-5 to Hit, +10 to Damage

Most players and DMs know the following feats: Great Weapon Master and Sharpshooter. Both feats have the ability, to take a -5 penalty on your attack roll to add +10 to the damage roll. Some DMs have a bit of trouble with these feats.

  • Since most ACs of monsters aren’t that high, even with -5 to hit it’s still seems pretty accurate
  • Classes who have reliable means of gaining advantage (like the barbarian) or ways to grant their allies advantage (like a lot of spellcasters with spells like Guiding Bolt, Faery Fire, etc.) or those ways to grant +hit (like the Bless spell or a Battle Master’s Precision Attack maneuver) trades the intended reliability to outright more damage potential
  • Both feats overall (and especially that trait) boosts the overall combat ability of two builds (ranged weapon and two-handed weapon), while other weapon builds seems to have only subpar feats (due the more specific use of Shield Master, the somewhat lacking feeling advantages of Dual Wielder and the seemingly lack of something, which enhances your one weapon, one hand free style [try Tavern Brawler; one of the best ways to be a defender, imo])

OK, I have to admit: These feats are really good. But after seeing both in action, I don’t think, that they’re broken. It only seems that way at first, since at the beginning of a campaign, those +10 damage will kill monsters outright, however, after getting around 5th level, the monsters won’t be taken down that easily and . And remember, bounded accuracy actually makes it so, that the to hit chance decrease by 25%, unless the enemy’s AC is outright horrible.

But the farther you go, the less it means in math. At least for some classes. Of course the statistic will change, with different means to give your damage. Let’s compare the paladin and fighter: While the fighter gets another attack at 11th level, the paladin does more damage with his attacks. So the fighter gets more reliability (which means he can take the -5 while having a buffer attack left), while the paladin begins to want more of his attacks actually hit (especially under Divine Favor or another damage buff). Even though the math is the same (-5 to hit, +10 to damage), the paladin player wants all his attacks to hit, while the fighter will think, that one attack missing won’t negate the +10 damage most of the time. A ranger (hunter) with Colossus Slayer will rather try to get his bonus damage done first and then switch to the more unreliable but powerful attacks afterwards, to make most of this subclass trait.

What really makes those both feats shine early on are the other effects. Like making an attack as a Bonus Action when scoring a critical (say hallo, Champion)/killing one or ambushing enemies by shooting from far, far away. Of course these don’t seem all that powerful, until you see it in action. With the +damage the GWM is able to kill a lot of early enemies and trigger the bonus attack, while the sharpshooter can make more shots by retreating.

So, how can I think, that these feats aren’t broken? Simply, because I learned how to soften them without ruling. A special way to ensure it is: More enemies. More enemies makes more damage less important than reliability, since you need to take some of them out, otherwise the bounded accuracy will kick your ass.

As long as you don’t place them that all of them will be spellslinger-fodder, your weapon users will get a hard time, since even with all the damage and all the extra attacks, there will be more rolls, which makes a combat more statistically stable. And the joke is, that even then the XP won’t be as much, since using more enemies makes a encounter more difficult, so you won’t need as much to make it challenging.

Another reason why I don’t go WTF is because most of the real ‘unbalanced’ stuff comes from resources (Superiority Dice), risk (Reckless Attack) or teamwork. And I think teamwork should be strong, playing a game together is one of the reasons why you play D&D in the first place. Even though you should disrupt it occasionally. in the Forgotten Realms are places, where spells won’t work like the caster might think (weaveless areas and spellplague) or the setting makes it impossible to pull off (like balancing on a 2 foot width bridge).

Conclusions

If you really think, that those two feats are bad, you should simply not allow them. If you think, that the -5/+10 aren’t balances, either allow a -5/+5 variant for all other characters or simply switch it with +1 STR for GWM and +1 DEX for Sharpshooter, so the other effects stays in place.

Or maybe you’re like me as a DM and customize some of your enemies to have those feats as well or increade their accuracy/damage otherwise, so the combats will be quicker without loosing their menace.

