Tag Archives: D&D

The Evolution of D&D from 1983 to 2016: From Ravenloft to Curse of Strahd

From 1983 to 2016 Dungeons & Dragons have moved from Advanced Dungeons & Dragons 1st edition (and D&D becmi) to Dungeons & Dragons 5th edition, and it is more than just a streamlining of the rules and development of the rules, that has taken place.

Recently I have been playing Curse of Strahd (2016) and I6 Ravenloft (1983), and therefore I will show how the game has developed from the early 80’s to the present through a comparison of an encounter or location, that appears in all versions of the adventure. Originally published in 1983, the Ravenloft adventure was relaunched as House of Strahd in 1993, where it was adapted to both Advanced Dungeons & Dragons 2nd edition and the Ravenloft setting. Again in 2006 it was published, this time as Expedition to Castle Ravenloft, this time adapted to D&D 3.5, and then finally in 2016 it was launched as a campaign module, Curse of Strahd, in 2016 for D&D 5th edition, where the original castle was made a part of a much larger campaign, where the whole valley is explored.

In the castle is a sequence, where a set of plate armor equipped with a halberd springs forth to frighten people. The armor is not animated but is rather a jump scare showcasing the original adventures curious mix of gothic horror and campy horror tropes, as the armor might be right out of an episode of Scooby Doo.

So, let’s see how different versions of the adventure deals with this sequence.

Ravenloft (1983) – AD&D 1st ed

As is clear from the text, the armor is set up as a cruel joke, which is recurrent in the later versions of the text. Where the sequence differs is how game mechanics handles the event.

There is a mere 60% risk, that the trap is sprung, and 25% chance that 1d4 hit points are lost. This may not sound like much, but for an AD&D character, this loss might still be felt, as hit points and healing resources are less than in later versions of the game.

House of Strahd (1993) – AD&D 2nd

This time the armor is automatically triggered – and is considerably more fun, as triggering the ‘jump scare’ is more fun, than the event never happening. Another difference is that the armor is now making an attack roll rather than checking for the risk of getting hit. THAC0 8 is a rather high chance of hitting its victim, but at least the damage remains at 1d4 hit points.

Expedition to Castle Ravenloft (2006) – D&D 3.5

In this version the armors are changed from something happening during the exploration of the castle and has instead become an encounter, where the adventurers fight the two armors, that has become animated monsters assisting the vampire Strahd in an encounter.

This change is significant, because it shows, where D&D was headed in 00’s with D&D 3.5 and D&D 4th. Basically D&D was unable to do things, that was not an encounter, and an encounter is in general always some sort of combat. D&D was broken into units of combat with D&D 3.5 and 4th (the fourth edition just finalized, what D&D 3.5 had already begun).

Curse of Strahd (2016) – D&D 5th

The amount of text has grown considerably, but the game has returned to its roots, or at least it has abandoned its encounter structure, and made it possible to play strange little happenings again, but the game suffers from a desire to put rules and explanations onto everything. Another interesting change is that now the players are rolling the dice – a saving throw is made by the player instead of an attack roll or a percentage roll by the DM – and damage has increased rom 1d4 to 2d6 to reflect the increase in hit points in the game.

Final words

I do appreciate the return in 5th edition to a structure closer to the Advanced period (1977-2000), but there is still a needless amount of mechanics and rules cluttering the text, instead of just letting the GM run the scene.

What is missing from all versions of the module is some good advice for the DM as to how to run the scene, for it is not really important whether or not the armor hits one of the characters for a small amount of damage, but rather it is of importance whether or not the it is run as a jump scare, and my advice is to play the scene with a low voice quietly describing the stairs, and as the characters either pass by or moves in to look closer at the armor IT SUDDENLY SPRINGS TO LIFE, AS THE ARMOR JUMPS TOWARD YOU! THE POLEARM FLIES TOWARD YOU STOPPING MERE MOMENTS FROM YOUR FACE!!! While you either emphasize this with hitting the table with the flat of your hand, or lunges quickly toward the player. The sudden shift in your behavior can easily make your player jump in their seat, thus recreating the campy jump scare of the adventure (and yes, that is how I played the encounter, and yes, the player did jump in his seat, and yes, I try to use only sparingly, so it works better, when used).

