Posts Tagged ‘world building’

It’s time for another fifth edition player option! As I mentioned in some previous posts, I want show off my world of Enora. With that world comes some new player options, one of which I am happy to share now! All of these options are in playtest mode and I am looking for feedback!

Since the world of Deldoroth is six floating cities, it makes sense that druids in these crowded places would be of the Circle of the Sky. Check out the new circle below!

Circle of the Sky

The Circle of the Sky is a sect of druids who move with swift speed and grace to defend the natural world. These druids gather under open skies to hold their meetings, day or night, rain or shine. They wander open plains, traveling within herds of animals, strengthening the local flora so it can grow towards the sun. Circle of the Sky druids often use their magic to aid struggling crop farmers. This order believes clean air is the provider of all life. They abhor beings who unnecessarily pump pollution into the sky.

Speed of the Wind

When you choose this circle at 2nd level, your walking speed increases by 10 feet. This speed bonus applies to your wild shape forms. At 8th level, the bonus applies to your wild shape forms’ flying speeds, if the form you’re in already had a flying speed to begin with.

Stealth Proficiency

At 2nd level, you gain proficiency in the Stealth skill.

Skyward Leap

Starting at 6th level, the distance and height you can jump is double what it would normally be.

In addition, if you begin your turn within the reach of a creature and then jump out of that creature’s reach, that creature has disadvantage on any opportunity attacks it makes against you.

Air Servant

Starting at 10th level, you can summon an air elemental as if you had cast the spell conjure elemental without needing to expend any material components and without needing to maintain concentration. You cannot use this feature again until you complete a long rest.

Wings of the Sky

At 14th level, you have a flying speed equal to your current walking speed whenever you are not underground or indoors.

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!

Advertisements

How great is The Adventure Zone? If you haven’t heard this hilarious fifth edition actual play podcast, stop whatever you’re doing and give it a shot right now. While the normal cast on the show is the crem dela crem of actual play awesomeness, during the holidays they went on hiatus and allowed the crew from The Flop House podcast (another great one) to take over the story for an episode. This special game was DMed by the great Stuart Wellington who has inspired me to write about an important topic: keeping the game moving.

Wellington’s players, The Hogsbottom Three, attended a dinner party undercover to complete a sensitive mission. I won’t go into more detail as to not spoil the story. What I will say is that this mission, like many heists in RPGs, had a lot of discussion among players as to what they should do next. It’s the kind of conversation that keeps players talking in circles about whether they should hide in apple barrels or sacks of potatoes. While this conversation can be fun to an extent, it also considerably slows down the game while tens of minutes are wasted talking about whether the kitchen or the drawing room should be searched for clues. A lengthy discussion about which duchess seems a more worthy target of a detect thoughts spell can cut into the chunk of time you need for an awesome boss fight (or other set piece) at the end of the adventure. Wellington knows this, and that’s why he kept the game the moving.

Whenever the adventurers started to overthink or argue in circles about what to do next, a new NPC would walk over an engage them in conversation or the butler would ring the bell and ask everyone to proceed into the dining room for dinner. Startling announcements were made. Surprising events happened! Wellington pulled out all the stops to push the adventure forward and so can you. It’s easier than it seems. You don’t need to plan for every conversation the characters are going to have to make this happen. Just follow my Wellington-inspired tips below.

List Out Events Chronologically

Wellington kept his game going by simply moving the action of a dinner party forward as it might normally occur without the adventurers there. You can do the same for any sort of structured event (such as a ball, thieves’ guild meeting, or night spent in a spooky cabin) by simply jotting down a quick list of events in the order you think they’d happen. This will take less than five minutes. Here’s an example.

The characters are attending a fancy dinner party honoring a newly named baroness because they have gotten wind she might be assassinated by a rival faction. Her assassination could spark a war, so it’s up to the heroes to stop them. Here’s what your list might look like.

