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Dungeons & Dragons 5th Edition Is Here To Stay

I have been playing Dungeons and Dragons 5th Edition since the play test. I've loved almost every aspect of the system and how they implemented new options. By doing the play testing in the Unearthed Arcana articles it is just wetting our appetites as fans of the game. Plus the fact they aren't releasing tons of books at an alarming rate it making it more digestible. The one concern I do have though is the open gaming license and DM's Guild seems to be over saturating the 3rd party market. Ultimately though Wizards of the Coast is doing things right.

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The Rifts Setting and What I Love About It

It would be easy to say that I love it because you can run any game in Rifts that you can imagine. This is true but that is not why I love this setting. You will hear people say that the setting is gonzo and over the top but it doesn't have to be. The story is what you and your play group make it out to be. It can be as balanced as you want by restricting some of the more extreme OCC's at either end of the power scale. None of this is what I love about the setting though. The thing that I truly love about the setting is the Coalition!

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Motivation For Prep, Painting Minis, and Crafting Terrain

My biggest struggle with gaming is motivating myself to do things like prep. This carries over to painting miniatures and crafting terrain as well which is something I love to do. Considering my preferred way to game is with miniatures, and terrain this makes things even more difficult for me. Coming up with inspiration is easy for me but motivating myself to sit down and unplug from the internet or television so I can prep, paint, or craft is the true struggle for me.

Realizing this is one of my biggest weaknesses I need to force myself to sit down and spend a night prepping for my various games. I think part of the reason I struggle to do these things is because I find that I need to be doing it so often for all of the games I run. D&D Encounters is run weekly, and I have two at home campaigns I am running. Then there are games I run online. Most of the time I can't prep while listening to Podcasts, or watching YouTube because I get distracted too easily. 

Prep can take me as short as 30 minutes or up to 3 hours depending on the adventure. 30 minutes if the players are possibly picking up where things left off and it wasn't finished. 3 hours if we wrapped things up in a previous session and I have no idea where things may go. I find that if I prep the introduction, and just the encounters the session runs a lot smoother than if I try to anticipate a bunch of potential directions the players may go.

Painting miniatures and crafting terrain is something I am not the best at. It is also a lengthy process for me to sit down and do it. My wife keeps the paint up stairs in her crafting desk. I keep my unpainted miniatures in a box in my basement. I don't have a designated area for painting miniatures at this time. The combination of these things makes it feel like I spend an hour just getting everything I need ready and in one place. Then cleaning up is just as taxing for me. 

Once I have my game space in the basement all set up I will be able to do my miniature painting, and terrain crafting much easier. Getting this stuff done I feel like may motivate me to prep a lot more too. So setting aside time once or twice a week to just sit down and prep, another night to paint or craft terrain should do the trick. The trick for me will be to set times in my schedule to do these things and force myself to see them through.

How do you motivate yourself to prep, paint miniatures, and craft terrain? Do you have a designated area for these things? If not do you think having a designated area would help you? If you do, does it help you to sit down and just jump right into things?

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The Tower Shield in D&D5e

I don't think there is any reason to up the AC above 2. Armor class is very powerful in the scope of how Fifth Edition works. I felt that if I upped the AC it would make it a no brainer to use the tower shield over a standard shield for all builds. Giving up your action for a huge bonus to AC by way of 3/4 cover was the way to go in my opinion. This is a bit better than using the dodge action during combat. 

Movement being halved is because you have an extremely large shield that is hard to lug around a battlefield without it getting in the way. It is also pretty heavy. Losing half your movement isn't a major thing but it certainly can be inconvenient. While I don't think this will turn too many people off from using a tower shield there will be times in game that this could become a problem. For example a player involved in combat away from you may really need some help. If you can't get there it could mean death for that character.

If someone in your party has a reach weapon this is when the tower shield is at its best. If the pc with the tower shield gives up his action to use it for cover another player with reach can also benefit from the 3/4 cover as long as they are right behind that tower shield pc.

