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How Do You Handle Technology In Fantasy Games?

Here in America the past few weeks fireworks have been going off every night. If you live in heavily populated areas you probably haven't been getting a whole lot of sleep as the blasts go off into the middle of the night. Last night while trying to fall asleep between the firework blasts I was thinking about explosives and gun powder in my Dungeons and Dragons games.

Kobold Guide to Worldbuilding
$16.65
By Scott Hungerford, Jeff Grubb, Michael A. Stackpole, Chris Pramas, Keith Baker, Steven Winter, Jonathan Roberts, Monte Cook, David Cook, Janna Silverstein

I don't usually have gun powder in my games but why not? Is it too game breaking? Is it too powerful? I don't really think so but again why don't I have it in my games? This is something I am going to start having in my games only it will be extremely expensive to buy. Anything that can do as much damage as a gun or explosive should be expensive. In turn it really shouldn't be practical to use.

Gun powder should also be very rare. Whether it is a concoction only some know how to make or if it is a natural resource it should be hard to come by. If it wasn't hard to come by technology will advance really quickly with things like vehicles, or other things that come with combustion.

It's going to be hard to find any guns or know of people who know how to adequately design explosives. It would take a lot of trial and error to figure it out. Just experimenting would lead to deaths and disfigurement. Could make some interesting NPCs in your campaign though. The richest man in town could be missing his arm or hand and be a little wacky. You would have to be a little quirky to risk your life like this right?

These are all just thoughts for my own home brew campaign. If my players want to try and seek this stuff out they can. It isn't too powerful because guys can summon lightning bolts and fire out of their finger tips without consequence. It could add to some fun. Imagine Kobolds or Goblins evening the odds by hurling explosives at players. They could deal better damage and for some extra entertainment you can even have them blow themselves up to show how dangerous it can all be.

So don't be afraid to add some technology into your games. It could add some fun or even give you some interesting encounters when you are struggling to come up with a good idea for that session.


Last Minute Prepping

Here it is Wednesday and I am supposed to run a game on Friday night. This post will be my thought process and my prep notes for Fridays session because I haven't prepped it yet. I have some ideas for what I would like to do though.

Step 1: Where did we leave off?

The players had just walked into the base of the Cult of the Dragon and witnessed a negotiation between the Necromancer (Leader of the Black Hand Army) and some Half-Dragons leading the Cult of the Dragon. The players found out that these two factions are 2 pillars of the 8 Pillars of Death. Once the players found this out they left by way of the Valley of Endless Caves. They fought a Manticore in one cave and two Owl Bears in another. They then camped as the Cult of the Dragon marched through the valley. The players seemed interested in exploring more caves though instead of chasing after the Cult of the Dragon.

Step 2: Where might the players go?

I think there are three strong options here. They may follow the Cult of the Dragon or as they began to talk about go to the Dwarven City to warn them and possibly get reinforcements. They might continue to explore the Valley of Endless Caves.

Step 3: Random encounters for each of the choices.

If the players stick around the caves I have some potential Orc raids as random encounters. If the players follow the cult I have some random wildlife encounters of either spiders, or wolves attacking. If they go up to the Dwarven City they will be ambushed by bandits.

Step 4: Prepping the different scenarios.

Scenario 1 - Exploring the Valley of Endless Caves

So for this I am going to keep it simple. I have some cave modules that I can plug in as any of the caves I want. I will use some of those to reduce the amount of prep needed here. I can also just pick monsters I would like to use and craft caves on the spot to reflect how those monsters may live adding in interesting terrain that can be used for or against the players. Stalagmites that could fall at random. Blood bugs (Stirges) are a favorite to use too.

The players will be expecting some interesting treasure by doing these so maybe I will throw them a bone. So far most treasure has been martial character heavy. So time to throw in some things for our magic users. Possible items Pearl of Power, Deck of Illusions, Wizards Staff, Magical Necklace (increases spell DCs), Bracers of Defense (Our Wizard and Sorcerer don't wear armor and everyone else is heavy armor wearing).

