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Tag Archive: Dungeons & Dragons


Review by C.J. Bunce

If you’ve ever wanted to start playing Dungeons & Dragons, but didn’t have anyone around that knew how to play, Wizards of the Coast has released a new boxed set with everything you need to get started.  Expanding on its earlier D&D Starter Kit, the all-new D&D Essentials Kit includes all of the components to get started on an adventure out of the box, with hours of adventuring for 2-6 players.  Unlike with the Starter Kit, the Essentials Kit skips ahead from pre-generated characters allowing for building your own characters, with four races: dwarf, elf, halfling, and human, and five classes: bard, cleric, fighter, rogue, wizard.  This alone keeps this new set ahead of the Starter Kit.  But what else?

First, Wizards of the Coast has whittled down the three rulebooks into a single, easy-to-read, 64-page D&D Essentials Rulebook The Rulebook is for all potential players to read, and it includes the rudimentary steps missing from prior iterations–here are not only the rules and parameters for moving through a game but what each step is for, why it matters, and how it fits into the larger gameplay–a great addition for anyone who doesn’t think they learn as fast and are afraid to ask questions.  The next component is the adventure book, Dragon of the Icespire Peak, tailored specifically for first-time players, with the potential for characters to reach six levels.  Note: This takes place in the same region as The Lost Mine of Phandelver, which was included in the D&D Starter Kit, so both adventures can be played together.  This time players have several smaller adventures, so it frees up gameplay for those without time for a single six-hour session.

Expanding on the elements of the D&D Starter Kit are several extras in the D&D Essentials Kit For anyone who doesn’t have a large group to play with, you now have one-on-one rules for only two players, a Dungeon Master and single player.  Along with the two books, inside the sturdy storage box is a set of 11 red translucent polyhedral dice, and a handy box for cards and dice.  A cardboard Dungeon Master’s screen with fantasy artwork by Grzegorz Rutkowski is a nice touch, plus a large, foldout, full-color, two-sided map of Phandalin (also found in Acquisitions Incorporated) and Sword Coast is there to enhance gameplay.  The box also includes six blank double-sided character sheets, nine Initiative cards, nine Quest cards, 36 Magic Item cards, nine starter Sidekick Character cards, 14 Condition cards, three Combat cards, and a Magic Charm card–these will help keep beginners on track.  Finally, the box includes a sheet with codes for continuing gameplay online with D&D Beyond, with three added adventures: Storm Lord’s Wrath (for 7th level characters), Sleeping Dragon’s Wake (for 9th level characters), and Divine Contention (for 11th level characters).

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Review by C.J. Bunce

Ten Speed Press has partnered with Wizards of the Coast to begin a new series of adventurer books to get young readers involved with storytelling, fantasy worlds, and role playing games.  The Dungeons & Dragons Young Adventurer’s Guide books have everything you need to create your own characters and stories, perfect for kids who aren’t advanced enough in their reading yet or readers not familiar with what D&D fantasy games have to offer.  Each lavishly illustrated guide is a primer on the key segments of gameplay or telling any kind of fictional story with friends.  About half the dimensions of the traditional D&D books and nearly as thick, these deluxe hardcover editions will fit right along with your 5th Edition books on the shelf should you decide to continue with D&D.

You can start off with Warriors & Weapons, where you’ll learn how to create your own hero and band of adventurers.  Begin with one of the fantasy races: robust dwarf, graceful elf, industrious gnome, charismatic half-elf, menacing half-orc, nimble halfling, powerful dragonborn, furtive beaked kenku, agile feline tabaxi, proud tiefling, reptilian tortle–or human.  Then learn about the classes: barbarian, fighter, monk, paladin, ranger, or rogue.  Finally, you’ll assemble your outfit, armor, weaponry, and pack of gear that will help you as you head out into the unknown.  Along the way, the authors (Jim Zub, with Stacy King and Andrew Wheeler) describe what you’re doing, how to do it, and why it fits into the story, all spelled out so nearly any level of reader can understand.  And you’ll meet classic D&D characters for each of the races and learn what makes them tick.

