Hipsters & Dragons

Because roleplaying is social, creative, fun… and kinda cool!

Author: duncan (Page 1 of 5)

Are You A Good D&D Player?

My Dungeon Master recently shared an interesting video with me by Taking20, in which the presenter Cody, shares his thoughts on what make a great – and not-so-great – Dungeons & Dragons player.

He categorises players into tiers, and gives the qualities that he feels define each tier.

Partly because I’m more of a word man than a video junkie (i.e. I wanted to see his points in a form that I could easily refer back to), and partly because some members of my group were too lazy to watch a 20 minute video they could actually benefit from, I decided to make a list of Cody’s tier system for quick and easy consumption.

There are a number of great takeaways from the video, and – just as the author intended – it is a very useful barometer to measure your own play style by, whether you’re fairly new to the game or a decades-old veteran of the art.

Tier 0 – Disruptive Player

Cody’s Definition: These players destroy campaigns and break up groups, because people don’t enjoy playing with them.

Traits:

  • They argue with DM’s rulings
  • They don’t pay attention in combat (they’re on their phone)
  • They hog every situation, try to fulfil every role on the table
  • They may over-roleplay mundane moments (eg. buying some rope), thereby slowing the game narrative to a crawl
  • They are unprepared, and don’t know their character’s abilities
  • They ‘pout’, ie. sulk when things don’t go their way

Tier 1 – Beginners

Cody’s Definition: These are the newcomers learning the game. You should be able to leave this tier quickly.

Traits:

  • Don’t know the rules
  • Need constant help

Cody is quick to point out that everyone has a right to occupy this tier as a beginner, but you should be heading out of it after just three or so sessions, provided you’re not planning to be disruptive tier 0 persona.

(NB. Cody’s maths get a bit wonky here, as he goes straight from Tier 1 to Tier 3. I’ve taken the liberty of correcting him).

Tier 2 – Average Player

Cody’s Definition: This is basically Cody’s minimum expectations of a non-beginner player.

Traits:

  • Has a solid understanding of the rules
  • Take notes when the DM introduces a new PC
  • Show up to first session with readymade character, with ideas for a backstory, personality and character motivation
  • They understand their class mechanics (“if you don’t understand your class mechanics by the third session you’ve slid down into a disruptive player” says Cody, who brooks no bullshit!!!).
  • Have an understanding of the setting / campaign world
  • Understand the basics of roleplay, make choices based on their character
  • Manage to hold back from metagaming around 50% of the time (ie. don’t offer advice when they’re unconscious, etc.).

Tier 3 – Good Player

Cody’s Definition: Cody defines a good D&D player by the following traits…

Traits:

  • Know how to involve others in the game (and can do it in character)
  • Recognise party roles, allow everyone their moment in the spotlight
  • Recognise story hooks that the DM lays out, and follow up on them
  • Don’t create annoying motivational issues for their PC that threaten the advancement of the story
  • Understand how to roleplay, and can truly avoid metagaming, acting according to their character knowledge etc.
  • Know how to accept character death

Tier 4 – Great Players

Cody’s Definition: Beyond good, these traits make a great player…

Traits:

  • Have mastered the art of improv, can go with the DM’s flow and invent new story details on the spot that add to the story
  • They can read the table, and help move the game along when necessary
  • Can make player vs. player conflict fun, without escalating it and derailing the session

Tier 5 – Extraordinary Players

Cody’s Definition: You are ready to star in Critical Role!

Traits:

  • They are fully immersed in their character (without losing sight of the above points)
  • May have mastered voice acting (or may not)
  • Know what their character would do in certain situations
  • Have defining vocabulary and catchphrases
  • Constantly try to improve as players

Anyway I think it’s a really interesting tier system, and quite an exacting set of standards to hold oneself up to.

Here is the video if you want to check it out. For more on gaming etiquette check my twin posts on traits of annoying D&D players and qualities of great D&D players, where I look at some of these issues from a slightly different angle.

Great Weapon Master Feat… OP’ed or not?

There are three feats that the vast majority of Dungeon Masters consider broken, according to this survey by Think DM.

One of them is Lucky, the only feat to get banned on my table and one which I discussed previously on this blog (and which in turn generated scores of conflicting comments, with many people rushing to its defense. I’ll let you read their reasons yourselves). Another is Sharp Shooter, which perhaps I’ll talk about another time. The third, and today’s topic, is Great Weapon Master.

It’s an interesting feat for sure… the Player’s Handbook states:

Great Weapon Master

You’ve learned to put the weight of a weapon to your advantage, letting its momentum empower your strikes. You gain the following benefits:

  • On your turn, when you score a critical hit with a melee weapon or reduce a creature to 0 hit points with one, you can make one melee weapon attack as a bonus action.
  • Before you make a melee attack with a heavy weapon that you are proficient with, you can choose to take a -5 penalty to the attack roll. If the attack hits, you add +10 to the attack’s damage.

The concept is simple. You’re a big brave brute who has sacrificed a shield (and an ability modifier to take this feat), in order to do maximum possible damage with each swing of your blade.

The first of the two benefits raises few eyebrows… critical hits are pretty rare after all, as is reducing a creature to zero hit points.

The second benefit is where the controversy comes in. An additional 10 damage is massive. If you consider a greatsword does on average 7 damage, it’s kind of crazy that there’s a feat that allows you to do another 143% of that damage as part of the same attack. Everything hinges on that -5 modifier… but in a game of low ACs and high bonuses to hit, not to mention various potential ways to get advantage on your attacks, is that enough of a penalty to justify that huge damage haul?

Ready to do serious damage…

Some Maths…

I’m not going to go super nerdy on this one… this is Hipsters & Dragons remember! I’ve got some art house movies to watch with a locally brewed IPA later tonight (ok, the next episode of Vikings, with some cheap Spanish wine…), but let’s do some simplified sums. I’m doing this on the fly… in other words I haven’t drawn a definitive conclusion about the feat myself yet. Plus the maths might be shoddy, so stay sharp.

Taking a 5th level fighter as an example, let’s see how much damage he does using this feat in three rounds of combat against an opponent with AC 15, versus how much he does without using it. Let’s say he’s got 18 Strength, and a +1 sword by now. His name is Ted.

For simplicity sake I will discount how critical hits effect the maths, and assume there is no advantage on these rolls for now.

Without the feat (5th level fighter)

Ted has a to hit bonus of +8, meaning he needs a 7 to hit AC 15 (70% chance). He does 2d6 +5 damage per hit (12) and has 6 attacks in three rounds. Therefore he does 0.7 x 12 x 6 = 50.4 damage in total.

With the feat (5th level fighter)

With his -5 penalty, Ted now has only a +3 bonus, meaning he needs a 12 to hit (45%). He does 2d6 + 15 damage per hit (22) times the 6 attacks. Therefore he does 0.45 x 22 x 6 = 59.4 damage total.

Hmmmm, it’s not too strong. Just 9 hit points difference, and if you chose to increase your Strength by 2, instead of choosing this feat, you would have dealt an extra 4.5 hit points in those six attacks. That said, I feel that the damage outputs should be closer, if not even. With outputs like this it just means you will opt to use the power nearly every time, and reliably come out on top…

Anyway let’s run the same example with a 10th level fighter, and assume this time that Ted has advantage on his attack rolls for one of the three rounds. Being 10th level, Ted now has a +2 sword.

