Your Badass D&D Character Would Make A Terrible Soldier

A few weeks back I talked about how archery is misunderstood by fantasy gamers. And wouldn’t you know, someone disagreed with me. But the respectful counter-argument raised about my archery post wasn’t in defense of the impossibly accurate Legolas’s of the D&D world. Or much about archery at all, really. The argument seemed to focus on the plausibility of a small, elite fighting group having real effect against ranks of archers or a phalanx of spearmen. The points made against my post also came from a source I respect.

So here, for the first time, I will write a rebuttal about why your average D&D character would be diced into Gnomechow if they went up against a real organized military unit. Continue reading “Your Badass D&D Character Would Make A Terrible Soldier”

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5 Facts About Archery (D&D Players Neglect)

You’re wandering through the badlands and Orcs ambush your party. You, as the party tank, stroll confidently forward and deliver your battle-cry; “For Procrastinitus The Unfinished!” and in return you’re struck by an arrow.

DM: Take 5 hitpoints.

No problem. You’ve got over 60 total HP left, an unspent surge, and the Cleric still has healing spells. A minion’s arrow is a drop in the bucket. You raise your sword to the heavens and charge into battle.

DM: Take 2 hitpoints, and move at one-quarter speed. The arrow was a bodkin point and pierced your thigh, meaning your leg-meat is stapled to the inside of your armor.

Okay, now the DM is just being petty and pedantic, but whatever. Fine. You remove the arrow first and…

DM: Make a constitution check. Removing the arrow without pushing it through tears tissue on the way out, and you could only push it through if you removed your armor.

Goddamnit, whatever. Fine. Fine. Fine. You make your check and you’re still conscious. You use the surge to heal some damage, and we’re back in business. Now on to the Orcs–

DM: You’re dead. Continue reading “5 Facts About Archery (D&D Players Neglect)”

5 Diseases That Sound Goddamn Magical (To Use In Your Game)

The moment you start to describe the monster in your game I snap my fingers, shout ‘Ah-hah!’ and locate it in Monster’s Manual. Now everyone at the table knows everything about your creature. Now we can math it out, by the numbers, and plan how to defeat it.

You begin describing a magical effect–I already know what spell it is, what it’s maximum range is, and how far I need to sprint away.

You introduce a new town, but I’ve already read the companion modules and I know all of Duskvale’s secrets.

You tell us a riddle, I look it up online.

You give us a puzzle, I break it.

You place a ward, I dispell it.

Hello, my name is Joe, and I’m that know-it-all asshat who ruins your game Continue reading “5 Diseases That Sound Goddamn Magical (To Use In Your Game)”

5 Ways Inviting a Substitute Dungeon Master Can Be Awesome

The first time a player asked me to allow them to run a micro-module in the middle of my 6-month campaign, my mind rebelled at the notion.

Stupid players. They wants it. They wants me to hand over my campaign. My love. My…precious.

But after some crying, a little blood, and a lot of counseling, I gave over my campaign for a single session while I test-drove a character concept that had been rattling around in my brain. 95% of the games I’m in, I’m the DM. But damn it felt good to let a substitute take over for a session. Continue reading “5 Ways Inviting a Substitute Dungeon Master Can Be Awesome”

The Cups Game (A Mind-Melting D&D Puzzle)

Usually when I write puzzles for my game it’s to entertain the players. But sometimes, on rare occasion, I throw a puzzle at the party that’s so dangerous, so devious, and so rewarding, that they can’t not resist it. They squirm and sweat and curse, trying to choose a course of action, when in reality there is no way to know what the correct path is. These hair-pulling puzzles are not to entertain the player. These enraging, crazy-making games of sadism are all for my enjoyment.

And here is just such a puzzle, so you can torture your players too. Continue reading “The Cups Game (A Mind-Melting D&D Puzzle)”

5 Essential Traits of a Pants-Ruining Monster

Once in a while we need to frighten the players. A house on a haunted hill. A monster in the closet. A sewer full of horrors. The next campaign calls for major creeps. But the problem with players (nay, media consumers) is that they’ve seen it all before. Most horror movies on Netflix have stranger monsters than the Monster’s Manual. Even your average non-horror RPG game, like Fallout or Skyrim, contain thrills that make old slasher flicks look like Anna Karenina.

How do I scare my players? How do I legitimately freak them out? How do I make their pulse pound after a lifetime of slaying vampires, goblins, and trolls? Continue reading “5 Essential Traits of a Pants-Ruining Monster”

Life After Death (In D&D)

Somewhere in the world today, a tabletop player got his or her favorite character killed. The chasm was too wide to jump. The gelatinous cube wasn’t edible. The dragon wasn’t really sleeping. The Orcs apparently take offense to making ‘Handle Animal’ attempts on them. For whatever reason the player is no longer the owner of a proud, courageous denizen of middle earth, but an arrow-riddled corpse and whatever equipment the party is willing to pass on to their new character.

Character death is usually dealt with like a child’s backstroke goldfish. Unceremoniously discarded, and replaced before anyone feels any real loss. Players are quick to throw up their hands Continue reading “Life After Death (In D&D)”

Free Will and Traitors in D&D

You lovingly crafted the end-dungeon boss encounter, carefully balancing his stats. You painted a miniature of his hideous drooling face, and spent hours at the table leading up to the climactic battle between the party and Sneery Evilton, mayor of Dicksberg. You even wrote some canned dialogue for him to recite to the party. Some pithy villainous barbs, like;

“We’re not so different, you and I.”

Or,

“Join me or die.”

And it’s at this moment, as the players clutch their d20’s in preparation to dispatch one of several Big Bads sprinkled throughout your game, this happens…

“Sure, I’ll join. What do I get in return?”

That’s right. One of the players has agreed to fall in line with the villain’s plans Continue reading “Free Will and Traitors in D&D”

The Importance of Player Recognition

One of my favorite Ted Talks comes from Dan Ariely, in a presentation from 2012 about personal recognition and what makes us motivated to work hard. If you haven’t seen this speech it isn’t a requisite to understand what I’m going to rap about today, but it’s a damn good presentation and you should just go watch the bloody thing.

What Mr. Ariely talks about is the importance of recognizing the labor of workers. Not rewarding. Not praising. Not encouraging. Simply acknowledging the labors of another can double the amount of menial work they’re willing to put in. This is a notion that can easily be applied to your gaming. Continue reading “The Importance of Player Recognition”

D&D Prop – The Mad Grimoire (A How-To Guide)

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In mythology, fantasy, or D&D, the allure of forbidden knowledge is rife with possibility. Tell someone they can’t look inside the box or push the mysterious red button, and they’re on it like stink on rice. Well, here’s an easy way to port that nagging curiosity into your game while simultaneously tricking your players into absorbing some world lore: The Mad Grimoire

Continue reading “D&D Prop – The Mad Grimoire (A How-To Guide)”