Fans of the D&D Endless Quest books introduced last year (and reviewed here at borg) will find these new books a few steps more advanced.  With each volume of the Dungeons & Dragons Young Adventurer’s Guide you’ll be asked to consider for your story key worldbuilding elements:  Who? What? Where? How? When? and Why?  The adventure continues in the second volume, Monsters & CreaturesWhat dangers will your party of heroes face?  One-eyed beholder, vampire, owlbear, or sprite?  Frost giant, banshee, or dragon?  If you’re introducing someone to gaming with these books, think of this volume as a miniature edition of the Monster Manual or Volo’s Guide to Monsters.

Below, take a look at previews of each of the first two volumes in the Adventurer’s Guide series, and a first look at the next volume, Dungeons & Tombs, courtesy of Ten Speed Press:

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Review by C.J. Bunce

Steeped in the Dungeons & Dragons foundations of R.A. Salvatore′s new novel, the adventure becomes so much a journey of a thousand skirmishes inside the stories of Waterdeep and the Forgotten Realms that the biggest surprise is no D&D branding graces the cover.  Although it’s accessible for anyone without reference to Timeless (last year’s first book in the series), Boundless is the next chapter in Salvatore’s trilogy of novels following his well-known hero of the genre Drizzt Do’Urden.  Boundless has everything you’d expect from the character and his world, from demogorgons to psionics, armored dwarves to unicorns–and humans.  It’s now available for pre-order here at Amazon and arriving in bookstores September 10.

Boundless′s breakneck pace is why fans of Salvatore will find themselves jumping in and holding on tight for the entire novel.  The only time it comes up for air is in a series of diary-like entries by Drizzt that begin the novel’s four sections.  As it turns out, the leads of the story aren’t really Drizzt himself but his father, the resurrected weapon master Zaknafein, and the wise mercenary Jarlaxle, both swashbuckling schemers with skills and political connections–characters that make you want to skip over the subplots to see what they do next.  Despite a few subordinate heroes, like Arathis Hune, the giant Wulfgar, the psionist Kimmuriel, and the dwarf Thibbledorf Pwent, shifting the stakes from the shadows are the story’s female characters, with the priestess Dab-nay and the elf Dahlia as key players.

All the good fantasy tropes are here, a very Tolkien journey that may have readers plugging actors from Peter Jackson’s The Lord of the Rings movies into key roles, with the kind of twisty but grounded machinations you’d find in The Godfather, Part II and Amadeus, and dramatic evil queen-types as in The Huntsman.  Readers will find as much of the more comical-aside conversations of The Princess Bride school here as dead-serious high fantasy despite plenty of darkness.  The novel provides a favorable dice role for its heroes more often than not, but despite seemingly endless triumphs and last-second getaways by a half a dozen heroes, Salvatore leaves room for some real jeopardy for its characters, including serious carnage before book’s end.

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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 C.J. Bunce

If there is a bigger Trivial Pursuit fan I don’t know who it is.  Whether it was the classic 1981 Genus Edition, the 1983 Silver Screen edition, the 1984 Genus II edition, the 1989 1980s edition, the 1992 10th Anniversary Edition, the 1994 Genus III, the 1996 Genus IV, or 1998 Millennium Edition, or the dozens of tie-ins and card deck supplements since, you can pretty much count me in anytime.  But the latest may be the most fun yet.  Adding to the Stranger Things season three Hasbro Gaming tie-ins Dungeons & Dragons, Monopoly, Ouija board, Screen Test, and an Eggo card game is an all-new throwback 1980s version of Trivial Pursuit I thought I was a Trivial Pursuit purist, but the new Stranger Things Back to the ’80s Trivial Pursuit convinced me that the classic game had some problems and they’ve now been fixed.

The questions come from movies, TV, music, people, events, technology, fashion, sports, and more, and that classic orange sports/wild card category is now questions about your knowledge of the Stranger Things universe.  Don’t worry, that last category will be easy to dodge for anyone at the game table not familiar with the series, but new rules and gameplay also make it possible to give anyone a leg up toward an ultimate win.  “Roll again” spaces are gone, meaning there’s more time answering questions and less time rolling multiple times per turn.  You still need six wedges to win, but you no longer need a pie wedge from each category, so the game time is shorter.  If you aren’t a pro in any given category, you’re also no longer hamstringed into riding out a losing game because of the new “walkie talkie a friend” feature.  As with the Who Wants to be a Millionaire gameshow concept, so long as you’re not playing in Upside Down mode, you can enlist a helper, and if you win, share the spoils with a pie wedge for both players.

