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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Things I Include In My D&D Games That My Players Don't Know About
If they hold a wooden bowl and walk into a locked door, they'll phase through it like it's Skyrim
If they attempt to jump backwards up a set of stairs, with a high enough dex roll, they will launch up the stairs, through the roof, and into the upper atmosphere
There is an Anti-Tarrasque.
Trolls have 12 different blood colors, with only 2 existing in aquatic troll varieties.
If they enter a new area fast enough, they can catch the birds flying without moving anywhere.
Trees DON'T make sounds when they fall and no one's around, there's just no one around that can prove that
Lazer guns exist, they're just shy
If you get knocked prone on a sloped surface, there is a 1% chance of clipping into the terrain
There's a 1% chance of the textures in someone's face not loading correctly
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20 “Totally Not Weird” Things To Say To Your Players...
As far as your character can tell, there is nothing unnatural about it.
The trap appears to be disarmed.
Do you touch it, or are you just looking?
Who goes first?
From what you can see...
This room does not appear to contain anything.
There's no visible effect.
You don't seem to spot any traps in the immediate vicinity.
As far as you would know...
You feel fine.
Can I see your character sheet a second?
Can you describe in a little more detail how you do that?
What order are you walking in?
It doesn't seem to do anything.
Are you sure about that?
You can certainly try!
How close do you want to get to it?
By the way, where exactly are you all standing?
Before you fall asleep...
I need to borrow a few more dice for a while.
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ever done a mini-campaign?
When most of us think of a ttrpg campaign, it’s fair to say that long-form campaigns are the prototype. Playing with the same group of players in the same world, following multiple plotlines for a very. long. time. The iconic examples of The Adventure Zone Balance, Critical Role, and Rusty Quill Gaming span out-of-game years in the making. And plenty of folks hold those up as the ideal way to play the game.
Have you ever considered...not doing that?
A short-form ttrpg game might be for you and your friends if your schedules are tight; playing a one-off, single-session game may work better when you never know when you’ll have the chance to play again. Some ttrpgs are also simply designed for shorter gameplay, with natural breaks built in where you can end a campaign.
But at times, you still want the character arc, the delight of building character relationships, and the sense of growing tension across multiple “episodes.” Or maybe you prefer the D&D or Pathfinder system and don’t want to learn to play games that have shorter timelines built in.
Enter: the mini-campaign. Spanning anywhere from five to twenty sessions, it can last as long as you and your GM want. Examples include Dimension 20′s games, as well as the Exandria Unlimited series by Critical Role.
To run a mini-campaign, all the GM needs is a few simple elements.
A contained setting.
A problem endemic to the setting.
An antagonist involved in making the problem worse or better.
A defined end-point that will occur in the near-ish future.
For the first, just come up with a specific setting as normal, then have a pretext to keep the party from leaving for too long.
A simple setting could be a single town, sizable enough that the PCs don’t know literally everyone, and the pretext could be the PCs lack the resources to pay for travel. Or they have homes and family ties in town that they don’t want to leave behind.
More complicated settings could be a snowy mountain range where the PCs are stranded after a zeppelin crash, a tropical island resort where they are on vacation, or a polar research station. The world is truly your oyster here, and the more wildly specific your setting, the more wild the storyline can become.
For the second element, a problem endemic to the setting simply means that this place has a problem that is unique in some way. If I leave the tropical resort, the problem likely will not follow me. For example, the tropical island could have issues with their power grid that lead to frequent blackouts, ruining countless vacations. It’s important to understand that the problem doesn’t have to be this major, systemic issue like speciesism or climate change.
The third element, an antagonist involved somehow, means that either the antagonist wants to deliberately make the problem worse for their own gain, or who thinks they’re solving the problem but it has extremely bad consequences in another way.
In a polar research station setting where the problem is that they’ve lost contact with the outside world, one researcher might be trying to kill their coworkers, having accidentally made contact with a chthonic being from the Fantasy Arctic. The researcher thinks they’re saving the world by preventing the group from drilling any deeper and freeing the being--but it’s only chthonic madness encouraging the violence. In reality, the survivors are the world’s best chance at keeping the entity from rising.
