Roll for it: February Shops

Roll for it: February Shops

Love it or hate it, shopping is an essential part of every tabletop gaming experience. Not only do shops give players the opportunity to lighten their pouches in exchange for cool and unique items, but it’s also an often overlooked opportunity for characters to explore their interests. Unique shops are full of roleplaying possibilities for both you and your players. Besides, what else are players supposed to do with all those fantasy fun-bucks they just found on a hobgoblin? Save it for the party’s retirement fund? Of course not!


The ideas below can be inserted directly into your game or be used as a brainstorming spark to help you create some of your own. If you’d like to see more premade shops, websites like Dungeon Master’s Guild and DriveThru RPG are great places to look for all kinds of homebrewed content. Alternatively, if you’re the type who enjoys homebrewing as much as possible, you can use a site like World Anvil to keep all your content easily accessible and in one place.


Let’s get those dice rolling and start roleplaying!



Nary-a-Potter: Need pots, bowls, and ceramics imbued with minor magical properties? This is the place for you! Turn water into ale, snag a cup that keeps forgotten tea hot, or simply buy a bowl or two. The grizzled old Human wizard has a peculiar scar, but his snow-white owl seems friendly enough.


Snowpuff’s: Magical iced treats shaped to look like snowmen that melt in your mouth, but not in your pouch! Choose from a wide variety of flavors and colors. With Winter’s Embrace around the corner, Snowpuff’s offers heart-shaped treats to share with your special some-puff. The blue Tiefling lass who runs the shop is always giddy and full of puns!


Ol’ Boozy’s Alewerks: Ale and brewing supplies from around the world! Famous for seasonal tastings and unique flavors. New this season is a romantic ale aptly named Brew Love that features hints of chocolate and wine. While many customers swear they’ve met Ol’ Boozy himself, all eyewitness accounts conflict and no one knows what he actually looks like or how he’s able to obtain so much ale!


Bottom’s Button Bonnets: Hats made to protect delicate skin from the sun. Each Button Bonnet has a handcrafted button attached to it, which is said to bring the wearer luck. Love button charms are particularly popular during mid-winter. This shop is run by a crafty Halfling woman who is often seen chasing after her grandchildren.


Pinky’s Party Punch: Fizzy drinks galore sold in cute, heart-shaped vials. You never know what flavor you just purchased as each drink is the same hue of bubblegum pink. For a little extra, you may purchase a “Love Potion” that tastes like strawberries but removes the element of surprise. A female Gnome with bright pink hair bursts into giggle fits each time a customer gets a drink they didn’t like. No returns or exchanges!


Fur-Real?!: Luxurious leathers and furs for the home and the traveler who appreciates comfort. Owned and operated by a pair of Tabaxi twins. Just don’t ask how they source their materials.


Bombs Away!: Soaps, shampoos, and everything an adventurer needs to look and smell their best! Their namesake product, the Soaking Bomb, fizzes when added to water and fills your cleaning vessel with bright colors, lush fragrances, and soaks all those aches away. A soft-spoken Furbolg druid owns the shop and grows most of the ingredients himself.


Fortune’s Fool: Purchase Mystery Crates of equipment and see what’s inside! Each crate is guaranteed to contain at least one minor magical item. Those feeling lucky can spring for the Legendary Crate, guaranteed to hold at least one enchanted piece of equipment! A spunky Water Genasi woman runs the store alongside her quiet Half-Orc husband.


Build-a-Beast: Go home with a squishy, cuddly version of the world’s more ferocious beasts! Just in time for Winter’s Embrace, the Love Dryad plush is here to charm you. Don’t forget to sing her a little song as you make your purchase! The owner and creator of these plush creatures is a mystery, but the shop is always manned by a different, tired-looking adolescent.


