Encounters in the Savage Frontier

 

I am always looking for something to add to my campaign to keep my players on their toes. One of the ways that I try to break up the predictability of my style of encounters with my players is to use other peoples. One of my favorite resources has always been Dungeon Magazine. I have a pretty extensive collection of the early ones and they have some good scenarios in there, but it can be a challenge finding one I haven’t used and then converting it for use in the 5th Edition.

I recently saw someone posting on Twitter about Encounters In The Savage Frontier and thought that I would check it out. This is a PDF download located on the Dungeon Masters Guild. Those of you who follow me here or on Twitter probably know that I am not a big fan of the digital goods, but when a resource isn’t available in the media that I prefer I am not going to shun it.

This is a 72 page PDF and has 24 short encounters. The table of contents is well organized showing the name of the adventure, the challenge rating, and a link to get you to that right page. This book has many contributors, but the editor who compiled this did a good job of giving them consistency in the layout. This is part of the reason why I find Dungeon so useful is that I can quickly review a bunch of different material without having to pour over every word to figure out if it was going to work for me or not. I found the stat block at end of each encounter to be very useful for first figuring out if it was going to be a good fit for what I was looking for as well as when running the encounters the reference to the monster manual page and short details of it’s attacks and abilities.

Trap Door Spider

 

The book has original artwork like this of the Trap Door Spider from the “Spider and the Bear” encounter which is one of several new monsters that are included. Some of the encounters introduce new magic items that are detailed with them as well.  I always like new magic items, but it has been my experience that some of the unofficial magic items can be overpowered or ripe for abuse. The color maps in the book are not a style that work for me as I find them distracting, but I suppose they are typical of what was done in a lot of the 3rd edition stuff.

I have had the PDF for a couple of weeks and incorporated an encounter from it in each of my last two sessions. It would be nice if they had a greater range of challenge ratings and at least one that was higher CR than 7, but with just a few adjustments these can be more of less difficult. Definitely worth my $3.95.

Empire of Imagination

Gary Gygax and the Birth of Dungeons & Dragons

I recently got a chance to read Empire of Imagination which is the Gary Gygax Biography – which I would be surprised if you were here AND had not yet heard of this book. I had not paid that much attention to the turmoil at TSR at the time as there really wasn’t that much news readily available to your average high school nerd in AZ about it anyway. I did know that Gary Gygax was no longer involved in creating 2nd Edition D&D when it came out which made me shy away from the system. Not to mention that it felt like I just had saved up enough money to buy used copies of both the Unearthed Arcana and Oriental Adventures books. There was plenty of new material for my friends and I to explore without having to buy these new rule books!

The book is a quick read and finished up the last half of it this weekend. It recounts his life and important events using a fictional narrative based on facts and research. It was surprisingly informative and gave me a lot of history some that I suppose that I should know by now and other that I would have never found out without reading this book. I can’t help shake the feeling that this knowledge has left me a disillusioned with the early days of TSR and Gary Gygax. Knowing how things turned out for Gary made it difficult to root for him as the underdog in the story as you already know their isn’t a chance that he is going to win. This is a must read for anyone who is a serious D&D geek or needs to have something special up their sleeve for the next Nerds That Drink Trivia Night, but for many others I think they will find it tragic.

Exhumed Obscura

As I had said in my previous post that I had recently gotten back into Dungeons & Dragons after a long hiatus. The DM (Paul) and one of the player’s (Grant) were working on an expansion of rules for first edition AD&D. So I was one of the play testers / guinea pigs for what they had cooked up. I played a 1/2 Elf Ranger and was considered one of the base characters as to which help judge how some of the new classes stacked up to the classic roles. I am most likely NOT an impartial reviewer of this volume.

The name Exhumed Obscura is obviously a play on the Unearthed Arcana expansion. I think this is probably a good book to measure against. There have been many reviews, complaints, and arguments about the UA over the years and I will not rehash those here, but if you are one of those that think that the UA unbalances the game a lot of the new content especially in regards to character classes are probably not for you.