So overall I don't think this is too over powered but I also don't think it is too under powered. This is intended to give another option for a shield but not be the only option. Much like the buckler shield I wrote up I think that these could be fun options for people to use in their own games. Obviously anything I suggest on the blog like this you must run by your Dungeon Master first to see if they agree with how these can be used.

AC +2
Movement Halved
As an action can declare 3/4 cover
Party Members can stand directly behind you and use you for 3/4 cover as long as you give up your action as well

The Buckler Shield in D&D5e

One of the things I have been thinking about ever since Dungeons and Dragons Fifth Edition came out was different types of shields. Due to standard shields being AC +2 it leaves a lot of room to use small shields like the buckler and also larger tower shields. Both of which I have come up with some ideas for how to implement them mechanically. This post is about the two common types of buckler shields.

The one handed buckler shield should be an AC +1. It also should be a shield you can use as a reaction if you aren't armed with it and using a single handed weapon. This will allow players to use long swords two handed and encourage it. Most players will still choose to use a greatsword or long sword and standard shield. 

Then there is the buckler shield that straps to the forearm or is part of the gauntlet. This one allows players to still use a greatsword, maul, spear, polearm, or any other two handed weapon. This one will be an AC +1 shield but it will also be a -1 to hit using two handed weapons. The reason for this is because without the -1 to hit everyone who uses a two handed weapon would want a buckler shield. With this rule I would even entertain the idea of a character having two of these for a AC +2 and a -2 to hit. 

I hope to start testing these out in future games ran in the Tabletop RPG One Shot group on Facebook. What do you think of these potential home brewed items or rules? Are they over powered? Do you think they are balanced enough? If you end up using them in your future games please share your results and opinions of them.

Here on my blog there will be more home brewed things like this so continue to check back for more.

Can Gamers Change?

I have seen people say on Facebook, Blogs, Google +, and in their YouTube Videos that if you have a problem player just kick them out of your game because once a problem player always a problem player. I never wanted to believe it but until recently was starting to think this may be true. Then something happened this past weekend that could not have made me more happy. Before I go into that though let me say that the people I am going to mention here are great people and I enjoy hanging out with them. Also if you read the whole post you will see that gamers can change!

When we began gaming as a group together it was 2nd edition and I was a player in the game. 3 of the 5 players felt we needed the core roles magic user, healer, tank, and rogue but we had a ranger, 2 fighers, a druid, and a cleric. We lacked in the eyes of most the players a magic user, and a rogue. We managed to hire a rogue to come along with us which made most of us happy but the other fighter, and cleric really felt we needed someone to cast spells. Now if you know me well I am adamant that you don't need a balanced party in any game. Also the players were very cautious about a lot of things. I would leave sessions sometimes and see the DM frustrated but he rewarded slow and cautious behavior and penalized anyone rushing head first into things. Me for instance playing a fighter would get tired of the discussion about who should open the chest or the door so I would just do it. This campaign went on for awhile and after about 8 sessions or so we quit playing because the DM was tired of it.

Then Fifth Edition Dungeons and Dragons came out and I was talking about it. This managed to get the group interested in trying to play again. I told them I wanted to run the game but apparently the player who was the ranger wanted to run Second Edition D&D for us. Luckily they remembered I said a year before that I really wanted to run the game.

We came together to create characters and the amount of questions the players had who had never played anything besides Second Edition in the last 25 years was amazing. I did my best to answer all of the questions in a clear and concise way that they would understand. When we were done only 1 of the 5 players had a finished character. I told them I would meet with them individually because I could tell the amount of questions others had about their class was confusing others. It was much easier when I was able to do it one on one with them.

The 1st session had some difficulties with the former DM rushing into combat constantly. He did the same in our 2nd session. The 2nd session actually had some very uncomfortable moments between him and his wife which was the cleric. He yelled at her saying it was her job to keep him healed up so he could be on the front line constantly.

