Sep 20, 2018

6 Things Waterdeep: Dragon Heist Does For New Dungeon Masters

Wizards of the Coast recently released Waterdeep: Dragon Heist into the wild and it is a unique take on their usual two hundred fifty plus hardback adventures. Instead of starting at level five and going to fifteen or past, this adventure is purely tier one, levels one to four (five by the end). Wizards had Kobold Press do something similar in the beginning of fifth edition with Hoard of the Dragon Queen and Rise of Tiamat, but this is the first hardback that focuses on such low levels and newer dungeon masters. Wizards has a habit of writing adventures for people who have played Dungeons and Dragons before, leaving a lot of advice, technique and common issues left out. Waterdeep: Dragon Heist does a good job of putting options and comments in the text that encourage good gaming habits.

1) Useable Maps

Although a printed Mike Schley map looks great on the table, a drawn map is more common occurrence at the tables I’ve played at. Instead of the usual (albeit beautiful) Schley painted maps we have more generic Dyson Logos maps. Dyson has a simplistic, gameable style that translates well on to battle maps that most of us use for our games. Also, these maps are smaller and lend themselves to be used over and over; in fact the book leads the new dungeon master to this conclusion.

2) Replayability

There are often things written in adventures directed to entertain the dungeon master while reading that the players will never see. This book takes that a step further and gives you four ten step paths reusing the same ten maps as different locations each time. Again, this promotes good dungeon master habits (reuse, repurpose, and steal) in new dungeon masters and keeps the dungeon master entertained on subsequent playthroughs of the hardback. Getting your fifty dollars out of a product has never been this fun. A dungeon master can run this for the same group and only the first two chapter are the same, and even those will likely play out different as the second is very free form and weather effects will wreak havoc on the players’ plans.

3) Leads Dungeon Masters In the Right Direction When Things Go Wrong

It’s said that no plan survives contact with the enemy, this is true in dungeons and dragons as well. When four minds go up against one, those four players will always think of things the dungeon master has forgotten. For example, when a non player character is mentioned they let the dungeon master know that if that NPC is dead or otherwise removed from play they can just be substituted with a generic version of them. There are also many mentions of how to handle the situation when those players go sideways or get stuck in the story.

4)Sandbox Done Right

Starting at around level two, the players are given the option to do what they want. New, and even seasoned players, can get analyzation paralyzation when faced with more than three choices. When the dungeon master looks at you and says, “what do you want to do,” a player will likely freeze up. In the sandbox chapter of Waterdeep: Dragon Heist, they don’t just dump you into a list of locations hundreds of miles apart (looking at you Storm King’s Thunder), but give you ideas of what the players can do and things that can happen during this time.
5) Using Non Standard Rules

Waterdeep: Dragon Heist could have stuck to the core rules and not made any changes to them,but instead Wizards again chooses to lead a new dungeon master into a good routine by suggesting that some things may not work the normal way. Using variant rules like “Skills with Different Abilities,” taking disadvantage to give another player advantage, or the addition of constant weather effects during each season, Wizards supports a new dungeon master to look beyond the rules for options as they come up.

6) Obvious Money Sinks

In Dungeons & Dragons hardback adventures there is always an incredible influx of cash. Waterdeep: Dragon Heist expands upon some of the rules in the Dungeon Masters Guide for spending gold. Running a business is covered in the Dungeon Masters Guide, but setting one up isn’t. Waterdeep: Dragon Heist not only lets the dungeon master know how much gold is needed to repair and run the business, but who players will need to talk to and what happens if players eschew the guilds.There are prices for some scrolls as well if the players wish to purchase them, I don’t remember seeing these anywhere else and will use them as a base when pricing scrolls in the future.
In the Dungeons and Dragons official material there is a lack of advice for someone just starting to run games. As far as direct advice, there still is, but if you take a look at the habits Wizards is trying to develop in Waterdeep: Dragon Heist there is some great insights. While I’d rather see a section of advice, this is heading in a good direction. In fact, I think Wizards of the Coast finally out did the Starter Set adventure (Lost Mine of Phandelver) in ease of entry for a new gaming group. This would be might new recommendation for a dungeon master just starting if the money to spent on Waterdeep: Dragon Heist, Monster Manual, and dice weren’t so high.

