Campaign Planning: Session 0

Let's get to work!

                                        Let’s get to work!

In this Campaign Planning post, we’ll learn how to incorporate our players into creating a campaign that everyone will enjoy!

Session 0 is part of the preliminary planning part of any major campaign, and it’s one thing that I had never done before yesterday, but having finally done one I cannot recommend it enough. Generally what it is, is a session before the campaign officially begins where the DM and the players have a meeting where everyone talks about their ideas and goals for the campaign.

The idea behind this is that the players will come together and give the DM ideas that they want thrown into the campaign, so if you plan to run a session 0 you may want to do it early on in the design process like I did. I personally only had the map, the premise of the campaign, basic information about the towns/cities, and the important races. At the start of the session present this to your players and if they have questions/concerns acknowledge those first.

From there you can talk about pretty much anything related to the campaign, but for my group we decided to talk about each person’s character in a bit of detail. This helps me as I know what their party makeup will be so I’ll have an idea of what sort of encounters to create for them as well as some of their goals and motives for their characters. This REALLY helps the players as they all know what each other will be playing so that they can balance out the party and ensure that there are no weak points, for instance missing a magic-using class.

Next and lastly I asked for any sort of ideas for the campaign or if they wanted anything specific. At this point they had learned what the setting would be like and what each person was playing so they had a better idea of what they could do. I got a few great suggestions for content as well as the overall direction of the campaign. For instance someone brought up the idea of them all starting off as traveling circus performers since they seemed to all be misfits/homeless. It was a hilarious, but really unique and awesome idea that I’m absolutely going to base their first session off of.

Prepping for Session 0

As the DM, what do you need to get ready before session 0? The simple answer is whatever you want to have ready for the players. Realistically you’ll probably want a generalization of all the topics you want to cover rather than 100% fully fleshed out ideas, or be willing to change things if the group as a whole doesn’t love that idea.

An example of this during my group’s session 0 was when the more I was talking about how each race interacts with all the other races differently one player piped up and asked if this would be another medieval high fantasy game. I said yes just because that is honestly the standard that I tend to throw out in my campaigns, and for the most part is the standard for D&D. However, they asked if we could do something a bit more modern such as the 1600s as they thought that would work in well with the theme of race relations and the world being on the brink of/at war constantly. The rest of the group really liked this idea so we’re going to run with it (without guns since I’m not a fan of those in D&D).

The point of this is that I was never fully committed to this sort of setting in the first place, but the fact that all the players wanted something different from what I would normally write/create convinced me to try something new since everyone would rather this new setting.

Got to cover all your bases!

                                   Got to cover all your bases!

Player’s Responsibilities

The players should come to session 0 with their own notes prepared. They’ll want to have all of the ideas they’ve come up with for both their potential character as well as the game itself written down so they can present them to the rest of the group. This is the night where they can officially get a significant say in the setting and overall theme of the campaign.

As I mentioned earlier, this is also the night where the party can discuss their class distribution and flesh out the party’s strengths and weaknesses. This allows them to build characters that will work well with one-another so you can have a group of people with a common goal. This is extremely important since all characters should be willing to work together even if they have separate goals and aspirations. My group specifically has had problems where one or two people want to do something completely different from the main group, which really ruins the experience for everyone since the group is constantly split.

Running Session 0

This is the easiest, but one of the most important sessions you’ll run in the entire campaign. Just make sure that all the points I’ve touched upon come up at some point during the night, but most importantly relax and have a serious conversation with your players. This will pay off later since now you’ll have loads of ideas that, most importantly, your players WANT to have in game.

Get a notepad or open a word document and write down everything that you and your players come up with during the session. Some of these ideas may not be great in their own right, but with a bit more detail after the session you could come up with something really great. Other things, like my group’s idea of being circus performers, are ideas that I would never think of but are amazing and unique ideas.

Just set a relaxed tone, but keep everyone on track for coming up with ideas for their characters, the setting, and the goals/theme of the campaign and you’ll have a successful session 0.

Conclusion

This is an optional technique you can use when making a new campaign. I have found this to be a really useful tool in designing custom campaign since I have gotten some excellent ideas that I’m working on right now. It’s an awesome way to get everyone hyped up for the campaign as well since it forces everyone to really start thinking about the game and whatnot. Plus it includes the players in the design process which is important to a lot of people, especially in a campaign you’d like to run for a long period of time.

We all had a great time just catching up and talking about D&D too which was awesome since we’ve all been so busy since we graduated a few weeks ago. This also really makes me have to kick my planning into 3rd gear and start getting the meat of the game all planned out!

Campaign Planning: Race Relations in a Fantasy Setting

Let's think outside the box for this one.

                      Let’s think outside the box for this one.

In this new series on Dungeon Solvers we’ll go through my process of planning a campaign from the get-go. This will include world-building, encounter balancing, story writing, and homebrewing. Today we’ll look at how to decide and keep track of relationships between the different races in your setting.

I recently wrapped up my 9 player 5e campaign and from that I learned quite a bit about both the game in general as well as running one. While it was certainly good that I could include all of my friends from college and some from outside of school, it was really annoying having to juggle 9 players at once.  I got really burned out from having to put so much extra work into having a large party, plus we all just moved away from school so I decided to end the campaign. Anyways, I just started building a new campaign that I hope to start in the next month or so. I figured I could write up my process and some of the major steps in a series, so here we are.

Establish the Races

Pick the Races You Want

The most important part of determining how your races will interact with each other is figuring out which races will be present in the campaign. Not every race in the Player’s Handbook has to be in the campaign. Plus you can always add homebrew races and races from other D&D materials like modules and Unearthed Arcana. This will require a bit of work on your end since you’ll have to decide with your potential players what everyone feels comfortable with. If you really want to make a “no humans” setting, it’d be nice to ensure that your players are all cool with that idea.

I will go into more detail about selecting and creating homebrew races in a future post since it can be a bit difficult to determine if a race is overpowered or not, but for the most part races are generally safe to throw into a campaign. Read up on the backstories that are included in the source that you got each race from to give yourself an idea as to how they would act in the world.

Determine Each Race’s Characteristics

By determining a race’s characteristics I don’t mean mechanically, but by their attitude, professions, and where they prefer to live. All of these are extremely important to figuring out how each race interact amongst themselves as well as with other races. Don’t be afraid to change how the races work from their source material, that can be an excellent hook for your campaign and bring new life to races that you and your players find to be a bit “boring”.

For an example, I find that Halflings are generally the “joke characters” amongst my players. I can see why, they’re usually these quirky, small, comic-relief characters in a lot of my campaigns and because of that the player characters tend to follow that line as well. In this upcoming campaign I decided that they will be these rough, barbaric hunters that live in the wilds and fight toe-to-toe with the Orcs that live nearby them. I’ve homebrewed a special type of Halfling to reflect this, but regardless they are completely different from their source material in terms of how they think, act, and treat other races.

Determine Interactions

Now that you’ve figured out the basic for each race that you’re including in the campaign you’re ready to figure out how they interact with each other. This is huge since this can affect the entire campaign depending on what races think of each other. For example, say a player plays a Tiefling and they’re visiting a Human city. Perhaps the Humans do not trust the Tieflings or even hate them. This will affect how the NPCs would interact with this character, maybe the stores will charge more to this player because of it.

Not every campaign has to have these types of interactions, mind you, but the campaign that I’m planning is going to be centered around the races distrusting each other and struggling to band together against a common enemy. My last campaign had very little of this type of philosophy, but the players that are joining in on this one wanted a lot more of these types of interactions so I obliged.