Fantastic Comedy

Since today is still April 1st (in GMT+1) , and I really dislike April’s Fools, I decided to make a serious post about comedy at a D&D-gaming table. Why only D&D? Because there are systems which are meant to be played in a comedic style (like Toons) or those who are so unbelievable in terms of character feats, that you transcend the grasp of realism (like Scion).

A normal D&D-campaign balances around realism and fantasy, in most cases it does so well, even though (in the typical American Fantasy Style) it’s always turning into an epic story with powerful characters which defies the laws of realism in one time while being very vulnerable to realism otherwise. For this, I point to the Tyranny of Dragons Story, which is good imho, but bringing Tiamat t the Forgotten Realms and fighting foes which can shape the realms to their whims, while there are a ton of situations, where you can easily die? It’s very over the top, which is not something all people enjoy.
But like I said, normally D&D balances the realism and the fantastic moments pretty well. So we have a sense of seriousness, coming from the realism, and a sense of freedom, from fantasy, which can turn into humor. Is it bad? Of course not, since everyone having fun is one of the main-goals of playing after all. Can it disturb? Definitely.
Now I simply write about my personal experiences of having comedy in D&D (with some insight in other campaigns).

Comedy-based campaigns

Maybe some of you experienced a comedy-based campaign already and in most of the times: It won’t last long, since the DM will run out of ideas (s)he wants to master. The problem is to find a balance between serious story-telling to get the characters to where the fun belongs and the jokes which are cracked to be cracked. In movies it works well, since the characters aren’t sentient beings, in P&P it’s problematic, since the players often don’t recognize when to stop.
If you give the players the whatever-bag (in: take out whatever you want), you can be sure, that they pull out a grenade launcher to bomb the villain you’re just introducing. But if you don’t give the whatever-bag, of course in the end they end up in only having the resources they have, without much spark of creativity. It’s basically only what they do in normal campaigns, except they’re more brave, like trying to make a Looney Tunes routine (“Duck-Hunt.” “Rabbit-Hunt.” “Duck-Hunt.” “Rabbit-Hunt.” “Rabbit-Hunt.” “Duck-Hunt!”)
How do you work with that? There are several ways. One of the easiest: Only one side is comedic. If the players like to play the fools, let them form a party which doesn’t take anything serious (like the old TMNT) and match them up with serious plots. Since only goofing around won’t stop the plot, they will somehow or another pull themselves together when needed and make it right through!
Or maybe the heroes are serious, while the villains and plots are somehow strange. Like a wizard, who tries to reshape the weave, so every spell will create cookies. Or another is just a maniac, who wants to break out the 4th wall, trying to convince everyone, that they’re nothing more than notes on a paper.
If only one side goofs around, it’s much easier to control the plot itself and make something like a story. With a real story, a DM is much better able to keep the campaign going, since one scenario will flow into the next and in the end it’s simply a direction to follow. Those who play regularly needs something like that, since simple and connectionless-episodic is very tiring when done repeatedly.
Another got rule in the DMG (p. 269) are: Plot points. This optional rule allows the players to shape the story to their own ideas and of course limiting the access of unbelievableness is another great way to make a comedy without playing randomly.
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Comedy as a supplement

Normally, I don’t play comedy-based campaigns, but I do add often some comedy as supplement. So when you (for example) play Tyranny of Dragons, you might think: Hey, this might work. Why don’t I add a bullywug, which is actually thinking, it’s a transformed princess. The bizarreness of the situation is something that might enhance the story in a funny way without breaking it. Just be sure, that the players can’t possibly think of it as a subquest or story-hook.
Funny things happens in real life and in Fantasy, you can make it more funny with just a bit of work. Like adding a fart-sound to the evil wizard’s Stinking Cloud or just a description, how a critical hit looks like on the enemy: “Your sword cuts deep into the body of your enemy and splashes hits the adjacent one, which complains: “Hey, look where you’re leaking!”

