A place to share thoughts and ideas about Dungeons and Dragons
Category Archives: Reference Material
September 20, 2018Posted by on
My thoughts on Components.
First, here is what it says in the Player’s handbook:
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.
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.
August 13, 2017Posted by on
How to be a Better Dungeon Master
Having just finished one campaign and preparing to start another one, I felt that it was time to review my weaknesses as a Dungeon Master. Thanks to an excellent post on “The Angry GM” site, and a candid review of my own DM style by Tim, a former player, I have compiled this list that I intend to re-read before and after each gaming session.
1) Pre-read enough to make the game day run smoothly.
2) Have figures set aside for upcoming encounters.
3) Have monster stats printed out for the inevitable encounter.
RUNNING THE GAME
Running a D&D game is a storytelling craft on top of die rolls, which makes the DM chair the most difficult but often most entertaining of the game.
There’s two aspects of the game to manage, the character experience, and the player experience. All the players need their characters to have their moment to shine.
Provide variety in how NPCs/monsters interact with PCs. The encounters need not always be a fight to the death.
Always appeal to the players’ sense of sight, smell, touch, taste, and sound when narrating.
Begin and end each players turn with narration.
Each turn follows a simple process.
- The GM Transitions Into the Players’ Turn
- The Player Asks a Question or Declares an Action
- The Action is Resolved
- The GM Describes and Applies the Results
- The GM Transitions Out of the Players’ Turn
After every transition you need a bit of scene setting. Even if it’s just a single sentence. In fact, that’s all it should be. At the start of every turn in combat, you should say a few words (and NO MORE) about what’s going on in the scene right now, specifically to the person whose turn it is. Even if all you do is remind the player of what just happened.
The transitions out of one turn and into another meld together. The resolution of one action sets the scene for the next.
As a GM, it’s your job to bring the combat to life. To make it feel like an emergency, like a life or death situation.
At the start of every player’s turn, you need to point out where they are and what emergency is happening right now, either to them, or right near them.
In a life-or-death battle, the proper feeling for a player is near-panic. Players should feel panicked and rushed in combat because the characters are panicked and rushed in combat. When it is a player’s turn, they need to begin speaking immediately. And if not, you need to prompt them.
“What do you do? You need to decide or you’ll lose the turn to indecision.” Assume they take the Dodge action (attacks against him have disadvantage).
A GOOD EXAMPLE
GM: Alice, four goblins are charging the party. What do you do?”
Alice: I’ll run up and hit the goblin with my mace. 15.
Alice: 6 bludgeoning damage.
GM: You charge the goblin and smash it with your mace, bringing it to a stop. It’s allies are hesitating. Bob, you’ve got an opening…
GM: The goblin leaps aside, dodging your axe. He tries to dart past you to close with Dave. You get an opportunity attack. Roll it.
GM: The goblin dodges that too and dashes forward, lunging at Dave with his shortsword. Dave, what’s your AC?
GM: Ouch. He stabs you in the side for 6 piercing damage, sending you stumbling backwards while the other two goblins draw to a stop and face Alice and Bob head on. Alice, the goblin recovers his breath from your blow and thrusts his shortsword. A crit! You take 12 damage.
Alice: Damn it! I’m really hurt!
GM: The other goblin closes with Bob as he’s trying to stop the one getting past him. But… Bob sees him coming and dodges the blow. That’s a miss.
GM: The goblins range themselves in front of Alice and Bob while a third goblin is ready to strike another blow at Dave. Carol, they seem to be ignoring you. What do you?
May 2, 2017Posted by on
What is Magic? How does it work?
I was trying to figure out how (in 4th and 5th edition Dungeons and Dragons) a character could learn all there was to know about a magic item by simply examining it for an hour. This wasn’t possible in earlier editions. You could only learn about an item by trial and error or by some magical means. It is only now coming up because I never played 4th edition, and this is the first time I have been the DM running a 5th edition game.
After a lot of research (Google is my friend) I finely came to the realization that the nature of magic has changed. To make logical sense out of it all (assuming you can apply logic to the rules of magic in a fantasy game), this is what I came up with.
Nothing below is official. It simply represents my ideas and house rules.
The Source of Magic
Behind reality as the player-characters know it, there is a sort of internal “skeleton”, over which reality exists like skin atop muscle and bone. This “skeleton” can best be envisioned as an unseen essence that pervades all parts of the multiverse, directly linking everything to every other thing. This is the source of all magic. When you cast a spell, you actually create a specific alteration in the local essence, which then causes the spell effect you wanted in the ‘real’ world. Some call this essence “Mana”. In the Forgotten Realms it is called the “Weave”. If the Weave in an area is damaged or destroyed, magic is unreliable or impossible – that’s what creates Wild Magic and Dead Magic zones in the Realms.
