Hey you, yes YOU, the person who has a sideblog where they reblog all their d&d content to use as a later reference.
Why the HELL aren't you tagging your shit? Why are you just tossing my stuff (and I presume other people's) into a great big pile and expecting you're going to be able to so find it weeks or months or gods help you, years later? I go hunting in the tags of my own work for validation all the time, so don’t pretend I can’t see you reblogging 3-10 of my posts in a row without a way of sorting them.
Take it from someone who’s had to hack their way through innumerable backlogs of their own making looking for one particular image/idea: you need a system, something that will let you access the content you want with the smallest amount of brain/time investment possible. This advice doesn’t only apply to tumblr, It applies to being a dungeonmaster as well, as any good idea you don’t write down is as good as lost.
So, as a public service I’m going to go through a few different methods I’ve found helpful in keeping my ideas organized, and how you can use them to improve as a storyteller.
First step Journals
See all these? These represent the last 10 or so years of bad ideas, stray thoughts, and anxious scribblings I’ve had while trying to be a better dungeonmaster. The seeds of my best campaigns and my very worst mistakes are in there, as are the fundamentals of my current novel and a hundred other projects ranging somewhere between pre-production and the cutting room floor. If I didn’t have these notebooks on hand, all those ideas would have just slipped into the aether, rather than having a way for me to reference them later. Every time I’m 50-100% through a journal, I go through it and type everything into a google doc, sorting it into dnd/non-dnd related stuff, and then further subdividing it into plot ideas, random concepts, future projects, or mechanical improvements. Every journal gets its own google doc, and from there I suddenly have a decade of ideas at my fingertips, ready to recall.
Next up, DM Binder:
This right here? This is your tome of wonders, your tome of wily wizard tricks, that ubiquitous book that DMs are always pictured with whenever they get fantasy fanart of themselves. Every beginner dungeonmater knows how handy it is to have the DMG or other rulebook on hand so you can quickly page through and address a specific ruling or look something up, but eventually you get enough of a sense of how things should work that you don’t necessarily need to do that all the time.
The instinct to have a book close at hand is a good one, you just need to upgrade the book in line with your skills. That’s where the DM binder comes in, a collection of everything you think you’d need to look up without being weighed down by all the stuff you already have on lock. Fill it with all the cool 3rd party systems you stumble across online, printouts of your own homebrew rules, and resources that help you cover for weaknesses in your natural talents.
For instance, here’s what’s in my DM binder right now:
Bulk grid paper if I need to draw something to explain it to the players
Writeups on the 3rd party XP and Talent point systems I use for levelup
Simplified encounter building rules if I need to create an encounter on the fly. Stand in monster stats.
A one page d1000 list of character traits if I need to create an NPC on the fly. along with nearly 10,000 names.
My simplified loot generation rules, along with a printout of various items that I can use to fill out a horde/magic item shop without having to go into my treasury docs (which is where I keep the good shit)
A writer’s reference guide to different terrain types and the terminology used to refer to different parts of them.
Random town/location/dungeon/quest/villain motivation lists.
Collection of homebrew/3rd systems, separated by combat/downtime/etc
Generic dungeon layouts for different terrain types in case my party stumbles into something I didn’t plan, or if I get very, very lazy.
Under the cut I’m going to go into a few more means to get organized, including a tried and true method of organizing your d&d sideblog that’ll turn your cluttered pile of notes into a solid archive.
Google drive is in invaluable tool if you’re going to be keeping notes, especially because you now have the ability to link between docs. Keep a whole folder full of ideas, and open a new subfolder for each of your campaigns.
I highly recommend having a “random brainstorming” folder per campaign, while maintaining an actual physical journal specifically for at-table campaign knowledge. That way if you need to look something up, you can page through the handy guide you’ve made for yourself, rather than having to wade through all your ideas on past or future adventures.
there’s a lot of really good d&d content out there on Drivethru rpg, r/unearthed arcana and the DMsguild, but trying to sift through all of it for one particular piece of information is going to drive you mad.
Make a D&d folder, and then a folder for every sort of thing you might want to sort: monsters, dm tools, adventures, settings, player stuff, each with as many subfolders as you think you might need. Also be sure to have a “ sorted through” folder if you’re like me and like transferring things like items or subclasses into their own docs.
