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, …
Tag: Dungeons and DRagons Tips
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 …
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 to increase your stats. But, when you increase your stats, you could also be taking a feat, so how do they work and which is better?
ASI (Ability Score Increase)
So when you hit a level that gives you an ASI, you can use it in one of two ways. The first is that you can add two points to any single stat, up to twenty max. So if you strength is a 12, which would give you a +1 to rolls with that ability score, adding two would take it to 14 and a +2 to rolls. Or you could split it in two, so add one to two different ability scores. If your INT (Intelligence) and WIS (Wisdom) are both at 13, which gives you a +1, adding one to each INT and WIS would take them both to 14 and give you a +2 on your ability rolls. So your ASI is going to be part of the way that you get better at casting spells, attacking, persuading, sneaking, etc. It’s a very straightforward and mathematical part of the game.
Now, the other option you can do is a Feat. This is basically a featured ability that you can gain access to, or something that makes you unique. It might be something such as giving your character access to heavy armor so that they could wear plate armor if they wanted. Or it can make it so that you can automatically reload your crossbow without it taking up time. It might make you better at DEX (Dexterity) and sneaking, or maybe you’re a fighter and you take Magic Initiate to gain access to a spell. There are tons of different feats that you can use to increase stats but add in other skills that you’re proficient with, or many other things.
So, which is better?
Neither, I don’t think that one is particularly better than the other. With an ASI, you are increasing your stats which is going to give you a notable bonus, if you move it from an odd number to an even or from an even to an even. And there’s something to be said for that consistency.
A Feat, on the other hand, some of them are less great than others. But that’s not a massive issue, because most of the time when taking a feat, it’s going to help flavor your character. A dwarf who is running around healing people and wearing heavy plate armor makes a lot of sense, because that seems like a dwarfy thing to do.
So it depends on what you need. A feat works well to help solidify and work towards a particular character design or idea that you have, and an ASI can as well, but a feat might be more flavorful. But an ASI is going to help with your dice rolls and maybe you’re role playing a particular aspect of your character and succeeding on more rolls would help bring that to the forefront, so an ASI gives you opportunities as well.
I will say that taking only feats throughout a game on your way to level twenty, is going to leave your lagging behind other players in combat and checks. So if you want to take a feat or two, that’s fine, but I probably wouldn’t take them only. I will also say that with feats, there are some much better than others. Alert or Lucky, much better than a feat that gives you a +1 to an ability score and proficiency in a skill. So there’s really time for either and if you need a feat, don’t feel bad about passing on an ASI for it.
Both are useful at times, and while you can easily build a character only taking an ASI and skipping over feats entirely, doing the opposite will have you lagging behind. When considering which to use, like anything in Dungeons and Dragons or an RPG, I say consider your character, their motivations, and what difference it will make in the story. The story is king for having a good time, so spend some time figuring that out and build your character so that it fits and grows within the game that you are playing.
Do you mainly go for the ASI? Or do you spend a lot of time getting feats?
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Took a few weeks, but we got back to it finally playing our zoom D&D game. So let’s do a quick recap in bullet point fashion. Players take the test of the tower to become adventurers Players enroll in Strawgoh, a school of dark arts …
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 …
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 the forgotten pillar of Dungeons and Dragons. While the first, Combat, really uses the character sheet and Social Encounters are all about the role play. Exploration is the one that is supposed to give you a sweeping sense of adventure which can be a harder thing to do. What makes exploration hard is that it relies a lot more on the dungeon master than either of the other two do. There’s give and take in combat as the players narrate their attacks, social encounters are back and forth as player characters interact with the non-player characters. Exploration can just be much more stagnant describing.
So how do you spice up your exploration so it doesn’t just feel like a description of the mountains in New Zealand but actually feels like you’re watching Lord of the Rings?
I’ll get into a list coming up here, but I would say that the first thing is, don’t let it just be a few rolls of the dice for navigation or not getting lost in the wilderness. It’s easy to do a survival or nature check and have them navigate and narrate off of that, but that’s going to end up being a little bit of the dungeon master talking. Unless it matters during those times just let them get where they need to go. So how can you spice it up?
- Unique Locations
- Unique Challenges
- Story Driven Locations
- Explore Non-Nature Locations
1 – Unique Locations
When we think of Lord of the Rings, to go back to that example, places like Helms Deep are interesting to describe, same with the Mirkwood. Describing a generic fantasy setting or a forest or a mountain or some caves, those are fairly dull. Be creative with your locations, if it’s worth describing, it should have some interesting elements. Instead of being in a a forest, make it so that the undersides of the leaves give off a faint glow, so even though it might be night time, the forest floor is never dark. The mountains instead of being jagged peaks off in the distance capped with snow, the lower sections of the mountains are all cliffs, no winding paths leading up them so steep that not even mountain goats would be able to climb them. Or the cave, instead of being black with stalactites and stalagmites in it, the walls are smooth and appear to be polished, you can look into it and see your reflection and things that seem to be moving behind the surface. If you’re going to spend time describing it, make it something memorable.
