Archive for February, 2015

We DMs face many challenges. We have to keep track of our campaigns, make maps, improvise, brainstorm, and write adventures for sessions. When the session begins a whole new kind of work starts. Our brains switch from writers to performers. Much like a standup comic, we usually spend more time preparing for the performance than we do actually playing with friends. Yet it is those moments of performance and play the hours of preparation and worldbuilding pays off.

During that performance time DMs inhabit and play NPCs. Goblin bandits, snot-nosed trolls, elf nobles, human peasants, monarchs, and more are part of our one-person shows. We give them ticks, accents, mannerisms, and catchphrases to bring them to life and distinguish them in the minds of players.

Yet there are characters who are more daunting to inhabit than Hamlet’s Cladius. In the arc of many campaigns a DM might have to inhabit archfey, demon princes, primordials, ancient dragons, and gods. Putting on the skin of one of these powerful NPCs can be intimidating. Play it too small and your players will be unimpressed with the mighty being before them. Play it too big and your players will laugh at the over-the-top caricature you’ve created. Unless you play these mighty beings just right, you risk some major NPCs in your game not being taken seriously.

Tiamat – official fifth edition D&D’s most powerful NPC (for now).

Challenges of Playing Powerful NPCs

The daunting task of playing a powerful NPC can be broken down the following ways:

  • They are smarter and less fallible than us. This isn’t a crack about your intellect. The simple fact is these powerful NPCs have the wisdom and knowledge that comes with living a millennia or longer. Their force of personality and confidence are proportionate with their amazing abilities. They can create and destroy with a wave of a hand or single breath. How can a mortal person like DM to the stars Chris Perkins, let alone a plebeian like myself, be expected to inhabit nigh flawless beings and make them believable? My face is nowhere near the level of Selune’s beauty, nor does it match the terror of an ancient red dragon’s visage so it’s all to be about the acting… Right?
  • It’s hard to be scary, impressive, or intimidating. It’s especially difficult to be those things to friends you know well. When the PCs meet Bahamut or the Queen of Winter’s Court, you want the players to know they are before a mighty power, greater than any they ever faced. Of course when I give myself a fake Meryl Streep in The Iron Lady voice and pretend to be The Raven Queen, my players don’t react the way I want them to. They might feel the urge to cry but not from sheer overwhelming power. Rather that urge comes from the endless gales of laughter which have seized their bodies.
  • We put off playing powerful beings. PCs don’t usually meet powerful NPCs until they are higher level at a time when the PCs themselves are approaching godhood. Of course the players are less impressed with these beings. (“You can stop time? So can I, bub.”) Some players might even feel challenged by the fact that a someone, even if that person is a god, is speaking down to them, since most other NPCs rarely do at this point in the game. These players often answer such remarks with their own condescension or jokes, which can really take the wind out of the sails of many a great DM. Waiting a long time to introduce a powerful NPC in the flesh presents another problem. Since they only pop up at higher levels and continue to appear infrequently, DMs don’t have as much experience playing these beings as we do run-of-the-mill villains, henchmen, and patrons. That lack of practice can be harmful to our attempts to play these mighty individuals. To make matters worse, these powerful beings are often talked up over the course of fifteen levels of campaign story before they appear. That means Orcus has hours of expectations, legends, schemes, and battles with henchmen to live up to when he finally meets the PCs for the first time.
  • It’s easy to be cliche. My default for powerful beings used to be a deep voice, turns of phrase about shattering and/or saving the world, and using my DM authority to have the NPC “outsmart” the players at every turn. That meant there wasn’t much difference between Tiamat, Bel Shalor, Acerak, Kord, The Raven Queen, and every other powerful being the PCs met. Boring!

With all these pitfalls, you can see why some DMs (like me) are nervous when they wear the skin of a godly NPC. Well nineteen years of tabletop gaming has given me some tips about playing a powerful being I want to pass on.

Actions Speak Louder

I make television. One of the guiding principles of any producer working in the industry is, “Show. Don’t tell.” Rather than have the dragon boast about how she can fry adventurers to a crisp in a single breath, the PCs should witness her fire in action – melting stone in an instant or reducing a herd of cattle to ash. Gods can stop time and create or destroy matter with a snap of their fingers. Archfey can make a large oak grove spring forth from the ground with a wave of their hands. Before the PCs ever speak to a powerful NPC, set the stage with an awe-inspiring act beyond the capabilities of even level 20 character. Throughout the interaction, remember that these beings are more likely to demonstrate their power than boast about it.

