The Garden and Other Stories – #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

With The Garden and other stories, his first exciting collection, author Aaron Ramos skilfully weaves tales of powerful human emotion, modern scientific concepts, and ancient myths and legends within eight beautifully diverse stories.

In Elevated, a young man living in a dystopian future struggles with personal development and romance. In Zero, an elderly woman is confronted with a robotic visitation in small town America. By the Light of the Fire is one woman’s journey to peace with her father in the mountains of ancient Norway. Knocking on Heaven’s door sees a man come face to face with both the Devil and God in an effort to question what it means to be human. In the title story, a father and daughter try to make sense of prejudice, love and what it means to be truly happy in a post apocalyptic universe.

Ramos’ detailed and sensitive imagining of both future and past is an invitation to readers to consider who they are against the vast backdrop of multiple universes.

REVIEW

3/5 Stars

The Garden and Other Stories is eight different short stories, varying in both length and subject matter. Most of the stories have some element of love, be it romantic, parental or even societal. While some stories might be stronger than others in terms of tale weaving, there is certainly something here to satisfy any reader who enjoys science fiction or fantasy stories.

At times the stories focusing on myth and fantasy felt a little more contrived in my opinion, but the stories dealing with technology were fascinating. Other readers might find the opposite is true, as it all depends upon one’s taste. Again in my opinion, the strongest stories of the bunch were Zero and Knocking on Heaven’s Door. Both dealt with futuristic technology and what that means to humankind. Zero is a more serious tale about artificial intelligence while Knocking on Heaven’s Door takes on the very idea of creation in a humorous and thoroughly entertaining light. The centerpiece of the book, The Garden is able to blend technological advances with the love a father has for his daughter. An unconditional love that is refreshing to see in a short story.

A nice through line in the stories was how most of them did have to do with love in some way. Even in the stories that were not the strongest, Ramos is able to pull the reader in emotionally. We can all relate to longing or yearning, or familial love and this is what makes this collection stand out. Even inside of fantastical settings full of monsters, myths and technological wonders, the protagonists are decidedly human. The one drawback to this book is that it would have been nice to have more stories in the collection. For that reason, I am looking forward to more from this author.

This is an impressive debut collection from a new author. If you enjoy short story collections such as Fragile Things by Neil Gaiman or the short story collections of Isaac Asimov, then at least one of these stories is sure to entertain.

Fantastically 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 Lovebirds – #MovieReview

Hello internet people, it’s me, Slick Dungeon. I’m back with another film review for you all. I’d been watching a lot of horror, which I love to watch by the way, but I was ready for a bit of a break and wanted to watch something with some humor in it. I went for The Lovebirds which is pretty much just the same plot as Date Night only instead of starring Tina Fey and Steve Carrell it stars Issa Rae and Kumail Nanjiani.

The movie centers around a couple who were in love once but feel like they have lost the magic. Jibran and Leilani used fell in love quickly but now they argue about everything including whether or not they would win The Amazing Race. They are due at a friend’s dinner party and even though they have an argument they decide to go. On the way they break up and Jibran, distractedly driving, plows into a man on a bicycle. The man is more or less okay and the couple are about to get on with their lives when a man gets into their car, tells them that he is a cop and pursues the man on the bicycle. At first this just seems like a bit of excitement until the man just kills the guy on the bicycle and then runs over him repeatedly. The rest of the movie is the couple ending up in fish out of water situations where they are mistaken for criminals, cultists or worse.

The plot pretty much plays out as you would expect and I won’t really go much into it here. It’s a comedy of errors with each situation leading to the next and becoming more and more ridiculous and hilarious. Along the way, the couple also, as you would expect, start to realize they still have feelings for one another. The romance isn’t anything you haven’t seen either.

Still, despite the fact that this is a movie with an old familiar plot and subplot, it manages to deliver well on the comedy and the performances are hugely entertaining. Nanjiani and Rae are very well paired, with his dry wit matching excellently with her exuberant personality.

Not every bit of comedy hits but when it does, it scores some big laughs. My two favorite scenes were when the couple are interrogated by the bad guys and are given the choice between bacon grease to the face and something behind a door. I won’t give away what it results in but it’s worth watching. The second is when the couple inevitably get taken in by the police. I can’t give any of that away but it had me laughing pretty hard.

