Late Review – The Complete Book of Necromancers

Welcome back to the Late Review, which is both much sooner after the last one than normal and somehow simultaneously a little bit late!

In any case, I decided to look at The Complete Book of Necromancers after finishing up the review of Al’Qadim: Arabian Adventures primarily because I didn’t want to spend too much time being negative. So I chose a book I knew I liked, because that would fix it, right?

And then I proceeded to rag on Lords of Darkness for seventeen years and now here we are.

But still, The Complete Book of Necromancers is an excellent supplement. And, for the most part, this post will focus on that. Because this book deserves praise – it is, simply put, excellent.


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DM Me – Discussing CRPGs and Storytelling

I’ve been playing Pathfinder: Kingmaker recently. It was on sale for $5 and I’ve been trying out a new exposure therapy in an effort to actually start liking Pathfinder as a system. Results thus far…? Inconclusive.

I do, however, quite like the CRPG. I think I spent entirely too much time on character creation, but that’s 1) not a new problem for me, and 2) partially due to me installing a mod that adds like forty classes. A hell of my own making, as it were.

However the key takeaway here is the degree to which I’ve taken to the game, and the drastic difference between this and the many other times I’ve attempted to play a CRPG. And yet I still haven’t finished it, right back to my old tricks – I’m the reigning esports champion at not finishing CRPGs.

But why?

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Late Review – The School of Nekros (Dungeon Magazine #27)

I’ve recently been reading through The Complete Book of Necromancers for my next Late Review. One section, covering necromancer organizations, called out a specific example from Dungeon magazine #27 as being a perfect example of the “necromancer group” concept.

As far as I can remember, I’ve never seen any published book mention one of the D&D magazines (Dragon or Dungeon) except as the source of a spell or item used in the published work. This is the first pure “recommended reading” mention, so I decided to look into it.

We’ll come back to The Complete Book of Necromancers next time – because right now, it’s time to talk about A++ adventure module, “The School of Nekros.”

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Homebrew Introspective – The Council Warlock

Welcome back to the Introspective, where I tear apart years-old homebrew in the pursuit of game design understanding. It’s also all my own work, so don’t feel bad about the poor creator of the work – he’s the same one doing the tearing-down in the first place.

Today we’ll be looking at the Council Warlock, one of my more contentious homebrews. Narratively there was the whole “mortal creatures as a Patron” thing, while mechanically it ran afoul of the age-old “INT vs. CHA” argument for the warlock class.

And I think there’s interesting points to make about both. So let’s begin, shall we?

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Late Review – Al’Qadim, Arabian Adventures (Part 2)

Last time, we looked at the entirety of Al’Qadim: Arabian Adventures except for one thing. Today, we look at that one thing: the sha’ir.

“Why wasn’t this a class? How is this a wizard?”

Those are the first of my notes from reading about the sha’ir. Things only went downhill from there. The sha’ir is maddening.

So without any further wait, let’s go!

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Late Review – Al’Qadim, Arabian Adventures (Part 1)

Welcome to the desert! This one is an odd thing to review. It’s kind of a setting book (like Eberron: Rising from the Last War) but it’s also not actually a distinct setting (since it’s located in the Forgotten Realms). But it also is sort of its own setting?

This one’s actually been metaphorically sitting on my desk for quite a while now, so it’s about time. And it’s a weird one for sure, but sill worth looking at.

Anyway, let’s check out Al’Qadim and quick. I originally planned to joke that WotC wouldn’t be bringing this one back any time soon, but with all their poor decisions recently… anything’s possible.

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Homebrew Introspective – Generalist Wizard

It’s been a while since I’ve posted a character option here – more so due to coincidence than any conscious decision. Plus all that nonsense with the OGL is really not ideal. But all the same, I feel examining homebrews is an interesting way of looking deeper into the philosophy and mechanics of the game.

By examining my own homebrews, I can even ensure there won’t be any angry creators coming after me! So let’s take a look, shall we?

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Dungeon Designs – The Living Vault Addendum

In the end, I really did want to go over some of the specific themes I had in mind while detailing The Living Dungeon, and so here we are! I wasn’t originally intending to do these so soon after the original articles, but I’m not in charge of the content pipeline. Come to think of it, I also don’t know who is in charge of it, or if it exists at all.

As a warning, this will include some body horror – the original iteration of this idea was intended to be an aberration-themed nightmare after all. But not all of them are. Just to make doubly sure, all the body horror options will actually have the words “body horror” in their section headers.

With all that out of the way, let’s dive right in!

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DM Me – On the OGL

Honestly, I want to stop reading about this already. I like D&D, thus I don’t enjoy watching the makers of it repeatedly choose mistakes over anything else.

Regardless, I have some thoughts. And I’d rather focus on those instead of my fears or my (depressingly small) hopes.

To summarize, the OGL is the open license under which much of D&D’s mechanics and other aspects can be freely used by others. It’s why we have 3rd-party supplements and adventures, and it also lies at the heart of some major TTRPG competitors, such as Pathfinder (though I’ve heard Pathfinder 2e has moved away from this).

Wizards of the Coast wants to change the OGL. Currently, to them it represents a massive loss in potential profit as it allows 3rd parties, including direct competitors, to make money off of their work. Whether WotC wants to completely remove these other products or merely get their hands in the money pot is uncertain.

