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Don't Be Afraid to Change Your D&D World

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Dungeons & Dragons worlds are malleable. Being creations of imagination, they are subject to change at will. An enchanted valley rife with woodland fey can easily become a desolate wasteland scoured by devastating magic years ago; all it takes is a decision by its creator to change it. However, being Dungeon Masters, they must be sure to enact this one key rule: once characters interact with a part of the world, it becomes a real part of the world. If the party enters the enchanted valley and meets an elf queen and her fairy servants one day and returns to the area a week later and it’s become a desert skittering with thri-kreen, something is wrong. Once characters visit a place, meet a person, or use an item, it can’t be changed nonchalantly. Before that pivotal moment, the world is malleable.
Changing the World I had this important realization as I was soaring over the Pacific Ocean toward Hawai'i. I brought along the fifth edition Dungeon Master’s Guide to reread and, as I…

RJD20 on YouTube

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For the past month, I’ve invested quite a bit of time into my YouTube channel. In addition to a new article here on rjd20.com every Friday at 7:00 p.m. Eastern Time, I’ve released at least two videos a week on YouTube. Most of them are audio versions of my articles, starting all the way back at the first article I wrote in 2018. Slowly and steadily, I’m moving closer to the present day.

Here's my current schedule, videos & all; I've held to it since early February:

D&D videos on Wednesday @ 7:00 p.m. Eastern Time on YouTube.D&D articles on Friday @ 7:00 p.m. Eastern Time on RJD20.com.Path of Exile videos whenever inspiration strikes or news hits.
My D&D videos are mostly for people who prefer listening to content being read to them over reading it themselves. Though the audience over there is small and I get very few views, I think it’s worth it in the long run. YouTube isn’t dying anytime soon and I don’t plan on stopping my articles anytime soon, so I think h…

How to Keep Battles Moving in D&D

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A massive roper flings its tentacles at a crouched wood elf shadow, thrusting him into the air. A half-devil dragonborn lets loose a bolt of electricity that arcs across the battlefield, zapping multiple tiny ropers. On the other side of the cavern, a blue dragonborn monk leaps into the fray, pummeling the massive roper with reinforced fists and claws while dodging his companion's lightning strike. And then a halfling bard — is not prepared. He fumbles with his lute, unsure of what to do. Unfortunately, the battle stalls to a halt.
Everyone wants a battle to go smoothly. Everyone takes their turn, one by one, until one side achieves victory. All of the orcs are slain. The kobold prisoners are saved. The abyssal portal is closed. The mercenary reinforcements arrive. The green dragon concedes. However, there are plenty of possible hindrances to a smooth combat.
One of them is a player, including the Dungeon Master, not knowing what to do on their turn.
How can we solve that problem…

How to Phase Out Player Characters in D&D

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As a rainstorm rages in the coastal city of Merlint, Merk and his party stand in a dark alleyway near the Moon Castle. Merk is overtaken by a foul desire to grasp Ruaka’s sentient blade, Flindlint, for his shadowy patron, Scopos. The hexblade entity whispers to Merk and begins to materialize in the mortal world as the party readies for combat. Merk is frightened, he’s not sure whether to side with his party or his warlock patron. In a flash of black smoke, Scopos emerges from Merk’s trident and tears through Ruaka, reaching for the magma sword. Confidently, Alovnek steps forward, holy symbol in hand, and banishes Scopos back to the Shadowfell. Everyone gasps in the rainy alleyway, relieved, but Merk knows he must leave his companions behind or risk Scopos’ darkness overtaking them — and him — in the future.

Not every player character is meant to survive until they’re slaughtered by an orc warlord’s sentient falchion, incinerated by a red dragon’s fire breath, or lobotomized by a min…

How to Run Allies in D&D

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Mazner unleashes a fury of lightning upon the battlefield, electrocuting the sword-wielding pyrotrolls and massive magmapotamus. Schmee struggles to find his footing, surrounded by the pyrotrolls, taking slash after slash for his companions. Rhozur slams his clawed fists into a particularly nasty pyrotroll, but it’s red flesh instantly regenerates. Two more pyrotrolls emerge from a nearby pool of bubbling lava, threatening to completely overwhelm the party. Far in the back, Synri, the group’s cambion guide, cowers behind a crumbled tower. The party are the adventurers, the combatants — he’ll leave the heroics to them.

I’ve run quite a few Dungeons & Dragons games in my time. Early on, I began subscribing to the idea that the players and their characters are the stars of the story. They should get the gold & glory, not their allies that assist them in their travels.
How do we make sure that happens?
Make Them Co-Stars When a nonplayer character (NPC) joins the party, you need t…

Field Notes 5E Character Journal Review

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I pack mountains of information in my Dungeons & Dragons campaigns that my players can choose to latch onto or let loose into the great sea that is our campaign’s narrative. Who is the emperor of the Kothian Empire? How did he reach the throne? Why did the Obsidian Circle want to eliminate the Choqiti wood elves? Where did the Choqiti retreat to in their time of need? Some players love to keep track of this sort of knowledge, keen that it will make an impact later in the campaign; others don’t, either because they’re uninterested or don’t have somewhere clean to write it down.

In all scenarios, invested player and not, I have an excellent solution: the Field Notes 5E Character Journal.

The Field Notes 5E Character journal is a newly released product of Field Notes, a company dedicated to providing tabletop roleplaying game players with clean mediums to keep track of their characters and campaigns. This particular item, the 5E Character Journal, specializes in organizing everything …

How to Play an Archfey in D&D

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Archfey are part of the god-like trio: archfiends, archfey, and great old ones. Each member of this class is unique, from Mephistopheles the Lord of No Mercy and Orcus the Prince of Undeath, to Hyrsam the Prince of Fools to Dendar the Night Serpent. Distinct from even these unique examples, archfey live on the Plane of Faerie, or the Feywild, where they play court and war amongst each other in a land of impossible flora and fauna.

Most of the time, they won’t appear directly in your campaign. They’ll be faraway actors, pulling the strings in the background as your party traverses the world. However, what if you would like an archfey or three to become major players? What if you’d like to use Oberon the Green Lord as a villain? Maybe Titania the Summer Queen as an ally? How about your warlock forms a pact with Hyrsam the Prince of Fools?
Well, you’ll need to know how to play one.
Outlined below are how I see archfey in my world, Eldar. They might be different in your setting or you mi…

How to Make Magic Prominent in Your D&D Setting

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Galen, City of Magic, is known for its eccentric populace, innovative spellcasting, and sky-reaching towers. Of great renown to all outside the city are its sorcery parlors. These establishments are run by magic-users who augment customers with arcane power. Some customers seek more strength, others want to change their body permanently. The parlors comply and make changes using various forms of arcane magic. Part of the time, the change is permanent. The rest of the time, the magical enchantment fades…

I’m preparing for my next Dungeons & Dragons campaign that’s probably going to be set in Galen, City of Magic. It’s the capital of a newly-established magocratic nation and the center of innovation, learning, and study of magic in my homegrown world. Arcana oozes into everyone’s life, whether they’re a peasant of unfortunate circumstance, a magewright fixing everlit lanterns, a half-orc bodyguard, or a goblin bandit posing as a halfling circus performer. In Galen, magic is everywh…