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Adapting Tomb of Annihilation for Mystara: Port Kastellos

I am running the campaign Tomb of Annihilation for D&D 5th but with several house rules (i.e. heXPloration) and a shift in the setting, as I have placed the adventure in the Mystara setting. This here is my presentation of the adaption so far.

My favorite D&D setting is the Mystara setting, thus I prefer to place my campaigns here, and in order to do so, some adaption has to be done, though I try to keep adaptions minimal in order to keep my extra work at a minimal.

Tomb of Annihilation takes place in Chult in Forgotten Realms, bit I have chosen to adapt it to Mystara, and have placed the area on the northern coasts of Davania, since a part of that region is not too far off the map from the adventure, as I am using the Chult map for the adventure. There is not much canon material on Davania and less on the region, that I have chosen, so new material must be added. Other fans of the setting have through Vault of Pandius created new material, but it did not fit my vision of the game, so it is not in use.

The Great Evil

In the official campaign an evil entity sucks life and souls to it, in order to become a divine being, and this is causing resurrected people to wither away.

Since my players my spot this blog post in the forays into the web, I will not reveal too much here, but in general the same curse has hit Mystara, however, the origin is of another nature, and one that the Immortals are silent about.

Another consequence of the curse is that, creatures that extend their life through magic, has also begun to wither away. This has great consequences for nations such as Alphatia and Glantri, where wizards live for a long time through the application of magic. They too are now dying, and they have an interest in finding and stopping the cause, but their foes and rivals are tempted to let the curse run its course in order to hurt Alphatia and Glantri. The Hattian Order of the Storm Soldiers for instance have in interest in stopping anyone trying to end the curse (and in the campaign the order replaces Order of the Flaming Fists).

Davania/Chult –  Some Notes

As long as the campaign lasts the map from Tomb of Annihilation takes precedence of the normal maps of Mystara’s continent of Davania, and certain cities and areas are thus changed, and some of these deals with the nature of the campaigns evil.

Hattian Storm Troopers have a presence on the continent, as they try to interfere with anyone trying to stop the curse.

Heldannic Knights are present as well (they replace Order of the Gauntlet), and they are explorers of the region – for reasons for now kept secret – in part because a strange phenomenon in the jungles stops their flying ships from working, and the knights needs to know how and why.

The wreck of the flying ship The Star Goddess is now a wrecked Sky Gnome flying ship from Serraine stranding a small colony of Sky Gnomes in Kastellos, where they patiently await the return of Serraine and try to fund an expedition into the jungle to retrieve their wreck.

Kastellos/Port Nyanzaru – The History of the City

Build on top of ruins from a former unknown civilization (remains of the Milenian diaspora into the Davanian continent; was abandoned when the empire collapsed around 50BC), the Thyatian Empire established a farflung colony here during the reign of emperor Androikus II late 400 or early 500 AC. The colony was named Kastellos, and though chroniclers mention the ruins, they have no knowledge of the builders, nor their name.

During the 700s the nation of Hule begins expanding its influence in to the northern coasts of Davania, and this isolates Kastellos and its sister colony Garganin from the Thyatian Empire, and around 750 Garganin briefly becomes a colony under Hule control, though around 800 the Yavdlom Divinarchy returns to power and wrestles Hule’s control of the region from it. Garganin becomes independent again, while Kastellos remained independent during the whole period. An influx of Yavdloms to both Garganin and Kastellos begins, and when explorers in 852 from the Minrothad Isles discovers the sea routes to Kastellos and Garganin, they describe the two city states as populated by Yavdloms.