 

The Upside Down is an easy, clever board add-on that allows the entire board to be switched from real world mode to the dark Upside Down the series is famous for.  When you’re in the Upside Down you can lose pie wedges by answering incorrectly, and you can’t ask a friend for help.  It fits the Stranger Things story, and it further helps level the playing field among a diverse group of players.

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A beautifully drawn new fantasy series is coming this week from IDW Publishing and Wizards of the Coast Dungeons & Dragons: A Darkened Wish follows a new young wizard named Helene, as she and her friends meet up on the streets of Mintarn and soon become powerful warriors.  The popular Forgotten Realms will be changed forever when war threatens the Moonshae Isles, bringing forth legendary heroes to defeat dark forces.

The latest D&D comic book mini-series is written by B. Dave Walters (Geek & Sundry, The Rundown) with classic, high fantasy layouts and illustrations from artist Tess Fowler (Kid Lobotomy, Critter).  Fowler’s visuals reveal a fantasy world of adventurous places and strange characters that could easily be situated off the beaten path at the far borders of Middle-earth.  Interior colors are by Jay Fotos (Spawn, Godzilla, Transformers) and cover colors are by Tamra Bonvillain (Doom Patrol, Captain Marvel).

Readers will encounter Hoondarrh: the Red Rage of Mintarn, the Sleeping Wyrm of Skadaurak, and a Red dragon of legendary size, cunning, and strength–“none shall prevail against his might.”  It’s a fun ride and a story that could be found in Sword & Sorcery, Swords of Sorrow, or The Dark Crystal.  Best yet–look forward to plenty of cool new characters.

  

Here are some upcoming covers for the series by Tess Fowler and Tamra Bonvillain, including a variant by Ibrahem Swaid, a character sheet cover, and a black and white retailer incentive variant all for Issue #1:

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Hasbro has big plans for New York Toy Fair 2019 this weekend, and already has released marketing information for two new Stranger Things tie-in games with a retro theme.  Trivial Pursuit fans who’ve been waiting for some new trivia questions will get their wish and more in an updated version of the popular 1980s board game.  And the in-universe Dungeons & Dragons references from the kids in Stranger Things will spill into the real world with a tie-in edition to reel in new roleplay gamers.  Both of these are now available for pre-order for the first time at online pop culture collectible store Entertainment Earth.

Up first is the Stranger Things Dungeons & Dragons Roleplaying Game Starter Set from Hasbro and Wizards of the Coast.  New as well as seasoned D&D players can experience the D&D adventure Stranger Things character Mike Wheeler created for his friends in the series.  Will you be Will the Wise or Dustin the Dwarf?  The set includes a Stranger Things Adventure book, Rulebook, five Stranger Things character sheets, six dice, a painted Demogorgon figure, and a paintable Demogorgon figure (and take a look at the nicely distressed box design).  Find out more and pre-order the game for only $24.99 now here at Entertainment Earth.

It doesn’t matter how many editions you already own of Trivial Pursuit (the original, the 1980s, the 1990s, the Millennium edition, etc.), this new version is unlike any other edition of the game.  The Stranger Things Back to the 80s Trivial Pursuit Game features 1,500 trivia questions from six categories: Movies, TV, Music, Famous People and Events, Trends, Tech and Fun, and a new one:  Stranger Things. The familiar board game also includes Portal Spaces–land on one of these and you have to flip a section of the board over and send all players to the Upside Down, where wedges can be lost.  As always, the first player to collect six wedges wins.  At a pre-order price of $19.99 here at Entertainment Earth, this game is hard to beat.

Here are several images of the games, courtesy of the first distributor marketing the games, Entertainment Earth:

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borg Hall of Fame 2018

It’s been another long year of great entertainment.  Before we wrap our coverage of 2018, it’s time for the sixth annual round of new honorees for the borg Hall of Fame.  We have plenty of honorees from 2018 films and television, plus many from past years, and a peek at some from the future – 40 in all.  You can always check out the updated borg Hall of Fame on our home page under “Know your borg.”

