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Tag Archive: Advanced Dungeons & Dragons


Review by C.J. Bunce

This summer Wizards of the Coast has come at its Dungeons & Dragons 5th Edition adventures from a strange vantage point with its latest addition, Acquisitions Incorporated.  What if you viewed your next adventure into the Forgotten Realms as a business?  Overlay your Dungeon Master’s next adventure with the components of an enterprising CEO, rival marketeers, and your mundane workplace and what do you get?  Actual slobbering Barbarians at the Gate?  Office Space plays out not in those cold, grey cubicles but in any of your chosen D&D realms, as branding, marketing, team building, product placement, and even making your corporate headquarters takes on new meaning, as players step into familiar gameplay with an oddly familiar backdrop.

Grab your 5th Edition Player’s Handbook, Monster Manual, and DM’s Guide for fuller adventures, but in a single volume Acquisitions Incorporated really includes all you need for your first entrepreneurial effort, a six-level adventure, The Orrery of the WandererSelect a corporate logo.  Locate your headquarters–how about a tavern, a battle-worn castle (will cost you more in overhead), a chapel, a private library, an abandoned lighthouse, a blacksmith’s shop, a turnip wagon (that is bigger on the inside), or a waterproof canvas (where it’s always spring inside)?  Maybe your right hand man is a retired captain, a druid with an open door policy (all animals welcome), a chef, or the ghost of the previous owner (Jacob Marley as mentor, anyone?).  Plus you’ll have several insiders you may encounter, including a customs official and a knitter who can also wield a sword.  Upward advancement means your franchise can get an exclusive license to a region.  Staff members include a majordomo, untrained and trained hirelings, and task-specific crew.  If you’ve ever worked at a restaurant and had to clean a grease trap, you’ll appreciate the grease compartment as a weapon.  And who hasn’t made it to 3 p.m. and wished they had an escape pod?

Take your chances as one of a number of familiar corporate types, like a famous person’s kid, a failed merchant, a gambler, a plaintiff, or a rival intern.  Play your character like a barbarian, a bard, a cleric, a druid, a fighter, a monk, a paladin, a rogue, a sorcerer, a warlock, or a wizard.  Who needs to hire Deloitte when you can (wisely) enlist a cartographer, a decisionist, a documancer, a hoardsperson, a loremonger, an obviator, an occultant, or a secretarian to build your strategy.  It’s not all fun and games–this is a corporation, after all, so money needs to be made and tasks need to be completed.  You’ll be faced with Complications, like learning your company is accused of stealing someone else’s idea, staff members go missing, an audit finds a spy, or an angry staff member decides to sabotage your business.  Nothing is easy, whether it’s marketeering, misplaced philanthropy, a bad sales month, or simply rival competitors.  You’ll need to watch out for shady business practices as you schmooze and team build.  It’s all familiar, right?  So do you have what it takes to succeed in business in a fantasy realm?

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Review by Art Schmidt

Premiering today, the next adventure sourcebook for Dungeons & Dragons is entitled Ghosts of Saltmarsh, a title that evokes both the haunted nature of many of the adventures contained within it, including the titular Saltmarsh trilogy from D&D’s 1st Edition.  Saltmarsh is the first D&D adventure book to be officially set in the world of Greyhawk, the original D&D Fantasy world setting used in 1st and 2nd Edition Dungeons & Dragons before Ed Greenwood’s Forgotten Realms captured the roleplaying community’s imagination, a fact sure to delight many long-time fans of the setting.  It includes a brief introduction of Greyhawk and provides some background information about the Kingdom of Keoland, where the coastal town of Saltmarsh is set.

The book also provides three alternate “factions”, in place of the standard five factions of the Forgotten Realms: The Traditionalists, the Loyalists, and the Scarlet Brotherhood.  Included are NPCs, motivations, and background information enough to provide players with the ability to use them in place of the standard factions.  Of course, the Realms factions can easily still be used with a little work on the DM’s part.