  1. Cocktail hour on the castle balcony.
  2. Many important NPCs arrive.
  3. The PCs are recognized by Lady Duafaine, who slips them a note saying not to trust the baroness’ husband.
  4. The baroness arrives with husband on her arm and gives a welcome toast.
  5. Dinner is served in the great hall.
  6. PCs are seated at a table with Lord Marquet, who likes to gossip and knows all about the noble holdings in the area.
  7. The baroness’ husband gets up to give a toast in honor of his wife.
  8. After the meal, the band begins playing and the PCs are asked by guests to dance including the baroness and her husband,
  9. During the dance the baroness reveals in some way she is unhappy in her marriage.
  10. Lady Duafaine asks the band to stop playing and reveals she is the lich Necronstalla in disguise and some of the wait staff are her zombie henchmen! They attack immediately.

The example above shows how the party might flow if the characters chose to do nothing. Odds are most groups will take action, and you may not have every scene in your timeline play out. That’s totally fine. In fact that’s the hope. The list exists so the next time you find the characters talking in circles about what to do next, you can say, “And that’s when Lady Duafaine wanders over…” A new conversation or a change of scene reminds them of the ticking clock and provides them with some new information that allows them to take action. Whenever you feel the characters are dragging their feet, simply move to the next item on your list.

If the characters figure out Lady Duafaine is Necronstalla and attack before dinner is served, that’s ok. This list is to here help you move things along not be a full outline for the adventure. They might also take her advice and arrest the barroness’ husband (which is exactly the distraction the lich wants) which would also shake up the timeline.

A chronological list like this also helps you out when the players go somewhere you didn’t expect. Maybe one of them wants to investigate the kitchen because they’re worried the baroness might be poisoned. Depending on when they sneak into the kitchen, you might describe the wait staff moving mechanically as they lift trays and prepare to bring them to the hall. They don’t speak with one another and go about their tasks like focused robots. Your list told you that because dinner hasn’t been served yet, this is what the zombies would be setting up. Similarly, if a character goes into the kitchen during dinner to see what desserts are offered, they might be surprised to find none are being made… a tip that something indeed is wrong!

Make A List Of Random Events

Of course not all adventures are so structured. The most classic of heists, the bank variety, could follow the bank’s schedule if the characters are using stealth and deception to obtain their goals, or it could take on a less structured vibe if the characters are doing more of an old-fashioned stick up. In cases like these, where there isn’t a set schedule, you’ll just need a list of random events ready to go. You might event put them into a table like the one below. Whenever the characters are talking in circles, roll on the table or pick and event to shake things up.

d10 Event
1 The PCs are alerted their getaway vehicle is compromised.
2 The PCs get word their heist is trending on social media or in the news.
3 The bank enters lockdown mode. All the doors shut and lock making it nigh impossible to leave.
4 A security guard who is late for duty arrives on the scene.
5 An alarm the PCs didn’t know or plan for about begins to sound.
6 A hostage offers considerable wealth or information for their release.
7 A hostage recognizes a PC.
8 3d4 heroic hostages take it on themselves to assault the PCs.
9 A pregnant hostage goes into labor.
10 A voice calls from outside, “This is the police! We have you surrounded.”

Events like these should really keep the pressure on your PCs to keep moving. The longer they dillydally, the more the problems will start to pile up. This method isn’t just for ban heists. Zombie outbreaks, battlefield operations, and all kinds of other missions benefit from having a table like this.

Have A List Of NPCs Handy

No matter what you do, it helps to keep a list of NPCs that might engage the characters to move the story along handy. Don’t spend too much time on this. A sentence or two should be enough for you to improv a quick scene with the characters to keep their butts moving. Use this list in conjunction with your event list to really make your story work. In the bank example above a list like this might give you an idea of which hostage leads the charge against the PCs. Or the list could even make you think of some new events on the spot. Why wouldn’t intrepid reporter Maria Carrana try to engage the PCs for an interview as they rob her bank?

Here are some sample entries for an NPC list:

  • Maria Carrana – Bold reporter for The Daily Drift who will stop at nothing for a good story.
  • Gruff McGriffles – An old dwarf who loves talking about his days as a captain in the orc war.
  • Admiral Gutpunch – A spacemarine android who takes everything literally.

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!

Last week I unveiled my plan to make Enora my first fully published world. In that same announcement, I showed off a new player character race, the dwiefling. This week, I have a new cleric domain to share – Darkness.