Valtorina’s Secret: This exclusive cafe only serves female clientele. Clients are treated to an exquisite meal and refined conversation with their staff. Guests will feel as if they have been whisked off to a dreamland where they’re the Queen! The Elven proprietress’ attire suggests that this odd business is quite profitable. Make a reservation as soon as possible!

 

Brittany Lindstrom is a mixed media illustrator out of ye olde Boise, Idaho. Under the banner of Spice & Rose, Lindstrom is oftentimes left dreaming of deep dungeon dives while chained to her studio. On the rare occasion that she's let out, you can find her presenting panels on art and Artist Alley at conventions all around the Intermountain West. She has a deep love for playing randomized characters. 

February 09, 2019 — David Derus
Playing by Post: How to RPG at a distance

Playing by Post: How to RPG at a distance

You know what they say: “Time keeps on slippin’.” Between work, school, and other chores, it can be difficult to establish in-person gaming sessions, even for quick ones. Creating a flexible, consistent time block for expansive tabletop RPGs like Pathfinder or Dungeons and Dragons will be even more difficult. Even if you can get everything set up, finding a time everyone can set aside to do it will be a challenge. There’s always that one player that can’t show up for whatever reason. Don’t deal with flakes, there’s a new solution in long-distance gaming.

The Internet Revolution

Virtual tabletops are here to make your session planning simpler than it’s ever been. Soon enough we’ll be floating through space in a fully automated cruise ship. Until then, we still have tools like Roll20 and Fantasy Grounds to remove the obstacle of physical location from the equation. They’re your best friend for long-distance gaming, and especially D&D over Discord. I play online in a game and GM in another game, and I’m grateful for the capability to do so. All the physical barriers have been lifted. Still, time can be a challenge.

Twitch phone app

A Welcome Alternative

This is where Play-by-Post, or PBP, comes in. PBP is a way to play long-distance gaming entirely over text posts. You just have to type in what your character says and does. People all over the world can play in a game from their phone or computer, without needing to synchronize schedules. It doesn’t take being part of a hivemind to get a game going. There’s something really enjoyable about exploring dungeons at any time, even when you’re on the bus or waiting for your dice subscription box to come in. It makes the game feel more all-encompassing like you’re actually living in it.

Play-by-Post Continued

Depending on your GM/DM, players can agree to post at certain levels, even as infrequently as once every 48 hours. Your long-distance gaming mileage may vary, though. D&D players are snowflakes, after all. But, improvements in technology mean you can find a group of like-minded players, or, as Reddit likes to call it, an echo chamber. It doesn’t matter whether you’re into Pathfinder, D&D, Shadowrun, or any other game. You don’t have to rely on message boards for this either. Dedicated forums are alive and well, but are now one of three main categories for scratching the tabletop itch.

Discord

If you aren’t familiar, Discord is the biggest gaming hub out there right now. The D&D Discord community is thriving. You can text, voice, and video call, have access on pc and mobile, and it’s all free! Your wallet is safe with Discord long-distance gaming. The suite of features also makes for a great play-by-post platform. Many games and gaming groups grow from fandoms. That, plus the recent search in play podcasts, notably Matt Mercer, leads to servers full of fans starting looking4group channels. Hope on into one of those channels and you can easily find PBP and other virtual game opportunities.

Discord Logo

More Discord

You always have opportunities to make your own looking4group for long-distance gaming in a community. All you have to do is send the mod of the server a message and ask for one! As long as they’re not a mod on a power trip (seriously, look out for those guys) they’ll totally help you out. And, there are plenty of dedicated bots that can be invited to your server for dice rolling and character sheet management. This really is the future of gaming. I’m currently playing in two PBPs on Discord and it’s super fun, quick, and easy. I even end up fist-pumping in my cubicle without notice sometimes, usually when I roll, max damage.

