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Incredible Lessons I’ve Learned About

Temporary Hit Points - Thu, 01/17/2019 - 11:31

The Benefits of Using USB Adapters

The invention of the universal serial bus or, the USB caused a lot of changes in technology especially because its now used in very many different things. However, it is important for you to realize that USB technology has continued to improve with better advancements being made. It is possible that there are devices that can be of many to you and you have to look for them. One of the things you need to understand however is that USB technology has been used in the creation of wireless technology. There are also USB adapters that have been used in other areas and have been of benefit to other people. For you to be able to get the most benefits, you have to look for companies that are going to provide you with the most benefits. The Internet is one of the best places where you can find more about these companies. Finding homepage companies that are going to give you the best deal when it comes to USB adapters would be very important and its also something that you will have to prioritize. There are a lot of benefits and can get from using USB adapters and this article is going to explain the same.

One of the reasons why using USB adapters is good is because you not have to use cables anymore and this is going to imply a number of benefits, this link. Because of the USB adapter, your working area is going to look very neat and very organized because, cables can be quite space consuming and rough. When you trip over cables, it can be very damaging to the devices that you have connected using but in addition, it can also cause you to fall and you can get hurt, discover more. Because of the USB adapter therefore, you are able to ensure safety on your premises. In addition to that, because of the use of the USB on this website, youll also not have to use a lot of hardware and this is one of the things that is going to save you a lot of money. You can do some space conversion whereby, you can use the space for something else when you have the USB adapter, view here!

Another reason for using the USB adapter simply because youll also not need to upgrade your computer for you to be stronger when you decide to use the USB up to. The upgrading is usually required because you have to have systems that are comfortable. However, another reason for using the USB or products is because they can always be used on multiple devices making it very convenient for you.

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Categories: Blogs, D&D

5 Takeaways That I Learned About

Temporary Hit Points - Tue, 01/15/2019 - 21:55

Benefits of MAGFAST Chargers

Internet tradition telephone is the advancement which is used when one has web tradition allocate affiliation which will be used when the all-inclusive community need to trade data and voice from one individual to another MAGFAST. It is fundamental for a business to ensure that they have balanced the new development in their associations so they can by and large be in a circumstance to benefit by it. It is basic for a business to ensure that they have constantly had the ability to use the IP telephone system since it will help them with lessening the cost of telephone making which they will be charged by the telephone companies. The IP telephone system will diminish the charges that the all-inclusive community will obtain and in this way it is essential for an individual to ensure that they have constantly had the ability to save more money. It is indispensable for any business to ensure that they have cut down their operational cost so they can, for the most part, be in a circumstance to develop their business and make it create to the accompanying colossal level.

It is basic for any relationship to have the ability to relate the IP system in their business and in this way they will use it to give to one another. IP system will engage the all-inclusive community to have the best data arrange which will empower them to have the ability to play out their errands at any given time. Any affiliation that necessities to acquaint the IP structure should with constantly ensure that they have had the ability to look for a prepared IT association which will help them with introducing the system. The people should reliably go for those individuals who are exceptionally arranged to interface the structures and assurance that they are working properly.

IP telephone structures are less requesting to acquaint and besides with plan and therefore the capable people will constantly be in a circumstance to present them in any given organization. The all-inclusive community who have any data on how the framework capacities will reliably have a basic time to grasp the structures and accordingly they can have the ability to use them at some irregular time of time. It is basic for the association to ensure that they have prepared their authorities on how they ought to use the IP telephone once it is presented in their company. When standard fix and upkeep is coordinated to the structures they will reliably continue to work and from now on they will give the best results that the overall public ought to get.

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Categories: Blogs, D&D

Valuable Lessons I’ve Learned About

Temporary Hit Points - Tue, 01/15/2019 - 20:52

Factors to Consider When Purchasing Chargers

One thing that you need to understand is that when it comes to the purchase of chargers, you will realize that you may have to choose from quite a number of options available. Purchasing chargers are always known to be very important and quite a number of ways, and this is one of the main reasons why you find that people will always consider purchasing them for different kinds of purposes. One thing that you need to understand is that it is very hard for somebody to be able to operate a phone without having a perfect charger because it is what enables you to charge your phone. One of the most challenging things today is having to purchase a good charger especially given that there are so many companies today that can be in a position to supply you with the different kinds of chargers that you need. This article can help you a lot when it comes to purchasing chargers because we have highlighted some very important factors that can be able to guide you through the whole process of purchasing the best.

The quality of the charger should be the first thing that you need to ensure that you consider because that is what will determine how effective it will be and also it will also influence the aspect of durability. A lot of emphasis is always put on the aspect of quality of different kinds of products because it is what determines whether that particular product will be able to last for long time, and this is the same when it comes to the purchase of chargers. If you choose an organization that has a history of providing the best quality of products, you will realize that you will not have to worry about the quality of chargers you will obtain from that particular organization. The best way you can be able to know whether the specific company will be able to provide you the best is when you consider finding out more regarding that particular more

When it comes to the purchase of different kinds of products, majority of people always try to focus on the aspect of design and therefore, there is another important factor that you need to ensure that you consider when planning to purchase a good charger. The total amount of money you will need in order for you to obtain a variety of chargers is another vital consideration that you need to ensure that you focus on when purchasing chargers. If you are planning to obtain discount, you need to ensure that determine the quantity of chargers that you are willing to purchase from a particular company. view here for more on MAGFAST


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Categories: Blogs, D&D

The 10 Best Resources For

Temporary Hit Points - Tue, 01/15/2019 - 20:42

Essential Guidelines to Follow When Looking for the Best Charger to Buy

Things have been made to be quite easy in this present generation and this has been contributed by the fact that there are quite a number of electronic devices that can make work to be quite easy. When you want to communicate with other concerning this present generation, you will not have to struggle because there are different kinds of mobile phones which are known to be very beneficial in helping people communication. One thing that you need to understand is that mobile phone has made things to be quite easy especially the business sector because different kinds of individuals will always use their phones to ensure that the conduct trade. There is no single mobile phone or tablet that can be used without charge and therefore, this is one of the main reasons why you need to ensure that you consider having a perfect charger. One thing that you need to understand is that purchasing charger has never been quite easy and this has been contributed by the fact that there are quite a number of companies that supply different kinds of chargers today. Before you make a move of purchasing charger, it is always recommended that you consider following some of the tips that have been discussed in this article below.

One thing that you need to understand is that the only way you can be able to know the most effective charger is when you consider determining which particular model it is. Another important factor that you need to ensure that you consider when looking forward to purchasing charger is the company that will be supplying you with different kinds of charger. This simply means that you have to ensure that you conduct a background check on the specific company in order for you to be sure that particular company can provide you the best quality. When you check online, there is a high probability that you can write quite a number of companies that can supply you with different kinds of chargers that you need.

The aspect of cost can prove to be very beneficial when it comes to choosing different kinds of chargers to purchase and therefore, that should be the other important factor that you need to ensure that you focus on whenever you are looking forward to purchasing chargers. One thing that you need to understand is that good quality charger can be quite effective and also be in a position to last for a long time and therefore, you should always consider purchasing the best quality of charger. This article can help you a lot when it comes to choosing the best quality of charger to purchase.

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Categories: Blogs, D&D

Facing Insurmountable Foes

Sly Flourish - Mon, 01/14/2019 - 06:00

In the beginning of Hoard of the Dragon Queen the characters face off against Lennithon, an adult blue dragon, when the characters are likely level 1. It doesn't take any powerful encounter building to realize this isn't a fight the characters can win.

The same thing occurs in Tomb of Annihilation when the characters come into contact with Valindra Shadowmantle, a lich in service to Szass Tam of the Red Wizards of Thay. The characters are likely around level six at this point.

Putting the characters in the presence of powerful villains is common in a lot of adventures, published or not. Sometimes it's fun for the characters to actually face the true villain of the adventure early on, such as meeting Strahd in the beginning of Curse of Strahd. Other times, like when Demogorgon steps out of the Dark Lake in Out of the Abyss it serves as a powerful backdrop for the plot of the adventure.

There's a big problem with scenes like this, though: facing insurmountable foes removes player agency.

(Cover to Volo's Guide to Monsters by Tyler Jacobson)

When our characters face off against foes they can't beat, we've removed one of their options—combat. For some players, this is simply unfair. D&D games shouldn't pit characters against foes they can't beat. Many DMs who focus more on the story of D&D than the balance of encounters know that yes, sometimes the characters will face foes they can't beat. It depends on how things go.

However they got there, when the characters face these foes and combat is off the table, the players might find themselves limited in the options from which they can choose. Sure, they can negotiate, but how good is the negotiation when one side can completely obliterate the other? How well has it worked out for the goblin the characters captured after slaughtering fifteen of its friends? That goblin doesn't have a lot of options to choose from.

Neither do the characters when facing an adult blue dragon at level 1.

So we come to an easy high-level piece of advice for situations like this: give the players options when facing insurmountable foes. If the story has worked itself into a position where the characters face an insurmountable foe, it's up to us DMs to make the options clear. It's up to us to return agency to the characters so they can actually make some meaningful choices.

Agency Returned

What agency we can give depends on the story, as does the encounter in the first place. Perhaps the characters have some information the villains need but do not have. Perhaps the characters know where something is that the villains must have. For example, maybe the characters know of the location of a number of puzzle cubes in Tomb of Annihilation that the villains desire.

Perhaps the villains have a weakness the characters are aware of. For example, what if the characters know about a lich's phylactery or a vampire's coffin. Maybe they even have control of it, putting the two opposing sides on more even ground.

We can also expand the options for the characters in a few other ways. Maybe the characters learn of a traitor in the enemy's forces that they can exploit. Maybe they learn how they can steal what they want instead of needing to negotiate for it directly. Maybe they learn that, buried deep within that ancient black obelisk, is a nalfeshnee just waiting to burst forth. Should something go terribly wrong, a good crack on the obelisk will complicate things for the villains.

Example Character Angles

So what sort of angles might the characters have when facing an insurmountable foe? Here are some general examples:

  • The characters have information the villain needs.
  • The characters have possession of something the villain wants.
  • The characters are aware of a traitor or weakness in the villain's forces.
  • The characters have something vital to the villain's well being.
  • The characters have a weapon that greatly threatens the villain.
  • The characters have a powerful ally that the villain fears.
  • The characters can bring the house down on top of the villain.
  • Disrupting the characters or their actions would throw the villain's own plans in disarray.
  • The villain needs the characters to perform some task that no one else is capable of doing.
  • The villain has enemies worse than the characters and need their help to defeat it.
  • The characters are able to steal what they need from the villain.
  • The villain isn't aware of the characters' presence.
  • The characters discover a weakness of their insurmountable enemy.

If a villain is on the horizon in our games; if we think they're going to come into play and there will be a stand-off between the insurmountable villain and the characters; it helps if we lay out perhaps three angles the characters can capitalize on when that confrontation occurs.

Bending the Story to Our Will

When we're building out a D&D game from the story that unfolds, sometimes these situations appear and we don't have a good or easy approach to give that agency back. If we're letting scenes unfold how they unfold, we might not have any options prepared ahead of time. It might turn out, as the course of events takes place, that the characters find themselves face to face with an insurmountable foe.

In cases like these, we have to remember that fun comes first, even before staying true to the continuity of a story. Stephen King fully expected to kill off Paul Sheldon in Misery until he realized that no one wants to read a novel only to have the main character killed off at the end. He must not have read No Country for Old Men yet (spoilers!). In any case, when it comes to our D&D game, no one will care if you stay true to the direction of the story if it's not fun for the players.

Therefore, moments like this give us license to alter the world. This is a good time to stop for a minute and think about how we can give agency back to the players when they face an insurmountable foe. We can manipulate the world to give them an edge. We can reveal a weakness. We can reveal a nearby doomsday device. We can have the villain realize that an ally of the characters is too important to anger. This is one of those times where tweaking the reality of the story is ok because we're doing it specifically to make the game more fun. Like adding hit points to a boss monster that's dying too fast we can bend space and time for the sake of the fun of the game.

