Tag: D&D Tips

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 

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 celebrations and being worshiped, not about the plight of the creatures of their lands.

Things were tolerable when the new gods were getting along, but now they’ve split into three factions all vying for more worshipers than the others and to gain more power or sway over the lands. Old elves remember when the new gods worked together, but now it’s been hundreds of years, lands are in famine, there are wars and battles starting daily as the new gods push for more people to worship them.

Image Source: D&D Beyond

This world sucks, it’s going to be hard, but that’s where the PC’s (Player characters) will be dropped into. A world at constant war where the gods only intervene on behalf of an army or to cause other havoc. The PC’s are going to be part of a group that has had enough and has felt the call to do something about the new gods. A righteous anger has awoken in them, some might say.

The player should be at war against the new gods, but obviously a first level character going up against a god won’t work, even a 15th level character might not work. So we’re starting out with some find the artifact quests and finding out and dealing with more charismatic or violent followers of the new gods who are pushing the conflicts. Basically working on a rising action towards becoming a notable threat to the new gods.

The artifact quests are going to be important to do in this campaign because they are going to tie the players into one of the old gods. When I say Rebirth for the name, it’s because the righteous anger and the desire to stand-up to the new gods is going to be because they have the power of or are an old god that is awakening again in a new host. If they can survive and take out the new gods, then the old gods can return the world to what it once was, assuming there is a world left to. So we’re talking finding some legendary level artifacts, whether they are weapons, armor, skills, whatever it might be. I’d be tempted to create a boon that they can unlock if they complete something in the campaign, some extremely powerful ability that might wreck your normal game balance, but something that they’ll have to unleash that is specific to their old gods powers. An example, if you went with someone like Thor as an old god would be a +3 hammer that has some extra properties that can be unlocked, like when it hits, it deals damage of the call lightning spell at level 3, or you can unlock a once a day ability to use the hammer to cast call lightening at level 9, or you cast the spell and then every time you hit it causes 3d10 lightning damage, something awesome and epic like that. Also possibly make them evolving weapons, so if it is Thor’s hammer Mjolnir, make it a +1 hammer to start, add in something like, if you fight during a storm it does 1d6 lightning damage later, now a +2 hammer, and so on.

Image Source: D&D Beyond

Eventually when the players are high enough level, they will end up facing off against the gods. Make this challenging, and make this a gauntlet of sorts. Also, give them a chance to have weakened the gods. Keep in mind that the gods want worshipers, and the new god who is doing the best is the one with most worshipers, make that obvious to the players with a bunch of obvious clues. See if the players will try and get worshipers themselves to boost their power, if they do, boost their power. Or whomever of the new gods has the most worshipers, have them be the final boss. Make lesser minion gods or angels or demons or demi-gods that will fight with the bigger badder new gods. Also, give the players a choice where to fight, let them fight in the heavens or depths or on the world, and if they choose world, make catastrophes happen when the new gods swing, it’ll give you some cinematic moments where the new gods are ripping trees out of a the ground, a new god comes down from the heavens and flattens a mountain, things like that.

Eventually, the players either win and the ascend up to the heavens with other awakened old gods, or they fail and as they are dying, they feel a presence leave them of the old gods as they go off to find new hosts in five hundred years that can take on the new gods.

Would you play in a game like this? Would you run a game like this? How would you make it seem like the PC’s are hosts for old gods?

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Pillars of D&D (Part 4 – Exploration)

Pillars of D&D (Part 4 – Exploration)

About a week ago, I started on a series talking about the three pillars of Dungeons and Dragons, Combat, Social Encounters and Exploration. I’ve talked about the first two, Combat and Social Encounters already and we’re onto the Pillar of Exploration Exploration might be considered 

Pillars of D&D (Part 3 Social Encounters)

Pillars of D&D (Part 3 Social Encounters)

Just a quick recap of what’s come before, there are three different pillars to Dungeons and Dragons, according to Dungeons and Dragons. Those are Combat, Social Encounters, and Exploration, you can find an overview of everything here. Then I went on to talk about what 

Pillars of D&D (Part 2: Combat)

Pillars of D&D (Part 2: Combat)

Dungeons and Dragons is built upon three pillars, Combat, Social Encounters, and Exploration. Now, these pillars don’t always evenly share the load, nor should they. I talk some about why and what the basics of these pillars are in Part 1. But now I am diving into each of the three pillars starting with what’s often the biggest pillar, Combat.

Combat is often just looked at as swinging your sword, shooting an arrow, a spell or two and you beat the bad guy. It’s a chance to roll dice and use most of your character sheet that’s focused towards combat. And that’s certainly some of what you’ll be doing. It does give you a chance to show off your character and what everything on the sheet says that they can do. But when it’s just that, even though it’s the generally the pillar supporting the most weight, it can be a fairly uninteresting pillar, unless you’re just there to be the best fighter that you can be.

Image Source: D&D Beyond

Instead, combat should be part of the story, not a break from the story. Though, there may be times with random encounters that a combat doesn’t have a big story element to it, it should always be informing something going forward. Even a random encounter should be used to highlight how dangerous an area is, if there’s a chance of an encounter popping up. It should be a reminder to the players that the world isn’t safe, and while it might not progress the story, not getting in a long rest is going to stress out the players.