Dedicated PBP Sites

I only learned about these sites recently when I saw a post mentioning a Play-by-Post was starting on Rolegate. I started tinkering with Rolegate afterward and it looks like a thoughtfully designed website that exists specifically for long-distance gaming. It’s the Chad PBP platform. Creating an account is simple and free, and public games can be read by anybody. In fact, one 5e game on their Good Reads tab shows over 2,000 people actively read the adventure these seven players are experiencing. They’ve practically gone viral in the D&D Discord community. And there are plenty of other PBP websites to look at, also. Ongoing Worlds, for example, has over 100 active games on it. If you’re looking for a PBP campaign, there are sites made just for you.

Typing on gaming keyboard

Forums/Message Boards

By some miracle, vinyl made a comeback and is cool again. Message boards are doing the same thing. I guess time really is cyclical. Forums or message boards once dominated the internet landscape, and long-distance gaming can trace its roots back to these sites. For Pathfinder and Starfinder players, the Paizo boards are both popular and active. As for D&D, there’s an active forum at DNDbeyond. The internet is huge. More huge than you can imagine. And that’s not even counting what lies beyond the Blackwall. Odds are, there’s a place out there for you to play whatever your game of choice is. Streamline your search using the PBP subreddit. They’ll be sure to point you in the right direction or lead you down an enticing rabbit hole in the process.

Closing Thoughts

I’ve participated in my fair share of Play-by-Post campaigns. Some of them have been successful, and some of them have gone the way of 3D television. That’s something that can happen whether you’re long-distance gaming or doing it in person. Most of the time, I’ve had an absolute blast. You’ll increase the chances of having a good time if you do two things: pick a method that fits your lifestyle and temper your expectations. If you rarely sit down in front of a mouse and keyboard, go for Discord or a mobile-friendly website. Rolling virtual dice is practically almost as fun as rolling your favorite set of metal dice. Regardless of what you choose, opting for PBP can be a great way to get your RPG fix on your time. Hopefully, you’ll have the same positive experience as me! Just steer clear of the dark web in your pursuit, they call it dark for a reason.

Jairys Tak is a writer, IT professional, and all-around nerd. He is a Pathfinder player and GM, enjoys board games, and is probably drinking coffee right now.

January 30, 2019 — David Derus
Dice Superstition

Dice Superstition

By: Maxwell Gawlick

Admit it: when you sit down to play D&D, Pathfinder, or any other tabletop RPG that uses dice, you rely on some kind of ritual to guaranty good dice luck. It’s okay, we all do it. We wouldn’t want to be responsible for creating the darkest timeline. D&D dice superstition paralysis is a very real thing — some people can’t start playing until they’ve completed their rituals. And that’s fine. D&D can be a high-pressure game. You wanna be the very best. The best that ever was. And with the right ritual, it can be a sure thing. 

Common Rituals

Pre-rolling

The most common ritual for dice superstition that I’ve seen and do myself is pre-rolling. As the name implies, it’s about giving your dice a few test rolls. Whether I’ve just sat down for a game or I’m at a convention trying dice out, I have to give them several test rolls each. If the odds aren’t looking like they’ll be ever in my favor, I toss those dice. I go for dice that I can rely on. This is backed by science, by the way. With random odds, you’re more likely to consistently roll similar numbers over again rather than having an even distribution. It sounds crazy, but it works.

Dice in a bag

Dice Face-up

We know how that sounds, but this dice superstition isn’t what you think it is. Having dice face-up just means having the highest number facing you. Like the previous D&D dice superstition, there’s also science backing this method. Leaving dice in this position long enough trains them to roll the desired number. That’s right. There’s no need for dice luck when you can simply train them. Personally, I’ll have an array of all the dice I’ll be using for the session behind my DM screen. I’ll spend a couple of minutes organizing them so I see only 20s, 12s, 10s, 8s, 6s, and 4s, or whatever fancy symbol is printed in place of the highest number.