The plot feels almost unnecessary at times because it’s extremely predictable and there are moments when I was wishing this was just a comedy riff off between the two stars. But the physical comedy is fun and there are enough jokes that if you are in the mood for a bit of romantic comedy, this is like comfort food. It’s good and it’s always there and you know what you are getting before you take the first bite. Predictability aside, it’s got some smart humor in it and it never gets so crazy that it’s completely goofy. It’s a fun ninety minutes when you need a little break from reality.

Comedically yours,

Slick Dungeon

The Boy – #MovieReview

Hello all you internet boys and girls out there. Slick Dungeon here back to review another creepy movie for you all. There will be some mild spoilers but I won’t give away the whole thing.

The Boy stars Lauren Cohen, of The Walking Dead and Supernatural fame, as Greta. Greta has had trouble at home in America with an abusive boyfriend and she has taken a job in England to be a nanny for an elderly couple’s child. When she arrives, it turns out that the “boy” is just a life size and very creepy looking porcelain doll. The couple give Greta strict instructions on how to treat the boy, what his routine is, and everything she needs to do to take care of Brahms. They refer to the doll as a living being and treat it essentially as you would an actual child.

Greta does make a friend while she is there. Malcolm, played by Rupert Evans, is the local grocer and delivers food up to the huge house in the countryside where Greta is staying. He also treats Brahms like an actual boy whenever the elderly couple are there but it’s clear he is just playing along.

A lot of this movie does unfold in the way you are probably picturing. That is, pretty much like Child’s Play or any of the subsequent Chucky series, but without the humor. Odd things start happening when it’s clear no one else is in the house. Greta’s shoes go missing and are returned. Strange sounds happen. And most importantly, the creepy as can be doll, moves when there is no possible way for it to have gone anywhere.

At first I was getting impatient with this, feeling like I knew exactly where it was going. I was mostly thinking how Lauren Cohen knows those guys from Supernatural and they would make quick work of a cursed doll, and this could be a forty-five minute television episode instead of a full length film. But then, Greta starts playing it smart, if a little oddly. I’m not going to let you in on what happens from there in case you have not seen it, but it’s worth an entire watch through.

While this film got bashed by certain critics, and I can see why some of them did not like it, I don’t think it deserved the drubbing it got. It’s moody and strange and there are definitely some jump scares that seem a bit silly, but overall, I am pretty sure you are not going to expect what happens in the end.

If you like the creepy doll form of horror, this one is right up there with the good ones in my book.

Creepily 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!

1922 – #MovieReview

Hey everyone, Slick Dungeon here. Today I want to review the Stephen King short story adaptation of 1922 playing on Netflix. There will be some spoilers but I will try to keep them mild here.

As far as Stephen King adaptations go, mileage tends to vary. Consider 1922 to be one that lands on the good side of these things. While the film can’t be quite as disturbing as the novella written by the master of horror, it does an excellent job of getting close.

The story revolves around a man named Willfred “Wilf” James and is played by Thomas Jane. Wilf is a gruff and quiet rancher whose wife has inherited a plot of land after the death of her father. Wilf wants to expand his farm with the land but Ariette (Molly Parker) wants to sell the land and move to Omaha instead. The pair have a fourteen year old son named Henry who is in love with his girlfriend Shannon (Kaitlyn Bernard).

Wilf and Ariette are long past loving each other and it’s clear that this argument is not going to work itself out. Wilf decides that the only way for him to get the land that he hopes to pass on to his son is to murder his wife. He even enlists Henry’s help to do it.

The fact that Wilf murders his wife should not be a spoiler for this because it’s what happens next that is surprising. The act that Wilf and Henry commit come to haunt them both in different ways. The film takes us through the rest of the year of 1922 seeing what happens to Wilf and Henry throughout.

Thomas Jane gives a masterclass example of conveying horror in a quiet but ever present manner. When you get down to it, it’s a simple story but the unfolding of events in the film leaves the viewer disturbed and on edge for the entire film. Certain sequences recall other King stories and adaptations, what with the prominence of endless fields of corn growing everywhere.

At no point to we ever really like Wilf but that won’t stop the viewer from being disturbed by what happens to him. The frequent use of rats in the film come at the most unexpected times and the imagery it puts in the viewer’s head will stick with them long after they have seen the film. And of course, the whole time, the viewer is thinking that Wilf really should have moved to Omaha.

Unlike a good portion of Stephen King stories, the end of this one does not disappoint. The horror is raw and gripping all the way through.

If you are a horror fan or a Stephen King fan (I know those groups mostly overlap) this is a great way to spend a little less than two hours. I just wouldn’t recommend having any snacks handy while you do unless you have a strong stomach.

