RPGBOT.News – Call of the Netherdeep and Unearthed Arcana: Heroes of Krynn

Show Notes

In this episode of the RPGBOT.News, we explore the new DnD 5e Critical Role adventure Call of the Netherdeep from Wizards of the Coast (WoTC), and we look at the new Unearthed Arcana article, Heroes of Krynn. We discuss things we like and don’t like about Call of the Netherdeep, and we discuss the content, state, and implications of the new Unearthed Arcana article.

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Special thanks from Producer Dan [the @Lzr_illuminati,] to @Cross2Killer, @Stubbenz, and @Winglady for helping us get the volume levels and mix sorted out.

Materials Referenced in this Episode

Transcript

Randall 

Welcome to the RPGBOT.news. I’m Randall James and with me is Tyler Kamstra.

Tyler 

Hi everybody.

Randall 

and Random Powell.

Random 

Howdy.

Randall 

Alright, Tyler, what is going on?

Tyler 

Well, we’ve got two exciting things to talk about today. Call of the Netherdeep has just released and we also last week received a new Unearthed Arcana article from Wizards of the Coast. Call of teh Netherdeep is the new Critical Role tie-in adventure. And the Unearthed Arcana article is titled “Heroes of Krynn,” which is the name of the setting for the Dragonlance novels. People are very excited about both of these things. People who follow Critical Role diligently are excited about the adventure. And heroes of Krynn is very exciting for people who’ve been waiting for Dragonlance to make a come back since… what, second edition was the last official appearance, I think? There’s a lot to be excited about. That all happened very quickly. So we’re going to talk about both things tonight. Why don’t we start with Call of the Netherdeep?

Randall 

Yeah, I think that makes sense. So I think we all have had a chance to take a look at it. It might make sense to open up with like, how familiar were you ahead of time, with Exandria, the world of Critical Role.

Tyler 

I’m not super familiar with it, I don’t follow critical roles super closely. Finite time in a day, as much as I would love to watch everything they make. There is a lot of it. If you’re not big on Critical Role, I think if you’ve got Explorer’s Guide to Wildemount, and call of the Netherdeep, that’s reasonably everything you need to know to run this adventure very well.

Random 

I’m even going to pare that down a little bit more. Realistically, you could run it out of the box with just the adventure itself. Explorer’s Guide to Wildemount will really help you flesh out the world. But realistically, I mean, they even include little like box text talking about some things that are important, you know, like, some races are very similar to their Faerun versions, but maybe slightly different. Maybe goliaths only have one or the other of their cold resistance or their being strong, but not both. Things like that. You can very much feel free to just use this by itself. But absolutely, like Tyler was saying explorers Guide to Wildemount will really help you especially if your players are those who like to go off the rails, wander into the, you know, the woods and see what kind of stuff is waiting for them. EGTW will very much help you try and provide those sorts of answers if you don’t want to try and just do it off the cuff.

Randall 

I will say I had a slightly different take on that. So as I look through, I feel like there were a lot of places where there was an explicit call out that additional details can be found in Ecplorers Guide to Wildemount to the point where I thought to myself, like, as rich as the lore that’s presented in Call of the Netherdeep, if I was a person really wanted to go all in on the lore, I would want that book to supplement what I’m doing right now. I do want to say so as far as like my familiar or Critical Role. I’ve listened to a bit of campaign tune a bit of campaign three, which started in the scheme of things fairly recently. And I think I’m 100% in the same boat that Tyler’s in, although I keep trying anyway, they’re producing what is it three to four hours of content every week? Keeping up with that and, you know, staying sane and happy haven’t necessarily alligned.

Tyler 

I totally understand. Critical Role creates a lot of content, like we said. Three to four hours a week. Yeah. So if you’re not big on Critical Role, like the adventure is still very cool. There’s a lot to enjoy here. The setting is neat. The theme of the adventure is pretty interesting, and it does a good job of tying into the world but still keeping the story self-contained. It doesn’t feel like you’re just riding on the coattails of the official Critical Role campaigns, like, this is off somewhere that the official campaigns probably haven’t touched very much. You still get to have your own story.