Kastellos and Garganin enters the sphere of influence of the Yavdlom Divinarchy, and they become two satellite states culturally and politically aligned with the Divinarchy, but also still independent cities, and they become places for Yavdloms to emigrate, if they do not want to accept the governing style of the divinarchy. In Kastellos – which is called Nyanzaru or Port Nyanzaru in the native tongues of the Yavdloms – a governing style inspired by the Minrothaddian traders consisting of a council of Merchant Princes arise, and one that is at odds with the divinarchy as it openly uses divination and welcomes rogue diviners from the divinarchy.

In 965 Thyatia returns to the Davanian continent as colonies are established in the Hinterlands, but no new relations are established with the still distant Kastellos or Port Nyanzaru, however, the city still contains a considerable minority of descendants from the Thyatian colonial period 500 to 300 years earlier, and they begin dreaming of returning to Thyatis as an official colony causing a schism with majority of the city’s population. The Thyatian descendants have not been in contact with the empire for 300 years, but that is about to change.

During the latest outbreak of lycanthropy some 40 years ago as large community of Minrothaddian wererats chose to leave the islands, rather than suffer through another Night of the Long Knifes, and at the time they chose to establish themselves in one of the most distant trading ports known to Minrothaddians, and thus they fled or moved to Port Nyanzaru, where they brought their knowledge of ship building technology with them, and became famed ship builders in the city state – and no one knew, what they brought with them. The wererats seek to keep a strict control on their hereditary and infectious lycanthropy and often forbid their members to marry outside of their ranks causing much grievance and rebellion amongst the youth.

At present in the year 1004, Port Nyanzaru is mainly populated by emigrant Yavdloms and their descendants, who has left the divinarchy and set up a council of merchant princes inspired by the Minrothad model. In the city is also a minority of emigrant Minrothadians, many of whom are wererats or related to people suffering from the curse of lycanthropy. The city has a minority of Thyatian descendants many generations removed from their ancestor’s empire, though they dream of returning to the empire, which they have no knowledge of beyond tales told innumerable times.

Of the original founders, the Milenians, there are no trace, as they are completely lost to history, but the foundation of the city is build upon their city – and perhaps there are people in Kastellos or Port Nyanzaru, who knows the earliest history of the city?

More on the city and continent, as I begin my write-ups on the campaign’s game sessions.


Houserules for Tomb of Annihilation hex crawl XP: hexPloration

I am running a Tomb of Annihilation campaign but as with my previous major D&D campaign set in Mystara, I have begun modding the game adding house rules of various kinds. Some are simply dealing with adapting the campaign to the Mystara setting, which required some changes. Other rules are for adapting the game to our play style. One such set of rules are the alternate XP-system we are using to emphasize the settings hex crawl aspect.

heXPloration

XP are gained from travelling through and exploring the wilderness.

XP gained:

  • 1 XP for exploring a mapped hex (some parts of the map are mapped before the game begins)
  • 2 XP for exploring an empty hex
  • 1 XP for exploring a location in a hex
  • 1 XP for each week spent in the wilderness

XP needed to level: 5+lv*5 – so 10 XP is needed to reach level 2, 15 to reach lv 3 etc.

Spending XP: XP are kept in a pool, that can be spent on characters in safe locations (each player has three characters).

Multiple characters and levelling: each player controls three characters. A character can be no more than two levels higher than the lowest in the trio (e.g. a character cannot reach level 5, if one of the other characters is at level 2).

And that is it. The XP-system entices the players to send their characters into the wilderness and even to take detours, as it gains them XP while they risk running into strange and unplanned encounters and risk running out of supplies.


In Tomb of the Lovelorn not Everything is Roses

Entering the Tomb of the Lovelorn is stepping into the vestiges of a wizard’s revenge, as he cursed two lovers to be forever kept separated. Trapped in here are the servants forever to maintain the tomb. For the daring adventurers, they, though, may risk never leaving the tomb again.

Welcome to the seventh adventure to be translated from Danish to English in the line of Hinterlandet (The Hinterlands) modules. The adventure has been adapted to Labyrinth Lord and can be played with most D&D becmi-inspired retro-clones or just with the D&D becmi rules set.

