Got back to my D&D game last night. We’re far enough in that I’m only going to do a quick recap of what happened last time instead of everything. Last time they beat the other two teams to the end of their midterm. It was …
We were back at it again last night with the third session of Tower of the Gods. Previously, our “heroes” Barrai, Bokken, and Thrain had gone through the test of the Tower with Steve as their fourth, unfortunately, Steve didn’t make it. Upon exiting the …
Two weeks ago, I ran my first session in the Tower of the God’s campaign. We got back to it again this past Thursday where our main character, Barrai, Thrain, and Bokken have completed the trial of the tower. For more information on that part of the story, you can find it in the original post, Friday Night D&D – Tower of the Gods (Part 1). Last night, they needed to do some shopping and figure out where they wanted to go.. to school, for their new skills.
Quick reminder of our characters:
Thrain the Hill Dwarf who became a Hexblade Warlock
Bokken the War Forged who was granted the ability to become a great Fighter (Samurai)
Barrai the Tiefling who now gets to use their musical and story telling skills as a Bard (sub-class to be determined)
At this point in time, they are all level 1.
Upon leaving the tower they were given what basically was an exit interview to gather what their powers they had been granted. A runner took all of their skills around to the various schools, but the characters (players) were given a free choice of what school they wanted to pick as a group.
There were eight different schools:
School of Spying and Espionage
School of War and Combat
School of Charm and Seduction
School of Wisdom
School of Business and Money
School of Order and Government
School of Nature and Raw Emotion
School of Dark Arts and Assassination
They went with the last one, though they did debate for a little while around some other the other ones, The School of War and Combat made sense and they were also interested in Nature and Raw Emotion. At that booth they spoke to Tormin, a recruiter and one of the teachers at the School of Dark Arts and Assassination and had to explain why they wanted to go and what skills they had that would be useful for the Strawhog – Ye Old School of Darkness and Magic. Tormin told them that they’d be in a barracks, bunk house, type set-up with another person who had gone through the trial of the Tower at the same time as them, a Gnome named Dorin.
Then I gave them two weeks of time to do whatever they wanted, Barrai practiced the harpsichord, Bokken picked up work at a warehouse and made a bunch of money moving boxes non-stop for that time. Thrain went to brush on his fighting and sparring at a local combat focused gym.
Showing up at the school, Strawgoh, they met Dorin. He was a pompous little gnome who clearly had a chip on his shoulder and was trying to be important. Barrai made friends with him by bribing him with a gold piece, but Bokken really didn’t acknowledge him, and Thrain constantly referred to him as a halfling, as a goof, though the best part was when the player, not the character, forgot that it wasn’t a halfling. They dropped their stuff off in the barracks and then joined the other nine students for their introduction to the school.
Head Mistress Assandial told them about the school, about how hard it was going to be, about how they still might die, even in the school and if anyone wanted to leave now they could. But everyone stuck it out. She then told them what became the focus of the rest of the session, there were two spies in their midst, two of the people had been recruited prior to the test of the Tower and already had some training. Those two would get extra credit if they could stay hidden for the year. But if someone correctly figured out who they were, they could get those extra credit points. But wrong guesses, there was a consequence for that.
Bokken immediately began investigating and looked for the people who stood out the most, the richest, the prettiest, whatever caught his eye. He spotted a halfling who looked rich and spoke to Narius. While Narius was a bit of a pompous jerk, Bokken didn’t get the feeling that Narius was likely a spy at that time and decided to offer to work for him if he had a job. Which, Narius said he would consider it once they graduate and he started his own assassin’s guild.
They talked to a bunch of other of their classmates, Domon a Tiefling Warlock who wasn’t that smart. Thrain interjected himself into a conversation between Cordin a Dragonborn Wizard and Sadran the Aasimar Wizard who Bokken had noticed earlier. Sadran was nice enough, but Cordin treated Thrain fairly rudely. They talked to Addruss a Human Fighter who had gone through the Trial of the Tower with Castilla a Wood Elf Rogue.
Barrai used his ability to cast the message spell to get information from Domon that he’d gone through the tower trial with the Aasimar, Sadran, and an Elf whom the players haven’t talked to yet.
At one point, Dorin, appointing himself, or trying to appoint himself, leader of the barracks decided to confront the party and see if they’d just tell them that they were spies. However, the party turned it on him pointing out that he was the only to survive the group of four, which seemed fairly suspicious to them.
Finally, the party talked to Edzial, a Dwarf whom they don’t know what class she has yet. However, she says that she went through the trial with Domon, Sadran, and the elf that they didn’t talk to. And the characters call her out on that. She gives a reason that they is investigating to see how much they know, but the players note that she, like Dorin, is the only one who didn’t have party survive the trial of the tower.
The players, since they decided that they could trust Castilla, spoke with her about their suspicions as to who might be the spies, but they really didn’t have all that much proof and they didn’t want a wrong accusation on their record. Barrai, since he is also a Tiefling and Domon had made a big deal out of that earlier, leveraged that friendship to convince Domon, not the brightest character, that he should go and accuse Dorin for them.
And that’s where I ended the session with Domon off to do that.
The DM Notes portion, if you don’t want to see behind the screen don’t read further.
There were only a handful of rolls in this session, once they started talking to people, they rolled for several insight checks but that was about it. I’ve run sessions like this before with little rolling but it wasn’t planned.
So about the planning itself, I had all 8 schools determined and I had the cast of characters, teachers and students whom they’d meet at whatever school they went to. Would they have always been paired with Dorin, no, Barrai asked early who they were going to be paired with, and I had him roll a D10 to determine which out of 11 students they’d be paired with, yes the math doesn’t work.
Also, for preparing for something like this, don’t come up with a new batch of teachers and students for each school, my four teachers (two of them met so far), and nine students were going to have the same names no matter what. Now, the fact that Dorin is a Gnome Rogue and Castilla is a Wood Elf Rogue, those things could have changed.
I was also potentially prepared for combat in this scenario. Only because they went to the school of Dark Arts and Assassination did they end up being a test and students. It was going to be a school who was going to send in some spies that the players would have had to have fought and figured out what they were after instead. But it worked well this way for the school.
Strawgoh is Hogwarts backwards and because of that Bokken now has a commanding officer, mentor named Rettop Yrrah as well, Harry Potter backwards.
This session went really well and I had a lot of fun with it, even though it wasn’t dice chucking combat or an epic set piece of massive story, it was a bunch of different smaller social interactions, some funny, some normal that the players had. Even with the funny ones probably being the most entertaining, the players have already gravitated and made Castilla someone who is going to be important later because they trust her, you never know who they will pick.
Feel free to steal ideas from this for your own game and let me know, what would you have picked for a school in the players shoes? Do you think they are right and Dorin is a spy (I should say, spies were set before they got Dorin as a bunk mate)?
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So, I got back into running some Dungeons and Dragons last night on Zoom. Three/four player game that I’ve named Tower of the Gods. I think I previously did a Friday Night D&D explaining the concept, but I’m going to do that here again and …
Almost forgot to share this, it was a rush, but I go through nine different level 1 characters for Dungeons and Dragons. I was hoping that I could knock them out fast, but it took a little bit, but I got them done. And I demonstrated how you can use D&D Beyond to create your characters as well.
These will be a characters that I’m going to be using in a one shot. So I created a good variety of characters. I had a question asked that I missed last night, but basically, I didn’t go with two personality traits because I wanted to keep the characters more generic for a one shot.
The beer last night was from Indeed Brewery. Mexican Honey Light Lager. It’s a good beer and a nice light one. Not the best winter beer, but I wasn’t feeling a big and heavy beer last night.
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.
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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