WOTC Publishes “New” Endless Quest Books and I’m Disappointed

Wizards of the Coast is publishing new Endless Quest books. But if the cover artwork is any indication, they may be just as uninspiring, sterile and boring as everything else they have published in the past few years.

I absolutely LOVED the originals. I would read them over and over and just adore the cover art as a kid. But I’m totally disappointed by the horribly lame art on these new ones. It’s the recycled trash art that WOTC is putting on all it’s licensed material. The originals had some of the best TSR art of the day. I know that “you can’t judge a book by it’s cover” but I have absolutely no interest in buying these whatsoever. Allow me to go into some more detail.

Of course, these books have not been released yet. So we only have the covers to go on. But it was the covers of the originals that were simply iconic.

First, lets see the new line up:

4 books. Backgrounds are simply the basic colors of yellow, red, blue, and green along with a single character. If you’ve followed D&D 5e and the licensed products, you’ve seen all these characters before many times. None of them have a name (as far as I know) and are some of the worst art in the entire lineup. Don’t believe me?

Here are the originals from the PHB:

Actually, in the original form, I actually like one of these. I always liked this version of the halfling (not the retarded one on page 26 in the Halfling section). But it starts to get old when you see it over and over; look at the 404 page for DND Beyond. It was cute the first time I saw it because this halfling chick is cute and this is a good piece of art that makes you fill in a story in your head (I firmly believe she’s distracting the bartender to get his purse!).

Now, lets look at other licensed products. First, D&D Dice Masters Battle for Faerûn

Yep. Right there on the box, you already see the Dwarven Cleric. Here is one of their banners:

Do you think they use any of this art on the cards? Yep, at least I could find 3 out of the 4 (not a lot online since it’s a crappy game; I’ll have to check my cards to see if I have the elven wizard girl)

How about the Dungeonology Coloring Book? I thought some of these might be there, but I reviewed my video and didn’t see any. I’ll have to re-check the Dungeonology book itself when I get off work. I don’t see them in Rock Paper Wizard either; so at least there’s a limit to reusing the same art. I’ll also have to go back through the Dragon+ issues.

Now, art is subjective. I know that. But I believe “a picture says a thousand words” and I believe that showing some of the original Endless Quest book covers will speak volumes more than this amateur story teller could ever tell:

   
   
   
   

Now, those are some badass book covers! They just make you want to open it up and start reading. There are ~50 books originally published in this series.

I have to be a little fair, some of this TSR art was recycled as well. Here is the  the artwork from Knight of Illusion also seen in Pool of Radiance. But, I’m sorry, this is such an awesome piece that I simply give it a pass.

   
 

For further comparison, now look at the original art from Larry Elmore on a few of these, and compare to the original art used for the “new ones”. I’m no art scholar (again, all subjective…), but THIS is REAL fantasy art!

   
 

These were excellent examples of fantasy art and had a “pulpy” feel (though I didn’t know at the time what pulp was!). But there is so much more to say beyond just the general aesthetics of these pieces and the unnecessary recycling. There is also a whole virtue signaling component as well. But others are much better at explaining these things than I am. After awhile it becomes more and more obvious to me. I think it’s been 5 years now since D&D 5e release; at first I was a little wowed with 5e and I just gave the boring artwork a pass, but now it is hitting me across the head like a two handed Warhammer.

Disclaimer: Of course, all art used here is for demonstration and reporting purposes and entirely belongs to Wizards of the Coast and/or their respective artists (such as Larry Elmore who is a God amongst fantasy artists and the nicest guy you could meet in the GenCon artist gallery).

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Converting Descending to Ascending Armor Class (AC)

Armor Class doesn't have to be confusing
Armor Class doesn’t have to be confusing

Practically everything I’ve read from the TSR days are much more interesting than anything published under WotC. So, if you play any OGL based systems (such as DCC, OSRIC, S&W, C&C, etc.), or 5e, then it’s necessary to convert older material in some fashion.

I looked at the D&D 5e conversion guide, and found that it wasn’t very helpful. Next I looked at key types of armor.

