Gather ’round Internet travelers. Take a seat, and warm your hands by the fire. Load up that Rhapsody CD or maybe Nightfall in Middle-Earth to set the mood. In this new, but probably semi-recurring feature (unless there’s a mutiny), Angry Metal Guy will review things he thinks are awesome but that most of the world thinks are “nerdy.” Or geeky. He can never get those two straight. Anyway. The point is that he’s going to drop probably fairly infrequent reviews of random nerdy stuff that he loves because it’s his website. Or think of it like this: he’s the DM. And therefore, he can. Quit your moaning and roll initiative…
So I know that all y’all hate D&D these days. You’re covered in the mud and filth and blood of edition wars, and you’re cranky because someone said something on the Internet that you don’t agree with. But I’ve been reading the Murder at Baldur’s Gate adventure supplement that was published a few weeks ago for The Sundering (which is WotC’s attempt to lead into 5e on a high note) and it’s probably the best D&D supplement that I’ve read in a really long time. Wizards of the Coast isn’t really known for producing crap or anything, but D&D adventures haven’t been a thing that they have excelled at since 2nd Edition—which for me is the golden age of setting. But worry ye not! I am no edition warrior! I simply think that while adventure supplements have improved in presentation dramatically, the majority I have read don’t quite excite the imagination as they once did.
But Murder at Baldur’s Gate has really upended that trend! And there are several reasons for its greatness:
- First, it’s system neutral. Well, not quite, but it’s edition neutral. There are stats for it online for 3.5, 4, and 5. And while I plan on playing it in brilliant 5th Editiocolor™, the 3e and 4e Grognards have stats all to themselves!
- Second, it’s not a dungeon crawl, but instead a series of events, many of which happen regardless of player involvement. This is always—at least for me—the thing that made playing in World of Darkness games a blast. This form doesn’t get used in D&D enough. And it reminds me of 2e, which is the era of the overland adventure, when D&D came out of the dungeon.
- Third, it’s got just a heaping touch of fanboy pandering in it by placing the thing in Baldur’s Gate, making those of us who still worship that game (and its sequel) all warm and fuzzy inside. While some might whine about that strategy because it’s “bad for D&D to look backwards,” it’s also important to remember that losing your fanbase is a bad business model and WotC is betting it can woo back some old players and still win the new ones.
- Finally, it gives players the ability to make choices in multiple directions and it doesn’t railroad DMs with the “here’s 47 ways to make your players bite this hook but once they’re on NO CHOICE EVER AGAIN” stuff.
The caveat to that final point is that it forces the DM to be a bit more on her feet. If one isn’t ready for player adjustments, a DM who’s used to everything laid out for them in painstaking detail might find this kind of writing to be difficult. For me, I find it exciting. It allows me a freedom from the odd compulsion I have to follow the text despite knowing that I don’t have to.
In any case, the adventure packaging is beautiful and also comes with an adventure specific screen that is also a map of Baldur’s Gate. The art is superb and hopefully an image of the kind of look they’re going for in the “next iteration of D&D.” The only downside is that I wish the books had a different construction, still, that’s hardly a complaint! I’m definitely going to run this thing. And I’m really excited about playing D&D.
I feel like I should tag this #winning.