Describe How Others React

Along the lines of showing and not telling, when a powerful NPC first shows up on the scene describe how other NPCs react to the being. Throngs of citizens and soldiers alike flee from the Tarrasque. The land’s mightiest warlord becomes a drooling puppy in the presence of the god of beauty. The way to the demon lord’s throne room is marked by groveling balors. Reactions like this demonstrate the might of these NPC to the players. If you can have a NPC the PCs trust and respect have a big reaction to a powerful being that is great way to impress the players. Imagine the players’ reactions to the strong, just king they have grown to love groveling for mercy at the feet of at the god of death. It’s a lot more moving than the god demanding the PCs kneel before him.

PCs Should Feel the Power

One mistake DMs can make is telling players they feel an emotion. Players can feel like their agency has been stripped away when you tell them, “You see Tiamat rise out of the Nine Hells and you now know true terror.” Unless a PC fails a saving throw against an effect like a calm emotions spell, DMs shouldn’t be providing an emotion for PCs to feel. That being said, I do think it’s fine for a DM to describe a PC’s physical reaction to a situation. The line is thin here, so let me give some examples.

The sheer power of one of these beings could make a person’s stomach churn or the hairs on the back of one’s neck stand. PCs could see an ancient red dragon breath fire a mile away, but feel an overwhelming burst of heat as if it were mere yards from them. Don’t go too far here. The description should be for flavor. PCs might feel their stomachs churn, but don’t make the characters vomit every time they see a demon prince (at least not without a saving throw). Again you want the players to feel the raw power of the presence before their characters, but maintain their own agency.

Introduce Them Early

If it works in your story, introduce a powerful NPC early. Think of all the video games like Skyrim and God of War where the hero meets the big bad and other major powers early in the story. Often the hero is too inexperienced and ill-equipped to take on the baddy or stand up to the gods, so their presence is far more intimidating than an initial meeting later in the game.

Meeting a powerful NPC can make an impression that lasts an entire campaign. If PCs meet the goddess of winter when they’re only level 1 and she freezes and shatters another NPC for insolence, your players will carry that image into every meeting with her thereafter.

Introducing a powerful NPC early in your game is good for you as the DM. It gives you more opportunities to role-play as the being which means you gain practice and confidence with every encounter you wear its skin.

Make Them Memorable

Like any NPC, you want to make the powerful ones memorable. Don’t rely on cliches like speaking with a deep voice and acting threatening or intimidating. Give them unique personalities. Use the NPC personality traits, ideals, bonds, and flaw tables in the Dungeon Master’s Guide to inspire original, creative characters. Maybe the god of the sun in your world is a young boy who is positive and playful, until the subject of the his sister and nemesis, the goddess of death, comes up. Then he turns dark and stormy. His hair changes color, his voice deepens, and his hands become angry, radiant fire. An ancient dragon might actually have a high, flutey voice and constantly talk about his impressive library, which he’s read all of twice. The Queen of Winter’s Court only communicates telepathically and her face always shows the opposite of her emotions. She scowls when she is happy and smiles when she is furious.

Don’t lean too hard on a powerful NPC’s flaws. Most gods, demon princes, archfey, dragons, and others are able to resist any temptation and outsmart any trap a mortal has to offer. These beings have lived a long time and are supremely confident, so save the moments they falter for later in the campaign when the PCs are higher level. If the PCs insight the event which lead the more villainous of these NPCs to fall, so much the better.

Let The Players Drive the Scene

When playing a powerful NPC, my first instinct is for that being to drive the scene. They see the PCs as bugs or pieces in a chess game, so they should take charge, right? Why should they care what the PCs have to say? That attitude can actually be quite boring for the PCs and again, it takes away their agency. Take some pressure off yourself, make the NPC’s introduction, and then allow the PCs to respond to the demands, pleas, or threats of the being. The NPC may be looking to answer any questions, start a fight, grant a quest, or take some other action, but always allow the players a chance to respond and ultimately decide where the scene goes. They’ll often take it to a place that surprises you and in the end they’ll respect that NPC even more.

If you like what you’re reading, please check out my podcasts on The Tome Show, follow me on Twitter, tell your friends and share this blog post, and/or leave me a comment and let me know you think. Thanks!

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A new episode of my podcast, Bonus Action, is up on The Tome Show’s website.


In this episode Sam Dillon and I discuss the rules for Reactions with a special focus on the Ready Action in D&D. You can find an explanation of this rule in the Player’s Basic Rules D&D PDF on pages 70 and 72 or in the Player’s Handbook on pages 190 and 193.


