The Alphastream Game Design Blog
The DMs Guild periodically offers some big sales on amazing products. It started in January 2018 with the “New Year, New Campaign” sale, which applies to an enormous range of books, supplements, and adventures! In May all of the D&D products were on sale, including everything I had ever written! July sees the recurring Christmas in July sale, with 25% off of everything! We’ve also seen Black Friday through Cyber Monday and then various other sales with a specific focus, such October sales on horror items.
Here are a few top picks for any DMs Guild sale!
Jungle Treks – a collection of six fun and short adventures featuring interesting challenges highlighting the dangers of the jungle. Drop them into Tomb of Annihilation or any wilderness campaign! I co-wrote this with the amazing Eric Menge! Read about the design here.
Adamantine Chef: Supreme Challenge – The emperor of Kara-Tur is selecting a new Adamantine Chef, and you can help! This highly acclaimed 3-4 hour adventure pairs action with humor. The menu includes high-flying martial arts action, wild animal hunts, shopping, haiku, and, of course, a food fight! Dish this out as fast food for a fun game night, or use the included tie-ins as extra flavor for an ongoing campaign. Delicious! You can listen to actual play of this adventure, or read about the design.
You can find all of my work here. In addition to the two above you also support me if you pick up The Artifact (a spooky adventure where the party must find who did it, with which object), The Howling Void (enter a fantastic elemental air demi-plane and stop a madman), and Chultan Death Curse: Revised! (alternate rules for Tomb of Annihilation‘s death curse and Meat Grinder Mode). You can also find other works where I do not receive a royalty, such as the following:
Vault of the Dracolich – Deep in Deep in the forest of Cormanthor lies the hoard of the dracolich Dretchroyaster, the prize of which is a diamond staff rumored to unlock the secrets of an ancient elven kingdom. The sage Imani is seeking dozens of adventurers to launch an all-out assault on the undead dragon’s lair. Originally a multi-table 2013 Game Day, this adventure includes rules for assaulting the vault as a single party. I wrote about the design here.
Confrontation at Candlekeep – Candlekeep is under siege, and it needs adventurers to help protect it! Heed the call to defend the legendary monastery and stand against the tide of evil. Written for Wizard of the Coast’s special event at Gen Con 2013, this adventure includes rules for multiple tables to work together (but can be played by just one). I wrote about Making Candlekeep Interactive and Writing Confrontation at Candlekeep.
You know I love classic adventures! Many of the classics are part of the sale including four of my favorites.
U1: Sinister Secret of Saltmarsh – This adventure combines a fun exploration of a haunted house with a clever reveal. Part one of a trilogy featuring coastal, ship, and underwater play, it really is ahead of its time. I wrote here about how easy it is to convert it to 5E.
T1-4: The Temple of Elemental Evil – When I think about classic adventures, this is always near the top of my list. A true deep dungeon crawl, it still has ample story, excellent setting, and some great choices. So many of our current adventures can trace their ancestry back to ToEE. One of the adventures I think every author (and really, every gamer) should play.
I3: Pharaoh – My all time favorite adventure! Not actually part of the New Year sale (but it is part of other sales!), but you can also get a discounted Desert of Desolation bundle with the amazing Oasis of the White Palm and Lost Tomb of Martek. I have played and run these countless times and they never cease to inspire me. My dream freelance job is to help Wizards write a 5E adventure based on Pharaoh.
C3: The Lost Island of Castanamir – This is a truly mind-bending adventure, featuring a dungeon that is a tesseract. When you can’t return the way you came, mapping becomes very interesting! My old gaming group loved this adventure.
The Great Modron March – With so many recent discussions of Modrons by the 5E WotC team, perhaps it is worth brushing up on this classic adventure concept?
N1: Against the Cult of the Reptile God – One of the first adventures to explore a town, then move onto the dungeon locale. This was a great early adventure which filled us with imagination as we played. A true classic.
Red Hand of Doom – One of the most highly regarded adventures of the 3E era, breaking away from the skirmish minis style of late 3E adventures and returning to a deeper plot and exciting locations. Designed to support 6 months of play. Many see this as 3E’s finest adventure, though it competes with Forge of Fury and The Sunless Citadel (both also on sale).
B4: The Lost City – A classic that even inspired portions of Tomb of Annihilation. Characters spend little time in the desert, but it creates a potential tie-in to the Desert of Desolation series. The bulk of play is in a pyramid buried below the sands.
From humble beginnings to incredible innovation, our hobby has seen it all. You can too, on sale!
Chainmail: Rules for Medieval Miniatures – Predating D&D, this was written as Gary Gygax experimented with rules for fantasy characters as part of a larger warfare game. It’s a mess, but if you want to see where we came from, here it is.
OD&D – Original Dungeons and Dragons – The “white box” is an incredible look at the humble beginnings of our hobby.