Without the feat (10th level fighter)

Ted has to a hit bonus of +10, meaning he needs a 5 to hit AC 15 (80% chance), with advantage 96% chance. He does 2d6 + 6 (13) per hit. So in two rounds he does 0.8 x 13 x 4 = 41.6, and in the final round 0.96 x 13 x 2 = 24.96. So a grand total = 66.56 damage

With the feat (10th level fighter)

With his -5 penalty, Ted now has a hit bonus of +5, meaning he needs a 10 to hit AC 15 (55% chance), and with advantage (79.75%). He does 2d6 +16 (23) per hit. So in two rounds he does 0.55 x 23 x 4 = 50.6, and in the final round 0.7975 x 23 x 2 = 36.685. So a grand total = 87.285 damage.

Ok now I’m beginning to see what people are complaining about. That’s pretty big gains over just three rounds. This feat is definitely going to start unbalancing the game at higher levels, especially if it’s being paired with other skills like the barbarian’s reckless attack feature to get advantage more frequently.

In general I like the concept… take a risk, and get a reward… I probably wouldn’t go far to say the feat is broken, but with 5th edition’s low AC monsters and its frequently employed advantage mechanic, the risk / reward dynamic doesn’t feel quite right, and it does come over as overpowered.

Hipster’s Fix

The first part of the feat works just fine in my experience, and is especially fun when mopping up low level mooks in a fight. I am happy to leave that well alone. As for the second part, here are my suggestions…

Option 1

The simplest way to fix the problematic part of this feat would be to keep the same risk, but reduce the reward. In general the flat 10 extra damage doesn’t sit well with me. It’s too dull, and too guaranteed, and it doesn’t scale on a critical (annoying from a player’s perspective!). So I would simply substitute the +10, for 2d6 extra damage, which is a) more fun and b) a bit less powerful, ie. more balanced.

When you bear in mind that most characters using Great Weapon Master feat will also have selected the Greater Weapon Fighting Style that allows you to reroll 1s and 2s, then the average damage is actually 8.33 (not 7), so only slightly nerfed from 10. Especially as between 5 and 10% of the time (ie. when you get critical hits) you will be doing 16.67, which will bring the average up some more.

Option 2

Another way of approaching a fix, would be to say, you can only land these killer +10 blows when you have advantage on the attack roll. Only when you’ve snuck up on your opponent unseen, or they’re rolling about prone on the floor, do you have the time to put your full force into the blow and have any hope of hitting. This means you don’t get to use it so often, but when you do, it tends to pay off big.

Option 3

A third idea I had would be to simply say… whenever you have advantage on a melee attack roll with a heavy weapon you deal an extra 1d6 damage. No penalty to hit. Simple and situational, this saves on any maths and also indecision that sometimes accompanies this feat (“shall I take the penalty or not? Erm, err.”) which can eat up valuable game time.

Option 4

Just thought of a fourth option. You could make dealing the extra damage reliant on a using a bonus action as well. This seems to have some logic… such a powerful blow might take a little extra time to work up to, as you adjust your stance and wind up for the kill. This is perhaps the best way to keep GWM on the table as written, but preventing it from getting out of hand, as it would limit its use to once per turn. This same solution works well for limiting the burst damage of divine smite. Hmmm, it does however screw with the first part of the feat, whereby you get to make a free melee attack as a bonus action, if you kill / crit a creature. You could however give extra attack as a free action on those occasions.

There you go! How have you got on with Great Weapon Master feat. on your table? Have you come up with a fix that works for you? Please comment below, and feel free to pull me up on my tired, probably incorrect maths, obvious things I forgot to take into consideration and anything else. Just keep it polite, as you normally do.

Oh by the way, did you check these 5e magic weapons I homebrewed? They are free for use in your game.

Killer Kobolds, by Tony Petrecca

One of the most well-known and well-loved adventures on the DMs Guild is Killer Kobolds, an adventure that pits your players against wave after devious wave of the eponymous little critters.

Who better to introduce the best seller than the author himself!?

Dear Tony…

Tell us about your book, Killer Kobolds…

The Kobolds of Crag Canyon have kidnapped the children of the pleasant village of Thornyfoot, and it’s up to the heroes to charge in and save the day. Killer Kobolds is a fast paced 5th Edition D&D adventure meant to provide an unforgettable challenge for characters from levels 8-12.

With its simple, straightforward premise, Killer Kobolds quite purposefully sidesteps any and all moral quandaries in order to provide hours of thrilling, high octane, action packed fun.

Looking for Die Hard meets Aliens meets John Wick meets Thunder Road in a D&D session? Well then, have I got the Kobolds for you. Killer Kobolds! Action just levelled UP!

You can buy Killer Kobolds on the DMs Guild for $4.95.

Why did you write it?

The scenario that would eventually become Killer Kobolds grew naturally from my long running home game. My players, having recently taken possession of a small keep guarding a mountain pass, had the opportunity to negotiate with a couple of kobold traders from a nearby canyon enclave. Goliath Barbarian Eglath couldn’t bring himself to believe that the kobolds were negotiating in good faith, thus he opened negotiations with his great club, launching a war.

Knowing full well things were going to get ugly quick, the party set out to kobold territory to take the battle to the little beasties. What ensued was an ever-escalating series of action scenes featuring a vast array of kobold kin harassing the party from all angles using a wide and constantly changing variety of tactics, building ultimately to a thrilling showdown with a big bad kobold ally. The gameplay was filled with foolhardy charges, desperate retreats, harrowing escapes, and a crescendo of action whose final resolution brought about cheers and applause at the table.

When it was done our table agreed that it was some of the most entertaining D&D any of us had been involved in. I realized that the Killer Kobolds could be readily extracted from their original campaign and turned into a stand-alone, drop anywhere action adventure with a simple plot hook change, and I set about making that happen, so I could share the fun with the rest of the world.

How about a little taster then?

Killer Kobolds is NOT Tomb of Horrors. It is not meant to be a TPK waiting to happen. Like any great action movie, I want the characters to find themselves breathless, brutalized, and proudly victorious scene after scene, but I don’t want them slaughtered. Thus, the adventure has simple guidelines in place to help the DM modulate the action, allowing the adventure to continue its pace, which should be a gradual crescendo of action all building to the shocking BBEG reveal at the end.

Like any great action movie, Killer Kobolds contains several set piece scenes that play out as exciting, fluid, dynamic battles. Similarly, like any great action movie, Killer Kobolds has its share of memorable enemies the heroes must overcome, from the brilliant cover girl Levexi the kobold sniper, through flying kobold war priests, to a surprise big bad evil that, when revealed, should inspire jaws to drop.

One such enemy that never fails to infuriate in play is the kobold sorcerer Rerecross. Rerecross uses his skills to hit and run, frustrating the PCs as they give chase through a gauntlet that includes several traps and a collapsing bridge guarded by Kobold Commandos and Kobold Air Cavalry.

He manages to inspire the chase thusly:

Rerecross, prepped and ready to defend the ritual in the best kobold manner he knows how, is at the western door of area 1, using it for three-quarters cover. He will toss a fireball at the party and then retreat, closing the door behind him. He takes a position at the bolthole (2) and readies another fireball to throw into area 1 should its door be opened by anyone but a kobold….

….Rerecross knows the layout well and will target the fireball for maximum effect – centering it on the square that is fifteen feet behind the open door. If the party pursues he’ll retreat, using the dash action, a misty step or dimension door if necessary, to get past area 3, across the bridge, and into area 4. From that vantage he’ll take three quarters cover, peaking around a corner to harass with ranged spells while the kobold squads and air cavalry engage in area 3.

