Month: March 2019

Friday Night D&D – The Towers of the Gods

Friday Night D&D – The Towers of the Gods

This one comes from a handful of places for my newest campaign idea that you can steal, pick apart, etc. The first spot is Nerdarchy which really got me thinking about it on one of their videos where they were talking about a dungeon/tower that […]

Welcome to the Dungeon! – What is a Dungeon?

Welcome to the Dungeon! – What is a Dungeon?

Wait, there was a Dungeons and Dragons post yesterday, and there will probably be a Friday Night Dungeons and Dragons post tomorrow, so even more Dungeons and Dragons? Yes! I wanted to talk about one half of Dungeons and Dragons, and that is the dungeon. […]

Dungeons and Dragons Character Races – Elves

Dungeons and Dragons Character Races – Elves

I figured I’d go next for playing Dungeons and Dragons and talk about playing the different races. Previously I’ve done series on classes and backgrounds, but there’s another piece to your character creation, and that is picking your race.

For this series, I’m going to be focusing on races from the PHB (Players Handbook) and not some of the extra places that might have more races like Volo’s Guide to Monsters, Mordenkainen’s Tome of Foes, or Xanathar’s Guide to Everything. Those are extra things that are cool to pick up and add into your game, but you don’t need them, having the PHB is needed.

Image Source: Wizards

Elves

Elves will be the first race that we talk about, for no other reason than they popped into my head, and as I was reading Mordenkainen’s Tome of Foes, t here was a nice section on them that I remember fairly well.

Dungeons and Dragons, like most fantasy, pulls from JRR Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings when it gets its idea for elves. The elves are long lived, generally lean towards being stand offish and aloof, because they see the world in a different way than your average human would.

An elven adventurer is probably a couple hundred to five hundred years old and has had more of a chance to hone their craft. For elves, the reason that they do go adventuring, often, is because they want to leave their mark on the world. They have hundreds of years to do that, but that also means that their mark on the world is going to be more permanent. It also means that something that might be bad for a human, because it affects their short life, might not seem as pressing for a elf. If, for example, a goblin horde was threatening an area, it might be easier for an elf to just leave that area for a little bit and let the natural infighting and breakdown of goblin society happen through a couple of generations before returning, because the elves live so long, they can simply outlast the issue. Needless to say, that view might annoy your other party members.

That long view and ability to see the larger picture are useful in dealing with some situations, but it also is going to cause issues in other situations. You aren’t going to be able to relate as well to your shorter lived companions, and you might not become attached as easily. This is another reason that elves tend to be aloof. So think about that as you play as well, as you want to have a balance and not just be the outsider who is observing everything. It might also mean that you are more apt to overlook a more pressing issue as you’re paying attention to the expected longer term outcome.

Image Credit: Flavorwire

Another thing to consider, based off of the age of your elven adventurer, is how they are treated in both elven and non-elven society. In a human society, an elves knowledge when they are one hundred is going to be considered impressive. In elven society, an elf who goes adventuring at one hundred is going to be considered an impetuous youth. So even though human society might treat them differently, an elf who is one hundred is still probably going to show respect and defer to the human elders.

Let’s talk a bit about the other thing that is often taken from Lord of the Rings, and that is the elf and dwarf rivalry and mistrust. This is something that still shows up fairly often in games, and is something that you want to handle fairly carefully. What you’re trying to avoid is the racist elf and dwarf interactions where they hate each other and just pick at each other. In Lord of the Rings, Legolas and Gimli don’t trust each other at the start, and it comes out in rivalry in battle, because they have a central focus they can both get behind. In your game, you can certainly play to that, and you can certainly have the characters poke fun at each other as well. But try to avoid open hostility or combat with another PC or even with dwarves in general, as that’s not something you really want to bog down a game with.

Finally, let’s talk a bit about the mechanics of an elf. Obviously, we’ve talked about their age, but there are a few other components. First, elves start out by getting dex bump. That means your elves are going to always make good rogues, monks, and rangers who focus on the light or dexterity based weapons. They also have darkvision (most races do), but they have a couple other big things. Fey Ancestry means that they can’t be magically put to sleep and they are harder to charm, aka they have advantage to being charmed. They also don’t sleep, elves trance. In Mordenkainen’s Tome of Foes, they really go into what trance means for an elf, and why that happens, but what it means for mechanics in the game, it means that they only need four hours of rest to refresh each night, and are not as oblivious to their surroundings as someone who is asleep would be. They can’t be the lookout (or they’d be a bad one) while trancing, but it makes setting watch easier.

So let’s come up with some elven character concepts and backstories.