Circling back to what started this post, I’d highly reccomend developing a tagging system if you want to keep a reference blog, one wiht a bit more detail than just tagging things “art” or “d&d”
When you’re looking back through old ideas, you’ll generally want to tag things in one of three ways:
Practical tags like “Mechanics” if you want to access general information on a topic
Hyper Specific tags like “Barfights” if you want to remember niche posts.
or general tags like “Aesthetic: spooky” if you want to go wide and get inspiration from a lot of different ideas at once.
Hope that helps some of you out there, even if it only saves you a little bit of time in the future, or inspires you to create some new tools for yourself.
Wondrous item, very rare (requires attunement by a spellcaster)
This magical pipe was originally enchanted in the sky-bound kingdom of Edonia. A masterful work of art that has endured over time, this pipe has the ability to transform ordinary tobacco into a malleable and mysterious smoke.
The pipe has 9 charges and regains all expended charges each day at dawn. In order to use any of the pipe’s magical properties, there must be tobacco in the bowl of the pipe.
While holding this pipe, you can use an action to cast the Prestidigitation spell from it. In addition, you may cast the following spells from the pipe as an action by expending charges:
Fog Cloud - 1 charge
Sleep - 1 charge
Zone of Truth - 2 charges
Gust of Wind - 2 charges
Gaseous Form - 3 charges
Stinking Cloud - 3 charges
Cloudkill - 5 charges
Mental Prison - 6 charges
You can only cast the above spells through the pipe that would normally be available for your spellcasting level, and using these spells does not expend spell slots. For example, a 3rd level wizard would be able to cast Fog Cloud, Sleep, Zone of Truth and Gust of Wind through the pipe.
In addition, when casting any of the above spells through the pipe, you can choose to expend any number of additional charges to cast that spell at a higher level. This level is equal to the amount of total charges spent. For example, a 14th level wizard can cast Cloudkill at 7th level by expending a total of 7 charges.
The Wise Mandolin Tavern was booming with life. Gleeful music was being played by a young, plain-looking human troubadour and a slim, graceful human woman with striking jet-black hair that hung over a green dress. While two-dozen drunkards gawked openly at the woman atop the small square stage, two bartenders scrambled to serve the influx of demanding customers.
Several stools were dragged across the wooden floorboards around the corner beside a hearth, where an old, white-scaled Dragonborn sat forward in an armchair, refilling his pipe, before lighting it.
“Then what happened!?” one of the patrons asked desperately.
Donaar Almenondod sat back, taking a long pull on his pipe before sending forth a cloud of smoke that blew forth like the waves of the ocean. “The storm was unrelenting, and the hull of Keegan’s ship, the Yellow Mongoose, waned, splintered and creaked. He thought of the venerable sages that told him he’d make it, and thought them liars, cheats, thieves.”
As the two bartenders passed by, expertly balancing a dozen tankards, even they were entranced by the dragonborn’s tale. He continued, “As the sailors hurried frantically to reef the final sail, the captain looked starboard. There he spotted a wave larger than any before it. The only words that left his mouth were that of his goddess.”
Donaar paused again, taking another drag of his pipe before sending out a plume of smoke that split amidst a column of light. The gathered crowd listened fervently. Donaar smiled a wry smile.
- Donaar Almenondod shares a riveting story with a gathering crowd
Hullo, Gentle Readers. Lots of fun and interesting stuff coming for D&D. I’m excited for a lot of the news, so I thought it would be fun to just do a round-up of new products, forthcoming news, and other tidbits.
Critical Role: Call of the Netherdeep
As of my writing this, the latest D&D adventure came out just a few days ago. Critical Role: Call of the Netherdeep is an adventure set in Exandria, the world of Critical Role. I haven’t had time to peruse it thoroughly yet, but there are two things that have really jumped out at me.
First, there is a group of rival adventurers in the game. I think this is a really interesting and unique situation; I know I’ve done it in my home campaigns, but I don’t recall if a published adventure for any edition of the game has created a specific set of rival adventurers for the PCs. I won’t spoil anything about them, other to say that they’re on the cover (seen above).
