Wednesday, February 28, 2018

Sword Coast Adventurer's Guide and Freeport

The Sword Coast Adventurer's Guide (SCAG) provides background information and new character options for campaigns set in the Forgotten Realms, specifically in the Sword Coast and the North, on the continent of Faerûn. Green Ronin's Freeport: The City of Adventure is designed to be used in any campaign setting, so could be dropped into the Forgotten Realms. Alternatively, as the Appendix points out, the system "crunch" from SCAG can be used in other settings. In this column, I will briefly touch upon setting Freeport in the Forgotten Realms, then consider the rest of the book in light of the optional World of Freeport setting presented in The Pirate's Guide to Freeport and the Pathfinder edition of Freeport: The City of Adventure.

Freeport in Faerûn?

I am not remotely an expert on the Forgotten Realms. I've read the early Driz'zt trilogies, one or two other novels set in Faerûn, and some of Ed Greenwood's Realms articles in Dragon Magazine, but the Sword Coast Adventurer's Guide is the first sourcebook that I've read for the setting.

That said, based on the information in the SCAG, the most obvious location for Freeport seems to be the Nelanther, "the Pirate Isles of the Sea of Swords." Some changes will need to be made to reconcile those islands' constantly warring tribes and Freeport's history as a pirate haven that went semi-legit.

Alternately, Freeport could be located on an island in the Great Sea, somewhere between Faerûn and Zakhara--which is described as being far to the south, and surrounded by water thick with pirates. This would also place Freeport at the logical hub of water traffic between Faerûn, Zakhara, and Kara-Tur, and allow easier access to more exotic lands and peoples. (Unfortunately, the SCAG gives next to no information on those parts of the world, so DMs will need to either acquire sourcebooks from earlier editions of D&D, or make up a great deal from whole cloth.)

The Gods of Faerûn

The Faerûnian pantheon has been expanded from the list in Appendix B of the Player's Handbook (PHB), and the more important gods receive brief entries about their purpose, shrines, and followers. The nonhuman gods receive similar, but shorter, treatment in Chapter 3: Races of the Realms.

For a Freeport campaign set in the Realms, there should be few problems matching Faerûnian gods to the Gods of Freeport. One possible exception is the God of Pirates, who in this setting is most likely an aspect of Talos, the eyepatch-wearing god of raiders. The city's three other major temples are dedicated to the Gods of Knowledge (Oghma and/or Deneir), the Sea (Istishia or Umberlee), and War (Tempus).

Even in campaigns that do not use the Realms, two deities' entries remain relevant for Freeport: Asmodeus and Loviatar. See Green Ronin's The Book of Fiends and The Book of the Righteous for more about the rulers of the Nine Hells, and Cults of Freeport for more about of the Maiden of Pain (spelled Lowyatar there).

Races of the Realms

The bulk of this chapter is background information to give context to each race's place within the Realms, rather than mechanical "crunch." For campaigns set elsewhere, it can still be useful for determining each race's appearance, ideals, and stereotypes, and for details on their gods (which tend to be the default racial pantheons used in many other D&D settings). The following are brand-new racial options:

Duergar are rarely appropriate for use as PCs; the gray dwarves tend to be even more firmly set in their evil ways than the drow, and Freeport's subtropical climate is far too sunny.

Ghostwise halflings are insular and telepathic. The DM will have to decide if such a community exists on the Continent.

Svirfneblin are very unlikely to be encountered in Freeport, unless the maze of caverns and tunnels below the Serpent's Teeth eventually connects to the parts of the Underdark where deep gnomes dwell.

Most of the half-elf variants should be available in Freeport; note that moon elves and sun elves use high elf traits. The majority of elves in Freeport are sea elves, so half-elves of aquatic heritage will be the most common variant. Half-elves of drow descent, on the other hand, are practically unknown here. (One Freeport title includes a drow NPC, but the dark elves' homeland is far away, somewhere beneath the Continent.)

Freeport was originally created in Third Edition, before changes were made to the appearance of tieflings in the Fourth and Fifth Editions (explained in the SCAG as a result of events during the Spellplague). The sight of an "Asmodean" tiefling is likely to incite a riot over "devil worship" (one of the few capital crimes in Freeport), but tiefling variants who can better hide their inhuman features might go undetected for far longer.


