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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