We still haven’t watched the Dungeons & Dragons movie trailer, but are curious about it. What has us even more interested is the announcement of two prequel books ahead of the movie: The Druid’s Call and The Road to Neverwinter. Let’s talk about what we know and what we’d like to see from them.
The Road to Neverwinter is written by Jaleigh Johnson. Little is known about it but we can deduce it will take place in the city of Neverwinter, the Jewel of the North. As huge fans of the Neverwinter MMO, we’ve spent, I was going to say countless hours exploring the city, but it’s 361.5 hours, according to Steam. That’s more than 15 days.
Needless to say, we are looking forward to The Road to Neverwinter.
The Druid’s Call, from E.K. Johnston, also has a special place in our hearts for one important reason. Talia’s first D&D character was the druid Jade, a main character in our fantasy octology Thread of Souls.
The two books are exciting and they got us thinking. We’re sure they’re written like a typical story — choose a premise, characters, outline it, and write it — but we believe it be great if they were based on their own tabletop experience. Imagine if the characters in both books were played by actual people around a table like a D&D game.
The players all choose a character in the story and roleplay them and tell the story together. With A Druid’s Call following the main protagonist Doric, the actions and decisions her player makes shape the world and therefore the overall book.
The same be The Road to Neverwinter. While it’s unclear what the story is, the book must involve some of the characters from Honor Among Thieves. Our thoughts are on rogue Forge Fitzwilliam, as he is tied to the city.
However the books and movie are written, they’re sure to be thrilling. But as authors who turned our ongoing ttrpg campaign into fantasy books, it is definitely a fun way to write a series after playing it around a table with friends.
Playing D&D is similar to an actor preparing for a role. You aren’t you at the table, you’re someone else. Taking time to think, act, and live like your character before a session is a great way to get into their mindset. One way to really get a feel for your character is to travel as they do.
Walk or Hike
Traveling could be just about anything. Think about the types of travel portrayed in D&D games or fantasy books. One of the most prominent is long-distance walking and hiking. You could even keep it simple by going on a short walk. Walking and hiking lets you better connect with nature and the elements around you. It’s a great time to think like your character and be with yourself and thoughts. Plus, you get a feel for what it’s like to be outside like they are the majority of the time. Don’t only go out when it’s sunny. Adventuring is tough work and they don’t quit when it’s raining.
Hit the Road
Another way to get around in fantasy is using wagons or carriages. You don’t have to rent or find a carriage, just hop in a car and drive about. You could do one of two things to get in the mindset. One is to not bother with a destination. Just pick a direction and drive. The other is to know where you’re going but not use any GPS to get there. Travel by using a map or as if you were given vague directions until you reach your goal. Oftentimes, a party will be given a direction and landmark. Rarely is it ever a straight path to your goal.
All the while, be your character. What would they think of the journey? The sights? Sounds? Smells?
Spend the Night Somewhere Different
Characters are always staying at taverns, tents, or magically created homes. Another fun way to travel and get into your character’s mind is to stay somewhere new for the night. Having a different view or sleeping somewhere diverse gives you a more unique view of the world.
We’ve spent the night in a dark creepy forest once. It was definitely an experience and one we’ll never forget.
Traveling with your party or a friend at the table is highly recommended. It gives everyone a chance to bond and become their character while you’re all away. You don’t have to spend every moment as your character, but spending time here and there as them will help give you more insight into how they act in the game.
When you travel to get into the mindset of your character, focus on your senses. Everywhere you go focus on everything you can see, hear, smell, taste, and touch. Taverns often have a reputation for being loud, but is that always the case when you stay at a hotel? Roads aren’t always smooth and you can often feel every bump as you travel along. What does the air smell like as you walk through the park?
Traveling is always an adventure. It doesn’t have to be an epic journey from point A to point B. Sometimes taking a walk in your own house or yard is all you need to get into the mind of your character.
The Hobbit is among one of our favorite books so when we heard Free League Publishing was making a Lord of the Rings tabletop game, we got excited. It’s like having the extended extended editions of all the movies in one, except you’re the Loremaster. The One Ring is as alive and vast as the world you see on screen and read on the page.
