How do you make so many of these so consistently? Do you have a patreon?
Drafting the Adventure: My Process
I was jokingly going to leave this blank because writers block be like that sometimes, but then I realized the question of consistency in writing is actually something a lot of DMs and other creators who follow this blog can benefit from. Appeals to utility have always been the way to get me to do anything, so lets crack in and see what people can learn from the messy inner workings of my process.
Step 1: Inspiration
While I often describe my work as “writing down stories inspired by cool fantasy art”, my process actually begins long before I sit down at my desk to actually write anything. Though trial and error I’ve determined that I’m at my creative best when my brain is swimming in stories, even if they have 0 relevance to what I’m going to write about. I’ve almost always got an audiobook or podcast on while I’m doing mundane life upkeep, and I keep a phone note app or actual notebook within easy access at all times. These last two are essential, as sometimes an idea or story snippet will come to me and then linger around for years, just waiting for some other concept to magnetize to and create something amazing. Every time I get a quarter of a way through a notebook, I transpose the content to a google dock, that way I can have easy access to anything I’ve written down over the ages.
Step 2: Subject Matter
Choosing the right image is an artform in and of itself, as you need something with enough thematic richness to communicate an idea, while at the same time being vague enough to be flexible, in case I have a particular idea in need of an image. Early on I also made the mistake of just collecting images in my drafts folder, leading to a several thousand image backlog that I had to sift through whenever I knew there was ONE PARTICULAR image I wanted to use for a thing. I’ve since rectified my mistake and keep a separate blog specifically for art, which I can specifically tag to search through easier. I also use the “post to tumblr” browser extension to make image acquisition just that much speedier.
Step 3: Story Seeds
After I’ve got my subject in front of me, I study the image to generate a few base ideas: what’s the mood? the vibe? the unstated tension? where would this image fit in a larger story? these things provide the raw material for my writing and help me fill out details that I never would have dreamed of. I also figure out if any of my several years worth of idea backlog would fit into this in any way, and if changing a detail or two could massage a previously good idea into a great one with accompanying art.
Step 4: Gamifying
This is a d&d blog after all, so once the story starts to take shape, I start thinking about how I can turn these narratives into actual adventures. Is there a dungeon involved? a dare to test the party’s skills? maybe a mercantile opportunity to take a gamble on? The best adventure formulation is about dangling a reward out of the party’s current reach, then figuring out what challenges, twists, and pitfalls they’ll need to navigate to get there, while simultaneously setting them up to go on another adventure with a different reward after they’ve achieved the first.
Step 5: Actually writing.
Putting actual words on the page is perhaps my biggest hurdle, both because I suffer from chronic brainfog and because life can so often be too hectic to write. I’ve found that making a habit of writing ( every day for half an hour while I'm having my morning tea) is enough to generally get past my initial hurdle. I triage my projects, focusing on small light ideas when I don’t have the energy saving the big ones that’ll require a lot of work for good writing days or bitesized chunks. Some sessions are about limping along with as much as you can manage, while others are about riding that flow wave and getting as much done as you can. As for making that writing good, I’ve got a whole tag full of different ways to improve your adventure writing, so give it a read and take what you need.
As for a Patreon, I do indeed have one https://www.patreon.com/Villain4hire, and a ko-fi at https://ko-fi.com/villainforhire. I'll admit, I've left both of them on the backburner for quite some time both because I had life stuff ( moving etc) and because my ever looming podcast project would necessitate an overhaul of both.
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combat additions to make it actually take more than a round for your players to kill your cool boss
difficult terrain. flood that cavern! oops the floor is lava! make the walls attack and grapple!
environmental effects in general. make an avalanche happen as soon as combat starts. combat during a storm is a great opportunity for lightning to strike. rain, snow, darkness, distance, fog, anything that'll impose disadvantage on their hits.
charm and fear effects. charm/fear conditions on a PC or two can totally turn the tide of an encounter.
straight up just swallow somebody. sometimes ingestion is the answer.
official statblock be damned, your boss should ALWAYS have additional legendary actions and/or resistances, condition and damage resistances/immunities, multiple attacks (probably more than the statblock says) and a motherfucking escape plan!
portals. seriously, just chuck some portals in there. I've never run a combat that couldn't be improved by the addition of a portal or two.
time constraints, mid-combat puzzles, a non-combat goal, anything the PCs have to do during the fight that isn't actually fighting.
in general, just get weird with it! wizards of the coast doesn't own you! no gods no masters! hit harder and have more fun!