Using the Halflings as an example, the Halflings do not get along with quite a few races in my world simply because they are known to raid or pillage villages and small towns surrounding the plains they live on. Humans and Half-Elves receive the brunt of this abuse and because of which will frequently sprout military conflicts. Because of their rough-and-tumble/barbaric personality they get along great with the Orcs and Goliaths that live on the plains and consider them to be valuable allies.

Write it Down or Make a Spreadsheet

You have a good idea at this point of what you want, how the races will interact with each other, and everything else that has to do with races in your campaign. Now it’s time to flesh out the details and record everything. This is partly about writing a good story since major events could have affected the relationships of different races. My recommendation is to write everything down in a document so that you’ll be able to easily keep track of all this during a game and during interactions.

Spreadsheet Printout

                               There are many unlikely allies in the continent of Ranmiir.

As you can see above I made a big spreadsheet to keep track of all the major races in my future campaign. I’m going to eventually go into more detail in a written document, but for now I showed this to my future players to make sure everyone knew what I was thinking. I color coded the four different relationships I came up with (Allies, Friendly, Neutral, Dislike, and Enemies). Obviously the relationships themselves will be more complex, but for now this will give yourself and your players some good notes while you think up the juicy details.

Conclusions

Relationships between races in your campaign can be a cornerstone for player and NPC interactions as well as the overall plot of the campaign. It’s something that is not normally thought of as a huge deal, but spending an hour or two on it while you plan out your campaign can make an enormous difference for both you and the players. Making notes will also help you run the campaign as you’ll be very distracted and may mess up some interactions if you’re just going off of mental notes.

Don’t be afraid to stray from the source material on races you choose to add to your campaign. It’s never a bad thing to have a twist on the “norm” for your players and yourself. It can bring some new life to the experience especially if you dislike how a race is portrayed in your normal games or the source material.

-Eld

Character Build: Song Master Fighter

Sorry this is a month late! I got really busy wrapping up college, but that’s officially over! I’m out of the country until September starting Thursday so there may be time for 1 more post before that happens. 

My two favorite classes in 5e are Bard and Battle Master Fighter. They both offer interesting combat choices, potential utility, and a lot of great role-playing opportunities. This character build combines the best of both worlds through multiclassing to make a front line damage dealer that can provide themselves and their party members with extra support.

Please don’t hesitate to give me some feedback on the layout and the content of this. I want to have these monthly builds to eventually have a uniform layout!

Base Character

The Song Master Fighter will thrive by being both nimble and witty. Utilizing finesse melee weapons or ranged weapons will be key in order to not stress the wide stat distribution needed for this multiclass. With good enough stat rolls, however, you could make the Song Master Fighter be more Strength focused. The play style is not much different. The build itself is based around giving the player many different options during combat and outside of it, it’s a very jack-of-all trades build with a focus on combat.

Class

Fighter (17)/Bard(3)

Level 1: Fighter (1)
Level 2-4: Bard (3)
Level 5-20: Fighter (17)

The idea here is to go Fighter 1st level. This gives you proficiency with all weapons and armor and some really nice choices for weapons, armor, and adventuring supplies. You’ll also get access to a Fighting Style and Second Wind. Sure you’ll miss out on Spellcasting for this first level, but this is a solid amount of stuff, much of which you’d miss out on by taking Fighter at a later point. By this I mean that when you multiclass into Fighter you do not get proficiency with the skills (Bard gets a lot of these still), but more importantly you miss out on Heavy Armor proficiency which can be pretty huge if you want to be a front line character.

The saves for starting out as a Fighter as opposed to a Bard are a nice plus for this character as well. Bard gives us DEX and CHA saves which are coincidentally our two best stats. These are excellent saves, don’t get me wrong, but having CON and STR as our proficient saves will be pretty valuable for dealing with threats in melee combat. Also if we happen to pick some spells that require concentration, that proficiency in CON will come in handy.

Note: Realistically you can swap this around to any combination, however I feel like this is the “sweet-spot” for having a real front-line Song Master Fighter. You’ll get your level 2 Bard spells and Bard Archetype plus your second usage of Action Surge and third usage of Indomitable.

Race

In order from best to worst:

  1. Halfling
  2. Variant Human
  3. Elf, particularly Dark Elf (Drow)
  4. Half-Elf
  5. Dragonborn

Halfling is top tier for this build in my opinion. It grants a flat-out +2 DEX and the two subraces give either +1 CHA or +1 CON which are both very beneficial to this build. The Lucky ability from being a Halfling is very, very good for any class with multiple attacks each turn which is something this build will be gearing up towards in the middle-to-later levels.

Variant Human is always a great choice. Being able to grab a feat 4 levels early can be an enormous advantage, plus the extra skill proficiency and 2 +1 ability score increases are great bonuses for this build.

Elves get a +2 bonus to Dexterity, and since that is the way I’m building the Song Master Fighter from the get go I’m going to value any DEX increases I can get. The Wood Elf and High Elf subraces are both decent and they will grant you some extra weapon proficients if you choose to start as a Bard instead of a Fighter. Drow in particular is a bit tricky to play in a large amount of settings, but if you can pull it off I would highly using this race for a Song Master Fighter. It is by far the best subrace for this build, but if you are in a campaign where you will be in the sunlight a significant amount of time I would suggest picking a different race/subrace.

Half-Elf, like Variant Human, is always a solid choice for a character. They have a +2 CHA ability score increase along with 2 skills and 2 +1 ability score increases. They also have advantage on saving throws against being charmed and an immunity from being put to sleep. Darkvision is also a great bonus.

Lastly, we have Dragonborn which are in general pretty solid characters all around. They boast a +2 STR and +1 CHA increase which could potentially let you swap from the DEX based Fighter in this build to a STR based one. The breath weapon and damage resistance is  always welcomed by any character.

Note: Race doesn’t have a huge impact in 5e. It’s certainly advantageous to pair your build with a race that grants it good abilities/stat bonuses, but it’s not needed. I also only included races from the PHB in this guide.

Background

Background is more of a dealer’s choice sort of scenario, but my personal favorites for this would be Entertainer (PHB 130), Soldier (PHB 140) or Sailor (139). They all provide some sort of physical skill (Athletics/Acrobatics) and a social skill (Performance/Intimidation). The Sailor’s Perception proficiency is useful for pretty much any class so that’s fine to take instead of the Performance/Intimidation from the other two backgrounds.

Realistically though, choose a background that you enjoy the most. Taking the levels in Bard will grant you half proficiency in all skill checks regardless so you’ll get a bit more leeway for “missing out” on an ideal background for a more fun one.

Stat Distribution

I’m going to use the Standard Set (15, 14, 13, 12, 10, 8) here for my stat distribution. You can swap the DEX and STR scores if you’d rather a more STR based Song Master Fighter instead of a DEX based one.

STR 12
DEX 15
CON 13
INT 8
WIS 10
CHA 14

Note: In this case, INT and WIS are really only useful for spell saves or skills. I chose to use INT as my dump stat as in general most saves in the game revolve around DEX/CON/WIS. Very few things will kill you because of a low INT roll, though if you run into an Intellect Devourer at some point you may be very, very dead.

 Stat Priorities/Ability Score Improvements

The real weakness of this build is that you’ll be getting your ability score improvements (ASI) much later than a character that does not multi-class. This means that every single ASI we get will be cherished. Not to mention the fact that we’ll potentially want to use the few ASIs we get for a feat or two. Regardless, if we go through the build we’ll get 6 total ASIs, assuming we make it to level 20. You can do a ton with 6 ASIs, but the fact of the matter is we won’t be getting our first one until character level 7 whereas most players will get them at level 4.