… Rerecross, in area 4, will continue to harass from cover until he gets somebody’s attention, at which point he will retreat to the middle of area 5. He hopes an eager pursuer, split from the party, will somehow cross the collapsed bridge and come at him solo. But solo or not, once pursued he retreats to the middle of area five, behind the Catapult of Doom, hoping to draw his pursuers through two brutal trap areas.

It works like a charm, every time I run it. Inevitably at this point a brave Paladin, brash Fighter or enraged Barbarian tears off in pursuit… first setting off The Four Pillars of Destruction, and then turning to find Rerecross beckon from the middle of a large open room, a sly grin upon his face, as his pursuer triggers The Catapult of Doom and finds themselves hurled over the grinning kobold’s head to smash against the opposite wall.

Oh sure, cautious, careful adventurers might notice and avoid the traps,“but who treads carefully when in hot pursuit of an infuriating kobold sorcerer?”

Who the hell are you by the way?

Well, I’m a 50-year-old Indianapolis resident, Purdue grad, husband, dad, dude with a day job, DEVO fan, and a DM – not necessarily in that order. I got introduced to D&D sometime last century when a friend of mine sent me In Search of the Unknown in a place called Quasqueton and I’ve been hooked ever since.

I’ve always been a fan of creating my own scenarios in any game I’ve played, thus jumping into DMing seemed a natural fit. I’ve got an amazing table of friends, many of whom have been gaming together since early childhood, and I love devising new and creative ways to entertain them. Alas, we’re all parents with day jobs and such, thus we can’t game as often as we used to, though we do our best to play for a couple hours at least once a week.

And what else have you written?

My first forays into publication were Journey Through the Center of the Underdark 1 & 2, companion pieces to Out of the Abyss. They were remarkably well received and went on to become platinum best sellers. Eventually I compiled the two into one convenient bundle available here.

After completing Killer Kobolds I wanted to turn my attention towards something more emotionally complex, an adventure where investigators, explorers, and role players would have their day in the sun, while still providing fans of combat with their dice rolling opportunities. Inspired in no small part by Dean Spencer’s amazing cover art, Hunted was born. Folks can take a look at Hunted here.

I’ve also had the opportunity to contribute to several other DMsGuild projects, most notably Jeff C Steven’s Savage Encounter’s series. I’m particularly proud of the work Jeff, Shawn Merwin, and I did on The Mines of Chult.

You can find all of the above, and plenty more I’ve gotten to contribute to on my DMs Guild page.

And just for fun…

What’s your current PC?

Wendilisa Delirious – Tiefling Bard.

What’s your favourite character class?

I’m a clutz in real life, so I’m drawn to dex builds in my RPGs. I love my bards, rogues, swashbucklers, and dex based fighters. Stout halfling barbarian, anyone?

What’s your favourite monster?

You have to ask? Kobolds of course. I’ve loved em since the first time I read about Tucker’s.

What’s your favourite official D&D adventure?

Of all time? 3rd Edition’s Red Hand of Doom gets high marks from me. For 5th Edition I’ve got a big soft spot for Out of the Abyss.

What’s your favourite unofficial D&D adventure?

Oh no, there are way too many outstanding adventures from amazingly talented authors on the DMsGuild to pick just one. I do keep a reasonably up to date collection of many of my favorites, with reviews, here.

What’s your D&D alter ego?

Oh, the player in me would love to be my OG original AD&D bard Sprite Silverlocks, or perhaps my current tiefling Wendilisa. The DM in me likes to think he’s the Arch Mage Accertep or the Silver Dragon Zephrym. But at this point, realistically I’m the retired adventurer, safely running the inn with his wife and daughter, happy to sit by the fire swapping tales of glory with those who’ll listen.

Thanks Tony, was great getting to know you. How can we stay in touch on the interwebs?

Well on the Facebooks I’ve got an Author’s page, @DMTonyPetrecca, and my personal Facebook presence where I play Tony Petrecca. On the Twitters I’m @TonyPetrecca and, finally, I’ve got a Google+ presence where, I know, this’ll be a big surprise, I’m Tony Petrecca.

Tavern Brawl Builder, by Jean Lorber

Time to introduce my readers to another great writer from the DMs Guild, and let him tell us about his best-selling book, The Tavern Brawl Builder, the perfect guide to planning an old-fashioned punch up in a pub…

Take it away Jean…

Tell us about your book, Tavern Brawl Builder…

‘Tavern Brawl Builder’ is a 26-page supplement that details unique taverns, colorful NPCs and brawl encounters, all wrapped up with new mechanics for making brawls quicker and more fun! Specifically, there are 10 taverns, 10 brawl encounters and 10 complications. Pick one of each and you’ve got 1,000 unique brawls!

Why did you write it?

Since taverns are a staple of fantasy adventuring, I wanted to re-invigorate the cliché of the tavern brawl. I wanted to go beyond: “Drunk dwarves start arguing and a fight breaks out”. So I created story-filled, brawl encounters triggered by events both mundane (e.g. a jilted bride seeks retribution) and fantastic (e.g. an enchanter spreads his emotions to other patrons). These brawls have a reason for beginning and encourage the PCs to pick a side and get invested in the outcome.

But tavern brawls are pretty different from most D&D encounters: non-lethal attacks and improvised weapons should be common and there are a large number of combatants in an enclosed space. It’s a lot to keep track of with the 5e rules-as-written. So, I came up with new mechanics, focused on making a brawl simpler to run and keeping the dice in the players’ hands. Throw in a table of random tavern objects to use as weapons, and you’ve got the ingredients for a bang-up throw-down. Sooner or later, someone is going to get the fully-feathered dead goose…

You can buy The Tavern Brawl Builder on the DMs Guild for $3.95.

How about a little taster then?

Here’s the set-up to one of the brawl encounters:

Grandpa really wanted a drink

The animated skeleton of a long-dead local warrior appears and causes an uproar. To set the scene, read or paraphrase the following:

The tavern door creaks open and a skeleton dressed in adventurer’s garb slowly walks in. It slaps a coin purse on the bar and seems to be waiting expectantly. It takes a beer from the nervous barkeep and quaffs the entire pint enthusiastically. Every drop runs straight down its tunic, but afterwards it opens its mouth in what might be a long, satisfied belch. The tavern looks on in utter silence until one drunk patron breaks it: “The undead are among us!!” he wails.

The skeleton (MM) belongs to Ruud Stoneburner, a former (in every sense of the word) adventurer. By some magic or residual willpower, his skeleton has returned to deliver a message to his descendants. But he has to survive a brawl first.

Some patrons decide to rid themselves of this perceived threat. When you’re ready to begin the brawl, read or paraphrase the following:

After minutes of muttering and heated conversations, the bubble of tension bursts: half the tavern starts yelling “kill it!” and reaches for weapons. But one young man cautiously approaches the skeleton. He points to a decorative pin fastening the skeleton’s cape. “Gr- grandfather?” The skeleton nods, then turns to the barkeep and signals for a writing implement.

This interaction doesn’t stop a vicious melee from breaking out, with half the tavern-goers seeking to destroy the skeleton and the other half protecting their old, old acquaintance.

Who the hell are you by the way?

