D&D is the Best Time to Multitask

By RJ on 26 December 2022. 

Warning: this article is mostly satirical.

One of the best times of the week to complete important and menial tasks is during your Dungeons & Dragons session. In the 87% of D&D groups who meet weekly, many players agree their minds are unfocused enough during the session to multitask. After a busy week wandering around the house, looking wistfully out the window, rewatching the Office again, and bringing a few cans of Lacroix to the recycling container, D&D brings about a certain inspiration to the mind.

  • Forgot to answer your mother's text from last Thursday? As someone recaps the previous session, it's a great time to respond.
  • Need to make a grocery order? Shop on your store app while your patron gives the party information about the gnoll lair, the vital knowledge about Yeenoghu can easily be recounted later.
  • Are you hosting and you hear the laundry finish? Zoom to the laundry machine during another person's turn in combat, you should be able to catch up when you return. It's okay.

In fact, pursuing other tasks during other people's turn in combat is the best way to artificially speed up the path to your next turn. Based on the answers of a few veteran D&D players, combat is the most boring part of the game (except when it's your turn). Just ask Gerald Arleson and David Gygioff, two D&D players I spoke with recently.

"My party has two wizards in it, so once I finish my turn, I'm able to read at least a dozen Reddit threads before the next round begins. If I'm lucky, I might be able to get in a dungeon run in Diablo Immortal, too." boasted Gerald.

Gerald plays a Champion dwarf fighter. His turn goes by quickly, and he usually doesn't have a ton of actions he can try in-game. He's fine with that, though, as it allows for more time arguing on Reddit or farming crests in Diablo Immortal.

"In the next campaign, I plan on playing a ranger of some sort. They might not be as powerful as my current Champion, but they have such a limited range of options. I think I might be able to get more time in on Reddit, except during exploration sequences when I can use my favored enemy ability to get advantage on a couple checks."

Another player at the same table, David Gygioff, added to Gerald's observations. He plays a bumbling half-orc rogue who he claims is "forgetful" and "constantly checking in on the party because he is the dad of the group."

"Outside Ricard's downstairs window, there's, like, a tiny tree. When we play, a red squirrel always climbs it and grabs onto the branches. Sometimes, a chickadee like joins it. I love watching the two interact. Sometimes they play around for a while and I miss parts of the game, but it's okay: it's how my character would like act. He has a very short-term memory, so it works 100%." 

David quickly turned back to talking about the red squirrel and chickadee, but I steered the conversation back to the game.

"Yeah, the game's fun enough. Our DM, Ricard, does his best to, like, cater to our needs. Especially my character's. He really gets him, you know? Every time I forget something, he readily recaps, fully colored context, too! Usually, it gives enough time for Gerald to do a power walk around the block or Sarah a chance to prep for her Tuesday game. Again, like, the game is pretty fun."

When asked for comment, Ricard refused to answer.

However, I did ask Gerald to record their latest session to give all of us a glimpse at their table. Of course he complied.

"It was easy enough. I didn't ask permission or anything, but I didn't want anyone to act differently, so I pretended to zoom through a longer set of dungeon runs in Diablo Immortal. I usually hold my phone pretty far up, so it was easy to get a shot of the entire table at once."

I stressed I was simply searching for audio of the session. That's okay though, Gerald was able to secure it and much more.

A Glimpse into the Session

The audio begins a bit muffled as Gerald moves around his phone.

"Time to hit up another dungeon run, people." Gerald says a bit too dramatically.

"...and as your greatsword decapitates the bandit lord's head, his halfling lover lets out a great cry: 'Vengeance! Vengeance I swear upon each of you!' He drops to the cold stone floor. His knees hit the ground at the same time as his lover's head. Gormund, blood stains your leather, the halfling's cries greaten in the cavern. Before the rest of the party reacts, what are you thinking? What thoughts are racing through your mind as this fallen bandit and his lover lay before you?" Ricard wraps up his narration.

Gerald plays the dwarf Champion fighter, Gormund, who seemingly just executed the bandit lord.

"Wait, he's uh, dead already? What did you guys do to him!" Gerald looks toward the two wizard players, Sarah and Cai.

Sarah quickly pipes up: "We went nova." Cai nods and nearly adds something.

"Wait, so we didn't try to non-lethal him? To interrogate him? I don't think this halfling knows much..." Gerald replies.

"Hey Ricard! Doesn't he, like, know something? Didn't we find that dude who said the lover was like the real villain all along? Right?" David interjects. Ricard nods and both Sarah and Cai sigh.

"Correct!" Ricard responds. "Except it wasn't a dude. You found a letter in the bowels of Sleeping Dust Warehouse, tucked away in a secret chest beneath the floorboards. The chest was trapped with a bursting flame, a set of poison darts, and that tiny cockatrice. Inside, you found the letter detailing the relationship between the bandit lord, Gionni, and his halfling lover and companion in crime, Roberthon..."

Sarah pulls out her notebook titled "Escape from Hell" and Gerald readies to leave the room, likely to go on a power walk around the block. As Ricard continues explaining the background to David and we get a final glimpse of the session before Gerald leaves for his stroll, David's eyes wander to the window.

Gerald follows David's gaze with his phone's camera.

Clearly, sitting on the branch of a tiny tree is a red squirrel and a chickadee, happy as can be. Gerald quickly turns the camera back to David, who has zoned out Ricard's rambling exposition.

Closing Thoughts on Multitasking During D&D

The conclusion is clear: multitasking takes little away from the game experience of Dungeons & Dragons. It's quite the opposite; games appear to improve because of it. The example above showcases that in every facet, mostly thanks to David, the best player at the table.

David's constant phasing out helps him accurately roleplay his forgetful half-orc. This feeds into the next point: the endless retelling of the story so far.

Ricard's need to constantly recap the game allows other players to important things during the session: Sarah can prep for the game she DM's, Gerald can get some exercise in or run a few Diablo Immortal dungeons if he doesn't want to read Reddit, and Cai, well, we didn't hear much about her.

Everyone is able to do other things at the table and the game is all the better for it. In addition, the story is always front of mind!

Clearly, D&D is the best time to multitask.

In Summary

This is where the satire ends, folks.

  • During your Dungeons & Dragons session, the game should hold your focus. If you find your mind wandering, check yourself. If the game doesn't interest you, talk to your fellow players and Dungeon Master.
  • Pursuing other tasks during D&D leads to forgetfulness. It's also rude. If other players constantly need to recap what is going on, it turns the game into a slog and showcases you're not invested in the game, and you don't respect everyone else's time.
  • Plan breaks or only leave the table at an opportune moment. Don't leave mid-conversation with an NPC or during a vital moment in combat. If another character is the focus, you should be set to leave for a minute or two. In addition, always let people know what you're doing and that you'll be back momentarily, don't leave them hanging.

I hope you enjoyed this different style of article. If you did, please leave a comment below, I'd love to hear from you.

In last week's post, I provided some inspiration for building better monsters using the wizard class and a Wizard Foe Generator. If you enjoyed this article, you might want to check last week's out, too.

Here's to greatening your game and world: cheers!

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Want More RPG Tips & Tales from RJD20?

As always, thanks for reading. Please send all inquiries to rjd20writes@gmail.com or leave a comment below.

Wrathful Wizard Monsters

By RJ on 19 December 2022. 