Horrifically yours,

Slick Dungeon

Ten Speed Press Announces a Cookbook, a Journal & a New Book for Young Adventurers

Hi there adventurers, it’s Slick Dungeon! Over the weekend Wizards of the Coast had their D&D Live 2020 event where they introduced the newest Dungeons & Dragons books, merchandise and overall nerdy glory. While the big reveal was the new campaign book coming out called Icewind Dale: Rime of the Frost Maiden a couple of other things were announced that I am actually more excited for.

In an earlier post I wrote about the cookbook coming out called Heroes’ Feast. I think this will be really fun and the recipes look like they will make a great activity to do with kids.

You can already pre-order this one but sadly it does not come out until October.

The next any age appropriate item was The Book of Holding. This is a journal with some pretty cool art on it that can be used for taking notes about your campaign or just writing your thoughts down.

This one is also available for pre-order but you only have to wait until August 4th for it to arrive. I’m not a huge fan of special journals or anything but if you love D&D this might be nice to put on the shelf.

The thing I am most excited about is the next book in the series for young adventurers called Beasts & Behomoths. This is the fifth book in a series meant to get younger readers interested in Dungeons & Dragons. This one is essentially a monster manual for kids. It should expand on the more unusual creatures found in the game and is a great addition if you already have any of the other books in the series, even if you have the other book about monsters Monsters & Creatures.

What I love about this whole series of books is that the focus is not so much on the stat blocks or mechanics of the game but rather the storytelling aspects of it. This is great for both younger players and people just learning to play. All the numbers in the regular rules can kind of get in the way, so having something like this is a lovely introduction to understand just how fun this game can be. Plus most of these run for between $9-$11 depending on the format you get them in. That’s a huge bargain compared to purchasing the core rule books that can run up to $50 a piece. If you play D&D with kids, I say, don’t worry about buying all those heavy books but you should totally get some of the ones in this series. That’s just my opinion of course but hey, even if you grab these and then get more into the other books, these are a neat little collection to have. To get the new book, you can pre-order it but you can’t get your hot little hands on it until October 20th. I’ll be waiting for my copy on the day, I promise you that.

I hope you are looking forward to this stuff as much as I am. Also, if you follow my blog for movies and books but not D&D stuff, not to worry, my next post will be Dungeons & Dragons free.

Excitedly 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 8

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, role playing an elf, role playing a halfling and role playing a human. Today we are going to talk about the “uncommon races” and playing a Dragonborn character.

The next few playable races we will talk about in these upcoming posts will be considered, “uncommon”. What do the game designers mean by that? Well, a few things. First, there are some Dungeon Masters who don’t include certain playable races in their campaign at all. If you are desperate to play a dragonborn character and the DM won’t let you, you’re going to want to find someone else to play with. Since this series of posts is assuming you are playing this game with your kids, I leave it to your discretion if you want any or all of these playable races to be in the game. My opinion is that, if it’s in the rule book, it should be allowed, but that’s just me. Another thing set out in the rules as currently written is that some of these uncommon races are less prevalent in the game world than others. While sometimes this can set up for interesting challenges and game play, it can also be an excuse for some DM’s to create extremely xenophobic non-player characters. As adults, depending on how it’s done, I think we can handle this okay. But for kids, my advice is that even if they play an uncommon race, only the villains should really act negatively toward the characters. It’s disheartening for kids who have their really awesome dragonborn character ready to go into a store and gear up for an epic adventure, only to have the store clerk run away from them. My advice for this sort of situation when dealing with kids would be to have the store clerk instead comment on how brave they think the kids’ character is and maybe ask if all dragonborn are like them. Stay positive with kids as much as possible, unless we are talking about the villain and their minions. Of course, this is just my advice and you can choose to play how you want, but that’s how I run it at my table.

The uncommon races in the simple rules are Dragonborn, Gnome, Half-Elf, Half-Orc and Tiefling. We’ll go through playing each one in this post and upcoming posts. We’ll start with dragonborn.

If you are not familiar with the game you might be wondering what a dragonborn is. Is that like something born from a dragon? Yep. They as a group were born or created by dragons long ago. But what it basically amounts to is a walking, talking, humanoid dragon who combines the best of humans and dragons. In other words, they are a whole lot of awesome put together.