Regardless, take a look at your stats. Personally I’ll want to beef my DEX up to max, my CON up a little bit, and my CHA up a tad to make spell saves harder for the enemy. Here’s a quick example of what I might choose to increase given the stats I allocated in the last section.

ASI 1 (level 7/Fighter 4): +1 DEX + 1 CON (DEX 16, CON 14)
ASI 2 (level 9/Fighter 6): +2 CHA (CHA 16)
ASI 3 (level 11/Fighter 8): +2 DEX (DEX 18)
ASI 4 (level 15/Fighter 12) +2 CON (CON 16)
ASI 5 (level 17/Fighter 14) +2 DEX (DEX 20)
ASI 6 (level 19/Fighter 16) +2 CON or +2 CHA

If I’m not a Variant Human I’d probably take a feat at either the 1st or 2nd ASI depending on how poorly I rolled on my abilities. If I had something like the standard set I would most likely take the stats at ASI 1 and the feat at ASI 2. You can swap around the increase to CON and CHA at any point if you feel your character needs some more survivability as opposed to spellcasting prowess.

I’d potentially take another feat somewhere in there, especially if I rolled some great stats. Feats are always more fun than just a basic stat increase and sometimes even come with a +1 to a stat.

Feats

As I mentioned in the last section I’ll want to take a feat or two at some point in this build since I personally find feats to be a lot more fun than a standard ASI. There are also some feats that work VERY well with this character build so I’ll be mentioning those instead of every single feat available. All the spells are listed on pages 165-170 of the PHB.

Alert – This one is great as it gives you bonuses to initiative to allow yourself to better setup the encounter for yourself and your party by using spells such as Faerie Fire or Thunderwave while going ahead of the rest of the party. With less party members in the area of your AoE spells, the better. Not being able to be surprised while conscious and creatures unable to gain advantage on attack rolls from being hidden from you are icing on the cake. It’s not particularly exciting, but it’s very good.

Defensive Duelist – If you are thinking of taking the duelist Fighting Style or are thinking of wielding finesse weapons in general this will be a great feat to accompany that. This allows you to use your reaction to add your proficiency to your AC for an attack. This can allow you to completely escape a melee attack, and completely avoiding damage is always a huge bonus.

Dual Wielder – If you’re thinking of taking the Two-Weapon Fighting, Fighting Style this is a great choice for a feat since you’ll now get +1 AC while dual wielding and have the ability to use a non-light melee weapon in one of your hands. It’s a pretty solid feat in my opinion as it will allow you to be even better at melee combat.

Magic Initiate – I honestly hadn’t thought a lot about this one until @Kordwar had mentioned it to me on Twitter. A great option to use this with since you’d be in melee range so often is to choose the Cleric class and get Inflict Wounds as your 1st-level spell. This allows you to deal a whopping 3d10 necrotic damage without much of an issue once per long rest. He also recommended Thaumaturgy and Spare the Dying for the cantrips.

Lucky – Honestly this feat is very powerful for almost any build. In this case you essentially get 3 more uses of Cutting Words if you so choose. Of course Cutting Words will always be beneficial, this one is a bit more of a shot in the dark, but the intention is similar. It’s very good and provides a lot of utility.

War Caster – I would highly recommend taking this feat with practically any Fighting Style chosen in this build. This allows you to use spells for opportunity attacks, but most importantly, you gain advantage on Constitution saves to maintain concentration. You’re going to be in the middle of melee combat so prepare for MANY concentration saves. Having advantage on these will be huge. In addition being able to perform somatic components while you are wielding weapons or a shield in your hands is another large bonus for this build. This feat feels as if it were made for a Song Master Fighter.

Class Feature Choices

This section is going to depend entirely on how you want to build your Song Master Fighter, but for the default of 3 Bard/17 Fighter this is what I’ve thought up.

Bard

Advancing 3 levels into Bard will nab you Spellcasting, Bardic Inspiration (d6), Jack of all Trades, Song of Rest (d6), Expertise, and the choice of your archetype. This is a lot of utility for so very few levels, but not a lot of actual choices to make.

Expertise

“At 3rd level choose two of your skill proficiencies. Your proficiency bonus is doubled for any ability check you make that uses either of the chosen proficiencies.”-PHB page 54

So not including races or backgrounds the skills that we could potentially choose from will be the Fighter skill list since we’re taking our 1st level in Fighter. This means that we can choose between Acrobatics, Animal Handling, Athletics, History, Insight, Intimidation, Perception, and Survival. Again this will depend on what you want to do with your character, but in my opinion our top choices here are Acrobatics, Athletics, Intimidation, and Perception.

Acrobatics will allow us to traverse some dex-based difficult terrain, but most importantly giving us a tool to escape a grapple if we do not have a high strength or Athletics skill.

Athletics has the benefit of doing things such as climbing a mountain, swimming, and other types of athletic movement. Expertise in this skill will give us a better chance at grappling a target as well as escaping a grapple. If you intend to be grappling at any point I would highly recommend this skill for one of your 2 expertise choices.

Intimidation can be a good choice for this as we’re already going to have a high CHAR score due to being a Bard, plus it gives us another tool to interact with NPCs or enemies. This is a good choice for someone who is looking to be “the face” or more of a role player than just focusing on combat.

Perception is always a great skill to have since so many skill checks will rely on this. It’s a very safe choice if you can’t decide on a better one of your skills to pick from.

Spellcasting

The largest choices you’ll have to make will be from deciding what spells to pick throughout your 3 levels. You will be able to learn a total of 2 cantrips, 5 1st level spells, and 1 2nd level spell which leaves us at many choices. Remember that you’re going to mainly be a Fighter so realistically we should be picking spells that help us deal more weapon damage, help our party members out, or make it harder for our enemies to hurt us.

Cantrips

Blade Ward So this is probably a more controversial choice as you have to essentially forego your action to get 1 turn of resistance against bludgeoning, piercing, and slashing damage dealt by weapon attacks. I think that as far as cantrips go its decent, but it’s a pretty situational use since you would have to be expecting to be dealt enough weapon damage to forego say extra attacks, a better spell, or any other action.

Light – If you are in an area with low light and you are playing a race without darkvision this can be an extremely handy cantrip to pickup. This would allow you to see in low light/no light without having to use a hand to hold a light source.

Minor Illusion – This could be a fun one to essentially make a copy of yourself or something hostile and potentially trick an (extremely gullible) enemy into wasting an attack or action on the 5ft cube illusion you’ve made, or potentially distract enemies with a sound coming from a different location. This one can be a fun choice more than anything.

Vicious Mockery – I really like this spell as a choice for the Song Master Fighter, especially if you are not going to have a lot of ranged options in your build. This will allow you to attack from 60ft away if you won’t be able to get into melee range within a single movement. In addition to this you’d also impose disadvantage on the enemy which can result in avoiding some damage once you get in range of them. It’s very powerful if the enemy cannot make the Wisdom save.

1st Level Spells

Charm Person – Even though we focus on combat with this build, sometimes it’s better to completely avoid a fight. This is a spell that can absolutely help you and your companions do just that. This is a very powerful spell if used intelligently and I find myself enjoying spells like Charm Person more than anything because it is a tool to help you roleplay.

Cure Wounds – With us having action surge in this build I’m less hesitant to take spells that use actions. Cure Wounds is a good spell if you’re low on healing in your party, and the ability to action surge to still deal damage on your turn mean you won’t lose a whole round of damage by healing someone.

Faerie Fire – This spell allows us to make a 20-foot cube and impose a DEX save on those inside of it. This lights up and outlines those that failed  and gives anyone attacking those outlined creatures advantage and those creatures cannot become invisible. Very powerful if used right and you can maintain concentration on the spell.

