Grimm Encounters II – Out Today!

Hello one and all! For those of you that don’t already know, Grimm Encounters II was released this morning! If you don’t know what I’m talking about, Grimm Encounters II is a Dungeons & Dragons 5th Edition encounter and mini-adventure supplement, based on the tales of the Brothers Grimm. Each of the encounters within is a warped version of one of the original fairy tales, and should be a perfect fit into you Halloween D&D session.

The book contains 12 encounters from some of the best DMsGuild authors out there, as well as some newbies who are just breaking onto the scene. The authors involved in the project were myself, Alex Clippinger, Beatriz T Dias, Jeff C Stevens, Ken Carcas and Molly Meadows. There are a total of 12 encounters, which are spread over 43 pages packed with artwork from the likes of Dean Spencer and Daniel Comerci.

If you want a sneak peek at what’s in store, here are a few sample images from the product.

CaptureCapture1Capture2Capture4

GE2_Front

GE2_Back.jpg

Grimm Encounters II – Out this week!

Hello all! Afraid to say that there will be no Deconstructing Dungeons article this week because I’m putting the finishing touches to Grimm Encounters II, a Halloween encounter and mini-adventure supplement for characters of all levels. After the success of Grimm Encounters, I thought it’d be a real shame not to do it again, so here we are!

Each encounter within the product is based on one of the original Grimms’ Fairy Tales, and has its own fantastical, horrific, terrifying flavour. These range from camp horror to truly disturbing scenes of utter gore. So something for everyone!

This year I included a whole range of writers, both new and old, from a diverse crowd; Alex Clippinger, Beatriz T Dias, Jeff C Stevens, Ken Carcas, Molly Meadows and myself. We each contributed a couple of encounters to the book, totalling at a dozen mini-adventures for your Halloween sessions! The book is 43 pages long, and includes new magic items and monsters, as well as artwork from the talented Dean Spencer and Daniel Comerci; everything you need to keep it spooky.

If all goes well, the book should be out by Friday!

GE2_Front.jpg

Parry’s Picks – 21st October 2018

Hello and welcome back to Parry’s Picks! Each week in this article series I take a look at what’s been published on the DMsGuild over the past 7 days and try to highlight 5 of the best ones out there! This week we’ve still got a bit of a Halloween theme, but there are some regular products in there too for those of you getting pumpkin fatigue!

254905

Gnightmare on Gnome Street

@deathbybadger

This adventure would probably get into my top 5 for the name alone! Thankfully for you guys, it’s also some quality content! This slasher-themed one-shot set in Ravenloft is sure to give your characters a scare, and probably a barrel of laughs. The characters enter a haunted house on a dare, only to find that a mysterious killer resides within and tries to off the characters one by one.

254939

The Madhouse of Tasha’s Kiss

Jeff C Stevens, Remley Farr

Not that any of you don’t know already, but Jeff is at the top of the adventure writing game, and this product clearly displays it. This Halloween adventure promises disturbing jester attacks in pocket madhouse dimensions, packed full of disturbing delights. As usual, the production of the adventure is amazing, with a great layout, custom maps and art and an absolutely horrifying cover!

255109

Magnum Opus

Luke Monroe

Luke is starting to really make a name for himself on the DMsGuild, and the signature pixelated font makes him unmistakable! This adventure is a nice break from all the Halloween antics, focusing on a treasure map of sorts that the characters have managed to get their hands on. If they can trace back to the vault and break it, they’re in for a huge payday!

255131

Seasonal Surprises Vol 1

Matt Butler

If you’re wanting to add a little Halloween surprise to your sessions, but don’t have time to run a whole seasonal one-shot, Matt has got you covered! This supplement contains monsters, magic items and encounters to help you add a little horror to your games, and could be used throughout the year to add a little spooky flavour.

256587

Sharn III, City of Monsters

Elven Tower

For those of you not following the blog, I’ve already done full reviews of Sharn I and Sharn II, and I highly recommend them both! The production of these adventures are always amazing, and their story lines are always innovative and captivating. If you’re looking for more adventures in Eberron, then Elven Tower’s products are a great place to start.

Remember, if you want to help support my blog and my writing, you can buy my adventures on DMsGuild, or join my Patreon. You can also find me on Facebook and Twitter.

Industry Interview – Rob Twohy

Rob Twohy is the DMsGuild king of Fantasy Grounds. If you have a module that you want accessible for users of that platform, then Rob Twohy is your guy! Rob has almost one hundred products on the DMsGuild, including conversions, random generators, and expansions to core rules. You can also find Rob on Twitter, Twitch, Patreon, Discord and YouTube!

What drew you to publish on the DMsGuild, and what was your first published product?

In January 2016 when the DMsGuild first started, I had just heard of it, so I thought I would give it a go. I had come to find the Fantasy Grounds VTT in September of 2015 and I really just dove in. My first publication on January 29, 2016, was called Race Ability Modifiers & Key Class Stats it was an effort to list out the key points for all the races so that a person didn’t have to flip back and forth between the pages of the Players Handbook. It was all just right there in one convenient sheet for character building. I made the PDF and the Fantasy Grounds module.

I put that up for sale as PWYW and made 55 cents my first day. One sold for $1 (the suggested price) and another for 10 cents. In addition, FORTY copies went for zero. So my 50% cut was the 55 cents. I was bitten, I had the bug. I saw a need, I filled it, people liked it, and now I’m not looking back. When I started, Mat McCoy of the DMsGuild contacted me and said something like, “You’ve got some really fantastic things here for people, don’t do PWYW. Put a price on these.” I currently have 90+ titles on the DMsGuild and about half of those are collaborations with other creators.

Now, I would say, almost three years later, this is what I DO. I mean this is my JOB now.

How do you end up doing conversion work? Do you approach the author, or do they approach you?

Both. Initially, I was approaching authors but now I would say I have more approaching me. My forte, of course, is creating the Fantasy Grounds module conversion for creators that want to get their material to that subset of people.

