Archive for March, 2017

Last year I gave not one, but two status updates about my sales on the Dungeon Master’s Guild. I’ve got several pay what you want products in addition to a few paid products now on the guild. One of those paid products is the D&D Adventurers League adventure DDAL 05-05 A Dish Best Served Cold which is an official part of the Storm King’s Thunder storyline. (You can find Travis Woodall’s amazing Deluxe Maps for the adventure here.) People have been asking me to do another update and share my AL sales. I’m more than happy to do that.

First Let’s Take A Look At Pay What You Want One More Time

Below are all my sale numbers including free downloads of my pay what you want products:

And here are the sale numbers with paid purchases only:

For reference, the pay what you want products are:

*Free purchases are not factored into a pay what you want product’s average payment.

So it seems a lot of my assumptions about pay what you want products vs paid products hold true after over a year. Pay what you want products see lots of downloads and get your name out there. They can quickly become “best sellers” since any sale of $0.01 or more counts towards your numbers. Sounds great, right? Yet one year in and I’ve still made less than $0.01 a word on these products. Any further releases I have on the DMs Guild will likely be paid only.

If you want to know more about why I made my initial products pay what you want, see my first post on this topic. I’ve learned tons about layout, editing, and art acquisition since I started posting products on the DMs Guild, so future products will not only be paid, but they should also be of a superior quality to my pay what you want products.

Let’s Talk About Adventurers League Adventures

When it comes to making paid products, sales skyrocket if a product is part of the main D&D Adventurers League storyline. A Dish Best Served Cold has only been up since November 1, 2016, yet has over 1000 sales and is already close to Platinum Best Seller status. Add to that the fact that adventure designers make 60% commission on their D&D Adventurers League adventures if they were published in season five or later and it is by far my biggest money-maker, despite the fact that it has roughly 1/10th the downloads of 50 New Magic Items.

Now the question becomes, does this hold true for adventures in the convention created content program? Not as much.

If you don’t know what the convention created content program is, here’s a nutshell description. Wizards of the Coast allows conventions to create adventures set in the Moonsea region of the Forgotten Realms. Those adventures are then played at the convention that created them, are considered Adventurers League legal, and can be sold on the DMs Guild after the convention.

Many of the same folks who work on the main D&D Adventurers League adventures also write the con created content. The con created content adventures are often just as professional and put together as the main Adventurers League adventures, yet they have lower sales. I wrote a con created content adventure called Tales of Good & Evil for Baldman Games that premiered at Gen Con. It’s been available to the public since December 2016. While I don’t have the exact sale numbers, I can tell you that they are somewhere between 100 and 260 sales, since it’s a Silver Best Seller at the moment (more on best seller medals below).

Now, that doesn’t mean writing con created content isn’t worth it. First of all, it’s a blast to write in the Forgotten Realms and to share that story with players everywhere. Second, that’s a published adventure with your name on it, baby! I’m so proud of Tales of Good & Evil and it allowed me to work with an amazing team of people. (Don’t tell Shawn Merwin, but I would have done it for free.) If we’re talking financially, Baldman Games made sure designers were taken care of. In addition to a commission split that is handled by Baldman (which is why I don’t see the exact number of sales… that’s in their hands), Baldman also paid me an up front fee for my words. So yes, working on con created content does indeed pay, despite smaller sales.

Medals

After having products on the DMs Guild for over a year I feel confident saying the following numbers and medals correspond. It appears to take medals several hours to update, so if you just hit one of these numbers, give it a day or two.

  • Copper. 50 paid sales
  • Silver. 100 paid sales
  • Electrum. 260 paid sales
  • Gold. 525 paid sales
  • Platinum. 1050 paid sales

How do I know this? At the moment, here are my own medals.

My copper best sellers are:

My silver best sellers is:

I have no electrum best sellers at the moment, but I do have two gold:

Finally, my two platinum best sellers are:

Ratings and Reviews

Ratings and reviews are tough to come by on the DMs Guild, and even more difficult to get organically. When I was starting out, I asked friends to take a look at and rate honestly my pay what you want products, so keep that in mind when you see the numbers below.

