“Why did you kill them? Why did you kill our parents?” “To playtest my abilities.” -Dunbrill, the Tailor of Tristan...
“Why did we bring a dog into the Citadel of Lost Souls?” -Baby Shanks A small moment from our DnD campaign. The group was hired to protect a celebrity dog from a group of assassins and things escalated from there. Alternative win conditions can directly enhance the game. Rather than having combat end with a complete decimation of an opposing force, you can center it around other goals that can help keep the fight dynamic and fun. Here are my three favorites… Protect an important ally (in this case it was a dog). Stop the ritual. Survive a 3-way battle. Does anyone have other win conditions they’ve tried with some success? I’d love to add some to my list!
“We can play the blame game all day but in the end it’s Skirbo’s fault.” -Calabasas Critical fumbles can really spiral out of control. I love hijinks but I try to avoid strict mechanical failures when someone roles a nat 1 on a skill check. I describe it in a funny or dramatic way and we keep the momentum going. I think critical fumbles can work well for some tables but make sure to talk about it during your session zero. You don’t want to surprise your players with a homebrew rule like that!
“The Church of the All-Seeing Eye has over 10,000 followers. The exposure will be great.” -Bishop Futurae Most campaigns give out too much gold or too little. In my last campaign, I included a pirate ship with a bunch of upgrades. The better the ship was the more expensive the upkeep cost became which left my players hoarding gold like real pirates! I also included a second type of currency that they could trade for random magic items. It felt like a good balance. What does your party do with gold? Do you let your players buy magic items? What big ticket items do you include in your campaigns?
A comic inspired by a dropped plotline I wrote for our campaign (darn players). Seeding in comedy is tough! Funny voices can only get you so far. When trying to hit a tone I normally match whatever my players are throwing at me. There’s a variety of ways the game can be played so be flexible and know when to call it quits. Not every player will match every DM. Don’t take it personally when a player just doesn’t jive with the campaign you’re running!
I like to make deadly boss monsters with big weaknesses to balance things out. This means I tend to miss the 6-8 medium encounter daily target. This can leave some classes feeling a bit weaker. I’ve found the best way to fix class balance is through magic items rather than class changes. Items can be adjusted with little fuss and can add a lot of flavor to the narrative.
I love mundane items. There’s something really appealing about portable rams, sacks of flour and 10 ft poles. Throwing a bag over an enemy’s head is a popular move at our table. You’d be surprised by how many spells require the caster to see their target!
“That’s the problem with adventurers these days. No appreciation for death. “ Karen, Vassal of the Raven Queen A comic based on our recent session. Death has become easier to mitigate over the last couple editions. Some people increase the reagent cost, add a dice roll, ban the spells or add a lingering negative effect to resurrection. In my setting, finding diamonds is harder than normal and being caught with them can land you in jail. It’s become a fun secondary resource for my group to manage. The Diamond Mines of Ciar is my favorite homebrew dungeon to run.
Some #dnd rules are vague. For Wild Magic Surge, I have the #sorcerer roll an additional D20 when they cast a spell. A surge occurs on a nat 1 or nat 20. My players can take their complaints to the dice gods!
Most of the towns I design have an elaborate criminal justice system. My players have started to declare every attack they make as “nonlethal” no matter how over the top their description gets. We’ve started calling it the “Get Out of Jail Free Card.
There aren’t rules that dictate how long a table should spend on any one pillar of the game. Talk to your players and figure out what they enjoy. Time at the table is limited so make sure it’s spent on the things your players actually find fun!
Surprise is a powerful tool. When battles can be over in 5 rounds, 1 round of inaction can turn a fight into a stomp. I typically require my players to purposefully research, plan and enact a plan to gain surprise. I believe the normal rules for initiative already cover the “quick draw” situations that commonly arise.
The most important aspect to party cohesion is a shared goal and an evil character can work with a good group if it moves them towards their ultimate desire. During your session 0, hammer out what exactly holds these characters together!
Right now, my party is in the Feywild but just before that they were pirates. I had planned out an entire setting for the pirate adventure and only used 10% of it because I thought throwing in a space ship would be cool. I didn’t expect them to use it!
Another comic based on my DnD experiences! When it comes to persuasion, I’ll accept an out of character logical request in lieu of an in-character appeal. I do draw the line when the player skips the logical part and heads straight for the request!
I like to use strong npcs as examples of how powerful the players can one day become. Sadly, powerful npcs do introduce problems! The most obvious is the Avengers Effect. Why aren’t the strongest superheroes handling the problem themselves? You need an explanation!
There's an art to throwing out plot hooks! My favorite story involves my players hunting down an aboleth and getting jobs to grind out gold and “progress the story”. The druid started selling purified water to sick citizens. Almost everyone in the city died.
I love moments where a player pulls out some obscure class feature and wins the day. While I don’t have an encyclopedic knowledge of the game, I do consider myself well-read! Even so, my players still manage to surprise me with some crazy situational feature like Stillness of Mind or Feral Senses.
Sometimes bad decisions are made. It’s the nature of the game! It helps when the death is impactful but sometimes it’s hard to make every bad decision seem super heroic. When a player dies, I give them one last action and a chance to share some parting wisdom!
5E has done an incredible job at balancing the different classes but sometimes it feels like martial classes lack a bit of flavor. Especially after you’ve finally gotten a good hit on the boss only for him to change the laws of physics.