A lot of exciting things have been happening, and I’m long overdue for a blog post. I can’t tell you how strange and amazing this year has been. I’ve got to catch you up on new releases, GameHole Con, and some cool stuff from Beadle & Grimm’s, where I have been officially employed!!!
So dust off that drinking horn, grab some mead, and let me tell you what new lands the Norse DM has visited.
DMs Guild Releases
I’ve had a few releases since I last mentioned one on my blog. One is actually releasing tomorrow, November 11th!
Baldur’s Gate: The Fall of Elturel
Anthony Joyce and I have new release coming out tomorrow: Baldur’s Gate: The Fall of Elturel. It’s an alternative, two-hour introductory adventure to Baldur’s Gate: Descent into Avernus. When BGDIA dropped, a lot of creators on the Twitterverse didn’t like some parts of the Baldur’s Gate portion of the campaign. In particular, this line in chapter 1 rubbed people the wrong way (emphasis mine):
“Captain Zodge won’t accept any refusal of his offer. The Flaming Fist is empowered to draft adventurers in times of emergency. He can execute them on the spot for refusing to help, though he would rather they accept.”
It’s a bit polarizing, and I can see why. If this is someone’s first time DMing – though I would recommend starting with the Essentials Kit or the recently re-released Tyranny of Dragons campaign over this one – it could set an unfortunate precedent of punishing the characters when the don’t do what the DM wants. I hope most DMs choose to work around it should the characters refuse, as this line is mostly to cement the Flaming Fist as a violent mercenary company with a militant structure. Despite this little bump, BGDIA just might be my favorite official D&D hardcover to date!
The main reason Anthony and I created Baldur’s Gate: The Fall of Elturel was to invest the characters in the inciting event of the campaign – Elturel’s sudden and horrific downfall. Don’t worry, you didn’t just read a major spoiler. Players find this out in the first 10 minutes. With some beautiful design work by Gordon McAlpin, DMs who run this introductory adventure can make Elturel’s fall more personal to the characters (and their players).
I also got to write some fun backgrounds for this project: the Flaming Fist, the Hellriders, and the Order of the Gauntlet. I tried to make it so the background features felt distinct and useful. I’m looking forward to hearing about characters with the Flaming Fist background using their feature to make arrests in Baldur’s Gate.
You can buy Baldur’s Gate: The Fall of Elturel for $5.95 by clicking the button below.
Step Right Up
Last month, I released Step Right Up, a milk-themed carnival horror adventure. I put a lot into this twisted adventure, and I’m awfully pleased with how it turned out. I put it out in time for Halloween, but the adventure can be inserted into your campaign year-round.
This dairy disaster has a ton of fun stuff in it. In addition to countless milk puns and a few gag-worthy descriptions involving cottage cheese, there’s 10 new monsters. Most of the monsters tie into the dairy theme, such as the chuckling milk clown (art by Jack Kaiser) or the terrifying abolover.
Before the actual adventure begins, however, you’ll see some important sections. The first is about respecting boundaries with tabletop horror, which is extremely important given the genre. The next gives tips for running effective horror by using Ash Law’s Trajectory of Fear.
Evegeny M also did artwork for most of the magic items, such as this putrid plushie. My favorite, however, is definitely the clown shoes, as they allow a player to pull random items out of thin air – banana peels, seltzer water, even pies!
What really makes this adventure special is something that I tried out for the first time in Hellbound Heists (see below), which I expanded on in this adventure: the carnival in this horror adventure is completely modular. There are 14 attractions – including a sideshow with 5 variants – from which the Dungeon Master can build the perfect carnival to challenge or interest their players. With so many attractions in the adventure, you won’t get to see them all, but you can always play it again with a different set!
What’s even cooler is each attraction contains a “sweet” and “spoiled” version. During Part 1 of the adventure, the characters get to attend a completely innocent carnival, but during Part 2 – well, I won’t spoil it for you. I did all the maps in the adventure, too, which I found both personally gratifying and only a little bit pitiful.
Of course, I cannot downplay the incredible cover by Gwen Bassett (www.gwendybee.com), the three location pieces by Detoria Art, and the fantastic layout by Anna Urbanek (www.doubleproficiency.com). Seriously, it’s awesome.
