Archive for the ‘Collaboration’ Category

To my friends in the United States – Happy Thanksgiving!

Since I started this blog I’ve been taking part in the monthly RPG Blog Carnival. Currently organized by Johnn Four over at Roleplaying Tips, the carnival is hosted by a different blog each month. The owner of the hosting blog picks a RPG-related theme and then invites other bloggers to write at least one post on that theme in their own blogs. Those bloggers then provide a link to their posts somewhere in the comments of the host blog’s introductory carnival post. At the end of the month, the blog hosting the carnival gathers up all of the links in a new blog post and puts them together in a nice little package for all to see. Check out November’s carnival theme “A Stack of Surprises,” hosted by Mike Bourke of Campaign Mastery.

In December, I’ll be hosting the carnival. If you’ve been following me for a while or you’ve checked out the Free Game Resources section of this site, you know I love crafting homebrew creations. For fifth edition Dungeons and Dragons I’ve created numerous backgroundsmagic items, monstersD&D fifth edition rules modulesspellsadventures, and more. I’ve also been on a Shadow of the Demon Lord pregen creation kick recently, since there don’t seem to be many out there for this new game yet.

Now I’m inviting others to join in the fun. This holiday season, give the gift of your gaming creations. Create a new monsters, feat, spell, force power, weapon, magic item, NPC, PC, adventure, map, world, background, rule, society, or anything else you can dream up. It could be for your favorite game system or something system agnostic! It doesn’t matter. Heck get into the spirit and stat out Santa or go dark and make a murderous longsword forged in the blood of demons. Your imagination is the only limit. No creation is too small if it’s one that came right out of your brain.

Leave links to those creations in the comments below and at the end of the month I’ll post them up in a nice blogtastic package for GMs everywhere to steal for their games! Give the gift of gaming, my friends. There’s going to be plenty homebrew fun to come from this blog as well, so stay tuned!

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!

So it probably goes without saying, but in this post I’ll be discussing trigger warnings at the game table. While I won’t go too in-depth into any one topic, there will be mention of some topics that might make people upset. Just a heads up because I love you all and don’t wish to offend.

I’m almost 30. When I started playing tabletop RPGs as a 10-year-old kid, my games were a lot like The Hobbit by J. R. R. Tolkien. By that I mean simple tales with simple themes of good folk battling evil folk and scoring some treasure. As I got older my games became more complex and sometimes verged into themes found in the Song of Ice and Fire series by George R. R. Martin (that’s Game of Thrones to all you HBO viewers out there). Plots certainly became more complex but the stories of my games also dealt with more adult issues. While these themes and ideas made for more interesting narratives and more realistic characters, many of these issues can make players, even fully grown adult players, uncomfortable. Suicide, sexual assault, sexual intercourse, physical and mental abuse, torture, addiction, physical illness, mental illness, and a lot of other serious, complicated real world topics can make for a moving story, but they can also ruin a game for a person who just showed up to have a good time and forget about the worries of the world for a bit.

It’s a Game First, Art Second

Personally when I read or tell a story, anything goes. As a professional writer and producer, I believe in a storyteller’s right to portray these topics as they choose and I believe an audience has the right to not watch, gripe, and criticize as they choose. That’s not to say I’m always comfortable with tasteless storytelling where gratuitous violence or offensive material of any kind is itself the entertainment, but I am comfortable saying storytellers should be able to make what they want and people should be allowed to pick it apart and/or not consume the product as they see fit.

All of that being said, remember that role-playing games are games first and the art of storytelling second. Players and a GM tell a story together for their own fun and entertainment. It should not be a GM or player forcing the story they want down the throats of others. People have given up hours of precious free time to come and sit at a table, often with strangers at a friendly local game store or convention, and don’t need to leave the experience feeling uncomfortable, offended, or ostracized. That kind of stuff doesn’t get people to come back to a game. I’m reminded of a Vice article in which a DM forced an NPC onto a female player’s character. That player left the table in tears and never returned to the game. I think most of us can agree we do not want anything to get that far at our tables even if most people think a topic is harmless. These situations are even more likely to come up at conventions and organized play events where the group may be strangers to one another and have no idea who is comfortable with what. We need to be able to put all people involved in the game at ease. That doesn’t mean these triggering topics are off-limits, but it does mean we need to be mindful and respectful of our fellow gamers.

Here are some handy tips and methods for keeping everything cool and comfortable at the table when you story heads into questionable territory.

Ways to Mitigate Trigger Activation

When someone has a visceral uncomfortable or hurt reaction to an event or description in a game, a trigger response has been activated for that person. Here are a few ways to avoid trigger activation.

Communicate, Communicate, Communicate

When it comes to trigger activations, nothing helps more than simply talking with your players. Before you get started ask them what style of games they like to play and what books, television, and movies they like to watch. Remember that just because a person enjoys book containing a triggering topic doesn’t mean they’ll enjoy it in the shared environment of a role-playing game but it gives you a good idea of where to start. This is also a great way to break the ice before getting going during a game at a convention or local friendly game store with a bunch of new players.

Remember to set up questionable events with trigger warnings before you play. If you aren’t sure about how a description or event will go down with the players, ask them first. “Hey this adventure includes a possible suicide, but let me know if you’re not ok with that because I can change things very easily. You don’t have to tell me why, just let me know if it’s a problem,” is a great way to give a warning. Make sure the players know they aren’t inconveniencing you or ruining the fun of the game for anyone else. Don’t make them give you a reason why the topic makes them uncomfortable since that defeats the purpose of the warning. Be cool. Everyone is there to have a good time.

If you’re playing a longer campaign made up of multiple sessions, spend some time talking to your players about what makes them comfortable and uncomfortable throughout the run of the game. Let them know they can come and speak with you if they have a problem with anything that comes up. Establish trust by listening to concerns, and by not asking probing, personal questions when concerns are brought up. In addition to providing trigger warnings, talk to them after a questionable event as a check-in to make sure everyone’s still feeling good about the campaign and story. It’s definitely better to over communicate than to have a friend get upset and leave a game.

Set Ground Rules

Before a long campaign there’s time to talk with your players and go over a list of questionable topics that might come up in the story. Why not immediately check off all the things that someone says are off-limits for them? You could email the list to people or talk with people one-on-one so they can respond individually and not in front of the rest of the group. Then you can just let your players know topics that won’t be part of your game so they don’t bring them up at the table as well.

If you’re playing with a group of good friends, you could always have a larger discussion about setting ground rules before a game starts. A discussion like this can even allow for ground rules to be more specific. Rather than removing an entire topic from your story (e.g. physical disease) you might be able to cross off a specific item within that topic (e.g. a specific terminal illness).

