in your role playing, I cannot think of a more interesting type of game to play. You literally get to bend reality in this game as if you were in the movie Inception or The Matrix or something like that.

The game reminds me of elements of Cyberpunk and Shadowrun but with a far looser rule set. You won’t have to roll a lot of dice or do much math at all. It’s quick to read through the primer’s rules although I am sure there is a more robust rule set in the full game.

However, if you are the type of player who really relies on rules and having a bit more set structure on whether your character succeeds or fails, this is not the game for you. In other words, if you like your rules crunchy, skip this one.

Final thoughts

While I have not played this game yet, I really like the premise and I think it opens up huge possibilities for crafting epic stories. I do tend to like a bit more structure in my games but this is one where I think having fewer hard rules will benefit the game. It uses its own system and it is very flexible.

There are players out there who really do love the rules aspects of tabletop games and those players would do well to stay clear of this one.

I can’t speak to how well the twist and mission cards work in this game but I like the idea of some random elements being introduced outside of the player’s control.

I will say I don’t see a huge difference between scions and sleepers since they both change reality and I am not sure how it would matter which one you played. I do think the planner, plotter and schemer all have unique flavors and I think it would be pretty easy to decide which one you want to be. Personally, I really want to play a plotter because it sounded really cool to me.

The primer gives a decent look into the game, enough that giving it a read will let you know if you are interested in backing the game on Kickstarter. The full game comes with a whole lot more and I think it has real potential to be a fun game.

In my opinion if you like games full of improvisation and don’t want to take on a bunch of math in order to play, this is the game for you. Also, it helps if you enjoy heist movies.

If you have read the primer or played the game I would love to hear from you. How was it? Let me know in the comments.

Fictitiously yours,

Slick Dungeon

(Note: this post contains affiliate links. If you purchase something through this post I will get a small commission at no extra cost to you)

Arcadia Issue #3 From MCDM – Review

Arcadia Issue #3 from MCDM

Hello dungeon creatures and crawlers, it’s me Slick Dungeon. Is it time for me to gush about how amazing MCDM studio’s Arcadia magazine for fifth edition Dungeons & Dragons is? Let me check my watch. Yep, it’s that time. The third issue of the super awesome Dungeons & Dragons magazine Arcadia by MCDM is out! I took a look at all the articles and want to give you my hot takes so far. If you don’t know what Arcadia is and you want to learn more about it before reading about issue #3 you can start at the beginning and check out my post for issue #1 here.

This magazine has proven to be overwhelmingly popular and in my opinion is one of the best returns on investment in any D&D product out there at the moment. One thing I love is that in every issue so far there has been at least one adventure you could use as a one shot with your gaming group. This issue is no exception and I hope that trend continues.

I also want to reiterate that I have no association with MCDM in any way whatsoever, I just think that their products are top notch and worth every penny if you love playing Dungeons & Dragons 5th edition. That being said, if you want to pick up the first, second or third issue of Arcadia you can do it here. If you buy them together you can get them discounted as a bundle for $6 a piece instead of $7.

Arcadia #3 Announcement

Alright, enough about me telling you how to buy the awesome stuff, let me review the awesome stuff. Once again, there will be some spoilers as to what is in the issue but I won’t give too much away. To get the full story you definitely need to buy the magazine. Also like last time I will give each article a grade.

The artwork

What can I say? I don’t think this magazine would work half as well as it does without the absolutely fantastic artwork involved here. For three out of three issues I have to give this an A+. the images are interesting and strange and somehow combine both the modern and old school feel of Dungeons & Dragons. It’s incredible how good this stuff is. Don’t believe me? Just take a look at this cover art by Justin Gerard. If this doesn’t spark your imagination for about a million campaign adventure ideas, I don’t know what will. If you want to check out more of Justin’s artwork check out his website here. Again, I don’t have any affiliation with this artist, I just think it’s super cool.

Arcadia #3 Cover artwork by Justin Gerard

Article #1 The Dreamkin

The Dreamkin gives us three new ancestries based on dreams in one way or another. There are Lucidlings who are the offspring of aberrations, Sandspeakers who can enter the dreams of others, and Somnians who are dream architects and can craft illusions and assume nightmarish forms.

All three of these ancestries are strange and interesting and if you happen to have someone in your party who can cast sleep, I think any of these beings could play a major role in a campaign.

While they are strange and wonderful ancestries, they are going to be of limited use in certain types of campaigns. If you are in a setting where there are no aberrations, a Lucidling isn’t going to work. If you have a campaign where most of the monsters have high wisdom, the Somnian’s Nightmare action is going to be much less effective.