My name is Jean Lorber, and I’m just a long-time fan of D&D. I remember playing in the 1980’s as a kid, but I clearly didn’t grasp the rules because I had a level 52 wizard…

I started playing again only a few years ago, when my son showed an interest. After buying a few old books, the nostalgia-bomb detonated, and we started playing regularly with another family. It was a great bonding experience, and that was where I discovered my love of DMing. Making up adventures for my tabletop soon led to making up adventures and supplements for the DMs Guild.

The Guild community has been great, by the way, and I owe a lot to support from folks, including Jeff Stevens, Tony Petrecca, Chris Bissette, Teos Abadia and uber-mensch Shawn Merwin.

And what else have you written?

I’m working on my first proper adventure (‘Last March of the Tyrant Wyrm’), but the other titles I’ve completed for the Guild are: ‘Volo’s Lost Encounters’, ‘Unstuck Encounters’ and ‘Unstuck Encounters 2”. I’ve also contributed to a number of collections on the Guild. Here’s my DMs Guild page.

And just for fun…

What’s your current PC?

A half-elf paladin, the overzealous standard bearer of his regiment. He’ll give his life for the Empire because it’s surely working on behalf of all its citizens…right?

What’s your favourite character class?

Wizard. Because in my normal life, I don’t get to break the laws of Newtonian physics.

What’s your favourite monster?

Kobolds. They can range from naughty to homicidal, and I love designing traps.

What’s your favourite official D&D adventure?

As a kid, I loved all the basic D&D modules like ‘the Lost City’. As an “adult”, I’ve only ever played homebrew. But I’ve read all the official 5e adventures, and my favorite is ‘Out of the Abyss’. The Underdark is huge and totally foreign, and I like the range of weird settings and encounters. The interior art by Richard Whitters is also a big selling point.

Thanks Jean, was great getting to know you. How can we stay in touch on the interwebs?

You can find me on twitter: @jlorber4

Do Paladins’ Auras of Protection Stack?

Yes, but they definitely shouldn’t. Aura of protection is hardly 5e D&D’s most glamorous ability, but gameplay shows it be one of the most powerful tools in the game (….as if the paladin doesn’t have enough of those already, with the insanely overpowered (IMHO) divine smite and lay on hands).

One aura of protection already provides a massive boost to a party in almost every combat, but once you’ve got two paladins in your party things get insane. Just by staying tight, the whole party could constantly be benefiting from +6 on every saving throw! 

And it’s not just an adventuring consideration. What happens if the PCs need to take out a cadre of four evil paladins? Provided the bad guys stayed close to one another, they could easily be getting +12 on their saving throws… I wouldn’t want to be a caster charged with facing them!

Anyway, you probably don’t need any convincing… you’ve already experienced it for yourself, and that’s why you’re here. Well here’s a little house rule you can use to lessen the effect.

  1. Multiple auras of protections don’t stack if the paladins worship different gods. The creature in question can benefit from just the strongest aura.
  2. Where two or more auras of protection of paladins who worship the same god overlap, a creature benefits from the strongest aura, with an additional +1 bonus for every extra aura they are overlapped by.

10 FREE Magic Weapons For Your Game

To celebrate the launch of my latest title, Esquiel’s Guide to Magic Weapons (available to buy on the DM’s Guild), I would like to offer my readers my ten favourite weapons in the book, for free, for their 5th edition Dungeons & Dragons gameplay.

Now available on the the DMs Guild

One of my main goals in writing the guide was to craft at least one magical arm for every weapon type in the Player’s Handbook, particularly as the Dungeon Master’s Guide offers very few options besides swords. I wanted to offer gamers way more variety, and to ensure that, no matter what obscure weapon a PC fights with, the owner of this book has a ready-made magic arm for them.

Of course, it was also crucial to create balanced weapons, so that DMs can confidently drop these creations into their sessions without causing headaches for themselves. For this reason 90% of the mechanics are ones you’ve seen somewhere else in the game… ie. you know they work!

Hopefully these 10 sample weapons will prove a lot of fun at your table, and may even inspire you to go ahead and invest in the book.

My Ten Favourite Weapons

1. Bloodthirsty Battleaxe

Battleaxe, very rare (requires attunement)
This vicious battleaxe craves the fury of combat, filling its wielder with bloodlust as it scythes down the enemy. You gain a +1 bonus to attack and damage rolls made with this magic weapon. Additionally, when you reduce a creature to 0 hit points with this weapon, you gain 1d6 temporary hit points and can make one melee attack with the axe as a bonus action.

This axe is perfect for a mass brawl against a horde of lower level baddies. It borrows one of the features of the Greater Weapon Fighting feat that I love, and lets someone who fights with a one-handed weapon use it as well.

2. Rogue Bow

Shortbow, legendary (requires attunement by a rogue)
The magic weapon has 5 charges for the following properties. It regains 1d4+1 charges daily at dawn.

Poison Arrow. You speak a command and expend 1 charge to coat an arrow you have nocked with thick black venom. A creature hit by the arrow must make a DC 15 Constitution saving throw. On a failed save, they take an additional 4d4 poison damage and become poisoned for one minute. On a success, they take half as much damage and are not poisoned.

Sleep Arrow. You speak a command and expend 1 charge to place a charm on an arrow you have nocked. Should you hit your target, roll 5d8. If the number is equal or greater than the target’s hit points, it falls into a magical slumber. They remain unconscious for one minute, awakening only if they take damage, or another creature spends their action to shake or slap them awake.

Smoke Bomb. You can use an action and expend 1 charge to fire an arcane arrow, which lands at a point within range and starts to emit a cloud of smoke. One round after it lands, the smoke creates a heavily obscured area in a 20-foot-radius. A moderate wind disperses the smoke in 4 rounds; a strong wind disperses it in 1 round.

Flashbang. You can use an action and expend 2 charges to fire an arcane arrow at a point within range. It explodes with a deafening crack and blinding flash of light. Each creature within 20 feet of the impact point must succeed on a DC 15 Intelligence saving throw or be stunned until the start of your next turn.

Grappling Arrow. You may expend 1 charge to transform an ordinary arrow into a slender but durable grappling hook. You may fire the grappling hook at bow range, and a thin gossamer rope will magically uncoil behind it, matching the distance of the arrow flight. If you successfully secure the grappling hook (DM to determine difficulty), the rope is strong enough to support 1000 lbs. of weight. After ten minutes, the grappling hook transforms back into an arrow and the magic rope dissolves into nothingness.

Frag Grenade. You can use an action and expend 2 charges to fire an arcane arrow at a point within range. It explodes on impact, spraying the area with razor sharp pieces of rock. Each creature within 20 feet of the impact point must make a DC 15 Dexterity saving throw, taking 5d6 piercing damage on a failed save, or half as much on a successful one.

This is the ultimate utility weapon for the rogue, and gives them a nice range of abilities that perfectly complement their sneaky ways.

3. Earthquaker

Greatclub, legendary (requires attunement, by someone with at least 15 Strength)
This greatclub appears to be no more than a large and gnarly piece of black and deadened wood, with nothing in the way of adornment, however, it is infused with earth-shattering power.

You gain a +3 bonus to attack and damage rolls made with this magic weapon.

The weapon magic weapon has 5 charges for the following properties. It regains 1d4+1 charges daily at dawn.

Giant Blow. While holding the weapon, you can use a bonus action and expend 1 charge to temporarily invoke the strength of a stone giant. For the rest of your turn, when you make a melee attack with the weapon, your Strength modifier is +6, and the weapon deals 3d8 bludgeoning damage.

