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Turn Clichés into Adventuring Gold in 5e Dungeons & Dragons – Web DM

Lord and you’ve once again saved Kingdom onea from a powerful threat today on web DM, we’re talking about cliches and in fifth edition Dungeons & Dragons, so we’re going to adventure in a dungeon and fight a dragon yeah and not be cliche about it.

Yes, we’re talking about those things and dungeons and dragons that have crept in over the years, those yeah meeting in taverns and the orc invasion, and all those things that veteran players will roll their eyes at snooze boring done this a million times yeah. What we can do to freshen those things up and maybe identify some of those cliches for the newer people who are, you know, coming into role-playing, games and Dungeons and Dragons the other first year they want.

They want to. You know, avoid some pitfalls or something. So I like a good cliche, because it’s classic you know well, I mean cliches early cliches because there’s something that people like they get told so many times that you just already know the story before it you’re like. Oh, it’s that one huh right, but we’ve been doing that with stories for thousands of years right. There’s a couple things going on number one: they’re cliches, because they’re done poorly and and if they take the easiest route to portray something or present a challenge or scenario or something it’s either done poorly.

It’s done haphazardly and this can be forgiven right, yeah, very few. Dungeon Master’s are professional, storytellers, mythmakers linguists. You know all these kinds of things: actors, improv actors, like all of these things – are kind of the job of the DM yeah, but we’ve got day jobs. We’ve got other things going on dungeons dragons is not our life as much as it really is kind of our lives. We can forgive the dungeon masters of the world in the 40 plus years that Dungeons & Dragons has been around for developing cliches.

That get used a whole lot because they’re convenient and that’s probably, why you want to use them. They are classic. They became cliches for a reason they were popular or they evoke some kind of emotional response from people they liked them, because you know everybody pretty much makes the the orphan. You know parents were killed right. I just blah blah blah right. I can’t tell you how many of my characters do that, but sometimes you know why not start the adventure with full family and that’s you got to support them and you know you’re a family man, let’s run through a couple of a couple of cliches and go Through different ways to subvert them, here’s the one I’m thinking of and maybe you’re thinking of something similar yeah starting in a tavern in a tavern beginning, your campaign in at average just having drinks having drinks sitting around yucking it up, mmm you’re gambling, maybe there’s some Carousing going on just fight and then somebody bursts in somebody bursts in the twit call.

The quest giver shows up right, it’s played out in display, and it’s a it’s a joke – that your character you’re, that they were in a tavern that they would meet and start in a tavern all right, let’s kind of think about it forum in taverns or places Where people gather yeah it’s perfectly natural and and and very relatable, a kind of beginning, it’s convenient yeah. I look at myself how many times have myself in a tavern at least three times a week at least right quiz, a quiz twice, and I played Indiana terrible.

So literally me, as a person goes to a tavern three days, seven days a week. Huh so am I living a cliche life, or am I just living? My life depends on how many mysterious Wizards come in and give you a quest that changes your life. Well, it’s happened a few times. It starts you out on the hero’s journey, cliche, here’s what you can do to liven it up. First off you can change the environment dub. The purpose of the tavern is that it’s a central location, that’s familiar to everyone.

It’s a touchstone, so maybe you don’t meet up in a tavern. You meet up at a fair or a festival or a town square, or something like that. The tammer is just a convenient excuse to have the characters together in one spot, relaxed they’re not expecting combat and, at the same time, there’s a lot of stuff that they can do as they’re working out who their characters are waiting for. The plot hooks and and everything to sort of draw switch that up.

Maybe it’s a tournament that they’re meeting at and the player characters, are either participants in the tournament or spectators or something like that. Yeah, someone or you can go back and you can say well what is it about meeting at the tavern that appeals to me? It’s rustic its familiar, it’s it’s, it’s close. It suggests characters who are low level who have concerns like eating and drinking and living in a place, the tavern kind of blogs, all that and and and you can have it – you know, be something that that leans into the cliche yeah.

That’s that’s perfectly fun. You guys are meeting in a tavern, that’s probably what you guys do three days a week or I could just be an alcoholic, that’s true, but you don’t have to you, don’t have to be in a tavern, though that is true. Thank you. Yes right. Another cliche, of course, there’s a tower and in that tower, is a princess, yeah and and around there, probably some kind of beast or drag some kind of beast or dragon or a wicked witch or stepmother, or somebody that’s keeping her locked in the the princess.

In a tower is one of those where I, you know a big surprise, surprise, a game like The Witcher or a setting like the witch or The Witcher stories which have just started to read sort of tries to subvert those things and says like all right. These are the fairy tales, but what if they were real and what, if they were real monsters and what? If there was a monster hunter out there to take care of them yeah, you know the princess in a tower.

It could easily be a prince or some other kind of redeployment or something the point of it is, is that it’s a it’s a person in a tower or imprisoned some way in which they can’t get out themselves, and maybe they’ve been unjustly imprisoned or maybe they’ve Been just the prison’s. What? If what? If the princess in the tower is there because she’s, not a particularly good person and keeping her locked up, is sort of keeping everyone else safe yeah, but her agents out in the wild have spread the rumor that the innocent princess has been wrongly imprisoned by her Wicked stepmother and she really needs to be set free, yeah cuz.

What, if she’s a little bit more in lines with? What’s name Elizabeth Bathory, Bathory, yeah yeah, I mean the bloody Duchess or whatever is correct. You know they can’t kill her because she’s somewhat royalty yasur’s. They can’t they have got to keep her the away from rebel right because she’s going to just keep bathing in the blood of milkmaids, and maybe the the characters catch wind of this rumors and as they get closer and closer to what they see is like well.

If we rescue the princess, then we’ll win her hand in marriage and become princes of the realm and blah blah blah blah blah things like that. But as you get closer, they sort of uncover the mystery and realize. Well, maybe this person that’s being imprisoned, isn’t quite so yea good or maybe maybe it is maybe the fact that they’ve been imprisoned. It suggests a problem in the kingdom or the realm changing something about it, changing either, who was imprisoned, why they were imprisoned or the conditions around that imprisonment or what about this? What if, yes, there’s a princess, there’s a tower and there’s a dragon, but the princess is an evil sorceress and she has imprisoned a silver dragon and keeps this story going out.

