Building a Campaign from the Ground Up Part 5

DMs, curious players, vengeful kobolds, and party gnolls, welcome back.

I’d like to begin with a short tidbit about my own troubles as a DM. We recently started playing 5e, me and a bunch of newbies, with Horde of the Dragon Queen. Though the adventure gets a lot of hate, we’ve been having a blast. My group is getting into it and loving D&D.

Monday night we hit our first bad session, however. I’m not sure what it was, but the whole thing felt sluggish and grindy and that the players were just going through the motions. I’m not sure if teis is the adventure itself or myself during a poor job at DM-ing that night or what, but it wasn’t great. Still, I plan to trudge forth and try to whip up some more excitement.

It’s the group’s first dungeon, The Dragon Hatchery, and I feared they would have some issues with it. They can’t ever decide on what they’re doing, I swear they spent have the session just hanging out in one of the cave’s chambers. I’m not sure what to do, but hopefully I can fire a spark into the next session. We made it through three rooms in two and a half hours and they only had three battles that weren’t terribly difficult.

Anyways, on to the good stuff. Last week we went introduced Janu Vadanov, the party’s owner, and explored where the characters are. I also delved into the document on the GoogleDocs and made it look/ flow better.  Not sure if that’ll be the final form, but we’ll see. Any critiques are greatly appreciated.

Last week I asked for the following:

  1. How much rest do the adventurers get?
  2. How do we present the idea of escaping?

I’ve landed with the players receiving a short rest at this period of time. They have nothing else to do but sit in their cell, but the cell isn’t the best conditions so I think it makes the most sense.  Besides, I don’t think they’ll really need a long one anyways.

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Factions Project

With summer vacations and moving all overlapping at the end of July, updates have been slower.  But, with August 1st (Saturday), we’ll be jumping out with a new series of content.

We’ll be putting together an exhaustive list of factions for your campaigns.  Histories, notable figures, goals, secrets and ranks and perks and tips for DM’s to really drive recurring cults, cartels, and organizations in their games.  Often, between dungeons and adventures, there is so little to pull from for most DM’s–downtime is not as flavorful as the next big monster and there’s a drought of ready resources for story-tellers to use to build a world around the encounters.

Our goal is a smooth 100 factions, with all the fluff and flesh our readers have come to expect from our content.

Building a Campaign from the Ground Up Part 4

Parts 1, 2, 3

Folks, here we are once again. Wednesday; the day of that glorious mid work week hump. A day we can all take a breather and begin focusing on the fun things in life. Unless you’re lucky and enjoy work; then oooohh gooood foor you.

Anyways, last week we went over my coined ‘guided encounter’. We took our adventurers and threw them up against impossible odds. But we did so in a nice controlled environment. Whether or not it actually plays out safely is up in the air. The Hill Giant encounter looks good on paper, but that means nothing. I mean, half the time I DM my players take me off script the second they sit down. I do plan on play testing the encounter at some point and by all means feel free to try it yourselves and let me know how it goes. It’d be really bad if our first encounter successfully killed everyone to play it.

Last week I asked your opinions on a few key pieces of information. The slaver’s name and the city our adventurers are in. I got more input than last week which makes me happy 😀 and as a result we concluded with Janu Vadanov and the city Kielthrek’s Toe. It’s a combination of two great ideas and even if we don’t delve into the background of the city beyond the following, it gives the place a history. This is key.

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Building a Campaign from the Ground Up: Part 3

What up, DMs? It’s Wednesday and that means we’re hitting the creative books once again. For those of you that need to catch up, we’re working on our first encounter of our campaign. So far we’ve selected a story progression and began scratching the surface of how to get our adventurer’s started.  Last week’s post asked for some reader input that we’ll implement today. And, as promised, you can view the documents I’m starting to put together here[].