Healing Word – This is a great utility spell as it allows you to heal yourself or an ally for 1d4 + spell mod while only using your bonus action. Unless you are dual wielding with this build there are not a lot of other things you’ll be using a bonus action for so this at least gives us an option to use it.

Sleep – This spell gets less useful at the higher levels when the enemies have more HP, but for the lower levels this is a great way to incapacitate a few enemies and give yourselves advantage on attacks and crits on attacks made within 5ft of an affected creature.

Thunderwave – Since this build is more melee focused it’s easier for you to get in the middle of a lot of enemies and just throw them all away at will. This sort of displacement can be very useful to give the party more time to react to enemies and it can give your ranged combat party members a bit more distance to work with.

2nd Level Spells

Hold Person – In my opinion this spell is the best choice for this build as it allows you to completely incapacitate an enemy this also allows you to gain advantage on attacks against the affected creature as well as all attacks made within 5ft of the target being crits. Very awesome spell and I frankly don’t think any other of the 2nd level spells come close to this much synergy with our kit.

Fighter

As we will be placing the vast majority of our levels in Fighter we will be gaining every fighter class feature with the exception of one ASI, increasing our superiority dice to d12s, and Extra Attack (3). These are all good perks of going fullblooded fighter, but that would defeat the purpose of this guide. Regardless at base we’ll need to decide a few things. Obviously the ASIs but we already did that, our archetype, but most importantly our Fighting Style.

Any of these are perfectly viable with this character so it’s really up to you if what type of Song Master Fighter you want to go with. My top choices would be Dueling, Defense, or Two-Weapon Fighting, but let’s take a look at everything.

Archery – +2 bonus to attack rolls with ranged weapons which is always nice. Personally I envision the Song Master fighter to be more melee focused with the maneuvers and whatnot, but this is a solid style to choose.

Defense – This one is always great as you gain a bonus +1 AC while wearing any sort of armor. Very powerful as this will give you a bit more survivability.

Dueling- I normally overlook this one to be honest, but it’s got excellent synergy for someone who may not want to take War Caster for a feat. You’ll always have 1 hand free to meet the requirements for the somatic component of spells, plus you get a flat +2 to all damage rolls with your weapon. This is a good pick for this build in my opinion.

Great Weapon Fighting – This is a solid choice as well if you are intending to be more STR based Fighter as you can now reroll your 1s and 2s for a better chance at hitting. By the rules you still would not necessarily have to unequip your weapon or have War Caster in order to meet the somatic component requirements as you can still hold your weapon with 1 hand while you quickly do the gestures.

Protection – This one has always felt weird to me as there are just so many requirements for this to work out in your favor whereas all of the other choices we have are effective all of the time. Pass on this one in my opinion.

Two-Weapon Fighting – If you’re planning on grabbing the War Caster feat this is a fun Fighting Style to grab since you would not need a free hand for your somatic spells. This allows you to still use a bonus action to attack with an offhand weapon as usual, however you can now add your ability modifier to your offhand weapon damage.

Class Archetype Choices

Bard – College of Lore

College of Lore is the best choice for this build in my opinion. College of Valor is absolutely viable, but I really prefer Cutting Words as opposed to Combat Inspiration. As we will only be putting 3 levels into Bard this is really the only choice that we’ll have to make. The other choice is just what 3 skills do we want to put proficiency in, but that’s more of a personal preference at this point than anything.

Cutting Words – With this ability you can use one of your uses of Bardic Inspiration to subtract the number rolled on your Bardic Inspiration from their attack, ability check, or damage role. This will use a reaction, but still we can essentially subtract a d6 (3.5 avg) from an enemy’s weapon attack which could allow us or one of our allies to completely avoid damage.

Combat Inspiration – This ability allows you give a creature a Bardic Inspiration die and add that to say their weapon damage roll they made, or they can use their reaction to add their Bardic Inspiration to their AC to attempt to avoid being hit.

Combat Inspiration is still a very good feature, but I feel as though you as the player get less control over what happens as the decision is left up to your peers. Another point I would like to make is that Combat Inspiration cannot affect an enemy creature’s ability check whereas Cutting Words can. Using Cutting Words to make a creature say fall off a trapeze and plummet to their death could be a great perk.

Fighter – Battle Master

This is really a non-negotiable choice for this build. You have to pick Battle Master as this is the real bread and butter of this build. However, some choices you can make are what artisan’s tools you are proficient with as well as what maneuvers you wish to choose. Let’s look at the pros and cons of each! At our 3rd Fighter level we can pick 3, but we gain an additional 2 at 7th, 10th, and 15th Fighter level.

Commander’s Strike – This one can be kinda fun and especially great if you have a Rogue (extra sneak attack damage) but otherwise it’s pretty hard to choose this one to use both a bonus action and forego one of your attacks. Very situational, but if you have a good Rogue this could be a great tag-team ability.

Disarming Attack – Removing a weapon from an opponent is always a good choice plus you’ll get some bonus damage even if your opponent makes the save. Definitely good.

Evasive Footwork – Being able to give yourself some bonus AC to move around can allow you to make a dash action through enemies rather than using your action to go about half the movement and disengage. Situational, but decent.

Feinting Attack – This gives us another option to use for our bonus actions on our turns. You now can give yourself both advantage on your next attack to that creature and bonus damage to that creature assuming that attack hits. Very good.

Goading Attack –  One of the few “taunts” in 5e. If a creature fails the save on this one they have disadvantage on all attacks on targets other than you until the end of your next turn. This one is an excellent choice if you have decent AC and HP as this fits the theme of utility + front line we’re going for in this build.

Lunging Attack – Being able to attack an additional 5 feet away can be good, but it’s pretty situational in this build, especially where we have other ranged options. Very situational.

Maneuvering Attack – This can be a decent utility maneuver for getting allies out of melee range of a large threat. Though I’m not sure it’s a great option compared to some of the other maneuvers we have to pick from. Very situational at best.

Menacing Attack – This is a great attack to buy yourself from time from an enemy if you are at low hp. This will potentially get this creature to not only attack other targets, but have disadvantage on all Ability Checks and Attack rolls while you’re within their line of sight. Very good and it fits our theme well.

Parry – Great choice if you find yourself getting hit a lot. It’s a very solid choice in general so I can’t imagine it being a bad option for this build.

Pushing Attack – This one is decent and like Thunderwave it can give your back-line a bit more distance to work with. Unfortunately, this will only work on a single creature. Situational but decent.

Rally – I feel like giving your allies some temporary HP is pretty decent, plus it uses our Charisma modifier which is one of our better stats in this build. Decent and it fits the theme we’re going for.

Riposte – This can be a fun one as you’ll be able to get an extra swing on an enemy with some bonus damage. Good choice and pretty reliable.

Sweeping Attack – A cleave ability is always a great pick for a fighter especially if you find yourself fighting lots of groups of weaker enemies. It’s also free damage in many cases so it’s certainly not a bad choice. Good choice.

Trip Attack – I like this one as it’s another utility based ability wrapped in some nice damage. Knocking a creature prone gives way to allies getting advantage on attacks against that creature. It’s a good choice and fits with our theme well.

Conclusion

As I said before during this build I really enjoy what both the Battle Master Fighter and the Bard have to offer for a player in 5e. This was an attempt at giving you some of the best of both worlds. You’re able to provide the party with some great utility but still deal some solid damage as a front-line fighter. There are a few weaknesses to this build as you won’t be nearly as tanky as a full on front-line Fighter and not as great of a caster as a pure Bard, but you have a lot of options.

