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

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

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

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

Arcadia Issue #2 From MCDM – Review

Arcadia Banner from MCDM

Hello dungeon creatures and crawlers, it’s me Slick Dungeon. Guess what? The second 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 #2 check out my post here.

Even more exciting is that this magazine seems like it has the green light to go through issue #6 so there is going to be a lot of 5th edition goodness you can get your hands on. Matt Coleville summarizes what is in the issue in the video below. The release schedule does still seem to be tentative so I can’t say when issue #3 will be available but if they stick to the schedule it should be sometime in March.

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 or second issue of Arcadia you can do it here. If you buy them both you can get them discounted as a bundle.

Arcadia #2 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

I can’t review this magazine without mentioning the artwork. For the second time in a row, the artists have blown me away with their handiwork. The creatures depicted are cool and weird and all of the artwork is evocative and interesting. As if that were not enough, the adventure that is included in the magazine has useable maps for Dungeon Masters to use in their game. This month I am giving the artwork an A+ again.

Article #1 Subclasses of the Season

Have you ever wanted to play a character who had a subclass based on a season? Well, now you can. There are four subclasses for four different spellcasting classes. There is a winter themed subclass for wizards, a spring themed subclass for bards, a summer themed subclass for sorcerers and an autumn themed subclass for warlocks.

You’ll have to excuse me a little bit on judging these because I tend to be the DM more than the player and I tend to play a barbarian or druid so I can’t say with certainty how awesome these would be for players.

I found the winter subclass to be the least interesting because it seems to mostly rely on using rest time or downtime for the bonuses to work. That’s going to be somewhat dependent on how your Dungeon Master deals with short and long rests. It’s still a really cool idea, it just excited me the least of the four.

On the other hand, the autumn subclass for warlocks seemed amazing to me. I have never really wanted to be a warlock but I might reconsider that with this.

Now, because there are four different subclasses for four different spell casting classes this could be a little hit and miss. Some people are going to love one subclass more than another and if you love the subclass but you really don’t want to play a bard, that makes it a little difficult to give this an A.

Still, the variety here is fun and I am sure a lot of people are going to find something they do love here so I give this article a B+.

Article #2 – The Periodic Table of Elementals

Let me start objectively and without bias here. I freaking love this! As a dungeon master, I have had the experience of running a campaign with lots of elementals in it and they tend to get repetitive. While you can come up with creative ways to use them, at a certain point, the players know what’s coming and tend to be able to strategize well enough that elementals, which should be challenging, are a bit of a walk in the park. Not anymore.

Author Mackenzie De Armas has come up with what are called Nova elementals. These are elementals based on things other than just fire, earth, air and water. Things like lithium and potassium combine to make an elemental called a Comburo, precious metals like gold and copper make up what is called a Conducere elemental, and there are two others that I will just let you buy the magazine to know more about.

As cool as those are on their own, and they are cool, that’s not even my favorite part of this article! This article has alternate rules that allow the elementals to work together, powering one another in varying ways, that is just amazing. If your players have confronted elementals over and over again, they are not going to see this coming at all. I think it will make for a more interesting scenario for both the dungeon master and the players if you use this.

The price tag for this magazine is worth this article alone so I give this one an A+.

Article #2 – The Well of the Lost Gods

The Well of the Lost Gods is an adventure scenario for 4-5 players at 8th level. Much like the adventure scenario in the first issue of Arcadia this scenario is a combination of magic and a bit of technology. I think it would be best suited for a setting like Ravnica or maybe Eberron but since there is a dimensional portal in it, you could literally drop this anywhere in your game. It’s got two full maps with an interesting set up and both would make for a good dungeon crawl. There is also a bit of a hook to get started although, depending on your campaign, you might need to make adjustments so it doesn’t seem too forced for the characters to investigate.

The scenario includes two NPC’s you can play and has six new monster stat blocks. While I wish there were illustrations for all the new monsters, you can only pack so much amazing art into one issue. They do have one illustration for a CR 10 monster that is sure to leave players gasping when the Dungeon Master reveals it.

The adventure itself is more complex than the one in the last issue but since both have to do with technology and magic, I could easily see the two being tied together to make more of a campaign. I will say that the adventure seems potentially deadly but then again, what’s the fun in having no chance of death in Dungeons & Dragons? Do take caution before you use it n your game though to make sure your players could be a match for it.

For this article I am giving it an A. I would have bumped it to an A+ if there were more images to go with the stat blocks but it’s easily worth a read and I definitely want to build a campaign around this.

Overall

Once again this issue has impressed me. The quality did not degrade from the last issue in any way. And while I can’t say that this issue is better than the first, that’s because the first issue was so incredibly good. To have matched the quality is quite the feat here and if this continues, this is going on my must purchase list, with the hope that someday MCDM would put out a full hardcover anthology book that I would gladly pass my money over for.

