Tag: Wizards of the Coast

Malts and Meeples – Drinking in D&D Character Creation Rush

Malts and Meeples – Drinking in D&D Character Creation Rush

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…

Friday Night D&D – Looking for Love in Eberron Places

Friday Night D&D – Looking for Love in Eberron Places

So I just picked up the Eberron source book for fifth edition. And I’ve been waiting for it for a while. With the games that @evilsanscarne and @Mundangerous have run or played in that they talk about on the @TPTCast (Total Party Thrill) podcast, I…

You, Me, and NPC – Building Interesting NPC’s in D&D

You, Me, and NPC – Building Interesting NPC’s in D&D

I’ve been busy with my top 100 list and Halloween for the past couple of weeks, so I haven’t written much about Dungeons and Dragons. Today I’m getting back to it and look at creating an NPC for Dungeons and Dragons.

This is a topic that I believe that I’ve touched on before, but I wanted to revisit it, because it’s been a while, and I think I wrote about it a bit more generally. Like I did with Greenfang and building out a town in Dungeons and Dragons, I want to go through the process of building out an NPC when I do it on my best days.

Image Source: D&D Beyond

So let’s start out with, what is an NPC? An NPC is a non-player character. The players at the table are playing the PCs (player characters), and the DM is controlling the rest of the characters whom they interact with, whether it’s a shop keep, a quest giver, a priestess, or the BBEG (big bad evil guy/gal) of the campaign. Anyone whom the players are going to interact with and hear what they have to say is an NPC.

What do you have NPCs in your game? I touched on this some already, but the big reason is that it helps flesh out your world. If you have interesting NPCs in your game, you are going to have a world that feels more real and it’ll make the stakes of the story seem like they have more meaningful consequences. If the BBEG kidnaps the daughter of the shop keeper who the players always shop with and have gotten to know his family, that has weight for the PC’s.

Do you need to flesh out all of your NPCs? Yes, and no. You never know who the players are going to decide to follow and make important, so it’s smart to have some idea, but it takes work to make a fully fleshed out NPC. So, no, not everyone needs to have a full backstory, only the ones who are important. And that might mean that you have to come up with some of it on the fly, but when you see who the players are interested and interacting with, you can flesh out that NPC between sessions. And if there is an NPC that is going to be important to the story, you can flesh them out ahead of time as well. It would be too much work to flesh out an NPC every time.

What do you need to plan for a fleshed out NPC in the moment? Alright, so your players decided that the shop keeper Weasel Bob was going to be important and their main spot to do business, because he seemed like he was cool. They start asking you what Weasel Bob looks like and if there’s anything interesting about him. The important things to get started in developing your fleshed out NPC in the moment are going to be something about their look and something that they do or is unique about them. And you don’t even have to do all of this.

You don’t? No, you can ask the players to help flesh out an NPC in the moment. If they make the decisions for that NPC, it’s going to create more of a connection to that NPC as well. If you even have a generic shop keep who runs a generic shop and the players ask what the NPC is named, you can ask them to give you a name and what they look like and probably end up with a pretty good Weasel Bob. That also helps you know when fleshing out the character, based off of what the players said in the session, how to create a Weasel Bob that they are going to enjoy.

This technique works well in the moment when you want to have a bar with a number of people in it or to create a few important people in the bar. Have every player at the table go around and tell you about one person or one table full in the bar. Soon you’ll have a lot of characters that you can bring back into the game later and use again to create that richer and more vibrant world. And it means that you don’t have to generate as much content on the fly, because the players are helping to populate your world with NPCs.

So, now we’ve created a bit of a character on the fly in Weasel Bob, he, like I did with Greenfang is going to be the character that I spend some time fleshing out in future articles so demonstrate how you can spend some time and build out interesting and more fulfilling NPC’s in your game. Hopefully there’s been some useful information to grab from the article thus far on why we use NPC’s in D&D and how you can start to generate more meaningful NPC’s on the fly.

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Malts and Meeples – Drinking in D&D

Malts and Meeples – Drinking in D&D

Last night I started in on some D&D Content on my Twitch Channel that is now up on Youtube as well. I meant for it to be a video about what D&D is, but I was a bit all over the place. I think that…

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…

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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Completing Your D&D Game, Does it Ever Really Happen?

Completing Your D&D Game, Does it Ever Really Happen?

I think that this is a very rare thing. I don’t know that a ton of people ever really complete their D&D games. There are multiple reasons for it potentially not being completed. But, is that something that’s okay, or as the DM should you…

Friday Night D&D – The Virtual World

Friday Night D&D – The Virtual World

This came up because of an episode of Total Party Thrill, where they were talking about how you could you virtual worlds or illusion worlds in a game. So what happens if you play a game where this is the main theme of the game?…

D&D Alignment – Lawful Evil

D&D Alignment – Lawful Evil

Welcome to the dark side of Dungeons and Dragons. Today we’re looking at the only evil alignment, in my opinion, that would make sense to join a generally good adventuring party, and that is why they make an interesting character. I also think that Lawful Evil makes for the most interesting alignment for your BBEG.

