Tag Archive: Dungeons and Dragons fifth edition


This next Dungeons & Dragons offering is a British twist that may interest some U.S. players.  Not a product of Wizards of the Coast like the typical D&D book or accessory set, the Dungeons & Dragons 2021 Annual–the first of its kind–is now available to U.S. buyers.  Neither a rule book nor an adventure book, this is more an overview of the past year, a typical, traditional annual that the UK genre market has seen for years across major fandoms including Star Wars Annual 2021 and the Doctor Who Annual 2021 Think of it as a yearbook or souvenir book, an introduction for new players, and a look back at the releases over the past year.

Take a look inside, courtesy of Egmont Books in the UK:

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Candlekeep attracts scholars like a flame attracts moths.  Historians, sages, and others who crave knowledge flock to this library fortress to peruse its vast collection of books, scribbled into which are the answers to the mysteries that bedevil them.  Many of these books contain their own mysteries–each one a doorway to adventure.  Dare you cross that threshold?

The new Dungeons & Dragons 5th edition adventure anthology Candlekeep Mysteries explores the Forgotten Realm’s renowned towering library fortress with 17 new mystery themed mini-adventures–each tied to a book in the library.  These can be run as standalone adventures or tucked into your latest campaign.  Including a poster map of the library fortress and detailed descriptions of Candlekeep and its inhabitants, you can pre-order the library cover here at Amazon now, or pick up the Victorian-inspired variant cover via your local gameshop.

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Since the Fifth Edition of Dungeons & Dragons launched in 2014, Wizards of the Coast has been offering plenty of great tie-in products to enhance the gaming experience, many under the heading of Dice & Miscellany.  The latest tie-in is available in game shops and here at Amazon this week, the D&D Dungeon Master’s Screen Wilderness Kit Whether you’re exploring the jungles of Chult, sailing through Saltmarsh, or navigating the frozen frontier of Icewind Dale, the D&D Wilderness Kit will help you through it.

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Review by C.J. Bunce

Franklin, Scott, Shackleton, Dyre, Hillary, MacReady, Torrance, Norgay.  Name your favorite stone-cold adventurer from real life or fiction and ready yourself for what may be the deepest, most detailed world building in your Dungeons & Dragons gaming yet.  Ed Greenwood and R.A. Salvatore’s Icewind Dale will take on new meaning for you as a place of excitement and troubled outcasts, nonstop pitfalls, and numbing despair–if you’re not careful.  In Wizards of the Coast’s latest adventure, Icewind Dale: Rime of the Frostmaiden, players will journey across lands doomed to darkness by a frostmaiden of many faces, known to embody all of winter’s cruelties.  Your most bone chilling nightmares lie ahead, and survival is only the beginning.

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Review by C.J. Bunce

The new Dungeons & Dragons 5th edition adventure Mythic Odysseys of Theros has an inspired twist on the mythology and real world of the Ancient Greeks, creating a bit of a mirror fantasy setting that is still nicely footed in that world.  The new campaign, which arrives online and in game shops July 21, has a very different look and feel from your typical D&D sourcebook.  You’ll harken back to when you first imagined living among a pantheon of dueling Gods, and encountering your first images of hydras, hippocamps, krakens, and chimera (or watched Clash of the Titans).  And a book full of some enticing new maps will keep you absorbed in hours of roleplay this summer, even if you’re needing to make it all work with your friends over Zoom instead of in person.

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The next adventure from Dungeons & Dragons is coming this summer.  Icewind Dale: Rime of the Frostmaiden is a tale of dark terror. Wizards of the Coast promises players will visit the forlorn, flickering candlelights of civilization known as Ten-Towns and traverse many bone-chilling locations that surround these frontier settlements.  Beneath the unyielding night sky, players will stand before a towering glacier and recite an ancient rhyme, causing a crack to form in the great wall of ice.  Past this icy dungeon is a secret so old and terrifying that few dare speak of it.  What fantastic secrets and treasures are entombed in the heart of the glacier, and what will their discovery mean for the denizens of Icewind Dale?  Do you dare try to save Ten-Towns from the Frostmaiden?  The new supplement to the 5th Edition of Dungeons & Dragons is available for pre-order now with an add-on frosty set of dice.

