Welcome back to another installment of Friday Night Dungeons and Dragons. The idea for this game came from my writing about Tieflings yesterday. I kind of did a light version of the story with the firefighter backstory that I created, however, I think that can […]
Tag: Dungeons and Dragons
Now we’re getting towards the edges of the races you can play in Dungeons and Dragons from the main Players Handbook. There are additional races or race options in other books. I’m going to call out some Tiefling things are from Mordenkainen’s Tome of Foes. […]
There’s no place like Gnome, there’s no place like Gnome.
Alright, now that my bad joke is out of my system, let’s talk about Gnomes in Dungeons and Dragons.
Gnomes, as you can guess, are very small. They are between 3-4′ tall and because of that, they end up moving slower than other races. However, they make up for that by being smart, which comes out in some areas like them being able to talk to animals and being really good at tinkering with little mechanical devices. This is shown in some of the racial abilities that you get, but also with the bump to the intelligence stat that you get. For that reason, Gnomes make very good Wizards.
Gnomes are also a naturally curious race that has a real joy for living. Though, they might accidentally blow themselves up, they really seek to live life to the fullest. And that includes trying new things, trying to make new things, and with that they are a race that really makes a lot of sense to go adventuring. Also being friendly, they are going to get along with all of the other races very well. This love of life and curiosity also tends to make them good jokesters. And while everyone might not appreciate their gnomish humor, that generally isn’t going to dissuade them.
Because of those traits, you can really have a lot of story hooks. A gnome merchant would make a lot of sense as someone who might go along with adventurers if there is a chance to make a profit and see more of the world. Gnomes also leave their homes for stuff like tutoring a noble family, since they are so smart, they will leave to go study at different places and learn even more. Their tinkering and nature focus also can allow them to develop little trinkets that they want to show off.
Let’s jump into some adventuring backstory ideas that are pretty gnomish.
You always had a deft hand with tinkering and making things. It brought you a lot of joy and everyone in the town loved the shows that you’d put on with your little clockwork creatures. You decided to pick up and take your show on the road. It was a great time, however, you weren’t super business savvy and after a little while you ended up losing most of your money and you had to start selling your clockwork performers. Now you just have one left, but you’ve figured out you can make some good money adventuring, and then you’ll track them down and get all of your old friends back.
Alignment: Neutral Good
As one of the smarter gnomes in your village you were recruited, as one gnome was every generation to tutor the local human noble’s children. It was a great job that everyone wanted and while there, you got training with combat that you wouldn’t have gotten back home. But the best part was teaching the children, until one of them was killed with what looked like a gnomish dagger and poison. You had to go on the run as they thought it was you. You, however, are fairly confident that it was an up and coming neighboring noble that had this done, you just need to prove it.
Class: Any Class
Alignment: Lawful Good
Being small has it’s advantages. It means that I was always able to get into smaller places and get the leftovers in the kitchens while the cooks weren’t looking. That allowed me to survive. My parents left me behind, accidentally I think, in the city when we visited when I was young. I learned quickly to fend for myself and that people weren’t as nice as they seemed. I fell in with a group of children and we were able to survive and eventually we had a nice little group that I was running. Now, I’ve gotten older, a lot of the group has disappeared. I want to go and find my parents if I can to see why I was left behind.
Alignment: Lawful Neutral
That’s a pretty brief overview of playing a gnome. Mordenkainen’s Tome of Foes has more information on gnomes that you can read if you want. Would you play a gnome in a Dungeons and Dragons game?
Share questions, ideas for articles, or comments with us!
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 […]
We’ve had some traps in our dungeons, we’ve got monsters wandering around and patrolling, but what about puzzles. It’s fairly iconic as we get in Lord of the Rings Gandalf puzzling out which direction to go in the Mines of Moria, and also sitting outside of the mines trying to figure out how to get in. In other stories, people have to figure out a sphinxes riddle or say the magic word so that the door to the treasures get unlocked.
So how can you start to add that into your Dungeons and Dragons game?
I do think it’s fun to use because you get more variety in your dungeon when using them. I also think that they can be tricky to use, so I have a few “rules” or suggestions when using puzzles in your dungeons.
1. Don’t Make it Block the Story
Puzzles are a tricky thing to do right, and the biggest issue with doing them right is that sometimes the players and the player characters get stuck on them. A simple color puzzle might seem easy to you based on the hints you were dropping earlier, but the players might have missed it completely. Now they need to get through the puzzle to face the boss of the dungeon, but now you’ve just spent two hours of them getting frustrated and you getting frustrated because they can’t figure out the puzzle. Now, if it was a room that they knew had cool treasure in it, but it was off to the side in the dungeon, they might try and get bored and finish the dungeon, but you didn’t block the story.
