Sunday, 28 August 2016

Dungeon Master: Eldritch Knight Weapons


Magic items are a lot of fun and allow for many new options for players. It can also be one of those things that make a game memorable. However, certain classes get more attention than others. In particular, rangers and non-magic classes with magic options are left out. For this reason, I'll be looking at the Eldritch Knight specifically to provide some magic items that benefit the class.

How to Limit it?

Many items in the new addition require attunement by a particular class. This helps limit who can use the magic item and ensures that the intended class gets the benefit. Since we are making this new item, we need to consider if we will do the same. A staff is not as useful to an Eldritch Knight as a pike or longsword is. It's not very common for the normal magic classes to have access to these weapons so we can tie it to the proficiency needed for the item. There is still a chance that someone will take a feat to gain proficiency with the class of weapons. If this bothers you, you can make being an Eldritch Knight a requirement. I'd be wary of this though because the rogue also has a magic option and I wouldn't want to cut them out. At the same time, even if a wizard has the required proficiency, the item is far more useful to an Eldritch Knight as a spear if their is a weapon bonus.

An option is to provide certain bonuses to an Eldritch Knight that are not provided to other classes using the item. Most typically, this is because it adds to a class feature that the other classes don't have (extra hitpoints when using second wind, for example).

What Kind of Items?

Typically, the most common items I've seen in this case is taking a normal staff that any spellcaster could attune to or only specific ones (such as the staff of the magi) and switching it over to Eldritch Knights for attunement with a different weapon. For example, take a staff of the magi, change the attunement to Eldritch Knight and swap staff to spear. You can also take the effects of a robe or similar magic items not availible to an Elritch Knight and either make an exception, create a new item that they can use (otherwise identical), or add the property to a different item (add the properties of the robe of the archmagi to a suit of +3 plate armour). The results are potentially extremely powerful, but the items we are taking the effects from are already powerful.

There is, however, more you can do. I would recommend giving another option for the charges that helps the martial side of the class. Similar to some other items that already exist, allowing the Eldritch Knight to spend some capped number of charges (max number of 3) to do extra damage (1D6 or 1D8 per spell slot from a staff of fire, for example). Such a feature would be far less useful to normal spellcasters but extremely beneficial to the multiattack features of the Eldritch Knight. You can also, or instead, allow the user to cast a fireball centred on themselves to which they are immune at the same time as they take the attack action. Items that boost the slot level used, grant resistance against some type of damage (including spell), or allow spells that they usually would not have access to (being stuck at 4th level spells at the most) are all good contenders as well. You can also allow more uses of a particular unique class feature (extra use of action surge or second wind) but I'd be more careful about this kind of thing than the above. Applying a modifier to the second wind feature seems to be relatively safe from the games I've played while also being a significant benefit.  

Sunday, 21 August 2016

Free Maps: 10 Dungeon Maps with Seed Ideas

  • 10 Maps
  • Story seed ideas

Could Go Either Way
  • Overall features aren't very detailed (this gives the Dungeon Master an easier time to twist it into what they want but also means more work)
  • Too small to print for battle map use (you'd need to use your own tiles)
  • Maps are so small it's hard to add details to the rooms by hand
  • No legend for scale (makes tiles harder)


Maps are good. Maps are fun. You can also never have enough of them. Naturally, I couldn't resist looking at 10 free maps when I saw 10 Dungeon Maps with Seed Ideas on the Dungeon Master's Guild. If you need some maps, I'd say it's worth taking a quick look.

The Maps Themselves

The maps are quite simply drawn and aren't big enough to use as a battle map. You can scale them, but it's easier if you just use some tiles that you already have. This simplicity is a strength and a weakness. Don't except to be able to run people through the map after simply placing an item they need to retrieve. The rooms are generally barren and need to be filled. I really do mean barren because the map itself only includes staircases, doors and rooms.

There is no grid or scaling on the map. This makes replicating the rooms through dungeon tiles harder than it really should have been. The rooms themselves are quite small too, meaning adding the missing details is hard to do by hand. The easiest thing to me seemed to take the maps as given, make changes with a pen, and then number the rooms. Having the map set up this way, I could then on another piece of paper write quick descriptions of the rooms along with sketches of the layouts of the room. You only really need to do this for rooms that have features that influence tactical combat. Otherwise, a description is good enough. The good side to this is that it meant the drawing of the room is right beside its description when you are done. The downside is that it takes a significant amount of time. Remember, none of the features of the map (light, sounds, etc.) are filled out so you will need to do so. You are really creating the entire dungeon based on a vaguely drawn map. For a lot of people I know (especially those who like making maps), it just wouldn't be convenient enough because of the changes required and difficulty of adding features.

