by Mike Shea on 14 December 2015
With the holidays upon us and the end of the year coming soon, there are few better times to talk about the best roleplaying game products for you or your friends.
This is the first full year for the fifth edition of Dungeons and Dragons. As gifts go, it's hard to go wrong with the three core books: the Player's Handbook, the Dungeon Master's Guide, and the Monster Manual. The Monster Manual is also a great gift for anyone who just plain loves monsters but might not play D&D. The artwork and the backgrounds of these monsters are a pleasure for anyone who enjoys reading about monsters.
The Dungeons and Dragons Starter Set is still a fantastic product one year out from its release. The included adventure, Lost Mines of Phandelver, has a great story, fun encounters, and fantastic locations. I'm not sure it's perfect for those who haven't played D&D before, but with a little help from an experienced player, this box is a great place to start.
Wizards of the Coast has released a few big adventures since the release of D&D 5e but my personal favorite is Out of the Abyss. It's a huge adventure with some of the coolest locations I've seen published. Even if you or your GM doesn't play the adventure through, there's a lot of material to steal from. If your favorite GM doesn't have this one yet, now's a great time to pick it up for them.
Last year Rob Heinsoo and Jonathan Tweet, two veteran designers of previous versions of Dungeons and Dragons, released an exellent d20 fantasy roleplaying game called 13th Age. If you or your GM miss the days of the 4th edition of D&D, this is the game for you. 13th Age differentiates itself from D&D 5e in a few ways. First, it's a high power game. PCs are REALLY strong compared to 5e PC. The math scales up much higher, giving the impression of real growth as PCs level up. 13th Age also focuses on "icons", the major powerful NPCs in the game world. PCs align themselves to these icons and, each session, those relationships can manifest. This drives the story into new and interesting directions every session.
The 13th Age Core book also available in PDF has everything you need in it to run the game including character creation, magic items, rules for the game, a pile of monsters, a game world called the Dragon Empire, and an adventure that shows how randomly determined icons can steer the adventure.
Even if you're not sure you or your GM will run 13th Age, many of the ideas in the book are designed to be portable to other roleplaying games. It's a fantastic game.
My favorite tabletop accessory, by far, is the unversally useful Paizo Basic Flip Mat. This basic style is getting harder buy, having been replaced with a new Bigger Basic Flip Mat. The bigger mat is great if you keep it on the table of your home game, maybe under a big sheet of acrylic plastic.
If you want more variety in the textures of your flip mats, consider the excellent Flip Mat Terrain Multi-pack. It has excellent textures for forests and grasslands, underground chambers, water, and fancy worked stone. This is my favorite set of flip mats.
Paizo also re-released a bunch of their older and highly useful flip mats under the brand Flip Mat Classics. If your group plays with gridded maps or miniatures, these are highly useful for a lot of different situations.
If your GM already has a bunch of flip maps, consider giving them a pack of dry-erase markers. You can never have enough of these.
It's been a great year for RPGs. Hopefully this article gave you a few ideas how you can put a smile on the face of your favorite gamer.