Our 3rd session was a bit better but the players still struggled with knowing their spells, weapon damage, how to use skills, and other things along those lines. This session though was the start of the improvement I wanted to see though and gave me a little bit of hope for this group. They still didn't understand short rests and how they effect them.

I had my apprehension going into this session on Saturday night because we hadn't played since Thanksgiving weekend. When we arrived to play though some of the players who had just got the 5e PHB for Christmas were asking me some questions about short rests and things like that. The comprehension of the rules were quite a bit better and I took a moment to answer any further questions before we began playing.

The game ran really smooth finally for this group. Players were getting along and not arguing about tactics. The fighter wasn't rushing into everything head first. In fact the only thing I will say that was sort of a problem was the wizard (former ranger in 2e campaign) didn't know any of his spells and would wait until his turn to look them up. There was a point where he was wrong on his magic missile damage and I corrected him by telling him each blast did 1d4+1 damage. He said oh then last round I did 4 more damage. I said "no, I am not going to retcon that." He came back with something to which I said "know your spells."

The cleric was my biggest worry because she felt this huge sense of urgency to heal people when they were getting hit instead of playing her character. She felt that it was her duty to be a combat medic first and foremost. This past session though she used some of her offensive spells and wasn't trying to run around healing people the whole time. It was nice to see her actually having a good time too.

The game ended with the players coming up with a good way to divide treasure. They had debated how to split treasure for 2 sessions so this was a big thing. The way everyone played was so much better this time that I was very happy. For the first time in this campaign I am extremely excited for our next game. Hoping they continue to get better.

The lesson of the story is sometimes you just need to talk things out which I had been doing with them between games. It may take some people to come around but when they do it will feel like your greatest victory. In the coming months I will keep you posted on if things continue to get better like I expect.

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RPG Pet Peeve When Players Meta Skill Checks & Abilities

Red Dice Diaries does a video series called RPG Bugbears and I love that series. Those videos have been inspiration for a lot of videos I have done and now I am going to give my "Bug Bears" on my blog. I run a lot of games and one thing that comes up often is players not explaining what they are doing but they ask if they can make a (insert skill) check. I then ask them how are they using that skill. What are they hoping to figure out. The other thing they may do is request to use a certain ability that they know they have a higher score in because they don't want to be forced to use the lesser score.

Pound-O-Dice
$21.49
Chessex

You may be asking why would that bother you Juce? I think it bothers me because they are not thinking like their character. They are thinking by the numbers on a piece of paper. This may be a shock to some out there that know me but I do want my players to play in character. Yes I am ok with players optimizing their character and running whatever they want. When that guy is made though I want them to do things that they would normally do. Players shouldn't just play as though this is a game that they have to beat. This is a role-playing game and yes it should also have some tactics as well.

When players ask me that I always ask them to describe what they are trying to do and I will tell them when to roll a skill check. Sometimes I may not have them make a roll for it and will give them the information. Do players ask to do this because they want to just roll some dice? Would love to hear your thoughts on this topic.

Off topic now but I adjusted some things with my Patreon account today so if you are interested in supporting my YouTube Channel, Website which hosts my Blog, Podcast, and Downloads please think about supporting me by becoming a Patron today.


Ways To Deal With Too Few Players

This morning I saw a post on Facebook in the Tabletop RPG One Shot group about a DM asking if he should make a GMPC for a group of 3 PCs currently. He expressed that he wanted to play too which was part of why he wanted to do a GMPC that would cover what they don't already have in the group. Personally I think 3 players is a good enough size to not tamper with things too much. I gave some suggestions on how to handle small groups of players that may work for them but wouldn't fix the want to play along side of his PCs. In this article I will offer some of the same tips for various potential solutions to small groups.

Remember as the GM/DM you get to play more than anyone else at the table. You control every single character in the world besides the PCs. You also control the setting, weather, and everything else! 