Dice Segregation

This is another common dice superstition that aims for optimum success. Some players insist on keeping one or several sets for combat encounters, and others for out-of-combat rolls. Others have a single, extra-lucky d20 specifically for rolling initiative, so they always get a head-start on the enemy. Unlike what Rick Sanchez will tell you, everything can have a purpose. Players at my table keep d20s just for death saves, and as DM I’ll give them a new d20 when they gain inspiration. I pull out the metal dice for tough spots. My players insist they’re weighted. They aren’t, but it’s still fun to feel like a vengeful god sometimes.

Handful of gaming dice

Dice is Srs Bsns

Some people take their dice superstitions a little more seriously. Sometimes, too seriously. I guess when the entire game depends on the whims of RNGesus you tend to get a little desperate. Sometimes, all it takes is the breath of an innocent, and a gamer will have their newborn niece, nephew, or child blow on them. Some will baptize these indispensable tools in certain liquids, symbolizing the three stages of gaming: soda, cheap beer, and coffee. When it comes to doing anything productive, we sleep. But D&D dice superstition is real shit.

Saline Solution

With this dice superstition, some gamers will always keep saline solution handy to test the weight of the dice. If you didn't know, you can fill a coup about ¾ of the way full of water and add salt until your dice float, and then roll them gently to test their weight. It gives you an accurate reading of your dice’s luck capability. Unfortunately, this test doesn’t work with metal dice, since they’re too heavy. There’s still plenty of other methods for those dice, though. Some gamers will do this only once, while others keep a cup of solution nearby to start testing at any time. You don’t mess around with saline solution.

Dice underwater

Retroactive Methods

Everything above was a dice superstition for preventing poor performance, and sometimes those fail. When that happens, people will employ retroactive D&D dice superstitions to improve their future rolls after certain dice have failed. Dice that consistently perform poorly are sent off to “dice jail” temporarily or permanently, depending on the severity of the offense. Slipping up at an opportune moment: jail. Failing to cast that important spell: jail. Rolling the same numbers so often it becomes suspicious? Believe it or not, jail. We have the best dice luck in the world because of jail.

Severe Punishment

Often, severe dice superstitions come into play for particularly bad performance. The dice are terrible and it should feel terrible. Gamers who are prepared to go this far will set one die apart from the others, but still let it watch as it destroys its siblings. The real ones will go for a blowtorch, but a microwave also works. The more creative you destroy the dice, the better. The other dice must be taught a lesson.

Our Relationship With Dice

We’ve gone over all the different dice superstitions at this point, but why do we do them? Do we want to please the dice gods or petition for the favor of the Demonlord of Fate? Maybe it’s all futile. Or, perhaps there’s some unknown node of possibility that causes our dice to improve our time with our D&D dice superstitions. Personally, I’m of a differing opinion: I think dice are sentient creatures, and these rituals improve our relationship with them, thereby increasing their likelihood of rolling in our favor. Whether that relationship is one of respect, fear, or both, is up to you. All in all, dice are complicated. Each dice master has their own rituals for keeping them in check. What’s your method of choice, and why?

 

January 29, 2019 — David Derus
FEATURED CREATORS: POCKET DIMENSION PODCAST

FEATURED CREATORS: POCKET DIMENSION PODCAST

Here at Dice Envy we want to use our platform to promote creators from throughout the tabletop community. From time to time we will feature one of them here for you to enjoy. Today enjoy our interview with Pocket Dimension Podcast 

 

  1. What are you playing? D&D? Which edition and campaign?

 

We’re playing kind of a Dungeons and Dragons 3.5/5e mashup! It’s a homebrew campaign created entirely by our DM, Devtrast. It takes place on the continent of Kaberon which you can see on our Instagram.

 

2. Talk about your players and DM. Who are they? What is their history with the game? What are their favorite roles to play? What are the characters in your current campaign?

 

Before the Pocket Dimension brought listeners the adventures of the Vaunted Valiant in the world of Kaberon there was a group of off-and-on Dungeons and Dragons enthusiasts that streamed their adventures to the internet at large. Since 2016 the core team has consisted of Ryan, Colton, Keanan, Adrian, Anna, Jared, and Dan.

