Ahoy there, landlubber! Does the call of adventure on the high seas excite you? Do you yearn to helm a ship of your own? Would you risk it all in the search of treasure? Then Ghosts of Saltmarsh, d&d’s newest adventure book, may be for you! With a detailed look into the setting of Saltmarsh, seven adventures revived for fifth edition, and expanded rules for sailing, this book promises a wealth of content to anyone who wants to run a nautical campaign. So how well does it live up to that promise? Is it an ocean of content, or a shallow pool of ideas? Let’s dive in and find out. [Read more…]
Stranger Things Starter Set Review
Stranger Things and Dungeons & Dragons, working together like chocolate and peanut butter. The Stranger Things themed starter set was bound to appear at some point, and now it’s here for us to enjoy. So how does it hold up to its promise? Let’s take a look at what this set has to offer. Then we can see how well it holds up. I’ll be reviewing this set based on two merits: how well it works as a standalone D&D product, and how well it pulls off the Stranger Things novelty. So let’s jump in! [Read more…]
2018: A Year in Retrospect and Looking Forward
Happy New Year everybody! And what a year it has been! A lot has happened this year, making it fly by. More importantly, I’ve been planning a lot for the upcoming year, and I’ll share some of those plans with you here as well. But first, let’s take a look back at what happened this year. For only when we understand our past, can we understand our future.
I started off last year by trying something new: learning to paint minis. I actually learned a lot in the couple months I focused on it. I learned several techniques such as washing and drybrushing. Due to life getting busy I had to shelf it, but I still pull out the occasional mini to paint when I get a break. I still have a lot to learn, and I’d like to take what I have learned and apply it to more advanced projects, like terrain.
This year I also started my first campaign that I’ve ran in a long while. It was relatively short, as we finished up a couple of months ago. But it was great fun! I learned a few lessons during that campaign, mostly about pacing the story and when to focus on the characters. We’ve already started our new campaign, so I’m ready to utilize what I’ve learned. Perhaps you’ll see me use that knowledge if I stream our game?
And the arbitrary reward for post of the year goes to… my speedy sniper tabaxi character concept. You guys seemed to love this one more than any other post this year. Perhaps I’ll make more characters that break the game. I already have an idea for one or two.
The last post I want to look back on in the most important. It is the post about my story, the story of how I found D&D and how it saved me from depression. This one has been a long time coming, but it wasn’t until recently that I felt ready to share it. But it’s important for you to know why I’m here, and why I’m doing BravoBard. The amount of support I’ve gotten concerning this is overwhelming, and for that I thank you from the bottom of my heart.
And that’s it for this year! Let’s look on to the next. For this upcoming year I plan on going in hard. I want to post more frequently and regularly. I’m also going to be trying new things. The two big things are Twitch and Youtube.
For Youtube I’m aiming for more short format guides. Stuff that can help new players and veterans alike in easily digestible sized times. The first videos will probably be rehashes of my more useful posts here, but I’m open to any suggestions! The other format of video I’m going to pursue is Twitch. This includes running games, whether it be my own personal game or one with viewers. It will also include, more often than the other option, prep sessions where you can get an insight into my preparation process. I may even have a surprise event or two up my sleeve…
The other big step I’m planning is to be more ingrained in the community. This includes collaborations with other content creators, discussions with the community, and the like. This one is a little difficult for my introverted self, so once again I’m looking for suggestions.
Overall 2018 was a great year full of happiness and growth. 2019 is looking to double down on that. I can’t wait to see you all on the other side, rolling those dice high!
My Story, and Why D&D Means so Much to Me
It’s no secret that Dungeons & Dragons is a driving force behind my life. The game has changed so much of my personality and lifestyle, all of which for the better. It is the reason I’m here now, sharing the game and using it to improve other people’s lives. It is the reason I’m here now, just living. Dungeons & Dragons has not only changed my life, it has given me life. This is the story of how I found Dungeons & Dragons, and how the game saved me from ending my life.
Let’s rewind back to the later half of my high school days, circa 2009. Everyone was starting to find their niche, whether it be socially with their friends or professionally with their career paths. I was doing neither. I was not the most social of butterflies, and the friends I did make were few and far between. As far as my career direction, I had no clue. Everything I had tried until then was failing; my acting turned out to be terrible, my drawings were worse than my peers’, and the same seemed to be happening to my writing. Everything I thought I was good at, everything I wanted to be good at, was falling flat. And I was falling apart. With nothing to look forward to, nothing to work towards, I fell into an ever deepening spiral of depression.
