In early December, the Revised Edition of Tasslehoff’s Pouches of Everything will be available for purchase on the DM’s Guild. The Dragonlance Nexus Design Team includes Chuck Martinell, Ed Mekeel, and me. Together, we have been working hard to make a sourcebook that supports play in every era of the Dragonlance setting and one that is as welcoming to those new to the setting as it is to old-school fans like us. Do you want to play as a dwarf in the early Age of Dreams? You can! Do you prefer setting your stories in the post-War of Souls era of the Age of Mortals or playing a character who discovers they have a latent talent for primal sorcery or mysticism? You can do that too.
Our sincerest hope is that the Revised Tasslehoff’s Pouches of Everything will add value to your Shadows of the Dragon Queen campaign as well. In this book, we expand the options available to players and give an alternative take on some of the things that Wizards of the Coast has included in their official Dragonlance release such as kender, draconians, and several magic items. In the spirit of 5th Edition, everything is modular, allowing you to use what you want and ignore the things you don’t.
That said, our design team asked me to put a spotlight on one of the things you have to look forward to in the Revised Tasslehoff’s Pouches of Everything and explain the design philosophy that led to the final product. I picked the Way of the Mantis monk subclass. I mean, what could be more iconic in a Dragonlance campaign than a monk who follows the teachings of Majere, the Mantis God himself.
When Chuck, Ed, and I began our work revising Tasslehoff’s Pouches of Everything, we decided to include at least one new subclass for each core class. The goal for each one was to draw inspiration from published sources whenever we could in order to maintain a classic Dragonlance feel. But officially published sources exist in a wide range of mediums from game sourcebooks and supplements to novels and graphic novels. In order to give you a full picture of where my head was during the design phase I’ll need to give you a bit of a personal narrative.
In all of the published Dragonlance materials, I’ve only encountered two examples of monk characters. Most recently was Rhys from the Mina trilogy of novels. While Rhys was an interesting character in his own right, he displayed little that could be translated into a unique monk subclass. He was very much a monk from the first edition of D&D, which is covered by the Way of the Open Hand found in the 5th Edition Player’s Handbook.
I wrote several drafts that felt very bland. Our team and I decided we first needed to take inspiration from the real-world Mantis style of Kung Fu with its way of avoiding and redirecting an opponent’s offensive moves. That was incorporated into the subclass’s 3rd level and 6th level features, essentially expanding what the monk could do with its special Ki powers. It felt right to draw from the awesomeness of the real world, and I feel like Rhys is represented in these features as well. But if I was to be inspired for the 11th and 17th level features I’d need to look elsewhere. I decided to start from the beginning, that is, with the first and only other time I’m aware of when a monk of Majere has been represented in Dragonlance literature.
When I was in the 7th grade, my cousin had just turned 16. For his birthday he received a 1978 Camaro (he was an only child and always got the good stuff). I benefitted in that he would occasionally offer to drive me to Lone Star Comics in southwest Fort Worth to check out the latest comic and game releases, and it was on one of these outings that I discovered DC’s line of Dragonlance comic books. I must have spent hours combing through their back issues until I had close to a complete set. They’re still one of my favorite treasures.
As I struggled to come up with the crowning features for the Way of the Mantis, I remembered my treasured comic books that live in my closet buried under various boxes, guitar cases, and old photos. Didn’t they feature a monk character who followed Majere? After excavating them I gingerly removed the protective plastic from the first issue and opened it to the opening scenes in which a young Riva Silvercrown is rescued from Lord Soth’s skeleton warriors by Brother Vandar Brightblade, former Knight of Solamnia and uncle to Sturm. In one encounter with Soth’s minions he calls upon the power of Majere to summon a swarm of locusts and, in another, to call forth a giant praying mantis.
My next task was to find where the authors of the comic came up with these powers. It felt a bit much. Did these abilities originate in some comic writer’s fever dream or were they from a more official source? Sure enough, I found my answer on page 43 of the 1st Edition Dragonlance Adventures sourcebook, written by the original sages of our favorite setting, Tracy Hickman and Margaret Weis. There it details the powers granted to the followers of the Mantis God, among which are the spells insect plague and creeping doom (a spell very similar to 5th Edition’s version of the giant insect spell). It seems these powers were part of the original design of Majere’s followers from the beginning.
Are these features a bit of a departure from 5th Edition monks we’ve seen before? Probably, but isn’t that what we want from a subclass? Something that breaks the mold in interesting ways? The inclusion of these spells at 11th and 17th level brings the Way of the Mantis to life in a way that feels unique to the Dragonlance setting, honors what has come before, while being versatile enough to in games set elsewhere in the D&D multiverse. I speak for the entire Dragonlance Nexus Design Team when I say we hope you choose to get the Revised Tasslehoff’s Pouches of Everything and enjoy what you find within its pages.