Random 

One thing I do want to say, especially before we delve too much further into like the lore and the story here. One of the big things that was touted was the rival adventurers. I was fairly underwhelmed. There’s not so much a system as it’s presented. It’s mostly just woven into the narrative of there is this group of people and there’s changing stat blocks for them over time and there’s a few places where the story interacts with how do they care about you. There’s really nothing new. It’s just keep track of their attitude towards you on a piece of paper and reference it a few times. If that is something that was drawing you towards this, expect to instead be really drawn in by the great story that there is, and not so much by this new mechanic.

Tyler 

Definitely. The rival adventures were definitely a big selling point for this adventure. So I’m a little disappointed to see that there isn’t some mechanic that we can plunder. But I think this is the first time that wizards has done anything like this officially, so it’s cool to see them exploring a new story device. And, yeah, the rival adventures pop up in basically every major scene in the campaign, so it is a central part of the story. So it’s great that they didn’t just like, here’s this thing will reference it a couple of times, but otherwise, you’re on your own. So there’s a lot of guidance on how to use it within the campaign. And if you, if you read the book thoroughly and look at all those interactions, like, like we said, there’s no mechanic that you can just rip out. But you may be able to use that as an inspiration to do something similar in your own games.

Randall 

I’ll actually say I feel like I haven’t seen exactly this mechanic and fivey before and by mechanic, what I mean, is you get a NPC stat sheet, per tier of play. Maybe it’s worthwhile to say the game expects you to start at level three, not at level one. And I think that’s fantastic. And technically, upon the completion of the entire campaign, you would achieve level 13. So you, you have the NPC cards to go with you from tier one to two to three. And there is a role playing guidance about how you as a DM should play these characters based on the scenarios that you’re running into. Have you seen something similar before?

Tyler 

Not that I can think of. My knowledge of official adventures isn’t universal, so it’s possible that in previous editions, there was something like this, but we definitely haven’t seen it in fifth edition. I don’t know of anything like this in third or fourth. But again, my knowledge isn’t universal so find me on social media and tell me that I’m wrong.

Randall 

And then maybe one follow up. In Strixhaven we have this idea of… and I forget what they called it, but essentially like affinity. How much does a character like you and if they like you a lot, that could be a benefit. If it gets so bad that they’re an enemy, there were actually repercussions within the campaign, right?

Random 

Yeah, this is one of the things that I wanted to touch on. At the various scenes that Tyler called out, there are 100%, like branching paths. And I mean, there’s actually there’s a lot of story written around how the rival party feels about you, and how they interact with you, how you interact with them. You know, at least once a an arc, and often even more than that. And yet, and this is a thing that Tyler and I were talking about today, the very first time you encounter them, you can just straight up murder all of them and there are no consequences to the story. Literally, it just makes things easier/harder here. A wonderful pop culture example, if you have watched the second Angelina Jolie Tomb Raider movie with Gerard Butler. Gerard Butler, of course, featuring as a… wow, both of you giving me looks like I’m on the moon. It’s a fun movie! Alright, anyway. He plays this character who is very much you know, meant to be a foil. Another person who is also after the same treasure, but not explicitly working with. And so at some point, your interests have to diverge, and there can be some conflict there. And that’s great. If your players buy into that, that can absolutely be a sort of fun narrative device as, you know, you’re encountering these people over and over again, seeing how they change the the book spends a lot of time going over how they change and that sort of thing. And again, literally, there’s absolutely nothing preventing you and no consequence from just yeeting them off a cliff the first time you run into them, and then they’re… that’s it, there’s no more story to them.

Randall 

No, I can tell you exactly what’s stopping us from doing this years and not being able to murder that annoying character during a cutscene.