Scenario 2 - Following the Cult of the Dragon

If they follow the Cult of the Dragon they will lose the trail. Being a day behind will make it tough especially when the storm begins. The players will enter a swampy area with dark storm clouds constantly hovering overhead. The road they are on will have rune symbols that get brighter as they walk along it. If the players look off to the sides of the road in the distance they will see bright lights. Those are Will-O-Wisps and they won't approach the road due to the warding on the road but if the players go out and attack they will enclose on the players. Players would be smart to avoid them at all costs. Eventually traveling on the road the Wisps will disappear and the rune symbols will fade. The players will enter a really bad swamp though with Bullywugs which the players have fought before, but these ones worship the 3 Hags of the swamp.

Scenario 3 - Going to the Dwarven City

Doing this will lead to what I envision being a fun encounter with a Red Dragon. Yes, a Red Dragon! When the players arrive the gates will be opened and as they walk in the guards will freak out when they see the Large Red Dragon flying in about to douse them with flames. The players will join in to defend the city for a bit and eventually the Dragon will flee. During the battle or after the players will notice that a lot of the Dwarves Armor and Weapons look to be made of the highest quality imaginable. A DC15 check will uncover that it was forged with Dragons Fire. The players can investigate and hear rumors of a Red Dragon being held hostage deep under the city.

Those are the 3 things I have so far. There is still a lot of improv left but the ideas are down in writing now. There is still some flavor to add before the game on Friday but now I have a clear idea of what MIGHT happen. Would love to hear your feedback. Not bad for just writing this up in about 45 minutes.

So if you have any ideas to add to this or fun ways to make this even better feel free to toss me some of your ideas.

D&D Princes of the Apocalypse or Temple of Elemental Evil Pre-Release Thoughts

Being someone who has never experienced the classic Temple of Elemental Evil this is something I am pretty interested in. Now I won't know much about any references to the classic and if there is any overlap it won't be a spoiler for me either which is nice. Due to word of mouth though I have heard the original ToEE is great and worth trying out. If this version lives up to my expectations by what I have heard it, will be fantastic and well worth the $49.95 retail.

When Hoard of the Dragon Queen, and Rise of Tiamat came out I will admit I was apprehensive about picking them up. I heard about typos, and some story issues with HotDQ but once I actually picked it up and thumbed through it my mind changed quickly. Since that time I have purchased it and have used it for ideas in some of my current games to great effect. It has helped provide me with some great moments in my campaigns. That is what I am expecting out of the Princes of the Apocalypse.

Princes of the Apocalypse is going to be set up for levels 1 - 15 and will have extra content for the online MMORPG which is free to play. That is also expected to be on XBox Live here soon. The book will include a new race, spells, and other great things to use with Dungeons and Dragons Fifth Edition. Personally the digital content for the MMO doesn't do much for me but if the book is going to provide as much in the way of ideas for my games that I expect then it will be worth every penny.

Princes of the Apocalypse (D&D Accessory)
$34.33
By Wizards RPG Team

Everyone who knows me realizes that I am full on 100% behind Wizards of the Coast and Dungeons and Dragons Fifth Edition. This edition of the game has really made me into a huge fan unlike any other edition of D&D. Never would I have thought that I would be so excited about a WotC game like I am about 5e. While they have had some mistakes here and there I do think that it would be hard for them to have done much better with this edition of the worlds greatest role-playing game in my opinion.

Now as I said above I am not sure what to expect from the Princes of the Apocalypse compared to Temple of Elemental Evil. I am open to hearing your thoughts on the old class Temple of Elemental Evil below but also your thoughts on the new Princes of the Apocalypse. Let me know by commenting here and when I pick this up I will be sure to share my thoughts about it.

Your FLGS is expected to be charging $49.95 for this book but you can help support my Blog, and YouTube Channel by purchasing the book through my Amazon Affiliation Link above. Purchasing this book for between $34.33 at the time of this post is as simple as clicking that link and ordering it. Your support is greatly appreciated.

Once I pick this up I will probably be running it through the Tabletop RPG One Shot Group on Facebook which can be found here

Do You Use A DM Screen For Dungeons and Dragons?

