We hit what basically amounted to the first big story point and some resolution of that this session. The players after spending so much time at school get into a nice fight in this session.
Tag: Dungeons and Dragons Advice
I want to continue talking about Dungeons and Dragons and what you need to bring to the table when you play a game. I talked about a lot of the physical things, who needs what books, everyone needing dice and paper and pencil. All of those things are good, but I think there is a more important thing that people need to bring to the table but less of a physical thing.
The first thing that everyone needs to bring to the table is fun. Dungeons and Dragons is meant to be a fun experience. Even if the game is serious and the stakes are high, it shouldn’t feel like work playing it. You should leave still having a memorable experience, and a memorable experience should be something that you want to tell others about and should be fun. Now, I want to say, fun doesn’t mean it needs to be goofy, silly, light-hearted, while all of those can be fun, so can a serious or darker game. But everyone at the table needs to help everyone else have fun while having fun themselves. As The RPG Academy says: “If you’re having fun you’re doing it right.”
Now, flexibility isn’t something that people might think about. And everything, really, ties into having fun. What I mean with flexibility is that as the Dungeon Master when the players find and almost kill the big bad guy or banish them somehow to another plane before you’re ready, you can adapt and change. When the Dungeon Master adds something to a player character’s backstory or a debt or obligation, the player can adapt to that.
Now, a Dungeon Master shouldn’t make a character do something that is out of character, and players shouldn’t be intentionally trying to punch holes into the story the Dungeon Master is helping the players weave. Those things, however, happen from time to time. Even when players and the Dungeon Master keep an eye out so it doesn’t happen, it will happen. So be flexible so when it does happen you are ready to adjust and adapt and keep having fun.
Preparation matters most to the Dungeon Master, and most to some Dungeon Master. I bullet point out a few keys for a session, and that is my preparation. For other Dungeon Masters preparation means that they spend hours planning out set piece encounters and building those set pieces, NPCs, and whatever else it might be. This also includes the campaign preparation of where the Dungeon Master wants to direct the whole of the game.
For the players, preparation means they know their characters. Also, when characters need to be leveled up, that is done by the start of the next session, if they don’t do it in the session. Knowing ones character entails the skills and bonuses that you have to stats, having an understanding or your spells or where to find what they do, knowing what new spells you have, how many spell slots you have, what various attacks do, and what your default is going to be on an attack.
Preparation isn’t fun always. I like figuring out the highlights for my next session, personally, but it seems like work at times as well. The reason we prepare goes back to having fun. Down time is not that much fun, a meandering story with little focus or changing focus is not as much fun. I put fun at the top for that reason, because having fun in the most important and everything else leads into it.
The RPG Academy really has it right here. Playing a game should always be about having fun. Getting rules perfectly right is less important than having fun. And attitude at the table should always be leading into having fun. As the Dungeon Master, you help people stay engaged by preparing and following the queues of the players. As players, you grab onto storylines and see where they go and give clear signs and directions to the Dungeon Master. You also don’t hog the spotlight from other players at the table.
What is the most important attitude at the Dungeons and Dragons gaming table for you?
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, …
Now, this monster is a bit different than the other ones that I’ve talked about. This one is just a monster not with abysmal intelligence but with fairly low INT at 7 (-2 modifier), so it isn’t going to be your plotting or planning sort of monster. Now, that doesn’t mean that it’s dumb, the wisdom is actually fairly high. So let’s look at what this monster does.
A Behir is a monster that lives in the underdark and is a huge creature that lives in the tunnels, paths, and dark recesses down there. The advantage for the DM of it being a huge creature is what it has some fun abilities. It can swallow your medium sized PC’s no problem or wrap it up and constrict it. So it’s something different than your normal bite and claw attacks that you get. In fact, while it can certainly bite you, and needs to do so to swallow you, it doesn’t have a claw attack at all. Instead, it gets lightning breath which is something that the PC’s will undoubtedly appreciate.