On any given turn you’ll be able to make many choices for what you want to do and you even have some great options to work with on reactions. This also has some awesome elements for role-playing as you’ll have expertise in some skills, many skills to choose from, and jack of all trades for any skills that you didn’t put proficiency in!

This was definitely a bigger build than the last one I threw together, so feel free to chime in on this! I had a lot of fun and honestly learned a ton about both classes while I was going through everything.

-Eld

Hearthstone: Wild Chicken Priest

      Best card in the game!

Last weekend my roommates and I got bored while I was drafting an Arena deck in Hearthstone. A few drinks were had and somehow the card Angry Chicken became something of a meme with all 3 of them screaming at me to draft it for my deck. Needless to say that deck had a solid run of 2-3, but the point was that the idea of building a deck around Angry Chicken was drilled into our collective heads.

The deck list is on the right hand side of the post. The rest of this post will focus on my design ideas and how to play the deck!

Design GoalsChickenDeck

  1. Keep the Angry Chickens alive
  2. Use cards that will make Angry Chicken more powerful
  3. Last long enough to actually pull the combo off

Key Cards

Angry Chicken

This card is the bread and butter of the deck. It’s a 1 mana, 1/1, minion with the Enrage effect “+5 Attack”. So if we can work with the Enrage effect (which is the purpose of the deck) we can get a 1 cost 6 Attack minion out of the deal. This deck works to increase the Angry Chicken’s Health in order to trigger the Enrage effect.

Power Word: Shield

Power Word: Shield is great for two reasons. First of all, it allows us to draw another card and card draw to get more spells for the Angry Chicken is great. Secondly it gives a minion +2 Health, which is very beneficial to our Angry Chickens.

Inner Fire

This spell changes a minion’s Attack to be the same as its Health. This card is great for further powering up the Angry Chickens once they a large amount of Health, or any other minion. Essentially this is to put a big threat on the board for a deck with very few large minions.

Crazed Alchemist

This is an awesome minion for this deck. One of the best uses I’ve found for this card is using it to swap an enemy to 1 Attack in order to get the Angry Chickens’ Enrage effects. It’s also a great removal tool that comes with a 2/2 body on the board. I’d honestly recommend 2 of these in the deck, but I don’t have 2 so that’s why there’s only one.

Divine Spirit

This spell doubles a minion’s Health. This one is great when used in addition to Velen’s Chosen, Dark Cultist’s Deathrattle, or Power Word: Shield in order to give a minion, specifically Angry Chicken, a very large health pool to work with. The larger the health pool we have to work with, the better as far as this deck is concerned.

Velen’s Chosen

Another spell that increases a minion’s stat line. Velen’s Chosen gives +2/+4 and +1 spell damage to a minion making this an excellent card for this deck. The flat base health increase makes this an excellent card to use with Divine Spirit, plus the +4 Health is just naturally great for Angry Chicken in general.

Defender of Argus

Similarly to Crazed Alchemist, this minion is used to help manipulate the other minions in our deck while giving us another body for our board. Defender of Argus gives two adjacent minions (1 to the left and 1 to the right of it) +1/+1 and Taunt. For example, you can give your Angry Chickens another Health, or give two minions Taunt in order to protect your minions.

Notable Combos

Elven Archer Enrage

The Elven Archer’s Battlecry is that it deals 1 damage. If your Angry Chicken has more than 1 HP you can use the Elven Archer’s Battlecry to trigger the Enrage effect and give your Angry Chicken +5 Attack. This is great if your opponent does not have anything small enough to Enrage your Angry Chickens.

Inner Fire + Divine Spirit Combos

By buffing a minion, like Angry Chicken with a good amount of health through the many cards that do that in this deck we can secure its Enrage effect. However, we can also use it to super buff the Angry Chicken by using Inner Fire to also increase the Angry Chicken’s base Attack, making it an even larger threat. This one is one of the Win Conditions of the deck.

Defender of Argus + Dark Cultist

This one is a bit riskier as there is no guarantee that it will hit the correct minion. You can drop your Defender of Argus so that it hits one or both of your Dark Cultists. At this point, the opponent has to kill your Dark Cultists first forcing them to trigger the +3 Health Deathrattle for one of your minions. This would work great if you can manipulate it so that it will buff the Health of an Angry Chicken.

Faceless Manipulator Chicken

We can only have 2 Angry Chickens in a deck, but with Faceless Manipulator we can get even more! This was more of a “throw in card” that we thought would be hilarious, but it’s been pretty great for giving us another large minion on the board that the opponent either has to deal with or straight up lose to.

Conclusion

This deck is basically just an Inner Fire Priest deck where we make one or two huge minions and slam them into the opponent’s face. It’s very enjoyable to play, but it does not boast a large win rate, not going to lie especially with cards like Gnomish Experimenter in there which has the ability to screw you over pretty harshly. You can’t take out Gnomish Experimenter though, world can always use more Chickens!

This deck was fun to make, and we went through quite a few iteration of this deck to get where we are. It’s certainly not an amazing deck that will get you to a high rank, but it’s one that my roommates and I have had a lot of fun with.

Dungeon it Yourself: Improvising

                   Can I get a suggestion from the audience? No? Fine then!

Recently I’ve found myself improvising a lot. My roommates and I started playing Out of the Abyss and quite a fair amount of the module consists of random encounters as well as NPCs that are left up to the DM to define. It’s been a lot of fun and everyone has been really enjoying the more randomized aspects of it since they know that not even I can predict what can happen in a session a large amount of the time. I’ve found myself actually throwing a bit more improv into our main campaign lately since I’ve become a bit more comfortable with it and everyone seems to really enjoy it.

What is improvising?

Improvising is when you have to go off the original plan in your campaign and basically make up whatever is happening on the fly. Maybe the characters talked to an important NPC and asked questions you had not planned on answering, or they approached someone with hostility when you had not planned for them to do so. Regardless, it’s your job now to decide how these situations will pan out.

When to Improvise?

There are a lot of benefits to working on your improvisational skills. For instance, I may not have to take as much time planning ahead of time for some of the “less important” encounters for the next session. This will allow me to focus more on my main encounters or the main story, but still provide side quests and whatnot for the players to partake in. On the other hand, if players get really attached to a side story or quest you may end up spending more time fleshing that situation out instead of your original intentions.

In reality, D&D is really not a game that can be run on the fly 100% of the time. In my personal experience, I’ve found that using improv skills to supplement what you already had planned is probably the best way of going about it. Use whatever material you’ve written down as a reference for how you think the situation should play out. The best part about this is that you really cannot be wrong unless you do something silly like break continuity. Plot holes are dangerous things, but they can be fixed.

The “Notecard” Rule

When people run into trouble or have a hard time with improvising an encounter, it generally stems with how much they are improvising. This can be dealt with in a few ways, my favorite of which is what I call the “Notecard” rule. The idea of the “Notecard” rule is that you should be able to list all the important information for an NPC or special encounter on an index card.

There are two major benefits from planning your minor encounters this way. The first benefit is that you’ll have to decide exactly what information is necessary for the encounter to flow smoothly. This takes out any unnecessary “noise” that you’ll have to sift through to find information that’s relevant, making your encounters faster and more succinct. The second is that you won’t have to spend as much time planning these less-important encounters so you can again focus on the “meat” of the campaign.

For the record, I use the “Notecard” rule for most NPCs even if I do not intend to improvise player encounters with them. I like to write the NPC’s typical demeanor, their intentions, beliefs, and physical traits so that I can really get into character when I have to RP as them.

