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Examining Rise of Tiamat

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The pre-written modules and adventures for fifth edition Dungeons & Dragons aren’t for everyone. Some people love, play, and swear by them. They use them because they enjoy them, don’t have enough time to create a story of their own, or they don’t want to. And that’s okay. For those of us who do enjoy weaving tales of our own, in our free time or on slow days at work, these modules are fountains of lore, plot hooks, characters, monsters, twists, and fantastic locations. They can be used by us for the betterment of our hand-crafted stories. However, they can be long and some folks might not want to read them if they’re not running the adventure. Well, that’s where Best Bits comes in.

Welcome to the second Best Bits article, a series in which we pick through the pre-written adventures of Dungeons & Dragons, mining the coolest pieces of them for use in our own games and worlds. Previously, we went over Hoard of the Dragon Queen, the first hardcover module for fifth edition. This…

Interview With a Dungeon Master: RJ

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From the beautiful country of America to the wondrous deserts of Egypt, Dungeon Masters help spread the joy of Dungeons & Dragons to folks young and old. D&D doesn’t care about our age or occupation, where we live or where we went to school; it only requires a mind that’s open to imagination, creativity, and collaboration. These types of minds are becoming more common as D&D continues to grow in popularity, mostly thanks to those who create worlds and host epic games: Dungeon Masters.
There are tens of thousands of Dungeon Masters in our world, each with a distinct style of play. Some enjoy pitting their players against impossible trials of combat. Others take on a hundred different roles in one campaign, from a biting jester to a maniacal balor demon. However, none of these styles trump the others. Instead, they give others ideas on how to improve or spice up their unique Dungeon Master mind. By learning how others Dungeon Master, how they began, and how they’ve become be…

How to Build a Unique Culture for D&D

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Atop the harrowing heights of the Isen’s Maw, frost giants peer over the vast sea of grinding ice floes, whaling ships, and winter wolves on the hunt. They know an invasion from the depths is coming, they saw the future — a blessed boon handed to them by their mysterious oracle. In the nightmarish Usanni Fissure, battalions of sahuagin ready their chilled tridents, dragonscale armor, and trained narwhals. The frost giants’ grip over them is already strained — this assault will be their undoing. A clash between these two distinct cultures is moments away.

Who will emerge victorious? Being unique cultures, each has their own set of strengths and weaknesses developed over many years of growth and destruction. Whether we know it or not, we all strive to create unique cultures for our Dungeons and Dragons world. Rarely do we directly tear a group or people from Earth or another setting and toss it into our games. Instead, we subconsciously take what we like and mesh it with aspects of dif…

The 2020 Plan

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It's over, it's done. After a wild ride beginning in my wee years, I've finally finished my formal education and entered the work-force forever. I graduated from college a week and a half ago, Computer Science degree in-hand, and now I'm dedicated to my wife, job, and hobbies full-time. Farewell, learning!

I'm only kidding. Formal education is temporary, learning is forever.

Anyways, I've been silent since the start of my final exam studying period, but that won't last much longer. During my time in the shadows, I've been preparing my 2020 plan for rjd20.com, which includes a new article every week for all 52 weeks of that year. It's exciting, I'm excited, but am I prepared? Of course.

I'm dedicated to growing this lovely website week-by-week, day-by-day, and with school out of the way, that'll become much easier. 2020 will be a fantastic year.

As Dungeons and Dragons fans, we have a completely mysterious time ahead of us. What's ne…

The Cursed Jungles of Yatar

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Ten adventurers, many of them completely new to the profession, prepared to fly by airship to the lower quarter of the great Aphesus. Six deadly dragonborn serving a dragon of undeath ready to stop them. A new curse of death brought about by rituals written in the ancient Book of Vile Darkness. Airship sabotage, primitive halfling tribes, savage grung — what could go wrong in this Dungeons & Dragons campaign? Almost everything, sadly.

Regardless, as Dungeon Masters, we know everything is a learning experience in D&D. A botched boss encounter, a less-than-exciting skill challenge, a screwy plot point — it matters not; we’re always honing our craft. 
When I started the Cursed Jungles of Yatar campaign, a misadventure I’ve labeled Campaign 2.5 in my archives, I had one and a half real campaigns under my belt. Convoluted, I know. The Savage Front was a failed experiment during which I learned a lot. The Dead of Isles of Altarin was a success with a few major failures near the end…

Slaadi: Toads of Turmoil

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Sparks fly as flames melt and ice burns in the elemental chaos around the doomed crystal island. A human ranger and goblin warrior sprint into the island’s toppled tower, evading the blast of crystal spray that shoots out from a nearby field of floating rubies. The duo know they’re coming. The goblin slams the rotted door behind him as a huge, blue-skinned toad creature plummets to the crystalline ground outside. The ranger draws his blade and the goblin clutches his dagger close, shivering. “They’re slaadi,” the ranger says. “More will come. Let’s not make this easy for them.” Seconds later, the ranger peers between a crack in the weak door. Hulking outside is a small army of the giant humanoid toads — all of them grinning maniacally. The ranger looks back inside and breathes slowly as the goblin shakes and the door breaks.

As Dungeon Masters and players, we’ve controlled and encountered a slew of unorthodox creatures. Ravenous owlbears, contemplative sphinxes, self-obsessed beholde…

My Take on Matthew Colville’s 5E Action Oriented Monsters

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Soaring into a manifest zone on their airship, the Misty Tide, the party erupts into a pocket of the Elemental Plane of Fire high above a sea of bubbling lava. Surrounding them are hissing fire newts mounted upon burning birds, prepared to hijack the airship and release the fire elementals powering it. The airship’s captain screams, “Hold out! We’ll escape ‘ere in a minute, I’ll get us through!” In response, the fiery raiders attack, lead by a striking fire newt warlock. The combat begins, and she thrusts her molten scimitar into the broiling air. The blade soars between each party member, scorching them with ease before reforming in her hands. Later in the combat, she deftly descends atop her burning bird below the airship, narrowly avoiding a blast of eldritch energy. In the struggle’s final moments, she dismounts from her tiny phoenix in a whirl, leaping thirty feet to gouge one of the party members with her scimitar and deal tremendous damage. Ultimately, she fails; the rest of h…