Tag: Dungeons and Dragons

We Built this City in D&D – Greenfang – Getting Criminal

We Built this City in D&D – Greenfang – Getting Criminal

We’ve already talked what Greenfang is known for and why it was built where it was. We’ve talked about how the merchant guilds run the show around Greenfang and how they have mercenaries to keep the peace, but how well do they really keep the…

We Built This City in D&D – Greenfang – Take Me to Church

We Built This City in D&D – Greenfang – Take Me to Church

Alright, time to wrap up the city build, there is so much more that I could talk about, there is actually building out shops and places like that, but I wanted to keep this at a slightly higher level since you don’t need to see…

Magic Economy in D&D

Magic Economy in D&D

So, I put down the word mechanics, because, magic economy could also describe the level of magic in your world and how much of a vibrant magic trade set up there is. But in Dungeons and Dragons 5th edition, you have a magic economy of how much and when the player characters should get magic items.

The first thing that you need to know about magic items in 5th edition, they make it so that your magic items are limited. Now, this doesn’t count things like spell scrolls, potions, or other consumable magic items, but for things like magical swords, bows, armor, etc. 5th edition has brought in a thing called attunement. When an item has the attunement keyword, it means that you have to spend some time and get attuned to it. And as a character, you can only be attuned to so many items, that total being 3 items.

There are a couple of reasons that in Dungeons and Dragons 5th edition that they have attunement to limit your items. The first, the 5th edition reason, is that they have a thing called bounded accuracy. This means that you are not likely to roll higher than a certain number or lower than a certain number when rolling for an attack or a check. And if you have more items that would give you a +1 to +4 to attack, you would now be rolling outside of the normal range and apt to hit more, or they would have to adjust their armor classes, which means that it could become impossible without getting a critical hit for low level players to hit mid level monsters. The other reason is that in previous editions you’ve been able to have a lot of items, and they didn’t have the bounded accuracy, but you had to do a whole lot more math. If you had four or five items that give you a plus to attack or damage, you are having to add those up for every attack that you do, which takes the game away from being as much of a role playing game.
But let’s get back to magic items, because we know that you have a limited number of attunement slots for a party, so how do you give them interesting items and give them magical items. And how quickly should you give them magical items?

I think that how many and how quickly you give them is really up to you in the game. It is possible that they are always swamped with them because your world has a higher amount of magic, it’s also very likely that you’ll only hand out a few items because you don’t want to add that power creep.
One good way to balance this out is with the consumable items. Especially since that can help your party of all martial characters stay alive without needing a healer. Let your party be able to find items like healing potions or be able to purchase more common items like that in town. Even something like a bead of force where it’s a more powerful item, but it has a limited number of uses it will be a way to give you more magical items in the game, without bumping up the players combat stats too much.

Image Source: D&D Beyond

But maybe you want to reward them with more permanent items. There are plenty of items that are more utility items that you can give them. For example, the ring of water walking is very situationally useful, and it won’t affect combat much, if at all. But now it gives you a thematic item which you create traps or puzzles around that your group wouldn’t have been able to solve before. There are a lot of items like this in the Dungeon Master’s Guide (DMG) that you can use to add more magic to your games and to give the players something more than just gold off of the monsters that they kill.

Let’s quickly, though, talk about those items that do require attunement. How do you portion out those items so that you don’t end up with someone being too strong?

When I give out +1 magical items for either offense or defense or whatever, I like to hand out several of them in rapid succession. The reason for that is that you don’t want your party to go too far out of balance. If you have a fighter, a rogue, and a wizard, and you give the fighter a +1 sword, now the fighter is going to be better in combat than either of the other characters. So I try and hand out things in a few straight sessions until every character has that attuned item that improves them in a way that they want to be improved, whether it’s combat or not.

I also make the items specific for a character. If, for example, we have that party of a fighter, rogue, and a wizard, and the fighter uses a great sword, instead of giving him a short sword and thinking that they’ll want it and that the rogue won’t take it, I would give them that great sword with a plus one on it. Give the wizard robes that provide armor or a staff that does a plus one. Give the rogue a thieves kit that is magically enchanted to give them advantage on lock picking if that’s what they want. But a magical staff, great sword, and lock picking kit are clear as to whom they are going to go to, and you don’t end up with the party fighting over magical items.
Finally, with those attuned items, how often do you give them to the party? I think that many DM’s are going to give players a couple of these items per character by around level 5-7. I tend to give them out at a slower rate than that. But it really does depend on the game that you are running. If you have a higher level of magic and magic items in your world, your player characters will probably have more.

With whatever items you are giving out though, make sure it makes sense for the monster/shopkeeper to have them. A lot of people don’t let you buy magical items in their game, and unless it’s consumable, I tend not to have them in shops in my game. But let’s talk really quickly about if a monster drops it. Something like a ring of water walking, sure, the monster isn’t going to know much about it or probably can’t use it to their advantage. But if it’s a +1 great sword that the goblin boss is going to drop, the goblin boss should be using the weapon. So plan for your party when you are going to have the drop happen and let the goblin boss use that in the fight with the players. It’s little things like that which are going to make your game feel more immersive to the players.