Right away the pages make it very clear that everyone around the table is part of telling the story. It isn’t just led by the Loremaster. Every player is there to be a part of the tale and make sure it’s a thrilling and memorable one.
It’s like in the great stories, Mr. Frodo. The ones that really mattered. Full of darkness and danger they were.
The Lord of the Rings
The One Ring comes with a core rule book, and a starter set. The rule book is worthy of J. R. R. Tolkien. It’s a massive 248-page tome stuffed with everything you need to start adventuring in Middle-Earth. It’s also a rather pretty book with a stunning cover and beautifully drawn art inside. Every page feels like diving into The Hobbit or Lord of the Rings paperbacks. It’s a grand adventure.
Once you’re through creating a character and learning how to play, you can dive right into a quest. The final few pages contain a thrilling adventure called The Star of the Mist. It’s a journey that fits right into the lore of the Lord of the Rings and is a great starting point for a fellowship. It’s got bandits, dwarves, a dwarven city—a mine— a ghost, and a mystery to solve.
Going on an Adventure
Each game is split into two phases: the adventure and the fellowship. The first involves scenes related to building the overall plot. These can be a tense social encounter or a fight. Whereas the second phase is what happens between each adventure. Characters have time to take for themselves to rest and relax.
Free League enjoys using a d6 system and it’s featured in The One Ring as well. Though this time around, they’ve added a d12 to the mix. Characters have 18 skills they can use to overcome challenges and will use both d6—Success Die—and d12—Feat Die—to determine an outcome. The combined total of all the dice is compared to a target number (TN). If the rolled total is equal to or greater than the TN, the roll is a success; otherwise, it has failed.
Each Feat Die features a Gandalf rune (12) and the Eye of Sauron (11) rune. Gandalf’s rune is the greatest result you can get on a Feat Die and means you automatically succeed regardless of reaching or succeeding the TN. Whereas the Eye of Sauron icon is the worst result possible outcome, resulting in a zero on the Feat Die.
Being favored in a skill means you’re proficient in it. When using a skill, players roll one Feat die and a number of Success Dice equal to the Player-hero’s skill rank. Only one Feat die is rolled if a Player-hero is unskilled.
Instead of occupations or classes, The One Ring includes Callings. Callings are your character class and allow you to be as dextrous as Legolas, strong as Gimli, or wise and powerful as Galadriel. Callings range from Captain, Champion, Messenger, Scholar, Treasure Hunter, and Warden. Coupled with a Heroic Culture, this decides who you are in Middle-earth.
There are three Attributes in The One Ring: Strength, Heart, and Wits. Each score describes an adventurer’s physical, emotional, and mental capabilities. These are broken down to hit points, resisting spells, and the effects of dread.
Along the way, the fellowship gains access to a patron. This sponsor is the one who provides them with quests, items, and information to push the plot forward. They also allow you to re-roll dice, summon them to your aid, or other circumstances that aid the fellowship. It’s a fun system that brings back familiar characters such as Balin, Bilbo, and Gandalf the Grey.
Like Tolkien, The One Ring is a beast of a tabletop book. The fantasy author made everything feel spectacular and worthwhile. From the novels to the compendiums and the movies, the world of Lord of the Rings is massive and exciting to see. The One Ring makes it that much more excited to jump into and explore.
They say untold treasure lies within the forest of Davokar. That and corrupted beasts and shadows of former adventurers. Be it you’re the one looking for an Explorer’s License, I’ll not keep you from your quest. The dark forest awaits. Good luck out there.
Symbaroum is a dark fantasy tabletop roleplaying game from Free League Publishing. It’s set in a world where adventurers venture into the vast forest known as Davokar and search for fortune and glory. Players build a character and party up with others to explore, solve mysteries, and make a name for themselves in this dangerous world.
It follows similar tabletop tropes. You build a character, choose attributes to see what you’re good and bad at, select your archetype, and venture out into the unknown. One major difference is its dice system. Instead of rolling a d20 and aiming for a high number, you’ll want to do the opposite.
