You’ve watched a few episodes of Critical Role or Dice, Camera, Action! and you decide you want to be the next great DM! You get the free Basic 5e rules from the WotC website and get a group of friends, some dice, and pen and paper but as the eyes stare at you, and a bead of sweat rolls down your forehead you realize you don’t have anything prepared, or even know how to prepare an encounter! That’s where “Beyond the Basics” steps up and offers you a helping hand.
To the new dungeon master creating an encounter can be one of the most difficult parts of making your very first campaign. This supplement is designed to be used in conjunction with the D&D 5e Basic Rules and has an encounter for every major monster included. Some encounters are the classic swords and monsters style like “Cockatrice” by Charlie Smith which has the party track down and save a farmer’s favorite goose from the clutches of a fowl monster, while others work to subvert expectations of traditional monsters or even the encounter itself. TK Johnson changes the way a new DM might see an encounter from a confrontation to a social, learning experience in “Manticore”, the only way the party can fail is if they decide to fight the monster in this more subdued but still tense character study encounter.
Each encounter includes an afterword by the author that gives more insight into the content. Every afterward is different, Celeste Conowitch uses her afterward to suggest plot hooks to continue the encounter, changing it from a single night adventure into a campaign, like in “Adult Red Dragon” where the party will rally a community and take on a fearsome dragon. Some highlight the intent behind the encounter like Jen Vaughn’s “Gargoyle” about a father wanting to learn how to be a better dad by using the party as guinea pigs. Every afterword is different but all will help a new DM learn what inspires, and helps fuel an encounter.
There are also lots of small details that help make this guide a polished work. Pronunciation guides follow typical fantasy names which can be difficult for even the seasoned D&D player to parse out how to say some of the made up names. The header of each section has a label for which kind of interaction will be in that part of the encounter, be it “social” or “combat” and some of the encounters come with a content warning should they include anything that might be triggering for the players. The illustrations are amazing, especially Kayla Cline’s “Dadgoyle” and black light inspired “Nothic”.
Armed with the Basic Rules, some dice, and this supplement a fledgling dungeon master has all the tools to create a fun, compelling session of D&D for a table and with all the insight into the creative process, intent, and inspiration that these writers give anyone can be well on their way to becoming the next Mercer or Perkins.