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Welcome to the Dungeons! – Riddle Me This

Welcome to the Dungeons! – Riddle Me This

We’ve had some traps in our dungeons, we’ve got monsters wandering around and patrolling, but what about puzzles. It’s fairly iconic as we get in Lord of the Rings Gandalf puzzling out which direction to go in the Mines of Moria, and also sitting outside […]

Dungeons and Dragons Character Races: Halflings

Dungeons and Dragons Character Races: Halflings

I’ve talked with Dwarves and Elves about how they were inspired by Lord of the Rings. But there aren’t any Halflings in Lord of the Rings. There are Hobbits, obviously. So how close are Hobbits to Halflings? Very close, Halflings are the fun loving, food […]

Friday Night D&D – The “Heroes” Journey

Friday Night D&D – The “Heroes” Journey

This is another idea that I started formulating while watching a GM 9-1-1 video from Nerdarchy. The question that was asked there was how the GM could create a game where someone else was the hero of the game.

Normally this isn’t something that I would want to do, the players are clearly going to be the hero of the game or if it’s an evil campaign the villains of the game. But they had one idea that I want to run with more, and that I think could be an interesting game that would allow the players to still be the heroes of the game, while dealing with a chosen one hero who is going to save the day in the end.

Image Source: Encounter Roleplay

Long ago in this game world, there was a prophecy of a chosen one who would defeat the mighty Zorlack, an evil deity from another realm. The hero would be born under a blood moon when the faeries sang their mid summer song and they would be born with the sign of the lioness on their right shoulder.

A couple of thousands of years have passed, and you are not that hero, but you know who the hero is. They are a big pain in everyone’s arse, because while they might be the way to defeat Zorlack, they’ve almost died ten times in the year from silly little problems like getting shot by a single arrow from a goblin, stepping off the edge of a cliff and falling 10 feet, because they wanted to get a better view, swallowing some bird poop from a bird flying overhead that they wanted to look at. They are not the hero that everyone was expecting.

Image Source: Wizards of the Coast

Now, the signs for Zorlack’s return are starting to be fulfilled and you, a scrappy band of adventurers have your hands full dealing with this impending doom. But your life has become more complicated than just the monsters that you’re starting to deal with. There was more to the prophecy, and you’ve been tasked to help deal with the rest of the prophecy.

This is where the game really begins. I don’t see this is a massively long campaign, but it’s going to be a goofy campaign. To start, I think I’d have the players do a few fetch quests to get a few items that the hero is going to need to defeat Zorlack. I think that it makes sense that they are all pieces of an epic weapon that only the hero will be able to wield, somehow. With that, you can introduce Zorlack’s minions, some sort of small monster who are going to be a bother in numbers, but pretty easy to kill.

From there, I’d make the players have to fight their way to the remote monastery where the hero is being kept to keep them protected. This should be a pain in the butt for the adventuring party, dealing with wild creatures, fighting more minions of Zorlack, and probably dealing with some crazy weather. And when the players meet the hero, they are going to find that the hero is whiny, self-entitled, and basically a level 0 character that the players are now going to have to protect on the next fetch quest. But they need the hero to be able to get the weapon together. All the time they are doing this, I would have the hero almost die over and over again, if you have a cleric with revivify, definitely actually have the hero die a few times and have the party have to save them. But do it in absurd goofy ways so that the players don’t feel like you’ve added a complication to them, because it’s so absurd.

Eventually once they’ve collected all the pieces, there’s probably going to be a last part of the prophecy, where only a certain dwarf will be able to forge the weapon by heating it from the lava flows of a volcano. Again, making the players lives more annoying, but probably drop off the hero in one of the large cities at that point to keep him safe. Once the weapon is back together and delivered to the hero, now it’s time to ride into the massive storm that is the battle of the human, dwarf, and elf armies that are holding back the now massive hordes of minions to get to where Zorlack is so that the hero can destroy or banish Zorlack. Don’t have the players really take much part in the battle as the armies will clear a path for them, they’ll just have to deal with a few bands of minions, which should be easy.

Image Source: D&D Beyond

Eventually they’ll finally face off against Zorlack who should be either tiny or the most over the top villain of all time, like those from 80’s cartoons. And I don’t think I’d even have the final battle be a normal battle. Borrow from something like The Devil Went Down to Georgia or Guardian’s of the Galaxy. Have it be a competition of some sort, and something that the players can help with, probably by either performing with the hero, rigging it so that Zorlack does worse, and the hero does better, whatever the rules are for the actual final battle.

