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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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How to Make 5e Dungeons and Dragons More Deadly

No, this is a characters, but remember it’s not! The players were trying to kill it’s the characters that we’re trying to kill. You know: okay, okay, yeah, yeah, yeah, right right, no, I’m with you, okay um, but we are still on for the purge, though later right, yeah yeah.

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Let’s get fatalistic with it death making making that D & D more deadly, and what does it mean for didi to be deadly lethal deadly? It’s sort of this word that often gets thrown around in terms of combat and a sort of type of game or certain type of jamming style, but the Dungeon Master’s guide, sort of defines a deadly encounter or deadly combat as being one which could be lethal, potentially Resulting in the deaths of one or more characters, there is a risk of defeat and the players will have to use.

You know good tactics and quick thinking in order to overcome the challenges. Now, personally to me that just sounds like I what I want all of my combats to be at least when I’m a player, because otherwise like what’s the point playing it out. If it’s yeah, there’s not a risk of defeat or something like that. Yes, kind of narrate it then right yeah, I mean you keep that in the RP. You know if it’s just one guy that really can’t party right right.

He could like take a swing at one person, but a lot of this is system dependent right. So we’re talking about Deenie fifth edition. In that case it’s a common thing that you see sometimes where people are saying like. I can’t challenge my party with the baseline monsters or or I have to do something to up my game, to to offer the players a fight that tests their abilities and challenges their their play.

Styles and I think for me it’s it’s often a question that I see Dungeon Master’s, ask and not a lot of players right like it’s one of the things to think about. I mean yes, players would like a challenge, but I don’t know I’ve if I’ve heard a lot of players calling for you know it to be more deadly. I know those people that love playing there go yeah. You know survival mode on hard, but that’s that’s one thing, but D & D is is a whole other.

What do you think the ratio is of like actual DMS versus actual players that want this? Well, I mean obviously there there are players out there who want a challenging and difficult fight. You know fights that require them to think and to to not just go on autopilot or spam, their biggest spell and you’ve, but not read up and try it again. Rest up and try it again: they want to have to consider the situation a lot of times.

Deadly is synonymous with tactical and complex yeah. There are players out there who want a more deadly fight or more challenging fight in their fifth edition games. But in terms of just sort of the people who are asked, it’s usually a dungeon master asking because they feel like it’s not challenging enough or it’s not deadly enough. I bring it up it’s only because it’s like this is one of those areas where you might just like.

Ask your players, hey. How do you guys feel about the fights and combats like? Did you think it was challenging? Did you not? You know that was a hard encounter by the rules of the game. Do you think it was hard? You can get a feel for what your players think versus what you think. It’s very often like as a dungeon master, you sit here. It’s like all. Your pieces die correctly, you’re constantly losing you’re constantly getting your ass kicked.

Your monsters are all over. You know a giant graveyard of of lost potential if things go right, excuse the thinking, sometimes where you might think. Like. Oh man, like cuz, I mean you have this happen to you all the time, all the time it happens to me. It’s happened to me and not just in fifth edition’. It’s happened to me in ultra lethal games like say, Warhammer yeah, where I’ll look at say. The number of enemies that were killed, like you, guys chewed through eight beast men.

I really need to make my fights harder. Moving my perspective from just behind the virtual screen and looking like oh wait: everybody’s characters are below half wounds, to bring it back to fifth edition’. It might be one where actually wow the the players escaped that no one dropped to zero. No one was hurt. You know it was a breeze, all of my enemies are toast and the comment only lasted like maybe four rounds, but if I look at their character sheets that tells a very different story: they’ve used their all their resources.

They’ve you know spell slots have been expended. Hit points have been lost, you know, potions were used. If you talk to them, they might say like no man, I’m stressed like that, was we barely got out of it if you’re thinking about, if you saw the title of article you’re, just like web DM and you’re like yeah, well I’ll, make my fights and combats In fifth edition more lethal, like I would start with having a talk with the players first, because this articles really for people who are newish to the game newish to homebrewing and modifying it, and also have players who have, even though they might be new they’re savvy Enough about the rules and learning them that you might find the base monsters are just not cutting it yeah, and the truth of the matter is, is that the monsters that came out in the same monster manual are not as robust as those that Sun came out.

In photos or Morden Condit’s same with fourth edition and it probably prior editions of D & D as well. Well I mean it is the evolution of things. Is it not? Okay, so our DMS have had talks with their players. Yes, they want to make it more deadly. Let’s go through some some different options on how that can be made possible yeah, so there’s options in the Dungeon Master’s guide to start with. These are in Chapter nine start around page 266.

They begin with healing variants. The first one would be healers kit dependency, and this is basically you know whenever you’re the character, stop for a rest, short or long. It’s been hit dice. This requires a healers kit to be used as a as a sort of an in-game justification for the spending of the hit time. Once you start tying character, abilities to equipment, you’ve now opened the door for there to be situations where they don’t have a healer’s kit or it’s been soiled and ruined.

And it’s not, you know not use or burned up, because the person who had it failed their save for a fireball. Their equipment got singed, so it makes the possibility of of getting to and get their hip points back. Excuse me, it makes the possibility of getting their hip points back up for grabs same with a lot of these, so we’re looking at slow natural healing. This would be no hip points gained on a long rest automatically that you have to use hit dice to get the hip points back.

The gritty realism rest variant. I see this one used a lot and we recommended it, for you know, emphasizing the difficulty of travel and that’s an eight-hour short rest and a week long long, rest, all of those things they they slow down. The game right, like the pacing of your game, will change if you use well all three of them, but certainly any one of them yeah and a lot of the ridicule going towards the cleric is going to evaporate before the dawn jury.

Yeah. You know when, when it comes down to like having the one person in the party who actually has a healing kit you’re, like keeping them stocked on healing, kits yeah and keeping them alive like you’re, going to start thinking about your tactics differently, you’re not going to Have those those renegades running off the Leroy Jenkins is of the world. Let’s face it, there’s so many things sure right yeah, but for the most everyone else, I think that it would lead to a more a more tactically sound game for your players, because it might cause them to think more yeah.

And if you have players who say rush into combat sand and you’re worried that you know, they’ve expressed an interest in in a more challenging fight. But you haven’t seen them display any of the quick thinking and tactics that you think might be necessary to overcome the challenges. Then you know letting them know like hey, hey guys, this thing’s going to be a little different than say the last game we play or, however, you implement the changes, you’re going to need this to heal and it’s going to take longer to heal.

So you might want to think about things more. You might want to consider your approach to things more so that you don’t like drop to zero and need to be like full healed back up. You approach things slower and maybe you don’t lose as many hit points you don’t have to use as many spells, and you can substitute tactical thinking and sort of approaching things, and it was a mindset of problem-solving instead of just like battering ram and our spell thoughts And character abilities will see us through the day yeah I kind of kind of snap out of that article game mentality of like.

Oh, these abilities will come back as soon as they read. You know, yeah. The respawn is like no, no, no you’re going to have to take it. Slow, you’re, going to take it slow and so in the pace of your campaign will slow down. If you’re using say gritty, realism, rest variant – and you know they’re not just like ret short resting for eight hours and then not doing anything after that, they press on where they still adventure and that these long rests happen.

Sort of in between you know, forays to the dungeon or something like that: it’ll slow down the pace of your game right, there’s no more time for downtime activities when they’re in that week-long rest period. Of course, you can still like do some things during a long rest, you don’t have to be sleeping. You can be reading talking. You know, socializing yeah. You can even get in a little bit of fisticuffs as long as it’s not too much of it or too exciting.

You know yeah. It would result in a different game, a game in which they have a lot of free time, and so you might find that’s an advantageous thing or that they have no idea what to do with all this time on their hands. Those are all in the healing and rest variants. There’s two in the comment section and that’s sort of injuries, which is on page 272, and this is a rule. That’s like all right any time you take a crypt any time you drop to zero or or fail death saves by five or more you’re going to roll on this table and there’s going to be a lingering injury.

That’s there you might lose an eye, it might be a hand. This would be one of those actually where I would, the dungeon master and player to sort of like work through it. D & D doesn’t really have a hit point or sorry hit location system. Does it hit point system, and so a lot of combat is just arbitrary in descriptive. You hit them here. You add them there and if you’re now, attaching penalties to certain locations where you’ve been hit, you might want just a simple.

You know hit location where it’s like take a d12 and divide it between head body, arms, legs, torso. You know that kind of thing: yeah head shoulders knees and toes yeah yeah, you know do something like that, so that it feels less arbitrary because it would suck to like be a. I don’t know someone that needs both their limbs. Someone who uses say a great weapon and have one of their limbs. You know disabled for a while when it, you know at the whim of the dungeon master role on the hit location, yeah yeah, yeah yeah, I’m going to have to reinvent the monkey grip feet.

Wield in that right will then that lot that great sword like guts right exactly what I needed yeah like some damage, would be the other one right like well, but yeah like talking about entries. That’s one thing that I love about. Warhammer, oh yeah, like the possibility that you might you could because I’m sorry, if you want this to be realistic, which is kind of what we’re talking about you know there could be a possibility, like oh ya, know, there’s a reason why you’re like seven fingers, Larry Yeah, I’m sure you know beyond just even like sort of realism in it.

I think there’s some low powered D & D that that works really well, when you use sort of like real world assumptions and realism is sort of the goal for it. But as you get up in levels of D & D, that becomes harder and harder maintain yeah, but you still want. Like a you know, you still want a dragon to be terrifying. There is a point at which a DC character can look at some very powerful and terrifying monsters and just go.

Who cares it’s going to take less than a minute to deal with this, and these options that are create a more lethal game will tap that down. A bit, and even as you get higher levels, it’s like oh well, yeah. These are. These are still scary right. It’s not going to take us a long time to recover from this at least yeah. It will give us pause and let us think about how we approach things. That’s for injuries.