The Sword Coast Adventurer's Guide provides some notes on Faerûnian organizations and the subclasses most appropriate to each group. It also presents 11 new subclasses, and new options for one of the PHB subclasses. Four of these new subclasses (Way of the Sun Soul, Mastermind, Swashbuckler, Storm Sorcery) were reprinted in Xanathar's Guide to Everything, so I've already discussed them in my Subclasses column for that book, but I will summarize those comments here.

Barbarian: The Path of the Battlerager is restricted to dwarves as written, but need not be in the World of Freeport. (It seems appropriate for pit fighters of all races, as mentioned in the Greyhawk section of the Appendix.)  The SCAG also gives two new animal totems (Elk and Tiger) for the Path of the Totem Warrior (PHB), and a table of examples of how to use existing totems to model other animals.

Cleric: As mentioned in my column on The Book of the Righteous, the Arcana Domain would be appropriate to both the God of Magic and the Crawling Chaos.

Fighter: The Purple Dragon Knight is a battlefield strategist, who inspires others by example. In the World of Freeport, this subclass (using the more generic name banneret) can represent the leader of a troop of warriors.

Monk: Monks who follow the Way of the Long Death may belong to a death god's cult, or may assist those who study disease and death (such as morticians or asylum wardens). The Way of the Sun Soul is most appropriate to temples that revere gods of light (such as the Hamunaptran sun cult).

Paladin: Paladins who swear the Oath of the Crown vow to protect their sovereign and the rule of law. Few if any such paladins are native to Freeport, but foreign knights visit the city from time to time--often in quixotic attempts to fight the city's rampant corruption.

Rogue: The Mastermind will thrive in the intrigue-heavy atmosphere of Freeport, while the Swashbuckler is a common sight in Freeport's streets and taverns, as well as many of its ships' crews. The corsair and freebooter classes from the 3rd Era Freeport Companion and Freeport: The City of Adventure can be best approximated as a swashbuckler rogue with the sailor (or pirate) background.

Sorcerer: The control of the winds granted by Storm Sorcery will make these spellcasters highly popular among ships' crews who are not overly superstitious about strange magic.

Warlocks: Most of the examples of archfey, fiend, and Great Old One patrons can be borrowed as-is (or with a new name) for Freeport campaigns that don't use the Realms.

In the World of Freeport, an Undying patron could be a Hamunatran mummy lord, or a Continental vampire or lich who seeks to follow the ancient example of Rajko the Ghul. Its warlocks will need to hide their allegiance to avoid both Hexworth's inquisitors and local vigilantes.

Wizard: As written, Bladesinging is restricted to elves and half-elves, and should probably remain so in most Freeport campaigns. One prestigious school for bladesingers is the Arcane Blade Academy at Dragonmont, in Rolland (mentioned in True20 Freeport: The Lost Island).

This class is followed by a handful of new cantrips for sorcerers, warlocks, and wizards that have not yet been reprinted elsewhere.