In this game, I’d also be adding is something heralding with Zorlack actually shows up. Like a light in the sky that is getting closer, or something that is incredibly stupid, 80’s, and metal.

I’m definitely thinking that this game gets some of it’s styling for making everything over the top from 80’s hair metal bands, He-Man, Heavy Metal/Heavy Metal 2000. Really taking those 80’s sci-fi/future things and twisting them for a fantasy setting. Maybe Zorlack doesn’t end up being a deity, but a super powerful alien that this more primitive world would see as being almost god like powers.

Compared to some of my other ideas, this one is clearly the most silly. But sometime you want silly games with geysers of flame going off as Zorlack’s Minions are chanting the lyrics to We Will Rock You by Queen.

What do you think of this idea? Do you like to prefer in a more serious game or a sillier game?

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Welcome to the Dungeon! – It’s a Trap

Welcome to the Dungeon! – It’s a Trap

Going slightly out of order of what I wrote in the first post about dungeons, but I think this one is useful to talk about early on because it is often a big factor with an ecosystem. Traps are something that I haven’t used in […]

Dungeons and Dragons Character Races: Humans

Dungeons and Dragons Character Races: Humans

This is going to be a shorter article I think. Humans in Dungeons and Dragons and fantasy in general are going to be a little bit more basic because they can be anything and there isn’t some defining trait. They don’t love an extremely long […]

Welcome to the Dungeon! – Who is in your Dungeon?

Welcome to the Dungeon! – Who is in your Dungeon?

Next thing we’re going to look at with your dungeon is to look at the ecology of your dungeon. I talked about it a little bit in the what is your dungeon, but it used to be that dungeons would have all sorts of monsters living together with random traps thrown in, in a way that would kill the monsters if they actually had left their rooms where apparently they had an infinite supply of food and water.

Image Source: Wizards

So instead you have to plan out your dungeon to make sense. Though, there is an easy way to make an old school dungeon, and that’s with four simple words: “A wizard did it.”. That will get you out of jail free when your dungeon doesn’t make sense. But that only works in some situations. A lot of the time you’re going to be building a dungeon for a specific reason. Maybe it’s an old abandoned temple that is hidden away in the jungle. Having ice monsters in there isn’t going to make sense. You’re going to want to have something like Yuan-ti in there, and they can be bossing around another race. Or maybe it’s in a volcano, well, then fire elementals are probably going to play a big roll in the dungeon.

But it could be boring to just have one type of monster in the dungeon, and I agree with that. If I was playing in a dungeon, I wouldn’t want to run into a fire elemental in one room, then two in the next room, and one after that, then an empty room, and so on and so forth until I reached my goal.

Instead, start by thinking about if there is a big bad in your dungeon? Is there a boss monster that your players are going to have to fight? If there is, who is that guy, is it a demon? Is it a Mind Flayer? Is it a mad wizard? All of those are going to have a different group of monsters working for them. You might, for example, run into lesser demons or even weaker creatures like goblins that the demon has conscripted to guard the upper levels. Then maybe the further in you go, you run across a demon who is in charge of the goblins and imps who is a mid point battle. From there on, you face a mixture of demons of various powers and a few goblins thrown in until you finally face the big boss demon at the end of the dungeon who is most likely doing some evil plot when you get there so you have to stop them from being able to do it.

Image Source: Troll And Toad

Another example with the mind flayer, you’d be looking at Underdark creatures, such as Duegar and Drow who would be being controlled by the mind flayer. You might even run into a band of Githyanki or Githzerai who might want to stop the mind flayer as well, but that doesn’t mean they won’t be an encounter, just might not be combat. Eventually you’ll probably have a situation where you have to sneak around a bunch of mind flayers to get to the elder brain or the main mind flayer leading the charge to disband the other group. But since this is the underdark, which is almost a dungeon onto itself, you can also use natural monsters down there. Various oozes and slimes might be clinging to the wall. A cloaker might be off in the shadows waiting for the next unsuspecting drow or adventuring party to come by.

You can start to see how you can build out a dungeon that really has a theme and feel to it. In fact, that’s one good way to start with a mad wizard dungeon, what sort of theme would they have put in it. Maybe they have it elemental themed and each floor has a different type of elemental in it and the traps are built so that they aren’t an issue to the elemental type on that floor.