These dragons don’t have wings or tails but they are scaly like dragons and come in any shade a dragon does. Like dwarves, these creatures are all about their clan. Everything they do is for their clan. Most of these creatures have a nearly obsessive drive to better themselves in everything they do. And they respect it when they see that in others. This makes dragonborn nearly ideal for adventuring because as impressive as they might be with casting a spell, they will themselves be impressed by a warrior who is able to wield a longsword with incredible skill. While dragonborn want to be good at everything they do, they usually pick one thing (typically their class) that they want to excel at above all others. This also provides players with a great narrative for why they go on adventures. It’s not to kill or seek out treasure, but to learn something. Most kids understand this pretty well. They are learning constantly so it’s pretty close territory for them to role play. The other reason they might adventure is to prove their worth to their clan. Kids can relate to this too. You want to do your best for your family and have them be proud of you. Dragonborn are great for role playing this type of situation for kids.

Dragonborn are capable of a lot but also know that they have limits. They actually are not afraid to ask for help. This is great for an adventuring party because the absolute best adventuring parties do one thing well above all else – they help each other. This makes role playing a dragonborn a natural for kids because the only excuse they need to join with others is that they need help or want to help.

There are a bunch of dragonborn names listed in the rules. My only suggestion for these names is that you and your kids agree on the correct pronunciation, especially when it comes to clan names.

Dragonborn Traits

There are a few things you get for playing a dragonborn

Ability Score Increase

Dragonborn are naturally strong and charismatic. They do come from dragons after all, so it’s no surprise. They get to increase their strength ability score by 2 and their charisma ability score by 1.

Age

While dragonborn grow fast, reaching adulthood by age 15, they only tend to live to be about 80. They are not like dragons who can linger for centuries.

Alignment

If you are using alignment in your game, Dragonborn can basically be good or evil. While some can tend to less extremes, it’s just usually not the case due to their dragon heritage. Dragons also tend to be either all in on the good or all in on the evil. My advice here for playing with kids, is if they play a dragonborn, go with lawful good. Their natural tendency to want to help and prove themselves to their clan leans that way anyway and dragonborn can make awesome heroes.

Size

Dragonborn are usually over six feet tall and weigh around 250 pounds. Somehow they are still considered medium creatures but I guess if a Shaq sized human is considered medium in the game rules, the dragonborn can be too.

Speed

The dragonborn walking speed is 30 feet.

Draconic Ancestry

Here’s the most awesome part about being part dragon, there are some draconic elements you get for playing dragonborn. In the rules there is a table that tells you what color dragonborn gets which damage type and breath weapon. For example a gold dragonborn gets to deal fire damage with its breath weapon.

Breath Weapon

Dragons breath fire, acid, ice, lighting etc. And your dragonborn can do that as well. There are a few mechanics to this that I am not going to get into in this post but the breath weapon acts more or less like a spell doing that type of damage would. The only drawback is that you only get to use your breath weapon once before you take a rest. Well, that and the fact that if your allies are in the way when you release your breath weapon they will also take damage.

Damage Resistance

It makes sense to me that if you are a dragon that deals cold damage, you are pretty resistant to cold damage. The same goes for dragonborn. Whatever type of breath weapon they have, they resist that damage.

Languages

Dragonborn get to speak Draconic and common. Draconic can come in pretty handy because it’s one of the oldest languages and is common in spell casting. This makes dragonborn wizards a pretty natural fit for the game.

Slick Dungeon’s Tips on Playing Dragonborn

Here is what the simple rules say about dragonborn in their sidebar on uncommon races:

It’s easy to assume that a dragonborn is a monster, especially if his or her scales betray a chromatic heritage. Unless the dragonborn starts breathing fire and causing destruction, though, people are likely to respond with caution rather than outright fear.

While I can see why the game designers would say that these creatures can be mistaken for monsters, when it comes to playing with kids, I wouldn’t lean into that too much with one exception. Don’t have the non-player characters think they are monsters unless the NPC is a villain. But one great way to introduce a dragonborn character breaks my rule here. You can have the adventuring party go to investigate some disturbance where the villagers in the area think a monster is causing destruction. But then when the characters get there, they see a dragonborn who is stopping a monster from doing something terrible. The players might assume for a moment that the dragonborn is bad but they quickly prove themselves by not only defeating the monster but then asking the rest of the adventuring party if they need any help. Kids can relate to trying to do something good when an adult assumes they are up to no good. A dragonborn may have learned this lesson far too often as well, and knows that the quickest way to make friends is to do a favor for someone. That makes for a great start to an adventuring party.

Of course, you don’t have to stick to my suggestions, you can play the game any way you want, I have just found that method of introducing dragonborn to be really fun in the past.