Second, as the left side of the cover suggests, a chunk of this adventure is set underwater. The Netherdeep is a dark oceanic abyss where bad things are happening, and your group of adventurers are getting involved with it. Again, I can’t think of an adventure off the top of my head that specifically contains an extended underwater portion. Definitely curious to read more about that.
The Legend of Vox Machina
Let’s keep the Exandria train going. I’m sure most folks involved with D&D are already aware of this, but, just in case...
A couple of years ago, the folks behind Critical Role did a Kickstarter to raise money for an animated special based on their first campaign. It was a runaway success, leading them to instead plan an entire 12-episode animated series. To make it more amazing, Amazon Prime picked it up, and a second season was ordered before the first season had even aired.
Well, it was a lot of waiting, but the entire first season is now streaming on Amazon Prime. In my personal opinion, it’s fantastic. Not only did they do a phenomenal job of translating the episodes to the screen, but it’s well-written, funny, and genuinely exciting. If you’re a Critical Role fan, you’re going to love seeing beloved NPCs and classic moments up on screen (I squealed at the triceratops rampage). If you’re a D&D fan, but you’ve never watched or listened to Critical Role, I suspect you’ll enjoy this. It was so much fun watching spells we’ve played in our game for years manifesting, or recognizing class features, and the like. If you don’t play D&D...I’m not sure why you’re reading my blog...but I think you’ll enjoy it anyway. It’s a funny, action-packed story with a lot of great characters. If you actively dislike Critical Role, I don’t know that this will change your mind, but maybe take a look and see.
Venture and Dungeon
This isn’t technically D&D news, but, if you’re like me, you love other games, too. This is actually two games in one book. Venture, by Riley Rethal, is a D&D type game of adventure, monsters, journeys, dungeons, and all the rest. You travel around, meet interesting characters, go on quests, and everything you would expect from a D&D adventure. Dungeon, by Jay Dragon, is a bit more meta. In it, you play both a group of adventurers and the high school kids playing those adventures. In the tabletop world, your characters have literal spells and abilities, and they fight monsters and so on. In the real world, your abilities are more metaphorical, and you deal with the challenges and problems that high school kids have to deal with.
Both of these games are made with the Belonging Outside Belonging/No Dice, No Masters systems. I discovered these for myself back in 2020 through Jay Dragon’s game Sleepaway, which I obsessed over, and then their game Wanderhome, which I’m still obsessing over. All of these games feature no dice and no GM. They are cooperative storytelling where everyone works together to create and play NPCs and settings. I enjoy cooperative storytelling a lot. Even back at the beginning of my current D&D game, 11 years ago, I would ask the players to describe things about their environment rather than filling in all the blanks myself. These games embrace that to the fullest possible extent, giving you lists and tables to spark your imagination, much like 5e does so well. I am excited to fully read through and perhaps play both!
The Dungeons & Dragons Tarot Deck
I’m actually sort of shocked this isn’t something that already exists, but it’s coming in May. All I really know about it is the official blurb for it. “ This officially licensed tarot deck pays homage to the lore of Dungeons & Dragons by pairing characters and encounters with the Major and Minor Arcana of tarot. The characters of the Major Arcana align to the Rider-Waite Tarot while the suits of the Minor Arcana are mapped to abilities within the game of D&D. Beautifully illustrated with exclusive art, the deck also includes a booklet that introduces players to tarot, explains the meanings of the cards, and includes prompts to add dynamic twists to your gameplay, making this the ultimate collectible for dungeon masters, players, and fans of RPGs.”
Hopefully I’ll know more later.
Chris Pine on the D&D Movie
We don’t know much about the D&D movie due to release in March of 2023. Mostly, we know that it’s set in the Forgotten Realms, and it has a pretty interesting cast, including Chris Pine, Michelle Rodriguez, Regé-Jean Page, Sophia Lillis, Justice Smith, and Hugh Grant.
Recently Chris Pine had an interview with Collider, and they asked a bit about the tone of the film. I’d heard it described before as “Guardians of the Galaxy set in the Forgotten Realms”, and Pine’s comments seem to bear that out.
