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Thursday, September 18, 2014

#DnD in #MtGKtK: Adventuring in #Tarkir! (BONUS: Ainok as a PC race!)




Well, finally after the intellectual injury that I felt during the #Theros period, a new Magic expansion comes. (To add offense to injury, I even liked Theros' art and mechanics, making me even more mad about the flavor...).
Khans of Tarkir looks like it will become one of those expansions that catch me completely, like #Innistrad or #Zendikar (although nothing can beat Zendikar for me, really).

What are some good bullet points about Tarkir as a D&D setting?

  • The land is wild and dangerous but includes some civilization in many different forms.
    This is particulary good because it offers variety in playstyles. You could have dungeon crawls in the bowels of the #Sultai decadent cities, intirgue on their surface, wild adventures throughout #Temur and #Mardu territories, with Mardu offering a cool militaristic/nomad background and Temur focusing more on primal aspects. #Abzan organized cities would be good for crime and politics adventures, while #Jeskai monasteries could house arcane weirdness of all kinds.
  • Each clan has multiple focuses, allowing for different types of characters in it.
    The Sultai (my favorite) are about necromancy, opulence, assassination, intrigue, and even world domination.
    The Abzan are about law and order, with a focus on defense and passive isolationism.
    The Temur are the go-to clan for primal forces, druidic magic, beasts and the wild in general, but also have a good bit of martial prowess in them.
    The Mardu are the typical "horde" clan, the icon of the setting if you wish, with "raiding" being the standard form of living, but with some dark magic (especially concealment) in it as well.
    The Jeskai are the most "enlightened" clan, with monks being prominent, but also wizards and a pursuit of knowledge and perfection in general.
  • There are a few nice peculiarities about magic in Tarkir.
    The "morphs" are basically just concealed creatures or things that fight with some kind of elemental or purely arcane force power. There are artifacts and spells to look what these morph "clouds" conceal, and it's a form of magic available to all clans, something connected with the world itself maybe, worth exploring in D&D even as a new mechanic.
  • Dragons are apparently absent, but at the same time their presence is felt.
    The spirit dragon Ugin is trapped somehow here in its homeland (although he was prominent in Zendikar, so it must be or have been a planeswalker), and Sarkhan Vol is a dracomancer. The spirits of dragons may be the basis of elemental/primal magic in Tarkir, and some dragons may still be alive, trapped in hybernation beneath the ices that they indirectly brought after their last war (some sort of nuclear winter!).
  • A guide to the setting: Part 1 (Intro, Abzan, Jeskai, Sultai) and Part 2 (Mardu, Temur, Planeswalkers)
    There is even mention of locations and prominent NPCs. I'd say it makes for a nearly ready-to-play world!
  • Quite a few interesting races!
    The new tage on naga, the brand new Ainok that come in canine or ursine variants, the extremely original take on djinn and efreet... There is really plenty of races to choose for Tarkir characters!
  • There are strong connections with Zendikar!!
    This is not really an advantage of Tarkir as a D&D setting in general, but for me personally it is that and much more!

Clan Mechanics

I really tried to translate some of the clan mechanics to feats or some other kind of thing, but I must admit that even with my now long experience of translating even the most abstract Magic mechanics into D&D terms, this time I thought it was too much of a stretch. It's really not worthy in my opinion, and subclasses specific to the clans may do a much better job. I might change my mind on special feats, but it would entail changing the original mechanic very much, especially since some of them are just keywords that activate always on the same condition, but never having the same effect. These must change for sure, if they have to be set into feats, while they can retain their variability if set into different subclasses, or variant class features.

All in all, it's really not necessary to convert these signature mechanics, because more than anything they represent the style of the clan, which is already apparent if one builds a character well-inserted/themed in/around the clan.

Races! The Ainok!

Yes, I could not resist!

Ainok Traits

Ability Score Increase. Your Wisdom score increases by 1.
Size. Canine, desert-dwelling Ainok associated with the Abzan are human-sized or even a tad smaller, while the ursine Ainok of the Temur lands are much bigger, espeically broader.
Subraces. There are two subraces of Ainok: the canine Ainok allied to the Abzan, and the ursine Ainok allied to the Temur. They are very different.



