How to Use an Ooze

Last week I asked Twitter what kind of Dungeons & Dragons monsters I should write about. I’ve been running Out of the Abyss most of this year, so I listed a few Underdark monsters I’ve used a lot. The clear winner was oozes.

One of the big limitations of oozes is that almost all of them are slower than most player characters. Most player characters can run away from an ooze. In order for an ooze to be a problem, you’ve often got to put your player characters in a tight spot where they can’t run, such as a tight dungeon. Since most oozes can squeeze trough small cracks you could have oozes coming out of the walls to attack and then disappearing back into tiny cracks where the player characters can’t attack them. You’re kind of treating them less like a ‘monster’ and more like a dungeon hazard – something the player characters have to get past in order to get to the business end of the dungeon. Hopefully it’s going to take off a chunk of their hit points, and maybe it will even ruin some of their armor or weapons, so they’re more vulnerable when they face the boss.

When you think about it, there are actually a lot of ways villains could make use of oozes. Oozes could be used in traps. There could be a trap that drops your players into a pit full of oozes. Or a trap that drops oozes on their heads. There could be a potion bottle that actually has a tiny ooze in it.

While we’re talking about bottles of ooze, maybe your villain could be an alchemist who throws vials with oozes in them at your player characters?

If you’re running an adventure that involves a murder investigation, maybe the villain has used an ooze to clean up the evidence like a slimy Roomba?

If the villain manages to capture a prisoner and is trying to get information out of them, maybe their interrogation involves an ooze? The torture could be dipping their hand in a container of corrosive ooze. Or it could be allowing an ooze to eat away at them until they provide answers.

If the player characters are searching a dungeon for an ancient artefact, you could have them find that it’s already been found by another adventurer – maybe a rival. If they take the time to search for clues, they discover a gelatinous cube that devoured the adventurer and the artefact. If the player characters want the artefact, they’ll need to get it out of the ooze.

Oozes aren’t normally sentient, but if your adventure features an intelligent ooze you’ll need to think about how to characterise your ooze non-player character. I’d suggest portraying an ooze as lethargic but ravenous.

If the ooze has consumed a lot of people, I’d have it talking with many different voices. I might even describe the faces of the ooze’s victims appearing briefly in its shifting form.

 

Player Characters for your Ravnica Adventure

A few weeks back Wizards of the Coast announced two new settings, Eberron and Ravnica. There’s a significant crossover between the fandoms of Dungeons & Dragons and Magic: The Gathering, two of WOTC’s biggest properties, but not everyone is familiar with both. Ravnica is a setting from the collectable card game Magic: The Gathering, and the first to be getting a hardcover D&D book. Ravnica is a planet covered by one megacity, co-ruled by ten competing guilds.

Whether MTG was your gateway drug into D&D or you hadn’t heard of Ravnica until a few weeks ago, this article will take a quick look at each of Ravnica’s guilds, and the kind of characters you might make for a game set in Ravnica.

Update:

WOTC has released some playtest material for races of Ravnica, which you can find here. Includes loxodon (humanoid elephants), vedalken, viashino and Simic hybrids.

Azorius Senate

Azorius are the law enforcers of Ravnica, mostly cops.

 

Races: human, vedalken

Classes: wizard, paladin, fighter

Backgrounds: city watch / investigator, soldier

To me, one of the most iconic Azorius cards is Detention Sphere:

Detention Sphere makes me think of making a control wizard, probably a human wizard with the city watch background and spells like friends, lightning lure, shocking grasp, charm person, color spray, grease, sleep, snare. If you were using the variant human you could choose the moderately armored feat to give your squishy wizard a bit more protection in the line of duty, unless you’re happy with just the mage armor spell.

Boros Legion

Boros and Azorius seem  kind of similar. If Azorius are the cops, Boros are the troops.

 

Races: human, minotaur, goblin, viashino (use lizardfolk)

Classes: fighter, paladin

Background: soldier, mercenary veteran

While they have a lot of human, minotaur and goblin soldiers, they also have fire elemental soldiers. If you wanted to make one of these, I’d suggest a fire genasi fighter with the champion subclass for increased crits, and the soldier background.

Another option is a human paladin (soldier) on a griffin, specializing in great weapon combat.  (Azorius have ‘skyknights’ too, so you could do something similar for an Azorius character.) Obviously you’d want to make sure your dungeon master was on board with this plan.

 

House Dimir

Dimir are Ravnica’s crime syndicate. Most of Ravnica doesn’t know they exist. Some of their most valuable business is information stolen from other guilds.

