Friday Favourite: Summoning and Banishment

by Ameron (Derek Myers) on January 24, 2014

On Friday we comb through our extensive archives to find an older article that we feel deserves another look. From March 7, 2011, Dungeon’s Master once again presents: Summoning and Banishment.

summon-aGenerally when a character uses a summoning or banishing power there is no real though about how the power works. A creature is either summoned from a distant plane of existence to do your bidding or a dangerous foe is removed from combat for a short period of time. However, since most powers that summon or banish are arcane or psionic in nature, there is certainly room for customization that can make for some very interesting role-playing.

Without changing the mechanics of how summoning or banishing powers actually work, the players and DM still have a tremendous about of flexibility when it comes to describing how these powers function within the game itself. Think of it as flavour text, but don’t stop there.

Consider for a minute the consequences and repercussions of summoning a creature to fight your battles or to banishing an incredibly deadly foe to some distant plane, even if it’s only for a very brief time period. A little imagination can add a lot of flavour to your game the next time a character uses one of these powers.

[click to continue…]

{ 1 comment }

D&D Encounters: Legacy of the Crystal Shard (Week 9)

by Ameron (Derek Myers) on January 23, 2014

legacy-of-the-crystal-shard-coverWhile wandering aimlessly through the Dwarven mines, the PCs were ambushed by Black Ice Zombies last week. They fought the good fight and defeated the undead creatures but in the aftermath of the battle the party’s Revenant Assassin was overcome by the Black Ice’s evil influences. He attacked the party and they were forced to kill him.

Eventually the PCs found their way to Battlehammer Hold where they learned that Stokely Silverstream was preparing his people for a mass exodus of the mines. They would head to Easthaven to take temporary refuge from the undead threat while they mounted ample forces to return and wipe out the Necromancer, the source of the undead problem.

Our attendance has been very consistent after a missing a couple of weeks over the holiday and then a rocky first week back. We ran four full tables at Harry T North in Toronto. My table is using the 4e rules and is currently level 4. One of our regular players was absent, but another player brought a friend so we had a full table of five. The party consisted of: a Dragonborn Cavalier, Tiefling Paladin, Gnoll Barbarian, Tiefling Warlock and Drow Ranger (Hunter). One of the tables running D&D Next had a new player as well this week so we are still getting walk ins, even into the ninth week of the season.

With only four weeks left in the season we still have a lot of ground to cover. Realistically there’s no way we can get everything done (which is unfortunate). So at the beginning of this week’s session I explained the situation to my players and suggested they let me narrate a bunch of stuff to move the story forward. They agreed.

[click to continue…]

{ 10 comments }

Friday Favourite: Really Hard Skill Checks

by Ameron (Derek Myers) on January 17, 2014

On Friday we comb through our extensive archives to find an older article that we feel deserves another look. From December 3, 2010, Dungeon’s Master once again presents: Really Hard Skill Checks.

Have you ever needed to roll over 20 to succeed at a skill check? If you’re a combat-heavy PC then the answer is probably yes, but what if you’re a well rounded PC with decent attributes? Does your DM ever make a DC so difficult that it’s practically impossible to succeed? With very few exceptions most DMs won’t present DCs that are out of the reach of the average PC. My question is why not? I know I do when I’m the DM.

There’s been a lot of discussion about the actual numbers when it comes to skill checks and DC. We already covered this issue last week in Bauxtehude’s articles Exploring Skill Checks and the New DCs part 1 and part 2. The point I want to discuss today is whether or not DCs should ever be out of reach to all but the very best and most highly trained characters?

Too many players focus too much on combat and forget just how important the skills are to the game and to their character. Players need to realize that feats and powers that provide bonuses to skills are just as vital to victory as the feat that gives bonuses to attacks and damage or powers that deal multiple weapon damage.

By presenting circumstances where incredibly high DCs rear their ugly head, the DM reminds players that they shouldn’t expect an easy victory all the time. These reminders need to be nailed home for out of combat encounters even more than for combat encounters.

[click to continue…]

{ 4 comments }

D&D Encounters: Legacy of the Crystal Shard (Week 8.)

by Ameron (Derek Myers) on January 16, 2014

legacy-of-the-crystal-shard-coverAfter a three week break we finally returned to Icewind Dale to pick up where we left off before Christmas. When we last played the party overwhelmed Hammerstone, knocking him unconscious despite his guards’ best effort to overtake the heroes. But before the PCs could revel in their victory Zombies entered the Halls of Black Ice and attacked indiscriminately. The PCs grabbed the unconscious Hammerstone and fled down an unknown passage, deeper into the Dwarven mines.