Down to business:

Thanks to the less than desired amount of feedback we have our veteran slave fleshed out and I’ve put together a character block for us to present the DM with:

Now, to me that isn’t quite enough info for the DM. Yes, the character block provides the necessary stats, information, etc. But I really want our campaign to be usable and brought to life by anybody. This requires the DM to role play the veteran slave. Unfortunately, fully characterizing an NPC isn’t everyone’s forte and the veteran slave might end up being a flat character that gets mauled in front of the adventurers with no emotions attached to the event. And that’s, well, boring.

As with writing a book, we want our adventurers to feel like they’re part of the campaign. We need to give them emotions, rip them apart, inspire them, and induce fear. In order to achieve this, characters can’t be flat and boring and essentially pointless. Every character has to affect the adventurers in some way.

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On Fighters & Fighting: Part Two

Expanding On Style

The previous post on Fighters talked about the perception of the class as boring, or bland, and attempted to provide a context that shows off how interesting should probably be. This post is going to take that a step further, and look at making sure that Fighters are as engaging when throwing down as they deserve to be.

We all want combat to be something other than a drag, and for the people who play Fighters to feel like they’re doing more than hitting the “do damage” button, but there’s no universal fix or simple solution that will work for all – or even most – of the groups out there.

There are as many different ways to give added style and flavor to combat as there are people running games, and it would be a fruitless effort to try and condense all the best advice into one small blog post. Another author on this site even gave some very good advice on how to introduce memorable elements to otherwise mundane combat.

It’s for that reason that I’m going to pick one small battle and give you some – hopefully – fun tools that are flexible enough to assist anyone looking for a little help on this front.

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A Sticky Situation, Cleaning Up the Place, and There Just Aren’t Enough Traps for Mounts…

This post continues our series of Traps to Worry Your  Players With–a new series at Many-Sided Dice about traps and making interesting ones. Our traps are intended to be fluffy (with lots of nice backstory you may choose to use or get inspired by) and mechanically interesting (with special disable requirements and side-ways solutions).


The bastard was fast, but Kallie was faster. With his fellows either dead or dying at the hands of the rest of the troupe, she raced ahead to stop Marcus from getting away. His hideout had been full of surprises and she wouldn’t put it past him to have a series of escape plans ready to go at a moment’s notice. They’d tracked him for weeks, he was not going to get away this time.

She finally caught sight of him, unlocking the west door. Her heart was racing before, and now it almost flew. In the tunnels and catacombs down here, he was dangerous, but in the open and outside? He couldn’t run fast enough to outpace her shortbow. Taking the fight outside was the best chance they had.

He unlocked the door as she closed the distance, slipped through, and shut it hard. If he thought she’d be slowed down by a door he was sadly mistaken. She put a hand on the latch, swung it open, saw him racing for the trees, and barely broke stride as she went out into the sun…

The world went sideways as she hit the sandy dirt face-first and saw Marcus, senior agent of The Creed of Greyghast and most dangerous spy in four kingdoms, turn effortlessly with a vicious knife in hand–watching his prey struggle on the ground.

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On Itemry and Trappery – Part 1

As my own 5e Eberron game returns to my table this week after a month on hiatus (players on travel and vacation), we’ll be getting into the dangerous world of life as the secret spies and adventurers for a growing city-state surrounded on all sides by enemy nations and vile conspiracies…

Normally, in a given week, I’d be adding to my Worrisome Trap or Better Than Nothing Item collections, but as I’ve made a whole bunch in running up to my game returning (and my players read my content all the time), I want to hold back a week before posting them up.  The sad part is you’ll have to wait a bit for a half dozen new traps (well themed for an Eberron game) and a few more flavorful magic items; the good part is they’ll be slightly more playtested and balanced than usual by the time they do post up here.

In the meantime, though, I wanted to share the first, high-level overview of how I approach the making of magic items and traps.  The first stages are the same for either, but I’ll emphasize items in this post and come around to traps later on. Now, I want to emphasize, this is just my own process for creating things.  Everyone has their own, of course, and the DMG has a few on top of that… take what you like, leave what doesn’t jive for you.

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