Tag: Dungeons and Dragons

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, 

Campaign Games through Zoom

Campaign Games through Zoom

So, this was a question that I posed on The Dice Tower Facebook group, Board Game Geek forums, and Board Game Geek Facebook group, what are games that are campaign style that would play well through Zoom? The reason for this is that we’re about 

Friday Night D&D: Tower of the Gods Session 8

Friday Night D&D: Tower of the Gods Session 8

We’re back after a few weeks off because of a move for some more Dungeons and Dragons, and we’re continuing our Tower of the Gods campaign.

Where we left the crew, they were at Moody’s Bar for some of the duels which Bokken had entered himself into. Barrai and Thrain had beat up a guy at the bar and left only to sneak back in to watch Bokken fight as they didn’t really remember that they were there looking to find where the tunnel that went under Strawgoh came out in Moody’s Bar.

Image Source: D&D Beyond

Bokken is facing off against a half-orc who has an okay record in the ring, but isn’t one of top duelists. Bokken comes out of the gate swinging, rushing to cover the ground and pulling out his odachi and getting a hit on the half-orc. The orc swings back hard with his mace connecting, but Bokken continues to press the advantage until he knocks the half-orc down. They get back up again and wallop Bokken pretty well. But Bokken gets through their guard and brings them to the ground where they stay. The healers come out and heal Bokken some as well as take care of healing the half-orc.

After the fight Barrai starts searching for the trapdoor but finds nothing. Bokken, taking a more direct approach asks an older fighter, Jermaine the Wind Storm, if he knows of any tunnel or trapdoor. He says that he knows pretty often students use one that is back by the latrines, but he doesn’t know where it is himself. Bokken passes off that information to Thrain, like Barrai is still searching, but when Thrain goes to look he finds nothing.

They head back to the school and spend more time doing school work, and trying to figure out what is going on with the final. After there has been a little work done to the school, Castillia and Addrus are moved into the barracks which houses Barrai, Bokken, Thrain and Parrag since theirs had been destroyed. They spend some time chatting with them, and Bokken tips Castillia off, since he’s paying he to keep an eye on Narius, about Addrus being one of the spies. Barrai and Thrain spend some time talking with Addrus and find out that there are actually maps of the tower and that the floors, after the proving area, don’t actually change. So if you have the right connections, have enough money, or are in the right guild, you can actually know quite well what you’re going to find on the first nine floors.

Bokken learning about these maps decides to hang out with some of the fighters from the duels, and joins into a group that is hanging out with Sanphire. He asks them what they know about the third floor of the tower, and gets back some general information. One of the fighters tells him that there’s a lot of fire on that floor. Another says that while there are some monsters, there aren’t as many to fight on that floor, and Sanphire lets him know that this floor of the tower is less about fighting and more about stealth and using your head, which isn’t ideal for Bokken who is not the most stealthy of characters. At that point the other duelists start to swap stories about the tower and pester Sanphire as to when he is going to go back into the tower and try and get past floor 25.

All of the characters spend some time shopping with Barrai buying a number of items, a light crossbow and bolts, chalk, ball bearings, a flask of oil, lock and 10′ of chain, a steel mirror, and after some searching, manacles. Thrain also basically gets himself some jars with oil in them and creates Molotov cocktails. Thrain also spends some time trying to figure out the best ways to not start on fire, and Bokken grabs a jug from the kitchen at the school and fills it with water because he is partially wood.

Also during this time they spend some more time trying to figure out who the other spy might be. Thrain decides to go through Addrus’s stuff now that they are in the same barracks and finds one interesting thing, a chain with five keys on it. This seems out of the ordinary but doesn’t help them get any further into figuring out who might be the other spy. Barrai does spend some time tracing the keys, and then with money he gets from his sponsor he get copies of the keys, from those tracings made up.

Bokken decides that following Addrus around might be useful as well in figuring out who he is working with. He is able to follow him around, he seems him meet with an older man and three students from other schools in the area at an open market, he seems him go into a bank and then into a backroom at the bank and then get a few drinks and watch a few duels. Bokken reports back to Barrai and Thrain and they are a bit surprised that Addrus is going to the bank because it’s a nice bank and unless you have a lot of money they wouldn’t probably accept your business and it would be fairly odd for a student to have that much money. They decide that it’s worth staking out the two locations, the market and the bank to see what activity that they can see from other students.