This week at Harry T North in Toronto we were back in business. My table had all five players for the first time since the launch weekend. The other three DMs all had full or near-full attendance at their tables too. My party, which is running 4e and is currently level 4, consisted of a Dragonborn Cavalier, Tiefling Paladin, Revenant (Eladrin) Assassin, Halfling Rogue and Gnoll Barbarian. I’ve been using Hengar as an NPC to round out the party during the past few weeks, so technically he was still around but I didn’t use him this week.

[click to continue…]

{ 11 comments }

Friday Favourite: Playing a Recognizable Archetype

by Ameron (Derek Myers) on January 10, 2014

On Friday we comb through our extensive archives to find an older article that we feel deserves another look. From November 30, 2009, Dungeon’s Master once again presents: Playing a Recognizable Archetype.

“What would the crew of the U.S.S. Enterprise look like if they were D&D characters?” I’ve asked myself this question numerous times over the last few weeks as I’ve watched old episodes of Start Trek: The Next Generation. It’s an interesting exercise, and it got me thinking about what it would take to play these archetypes in an ongoing camping.

Over the years I have participated in games that borrowed famous characters from familiar stories. It was an interesting way to create new characters and the games were a lot of fun.

[click to continue…]

{ 0 comments }

D&D Encounters: Legacy of the Crystal Shard (Week 7)

by Ameron (Derek Myers) on January 9, 2014

legacy-of-the-crystal-shard-coverThe games we should have played during week 5 and week 6 were canceled due to Christmas and New Years. The plan was to pick things up this week and try to get back on track. Unfortunately four of my five players were unable to play this week due to extended vacations, bad weather, and illness. So for the third week in a row I did not run my usual table.

However, two of the other three DMs did have a chance to get their games back on track this week. I grabbed a pre-gen and joined one of the D&D Next tables. The choices this party made so far this season took them on a very different path than my group. This party had spent a lot of time in Bryn Shander with a short detour to the Dwarven Valley and the bandit’s cave hideout. This week they were back in Bryn Shander in looking for the missing Speaker.

The party already had the following PCs: Tiefling Rogue, Dragonborn Ranger, Halfling (Kender) Rogue, Human Cleric, and Human Monk. The character I got was a Half-Orc Barbarian.

[click to continue…]

{ 5 comments }

What Would It Take For You To Give Up Your Favourite Magic Item?

by Ameron (Derek Myers) on January 6, 2014

If your DM asked you to either have their PC give up his favourite magic item or cut off his own leg I’m betting it would be a really tough choice. And I think most players would rather the PC lose the leg than their magic item. That’s how important magic items are to most players.

When a PC acquires a new magic item it often become a significant part of that character. Many of us define our PCs by the items they possess, especially the really cool or powerful items.

Magic items are often seen as a sort of status symbol at the gaming table. If your character has magic armor, a magic cloak, a magic weapon or two, and numerous other miscellaneous baubles in his inventory he’s going to be deemed “better” than other PCs in the party who have fewer items with lower plusses. It’s not usually talked about but it happens.

With everyone clamouring for more items the DM’s natural instinct is to award magic items every time the PCs complete a quest or defeat a really difficult encounter. That’s just how D&D works – you kill monsters and take their stuff. And if they don’t have anything useful you sell what they had and buy something you can actually use. The result is a party with a ridiculous amount of magic items in their combined inventory, especially at higher levels. Welcome to the world of Monty Haul gaming.

So what’s a DM to do when he realizes that the party has too much stuff? The simplest solution is to take it away. However, this is not going to go over well with the players. After all, they didn’t do anything wrong. In fact they did everything right. They killed the toughest monsters and rightly earned all of their best stuff. Just because the DM was too generous doesn’t mean the players should suffer. So what other options are there?

[click to continue…]

{ 5 comments }

Greatest Hits 2013: Zombies: Breathing Life into an Overused Undead

by Ameron (Derek Myers) on December 31, 2013

While the Dungeon’s Master team enjoys some well-deserved vacation time, we’re breaking out the greatest hits and shining a spotlight on a few of our favourite articles from 2013. We’ve searched for hidden gems that our newer readers might have missed and our long-time readers will enjoy reading again. Enjoy a second look at these greatest hits from Dungeon’s Master.

This article was the final entry of our A to Z Blogger Challenge in April and it’s the final entry of our 2013 Greatest Hits. Nothing says “The End” like Zombies.

Zombies are still some of the most popular creatures in pop culture and mass media entertainment. The Walking Dead – both the TV show on AMC and the comic book – are still going strong and generating huge dollars. The Zombie obsession phenomenon seems to be as difficult to kill as actual Zombies.

In D&D Zombies are good monsters to throw at unsuspecting PCs regardless of their level. Zombies can be level 1 minions or epic level marauders. The beauty of Zombies is that they’re such a straight forward archetype. The problem is that they get repetitive and boring, hence the purpose of the original article.