Originally Tomb of the Lovelorn was part of the first line of adventures for The Hinterlands, when the foes in the storyline was The Dragon and The Lich King, and as time progressed and the living campaign advanced the Lich King was defeated. The Tomb then became a source of background information on The Dragon, and it was a place to attempt to retrieve powerful but not too stable magic items.

The adventure is designed to be shorter and faster to play than many of the others, and though the monsters are relatively few, the adventure is known for a few TPKs, as the dangers in tomb are quite lethal. The magic items in the loot should compensate for it.

The adventure can easily be adapted into The Dragon storyline from the adventures Tomb of the Dragon’s Heart and The Flooded Temple.

You can find Tomb of the Lovelorn at RPGDrivethru: Tomb of the Lovelorn.


Passive Perception in D&D – A bit of a rant

Is a door hidden here?

As you walk down the forest path, you feel the warmth from the sun, and hear the birds singing. You have been walking most of the day passing small ponds, bushes with berries and meadows covered in small flowers. The trail you have been following does seem rarely traversed, as you have encountered no other beings except for a rabbit, that crossed your path. Near evening you a reach a lovely little roadside inn.

As is obvious the players failed their passive perception roll and did not notice the hidden group of orcs guarding their ill-gotten gains including a treasure map to a nearby dungeon. If you the players had chosen to have a higher passive perception.

This post might be a bit of a rant, but as I am writing these things, and I am in part following the discussions regarding the upcoming Pathfinder 2nd edition and their revisions including new approaches to perception, and it part I have more or less concluded Curse of Strahd and am running the module Ravenloft instead. Comparing the different versions of the Castle Ravenloft text regarding among other things the use of perception and passive perception.

Passive Perception (from D&D 3rd and Pathfinder) is average roll for perception, that the DM can use to see, if the characters notice things even though the players are not asking – and that kind of makes sense, as it is tedious to have the players ask ‘do I notice something now? How about now? Now?’ all the time, and yet their characters might at any moment be passing a secret door in the dungeon or a hidden creature in the wilderness. And asking the players at random moments to roll perception is the same as informing them of something been unseen – you might as well just ask them, if they want to investigate their surroundings.

(When using published adventures the author has determined the DC for the hidden objects, but this does not change the fact, that the passive perception mechanic creates a curious situation, where either the characters do not notice the hidden objects, or it is always the same player noticing things, namely the player who chose that function in the party (and since it is so, perhaps it should be front and center in the character creation: “Choose this class, if you want to be the character who notices hidden things”)?)

Furthermore, passive perception has its another weakness, as the removes a choice from the players and puts it solely in the hands of the GM. Passive perception is a set value, which means that the DM is actually the one to determine, whether or not something is noticed. For instance, a party with passive perception of 13, 14, 15 and 16 is walking down a forest path:

  • Hiding DC 13: The orcs are hidden with difficulty 13, and the DM informs the party, that they all notice a group of orcs hidden in the bushes.
  • Hiding DC 16: The orcs are hidden with difficulty 16, and the DM informs the player, whose character has passive perception of 16, that her character notices a gang of orcs hiding the bushes.
  • Hiding DC 17: The orcs are hidden with difficulty 17, and the DM does not inform the players of the hidden orcs, and the characters continues the trail to the local inn.

The hidden orcs van be replaced with secrets doors or other elements, that are kept of out of sight.

The issue with the Passive Perception mechanic is, that it is solely the DM who decides, whether something hidden is noticed or not – and only the illusion of a simulated setting hides the flaws in this approach, the illusion being that the orcs in hiding and secret doors follows a set of rules that is balanced against the passive perception of the characters, but the same logic allows the DM to include extra well-hidden secret doors or orcs exceptionally skilled in hiding. Again, this leaves it to the DM to decide, if the players find something or not, and removes any choices for the player.