Giving Characters Fair Warning

If we're used to previous versions of Dungeons & Dragons, particularly third and fourth editions; we're probably used to focusing on balanced combat encounters. It is hard for us to break away from clear encounter-focused D&D adventures and letting the story take us in directions we weren't used to. As we get used to letting the story go where it goes, situations like facing an insurmountable foe can become more likely.

As hard as it is for us to change our thought process when running fifth edition D&D games, so to might it be hard for our players. When the characters end up facing an insurmountable foe, it's up to us to telegraph the danger. We have to let them know that we don't expect they'll go toe to toe with a villain like this and kill it. They might very well die if they try. It's possible, even likely, that players will think they're getting manipulated. They'll think that it isn't fair that they're facing such powerful monsters. If there isn't a good story reason why they're facing such a foe, they might be right. The adult blue dragon in the first chapter of Hoard of the Dragon Queen felt like this to me. Why would an adult dragon need to go poke around at a village? Why not leave that to the cultists?

When the story does support a confrontation against an insurmountable foe, we have to make it clear to the players that the foe is indeed insurmountable and also telegraph the other options available to them. If they're a combat focused group of players, we may really need to make it clear what other angles they have available. If we took combat away as an option, what was that option replaced with? If the answer is nothing, we've probably railroaded the story too much. The characters really don't have a choice other than 100% capitulation. That's not our job. Our job is always to put fun choices in front of the players.

Categories: Blogs, D&D

Storytelling with Spells: Fireball

Sly Flourish - Mon, 01/07/2019 - 06:00

This is the first in a new series of articles that focuses on how particular spells in D&D can tell stories all by themselves. The core D&D books are full of fantastic ideas for stories but sometimes its easy for us DMs to focus too much on the mechanics to think about what they mean in the worlds we share.

Each spell has its own particular story to it, it's own way that it alters the universe in some way that might have effects both small and profound. Consider the humble prestidigitation spell, a cantrip that keeps things clean. Imagine a whole business built by hedge mages, failed wizards, and sorcerer outcasts who make a living keeping things clean with this spell on its own. It's the world's best dry cleaning service. This simple spell can lead to a whole place ("Percy's Palace of Prestidigitation") that might find its way as a storefront in a game we run. We might even tie another story into it. Maybe that aged wizard who supposedly failed out of the academy isn't as frail as he appears, he's just been in hiding for the last two hundred years.

Spells can each tell an interesting story and we're going to explore this idea in articles to come where we look at a particular spell and the stories that might evolve from it when we look at them under a new lens.

Today we'll do so with the spell fireball.

Fireball is an incredibly common and popular spell. It's been in every edition of D&D since the 1970s. Fireball is one of the most basic spells we can imagine too. Players love it because it's so simple. You point a finger and things explode. But there's a story in there too. A story with many facets.

A Story Driven by a Fireball

The D&D adventure Waterdeep Dragon Heist has a whole chapter built around a fireball. The chapter is actually called "Fireball". Things are perfectly smooth in Trollskull alley, everyone's going about their business, and then boom. The world is in chaos.

We don't think much about a fireball but such an explosive spell can change lives in a city setting. A fireball in a crowded street is an event of great note, as it is in this adventure. It begins a great mystery. Who cast it? Who was in it? What did people see? Will it happen again? A single fireball like this can drive a whole story forward, bringing danger and mystery to an otherwise peaceful day.

Imagine a royal ball in which the characters are trying to uncover the assassin who plots to kill the local lord. What if that very assassin, to cover her escape, draws a bead from her necklace of fireballs and blows up half of the ball. Now the characters have to make a hard choice of chasing their quarry or saving the people who remain alive in the burning ballroom.

The Sign of a True Wizard

We can use fireballs in other ways in our story as well. If the characters are exploring a chamber and find a room with singed walls and dozens of dead charred goblins, they'll know what might have done it and they know what sort of being they might face. Not everyone can cast a fireball in the first place. Such a sign is a clear indicator that a wizard is near, and not just an apprentice but a seasoned mage.

The fact that fireballs are third-level spells cast by fifth-level NPCs means something important on its own. If we assume a rarity to wizards the higher they go up in level, fireball-casting wizards are not all that common. Even cult fanatics can't typically cast them. These are the spells of true and powerful villains.

Environment-Changing Spells

Fireballs can also do more than just blow up rooms full of kobolds too. We often forget how these spells can change the environment. A fireball cast inside a building or tavern will likely set it ablaze or blow it apart. We might watch buildings explode outward from a mage battle taking place within it. A fireball in a sealed area might suck out all of the oxygen and make the whole area difficult to breathe in or difficult to see through. In the right environment, fireballs can completely change a situation.

We can't forget about the noise either. Fireballs aren't quiet. Spellcasters who cast it are going to be heard and those who hear it may come running or might run away. The noise created by a fireball can dramatically change a situation in many ways.

An Explosive Shift in the World

Though a common, popular, and relatively simple spell, when used as a vehicle for the story, a fireball can cause a dramatic shift in a campaign. As we saw in Dragon Heist, it can be the catalyst for an entire arc of a campaign. The more we think beyond the mechanics; the more we look at how spells affect the world, the more those stories can drive the direction of our shared stories.

Categories: Blogs, D&D

A New Year

A Walk In the Dark - Wed, 01/02/2019 - 00:12

Holy hell, has it really been ten months since I've posted on this site? I gotta start remembering this thing exists.

Well it has finally come and gone... 2018 has been the longest decade in my life, and I think I can say the same for many of you out there.

Looking Back

There have been a few people posting about what their highlights for the past year were. Well, here are mine:

  • Published Festival of Magic on the DM's Guild, which - in comparison to everything I've published - is one of my personal favorites.
  • Funded the Kickstarter for the 5th Edition conversion of A Night in Seyvoth Manor, and delivered the product before Halloween. It has since become my one and only "Copper seller" on DriveThruRPG.
  • Had my craptastic Bahamut, The Platinum Dragon - which is literally nothing but a stat block, a shoddy one at that, and contains no lore or art - become a "Copper seller" on the DM's Guild. I mention this only because, so far, it is the only Copper product I've done on my own in the DMG.
  • Collaborated on Storm King's Barrows: Tombs and Crypts of the North, which has since become a "Silver seller" on the DM's Guild. Not my best work, but arguably my most revenue-producing thing all year.
  • Released The Absent-Minded Alchemist, which was a bit of a "meh" product to start but was easy to convert from 4E.
  • Funded another Kickstarter for my social adventure Uninvited Guests, which has since been renamed to Party Crashers. This Kickstarter was a "proof of concept" - to see if I can do quick and dirty one-offs with a low funding goal - and it worked, so expect me to do more of this in the coming year.
  • Launched a Patreon! And the TWO backers I have so far are getting lonely, so...

That's pretty much it. It's not a lot... At a personal level, 2018 has been somewhat difficult in terms of my home life and my financial situation, and those situations are, by nature, not conducive to creativity, so I've been in a bit of a rut. But, all in all, it went better than 2017 in some regards, so there's that.

Looking Forward

So what does 2019 have in store? Honestly, I don't know yet... But here are some goals.

  • Finish Uninvited Guests Party Crashers in the near future.
  • Do several more Kickstarters like
    Uninvited Guests Party Crashers over the course of the year.
  • See what the hell I'm finally going to do with the complete The Coming Dark campaign as well as Atomic Age. There's a lot to be done on those, and I question whether the effort is worth it right now.
  • Cater to my Patreon backers more, in that I'll be creating more "behind the scenes" posts and videos (maybe). In the meantime, hope to get more than... well... two... Patreon backers.
  • Hopefully set up a regular game with... somebody...
  • Maybe go to GenCon. I don't know yet... I need to see if the expense really is worth it.
  • Sort out my personal and financial situations so that I can do this kind of stuff more readily and with less guilt.

If you're reading this, you're one of the reasons I press on. Thank you for your support, and I hope to show you a lot more cool things in 2019.

Ever forward.

Categories: Blogs

Playing Dungeons & Dragons On A Budget

Sly Flourish - Mon, 12/31/2018 - 06:00

One of the interesting things about Dungeons & Dragons is the incredibly wide range for its potential costs. The cost to play D&D can go anywhere from free to potentially thousands of dollars (look at Joe Magenello's dungeon if you don't believe me).

I expect most people spend one to two hundred bucks for the three core books including the Player's Handbook, the Monster Manual, and the Dungeon Master's Guide and maybe some secondary books like Xanathar's Guide to Everything, Volo's Guide to Monsters, and published adventures such as Curse of Strahd or Tomb of Annihilation. Some probably spend a few bucks on dice and a flip mat.

Then there are areas where the D&D hobby can get really pricey. The first is miniatures. We might drop $50 for a good set of player character miniatures at first but if we start to fill out our set of monsters, we're looking at hundreds, maybe thousands of dollars until we have a "full collection". Secret tip: there IS no full collection of miniatures. No one ever has enough of that one monster they need at the time.

Pathfinder Pawns, Arcknight's Flat Plastic Miniatures, Printable Heroes, and Trash Mob Minis can save us from this financial runaway train by giving us a lot of two dimensional miniatures for a lot less than it would cost us to get fully 3d plastic minis. The occasional Reaper Bones Kickstarters can get us a large pile of unpainted miniatures for less than we'd pay for them individually but even then we're going to be missing out on a few. They've been running these Kickstarters roughly once a year.

Another area where the sky is the limit when it comes to costs is in three dimensional terrain. My favorite is Dwarven Forge, the Ferrari of D&D terrain. Having quite an investment in it myself, I can attest to its incredible quality and "wow" factor. There are other terrain options as well such as card board 3d terrain, 3d printed terrain, and other options. As I mentioned, the price of this stuff knows no bounds. The average pledge for the latest Dwarven Forge Kickstarter was $1,000.

Luckily, the true joy of D&D is in sharing stories with our friends. Miniatures and terrain are really cool but they're not necessary for us to run some fantastic adventures. In fact, the more accessories we have, the more they can sometimes get in the way of that story. We'll talk about this more later.

Playing D&D For Free

How could someone go about playing D&D for free? There's actually an answer to that question. While Wizards of the Coast sells the core D&D books, they also give away D&D rules online. This includes a D&D Basic Rules and the Dungeons & Dragons System Reference Document. While these PDFs omit much of what you can find in the actual core books, they have enough to run a D&D game. The D&D Beyond website also offers these rules for free in the same interface used for the digital version of all of the other D&D books. One need not spend a dime to use these rules.

Online Resources for Campaigns and Adventures

What about campaigns and adventures? According to our 2016 Dungeon Master Survey, most DMs run their own campaigns in their own worlds and with their own adventures. If we follow these folks, we too don't need to buy expensive adventures and campaign worlds. We can spend some time thinking about our world and writing down what works.

If we do want to play in a world like the Forgotten Realms, we can use the excellent Forgotten Realms Wiki as our own sourcebook complete with a search and hyperlinks to connect it all together better than a big book.

There are numerous free resources for DMs to run great games beyond campaign specific material. The suite of Donjon tools gives us a host of dynamically created material including names, treasure, monster encounters, dungeons, adventure seeds, and more. It's a great place to spark ideas in our minds as we build out our own adventures. A nearly infinite supply of dungeon maps and artwork are just a Google search away. They work well for both inspiration for DMs as well as visuals to show players.

Wizards of the Coast has released a couple of adventures for free as well. Death House is one of my personal favorites, though themed specifically for Ravenloft and the Curse of Strahd published adventure. Wizards also released the first part of Princes of the Apocalypse for free which contains enough material to get characters to level 5 including a fight against some cultists of the elemental prince of air. It's more universal than Death House and easier to plop into your own campaign world. A Great Upheaval, the first chapter of Storm King's Thunder is likewise available for free.