Now, this creature is clearly not one to be trifled with, at a CR of 11, you are looking at a party of four at eighth level to be able to take it down in a hard combat. If you’re adding in any additional monsters, it is going to be even tougher to take down and you’re probably looking at a party of level 10 or so with a couple of additional opponents that aren’t just one hit cannon fodder.
In game, I think there are some good ways to use it and I would definitely recommend using it. Because it’s attacks are so different and it has a lot of HP and a decently high armor class, it’s going to be a challenging battle. The attacks are really going to add variety to your game with what otherwise might just be a standard hack and slash encounter. You can certainly use a behir as a random encounter, but I have some other ideas as well.
One idea that I like is to use it as a form of drow transport. It’s a huge sized creature so why not let it pull something. Going back to something I did in a game of mine, have it be a drow circus that the wagons are being pulled by a bunch of behir. This could really start off as a social encounter where the player characters interact with the drow in the circus and eventually find themselves are participants on it to find out that the main attraction is going to be them taking on a behir with some drow elite warriors or assassins not really partaking in the battle, but forcing the player characters back into the confrontation with the behir if they try and run. All while there is a cheering audience around them. As a side quest, I think it could be really cool, even just as something that the players find themselves in for no great reason other than their curiosity, it would give a nice standalone session of and something to do on the way to a larger quest point. I could see using the circus caravan as a way to move the players more quickly through an area to get to where they need to go, but also to have, then the circus battle happen, so not really plot related, but cuts out some of the down time with something more interesting.
Less of a combat encounter, but more of a how do we get away from this, have your players stumble across a pack of behir. Maybe, the players have been tracking down a group of duergar who have something that the players want, some information, ideally written down, and the poor duergar have stumbled across this pack of five behir. Even at level 20, 5 behir are deadly to a party of four, theoretically. So the question then becomes, for the players, how do the player characters get into the area where the dead duergar’s packs are, search the packs, and get back out without the behir killing them as well. Can they figure out a way to chase the behir away, or maybe they can somehow stealth in, or maybe it’s an attempt to out pace, unlikely, or outwit the behir. It could even be a way for them to lure a behir or two at a time and take them out, but give them the situation and see what they come up with. Though, I’d maybe have them run across a behir before hand so that they know what they are getting into.
Are behir a monster you’ve used in your games or seen used in a game? I know that Matt Mercer in Critical Role used a behir in either episode 27 or 28, sounds like introduced in 27 anyways. So that’s something to checkout for ways to use a behir as well. Would you use a behir in your game?
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In D&D, and other RPG’s, fairly often a special item is just something like a +1 sword, yay, you can hit better and do more damage, but not all that exciting. Every adventurer worth their salt has a +1 sword. The same for a ring of walking on water, okay, that one is cooler. But a lot of the times what players want, because of their practicality is the +1 weapon and the +1 armor. Those a great and fine for mechanically in the game, but not that interesting, and a +1 sword gets tossed aside when the +2 sword comes along.
So what can you do to make magic items still be useful but more interesting? There are several different ways you can do that, and it ties some into my Friday Night D&D that was also posted today, but you can name the weapon, make it sentient, make it cursed, give it unique properties, or let it evolve.
The point of naming a weapon is that a +1 long sword isn’t that exciting, but Gregor Falhelm’s Long Sword or The Shadow Blade, those are interesting. Who is Gregor Falhelm and why is this sword known as that? That’s something the players can checkout. The Shadow Blade clearly has a lot of history with it as well. Now, they’ll still probably toss it aside when a +2 sword comes along, but in the mean time, you can have a quest for them to track down the history of the sword. Maybe Gregor Falhelm was a famed adventurer who was known for something and now the player will try and live up to it. Or The Shadow Blade is a weapon from a famed assassin that had belonged to a thieve’s guild years ago but had gone missing, and now that you have it and people have seen it, the thieve’s guild wants it back. The names can generate more story for you to play with and make it more memorable than just a +1 long sword.
