Archive for April, 2015

Liberal Advantage

Posted: April 30, 2015 in Uncategorized

I want my players to take risks. Games are always more fun when the fighter wants to climb up the dragon’s back and hack it to pieces as it flies through the air instead of just shooting a longbow at the beast from a safe distance. Yet many players take the latter option and play it safe.

I understand their desire for safety. A lot of time and energy is poured into making and maintaining their characters. From the first session many of my players give their creations pages of backstory and the character already represents hours of precious work. In their minds that character dying could make all that work worthless (though it doesn’t, but that’s another post). Most players already have an endgame in mind for their character which more often involves the phrase “raised to godhood,” rather than, “pooped out by a dragon.”

So how does one encourage players to take risks? Fifth edition Dungeons and Dragons introduced the advantage and inspiration mechanics for just this kind of thing.

Why roll one d20 when you could roll two?

 

Advantage and Inspiration

The following excerpts are from the free fifth edition Dungeons and Dragons Basic Rules.

Advantage and Disadvantage

Sometimes an ability check, attack roll, or saving throw is modified by special situations called advantage and disadvantage. Advantage reflects the positive circumstances surrounding a d20 roll, while disadvantage reflects the opposite. When you have either advantage or disadvantage, you roll a second d20 when you make the roll. Use the higher of the two rolls

Inspiration

Your DM can choose to give you inspiration for a variety of reasons. Typically, DMs award it when you play out your personality traits, give in to the drawbacks presented by a flaw or bond, and otherwise portray your character in a compelling way. Your DM will tell you how you can earn inspiration in the game.

You either have inspiration or you don’t—you can’t stockpile multiple “inspirations” for later use.

If you have inspiration, you can expend it when you make an attack roll, saving throw, or ability check. Spending your inspiration gives you advantage on that roll.

So granting advantage on a PC’s ability, attack, or saving throw roll or giving a PC inspiration gives a bit of a security net in an extra d20 that encourages that player to take a risk. Some good examples of when to grant advantage and inspiration are in the Basic Rules and Player’s Handbook, but there are other plenty of other opportunities for DMs to grant these gifts.

When I Give Advantage

Be consistent and fair in your dolling out of advantage. If one player gets advantage for giving a great description, make sure another player gets advantage in similar circumstances. Once your players catch on to when you grant advantage, they’ll feel a little more secure in taking risks.

I will grant advantage if…

  • …a player provides a good reason. We’ve all heard from the player who constantly asks, “Can I get advantage on this attack?” My response to this question is, “Why?” If the player gives me a compelling reason (like I know this enemy fears spiders and I’ve got a tarantula on my shoulder or the dagger I’m attacking this monster with was hidden in my sleeve until I made the attack) I’ll go ahead and give the advantage. The player doesn’t have to ask. If I can see a good reason to grant advantage on a check (like the monster you’re trying to intimidate just watched you murder its ally) I’ll go ahead and give it.
  • …a player gives a great description of its action. When a player describes an action in a way that really moves me or paints a great picture, I’ll grant that action’s roll advantage. If the bard gives a speech to gain a king’s support against orc invaders and that speech moves me, that PC has advantage on the Charisma (Persuasion) check. If the rogue describes diving behind an overturned table by kicking off the chest of a foe and it makes my heart pound, that PC has advantage on the Dexterity saving throw against an enemy fireball. Not only does this encourage your PCs to take risks, but they build the story with their actions beyond rolling dice.
  • …the action is tied directly to the PC’s background. If a character with the criminal background risks life and limb by intimidating the master of the thieve’s guild based on the PC’s past reputation, that Charisma (Intimidation) check has advantage. These actions need to be deeply tied to the specific PC’s background in order to fly with me (for instance a character with the soldier background doesn’t get advantage on every attack).

When I Give Inspiration

When awarding inspiration, remember the same rules as granting advantage apply. Be consistent and fair in your inspiration giving and your players will soon be taking more risks.

I will grant inspiration if…

  • …a player role-plays well. This is why inspiration was created. If players have an exceptional role-playing experience which gives me some good laughs, cries, or other feels, the PCs involved are given inspiration.
  • …a player takes a big risk. If a player takes a big risk (like the aforementioned climbing onto the back of the dragon), I’ll grant that player advantage BEFORE rolling for the risky action. That way the player can choose to use inspiration to gain advantage on the risky action.
  • …a players does a stupid thing in character. Sometimes a PC makes a decision the player knows isn’t the best choice, but is in keeping with the character created. A greedy PC might go opening chests before checking for traps and a prideful PC might attempt to beat up the much larger half-orc at the bar for name-calling. My one criteria for these stupid actions is that in order for the player to gain advantage the action must only put that player’s character at risk. I don’t need my PCs stabbing each other to gain inspiration.
  • …players ask for themselves. Inspiration is a new mechanic. Sometimes I forget about it! So I told my players if they think they are deserving of it, they can ask for it. If they ask and meet any of the prerequisites above, I’ll let them have it. This idea was taken from Mike Shea of slyflourish.com.
  • …players ask for others. Just like I forget about inspiration, my players might forget to ask. That’s why anyone can ask for anyone else at my table, because at any given moment someone will remember it’s a thing we should be using.

When I Grant Automatic Success

Of course there are rare times an automatic success is called for. Again consistency and fairness are called for here and I only grant automatic successes on ability checks, not attack rolls or saving throws. When players see there are ways to immediately succeed, they may take all kinds of risks to get that automatic success.