 

Races: human, shapeshifter (use changeling), vampire

Classes: rogue, wizard

Background: charlatan, criminal / spy, urban bounty hunter

I’d suggest using the changeling race (from the Eberron playtest material) to make a rogue character using the criminal background. One of the quirks of the new changeling rules is that one of their tool proficiencies is enhanced when they adopt a persona associated with it. So, if the tool proficiency was alchemy, they might take on the persona of a member of a rival guild (perhaps Izzet or Simic) in order to steal that guild’s secrets.

Golgari Swarm

Golgari are the castoffs of Ravnica’s society, living in the sewers beneath the city, recycling the city’s waste, creating life out of death.

 

Races: elf (shadar-kai or drow), human

Classes: cleric, druid

Backgrounds: far traveler, outlander, urchin

For a Golgari character, I’d suggest an shadar-kai cleric using either the life or death domain. If you’re creating a zombie, say that it’s being held together by animated vines. If you’re healing your comrades, say that their wounds are filled in with fungal growths.

Gruul Clans

Gruul are the barbarians and anarchists of Ravnica.

 

Races: human, goblin, minotaur, centaur, viashino (use lizardfolk)

Classes: barbarian, druid

Background: far traveler, folk hero, outlander, uthgardt tribe member

This card makes me want to have a go at making a Gruul earth genasi barbarian:

Izzet League

Speaking of genasi, I think they could make good Izzet characters too. Izzet are mad scientists and alchemists.

 

Races: human, goblin, weird (use genasi)

Classes: sorcerer (wild mage or storm), wizard

Backgrounds: cloistered scholar, sage

One of the most iconic Izzet creations are weirds – elementals created from opposing substances. In order to make a weird character, I’d make a water genasi sorcerer (probably wild mage) and choose lots of spells that do different kinds of elemental damage.

Orzhov Syndicate

Orzhov is a church ruled by a council of ghosts who worship wealth and power. Orzhov exerts control over the masses through debt and extortion.

 

Races: human, vampire, revenant

Classes: cleric, rogue (spy, assassin, inquisitive), warlock

Backgrounds: acolyte, criminal / spy, haunted one, inheritor, noble

I could imagine running an adventure with three different Orzhov characters:

  • an innocent life cleric whose eyes haven’t yet been opened to the corruption of the church
  • a cynical grave cleric who can’t leave because they’re indebted to the church hierarchy. Maybe they’re a revenant, forced to pay off their debt beyond death?
  • an evil death cleric (perhaps a vampire) on a quest for power
Cult of Rakdos

Rakdos is an insane, demon-worshipping clown cult who provide sadistic forms of ‘entertainment’.

 

Races: human, goblin, devil (use tiefling)

Classes: bard, fighter, wizard (necromancer), warlock (the fiend)

Backgrounds: entertainer, gladiator, haunted one

Selesnya Conclave

Selesnya is a kind of utopian environmentalist collective, led by dryads.

 

Races: elf (high or wood), human, centaur

Classes: druid, fighter

Backgrounds: acolyte, outlander, sage

Simic Combine

Simic are a group of mad bioengeneers who create strange combinations of different creatures. Many of them have experimented on themselves.

 

Races: sea elf, triton or anything that you can reskin as a hybrid

Classes: wizard, sorcerer barbarian

Backgrounds: cloistered scholar, far traveler, hermit, outlander, sage

One of my favourite ideas is using existing character races to make characters who are results of Simic experiments. For example, to make a giant predatory lizard-frog, I’d make a bugbear barbarian with the totem warrior subclass. Choosing the tiger totem would allow them to make large jumps between buildings, just like a giant frog mutant. The urban bounty hunter background would help them hunt prey on the streets of Ravnica.

What kind of characters would you make for a Ravnica adventure?

Call to Adventure: “The Descent”

An Adventure Hook Written By: Dice Prophet

Type: Horror and suspense

System: D&D 5th Edition (requires Ravenloft setting)

Ideal Party Size: 4-6

Recommended Levels: 1

Concept

So you want to run the campaign: “Curse of Strahd?” But what if all of the player characters are from different locations on the world map and have little to no relation to one another? Here are some ideas on how to quickly get your PCs together and traveling within the Demiplane of Dread in a more cinematic way!

The following is an alteration and elaboration of the “Creeping Fog” section (CoS pg. 22) of the adventure book, and was inspired by countless horror games. The goal is to invoke a dreamlike atmosphere, establish a bleak and oppressive tone, and have the characters constantly questioning their own sanity and perceptions.

Spooky and somber background music is entirely optional, but highly recommended!

Introduction

At the very beginning, you have a number of PCs spread across a wide campaign world. The original adventure describes how the Barovian fog mysteriously whisks the characters away while you are out camping in the wilderness, but this can be easily adapted and tailored to a wide variety of unique settings for the individual PCs, allowing a more personalized introduction.