  • All systems start with a base AC of 10 except in Basic D&D where it is 9.
  • Leather gives an AC of 8 in AD&D and 7 in Basic. It is 11 in D&D 5e and 12 in DCC.
  • Chainmail gives an AC of 5 in AD&D and in Basic. It is 16 in D&D 5e and 15 in DCC.
  • Full plate gives an AC of 2 in AD&D (but 0 in Basic) and 18 in D&D 5e and DCC.
  • All of the other intervening armors were similarly close (or the same).
  • All systems modify by 1 (either + or -) for shields.

What I found was that you can set both systems equal at 10 (with Basic offset by 1) and simply go up and down by increments of one and it’s practically the same. Especially if you are using AD&D material in DCC. So, as VS would say, “No need to convert, adapt”. So, I created a simple little table that I think would work well.

AD&D Basic D&D D&D 5e DCC
22 21 -2 -2
21 20 -1 -1
20 19 0 0
19 18 1 1
18 17 2 2
17 16 3 3
16 15 4 4
15 14 5 5
14 13 6 6
13 12 7 7
12 11 8 8
11 10 9 9
10 9 10 10
9 8 11 11
8 7 12 12
7 6 13 13
6 5 14 14
5 4 15 15
4 3 16 16
3 2 17 17
2 1 18 18
1 0 19 19
0 -1 20 20
-1 -2 21 21
-2 -3 22 22

 

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Old Spice does D&D

Just in time for Valentine’s Day (or, as the Infectious Disease doctor I am, I refer to it as VD day).

Old Spice, who you may know as your Grandpa’s favorite scent, has really been going out of their way to attract the millennials with various funny commercials and sponsorships on twitch.tv, etc. Well, they created a character class for D&D 5e. It’s quite funny and professionally done. However, the one thing I think they left out was Advantage on Pussy checks that resets with a short rest.

I don’t see that this was put up to the DM’s Guild. Here is a link to download the PDF yourself, and below is their original tweet announcement:

 

 

 

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If Trump Were Dungeon Master

Dungeon Master Donald Trump

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Best in the World in Dungeons & Dragons

Best in the World in D&D

For a period of time, your’s truly (going by the name of “Dungeon Master”) was “Best in the World” in something. Proudly, this ‘best’ was in D&D trivia in what used to be a pretty damn good trivia app called QuizUp.

Easily 100 hours of my life… poof but worth it for the above screenshot!

This was a little misleading, because they remove your stats if you don’t log in for a period of time. There was another user who was quite legendary; the user went by the name “Lord Soth”. He actually had double my score. But, he quit playing right when I started. So I would be #2 on a truly “all time” scoreboard, it just wasn’t posted that way. I had posted such in my bio in respect because that dude was a friggin stud. So, I mention him here too.

Review: Rise of the Dungeon Master: Gary Gygax and the Creation of D&D

Review of

There are many stories floating around the internet regarding the rise and fall of D&D (or at least, TSR). This graphic novel provides a very comprehensive overview of that story and does a bang up job of telling it in one enjoyable sitting.

This 136 page, black & white graphic novel, is a quick and easy read. Illustrated by Koren Shadmi, he does a wonderful job of reproducing all the characters. He further beautifully reproduces a very stylized rendition of all appropriate scenes; from Gygax’s Hawaiian shirts to the D&D books and even a perfect recreation of the 80’s D&D animated cartoon. Although the entire book is B&W, the color front and back cover are gorgeous.

Rise of the Dungeon Master

Written by David Kushner, the book is broken down into 9 chapters and told from the perspective of the various figures in the D&D story. Of course, Gygax receives a considerable amount of this time and next off is Dave Arneson. Also included is a whole montage of the whole Satanic Panic from the 1980’s mostly told from the perspective of William Dear, the private investigator hired to find James Dallas Egbert III.

Rise of the Dungeon Master

I’ve read quite a bit about the creation of D&D, with the various accounts regarding the contributing influences other than Gygax. This story, I think, does a good job of succinctly telling the story as I’ve come to know it. One where Gygax was certainly the visionary, however, Arneson is probably under-recognized as an instrumental creative force in D&D’s initial inception. Furthermore, the differences in the two’s early personalities are still seen today as a split between “rules light” and “rules heavy” styles of D&D play (although the book makes mention of Gygax moving to the rules light side later in life).