You can check it out here: Step Right Up
Hellbound Heists is an adventure collection project led by Bryan Holmes that released in September in both print and PDF on the DMs Guild. This 280-page monster of a product features a devilish heist in each of the Nine Hells, with a focus on Tier 3 and 4 content.
This was my first collaboration on the guild, and it was an extremely positive experience. Bryan did a great job leading this project. Not only do I regularly reach out to him on discord, I’ve actually worked with some of the creators on additional projects since that have yet to be released!
My contribution to this collection was “6:66 to Mephistar,” a 17th-level train heist set in Cania, the Eighth Hell. Cania is a frigid wasteland ruled by none other than the Cold Lord himself, Mephistopheles. Most of the adventure takes place on the Canian Hellfire Limited.
The black behemoth can be customized with several different cars. My favorite? The Memory Car. It features a trio of mind flayers and a pool of memories that characters can accidentally absorb should they interact with them too aggressively. Your character may exit this car with a famous baker’s apple crumble recipe or a vivid recounting of your half-orc son’s coming of age ceremony!
Writing Tier 4 content was challenging, no doubt. But bouncing ideas off some of the best creators in the bizz made it an enjoyable challenge.
Here’s a link: Hellbound Heists
GameHole Con 2019
Last week I returned from GameHole Con, where I was working for a company called Beadle & Grimm’s, or B&G as all the cool kids call it. Beadle and Grimm’s makes awesome, immersive boxed sets of official D&D products that make it easy for you to run a high-quality game without all the prep work and crafting. I first saw Beadle & Grimm’s at Gen Con in 2018 and was instantly in love with their yet-to-be-released Platinum Edition of Waterdeep: Dragon Heist.
Long story short, I am now working for them! I can’t tell you how surreal it feels. Working on D&D products in any capacity was a 5-year plan for me. The owners of Beadle & Grimm’s are passionate gamers who have been playing for 20 years. They want to bring people together with these experiences, but they recognize we’ve all got busy lives. I’m lucky to be a part of their young company, and extremely grateful for this opportunity to contribute to a product that I was a believer in from day one. Not to mention the awesome team! Bill, Charlie, Jason, Jon, Matt, Mikaela, and Paul have been incredibly welcoming and supportive.
Meeting Cool Peeps
At GameHole Con, I talked with a lot of awesome creators. I felt a bit awkward at times introducing myself, but everyone was kind and accepting. Surprisingly, I didn’t get star struck or speak in tounges. I got to meet Ashley Warren, Chris Lindsay, Elisa Teague, Travis Legge, Chad Lensche, Jeff Stevens, Satine Pheonix, Shawn Merwin, Todd Kenrick, Zoltar from Sage Advice, some of our awesome booth neighbors at Wyrmwood – Mike Mearls even signed my PHB! Special shoutout to James Introcaso for being especially welcoming and helping me out when I was looking a little out of place at a party!
I got to see some beautiful snow and loved the weather. Texas has made me a little soft when it comes to the cold, but I’ve missed snow since I left Utah. I felt very appropriate dressed as Volo trudging through the snow on Halloween. Maybe we’re due for a 5e version of Volo’s Guide to the North?
Also, I got to check out Alex’s awesome Game Hole above the Free House Pub in Madison. It was insane. There was such great D&D history in that room, including Ed Greenwood’s original hand-drawn Forgotten Realms map!!!
B&G Platinum Edition: Descent into Avernus
I received my Platinum Edition of Descent into Avernus the other day from Beadle & Grimm’s. They are still going out, so if you haven’t gotten yours yet, hang in there! I did a breakdown of most of the major components in this Twitter thread, but be warned – there be spoilers ahead, matey. If you’re playing in this campaign, I’d advise you to stay away. However, it’s extremely cool and I can’t stop you, obviously.
That’s about it! And I see you’ve finished your drinking horn. Just in time.
Thanks for tuning in. Maybe we should do this more often. I’ve seen people asking about getting started on the DMs Guild on Twitter, D&D has been releasing some great Unearthed Arcana, and I’ve got some small design ideas that maybe are better suited here as a blog post instead of a small DMs Guild product of their own.
If you’d like to be notified of future releases, you can sign up for my email list, the Gjallarhorn, by clicking the button below.
Until next time. Skål!
– Justice A, Norse DM