Massive death is another one where it’s like. If you, if you take more than half your hit points from a single source of damage, you make a con, save and then another a separate table that has a lot of similar effects to it. But they see more like temporary, like you’re, momentarily dazed or or even worse, right, like there’s some pretty nasty effects on that team. Oh, you can get drop to zero right and you’re all the sudden again, death safe right and, if you’re, using both of the injuries in massive damaging conjunction, then that chances are that that losing more than half your hit points in a single attack, possibly a crit And you might have an injury from hattie than an injury from dropping to zero.

You see how it turns the game that the base D & D game and finishin from like oh yeah, every time I sleep, I get everything back every time I fight. I run the risk of there being permanent injuries. You know that I have to deal with. Obviously, life cleric would be a huge asset, a game like that right, most definitely and and but if you want to make that dragon seem terrifying, one crit from a dragon.

Slash or a winged Buffett and all of a sudden, your fighter got knocked across the room as it’s currently unconscious right, especially if you’re, using these in conjunction with low-level D & D yeah, because, let’s be honest, like first through third level, is plenty lethal for most Groups in fifth edition I find it perfectly lethal and have accidentally killed characters at those levels, even as I’m like trying to teach them a new game and, like you know, hey new player.

This is your second time playing we’re going to have a sample combat oops. This is Barnes dead right, you know, or at least they drop to zero. Now we had to see what the death rules or the death saving throws are like low-level D & D in conjunction with injuries and massive damage would probably be a very different game. Maybe it’s the game for you and you try it out, but those are the options that are in the Dungeon Master’s guide that are ready-made to sort of drop in your game.

Thinking through the the impact that they’ll have is one thing, but you have more tools in your DM toolbox to make the game leave for you. Oh almost definitely so yeah, let’s, let’s go through some some different ways that a Dean could think about altering their their game or the monsters yeah. So there’s some player facing things that a dungeon master can do. They could cap level right. They could just say: hey guys.

Our campaign is not going to get beyond X level. For those of you familiar with the epic six variant of third editions, it says that six level is perfect. Your characters are more than capable of portraying themselves as powerful individuals within their world clerics can heal diseases and cure the masses. Wizards. Can you know level an entire village fighters are more than a match for any average soldier or group of average soldiers at six level.

From there you still gain XP, but you don’t get any levels or benefits. The XP is used to buy feats and other things, and you can use something like that for for fifth edition that. I think the fact that fifth edition has a less unified progression to the classes and the way it’s sort of third edition was like yeah. Everybody at a certain level gets a beat and gets a thing, and even though there were dead levels and like it six level work for that fifth level, you might go from anywhere from 7th to 9th level or lower.

It really depends on your group right. Then you would cap a little another way to do. It is to cap HP. That’s the way that older editions of dungeons dungeons of dragons did it, and it was you know, after usually somewhere between 8th to 10th level. You stopped rolling for hit points and got a fixed number every level, and if you were a warrior or a fighter, you also got to add your Constitution to that, but for most classes, they’re only getting one or two hit points per level after a certain level And it really did a lot to deflate those hit point numbers which meant that the game was still deadly yeah and so your skits still do more sure.

Yeah, don’t fling an epic magic right. Your wizard still sitting over there with like 30, hit points, yo yeah right. If that, if you’re lucky, my my original DD wizard, I think at 8th level was 30-some 3233 hit points, and I was that’s a lot yeah, that’s a lot, given that I spent more than 4 levels with single digits for a while. I got some boosts and it was good, so those are two things that a dungeon master can do sort of like for the players they can also mess with death saves riot.

The common, when I see is to say all right did you drop to 0? Then you you, when you get back up, you still have that one fail that you got when you were dropped, or it might even I’ve seen some people even say like alright, you dropped once and then you were brought back, but now you drop a second time. Well, because it’s the second time you automatically start with one of those failed you’ve already been at death’s or once within the last 30 seconds right yeah, I like maybe doing it where the deaths is only refresh on a short rest or maybe a long long rest.

I, like the long rest refresh or maybe something like you know they refresh on a lesser restoration or oh yeah. What’s the restoration it should be able to because something like that because still you’re draining the resource yeah, I mean that’s the that’s sort of how you think about it and when you for sort of an aside, if you kind of shift your thinking away from only Looking at their hip points as a gauge for how difficult or challenging a fight was, and instead, like we mentioned earlier, look at their entire character, shave and see which spells were used which abilities were used.

You know of very often the reason why it looks from a diems perspective like it wasn’t, that challenging is because the players you know are still standing at the end, but from their perspective and looking at their character sheet, it’s a very different story. So I think that the death saves and capping HP and capping level first of they’re, all conversations to have with the group, but the dungeon master can do things on their side of the screen that that don’t really they don’t need that the players permission to do.

Oh helmet right and those are things like adjusting the monster stats everything’s up for grabs here, the the numbers that are in the Monster Manual usually represent the average, so it’s average hip points average damage that kind of thing. That means that you can adjust. All of that, particularly for hit points you can like double them use max to make it stand out now. Sometimes I can result in a slog.

You know having a monster with a bucket of hit points, but not much else can result in very boring combats. So you want to be careful with this adjustment. A lot of teams do this on the fly right like in the middle of combat, and they will adjust the stats of the monster because they’re like oh man, this is taking too long and we’re running out of time. You know, like heaven forbid, that the real world intrude upon the game for a second, you have to make adjustments for it or maybe you’re you’re, simply like man.

This thing is about to go down and like this creatures about to, I didn’t, expect it to die within around half, and I would like to do more. You know I wore them when I write you know, you know everyone would be disappointed if, if it ended now we’re having a lot of fun, this is a good moment for the game. If we win a couple more rounds – and maybe you describe it differently to maybe you know, you know he gets a second wind or something or an unseen Ally bolsters it or you know some.

You can smooth over a lot of these things with how you present them in the in the campaign. A monster with maximum hit points is a legendary creature, surely giant among its own kind, fearsome dragons things like that. You can look to the D & D adventures as well for a lot of these things because say, and storm Kings Thunder the adjustments that they make to the dragons for the in Liffe and Klaus.

I think those are the two names for the dragons they’re they’re. Very different monsters they take the base one and they modify them same with the Giants that are there and a lot of other ones. Almost every one of them has done that yeah be a good gauge, though that’s just hit points you can do the same with damage. If you use fixed to damage, then try rolling, random and see if that doesn’t make for a more lethal fight, we’re doing a mix like I use the fixed number +1 dice of the damage to give it a bit of a variability.

You can do a lot of things you can just basically say like yeah. Every the first attack this monster makes is always a crit like they just that’s just their big opening shot adjusting the armor class, whether by changing the equipment that the monster has or just changing the armor class. I’d be careful there just because of the way the math of fifth edition works, but an adjustment of one to two isn’t going to hurt anything that much and it might make for a more challenging encounter.

Other than that, you can add legendary actions, legendary resistance, special abilities, there’s a lot that you could add to a monster to modify it mostly we’re here to tell you that you should be doing that and it’s a fun exercise and you can turn those unique monsters Into something special of your campaign world and attach a legend to them, which is, it was always fun. Well, you can mix both parts of what’s fun about teaming the mechanical science or the narrative sciences.

Oh yeah, you got to give them some kind of signature attack. If you’re, you know certain dragon that does this one thing right right, right or say so I did this with Medusa and land between two rivers and I sort of the Medusa has a layer, that’s near a No to the elemental, plaintiff elemental earth, and so the Medusa has mastered just petrification magic period, earth magic period and they’re more like an earthbender from say avatar than they are just like.

You know the the snake-haired Gorgon petrifies people with a glance, and so you know this particular Medusa has full mastery over the petrification. Can animate the statues that she petrifies a complete command of the earth and it’s just a it’s just a Medusa with some things change some special abilities added, some spell like abilities thrown in presented she’s, a sort of majestic terrifying sort of figure of the wasteland who’s.

You know a powerful force to be reckoned with yeah now. I think one of the things about this is by tying these modifications that you make to the story of your game or whatever is going on in it. Players have a chance to disrupt it and maybe weaken the monster right. Oh yeah. Definitely I look forward to my players in Starbound, interacting with the overseer again that was a monster I wanted, but a little bit extra needs a body modification guys so he’s the overseer and give himself some beholder eyes at the end of his tentacles, oh yeah.

So you know it was fun, fun, probably more finger the Barbarian, it’s fun, one of my best being able to land a polymorph on barbarians free. Well, I was, I was really random, like I was rolling randomly for what bean would go off? Oh yeah, I wanted, you know there were forward, it was like disintegrate, polymorph and almost charm and telekinesis yeah. So it was like two of them are pretty bad: either you take them out of the fight or you you could kill them for rent.

You know some. Some red shirts got red shirted. That’s right well, but that’s a good point right, because if you are in that, if you’re in this transitionary phase, where you’re, where you go from playing like the base game, no modifications we’re all learning this to a game where we’re making it our own and part Of that is making it more challenging, then maybe you do have some red shirt NPCs who take the brunt of some of the attacks and and that’s you for a while right, like not always, but they are there to sort of show.

The party like this is what’s in store for you, here’s what we’ve chosen this guy got his arm ripped off. You know this. She got disintegrate. This guy just got to see it. That’s sort of one way of approaching it in terms of like modifying your monsters or things you can do right last little bit is just think about the action economy. One way of making things more lethal is to have your monster, have more actions or to have more of them there.

So you might even you don’t even need to modify a monster if it has a lot of minions and things like that. So considering the action kana me, I think for me: that’s literally counting up the actions on each side and looking and seeing is one of them like way out of balance, then they’re probably going to win and that’s sort of my gauge for the difficulty of a Fight one times: oh, oh definitely yeah you got it.