2 – Unique Challenges
This one is one that I’m not great at yet. When I’m talking about unique challenges, I’m not talking about random encounters, now some of those could be part of the exploration piece, but in the examples above for the unique locations, how can you turn the fact the forest floor is never dark into a challenge? Well, how can the player characters fall asleep? Or to get to the tops of the mountains, you clearly have a some rolls for climbing the cliffs, and do the players even have what they need to do that? Or in the cave, what sort of rolls can the players do, arcana, nature, religion, animal handling, history, to figure out what is going on with the shapes moving behind the surface of the wall? Give them rolls and challenges that are related to the uniqueness of the location that they won’t have to worry about or overcome anywhere else, but they matter here. A great example of that is previous editions, not so much fifth, of the Mournland in Eberron. That was an area of land decimated by some cataclysm. There are living spells roaming that area and healing doesn’t work as effectively as it should. Those are two highly unique things to that area that can create all sorts of challenges, especially the healing one.
3 – Make It About The Story
Really, this could have been rule #1 every time, to make anything more interesting in the game, make it about the story. If the location that they are in isn’t important to the story, don’t spend that much time on it, unless it’s meant to be a challenge for them to get to the proper location for the story, and then the survival itself is part of their story and the story of the place they are going. But if they are wandering through the desert because they happened to take a wrong turn at Albuquerque, that won’t be that exciting exploration as they try and get unlost. Again, there are types of games that this works with, if it is very strong survival, counting everything, and that’s the point of the game and the type of game you want to play, then it is part of the story, but everything is about the exploration and survival. In a lot of games, though, that’s not the case, so when you’re going to spend time on exploration, make it about the story.
4 – Explore Non-Natural Locations
The ruins of an ancient city that was thought long lost, that’s exploring. A mad wizards tower that no one has gone into and ever returned from because it’s so dangerous, that’s exploring. The dungeon under the a castle where there is allegedly great treasure, that is also exploring. All of these were made by someone, in Lord of the Rings, Fellowship of the Rings, they go through the Mines of Moria. There’s exploration in that as Gandalf tries to remember the way, and there are unique things about it, mainly a Balrog, but also just the drums in the deep, something that’s constantly there and very unique to the location. Yes, there was a cave location to it, but it was mainly dug out and turned into the city that it had been previously by dwarves, and that’s an easy one to steal and drop into your game. The advantage of Non-Natural locations is that nature tends to be big and sweeping, these locations are smaller, they can have a lot more challenges that can’t just be avoided by walking a mile to the west, and you can do a lot to make them very unique. The fact that it is more constricted also makes it easier to tell part of the story in it, because the players won’t have to search for the plot point or accidentally miss it.
So, what are some interesting ways that you can use exploration? Or I think better, what are some interesting locations that you can drop into your game to make for some interesting exploration no matter where you use them.
Swamps of Death
The swamps of death are aptly named because it’s easy to become turned around and lost in them. In fact, there seems to be no real path through them and with a strong stench and a constant haze, it can be quite disorienting. The biggest concern, though, is that if you step off of one of many crossing paths and into the muck itself, it has a glue like tendency that seems to grab you and hold you there. Unless you’re lucky, you’ll get sucked down and under and join the dead below.
An interesting thing for the DM to know but not for the players, is that the players will always have a swarm of crows around them during the day, up in the sky. And it should be fairly obvious as the crows will rest upon dead trees near the players. But the crows, at night, will always fly off towards the nearest edge of the swamp as to not sleep in the swamp. So if the players can manage to survive for several days, they’ll be able to use the crows to navigate out whatever side they want to leave from.
Artmis Cole was the original owner of the mines. It was said that he was a shrewd business man. He would push everyone hard to get the most out of his mines and for his money. Two hundred years ago, however, there was a collapse in the mines and Cole and twenty of his miners were lost down there with the minerals. It was rumored that Cole had a map on him for another mine, possibly, that would be worth a fortune.
The wall of the mine glow faintly and the PC’s can feel a tingling on their skin when they enter the mine. The mine actually was for a raw material that can more easily be enchanted and turned into magical items, such as weapons, armor, lamps, whatever it might be. However, in the raw for it’s unstable and long exposure to it can be dangerous.