For now at $7 an issue, it’s a steal. And if you bundle the two for $12 that’s an even better deal. If you love D&D, I am here to tell you, you gotta get this, it’s great.

Adventuringly yours,

Slick Dungeon

Slick Dungeons 10 Golden Rules of Dungeon Mastering for Kids

Howdy folks! Slick Dungeon here and I play a lot of Dungeons & Dragons. I have had conversations that have lasted for hours just on the topic. One thing I don’t see a lot of are guides or suggestions for how to play this game with kids. I’ve run into parents who have children who want to play but the parents are too intimidated to give it a try. To help solve that problem, I came up with a few rules and I want to give those rules to you for… absolutely free!

If this sounds like something you might be interested in just download the free 18 page PDF below. If you like it, consider signing up for my mailing list. If you hate my tips, you can always unsubscribe. You don’t have to sign up to the mailing list to get the PDF but if you do, it will put a swing in my step and a shine on my top hat!

Happy gaming everyone!

Here’s the PDF:

Get the 10 Golden Rules by clicking the image above

Processing…
Success! You're on the list.

Kids Kill Monsters – How to Prepare to play Dungeons & Dragons with Kids Part 14

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 youwalked you through the first section of the simple rules and talked about choosing a race and role playing a dwarfrole playing an elfrole playing a halflingrole playing a humanrole playing a dragon bornrole playing a gnomerole playing a half-elfrole playing a half-orcrole playing a Tiefling. and talked about Class. Today we are going to talk about playing as a Barbarian.

Oil your muscles up, do a few stretches and get ready to let the fury of your rage loose upon the world. You are a barbarian. You might not have those fancy spells that go flying around the battlefield all the time but that’s fine, you don’t need them. You just need a handy melee weapon, the strength of your rage and something to hit!

I love playing a barbarian and there are tons of examples from literature and popular entertainment you can base this character upon. Barbarians also get some pretty neat class skills which can be quite fun to play.

When I think of barbarians one that I think most kids could understand and relate to would the The Incredible Hulk. While a Dungeons & Dragons character is not likely to go from academic scientist to raging gamma monster (although that would be possible in certain settings) the way that Hulk rages is very much like what a barbarian does. When Hulk gets angry, he hits harder than anyone else. Yet, even in his state of rage, he is usually aware enough to protect his friends and only go after bad guys. Sure, he does a lot of structural damage but he isn’t known to be a killer (at least not in my favorite interpretations of him).

His anger is often misunderstood and it can be a frightening sight to see even for his friends but ultimately, they are glad he is on their side. Also, when Hulk is angry its harder to hurt him. The blows glance off him for the most part unless you happen to be a god of thunder.

However, this rage can only last so long and after a while Hulk will wear himself out, especially if he runs out of stuff to hit.

Another model of barbarianism I think of is Conan the Barbarian because, well, it’s in the name. If you read some Conan stories though, it’s pretty obvious he may not be the best role model for children. There are some good qualities a kid playing a barbarian can adapt from Conan though. He never gives up on a fight and he will not abandon his friends no matter what the odds are. He’s a bit self centered and will take as much treasure as he can get his hands on but he’s not so greedy that he won’t share fairly in the spoils. And Conan, unlike the Hulk, is able to keep his head (literally and figuratively) not only in a fight but usually in a social situation. He respects magic while not using it and really only cares what someone else believes when it becomes a problem for him or anyone innocent around him.

I would be remiss if I didn’t mention the female version of Conan, Red Sonja. She’s a little less hot tempered than Conan and she had a very rough childhood where she had to learn to fend for herself, a child whose teacher was nature itself. She learned her lessons well and is one of the few people who can easily keep up with Conan. I actually think she might be a better role model for kids than Conan but she still went through some things that you might want to wait until your kids are older to explain. She has boundless courage and is always ready to lend a helping hand to those in need. She is somehow stealthy despite her shock of red hair that you would think could be seen by just about anyone. Her choice of battle gear is a bit… exposed, let’s say. It does leave her flexible though and as a barbarian you don’t want to be clunking around although, it would be wise to get yourself a shield from your closest merchant.

Barbarians tend to live for danger and are willing to take risks for themselves, especially if their actions might protect those they care about. There are all kinds of barbarians though and they often come in surprising packages. Being a barbarian isn’t about how big you are but about how bold you are. Halflings and dwarves make barbarians just as well as elves and goliaths do.

It can also be fun to play a barbarian a little against type. There’s no reason a barbarian can’t be smart or kind or even reluctant to get into battle. the one thing that should be consistent with barbarians is that once they are in battle, they revel in it, almost to the point where they are blind with rage but very effective up close.