Avos is the god of darkness worshipped by the dwarves and tieflings of Redwind, but you can use this domain for clerics who worship any deity associated with darkness, night, or secrets. I know that the first gods that spring to mind are evil: Lolth, Shar, The Shadow, Tharizdun, and Vecna immediately come to mind. That’s not the only way to play this though. There’s plenty of non-evil deities associated with darkness (just look at this real-world list). Different arguments can be made for Elistraee, Mask, Moradin, Selûne, Celestian, Wee Jas, The Traveler, and The Blood of Vol. Avos falls into this camp. His faithful seek comfort and safety in darkness and trust in the unknown.

So it is without further adieu that I present the Darkness domain. Please provide feedback as I consider these new items to be in playtest mode!

Darkness Domain

The Darkness domain focuses on what is hidden, both physically and within one’s soul. Followers of darkness gods depend on these deities to keep secrets concealed and loved ones safe in the darkness. These are powers many pray to just before they go to sleep so that they might wake again. Subterranean cultures in particular hold this domain in high regard, since they live in darkness. The gods of this domain are often depicted as hooded or concealed figures that sometimes lack form. Some of the gods are referred to as gods of night, dark magic, or secrets.

Darkness Domain Spells
Cleric Level Spells
1st sanctuary, sleep
3rd darkness, darkvision
5th fear, nondetection
7th black tentacles, phantasmal killer
9th dream, mislead
Bonus Proficiency

When you choose this domain at 1st level, you gain proficiency with heavy armor.

Favor in Darkness

Also starting at 1st level, you gain blindsight to a range of 15 feet.

Channel Divinity: Clinging Darkness

Starting at 2nd level, you hurl a shadow at one creature you can see within 30 feet of you as an action. That creature must succeed on a Constitution saving throw or become fully bound in the shadow for 1 minute. While bound in the shadow the creature is blinded and restrained. It can repeat the saving throw each time it takes damage, or on its turn as an action, ending the blinded and restrained conditions on a success.

Superior Favor in Darkness

Starting at 6th level, your blindsight increases to a range of 30 feet.

Divine Strike

At 8th level, you gain the ability to infuse your weapon strikes with divine energy. Once on each of your turns when you hit a creature with a weapon attack, you can cause the attack to deal an extra 1d8 cold or necrotic damage (your choice) to the target. When you reach 14th level, the extra damage increases to 2d8.

Darkness Savant

At 17th level, your blindsight increases to a range of 60 feet. In addition, targets of your clinging darkness take 4d6 cold damage and 4d6 necrotic damage when they first become bound in the shadow by failing a Constitution saving throw. This damage does not allow them to repeat their saving throws.

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 up!

tabble_babble_logo_2

James Introcaso chats with Wolfgang Baur, Steve Winter, and Dan Dillon of Kobold Press about worldbuilding in RPGs, designing new spells, and the upcoming Kickstarter for the Midgard Campaign Setting for 5th Edition D&D.

Subscribe on iTunesGoogle Play, or StitcherGrab our RSS feed.

Follow Table Top Babble on Facebook or Twitter.

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!

It’s a new year! Here’s hoping it brings you gaming goodness.

I’ve been doing a lot of thinking and running games in Exploration Age since this blog started. I feel I have enough material to publish a book, but it need a lot of work – editing, layout, development, and it’d be great to get some playtesting feedback. The book will most-likely be a massive endeavor unlike any I’ve taken on. I’ve never even created a print product on my own!

To that end, I’ve decided to switch my focus for a while to a smaller world so that I can get my feet wet. Exploration Age will not go away. I’ll still be playing games in that wonderful world, but it may be some time before consumers get their mitts on it. So with that in mind, I want to focus on the smaller, but evocative world of Enora the Bound Sky.

What is Enora?

I’ve already written about this world in two different posts, One-Hour Worldbuilding and 5 Campaign Worlds for Your Next D&D Game. If you want a quick summary, read on below!

Six floating cities hover above the darkness of Enora in Bound Sky. Once a prosperous nation, Enora was home to humans, elves, halflings, gnomes, and dragonborn. The country was run by the Dordune, a council of mage governors, each acting as the leader of one of Enora’s thirteen major cities. Beneath Enora’s surface, the nation’s dwarf and tiefling allies lived happily in the kingdom of Drakefire. Except for the occasional marauding gnoll pack or angry dragon, all was well in Enora. Any threats which appeared were dealt with swiftly and efficiently by the Dordune.