I will grant an automatic success if…

  • …a player has a trump card. PCs looking to strike a pact with the corrupt mayor automatically succeed if they bring a large enough bribe. The barbarian looking to intimidate the white dragon automatically succeeds by dropping the dragon’s mother’s head at the beast’s feet. The rogue opening a door doesn’t need to pick the lock when a key is on hand. These are the kinds of trump cards which grant automatic success. Note all involve risks to acquire. The mayor’s bribe  requires the PCs to earn gold in some way, the white dragon intimidation involves slaying a larger dragon, and the rogue must steal the key before opening the door.
  • …a player provides a five-star description of an action. I mean really, really stellar. I don’t need to be moved to tears, but I should come close. If a description is just great, it gets the player advantage. It needs to be a perfect description for me to grant automatic success. These kinds of descriptions happen once a session or less in my games.
  • …a player must succeed or the action is boring. This method doesn’t really inspire taking big risks, but if the player must succeed on the check to move the story along (like learning the location of a nearby dungeon) or if the action is boring and there’s no outside source of pressure (like having all the time in the world to climb a knotted rope), the player automatically succeeds.

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The story of The Wubba Wubba is not my own. In fact I have to give credit to master storyteller R. A. Salvatore for this. The creator of Drizzt Do’Urden, Cadderly Bonaduce, Cattie-Brie Battlehammer, and so many more of fantasy’s greatest always gives this response when asked why he loves games.

For those who don’t have the time or patience to watch I’ll sum up (though you should really watch it because it is a fun story told by a master storyteller). R. A. Salvatore had a D&D character who found a modified wand of wonder which had more options and randomness than the original. He kept killing a friend by accident and it was hilarious. He loves those kind of random events in games and that’s why he plays them.

I love R. A. Salvatore so I’m going to make my own version of the wand of wonder which he dubbed The Wubba Wubba (because the DM required he yell “Wubba wubba!” whenever he used it). I want to make an updated version of the item which works with the fifth edition Dungeons and Dragons rules.

Crafting The Wubba Wubba

The challenge of making The Wubba Wubba is that rolling on a bunch of different random tables can really slow game play. Yet the new edition of D&D is all about simple, fast results. How does one combine the two and get them to play nice?

I thought of a quick solution that generates 1 of 160 results. Roll two different dice together whenever The Wubba Wubba is used. Because the dice are different the person rolling them knows exactly which die pertains to which table, like when rolling attack and damage dice at the same time. You’ll see exactly how it works in the item’s description below.

The Wubba Wubba should encourage its wielder to get mischievous. I mean that literally so I made the item intelligent and gave it a provocative personality. Take a look below and let know what you think in the comments!

The Wubba Wubba

Wand, legendary (requires attunement by a non-lawful spellcaster)

At a glance this wand appears to be a normal wand of wonder but closer investigation reveals the multicolored gems along its length spell out the phrase, “Wubba Wubba,” in Common.

The legend of The Wubba Wubba is known far and wide, initially told and spread by epic poet Bob the Bard who wielded one of the wands. Only three were crafted before their creator, Michael the Prankster, disappeared in a planar magic accident. The item is both feared and sought after by scholars, for it is ever unpredictable, but holds great power.

While attuned the caster has advantage on all Charisma (Deception) checks and Charisma saving throws. Unlike a normal wand, The Wubba Wubba has unlimited charges.

Chaotic Magic. While holding the wand you can use an action to target a creature within 60 feet, shout, “Wubba wubba!” and then roll 1d8 and 1d20 on the tables below. The d8 corresponds to the first table, Schools of Magic, while the d20 corresponds to the table indicated by the first table. The Wubba Wubba uses your spellcasting ability modifier, spell save DC, and spellcasting attack bonus. The Wubba Wubba can only maintain the magic of one concentration spell at a time.

The Wubba Wubba Schools of Magic

d8 School
1 Abjuration
2 Conjuration
3 Divination
4 Enchantment
5 Evocation
6 Illusion
7 Necromancy
8 Transmutation

The Wubba Wubba Abjuration Effects

d20 Effect
1 Dispel magic cast on target.
2 Protection from energy cast on self.
3 Magic circle cast centered on self.
4 Nondetection cast on self.
5 Banishment cast on target.
6 Freedom of movement cast on self.
7 You gain 20 temporary hit points.
8 You gain a +1 bonus to AC for 1 hour.
9 Shield cast on self.
10 Sanctuary cast on self.
11 You resist bludgeoning, piercing, and slashing damage from nonmagical weapons for 1 minute.
12 High-pitched whistle sound which can be heard for 60 feet follows target making it easy to pinpoint even when invisible or hiding for 1 minute.
13 You resist necrotic and radiant damage for 1 minute.
14 You resist acid, cold, lightning, and fire damage for 1 minute.
15 You resist psychic damage for 1 minute.
16 You resist all damage until the end of your next turn.
17 You are immune to any damage dealt by cantrips for 1 minute.
18 You gain advantage on all saving throws against spells for 1 minute.
19 You gain advantage on all Constitution saving throws for 1 minute.
20 You gain advantage on all Dexterity saving throws for 1 minute.

The Wubba Wubba Conjuration Effects

d20 Effect
1 You switch places with the target.
2 Stinking cloud cast centered on target.
3 Sleet storm cast centered on target.
4 Hunger of Hadar cast centered on target.
5 Conjure animals cast.
6 Fog cloud cast centered on target.
7 Evard’s black tentacles cast centered on target.
8 Tidal wave cast centered on target.
9 Conjure woodland beings cast.
10 Conjure minor elementals cast.
11 Spirit guardians cast.
12 Cloud of dagger cast centered on target.
13 Web cast centered on target.
14 A swarm of insects hostile to all creatures appears adjacent to the target and attacks for 1 minute.
15 A gelatinous cube hostile to all creatures appears adjacent to the target and attacks 1 minute.
16 You teleport 60 feet in the direction of the target.
17 Grease cast centered on target.
18 A random trinket from trinkets table (Player’s Handbook chapter 5) appears at your feet.
19 You teleport 60 feet away from the target.
20 Conjure barrage cast.

The Wubba Wubba Divination Effects

d20 Effect
1 Comprehend languages cast on self.
2 Detect thoughts cast on target.
3 See invisibility cast on self.
4 Add a d20 bonus to your next attack roll.
5 Add a d12 bonus to your next damage roll.
6 Tongues cast on self.
7 You have advantage on the next saving throw, ability check, or attack roll you make.
8 Target has disadvantage on its next saving throw, ability check, or attack roll you make.
9 Detect magic cast.
10 Find traps cast.
11 Speak with animals cast on self.
12 You learn one of the target’s secrets.
13 You learn one of the target’s fears.
14 You learn the name and location of the target’s best friend.
15 You learn the name and location of target’s most prized material possession.
16 You can turn the next hit against you into a miss.
17 You can turn your next attack roll into a natural 20.
18 Target’s next saving throw is a natural 1.
19 Tongues cast on target.
20 Detect good and evil cast.

The Wubba Wubba Enchantment Effects

d20 Effect
1 Charm person cast on target.
2 Command cast on target.
3 Heroism cast on self.
4 Sleep cast centered on target.
5 Tasha’s hideous laughter cast on target.
6 Zone of truth cast centered on target.
7 Hold person cast on target.
8 Suggestion cast on target.
9 Calm emotions cast on target.
10 Confusion cast centered on target.
11 Crown of madness cast on target.
12 Enthrall cast on target.
13 Friends cast on target.
14 Compulsion cast on target.
15 Bless cast on self and two closest creatures.
16 Bane cast on target and two creatures closest to target.
17 You and creatures within 10 feet gain 15 temporary hit points.
18 Dominate person cast on target.
19 Compelled duel cast on target.
20 Your Strength score becomes 24 for 1 minute.

The Wubba Wubba Evocation Effects

d20 Effect
1 Fireball cast centered on target.
2 Fireball cast centered on self.
3 Lightning bolt cast at target.
4 Fire shield cast on self.
5 Cone of cold cast.
6 Shatter cast centered on target.
7 Spiritual weapon cast.
8 Ice storm cast centered on target.
9 Otiluke’s resilient sphere cast on target.
10 Otiluke’s resilient sphere cast on self.
11 Speak with animals cast on self.
12 Magic missile cast.
13 Daylight cast on The Wubba Wubba.
14 Chromatic orb cast at target.
15 Storm sphere cast centered on target.
16 Vitriolic sphere cast centered on target.
17 Erupting earth cast centered on target.
18 Gust of wind cast.
19 Darkness cast on The Wubba Wubba.
20 Melf’s acid arrow cast at target.

The Wubba Wubba Illusion Effects

d20 Effect
1 Blur cast on self.
2 Invisibility cast on self.
3 Mirror image cast on self.
4 Silence cast centered on target.
5 Fear cast.
6 Greater invisibilty cast on self.
7 Hypnotic pattern cast centered on target.
8 Phantasmal force cast on target.
9 Phantasmal killer cast on target.
10 Hallucinatory terrain cast centered on target.
11 Major image cast.
12 Disguise self cast on self.
13 Silent image cast.
14 Color spray cast.
15 Phantom steed cast.
16 You appear to grow a unicorn horn for 1 hour.
17 Your eyes seem to change color (DM’s choice) for 8 hours.
18 Nystul’s magic aura cast on self.
19 Minor illusion cast.
20 You appear as if you are on fire for 1 hour.

The Wubba Wubba Necromancy Effects

d20 Effect
1 Blindness/deafness cast on target.
2 Ray of sickness cast at target.
3 Ray of enfeedblement cast at target.
4 Animate dead cast on closest corpse.
5 Bestow curse cast on target.
6 Feign death cast on self.
7 Blight cast on target.
8 Chill touch cast on target.
9 False life cast on self.
10 Gentle repose cast on closest corpse.
11 2d4 zombies rise from the ground and attack all living creatures.
12 2d4 skeletons rise from the ground and attack all living creatures.
13 The closest vampire suddenly hungers for your blood.
14 1d4 wights rise from the ground and attack all living creatures.
15 Vampiric touch cast on self.
16 You learn the location of the seven closest humanoid corpses.
17 Protective bone armor grows around you, granting you a +2 bonus to AC for 1 hour.
18 Target loses 5 hit points and you gain 5 hit points.
19 You have advantage on all Charisma (Intimidation) checks for 1 hour.
20 A zombie ally rises from the ground and serves you for 1 hour.

