We're hoping this column becomes your window into roleplaying design and development—or at least the way we approach these things here at Wizards of the Coast. We'll handle a wide range of topics in weeks to come, from frank discussions about over- or underpowered material, to the design goals of a certain supplement, to what we think are the next big ideas for the Dungeons & Dragons game. All of this comes bundled with a healthy look at the people and events that are roleplaying R&D.
What’s this? Chocolate in your peanut butter? Peanut butter in your chocolate? It’s true, for today's article we're looking at a completely different set of minis—namely, Dreamblade—and how they might find utility in your D&D game.
While it’s oftentimes verboten to cross the streams around here (I’m still advocating for D&D stats for select Magic: the Gathering creatures), the powers-that-be agreed to let us run the following cross-promotion. If you haven’t seen Dreamblade yet, here’s your introduction to the game—and, we believe, even if you never battle in a dreamscape (a Dreamblade tournament), you can still find a home for Dreamblade minis in your D&D campaign.
What is Dreamblade?
A very quick primer: Dreamblade is the collectible miniatures game Wizards of the Coast launched last summer. Two players battle, each using a warband of 16 miniatures, plus the dreamscape map, several special attack dice, and two regular dice. From turn to turn, players put some of their miniatures into the dreamscape, where they claim territory and battle the other player’s creatures. The winner of each turn is the player whose creatures have claimed the most key territory and destroyed the most enemy creatures. Victory goes to the first player to win six turns. Take a look at the FAQ if you want to learn more, or better yet, test out the slick online demo (on the front of the Dreamblade website.
To start with, why even consider Dreamblade minis for your D&D game? That’s why everyone buys D&D Minis in the first place—because they perfectly represent D&D’s creatures, in many cases down to their Monster Manual illustrations. That’s true of course. But, we would argue, it never hurts to have just a few minis more.
The following abbreviations are used in this article, for the three Dreamblade sets release to date:
- BS: Base Set
- BW: Baxars War
- CP: Chrysotic Plague
Dreamblade’s setting “takes place in the near future in the dreamscape, the collective unconscious of humanity. Here dream lords spawn creatures from their own subconscious minds to do battle. Since these creatures are dream beings, anything goes.” It’s that “anything goes” part that’s especially compelling… While Dreamblade minis don’t represent specific D&D creatures, that’s part of the fun. As shown in our Creature Incarnations series, even a standard D&D creature can acquire any number of templates (Half-Golem (Iron) Hivenest (Spider Swarm) Manticore anyone?), transforming them well beyond their illustrations. Besides, what’s D&D without a cadre of mad wizards concocting new and horrible hybrids in their basements? Hence the owlbear… and so why not the Octorilla (CP)?
Dreamblade minis bases just happen to fit a 2x2 area of a DDM map, making them the perfect size for Large creatures. So continuing on, we’ll introduce a few more Dreamblade minis that might be useful for your game, and at the end ask for your help in coming up with a few more ideas.
Hey, I Could Use That One For…
As soon as the first Dreamblade minis arrived at the office, everyone here in Online Media immediately had the same comment: “Boy, some of these would be perfect in my D&D game…” Tattooed Squashbug (CP), for instance, resembles an upright carrion crawler. The Naga Broodqueen (BW) easily becomes a naga or yuan-ti abomination. Flame Harrower (BS) makes a great fire elemental—one powerful enough to merit armor plating, no less (perhaps as an aspect of Imix, Prince of Evil Fire Creatures, from Dragon Magazine #347).
In need of a few more animals? There’s the Steelborn Griffon (BS), Glaive Scorpion (BW) and Temple Lion (BW)—as well as the Loyal Scagglemaw (BS), which might represent a dire, fiendish or perhaps even were-lion. Prowling Leopardman (BS) also serves as a were-leopard (or would that be leopardwere?) in hybrid form.
And when it comes to dragons, you could use the Noble Dragon (BS) for a Large blue, Unsated Ragedrake (BW) as a red, and Pearlthorn Dragon Knight (CP) as a green draconic half-breed.
To compliment Archfiend’s Ochre Jelly and Aberrations’ Gibbering Mouther, Dreamstuff Entity (BS), Unspeakable Freak (BS), and Hellshrieker (BS) can augment your supply of oozes, jellies and screaming blobs.
Several Dreamblade minis also make perfect golems. There’s the Runetagged Brawler (BS) and Skinless (BW), which could be strange versions of flesh golems, while Gutsoup Golem (CP) makes a horrid intestinal golem (or perhaps a Large worm-that-walks). Iron Thug (BS) couldn’t look any more like a chain golem, or Ropestrung Scarecrow (CP) as an animated scarecrow. Your players may have already encountered D&D Minis’ iron and stone golems, so why not swap in World Eater (CP) for an epic variety, or Eater of Hope (BS) as a Large blackstone gigant.