Fifty years ago Governor Kira Vae, an elf wizard, was nearing the end of her long life. Some say fear of death gripped the governor, others say it was an unsatiated lust for power. Whatever the reason, Vae transformed herself into a lich. The transformation warped her mind, seeding a dark hatred of all life in her heart. The lich declared herself Empress of Enora. Empress Vae turned the citizens of her city, Cambor, into an undead army. The rest of Enora tried to stand against the threat, but so sudden and severe did the undead strike that seven of Enora’s cities fell to Vae.

Every victory added more soldiers to her undead ranks. Messengers were sent to Drakefire, asking for military against the undead legions, but the underground kingdom was already over run by Vae’s minions. Any survivors from Drakefire had already fled even deeper underground by the time the messengers arrived.

As the armies of Empress Vae closed around Enora’s six remaining cities, the Dordune made a decision to enact a powerful ritual which raised the cities and their people into the sky away from Vae and her undead. Away from a fight they knew they could not win. As the cities rose, Vae swore to eradicate the rest of Enora’s living. She is eternal as is her hate for all people who defy her.

Now the six floating cities of Deldoroth find themselves safe from Empress Vae’s undead, but they have their own troubles. With limited land to produce resources, the six cities have begun treating each other more like separate countries than one cooperative nation. The Dordune have disbanded and each governor acts as a city’s monarch. As competition for food, water, and shelter grows each day, many less fortunate turn to a life of crime or legal savagery to survive. Airships transporting goods from one city to another are wary of pirates, and many make a killing or die trying in the cities’ gladiatorial arenas (which were introduced by the governors to help control population growth).

Beneath Deldoroth, dead Enora can no longer be seen. Thick layers of black clouds hang between the floating cities and the surface. The undead built massive stoves and constantly pipe ash into the sky to blot out the sun they hate so much. Sometimes at night the victorious howls of the undead can be heard through the blackness by the people of Deldoroth. It is an unsettling reminder that Enora is no longer their home and what drove them out long ago still hungers for them.

The situation underground is no better. Resources are scarce in Redwind, the last remaining city of Drakefire. Plenty of unsavory beasts that burrow made their way underground when the undead took the surface. Everyday the hoard bangs on Redwind’s doors and it is only a matter of time before they break through and devour the residents… if disease or starvation doesn’t take them first.

Screen Shot 2015-03-11 at 12.24.28 PM

This map of Enora before the fall made on Roll20 using Russ Hapke‘s Old World Style Maps

So in the coming weeks, prepare to hear more about the world of Enora. In the meantime, may I present for your consideration…. the dwiefling PC race. This is in its rough stages, so take a look and let me know what you think!

Dwiefling

In the crowded city of Redwind, some dwarves and tieflings have married, producing dwiefling offspring. Dwieflings walk in multiple worlds like other mixed races, but because they grow up in a densely packed city from which there is no escape, they cannot run from odd looks, name-calling, and occasional violent reactions. Though most know taking on a dwiefling mano a mano is a dangerous idea, since they have the toughness of dwarves, the suspicious nature of tieflings, and the self-reliant values of both parents. They are versatile and dangerous adventurers who dare to wander the unsafe halls of Drakefire’s fallen cities. The boldest dwieflings make trips to the surface to scout for more resources and spy on the undead legions of Empress Vae.

Devilish Dwarves

Dwieflings have the basic body structure of dwarves, but stand a bit taller. They are just about 5 feet tall, stout, and compact, weighing 200 to 300 pounds. Many share the blunt tongue of their dwarf ancestors as well. Yet there is no hiding the infernal blood of this race. They have the horns and pupil-less eyes of a tiefling, though they lack a tail. Their skin is often purple, red, brown, or black. Perhaps the most unique feature of dwieflings is complete hairlessness. They do not have a single follicle on their heads, faces, or bodies, including eyebrows.

Reliable and Short-Tempered

A life as outcasts in a city they cannot leave makes dwieflings suspicious of everyone they interact with at first. Most people find them closed off, or even cold. A dwiefling’s trust is difficult to gain, but once it is won, there is no greater ally. They place great importance on the bonds shared with their few close friends, and fiercely defend those allies with a passionate tenacity. Those closest to a dwiefling can even engage their friend in a reasoned debated, something that many fear to attempt with good reason.