Here’s how my reviews are stacking up:

  • 15 New Backgrounds – 36 ratings, 8 of which include a written review (up since Jan 22, 2016)
  • 20 New Traps – 20 ratings, 3 of which include a written review (up since February 8, 2016)
  • 50 New Magic Items – 32 ratings, 3 of which include a written review (up since February 18, 2016)
  • Arachnids, Wraiths, & Zombies – 8 ratings, 1 of which includes a written review (up since March 9, 2016)
  • Archons – 13 ratings, 1 of which includes a written review (from a personal friend) on (up since January 19, 2016)
  • Catastrophic Dragons – 23 ratings, 5 of which include a written review (up since January 19, 2016)
  • Greater & Elder Elementals – 13 ratings, 0 of which include a written review on Greater & Elder Elements (up since February 1, 2016)
  • Tarokka Expansion 2 ratings, 1 of which includes a written review (up since June 1, 2016)
  • A Dish Best Served Cold – 7 ratings, 1 of which includes a written review (up since November 1, 2016)
  • Tales of Good & Evil – 2 ratings, 1 of which includes a written review (up since December 2016)

I will say that my free and pay what you want products have more reviews than my paid products, even when you take into account the five friends I asked to rate things for me (not all of whom actually did because they didn’t have time to read the products). It MAY be that a small number of people who download for free take the time to leave a rating (essentially giving their time instead of their cash to a product).

So there you have. The latest update on the DMs Guild. Anyone else out there having success? Did I get anything wrong? Is this information helpful to you? Sound off in the comments below!

If you like what you’re reading please follow me on Twitter, like World Builder Blog on Facebook, check out my podcasts, find my products on the DMs Guild, tell your friends about the blog, and/or leave me a comment and let me know you think. Thanks!

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A new episode of the podcast Rudy Basso and I make, Have Spellbook, Will Travel, is up on the show’s site!

WHoooaoaoAOOAOAOA PERSPECTIVE SWITCH!  Learn about Party FOURTEEN’S journey to the Belowdark, to meet and greet with the Dark Elves.  What will they learn?  What will they forget?  What will they… do?  Tune in to find out!

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A new episode of Table Top Babble is now available!

James Introcaso sits down with Mitch Connelly, Neal Powell, and Sam Dillon dish on the latest D&D book from Wizards of the Coast, Tales of the Yawning Portal.

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Boons and Setbacks in 5e

Posted: March 23, 2017 in Inspiration
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Many of us have heard the term failing forward, but how can we use it in D&D? We play RPGs that have boons and setbacks, but can those ideas be brought into 5e? If you’re a DM who can think on the fly, you might be able to spice up ability checks and even attack rolls and saving throws in the world’s most popular RPG with a few very simple tweaks.

Defining Our Terms

First I need to define terms. A boon is a little something extra good that happens after you make a d20 roll, usually on top of success. For instance, if you’re picking a lock in a castle, you might learn a specific trick about the lock that gives you advantage on all future checks to pick locks in this wing of the building. Boons are often determined on the fly by the DM. Check out a list of suggested boons below to help guide you.

A setback (or botch or drawback or complication) is a little extra punishment that happens after you roll a d20, usually on top of a failure. In the lock picking example above, not only might you fail to pick the lock, you might also break your thieves’ tools trying to do so. Setbacks are often determined on the fly by the DM. Check out a list of suggested setbacks below to help guide you.

When Do Boons and Setbacks Happen?

Now that we’ve defined our terms, how and when do boons and setbacks happen. Before we get to when, let me ask you a couple questions that will help us answer how.

  1. To what kind of d20 rolls do boons and setbacks apply? Ability checks are by far some of the easiest rolls to come up with boons and botches on the fly. Attack rolls and saving throws can be a bit trickier, because the rules are more rigid with exactly what the outcomes of these rolls should be. As a result, if you decide to use boons and setbacks during combat, you may want to have a strict interpretation about what those mean (like you always have advantage on your next attack or get to move 10 feet for free) or create a random table (like my critical hit effects and critical miss effects) for consequences. For examples of static consequences, see the table below. If you and your group feel comfortable improvising these as well, go for it!
  2. Can boons only be applied when you succeed and can setbacks only be applied when you fail? Failure with a boon (sometimes referred to as failing forward), could mean in our lock picking example that you failed to open the door, but noticed the contact poison smeared on the knob before you touched it. Success with a setback could mean you picked the lock, but broke your thieves’ tools in the process. Adding these can make your gameplay richer, but it also adds more pressure on you as the DM to come up with ideas on the fly, so you don’t have to use them. You’ll also want to think long and hard about having failures with boons and success with setbacks when it comes to saving throws and attacks. If you’re using these techniques, perhaps they only apply to ability checks. If you’re using them with other d20 rolls, then maybe come up with a strict rule or table instead of winging it, unless you’re very comfortable with improv.