The core design issue behind this is the fact, that in the medium of roleplaying games the players and the characters share the view of the world, and what the characters see, the players can act upon, but the players can also act upon the signals, that the DM sends them (a signal being for instance ‘everybody, roll for perception’), whereas in the other mediums, movies for instance, the view of the setting is not the same for characters as for the audience, and the film maker can reveal for the audience the clues, that the characters missed (and in theater, the actors can play with this, when they speak to the audience about stuff, that their characters missed, but the audience saw).

In other media, the storyteller can reveal to the audience, if the characters missed something, and thus the hidden and unfound object is still a part of the story, whereas in roleplaying games, the hidden and unfound does not enter the shared fiction, and objects outside the shared fiction does not exist (there is no difference between a hidden door never found and a non-existent hidden door).

This is the issue, that hidden objects are struggling with in roleplaying games. The nature of hidden objects is to be found, but how do you find hidden things, if you do not know to search for them?

This is it for now. Next up is a closer look at the nature of hidden things and how to reveal them.


Unstable Potions – d20 strange and unexpected effects for your D&D potions

Magic is tricky business, and you cannot always trust your magic items to turn out, as you would expect. Small variations in ingredients and the intonation of magic words or perhaps exposure to magical auras and weird mysteries, and suddenly your potion of healing, growth, giant strength, flying or invisibility does work quite the way, you had hoped. Prepare yourself for unstable potions!

Here is a table of 20 effects, you can add to potions in your D&D game, in order to surprise and challenge your players. The rule descriptions are kept somewhat D&D agnostic and though based on the D&D 5th rules, they can easily be converted to your favorite version of D&D be it 3rd edition, AD&D or Labyrinth Lord. The table was originally designed for the Danish RPG The Hinterlands (Hinterlandet), and is here translated into English and adapted for D&D.

1d20                   Title        Effect

  1. Viscous – the thick liquid flows slowly like syrup, and it takes two rounds to drink the potion.
  2. Elusive – the liquid turns into vapor once it is exposed to the air, and the imbiber must drink it fast. The character must perform a Dexterity Check DC 10. If it fails a part of the potion evaporated, and the character only gains half the effect or half the duration.
  3. Explosive – the liquid begins to boil and surge, and must be drunk immediately. The character must perform a Dexterity Check DC 5. If it fails, the potion explodes in a shower of shards between the imbibers hands for 1d6 damage, and the potion is lost.
  4. Disgusting Taste – the liquid tastes awful, and the imbiber finds it difficult to consume. The character must perform a Constitution Check DC 7 or vomit the potion out losing its effect.
  5. Congealing – the potion constantly crystallizes and must be shaked vigorously into order to return it to its liquid state. The character must shake it for one round, before it can be imbibed, and the player must simulate shaking the potion flask.
  6. Slow working – it takes 1d4 rounds before the potion’s magical effect occurs.
  7. Smelly – The imbiber becomes foul smelling while under the influence of the potion. While the potion lasts, the imbiber releases a cloud of foul stench every time the character performs a physical activity (i.e. making an attack, jumping, running etc.). The stench results in disadvantage (or a -4 penalty) on social activities.
  8. Hunger – the imbiber becomes ravenous, once the effect of the potion runs out. Until a meal is consumed (costs a ration), the imbiber suffers disadvantage (0r a -4 penalty) to strenuous activities (including attacking).
  9. Sleep inducing – the potion makes the imbiber drowsy, and once the effect runs out, the drinker risks falling asleep spontaneously for the next three hours. Once pr. hour the character must succeed a Constitution Saving Throw 10 (or Saving Throw vs Poison) or suddenly fall asleep (does not happen, during fights or other vigorous activities).
  10. Exhausting – the potion’s magic drains the imbiber. Once the effect runs out, the character begins yawning heavily and feels drowsy. For the next hour the character will doze off, if he or she is not moving about constantly or being kept awake by others.
  11. Cooling – the potion drains bodyheat from the drinker, who becomes cold to touch and briefly leaves rime on glass and other objects touched, while the potion lasts. Once the potion has ended, the drinker shivers with cold and has disadvantage (or a -4 penalty) on physical activities and activities requiring concentration, until wrapped in blankets, sat in front of a bonfire or some other warming effect.
  12. Chatty – the potion loosens the imbibers tongue, and the imbiber is constantly small talking, while under the potion’s effect. The player must constantly chat or small talk, and if the player is quiet for one minute, the potion’s effect immediately ends.
  13. Roaring – the imbiber is unable to whisper and finds it difficult not to yell instead of talking, while influenced by the potion. The player must speak loudly, when speaking, and if the player does not speak loudly, the potion’s effect immediately ends.
  14. Whispering – the potion limits the voice of the character, who can only whisper. If the player does not whisper, when speaking, the potion’s effect immediately ends.
  15. Balance – the potion’s effect only works as long as the character is focused and in balance. The player must balance a d20 on the back of their hand, and if the die falls off, the potion’s effect ends immediately.
  16. Taunt – While under the influence of the potion, the character struggles with not coming up with taunts and insults. Every time a conversation is initiated, or the character is contradicted, the character must succeed a Charisma Check DC 6 or immediately throw a taunt.
  17. Restless – The imbiber cannot rest or sit still, while under the influence of the potion. The player must be moving around, and if the player is not in motion, the potion’s effect ends.
  18. Blood infusion – the powerful magic in the potion infuses into the blood of the drinker, whose blood now functions as a scaled down version of the potion. If other creatures drink the fresh blood (for 1d4 damage) of the imbiber, they gain the effects of the potion (but the duration is at most 10 minutes). This last while the potion lasts or until the character is killed.
  19. Echo – 24 hours later, the potion reactivates itself and the imbiber once more gains the effect of the potion.
  20. Secondary effect – 1d6 rounds after the potion ends, the strange magics of the potion activates the effect of a new, beneficiary magical potion, as if the imbiber had drunk another potion.