The temper of dwieflings is legendary. Most carry an innate anger and explode with words, fists, or spells when provoked, particularly when their heritage is mocked. This causes many closet racists to just give a passing dwiefling a funny look, while other bigots ignite that infamous temper to start a fight for amusement. The latter often regret this decision, since the sturdy dwieflings rarely lose.

Outcast Artists In Crowded Tunnels

Because dwieflings and their parents are often shunned by others in Redwind, most try to keep to themselves. They lurk in dark corners or small alleys, pursuing artistic crafting hobbies, reading ancient lore, or practicing with steel or magic. Dwieflings sometimes pursue these self-taught skills to the point of obsession and become experts in these crafts, though no one else may know it.

Dwiefling Names

Dwieflings usually have a dwarf or tiefling name, given to them by one of their parents.

Dwiefling Traits

Your dwiefling character has the following racial traits.

Ability Score Increase. Your Strength, Constitution, and Intelligence scores each increase by 1.

Age. Dwieflings mature more slowly than humans and are considered adults at around age 25. They can live for 150 years.

Alignment. Dwieflings tend to trust in themselves and are very loyal to the few friends they make. They often favor a neutral alignment.

Size. Dwieflings stand about 5 feet tall and weigh around 250 pounds. Your size is Medium.

Speed. Your base walking speed is 30 feet.

Darkvision. Your infernal heritage and dwarf blood grant you superior vision in dark and dim conditions. You can see in dim light within 60 feet of you as if it were bright light, and in darkness as if it were dim light. You can’t discern color in darkness, only shades of gray.

Expanded Knowledge. You gain proficiency in one set of artisan’s tools or melee weapon of your choice or one of the following skills: Arcana, History, Nature, or Religion.

Hellish Bind. When a creature hits you with an attack that deals damage, you can use your reaction to force that creature to make a Wisdom saving throw as your pain imparts psychic visions of torture to it. The DC for this saving throw equals 8 + your Constitution modifier + your proficiency bonus. On a failure, the creature is stunned until the end of its next turn. After you use Hellish Bind, you cannot use it again until you finish a long rest.

Menacing. You gain proficiency in the Intimidation skill.

Languages. You can speak, read, and write Common, Dwarvish, and Infernal.

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!

Thala pushed back with all her might against the gnoll berserker, but the gnome rogue might as well have thrown herself against a wall made of dragons. She would end up in the bottom of the magic-tinged purple river behind her. The mage was unsure of the spells within the water, but the resident monsters were trying to push her and her companions into it, so a bath would probably not be pleasant. “Whatever it is, it’s better than being devoured by gnolls,” she thought as she  fell backwards into the icy embrace.

Yet as soon as Thala submerged, she began to rocket back out of the water and beyond into the air. She could fly! The dripping wet gnome giggled. The stupid gnoll had just given her a huge advantage by pushing her into the magic river. “Hey everyone!” she cried to her embattled friends as she knocked an arrow twenty feet in the air. “Take a dip and get some wings like me!”

Hagus would not be outdone by his little friend. The elf fighter grinned as he dove head first into the water… and promptly turned into a pig.

I love traps and hazards that have the chance of bestowing a benefit to players. You can get great, surprising moments like the one above, and you get to watch your players ask themselves if the risk is worth the reward. They can even use such environmental effects as a last-ditch effort to try to save their hides. “We’re going to die! Our only shot is to push that gnoll berserker into the river and pray he turns into a pig. Let’s hope he doesn’t get the power of flight instead!”

The earlier examples involve a stream that can make a person fly or polymorphs them into a pig at random, but there’s tons of fun examples out there. In this post I’d like to discuss the types of risk/reward environmental effects I use most often and provide some examples. Hopefully it’ll spawn some ideas for you to use in your own games and give you some crunchy pieces to steal. These environmental effects are both naughty and nice!

Save to Win!

One of the simplest ways to create a risk/reward environmental effect is to assign a save DC to its effects. If a save is successful, the character gets a boon. If the save is a failure, the character is harmed in some way.

