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Caught in Galen Lessons: Sessions 18-19

Sessions 18 and 19 of Caught in Galen were rough. This fact makes them great bits of Dungeons & Dragons to dissect because while I deeply enjoy successful encounters, interesting characters, and fulfilling character arcs, they’re not as helpful in my journey to become a better DM as sessions where I think I failed. Session 18: Slimy Happenings ended on a poor cliffhanger—mostly due to the failure of the party’s plans and Session 19: Ruthless didn’t happen for a few weeks due to my move. Sadly, the wait was arduous and the session's conclusion was unsatisfying. In retrospect though, each of those sessions might’ve been successful in the minds of my players but not my own. I might be overblowing the failures. After every session, I poll my players and ask if they had fun. So far, it's always been a resounding yes. But... Let’s recap these two sessions and tear them apart. We are going to discover what went wrong, if anything. Session 18: Slimy Happenings The session started

D&D Players and DMs, Be Thankful

It’s Wednesday night. The party are faced with a decision: continue toward the lair of one of their vile foes through cramped kobold tunnels, try to enter through a broken lightning rail, or turn back and face the enemies behind them. If they choose correctly, they’ll reach their destination before the mysterious Vaxilidan can complete the domination of those they hold dear. If they choose incorrectly, their loved ones will become horrific husks twisted by aberrant minds and incurable darkness. Of course, they choose the quickest and safest path: through the kobold tunnels! In single file, they crawl and slip their way down the wet passages until they arrive at a hole that leads into an ancient and flooded crypt. Dragon murals line the walls, kobold packs float in the murky water, and the cracks in the ground remind the party of a defeated foe. Their path forward muddied, they decide to delve into the crypt and a wild night of roleplaying and mad speculation ensues: kobold sarcasm and

Caught in Galen Lessons: Sessions 16-17

The RJD20 front has been silent for a few weeks for good reason: my wife and I moved into a house! Now that we’re settled (for the most part), weekly articles and more shall return. This is the first piece I’m writing from our new office, looking out over a serene lake, autumnal trees looming over the shimmering water. It’s a splendid office, it’s a splendid house. Already, I’ve played three Dungeons & Dragons sessions here (two as a DM, one as a player), and look forward to rolling many more dice in our own dungeon decorated and designed specifically to play games like D&D. So, how has Caught in Galen been going? Absolutely incredibly. We went on our longest hiatus (two weeks) due to a possible sickness and our move, but we quickly leaped back into the fray. This article will observe and dissect sessions 16-17 of Caught in Galen, enjoy! Who is Poppy? Secrets are a powerful tool in D&D. Whether its secrets of NPCs— the vampire has a long lost love he cannot battle; the re

3 Ways a Home Base in D&D Will Improve Your Campaign

Tuesday night. The characters of the Caught in Galen campaign are all gathered at what they’ve dubbed “home base”, a structure on the western end of their community named the Faded Ember Inn. After almost every adventure, the characters return to this cozy inn to recuperate and discuss the calamity that seemed to be befalling Galen. Concurrently, they confer with many of the colorful characters they’ve met throughout their quests and convinced to come stay at the inn: Rea, an aasimar acolyte of Bahamut and love interest of Ignis; Unread Book, a tabaxi turned mad by the beholder-like expurgat Ixigana; Blast, a brief enemy and current ally forging iron defenders for the party; and those are but a few! At this point, the inn is nearly at full capacity and has been the site of at least one major combat. After a quick discussion, the characters prepare to depart. Alas! The inn’s owner gasps and points out the window. Barreling through the sky is a great airship, heading directly toward the

Caught in Galen Lessons: Sessions 13-15

We’re almost on track with the Caught in Galen campaign! Next week is session 19; this article reviews and explores the lessons learned and best moments of sessions 13-15. From explosive combats at a lovely little inn and player character robberies, to untimely death in a sewer pit and incredible revelations for major plot points, this stretch of Caught in Galen was extremely satisfying to run. Observing the players pit their characters against near impossible foes, overcome them, and then use the information they gleaned from those encounters is gratifying. Introducing BARDCORE Session thirteen started at the party’s home base, the Faded Ember Inn, as they waited for an important arrival. Sitting in the main room of the establishment, a popular band of their community ascended the newly-built stage to perform their greatest hits in front of an excited audience. You see, the Faded Ember Inn had been closed for almost a week and a half due to a fire beetle infestation and constant visi

