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Dungeon Master Assistance

A place to share thoughts and ideas about Dungeons and Dragons

Truly Different Magic Systems in RPGs

If you are only familiar with Dungeons and Dragons, you may not be aware of the way magic is handled in other RPGs. Here is an excellent overview:

https://restinford.wordpress.com/2018/10/31/magic-systems/

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D&D 5E – Combat Cheat Sheet

A thanks to seddonym over at reddit for his original post HERE, and to mikr_ack for putting it in this very useful format HERE.

And a big thanks to Nicholas for turning me on to this. He also wanted me to share these sites that he found useful:
https://orcpub2.com/
http://hardcodex.ru/

D&D 5E – Spellcasting – Components

My thoughts on Components.

First, here is what it says in the Player’s handbook:

Components

A spell’s components are the physical requirements you must meet in order to cast it. Each spell’s description indicates whether it requires verbal (V), somatic (S), or material (M) components. If you can’t provide one or more of a spell’s com ponents, you are unable to cast the spell.

Verbal (V)
Most spells require the chanting of mystic words. The words themselves aren’t the source of the spell’s power; rather, the particular combination of sounds, with specific pitch and resonance, sets the threads of magic in motion. Thus, a character who is gagged or in an area of silence, such as one created by the silence spell, can’t cast a spell with a verbal component.

Somatic (S)
Spellcasting gestures might include a forceful gesticulation or an intricate set of gestures. If a spell requires a somatic component, the caster must have free use of at least one hand to perform these gestures.

Material (M)
Casting some spells requires particular objects, specified in parentheses in the component entry.
A character can use a component pouch or a spellcasting focus (found in chapter 5) in place of the components specified for a spell. But if a cost is indicated for a component, a character must have that specific component before he or she can cast the spell.
If a spell states that a material component is consumed by the spell, the caster must provide this component for each casting of the spell.
A spellcaster must have a hand free to access a spell’s material components — or to hold a spell-casting focus — but it can be the same hand that he or she uses to perform somatic components.

There are some monsters which can cast spells with their innate spellcasting ability they do not have to provide any components. Unless stated otherwise if you cast a spell from an item you can do so without any components.

V – Verbal: Most spells require the chanting of mystic words. Chanting is by definition a clearly audible sound. A sorcerer with the subtle spell meta-magic, or a level 20 druid with the Archdruid class feature can ignore the verbal component when casting a spell. My house rule is that it must clear and a voice that can be heard from at least 20 feet away in normal circumstances. It cannot be whispered.

S – Somatic: Spellcasting gestures might include a forceful gesticulation or an intricate set of gestures. This requires a free hand and will be clearly visible. A sorcerer with the subtle spell meta-magic, or a level 20 druid with the Archdruid class feature can ignore the somatic component when casting a spell. Any spellcaster with the War Caster feat can use hands occupied by a weapon or shield.  My house rule is that because of the exaggerated gestures required, you cannot cast a spell that requires a somatic component if your hands bound or tied together.

M – Material: If you have a component pouch or a spellcasting focus (which may be a holy symbol depending on your class), you can ignore all material components which have no indicated costs. The Ranger is notable for not having access to a spellcasting focus, and will always need a component pouch or the specific component. A free hand is needed here. If you cast a spell from a spell scroll you do not have to have the material components. A way of the four elements monk does not have to provide material components for their elemental spells.

My house rules regarding material components:
 1)            Component pouch or spellcasting focus.
                This must be presented boldly.
 
2)            Material component with no cost listed.
                These are not needed if you are using a component pouch or spellcasting focus. If you are using the material component then I will assume that you stock up on these during your downtime but only if you are in a location where you would have access to them.
 
3)            Material component with a listed cost.
                Your PC must have procured the item and have it listed on his character sheet. If not, you cannot cast the spell. I will make an exception for low cost items (typically less than 100gp value). For these I will assume that your character purchased them during his down time and you can simply deduct its value from your character sheet at the time you cast the spell.

4)            Rare or uncommon components.
                There may be, from time to time, a spell that requires a rare, uncommon, or even unique component. You must, of course, have that component before you can cast such a spell.

 

 

D&D 5E – Dinosaur Minis

My D&D Scale Dinosaurs.

I finely got all of the dinosaur minis that I need for Tomb of Annihilation. The hardest thing to do was to get the models in the correct size for playing on a one inch grid. I was determined to use the sizes they have in the monster stats. The only one that I couldn’t find at the proper scale was a Hadrosaurus.
So here they are:

 

Allosaurus – Painted Toy that I mounted onto a 2″ base.