Sam’s Blog – rpgmusings.com


If you like what you’re reading please follow me on Twitter, check out my other podcasts, The Round Table and Gamer to Gamer, tell your friends, and/or leave me a comment and let me know you think. Thanks!

I’ve been doing a lot of updates on this blog of late and today the trend continues. Last year I wrote about new mounts available in an Exploration Age campaign. These rules were based on the information in the final D&D Next playtest packet. Today I present updated rules for mounts that flow better with the official fifth edition Dungeons and Dragons rules and statistics for the Exploration Age mounts. Take a look at the excerpt from the upcoming Exploration Age Campaign Guide below. (For the record, I thought of giant goats as mounts before The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies was released.)

 

Mounts

Canus is home to some bizarre and wonderful animals that serve as mounts. Many can cross certain types of difficult terrain at normal speed. The table below indicates which types of difficult terrain specific mounts can ignore. These are common mounts for sale, other fantastic mounts might be found and trained at the DM’s discretion. Descriptions are provided for the mounts which require them.

Mount Speed Ignored Difficult Terrain(s) Price
Bison 40 ft. Forest 100 gp
Dog Sled and Team 40 ft. Snowfields, Frozen Ocean 400 gp
Giant Goat 40 ft. Mountains 75 gp
Giant Lizard 30 ft., climb 30ft. Swamp, Marsh, Jungle 75 gp
Ornithopter 0 ft., fly 60 ft. See notes 20,000 gp
Ostrich 70 ft. None 150 gp
Reindeer 50 ft. Snowfields, Mountains, Frozen Ocean 150 gp
Riding Deer 50 ft. Forest 150 gp
Riding Turtle 10 ft., swim 50 ft. Swamp, Marsh 200 gp
Water Buffalo 40 ft. Swamp, Marsh, Jungle 150 gp
Yak 40 ft. Snowfields, Mountains 100 gp

Dogsled and Team. A team of 8 dogs comes with a sled, ready to pull a rider and gear across the frozen landscapes of Canus.

Mountain Ram. Huge goats large enough to hold a man were first trained by the Bragonian dwarves. Now they are the preferred method of travel for all who traverse mountainous peaks.

Ornithopter. This is a special one-person flying machine created by Bragonay’s artisans for reconnaissance and solo travel. Its bird-shape has huge flapping wings which allow for lift and propulsion. These wings are powered by the rider through foot pedals. An ornithopter can glide great distances.

Riding Deer. These over-sized white-tailed deer were first bred by elves to be large enough to hold a rider. They spring through wooded forests and hills with ease.

Riding Turtle. These enormous, freshwater turtles are large enough to hold one rider comfortably on the shell. The turtles are trained to swim on the surface, since most of their riders cannot breathe underwater, however, they can be commanded to dive and surface. Turtles like this are often used in lieu of boats when traveling on lakes and rivers.

Mount Stat Blocks

Here are the stat blocks for mounts from the Exploration Age Campaign Guide. Mounts not listed here can be found in the Monster Manual or Dungeon Master Basic Rules.

Bison

Large beast, unaligned


Armor Class 10 (natural armor)

Hit Points 30 (4d10 + 8)

Speed 40 ft.


STR DEX CON INT WIS CHA
18 (+4) 8 (-1) 14 (+2) 2 (-4) 10 (+0) 6 (-2)

Senses passive perception 10

Languages –

Challenge 1/2 (100 XP)


Trampling Charge. If the bison moves at least 20 feet straight toward a creature and then hits it with a hooves attack on the same turn, that target must succeed on a DC 14 Strength saving throw or be knocked prone. If the target is prone, the bison can make another attack with its hooves against it as a bonus action.

Actions

Hooves. Melee Weapon Attack: +6 to hit, reach 5 ft., one target. Hit: 11 (2d6 + 4) bludgeoning damage.

Ostrich

Medium beast, unaligned


Armor Class 15 (natural armor)

Hit Points 19 (3d10 + 3)

Speed 70 ft.


STR DEX CON INT WIS CHA
15 (+2) 18 (+4) 12 (+1) 2 (-4) 10 (+0) 6 (-2)

Senses passive perception 10

Languages –

Challenge 1/2 (100 XP)


Medium Mount. Ostriches can carry a rider of Medium size or smaller.

Trampling Charge. If the ostrich moves at least 20 feet straight toward a creature and then hits it with a talons attack on the same turn, that target must succeed on a DC 12 Strength saving throw or be knocked prone. If the target is prone, the ostrich can make another attack with its talons against it as a bonus action.