Setup

Refer to the “Mists of Ravenloft” (CoS pg. 23) for more information on the negative effects of traversing the fog. Hint at the adverse nature of the mist in order to dissuade the players from straying off the path. Once the players are introduced to one another, the fog becomes less of an active nuisance, but remains in place to serve as a barrier at the edges of the starting area, whichever that may be.

Development

The following are examples of how you can transport a character into Ravenloft in the middle of their typical day. The goal is to trick them into following the plot railroad, and then bring in the mist to seal off their escape. Keep this segment short and simple; you don’t want to spend too much time on a single player.

Urban Setting

If a player character starts off in an urban setting, give them someone to chase. Draw their focus away from the environment and upon a singular point by enticing their avarice, lust, or other base urges. Alternatively, flip the script around and create a scenario in which the PC is the object of pursuit. Perhaps they are wanted for a crime or attempting to flee a relationship that went sour. Below are some sample hooks.

  • The telltale jingle of coins from a wealthy merchant’s purse entices the character to tail them.
  • An attractive maid or coxswain catches the character’s eye with a reciprocated come-hither stare.
  • Provoke their wrath by having a nameless NPC steal something from them and run off.

Allow the scenario to unfold with a series of appropriate checks before ripping them from their familiar world. This incident incident can range from gradual and cryptic to sudden and traumatic. Here are some examples.

  • If they successfully woo the object of their affection, simply relocate them during their satisfied slumber.
  • After they lose track of their quarry or successfully shake off their tail, they notice the fog creeping in and obscuring their surroundings. Their attempts to reorient themselves are fruitless as the surrounding buildings appear to drift away with each passing second. This baffling phenomenon continues until they hear the sounds of their boots crunching upon a gravel road that they don’t recognize.
  • If they manage to catch their targets, immediately turn the tables and trust them into an overwhelming encounter with strange creatures. As a blade fatally slips into their heart and the warmth leaves their bodies, they suddenly awaken in a new location, clutching at a non-existent wound.
  • They player stumbles onto the main street, gasping for air. They turn backwards to confirm whether they are still being followed. But before they can react, they are suddenly face-to-face with a speeding horse-drawn cart that collides straight into them, enveloping their sight in utter darkness. They jolt back to consciousness with an involuntary scream, surrounded by an unending wilderness.

Rural or Natural Setting

Similar to the aforementioned setups, allow the PC to wander and interact with their environments. Use a simple diversion to misdirect them as the fog creeps in and warps the setting. For instance:

  • While mining for ore from a nearby mountain, the fog suddenly cascades over the hills and envelops the character in its ethereal embrace. They attempt to flee but become hopelessly lost. Eventually they set foot upon a path that they had never traversed before.
  • After successfully tracking down and slaying some wild game, they begin carving up the body. After several minutes of concerted effort, they realize that the sky has grown darker and a foreboding haze has begun creeping up all around them.
  • A loved one wanders out at night and beckons them to follow. They attempt to catch this particular important person, but are then swept up by the mischievous mist.

The Sea

On the off-chance that a character began their journey at sea, getting them into Ravenloft is very simple. Devise a means or throwing them overboard. As they fight the currents and struggle to catch their breath, they violently breach the water’s surface and find themselves transported to the otherworld. Beyond the shore of the  barely-waist deep puddle they are now lying inside is the same gravel pathway.

Bringing The Pieces Together

After each of the mini-scenarios are concluded, read the following flavor text to the players.

“Your feet crunch against loose rocks as you follow the gravel path, taking great care avoid the boundaries of the obscuring mist. The milky white cloud erects a three sided wall to both sides and your back, funneling you along this lonely road. As you cautiously traverse the unfamiliar environment you observe that the miasma expands and contracts rhythmical, as if alive and breathing. Eventually, your ears catch the coarse grinding of multiple footsteps gradually growing out of sync with your own. And within the nearly impenetrable barrier you spot the outlines of other humanoid figures.”

At this point, all the players are made aware of each other, and have been brought together by a cruel destiny. This trail leads directly onto the Old Svalich Road (“Areas of Barovia” Section A, CoS pg. 33). But where they go from here is entirely up to them.

Call to Adventure: “Belly of the Beast”

An Adventure Hook Written By: Dice Prophet

System: D&D 5th Edition or Pathfinder

Ideal Party Size: 4-5

Recommended Level: 10

Concept

Defeating a dragon is usually the capstone to an epic adventure. The beast falls, the party splits up the loot, and everybody returns to the town, hailed as triumphant saviors. Instead, let’s reverse the formula; this time the wyrm-slaying kicks off an unexpected journey!