 

Allosaurus, Young – Painted Toy that I mounted onto a 1″ base.

 

Ankylosaurus – Painted Toy that I mounted onto a 3″ base.

 

Brontosaurus – Toy that I painted and mounted onto a 4″ base.

 

Deinonychus – Prepainted mini by HeroClix.

 

Dimetrodon – Toy that I re-painted and mounted onto a 2″ base. This should have been on a 1″ base, but only smaller one that I could find didn’t look as good.

 

Plesiosaurus – Toy that I re-painted and mounted onto a 2″ base.

 

Pteranodon – Toy that I re-painted and mounted onto a 1″ base.

 

Quetzalcoatlus – Painted Toy that I mounted onto a 3″ base. (I really like this one. Notice that it even has a smaller dinosaur in it’s mouth!)

 

Stegosaurus – Painted Toy that I mounted onto a 3″ base.

 

Triceratops – Toy that I painted and mounted onto a 3″ base.

 

Triceratops, young – Toy that I mounted onto a 1″ base. (I can’t remember if I painted this one or not. I am thinking that I did, but the paint job is really bad.)

 

Tyrannosaurus Rex – Toy that I re-painted and mounted onto a 3″ base.

 

Tyrannosaurus Zombie – A mini by Dungeons & Dragons – Collector’s Series Miniatures that I assembled and painted.

 

Velociraptor – A pre-painted mini by WizKids.

For those of you that are interested, here is where I found these:

Tyrannosaurus Zombie
by Dungeons & Dragons – Collector’s Series Miniatures

Velociraptor
By WizKids

Deinonychus
by HeroClix

Brontosaurus, Allosaurus and Ankylosaurus
by Emorefun

Quetzalcoatlus
by Collecta

Triceratops
by Jesse

For all of the others, I didn’t keep any records. I found them at various local stores.

Thanks to Zee Parks for his “Miniature Lineup (1in=5ft) Scale Template“.

D&D 5E – Adding new characters to the Party

This is an expansion to a previous post. You may want to first read [D&D 5E – Creating the Party] before trying to make any sense out of this.

If you are using my “Creating the Party” rules to create your party, what if a new player joins the group?

The process will be similar to “Creating the Party” rules, but the other players will suggest his role and relationships.

NEW PLAYER

The new player selects preferred Race and Class. Then all of the existing players have input regarding his role in the group and his relationships with the existing PCs.

First, have each of the existing players describe his character, its role in the group, its relationship with the other characters and its conflicts.

1) Role

The group decides what role they would like for the new Player Character to assume in the party. If the new player would prefer to take on a different role then it is discussed and a mutually acceptable role will be agreed upon. The new player can change his selection of Race and/or Class at this time if he chooses to. He should also choose his character’s name.

2) PC’s relationships

The DM will ask for one of the existing players to come up with a relationship that his Character has with this new Character. If no one volunteers, the DM will randomly select someone. The group can all chime in with suggestions. It is okay if more than one existing Character has a relationship with this new Character.

3) Conflicts

If you are using this optional rule then, as with relationships, the DM asks for some player to come up with some trait or something from the new character’s past that his Character is uncomfortable with. Again, if the new player objects then it is discussed among the group until an agreeable conflict is selected. As with relationships – additional conflicts are okay.

4) Roll-up the character

Like everyone else did, using the role, relationships and conflicts as a guide for abilities and background.

REPLACEMENT CHARACTERS

If an existing player needs to roll-up a replacement character (if for instance his original character died), use the same process listed above, but allow that player to select a role, a relationship or two, and a conflict or two.
Because the player has been playing with the group, he already knows the relationships and conflicts that exist within the group so he can create a new character that can fit in well. Of course, encourage group discussion of his suggestions and allow the other players to suggest different options.

FINAL NOTE

Refer to [D&D 5E – Creating the Party] for examples of Character Roles, Character Relationships and Objectionable Character Traits or Past actions.

The Player of this new Character can object to any of the other player’s suggestions and make counter suggestions of his own. The DM has final approval. Try to remember that this new Character must be fun for the player to play, if he has strong feelings for or against anything the others may want, you should typically allow his wishes to prevail – within reason.

Last Minute Rolls

I ran across this over at “Dark Eagle Games”. I think I will start using this rather than passive perception whenever PCs are checking for traps.