So when is it appropriate to use boons and setbacks? A few optional rules are outlined below.

Optional Rule: Five Above/Below

This optional rule allows you to apply boons based on the result of a character’s ability check, attack roll, or saving throw when compared to the DC or AC . Roll the dice, apply appropriate modifiers, and then use the table below to determine the result.

Result Effect
5 or more above DC/AC Success with boon
1-4 above DC/AC Normal success
Equals DC/AC Success with setback*
1 below DC/AC Failure with boon*
2-4 below DC/AC Normal failure
5 or more below DC/AC Failure with setback

*If you are not playing with these effects as options, treat the results as normal successes and failures.

Optional Rule: Know Your the Roll

This optional rule uses the unmodified results of the dice. Any natural roll of 15 or above grants a boon, while any natural roll of 5 or less imposes a setback. You can increase the ranges of these results to increase the frequencies of boons and setbacks to fit the needs of your group and story.

Optional Rule: Advantage Boons and Disadvantage Setbacks

This optional rule states that an ability check, attack roll, or saving throw is made with advantage, the result grants a boon, while anytime one of those rolls is made with disadvantage, the result grants a setback. Note that this rule does not mesh well with the suggested boons and setbacks that grant advantage and disadvantage on the next d20 roll, since it risks creating never-ending advantage and disadvantage.

Optional Rule: Natural 20s and 1s Only

With this optional rule you gain a boon whenever you roll a natural 20 on your ability check, attack roll, or saving throw and a setback whenever you roll a natural 1 on one of those rolls.

Suggested Boons

You have advantage on the next d20 roll you make.

You gain a piece of knowledge or hint about your current quest.

You can immediately take the Help action as a bonus action.

You can spend one die to heal as if had taken a short rest immediately.

Attack: You knock your target prone.

Attack: You disarm your target.

Attack: You deafen your target.

Attack: Your attack does an extra 1d6 damage. Damage type is chosen by the DM.

Save: You can immediately move 10 feet in any direction.

Save: You shout a warning which allows another creature of your choice who can hear you and has to make the same save advantage on their saving throw.

Check out my list of critical hit effects for more ideas.

Suggested Setbacks

You have disadvantage on the next d20.

An item being used in the action is broken.

You take 1d6 damage as a result of the setback. Damage type is determined by the DM.

You lose one hit die, 1st-level spell slot, or other small resource.

Attack: You drop your weapon or implement used to make the attack.

Attack: You fall prone.

Save: You fall prone or are moved 10 feet in a random direction if the effect already knocks you prone.

Check out my list of critical failures for more ideas.

If you like what you’re reading please follow me on Twitter, like World Builder Blog on Facebook, check out my podcasts, find my products on the DMs Guild, tell your friends about the blog, and/or leave me a comment and let me know you think. Thanks!

A new episode of the podcast Rudy Basso and I make, Have Spellbook, Will Travel, is up on the show’s site!

Join cast members Mark Smith and Ray Fallon* as they continue to answer YOUR questions!  Hear them get into a surprisingly heated argument on goblin canon, discuss random Twitter followers they have, and answer the age old question – who would win in a fight, 1000 Kobolds or 100 Shambling Mounds?

*Ray sounds muffled.  Sorry!

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James Introcaso sits down with Liz Theis and J. Michael Bestul to review the 13th Age Battle Scenes books, High Magic & Low Cunning and The Crown Commands, from Pelgrane Press and Cal Moore.

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I’ve been preparing to run a game of Phoenix: Dawn Command this weekend and I have to say it’s brilliant. This RPG from the mind of Keith Baker is a beautiful merging of story and mechanics that encourages teamwork, roleplaying, and heroics from the players. Here’s a quick description of the game from its website:

In Phoenix: Dawn Command, you don’t gain power by killing others; you gain power by dying. After each death, you add additional cards to your deck representing the lessons you learned from your previous life. However, there’s a catch: you can only return seven times. So each death makes you stronger, but it also brings you closer to the end of your story. In addition, you don’t return right away and you don’t return in the place where you died. This is what drives tension: most missions are time-sensitive, and should you and your friends all fall without completing your task, you will fail… and when you return you’ll have to deal with the consequences of that failure. Because death isn’t the end, the odds will often be stacked against the characters; players are encouraged to take risks and to be prepared to make sacrifices. Death isn’t the end, but you want to make sure you make every life count.