You got a you got ta at least get close to what they can do. Right yeah I mean, if you really want a challenge. Yeah, if you, if you have a lot more actions than they do, but if you have those actions, how does a DM user is that said, another way to think about this, oh yeah, there are things that you can do that require no changes to the game. At all, and it’s entirely about your approach to playing the monsters and and your approach to how you present combats and everything so to me, the big one here, the one that I really try to get into is playing my monster as a piece in the game.

Yeah and so like what would my monster do? How would they approach this situation? Are they just like a brutish beasts that charges headlong and attacks whatever threat, it seems the most obvious, or are they cunning and manipulative? Are they disciplined and orderly, like all of that, is going to color how I approach the game because to me role playing the monster role playing the NPC and how they would approach a combat is a big part of the challenge of it.

A lot of the monsters that that are in the Dungeon Master’s guide, if you sort of like think for a minute of you know, how would this creature exists in the world? How would it approach things? What does it know about its own abilities? Yeah? Then it you might turn some creatures that go from say. Like you know, it looks like they’re brutish. Give me an example like an ogre. Mage yeah seems like they’re, big brutish type creature.

They’ve got a big area of effect attack. They can sneak around but they’re an ogre, essentially right and you might want to think of them as like. This magical battering ram of sorts. But if you instead at the fact that there they can always be invisible and they have a host of other smell like abilities there. If you use them in a role of like a harasser of someone that that can come and go as they please in say.

A dungeon or a wilderness environment where they might find them, then that’s a different sort of encounter yeah and looking at the spell like abilities of everything. This is one of the reasons why I recommend rolling your random encounters ahead of time and even though you’re rolling them randomly – and you know using your tables or whatever you’re like I throw out that results, I don’t like it.

Whatever method you use getting a chance to read, what’s going on with the monster first before you sit down with the fight as opposed to oh, I rolled this encounter in the middle of the fight all right, let me look up the stats. What can it do? Whatever you know, if you’re using like simple monsters – maybe that’s okay, but if you’re using more complex monsters, you deserve a chance to sit down and think about how you’re going to approach things.

Well, I mean you need to know what the monster can do yeah. So you can use them in the best way possible like so if they are a fairly intelligent monster, they’re going to come at a problem like say some murder, hobo adventurers busting up in their dungeon right. I guess what now we got a dispatch, the troops right now we got a dispatch that you troops yeah, so to meet my sort of like top five strategy and tactics strategy, slash tactics because there’s difference obviously, are these right, the first one being know your enemy And that’s an approach to dungeon mastering that that treats the game world as a you know, sort of seriously.

I don’t just know what the players can do, because I’m the Dungeon Master, but my enemies can find that out. Maybe they’re spies Scouts people that are, you know, trying to get the information that they want from the party there’s magic involved. There’s the party’s reputation there’s survivors from their battles, particularly if you know you sort of go with the fact that all the monsters also make death saves and in the middle of a fight, the players rarely take the chance to just like kill a downed opponent.

So if they’ve just loot the corpses and leave, then they probably maybe left some people alive, and maybe that’s how you know their reputation precedes them it. This turn. This can turn into sort of a game which may be what you want, as the party attempts to keep their enemies from learning information about them, while they also are learning information about their enemies. To me, that’s the appeal of this sort of thing.

You can also read our article on combat as war versus combat a sport for us more approaches to this. The second one, when you’re thinking about strategies and tactics for your enemies is reserves and reserves are always useful and they should be kept out of line of sight of the rest of the party, if possible, in the wings in a separate room through a teleportation circle. Just beyond the veil of reality waiting to slip through once the moment is right, like there’s a lot of different ways, but you don’t want your reserves to be say accidentally fireballed, you know, but you do want them in the world somewhere.

You don’t want them like. In a in a fictional non space, like you know the matrix loading room before they come in there in the world somewhere, but they’re hidden. You know this is useful for many reasons: number one, because they’re out of line of sight, if you don’t need them, you can always just say they did something else, or they were too scared or there’s any number of justifications for why they might not come in Ones that fit with the overall tone of the game, you can bring them in as away an extra wave right whenever you need it and if it turns out that after the first round of combat – and you have a crazy alpha strike, because all the players went First, before you had a chance to and they opened up with all their a OE and best attacks, and it might be like oh sand in the reserves now yeah – that’s that’s just what you can do so having something a buffer, not committing all your forces at Once is something that you should probably be doing.

Readying actions would be a third, don’t forget, ready to actions, there’s a lot of conditions which you might want to use them like I’m ready in action to anyone, who’s, attempting to heal, to ranged, attack them or ready. In action to you know trigger a trap that the party might be near or something in the environments same goes for like dodge other sorts of actions, number four would be divide and conquer, and that is, if you can split the party.

The wall spells are great for this, while a force, while a firewall of stone, really wants form a barrier, because the party will brave a wall of fire if they’re, desperate and that’s right or like a pit trap. That brings them down to another level down to another level of shifting door, a sliding door, a spinning room, there’s a lot of like mechanical thing. You do it the dungeon there there you can split their priorities in that you may be part of your force threaten something that they care about and you force them to be like you know, it can’t be in two places at once.

Maybe you split the party you got to take one of the players loved ones right, they’re being held hostage back here. The fighter runs in players will resist splitting the party, but you know, if you can it’s a good way to make the game more lethal and finally, number five is mixed arms? Don’t you having just one monster type that does one thing is it makes for a less dynamic combat, gives you less options, having multiple monsters with multiple different ways to attack.

Obviously, it makes the solo fight the PCs versus one monster, not, as you know, nots frequenting. Your games, but I think you’ll, find if you include lots of different monsters with lots of different attack types that threaten the PCs on a wide range of levels, big bruisers, to engage the melee guys and ranged attackers and spell support and fast strikers. You can come in and all over the the battlefield.

That’s one way that you can challenge the party, because now they’ve got lots of different threats to think about other than that the individual monsters require a you know. Some of them require a lot of thoughts, and we can spend like the next hour talking about this particular tactic. So that’s kind of my top five, though of what I try to keep in mind when I’m running a challenging, combat any closing thoughts here, after after kind of going through this, they got the dmg options.

You know you: can you can mess with the monsters, mechanics you can mess with how they fight. You know any closing thoughts, though part of the reason why you might want a challenging combat or a comment that that is deadlier is that you want to vary the levels of tension in your game. Yeah there’s an idea that that part of the appeal of RPGs is this rise and fall. This build-up and release and that combat is one of the ways in which tint engines are released, but they’re also ways that tensions can be built right, particularly if it’s a tough combat where the outcome is unclear until the very end.

So a mix of these kinds of things is good. A mix of lethality is good old-school RPGs do this through randomness. They they let the dice determine the the variables in the mixing and then they enjoy the spontaneity of it. The fact that it’s different every time yeah, and so, if you’re not doing that right if you’re not using those random variables in the old-school style, then you have to plan out and sort of say like okay.

Well, maybe this one’s not as tough as the last one and you have a couple of like say, hard to medium fights and then you ramp it up with like a quad deadly. You know something like that: oh yeah, but it’s the mix of it it that that’s the appeal for a lot of players, not necessarily the individual level of challenge. But the fact that there are variable levels is: what’s appealing: you got ta find Kano before you can get to Goro.

You know you got a ramp up right when you’re changing things, particularly if you’re making the game more complex, which a lot of these things will do. Then it has the potential to drag things down and if you’re, finding your fights are already running long, but that people aren’t being challenged, then the only advice I have there is perhaps a different game would suit you better, and that fifth edition, just might not be Your game no big deal.

There’s plenty of games out there to try, but if you’re, in a position where you’re like yeah we’re good our pacing and combats good people are on it with with their spells. They know what dice to roll, even if they’re new, they know the game. These changes might slow things down, so you need to be prepared for that and then, as always, this is a group discussion unless you’re adjusting monster stats, which again you don’t need, advice, permission to do, even though some players will get bent out of shape about it.

The other changes and just the approach to things overall, is worth a discussion with the table because, as we always say, this is not one person’s game. It’s your group’s game and talking about it is almost always the answer. So communication is key and they don’t need to be memorizing monster stats anyway. Sure that’s metagaming, which we have two articles on 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: okay, sweet right! Can we go right? Do I have to take these knives on to take my knife, hands didn’t, say no

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How to Make Homebrew Magic Items | 5e Dungeons and Dragons |

What do you think about that bad boy, yep? I made that for you. I bet this cost a bunch of pretty pigs yeah it costs more than you’ll ever know what? What is that? Jim, let tell you what let’s have a conversation about homebrew magic item creation sounds great: Oh Wendy. This episode is sponsored by garage quests. They make awesome shirts but kind of like the ones we’re wearing right now, but they also make pins and accessories yeah.

We’re always on the lookout for new t-shirts. These guys are new on the scene and they’ve got great non-text designs. The shirt so well made they feel great and, as you can see it look, cool mm-hm and viewers can get 10 % off all these shirts. With the code web DM 10 so go over, there check it out and get you an awesome shirt. The link is below in the description and in the comments all right, Jim because as players we’re never happy.

You know what we’re given. Let’s talk about some homebrew magic items, just just how to make it yourself how to kind of get in there mix up your stuff. You got to rub some stuff together, you got to say some words, probably you probably should I mean if brewer can do it and he’s a fighter right I mean I realize it’s a bygone edition, but I mean if he can do it. Anybody can. I mean at least, if you have the magical capabilities.

Oh certainly, certainly right what some things to consider when you want to begin making magic items first off like a homebrew magic items in cooking, cooking them up and making them work for your campaign. It’s really satisfying! It’s a part of the game that that I often forget and so neglect the the fact that you know magic items are a part of this they’re they’re part of the reward structure for four players: they’re they’re part of the and magic of the place.