Similar to Tales from the Yawning Portal, Ghosts of Saltmarsh is primarily a collection of seven adventures set in a maritime area, rather than a full campaign in and of itself as with other hardcover books (such as Tomb of Annihilation and Dungeon of the Mad Mage).  The Saltmarsh adventures are designed to be inserted into an ongoing campaign and ran as independent adventures.  However, unlike with Yawning Portal, there is an outline provided in Saltmarsh which allows them to be stitched together into a campaign, with room for other published adventures or excursions of the DM’s design to be inserted in between.

Three of the adventures are based on the Saltmarsh Trilogy of D&D modules, first published in the early 1980s by TSR’s United Kingdom office (hence “U” in the original module designations “U1” through “U3”).  The Sinister Secret of Saltmarsh, Danger at Dunwater, and The Final Enemy presented players with an in-depth plot, multiple twists in story and characters, and a deeper roleplaying experience than was available at the time from most other published adventures.  In fact, one entire adventure is designed to be roleplayed almost entriely through, with very few combat opportunities (unless the party started fighting with their potential allies), something rarely seen at the time.

Today the roleplaying populace at large demands a heavy, story-driven narrative for their gaming dollars, and the popularity of Twitch, YouTube and other streaming platforms have brought awareness to how enjoyable and accessible the roleplaying experience can be.  But 1st Edition Dungeons & Dragons was dominated by the likes of The Keep on the Borderlands, the Slavers and Giants series, and the penultimate Tomb of Horrors, most of which were based around the same general idea: “Hey, there’s a hole in the ground and it’s full of monsters and treasure; see how far you can get without dying.”

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By Jason McClain (@JTorreyMcClain)

Dealing with depression from both sides presents an interesting quandary.  As a friend to people that may be suffering from it, you want to be there, you want to support them, but when people are depressed they just aren’t that interesting.  A quote in the opening paragraph of Roger Ebert’s All the Lonely People says it best, “You know what a bore is, Travis. Someone who deprives you of solitude without providing you with companionship.”

On the other side, when you are depressed, getting out of bed seems like a chore, let alone leaving the house.  If that’s the way you feel, no wonder when you go out and about and try to socialize and lift your spirits, the only thing you’re thinking about is your couch, since going to sleep in your bed at 5 pm feels wrong no matter what your mental state of mind.  You know you’re a bore, but you don’t care or don’t understand how people don’t see it and you just have to occupy yourself until 10 pm somehow, so you can sleep for ten hours.  You never know, tomorrow might be better.

It doesn’t feel like there is a difference between depression and melancholia, and doing a quick bit of research, considering depression is used in the definition of melancholia, I’d say no difference.  There’s even a combination of the two into melancholic depression.  So would they look the same?  Could you tell the difference between melancholia and depression?  Lars Von Trier’s Melancholia gave me a quick “no” as the answer to that question.

Charles Corbet's depiction of Melancholia (1910)

I’ve never been married, but having been to weddings, probably not too much like the one in Melancholia, but definitely in the ballpark, I understand the urge to go take a long bath.  I understand going for a walk on a golf course.  There’s something nice about going to be alone when no one is around rather than being alone with hundreds of people surrounding you.  It’s why the bed or bath is such a welcome sight.  It’s why you continually look at your watch wondering what the perfect time to excuse yourself without hurting anyone’s feelings is.  If you can hold out for one more song, one more hit from the 80s, one more choreographed dance song, you can leave and walk to your room, drive home or just run, literally and figuratively.

I’m trying to think of another film that captures that feeling so well.  Looking at the profile of major league pitcher Taylor Buchholz and his bout with depression, you see a couple of the same symptoms in the performance of Kirsten Dunst (and the writing behind her acting): extreme irritability and the inability to laugh.  If we saw the back story that led to her wedding, I’m sure we’d also get a glimpse of her faking happiness to such a degree that her future groom truly believed she loved him and wanted to marry him.  Only at the reception did he finally see something different, as she couldn’t fake it any more.  Most everyone encouraged her to do so for various reasons, not least of which, because of all the money being spent by her future brother-in-law (played very well by Kiefer Sutherland.)

