Initiative Dungeons & Dragons
Character Tips, D&D / TTRPGs, Opinion

Why you Shouldn’t Rely on Initiative

We share our tips for running Dungeons & Dragons scenarios without focusing on Initiative.

Initiative is a concept in games such as Dungeons & Dragons that decides who acts when in combat. Players and enemies roll a d20 and add their Dexterity then a fight begins. It works well but it isn’t something we’ve come to rely on and niether should you.

Frankly, Initiative can bog down a game. Fights can take hours whereas traveling from point A to point B can take a manner of minutes. Not only does opting not to use Initiatve speed things up it allows everyone at the table to pay more attention. By not knowing when they are up, they may not dissappear into their phone. It’s a great way to ensure everyone, including the dungeon master, pays attention and is engaged.

Streamline Encounters

Fights tend to take a bit of time. Player turns can be lengthy and other players may tune out while it isn’t their turn. The next time you have an encounter try forgoing Initiatve altogether. Instead, narrate what is happening and ask the players what they want their characters to do. It’s best to still stick with standard action economy – action, bonus action, move, reaction – but instead of acting in turn, they act after the enemy does their action.

For instance, if the group is up against a villain who is trying to get away with an artifact. Rather then go into Initiative, have them grab it as an action then run away. Then ask the players what they want to do. By not being in Initiative, they may think differently and not necessarily jump to fight mode.

Fluid Interactions

Asking players what they want to do gives them more freedom. They don’t necessarily have to worry about waiting for another player to act before they do. No one is tied down by an order. As long as they act after the enemy or opposing force.

It’s a great time for players to try new things as well. Not being restrained by Initiative can open up some new opporunities in working together and thinking of unique ways to handle situations. It’s an idea that can really change the flow of any session and make encounters more freeing and cinematic.


Initiative Shouldn’t Mean Combat

The definition of Initiative according to the Player’s Handbook states,

“Initiative determines the order of turns during combat. When combat starts, every participant makes a Dexterity check to determine their place in the initiative order.”

Saying ‘roll for Initiative’ may cause players to automatically think they should engage instant kill mode. That shouldn’t always be the case.

Cinematic Feel

When you break away from thinking of Initiative as strictly combat you start to see everything in a more cinematic view. Action movies all have intense scenes but think about all of the stuff that happens. They are generally more than just fast punches, swift kicks, car chases, and bullets. Villains monologue and characters react. Everything is so alive. By using these alternate rules, you can make more engaging encounters that don’t end in a blood bath. Why you Shouldn’t Rely on Initiative


fantasy comics
D&D / TTRPGs, Fantasy Topics, Opinion

Comic Books Fantasy Fans Should Add to their Pull List

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.

fantasy comics

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.

2. Monstress

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

3. Inkblot

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.

5. Isola

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.

6. Delver

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.

Moana Dungeons and Dragons
Character Tips, D&D / TTRPGs, Fantasy Topics, Opinion, Storytelling Tips, Writing Tips

Moana is a D&D Ranger Whose Favorite Enemy is Celestials

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!”


You can read more about Ruuda in our book series Thread of Souls.

Character Flaws
Character Tips, D&D / TTRPGs, Fantasy Topics

The Ultimate List of 100 Character Flaws

We provide your one-stop list for character flaws, as well as a fun exercise to create dynamic characters!


Creating a character is a difficult task. There are several things to consider from what do they look like, how do they sound, how do they act, and what makes them who they are? All of these things and more should be focused on when building a character. But you should also focus on their weakness or flaws.

These types of traits can be anything from fear, a vice, or failing. They could also be something another character can use against them or hold over their head. It may even be another person. Someone they are afraid to speak with or even see. Whatever it is, characters with weaknesses are more engaging to readers as they are more realistic.

Character Building Exercise: Choose five numbers randomly, or use one of those random number generation tools online. Or roll a d100 five times! Write down those five traits and create a character out of them. Decide how this personality happened. What in the character’s past caused these traits to form? How do they use them? Do they fully understand them? If there are contradicting ones, what caused this internal battle?

