Tag: Dungeon Master

Welcome to the Dungeon! – Why Use a Dungeon?

Welcome to the Dungeon! – Why Use a Dungeon?

Let’s go back to the beginning where we talked about what a dungeon in Dungeons and Dragons is.. A dungeon in Dungeons and Dragons is normally seen as a festering hole in the ground, like you’d end up with in classic games. Instead it really […]

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 […]

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.

Image Source: Wizards

For this, we’re going to assume that you’ve at least gotten through Building D&D Player Character – 301. At that point in time you’ve created the personality traits, ideals, bonds, and flaws for your character as well as created a backstory that is going to give the Dungeon Master some plot hooks to grab onto.

Let’s start by talking about two different parts of role playing, and I think things that are tricky to do, for beginning role players.

In Character vs. Out of Character

Alright, those are the two things. In role playing, you really do want to immerse yourself in playing the character. But how you deal with in character versus out of character is very important to your game.

Image Source: D&D Beyond

In the games that I’ve run, I tend to act like players are always in character and speaking in game, unless it is something extremely obviously out of the game. If the person says some line where they seem to be talking to the party about the nobility who is standing in front of them to see what sort of read they are getting on the noble, the noble can here that.

Obviously, this tact can lead to some less than ideal situations. So how do you deal with what is done in character and out of character as a player?

Firstly, try and stay in character as much as possible. There are two reasons for this, you are going to connect with your character more and actually develop a well rounded character versus jumping back and forth. It takes time to get into the mindset of your character. You also will find that it makes it easier to separate meta knowledge of the game from your character when you stay in character. If you’re going back and forth, you are more apt to end up slipping meta knowledge into your characters voice, just on accident.

Secondly, specify when you are out of character. In my games, this is pretty easy, as a player you’ll start doing that fast, after you accidentally bad mouth the noble in front of him because you forgot to specify that something was above table talk. By context “above table” should make sense, but let me clarify what I mean by that. “Above table” means that it’s a conversations that is being had over the game, above the playing surface of the table, not in the game. This also helps with meta knowledge as well, because players will know that what is happening now isn’t in the game, and can discern what knowledge that they should bring back into the game.

There is one grey area, and that’s the planning montage. Which in the game could be narrated as a montage, but at the table can actually take a while. This is where you tend to get the blend of in character and out of character happening all at once as you compare spell lists, talk strategies, remember and remind each other what abilities you have. In character, not all of that makes sense to do, but some of it is kind of done in character. It is also interesting when there are those bits of role playing thrown into it. Maybe you come up with the start of your plan for your attack on the dragon next week, but you realize you don’t know everything, and because the timeline doesn’t force you to attack at dawn, you can go research, so that research scene might be drawn out and actually role played.

Image Source: Wizards of the Coast

The danger with the planning montage is that too much meta knowledge could seep into the plan. It falls on yourselves as players to police that and determine what knowledge you’d actually have, but some times you might not know. So instead you can ask the dungeon master, would my character know that? By asking that simple question, you can quickly determine what information you can take back into the role playing situation.

So that’s the 101 course, there is a lot more to discuss on this topic, as I’m sure you can guess. But a good starting point is to remember to stay in character as much as possible. That is going to really help your role playing and give your character a voice that is there own (by which I don’t mean an accent, but you can do that if you want).

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Building a D&D Character – 401

Building a D&D Character – 401

Alright, we’re onto the last class for D&D character creation. In the prerequisites, we’ve talked about how to make a character that fits the campaign and is fun for you and the group (101). We then went on and talked about how Dungeons and Dragons […]

Building a D&D Player Character – 301

Building a D&D Player Character – 301

Back into building a D&D character. We’ve talked previously about the simplest ways to make a character that doesn’t step on other players toes, that fits into the game, and one that is fun to play. Next we’ve talked about how you can use the […]

D&D Campaign Building: Magic

D&D Campaign Building: Magic

So a couple of days ago I started building out a D&D Campaign – the first part can be found here. I want to try and write on it and add in more things a couple of times a week at least, might be more often than that.

Now, I will say that this is a bit more granular than I might build, but I do think it’ll be a good exercise for me as I look at getting back into DM’ing after a few weeks off. I also think that a little bit more detailed approach, especially up front, will help me know what to do next in the story.

Image Source: D&D Beyond

But let’s talk about Magic!

Where we left off in the previous article was some world building. I had determined that I wanted to play in a smaller location than world hopping adventurers. So it was a trade town known for mining granite for nobles. So the question is, how much magic would there be in a town like that?

I think, starting looking at it, there would probably be a fair amount of magic from whatever temples are there. So there is going to be a fair amount of divine magic, I’d think. So you’d have your paladins and clerics who are casting some spells and probably are there primarily as healers.

I also think, because it’s a fairly remote area, you’d likely have some druids around as well. While they might not be a part of the normal society, they likely would be around the fringes, taking care of the woodland creatures, and probably butting heads with the town in some ways. If the mining starts to displace creatures or destroy groves, they likely would take up issue with them.

Image Source: D&D Beyond

Warlocks seem to naturally show up in most D&D and fantasy RPG societies, because as long as there is someone who has a lot of power, there are people who are going to be willing to make a deal with them for better or worse, and the same with Sorcerers because a Sorcerers magic happens more naturally and flows out of them without the training you need to be a wizard.

That brings us to the one that is the biggest question, would there be a wizard in the town? Wizards are generally very learned, and I don’t think even a medium sized trading town, like the one that I’m building, would have a wizarding school in it. That education wouldn’t be something that is highly valued. So anyone who does show that ability would either get limited teaching from some voodoo style of wizard, which there might be one or two in the area, but that would be about it, or they would get sent off to a larger city to learn. Obviously, that would only be the children of some of the richer people in the town, the poorest would likely only get that limited training focused more on controlling the magic than anything else.