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In the end the most important thing is to determine how much comedy your gaming-group can process. If you’re joking as much out-of-game as playing serious, maybe you should consider to add some more comedy to the game itself as a DM or a player, to keep the rest more focused on the game. So maybe your character has the flaw, that he regularly messes up serious situations. Or maybe you add, as a DM, an additional condition to your lich, like that his phylactery can only be destroyed while he can see it, so you can deliver this line: “Erm, how do you… wait, I meant, what are you holding there? Seems like a very valuable treasure, so it might be better if you keep it somewhere safer than this battlefield. I know, I’m your enemy and trying to kill you, but I really had the urge to give you that piece of advice. Take it, seriously!”
And often the most memorable moments of a campaign are the most funniest. And that’s definitely better than the most annoying ones. -_-

Buying and Selling Magical Items

Anyone who plays D&D in campaigns comes to the realization, that the characters will have more gear at some point than they need. Be it due the numbers of attuneable items (I love the attunement system for the limit, normally) or because they found simply better gear and the old one is not needed anymore. Or, of course, because you, the DM, gave all these enemies some cheap magical items, for whatever reasons.

Or maybe your players wants to buy some simpler magic gear, like a Battle Axe +1 without going through all the trouble of a great adventure.

The main question remains: How do you determine the price. Of course the DMG have a table, which shows the value of a magic item, but it’s always in a range.

  • Common: 50-100 gp
  • Uncommon: 101-500 gp
  • Rare: 501-5.000 gp
  • Very Rare: 5.001 – 50,000 gp
  • Legendary: 50,001+ gp

For my campaigns, I use simple pointers.

  • Potions are always the least possible price
  • Scrolls are twice as valuable as Potions, this is also the standard price for one-time consumables
  • for every further charge of non-rechargeable consumables add a potion
  • Weapons and Armor uses a special table, depending on their type (see below)
  • non-combat gear is 30% of the highest possible price, if you have to attune it and 60% if you don’t have to
  • 60% for attuneable combat gear and 90% for gear you don’t need to

This won’t be helpful for all items, but at least it covers a lot. For weapon and armors, I simply take the highest possible price for the rarity and takes a portion of it, depending on the type of item. Since I personally think, that a dagger is much easier to enchant than a greatsword (since it’s simply lesser you need to work on) and the power of a weapon or armor often synergies with its price.

Armor (Rare; x10 for very rare and x100 for legendary)

Here you have consider the fact, that there are some things to consider. First, the most powerful armor in each category have to be more expensive than a lesser armor of a category before, since they are less useful. And heavy armors in general are bad except the Plate Armor or if you have a sub-par Strength score. You always have disadvantage and only your STR determines the final outcome and most characters which uses heavy armor, should have STR 15 to see it through.

  • Padded 501 gp
  • Leather 550 gp
  • Studded leather 1100 gp
  • Hide 550
  • Chain shirt 1100
  • Scale mail 1100
  • Breastplate 3500
  • Half plate 4000
  • Ring mail 550
  • Chain mail 1500
  • Splint 3000
  • Plate 5000
  • Shield (Common 110gp, Uncommon 550 and then use the x10 formula)

Weapons (Uncommon, rare x5, very rare x50, legendary x500)

Since most weapons aren’t as pricey as armor and there are actually reasons to have a certain weapon within your proficiencies, these should be normally less valuable. But don’t hesitate to push up the value of certain weapons, like Flametongue, which seems to be too great of a weapon for the ‘over the thumb ruling’ I provide.

  • Club 101 gp
  • Dagger 110 gp
  • Greatclub 110 gp
  • Handaxe 120 gp
  • Javelin 120 gp
  • Light hammer 110 gp
  • Mace 120 gp
  • Quarterstaff 110 gp
  • Sickle 101 gp
  • Spear 101  gp
  • Crossbow, light 250 gp
  • Dart 120 gp
  • Shortbow 250 gp
  • Sling 101  gp
  • Battleaxe 150 gp
  • Flail 150 gp
  • Glaive 200 gp
  • Greataxe 300 gp
  • Greatsword 450 gp
  • Halberd 200 gp
  • Lance 150 gp
  • Longsword 175 gp
  • Maul 150 gp
  • Morningstar 175 gp
  • Pike 120 gp
  • Rapier 250 gp
  • Scimitar 250 gp
  • Shortsword 150 gp
  • Trident 120 gp
  • War pick 120 gp
  • Warhammer 175 gp
  • Whip 110 gp
  • Blowgun 150 gp
  • Crossbow, hand 500 gp
  • Crossbow, heavy 450 gp
  • Longbow 450 gp
  • Net 101 gp

Be beware

These are only quick and dirty rules for the value of items. If a player asks about a certain item, like: “How much would it be, if I want to acquire a Longsword +1?”, you can look this list up, to say: “At least 175gp, but be prepared to spend more.”