As you battle with faking it, with your irritability, your self-criticism and an occasional malaise, forgetting the bed and just sleeping every day and night on the couch seems like the perfect solution because you can go to sleep and wake up with the TV to keep you company.  That could be the result of loneliness, which is a separate thing, as this analysis of the Community episode Advanced Dungeons & Dragons points out, but can feel and look the same.  In fact, author Casey Jones puts it very succinctly, “Depression is anger pointed at yourself.  Loneliness… man, that’s just despair.”  The question becomes, what if your depression causes your loneliness or you’re depressed and angry with yourself because you can’t make or keep friends?  They can feed off of each other and I would say there is probably some high correlation between the two things.

As you can see from the collection of links (and the upcoming ones) I want to see how others deal with these same issues. I want to watch Melancholia even though I know it is going to be heavy.  I want to read Darkness Visible to see about William Styron’s struggle to overcome depression.  I want to read about how Rob Delaney learned to cope with it and come to grips to taking medication to help him.  I want to read about Stanley Jefferson, former major league player and New York City policeman who was on duty in Manhattan during 9/11.  I want to see or read about the ways they learned to cope or how they struggle to find a way to cope, from watching endless amounts of TV, to baths, to drinking or to just finding something to fill up every moment of your time so that you don’t have to think about anything.

Edvard Munch (1891)

Maybe you’re the same way, you like to see these things too as it helps to know that you have company. Maybe there are other people that consider watching every episode of Law and Order: Criminal Intent on USA Network replays over a jam-packed month to be a worthwhile pursuit.  Maybe it’s because you see hope in some of the stories and you can feel hope for the stories of others because you pushed through that stage of depression yourself.

On the other hand you may not want to know how some people suffer.  You don’t even want to see hints of it because those views might generate powerful emotions within you that you can’t hide.  You don’t want to think about it in others because it will remind you of what you see in yourself, the fear, the anxiety, the worry.  You might break down and cry in front of someone and generate more anger at yourself for showing weakness like Buchholz.  Then again, you can try like he did to be around people, regular people, happy people so that you can forget all of those things that are wrong with you and you can pretend to be happy and maybe, just maybe, that dream of happiness will come true.  It’s possible.  As much as we think we know about the human mind and body, we still learn more and more every day and maybe a study will show that happiness rubs off.  You can sense it and feel it and happiness of others becomes whole in you. You at last become whole again.

Albrecht Durer's Melancholia (1514)

Still, the opposite of that is not to be around those happy people, cheerfully going about their daily lives because then you see the emptiness in your own.  By being around them it reminds you about how unhappy you are and so then you close yourself off, you seclude yourself because the pain of seeing people is too much.  Sometimes it feels better to feel sad; to know there is something wrong with you and to know it needs to be addressed.  Wallowing in it makes it more visible in your own mirror and may motivate you to do something about it.  You shut yourself off to find this point in yourself and then the loneliness enters your life.  Then a different vein of self-loathing exists for your depression to tap into and a different cycle starts anew.

I slipped into using the second person in this essay pretty easily because I realized that doing so made writing about it easier.  I never know what a different day will bring.  Maybe it’s a day I want to be around people. Maybe it’s a day where I don’t.  Maybe it’s a day where the idea of even taking off my clothes to shower seems like a chore.  Maybe it’s a day where buying new underwear sounds so much easier than sorting clothes, carrying them to the washer, carrying them to the dryer and then putting them away.  Maybe it’s a day when I write 2000 words on a subject and reward myself with video games.  Maybe it’s a day where I just play video games and criticize myself for not writing anything.  Maybe it’s a day I play video games and feel happy because I just have fun. Maybe it’s ten days in a row and the only thing I wrote was emails.  Maybe even emails get tough to write.  Maybe I’ll just watch 12 hours of Psych, Doctor Who or the whole run of Spaced and laugh a little bit, for once.  When I say “you” I mean me, though I do know a few examples of friends that do or have dealt with depression and or loneliness.  I’ve dealt with it a few ways myself.  It’s trying to find the way to deal with it the best.  So, like Kirsten Dunst’s character, maybe I’ll work in baths.  I’ve tried long showers.  They help some.  Every day leads me closer to a solution as I work through ways to overcome my own depression and my solutions are definitely better than a meteor coming to strike the Earth, I’m sure.  Definitely sure on that one.  For with the dawn of a new day, there’s always hope that it will be better.