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This month Wizards of the Coast is celebrating 45 years of fans and gaming and 5 years of the Fifth Edition of Dungeons & Dragons with a one-time opportunity.  The D&D Sapphire Anniversary Dice Set: Collector’s Limited Edition will be available to commemorate the occasion, a set of eleven aluminum dice with a special sapphire set in the d20 die.  Wizards of the Coast hopes this to be the jewel of any gamer’s dice sets.  You’ll want to mark your calendar for December 12, 2019, at 9 a.m. Pacific/11 a.m. Central, the go-live date for sales of the set.  And you’ll need to act fast, as the number of sets will be limited to 1,974, reflecting the first year of D&D.

“When the D&D team realized the sapphire is the traditional anniversary stone for both five years and forty-five years, and that adding a laboratory-created sapphire to a twenty-sided die wouldn’t jeopardize the integrity of a roll, we couldn’t pass up the chance to make something really cool to celebrate the milestones,” said Nathan Stewart, vice president of the D&D for Wizards of the Coast.  “The team put together a fun product for our fans that includes art and newly updated stats for sapphire dragons, making these classic dragons ready for play in your next D&D session.”

Here are the stats for the set from Wizards of the Coast:

  • A complete set of eleven precision anodized luxury aluminum dice, including two d20s, one d12, two d10s, one d8, four d6s, and one d4, all created exclusively for Wizards of the Coast by Level Up Dice.
  • The centerpiece of the set is a dice masterpiece, a d20 that contains an inlaid lab-grown sapphire in the place of the twenty.
  • All other dice sport a fully engraved and anodized official D&D ampersand on the highest value of each die.
  • A custom dice box and dice tray combo only available with this set, perfect for protecting and showcasing the set everywhere you play.
  • A premiere foldout card featuring official D&D fifth edition game statistics for adult sapphire dragons, along with vibrant, full-color art.
  • An exclusive sticker sheet with the D&D ampersand.
  • A sequentially numbered collector’s card confirming the set’s authenticity.

Take a look at this trailer with close-up images of the dice, which also doubles as a bit of a “moment of Zen”–

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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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Review by C.J. Bunce

As a high schooler who wasn’t a gamer, I watched my friends with their stack of books and wondered why the books looked so… corporate.  I knew enough about the basics of Dungeons & Dragons, and knew the focus on role-playing and imagination, and couldn’t see why players didn’t use some kind of fantasy covers, like poster art from Dragonslayer or The Dark Crystal.  Wandering a Borders or Barnes and Noble bookstore more than 15 years ago, I thought the faux leather and metal locks-and-hinge look from the 3.5 Edition was what I had expected for an in-universe look of a game that was about bringing players inside a new world.  Wizards of the Coast stepped into a different flavor of that theme with its variant series of books for the 5th Edition, and the result has been pretty stunning.

The variants Wizards of the Coast chose were created by Hydro74.  That’s the alias of artist Joshua M. Smith, whose artwork often reflects a unique style that pulls together the bright-on-black contrasts of 1970s black velvet posters, magical stylized creatures, and eye-popping foil-embossed, metallic inks.  In a series where magic is key, the selection of Hydro74 for the 5th Edition special variant covers was a great choice.

Wizards of the Coast has been slowly releasing the variants beginning late 2016 with Hydro74 covers on special editions of Volo’s Guide to Monsters, and continuing with Xanathar’s Guide to Everything, Mordenkainen’s Tome of Foes, this year’s history of D&D: Art & Arcana, and a stylized D&D ampersand dragon used for other covers and poster art that began as a cover for Dragon+ magazine in 2015.  But now the publisher has created a one-stop ultimate collection of special covers for the key 5th Edition books released before the other Hydro74 covers became the theme, in the Special Edition Core Rulebooks Gift Set.  The set includes Hydro74 cover versions for the Dungeon Master’s Guide, the Monster Manual, and the Player’s Handbook, and a sturdy storage box and screen–both decorated with shiny red and gold embossed dragon imagery.  If you haven’t picked up the core rulebooks for the 5th Edition yet and you’ve been thinking about diving in, this is the place to start.