2. Don’t Make it Have a Single Solution
This one I’m borrowing from Nerdarchy and other places, but a good puzzle isn’t going to have a single solution. If you have a single solution and they can’t get it, again you’ve blocked the story and enjoyment for everyone in the game, including you. More so, it’s possible that your players are going to come up with a creative solution to the problem that you didn’t think of, and it might be a better one than yours, so let them go through and make that work. Nerdarchy has talked about how one of them doesn’t always have a solution at all to their puzzle. They’ll just make the puzzle and wait until they hear a solution that they like. Now that might be extreme for what you would want to do, but be open to other solutions.
3. Have Clues/Rolls For the Puzzle
Seems fairly obvious, but if you have an idea of what you want, come up with ideas of how you can lead the players to an answer. Come up with things that the characters can roll to find clues. Are they going to be able to discern what the first color is in a color puzzle based off of a really good arcana roll? However, don’t just give the answer. If they are just going to be rolling to find out that the answer to the color puzzle is that you push the colors in the order of ROYGBIV, there’s no need for that puzzle. But if you describe it as the first button is cracked slightly and if you investigate it, you might be able to see inside it to figure out what order that color button should be pushed, you could start giving them clues. Or even if you didn’t want to do that, you could make it an obvious reference back to something that they saw in a previous room that was supposed to be a clue so they could start puzzling it out the way you expected.
4. Put a Timer on it
This one might seem less obvious, but if the players are taking a long time figuring it out, give them a break by sending a Goblin or other patrol around that makes sense for your dungeon. This should just be one or two guys, but maybe while someone else is working on a roll or trying to rewire the puzzle so they can make it through, the rest are fighting. But give those moments that make it feel like the dungeon is a living and breathing thing. But beyond that also put a timer on it in your head how long they can be stuck at this. If it takes too long, there’s nothing wrong with a goblin who has figured it out, or the big bad of the dungeon even, opening it up, and coming out and attacking the players and short cutting it. But this means you don’t burn a whole session or more with your players being stuck.
5. A Wrong Answer Should Bring them Closer to the Right Answer
Going back to the color puzzle to explain what it is, say the players start out by pushing the green button, there should be something, probably a D6 of electrical damage to tell them that it was wrong, but when they push the red button first it shouldn’t give them any damage. So even if they have to piece together the order and don’t figure it out because of your awesome clues, they are still going to be getting closer and they only have to the potential of getting smashed with 20d6 damage total if they are really unlucky. But again, it might help them get closer to the right solution faster.
6. The Wrong Answer Should Have a Cost
To tie in with the previous one, the wrong answer should have a cost, no matter how big or how small. If there is a right answer, like with the ROYGBIV one that the players need to figure out, there should be a cost. However, the trap shouldn’t have a major cost, the person who created the puzzle likely wouldn’t want to actually kill themselves if they got it wrong. So a D6 of damage for a lower level party, that is pretty big, for a higher level party, it’s still using up some lower level resources that they might have wanted to save for the big bad.
Now, you can see how a few of these things might be hard to do at the same time. Only having one right solution might be the case for the ROYGBIV color puzzle, but that one you should set-up really easily so that the players with a tiny bit of experimentation can figure it out. And I’d really lean into doing everything else if the players don’t get it quickly. Send in a goblin who is wearing a red shirt and do that until they get it really obviously in there head that red might be important.
But having a puzzle is really about having fun, and letting the players figure something out more than the player characters. This is one time where meta gaming and table talking about what you as players are thinking is important. It’s going to make for more of a fun time than everyone thinking quietly or the person who is playing the 4 intelligence barbarian just sitting there twiddling there thumbs and not helping because there character is dumb, even if they are very smart.
Sometimes you will build the puzzle for the characters, but in that case, they should be extremely simple and should be something that you know that player knows. Maybe it’s for the player who has the Sword of 1000 Smites (or some other made up magic item), and they have to make the decision if they want to find what they hope is a better treasure or something about their long lost family member who went missing when they were ten, but lose the sword by sacrificing it. That’s less of a puzzle, though could be a worded as a puzzle, but the real game part there is for the player to decide what to do as their character versus figure out some riddle.
Have you used puzzles in your games? Have you ever made one that your players got stuck on?
Share questions, ideas for articles, or comments with us!
I’ve talked with Dwarves and Elves about how they were inspired by Lord of the Rings. But there aren’t any Halflings in Lord of the Rings. There are Hobbits, obviously. So how close are Hobbits to Halflings? Very close, Halflings are the fun loving, food […]
Going slightly out of order of what I wrote in the first post about dungeons, but I think this one is useful to talk about early on because it is often a big factor with an ecosystem.
Traps are something that I haven’t used in my game all that often. I don’t use them all that often because they are hard to use. If you use them too often, players are going to start checking for traps every ten feet to avoid them, and that is also if they are too deadly. If they aren’t a threat and you use them rarely, it feels like a gotcha if you end up having a harsh trap in there that could take out of character of that has on-going damage.