Tap the Card

Setting ground rules and lots of communication are great, but what happens when you don’t have the time cover everything before a convention game with a group of strangers? Or maybe you’re playing a game with so many questionable topics, like Monsterhearts, that going over a list would be maddening and time-consuming.

On an episode of The Round Table podcast where we discussed sexual harassment at the game table panelist Barak Blackburn brought up the idea of placing an index card in the middle of the table. Whenever any person for any reason felt uncomfortable with what was happening in the game’s story, that person could tap the card without a word and the GM would simply fast forward and move the story past the scene and the topic wouldn’t be touched again. If you’re running a short game with a lot of questionable material and don’t want to upset anyone, this is a great trick. It’s commonly known as an X-card, because the DM typically draws a large X across the index card.

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!

This month’s RPG blog carnival theme is Best GM Ever, chosen by Mark over at Creative Mountain Games. Of all the blog carnival themes, I’ve struggled with this one the most. I’ve had the privilege of playing with some of the best game masters in the business, including Mike Shea of I’ve had GMs like Ray Fallon, Vegas Lancaster, and Rudy Basso who are among the best actors and storytellers I’ve ever known. That’s just GMs I’ve been in games with. We’ve all seen the LeBron James of DMing Chris Perkins take the stage at PAX and run a game with some large personalities while maintaining the flow of his narrative with entertaining grace.

So how does one choose the best GM ever from amongst a pool of the planet’s best humans ever? The answer is simple. I’m not writing about any of them. In fact today I’m writing about a group of GMs I haven’t played with in years. I’m going to write about the guys I went to high school with – some of the best GMs ever.

A Rotating Crew

There were five of us and we each ran our own Dungeons and Dragons games. We played in each other’s games. There were sometimes two or three sessions a week or marathon sessions that would last entire weekends.

We learned from each other. When one guy threw out the rulebooks for the first time and made his own ruling, we saw it made the storytelling flow faster and more smoothly and followed suit. Likewise we saw from another guy that you could improv your way through an entire session and suddenly we were all spending a few less hours preparing our games. I learned how to weave a player character’s backstory into a campaign, how fun a combat-free session can be, and more from my fellow GMs. I’d like to think they learned from me too. Our successes and our mistakes made us the gamers we are today. I would not be half the GM I am now if not for those individuals.

Our Game of the Week

In addition to all the valuable lessons I learned from my compadres, high school was also a glorious time of experimentation with non-D&D TRPGs. It seemed like in addition to our rotating D&D games we played another different RPG every week. d20 Modern, d20 Future, Star Wars: The Role-Playing Game, The Fantasy Trip, Mutants and Masterminds, and more were all on the menu. We playtested each other’s systems including a d6-based modern spy RPG, a d20 vampire hunting RPG set in the Legacy of Kain universe, a d10-based gritty realistic medieval fantasy game, and a d6-based Mega Man RPG. Ah, to be in high school and have that kind of free time again!

Well in honor of some of the greatest GMs ever I’m going to present a game of the week format that works people with less free time than a group of high school nerds, but still allows a group to play a bunch of different games and learn new stuff.

Why Game of the Week?

Game of the week – a format for playing tabletop role-playing games which allows for the switching of rulesets, game masters, characters, worlds, and stories from one session to another.

If you’re short on time, a game of the week format can seem daunting and only for people with more time in their schedules. So many different rules to learn and characters to create. Why not just have one person run a weekly D&D game?

I’m hear to tell you, that’s not necessarily true. There are advantages to the game of the week format that make it perfect for groups low on time.

Advantages of Game of the Week Formats
  • Game of the week is a misnomer. Now you could meet weekly. Or monthly. Or biweekly. Or sporadically whenever your schedules allow. In this format you’ll only play one game for at most a few sessions. There’s not that much to keep track of. Game of the week formats are perfect for groups that have long gaps between sessions.
  • The GM load is shared. Game of the week allows for rotating GMs, which means one person doesn’t shoulder all the preparation and management for every session.
  • You get to try new things. Want to trying being a cartoon for one session? Have a bunch of books from Kickstarters sitting on your shelf you’ve never cracked open? Want to see if the Indiana Jones RPG is as bad as everyone says? Game of the week formats allow your group to try a whole bunch of new games since you need only commit one session per game. Keep playing the ones you love, sell the ones you don’t.
  • Everyone is happy. Sometimes you have players who prefer different styles of gameplay. One person hates d20-based systems, the other loves them. One person wants to play high magic fantasy RPGs, everyone else prefers a gritty 1920s horror and gangsters game. With rotating games there’s never too much time spent in one person’s campaign too long, so everyone gets a shot at playing their ideal game while other players learn something new.
  • More people can play. In my experience it has always been tough finding enough people to form a gaming group, but once the game gets underway, another ten people want in. Those people who are late to the party are left out in the cold since games get unwieldy with too many players. Well game of the week allows new players to rotate in and gives you a chance to introduce new people to the world of tabletop role-playing games and thus grow the hobby. Dave can’t make it tonight to be the barbarian? No problem. Alice has always wanted to try Pathfinder.
  • Shallower worldbuilding for each game. Since a campaign will only last a few sessions, that means you need not go overboard with your worldbuilding. My method of one-hour worldbuilding is perfect for a game of the week format.
  • Number of sessions per campaign is variable. If one person has more free time and the others are swamped, that person can be GM for more than a session or two. You can have the occasional longer campaign when everyone’s schedule calls for it.
  • There are ways to save even more time. Running published adventures, keeping the PCs at lower levels, and replaying a game system everyone knows and enjoys are great ways to save even more prep time for a game of the week format. Keep that in mind when getting ready for another session before deciding what game to play.
Themed Game of the Week

The sheer number options can be overwhelming when beginning to play in a game of the week format. One way to focus everyone is to provide a story theme for your games. Story themes shouldn’t restrict systems or time periods. They should give GMs and players a frame of reference and a starting point for ideas.Coming of age stories, romance, swashbuckling, and dungeon delving are all great themes. You can even give your game of the week a name as I have in the Band of Bandits example I typed up as part of a proposal below.

The unifying theme of Band of Bandits is that the PCs will always be a group of criminals (good or bad) looking to pull off some sort of heist. This structure provides a flexible, unifying theme for each story arc and allows players to create archetypal characters without getting stuck in a rut. Heist stories run the gamut of genres and work well in all systems. Characters could be cowboy outlaws looking to knock off a train in the 1800s, 1930s gangsters looking to assassinate a rival gang’s Don during a funeral, modern-day spies implanting a virus in a sinister organization’s computer, rebels in the Star Wars universe looking to steal the Death Star plans, or a band of medieval adventurers hoping to swipe a magic sword from a dragon’s hoard.