You know the settings that you’re playing in your games like so it’s something that I I feel like actively remind myself and then, when I do I’m just like, I don’t want to use any of the ones in the dmg necessarily or maybe some of them. I want my own, I want my custom one, you know I want one that reflects my setting and how it’s been played and sort of, like you know, see the items as reflective of an in-game material culture and that they’re from a place and and someone in The history of this world created them, maybe they’re tied to like player backgrounds or player cultures, or something they’re they’re significant.

In that respect, I like the idea of them. I, like the potential that they have for both world building and and to give the players new options to interact with the game. They’re, just things that I usually forget about in the rush to describe a setting and come up with stuff. For you know for players to to get hooked with, so you know considering their impact of the item on your game from a from a mechanical point of view.

What are you trying to do with this item? How big of an impact do you want it to have? Is this going to be like a centerpiece, a character, defining item that is? You know that you’re creating custom, because it ties into the story that you’ve got going on the different plots of the game or an NPC or something that’s one thing to consider and yeah, and it’s one of those where it’s like. If you’ve got one that we’ve got like hype built up around it, you know it’s the you know, magical MacGuffin of whatever and then once someone gets their hands on it, it’s you know underwhelming or doesn’t do what they thought it did, or something like that can Lead to a bit of dissonance, but the opposite can certainly occur to where you create something that’s too powerful or to just like throws the game off in ways that you’re not really expecting.

The other thing to consider is the place of the item in your setting and we kind of touched on this a minute ago, but it’s like think about it for a minute. Is this a relic from a long lost civilization and and therefore maybe people don’t really know what it does or what it is and so it’ll be a surprise when it resurfaces? Is the item claimed by some group or faction or something you’re setting, and it’s like? Oh, you found that.

Well, you know this is ours by rights. You know these sorts of you know staffs of power. Weren’t just made by anybody. They’ve always been made by our guilt. You know we have the proprietary rights to it and you can kind of think of it. That way. Are there competing groups that would be interested in this items. Discovery are there. Groups that would be you know, would desire the item because of the power it represents, or because it has some kind of significance to them and that’s a way to make sure that the items you introduce into your game, particularly ones you’re building yourself, are like enmeshed.

In the game, world and and like have a place in it, oh yeah, well, definitely, if you’re, if you’re, adding that that cultural legacy to items, I’m you see even in our own world, you know say just look at like say: British, whatever museum and always a Meshed in some version of like hey these people kind of want their stuff back. Look like a thousand years ago, I mean like when you translate that to like magic items.

Now you have a very different world. Where would you want to go out brandishing that that blade that was only made in that one country yeah where they have you know they have their archaeologists militia? That goes out to reclaim everything that was taken from them and the great culling yeah yeah I mean, and and and if you’re thinking about it from just like those pure world building perspective. You know a lot.

The default for a lot of D & D games is that you are going into places that are no longer inhabited. They were once inhabited yeah, their ancient, their ruins or whatever you know, but it’s tombs and you’re. You know you’re raiding the grave goods from you know from tombs or you are, you know, visiting abandoned strongholds and settlements and the like and taking the durable goods that are left over there.

So there’s always been a bit of that parallelism. Writers, go take your stuff, nothing, you can do them, and so I you will want to think about those things because they can either add. You know rich complications for your game and can really drive forward sort of sub quests and things like that. But it can also be a big hassle because it goes against the expectations of the place of magic items as a reward structure.

Indeed, being so there’s players who might see that item as like hey this is my reward for playing the game like. Why do we? Why are we read, there’s all this hassle attached to it, you know. So it’s that’s what I mean it’s like seeing worth, considering how all these things fit together, in addition to just like building the item itself and making something that’s fun and interesting to play with so well, I mean yes, especially, you know if your players want to Want to homebrew it themselves and build it themselves.

Sure I mean you can build a whole whole adventures out of just gathering ingredients – Oh certainly right, right, right, yeah and so there’s there’s a few guidelines that are in the official books for how to handle this, and the dmg chapter 9 has guidelines for just like Creating a new item, it starts with sort of like tips, for if you need to change or modify an item, you know what what can be substituted for what so for the you know for the authors of the dmg, it’s a you know, something’s ring it can Be a wand: if something is a you know, sword, it can become an axe.

So, like changing the type of item you know that it is, is perfectly reasonable. No problem doesn’t change anything about the rarity of it, for instance, also changing sort of the properties of an item you know. Does it do a certain type of damage changing that to a different type of damage, or if it gives, you say, a bonus to one skill proficiency? Maybe you don’t you just change the skill proficiency? Then it gives you a bonus to or something so an example that might be like I’ve got an elven cloak.

That gives me a bonus to my dexterity stealth checks, but you know, maybe we take this and change it into a belt and we call it. You know an orcish grapplers belt, and it’s now you know, gives you a bonus to you know the athletic strength, checks or something like that. Yeah and – and it’s in that sense that you’re just sort of like taking the magic items that are in the dmg and using them as templates for your own and recognizing that these are just game effects.

And you can change any one of these to create a different sort of item that you’re. You know that you can then integrating your campaign world after that. The only other thing it really recommends is combining two items to get a different effect, and it seems to imply that you know you’d want to combine like items Helms and Helms weapons and weapons. That kind of thing. But you know what like go nuts and put a ring on your sword, yeah like you’re, putting the effects of the ring on your sword and and work it out right, like is, if it’s a ring that provides a continual benefit, then maybe it only provides that Benefit when you’re, you know you have the weapon drawn or something like that.

Yeah dude, I can see a Mariners blade with a ring of water walking on it. So you draw your sword and run across the sea to the two board. The next ship right right right, oh yeah, that’d, be a really good one just, but you get your sword knocked out of your hand, yeah or swim. You she’d your sword, and so I think I like that because then you can have you know, maybe that particular type of weapon has an always-on ability just from having an ax tuned and wearing it.

You bear the weapon right, doesn’t matter that you’re actually holding it, and then it has a secondary property for what it’s actually wielded, brandished and used in combat. I mean that alone. Just how is it activated? How do you attune to it? How do you activate the properties of it? Are there command words? Do you have to make certain gestures? Do you communicate or somehow make contact with the spirit of the magic item or whatever you know, magical essence sustains it, you know, is it semi-sentient? Is it not? Does it have a personality or anything all of those are things that can influence the type of magic items that you create? You can influence how your players react to them and it’s a way to take kind of boring low powered magic items and make them something special and different by just changing little things about them or how you activate them.

There’s some tables in Chapter 7 of the dmg, it’s right after sort of the description of all the item types and what they do and right before the section on how to roll for random treasure. It’s a series of four tables that basically give you special features. Insights into, like maybe the history of the item, if it has any quirks or minor special powers, and it’s just like a really cool series of tables that you can to vary things up and turn those weird little.

You know first first magic items that you get on those first few adventures into something bit more memorable than a plus-one, something that’s going to get like forgotten about. Well yeah. I mean you know why just give them a plus-one sword. Why just give a plus-one, especially I mean it, doesn’t really matter what what the experience level is for a player, but if you got a group of people, who’ve been playing for a while yeah like that first magic item like oh, I got the got a plus-one Dagger yeah yeah, yeah, yeah and, and I think that those are yeah the +1 die or the +1 sword, the sort of the standard magic items that you hear about.

Like there’s, really it’s from a diems perspective. It can be frustrating to sort of feel like I’m. You know I’m trying to create this or we’re trying to get immersed in it. We’re trying to you know have this certain shared experience that we want and for the players to kind of treat the things that they’re meant to see as valuable and and a reward and a connection to the world as a snoozefest yeah.

You know and and like there’s some give-and-take there there’s. Obviously you know nobody can use a sword or everybody already has a magic sword. Then maybe a plus-one isn’t going to be that big of a deal. But it’s a a way of. I don’t know you. You can do something different with it. You can connect those low-level minor weapons and armor, and not necessarily armor, but like +1 swords and and minor rings, and things like that as being tied to certain former cultures in your world.

Like ok, you know that all of the +1 swords or great many of them come from when there was a you know, an imperial Legion Air Base here and there made rights. You know crafted a great many ensorcelled swords and armor and the like, and you can find a lot of them, but you know this was cheap, mass-produced, magic and you know a lot of times these weapons are, you know, they’re still sharp they’re, still good the the Magic in them is still there, but maybe on a one.

You know, maybe when you fumble with them, there’s something that might go with it and the weapon is it doesn’t like explode in your face or anything like that. It doesn’t mutate you, but maybe it has. The you know something where it’s like: the the bonus in vs itself, because the magics old and it’s been damaged and, and you just notice, something’s kind of wrong with this sword. Now you know, and so in that sense, they’re, not cursed or anything, you can just put the sword down and have to worry about it, but it’s kind of a almost you almost treat them as disposable weapons.

You know if you found one just. I use this until the enchantment on it breaks or well see I could also see like. Maybe it has an ongoing enchantment that doesn’t go away but like like the sword, burst, can’t rip or something like that. Yeah the magic kind of pops out, really quick, yeah and maybe the next day it comes back yeah and but once you roll it a 1 again it sort of like it happens again, yeah you know and then until the next dawn.

So it’s it’s kind of a minor cursed item yeah. Another thing I was thinking about – and I think this comes from like from remember correctly – your your heart breaker rules, but like imagine a +1 sword that also has like a daily ability yeah that yeah you got a +1 sword. That’s awesome until you use this ability. It does a thing yeah and then the next dawn it resets as a +1 sword. Yeah and after you use the thing you don’t.

You know that maybe it’s still magical, but it isn’t that one ability yeah, so it becomes a like do. I didn’t want +1 hit and damaged, or do I want do. I need this ability right now, yeah, and so you know it’s, it gives you some variability, but it’s still not like overwhelming it’s still just once a day yeah, you know yeah and a lot of times. These sort of minor magic items are interesting ways to introduce.