If you use grid maps usually (or print tiles and tape them together for one time use), converting the maps in this pdf pack is just as much work as creating your own map and then filling it. In these cases, these 10 maps are really just a source of inspiration. You might see a couple you really like and want to mostly keep intact, but it becomes far less valuable in this case and far less of a time saver.

Other Stuff

The story seeds are a couple of sentences that help inspire an adventure. They are not nearly enough for a story and often times don't even have a goal. Don't expect the adventure to write itself. You will need to populate the dungeon and come up with the adventure yourself.


The best way to describe the maps here is making your own dungeon with a bit of help and inspiration. If you aren't a good artist and see a map here that you generally like, it gets one of the more time consuming parts of creating dungeons out of the way. Even if small changes are needed, you can quite easily do so. However, if a lot of changes are needed it simply isn't worth it. Due to the small sizes of the rooms on the map, populating them with features and with tactical choices by drawing them on the map isn't very practical. If the room has features elements that contribute to combat, you will probably want to sketch it beside the description you write for it on another page. This is all well and good if you play using theatre of mind, but not if you draw out the entire map on sheets of grid paper. In that case, you could draw a map you liked on your grid paper (possibly inspired by one in this pack) just as easily as populating the dungeon and sketching out the rooms. The result is that it's less useful for grid paper maps. For people who prefer to lay down tiles as the group walks through the dungeon, you will probably want to do the same as for theatre of mind but lay down tiles as you go through the dungeon. Since it's free, it's at least worth a quick skim if you are in need of maps or are new to tabletop role-playing and the idea of coming up with your dungeon from scratch is daunting (in this case, don't be afraid to make changes or add rooms).  

Sunday, 14 August 2016

Free Adventure Review: Madness of the Rat King

  • Interesting take on rats
  • Varied enemy design
  • Maps, including grid maps that can be printed
  • Quick combat encounters
  • Puzzle situations with open ended solutions
  • Almost everything to run the adventure is included except per-generated characters (including creature and magic item stats)
  • Free! (Well, pay what you want)

Could Go Either Way
  • Might not be “epic” enough for some people, especially for a first game, but could be a plus for those that prefer lower key games.
  • It's really a single dungeon delve, but it has a lot of room to expand into much more
  • Cthulhu similarities that not everyone may approve and makes customizing it into a introduction adventure for a campaign a bit trickier
  • Cover and other battlemap elements are a bit lacking (though not completely absent)
  • Some of the specific details will be lost to those new to D&D that don't know the lore


Now that the Dungeon Master's Guild has been launched, there is a lot of content coming out for Dungeons & Dragons 5th edition. As such, I'll be looking at content that I think is worth mentioning. I'll be starting with the free adventure Madness of the Rat King. The adventure features colour maps, new creatures, some new items, and a new dungeon delve.

Other Information

At the time of writing this, I've read through and run the adventure. Almost everything needed to run the adventure besides pre-generated characters is here. The exception is such things as weapon and armour tables. I like seeing the items and creatures included with the adventure like this and wish that every release did something like this (though doing it in a separate booklet, like previous D&D 5th edition released, is also fine).

The Adventure

New Monsters

All kinds of new rat creatures are presented here for your use as a Dungeon Master. They are generally well balanced and amusing from what I saw. As the name of the adventure suggests, there are a lot of rats. However, the way they are done was appreciated by me and my veteran players. The creepiness and weirdness of some of them should also work quite well on new players as well.

New Items

The stand out new items here, in my opinion, are the ring of alertness and Storm's Herald. Both items have interesting features to them. In the case of Storm's Herald, it is one of those items that can act as an iconic campaign item. It also allows for a story to be formed around the item, though it is not told in the adventure. It scales with level so it isn't too good for a level one party but stays relevant as the party levels up. The other items aren't too powerful, so there isn't much of a concern of having the party steamroll the next published adventure (you could always adjust things if it made the party too powerful and if it was your own adventure).

The Adventure Itself

The adventure takes the form of a dungeon delve. Where it rises above that kind of standard adventure is in some of the details surrounding the delve. The different types of rats, for example, have a charm to them that was appreciated by my players. The items and back stories had their moment of charm as well. The few characters that get speaking roles are one of my favourite parts, and I had a lot of fun with them.

Information is displayed quite well. The presentation of combat groups, their intended difficulties and options for 1st, 2nd and 3rd level was appreciated and well done. The adventure was generally easy to read and had very few typos (the ones present didn't influence the meaning).