All the physical laws of the universe are simply reflections of the true, background laws that govern this universal essence. The average person can only perceive normal reality, but some creatures are born with the ability to sense the universal essence.
All magic-using beings share an innate ability to manipulate the essence. Likewise, almost all those “gifted” with these abilities must receive training in arcane (wizardly) or divine (clerical) magic in order to learn how to manipulate the essence with finesse.
Bards learn that words and music are not just vibrations of air, but vocalizations with power all their own. They learn to untangle and reshape the essence in harmony with their wishes and music.
Clerics and Paladins are conduits for Divine magic, the power of the gods. Divine casting is done by channeling the essence provided by their deities and forming spells out of that.
Druids and Rangers revere nature above all, and can draw essence from the land, gaining their spells and other magical powers either from the essence that flows through nature itself or from a nature deity.
Monks make careful study of the essence that flows through living bodies. Most monastic traditions call this ki.
Sorcerers learn to harness and channel their own inborn magical abilities. They gather the essence to them from force of will.
Warlocks receive their magical abilities from a pact they made with an otherworldly being. This is similar to the way gods channel essence through divine casters.
Wizards create elaborate mental structures within the mazes of their own minds, traps which funnel magical essence like a roof collects rainwater for a barrel, stored and ready to be used over the course of a day.
This magical substructure to the universe, this unseen essence, can be manipulated by users of magic. It can sometimes be concentrated and placed inside a creature or object. Examples would include casting a spell on a creature to make it resistant to fire, or creating a ring of protection. These magic infused creatures or items emit a type of magical radiation. A creature with the ability to sense the universal essence can detect this magical glow, but it is invisible to all others without some magical way to detect it.
The “Detect Magic” spell:
Magical radiation is similar to light in that it is dimmer the farther you are from it. It can pass through most objects, but is blocked from most forms of detection by 1 foot of stone, 1 inch of common metal, a thin sheet of lead, or 3 feet of wood or dirt. For the magic radiation to be strong enough to be detected by the “detect magic” spell, you must be within 30 feet of the magic creature or item. If you sense magic in this way, you sense the presence of magic, but can’t determine in which direction, or how far away the magic item is. Anytime during the duration of the “detect magic” spell, you can take an action to see if there are any specific items or creatures within sight that you can identify as magical. You will see a faint aura around any visible creature or object in the area that bears magic. If you don’t see an aura around anything, then the magic that you sense must be out of sight. It could be one or more items or creatures that are invisible or hidden. For instance, they could be behind a door or in a box or under a secret panel in the floor. If you do not see it, you do not see the aura. This also means you cannot use this to locate invisible creatures or objects. Any aura detected can only be seen by the spellcaster. The color of the aura corresponds to the object’s school of magic. If the item has no particular school then the aura has no color. The brightness of the aura indicates the relative strength of the magic.
Unless the magic item is invisible, you can see it if it is within range but behind a transparent barrier, such as glass. You also perceive its magical aura. This includes potions that are in glass bottles. If the potion is in a container that is not see-through you will not see the aura unless you remove the cap and look directly at the potion.
If you were to touch a creature that possesses magic, you would not typically feel the magic. But if you were to hold a magic item for a few seconds (a round), you would feel the magical radiation generated by the item effecting your body and/or your mind in some way. The sensation will differ depending on the magic contained within the item. If you continue to hold the item and concentrate on it for a short rest, “At the end of the rest, the character learns the item’s properties, as well as how to use them.”
“Potions are an exception; a little taste is enough to tell the taster what the potion does.” You can’t hold a potion in your hand. The bottle isn’t magical, just the liquid it contains. You could stick your finger into it, and leave it there for an hour, but a drop on your tongue is much faster. A taste is not enough to receive the effects of the potion. If it is poison, a taste is not enough to do harm to the taster. When tasting it, the magic of the potion enters your body and instantly reveals its nature.
Magic items want you to know their properties! The magic is alive! Or, rather, it contains a life force. All life has magic flowing through it to some degree, and all magic has some degree of life flowing through it. This explains why some powerful magical items possess sentience. The item’s creator forced so much magical essence into the item that it became sentient. This also explains why magical essence tends to be attracted to living creatures (and sometimes to dead creatures). And why magic can create or destroy life.
The Identify Spell
This spell makes you more receptive to the magical essence of the item. To identify the magic in an object with this spell, you must remain in physical contact with it for at least 1 minute. “If it is a magic item or some other magic-imbued object, you learn its properties and how to use them” (That much is the same as you can get from examination alone. But with the spell you also learn) “, whether it requires attunement to use, and how many charges it has, if any. You learn whether any spells are affecting the item and what they are. If the item was created by a spell, you learn which spell created it.”
To use this spell to identify a potion still requires one minute, but you must come into physical contact with the potion, not just the bottle it is in. A drop on your tongue or on any spot on your exposed flesh is enough.