First it is important to figure out why players chose the races and classes they did in order to figure out the type of game they want to play in. The next step is to figure out if it is important that they satisfy the typical 4 classes Fighter, Healer, Rogue, and Magic User. For example if the group as a whole wants a low magic game you may not need the Magic User. Before starting the game talking to the players about any potential ideas can be pretty important.

Next up if you decide it is important to fill all of basic party rolls there are ways around that. Below is a list of ways to do that without forcing a GMPC with the group. Some of these can be used with others too. Not all solutions will work for everyone either.

  1. You can allow all of the players to dual class. Example at 1st level they may take Fighter/Cleric. So at 2nd level they would be 2nd level of each. This would give them a lot of power as a single PC but make it easier to cover various needs.
  2. You can let each player control 2 characters. This can be a lot for newer players but just make sure they know that they don't need to RP for both of them. The GM/DM can RP the ones the players don't want to in a lesser role.
  3. Let the players recruit NPCs at times if they choose to but at a high cost. This is one of the better ways because it also allows you to sometimes make it not feasible to recruit an NPC tagalong.
  4. Substitute items to make up for things. More potions of healing to make up for the cleric. Better weapons and armor to make up for lack of a fighter. Scrolls, and Wands plus the ability for everyone to cast magic from them can fix the need for a Magic User. Some creative thinking here can create ways to fill certain roles the party doesn't have.
  5. Max HP each time they level up.
  6. The DMG for D&D5e has some good solutions for short rests and long rests to adjust the feel of your game. A lot of these can make it easier for small groups to handle things. For example adjusting short rest to 5 minutes and a long rest of 1 hour.
  7. Healing of any type from potions, short rests, or spells always do max healing.

There are many ways to cover things the party is lacking. In my opinion the worst way is adding a GMPC because it is easy to step on peoples toes that way. Players want to feel like the heroes as they can blame a GM/DM for stealing the glory when they are also the ones running the game and presenting the situations in the first place.

1 or 2 PC's are usually where you would want to use some of these alternate ways to help them without taking away their spotlight. 3 to 5 players is just the right amount of players and shouldn't need too much adjusting but occasionally you may want to try the items or other means to help your games.

If you think of any other potential solutions please let me know of them in the comments below. Hope you find some of these helpful for your games. Some of these may be useful in your groups that do cover the basics.

Thanks,

Your DM Feels Worn Out? Then He Is Inspired Again!

Player's Handbook (Dungeons & Dragons)
$29.95
By Wizards RPG Team

This sort of describes how I was feeling this past week. I was a little worn out and wanted a break from running and playing Tabletop RPG's. You see I run a game at home, a game for my wifes family that changes locations, D&D Encounters, and one shots online every once in awhile. Seems like getting burned out would happen frequently for me but it doesn't.

This past week at Encounters I was really not feeling it. Had one player who kept dropping being the only guy to rush into combat as a Barbarian. Seeing his frustration and the fact I was tired I know I brought the energy level of the group down. Hate feeling guilty about it but it is the reality of it. I didn't bring my "A game" this week. It didn't help that I was feeling under the weather. Luckily I have two weeks off from this and I plan on returning better than ever. 

A couple weeks before this I ran the game for family and was feeling worn out then too. That group sometimes makes me stress out a little due to their arguing over treasure, tactics, and one player who blatantly rushes in usually. Not sure how to gauge their interest level either. Feels like 1 of the players doesn't really care about the game and is only playing to hang out with the group. Another player gets really stressed out if they get hit and if anyone is low on HP. To me it is just a game and shouldn't be something that causes stress at all. Should be fun for everyone and it shouldn't at times feel like a chore. This group has gotten better with each session and I really hope it continues to get better. Just not sure if I could handle it falling back into the constant bickering and drama at the table.