If the players asks about a “Manual of Bodily Health”, of course you’re supposed to answer in mean laughter. A permanent boost to an ability score is of course something, which isn’t measured in gold pieces, but in mercy.

Consider always the possibility to lower or raise the price, if you can or if the item is especially powerful or too specialized to be useful most of the time. You should even go over the normal limits of the category, if you think it’s doable.

And of course, it’s only the value. For selling, you should adjust it (normally half the value, but I often use reputation and such to raise or drop the selling price).

Bound to level

Since time issues and the fact, that the warlock is unlike any other class, I’ll postpone the overview for now, I try to make it happen any day, but make it so, that I first write a less time.consuming post and afterwards put some time into drafting the overview piece a piece.

For today like to talk about levels and level-bound traits. These came up when playing and after seeing some postings about it, I thought that it might still be confusing. And sometimes not even that clear.

First, I want to explain, that I will not talk about the traits, which are entirely bound to classes, where the improvements are part of the class table (like Wild Shape, Aura Improvement, Extra Attacks, etc.), but where the character level seems to be the deciding factor or at least could be.

Second, I will take on the ability score improvement trait, which is now bounded to class, instead of character level, simply because I think this is somehow viable to talk about in this post.

Third, every DM is free to make changes to it, so if you don’t feel like this is a good or logical choice, you’re free to disagree. But you should expect that others don’t agree to your disagreement and stay cool about it.

Cantrips: Taken from this site here:

With cantrips, does a MC caster use their character or class level for determining damage? A multiclass character uses character level to determine the damage of a cantrip. -J

Cantrips comes from multiple choices, starting with spellcasting classes, races (like the high elf) or feats (Magic Initiate). Since the offensive cantrips are meant to rival multiple attacks at some point, they become stronger with rising level, but why should it be character level be the basic?

OK, there are multiple ways to get them and even if a high elf isn’t needlessly a wizard, it doesn’t mean that he won’t put some work into it. Same for a ranger/wizard or other combination of caster/non/less-caster class. Even though you might suspect, that it would be illogical if the fighter picks up the wizard class after having a lot of fighter levels and have as lethal cantrips as an non-evocation wizard of the same level.

Multiclassing shouldn’t punish or reward players ideally and dishing out damage per round is somewhat crucial for staying competitive through the levels. Extra attacks are the way for melees and these don’t stack, so why would cantrips do it in any way? Counter-question: How much does it hurt? Since cantrips are still often inferior to weapon choices of weapon-focused class (at the at-will department), you often needs some basic traits of these classes to make them stronger, limiting either your options (like warlock Invocations) or the need to take some levels (like Arcane Tradition of Evocation).

I don’t really see any damage here, especially since most cantrips aren’t that reliable in comparisons to other at-will features.

Warlock Invocations prerequisite: This is a thing, which is asked quite often. Do you need the specific character or warlock level to choose those high-level invocations? RAW it doesn’t become clear, but if you look at those features, it seems kinda unfair to other classes to make this 2 level dip into warlock something which gives you some features you wouldn’t be able to get when multiclassing into another class. Jeremy Crawford answered in his twitter (source):

The intent is that a level prerequisite in a warlock invocation refers to warlock level.

Intend doesn’t needlessly means that it’s meant to be a rule. I would decide on a case to case basic here, a valor bard/blade warlock who seeks to increase the damage a bit with the Lifedrinker-Invocation might get another treatment as a paladin who seeks to do the same. It’s about how much the party might need it (if you run official modules with 3 characters, you might consider that this is within reason or if the player of the tank is leaving the party due personal circumstances and no one could otherwise be that melee-prescience).