We're going to assume of the sake of this article that one can acquire something to write with and something to write on. Go raid a horsetrack for small pencils and a library for scrap paper if you need. For drawing out maps and descriptions of combat, we can use Theater of the Mind combat to save us a ton of money on miniatures and maps. According to the 2016 survey we mentioned earlier, about 40% of dungeon masters use either abstract maps or theater of the mind when running D&D combat so you won't be alone. Not only is it much cheaper than maps, minis, and terrain but it also gives us nearly infinite flexibility in our descriptions and in letting the game take turns we didn't expect when preparing for our game.

There are a number of online dice roller apps that can save us a few bucks buying dice but this probably isn't realistic. Instead, for the $12 of a D&D Starter Set we can get a set of dice, a set of pregens, a solid rulebook, and a wonderful D&D adventure. Sure, it isn't free, but its a low cost investment for the best entrypoint into D&D available. The maps and monsters contained in the starter set can keep a campaign going for months.

I'm a huge fan of the Pathfinder Flip Mat. It's cheap, lightweight, and super-usable in our gaming kit. That and a couple of dry-erase markers can build just about anything we can imagine for under $20. It's a great investment for our DM kit.

If you want to play D&D online, you can play for free at Roll20. They have the entire 5e D&D SRD rules in place there and access to lots of official D&D sourcebooks and adventures if you do eventually want to pay for it.

Pooling Resources with D&D Beyond

"My rule of thumb is that in a group of 6, 3-4 don't spend any money. But they enable a group to form & play. Free players enable spenders. Even if no one at a table is spending, there's huge benefits in simply making more D&D players and DMs."

- Mike Mearls, D&D Design and Development Lead

Being a game focused on a group of players, it makes more sense that the players might pool their resources together to get what they need. For example, a group can pool together to pick up a subscription to D&D Beyond and the core books through the D&D Beyond Marketplace. A single DM subscription can share all of its books with up to eighteen players in three campaigns. These digital books are often on sale and, when the cost is split up, they can be very cheap for each player.

A Focus on the Fun

There's another big advantage to keeping our D&D kits small: flexibility. The less stuff we have to run our games, the more we can focus on the game itself and the fun to be had with our players. Maps, terrain, miniatures, and all sorts of accessories look great but there's an overhead with them beyond money. They take up physical and mental space. They take up time. Instead, we can keep our materials down to the thinnest possible and focus on the fun of the game.

Categories: Blogs, D&D

Adventure Hooks

Sly Flourish - Mon, 12/24/2018 - 06:00

In an interview on D&D Beyond, legendary adventure writer Chris Perkins describes the requirements for a solid adventure:

  • Good villains and monsters.
  • A location for the adventure to take place.
  • A clear reason for the characters to take part.

It's this last one we're going to talk about today. Getting the characters involved in the adventure is likely the most important part. Why do they care? Why put themselves at risk? When running Tomb of Annihilation recently, I threw in a dream sequence so horrible that the whole group nearly abandoned the idea of stopping the death curse to return to the safety of Port Nyanzaru and leave the world's woes to someone else. That's not a great way to motivate them.

There are many possible motivations that drive characters to adventure. Chapter 3 of the Dungeon Master's Guide includes three tables full of adventure hooks for both overland adventures, dungeon adventures, and general adventures as well. They're worth a read. In fact, I'd recommend going back and flipping through the Dungeon Master's Guide every couple of months just to remember all of the awesome stuff that's in it.

I also culled a number of potential motivations from a Twitter discussion on the topic which you can see below.

  • Recover lost artifact
  • Stop a villains evil plot
  • Rescue someone
  • Hunt someone down
  • Recover lost lore
  • Prevent someone else from finding lost lore
  • Release someone imprisoned
  • Keep someone imprisoned
  • Imprison someone
  • Recover a powerful weapon
  • Clear out monsters
  • Destroy dangerous artifact
  • Sanctify unholy site
  • Escape
  • Prevent war
  • Uncover treachery
  • Riches
  • Fame
  • Protect someone
  • Cure someone
  • Uncover mystery
  • Solve murder
  • Prevent apocalypse
  • Restore artifact
  • Fulfill prophecy
  • Get gold
  • Return gold to owners
  • Give gold to needy
  • Prevent gold going to villany
  • Get rid of gold
  • Hide gold
  • Prove innocence
  • Peculiar inheritance
  • Missing friend or relative
  • Trailblaze a new trade route
  • Escort settlers
  • Survive another day
  • Save the lands ruler
  • Murder the lands ruler
  • Owe someone a favor
  • Castaways
  • Research
  • On the lam
  • Stop a terrible ritual
  • Lift curse
  • Researching an invention
  • Overthrow a corrupt power structure
  • Help a new ruler come to power
  • Negotiate a trade deal
  • Exchange prisoners
  • Change the past
  • Find a way home

These are all just models for the motivation an adventure might contain. We'll have to tune these for our particuar adventure and the characters within it. In fact, let's talk about characters for a moment.

Character-Driven Adventure Hooks

One of the easiest ways to sink in an adventure hook is to make it part of the character. There are a couple of ways to do this. The easiest is to tie in the hook during character creation. For single-session D&D games, like convention games, we can tie in adventure hooks right into the pregenerated characters. If players are making their own characters, we can give them a list of potential character hooks that tie them into the adventure or campaign as well. The earlier we tie in these hooks into character creation, the more these hooks will matter to the players.

We need look no further than the pregenerated characters for the D&D Starter Set. These characters have ties right into Lost Mine of Phandelver that give each of them a reason to care about what is going on in the town of Phandalin.

We can also flip this whole idea around and build an adventure from the backgrounds of the characters. Likely you'll still want to bring up a theme from your campaign's session zero but the players might build in interesting hooks into their characters that you didn't expect. You can use these hooks to build out connections to existing adventures or build entirely new adventures from those hooks alone.

The important part is ensuring that the characters have a reason to go on this adventure.

Anytime you're pondering the adventure you're going to run, ask yourself "why the characters care?"

Categories: Blogs, D&D

Looking On The Bright Side of Entrepreneur

Temporary Hit Points - Sat, 12/22/2018 - 18:04

Merits of Outsourced IT Services to Your Small Business
It is common for most small businesses to struggle with the IT issues and tend to be torn between hiring an in-house IT expert and outsourcing. With the remote IT solution, small, medium and large companies have become very easy to run. One would need to remember that decision making tends to become so easy the moment one focuses on outsourced IT services. Remote IT solutions comes with benefits that cannot be ignored especially by the small businesses.
It is also essential to note that small businesses would benefit more on going for outsourced IT services when compared to in-house IT services. As a result, remote technical services offer the best option for your company. Remote access tends to allow the expert have access of your computers and devices without necessarily having to travel to your business location. Another advantage of the remote IT support is that most of the issues can be resolved without having the technician traveling all the way to the site. One would easily have drivers installed, scanning of malware, updating, and upgrading of software and applications as well as getting rid of computer viruses.
You would also need to know that in a case where you need an issue resolved, you would have it resolved right now with remote technical support. here, you would not need to have an IT expert to visit your business to have various problems resolved. Your business would spend the least time possible to resolve any computer related problem. You would need this website to help you settle for an outsourced IT service provider who would not only ensure that your business is seamlessly running but also one who will not overcharge you. You would also realize that this service tends to reduce costs something you can extend to your customers.
Any person who is in business hopes to grow with time and keep growing. One would need to learn more about how to grow his or her business as opposed to spend so much time on dealing with computer related issues. You would need to focus more on the success of your business as the outsourced IT solutions focus on fixing any arising issues with your computers.
You can also be sure of more productivity in a case where you have stable remote IT services. Your employees are no longer distracted with or due to IT issues and hence they tend to focus more on the business roles. One can also be assured that a good computer support service provider focus on assuring the clients of 24/7 help, latest technology help as well as access to the best expertise.

More information: Look At This

The post Looking On The Bright Side of Entrepreneur appeared first on Temporary Hitpoints.

Categories: Blogs, D&D

Running Omu

Sly Flourish - Mon, 12/17/2018 - 06:00

The fifth edition Dungeons & Dragons adventure Tomb of Annihilation has an interesting and wonderous structure. It begins as a city adventure in Port Nyanzaru, expands out into a large overland exploration sandbox as the characters travel through Chult, narrows down to the exploration of the city of Omu and a potential trek into the Fane of the Night Serpent, and then drills down deep into the dungeon crawl to beat all dungeon crawls, the Tomb of the Nine Gods.

In today's article we're going to focus on the characters' exploration of the city of Omu. How can we dungeon masters get the most out of running this section of the book? Let's find out.

A Refined Sandbox

When the characters journey to Omu they will be going from a large sandbox—the journey through Chult—into a more refined sandbox style adventure. Like Chult itself, Omu has a nice defined boundary to it but multiple ways characters can travel within and through it. To begin with, they can enter from either the south-west corner (a grand staircase) or the north east (down a large waterfall) so even their entry into Omu is their own.

Side tip: When creating sandbox adventures, include two entrances. If you, as the DM, don't know how the characters will enter a dungeon or other area, you're a lot less likely to railroad them overall.

Design two entrances.

Once in the city, the characters can choose how they want to approach the city and accomplish their goals. They won't be the only ones.

The Fronts of Omu

Here at Sly Flourish we like to steal the concept of "fronts" from the game Dungeon World. A front is a driver of the story of our game. It's an actor, often a creature but sometimes an environment or even a whole planet, that has its own goals and leaves indicators to the characters. These indicators are called grim portents. They show the progression of a front as it heads towards its goal.

In the city of Omu, we have two main fronts working alongside the characters. The first is the Red Wizards of Thay. Like the characters, they are trying to acquire the puzzle cubes from the nine trickster gods to get access to the tomb of the nine gods. The Red Wizards might be sending mercenary forces out to the various tombs to collect what cubes they can.

The second front are the yuan-ti from the Fane of the Night Serpent. Their leader, Ras Nsi, seeks the cubes as well because the death curse is eating away at him. His second, a nightmare speaker named Fenthasa, might not have the same goal as Ras Nsi and this can become a fun complication for the characters to explore.

Both of these factions offer opportunities for conflict within Omu but they offer something more interesting too. Their goals are not necessarily in opposition to the characters. The Red Wizards, led by Valindra Shadowmantle, seek to end the death curse but they also want to learn about the Soul Monger. It is possible the characters can work out a deal with them instead of just fighting them.

Likewise, Ras Nsi might be willing to work out a deal with the characters since he too wants to stop the death curse. Of course, Fenthasa might not like that idea which gives us multiple factions within the yuan-ti to work through. If the characters are willing to kill Ras Nsi, Fenthasa might be more willing to work with them.

This offers up an interesting observation for our D&D games. When we have fronts with motivations that can be potentially turned to fit the motivations of the characters, we can build in ways that the characters can use all three pillars to interact with these fronts. In this case, we can see how the characters might use subterfuge, stealth, careful conversations, or violence to work with these fronts. The characters have lots of potential paths and options to take when dealing with this front that aren't just combat. That's awesome.

Give players the option to interact with fronts using roleplaying, exploration, and combat.

The Other Actors in Omu

Beyond the Red Wizards and the yuan-ti, there are other actors in Omu that can come into play and bring some fun with them. The big one, both figuratively and literally, is the King of Feathers. This epic t-rex can be a continuing threat in Omu for the characters. In my game, I modified him a bit. First, I gave him legendary actions so he can have one action between characters' turns. I also gave him legendary resistances as well. I increased his hit points to 200. Finally, I gave him some psionic abilities unique in Chult. He had misty step and invisibility as actions he could take. This let him disappear from combat, shift to a new spot, and attack with advantage. As the characters traveled through Omu they learned more about his abilities and how dangerous he was. When finally faced, he was a real powerhouse villain.

