D&D RPG Update: Summer 2018

The popularity of the Dungeons and Dragons roleplaying game continues to gain traction, particularly with the college/young adult set. With the advent of streamers (gamers who put their D&D sessions online, many of the most popular ones made by voice actors and other entertainment professionals) more and more people are being turned onto the hobby. The current edition of D&D (now in its 5th Edition) has gone back to its “roots” making the game play faster and allowing more “theater of the mind” style play. Gamers can still bust out miniatures and terrain (such as those published by WizKids’ Icons of the Realms line) and have their tactical battles, but it is no longer a necessary component of every game night. In tandem with the new edition, Wizards of the Coast has stepped back from releasing supplement after supplement with enough frequency to cause a glut of books for gamers to buy. Instead, they’ve focused on just two or three big releases each year, allowing gamers to stay “current” with all the books without breaking the bank. This past year, they’ve released two big supplements and one big adventure path. The Tomb of Annihilation takes players through a dinosaur-infested jungle adventure, Xanathar’s Guide to Everything greatly expands player options, and Mordenkainen’s Tome of Foes provides GMs with new background information and more of the higher-level monsters to include in their games.

Tomb of Annihilation
The Tomb of Annihilation adventure takes beginning (lvl1) characters up through about level 11. There is a mysterious artifact slowly draining the life out of people and the characters must journey far south to a mysterious peninsula full of jungles and dinosaurs. After making their way through the treacherous jungle, players encounter a hidden city partially reclaimed by the jungle. Players then undertake a dungeon-crawling adventure, complete with puzzles and traps in order to find out the source of the curse and destroy it. In terms of 5th edition adventure books, this one is near the top of my list. It nicely balances some free-form adventure so players can explore how they wish, but it also maintains a fairly clear set of goals for the players to achieve in order to push the story forward. The setting is fun – what’s more fun than a jungle full of dangerous plants and animals (did I mention dinosaurs) and gives players a chance to do some overland travel as well as dungeon-crawling. Players who like to interact with NPCs will enjoy the starting town of Port Nyanzaru, full of interesting (and often dangerous) characters.


Xanathar’s Guide to Everything
Xanathar’s guide is the first supplement to add large amounts of new player options in 5th edition. The number of standard character classes remains the same, but all the classes get new subclass options. Classes, such as wizard or cleric, start out with base options but then can specialize in a sub-class after a few levels. Xanathar’s Guide adds in twenty five new subclasses, like the mounted Cavalier for fighters, or the dimensional-travelling Horizon Walker for rangers. The book also lists new feats specific to a character’s race and a pile of new spells. Dungeon Masters will find tools and advice for upping their game including traps, magic items, and things for players to do when they’re not out adventuring. What I appreciate most about the book is Wizards of the Coast’s new emphasis on creating a cohesive “book” and not just a list of powers and statistics. The book contains its core information in a concise and readable manner, but the book is also a fun read. Background information and flavor text is plentiful, and the entire book is filled with entertaining commentary by Xanathar, a beholder who runs a large underworld criminal organization.


Mordenkainen’s Tome of Foes
Mordenkainen is a famous wizard from the early days of D&D. A big part of the Tome of Foes is a list of new monsters for a DM to use in their campaigns. However, rather than just entry after entry of monsters, the Tome of Foes also goes into some deep backstory for several of the large groups of races and monsters in the game. GMs can find background on the ongoing war between Devils and Demons, why Elves and Dwarves don’t get along, how Gnomes and Halflings always manage to stay out of the way, and more. Along with this new background are options for playing new character races (or subraces) like Gith, Eladrin, or Duergar. Once again, the book has flavor text on nearly every page with pithy comments by the famous wizard. The background information on racial history and major conflicts in the realms provides some good reading, and the new monsters introduced provide new (mostly higher-level) opponents for a GM to throw at their players.

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