Next time we will get into playing a Gnome (one of my favorites for kids to play).

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!

Slick’s Guide to the Upcoming Dungeons & Dragons Releases

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

Hey everyone, Slick Dungeon here. I just sat through the product reveal panels for Dungeons & Dragons Live 2020 and I wanted to share my thoughts with you all. Several products were announced, some you are probably aware of if you are into Dungeons & Dragons. I will go through each one that was talked about today, and because I like role playing games with my kids, I’ll also let you know which ones I think will better for kids than others. I listed them below in the order they were announced, so that’s the order I will talk about them.

  1. Baldur’s Gate III – Video Game

What is it?

This is the third game in the Baldur’s Gate series (not counting spin offs) and it looks like it is going to be ground breaking for role playing video games. They were able to incorporate the inspiration system from the fifth edition rules, as well as provide reaction opportunities. There was about an hour of demo game play shown today. The game looks like it will be gorgeous and I am definitely excited to play it.

Is it for kids?

Now, to start with, let me say that for the purposes of this post I am defining kids as anyone under 12 years old. While some kids can handle a lot of more mature content, parents will want to know that this game looks like it will be quite bloody and violent. Considering that the previous games in the series were rated T for teen, this will probably be good for teens. I would recommend doing your research on the game as a parent before purchasing, in case it hits any elements you are not comfortable with your children playing. I would be surprised if it got even close to anything like God of War or some of the more mature games out there, but I could see there being some innuendo in addition to the violence. So, again, do your research on this one prior to purchase.

2. Icewind Dale: Rime of the FrostmaidenAdventure Book

What is it?

This is a campaign adventure set in the Icewind Dale area of the Forgotten Realms campaign setting. It was described as a horror adventure that takes place out in the frozen cold of the Sword Coast where adventurers can expect to fight, yeti’s, the eponymous Frostmaiden of Icewind Dale, and the weather itself. It will be an adventure for levels 1-12.

Is it for kids?

If you go by the standard age range of Dungeons & Dragons ages 12 and up. It’s also a horror campaign so definitely expect some dark elements to come into play. However, Icewind Dale does tend to be a setting that is pretty cool for younger kids to play in. It was also mentioned that there are several adventures in here that might be useful as a sort of mini-campaign. My guess is that some of those will be better for younger kids than others. I would read before purchasing if you are getting this for kids.

3. At the Spine of the World

What is it?

This is a comic book adventure that spins off of the adventure book above. It will introduce new characters in the setting that will have a series of adventures for readers to follow.

Is it for kids?

Considering that the publisher, IDW, publishes everything from My Little Pony to 30 Days of Night, it’s hard to say what the age range is going to be here. My hope is that it is for readers around 9-12 but I wouldn’t count on that.

4. Stranger Things & Dungeons & Dragons

What is it?

Like the title says, this is a crossover between the show Stranger Things and Dungeons & Dragons. As a huge fan of Stranger Things and Dungeons & Dragons, I could not be more excited for this. The cover alone is enough to get me on board in about a tenth of a second.

Is it for kids?

Have you let your kids watch Stranger Things? If you have not, then definitely watch the show before you buy the comic book. If you are okay with letting your kids watch the show, I don’t think that there will be any problem with the comics. Do be aware that Stranger Things is full of dark horror moments and those can sometimes scare children. If you kids can handle that and you have seen the show, this seems like a great way to get them to continue to read.

5. Heroes’ Feast

What is it?

This is a cookbook inspired by the magical words of Dungeons & Dragons. It has more than 80 recipes and is categorized by the cultures found in D&D, Human, Elves etc. In case you don’t know, Heroes’ Feast is actually a spell in the game, where an adventuring party can partake in a feast prior to battle and it gives them some bonuses to make the battle a little easier. I think it’s actually a perfect name for a D&D cookbook.

Is it for kids?

This might actually be the thing that was announced today that I am most excited for. While obviously, a cookbook may or may not interest kids, and there are definitely recipes that are not going to be kid friendly (like the cocktail recipes) I think this is a long overdue book. When I want to play D&D with kids we usually have snacks during our session. I’ve often wished that I could have something that is a little more reflective of the environment they imagine themselves in. I can’t think of anything more fun than cooking something together with your kids, then going and enjoying your elven bread as your elf character takes a moment to meditate and refresh herself. And with all this time most of us have had to up our skills in the kitchen, I can’t wait for this one. I can’t see any reason this would not be suitable for kids to read, but obviously supervision will be required when it comes to making the recipes.