Other actors include the three tabaxi hunters: Bag of Nails, Copper Bell, and Hooded Lantern. These are wonderful NPCs whose history, backgrounds, and motivations you can change for your own game. In one of the two Tomb of Annihilation games I ran, Bag of Nails was a fellow assassin to one of the characters who served Prince Jessamine in Port Nyanzaru. In another, the three taxabi were former companions of the taxabi rogue player character. Reskinning NPCs like these is a great way to bring some relevant stories to the characters as they explore Omu.

There are lots of other actors in Omu worth bringing up such as the kobolds in service of Acererak and the strange vegepigmies conducting a grung sacrifice at the lava pit. Read fully through the chapter and highlight the encounters you want to bring up in your game.

Gathering the Cubes

The primary goal of the characters in Omu is to acquire the nine cubes required to open up the doorway to the Tomb of the Nine Gods. Each of the nine cubes rest in one of the nine shrines to each of the Trickster Gods.

As the adventure states, the characters need not be the ones to collect all nine cubes. The Red Wizards may have recovered some. The yuan-ti might have some. Other random adventurers may have some.

This is a great opportunity to ensure that the characters interact with these other groups and they get to choose how. Maybe it's negotiation. Maybe it's theft. Maybe it's blinding violence.

You can choose how many of the cubes have already been recovered or decide that, as the characters uncover one cube the other fronts acquire another. One good way to choose this is to read through each of the shrines in the adventure and if any of them don't resonate with you as a DM, you can make that one a shrine whose cube has already been pilfered. How may cubes have been recovered also shortens the time spent in Omu so it's a nice dial to turn if you want things to move forward faster. You'll have to ensure the characters learn that the cubes have been recovered before they waste a lot of time trying to get them.

The Ruins of Omu

As the characters travel through Omu, it's likely they'll want to explore some of the notable ruins of Omu, either to take a rest, escape a pursuer, or just take in some of the dead culture of Omu.

Here is a list of twenty notable ruins the characters might encounter while exploring Omu. If you're not running Tomb of Annihilation, you can use this same list for other ruined cities as well.

The Collapsed Cellar. A floor of one of the buildings has collapsed into a strange cellar. The cellar contains a small shrine to a trickster god (roll to randomly determine the trickster god), a sacrificial stone, and scrawlings in old Omuan begging for the life of a sick child.

The Ashen Family. This ruin contains bodies of ash still standing with looks of horror on their face. An ashen body of a mother cradles her doomed child. All of them appear to have been hit with a disintegrate spell.

The Noble Treasure Vault. A house of nobility has trapped bronze door in the cellar guarded by two animated armors. The door has two DC 15 glyphs of warding including a fear glyph and another glyph that animates the statues. If the trap is defeated, the adventurers find the noble house's treasury. The treasury includes 832 cp, 3490 sp, 2087 gp, 28 pp, 2 x Chalcedony (50 gp), Citrine (50 gp), Jasper (50 gp), 3 x Moonstone (50 gp), 5 x Sardonyx (50 gp), 3 x Zircon (50 gp), Potion of Resistance (thunder) (uncommon, dmg 188), Spell Scroll (Sleet Storm) (uncommon, dmg 200), Potion of Water Breathing (uncommon, dmg 188), and a Rope of Climbing (uncommon, dmg 197) Use the treasure tables in the Dungeon Master's Guide to determine the treasure instead if you prefer.

Desecrated Shrine to Ubtao. This ruin contains a shrine to the god Ubtao. The statue's head has been removed and lies in the corner covered in rubbish. Dark sigils have been etched into the statue's surface. Examining the glyphs begins to fill the examiner's visions with the people of Omu destroying effigies of Ubtao after he turned his back on them two centuries ago. The cacophony of blasphemy fills the investigator's head with madness. The character must make a DC 14 Wisdom saving throw or suffer a short-term madness effect.

The Crystal of Calling. The basement of this ruined building contains an arcane circle. In the center of the circle is a large violet cracked crystal. A DC 14 Intelligence (Arcana) check reveals that the crystal was used by arcane spellcasters to call across the multiverse to help find a god who would save them from their downfall. Any creature that touches the crystal can see visions of the Omuians using the crystal to call out across the Astral Sea and then later witnessing the arrival of Acererak.

Access to Underground Sewers. Deep cracks in the basement of one of the ruins reveals access to narrow sewer passages that lead to various areas of Omu including the palace, the flooded rivers to the east, the amphitheater, and the enclave to the south-west. Traveling through the sewers has a chance to encounter monsters. Use the random encounter table for level 1 to 4 swamp monsters in [Xanathar's Guide to Everything] re-rolling if the monsters make no sense for Omu.

Altar to Dendar the Night Serpent. The ruins of this building contain a carving depicting a massive serpent eating its own tail surrounding a globe that looks like Toril. The rotting remains of a female dwarf lie on a bloody stone altar, her ritually dissected innards in a series of clay pots surrounding the altar.

Abandoned Red Wizard Refuge. This ruin contains the remnants of a campsite for roughly one dozen people. The signs of a conflict litter the area including the bodies of Thayan mercenaries, mercenaries of Port Nyanzaru, and dead yuan-ti purebloods. A cracked silver mirror with arcane glyphs surrounding its edge used for scrying remains in the area. The broken mirror is worth 200 gold pieces.

Ruin of Grasping Vines. Thick yellow throned vines fill this ruined house seeming to come from a central stalk in the center that throbs like a heartbeat. The stalk itself (a yellow musk creeper with double the normal hit points and a reach of 15 feet) grows from the ruins of the basement below and only there can it be truly destroyed. The remains of a dead adventuring party lay within the ruins possessing a Philter of Love (uncommon, dmg 184), a Potion of Animal Friendship (uncommon, dmg 187), and two Potions of Growth (uncommon, dmg 187). 1d2+1 yellow musk zombies rise from the thick vines when someone enters.

The Trapped Incubus. The characters fall into a ruined pleasure den where an incubus has been trapped for nearly a century within a summoning circle. The incubus begs for its release and will give the characters a clue about Acererak's arrival and the building of the Tomb of the Nine Gods in return for his freedom.

Your Own Mini-Campaign

Tomb of Annihilation is an amazing adventure for a bunch of reasons but one of them is because it contains all sorts of sandboxes within sandboxes. Omu is itself a full sandbox adventure packed within Chult, a much larger sandbox adventure. And, of course, Omu leads to the Tomb of the Nine Gods which is its own evil sandbox.

Above all, keep the options open and let the characters interact with the forbidden city however they wish.

Categories: Blogs, D&D

D&D's Nastier Specials

Sly Flourish - Mon, 12/10/2018 - 06:00

I love the roleplaying game 13th Age by Rob Heinsoo and Jonathan Tweet. Written as a love-letter to D&D by two designers who worked on two different editions of D&D, 13th Age has some of my favorite rules for running great roleplaying games. Like Dungeon World, it's a RPG that often gets pilfered for great ideas DMs can bring into our own games like the "one unique thing", the escalation Die, and their method of abstract combat.

I also love the monster design of 13th Age. As a simplified version of 4th Edition D&D's monster design, monsters in 13th Age are easy to use and are some of the most well-balanced monsters in any d20 game I've played.

It also has a really cool feature that, like the others mentioned above, we might pilfer and use in our 5th edition D&D games: the nastier special.

Many monsters in 13th Age include a way to beef them up to build a really tough challenge if the GM wants one. Here's an example for the Hezrou:

The fifth edition of D&D doesn't have clear dials like this we can use to change the threat of a monster. The system, however, is flexible enough that we can come up with our own, often improvising them right on the spot if we want. Once we have some experience built up, if something feels right, we can drop in our nastier specials without any work at all.

We've talked before about building stronger encounters and how to improve boss fights. This article goes hand-in-hand with both of those.

A List of Nastier Specials

The following is a list of a few potential nastier specials we might add to our monsters. My hope is that these are simple enough that we can keep them in our head and use them when the time feels right for it. We shouldn't need to write them down. Above all, these specials need to make sense within the story. Why are these specials in place? We're not doing it to be mean to our players, we're doing it to add fuel to the fire of the story.

Maximize damage. One of the easiest ways to dramatically increase the threat of a monster is to maximize its damage output. Monsters suddenly start hitting for a lot more, sometimes nearly twice as hard, when their damage is maximized. Are you worried that your high level characters are going to kill Tiamat when they face her? Not if she's breathing for 156 damage as a legendary action! Ok, that's an extreme example, but you get the idea. If you really want a monster to be dangerous bordering on lethal, max it's damage output.

Add extra attacks. Along with or instead of increasing damage, we can give a monster extra attacks. Maybe it attacks faster than others of its ilk. Maybe it's hastened. Maybe it has more appendages available for such attacks. More attacks increases the number of times a monster will hit so you can spread its damage around to multiple targets instead of hammering on one target all the time. This is a good nastier special when a creature is fighting by itself against a full party of adventurers.

Maximize or double its hit points. Bigger nastier versions of a monster could have significantly more hit points than the average listed in the Monster Manual. We are free to change these hit points as much as we think fits the story within the range of the hit dice. We can also just ignore it and double a monster's hit points if there's a good reason. One dirty trick that helps us maintain pacing is to keep in mind the maximum hit points a monster might have and, if it fits the story and the pacing, change those hit points during the fight so a monster sticks around a little longer or drops at the right moment. Yes, it's cheating, but it's for the good of the pace of the game.

Add Legendary Actions and Resistances. We can make any monster a legendary foe by giving it legendary actions and resistances. Typically legendary actions will let a monster attack or move up to three times between its opponents turns. Keep in mind that the power of a legendary version of a monster will be much stronger than it otherwise would be. Legendary resistances also help monsters, particularly monsters fighting alone, to break out of nasty save or suck effects like hypnotic pattern or dominate monster. Again, these should be used sparingly and only when they make sense within the fiction of the story. Why are these monsters legendary?

Damage shields. The spell fire shield is powerful on its own but it's really powerful if it's on a monster that everyone is going to hit. Put it on a dragon and that dragon becomes a lot more dangerous. We don't need to stick to fire or cold either. We can add any element we want to the damage shield. A lich might have a necrotic damage shield or a demon might excrete poison or acid. We can also increase the damage on this, maximizing it to 16 or more if we think it's right. Note that this is particularly hard on monks who attack about seventy times a round and will take damage every time.

Give Monsters Spell-Like Abilities. If you're looking for a nastier special, look no further than the hundreds of spells at our disposal in the Player's Handbook. These spells aren't just for player characters. We DMs can build entire stories around the spells found in that book. And they make fantastic ways to customize monsters. Spiritual weapon, shield, misty step, wall of fire; the list of useful spells for monsters goes on and on. We can reskin and reflavor these spells to fit the theme of the monster as well. A powerful devil might invoke a wall of screaming souls that acts very much like a wall of fire except it does psychic damage instead of fire damage.

We can make these spells more useful by making them part of a monster's attack action instead of using up a whole action for the spell. A drow spellblade might be able to hurl a lightning bolt right after slashing with its own lightning-enhanced scimitar, for example.

We can also give monsters spells that might not otherwise be in our game, like spells from third-party publishers. Unlike giving them to characters and potentially changing the face of our game permanently, a monster with a spell like this will only hit the table once and then be gone. My current favorite monsterous spells are the Blasphemies of Bor Bwalsch by D&D writer and creator of Shadow of the Demon Lord Rob Schwalb. They're awful spells that are perfect for lichs, vampires, demons, devils, hags, and any other hideous spell casters.