Barrai watches the bank and sees a few other students go in there, most notably Narius, Edzial (female dwarf barbarian whom hasn’t done much to this point), and Parrag. At the market, Bokken wanders around for a few days and he sees Castillia and Cordon shopping. Narius shopping and then losing his temper when he can’t get stuff for the price he wants. And Dorin actually visits a fairly shady looking stall with occult items. They decide that Narius makes sense to bank at the fancy bank since he comes from a noble family, but Edzial and Parrag that’s a bit odd.

Thrain first follows Edzial and sees her do some shopping picking up trinkets of glass that are of birds, clouds, the sun, and other stuff that you don’t see in an dwarven town. Then she takes them to a courier and gets them loaded into a package. He convinces the courier after Edzial leaves that she had put the wrong address on it and that he was sent to take it to her to get it updated. He takes the package back to the barracks and snoops through it, it’s addressed to Dasthian Corath in the Marthack District, Edfifle, Coldwater Mountains. Thrain knows that Edfifle is a Dwarven town in the Coldwater Mountains, and he finds a love letter form Edzial to Dasthian who is her fiancé. Thrain feels a bit sheepish about that, and returns the package to be sent. He follows Parrag next, Parrag just goes to a bar and has a chat with the bar tender, goes to the bank, and then goes and watches the duels placing a small bet which he loses.

Thrain thinks that’s suspicious and so with Bokken blocking the door, they sit down Parrag and Addrus one evening and accuse Parrag of being the other spy. He tells them that he’s not, but when pushed on it, some of his story about why he banks at such a fancy bank doesn’t make a ton of sense. They don’t get too far with it until Bokken decides to go through Parrag’s stuff and finds a key chain with four keys on it and comparing the keys to the copies that they had made from Addrus’s keys, there are similarities, like they might be for the same sort of location or the same location if that’s why Parrag and Addrus were going to the bank, for a spying reason. Parrag tells another unconvincing reason for going to the bank and it’s when Barrai offers a deal, where they will help keep his cover for him if he admits it that he eventually does. They do some things, like put a lock on their barrack door so that they all have to carry around a key chain, and still keep on acting like they are trying to figure out if Narius or Dorin are spies.

They, and Castillia, go and talk to Assendial and tell her how they figured out who Parrag was and how the small bet after going to the fancy bank first aroused their suspicions. Thrain also asks about the dragon attack and the items that they were shown. Assendial lets it slip, since she thinks they deserve to know a little bit and because they’ve promised Parrag a level of discretion that they can probably be discrete about this, that the scarab item was found underneath the barracks that were destroyed. It seems like whatever the enchantment was caused the dragon to be enraged and want to destroy it, so it attacked the barracks over and over again with acid until the acid ate down to where the scarab was and getting hit, it broke the enchantment on it. They ask for more information, but she sends them off to prepare for their final.

Behind the DM’s screen:

As always, I did limited planning, I basically had planned out the fight, and that was about it. I was curious to see what they would spend time on, and it was actually a really fun session.

With the bank, I knew once I gave Addrus keys that there was going to be something at the bank that the spies needed, most likely a drop or pick-up location for assignments and missions. I also made it so that it made sense for Narius, kid of a noble, to bank there, but it didn’t make sense for the other three, or so it seemed because they didn’t know much about Edzial, hence why I picked her. I tried not to make it too obvious that it was Parrag, and had been planned for it to be him from the beginning, but they did a good job of narrowing things down with their actions.

I also wanted to see what they’d do to prepare for tower test, and they did some fun things with that.