Actions

Talons. Melee Weapon Attack: +6 to hit, reach 5 ft., one target. Hit: 11 (2d6 + 4) piercing damage.

Reindeer

Large beast, unaligned


Armor Class 10

Hit Points 30 (4d10 + 8)

Speed 50 ft.


STR DEX CON INT WIS CHA
18 (+4) 10 (+0) 14 (+2) 2 (-4) 10 (+0) 6 (-2)

Senses passive perception 10

Languages –

Challenge 1/2 (100 XP)


Charge. If the reindeer moves at least 20 feet straight toward a target and the hits it with a ram attack on the same turn, the target takes an extra 7 (2d6) damage. If the target is a creature, it must succeed on a DC 14 Strength saving throw of be knocked prone.

Actions

Ram. Melee Weapon Attack: +6 to hit, reach 5 ft., one target. Hit: 7 (1d6 + 4) bludgeoning damage.

Hooves. Melee Weapon Attack: +6 to hit, reach 5 ft., one target. Hit: 9 (2d4 + 4) bludgeoning damage.

Riding Deer

Large beast, unaligned


Armor Class 14

Hit Points 19 (3d10 + 3)

Speed 50 ft.


STR DEX CON INT WIS CHA
14 (+2) 18 (+4) 12 (+1) 2 (-4) 14 (+2) 6 (-2)

Senses passive perception 12

Languages –

Challenge 1/2 (100 XP)


Charge. If the deer moves at least 20 feet straight toward a target and the hits it with a ram attack on the same turn, the target takes an extra 7 (2d6) damage. If the target is a creature, it must succeed on a DC 12 Strength saving throw of be knocked prone.

Actions

Bite. Melee Weapon Attack: +6 to hit, reach 5 ft., one target. Hit: 6 (1d4 + 4) piercing damage.

Ram. Melee Weapon Attack: +6 to hit, reach 5 ft., one target. Hit: 7 (1d6 + 4) bludgeoning damage.

Riding Turtle

Large beast, unaligned


Armor Class 12 (natural armor)

Hit Points 26 (4d10 + 4)

Speed 10 ft., swim 50 ft.


STR DEX CON INT WIS CHA
15 (+2) 8 (-1) 13 (+1) 2 (-4) 10 (+0) 5 (-3)

Senses passive perception 10

Languages –

Challenge 1/2 (100 XP)


Hold Breath. The turtle can hold its breath for 15 minutes.

Actions

Bite. Melee Weapon Attack: +4 to hit, reach 5 ft., one target. Hit: 6 (1d8 + 2) piercing damage.

Water Buffalo

Large beast, unaligned


Armor Class 10 (natural armor)

Hit Points 30 (4d10 + 8)

Speed 40 ft.


STR DEX CON INT WIS CHA
19 (+4) 8 (-1) 15 (+2) 2 (-4) 12 (+1) 5 (-3)

Senses passive perception 11

Languages –

Challenge 1 (200 XP)


Charge. If the buffalo moves at least 20 feet straight toward a target and the hits it with a gore attack on the same turn, the target takes an extra 9 (2d8) damage. If the target is a creature, it must succeed on a DC 14 Strength saving throw of be knocked prone.

Actions

Gore. Melee Weapon Attack: +6 to hit, reach 5 ft., one target. Hit: 13 (2d8 + 4) piercing damage.

Hooves. Melee Weapon Attack: +6 to hit, reach 5 ft., one target. Hit: 11 (2d6 + 4) bludgeoning damage.

Yak

Large beast, unaligned


Armor Class 10 (natural armor)

Hit Points 30 (4d10 + 8)

Speed 40 ft.


STR DEX CON INT WIS CHA
18 (+4) 8 (-1) 14 (+2) 2 (-4) 10 (+0) 5 (-3)

Senses passive perception 10

Languages –

Challenge 1 (200 XP)


Charge. If the yak moves at least 20 feet straight toward a target and the hits it with a gore attack on the same turn, the target takes an extra 9 (2d8) damage. If the target is a creature, it must succeed on a DC 14 Strength saving throw of be knocked prone.

Actions

Gore. Melee Weapon Attack: +6 to hit, reach 5 ft., one target. Hit: 13 (2d8 + 4) piercing damage.

Hooves. Melee Weapon Attack: +6 to hit, reach 5 ft., one target. Hit: 11 (2d6 + 4) bludgeoning damage.

Let’s PDF It Up!

Well I’ve added these mounts as a PDF to the Exploration Age bestiary in the Free Game Resources section of this site and in the links below.

All Monsters

EA Beasts

Enjoy!

If you like what you’re reading, please check out my podcasts on The Tome Show, follow me on Twitter, tell your friends and share this blog post, and/or leave me a comment and let me know you think. Thanks!


I sit down with Liz Theis, Wade Kemper, and Topher Kohan to talk about the upcoming release of D&D Dice Masters from Wiz Kids and the first fifth edition feedback survey. This podcast was recorded on February 8, 2015.

Links:

If you like what you’re reading please follow me on Twitter, check out my other podcasts, Bonus Action and Gamer to Gamer, tell your friends, and/or leave me a comment and let me know you think. Thanks!

4e Cosmology

On Tuesday I posted about adding new planes to the cosmology of Exploration Age. In today’s post I’d like to discuss Exploration Age’s overlap zones.

If you’re familiar with this blog you may remember the concept of overlap zones from my entry entitled The Planes months ago. Well, I’ve tweaked/completely changed a few things and now I want to show off the new overlap zones in Exploration Age. Take a look at the excerpt from the upcoming Exploration Age Campaign Guide below.

Overlap Zones

On Canus certain planes overlap with the Material Plane in different places. These areas are known as overlap zones. Within these overlap zones there are strange physical effects on the Material Plane. Perhaps more importantly permanent portals can be created between worlds within overlap zones.

Think about creatures who might make their home in or seek to control an overlap zone. A red dragon would make great use of its breath weapon and open a permanent portal to bring forth minions in a Plane of Fire overlap zone. A necromancer might build a tower in a portion of a swamp which overlaps with the Shadowfell to create resilient undead. A demon lord might seek to open an portal in an Abyss overlap zone, in order to bring forth a mighty army.

Overlap zones vary in size. An entire forest might be a Feywild or Arborea overlap zone as might a tiny rose garden on a castle estate. The size and frequency of overlap zones is up to the DM.

Each description below gives a plane and its various overlap zone effects. Any overlap zone effects end once outside the overlap zone, unless otherwise noted in the description.

  • Acheron. A creature gains 10 temporary hit points whenever it reduces another creature to 0 hit points.
  • Arborea. Plants in the zone act at the start of the initiative order. Any evil creature within 5 feet of a sizable plant, such as a tree or bush, must make a DC 15 Dexterity saving throw. On a failed save, the creature is restrained by the plant. The restrained creature can use its action to break free by making a DC 15 Strength (Athletics) or Dexterity (Acrobatics) check.
  • Arcadia. Creatures are immune to disease and any creature suffering from a disease is instantly cured upon entering the overlap zone.
  • The Abyss. Demons know the exact whereabouts of any non-evil creature within 100 feet of them.
  • The Beastlands. Any beasts gain a +2 bonus to AC and all creatures have advantage on Wisdom (Perception) checks.
  • The Blood Fields. The protection from evil and good and dispel evil and good have no effect.
  • Bytopia. At the end of a short or long rest, creatures of a lawful good or neutral good alignment gain 20 temporary hit points.
  • Carceri. When entering the overlap zone, all creatures must succeed on a DC 10 Charisma saving throw. Creatures who fail feel a rush of despair which lasts with them as long as they remain in the overlap zone and stays with the creature for a 24-hour period after leaving the overlap zone. This despair imposes disadvantage on all saving throws.
  • Elysium. Creatures in the overlap zone cannot be frightened.
  • Feywild. Spells which deal acid, cold, fire, lightning, or thunder damage deal an extra 5 damage per spell level of that damage type.
  • Gehenna. Creatures gain advantage on Charisma (Deception) checks.
  • Hades. It takes twice as long to gain the benefit of a short or long rest.
  • Limbo. Any solid ground in the area is constantly quaking. Once per hour all standing creatures must succeed on a DC 15 Dexterity saving throw or fall prone and take 1d6 bludgeoning damage and the ground around them shakes and moves.
  • Mechanus. Any creature who tries to lie must make a DC 15 Wisdom saving throw or be compelled to tell the truth.
  • Mount Celestia. The conjure celestial spell has a duration of 8 hours and does not require concentration.
  • Murderfall. When a creature scores a critical hit, it rolls all of the attack’s damage dice three times and adds them together with any modifiers to calculate damage.
  • The Nine Hells. Devils know the exact whereabouts of any non-evil creature within 100 feet of them.
  • Pandemonium. Strong winds in the area prevent creatures from flying higher than 10 feet off the ground.
  • Plane of Air. Creatures without a fly speed gain a fly speed equal to their walking speed. Creatures with a fly speed have their fly speed doubled.
  • Plane of Earth. While in the zone, an effect that would normally kill a creature instead causes it to regain hit points equal to its hit point maximum and become a petrified stone statue.
  • Plane of Fire. Spells and attacks which deal fire damage, deal an extra 10 fire damage.
  • Plane of Water. Creatures can breathe underwater and creatures with a swim speed have their swim speed doubled.
  • Savalization. Civilized (as determined by the DM) humanoids have disadvantage on all Intelligence, Wisdom, and Charisma saving throws and ability checks.
  • Shadowfell. Undead creatures resist all damage except bludgeoning and radiant.
  • Stryfe. Creatures who die are targeted by a reincarnate spell.
  • Ysgard. A creature heals 5 hit points whenever it reduces another creature to 0 hit points.

What Do You Think?

Overlap zones can be used in many campaign settings. Let me know if you plan to use them or a similar idea in your world!

If you like what you’re reading, please check out my podcasts on The Tome Show, follow me on Twitter, tell your friends and share this blog post, and/or leave me a comment and let me know you think. Thanks!

I was on a recent episode of The Tome Show! I was part of an awesome team which reviewed the Dungeon Master’s Guide.


The Tome Show’s 5e review team gets together one last time to review the final book in the core D&D 5e 2014 release. Hosts Jeff Greiner and Tracy Hurley are joined by Mike Shea and me. (Sam Dillon was unable to attend the recording.) The group discusses the good, the bad, and the ugly of the 5e Dungeon Master’s Guide.


Links:


If you like what you’re reading, please check out my podcasts on The Tome Show, follow me on Twitter, tell your friends and share this blog post, and/or leave me a comment and let me know you think. Thanks!

Months ago I wrote about the cosmology of Exploration Age in posts cleverly titled The Planes and More Planes. Since reading the Dungeon Master’s Guide, it’s clear that fifth edition Dungeons and Dragons has fully embraced the multiverse once again. Instead of creating a new cosmology for Exploration Age, I’ve decided it’s part of the D&D multiverse. That being said, Exploration Age is my setting. While I’m adding a new material plane to The Great Wheel, I also have a few other planes of my own to add. Take a look at the excerpt from the upcoming Exploration Age Campaign Guide below. Some of you may recognize these planes as updated versions of those seen in the previous posts.

New Planes

Canus is part of the multiverse. From there one can journey to many other fantastic worlds. While many of these planes of existence are worlds discussed in other books, there are some introduced for the first time in this text. Below are new planes which can be used as part of an Exploration Age campaign.

Blood Fields

There is a plane which connects The Nine Hells to The Abyss. Here, many battles of the Blood War between devils and demons play out. Whatever this plane’s natural form, the Blood War’s battles long ago changed the environment. Boiling rivers of blood, acid rain, mountains which spew thunder and lightning, swirling winds of necrotic energy, and more ravage the land.

Because of all the battles fought on the Blood Fields, it is possible to find discarded Abyssal and Infernal weapons of great power… provided a person could survive the harsh environments and the battles between bloodthirsty fiends.

Optional Rule: Power in Slaughter

When one creature kills another with an attack, the attacking creatures gains a +5 bonus to damage rolls until the end of its next turn.

Murderfall

An infinite region of mountains, forests, tunnels, and swamps makeup Murderfall, the land where everything wants to kill everything else. All life native to this plane takes pleasure in murder and the death of others. The creatures who live here are mostly human, but elves, dwarves, halflings, and others can also be found hunting each other in the wilds. These humanoids will occasionally band together for survival and to hunt. Despite sometimes lasting for several years, these small groups always end in violence and death. The individuals know it when the groups form. No one dies of old age in Murderfall.

The animals and many plants here are just as violent as the humanoids. Carnivores kill more than they can eat and prey on each other. Herbivores might eat plants, but they charge, bite, and attack any life they have a chance of killing. Huge Venus flytraps, assassin vines, poison-spore-spewing fungi, razorvine, and more make up the dangerous plant life.

More nefarious individuals will often send their enemies to Murderfall. Doing this almost guarantees a person will disappear never to return.

Optional Rule: Seducing Violence

When outsiders enter Murderfall, they must succeed on a DC 15 Wisdom saving throw. A failed save allows the murderous magic of the plane to take hold of victims’ mind and creatures who fail attack any other living creature they can sense until it dies. Creatures who fail this saving throw can repeat it again at the end of their next turn, ending the effect on a success. Creatures must make a new saving every 24 hours spent on Murderfall. If they leave Murderfall the effect ends. Creatures native to Murderfall are immune to this effect.