Building a character comes down to choosing from three archetypes: mystic, hunter, and warrior. Each one is broken down into occupations, of which there are numerous. Occupations are your character’s background and can be wizards, rangers, knights, sorcerers, duelists, sellswords, and more. Altogether there are 15 occupations.
From there you’ll select attributes and each is linked to the roll of a d20. They are broken down into the following categories: accurate, cunning, discrete, persuasive, quick, strong, resolute, and vigilant. These are what you’ll focus on throughout each session.
Welcome to the Upside Down –the D20
One of the most interesting features of Symbaroum is found in its d20 system. It’s built in such a way that you’ll need to roll low to succeed. It’s backward from other popular games out there.
Say for instance you want to pick a lock on a door and have a discreet of 13. You’d roll a discreet check versus the lock’s modifier of -3. The modifier subtracts 3 to your discreet attribute making it a total of 10 for this one moment. You would have to roll under 10 to successfully pick the lock.
This makes attacking targets rather more engaging as well. Each enemy and player character has a target defense that impacts the d20. To successfully hit a target, the roll has to be below the target value. Yet, armor and character abilities can affect the overall number as well. So, it’s not as simple as hitting that goal number sometimes.
Shadow and Corruption – Who turned out the lights?
Symbaroum utilizes shadows as a way to build tension and show the spread of corruption. Both work in tandem with one another and make for great role-play opportunities. Each character and creature in Symbaroum has a shadow cast by light. It’s when a creature has two shadows, people should begin to worry.
A creature with a second shadow is considered to be corrupted. This means, they have spent too much time in an area of heavy corruption, such as the forest of Davokar; they’ve messed with magic they should have stayed away from, or cast a spell. Once the corruption spreads too far, characters become supernatural beings and become part of the forest ecosystem.
The lore is as vast as the forest you’ll be exploring. Corruption spread throughout the land and Queen Korinthia searched for a place for her and her people. She established the kingdom of Ambria but it is at constant war with surrounding barbarian tribes and the monsters of the forest.
Those who wish to earn a living are tasked with venturing into the forest to find treasure, fight back the hordes of monstrosities, and defend the kingdom against barbarian attacks. There’s quite a bit to do in Symbaroum and plenty of quests and sessions to build multiple campaigns around.
Symbaroum is a thrilling tabletop experience that is wildly different from other tabletop games around. It can be daunting to figure out at first, like any tabletop game, but is worth it. The d20 system is engaging and makes you think about what skills to use in order to succeed. The world is dark and full of horrific monsters and it’s built upon such wonderful lore.
There are several books available from the Player’s Guide, Core Rulebook, Starter Set, and Alberetor the Haunted Waste adventure. Free League also makes Forbidden Lands, another excellent tabletop game.
Creating a character is a difficult process. No matter if it’s for a book, ttrpg, video game, or LARP. You have to think about their past, present, and future and their goals, ambitions, and overall attitude. Developing a character is a fun and engaging process that requires a bit of brainstorming and critical thinking. We’ve talked about using prompts to create a story with tarot cards in a previous post. This time, we’re using runes to build a character by using the Runic V layout.
The Runic V Layout
What influenced your character in the past?
The top left rune is Dagaz. It represents day, awakening, and new hope. The rune symbolizes discovering new insights, something unknown, or a fresh idea.
What is influencing your character in the present?
The next rune, Kenaz, is associated with knowledge and the quest for truth. It is represented by learning one’s true and full potential.
What is a future goal for your character?
Raidho represents the character’s personal journey. It symbolizes growth and movement towards control and rationality. The character may wish to learn who they are and who they want to become.
How to achieve that goal?
Pertho symbolizes something hidden and is often represented by good omens, unexpected surprises, and forces of change. This could be a mysterious or dangerous challenge your character does not wish to take part in but must overcome in order to grow.
What is your character’s attitude?
Jera is assocaited with patience, seasons, and waiting. To reach your goal will require time and understanding and you may not be ready to accept that. You’re character may be quick to take action or take their time.
What problem stands in their way?
Mannaz is represented by humankind and humanity. Other associations include reflection, planning, analysis, and self potential. The struggle coud be caused by another person or even within yourself. The actions of another or your own could prevent you from reaching your goal.
