Dec 6, 2018
Nov 28, 2018
This weeks Midgard: Zobeck recap. It was a short session, but we got some stuff done.
Cockatrice Nuggets - a D&D podcast, 35 - Midgard D&D recap - Sumnes and Camayd (Se1Ep14)
Nov 19, 2018
Stealth is an oft used skill at my table, the ability to sneak past or up to your enemy is a nice option to have. W:DH gives two additional options in the case your sneak-thieves need a little help. Take disadvantage on stealth to give someone else advantage, I really like this as it moves the math around and someone with a high stealth can be seen to pad load armor or cast stones off in a different direction to distract the perceiver's attention from the character being aided. A second little tweak gave advantage to those trying to sneak through a carpeted house. From this we can see the developers (of this adventure, at least) intended to have advantage handed out regularly.
Stealth wasn't the only check that got some options, gambling players (Three Dragon Ante) get to roll Intelligence (Gaming Set) to win a game. I never came up with this myself, using sleight of hand instead, but now I will have this to fall back on. I think if I use it I will restrict it to cards/dice/board games depending on the gaming set chosen by the player. There is a combination safe hidden somewhere in Waterdeep and if you want to try to open it you need to make a Dexterity (investigation) roll. I would have went for Intelligence (Thieves' Tools), but the designer's choice fits better (and there is no stethoscope in Thieves' Tools). Combat got a little love, with the first ever strength based longbow appearing. It acts like a normal longbow but is larger and its damage is 2d6 plus strength modifier, bumping up average damage by 2.5!
Instead of making non-player characters entirely new stat blocks, the writers just directed you to currently published stat blocks and added racial abilities to them. This is something that third party publishers (like Kobold Press in Tome of Beasts) have used before, but to my knowledge, this is it's first appearance in fifth edition. This makes good use of the NPC Features table in the Dungeon Master's Guide. Speaking of tables, the awesome Rooftop Chase Complications table has some good ideas for things to throw at players in cinematic rooftop chases.
Some of the more interesting things I found are more niche uses. There is a slime covered floor that causes problems (difficult terrain) for creatures without the slippery trait. A fresco that charms you in to hanging around and protecting it. More information on running a business is great to have. Faction quests, Scroll prices, and weather effects round out this list of may be useful in your campaign things.
Only a few things stuck out as bad in my eyes. Advice on ending chases mostly came to "or when you want the chase to end," which is to say they aren't relevant and are just exposition. In my eyes that's stuff that should just be explained; giving a player no chance of changing the outcome is a bad presedent to set. Also making a map with ten foot squares is another odd choice of the developers. Fifth edition dungeons and dragons uses a five foot square grid for miniature play and all the maps in it's products should support that. The only other thing bad I can say about W:DH is that they use pages to reprint monsters who aren't in the monster manual. I get the idea behind this, but it feels like a waste to have multiple sources with the same monster.
All in all, if you like official adventures this is another step forward for wizards of the Coast. I like that the adventure makes me reconcider some of the ways to use rules by giving new examples. I really like the modularity of the book and will reuse a lot of the material in here for my homebrew campaign even though I am not planning on running it yet. You can buy Waterdeep: Dragon Heist at your friendly local game store or on Amazon (affiliate link).
Nov 9, 2018
This is a slightly updated version of the one that appears in my Nuggets #1 zine.
Ogre hunting (d4+4 on this table) or traveling home with his kill at night.
1d4 clerics (from 16) performing a blood rite
Clerics (from 16) foraging for food
2d4 Wolves; aggressive at night
2d4 elk (day) or two giant owls (night)
Swarm of ravens (day) or swarm of bats (night)
2d4 giant goats
A hobgoblin and d4 goblins
Oct 28, 2018
|Disc bound books|
Oct 16, 2018
Six Tools For Sandbox Dungeon Masters
Running a sandbox game isn't for the light hearted, organization is prime and being ready to respond to player actions is a close second. If you are properly prepared, a sandbox is an easy way to run a game. There are books, blogs, and podcasts by the dozens talking about different methods of pregame preparation. All have their own method; preparation is something that everyone does differently, just like dungeon mastering. So which one is for you? I can't say, but I can give you insight into the tools I use. Aside from good pens, a mechanical pencil, and a bunch of dice what do you need to prepare for a sandbox game? I'll tell you what I use and why.