One of my best tricks as a GM is to wait until the last-minute to make any dice roll. I do not pick up the dice until the roll has immediate effects. I cannot always do this, but one place I can is…

Source: Last Minute Rolls

D&D 5E – Sedan Chairs

The Sedan Chair

This are my house rules for sedan chairs.  Sedan chairs are essentially carts carried by strong humanoids, referred to as chairmen. All sedan chairs have silk tarps and heavy leather curtains to protect against snoops or the weather.

These portable covered chairs sport side windows and a hinged door at the front. Sedan chairmen insert long wood poles into metal brackets on either side of the chair. The poles are long and springy and provided a slightly bouncy ride. They are arranged in such a manner that the chair will remain in a horizontal position as the chairmen climb up steps or steep slopes. Passengers enter and exit between the poles.

For the more ornate sedan chairs, painters will create beautiful scenes on panels mounted on the sides, and many are extravagantly upholstered in silk on the inside. The less affluent have plainer, leather covered chairs.

Because these portable chairs can be carried inside buildings, people can be transported around the city without being identified. This makes it easier for people who were evading the law to go about their business, or for public personages to carry on trysts.

Chairmen have to be strong, fit and healthy as they are often standing outside in all weathers.

Cost for chairmen.

Permanent employ: 10 gp per week (5 gp for each chairman)

Per day: 2 gp per day (1 gp for each chairman)

Speed: The chair weighs 60 lb. If the total weight carried is under 200 lb. then the speed is 30 ft. If the total weight carried is 200 lb. or more, the speed is reduced to 20 ft. (Unless both chairmen have a strength of 20 or higher.)

 

D&D 5e Story Mode

Here is another simplified set of fifth edition rules. It is quite good.

Source: D&D 5e Story Mode

D&D 5E – Creating the Party

How do the PCs Come Together and Stay Together?

After watching this video “The coming revolution in role-play games? ” I started thinking that, when I begin a new Fifth Edition Dungeon and Dragons game I could do my character creation in a similar method. The reason that I might want to do this is that in many games the PCs don’t seem to have any good reason to be together, much else to function as a group. I have tried different things to encourage this, but borrowing some ideas from “Hillfolk” (a DramaSystem game) might work out well.

 The idea behind DramaSystem is to build a varied and nuanced character with connections to other characters. This is not the sort of game that you go into with a preconceived notion of your character. Your character will change as you intuit the group’s overall build and decide that you would fit better in a different way. Then play takes place as a series of scenes. Each scene is determined by a player and may or may not include all of the other players. As you see, this is definitely not D&D.

 DramaSystem is a true “role playing game”. D&D says that it is a role playing game, but it is primarily a “fight the monsters, get the treasure, save the world and get out alive” kind of game. I have no desire to turn it into an “explore your character’s true motivations and come to grips with your inner conflicts” kind of game. That being said, it wouldn’t hurt to start the game with the PCs having closer relationships with one another. So I borrowed heavily from DramaSystem to come up with this idea for running a session zero.

 What is a Session Zero?

This is simply getting the group together before the first gaming session to roll characters together and talk about what kind of game it will be. It is not required and many DMs skip it altogether, or simply include it at the beginning of the first session.

Session zero usually involves the group meeting to discuss and establish the following.

  • Game rules set to be played
  • Table rules (table etiquette, behavior expectations, bringing up topics that players feel uncomfortable with, etc)
  • House rules (changes from the core rules set, home-brew material, etc)
  • Campaign expectations (Do we want to play an intrigue campaign? Dungeon crawler? An epic campaign?)
  • Setting
  • Character creation

What I am suggesting here only addresses the last bullet point, Character creation.

 Running Session Zero

Here is how I suggest that you as the DM might run a session zero.

The players may want to decide on their character’s race and class beforehand but otherwise they should not create their characters before they come to session zero.

You should start by describing the Campaign that you have in mind. Among the things you should explain to the players will be the level of magic and the overall theme of the campaign. Will it be mostly Gothic horror, nautical adventures, airships, a traditional dungeon crawl, or what? Then tell the players that they already know each other and have come together to form an adventuring party to rid the world of evil (or to explore ancient dungeons and get rich, or to find out what is causing all of the cattle to die, or to rescue the princess, or whatever the overarching theme is for your campaign).