How to overcome the problem?
Algiz is represented by spirit guides, protection, divinity, and a teacher. It symbolizes going beyond yourself to connect with something spiritual or finding your higher self.
Plot is important to keep the narrative moving. We discuss ways you can push forward the story to keep readers, viewers, and players engaged.
There have been times when we watch a movie or play a game where the plot just bogs down. It may not pull us out of the immersion but it can make things a little less fun and interesting. Stories should constantly be developing and shifting. It’s what makes them captivating and intriguing.
As fantasy authors, we fell in love with Lord of the Rings. While watching Fellowship for the thousandth time the other day we noticed ways the movie progresses the story. There is always something else that happens to advance the plot. We’re not talking about how Frodo has to take the ring to Mordor. It’s deeper than that.
It’s in the moments where the crebain from Dunland arrive and the party is forced to take cover. Or when the Fellowship must choose between going over the pass of Caradhras, through the Gap of Rohan, or into the Mines of Moria. There are multiple examples in the films that constantly usher the narrative forward. Without these moments, the story falls flat. It would just be a montage of the main characters traveling from point A to point B.
Beginning – End
Having a starting point and an endpoint should be the first things you come up with. Knowing where you want your story to go will help you fill out everything in the middle. This works for novels, movies, Dungeons & Dragons, and comics.
Like with Lord of the Rings: The Ring of Power has returned and found itself in the hands of a hobbit. The main characters learn it must be destroyed within the fires of Mt. Doom where it was created.
Everything in the middle is where you develop characters and introduce obstacles. These can be summed up as encounters.
Encounters, Encounters, Encounters
When you think about structuring a story like a game of D&D it makes it a bit more simple. Encounters are designed to challenge characters. They can range from social interactions, combat, and travel. One of the most important factors of an encounter is it should always advance the plot.
For example. In the Two Towers when the refugees are traveling to Helm’s Deep the caravan is attacked by orcs and wargs. It lets the viewer and characters know Sauron is watching them. He knows their plans and is actively trying to stop them. If it were just some random orc attack it wouldn’t mean much for the story. If that were the case it would be an inconvenience and readers wouldn’t connect with it.
Every encounter your characters come across should revolve around the story. Whether it lets the characters know the enemy is onto them or reveals a detail about a character, plot thread, or villain.
Encounters are also great ways to introduce lore. If you’re writing a book, it makes more sense to tell a streamlined story without filler or fluff. But there are times when even the best of novels introduce threads that lead nowhere. It’s best to avoid these altogether so you don’t leave your viewers confused.
This can best be summed up with random encounter tables in D&D. They have their place but we’re not big fans of them. If you do end up using a random encounter table make sure it is connected to your story. It could be connected to a character, NPC, or the overarching plot.
We’ll pull an example from our fantasy series Thread of Souls. In book two Ash & Thunder, a few characters find themselves in ancient elven ruins. Brought there by Jade’s brother to investigate a strange creature.
“As they turned into another room, they pulled up short and stifled surprised gasps. Curled in the far corner was a giant spider. The size of a horse, it was clearly dead and had been for some time. The torchlight cast its twisted shadow three times as big on the wall behind it.“Yuck,” Heron shivered.
“I have never seen one so big!” Skar gasped. “I am going to take one of its hairs.” He shuffled over, already getting out a pouch. Artemis glanced sidelong at Jade. “Do you get big spiders in Oceala?” The Druid stared at the dead creature, perplexed. “Well, no. But come to think of it . . . It has been awhile since I’ve seen a spider.” “One this size?” Unolé clarified. Jade shook her head, chewing on her lip in consideration. “No, any spiders.”
The missing spiders are the driving force of our story. Instead of delving into some unknown ruin, this reveal makes the story feel much more connected. While other characters may have known this information, Jade and the others just learned it.
In the case of the mysterious creature, it helps paint a better picture of the Deep Hollows where the spiders have the largest presence.
Here are some quick ways you can advance the plot:
We create a few cards we think would make perfect additions to the Lord of the Rings Magic: The Gathering card set.