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“More than a door” -- Alan Miller’s random tables for adding special details to dungeon doors, from the “Bazaar of the Bizarre” column of Dragon 41, TSR, September 1980. Some of these table entries require a little creative interpretation. Intelligent doors might open if you match alignments, speak a password, answer a riddle, or wear the robes of the cult that rules the dungeon. A door that “contains treasure” might have a secret compartment revealed if smashed, or simply have gold or silver plated fittings that are tarnished but noticeable upon inspection.
Some sources suggested doors should be found locked 1/3 of the time, and in old dungeons 1/3 might be stuck shut, with only 1/3 opening freely without effort. Many of the special table entries above assume that the party will have to physically bash open stuck or locked doors fairly often (after the thief fails to pick the lock, the lock is “thiefproof” because no parts are accessible from this side, or the wizard has no knock spells available).
The other obvious results of physically pounding on a door include the chance of breaking the door instead of forcing it open cleanly, and the loud noise that can alert nearby encounters. This is why I still always make a party roll every STR check to force a door even if the eventual success is inevitable (and I say “BOOM!” after each attempt to remind the players that they aren’t being stealthy). Extreme number results can mean the door swings open without damage, or is broken down off its hinges, or becomes stuck worse between twisted hinges, lock, and frame. The number of attempts will determine whether someone on the other side is surprised or has time to surprise the party by flipping a table for cover and leveling their crossbows at the door while sending a runner for help that might circle back around the party to close the ambush.
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Me and a DM friend of mine got to talk for a while. We're both DMs, but I almost never play, and I explained to him that this was because I am very attention seeking (which I can't control very well), and this is very bad if you need to share the DM's attention with 3 other people. We tried to think of ways to deal with this, but haven't really found any good ideas, do you have any ideas?
Supporting Attention Seeking Players
There are things both the DM and the Attention Seeking Player (ASP) can do to help everyone have a good time.
The DM can:
Engage with the ASP outside of the game itself. This way, the player gets some of that focused attention they love in a way that enhances the game. This can include asking the ASP about their backstory, maybe doing some collaborative world building, talking about something cool that happened during the session, getting feedback about the campaign, talking about cool things they want to happen, discussing character builds, etc. Most DMs love having someone to talk to about their craft, and there's plenty to discuss about a campaign without getting spoilerific. This can be very enjoyable for both parties.
Put the Attention Seeking Player to work. Giving the ASP a task to do during the game can channel their energy into something positive and give your more time/attention to split with everyone else. Maybe you could ask them to track and display initiatives, or take notes, or coordinate splitting loot, or mentor/assist another player. Be sure to thank the ASP for taking on this helping role.
Use Attention as a Reward. Make sure to intentionally give the ASP attention when they are being a good teammate and player. On the flip side, ignore them or call them out if you notice them talking over others or trying to hog the spotlight. I wrote a couple posts about using rewards and punishments to encourage the kind of play you want to see at your table.
The Attention Seeking Player Can:
Practice Self Awareness. If you know you struggle with wanting to be the center of attention all the time, make a conscious effort to be considerate to your fellow players. Listen when they speak, try not to talk over them, and make an effort to keep things moving along. Don't beat yourself up if you catch yourself slipping up, just apologize and move on, e.g. "Sorry, Chris, I didn't mean to interrupt you. You go". Your fellow players will almost always be understanding if they can tell you are making an effort.
Be a Cheerleader. If you want to be a part of every scene, there are ways to do that without always hogging the spotlight. Cheer on and encourage your fellow players! It keeps you actively participating, but lets your friends feel like super stars as well. Don't forget to praise your DM too!
Ask Permission for Attention. If you're reading this, you're probably aware that there are times when attention seeking can come off as annoying or selfish. But you should also know that there are times people will be happy to give you their attention - genuinely. Not just tolerating you or humoring you, but genuinely happy to witness your enthusiasm. When in doubt, ask.
"Can I tell you about my backstory?"
"I have some ideas for this setting. Would you like to hear them?"
"Ooo, do you guys mind if I do a monologue here?"
Sometimes, they'll let you know that now isn't a good time for it, and that's okay. And sometimes, it'll be perfect.
Remember your Value. Having players that engage enthusiastically with the campaign is lifeblood to a roleplaying game. You are the reason the DM works so hard to craft a fun experience. You are a star bringing their vision to life. You are awesome! Just remember you are part of an ensemble cast, and everyone else needs time to showcase their talents as well.