There seems to be a bit of a “miseducation” among the community as to how valuable Fantasy Grounds conversions are. I have worked with a few creators who are not excited about the Fantasy Grounds sales numbers. They seem to be disappointed that the FG sales represent only a fraction of the PDF sales. But this follows logically because there are MILLIONS of D&D 5e players and of those, only perhaps a couple hundred thousand FG users. I’m not sure of the exact number, but it is a small subset of D&D players that do it online using a VTT.

The thing about that is, Fantasy Grounds users are a LOYAL fan base and they are willing to pay for the material to be converted for them so they don’t have to do the work themselves (which many do). There are many people who buy the PDF and then just convert it on their own to FG. But those people would be willing to purchase an already converted FG .mod file and perhaps even the PDF as well.

A great many of the creators on the Guild don’t realise that they could have another product out there, and unless it’s for Adventurers League or Guild Adept, it can be sold as a SEPARATE ITEM, making separate and additional profits. It also adds to that creator’s exposure with another group of people – the FG users.

I encourage people to contact me if they want their materials converted and put out there.

What are the easiest products to create for the Fantasy Grounds platform?

This is a tough question. It depends on the mindset of the person doing it. There are things that are EASY, but then again there are things that are DIFFICULT, yet take less time. It’s kind of hard to explain to the layperson who isn’t a VTT developer.

For me personally, the easiest would probably be a book of monsters. Like the Monsters Without Borders and Monsters of the Guild project. It was a LOT of work, but it was pretty straightforward work. Create an NPC, make sure the image and token are good, rinse, repeat. Now that’s an oversimplification of what was involved because although I used NPC Engineer (a free program at masq.net – which has now been renamed Engineer Suite) I did have to go into the XML and configure some things.

Each Project is certainly different, and for me, it’s a mindset I have to get into whether I’m doing an adventure, a splatbook, a monster book, whatever it is…

Why have you picked Fantasy Grounds over other Virtual TableTops, such as Roll20 or MapTool?

When I started looking for ways to play D&D online, I first found Roll20. It seemed cool the idea of being able to roll dice online and then move tokens on maps and play the game. After diving into that, I discovered Roll20 wasn’t for me. It seemed too complicated to create characters (in 2015) and the system was browser based. I didn’t like the idea of NEEDING an internet connection to work on my gaming materials. So I searched more and found Fantasy Grounds (which is client side). And now, my name is synonymous with Fantasy Grounds. What I mean is if someone mentions Fantasy Grounds, you might not necessarily know who I am, but if you mention Rob Twohy, people go “oh the Fantasy Grounds guy”.

Fantasy Grounds to me is the best VTT out there, and in my humble opinion by LEAPS AND BOUNDS. There is definitely a learning curve, but there is an instruction manual  and an unofficial website and discord server called “Fantasy Grounds Collegewith over 3,000 volunteers and teachers. They do classes on Combat 101, DMing 101, Map Making, the list goes on and on. The FG community as a whole is the BEST! People really want to help others any way they can with using the software and getting into games. Another thing about FG is that it supports almost all RPGs. There are official rule sets like D&D, Pathfinder, Chthulhu, etc. But the software can be made to support ANY RPG game.

It really is wonderful, and FULL DISCLOSURE here… I do work for SmiteWorks USA, LLC – the makers of Fantasy Grounds.  That’s an entirely different story, but the quick version is I love it so much and since I was streaming and doing conversions for the DMsGuild and for SmiteWorks directly, Doug Davison (president of SmiteWorks) hired me as a Social Media Consultant. It’s kind of like he’s giving me a salary to do what I was already doing anyway which is PROMOTE the living bejesus out of Fantasy Grounds. The only difference between before he hired me and now, is I have access to the Fantasy Grounds Twitter and Facebook accounts. Ha!

What’s the hardest thing about making content for Fantasy Grounds?

I would say the hardest thing about creating FG modules is tempering your frustration when things go wrong. It is not an exact science. Although I did recently make a video for creating an FG module beginning to end, each one is different and each one comes with its own challenges, so you can never really know what’s going to blow up in your face until you’re wiping the code off your cheek.

What’s been your favourite thing to create or convert for the platform so far?

Wow. That’s like asking me who my favourite child is. It’s Janelle by the way. No, I’m only kidding. I don’t have kids. I’m not married. My preferred pronouns are dude, yo, hey, ya’ll, and all ya’ll. And I am single… LADIES!

Alright, so my favourite would maybe have to be the Wayfinder’s Guide to Eberron because it was my first official WotC product and I felt that when I was given that task, I had been RECOGNISED as someone who was legitimate in the world of D&D (behind the DM screen if you will). Also, Jeremy Crawford thanked me personally at PAX West. I was blown away.

But many others were equally as fun/challenging. I mean between DMsGuild and the Fantasy Grounds Store I’ve done over 125 projects.  People can actually follow my progress LIVE in this Google Sheet!

Have you got any advice for people hoping to publish Fantasy Grounds material, or for authors who are looking into conversions?

My advice will sound really cliche…  but that advice is JUST DO IT! Dive right in. Go to the Fantasy Grounds Forums and read about developing. All 70+ developers for SmiteWorks are just people who were in the forums and one day decided, let me try this.

Anyone can do it if you put in the work. It may not be everybody’s cup of tea, but I LOVE IT!

If you want to get started on Fantasy Grounds and are looking for a whole load of work to get your started, check out Everything Rob Twohy 2016-2017 Sale!

Review – Sharn II, Council of Roaches

Hello and welcome to this week’s review! Today we’re taking a look at Sharn II, Council of Roaches by Elven Tower. This is the sequel adventure to Sharn – The Missing Schema which I reviewed a few weeks ago. I gave that adventure a 4/5 stars. It stood out for its amazing production quality, but was let down a little by its linearity and weighty read aloud text. Overall, the adventure was a definite buy though, and it’ll be nice to see how this second instalment continues the story!