But there are also some dungeons that don’t have a big boss in them, or if they do, it isn’t because someone has set this up. The examples above, all of them are probably something that’s been tailored to the group in them. But what happens in the example of the abandoned temple? There isn’t some big bad Yuan-ti in there who set this up to be great for snake people? It was most likely a human or Elven temple from a long time ago. So you have to start to think about how they are going to be using the place. Maybe they’ve only cleared the first few levels of the dungeons because the traps later on are just too nasty. So you’re going to have to deal with them early, but eventually the dungeon will be “safer” or less monster filled, until maybe you get past those really bad traps.

In the example above, it’s possible that the ecology even changes part way through. Maybe the original owners of the temple left some construct monsters further down. Or maybe something is also coming up from the bottom (or down from the top) of the dungeon. Or maybe instead of constructs, there are a group of Drow who are using it for some dark ritual, but it’s easier for you to get to them by going down through the temple, through the Yuan-ti, through the traps, as compared to searching the underdark with it’s dangers and maybe finding what you’re looking for in time.

Image Source: Wizards of the Coast

Hopefully it’s starting to make sense how you can use a dungeon in your game and have it be a part of a bigger story of the world and of your game. By having a more tightly built dungeon you don’t have to have it be a random wizard, but you can tailor it specifically to the spot in your world that you want the dungeon to be and build it to a specific theme, monster, or boss, whatever your game needs.

Have you made a dungeon with a really cool theme or some really cool monsters? Tell us about them in the comments below.

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

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Dungeons and Dragons Character Races – Dwarves

Dungeons and Dragons Character Races – Dwarves

Hi ho, hi ho, it’s off to work we go… We all know about dwarves from such classics as Snow White and more so Lord of the Rings. Really, Lord of the Rings is the basis for so much of Dungeons and Dragons, because it […]

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!

Image Source: D&D Beyond

I wanted to talk about one half of Dungeons and Dragons, and that is the dungeon. I haven’t talked about dragons yet either, but that will be some time later. Instead, I wanted to talk about how you can build interesting dungeons in your D&D game if you want to use them. Dungeons aren’t something that I use that often, or at least what would be considered a dungeon traditionally.

So let’s define what a “dungeon” is for the sake of this article.

A Dungeon is any sort of building or location where the players need to get through it by progressing forward, either to a goal or an exit.

So that might seem wrong to you, you’re thinking of some labyrinth hidden deep under the ground in some remote area that has been long forgotten. That certainly is a dungeon, but a mad wizards tower climbing high into the air is a dungeon. A Minotaur’s labyrinth is also a dungeon. It could be the ruins of a city on the surface, or a druids grove that they’ve grown up to protect them.

All of these options really do want you to move forward or are likely to have something that you want at the end. You’re going to have to fight through monsters and deal with traps.

Let’s also talk some about what dungeons aren’t?

Dungeons aren’t a static thing. The old school dungeon was a collection of monsters and traps thrown together to create a challenge for the players. You’d have an orc in one room, a bugbear and some goblins in another room, a handful of drow the level down in the dungeon with a bunch of random traps and puzzles thrown in the middle of them.

Instead, Dungeons are living locations. While the current inhabitants might not be the original builders of the Dungeon, there is going to be a reason for the monsters to be there. Maybe there are goblins living on the upper levels, and some drow on the bottom levels of the dungeon, but they aren’t going to be living in rooms next to each other, they’d have killed each other. So maybe they would split up floors of a dungeon, leaving buffers between them. The same way, it’s going to have traps or puzzles, have the monsters figured out how to deal with them, or do they just avoid the section that has managed to squish members of the goblin tribe, so it makes where the trap is obvious to adventurers?

Image Source: D&D Beyond

Dungeons also aren’t there for no reason. Someone has built them, so they are going to have had an original purpose, which might be the same purpose as of now, but there was a reason. So there also has to be a reason why it is like it is now. But if you’re going to put a random wizard tower deep into the forest, there are going to be stories and legends about this place and a reason the wizard put it there for a reason.

So now that we’re all on the same page as to what a Dungeon is, let’s talk about what is going to come up after this?

Image Source: Wizards

We’re going to talk about the ecosystem of your dungeon and why that matters.

We’re going to talk about using puzzles in your dungeon and what that might do to a dungeon.

We’re going to talk about how traps work, and how you avoid bogging down your dungeon with traps.

We’re going to talk about why you’d use a dungeon in your game.

So join me in those upcoming articles as you think about building a dungeon for your game of Dungeons and Dragons.

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

Email us at nerdologists@gmail.com
Follow us on Twitter at @NerdologistCast
Message me directly on Twitter at @TheScando
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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 […]