The book is 154 Page Soft Cover book and introduces 4 new stats, 9 new races, 11 new character classes, new spells, a few new weapons and armor, more magic items than can fit in your bag of holding, and critical hit and fumble tables. The artwork in the book is not professional, but is funny, charming, and decidedly old school. It reminds me of the box that used to be old character sheets so you could draw the portrait. This has only been released for physical purchase which is my preference for books as I prefer my table to be technology free.

Most of the new stats like Comeliness, Luck, and Perception have been used to some degree in other editions and other systems. Perception favors some classes to be more perceptive than others. Luck can tilt the odd’s in the players favor and I think a DM would be wise to remember for balance before implementing that monsters and NPC’s have luck as well. The most innovative stat is Bardic Voice and is used extensively for one of the new character classes called the Orator. For most others it doesn’t have much use, but I think it has fun role playing potential.

I am a little traditional and boring in regards to new races in my games as I play a pretty Tolkien populated world. The nine new races presented in Exhumed Obscura are interesting, vary widely, and some are more usable than others. What I like most is that the description of each race is proceeded with a short story that gives you some idea of the flavor of the race and their place in the world. The Tinelian Cat-People are a race of seafaring cats, Mendelinkorian are long lived, asexual, underground dwelling, magic users, Ghoule are a special kind of undead that have broken free from their necromancer masters, and Jorakeen (Wolf Men) that are tall humanoids that have the heightened senses of wolves.

The new character classes will be what most players of the game will be interested in and there is something for everyone. There are a couple like the anti-paladin and the necromancer that if I recall correctly had been done in different ways before in old The Dragon magazines. Some of the others are more unique and come with their own disciplines, spells, or as in the case or Orator entirely new ways of thinking in how to effect the world around them. Again as with the races they have used short stories to give you insight and flavor in how the class is supposed work. In the group I played with we had a Blood Guard and an Orator as well a reoccurring antagonist that was a Ghoule Targeteer. The Blood Guard is a mix of a fighter and cleric that serves to protect. They are front line fighters, but use their actions more to protect their compatriots from attacks than to take down foes. They gain the use of Cleric spells at 5th level.  The Targeteer reminds me of another Dragon Magazine class the Archer except they are not as limited. Specializing in the crossbow with some Thief abilities (at 2 levels lower) they could be a good addition to party where no one wanted to play a traditional Thief.  The Savage is similar to the Barbarian class, but has learned control in their fighting. A unique table of skills for unarmed combat is provided so as the class progresses in levels they get fighting moves that no one else has. The Orator is a singer of great talent that uses their voice to control harmonic vibrations and create a sort of magic. While this in many ways the most thought out of the new classes it also the one that I think has the potential to cause problems in a game. Much of the mechanics and effects are left to the DM to decide and some of what can be done with this new magic a creative player could bend to their advantage. It would certainly take an experienced player and Dungeon Master working together to make this a player character that harmonizes with their world. The other classes brought to life in the this book are a Dark Druid (would be a great NPC nemesis), Pit Fighter, Fighter Magic User, The Hand (Assassin / Spies), Knight of the Brotherhood of Elemental Orders (Fighters with some control over the elements), and Spirit Hunters (Ranger / Druid).

Always a favorite for DMs and players alike are the 36 pages of magic weapons, armors, potions, rings, wands, and the like. At the end of the book there are some rules for mass combat, some new weapons and armor, a few critical hit tables for crushing, slashing, and impaling weapons, and new character sheets that have spaces for the new stats included in this book.

I am always looking for new material and flavor to add to my campaigns so I think this will be a good resource when what is presented is judiciously added. I have a number of them available up on my ebay store, but not sure for how long as the last smaller batch sold out in a week.

http://www.ebay.com/itm/Exhumed-Obscura-OSR-Expansion-Advanced-Dungeons-amp-Dragons-AD-amp-D-OSRIC-/262827792848