There were also several minifigures revealed today, but I’m not really going to get into those in this post. They look really cool but buying minis is up to parents and how they feel about that. Some people love them, but the game is absolutely playable without them.

Overall, I was a little disappointed that there was not more announced for younger kids, as it’s always nice to introduce a new generation to the game. While I love stuff like Critical Role, it can be pretty hard to find D&D stuff that is good for kids to play. It’s not that it can’t be done, it just takes more effort, and I was hoping to get a few things that would help with that this year.

If anything else gets announced over the weekend, I will post about that here as well.

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!

Diversity & Dungeons & Dragons

Hi Everyone, Slick Dungeon here. Yesterday Dungeons & Dragons released a statement regarding some of the issues relating to diversity in the game. I wanted to just share it with you below. I feel like it’s a good direction that the game designers are going in, but of course more work can always be done. I personally, would also like to see more inclusive characters representing the LGBTQ community in the game as well but again, it’s a process and it’s a good start. Anyway, you can read the statement yourself below.

Statement:

Dungeons & Dragons teaches that diversity is strength, for only a diverse group of adventurers can overcome the many challenges a D&D story presents. In that spirit, making D&D as welcoming and inclusive as possible has moved to the forefront of our priorities over the last six years. We’d like to share with you what we’ve been doing, and what we plan to do in the future to address legacy D&D content that does not reflect who we are today. We recognize that doing this isn’t about getting to a place where we can rest on our laurels but continuing to head in the right direction. We feel that being transparent about it is the best way to let our community help us to continue to calibrate our efforts.

One of the explicit design goals of 5th edition D&D is to depict humanity in all its beautiful diversity by depicting characters who represent an array of ethnicities, gender identities, sexual orientations, and beliefs. We want everyone to feel at home around the game table and to see positive reflections of themselves within our products. “Human” in D&D means everyone, not just fantasy versions of northern Europeans, and the D&D community is now more diverse than it’s ever been.

Throughout the 50-year history of D&D, some of the peoples in the game—orcs and drow being two of the prime examples—have been characterized as monstrous and evil, using descriptions that are painfully reminiscent of how real-world ethnic groups have been and continue to be denigrated. That’s just not right, and it’s not something we believe in. Despite our conscious efforts to the contrary, we have allowed some of those old descriptions to reappear in the game. We recognize that to live our values, we have to do an even better job in handling these issues. If we make mistakes, our priority is to make things right.

Here’s what we’re doing to improve:

  • We present orcs and drow in a new light in two of our most recent books, Eberron: Rising from the Last War and Explorer’s Guide to Wildemount. In those books, orcs and drow are just as morally and culturally complex as other peoples. We will continue that approach in future books, portraying all the peoples of D&D in relatable ways and making it clear that they are as free as humans to decide who they are and what they do.
     
  • When every D&D book is reprinted, we have an opportunity to correct errors that we or the broader D&D community discovered in that book. Each year, we use those opportunities to fix a variety of things, including errors in judgment. In recent reprintings of Tomb of Annihilation and Curse of Strahd, for example, we changed text that was racially insensitive. Those reprints have already been printed and will be available in the months ahead. We will continue this process, reviewing each book as it comes up for a reprint and fixing such errors where they are present.
     
  • Later this year, we will release a product (not yet announced) that offers a way for a player to customize their character’s origin, including the option to change the ability score increases that come from being an elf, a dwarf, or one of D&D’s many other playable folk. This option emphasizes that each person in the game is an individual with capabilities all their own.
     
  • Curse of Strahd included a people known as the Vistani and featured the Vistani heroine Ezmerelda. Regrettably, their depiction echoes some stereotypes associated with the Romani people in the real world. To rectify that, we’ve not only made changes to Curse of Strahd, but in two upcoming books, we will also show—working with a Romani consultant—the Vistani in a way that doesn’t rely on reductive tropes.
     
  • We’ve received valuable insights from sensitivity readers on two of our recent books. We are incorporating sensitivity readers into our creative process, and we will continue to reach out to experts in various fields to help us identify our blind spots.
     
  • We’re proactively seeking new, diverse talent to join our staff and our pool of freelance writers and artists. We’ve brought in contributors who reflect the beautiful diversity of the D&D community to work on books coming out in 2021. We’re going to invest even more in this approach and add a broad range of new voices to join the chorus of D&D storytelling.