Thanks for the question!
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How distinct are weapons like clubs from improvised weapons? I have a player (in Pathfinder/3.P) who insists that since clubs have no cost (are easily made), any improvised weapon that could use club damage is a club (i.e., is as easy to use as a club, so no attack penalty). I can't help but think that the improvised weapon rules exist to simulate something realistic, like balance in hand, but I know basically nothing about weapons in real life.
It really depends on the club, or the quality of the improvised weapon in question. I mean, there isn't going to be a huge quality difference between a broken off chair leg, and cheap wooden club. But, at the same time we are talking about Pathfinder, so, realism isn't exactly the highest priority.
In theory, Pathfinder's (and D&D's) improvised weapon rules are built around the idea that you're just grabbing whatever is at hand. It probably doesn't have a proper grip, it may be flimsy, it could still be attached to something in the environment. Whatever it is, it's certainly not a weapon, and the rules are generally meant to reflect that. If he wants to convert a broken chair leg into a proper club, that's what the Craft (Broken Chair Legs) skill is for.
You have is a player trying to minmax. I'm not 100% certain about Pathfinder's improvised weapon rules, but in 3.5 it was a flat, you do not get proficiency from any improvised weapon. So, you take a -4 penalty on all rolls to hit. (There's actually a boatload of additional rules which you can apply if you think the player is trying to pull a fast one, such as actually tracking hardness and item HP to destroy their, "club," from use.)
That said, Pathfinder is a little different, because there are feats (Catch Off-Guard and Improvised Weapon Mastery) which ignores the non-proficient penalty, and grant bonuses to improvised weapons, there's a level 1 spell that allows the caster to convert an improvised weapon into its simple or martial counterpart (Refine Improvised Weapon in the Wizard/Sorc, and Cleric spellbooks, among others,) there's a PRC (the Nature Warden) that gains the ability to do the same as an Extraordinary Ability (meaning, it's non-magical for them.) And, there's an entire Rogue archetype that focuses on using improvised weapons (in the Melee Tactics Toolbox.) There's probably a ton of other specific rule interactions with improvised weapons in Pathfinder I'm unaware of.
What you have is a player who is trying to circumvent the rules to munchkin their character. If they want their character to use improvised weapons on a regular basis, without taking a penalty on every attack roll, there are multiple, explicit, paths to achieving that, and I don't know exactly what your player's end goal is, but this is a case where they're asking for a free feat. It's okay to say, "no," no matter how concrete their logic seems. If they want want to use Improvised Weapons, Catch Off-Guard exists for a reason and has no prerequisites.
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43 Things To Sell To A Fey...
A Wedding Ring meant for a Bride to be.
A Portrait painted by a Familiar.
Three true answers to the Fey's questions.
The Character's clothes.
One of the Character's senses.
The Character's dreams.
A Coin used in a coin flip.
Your Character's dying breath.
Your Character's Luck.
One Year of the Character's Life.
A minute of your Character's time.
A Lasting Scar.
Your Character's shadow.
A poem or song written by the Character.
The music from a Character's instrument.
A moment of your honour.
A lock of your Character's hair.
A night of good sleep.
Your Character's voice.
The Character's first born child.
The colour of your hair.
The colour of your skin.
The colour of your eyes.
The colour of your blood.
The taste of your favourite ale.
The feel of the ocean wind in your hair.
The pleasant sting of a freshly drawn hot bath.
The names of mortals whom you have at least dined with.
The eyes of an eagle.
The heart of a hero.
The fingers of a thief.
The eggs of birds, young animals, or new-born mortal children.
Permanent permission into your home or place of work.
The key to a castle.
Invitation to a ceremony your are attending.
A strong working animal.
A treasure stolen from a goblin.
All your silver pieces.
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over our last two sessions, I ran something a little different. Our cleric, Oggie, has a (complicated) relationship with this NPC, Elliot. Elliot is a gay half-elf man whose father is a politician and diplomat; Elliot’s father has decided that since Elliot has a criminal record (he was framed for treason) the best way to ensure he is provided for is to marry him off to another political family, neatly tucking him away where he can’t cause a scandal.
Now, his father isn’t too interested in Elliot’s desire for romance or attraction, so he’s arranged a marriage with a young woman from a prominent elven family. The party quickly decided that this cannot stand. They agreed to attend the wedding in order to prevent it from happening.