Some of the effects of the potions was also used in the module Grave of the Heartless, and several effects are based on the idea, that some of the effects should be more than a modifier, they should be things, the player role plays.

I have uploaded the list as PWYW pdf on RPGDriveThru:

I hope you have fun tweaking potions at your table.


Entering the Grave of the Heartless May Break Your Heart

A curse is upon the land. An ancient barrow has been looted, and the dead has exacted their revenge. Brave heroes, who dare step onto Death’s doorstep are needed to lift he curse and restore order.

Welcome to the sixth adventure translated from Danish to English in the line of Hinterlandet (The Hinterlands). The module has been adapted to Labyrinth Lord, and can be played with most D&D becmi inspired retro clones or otherwise easily adapted to your favorite D&D-game.

Grave of the Heartless is originally from the convention HammerCon, and it was made to challenge the players with a dungeon, that was supernatural rather than natural. Even if dungeons require a stretch of imagination to accept, many are somewhat naturalistic with stone walls, patrolling goblins, kobolds digging mines and orcs setting up ambushes. Inspired by the local barrows near my childhood home, I decided to use a barrow as the starting point for the dungeon, and then create it as a border region between this world and the land of the dead, where the other realm suffuse the nature of the dungeon creating a slightly unreal place. That made it quite fun writing the adventure, but one of the challenges with ‘undead dungeons’ is adding creatures for the players to interact with. Zombies, ghouls and skeletons rarely do anything beyond killing heroes, and a whole dungeon of that is not interesting, so a way to add talkative creatures was needed, and is a central part of the challenge.

The adventure introduces a powerful NPC, who can become an unusual ally, and to a certain degree sets up a gate to another realm for the characters to guard and use, or perhaps just keep secret until they need it. An interesting part of the adventure is, that there is no grand villain or boss monster at the end of the dungeon, but there is a powerful opponent. The adventure also easily functions as a sequel to Tomb of the Dragon’s Heart and fits easily into the storyline from the adventure The Flooded Temple.

You can find Grave of the Heartless at RPGDriveThru: Grave of the Heartless.