So adventurers show up just so. She has something to feed her dragon, that’s imprisoned, they get up they’re like oh we’re going to defeat this dragon to get there like. Why are you chained up and then she hits them right? Oh, thank you. I don’t have to go and find food to know. I have to go out and buy them food today, a lot of times you just hint at a cliche or something how players will run with it, expecting something going off of assumptions that they bring themselves.

This is meta gaming on the DMS part, oh yeah. It’s fine, it’s how you build interesting stories and met it, there’s nothing wrong with metagaming, and so the players start expecting something they bring their own assumptions. They vocalize those things while they’re discussing it, the DMS listening to what they’re having to say, adapting his campaign or her campaign to what the players are doing and now all the sudden the players are expecting.

One thing you flip it on them: they realize that they’ve been making the wrong assumptions about stuff that that the way that they’ve been approaching, this has been in error, the entire time and now they’ve gotten themselves in a sticky situation that it’s harder to extract themselves. From and that’s kind of how you is honestly how you deceive and lie to the players and make them make them their own worst enemies, sort of practicing diem judo against ya, you have you have to use their own expectations and assumptions against them, because if they Only have one clue yeah and they try to extrapolate to the end yeah.

Well, you might need to get on one or two more clues. You can triangulate that, yes, you need to feed them enough breadcrumbs that they keep going and feel like. They have information, but not so much that they have a full and clear picture about. What’s going on right, the gaps that they’re filling in or where they start to stumble and make wrong assumptions about things and then as they get to the climax of the particular adventure or campaign or whatever they realize that they’ve been making some wrong assumptions now? It’s that’s difficult to pull off.

You can easily get in a situation where the players like I have no idea. What’s going on and the DM z — being stingy with information, there’s a delicate act, yeah feeding the characters, misinformation and build and letting their own wild expectations get the better of them, but it can be done so sometimes the DM can do a bamboozle. So an another cliche, especially in this day and age of television, film uh-huh, the zombie horde good grief, everybody’s – got a zombie horde right, but he’s got his zombie whore and the fathometer slow, slow.

They puke, they run, they jump. They’ve got spikes they’re noxious. You know. I you know obviously they’re the one, interestingly enough, zombie horde that I’m less concerned about and actually kind of excited of seeing is the one that’s that appears in the later seasons of Game of Thrones. I’m I’m, I think, that’s a well done one just because the villains are interesting. The dilemma is interesting.

The world that it inhabits presents. This challenge is an interesting one. A zombie horde like that in Dungeons and Dragons is like well. We’ve got like 20 dragons on our side and a bunch of wizards that’ll come around and that kind of zombie horde and a typical Dungeons & Dragons setting is like a challenge for an afternoon. You know, let’s say an existential threat to all civilization itself and more the kind of a nuisance if they’re just regular as zombies like Walking Dead, and then you just drop some wizards and whatever in there like they’re, going to start mopping that up pretty quick they’re Going to start mopping it up, so how you? How do you do a zombie horde in Dungeons & Dragons? That makes it interesting or makes it you know a genuine threat and I have used them in the past in conjunction with something else.

So I’ve used a zombie horde in the past after the realm has been weakened by years of famine and drought, which has led to widespread death, which means there are a lot of unburied bodies and abandoned villages that there’s no one there to put up a defense Against this thing and every victory for the zombie horde feeds its army and the zombie horde is being led by vampires and Lich’s and ghosts and things like that.

It’s a whole necromantic threat, not just a horde of the shambling dead. You can do it sort of in the wake of a war or something you know, there’s a massive war. That’s come through. Untended, battlegrounds and dungeons and dragons would be terrible things right. A battlefield is already kind of a bad thing: medieval angels, disease, pickers that come by after the battle looters and Pickers that come by afterwards in Dungeons and Dragons.

It attracts carrion, eaters and other eaters of the dead ghouls, and things like that when what? If, in the wake of a massive war with all these unburied bodies or mass graves, or something like that, all of the death and concentrated you know dying and negative energy cause undead to spontaneously rise, and now the players have to deal with spontaneous pockets of undead. Rising up and it could quickly get out of control because, instead of one massive army of the Dead reading south, it’s a lot of little fires, yeah undead that keeps spreading you’re completely surrounded by that you’re, completely surrounded by and and if the army.

And if the realm has already been weakened by pervasive war and death, and things like that which usually comes with disease and famine and all those other fun things, that’s how you do it. So I find zombie horde is a good complication, not necessarily the centerpiece of a campaign, but something that rises as a consequence of some other kind of calamity. I remember you did that in in our fourth one of our fourth edition campaigns.

Yes yeah. This is a big problem with the undead, but they weren’t the problem, the people drumming and controlling them for the whole problem right, you know, so it became a thing about avoiding the zombies altogether cuz. There were just too many yeah like I mean they were literally everywhere right and it’s you know, a bunch of for three or third or fourth level characters aren’t going to take on an entire horde, but that one got drumming over there yeah, the one guy who Looks like he’s controlling them.

Yeah now becomes an exercise in getting to him right and around every other yeah. It was a lot of fun yeah, another one where we got the Dark. Lord, the Dark, Lord. Yes, the Dark, Lord, the evil, big bad evil, guy yeah rules from The Dark Tower and yeah. So why does this work in middle-earth? It works in middle-earth because Sauron is a part of the mythology and the creation or everything omnipresent across thousands of years and is the enemy right very often in Dungeons and Dragons.

That’s less the case and the Dark. Lord type characters, often they’re just for the campaign. They’re not embedded into the world and meshed in it yeah they’re more trying to become a Dark Lord trying to become a Dark. Lord, you know you can avoid that. I think, by by having the Dark Lord, be either a myth or a rumor or something that a cabal of equally nefarious, but maybe less mystical adversaries have concocted sort of a story that they’ve made to present and everybody’s afraid of this Dark.