Dreamblade minis can also be used to represent rather niche D&D creatures (that is, creatures that will most probably never see the light of day in DDM). For example, while I could be wrong I doubt Fiend Folio’s chronotyryn will appear in a future DDM expansion; but, there is the Thief of Last Chances (BW), which fills in quite nicely. There are even a few Dreamblade minis that perfectly match specific D&D characters. Who else could Bloodthirsty Redcap (BW) be, but Snig the Axe? Creature Incarnations created the half-demon half-angel, which can be represented by Marian, Bound to Pain (BW). And here’s an obscure one: in our Chest of Misfit Items adventure, we introduced the balor-in-a-box—and who better to play that, than Jack-in-the-Box (BS)!
Swords to Plowlasers
Dreamblade minis fall across both fantasy and science-fiction, so they can also find a good home in your d20 Modern game—and for that matter, so can your Star Wars Minis… but perhaps that’s another article. Likewise, you might look to Dreamblade to populate a D&D campaign with futuristic elements (such as Expedition to the Barrier Peaks, Night of the Comet, Temple of the Frog (or the Return to).
Just look at Toxic Sludger (CP), Pick-Pick (BS) or Swordstrider (CP). Freakazoid (CP) makes an inexplicable abomination; Queen Chrysota (CP), an alien hivemind; and Hazardin Grenadier (CP), a Large bomb-tossing mechanoid. Dragon Magazine #352 introduced game material for China Mieville’s Bas-Lag literary world (featured in Perdido Street Station, The Scar, and Iron Council), which incorporates a technological feel; Gent (BW), for instance, would make a perfect remade character.
Fiendish Codex Campaigns
With the release of Fiendish Codex I and II, you might be planning a fiend-themed campaign. And since the Abyss and Nine Hells are filled with all manner of nightmares, a few more creatures can help populate your encounters. Iron Thug (BS), if not a chain golem, is spot on for a Large chain devil. Infernal Gothic (BW) couldn’t make a better harvester devil. And the Bloodsucker (CP) fits right in as another chasme.
There are no hierarchies like the fiendish hierarchies. At the bottom rungs, Soul Grub (BS) appears as the lowest of the low, as a drudge or other foul creation (such as the ronwe spawn, discussed as in the Design & Development article: Devil in the Details. Moving up the ranks, Infernal Preacher (CP) and Aviax Firebrand (CP) both resemble fiendish officials, perhaps sermonizing inside their evil churches to spur their troops on to battle (or perhaps they’re forces behind the evils cults in your PCs’ own backyards). Horned Marauder (BW) resembles a Large goristo (instead of a Huge—perhaps they have aspects as well), or use it for an Aspect of Baphomet. In fact, quite a few Dreamblade minis can represent fiend lords: Marian, Bound to Pain (BW) as Glasya or Fierna (or perhaps a Large erinyes or brachina); Darkbringer (BW) as an Aspect of Orcus; and Night Queen (BS) as an Aspect of Lloth or one of her deranged handmaidens, such as an Envoy of Lloth—just in time for April’s Expedition to the Demonweb Pits.
With March’s DDM Unhallowed release, Halloween might come early this year with a Ravenloft or horror-themed campaign. Again, a few more Dreamblade creatures can help expand Strahd’s deadly populace and throw your players for a loop wondering what just hit the table. Heart Render (BS), Bladehound (BS), and Lone Wolf (BS) are all monstrous werewolves in hybrid form, while Blood Wolf (BS) and Canis Horibilis (CP) can prowl the hillsides in animal form.
Plus, what’s horror without undead? Silhouette (BW) is a perfect Large shadow, Jack of Blades (BS) a boneclaw, and Caged Grawlth (CP) a Large brain-in-a-jar or other bound experiment. And this is pretty old school, but the Knight of Autumn Gate (BS), with its jack-o-lantern head, is almost exactly how pre-1st edition bugbears were illustrated.
Now It’s Your Turn
By now, you get the point: Dreamblade minis can be used as Large creatures incorporated as additional (and unexpected) flavor into your D&D campaigns. After all, it never hurts to keep your players guessing—they know exactly what the hill giant mini means when it comes out, and can immediately start formulating strategies against it. But what about minis they’ve never seen? Part of the fear comes from facing the unknown—and it never hurts to strike a little terror into your players from time to time.
We’ve now done our part introducing Dreamblade minis. But there are plenty more where they came from, many of which are true monstrosities without D&D correlations. And so here’s where we’re asking for your opinions. We’ve selected a few Dreamblade minis and want to hear your ideas for how they can be statted out for D&D—not as existing creatures, necessarily, but as newly templated or entirely new creatures altogether.
That’s right, all new, original monsters for you to create. We give you the mini, you give us the stats. Have at ‘em! Feel free to submit your creations directly to us at email@example.com. We’ll be selecting some of the stats to publish later on the website.