How do you use magic items in your game? Do you let your players pick the magic items that they want throughout the game? Do you roll randomly for what is going to be dropped? Do you use a lot of them, or only a few of them?

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We Built this City in D&D – Greenfang

We Built this City in D&D – Greenfang

Alright, I was going to write something board game related today or talk about the book that I just finished, but I wanted to get back to writing about and building out my city for D&D because D&D is really on my brain. And it…

We Built This City in D&D – Greenfang – Economy/Politics

We Built This City in D&D – Greenfang – Economy/Politics

Oh boy, we’re talking about everyone’s hot button issue, the economy and it’s best friend politics. Fortunately, it’s the economy of a fictional D&D town, so that should be less of a sticking point and how it’s important for creating your fictional city and make…

We Built this City in D&D – Greenfang – Building Out

We Built this City in D&D – Greenfang – Building Out

At this point in time Greenfang is getting close to being built. We’ve talked about the economy, the politics, the criminal aspect of the town. All of these things are really going to drive the plots that you can surrounding Greenfang. But, they don’t really tell you, though, they can begin to inform you, about how the city is laid out. After this, we’ll wrap up with religions and how the various gods play into Greenfang.

There are two real ways that a city can grow, you can either grow up or you can grow out. And for a fantasy game, you really do have the option for either of those. With the use of magic, you’d be able to build a city that stands higher than it should. And, for places that need to be highly defensible, you are probably going to build higher up. Greenfang, however, is in the middle of nowhere and every nation that does trade with them might want to take it over, but they are going to be concerned about retaliation from multiple fronts.

So with Greenfang, it’s a city that has spread out. There aren’t hard edges defined as people can just cut down more trees to get more room to build houses. It’s grown out further on one side of the river where the first settlement was, but as it’s grown into a city, both sides of the river have houses and there are ferries that run often to shuttle people across. Compared to most cities of the size of Greenfang, it’s a much larger foot print as in giant forest, houses can spread out more. There were houses that were built outside of the town that is now part of the city proper, sometimes to the chagrin of their original owner.

Image Source: D&D Beyond

Now that we know how it grew out, is there any rhyme or reason to how it grew?

There are a few areas that are probably worth noting. Near the river on the larger side you have the town hall and it’s the primary location for most of the guilds. From there are some shops that have popped up around there as one of the market locations. But further from the river and on the other side of the river there are more market locations. There are also random shops attached to houses, though, most of the business is done in the markets. The guild artisan smiths who came to get direct access to the ore have their own area of the town. In the center of that is a large open space where they hold their auctions.

There isn’t a ton more rhyme or reason to how Greenfang is laid out. There are inns, a few random shops, temples and churches throughout the town. As new places came, they built at the edge of town, pushing other business further in. Some of the inns a little bit into the town have gone out of business because the ones at the edges for convenience, or those nicer ones by the guild halls get most of the business. A fair number of the temples are just inns that have been updated some into a place or worship as a cheaper option than building a new place, plus, it helps keep them more centralized. That can be an interesting time as some of the temples have blood on the floor where it got stained when the place was still an inn.

Towards the outskirts on the downstream side of Greenfang is the slum neighborhoods. This is where those who weren’t able to hack it in the mine live. It’s rough living conditions because they can’t afford good building supplies, but they are actually fairly well fed because of proximity to fish in the river and creatures in the woods. In the slums, having a good bow and arrow is extremely important to your survival and is the possession that you keep in the best shape. As compared to other slums in other cities, especially those with nobles, it’s actually fairly nice. Compared to others, the people there are more competent since they were able to travel all the way out to Greenfang and survive.

There’s more for how a city would be laid out, but that is the general of what you need to start to create your town. Are there any places that you think that I should have talked about? This city really was founded on a population that would be there for a bit and then leave when new guild members came in, but it’s developed over time to be a much larger and booming city that does more business than just trading of ore and other goods.

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Total Party Kill – What can you do about it?

Total Party Kill – What can you do about it?

You’ve had a long running campaign. The players were really into the story. They’d spent a bunch of time planning on how to infiltrate this tower. You’d told them the wizard in it was too powerful to fight. Everything is going to plan… LEEEEEEROOOOOOOOOY JENKINS!…

PvP in D&D

PvP in D&D

I’m going to continue doing some articles hitting on lesser talked about things in Dungeons and Dragons. There’s a lot for building your character and campaign and I’ve talked a lot about them as well. There are less articles talking about things like death of…

Dealing with Death… in D&D

Dealing with Death… in D&D

“We are gathered here to remember the life and death of Gornag the Half-Orc Barbarian. He died like he lived, violently, and in the end, would he have really wanted to go any other way?”

“True.”

“Bring forth the character sheet and the lighter to usher Gornag to the afterlife.”

“He shall be remembered.”

“We send him back into the ether from whence he came.”

“He shall be remembered.”

Alright, that might be very goofy, and you don’t need to do any routine or anything like that, but it’s a topic that I don’t think ends up being talked about that much in Dungeons and Dragons or any RPG, how do you handle the death of a character.

