Tag: Dungeons and Dragons Advice

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, 

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 

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, will you survive to see the morning?

When thinking about this idea, I wanted to create something that was a little bit different and with dreamwalking, it felt like there was some interesting ways to handle it.

Firstly, you get to run two different types of games, I’d probably tie the two worlds together somehow, like there’s something in the real world that is causing this crazy dream and nightmare fueled reality to happen when you sleep and if you die while you sleep you die in both of the game worlds. I would build it in such a way that to figure out what or who is causing it in the real world, they need to defeat things and find clues in the nightmares and dreams so that is going to lead their quests in the waking world.

Image Source: D&D Beyond

Next, and it depends on your group, if you wanted, you could have the players play two different characters. Dragoth the Dwarven Fighter in the real world might be Dragoth the Dwarven Bard in the dream world with different stats and character sheet. I think it would be fun and could work well for those players who get a little bit bored playing the same character for a longer period of time, they get to play the mix of two characters. While they have some overlap in personality, they would definitely play and be different. I’d have the two versions level at the same pace, it would just make tracking things easier.

So jumping into this you’d look to introduce the players to the BBEG (big bad evil guy/gal) in the dream world. This is the BBEG’s domain so they should be basically untouchable at the start, but they also shouldn’t care about the players because this is their world. Give them someone who they know they’re building up to face at the end of the campaign/at the end of the arc. As they get better and stronger both in the dream and real world, they should show up on the BBEG’s radar and they should see that the dream world turns slowly more into a nightmare world and things become more dangerous and dark. And in the real world when the players get closer to the BBEG’s lair, that should be another time when the dream world starts to double down on the nightmares and monsters, basically a corrupting force in the real world as they near the lair which manifests as more dangerous nightmares.

So, getting to the point where you fight the BBEG, I could see doing some fetch quests, or more so destruction quests, such as having to find amulets or something that weaken the pull of the dream world on the whole of the lands Something that has been set-up or sold by a peddler not knowing what wares they were peddling. So it can be a bit of a chase to find them and destroy them, but also a bit of a red herring because the peddler is going to look very guilty to the players, and while they are guilty of selling these amulets or whatever it might be, they aren’t the BBEG. They maybe would know who the BBEG is, but not where the BBEG is or how to get in contact with them. But the peddler would know where they got the wares so they’d be able to bring the players closer to the BBEG’s lair or at least tell them about it.

In the dream world leave larger clues, totems, visions, something that has to be puzzled through. So in the real world they can only find so many clues or so many people to get close to the lair, but in the dream world, it should be a series of clues that they can put together and come up with something that not only gives them a precise location of where to go but also probably some sort of hints for getting into the lair. Because whatever your BBEG is, they are extremely powerful and would have some sort protection on their lair so that the PC’s can’t just waltz right into it.

For the final battle, I think this should be a two part thing, either start it in the real world and have the finale in the dream world or vice-a-versa. Give both sets of PC’s a chance to shine, but also being the dream world is going to create a more cinematic story. Throw large, impossibly large objects at the players and do a contest of wills to see who can manipulate the dream objects, will they stay in existence and do damage to the players, create barriers, whatever the BBEG decides, or will the PC’s be able to push them away. It’s almost a force battle that you can do for the finale in the dream world. Then in the real world, that’s going to be a bit more standard in terms of the fight, not great illusionary fighting like in the dream world, but this is where I’d have minions and traps and things to wear down the players first. If I were to do this, I’d do get through lair fighting minions and dealing with puzzles and traps, that leads up to the start of the fight in the real world, the players get the BBEG down in health so the BBEG throws them all into the dream world where they have to fight a more powerful version of the BBEG, when/if the BBEG is about ready to die in the dream world, then they drop back into the real world. Give the BBEG a chance to have used a few hit dice but to still be done some hit points and have used up magic. So the final battle then takes place in the real world. Another option would be to divide up the party, especially if you have 4 PC’s, because you could have two fighting in the dream world and two in the real world and have them each fighting the respective version of the BBEG.

So what do you think about this idea, is it a campaign that you’d want to play in or run?