But for the most part, I agree.

Ability Score Improvements (or feats): In 3e and 4e these were bounded to character level, now they’re not, which is bad for multiclass characters. At the beginning, a great “Why?!”-wave came around and after all that time, some don’t even tried to understand. There were a lot of change-requests, house rules and the like flowing around (like feats at 1st level, bounding the ASI at character level and such).

Before house-ruling something, I suggest trying it out first. It’s really not that bad. And there are some reasons not to be so fast to expand it:

  • The team are unlikely to be composed of idiots, since they got the job in one of the greatest companies in the gaming business
    • classes aren’t design to have the ASI at character levels, which would lead to dead levels (means no benefit), if the normal ones are taken away
  • Multiclassing brings other features, seems even logical that characters wouldn’t have the resources to improve abilities or learn a new feat in the meanwhile
  • Most feats are terrifying strong and define characters quite strongly. In most cases, you will feel the benefits of a feat much more than the benefit of a ASI, at least that’s what I experienced so far. They can easily match up to class features in terms of benefits and are often even more overwhelming than those at the mid-levels
    • I do think, the human variant is the more D&D-like human (at least 3e upwards) and the standard is the one you only tend to use when feats are not allowed. Since feats are so strong, a lot of (PC-)Adventurers are actually human.

So why should you even expand to those without thinking things through and not even trying to use the actual rules at this point? Of course there might be good reasons, like having less PCs than normal, but I run a campaign with 3 PCs and advanced standard rules (means multiclassing allowed [nobody wants to], variant human [one] and feats [at least 2 will take a feat at 4th level instead of ASI]) and even if the start was hard, they managed.

So, that’s it. If I missed something, please feel free to comment and I’ll add it.

Magic Items aren’t necessarily boring!

Since I’m preparing for my first real 5e campaign next week, I’m kinda into the preparing stuff. And since I read HotDQ now, I address some issues early, to be able to counter them. And this time it was the magic items at the end, I’d like to include one of the items early as ‘the stolen treasure of Greenest’ kind of thing, so my players can looking forward to it (they keep track of the plot, so this info will be around for a long time).

Non-consumable Magic Items were in some editions a necessity and sometimes you’ll just find a sword. The DM will say ‘That sword has a magical aura’, after checking it with Detect Magic, then comes the identify process and wow, you got a longsword +1. While in 3e Detect Magic was a 0th level spell and in 4e a use of the Arcana skill, the ability to see magical auras came back into 5e in form of a 1st level spell/ritual. So before you go to the short/long rest, a ritual caster might take a look at the stuff you collected from your enemies and dungeons.

You can say a lot about 4e (I personally played that editions until the playtest came), but at least there were descriptions to all magic items in there, which already emphasized the idea, that magic items were special and the best: No further work for the DM. In 3e you had a toolbox to customize magic items, which doesn’t really fare well imo, but without any further lead on how magic items could be remotely more interesting than their stats.

In the playtest and I’m sure in the DMG, too, there are a few pages to customize your magic items. If you as the DM are lazy, you can simply look into it and make easily magic items, which gets more interesting for your players without adding something to the stats. If you’re a player, these things might make your gear much more likable and you should ask the DM if you may customize that item yourself.

For now I’ll go into the stuff, WotC already considered:

Creator: The creator of the item and its culture says a lot about the appearance of the item. A elven sword would most likely be more thin and light than a normal counterpart, while vines and leaf ornaments are adorned. A weapon of a ifrit may be made out of black iron, while orange and red colors prevail the rest of the color scheme. And a gnomen weapon might look like well-used and tattered, so a thief won’t steal it. Even some side effects (like base temperature) might be different.

Nature: This contains the purpose and the mark it left. An item like a sword of truth would definitely leave a mark in legends and history, while its purpose could be to be a ceremonial weapon for court. The axe Giantbane would definitely have a history of slaying giants, while the lance Eternal Ice might be a present from the Prince of Frost, leader of the winter feys.