So, now that I have given you some barbarian examples, how does one make a barbarian? Let’s take a look at what the basic rules have to tell us shall we?

Creating a Barbarian

When you first play Dungeons & Dragons with kids and the basic rules tell you what to use for a quick build I would say it’s probably best to start there. It’s the least amount of poring over and trying to figure out stats you can do and since this part was written by the game designers you tend to get a fairly balanced class out of it. The one place you might change is in the suggested backgrounds. I feel like the backgrounds are more a role playing choice than a mechanic (although they have that too) and thus should be left up to the kid playing. Also, for those who don’t know, when I talk about “mechanics” I just mean how the rules operate, usually with some number crunching involved.

What do the basic rules suggest we do with our barbarian?

For this class the rules recommend putting your highest ability score in Strength, followed by Constitution. This makes sense because as a barbarian your weapon attacks are going to use strength, your rage gives you some bonuses to your strength. You also want high constitution because this is how healthy you are and since you are likely to get bashed around plenty, you want to have enough hit points that you aren’t getting knocked out ever other round in combat.

Second they recommend the Outlander background. In a later series of posts I will go more into each background but I will say that Outlander can be a great choice for a barbarian but it is not the only choice. I have played a barbarian with the folklore background and that worked out very well for me. I also think that if you made a few adjustments a barbarian could be a noble. Sure, she might not come from a fancy castle and want to pay for the most luxurious accommodations every night but there’s no reason they can’t be the leader of their tribe or a proud noble of a people who shun the niceties of civilization.

There are different features you get for being a barbarian and while you are unlikely to get to the top ranks of levels with a group of kids, I’ll give you a rundown of these things anyway.

Class Features

Hit dice: Barbarians get to use a d12 when figuring out their hit points and hit dice which is pretty great since a lot of other classes use smaller dice meaning barbarians are sturdier. For your hit dice you get 1d12 per barbarian level.

Hit points: At first level it’s 1d12 + your constitution modifier. (This is where having con as one of your higher stats really helps) For every level after that you get 1d12 (or 7 if you are using averages) + your Constitution modifier per barbarian level after 1st.

Just a quick note here because I know this was confusing to me when I learned to play. What is the difference between hit dice and hit points? Hit dice you get to roll when you take a short rest. These will be however many d12s you roll per level. You get to add the number you roll to your hit points if you have taken any damage. Your hit points are how many points of health you have. The easiest analogy is probably a health bar in a video game. If that number gets down to zero or below, you are likely in trouble. When you roll your hit dice you get to refill that bar. And just like in a video game, you can’t exceed the maximum of your health even if you roll higher than that number.

Proficiencies: These are basically things you are good at. A barbarian has several proficiencies to begin with.

Armor: Barbarians are good with Light armor, medium armor, and shields. While I highly recommend you pick up a shield, you may not want to wear armor because if you do, you won’t be able to use Unarmored Defense which I will talk about more below.

Weapons: Barbarians are good with simple weapons and martial weapons. Spears, daggers, axes these are a few of the types of weapons barbarians are good with. They’re not great with a bow or anything that takes great practice and skill to perfect but that’s fine because a barbarian is going to want to get up close and be right in the middle of melee as much as possible.

Tools: None. Alright, barbarians just don’t have the patience for tools. That’s what rogues are for.

Saving Throws: Strength, Constitution. Saving throws are when you might befall an attack or damage of some kind. If the check for that attack or damage calls for strength or constitution you are going to be glad you are a barbarian

Skills: Choose two from Animal Handling, Athletics, Intimidation, Nature, Perception, and Survival. We’ll talk more about skills more in future posts but for now, these do basically what they sound like although I will point out Survival doesn’t mean just how long yo live. It’s more like, how long can you live in nature on your own instincts.

Equipment

You start with the following equipment, in addition to the equipment granted by your background:

  • (a) a greataxe or (b) any martial melee weapon
  • (a) two handaxes or (b) any simple weapon
  • An explorer’s pack and four javelins

These are all good weapons for a barbarian and it’s basically down to your preference of how you want to hit stuff.

Features

Alright, now for the fun stuff! On top of all the things listed above, barbarians get several features. Like I said before, kids are not likely to go all the way to level 20 but I will talk about all of these anyway. The descriptions with the bullets and stuff are taken right from the basic rules but I will give you my spin on each one. The first few are the ones to focus on at the beginning.

Rage

This is the key to being a barbarian. Whenever you get into combat you are going to want to Rage. It gives you bonuses that make you much tougher but there are some drawbacks to it so make sure you know how it works.

So what is it exactly?

On your turn, you can enter a rage as a bonus action.

While raging, you gain the following benefits if you aren’t wearing heavy armor:

  • You have advantage on Strength checks and Strength saving throws.
  • When you make a melee weapon attack using Strength, you gain a bonus to the damage roll that increases as you gain levels as a barbarian, as shown in the Rage Damage column of the Barbarian table.
  • You have resistance to bludgeoning, piercing, and slashing damage.