The identify spell won’t trigger a curse, but it also doesn’t tell you if an item is cursed. There is no easy way to know if an item is cursed except by trial and error. Even the legend lore spell may only hint that it may be cursed. The curse on an item may cause you to misidentify it.
April 7, 2017Posted by on
I found this online a while back. Thought I would share.
D&D Stats Explained
- 1 (–5): Morbidly weak, has significant trouble lifting own limbs
- 2-3 (–4): Needs help to stand, can be knocked over by strong breezes
- 4-5 (–3): Knocked off balance by swinging something dense
- 6-7 (–2): Difficulty pushing an object of their weight
- 8-9 (–1): Has trouble even lifting heavy objects
- 10-11 (0): Can literally pull their own weight
- 12-13 (1): Carries heavy objects for short distances
- 14-15 (2): Visibly toned, throws small objects for long distances
- 16-17 (3): Carries heavy objects with one arm
- 18-19 (4): Can break objects like wood with bare hands
- 20-21 (5): Able to out-wrestle a work animal or catch a falling person
- 22-23 (6): Can pull very heavy objects at appreciable speeds
- 24-25 (7): Pinnacle of brawn, able to out-lift several people
- 1 (–5): Barely mobile, probably significantly paralyzed
- 2-3 (–4): Incapable of moving without noticeable effort or pain
- 4-5 (–3): Visible paralysis or physical difficulty
- 6-7 (–2): Significant klutz or very slow to react
- 8-9 (–1): Somewhat slow, occasionally trips over own feet
- 10-11 (0): Capable of usually catching a small tossed object
- 12-13 (1): Able to often hit large targets
- 14-15 (2): Can catch or dodge a medium-speed surprise projectile
- 16-17 (3): Able to often hit small targets
- 18-19 (4): Light on feet, able to often hit small moving targets
- 20-21 (5): Graceful, able to flow from one action into another easily
- 22-23 (6): Very graceful, capable of dodging a number of thrown objects
- 24-25 (7): Moves like water, reacting to all situations with almost no effort
- 1 (–5): Minimal immune system, body reacts violently to anything foreign
- 2-3 (–4): Frail, suffers frequent broken bones
- 4-5 (–3): Bruises very easily, knocked out by a light punch
- 6-7 (–2): Unusually prone to disease and infection
- 8-9 (–1): Easily winded, incapable of a full day’s hard labor
- 10-11 (0): Occasionally contracts mild sicknesses
- 12-13 (1): Can take a few hits before being knocked unconscious
- 14-15 (2): Able to labor for twelve hours most days
- 16-17 (3): Easily shrugs off most illnesses
- 18-19 (4): Able to stay awake for days on end
- 20-21 (5): Very difficult to wear down, almost never feels fatigue
- 22-23 (6): Never gets sick, even to the most virulent diseases
- 24-25 (7): Tireless paragon of physical endurance
- 1 (–5): Animalistic, no longer capable of logic or reason
- 2-3 (–4): Barely able to function, very limited speech and knowledge
- 4-5 (–3): Often resorts to charades to express thoughts
- 6-7 (–2): Often misuses and mispronounces words
- 8-9 (–1): Has trouble following trains of thought, forgets most unimportant things
- 10-11 (0): Knows what they need to know to get by
- 12-13 (1): Knows a bit more than is necessary, fairly logical
- 14-15 (2): Able to do math or solve logic puzzles mentally with reasonable accuracy
- 16-17 (3): Fairly intelligent, able to understand new tasks quickly
- 18-19 (4): Very intelligent, may invent new processes or uses for knowledge
- 20-21 (5): Highly knowledgeable, probably the smartest person many people know
- 22-23 (6): Able to make Holmesian leaps of logic
- 24-25 (7): Famous as a sage and genius
- 1 (–5): Seemingly incapable of thought, barely aware
- 2-3 (–4): Rarely notices important or prominent items, people, or occurrences
- 4-5 (–3): Seemingly incapable of forethought
- 6-7 (–2): Often fails to exert common sense
- 8-9 (–1): Forgets or opts not to consider options before taking action
- 10-11 (0): Makes reasoned decisions most of the time
- 12-13 (1): Able to tell when a person is upset
- 14-15 (2): Can get hunches about a situation that doesn’t feel right
- 16-17 (3): Reads people and situations fairly well
- 18-19 (4): Often used as a source of wisdom or decider of actions
- 20-21 (5): Reads people and situations very well, almost unconsciously
- 22-23 (6): Can tell minute differences among many situations
- 24-25 (7): Nearly prescient, able to reason far beyond logic
- 1 (–5): Barely conscious, probably acts heavily autistic
- 2-3 (–4): Minimal independent thought, relies heavily on others to think instead
- 4-5 (–3): Has trouble thinking of others as people
- 6-7 (–2): Terribly reticent, uninteresting, or rude
- 8-9 (–1): Something of a bore or makes people mildly uncomfortable
- 10-11 (0): Capable of polite conversation
- 12-13 (1): Mildly interesting, knows what to say to the right people
- 14-15 (2): Interesting, knows what to say to most people
- 16-17 (3): Popular, receives greetings and conversations on the street
- 18-19 (4): Immediately likeable by many people, subject of favorable talk
- 20-21 (5): Life of the party, able to keep people entertained for hours
- 22-23 (6): Immediately likeable by almost everybody
- 24-25 (7): Renowned for wit, personality, and/or looks
March 28, 2017Posted by on
I found this on-line (I forget where). Thought I would share. [If you know who created the original, please let me know so I can credit them.]