Upon arrival at the venue, however, a few key things were going to pop off. First, it turns out Oggie’s estranged family lives in the town. Second, the whole region is deeply haunted and extremely sinister. Third, messing up the bride’s life was a non-option, because when I introduced the character of the bride, a friend of ours came out of the bedroom where I’d stashed them and introduced themself as Gloria, the bride herself (an air genasi monk in a family of elves, another outsider).
this was already clearly a rousing success, but we still had to get through the wedding, and I had to run it in a way that felt dynamic and tense. People go from room to room and building to building, indoors and outdoors and making visits to the village. It’s the day of a wedding!
So I developed a method for running the Day of the Wedding, and I’m sharing it with you for any extended roleplay and intrigue encounters you want to tangle up in plot threads.
First things first: run it like a combat.
What I mean by that is when the party woke up on the day of the wedding, I asked them all to roll for initiative. Instead of a round taking six seconds, each round lasted one hour, enough time for a movement (go to 2 areas near one another or 1 place that’s a bit further away), an action (a primary roleplay scene or investigation), and a bonus action (a conversation with a fellow player character, a quick search of an area, etc.). As the DM, use your discretion to decide what constitutes a suitable bonus action vs action.
Now, unlike combat, this type of encounter should permit player characters to team up and act together. When a PC that is high in initiative order decides to do something, other PCs that rolled lower can opt to join them if they want to act in the same location or engage with the same NPCs. (This is a great option to keep the action moving and lets players work together more.)
In order to keep this situation rolling, I prepared a few key notes. I focused on regional effects; that is, the overall culture and vibe of the area. I decided early on that the region is haunted, and that the locals are suspicious, superstitious, and obsessed with cleanliness. These features are tied into the overall plot conflicts that would develop over time. I also chose to include the effects of the Haunted table from Tasha’s Cauldron to add some spiciness to my haunting. In essence, think of the tensions the NPCs in the region are already experiencing prior to the party getting involved. A recent assassination might make a court intrigue more complicated as they now distrust strangers, for instance, while a new trade war over tariffs can complicate a diplomatic mission.
Next, I considered my locations. In this instance, my locations included the inn where the party slept, various rooms in the manor house hosting the wedding, a handful of outdoor areas, and the chapel. I focused on creating detailed descriptions of the ambiance for each location.
Then, I wrote out a quick description of each major NPC - in this case, the wedding party, the family of the intended, and a few locals and guests. In a roleplay/intrigue scenario like this, it’s vital to include motivations, secrets, and goals for each of these NPCs, even if those goals are very simple. You’ll need them for the last step:
Create a round-by-round timeline. Write out your list of locations and pair them with the NPCs that will be there during each round (hour). In my notes, I added what the NPC was doing there or what they were thinking about--linking their motivation to their location. For example, a character in the garden was leaving an early-morning meeting with her lover, the new gardener, while the fathers of the bride and groom met in the library to discuss the cover-up they had just pulled off (a politician and wedding guest had died mysteriously at midnight, and to keep the wedding from being derailed, they had hidden the body and were intimidating the only witness).
Party members who arrived at each location were therefore entering existing scenes they didn’t have full context for. Each hour, the NPCs would move on to the next phase of their day, seek out other NPCs to interact with, etc. NPCs could still be influenced by the party’s actions, so each round you might adjust exactly what they’re doing or where they’ve gone--the beauty of improv!
Keep in mind that situations should still be developing when the party isn’t witnessing them. An NPC no one had spoken to yet turned out to have spent the morning searching for her missing father, which led the party to the gravesite that they’d spotted earlier in the game, while the gardener turned out to be a villain they’d met before who was acting in secret during the session! Use your best judgment, though. Just because you wrote content for an NPC doesn’t mean the party will engage with it, so follow their lead; sprinkle the clues, and then let the party’s focus drive which storylines get developed.
So long as every NPC has a goal or secret to influence their opinions and decisions, they will feel like nuanced actors within the roleplay scenario; the timeline you lay out in advance gives them a sort of “Artificial Intelligence” that can be influenced by the player’s actions.
Personally, I also recommend setting a natural deadline for the party. If my players didn’t stop the wedding by 1pm, for instance, the ceremony would go forward and they would either be forced to object in public or let the marriage take place. Thus, they only had 5 total “rounds” to disrupt things enough that the wedding would be called off.