In our tropical resort setting, perhaps a scheming tourist is trying to take advantage of the outages to revenge himself upon his annoying in-laws, frame the PCs for the murders, and sue the resort for emotional damages.
The fourth element makes this into a mini-campaign. The story has a win condition and a lose condition, and the campaign ends with one of those two options. In the tropical resort, catching the murderous tourist and clearing the PCs’ names is the end of the story--or failing to do so, and being arrested or murdered themselves. In the polar research station, either the PCs stop the rise of a chthonic entity or they don’t. Win and Lose.
Essentially, the whole campaign has a ticking clock attached to it. Waiting too long to act means the bomb goes off. Failing means the bomb goes off. And you can’t drag the story out for too long, because one way or another, that bomb has to be dealt with.
A mini-campaign is best run at lower levels--anywhere from 3rd to 9th, in my opinion. Any higher and the PCs have too much power. Any lower and they’re functional disasters. I encourage a loose level-up structure based on milestone leveling rather than XP, since mini-campaigns don’t have the structure for several high-XP boss battles.
You can add additional plot threads and antagonists as much as you like, but keep in mind they will make your campaign longer accordingly.
Let the campaign be silly, or break out of the usual genre of swords-and-sorcery. Having a secondary genre, like a murder mystery or cosmic horror, can really make a mini-campaign stand out to your players.
You must run a session zero. This is nonnegotiable. The reason? You will need to establish the relationships between PCs before starting, or they will spend too long in the “getting to know you” phase. It’s also just more fun for your players to have established grudges, inside jokes, and so on. Additionally, since you will not be running a sandbox campaign here, you will need to be sure your PCs are buying in to the setting’s premise.
What I mean by that is, if the party is at a tropical resort, they most likely are there because they like tropical vacations (or got dragged along by someone who does). A PC who isn’t built for a world where they take tropical vacations, or who has no vested interest in enjoying their vacation, is unlikely to care about someone else ruining their vacation. Some things need to be established pre-game to make sure everyone is on the same page. I recommend you also discuss the genre: if it’s going to be a murder mystery, the players shouldn’t act like it’s a slash-and-burn total war environment, or what’s the entire point? Good players will respect the genre they’re told they’re playing in, and avoid being too genre-savvy or too genre-stupid.
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systems to run and play outside of dungeons and dragons/pathfinder that are BEGINNER FRIENDLY and STORY-FOCUSED:
MASKS: A NEW GENERATION (powered by the apocalypse engine, 2d6 core resolution): Play as teenaged superheroes! Emulate the feel of a comic book or animated TV series like Young Justice, Teen Titans, etc. DEATH IS NOT A STAKE (unless you’re The Doomed): emotional trauma is instead! FAST, narratively driven combat; complex antagonists; sessions structured by “scenes” instead of encounters to encourage roleplaying and story above all else! Perfect for folks who love superhero stories, exploring adolescent angst, and colorful combat.
URBAN SHADOWS 1E (powered by the apocalypse engine, 2d6 core resolution): A political urban fantasy game about the debts you owe, and the lengths you’re willing to go to seize power in a seedy city. Think Mortal Instruments, Twilight, etc. Play as a werewolf, vampire, hunter, wizard, etc. all vying for power. A corruption mechanic encourages backstabbing and betrayal between PCs, with the hanging sword of PCs who go too far retiring as NPC threats. Perfect for evil parties and social intrigue-heavy campaigns.
QUEST (d20 core resolution): A fantasy, medieval-suited but genre-expansive system that can replace D&D pretty fluidly, and makes for an easy transition from one system to another. No stats, only features that classes can invoke at will or with a single, unmodified d20 roll. All PCs have the same health and deal the same base damage, making combat a breeze, freeing the GM up to focus on the story. A sliding scale of success from 1 to 20 instead of a binary pass/fail like D&D!