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My Top 100 Board Games 2020 Edition – 80 through 71

My Top 100 Board Games 2020 Edition – 80 through 71

We’re back with the next ten, a bullet point of what I said in the first part (which you can find 100 through 91). If you aren’t caught up, you can find yesterdays 90 through 81 to see as well. But we’re back for the next 

Friday Night D&D – Waves of the Neon Seas

Friday Night D&D – Waves of the Neon Seas

The waters lap against the tranquil shores of the Neon Seas, their vibrant colors splash as each waves crests before it licks the shore. It’s feast day and the sounds of children splashing in the water and laughing can be heard as everyone around is 

Your Hero Has Done Too Much – D&D Advice

Your Hero Has Done Too Much – D&D Advice

So you’re starting out a campaign at level 1 and you’re rolling into your first session with your rogue. They’ve gotten a name for themselves, they helped steal the royal jewels of Hemenklot and the Dwarven empire. After getting that money, they went and sailed around the world with no crew except for their best friend Ethiel Batherain the son of a noble family and heir to their estates. When tragedy befell him and he disappeared at see you had to bring the news to their family and your finance, Merriel, Ethiel’s sister. To prove that you were still worthy of her hand, they gave you a series of five tasks which ended with you besting a Rakshasa in a game of wits. So you’re very well prepared for the campaign.

Image Source: D&D Beyond

Session one, the first thing you have to do to show off your skills is use a rope, attached to a flag pole and swing with it to a balcony. And you fall in your face. You try it again, and you fall on your face. Somehow you managed to leap from roof top to roof top and then repel down into a secret chamber to steal some crown jewels, but this is impossible.

So, what’s wrong with this picture?

There are probably a couple of things, but I want to talk about one thing in particular, and that’s having a backstory that is just too big for your level 1 character.

There’s a really strong desire to jump into an epic game and an epic moment with your epic character. But if the campaign starts at level 1, you aren’t epic yet. You might have had some small adventures, but to have big epic stories as to what’s happened in your past, it can be jarring when the reality of playing the character and the fickle nature of the dice end up causing your character to feel not like the backstory that you created.

So much of this is driven by wanting your character to be that end product of the dashing rogue who steals form the rick and gives to the poor, and can toss out a witty one-liner and insult the King and get away with it with a wink. Or to be Batman and the force in the dark keeping the peace. Or to be a powerful wizard hurling lightning bolts and calling down meteor storms on the heads of your enemies. But this is really the end product that you should be striving for.

At level 1, you are a hero, you are better than the average person, but there are so many bigger and scarier and more powerful things out there in the world than you. So when creating your backstory keep is scaled to who you are. Maybe you helped with the heist to steal the crown jewels, but you were just the lookout two blocks away. Maybe you did sale around the world, but you helped the cook on the ship and spent most of your time killing rats. Maybe you did have to prove your love and worthiness to your fiance and their family, and this is it. But it is about keeping your story in line with the level that you are at. You probably don’t have many big and grand adventures yet, and that’s why you are setting out adventuring now.

Now, I think to go along with scaling down your heroic actions in a game, you also need to shift the focus of your character concept. A lot of the time people end up with a way to big backstory because they start their character fully into the concept. Being Batman is an end goal, a bad one but one, so instead of thinking that you’re Batman from the start, think about the path that Bruce Wayne took to becoming Batman, you’re somewhere right after Bruce Wayne’s parents were killed at level 1, or Spider-Man before he was bitten by the spider. So your goal is to become Spider-Man or I guess if you have to, Batman. So what do you need to do to create those two backstories? If you’re Batman, be focused on revenge, be paranoid, and have dead parents, that’s the level 1 backstory for Batman. So, whatever your concept would be, consider where they would start at level 1 and when they hit level X where you want that concept to be fleshed out, what are the steps to get there?

Image Source: Wizards

Taking the approach of building towards and end character, someone who grows into that style of play you want over time, gives you a lot of motivation for what your character is going to do in the campaign, giving you clearer decision and role play paths. It’s also going to help keep that story from being too expansive or feeling like you should be better and leading to frustration because your character isn’t better or doesn’t match what you have in your head. Now, for some people they have a concept, they want to drop it into a game and play it immediately. So maybe you are Spider-Man, but you’re just learning the ropes, and consider how you want your character to grow more and more into that role so it feels more and more like your concept.

When creating a backstory do you just do something that has a lot of epic moments like I talk about, or do you build one that allows your character to grow into a concept? What’s the hardest part of doing it that way, because it is more difficult? What have you done to overcome challenges with a backstory?