You can create similar deadlines depending on the central goal of the party. A vote on whether to pass a controversial law could serve as one for a court intrigue arc, while a crime-solving arc might have a threatened time when a kidnapping victim will be murdered (”You have 24 hours to deliver the ransom”, for example). The sense of a ticking time-bomb gives the players a much-needed urgency. The round-by-round timeline also helps to ensure that you won’t have to continue prepping rounds ad infinitum; instead, you need only prepare up until shit pops off and the deadline is reached.
You may find you won’t reach the deadline, though. In this arc, the party discovered the corpse of a major politician who had died in the night and was secretly buried by the gardener. They used the cover-up as leverage to blackmail the parents of the bride and groom into calling off the marriage, which was helped along by the ranger revealing that Elliot’s father was concealing Elliot’s criminal record to keep the marriage arrangement intact. They managed to prevent the wedding with an hour to spare.
However, as Alice the sorcerer went downstairs to announce the cancellation, she spotted a person who looked just like her weaving through the crowd to leave the manor. She followed, and discovered that she was tracking the semi-villainous NPC who had crossed paths with the party a few times before, disguised as Alice. The NPC, Florian, had been playing the role of the gardener, and blackmailed the bride’s father into giving up a precious family heirloom in exchange for concealing the body; now that the cover-up has been revealed, they’re getting out of Dodge with their prize. This revelation serves as the plot hook for the next dungeon!
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A Simple Enemy Initiative System
Note: This system builds upon an iniative system developed by Bob World Builder (whose stuff you can find on YouTube), so please be aware of that.
So initiative... The question of tracking initiative and how initiative distribution can lead to players having difficulties following combat encounters (and thus only focusing on their own turns) is one which vexes a lot of DMs and even regular players. So here is my solution for how to deal with initiative without sacrificing the satisfaction players get when they roll initiative (plus certain classes like the barbarian and certain subclasses like the Gloom Stalker ranger have features which are directly linked to rolling initiative, so of course I don't want to negate that for players who have these class features).
Here are the six basic principles of this system:
1) Players still roll for initiative, no matter the party size.
2) Enemies however do not roll initiative, instead when building the encounter the DM sorts the enemies within it into one of three categories, namely Fast, Regular, and Other.
3) Fast has an initiative of 19 and is reserved for creatures which are noted for their speed or their reliance on ambushes, however it should be used sparingly for reasons I will explain when creating sample encounters.
4) Regular has an initiative of 11 and will be applied to most enemies, especially the toughest enemy of the encounter.
5) Other has an initiative of 1 and gets used for summoned creatures, minor enemies, or creatures known for their slow speed.
6) Ties get resolved through the dexterity score like normal.
Now how would this look like in-game?
Let's presume the players are fighting a group of bandits. There's a bandit chief, four bandits (two use only scimitars, two use only crossbows), and a tamed dire wolf. Now the bandit chief clearly goes into the Regular category, as they form the centerpiece of the encounter. Now one can think about where to place the other five enemies. Personally I would place the two scimitar bandits also in the Regular category, while the crossbow bandits go in the Other category, while the direwolf is in the Fast category, but it could also go into the Other category. But for the sake of this example, let's say it is Fast.
That way the combat flow will could be Player(s) -> Dire Wolf -> Player(s) -> Melee Bandits -> Player(s) -> Crossbow Bandits, leading to a nice back and forth. Players who roll very high initiative results will gain the benefit of being in the turn order before the dire wolf, making the nat 20 on the initiative roll feel impactful, while making bad rolls invoke a sense of dread, since the players know that a bunch of powerful enemies will be before them in the order guaranteed.
Now Fast is an optional category and doesn't need to be included, plus it can be used as an actual boss category, especially in higher levels of play, since it is also very appropriate for an ancient chromatic dragon or a powerful celestial or air elemental. The Other category is also optional, especially when designing combat encounters for small parties, but as soon as you have at least four players combat encounters should consist of at least two enemy initiative categories to create a nice back and forth between players and enemies.
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Dungeon Starter Ideas
Last edited: 10/02/2021
A wise DM once said, “you’re only as original as the obscurity of the things you steal from.”
So here’s a few ideas I stole from my brother, books, TV, other DMs, and my own campaign notes! These descriptors can be purely atmospheric, or you can use the unique circumstances to complicate things for your players!
I’ve marked the ones I’ve actually played with a ♥, in case you want to hear some specifics of how it went. I’ll be updating this list, so keep your eyes open.