The wrath of a vengeful wizard is rarely matched. However, when mated with the ferocity of a monster and the skill of a thoughtful Dungeon Master, a monster imbued with the abilities of the wizard class may not only challenge a player character wizard, but an entire party.

Already on RJD20, we've explored mixing monsters with classes like the bard and barbarian, druid and paladin, and now: we move onward to D&D's most esteemed class: the wizard.

Today, we're looking at three wildly wacky wizard monsters for your next D&D session:

  • A pixie arcanist with a wit as quick as her spellcasting!
  • An ettin incredible armed with a barrage of magical abilities and an eerily threatening intellect!
  • An efreeti pyromancer who wields the devastating elemental forces of his blistering home realm!

Each promises a unique experience for your game and your world. How can you pit a pixie arcanist against your party of three murderhobos? Where does an ettin incredible fit in your grand world of sword and sorcery? Does an efreeti pyromancer wield much power in your setting's version of the City of Brass, or is she a jester compared to the warrior-class of the legendary planar settlement?

Before we leap into these monstrous wizards, let this list of eight wizard-based foes inspire you:

  1. An awakened wild boar with a wizard's spellbook stitched to him. Somehow, he's learned how to cast a few cantrips and basic spells.
  2. A deep gnome School of Illusion wizard destined to branch out into the World Above.
  3. A bugbear School of Evocation wizard, also known as an evocationist, who ripped a spellbook from a fallen foe's warm, dead hands and became a master of explosions. She specializes in fireballs.
  4. A wise hill giant School of War wizard specially trained by a resident fire giant sage in the ways of arcane and greater warfare. He has led his tribe to many battles over far superior foes.
  5. An orthon commander specialized in the School of Conjuration, capable of summoning great armies from planes other than his scarred home realm.
  6. An iron giant trained in the School of Enhancement by his archmage creator.
  7. A balor keen in the dark magic of the School of Necromancy, heading a horde of demons and abhorrent undead.
  8. An ancient green dragon wise in the School of Lore, knowledgeable in every single aspect of the world known to mortals...and even some information kept only by those of immortal bend.

Wizard Foe Generator

For this particular strand of foes crossed with one of D&D's most iconic classes, I've crafted the Wizard Foe Generator. Try it out! It provides you with a base monster, where they can be found, and an ability/action inspired by the wizard class from D&D 5E and other editions in the game's history.

Now, let's create three wizardly foes.

Pixie Arcanist

Inherently tricky, tiny creatures, twisting a pixie with the abilities of a wizard makes quite the intimidating enemy...or powerful ally. A pixie arcanist wraps her opponents in sparkling strands of magic, rendering them helpless so her swarms of mystical friends can eliminate them in a swift and safe manner.

They're tricky foes to face

What is a Pixie Arcanist?

The wondrous woodlands of the Feywild glitter with the magic of a thousand peculiar peoples. Hags cackle away in their cursed huts and bone-filled caves. Satyr dance along forest trails singing songs of enchantment. Centaurs roam groves illuminated by the bright Feywild twilight, their hooves stomping along to primal beats that ooze magic. Even the forests themselves bubble with arcane potential: trees talk, leaves whisper, and the animals linger with even the sentience of a normal mortal man.

The stars of the Feywild, though, hold a special kind of magic. And when they fall: only a select few are capable of drawing forth that latent energy.

Feywild stars and their crash sites are dotted with powerful glyphs and words of arcane power, mysteriously written in the most elegant form of the Sylvan language. Pixies, fast-moving and inquisitive, are often the first to arrive to these craters. They scribble down the words and phrases on leaf booklets and scratch them out of the rock and ground. Afterward, they spend months and sometimes years practicing these sky-given groupings of words. Only those who remain dedicated to this practice become pixie arcanists.

The otherworldly spells available to pixie arcanists are from distant stars and often involve glittering, awe-inspiring sights of stardust and bewilderment. 

Some spells channel the energy of a burning star. 

Others freeze foes with the infinite chill of space. 

All are coveted by wizards of the Material Plane...

In Eldar, pixie arcanists quickly find their way from the Feywild into other planes of existence. Some believe the stars of other realms like the Hells or even some layers of the Abyss hide even darker "star carvings." In the Material Plane's largest settlement, Galen the City of Magic, a pixie arcanist teaches a special course on this small but unique sphere of arcana.

In Golgifell, fey crossings to Brisantha are some of the most common "magical" occurrences found and witnessed by normal mortals. Fey usually don't wander into the mortal world if they can help it, but some pixies have been known to guard these fey crossings, ordered to by their commanding Fey Court. Pixie arcanists in particular deeply enjoy gazing at the idyllic starscape of Golgifell, and wonder if "star carvings" exist in this world as they do in their own.

Sample Pixie Arcanist

Here's an example pixie arcanist using the Wizard Foe Generator to attach a new ability and action to the base pixie monster.

Base Monster: Pixie, Monster Manual page 253

Added AbilityFalse Self. The pixie arcanist can cast disguise self at will, but it can also shift between Tiny, Small, Medium, and Large creatures. Huge creatures can only shift to Large size.

Added ActionStudent of Cantrip Excellence. The pixie arcanist can cast up to three cantrips with a single action. Each cantrip can be different or the same.

Plot Hook: Pickpocketing becomes the norm of a bustling port city when a pixie arcanist uses her starry arcana to enhance the skills of a local guild of thieves. Their weird magic perplexes the law enforcement, so they bring in those more versed in the arcane arts.

Flavor both outlined abilities as starry-themed: the creatures the pixie arcanist pretends to become have star tattoos on their body. The cantrips manifest in a burst of stardust.

Ettin Incredible

Ready to surprise your players and subvert their characters' expectations? This is the foe for you. An ettin incredible might turn a predictable, blow-for-blow blow-up with a typical ettin into a fight for survival against a creature that should never be able to handle magical abilities in a regular D&D setting. 

No one expects an ettin wizard.

What is an Ettin Incredible?

Only rarely do giantish gods allow one of their misshapen children the mental prowess to pursue a life of magic. Normal ettins are already weird folk among giant kind, pushed to the edges of society. Most times, they aren't even accepted among giants. They are forced to commandeer goblin tribes, serve the whims of orcs and hobgoblins, or become vicious rivals in troll territory. However, in the rarest of circumstances, an ettin is born with an incredible intellect. These ettins are rapidly sought after by giants at the top of the chain (called the Ordning in many worlds) and trained in the ways of arcane magic.

These very rare ettins are known as ettin incredibles.

Unlike almost any other creature, they are able to cast not one, but two spells concurrently. From one mouth and mind, an ettin incredible might spew forth words of power to conjur a fireball while the other crackles out a lightning bolt. Even more impressive, they can concentrate on two different spells at once: one mind might keep a blur around itself, while the other ensures an attacking barbarian stays affected by hold person as the ettin's fire giant allies eviscerate her.

Some ettin incredibles manage to escape servitude once they learn how to wield magic. These ettin incredibles, even solo, are formidable foes.

In Eldar, ettin incredibles originated in Nargond during Giantfall. Not products of giantish gods, these ettin incredibles manifested the wild magic latent in the air of the world during this tumultuous time. As the empire of giants fell and sent tsunamis roaring across the planet, ettin incredibles further ensured giant kind's doom. They leapt into the world and tore scattered factions apart, obliterating them with intense arcane surges and forgotten spells. As quickly as they appeared, they fragmented and wandered across the broken landmasses. Some bloodlines still exist, ettins capable of immense thought and insight, but the most common way of finding them is pure chance. If they are born into the world, they often become leaders of hill giant tribes or respected sages of frost giant jarls and fire giant citadels.