Introduction

Read the following flavor text to the player characters at the beginning of the quest:

“The sky grows darker as clouds billow in from the east, carried by quickened winds. The miscellaneous scents of your surroundings are suddenly overpowered by ashy smoke. Then, a thunderous roar sunders the silence, drawing your attention skywards, and you lock eyes with your enemy. A massive shadow stretches across the land as a ferocious red dragon soars straight towards you, steaming maw and malicious intentions bared.”

Setup

When the battle begins, the players can be camping out in the wilderness, celebrating at a tavern, or shopping in the village square, et cetera; the details of their current occupation are unimportant. What matters is that they are suddenly set upon by a vicious young red dragon (D&D 5th Edition Monster Manual pg. 98 or this link for Pathfinder). The serpent attacks with murderous intent and must be slain for the adventure to progress.

Development

Once the dragon is defeated, the party can investigate the corpse, which sows the seed for the actual adventure. Roll a d10 to randomly select which twist of fate befalls the party, or come up with your own! Where you go from there is up to the Dungeon Master’s discretion! But here are some ideas.

  1. The dragon’s belly is filled with countless half-dissolved belongings of the hapless mortals who were previously devoured. Among the salvageable bits you find a slime-soaked scroll that contains a heavily encoded message. The only passage you can immediately decipher is the line, “A False King sits upon the Throne” beside the painted likeness of the current Emperor.
  2. There were no prior rumors regarding dragons in the region, so this attack was entirely unprecedented by the locals. Upon closer inspection of corpse, you find the remnants of shattered chains hanging from the wyrm’s throat and arms. These shackles have no maker’s mark, and are comprised of a mysterious alloy that no one can identify.
  3. As you inspect the motionless dragon, the body reduces in size and transforms before your eyes, leaving behind a humanoid creature. They then jolt awake, screaming in abject terror and agony.
  4. The beast lies dead in the dirt, but is erratically twitching and emitting sparks. You peer past the grave wounds and behold an internal network of gears and clockwork components. This creature’s draconic nature is only skill-deep.
  5. Upon the killing bow, the creature’s body loses form and suddenly dissolves into a shower of black ink that rains down upon the surrounding landscape. The ink is harmless, but traces of dark magic linger within it.
  6. The dragon’s entire body is wreathed with the twisting vines of some unidentifiable plant, the roots of which are centered directly at the base of its skull. As you approach, the leaf-lined tendrils rapidly detach from the corpse and burrow underground, disappearing from sight.
  7. An incredibly rare and dangerous event known as environmental diffusion occurs (D&D 4th Edition Draconomicon: Chromatic Dragons). When some dragons are slain, their bodies rapidly decompose and seep their respective elemental essence into the land, tainting it. In this case, the region becomes engulfed with a magically endless wildfire that does not wane in weather nor require fuel. The characters must find a means to contain and extinguish the blaze before it spreads any further.
  8. The creature’s form is magically reduced to that of a dragon-shaped stone totem that you can lift with a single hand. The artifact is entirely inert, save for the ruby-like jewels set as eyes, which gleam with warm light.
  9. In an ironic turn of events, the dragon’s presence was actually an indirect source of adventuring-based revenue for the nearest town. In its absence, less people frequent the region, and the town eventually falls into economic decay. You monster.
  10. The dragon’s blood is incredibly toxic and causes all nearby plant matter to disintegrate. Any humanoid characters that directly contacted the essence are later wracked with an even worse affliction. First they experience a fiery rash, followed by intense itching, and ultimately the appearance of red scales under their peeling skin as their body temperature begins to rise…

PC: Leoris Bog’ Leon

Name: Leoris Bog’ Leon
Player: Spartans282
Details: Wood-Elf Male 200 yr old Druid
Appearance/Equipment:
Leoris is a 6’0″ Wood elf with light tan skin. His hair is a Dark Pitch black. His eyes are a shinning Silver with a gleam. A Phoenix Feather in his left Ear attached to his hair.He has DarkBlack Leather armor with Black feathers on the shoulder pads. His dark green cloak drapes around his neck covering down to his knees almost like a poncho. he carries a wooden shield and a Scimitar with a hilt of Green Vines wrapped around to a Dark Oak wooden sharp blade.
Background: 
Leoris is actually created from a Tavern PC after learning of that PC’s Secret.
Magic Items
2 Trinkets: He carries a piece of a Crystal around his neck that shines in the moon light. Also has a Bright Red Shelled Egg
Companion:
Ferret named Bleh.

The Problem with Firefights (And How to Fix It!)

Keeping combat encounters unique and exciting can be tricky, especially with longer-running campaigns. In traditional fantasy games, this is made a little easier by the sheer diversity of creatures, abilities, and equipment in play. Running games in a modern, western, or even a low-tech sci-fi setting, however, doesn’t always afford that luxury. In these genres, full-on combat can easily devolve into a mere repetitive exchange of bullets. In this article, we’re going to look at the problem with fire-fights and give you some easy tips to resolve it!