Savalization

There is a strange plane which overlaps with the Material Plane, like the Shadowfell or the Feywild. In Savalization those who are considered savage humanoids on other planes rule the land, while those who would be considered civilized humanoids live in mountain caves, underground caverns, dank swamps, and dark ruins. This strange world is ruled by cultured, well-dressed ogres, gnolls, and more, who try to keep the humans, elves, and other raiding species at bay. Humanoids from other planes who travel to this world are as misunderstood as they are confused. This confusion usually means that few travel to Savalization and most of its natives do not leave the plane for the same reason. On most other planes an ogre is almost always to met with swords and arrows, even if that ogre is a well-spoken fop.

Those outsiders who dare to venture into Savalization can find very rare art and objects created by these unique civilizations. Some brave merchants are making plans to open trade routes to Savalization since the profits could be enormous. Of course one wrong could ignite a planar war that wouldn’t be good for anyone. Savalization’s armies have some of the greatest warriors in the multiverse.

Optional Rule: Savage Species

Whenever an outsider of a normally civilized race (usually those available as PC races, but the ultimate choice lies with the DM) enters Savalization, that creature must make a DC 15 Wisdom saving throw. On a failed save, that creature’s Intelligence and Wisdom scores are lowered by 2 to a minimum of 3 and its Strength and Constitution scores are raised by 2 to a maximum of 24. If the creature leaves Savalization, this effect ends.

Stryfe

Stryfe is an outer plane locked in perpetual war. The rakshasa and the deva fight in a never-ending battle of opposed dichotomies on an infinite sea of dark sky and islands of stormy clouds which create the plane. In this exhaustive war the participants are constantly reborn – sometimes as the beings which they claim to hate the most.

For when deva are slain on Stryfe they are reborn, but if they have lived a wicked life they come back as rakshasa. If rakshasa are slain, they too are reborn, but if their hearts have been changed from evil to good they are reborn as deva. Each side believes that if they are able to fully convert the other, their almighty God, Zaxa, will live again.

Deva have bards who sing at the top of their voices in battles. These bards focus on songs of selfless heroic deeds and the value of good. It is the hope of the deva forces these songs will change the hearts of the rakshasa before their deaths in battle and bring the evil beings back as one of the deva’s own. This tactic rarely works, but it is only one method the deva use to convert their foes. Many defeated rakshasa are taken as prisoners of the deva, confined to small, anti-magic cells, where they are shackled. The deva then engage the rakshasa in a sort of conditioning to try to make them see the light. This tactic has some success, but the rakshasa actually seem to be slowly winning the war.

The rakshasa tactic is very straight forward. They commit acts of atrocious evil against the deva and try to make the deva retaliate in kind. The eternal war has broken the spirit of many deva and some are pushed over the edge by the horrific acts of the rakshasa.

Optional Rule: Reincarnation

When a creature who is not a rakshasa or a deva dies on Stryfe, that creature is immediately affected by a reincarnate spell.

Do You Like ‘Em?

So what do you think of these new planes? Would you use them in your game? Let me know and sound off in the comments below!

If you like what you’re reading, please check out my podcasts on The Tome Show, follow me on Twitter, tell your friends and share this blog post, and/or leave me a comment and let me know you think. Thanks!


I sit down with Vegas Lancaster, Dave Gibson, Sam Dillon, and Jeff Greiner to talk about some recent layoffs on the D&D team at Wizards of the Coast and the Unearthed Arcana 5e Eberron update. This podcast was recorded on February 5, 2015.

Links:

If you like what you’re reading please follow me on Twitter, check out my other podcasts, Bonus Action and Gamer to Gamer, tell your friends, and/or leave me a comment and let me know you think. Thanks!

This month’s RPG Blog Carnival theme is How/Where You Write/Prep chosen by V.A. over at Leicester’s Ramble. So it’s all about where and how people like me and all the other creators and GMs out there write for tabletop RPGs. Whether you write homebrew adventures, a blog, novels, short stories, supplements, articles, or rule books, this information is for you.

My Schedule

Like most of you I have an insane schedule. I’ve got a full-time job, three regular podcasts, and freelance assignments. I’m in a committed relationship with an amazing woman that I enjoy putting time and energy into. I run two D&D games. I’ve got family relationships and friendships to maintain. I also have the human requirements of food, clean clothes, showers, exercise, and sleep. I don’t even have kids or school to attend like many of you and I’ve already got a full schedule. So when am I supposed to write for this blog and my campaigns?