And we will continue to listen to you all. We created 5th edition in conversation with the D&D community. It’s a conversation that continues to this day. That’s at the heart of our work—listening to the community, learning what brings you joy, and doing everything we can to provide it in every one of our books.

This part of our work will never end. We know that every day someone finds the courage to voice their truth, and we’re here to listen. We are eternally grateful for the ongoing dialog with the D&D community, and we look forward to continuing to improve D&D for generations to come.

End Statement

I hope they mean all of that and will stick to it. From what I have seen in the past, I believe they will but time will determine if that’s true.

By the way, if you usually come to my blog for movie and book reviews, the next few days will be more focused on Dungeons & Dragons because D&D Live 2020 will be going on for the next few days. I’m planning to see what cool stuff is coming up, especially in regards to gaming with kids and I’ll give you my take on it once there are some announcements.

Sincerely yours,

Slick Dungeon

Kids Kill Monsters – How to Prepare to play Dungeons & Dragons with Kids Part 7

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, role playing an elf and role playing a halfling. Today we are going to talk about the easiest and hardest lesson all of us have to learn, how to be a human.

You would think that role playing a human would come naturally and easily to everyone. After all, we are all human (I assume) so it should come naturally. On the other hand, if you play a human that means you have the entirety of human experience to draw from. That’s a pretty large pool of experience. This can be hard to manage if you are an adult. I have good news for you though, it comes pretty naturally to kids. Kids understand what humans are because, well, they are also human (most of the time anyway). Some kids are just not into being an elf, dwarf, dragonborn, etc. There’s no problem with that because those children can play humans. The challenge for them might come into how humans relate to the other creatures in the game. It’s pretty easy for a human to forget how old and elf is, or for them not to understand that the reason a dwarf is angry at them has to do with something their great grandfather might have done.

Even in the game rules as set out, humans are everywhere. While there might be a few places you find few or none, most places in the game settings tend to have humans. If you want to experiment with that and have it be that humans are their own little civilization far apart from the rest of the creatures in the game, you are welcome to do that. The opposite is true, you can have humans just be everywhere all the time. That’s the way it usually is in my game. While orcs or elves or whatever might have a general attitude towards humans, each individuals’ opinion of them will vary. Not all orcs and humans have to hate each other, even though that’s the typical way it plays out. In fact it usually is the case that some humans and orcs get along because otherwise there would be no half-orcs. How you want to play that is up to you.

In the rules humans are not as specialized as the other playable races we will talk about. There’s not one skill that you can say, all humans are really good at that thing. So instead, they get to have all of their stats increase by one instead. There is a way you can change that with a variant rule where humans would instead be better at two abilities, one skill, and take what is called a feat. Feats are some kind of awesome thing that you can get to do in certain situations. Some dungeon masters absolutely hate these and will ban them from their game. Personally, I think they are pretty nifty, depending on what they are, and I love letting my players use them, but that’s just me. Just know that if you decide you want to let your kids take a feat, you should read what it is and see if it will completely interfere with what you think should happen in the game. Make sure you let your kid know why you are or are not letting them take that feat. For the purposes of the rest of this post, I am going to assume that you are not doing the variant rule but if you need to know more about that variant rule, check the text box in the basic rules, look at the feats, and then treat the human in the same way we did all the other playable races we have talked about.

Before I get into all the score increases etc., let me just give a word on names and locations that are listed in the rules. There is a whole section of names, and made up locations in the entry on humans in the basic rules. If you want to use those, absolutely knock yourself out. Personally, as a dungeon master, I have a really hard time keeping track of what human might be a Tethyrian vs a Reshemi vs an Illuskan etc. They give a bit of description and location as well as name suggestions for each human area in the game. Here’s what I do with that when I am playing with kids. I ignore that section. I mean, I do sometimes take the names out of those sections if I need to name a character or something but I don’t memorize all the rest of it. I figure that humans are everywhere and I can name my human any name from any human I want to. While playing with adults it might feel silly to name a character Jeff, just Jeff, kids will not mind this sort of thing at all. It’s all to your taste as a dungeon master. One thing I will recommend when it comes to names, and this goes for any non-playable character you have, don’t make the name one that is too difficult for your kids to pronounce. What those names are will vary kid by kid but it can be frustrating when they are trying to talk to someone and can’t say the name. If you do go with a name that is tough to say, maybe consider a nickname they can be addressed by as well.