Random 

Right?

Tyler 

There are minor consequences if you kill the Rival party, there are certain places in the story where they can help you if they’re friendly to you. So like, you can befriend them. The text describing the rivals actually specifically mentions potential romance between the party and the rivals. Probably the biggest problem I have is it’s really hard to come up with a good reason for the rivals to not just follow you around. Like, there’s huge parts of the story where the party and the rivals are both going to the same place at the same time by the same travel method. So there’s literally zero reason why you don’t all just travel together unless you hate each other. Which, maybe it’s more fun for you to make enemies of the rivals and then you have this constant, like, rival faction that you somehow never kill. If you’re a DM running the rivals, come up with excuses for them to go off and do their own thing. If there’s a fight between the players and the rivals, have them run away early because, you know, give them a good self-preservation instinct.

Randall 

Yeah, I will say on the other hand, that’s probably a fantastic opportunity for great RP if that is what your table is into. For at least the second time on this podcast. I’m going to bring up Brendon Frazier’s, The Mummy. I feel like in every single one of those movies, there was this situation where there was the rival adventures trying to get to the treasure first. You know, in the first movie, they were other humans. I think in the later movies, it was, you know, more cosmic in nature. But like, those interactions were a lot of fun. Like, everybody remembers when they… the boat burns down when they’re on the river, you know, they’re screaming, it’s like, “hey, McConnell, looks like I’ve got all the horses” and Brendan Fraser screams back “hey, Benny, looks like you’re on the wrong side of the river.” And Benny’s like, “Ah, no!” You know, and like, you chuckle, you had a good time with it. And I’m saying you could build those same opportunities into the game with the interactions with these rivals. Like, if you make them fun NPCs to have that interaction with, there’s a lot of cool stuff that could come from that.

Random 

First off, I quote that movie often and particularly that scene. Second off, okay, fine. You can do it with the mummy and I can’t do a Tomb Raider. Anyway. No, yeah, I think that your point absolutely stands. You know, this is something that could really reasonably be curtailed by just having this conversation early on. Like, you know, in the sessions here with your players, like, hey, look, there’s rivals. Please don’t be a dick about this guy’s. Just, let’s, let’s have this narrative beat so that so that we can do this. And if if they do interact with it, there is a lot. Like, I was intentionally only reading through for the rival parts as much as possible. And it was still a lot of the story that I that I encountered, because there are various branching paths for what if the rivals beat you to the MacGuffin? What if they hate you and they beat you to the MacGuffin? What if they like you and they beat you to the MacGuffin? And that happens like four or five times throughout the story. With all that being said, it’s not so much a system, but it is very cool. And I think that it is something that adds a lot to the story.

Randall 

And I will say like if you know, even if it’s a homebrew campaign that you’re doing, I think you could bring that storytelling device in and you could structure it in a way that fits, even if there aren’t necessarily mechanics that partner with it. My big observation as I was reading this, you know, I’m reading the first few chapters, and it felt a little bit like the first time I tried to read The Silmarillion. There’s a lot of proper nouns. I don’t know how to pronounce any of them. I’m being told how they are relative to each other because I’m not pronouncing them in my head. It’s not actually sticking. So I’m constantly flipping back. Like, is that a person or a place? Because I’m pretty sure they talked about it like it’s a person that reads like it’s placed now. Oh, it’s both Oh, both well, okay, didn’t see this going. Alright. Like, what I will say though, is once you get past the, like the fantastic naming and all of that part of the lore and just think, Okay, this is a 5e adventure. How complex is this lore as a DM to pick up and then share the important pieces of it in a session zero to evangelize that this is a game that you’re interested in running and to as a DM host this world for your players, and my take on it was, it’s probably on the order of difficulty of setting up Waterdeep Dragon Heist. And both of those are a lot more complicated than setting up for a more recent adventure, Wild Beyond the Witchlight