We see various examples of how D&D influenced a wide swath of geek culture (which is now “pop culture” in many ways). Then the story gets bleak in chapter 7 with what I’ve best seen referenced to as “The Ambush at Sheridan Springs“. This story is brief in this graphic novel. If you are interested in these sorts of things, then give this a read. It is long, but is a fascinating account of just how badly the Blume brothers and Lorraine Williams fucked everyone over and sank TSR like the RMS Titanic.

The story eventually picks back up again on a positive note as it leads into essentially the reason why I’m posting this right now. That is, the intersection of older players getting back into the hobby, rise of geek culture, what is called OSR, and the release of D&D 5e.

Lastly, chapter 9 is legitimately a little sad as it covers the deaths of Gygax and Arneson. I didn’t know a couple of the things mentioned here. For instance, I actually didn’t know that Gygax was a born again Christian. That’s really awesome and I’ll have to research this further.

This is a beautiful book. Very well written, telling a very good version of the story. One that tells some of the hard truths without minimizing at all the great contributions to the modern of storytelling which these artists brought to life.

Rise of the Dungeon Master

Amazon Listing

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How far does a Dungeon Master go?

SPOILERS

How far do you go, as a Dungeon Master, Game Master, or Judge, to steer PCs toward special treasure or effects? Stuff that you probably just as much want to see your friends find (and play with) as you’re hoping they will.

For example, in Sailors of the Starless Sea 2nd printing (for DCC RPG), the PCs investigate the hot pits in H-1, but keep wimping out, not to go down further. This is understandable as it is clearly dangerous, but now they miss any opportunity to acquire the Fiend-Blade or a Blessing of the Slow God. Despite me even encouraging them to return later (I mean, it’s a perfect place to thaw out a decades old frozen Chaos Lord…)

Then, a PC actually pulls the bronze ring in the pool in 1-2, survives, and falls into 1-3, but then never even says anything about “oh, let me look around here”. So, it’s not like the Band of Fire is just going to slip onto his finger (ala The One Ring, although now I think of it, I probably missed an opportunity to play it like that!) I give a little extra description to entice further exploration, but it’s like survival kicks in and the priority is simply to get out ASAP, and so the legendary ring remains in the much covered in hundreds of old skulls.

So, a DM, should be “Neutral”, yet I think we also ought to be cheerleaders for the PC’s.

But like a cheerleader, we cannot actively affect the outcome of the game. Yet, it drives me nuts in my OCD brain thinking of cool things that totally go unnoticed simply because a PC won’t at least say “I want to look X to see if there’s anything there amongst all of the A’s, B’s and C’s you just described as being there”. And, I’ve learned that there’s no fun at all just giving them an uncalled for “passive perception” type of roll to do it for them.

If the item, place, etc. is truly necessary for the game, then I see three options:

  1. Make multiple way for the PCs to come across it
  2. Should be rare, but sometimes you have to hit them over the head with it if the DM and PCs simply aren’t on the same wavelength (i.e. if you feel it’s “your fault” and not describing the situation accurately.)
  3. An option for stellar DMs, improvise around it. The PCs don’t find the widget that saves the kingdom at the last minute? Fine. The Kingdom falls. Tear up the last couple sheets of paper you have in your binder and the DM rolls right into describing the chaos that immediately ensues. Roll for initiative motherfuckers! Muahaha!

However, if the loot or what have you, is not necessary for the outcome of the story, then I believe the answer is to simply keep a poker face and don’t ever let on to the PC’s that they just passed up a Vorpal Sword or similar. If your doodad is extra special and you really want to see it in game, then your option is to just put it somewhere else. Maybe in your next game you create a special little add-on area (that they overlook again… uggh…). Or maybe a villain finds it! The über boss at the end of this adventure (or the next?) is now tougher, richer, and has his own castle because he came across the Deck of Many Things that the PCs passed up!

Any other thoughts?