Caught in Galen Lessons: Sessions 9-12

We’re continuing to catch up with Caught in Galen today. As the party prepares to finally enter the legendary and mysterious Jungle of Pipes, we’ll be recounting and pondering over the lessons learned in sessions nine through twelve of this grand Dungeons & Dragons campaign. Plenty happened, from an eerie encounter with a kalashtar, to the to foiling of a major plot. I planned to expect the unexpected and, as always, was still surprised by my genius and unpredictable players. Going Separate Ways There is a famous line in many circles across D&D players: “Never split the party.” Well, this session saw the party diverge for its entirety. Normally, I’d abhor this sort of play, as would my players. However, in the campaign we’re running, there are countless side objectives and stories that can be pursued due to the setting. Galen is a city, an enclosed space. Danger exists, but it doesn’t lurk around every corner. There are pockets of safety everywhere; there are NPCs important t

Caught in Galen Lessons: Sessions 5-8

The Caught in Galen campaign has been going strong. Next week is its eighteenth session; I last spoke about it after session four! We have a lot to catch up on and a plethora of topics to discuss. Over the past few months, there has been battles in warehouses slicked with oil, interrogations of blathering white dragonborn, realizations about traitorous dwarves and scheming nobles, deadly combats inside shattered temples, brief excursions into the sewers beneath Galen, and much, much more. Let’s discuss and dissect the best parts of sessions five through eight, and see what we can learn. Beggaton is Forged An awesome moment of collaboration between me and the player of Jason Urso resulted in the creation of Beggaton. Once called the Beggar’s Town, now shortened to Beggaton, this slum in the community of Vorici’s Rest is where the impoverished and somewhat kooky magewrights gather to live as one and try to survive the madness surrounding them. Jason’s character has a history in the city

Why the Material Plane is Important

Most Dungeons & Dragons one-shots, adventures, and campaigns occur on the Material Plane. Also known as the mortal world, the Material Plane is where low-to-medium-level characters quest, smite down evil warlords, and plot against maniacal archmages. The majority of its population is mortal; they are dwarves and elves, humans and halflings, dragonborn and goblins, orcs and giants. Usually, adventures don’t leave the mortal world until higher levels, when conflicts between planar creatures like devils and celestials fling important characters to the Nine Hells, Mount Celestia, the Abyss, or other planes of existence. Even then, the plot might center around the Material Plane. This begs the question: why is the Material Plane important? A Place of Neutral Perfection It’s often stated that the Material Plane is where the elements and alignments of the multiverse converge. The Plane of Fire is a realm of raw, fiery energy: flames blaze across the sky and rivers of lava flow into molte

RJD20 Reimagined

Over the past few weeks, I’ve been hard at work on a strenuous endeavor. Piece by piece, page by page, RJD20 has been reimagined. From my Facebook page to the site itself, everything is up-to-date and communicates what I imagine RJD20 to be: a modern, helpful compilation of everything I know and think about Dungeons & Dragons designed to propel the knowledge of D&D players new and old. If you’ve noticed the redesign, are completely new here, or just want to take a tour of the new RJD20, journey below! The RJD20 Website The home base. This is where you can find everything I’ve ever written, organized chronologically, on proper pages, or all set up in a specialized begin here article. Every week, you can expect a new article to appear about D&D, RPGs, or something sure to spur your creativity. Visit the individual pages to see a complete collection of my three main series. Legendary Lessons Musing Over Monsters Worldforge Alongside these series, I've also recategorized m

How to Play an Archdevil in D&D

One of the most vicious varieties of villain are archdevils. These manipulative fiends also serve as warlock patrons in countless Dungeons & Dragons settings, plots, and campaigns. But what is an archdevil, exactly? In many worlds, it’s an immensely powerful entity able to shape reality and command legions of devils in the Nine Hells of Baator. Most archdevils rule over a single layer of the Nine Hells, from Avernus to Nessus and answer only to the god of devils and Archduke of Baator: Asmodeus. As a villain, a patron, or an ally,  how should you play these conniving and thoroughly evil masterminds? Outlined below are how I play archdevils in my world, and how I think you can bring them to life in yours. This article covers everything from the pillars of archdevils to advice on how to forge a unique one. Prepare to embody an archdevil. Defining Archdevils To play an archdevil, you need to define what a devil is. Generally, a devil is a denizen of a plane of existence who is law-ab