Then there is the group I ran for last night which always comes out to my house to play. It consists of my friend Nate (WASD20 on YouTube), Dustin and his fiance Nicole, my wife, and we welcomes a new player last night Steven. Going into the session I was a little nervous about bringing a new player into the group. This is normal for me because you never know how it will throw off the balance of the group. Will they be a disruptive player? Will they be an awesome player? Well he came over and was very open to talking to and getting to know everyone. He handled himself well. There were times when I think he wasn't sure how I handled something but he went with it. Also coming from Pathfinder to 5e there were some questions that he had which is to be expected.

So playing with my at home group last night truly rejuvenated me! Got me excited to run games again. The new guy fit in well I think and the rest of the group has been getting along great for some time now. On top of that the players brought the game back into focus for me without me having to push them on the rails and that is a good thing because I try not to railroad anything. Going into the session I was worried my hooks were weak (they are to be honest) but now I feel like the campaign has its vision again. The players look to go after the big plot hook in the next session with the Temple of Elementals and I couldn't be happier right now.

What is this blog truly about? I think it is about the fact that when you have a good group of players they can breathe life into your gaming when you feel worn out. Good groups in general can make for good gaming. That energy will carry on to other games and sometimes can pick those games up as well. So go out and find a good group for you!

Busiest Time of Year!

It is the busiest time of the year for a lot of people right now. For me I am busy preparing for the new year in my career. Then with the Tabletop RPG One Shot group on Facebook, this website, YouTube channel, this blog, podcast, and potential merchandise for all of this on top of that I can say this is the busiest I think I have ever been! It is fantastic though. So many things for me to feel optimistic about.

The Tabletop RPG One Shot group on Facebook is over 600 members now! I know of people who have played/ran in over 20 games since its inception back in September. That is amazing to me! There has been a lot of Dungeons and Dragons Fifth Edition played but surprisingly the next most popular system has been Palladium Books with Rifts, Ninjas and Superspies, and Heroes Unlimited being played more than any other games. One thing I can say is that we always need more people willing to run games. Really looking forward to seeing what 2015 brings for this group.

With the launch of my website I relocated my blog from Wordpress to here. This was a really effective move because I am getting more views than I ever did over there. I enjoy posting blog posts more than I did before as well. I probably enjoy it more because I have much more interaction here since moving it. If people have learned from my YouTube Channel and this Blog I love interacting with people. Hearing others opinions and sometimes opposing views is interesting to me.

Then there is the Podcast which will be recorded later on tonight actually. I will be editing a couple things into it before posting so that should be up this week sometime. Been looking forward to doing this and couldn't be more excited about it. Andrew aka sr2joker will be my co-host which is awesome! He is an awesome guy with an excellent YouTube channel. The guy is very smart and brings a lot to the table. I trust that you will enjoy our Podcast that we will try to bring you monthly and possibly twice a month at times.

The podcast will talk about the games we currently are running or playing as well as anything else that has us excited. Right now we both are playing a lot of D&D5e and Palladium Books too. Most of our discussions will probably be about 5e in the near future but I am sure we will cover a lot more.

Planning on getting some stuff up in the store for the YouTube Channel, Tabletop RPG One Shot group, the Podcast, and so much more. If you have any suggestions feel free to let us know. 

As you can see there is a lot going on around here. All of it good! 2015 looks like it will be a crazy year from the start but that is a good thing. I love being busy and hope you will all be coming along for the ride. Again if you have any suggestions feel free to contact me with them.

Dungeons and Dragons Fifth Edition Thoughts

So the three core books are all released and we can begin talking about the actual game now. Many have said they were concerned about how the game would be after all the books were released. The Players Handbook had all the rules in it and the Dungeon Master's Guide has only optional rules really. To me it was odd hearing people concerned about giving an opinion based on the PHB and MM only. They seemed to think the DMG would give you more of the core rules but really it didn't. The PHB gave you everything you needed. Very curious to hear what people now think about Fifth Edition.

Player's Handbook (Dungeons & Dragons)
$29.95
By Wizards RPG Team

I knew with the Players Handbook this edition was something fantastic. The rules are great and very simple to run. They have everything you need to ever run or play a game. For me right now there wasn't anything rules wise that I think needs to be changed. They are good as is for me.