Give Monsters Exotic Potions. Monsters don't always have to have access to spells to gain some interesting new abilities. Instead we can give intelligent monsters access to potions or scrolls with some interesting and dangerous abilities. Potions of displacement could give a monster the same trait as a displacer beast. Potions of greater invisibility could give an assassin a seriously dangerous edge. Potions of giant strength can turn monsters or NPCs into mountain-crushing horrors. It makes sense that powerful NPCs like the gladiator or champion would have access to a potion like this. A champion with a potion of storm giant strength is a true foe to be feared. It doesn't hurt if the characters get access to reserve potions like this so they can gain the same benefit even if it's only for a few minutes.

Building Your Toolkit of Nastier Specials

All of these are just examples of the sorts of ways you can tune monsters to be something interesting and unique. New armor, magic weapons, potions, scrolls, and spell-like-abilities are ways to change monsters within the fiction. Simple mechanical effects like increasing it points, increasing damage, and adding attacks are easy to implement and turn a normal monster into a brute.

Build your own mental list of nastier specials that make sense for the situation and are relatively easy to implement. With a good set of nastier specials you can turn the hundreds of monsters in the Monster Manual into tens of thousands of monsters your players will remember their whole lives.

Categories: Blogs, D&D

Produce Appealing Goods For You To Sell

Temporary Hit Points - Mon, 12/03/2018 - 13:43

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The post Produce Appealing Goods For You To Sell appeared first on Temporary Hitpoints.

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Generating Enhanced Tomb Guardians

Sly Flourish - Mon, 11/26/2018 - 06:00

There is only one real wandering monster in the Tomb of the Nine Gods in Tomb of Annihilation, the Tomb Guardian. These armored flesh golems are no joke but they can get stale if we run them again and again.

Today we'll offer a generator to create enhanced tomb guardians. Each of these still uses the default statistics for the flesh golem with an armor class of 18 for the armor bolted onto its body, though some might be more dexterous and wearing leather armor but we can still give them an AC of 18. Each of them is also empowered beyond the normal tomb guardian as Withers enhances his creations, all with different races, with enchanted weapons and armor.

A Random Enhanced Tomb Guardian Generator

Here are twenty randomly generated enhanced tomb guardians. Reload the page for a new set.

var guardian = {origin:[""], weapon:[""], element:[""], spell:[""]}; guardian.origin = [ "dragonborn", "dwarven", "elven", "abyssal", "orcish", "dark elven", "demonic", "human", "gorilla", "ogre", "giant", "hobgoblin" ]; guardian.element = [ "flaming", "icy", "electrical", "thunderous", "poisonous", "necrotic", "acidic", "forceful", "psychic", "radiant", ]; guardian.attack = [ "dagger", "mace", "spear", "battleaxe", "flail", "longsword", "morningstar", "scimitar", "shortsword", "warhammer", "spiked gauntlet", "spiked chain" ]; guardian.spell = [ "shield", "lightning bolt", "fireball", "spirit guardians", "cloudkill", "sleep", "fire shield", "cone of cold", "improved invisibility", "haste", "globe of invulnerability", "glyph of warding" ]; function GuardianGenerator(origin, element, attack, spell) { function shuffle(o){ //v1.0 for(var j, x, i = o.length; i; j = Math.floor(Math.random() * i), x = o[--i], o[i] = o[j], o[j] = x); }; this.generate = function(length, targetDiv, write_out){ var output_list = []; for(var i = 0; i < length; i++){ shuffle(origin); shuffle(element); shuffle(attack); shuffle(spell); output_list.push("A " + origin[0] + " tomb guardian armed with a " + element[0] + " " + attack[0] + " and a " + element[1] + " " + attack[1] + " empowered with a " + spell[0] + " spell.") } if(targetDiv && write_out) $("div#" + targetDiv).html("
  • "+output_list.join("
  • ")+"
"); } } $(document).ready(function() { var count = 20; var output = true; var guardianGenerator = new GuardianGenerator(guardian.origin, guardian.element, guardian.attack, guardian.spell); guardianGenerator.generate(count, "guardianlist", output); $("#reload").bind("click",function(){ trapGenerator.generate(count, "guardianlist", output); }); });

Each enhanced tomb guardian uses the statistics of a flesh golem with an armor class of 18. Enhanced tomb guardians add 7 (2d6) damage onto each weapon attack of the damage type defined by descriptors on the weapons. You can use the proper dice for each weapon, doubling the normal dice and adding the flesh golem's strength bonus, or, if you're lazy, you can just use the default damage the flesh golem already inflicts plus the bonus damage.

The spells the enhanced tomb guardian can cast do not require any components and are cast at 5th level. They have a DC of 15 and a +7 spell attack bonus. Spells with a duration are cast before combat begins and the enhanced tomb guardian does not need to concentrate to keep a spell going.

Want to build your own enhanced tomb guardians at the table? Use the tables below to roll for your tomb guardians.


What creature or creatures make up the tomb guardian? Roll 1d12 and consult the following:

  1. Dragonborn
  2. Dwarven
  3. Elven
  4. Abyssal
  5. Orcish
  6. Dark Elven
  7. Demonic
  8. Human
  9. Gorilla
  10. Ogre
  11. Giant
  12. Hobgoblin

Roll 1d12 twice on this list to determine what weapons the tomb guardian wields.

  1. Dagger
  2. Mace
  3. Spear
  4. Battleaxe
  5. Flail
  6. Longsword
  7. Morningstar
  8. Scimitar
  9. Shortsword
  10. Warhammer
  11. Spiked Gauntlet
  12. Spiked Chain

Some tomb guardians might have an elemental bond. Roll 1d4, on a 4, roll 1d10 on this table to determine what elemental condition it might have. If Withers feels like the characters are having too easy a time, he might send more tomb guardians with these bonds.

  1. Fire
  2. Cold
  3. Necrotic
  4. Poison
  5. Acidic
  6. Thunderous
  7. Lightning
  8. Radiant
  9. Force
  10. Psychic

Withers has implanted spells on some tomb guardians as well. If the characters are having an easy time, he might send these spellbound tomb guardians to thwart the party.

  1. Shield
  2. Lightning Bolt
  3. Fireball
  4. Spirit Guardians
  5. Cloudkill
  6. Sleep
  7. Burning Hands
  8. Cone of Cold
  9. Improved Invisibility
  10. Haste
  11. Globe of Invulnerability
  12. Glyph of Warding
Adding Flavor to Tomb Guardians

These enhanced tomb guardians are intended to change up the threat the characters face when facing one of these thematic tomb guardians. We add these interesting abilities not to punish our players (that's Acererak's job) but to keep things interesting. Each time our players see one of these enhanced tomb guardians coming for them, they'll know they're going to be facing something unique and chaotic.

Categories: Blogs, D&D

Running Meaningful Random Encounters

Sly Flourish - Mon, 11/19/2018 - 06:00

In a previous article on Sly Flourish we talked about the value of randomness and creativity in D&D and breaking conventional thought with random tables. Randomness is obviously a big part of the gameplay of Dungeons & Dragons. We're rolling dice all the time while the story unfolds during the game. We might even think of the die, and randomness in general, as an additional player in the game, one who steers the direction of the game in ways we could not have expected.

So we all take it for granted that randomness is a core component of the game (ability checks, attack rolls, and the like), but we might not consider how randomness can affect larger parts of the story as well, like the potential scenes that take place.

Random encounters go back to the beginning of D&D. Against the Giants and Descent into the Depths both published in 1978 included wandering monster tables that made these adventures feel alive and unpredictable. Even the DM didn't know where things were necessarily going to go.

Nearly all of the fifth edition D&D hardback adventures include robust random encounter tables with encounters for many environments and detailed descriptions of what the characters might find in the encounter. Xanathar's Guide to Everything includes a bunch of random encounter tables based on environments that we can use for our own adventures. I've also included a set of random dungeon encounters in the Lazy DM's Workbook.

Criticism of Random Encounters

While many DMs are fine with random encounters, some DMs don't like them at all. Criticisms against random encounters include, generally, two main themes: they take away from the main story of an adventure and they take up valuable game time. These criticisms aren't necessarily wrong but there are ways we can incorporate random encounters that make them an interesting and exciting part of the story instead of a distraction. We can steer how we use random encounters to stay true to the story, expand the world, and liven up the game for both our players and ourselves by introducing the unexpected. Today we'll look at some of the ways to get the most out of random encounters in our D&D games.

Cooking At The Table

Why would we want to use random encounters at all? Why not plan out all the encounters that the characters will face so we can tune them very carefully around the story? As we talked about in the article Randomness and Creativity we recognize that sometimes random elements can make us more creative. We'll avoid stereotypes. We'll push our minds towards new ideas we might not have seen otherwise. Just as the dice we roll for a character affects the outcome of a story, so can the dice help us see what scenes might take place.

Rolling for random encounters is a bit like cooking at the table instead of in the kitchen. We have the ingredients all set up for us but a couple of die rolls might change things up in ways we didn't expect.

For some DMs, this is scary. We like to have control over the game and might even feel like that control is critical to ensure the game will be fun. Sometimes, though, we have to just let go. For others, though, it can be a great way to sharpen our ability to improvise right at the table. We don't roll random encounters to divert the story of the game. We roll random encounters to find new and interesting ways to expand that story.

Use Theater of the Mind

The fact that random encounters add time to our games is hard to get past. If our games are already constrained, random encounters are likely the first thing to go. One way we can manage the time is to skip the battle map and handle the scene all in our conversations. First off, the random encounter might not end in combat anyway. Characters might sneak by, negotiate their way past, or find some other way to get out of the situation without drawing a sword. If we pull out a mat, we're telegraphing to our players that combat is the likely way out. If we keep it aside, the players might try other ways to navigate the scene.

If it does come to combat, we can stay with our narrative approach by running combat in the theater of the mind. This keeps things moving fast and keeps the players in the story instead of worrying about tactical positioning. Even if you use the grid for big battles, running smaller battles in the theater of the mind is a great approach to keep on hand, particularly for random encounters.

Situations and Undefined Scenes

When we introduce a random encounter, it works well when we think of it as a situation the characters are going to get involved in. We don't have to consider what type of scene it is: exploration, roleplaying, or combat. Instead, we can focus on the fiction. Even if it's a horrible monster, the characters might find another way out of the situation than sword and spell. The less we define an encounter, the more freedom the players have to navigate it. This works well for the whole game, really, but it works particularly well for random encounters.

Tying Secrets and Clues to Random Encounters

I'm a huge fan of secrets and clues as an improvisational aid and preparation technique. It's the cornerstone of the checklist in Return of the Lazy Dungeon Master. The keys to a great secret and clue is that it's relatively short, it matters to the characters, and we don't know how it will come up during the game.

Random encounters are a great way to use those secrets and clues we prepared. Often we can reveal a valuable clue through a random encounter. When this works well it feels like magic. Suddenly something we couldn't anticipate came true at the table and tied directly into the story. We had a secret but didn't know where it would come up. We have an encounter we didn't expect but rolled the dice and there it is. Put the two together and we have the very example of how the story unfolds at the table.

Don't be a Slave to the Dice

Sometimes you roll the dice for a random encounter and it just doesn't work out. You either roll an encounter that already happened or that just doesn't make sense for the situation. We need not accept such weird answers. It helps to take a moment and really think about how it might make sense. The dice, after all, are helping us break out of our current creative shell and think differently. If it really doesn't work out, roll again or let your eyes wander up and down the list of random encounters and pick one that makes sense.

The Right Tool for the Right Job

There are circumstances when random encounters really don't fit well at all. If you're running a single-session time-focused game, like a convention Adventurer's League game, you probably don't want to throw in a random encounter. I don't think many Adventurer's League adventures include random encounters for this very reason.

If you're running a homebrew single-session adventure, however, you can account for the extra time within the structure of the adventure. If the characters are navigating an old crypt to find the remains of the Blood Prince, you might account for a random encounter within the tomb as they seek the villain.