  1. Absent-Minded
  2. Abusive
  3. Anxious
  4. Arrogant
  5. Bashful
  6. Belligerent
  7. Betrayal
  8. Bigmouth
  9. Blunt
  10. Bold
  11. Childish
  12. Clumsy
  13. Compulsive
  14. Covetous
  15. Coward
  16. Crude
  17. Cruel
  18. Curious
  19. Daydream
  20. Deceitful
  21. Disloyal
  22. Driven by Goals
  23. Drunkard
  24. Egotistical
  25. Emotionless
  26. Envious
  27. Fanatical
  28. Fearful
  29. Fickle
  30. Finicky
  31. Flawless
  32. Flirty
  33. Forgetful
  34. Gambling
  35. Gluttony
  36. Greedy
  37. Grumpy
  38. Hubris
  39. Hunted for betraying someone
  40. Ignorant
  41. Immature
  42. Impatient
  43. In Debt
  44. Infamy
  45. Inquisitive
  46. Jealous
  47. Judgmental
  48. Kleptomaniac
  49. Klutz
  50. Lazy
  51. Lewd
  52. Lies
  53. Lustful
  54. Manipulative
  55. Materialistic
  56. Messy
  57. Meek
  58. Mischievous
  59. Naïve
  60. Nervous
  61. Nosey
  62. Obsessed
  63. Obsessive
  64. Pacifist
  65. Paranoid
  66. Perfectionist
  67. Pessimistic
  68. Poor Hygiene
  69. Powerless
  70. Predictable
  71. Prideful
  72. Procrastination
  73. Rapacious
  74. Rebellious
  75. Reckless
  76. Remorseless
  77. Rude
  78. Sacrilegious
  79. Sarcastic
  80. Seducer
  81. Selfish
  82. Shallow
  83. Shameful
  84. Showy
  85. Shy
  86. Skeptical
  87. Solemn
  88. Spoiled
  89. Stern in Thought
  90. Stubborn
  91. Superstitious
  92. Suspicious of Others
  93. Swindler
  94. Timid
  95. Too Trusting
  96. Unable to Trust
  97. Unfaithful
  98. Unreliable
  99. Vain
  100. Wrathful
D&D
Character Tips, D&D / TTRPGs

A D&D Player’s Guide to Roleplaying 2+ Characters

A creative guide to help D&D players who find themselves roleplaying more than one character in a campaign.


While it is expected for a Dungeon Master to juggle multiple characters and creatures simultaneously, it is not the same for players. You are expected to come with one character and focus on them throughout the campaign. Or are you? Some D&D books, such as Out of the Abyss, has an option for players to control an entire military-style group of “NPC’s”. And for those that are playing singe-player campaigns, having a fuller party makes much more sense.

But are there any drawbacks? After all, if you are the type of player that likes to delve deep into your character and fully bring them to the table, you might be concerned about having difficultly. You might worry you can’t juggle two, or even more characters at the same time.

That’s where this guide steps in! Coming from a player who has spent years playing three characters at the same time, I’ll give a breakdown of how this can be easy, fun, and rewarding!


Choose Your “Protagonist”

This may sound harsh to your other characters, but choosing a main character for your D&D campaign is really beneficial. This will be the character that you default to, that drives scenes, and that spends the most time talking. Collaborate with your DM regarding the campaign’s conflict, as it will help a lot if the overarching conflict is tied to this character.

Tips for choosing: make sure it is a character class you enjoy playing. You should feel really passionately about this character and more intrigued by them than the others you roleplay.


Whose Scene is it, Anyway?

While you are playing the game, determine which character benefits the most from a certain “scene”. If you are navigating a forest, perhaps it is time for your Druid to shine! If you are negotiating with dangerous people, perhaps your extraverted character with the highest Charisma score will lead. If you are back in your Ranger’s town, then they will guide the party around. Think about who makes the most impact in a certain situation, and focus on them.


Have 1:1 Moments

To ensure all your characters have time to develop, make sure they get one-on-one moments. Either with other characters or NPC’s. Having time to voice their own thoughts without overlapping roleplay is great to ensure they get their time to shine.


Collaborate with Your DM

When you are in a single player D&D campaign, player-DM communication is key. Make it clear what each of your characters want, and what they will pursue in the coming games. This helps tell the tale of all of your characters, instead of all but one being silent.


Learn to Narrate More

Playing multiple characters at once requires some narration. This not only helps tell your characters apart, but it also helps set the scene for what each of them are doing. I’ll pull an example from our most recent game. The party just got some critical information and were taking time to digest it.