Lord. But it’s really just a figment to fiction perpetuated by something else. You could lean into it and say yeah. This is a Dark, Lord and the kingdom that this this Dark. Lord rules, this realm, that it governs, is a nasty horrific place and the people there are oppressed and – and it’s not a pleasant place to be, but you need to take that seriously. How do they deal with the neighbors that they live with yeah? What did they do for trade for food? It still has to be a functioning society in some way, otherwise there that there would be no power base that this Dark.

Lord could draw no one there to feed its armies. No one there to you know to pay the taxes. You know it’s extracting from the from the populace. Also, the Dark Lord at some point needs to have experienced a defeat in the past and they’re just lying in wait lying in wait same with Sauron uh-uh, Voldemort Voldemort, another great Potter series. You know he was this thing he got defeated, oh he said.

Oh, don’t worry, he’s gone yeah, you know, or even the Emperor and Darth Vader from an oratorio. They have weaknesses. You know, maybe it’s weaknesses like Darth Vader has weaknesses which is like you know they. It’s. The weakness is the emotional attachment to to the people who stand against him: the there’s a magical weakness or something like the Horcrux that that the party needs to exploit and find in order to overcome the the Dark Lord.

But I think like having that one massive brooding kind of dark, evil figure, that’s irredeemably evil or wicked, or something like maybe they’re, not maybe in the best villains, don’t see themselves as villains and see what they do as a type of good. Yes, and so maybe it’s entirely possible – that the rumors coming out of the Dark Kingdom are of a horribly oppressive place where everything is terrible and horrible.

But when you visit it’s not set not that bad yeah and – and there is a reason for several of the things that are happening. Maybe there is a greater threat that that Kingdom is fighting often so that has to be a little harsher. It has to be a little bit more brutal or maybe they look at it and say like no well guess what I don’t see myself as a wicked person. I see myself as the lawful ruler of this land.

These are things they’re mine by right, and I have an obligation to the to the subjects of my land and I take care of them and in return you know they they give back the fruits of their labor kind of thing and making the villain more three-dimensional And its motivations, a bit more murky yeah, can can can really subvert that cliche. Well, yeah, I mean I mean hell, you can wrap them all up together and the party gets over there to take on a Dark Lord, but you find out that he’s just trying to protect his kingdom from an invading zombie army controlled by the dragon that stole His wife and his whore wage in a tower.

You learn all of that, while starting the tavern and you learn all that. One attack from my fairies, wizard from a mysterious, mysterious, wizard and the mysterious wizard is a great, is another great cliche. It’s the idea of the wizard who has all-powerful, but it’s just like, like whatever that kamek kamek is of the wizard like hand me that book, but the book is right. There give me the book just give me the book cuz that’s kind of what it’s like right right, but they have better to do.

They have better to do so. Why is that wizard running around all mysterious, like seeking aid from first level, characters to go? Do stuff well, there’s variety of reasons: maybe it’s busy, maybe it’s not the real wizard and it’s like a projected image or something like that and the real wizard is dealing with yeah elsewhere. Maybe the wizard is just powerful by reputation and not necessarily by actual deed.

Yeah there’s a lot of different ways that you can subvert it. This is one of those cliches that I don’t really can. I don’t like to use that much just because that kind of quest, giver, here’s the character, here’s the plot hook, I’m going to shove it off on the PCs, is not something I usually like to do. I usually like to include powerful NPCs that have some significant weakness that only the party can help shore up when you find yourself either as a DM or a player.

Saying like you know, one of the character I’ve got or the idea. I’ve got for a scenario or an adventure or something that’s kind of cliched. I find that it’s best to go back to the source. What is the origin of the cliche that that you’re, using or that you may have accidentally fallen into and examine that? Because I find very often when you go back to the source where these cliches originate, you find something fresh and new and interesting, something that’s multifaceted and with depth that, as it’s been copied over and over and over and over again ad nauseam that it’s lost.

That so in example, I’m thinking of his Conan Yeah right, like Conan for a lot of people less so maybe than in the past, is a dumb barbarian who has a great sword and a fur loincloth and grunts and punches camel, punches camels and hates magic. And it’s just kind of a big dumb bully you know, but reading the original Conan stories he’s much different and his savage upbringing born on a battlefield raised in the hills of of Samaria and and and that that upbringing that he has imbued him with a savagery That civilized men lack and yet he travels through the civilized lands getting into scraps and adventures and thefts and heists, and he’s a pirate captain one story and he’s a mercenary company.

The next and now he’s off here, fighting pics and other sort of other barbarians, and then the next minute he’s fighting Stygian, cultists and those stories are evocative and feral. And that primal and you see Conan in a variety of different ways. And if, if the Conan you’re thinking of is lumbering towards you muscles bulging with a giant sword, then the real Conan is lurking in the shadows behind you and you don’t see the knife that he’s got that you’re about to be gutted with right.

So Lord of the Rings is another great one: yeah it’s been copied so often and and the the amount of fantasy literature that has grown out of the middle-earth stories. It’s worthwhile to go read the stories. Don’t read the movies they’re great, I like them they’re fun, but they also have a style to them. That’s a little played out their action movies kind of write, fantasy action, movies, yeah, like going back in like rereading Fellowship, is it’s a fun movie, but at the same time it’s aged and yet going back and rereading fellowship is a different thing entirely and you spend Time with the characters – and you see the world-building going on yeah – don’t skip the songs read through those are the kinds of moments where, if you’re wanting to freshen up a cliche, going back to the source yeah using that original source as inspiration and forgetting all the Derivative stuff that’s come after can be a good way of livening up a cliche or giving you a fresh perspective on it, so that you can then subvert it in a different way than maybe it’s.

I don’t know. I don’t know if we might have to edit this later huh but kind of the the main hook of two of annihilation, that that’s what it is. I mean everybody kind of knows that there’s a magical disease and you can’t be brazed back right who were previously raised or being affected and they’re sick, yo. Guess what you get employed by a wizard who’s sick. I literally can’t go adventure can’t go.