Not full-fledged magic item effects like granting of whole new powers and things like that, but maybe they are ways to interact with class abilities of the player character right. So if I’ve got a magic sword that I found fairly early on and I’m a fighter, maybe it modifies what I can do when I action surge. Maybe it modifies the benefit that I get from weapons style or some fighting style, or something like that.

If I’m a monk or something and using one of these weapons it you know, maybe it does something or modifies or adds. One of my monk abilities that I can use – or maybe it’s magic in the sense that it confers the ability to be used on anyone that picks it up. So you can have weapons that are usable by people that otherwise aren’t proficient in them, and it’s just like okay. I can use this now because the item confers its benefit on me just but virtue of me wielding it so weapon of usage and – and you know, or it maybe there’s something that you know – that’s not necessarily explicitly magical it.

It you know, enhances the natural abilities of the wielder it, for instance, maybe it allows them to add double their ability. Bonus. A couple of times per day. Does a damage or or two hit, or something like that, and it’s it’s less, that this thing is magical and the magic of it enhances your own ability, and so those are some ways to kind of like have minor, particularly like magic weapons. Purely cosmetic stuff is also available like does it leave a trail of something you know as it arcs through the air smoke.

Lightning fire ghosts, something it’s something truly kind of chilling would be like a blade of bleeding. Where that’s drawn. It’s always dripping it’s just like drips blood yeah, you know, so maybe it’s hard to do disarms against it. Oh sure, yeah. Something like gives you advantage when defending against being disarmed yeah, ironically yeah handle never gets wiped out. You know it’s like you’re.

Thinking of these sort of minor things, we were using those tables in the dmg. To like inspire you, you, you know you’re now, thinking like okay, I’ve got a solid outline for what this magic item should be. You know if it’s one that you are creating for an NPC or something you just like put it in the game right, but if you’re putting it in there for a player, then you’ll want to check out the rules for crafting items in Zanna.

Thor’s guide and they are fairly you know: they’re, not extensive. They’re they’re undoubtedly have holes in them and the like. But if you’re looking for something fast and useful, I think they’re they’re a good fit they’re. Basically, just remind you that you need some sort of recipe or formula and sometimes in the published adventures, you’ll find there recipe or a formula for magic items that that’s in the treasure, but especially now that I think artifice or makes use of these recipes as well.

So it’s you want to find that and it can be as as abstract or as detailed as you like. You’ll need some sort of exotic ingredients, in addition to just the mundane ingredients that the item will have or will require, and it’s sort of an it kind of gives you some guidelines on what exotic ingredients would be at the very least it kind of tells you Hey here’s the CR range of creatures you might find who have the ingredients you need, depending on the power level of the item, that you’re creating and I’m going to make a +4 weapon out of goblin team right right.

That’s just a lot of goblins, and so just coming, it’s its guidance, its guidelines. It asks you to sort of like consider the monster that you might use that’s reflective of this item. This is also one of those things were just like a quick search on, say. Dm skilled or just Google will reveal all kinds of people who’ve poured through the monster manuals and been like. These are the kinds of things you can find on monsters, but you know it’s fairly easy to kind of come up with you know.

What does the item do? Is the item based around fire? Then you might need the ashes of a fire elemental or the scales of a salamander or something like that and then finally it reminds you that the point of view of creating these things is not exercising bookkeeping and accounting and like it’s to have an adventure to Go out and find the monster that you need the ingredients of to craft the thing which part of downtime and to then you know, have this unique and special item that you created for yourself.

In that sense, I think, like the combination of the two of like the dungeon master, creating the item with the players input and then, like the character forging it is just I don’t know I like that image. I like that look, it sounds fun. It seems like an interesting way to add these items to the game and make them like matter more than just like. Alright, that’s what I rolled randomly on the table when it’s what you find when you open the dusty chest in the old tomb yeah.

That’s it work, Oh most! Definitely when it comes to two magic items, one of our favorite games yeah – and we, I think we kind of touched on this earlier. But I’d like to I’d like to talk about a different way to look at items like doing like single-use items like like Cyclops. Like it’s something like I mean there are potions, it’s kind of what that is, but, like other items like, why can’t you find a pendant? Just has one you know whatever in it yeah it’s that’s it.

You know you don’t need to attune to it or anything. It’s just you figure out what it is. You know the word and it does a thing. It does the thing yeah I like them. I mean I like them in numenera I like them in cypher. I find that single use effects. Particular scrolls and potions tend to get forgotten about yeah in D & D, and I’m not I’ve, always sort of like worried about that. I guess yours like why aren’t they being used more my handing these out his treasure? Nobody cares or you know they only use.

You know potions when they’re healing and I think it’s probably you know a combination of out of sight out of mind and or you know you have a lot of other things to choose from or it could also be like. I only have two of them like I got: ta save them. What am I going to do? And cipher system solves this by the assumption that you are going to get ciphers out of your ass? You know just like everywhere, yeah a part of almost every enemy.

You might fight, you can just go searching for them. Some classes can just generate them. You know like they’re, just tinkering you know decipher because they keep the form and function of ciphers separate right. You don’t they’re. Not always you know this is this thing, and this is what it does it’s just here are some effects here are some forms it might take, so the deme is free to, like think of all the different ways that they might be able to harvest or introduce These single-use items, and so in the spirit of that I I think that you can look at things like spell scrolls and potions and alike in your game, and you don’t necessarily have to go like it’s in a bottle.

It’s a little magic liquid in a bottle or it’s magic writing on magic paper. It could be, you know, other kinds of alchemical items, powders paste, screams, aerosols injections, you know it could they could be symbiotic organisms that have lifespans measured in minutes that you know that you put inside you, they could be temporary, spells that you learn, regardless of your Ability to cast spells, they could be magical tattoos that get activated or you know once you you’re ready to gain the benefits.

Of course you can do scrolls spell Jim’s, it might be blessings of the gods. You know it could be that the the reward you get is you know you can cast. You know cure wounds three times or something, although those those kind of benefits are also in the the dmg try considering magic food and drink right, you know: we’ve got a article where we sort of talk about how you might make those magic foods for yourself, but It could be that you’re rewarded with you know something like limbus bread or you know even better, and then it could also be like.

I was just sort of thinking all the different ways you could justify kind of like I’ve got this bonus. Now that I didn’t have earlier – and it’s you know maybe they’re temporal blessings where it’s like, when you need it most bonus spell, will be upon you and that’s just you know a fancy way to say when the players ready you’ll have this big. It could be something as simple: it’s just like diary rolls or you know a certain number of times.

You can invoke an event advantage all different things that offer minor little minor benefits and the like. But you don’t have to worry about. You know, oh god, what I’m going to have this thing in the game permanently, you can have more powerful effects, actually be single-use and you know who cares right? You just do it once that’s gone. I always find that people are always crafting magic, swords, magic, armor.

We’re making yeah yeah, like you know, make them make the small stuff. You know you could make a small stuff right, like yeah, make a magic oil that you put on the sword. That does what you need it to and and in some ways like that’s what the artificer is right. The artificer is the the one who’s creating minor magic items to you know for for single-use, but I don’t think they have to be the only one that does it and, and certainly you can hand out treasure and, like you know, without the need for an artificer To be around oh yeah, what are some of your favorite items that you’ve that you’ve crafted for your either players or your PC’s? I used to do a lot more of this kind of item creation.

Whenever I was a younger DM and I’d sort of go through and it’s like alright, you know these are the magic items that are part of this Kingdom right, they’re, sort of the crown jewels of it and – and it was fun for me to come – go through All of the major in pcs or major organizations, and outline and create custom items for them a lot of those I take from like other game systems and and sort of like figure out.

Oh, how can I you know, create this magic item, that’s in say, Warhammer, Fantasy battle and in D & D. How do I translate that it’s, that sort of where I got started really making a lot of custom items for my campaign, and there would be just like page after page after page of items, I never really intended for the players to get a hold of a Lot of them were way too powerful. I think you know they’d be like plus 7 thundering flaming, you know kind of weapons, but nowadays I find that I do a lot of reading and take just a magic item from the dmg or something and describe it differently, and that’s worked really well for land Between two rivers, because the magic items that I’ve been able to pass out there, everything from like a cyborg laser eye, which is a circular blasting to various kinds of other magical tech that that works to different degrees and then items like an assassin’s dagger.

That causes the victim to feel no pain when they’re struck with it so that they don’t know that they’ve just been stabbed. You know they and you know, by two feet of poisoned steel. Is my mosquitos blade right? You know it currently I’m working on items that are bio magical in nature. So I’m really allowing myself to be inspired by say the tearing winds and 40k and other sorts of like biomechanical, hybrid type, things because there’s a lot of biome answers and and land between two rivers and there’s a lot of you know remnants and you know, parts Of their legacy that are used by everyday people, because it’s like yeah, this thing might be a living creature, but it’s also a convenient weapon.

You know it’s like it easy to hold, and it kind of looks like a spear. It’s like a spear fish that I could just use on my own. You know it’s something like that or it’s a weird acid spewing insect that just happens to be fine with living on my arm. You know or something that that’s a you know that highlights the weird bizarre, just mutant, nature of the magic of vivid man see, but I think maybe the long you’ll might be the one that I’ve gotten the best reaction out of you know the party some party, Most of the party members could breathe underwater one of them couldn’t and in lieu of taking a potion of water breathing.

It’s like you’re going to swallow this eel and it’s going to live in your lungs for a while, and you know, within a week drink this and snort. This poison powder and that’ll force it out of your lungs because otherwise it’ll start chewing its way out or lay eggs in there or you don’t want it in there. For that long. You just want to be able to breathe for a couple hours. You know, but there are a lot of things like that, where I I want items that are grotesque.

