The concept for this module was simply to expand on a fascinating creature-type that has the potential to offer so much to a campaign. The 5E Monster Manual has only so much room but offers a few birds to give the DM enough flavour to expand on its hawk, owl, vulture or raven stat blocks. What I was wanted to do was add special skills to each bird and where appropriate give them ample hit points or opportunities to defend itself.
Beyond giving unique abilities to recognizable birds, I wanted to add magical abilities and increase their sizes and challenge ratings. For example I gave the incredibly distinctive bird called the Ruff its own humanoid race. Birds such as Flamingos, Hoatzin and Puffins also get their own magical sub-species. At the most epic end of the spectrum, there are ten legendary individual birds including Nivanda the Wandering Roc and Zephyr the Storm Serpent. All ten get legendary resistance as well as additional magical abilities and attacks.
Beyond their abilities and stat blocks, each bird has a preferred habitat type within the material plane such as cold climate, grasslands, wetlands and forest. They also have a rarity rating, ranging from common to very rare. Finally, they have a Companion Compatibility status. A tame bird can be bought from specialist shops, and a friendly bird is ready to befriend empathetic travels. However, ferocious birds take a lot of effort before they trust someone, and solitary creatures rarely accept a companion. The effort can be worthwhile if it works as each bird has a companion ability that is unlocked when they partner with a PC or NPC.
The module was a lot of fun to create and expands the possibilities of bird interaction within the game. From the Master Crow’s ability to detect traps to the Golden Phoenix Pheasant’s healing powers they can be valuable companions. The can also be formidable opponents, such as the lightning surge of Zephyr the Storm Serpent, and provide fun encounters (who can resent the rolling attack of the Rotund Duck?!).
Birds: Companions & Encounters is available from DMs Guild.
Total Party Kill is when the party of adventurers are defeated in a single event, be it combat, a trap or an unfortunate accident. For the players it can be humiliating and for the Dungeon Master, the story ends here. Of course a TPK has its place; the Player Characters are mortal after all, and there are some modules where everyone is expecting a blood bath going into it and will roll multiple characters before the end.
For most cases, however, the Players grow attached to their character and the DM wants to create the story around them. That’s why I decided to create a book that gives the DM an option – a literal last throw of the dice – to determine what happens to the party if they are faced with elimination. And of course, that dice had to be a d20.
The TPK categories I created are:
– Combat encounter
– Construct encounter (being a combination or combat and trap)
– Ensnared by a trap
– Punishment from a geas or through a deity’s decree
– Abrupt end, such as falling from a great height or a spell gone wrong
– Life drain, such as a disease or a cursed wound.
The twenty options apply to each of these categories and in many cases I created multiple options that can be rolled, meaning there is a huge variety of possibilities to play out. Will a party gain help from allies, a magic item, or will there be a malfunction or will opponent in-fighting give them the chance to escape? It’s been a lot of fun to create an provides a solution to the age-old problem, how to avoid a TPK.
TPK Last Resort is available from DMs Guild.
After creating the NPC Creator, I set myself a challenge. I enjoyed creating the product, but I wanted to see what NPCs might be created from it. I was intrigued to see what juicy combinations might arise.
The challenge was really useful in terms of tweaking the original NPC Creator, because I could see if there were any errors, but just as significantly, I could see if the stats boosts and options it created made sense.
The first things to change were the stat boosts. The mental stats (Intelligence, Wisdom and Charisma) were far more likely to come up compared to the physical stats (Strength, Dexterity and Constitution). Secondly some of the options in a table produced the same results (for example, boosting Intelligence by 3 and Wisdom by 2), making the description for the chosen word in the table meaningless. I was able to manage this as I created the NPCs.
The remaining changes were all minor, such as changing an ability’s range or strength, but because there were 100 NPCs to create, it took a long time. As part of the process, I made sure to balance the frequency that each creature came up, and to make sure that no creature type ever had two of the same character class.
I am extremely pleased with the outcome. The final flourish was using midjourney for the character art and including the eight animal companions. Now that the product is complete and released, I really hope the NPCs get to play out in the wild. The idea that Nevi could be a kick-ass companion, or a dangerous villain excites me. What will Grenla find in the woods when she goes looking for the flower in her dreams? Can Kourtan be trusted, or will he use the adventuring party?
There are so many NPCs to interact with, and so many plot hooks to explore. It has been a labor of love, and hopefully a lot of fun for groups out there!
The NPC Centesimo and the NPC Creator are both available on the DMs Guild website, in PDF format.
The concluding part of the Creator Series has been the most intensive of the lot. I’ve released the series as a trilogy, as I will be taking a D&D break to work on my other ideas. But there’s an NPC-related product in the works…
I love creating systems, combining my creativity with a methodical structuring of the material. Providing rollable tables, to me, is bliss. It challenges me to come up with plenty of options for the DM in an overall theming that makes sense.