The Wubba Wubba Transmutation Effects

d20 Effect
1 Blink cast on self.
2 Fly cast on self.
3 Gaseous form cast on self.
4 Haste cast on self.
5 Slow cast on target.
6 Speak with plants cast on self.
7 Water breathing cast on self.
8 Polymorph cast on target.
9 Stoneskin cast on self.
10 Polymorph cast on self.
11 Spider climb cast on self.
12 Alter self cast on self.
13 Jump cast on self.
14 Enlarge/reduce cast on self (reduce only).
15 Enlarge/reduce cast on self (enlarge only).
16 Heat metal cast on closest held metal weapon.
17 Heat metal cast on closest worn metal armor.
18 Your skin turns blue for 1 week.
19 Giant insect cast.
20 Darkvision cast on self.

Sentience. The Wubba Wubba is a sentient chaotic neutral wand with an Intelligence of 16, a Wisdom of 10, and a Charisma of 19. It has hearing and darkvision out to a range of 120 feet.

The weapon can speak, read, and understand Common, and can communicate with its wielder telepathically. Its voice is energetic and cartoony. While you are attuned to it, The Wubba Wubba also understands every language you know.

Personality. The Wubba Wubba exists to have a great time. It cracks bawdy jokes and then laughs out loud at itself. It encourages its wielder to prank friends, engage in revelry, and above all use the wand’s Chaotic Magic feature as often as possible.

If the wielder is a true partier and friend to The Wubba Wubba, the wand will fiercely defend the wielder from any japes or cutting remarks. The Wubba Wubba is quick to judge and if it doesn’t like someone that person will certainly know it, since the wand doesn’t keep its mouth shut. The wand does not suffer bullies of any kind and has no respect for authority.

The wand has an irrational fear of spiders. Any size spider within the wand’s sight causes the wand to howl in fear like a small child. In battle with arachnid foes The Wubba Wubba prefers its wielder to keep a healthy distance away but cheers with delight when all enemies are vanquished.

PDF

Yes, I did indeed make this very special item available as a PDF. You can download just The Wubba Wubba or get it along with 82 other magic items I designed for Exploration Age. You can get it all in the link below or feel free to head on over to the Free Game Resources section of this site to grab it whenever you like along with tons of monstersD&D fifth edition rules modules, backgroundsspells, and more

Wubba Wubba, The

All Magic Items

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 Andrew Kane, Vegas Lancaster, Topher Kohan, and Greg Blair to discuss the recent announcement that virtual table Fantasy Grounds will now sell officially licensed Dungeons and Dragons products and an Unearthed Arcana article about modifying fifth edition D&D classes which also provides a favored soul sorcerer build and a ranger without spells. This podcast was recorded on April 16, 2015.

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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!

NOTE: The werespider previously featured here is now part of my Pay What You Want DMs Guild product Arachnids, Wraiths, & Zombies.

Sometimes you just want to shake things up. You need to spice up combat and add a few hazards to keep players on their toes. Sometimes you want to go further and do something really crazy. In keeping with Sam Van Der Wall of RPG Alchemy‘s Blog Carnival theme, “The Combat Experience,” I’m going to show off one of my favorite encounters. One where I turned the battle mat on its side. Keep reading. You’ll see what I mean.

Mario and Luigi

When we play Dungeons and Dragons with a battle mat and miniatures we are usually dealing with two dimensions, just like most old Nintendo games. Often in D&D those two dimensions are an overhead or bird’s eye view like in The Legend of Zelda.

We see Link and octoroks as if we were above looking down on them.

Yet many other Nintendo games had a side view like Double Dragon.

We see Billy Lee kicking some butt as if we were standing to the side.

I began to imagine what a battle in a side view might look like on a battle mat. In order to get the most out of the map, I’d need the battle to have a lot of vertical levels, otherwise the encounter wouldn’t be very dynamic and all of the non-flying creatures would just hangout at the bottom of the grid. I also wanted the encounter to be contained on the battle mat. When flipping things from bird’s eye to side view, it becomes very easy to run out of map space as creatures move around. The map doesn’t follow you like a camera in a video game.

There might be a few of you who remember the old Mario Bros. game. I’m talking arcade style before the Marios were going into castles to rescue Princess Peach from Bowser. I’m talking two dudes facing off in the sewers trying to kick over as many koopa shells as possible to get some points to win a game. If Mario ran off one side of the screen, he appeared on the other (which solves my running off the map problem). It looked like this…

I’m sure the older gamers among us remember.

Well that game inspired an encounter with my players that I designed and we throughly enjoyed.

The Ladder of Insanity

The PCs had to make their way to the Underdark via a massive column known as The Ladder of Insanity. The huge column plunged miles underground and its face was marked with crumbling 5-foot wide ledges and stairs, which are just wide enough for a creatures to travel single file.

The characters found the further down The Ladder of Insanity they got, the more ruin and disrepair became obstacles. Whole sections of ledges and staircases were missing or ready to plunge into the darkness. As the PCs negotiated these hazards, a crew of drow bandits lead by a werespider appeared and attacked. The battle mat looked something like this…

Screen Shot 2015-04-22 at 5.44.45 PM

Behold! The Ladder of Insanity!

Now I made that map in Roll20 and used digital tokens for the PCs instead of their beautiful array of bird’s eye view digital miniatures.

Screen Shot 2015-04-22 at 5.25.35 PM

Miniature on the left, token on the right.