4E Dungeon Master’s Guide – My pick for the most useful (and therefore best) Dungeon Master’s Guide of all time. While I love the 5E DMG, the 4E version was constantly at my fingertips while I created home campaigns or worked on freelancing projects. I still refer to it today – far more than any previous edition DMGs. It does lack the creativity of the AD&D and 5E DMGs, but not by much. I truly believe every DM should own this.
4E Dungeon Master’s Guide 2 – A treasure trove of incredible advice and design. This is my second favorite DMG of all time, because it is that good (despite being a 2nd DMG). I still refer to this for inspiration. Those Monster Themes alone are worth the price of the book!
Several 4E and D&D Next adventures truly broke new ground.
Madness at Gardmore Abbey – My pick for the best (outside of organized play) adventure of the 4E era, and superior to 3E adventures as well. Fantastic use of plot, innovative aspects that make each play unique and adapt to player choices, and the Deck of Many Things!
Undermountain: Halaster’s Lost Apprentice – This holds a special place in history for being the start of the D&D Encounters program, a revolutionary organized play store-based program that was incredibly successful across the USA. Featuring one encounter a week, easy to read and prep, and still a ton of fun, this format brought easy adventure to thousands while still bringing great story depth. It’s the least impressive of the four here, but still a strong adventure.
Murder in Baldur’s Gate – In 2013, this adventure brought many changes, including to how Encounters worked as a program. The first in the “Sundering” series, it told of the story changes coming to the Forgotten Realms in preparation for 5E. This is a fantastic resource and my go-to book/adventure whenever PCs are in a city. The adventure is fantastic at showing us how to breathe life into a city and make it feel unique. But, you can take those ideas and port them into any city. The adventure itself is strong, but not as amazing. The god of murder begins to return. Characters must find which of three leaders is being influenced by him and stop their plans… but they must choose carefully and can’t counter all of the threats. The choices are not always satisfying, which is why I pick this as a resource to mine repeatedly and not so much as an adventure to run again. In 2019, WotC released the Descent Into Avernus hardback adventure. It contains much of this material, but I still recommend this classic.
Legacy of the Crystal Shard – The second adventure in the Sundering Series, this is an excellent capture of the Icewind Dale region, bringing it to life as the party faces difficult choices of which of three dangers to face first – and not all can be accomplished in time! This continued the evolution of the Encounters program, with stores receiving only a special launch event adventure and DMS having to purchase the adventure to run it (a trend we still see in 2018).
Special mention to the 4E Eberron Player’s Guide. As with the Dark Sun books, the 4E team faced the difficult task of pulling together years of campaign setting products into one awesome book. Eberron is the amazing creation of Keith Baker, who continues to make games I love (such as Phoenix: Dawn Command). Back when I first wrote this, I hoped Eberron would be released soon for 5E. In 2019, it was! Keith Baker has the 5E Wayfinder’s Guide to Eberron and much more on the way!
The community has truly come together to create amazing work on the Guild. I’ve listed other Guild adventures and supplements I like here, but these four on sale deserve special mention:
Complete Adventures of M.T. Black Vol I – We have to start with M.T. Black, likely the most successful Guild author to date. I began to learn about his excellent work with Triboar Trilogy. He has since gone on to creating many more Platinum selling adventures and supplements, including Elminster’s Guide to Magic and Player’s Companion. A lot of us want to grow up to be M.T. Black!
Gateway to a Savage Land – There are several amazing authors who constantly publish excellent work. Jeff Stevens is one of them, and like M.T., he spends a lot of time online encouraging and promoting others. I’m a big fan of Encounters in the Savage Frontier and Encounters in the Savage Cities – absolute steals at these prices! Check out his Encounters in the Savage Jungles to add even more fun to the jungles of Chult!
The Witch of Underwillow and Death in the Cornfields – Two excellent and cheap adventures by Merric Blackman, a prolific reviewer of Guild products and official products. Merric has great insights into all aspects of RPGs. It is fantastic to see him publish these fun adventures. Just 75 cents for Death in the Cornfields!!!
The Champions of Crown City and The Monologue Mechanic – Richard Malena-Webber is a fantastic game designer who also is co-anchor of the Going Last gaming podcast, where he has a DM’s Guild Masterpiece segment. He also runs Atomic Game Theory, where he breaks down how games work. It is therefore no surprise to see him devise an awesome mechanic for rewarding players who listen to the villain’s monologue and then an adventure that both uses that mechanic and drenches us in the campy fantasy genre of films and novels such as The Princess Bride. Recommended!
But, wait… in 2019 I have to add the Uncaged series, where Ashley Warren helmed a collection of adventures subverting tropes around female mythological creatures. Incredible value!
Why did I pick four as my number? I want to add the incredibly useful guides by Sean McGovern, also known as Power Score RPG. He breaks down each season’s adventure to help DMs run it better. Check out his Tomb of Annihilation Companion which also includes new content! And, check out his awesome blog where he breaks down all kinds of interesting lore and provides episode guides for many of the WotC live-play games.