Each review I give will be given a rating out of five in each of three categories: DesignWriting & ProductionDesign will focus on mechanics for player and DM supplements, and on the narrative of adventures. Writingwill always focus on the style of the writing, including how well it has been edited and how comprehensive it is. Production will take into account layout, artwork and the general flow of the document. Also, despite receiving a free copy of this product to review, I’d like to stress that all views are my own, and I’ve not pulled punches where I feel improvements should be made.

252138

As mentioned before, this product is the sequel to Sharn – The Missing Schema. The author reccomends that it is for 3rd to 7th level characters. The adventure was first published on September 12th 2018, and has so far been given two five star ratings and reviews.

As with Sharn – The Missing Schema, we get the usual introductory information for running a game of D&D, specifically running one in the setting of Eberron. We’re told that this adventure can be run as a stand alone, as well as a sequel to Sharn – The Missing Schema.

Next up is an adventure primer which gives a brief background to the adventure. SPOILERS: Most of the Council of Sharn has been replaced with roach thralls which have been infiltrating the city for years and posing as members of ordinary life. Only Ilyra Boromar, a halfling linked to the Boromar Clan, has realised that something is up. After the concise introduction we’re given a rundown of the important NPCs and then an overview which summarises the flow of the adventure. The basic flow is that the characters are asked to protect a council member who turns out to be a roach thrall. The party go to meet the Lord Mayor who asks them to investigate into another council member who has been acting strangely. The party turn up to a house full of thralls but escape, and are told by Elric Boromar that they’ve found the roach nest. The characters then head down to explore the lair and uncover the roach conspiracy in Sharn. Finally we have some adventure hooks which link the characters in from Sharn – The Missing Schema, or drop them into the adventure should they be starting with Sharn II – Council of Roaches.

Part 1 – Boromar Ambush

In part one of the adventure, the characters head to meet Haras Kant, who offers them a job as enforcers. He needs people to protect his friend and councillor Maza Thadian whose life has been threatened in the past. Little do the characters know that she in a roach thrall. Haras even sets it up as if there’s a conspiracy against her within the guard, who seem to be doing a poor job protecting her. When the characters meet Maza in the Oaks Restaurant, she reveals to them that her life was threatened by an assassin from the Boromar Clan, and that political tensions on the council is high. There is a rift between her and her followers, and those of Lord Commander Lyan ir’Talan.

Capture

The following day the characters escort Maza to a meeting with a fellow councillor; Javan Tomollan. The characters might notice that the two seem to be communicating non-verbally, giving a clue that something is amiss. Before long, Elric Boromar and his kin attempt to assassinate Councillor Maza. The assault happens over a few short rounds, and is assumed to end in the death of the Councillor, which reveals her to be a roach thrall. I’m not hugely thrilled by the linearity here. I would rather the characters are given clues (such as the purple blood from the councillors wounds) rather than essentially being told there’s nothing the characters can do to stop Maza’s death. Although the transformation scene and resulting, confused combat between the roach thrall, the Boromars and the characters is likely to be a lot of fun, it would also be nice to have other eventualities explored. At the end of the combat, a huge number of Sharn Watch guards arrive and sort of Deus Ex Machina the plot.

In the end of this part, the characters are summoned to meet with the city council to explain what they saw, and are asked by Haras to find out what’s really going on with the roach thralls.

Design: 3/5 Although I love the story here, I think it lacks a little subtlety, and the characters are really driven down a single path. The assumption that the councillor is killed and then transforms is a little jarring, and the mismatched odds for the fight enforces the railroad feel. I’d much rather have a section dedicated to possible outcomes; Maza dying, Elric Boromar being killed etc. and how this informs the plot going forward. On the positive side, all the mechanics of the adventure are sound thus far, and the ability to make checks which reveal more information the higher they are is great.

Writing: 4/5 Although the author has clearly made an effort not to provide such long passages of read aloud text, this adventure is still on the verbose side. I feel as if a lot of the information in this first part of the adventure could be condensed or cut. I also noticed a few spelling/grammatical errors. Despite this, the writing is clear and where it needs to be and flavourful where it can be, which is good.

Production: 5/5 As expected, the production quality of this adventure matches that of Sharn – The Missing Schema. There are plentiful graphics and illustrations, and the use of sidebars, boxes and the like make it a delight to read through. The only improvement I can think of would be custom artwork, but that’s not within everyone’s budget.

Overall: 4/5

Part 2 – Meeting the Lord Mayor

In part two the characters are called to meet the Lord Mayor of Sharn, Cathan ir’Demell, and to sit in on a council meeting about the death of Maza. The characters have lots of opportunities to detect that something is wrong; the smell of the room for example. Eventually, the council come to the conclusion that Maza was killed by transformation magic, and that the Boromars are to blame, and should be ousted from the council and routed from the city. As far as I can tell, there’s not way for the characters to influence this, nor is their any guidance given about how to respond should the characters take any action beyond ability checks.

Capture1

At the end of the meeting, the characters are approached by Lord Cathan. He wants the characters to investigate a close friend on Ilyra Boromar – Councillor Borian. Cathan is in on the roach thrall conspiracy, and knows that Borian is a roach, but worries that he might blow his cover. Thus, he sends the characters to his home knowing that they will destroy him. I’m struggling a little to understand this motivation. If I were a roach inside the council, I think I’d just tell the characters to get lost, or even try to get them killed. I assume that’s what he’s doing sending them to Borian’s home, but it’s not made clear.

Design: 2/5 I’m not a huge fan of this part of the adventure. It seems like a lot of exposition that the characters are expected to sit through with no reward. There is also reference to an Intelligence (Arcana) check where the DC is lowered by the characters level. This is not common practice in 5e D&D. Instead, I’d recommend giving advantage to characters over a certain level, or to characters of a relevant class.

Writing: 2/5 Large chunks of the text in this part could be cut. The whole part takes 3 pages of the adventure, but could almost certainly be condensed into 1 or 1.5 pages. There are a handful of spelling errors, including one in the title of the part.

Production: 5/5 As usual, the production is on point. I like the sidebars which provide roleplaying information especially.