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 originally wrote this article for Johnn Four’s free roleplaying tips newsletter you can and should sign-up for over at

There is no task for a game master more daunting and gratifying than worldbuiding. Creating a universe in which a group of PCs can romp around in is very gratifying, but the seemingly Herculean effort it takes to get there can be miserable especially if you have many life commitments outside of gaming. For the last decade I’ve been running Dungeons and Dragons and other RPGs in published campaign settings, but it was always a dream of mine to create a new world. I mean a full, rich world with a huge history. We’re talking original rules modules, big honking maps, new monsters, intrigue, dungeons, rivalries, and more open-ended story than the closing chapter of a Goosebumps novel. The kind of thing I had the time to do as a kid but could now tackle with the wisdom of an adult.

Last year I finally embarked on creating that new world. With the impending release of fifth edition Dungeons and Dragons I set pen to page and began creating a world from the top down. With so much going on in my own world and the promise of an Open Gaming License from Wizards of the Coast I’m still working on my 300+ page campaign guide that I’m preparing for my first self-publishing venture. I’ve been chronicling my efforts on this blog since January of last year. During that journey I’ve picked up a few tips and tricks that can help you build a RPG world of your own, no matter how fleshed out you want your own campaign world to be. Your world might be built top down or bottom up or half off the top of your head and one session at a time. If your world is an original (or modified from an existing) creation these tips will help you out. Here they are in no particular order.

Take Notes

You are going to have ideas for your campaign. Lots and lots and lots of ideas. They might come at work, during your commute, during dinner, or another time a pen and paper aren’t handy. If you don’t write ideas down, they’re going to fade away. Your phone is your friend. Most mobile phones, even those of the non-smart variety, have a notepad feature. So when you get a great idea jot that sucker down and you’ll have it as long as you have the phone. If you want to backup your ideas copy and pasting them into an email or text message is super easy. When you sit down to flesh out your world you’ll know exactly where to find your awesome ideas.

Know Your World’s Central Idea

What makes your world special? Does it feel like a Lovecraft story? Is it recovering from a recent war? Is it in the middle of one? Does one oppressive (or benevolent) ruler have absolute power? Do the gods come down in person and give decrees to their worshippers? Is it a whacky place where every natural landform is made of candy?

Your world should have a central idea which sets it apart from the rest. In Exploration Age, the central idea is that there are unmapped areas of the planet that the civilized world is racing to uncover and colonize. I hold onto that idea and wonder how it affects everything else happening in the campaign world. How do the “uncivilized” peoples react to the colonization of their home by others? How do competing countries negotiate different land grabs? How will the new resources discovered in the new world affect the old? What struggles do the colonists have? Let your central idea permeate through all aspects of the world. Whenever you’re creating a new place or person within your world as yourself how it relates to your central idea.

Have A Map

I’m not an artist, but good lord it helps so much to have a map. Being able to visualize the world is not just a help to players, but to you as well. Everything becomes so much clearer and the world feels more real once you have a map. This is because most people are visual learners and need to see something to understand it. You can start small, just what you need for your first session, or build out your whole world at once. Knowing how close a city is to an ocean or orc infested mountains can help you discover what is unique about that settlement. If you’re like me and can’t draw freehand I recommend checking out some software. For free there’s Hexographer (which I use and is worth buying a few extras) and Stone Sword, or you could be fancy and buy Fractal Mapper, Campaign Cartographer, or Mapdiva.

Have A Timeline

Even if it’s very rough make a small timeline of your world’s history. Think about how major events would shape your world and adventure sites. How do these events tie into the central idea of your campaign? In my world aberrations used to rule the land before they were wiped out by dragons. Their magic technology can be salvaged within the ruins of their former empire, many of which are hidden deep in the uncharted wilds. These ruins are blank spots within blank spots! The events of my timeline inform the current world and relate back to the central idea. The rise and fall of nations and rulers, the birth of races, the discovery of new lands, the creation of important technologies, wars, treaties, and the like are the sort of events to consider adding to your timeline.

Steal and Twist

When it comes to stealing ideas for your world, don’t be afraid. Let literature, video games, film, television, art, and other campaign settings inspire you. When you do steal an idea go one step further and twist it. Add something to the idea or turn it on its head and see what happens. That idea is putty. Play with it until you’ve made something you think is interesting and original. Let’s take the giant spider infested Mirkwood of The Hobbit. Maybe you want to add a similar forest to your realm, but instead of spiders, it’s crawling with giant snakes, or undead animals, or enormous bees. Maybe falling into its rivers and streams doesn’t induce a magical slumber, but rather the waters keep people awake, slowly driving victims insane with deadly exhaustion. Perhaps instead of a forest it’s a desert, swamp, jungle, or arctic wasteland. Stealing is just step one. Challenge yourself and twist the stolen goods. It’s far more rewarding for everyone.

Ask Your Players What They Want

Before you embark the incredible worldbuilding task before you, start by asking your players what sort of game they want to play. I sent my players a brief email asking them about their preferred genre, tone, magic level, intrigue level, and play style for in D&D. Even though I’ve been playing with my groups for years some of the feedback was surprising. Have a chat with each of them, give them a quick questionnaire, or lead a more organized group discussion. It matters what your players want since they’re going to be playing in the world with you. Your gothic horror game could cost you some friends at the table if they’re not really into undead and lycanthropes.

Let The Players Do Some Work

Like I wrote above they’re playing in the world too, so let players shoulder some of the worldbuilding responsibility. I give my players a basic description of the world and then they create their PC backstories. In the process they’ve created cities, fantastic locations, artifacts, and even rules modules for the world. Encourage your players to do the same once they have a good idea of the tone and central idea of your world. Anything they add will just make the game and story richer and more interesting. Don’t worry. As the GM you reserve the right to nix anything that doesn’t make sense in your world. (e.g. The Kingdom of Bubblegum in your post apocalyptic zombie game)

Share Your Stuff

Don’t keep all your information too close to the vest, especially if you’re building a world from the top down. Share it with your players and other gamers you trust. Since a lot of worldbuilding isn’t game rule specific sharing the information with people outside of your gaming circle who appreciate fiction. My girlfriend has never played D&D, but she reads a lot of what I create. Having her outside-the-industry perspective is invaluable. All she cares about is story which should be the focus of a RPG world. The more input you can get, the better. Just remember that all feedback does not need to be taken to heart. Listen to those who are kind enough to offer feedback, but only implement the ideas they provide which sound good to you. I often link this blog in gaming forums and various social media sites and solicit feedback from strangers. I’ve gotten some of the best insights into my work this way.

Having people provide feedback can also keep your worldbuilding on schedule. It’s my mission to share updates twice a week on my blog which keeps me writing and worldbuilding. You could keep a similar schedule with whomever you are sharing your world. Maybe it’s the first of each month, or every Wednesday, or every day. Giving yourself a deadline and having others hold you accountable will keep you writing.