We are rather fond of Lord of the Rings and watch it a few times throughout the year. We also recently got back into Magic: The Gathering with the release of the Dungeons & Dragons: Forgotten Realms set. As storytellers and game designers, we’ve also created our own board games and thought we’d try our hand at making a few Magic cards for the future Lord of the Rings set.
Magic includes Lands, Artifacts, Creatures, Sorcery, Planeswalkers, Instants, and Enchantments. We’re going to talk about four of these that have been on our minds ever since the announcement at Magic Showcase 2021.
Planeswalker: Gandalf the Grey
Gandalf the Grey
Mana Cost: 2 Plains, 2 colorless
First Ability +1: Place a +1/+1 counter on Gandalf.
Second Ability – X: Counters act as hobbits or dwarves. Subtract counters to reduce damage to life points or Gandalf.
Third Ability – 7: Create an artifact creature token that is either a dwarf or hobbit. It has “This creature’s power and toughness are each equal to the number of counters on Gandalf .” This creature has first strike and lifelink.
Enchantment: The Fellowship
Mana Cost: 1 Plains, 1 Mountain, 1 Forest, 1 Island, 1 Swamp, 1 colorless
Ability: Enchant creature gets +X /+X per named creature you control. Enchanted creature has vigilance as long as you control all members of the Fellowship.
Mana Cost: 3 Mountain
Gollum is a +4/+1 creature with first strike and vigilance.
We discuss some big fantasy news of the week as Magic: The Gathering announced it is making a Lord of the Rings card set.
When Magic: The Gathering announced a Dungeons & Dragons set we ordered 500 cards as soon as possible. One of the game makers’ next crossovers is Lord of the Rings and we couldn’t be more excited. Announced during Magic Showcase 2021, the set will release in 2023.
That’s a long way off from now but it gives us time to speculate on what kind of cards will be included. Characters like Gandalf, Galadriel, and Elrond have great potential to be planeswalkers as do Saruman and Sauron. Whereas heroes such as Frodo, Samwise, Gimli, and the rest of the Fellowship would make great legendary creatures.
“It is such a big world. So many stories, so many characters…and the only way we could pull it off was to do a full set.” Said Mark Heggen product architect for Magic the Gathering. “We have these characters with so much backstory and their own personality and their own history and now we get to put them on a Magic card and we want to both be true to their spirit and put a little Magic twist on them.”
The Lord of the Rings: Tales of Middle-earth will also be releasing on MTG Arena and Magic Online.
We list our favorite fantasy comics fantasy fans should totally check out. From Dungeons & Dragons to Isola and Monstress.
Every Wednesday we like to peruse the latest comic books to hit Comixology and comic stores. As authors, we are always looking to read new books and comics to get us inspired to create. Comic books provide stunning visuals to go along with the story so you get a clearer picture of what is going on. They’re great for light reading and for those who want long story arcs with fully developed characters.
While superhero stories may be the most popular comic book genre, they aren’t the only ones. We much more prefer to sit down with a fantasy comic to fuel our writing for our book Thread of Souls and D&D game. Here are seven of our favorite fantasy comic books that we think any fan of fantasy will enjoy.
1. Dungeons & Dragons: A Darkened Wish
A Darkened Wish follows an adventuring party from level one to level 20. It’s about as close as you can get to translating a game of D&D into a comic book. It is written by B. Dave Walters with art by Tess Fowler.
Monstress takes place in alternate matriarchal Asia in the 1900s. It’s a dark and gritty story of gods, magic, and war. It follows Maika Halfwolf as she struggles to survive in the war-torn world and her mysterious link with a powerful monster that acts as her missing arm. Monstress is written by Marjorie Li with art by Sana Takeda
If you’re looking for an entertaining fantasy comic about a cat made out of ink then Inkblot is for you. It’s about a magical cat formed out of a drop of ink that leads characters to adventurers. Some are hilarious while others are full of action. All of them, however, tell a larger story about character growth and development. There are also dragons and mystical creatures. Inkblot is written and drawn by Rusty Gladd and Emma Kubert.