Image Source: D&D Beyond

However, for this campaign, I think that there is one person in the town who is a powerful wizard, and they have a tower. I see it as part of the towns political structure. There’s the noble who is in charge of the town, but the wizard, who is kind of a recluse has a lot of sway over the town as well, because they are powerful and people are scared of them. This can be a solid starting point for conflict in the story. The wizard says one thing and the noble says another. Do you disobey the person who can blast you with lightning or do you go against the person who could raise taxes or arrest you?

I think that actually is starting to lead us into the next part which will come out next week, D&D Campain Building: The Hook.

How would you have used magic in the society that was built in the first article? Would you have put in a wizarding school? Is magic common in your games?

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Tell Me About Your World: An Article on a Concept

Tell Me About Your World: An Article on a Concept

I’m continuing my way through the Dresden Files series, and I was noticing something in Jim Butcher’s writing style that I really appreciate, and that got me thinking about other book series as well. That idea being, how much do you describe about the world you […]

D&D Classing it Up: Ranger

D&D Classing it Up: Ranger

The Ranger class is an interesting one to look at. Mechanically and thematically speaking, so many people see a ranger as someone who is out in the middle of nowhere leading Hobbits (…I mean, halflings) around and making sure that they don’t get killed. However, […]

RPGs: How Not to Play Batman

RPGs: How Not to Play Batman

This came up on an episode of the Faculty Meetings (either 107 or 108) from The RPG Academy recently and I wanted to talk about it in somewhat different terms than they did. The idea they were tossing about was how you can play vulnerable characters. They did a really good job of talking about it and how characters who aren’t basically Batman make for more interesting role play and stories. I wanted to touch on this some as well, but also in a broader sense.

Why Not to Play Batman

Everyone kind of wants to play that Batman character. He has a strong moral code (that is the part people will most often ignore), he’s an expert fighter, and he is super smart. In real life he has a mysterious playboy life style and women flock to him. And in RPG’s, people want to play that charismatic character who is smart and great at combat, but there are some issues with that.

First, it’s hard to tell a story around that. If everyone is awesome, especially a whole party, there’s not going to be a challenge that is too hard for them ever. Everything seems kind of paltry when you don’t have to spend time putting clues together because the PC’s are just smart enough to go take on figure it out right away. ¬†And it’s almost worse if there’s a single player who is awesome at everything. The fighter is the tank in your party, but you have a rogue that can evade so much damage and deal more damage, they might as well be the tank and striker all rolled into one. Or maybe it’s a Bard/Rogue combo so they can heal, they can cast spells, they can tank, they can strike, they can really do whatever they want. What’s the point of the rest of the party even?

Image Source: Know Your Meme

How Not to Play Batman

This is where the thoughts of The RPG Academy really comes in. They talked mainly about character flaws that really influence the game. For example, in Dungeons and Flagons, our D&D Actual Play, Tate has a drinking problem, doesn’t really get him into too much trouble, but I keep track of when he says he’s been drinking, and the difficulty of a check is higher when he’s been drinking. He’s less apt to notice stuff around him, and if he’s been drinking a lot, he’s going to distract his fellow adventurers as well. One great way not to be Batman is to have those character flaws. And sure, you might say, Batman has character flaws, which he does, but that’s not how people generally see him. Having a character flaw doesn’t just have to be something like a drinking problem, it could be being naive to the world, which FInja is sometimes.

The next thing I’d say is try not to be good at everything. For example, Tate is kind of character that is pretty good at everything. He can talk to people and either tell them the truth to get them to believe him or lie to their face. It doesn’t really matter which. Tate in some ways is almost too powerful at most skills. Nimrose on the other hand has issues with talking to people. But she has some great fighting and acrobatic skills, she is stealthy, and nimble. So when she plays, she wants to play into those traits, because she’s going to do better. Batman is generally good at everything, need something fixed, go to Batman, need money, go to Batman, need a detective, it’s Batman, need to knock heads together, call Batman. So, to not play Batman, don’t let your character specialize in everything, let each player have a spot to shine. Tate is the talker, Nimrose is the sneaker, and Finja is the healer and kind person. And we’ve had fun situations where Nimrose has had to be the talker and things haven’t worked as expected.

Finally, one thing that I like about not playing Batman and why I say, don’t play Batman, is that it gives a chance for your character to really grow. If they are good at everything, they can learn new mechanics but really won’t ever get better than they are now. When a character has a flaw or a weakness, they can have that ah-ha moment of character development in the game where maybe Tate puts down the bottle. Maybe Finja becomes more hardened to the world at some point in time when something bad happens. And if you are the player, this really allows you to take narrative control of your character. The DM might try and make you have that ah-ha moment where your character becomes more world wise, but only you get to pick when and how that happens.

Where/What/When Not to Play Batman

Alright, I got nothing left except to wrap up. Playing Batman can seem like it would be fun, and it might be for you for a little bit. But if you’re Batman character is overshadowing everyone else and other people aren’t having fun, then you are going to stop having fun as well, because the game will stop. There are points and time to pull out a Batman character, like with a one shot where you’re just playing against a huge bad guy for one session, but if you are playing a campaign, don’t be Batman.


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RPGs: Telling a Cohesive Story

RPGs: Telling a Cohesive Story

What I was getting at with last weeks articles about Dungeons and Dragons monsters was the idea of creating an overarching campaign that makes sense that isn’t just a bunch of random monsters thrown together and how you can turn that into a story that […]