Even if you’re only ever going to play Dungeons & Dragons, Phoenix is worth purchasing for the ideas and new mechanics it will bring into your game. In today’s post I’m going to show how you can steal a few ideas from Phoenix and apply them to D&D. If you like this post, you might like another post about stealing mechanics from other games.

Lore

If you want evocative, original story ideas, this game is full of them. Much of the game’s rulebook is devoted to the setting, Dalea, and goes into great detail about the world’s history, cities, and cultures. One entire section of the book unravels the mysteries of the Dread (an evil phenomena that is overtaking the Dalea). The final pages of the book detail an entire campaign that can be run, complete with amazing encounters, compelling villains, and interesting NPCs. In true Keith Baker fashion the text is sprinkled with plenty of interesting open ends and alternatives that are worthy of entire campaigns.  Many of these ideas you can be stolen straight-up. Most others require the smallest of tweaks to apply to D&D. I could go on, but I don’t want to give too many of the game’s juicy bits away.

GM Advice

In addition to the lore within this game, there’s a lot of great advice about running Phoenix that can be applied to ANY roleplaying game. The book discusses encouraging players to take risks and roleplay, what to do when you don’t have a full table, how to create interesting encounters, and more. The lore plus the advice make this thing worth the price of admission and we aren’t done yet.

Environmental Elements

In Phoenix every combat encounter has a list of interesting environmental elements that can be used in an attack’s description. For instance a battle in a tavern might have a chandelier, fireplacekeg of ale, mounted moose head, and a shelf of bottles. In Phoenix, a card-based game, when a character uses one of these elements in the description of an attack, they get to draw an extra card. The element is then crossed off the list, not because it cannot be used in another description, but because it cannot be used to gain the bonus card benefit again.

It’s easy to bring the same idea to D&D. You can write a list of elements right onto a battle mat, paper, or index card. If you’re a lazy DM, ask each player to come up with one and write them down. When each is first used in an attack’s description, allow the character to gain advantage on the attack roll. If advantage seems too powerful, give another benefit, like an extra d4 damage if they hit.

Attendant Spirits

We’ve all been there. One hour into a four-hour session a T-Rex bites the head off the druid and now Katy has nothing to do for the rest of session. Phoenix, a game that somewhat encourages players to die, has a solution for this. When a PC bites the dust, their soul can bond to another hero as an attendant spirit until they are reborn. This attendant spirit can communicate telepathically with the host and speak to others through the host’s voice when the host allows it. In addition, the spirit can spend unused resources to aid the host.

To bring this idea over to D&D, we can think about the dead PC’s unspent resources. Maybe the spirit can spend unused hit dice to instantly heal the host, gift unused spell slots (of 5th level and below) so the host can cast more spells, or give away some other resource. Once the resource runs out, the spirit passes into the afterlife or waits to be raised from the dead.

Death As Advancement

Of course the big idea behind Phoenix is its most brilliant. When a hero dies, they level up, but their seventh death is permanent and final. This creates a great tension in the game because players want their characters to die, but not too quickly!

You could easily create a mechanic in D&D that eliminates the usual come back from the dead spells (revivify, raise dead, reincarnation, resurrection, and true resurrection) and experience points, and has characters return at dawn after their death, now one level stronger. If you decide to play this way, I recommend setting a cap to the number of times a PC can return before they are dead for good. 7 works well for Phoenix, but you could pick 3, 5, 10, 20, or whatever you thinks works best for your game. (For more hacks and advice in dealing with death, checkout these posts: Death and Returning Modules, and When Death Isn’t (Always) The End.)

Sparks

The PCs in Phoenix have a limited amount of Sparks that can be used to add +1 per Spark burned to any Skill or Attack Spread. Once a Phoenix uses all of their sparks, they die. Sparks do regenerate, but rather slowly.