These are just a few systems I’ve either played and/or have run, and can recommend based on my personal experience. Either way, it’s worth looking into other systems to improve and expand your own GMing chops for D&D if nothing else.
Other TTRPG systems you should check out that I don’t have the time to delve into right now: Monster of the Week (PBTA like above, 2d6 core resolution, emulate the feel of an episodic monster hunting show like Supernatural, Buffy, etc.), Numenera (complex system comparable in scope to D&D), Fiasco (GMless, improv only, card based, over the top Coen Brothers movie generator), Root RPG (play as woodland creatures!), Bluebeard’s Bride (play as different aspects of the same woman surviving a murderous pirate!), Vampire: The Masquerade (play as scheming vampires fighting back your thirst!), Call of Cthulhu (classic eldritch horror TTRPG), Jiangshi: Blood in the Banquet Hall (play as a Chinese immigrant family fighting racism and hopping vampires!), Ald-Amura: Monster Care Squad (HEAL monsters instead of kill them; threat clocks advance the story); Star-Crossed (2-player, GMless, Jenga tower based game about forbidden love, PERFECT for couples), Dread (Jenga tower based horror system), City of Mist (similar to Urban Shadows — gritty modern fantasy), and more!!
Check out these systems, and recommend more in the replies!
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If you're a DM and tired of your players constantly killing important NPCs there is one easy solution. Have the stats ready at all times for every important NPC to possibly be an ancient dragon (color of your choice) in disguise. See! Problem solved!
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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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That is the position that all dungeon masters are in, because you love your PCs and you want them to succeed, but you know that in order for them to truly succeed, you need to try your hardest to destroy them.
—Brennan Lee Mulligan, Dimension 20 Foundry: Making Chungledown Bim (with Lou Wilson)
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do you have any world building tips?
Oooooh let me think
I apologise if this ends up being really long eeek
My main tips would be:
1. Start with one country/location - most of the time it's going to be absolutely ages before your party leaves their home country so you don't need to do the whole world from day one. Additionally, if you don't build the entire world to start with, if your players want to be from a different country it gives both of you more cooperative leeway to build that character
2. When building your country generally the most important question is: how does power work in this country? what does it mean to have power?
This covers political, economic, religious, military and intellectual power.
A basic idea of how all of these function can assist in a lot of the smaller questions that come from world-building such as: what's the police force like? Do people have religious liberty? What's the main industry in your country?
3. When I'm making smaller towns, my first question is always: what is this town known for? and further, how does this effect how the town operates?
Every little town is known for something - and this can firstly, help you roleplay what being in this town is like, and secondly, gives each different location a unique feel.
For instance, my players are just about to arrive in a town that's know for being the home of wizard-researchers. My thought process on building this town was - wizard-researchers probably need/want access to contraband more than other towns (plus it's like, the DnD equivalent of a university town) therefore there is probably a strong criminal element in the town. Wizard-researchers probably build random add ons to their homes, and also experiments can go wrong often. Therefore, bits of buildings fall down often. Therefore, no one will insure any building within the city limits, and the unions won't allow their members to work within the city.
I am also helped along by the map i drew early on of the Candrian Empire (my world) because sometimes location of a city can help facilitate what it might be know for: ie. I have a town in the side of the mountain, it's probably the coal mining town.
Hopefully this helps! I'm happy to provide examples of all of this if the explanation alone isn't clear
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So, you enjoy playing Dungeons and Dragons, yes? I'm sure we've all seen those YouTubers or podcast campaigns with elaborate setups, a shelf full of sourcebooks, hand-painted minis in fancy glass cases, and a designated table just for DnD with a screen inlaid. But what if you can't afford all that? What if you don't have a steady flow of income, or you can't drop 50 bucks on a sourcebook? Well, you're in luck. This is:
Dungeons and Dragons (on a budget)
For context, I'm a minor. I'm unemployed, since I live in a small town and am not old enough to get a job, and the most money I get per year is from birthdays and holidays. You might be in a similar situation, or you have rent, food, and gas to pay for and not enough money to spend on expensive amenities. Trust me, you don't need all those fancy doohickeys to enjoy a nice round of DnD. So let's rifle through my kit. To start,
My DM screen. This is the screen that came in the DnD Essentials Kit. Trust me, the Starters and Essentials Kits are worth their weight in gold. They're often cheaper than the sourcebooks and come with an incredible amount of information, and even an adventure for your party to play through. These are definitely a worthwhile investment.