4. Rat Queens
Rat Queens is another example of a TTRPG game transformed into a comic book series. It follows the adventuring party known as the Rat Queens as they take contracts, fight monsters, and get into trouble. It’s a great example of a tabletop game gone of the rails due to its sarcastic but captivating characters and engaging plot. Rat Queens is written by Kurtis J. Wiebe with art by Roc Upchurch and Stjepan Sejic.
Isola was the comic that got me into fantasy comics. The art is pleasing and soothing to look at and is great for inspiring creativity. The story involves Captain of the Guard Rook as she figures out how to reverse a spell on the queen. It’s also inspired by Studio Ghibli and Hayao Miyazaki who understand how to make a great story. Isola is written by Brendon Fletcher and Karl Kerschl with art by MSASSYK and Kersch.
A Comixology original, Delver is about a dungeon magically appearing outside of a small town and the adventurers who dive into it. Some win big while others don’t return. It’s got monsters, creepy caves, and lovable characters. We’re really hoping for a follow-up series. Delver is written by MK Reed and C. Spike Trotman with art by Clive Hawken.
7. Critical Role
The Vox Machina Origins stories are fun and thrilling. The comics are built for avid fans of Critical Role and those just joining the party. If you like rolling dice and role-playing this comic is for you. But it’s also for anyone who enjoys Lord of the Rings. It’s an epic tale of heroes who may not be all that heroic but are still likable in a strange way. Critical Role is written by Matthew Colville and Matthew Mercer with art by Olivia Samson.
We discuss Moana and how the movie presents one of the best ways to build a ranger with a favored enemy as a celestial.
We watched Moana for the first time this weekend. We liked it a lot and saw a lot of similarities to Dungeons & Dragons character classes. One in particular; the ranger. There seems to be a lot of criticism for the way rangers are designed in Fifth Edition. They are more than just ranged fighters with bows and animal companions. Moana, for example, is a ranger. But instead of hunting beasts or dragons she went a different path and took celestial as her favored enemy.
Celestials aren’t the first and probably aren’t even a thought when considering a favored enemy for rangers. One of our first D&D characters was a duergar ranger who just so happens to have chosen celestials as her favored enemy. We saw a lot of similarities between Moana and our ranger while watching the movie and it inspired us to write this article.
Moana = Ranger
Rangers in D&D are nimble, agile, and versatile. Moana ticks all the boxes when it comes to being a ranger. She would much rather explore the ocean than stay cooped up inside a town; she is a creative and strategic fighter and wields an ore with expert precision, and she tracks down multiple celestials in the movie. If you want to go one step further, she even has a chicken animal companion.
Celestials as a Favored Enemy in D&D
Celestials may be an unorthodox creature for rangers to track but the decision can open up such a wide array of story possibilities. Taking Moana as an example, your ranger’s story could revolve around them searching for a celestial being to end a catastrophic event. But like the movie, make sure the ranger is the hero in the end. Dungeon masters should make sure to always make the hero of the story be the character.
Another example could have the ranger hunting down celestials who do wrong. Ones that may hurt or harm people, lands, or animals. Or the ranger could be searching for a celestial to fight a god directly like in our dark fantasy series Thread of Souls.
“All three of them turned to Ruuda, who stood with her arms crossed and an uncomfortable expression on her face.
“And you, little one?” Xidime asked. “Do you have no questions about your own life?” Ruuda was silent for so long Taliesin didn’t think she was going to answer. But the smile never left Xidime’s face, as if the woman knew what was already on her mind. And when Ruuda spoke, it was with a much darker tone than Taliesin had heard from her before.
“I need to kill a god.”
Wash and Unolé stared at her with wide eyes. Xidime chuckled. “I don’t like talk of gods, Dark Dwarf. But to kill one, well, I will see if I can help. I must warn you all that my magic is . . . unusual. But I will get you the answers you seek so long as you trust me. You will not be harmed. The rituals will be under control.”
It’s also quite unexpected for any dungeon master to hear the fact that your character’s favored enemy is celestials. We once played a game with B. Dave Walters. He was appalled my ranger would simply look at a planetar and be like “come here, you great blue bastard!”