Overall: 3/5

Part 3 – House Inspection

Once the characters arrive at Borian Haldorak’s home, they have the opportunity to investigate the cockroach conspiracy even further. Not only is Borian himself a roach thrall, but there are failed roach thralls (horrible, maggoty cockroach creatures) in there as well. Seeing these creatures could disturb the characters as they witness the vulgar transformation of Borian. During their fight in the household, Elric Boromar emerges to help the characters out. He convinces the characters that the Boromars had nothing to do with the murders, and can point characters in the direction of the roach lair.

Capture2

Design: 4/5 None of the encounters are gated in any way, and the use of Elric to help out characters is a nice touch. The chemical handout message (a strange piece of acrid smelling parchment with a hidden message upon it) is sure to be a hit with players who work it out.

Writing: 4/5 Again, there’s a little too much information in the text here. Personally, I like to have a read aloud description for each location, followed by short mechanical descriptions of the area’s contents, prefaced by a subheading to make the information easy to distil.  Despite this, the descriptions of the household are good, and the important information is relatively easy to get to.

Production: 5/5 Once again the production here is amazing and includes what I assume are custom sketches of the roach creatures and of Elric Boromar. The maps are, as you might imagine from Elven Tower, beautiful.

Overall: 4.5/5

Part 4 – The Roaches’ Lair & Conclusion

This section starts with something I don’t like much;

‘Any attempt to reach or contact any councilor at this point of the adventure does not work. The PCs are not allowed inside the council hall.’

I don’t understand this choice by the author. It feels here like we’re protecting a plot that has already been scripted by the author, and cannot be deviated from, even if the characters are thinking logically. This kind of railroading is acceptable if you can at least come up with a realistic reason for it, but just saying ‘no you can’t do that’ never goes down well in an RPG session.

Capture4

The dungeon that succeeds this is a lovecraftian horror fest of cockroach creatures and terrifying hatcheries and implantation chambers. At the conclusion of the dungeon, the party are attacked by the Lord Mayor who is an omega roach thrall as well as his cultist followers. The whole thing has a great cthulhu-esque feel to it.

The adventure culminates with a conclusion that helps to tie up any loose ends and explain what might happen next in a world where several high-ranking council members have been killed. We also have a load of new creatures in an appendix, plus player friendly maps and handouts. The production of these is incredible as always!

Design: 4/5 The dungeon makes good use of insanity mechanics, is fluid and has some player agency, but the encounters are relatively straightforward.

Writing: 4/5 I have the same concerns about the writing of this part as the previous. Cut text, make it concise and well formatted, try to include read aloud text for each location.

Production: 5/5 As always, great maps, great layout, great use of sidebars and boxes.

Overall: 4.5/5

Conclusion – 4/5

Although I did enjoy this adventure, especially its premise, I think there could be a lot done to make it more fun to run and play in. The high production quality of Elven Tower’s products always makes them worth buying, especially at the lower price point of $4.95 for 50+ pages of content. The subterfuge and political manoeuvring within this adventure should appeal to a broad array of players, as should the high powered combat finale.

My biggest problem with this adventure is the story line. It feels linear and mapped out, and seriously lacks player agency. Although it’s good to have a central theme and plan for your adventures, it’s often the case that these adventures are reduced to a list of scenes like a play that the characters must go through. There is little to encourage players to think outside the box in this module, and though the lovecraftian, noir feel of the adventure could have been developed into a true sandbox web, I’m left feeling a little disappointed with its presentation.

Despite its flaws, I think this adventure is a great buy! There are some amazing maps and handouts, and the premise of the adventure is really very good. I’d suggest buying it, and allowing characters to run riot in the world, trying to figure out which council members they can trust, and which have been infested with roaches. It could make for an awesome campaign!

Remember, if you want to help support my blog and my writing, you can buy my adventures on DMsGuild, or join my Patreon. You can also find me on Facebook and Twitter.

Deconstructing Dungeons – The Theocracy

I am back once again with the penultimate episode in the Deconstructing Dungeons saga! Seems like it hasn’t been that long since I started, but we’re nearly done already. This week we’re taking a look at The Theocracy, part of the Dragon Relics campaign in which the characters have to face off against an ancient dragon. It’s based on my home campaign, which is slowly moving toward its finale!

For those that don’t know, Deconstructing Dungeons is an article series where I look at my published adventures, give you a brief synopsis of them and then talk about what went well and what went poorly during the process of publication. I’m hoping it will help out new writers who are looking to publish on DMsGuild and give me an excuse to talk about my work. Remember that I give away 5 copies of the adventure each week, and one copy of the compendium it can be found in!

Cover

The Theocracy is a 5 – 10 hour adventure for 11th – 16th level characters (Tier 3). This alone makes it something of an anomaly on the DMsGuild, as most of the adventures are, I believe, for Tier 1 & 2 characters. It currently has one 5 star review and rating, but hasn’t hit the best seller ranks at all (sad face). I find this slightly odd, especially because Beneath the Sands (the other released Dragon Relics adventure) managed to make it to copper best seller quite quickly.

In The Theocracy, the characters are trying to uncover one of the four dragon relics; the dragonfall horn. This magical item is being held in the holy vaults of The Theocracy and is under lock and key at all times. The Theocracy itself is a fanatical city-state of religious worshippers. As written, the Theocracy worship Tyr, a god from the Forgotten Realms, but it could easily be changed to whichever deity or power you deem appropriate. The force of the Theocracy is strong enough to repel any open violence on the side of the characters, and thus they are forced into a heist situation in which they attempt to smuggle the horn out of the vaults without being noticed.

Capture

The heist can be achieved in a multitude of ways, each of which is detailed within the adventure. The rest of the product consists of a room by room breakdown of the central temple in the Theocracy, which spans two floors above ground and one below. Each of the rooms has its own individual purpose, though continues the theme of the religious temple. Many have been specifically designed to deter intruders, even those who have access to high level magic which might otherwise make a heist incredibly easy.

Within the Theocracy are a few other factions including a subfaction of the Harpers called the Sound of Silence, whose bards are famous for subterfuge. Devils too make an appearance in the prison cells of the Theocracy, as does the enigmatic rakshasa named Father Odo.