In Golgifell, ettin incredibles are the norm: regular ettins do not exist. Even though ettin incredibles take on the regular "ettin" role, they are still extremely rare alongside all other giants except hill giants. Encountering an ettin in Golgifell is an event best left unattended. The lack of magic in the rest of the world almost seems to redouble itself in ettins, overwhelming any who interact with them. In the most remote wilderlands like Res Mana, ettins boast huge armies and followers who worship them as gods-on-earth.

Sample Ettin Incredible

Below is one example of an ettin incredible created with the Wizard Foe Generator. Beware: it's powerful.

Base Monster: Ettin, Monster Manual page 132

Added AbilityPerfect Mind. The ettin incredible is able to concentrate on two spells simultaneously.

Added ActionImpossible Arcana. The ettin incredible is able to cast two spells in a single turn with a single action.

Plot Hook: Doom befalls a frontier town when a duo of ettin incredibles dominate both a tribe of orcs and a pack of gnolls. At the helm with extreme intelligence and a horde of formidable minions, the ettin incredibles intend on conquering the town and moving closer to "true" civilization.

Efreeti Pyromancer

No enemy fought by your party before has wielded fire magic quite like an efreeti pyromancer. Area domination, explosive damage, and a temper enraged by the might a thousand fires are all staples of this wizard-like wonder from the Elemental Plane of Fire. 

Did I mention she rides in a sleigh pulled by hippos made of magma?

What is an Efreeti Pyromancer?

The typical tyrannical lives of an efreeti noble bore the wisest among their kind. Those who seek unrivaled power delve into the depths of the Plane of Fire, learning the secrets of primeval pyromancy. They become masters of the most scorching element, wielders of the sacred fire, one of the vital elements of creation.

Once they master the secrets of the sacred fire, they become creators as well. A power thought only known to the gods in the hands of a mere creature. Efreeti pyromancers can breathe fiery essence into normal beasts. They can turn snakes into blazing serpents; giant eagles into phoenix-like birds; massive hippos into beasts of molten magma.

From remote studies, they perfect this craft and plot domination of the Plane of Fire and realms beyond. However, an efreeti pyromancer in a world not its own, such as the Material Plane, can easily wreak havoc. 

Entities of pure flame are not meant to exist in worlds of balance.

In Eldar, efreeti pyromancers began as solitary scholars but eventually formed the Cabal of Eternal Flame. As a unit, they've built a dominion across most the Plane of Fire that rivals the strength of the City of Brass. Some suspect they were behind the Devastation in the Material Plane, wherein a huge swath of Aelonis was elementally destroyed. All know they pay homage to Imix, the Prince of Elemental Fire, though some believe he is not their master: some think they control the archomental.

In Golgifell, there's but one tale of an efreeti who took over the Gulonde. In his reign, he turned the sands black and the rivers to lava. The rivers faded, but the black sand remained and cursed the endless desert forevermore. At times, his bellowing laughter can be heard on the wind during great storms of sand. These storms spawn beasts of pure flame, echoes of the pyromancer's initial scarring of the desert.

Example Efreeti Pyromancer

Here is an example of an efreeti pyromancer built with the Wizard Foe Generator.

Base Monster: Efreeti, Monster Manual page 145

Added AbilitySculpt Magic. Spells that would otherwise damage the efreeti pyromancer's allies no longer do so.

Added ActionPlane Bringer. Once per day, the efreeti pyromancer can summon a creature from another plane of existence that is CR 2 or less. The summoned creature returns to its home plane when a new creature is summoned.

Plot Hook: An efreeti pyromancer enters a jungle realm, transforming it into a woodland of fiery beasts and molten magma rivers. Her spree of terror must end, else it'll spread into the nearby countryside.

In Summary

If you're stuck preparing your latest D&D NPC or encounter and really need some magical inspiration, the wizard class serves as an excellent source. Always remember:

  • The Wizard Foe Generator is a rapid-fire way to form a compelling foe for your characters to face.
  • Schools of wizardry work wonderfully as background information, foe motivations, and even plot devices in your world.
  • Enemies based on wizards don't need to use spells, just re-flavor them as innate abilities and actions.

In last week's article, I explored why the spotlight should be shared amongst all at the table, and how it's not only the job of the Dungeon Master to ensure this. If you enjoyed this post, check out last week's post as well!

Here's to greatening your game and world: cheers!

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Want More RPG Tips & Tales from RJD20?

As always, thanks for reading. Please send all inquiries to rjd20writes@gmail.com or leave a comment below.

Careful, the Spotlight Can Burn

By RJ on 12 December 2022. 

The spotlight should never linger too long on any one character in a multiplayer game, be it Dungeons and Dragons or any other tabletop hobby. When it does, it doesn't only burn the highlighted player, it also burns everyone else at the table and potentially turns them sour. 

However, it's not only the Dungeon Masters job to ensure one player and character isn't focused on consistently over the others. The players themselves, particularly the highlighted player/character, can help avert this common problem, too.

As always, if you notice this trend of focusing on a single player character over the others occurring at your table, ask yourself a few questions before thinking up a way to address:

  • How intense is the focus?
  • Are other players outwardly bothered by it?
  • What is the reason for it?
  • Should it be addressed? How?

Let's tackle each pointed question one by one.

Intensity of the Spotlight

We've likely all encountered Dungeon Masters homing in on certain character's stories before. As we'll discuss later, sometimes there's a good reason for this. Other times, it might be a clear sign of favoritism, sheer unawareness, or, in the worst cases, spite.

Perhaps the DM greatly favors the backstory of a certain character. Unlike the other PCs, it relates to their world or connects very well to the Big Bad Evil Person. While that may be great, unless it was specifically outlined in the session zero that this should be the case for all characters, this shouldn't dismiss the importance of the other PCs at the table.

Backgrounds should enhance the experience at the table, not hinder it. 

If the DM is only focusing on the character that relates to the overall world because of their backstory, that's not a good tactic and it should be addressed. Jessie's character might be truly tied to the world, with a backstory relating to the vicious high elves of Jhaeros and their vile manipulating of mortal minds and psychic powers. However, that doesn't mean her character should receive more focus than Guy's character, who might only vaguely be tied to the setting at-hand.

The DM might just be unaware of how much they're focusing on a specific character, too. 

Perhaps this player talks a lot and takes the crown of the party. Naturally, the DM will focus on their story and question them about the game more than others. If other players are okay with taking a backseat to piloting the game's direction, that's fine, but if clearly this is a scenario of a domineering personality driving all questions from the DM and NPCs to them without other player input, it should be addressed. This has happened quite a few times at my table, and at times it has been alright. Sometimes, players are fine with someone taking on the mantle of "party leader". If that's the case for your table, that's all swell!

In the worst case, some DMs focus on characters of players they like and intentionally leave out characters of players they dislike. This is a simple problem to address: directly speak with the other players and/or DM and figure out why this is ongoing. If no one will resolve or address it, leave the game and find another group. No D&D is better than bad D&D.

Does the Focus Bother Anyone?

After the spotlight highlights a certain character too much, it should become evident other players are bothered by it. 