The Sword Coast Adventurer's Guide offers twelve new backgrounds. Several are nearly identical to Player's Handbook backgrounds except for their features (and possibly one skill), so I prefer to think of them as variants of those backgrounds. Most can be used in Freeport with a few changes:
  • City Watch: These characters serve on the Freeport Watch, or possibly the Sea Lord's Guard. 
  • Clan Crafter (variant guild artisan): Note that shield and gold dwarves are mountain and hill dwarves, respectively.
  • Cloistered Scholar (variant sage): These knowledge-seekers are most likely associated with either the Freeport Institute or the Temple of the God of Knowledge (which supplies many of the teachers at the former). Some might be affiliated with the Wizards' Guild, but most of that organization's scholars should use the more secular sage background (PHB) instead.
  • Courtier: Courtiers may serve the Sea Lord, the Captains' Council, one of the aristocratic families in the city, or a foreign dignitary or government. 
  • Faction Agent: The five factions listed in SCAG do not exist in Freeport unless the GM has placed the city in Faerûn. Alternatives include the Hexworth Inquisition (Religion) or the Ivory Ports alliance (Persuasion?). They might also include covert agents of hated Mazin (Deception or Intimidation). 
  • Far Traveler: In the World of Freeport, possible origins for far travelers include Hamunaptra, Naranjan, Khaeder, the Eastern Empire, the Underdark, or other distant lands. (Nations from "the Continent" nearest Freeport are too well known for this background.)
  • Inheritor: No changes.
  • Knight of the Order: Knightly orders in the World of Freeport include the Swords of the Edict, the Royal Order of Musketeers (Rolland), and possibly the Hexworth Inquisition's witch hunters.
  • Mercenary Veteran (variant soldier): Mercenary companies that operate in Freeport include the Redblade Militia and Warg Company.
  • Urban Bounty Hunter: No changes.
  • Uthgardt Tribe Member (variant outlander): As the sidebar suggests, either this background or the outlander (PHB) can be used for any barbarian tribe, such as the Druzhdin of the far north and the orcs and other humanoid tribes of the Bone Lands. The Uthgardt, however, should be reserved for tribes with traditions of strong ties to nature, animal totems, druid circles, and an aversion to magic.
  • Waterdhavian Noble (variant noble): Freeport is a long way from being the ancient, sprawling metropolis that Waterdeep is, but its aristocratic families often have a similarly decadent reputation.


For my past columns about using D&D Fifth Edition sourcebooks with Freeport: The City of Adventure, see the Freeport 5E Index.

Wednesday, February 21, 2018

The Forge of Fury #4: Even the Rocks Want to Eat Us

Our heroes for The Forge of Fury include:
  • Raven Flare, female tiefling rogue 4 (assassin, urchin)
  • Kalitni, female human ranger 4 (beast master, hermit) with Daikitsu, wolf companion
  • Xuri, female blue dragonborn sorcerer 4 (wild magic, sage)
  • Sir Dain (NPC/guest-PC), male hill dwarf paladin 4 (oath of devotion, knight)
  • Erky Timbers (DM-run NPC), male forest gnome cleric 3 (life domain, acolyte)

(Warning: Spoilers for The Forge of Fury follow.) 

Last time, our heroes tracked a troglodyte into the Glitterhame, a large cavern named for the shiny bits of rock in its walls and ceiling. They found the troglodyte lair and slew most of the tribe, but spared the young and the handful of adults forming their last defense. They then retreated to their outpost in the upper halls to rest and recover.

After a long rest, the party returned to the Glitterhame, and investigated the last few chambers that they had not yet seen on that level. The first was off a side branch near where they had fought the bear and first couple of troglodytes. In this cave, two skeletons were covered with yellow mold, which Dain recognized. After warning his companions, he took a torch and tossed it at each body in turn, safely destroying the fungus. The first skeleton, a dwarf, held a longsword with Durgeddin's smith-mark. It was still bright despite the long time it had spent in this damp room full of rot, so they guessed it was a magical blade. Dain was keenly interested in this dwarven-made sword, but he already possessed a magic sword (Shatterspike, given to him by Sir Braford), so agreed to let Kalitni wield this one.

In the Glitterhame proper, the party investigated the high ledge along the north wall. As they approached it, Kalitni spotted two worm-like creatures [gricks] hiding in the rocks of the 20-foot-high ascent to the top of the ledge. The heroes quickly dispatched these creatures, though one took a bite out of Dain. A short passage at the top of the ledge led to the monsters' lair, which held the remains of past meals, and a scattering of coins.

The party then investigated the metal door that they had spotted at the far eastern end of the cavern. Dain was able to determine that this iron door was designed to pivot on a central point, but it was locked. After a couple tries, Raven was able to pick the lock. Beyond was a short worked passage that led to steep stairs going up--to the lost forge they sought, they hoped. However, after some discussion, the party decided to investigate the rest of this level of the cave network before exploring this passage. With some difficulty, Raven relocked the door until their return.

The high ledge on the southern wall was free of dangers (or much of interest), so the party then proceeded to the long cavern to the south, where an underground stream plunged into a large hole. Near it was a narrow passage leading downward, but Xuri insisted on peering into the big hole first. She secured a rope to both herself and some pitons in order to cross the slick floor safely, and Dain held the rope just in case. The dragonborn sorcerer lit a torch and dropped it down the shaft. Even with the torch, she could not see too clearly due to the mist thrown up by the waterfall, but she was able to see enough to conclude that the water fell about 60 feet into another chamber below.