Lazy Eye Marble Set for Curse of Strahd

I was going through my folders and saw that I saved a screenshot of this. There was a call for ideas to be used in Dragon+ Magazine. This was after release of Curse of Strahd. They wanted suggestions for creepy toys that may be at home in Blinsky‘s collection. I thought of something on the spot. Wrote it up and sent it in. I kinda freaked when I opened up that issue and saw my suggestion! A few suggestions got an art piece. Richard Whitters hit it out of the park. Thanks dude, you made my day 🙂

Lazy Eye Marble Set

LAZY EYE MARBLE SET

A bag of glass-eye marbles fashioned in various shades of green, blue, brown, and hazel. When you roll a marble on the ground, it always appears to be looking at you.

Kevin Swartz

Dragon+ Magazine issue #7

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Appendix N: Inspirational and Educational Reading

APPENDIX N:

INSPIRATIONAL AND EDUCATIONAL READING

Inspiration for all of the fantasy work I have done stems directly from the love my father showed when I was a lad, for he spent many hours telling me stories he made up as he went along, tales of cloaked old men who could grant wishes, of magic rings and enchanted swords, or wicked sorcerers and dauntless swordsmen. Then too, countless hundreds of comic books went down, and the long-gone EC ones certainly had their effect. Science fiction, fantasy, and horror movies were a big influence. In fact, all of us tend to get ample helpings of fantasy when we are very young, from fairy tales such as those written by the Brothers Grimm and Andrew Lang. This often leads to reading books of mythology, paging through bestiaries, and consultation of compilations of the myths of various lands and peoples. Upon such a base I built my interest in fantasy, being an avid reader of all science fiction and fantasy literature since 1950. The following authors were of particular inspiration to me. In some cases I cite specific works, in others, I simply recommend all their fantasy writing to you. From such sources, as well as just about any other imaginative writing or screenplay you will be able to pluck kernels from which grow the fruits of exciting campaigns. Good reading!

Inspirational Reading:

Anderson, Poul. THREE HEARTS AND THREE LIONS; THE HIGH CRUSADE; THE BROKEN SWORD

Bellairs, John. THE FACE IN THE FROST

Brackett, Leigh.

Brown, Fredric.

Burroughs, Edgar Rice. “Pellucidar” Series; Mars Series; Venus Series

Carter, Lin. “World’s End” Series

de Camp, L. Sprague. LEST DARKNESS FALL; FALLIBLE FIEND; et al.

de Camp & Pratt. “Harold Shea” Series; CARNELIAN CUBE

Derleth, August.

Dunsany, Lord.

Farmer, P. J. “The World of the Tiers” Series; et al.

Fox, Gardner. “Kothar” Series; “Kyrik” Series; et al.

Howard, R. E. “Conan” Series

Lanier, Sterling. HIERO’S JOURNEY

Leiber, Fritz. “Fafhrd & Gray Mouser” Series; et al.

Lovecraft, H. P.

Merritt, A. CREEP, SHADOW, CREEP; MOON POOL; DWELLERS IN THE MIRAGE; et al.

Moorcock, Michael. STORMBRINGER; STEALER OF SOULS; “Hawkmoon” Series (esp. the first three books)

Norton, Andre.

Offutt, Andrew J., editor SWORDS AGAINST DARKNESS III.

Pratt, Fletcher, BLUE STAR; et al.

Saberhagen, Fred. CHANGELING EARTH; et al.

St. Clair, Margaret. THE SHADOW PEOPLE; SIGN OF THE LABRYS

Tolkien, J. R. R. THE HOBBIT; “Ring Trilogy”

Vance, Jack. THE EYES OF THE OVERWORLD; THE DYING EARTH; et al.

Weinbaum, Stanley.

Wellman, Manly Wade.

Williamson, Jack.

Zelazny, Roger. JACK OF SHADOWS; “Amber” Series; et al.

The most immediate influences upon AD&D were probably de Camp & Pratt, REH, Fritz Leiber, Jack Vance, HPL, and A. Merritt; but all of the above authors, as well as many not listed, certainly helped to shape the form of the game. For this reason, and for the hours of reading enjoyment, I heartily recommend the works of these fine authors to you.

Source: Gary Gygax. 1979. Advanced Dungeons & Dragons: Dungeon Master’s Guide, page 224.

To page with links on Amazon for these books.

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D&D Beyond Mobile Alpha Review