Monster Manual (D&D Core Rulebook)
$31.61
By Wizards RPG Team

When the Monster Manual came out we got to see how they truly balanced the encounters. It seems to work for me and again I don't have any gripes here. The Monster Manual covers the basic monsters you will need for any game. You can re-skin monsters really easily to set up things for your own games without changing much.

Check out the video reviews of each chapter for the Dungeon Masters Guide by clicking here!

House Rules for Dungeons and Dragons

Lately with the release of the new Dungeon Master's Guide it seems like the talk of house rules has come up a lot more. Personally I do try to run my games by the book but some games are more fun with some minor changes here and there. For instance Lloyd of the Tabletop RPG One Shot group on Facebook began asking about initiative the other day. This has started a whole conversation about this and how other games handle it. 5e even has some variant rules for it in the DMG.

Some things I have thought about house ruling personally are critical hits and critical fails. We have talked about creating our own tables for our games to help with this in future games. If I do this you better believe I will have them up for download here on the website too. What sort of things would be on this? Well I would probably have things like max damage is dealt on a critical hit. Other things might be disadvantage for that enemy in the next round. Obviously this is using 5e's system too. Then critical fails could be things like slipping and hurting self. Could also break your weapon on a critical fail.

Some other common things to house rule are things like downtime activities. Personally I will always allow my players to learn more skills if that is how they choose to spend their downtime. I am also only going to allow multi-classing based on backstories before a game, and downtime studies.

I try to make it possible for my players to make the concept they want. If I have to bend some rules for that then so be it sometimes. If I feel like the concept is just for power gaming reasons and them taking advantage of how flexible I am though I will not allow it. Sometimes I just won't allow things based on principle alone.

There are a lot of things that can be house ruled to make a game more fun. So with this blog post I would love to hear more about your thoughts on house rules. Leave a comment below please.

When Did Gaming Become About The System?

Recently had a discussion with a guy who was citing the "rules as written" or RAW as people refer to it these days. Now luckily this kid isn't one of my players at my table but he was showing signs of a stage 3 rules lawyer. This got me thinking when did the power leave the hands of a dungeon master and become all about what is written in a book? Why can't people function if something isn't spelled out clearly in the book for them?

I have a tendency to point rules out for people running games if they seem to be unsure of something. It has got a group calling me a rules lawyer before but I am ultimately ok with whatever the person running the game says. I do have an issue when players at the table cite the incorrect ruling as how a book is written but I think they knew that. It was clearly a joke because now they have me running our campaign of Dungeons and Dragons Fifth Edition. So what is it about people that they feel it is ok to argue with a person running the game?

Then I was speaking to my friend sr2joker about this mentality and it made me think when did players begin doing this? Is it a new concept? I've heard people blame 3.0/3.5 for putting so many rules into the game that are clearly spelled out. Is that when people became so tied to the books and what they say? Please let me know your thoughts on this?

Almost every day I see people consulting forums with questions that could easily be ruled on in game and also that are clearly written in the books. Then everyone fights over who is going to answer the question to show who is the all knowing. I have offered to help people on forums and quickly had those people jump all over it and tell me I didn't know what I was talking about unless I cited all page numbers that say it. That happened today and then finally someone cited a specific thing because my mentioning of the book saying it is up to the DM for other things not mentioned. I even ran the debate by other people and they all thought that even though the book didn't spell things out specifically that it should be up to the DM.

Sorry that this blog post sort of became me complaining but I do truly want these questions answered because I don't understand the mentality. There are a lot of great things in the gaming community but this isn't good for it. We are lucky to have amazing people in the Tabletop RPG One Shot group on Facebook because nobody acts like this from my experience. Hope we can continue to spread the joy that actual gaming does. Seems like the more people talk about games and don't play them the more drama takes place.

Thanks,