Tag: D&D Tips

Friday Night D&D: Tower of the Gods Session 10

Friday Night D&D: Tower of the Gods Session 10

So, we were back to the virtual table last night for some Dungeons and Dragons. This session was a little bit different because we were down one player, but because we had three players, the game went on. Last time the players had just finished 

What To Do With Missing Players? – D&D Advice

What To Do With Missing Players? – D&D Advice

So, one of the common issues when people are trying to play D&D is scheduling, scheduling is just really hard for everyone because, well, people have busy lives. Now some of this is something as you become older, if you’re playing D&D in high school, 

Your Hero Has Done Too Much – D&D Advice

Your Hero Has Done Too Much – D&D Advice

So you’re starting out a campaign at level 1 and you’re rolling into your first session with your rogue. They’ve gotten a name for themselves, they helped steal the royal jewels of Hemenklot and the Dwarven empire. After getting that money, they went and sailed around the world with no crew except for their best friend Ethiel Batherain the son of a noble family and heir to their estates. When tragedy befell him and he disappeared at see you had to bring the news to their family and your finance, Merriel, Ethiel’s sister. To prove that you were still worthy of her hand, they gave you a series of five tasks which ended with you besting a Rakshasa in a game of wits. So you’re very well prepared for the campaign.

Image Source: D&D Beyond

Session one, the first thing you have to do to show off your skills is use a rope, attached to a flag pole and swing with it to a balcony. And you fall in your face. You try it again, and you fall on your face. Somehow you managed to leap from roof top to roof top and then repel down into a secret chamber to steal some crown jewels, but this is impossible.

So, what’s wrong with this picture?

There are probably a couple of things, but I want to talk about one thing in particular, and that’s having a backstory that is just too big for your level 1 character.

There’s a really strong desire to jump into an epic game and an epic moment with your epic character. But if the campaign starts at level 1, you aren’t epic yet. You might have had some small adventures, but to have big epic stories as to what’s happened in your past, it can be jarring when the reality of playing the character and the fickle nature of the dice end up causing your character to feel not like the backstory that you created.

So much of this is driven by wanting your character to be that end product of the dashing rogue who steals form the rick and gives to the poor, and can toss out a witty one-liner and insult the King and get away with it with a wink. Or to be Batman and the force in the dark keeping the peace. Or to be a powerful wizard hurling lightning bolts and calling down meteor storms on the heads of your enemies. But this is really the end product that you should be striving for.

At level 1, you are a hero, you are better than the average person, but there are so many bigger and scarier and more powerful things out there in the world than you. So when creating your backstory keep is scaled to who you are. Maybe you helped with the heist to steal the crown jewels, but you were just the lookout two blocks away. Maybe you did sale around the world, but you helped the cook on the ship and spent most of your time killing rats. Maybe you did have to prove your love and worthiness to your fiance and their family, and this is it. But it is about keeping your story in line with the level that you are at. You probably don’t have many big and grand adventures yet, and that’s why you are setting out adventuring now.

Now, I think to go along with scaling down your heroic actions in a game, you also need to shift the focus of your character concept. A lot of the time people end up with a way to big backstory because they start their character fully into the concept. Being Batman is an end goal, a bad one but one, so instead of thinking that you’re Batman from the start, think about the path that Bruce Wayne took to becoming Batman, you’re somewhere right after Bruce Wayne’s parents were killed at level 1, or Spider-Man before he was bitten by the spider. So your goal is to become Spider-Man or I guess if you have to, Batman. So what do you need to do to create those two backstories? If you’re Batman, be focused on revenge, be paranoid, and have dead parents, that’s the level 1 backstory for Batman. So, whatever your concept would be, consider where they would start at level 1 and when they hit level X where you want that concept to be fleshed out, what are the steps to get there?

Image Source: Wizards

Taking the approach of building towards and end character, someone who grows into that style of play you want over time, gives you a lot of motivation for what your character is going to do in the campaign, giving you clearer decision and role play paths. It’s also going to help keep that story from being too expansive or feeling like you should be better and leading to frustration because your character isn’t better or doesn’t match what you have in your head. Now, for some people they have a concept, they want to drop it into a game and play it immediately. So maybe you are Spider-Man, but you’re just learning the ropes, and consider how you want your character to grow more and more into that role so it feels more and more like your concept.

When creating a backstory do you just do something that has a lot of epic moments like I talk about, or do you build one that allows your character to grow into a concept? What’s the hardest part of doing it that way, because it is more difficult? What have you done to overcome challenges with a backstory?

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Friday Night D&D – The Crimson Scales

Friday Night D&D – The Crimson Scales

It’s been a little bit since we did a more standard D&D campaign or at least talked about a more standard idea. This one is going to fall into that more standard style of game that might be an easier sell for some new players 

Friday Night D&D: The Magic West

Friday Night D&D: The Magic West

Saddle up cowpoke and join me for a tale of the wild west and the monsters that roam those lands. Where magic is a way of life and slinging a spell from the hip is a favorite pastime of those looking for trouble. Will you 

Monsteropedia – Behir

Monsteropedia – Behir

Now, this monster is a bit different than the other ones that I’ve talked about. This one is just a monster not with abysmal intelligence but with fairly low INT at 7 (-2 modifier), so it isn’t going to be your plotting or planning sort of monster. Now, that doesn’t mean that it’s dumb, the wisdom is actually fairly high. So let’s look at what this monster does.