One more note, some people will say that wanting to play a human fighter is boring and the most basic thing you can do in the game. Here’s why that is wrong. First, wanting to play a human fighter doesn’t mean you are boring, it means that… you want to play a human fighter. You know what’s wrong with playing a human fighter? Nothing if that’s what you want to play. Some of the mechanics are easier than other race/class combinations in the game but there’s still plenty of cool stuff to do with a fighter. Don’t discourage a kid from playing that if that’s what she wants to be in the game.

Now onto the traits

Human Traits

There are a few things you get for playing a human.

Ability Score Increase

Your ability scores increase by 1. That’s all six scores. Most other races only get one or two things to increase here.

Age

Do I really have to explain how humans age? I mean, think of humans. They are somewhere in that age range. Playing a 100 year old human is going to look a lot different than playing a 15 year old human.

Alignment

Humans come in all variations of good to terrible people. As usual, my recommendation here is to let kids play the hero. If they are really wanting to play an evil character, I would recommend telling them no in this instance. Most kids want to be the hero and having an evil character makes that very difficult for the rest of the people playing.

Size

Again, do I need to explain human size here? People come in shapes from Danny Devito to Shaquille O’neal. There is no right or wrong shape to play so let the kids have their characters look the way they want them to. For fame rule purposes, whether you are very small or very tall, your size is always considered medium.

Speed

While you might make the argument that humans can be faster or slower than this, the movement speed for humans is 30 feet.

Languages

Humans are able to speak Common and any one other language. Humans do tend to know a little bit of everything so if you want to have a human character speak more, that’s fine if that’s what you want to do. Also, as I have said before in earlier posts, if you have a campaign that is going to be dominated by one language, Giant, for example, make sure that your kids characters speak that. If you have a human character, that’s usually a good character to have speak any language needed.

Slick Dungeon’s Tips on Being Human

Kids are generally pretty good at being humans. They understand human emotions and attitudes because they have felt them. What can be tougher, really, is how kids who play humans relate to kids who play other playable races. Try to have kids remember that humans don’t live that long compared to other playable races. The other thing that humans have going for them is that their institutions outlive them. They might not know all of the history of something that has happened in the game world, but humans make written records, long lasting structures and organizations that exist for centuries. For that reason, humans can find answers to things they were not around for. Have kids who play humans lean into this if possible. When an elf comments how a human is gone in the blink of an eye, they might reply that the organization they are working for will be there long after the elf is gone.

As always, it should be played more or less how the kids want to and how it works best for you. You can feel free to use all the tips I gave here or ignore them all, just do what works best for your kids.

Next time we will start getting into what are called, “uncommon races” starting with Dragonborn.

Until then, please, practice being a good human.

Adventuringly yours,

Slick Dungeon

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Eli – #MovieReview

Hey everyone, Slick Dungeon here back with another movie review for ya.

Eli is a Netflix original horror film that packs a heck of a punch. I’m not easily scared and I have a pretty good stomach for gore so it surprised me just how much this one disturbed me in the end. There will be some spoilers here but I am not going to give away the ending here, for that you’ll have to see it for yourself.

Eli, played by Charlie Shotwell has a rare disease that has compromised his immune system. It’s so bad that he needs to live in a plastic bubble and wear a bio suit to just walk outside. His parents, Rose (played by Kelly Reilly) and Paul (played by Max Martini) have decided to take him to get some major but experimental treatment. To cure him, they take Eli to an old house that has been modernized with a filtration system to keep contaminants out. The doctor there, Dr. Horn (played by Lili Taylor) has radical but painful treatments ready for Eli. In a bit of a good news/bad news situation, the doctor may be able to cure Eli, but at the same time, the house may be haunted. Eli is stuck between death on the outside and who knows what on the inside.

As Eli sees evidence of what’s happening and starts discovering the secrets of where he is at, his parents do their best to keep hope alive for him and themselves. Eli starts seeing things but when he tells the doctor and his parents, they tell him he is just hallucinating, probably as a side effect of the medication. Eli’s only contact on the outside and potential hope of solving the mystery he is in, is Haley (played by Sadie Sink). She has been there before and knows something about what happened to patients before Eli.

There are only a few things that really freak me out in horror films. One of them is seeing kids in pain, and the other is medical procedures. So, this movie had the perfect combination to freak me the heck out. That said, I will say, I really thought I knew where this film was going and if I only thought it was average before the end, the ending elevated it for me.

The movie is not overly gory compared to a lot of horror films but I know this is one I am going to keep thinking about long from now. It’s a pretty masterful horror film overall. If you like horror and things that go bump in the night, this is a great way to spend about an hour and a half.

Hauntingly yours,

Slick Dungeon