Sunday, 27 March 2016

Dungeon Master: Non-Standard Weapons

The current edition of Dungeons and Dragons has a rather large weapon list. However, I there is usually a tendency to focus on particular combinations such as sword and shield, longsword, greatsword and so on. However, there are many other weapons that provide for their own unique options. For this reason, I hope to inspire more variety of use.

Tactical Reasons

The typical go to examples are swords. They are cool, they are iconic and they got good one hand a two hand damage (longsword and greatsword especially). However, many other weapons have the reach property that gives them a bunch of tactical options that swords don't. Shields also give tactical options due to the increase in armor class, but similar things can be accomplished through good armour. The thrown property is also useful, especially so when extra attack isn't present (I let players use extra attack).

Remember, Not Everyone Can Use Swords

I often forget which weapons are considered simple and which are martial. However, this plays a big role. Certain classes cannot use many weapons so remember to keep this in mind when choosing weapons for characters. No one that can use a war pick would want to use a sickle unless in some strange circumstances. However, not everyone can use a war pick. The result is that most non-trained people should be using weapon such as axes and spears.


A player may really want to make a shield and spear fighter but the math of the game moves them away from their desired character. I mean, as written a thrown weapon isn't THAT useful (you can't even throw multiple darts or javelins) but it does give an extra advantage. However, the d8 vs d6 damage of a longsword may be too tempting. If this is the case, a simple magic item can fix this easily. A +1 spear is all that's needed to give the same damage outcome and to make the player happy. Just don't treat it as a magic item and everything is fine (otherwise, the +1 spear has even more benefit over a longsword). You could let the player buy a +1 spear as well. Spears are naturally cheaper than swords in the game so why not a +1 spear? It will still be more expensive than a longsword, so the advantages I feel are earned.

Changing Appearance

Above, I mentioned how adding a +1 to an item can work. You can also have a custom spear made for the player that has the properties of a longsword but the appearance and piercing damage of a spear. This solves the problem and also doesn't force the player to spend more gold on an item to get what they want and as a result sacrificing other elements of their character.

Brand New Weapons

Some weapons won't be included in the table but are close enough to another weapon. These are easy to add by just describing particular details of a weapon that already exist. You can also add details about particular weapons you are using. It could be that your player is still using a longsword. However, it's not just a longsword now. Now it's a grosse messer or has a ring for hand protection. There is more to a weapon than just damage so don't forget to describe certain things that make your weapon unique. I remember I had one player who had small notches on the blade that all came from important events to the player character's history. It may not directly contribute to combat, but it sure contributes to roleplay and that is equally or more so important (depends on the player, of course).  

Sunday, 20 March 2016

Dungeons & Dragons: Death House

Curse of Strahd has been out for a couple of days. However, the adventure Death House (click here for the PDF) was released in Dragon+ and I thought it would be a good thing to talk about it. I do plan to review Curse of Strahd later, but for now I'll just do Death House. Being freely available, it presents a great way to try out part of Curse of Strahd.

Overall Structure

This is one big adventure aimed at level one characters and takes them to level 3. Leveling up is included in the adventure and takes place after specific objectives are met. If you decide you like what you see and would like to play the rest of Curse of Strahd, it looks like it would be easy to do so (the introduction makes it seem like it would easily fit into the adventure, it puts them into the correct location and also to the correct level).


This adventure is quite solid in my opinion and by far my favourite released on Dragon+ so far. The main problem comes from some of the rooms. Most don't have a part to be read to the players. This means that the Dungeon Master will either need to make it up on the spot or come up with their own vignettes. That being said, the descriptions provided make it quite easy for more experienced Dungeon Masters and also fairly easy for inexperienced Dungeon Masters with some preparation time.

The other problem has to be with the mists. It gives a reference to an effect from that the mists cause but it is not included in the adventure (it's in Curse of Strahd). This isn't the end of the world, but it does make running the adventure a bit harder, especially since it seems like the fog is meant to make sure the players have to take refuge in the house.

What Can Be Scavenged

The entire adventure is easy to drop into any campaign. There are a couple of Curse of Strahd details that will need to be changed but they are trivial to do. The biggest one is location, but the main way to get players into the house can be the exact same regardless of setting. The fog may be a bit hard to alter, though. This adventure is best and most easily salvaged as one whole. That being said, certain details, rooms or even entire floors can be taken and used by the Dungeon Master if they so need. The options for salvaging parts of this adventure are quite vast. The maps can be reused. The adventure can be reuse. Rooms and room description can be reused. Some plot points can be reused and fit into another adventure. Even if you don't run it, I'd recommend the read (it's pretty quick). It also makes for a good one-shot adventure (I've already run it as such and had a blast). I'd use it to get first time tabletop role-players hooked instead of Monster Slayers in a heartbeat.

Overall Opinion

Overall, I've already mentioned that I view it as the best adventure released in Dragon+ so far. It's one of those adventures where atmosphere plays a big role. It also provides plenty of opportunity for role-play (the kids make this easy) and problem solving. I'd also say it isn't that hard to run for a new Dungeon Master, though I'd recommend a read through first. That said, it's more evocative than some other adventures I've read that are fully ready to go and that can just be played through without reading a head of time.

