e-D&D and Parallel Experiences

In a lot of ways, I’m a curmudgeon of a luddite who is afeared of technology. I mean, sure, I’ve literally worked on space telecommunications, but for some reason podcasts seem new and terrifying. Video streams, and even YouTube channels, don’t seem weird or foreign, but podcasts? It’s strange magic performed in the woods by the Sheldon gang summoning the Black Goat of a Thousand Young. Shubby N. is a good dude, I’m sure, but we have a hard time relating to each other. We just have very different backgrounds, ya know?

Too Much of a Good Thing: Success and Magic Items

Instead of helping people get to know D&D creatures and their lore, this week we will discuss something completely different: magic items and player success. So very often, these two things go hand in hand. The players accomplish a task (saving a village, killing a monster, etc.), and not only enjoy the victory, they are compensated materially. Sometimes, the goal itself is the attainment of a magic item. The discussions in which I have participated tend to agree that groups questing for items for each other is a good way to provide story for everyone, while linking it to an item. The warlock wants a spellblade that once belonged to a fallen paladin in order to forge a stronger link with her patron and power her magic with the broken oaths. Sounds like a good, terrible quest for everyone.

(War) Craft Until You Hate Yourself

A quick word: this post is about the crafting system of the recent World of Warcraft (hereafter to be called WoW) expansion entitled Legion. I will be discussing the system in depth I am not attempting to spoil things, but I don’t want to short change the discussion. Take this as what NOT to do if you are implementing a crafting system in a tabletop game. There are a lot of good ideas here, but there are some issues, as well. Remember that no matter what, world consistency is important. What’s good for the PCs is good for the NPCs. That definitely matters. 

Get to Know the Kenku

Last week, I spent a little bit of time talking about a creature I thought was cool and didn’t get enough recognition — the azer. The response was overwhelmingly positive, so I thought I would discuss one of my other favorite creatures in D&D: the kenku. For the unaware, kenku are awesome crow people (except for when they are hawk people), and have an entire weird culture built, on the surface at any rate, around the idea that crows are clever thieves. Kenku are much more than that, and have some pretty great backstory that is modular and capable of fitting into many a campaign.

Keep Summer Safe: A Look at Conflict Resolution

It’s no secret I love Rick & Morty. I’ve been on record for several years now stating it is the best and sharpest show on television. In my crushing need for the third season to finally arrive, I’ve been rewatching the show for the altogether-too-many-th time. As always, I spent a lot of time critically analyzing some of my favorite episodes (Rick Potion #9, Meeseeks and Destroy, Rixty Minutes, Morty Night Run, Auto Erotic Assimilation, Look Who’s Purging Now, among others…), and I came across the The Ricks Must Be Crazy. During the episode, I found myself thinking about the nature of conflict resolution, particularly as it applies to characters in tabletop gaming.

The episode is a masterclass in the nature of conflict, the morality in the choices made to resolve a conflict, and the compromises we make to achieve our goals. What’s more, this is the B-plot of the episode, conveyed in eight minutes or so. The most fascinating thing about this is how closely it parallels PC decision-making when it comes to resolving conflicts. As such, it’s a great chance to not only look at why they are making the decisions, but how, as a GM, you can change and re-prioritize conflicts to present interesting and new challenges to your players.

Adventure Creation Lessons from Technoir

One of the best tabletop games I have ever played is Technoir, by Jeremy Keller. Technoir is a small tabletop RPG released back in 2011-2012 (Kickstarter and actual release, respectively) centered around games of, surprises, the tech noir genre. What exactly is the genre of tech noir? It’s a combination of science fiction and film noir. The most classic example is Bladerunner, but other examples include 12 Monkeys, Brazil, The City of Lost Children, and Dark City. The term was actually coined by James Cameron, who used it as the name of a nightclub in The Terminator. Is Terminator a tech noir film? You definitely see some of it in the first one, for sure. Anyway, it’s sometimes conflated with cyberpunk, though it’s not quite the same thing.

4 Weird And Wonderful Homebrew Campaigns

It shouldn’t come as any surprise to anyone that reads my stuff that I’m a huge fan of homebrew. Except for most of the things in the Players Handbook, I homebrew until the cows come home. The adventures, the campaign, the dungeons, the magic items, the cities and towns, and sometimes even the campaign world itself are all my own creations. Over the past twenty years I can count the number of pre-fab adventures I’ve run on two hands and I have no regrets.

Adventure Building: Part 5 – Filling in the Details

Part 1Part 2 | Part 3 | Part 4 | Part 5

After looking at Creating a Threat, developing Backstory, Setting and Hooks and writing our adventure outline it’s time to provide some details for the adventure. I’ll continue using the ‘Lich Weathermaster’ that I randomly rolled in Creating a Threat as my villain and a typical points of light type default D&D setting. It’s now time to take the outline and turn it into an actual adventure. For this article I am not going to write a complete adventure, but I will take the outline for one plot point and expand it with enough details for me to be able to run that portion of the adventure. I’m providing the level of detail I need to run my game. Everyone should figure out their own level of prep they need to run a great session.

Adventure Building: Part 4 – Creating an Adventure

Part 1Part 2 | Part 3 | Part 4 | Part 5

After looking at Creating a Threat and developing Backstory, Setting and Hooks, its time to write an adventure outline. There are two excellent tools for creating adventure outlines that I found: the 5 x 5 Method and the 3 Act Structure, but I have a blended method that might work for you. I’ll be using the ‘Lich Weathermaster’ that I randomly rolled in Creating a Threat as my villain and a typical points of light type default D&D setting.

Adventure Building: Part 3 – Backstory, Setting and Hooks

Part 1 | Part 2 | Part 3 | Part 4 | Part 5

In the first article in this series I looked at what you should consider when getting started creating your own adventure. This second article in the series continues the adventure building by looking at Creating a Threat. In the Getting Started article, I listed a bunch of questions to consider. Here are the three related to this article again:

  • What is the backstory for the adventure? What is the history?
  • Where is this adventure going to be set in your world? Where are your players in relation to that setting?
  • How will the players hear about this adventure? What are some hooks you can provide to interest each player?