Some reminders about criteria.  Borgs have technology integrated with biology.  Wearing a technology-powered suit alone doesn’t qualify a new member.  Tony Stark aka Iron Man was an inaugural honoree because the Arc Reactor kept him alive.  The new Spider-Man suit worn by Tom Holland is similar to Tony’s, but as far as we can tell it’s not integrated with Peter Parker’s biology.  Similarly Peni Parker, seen outside her high-tech SP//dr suit in Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse, and Black Manta from Aquaman (and decades of comics before), seem to be merely wearing tech suits.  We’d love a reason for a Mandalorian to make the cut, like Boba Fett, or Jango Fett, since nobody has more intriguing armor.  Maybe Jon Favreau’s new television series will give us something new to ponder next year.

Also, if the creators tell us the characters are merely robots, automatons, or androids, we take their word for it.  Westworld continues to define its own characters as androids (like Star Trek: The Next Generation’s Lt. Commander Data throughout the TV series), and not cyborgs (going back to Michael Crichton’s original story), so we continue this year to hold off on their admittance unless something changes, like the incorporation of living biological (blood, cells, etc.) materials.  Are we closing in on admitting individuals solely based on a breathing apparatus that may allow them to breathe to in non-native atmospheres?  Only if integrated (surgically).  Darth Vader has more borg parts than his breathing filter.  We assume new honoree Saw Gerrera does as well.  With more biological enhancements we’d allow Tusken Raiders, Moloch, and Two Tubes from the Star Wars universe, and Mordock the Benzite from Star Trek, but wouldn’t that also mean anyone in a deep sea suit or space suit is a cyborg?  Again, integration is key.  Ready Player One has humans interacting with a cyber-world with virtual reality goggles and other equipment, but like the Programs (as opposed to the Users) in the movie Tron, this doesn’t qualify as borg either, but we’re making an exception this year for the in-world Aech, who is a cyborg orc character, and two Tron universe characters.

Already admitted in 2017 were advance honorees that didn’t actually make it to the screen until 2018.  This included Josh Brolin’s new take on Cable in Deadpool 2 and Simone Missick’s Misty Knight after her acquisition of a borg arm in Marvel’s Luke Cage.  New versions of Robotman and Cyborg are coming in 2019 in the Doom Patrol series, but they are already members of the revered Hall of Fame.  Above are the new looks for these two earlier honorees.

So who’s in for 2018?

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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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Wizards of the Coast has two new books available just in time for Christmas gameplay.  Guildmasters’ Guide to Ravnica is the first time Dungeons & Dragons has formally issued a crossover with the realms of Magic: The Gathering Ravnica, first introduced in 2005 in Magic: The Gathering’s Ravnica: City of Guilds and again in 2012 in Return to Ravnica, is a vast plane and a diverse cityscape, where ten guilds battle for power, wealth, and influence.

The sourcebook includes detailed chapters on the ten guilds:  Azorius Senate, Boros Legion, Cult of Rakdos, Golgari Swarm, Gruul Clans, House Dimir, Izzet League, Orzhov Syndicate, Selesnya Conclave, Simic Combine, and sections on Creating Adventures, Treasures, and Friends and Foes.  Guildmasters’ Guide to Ravnica includes a key focus on the Tenth District of the city, which includes adventure opportunities for all ten guilds.  It boasts six new playable species, plus a new cleric domain, a new druid circle, backgrounds, and an expansive bestiary.

The second year-end release, Waterdeep: Dungeon of the Mad Mage serves as part two of the Waterdeep: Dragon Heist adventure (reviewed here).  The Waterdeep saga continues where Dragon Heist ended, taking characters beyond the fifth level all the way to 20th level should they explore the entirety of Halaster’s home.  Players will find a tavern called the Yawning Portal in the city of Waterdeep, named after a pit in its common room.  Not explored in Tales from the Yawning Portal, at the bottom of the pit is a dungeon known as Undermountain, the domain of the mad wizard Halaster Blackcloak.  It is here where monsters, traps, and mysteries abound in 23 dungeons, along with the refuge of Skullport.  You’ll also find Stardock, the asteroid that orbits Toril, and new magical items like the Dodecahedron of Doom, plus Halaster and eleven other monsters not included in the Monster Manual.

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