Do that yeah! Normally, in any other day, they just go, do something about it, but no they’re, literally sick and losing hip hip points every day and they need someone to go. Do this thing go, do this thing and that’s a good way to to let the players expectations? Sort of propel the action of the story, because then it’s like the player should be thinking themselves. If this wizards so powerful, why does they? Why do they need us yeah, which must mean that they may be either are not as powerful or there’s something else going on, and so those are the kinds of questions that players should be then asking themselves yep.

Why in the world, is the this NPC? Acting this way and the DM, if they’re thoughtful, if they’ve, given their NPC’s, proper motivations and and flesh them out, they will be able to answer that question, and it’s in asking that question. Why is this powerful NPC approaching me for aid that they can start? The players can start to piece together clues about the threat that they face? Why in the world in the great city of Oracle, apollon teen what a lot? What a powerful wizard ask? A bunch of lowly six level people to help it kill a demon.

The answer to that question is obviously they cannot do it themselves, yeah. They could and revealing that information reveals a key weakness for them and that there’s something that the party or the players need to do need to help with and and it’s vital and maybe they you know the NPC’s, don’t want to reveal that information and reveal their Vulnerabilities but the players can piece together the clues and go okay, yeah uh, okay, and then they can start in piecing.

Those clues can learn more about the threat that they face, learn more about their allies and and sort of develop an appreciation for the campaign that the DM is trying to run for. Well there. You know

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Magical Sanctums and Towers in 5e Dungeons & Dragons and TTRPG

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We’re also excited to announce the tower of power. Competition create your arcane sanctum on world anvil, and the writer of our favorite entry will win awesome prizes, including loot, straight from us more info in the description. Let’s pick out a place because you promised oh and we could build something special, let’s build our own little web DM arcane sanctum, oh okay, right yeah, sure the summer home can wait.

The idea of a mages tower yeah the tower in which a bearded wizard with their stars and moons hat and robe. You know retreats to to ponder the mysteries of the universe, pretty classic trope and fantasy right. You can’t change reality without doing a little bit of research and you got to have a place to do it place the hole to hang your head right towers feature heavily in in fairy tales and sort of myths and legends.

You know at some point they get mixed up with the archetype of the wizard, the caster, the the court Vizier yeah. You know that kind of thing and towers and magic and and the like, seem to go hand in hand and it’s one of those things where in your games and your home worlds, you know you might like you know, you know it’s a wizard’s tower or whatever You know you don’t put too much thought into it hand, wave it or really just kind of present, only one type of wizards tower.

Then thinking about your the sanctum sanctorum zuv, the world.The, the places of power that the caster’s retreat to to work their mighty magics. Those locations where supernatural forces come together and great and wondrous things are possible are a step above just the the lonely stone tower that has a crotchety old wizard. You know yeah, I mean why just make a regular tower when you can create a dim.

I plane in between the heartbeats of a yet to be born god, yes, yeah exactly, you might need that kind of space for the sort of magic that you’re working exactly majora see. You know a place where magic confers like rulership or authority, then maybe the the tower is a you know: a physical symbol of that, in the same way that, like castles, were in medieval Europe, a projection of power of physically imposing space.

That that says something about the person that lives there. That says something about their authority and their majesty and their magnitude. Someone call it a fallacy, oh sure, but you have the chance to imbue those things which, in our own world, were just symbolic with like real magic, a place that has power. You would construct something there to make use of that power. That confers something magical and has a long history in D & D right, birth right setting is a game where you know your ability to rule it be a you know.

A figure of authority is based on that certain type of magic. You can kind of take that and say well what, if it was, you know the ability to to work miracles and spells that you know gives anybody a reason to listen to you. Therefore, the places where they live and do their magic would be different than just something else. We’re thinking about. Well, let’s start talking about those places where they live and the first thing is going to be location, location location.

Where, where do you build this thing? Where, indeed, right, yeah and just any old Glen any old him yeah, I would say absolutely not right like in the same way that you know a castle, is strategically located to project power and and be physically imposing and also serve as a place of sanctuary. You might look at the magical, geography of your world and think I you know these are the locations where towers, sanctums, layers and other sorts of places, dwellings that your casters would inhabit that they’re going to be so, they might be say, planar confluences right.

We always talk about. You know the walls between worlds being thin or the the membrane of dimensions. That kind of the idea that the other world is just right there on the other side, maybe it’s a stretch of swamp where anyone can see goes the power of necromantic energy is strong there, because the link to the underworld is very close. It bleeds through into this world or any other number of other planes that could influence the prime aterial right.

Oh yes, I’m thinking like if you were at one of the absolute poles of the planet. If you could be right, there would be something very connected to either either the planes of order. I don’t know just that that kind of geographical symmetry hmm does your world have just regular ley lines, yeah just these these threads of energy, that that thread, the landscape. Right and they could be, they could be tied to the schools of magic right.

You could say, like yeah the ley lines, sort of enhance certain schools or certain types of spells, if you’re, using this sort of, like the spell tags that you know, certain online tools provide its are like ways to organize your magic in your world. Then you could say, like all summoning magic, maybe is enhanced by this particular type of ley line and therefore confluences of ley lines where it’s like summoning and divination and blasting and like those would be significant locations in your world and maybe they’re like fought over and Who has access to them and and which caster controls that location as a matter of politics and intrigue and backbiting yeah? And I mean anytime, you take you start investing.

You know investing something in real estate. You up the stakes of things and you you, you make enemies, people are going to be upset, that’s something that you took that’s denied to someone else, and so any number of places could be up for grabs. Also, in that same regard, you want to build a tower somewhere, and maybe you found a place that no other was it figured out right, but you are in the lands of this other Kingdom and you have to deal with more mundane territory alike.

No, no. I want to build a tower over here: yeah they’re, going to be able to see it, so you got a beseech the king or the landowner. Whoever and you know always her just the deed in exactly Riley or political concerns are like that right. You know you can’t just come here and build something you know, and so you can like complicate matters like that and then maybe having access to these places of power becomes a matter of geopolitics and just something that the kingdoms and nations of your world engage in And consider as their war aims and part of diplomacy, the world of razzle sin is much like this.