Minor Properties: These are tiny little boons items could grants, even though in the playtest some were stat-wise benefitting, which I kinda disliked. A shield with ‘guardian’ would grant +2 initiative, while a longbow with ‘compass’ let you only know which way is north. I do think, there can be a bit of power, but it shouldn’t be as brief as a bonus to one or more stats. A ‘floating’ breast plate which actually helps you swim? That’s cool! And the best, it stacks with any other properties the item already had.

Minor Quirks: A item might have a quirk, which usually doesn’t downgrade its innate power, but makes it a bit less conformable to use. Like a ‘confident’ belt, which makes you feel stronger, a ‘loud’ maul, which always thunders when smashing the ground or an enemy or a ‘muttering’ magic book. Some were either bothersome, like ‘hungry’ which meant that the item can only use it’s properties when tasting fresh blood that day or ‘possessive’ which meant that you can only attune that specific item.

If you run that whole process every non-consumable item, they’ll become more interesting. But there are some other things you might consider, here two of my personal choices:

Personality: Even though not all magic items are intelligent, most of them were created for a specific reason (like Nature already covered). So even without real intelligence an item might see a calling. When creating the orcish item ‘Dwarf Smasher’, then that item might not attune to dwarfs or might give disadvantages to attack rolls, when there is a dwarf nearby, but not the target of the attack. These can play out benefiting, too, in giving advantage to an attack roll, when attacking a dwarven leader.

Oddities: Sometimes a item can be odd, without having a real quirk. Like the fact, that the Great Sword is only about 4 feet long, but has a blade twice as big. Or that the armor has hatch to make it easier to relieve oneself. Or a spelling error at the runes. Or even a missing comma. Even a minor oddity might bother the new owner for a whole life.

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For now I’ll simply make the items at the end more interesting and let’s see if I stumble onto something else which seems to be interesting enough to share.

Hoard of the Dragon Queen (HotDQ) Impression

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After finally finishing reading the first part of Tyranny of Dragons, I had the urge to talk about it. This will contain heavy spoilers, so everyone who actually wants to play it as a player should ignore this post. Even though I doubt that without the context it might be hard to follow certain parts.

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First my overall impression: I kinda like it. I see some problems here and there, but I wanted to play it for my first real 5e campaign and I’ll stick to it, even though there is one inexperienced player (to any kind of roleplay-system) at my table. But before I explain why I like it, I get through the cons first:

  1. Very basic storyline: There is so far no interesting twist, the plot is more generic and is much about: Evil do stuff, so interfere! – I don’t mind much, but for players it might get boring at some point, since everything is as it seems and there is no questioning about motives or considerations about the real greater good (even though there is some hint to it for Rise of Tiamat). If your players are more about character development, this will be hard work.
  2. Repetitiveness: The book suggest infiltration at a standard procedure. Even though it’s refreshing to not have all combat, it makes you wonder, if the cultists are actually somewhat dumb. – Here I plan to shift the feeling bit by bit, first by actual infiltration, the caravan is good as it is, later more of sneaking around undetected while having a lizardman friend (or simply charging the castle), etc.
  3. Railroading: To follow the storyline is not bad in itself, but since there are a lot of NPCs which says ‘Go here’, ‘Infiltrate this’ and similar, the players might actually feel railroaded. Especially since their decisions doesn’t change much at the first part of this campaign. – Hard to come by, but if you play out the NPCs with some feeling, it’s at least less obvious.
  4. Errors here and there: Since the adventure was written during the development process, there are wrong things written there. Like the fact, that a wizard should flee by casting invisibility and use the fly spell afterwards (which is impossible to combine due the concentration check; use a potion of flying instead). – You can handle it, but it’s still more work.
  5. Few DM-advice: DMs are practically almost on their own, only getting maps (which aren’t as accurate as you might think), stats (which shouldn’t be used in some cases, like the assassins), and very open-minded NPC-descriptions, which are spread around the whole book. Rezmir just couldn’t get her personality and personal goals written down on a single page, what a diva! – Only few sentences are better for me, since I flesh out NPCs about a minute before they enter the game. The more my players are interested, the more I make up details, which goes faster if you don’t need to remember/re-read the actual NPC descriptions. Pointers are enough for me, but even though: Couldn’t they simply make a NPC part to have it all organized?
  6. Hard start: If combat and charging is the best your players have to offer, then they better have some characters ready, to save Greenest, since there will be some causalities. For 1st level the first part is hard and I think even former Phandelver characters might get their ass kicked by too many enemies. – It fits the beginning of the story, even though I plan to soften it up a bit. More Potions of Healing, more chances to ambush, the opportunity to evade combats.
  7. Few Magic Items: The Magic Items are sparse and most of them seems to have no personality and the rest only a shade of character. – Since I have still the testplay packages, I can use these to make the items more likable. That most of them are at the end of HotDQ is no problem for me, since it’s kinda the best opportunity: When claiming the Hoard!
  8. Big Cities, no time there: You visit places like Waterdeep and nothing is there in for the characters? – I’ll add some mini-episodes between some points, so my players can level up, get a decent item at that time and finally have some sweet time in the iconic Forgotten Realms places.
  9. The spread source material: Like I said in my post Too unfocused, it’s kinda annoying to have all the needed material in different media. Wouldn’t it be better to insert even the named NPCs in the supplement-.pdf? Or all monsters into the book? Seriously.