Tyler 

Absolutely. And running the adventure isn’t super complicated either. It’s not a huge complicated sandbox. It’s mostly linear with some free roam within specific locations. So like, players will go from location A, which is a free roam sandbox, to vocation B, which is a free roam sandbox. You’re never going to be in areas a larger than a large city so your players, unless they figure out how to teleport, they’re not gonna be like okay, we’re gonna go visit another continent next session, so good luck DM. The story is pretty good, I think. I enjoyed it. In addition to the rival NPCs, it ties into the lorer of the Exandria setting pretty well. There’s a unique local religion, which is neat. Most of the population within the campaign is historically monstrous humanoids. The starting town is populated primarily by orcs and goblins. There’s a lot of drow in the campaign bugbears other, again, monstrous humanoids. But most of the NPCs are still good leaning at the very least. If you’ve wanted to play a campaign where all the players are monstrous races then this is a great setting to do it in. But even if you don’t maybe your players come in is like human, elf, dwarf, halfling and they get to be the odd one out by using Players Handbook races.

Randall 

And I’ll also say that those, you know, human, half-elf they wouldn’t be… What’s the right way to put it? They wouldn’t be rejected by the society, but they would feel like outsiders. And I think that’s maybe an important distinction to make. It would be like, oh, yeah, you’re obviously not from here, but come on and have a seat. Let’s party.

Tyler 

Yeah, absolutely. And sometimes it’s fun to do that. Without offering any spoilers or ruining any of the plot, like, information that is on the book, the outside of the book to tell you what’s in it. It’s called Call of the Netherdeep. The Netherdeep is described on the outside of the book as a terrifying cross between the far realm and the deep ocean. And it does a really good job capturing the theme. There are some really cool monsters in here. Like, I would, I would be very excited to see these at the table. There’s some nice dungeon crawls, there’s some nice, nice exploration. There’s a lot of interesting NPCs. it’s a cool adventure. I think it’s gonna be a lot of fun for a lot of people. It doesn’t seem super difficult to run. Like I said, you don’t have to manage a giant sandbox. And if you’re worried about the lore, just take it in bite sized chunks. Pick up Explorers Guide to Wildemount. If you want to just, you know, little bit at a time as it becomes relevant and you’ll, you’ll pick it up over time,

Random 

There’s a couple quick things I just want to touch on. One is very quick. This does provide a, as you might expect given that we’re in deep, dark water, there’s some really cool mechanics for how visibility in water works. And explicitly, like, if you have a light in water, if you don’t have a light in water. If you have murky water, regardless of whether or not you have light, and how that affects visibility. So that’s a cool thing that you can look for if, you know, you wanted to go delving into your own maritime campaign or whatever strikes your fancy underwater. There’s another cool thing. And this is the very most minor of spoilers. I will avoid anything that could be considered story-related, but you end up basically doing optional quest chains, but like actually laid out as quest chains. And the way that they did that is really cool. I didn’t read a lot of it because again, I was trying to avoid spoiling the story for myself. But, you know, there’s basically like, do this, you know, if success or failure, then this happens. And if success and this can happen, and then this can happen. That is a pretty central concept for one of the chapters. So seeing that was very cool. And I think that, again, even like the rival system, even though it’s not strictly speaking, like, a mechanic, reading that could be very good inspiration for if you did want to do something like set of initiation trials for like a secret society in your own campaign or something like that. It’s a very cool way of handling that.

Randall 

All right, cool. So critical roll call another deep out now take a look. It’s available on D&D beyond. It’s also available for purchas as a physical book. So I suppose the next thing that we want to talk about is the new Unearthed Arcana. I’ll say I feel like the last time I heard anything about Dragonlance, there was an issue with… yeah, I guess, the author or the publisher, and there was, you know, kind of wide wonderings of would it ever come back to D&D? And it seems like it will.