I sort of took a the idea of ley lines. It was like. Alright, there are these currents of magic over the world and some places say the island that razzle sin has her hut on is one such place. It masks. You know people in the same way that, like a non detection, spell, would and enhances illusions and things like that, while you’re on the island there’s an entire empire of mages who recognized this pattern across the world and began building cities and and places that they would Come together to work their magic and slowly over time, had a network of these, and instead of it being one that’s tied to say, the physical geography of the world and say, like I don’t know like the Roman Empire’s like frogs around the pond of the Mediterranean, Is one story and put it: this is more about the magical geography of the world and if you looked at it on a map, wouldn’t really wouldn’t really make sense, you’d be like man that part looks really difficult to defend or yeah.

Why in the world, would you all be clustered here, it’s all about the magic right and they have a continent spanning Empire based entirely on where the ley lines are or what happens when the magical confluence is like a thousand feet in the air right yeah? How do you get there? How do you build something energy, or do you have to talk to the cloud Giants now to like do a whole thing or there’s some air elementals, you can summon yeah.

Do you build a thousand-foot tower? The only part that’s magical is literally the very top it’s just. Everything else is just a really long way to get on the spot, but once you do it’s going to be epic right and maybe there’s like you know, stories and legends of all the attempts to make harnessing the power of this place work. You know this is the part where, as storytellers and game masters and world builders, we break out of the normal mold with these places, if you’re, using something like a game system to help create your world or or to present it, you have to abide by certain Rules sometimes, or it’s very least, you know, you’re expected to you know your players might say like oh well, you can’t always just make things up or or they want justifications for them.

Having places like this lets, you say like well, the normal rules don’t apply here. Something’s different and whether you’re not you’re, basing it on a planar cosmology that influences the place the past history of something maybe a you know. A tragedy occurred there and sorry types of magic now or more more heightened right. Oh yeah, like history of a place like an epic battle, I mean we already think you know.

I’m like you know that certain battlefields are haunted, but what, if they’re haunted with the vestiges of the magic that was used there? Oh god, I know. That’s a big part of land between two rivers, yeah literally the whole thing literally. The whole world is kind of like that, and so you have like living spells and and if it fits in, say the mourn, land and Eberron or would fit in a dark Sun. And it probably has a place in land between two rivers in there.

And those are places were magical, you know, devastation or just destruction has absolutely destroyed the place, and maybe your place of power is. It reflects that and a desolate wasteland, because it’s constantly wracked by violent elemental energies that scour you know the land or the opposite. It’s a verdant forest and then otherwise you know kind of lifeless place and maybe that signifies that there’s a link to say the Fae wild they’re spilling out yeah, I just filling out or like particularly fertile soil, because it’s coming straight from elemental earth.

And you know it’s full of its, you know whatever it is in your world that makes plants grow, you know, was the site a place where a great spell was once worked, and now it impacts the location, maybe a particularly hard-fought battle in your own campaign. That happens say it, you know mid-levels or something becomes one of these places and speaking of the lam 20 rivers, we had a character parish and battle there and where they were buried, has since become a place of peace and sanctuary in part, because of spells that Were cast when the character was buried there, but also because it just makes sense for the character and they were interviewed.

They were a tenth level druid when they died, that you don’t have that kind of power. Just doesn’t go away, it stays with you and it would influence the place so holy sites. Tombs may be. The graveyards of magicians are secret places because their magic doesn’t go anywhere, it stays with them and you you don’t want that just lying around, so you know all of these things. You can use to create a place of power and then like alter the rules of magic in your world, and that’s just the start of this, though right yeah, I mean you guys start ground up so now we start moving up or move down.

Maybe you want to go underground, but what is it what’s its purpose right? What are we doing here? Jim? You know, you found a location in your world. You know cliff tops with shrouded by fog and cloud and the violent energies of air and earth. You want to say experiment with some spells that deal with those conflicting elemental energies, and so you build a location there to experiment, or maybe you want to use those winds and, and you know, rock slides and the like as a deterrent.

You just want some peace and quiet. You know like what you want out of the location or what, rather, what the Creator wants out of it. It’s going to say a lot about how it’s built is this uh, the country villa of a court mage who you know likes the the peace and tranquility of this place, that it masks prying eyes? It just has a soothing effect on them, but it’s not a fortification. They’re not doing like in depth spell research here, but it is like the abode of a wizard or something like that.

So it’s magical in and of itself that’s very different than the sinister skull. Sorcerer, who you know weaves nekron, to rituals atop of the Obsidian tower. You know over the cliffs of acid kind of location, yeah, oh yeah, much different. My wizard would totally just wouldn’t build a tower on top of the peak just the peak of the mountain yeah. That’s all his tower. Yes, maybe like a dwarven wizard like that right right from the outside.

It doesn’t even look like anything suspicious, but the inside, if you were able to see it’s riddled with workshops and foundries and they’re all the rune smithing that they need to get up yes, building a race of atomic super dwarfs. Then we will rule the world that kind of cavern space yeah, it’s being tracked, so research, libraries, collective, you know we’re assuming a single occupant and you know creator.

But maybe this is like a cabal of mages or something yeah come together for a particular purpose and have built a structure for a particular purpose or a place like say, candlekeep right, like candlekeep in the Forgotten Realms, you could easily take that concept, move it to Your own and say like this is a magical library. The fact that it’s a magical library turns this entire location into a place of power, and you know clerics and priests of God them knowledge attend here and and getting entrance is a grueling and demanding task.

But once you’re here you have access to. You know the spirits of sages who still live here or or maybe you know you know the temple of the God of knowledge like they’ll. It will actually come down and talk to you and answer questions. It is a 7 a.M. Class that research papers do on Tuesday and day what you do with the place and how you present the structures. There’s going to tell a lot of the story that you want to tell and more importantly, like how it’s used.