Avoid Building Your Own Random Encounter Lists

Here's a bit of a controversial statement. As DMs, I don't think its a valuable use of our time to come up with our own random encounter lists. Instead, we can just come up with encounters. Leave the random encounter lists to publishers and random encounter generators. Game designers get paid to make large lists of random encounters, knowing that many of them will not get used by any single player but that, overall, they will have a high impact on the games played among many groups.

When we DMs write out random encounter lists, we're not likely to use it very often and thus a lot of our effort is wasted. Our time is better spent designing actual situations we know the characters will face and using random encounter lists to help us think outside of our own mind a little bit. Others may likely argue against this, and that's fine, but consider how much impact the whole random encounter list you write affects your actual game and decide if it's worth the time or if that time is better spent elsewhere. That is, after all, the number one lesson of Return of the Lazy Dungeon Master.

Prepare what matters.

Categories: Blogs, D&D

Why I Love Madness

Sly Flourish - Tue, 11/13/2018 - 06:00

As part of the work we did on the Lazy Dungeon Master's Workbook, I surveyed the Kickstarter backers of Return of the Lazy Dungeon Master and asked them which references, charts, and tables they found most and least useful while preparing and running their 5e games. The three madness charts trended towards the bottom of the list.

I'm not completely surprised but a little sad at this. I love the madness charts. Ever since using them in Out of the Abyss, I've used madness here and there throughout my D&D games and always found them to be an enjoyable addition. Today I'm going to dig into why I love these charts so much and what they can bring to their game.

Regardless of the results, I stuck the madness tables in there anyway. Hell, it's my book. Today I'll talk about why.

(art by Walter Brocca)

The Great Equalizer

Madness is a strange effect. It isn't technically a status effect but when it hits a character, it acts very much like one. We don't know exactly what that effect will be should a character fail a madness check but it sure won't be good.

When we have high power characters, it can be hard for us dungeon masters to challenge them all the time. Many times that's perfectly fine. It's fun to carve through all sorts of monsters when you're a high level and high power character. Since D&D isn't tuned around magical items, the items characters acquire push them outside of their expected power level and that feels great.

Sometimes, however, particularly for really powerful monsters, we want to show the danger. We want players to be scared of things. If Demogorgon rises out of the black waters of Dark Lake, we don't want the characters to just start preparing their attacks and jumping in.

That's where madness comes in. Some creatures are just too horrible to behold. Their very presence pushes the mortal mind outside of the bounds of sanity. The walls of reality crack and in seeps the horror of worlds beyond.

It doesn't matter how many attacks a round you can dish out, a DC 24 Charisma saving throw will turn just about any fighter into a slug-eating buffoon, at least for a few seconds.

The round a demon prince comes out and that aura of madness hits the characters, that's the most dangerous round in D&D. And that danger can be really fun.

When To Use Madness

Madness is an effect we should keep in our back pocket and not use all the time. The appearance of a demon prince or lord of hell is a great time to drop in madness. The arrival of a powerful entity of the Far Realm might be another. Should Slarkrethal the kraken rise from the depths of the seas, it's psionic wave will crash on them like water tearing down mountains.

Other circumstances might also warrant a madness check. Opening up and gazing upon a book of terrible rituals, maybe the Book of Vile Darkness itself, could crack the minds of the strongest wizards. Staring into the shifting planes of a portal to an outer world might invoke madness. Some Fantastic Features containing the depths of evil and studied too rashly might drop waves of terror upon those who gaze upon them.

Again, madness should be used infrequently but, when the situation is right, it's a powerful effect.

Tuning Madness for Fun

As written, madness might be too powerful. The biggest reasion is that it offers no saving throw at the end of a turn to get rid of the effect. We can easily add this end-of-next-turn saving throw when a character is hit with a short-term madness effect during combat.

If the saving throw is too high, though, as it might be for characters who have poor charisma scores, this might not even help. A fighter is going to have a hell of a time beating a DC 24 Charisma save even if they get it at the end of any round. A number of spells can remove madness, as described in the Dungeon Master's Guide including calm emotions lesser restoration, remove curse, dispel evil and good, and greater restoration. We might also argue that damage done to the character can snap them out of their daze or at least give them advantage on the check.

The Creativity and Improvisation of Madness Effects

One of the reasons I love the madness effect so much is that it's full of flavor. While a stun is generally just a stun, madness carries such flavorful effects as "the character experiences an overpowering urge to eat something strange such as dirt, slime, or offal." Hard to beat that for flavor!

Other status effects too have such flavor but it's tied to the way it hits the character. When a drow mage casts web on a character, we know more than just that the character is incapacitated. We know that they are cocooned in a magical sticky web, stuck to the wall or ground and gasping for breath. We might forget this when we're deep into the mechanics of the game but it behooves us to go there and remember what is really going on in the game's fiction.

Likewise madness brings flavor to the game beyond its mechanical effects, which are substantial. Think about the source and describe what happens. One of my favorite questions is to ask the player to describe their happy place when they retreat into their own mind due to a madness effect. A player will describe a nice leatherbound book, sweet pipesmoke in the air, and the familiar softness of a leather chair in front of a warm fire while the rest of the party is being shredded by the tentacles and mental probes of a cyclopean titan risen from the depths. Oh what fun!

Though we tend not to use it often, short-term madness is a wonderful flavorful effect to add into our games from time to time. The next time a character witnesses something outside the bounds of the mind, time to hit that madness chart.

Categories: Blogs, D&D

Our Ability Check Toolbox

Sly Flourish - Mon, 11/05/2018 - 06:00

The more we focus on the story of D&D, the more ability checks become the main mechanic as characters interact with the world around them. Asking for checks and getting the results sounds easy. Ask the player for a roll, add the appropriate modifiers, and match it up against a DC. Simple.

When we're running our game, though, it isn't always as easy as it sounds. It isn't always clear how we should call for checks, to whom, and how we should adjudicate the results. What if a player does a particularly good job roleplaying an encounter with an NPC but rolls poorly on their persuasion check? Is all that good roleplaying lost? What about when a character wants to examine a door, rolls a 2, and everyone else at the table wants to jump in and check the door as well?

In today's article we're going to dig deep into how we use ability checks in the story of our D&D games.

A Summary of Ability Check Options

This is a big article so here's a summary.

  • Read up on the intent of ability checks in chapter 7 of the Player's Handbook and chapter 8 of the Dungeon Master's Guide. Freshen up regularly before you start changing how you run things.
  • Consider how randomness fits into the world and the situations in which we might call for an ability check. Does this check warrant a roll or is a passive ability check enough?
  • Roll secretly for a character's ability check when the character might not know if they succeeded or failed such as when searching for a trap.
  • Offer advantage on checks in which players roleplay particularly well or when an aspect of their character gives them an advantage in the situation.
  • Allow full table rolls if the circumstances allow for it. The highest roll learns the in-game results first.
  • If needed, curb full-table rolls by determining if only one character can reasonably perform the check or by accepting only the first roll.
  • Be prepared for an entire table to fail a check. Make sure it doesn't halt the game.
  • Ask for rolls only from those trained in a skill when a particular level of expertise is required such as decoding magical runes.
  • Ask players to describe how they aid an ally or guide them with guidance.
  • Build your own toolbox of methods for adjudicating ability checks.
Understanding the Rules As Written

Whenever we're going to dig deep into any mechanic in D&D, it's best to read the rules and understand their intent. In the case of ability checks, we have chapter 7 page 173 in the Player's Handbook and chapter 8 page 237 in of the Dungeon Master's Guide to give us the written rules and some solid advice on how best to use ability checks. If you're going to monkey around with ability checks or find that things get confusing at your game, spend a few minutes reading both of these sections to reinforce how the designers intended for ability checks to work.

One thing of note, particularly for DMs who have played older versions of D&D, there are no skill checks. In the fifth edition of D&D, there are only ability checks. Skills are subjects in which characters are proficient and add to an ability modifier when the circumstances allow it. This sounds pedantic but the distinction matters, particularly in the vocabulary of the rules.

These sections in the Player's Handbook and Dungeon Master's Guide give us the basics of using ability checks including group checks, aiding another character, and using advantage and disadvantage based on the circumstance of the check. It's worth reading and refreshing ourselves on these rules regularly, particularly once we've seen how they actually play out for the group at the table.

The Random Chances of the World Around Us

The real world around is is constantly and continually moving based on random chance. Very likely the reason I am writing this and the reason you are reading it are based on very slim random occurrences that happened over our lives and the lives of our ancestors. When we interact with the world around us, random chance plays a big part in those interactions as well, even if we don't see it or choose not to.

The same is true in the world of our D&D games. In the Dungeon Master's Guide, we're given the advice that we need not worry about asking for ability checks when the task being done is either so easy that it's almost assured or so hard that it's nearly impossible. There's another way to think about this, though, and it's by considering how much randomness exists in the situation itself.

If the characters are talking to a town guard, maybe there's randomness in the response of that guard. Maybe he ate something bad earlier that day or got in a fight with his husband before work. Maybe we want to account for that potential random circumstance when our charismatic sorcerer decides to ask him about the secret tunnels beneath the ruined watchtower.

But maybe we don't. Maybe, for the sake of the story, its just easier of the guard tells the characters what they want to know. Regardless of any digestive or domestic issues the guard has, he's still likely to tell a charismatic sorcerer about the tunnels. We don't need to roll for this.

Page 236 of chapter 8 of the Dungeon Master's Guide has a whole section called "The Role of Dice" that discusses when DMs should consider rolling or ignoring dice. The section called "The Middle Path" likely offers the best option: use the dice when a bit of randomness makes sense for that situation or ignore it when the characters approach the situation in a way that makes failure unlikely.

It's important for us to understand why there is a random component when it comes to interacting with the world overall. This randomness isn't there to take some excellent roleplaying and throw it away on a shitty roll. It's there to help the world feel as unpredictable as any realistic world would feel. It's also there to make the story more interesting. If everything were simply comparisons between static ability scores and difficulty classes, we could predict every interaction before it occurred (hello Leplace's Demon!). With the roll of the die, mysterious things happen and that's fun for both players and DMs alike.

How we inject this randomness into our games and how we tweak it based on the context of the story takes some deeper understanding.

Passive Checks

There's a whole interesting discussion to have about passive checks; particularly how passive perception and passive insight work. Jeremy Crawford talked about this on a previous episode of Dragon Talk. Here's a clip from the episode where he goes into details.

In short, passive scores (perception and insight) are always on as long as you're conscious. Players don't get to say that they're using it. Passive perception is intended to be the floor of a character's perception. They might not notice anything specific but they'll know something is going on. If a player rolls perception, they might roll lower than their passive perception but the passive perception is still going on. Anything they would see with that, they'd see anyway.

We can use passive scores for just about anything if we want to but they're most likely to be used for these sort of "always on" skills. As mentioned above, if we feel like the random elements of a situation don't exist in a particular situation, we can opt for a static check on anything. If a rogue has +7 to stealth we can consider it having a general stealth of 17 if they're sneaking through a whole area and we don't want to roll on it all the time.

We might use passive checks instead of rolls in the following circumstances:

  • When randomness isn't a meaningful factor in the situation.
  • When we'd normally have to make a large series of checks.
  • When a skill is "always on" as the characters explore. These skills might include Arcana, History, Insight, Investigation, Medicine, Nature, Perception, Religion, and Survival.
DM Rolls and Hidden Checks

There are times when the results of a situation might be a mystery to the characters regardless of a success or failure. The ability to detect a trap, for example, might be known or not regardless of the results of a roll. Yet when we ask a player to roll to detect a trap, they will know the result because they can see the result.

Instead, we might ask for a character's Wisdom (Perception or Investigation) bonus and make a hidden roll to see how it goes. This gives some mystery to the results. If they detect the trap, they know it's there. If they did not detect a trap, though, it could be because there isn't one there or they missed it. That's exciting.