To sum this up, you are stronger when raging and as you level up you get to do even more damage per level. On top of that if an enemy is hitting you with any weapon that does bludgeoning, piercing or slashing damage, you get to reduce the amount of damage you would take.

There are some limits though. They are listed below.

If you are able to cast spells, you can’t cast them or concentrate on them while raging.

Your rage lasts for 1 minute. It ends early if you are knocked unconscious or if your turn ends and you haven’t attacked a hostile creature since your last turn or taken damage since then. You can also end your rage on your turn as a bonus action.

Once you have raged the number of times shown for your barbarian level in the Rages column of the Barbarian table, you must finish a long rest before you can rage again.

Those are the limits, let’s talk a little bit more about them.

Some barbarians do a little bit of magic so if you have an awesome spell, make sure you cast it before you rage. If it’s a concentration spell wait until the effect ends before you rage. It’s all about timing.

You can also lose your rage in a number of ways. First of all it only lasts for one full minute. Now, that’s actually quite a few rounds in most combat situations but if it’s a really long battle you’re going to want to make sure you go into the rage at the most opportune time.

Also, if you get knocked unconscious your rage is gone, so try not to get clobbered to the point where you have zero hit points.

On the other hand, you also lose your rage if you don’t either tried to hit an enemy or gotten hit by an enemy so if you are raging, be sure you are in the thick of the fight.

You can also choose to just stop raging, unlike the Hulk, so if you rage and then realize you should cast a spell you can drop that rage.

The final limitation is that you can only rage twice per day so if you are pretty sure you are going to be in ten combats, save your rage for the hardest two. You get your rages back after a long rest.

Unarmored Defense

While you are not wearing any armor, your Armor Class equals 10 + your Dexterity modifier + your Constitution modifier. You can use a shield and still gain this benefit.

Ok, here’s the deal with unarmored defense. You don’t want to wear armor. Why? Because adding all those numbers above is probably going to be more defensive for you than wearing armor in the first place. Plus, if you have a shield you get a +2 to your AC while you use it so you can boost that number even higher. Also, you and your Monk buddy (we’ll talk about Monks in a later post) are going to be the quickest to get out of the inn to see what all the ruckus is in the middle of the night. Why? It takes 10 minutes to put all that armor on but you don’t have to. Your armor is your flesh.

Reckless Attack

Starting at 2nd level, you can throw aside all concern for defense to attack with fierce desperation. When you make your first attack on your turn, you can decide to attack recklessly. Doing so gives you advantage on melee weapon attack rolls using Strength during this turn, but attack rolls against you have advantage until your next turn.

This is an awesome feature but I will give you caution that using it on an adult dragon might be unwise. Basically at the start of your attack you can do so recklessly which means you get to roll two d20s and take the higher number for your attack roll. The drawback? That same creature has advantage against you on its next attack. If it’s a squishy little goblin with no armor that’s probably fine but if it’s something bigger than you just remember it gets to hit back.

Danger Sense

At 2nd level, you gain an uncanny sense of when things nearby aren’t as they should be, giving you an edge when you dodge away from danger.

You have advantage on Dexterity saving throws against effects that you can see, such as traps and spells. To gain this benefit, you can’t be blinded , deafened , or incapacitated.

For this one you get a bit more of a chance of escaping damage caused by your environment or your enemies, so long as you can see it. It doesn’t work if you have the blinded , deafened , or incapacitated conditions going against you. We’ll talk more about conditions in a later post but they do basically what they sound like.

Primal Path

At 3rd level, you choose a path that shapes the nature of your rage. Choose the Path of the Berserker or the Path of the Totem Warrior, both detailed at the end of the class description. Your choice grants you features at 3rd level and again at 6th, 10th, and 14th levels.

Look, this one sounds confusing but basically you get to pick one of two cool ways to manifest your rage. Since they both get entries in the end of the barbarian section I will go into more detail about both the Path of the Berserker and the Path of the Totem Warrior later in this post.

Ability Score Improvement

When you reach 4th level, and again at 8th, 12th, 16th, and 19th level, you can increase one ability score of your choice by 2, or you can increase two ability scores of your choice by 1. As normal, you can’t increase an ability score above 20 using this feature.

Meh. You get to increase some numbers on your stats here which is cool and all but not that nifty as far as role playing goes. We’ll go way more in depth on Ability Scores in a later post.

Extra Attack

Beginning at 5th level, you can attack twice, instead of once, whenever you take the Attack action on your turn.

Yeah! You get to hit stuff more. Hitting more stuff is good for a barbarian!

Fast Movement

Starting at 5th level, your speed increases by 10 feet while you aren’t wearing heavy armor.