Tomb of Annihilation – Captains of Chult

Large stretches of Chult are coasts, and with Port Nyanzaru being a port, it is an obvious choice to reach distant parts of Chult by sailing along the coast rather than braving the jungles or the sluggish rivers – but ships are expensive, so how does explorers in Tomb of Annihilation get there? By hiring transport on a ship, and in the dingy taverns of Port Nyanzaru, there are captains who offer their services for a reasonable fee.

I really like the concept of guides in Tomb of Annihilation. It may seem obvious, and yet it is so rarely done this well in wilderness adventures. Expanding upon the idea, thus allowing us to increase the scope of expeditions into the wilderness, I added Experts for Hire as mentioned in my previous post, and now I have Captains for hire. An assortment of captains, each with their own little kernel of a potential adventure, and a series of random events ranging from bad weather to weird and inexplicable phenomena. Captains of the Coasts of Chult can now be found at DM’s Guild. My previous Expedition Crew supplement was Experts of Chult, and I am considering adding a third one.

I am running my own Tomb of Annihilation set in the Mystara setting, and there may be hidden a few references to that setting among the captains, but easter eggs seems to a part of D&D 5th edition, so it is merely keeping with the style.

 


Tomb of Annihilaton – Experts of Chult

Tomb of Annihilation is an interesting campaign module, not just because of the modern attempt to create a hex crawl adventure but also because of some the tools the adventure contains. One of these tools are the Guides. They are NPCs with well-developed personalities, quirks and secrets, and not just that they are set-up with nice handouts, making them easy to present for the players and keep in mind.

The guides may not be a revolutionary thing, but they are still something I have not seen in other hex crawl adventures. Some adventures may suggest hiring a guide and even add a few details, but having a roster and letting the players choose between these set-ups is quite inspiring.

For my ToA campaign (which is set in the Mysrara setting) I am planning on running larger expeditions with more henchmen, and thus I wanted to add more NPCs for hire, and they did not all need to be Guides. Some could be experts with valuable skills, and thus I set up a bunch a small selection of Experts for Hire. The Experts of Chult – which now can be found at DM’s Guild.

Using henchmen, that are more than anonymous torchbearers and sword caddies, is also an opportunity to add role-playing situations to an otherwise eventless trek through the wilderness. Travelling through the wilderness may present the players with obstacles and challenges, but many are dealing with savage beasts or difficult terrain, but many does not include beings to interact with, and having NPCs jog along means there continuously will be beings to interact with. The experts add skills or bonuses to skills, but getting access to these require interacting with them, and that creates opportunities for role-playing.

Experts of Chult is the first of my Expedition Crew supplements to Tomb of Annihilation. The next one is Captains of the Coasts of Chult, as seafaring along the coasts will likewise be a part of my campaign.


Xanathar’s Guide to Everything including Easter Eggs

So I went and added Xanathar’s Guide to Everything to my library, which I intend to mine for ideas, when running my tweaked Tomb of Annihilation campaign – and lo and behold, if not a reference to an old favorite D&D-module sprang forth during the reading of the book.

D&D 5th edition contains several call backs to earlier D&D-material, for instance they happily namedrop older settings in their campaign books even though the default setting is Forgotten Realms, but they also add small touches here and there referencing various characters, details, events and such from older modules. For instance the Monster Manual in the goblin section, they reference ‘Bree-Yark’ from module B2 Caves of Chaos, and in the Players Handbook a table of random items contains wines from module B7 Rahasia. And being both a D&D becmi and a Mystaran fan this warms my heart. Likewise I was pleasently surprised, when I discovered that Xanathar’s Guide to Everything caries a reference to B4 The Lost City.

In the DM section the chapter on traps includes a deadly trap found in the Lost City of Cynicideans near the graves of queen Zenobia and king Alexander. These details are all taken from module B4, including the trap. I may not get Mystara back in published form, but at least I still get some references to some of my favorite stuff.

Any other references to the B-modules in the D&D 5th edition material?