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. 

Spells

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.
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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.

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