I recommend using tokens instead of minis in a side view encounter. You could use miniatures, but they are made specifically for bird’s eye view encounters. It is going to be more difficult for your players to wrap their minds around a side view encounter with miniatures unless you place them on their sides, but that could damage some more delicate minis.

After the map was created I wrote down a few quick mechanics for the battle.

  • The map wraps around the column. So if PCs ran off one side of the map they would appear on the other. It works just like Mario Brothers of Pac Man.
  • The column is curved. A creature is granted half cover from attacks made by any creature more than 20 feet away, three-quarters cover from any creature more than 30 feet away, and total cover from any creature more than 40 feet away.
  • Climbing the walls at half speed requires a DC 15 Strength (Athletics) check. Creatures who fail this check by 5 or more fall onto the platform directly below their space and land prone, taking fall damage as normal.
  • Jumping up and grabbing a higher platform works as normal. In order to pull itself up to the new level a creature must succeed on a DC 10 Strength (Athletics) check or end its movement in the first space it entered on the new, higher level.
  • At the end of a creature’s turn if it is on one of the platforms it must roll a d20. On a roll of 1, the ground beneath its feet crumbles. The creature must make a DC 10 Reflex saving throw to jump to an adjacent unoccupied space of its choice. If it fails it falls, landing prone and taking fall damage as normal. Wherever the creature ends up after rolling a 1 it must roll another d20 to see if the new ground beneath its feet crumbles and repeat the saving throw if it gets another 1. This continues until the creature rolls a number other than 1.

Bam! There you have it. The mat is flipped and a fun encounter is had by all.

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 and I discuss the rules for lighting and vision in D&D. You can find an explanation of these rules in the Player’s Basic Rules D&D PDF on pages 65 or in the Player’s Handbook on pages 183.

Sam’s Blog

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UPDATE: If you’d like the traps originally offered in this post you can now grab them in an edited, better formatted, art included PDF over at the DMs Guild as a Pay What You Want product.

If it hasn’t been made clear by yet, I love fifth edition Dungeons and Dragons. It’s really wonderful in all of its streamlined, versatile storytelling glory. So don’t think me harsh when I say the latest Dungeon Master’s Guide is lacking in the number sample traps to drop into your campaign. I totally understand why. This amazing tome is jam-packed with so many subjects, it’s difficult to give a lot of attention to one area without cheating another (though I could have used less detailed description Forgotten Realms coinage and more traps, but that’s me).

Anyway rather than sitting around and complaining about the lack of traps in the Dungeon Master’s Guide, I decided maybe I should provide some traps of my own. Take a gander at the traps below and feel free to steal ’em for your game. Scroll down to the bottom of the post for a PDF and if you feel so inclined, please share it around.

Traps

Many of these traps are found in older editions of the Dungeon Master’s Guide and were updated by me, a few are of my own creation, and one was stolen from Ewoks. Don’t tell me Ewoks aren’t scary. They eat people. Enjoy!

Abyssal Gate

Magic trap

This trap requires a spellcaster to carve a specific sequence of Abyssal runes into a doorframe using demon blood and diamond dust. The person who carves the runes chooses a passphrase in Abyssal. When the passphrase is spoken aloud (whispering counts) within 15 feet of the door, the trap is rendered inert for 1 minute. When the final rune is carved, the sequence fades into the woodwork, metal, or stone. The runes can be spotted with a DC 15 Wisdom (Perception) check, but a character can feel the runes if it runs its hand along the frame and succeeds on a DC 10 Intelligence (Investigation) check. A character who knows Abyssal can determine the passphrase with a DC 15 Intelligence check, though sometimes the passphrase is more difficult to discover and a clever carver may hide it in a riddle within the runes. Dealing 50 damage to the door’s frame renders the trap inert until it is repaired. The AC for the doorframe depends on the material of which it is made (wood AC 15, stone AC 17, metal AC 19).

Any non-fiend creature who walks through the door triggers the trap. The creature is transported into a random area of the Abyss and witnesses unspeakable horror. That creature must make a DC 15 Wisdom saving throw. On a failed save it takes 55 (10d10) psychic damage. On a success it takes half damage. The creature returns on the side of the doorframe from which it entered at the end of its next turn.

Acidic Fall

Mechanical trap

Suspended above a 10-foot-square of thin stone ceiling is an acid-filled container. Any weight of more than 20 pounds placed on a hidden pressure plate in the floor beneath this area triggers the trap. The pressure plate can be spotted with a DC 15 Wisdom (Perception) check. A character studying the area can determine the pressure plate is a slightly different color than the rest of the floor with a DC 15 Intelligence (Investigation) check. Wedging an iron spike or other object under the pressure plate prevents the trap from activating.

When the trap is triggered the container holding the acid opens, pouring it onto the ceiling. Immediately stone and acid rain down upon any creatures standing beneath. Creatures in the area must make a DC 15 Dexterity saving throw. Creatures who fail take 11 (2d10) acid and 11 (2d10) bludgeoning damage. Creatures who succeed take half damage.

Crushing Room

Mechanical trap

Stone walls at opposite ends of the room are rigged to move toward one another, crushing and compacting anything in the room until they touch. Any weight of more than 20 pounds placed on a hidden pressure plate at the center of the room triggers the trap. The pressure plate can be spotted with a DC 15 Wisdom (Perception) check. A character studying the area can determine the pressure plate is a slightly different color than the rest of the floor with a DC 15 Intelligence (Investigation) check. Wedging an iron spike or other object under the pressure plate prevents the trap from activating. A character can notice that the floor, ceiling, and walls have many scrapes on their surfaces with a DC 10 Wisdom (Perception) check.