If you are playing a campaign involving Stone Giants who can’t really understand the difference between waking and sleeping, these ancestries could be majorly fun to play.

While these ancestries are situational for the most part they are quite well designed and I personally would love to play a Somnian at some point.

All in all this was a fantastic article and if you are looking for a completely new ancestry, this is it. I give it a B+ for a normal campaign but an A+ for a campaign in which dreams and dreaming feature heavily.

Article #2 – Ten Spells You Need in 5e

There are a lot of us out there who love playing 5th edition Dungeons & Dragons who also remember some great old spells that used to be in the game. This article takes ten of those classic spells and updates them for this newest edition.

I’m always a sucker for a good spell that can be used to give a magic wielder advantage. Not all spells are created equal however and some can give a player or Dungeon Master a decidedly meh feeling.

Not all of the spells here are winners but there are enough of them that I am excited about for this to be a solid offering in the magazine. I think my favorite might be Attract Metal. I can see that used in conjunction with Heat Metal from the Player’s Handbook to be a deadly combo an armored foe won’t be able to escape. I also like Rainbow Recurve which is a lot like Chromatic Orb with a power up. Glitter Dust, although neat, is not one I’m that keen on as there are other existing spells that give the same effect but if you love the idea of glitter bombing an enemy, it’s perfect for you. Another of my favorites is Walking Dead. If you’ve ever felt like you needed your campaign to have a Weekend at Bernie’s session this spell is exactly what you need. Entertainment gold right there.

The spells here are diverse enough that Bards, Clerics, Druids, Rangers, Sorcerers, Wizard and Warlocks all can use at least one of these spells. The Wizard benefits most here which makes sense because… Wizard.

While I like a lot of these spells some of them do feel a bit simply re-skinned so for this article I am giving it a B- overall but there are some good spells here so it’s kind of a pick and choose what you love here.

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

Article #3 – Aces High New Rules for Aerial Combat

I’m usually pretty cautious about articles that claim they will make the use of written rules easier and then have tables with a bunch of modifiers in them. Sometimes authors make the mistake of creating a new rule set that is simply different from the original but no less difficult to manage.

If you’ve ever done aerial combat in a campaign you will know that the rules in the Dungeon Master’s Guide are confusing and fairly difficult to adjudicate and sort of slow the game down. (At least that has been my experience) And if you have a player who is into airplanes, zephyrs and the like, they’re sure to tell you how this combat you’re running is nothing like a real dog fight in mid-air would be.

I took a look at the rules in the DMG and compared them with the ones written in Aces High and I have to say, the Aces High rules win by a huuuuuuuge margin here. If you buy this issue of Arcadia and are intimidated by the tables found in this article, don’t be. These rules add a lot of excitement and verisimilitude to the game. I think it does help if you have read some of the war rules for Strongholds and Followers to have a full understanding of how these rules work but it’s not strictly necessary.

And while the rules are super helpful, one thing that really pushes this article over the top is that there is a sample encounter using these rules right in the article. It’s a nice little test you can use at your own table and if you hate these rules and prefer the DMG, you won’t have wasted too much time on it.

Usually in Arcadia there is at least one article I say is worth the price of admission. In the previous two articles I would say those were the adventures given. This time I have to give that honor to this simplified and more exciting rule set for aerial combat. This article provides a solution for a problem a lot of DM’s run into and actually makes the DM’s life just a little easier. For that reason I give this article a full A+.

Article #4 – A Diamond in the Rough

A Diamond in the Rough is a roleplay and intrigue adventure for 3rd-level characters. It’s essentially a mystery about who or what is thieving from a family of nobles.

Reviewing this one is a little tricky because I don’t want to give anything away in case anyone plays this as a player but I still need to describe it so people can know if they would be interested in the adventure.

Reading through this one it reminded me of a game of clue (but about theft rather than murder) with a Dungeons & Dragons twist to it.

The adventure has three parts, a solid map with 12 locations and has at least 2 suggested conclusions. There are several NPC’s that I could see being used not just in this adventure but showing up from time to time in a full campaign.

I’m not sure how coincidental it was that a mystery came out in Arcadia the same month that Candlekeep Mysteries was released but this does feel like it would be at home in a campaign full of mysteries.

There are suggestions for ways to make some of the clues either easier or harder to find for players which I think is important for an adventure like this as no two gaming groups are going to be alike in how they solve a mystery. I do think this adventure takes a bit of DM skill in order to navigate it successfully however. It’s got a lot of potential and I think could be great for those groups who love a good mystery. If you’re not into having mysteries at your table this is not for you but I think you could still pull an NPC or two out of here for use at your own game.