Write Everything You Ever Wanted

Put anything in the world you ever wanted to create. Stuff that thing full of all you ever wanted in a campaign world. You’re not going to run out of ideas. Take it from a man who has been a GM for 20 years. More ideas will come so don’t save anything. You might never use it if you keep hanging onto it. If you write what you want to write the work is worth. That’s sort of the point, right? These are games and are supposed to be fun. Let your imagination run wild and get a little crazy. Happy worldbuilding!

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!

Playing a tabletop role-playing game is hard. I’m not (just) talking about the prep work and the reading/remembering of rules. I’m talking about getting everyone together in one place for a few hours to play a game on a regular basis. Apparently as you get older this becomes even more difficult because of growing responsibilities with work and family. (Note to self – idea for the future… D&D retirement community.) There are sometime periods of a month or more where one of my groups doesn’t meet. Then when we do finally get back together, everyone’s memory of the campaign’s story is vague, people don’t know what level they are, etc.

On top of all this I have to say D&D once a week isn’t really enough for me. That’s why I started this blog and host two podcasts. I love TRPGs and I want more!

What’s a DM to do when he needs his D&D fix and there are no players around? The answer is simple. Thank you Internet!

Electronic Mail

Great movie or greatest movie?

As characters develop their own stories, they want to accomplish goals outside the main campaign. Maybe they want to build a castle, start a church, takeover the thieves guild, sew discord within the city council, have a family, look into the disappearance of their mentor, etc. These sorts of things are wonderful to handle via email because they are perfect for the medium and don’t slow down play for everyone else at the table. Building a castle doesn’t require a lot of skill checks in most games, just a lot of communication between your players and you.

I also send my players emails when I want them to know a secret which pertains to the game’s story. Maybe a prophetic dream reveals the location of a much needed artifact or a PC learns his or her father is the story’s villain via a magic spell. These revelations are perfectly handled over email. Not only can the player elect to keep any information secret, the other players have no idea any information was exchanged like they might when you pass a player a note at the table or take him or her aside to whisper secrets.

Email is also great for when a player misses a session. I often write a quick summary of what happened to a PC and turn the obstacle of that player not being there into an opportunity. If we both have time, I give them decision points within that solo story and exchange emails back and forth. If not, I send them a description of what I believed happened while they were gone and then ask them if they’d like to change anything.

Emails can be as long or as short as you like. If you’re a busy person, you may not have time to write a flowery email about castle construction. It’s great if you do, but remember your player may not have the time to read a long email. Think about the person to whom you’re writing. What kinds of emails do they send you? That’s a good barometer for target length.

For short emails, bullet points are your friend. A bullet pointed email about a quest someone missed might look like this.


I know you missed tonight’s game because you had to work. Since we spent the session in town and I know you’ve been trying to join the local thieves guild, I had your character, Basil Bottom, seek out the guild master and ask for admission. Here’s how it went down in my mind.

  • Basil Bottom got in touch with her criminal contacts and requested a meeting
  • She met with the guild master, who agree to let her into the guild, provided she knock off three shops in town that very night.
  • Basil Bottom robbed three shops (let me know which three) and gave her earnings to the guild master. She is now in the guild.
  • The authorities are searching for the thief who broke into three different shops and word is they have some leads…

Let me know if you’re cool with that and which shops you want to break into.

Your favorite DM,

Boom. That’s how it’s done! If you go this route let your players know they can email each other to talk about something in character amongst themselves and CC you. You’ll be surprised what sort of cool stuff comes into your inbox throughout the day.

Play by Post

There are a bunch of great internet forums out there where you can play D&D one post at a time. Two such sites you might want to check out are OngoingWorlds and RPol. There you can find people playing entire campaigns one post at a time. Some have been going on for years! Most of these places host all systems, not just one, so whatever your game of choice, you can find a play by post group.

Those forums need not only be a place for full campaigns to be played out. Why not use them from for the time between your sessions? Email is great for one on one DM to player interfacing, but if the whole group wants plan their next move, share some stories in character, or build a base of operations, a reply all email chain can become unwieldy and difficult to keep track of. If you love play by post, forums allow for those one on one interactions you might have through email as well. That way you can keep everything in one place. A lot of these forums are designed with playing RPGs in mind, so you can roll dice and the like within the forums, which is something you can’t really do with most email clients.

If players consistently interact with each other on a forum there may not even be that much work for you. The disadvantage is that it’s not as easy as email (though it’s pretty dang close). The extra step of going to a forum and signing up might be too much work for some players. Play by post works best if all your players are on board, so check with them before you make it a piece of your campaign.

Wiki and Blog

Sites like Obsidian Portal are awesome places for you and your players to keep track of the campaign. While you can’t necessarily play your game on those sites, your players can keep public journals, create a wiki, and help track everything in the campaign. You can get your fix by doing some of the work yourself and reading what others have written. Not only is the tool great for storytelling and worldbuilding, but it’s a super helpful organizational tool that allows your players to do some of the DM work.

I love wikis and blogs, but the big drawback, even bigger than with play by post forums, is that your players need to read and write to really make things worthwhile. It can take a lot of time to upkeep something cool on Obsidian Portal, so again check with your players before you embark on maintaining an entire website for your campaign.

A Second (or Third or Fourth) Group

Of course you can always get your fix outside of your game by playing with another group. If you don’t have the time to manage two campaigns, become a player! Or run a published adventure you’ve always been curious about! If you’re looking for another group, head to your local friendly game store and ask around, or show up on a night they are having organized play, like D&D Encounters, and DM or play at a table. If you don’t have a local friendly game store near you, or everyone in it is a jerk, check out and join or start a meetup group for your favorite TRPG. If none of that works for you, check out the posts in Google+ in various RPG communities or the Looking for Group section of If you want something more casual, join a play by post group above! They’re always looking for players.

You’ve got options to get that fix. Go out there and take it!

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

I’m a busy dude. I’ve got this blog, two podcasts, a job, a girlfriend, and awesome people in my life. All of these deserve my attention on a regular basis. Not to mention all the normal life stuff we do each day like commuting, cooking, cleaning, exercising, laundry, and more.  Some of you might have all those commitments, plus a few more like, oh I don’t know… pets or kids. So what are we to do when we also have D&D games to run?

Prep Time

Now, my life isn’t always so crazy. I often have at least some time to prepare for my D&D games, though almost always less than I would like. So how do I go about preparing for an adventure? I always start with an outline. It’s very bare bones to start but I try to at least put the following in there.

