I’ve created a new D&D adventure, now available on DM Guild. The Trials of Sir Surlamund is a journey into the mind of a renowned paladin to try and bring him back from the brink of death.
The Inspiration of Chance and Improvisation – Word Play
I’m starting a series where I generate Roleplay ideas based on random words. Let’s see what words I get to play with today:
A tactic used by a Gillatora; a long, spikey creature with 2 tentacles and a powerful beak. It deliberately weakens its enemies by stunning them with its beak before grappling them and dragging them along the ground where rocks and other debris can cause further damage. If the ground is smooth, it can also drag their victims along its spike-covered back.
All societies have their own system of justice, on which they promote fairness and deter selfish, harmful actions. In one particular society, the judge and the cook is one in the same. Those who are found to be corrupt and selfish are prepared a complex and tasty food dish. They then must replicate the meal and dedicate several hours and days (depending on the severity of the crime) to perfecting it. If they are able to consistently impress the judge (often the same person who served them the original dish) then they are allowed to dedicate time to improve the dish. This is not only a good way to improve recipes but a way of focussing the mind of the criminal. This new dish becomes the ex-criminal’s new speciality dish. One day, they too might become a judge-cook for other wayward citizens.
Basic Desperate Relationship
In a dystopian future, relationships are seen as essential. Everyone must buddy up as single individuals have been found to be most likely to resort to terrorism and episodes of violence in this dark future. Where the relationship has started to breakdown, there is a certain amount of help provided to by the state. The relationship states are as follows:
Blissfully Operating (BO) Essential Functioning (EF) Basic Working Relationship (BWR) ….. Basic Desperate Relationship (BDR) Advanced Desperate Relationship (ADR) Failing Relationship (FR) Deadly Relationship (DR)
Those below the dotted line are considered a risk and a potential burden on society. A BDR is usually because one partner raises complaints or their working efficiency is down below acceptable standards. BDR provides credit to attend talks on relationship issues and attending a check-in (compulsory attendance by both partners to agree on ways to improve their relationship) once a week.
Advanced (ADR) includes counselling sessions and even starts with credit for a short holiday for first time offenders. Failing and Deadly are a concern to the society at large. Those caught before they do anything fatal result either in divorce of partners or a clean slate (memory wipe).
Dice roll tables and rolleable options can make up a great deal of the choices in Roleplaying sessions. The results of a sea voyage, chance encounters on the road to the next town, loot found in the room of a dungeon. The random element keeps things exciting. For a Games or Dungeon Master it can mean the plotline changes or lengthens, but so long as they are comfortable with that, then great.
Another crucial part of roleplay is the interactive story-telling. If you take part in a roleplay you are actively improvising. Worldly examples include the TV show Whose Line Is It Anyway and Robin Williams when he was creating characters like the Genie from Disney’s Aladdin.
I am lucky enough to take part in an improvisation session every fortnight. This is good for my vocal performance work but also complements roleplaying perfectly. The sessions with Rag and Bone Arts are such fun and so good at keeping you on your toes. Not only that, but they teach collaboration. If you are not working together then the story will go nowhere or one person will dominate and the story will suffer. In one scenario you might be a shop owner only speaking in questions, the next a gang of ex-pop stars in a dystopian future under an authoritarian regime. Maybe you are trying to sell beer dregs and cat hair marketing it as the new trendy drink or perhaps you find yourself as Juliet in a modern retelling of the classic tale. Yes, we played all these scenarios out and many more!
Roleplaying is about interactive storytelling and it includes all the above ingredients.
A lot is made of level-appropriate material. In D&D combat, this term is referred to as CR (Challenge Rating). A level 4 party will be roasted alive by an ancient dragon, but will also make meaty fries out of a similarly-sized party of goblins. To avoid Total Party Kill (TPK) or Total Party Boredom, the GM/DM has plenty of options…
Find a suitable opponent
The Critical Rating is made for this. For example, a few Manticore will provide a good battle for five level 4 adventurers.
Add more fodder until they are dangerous
A band of goblins are easy to kill off, but not so easy when they can attack 3 times more than the players can.
Weaker opponents on a flat field or dungeon floor will be easy. But what if they are ambushing the party and get surprise attacks? Perhaps they have the high ground and ranged weapons or you are on uneven terrain that only your opponent can move across easily. Increase the odds against the players even further by having them stealth so as not to wake even more opponents or you could have traps in place in case they charge in unprepared.
If the monsters are too weak, why not give them an extra arm, a magical weapon or poisoned arrows to increase their abilities. If the monsters are too powerful, then make them aged, young or mentally addled in some way, giving them disadvantages on their rolls. Want the creature to have a special move not in the rulebooks? Go for it! If it makes the combat interesting, then why not!
This option is fun, if played right. Create creatures with only a few stats and hit points firmly decided, and be flexible with the rest, such as their moves and attacks. This option is a way of keeping the players on their toes and making combat challenging. However, this option can backfire is done too often; especially if it appears to directly counteract the player’s moves (e.g. “aha, it is actually immune to damage by your fireball and your ranged weapons!”). The important thing is to have an idea of what this creature is capable of and then improvising how it might react in a fight.
As always, the most important thing is for the players to have fun. So long as the combat element of the game is varied then they will have plenty to sink their sword or arrows into.
How Characters Cast Spells
In Part I, I discussed the types of spellcasters and how they interacted with magic in the fantasy realm. It’s time to look at the mechanics of spellcasting. How does it work in practice?