Earthquake. Smashing the ground in front of you with the club, you can use an action and expend 3 charges to create an earthquake. You create a fissure 10 feet wide that extends 2d6 x 10 feet in front of you and is 1d10 x 10 feet deep. A creature standing on a spot where the fissure opens must succeed on a DC 15 Dexterity saving throw or fall in, and take bludgeoning damage from the fall. A creature that successfully saves moves with the fissure’s edge as it opens. As the earth tremors and shakes, the ground within 20 feet of the fissure becomes difficult terrain until the start of your next turn, and any creature standing in this area must succeed on a DC 12 Dexterity saving throw or fall prone. Any spellcaster concentrating in this area must make a DC 10 Constitution saving throw. On a failed save, the caster’s concentration is broken.

Fans of the Dungeons & Dragons cartoon from the 80s will recognise this weapon, wielded by Bobby the Barbarian. To limit its powers I simply added the charges mechanic, which is one I love in general, as it constantly poses a choice for characters… should I use a charge now, or might I need it more later! Also included in the book are a whole range of Hank style bows, that do different types of energy damage (each has a secondary minor effect), and one master Energy Bow suitable for epic level PCs, plus the Acrobat Staff.

4. Krakentooth

Dagger, very rare
This dagger is fashioned from the tooth of a kraken and is steeped in the magic essence of this ancient leviathan.

You gain a +1 bonus to attack rolls and damage rolls made with this magic weapon.

While holding this dagger you can breathe underwater, and you have advantage on melee attack rolls made with this weapon while underwater.

I wanted to make a Dragontooth dagger, but then I stumbled upon this. I’m glad I did because I think it prompted me to make a more interesting weapon.

5. Scream Stealer

Dagger, very rare
The demonic nature of this blade steals your victim’s screams as you strike them. When you hit a creature with an attack using this magic weapon, the creature is unable to speak, scream, or vocalise any sound, until the start of your next turn.

You gain a +2 bonus to attack and damage rolls made with this magic weapon.

This is my favourite weapon in the whole book. If you manage to stab a magic user every round they wouldn’t be able to cast any spells that requires vocal components.

6. Commander’s Hammer

Warhammer, very rare (requires attunement)
You gain a +1 bonus to attack and damage rolls made with this magic weapon. The hammer has 5 charges, and it regains 1d4+1 expended charges daily at dawn.

Commander’s Strike. You may use a bonus action and expend 1 charge to direct one of your companions to strike. When you do so, choose a friendly creature who can see or hear you. That creature can immediately use its reaction to make one weapon attack.

Compelled Duel. You may use a bonus action and expend 1 charge to compel an opponent into facing you in battle. Use the rules that govern the spell compelled duel but, whenever a Wisdom saving throw is called for, replace it with a Charisma contest.

Manoeuvering Attack. When you hit a creature with this magic weapon, you can expend 1 charge to manoeuvre one of your comrades into a more advantageous position. You choose a friendly creature who can see or hear you. That creature can use its reaction to move up to half its speed without provoking opportunity attacks from the target of your attack.

Rallying Cry. You may use an action and expend 1 charge to bolster the resolve of your companions. When you do so, all friendly creatures within 30 feet of you, who can see or hear you, gain temporary hit points equal to 1d8 plus your Charisma modifier. Once a creature has benefitted from this effect, it must finish a short or long rest before being able to benefit from it again.

I like the versatility of this weapon, which packages up several cool abilities that already exist in 5e D&D but rarely get used in my experience.

7. Thunderstar

Morningstar, very rare
You gain a +1 bonus to attack and damage rolls made with this magic weapon.

This weapon has 5 charges and regains 1d4+1 expended charges daily at dawn. If you expend the last charge, roll a d20. On a 1, the weapon explodes with a mighty crack of thunder and any creature within 30 feet must make a DC 15 Constitution saving throw. On a failed save, the creature takes 3d6 thunder damage and is deafened for the next 10 minutes. On a successful save, the creature takes half as much damage and isn’t deafened.

While holding the morningstar, you can use a bonus action and expend 1 charge to call forth its thunderous energy. The next time you hit with a melee attack using this weapon it unleashes a thundercrack that is audible within 300 feet of you, and the attack deals an extra 2d6 thunder damage to the target. Additionally, if the target is a Large-sized creature or smaller, it must succeed on a DC 15 Strength saving throw or be pushed 10 feet away from you and knocked prone.

Thunderous Smite is one of my favourite spells… and now you don’t have to be a paladin to use it! It could have been thunder-anything, but thunderstar somehow felt right…

8. Moonsong

Greatsword, legendary (requires attunement by a lawful good creature)
You gain a +2 bonus to attack and damage rolls made with this magic weapon.

This holy blade is able to detect evil. Whenever it is within 60 feet of an aberration, fiend or undead, it emits a low humming sound, and glows with a dim blueish-white light in a 15-foot radius.

When a paladin of devotion uses their Sacred Weapon Channel Divinity ability on Moonsong, it blazes with bright moonlight in a 30-foot radius, shedding dim light 30 feet beyond that, and sings with celestial fervour. For the duration of your Sacred Weapon ability, any aberration, fiend or undead within 30 feet of you has disadvantage on attack rolls. During this time, you cannot be charmed, frightened or possessed by them.

Paladin’s of devotion are the poor cousin of paladins of vengeance, so this weapon is a great reward for any PC who decided to play an old school lawful good paladin, providing a nice boost to their Sacred Weapon ability. I actually invented it for a PC of mine, Estelle, a kind of Joan of Arc style warrior. The glowing light is pretty handy if you’re a human!

9. Rakish Rapier

Rapier, legendary (requires attunement)
You gain a +2 bonus to attack and damage rolls made with this magic weapon.

The weapon has 5 charges and regains 1d4+1 expended charges daily at dawn.

Flurry of Blows. When you select the Attack action, you may expend 1 charge to make a melee attack against every creature within 5 feet of you.

Flurry of Parries. When a creature hits you with a melee attack, you can use your reaction and expend 1 charge to add your proficiency bonus to your AC for that attack, potentially causing the attack to miss you. You continue to benefit from this bonus against all further melee attacks against you, until the start of your next turn.

Riposte. If a creature misses you with a melee attack, you can use your reaction and expend 1 charge to make a melee attack against the creature.

Another weapon I invented for one of my PCs, the swashbuckler Drake Griffonheart (check my guide to playing a swashbuckler if you fancy playing a similarly stylish prince of panache), this rapier is deadly in the right hands. Using the riposte skill you can get a second sneak attack a round, whilst the flurry of parries and flurry of blows abilities help compensate for the fact the rogue only gets one main attack a round per round. This extra power is bounded by the charges mechanism, and therefore shouldn’t get out of hand!

10. Screamhoarder

Greatsword, legendary (requires attunement)
The hilt of this merciless blade is decorated with ghostly visages screaming in pain. The weapon stores the dying screams of those it strikes down, releasing their agony on its next victims.

When you hit a living creature with this weapon it must succeed on a DC 15 Wisdom saving throw or take an extra 5 hit points of psychic damage, as the death cries of the blade’s previous foes reverberate through the target’s very being.

For every creature with an Intelligence of 4 or above that you kill with this blade, add an additional 1 hit point to the psychic damage inflicted on a failed save.