As long as you’re a experienced DM you shouldn’t have problems in dealing with these problems. Since it’s the first official campaign in the new edition, there won’t be too few new DMs and I pity them, because this will be an overwhelming massacre. Everyone starts a beginner and even I was horrible at DMing first, I would mercilessly have made one mistake after another in my beginner phase. 😉

After seeing the problems, here are the things I actually like:

  1. The greatness of the quest: You’re actually trying to foil the plan to bring the Dragon Queen into the Realms, that’s friggin’ awesome. You start as a nobody and afterwards earned your place as one of the most legendary adventurers, since you just don’t do something like this more than once a lifetime!
  2. The classic: Evil cults, castles in swamps, dungeons and dragons, cloud giant castles, so many classic elements are interwoven into the story, that nostalgia is crying in joy.
  3. Balance of the pillars: The three pillars of adventuring/D&D (combat, exploration, social interaction) are pretty good balanced, since combat will only bring certain dead at times, you have to get through with social interaction, while exploration benefits from having information beforehand (social interaction) or to fight smartly (combat).
  4. Expandable: Since you’re pretty alone with some basic stats and means, you can easily step in and flesh things out, like prescripted events between certain NPCs (like Snapjaw and Pharblex), details about Talis (especially if a player has her as a childhood friend), etc. The openness of the adventure is an advantage in adapting it to your style without interfering the general flow.

I hope that Rise of Tiamat will bring more optional flair and finally the feeling for the players to make their own decisions (even though they actually won’t probably). If the next book is similar, I won’t be too mad, but after playing some real well-written adventures, I always look forward something I wouldn’t come up with on my own and brings some seriously good entertainment on the table. HotDQ is just decent in that regard, even though it might be the core-essence of a typical Dungeons & Dragons long-term campaign: A single enemy (the Cult of Dragons) which you have to fight with multiple times while fending off the allies and coax the rivals for your cause.

As long as the next part becomes more interesting and uses more stuff from this book, HotDQ might get a great first part, which actually enhances the climax of the story by using resources of the past. But somehow I just get the feeling it won’t…

I’ll try to make game reports when playing this thing and explain some decisions and own ideas I made up then. Maybe I might get some inspirations before and share them on my (up to now still daily [in my timezone]) post. 😉

Screw the Rules, I have imagination!

After considering if I should write another sorcerer post (seriously, I didn’t even like that class in 3e, 4e or Pathfinder, but I’m seriously intrigued by it in 5e), I rowed back and thought to make my post more lighthearted and less rampant. And teach how why to screw the rules.