So, to build up Combat as a pillar you can do several things to keep it from just being the same thing over and over again, or from feeling like combat for combat’s sake.

  1. Make the Combat Encounter Important To The Story
  2. Use Alternate Combat Objectives
  3. Use Smart/Engaging Monsters
  4. Don’t Over Use Random Encounters

1 – Make The Combat Encounter Important To The Story
Already started talking about that a bit, but this is one of the biggest things that you can do to make combat interesting. I ran a one-shot recently where the players had to fight a group of bandits. Now, that wasn’t all that interesting in and of itself, they were just level 1 characters, the bandits didn’t put them in that much danger. However, they found, in the merchants wagon that had been stolen, some interesting documents. Combat was simple, but the documents are now something to lead them further into a story if we decide to continue that game. It’s nothing massive in terms of changing up the combat, but it makes the combat feel like there was a reason for it greater than just killing the bandits. And that bandit fight, since there was a new player to D&D, was mainly to give them a bit of all three pillars not because it was going to be super exciting, but because it was a combat. Only because there was a payoff at the end did it make it all that interesting.

2 – Use Alternate Combat Objectives
This one is one of the biggest, possibly as big as it being important to the story, things that you can do to improve your combat pillar. Not all combat has to be about killing everything. And most of the time you don’t want to kill everyone is because of some story reason. An example of this that you see in Video Games as well as RPG’s is the escort mission. Technically your goal is to get Ms. X from point A to point B without her dying. Now, you can do that by killing everyone you encounter, or you can do that by sneaking herself and your self around. That’s easier to avoid most of the combat in an RPG that way, but you still may have to fight to create a path for Ms. X to get through to complete the mission. Or it could be that someone might escape with something you want if you don’t get through their goons in a certain number of rounds. Or you may need to kill the High Priestess in a certain number of rounds before she can complete the ritual and summon a monster, end the world, whatever it might be. While the players are still using their combat skills throughout, it is going to feel like it’s different than just a hack and slash until everyone is dead.

Image Source: Wizards of the Coast

3 – Use Smart/Engaging Monsters
You can always just do combat as mob of goblins attacking and then mob of bandits rushing in and attacking, and then mob of hobgoblins and so on as the players go up in levels, but that’s going to cause the combats to feel similar. It is kind of a blank canvas fight where you have two sides meeting in an arena or an open field, rushing at each other, fighting, and then one side wins when the other is dead. But goblins, bandits, and hobgoblins should all be smarter than that. In fact, even animals will often attack more intelligently than that. If they are facing off against an Owlbear and it takes down one of the PC’s (player characters), that Owlbear is probably going to try and take that body somewhere safe so it can eat it, not attack the players. So allow the monsters to do smart and interesting things, like run away. Now, maybe the players will shoot the fleeing goblins in the back and none will make it away, but what happens in your story if the goblin escapes? Do they come back with more goblins, do they try and set a trap after a straight forward assault doesn’t work, do they move on somewhere else and now the players are responsible for goblin infestation somewhere else? You can do a lot of interesting things, not just in combat, but after combat with smart combatants. Even in combat, the PC’s are in a bar fight, have whom ever they are fighting hide behind tables after flipping them over, swing from the chandelier (there’s always a chandelier), take a drink in the middle of combat or spit alcohol into a PC’s face. Basically no intelligent combatant is going to just rush straight in to their demise, so don’t run them like that, make the players have to get creative in their combat to beat them.

4 – Don’t Over Use Random Encounters
I already talked about this some, but random encounters generally have more of that animal stalking you while you sleep, rushes in for a kill, and then gets slaughtered, or dragon shows up randomly now PC’s need to run away or turn into ash. However, there are reasons to use them, and that’s because you want to show off what the players might be coming up against on the mission that they’re on currently. Or that the players might need to run or be worried about going through a certain area. I, in the Dungeons and Flagons campaign, used a few giant random encounters, they were meant less as combat but to show the players that they were taking a very dangerous route, shorter but more dangerous, to get to where they wanted to go. But if you’re making the players set-up traps, guards, and anything else they can do to protect themselves each night and it’s more about survival of the night than progressing the story, that might be too many random encounters, unless they are very meaningful.

So, I said I was going to give some examples to steal. Things you can do in your campaign, or interesting combats that you can possibly work in. And I’ll admit it, combat isn’t my specialty so these are going to be a little bit vague. That’s also so you can adapt it to your own game as well.

Combat Encounter 1 – Death of a Salesman

Set-up: The shop owner the players always go to has had something important stolen from his shop, in fact something that was very important to an important client that they’d ordered in especially for that client, the PC’s need to get it back. If not the client will have the shop owner killed.

Combat:
I’d set this in a thieve’s guild or some sort of organized crime set-up, give the players a house to explore and kill the bad guys in the rooms. But since the shop owners life is on the line, they can’t just kick the door down. This is a sneak from room to room and kill as quickly and quietly as possible so that the MacGuffin isn’t moved somewhere else.