I want to reflect the setting and I want items that have a bit of cost to them like you can use this, but you’re not going to be unchanged by it. You know, even if temporarily, for Starbound most times I made like. Of course, I made man made laser pistols. Oh certainly right I mean it’s, it’s literally, just like basically a wand of magic missiles that you have to use your attack bonus. The you know, it’s literally there’s a hammer that you cock back and trigger enacted because the whole deal was they wanted to make ones for pirates that yeah they didn’t, need any kind of magic or don’t even need a word pick this up and that could be Used in the phlogiston could be using the flog song, as it was a big thing as needed weapons that are out there.

So it’s forced damage yeah, but but the bad thing, of course, is if you roll one on your d20. Well, you roll it again and it’s basically confirming a crit fail. Gotcha you roll another one. Then it explodes and the whole deal is. Is the pistols have ten charges and then it regains one D, six charges per day yeah, and so it kind of has to recharge right, and so there is a limit to it per day. But the thing is: is each charge is at D ten and, however many charges are in it when it explodes that’s what you take.

So if you are firing for the first time that day, you take ten D. Ten – and you know I made sure to tell like Ellery was the one that was Greg’s looks like I want to fucking laser pistol. I’m like alright, just remember when this. If this happens, this is what’s going to happen. He’s like well, at least I have you know my my. I have my thief’s ability to reduce damage by half. It’s like I’m sure to always have that.

But so you know I I had those because I you know once something nice and easy and then later on, I made basically what would be. I don’t know if it would be a legendary item or an artifact yeah, but it was the helm of the guardian of the a of the 84th outer gate that that de cool eventually tried to put on yeah. It was just a couple of Christmas saves. You have to pass to gain control of it because it is a semi sentient item because it’s basically the portal is a living thing right.

It’s a living fire elemental that is allowing itself to be the transitory doorway between two planes yeah, and so you are basically wearing the helmet that controls it. So you have to barter with it. Certainly and all it really wants us to be used, and so that’s what I was kept impressing was like just used. The power just use it yeah, yeah and, and he and and to cool, was like freaked out by that, and he couldn’t pass that second save.

But he the thing goes is there’s a threshold for failure and he was literally failing by like one, and so it’s not like the item can’t start to try to take him over because it’s like well, if he it’s, I had it where, if you fail by Three or more sure that the item can start to try to influence you yeah yeah, and so he literally failed twice. If I won, it was like right at the edge, and I was like it’s one of those moments as a DM he’s like all right.

No I’m going to try to take this off and they used a wish to take the helmet off. Oh yeah – and I was just as like literally like you’re, like one pass, save away from basically having a ring of fire elemental, control, yeah and plane shift once a day to the fire plane, because you can literally shift to your gate from wherever you are. Once a day and there’s a couple of other things, but it was mostly like it was really powerful in the plane of fire, yeah and but other than that you know you still like get fire resistance.

You know there’s a lot of benefits in as a DM. You have to you, can’t you can’t just go just keep trying yeah, you know and he took wish to take the helmet off and then they bartered it away in a whorehouse and hell yeah and like you’re, just sitting there reading a legendary item get traded off For information yeah, but you never, I mean you can’t yeah yeah and I think that’s the that’s a fun story.

Right like that, is that’s the story of a powerful item that got lost. You know like it yeah we don’t know what happened to it. You know, and and it’s you know, it ends up somewhere and and could be all kinds of inadvertent shenanigans by letting a legendary item like that. Just disappear. Oh well, especially I’m going to find it yeah. Well, especially when it’s the it’s, the literal backdoor into a very powerful ally of the players and they’ve made a lot of powerful enemies yeah.

So you better believe that that helmets, going to pop back up yeah ain’t going to be pretty when it does. But that’s the that’s the way that we, you know you can have customizer like drive the story of your game and then sort of like really move a bit forward and yeah. If you liked the article give it a thumbs up and subscribe. Web DM exists thanks to our patreon patrons the web demons. If you join the web demons, you’ll get our weekly podcast show audio discounts, that’ll save you way more than five dollars a month on books and dice and so much more web DM is a proud partner of DD.

Beyond our favorite supplement for our DMV games, we’ve got a link to them in the description, go and check them out. If you like our advice for your games, then why don’t you come check us out and read us play? Yeah we’ve got games on Twitch every week and they’re archived on our second youtube blog web. Do you in place thanks for reading the use of the tables in Chapter seven, to introduce backstory, unusual construction, history and minor properties mm-hm, and then, after that, they have guidelines on sorta like back to the chapter 9, and the dmg yeah has guidelines for really like? Actually, creating a new item – oh yeah yeah, so they got like they’re.

Basically talking about you know is this a does this grant the character a new ability, or does it enhance an existing one of trying to determine like that? Those are kind of two criteria that they mentioned yeah and anything that doesn’t do one of those things they’re sort of like. Maybe it’s not really a magic item, but they also have a bit of guidelines on just like gauging what it is that the item can do as well as a chart that breaks down like what’s the maximum spell level, that’s appropriate for uncommon item, oh yeah.

By rarity and all that, and and so that those are interesting guidelines to read for start creating these new items as well as sort of like the two criteria that they use for attunement yeah, it’s basically like can this item be passed around between multiple people’s? They all gain the benefit of it, then, at any moment, yeah, and is it like if you would want, if you ever acquired like multiples of the same item, would the benefits like stack or something in that case they require two minutes.

Yeah like bring a protection or write or cloak of protection, or something like that so like mostly though that Chapter nine and in those tables in chapter 7, in the dmg they’re guidelines and you’d, want to, like you know, they’re good places to start with creating your Items but really, I think, the best inspiration for it is just like what do you need for your campaign? What do you want for the party to have access to, and then you can, you know, go and have fun making those items yeah use something that already exists.

Extrapolate to what you want. Oh yeah, everybody has fun yeah,

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

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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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Player Driven Campaign Creation in 5e Dungeons & Dragons and TTRPG- Web DM

Jim Davis. You ever noticed your DM a little drunk on power and maybe needs a designated driver to take the campaign home. Well guess what we’re talking player, driven campaigns here on web DM player, driven campaigns? Why do you want to put the players first as a DM? What’s the benefit to me, the benefit of a player driven campaigns is bringing the rest of the table in and it’s less about, like poor Dungeon Master doesn’t have any input.

They don’t get to have any say in how their campaigns going. The players are just going to dictate the way everything happens with the setting. Oh woe is me all of the great wonderful imagine of things that Dungeon Master’s get to do. I don’t get to do it. There are games that are like that, where, where world creation and world building are collaborative and group based and and there are even some games, that everyone’s a GM basically yeah – we’re not really talking about those right here.

We’re talking about making your traditional sort of mainstream fantasy and and whatever other games, that you’re playing more player focused and using certain techniques to bring the characters front and center into the campaign and to make sure that the decisions that the players are making are centered. In that campaign and that the dungeon master, our game, master referee or whatever you want to call them, is not like subtly, nudging and and moving the campaign towards some predetermined end, but is instead letting the campaign breathe and and go where it goes as it goes.

Introducing new things into it to keep it going and keep it moving and and sort of keep it vibrant, but the players and their decisions and the characters and their their backgrounds and personalities and goals are the both of the motivator. The driving force behind the campaign and and sort of the center of it right, the opposite of this style, would be we’re playing through the diems novel. It’s the straight-up railroad, although to be fair, a hyper focused campaign with characters that gel together that they they have a goal in mind that they want they pursue it without.

You know a lot of tangents or getting distracted and they communicate that clearly to the DM. The end result of it looks remarkably similar to a railroaded campaign, write it. The end product looks as though it’s it’s. You know that they were always doing the thing that I am one of them to do, and but if they will only bought the ticket for each leg of that journey, sure maybe that’s what they’re all like forcing people on a railroad right.

They want to walk across the country and you go no, no. You need to stay back on the tracks right guys, stay back on the strikes. That is true, you know and linear play, which is a less. You know derogatory way of saying railroad. Interrogatories right, listen, incendiary way is built, the country we’re talking more of the you know. What are we going to do with the campaign? Let me let the players.

Okay, take the take the initiative here and and lead what some ways that a DM can keep the players in the driving seat and keep their hands like on the wheel natural one of the big things to me and – and I experienced this as I will like Prepare a campaign is I’ll, get to a point where I’m like. I cannot do any more prep for this campaign until I know who the players are, we need something here. We need to know who are the actors that are going to be in this right? Who are the characters? What do they want where their goals, what are their backgrounds, if I’m over here, creating like an intrigue heavy urban campaign with light, combat and lots of politics and and messing about in the criminal underworld? And things like that and and my players are over here – going like man we’re psyched to play these like mighty feud warriors who are going to do battle against their enemies, then that’s a mismatch there and and I’m wasting my efforts in preparing a campaign based on, Like intrigue and politics, and and backbiting and scheming, and things like that, when I’ve got a group of players who are itching for a game of kick down the door D & D or vice versa, right, maybe they’re really feeling like.

I want to play this thief to the best ability climb the ranks of the Thieves Guild talking to the players before the game starts before there’s even a session zero, and just like communicating this information to them. Many DMS do this right, like they’re like oh hey, this is the kind of campaign I’m thinking about running like what do you guys think? Are you interested you know what what about the next time we play is this campaign I can run.

This is the a good time to start asking specific questions of your players and ask them like what is it about your character and it’s connection to the game world that that player enjoys? What are the things in the players or sorry. The characters background that the dungeon master can use for play that they can mine and look and see like okay. Well, wait a second. This looks like something that you could spin a whole adventure out of, or this thing right here is like it happened in the characters background, but but who else was involved with it? Maybe we can bring these elements to the floor later on and and what you have is as you’re reading, through the backgrounds of your of your of the characters where you start taking notes like this thing seems like a secret that’ll come out later, or this thing Seems like something that we could tease out later into an adventure.