While I like the concept and the NPC’s here quite a bit some of this adventure feels a bit predictable. I think it will be on DM’s to adapt and there will need to be some work put in here.

For this article I am giving it a solid B.

Overall

MCDM is batting a thousand with these issues. It’s clear that the effort and care put into each article is thought about and cultivated until they have the best product they can deliver. I was a little late in reviewing this issue this month but I don’t think I will let a month pass me by where I don’t buy this magazine as long as they keep making it. I think with enough time and issues an entire campaign could be worked out just using articles and adventures from Arcadia. I’m tempted to try to string something together myself already and I wouldn’t be surprised if there are DM’s out there who already have.

Once again, if you haven’t picked up Arcadia, I don’t know what else to tell you other than if you play 5th edition it is one hundred percent worth the money.

Adventuringly yours,

Slick Dungeon

Old School RPGs - Available Now @ DriveThruRPG.com

Slick Dungeon’s 2021 Challenge Check-in!

Hey everyone, Slick Dungeon here, hoping March was an amazing month for you and that April will be even better.

(Note that there are affiliate links in this post. If you purchase anything through these links I will receive a small commission at no extra cost to you)

In January I put out three challenges for this year, one for books, one for movies and one that combined books, movies and role playing games. I wanted to take today to see if anyone has done any of the challenges and update everyone on my own progress.

As a reminder, if you complete any of the three challenges and talk about it on your blog, I will review anything in that category that you want me to and post that review on my blog with a link to your blog.

Don’t worry if you haven’t started, each of my challenges is only 12 items long and there is still plenty of the year to go.

In case you want to participate and still need the challenges, just take a look at this post and download yourself a neat little PDF or three.

Now, the moment you have all been waiting for, how did I, Slick Dungeon do on my own challenges in March? Let’s find out.

Challenge 1: Book Challenge

For the second month in a row, I did not make my book challenge. I am going to try to make reading a bit more of a priority for April. I make no promises though because I am a pretty slow reader. That being said below are the books I intend to read this month for my challenge.

This is a book recommended to me by a friend and I am about two thirds of the way through it so hopefully I will be reviewing it soon. That was the challenge from way back in February but this month is the month I will get this done!

For March the challenge I wanted to take on was a book you swore you would never read. I haven’t quite finished it but I am close. I am reading none other than Twilight by Stephenie Meyer. I definitely have some thoughts about it and I’ll be sure to let you know what those are so stay tuned.

Challenge 2: Movie Challenge

My challenge this month was to watch a movie that scares me. I remembered being terrified by the film Phantasm when I was a kid and wanted to revisit it. If you want to check out my review of it, take a look at this post.

Challenge 3: Read-Watch-Play Challenge

This month for the Read-Watch-Play challenge, I did one of the play challenges. I had a little trouble getting a group together so I went with a solo campaign called The Executioner’s Daughter. Check out my review for it here.

Well, that’s it for March. Let’s hope I will be able to complete all the challenges in April. Here’s what I am going to be attempting.

  1. A book recommended by a friend (left over from February)
  2. A book you swore you would never read (left over from March)
  3. A book that has a BIPOC author or protagonist
  4. A movie with an ambiguous ending
  5. Read a book with a quest

Good luck to the rest of you out there and if you have decided to participate, feel free to let me know how it is going in the comments!

If you would like to download any of the challenges you can do that on the original post or right below.

Challengingly yours,

Slick Dungeon

Book Challenge
Movie Challenge
Read-Watch-Play Challenge

The Executioner’s Daughter: Dungeons & Dragons Solo Adventure Review

The Executioner’s Daughter, Part 1 of the Tribunal Trilogy by Ashley Warren

Hey Everyone, Slick Dungeon here. If you are like me you love playing Dungeons & Dragons. Also, if you are like me, you can’t always get a group together to play. So what do you do? Find a solo adventure you can play by yourself. I found myself in this situation recently so I decided to play The Executioner’s Daughter by Ashley Warren who writes some fantastic RPG material you can purchase on the Dungeon Master’s Guild.

(Note: this post contains affiliate links. If you purchase something through this post I will get a small commission at no extra cost to you)

What’s a solo adventure for Dungeons & Dragons you say? Simple. It’s kind of like a choose your own adventure book but where instead of making decisions you roll up a character sheet and roll some dice to find out what happens.

These types of adventures have become increasingly popular in the last year for obvious reasons. Never let the lack of a group stop you from enjoying your favorite TTRPG. Now, on to the review.

The Executioner’s Daughter is an adventure meant for a 3rd level character. This can be played by one person alone or is easily adapted to have a Dungeon Master and a single player.