♥ A translucent and fragile-looking spire made of ice, amber, glass, or crystal
The hollowed insides of an old, giant tree (dead or alive)
Above the beanstalk, up in the clouds
♥ A forgotten underground tunnel system connecting two cities
A ruined castle half-buried in snow/sand/earth/water
An abandoned mining pit
A Labyrinth, complete with a wandering monster, and a curse which breaks navigational magic
The forgotten corridor between dimensions where outsiders, stragglers, and ideas live
The bones of an ancient, colossal creature
♥ A magic library, with living books and other hazards
♥ An abandoned Frankenstein lab, or construct factory
A high-security bank, prison, etc.
♥ This dungeon seems to appear and disappear at different intervals and locations, meaning coming in (or leaving) is sometimes impossible
♥ Gravity works strangely here. You may find yourself upside-down to the rest of the world, standing on floating platforms that crumble and break in odd directions
♥ This is a pocket dimension with its own set of rules--perhaps literally using the rules of a different board game, arcade game, or rpg
♥ There is a spirit living here who represents the dungeon itself. It is ancient, enormous, eccentric, and with uncertain morality.
The place was built too small or too large for the party (Kobold made, Giant made, etc.)
♥ Magic is distorted here, and spells sometimes cause wild magic surges, or fail entirely
♥ This place has funhouse elements--slides, platforms, and silly, gamey rituals that must be overcome
These are hallowed/desecrated grounds, and as such the land has some effect on holy/unholy magic
♥ This is a malleable mirror/dream world, built by someone’s psyche
Party members swap bodies when they enter. Enjoy your new character sheet!
Local beasties have moved in and built nests
♥ A gang or cult has made this their base
The original host is long dead, but half-broken sentries still patrol...
This place was built and guarded specifically to keep THAT THING contained...i.e. monster types with specific abilities and resistances
♥ There are prisoners who must be evacuated, and monsters which are best left alone...but which are which?
♥ Haunted by ghosts
Mostly/entirely abandoned, but prickling with traps and hazards
Note: There’s no reason you can’t mash a bunch from each list together. Have your ruined castle be on the moon. Have your magical library be a shifting labyrinth. Have your mine be harvesting mana from the bones of a long-dead magical creature. It doesn’t even need to make sense--maybe these catacombs were built like a funhouse by a lich with a strange sense of humour. Get weird with it!
My brother’s wonderful holiday one-shot got me inspired to add a little confusion and whimsy into my world, and so I pass my inspiration on to you. Have fun!
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unfortunately I live for the drama of this game (they’ll be fine next session 🥰)
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do you have any resources or guides for worldbuilding and reimagining the feywild? not looking for adventure prompts or npcs just your thoughts on setting and how to make the feywild feel dangerous and mystical
Planescape: The Feywild
I won’t lie, the introduction if the feywild is one of the best additions to the default d&d cosmology in a while, not only from a thematic perspective, but gameplay aswell, as it allows any podunk patch of land to act as a doorway to wild adventure. That said, too often this wonderland is treated as a place where things are just wacky, without real attention paid to the narrative possibilities introducing the feywild into a story can have.
To that end, I’m going propose a few different aspects of the feywild, different visions of how things could be drawn from different mythologies and storytelling conventions:
The feywild has no geography: like the notes of a song or the lines of a play, the reality of faerie is reinterpreted with every visitation, Coloring itself based on the expectations and emotions of those exploring it. This is why a child can stumble into a mushroom ring and have themselves a whimsical romp full of talking animal friends and life lessons, whereas adults tend to find themselves ensnared by echoes of their deepest desires and why adventurers ALWAYS find something to fight. If you want to go anywhere in the feywild you don’t need a map, you need a thematic structure that will carry you to your destination: whether that be staying on a yellow brick road through a number of distractions and tribulations, or winning a game of riddles against a talking bird who’ll swear to drop you off at your destination.
The feywild is a place of stories: When a peasant family leaves out milk and performs small acts of thanks for the brownie, they are unwittingly inviting the primal energies of the feywild to fill the space they have made for it, creating a creature that had always been there, looking out for them. Likewise, when folk tell of wonderous places just beyond the edge of the map, the feywild becomes those places, taking solidity from repeated tellings of the tale and incorporating different interpretations to give themselves depth. This is not to say that the translation is perfect, as one can’t simply make up a story, tell it to an audience, and expect it to suddenly become true as it takes a powerful and engrained sort of lies, embelishment, or folktales to give shape to the otherworld. When populating your local fairy-realm or those areas near enough to it, consider what sort of stories people tell about that place, whether it be about monsters that gobble up wayward children or treasure hidden there by bandits long ago.