The characters enter a room with a fountain statue of a vampire spewing blood in 10-foot-radius blood pool. Any other creature that drinks from, enters, or starts its turn in the blood pool must succeed on a DC 17 Constitution saving throw. Creatures who fail gain one level of exhaustion. Creatures who succeed gain 20 temporary hit points.

You can even assign levels of success and failure to an effect. Maybe if a creature fails the save by 5 or more, they suffer two levels of exhaustion and if they exceed the save DC by 5 or more they get an extra 20 temporary hit points.

These types of hazards are perfect for a simple, binary result, but be aware this is an easier system to game. In the example above characters with high Constitution scores may decide a little dip is worth the risk while others may avoid it once you call for that particular save.

If you want to see you players struggle with the choice like, “Should I bathe in that blood fountain?” make sure the risk is worth the reward. 20 temporary hit points are a big reward, but a level of exhaustion is just as, if not more crippling. If the 20 temporary hit points were put against instant death, the characters might be shocked to see the first PC die, but the rest will have a very easy choice in front of them and choose not to bathe. That’s fine if you play in a game where the risk of random, instant death is enjoyed by the players and aren’t looking for them to struggle with whether or not they should try the hazard for themselves.

Get Random!

Who doesn’t love a good random table? You can assign a random effect for a hazard, make some naughty, some nice and then let the dice decide. For harmful effects, you may still want to assign a save, so a characters isn’t automatically turned petrified for rolling around in magic mud that gave a companion the benefit of stoneskin spell.

The characters enter a room with an altar to a goddess of chaos. Creatures who touch the altar are subject to an effect randomly chosen on the Chaos Altar Effects table. Once a creature interacts with the altar, it cannot be subject to another effect from the altar for 24 hours.

The stone altar has AC 17, 27 hit points, and is immune to poison and psychic damage. If the altar is destroyed, any effects it created immediately end.

Chaos Altar Effects

d6 Effect
1 The creature must make a DC 15 Constitution saving throw. On a failure it is blinded for 4 hours. On a success it is deafened for 4 hours.
2 The creature must make a DC 15 Wisdom saving throw. On a failure it suffers a random form of long-term madness. On a success it suffers a random form of short-term madness.
3 The creature must make a DC 15 Dexterity saving throw as a bolt of lightning flies out of the altar toward it. On a failure it takes 28 (8d6) lightning damage. On a success it takes only half damage.
4 The creature can see invisible creatures and objects for 4 hours.
5 The creature gains a burrow speed of 20 feet for 1 hour. If the creature already has a burrow speed, it is increased by 20 feet for the same duration.
6 The creature gains the benefit of the stoneskin spell for 1 hour.

In the specific case of this altar, you might decide that appeasing the chaos goddess is more likely to give a person a better result. In that case you could add: Creatures who pray to the goddess before touching the altar are given two different effects at random and pick one effect.

Just like with a binary effect, balance is important here if you want the players to struggle with the choice of interacting with the hazard but you have a more ways to achieve that balance. First you can simply have tempting rewards that seem worthy of the risks, just like you would with a binary choice.

Another option is to increase the number of variables, making it impossible for players to determine what they’ll get through trial and error. Don’t feel like you need to put 100 options on a table. Charts with 10 or more options achieve this with flying colors for most groups.

The final option would be to have a table with more instances of one type of consequence with less impactful effects and less of the other type with more impactful effects. Sure four out of six of the options are bad, but the other two are really tempting, or vice versa.

Greed

Maybe there can be too much of a good thing. Certain effects can punish players for their greed. The first taste of meal can be delicious and healing, but beyond that first bite, there are consequences.

The characters enter come across a 20-foot radius lake as they make their way through the Nine Hells. The first time a creature drinks from the water in the pool as an action, it regains 15 hit points. Devils receive the same effect on subsequent drinks from the pool. Other creatures that take subsequent drinks from the pool must make a DC 15 Constitution saving throw. Creatures who fail take 22 (4d10) poison damage and are poisoned for 1 hour. Creatures who succeed take half damage and are not poisoned.