When you roll a 20 on an attack roll made with this weapon, the trapped screams fly from the blade to assail the psyche of the target with their full force. The target has no saving throw against the extra psychic damage, and must make a DC 17 Wisdom saving throw or suffer from short-term madness ( p.259, DMG). When this happens, the sword’s additional psychic damage is reset to 5 hit points, as just the residual echoes of its victims’ death screams remain.

Curse. The imprisoned screams of the dead also threaten the sanity of anyone wielding the blade, wearing down their psyche over time. Whenever you score a critical hit with this weapon, you must succeed on a DC 15 Wisdom saving throw or roll on the indefinite madness table (p.260, DMG). You may suffer from multiple effects from this table. While sane you may choose to unattune to this weapon at any time. While suffering the effects of madness, all the usual rules of unattuning to a cursed weapon apply.

This is a very rare example of me moving away from tried and tested existing 5e mechanics to deliver something quite new and different. There are reasons why I didn’t do this very often, but in this case I think I am very pleased with the result, and it’s definitely one of the more memorable weapons in the guide!

Esquiel’s Guide to Magic Weapons

So there you go, my ten favourite magical arms, but it wasn’t easy to choose them. After all I made 110 more, and I’m confident you’ll like the majority of them.

The book also includes 20 new sets of magic armour, highlight amongst which are the Displacer Hide, Lizard Skin, Rogue Suit, Armour of the Golden Dawn and Arcane Shield.

Plus rules for superior, nonmagical weapons and armour (great if your PCs have a lot of cash but nothing to spend it on!).

An example of the interior layout and artwork.

Probably my favourite part of the entire guide is the DM’s Magic Weapon generator though, where you can randomly assemble 10,000s of unique arms using a list of tables that determine weapon type, bonus modifier, and magic property (around 70 cool properties, including curses, plus additional variations). This tool is particularly useful for generating weapons appropriate for low and mid-tier characters.

Within a few days of being available to buy, the book has already became a best seller of the DM’s Guilds, so don’t wait around… grab a copy, using the link below!

Buy Esquiel’s Guide to Magic Weapons on the DMs Guild

Anthony Turco Introduces: Korranberg Chronicle, Threat Dispatch

So Wizards of the Coast finally released The Wayfarer’s Guide to Eberron on the DMs Guild in summer of 2018, just four or so years after bringing out the core rulebooks for Dungeons & Dragons 5th edition….

Meanwhile one man couldn’t wait, and has been developing his own manual of Eberron monsters for 5e, as well as some slick NPCs.

We invited the author of the 5-star rated, best selling Korranberg Chronicle: Threat Dispatch to tell us more about his work, and a bit more about Eberron in general, for those who are in the dark about this official D&D setting.

Dear Anthony

Tell us all about your book: Korranberg Chronicle: Threat Dispatch…

Threat Dispatch is an 87-page bestiary of monsters and NPCs for Eberron games. It includes creatures specific to the lore of the Eberron campaign setting, as well as conversions of other monsters from past editions of D&D that I thought were particularly suitable for Eberron campaigns. Most of the monsters in the book are meant to be fought by the players, but some include rules for players to use, like summoning dinosaur mounts with the find steed spell, or creating tiny constructs to act as your servants or guardians.

As my first product, I’ve made Threat Dispatch available for Pay What You Want on the DM’s Guild. It is currently an Electrum Bestseller as well!

Why did you write it?

Ever since Eberron was released for the 3rd edition of Dungeons & Dragons, it has been the only setting I DM games for, through all of 3rd, 4th, and into 5th edition. The wait for official Eberron content in 5e was a long one, so over the years of playing 5e I would create my own stats for classic Eberron monsters, and I saved them so I could reuse them if I ever needed them again.

Eventually I had pages and pages of these stat blocks for Eberron games. When I suspected that WotC was hinting at an official release for Eberron in 5e, I began to work on my disorganized array of material and put it all together in what became Korranberg Chronicle: Threat Dispatch. I had faith that they would be opening Eberron up on the DM’s Guild soon, and I even took time off from my day job to make sure I had Threat Dispatch ready for release as soon as I could!

In the end, I put it up for sale within 24 hours of the opening of the Eberron setting on the Guild.

What is Eberron by the way? And why should we play it?

Eberron is hands-down my favorite Dungeons and Dragon’s campaign setting. Eberron is what you get if you mash Indiana Jones, Sin City, and Lord of the Rings together. It is a great mix of high adventure, intrigue, and Lovecraftian horror.

It’s a world where magic has been harnessed like a science, to create modern conveniences like airships, where massive multinational hereditary guilds have a hand in nearly every aspect of society, where a terrible war just wiped one of the centers of culture and art off the map. It is a world in peril, and the Last War has chewed up and spat out any heroes that were left. Now it’s up to you!

A bit more on Eberron from it’s creator…

How about a little taster then of your book…

Sure! In addition to mechanical statistics for monsters and NPCs, I introduce each type of monster with a bit of lore. Here’s one of those summonable dinosaurs I mentioned earlier:

UTAHRAPTOR (GREAT CARVER)
Great carvers are reptilian bipedal creatures about the size of a bugbear or goliath, with a wicked, scythe-like claw on one toe of each foot. They are extremely dangerous predators, capable of taking down prey much larger than themselves. It is a larger relative of the carver and clawfoot. Halflings of the Talenta Plains typically use trained great carvers as war mounts.
Small Mount. Small creatures can use a great carver as a mount. It has a carrying capacity of 270 pounds. Barding for medium-sized mounts costs only twice as much as regular armor, instead of four times as much.
When casting the find greater steed spell (Xanathar’s Guide to Everything, pg. 156), a great carver may be summoned in addition to the options listed in the spell.

UTAHRAPTOR (GREAT CARVER)

Medium beast, unaligned
Armor Class 13 (natural armor)
Hit Points 32 (5d8 + 10)
Speed 40 ft.
STR 19 (+4) DEX 15 (+2) CON 14 (+2)
INT 4 (–3) WIS 13 (+1) CHA 6 (–2)
Skills Athletics +6, Perception +3, Stealth +3
Senses passive Perception 13
Languages
Challenge 2 (450 XP)
Pounce. If the carver moves at least 20 feet straight toward a creature and then hits it with a claw attack on the same turn, that target must succeed on a DC 14 Strength saving throw or be knocked prone. If the target is prone, the carver can make one bite attack against it as a bonus action.

ACTIONS
Multiattack. The carver makes three attacks: one with its bite and two with its claw.
Bite. Melee Weapon Attack: +6 to hit, reach 5 ft., one target. Hit: 8 (1d8 + 4) piercing damage.
Claw. Melee Weapon Attack: +6 to hit, reach 5 ft., one target. Hit: 9 (1d10 + 4) piercing damage.

Who the hell are you by the way?

Hi! I’m Anthony! I’m a 30-something geek, currently living in Florida, but born and raised in New York City. I’ve always been a nerd, but my adventures in dice-chucking and funny accents only began in college, when I was introduced to the 3rd edition of Dungeons and Dragons. When I played it for the first time, I thought to myself “where has this been all my life?” and I never looked back.

Incidentally, in my very first session, I corrected the DM on a rule. I’ve learned to channel my rules lawyering for good since then.

And what else have you written?