The feywild responds to your emotions: When your party takes a rest, ask them how they think their characters are feeling. Consider whether they are frightened or foolheardy, adventurous or avricious, and then sketch out some random encounter to spice in along the way as the realm of whimsy responds to the vibes they’re putting out. A party that’s feeling hungry may encounter a friendly fey teaparty or a dangerous lure disguised as a snack, a group that’s feeling pressed for time may hear the horn of a savage hunter stalking them, or a parable about stopping to help others can actually speed you along your own path. In this way, the fairyland is in diolog with the party’s desire to press their narrative forward, and will test or reward them according to its whim.
The feywild is everywhere: one of the underutilized aspects of having the feywild in our games is that a portal to the “shallower” areas of the otherworld can pop up anywhere overtaken by nature, allowing fey beings and other oddities to cross over in a way that creates all manner of adventure hooks. If I’m building a dungeon in the wilderness, I’m personally fond of having a mounting fey presence the deeper in you get, replacing the normal ruin dwelling hazards with troops of hobgoblins, odd enchantments, and various tricksters. For smaller dungeons, the closed off fey portal can be an adventure hook for later, encouraging them to come back when they need to delve into whimsy, whereas for the larger dungeons, a non contiguous fey realm connecting multiple points can serve as a combination of fast travel AND bonus stage. Even for non dungeon locations, consider how much fun of an adventure it’d be if someone discovered that their cellar had been replaced with a fairy’s larder, or that the vine-covered lot where neighborhood kids play during the day transforms into a vast battlefield for sprites during the night.
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If you're the kind of DM who absolutely loves worldbuilding and lore but struggles to write up an actual plot*, have you considered just, not writing one?
There are lots of great prewritten adventures out there that you can plug into your setting. And I don't just mean locations. You can ask "What does this look like if the cultists serve [your hombrew evil entity] instead?" odds are the only adjustments will be flavor, and hey, you rock at flavor!
Here's a tool you can use to search adventures by environment, types of monsters, and more.
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Random DM thought I had while build a dungeon for my player’s next session:
All dungeons should be self-sufficient. I think the best way to approach a dungeon is to treat it as a one-off set in your campaign’s world, design-wise at least. You have a puzzle that needs rope? Put rope in a creative place in the dungeon, or have a similar item they can use instead. Never just go “oh, so-and-so has 15 ft of rope in her pocket.” Imagine your players are walking into the dungeon with nothing, and make sure your dungeon is still clearable if that is the case.
Better yet, mention and describe the rope that you placed a few rooms ahead. When your players see the puzzle and remember the rope in the previous room, they’ll think they’ve outsmarted you and used your dungeon against you, without knowing that was the entire plan.
Always try to make your players feel like they themselves won, not just their characters.
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Hey so I’m going to be DMing for the first time in a few weeks for a group of friends and I’ve run into an issue with my world building (because I’ve for whatever reason decided I wanted to homebrew a world)... and that is that I can genuinely think of all the big World things like nations and gods and the relationships between those nations and why these things are what they are and everything... but I can’t seem to force myself to really put detail into the smaller stuff... I’m trying to construct the town that the party will be starting in because I feel like they’ll be there for a hot second but it just seems... so much more daunting than figuring out Big World things... I was wondering if you had any tips on fleshing out specific towns and kingdoms?
I love designing towns! Here are the big questions I ask myself:
1. Where are they getting their water? You’re going to want to put your town near a lake or river.
2. What are the major industries? The people have to do something for a living.
3. Who are the local leaders? Where do they live and what do they do?
4. What threatens the town and how do they typically defend themselves (this includes natural threats and social issues, as well as things like monsters).
5. Where are the PCs probably going to go? Do at least a little prep for places like the tavern, the stores, and any plot related locations.
6. What are some local landmarks? Even small towns have them!
Good luck and have fun!
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I have finally found the most concise way of stating the differences between Int, Wis, and Cha.
Intelligence is about information. How much you can retain, how much you can process, and how fast you can do either.
Wisdom is about judgement. Learning from experiences and applying your experience and intelligence to the world around you.
Charisma is about communication. Not just verbal or written, but also presence. It is the message and and force you exert on the world around you just by being there.