Last night at Dungeons and Dragons Encounters I had a player bring the new Fifth Edition DM Screen which I was able to use. That thing is absolutely beautiful! Feels very durable and I felt as though it had some very useful information on it. Too many times a DM Screen is packed with information you will never use or beyond the 1st or 2nd time you won't ever use again. I loved the low profile of it allowing me to see over the screen.

Recently in video responses on YouTube many people have discussed their own thoughts on using DM Screens or not. I am surprised at how many people choose not to use any. For me I find them useful because I like to have all my miniatures hidden behind the screen especially the bigger encounters.

Having the screen also allows me to keep my notes and maps hidden from the players. Players eyes will wander down and look in a lot of cases which can ruin some surprises. One of the greatest things about this hobby is the randomness and surprises of the game. Isn't that why we use dice?

Speaking of dice I have seen a lot of people mention rolling in the open. When you roll dice in the open there is no denying that the players around the table begin to meta game. They will start figuring out the to hit bonus of the monster and things like that. I sometimes roll in the open and have noticed this happens all of the time. When I run D&D Encounters the players there seem to do it a lot more than my other groups. While that is fine I can't imagine as a player it would be fun knowing these things.

Speaking of the 5e screen the things I would have liked to see on it would be XP for Leveling. The CR/XP by offense and defense of monsters from the DMG. Also quick rules on how to make an encounter with modifiers based on # of enemies and such. This would have helped with being able to run the game on the fly but it is still a very good screen.

The highlights of the screen for me are the conditions because those will be used pretty frequently. I like the name generator, NPC generators, and random things on the far right section of the screen like random events.

If you run games primarily online there is no need to use a screen but if you run games in person I highly recommend it for the reasons above. I will be picking up my own 5e screen very soon because it is really well done I think. Even though I feel they could have added more to really make it great this screen is one I could see myself using for other games even. The system neutral things are the main reason for that.

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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,

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,

Dungeons and Dragons Fifth Edition Dungeon Master Guide PREVIEW Downtime

Wizards of the Coast supplied this preview of the Other Downtime page in the new DMG set to release on December 9, 2014.

Wizards of the Coast supplied this preview of the Other Downtime page in the new DMG set to release on December 9, 2014.

Wizards of the Coast has been giving us previews of the books before released and this time they gave us a preview of the Dungeon Master Guide with an excerpt of Downtime Activities. It is only one page but on it you can get a glimpse into building a stronghold, carousing, and the intro to crafting a magic item.

The first thing covered under Other Downtime Activities is Building a Stronghold. Personally I have never had an opportunity in a game to build a stronghold or even have players that chose to build a stronghold. It has always been interesting to me as a DM because it would open up all new types of sessions. Some of the things you can buy are extremely expensive and I am not sure how the players would come up with all of that money. Either way I am glad this was included and I am looking forward to one day either doing this as a player or having a player do this in one of my games.

Then there is the Carousing section which is actually quite favorable it seems. You have a 60% chance of making a profit from the random table. The premise behind the carousing section is your player partakes in parties, gambling, and/or heavy drinking. Once again though this section offers the DM good seeds for campaigns. Not sure if anyone in my current campaigns would be willing to try out a carousing type of character. Still though this is pretty good.

What would a Dungeon Master Guide be without Crafting a Magic Item rules? We only get a short glimpse into the intro but it does remind everyone that it is up to the DM what is and isn’t allowed. Players will need to get approval for their crafting of magic items. That is how it should be though. One problem I have always had with magic items is if everyone can craft them then they become common. What fun is it if magic items are common? Personally not a fan of magic items on every corner. It makes them not magical for me. Still glad they give us these rules even if I won’t be using these and will only let a player use them sparingly.

There you have it the Dungeon Master Guide Downtime excerpt covered in my personal opinion. Really excited to get this book. Dungeons and Dragons Fifth Edition is shaping up to be my favorite game to run and play. As someone who runs the game frequently this is a must have for me. If you run a lot of D&D5e then you should consider picking it up too. Remember on Amazon you can get it for a huge discount at $30 so click the Amazon link and order yours today.