The heroes then entered the twisting stairway, which led to the cavern where the waterfall ended in a pool that fed a fast-moving stream going down a passageway to the south. The east end of this chamber held a wall of worked stone, and two wooden doors swollen shut by long exposure to moisture. They listened at both doors, and even knocked upon them, but heard nothing. They chose to explore further south and come back to these doors later.

A passage parallel to the stream's channel led them to a long, narrow cavern stretching a long way to the east. At the nearer, western end, another underground stream joined the one from the north, then exited the cave through an opening fully beneath the water's surface. The heroes quickly realizing that falling into the fast-moving water would quickly sweep them into this airless passage--a potentially fatal fate. They crossed a small bridge over the river, and followed the bank upstream. After a short distance, they found a short flight of stairs gong down to a door in the south wall of the cave. These stairs and the room beyond appeared to be flooded with stagnant water that would be over the head of all party members except for Xuri.

The party returned to the doors in the northern chamber, and opened one of them. The rooms beyond were empty except for useless detritus. When they opened the other door, they saw that the room held vast heaps of rotted foodstuffs. A gray ooze, which appeared to be a puddle until it moved, lurked just inside the door. It reared to attack, but Raven and Xuri quickly destroyed it with a rapier thrust and an eldritch blast. However, Raven's rapier (her old blade, not her shiny new magical one) was corroded by the ooze's acid. It remained usable, but in need of repair.

The adventurers found nothing of value here, so returned to the half-flooded stairs and door. Xuri, as the tallest member of the party, reluctantly volunteered to investigate what lay beyond. She submerged her everburning torch in order to see what lay in the water better. After searching of the flooded, rank-smelling rooms, she found an orc skeleton with a rotted pouch holding a couple of potion vials. The party took a short rest so that Xuri could use prestidigitation to clean herself with compulsive thoroughness. Meanwhile, the others determined the contents of the potions, and confirmed that Kalitni's new longsword was magical [a +1 weapon].

To the east, the cavern narrowed until it ended in a narrow passageway that crossed the river again, and led to another cave. Here, a strange stalagmite stood on the opposite side of the river, and an albino cave fish lay flopping on the bank next to it. There was also a half-open door set into the north side of the cave, opposite the strange rock formation. Raven, who cares a great deal about all animals, wanted to help the fish get back to the water, so Dain led the way into the chamber.

That's when the stalagmite came to life and shot a tendril at Dain, grappling and restraining him. Erky summoned a spiritual weapon, but the spell failed to hit the the creature [a roper]. Raven jumped across the narrow stream and kicked the fish into the river, but missed the monster. She then jumped away, trying to stay clear of the thing's tendrils. The roper then grabbed Xuri and pulled her and Dain closer. It missed Raven and Kalitni with its other tendrils, and failed to bite Dain. Erky used his sacred flame cantrip to much better effect than his spiritual weapon's continuing misses. Dain tried once to break free but failed, so started trying to strike the roper with his sword (with little success). Xuri cast a very well-placed witchbolt and inflicted a critical hit on the monster. Raven managed to dodge the roper's tendrils, and decided that staying close to the thing would allow her to do more damage with sneak attacks due to her allies being next to it, too. The roper finally grabbed Kalitni, pulled her and Xuri closer, and bit Dain hard. However, it soon fell to Raven's punishing sneak attacks.

After the fight, Dain immediately used his lay on hands power to restore most of his lost health. Kalitni had the thought to cut open the roper, and found a half-dozen gems and a ring in its gizzard. The party stopped for a short rest so that Xuri could study the ring: a ring of spell storing. Her companions agreed emphatically that she should wear it.


The party now just one more location on this level to explore before they return to the iron door in the Glitterhame.

Erky received enough XP this session to reach 4th level. He is taking the Healer feat, so that he can provide more healing to the party without using up his limited spell slots as quickly.