I’d like to start by saying that this is a terrible idea and more likely to lower profits than raise them. It’s also not a great time for them to be doing this, since public opinion of WotC seems to be stuck between “uninterested disdain” and “outright hatred.” There are less popular companies out there, but that doesn’t really help their position.

But there are a few caveats too.

For one, whether the online D&D community represents the actual D&D community is not guaranteed. Wherever you have a number of loud and dedicated speakers, you have the possibility of a much larger number of quiet supporters.

There’s also the question of whether or not a majority of D&D players actually know where their content comes from. Given a good portion of it is through online platforms at least partially dominated by WotC, I could easily see many players thinking that everything basically comes back to them.

To put it simply: the online community is outraged. What matters is whether anyone else outside of that community actually cares.

Another caveat is the fact that an update to the OGL probably is necessary. As far as I’m aware, it hasn’t been changed since the advent of large-scale online platforms for 3rd party content. I don’t know what loopholes or issues might exist in the current OGL, but it’s just old. An update of some kind isn’t ridiculous.

I don’t actually know what the current status of copyrighting game mechanics is. As I remember, there’s a lot of doubt over whether or not something as simple as “how to roll dice” can be copyrighted at all. Despite my meager efforts in undergrad, I am not a copyright lawyer (and never will be, hooray pre-law!).

Finally, there’s the issue of internet verification. The latest leaked OGL does seem to have quite a bit backing it up. And WotC’s “oh crap, what do we say?” non-response to the situation also seems to imply that there is reason to be upset.

However, I did notice that the outrage over this started well before the leak was even remotely verifiable or trustworthy. As the Internet is wont to do, everyone latched onto the leak and started getting worked up over it without bothering to check whether the thing was a real leak or a blatant fake made in Photoshop. It could still be that this leak is fake or otherwise untrustworthy, and WotC is just following their venerable tradition of terrible PR decisions by not commenting otherwise sooner.

Also I said I wouldn’t talk about my fears, but here we go anyway.

My biggest concern is that WotC has drastically mis-judged the nature of their consumer base. Namely that they think people who play Pathfinder or any other D&D-related system are actual potential customers of WotC.

Because they aren’t. Even in systems based on 5e, the players of those systems are unlikely to switch back to WotC’s D&D if their current preferred system disappears. Add this to the fact that, obviously, competitor systems will move on and adapt to a world without 5e as a base. So even if WotC could completely obliterate Pathfinder 2e, for instance, all that would do is force the creation of Pathfinder 3e, with the exact same player base as 2e.

Another misunderstanding I think WotC has is that they’re capable of handling the D&D world on their own. Here’s a hint – they aren’t. If you take every WotC product released in the last 3 years, it would likely still be enough to support a community of this size for even one year, much less three.

There’s also the matter of quality. This is another case where my place in the online D&D community can skew my opinion, but even still… to me, it just seems like many WotC products are not preferred over products from 3rd parties. Many WotC adventures are solidly mediocre. Some are good, but these generally tend to be the collections of previously-released modules.

Ghosts of Saltmarsh remains, to this day, a campaign series I desperately want to do. Rime of the Frostmaiden is a book I bought, started reading, and then just never really did anything with. But I don’t know, maybe Radiant Citadel is better – I got it recently but haven’t started it yet.

I hear it has a grumpy, old gate-keeping clown named Thaco, which would be the funniest thing I’ve seen in years if it weren’t for all the enraged forum posts about the character that one of my group posts to our chat regularly. Let me put it like this – the sole downfall of Thaco the Clown is that he cannot ever be the funniest clown in the universe because his very existence brings out dozens of even funnier clowns with zero self-awareness.

Let me put this another way. If you feel personally attacked by the portrayal of a fictional clown, then I suggest you pause for a moment and find the nearest non-funhouse mirror you can and take a good long look at yourself.

Okay, back to the topic at hand.

Right now, WotC is facing a very delicate situation. The Old Guard are leaving for a number of reasons and have been for a long time now. The Old Clown Guards have been offended by an objectively hilarious little joke. And the New Blood are wary of D&D due to the various bits of racism and sexism left over from the game’s origins in the last millennium.

Paizo has really stepped up to the ring with Pathfinder 2e, a revolutionary take on their classic game system which makes it vaguely playable without having to dump seven hundred dollars into it and take a three-month onboarding process. The eternal pandemic has made playing in-person as unfamiliar to current players as a rotary phone. And all of the best online play environments are owned and operated by groups and individuals unaffiliated with WotC (while their own system remains, as far as I’m aware, primarily confined to boardroom PowerPoints).

Is now really the time to start pissing people off?

Anyway, hopefully updates should be more consistent starting soon. I’ll still be talking about D&D regardless of what mistake WotC decides to make next, but whether or not I’ll make anything new for it is up in the air. To me, “D&D” isn’t a trademark because I just can’t see it that way.

Oh, and as always… let me know what you think!

But please don’t send me more links to articles on this story because it’s depressing and, frankly, I really want to stop reading about it.

Dungeon Designs – The Living Vault, part 2

Welcome back to Dungeon Designs and our discussion of “The Living Vault” – a dungeon which aims to feel more alive than any other in existence. Last time, we went over the basic stats for the Living Vault as a creature and an active participant in players’ dungeon crawl. This time, though, we’re going to be focusing more on the actual “dungeon” aspects of this concept.

And don’t worry – anatomical expertise is not required because I sure don’t have any.

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