You know if this is for a game you’re, creating an adventure location that your players can run around in it and potentially change things. So it’s worth thinking about like how is this place laid out? What’s the point of it all right, yeah just start with just an example: we’ve talked about before my character, air stadium, blinking, the diviner. We took that that castle in in the mirror mirror of dead man.

It was just an observatory with the telescope and it’s like my guy just had an existential crisis with killing people when he’s enough, when he’s a diviner so he’s like you know what this is place to sit down, put down some roots, right and and – and that Was perfect like it became his Wizards tower in our headquarters and it became all of those things like it: sort of organically grow. You like take over another location, which is another thing right, like you’re repurposing, a structure, that’s originally built for something and probably has been repurposed several times, yeah being able to like tell a story through how you present a location is a skill that you can learn As a dungeon master, because it’s a better way of doing it than just like info dumping – or you know like yeah, this place was great.

Here’s what you know about it through this spell or the sage versus letting them go there and discover and see how it you know all fits together like the second document in this place, made changes to it from its original function or something like that. It’s a way of showing, rather than telling and a way of like imparting a sense of wonder into location yeah. The big thing for me, with structures and and fantastical settings and worlds is this concept of sacred geometry, right of there being a type of architectural magic that you can engage in and if you think of of things like rune Smith’s and the like, then the idea Of objects being spells or spells being cast into objects.

It’s not that much of a stretch to then go like well. Why not buildings and if not buildings, then why not arrangements of buildings and, if, like a Magic Circle, if viewed from above, is an arrangement of certain glyphs and patterns, and you know in a certain way, then perhaps the buildings and walls and features of the landscape. That have been shaped could also make an arrangement that blogs similar magical energies.

And now you start thinking about the fact that say, the arrangement of rooms in the location might be a spell in and of itself yeah or the really weird Menino’s. Why or designed to disrupt spell magic right like the interior of the bar and the Dresden Files right, I forget his name now, but the way that the interior of this pub is laid back in alleys back in alleys right, he does first magic is first magic And perhaps there are you incorporate all of these things into your a place of power in that the entrance and places that need to be guarded are like magical baffles it just it’s just difficult to practice magic there because of the way everything’s laid out, but the Closer you get to the major sanctum magic becomes actually easier, more powerful and focused because this arrangement of walls with carefully embedded spells and runes and the materials that they’ve used to build it blog the magical energy to their.

You know casting chamber, which you know the air is electric with it, and all of those are, you know different ways to incorporate this idea of like the building as being a spell or being part of the magic of it, yeah just woven into it like Dresden’s. At the top of the hill in the island in the middle you can even reach, I think it calls it but yeah it was supposedly it’s it’s laid with spells and that’s what you’re going to want to do right.

I mean like you’re, going to be wanting to put your your. This is where you want to put your glyphs of warding. This is where you’re going to put all your your guards and wards. If you can get it. Yes, how you kind of lay out the the geography yeah but different Wizards are going to approach it different ways. Yes, we’ll get to that in a bit. Oh sure. Well, we’ve been talking about these casters yeah, but the spells are a part of the place, though right, because a lot of these spells are particularly we’re talking in a game like Dungeons and Dragons.

You know you cast them every day for a certain number time then become permanent until dispelled, and so, if you’ve got a place, that’s changed hands a few times that’s been or just like, been occupied by the same person for a long time. Then there might be old magic lying about spells that were laid a long time ago that have had time to wear and tear and fray or or even weirder things right like become self-aware dungeons of dragons.

It’s built on the idea of Van C and magic, which is that mad spells are living things that a caster traps in their mind. You know sort of like releases out into the world, then, if you follow that, then spells are wild things that you don’t just want to be leaving around unattended now all the time, so I you got to cast that thing every day, keep it in line. You might find that you know if your wizards tower arcane sanctum is, you know, abandoned that the magic has gone wild and frayed and coupled with the natural magic of the place, these spells that have been laid into the architecture and the the you know.

The entire structure of the place might behave differently, and might you know not work exactly the way say, Player’s Handbook spells work or something and like being something else entirely. Well, it could change the way that the people exploring it practice magic as well yeah, and – and maybe you could do a thing where you don’t have to cast at the entire amount of times to you know bring up to heal yeah.

But you know for a certain amount of time. Maybe you have to tend the spells. You know strictly like dodge the Dragons. The the counter spell mechanic is a good sort of benefit for this, like you just have a caster check right. You know it’s ten plus the spell level and just a quick caster check. Do you make it do not and and that’s a good way to sort of model that sort of difficulty. Otherwise, you know whatever system you’re using you can impose some kind of penalty or something, but I think it’s a good way to reinforce that these places are not normal and they’re, not just like a regular location, there’s something different about them, yeah and worthwhile.

Thinking about how magic and spells also fit into the structure of the place, don’t you yeah we talked about. You know how to build them, how how you’re going to build them? Sure, because also I mean hell, you can just build them with certain spells. Oh for one another thing worth mentioning yeah, you know that’s like the: what is it instant fortress or whatever you know, if you do that, there’s like you can literally just build your whole tower.

How you want it? Oh yeah you could like. Maybe the places get you summon the structure right like that. The whole point of being at this place is that you activate it and there’s like now the structure, the forms sort of around you is summoned into being yeah yeah. Well, you’re there, yes, yeah! Oh yeah, you got a little good disappearing structure. Oh yeah yeah, the Sun comes away, but you’re also going to want to populate that thing.

Right, yeah, I mean you know some wizards might be okay, with just being the only thing bubbling around there. Thirty storey tower sure, but generally there’s there’s usually there’s usually something moving around in the halls, doing things yeah their little homunculus and familiars. So you know in terms of like the inhabitants of the place. First of all, are they the original occupants? They are they supposed to be there.

Are they squatters or invaders, or something like that is in consideration, but, like, let’s assume they’re, you know they’re on purpose right brought there by the creator of it. Then it’s like. Are they guests? You know. Is this someone that the caster or mage has you know? I want you to be here and we’re going to talk about. You know something diplomatic or work on research together, maybe they’re a family member or something you can get really sort of weird.