This type of hazard should be used sparingly since it will seem like an unfair trick to some players. Make sure there’s some clue that there could be harmful effects from whatever it is the characters are near. The example above takes place in the Nine Hells, which should be enough of a warning sign in itself to not drink the water. If you’re characters aren’t in the Nine Hells, a dead body, a mind-controlled (or out-of-control) creature, or a petrified creature nearby is a good way to give characters a warning of what’s to come. They just have to pick up on it!

Discrimination

A hazard could have magic effects that only benefit or harm certain races, classes, alignments, etc. Maybe the wizard who crafted a potion of invulnerability really hates sorcerers, so for that class it functions as a potion of poison. Maybe a dragon created a special incense that when inhaled enhances breath weapon of dragon and dragonborn, but rapidly ages any other creature.

The characters come across a closet-sized room in an orc stronghold that has walls covered in Orc runes that spell out prayers to Gruumsh. A creature that is not an elf that enters and reads the prayers aloud gains a +5 bonus to melee weapon damage rolls for 1 hour. An elf who does this make a DC 15 Wisdom saving throw, taking 22 (4d10) damage and becoming blinded for 1 hour on a failure, or taking only half damage on a success.

You could also make this effect much narrower if you say only orcs and half-orcs get the beneficial effects and everyone else is subject to the terrible effect. Again, use these sparingly, and make sure you change-up which characters get punished when you do use such a method.

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!

How is everyone! Just a quick update this week about the release of my second ever D&D Adventurers League adventure! While this update is short, the adventure represents WEEKS of work and 30 pages of content.

Tales of Good & Evil

My second D&D Adventurers League adventure, Tales of Good & Evil, is available on the DMs Guild now. This bad boy was put out by Baldman Games and is part of their CORE series that is overseen by the great Shawn Merwin! Get a description below. Awesome maps by Jay Africa!

As the City of a Thousand Forges perseveres in the face of threats both internal and external, the effects of the planar portal continue to make everyone uneasy. When unusual individuals are drawn to the city because of the portal’s power, heroes are asked to keep the peace and ferret out anyone intending to bring harm to Melvaunt. A D&D Adventurers League adventure set in Melvaunt. A four-hour adventure for 1st – 4th level characters

889633-core_2-1_tales_of_good__evil

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

47ee0-1462462559930

Whoawhoawhoawhoawhoa!  An interview with JAMES INTROCASO?  WHO WOULD HAVE PREDICTED IT?!*  Listen to Rudy and James discuss approaches to DM’ing, how to breakout of advertising cliches, and how to break into the RPG industry.

ALSO HEY.  Ray Fallon and John Fischer have been NOMINATED FOR AN AUDIOVERSE AWARD!  They have made it to the final round, which ends TODAY.  That means PLEASE GO VOTE FOR THEM RIGHT NOW!  You can login via facebook or twitter, so a new account isn’t required or anything.  Just login and vote!

*Someone who correctly guessed that since Rudy was the last interview, James would be the next.  WELL DONE YOU.

Tweet your own Levels Question of the Week at us or #levelsq on Twitter!  Today’s question was submitted by Ally Burnham.  Thanks Ally!

Send your mailbag questions via the Contact page.

VISIT AND CONTRIBUTE TO OUR WIKI!

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!

Let’s talk about an Archduke of the Nine Hells! Both of my Exploration Age games that started during the launch of fifth edition are wrapping up. One campaign has a single session remaining! The entire story culminates in a battle with Bel, the former Archduke of Avernus, the first layer of the Nine Hells. (Note, if you’re unfamiliar with Bel, he’s mentioned briefly in the Nine Hells section of the Dungeon Master’s Guide on page 65 and in the old third edition source book Fiendish Codex II: Tyrants of the Nine Hells).

In my campaign the player characters formed an alliance of necessity with Bel. They had common enemies. Bel gave the characters the power to take out some very formidable aberrations in exchange for helping to reinstall him as the Archduke of Avernus. It turns out the characters were being used by the crafty devil to take out his rivals. Now all they are all that stands in the way of Bel turning their home plane into a brand new hellscape.

Since I needed to stat out this legendary fiend for my party to take on, I thought I’d share the mechanics with all of you! Take a look. You can grab Bel’s stats in the free PDF linked below and in the Free Game Resources page of this site. (Note: My version of Bel is extra powerful. He’s the campaign’s ultimate villain and he’s gained a lot of power thanks to the adventurers. I estimate his normal Challenge Rating would be somewhere in the low to mid 20s. Reducing his hit points, damage output, and AC and then replacing his Limited Magic Immunity with Magic Resistance is an easy way to make that adjustment.)