Capture1

My main aim in this adventure was to create a heist scenario which would challenge even high level characters, and I think I succeeded in doing so. There are many traps, puzzles and tricks that should vex characters of all levels and which cannot be overcome by simple magic. The sheer number of theocratic soldiers alone should rule out combat as an option, but characters who do go down that route will have to face dozens of dynamic combats with a whole host of creatures designed to tax their expendable resources.

The cover for this adventures comes from an Arcana Games stock art pack (which I can no longer find), and all the interior artwork is from the DMsGuild Creator Resource Packs, WikiCommons or other sources of royalty free artwork. All of the cartography was done by myself in Photoshop, and I think it’s some of my better work (though I’ve since gone back to hand drawn maps). The layout was done using homebrewery, a tool which many of you will already be familiar with.

Capture2

What I did well: I think I did a superb job of posing a moral quandary to the characters; they need the horn, but should they steal it? I also think I created a heist environment that will challenge high level characters, but could also be run for lower level parties. When it comes to re-releasing this adventure, I think all I really need to include is some custom artwork. I also created a load of new monsters!

What I did poorly: The setting of the adventure is a little week, but that’s been left intentionally vague to help DMs use it in their own settings, or throw the adventure into an established campaign setting. Other than the lack of custom art I think the production quality is good, and I’m quite happy with how this particular adventure turned out!

GIVEAWAY! If you like the post on Facebook or Twitter, you’ll be entered into a giveaway to win one of five copies of The Theocracy. If you retweet or share the post, you could be in with a chance of winning a copy of Adventure Compendium Vol IIwhich contains all of my adventures from 2017.

Remember, if you want to help support my blog and my writing, you can buy my adventures on DMsGuild, or join my Patreon. You can also find me on Facebook and Twitter.

Parry’s Picks – 14th October 2018

Hello and welcome back to Parry’s Picks! In this article series I highlight 5 of my favourite products that have gone live on the DMsGuild within the last week. If you’re looking for content, this is the one to read!

254721

The Creeping Horror

Patrick E Pullen

It’s that time of year again, which means I’m going to be hitting you left, right and centre with Halloween adventures! This particular adventure comes from one of the best; Patrick E Pullen! This lovecraftian adventure is filled with impending doom and hopelessness; perfect for a Ravenloft adventure with such a poignant climax. Although the production could use a little work, I’ve no doubt that this adventure will create the perfect ambience for your Halloween session, and could even serve as an introduction to Curse of Strahd.

254689

Book of Vile Darkness (5E)

Phillip Hoang

Although I’m not sure you’re allowed to use the names of previous WotC products for your own work I’m still going to recommend picking this one up. This supplement is made for both DMs and players and contains dozens of spells, magic items, subclasses, additional rules and feats. If you’re looking for something new to run in your Halloween session, this could be the perfect source for your new character. Although not all of the mechanics are perfectly balanced, the great flavour presented truly makes up for it, as does the great production quality of the product.

254359

Go For the Eyes

Alex Clippinger

I don’t know what foul, blasphemous forces occupy the mind of Clippy, but whatever they are, they seem to compel him to release the wackiest supplements on a preposterous schedule. This particular supplement provides rules for called shots or targeted strikes against a huge variety of monsters from the Monster ManualVolo’s Guide to Monsters and Mordenkainen’s Tome of Foes. The mechanics for these called shots are simple yet effective, and have different implications for the specific monster the characters are tackling. If you want to surprise players with some new, variant monster feats and give them the opportunity to have more dynamic combat, then I highly recommend picking up this product.

254287

Heart Hunt

Justice Arman

If you fancy running a Dickins meets Forgotten Realms meets Sherlock Holmes meets Jack the Ripper style adventure this Halloween, then Heart Hunt may well be the one for you! This adventure takes place in the city of Waterdeep (a great choice if you’re about to/are running Dragon Heist) and profiles a string of gruesome murders that the characters can help to solve. The murders seem identical to those committed a decade or two ago, save one thing; the killer. Vick Valentine, the original killer was hung for his crimes. If you want to run a relatively easy, hassle-free adventure this Halloween with a distinct Victorian England feel, then I highly recommend Justice’s debut adventure!

254452

Trust No One

Keith BakerWayne Chang & Anthony Turco

How could I possibly run down this week’s top picks without giving mention to the new Keith Baker adventure for Eberron! This adventure is the 2nd in the series to Curtain Call: A Sharn Adventure which was released by the Guild Adepts. If you want to be running content in Eberron thanks to the release of the Wayfinder’s Guide to Eberron, there really is no better place to look than here as Keith Baker (if you don’t know) is the creator of the world. This adventure is a noir, faction driven thriller in the underworld of Sharn and shouldn’t be missed!

254477

Special Mention – The Haunt 2: Fantasy Grounds

P.B. PublishingTravis LeggePhil BeckwithAllen Dodge & Rob Twohy

For those of you that play through the Fantasy Grounds VTT, this is an unmissable addition from the King of Fantasy Grounds; Rob Twohy. I featured this adventure in last week’s Parry’s Picks, and if you’ve not already picked it up, I highly recommend that you do so! If you’re interested in Fantasy Grounds, I’ve got an interview with Rob going live on the blog next week!

Remember, if you want to help support my blog and my writing, you can buy my adventures on DMsGuild, or join my Patreon. You can also find me on Facebook and Twitter.

JVC Parry – Upcoming

We interrupt your regularly scheduled Industry Interview this Friday for a work from me, JVC!

I’m writing this little post to let you know what I’m hoping to achieve over the next few months, and give you all a little update on what’s happening in my world.

Grimm Encounters II

The next product on my horizon is Grimm Encounters II. For those of you that aren’t already familiar with the first Grimm Encounters, contains a dozen or so encounters that have a Halloween, horror theme based around one of the Grimm Fairytales. They’re put together by myself from a range of authors, and thus have a real range of content from campy horror to absolute gore all the way through totally bizarre!