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Review by Art Schmidt

This week the team over at Wizards of the Coast that produced the 5th Edition of Dungeons & Dragons is coming out with the newest addition to the line of hardcover books which make up the rules and playable content for the game.  Fifth Edition is by far the most popular and widely-played edition of the grandfather of all role-playing games for the last few decades and may be the most popular edition ever.  This newest book is titled Mordenkainen’s Tome of Foes, and its primary function is to provide nearly 150 new monsters for use in the game’s adventures, but the book itself is so much more than that.  Previous editions have focused their monster books on stuffing as many creatures into them as possible.  The more monsters, the more players will find the book useful, and (presumably) the more copies will sell.  What the current team has excelled at is deviating away from that “more stats are better” mentality, and instead focuses on the “why” of the monsters instead of the “how many”.  And Wizards of the Coast continues to pull this off beautifully in Tome of Foes.

Whereas previous D&D editions would have had the Monster Manual, and then Monster Manual II, followed by Monster Manual III, etc., 5th Edition has the requisite Monster Manual (reviewed here) but then wowed fans with Volo’s Guide to Monsters (reviewed here).  Essentially a book full of monsters, Volo’s deviated from previous norms and expectations in that it provided a wealth of information (re: text) about the monsters, their origins, histories, societies, clans and behaviors rather than just their hit points and ever-more-creative ways to wreck a party of characters.  And people bought in, big time.  The stories behind why mind flayers eat brains and how they manage to have a functioning society, or about the different kinds of giants and how drastically different their societies were and how they view their own roles amongst giants and their gods, were fascinating, and provided many a DM (and player) ideas for running their campaigns and players.

Limited edition, alternate-art cover by Vance Kelly.

At its core Tome of Foes still is a book full of monsters, but the background information it provides is just as deep and satisfying as that found in Volo’s.  The chapters on The Blood War and the Elves are especially valuable in providing players with more sparks for their imagination.  There are many new player options available in Tome of Foes in the form of playable races and sub-races.  Of particular note are the new options for tieflings (a playable race from the Player’s Handbook) and the gith (a D&D favorite dating all the way back to the 1st Edition Fiend Folio).  The gith are a race with two sub-races who roam the Astral plane with their silver swords, marauding and fighting each other in an endless conflict that sometimes spills over into the players’ world.  Tieflings currently have only one race option in the Player’s Handbook, as compared to other playable races such as elves, dwarves, and halflings, who each have two or more sub-race alternatives to customize their characters.  In the Player’s Handbook all tieflings are described as being infused with the essence of Asmodeus, the ruler of the Nine Hells in D&D lore, and they have one set of abilities for their race.  In Tome of Foes tieflings are provided with eight other alternatives, one for each of the rules of the eight layers of Hell that are ruled in Asmodeus’ name (he himself rules the bottom-most, or ninth layer of the Nine Hells).  These options provide a wide range of play for tiefling characters, specifically different stat modifiers and innate spellcasting abilities.

For the gith, the playable race is an interesting addition to the game, with two sub-races, the githzerai and the githyanki, the two original 1st Edition races of gith.  The gith are structured as other races, with a major and minor stat bonus (depending on sub-race chosen), additional abilities, alignment tendencies (though again, as with all previous 5th Edition publications, no restrictions or mandates), and of course, psionics.  As with previous psionic abilities, these are spellcasting abilities with a “psionics” attribute, which allows for casting without components.  In other words, a mental method of casting.  Although many players continue to clamor for a psionics mechanic in this edition, it seems as though the designers are sticking to their guns: psionics is just spellcasting without mumbling, hand-waving, and balls of bat guano.  And in the current version of the game, which nicely balances a wealth of meaningful character-building choices with rules mechanics that are easily accessible to the game-playing public at-large, this seems a wise choice.

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