Wizards of the Coast recently unveiled the next adventure at the D&D Live at the Meltdown live stream (you can rewatch the announcements here)  for the 5th Edition D&D product line coming this fall. DMs and their players shall journey back to the Forgotten Realms to combat the growing menace from giants following the aftermath of the Tyranny of Dragon storyline.

We present: the Storm King’s Thunder!

Storm King’s Thunder, Image: Wizards of the Coast

It will be up the smaller folk (humans, elves, dwarves, etc) to combat the myriad of chaos and destruction brought forth from the unshackled evil giants. There are rumors of political intrigue between the various giant varieties according to Chris Perkins and instances of rune magic by Mike Mearls. The notion of runes both for their roleplaying applications and the novelty as treasure options may prove to be something interesting for DMs to satiate rabid players with their growing hoards of treasure.

Along with the announcement of the new product, various other news was unveiled, including two online D&D series (one on YouTube and one on Twitch) would also tie along with the new adventure. Additionally there will be an expansion with the Neverwinter MMO and Fantasy Grounds respectively.

Twinned Series – Twinned Dice Rolled

The two new D&D online series, one of them is Penny Arcade’s Acquisitions Incorporated to be run as a series held through the Summer of 2016. Something fans have been clamoring for ages now, multi-episode series of the infamous celebrity D&D trope that is bound to full of hilarity and crazy antics. Content is told to be released soon and contribute to the new Giant storyline but no official date has been released yet. Subscribe to Penny Arcade’s YouTube channel here to stay updated.

The second series brings Geek & Sundry’s Critical Role‘s Matthew Mercer as Dungeon Master along with a variety of celebrities as players, from Ashley Johnson (Blindspot, better known as Pike on Critical Role), to Jonah Ray (co-podcaster for the Nerdist podcast). There is even an unofficial/official recruitment of Chris Hardwick as a Sun Elf Wizard via cellphone confirmation (seriously check out the recorded stream, it’s very Hardwick in style). The narrative also takes place in the Forgotten Realms and ties in with the new Giant storyline, Mercer even spoils the audience with a prelude session as a means to bring the characters together to form a sort of black-ops Faerun group known as Force Grey.

Force Grey – Giant Hunters, Image: Wizards of the Coast

The world is the precipice of ruin, heroes from across the realms gather to combat this menace. Will you join and forge your own legends this Fall? Follow along these adventures and see if you have the mettle to stand toe to toe against giants.

Return to the Icewind Dale – Get your boots

For the Neverwinter MMO, which has surged in player base with its expansion onto consoles and D&D’s own growth in popularity has led to many expansions into quests and lore for the Sword Coast. Players familiar with the lore of the Realms will find themselves back in the frozen lands of the Icewind Dale to deal with the sudden appearance frost giants. Players will also meet Catti-brie and Wulfgar – characters from R.A. Salvatore’s Drizzt series – as they aid adventurers in their quest to combat the frost giant invasion.

Fantasy Grounds stated that they will be new online content also tied to Storm Giant’s Hammer, no release date was given. I would suspect that it would be just after the official release date of the new adventure or the latest of Spring 2017.

The Return of an old rival – Volo Returns!

For those new the Forgotten Realms lore, there are two infamous intellectuals when it comes to all things within the Realms: Volothamp Geddarm (or Volo) and Eliminster Aumar. Eliminster is a character crafted by the creator of the Realms, Ed Greenwood decades ago, the growth of this character from youth to eventual Chosen of Mystra was marked through various novels. Eliminister was the stylized old and ancient wizard who knew everything there was to know about magic. Volo was the sort paparazzi of knowledge within the Realms, so in short half of his information was accurate. The two butted heads on various topics of lore and knowledge.

In true Wizards of the Coast style, along with the new adventure module, a new supplement was also unveiled.

Volo’s Guide to Monsters, Image: Wizards of the Coast

The new supplement contains details and material for many of D&D’s most iconic monsters, like mind flayers, beholders, to orcs and gnolls. There are also dozens of new creatures toss into the mix, and new playable race options including goblin, orc, and firbolg.

The firbolg is a giant race from AD&D days and has not seen much use since. But since the new Giant storyline uses many elements from adventures in the past and it was mentioned by Chris Perkins that players may have the options to play Giants, I believe that the firbolg is one of those ways. The timing could not be any more appropriate. This is rich material for DMs seeking to learn more about D&D’s more famous monsters and also more creature options to toss into combat encounters. New playable races are also a huge boon. The Guide to Monsters will be officially released November 15th, 2016 just before the holiday season goes into full swing.

Final Thoughts & Impressions

The rumors for a Giant based storyline had circulated around places like Reddit for nearly a month or two already. There was mentions of a Giant storyline since the end of the 2015 from Chris Perkins regarding future products. The difference is all of the details are officially released and things are moving towards that reality of distribution. I have not had a session or even a campaign dealing with Giants in nearly 8 years, it feels wonderful to bring them back into the table again. The intricacies between the various Giant kinds is both interesting thought-provoking of the many parallels and differences between Giants and “small folk”.

The new D&D series are just butter on top of warm toast for me. I love Acquisitions Incorporated and Critical Role, so seeing more material is just dandy.

While I have not played the Neverwinter MMO since the start of Tyranny of Dragons, I will say that game is still going strong with an expanded player base since their release into consoles. Fantasy Grounds has had a long collaboration with Wizards to being the forefront of premiere virtual table top experiences. Wizards did the smart idea of letting 3rd-party developers handle the online materials instead of themselves as evident in their difficulties during 4th Edition’s reign.

The new monster supplement will greatly inspire DMs with new innovative ways to torment their players, so I will look forward to a copy for my own nefarious schemes. The new playable races will cull that itch that players have been clamoring for the past year or more. Granted no new campaign settings were announced or mentioned, it makes more sense to bring the new generation of players gently into the fold of roleplaying games. The DMs Guild has been hugely successful for players to come up with homebrew content and allow content-makers to make a little bit of cash in the process. But more official content is always nice, along with class and racial options.

From a business standpoint, Wizards has gained a miraculous comeback after the player divide during 4th Edition’s lifespan. The need for quality content instead of spamming it (as it was during that periods as well) has influenced the approach the R&D department has handled all the official material releases. Campaign settings are tricky and full of intricate details that require vast amounts of time and effort to make right in order to acquire a true sense of: “this is truly a campaign setting set for 5th edition”. So I don’t mind the wait, but don’t keep us waiting too long Wizards. I also understand that they use the Unearthed Arcana surveys to gauge interests and direction so for it’s a bit of give and take. That’s fine for now, just not forever.

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