Random Encounter Generators 

If you’re looking for filler encounters, or if you really cannot decide on 1 particular encounter to throw at a party just find a bunch! There are plenty of websites that have premade encounters all balanced out for you to use. You simply throw in the CR of the monsters and how many you want, or throw in the level and number of players at the table and out comes your encounter!

There are also generators for NPC names, treasure hoards, specific types of shops, and really anything else you could imagine for a D&D world. These allow you to pick something out of a list rather than having to think up something under pressure and on the fly. Personally I’m pretty good at thinking up these sort of things on the fly, but I know that’s a rare talent to have (I’m not trying to brag).

Regardless, there are many times where I’ll need a bit of extra help when I’m “under the gun” so to speak. This is when I’ll look up my favorite random ____ generator and hit the button for answers. I personally have used donjon for quite some time. I really liked it in my 3.5e game and they’ve since included generators for 5e that I have used off and on. The simplicity of it really draws me in since I’m looking for quick, concise answers.

Continuity is Key

The biggest challenge of doing a lot of improvisation is keeping continuity within your campaign. The best advice I can give so that you can ensure that you do not create large potholes in your campaign is to write a few notes down after each session. Write about exactly what happened so that you won’t forget for next session. The longer the break between sessions, the more detailed your notes should be!

I also like to do recaps for everyone before each session to remind us all what happens during the previous session(s). This is also a great way to remind yourself what happened so that you’ll avoid making continuity errors and slip ups during the current session.

I’ve certainly slipped up and caused a plot hole or forgotten about an event that I improvised that would effect the outcome of the current problem. You should obviously try your hardest not to let this happen, but there will always be room for mistakes in a game like D&D. Generally my players are pretty good about catching my slip ups, and when they’re right I’ll take back whatever I was wrong about or change it to a more favorable outcome on their end. It was my mistake, not theirs so they shouldn’t be punished for it, you know?

Conclusions

Improvisation is a great skill to pick up for running a campaign. Doing it well will save you a lot of time in planning out side quests/encounters as well as make room for more unique options for players to run into. Just be sure to really pick your battles when improvising as it can be a quick way to derail a campaign if done incorrectly, however the vast majority of the time I find it to be fairly harmless and very fun to do.

Basically, just set up guidelines for yourself and you’ll be alright for sure!

-Eld

Augmented Reality vs. Virtual Reality

We’re about halfway through 2016 and I swear more and more cool technology becomes used for gaming every day. We see virtual reality (VR) gear becoming extremely popular with so many platforms like Steam now having their own VR gear and games. Not only that, but now we’re seeing games like Pokémon GO which use augmented reality (AR) technology pop up and become extremely popular. It really feels like this year in particular has been a hotbed for new technologies for gaming, and it’s only going to get better from here.

For the record, neither of these technologies are really “new” per-say since there have been plenty of technologies that used AR or VR outside of gaming, but for the gaming industry this is some pretty revolutionary stuff. This also means that these types of technologies, while still expensive or fairly basic, are now readily available to the public.

So being part of the public, I’ve found that new technology can be pretty confusing. New technology that is constantly abbreviated is even more so. AR and VR are two technologies that bring about a similar experience, but in a completely different way from each other. So how do we distinguish them? What makes them unique?

Definitions

I think the best way of differentiating between AR and VR is to define the two. This is literally stuff just off of Wikipedia, so don’t expect anything too fancy out of this. I’ll link the pages I used so you can read up a more in depth description of the technologies if you want.

Virtual Realitya computer technology that replicates an environment, real or imagined, and simulates a user’s physical presence and environment to allow for user interaction. Virtual realities artificially create sensory experience, which can include sight, touch, hearing, and smell. 

Augmented Reality- a live direct or indirect view of a physical, real-world environment whose elements are augmented (or supplemented) by computer-generated sensory input such as sound, video, graphics or GPS data.

Just from the description we can see the differences between the two. Essentially VR completely simulates the environment for the user, whereas AR uses the user’s environment and adds computer generated things to it. Let’s delve a bit deeper and use some examples to help distinguish the two a bit more.

Virtual Reality

As I mentioned earlier Steam has their own VR hardware and games. The hardware is the HTC Vive which can be purchased in the USA for the totally affordable price of $800+. Regardless of the price, this is pretty awesome technology and it’s only going to get more affordable once this hardware is in the market for a little while. Here’s a video of the Vive in action.

The video really drives home the purpose of VR. Essentially the whole purpose of this is for the computer to generate the environment around the player. The player is essentially copied inside said environment and through the sensors in the controllers and headset they are able to interact with the virtual environment. The point here is that nothing that is going on is real. The only thing that is real are your actions which guide the computer generated version of yourself and interact with the virtual environment.

This is some cool stuff for gaming in general, but we can totally use this sort of technology for plenty of other outlets in life. For example, it’s a lot easier to have a med student dissect a virtual person instead of a corpse. Regardless, education is one of the outlets I think of first when I think of using VR for a non-gaming purpose.

Augmented Reality

Pokémon GO is unbelievably popular. All kinds of people are playing it, and I honestly hope it stays very popular as this is a pretty awesome use of AR for gaming purposes. Anyways, the purpose of the game is to use your phone’s GPS to locate where you are in the real world. The phone tracks your location and will spawn Pokémon for you to catch. The app also uses real world landmarks or popular locations as Gyms for players in each of the 3 teams to capture or defend.

I couldn’t find a video that really portrayed the game play and wasn’t a long walk through or a mediocre Buzzfeed style “tips and tricks” video so I’ll use some pictures as a reference here.

Map

This is my dorm room. That Pokéstop is lured by the same 2 people 95% of the time. They’re the real heroes.

In the picture above you can see my avatar on the map. This is the main part of the game and where you’ll most likely spend the majority of your time. This uses Google Maps, your phone’s GPS, and data to track where you are exactly and put your in a map that has different biomes with different Pokémon. The map also shows where gyms and Pokéstops are located.

The avatar moves as you move, and since Pokémon are more likely to spawn while you’re walking (or sitting on a lure) it’s a good incentive to be active and move around. This part is AR since it uses your phone’s GPS data to create a computer generated map that you interact with by moving. It’s cool stuff, but I feel like the main “catch” (I’m sorry) of the game are the Gym battles and capturing Pokémon.

Just what I always wanted!

       Another Pidgey! Just what I always wanted!

Once you track down a certain Pokémon or one randomly spawns for you you can attempt to capture it. This has two modes that you can switch between. One that uses AR which is cool but battery intensive and one that doesn’t which is much less battery intensive. You can swap between these two for the same Pokémon as well which is a great touch in my opinion.

The Gyms also have their own AR but I don’t have a great picture of that since I have the AR turned off about 99% of the time since it eats up a lot of battery when I’m out and about. Regardless, this is AR that I feel like the common person can really appreciate. We get to see 3D versions of some of the Pokémon we grew up catching on our Gameboys in real life. The best part is that it’s so accessible since it’s for both Android and iOS!

As far as real life applications go for AR how about an architect using it for planning out a building? You could go full Symmetra and have a computer generated graphic of it in the location the building is going to go so you can get a visual on how big everything can actually be in addition to the drawings and calculations you already have.

Conclusion

VR and AR two acronyms that are being tossed around regularly in the gaming world right now. On paper they’re both pretty similar in what they’re both accomplishing at the moment, but in reality they’re two very awesome and very different technologies. Both allow you to interact with a game world in one way or another, but the way they go about creating said world is the big difference between the two. AR uses real world inputs to generate the world whereas VR creates the world from scratch. That’s the TL;DR of the post, really.