For this, I’d have the player have to figure out where the collapse was, probably fight some twisted versions of Kolbolds, something easy to get down to it, and then they’ll need to excavate to get to Cole. Cole should be dead, but I’d have down with him some twisted version of elves, it’s only been 200 years, but they’ve been exposed to their radiation for a long time and living off of lichen and bugs that can thrive, so something has changed about them.
House on the Hill
I’m stealing this straight from the board game Betrayal at House on the Hill. There is some malevolent spirit that has created a house of horrors that the players can go through and explore. As they explore, they don’t know what room will be next because others who have explored it, the layout is different, just like in the game the layout can change every time. That means that there might be rooms that no one has ever seen that the players will see, but there also might be rooms that someone has explored before and written about that the players would know about.
I think what would be interesting about this location is the blend of rooms that the players know what they need to do to get through it, the question is can they and rooms that the players don’t know what they are and can they figure them out. At some point in time, maybe with something like a bedroom, I’d create one that looks similar to one that they know about so they can assume it’s that, but there’ll be something slightly different that they might not notice and they could try and do the wrong thing in it.
This one, I’d say, would be a little bit more challenging to pull off, I’d personally lean towards writing up some brief notes on the rooms the players know about, a little description, what the challenge is and how to overcome it. Let the players be able to look through that and figure out what rooms they think they are in when you describe the room to them, don’t point them in a direction, that would give the players more of a sense of exploration and discovery.
Now, these are just some ways that I think that exploration could be more interestingly done in Dungeons and Dragons or ways to make it feel special like combat or social interactions often can. What are some memorable moments of exploration that you’ve had in your games?
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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 …
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 …
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 character in the game?
Quick refresher, high magic means that magic is common and is used for common tasks or that towns will often have a healer or someone who can cast some spells. When people see you cast a spell they won’t want to either worship you or burn you as a witch. Low magic means that magic is rare. If you can do magic, you might be revered or you might be seen as an abomination that should be killed.
Now that that’s out of the way, let’s talk about how it can affect how you role play in a game.
I think if you’re a magic user in a high magic world, you aren’t going to be set apart at a lower level. A spell like mend or cure wounds, your small towns are probably going to have someone who can do those things. People are just going to see that as normal and it won’t be until you start casting higher level spells that you’ll be considered special. In game, I would use that a motivation for a character, you want to be the best smartest wizard, most powerful sorcerer, or devout cleric. It gives a reason for a character to go off adventuring from their small town where they might be able to live a good life, but they want more because they’ve heard of that powerful and revered wizard who now consults for nations and can travel to other planes of existence, you want to be like that. Or maybe you have a rival who is just slightly better than you.
You can also, since magic is common, take some role playing queues from maybe you are just common and not needed in your town. You can almost be kicked out to go find a small town where your skills are needed or maybe you’re just not as good yet, as the person in town, so they want you to take over as being the towns healer, but they send you away to get more experience first. So instead of leaving to make a name, you might be leaving to adventure so that you can come back home. I like this one because it can give you a nice hook for adventuring and gives the DM something to play with.
Let’s look at the flip side of this, what if there is very little magic in the world, how do you role play that?
Firstly, there’s always getting kicked out of your town because you’re a witch or needing to flee, especially if it isn’t a holy magic. So any class that isn’t Cleric or Paladin could be seen as being some sort of abomination. And if you’re a Warlock, maybe your pact actually is with a demon. But, how can you use that to role play. You might be out to prove that you are in fact great. Or prove that your town should have kept you around because some day they might need you. This is a very chaotic and potentially neutral or even possible for an evil character. And, again I like it for a hook as a DM, at some point in time, when you have the power to stop something to happening, I’d force you to make a decision, do you go back to your home town to save them or do you let them burn because they kicked you out? If you still have family there, did they kick you out or was it the town, do you need to still save them?
Or, on the other hand, you might be almost revered. Does that make your character pompous because they can do something else that others can’t and everyone loves them for it? Will they hold that over everyone? I can see a couple of backstory hooks, one where the town sends out the person to save them from some impending doom because you are the best person for it in the town and you must be able to save them because you have magic. But what happens if you can’t? The other would be if you’re playing more a pompous character, are you going to go out and make a name for yourself because the town you’re from is too small? If someone did that, I would then definitely have something happen to the town that you could have stopped, and how does that affect the character? Is it an acceptable loss for their fame or do they feel guilt over something having happened?
There are a ton of hooks you can choose to play around with for both low and high magic worlds and playing a spell caster in them. I didn’t even get into how it might affect party dynamics, but that’s something you’d probably need to role play out with your own adventuring group. Do any of the hooks I’ve presented interest you? Have you played a character like any of those before?
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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 …