Minis for the gray ooze and gricks

The roper mini

Tales from the Yawning Portal: Past Columns

The Sunless Citadel

#1: Down into the Ground
#2: Lost Dragon
#3: Through the Dragon Door
#4: Goblin Boss Battle
#5: Through Pallid Gardens
Campaign Update
#6: Belak, at Last

The Forge of Fury

#1: Orc Gruel
#2: Bloody Stirges!
#3: Into the Glitterhame

Tuesday, February 13, 2018

The Forge of Fury #3: Into the Glitterhame

Our heroes for The Forge of Fury include:
  • Raven Flare, female tiefling rogue 3 (assassin, urchin)
  • Kalitni, female human ranger 3 (beast master, hermit) with Daikitsu, wolf companion
  • Xuri, female blue dragonborn sorcerer 3 (wild magic, sage)
  • Sir Dain (NPC/guest-PC), male hill dwarf paladin 3 (oath of devotion, knight)
  • Erky Timbers (DM-run NPC), male forest gnome cleric 3 (life domain, acolyte)

(Warning: Spoilers for The Forge of Fury follow.) 

Last time, our heroes finished clearing out the rest of the orcs from the first level of the dungeon, and descended into the natural caverns that lay below. There they fought many stirges, then encountered a couple of troglodytes and their captive brown bear. They slew one of the reptile-men, but the other troglodyte escaped, taking a tunnel to the south. Kalitni used a spell to befriend the bear, and persuaded it to leave and be free.

The heroes then took a short rest, before exploring the tunnel to the north that the bear had taken. This passage went on for about 500 feet before exiting on the far side of the Stone Tooth from where they had approached the hill. On this side, they could see a small lake to the east, at the foot of the 'Tooth. They turned back, and investigated the tunnel the escaped troglodyte had taken.

This passage branched a couple of times, but led generally south. After a short time, it opened into a large natural cavern lit by phosphorescent fungi. Bright flecks could be seen in the rock walls and high ceiling. The cave had some high ledges to the east, south, and west, with a small forest of giant capped stalks, puffballs, and other fungi in between. They could also dimly see a door to the east. Dain proclaimed that this space must be the Glitterhame spoken of in the stories of Khundrukar that had led the party here.

As much of the Glitterhame as would fit on one map sheet

The western ledge
The troglodyte's tracks led south and west along paths through the fungi, so the heroes headed that way. As they came closer to the large ledge to the west, they could see that it held several large boxes intricately carved in dwarven style. The tracks led towards a small passage to the south, but they decided to take a look at this area first. Stairs had been cut up to this area, which held almost two dozen stone sepulchres, each carved with the likeness and name of a dwarf on its lid. Three of the sarcophagi--of Borgol the Old, Gharin Orc-Doom, and Numik the Unlucky--had been marked with dates of death and a summary of the named dwarf's great deeds; these also had warnings not to disturb the dead. Xuri could not contain her inquisitiveness, and with help from her companions, opened one of the boxes that did not contain the additional writing. It was empty, as were all of the others. Over Dain's grumbling, the party then opened the three with more complete information, and found remains of a dwarf in each. All had been interred without much funerary wealth apart from the exquisite sepulchre itself, but one body bore a gold ring in the shape of a dragon, and another held an ornate, jeweled warhammer. Numik lived up to his name "the Unlucky" by having no wealth.

At one end of this gravesite, a tunnel had been blocked with rubble and mud. The heroes decided to leave the crude wall intact until they had explored further, and found the troglodyte they sought. They left the ledge, and pursued the tracks south through a short, narrow passage into another large natural cave.

This space was long and narrow, with a stream passing through it, entering from the northwest and running swiftly to the east, where it plunged thunderously into a large shaft at the end of the cave. Kalitni noticed that the floor sloped down toward the stream, and was slimy from the mist thrown up from the waterfall. However, a narrow path along the north edge was safe footing. Just in case, the party took some time to rig ropes, a grappling hook, and pitons to give themselves some safety lines in case they slipped and fell into the stream.