February 20, 2017Posted by on
So What Can I see From Here?
Usually, the limit to how far characters can see will be some obstruction, such as a building, a forest, or some hills. Mist and darkness also limit vision. Sometimes, however, the characters will be on flat plains on a clear day and the only limit to their vision will be their perception and the horizon. Once something goes below the horizon, it can’t be seen. But where is the horizon?
|Height in feet||Miles away|
This table has been simplified for gaming use. On an earth-sized planet, the horizon for a six-foot tall person standing at sea level or on flat plains will be about 3 miles. This means that they can see features that are at ground level for up to three miles (depending, of course, on the quality of their vision and the size of the object). Features that are higher than ground level can be seen further.
To determine how far away you can see something, just add together all of the heights. For example, if a 6 foot man is on a 4 foot horse standing on a 30 foot hill, how close would you have to be to a 60 foot tall tower to see it? First add all the heights together 6 + 4 + 30 + 60 = 100 feet. Look at the table under “height in feet” and find 100 feet. Then look across under “miles away” to find 13 miles. So the tower could be spotted if it was no farther away than 13 miles.
You could see a 14,000 foot mountain a little more than 100 miles away.
This is good for seeing features on a map, such as lakes, forests, mountains, towns, etc. but knowing how far you can see is often not what your Player Characters need to know. Just because you can see 3 miles doesn’t mean that you can see a monster on the horizon. For that we need another table.
Perception Distance Table
|Creature – Fine||6” or less||30 ft. or less||5 ft. or less|
|Creature – Diminutive||6” – 1 ft.||30 ft. – 60 ft.||5 ft. – 10 ft.|
|Creature – Tiny||1 ft. – 2 ft.||60 ft. – 120 ft.||10 ft. – 25 ft.|
|Creature – Small||2 ft. – 4 ft.||120 ft. – 240 ft.||25 ft. – 50ft.|
|Creature – Medium||4 ft. – 8 ft.||240 ft. – 480 ft.||50 ft. – 100 ft.|
|Creature – Large||8 ft. – 16 ft.||480 ft. – 960 ft.||100 ft. – 200 ft.|
|Creature – Huge||16 ft. – 32 ft.||960 ft. – 1,920 ft.||200 ft. – 400 ft.|
|Creature – Gargantuan||32 ft. – 64 ft.||1,920 ft. – 3,840 ft.||400 ft. – 800 ft.|
|Creature – Colossal||64 ft. or more||3,840 ft. or more||800 ft. or more|
In this table “perceive” means that you can see it and may notice it with a perception check. If you do notice it you will recognize the creature type if you have seen one before. If you don’t know what type of creature it is you will be able to tell the creature’s coloration, size, shape, number of limbs, wings, etc. If the creature is moving, you will also be able to tell which direction it is traveling and about how fast.
“Identify” means that you can see details and may recognize an individual that you have met before.
Here is a simple rule of thumb that is accurate enough for gaming use:
Distance away (in feet) that you can perceive an item is its size (in feet) times 60.
Distance away (in feet) that you can identify an item is its size (in feet) times 12.
Round fractions down to the nearest 5 ft.
The item’s size is its longest dimension (height or width).
One more thing.
You can perceive a burning candle 1 1/2 mile away.
January 16, 2017Posted by on
Looking for Inspiration?
I ran across this Facebook site. Whenever you, as a DM, are trying to think of an original location for your next adventure, just browse through the photos on this “Abandoned World” site.
December 30, 2016Posted by on
Classes with Class
In 2004 and 2005 Skip Williams (co-creator of Dungeons & Dragons 3rd Edition) put a series of articles on the Wizards website with tips on playing each of the various character types. Wizards of the Coast has moved them to their D&D Archives, but you can still find them there if you are diligent in your search.
These are an excellent reference. They were written for D&D 3.5 but even if you are running a fifth edition game you will find then a useful reference.
Here are direct links to them:
And here is a link to the 3.5 D&D Archives page: