Tuesday, October 21, 2014

The Rise of Tiamat: A DM’s and Player’s Overview

I have a new installment of "Tiamat Tuesday" over at Kobold Press, discussing the differences between Hoard of the Dragon Queen and the upcoming sequel, The Rise of Tiamat. Here's a taste:

Ideally, players and Dungeon Masters (DMs) who sit down to tackle The Rise of Tiamat will already have played Hoard of the Dragon Queen. Rise is a continuation of Hoard’s story about the Cult of the Dragon, but they are very different adventures in style.

Hoard of the Dragon Queen is a big, sprawling adventure that spreads across hundreds of miles of territory and encompasses several distinct styles of play, from the short commando missions of “Greenest in Flames” to the dungeon crawl of “Dragon Hatchery” to the extended road trip of “On the Road” to the open-ended investigation of “Castle Naerytar.” But running through all that variety and tying it together is a unity of theme—the paired ideas that no one outside the Cult of the Dragon yet understands the full extent of the cult’s plot, and that the player characters, being brave but largely unknown, are good candidates to investigate and find out what’s up.

By the time The Rise of Tiamat kicks off, that situation is reversed. Through the player characters’ investigation and the cult’s own actions, the truth about Rezmir’s plans for the Sword Coast is revealed and the adventurers become famous heroes with well-known reputations. Those two changes lead to a noticeably different structure and tone in The Rise of Tiamat.

Read the rest of the article at KoboldPress.com.

Sunday, August 31, 2014

Necromancer Games

I've been terribly remiss in not promoting this project here at the Howling Tower, but it's not too late yet. I've been working with the great crew of Necromancer Games (essentially the same team that's behind Frog God Games) on a Kickstarter project for three 5th Edition support books: Fifth Edition Foes, The Book of Lost Spells, and Quests of Doom. Rather than me telling you about it here, I urge you to check out the Kickstarter page itself. The campaign has less than three days to go, so if you want in, now's the time to jump.

These three books are what's been eating all my time since wrapping up work on the Tyranny of Dragons set of adventures for Wizards of the Coast. Converting monsters and spells to the new system has presented a chance to really delve into the design of 5E and see what makes the system tick.

I can't guarantee that every monster and spell in these books will be structured exactly the way the design team at Wizards would do it -- but that's largely the point. The PHB is already filled with spells designed the Wizards way, and the Monster Manual will be filled with great monsters by the same team. I know those guys, they're my friends, and I have nothing but respect for their work. Everything they've done for 5E is top notch.

The Necromancer approach is slightly different, especially where monsters are concerned. The project's slogan -- "Fifth Edition Rules, First Edition Feel" -- does a good job of summing that up. Read the Kickstarter page and check out some of the online previews for more info.

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Finally, A New Post

I'm horrified to see that I haven't howled from the tower since January 27. I believe that I have a decent excuse, though. I've been sequestered while writing the premier 5th Edition D&D adventures -- Hoard of the Dragon Queen and The Rise of Tiamat, collectively titled Tyranny of Dragons -- along with Wolfgang Baur and Alexander Winter. Until recently, we weren't allowed to talk about what we were doing. Even if we had been, every word I wrote for the last many months went into those adventures. Writing for other purposes, like blogging, could only endanger the deadlines, so everything else got shelved.

But now the adventures are written and I can move on to other things. I still don't have much time for personal writing -- more on that to come -- but at last I can talk about Tyranny of Dragons.

And I have, over at KoboldPress.com, in some of the Tiamat Tuesday postings. My entries are "Maintaining Focus," "Tiers of Tiamat," "Closing In On the Cult," and "So You're Running Tyranny of Dragons." Wolfgang, Marc Radle, and Guido Kuip also chime in with essays about the Cult of the Dragon and about the illustrations and maps in the adventures. If you're looking for direction on what to expect from Tyranny of Dragons, Tiamat Tuesday is the best place to start.

In other news, I'm headed to GenCon again this year, for the first time in . . . wow, it must be over 10 years. I attended a few of the early Indianapolis GenCons, but I stopped going after the year when I spent nearly the entire show sealed away in a side room playing Terrible Swift Sword with a group of fellow TSR alumni. We had a great time, but we realized that we didn't need to travel to Indianapolis, stay in dreary hotels, and struggle against constant crowds to play TSS for four days. We could have just as easily spent a long weekend at someone's house in Wisconsin or Washington, where we'd have been more comfortable and saved a bunch of money. I never went back after that year.

But here it is 2014, there's a fantastic new edition of D&D, and I have the honor of coauthoring the premier adventure for it. I'll be spending much of my time in the Kobold Press booth, discussing Tyranny of Dragons (and 5E) with anyone who's interested and signing copies for anyone who wants theirs besmudged with my scribble. If you're in the neighborhood, stop by and chat.

I'll also be sitting on a seminar panel: either "When the Kobolds Met Tiamat" at noon on Friday, or "Storytelling in the Realms" at 4 p.m. on Friday. I suspect it will be the first of those, or maybe it will be both, but I won't know for sure until I get to the convention. I'll also be interviewed on the official Gencon podcast at 10:30 a.m. on Saturday. Listen live if you want to hear all the scatology that will be bleeped out in the download version.

Finally, with Tyranny of Dragons put to bed, I'm now devoting my 12-hour days to Necromancer Games's 5E Kickstarter. But that's a topic for after Gencon. I hope to see plenty of you in Indianapolis.

Monday, January 27, 2014

Happy 40th Birthday, Dungeons & Dragons

Today, or a day very close to today, is figured to be D&D's birthday. It represents the day in 1974 when the first Dungeons & Dragons sets were offered for sale.

I've been neck-deep in D&D for 36 of those 40 years, and for 33 of them I've earned my living from it. That makes this a pretty momentous occasion for me. An occasion that should be marked by a heartfelt, nostalgic, forward-looking essay about all the wonderful things D&D has brought to my life.

At the moment, however, I'm writing the first set of adventures that will be published for D&D Next -- Tyranny of Dragons, look for it this summer -- and I'm behind on my deadline (I'm always behind on one deadline or another, it seems). So instead of taking time away from a paying gig to write my own essay, I direct you to a marvelous piece written by Mike Selinker on Schrodinger's Blog.

I did have time to join in Kobold Press's celebration of D&D's birthday, along with great friends from the RPG industry such as Zeb Cook, Wolf Baur, Ed Greenwood, Bruce Cordell, Jeff Grubb, Stan!, the inestimable Mike Selinker (where does he find the time?), and many others.

Happy birthday, Dungeons, and you too, Dragons! It's hard to imagine the path my life might have taken without you.