This is a chance to do a longer combat where the players never really drop out of combat because it’s such a contained space. They might never be fighting more than two or three thieves or guards or whomever at the same time, but it would ratchet up the stress. Also, with there being a MacGuffin for them to get at the end, there is also an alternate objective. And they are fighting on the mob or thieve’s guild’s home turf, so their combatants would be smart in what they do.

Outcome: Either they get the MacGuffin or they don’t and the shop owner dies or is seriously injured. I’d also use this moment to let them find, no matter what, some information that helps them on their main quest.

Image Source: D&D Beyond

Combat Encounter 2 – The Witches Circle

Set-up: There is a coven of witches (hags) who the players need to deal with, mainly because they’ve kidnapped someone for a sacrifice or an animal. This works well for a one shot, stop this thing or something bad happens.

Combat:
I’m throwing undead in here, I think that the witches have raised zombies or skeletons and the players need to fight through those to get to the circle of witches to stop the spell that they are trying to cast.

The witches themselves are in a circle, and killing a witch just makes the circle smaller and the spell have less of a chance of going off. But the main goal for the players is to stop the spell and rescue the person, let’s say not animal in this situation. So the players are going to need to fight through the undead, kill some witches, and all of this should be timed. Give them a certain number of rounds, and after that the spell happens.

Outcome: Either the players save the person, or if they don’t and they haven’t killed any witches, the spell goes off without a hitch. But for each witch from the circle that they’ve killed, say there are ten to start, there is a chance, and an increasing chance that the spell doesn’t go off. So I’d set the target number as rolling at or under a 20 to start, every witch that’s killed, subtract 2, and if all are killed, that means you’d be rolling to get under a zero, but if there are five of the ten left, that means if the witches roll over a 10, the spell fails, though the person still dies.

Combat Encounter 3 – The Beasts

Set-up: Players are out exploring on their way to some mission and they start to notice a presence stalking them. But not just one presence and not just once, several over several times.

Combat: This is an animal ambush, I’m thinking use something like Dire Wolves if that’s an appropriate level for your PC’s, and make them a little bit smarter. Have the wolves run in and out of the shadows and of the woods biting at players, make it so that most of the players clear shots at the wolves are going to be reaction attacks, so pretty mundane attacks. And have the Dire Wolves, beasts, focus on the smallest character first. Not the weakest, it might be that you have a gnome fighter so they can handle it better, but whatever looks like the smallest prey to the beasts, once the beasts have taken their prey down, the smallest prey, they’re going to try and leave with it.

Outcome: Players defeat the beasts who are clearly hungry or the players lose one PC to the wolves.

You can see how in none of these are the players just fighting for the life of their party. Yes, in the first encounter, they might very well all die, but that’s not the only losing condition. For both the Death of a Salesman and Witches Circle, the bad outcome isn’t death of the player characters, it’s death of someone else. In the last one, it’s about losing one player character. So even though they’ll be fighting, we have all sorts of different styles of whom their fighting, the end goal of the fights, and how they should go about fighting.

And that’s what good combat can really be in a game, instead of just hacking and slashing. Now, I don’t think that hacking and slashing is always a bad idea, but it can be lacking and it more so can get old. So be creative as the DM and create interesting combat encounters for the story that aren’t always just about killing everything.

What are some of the best combat encounters you’ve taken part in, either as a player or a DM?

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

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The Pillars of D&D – Part 1

The Pillars of D&D – Part 1

When going through the Dungeon Masters Guide (DMG) you’ll find that they talk about three pillars of D&D. The idea is that you’re going to want to try and get all of the pillars into a game that you’re running, though fairly often the balance 

Dungeons and Dragons: High vs Low Magic as a Player

Dungeons and Dragons: High vs Low Magic as a Player

I’ve previously posted about this (You can find it here), but that was from more of a world building aspect, if you’re playing in a game of Dungeons and Dragons, and your character is magical how does that affect how you might role play your 

Malts and Meeples: Drinking in D&D – Character Sheet Part 2

Malts and Meeples: Drinking in D&D – Character Sheet Part 2

Back with some D&D streaming, this is because I have a D&D game coming up this weekend, so I’m getting ready to generate some characters.

This time, I’m looking at the rest of the character sheet, the spell and background pages, but also the traits, alignment, weapons, and everything else that comes along with being a character with a class in Dungeons and Dragons.

Today, at 7:30 (November 21st, 2019), I’m going to be streaming that character creation to show how different race as class combos can create an interesting character. You can find that on http://twitch.com/maltsandmeeples. The time is central time for those wondering. If you want to get alerted to when I’m streaming, you can follow me on twitch, or to watch as your own leisure, subscribe to Malts and Meeples over on Youtube.

My drink last night was just one of my favorites, Fresh Squeezed by Deschutes. It’s a good crisp and nice IPA, even though it’s getting cold outside, I don’t mind drinking a good IPA.

Bottoms up!

Win with the Min in D&D

Win with the Min in D&D

Yesterday’s article was about min/maxing a character. Just a quick recap, this is where you make the ideal build for your character so that you are the best at whatever area of the game you want to be in and have the most optimized build