Dice! I have a total of 11 sets, with a handful of individual dice. You do NOT need this many. Just one set for you, and maybe some for your players if they don't have them, that's enough. You can buy them in groups of 5 or so sets on Amazon.
Now, for the most important thing.
Notebooks! If you don't have sourcebooks, these are your next best bet. The two I use most often are those on top. In the black one is information you need to make a character or NPC, as well as a standard inventory. The History of Magic book has a summary of every spell from the sourcebooks from Cantrips to 9th level. A lot of this information can be found on the internet for free. This takes a long, long time. But if you have more time than money, these will be worth your while. The other notebooks can be used for organizing campaigns, taking notes, keeping track of combat, etc.
Now for the fun part.
Making things! The spellcards I made for my cleric, so he knows what his spells do. And those towers in the back are dice towers made of paper, tape, and cardboard. We use copy paper to track maps and initiative, we play on our grandma's kitchen table, the players' character sheets came from the essentials kit, I make smaller character sheets for prominent NPCs, and I draw pictures of NPCs and regions to help my players understand everything better. So get creative!
If you can afford sourcebooks and still have enough to survive and pay to take care of yourself and those who depend on you, they are a worthwhile investment. I'd definitely pick up the Player's Handbook to start. Xanathar's and Tasha's Cauldron are also great sourcebooks. These are all of the sourcebooks I own.
I hope you enjoyed this look through how I run my homebrew campaign, and I hope you got some useful tips! Remember, your survival and well-being is top priority. Don't buy an expensive sourcebook if you can't afford to eat without that extra 50 dollars. Survival first, comfort second, DnD third. And you don't need to buy expensive things to play. You can have just as much fun with a piece of paper and cardboard miniatures as your map.
Happy pillaging, and stay safe!
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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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I like to keep my players on their toes 😘
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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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1d6 Ways to Make your Town Guards seem like Real People...
The Litterbug. You see a human man finish his meal and throw this grease-covered piece of parchment to the ground before you hear one of the Guards nearby, who apparently noticed this, shout "Oi! I saw that!" as everyone's heads turn "Pick it up!" as he points his hand at the same man who quickly picks up the parchment and stuffs it in his pocket before moving on...
Giving Directions. You see two guardsmen on the corner who appear to be speaking to a colourful looking group as they're giving directions.
Morning Preparations. You see a group of about ten-to-twelve guardsmen all conversing with each other as their superior starts to speak and split them up into groups of twos and threes as they begin their morning patrols around the local streets.
Helping the Weak. You see a trio of guardsmen helping an older man up off the ground as people slow their walk to catch a glimpse, as one of the guards shouts "Nothing to see here! Go about your business!"
Lunch Break! You see a pair of guards exit a small bakery with a bundle of sweet treats wrapped up in layers of thin parchment paper, as they divvy out their lunches amongst themselves as they return to their duties.
Canine Unit! You see a large hound beside one of the Guards, who currently has his hand wrapped around the dog’s collar and seems to be just watching and scanning the streets.
Some Tips on Town Guards....
Who are your guards, anyway? They can come from all walks of life. Maybe they want to prove themselves, or maybe they’re just tired of their old job and signed up in the hopes of seeing some crime-fighting action?
Here, we’re family. The smaller the town, the more likely that any given Guard is going to be emotionally tied to that town, and the more personally they’re going to take any threat to their home town.
A Bribe, good sir? The poorer the Guards, the higher the rate of corruption. According to the rules, some Guards can get paid anything from 2 Silver Pieces a Week to 1 Gold Piece a Day, so surely with enough money, any Guard could be bribed...