We’ve been over this, barbarians don’t want to wear armor and this is another reason. You can move faster. Faster is good because then you get to hit stuff sooner!

Feral Instinct

By 7th level, your instincts are so honed that you have advantage on initiative rolls.

Additionally, if you are surprised at the beginning of combat and aren’t incapacitated, you can act normally on your first turn, but only if you enter your rage before doing anything else on that turn.

If you are sort of new to D&D this just sounds confusing. This is mostly wrapped up in some mechanics. Basically the idea is that you notice when things are about to get hairy before others do so you are more likely to get into combat first. And if you are new to D&D the whole surprised thing can be tough to figure out. It’s a sort of weirdly complicated mechanic of figuring out who goes first in combat. I’ll do a post later that talks about this so for now, don’t worry too much about it. Having the Feral Instinct is very helpful, just know that much.

Brutal Critical

Beginning at 9th level, you can roll one additional weapon damage die when determining the extra damage for a critical hit with a melee attack.

This increases to two additional dice at 13th level and three additional dice at 17th level.

I know this one sounds kind of jargony but it boils down to this. You get to roll more damage dice when you roll a 20 on your attack roll. In other words, you hit really hard.

Relentless Rage

Starting at 11th level, your rage can keep you fighting despite grievous wounds. If you drop to 0 hit points while you’re raging and don’t die outright, you can make a DC 10 Constitution saving throw. If you succeed, you drop to 1 hit point instead.

Each time you use this feature after the first, the DC increases by 5. When you finish a short or long rest, the DC resets to 10.

This one is fun because just when it looks like you are down and out, you get back up again. That bugbear that thought it just struck a killing blow against you? Guess what? It’s your turn now!

Persistent Rage

Beginning at 15th level, your rage is so fierce that it ends early only if you fall unconscious or if you choose to end it.

Yes! You can be in a near perpetual state of rage unless you decide to calm down or you get knocked out.

Indomitable Might

Beginning at 18th level, if your total for a Strength check is less than your Strength score, you can use that score in place of the total.

By this time you are probably pretty strong so getting to use your strength score is usually going to be way better than a low roll on a d20.

Primal Champion

At 20th level, you embody the power of the wilds. Your Strength and Constitution scores increase by 4. Your maximum for those scores is now 24.

Again, this doesn’t seem that neat from a role playing perspective but it does make you stronger and sturdier. I can’t say I have played a level 20 barbarian (yet) so I am not sure how helpful this is but most of the score caps are 20 so an extra four ain’t bad.

Primal Paths

So what exactly are Primal Paths and how do they work? This is the part of the class that lets you add a little style to your barbarian. There are two paths you can choose from in the basic rules, the Path of the Berserker and the Path of the Totem.

For some reason the basic rules on D&D Beyond don’t actually give the details for the Path of the Totem but I have you covered.

Here is how the basic rules describes Primal Paths:

Rage burns in every barbarian’s heart, a furnace that drives him or her toward greatness. Different barbarians attribute their rage to different sources, however. For some, it is an internal reservoir where pain, grief, and anger are forged into a fury hard as steel. Others see it as a spiritual blessing, a gift of a totem animal.

Pretty cool right? Let’s take a look at each option.

Path of the Berserker

If your kid wants to basically be the Hulk when she plays, have her take the Path of the Berserker. You get some cool features to use and you get to be the scariest thing in the room.

Here is what you get.

Frenzy

Starting when you choose this path at 3rd level, you can go into a frenzy when you rage. If you do so, for the duration of your rage you can make a single melee weapon attack as a bonus action on each of your turns after this one. When your rage ends, you suffer one level of exhaustion.

Basically you get to hit more frequently in battle but there is a cost. Once you are done, you really need to take a rest otherwise you suffer a level of exhaustion. exhaustion is a condition and again. we will talk about those in a later post but suffice to say it can lead to death eventually if you are not careful.

Mindless Rage

Beginning at 6th level, you can’t be charmed or frightened while raging. If you are charmed or frightened when you enter your rage, the effect is suspended for the duration of the rage.

None of that mind control spell funny business for you. You are way too focused on your rage to listen to anyone else. When the rage ends that wizard can get back to charming you… if he hasn’t fallen to your greataxe by then.

Intimidating Presence

Beginning at 10th level, you can use your action to frighten someone with your menacing presence. When you do so, choose one creature that you can see within 30 feet of you. If the creature can see or hear you, it must succeed on a Wisdom saving throw (DC equal to 8 + your proficiency bonus + your Charisma modifier) or be frightened of you until the end of your next turn. On subsequent turns, you can use your action to extend the duration of this effect on the frightened creature until the end of your next turn. This effect ends if the creature ends its turn out of line of sight or more than 60 feet away from you.