 1) PC’s Roles

Read aloud to the players, or paraphrase everything in maroon below, starting with:

You are not only creating your individual characters, but also their relationships with each other in order to create a group that can better function as a team. As you develop your PC each other player will build on that to develop his PC.

Have each player roll a d20. This will be a special initiative roll, but with no modifiers. Let ties be resolved by another roll between the tied players.

In initiative order describe your character including name, race, sex, class and what role your character will play in the group. Feel free to ask other players for ideas or suggestions. You should stop at that and not describe your character any further at this time. Specifically, you should not give your character any background information. That will come later. [Some examples of possible character roles are listed at the end of this page.]

Group participation is encouraged. By default, the first character to select a role to take in the group should get it, however if two characters both want to fill the same role, the other players can chime in and you can work it out as a group to everyone’s satisfaction.

If you are sitting around a battlemat; Write your character’s name in front of you on the mat, in large letters so everyone can see.

 2) PC’s relationships.

Still in initiative order, explain your character’s relationship to one of the other characters of your choice. If possible, you should select a character that has not yet been selected, and that hasn’t selected you. How do you know that character? How did you meet? How long have you known each other? Tell us of some interesting event in your past that the two of you shared. [Some examples of possible character relationships are listed at the end of this page.]

We are just making stuff up here. The story you are telling about your character’s past is also helping to define the background of other characters in the group. If another player objects to what you say about his character’s background, he will say why he objects and suggest an alternative story. The group will decide what story they like best. I (the DM) will be the final arbitrator and can veto any story that I feel doesn’t fit into the campaign that I have in mind.

If you are sitting around a battlemat; Draw a line connecting your character’s name to the name of the character that you have a relationship with. Write a word or two along the line as a reminder to everyone as to what that relationship is.

If every character has a relationship with every other character or has a relationship with someone that does, you can continue on to step 3. In other words, if you can trace a path from everyone to everyone else that connects directly or goes through no more than one other character. If not, repeat step 2. Only add; This time you can select any other character that you want. It is okay if some characters are picked more than others.

 3) PC’s Conflicts [Optional]

After step 2, you can quit this and have everyone finish creating his or her character as you normally would. Or for a little more interaction between PCs, continue on with this final step.

Re-roll initiative.

On your turn in the new initiative order, select someone else’s character. This does not have to be a character that you have a relationship with. Come up with one thing that your character doesn’t like about that character, or that makes your character uneasy. This can be something that he has done in the past, or some mannerism or personality trait. [Some examples are listed at the end of this page.]

Again, if the other character’s player objects, the group gets to decide if this would be fun for the group and the DM gets the final verdict.

 4) Roll-up the characters

Have everyone roll-up his character as you normally would, but they should use the partial background just created as a jumping off place to assign ability scores and to fill in their character’s background. If there are backgrounds in the Player’s Handbook (PHB) that fit with what was discussed, he can choose one of those. If not, work with him to create a background that is unique to his character. Refer to “Customizing A Background” on page 126 of the PHB.

 5) Play D&D


The idea here is to produce a Player Character Party where the individual members know each other better. Hopefully it will result in more personal interaction and cooperation between PCs than the typical “My character is an orphan. I just met these other guys. I couldn’t care less about them. I just thought I would have a better chance to survive if I wasn’t alone.”

EXAMPLES of CHARACTER ROLES

Some examples of what your character’s role in the group might be include:

the blaster
the brains
the comic
the communicator
the dealer with undead
the guide
the healer
the hunter
the leader
the magical blaster
the magical buffer
the moral compass
the protector
the ranged support
the scout
the skill monkey
the sneak
the spell caster
the tactician
the talker
the tank
the thief
the trap finder

EXAMPLES of CHARACTER RELATIONSHIPS

This can be a family relationship such as wife, husband, father, mother, son, daughter, brother, sister, cousin, etc. Or it can be a longtime friend. Some examples using the name “Fred” as the PC you have a relationship with:

“I am from a large family. We lived just outside of a large city (the DM can insert the name of a big city here). When I was just a lad, we were attacked by goblins and they almost wiped out my entire family. My brother Fred and I were the only survivors.”

“I met Fred when I as a temple guard. He was a raw recruit and I taught him everything I know about enforcing the law.”

“Fred is several years older than I am. He caught me stealing fruit off an apple cart. He took me in and taught me everything I know about being a thief in the big city.”

“Fred and I just happened to be at the same bar when we were both impressed into the navy. We served on the same ship for three years and became fast friends.”

