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Tag Archives: D&D
January 27, 2018Posted by on
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?)
- 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.
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 dealer with undead
the magical blaster
the magical buffer
the moral compass
the ranged support
the skill monkey
the spell caster
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.
Looks at me.
Thinks he is smarter than everyone else.
Eats his food.
Is never around when there is work to be done.
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.
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?
October 4, 2017Posted by on
Laws of Motion
I see the D&D universe as a pre-Newtonian world. Very much controlled by something similar to Aristotle’s Laws of Motion. At least, that is the way that the most intelligent thinkers of the time believe that it works. All spells that affect the target’s speed or location, such as fly, levitate, teleport, etc. cancel all current forces acting on the target and replaces them with the effects of the spell.
So first I will present the laws of motion as known by most magic users in the D&D universe.
This is how it might be explained to you by the smartest man in the kingdom. [Please understand that the ideas below may represent a view of the world similar to that held in 300 BC, but was later replaced by Isaac Newton’s much more accurate laws of motion.]
The Celestial Sphere
“Objects in the heavens (the celestial sphere) move in circular motion, without any external force compelling them to do so. Objects on Earth (the terrestrial sphere) move in straight lines unless forced to move in a curve.
First, although most commoners think that the Earth is flat, it is indeed spherical. You know. Round like a ball. It only appears to be flat because it is so large. The Earth is in the center of the universe. It is surrounded by the celestial sphere, where lie the sun, the moons, all of the planets and the stars. All of these celestial bodies circle the Earth. The apparent motions of the fixed stars and planets are accounted for by the fact that they are embedded in rotating spheres made of an aetherial, transparent fifth element (quintessence), like jewels set in orbs. The fixed stars do not change their positions relative to one another because they are on the surface of this single starry sphere.
The stars, Sun, Moon, and planets are all made of fire. But whilst the stars are fastened on a revolving crystal sphere like nails or studs, the Sun, Moon, and planets, and also the Earth, all just ride on air like leaves because of their breadth. And whilst the fixed stars are carried around in a complete circle by the stellar sphere, the Sun, Moon, and planets do not revolve under the Earth between setting and rising again like the stars do, but rather on setting they go laterally around the Earth like a cap turning halfway around the head until they rise again.”
The Terrestrial Sphere
“To the motion of non-living things, such as a stone dropped from the hand, is explained by two principles; Natural Motion and Violent Motion.”
“The 4 elements [earth, air, fire and water] tend to seek their natural place in the order of things. So earth moves downwards most strongly, water flows downwards too, but not so strongly, since a stone will fall through water. In contrast, air moves up (bubbles in water), and fire goes upwards most strongly of all since it shoots upward through air. Most materials that you see around you are mixtures of elements. For example, wood has both earth and air in it, since it does not sink in water.
Natural motion causes undisturbed inanimate objects to travel in a straight line either toward the center of the Earth or away from it. Left undisturbed, a pure Earth would consist of an inner ball of earth surrounded by a shell of water over which would be a layer of air and above all would be an outer layer of fire.”
“Things also move because they are pushed. A stone’s natural tendency, if left alone and unsupported, is to fall, but we can lift it, or even throw it through the air. We call such forced motion “violent” motion as opposed to “natural” motion. The term “violent” just means that some external force is applied to it.
Heavier things fall faster, the speed being proportional to the weight. The speed of fall of a given object depends inversely on the density of the medium it is falling through. So, for example, the same body will fall twice as fast through a medium of half the density.
For violent motion, the speed of the moving object is in direct proportion to the applied force. This means that if you stop pushing, the object will soon stop moving.”
How this Effects Magical Spells
So the magic caster thinks that a body in motion only stays in motion as long as the force causing it to move continues to push it. Otherwise, it will eventually slow to a stop. So for teleportation – when the subject of the spell arrives at its new destination all external forces stop acting on it and it arrives at its destination as intended. External forces, in this case, would include what we refer to as inertia.