The map itself can also be re-appropriated for a different adventure if needed by the Dungeon Master. It's rather small but fit quite nicely into a single quick session, especially with role-play before and after arriving at the location. They are also provided on multiple sheets for printing purposes, but this also lets you, as the dungeon master, easily connect them however you like with tunnels if you wanted to reuse them.

I mentioned the item Storm's Herald earlier, and the encounter to get it is really quite nice and required some problem solving. This encounter and room, by itself, could be lifted into a custom game with little issue and work very well. There are also some other riddle situations present in the adventure and also opportunity to role-play with the 2 big characters of the adventure.

There are multiple Cthulhu like details in the adventure, and this can go both ways. If you like that, the details fit together very well. However, it makes it harder to convert the adventure to something else without making many more changes to the adventure. It can be done, but the Mark of the Deep in particular becomes a bit trickier to convert while keeping the same flavour. In the case you try to change it to a death cult, for example, coming up with a curse that has roughly the same effect is tricky. Otherwise, it's mostly a straight forward change and almost all of it still fits (demon, and devil would be a similar change).

The Art

There is no art here besides the maps. For a free adventure, I think this is perfectly acceptable. The maps are quite well done as well and are far more important to actual play. They feature the areas well and provide a grid layer if you want to print them and use them with miniatures. I've seen free map packs with worse maps than this. I've seen priced adventures with worse maps too. 


I'd say that if you are looking for a level 1 adventure, you could do worse than Madness of the Rat King. It features a well drawn map that could be reused, if nothing else. I feel it also has some charm and generally, my players enjoyed it. There are also some puzzle situations that allow for creative solutions (the adventure provides some suggestions, a few of which are intended, but leaves room for the players to come up with their own). Players that are expecting a more “serious” threat than rats and are less knowledgeable about the lore may be disappointed though. By lore, I mean the at times hilarious reliance on rats in low level adventures. Many of the rooms seem to also be lacking elements that would allow for creative use of terrain, though this can be fixed by the Dungeon Master. However, my overall verdict is that it's worth a look, even if only to reuse certain elements in your own home games. If you like it and can afford it, throw some money the author's way too. 

Sunday, 7 August 2016

Dungeon Master: Discovering Magic Item Properties

Finding magic items and discovering what they do is part of their fun. However, finding the use of an item is easy with the use of the identify spell in D&D (in 5th edition, it's a ritual too). My players in particular like playing around with an item to find what it can do. For this reason, I'll go over some of the things I've done and seen Dungeon Masters do in order to keep that part of the game.

Complex Items

If you skim through the SRD for Dungeons & Dragons 5th edition (if you want to play for free, that's the PDF to see) some items provide a single bonus or ability. Other more complex items, however, allow multiple different effects to be used from the same item as well as possible providing a bonus. In these cases, the identify spell can be used to tell that the item is magical in nature, not cursed, its bonus as well as possible one effect (if it has both a bonus and effect, you could decide to only reveal the bonus). The rest needs to be found through experimentation.

The down side is that some items allow multiple spells to be cast. Finding a reasonable way for a player to realize that a different effect is possible is a bit tricky unless it's a sentient item and offers a suggestion. If a different effect is possible, you as the Dungeon Master can also have a more beneficial effect than is currently unknown be used to help the party (since the description in the SRD and Dungeon Master's Guide always had those effects, it's not the same as doing something just to save the party). For example, if a staff can cast both burning hands and fireball, but the wizard only knows of the burning hands property, the staff will cast a fireball (this can be at a time that's needed or randomly determined by a dice roll). I tend to be wary of this approach, but it is an option.

Some items may have a secret property that is only known when used together with another item as well. This makes for a perfect candidate for a property that is not instantly known by an identify spell (though you could decide to make it known if the wizard is wearing, carrying, or is attuned to the other item(s) needed).

Adding Bonus Effects

The other thing that can be done is to keep all of the items in the Dungeon Master's Guide as they are but in some cases add your own properties. These properties won't be found out with an identify spell and instead need experimentation to discover. I tend to prefer properties that can reasonably discovered through experimentation to avoid the difficulty I briefly touched on in the “Complex Items” section.

You can also add properties that are story related. A sword that is good against undead is pretty standard. However, the sword that is given to the party may have been created to destroy a particular named undead. The bonus is only present when fighting that particular enemy. It doesn't have to be combat related either. The item could help guide the party around a particular location, teleport the party at a particular time, or something completely different. The property should be specific. I'd also be a bit wary of making it necessary to complete the campaign though I do have good memories of campaigns that used this approach (any Hobbit fans would also recognize this type of item).