1) Red Tide And An Echo Resounding
These two books by Kevin Crawford revolutionized my preparation style. They have advice on your GM binder and what to keep in it, an easy system for randomly determining and populating an area with cities, towns, ruins, and lairs and maps to steal. An Echo Resounding sets up domains and factions, details domain turns, and mass combat, should things get ugly. Both are short and easy to read and come with detailed examples to help you work through it the first time. I've adapted them to my style and use them for most of my randomly determined areas, and sometimes for pre-populated ones too. These two well worn and sticky-tabbed books are easily in the top three most used in my library. What's the top one?
2) Dungeon Masters Guide
I prefer the first edition dungeon masters guide, but the fifth edition is no slouch! Both cover things beyond the rules of their respective edition, talking about time, non-player characters, and adventure locales just to name a few topics. The random tables in each cover personalities, traits, motives, and best of all random dungeons. If I'm drawing out a dungeon for a game, making non-player characters, or creating an encounter, one of these is what I reach for. Seeing a theme yet?
3) Random Tables
Random tables help you get away from same thinking. Anytime I need a question answered in my preparation I turn to a random table to break out of similar ideas. Similar ideas can be great in the beginning, even enforce a theme, but after a few sessions they start to seem stale. Random tables mix it up creating wild combinations that you need to make sense of; things I couldn't have come up with on my own. The books on my table lately have been The Dungeon Dozen, d30 sandbox and Tome of Adventure Design. The latter being my most used book in the last six sessions I prepared.
4) A Good Monster Book
Monsters are the base of encounters in Dungeons and Dragons. Whether you are making random tables or static encounters, you are going to need a lot more enemies than the ones in the back of the Players Handbook. Sometimes just flipping through a book will inspire an encounter or maybe even a whole adventure. That's the way the fifth edition Monster Manual is written, according to Mike Mearls. If you haven't read the Monster Manual, take the time, as it's well worth it. After exhausting that, pick up Tome of Beasts, Tome of Horrors, or use the fifth edition Dungeon Masters Guide and make some of your own!
5) Tablet, Laptop, Or PC
I like to run digital. Most of my collection is in PDFs, I make maps and graph paper, and keep all my notes online. At my game I run with my laptop, dndbeyond.com, and Nitro PDF reader. I even have a tv set up for maps, pictures of monsters, and rules to show the players. At home I like to prepare on my PC; there are four basic programs I use. A digital art program for maps, handouts, and paper minis. Photoshop is what I use, but GIMP, painter or whatever you have will work too. With online notes syncing across all devices, I can prepare wherever on whatever is handy (I do a lot of work on my phone). I use OneNote as my GM binder and have a lot of worksheets and forms set up to help me with the common things like settlements and adventures. OneNote works for me, but Evernote and Google Drive, or offline applications like Scrivener and Campaign Logger are also options. A PDF reader for all my PDFs, Nitro, Foxit, or Acrobat all work fine. The last one is a web browser. I get a lot of encounters, maps, paper minis, and ideas from the internet. Places like ENWorld, reddit, and Discord are some of my go-to communities. Remember great dungeon masters steal ideas! Just don't publish stolen material.
Yes, as digital as I like to be, plain old paper is a staple for my game preparation. If only for scribbling notes or sketching an encounter, I always seem to find a need for paper. I have a disc bound notebook to jot stuff down quickly or take notes during an encounter. I use this notebook for when I'm stuck, somehow staring at a blank sheet of paper gets my creative juices flowing. A doodle here, a number there, a list of names, and I'm off to the races, heading toward OneNote with ideas in hand ready to develop into a solid encounter.
Preparing for a game is a path all dungeon masters have to trudge down, but it doesn't have to be such a chore. We're dungeon masters partially because we love to create and sometimes we need some help with that creation. Having the right tools can make that session preparation a whole lot more fun and easy. I hope I’ve introduced you to some that fit into your preparation style.