The reason I think that it makes a good BBEG, is because when you are lawful evil, you still have a set of rules around what you are going to do. A chaotic evil BBEG would have no issues killing off a 1st level adventuring party if they messed one thing up for them. A Lawful Evil BBEG would see that the adventuring party has some promise and try and twist them into joining them or to use them to unwittingly help the BBEG. Thanos is an an example of a lawful evil BBEG, in the movie, in the comics, he’s doing everything to impress Death because he has a Thanos crush. But in the movie, while his plan of destroying have the living beings won’t solve the problem forever, and there are better options, it’s the option he came up with so he’s sticking to it. But he has rules around doing what he is doing. And that is what you want when creating a BBEG for a game, someone who has rules, who has a reason to monologue at the end.

Image Source: D&D Beyond

But, what about on the other side of the DM’s screen for the PC’s. I made a pretty bold statement saying that a lawful evil character is the only one that would join a non-evil adventuring party. Why do I say that? This is similar to your BBEG who has their plan, a lawful evil character is going to be willing to join up with an adventuring party to help complete their own goal or to help stop the BBEG of the game, because it would have a negative effect on their plans as a whole.

A good example of this would be someone in a thieve’s guild. A thieve’s guild isn’t about stealing stuff at random, they are concerned about running the secondary market and the market on illegal goods in a city. If they get out of control, the city guard is going to crush them. Instead they are focused on staying just out of sight and just behind the scene and actually bolstering up the town so that the city leaders are fine having them commit crimes because if they take them out, whomever replaces them would likely be worse.

Image Source: D&D Beyond

Now, that might not make the best adventurer, but you can certainly tie in pieces of that to a character. In that case, you would probably have to focus at least some of the story on that character, probably based around something threatening the balance of that the city and the thieve’s guild have. But even in that case, it can be a side plot, and maybe your character has to work with the adventuring party to gain their trust prior to them helping them with this somewhat questionable thing.

But back to the alignment. A lawful evil character is going to have their own set of rules that creates their laws. Now, some of those laws that they follow might be the actual laws, but most of them are going to be self imposed rules. An example of this for a character, they might not have an issue killing their rivals in cold blood, but they also might not let mind altering potions into the black market because they don’t want to potentially cause chaos. So both of those things might be illegal in the town or nation, but the lawful evil character will only follow one, because it’s good for them.

Another reason that I think that a lawful evil player character is interesting as well, is that a lawful evil character is more likely to have a long term plan. Going back to the Thanos example, in the MCU, he has a plan that he slowly spends time on, he doesn’t grab the infinity stones in a day. In the comics, there is a whole lot more that Thanos does impulsively. So when you roll up a lawful evil character, come up with your long term plan, of what you really want to work towards. For example, maybe you want to take over the government with as little bloodshed as possible, not because the government is at all bad, but because you want to rule. So you could join up with the adventuring party to go to various towns, pay out bribes, make a few threats, and schmooze to get a groundswell of support, and that would be your long term plan, but you team up with the group on their adventurers to be able to do that.

Even with all that said, I do think that you need to really think before you take a lawful evil character into a generally good game. Mainly because as a player there is going to be a lot more work for you in the game than if your alignment is closer to that of the rest of the characters in the game. You are going to have to do your evil things away from the group otherwise you might become their next target. This is easy enough by focusing on it as downtime activities and stuff between sessions when it’s appropriate. But you also have to keep a reason around why you’d continue adventuring. This means that your evil plan is progressing or at least, you are stopping someone else’s evil plan that would interfere with your own. And that is on you, as much as the DM, to do in the game, because the DM has the rest of the table to focus on as well.

I want to add in one final thing that you could think about as well. If you want to play a lawful evil character and drop a big surprise in the game, you can work it out with your DM that your character is going to be the BBEG when all is said and done. Maybe there is another “BBEG” who is doing what you want to do, just not as well, so you have to take them out to take over for them. That would be a great twist to put on the rest of the players at the table, and would be a moment that people remember. I would say, if you do this, once it’s revealed that your character is actually the BBEG, the DM takes over and you pull out your new character who will join the party. That way it doesn’t feel like the odds start to stack up against the players. Unless it’s the case where your character goes BBEG and you immediately have a fight and whatever side wins, that ends the game. Or, one final way to keep control of your character would be to take over yourself as the DM and the DM can pull out a character sheet, which would be a fun twist as well.

Would you play a lawful evil character in a game? Have you played one, and was it in a good campaign? How did it go, if you have?

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Friday Night D&D – When Aliens Attack

Friday Night D&D – When Aliens Attack

Wait, wait, wait, isn’t Dungeons and Dragons fantasy? Yeah, Dungeons and Dragons is epic fantasy and we’re adding aliens into the mix. And not just some weird creatures from another plane, we’re adding in spaceships and craziness like that to Dungeons and Dragons, deal with…