 

First of all, I like Yu-Gi-Oh! Abridged (and the manga, less the anime) and this clip especially. Money can screw most rules in the real world (sadly), but in D&D and as a DM, your most precious thing is imagination. Not that imagination will make you a good DM, even if I have to say, that the idea of using T-Rex Zombies from the Far Realm is really cool, but at least as long as you have imagination, you can at least keep everyone entertained. In a good or bad manner. But let’s just say, that you want your players at least believe, that you aren’t a sadistic, psychological madman, who wants to feed on their despair and grief.

 

Normally: Play by the rules. This consensus is the safety to ensure that you appear less random as you are. But there are times, when you just can’t stick with RAW (rules as written), but have to improvise. Here are some cases and solutions for the most common reasons why playing RAW won’t really do it. But be sure to remember the following:

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1.) Abuse of certain rules. One of the most common is the Lightfoot Halfling’s Naturally Stealthy which allows the halfling to hide behind a at least medium-sized creature. Since Stealth is normally vs. the passive perception and searching for a creature is an actual action, your monster might get killed by an unseen killer. Or at high levels the monk’s quivering palm might kill the Ancient Red Dragon with a too high chance.

  • As long it involves d20, you can actually play by the rules by making reasons up to give advantage or disadvantage to the roll, since both happens if the DM sees a reason for it. When the halfing attacked first out of sight, the monster might keep watching him with as much attention as possible. Maybe the Ancient Red Dragon is just too big to get affected by the puny vibrations of a small/medium-sized monk. This will up your chances without sounding too unreasonable.
  • House Rule: You should let your players proceed for the rest of the day with the rule and after finishing, start to talk about the problem and how you like to solve it (or announce that you will find a solution at the start of the next session). Since the player is most likely offended, just keep quiet for a while and endure it, because things like these might destroy a whole game-day without finding a solution.

 

2.) Player tries to outsmart the rules: Players are often inclined to outsmart rules by preparing or announcing stuff, like: “I already have the potion viol half open in my mouth, so I can drink it any time”. Be merciless. First think about what could go wrong, then allow it and if the player is still keen about the idea: Ouch! For the drinking potion problem: “The attack missed you, but as you evaded, the cork of the viol sprang off and got into your throat. Make a DC 14 Con-save for not being stunned until the start of your next turn, since you’re coughing that much. Anyway, the viol falls out of your mouth and the rest of the potion in your mouth is getting coughed up.” Be cruel and let the players remember, that not they are the ones who can screw the rules.

 

3.) Too many rules: In 3e and Pathfinder especially there are so many rules for certain cases, which makes things like underwater combat and such just even more annoying. If you can think of a quick solution for a quick instance (like one single underwater combat in a dungeon which will most likely take two game days to complete), just screw the rules. Except you or one of your players knows all the needed rules perfectly. If you replace the rules: Keep it simple, remember who will benefit for this and keep giving advantage and disadvantage while rewarding being imaginative.

 

4.) Your player is calling a cool action: Everyone have different values of calling a cool action. Mine is ‘A smart action which take account of the environmental or enemy features to use them to your benefit’, so nothing like ‘I kick that generic bugbear in the nuts’ or ‘I’m making a somersault over that kobold and stabs it from behind’. But much more like: ‘I want to increase the intensity of my light spell to blind the drow’ (1 action, must be 5ft to the drow when casting, drow gets a wis-save to the caster’s spell DC, works only once) or ‘We’re in a burning mansion, can I use Gust of Wind to fan the flames right behind these cultist’s?’ (maybe, if you want to try, make a Intelligence (Arcana) check DC 15 to reweave the spell for that effect). If you think another interpretations works better for you, be my guest, but normally those kind of improvised actions should be allowed, even though they screw the rules. Here the player uses his/her imagination.

 

In most cases, your imagination will only serve to support some reasonable choices. In others it is the main-reason why you should just screw the rules. Who cares how a special spell works under normal circumstances? Just roll with it, makes more fun for you and your players. And here and then let the antagonists make use of it, too.

Not only spells (even though they leave the most room), features, skills, a lot of things can be used in different ways than the PHB or Basic Rules let see. Don’t be a rule lawyer, when you’re playing a fantasy game. Because fantasy games without imagination would be like… reality. Uuuhh…