As a member of the royal household you thought that your position and life was going to be set and simple. You lived for a couple hundred years in the lap of luxury before your younger sibling decided that they wanted your spot. When your parents died, you prepared to take on added leadership and responsibility that was expected for you, however, you had missed that your sibling had been planting lies and distrust around you in the community. They decided that your sibling was more fit to rule and you were exiled from the tribe. After thirty years of living off of the land and plotting your revenge, you feel like you might have an idea, you just need a few things first.
Class: Ranger
Background: Noble
Alignment: Chaotic Good

Image Source: Geek & Sundry

You were sent away by your parents to the wizarding school in a neighboring nobles lands. It was a great school, and since you’ve always had aptitude for learning, you dove into your studying. After fifteen years, you started teaching introductory classes, but you mainly did that so you could stay around and continue your own studies and have access to the library. Your teacher, who has other responsibilities than just teaching you, eventually got fed up with you after another ten years and told you that you were going to be kicked out of the tower and your library card suspended until you got some practical experience in your life and maybe had an adventure or two. You took the opportunity to visit another wizarding school, but your teacher was one step ahead of you, and they knew to send you on your way. Now you’re looking for an adventuring party to give you some simple experiences, just enough so you can get back into the school and to the library to learn some more.
Class: Wizard
Background: Sage
Alignment: Lawful Neutral

Your family was a lesser known one in your elven community. People didn’t look down on you, but it had been generations since anyone in your family had done something that people really appreciated and remembered. Otherwise you were just kind of there. Your parents weren’t content with that, however, and they sought more for you. Eventually reaching out to an Archfey to see if they could help your family. Knowing fey creatures, that wasn’t that great an idea, but it did help their standing to have that connection. For you, when you were born, there was already a claim on you, and your parents didn’t treat your like your sibling, but you were kept separate. When you were seventy-five, you were sent off to work for the archfey as they had agreed upon before you were born. The work there was interesting, and they sent you out adventuring. In your mind, though, you feel slighted, you feel like you haven’t head the real life you were supposed to have, and you are looking for a way, and trying to hide the fact you’re looking, to get out of the deal that your parents made.
Class: Warlock
Background: Urchin/Outlander
Alignment: Chaotic Good/Chaotic Neutral

Elves can really work for any class and background combination as they live such long lives they can study a lot of things and try a lot of different professions. I tried to come up with things that seemed particularly elf like for each of the backstories, but I think that, because of their long life, a lot of these stories also work for other races.

Have you played an elf before, do you lean into their age or their aloofness when you play them?

Share questions, ideas for articles, or comments with us!

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Revisit Rewatch Review – Captain Marvel

Revisit Rewatch Review – Captain Marvel

This past week, Kristen and I went and saw Captain Marvel. As always I was pretty excited for a Marvel movie, though Captain Marvel I might have waited to watch at home if Avengers: Endgame wasn’t so close to coming out. For me, Captain Marvel […]

Playing Your D&D Character – 301

Playing Your D&D Character – 301

The last part of playing your D&D Character, there is no 401 for this course. To me there are three main parts that I wanted to talk about. The first was figuring out how to be in character and staying in character as much as […]

Friday Night D&D – Insane in the Membrane

Friday Night D&D – Insane in the Membrane

Alright, it’s Friday again, that means it is time to come up with your (or my) next Dungeons and Dragons campaign. This one is again pulled using information from Mordenkainen’s Tome of Foes.

So let’s get into some backstory. Out there between the planes there exists two factions of the Gith race, Githyanki and Githzerai. For a long time, they were both under the control of Mind Flayers, but they managed to buck that control and now both war against the Mind Flayers, but the Githyanki, an evil race, don’t really care who get in their way and will pillage and kill as they go tracking down Mind Flayers. The Githzerai are similar in their feelings about Mind Flayers, but tend to keep to themselves.

Image Source: Forgotten Realms Wiki

In our game, there will have been a massive mind flayer infestation that has cropped up in the underdark. Though, as the players, you don’t know that yet. But things on the surface are starting to get interesting.

Duergar and Drow are coming up from the underdark to attack Dwarven clans whenever they can and seem to be making a concerted effort and push to take over some Dwarven strongholds. This amount of coordination seems higher than what Duergar normally are doing, so the players will be sent to investigate the underdark, investigate, but not engage. Down there, they will run across a party of Githzerai, and knowing the players, they will engage them, and be knocked out. That will probably have them going back to the surface to report, where they’ll get sent back down again to confirm that there are mind flayers.

Image Source: Forgotten Realms Wiki

On the surface, there will be changes going on to the lands as a Githzerai tower will have appeared. This beacon is going to bring in Githyanki and their red dragon companions as well as their air ships. The players, when not in the underdark are going to have to try and stop some of the incursions from the Githyanki as well as figure out what the Githzerai tower is and what is going on there.

