10 Most Common Mistakes DMs and Players Make in 5e D&D

by Ameron (Derek Myers) on April 29, 2016

If you’re like me you’ve been playing D&D a long time and 5e is not your introduction to this wonderful game. And if you’re like me you haven’t read every single page of the PHB and DMG. You’re an experienced player, you know what’s what. You rely on your experience and looks stuff up when you need to (good luck finding it in the PHB index).

However, as I play with more and more new players I find that many of the rules I thought were the same in 5e as they were in previous editions are not exactly the same. Many are quite similar but because I hadn’t taken the time to look them up I was doing things incorrectly. That’s not to say these errors broke the game, but if I’m doing things in a way that is contrary to the actual Rules As Written (RAW) that may cause confusions and lead to arguments in real life. Better to get it right and share that knowledge with others who didn’t know.

So to help all those experienced players like me who haven’t read the rule books cover to cover, I’ve compiled a helpful list of common mistakes I’ve seen or done when running or playing 5e D&D. This isn’t an exhaustive list, but it covers the most gross violations and misconceptions. And to assure you that everything I say in the article below is correct, I’m even going to site page references from the PHB as applicable.

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curse-of-strahd-coverA terrible evil is coming! And a family of Gur nomads are the only ones who seem to be taking precautions to protect themselves. They even went so far as to steal from the goodly people who frequent the Crossing Inn. But a group of good-hearted adventures looking to make names for themselves stepped in and offered to recover the stolen property and return the Gur thieves to the authorities.

In the past two sessions we learned of four Gur men, what they stole, and where they were headed. The PCs recovered missing gems in COINS, stolen weapons in SWORDS, and a broken wand in STARS. This time out the PCs seek Papa who stole rare herbs and headed towards the foreboding and unwelcoming Quivering Forest in GLYPHS.

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Friday Favourite – DMs Are the Worst Players

by Ameron (Derek Myers) on April 15, 2016

On Friday we comb through our extensive archives to find an older article that we feel deserves another look. From January 11, 2013, Dungeon’s Master once again presents: DMs Are the Worst Players.

They say that doctors make the worst patients; well I truly believe that DMs make the worst players. After DMing for long stretches DMs get used to having something to do all the time. They’re used to tracking initiative, running all the monsters, adjudicating rule disputes, playing the NPCs, and basically controlling the world. But when they give up the DM’s seat and go back to being one of the players all they have to worry about is running one character. For some DMs it can be a difficult transition. And for the new DMs it can spell disaster.

This is not to say that all DMs are bad players. Some DMs make the transition gracefully. This is especially true with a close-knit group where everyone takes a turn behind the screen. It’s the DMs who run the show for extended periods of time, especially during public-play or games with newer players that the transition from DM to player causes problems.

It’s not that these DMs turned players intentionally cause problems. In fact I believe that these DMs truly believe that they are helping. However, there can only be one DM at a time and if you’re not behind the screen than you’re not the DM. You need to remember what it means to be just a player and clam down. To make the transition easier I’ve compiled a list of tips to help. I strongly encourage any DM who is giving up the reigns soon or has done so recently to review these tips.

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curse-of-strahd-coverThe Crossing Inn. A stop-over for travellers heading in and out of Phlan. However, with Phlan currently under the control of the Green Dragon Vorgansharax, the inn hasn’t seen nearly as many travels of late. Add to that the unseasonable cold and the lingering fog and it’s no wonder the inn has fallen on tough times.

As the five factions mount a heroic effort to reclaim Phlan, the PCs were asked to visit the Crossing Inn and gather intel while awaiting further instructions. When they reached the inn they discovered that a family of nomadic travellers who’d been staying in the area had tricked the locals, stolen some good, and fled the inn the night before. The heroes, all looking to make names for themselves, volunteered to track down the thieves, recover the stolen goods, and bring the perpetrators back to the inn to face justice.

In the last write-up we covered the introduction including who these thieves were and what was taken. We also followed the PCs’ adventures as they undertook the first mission called COINS. In that one they recovered a box of stolen gems for a visiting merchant. This week the PCs undertook two more missions called SWORDS and STARS as they tried to recover two more stolen items: a wagon full of weapons and a magic wand.

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Friday Favourite: What Your Weapon Says About Your Character

by Ameron (Derek Myers) on April 8, 2016

On Friday we comb through our extensive archives to find an older article that we feel deserves another look. From March 21, 2012, Dungeon’s Master once again presents: What Your Weapon Says About Your Character.

“The clothes make the man.” It’s a pretty common expression. It quite literally means that you can draw a conclusion, and usually a fairly accurate conclusion, about a person’s personality just based on what they’re wearing. In D&D, the type of clothes (or armor) a person wears will usually indicate with great accuracy what class he is but it’s less likely to accurately indicate what kind of a man he is – for that you have to look at his weapon.

During character creation most players I’ve gamed with will equip their character before they determine his personality. I know that’s how I usually do it. But I’ve noticed over the years that the personality of a PC is very often directly related to the type of weapon he carries. It’s like the weapon imprints a specific personality type on the characters wielding them.

So I’ve put together a list of my observations. This is simply my first-hand account of how I see things. It’s not based on any scientific method or precise sampling, it’s just what I’ve seen over and over again in the many years that I’ve played D&D. I think that despite my rather loose methodology the results are surprisingly accurate.

If you think I’ve really missed the mark on any of these I encourage you to leave your feedback in the comments section below. I also welcome new additions to the list. After all, there are a lot of weapons in D&D and my list just scratches the surface.