The tracks led west, and went into the water where the cave branched. Both branches opened into new chambers, one of which was blocked by a large pool that fed the stream they followed. The other led to a chamber where a huge albino lizard was chained to the wall, guarding two iron chests. Kalitni used animal friendship to calm the lunging reptile, which allowed Raven to get close enough to use her tools to free it from the chain. The ranger then persuaded the lizard to leave the cave, and it headed downstream into the chamber they had just vacated. The chests held a great pile of silver coins, as well as two potions. The heroes took the potions, and used the chain and rope to secure the chests until they could come back to reclaim them.

Kalitni befriends the giant subterranean lizard
The heroes then continued to the chamber with the pool, which was about 20 feet across, and an unknown depth in the middle. The cave continued north and west beyond the reach of their light. Raven swam across the pool to scout ahead, and spotted a troglodyte watching her from where it tried to blend into the wall. Dain followed her, and spotted that reptile-man as well as two more a bit further inside the room. They called warnings to their friends just before the troglodytes attacked the rogue and paladin. One hit Raven, whose hellish rebuke slew the monster. She then moved around to flank another and killed it with a sneak attack. The third troglodyte, wounded by now, disengaged and moved to call a warning where a plug of mud and wattle sealed off another passage. Then Kalitni's arrow finished it off.

Dain moved to guard that crude door while the others crossed the pool. He heard hissing voices and other noises beyond it, and guessed that the troglodytes were blocking the passageway further. Kalitni and her wolf Daikitsu had some trouble crossing the deep water, as neither is a skilled swimmer, but made it across after a couple attempts. Meanwhile, Raven, Xuri, and Erky searched the chamber, which held nothing of note beyond the butchered bodies of some game animals (and a couple orcs).

With the party reassembled, Dain forced open the mud door and saw a troglodyte hiding in the room beyond. Kalitni, right behind him, spotted three, and wounded one with an arrow. Raven entered the room, saw five of the reptile-men, and stabbed the closest before dodging back behind her companions. Xuri cast blur and moved forward, and Erky killed a troglodyte with a sacred flame. The other wounded reptile attacked the sorcerer, hitting once despite her spell. Dain then moved to the front and killed the troglodyte. The other three stayed hidden, but soon realized they had been spotted when Raven stabbed one and Xuri hit the others with a thunderwave. The rogue and sorcerer moved forward and saw another chamber beyond where a large number of hatchlings cowered behind a half-dozen adults. Xuri moved to the entrance of that room, and tried to speak with the troglodytes, to convinced them that she was not going to attack them. They did not understand any of her languages, but stayed where they were, between her and the young, ready to attack if the intruders moved closer. [In 5E, troglodytes speak their own language instead of Draconic.] 

Angry, desperate troglodytes defending their home
Meanwhile, Kalitni and Raven had scouted some of the other chambers branching off of this one, and the ranger found another mud-and-wattle door blocking one of them. Dain kicked in the door, and saw a pony-sized giant lizard, which attacked him. Erky moved up behind the paladin to provide some healing. Then a troglodyte suddenly appeared--it had been invisible--and cast sleep at the party. The spell put Xuri and the wolf Daikitsu asleep, but could not affect the others. Erky worked on waking them while Dain used a divine smite to slay the lizard. Raven rushed in after the paladin, and moved behind the spellcaster--whose shield spell failed to deflect the rogue's attack. Dain hit the troglodyte with a divine smite, wounding it severely. It cast invisibility on itself, but then the paladin heard it move past him towards the door. He followed, and bumped into something, and tried to swing at it, but missed. Kalitni, however, managed to shoot it with an arrow, and a moment later the spell ended, revealing the dead troglodyte.

Troglodyte boss fight
The giant lizard and its master
The heroes searched the room, finding a chest of silver coins in plain sight, and a hidden piece of silk in which was wrapped a small ruby. They left the hatchlings and their guards in peace, and left with the treasure. They badly needed to rest, heal, and regain spells, so only stopped to collect the chests from the albino lizard's former room before trekking back through the caves up to the orc barracks room where their other bulky loot was stashed. (They caught glimpses of the huge white lizard hunting in the Glitterhame as they passed through that cavern.) At the barracks, they hid their treasure in the secret passage, barricaded themselves in, and settled in for a long rest.

Our heroes know of at least three more tunnels, plus a door, that they need to investigate when they descend again to the Glitterhame. They have yet to locate any of the fabled forges and weapons of Khudrukar itself.