  1. A very basic idea of what might happen during the session. Sometimes this is no more than a paragraph or a few bullet points.
  2. A basic description of expected combat encounters, including number and names of creatures to be used. Descriptions start as simple as “5 orcs, 2 shamans, and a pit trap.”
  3. Names of NPCs the players will come across, their motive, and a quick distinguishing characteristic such as a club foot or funny accent to help make them memorable. This could be something like, “Famnoodle Breswick, gnome bard of Dark Whispers, wants to kill Bragonian nobles who are also slavers, has hook instead of left hand.”
  4. I jot down twists and turns I could throw into the session to make things interesting in the main storyline as it comes to me (to make this easier, use Google Drive so you can ideas on the fly). These things might include, but are not limited to, a villain having a hidden weakness or strength, a helpful NPC showing up, revealing an NPC as a double-crosser, other threats coming into play the party may not be aware of, and pieces of a character’s background coming into play. These are good for me to have in the case of the unexpected, I can whip out a PC’s long lost brother returning after decades if the players are having trouble figuring out what to do or if a story feels boring or uninteresting. It helps keep the players on their toes. Remember that not every twist needs to be a Red Wedding.

After that I go back and flesh out my outline depending on how much prep time I have. I usually start by fleshing out encounters and dungeons fully, then bullet points for any social interactions and exploration, followed by descriptive read aloud text (in the rare event that I have time for it). Of course I don’t want to over prepare.

Be An Idea Pack Rat

If I do over prepare, I find I try and steer my players too hard in the direction I prepared for, mostly because I don’t want my work to go to waste. Remember, D&D is a collaborative story, and it’s best when you let everyone have a say. If players want to go off the rails let them. Not over preparing will help with that, but when you have a cool idea you’re excited about and the time to do so, you can’t help but flesh it out. Also, sometimes you don’t over prepare, but players go to the unexpected place or so far off the rails, anything you did prepare still feels like it was for naught. Fear not! If players miss something you spent time on, save it for later. After all, when players go off the rails, its often because they’re doing something fun and unexpected, and that’s the kind of play we all want to embrace. Heck, I’d venture to say that for many people, it’s the reason they play tabletop RPGs.

While I certainly don’t think railroading adventurers is a good idea, I do think holding on to something your players missed is. Say they decided to wait outside the red dragon’s lair and fight her in the open rather than delve into her volcanic lair. Don’t throw out that graph paper or start talking to your adventurers about the cool monsters they could have fought and treasure they might have if they had “done what they were supposed to.” Save that dungeon, its secrets, and bust it out when your players take on a fire giant or clan of devils. So when you do prep something, hold onto it. It will help you in the future when you have less time to prep, and need to rely on improv.

Improv Resources

All right. Let’s get down to it. Sometimes you don’t have any time at all to prepare or sometimes players decide to zig when you were sure they’d zag. Have no fear! Improv is useful in all D&D sessions (you can’t possibly plan everything) and the more freedom you allow yourself, the more you will be comfortable giving your players.

Many of you have heard this, but the first thing to remember is saying, “Yes, and…” when a player asks if he or she can do something. Everything from, “Can we ignore the noble’s pleas to save his daughter from the vampire lord, and hunt some dragons instead?” You might say, “Yes, and you’ve heard there’s a competing band of dragon hunters in the area, who would probably have information on the closest dragon’s whereabouts.” Boom! Look at the layers of adventure you’ve just added by saying, “Yes, and…” You can always caution adventurers that if they ignore the noble his daughter might die and there could be worse consequences, but they may still choose to ignore that. Don’t worry about it. Write it down and have those consequences come back to bite them at a later date! Saying, “Yes, and…” is difficult at first, but trust me, the more you do it, the easier it becomes and the better your game will be for it.

So what else do I use to help me out in improv situations when I have no time to prepare. Check out the list of resources I use below! There’s already a lot of great fan-created resources and more out there for fifth edition D&D and having a computer or tablet will definitely make your improv life easier.

Google Drive

If you’ve been following this blog it should come as no surprise that I love Google Drive. There are two documents I use, in addition to the outline above, which help immensely when I have to improv my way through part or the entirety of a session.

  • Hooks Document This document contains all the hanging plot threads of my game. I organize them into categories, I have one for each PC, which includes threads given to me in their character’s background (my father went missing when I was a child…) and things which pop up along the way (remember last week when I snuck off on my own and robbed a dragon…). Then I have two more categories. One is for threads hanging from the game’s main story (The Brotherhood of the Moon is trying to kill all shifters) and the other is for side quests (we agreed to help the local law enforcement take out a den of orange spice dealers). If I have nothing prepared I look at the document. I might say to myself, “Oh yeah, our warforged barbarian Grolox has slavers hunting for him. Let’s have them show up at the inn.” That’s a great jumping off point for me.
  • Wiki and Recap Document I share this document with my players. One or more of them acts as a scribe for the party, listing all the characters, places, and organizations they come across and detailing the events of each session. If I don’t have anything to pull from the Hooks Document above, I’ll take a quick gander here and ask myself some fast questions. What if a defeated foe had a lover out for vengeance, or returned from the grave as an undead? Who is the real power behind The Servants? What if some new evil moved into the aberrant ruins right outside of the city where the adventurers are staying?
Official Wizards of the Coast D&D PDFs

The Players Handbook, Monster Manual, and Dungeon Master’s Guide are great, but when I’m improving I don’t want to spend a bunch of time flipping through books looking for the right rule, magic item, or monster. That’s why I rely on the PDFs below. Searchability is huge when you’re flying by the seat of your pants. Using the documents below, I can search for the exact heading I want, or for a specific phrase like “Challenge 10.” The best part is these PDFs are free so go get them!

Fan-Created Content

We’re only a few months into the release of fifth edition Dungeons and Dragons and there’s already a lot of fan created content out there. Here are a few things I like to keep open on the old laptop when I’m playing in case of improvisation. In fact I use these even when I’m in the planning stages for a session, because it makes life so much easier.

  • Encounter Builder – The rules for building encounters are difficult. If you’ve tried it, you know. Luckily Kobold Fight Club has made it super, duper easy with this encounter builder which also generates random encounters, tracks encounters, saves encounters, and allows you to manage encounters. It’s pretty awesome. Check it out!
  • Monsters By Challenge Rating – This isn’t one I actually have on my laptop, but I do have it taped to the back, inside cover of my Monster Manual. You can thank Mike Shea of Critical Hits for this perfectly sized monster by challenge rating index, which was missing from the book itself.
  • Monster Sorter – Of course, Ari Marmell’s monster sorter doesn’t fit into the back of your Monster Manual, but it does have the ability to be sorted in various categories including challenge rating, name, type, and more. This is a must have!
  • Spell Sorter – Similarly, Ari Marmell has come to the rescue again. Do you wish there was a list organizing spells by school of magic? Overall level? Class? Have no fear, Ari is here!
  • Merric’s Musings’ List of 5E Adventures – Tons of adventures for all levels, many free.
  • Free Game Resources on World Builder Blog – Magic itemsmonstersD&D fifth edition rules modulesbackgroundsspellsadventures, and more created by yours truly.