The best part of all of this is that both technologies are not even specifically gaming technologies!.Games utilize AR like Pokémon GO and VR equipment like the HTC Vive will only make the common person want more of these kinds of technologies. More demand means more development!

Regardless, I hope this helped give a bit more insight on the topic!

-Eld

 

Dungeon it Yourself: Homebrew Monsters

One of my favorite things about 5e is how simple it is to create your own custom monsters. Most of the time I will use this to create boss monsters, but you can homebrew just about any sort of monster you can imagine. The most challenging part about homebrewing anything is ensuring that it is properly balanced. The last thing that you or your players want to deal with in a game is an overpowered monster. Do note that there is a HUGE difference between challenging or difficult and overpowered.

So, let’s go through the design process I use when I’m making a monster. I like to break a big project like this into smaller, more specific tasks. I made a post awhile ago about the software I use to make homebrew monsters if you’re interested in that sort of thing.

Step 1: Purpose

This step is by far the most important part of the design process. Every time you create something you should have a goal in mind for it. Homebrew monsters should each serve a specific purpose. Here are a few examples of the purposes I usually have for creating a new monster.

Is it an idea that you have that isn’t replicated anywhere in the monster manual? This is probably the most common purpose one will have when creating a new monster. A lot of people will also take monsters that were in earlier additions or different table top games and convert them to the game that they are currently playing. This would fall under this sort of purpose, but it is a bit easier to get a solid start on since you have a reference for what you want the monster to do.

Is it a monster that is intended to be a boss? I use this one a lot when I’m homebrewing a monster. Say the party is doing a quick quest in a Kobold Den. Maybe the Kobold Chieftain has some magical powers or additional abilities that a regular Kobold would not have. This is generally more of a tweaking/re-balancing project, but it could still be considered a homebrew if you change a lot or add a few abilities.

Do I just have a great idea for something unique and want to spend some time trying to make it work? Homebrewing for the fun of creating your own monsters is a perfectly good reason to do this as well! Generally when I do this sort of homebrewing it’s more of a “Back Burner” project where I won’t make it a priority but go and add to it when I have a good idea.

Obviously there are other reasons you may want to create a unique monster, but these are a few of the more common purposes that I use to begin my work on a new creature.

Step 2: Description

This is a big one for creating a creature that you intend to use in a current or future campaign. What does the creature look like and where would you find it? These are the two big questions that will help you flesh out the rest of your ideas. Let’s do a quick example to show what I’m talking about here.

One of my campaigns that I’m currently running takes place in the Underdark. The monster I want to create for this campaign would most likely be native to the Underdark which means it would have some sort of Darkvision or Blindsight in order to effectively navigate its terrain. A lot of the creatures in the Underdark are extremely hostile and are predatory in nature so this creature will probably try to hunt down the party perhaps in a pack or a small group of other creatures.

While that’s a super basic description, I think it conveys the message I’m trying to get across for this part of my design process. I have my intention of what I want the creature to do and where it lives. The creature’s environment will shape some of the features of the creature as it would have to have adapted to said environment in order to survive there. It wouldn’t make sense for a creature to be native to the Underdark but it cannot see in the Dark and has no Blindsight or Truesight or anything of that nature.

Step 3: Difficulty

If you’re creating a monster with a specific campaign in mind you’ll want to figure out the appropriate Challenge Rating (CR) of the monster that you’d want to make. In case you don’t know this off the top of your head I found this great calculator that lets you figure out the appropriate experience or CR of the encounters you should be using for your campaign.

A good tip that I usually use is that once you figure out a CR that you want the creature you’re creating to be go through the monster manual and find a few monsters with the same CR that you’ve selected. Look at all of the stats it has, look at the damage output that it does, and look at the average hp/AC the creatures have.

Your creature does not have to be inline with all of these, but there is an average amount for each CR and you should attempt to stay within that average for stat distribution, HP, AC, and damage output. Now HP and AC directly correlate. A monster with more AC will generally have less HP than monsters with the same CR with less AC.

Once you have this in mind we’ll start fleshing out the mechanics!

Grab a lot of these, you’re going to need them soon!

Step 4: Mechanics

This is the part where we nail down exactly what this monster does. Does it have any sort of passive abilities? Legendary Actions? What attacks does it do? How many attacks does it get per turn? Does it have any Reactions? Can it cast spells? Does it have resistances to specific damage types? What about vulnerabilities? These are the things you’ll have to figure out. Most creatures will not have every single one of these mechanics, but a high CR creature may very well have most of these types of mechanics in its arsenal.

The mechanics of the monster is the meat of the whole design process and will most likely be the part that you spend the most time on. For the first couple of creatures you create try to find similar abilities to base your mechanics around until you feel you’ve gotten the hang of it. There is no shame in learning what are good and bad mechanics and what combinations of abilities would be overpowered or broken!

This section is also highly dependent on the CR of the creature. For example, low CR creatures will not have many attacks, but if they do have Multiattack then it would be very low damage in comparison to creatures without it. On the other hand, a monster with a high CR would have quite a few attacks per turn and may have some unique abilities.

Once you’ve gotten everything ironed out it’s time to try it out in a game. If you’re super focused on getting it “right” maybe run a test run against yourself or have a few friends over and try it out together. One-offs can be great fun and can be as in-depth as you and your friends want it to be.

Step 5: Balance

After you’ve tried the creature out against an appropriately leveled party think about what happened during the encounter. Was it an appropriate challenge for the party? If not maybe consider tweaking the damage dice, bonus damage, or the stats themselves. The same thing goes for if the creature was outputting too much damage.

This is probably the more challenging part of the design process as it can take a lot of time to get correct. This may be something you never feel is completely “finished” and that’s fine too! One of the most important parts of creating something is knowing when to fix it, and it’s pretty rare to be 100% correct about a homebrew on the first play through if you’re new to this sort of thing.

Conclusion

Homebrewing is not for everyone, but it can certainly be fun for you as a DM and even for the players. Having something completely new thrown at you can be super fun as you really have no way to meta game it subconsciously. Try not to go overboard if you’re new to this sort of thing, but don’t be afraid to give it a go. Just remember that if you do screw up and accidentally throw something completely bonkers OP at your party make it up to them and apologize. The last thing you want is for your players to be mad at you because you killed their characters by using a broken creature.

I encourage you to try out homebrewing and being creative a bit creative. Keep your ego in check and have an open mind about your creations!

 

Site Update: 7/3/2016

As you can see I’ve change the layout and a few other things about the site. I just got back from a very relaxing vacation and have come up with some good ideas for new posts, new series, and some goals for myself for Dungeon Solvers. I’m going to keep this quick and just go over what I’ve done/am doing.

Site Changes

  • Change the layout to something a bit more “modern”.
  • Changed the header image. It felt a bit tacky and I don’t feel like the tagline really describes my vision for the site.
  • Cleaned up the sidebar to be a bit more concise.
  • Deleted a few posts that I didn’t feel were up to par.
  • Pages
    • Deleted the Characters page. It wasn’t relevant and was out of date
    • Updated the About Me page.
    • Updated the Contact Me page. I had my old twitter handle linked there.
    • Added a Character Builds page. (More on that below)

Goals

  • 1 Weekly Post for Dungeon It Yourself most likely on Wednesdays or Thursdays.
  • 1 monthly character build for a tabletop game. 99.99% of the time this will be for Dungeons and Dragons 5e.
  • 2+ posts a week
  • be a bit more active on twitter

Dungeon it Yourself: Keeping Everyone On Track

Depending on the group, you may or may not have moments in the game where the party becomes completely unfocused from the task at hand. Mind you it’s not the party focusing on something that the DM doesn’t want them to focus on, this is when everyone has lost their focus and really isn’t paying attention to the actual game.