When the trap is triggered, all doors to the room immediately close and lock. The doors are iron (AC 19, 27 hit points) and any character with thieves’ tools can pick the lock with a DC 20 Dexterity check. A character without thieves tools’ can attempt this check with disadvantage using a hair pin, wire, or other thin, metal tool.

The traps acts at the start of every round, each wall moving toward the center of the room at a pace of 5 feet per round. Characters can attempted to slow the walls by bracing a sturdy object (such as an iron pole) between the two walls. If characters do this these objects break at the start of the round, but the walls do not move that round.

A character who is adjacent to a wall can try to delay one wall from moving by making a DC 20 Strength check. The creature must remain adjacent to the wall until the start of the next round. On a successful check the wall does not move forward at the start of the next round.

As the walls move toward one another, the room shrinks pushing creatures and objects toward the center. At the start of the round when the room becomes too narrow for a creature (once the walls are touching for Medium and smaller creatures) that creature is restrained and it must make a DC 17 Strength saving throw. Creatures who fail take 55 (10d10) bludgeoning damage and creatures who succeed take half damage. Once the walls touch they grind against each other for two rounds and the walls slide back to their original position at the start of a round at a rate of 5 feet per round.

Sometimes the designer of this trip will put a hidden kill switch somewhere within the room in case the trap is triggered by accident. Such a kill switch is usually well hidden beneath a stone in the floor or wall and requires a DC 20 Intelligence (Investigation) check to find. Pressing the switch causes the walls to slide back into their original position at a rate of 5 feet per round on the start of the round. Once the walls are back into their original position, the doors unlock.

Need MORE Traps?

If you want even more traps, check out my man David Gibson‘s designs. Devious! His entire website is awesome.

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 Jeff Greiner, Sam Dillon, Tracy Hurley, and Liz Theis to discuss Gen Con‘s reaction to the Indiana religious freedom law and the delay of fifth edition Dungeons and Dragons conversion guides. After that I interview Eberron campaign setting and Gloom card game creator Keith Baker to discuss the Kickstarter for his new card based RPG Phoenix: Dawn Command. This podcast was recorded on April 7 and 8, 2015.

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UPDATE: The stat blocks for these creatures have been moved, but fear not. You can still find the archons on the DMs Guild as a Pay What You Want product.

Yes, the Monster Manual is huge. Yes, there are tons of monsters both good and evil to choose from. I love the book but it’s missing some of my favorite allies for player characters. After all the sacred tome of beasts isn’t just an arsenal for the dungeon master. It’s a worldbuilding tool, meant to inspire and provide enemies, allies, and power players for your campaign.

I miss archons. If you’ve been playing Dungeons and Dragons for a time, you know what I’m talking about. I don’t mean the elemental variety of fourth edition either (though they were also cool). I’m talking about the lantern, the hound, and the trumpet varieties of celestial archon.

So behold the celestials below!

Archons

Archons are lawful good celestial beings from Mount Celestia. Their appearances vary greatly but all share a passion for righteous justice and championing the cause of good.

Fiend Foes. From birth archons consider all fiends their sworn enemies. It is in their very nature to seek out and destroy these evil beings. Archon armies battle fiend battalions in tight, disciplined ranks. Mortals who summon an archon should make sure they have not summoned any fiends for aid in the past. Archons consider any who treat with such evil to be part of the problem.

Righteous Motivators. Most archons do not directly involve themselves in mortal affairs. Instead they prefer the more indirect approach of encouraging mortals to make choices in favor of good and to cast off the temptations of evil. Archons only use their might when they are forced to do so against mortal foes.

Opposers of Tyranny. Archons abhor those with power who oppress others. Though they rarely meddle in the affairs of mortals, archons can be convinced to aid the cause of replacing a corrupt leader with a just one. Archons will not support a cause of violent rebellion as it puts innocent lives at risk. A careful, calculated overthrow of a tyrant without rioting is the only sort they support.

Lantern Archons

Lantern archons appear as flying orbs of brilliant, heavenly light. Their light is a comfort to creatures with good souls and uncomfortably harsh for creatures with evil souls. A lantern archon’s light is only extinguished when the creature dies.

Curious and Fast. Lantern archons are quick and nimble. They use their speed to be the first into a room or to round a corner to see what lies ahead. They ask many polite questions of their companions, often trying to understand the motivations behind a creature’s actions (especially if that creature is a mortal). This is all done in kindness. Lantern archons want to better understand new people, especially those who might be worthy of their help.

First of the Archons. All archons begin life in a lantern incarnation. As such lantern archons are the most numerous and weakest of the archons. As shining balls of light, they can only physically manipulate their environment through sheer force of will. While a lantern archon’s will is strong, it is not enough to be of great help in physical tasks. Lantern archons which demonstrate a loyal zeal for accomplishing good eventually evolve into greater beings.

Hound Archons

Hound archons are muscular humanoids with noble canine heads. They are disciplined soldiers in battle skilled with their swords as well as they are with their natural weapons.

Merciful Warriors. With the exception of fiends hound archons dislike killing and prefer to incapacitate or disarm mortal foes whenever possible. The greatest and most merciful warriors amongst hound archons often become paladins. The hound archon heroes lead armies of celestials into battle against fiends sometimes on the back of a copper dragon ally.