Ryan aka Devtrast is the grand mastermind of most of the campaigns the group has tackled, although he thoroughly enjoys playing any tabletop RPG from 3.5 to 5th Edition.

Colton is the sometimes DM of the group who has spread the love of gaming to other tabletops; he currently runs a game for his wife and friends outside of the Pocket Dimension. When Colton isn’t saving Atlas he goes by Odo Greenbottle, the nimble Halfling Marksman who uses his crossbow to assassinate orcs from afar. Aiding him is his noble Scorpion companion Ethel, who uses her claws and venom to distract Odo’s quarry.

Keanan is a fan of board games outside of D&D and plays Gloomhaven, Pandemic, Catan, Betrayal at House on the Hill, and more. He started with Pathfinder, but recently adopted 5th Edition to play with a wider audience. Keanan goes by the name Ullster Croleigh when guiding the souls of the dead to the Ethereal River. Ullster is a necromancer cleric of Wee Jas, who used his mastery of undeath to guide spirits to rest.  

Adrian gets his kicks in the gym outside of the game, and spends his time fulfilling fantasies of felonius fancy, plundering his way through dungeons as the sneaky Halfling Rogue Gallahad Kibo Freihair.

Anna supplies the Pocket Dimension Insta feed with her portraits of the world of Atlas and its characters. This is a fitting use of her time, as in-game she is the bibliophile Tharsirion Bleakbriar, the Elf Druid who shapeshifts into fearsome beasts to face down the orcs of Grumsh.

Jared supplies the party with luscious tones as Silas. This Tengu bard’s big mouth has a tendency to get the party in as much trouble as it gets them out of. At the end of the day his brilliant inventions do come in handy when defending the city.

Dan is the de facto leader of the Vaunted Valiant, made apparent by his role as Mayor in the city of Atlas. He is a mighty Crusader, who uses his faith to grant him the strength to crush his enemies. He will need all the faith he can to overthrow Vecna and redeem his ravaged land.

 

  1. What are the aspects you are particularly proud of and that set you apart from the pack? How do you do it better?

 

Aside from being the sexiest D&D podcast on the market, the aspect I am most proud of as their DM is how much each player contributes to the world of Kaberon. They animate the world more than I ever could. Their character’s are more than an alignment; they are desires, fears, motivations, truths, and lies spun to create the vision of the characters they hold so dearly in their mind. Their interactions with each other, NPCs, and the villains breath life into the Pocket Dimension podcast.

To paint a picture: Odo lead an army of orcs he named the ‘Rat Pack’ (he is the Rat God) to a new headquarters named the Rat Nest. He is actively persuading them to worship himself instead of Gruumsh, the literal God of the Orcs. Ullster has kept their home city of Atlas safe after resurrecting two large ogre troll skeletons to guard the perimeter of the town. Siri has begun work on a teleportation network of trees that can take them from Atlas, to all around Kaberon. Galahad has trained the Atlas Army on the ancient interrogation technique of “good guard, bad guard” and makes sure that the orphans of Atlas are well taken care of. Lord Benedict uses his mayoral influence to call upon the residents of the city to continue worship and faith in the gods, even though most of them have abandoned humanity. Silas constructed plans for irrigation channels, mass-market weaponry, and most recently large scale ballistas to combat threat of orcs attacking from the sky in zeppelins.

The players are the Pocket Dimension’s greatest asset, and their creativity trumps mine tenfold. It makes the podcast an entertaining, lovable bi-product of our love to sit around a table and tell stories about a bleak and miserable made-up world where two evil gods are warring for control of the material plane. We are all hoping that they can make it to level 20, as no one at the Pocket Dimension has ever leveled a character that high. Maybe then they can take control of the world.

January 22, 2019 — David Derus
FEATURED CREATORS: HIT DICE!