With this and depending on how powerful the caster is, you might have like time lost guests or or creatures from other dimensions that are just like staying with the wizard as just as a friend or something like that, a lot of times, it’s fun, to incorporate like Extra planar creatures in this sense not as adversaries, not as part of a plot they have to you, know suss out, but just as color background uh, someone that they could interact with if they wanted to, but it’s not vital, and so they can approach the fantastical Elements sort of on their own, but it’s offered you know, yeah they’re, staying at the suppose, R star, because they’re like the getting diplomatic immunity or something from their dimension right yeah.

If they leave this tower they’re going to get taken back exactly right, it might be that these towers are the only places that extra planar creatures that otherwise butt heads with each other can come and speak civilly or maybe Wizards towers are known as as like neutral Ground, for you know the blood war or something like that where emissaries from this demon in this devil, you know just having a some tea right now or some angels name of chance, free dragon ante.

That’s one! Those those arguments were there willingly and and are represent potential friendly encounters with for the PCs but servants of the you know the master of the tower scene announcing both seen and unseen, both magical and non magical, and we start really kind of thinking about it. You could easily have an eclectic mix of conjured constructs that handle like the menial, labor and data tasks of the place and then, like highly-specialized, you know actual people who are there like.

Oh, yes, I I’m, you know, I take care of the wards. It’s my job to attend to the warding glyphs and the like, or it was beautiful right. You know like any of the phones going to really like mine this for some silly stuff. You can look at like the court of Louis, the 14th or some of the other Louie’s before they all got there had to cut off, and this and sort of see like this is the person who opens this particular door for the king or wipes his bum.

With this particular cloth and yeah, you can really get silly with the amount of servants that a caster might have, because maybe they’re, incredibly powerful old beyond anyone’s. You know, understanding and you know, collected these sorts of servants. Definitely an on-site tailor. Maybe there’s a huntsman, a groundskeeper master-at-arms, someone that attends to all the magical beasts that they’ve collected, who else is going to feed the Griffins or deal with the pet giant that we have out back that kind of thing yeah the master-at-arms would be like the smallest.

Whatever it was, yeah little creature they’re a little busier yeah. Definitely like a quicklink, oh yeah, you go quickly. Those are people who are, there will say mostly willingly mostly willing right. You might also have summoned creatures who are bound to the place either in. Like a summoning circle or proper cage, or maybe just like they can’t leave the grounds, perhaps the the arcane sanctum is literally a sanctuary of some kind, for you know conjured creatures who are unable to get back home, and you know you can’t just have them running Around so these mages, you know they just let them live here.

They’re, fine, but too much time away from their home has made them a little crazy. Let’s not talk to them and and you’re. You know you’re there more as caretakers, then you know like proper mages. All of those things you can feature in there and are again ways to impart information to the party. You know they stumble across. You know a hemisphere of Darkness brightly glowing runes around the outside of it.

They know that they found some kind of creature that doesn’t want to be disturbed being bound in a summoning circle, but who’s to say they can’t just have a chat, a friendly conversation with it yeah yeah. What could go wrong? Just take that moto dust over there and lay it over the rune, you know what’ll be the wiser. You know that kind of power, Jim yeah. It brings up a concept in in in role-playing games that I like, which is the the nega dungeon, the the type of dungeon that you go into and the normal things that you would do in a dungeon taking things killing monsters rummaging around yeah.

It’s going to get you not just it’s going to be bad for you personally, but also for the setting yeah. And so I like the idea of putting very powerful creatures bound in like summoning circles or magical prisons and the like, and just putting them in the path of the players and being like you could let them out. If you wanted they’re, certainly going to do everything they can to trick you into letting them out it’s a fun thing to put in there along with maybe more mundane prisoners.

You know, maybe that’s where the Kings nephew got up to yeah. Oh he’s off at boarding, school, honey, don’t write, and so any number of say, political prisoners, inconvenient family members. You know exiles from foreign lands. All of them could be found in the dungeons of prisons of places like this, because who else to take care of these people, but these mages yeah for price right sure not just inhabitants, but like the particularly contents of things, the objects that you might find there.

There’s probably meditation chamber summoning rooms, ritual magic chambers, you might have all kinds of odd guest quarters, depending on st eries beastie Ares and those four more aquatic persuasions. You know an aviary of some kind for different Flyers that you might know hosts there. Well, I’m seeing a sanctimonious now if you go to earth you know, and in the middle is all the mages that built the place, looks were like a node type structure that could be like you could have that because they’re studying the different elements and now and What began is like a research and observation location became a place where the creatures from these other planes, like made first contact as I’m kind and maintained.

You know like an ambassador sort of relationship there or something there’s a lot of different ways to play. It out. Great big summoning, like rooms where there’s gigantic, you know creatures that are in the midst of moving between worlds and it takes a while right. It’s going to take a week to bring this behemoth over from where it is, but we need it trust me. We don’t mess with it totally be worth.

It trust me, libraries of all sorts of outlandish and strange books, both forbidden and and otherwise that’s just that’s like the magical, fantastical stuff there’s you know more mundane pantries and kitchens and rooms and halls, and things like that. Fine, so it’s a place that can really come to life and, depending on whether it’s like an active, like you know, the original inhabitants are there they’re fulfilling the purposes of these structures, kind of thing or it’s, an old ruined place with the ghosts of the inhabitants And old spells that haunt the halls and no one’s been here in ages, and what are we doing here again like it really can really tell an interesting story with that and and really contribute to your world and then, like showcase, what makes it unique, there’s someone We left out yeah yeah, the man at the top.

The whole reason that this tower, the sanctum has been built who’s building this thing like, and what are they going to build? What are they going to build? It’s obviously going to be determined by who’s who’s building. It diviner is going to build a much different tower than a than an Evoque er or an abjad, certainly certainly so. The mage themselves are is a big factor in a lot of this and when you’re thinking about these things, you know, maybe the mage is the first thing that kind of pops up, but you know the personality of the caster, how they wield magic.