I said, “Jade has a heavy frown on her face, and it’s clear she is thinking deeply. Taliesin is curled up on himself in a bit of an emotionally fetal position. Sen doesn’t really understand the weight and has gone to get another drink.”

Through this, I was able to convey three different reactions and emotional states without having to overlap dialogue or get the characters confused.


Quick Reference List

  • Choose a main character to lead interactions.
  • Allow different characters to have the spotlight depending on the situation.
  • Give a single character private conversations with others.
  • Communicate with your DM on each of your character’s motivations.
  • Narrate scenes to avoid too much character overlap.

Dragon Age
Character Tips, D&D / TTRPGs, Fantasy Topics, Opinion, Storytelling Tips, Video Games, Writing Tips

How Adding A Neutral Party can Enhance your Story

We look to series like Dragon Age and Pirates of the Caribbean see how adding a third neutral party can help you tell more engaging stories

It’s typical storytelling to follow the protagonist versus the antagonist. But what if there was a third party introduced to the mix? One that got in the way of both others. One with their own agenda. How would that change a story? We’ll use Dragon Age and Pirates of the Caribbean as examples of how you can use a third party to develop your story.

Story Example

The next Dragon Age game may be a ways off but the stories and characters of Thedas span more than just video games. There are several novels and comic books you can sink into until the fourth game’s release. The most recent comic being Dragon Age: Dark Fortress.

SPOILER WARNING: Content may spoil events from the games. You have been warned. We will avoid major spoilers.

Dark Fortress follows fan-favorite character Fenris as he hunts down the son of his former master Danarius. Throughout the three-issue run, we learn that Tevinter mages are creating another powerful warrior like Fenris. It’s something the Qunari aren’t huge fans of either so they show up to put an end to it. Fenris teams up with characters from previous comics and they work together to track down the mages.

Towards the end of the run, events collide and the three groups end up facing off against one another. It’s a story that is familiar to the Dragon Age series and plays out many times throughout. Yet it never feels overused: Quanri vs

Things are going rather well for the protagonist when all of the sudden, the Qunari arrive and they have to rethink their strategy.

How You Can Adapt it

It’s an example that can be used in Dungeons & Dragons or any TTRPG or novel for that matter. It is a great way to increase tension and build lore in your world as well. Your characters may think they are the only ones hunting down a specific enemy, item, or person but what if they weren’t? Perhaps a third party shows up at inconvenient moments to get in their way. Plots like this are a great way to develop your story and add suspense and action to the mix.

Just when the characters think they’ve got the upper hand, the third party comes in and trips them up. This third group can be evil, good, or neutral. Their motivations can vary from stopping the other two parties, stopping one party, or just adding a little chaos.

Take the fourth Pirates of the Caribbean movie for example. On Stranger Tides follows Spanish and English soldiers as they search for the Fountain of Youth. The third party consists of Jack Sparrow and the crew of the Queen Anne’s Revenge. The climax sees English troops fighting the pirates over control of the fountain before Spanish soldiers arrive and destroy it. After their task is done, they just walk away without fighting anyone.

Introducing a third party to the story can change the flow of the narrative. It’s interesting, adds detail to your world, and gives your payers a reason to think of new ways to handle situations. Although, don’t overdo it.

So, give it a shot the next time your characters are after the BBEG or magical artifact. You never know how it will change your story and keep everyone on their toes.

Forbidden Lands
D&D / TTRPGs, Fantasy Topics, Opinion, Reviews

Forbidden Lands Tabletop RPG Review

A land torn asunder by war, famine, and corruption. Through many years of hardship, the people step from their homes to discover a new life. The once mysterious Blood Mist slowly evaporates from the earth, and demons linger throughout the mountains. This is the world of the Forbidden Lands.

A dwarf minstrel, elf fighter, goblin sorcerer, and human peddler approach a small quaint village by the river. A guard gazes lazily at them as they pass by the fortified wooden gate. These aren’t typical adventurers, they are rogues and raiders trying to make a living in a dangerous world.

Forbidden Lands is a tabletop role-playing game from Free League Publishing. It’s a twist on other popular RPG titles where the players aren’t necessarily the heroes of the campaign, but instead are simply trying to survive any way they can.