The Problem with Fire-fights
Typical fire-fights, while remaining “ranged” exchanges, can sometimes feel like Rock’em Sock’em Robots. When both sides of an engagement utilize similar weapon types and tactics, consecutive combat rounds will have less inherent diversity, and consecutive combat encounters are liable to start blending together too. There are only so many ways a player can excitedly describe where they place their hole on a landed shot. In short, fire-fights have less intrinsic potential for variation, and so require a little bit more proactive planning to make for great combat encounters. In addition to piling on additional objectives inside your combat encounters, here are three sure-fire ways to keep your fire-fights distinct!

3 Ways to Spice-Up Fire-fights

  • Weapon Distinctions
    Emphasize the differences in the look, sound, smell, and feel of different weapon types and individual firearms. Even if your setting only sports a small variety of weapon categories, that doesn’t mean the highwayman Reckless Joe’s revolver can’t have a carved rosewood pistol-grip or the swat unit’s shotguns an especially tight spread. Describing firearms through as many senses as possible is a great way to differentiate them, even if the wounds they inflict remain pretty similar.
  • Dynamic Cover
    Since terrain and cover tend to play a much more prominent role in fire-fights, mixing up those environmental engagements will keep your players on their toes. Try adding or removing obstacles and points of cover mid-combat, or disrupting/revealing lines of sight. When the circumstances warrant, even consider having your PC’s cover deteriorate after taking the damage from “missed” attacks.
  • Various Threats
    Just because some of your combatants are locked in a bullet-exchange, doesn’t mean rounds have to be the only thing flying around! Include one or two different types of threats other than the fire-fight itself, either through melee combatants or terrain hazards. This will keep your players thinking outside of their lines of sight and force them into some less-than-favourable positions!

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Numenera and its logo are trademarks of Monte Cook Games, LLC in the U.S.A. and other countries. All Monte Cook Games characters and character names, and the distinctive likenesses thereof, are trademarks of Monte Cook Games, LLC. Content derived from Monte Cook Games publications is © 2013-2015 Monte Cook Games, LLC.

How to use Climate and Weather

You could almost taste Endor’s thick humidity, and Tatooine dried out our mouths. Theoden King’s pauldrons clinked with harrowing rain-drops, and the Icewind Dale was…well, always icy. Climate and weather can leave lasting impressions on our engagement with story, even if they don’t always jump to the forefront. Let’s take a look at some basic tips for enhancing your stories with climatic features and events.

Using Climate Narratively
Climate can do a lot to add texture to your story. Mixing up the weather and seasons can completely alter the tone or atmosphere of your party’s objectives and actions: a scorching, cloudless sun can thicken the smells and raise the tempers of those shopping in a crowded marketplace, just as a howling arctic wind will intensify anyone’s shift on the camp watch. More than just this atmospheric flare, climatic events like storms, droughts, seismic shifts, or other natural disasters can also be used as major plot point’s in your world’s history or as part of your party’s present adventures.

Using Climate Mechanically
There are a lots of ways climate and weather can be physically threatening to PCs. Apart from the more overt threats – lightning bolts, land-slides, tornados, meteors, etc. – climate can have significant, if more subtle, impacts on how player’s work through their objectives. Try incorporating things like difficult terrain (deep snow, slippery ice, thick mud, dense vegetation, flooding, etc.), poor visibility (dust storms, snow squalls, heavy fog, mirages, etc.), and long-term exposure (heat exhaustion, dehydration, hypothermia, trench-foot, cracked/blistered skin, etc.) to make your party’s progress just that much more difficult and compelling!

Simple Models
If you’re going to be affecting your sessions with climate, you’ll have to make sure to always be consistent. Unfortunately, there will always be times when your players ask YOU about the current weather in-game when you haven’t actually planned for anything special – they’ll do those more and more regularly once they’ve had to learn the hard way about obstructive climatic events creeping up on them unexpectedly. In order to stay prepared for this (but without having to map out and track complex continental meteorological charts and tables) just pick one of these simple climatic models that make it easy to improvise and stay on top of your world’s weather phenomena!