Image Source: D&D Beyond

It isn’t something that I’ve had a ton of experience with, I’ve “killed” three characters. The first was a convention game at the end of the one shot, so it worked out well, and technically, it was another character failing to throw a dart horribly and then hitting the unconscious character who was one death saving throw short and floating face down in water. Then, in Dungeons and Flagons, Finja died, sacrificing her life in their successful attempt to destroy a beholder. It was a sad but fitting end for that character. Finally, a barbarian who was amazing and smashing everything came up against some specters that he couldn’t kill as easily and he was rolling poorly. He got to come back, but with some pretty dire consequences for the party.

So I haven’t done a TPK (total party kill) and have to end a campaign because of that, or pick it up with new characters. I’ve knocked out characters before, but that was all with a plan of what was going to happen next and with a reason why the monsters wouldn’t just kill the players.

There are several questions that come out of death, but let’s start for a Dungeon Master even before death of a character.

Do you need to have the threat of death in your game?

It might seem like you need to, but do you really need to have that threat of death in your game? I would say that yes, death is something that has to be a threat in your game, but it should be a rare threat. You are playing with heroes, so why should these heroes be likely to go down in every fight? They shouldn’t, is my answer. There will be times when fighting against a level boss that it should be a threat, but if they are fighting a random encounter of goblins on the road, it probably shouldn’t be enough to kill them, unless I’m rolling very hot and they are rolling ice cold.

What do you do when death does happen?

This is a harder question, because you need to know how your players would react and how it happened. If it happened because a character jumped out of a fourth story window as a first level wizard, yeah, it’s going to be easier because that player was doing something dumb with their character.

Image Source: D&D Beyond

If it’s because it was in an epic combat, I think that most players would still be pretty cool with it. Especially if they sacrificed themselves to do damage to get that BBEG to deaths doorsteps and the party was able to kill them. That sort of heroes death can even be a big story element and driving force for a character if you want it. But even if it wasn’t something for the character, that death feels like it has meaning.

The harder ones to deal with are the ones that come out of the blue. It could be that the monsters were rolling hot, like I said, and the player was doing poorly, and with a critical failure on a death saving throw, you can be out fast. How do you as a DM deal with that, and then, how do you as a player deal with that?

I think as a DM, it’s about giving some time. I wouldn’t gloat about it, I wouldn’t rush quickly into the next thing. It’s fairly dumb in movies when you get that moment where the protagonists best friend dies in a fight and you get that flow motion moment of the protagonist crying, but that’s what you kind of want to do in your game. Give the players at the table that reprieve from the battle, don’t ask for any rolls, any checks, just let the players process it. Then, once there has been a little bit of time, or the players have said their piece, then you jump back into what was happening. And once that is done, you can give the other players the options of things that they can do.

Also know that players will act differently. Some are going to try and find a way that the encounter was unbalanced or something along those lines and justify why they shouldn’t have died. Others are going to find that whole moment just humorous. Then there are others who are going to be ready to start rolling up their next character right then and there. The best thing, as a DM you can do in any of those situations is just give them a moment and be considerate.

As a player, how do you deal with it when another character dies, not yours? It’s pretty similar to the DM, you give it some time. You buy into the moment and are there for the player as you can be, and in character, you play out that movie moment where you fight your way to the side of your dead comrade and pick up their body in your arms and scream at the sky. You don’t treat it lightly.

If it was your character that died, it can be tough. You grow to like your character, you want to know what is going to happen with your character and you had ideas of the story that was going to continue with them for longer in the campaign until the campaign was done. You wrote a backstory for them, you drew a picture of them, it is hard to lose something that you put time and effort into. It is kind of hard to write, because it is fairly trite to say, but remember that this is a game. You are going to like the new character that you roll up as well. The best I can liken this to is Doctor Who when you get a new Doctor, I’m always a bit hesitant with the new Doctor and I don’t think I like them as well, but basically all of them have grown on me to the point where I’m sad to see them leave. That’s the case with your D&D character as well, you might not like the new one as well at the start, but you’ll grow to love them too.

But allow yourself some time to soak in the death of the character. Don’t rush yourself into creating that new character if you don’t want to. Don’t feel like you need to be more than an observer for the rest of the session. It’s fine to wait and then when the next session is come back with a new character for the game.

Finally, as a group, when you have that first character death, come up with a way that you are going to memorialize it. I have a very silly thing written at the top, but figure out what you want to do. It doesn’t need to be much, but do something in game or out of game that you want to do for future deaths. This will help with the sense of closure for the dead character and it can be something fun to do. Toasting the fallen character in and out of game would make a lot of sense. Or, if the person doesn’t want to keep the character sheet, burning it, ideally after being folded into a paper boat and floating in a bathtub to give it a proper Viking burial, would make a lot of sense as well, but that’s going to be up to your group.

How have you dealt with the death of character in your Dungeons and Dragons games? Have you had a particularly epic character death or any really funny one?

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LitRPG – What Why and How

LitRPG – What Why and How

I’ve recently been listening to a lot of LitRPG and you’ve seen me talk about it with Sufficiently Advanced Magic, Ascend Online, and Towers of Heaven that I’m listening to currently. Those are the ones that I have enjoyed but I also read Awaken Online,…