The mythos and lore of Forbidden Lands is well thought out and detailed. The gods brought their people to a new land and discovered it wasn’t as peaceful as they had hoped. Wars erupted and fighting spread throughout the world. Then a terrible mist appeared and killed everything it touched. Eventually, the mist vanished but the world was changed and portions of it still linger throughout waiting to be discovered by would-be adventures hoping to become a legend.

Legends

Speaking of legends, Legends are how the players learn about the world and its people. They are also a way for them to gain experience. Instead of a player not knowing who an NPC is, the game masters might have the characters hear about a legend from NPCs, maps, or notes they find during their adventure. Or before they encounter an area of the person, they roll a die to find out what they know.

Stronghold

Another aspect of Forbidden Lands is the Stronghold. Over time the characters will have made a name for themselves and if they live long enough, they will gain access to their own stronghold. The Forbidden Lands are dangerous and full of deadly creatures, and the characters will need a place to rest. Strongholds are a home base for characters to regroup and restock after returning from an adventure.

However, they are not always safe. The rules contain several random encounters to use when the characters are resting inside their stronghold. Peace is hard to come by in this world and that’s what makes it exciting.

Cultures and Kin

Forbidden Lands contains many cultures called Kin. They range from Human, Elf, Half-Elf, Dwarf, Halfling, Orc, Wolfkin, Goblin. Each one can then choose a profession or class if you’re used to Dungeons & Dragons. These can be Druid, Fighter, Hunter, Minstrel, Peddler, Rider, Rogue, or Sorcerer.

There are also skills and abilities based on Attributes. Your character’s physical and mental capabilities are measured in attributes. They are broken down into four categories: Strength, Agility, Wits, and Empathy.

Player Characters

Dark Secret. Akin to Dungeons & Dragons Flaws are Dark Secrets. A Dark Secret is something you did in the past that you don’t want anyone else to know about. It is one of the most valuable resources the game master can pull from when deciding future plot points for your character.

Consumables. In Forbidden Lands, keeping track of consumable items such as food, water, and arrows is an important aspect of exploring. These are tracked by a d6, d8, and d12. Once eating a ration or loosing an arrow, you roll the specific dice and if a 1 or 2 appears you lower the dice to the lower amount – d12 to d10 and so on. After rolling a 1 or 2 on a d6, you run out of whatever it is you used and have to buy more.

It’s actually an engaging way to keep track of your items. Instead of worrying about how many arrows or bolts you have in a given day, you just roll the dice to decide.

Reputation. Being recognized in the Forbidden Lands is something to keep track of as well. Whether you successfully looted an ancient crypt or angered the village leader, your name could get out and reach the ears of powerful people.

This mechanic works by having the player with the highest reputation roll a d6 when they reach a town or interact with an NPC. A 6 means you have made a name for yourself and that person or town knows you, however, if it’s good or bad is up to the deeds you have done. This also works in reverse and the players can roll d6 to determine if they’ve heard of an NPC.

It Takes a d6

Instead of relying on a d20 like D&D, Forbidden Lands can be played entirely with a d6. Weapons and gear have attributes of their own you add or subtract from skills and attacks. You roll to attack and for skills but the damage is calculated by characters four Attributes. You can also go one step further and push any roll for added success or failure.

If you fail a roll and choose to push it you add dice according to certain skills and abilities and roll again. But failing could result in an even worse result than the original roll. While success means you achieve an even cooler result and perhaps do more damage.

Verdict

Forbidden Lands is one of the most innovative and engaging TTRPGs around. It’s fast-paced and full of history. Exploring feels rewarding and interacting with NPCs and adventure sites is intriguing and exciting. The whole thing can even be played at random without any planning so both the game master and players aren’t aware of what’s going to happen. Forbidden Lands is built for storytellers and fantasy lovers who enjoy diving into the unknown and uncovering new mysteries.

Forbidden Lands is recommended for fantasy fans! It is thrilling, detailed, and full of wonderful and dreadful encounters We give it a 9 on a d10.

Clicking the image will take you to the product on Amazon

We received a free copy of Forbidden Lands in exchange for a fair and honest review. All opinions are our own. 

Symbaroum
D&D / TTRPGs, Fantasy Topics, Opinion, Video Games

Tabletop Games Deserving of a Video Game Series

We take a look at tabletop role-playing games that would great make video games

Dungeons & Dragons is one of the world’s most popular tabletop role-playing games. It’s led to the creation of several video game series including Baldur’s Gate, Dark Alliance, and Neverwinter. When it comes to TTRPGs, we mainly play D&D but every now and then we’ll catch a glimpse of other tabletop role-playing games we’d like to play. Ones we feel would make great video games as well.