  • Earth-Like
    Since we all have a basic understanding of earth’s seasons and typical weather patterns, establishing your world as Earth-like (tilted axis with 4 seasons over a 12 month cycle) should make improvising climatic features relatively easy to keep consistent. Add in our own planet’s current climatic volatility, and you won’t need much by way of meteorological justification to toss around dramatic events when they’re best suited to have an impact!
  • Untilted (Seasonless)
    If your world exists without a tilted axis, it won’t have annual seasons. This can be one of the easiest models to use consistently over a long campaign, since north/south regions will always be cold, the equatorial regions will always be hot, and everything in between will stay relatively temperate. There can of course be slight variation in this model, but generally all you have to keep track of is which of these “three” bands your adventures are taking place in. Be sure to consider how this fixed-season orientation will impact your world’s economies and cultures (concentrated wealth in temperate bands, very little life on equator or too far north/south, etc.).
  • “Eyeball Planet”
    This climatic model is a bit different but I wanted to include it anyway because it can really make for some interesting worlds and it’s still pretty simple in terms of managing day-to-day weather systems. “Eyeball” planets are those whose local rotation is perfectly  in sync with their orbital rotation, meaning that the same side of the planet is always facing the sun. As a result, while one face of the world will have constant daylight, heat, and higher chances of life, the other face is always absolutely dark and extremely cold. Given this stark contrast, using an eyeball worlds is like having two completely different worlds in one

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An Argument Against Initiative

The majority of standard d20 systems utilize rolled initiative to determine turn-order in combat encounters. While this is a useful way to establish the mechanical breakdown of complex turn-based scenarios, rolling initiative is not without its flaws. While rigidly turn-based encounters allow the GM to fairly and precisely cycle through the actions of players, NPCs, enemies, and time-specific environmental events, they do so at the expense of narrative freedom. Combat encounters are not, after all, supposed to be any different from any other type of encounter when considered narratively – characters themselves are never “in” or “out” of combat, they are simply taking actions and having things occur around them, sometimes with weapons involved!

The “Whoosh” Effect
Rolling initiative makes a strong declaration: “We are now in combat. We are no longer in non-combat.” But, again, these two things are the same. Implying that there exists two distinct roleplaying spaces risks suggesting that players ought to think or play differently within them. Rolling initiative is the tabletop equivalent of the Pokemon or Final Fantasy “whoosh” that brings your avatar from “the world” to “the fight” and subsequently offers you a restricted list of options to choose from until you get back out into the world. The only REAL difference between “combat” and “non-combat” is that the GM is being much more careful to fairly allow players to take actions and have actions taken against them. Initiative order is really just the hyper-meticulous form of the GM’s constant game mediation – presenting players with world events or actions and asking how their characters respond. Since the stakes are higher in combat, the GM has to ensure that players feel their characters are being given exactly equal opportunities to act and react alongside one another and within the world around them – something that is less significant when preparing a meal over a campfire, walking through a marketplace, etc..

 

Alternative Options
Turn-based encounters still serve an invaluable role in many roleplaying situations, but there are ways to reduce the narrative disruption of entering these carefully parsed-out narrative sequences. Below are some alternatives to rolling initiative at the start of every turn-based encounter that can help keep your players “in the world” even when jumping in and out of turn-based actions.

  • Pre-rolled Initiatives
    Have your players roll a dozen or so initiative rolls when they make their character. Having a series of pre-rolled initiatives for your players allows you to prepare full turn-order lists for each encounter during your GM prep. While there is no mechanical difference to using pre-rolled initiative, it allows players to move seamlessly in and out of combatunder the direction of the GM. Instead of stopping to establish an initiative order, the GM just assigns or asks for the first action and continues to guide the encounter – ex. “As your caravan is rolling past a fallen log, five shrieking goblins erupt from the trees. Dalton, one of them to the left looses an arrow at you, dealing 4 damage. Katarin, what do you do?”
  • One-Roll Initiative
    Have your players roll initiative once at the start of each session and have that number apply for the duration of the session. If you’ve pre-rolled your enemy/NPC initiatives, this will allow you to easily insert player values and then move easily in/out of combat with these predetermined lists. Since players who roll especially well or especially poorly will feel the impact of their roll over a longer period, be sure to come up with narrative details for each encounter to distinguish their repeated advantage/disadvantage – ex. “Alek, the giant spider turns to hiss aggressively at Sharrla, giving you an upper hand. Thuldir, the hilt of your halberd caught on a hunk of webbing right before the spider crawled out of its nest.”
  • Fixed Initiatives
    Instead of using any rolls to determine initiative, use only the appropriate modifiers as the final value. Similar to pre-rolled initiative, this allows you to prep pre-determined turn-orders and seamlessly enter in/out of the encounter. In addition, this method affords a greater degree of narrative consistency – the extremely agile character will always act prior to the sluggish or heavily armoured character, and no character will act before the blinking hell-cat. In combat-heavy games, however, this added realism can sometimes be unforgiving, so be sure to discuss using this method with your players ahead of time.