If I don’t stop myself, I’ll go on forever. James Introcaso has the amazing Invasion from the Planet of Tarrasques for high-level play, and he collaborated with the amazing Will Doyle on the super fun drop-into-any-jungle/forest and turn your game into the movie Predator with Hunter. Speaking of Will Doyle, he collaborated with Lysa Penrose to write the very fun Rats of Waterdeep!
Wow. This is an even tougher category than the last one. So many amazing choices. Here are a few amazing adventures on sale:
Underworld Speculation – Written by WotC’s organized play lead, Chris Lindsay, this captures his humor pretty well as he places the party in a mysterious underwater location. Where are they? It is a super fun discovery and a ton of fun to run. I ran this for 6th and 8th graders recently and it was amazing. $2.24 for this adventure? Insane!
Moonshae Isles series – This series of trilogies is shepherded by Eric Menge, with help from amazing people like Shawn Merwin and the late Robert Alaniz. These trilogies are from Baldman Games, who run some of the finest conventions our hobby has, including Winter Fantasy and the organized play for Gen Con and Origins! These adventures please hundreds of players at the conventions and are probably among the most playtested adventures ever. Start with MOON1-1 Moonshae Treasure Hunt and continue in order (1-2, 1-3, 2-1, etc.). You can also pick up the amazing Moonshae Isles Regional Guide packed full of information on this area of the Realms.
Return of the Lizard King – Shawn Merwin is as amazing an author as he is a person (and friend and mentor to me). He is one of the Guild Adepts – folks hand-picked to create special content reflecting the current WotC storyline season. Return of the Lizard King is an excellent way to begin the Tomb of Annihilation campaign. Shawn knows a lot about kicking off campaigns, having been the author picked to write the first adventure for the first five Adventurers League seasons. Each of those is a masterpiece, and special in different ways. Perhaps because I have run it so many times, I have to recommend Defiance in Phlan. It does an incredible job of creating 5 super-fast and super-fun adventures around the Tyranny of Dragons storyline, with each adventure featuring a different faction. Incredible. You can see all of Shawn’s work here. With season 7 he passed the torch, and that intro builds on his work and is also excellent. If you want to start AL play and/or have five fun adventures for Tomb of Annihilation, pick up A City on the Edge.
Xanathar’s Lost Notes to Everything Else – This may be the best indication of the strength of the Guild Adept program. The Guild Adept authors pull together to create an 86-page supplement adding material for players and DMs in the same style as Xanathar’s Guide to Everything. Normally $19.95, it quickly went Platinum (1,000 sales). Get it on sale and have a great time with these excellent creations. And, really, all of the work of the Adepts bears checking out – such as Encounters in Port Nyanzaru or their individual efforts. Similarly, picking up any adventures written by Adventurers League admins is a smart move – veteran authors create amazing work! I could spend forever talking about all of the Adepts for how cool they are.
Update: Running Tomb of Annihilation and need ideas? The May 2018 sale has every adventure in the Tomb of Annihilation season 7 on sale! Pick up an adventure like A Day at the Races to expand upon the dinosaur races, visit the mysterious Port Nyanzaru trash heap and the dangers within with Fester and Burn, or flesh out the Tiryki Anchorage neighborhood (and add a short expedition) with A Walk in the Park. Later adventures take characters to different locations through Chult and expand upon the yuan-ti threats, such as Fathomless Pits of Ill Intent (written by Eric Menge, co-author of Jungle Treks!). Starting with 7-15, Streams of Crimson, the hardback is assumed to have been completed, and this can extend the experience in Chult with Thayan threats in the Land of Ash and Smoke.
There are so many other fun adventures to check out. Even Ryan Wheaton (Wil Wheaton’s son) is in on the action, writing Winter’s Flame.
Let’s end with my favorite setting!
Dark Sun is an incredible setting – taking D&D’s tropes and flipping them upside down. I introduced countless players to the amazing setting with Freedom, and a whole new generation to 4E’s fantastic version with the second season of Encounters, Fury of the Wastewalker. Both of those are great picks, and there is a lot to love about Black Flames and Road to Urik.
However, my favorite Dark Sun products (not on sale originally, but on sale in May!) are Veiled Alliance (an incredibly rich tour of life in every city-state), the 4E Dark Sun Campaign Setting (an amazing set of rules and an unbelievable job distilling all of the setting’s lore into one book), and Earth, Air, Fire, and Water (breathing fantastic life into the role of the elements and clerics in the setting). I’m also very proud of my articles for Dungeon: Traveling the Athasian Wastes and The True in Dungeon 202.
Looking back on all of this – how amazing that the Guild provides us with so much! We are fortunate indeed. What products did you see on-sale that you would add to this list?