If the creature succeeds on its saving throw, you can’t use this feature on that creature again for 24 hours.

The Hulk is big and scary and he makes people afraid. Barbarians get to use that to their advantage. The caveat is that the creature has to be close enough and if they succeed on their saving throw, they don’t think you’re such a big deal anymore. Be sure to have a weapon ready to remind them that they are wrong about that.

Retaliation

Starting at 14th level, when you take damage from a creature that is within 5 feet of you, you can use your reaction to make a melee weapon attack against that creature.

If you hit me I hit you back is pretty much what this is. It’s pretty effective for barbarians.

Path of the Totem Warrior

The Totem Warrior is very in tune with nature and all the animals and spirits of animals around them. This is a much more mystical take on the barbarian and it can be a lot of fun to play.

The Player’s Handbook describes it like this:

The Path of the Totem Warrior is a spiritual journey, as the barbarian accepts a spirit animal as guide, protector, and inspiration. In battle, your totem spirit fills you with supernatural might, adding magical fuel to your barbarian rage.

It’s sort of like Brother Bear but if instead of only learning life lessons about acceptance, you also learned how to be really good in a fight.

Here is what you get with this path.

Spirit Seeker

Yours is a path that seeks attunement with the natural world, giving you a kinship with beasts. At 3rd level when you adopt this path, you gain the ability to cast the beast sense and speak with animals spells, but only as rituals.

Basically what this means is that you can use a beast’s eyes and listen through it’s ears which can be great when scouting an area. You can also talk with animals to find out about what’s going on in the area. However, it takes time for you to do that because you have to do it as a ritual. We’ll get more into that when we talk about magic in a later post but for now just know, ritual spell means you need a bit of time to cast it.

Totem Spirit

At 3rd level, when you adopt this path, you choose a totem spirit and gain its feature. You must make or acquire a physical totem object — an amulet or similar adornment — that incorporates fur or feathers, claws, teeth, or bones of the totem animal. At your option, you also gain minor physical attributes that are reminiscent of your totem spirit. For example, if you have a bear totem spirit, you might be unusually hairy and thick-skinned, or if your totem is the eagle, your eyes turn bright yellow.

Your totem animal might be an animal related to those listed here but more appropriate to your homeland. For example, you could choose a hawk or vulture in place of an eagle.

Bear. While raging, you have resistance to all damage except psychic damage. The spirit of the bear makes you tough enough to stand up to any punishment.

Eagle. While you’re raging, other creatures have disadvantage on opportunity attack rolls against you, and you can use the Dash action as a bonus action on your turn. The spirit of the eagle makes you into a predator who can weave through the fray with ease.

Wolf. While you’re raging, your friends have advantage on melee attack rolls against any creature within 5 feet of you that is hostile to you. The spirit of the wolf makes you a leader of hunters.

I think these are pretty straightforward but the gist of it is that you get to choose an animal and gain some of the benefits that animal naturally possesses.

Aspect of the Beast

At 6th level, you gain a magical benefit based on the totem animal of your choice. You can choose the same animal you selected at 3rd level or a different one.

Bear. You gain the might of a bear. Your carrying capacity (including maximum load and maximum lift) is doubled, and you have advantage on Strength checks made to push, pull, lift, or break objects.

Eagle. You gain the eyesight of an eagle. You can see up to 1 mile away with no difficulty, able to discern even fine details as though looking at something no more than 100 feet away from you. Additionally, dim light doesn’t impose disadvantage on your Wisdom (Perception) checks.

Wolf. You gain the hunting sensibilities of a wolf. You can track other creatures while traveling at a fast pace, and you can move stealthily while traveling at a normal pace.

Again I think this is pretty straightforward but this time the effect is magical. You do only get to choose each animal once so make sure you choose wisely.

Totemic Attunement

At 14th level, you gain a magical benefit based on a totem animal of your choice. You can choose the same animal you selected previously or a different one.

Bear. While you’re raging, any creature within 5 feet of you that’s hostile to you has disadvantage on attack rolls against targets other than you or another character with this feature. An enemy is immune to this effect if it can’t see or hear you or if it can’t be frightened.

Eagle. While raging, you have a flying speed equal to your current walking speed. This benefit works only in short bursts; you fall if you end your turn in the air and nothing else is holding you aloft.

Wolf. While you’re raging, you can use a bonus action on your turn to knock a Large or smaller creature prone when you hit it with melee weapon attack.

Ditto for this one, you get the benefits of the creatures you choose and they are magical. They are all pretty useful so have fun with it.