Each story is based on an original Grimm Tale, including classics like Cinderella and lesser known tales like The Crystal Ball. Some of the encounters are much like the original tale, whilst others take a core element and expand upon it.

This year, we’ve taken a slightly different approach, creating both encounters and mini-adventures that are likely to take up an entire session, or even two, of play!

The amazing authors we have on board this year are myself, Alex Clippinger, Beatriz Dias, Jeff C Stevens, Ken Carcas and Molly Meadows. All the writing is done, and layout is underway, so the product should be up in plenty of time for Halloween!

Cult of the Glutton – Rerelease

Something I’m intending to do over the next year or two is rerelease the vast majority of my adventures! This is a two stage process – review and rewrite elements of the adventure (take a look at my Deconstructing Dungeons articles for more information) and then get new artwork, cartography and covers for each adventure.

Currently, I’ve got the adventure ready to release! All I need to do for this one is to get the Print of Demand option sorted. All of the artwork and layout is now comparable for a softcover release, something I’m hugely excited about! I know that print copies typically don’t sell as many as PDFs, but if you’re anything like me, you’ll understand the excitement of having a physical product.

Here’s some of the new artwork you’ll find in the adventure:

The Wizard of Zo

I’ve not released a new adventure in a while, so I’m massively excited to let you all know that I currently have 2 in the pipeline! The first of these three is a Wizard of Oz inspired adventure set in the jungles of Chult, and you can be sure to find plenty of lions, tigers and bears (oh my!) within.

The adventure is for 5th-10th level characters, and could potentially take up four or five sessions of play, depending on how much you use. Like the WotC published adventures, I’m trying to take a toolbox approach, where pieces of the adventure can be used out of context easily.

The adventure will include amazing artwork from Danny Pavlov, the main artist on my collaboration list at the moment. Here is some of his incredible work:

Blood at the Auction

Part three of the Dragon Relics series should hopefully hit the Guild toward the end of the year, or at the start of next year. I’m hoping wrap up that campaign into a single package before the end of next year, and you can grab the first two parts; Beneath the Sands and The Theocracy now!

Again, Blood at the Auction will be packed with incredible art from a number of different artists. The adventure is written and edited, we’re just waiting on some more artwork and a layout before the adventure can go live. As with all my new adventures, I’m hoping to get this one Print on Demand.

JVC Parry Presents…

I’ve recently started up a new initiative which is designed to help new writers break into the Guild. What with the increasing quality of production on the site, it’s often hard for new authors to get noticed. Because of this, I’m starting JVC Parry Presents… The first of these should be out by Christmas! More about this in future articles. If you’re interested in a helping hand though, please do get in touch.

Review – Claws of Fury

It’s time for the Wednesday Review! Today I’m taking a look at Claws of Fury written by Al Spader, and published on DMsGuild by the Mount Ogden Gaming CompanyClaws of Fury is part of the Tales of the Moonsea series for D&D Adventurer’s League (CCC-ALMOG-03 TALES03-01) and is currently a copper best-seller. The adventure is selling for $4.99 and has two ratings and reviews giving it an average of 5 stars.

For those of you who’ve not read my reviews before, I use a trinity of qualities to review products, which are DesignWriting Production. Design focuses on narrative and mechanics. Writing considers the style of writing; how interesting, well-edited and comprehensive it is. Production focuses on layout and artwork primarily, but also the flow of the document.

Disclaimer: I was given a complimentary copy of this product and am currently working with the Mount Ogden Gaming Company, but that doesn’t mean I won’t be honest with my opinions.

250115

Claws of Fury is an adventure for Tier 3 (11th – 16th level) characters. The adventure is essentially a hunt for dracolich which is wreaking havoc in the local area; destroying the tortle village in Glumpen Swamp and flying low over the town of Hawksroost. The town has put out a reward to anyone brave enough to hunt down this dracolich, called Velvet.

As with all D&DAL adventures, we’re given an introduction that tells us how to adjust encounters and gives DM tips. This is followed by a synopsis of the adventure (which contains a few spelling and grammatical mistakes) and an overview of the adventure breakdown. This, as well as the location and NPC summary sidebar, give a good idea about what to expect in the adventure. We’re also given an adventure hook that is a little lack-lustre, but thankfully the hooks are already baked into the story.

Intro – The Monster on Our Heels

This page, in conjunction with the previous material, gives us the full premise of the adventure. The tortle village was attacked by a flying, skeletal monster and most of the townsfolk have assumed it’s the dracolich Velvet. The characters meet Ames, the captain of the guard, and Olo, the tortle who brought the news of being attacked.

Although this section of the adventure is short, it’s concise, and gets across all the necessary detail in a comprehensive, if slightly clinical, manner.

Design: 5/5 Although the hook isn’t particularly nuanced, it certainly does the job.

Writing: 4/5 I’ve noted a few spelling and grammatical mistakes in the text so far, which is the only thing holding it back from a 5.

Production: 4/5 The layout and graphics in the adventure are certainly better than the average product on the guild,  but a lot more could be done to really make this visually stunning. Custom portraits of the characters, for example, are a great way to engage players and please us art-hungry DMs.

Overall: 4.5/5

Capture

Part 1 – An Unexpected Discovery

Suddenly, we are transported to the Glumpen Swamp. It would have been great to have something to give a sense of travel between the two locations. A map of the local area, with suggestions for random encounters along the way would be my suggestion. As it stands, the characters just arrive at the swamp. I realise that for higher level parties, travel becomes far less important. A lot of characters can fly or even teleport at this level, but that doesn’t, in my opinion, excuse the lack of advice here. A few paragraphs of travel info would solve this problem.

When characters arrive at the swamp, their only real challenge is a patch of quicksand. We have rules for quicksand in the Dungeon Master’s Guide (page 110 for those interested) that are significantly better than those outlined here, and that are more likely to facilitate an interesting, dynamic encounter. In this instance, the author has tried to make the quicksand deadlier by increasing the check DC to escape it. Generally, I don’t like upscaling mechanics like this. Quicksand probably wouldn’t be a challenge for Tier 3 characters, increasing the DC is unlikely to make it more of one, and breaks the continuity of the world. Instead, I would consider adding something new, rather than rewriting rules. A great example would be to add monsters to the encounter or have the quicksand infused with some swamp plague. Failing that, at least offer some explanation as to why this particular quicksand is harder to escape and spot than usual.