There aren't many circumstances where we'd roll an ability check for a character and keep the results hidden but it can be useful and fun when it does happen. Here are a few circumstances when rolling a hidden check might be appropriate:

  • Detecting a trap
  • Negotiating with an NPC who hides their responses
  • Checking for secret doors or hidden compartments
  • Detecting whether a liquid is poison or not
  • Recognizing the traits of a monster

This technique can be fun but should be used sparingly. It's almost always best for players to roll their own checks.

Awesome Roleplaying, Poor Rolls

Sometimes, and we can see this in a lot of streaming games like Critical Role, players do quite a bit of awesome roleplaying when interacting with an NPC. Sometimes, however, their character actually isn't particularly good at that type of interaction. The character has an awesome bit of dialog intimidating the goblin but has an intimidation bonus of -1.

Sometimes we might ask for the check after such a narrative exposition and then see a terrible roll come up. All of us know, based on what was actually said, that it should have gone better than that.

There are a couple of ways we can handle this. First of all, we're within the intention of the game to offer advantage to the player for a fine bit of roleplaying. We can even give them inspiration if they want to hang on to the advantage for another check.

We can also lower the difficulty class on the fly based on the particular approach that was taken with the NPC. We might even use our shades of gray on the roll to turn a bad roll into an interesting divergent path in the situation.

We might even let the roll go away completely and, based on the awesome roleplaying, determine that there's basically no way the interaction will go against the character when they take the approach they're taking. No matter what, we are not slaves to the dice. If the approach and the situation are stronger than random chance, we can judge it a success and move forward.

Full Table Rolls

Invariably we sometimes get into a situation where a character wants to spot something, announces their intention to look around an area, rolls a 2, and then the whole rest of the group jumps in and wants to make the same check.

This can happen in both wide circumstances, like keeping an eye out for monsters while resting or something small like checking a door for traps. When the players see another player fail a check, they want to leap in to make the same check.

The circumstances of such a roll matter a lot in how we adjudicate this. We might, in our minds, have a clear idea that only one character may see or miss seeing such an event only to realize that if everyone tries, someone is bound to make the check.

If the task at hand is something only one character can reasonably do, we can simply veto the checks when the rest of the group wants to roll. We might argue that only that one chance could work and subsequent attempts won't succeed. Other times, however, we might shrug and go with the group check.

Here are some circumstances when only one character can reasonably perform a check:

  • Detecting a trap
  • Disarming a trap
  • Picking a lock
  • Forging a document
  • Manipulating an object
  • Reading arcane energy off of an object
  • Climbing a wall

And here are some example circumstances when a whole group can reasonably check.

  • Investigating a room
  • Scouting an area
  • Foraging for food
  • Forcing open a door
  • Studying a written document

If we do find circumstances where the whole group can participate, we might instead call for a group check. See page 175 of the Player's Handbook for details. We use a group check when the whole group acts together and succeeds or fails together. The most common group check is the group stealth check to avoid being seen as a group travels through an area but we can use it in other circumstances too. In a group check, all participants roll for the check and more than half of them must succeed in order to succeed at the roll.

If things seem too easy when the whole group would roll on a check, we can use the group check to even things out a bit.

Full Table Failures

Sometimes we want to pass some information to the characters and we ask for a full group check expecting that someone will pass. Sometimes, however, the dice work against all of us and no one succeeds. If the information was vital, we might find ourselves stuck in a corner of the story. We expected someone would pass. Now what?

Even when we're calling for a group check in which only one member of the group must succeed, we must be ready to handle it if no one succeeds at all. In these circumstances it might be best to give the highest rolling player the required information and "fail forward" with a complication of some sort such as giving away their position or not noticing the arrival of another group of creatures before it's too late.

Only Those Trained Can Succeed

The fifth edition of D&D expects that all checks are "ability" checks, not "skill" checks. Thus, when a DM calls for a check, they ask for an ability like "give me a wisdom check" to notice something coming closer in the distant sky. We might also tag on a skill with it and say "give me a wisdom check and add your proficiency if you're trained in perception". I imagine most DMs skip this and go straight to "give me a perception check" and players know to roll flat wisdom if they aren't trained.

One way to ensure that an entire group doesn't try a particularly narrow skill is to ask for only those trained in the skill to check. For example, understanding arcane runes protecting a vaulted door might require that it be checked only by those trained in Arcana. Understanding the intricate information stored in a religious text or recognizing the origin of a buried statue might require someone trained in Religion.

Requiring proficiency in a particular skill goes outside the bounds of the intended D&D rules, but it is a good way to make those proficiencies count during the game. We might stack on other backgrounds, races, or classes onto this list as well. If the characters come across a mystical tome, maybe only those trained in Arcana or those able to cast spells can attempt to decode the book's secrets using their spellcasting ability score to understand it. Perhaps only someone trained in Religion can recognize the ancient buried statue except for dwarves who might recognize that the statue is of a dwarven deity lost long ago.

Here are some example circumstances where we might only ask those who are trained to make a check:

  • When decoding powerful arcane runes
  • When investigating ancient religious artifacts
  • When picking a difficult lock
  • When hunting a deceptive beast through the jungles
  • When digging through formal histories for a particular nugget
  • When attempting to brew a particular poison
  • When seeking the particulars from the wounds found on a corpse

Again, this method for ability checks goes outside the expected rules and, as Jeremy Crawford says, it should be used sparingly.

Offering Advantage for Character Traits and Backgrounds

It's always nice to reinforce a character's interactions with the world through that character's race, class, background, or any other trait of the character that gives the character an advantage in a particular situation. In these circumstances, we can give a character advantage for a particular check based on this trait.

If the characters are examining an ancient fresco buried underneath centuries of moss, the high elf character might get advantage on the check since the fresco depicts elements of the ancient elven struggle between Corellon and Lolth.

The Dungeon Master's Guide specifically discusses when to use advantage and disadvantage on ability checks. Page 239 includes circumstances when one or the other makes sense with one particularly interesting statement: "Consider granting advantage when circumstances not related to a creature's inherent capabilities provide it with an edge."

When a rogue is disarming a trap or picking a lock, we don't give them advantage for being a rogue. Their proficiency is already wired into being a rogue. Picking locks and disarming traps is what rogues do. We already know that barbarians are particularly athletic, they don't get barbarous advantage for bending bars or lifting gates. They actually get it anyway if they're raging at those vexing bars.

Backgrounds already offer skills so we might think of that as an inherent capability already but if the details of a background can aid a character beyond a skill proficiency, we can consider that enough to offer advantage on the check.

Here are some examples where we might offer advantage on an ability check based on a particular trait of a character.

  • When a sailor is examining a wrecked ship
  • When a sage is reading through an old tome
  • When a dwarf is investigating the construction of an underground citadel
  • When an Warlock serving a Great Old One patron peers into a portal to the far realm
  • When an assassin investigates a potential poisoning
Describing Aiding and Guidance

The aid another action is a great way for two characters to work on a problem with one of them giving advantage to another. The most common problem I've seen with this is that the player of the aiding party grabs a d20 and rolls without thinking about the fact that they aren't the ones supposed to be rolling. If this happens, we can tell the partners that this second roll counts as the advantage roll and add whichever modifier is higher between the two characters.

We can apply a small cost to this aid as well by asking the player to describe how they're aiding. This is a nice trick to get players into the story. It isn't enough for them to say "I'll aid them", the question is how they'll offer that aid. Fun stories can come from such questions.

The same is true with the cleric's spell guidance which offers 1d4 to any ability check. When a cleric casts this spell, we can ask the player to describe what that aid looks like. Is it a holy light that fills in the nooks and crannies of a difficult lock? Is it a small glowing halo that surrounds the rogue as she talks her way past the town guards? Is it a tiny glowing light in the eyes of the wizard as she decodes the magical glyphs embedded in the wall?

Getting players to answer these in-game story-focused questions is a great way to get them outside of their character sheet and into the world you're creating together.

Ability Checks: The Primary Mechanic between Players and the World

When we think about it, ability checks may be the biggest mechanic of D&D. In our more story-focused games, these ability checks guide nearly every challenging interaction between the characters and the world around them. The basic mechanic of ability checks; rolling a d20, adding a modifier, and matching against a difficulty class; seems so simple but how we actually implement these checks into the game can have a big impact in how the game is played and how it turns out.

Read the rules, see how they play out at your own table, and build a toolbox of methods for calling for and using ability checks in your own game. Let these checks act as the chaotic vehicles for the awesome stories that unfold at your table.

Categories: Blogs, D&D

Develop Attractive Goods To Sell

Temporary Hit Points - Sun, 11/04/2018 - 13:48

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Categories: Blogs, D&D

The Hunger: A Level 1 to 20 Gnoll Campaign

Sly Flourish - Mon, 10/29/2018 - 06:00

Reading Volo's Guide to Monsters, along with the Monster Manual is a fantastic way to fill our head with D&D lore that helps us plan our games and improvise while we're running them. If you get nothing else out of this article, consider how much value you can get by reading these books cover to cover to steep yourself in D&D lore.

Reading the section on gnolls in Volo's Guide got my head spinning around the idea of a full level 1 to 20 fifth edition Dungeons & Dragons campaign built around gnolls. I had in my head an image of a hyena twitching in the remains of a half-digested corpse of a villager (gory, I know). As the characters watch in horror, the hyena starts to twist and break like the best scene in American Werewolf in London. The party witnesses the full transformation (or maybe partial transformation if they decide to blast it to pieces before it finishes) of a hyena into a gnoll.

A whirlwind of events would take them from that single scene all the way into the Death Dells where they will hunt—or be hunted by— Yeenoghu the demon prince of gnolls and the most powerful minions on Yeenoghu's home plane of existence in the Abyss.

Can we build an entire campaign around this central pillar? I believe we can! Of course it won't JUST be gnolls. We'd have lots of side threads going on too, but building a full level 1 to 20 campaign arc focused on Yeenoghu's Hunger sounds like a lot of fun to me, so let's dig in.

The Campaign Elevator Pitch

Following the steps in Return of the Lazy Dungeon Master for building new campaigns, we start with a central theme for the campaign. The shorter the better, so here is my campaign pitch in three words:

End Yeenoghu's hunger.

That's simple but it's a good central pillar around which to build the campaign. It's a quest the characters can get early on in the adventure and work towards all throughout their characters' levels.

Six Truths of the Hunger

Next we come to the campaign's six truths. What sets this campaign apart from others? Here we list the six things that make this campaign unique among campaigns. These are truths we will share with the players so they know what to build their characters around.

  • A blood moon rises in the sky each night and has for a full month with no sign of stopping.

  • Signs of a twisted new cult have begun to appear. Some whisper of cannibalism.

  • Trade between smaller villages and towns have begun to cease. Some say entire villages have been found slaughtered and devoured.

  • Hobgoblins from a warband known as the Black Fist have sprung up in greater numbers.

  • Cities of the lands have begun to close their borders and seal their walls. Even they do not know exactly why.

  • A great black and green storm swirls over the mountains of Shattered Teeth. Sages say the very atmosphere over the mountains has changed.

This is going to be a campaign of overland exploration and dungeon delving and will have all three pillars of play. We can reinforce to the players that they will will want to build players with the following goal:

"My character wants to work with their fellow adventurers to find the source of the bloody hunger that grips the land and end it."

The Fronts

We don't have to build out an entire campaign from end to end here, but we will outline the major story drivers of the campaign. We've borrowed the idea of Fronts from the excellent RPG, Dungeon World.

  • Front: Yeenoghu and the gnoll hordes
  • Goal: Devour all humanity in the world.
  • First Grim Portent: Packs of gnolls in great number stop trade between the major cities of the land.
  • Second Grim Portent: Yeenoghu and his gnoll hordes attack a smaller settlement.
  • Third Grim Portent: Yeenoghu and his greater horde attack one of the larger cities.

