Here’s the Chant: old spells and odd tavern owners

Here’s my weekly roundup of Dungeons & Dragons and general RPG content:


Illustration: Hanweir, the Writhing Township by Vincent Proce for Wizards of the Coast

For players:

For DMs:

For anyone who wants to reflect more:

What I’ve used this week:

On Thursday I had my first attempt at running a Planescape adventure here’s some content I used:

What I’ve published this week:

The illusion of immortality

I’ve recently written a few posts about Henri Nouwen’s three movements of the spiritual life, as related in his book Reaching Out. In the third section of the book talks about our efforts to avoid death, pretending we can control of our life, that we have no limits. When we’re under this illusion, solitude and hospitality can become just achievements that we show off to others to show how great we are. Having an arthritic condition that’s previously put me out of action for a long period of time, I should be aware of my limitations, but I still fall for this illusion. At the moment I’m needing to let go of some of the things I feel like I could be doing (or should be doing). It’s about trusting that it’s okay to be limited and for some things to be undone.


This probably isn’t what we’d think of as prayer, because we’re used to thinking of prayer as a religious practise where we ask God for things. But Nouwen talks about this as a movement toward prayer.

Dinosaurs, and some adventures to put them in

On Sundays I’ve been posting some illustrations I’ve made to use in roleplaying games like Dungeons & Dragons. Last week folks on Twitter voted for me to do some dinosaur illustrations, and I said I’d include some zombie dinosaurs. (The upcoming D&D adventure Tomb of Annihilation involves zombie dinosaurs.) So here’s a regualr version and a zombie version of a hadrosaurus and an ankylosaurus:


I noticed that Trash Mobs has also been designing some dinosaur miniatures, including undead versions.

I’ve also been thinking about what kind of adventures could be run involving dinosaurs in the meantime, and I thought of a couple of ideas based on exisitng stories from outside D&D.

Based on Jurassic Park

A rich and eccentric circus operator has set up a dinosaur park on an island off the Sword Coast, for the viewing pleasure of the aristocracy. Of course, everything’s gone wrong – perhaps magical wards keeping the beasts in their enclosures have failed. He needs some adventurers to go into the park to find and rescue any staff and visitors who’ve survived. Some of the adventurers might actually be rangers, alchemists or wizards who’ve been working at the dinosaur park. Alternatively, some of the dinosaurs may have escaped and begun to wreak havoc in settlements on the mainland.

I think an important theme to pick up on in this kind of adventure would be the failure of human and technological systems to contain wild nature.

Based on Terra Nova

I think there was a lot that didn’t work with the show Terra Nova, but I think the general idea could provide a seed for a story. I’d imagine a scenrio set after the Tyranny of Dragons storyline, where Tiamat and the Cult of Dragons now rule over the Sword Coast. A small group of survivors has fled to the ends of the earth, to Chult. They attempt to set up a colony among the dinosaurs in the jungle. But not everyone will agree about how the community should live together.
Another resource that I think would be useful in running this kind of adventure is the artwork from James Gurney’s Dinotopia books, which portray humans living among dinosaurs in a premodern setting rather than a futuristic setting.


Illustration by James Gurney

Running Planescape in D&D 5e


Illustration by Tony DiTerlizzi

As I mentioned yesterday in my post about OneNote, I’ve been reading Planescape content and taking note of stuff I’d like to use in adventures. I’m hesitant to start a campaign unless I know that there are players enough who are interested in persisting with a campaign. I also want to make sure I’m confident that I have a handle on the setting. So during the week I ran a short Planescape one-shot using 5th Edition Dungeons & Dragons rules. (Planescape material was originally published in 2nd Edition.)

I chose an adventure for low level characters, ‘To Baator and Back’, from the book Well of the Worlds. I didn’t find that it was a lot of trouble to run the adventure in 5th Edition. Most of the monsters I needed were in the 5th Edition Monster Manual, and I was able to find homebrew stats online for the mosnters that weren’t. I had to work out some details for the environmental hazards (eg. random fireballs and rivers of blood) on the plane of Baator. Neither of these hazards are really ‘traps’, but I was able to use the trap table on page 121 of the Dungeons Master’s Guide to make sure the difficulty and damage of the hazards was approrpriate for low-level characters.