I’ve written three other titles in the Korranberg Chronicle line:

Xen’drik Advisory, another smaller bestiary focusing on a specific region of the Eberron world.
Adventurer’s Almanac, a 160-page book that focuses on character options for Eberron (races, classes, feats, spells, etc.)
Nightmare on the Mournland Express, a quick one-shot horror-themed adventure that shows some of the darker side of the setting!

For more from me and other projects I’ve worked on, check me out on the DM’s Guild.

And just for fun… Your D&D alter ego?

Although I LOVE Eberron, my first and favorite D&D character was a Paladin in the service of Bahamut, the Platinum Dragon, which would absolutely be my choice!

Thanks Anthony, it was great getting to know you. Where can we stay in touch on the multi-webs?

Thank you! You can find me on twitter @novaseaker

This was the latest in a series of posts designed to highlight some of the amazing material being published on the DMs Guild. Whether you need advice on how to run heists and capers for 5e, or a score of readymade city encounters check out the links.

Jimmy Meritt Introduces: Here’s To Crime

Following hot on the heels of last week’s post, which featured best-selling author Jeff C. Stevens introducing his Encounters in the Savage Cities (perfect if you’re about to run Dragon Heist!), is the second post in what I hope will be a regular series of articles.

This time I’ve invited DMs Guild newbie Jimmy Meritt onto the blog, to talk about his tantalisingly-titled new book Here’s To Crime: A Guide to Capers and Heists… another perfect publication for those about to enter the cosmopolitan, crime-rich environs of Waterdeep.

Within two weeks of publication it’s already become a Platinum best seller, so let’s stop beating around the block and lend our ears to its devious mastermind.

Dear Jimmy…

Tell us about your book: Here’s To Crime: A Guide to Capers and Heists

We all love watching caper films, but it can be hard to capture that same excitement at the gaming table. We want the characters to be pulling off clockwork cons, but in practice the sessions devolve into dull planning session, and a heist that doesn’t feel too different than the
average dungeon crawl.

“Here’s to Crime” introduces a variant rule hack (influenced by the brilliant game “Blades in the Dark”) that captures the energy and mood of films like “Ocean’s 11”, to let DMs and players have high energy, slick, and fast heist sessions.

Buy Here’s to Crime on the DMs Guild

Why did you write it?

I actually wrote this for my home game! I love heists and capers, so I was originally working on this as a house rule system for my players. I posted an early version of this to Facebook and Reddit, and instantly received feedback that it was cool enough that people were willing to pay for it. So, I finessed it and tossed it up on the guild!

I think this is especially helpful right now, as many tables are getting to run the new “Dragon Heist” campaign. This rules supplement will really give “Dragon Heist” games a shot in the arm, and help it feel REALLY different from previous campaigns.

How about a little taster then?

I break a “Heist” into essentially a three phase mini-game.

Phase One, the Plan, walks you through how to run a short, crisp planning session. It gets enough information to let players influence the narrative, but also stays loose enough to keep room for surprises during the heist itself. A “Character First” focus keeps players involved, even
if they don’t have a lot of interest in tactics.

Phase Two, the Heist, has players overcome obstacles using skill checks, combat, and a special “Flashback” mechanic that lets the characters be one step ahead of the game.

Then, in Phase Three, a narrative heavy skill challenge lets it all come together.

Who the hell are you by the way?

My first game of D&D was played at my best friends sleepover – his dad insisted that he run a game for us [ed. the tyrannical power of fatherhood being put to great use!]. And I’m still playing with the same group, 26 years later!

When I’m not playing Dungeons and Dragons, I make my living as a raconteur. I’ve lived on the road as a touring stand-up comedian, I’ve starred in low budget horror films, I’ve run Dungeons and Dragons campaigns for middle schoolers at a summer camp, I’ve performed and written for a medieval dinner theater, I’ve slogged through performing in store live infomercials… now my
focus is on stand-up comedy, and Ghost Story telling.

What else have you written?

“Here’s to Crime” is my first piece for the DMs Guild, but I’ve got more on the way! I’m hard at work on my second piece, which will be a collection of short heists and cons set in the city of Waterdeep. Stay tuned to my author page.

And just for fun…

Please answer the following questions, with as much or little detail as you wish…

Your current PC
I’m the DM! Right now I’m running a Viking themed game, where my players are questing to kill the Norns to break a cycle of predestination and fate, so they can stop Ragnarok.

Your favourite character class
I play super rarely, but whenever I’m at the table I tend to lean towards a bard.

Your favourite monster

The Mind Flayer! One of my favorite things about D&D is that it’s not just a generic fantasy setting, there’s all these weird elements around the edges. Mind Flayers really hit that home by bringing in a 50s pulp/horror feel.

Your favourite official D&D adventure
Curse of Strahd! Reading the second edition “Ravenloft” stuff was a huge influence on me – it’s “Horror” tone showed that you can tell a lot of different kind of stories within a D&D context. Trying to capture different feels/genres is part of what lead to “Here’s to Crime”.

Your favourite unofficial D&D adventure
Enworld publishing put out a work called “To Slay a Dragon”, which they also converted for 5e with “The Holdenshire Chronicles”. I often like stories that sort of change the genre of what you can do with D&D, but this is a work that’s exactly what it says on the box – a party is assembled
to go to a mountain and slay a dragon! It’s incredibly well executed, and just has a classic feeling to it- I feel you could run it for any table and they’d have a blast.

Your D&D alter ego
I’m the tavern bard giving out quest hooks with stories of ancient lore.

Thanks Jimmy, it was great getting to know you. Where can we stay in touch on the multiwebs?

I’m a man of mystery! But you’ll often find me chatting on D&D forums.

Jeff C. Stevens Introduces: Encounters in the Savage Cities

You’ve probably heard me mention the DMs Guild one or two times on the blog by now. It’s an amazing marketplace where Dungeons and Dragons lovers can publish and sell their own homebrew content… including myself!

I often check by to gaze at the latest releases, looking for inspiration, but I rarely have time to read many of the enticing-looking titles cover to cover and review them (something I’d love to do in an ideal world where my job was to live and breath D&D every day! Sadly it’s not, although writing about Barcelona is hardly the worst 9-to-5 in the world either…).

That’s when I had the bright idea of inviting the authors of the Guild to introduce their own work, in their own words, and as well to find out a little more about these men and women at the creative coalface of the homebrew industry.

First to step up to the plate is Jeff C. Stevens, who introduces us to his favourite work within his Savage Encounters series of publications…

Tell us all about your book: Encounters in the Savage Cities…

Encounters in the Savage Cities is a collection of 26 short, urban-themed encounters / adventures written by some of the best-selling writers on the Dungeon Masters Guild.

The encounters are fully-developed and most include challenge rating scaling suggestions, which makes it easy for a Dungeon Master to drop them into their own game.

Maps are also included, both in the PDF and as separate downloadable files.

Buy Encounters in the Savage Cities

Why did you write it?

I like short encounters and adventures. There are times when a DM may need more time to prepare for a session, when only a little bit more experience is needed before the party levels up, when not everyone can make the game night, or times when the party turned left instead of right, and these short encounters really help in those situations. They also help inspire current campaigns, adding to and building off what is written, making it your own or expanding on what occurred when you ran the encounter.

I also wanted to showcase the great writers on the Dungeon Masters Guild. It’s tough establishing your name and products in this industry, I thought this would be a good way to give consumers a sample of writing from many different writers and styles. 23 writers contributed to Encounters in the Savage Cities, and each writer did an incredible job.

How about a little taster then?