The adventure is rich with detail and has some pretty cool twists and turns. I chose to be a 3rd level Aasimar Paladin because I had never played that race or class before. I found the combat challenging (mostly because I somehow managed to roll really well against myself and really poorly for my character). I will say that the adventure tends to lean toward the good side of alignment but you can play as whatever you want.

The setting is a place called Soldra that has a history of fighting dragons but at a price. I don’t want to get into spoiler territory here but basically Soldra has survived for years by sacrificing a young woman from the city every year to Bahamut the dragon god. Things must be going relatively well because there hasn’t been a dragon attack on the city in years. The ceremony where this selection happens does not go as planned this time and that is where your character comes into play.

Conveniently, all of the stat blocks you need to play are included right in the module so there’s no awkward pausing to find something in the Monster Manual just to continue playing.

While it is a bit odd rolling against yourself for combat, I got used to it pretty quickly.

The artwork is high quality and it helps to make the adventure feel truly immersive.

There are some drawbacks to the module. First, if you have never played D&D before, this could prove challenging because the module assumes you know how to make a 3rd level character. Since that’s outside the scope of what the module is trying to achieve, I don’t hold it against the creator. I just thought it would be fair to warn anyone who might purchase this that it’s not for totally inexperienced players.

The module is text heavy and does seem to assume a couple things about your character. Mostly it assumes that you want to get in on the action somehow. Since it would be a pretty boring adventure without getting involved, I can’t really hold that against the module either. But due to this it can feel a little bit like thee outcomes are inevitable.

Overall, including the time it took me to make a character, this adventure took me about 2 hours to play. I am sure some people will go faster and others will take longer.

So, what’s the cost of this little adventure and is it worth getting? I have good news for you. This is a steal at only 99 cents. It’s technically a Pay What You Want title on the DM’s Guild but I paid the full price and I think it was worth every penny. If you are interested and want to buy it, click on one of the links to it above or click this link here.

Not only did playing this fill my time and give me a couple hours of fun, it also crossed off one of my challenges for my read-watch-play challenge. To check that out take a look at this post or download the challenge here for free.

I should also mention that this is part one of a trilogy. I plan to play all three and review them on this blog so if you are interested, stay tuned and I will let you know how they go. I feel like there is a lot of story potential in this first one so I am looking forward to the next adventure in the series.

Adventuringly yours,

Slick Dungeon

Slick Dungeon’s 2021 Challenge Check-in!

Hey everyone, Slick Dungeon here, hoping February was an amazing month for you and that March will be even better.

(Note that there are affiliate links in this post. If you purchase anything through these links I will receive a small commission at no extra cost to you)

In January I put out three challenges for this year, one for books, one for movies and one that combined books, movies and role playing games. I wanted to take today to see if anyone has done any of the challenges and update everyone on my own progress.

As a reminder, if you complete any of the three challenges and talk about it on your blog, I will review anything in that category that you want me to and post that review on my blog with a link to your blog.

Don’t worry if you haven’t started, each of my challenges is only 12 items long and there is still plenty of the year to go.

In case you want to participate and still need the challenges, just take a look at this post and download yourself a neat little PDF or three.

Now, the moment you have all been waiting for, how did I, Slick Dungeon do on my own challenges in February? Let’s find out.

Challenge 1: Book Challenge

Ack, this one is the one I failed at this month. I did get a book recommended to me and I have started reading it. It’s by one of my favorite authors Isaac Asimov and is called The Gods Themselves. I’m about half way done so there should be a review for it in the next week or two here. In case you want to get it for yourself, check it out below.

The Gods Themselves by Isaac Assimov

Challenge 2: Movie Challenge

My challenge this month was to watch three films by the same director. I went with 3 early Alfred Hitchcock films. Challenge completed on this one woohoo! If you want to know what I thought about the movies check out the posts for them below.

  1. The Lodger: A Story of the London Fog
  2. Rich and Strange
  3. The Secret Agent

Challenge 3: Read-Watch-Play Challenge

This month for the Read-Watch-Play challenge, I did one of the watch challenges. I chose to watch (well re-watch) The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey. While I love the book and I enjoy the film well enough, I think there is considerable room for improvement in the film. Check out my review for it here.

Well, that’s two out of three for February. Let’s hope I will be able to complete all the challenges in March. Here’s what I am going to be attempting.

  1. A book recommended by a friend (left over from February)
  2. A book you swore you would never read
  3. A movie that scares you
  4. Play a Dungeons & Dragons one shot adventure

Good luck to the rest of you out there and if you have decided to participate, feel free to let me know how it is going in the comments.

Challengingly yours,

Slick Dungeon