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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 

My First D&D Character

My First D&D Character

Now, this isn’t actually my first D&D character, I’m still waiting for a chance to roll up one, forever a DM. But I want to talk about some things to think about when creating your first D&D character and how you’re going to want to roll them up. This is going to be pretty general, I’m not going to tell you what gear to pick, what class is the easiest, anything like that. Instead, I want to give you some bigger picture things to think about when you create your first D&D character.

Image Source: D&D Beyond

What Archetype Of Character Do I Want To Be

This is pretty big, but we’re talking about a pretty big generality here, do you want to be a sneaky character, or maybe a helpful one, maybe you want to be able to rush into battle or sling spells from afar. Think about the broad terms that you can play. Bring this general idea to the table for your character creation as it’ll give you something to build off of and help you make more informed choices. Another way to do this is to think about your favorite people, normally in fiction, but could be from the real world, and think about what makes them them. If you love Yoda, what is essential Yoda, we have the age, the wisdom and the force powers, but when he was younger, slightly, also could be a nimble fighter. So look for those characters or people you really love and think about what would make them an interesting D&D character.

This Is a Chance to Play Pretend But Start Similar To Yourself

Now, I just got done saying, pick your archetype and pick whatever sounds like fun, but infuse it with your personality. Playing a role playing game is great because you get to take on other personalities and dive into a life and a world that isn’t you, but for your first character, unless you’ve done a lot of acting, it’s going to generally be you. Even if you don’t want it to be, unless your a seasoned actor or improv performer, you’re going to drop back into playing yourself or making decisions based off of what you’d actually do. So instead of pulling away from that and being frustrated when it does happen or feeling like you aren’t on the level of Critical Role, instead make your first character like you, but with a few twists on it. Give yourself a few fun things that you can interact with that are different than yourself, but keep general personality pretty close to your own, because most of the time it’ll end up there for your early player characters.

Constitution Is Your Friend

I don’t care that you want to be this wispy elf wizard who is gaunt and stares off into the distance while vowing to never eat again, constitution is your friend. It’s easy to think that it mainly matters for fighters or barbarians or anyone on the front line, and that stat is very important to them, but a -1 on constitution for a wizard who has D6 for their hit die, that means you start off with 5 health. There are a lot of monsters that can kill you at that point. At worst have a 0 in constitution, but most classes and characters, I really think having a +1 one is huge, even if your just taking the average of your hit die, that +1 is really important, and if you’re rolling for your hit points each level, that keeps you from ever doing too poorly.

Image Source: D&D Beyond

Backgrounds Can Evolve

With the background you are picking some personality traits, ideals, flaws, and bonds. For your first character I’m telling you to keep a broader picture of who they are going to be, and the background can feel like it’s locking you in. Talk with your DM, and they should know this already, but backgrounds and personality are fairly fluid in the first few sessions. You might have wanted this charismatic Barbarian, but instead they are kind of a dick to everyone. Or maybe you want them to be the face, but instead they use their charisma as a quiet confidence and less of the face. Less the background will be changing, but the personality traits, flaws, bonds, and ideals might change and evolve as you go. Totally expect this to happen, especially if you are going with a bigger departure from your own personality.

Finally, Being Bad at Something Isn’t Bad, It’s Good

When playing an imaginary character there’s a strong desire to be good at everything, because who doesn’t want to be awesome at everything all the time? But that’s not going to be the most fun character. It might be pretty fun for you, but it won’t be fun for the other people at the table if you’re better at the things they’re supposed to be good at. But beyond that, you’re playing a character who is supposed to grow and evolve throughout the game. And, you are also going to be put in more fun and interesting situations if you aren’t good at everything. Maybe you’re the fighter, why should you be good at sneaking around, you’re just ready to bash stuff with a sword, so when you fail to sneak all the time, that’s something you can play into. Your deficiencies on the character sheet are not weaknesses but role playing opportunities for you to create a fun and memorable character.

Now, there’s a whole lot more I could talk about when building your first character, and I’ll probably go more into the details of it in future articles, but these are some big picture items to consider when building your first character that might be overlooked. What general advice have you given new players, if you’ve played a bunch before, for their first character? What piece of advice stands out to you from this article?

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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?

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Dungeons and Dragons: A Great Experience

Dungeons and Dragons: A Great Experience

One of the parts of Dungeons and Dragons that people really love is leveling up their characters. You get more cool things that you can do almost every level or new spells you can use or even improved stats so that you can hit harder.