Watch those not explored. Are they clearly bothered by it? Do they stop paying attention to the game and go on their phones? Do they start side conversations unrelated to the game very quickly? Are they taken completely out of the game?

Watch for heavy sighs. 

Be aware of dice-stacking. 

Scout out pencil-flipping. 

Hunt for light rules-reading. 

Look out for sleeping too, that's the worst.

It might not even be outright shown, at times. If you notice someone is getting a lot of the spotlight, other people will too, but as we'll discuss below: don't go and talk to people behind their back about it. If you'd like to address it, don't gossip: go directly to the source.

Succinctly: be attentive. If you notice someone at the table not having a good time, try to address it. We all play D&D to have fun.

Reason for the Spotlight

Sometimes, the spotlight shifts to a specific character and player for good reason. You should be able to detect if the reason is sound or complete rubbish.

Some campaigns have arcs, and the focus might shift from one character to another. Is this the case for the shift? If so, there's likely little to worry about, other characters will likely soon share the spotlight. It's natural. Ian's character might just be the perfect fit for this run of the story, wherein the party battles aberrations in the Realm of Madness for a bit. Next up, when the group returns to the mortal world and a split faction of psionic elves are on the tail of the party's allies? Well, now it's time for Jessie's character to trounce under the light!

Did the DM and a set of players have a fight, in-game or out? If the DM suddenly stops focusing on certain characters because of out-of-game reasons, it should be addressed immediately. That's no fun for anyone at the table.

Are people just not piping up or showing interest in the game? 

That might also be a reason for their characters not receiving major roles in the show. While some players take on this persona, more of an observer than an active mover and shaker, some might just be going through a rough time or not be invested in the current story. If you think it's the former, make sure to check in with them and see how they're doing. If it's the latter, try to rope their character into the latest escapades of the party.

Addressing the Focus

If the points explored before this part decidedly conclude the focus should be addressed, you should consider the best way to handle it.

The best way, always, is to address the problem at its source. Talk to the DM and other players openly about the focus of the game. Explain how you feel about your character not being a part of the game, how you feel you might not get the chance to speak as often as you'd like. At worst, they blow up and act as though none of that is true, which means it's time to find a new table. At best, they'll come up with a solution to include you and your character more and ensure the spotlight doesn't burn too brightly on any one character.

If you don't want to confront someone about the focus or don't think it's too big of a problem at the time, there's a more subtle way even a player can help diminish this: always include and play-off other players.

Even if you're the focus of the game for a session or an encounter, always search for a way to include others in the moment. Bounce off their characters. Ask them advice. Call out their character in some way. Just because one character is the focus doesn't mean others can be included.

For example, if your character is speaking with a dwarven priest about a demon deep within an abandoned mine, they could ask their fighter friend their opinion on delving below might be. Have they fought a demon before? If so, what's the best way to approach it? If not, are they frightened? Then, the DM can bounce off their response as the dwarven priest and pull the fighter player deeper into the conversation.

If you're on a brief solo-mission, investigating the trapped warehouse of a rival in a grubby dock, don't just interact with the DM: bring in the other players! As your character, mutter/ask yourself: what would Ian's character think of this? Even ask the other players what they think you should do. It might be a meta-gaming, but in scenarios where your character is alone and the other players are literally spectators, it's fair to do this to include them in the game.

It's not just the DMs job to ensure the spotlight is shared amongst everyone, the players can easily help this happen, too!

Being a Dungeon Master, though, you are usually in the best position to remedy any focus issues. Watch the table as you play, look for any signs of bother. If you see it, if you notice some is not engaged, quickly find a way to draw that character into the fray! Address a question from the NPC toward them. Engage them in combat. Spring a trap or mystery in their face! Don't let them sit idle and become more disinterested in the game. 

If it recurs, talk to them about it. Are they no longer interested in D&D, or is something else the matter? 

Ask what you can to help them.

In Summary

In games like Dungeons & Dragons, no single player should be the whole focus of the game. It's a collaborative experience, built by the myriad players at the table, not just one or two. Always remember:

  • Share the spotlight at the table. Encourage others to speak up and participate in even moments dedicated to your character.
  • It's not just the job of the Dungeon Master to ensure multiple people share the spotlight. All the players can take part.
  • If sharing the spotlight becomes an issue, never gossip about someone's handling of this task. Go direct to the source and discuss it with the players/DM to resolve the issue.

In last week's post, I explored how to create monsters based on the paladin class. If you enjoyed this article, check it out!

Here's to greatening your game and world: cheers!

Related Articles

Want More RPG Tips & Tales from RJD20?

As always, thanks for reading. Please send all inquiries to rjd20writes@gmail.com or leave a comment below.

Pernicious Paladin Monsters for Your Next Session

by RJ on 5 December 2022. 

Historically in our beloved tabletop roleplaying game hobby, paladins are the good folk. They protect the innocent. They divide loot fairly. They save the day for the righteous faction. Sometimes they even go too far, especially if their player is inexperienced, and play their "usual" alignment of lawful good as lawful stupid. 

We can love it, hate it, be cynical about it, or we as Dungeon Masters can retool paladins for our own sinister plots and schemes.

The class that many believe to be the do-no-wrong and just? It's time to use it to churn out some monsters for your next D&D session. Fellow DMs all around, I introduce to you: pernicious paladin monsters for your next session:

  • A gnoll avenger
  • An obsidian earth elemental
  • A fire giant templar

We've done this before with other D&D 5E Player's Handbook classes like the bard, druid, and even fighter. Now, you'll be able to pepper paladin-based foes throughout your D&D adventures and campaigns. Before we dive into some fleshed out monsters, new abilities, lore and all else, let this list of six monstrous paladins ready your mind:

  1. A goblin who took the Oath of Redemption after stealing, eating one too many sheep.
  2. A kobold under the sway of the Oath of Vengeance thanks to the annihilation of her clan at the hands of a witty white dragon.
  3. An ogre magi/oni sworn to the Oath of the Ancients on the path to becoming a conduit for a primordial force.
  4. A fire giant in service to the Oath of Conquest on a crusade through the Upper Underdark, forcing drow, duergar, and darker beings under his banner.
  5. A rakshasa who follows an Oath of Devotion after being smitten by an angel of the Lower Heavens.
  6. An ancient gold dragon Oathbreaker who broke his powerful Oath of the Ancients to the Platinum Dragon to save a very dear loved one and continued a descent into absolute darkness.

Paladin Foe Generator

For this sampling of foes crossed with one of the classic D&D classes, I've crafted the Paladin Foe Generator. Try it out! It provides you with a base monster, where they can be found, and an ability/action inspired by the paladin class from D&D 5E and other editions gone by.

Now, let's look at some paladin-inspired foes.

Gnoll Avenger

Let's begin with a low-level monster boosted up with my second favorite paladin subclass: the Oath of Vengeance. I present to you, a gnoll avenger.

The story comes first, the "stats" arrive after.

What is a Gnoll Avenger?

Most gnolls serve in the name of Yeenoghu. They pillage, slaughter, and destroy without discrimination. In their eyes, everything is food for gnollkind and their demonic daddy, Yeenoghu. However, what if some gnolls rose above that basic level of intelligence? What if their bestial desires took the form of something concrete, something that could bind a gnoll to a set of principles they could use to enact power over other members of their society?