EXAMPLES of OBJECTIONABLE CHARACTER TRAITS or PAST ACTIONS

I don’t like the way he:

Looks down on people that are of a higher (or lower) class than he is.
Laughs.
Snores.
Looks at me.
Thinks he is smarter than everyone else.
Eats his food.
Is never around when there is work to be done.
Smells.
Treats (one of the PC’s).
Drinks too much.
Eats too much.
Is always primping.
Is always daydreaming.
Can never sit still.
Is always sharpening his weapon.
Talks too much.

He once:

Stole something from me.
Beat me in a contest.
Saved my life.
Stole the love of my life.
Played a practical joke on me.
Watched while I almost died.
Wouldn’t share his food when I was starving.
Borrowed money from me and has never paid his debt.
Broke my heart.
Nearly killed me.
Saved someone I love.

Whatever trait you choose, fill in some specific details like who, what, when and where?

D&D 5E – Dinosaurs

5th Edition Dinosaurs

I am looking forward to running a “Tomb of Annihilation” campaign. One of the fun things in that book are the dinosaurs. I like to use miniatures on my battlemat and I thought an inexpensive way to do that was to get some small toy dinosaurs the right size, glue them to a base and paint them. I have some rubber toy dinosaurs and one or two of them may do, but I am finding that most of them are too large. Also I realized that I didn’t know what some of the different dinosaurs look like. Unlike most monsters in the Monster Manuel, it doesn’t have pictures of each different dinosaur type. As usual, Google is my friend. There is no shortage of information regarding dinosaurs.

Here is a compilation of what I have found regarding the Dinosaurs in the Monster Manual (MM), Volo’s Guide to Monsters (VGtM) and Tomb of Annihilation (ToA).

List of Dinosaurs:

Allosaurus (Large) MM page 79
Allosaurus, Young (Medium) ToA in dinosaur races
Ankylosaurus (Huge) MM page 7
Brontosaurus (Gargantuan) VGtM Page 139
Deinonychus (Medium) VGtM Page 139 & ToA page 217
Dimetrodon (Medium) VGtM Page 139 & ToA page 217
Hadrosaurus (Large) VGtM Page 139 and 140 & ToA page 224
Plesiosaurus (Large)  MM pages 79-80
Pteranodon (Medium)  MM pages 79-80
Quetzalcoatlus (Huge) VGtM Page 139 and 140
Stegosaurus (Huge) VGtM Page 139 and 140 & ToA page 231
Triceratops (Huge)  MM page 79-80
Triceratops, young (Medium) ToA in dinosaur races
Tyrannosaurus Rex (Huge)  MM page 79-80
Tyrannosaurus Zombie (Huge) ToA page 241
Velociraptor (Tiny) VGtM Page 139 and 140 & ToA page 235

Dinosaur Size:

Playing on a grid where one inch = 5 feet, I want to mount the miniatures onto round bases. A one inch diameter base will just fit into a one inch square and is the size for a medium creature. This table shows the size of bases I need for my dinosaurs.

Size Base Dia. Dinosaur
Tiny 1/2 in. Velociraptor
Small 1 in. None
Medium 1 in Deinonychus, Dimetrodon, Pteranodon,
Large 2 in. Allosaurus, Hadrosaurus, Plesiosaurus,
Huge 3 in. Ankylosaurus, Quetzalcoatlus, Stegosaurus, Triceratops, Tyrannosaurus Rex
Gargantuan 4 in. or larger Brontosaurus

And here is what they look like:

Allosaurus (Large) MM page 79

Allosaurus, Young(Medium)

Ankylosaurus (Huge) MM page 7

Brontosaurus (Gargantuan) VGtM Page 139

Deinonychus (Medium) VGtM Page 139 & ToA page 217

Dimetrodon (Medium) VGtM Page 139 & ToA page 217

Hadrosaurus (Large) VGtM Page 139 and 140 & ToA page 224

Plesiosaurus (Large)  MM pages 79-80

Pteranodon (Medium)  MM pages 79-80

Quetzalcoatlus (Huge) VGtM Page 139 and 140

Stegosaurus (Huge) VGtM Page 139 and 140 & ToA page 231

Triceratops (Huge)  MM page 79-80

Triceratops, young (Medium)

Tyrannosaurus Rex (Huge)  MM page 79-80

Tyrannosaurus Zombie (Huge) ToA page 241

Velociraptor (Tiny) VGtM Page 139 and 140 & ToA page 235