Are they a very demanding, iron-willed kind of figure, or they you know a motive and and freewheeling in their magic and and their discipline right, like all of that, is going to factor into what kind of place this is? Is it the abode of a long-lived, caster or one more shorter lived? Maybe someone who practiced a particular kind of magic that was unique to them. That’s colored the place or a one, that’s maybe more common and widespread, and therefore this location is quite coveted.

Are they still there or are they gone, and for what reason would they be gone? All of those things can help. You both determine what you want to do with this location once you’ve actually created it, because, presumably you know you’re not just thinking all this stuff up for the hell of it. It’s going to be either interacted with with players you’re going to present it. It’s part of your world, and so thinking through all of this as a way to like really add depth to these places and get them interested in exploring them, because poking your head around in this, this location is what makes the whole thing fun right.

Oh, it totally is, and I mean, and not only that, but everything we’re talking about here. Eventually, one of those players who’s a caster – is going to want to build a little bit of a sanctum of their own one day and settle down. Oh sure, it’s a unique one over themselves, but but you know all this information is is: is there for them as well? So you can. You can build the best sanctum that you can have the best thing to it.

It’s worth sort of thinking about, like as you’re presenting these things as game elements, that there is a there’s, a breakpoint somewhere for your group, where the outlandish bizarre kind of things or the the depth and layers of traps and wards and guards and Guardians that you’ve Put on can be like go from fun to frustrating rarely very quickly and and and you know, as you’re, creating these things, you’re sort of like a dungeon master or a world builder and you’re like oh man.

Of course it would have this and that and oh my god, it wouldn’t be impossible to break into, and oh this is the perfect setting like thinking about it in terms of its playability of whether or not the play set and what we’ve created is it’s conducive To play something that you really should think about, because often times you create things in a war old, and it isn’t until you present them to the players that you realize, like oh wait, a minute that seemed that was like fun.

When I was thinking about it and like oh yeah, this wizard is awesome like you’re, never going to get the drop on them and then like three hours into a session, the party feels stumping you’re like oh I’m sorry about that. I’m pretty sure today, with my story, bound crew with the glyph checkerboard on the glyph chair, where they got through that. But when you got to the the stillborn neo key that exists both in the ethereal and the prime material all right around on the web of thoughts that are in the room and basically project your worst like the most hated enemy.

So you attack it, but the whole thing is it’s a psychic thing, so the second you attack it. You take the same amount of damage until you figure out like oh no, I need to be jumping through the fog to whatever is back 20-feet back, not the thing. That’s right in front of me: yeah yeah ooh, so you get like at a moment where players are just you’ll, get a player, a revolt eventually well, they finally figured out and we’re toss bottle.

Finally, like he’s like wait a minute, I think it’s over there misty stepped and saw it something a tiny miyagi thing, and you know so that once I figured it out, but it was just like yeah, it’s a fine line. Right, like you, have to really know your group, and sometimes it might take a long time of playing together to figure out where that line is and and even then, even if you’ve been playing with people for years where that line is in a given night is Changes right, I think it’s just worth considering, because it I know for myself, I you know in designing these things for all the different games that have played over the years.

There have been plenty of times, nothing like all right after the sixth wall of force comes down and traps the party in to eat, and you know you’re just like wait a second. No, you can let your imagination run wild to the point where it’s no longer a thing to be played with and interacted with, yeah, and I think, keeping those things in mind like it’s fun, to think of all the fantastical things you can do, but we’re always Remembering that, when you’re talking about a game, these are meant to be interacted with meant to be played with and and explored poked around and looked at, maybe not without consequence.

Then that’s a good way to make sure that you’re going to stay on that side of interesting and fun and if you start toeing the line up into frustration, there’s ways that you can scale that back yeah and you know – or you know, every time, your players Just like aha moment comes through and it goes from frustrating to fun right. You know it’s a part of the nature of the game, but yeah, but but the big thing is to never forget that these are opportunities to enrich your world with, with with the magical with the fantastical – and you know – hopefully they go poking around in your in Your sanctum, yes, have a great time head on over to patreon for our weekly podcast and so much more web DM is also on Twitch with three weekly games, which we upload to web DM plays our second youtube champion, I’m familiar with the concept of like AI Gods and people interpreting technical processes as spells and rituals, not particularly gene Wolfe’s series, although I know that the the new Sun series is, you know like heavily inspired new manera and some other kind of science fantasy stuff.

I think my favorite interation of it is probably in you know, weird module the anomalous subsurface environment, where it’s like these orbital gods and AI platforms, communicate with priests down on the ground through like monitors and things like that and that’s how they sort of interpret their Their signs I had a setting that I never used. I developed it for awhile parts of it made it into lamb, 22 rivers, but I never ran a game in it where it was like part of an intergalactic civilization right and it’s like a pleasure planet or something like that, and it goes dark.

The whatever intergalactic networks of communication travel it was, it was a part of disintegrate, and it’s just by itself. Oh there’s like shades of tech ml if you’re familiar with that one, but this one was distinctly like there’s they’re these AI, that orbit the planet in satellites and now they’re cut off from their other AI, and they slowly descend into madness and insanity. Just because they don’t get the regular updates – and you know those kinds of things zero here – one there uh-huh and and like you know the the people who were able to communicate with – and you know, interact with those satellites.

You know they’ve controlled, like the weather on the planet. They controlled all these kinds of things. Oh yeah, when Raisa went dark, it was never pretty, it was never pretty, and so they had they had them like sort of embedded in them and as sort of like machines that were in them. So it would appear as spell-casting, but it would, but you know, wouldn’t be it’s just accessing the program codes of these a eyes that control various things through super science, some things so yeah.

I like that that you know that setup. It’s very very fun, pretty sure there was a original series episode about that. Not only a Futurama episode. Definitely a Futurama episode. Yeah do like 40 KS. That way, right, like what’s a machine spirit other than an AI right, like that’s how I see the Machine spirit they are. I know that in 40 ka I are like you know heresy, but I just feel like they’re, probably too stupid to realize that they’re surrounded by AI.

It’s really only these few that they, you know whatever all Aerotech so

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