Slick Dungeon’s Tips on Playing Barbarians

When you tell a kid that they can play a barbarian you might think you would regret that decision. I mean, a character who is all about rage and anger? Is that something we want our kids to do? Well, I think yes because anger is a huge emotion for kids. It’s something they understand and if they have ever had a tantrum they know there are times it is scary and they might feel like there is no way of controlling it. Guess what? That’s just like a barbarian but there is one major difference. They get to experience this in a safe environment without real world consequences. They might be able to see that their character is able to reign in that rage when needed and they can use that emotion towards something positive, namely protecting their friends. Also, kids are kind of egomaniacs. That’s not an insult, it’s just who kids are and how they develop. That being the case, sometimes they want to get to feel super powerful and playing as a barbarian is a great outlet for that.

The main caution with playing a barbarian is not to take things too far. You don’t want the role play of the rage to turn into actual anger so make sure that the rules of what is allowed at the table while playing are well set ahead of time.

Other than that, let your kid have fun, let them be powerful. Let them feel like the strongest in the room. It will be a ton of fun, I promise you.

I hope you have enjoyed this post. Thanks so much for reading to the end if you are still here with me. Next time we are going to talk about the ultimate in entertainment and support when we talk about bards.

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!

Processing…
Success! You're on the list.

Arcadia Issue #1 from MCDM – Review

Cover art by: Gustavo Pelissari

Hey out there all you dungeon creatures, it’s me, Slick Dungeon, here to review a super cool Dungeons & Dragons supplement you can get your hands on. I went through the first issue of Arcadia put out by MCDM and am here to give a thorough review of all the articles in it.

For those who don’t know, Matt Colville is a major name in the online Dungeons & Dragons community. He makes YouTube videos talking about his philosophy on the game, gives advice on running the game and he publishes some awesome products you can use in your own game, including a supplement I really enjoyed called Strongholds & Followers. He is currently busy with a follow up to that book with one called Kingdoms & Warfare that I can’t wait to get my hot little hands on.

I might sound like I am gushing a bit here but to be clear, I have no affiliation of any kind with MCDM, I just think the stuff they put out is extremely high quality and worth the money and I am guessing you will think so too if you love Dungeons & Dragons.

While we have all been waiting for Kingdoms & Warfare, Matt has assembled a team that just laid down a surprise product on us and, I’ll be honest, it’s chock full of awesome. It’s a magazine inspired by some of the stuff you would see in the 1980’s like Dragon magazine that not only provides cool art and talks about the game but also gives things like mini adventures you can run or stat blocks for cool creatures. This first issue has four articles and I am going to review each one of them. But first, you might want to check out what this is from Matt’s own words. The video is a little on the long side at 16 minutes or so (although that’s actually short for one of Matt’s videos) but even if you just watch the first couple of minutes you’ll get the idea of why they came up with Arcadia.

Basically, Matt felt bad his patrons were not getting anything while he is hard at work on his next book and decided to have some other people launch a magazine. And lucky for those of us who are not Matt’s patrons on Patreon, you can still purchase Arcadia at the MCDM store. You’ll have to pay around $8 if you are not a patron and if you are a patron you get it at the $5 per month level. In case I have already talked this up enough before I get into the review (which will contain spoilers) here is the link where you can get Arcadia #1.

As I mentioned, there will be spoilers to follow so if you are a player who has a Dungeon Master who might use this magazine stop reading here. Or, if you are the type of person who hates spoilers entirely, stop reading here. You have all been warned!

The artwork

You can see a bit of the artwork at the top of this post but I would be remiss if I did not mention the art in general for this magazine. When I saw the cover it took me right back to the 80’s when you could find amazing fantasy art in two places, any magazine dealing with Dungeons & Dragons and heavy metal album covers. In Matt’s intro video he talks about this and low and behold, what they were going for is exactly what it reminded me of. All of the art here is spectacular.

There are weird and interesting creatures, and even some cool maps that you can use in your game. As far as the art goes, I give this an A+.

Article #1 – The Workshop Watches

The Workshop Watches is an adventure for fifth level characters. The premise is a group of magic users was tasked to come up with a magical workshop that could attend to their needs, assist in spells and generally make life a bit easier for those who are into learning magic. They have a wealthy sponsor who has not heard from this team in a while and he is starting to get worried something may have gone wrong.

It wouldn’t be fun if something doesn’t go wrong in Dungeons & Dragons so of course something is wrong! What the party will find is a sentient magical laboratory doing its best to help magic users but is not real clear on what might or might not kill mortal beings. It’s reminiscent of Hal from the movie and book 2001: A Space Odyssey. More modern audiences might think of this as Jarvis from Iron Man gone wrong, or if Ultron from Avengers: Age of Ultron had essentially become Jarvis but didn’t turn evil, he just didn’t understand humanity.

My favorite part of this adventure is how the magical laboratory interprets things. It knows humans are mostly made up of water, so there is a chance the lab will fill the place up with three feet of water to make sure the party stays hydrated. There are several things like that in the adventure and if you want to read all about it, you’ll need to buy the issue.