These calculating leaders of gnoll society are known as gnoll avengers. First established by elders in a time long passed, gnoll avengers lead roaming gnoll packs while abiding by an Oath of Vengeance brutally cut for their demonic species. Its tenets are as follows:

  • Fight the Greater Foe. More formidable folk once destroyed my species' chance on this world. They'll pay for what they've done, as will all who attempt to snuff our raging torch.
  • No Mercy for the Weak. No enemy, strong or weak, faltering or rampaging, is spared by my weapon.
  • Single-Minded Pack. I will not fail in my ultimate duty, no matter the cost to me or my pack.

In Eldar, these gnolls appeared in direct opposition to the Hungerless, a sect of pacifistic gnolls unburdened with Yeenoghu's constant growls. Gnoll avengers blame the Hungerless for their species' complete drop from the world stage, believing they'd rule multiple realms, if not the entire continent of Aelonis if the Hungerless had stayed by Yeenogu's side. Of course this is preposterous, but many packs led by gnoll avengers think it's true.

In Golgifell, gnoll avengers are extremely rare. They are rarely found outside the Gulonde, though one has made a spree all the way into the Odgrir Northlands, at war with the minotaur warlock clans there. In the Gulonde, they uphold a slightly revised version of the tenets above inspired by the unmatched hunger of their patron deity, The Devourer.

Sample Gnoll Avenger

Using the generator provided at the beginning of this article, I rolled up this gnoll avenger's abilities/actions:

  • Base Monster: Gnoll
  • Added AbilityAura of Arcane Defense. The foe naturally emanates an aura in a 10’ radius that grants resistance to all allies against spell damage.
  • Added ActionTouch of Divinity. The foe may use an action to touch one creature (including itself) and end all negative and/or positive effects on it.
  • Plot Hook: Roads into the vast desert are no longer safe. Bandits harry any patrols or guards who try to extinguish them. Every trade caravan trying to pass through is raided and almost nothing is left behind, save a few lives. Recent bandit viciousness comes from a gnoll avenger who has become a bandit lord of sorts. She wields the gnoll-specific Oath of Vengeance against the traders, justifying bandit cruelty against the rich, food and supply rich caravans. Will trade ever return to the region?

Go ahead and drop her into your next session. Let me know if she survives or if she falls in battle as she likely should!

Obsidian Earth Elemental

Next up is a rock-based enemy full of flair: an obsidian earth elemental. This creature is inspired more by the paladin's defensive abilities. Utilizing them, the usually stale earth elemental becomes something dark, exciting, and powerful when paired with a bruiser.

Let's roll right into the lore.

What is an Obsidian Earth Elemental?

The Elemental Planes bury many secrets. Oftentimes, only those who reach these fantastical realms of impossibility discover them, usually by chance. Invasions from these realms, however, sometimes force the hidden pieces into the eyes of the mortal world. One such invasion occurred in the distant past of many different worlds at the hands of the hardy folk known as goliaths.

They were not of the mortal world, instead they hailed from the Elemental Plane of Earth. They were masters of that place, but darker powers forced them to find a new home. The mortal world, or the Material Plane, would suffice, they thought. 

At the head of their invasion were their greatest creations: elemental begins molded not from normal earth or stone, but of crystals and wondrous ores. One of the rarest, earth elementals built entirely from obsidian, were piloted by goliath warlords. These large elementals were not only hardier than normal earth elementals, but also imbued with a touch of shadow. In the blink of an eye, they could vanish from sight, only to appear many feet away, prepared to crush their target. They could also rapidly come to the aid of goliaths, using tough shields and quick movement to absorb hits that would be taken by their creators.

Unfortunately, few survived this successful goliath invasion. The select survivors buried themselves beneath the earth, found a home in shadowy realms, or became treasures of the greediest wyrms of the world.

In Eldar, obsidian earth elementals roam the charred country of Imixia. These elementals are prized possessions of spellcasters there if they can be captured, as they are able to delve into the deep lava pools scattered across the terrain. In almost silent sects in Ogremocha, Imixia's neighboring realm, some goliaths rediscovered the art of forming these obsidian elementals. Their creations do not rival those of ancient earth molders, though.

In Golgifell, a single obsidian earth elemental from the World Below demolished the most bustling town in the Odgrir Northlands about 30 years ago. It still roams the ruins and spews forth steaming lava from its roaring mouth, keeping back any would-be heroes from recovering what remains in the ruins of Tarinbur.

Sample Obsidian Earth Elemental

Using the generator I linked at the start of this article, I rolled up this obsidian earth elemental's abilities/actions:

  • Base Monster: Earth Elemental
  • Added AbilityAura of Protection. The foe emboldens the defenses of all allies within 15’ of it, increasing their armor class by 1.
  • Added ActionNo Escape. When the foe makes an opportunity attack against a creature, it has advantage. If it hits, the foe can make a second attack.
  • Plot Hook: Arising from the bowels of the Material Plane is an ancient obsidian earth elemental, bent on destruction as it was in the earliest days of the world. Like a tarrasque, it moves from target to target without discrimination. Villages fall. Towns collapse. Cities quake. What awakened it? Who does it serve? Perhaps it's related to the Oath of the Ancients. What is its endgame? The mystery walks and brings doom. Will anyone divert or end its path?

In addition to the extra parts outlined above, it also has the following action:

  • Phase Shift. The obsidian earth elemental may use its action to turn invisible and teleport to an unoccupied space within 60'. On its next turn, it can attack a target within range. It has advantage on the attack.

Fire Giant Templar

Here's my personal favorite of the fleshed out monstrous paladin batch: the support-focused fire giant templar. 

It can be a mix of defense, healing, and dominating the battlefield with offensive auras. Fire giants are also excellent foes to incorporate into any story, so here's a bit of lore based on this specific variation!

What is a Fire Giant Templar?

Fire giant society is clearly split. While forgemasters and kings may rank highest in this division, a clear third place is held by templars. These fierce warriors uphold the profound tenets of all fire giants, following the fiery Oath of the Forge, every single letter of it.

Few outside giant culture know about the existence of this sacred oath. It helped cement fire giants as masters of conquering and crafting, as well as their position in the Ordning. These are its tenets:

  • For the Forge. The World Above and the Realm Below hold many people, resources, and secrets. All are food for our roaring forges.
  • Sacrifice for the Forge. Not all crusades into enemy territory end in complete domination. If faced with death and loss of claimed resources for the fire giant kingdom, I will sacrifice myself so that others may take back the won treasures.
  • Master the Forge. Strength in battle is second only to understanding the forge. I must comprehend what I might make the ultimate sacrifice for so that the forgemasters may continue to keep our society strong.

Are you interested in the Oath of the Forge for player characters? I'm working on it right now and will likely release it in good time. Once I do, I'll send out a quick message to everyone on my mailing list. Join it now if you'd like to receive this new paladin subclass in the near future.

In Eldar, fire giant templars are found at the head of Imixia's Burning Legion. They head all forays outside the blasted country, mostly into the Subterrane where they raid dark dwarf and drow settlements for resources, both living and inanimate.

In Golgifell, fire giants are scarcely seen. Fire giant templars, as a result are even more rare. However, in formerly giantish lands such as Odgrir or the Towerpeaks, distant descendants of fire giants who mated with other peoples are seldom found. A few of them live by a heavily revised Oath of the Forge, and a tiny subset seek out the original in dilapidated halls of stone and soot.