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

As monster October wraps up for World Builder Blog, I wanted to thank everyone who’s been following this thing and making the blog a success. Also, thank you for the feedback I’ve been getting! It’s been super duper helpful in refining these monsters to be the best they can be! A special shoutout to Scot Newbury over at the Of Dice and Dragons blog, since his RPG Blog Carnival theme inspired me to take the whole month and create some badass fifth edition Dungeons and Dragons monsters!

Words are Wind

It’s great to thank people, but even better when you can show your appreciate for them beyond a verbal acknowledgement. Therefore I’m excited to present the update fifth edition Exploration Age monsters in PDF form. Use the links to download the whole shebang or just your favorite monster. Included in the pdf below are the gaping maw, icebreaker shark, The Lingering Havoc, the sand kraken, the morchia, the mystauk, the blazing wraith, and the dread wraith.

Exploration Age Monsters

Blazing and Dread Wraiths

Gaping Maw

Icebreaker Shark



Sand Kraken

The Lingering Havoc

Site Update

Since it’s going to be pretty dang annoying for you to have to find this exact post anytime you want to use one of these monsters in your game, I’m happy to offer a new Free Game Resources section of this site. Here you can download the PDFs of the Exploration Age monsters for free forever in addition to any new stuff I might create and post there. I’ve already thrown in my Eberron Fiasco playset (which takes place in Making, Cyre during The Last War before The Day of Mourning) which you can also check out below.

Fiasco Playset Eberron Making

All this is to say, thanks! You guys rock and I’m so glad I started this thing and got to meet all you cool people! More fun stuff to come!

Also, take a gander at the poll below and let me know which Exploration Age monster you like best!

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


You’re goddamn right.

If you’re lucky enough to live near a Wizards Play Store, you’ve probably gotten your hands on the Player’s Handbook for the fifth edition of Dungeons and Dragons. Many of my player’s already have a copy, but as I’ve mentioned before, we’re all in different locations, so some of my players don’t. They’re either not near a store or they wanted the cheaper deal on Amazon. If you’re in the same boat, never fear, I’m here to let you know the book is worth the investment. I could go on and on (and I will in a Tome Show or Round Table podcast soon), but I’m here to talk to you about something I’m already changing in this book I love so much, and that’s the process of ability score generation.

To Roll or Not To Roll?

Before I get started, let me just say that this is my group’s opinions about generating ability scores. You may have your own, please sound off in the comments below. While this method was tailored toward them, feel free to use it in your game.

As many of you know, a character’s features and options in D&D are dependent upon their six ability scores – Strength, Dexterity, Constitution, Intelligence, Wisdom, and Charisma. These scores can range from 3 (awful) to 18 (badass) before racial modifiers are applied. The Player’s Handbook presents three options for generating your base ability scores…

  1. Rolling. Roll 4d6, drop the lowest die roll, add the remaining rolls together. Do this six times, then assign the ability scores.
  2. Array. Use a predetermined array of 15, 14, 13, 12, 10, 8 to assign ability scores.
  3. Point Buy. Use a point buy method, involving all of your stats starting at 8. Then you have 27 points to assign to boost the stats. Each increase in a score costs more points than the last increase (more on that below). This method caps your ability scores at 15, whereas rolling can get you 18. It also makes your minimal possible ability score 8.

Most of my players have played third edition, in which option 1, rolling, was the preferred method. All of players have played fourth edition in which a point buy similar to option 3 was the preferred method. During the playtest we went back to rolling for ability scores since it was just a few short campaigns. Then I remembered why I prefer the point buy method.

Rolling for ability scores is a great option – it provides a lot of variance and allows for a character have a super high Strength, but also a pitiful Intelligence. However, rolling also provides a huge variance amongst characters, which can make the game less fun. If someone rolls great and has god-like ability scores when someone else just rolls ok, the fighter might feel second-rate compared to the barbarian.

Normally this is the kind of thing I’d ask my players what they want to do, but they’re divided on the issue. When I told them I wanted to use the point buy method via email, my inbox exploded (in a hilarious and awesome way).

Here’s an email from one of my players, who is clearly anti-point buy…

My argument against point buy:

1) Point buy is lame.

2) You can only be good at something if you are the right race to be good at it.

3) You can’t be good at more than one thing unless you are the right race/class combination.

I have to say, points 2 and 3 are pretty good arguments (and point 1 is just a little hurtful… single tear).

It was only moments later which I got this pro-point buy email from a different player…

Argument for Point Buy:

1) Large statistical variance between character competency is amusing in short games, but frustrating and inappropriate for the multi-year campaigns we tend to play.

2) Because our DM is not a dick, rolling for stats will tend to skew towards OP characters. Here is what happens when people roll stats:

PC: Uh, I rolled three 7s, a 10, and two 12s.
DM: Haha, that’s dumb you can reroll.

PC: I got six 18s!
DM: Uh… OK cool.

3) “Characters only really good at one thing” is a function of playing in a larger group. In a smaller group it would make sense to spread your stat points and skills around more but when you do that in a larger group you appear inferior to specialists.

Also good points there (and yes, I do let people with terrible rolls reroll). In fact, there were good points coming at me from all around. One player enjoys his character enjoyed being bad at something and point buy doesn’t really allow for that either for a minimum of 8 in each ability score. Still, I didn’t want one player to be a superhero compared to the rest or vice versa. To make matters more intense, I eventually started getting emails like this…

What’s a DM to do? Order everyone take the array and then have no one happy? Then I remembered, D&D is a game meant for hacking, modding, and blowing up. Was there something I could do to ability score generation?

Taking It Back Old School

First, I made a quick list. What were the wants of my players…

  1. A balanced method of generating ability scores in which luck and chance do not favor random PCs over others
  2. A method of generating ability scores which can allow nonoptimal race and class combinations (like half-orc wizards) to have key ability scores for their class above 15
  3. A method of generating ability scores which can allow for some abilities to be as low as three (because sometimes playing a a weakling wizard or a barbarian with no social skills is fun)

Then I thought back to the days of third edition D&D. While rolling was the preferred method of ability score generation, there was a point buy option, which allowed a player to raise stats to 18. So let’s look at that option. All ability scores start at 8 and a player has 25 points to spend.

  • An ability of 9 costs 1 point.
  • A ability of 10 costs 2 points.
  • A ability of 11 costs 3 points.
  • A ability of 12 costs 4 points.
  • An ability of 13 costs 5 points.
  • An ability of 14 costs 6 points.
  • An ability of 15 costs 8 points.
  • An ability of 16 costs 10 points.
  • An ability of 17 costs 13 points.
  • An ability of 18 costs 16 points.