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Numenera and its logo are trademarks of Monte Cook Games, LLC in the U.S.A. and other countries. All Monte Cook Games characters and character names, and the distinctive likenesses thereof, are trademarks of Monte Cook Games, LLC. Content derived from Monte Cook Games publications is © 2013-2015 Monte Cook Games, LLC.

Rights and Wrongs in DnD

Will is the brainchild of Encounter Roleplay. He runs the livestreams and heads the management team. You can follow him on Twitter @EncounterRP!

I recently published an article on 3 Things I’ve learned as a DM, in which I spoke of “Right” and “Wrong”. These are controversial terms to use in a community where we’re used to hearing that there is “No wrong way to play!” How ridiculous. As an Englishman I feel rather indignant, I might even skip my midday scone. But let’s get into it.

The phrase “No wrong way to play” is clearly flawed. There is a wrong way to do everything. In the same way that attempting to write a song with a guitar with no strings is going to be fruitless, so is running a game with a DM who is intent on punishing his players for out of character disagreements. If you’re not having fun, you’re doing it wrong. If a player in your game is having a miserable time then I don’t care who you are, something needs to change!

“But Will, is there a RIGHT way to play D&D?!” No kid, there’s not. That’s why your mother left us and also the reason Donald Trump exists. There can be no single correct way to play D&D because that entirely depends on what you and your players want to get out of the game. Instead, we’re left in a hole of disappointment, where that simple answer you were looking for when you clicked on this article has disappeared into. Don’t despair though, because there are a multitude of “Right” ways to play your favourite RPG games.

Right and Wrong are subjective terms, so let’s take ownership of them. D&D is all about picking the bits that you love nd ignoring the bits you don’t. Don’t listen to those who would have you love every aspect of it; maybe meta-gaming is just so wrong for you! Then again, maybe you just love making an OP build; then that’s the right way to play!

The right way to play, for me, is through heavily roleplay-oriented games and making silly jokes with my friends. Long combats bore me to the point of distraction and character development is essential. But none of that matters to you. You have your own opinions. To me, they might be wrong. But as long as you’re having fun, I can understand.

Right = Having fun with your friends.

Wrong = You/Other Players not having fun

There are wrong ways to play D&D, as with all things in life. Thankfully though, there are many ways to enjoy our hobby, with fun being the main component to “playing right”. Right and wrong are subjective, and its up for you to decide!

Image ©David Revoy

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3 Things I’ve Learned as a DM

Will is the brainchild of Encounter Roleplay. He runs the livestreams and heads the management team. You can follow him on Twitter @EncounterRP!

I’ve been DMing games for the best part of ten years. I’d like to consider myself good at it, and I am told that I am. Maybe that’s because everyone’s just too nice to tell me otherwise though? Maybe I’ve surrounded myself with sycophants? I was determined to find out.

Recently I’ve had the pleasure of talking to lots of great Dungeon Master’s through streaming on Twitch and running a ‘Dungeon Master’s Tavern Talk’ section during our 24 Hour Streams. This show involves discussing DM tips with a wonderful cast of experienced DMs, many of whom have been playing the game longer for me and have a lot of wisdom to impart on a young chap such as myself. Here’s what I’ve learnt about Dungeon Mastering from them.

1.) I’m RIGHT. ALOT.
Modesty was never my strong suit, but it turns out that I’m pretty right a lot of the time when it comes to Dungeon Mastering philosophy! Okay, so maybe you think there’s no right or wrong when it comes to D&D, but nonetheless it was affirming to hear other people agree with my thoughts when it comes to decisions such as how to deal with problem players, the best ways to introduce new players to the group, world creation and our favourite methods of storytelling.

A few months ago, I found myself in almost constant agreement with Timothy from Experience Points when it came to the ways he found enjoyment from our hobby and Dungeon Mastering as a whole. Having watched him DM a game previously and already respecting his talent to tell an amazing story, I felt I was doing something right. On a side note, EncounterRoleplay is funding their Indiegogo campaign, and we wish them the best of luck! We love seeing our friends succeed.

2.) I’m WRONG… A bit.
Okay, so it’s not all good! I was actually very pleased by this news, as it meant I had more to learn about Dungeon Mastering and could continue to improve. A personal peeve of mine and Mitch’s is the DM who thinks that he’s made it. In reality, we’re all constantly learning together when we play.

I’ll give you an example of where I’ve been wrong in the past. A question came up from chat which read “How can I get my player to roleplay more if I’m not the DM?”. My initial reaction was to say “Go and talk to your DM, get him to do it!”, but my learned colleagues had some great alternatives.

They suggested asking the player how they made certain actions, and posing questions to them such as “Oh you’re drinking, do you go and get drunk?” and making them not only think about their characters actions but also to vocalise that. Mythematic had one brilliant 4am insight which was that “Most players don’t actually realise that they’re not roleplaying. They’re thinking about it in their head, they just don’t convey that to the group.”