Here are the basics…
- Prepared spells: Some spellcasters need to prepare spell for the day from a greater resource they have access to.
- Known spells: Some spellcasters learn spells until they know them, meaning they do not need to prepare them in advance.
- Spell Slots: Most spellcasters have Spell Slots (Monks are the exception), which represent their capacity to cast spells before their magic is used up and they need to replenish their energy.
- Spell Modifier: All spellcasters use a modifier to work out how effective their spells are. This affects their Spell Attack rolls and rolls for the Spell’s Difficulty Class for opponents to try and match or get a higher result when they roll a saving throw.
Each character class or sub class is a little different, so let’s compare…
Bards don’t study magic, they take what they know and perform. For that reason, bards have known spells and a charisma modifier.
Clerics are conduits for divine power. They use Wisdom as a modifier. They can cast any cleric spell available up to their current spell level, but need to have them prepared. This is their Wisdom modifier + Cleric Level.
Druids draw on nature, as clerics draw on the divine. They use Wisdom as a modifier. They can cast any druid spell available up to their current spell level, but need to have them prepared. This is their Wisdom modifier + Druid Level.
Eldritch Knight is a subclass of the Fighter. Like Bards, they have known spells they learn as they improve and apply to their fighting style. They draw from the wizarding spells and their modifier is Intelligence.
Monks learn to use magical energy called Ki. They channel this energy in their martial art practices uses Ki Points. The subclass Way of the Four Elements can cast elemental spells using Ki points. Like Bards and Eldritch Knights, these become Known but are referred to as Elemental Disciplines and not spells. They use a Wisdom modifier to determine out how effective their spells are.
Paladins learn to draw on divine magic as clerics do. They use Charisma as a modifier. They can cast any cleric spell available up to their current spell level, but need to have them prepared. This is their Charisma modifier + half the Paladin’s Level.
Rangers learn to draw on nature as Druids do. But they behave far more like Bards and Eldritch Knights, applying what they have learned and using their Known Spell, learning more as they level up. They use a Wisdom modifier.
Arcane Trickster is a subclass of the Rogue. Like Bards and Rangers, they don’t study magic, they take what they learn and apply it. For that reason, these Rogues have known spells . They use an Intelligence modifier.
Sorcerers have no need to study as magic is in their veins. Very much like Bards, they perform what they know. Because of this, Sorcerers have known spells and a charisma modifier. They also have Sorcerer Points, which can be used to enhance their spells in some way.
Warlocks are peculiar because although they have spell slots, all of these slots are the same level as their current spell level. They can still cast lower level spells but they will be using a higher level spell slot to do it. They perform the gifts of their patron, so like Bards, they have known spells and a charisma modifier.
Wizards are the students of magic and draw from a spellbook to prepare spells (They should also use physical components as part of the spells’ preparations but not all roleplays apply this). Because of this their known spells are whatever spells are in their spellbook, so researching and finding spell scrolls can be exciting! They use the Intelligence modifier. The number of spells they can prepare is their Intelligence modifier + Wizard Level.
Why spells can give players a headache!
Magic is as integral to D&D as dragons and faeries. It allows for anything to be possible; from creatures with strange, otherworldly abilities, to travel between planes, to crazy spells such as being able to polymorph into a dinosaur! But, to paraphrase a well-known superhero movie, with great power comes a great deal of rules!
The 5th edition rules for D&D have tried to keep spellcasting (using magic to affect something) as simple as possible, but it still takes some getting used to. That’s what we’re here to do…
In this first article, I’ll look at the different types of spellcasters.
Your spellcasters come under the following types…
1) those who have a natural gift for magic 2) those who study it 3) Those who are blessed with magical powers for their beliefs 4) Those who pick it up as they go along
The sorcerer is the gifted magic user, who has through some cosmic reason or exotic lineage been chosen to carry such power.
Wizards are keen to master magic and require spell books to record what they have learned and to prepare their daily spells. Eldritch Knights also study magical techniques to enhance their fighting prowess. Monks learn to channel magical energy known as ki.
Clerics and Paladins draw on the divine magic of their deity. Warlocks gain powers in return for serving their patron (an otherworldly being). Barbarian Totem Warriors also gain gifts through their spirit animal. With nature as their muse, Druids and Rangers learn to use magic from their environment.
Gifted performers known as Bards learn tricks on the road as they perform and can weave magic with their music. The Rogue type, Arcane Tricksters also learn tricks which enhance their shadowy lifestyle.
That’s enough magic talk for now. If you want to discuss anything in particular, let me know. Next time, we get into the rules…
In a week when the Best Picture at the Oscars featured a fishy lead in The Shape of Water, here is a way to introduce a fishy feel to your D&D campaign. Set these NPCs loose on the story, for free:
These characters are part of a Sub-Aquatic Six Pack I have created. All six characters have been given character class levels and a rich backstory to bring them to life. If you’re interested in taking a look at the full version, it is available on the Dungeon Master’s Guild, for under $5.
If you are interested and do get a copy, please let me know what you think.
Two Fey Courts team up to investigate the Great Disturbance, which threatens to destroy the Fey Wilds. But will this fragile union last?
The party are searching for their Drow Warlock Hector, who skipped gleefully away with the fey. Their search takes them to the heart of Queen Lilliope’s court, where the wild things play!
They party escape from the clutches of a Lich and an army of hobgoblins, but are they truly better off in the magical forest beyond?