Maybe you know a secret from the characters past that they don’t want discovered or an event that happened to them, that that that’s going to come back later, they think is resolved, but instead it’s going to come back later. Sometimes you see these elements refer to as knives and as I’m not sure where that exactly comes from, but I’ve had a couple of DMS use that technique now and I kind of like it right.

You’re you’re, asking the player character. Your ass on the player like show us what your characters got. What are the things in the backstory that we could potentially use in the campaign or that’s potentially there? Now you don’t have to necessarily do that. You could just like ask for a regular player background, and then you find those themselves. You know you find the things in it that you can use, or you can like just straight-up ask a player hey when you show me your character sheet, that you include some kind of list or description or something about the things in your characters, background.

That would be interesting to include in the game those kind of different approaches to to just getting that information. Well, then, you get to take that information and basically seed the campaign with all of that info. Exactly exactly right. So let’s say you’ve got a map of your area of play and you’re, starting with you know, sort of a locality. You know maybe there’s a town or a village. There’s a couple of adventure sites nearby, maybe a full-on dungeon or bandits.

You’ve got your encounter tables and all these other kind things it’s now time to take those elements, and hopefully you have left room for the characters in in your prep. You haven’t detailed everything out to such a degree that there’s no room for the player characters to enter into your world and start changing things up. There needs to be a moment where the DM and the player sit down together and go okay.

What’s, in your character, background right? Well, this in my world, these things work like XYZ. Do any of those things sound interesting to you, or do you think they’re relevant to your character background, it’s a back and forth and maybe there’s a little bit of compromise where the dungeon master goes like well, I know it doesn’t have to be this way. That was just sort of my initial thought if you’re a character or if you have an a different idea, or you want something different for your character that we can find a place for that in the world.

Let’s take, for instance, like you’ve got some sort of character that belongs to an organization or something like that, maybe like a wizard’s guild or monastery or a fighters dueling Club or something right like what you have is is a an opportunity for the burst off of The player character to influence the world and they can say like alright, we didn’t know that there was going to be a fencing school in this location.

But we’ve got a you know: a fighter who’s like all about dueling, and there should be someone here that that fighter can latch on to in a sympathetic, NPC a source of potential quests, a source of interest for that fighter. Who can then go to the fencing school and feel like? Well? Maybe I want to join up. Maybe I want to become an instructor. Are there any jobs or anything that needs to be done there like? Maybe they want to take it over and you’ve got kind of a whoosh of martial arts sort of like the outside instructor, comes in challenging the master to combat and takes over and that spawns a whole sort of vendetta and and so the cycles of violence.

They just continue those cycles of violence. This is where you take a look at your map and you go. Is there anywhere on here that can be connected to the player characters background? Is there anything in the player characters background that I need to be sure to include in this player, and then you go do that with the with your NPCs? Are there any NPCs here who might be a good fit for something that happened in one of the PCs background? If it’s like a local going to ruler or something like that, then that’s a good place to do it.

Maybe a mentor of some kind, that’s in their background or an enemy. Those NPCs have a place in your world, and you you owe it to yourself and to the player to like really take a look and see like okay can i? How can I work this into the campaign world? How can I embed this NPC in that campaign, world and and like have it be a part of it, but it’s there for the player to interact with as they choose player, might completely ignore these things and do something completely different.

I know I have made characters where I was like. Oh man, this is the backstory. It’s going to be this and that and the minute we start playing. I forget all that and then I’m playing the character as they exist right now, and it’s not about what? What I came up with for backstory or anything can’t move forward. Looking over your shoulder, Jim Davis, just kind of soldier looking backwards, is actually kind of good advice, we’ll run into something: that’s kinda, what we mean when we say seed, your sandbox or your location or your setting or whatever it is with your player, character, backgrounds.

We’re talking about matching locations matching NPCs. Is there something in the PC background that jumps out at you and goes like who I can make an adventure out of this then like? Let’s, let’s do that like like put that in there and and work through the players? Stumbling across it or that becoming an active element of play, you know as the game unfolds well, sometimes that can actually, instead of just seating, an adventure like you said with the fighting school thing like if it’s the traditional, like, oh my my master, my whatever was Killed that can be like the whole source of a campaign that can focus your campaign and, like this character, their whole goal is to get to the end and kill that guy right and it just so happens the rest of the party like oh yeah, that’s the Guy, that’s the baron, that’s subject like suppressing this land and we need to take him out anyway right right if you’re, creating a dynamic campaign world where things change and things develop, and your NPCs have plots and motivations and goals that are going on in the background And you’ve created like a timeline for your campaign, that’s like: if the players do nothing XYZ events will happen.

If you have something like that in mind, maybe it’s an actual like timeline for your campaign. Maybe it’s just a general idea of what’s going to happen, then you start kind of creating these moving elements. The person who slew the fighters master at the fight school is now the baron. Well, that’s a problem right because you can’t just walk in and kill the Baron yeah, that’s going to be bad news, and so you now you’ve spawned this whole other thing.

Well, what if the Baron is also has a tie to the background of another player character. You’re looking for connections that you can potentially make and it’s a skill that you’ll have to develop as a dungeon master. This is this not how I used to run games. This is something that I’ve learned to do really over the last few years is really kind of focus in and make players the the center of a game.

First off I hated reading big wall character backgrounds. It was difficult to get to the game. Ax balem owns in a multi-page handwritten gym. I had an opus he’s going to write it when you use des sins, and I know – and it’s one of those things right. I always kept my every my that’s very true. My stance was, I’m just not going to read them like write them all you want not. I don’t feel like reading a bunch of stuff.

For me, that was a reaction to character backgrounds. I was getting at the table where it seemed like the most important things that had happened to that character had already happened, yeah that the most adventure that they were ever going to have had been written into that character background, and to me that signaled, a breach Of trust that the players who were playing these characters didn’t trust that cool awesome, amazing things would happen in their campaign, and so they felt the need to write this into the play to the character’s backstory instead of just saying like yeah.

Well, you know maybe some exciting things have happened to my character, but the best is yet to come and let’s figure out, what’s going to happen through play, and so I really focused then on making sure that in the moments of play there were interesting things for The characters to do now I try to do that as well as tie in what they’ve given me for the backstory to create the elements of play that we’re going to use.

Let’s use an example right running Warhammer yeah right now on on encounter RP, their twitch blog. We got a Wednesday game. You know I have a mini sandbox that I have packed to the gills with heretics and witches and mutant and chaos and all sorts of things for a witch hunter to salivate over and want to fight. And then it’s then we get the five player characters. The witch hunter – and you know its followers and it’s now time to look through the backgrounds of each one of those player, characters and go alright.

Alero is an elven, you know it’s a high wood, elf, Ranger type from you know: who’s had this tragic backstory with a hag or a Crone of some kind that that caused Alero Pruitt’s character to to sort of commit this atrocity. I already knew that there were going to be witches and hags and sort of like chaos, sorcerers and the like in my campaign. Well now one of them has to be Alero switch because otherwise, what’s the point of Pruett telling me that there’s a witch in his characters background when he’s with a witch hunter, you said I’m saying like there was a time whenever I would read a background like That and I would go like why you can’t tell me to put a witch in my game like there, whereas I’m thinking when I wrote it on like over a bunch of witch hunters.

This is perfect right. So now I look at something like that and I go oh well. This is perfect, like it makes sense, and – and I try to do this – you know a lot now where, where it’s like, if there’s something in a PC background, let’s like bring it to the center of the game – let’s put this in there, and this works really Well for very short, focused campaigns, but it also works well for like longer running ones as well.

Let’s talk about choice and how real those choices are because, like you said you know, sometimes demons don’t want to be forced to do anything in their game, determined by the players. Things like that. But what we’re talking about here? Players, if they’re in the driver’s seat and they’re going to be directing, where we’re going right, yeah and so when they make choices, to go places and to do the things in the world that you that the DM has set down like.

How do you ensure that that actually matters there’s a school of dungeon master, ring and game, a stirring in general that that you’ll see sometimes refer to as illusionism and this school prizes, the illusion of choice, the illusion of a living breathing world that reacts to player Decisions and prizes the illusion of all of these things and they use techniques diems, who sort of like this style and like this kind of play, use a lot of techniques with what we might call a quantum encounter.

There’s something something was prepared. An encounter was prepared, but it floats around the map. It’s not nailed down yet the reason why I personally really dislike this style of play is you illustrated by like you’ve, come to a t-intersection in the dungeon. You can go one way or another. If you look at for clues as to what’s in either direction, you realize that to the left there seemed to be clues, suggesting one type of monster or enemy, and so instead you go towards the right and the dungeon master goes and looks goes well.

You know I put that encounter. I was thinking it might be to the left or something like that, but they decided to go against it, the others I’m just going to move it, I’m just going to move that encounter right. The everyone knows that the bandits attack people that take the left fork in the road. The players take. The right fork in the road bandits attack them anyway, it’s at any time where, regardless of what the players say or do, regardless of the decisions they make and the choices that they that they they make or the past that they follow.

If the dungeon master goes, this thing is happening, no matter what that is an element of illusionism. Let me take a step and say there are some times when that technique is useful. I use it all the time in one shots, because you’ve got two to three hours to play, maybe a little bit more you’re trying to deliver a certain experience to to to make sure that the game is is whatever it is, particularly if you’re like doing a Focused one-shot or something like that right, you know, but you want a beginning, a middle and a beginning.

In a million you want a satisfying session of Dungeons and Dragons. Then you use different techniques here, but in regular play in a long-term campaign play overuse of illusionism and and for players like myself. Any whiff of it immediately takes me out, and I know I’m not the only one. I’ve talked to other players who are like this and other people who they do not like in the sense that when they make a decision in game, the dungeon master is just kind of humoring them and whatever the dungeon master wants is going to happen.