“Oh man. Well, what I will say is we had a hell of a fun time making it...There was a lot of laughs. The way that I’ve been describing it, it’s like Game of Thrones mixed with a little Princess Bride, just a smidge of Holy Grail. It’s somewhere in that ballpark. It’s a lot of fun, it’s got a lot of thrills, it’s poppy, it’s eighties heartfelt, there’s a bit of Goonies in there. My character, he’s the ultimate party planner. I think it’s going to be really good. I mean, who f***ing knows, but I think we got a good shot and John and John are killer guys. They know comedy and they know heart and we had a great cast and we had a good time making it. And that’s all you can ask for.”
If the cast had a good time making it, that feels good to me. Sometimes people complain about what an awful time they had making a movie, and that sometimes translates to a slog on the screen. I have hopes and fears, as I’ve previously written about, but this description makes me chuckle. I guess we’ll find out next year!
Heroes of Krynn
WotC teased a possible Dragonlance return with an Unearthed Arcana article. This article, Heroes of Krynn, can be found at https://dnd.wizards.com/articles/unearthed-arcana/heroes-krynn In it, you’ll find 5e rules for Kender, Lunar Sorcerers, Mages of High Sorcery, and Knights of Solamnia. While there hasn’t been any official announcement about a Dragonlance 5e book, WotC has historically used the Unearthed Arcana articles to playtest material for books that could be coming out very shortly. When they released their Heroes of the Feywild article, it was followed pretty closely with the announcement of The Wild Beyond the Witchlight, an adventure set in the Feywild, which included two of those races. This same article included the Owlfolk, which came shortly thereafter as part of the Strixhaven book (I don’t follow Magic the Gathering, or I might’ve predicted we’d see that book based on the Owlfolk) and Hobgoblins of the Feywild, which I am led to believe are in Monsters of the Multiverse.
And that’s it for now.
That’s a lot! I’ll try to do these round-ups when a lot of news hits at once. Until next time, keep your friends close, and your healing potions closer.
Adventurers, your skills are needed in a nearby forest, for there is a conflict brewing between the druids and satyrs- they don’t want to share their stonehenge. Your quest, if you choose to accept it, is to write up a schedule determining who gets the ritualistic circle on which weekends and also set up rules for keeping it clean. Quite a pickle.
How do you go about creating pantheons for a world?
Drafting the Adventure: Planning a Pantheon
So my immediate answer to this question might be a bit disappointing, but my honest advice is to take it one god at a time, creating them as you need them for whatever story you happen to be telling at the moment. Trying to figure out gods, mythology, and the cultures that follow from them all at once is one of the big "worldbuilding traps" I often caution new DMs about: a time sync that you'll pour your creative juices into for little to no reward.
Instead, at the start of the campaign you only need to figure out:
The name/iconography/ethos/general feel of the main religion for the main setting of your primary adventure.
how that religion might affect/inspire the stories you want to tell.
if the players have any diverging spiritualities, and if so, what are they vaguely like?
It's really that simple, because once you have those details pinned down you'll have a strong foundation on which to build the theology of your world.
To come up with those details or any you might need down the line, start your creation of gods/religions with what you want their followers to act like, and the themes you'd like them to introduce into your campaign. Religions are made by people after all, and they make their gods in the reflection of their own values, needs, and identities.
When you need to come up with iconography, I'd highly recommend a free association method, starting with things adjacent to your god's area of interest and then adding florishes. Don't just give your gods an elemental domain ( The sky, the sea, fire, farming) and be done with it, instead think of peoples/animals/objects that the worshiper would associate with that element, and then pick and choose a second level of association from there. Gods should also all have a positive emotional component that their worshipers would relate to/try to embody.
To give a couple of examples from my home game:
One of my deities of the sea is a husband wife couple, with the former being a sailor/boatbuilder and a patron of architecture, while the latter weaves nets and sails and is a charter of stars. Their love and trust in one another is embodied both as patrons of craft and arbiters of fate.
My equatorial god of agriculture is patron of grapes, wine, healing, and more esoteric arts like alchemy. In addition to being seen as a benevolent force of peace and plenty, their domain over things that change also means they're the guide and guardian of trans folk in my world.
"The Crone" is one of my primary gods of knowledge, though she leans more to hard-won experience than academic research. Her clergy collects the teachings of learned experts to propagate throughout the world, and also smiths a widely circulated silver coinage to avoid the perils of inflation and devaluing.