Another thing you can do is give the weapon a personality. Allow it to communicate telepathically with it’s wielder. Maybe Gregor Falhelm died defending an orphanage and because of that his soul was attached to the blade and he can tell them about years ago or give advice when needed. Or The Shadow Blade because of all of the assassinations it has helped with and all the blood on it, maybe it has a dark personality that urges that player to kill. Again, only a +1 sword, no extra abilities, but now you have something more for the player to interact with. How do they deal with a sword that is constantly urging them to kill? Gregor Falhelm is interesting to listen to, but very long winded, what does the player think of that. Give it a unique personality so that the players get a memorable experience with that weapon and it’ll be more than just a +1 long sword to them.
Cursing a weapon is always a fun surprise to pull to make it memorable as well. With a curse, make it something that is annoying but not game breaking. Maybe The Shadow Blade thirsts for blood and will cut the wearer if they don’t get blood on it otherwise. Maybe if they get too far away from it the cursed soul of Gregor Falhelm, because he couldn’t save the orphans and now it’s just a constant weeping that only the player can hear from the sadness and they have disadvantage to hit because Falhelm doesn’t want to kill anymore. There are a lot of negative things you could add to a magic item to make it more interesting. A wand of fireballs, but you don’t know where they’ll go. A ring of water walking that walks your feet along the surface of the water, but from the bottom side. Be creative with the negative affects because again, we’re trying to make things more memorable.
Unique properties is one that is fairly tame, kind of like naming the weapon. Just give it something small or as big that it can do as well. +1 sword, well there’s a magical word to make it glow. Now you don’t need more torches, but the sword is more interesting. Or the word for the glowing sword is common so it’s possible that it could be triggered at the wrong time by anyone saying the wrong thing. One idea I had was a sword of reincarnation. If you died by that sword, within 7 days your soul would find a new body to go into, so you really aren’t dead, but you’re probably pissed that someone tried to kill you. That makes for a great story. It could just be that the +1 sword of Gregor Falhelm glows blue whenever an orphan is near. Or The Shadow Blade adds a mark for each person it’s killed on the blade and if it ever gets full something will happen.
Finally, make it evolve. Take what you’ve learned from above and make it get better along with the player. Now The Shadow Blade, which was just a +1 sword will start to grant a bonus for stealth the more the person kills with it, or when the player character hits level twelve, not only do they get a +2 to attack and damage now it gives a +2 to stealth and deception. Gregor Falhelm’s sword glows in the presence of orphans but the player can unlock what is basically the ability the detect evil with the sword once per long rest or once per short rest. The example I gave in the Friday Night D&D was to make Mjolnir. Don’t start off with this amazing hammer that the person can use to fly with and call lighting with, but start out with just a simple +1 hammer, eventually it does an extra 1d4 of lightning damage. Then the player can once per long rest do 3d10 lightning damage on an attack. Eventually at a higher level, at the start of combat the player can cast call lightning and either use it as a one off level 9 call lightning or it can deal and extra 3d10 on every successful attack. Mjolnir, then, which might have started out as at level one as just a regular war hammer could be for the final epic battle a hammer that grants the user flight (though technically it’s just throwing it and forgetting to let go), throwing it and it returning, +3 to hit, +3 to damage, call lightning at level 9 for a one time affect or call lightning at level 3 for an additional 3d10 lightning damage on every attack. You have the weapon evolve with the player and they don’t forget their their awesome weapon.
So there are a lot of interesting things you can do to make it more than just a +1 long sword or a +1 shield, or even a ring of water walking. You can create something unique and create unique situations for them to use it in. It’s silly for Gregor Falhelm’s sword to glow around orphans, but useful if an orphan is lost in a labyrinth and it glows brighter the closer to the orphan you are. So if you create something odd like that, use it in the story. That’s the other and really the biggest thing, none of these things will make the magical item stand out unless you use it in the story. The item being part of the story and important to the world is going to make it more memorable than anything else, so maybe The Shadow Blade is just a regular long sword with a +1, but if the thieve’s guild is coming after the players, it’s interesting.
What are some memorable magical items or moments with magical items in D&D or other RPG’s that you’ve had in a game? Do you use magic items a lot?
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