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A Matter of Perspective – Who’s the Bad Guy?

by Ameron (Derek Myers) on April 7, 2016

Every week one of my players does a quick summary of what happened at our gaming table and emails it to our gaming group. It’s a great way for the players to keep the details fresh and it’s exceptionally helpful if a player misses a session. As the DM, it gives me a sense of what details they picked up and on what details they may have misinterpreted. It also gives me a clear idea of which parts of the game left the strongest impression upon my players, and allows me to adjust future sessions to focus on that kind of thing more often.

After reading a recent recap I commented that the players, especially the one doing the write-up, often described events in a way that glossed over their own mistakes or poor judgment, especially in cases where the outcome was not good. In response one of the players provided an alternate summary of the week’s events from the monsters’ point-of-view. It was both funny and educational. It reminded all of us that the heroes and villains of a story often depend on who’s telling the story. Read the two accounts of me last gaming session below and tell me what you think.

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Friday Favourite – What’s a +1 Sword?

by Ameron (Derek Myers) on April 1, 2016

On Friday we comb through our extensive archives to find an older article that we feel deserves another look. From July 13, 2009, Dungeon’s Master once again presents: What’s a +1 Sword?

“That’s a beautiful blade,” noted the barkeep as he served the adventurers their ale. “Is it magical?”
“It sure is,” replied Delian the Paladin. “I found this in the ogre’s lair. It’s a +1 sword.”
“What’s a +1 sword?”

How often do you refer to your PC’s gear only in gaming terms? Sure the people sitting at your dining room table playing D&D know what a +1 sword is, but how would you describe the same weapon in character to an NPC? You’d sound pretty stupid if you called it a +1 sword. Not to mention that no one would understand what you mean when you call it a +1 sword.

Magical treasure is the most common reward in D&D. All PCs strive to acquire magic loot be it a magical wand, a suit of magical plate mail or even a magic sword. In most Dungeons & Dragons campaign settings magic items are fairly commonplace. To an experienced gamer owning a magical weapon may not seem like a big deal. In fact most PCs or NPCs worth their salt have one. But just because the magic items are common doesn’t mean that they aren’t special. It’s not like they’re mass produced in a factory and are indistinguishable from one another – quite the opposite in fact. Creating a magic item of any kind requires time, resources and aptitude. Anyone who chooses to create a magic item wants to make it unique. So just because you’ve got a magic sword and I’ve got a magic sword doesn’t mean that they’re the same.

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curse-of-strahd-coverGreetings readers! After a long break Dungeon’s Master is back in business and will be posting new articles (and Friday Favourites) on a regular basis once again.

It only seems fitting that our first new post be about D&D public play. There’ve been a lot of changes to the D&D Adventurers League since our last blog post and we won’t get into all of that just yet. However, with the discontinuation of the D&D Encounters program our weekly public play write ups will need to undergo a few changes as well starting with our title. From this point forward our weekly recaps will carry the D&D AL title since we can’t call it D&D Encounters any more.

With the passing of D&D Encounters we had to decide what we were going to do at our FLGS on Wednesday nights. Over the past few seasons we’ve run the hardcover adventure, or at least the part that was provided as a free PDF download. Although the new Curse of Strahd hardcover is outstanding, we’ve decided that we’re going to save it for home play. Instead we’re going to run the adventures formerly called D&D Expeditions week to week.

This season the shorter adventures form one linear, continuous story over the span of 14 modules. Each new adventure builds upon the one that came before it. At my FLGS we decided that running these was better than running the hardcover which we knew we’d never finish in the allotted time of the Curse of Strahd season. So this season my weekly recaps will cover the modules in order as we play them starting with DDAL04-01 Suits of the Mist.

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On Friday we comb through our extensive archives to find an older article that we feel deserves another look. From July 27, 2009, Dungeon’s Master once again presents: Speed Up Your Game – Know When to Call the Fight.

Note: Although this article was written to address 4e most of the tips are just as applicable to 5e or any edition for that matter. – Ameron

One of the biggest criticisms I’ve heard about 4e D&D is that the combat takes too long. Sometimes it’s necessary to stop combat, assume the PCs will emerge victorious and keep things moving. When DMs find themselves in a situation where dragging out a combat encounter is just an exercise in rolling dice then it’s time to call the fight. We’ve already shared some of our methods for speeding up your game and as PCs move into the Paragon and Epic tiers of play DMs will find this latest tip more and more useful.

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D&D Encounters: Out of the Abyss (Session 4.7)

by Ameron (Derek Myers) on December 23, 2015

out-of-the-abyss-coverWhat do you do when you find yourself in possession of a stolen Red Dragon egg? What if you knew where to bring it but couldn’t get it there because it was too big to fit through the exit? Simple, find another exit that will accommodate the egg’s size. Oh, and don’t get caught with it or allow it to get cracked in the process. Just another day in the life of an adventuring party wandering through the Duergar city of Gracklstugh.

This week at Face to Face Games in Toronto we had fewer players than normal and only ran four tables, but we did have two new walk-ins so that helped round out the tables we did run. My group had six including one of the new players. He’d been playing at another FLGS and was new to our store, but not to D&D organized play. The party looked like this: Group A had the Human Monk, Human Rogue, and Half-Orc Barbarian; Group B had the Elf Wizard, the Dragonborn Fighter, and the new character a Halfling Rogue (Assassin).

Last week we only had the three players in Group A so they explored the Whorlstone Tunnels while Group B stayed by the entrance waiting for Droki. When we started this week the party was still divided into two groups.

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