My Happy Place – The Commute

I have a 20-minute to 30-minute (one way) commute to work that uses public transportation. While I’m waiting for and on the train, I write. That’s what I’m doing as I write this sentence. Even if if have to stand on the train and hang onto the bar over my head with one hand because all the seats are taken, I write. Even if my commute is as fast as can be each day of the work week (and that never happens with the Washington, DC metro), that’s 3 hours and 20 minutes of solid writing I can get done each week.

I do this writing on my iPhone using the Notes app. I can email, text, and copy/paste my words with a few quick finger motions. Notes is linked to my Google account so all the work I do is automatically backed up. Combine this with the WordPress app I also have on my phone and posting a blog update is a breeze.

Of course, using a smartphone is not ideal for editing. That’s why the man (in his corporate anti-rock-and-roll visage) created the lunch break.

Edit During Lunch

I’ll be honest. I hate editing. I’m sure Greg Blair can attest to this fact as he has found many a typo in my blog over the past year and emailed me about them. (Thanks, Greg!)

Still, editing is one of the most important parts of the writing process. Editing is shaping your lump-of-clay words into a beautiful statue. It never takes as long as you think and if you can find time to write, you can find time to edit.

I like to edit my work during my lunch hour. This works out well for me since I don’t need to edit every single day. I usually need only two hours of edit time a week, depending on how many projects I have going and how many PDFs I’m trying to put up on the Free Game Resources section of this site. That gives me three hours for whatever I need to do, like grab lunch with a friend, catch up on work for my day job, run errands, write podcast notes, etc. Giving myself two guaranteed hours of edit time is great and I try to use them at the beginning of the week. That way if I need some extra edit time I can try to use my lunch hours later in the week to help me out.

The Editing Exception

I must admit that there is one thing I never edit and that’s my home campaign notes. Good lord are they riddled with typos and mistakes, but it doesn’t matter! Those notes are just for me and I know what I meant. Unless you’re planning on sharing your home campaign notes, don’t worry about editing. Save yourself some time (and also use helpful organizational tools and improv techniques to cut down on your prep time).

Best Laid Plans

Sometimes all the lunch hours and commute time in the world aren’t enough to get a project done. Sometimes life gets busy and all your time free time is spent doing stuff that isn’t writing. In these cases I still have my favorite time to write, which is the early morning.

Starting the day off writing is like starting the day off with a great workout. You feel accomplished and ready to face the rest of the day once the task is complete. If you can wake up and get going before anyone else in your household, that’s even better. Your distractions are limited because the rest of the world is sleeping or just waking up. Email, Facebook, Twitter, texts, and more are just as sleepy as the rest of the world. The quiet and the good night’s sleep you just had put you at the top of your writing game. The anxiety you felt the day before as stress built up over work, family, etc. is gone or at least lessened at the start of a new day.

There’s another great reason I like to write at the start of the day. The work gets done sooner. That writing is no longer hanging over my head. Even if you enjoy writing, waiting until the last moment to complete something makes it feel like a chore. It can conjure up bad memories of pulling all-nighters to finish a school assignment. Write in the morning and you’ll be less stressed the rest of the day.

Music

When I’m writing I tend to like music without lyrics or music with lyrics I know by heart. For me lyrics I don’t know very well become distracting. (Did she just say she wants to see my peacock?!?) Depending on what I’m writing I usually opt for something thematic for fantasy, like a John Williams and Hans Zimmer station on Pandora, or I go with something upbeat to help the words flow and keep me in a good mood. That’s where my favorite bands The Mighty Mighty Bosstones and Action Slacks help out. I’ve been listening to them forever so the lyrics don’t trip me up and their fast-paced songs help the words flow like ambrosia.

Listening to music can help you get inspired and write faster, so if you’re on a schedule grab a favorite album or appropriately theme soundtrack and get rocking.

What About You?

How do you like to write and what helps you be super quick? I’m always looking for more tips so sound off in the comments below!

If you like what you’re reading, please check out my podcasts on The Tome Show, follow me on Twitter, tell your friends and share this blog post, and/or leave me a comment and let me know you think. Thanks!

A new episode of my podcast, Bonus Action, is up on The Tome Show’s website.


In this episode Sam Dillon and I discuss the Initiative mechanic in D&D. You can find an explanation of this rule in the Player’s Basic Rules D&D PDF on page 69 or in the Player’s Handbook on page 189.


Sam’s Blog – rpgmusings.com


If you like what you’re reading please follow me on Twitter, check out my other podcasts, The Round Table and Gamer to Gamer, tell your friends, and/or leave me a comment and let me know you think. Thanks!