Sunday, 13 March 2016

Dungeon Master: Necklace of Random Spells

Continuing with randomness, I thought it would make sense to post an item that came up a few times over the course of the games I run and play. It tends to be an interesting item, since whenever I've seen it used in my games and others it appears to be another item. I hope someone finds use for it in their games.


Generally, this item looks like another item. The most common way I've seen it, informally called the “Necklace of Random Spells” by my players (even though it's not 100% accurate, since a Necklace of Random Spells could include the entire spell list and would be awesome in its own right), is that it looks exactly the same as a Necklace of Fireballs. The surprises that occur after one of the other effects are usually well remembers and entertaining. The other way is without the necklace itself. Giving just the beads in a bag makes it less obvious and also lets you mix in some other necklace beads.

Magic Effects

Spell Effects D20 Roll
Heal to full health 1-5
Nothing 6-10
11-15/td> 10D10 necrotic damage (DC 15 dexterity save for half damage)
16-20/td> 10D10 fire damage (DC 15 dexterity save for half damage)

The table below covers the effects that occur when the bead hits a target. If the bead does not hit its target, it still goes off and creates a visual effect similar to the intended effect. If a throw is attempted, treat it as an improvised weapon attack (a clever player might load it into a sling but don't tell them this option).

Variant 1: Add “within 20ft” to every spell effect (in this case, throwing it would no longer use improvised weapon rules).

Variant 2: Remove the ability to save against the bead (the balance is maintained by need to hit the target with the bead).

Variant 3: Change the save DCs.

Variant 4: Double damage on a 20.

Variant 5: On a roll of 1, the target that is hit gains a level (if not possible, other benefit such as bonus damage and full health + temp hit points).

Variant 6: Change the damage.


Feel free to add other beads that have different effects, mix in other necklace beads into the bag of beads the characters finds (for more surprises) or change the rules on throwing the beads. The variants above can help make it more or less useful for the players.

When to Use

I'd recommend using this item at lower levels of play but not too low (level 5ish or lower if they may face extreme challenges). The damage is quite high but the ability to miss by default and the presence of the save helps even things out. The damage is also offset by the chance to get an undesired effect (such as the enemy gaining levels). The variant rule involving gaining a level on a roll of 1 is particularly bad for the party since it makes their enemy significantly stronger (though this has led to some pretty amazing combat encounters and story situations).  

Sunday, 6 March 2016

Dungeon Master: 10,000 Year Old Lich

As far as enemies and NPCs go, Liches are a lot of fun. However, I generally liked having neutral versions of typically evil types of characters. I also found myself wondering what lich so old that it was considered old by lich standards would look like. The below was what occurred as a result.


The players found this lich in a completely sealed underground laboratory where the lich was working away on its unlife's work. At the time they were quite low level (level 3 if I recall correctly) and naturally were quite concerned about running into one so early. They were noticed and were surprised that the lich was pretty relaxed about the situation (though obviously it could have easily just killed them all with a fireball if it wanted). Over the course of their campaign, they would often consult with this character.

The overall story (which I present here rather vaguely to allow for easy modification to fit your game) is that a very knowledgeable wizard worked on a number of knowledgeable pursuits in order to benefit the lives of normal people. However, it was quickly apparent to the wizard that the wizard's peers had different ideas of where to focus their time (a possibility is that they considered the work impossible to accomplish). Knowing this and growing older, the wizard underwent the process to become a lich and in undeath continued to work on its work. When a particular milestone was reached that could benefit the world at large, the lich would find a method to make sure it reached the right hands to spread (often by teleportation).


“I have all the time in the world; I can spare a few moments.”

While a large amount of people purse undeath in the hopes of living longer and out of fear of death, this is not the case for this lich in particular. It was a desire to continue to study and investigate magic and the world in general that lead this character to undeath. As an extension of this, they will choose their work over their own undeath without a second thought. It will also avoid direct combat unless its work is threatened. Being old and understanding the possibility of accidents and setbacks, it keeps backup caches of its work. Naturally, it can't back up everything as

In general, this lich is obsessive and can focus on a problem for weeks at a time. However, it is also willing to talk and is generally quite friendly. Getting help is a bit trickier and the work will be chosen over matters of grave importance if possible. If, however, the work it is doing is ever threatened the lich will help without a second thought. It is also generally willing to help as long as it doesn't have to go too far out of its way, even without benefit to itself (if it has an item or scrolls it can easily replace, it will give it away without a second thought). Naturally, being undead and nearly 10,000 years old, it is extremely patient.


This lich also wishes to preserve works that would otherwise be lost. Many items, paintings, books and even notes from people that interested the lich are kept and preserved. Within the lich's lair, time seems to stand still and dust is absent. Fancy, well made carpets cover the floors and much of the space on the walls is covered by paintings it has collected, the colours of which are almost as crisp as the day they were painted. If asked, the lich is happy to share the history of the items.


If a high level caster is needed for scrolls and other magical things, this lich makes for a good choice that will probably be different than most mentors and helpers they've dealt with. An option is to also have its life's and undeath's work somehow linked with the main goal of the campaign. It can also act as an antagonist, though it won't actively try to hurt the players unless they try to actually destroy the notes and work done to that point. If subtle influence needs to be exerted on a kingdom or a leader, it also provides as a good ally for the members of the party due to its long history and experience in doing so (though up until this point it was mainly to have its research found and used).