Tag: Wizards of the Coast

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…

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 be looking to complete it?

First, what do I mean by complete a campaign. I think that there are a few different things, but I want to clarify a few things that it isn’t. First, it doesn’t mean that you get to level 20, in fact, very few campaigns ever get to level 20, and the campaign books that Wizards of the Coast puts out for Dungeons and Dragons, most of those stop around level 10. The reason being, anything else would be too much leveling quickly, and they don’t want to start at a mid level campaign, because it’s harder for new players to jump in there. It also doesn’t mean t hat the campaign ends for one of several reasons. When I say completed I’m talking about the story the DM has set forth being done.

Image Source: Wizards

Why might your campaign end, there are two main reasons. The group falling apart or the DM burning out. There can be a lot of reasons for the first one, the group falling apart. It can be because someone moves away, or someone gets too busy, or really anything that might divide the group. It’s unfortunate that it happens, but it does happen, and there isn’t much you can do about it. The other one of DM burnout can come for a couple of reasons. If the DM is driving the story and the players are passengers on the DM’s story, it makes it a lot of work for the DM. Or the DM can have split up there story so much that it has become too much work for them to keep all of the threads together, or it might just be that the DM has been a DM for a very long time.

But, that’s not how we want our campaign to end. Whether you’re building up to that final epic encounter against the evil deity at level 20, or the BBEG who is a Wizard you can fight at level 10, you want to finish the story. It’s more satisfying for the DM and for the players. And, if you can do that, you likely will create more people who want to continue playing or maybe try running their own game.

So what can you do as the DM? I’ll come back later for players.

  1. Keep the story varied. And by that, if you are going to have McGuffins around that the players have to collect, keep the collection process different and changing. Make the settings feel unique and make what the players need to do feel very different so that they feel like they’re not just hacking and slashing their way through the same adventure.
  2. Keep the players involved in the story telling. If you want the players to feel like their not just along for the ride, have them help you come up with details. This can be tricky if you aren’t great at improv, but if you aren’t, send out Google Surveys to your players between sessions, have them give you character names or descriptions of places that you can work into your next session as you continue planning it. This means that it isn’t just going to be your creative juices in it, so the players are more apt to stay involved with the story and you, as the DM, are less likely to burn out.
  3. Take Breaks. It’s a surprising one, but I think it’s good. If you are playing every two week for four hours, take a break every six months and just cancel a game or however often you need it. This, again, helps with burnout so that you don’t feel like you’re always pushing to your next session of the game.
  4. Don’t feel like you have to push to level 20. It’s fine for a game, and normal for a story to be complete before level 20. You might have thought you wanted the big bad to be fought at level 20, but to help with your burnout or the odds of someone dropping out, keep your story tight. That way you won’t burn out and players won’t get bored, and if you can tell a good and tight story to level 20, more power to you, but it isn’t needed.
Image Source: Wizards of the Coast

So that was for DM’s, but it’s also on the players, there are things you can do to help complete your game:

  1. Miss as little as possible. It seems fairly obvious, but if you aren’t there or if enough players aren’t there, the story probably won’t progress as fast so that you don’t miss anything important. Now, at a larger table, it might still progress, but get caught up on your own time, don’t slow down the game when you get there just so you can be caught up. And when you do miss, let the DM know as far ahead of time as possible.
  2. Be engaged. This is several things rolled into one. Being engaged means don’t be on your phone at the table, unless you’re looking up a spell or ability. That contributes to DM burnout. Be ready to help the DM when they ask for it in terms of creating the world and more of the setting. I often ask for character names or descriptions, be ready to come up with some on the fly, and if you can’t, that’s fine, just don’t be surprised when the DM asks. Also know your character sheet. It’s a pretty simple engagement, take the notes you need so that you know what you are going to need to do. And finally, be engaged with the planning of missions and the story. It’s so many things, but if you have a side conversation or if you are just even passive in the story, it causes more DM burnout and can end a campaign before it’s time.
  3. Share the spotlight. You might be always engaged, you might never miss a session, and those things are huge for keeping the DM going in the game, but if you hog the spotlight as a player, it might cause other players to do the first two items on the players list. As the RPG Academy says, “If you’re having fun, you’re doing it right.” And that means fun for you and fun for everyone at the table. So share the spotlight, if you see someone who isn’t engaged, get them more engaged in the game. The DM might not have noticed, but you have the same power to take control of the story and get the player engaged as the DM does in a lot of cases.
  4. Be open and honest with the DM. If you aren’t enjoying the game, or if there aren’t parts of the game that you enjoy. Let the DM know, but better yet, let the DM know what you are enjoying. Framing the positives of what is really keeping you engaged allows the DM to do more things that they know the players will like, versus having to guess at what might work only if you say what you don’t like. And this can be tricky, especially after a rough session, but take a minute the day after to text or e-mail your DM and let them know what you’ve liked or what you haven’t and you’ll find that the game likely improves and it means that the DM has something more focused to prepare.

There are going to be more tips, I’m sure, for completing a campaign. But this is a good spot to start if you’re a DM or if you’re a player. Realize, still, that there are going to be a lot of campaigns that just end, and that isn’t a bad thing. But if you can bring your game to completion, you’re going to have a ton of fun with it and create some memories in the process.

What are some things you’ve used for running a game to the completion of it’s story? Are there things as a player you’ve found that have helped you?

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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…

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 it!

In all seriousness, you can turn Dungeons and Dragons into whatever game you want, and clearly I’m joking around at the top, but it isn’t something that I’ve written about before.

So how is this game going to work?

I have a couple of different ideas. The first being that there is a crashed spaceship that the players are tasked with exploring. It’s something that the people know about but no one has ever been able to get into it. The players are now tasked by some adventuring outlet to figure out a way to get into it.

Image Source: D&D Beyond

That’s the point where I’d kick off the adventure. The player characters are off to get this open and dealing with getting to the inhabitable area and fighting some things like goblins or some bandits who have set-up camp around the spaceship. Once they’ve gotten it cleared out, they now have to figure out how to get in.

With getting in, get a bit meta with it. Make it something that the players would recognize, but not the player characters. Or create a puzzle for the players, not the characters. I think that can be the reason that no one has gotten into it before, because anything too obvious or too easy, why hasn’t someone gotten in before. Create a tricky set of puzzles, or create it as a challenge for the players. You can even create an in game mechanic of some sort for the players to get a more information about it, if you need to.

Once they are in two things should happen. It should still be a challenge to explore because it’s all weird and foreign to the players, and there is probably still an active defense. But, more importantly, and not known to the players, them opening up the ship has caused a distress signal to be sent, so now there are going to be aliens coming to their world. However, that’s going to take a bit as the world you’re characters are on is at the edge of the universe. I’d eventually have the player characters figure out that the message has been sent.

So now there is only a limited amount of time for the PCs to figure out how to defend against the aliens. Especially since they should already be familiar with the alien technology and how dangerous it can be. And most likely they are going to need to get the ship back into the air. You can hand wave some of the figuring out what everything is, mainly just focus on the main systems, getting weapons, getting engines, and getting it off the ground. I’d make there to be some fetch quests of sorts where the players need to either get back and put back something that was scavenged off the outside of the spaceship or something that looks similar to something on their world that is broken on the ship.

Image Source: Order of the Gamers

And then you get to end by turning it into a Star Wars game. Where the players have fixed up the ship and find them up against an Imperial Cruiser. Now, that is a bit absurd, but not too absurd for this game. But I’d end the campaign with a space battle. Give them a warm-up battle against a scout ship but then have to take on a small salvage fleet.

Now, that’s game one, the other one is that the alien’s have already attacked. Borrowing from Stargate SG1, it’s possible that because you’re less advanced than the aliens, you are slave labor. And you were recently taking off of one planet and you want to stop the alien slavery.