When the characters arrive at Mudrut, the tortle village, they have the chance to investigate the scene of the attack. The author does a great job here of providing multiple clues, each of which can be determined using a different skill. This should mean that different characters get a turn in the spotlight, and that if the characters get a few bum rolls, it’s likely they’ll get the information they need to advance the plot. If none of this works, the skeletal rocs attack giving the characters the true answer; it was not Velvet, but these undead birds.

The encounter with the rocs (which are a nice new spin on an old monster), if followed with more social interaction. A tortle suffering with PTSD from the attack called Ludron approaches them, and essentially tells them she can take them to where the rocs live, pushing the adventure on wards. The author here does well to give some consideration to parties that might see the rocs, decide that Velvet is just a rumour, and head back for a reward, or those that return with roc skulls rather than dragon skulls. Although their suggestion is a little crude, it works well the keep the adventure from ending prematurely.

Design: 4/5 Although I like that the author hasn’t gated progress behind skill checks, I dislike making quicksand deadlier mechanically. Breaking a window doesn’t become harder at higher levels, neither should quicksand UNLESS there is a good reason provided.

Writing: 4/5 Any errors seem to have been cleared up here. The descriptions of characters and encounters are clear and concise, but it would be nice to have a little more read aloud text. Especially a good description of the skeletal roc attack!

Production: 5/5 As before, the use of fitting stock art and sidebars puts this above the average product on DMsGuild, but further work could be done to achieve a 5.

Overall: 4.5/5

Capture1

Part 2 – Spirits of the Past

This section follows a similar plan to the last. The characters uncover a new location; the roc nests, they have a chance to investigate the place with several skill choices which provide some clues about the plot, and then they have a combat encounter. In this instance, the party are also rewarded with some treasure for their troubles.

Characters discover here a dungeon entrance to Tharniir, a massive, ancient ogre city that has clearly sunk beneath the swamp. There’s no real incentive that I can distil from the text to incite characters to enter the dungeon, save for their curiosity and eagerness to adventure. Although this should be a given, it would be nice to have another reason. For example, the characters could find something hinting that there are living tortles inside who were carried here by the rocs, then managed to escape the nests and take refuge in the dungeon. Better still, these tortles could be threatened by the undead which the party fight in the combat encounter, giving them an alternate combat objective; protect the innocents. The inclusion of extra material like this would really help bring the adventure together narratively, rather than just stringing together dissociated encounters.

Here again we have new options for old monsters, an ogre mummy lord and an orc vampire. The outlines for changing the monsters in the sidebar are not particularly clear, but the author has included stat blocks at the end of the adventure that ensure you run the monsters correctly. I love seeing these variant stats; they’re a great way to breathe new life into an old monster.

This section finishes with the introduction to the dungeon; a great scene of statuary that contains a hidden locking mechanism for the door. This piece of writing is good, and gives more information to the characters, but it could do with a section of read aloud text to make it clear to DMs what they should and shouldn’t be telling the players on first glance.

Design: 3/5 A lot could have been done here to improve the narrative of the adventure. Currently it feels a little disjointed, and might leave characters lost, without much clue as to their next move.

Writing: 4/5 Again, the author has done a good job of keeping the writing concise. It would be good to have a little more read aloud text (preferably for each location and major encounter), but the descriptions in text are evocative.

Production: 4/5 As before. Good use of stock artwork and sidebars.

Capture2

Part 3 – The Tharkul Catacombs

Part 3 is a puzzle filled dungeon that should be a delight for players to run through. The puzzles are complex enough to be satisfying to solve, but not so difficult that they’re likely to become frustrating. The author has also taken care to give potential clues or include skill checks that would make the puzzles easy to solve. The descriptions of each puzzle are clear and straightforward, helping DMs run them with ease, and each room has read aloud text that really helps paint a picture of the dungeon.

In particular, the infusion of lore and mechanics here is superb. The author has taken great care to familiarise themselves with the lore of what they are writing for, and weave that into the mechanics of the puzzles with finesse. Considering that the link into the dungeons wasn’t great, the flow of the dungeon and narrative within is excellent.

Design: 5/5 The mechanics of puzzles and their construction is brilliant. Inclusion of clues and skill checks means characters always have something to do, preventing them from getting stuck or frustrated.

Writing: 5/5 The writing is clear and concise in terms of puzzles and mechanics, and highly evocative in terms of read aloud text, which appears for each room. There are a few small editing errors, but they don’t overly impede the read.

Design: 4/5 Same as before. Good use of stock art, well put together, and a clear, simple map.

Overall: 5/5

Part 4 – Home Sweet Home

The finale of the adventure is a multi-faceted combat encounter with a dracolich, a demilich and eight black shadow dragon wyrmlings. WOW! Although the setting of the fight could perhaps to with some additions (boulders for cover or environmental hazards) the combat should already be interesting thanks to the diversity of foes. The introduction to the setting and encounter are great, and the short read aloud boxes are filled with awesome description that will terrify or inspire characters.

Design: 4/5 I would have liked to see a few additions to the setting for the final combat that could help or hinder the characters, but the choice of foes is thematic and should interplay nicely to create a challenging high level combat encounter.

Writing: 5/5 The writing here is essentially flawless. Although this is a short section, there are no mistakes as far as I can tell, the mechanics text is comprehensive, and the description for the encounter and setting is awe inspiring.

Production: 4/5 As before.