This is especially a problem in larger groups such as my main group with 9 players. The more people there are, the longer everything takes and the less people end up actually needing to pay attention. You can’t always fault the players, and honestly it’s the DM’s job to ensure that everyone is involved and enjoying themselves.

So, what can we do? Well, we can do quite a few things, but some of my favorites include speeding up combat, establishing the scene/situation a bit better, and simply providing less down-time.

Speeding Up Combat

This one is generally an issue in larger groups, but if you have a lot of slow players in your group this could potentially be the cause of disruptions in the game. Do remember that if players are new they could just be a bit swamped so this isn’t something you should be doing for newer players.

One of the big things I try to drill into each player’s head is that they are responsible for everything being ready to go on their turn. By that I mean that when it is your turn in the initiative order know what actions you wish to take and what your spells/abilities do. It can be tough using a spell or ability for the first time, but you should try to have everything ready ahead of time so that the game can just continue on smoothly.

At least for my group, combat is the biggest factor in which players zone out or part of the group begins talking and it temporarily derails the group. If this is something that is happening on a regular basis and is disrupting game time, having everyone know exactly what they’ll be doing at the start of their turn (especially you as the DM) is a great way to solve that.

Immersion

As the DM it’s your job to describe the situation, the scene, and the characters to your players. If you’re giving them a lack-luster description or no description at all, it can be really difficult for your players to be immersed in the game. When the players are fully immersed, they are generally paying much closer attention to the game.

Even little things like calling the players by their character’s name or even finding ways to tie in a player’s background into the story. Making interesting and unique characters that the players actually want to interact with. Describe in better detail what the fights actually look like (this one does not mesh well with the shortening combat idea).

Anything that will help bring the players into the game and make them invested in actually completing tasks and paying attention throughout the entire game is a win in this category. Getting everyone involved or at least invested in the role playing during the game is always a huge plus for keeping everyone on track.

Less Down-Time

Down time can be a double-edged sword some times. There are plenty of instances where players will get a surprising amount of character development done during down-time either goofing off in the city/town they are in or discussing things together during a long rest. Other times, the players will sort of get off topic as there is a small break in the game.

Try to be concise with rests/breaks in action so that you can refocus your players back on what’s at hand. This is really going to depend on the group and how you all communicate with each other more than anything though. When I’m DMing I tend to set time limits on things like quests and dungeons in order to keep the players more focused and less likely to goof around.

If things are gone too far, perhaps refocus them with a random encounter or a travelling NPC so that they’ll come back and return to interacting with the game again.

Conclusions

These are all decent options to refocusing players and ensuring that things actually get done during sessions. However, you really should read the players. If they’re having fun doing just a low key role playing session then maybe just let them do that; not every session has to be about slaying the big bad guy and completing the quest.

Communication is key. See what the players want and if they’re enjoying everything. If everyone is honest with each other the game will go much more smoothly and people will be more likely to actually focus on the game.

-Eld

Habitica: Fighting Monsters with Productivity

HabiticaBorder

That’s me!

It’s been awhile. I’ve been somewhat productive lately IRL, but in reality I have been slacking off quite a bit. I tried to motivate myself a few different ways in order to really push myself to fill out job applications as I’m in my last semester of college currently. Regardless, I would always find myself on Hearthstone or Overwatch or any other game that I could play to avoid committing to real life goals.

That’s when my buddy Slow Wolf posted on social media that he’d been using Habitica, an RPG flavored to-do list/game that has been really helping him become more productive. I figured, why not? As he had gotten one of my other friends to try it at the same time.

I only started on this past Wednesday, but it has seriously helped me. Maybe it is the fact that it’s a fun game where I get rewards and build a character based on how much of my goals and daily chores I complete, or just that I really needed a way to organize my chores and work in order to hop on them. Regardless, it’s worked and it’s part of the reason why I’m writing anything on here again.

The Basics

So essentially you start off with a character at level 1. You do a quick tutorial that explains how you make and record three different types of goals that you set for yourself. Completing your tasks will grant your character experience and gold to purchase equipment/rewards with.

You can also determine how difficult each task is by tagging it as trivial, easy, medium, or hard. The more difficult the task, the more rewards you earn, but also the more damage you will take if you don’t complete the task! I’ll just give a quick run down here of the different goals to help explain the game.

Habits

The first type of goal that you set for yourself is called “Habits”. Habits are things that you want to get yourself to do on a regular basis. For instance, I want to start watching what I’m eating better, so after every meal I want to start logging my calories. I’ll hit the “+” button when I remember to do that, but the “-” button when I forget or don’t. I get a small amount of experience and gold when I complete a habit, but I will lose health if I do not complete the habit.

I have a list of some of my habits below here. Most  are sanitary things like remembering to clip my nails and floss, but they can be just about anything that you need to remind yourself to do more often/want to do more often.

Habits

Dailies

The next type of goal, the “Dailies” are the real “meat” of Habitica. These are tasks that you want to complete on a regular basis. Be it every day, every week, or every x day, dailies are the lifeblood of you earning experience/money and completing other fun tasks which I’ll touch on a bit later.

Regardless, at the end of each day if you  have any incomplete tasks in the Dailies category you will lose health for each task left incomplete. This is a very high-risk high-reward section as well. The more you challenge yourself to do on a regular basis, the quicker you will grow and explore the content in Habitica, but if you bite off more than you can chew you’ll be penalized a fair amount for it.

dailies

To-Dos

The last category is the “To-Dos” category. This is generally used for large chores or upcoming projects that have to be completed. This section is great for me as a student since I have quite a few projects, homework assignments, and tests due so I can put those in here. This section is more of an “investment” section. The larger the task/the longer you take to complete these tasks, the more you will earn.

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Classes

There are four classes in the game: Warrior, Mage, Healer, and Rogue. Everyone begins the game as the Warrior class, but later on you can change to a different class!

I don’t have much experience on this as you do not get to pick a class until level 10, but regardless each apparently has special abilities to use on boss fights and buffs to help their party members with.

Party Up!

As I mentioned earlier, my buddy Slow Wolf got me into this with a couple of mine and his friends. We all formed a party and are able to complete quests and battle boss monsters together. We just started our first boss fight today, actually!

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Here’s what it looks like to be in a party. The black square is where the party chat is.

Quests

Quests are essentially just collect X amount of item. At the end of each day the system will randomly generate an amount of item based on how many Dailies and To-Dos you have done and contribute it to the quest. Each player contributes some items to the quest and once all the items have been collected the entire party gets a reward of money, experience, and special loot such as armor or pets.

Boss Fights

Bosses are a bit more interesting, but essentially the same idea as quests. At the end of the day each player deals damage based on how many dailies and todos they have done. I’m sure stats and equipment also affect how damage is dealt to bosses. However, during boss fights if a person misses any of their dailies, the boss will deal damage to each member of the party.

Essentially, the party system provides a system of accountability for your party. If you slack off everyone sees that they took damage because you failed to complete all of your tasks!

Conclusions

I am seriously enjoying Habitica, and so is everyone else that I’m playing with. I’ve felt a lot more productive since I started this week and I hope that continues even once the “newness” of it wears off. Seriously though, I’ve had the motivation to apply for jobs, work out, and floss every night. It’s been great!

Actually, it’s the reason that I’m even writing on this site again! I made it a personal challenge to complete at least 2 posts a week. I think I’ll also make it a challenge to spruce up the site a bit and make some changes. I may even make some more posts about Habitica in the future.

Try it out! There’s even a phone app for it!

-Eld