That’s not a bad place for me to begin. I’m going to adjust these numbers so they’re more in-line with the fifth edition point buy, however, and go from there. I also need to work in lower ability scores.

The Exploration Age Homebrew Method

Here’s the method for generating ability scores I’ll be using for my Exploration Age home campaigns.

All ability scores start at 8. You have 27 points to spend. The cost of each score is shown below.

Score Cost
3 -5
4 -4
5 -3
6 -2
7 -1
8 0
9 1
10 2
11 3
12 4
13 5
14 7
15 9
16 12
17 15
18 19

You may only have one ability with a score of 17 or 18. Likewise, you may only have one ability score with a score of 3 or 4.

When you “buy” score with a negative cost, it means you gain points to spend elsewhere.

You may still use the standard array.

For high powered, tougher campaigns, give your players 32 points to spend. In this case, the standard array might be 16, 15, 13, 12, 10, 8, or 17, 15, 12, 10, 10, 8, or 18, 14, 10, 10, 10, 8.


So what do you think? Have I managed to get everything the players want and curb some min-maxing? Should I just stick to one of the older methods? Let me know! Sound off in the comments.

If you like what you’re reading, please check out my podcast 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!

My day job has been keeping me busy traveling, so here’s another sweet excerpt from the Exploration Age: Campaign Guide. Take a look below at the religion of the humans and gnomes of Aeranore and let me know what you think.

A BIG shout-out to my friend, player, and fellow podcaster Ray Fallon for giving me this idea. Sometimes a friend approaches you with an original mythology and world creation story. Those friends are the best kind, especially when you’re creating several unique religions for a campaign world. These ideas come mostly from his own, amazing brain.

Here endeth my similarities to Steve Jobs

Also, as you read this excerpt, remember that Exploration Age is a campaign world where the gods have no confirmed existence, and if they do exist they do not directly interfere in the affairs of mortals. How is that possible when clerics and paladins pray for spells and get magic? Well, skeptics would say sorcerers, rangers, warlocks, wizards, bards, and more have magic without praying for it – why can’t clerics be getting their spells from the same places? Magic is mysterious. No one is sure of its origin on Canus, but that’s another matter.

Many humans and gnomes of Aeranore practice a religion known as Immortalism. It was their belief in this religion that resulted in their persecution in Parian and subsequent immigration to Aeranore. Immortalists believe all humans and gnomes are descended from a race of humanoids who used to be immortal, long ago. According to the religion, these beings, known as The Immortals, lived before the aberrants and the dragons.

World Creation Myth of Immortalism

According to Immortalism, Canus was created when The Sun and The Moon mated to produce three children. Their firstborn was their daughter, Alphon, a ball of earth encased in water. Their second birth was conjoined male twins, Baydon and Cardon. These twins were made of dirt and earth. They lived as one land mass on top of Alphon. These stories have led many humans and gnomes to believe that Parian and Findalay (and now Verda) were once one giant land mass.

The Immortals sprang forth from the bodies of Baydon and Cardon and at first there were no animals or plants. They were the first living beings on Canus and their lifespans were infinite, though they could die as the result of physical harm or starvation. At the time there was no disease. Since there was nothing to eat other than each other The Immortals began as violent cannibals.

This changed when Gretan, the first Immortal Hero, prayed to Baydon and asked him to produce something to stop the violence amongst her people. Baydon took pity on Gretan and was overcome by her beauty, so he created sheep and goats. The Immortals learned to herd.

It is said that sheep and goats soon began to die, however, for they had nothing to eat. It was then that Mara, the second Immortal Hero, prayed to Cardon for an answer by planting her hair in the dirt. Her hair took root and grew, becoming the first plants. Soon The Immortals learned that they could eat this food as well. Baydon created many animals and Cardon created many plants. For a long time Canus lived in peace.

Overtime, Baydon and Cardon grew jealous of one another. Baydon was resentful of the fact that his animals could not exist without Cardon’s plants, and Cardon did not like the way The Immortals made animal flesh the center of their meals. Soon the conjoined twins began to war with one another through earthquakes, volcanic eruptions, and storms. Many Immortals had their lives ended in the process.

As the war progressed, Alphon formed rivers to part her brothers, breaking them into pieces large and small. Still that was not enough to stop their warring. Cardon and Baydon created The First Dragons who escalated the war. These were the ancestors of the dragons known today and instead of breath weapons of fire, ice, acid, and the like, they breathed pestilence, which ravaged the plants and animals of Canus. Eventually these diseases spread to The Immortals. It took a toll on their bodies and The Immortals had their life spans shortened. They began dying of old age and disease. They became the present day humans. The gods, Baydon and Cardon saw what they had done to these people, called The First Dragons back into the ground, took them apart, and rebuilt them over centuries into the dragons known today. The brothers vowed to never again interfere directly with the live of the folk of Canus.

The Immortal Lines

It is believed that Cardon, Baydon, and Alphon in a final act of divine intervention granted immortality to one champion each of their choosing. Baydon chose Gretan and Cardon chose Mara. It is said that when these champions grow tired of their immortality, they are able to pass it to a worthy offspring. It is believed that Queen Icillia IV herself is descended from The Line of Gretan and holds The Immortal Gift, which she may pass on. Currently it is unknown who holds The Immortal Gift in the Line of Mara.

Alphon’s champion does not pass on his gift. The goddess chose the first man to ever drown in her waters, a sailor named Delistar. His body still lies somewhere in the oceanic depths, and it is said that his late-granted immortality does not allow him to move physically, but he can transfer his spirit into the body of any Immortalist. When an Immortalist is dying, moments before death it is believed that Delistar inhabits that person’s body and sends his or her spirit on, so he may suffer that person’s pain.

Creation of Gnomes

Somewhere down the line, Alphon decided the humans needed magic again, but since she had vowed to never directly intervene again in the affairs of the world, she created a plan for the creation of the gnomes and left it out for the shardminds to find. The shardminds followed the plan exactly and then also modified it to create the dwarves.

Immortalism Today

This creation myth is the base of all Immortalist doctrine. The Sun and The Moon are part of this five god pantheon, but they most prayed to are Alphon, Baydon, and Cardon. Delistar is a sort of demigod, prayed to when a loved one passes. Most Immortalist priests and clerics are not exclusive to one god or goddess. They rely on Alphon in times of healing and magic, Baydon in times of the hunt and war, and Cardon during the harvest.