Arrest, not Kill. Few guards, if any, will immediately go to violence, most will try to deescalate a situation and try to arrest the individual.
A Guard may say things such as “State your Name and state your Business!” or “Drop your weapons and raise your hands to the sky!” before they begin running people through with swords and spears.
Magic? Since when? It’s not just Wizards that can be trained in Magic, some higher-paying Guardsmen might be trained to spot common spells and others might be trained to defend against certain Magics like a Fire Bolt or Charm Person...
And who’s to say the Guards don’t know a few things, a Shield Spell or Locate Object could always come in hand in their line of work....
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saturday d&d tip: although d&d discourages railroading, sometimes you just need to make the party take a long rest because they’re about to walk into a boss battle with no spell slots. to compromise, consider making the guardians of these areas something the players will find deeply unsettling and creepy, such as:
Swarming Bugs With Too Many Legs
A glittery, levitating white orb with an unidentifiable magic aura
A single, faceless mannequin that eerily resembles a party member
A pair of twins about the age of seven who speak in unison
A serene, elderly woman who knits in her rocking chair, apparently oblivious to the eldritch horrors amongst which she dwells
A friendly gatekeeper who, on closer inspection, is an incredibly lifelike marionette with an unseen controller
These and other options will surely induce paranoia, discomfort, and anxiety in your players, and they are far more likely to second-guess their plan to stroll casually into the next chamber.
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some dm advice bums me out. "you can't expect players to be as invested as you, as long as everyone's having fun that's all that matters." like yes, you are absolutely gonna care more and be more invested in the story/game than your players, there's no denying that! you're gonna think more about it and put more time into it than anyone else. but! you deserve players who are adequately invested! if that's what you want, you should have it! you don't have to run a game that nobody appreciates. there are like a hundred players out there for every one person willing to dm. go find some new nerds to have fun with!
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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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I mentioned some of these in tags but I figured I'd make my own post. I've been a GM for 7 years now. There are plenty of better ones online who are giving better advice than me but here’s some stuff that I think is important.
1. STOP PREPPING
Or just prep less. Don't bother trying to guess what your players are gonna do, it's impossible. Focus on things you can control: what are the bad guys up to right now? How did the players' actions last session change the world around them?
Coming up with little side stories or NPCs you could sprinkle in is good too, but don't feel like you have to use them.
2. MONSTER STATS ARE FOR COWARDS AND ARE A CRUTCH
Don't bother writing down monster stats. I usually don't even bother with a set HP, more of a range. The monster dies when it would be cool for it to die. “But some monsters have spellcasting levels, and keeping track of all their abilities and spells is tough!” You’re right, it is a pain in the ass. Matt Colville has a really great video on building action oriented monsters that I definitely recommend giving a watch.
3. DUNGEONS AND DRAGONS SUCKS
Well, no, it doesn't really. It's very very good at portraying two things: at levels 1-13 it is excellent at going into dark murderholes and killing things, and at levels 14-20 it is excellent at killing Actual Gods and Everything Else. If this fits the type of game you want to run, that’s great! But if you’re more interested in other things like heists, diplomacy and politics, or roleplaying interesting character arcs then there’s probably a better game out there for you and your group. Hell, if you want to play in a different genre like horror, cyberpunk, or sci-fi, I PROMISE there’s a better game out there for you. Don’t just hack D&D into being something it’s not. I haven’t run D&D in years and I’m having a much better time for it. There’s a million RPGs out there, both big and indie. Even if you do decide to stick with D&D (nothing wrong with that, it’s the world’s biggest TTRPG for a reason), exploring other games will make you a much better dungeon master overall.
4. IT’S YOUR GAME.
Don’t try to be Matt Mercer, it’s not going to happen, and that’s okay. Focus on having fun and letting your players have fun. Everyone’s got a different style, go find yours! Good GMing takes practice; the more you run, the better you’ll be.
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