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saturday d&d tip: right around 6th level, player character abilities start to go from “oh, yep, a normal regular person could probably do that” to “fuck. oh fuck. what was that.” monks suddenly have magical fists. rangers learn a new language overnight. casters get new subclass features ranging from “i can raise souls i’ve killed as spirits that fight for me (hexblade warlock)” to “I steal the shadow of a dead person to magically impersonate them (bard college of whispers)”
lean into the effect by describing the magical nature of their achievements, the suddenness of the new skillsets, the physical shifts that take place when they use strange abilities.
tell them: oh cleric, it’s an odd feeling, to tap into the thoughts of another creature. but you can see it, and it would be so easy to plant a new thought among them and watch it take root. (knowledge cleric)
oh barbarian, you feel the enchantment taking over--but no, no, it rolls off you without any effect. your mind is blank, blood-hungry and furious, and you feel nothing but rage.
oh paladin, the faintest glow radiates from you; you feel warm, almost hot, but just as clearly as you feel that, you know your allies are safer in the warmth of your glow. your skin flushes and sweat forms, but they are protected in the aura you shed.
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dungeon master tip #1
this is something that popped up in a conversation between me and @all-made-of-stardust since i was dishing out some DM advice. and this is pretty much a term that popped up in the convo - and how this is an essential DM tool to use when running any campaign.
a thing that a lot of new DMs are at risk of (hell, even well-seasoned dungeon masters), would be the ill-famed railroading. this is a table top term coined for the action of forcing your players to go down a specific path that you envisioned - essentially, taking away their agency. player agency is such a sacred thing, because it’s the heart of the game. it’s what makes things fun, and ultimately, what keeps people coming back to play.
it’s really important to avoid something like railroading, in order to create a much more wholesome and satisfying table top experience. i suppose your question would be, “but if i can’t control my players, how will things go according to my plans?” well, fellow dungeon master, i have the answer for you, and it’s called -
what is this, you ask? well, it’s an extremely useful DM tool and skill to master. let’s say for example, you planned this important social encounter between the party and some noble NPC, which was set to happen in the town square. but, instead of heading there, the party decides to fuck off to the tavern.
on first glance, maybe your knee jerk instinct is to push the party towards the town square event as much as possible. after all, if they don’t end up there, then they’re slowing down the plot! the campaign! but here’s a simple solution: sometimes, you can’t follow the script beat by beat. sometimes, you gotta change it up - like in this example, make the Super Duper Important NPC appear in the tavern instead of the town square.
essentially, if your players are dead set doing something else than what you initially planned - let them do it! the foundation for their motivation to accomplish something is already there. if you planned some important plot point, social event, or combat encounter to occur at a specific time and place - and the players avoid this in favor of chasing something else down - just move the essential plot point to the new location.
that way, your sessions can run at a smoother pace, your players feel like they have control over the story and their actions in your world, and everyone has a more well rounded experience!
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HOW DO I BE GOOD DM???? I'm dming for the first time and I decided to homebrew send help
GOOD TIPS FOR DMING
1) Be the BIGGEST FAN of your PCs. It’s a game you all play together, not a game of DM vs PCs
2) Get your stat blocks ready ahead of time, it’s no fun looking things up in the middle of the game
3) Similarly, if an issue is taking too long to figure out By The Books, just make up a ruling yourself that feels right and then correct it later. I promise the issue doesn’t matter THAT much and it’s more fun to get the game rolling!
4) There’s a line to walk between Not Prepping Enough and Prepping Too Much -- eventually you’ll know how much you definitely have to have ready before each game, and how much you’re comfortable improv-ing. Some people are comfortable with just writing down a few bullet points and having some potential stats ready to go, while other people feel better outlining a lot more details.
5) Don’t feel like you have to have EVERYTHING written out and prepped. I promise dnd players are Impossible To Always Predict so leave room in your plans for plenty of flexibility should your friends decide now is the time to buck the rails entirely. it WILL happen and if you’re already mentally prepped for a bit of improv and rerouting to get to the Main Points, you’ll be good to go.
6) Along the same lines -- it’s totally okay to ask for a bit of a break for you to rewrite some stuff in the middle of the session if things go W A Y different than planned! You can absolutely take your time to make a good story, and your players should respect that :)
7) Finally, don’t forget that you are ALSO playing this game, even though your role is a little different, so you should be having fun as well!! If you ever feel like DMing really is getting to be a chore that you dread, bring it up with your group, and come up with a solution that works for ALL of you.
YOU ARE GOING TO DO GREAT. The big secret is that DMing is THE BEST FUCKIGN ROLE and you’re going to have a ton of fun!! Don’t worry about having nerves, literally EVERYONE feels jittery over it for a while and things will smooth out eventually. YOU CAN DO IT <3
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