Below we discuss two games we believe would make strong video games: Symbaroum and Forbidden Lands.

Symbaroum

Symbaroum from Free League Publishing is a dark fantasy setting full of intrigue and mystery. The land is dangerous and full of undead, creatures, loot, and adventure. It has a lot in common with D&D but stands out for its unique world and lore. The main area players explore is the forest of Davokar. It’s mainly uncharted and is a great area full of potential quests. One aspect of Symbaroum is based around exploring and characters must purchase a license to venture into the forest.

The video game could be either an RPG or a real-time strategy game. The RPG would be similar to Baldur’s Gate and Solasta where you take a party of four to six and explore the forest. The main quest may involve searching for a forgotten city, finding a missing warrior who ventured out before you and, or destroying an artifact that is bringing destruction to the land.

While the RTS could work by having you take control of the adventuring guild and hiring adventures to go into the forest. All while you construct a town and keep up its resources.

Forbidden Lands

Forbidden Lands, also from Free League, is more similar to Pathfinder. While there is a Pathfinder video game, we feel Forbidden Lands would make a far better one. Its world is rich and detailed with history. The gods fled their previous land and ventured into a new one, hence the name. The new region saw war and greed and is covered in a terrible mist called the Blood Mist.

The mist corrupts and kills anyone who steps foot in it, spawns monsters, and is even alive if some believe the rumors. There are several factions and established characters within the world that can make random appearances from time to time to surprise the party. Like the Rust Brothers or a walking set of armor possessed by the soul of a forgotten warrior.

A video game would be fantastic and we could see it being a hack-and-slash like The Legend of Zelda: Age of Calamity. But it would be perfect as a turn-based RPG, too.

Rat Queens
D&D / TTRPGs, Fantasy Topics, Opinion, Reviews

Rat Queens Volume 1 Review

We take a look at Rat Queens Volume 1 and how it relates to D&D

Rat Queens is a dark satire comic book series that plays out like a typical game of Dungeons & Dragons. From its lovable characters and its detailed world, the comic contains wit and humor blended with gritty action and an engaging plot that keeps you wanting more and more.

I won’t lie when I tell you that when I first read a Rat Queens comic – issue 16 with Critical Role – a few years ago I did not find it all that great. Jump forward to today and I am all in for what is next from the Rat Queens. It just goes to show that the more time you spend with characters or a series the more it grows on you. It’s much like character development where you have an idea at the beginning but as time goes on the character grows and changes in ways you never even thought about.

Characters

Rat Queens Volume 1: Sass and Sorcerery follows the story of the adventuring party made up of Betty the rogue, Violet the fighter, Dee the cleric, and Hannah the wizard. The world is swords and sorcery and feels like a beginning D&D quest. The leading ladies are one of many protectors of the city of Palisade. They collect bounties and contracts to slay monsters and complete quests. The party is already well established in the city and the comic does a great job at letting you know everyone knows who they are and they aren’t particularly well-liked even though they get things done.

There are several other characters introduced to make the world feel more alive and it makes everything feel grander and meaningful. Even though there are a lot of characters writer Kurtis Wiebe makes each one engaging. They have a unique way of speaking and handling situations, especially the Rat Queens. They also have their own secrets and pasts that appear to play a larger part in future issues. Betty is an adorable firecracker that will cut you if you look at her or her friends the wrong way. Whereas Violet is a tough and resilient dwarven warrior that is always ready to protect her fellow party members.

In any tabletop role-playing game using backstory is one of the best ways to advance plot. The first five issues were just a prelude to the larger story at hand.

Rat Queens

Story

Speaking of story issues 1 -5 focused on setting up the characters. Wiebe understands characters and builds time to connect and establish who each one is. The writing is vivid and flows fluidly with the artwork which is equally as stunning. The first arc is one big quest to find out who is trying to kill off adventuring party members. It’s the classic tale of one quest evolving into another leading to larger threats on the horizon.

While on a contract, the Rat Queens are given a quest to clean out a cave of goblins. There is nothing more nostalgic sounding than that in a D&D game. Yet things don’t go as planned and that greater threat arrives in the form of an assassin. The challenge shifts to finding out who hired the assassins and why they are killing party members. It keeps you guessing about who it may be but excellently presents the story in a clear and concise manner.