In this one it’s about escaping where ever the PC’s are. This will be some combat and a lot of stealth. The PC’s are going to need to escape and get onto a ship, but the ship isn’t something that the players should be able to figure out, so a lot of the game can be done as stealth on a ship and trying to avoid the aliens.

I’d have the players hop to the main planet at some point and get stranded there. In fact, you could plant as a plot thread that they can wipe the coordinates from a main computer or mark their planet as destroyed or some terrible event having happened to save their planet. Again, really lean into the alien nature of this for the players. Have the jail cells on the ship be pretty normal to what their fantasy culture would expect, so you get that reveal for the PC’s of what has happened.

The end game should definitely be to get back to their planet though. I think compared to the other game, this one can be run faster and run at a lower character level. You never what them to feel like they can completely go toe to toe with a large number of aliens.

Do either of these seem like fun games to play? Which one would you prefer to play or run?

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D&D Alignment – Lawful Good

D&D Alignment – Lawful Good

We’re starting in the top corner of the alignment matrix. Just a quick reminder, the alignment matrix goes from Lawful to Chaotic on the horizontal axis and Good to Evil on the vertical axis. So let’s talk about what a lawful good PC is like,…

D&D Party – Congo Alignment

D&D Party – Congo Alignment

Final topic for things to think about with a party. We’re going to try and figure out what alignments you should have in your adventuring party. Probably a trickier subject because some people really don’t want an evil character with their good character, or they…

D&D Party – Party People in the House

D&D Party – Party People in the House

Alright, you have your number of people and you’re sitting down at the table. It’s session zero and everyone wants to play a wizard, is there a right way to create your party?

I think that this is a more interesting question than the party size question, but has just as vague and answer. It’s totally acceptable to have a party that is all wizards, as a DM, you just have to adjust for that, but there is an ideal party balance. However, 5e is built so you can ignore that if you want.

Image Source: D&D Beyond

The ideal party balance goes back to what I said in the previous article, it assumes that you are going to have a Wizard, a Cleric, a Fighter, and a Rogue, or someone that fits into each of those archetypes. But I think a more useful way to look at it is do you have someone for each pillar of the game?

Wait, what are the pillars of D&D?

Exploration, Combat, and Social are the three pillars that most D&D games are built on, though fairly often I would say that exploration is not fully used. Some of that is because people just don’t like the resource management aspect that can be in exploration. It’s also more fun to fight something or talk to an NPC than it is exploring which seems more passive for the players and more on the DM to describe what is going on.

These pillars are important though when creating your adventuring party. You want to have player characters who do cover all of these. Now, I generally wouldn’t say that each character should be good at all of them, but all of them should be good at either social or exploration and then generally you want them to be competent at combat.

If the players and DM focus on hitting these pillars in session zero, the ideal party combination doesn’t matter much. For example, I’ve run games where we have two rangers, a paladin, and a wizard. We don’t have a tank character, but you just have to change which monsters you select and how they work. Maybe they are harder to hit, but don’t deal tons of damage as the paladin is the closest we have to a tank. Or were there was a fighter, wizard, and rogue. In that case, you have no healing, so you either have to hand out some healing potions, or have larger fights, but less fights during a day, so the player characters are less likely to die.

Image Source: D&D Beyond

So, to recap, any party combo is going to work. It’s probably more important that they work in your world, such as don’t have a party of wizards when wizards are really rare, unless they are fine being extremely unique, and maybe that’s the plot there. But make it work for your world and your game, but any combo is playable in Fifth Edition Dungeons and Dragons.

What are some odd player character combinations that you’ve had? Are there any that you thought didn’t work or that were weird but fun to play?

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Friday Night D&D – The Devil’s Maw

Friday Night D&D – The Devil’s Maw

We are back for our regular Friday special, looking at a grim world where hell has come to earth. But it’s not all bad or is it? A portal from the abyss has opened up a few generations ago in terms of humans, and probably…