They’re just shuffling things behind they’re, just shuffling things behind the scenes moving around and counters, saying like oh, that NPC was always there. I understand the temptation to do this right. It’s sometimes difficult with a group of players who really keep you on your toes. It’s hard to stay one step ahead of them and so keeping things vague and loose and what’s there what’s not, can lead to these moments where you go like well, I’m just going to at the table.

Whatever the players come up with, I’m just going to immediately react to it. It’s going to be like a counter towards it, or this encounter that I’ve prepared it’s going to happen, no matter what we’re going to get to that, because that’s what I’ve prepared! That kind of illusionism that kind of forcing an encounter, it really does damage to the bonds of trust between player and game master if they find out, and if it’s not something that the party was like.

Okay with to begin with, you know well, there’s also a few other things that diems have been known to do and we’ve discussed them before and other shows it’s worth mentioning here again, but like fudging, yeah but dying young. Maybe it’s because you are so focused on the players getting to where they want to go you’re going to fudge just to help them along I’m young easy. Is that even okay, I don’t like that.

You know here’s the thing. Would you accept it from a player? Would you accept the player going like one man? I that’s thirteen looks like an 18 to me. I have to hit you know, I’m ready to hit right now, I’m just going to fudge this dice a little too good to get the outcome that I want. You wouldn’t accept it from players. We would call that cheating yeah with those kinds of players whether it’s like Oh fell on the floor fell on the crack of a book.

It’s a die whatever. It is whatever coded language they use to give themselves. Another role or ordinate get me the first hole that they had. We, you know we don’t like it as Dungeon Master’s when players do that. Well, why would we accept it from ourselves, even if you’re using a screen like let’s say, you’re using a screen, you want to keep your notes secret. You don’t roll on the open because you’re one of those DMS likes just roll random dice in order to make the players think a lot of things are going on legitimate technique, but guys the fake bro.

I don’t overuse it, but it is a legitimate thing. You’re, like you’re gaslighting, the PC anyway, the fudge, the altering of dice, is one of those things where. Why are you rolling in the first place, if you feel the need to fudge, but to me, there’s something else going on that leads you to believe. Like the outcome that I just got with this die, roll was unwanted. Then why did you roll the die in the first place? Yeah, and if it’s something like I don’t want to kill the players right now.

If the dice are just been going against them all night and and what should have been a standard just like walk in the park, combat has got them on the ropes and and you’re running the risk of like a TPK or something like that. Even in those situations, it’s tough for me to say, like oh yeah, you should like pull your punches there and like not have them. You know, be mercilessly slaughtered first off if you’re playing a modern, mainstream RPG, the likelihood of that happening is very low right.

You really got to like go after like really deadly hard combats in a row or some kind of monster. That’s going to like drop a bunch of AoE damage on you or something to like get to that point. So taking that thought and like flipping it. What about altering an encounter like once your PCs roll up in a room? And you get your thought? Oh, this is going to be badass in one round. They just bucket of steamroller for all them in one round and then there’s like a unplanned wave.

That comes in that’s another thing that I’m just not a fan of a style of gaming. That kind of like we’re going to adapt and and and change this scene. You know change the encounter in the middle of the scene or something like that. It’s one of those tools where it’s like there’s nothing necessarily wrong with it. I have really never seen it used in a way that makes the game more fun. Like I, you know, there’s a lot of times when the players like just like waste and encounter yeah right just like utterly waste yeah.

Well, they just hit the perfect, spells and attack excite order and just take a freaking enemy down and to me it’s like well sometimes like that. Just feels good, sometimes yeah, hey, we did it right, yeah. You know yeah, and I think it’s one of those things where, if that’s what’s happened, if you know first of it’s a one-off thing, give it to your party if it keeps happening, and you sense that your players are getting bored because you know the encounters that You’re, throwing at them are not engaging and not not fun or not whatever.

It is that you, the players, want out of any counter. That’s a behind-the-scenes thing, it’s time to up your game in terms of like making sure the encounter is challenging for the party. If that’s what they’re, looking for and including like very dinna me types and looking at the tactics that they use and and and altering your own, the way you play the the monsters themselves, those are things to get you a better encounter, but the the occasional like Man, the party really just curb-stomp these these enemies, that’s perfectly fine and in those situations like fudging the dice so that it’s a more challenging encounter first up, I there’s someone will know that one of the players particularly have veteran players or something like that.

They’ll know all right this place that we’ve said it many times. Please don’t fudge dice. We like rolling in the open. We like letting the dice fall where they may, because they tell their own story when it comes to campaigns. Adventures for the DM here. Yeah, PC driven campaigns right can that coincide with what has become kind of the bog standard of fantasy RPG, which is like Avengers type world-saving like the big, the big dam quest, the big dam question yeah.

Does that work like I? I think it can, but it is difficult and there are countervailing factors that that that push dm’s into into what I see as bad practices, a lot of, but not all of them, of the like Wizards of the coast modules that they put out for themselves. Follow this model, you don’t have to play them this way. You can chop them up and use them a lot of different ways, but if you run them kind of, as is, there is a a big threat that requires the party to be higher level to deal with right somewhere north of 10th to 15th level.

From the beginning, the party is going to be dealing with enemies related to this threat and working their way up a food chain and there’s usually a sense of just like the players are the only ones dealing with this world shaking reality altering campaign, changing kind of Threat, there’s a lot of reasons why I’m not fond of that model, but mostly it’s ones where an implication of a narrative structure to the kind of the Grand Campaign sort of a rising action.

The climax of falling action and all those sorts of narrative beats that you know are the hallmark of really good fiction, and – and you know you might might make for a really good story to just like read or even just kind of talk about. They don’t necessarily mesh well with the random nature of RPGs, where you’re kind of here, at least I’m kind of here and – and I think one of the strengths of RPGs – is being surprised that those emergent elements of play that you can’t account for that.

You don’t know, what’s going to happen, you’re you yourself as a dungeon master, will be surprised, but if you’re running this campaign, that requires, like all the players, are on board they’re all unified in this goal. To like stop the big, bad and save the world, and if one of them dies then that’s that can put a hiccup in in the campaign if all of them die that can you know bring the campaign to a complete halt.

If you know, none of them want to do something like that, they all want to pursue other things. They want to go off here and do some downtime activities and they want to do side quests. I think this is like the most common one where it’s like. There’s a sense of urgency to the campaign the soul monger is killing, is killing everyone. Who’s ever been resurrected, the Tia mots going to return or the demon princes or out of the abyss and and attacking everything like.

We must do something now and that doesn’t leave a lot of room for the madcap zany adventures that I find almost all of my like favorite role, playing and Dungeons and Dragons stories are a lot there are comes from just like. We were just messing around and this happened and they opened a portal before we had to clean up this mess, or we were just like we’re poking around this dungeon and found this thing and yeah.

So many things that happen just by happenstance and randomness and chance and dumb luck and and and the weird alchemy that is, you, know, playing the game and letting things emerge from it. That’s going to alter it and something to support that argument. The knocks against the Marvel movie universe and how you can’t have any kind of personal like like Jane, never shows up for Thor and everything he’s too busy saving the world all the time you can’t fit in, like all that, you know personal backstory right right exactly Unless you’ve got a party, that’s like all of them have created backstories that tie into the grand campaign, and you know, you’ve been doing a lot of behind-the-scenes metagame work before the campaign starts to like make sure it merges and meshes that’s a situation where you can, But if you’ve just got like some players, who made some characters and they’re just kind of there to play – and they want a meander and Wonder and do all these things and you keep probably pushing them along for the Grand Campaign – you’re fudging roles, you’re altering encounters, On-The-Fly, you start negating player decisions yeah, and this is one of those things that once a player decides to do something in the dungeon master decides.

I don’t like that. That’s not going to happen and they don’t take a moment to just say: hey player, what you’re doing right now. Is it really it I’m having trouble making it work for my campaign? Can we talk about it if they try to like subtly alter the course of the game, some of the most epic meltdowns at a table? That’s it have resulted from that kind of like attempting to manage the players yeah right.

Well, I mean you’re you’re subverting the player agency in the game. Therefore, there’s no reason for the player to be there to be there right exactly and and if it’s just like running through the dungeon master story, it’s not it’s not a fun engaging way to play. There is a place for dungeon master creativity. There is a place for the dungeon master to interject their own opinions, their own ideas into it.

This is not about completely ceding the field to the players, and you are just the mere passive you know entity at the table. It is about making sure everyone gets a chance to collaborate, and everyone has a chance to have their portion of the narrative that’s being created at the table through play as an element of that, and not just like. Oh, it’s, the dungeon master and the players are left to kind of scramble for some way to connect to the setting and world and then find relevance and meaning in it.

It’s the dungeon master, going like here’s a par baked setting. Let’s get your characters in the mix, finish it off and play we’re going to hit the ground running and some of the most amazing gaming I’ve had has come from this style of game of player. Centered effing, a man deafening I’m like well, and what I love about the sword now is they have enough albums that now I could just keep listening to them and not get tired of them.

Yeah yeah because I’ve even gone back and listening to listen to high country again, and it’s still, my least favorite, but there’s still a lot of fun songs on there like I get what they’re trying to do, they want to do a more mellow, chill rock album And they have every right to do that, yeah lad that they did know. I begrudge artists at all who want to do something different now that it’s like you know, squeeze every amounts of imagination out of your brain and put it up on a article.

It’s just like I’m going to do whatever is exciting. For me, you guys can go deal with it. Yeah there’ll be a article there’ll be another. Album yeah there’ll be another article, another album so yeah yeah, but goddamn use future. So good yeah we were listening to apocryphon while

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