I also found it was relatively easy to get into the feel of the setting. While I enjoy playing games set in the Forgotten Realms, I haven’t felt as well equipped to improvise on the fly when I’m running the game. My hunch is that I may have found my favored setting. I’m planning to run some more one-shots over the next couple of weeks, and then consider starting a campaign.

OneNote for D&D

For a while I’ve been looking for a decent digital tool to organise notes for Dungeons & Dragons adventures. I’ve tried Evernote, Obsidian Portal and Scabard, but none of them have really clicked. (Actually, they’ve all seemed pretty unwieldy.) I think I’ve now found the right tool, and it isn’t the one I was expecting.

A couple of years ago when I returned to using PCs, I found that Windows was now coming with a program called OneNote, which it desperately wanted me to adopt, but failed to explain why I would want to. A couple of months ago I stumbled on this reddit thread, which includes a number of people explaining how useful they’ve found OneNote as a tool for organising D&D notes.

So I tried it out (I now have it on my tablet, PC and phone) and started adding interesting content I found that I might use in D&D Planescape adventures. Last night I used it to run an adventure for the first time and I found it very helpful. It’s very easy to the the coloured tabs to create sections for locations, non-player characters, monsters, spells and then fill each of those sections with the items you need. (I moved some of the items I knew I would need to the top of the list in their sections, so they’d be easy to find.) I found it pretty easy to move between different items I needed in the filing system. By splitting the screen in could have the 2nd Edition module I was using alongside my own notes (including 5th Edition substitute stats).

The one thing I would say against OneNote is that in the tablet version of the app that I’m using it is hard to connect different notes with hyperlinks. I need to spend some time at my PC interlinking a whole lot of the notes, and if I do that it’ll make navigation easier again. (There may be a way to do this on my tablet, but if there is I can’t work it out.)

Sarai, Abram and Asherah

I’ve been gradually reading through the book of Genesis. On Thursdays I’ve generally been reflecting here on what I’ve been reading.

What stood out to me today was a small detail which I probably wouldn’t have noticed at one time. Abram and Sarai and Abram’s nephew Lot have uprooted themselves for a second time at YHWH’s instruction. They head to Canaan and they stop at the terebinth (‘great tree’ or ‘large tree’) of Moreh at Shechem. What’s significant about the tree that the people telling and recording this story mention it?

My suspicion is that the tree is a sacred site to the Canaanite god Asherah, the kind of place that some people in Israel later believed needed to be destroyed. Abram’s attitude isn’t to desecrate the site. The text says that YHWH appeared to Abram here, so he built an altar there, next to what may have been a sacred oak.

altar at asherah

What does it mean for Abram to build an altar to YHWH? Does it mean that YHWH and Asherah are familiar? Does it mean that YHWH is encroaching?

 

Here’s the Chant: 5E Spelljammer, Filipino/a monsters and Monty Python options

Since I’ve been reading more content on Dungeons & Dragons and roleplaying games in general, I thought I’d start doing a roundup of what of what I think is worth looking at:


Illustration: Gerald Brom

For players:

For DMs:

For anyone wanting to reflect more deeply:

My recent content:

Silence in hospitality

Yesterday we opened up our house for a discussion about the idea of hospitality as ‘making room’. I think when we’re talking about making room it’s important to think about how we demonstrate that in the discussion. I think that in our society we often try to fill quiet space with words and activity, and that if we allowed spaces to remain quiet and empty, we might hear voices we’d otherwise miss. For that reason I want to get comfortable with preparing less (or being okay not to use eveything I’ve prepared) and leaving more space in discussion for silence.

How do you feel about the place of silence in hospitality?

Here’s the Chant: adventures in Chult


Illustration: Robh Ruppel

Over the weekend, during the Stream of Annihilation event, WOTC announced the next hardcover D&D adventure: Tomb of Annihilation. TOA will we set in the jungle continent of Chult. While there are the usual complaints (eg. ‘How long do we have to wait for Eberron?’) it seems like a lot of people are excited about exploring a new area of the Forgotten Realms in 5th Edition. If you can’t wait until September 19, there’s a lot of content already available which you could use to run an adventure in Chult. 