The original four heroes have now reached 4th level. (Erky lags a little behind his rescuers on XP.) We're using the optional feat rules, and all four chose feats in place of their Ability Score Improvements: Dain took Heavy Armor Mastery (raising his Strength and reducing the damage he'll take from nonmagical weapons), Xuri took Spell Sniper (which increases her range and ignores most cover when using ranged attack spells), Kalitni took Observant (raising her Intelligence and passive Perception and Investigation scores), and Raven took Dual Wielder (so that she could fight with both her rapiers at once).

Tales from the Yawning Portal: Past Columns

The Sunless Citadel

#1: Down into the Ground
#2: Lost Dragon
#3: Through the Dragon Door
#4: Goblin Boss Battle
#5: Through Pallid Gardens
Campaign Update
#6: Belak, at Last

The Forge of Fury

#1: Orc Gruel
#2: Bloody Stirges!

Tuesday, February 6, 2018

Xanathar's Guide and Freeport, Part 2: Everything Else

Last week, I reviewed the 32 new subclasses in Xanathar's Guide to Everything. This week, I'll give my thoughts about using the rest of the book with Green Ronin's Freeport setting.

This is Your Life

Following the subclasses is a series of random tables for generating additional details about a character's life prior to adventuring. These tables are suitably generic to be used with any setting, but enterprising DMs and players may wish to devise additional entries more specifically tied to the World of Freeport.

Racial Feats

Fifteen of the 23 new feats from "Unearthed Arcana: Feats for Races" made the cut for Xanathar's Guide. Each race in the Player's Handbook receives a couple of new feats, with some of the elf and gnome options being specific to subraces. Pretty much all of the Player's Handbook races can be found in Freeport, so none of these feats would be out of place.

As I commented in my "Unearthed Arcana and Freeport" column that covered that original article, tieflings are much more inhuman looking in Fourth and Fifth Edition than they were in Third (the edition which saw Freeport's debut). Such obvious "devils" are likely to face heavy persecution in Freeport, where fiendish cults have caused so much trouble in the past. The new Flames of Phlegethos feat in particular will make this infernal heritage even more blatant.

Of note to users of Volo's Guide to Monsters, the Squat Nimbleness feat is now available to any Small race, so is an attractive option for goblins and kobolds.

DM's Tools

Many of these new rules are suitably generic that they can be used in any setting, including Freeport. The first few entries (Simultaneous Effects, Falling, Sleep, Adamantine Weapons, Tying Knots) are too short and simple to require comment.

Tool Proficiencies

These rules give more detail on using tool proficiencies, and how they can interact with skill use. Freeport campaigns that use the downtime rules (see below), or that involve a great deal of interaction with NPC craftsmen, will make good use of these options.

A section on Spellcasting follows, providing some clarifications about how spells function, as well as two methods of determining areas of effect on a grid.

Encounter Building 

This section is reprinted from "Unearthed Arcana." It presents an alternative system to building encounters from that in the Dungeon Master's Guide, but uses the same underlying assumptions and math.

It is followed by a series of Random Encounter tables organized by terrain and tier of play. (These tables do not include any of the new creatures from Volo's Guide to Monsters.)

Traps Revisited 

This section, also reprinted from "Unearthed Arcana," expands upon the trap rules in the Dungeon Master's Guide, discussing how to create simple and complex traps and giving several examples of each. These rules will be invaluable for adapting the notorious death-traps from previously published Freeport adventures to the Fifth Edition rules.

Downtime Revisited & Awarding Magic Items

These downtime rules are reprinted from "Unearthed Arcana," with very minor changes. They expand upon the options for characters' activities between adventures that were presented in the Dungeon Master's Guide. It also introduces the concept of rivals, NPCs designed to oppose the heroes. These new options can be used to enrich a Freeport campaign by giving the PCs more options for disposing of their ill-gotten gains, as well as getting them more involved and invested in the dynamic nature of the city and its inhabitants. Using rivals and complications from downtime activities can help make the introduction of new adventures feel more organic by tying plot hooks more closely to the heroes' own actions.

