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A recent purchase sent me down a rabbit hole. Last Wednesday, I whined about my unfinished business with 4th Edition D&D (“4e“) with 3rd Edition D&D (“3e“). Yesterday, I showed how that can put you in a “you can never go back” position. Today, I’m not whining (too much), but this is really about praising a great RPG writer, Rob Schwalb, a.k.a., the Demon Lord, a.k.a., Satan Claus.
Full disclosure: Though we’ve never sat down and had a beer together (why the fuck not?), I know the guy, and I know that he’s done a lot of writing for D&D. However, I don’t pay attention to the authors on those books because I trust the brand and am going to buy those books regardless of who the freelance author was. I honestly had no idea he authored some of my favorite D&D books. Only the ones I consider my favorites are noted below, but the full list is here (or so claims Amazon.com).
Fiendish Codexes, 3e
As I’ve whined before, the Fiendish Codexes are two 3e sourcebooks I regret having sold off, and as much as I want them in my physical library, I’m not paying $135 or more for either. Rob co-wrote the second one, Tyrants of the Nine Hells, with Robin D. Laws. I’ll have to settle on the fact that my new character I’m playing at Winter Vantasy will be Tybalt the Cursed (Tyrants of the Nine Hells, page 79), or at least as close as I can get. Feel free to make suggestions to his character sheet at 1st level and 5th level.
Tome of Magic, 3e
Only one class can truly compete with bard for my favorite class: the Truenamer from Tome of Magic (for which I’m not paying $50+). I made one my BBEG for a campaign I ran but never played one as a PC. Mechanically, it’s not the best class. It has a weird power curve because it’s attacks are based on skills, so as you level up you became weaker until you hit 4th, 8th, 12th, etc. level where you get a huge jump in power. It also depends on a very specific set of magic items in order to keep up with the NPC power curve. Nevertheless, it has great flavor, so I’d have been happy to play one. I’ve annoyed people by playing bongos or a recorder at the game table for my bards, but can you imagine roleplaying a truenamer? I’d be screaming profanity in an unknown language every time I attacked.
Drow of the Underdark
Last week, I purchased a soft cover copy of Drow of the Underdark via the DMs Guild (PDF included). I loved that book and wanted it in my physical library. I’m very happy with my soft cover of the Fiend Folio for 1st Edition D&D, so the format doesn’t bother me at all.
Martial Power, 4e (the First One)
In 4e, all I wanted to play were leaders, which were the classes that did most of the healing. This is odd because I disliked playing healers in every other edition of D&D that I’ve played (though 5th Edition D&D‘s tempest cleric is reasonably fun). However, the one 4e non-leader class/build that I loved to play as much as a leader was the beastmaster ranger from Martial Power. I could win initiative and run across an entire battle map on the first turn. Impressive, though reckless. I did it only once. Once. But being able to self-flank with your beast companion was fun.
Monster Manual 3, 4e
My favorite enemies are demons, devils, drow, and slaadi. This book had cambions, 7 demons (molydeus!) 8 devils (using a picture of a Binder from Tome of Magic for 3e), 6 drow, Lolth, Eclavdra, and 2 slaadi. Lolth’s stat block was about as clever as they come, changing from a lurker to a brute when her lurker form was “killed.” Rob confirmed with me that he drafted it. (Sly Flourish‘s Cryonax stat block was pretty good too. Never used it. Shit.)
How could I not love this sourcebook? This is, of course, just scratching the surface. This sourcebook introduced a lot of iconic monsters to 4e. I added an intellect devourer to my home game as soon as I had that stat block.
Exemplars of Evil and Elder Evils, 3e
These were not among my favorites. I mention them only to say, yeah, it figures he wrote these. Crazy bastard.
This list is itself just scratching the surface. He’s done a lot of solid work, which is unsurprising. You don’t keep getting jobs if you’re producing shoddy work. Some of my favorite titles have his bloody fingerprints all over them.
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Follow Satan Claus @rjschwalb
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