Sep 3, 2018

All creatures great and small

KuSo I posted a picture of the new Creature Codex from Kobold Press to my D&D groups Facebook and said, "Boy are you f*cked."

Man I love this book. I just finished demons and already have encounters germinating in my head. I even have some that could spring into multi session adventures! My thoughts so far:

There is a good spread of creatures with amazing nuggets of flavor. I've caught myself thinking this is to high or to low for a sprouting idea in my head, only to see the CR is opposite what I would have thought. So far the CR does not effect the depth of background at all.

Did I mention variety? As the second Kobold Press (5th if you count the WoTC three) monster tome there could have been a lot of variation on the same sets of monsters, sure there's enough new clockwork, derro and other staples to add to your collection, but the vastness of the content in between is varied and mostly unique.

So what dont I like? KP has to steer clear of WoTC IP, no beholders, going and other property of Wizards, so they see the need to fill that gap with stuff of their own. This is a problem with the Kobolds supporting their own setting, Midgard. They can't say going live here and use kuo-toa there, they need to make up creatures for that gap (cueytal and deep ones respectively).

That the short and sweet first look. I only got the pdf, so I didn't really do a flip through, just started reading from the beginning. Let me know what you think!

Aug 28, 2018

OneNote dump from my current podcast

Podcast located here.

GMbinder here.

Inspiration:

Ways to use your inspiration:

  • reroll (not advantage, just reroll) any roll (even mine!)
  • add a flat 5 to the roll
  • take an extra action
  • Auto Stablize
  • "If only..." (I had a 1 more spell slot, bought this, grabbed that, etc
  • Spend for 50 xp (10xlevel?)
  • You can use it to have retroactively planned or done something _plausible_ offscreen (brought a specific tool, told someone something, etc) but you have to act it out.
  • You can use it to introduce a plot connection with a character that's plausible. ("Wait, is that guard Murray the Guard? We went to school together.")
  • Regain one  short rest ability


Gaining inspiration:

  • RP a flaw
  • doing nothing during downtime (not investigate, work, or train)
  • They gain inspiration if they press through multiple encounters without a long rest (after 2).
  • Reminding me of something not in their favor, like that I haven't used the boss's Lair Action this turn.

Travel:


Days travel adds to DC
Region adds to DC
Easy
 City
Moderate
 Borderlands
Hard
Wildlands

8 successes/ 3 failures
Each failure means roll on the table

d12

1
1 per level worth of abilities (2nd level 2 spells/abilities)
2
+1 Exhaustion
3-4
Encounter (2nd or third means harder encounter)
5
Lose level/2 hit dice
6-8
Lose 2*PCs pieces of equipment (bolts/arrows etc count as sold)
9-11
Lost add 1 day per level
12
Lose 1 from attribute used until long rest

Aug 25, 2018

Palthar's Sundry Review

I grabbed Palthar's Sundry, a free adventure, from Troll Lord Games last week and found the perfect spot to drop into my current campaign. The map is a small 12 room Dyson, filled with some staple encounters.

I had given the players a treasure map already and planned on adding a coin, the second piece of the intro to the adventure, but my players jumped on the map this week! Palthar's Sundry is an out of the way retreat for a former adventuring party that died in the field. Some driders had taken over and looted the place and made it a cozy home for some spiders.

There's a painful trap on the stairs that repeats if the players don't watch out, but clever players will take it as a reward. The fights are straight forward and players are rewarded for being stealthy. The last fight is against 2 driders, which my 4 player, 3rd level party was not ready for. Running was the plan, but a few wanted the cash they assumed was hiding after the driders. After a good 40 minutes of intense discussion, they devised a plan. Cleverly, they used the environment to their advantage and cut the rope bridge spanning the 2 sides of the complex.