Tyler 

Yeah, I haven’t… I haven’t found any new information on what the story is there. We did get an Unearthed Arcana, I want to say three, maybe four years ago that first teased Dragonlance content. Like, it was the first time we saw minutters in fifth edition. So the legal disputes over Dragonlance have existed at least that long, probably a lot longer than that. It’s exciting to see more Unearthed Arcana content because that probably means that we’re going to see something about Dragonlance coming this year. Now, Calling back to our future of D&D episode from I believe November, we learned that there are going to be two or three classic settings returning some time this year, but we didn’t get any information on what they were. Now we’ve gotten Unearthed Arcana that had thri-kreen which come from Dark Sun, several races that come from Spelljammer, and now we have the Heroes of Krynn Unearthed Arcana. So there’s your three settings. So it’s entirely possible that in this one year we get Spelljammer, Dark Sun, and Dragonlance, and I… don’t get your hopes up too high. I can’t make any promises since I don’t work for WotC and my crystal ball is not that clear. But boy if that happens, what a year!

Randall 

It’s like I’m not making any promises because I can’t. I can’t affect this whatsoever.

Tyler 

Exactly.

Random 

You know, do the good DM thing and promise it and then make it happen later by shady means. But this UA does have some really exciting stuff. Obviously, like he was talking about, there’s a lot of Krynn content. There’s also some new character options. Not just you know, like race stuff, but there is a new flavor of Sorcerer. Let me tell you as someone who really enjoys Sorcerer already, the power level on this is mind boggling. This moon Sorcerer has a lot of buttons. Some of them are very strong. And it just feels like Man, if this is the way that Sorcerer is headed, it’s going to come out as a incredible contender to Wizard for being the absolute top class. There’s some really particular things. But I mean, when I was reading through this initially, we were talking about one of the things that I said, I’m not sure if this is just due to how it’s kind of vaguely written, but it seems like a feature that you can have is just, you have an aura that says your party has advantage on saves. Period. Which is just if that was a feature, that would be enormous. I mean, you know, that’s mechanically about as impactful as the paladin’s, you know, save, like plus charisma save aura. If you are explicitly making character choices to pump that. Even though the math doesn’t quite support this. In DnDBeyond, advantage mathematically works out two plus five, which is the highest that your charisma can go. So, like, this is that good on a full spellcaster class. It’s, it’s just… it is goofy.

Tyler 

Yeah. The concepts of how this thing is, is designed are really cool. You can switch between phases of the moon, which lets you change some bonus spells known plus some other stuff that you gain as you level up. So the concept is really neat and it seems like it’s a lot of fun to play, but I would definitely expect this to be nerfed a bit before it gets to publication. We also got kender. So if you’re not familiar with Dragonlance, kender, or basically halflings like to take things. They have two distinct racial traits. One of them is be annoying, and one of them is have random stuff in your pockets. And… kieder historically have been controversial because they like to, quote unquote, “borrow” things without asking and tend to accumulate borrowed objects over time, and could just pull out like, oh, yeah, I, I took this mug, and also this random key from this guy. One of these might be useful right now. So they’ve changed that to instead of just you take stuff from people, you just, for whatever magical reason have random objects. So you can a certain number of times per day, pull out a randomly determined object and hope that it’s something that you need. And then theor other class feature is just you annoy someone to give them disadvantage. It’s a bit like vicious mockery is a bonus action, but minus the damage.

Randall 

Okay, so they’re chaotic… awful.

Random 

Yeah…

Randall 

I’m imagining a low charisma kender. I suppose they’d be murdered.

Random 

Kinder have are kind of notorious. And this is one of the things that made a lot of people really unhappy about this UA drop. Kender in previous editions, were often used as sort of the rationale behind, I’m just going to steal everything that’s not nailed down, and then steal the nails and repeat step one. For this reason, they became notorious quickly, because, I mean, like, it’s written in their whole race, that they have no concept of personal ownership, which is a fascinating societal trait if it didn’t have interpersonal, dynamic relation impact. But it does. And you can’t just take that in a vacuum. While I understand a lot of people’s reluctance, I will say, they did fix the fact that you’re expected to steal everything with mechanically having it be you know, you just pull stuff out of your pockets, but they didn’t fix the fact that you are societally inclined towards stealing everything. So take that with a grain of salt.