Sample Fire Giant Templar

Using the generator I linked at the start of this article, I rolled up this fire giant templar's actions:

  • Base Monster: Fire Giant
  • Added ActionAura of Health. The foe may use a bonus action to heal all allied creatures in a 10’ radius by 2d6 hit points.
  • Added ActionVoice of Redemption. The foe may use an action to raise a creature it can touch from the dead, as long as its body is intact, and it died less than 1 minute ago.
  • Plot Hook: Clouds of smoke obscure the skies above a usually bustling frontier town and terrifying, fire-breathing hounds scour the countryside around it. Dwarfish veterans whisper in the streets of a potential invasion from the World Below, led by fire giants and their enslaved warriors, but the truth is far more sinister. The town's newly elected mayor is a faithful of the Oath of the Forge, a human descended from a line of half-giants. He primes the town for complete invasion and take-over, working with his great, great grandfather: a fire giant templar. Soon, the streets of his town shall be covered in soot and forges of grand flame shall work through the night...Will this plot be discovered? Will the templar be stopped?

Summarizing Monstrous Paladins

Sometimes, making monsters can be difficult. Plenty of inspiration can be mined from the various books of the current D&D edition and of those past, including from player-centric books. Particularly, the flavor and mechanics of many character classes. To summarize:

  • Paladins make great foes and can be easily generated using the Paladin Foe Generator.
  • Oaths provide paladin foes with excellent goals and simple ways to portray a compelling enemy. Oaths last generations and usually speak to primal pieces of the world: vengeance, conquest, redemption. You can easily base an entire villain around this.
  • Almost anything can use abilities inspired by paladins. Earth elementals can gain their defensive auras or attacks. Dragons can imbue their claws with the powers of smiting. Influential dwarves can wield their force of will upon the meek.

In last week's post, I explored what you might do instead of outright canceling a D&D game when another member or two cancels. If you enjoyed this article, check it out.

Here's to greatening your game and world: cheers!

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The Back-Up Plan, D&D Edition

By RJ on 29 November 2022. 

When I learned we had to cancel/postpone our next D&D session, I was initially crushed. Presently, I only get the chance to Dungeon Master every two weeks, and I'd been ready for this session for a while. Even the last time we were scheduled to play, I had to cancel! The woeful joy of being the parent of a beautiful baby girl.

When last we left the companions of Caught in Galen, they had teleported inside the fleshy interior of an extraplanar prison, upkept by a timid giff scribe who served the prison's slaadi creator. Sadly, this giff was experiencing a form of Stockholm Syndrome, having been in service of the slaadi named Nailen for untold centuries. The party were doing an okay job of trying to break him from this horrendous, endless bout of servitude, but a certain someone's not-so-nice demeanor was directly causing the poor giff to wish for Nailen's return all the swifter...

Anyway, the companions were in a potentially dusty situation: three beholders had engaged them and were prepared to disintegrate yet another player character (one of the players has lost at least two characters to disintegration rays before). Rays of green energy were blasting the outer shell of this living chunk of a settlement and the party were ready to engage. They thought.

Alas, all of this would have to wait for another stretch of time.

Would the companions survive the three beholders?

Would they succeed in helping the poor giff escape his maniacal slaadi master Nailen?

Would they actually try to use the four, torn pages of the Book of Vile Darkness they'd just found?

Maybe, maybe, and I truly hope not!

I know, I know, you probably think we just canceled and will pick up again in good time. But that's not the case! Just because we weren't playing one campaign didn't mean we couldn't dive back into another!

I call it: the Back-Up Plan, D&D Edition.

Sure, the usual group couldn't gather 'round the table and likely bash in some beholder eyestalks, so we stepped into another adventure I had a firm enough grasp on. One of the players of the other campaign ended up coming, my wife wanted to play, and with those two and my little daughter around the table, we picked up a new tale. There ended up being much less combat and a lot more talking, especially with the cutthroat kobold named Reekdar they ended up meeting, but fun was still had.

This back-up session wasn't what I had planned on DMing that night, but it scratched that itch. It served its purpose well. It only happened, though, because I was moderately prepared.

Always be prepared. Have something on the backburner. Be ready to improvise.

Life happens. Sometimes people need to cancel D&D. 

They get sick. Work comes up. Children are unwell or just plain angry. In any of those cases, try to commit to a back-up plan. Sometimes, that planned D&D session is the biggest source of respite and rejuvenation in someone's week. Don't take it away. Instead, build something new, have it ready.

Really, you only need a few essentials to get a good session going:

  • At least one player and their character
  • An enticing plot hook
  • A few encounter ideas
  • A gripping finale

I'll admit I wasn't entirely ready to pick-up that other campaign. I hadn't thought about the world in quite some time, hadn't even familiarized myself with those characters or people or plots. Luckily, I write a lot of my notes down and had a good foundation to quickly build a session on. Plus, I love improvisation! With my notes and a few minutes of thought, I was able to pull together the following:

  • A party of two (one historic PC and a new one)
  • A demon guards a holy sword below an abandoned mine, a cleric's deity commanded her to recover it
  • A stealth mission through a kobold encampment, an interaction with a cutthroat kobold shaman, exploration of the ruined temple that runs into the abandoned mine, and a confrontation with the demon
  • It turns out the only object keeping the demon below the surface was the holy sword he was forced to guard. He was sending omens to the cleric as his deity to bait him to the ruined temple. With the sword taken by the party, the demon is free to roam and terrorize the world once more

Regardless of any of that, I pushed myself to run it because I knew it'd be fun. It'd still be a good D&D session; maybe not a great one, definitely not a bad one, but a good one.

Simply "good" D&D is better than no D&D.

The next time life happens and you're about to cancel D&D for the day/week/month/year/decade, take a moment and think:

Is this someone's respite?

Does this help someone rejuvenate?

Do I have something ready to go?

Am I prepared to improvise?

If you're able to answer yes to any of those questions, think twice before sending the official cancellation text. You might just make your own or one of your player's days by deciding not to cancel and go forward with something unexpected instead.

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D&D Monsters Inspired by the Monk Class

By RJ on 22 November 2022. 

Masters of the martial arts, separation of the body and the mind, impossible feats of dexterity, and channeling the raw energy of the mortal form, monks make excellent candidates to create compelling D&D monsters with. Although the books and online resources we use contain endless amounts of beasties to populate our games, if we're eager to craft our own using just the Player's Handbook, the Monster Manual, and our minds, this strategy of crossing monsters and player character classes works wonders, easily.

Just off the top of my head, here are a few instant monk cross monster combos.

A storm giant Way of the Four Elements monk who masters her craft atop a floating mountain, eager for challengers to dissuade her pure concentration.

A kobold Way of the Open Hand monk who wanders a vast desert endlessly, assisting those in need and battering those who refuse to show compassion to the weak...this includes the player characters.

A vampire Way of Shadow monk who mastered the martial arts in life but took to the shadowy side of the profession in death. He secretly runs a monastery that harbors his deadly secret...and grooms more sharp-toothed spawn.

A copper dragon Way of the Drunken Master monk who hoards not gold or secrets or magic items, but the greatest brew around, some of which corrupts and causes her to commit drunken rampages. Much of this alcohol enhances her powers and would help the heartiest of adventurers...as long as they can stomach it.

Do they excite you?