Palathar's Sundry is a good little dungeon to drop into your campaign when you need a small adventure for your party to stumble into or as part of your plot.


https://www.trolllord.com/tlgstore/#!/Palthars-Sundry/p/113460050

Mar 15, 2018

Play This Character: Grave Cleric

The problem with being a DM is that I don't get to play characters too often. I get a lot of concepts floating around in my head that never get used, I don't want some sugar-coated DMPC tromping all over the fun of my players, so I thought I'd write this one out.

My cleric was convicted of a crime, before the became devout, and sentenced to a life in the Monastery of the Death God. She started with the grim, reclaiming bodies from war, plague or nature, burial duties and general clean up duties around the morgue. They soon realized that not only did she have the stomach for such repulsive work, but she was beginning to embrace it. She was promoted to work with those living near death, hospice shifts and taking care of the dying outside of the monastery. After years of increasingly reliable actions, learning rites and rituals, becoming more devout, her belief in her god solidified. All these thing led up to her training to become a monastic representative, a cleric of the god of death.

Race

A lot of races work well with this idea in mind, numerically only a few give points to wisdom, Aarakocra, Protector Aasimar, Hill Dwarf, Wood Elf, Firbolg(+2), Water Genasi, and Half Elf or Human. Unofficially there are Zendikar Elves (+2, Planeshift: Zendikar) Pacifier Bearfolk, Centaur, Gearforged, Savage Gnolls and Nightwhisper Trollkin (All from Midgard Heroe's Handbook)

I tend to like Aasimar and Half Elves, but again, +1 wisdom is not all that much depending on your stats and how you get them. I'm going to appeal to as many people as I can  and stick with PHB+1, so we'll go with something out of my comfort zone, Hill Dwarf. I'll choose mason tools, maybe she was a white collar criminal forging carvings.

Attributes

Using point buy, Strength 12 for a bit of melee, 14 Dexterity max bonus with medium armor, 14 Constitution (+2) for HP and concentration checks, Intelligence 8 dump, Wisdom 15 (+1) main stat, and Charisma 8 dump. Again these are going to be different if you don't want to min/max; but why not be the best?

Class

We'll be using the Grave Domain from Xanathar's Guide to Everything. We get 2 proficiencies, I'll pick Insight and Medicine both wisdom. 

Description

Acolyte background gets us Religion, and I'll choose Survival to help me live in between adventures. Two languages useful to your campaign. I'll take Giant and Celestial from my studies. TraitsI’ve spent so long in the temple that I have little practical experience dealing with people in the outside world. and I see omens in every event and action. The gods try to speak to us, we just need to listen. Ideals: Tradition. The ancient traditions of worship and sacrifice must be preserved and upheld. (Lawful) I can relate this to my Giant language and studies. Bonds: I owe my life to the priest who took me in when my parents died. I'll change priest to temple and dead parents into incarceration. I owe my life to the temple that took me in when I was incarcerated. Flaws: I put too much trust in those who wield power within my temple’s hierarchy.


Alignment: Lawful Neutral, lifestyle: Poor.

Equiptment

Warhammer is better than mace, scale for armor, a light crossbow is better to use because of our dexterity, a priest pack, and a shield and an amulet for my holy symbol. Acolyte gives us some more choices, I'll take a reliquary and prayer wheel to keep in it. I like to have some standard adventuring gear, ball bearings, pitons, rope, 10 ft pole and grappling hook totaling 4g 1s.

Spells

Since we're in XGtE, we'll take Toll of the Dead, but chill touch is another great thematic choice for damage. Thaumaturgy is a must as is Mending (now we can cut up that 10' pole into manageable parts!) Guidance and light are also some go to cantrips. Cure wounds Healing Word, and Bless are staples of this class, in addition I will grab Protection from Good/Evil for the undead theme.

And there we have it, my take on the Grave Cleric.