Richard Fraser has been roleplaying since the early days of Dungeons and Dragons and started with the red box in the eighties. He currently prefers to DM fifth edition D&D, though reads a lot of OSR and PbtA. He currently has podcast, Cockatrice Nuggets and maintains this blog
Oct 9, 2018
|I love A5 or digest sized books|
Zak Smith's latest release Frostbitten and Mutilated (March 2018) is about a cold, harsh land and the amazons that inhabit it. The players enter for whatever reason (probably making money in the untamed north) and begin a cycle of events that could end the world. By default the attempt fails, but more on that later, for now lets start at the beginning.
I really OSR/DIY D&D book for their A5 (digest sized) books and the general quiality of binding and paper choice. The next thing I notice in almost any book is the art, Zak had previewed a lot of this on his blog but seeing it in print is another thing. I really like black and white art (because I'm color blind) and Zak brings so much depth to his pieces. By far, my favorite is a frost giant reaching down to grab the viewer. All of the pieces have the potential to enthrall me for hours and distract me from the text within.
|Frost Giant of the Hatemountain|
The book starts out with a bit of advice from Zak about playing the environment. See, the rough landscape and inhospitable cold are not merely that, it are the ultimate foe of the party, the lands seeks to destroy those who interlope, crush the weak, and basically wreak all of humanity that it can. Those who can survive here are changed by the icy cold. Amazons born on the ice, witches with strange ways and new magic, and animals smarter than we. The animals are an interesting bit that make the land feel different from the usual dark fantasy. Opinionated goats, envious rats that seek to take all the humans build and wolves who don't stop until they get one of you. The animals here are truly unique to this land and have a voice of their own, if you can speak with animals.
The arrival of the party (re)starts a Groundhog's Day like cycle of failure to summon the demon Belphagor the Beast, trapping them until they deal with the powers that are trying to summon it or they succeed and end the world. Its a unique spin on an adventure that I have tossed around in my head a few times. The staging is sound and the reasons make sense, if I do run this, I will make sure the party goes through at least one cycle and restarts. There are two dungeons in the book, one plot related and the other one I'd like to drop into my current world. They both breathe the atmosphere of the setting and expand upon it to the players. Giving the players some knowledge of the setting is one of the harder jobs of the Dungeon Master and having a bit of help is a good thing.
After 100 pages of mostly setting and exposition come the crunch, the first of which is two new classes. The Amazon and the Witch. Both of these take a base OSR class (fighter and mage, respectively) and add a random roll to level ups instead of traditional gains from attaining new levels; like the Alice class in A Red and Pleasant Land. These are some great thing like a plus to an ability, weapon making, damage resistance, souring milk with a glance, bathing or eating requirements, modifications to spells and so many more differentiating abilities to make each character unique. These thing are going to make their way into my current campaign as boons and curses. This section of the book rounds out with substances, survival and some really good (like I'm going to use it RIGHT NOW) advice for running a wilderness sandbox.
The last bit is random tables. Adventure elements for making innocuous connections into adventures, random locations for adding to the map, Amazon divination results and tables to make new amazon tribes, twenty drastic measures to rid yourself of a curse, non-player confrontations for figuring out why these two groups are hanging out, mutations, two treasure tables; the regular 'I search the body," and "If you look closely," descriptive combat injuries for spicing up combat, random encounters and rival NPC parties for quick determination of who the party stumbled upon. Again most of these are going right into my current campaign in some form or other. I really dig random tables and the quality of these goes beyond the regular to the outlandish and sometimes gonzo that I've come to expect from OSR/DIY D&D.
Overall another success for Zak Smith, I can hardly say a bad word about it, but if I did I would say that Zak's writing is a bit above my grade level and I need a dictionary to read it. Also this is a hard thing to just drop into a regular 'vanilla' fantasy game. If you've already established a base line for regular orcs and goblins, then you may have a difficult time getting buy in from the players. Even though I will probably not play this through as a campaign, I will definitely cherry pick
Oct 3, 2018
|1st edition DMG|
|Random sample dungeon hex|
|Too many stairs|
Sep 20, 2018
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.
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.
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.
Sep 3, 2018
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!