With some caution you could add a similar mechanic to D&D. If you’re using death as a tool for advancement, I’d say simply give your characters 5 Sparks per level and allow them to be burned to add bonuses to ability checks and attack and damage rolls. Characters regain 1 Spark x character level at the end of each long rest. If you run out of sparks, you die.

If you’re not using death as advancement, this becomes far more tricky to balance. I’d say each character gets 1 Spark x 1/2 character level (rounded down) per day that can be used to gain advantage on any ability check, attack roll, or saving throw.

Or Just Give Phoenix A Try…

If you’re loving all these ideas why not give Phoenix: Dawn Command a chance? All I did was steal what was already there!

If you like what you’re reading please follow me on Twitter, like World Builder Blog on Facebook, check out my podcasts, find my products on the DMs Guild, tell your friends about the blog, and/or leave me a comment and let me know you think. Thanks!

A new episode of the podcast Rudy Basso and I make, Have Spellbook, Will Travel, is up on the show’s site!

Well, well, well.  What have we here?  It’s cast members and Great Pals Mark Smith and Ray Fallon*, answering YOUR questions.  So sit back, strap in, and prepare for Mark and Ray’s Wild Ride.

*Ray sounds muffled.  Sorry!

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Please subscribe to the podcast at one of the following places:

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If you like what you’re reading please follow me on Twitter, like World Builder Blog on Facebook, check out my podcasts, find my products on the DMs Guild, tell your friends about the blog, and/or leave me a comment and let me know you think. Thanks!

A new episode of Table Top Babble is now available!

James Introcaso sits down with game designer and cartographer Cecil Howe of Sword Peddler to discuss how the full-timer’s career got started and tips for mapmaking!

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Once again I’m continuing my quest to add killer undead to the options already available in the fifth edition Monster Manual for my world of Enora. So far we’ve seen husks, skeletal dragons, vampiric dragonsvampiric vines, and elemental undead. Now I’d like to turn my attention to updating (and adding my own twists to) some old favorites: the nightcrawler, nighthaunt, nightwalker, and night wing. Thanks to EN World forum user pukunui for the idea!

Nightshades

When shadows and evil are infused with the strong will of a powerful being, they take massive forms. Appearing as giants, purple worms, and winged-beasts, this animated shadow stuff abhor life and light and desire a world covered in a shadow of death.

Massive Murderers. All nightshades are enormous combinations of solid shadow and corruption. When a strong-willed, evil beings refuse to pass into the afterlife, their souls infuse the with the same material that creates the Plane of Shadow. The souls wrestle with the shadow stuff, taking as much of it on as possible in order to anchor themselves in worlds of the living. At the same time, the shadow sucks any tiny sense of morality from the soul, creating a new being of considerable size, horrific shape, and murderous intent.

Undead Generals. Nightshades are cunning beings, who stalk the Plane of Shadow, looking for wayward victims to kill and turn into other undead through dark rituals. These undead are bound to the nightshade for as long as it exists. They follow its every command. Many nightshades search for ways to lead their armies into the Material Plane, so they might swell their ranks and experience death on a grand scale.

Work Better Together. Nightshades have great respect for others of their kind. They often form alliances to increase their slaughtering capabilities and grow the sizes of their armies.

Undead Nature. Nightshades don’t require air, food, drink, or sleep.

Nightcrawler

Nightcrawlers resemble purple worms made of pure darkness. Despite their appearance, they are extremely intelligent spellcasters who have devastating strength, burrowing capabilities, and the ability to swallow ogres whole.

Nighthaunt

Nighthaunts resemble large gargoyles and are pure malevolence. As expert tacticians, these nightshades are the best at leading armies of undead or placing guards and strategic defenses around a fortress.

Nightwalker

Nightwalkers are twenty-foot-tall humanoids silent as death. They are among the multiverse’s best stalkers and their dead eyes can cause panic in the most daring prey.

Nightwing

Nightwings appear as enormous bats made of darkness, but have the same level of cunning and guile as all other nightshades. Silent as death and nearly invisible against a black sky, these beings dive onto prey before victims even know they’re being attacked.

Want the Stats?

Grab the PDF below or on the Free Game Resources section of this site any time.

Nightshades

If you like what you’re reading please follow me on Twitter, like World Builder Blog on Facebook, check out my podcasts, find my products on the DMs Guild, tell your friends about the blog, and/or leave me a comment and let me know you think. Thanks!