Randall 

Do we use the couching language of like, generally kender folk have this behavior? Or is this one of these like, no, just all kender folk, all kender folks, this is what they do.

Random 

I mean, it’s society. If a kinder is raised in kender society, they will have it.

Randall 

It’s the expectation. Okay. It’s interesting. So we, Tyler and I, are playing Rime of the Frost Maiden now, and one of the towns in Ten Towns, theft is not illegal. And as long as you…

Tyler 

Pickpocketing, specifically.

Randall 

Pick… yeah, I’m sorry, you’re right. Pickpocket, pickpocketing is not illegal. And it reminds me of that. When I first heard this, like as this was being explained about the town, it’s like, that’s… what about the resulting stabbings? Like, how does this work? And I’m… I feel like I’d heard of kender, and then I forgot they existed and now that you’re putting them back in my head, I have feelings.

Tyler 

So we also got some new backgrounds. They’re… One is for an order of mages, one was for an order of knights. And I can’t imagine that those are the only two backgrounds that we’re going to get in a hypothetical krynn setting book. Because both of these backgrounds give you a feat similar to the Strixhaven Initiate background in the Strixhaven a Curriculum of Chaos. So if the expectation that they’re going to set for Krynn campaigns is that you’re going to get a feat with your background, they’re going to have to give us a lot more backgrounds than just two. Otherwise everyone is going to be either a wizard or a knight. And maybe that’s the game they want. It’s also interesting to see that they stuck to the take a background, get a feat idea after so long into fifth edition. So maybe that’s going to be the new standard from now on, which is a curious concept. So I’m excited to see how that plays out in the near future. They also, like Strixhaven, there are feat chains again. So the feats that you get from the background are a prerequisite for other feats that are also in the the Unearthed Arcana article. And the one for mages, you get like a cantrip and a first level spell on the feeat that comes with the background. And then the follow up feats give you some higher level spells that you can take from other classes.

Random 

Yeah, I will say and it’s worth noting two things. The… the feats themselves that are the base of the feat chain, you can also take them outside of the background. So you know, you could just take them like as part of your ASI replacement or whatever. But the other thing that’s really worth noting is that they are super not well balanced against each other. The mage feats, like Tyler was saying, they give you a cantrip and a spell, and the Fighter ones, er, the knight ones give you like, functionally nothing. I mean, one of them especially is just, you get to do once per long rest, like an inspire ability, which gives some temp HP and it’s like it’s strictly worse than the feat that already does that. The what leader…

Tyler 

Inspiring leader?

Random 

Inspiring leader. Yeah. And there’s… like, that’s just it. And you know, since it is part of the feat tree, if you do want to get into the other feats you have to have that. Even the the whole night feat tree was really underwhelming, especially when compared to all of the magic initiate ones. I really hope that they figure out how to make those good, especially if that is the way that they’re leaning. If this is going to be the standard in 5.5, or six, or whatever it is, that’s coming, man, we are really rapidly returning to the days of if you don’t take this you are shooting yourself in the foot, which is something that 5e has very nicely managed to avoid keeping itself squished near itself in terms of character choices so far. So I really hope that they manage to figure out how to tweak that.

Randall 

Alright, well thanks so much for joining us for the RPGBOT.News. If you’ve enjoyed the show, please rate and review us on Apple podcast and rate us on Spotify or your favorite podcast app. It’s a quick free way to support the podcast and helps us to reach new listeners. You can find links in the show notes. You’ll find affiliate links for source books and other materials linked in the show notes as well as on RPGBOT.net. following these links helps us to make this show happen every week. Have a good one. See you next week. I have nothing funny to say.

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