Secret Sentinels. Hound archons often guard sacred areas in unassuming canine forms using their Shapechanger ability. Appearing as a pack of stray dogs or a lone wolf gives archons a cover they can maintain for years while guarding holy ground.

Trumpet Archon

The winged, green-skinned trumpet archons are one of the most powerful of their ilk. Trumpet archons serve as the elite warriors and vanguard of divine armies, messengers for greater celestials, and generals of other archon soldiers in battle.

Messengers to Mortals. When a good-aligned divine being has a message to send to mortals, trumpet archons are the ones delivering the message. Their visits do not stop at the Material Plane. Trumpet archons are sent all over the multiverse, even as far as the Nine Hells or the Abyss to deliver declarations of war.

Trumpet Wielders. All trumpet archons carry the instrument of their namesake which is created when an archon evolves into a trumpet archon. This magic instrument works only in the hands of the trumpet archon for whom it was created. These instruments are often decorated with the standard of the trumpet archon’s patron deity.

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!

Last week I blogged it up with some tips to spice up your combat in a post for Sam Van Der Wall of RPG Alchemy‘s Blog Carnival theme, “The Combat Experience.” One of the tips included using interesting, but simple to run hazards in combat. I’d like to share a few simple hazards you can plug into your fifth edition Dungeons and Dragons games to spice up your combat with minimal headaches and management.

Many of these hazards call for the DM to pick random targets. This is because I don’t know the number of targets you might have in your own encounters. When trying to determine who might be targeted by a hazard, feel free to have all potential targets roll a d20. The lowest roll is the unlucky target.

Most of these hazards have effects which occur during each round of combat, while a few others have a more powerful effect which occurs once during combat.

Mundane

Mundane hazards are caused by nature or creatures without the aid of any supernatural forces like magic. Many of these hazards exist in our real world.

Avalanches

Avalanches can occur in areas where snow piles up on a slope, such as a mountain. When battle in an area with avalanche potential occurs roll a d4 at the end of each round of combat. On the roll of a 1 the avalanche covers a 30-foot-square area. Creatures in the area must make a DC 15 Dexterity saving throw. Creatures who fail take 14 (4d6) cold damage and 14 (4d6) bludgeoning damage and are knocked prone and restrained. A prone creature cannot stand until it ends the restrained condition by using its action to make a DC 15 Strength saving throw or another unrestrained creature uses its action to dig out the restrained creature ending the restrained condition. Creatures who succeed take only half damage and are knocked prone, but not restrained. The area where the avalanche occurred is considered difficult terrain and you stop rolling to see if an avalanche occurs at the end of each round.

Bone Piles

Deep in the lairs of monstrous creatures, adventurers might come across enormous piles of bones picked clean, the remnants of past meals. Bone piles count as difficult terrain. If combat occurs on a bone pile creatures have the potential to sink into the bones. When a creature ends its turn on a bone pile without moving from the spot where it started its turn, that creature takes 3 (1d6) piercing damage and is restrained. As an action a restrained creature can attempt to free itself and end the restrained condition with a DC 12 Strength saving throw.

Broken Ground

Broken ground is any uneven floor such as the craggy, cracked floor of an earthquake ruined temple or a forest floor eroded by the roots of trees. Creatures moving across broken ground can move at half speed without any problem. If a creatures moves across broken ground using a speed greater than half, that creature must succeed on a DC 12 Dexterity (Acrobatics) check or fall prone.

Deep Mud

This deep mud could occur underground, in swamps, or in plains or forests after a rain storm. Deep mud counts as difficult terrain. When a creature ends its turn in deep mud without moving from the spot where it started its turn, that creature is restrained. As an action a restrained creature can attempt to free itself and end the restrained condition with a DC 12 Strength saving throw.

Earthquakes

Earthquakes could shake the ground beneath the feet of any target. If combat occurs in an area of frequent earthquakes, at the end of each round, roll a d10. On a roll of 1-3 an earthquake occurs. Every creature standing on the ground must succeed on a DC 15 Strength saving throw or be knocked prone.

Lava Geysers

Lava geysers sit on the floor of volcanic tunnels occasionally spewing lava into the air. At the end of each round of combat roll a d20. On a roll of 11 or higher a random lava vent of your choice erupts spewing a line of lava 5 feet wide and 15 feet long into the air. Creatures in the line must make a DC 15 Dexterity saving throw. A target who fails takes 14 (4d6) fire damage, a target who saves takes half damage.

Lightning Storms

Lighting storms can occur with a downpour, but also in the heat of Summer months without any rain. At the end of each round of combat roll a d10. On a roll of 1-3 lightning targets a random 5-foot square of ground, making it difficult terrain. On a roll of 4-7 lightning targets a random creature wearing metal armor. On a roll of 8-10 lighting targets any random creature. A target creature must make a DC 15 Dexterity saving throw. A target who fails takes 28 (8d6) lightning damage, a target who saves takes half damage.

Sewage Spewers

In sewers covered pipes will sometimes open up and release pressurized bursts of sewage. At the end of each round of combat in the sewers pick a random pipe to open and release sewage. Creatures within 10 feet of the pipe must succeed on a DC 12 Strength saving throw or be knocked prone.