Certainly! Here’s a snippet from ‘Trouble in the Docks’, an encounter MT Black wrote for the supplement:

The docks smell of saltwater, tar, and rotting fish. Above the din of the crowded streets, you can hear the slap of water against sodden piers, the clank of chains, and the rustle of canvas. The sky is shrouded in dark, heavy clouds, and the odd spot of rain begins to appear on the dirt road you are walking on.

A halfling pushes through the crowd, coming directly toward you. She holds a clipboard in one hand and has a pencil behind her ear. “Please,” she says. “Can you help me? I just need a few minutes.”

The halfling tells them her name is Seraphina Redport, and that she is a planner employed by the city council. She is currently trying to interview a broad selection of people in the area. Assuming the party talk to her, she will ask several questions…

Who the hell are you by the way?

I’m Jeff C. Stevens – a 47-year-old dude from Missouri living his childhood dream of writing D&D adventures. I started playing in the early 1980’s and I can still remember the all-night games we played over the weekends at a buddy’s house, living off soda, chips, and pizza while we rolled dice and slayed bad guys. It was fantastic! I took a long break from the game, but I came back when 5th edition was released. I’m glad I did!

Unless I’m at a gaming convention, those marathon D&D sessions don’t happen anymore. Now, I’m lucky to get in two games a month, even one game a month can be difficult with all the adulting we have to do. Plus, being a creator takes a lot of time. I wish I could be a full-time writer/producer but it’s tough to do in the RPG industry. I love writing, it’s been one of my life goals for a very long time. I wish I had studied writing in college, but I chose to instead learn about Criminal Justice – a field in which I do not work (LOL).

And what else have you written?

I have an entire product line built around the Savage Encounters idea. The first Savage Encounters product was Encounters in the Savage Frontier, which was inspired by the Storm King’s Thunder campaign. Then came Savage Cities, Savage Jungles, The Mines of Chult, and most recently, Savage Wilderness. Each time I use a mix of writers to provide writing for the books. Very soon, there will be a new Savage Encounters supplement available – Villains & Lairs. You can find my entire catalogue here, on the DMs Guilds.

I have also written 14 adventures. Several are also available for Fantasy Grounds and two are Adventurers League legal.

And just for fun…

Who is your current PC?

I have a couple PCs I use. My favorite is Gruntog the Half-Orc Bard.

Your favourite character class?

Bard. I’m a drummer and I love roleplaying. It’s a good fit for me.

Your favourite monster?

Mimic. There are just too many cool ways a party can encounter a mimic!

Your favourite official D&D adventure?

I’m running Tomb of Annihilation for my group. I like the jungle setting, the lost ruins, and the zombified creatures. It’s a great area to explore even if you aren’t running the official campaign as it’s written.

Your favourite unofficial D&D adventure?

My group had a great time playing Scarab of Death by Benoit de Bernardy. There’s a good mix of all three pillars of play.

Your D&D alter ego if you were beamed into the Forgotten Realms?

I would be Finnian Brushrunner – halfling Paladin to Tymora. He’s my character from the Curse of Strahd campaign I played in. He survived that campaign, so I think I’ll stick with him!

Thanks Jeff, it was great getting to know you. How can we find you on the multi-webs?

On Twitter @jcorvinstevens or Facebook.

101+ Terrain Features for Better Combats

I was just reading DM David’s latest post, about “locations and (monster) tactics that encourage dynamic combat scenes“. As always with his excellent blog there are some great ideas there.

One thing he didn’t cover though was specific terrain features that can turn a drab, barren grid into a dynamic combat environment, so I felt inspired to do just that.

…the most memorable moments in a fight often come through a PC interacting with their environment in a creative way.

Apart from creating additional obstacles and interests, terrain features – be they humble bushes or a series of a crate of ripe melons ready to be tipped over – can be used, by the resourceful player, as cover, to hide, or for some other tactical advantage. In my experience, the most memorable moments in a fight often come through a PC interacting with their environment in a creative way.

Winning initiative is key when you’re fighting on a log bridge…

Let’s create two lists… wilderness terrain features and indoors terrain features.

Wilderness Terrain Features

Bushes
Trees
Fallen tree
Boulders or rocks (some massive, others that could double as weapons)
Ditch
Brook
River
Bridge
River ford
Stepping stones or giant lillypads
Slippery log bridge
Lake (with jetty, and moored boats)
Waterfall
Drystone wall
Crumbling ruins of an ancient temple
Hut, shed or barn
Farmhouse
Windmill or watermill
Crate of ripe melons
Long grass, meadow or wheat field
Scarecrow (not the monster… or is it?)
Quicksand
Vines (to swing on)
Erupting geysers
Beehives
Pack of wild dogs
Nest of poisonous vipers
Stampede of buffalo / elephants / dinosaurs
Bog (with bloodsucking leeches)
Campfire
Wagon
Burial mound
Tombstones
Gorge or canyon
Hill, slope or ravine
Landslide
Cave entrance
Moss-covered skeleton of a long-dead dragon
Pit
Well
Sundial
Bales of dry hay
Smoke
Animal snares
Tripwire
Plants that give off poisonous spores
A tree that is really a treant
A huge savage beast that doesn’t like you or your foes
Zone of slowness
Gallows

Weather Features

Since you’re outdoors, don’t forget to consider what the weather is like (as well as whether it’s night or day time). Some conditions that could seriously affect the outcome of any fight are…

An impenetrable mist (range attacks impossible)
Driving rain (range attacks with disadvantage, roll DC 10 Dexterity (Acrobatics) every round not to fall prone on slippery ground)
Galeforce winds
Snowstorm or sandstorm
Freak hailstorm of small rocks which does 1d4 bludgeoning damage a round to anyone in it…
Solar or lunar eclipse

Dungeon or Indoor Terrain Features

Stalactites / stalagmites
Chasm
Pit
Bridge (natural stone or rope? Or broken?)
Underground river (is that water or acid?)
Underground lake (with a ravenous beast inside)
Lava flow
Tables and chairs
Steps and staircases (trapped?)
Ramp
Throne
Altar
Coffins or tombs
Crates
Barrels (full of oil)
Statues
Prisoners in hanging cages
Columns, pillars and plinths
Alcoves
Arches
Maze
Mirrors (…or mirror maze!)
Tapestries
Chandeliers
Slippery, polished marble floor
Portal
Firepit
Fountain
Arrow slits (from which baddies pepper you with crossbow bolts)
Walls that start to close in
Water that starts to rise
Gas that starts to fill the room
Skylight
Murder holes
Trapdoor
Floortiles that randomly give way to spiked pits
Levers that set off various traps
Portcullis
Exploding fungi
Swarm of plague-carrying rats
Lots of confusing illusions
Wind tunnel
Animated armour and weapons
Lift / elevator
Mining cart and tracks
Ladder
Strategically placed glyphs of warding
Giant moving cogs
Giant spiderwebs
Sewers
Bookshelves
Curtains
Magical darkness
Jets of hot steam
Vacuum
Huge bell
Clock
Narrow ledge
Cauldron of steaming liquid
Giant, swinging thurible
Zone of silence
Ropers hanging from the ceiling

What did I miss? Please pipe up in the comments. Damn, pipes.

Of course pimping the terrain is just one way to make combat more interesting, and hopefully this got the juices flowing, but there are plenty more tricks the wily DM can pull out of their toolbox to spice things up when the d20s start a’rollin’. No doubt I’ll return to this topic in due course.

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