A Behir is a monster that lives in the underdark and is a huge creature that lives in the tunnels, paths, and dark recesses down there. The advantage for the DM of it being a huge creature is what it has some fun abilities. It can swallow your medium sized PC’s no problem or wrap it up and constrict it. So it’s something different than your normal bite and claw attacks that you get. In fact, while it can certainly bite you, and needs to do so to swallow you, it doesn’t have a claw attack at all. Instead, it gets lightning breath which is something that the PC’s will undoubtedly appreciate.

Now, this creature is clearly not one to be trifled with, at a CR of 11, you are looking at a party of four at eighth level to be able to take it down in a hard combat. If you’re adding in any additional monsters, it is going to be even tougher to take down and you’re probably looking at a party of level 10 or so with a couple of additional opponents that aren’t just one hit cannon fodder.

Image Source: D&D Beyond

In game, I think there are some good ways to use it and I would definitely recommend using it. Because it’s attacks are so different and it has a lot of HP and a decently high armor class, it’s going to be a challenging battle. The attacks are really going to add variety to your game with what otherwise might just be a standard hack and slash encounter. You can certainly use a behir as a random encounter, but I have some other ideas as well.

One idea that I like is to use it as a form of drow transport. It’s a huge sized creature so why not let it pull something. Going back to something I did in a game of mine, have it be a drow circus that the wagons are being pulled by a bunch of behir. This could really start off as a social encounter where the player characters interact with the drow in the circus and eventually find themselves are participants on it to find out that the main attraction is going to be them taking on a behir with some drow elite warriors or assassins not really partaking in the battle, but forcing the player characters back into the confrontation with the behir if they try and run. All while there is a cheering audience around them. As a side quest, I think it could be really cool, even just as something that the players find themselves in for no great reason other than their curiosity, it would give a nice standalone session of and something to do on the way to a larger quest point. I could see using the circus caravan as a way to move the players more quickly through an area to get to where they need to go, but also to have, then the circus battle happen, so not really plot related, but cuts out some of the down time with something more interesting.

Less of a combat encounter, but more of a how do we get away from this, have your players stumble across a pack of behir. Maybe, the players have been tracking down a group of duergar who have something that the players want, some information, ideally written down, and the poor duergar have stumbled across this pack of five behir. Even at level 20, 5 behir are deadly to a party of four, theoretically. So the question then becomes, for the players, how do the player characters get into the area where the dead duergar’s packs are, search the packs, and get back out without the behir killing them as well. Can they figure out a way to chase the behir away, or maybe they can somehow stealth in, or maybe it’s an attempt to out pace, unlikely, or outwit the behir. It could even be a way for them to lure a behir or two at a time and take them out, but give them the situation and see what they come up with. Though, I’d maybe have them run across a behir before hand so that they know what they are getting into.

Are behir a monster you’ve used in your games or seen used in a game? I know that Matt Mercer in Critical Role used a behir in either episode 27 or 28, sounds like introduced in 27 anyways. So that’s something to checkout for ways to use a behir as well. Would you use a behir in your game?

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Friday Night D&D – Dreamwalkers

Friday Night D&D – Dreamwalkers

You fall asleep and you’re in a world that you never thought was possible, and something is very wrong with it. This Dungeons and Dragons campaign idea takes you from the fantasy world of the waking into a dark world of sleep, dreams, and nightmares, 

Dungeons and Dragons: ASI vs Feats

Dungeons and Dragons: ASI vs Feats

In Dungeons and Dragons, you have your character stats, that’ll be things like Strength, Dexterity, Intelligence, and more. When you start the game you get them locked in and compared to getting +1 armor or a +1 sword in the game, you have limited opportunities 

Making Magic Items More Interesting

Making Magic Items More Interesting

In D&D, and other RPG’s, fairly often a special item is just something like a +1 sword, yay, you can hit better and do more damage, but not all that exciting. Every adventurer worth their salt has a +1 sword. The same for a ring of walking on water, okay, that one is cooler. But a lot of the times what players want, because of their practicality is the +1 weapon and the +1 armor. Those a great and fine for mechanically in the game, but not that interesting, and a +1 sword gets tossed aside when the +2 sword comes along.

So what can you do to make magic items still be useful but more interesting? There are several different ways you can do that, and it ties some into my Friday Night D&D that was also posted today, but you can name the weapon, make it sentient, make it cursed, give it unique properties, or let it evolve.