For this module, I rolled up the results for 100 different NPCs, including their upgrades and possession (equipment). This was so useful, because I caught a lot of changes either for grammatical errors, or because the result didn’t work as I had originally intended. I also balanced the stat increases, which is big part of the NPC creation process.
I found that two new tools were a massive help in creating this module. The first was midjourney, which gave me so much scope in terms of creating experimental art at an affordable price. The second was Chat GPT. I used it to come up with category lists and character backstories based on my rolls for the characters’ personality and background. I always had to tweak it, but it gave me something to work from.
There’s lots to play with in the NPC module. New actions, character traits and backgrounds combine with classic character classes and creature builds. It becomes an extension of the existing DND experience and will hopefully give DMs another tool when creating their world.
The NPC Creator, and Creator Series Bundle are both available on the DMsGuild website, in PDF format.
In developing new ideas, I naturally create lists or tables so that I can roll for potential outcomes. Once I had my island palette ready to design new destinations, I had a moment where I realized that this may be a more useful tool for other DMs in its current state than a series of completed island locations.
And so, the Island Creator had begun to take shape. Whilst planning this out I expanded the idea to cities and how the same set of tables could help inform the type of ruler it had, the population and the types of magical or intriguing locations that could be visited.
It was definitely a passion project, and many more weeks followed in which I refined the tables and added additional tables that could bring a little extra detail, if required. They are definitely fun, thought-provoking and descriptive tools for any DM, a way of bringing either random selection into the locations the party visit, or just as likely inspiring ideas that the DM can adapt to their grand design.
Here’s what’s included in the Island Creator:
- Category. What kind of Island it is.
- Reputation. Is it well known or a complete mystery?
- Population. How many creatures live there.
- Size. The shape and area of the island.
- Creature Types. What type of creatures call this their island.
- Magic. Just how wild and magical is it?
- Secrets. Every island has something mysterious yet to be discovered.
- Threat. What is the main threat to the party.
- Quests. Combines two tables to form suggestive titles to kickstart the party’s next adventure.
Here’s what’s included in the City Creator:
- Attitude – How the city is being run.
- Boom & Bust – The ruler’s strength and weakness.
- Population Size – The number of inhabitants.
- Population Make Up – How expansive or monocultural the society is.
- Creature Types – What kinds of creatures live and work in the city.
- City Size & Shape – The amount of land the city occupies and why it grew in the way it did.
- Population – What creatures reside here and how hospitable they are to outsiders.
- City Origin and Heritage – Why a settlement was established and how it influences the city today.
- Unique Traits – What makes the city worth visiting.
- Main Trade Imports and Exports – The main goods and services that the city needs or generates itself.
- Places of Interest – Some of the city’s most unique sights.
- NPCs – A way to quickly build interactions with some of the city’s more intriguing characters, including their race, class, personality type, personal objective, strengths, and weaknesses.
The Hybrid series (The original Hybrid Creatures and the Halloween Edition) has been a delight to create! Not only is it a novel way to introduce new creatures, but it is also a fun way to recycle existing content! Why have a plain Illithid, Witch or Centaur when you can have all three! It even has a simple naming table to accompany it.
The Festive Edition goes one step further than the previous two in the series. I sourced and created the creatures externally from the Monster Manual. This means that each creature has been given 5e stats and abilities. All twenty creatures are well known figures that represent Christmas or Winter, and it was a joy to decide what skills and powers they might have.
You could battle Jack Skellington, Scrooge, or Santa Clause himself. Jack Frost is the personification of Winter and very powerful, while Krampus is a feared demonic figure whose aim is to frighten children.
That’s stage one. Stage two, is combining these legendary entities. How about Santa’s magic, with Krampus’ strength and Rudolph’s speed and ability to fly?!
It was enormous fun to create and I love the idea of new mythical creatures being created in home encounters!
I’m excited to be creating a new adventure series for DnD 5e called the Danger Series. The idea came earlier this year after I created the ‘Deck of Foes‘ book. I wanted to give each of these creations an adventure where players could discover them.
The second challenge I set myself with this series was to keep the adventures on a single page. I am a big fan of the One Page Mage having seen some of their adventures on social media. By designing my own products I had come up with my own series of short-cuts and designs to summarize NPCs and plot, so I was excited to put this into practice.
The Danger Series takes both the Deck of Foes creatures and the One-Page adventure principle to create environment-themed books. I started by creating the ‘Dangers in the Jungle’ and the ‘Dangers in the City’ books, but I have ten such books being planned. Each book contains five adventures. The Deck of Foes creature that inspired it is just one of the encounters to feature. There are also new hazards and NPCs to interact with.
Finally, each book has an Appendix with twenty magical, and twenty non-magical treasures to find. This extra resource gives DMs more flexibility when running the modules. So, if you fancy creating one-shots or side quests with your players, give the Danger Series a look.
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.
You can view the adventure here, on the DM Guild.
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.