This was something I’d never thought about before, and made me rethink my opinion on the matter. It got me thinking about how if I was a player I could encourage more roleplaying. Gone was my distaste for the non-roleplayer (Alright, it’s still there somewhat) and I instead came away with more of an understanding behind the mentality, feeling armed with more tools to help them.

3.) I LOVE DMing
Above all else, talking to other Dungeon Masters made me realise how much I love D&D and DMing in particular. Moreover, I’ve still got lots to learn about it! After playing a game for years, you could fall into the trap of feel like you know everything there is to know. I promise you that you don’t. A beginner can teach you just as much as a veteran, and that’s the joy of it. Start a conversation with some other DMs you know, whether that be in real life or via Twitter using the hashtag #rpgchat. For me, it’s reinvigorated my passion for Dungeon Mastering. I encourage you to do the same, and go and learn something new about D&D today.

You can listen to our Tavern Talks on our Twitch streams or later on ourYoutube Channel!

Image ©David Revoy

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d10k Wild Magic Surges!

Since the pre-release teaser of D&D 5th Edition’s “Basic Rules” prior to the full launch of the PHB, players and GMs alike have been loving the Wild Magic Sorcerer. More than any of its other abilities or features, the new Wild Magic Surge Table has got us in a frenzy of excitement. Heck, I enjoy it so much I encourage players to take on a 1-5/20 chance for it to occur in exchange for a few extra sorcery points per level just so we can see it happen more often!

So, if you also love this class option then you’ll be happy to hear that someone has put together an expanded list of Wild Magic Surge results. And when I say expanded, I mean really, really expanded. Check out the link below for WMS Table of 10,000 (yes, ten thousand) possible results! Thanks to Traykon for the labour of love!

EXPANDED WILD MAGIC SURGE TABLE (TEN THOUSAND!)

Here’s just a sampling of some favourites:

  • 0001: Half of caster’s body turns to stone.
  • 4114: All items carried by target turn to water.
  • 6133: Target struck as by Magic Missile each time he hears his name.
  • 6275: Target thinks he is drowning.
  • 8012: 1 mile radius suffers uninterrupted night for 1 week.
  • 8046: 1 random female nearby exhales smoke whenever she tells a lie.
  • 8132: 1 random male nearby falls to dust but reforms if water is added.
  • 8374: All birds within 1 mile attack anyone near them.
  • 8439: All cows within 1 mile gain human intelligence.
  • 9314: Nearest 500 lb stone turns to diamond.
  • 9844: Nearest sea level rises 10 ft.
  • 9984: Tremendous riots crumble the nearest town to ruin.

Love without Eroticism

Love is a great way to get your players that much more invested in their game’s setting. Lovers, spouses, and children can all make your PCs suddenly and intensely invested in the well-being of a particular town/city/region. Depending on your group’s dynamic, however, utilizing love as a narrative tool can get tricky.

Too often in rpgs, love and sex appear either in far too much detail or they simply don’t appear at all. In just about all cases, both of these two extremes will detract from the overall game experience. On the one hand, it would be blatantly dishonest to ignore something in a role-playing game that we spend so much time thinking about or pursuing in our own everyday lives. Giving your players too much time at the table to talk through and represent this important yet extremely personal element of their character, however, risks ignoring or side-barring the other players in the group – to say nothing of player comfort levels, play-styles, or ages.

So, love (in all its various forms) should be treated with care in tabletops. Here are some ways to allow your players to acknowledge their character’s romantic sides with minimal waiting or discomfort for others!

Pre-Established Relationships
When they’re designing their characters, ask your players about family members as well as past or present love interests. This will allow you as the GM to involve/incorporate established character loves (familial or romantic) into the story without needing to take too much time developing them in-game.

NPC Courtship
When establishing new loves in-game, the most important thing is not to leave other players waiting in the sidelines for too long. The best way to do this is to make the pursuant/pursued interest valuable to the whole party in some way. Make him/her an NPC the group needs to interact with anyways – an informant, barmaid, employer, victim, VIP, objective, etc.. This makes the budding relationship with one NPC potentially significant for every PC. As a result, they shouldn’t resent the digression any more than they’d tire of one player taking a minute to pick the lock on a treasure vault!

“Hat on the Door”
One of the easiest and safest ways to minimize both the narrative intrusion and potential group tension caused by romantic love encounters is to practice a “Hat on the Door” policy. Allow your players the freedom to culminate their courtships, consummate marriages, or pay for their bodily comforts by simplykeeping the sex itself off-screen. Once the door closes, as it were, jump the story ahead to when it opens again and leave the rest to player imagination!