Bel: Not Your Average Pit Fiend

Image from the Forgotten Realms Wiki.

Image from the Forgotten Realms Wiki.

Bel

Bel is no ordinary pit fiend. The ground shakes and all but the strongest archdevils are cowed when the legendary general walks by.

Asmodeus Above All. Bel is the former and present general and adviser of Zariel, the current ruler of Avernus by decree of Asmodeus. During Zariel’s first reign, Bel served his mistress loyally, until she plotted to overthrow Asmodeus. Bel betrayed Zariel in order to please his greater master Asmodeus. As a reward for his loyalty, Bel became the Archduke of Avernus when Zariel was overthrown. Overtime Zariel proved her loyalty to Asmodeus once again and Bel fell from the dark god’s favor. Zariel once again ruled Avernus and Bel was demoted. This was the will of Asmodeus, and though the decision was a slap in the face to Bel, he respects the hierarchy of the Nine Hells above all. It is an insult to serve Zariel, who delights in keeping Bel as an advisor, but he will not go against the word of Asmodeus.

Coveter of Power. Though Bel will not directly oppose or betray Asmodeus, he still desires his old station as Archduke of Avernus. To this end Bel seeks creatures who operate outside of the hierarchy of the Nine Hells. Bel’s plots are layered and complex. The strange bedfellows he makes are often unwitting adventurers who don’t realize the true consequences of their actions until it is too late. Bel seeks Zariel overthrown again, this time permanently, or a way to coerce Asmodeus.

Dangerous Deceiver. Bel is an engaging liar. He forges perfectly worded contracts that have deceived ancient gold wyrms into handing over their souls. The devil can look into the soul of any person and tell them exactly what they want to hear in order to get his desired reaction.

Brilliant General. For centuries Bel has been leading armies of devils in Avernus, the first line of defense against the Nine Hell’s incoming threats, namely demons from the Abyss. He has been fighting the Blood War for as long as he can remember and the fact that he has survived and thrived in this environment is a testament to his strategic mind and the loyalty of his troops.

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!

It’s Thanksgiving today in the United States, so this is going to be a quick post. On this holiday we think about the people in our lives that we’re grateful to know. For me that includes a ton of gamer friends. With the holidays coming up, I’m giving you a few gift ideas for one of your most important gamer friends: your Dungeon Master.

DMs deserves our love, because not only do they have the mammoth task of running the game, they also spend more hours outside the game preparing it, often serve as the organizers and schedulers of games, and usually drop the most coin on gaming products. Here’s how you can appreciate them.

Gifts that Cost Cash

If you’ve got some change to spare, these goodies will make your DM smile… and possibly overlook the next time your PC takes a critical hit!

Gifts that Cost Time

Maybe your philosophy is “Spend more time than money on those you love.” It’s a good one! If that’s the case, here’s some gifts that will fill your DM’s heart with cheer.

  • Create A Game Calendar. Get together with your gaming group and plan a year’s worth of sessions. Put it all onto a calendar you buy or create and you’ve got one of the best gifts a DM could ask for! You can even give this gift digitally. Make sure you ask your DM for their schedule before locking down dates.
  • Run A Game. Many DMs rarely get to play. Offer to run a one-shot for you DM so that they get to have fun in a new way. You’ll gain a new appreciate for what they do.
  • Write A Recap. If you’re in the middle of a long campaign, on your own or with the rest of your group, write a recap of the narrative so far and give it to your DM. Each person in the group could take a few “chapters” of the campaign and write it from their character’s perspective for extra fun. You could post the whole thing on Obsidian Portal to really give your DM a special treat.
  • Find Great Free Products. There are tons of free products out there. Print them out and hand them to your DM. Of course, I recommend you start on the Free Game Resources section of this site (why not try my one-shot adventure Happy Holidays), but you can find tons of free and pay what you want goodies on the DMs Guild. Be sure to leave a review of a product and/or shout it out on social media if you’re grabbing it for free, to help spread the designer’s good work.

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!