Overall 4.5/5

Conclusion – 4.5/5

This adventure is very close to being a full 5 out of 5. Just a few additions of integrated plot and a few revisions of combat encounters and mechanics choices would, in my opinion, complete this adventure in terms of design and writing. With regards to production, it would be awesome to have some NPC portraits, some awesome custom artwork of the final encounter, and probably a more relevant cover. Tier 3 adventures are difficult to design, because the characters have access to a lot of problem solving tools, but I think the puzzles and challenges in this adventure are more than sufficient to test the wits and skills of the characters. If you’re looking for a dungeon crawl, with a nice premise and perplexing puzzles, then this is surely the adventure for you!

Remember, if you want to help support my blog and my writing, you can buy my adventures on DMsGuild, or join my Patreon. Each month I release exclusive content on Patreon that you can’t get anywhere else! You can also find me on Facebook and Twitter.

Deconstructing Dungeons – The Frosted Prince

Yo yo it’s your boy JP back with another Deconstructing Dungeons! This week we’re taking a look at The Frosted Prince, my Christmas 2017 adventure published on December 11th that year. Each year I try to release a winter adventure, just as I do with Halloween. These things always sell pretty well in their first month for the obvious reasons, and then again around winter the next year. As you might imagine it’s only a copper best seller, but does have two ratings and reviews putting it at 5 stars! The Frosted Prince is a 6-10 hour adventure for Tier 3 characters! I recall that writing this was a bit of a love letter to the Forgotten Realms, as it contains a fair bit of lore about the Shadowdale region, and builds on old adventure modules in the area.

For those that don’t know, Deconstructing Dungeons is an article series where I look at my published adventures, give you a brief synopsis of them and then talk about what went well and what went poorly during the process of publication. I’m hoping it will help out new writers who are looking to publish on DMsGuild and give me an excuse to talk about my work. Remember that I give away 5 copies of the adventure each week, and one copy of the compendium it can be found in!

Cover

The Frosted Prince can approached through a number of plot hooks that all focus around the town of Shadowdale in the Forgotten Realms. The first is an open call from Lady Sulwood for adventurers to help deal with some cultists of Bane, known as Banites. The second is that nobleman Darvin Maneson believes he is the last in the line of the famous heo Mane from Shadowdale. If it can be proved he stands to inherit a sizeable parcel of land. Both of these hooks land the characters firmly into Shadowdale, where the first portion of the adventure takes place.

Characters have the chance to explore Shadowdale, visiting famous locations such as the Old Skull Inn, the Twisted Tower of Ashaba and Mother Tara’s Festhall. Throughout these locations they meet with the important NPCs of the adventure, and can gather information about the Banites, their Zhentarim allies and Mane. Without revealing too much, the characters might uncover who in town is working for who, some dark secrets about the history of the drow in Shadowdale, and the strange meteorological phenomena that is plaguing the town thanks to the nearby Castle Krag.

promo1

Once the characters have had a chance to explore the town, there are several encounters that can take place. Each of these encounters furthers the narrative of one of the subplots occurring within Shadowdale; the strange weather near Castle Krag, the Cultists of Bane attacking trade caravans, or the connection between the drow and Zhentarim in Shadowdale. All of these events and factions are knitted together and all of them eventually lead to Castle Krag, although some have a little more going on in town first.

In the second part of the adventure we take a closer look at Castle Krag, and the goings in the ruins. We get a dramatis personae of the six major NPCs in the dungeon along with a full three-layer map of the entire place, each room detailed and linked throughout. The maps are based on the original maps of Castle Krag from old editions, but have evolved from that time in their own way specific to this adventure, specifically the dungeons beneath have expanded, and been turned into a lair for a white dragon named Ghaulinthara the Winterwyrm.

While characters are exploring the ruins they have the opportunity to discover more about the different factions involved, and help connect the finale through the information recovered in town and the initial plot hooks. Depending on their actions in town, different factions might come and go through the dungeon, or they might have the advantage of preparation.

promo2

The crux of the adventure is that the Banite cultists have taken up host in Castle Krag. They are being supported by Zhentarim agents working in Shadowdale and their drow associates. This allegiance has allowed both factions to prosper under the new lord of Castle Krag; Ghaulinthara the Winterwyrm. The white dragon has become an avatar of Bane, and commands the Banites, hoping that she can be freed from her icy prison beneath the castle. Meanwhilte, the Banites are attempting to resurrect their old leader, Dark Doom Malathon, whilst keeping the drow agents happy with their progress. Down in Ghaulinthara’s lair, the magically frozen corpse of Mane awaits for brave adventurers to come and rescue his legacy.

The layout of the adventure was done in homebrewery. The cover is a piece of stock art by Dean Spencer, as is a lot of the interior art. Maps are hand drawn by myself and neatened up in photoshop. Overall I think this is one of my best homebrewery layouts. Although I’m transitioning to InDesign, I think this one looks very professional and won’t need much work when I come to making it Print on Demand.

promo3

What I did well: I think I did a great job here of setting and adventure in a region of the Forgotten Realms that hasn’t yet seen much love this edition. I did a lot of research into the area and the NPCs that lived there, all the way back to AD&D, so that I could make the adventure feel grounded in the Realms. I also think the layout and art consistency in this piece is better than many of my previous adventures.

What I did poorly: This adventure is rather on the longer side, and involves several different, interlinked factions as well as around a dozen important NPCs. I could have done a better job of introducing these earlier on in a reference list and maybe even designing a flow chart to help DMs predict what they are likely to need to prepare. This is something I can address when it goes PoD. I’ll also make sure that I get some custom artwork to really elevate the adventure production. I think the biggest takeaway of this particular product is that you need to make things clear for DMs. I did a good job of showing the information in the appropriate places, and condensing it to make it easy to understand, but there’s no one place you can go to get a decent summary of the adventure. Even writing it up in this article would make it too long!

GIVEAWAY! If you like the post on Facebook or Twitter, you’ll be entered into a giveaway to win one of five copies of The Frosted Prince. If you retweet or share the post, you could be in with a chance of winning a copy of Adventure Compendium Vol IIwhich contains The Frosted Prince as well as a handful of other JVC Parry adventures! Good luck!

Remember, if you want to help support my blog and my writing, you can buy my adventures on DMsGuild, or join my Patreon. You can also find me on Facebook and Twitter.