More structured ideas on how to build a pantheon below the cut, as well as a few other pitfalls to avoid in your own writing.
Thing to Avoid #1: please please please please don't use IRL religions in your d&d games, especially from currently existing cultures. I understand it makes things simple to just slap a pre-existing mythology into your game and go from there, but I find it both disrespectful and immersion breaking to have a real life culture made into a prop in someone's imagination game. If you want to take inspiration from a religion ( and I encourage you to), take it back to first principles of writing: figure out what the thematic underpinnings of the religion are and then use those ( and the methods I present here) to build out something new that can be wholly your own while paying homage to the original.
Thing to Avoid #2: Avoid parody. This was going to be an addendum to the last point but I think it deserves its own. It's VERY fun to punch up at oppressive religious structures, but unless your game is a comedy, you should treat your world's faiths as a thing that people within that setting can take seriously.
Thing to Avoid #3: No one wants to worship the murdergod. I talk about this in my discussion on cultists, but d&d has this weird habit of creating wholly evil gods that no one would actually worship, just to create the excuse for parties to be able to wipe out their followers wholesale. Gods that are evil are either corruptions of normally reserved deities, indulgent in one aspect to the point of extremity, or are terrible beings that are payed homage by common people in hopes of forestalling the misfortune they bring.
Using the MTG color pie:
So I'll make no secret about how much I admire the WOTC worldbuilding team, especially since they've begun to bring a little of that creative energy to d&d's mostly stagnant setting catalogue. One of their genius inventions is the "color pie", a sort of idea pallet with which they can paint innumerable different worlds that remain internally consistent by following a few simple rules. ( More gushing about the color pie, and how to use it, here)
The Theros setting is already an example of the colorpie used to create a pantheon of gods, but if you wanted to use it for your own ends, simply start with the color alignment of whatever culture you happen to be focusing on, and begin toying around with the different synergies and contrasts that exist within that alignment. Say you were focusing on a complex culture that was aligned with three different colors, that gives you the oppertunity to create:
One tri-alignment deity/religion that covers the ideal of society
Three dual color deities which express aspects of that society without toching on all of it
Three elemental deities that make up core pillars of the society/the land it's on.
Plus whatever combination of elements don't fit into this society's alignment, which make great oppositional forces or "boogymen"
With those outlines before you, all you need to do is use the association method I presented earlier to start filling things in, or pick n chose from the wide variety of canon d&d gods to fill in spots as needed.
While attuned to these bracers, you can produce an endless amount of ethereal arrows. An arrow is produced by running your hand along its sigil.
These arrows serve as a replacement to regular arrows, but can also be used as replacements for bolts. The arrows count as magical for the purpose of overcoming resistance and immunity to non-magical attacks and damage.
On a hit, these arrows deal force damage instead of piercing damage. In addition, the more you use this weapon, the more you learn how to shape the ethereal magic found within these bracers, unlocking additional abilities.
Extended Arrow. After 25 successful hits, you gain the ability to increase the range of your ethereal arrow as it flies truer through the air. Your normal and long range when firing an ethereal arrow extends by 10 feet. You can use this ability once per day.
Concentrated Arrow. After 50 hits, you gain the ability to sacrifice all of your movement to produce an ethereal arrow that deals an additional 1d6 Force damage. You can use this ability once per day.
Echolocation Arrow. After 75 hits, you gain the ability to produce an ethereal arrow that upon impact, gives you blindsight within a 10 foot radius. This effect lasts for 30 seconds. You can use this ability once per day.
All of the above special arrow abilities can be combined into a single arrow, but all dissipate into the ethereal plane once their effects end, and cannot be refired.
“Kyanna, this bracer is sought after by many. Now that you are a part of this regiment, you are not to lose it. You are to train with it every day. Feel the magic infused within it reach your fingertips. Make no mistake, this bracer is an aid, but you are responsible for seeing the arrow land true to its target. Command the arrows’ flight Kyanna. Command it well.”
“I won’t let you down”.
- Kyanna receiving the bracer to begin her training
Personally I prefer that my homebrew campaigns all take place in cities, but only because I have an unhealthy thing for rooftops and I use my power over my players to force them to take part in my obsession.
Download the full resolution image of this map at my Patreon, as well as alternate gridless, night, and outlines-only versions!