When You Want D&D Flavor In a Non-WOTC Container
I’ve got another article on the way that is going to dig a little bit deeper into some of the current issues with Wizards of the Coast and some of the missteps they have made recently, and what that could mean for D&D going forward. I’m not going to advocate for a boycott, and I’m not going to tell you to keep buying. I know some people make money off D&D that are good, and there are people making money off of it that are not, and how to make the best impact when communicating with corporate entities can be difficult alchemy.
That said, I wanted to take a look at how much you can engage with Dungeons and Dragons 5e content without actually engaging with Wizards of the Coast. This is all assuming that you are coming in “cold” and don’t already own a bunch of WOTC products.
The first thing to keep in mind is that even though the Basic Rules exist, the SRD is even more comprehensive. The SRD for 5th edition D&D is not formatted in the most effective way to teach the game . . . but formatting for newcomers can be a tricky thing with D&D anyway. The point is, the core rules are all there, the core classes are all there, so there is a lot to hang other material on.
I’m going to talk about other products that have come out, and how you can utilize them. If I don’t talk about a campaign setting you know and love, or a product you enjoy, it’s not a slight, it’s just that I’m only talking about things that I have had the time to directly review.
Many of these products use the terminology established in the base D&D game, so the term “race” is used frequently, because many of these products are following the established pattern. Where the game rules have used the term, I have used them as well.
More Support for Player Options
I just recently finished up reviews for several products that address player options that may make more interesting additions to your game. For example, if you want to drift “race” in D&D to ancestry and culture, check out the reviews on the following products:
- What Do I Know About Reviews? Ancestry and Culture, An Alternative to Race in 5e
- What Do I Know About Reviews? Custom Ancestries and Cultures
Between these two products, you will have alternatives if you really miss using “official” Goliaths, Warforged, Shifters, Changelings, or Yuan-Ti.
Additionally, if you want to look at some other products that expand player options, you can pick up these, which give you more options for “race” in the game (as well as some custom classes):
- What Do I Know About Reviews? In the Company of Giants
- What Do I Know About Reviews? In the Company of Unicorns
Both of these products provide some non-standard player character options that might be interesting to explore, especially if you want to avoid the official expansions in WOTC products.
If you are looking for some new, contained class options, especially class options that hearken back to 4th edition D&D classes, Robert Schwalb’s Max Press impress created the following classes:
There are lots of other examples, but I wanted to highlight these classes as potential expansions because of their history with D&D in general, and Robert Schwalb’s work with the 5e rules.
Currently, official WOTC options include support for the Forgotten Realms (Sword Coast), Ravnica, Eberron, Exandria (Wildemount), and Theros. That means if you don’t want to build your own campaign setting from scratch, WOTC has given you a few options to provide a framework. If you are looking for non-WOTC options, however, several campaign settings have come out that will help you with this a pre-determined setting.
If you really want to engage with Critical Role content, there is a campaign setting book that lets you do this without the direct purchase of any WOTC product. In this case, it’s the Tal’Dorei Campaign Setting that was published by Green Ronin several years ago. This covers the lands visited in the original campaign, and it has the least amount of player-facing materials of any of the other campaign setting information that I’m posting, but there are still some options, and this is a good candidate to use with the player options mentioned above (especially using giant kin to represent goliaths).
If you were really looking forward to the Theros setting and getting a feel for the amalgamation of Greek mythology with Dungeons and Dragons, thankfully there is an extensive product that came out recently that will allow you to explore some of those options. Odyssey of the Dragon Lords also contains a long term campaign in addition to laying out the lands encompassed by the setting, and has many new races and subclasses included.
What Do I Know About Reviews? Odyssey of the Dragon Lords
If seeing the Ghost of Saltmarsh adventure anthology made you curious about a nautical campaign, you also have non-WOTC options for a campaign. While Seas of Vodari only has an introductory adventure, the setting of scattered islands of adventure gives plenty of opportunity to sail ships and use vehicle rules, as well as providing a new class, a ton of new subclasses, and various options for player races.
The next setting I’m going to post about has had a long history, spanning all the way back to 3.5 D&D, 4th edition D&D, and Pathfinder, and has supplements for 13th Age and Green Ronin’s Fantasy AGE in addition to the current 5e product line. There are extensive adventures, player options, and other material, and Midgard is probably more detailed just in 5e products than any of WOTC’s home campaigns.
The various player’s guides have a ton of subclasses, new races, and expanded spells for players to engage with, as well as some of the best-expanded monster options with the Tome of Beasts and the Creature Codex.
The main reason I wanted to recap all of this is not to advocate for a specific position, but to understand that WOTC has put a lot of people in a really bad position by undermining a lot of what they have been advocating lately. That said, there are a lot of people that have produced some excellent quality material that is associated with 5th edition D&D, but have nothing to do with any of the decisions begin made at a corporate level.
This also allows you to try something different with your games. There are so many third party options, and I know when I have used the settings and the materials I have listed above, often players will still default to official WOTC material. You may get to see some interesting options at play if you only have the OGL and setting specific material available for a campaign.
Also, none of this is meant to slight the Scarred Lands 5e material, Sasquatch Studio’s Primeval Thule 5e conversion, the Arcanis campaign setting, or any other 5e based epic high fantasy games that may be out there. I just haven’t had time to review these products to the degree that I have the above, and wanted to give a quick primer on what might be available.
This is a pivotal time. I think if you have ever loved D&D, you should let WOTC know what they have done to jeopardize your patronage. Keep an eye on them, keep the pressure on them, and communicate.