Canine Ainok
Canine Ainoks sometimes resemble hyenas, and are adapted to the desert of the Abzan territories, and the magic art of sandcalling.
Ability Score Increase. Your Dexterity score increases by 2.
Speed. Your base walking speed is 35 feet.
Survivalist: You are trained in the Survival skill.
Desert Adapted. You have the equivalent of the Natural Explorer Ranger feature focused on deserts and dry steppes. If you are a Ranger, you must select another territory, since the bonuses wouldn't stack.
Sandcalling Adept. You can conjure sand to make lightly obscured an area of 10 feet per 10 within a range of 30 feet. The effect lasts until the end of your next turn. You can do so a number of times equal to your Wisdom modifier. You regain all expended uses after a long rest. At 5th level, you can instead make the area heavily obscured.



Ursine Ainok
Ursine Ainok resemble bears, and are adapted to the cold sub-arctic territories of the Temur clan.
Ability Score Increase. Your Strength score increases by 1, and your Constitution score increases by 2.
Speed. Your base walking speed is 25 feet.
Cold Adapted. You have Resistance to Cold damage.
Broad Build. You have Advantage on Shoving and Grappling checks and count as Large for the purpose of carrying capacity and the amount of wight you can lit, push, or drag; but you have Disadvantage on attacks and Dexterity ability checks and saves when confined in a 5-feet wide space.



That's all for now folks, please provide your feedback and ideas!




Saturday, September 6, 2014

@criticalhits: Here's my 10 #DnD monsters I always use & 5 I don't!


A tweet-title for this mini-blog-carnival post induced by Critical Hits!
Here is the original post by legendary Dave Chalker: quite an awesome list, especially because it reminded me of the Zaratan (a turtle-island thing!), and made me think of ways I would use it..!

As my few readers might imagine, my list is gonna be a bit counter-intuitive... But let's start with no further ado! (Usually I don't do it when I declare it, but here fortunately there's really no possibility of writing any useful introduction..!)

10 monsters I use in every D&D campaign:



  1. Gargoyles
    The gothic factor is really impossible to ignore, and where the campaign flavor is not really gothic-y, I tend to use their stats for re-flavored variants. In general, having a cool stony decoration taking life is something that makes my adventures... Mine! Ah, there's no way these monsters won't be customized by me with particularly nasty martial prowess and/or divine magic... They're just made for these things!
    (I know the illustration is that of a Malebranche Devil, but that's how my gargoyles look like, when not of stone!)


  2. Faeries (of any kind)
    The Seelie Court and even more so the Unseelie Court are always present, somewhere, in my campaign worlds. And when these beings come into play, strange things happen. For me, fey/faeries equal morality madness: it's an occasion to introduce truly strange and contrasting morals and ethics to the campaign and make the players question themselves both about these critters and themselves! Who's doing right? Who's the bad guy? When tricksters are beautiful or even cute, the lines of these questions are very blurred!
    (The illustration is that of Oona's Blackguard, from MtG: an example of dark faerie flavor!)


  3. Faerie dragons / Pseudodragons / any tiny dragon!
    First of all, obviously, it's a way to add dragons at low levels, and possibly tie them with the faeries. Second, they can be even more annoying than true dragons! A faerie dragon usually has spells and magical abilities that makes it a pain for adventurers to fight (or even ally with), and pseudodragons, with their random "save or sleep" sting are another major threat when in large numbers! Plus, the whole aesthetics of the campaign and/or setting change when these creatures are abundant. It basically means "in this world, common things are a minority"..!
    (Link to illustration: http://ironshod.deviantart.com/art/Spiny-Woodland-Hopper-70718250 )

  4. Kuo-Toa / Locatah / Sahuagin 
    There MUST be "fishy folk" in my games... No game of mine is complete without a big part of it at least related to underwater adventuring or underwater threats coming out to do some unusual above-water adventuring! Locatah in particular (in the illustration), this forgotten-by-game-designers kin, are my favorite: their very fish-like look makes them the most alien of the three, and thus the most likely to be related to some kind of cult dedicated to, spawned by, or spawning some... ->