In Fifth Edition, magic items are not as common nor as essential as they were in Third or Fourth. This means that converting older Freeport adventures to the current D&D rules requires some careful consideration of how to treat the magic items in those sources. Downtime Revisited provides guidelines for determining how easily PCs can buy, craft, scribe, or sell magic items, while Awarding Magic Items discusses how to distribute magic items by tier and rarity.

Most of the new Common Magic Items should prove useful, or at least entertaining, during low-level play in Freeport. The setting's sourcebooks contain a fair number of in-jokes, so even the sillier items from this list would be appropriate for The City of Adventure. 


The majority of spells in this chapter have been reprinted from other sources.

Most of the elemental spells first appeared in Princes of the Apocalypse, and were reprinted in the Elemental Evil Player's Guide. These spells will appeal to druids, wizards, storm and draconic sorcerers, and eldritch knights alike.

The various demon-conjuring spells from "Unearthed Arcana: That Old Black Magic" have been reworked as Summon Greater Demon and Summon Lesser Demon. Fiendish cults are a recurring problem in Freeport's history, so these spells are perfect for spellcasting villains--as is the new Infernal Calling spell (for devils).

Nine of the 17 cantrips and 1st-level spells from "Unearthed Arcana: Starter Spells" appear in this book. Many of these are spells from previous editions that had not yet been updated to the current rules set (cause fear, ceremony, snare), while others were, to my knowledge, new to that UA article (infestation, toll the dead).

Likewise, the remaining spells are a mix of updated classics (charm monster, Tenser's transformation) and original magics (danse macabre, tiny servant).

Shared Campaigns

This appendix gives suggestions for running D&D scenarios in an organized play environment, where many DMs run short adventures for parties that may be radically different from session to session. D&D Adventurer's League is the largest such organization, but the same guidelines can be used for smaller groups such as school clubs, or events held at a library or game story.

Green Ronin's Freebooter program organizes demos of the company's games at conventions and other events, but the company lacks the resources to organize any kind of ongoing shared campaign. However, Freeport has a large fan community, so it is not impossible that a Freeport shared campaign could be organized on a smaller, local scale. Alternately, Freeport could merely be one of several settings used by such a group.

Character Names

Because Freeport was designed to be dropped into any campaign setting, the existing product line avoids identifying Freeport or the nations of the Continent with any historical cultures (though the Hexworth Inquisition is clearly inspired by the Spanish Inquisition at its worst, and Freeport by Caribbean pirate havens). Instead, the setting contains a highly eclectic hodgepodge of names, some drawn from or mimicking real-world languages, others clearly constructed for fictional languages.

However, it is still possible to use Xanathar's character name lists with the Freeport setting. Here are my suggestions for which lists to use for various Continental nations:
  • Bone Lands (various savage humanoids): Half-Orc (plus orc names from Volo's Guide to Monsters).
  • Druzhdin (northern barbarians): Norse, possibly with some Slavic.
  • Hexworth: Spanish, possibly French.
  • Iovan (gnomes): Gnome.
  • Ivory Ports: A mix of English (Blackburn, Pikebridge, Thalburg), Roman (Silverus), Spanish (Grenato), and Halfling.
  • Kizmir (azhar): Arabic.
  • Rolland (elves): Elf, with some French.
  • Tagmata: Greek, possibly Roman.
  • Vorizar (dwarves): Dwarf, with some German and/or Norse.
Freeport's population is a mix of all these nationalities. Common names can be drawn from the English, French, and Spanish lists, while more exotic names could use nearly any other list.

Further afield, we have these lands that are part of the larger World of Freeport:
  • Eastern Empire [Buccaneers of Freeport]: Chinese, possibly Japanese.  
  • Hamunaptra [Egyptian Adventures: Hamunaptra]: Egyptian.
  • Mokulilo [True20 Freeport: The Lost Island]: Polynesian.
  • Naranjan [Mindshadows]: Indian.
  • Khaeder, Mazin, and other southern islands and continents might use the Mesomamerican, Niger-Congo, or Polynesian lists.

I have a couple more Freeport 5E articles in the queue, but first I plan to take a couple weeks to catch up on session summaries from my run of The Forge of Fury.

For my past columns about using D&D Fifth Edition sourcebooks with Freeport: The City of Adventure, see the Freeport 5E Index.