Now depression is a hell of a thing. It eats away at your life, consuming the happy bits. And I don’t want to give off the wrong impression, I didn’t have the worst life by any means. My wonderful parents made sure I was well off, and the few friends I did have at the time were great. But still there was this nagging feeling at the base of my soul. It was always there tugging downwards, telling me everything good was fleeting, that my existence was a burden on others, that everything was going to come crashing down soon enough and to do everyone a favor and do it myself. I thought I wasn’t going to achieve anything and make the world better, so I must be a waste of resources. While I never had the knife in my hand or the pills in my mouth, suicide was an option I considered almost every day for quite a number of days.
It was at this time, when the darkness was at its worst, that my friend invited me to come with him to learn Dungeons & Dragons. At this point I figured why not. Even if it ended up being as silly as people thought it was back then (this was before the cultural rebirth that fifth edition and Critical Role inspired) I couldn’t lose anything other than my time, which wasn’t important to me anyway. So we went to the dungeon master’s house, rolled up our characters, and learned the rules of the game. I was set to be Oshi Oreg, a cyborg (homebrew) fighter. I didn’t know it at the time, but Oshi was going to be the vehicle with which I turned my life around.
We returned a few days later to play our first session. I started in the game like most players do, bumbling about social encounters and slowly realizing the true depth to the game. This was not like the video games I had played; it was so much more. I was able to make my own choices, be my own person, and forge my own path. It dawned on me that I could be Oshi, if only for a little while. The idea of being anybody but myself sounded fantastic at the time.
It was around the time of that realization in game when our party was sneaking into a castle through the barracks, filled with guards that outnumbered us 3 to 1. Elsewhere on the grounds was our party’s wizard, who split off to take care of the guard watch. He accomplished this with the least grace known to any wizard by chucking a fireball into the watchtower. The resulting explosion woke up the guards in the barracks. A head on fight would surely spell our doom, so we ran. As we turned to a hallway, we found it filled with guards ready to strike. I was at the head of our group so I made my move. Gripping my greatsword, I made a passing attack. The attack let me move and hit another target with each successful blow. I rolled my dice, and I hit. The first guard went down. I repeated my attack, successfully slicing through the next guard. I repeated a third time, and another guard fell. The whole group was on the edge of their seats. I made an attack against the last guard blocking our escape, hit, and cut him down. Everyone cheered and cried out the name Oshi!
That’s what got me hooked on Dungeons & Dragons; the idea that you could be someone you couldn’t normally be, someone better. When I was at that table I was no longer Andrew, some guy who wasn’t good at anything; I was Oshi, the man who could right wrongs and protect his friends. As more and more sessions passed, Oshi grew as a character. But as a side effect, so did I. By playing out these situations as someone I wanted to be, I learned how to incorporate aspects of Oshi’s personality into my own. I grew as a person, and the confidence that brought inspired me to drag myself out of the hole that was my depression. I was able to build myself into someone I wanted to be, an Oshi of my own accord.
That is the true magic of Dungeons & Dragons to me. The absolute freedom to be whoever you want to be, and the ability to grow as a hero. With the help of Oshi, the game, and my gaming group, I was able to push the darkness back. I’ve grown up so much as a person since then, and a lot of that I can attribute to Dungeons & Dragons. That’s why I’m here now, telling you this story, writing advice for running the game, and running games myself. I want to share the game that has done so much for me. If I can extend a hand to help pull even one person out of that black pit of depression, then all of this will be worth it to me.
All of that being said, depression is a many headed hydra. Dungeons & Dragons may not be the answer to all mental illness. It is a monster many of us have to face, and we need all the weapons we can get. So please, if you feel yourself suffering that same darkness then reach out. I will always be here to help. As will many others. There is a multitude of resources to help treat illnesses. The National Alliance on Mental Illness has plenty of tools to help, as does your local doctor. All you need to do is reach out. You’re not a burden, and we are all here to help.
Gift Guide 2018
It’s that time of year again! Christmas cheer is coursing through the veins of every boy and girl as they anticipate the holiday. Everyone’s out buying gifts for the next month, but some people are harder to get gifts for than others. Maybe you don’t know much about Dungeons & Dragons, or rpgs in general. Maybe you’re a part of their gaming group but are blanking on ideas. No matter what your conundrum is, I’ve got you covered with this guide to all the gifts that will fill your roleplaying giftee with glee come Christmas morning.