Since writing this article I’ve tried to come up with new ways to make Zombies fresh and original and I’ve struggled. There seems to be only so much you can do with them before they stop being Zombies and start being something else. So if you find that you’ve hit that rut in your game my advice is to focus on making them scary. Don’t worry so much about the mechanics; try to make an impression on the players.

In a recent 4e game I used a bunch of Zombie minions. They fell easily enough with a single hit. However, on the Zombie’s next turn a roll of 16-20 on a d20 meant the Zombie got back up. This is a standard 4e mechanic. My tweak was to forego the first roll and have ALL the Zombies get back up the first time. They then rolled the 16-20 to see if they’d get up a second time.

The players, most of whom had faced Zombies before, were not expecting this and it made the encounter a lot scarier. Where they’d originally been content to fight, they were now seriously contemplating if they should run. A simple adjustment made a huge impact on the encounter. So if you want to use Zombies in your game and you feel they’ve become tiresome, try making small adjustments to increase the fear factor.

From April 30, 2013, Dungeon’s Master once again presents: Zombies: Breathing Life into an Overused Undead.

[click to continue…]

{ 0 comments }

While the Dungeon’s Master team enjoys some well-deserved vacation time, we’re breaking out the greatest hits and shining a spotlight on a few of our favourite articles from 2013. We’ve searched for hidden gems that our newer readers might have missed and our long-time readers will enjoy reading again. Enjoy a second look at these greatest hits from Dungeon’s Master.

So what do nerds do for fun? The Big Bang Theory has done a pretty good job of showing the guys indulging in all sorts of nerdy hobbies from video games, to sci-fi movie marathons, to cosplay, to board gamers, to Dungeons & Dragons. The hobbies may get the occasional cheap laugh because of the mainstream audience’s unfamiliarity with them, but for the most part they’re all shown in a fairly positive light.

The Big Bang Theory has been good for nerd hobbies and nerds in general. The show is one of the most popular on TV right now and it’s exposing the masses to all sorts of things they’d never herd of or seen before.

It’s no secret in my office that I’m a huge nerd, and my co-workers will often ask me about things they see on episodes of The Big Bang Theory. I haven’t been able to get any of my colleagues to game with me yet, but the curiosity factor is encouraging. They see the characters on TV having fun doing something they’ve never heard of and think that perhaps they’d have fun if they tried it.

I’m particularly encouraged when I see The Big Bang Theory cast playing D&D. When they play on the show their games tend to focus on a good mixture of exploration, solving puzzles, and general role-playing. They don’t seem to engage in combat or even roll dice that often but honestly that would be boring to show on TV so I understand why we don’t see that very often.

In my opinion, the most important aspect of the D&D games we’ve seen on The Big Bang Theory is that they’re always having fun. This is the best endorsement the game can get and I’m glad we keep seeing the gang play D&D in prime time. If this episode’s popularity was any indication then I expect we’ll see them playing more D&D in upcoming episodes.

From May 10, 2013, Dungeon’s Master once again presents: The Big Bang Theory D&D Episode – A Gamer’s Perspective.

[click to continue…]

{ 0 comments }

Greatest Hits 2013: Your Character’s Psychological Profile

by Ameron (Derek Myers) on December 29, 2013

While the Dungeon’s Master team enjoys some well-deserved vacation time, we’re breaking out the greatest hits and shining a spotlight on a few of our favourite articles from 2013. We’ve searched for hidden gems that our newer readers might have missed and our long-time readers will enjoy reading again. Enjoy a second look at these greatest hits from Dungeon’s Master.

Some would argue that personality is not something you can stat out on a character sheet; each character’s personality derives from the player running that character. I’d agree, but I’d also add that if you can quantify certain elements of a character personality that may help some players develop a unique personality for each character they play.

In D&D the only real measuring stick for personality seems to be alignment. Yet so few players and DM care about playing to a PCs alignment that it becomes an irrelevant statistic and is often left blank (in my experience).

In the article I talk about how most of my characters end up having a personality that’s an awful lot like mine. It’s easy to make new characters, but it’s a lot more difficult to create new personalities with each. If you participate in public play you might have a whole stable of character by the end of just one year. When 4e first came out I had at last a dozen LFR character and three or four PCs for my various home campaigns. Mechanically each was a different race and class, but as I played them the majority of these PCs behaved, acted and spoke just like me.

Creating a psychological profile for a character can give players that quantifiable measure they need to “get into character.” Knowing how cruel or loyal or selfish your PC is compared to other PCs can really help you develop a frame of reference by which to play your character.

From February 6, 2013, Dungeon’s Master once again presents: Your Character’s Psychological Profile.

[click to continue…]

{ 1 comment }