This also makes answering questions like this much easier:
“What if the PC walks through a teleportation gate and arrives at another location thousands of miles away?” Think of the actual, physical conditions. The Earth is spinning about 24 thousand miles per hour from West to East. Depending on where on Earth the other portal is located, inertia could be a big problem. Not to mention orientation.
Even something a simple as a feather fall ring. “What if the wearer was shot out of a cannon?” At the top of the arc, he would begin to fall. So feather fall kicks in and he begins to fall slowly. If inertia is still in effect he will travel much farther and still hit the ground at the speed that he was shot out of the cannon. This is obviously not the intention of the feather fall spell. If on the other hand, inertia and gravity are no longer pushing on the PC and are replaced by the magical feather fall rules, he floats gently down from the point where he begins to fall.
“If you are flying through space on a sailing ship that has a magical gravity bubble surrounding it, what happens if you fall overboard?” I would say that you fall as if you were on earth until you reached the edge of the gravity bubble and then slowly stop when the force of the magical gravity stops pulling you down.
June 8, 2017Posted by on
Encounter with a Wagon
This blog just reached 300 followers. As a way to thank you I will give you this. It can be used for a quick, non combat, encounter on the road. All of the specifications are left up to you to fill in. Sometimes you just need an idea, so here is one.
Metal workers, recently survived a kobold attack.
Wagon is pulled by 4 large work horses (like Clydesdales).
Horses have poorly made plate mail armor. One horse is tied to the side of the wagon with a bandaged foot (was shot with an arrow).
This large wagon is completely enclosed with wood walls and top that have been reinforced with metal plates and has shuttered arrow slits and a smokestack. It has 6 steel reinforced wheels on three axes. There is a door in the back, another in the front, and a trap door in the top. There are several small arrows sticking into the wagon at various places and at odd angles.
The back door is open and the smell of sausage cooking is coming from that direction.
The wagon contains a large variety of metal items that they are taking to town to sell. These are mainly folding weapons racks, hinges, nails, horse shoes, chains, manacles, and some heavy wire. they have no weapons for sale, but can provide small steel balls to use as sling-shot projectiles. They also have some wooden practice swords for sale.
In addition to the items for sale they have their personal weapons, armor, and items and a portable blacksmith shop, complete with anvil, billows, fire pit, tongs, water barrel, etc. These can all be used within the wagon, or they can be removed and set up elsewhere in just one hour (they have had lots of practice).
“We were attacked last night while traveling here. It was along the road where it passes through the densest part of the forest. We were surrounded by kobolds and held out until daybreak. Then the kobolds that were left all left. We caught one. When it came close and tried to reach in to grab a sausage through an arrow skit, we clapped a manacle on its arm. We are thinking about selling it. During the fight we killed a couple and saw them being eaten by the survivors. At least one of them could speak common. It called out to us to throw out any magic items or magical components we had and they would let us pass. They wouldn’t believe us when we told them we had none.”
May 4, 2017Posted by on
How do I win this game?
How do you explain this game to someone who has never played? Here is what I say.
I usually tell my players, before they even roll up their characters, that the thing that I like best about Dungeons and Dragons (D&D) is that it is different from most games. In almost every other game, for me to win, you have to lose. D&D isn’t like that. You play a character that adventures with other characters. At its simplest, you go into a dungeon, find treasure, fight monsters, and try to get out alive. All of the characters help each other, and it often requires the help of each other for any of you to survive.
The Dungeon Master (DM) is kind of like a referee. He knows the layout of the dungeon and where all of the monsters and traps are and describes to you what your character can see. You come up with a character that you want to take on the adventure. In every situation, you tell the DM what you want your character to do, and he does it. If there is any question as to whether your character can accomplish what he wants to do, the DM decides how easy or hard this would be and you roll dice to determine success or failure. Most of the rules are to keep the DM’s decisions from being arbitrary and to provide a framework for deciding how difficult it might be for your character to do things and what the result of success of failure might be. But the rules do not limit what your character can attempt.
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.