Top 5 YouTube Channels for Dungeon Masters

Hello dungeon crawlers, it’s Slick Dungeon here. I know how daunting it can be to be a Dungeon Master (or Game Master for any tabletop role playing game). Fortunately, the internet is full of helpful resources. Personally, I find YouTube to be one of the best resources when I sit down to plan a game. I’m going to give you five YouTube channels I think are extremely useful for various reasons. I’ll let you know what they are and why I like them. These are not in a particular order because they all serve a different purpose.

5. Don’t Stop Thinking

Don’t Stop Thinking has a great How to Play series

The Don’t Stop Thinking channel on YouTube is fun and informative. There is a fantastic series on how to play Dungeons & Dragons that breaks down the rules into simple and digestible videos. Plus, they are animated and the host has a great sense of humor so the videos are very entertaining as well. A lot of times when I have new players who are intimidated by the big books of rules I refer them to this channel. It might take a few viewings but you’ll get a great sense of how the game is played if you watch.

4. Dungeon Dudes

Dungeon Dudes is great at going in depth on rules, giving tips to Dungeon Masters, has great guides for players, and has a really fun live play game called Dungeons of Drakenheim

If you want to go a little more in depth on the rules, Dungeon Dudes has you covered. They have a huge backlog of videos where they share their best advice for Dungeon Master and Players. They always have an interesting and lively discussion and to top all of that off, you can watch them play in their own campaign to see how they put their own advice into practice. These videos do tend to be a little on the longer side, usually around 30 minutes but they are all well worth a view. If you are a player, they have tons of advice on how to optimize your characters, get more out of combat, and just generally be better at the game.

3. LUnch Break Heroes

Lunch Break Heroes is fantastic at fleshing out a story so you have a better idea of how to run a campaign as a Dungeon Master

If you are anything like me, you like using the pre-written modules in 5th edition. The trouble is, as comprehensive as those are, they don’t always flesh out the full story. Lunch Break Heroes is great at taking these modules and rounding them out in a way to make the module feel fully realized. It also saves a ton of time on preparation if you watch these. So far there are playlists for Curse of Strahd, Rime of the Frostmaiden, and Lost Mines of Phandelver, all of which are incredibly helpful. You may not end up using all of these ideas but you’ll definitely pick up a few.

2. AJ Pickett

AJ Pickett dives as deep as you can go into monster and environment lore. Great for a bit of background flavor when you need it

Sometimes you want a deeper, richer, history of a creature you are using or the part of the world you are creating. AJ Pickett has you covered in this department. He has fantastic videos that dive as deep into the lore as you can imagine. After watching his videos you’ll know why a creature is there, what it wants, and where it came from. This can be immensely useful for a Dungeon Master who needs to have something to say when her players succeed on a history check.

1. Mathew Colville

Mathew Colville is great to watch for philosophy of the game

Mathew Colville also has a series of videos about how to run the game but his are a little different. I wouldn’t say these come in bite sized and digestible videos. Matt does tend to talk a lot and at a fast pace. I’m not saying that’s bad, in fact I find it quite entertaining, but it can be a little hard to follow. However, what Matt brings that other channels do not is his philosophy of the game. He has thought for years about how to run Dungeons & Dragons and what different influences have had on the game throughout the years. Anytime I watch one of his videos I find myself thinking about what he said and usually it helps to shape my own attitude to the game.

There are literally hundreds of YouTube channels I could list here all about Dungeons & Dragons but these five are the ones I tend to turn to the most often. If you know of a great D&D channel let me know in the comments. And, if you want more tips like these, subscribe to my newsletter.

Adventuringly yours,

Slick Dungeon

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Arcadia Issue #4 From MCDM – Review

Arcadia Issue #4 from MCDM

Hello dungeon creatures and crawlers, it’s me Slick Dungeon. I know I’m a lot of issues behind here but I finally bought the fourth issue of Arcadia put out by Matt Colville’s MCDM productions.

I love this magazine because it’s full of amazing art, has great, useful articles for your at home games, and is written by some of the most gifted creators in the TTRPG community. Each issue has so far delivered. They are a good deal at $12 a piece right now but if you buy the bundle of the first three issues it’s $18 so I would highly recommend going with that. You can buy your copies here. Just a note that I am not associated with MCDM so I’m just recommending buying this because I think it’s good, not for any other reason.

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 #4 you can start at the beginning and check out my post for issue #1 here.

Also, if you want to go even further in depth about issue #4 you can see the Q&A with the creators below.

Arcadia Issue 4 Q&A

The Artwork

If I was told I could only give you one single reason to check out Arcadia, my choice would be easy. It’s the artwork. Even if you read every single word of the issue and can’t find a single thing to use in your game (which is really unlikely) there is a piece of artwork here to inspire you. It’s consistently high quality and in fact, I think it at times outdoes the artwork in the official Wizards of the Coast materials. If you don’t believe me, just take one look at this cover.

Issue #4 cover of Arcadia. Artwork by Grace Cheung

I don’t know who this guy is or what his story is before reading the issue but I know I want to use him in my campaign.

Letter From the Editor

Typically, I haven’t really mentioned this section in my past reviews but they mention something here that I think is worth highlighting. They mention due to a Patreon survey they will be concentrating less on fully packaged adventures because most of the people reading the magazine want new creatures, items, etc. so they can use them in worlds they are creating. While there’s nothing wrong with that, I hope they don’t decide to completely drop adventures because I personally find them really useful. I love when I find an adventure which can take a session or two to drop in my campaign. It helps me save in preparation time and to me that’s invaluable. The rest of the letter is just what you would expect but there’s a couple of jokes in there that might make you chuckle.

Swimming Through Sand to Sea

One of the more innovative things in the first issue of Arcadia was a new set of rules to use for mounts. It gave us some new creatures and items to use for those who were tired of using standard mounts such as horses. In this article, Willy Abeel, is back to provide us with creature to mount for those hard to reach places such as dungeons or underwater.

As far as the magic items go here, several of them are neat and fun, but you’ll want to really think through whether you want to grant these to your players. Some of these items mimic some pretty good spells so use caution. Pretty much all of the items do allow mounts to go to places they normally can’t though and that can be really useful for players. No one wants to leave their trusty mount behind just because it can’t swim or fly.

As far as new mounts go, there are options for Axolottle, which is a type of salamander, Chuul, Bulette, and Purple Worm. While all of these will depend on the situation of your party and your gaming table, I love the idea of having and unusual mount. I particularly like the Chuul and Bulette mounts. But again, if you are the Dungeon Master, take caution before giving your part any of these. Some of these creatures are pretty strong and a huge asset to any party. I’m not saying you shouldn’t do it, I’m just saying be sure you really want to.

My favorite thing in this article is the Omnimounts. These are enormous creatures who can traverse continents, or even planes of existence, with ease. The example given is of a giant Purple Worm that wants to travel long distances. The twist is, if the party rides this mount and doesn’t travel far enough for its taste, it takes payment by swallowing the riders whole.

I wish there was a lot more to the Omnimounts and it sounds like there may be an article in future issues but otherwise I’d say this article is about equal to the mounts article in the first issue. Since we’ve seen this one before, more or less, I’m giving it a B.

Guild Adept PDFs - Available exclusively @ Dungeon Masters Guild

The Chained Library

The Chained Library is a location housing powerful tomes of knowledge. If this is reminding you of Candlekeep, you would not be wrong. However, in this library, no one is allowed to read the books, not even the librarians because they are too dangerous. The idea here is that there are certain books out in the world full of danger, even if used with good intentions. There are NPC agents of the Chained Library described here who work both within and outside of the library.

There are also several magic items and books described in this article mostly having to do with trying to suppress dangerous knowledge. It’s clear if the player characters were to get their hands on one of these books, there would be a high cost to pay for whatever advantage they might get from it.

While I like the idea of the library as a location, I really like the idea of the NPCs from the library trying to get a book from the party. I think I may insert some of this into my Curse of Strahd campaign as I think it works well with a magic item from that campaign. The artwork for the library and for the “Eyeless Guardians” is really cool and I’m definitely inserting those into my campaign.

There’s also a nice little map if you do decide to use this as a location in your campaign. In addition they give several adventure hooks in case you do want to get your players here.

While I do think the location is neat, I can’t say it’s totally original, just because we already have a cool and interesting library in 5th edition at Candlekeep but it’s still a fun little place. If there wasn’t a Candlekeep I would give this one an A but because it’s slightly less than original I’m giving it a B+

On the Road Encounters

This article offers five encounters meant to be used for lower level players traveling from one point to another. You can increase the challenge rating by swapping out monsters if your players are up to around 8th level but beyond that these would just be a minor distraction no matter who you fiddle with it.

The first encounter involves a group of Kobolds who took over a toll bridge and guardhouse. It’s a fairly standard encounter but there are a couple of unique things about the leader of the Kobolds.

The second encounter has the players defending a group of merchants from a bandit attack. This sounds fairly straightforward and possibly even dull, however, it’s not. This encounter really encourages players to do something they don’t always think of. Prepare for the fight and make traps to stop their enemies. I think these kinds of encounters can be really fun and if done well, show players that out and out melee combat is not always the right option.

The third of these encounters involves a moral quandary. The party comes upon a duel between a noble and a peasant where the peasant is severely outmatched by the noble. The party can do the right thing and help the peasant out but if they do, there’s a good chance they will be in deep trouble in the future. There is also a sidebar with a couple of nice twists on the situation that I like.

The fourth encounter is a bait and switch encounter where four people come out of the woods claiming to be hostages. In reality they are Bandits and lead the party into an ambush. This is one of those encounters that can work well but if the players get suspicious it can just turn into a melee ordeal. There’s nothing wrong with that, just know going in that it’s possible for it to end up that way.

The final encounter is more of an NPC. He’s a cartographer who is painting on the side of the road when the characters come upon him. He is secretly on a mission to find the treasure of a dragon and is looking for warriors to assist him. For this one, I see two ways to play it. First, you could have the characters for once, meet a relatively calm and normal NPC to make your world feel more full and vibrant. It’s good sometimes to see things that don’t actually affect the party in any real way happen to provide a sense that the world still moves without them. Secondly, you could use this character as a gateway into a much larger and longer campaign. If you do that, I would suggest using this encounter first out of all the encounters and lead the characters from there.

While I really like the idea of the second encounter most, I don’t think there is enough new here to make this a great article. It’s got some good ideas and again has some great art but I feel like we’ve seen variations of all of these encounters over and over again. Still, everyone is going to need these kinds of encounters to keep a game going so I’m not saying not to use them.

For this one I am giving it a C.

If you’ve enjoyed this review and want to help out this blog, consider subscribing to my newsletter. If you want to find cool D&D resources and support this blog click on one of the DM’s Guild banners.

Adventuringly yours,

Slick Dungeon

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

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Dungeon Master Tool Review – Strahd Gives Me Goosebumps

Happy Halloween Eve dungeon crawlers! It’s me Slick Dungeon and I am back to review another Dungeon Master tool useful for running horror campaigns with kids. In my last post I reviewed Ravenloft Gives Me Goosebumps which is a handy primer for running spooky campaigns with kids ages 8-12. But what if you want to run the most popular and famous gothic horror campaign Dungeons & Dragons has ever made but don’t know how to adapt that for kids?

Well, I have good news for you. There is Strahd Gives Me Goosebunmps by Thomas Kolar. He and his wife clearly think deeply about horror, kids, and horror gaming with kids. If you know of the D&D adventure Curse of Strahd you may know that it is a particularly bleak and depressing place to end up which can be tons of fun for an adult audience but might be too much for kids. There’s also a bit of rampant child murder and other questionable topics for kids in that campaign.

This handy primer takes on the most questionable chapters of Curse of Strahd and tells you how to make a few tweaks that make this adventure much more suitable to kids.

I will say that the general advice given for playing a horror scenario with kids is very similar to what is in Ravenloft Gives Me Goosebumps but it’s still solid advice. This is worth the price of the supplement which is on sale right now for only $.60 because there is some advice specific to Curse of Strahd. Also, this probably goes without saying but this supplement is only useful if you have Curse of Strahd and want to run it with kids.

So, if you like to do what I do on Halloween, which is running Curse of Strahd and want to involve some kids in the action, this is the perfect supplement for you. Get it today so you can play it tomorrow!

Horrifically yours,

Slick Dungeon

Dungeon Master Tool Review – Ravenloft Gives Me Goosebumps: Genres of Horror

Hey everyone, Slick Dungeon here. It’s Halloween weekend time and you know what that means! Time to play some spooky D&D.

If you have kids and you like to play Dungeons & Dragons and you want to do something that has a bit of horror flavor, I have the tool for you. It’s called Ravenloft Gives Me Goosebumps: Genres of Horror and at the moment you can get it for just $.60!

In the recent book Van Richten’s Guide to Ravenloft there was a fantastic section called Genres of Horror where the authors went through virtually every type of horror imaginable with tips and suggestions on how to run each genre as a D&D campaign. Not all of their ideas were suitable for children but this supplement fixes that nicely.

Thomas and Raachel Kolar have come up with an excellent guide with lots of brilliant advice for how to run horror genres for kids 8-12. It first gives some general advice on gaming with kids which, honestly, is good advice for any gaming table. Some of the tips include having a session zero, discussing what topics to stay away from with horror etc. There is also kid specific advice about who should be the focus of the story and what the villains should or shouldn’t be doing. I think we can all agree that horror can be fun but no one wants to genuinely scare a child so much that it is a traumatic event for them.

After the general advice the authors go through each genre of horror giving a run down of what the genre is and ways it might work for kids. For example Body Horror for adults tends to be full of guts and gore and could be disturbing for children but if we adapt that to be more of a gross out, icky goo but not necessarily blood kind of scenario, this could work for kids. Think along the lines of some of the Goosebumps stories.

The genres they talk about are Body Horror, Cosmic Horror, Dark Fantasy, Folk Horror, Ghost Stories, Gothic Horror, Disaster Horror, Occult Investigation, Psychological Horror and Slasher Horror. All of these genres can work for kids but not all kids are going to like all of these horror genres so again, having that discussion prior to playing is hugely important. I found the take here on Cosmic Horror for kids especially insightful but all of the advice here is solid in this supplement.

The best part of this tool is that the authors clearly understand horror for kids and provide concrete examples of stories you probably know and can easily adapt to make a good horror campaign for kids. It covers everything from Scooby-Doo to Coraline and also has some gems you may not have heard of but are great reads or views.

There is a fantastic recommended reading list at the end and that alone is probably worth the cost of this supplement.

If you want to get a copy click on the image above or get yours right here – Ravenloft Gives Me Goosebumps: Genres of Horror!

Horrifically yours,

Slick Dungeon

(Note: this post contains affiliate links. If you purchase something through this post I will get a small commission at no extra cost to you) – also note the affiliate links are NOT the MCDM links.

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) – also note the affiliate links are NOT the MCDM links.

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

Spirit Board from House of Lament

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

4. The Haunt

The Haunt

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

3. Death House

Death House One Shot Adventure

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

2. Tomb of Horrors

Tomb of Horrors

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

1. Curse of Strahd

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

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

Horrifically yours,

Slick Dungeon

Learn to Play Call of Cthulhu by Yourself for Free

Alone Against the Flame

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

(Note: this post contains affiliate links. If you purchase something through this post I will get a small commission at no extra cost to you) – also note the affiliate links are NOT the MCDM links.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Watch out for the ancient ones

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

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

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

Horrifically yours,

Slick Dungeon

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

RPG Review: Stealing Stories for the Devil Free Primer

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

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

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

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

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

Stealing Stories for the Devil Kickstarter

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

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

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

What is it?

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

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

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

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

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

How does this game work?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Who is this game for?

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

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

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

Final thoughts

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Fictitiously yours,

Slick Dungeon

(Note: this post contains affiliate links. If you purchase something through this post I will get a small commission at no extra cost to you) – also note the affiliate links are NOT the MCDM links.

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

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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