Sinkholes

Sinkholes can appear randomly and without warning on many different types of terrain. When combat occurs in an area that has sinkhole potential, roll a d10 at the end of each creature’s turn. On a roll of 1 a 20-foot deep sinkhole with a 5-foot radius appears centered on the creature. Creatures in the area of the sinkhole must succeed a DC 15 Dexterity saving throw or fall into the sinkhole, taking 7 (2d6) bludgeoning damage and landing prone. Creatures who succeed on the save end in an area of their choosing adjacent to the sinkhole.

Supernatural

Spellcasting trees, mind-altering rain, and grass with a mind of its own are all examples of supernatural hazards. They are the kind of thing you only see in fiction.

Acidic Waves

Some pools of acid have been magically enhanced by mages to be even more harmful than they seem. When battle occurs near a container of acid that has been enchanted with such magic, roll a d4 at the end of each round. On a roll of 1, a waves of acid spew from the pool, attacking all creatures in a 20-foot-radius. Creatures in the area must make a DC 15 Dexterity saving throw. Creatures who fail take 35 (10d6) acid damage. Creatures who succeed take half damage. Once the waves spew forth from an acid pool, you stop rolling to see if acid occurs at the end of each round for that pool.

Force Shockwaves

Ancient rituals of mighty power often cause the caster to give off shockwaves of residual magic energy. These rituals are the stuff of legend, beyond normal spells. At the end of the round while performing a powerful ritual, each creature within 30 feet of the caster must make a DC 15 Strength saving throw. Creatures who fail take 10 (3d6) force damage, are pushed back 10 feet and are knocked prone. Creatures who succeed take only half damage and are not pushed or knocked prone. These shockwaves stop once the ritual is complete or the caster is no longer able to perform the ritual.

Ghostly Ground

Sometimes burial grounds are long forgotten. The headstones and mounds wear down without ever leaving evidence that any bodies are decaying in the ground. The restless spirits of these dead sometimes manifest just for an instant to cause havoc before disappearing. When loud noise (such as battle) occurs on ghostly ground the spirits are awakened. At the end of each round, a spirit appears adjacent to a random creature on the ghostly ground and makes a melee attack against that creature with a +6 bonus to the roll. If the spirit hits, the attack deals 5 (1d4 + 3) necrotic damage and the target must succeed a DC 15 Constitution saving throw or become paralyzed for 1 minute. A paralyzed creature can repeat this saving throw at the end of its turn, ending the stunned condition on a success.

Grasping Grass

Some wander the world alone. For many this is a choice. Yet others wander because society has branded them a pariah. When these individuals die in loneliness craving friendship, their bodies and sorrow are absorbed into the ground. Grasping grass grows forth from the ground, holding onto the feet of any who pass by because the soul within hungers for company. When a creature ends its turn in grasping grass without moving from the spot where it started its turn, that creature is restrained. As an action a restrained creature can attempt to free itself and end the restrained condition with a DC 15 Strength saving throw.

Love Rain

It is said this rose-hued rain falls from the sky when an archfey takes a new lover. Each creature in the rain must succeed on a DC 10 Wisdom saving throw at the end of its turn or become charmed by the closest creature for 1 minute. A charmed creature can repeat this saving throw at the end of its turn, ending the charmed condition on a success.

Mage Trees

It is said these trees were planted long ago by a secret society of wizards who worshipped a vengeful spirit of nature. This spirit believed the spread of civilizations and development of land to be a blight. These mage trees were planted to destroy those who pillage the land. The spirit and the wizards have since faded into history, but the trees remain. Awakened by the sound of clashing steel, a mage tree acts at the end of each round. The tree casts a random cantrip from the table below against a random non-plant creature.

d4 Spell
1 Acid splash
2 Chill touch
3 Fire bolt
4 Ray of frost
Petrifying Swamp

Certain swamps are said to have areas cursed long ago by covenants of hags. The areas are usually marked by statues of various creatures sinking into the swamp. The magic of the terrain is activated when a creature engages in a hostile action, such as drawing a weapon or casting an offensive spell. Once the terrain is activated, each creature in the petrifying swamp must succeed on a DC 10 Constitution saving throw at the end of its turn or become stunned for 1 minute. A stunned creature still in the petrifying swamp must repeat this saving throw on the end of its turn. If it succeeds, the stunned condition effecting it ends. If it fails the creature is petrified. A creature is no longer petrified if it is removed from the swamp, cleaned, and untouched by the swamp for 1 hour.

Switching Mirror

These huge magic mirrors are often used to line the ceilings, floors, or walls of lavish palaces expecting invaders. The mirrors are also popular in the temple of trickster gods. During combat at the end of the round each creature who can see the mirrors must roll a d20. Creatures who roll the same number immediately switch places in a clockwise order.

War Ground

The blood which soaked into this ground from wars long ago has left a distinct red stain on the land. Creatures who stand on the ground deal maximum damage whenever they hit with a melee attack.

PDFs

You know I wouldn’t leave you without a PDF of these hazards to have and hold forever and ever. Check it out in the link below or feel free to head on over to the Free Game Resources section of this site to grab it whenever you like along with tons of other D&D fifth edition rules modules, backgrounds, monsters, spells, magic items, and more.

Simple Hazards

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 Mike Shea, Topher Kohan, and Joe Lastowski to discuss the new Elemental Evil storyline in the D&D Adventurers League. This podcast was recorded on March 31, 2015.