  • Alphon Often depicted as a globe of water, Alphon is the kind and gentle goddess. She is prayed to for all things nautical and ocean related. Alphon is also the goddess of mysteries so all magic, psionics, and healing are both her domain as well.
  • Baydon Often depicted as an angry volcano, Baydon is the aggressive god of the hunt and the herd. War and weather fall into his domains as well.
  • Cardon Often depicted as a piece of wheat, Cardon is the sneaky god of the harvest. He is said to take pleasure in many things that delight and make life easier so art and technology are also part of his domain.
  • Delistar Though not truly a god, Delistar is prayed to in times of death, and some cults who worship him have sprung up throughout Aeranore. The cults range in their beliefs from those innocently interested in death to those who violently murder other Immortalists, believing if they sacrifice enough victims to Delistar he will grant them his Immortal Gift.

If you like what you’re reading, please check out my podcast 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!

Straight-up theft. I confess. That’s what I did, people. I stole an idea right out of the Scales of War adventure, “The Last Breath of Tiamat,” in Dungeon Magazine #175 by David Noonan.

You see, since 2008, I’ve DMed two Fourth Edition parties from level 1 to level 30. That’s huge. We did it twice in six years. You know how many things you could accomplish if you did them for three hours once a week for six years? You could learn a new craft or musical instrument. Bake a whole bunch of pies. Take your significant other out on many fun dates. Watch many different TV series on Netflix. Play through all of Skyrim. Get buff at the gym. You get the idea.

Anyway, that’s not to say you should do something other than create a totally unique story with your friends. That’s the best way to spend time, in my opinion. However, at the end of all things, when Orcus the Demon Lord of the Undead’s corpse lies crispy and headless upon the ground or when you’ve saved all of Eberron from rakshasa princes planning the return of Bel Shalor, you want to feel like your character’s actions and story are lasting. You want a legacy.

So I stole. And I have no bad feelings about it. Never feel bad about stealing a great idea, folks. It saves you time and it’s a form of flattery. Game designers have been stealing from each other since chess and checkers. I assume you’re reading this blog because you want to steal from me. Do it. Please. It would honestly make my day.

Anyway, for my purposes, I stole a cool idea that happened at the end of the Scales of War adventure path, which was a series of Fourth Edition adventures designed to take PCs from level 1 to 30. The final adventure’s last words were options for the impact Scales of War could have on your next campaign world. Here’s the option I stole.

Screen Shot 2014-01-27 at 11.56.06 AM

So I had an other-worldly entity invite my players to throw objects into the Well of Heroes. I did it twice, actually, once for each campaign. Both times, stuff got chucked and fun was had. It was a great way to make the PCs legacy feel like they had an impact that wasn’t going to fade away once the campaign was done. Or so I thought…


Some of you are already shaking your heads. I know, I know. David Noonan even says, “This option breaks the fourth wall a bit.” Now I have a 12 items, some from the Nentir Vale campaign setting and others from an Eberron game, that I need to work into a story and I don’t want it to feel forced or cheesy. Will it cheapen the world I’m building to have the players find objects that tie into other heroes from worlds unknown? How would their new characters know the history of the old characters in-game? Will their new characters even need the same kind of equipment? What about the avenger who dropped her holy symbol of The Silver Flame down the Well, how can I justify that in a world without The Silver Flame? Oh yeah, and one player who was in both campaigns went abstract with it. In the Nentir Vale campaign he played a star pact warlock and whispered the true name of his star down the Well. In the Eberron game, he cried a single tear into the Well for his lost love. Really cool at the time, but… what am I supposed to do with that now?

I was in a rough spot. If I didn’t have the objects show up, it would cheapen our previous games and those PCs would lose a piece of their legacy. If I did include them in the new world, they run the risk of cheapening that game. Also, to make matters worse, I recently recorded a podcast with a few of my players. We were talking about connecting the material plane cosmologies of different D&D worlds. For instance, Forgotten Realms’ material plane would have a portal to Eberron’s material plane and visa versa. For the most part they all thought that material planes should stay away from each other. They didn’t want to travel from Eberron to Forgotten Realms to the Nentir Vale or anywhere else. They thought that approached hurt the integrity of both worlds. It’s a safe bet that seeing pieces of their old PCs’ gear show up in my new homebrew world would be equally off-putting.

Thanks, buddy!

During my recent brainstorm with Andrew, he threw another idea out there. What if the objects from the Well of Heroes landed in this new world when it was just beginning to form? Rather than remain objects, they were absorbed into and morphed the world around them. Andrew, like David Noonan, had his idea straight-up thieved by me. Well, he offered it. I just took him up on that.

To me, this seemed more acceptable, and frankly, way cooler. The items didn’t land in a pile at the end of a Well of Heroes. They traveled through the Well into the place where worlds are made and influenced what happened there. The old items aren’t shoehorned into the new world. They’re a living, breathing part of the world that have been there from the start.

For instance, a lightning staff thrown down the Well of Heroes by a dragon magic sorcerer becomes a perpetual storm of arcane lightning that defends a nest blue dragons. Here’s a list of what my players threw down the Well of Heroes and a musings on what each might be.

  1. Staff of Ruinous Lightning – a perpetual storm of arcane lightning that defends a nest blue dragons.
  2. Ritual scroll of Raise Dead – an altar within a cavern that can restore life to any remains placed on it as per the true resurrection spell. Once it is used the altar disappears and reforms somewhere deeper in the dangerous cavern.
  3. Healer’s Brooch – a special hot spring where a character may bathe once per day and receive the effects of the heal spell.
  4. Staff of Time – a tree with purple fruit, when consumed, gives the creature an extra action once per turn for a minute. During the duration of this effect, the character is also considered intoxicated.
  5. Shield of Barrier Sentinels – becomes a grove of oak trees that prevents creatures from attacking each other unless they make a DC 20 wisdom saving throw. Once one creature saves it can attack others and others may attack it.
  6. Holy Symbol of The Silver Flame – a small mountain from which a precious silver can be mined that is particularly devastating to lycanthropes.
  7. Magic twin bastard swords – enormous, twin cacti that grow needles which can be turned into magic arrows.
  8. Armor of The Silver Flame – a swamp under a perpetual Protection from Evil effect.
  9. Dawn Warrior Dagger – a canyon where fire, lightning, cold, and acid have no effect.
  10. A portal gun – An Underdark cavern with a portal that may teleport six creatures anywhere they’ve been with a DC 20 Intelligence check. An unsuccessful check results in random teleportation.
  11. A single tear, shed for lost love – a waterfall that when gazed into will reveal an individual’s romantic future.
  12. The true name of a star – thousands of diamonds line a canyon deep within the ocean floor. When thrown these diamonds explode with starlight on impact, doing radiant damage.

Just some thoughts, but I’d love to hear what you think these things could be. Leave me a comment. And hey, if you’re liking the blog, please share it, follow me on Twitter, or check out my podcast on The Tome Show.