  5. Far Realm entities / creatures
    And I'm not speaking Mind Flayers or other D&D classics... I'm speaking pure Lovecraftian horror!! And they MUST be aquatic. Aboleths are in fact among my favorites, and as many of you know, you can base entire story-arcs on them, even in traditional published worlds such as Forgotten Realms.
    The illustration is originally Juiblex, a demon prince. But the fact I found it in a lovecraft fansite to represent a Shoggoth is telling...
    But since we're speaking aquatic unfathomable horrors, I must go epic directly and call forth The Prince: ->

  6. DAGON
    YES. Even if he's supposed to be an incredibly epic level guy, his presence must be felt since low levels in my campaigns. The Prince of Depths incarnates four things that I like and I already cited in previous entires: aquatic, horror, great evil, alien, blurred morality. You would say a demon prince has nothing to do with blurred moralities, but if you go by the most complete D&D lore about him, Dagon is a demon of an older generation compared to "regular ones", even other princes. He's an Obyrith, demons that basically ended up with their universe of origin already, and crawled into this universe before more regular demons even existed, and possibly even spawning them. It screams alternate creation myths and links to the Far Realm. And just as with Aboleths, Krakens, and other related aquatic masterminds, it also calls for a cult of followers, with all that such a thing implies for a D&D setting!

  7. Hobgoblins
    Finally a classic, you'd say! And yes, I like the classic-ness of Hobgoblins, particularly the fact that they're militaristic and, in D&D terms, devil-ish, due to their favored alignments and general motivations. They're cool also because they could constitute the army of another race, and because their possible link with devils might make them connected with Nine Hells-related plots. And from a simple humanoid critter, there goes a planar campaign in the making!

  8. Ghosts
    Everybody has a favorite undead, and I go again for a rather surprising classic in this department. Ghosts can be simply everywhere, and they are basically living (undying, actually) mini-quests for adventurers. Each ghost is a side-trek in the adventure of its own.

  9. Angels
    Again a matter of blurred morality, but nobody can deny that angels can be pretty scary. Especially because when you finally manage to stop their fury (by killing them: they would never surrender), you start wondering a bit too much about who or what you angered in doing so... In the illustration, an angel that appeared in the archive of 4e's Monster Manual illustrations online, but not on the actual manual... Never solved the mystery, and yes, although it's probably a rare case of evil angel, don't think the others were less scary!

  10. NINJAS!
    Broad enough to cite more favorite monsters in one entry, in D&D ninjas can be anything, and in my campaigns this is especially true. There can be desert elf magic ninjas, lizardmen ninjas (Predator love, anyone?), naga ninjas (icing on the cake!), rakshasa ninjas (the revelation/transformation moment is golden, plus these cat-people die easily once revealed!), giant undead mantis ninjas (yes, I did it once), warforged ninjas (can't help thinking about that villain from the first Hellboy movie!) and sometimes even DRAGON NINJAS (Shadow Dragons of course)... The important thing is acting like a ninja. Mixing exotic combat styles to plain assassination-aimed lurking! In the illustration, Ink Eyes, a ratling ninja of the MtG setting of Kamigawa. It's an oriental-flavored example, so not very apt at displaying how many more "typical D&D flavors" exist, but she's my favorite by far!

... And 5 I don't:

  1. Drow
    Perhaps due to many players favoring the race, perhaps because they're too obvious, Drow never figured in my D&D campaigns as enemies, except for one time in which they were reflavored as the dominant civilization in a "real world setting" in which they were basically the civilization of Atlantis. And they looked nothing like true Drow.
  2. Orcs
    Come on... Orcs...
  3. Giants
    I find them mostly uninteresting, with the exception of Fomorians!
  4. Zombies
    Another thrill-killing critter! And I hate zombie movies as well!
  5. Elementals
    At least in their single-element standard variants, they are really boring compared to many other elemental-themed creatures!

Now blog yours!

Let's keep up the hype at least until we're not too busy reading the new Monster Manual!!
It's your turn now!