Tales from the Yamning Portal

‘Lost Shrine of Tamoachan’ and ‘Tomb of Horrors’ are both set in Chult and included in Tales from the Yawning Portal. Because Chult is a big area, you could start your adventure in Chult at one of these locations, and begin your exploration before Tomb of Annihilation is released.

2E Jungles of Chult

If you download the PDF version of Jungles of Chult from the DM’s Guild, you’ll find that there are a lot of creatures that are already in published for 5th Edition. There’s also a fair bit of homebrew content that folks have made. I’ve made a list of everything and where you can find it further down the page.

DM’s Guild adventures

There are already a few adventures set in Chult on the DM’s Guild:

Official material

I’ve made a list of creatures and monsters that are mentioned in Jungles of Chult that are already represented in 5E, with info about where you can find the content. (I’ve also included the froghemoth and grung, because it was revealed over the weekend that they’ll be in Tomb of Annihilation.)

Title abbreviations: MM is Monster Manual, VGTM is Volo’s Guide to Monsters, HOTDQ is Horde of the Dragon Queen, OOTA is Out of the Abyss, EEPC is Elemental Evil Player’s Guide, COS is Curse of Strahd, PSZ is Plane Shift: Zendikar, PSI is Plane Shift: Innistrad

  • aarakocra – MM 12, player race EEPC 3-4
  • aboleth – MM 13
  • ape – MM 317
  • baboon – MM 318
  • basilisk – MM 24
  • bullywug – MM 35; Castle Naerytar, a bullywug lair – HOTDQ 43-61; Pharblex Spattergoo, a bullywug chief – HOTDQ 91
  • chuul – MM 40
  • crocodile – MM 320
  • deer – MM 321
  • dinosaur – MM 79-80 and VGTM 139-140
  • dragon – black dragon MM 86-89, green dragon MM 93-96, blue dragon MM 90-92
  • dragon turtle – MM 119
  • elephant – MM 322
  • froghemoth – VGTM 145
  • ghoul – MM 148
  • giant centipede – MM 323
  • giant eagle – MM 324
  • giant fire beetle – MM 325
  • giant frog – use giant toad, MM 329
  • giant wasp – 329
  • goblin – MM 165-166, VGTM 40-52; player race VGTM 119
  • grung – VGTM 156-157
  • hunter-gatherer human: druid – MM 343, archdruid – VGTM 210, tribal warrior – MM 350
  • hyena – MM 331
  • hydra – MM 190
  • lion – MM 331
  • leopard – use panther, MM 333
  • lizard – MM 332, giant lizard MM 326
  • lizardfolk – MM 204-205; player race VGTM 111-113
  • mongrelfolk – COS 234
  • myconid – MM 230-232; Neverlight Grove, a myconid community: OOTA 83-94
  • naga – MM 233-234
  • piranha – use quipper MM 335, swarm of quippers MM 338
  • psuedodragon – MM 254
  • sahaugin – MM 263-264
  • salamander – MM 265-266
  • skeleton – MM 272-273
  • snake – constrictor snake MM 320, giant constrictor snake MM 324; poisonous snake MM 334, giant poisonous snake MM 327, swarm of poisonous snakes MM 338
  • troglodyte – MM 290; trogolodyte lair – OOTA 168-171; champion of Lazogzed OOT 229
  • troll – MM 291
  • vampire – MM 295-298, PSI 16-17; player race PSZ 14-15
  • wild boar – MM 319
  • wyvern – MM 303
  • yuan-ti – MM 207-310, VGTM 92-102 & 202 206; player race VGTM 120
  • zombie – MM 315-316

There are also a few monsters that aren’t mentioned in Jungles of Chult, but which I think would fit well:

  • blight – MM 31
  • drake – ambush drake: HOTDQ 88; guard drake: HOTDQ 91, VGTM 158 
  • flying snake – MM 322
  • spawn of Kyuss – VGTM 192
  • vegepygmy – VGTM 196

Homebrew material
While there are a lot of creatures from Chult that aren’t featured in official 5e publications yet, there are a number that are represented in homebrew content:

Is there anything you think I should add? I’m particularly interested to know if there is any homebrew material around for pterafolk or zorbo. If you think there’s some content I’ve missed, feel free to mention it in the comments or let me know over Twitter.