If the answer is yes, the rest of this articles explains easy ways to make a massive difference in the monsters you create for your D&D games. Read on, fellow Dungeon Master, to be amazed and enlightened.

Take a Monster

What you'll need first is a monster base.

Gaze into your world: think about what monsters would make sense as monks. Then, create a brief list of twelve.

For my own world of Eldar, here are twelve creatures who would make sense as monks.

  1. Kobold
  2. Gnoll
  3. Drow/dark elf
  4. Urson/bearfolk
  5. Girallon
  6. Efreeti
  7. Stone giant
  8. Vampire
  9. Storm giant
  10. Gold dragon
  11. Solar
  12. Empyrean

As great as curating a list that makes sense for your world, sometimes it's great to subvert expectations. Not always, such as in formerly excellent television shows, but in the right cases, such as your D&D table, it's a fun concept.

Think: what creatures WOULD NOT make great monks? Generally:

  • Ogre
  • Zombie
  • Dire wolf
  • Xorn

Any of these four monsters would make terrible monks, conceptually. If you think a kobold, gnoll, or efreeti monk is too generic, try to make something work with one of the four above beasts!

Choose a Subclass

The next step requires you to form a set of subclasses you can affix to your particular monster base. These can be canon subclasses or ones you've made up for your monsters! After all, you'll be using preexisting mechanics as a simple starting point or piece of inspiration.

For monks, specifically:

  1. Way of the Open Palm
  2. Way of the Four Elements
  3. Way of Shadow
  4. Way of the Drunken Master
  5. Way of Mercy
  6. Way of the Ascendant Dragon
  7. Way of the Astral Self
  8. Way of the Kensei
  9. Way of the Sun Soul
  10. Way of the Long Death
  11. Way of the Twilight Sky
  12. Way of the Infernal Ascendant

That's a solid set of homebrew and base game subclasses. With a subclass in hand, it's time to move on.

Meld the Monster and Subclass Together

With our two lists built out, it's time to insert one of creativity's best friends: randomness.

Take two d12's and roll them. The first result determines the monster, the second picks out the subclass. Once you have both together, inspect the monster and the theme, abilities, and cool skills provided by the subclass. Ponder how they could meld together as one to create a compelling combat, social, or exploration encounter.

For example, say I roll two d12's and receive a seven and a four. The result is a stone giant Way of the Drunken Master.

Instantly, I'm rocked with inspiration: typical stone giants are contemplative and solitary, masters of crafting the natural earth and stone around them. Perhaps this stone giant is an outcast, a loner who turned to drinking to cope with some extreme lost. However, instead of annihilating his ability to carve, it enhanced it. This enhancement caused other stone giants, meditative and sober, to cast out the drunken stone giant. Yet, in his banishment, he found comfort with other kinds, trading masterful carvings and craftings for more and more powerful drink.

And that's just basic story/social possibilities!

Taking a look at the Way of the Drunken Master's initial edit to the Monk's Flurry of Blows ability, it completely revamps the monster's combat style. Drunkenly, the stone giant can weave in and out of combat every time he uses Flurry of Blows, gaining the benefits of the Disengage action with the use of this bonus action. Imagine the stone giant plowing through an enemy combatant then rushing up a nearby rock, not provoking any attacks of opportunity!

Exploration additions thanks to this melding are fun and simple. Carved creations inspired by an enlightening drunken stupor, elevating alcohol to almost religious levels of importance. Earth-inspired drinks brewed by the stone giant, using all natural ingredients found in the adventure area. Nine Hells, perhaps the stone giant even runs an entire brewery, now that's a unique locale for a quest!

Easy to Make, Exciting to Run

That wasn't too bad, right?

When you're lacking inspiration, take a monster, take a class, and mash them together. The results might surprise you and are easy to make but exciting to run.

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One D&D Will Be Huge for D&D

By the end of 2024, the Dungeons & Dragons community should have a set of three new rulebooks: the One D&D core set. It's likely the Player's Handbook shall hit first, followed by an updated Monster Manual similar to Monsters of the Multiverse, with the set concluding in the release of a new-DM focused Dungeon Master's Guide, headed up by Christopher Perkins.

Finally, Wizards of the Coast claim to be satisfied with the state of D&D. One D&D shall be the "last" iteration of the game system, at least for a substantial amount of time, completely compatible with all the fifth edition D&D rule set.

In-depth, though, what is One D&D and what does it mean for our favorite hobby and pastime?

Well, this is what you'll find here: another take on what this new-but-not-new iteration on Dungeons & Dragons means for the future of the world's greatest roleplaying game, from someone who has loved playing the game for the last fifteen years.

What One D&D Strives to Accomplish

Essentially, Wizards of the Coast is attempting to accomplish three things with One D&D. All of them are positive overall but some can be troublesome if analyzed carefully.

Let's look at the facts first. WOTC wants to:

  1. Establish a Wizards of the Coast owned virtual tabletop.
  2. Cement One D&D as the D&D edition of the future.
  3. Welcome/entice as many new players into the hobby as possible.

One D&D will arrive with a virtual tabletop (abbreviated VTT) created by Wizards of the Coast. Developed inside of an actual game engine, the tabletop will allow players the full real tabletop experience online and augmented. Miniatures and terrain will be highly customizable. Tools inside the VTT will allow Dungeon Masters to curate a truly immersive environment for their players, mimicking the greatest tilesets of Dwarven Forge and the like. This will be the first official Wizards of the Coast VTT for D&D and with most D&D players meeting via the internet, it's likely they'll constantly iterate and push this new product.

Wizards of the Coast are pleased with the current state of D&D. After about nine years of fifth edition D&D/D&D Next, they've settled on a system the majority of the population are enjoying and constantly brings in new players. One D&D is a new edition of D&D even if they aren't pitching it as that. Essentially, it's a new edition of D&D built with all the updates and iterations to 5E D&D over the years, in the same vein as Tasha's Cauldron of Everything and Monsters of the Multiverse. Where it's different is its end goal: WOTC would like One D&D to the ultimate version of D&D. There will be no sixth edition or seventh or eighth edition D&D, just One D&D. One D&D's core rules will be out by the end of 2024, with an endless stream of products to follow.

The past few years were a plight for most the world and a boon for D&D. With the rise of streaming, online play, and the perceived simplicity of fifth edition D&D, more people are playing the game now than ever before. WOTC, and all of us, really, seek to greaten these numbers. One D&D will streamline the core rules, eliminate unneeded complexity, add in highly requested rules alterations, and cater at least some of its base material, like the Dungeon Master's Guide, to new players. Hopefully, this will assist in welcoming even more new people to D&D, especially new Dungeon Masters.

Luckily, Wizards of the Coast are not doing this alone. One D&D will be extensively play-tested and built with community feedback in mind. You can even participate in its current iteration, as of August 28, 2022, right here! All feedback is valuable, I encourage you to read through the rule changes, try some out, and give WOTC all the critiques and kudos you can think up.

Microtransactions in D&D

The biggest piece to fear about One D&D is the virtual tabletop. More and more D&D players are hosting their games on the web, using webcams, mics, and pure imagination to tell fantastical stories in the worlds of swords and sorcery. Wizards of the Coast obviously sees the desire for an official virtual tabletop and with that, the possibility to heavily monetize their own VTT with microtransactions (also called MTX).