  • Front: The Cult of the Hunger

  • Goal: Pave the way for Yeenoghu's cleansing.
  • First Grim Portent: The cult grows larger as it recruits from disenfranchised towns on the outskirts of major cities.
  • Second Grim Portent: The cult steals the powerful Tome of Savagery from the greatest library of the land and uses it to open a second portal to Yeenoghu's realm, the Death Dells.
  • Third Grim Portent: The Cult of Hunger assassinates the leaders of a major city and sends its armies into chaos.

  • Front: The Black Fist hobgoblin mercenary army

  • Goal: Let the gnoll horde weaken the defenses of the cities and then sweep in and take over.
  • First Grim Portent: The Black Fist hobgoblin army takes over a ruined castle within striking distance of two major settlements.
  • Second Grim Portent: Black Fist scouts track Yeenoghu's trail of destruction.
  • Third Grim Portent: The Black Fist stands outside of a major city, waiting until both sides are weakened before sweeping in and taking it over.

We hold these fronts loosely. New fronts might pop up and old fronts might change drastically. Volo's Guide includes a wonderful section on hobgoblins as well as gnolls so we can add them as a third party that might end up as allies of the, enemies, or both for the characters and their goals.

When it comes to the selection of monsters we might choose or this campaign, Volo's Guide has an excellent section on the Anatomy of a Warband and on Gnoll Allies that works as a great checklist of potential monsters we can sprinkle throughout our campaign.

A Loose 1 to 20 Outline

While we don't need anything more than the above to run a decent start to a campaign, it might be fun to write a loose outline of the places the characters might visit and the events that might occur as they go through the campaign. I picked twenty such places and events, one for each level of the game. I have no illusion that these will all get used at exactly the right level but it gives me a loose outline of ideas I can go through when running adventures. I am happy to throw any or all of these away as the campaign progresses.

Level 1: The Dying Hyena. The party encounters a dying hyena that turns into a gnoll in front of their eyes. More hyenas howl in the distance.

Level 2: Slaughter at the Village of Nix. The party sees the slaughter of the village of Nix and hunts down those that committed the act.

Level 3: The Charnal Pit. The party witnesses the gnoll's feast at the charnel pit outside of Nix.

Level 4: Assault on Fort Kellum. The party arrives at Fort Kellum to see it under assault by the gnolls.

Level 5: The Dead Gate. The characters explore the ruins of a planar gate previously used by Yeenoghu four hundred years ago and the ruins of dwarves and deep gnomes that surround it.

Level 6: Citadel Gallax. The party explores, infiltrates, or is invited into a ruined citadel now rebuilt by the Black Fist hobgoblin warband.

Level 7: The Tower of Fangs. The party faces the cult of Hunger at one of its temples and discovers their dark portents.

Level 8: Mountain of Broken Teeth. The party backtracks to the Mountains of Broken Teeth where Yeenoghu first came to the world.

Level 9: The First Portal. The party finds and close the portal Yeenoghu used to enter the prime plane.

Level 10: Dragonspear Castle. The party goes to Dragonspear Castle where the Black Fist warband wages war against a huge gnoll army.

Level 11: The Temple of the Hunger. The party faces the cult of Hunger and its high priest to recover the Book of Savagry.

Level 12: The Demon Rift. The party discovers and must close a rift spilling out scores of maw demons like an infected wound in the world.

Level 13: The Hunters at the Twisted Shrine. At a long-forgotten shrine, the party must survive an assault by a war band of gnolls specifically born and bred to hunt them down and slay them.

Level 14: The Assault on Baldur's Gate. The party arrives at Baldur's Gate to find Yeenoghu and his army waging an assault on the city.

Level 15: The Prince of Savagery. The party faces Yeenoghu and his army in order to save Baldur's Gate.

Level 16: The Gateway. The party faces Yeenoghu's gatekeepers and enters the gateway to the Death Dells.

Level 17: The Death Dells. The party begins their exploration into Yeenoghu's Abyssal plane.

Level 18: The Maw. The party travels through a huge sinkhole consisting of the rotten corpse of a single huge maw demon.

Level 19: The Hunting Grounds. A twisted maze of brambles surrounds Yeenghu's lair in which the mightiest gnolls of the demon prince eternally hunt their prey.

Level 20: Yeenoghu. The party faces the Prince of Savagery on his throne of corpses.

A Loose Outline and a Fun Exercise

When we sit down to plan a campaign like this, we need not plan too far. Things are going to go off the rails from the very first session and that's what makes these games so much fun. We can, however, get our minds working by thinking about what might happen and have some fun diving deep into the lore of the game to see where our minds go. Such exercises keep our minds limber and keep us ready to run some great games even if we never get around to running a campaign like this.

When you think of your own campaign, where does your mind go?

Categories: Blogs, D&D

Handling Tag-Along NPCs

Sly Flourish - Mon, 10/22/2018 - 06:00

In the Dungeons & Dragons adventure Out of the Abyss, the party has the potential of grouping with a number of NPCs as they all attempt to escape from their captors in the depths of the underdark. In Storm King's Thunder, the party can be accompanied by Harshnag, a powerful frost giant wielding an incredibly powerful magical axe. Finally, in Tomb of Annihilation, the characters have the potential of grouping with assassins, a Couatl, or an artifact-donning hero and his lizard companion wielding a holy avenger.

Some DMs may not have any problem handling these tag-along NPCs in a game. These NPCs find their place in a group and work their way into the story as it unfolds. Other DMs, myself included, have trouble with tag-along NPCs. Here's why.

First, tag-along NPCs make our lives harder as DMs. Running a whole world is already hard work, even for the lazy. Adding tag-along NPCs gives us a whole other set of variables to handle.

Tag-along NPCs also make combat take longer since there's another character in the mix. Sometimes we can hand this off to one of the players but not if the NPC has a secret identity. If you hand Dragonbait over to a player, I bet that sword is getting traded.

These tag-along NPCs also skew the balance of power in a group. Challenges that the party might have had a hard time with suddenly got easier. That extra NPC adds to the overall synergy to the party and that synergy is a huge power boost. If we want to challenge the characters, we're going to have to account for it.

Probably the worst offense of tag-along NPCs is that they draw the spotlight off of the characters. Our attention should be on the characters and how they interact with the world around them. Now we have this new character that doesn't belong to anyone but who also takes some of that spotlight away. This gets exacerbated if the NPC overshadows the characters in power, like Artus Cimber, Dragonbait, or Harshnag.

How do we handle it when tag-along NPCs become a burden to a game? Many DMs discussed the problem and potential solutions in a Twitter thread on the topic. The following includes ideas they discussed as well as some of my own.

Don't Let them Tag Along in the First Place

If we know these tag-along NPCs might show up in our adventure, we can head them off before they actually join the characters. Maybe we just don't have them show up at all. What is their reason not to join the party? I hinted at Artus Cimber and Dragonbait in my Tomb of Annihilation game but never pulled the thread on them and never had them show up. Maybe I would have if they came up in a random roll of the dice but maybe I'd simply roll again. This is certainly likely after hearing how difficult these high-level NPCs can be when they join a game.

The easiest way to deal with tag-along NPCs is simply not to. Don't let them become tag-along NPCs.

Have an Exit Strategy

If an NPC does join the party, it always helps to have an exit plan for the NPC. When will the NPC leave the group? What circumstances will lead to their departure? How do you steer things to ensure that circumstance actually takes place?

Harshnag in Storm King's Thunder had an exit plan; getting crushed under a million tons of ice in the Eye of the All Father. I don't know that Artus Ember and Dragonbait had much of an exit plan but they might come to either fear the characters or fear for the characters and head out during the night. The various NPCs in Out of the Abyss might eventually betray the characters or leave for other reasons. The guides in Tomb of Annihilation might get sick or might have another tangential agenda that leads them away from the party.

Keep your options open when considering how to get an NPC to leave the party and be ready to enact it if you find the NPC is overstaying their welcome.

Limit Their Utility

What the NPCs do while their with the party can also make a huge difference in how things play out. If an NPC agrees up front to stay out of combat, that makes things easier. This works best if the NPC clearly isn't much of a combatant to begin with. It's harder when you see a lizard with a holy avenger sword who's standing back while you fight ancient crocodiles by yourself. There are few reasons why a combat-focused NPC wouldn't fight but, if there's a good reason within the context of the story, that can work out. Lets pretend Jarlaxle joined the group. He has a clear reason to disappear every time things get dangerous even though he's a hell of a combatant. It's a lot less likely Drizzt would stay out of a fight, though.

Instead, we have another way we can keep them out of the way.

Make them Background Scenery

One way we can have a combat-focused NPC in a party and still not causing much trouble is to make them part of the background. If the party is facing three ogres, maybe they're actually facing four and our combat-focused NPC is taking care of the fourth. We pull these two combatants out of the actual battle and simply describe the battle taking place between them in the narrative. No dice need be thrown, no damage needs be tallied; we just make it part of the scenery going on while the main battle takes place in the foreground.

This has limits, though. This style will likely get stale if you do it over and over. This problem points back to getting them out of the party as soon as you can so it doesn't get that stale.

Let Players Run Them

In the case of an NPC who isn't seriously outclassing the rest of the party, let one of the players—maybe the player with the simplest character—run the NPC. You can give them a copy of the stat block, maybe taking a picture of it with their phone, and let them run the NPC on their same initiative. This is usually quick since monster stat blocks aren't terribly difficult.

If the NPC has a secret identity, say like Eku from Tomb of Annihilation secretly being a Couatl, you can instead give the player the stat block for the NPC they're pretending to be, say a spy or a veteran. These characters are likely to pull their punches anyway so as not to expose their true selves and that can be accounted for in the false statblock. It also keeps their power under control.

Be Aware of the Spotlight

Beyond adding extra power to the characters that might make potentially challenging situations trivial, NPCs in the party can have a tendency of pulling the spotlight away from the other characters. No one wants to watch DMs play with themselves. This can get tricky if the NPC is clearly the right person for a particular job, either because of what they know or the skills they happen to have. Why wouldn't the NPC who already knows the king be the one to negotiate for the party? This is something you'll want to noodle through before it starts to happen in your game. The spotlight should always be on the characters and tag-along NPCs should always be in the background. We might have to fudge the story a little bit to get them there but its important enough that it's worth bending the story to make it happen.

Player-Provided Tag-Along NPCs

So far we've been talking about NPCs in the adventure who, through the purposes of the story, end up tagging along with the group. Sometimes, however, players will bring their own tag-along NPCs as part of their characters. Maybe they hired a hireling or maybe they summoned a pet. Maybe they have their own simulacrum walking around with them or some sort of intelligent pet. This is a slightly different situation because you can't simply route the NPC out of the group. If a character's NPC starts to hog too much of the spotlight, it might be worth having an out-of-game conversation with the player to determine how you can ensure their NPC isn't stealing the joy from the rest of the table. Mabye that shield guardian of theirs wanders off unexpectedly. Maybe that hireling quits. Maybe the simulacrum goes back to protect the characters' airship.

Other times these player-provided tag-along NPCs aren't that much of a problem. You can always account for them when determining the challenge of a fight if a challenge is what you seek by adding one or two monsters to balance them out. They also often make juicy targets.

One nice house rule you might incorporate is the rule of mutually-assured destruction for tag-along NPCs. This works well for delicate pets and familiars. If a character's NPC doesn't come out in a fight, you won't target them; even with area of effect spells. This helps them keep their delicate NPCs without worrying about them getting killed in every fireball that happens to target the party.

Just Say No

Many of these problems and potential solutions go away if, when you have the chance, you simply forgo having tag-along NPCs at all. If an adventure calls for an NPC to follow the party, consider whether it really needs to happen and, if it does, how they will exit out again. Be particularly careful with high power NPCs like Artus Cimber, Dragonbait, and Harshnag. They can completely unbalance an adventure if they stick around too much.

The easiest thing is to simply avoid such NPCs. That's what us lazy dungeon masters do.

Categories: Blogs, D&D