Some positives have evolved out of the necessity of coronavirus. Back in April, some of my friends asked me if I could teach them Dungeons & Dragons. They’d heard me eulogising about the tabletop RPG at our game nights and were keen to give it a try.
And so, I taught it to them over video calls. I’m the DM, the Dungeon Master. And there’s five of them, an intrepid party of rag-tag lower-level heroes. They built their own characters, and take on adventures in the world I place down in front of them. We’ve played every week since March, or every other week when life got in the way. I’ve also started DMing for some of the Zatu blogging team via Skype! (Jim Cohen, Ben Herbert, Callum Price and Kirsty Hewitt.) It’s been great!
D&D goodies dominate my Christmas Wishlist this year. Right now I build all my sessions and encounters using the three core books by Wizards of the Coast. These are The Player’s Handbook, The Monster Manual, and The Dungeon Master’s Guide. These three alone help me no end in creating my own home-brew adventures. I’m always keen to try new things within D&D, though. The items on my Christmas Wishlist are additions that I hope will take my DMing up a notch! (Does that mean I’ll ‘level up’, too?)
Mordenkainen’s Tome Of Foes
There’s a lot of D&D (hardback) books, and they fit into two types of categories. Some are tools for DMs (and players) to create a wider scope of characters, spells, monsters and world-building. Others are straight-up adventures. You could base an entire campaign off them, with their subplots, maps, and encounters. Starting with the former, Mordenkainen’s Tome of Foes has got my attention. It provides a lot of extra-depth lore about events, monsters and lesser-known races.
Subraces such as Sea Elves, Duergar, Githyanki and Deep Gnomes will capture your imagination. This is superb for players who want to build characters who stand above the default options. It’s also an excellent tool for DMs, who want to design a rich, vibrant world for their players to explore.
Curse Of Strahd
Meanwhile, D&D adventure books provide the facets necessary to run a campaign. These are for DMs, not players. You can stick to the details within the book, verbatim – or go off-piste. I prefer the latter! I like to take these campaigns as an inspirational launchpad. Taking bits and pieces from them and dropping them into my campaign as and when I see fit…
One that I’ve had my eye for a long time now is Curse of Strahd. This campaign takes place in a D&D homage to vampiric mythology. Castle Ravenloft is the imposing setting. Within, lies the vampire, Strahd von Zarovich. There’s a gothic and mysterious tone to this campaign. I bet players would have a superb time roleplaying in this location! I love Bram Stoker’s novel, so I’d get a real kick out of planning and prepping sessions involving bloodsuckers…
The Giant Book Of Battle Maps
Last of all, I’d love to get my woollen mitts on some dry-wipe battle maps. At the moment I’ve got the superb ‘Earthstone’ Dungeon Tiles (by Role 4 Initiative). They’re plain, so I can draw any layout on them to suit my needs. But I’d be pleased as punch to get something with stunning backgrounds on them. Any tool that ups the ante in terms of painting the ambience is worth its weight in gold!
The Giant Book Of Battle Maps by Loke fits the bill to a tee. It’s a ringbinder book, filled with beautiful, evocative scenery. Each double-page spread is a drop-down, bird’s-eye-view of wonderful locations. These are classic environments – urban and natural – that would fit into any campaign. I reckon I’d see some and then feel the urge to try and insert it into my campaign! It’s got cardstock pages that are dry-wipe. Meaning, I can use whiteboard marker pens on it if I want to add my own features.
Of course, 2020’s been a funny old year. And not in a good way. I’ve got my fingers crossed that D&D will return around an actual table at some point in the future. But for now, Skype and video calls are playing their part…