Named

The point of naming a weapon is that a +1 long sword isn’t that exciting, but Gregor Falhelm’s Long Sword or The Shadow Blade, those are interesting. Who is Gregor Falhelm and why is this sword known as that? That’s something the players can checkout. The Shadow Blade clearly has a lot of history with it as well. Now, they’ll still probably toss it aside when a +2 sword comes along, but in the mean time, you can have a quest for them to track down the history of the sword. Maybe Gregor Falhelm was a famed adventurer who was known for something and now the player will try and live up to it. Or The Shadow Blade is a weapon from a famed assassin that had belonged to a thieve’s guild years ago but had gone missing, and now that you have it and people have seen it, the thieve’s guild wants it back. The names can generate more story for you to play with and make it more memorable than just a +1 long sword.

Image Source: D&D Beyond

Sentient

Another thing you can do is give the weapon a personality. Allow it to communicate telepathically with it’s wielder. Maybe Gregor Falhelm died defending an orphanage and because of that his soul was attached to the blade and he can tell them about years ago or give advice when needed. Or The Shadow Blade because of all of the assassinations it has helped with and all the blood on it, maybe it has a dark personality that urges that player to kill. Again, only a +1 sword, no extra abilities, but now you have something more for the player to interact with. How do they deal with a sword that is constantly urging them to kill? Gregor Falhelm is interesting to listen to, but very long winded, what does the player think of that. Give it a unique personality so that the players get a memorable experience with that weapon and it’ll be more than just a +1 long sword to them.

Cursed

Cursing a weapon is always a fun surprise to pull to make it memorable as well. With a curse, make it something that is annoying but not game breaking. Maybe The Shadow Blade thirsts for blood and will cut the wearer if they don’t get blood on it otherwise. Maybe if they get too far away from it the cursed soul of Gregor Falhelm, because he couldn’t save the orphans and now it’s just a constant weeping that only the player can hear from the sadness and they have disadvantage to hit because Falhelm doesn’t want to kill anymore. There are a lot of negative things you could add to a magic item to make it more interesting. A wand of fireballs, but you don’t know where they’ll go. A ring of water walking that walks your feet along the surface of the water, but from the bottom side. Be creative with the negative affects because again, we’re trying to make things more memorable.

Unique Properties

Unique properties is one that is fairly tame, kind of like naming the weapon. Just give it something small or as big that it can do as well. +1 sword, well there’s a magical word to make it glow. Now you don’t need more torches, but the sword is more interesting. Or the word for the glowing sword is common so it’s possible that it could be triggered at the wrong time by anyone saying the wrong thing. One idea I had was a sword of reincarnation. If you died by that sword, within 7 days your soul would find a new body to go into, so you really aren’t dead, but you’re probably pissed that someone tried to kill you. That makes for a great story. It could just be that the +1 sword of Gregor Falhelm glows blue whenever an orphan is near. Or The Shadow Blade adds a mark for each person it’s killed on the blade and if it ever gets full something will happen.

Image Source: D&D Beyond

Evolving

Finally, make it evolve. Take what you’ve learned from above and make it get better along with the player. Now The Shadow Blade, which was just a +1 sword will start to grant a bonus for stealth the more the person kills with it, or when the player character hits level twelve, not only do they get a +2 to attack and damage now it gives a +2 to stealth and deception. Gregor Falhelm’s sword glows in the presence of orphans but the player can unlock what is basically the ability the detect evil with the sword once per long rest or once per short rest. The example I gave in the Friday Night D&D was to make Mjolnir. Don’t start off with this amazing hammer that the person can use to fly with and call lighting with, but start out with just a simple +1 hammer, eventually it does an extra 1d4 of lightning damage. Then the player can once per long rest do 3d10 lightning damage on an attack. Eventually at a higher level, at the start of combat the player can cast call lightning and either use it as a one off level 9 call lightning or it can deal and extra 3d10 on every successful attack. Mjolnir, then, which might have started out as at level one as just a regular war hammer could be for the final epic battle a hammer that grants the user flight (though technically it’s just throwing it and forgetting to let go), throwing it and it returning, +3 to hit, +3 to damage, call lightning at level 9 for a one time affect or call lightning at level 3 for an additional 3d10 lightning damage on every attack. You have the weapon evolve with the player and they don’t forget their their awesome weapon.

So there are a lot of interesting things you can do to make it more than just a +1 long sword or a +1 shield, or even a ring of water walking. You can create something unique and create unique situations for them to use it in. It’s silly for Gregor Falhelm’s sword to glow around orphans, but useful if an orphan is lost in a labyrinth and it glows brighter the closer to the orphan you are. So if you create something odd like that, use it in the story. That’s the other and really the biggest thing, none of these things will make the magical item stand out unless you use it in the story. The item being part of the story and important to the world is going to make it more memorable than anything else, so maybe The Shadow Blade is just a regular long sword with a +1, but if the thieve’s guild is coming after the players, it’s interesting.

What are some memorable magical items or moments with magical items in D&D or other RPG’s that you’ve had in a game? Do you use magic items a lot?

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Friday Night D&D – Rebirth

Friday Night D&D – Rebirth

The old gods have fallen and new ones have risen up in there place. But the lands are not any better, that is the world your players find themselves in. Everything is dirty, everything is grim, the new gods care only about themselves and their