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Friday Night D&D: Tower of the Gods Session 7

Friday Night D&D: Tower of the Gods Session 7

When we left the group last Bokken was talking with Sanphire and learning how to use a throwing dagger. Thrain and Barrai are down in the tunnel getting ready to explore the area that they had found out about during the dragon attack when they 

Friday Night D&D – The Crimson Scales

Friday Night D&D – The Crimson Scales

It’s been a little bit since we did a more standard D&D campaign or at least talked about a more standard idea. This one is going to fall into that more standard style of game that might be an easier sell for some new players 

Friday Night D&D: The Magic West

Friday Night D&D: The Magic West

Saddle up cowpoke and join me for a tale of the wild west and the monsters that roam those lands. Where magic is a way of life and slinging a spell from the hip is a favorite pastime of those looking for trouble. Will you be able to tame these outlaw lands and stop the invading monsters from the deep?

The idea for this campaign is clearly the wild west, we’re looking to create something that feels less like high fantasy and more like cattle rustling and duels at high noon. And, borrowing a little bit from the Lord of the Rings, the people mining for gold have dug to deep. And now monsters are pouring out of the mines and troubling the towns and villages out in the wild.

Image Source: Wizards of the Coast

The players can start out with some smaller things, some cattle going missing, accusations and weird occurrences happening down by the mine. I’d almost give it another worldly vibe to it, to borrow a little bit from the board game Shadows of Brimstone.

Now, you have a couple of ways you could go for the bad guys, you have have the mines leading into the underdark and going so deep for some special magical material has caused them to disturb the residents down there and get them to fight back. Or, I think most interestingly, make it the Gith. The reason the Githyanki and Githzerai are more interesting is because you wouldn’t expect them. But they live in a limbo area and almost have a pirate vibe to them, so give them a stagecoach, train robbing vibe and they are out there to get this magical materials that makes magic much more common. Almost an Eberron style where there are trains, people have their wands which is a common weapon that can just sling six charges of something like a six shooter.

So as the players dig deeper they find out that what they thought was happening isn’t actually it. The Githyanki and Githzerai are certainly causing issues as their magical materials are being grabbed from the mine, but what the materials are being used for is now being called into question both by the Githyanki and Githzerai but also by the people who run the mines and give the players a mystery of what is happening there.

This unravels a big conspiracy that leads all the way to some other monster who is the real monstermind behind the mines and who is getting these magical materials in order to invade limbo and take out the Githyanki and Githzerai and make them into mindless drones, in fact, some sort of massive mind flayer would make a lot of sense here as the Gith do not like Mind Flayers.

Image Source: Wizards of the Coast

Finish the campaign with some sort of epic western battle, the mind flayer is coming to town for a showdown at high noon, but the players don’t have a shot with a direct confrontation, so their only hope is to intercept the flayer while they are still on the train. And if you don’t want to do a mind flayer, do something like a vampire or someone who can glamour or mind control their way into the hearts and minds of the people.

That could be where you wrap up the campaign, but now that you’re touching limbo and the outer reaches of the worlds and planes because of the mine, and now that the magical material has such value, you can even have a bigger bad come after it. Maybe while all of this is going down and the players are dealing with the big bad mind flayer or vampire, there’s a cult that suddenly springs up with a charismatic Rakshasa as it’s head who is working on summoning something even more powerful from the outer edges of the multiverse into the world to rule it all and for the Rakshasa to rule under it. So similar feeling to the first part of the campaign, but different in that instead of going out somewhere like the vampire or mind flayer was planning on doing, it’s trying to bring something here, and even if something happens to the Rakshasa, it will be back.

So what do you think about it, is this a campaign that you’d play in or run? What part stands out to you as the most interesting?

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Friday Night D&D – Tower of the Gods Session 6

Friday Night D&D – Tower of the Gods Session 6

When we left our adventurers they were just getting back to the mess hall after there had been a dragon attack. During the attack, Bokken had rescued Cordin and Castillia from their barracks which was being dissolved by the dragons acid breath, gotten Barrai off