I found this article to be a ton of fun and I really want to play the scenario. Of all the articles in this issue, I think this one is the best suited to play with kids and I would encourage parents to get this issue for this article alone. (Also, for more about playing Dungeons & Dragons with kids check out this post).

This article is full of fun and I could see it as a good entry point to start a whole campaign on. I am giving this article an A.

Article #2 – Titan Heart

This article is not an adventure but rather a subclass for sorcerers. It takes the idea that titans, you know those huge monstrous creatures such as krakens, demi-gods and the like, can infuse certain people with some of their magic. Thus is born the Titan Heart Sorcerer.

This is a well thought out subclass with some majorly cool stuff players can do. They get to do things like increase their size, have magic that titans know, albeit to a lesser extent than the titans themselves, and increase their armor class.

This has been play tested by MCDM but it is definitely not an official subclass at this point. Dungeon Masters will need to thoroughly review and decide if this is something they will allow in their game. There are lots of possibilities with the subclass and ways it could be used but it’s not going to be appropriate for every table.

There are two things that gave me a little pause about the concept. The first is on the player’s side. The subclass allows certain spells to be used while in titan form but only while in titan form. To me it’s a little unusual to have spells not accessible most of the time to players so depending on your game, you may need to adjust that a bit. The second is on the Dungeon Master side. While in Titan form the player gets a +2 bonus to their Armor Class for a full minute which is a pretty major bonus, especially at lower levels. However, I will say that after seeing how the creatures in Strongholds & Followers were scaled with their armor, in a MCDM campaign +2 might actually be necessary.

While I really like the concept here, I feel like it might be necessary to play around with to get right for your table. I am giving this article a B+.

Article #3 – Jumping on Mounted Combat

This expands on and adds to the mounted combat rules from the Dungeon Master’s Guide. If this were only a rules update, I would probably not think much of this article but there is a lot more to it. This not only gives some rules of how to train a mount and makes mounts capable of living longer and becoming more useful in a campaign, it also has a mini adventure (including some cool audio narration in the PDF!) and provides several examples of mounts that can be used in a campaign.

The adventure in this one is something you could drop into the middle of almost any campaign, assuming that there are creatures capable of being mounted in the campaign. It’s got a bit of a western feel to it and lays on some Dungeons & Dragons undead creature style right into it. It’s nowhere near as robust an adventure as The Workshop Watches but it would make for a great encounter if you have a party that really wants an unusual mount.

You might be surprised how often this kind of thing comes up. When I was playing Storm King’s Thunder with my son and his friends, they found and tamed an otyugh and they all wanted to ride it. I let them because I thought it was fun but I wish I had these rules at the time! It would have opened up more role play possibilities and given some rules around how the party rode.

This also has stat blocks for six new mounts, including my favorite, the owlbear. Because this article provides so much at once I am giving it an A.

Article #4 – Uqaviel the Recreant

This article is about two celestials who could become major villains (or allies) in your campaign. This article by far deals with the most unusual creatures of the whole magazine. Uqaviel is a disgraced archangel who was framed for a sin he did not commit.

I found the backstory here a little difficult to follow but perhaps I just don’t know enough about how celestials operate to get the proper appreciation for it. This article gives stat blocks for both Uqaviel and the creature that betrayed him Anahita. Just glancing at the stat blocks, these are major powerhouses. These are definitely end of campaign level creatures and they do some really cool stuff.

I am not sure I would personally incorporate all the backstory suggested in this article but both creatures are well worth using, just make sure that they are something your party has a hope of handling before they encounter them. The artwork in this article is phenomenal and even if you don’t use Uqaviel or Anahita’s stats, you might want to put their art somewhere in your campaign, especially if you have a campaign dealing with celestials at all.

While I really like the creatures themselves, the backstory felt a little less clear than I would have preferred. I am giving this article a B.

Overall

Alright, there you have my thoughts on the individual articles but what about the product as a whole? In some ways I have to reserve my judgement here. I am not saying it is easy to put out a great product the first time but if you do, that will make the next product you make have to live up to a high bar. MCDM has set an incredibly high standard here. There are two more issue slated to come out for sure and Matt has said he needs to see what the reaction is before guaranteeing issues beyond that. I will absolutely be picking up the next two issues. We’ll see if the quality and variety can be maintained. If so, I will be a loyal reader of this magazine. I will be back next month to review the next issue and let you know what I think.

For now, as a Dungeons & Dragons product I give this a solid A. And once again if you want to buy this you can do so here.

At $5-$8 depending on how you purchase this, I’m honestly not sure I can think of a better value in a Dungeons & Dragons supplement, so help out some independent creators and get a copy for yourself!

Adventuringly yours,

Slick Dungeon