More and more game developers, usually video game developers, are moving away from the buy-to-play model and transforming their games into live services. In some cases, this is welcome and not too predatory. In others, it seeps into the fabric of the game and changes it for the worse, irreparably. I'm not too worried about the monetization for those who play in-person on a physical tabletop, but for those who take it online, there might be some problems.

Imagine this scenario: One D&D releases. You buy the core rule books, you have them. If you're a physical player, you're good. However, if you're playing online and would like to use the virtual tabletop, you also need access to the virtual tabletop. This might be a one-time purchase or a subscription model (monthly or annually). So you either buy the VTT access or subscribe to it, all good there. Then, you realize there's an arsenal of extra pieces you can purchase: the 20 unique orc models cost $5.99. The red dragon set (wyrmling through ancient) costs $1.99. The crypt dungeon tileset looks amazing and the ambience rocks, it costs another $2.99, but the complete dungeon collection which includes the crypt, temple, cavern, sewer, Underdark, ruin, and castle tilesets is only $9.99!

Be mindful, this is all speculation, but it's my greatest fear about One D&D.

I do not fault WOTC for desiring a slice of the MTX-pie, it's a huge area where they can make money. However, it brings tabletop D&D quite close to the video game realm, when I hoped it would stay on the outskirts for the foreseeable future.

Other than that, One D&D looks okay for what it is. I'm sure there might be plenty of rules and ideas I don't agree with or don't want to implement at my table, but that's why D&D as a whole is a lasting system: it's malleable.

A United System and Novel Mechanics

The idea of all future books being compatible with each other is a splendid one, albeit quite optimistic. Even D&D 5e's own books are difficult to compare and piece together on their own; they require a decent amount of tinkering and game knowledge to work alongside each other well. While this idea has always existed, if WOTC are actively trying to ensure every book can stand beside the last, I'm excited and hopeful.

I'm someone who owns many books of editions past. Oftentimes, I lift ideas and even material from those books and adapt them to my D&D fifth edition games. It works, but sometimes it's janky. If WOTC is dedicated to harmonizing their future content, it'll be great for DMs and players of the far-flung future, giving them a wealth of easy-to-access and adjust content for their games.

In addition to this, the revamp of the core rules looks alright. Creating a character seems to be more involved, with a larger focus on the background of the character rather than their race. Counter that, though, some of the new racial ideas look amazing, such as the dwarf tremor sense feature. What a novel idea! I'm looking forward to most of these changes to the mechanics, and I'll be looking to playtest them for the next year or so in anticipation of their real release.

One D&D Will Change the Game

One D&D will be huge for D&D. Wizards of the Coast are not selling it as a new edition of D&D, but the fact is it's even bigger than that: it's an attempt to forever unite D&D into a single game system. Sure, it will be patched and updated with new books and ideas, but it'll "forever" remain One D&D.

We're about to enter a new era of Dungeons & Dragons. 

Are you ready?

Here's to greatening your game and world: cheers!

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How to Return to Your D&D Game After a Break

Extended breaks are commonplace in many Dungeons & Dragons groups. Mine are no exception. But what should you prepare for as a Dungeon Master or a Player after a long absence from the game and world of your D&D campaign? Well, as I'm about to return to my homebrew world of Eldar after a lengthy hiatus due to the birth of my daughter, this topic constantly bounces around my mind.

It's a tricky topic, really, and is unique for every group out there. However, after a few musings during my morning runs, I think I've nailed down exactly what every Dungeon Master and Player needs to think about.

If you're about to return to a D&D game after a long hiatus or are about to take one, this is the article for you.

Read on for some vital advice about how to keep your D&D game alive after or before a long break.

Gather Your Party

Wrangling everyone together is usually the most difficult part of planning a D&D session or campaign, and that's true when returning to the latter as well! Fortunately, you should have a firm relationship established with each of the players and, with a bit of communication on your part about why a break occurred in the first place, gathering everyone shouldn't be too difficult.

Start with a message. Let everyone know that you're ready to return to the D&D table. If you'd like to be transparent, give a bit more information on why the break happened and why you're good to go and play again. Most people, especially your fellow friends and players, shall appreciate it.

Connect with people, Talk back and forth. Get back into the swing of D&D-esque communication: little quips back and forth, reminiscing about past adventures, and battling the all too powerful calendar beast.

Once you're all in communication again, schedule your first game back. Let everyone know how excited you are to begin again and move to the new section...unless you'd like to commit to a bit of extra work/fun.

A Short Piece of Fantastical Fiction

Writers among you Dungeon Masters out there, take this reintroduction to your campaign and world as an opportunity to grab the attention of your players. Take a few hours to write a succinct piece of fiction about the campaign. Grant the players a snapshot of the villain. Briefly recap the story as it currently stands. Don't impose on their characters or play the characters, elevate them and show your players why they're important to the current story and the state of the world.

If you're interested, here are two examples I've written: The Great Unraveling Begins and New Blood.

Don't go overboard. Keep it concise. Keep it interesting. Keep it optional. Write it for fun and as an optional reintroduction to the campaign.

Start Broad, Then Zoom In

With a date set to begin your campaign again, it's time to begin prepping. This first session should focus on a few core goals: snapshotting the current arc of the campaign, highlighting each of the characters, and hyper focusing on a singular force of malice.

Let's explore the first two ideas and save the villain for last.

Prepare a complete recap, but don't spend the first ten minutes of the session recapping the game as it stands. Instead, integrate it into the actual story.

Begin with a brief reintroduction the world and story. Outline its tenets in 30 seconds or less and then leap right into the narrative, asking yourself a set of three specific questions to prepare:

  • Where are the characters?
  • What are they doing?
  • Why are they doing it?

Armed with those three questions, you should be able to set the scene and immediately leap into the action. Carve out this opening sequence for your players. In general, do they all enjoy wild combat encounters or flamboyant social interactions? Discovering new locations or sparring with a massive monster? Whatever they enjoy most, open the return session with it.

Ideally, with this clean, clear opening, you'll also unite them against someone old or someone new, an aspect to channel their rage against and help bolster their victories...

Give the Players Someone to Hate

Now everyone's altogether again, unite them against a common enemy quickly, whether they're a new villain, current foe, or recurring baddie. Ideally, you should include this individual in your clear and concise opening sequence.

In your prep, define this character. 

Who are they? Why do they care about the characters? Why should the characters care about them?

Additionally, tie some intrigue or mystery to the character, something the characters and players can latch onto for the session or the next few sessions to come. This baddie will be your conduit to drive the story forward and unite the party again.

It's a great way to ensure everyone is ready to return to the table consistently, all in the name of adventure and eliminating their new favorite villain.

Breaks Aren't an Issue

Breaks are common in D&D campaigns. When you return, you should have a clear plan to go about this return.

Give your return to the table some time to think about. Ensure you and your players have an excellent return session. Succinctly, break down your plan into three parts:

  1. Gather your party once again. Ensure everyone is able to attend and that you and them are prepared.
  2. Start with a broad shot, then zoom in. Keep your recap of the world and story brief. Instead, focus on the characters, what they're doing, and what drives them forward. Begin with what your players love most about D&D.
  3. Give the players and characters someone to hate. Tie this villain to the characters, flesh them out fully, and plop a mystery atop them. Use this baddie as a conduit to unite the party entirely.

Hopefully, each of these ideas will help your group and campaign flourish in the many moments to come.

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