But traps are a common part of Dungeons and Dragons. In particular, they are a common part of dungeons. So how do you add them to your game in a way that isn’t going to grind the story to a halt as players search for traps over and over and over again?
Firstly, should traps be deadly? I think the answer to that should be potentially, or at least they should be taxing. A trap that does 2d6 to a 10th level character is nothing, unless you’re the wizard (and you shouldn’t be in front if you’re the wizard). So maybe the trap isn’t deadly, but maybe it gives you a condition, like poisoned that gives you disadvantage on attack rolls and ability checks while you are poisoned. That sucks if you can’t take care of it, and if you can take care of it, that’s going to be using up a spellcasters resource, which is taxing on the part as a whole. Or you make them potentially deadly or at least damaging enough that you are again using up resources, such as with a a healer having to heal the rogue if they step in the trap.
But, secondly, this doesn’t deal with the issue of the players checking every ten feet for traps. So what do you do so that it doesn’t bog down the game? There are several solutions that can work, though some of them I like better with others. Let’s talk about the two that I don’t like as well first. You can tell the players that you’ll call for the roll when it’s needed. So they can’t ask for an investigation roll for traps, you’ll just do that when there is going to be a trap. The issue with this is that you have to set-up rules for how this is going to work. It’s going to be a single roll by the character who is in front. The whole party doesn’t get to roll otherwise it bogs everything down too much. Another option is to use their passive perception/investigation. Yes, there is such a thing as passive investigation, but don’t use it. The issue with this method is that you are going to have an idea of what their passive perception/investigation is, so you will know ahead of time which traps are going to hit them.
Finally, and this will lead into using traps in dungeons more so, is my new preferred method. In this method, you are going to describe where a trap is/or what type of trap might be in the hallway. Let me give you some examples. There is a resetting spike trap where spikes come out of the walls. Well, you describe a pile of old bones of someone in plate mail with giant spike holes in the armor. Now the players know there is a trap there, but they don’t know how it’s triggered, they don’t know how much damage it will do, beyond enough to kill that guy some time ago, and they don’t know how to get through. And since there is something that they need to get, they now have to figure out a way to get through and what triggers the trap, then maybe see if they can disarm it. Or, maybe they are in a dungeon in a volcano so there is lava running around. So in one of the hallways they see a partially closed pit trap where a burned skeleton is reaching out, and they see more floor tiles ahead of that color. Now it becomes a challenge for them to get across those spots without falling in. It also means that a lava trap, which would probably be deadly, can be deadly, because a bad roll and a slip onto the title can kill the PC because it isn’t a gotcha surprise.
So I’ve already started, in my preferred method, talking about some of the traps that make sense for a dungeon. But let’s talk about why ecosystems matter with traps. There is a good video that Nerdarchy did on traps (sorry don’t have the link), but in it they talk about a dungeon they had created, might have been a Dwarven dungeon, but now there were Kobolds and Goblins in it. All the traps when triggered released blades or arrows that were above the head height of a Goblin or Kobold, which is why they were able to live there. Or, you could also do that the Goblins and Kobolds were light enough not to trigger the trap. So if you have a gnome rogue, they might not trigger the trap, but the human will. You can see with traps that are triggered in that way, it’s going to make sense to have monsters running throughout. If you put Duergar in there, and they are tall enough to get hit, they would leave, because they couldn’t access more than a little bit of the dungeon. So the traps might determine the ecosystem in the dungeon.
But with that, you also have to consider what traps the original creators of the dungeons would have put in there. If it’s a temple that is protecting a treasure, there is going to be some way for the priests to get down there without triggering all of the traps, so can your players figure out why that might be. Or if it’s a dungeon to keep something trapped inside, it could be that there aren’t many traps that trigger when you head into the dungeon, but coming back out might not have as many monsters to fight, but you’ll be dealing with all of the traps. Also, a wizard is going to have a whole lot more inventive traps than say a noble might because the wizard can just naturally set-up traps that have magical effects, where as a noble is going to have to pay someone if they aren’t/weren’t a magic user themselves, and it might be easier to just go with non-magical traps.
Finally, I think another thing to consider is if you want the traps to reset or not. Some traps are going to be one and done traps that then have to be manually reset, and if there is no one upkeeping them, the adventuring party is going to run across some traps that are already triggered that they won’t have to worry about. Some traps are going to be self resetting and probably magical in nature, even if the trap doesn’t deal magical damage. These the players are going to see the results of the damage, but not what the trap is in particular.
As you can tell, using traps is a tricky proposition, but I think one that is worthwhile. I do like, besides maybe traps that use minor resources, like a little healing or poison the party, being ones that the players can tell are there, and the challenge isn’t if they can spot the trap, but whether or not they can get past it without triggering it, or if they can figure out how to disable it. Those will work better than having a wizard accidentally trigger a trap and dying.
What do you think of traps in a D&D game? Do you use them if you run a game?
Share questions, ideas for articles, or comments with us!