The interesting part of this game for the players will be the troubles developing on two fronts. If they focus only on keeping the Githyanki away, and the Githyanki/Githzerai hate the Mind Flayers with the burning passion of a million suns so they aren’t leaving, the Mind Flayers are going to continue building up power in the underdark. If they go after the Mind Flayers, the Githyanki and Githzerai are both going to stick around the surface and delve into the underdark as well. So what happens to the surface while the PC’s are gone? The Githyanki are going to do a lot of damage. And it also opens up the question, do the PC’s know enough eventually about the Gith and the two factions to know that the Githzerai could be used as allies without everything ending up being destroyed?

Eventually this game is going to have the players taking on the Mind Flayers, possibly with allies. But then there might be another act where the Githyanki are now seeing what is worthwhile from the material plane and the players are going to have to come back to the surface and deal with the Githyanki or the red dragons who are their allies.

What are your thoughts on this game idea? Would you be interested in a game where there are two battlefronts and you have to choose between the two.

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Hobby vs Collection

Hobby vs Collection

This came up a bit ago on The Dice Tower, and it’s an interesting topic for nerds. There are times when a hobby becomes a collection or when a collection becomes a hobby. A couple of examples of this:I have a lot of comic books, […]

Playing Your D&D Character – 201

Playing Your D&D Character – 201

We’ve started going down the route of playing your D&D character, in 101, we talked primarily about how much you should stay in character, and the expectations of being in character and differentiating in and out of character should work at the table. In 201, […]

TelevisionTalks: Love, Death, + Robots

TelevisionTalks: Love, Death, + Robots

Time to talk about the newest Netflix show, this time the anthology series, Love, Death, + Robots. It’s an interesting experiment in show making an anthology series, but not just an anthology series, but a completely animated one.

Let’s start out by talking about what an anthology series is, since the term might not be familiar to everyone. When you think of a television show, you generally think of something that has the same characters throughout the whole season or series, and possibly there will be a plot going through the whole season. An anthology series is just short stories with completely different characters, completely different plots and settings, and in this case, completely different animation styles. They do, however, tend to be around a similar subject matter, in this case, love, death, and robots.

Image Source: IMDb

So how does it work to watch a show?

I think that it’s an interesting idea for a series. There are some of the episodes that are extremely well done, there are some that are just okay, and there are some that a pretty poor. However, in all of them, the animation is very strong, even in the more basic animations, and they tend to match the animation style very well to the story for the episode. Some of the stories have hyper realistic animation, while others have a more stylized feel or a sillier feel. And that’s the case with the subject matter, some of the episodes are silly, some of them are just lighter feeling, while some others try and be extremely heavy.

For me, that’s the issue with some of the episodes. They try and act like they are deep and clever, and while they might have very good animation, they tend to actually be pretty flat and heavy handed story telling. Overall, I would say that the anthology suffers a fair amount from that, there are just enough scattered throughout that you feel like it’s trying to beat you over the head with an idea, that isn’t particularly well presented, in hopes that it will be considered smart. This is often a weakness in the short film/short episode format though, because you don’t get a chance to develop characters, and you’re trying to condense an idea into a short period of time. And that’s something that short films really lean into.

Image Source: IMDb

But with the storytelling, there are a number of the episodes where I want to see more of what is going on. There are some worlds that are created which are very interesting and you feel like there is a lot more to the world to be explored. This is a positive and a negative, because you know you aren’t likely to get more ever, but you definitely want to have more, and those stories feel the strongest. I guess the best way to describe it is that the those episodes felt like they had a living world around them versus just this one static slice of the world that was cut out to make the point they are going for.

I do want to add in a disclaimer that while this is an animated series, it is not a kids series. It’s not even the Simpsons, it’s much more adult than that, and there is a lot of sex, nudity, language, violence, and gore throughout the show. So be careful when you watch it and who you watch it with, because, it does use a pretty heavy hand on some heavy subjects.

So what do I think of the show?

It’s a hit or miss show for me. There are some worlds that I definitely want to explore more and stories that captured me, there are other parts that are too heavy handed. I can recommend it for appreciating the various animation styles as some of the animation is amazing, and all of it works with the stories being told. But there are a number of the stories that are just too much and feel a bit like a waste of time to watch, because you get the point they are beating you over the head with at the very beginning, and after that it’s just the stuff in the disclaimer.

Playing Your D&D Character – 101

Playing Your D&D Character – 101

Alright, so now you’ve started building your D&D character, let’s talk about playing your D&D character. Dungeons and Dragons after all is a role playing game, so you need to take on the role of your character. For this, we’re going to assume that you’ve […]