Fight scenes are graphic but remain engaging, entertaining, witty, and full of motion without being overly and unnecessarily violent. Slower-paced moments are easy to follow and don’t drag on. Each panel contains beautiful art and conversations that advance the story and develop the characters.

Rat Queens: Volume 1 is the classic D&D tale of the beginner adventure party. The world is full of terrifying creatures and realistic characters who act like real people. There is plenty of adult language and adult situations that would make Captain America blush but nothing that doesn’t fit in with the narrative. The main Rat Queens crew is violent and often attacks first and asks questions later. Yet they’re all lovable and enjoyable throughout their quirks, mannerisms, and qualities.

Rat Queens: Volume 1 is highly recommended to fantasy and D&D fans! It is thrilling, intriguing, fast-paced, and contains a world full of engaging and realistic characters. We give it a 9 on a d10.

D&D
Character Tips, D&D / TTRPGs

The Best D&D Non-Combat Druid Spells

We look at the top spells from a druid’s list that are essential to prepare, even though they don’t do damage!


Druids in D&D are such a flexible class. They can transform into animals or elementals. They can focus on devastating damage, restorative healing, or environment manipulation. Whatever way you choose to play your druid character is valid and fantastic for the type of story you are telling. But for this article, we are going to take a look at our picks for the top non-combat (and non-healing) druid spells that are great to prepare each game!


Heat Metal (2nd)

Heat metal is one of those spells that you don’t think about it until you need it. And then it is essential. You are able to transmit fire damage to an object for one minute, but its utility goes beyond that. You can use it to destroy locks, open doors, bend prison bars, and damage equipment. This makes it extremely useful for non-combat explorative and intrigue situations. And since it is only a second level spell, you can cast it at higher levels for really dense metal that you need to destroy.

Conjure Animals (3rd)

Sure, it is useful to have animal helpers in combat, by why limit this spell just for that? Do you need to transport a group a long distance? Summon eight giant owls. Do you need to search for something missing? Summon some hounds. These conjured animals can be used to dig tunnels, cause distractions, or fetch items. And if another D&D player has Speak With Animals or Beast Sense prepared, these animals can be used for reconnaissance, as well.

Speak With Plants (3rd)

This D&D spell is excellent for information-gathering. Sure, the intelligence of plants is rather low. But if your questions are phrased simply enough, there is no end to the type of intel you can learn about the location, who passed by, or what events could be going on. While this spell comes to mind the most in the wilderness, don’t forget the house garden of a villainous character can be just as helpful!

Commune With Nature (5th)

This spell has so many great applications. Where it really shines is helping a D&D party uncover secrets in unfamiliar territory. Are you searching for a hidden pond? Looking for a secret city? Trying to find a tunnel through a mountain? Or searching for an interplanar monster? Commune With Nature can help with all of these! The best thing about this spell is that it is a ritual, so you don’t have to worry about using up valuable 5th-level spell slots.

Transport Via Plants (6th)

When it comes to getting around quickly in the world, Transport Via Plants is a must. When your party gets to upper levels, the game typically shifts focus away from the every day dangers of traveling and more to the quest at hand, usually on a “world saving” scope. And to help your character focus on their next challenge, and getting quickly to a destination, this spell is fantastic. Since the druid still has to be familiar with a location, it keeps a challenge present and makes the spell not an easy fix for every situation.

Wind Walk (6th)

Despite competing for a spell slot with Transport Via Plants, we still want to name Wind Walk as a top non-combat spell. It is great for quick travel in locations with no trees, or for places the druid is unfamiliar with. It also makes sneaking through large locations more viable. If done correctly, this is not game-breaking. The D&D party still has to be physical to interact with anything, and this transformation takes a full minute. At the level that 6th-level spells become available, the party should not be really encountering dungeons that have no value other than getting from point A to point B, anyway. But if your party is trying to find a hidden chamber in a city of enemies, this spell makes for more dynamic exploration.

Animal Shapes (8th)

This spell is great to overcome a variety of challenges. Does your party need to fly somewhere? Swim deep into the ocean? Burrow underground? Blend in with the local farm animals? This spell is as useful as it is fun, bringing a levity to the often stressful situations parties at level 15+ can encounter.