FEATURED CREATORS: HIT DICE!

Here at Dice Envy we want to use our platform to promote creators from throughout the tabletop community. From time to time we will feature one of them here for you to enjoy. Today is Hit Dice! 

 

Hit Dice! is a meticulously edited real play fifth edition Dungeons & Dragons podcast. Praised for its audio quality, home-brew story, and all-star cast; it has 5/5 stars on every platform and has been designated a ‘must-listen’ for D&D veterans and newcomers alike.

The entire cast is made up by entertainers who also just happen to be Dungeons & Dragons veterans. Allen, Jonathan, Nina, Rachel, Caleb, and Wes have been playing as a cohesive D&D group for over three years now, a miracle by one group standards. Rachel plays Kallista the party Bard, constantly urging the other players forward – convinced they are all meant to be heroes in her epic. Allen plays Patches the quintessential rogue with a chip on his shoulder and a reluctant love for his party members. Nina sports the naive warlock who had her soul offered to her patron by another’s hand. Jonathan is the voice of reason as Professor Arwyl Garowyn the Gnomish Wizard and tinkerer. And last, but certainly not least, Caleb has perfected the art of the Ranger and comic relief as Guy who is accompanied by his trusty steed - the beloved Buffalo.

The players make a unique table experience and have play chemistry that is taught only in the most sacred of bard colleges. The story is driven heavily by their characters and their involvement with one another. However, their play would be at a loss if it weren’t for the intricate and compelling world that Dungeon Master and Editor, Wes, has created for them. With all of their combined experience and talent the cast of Hit Dice! has created something truly diverse, unique, and entertaining. The real play podcast aims to make it feel like you are sitting at the table with old friends as they accomplish this feat expertly and gracefully.

You can feel the genuine camaraderie with each laugh the party shares together and you share their sorrow when tragedy strikes. Hit Dice! boasts an impeccable balance of comedy and a driven narrative that leaves you satisfied and wanting more. The table chemistry and story are complemented by the critically acclaimed audio quality of the podcast. Caleb and Wes are audio engineers and editors by profession and the amount of care and detail they put into each episode makes for a seamless listening experience.

Grab your lucky dice and a goblet of your favorite elixir as you become part of the Hit Dice! experience. 


Twitter: @hitdicepod
Instagram: @hitdicepod
Website: https://www.hitdicepod.com/

January 16, 2019 — David Derus
New Year, New Skills

New Year, New Skills

January is the month for dreamers, as the cold tendrils of winter are momentarily halted by warm wishes for a better life. Perhaps you long to improve your health, your professional life, or work some organizing magic on your domicile. Or, better yet, maybe you wish to take your gaming to the next level. Do you long to run a live stream show with your best party members? Want to try your hand at self-publishing an adventure? Maybe you just want to play more TTRPGs?


All goals are good goals, and we’re here to help you achieve them. Here’s how to take your gaming to the next level and keep those dice rolling all year long.



Goals are not Resolutions

First of all, a successful New Year’s plan has nothing to do with resolutions. A resolution is a simple sentence that typically begins with “I want.” For example, “I want to be a better game master,” is a wish. A New Year’s plan is your battle strategy to get you there.


Write it all Down!


Just like your regular campaign, the most important thing is to take notes. How you do it doesn’t matter, so use the system that works best for you. Litter your apartment with post-it notes if you have to. The point is that it’s impossible to track progress or correct your path if you have no memory of it. If your mind is a steel trap, congratulations! The rest of us mere mortals need to write down our spells.


Find Your Weak Point


Improvement begins once your honest about your weak points. Are you late to every game session, or the type of player who bemoans fate with every dice roll? As a game master, have you heard a particular type of complaint from your players time and time again? Write them all down.


Can’t think of any bad habits? Talk to one of your closest party members and ask them to be real with you. I promise, they’ll give you plenty of ideas on how to improve.


Once you’ve compiled a list of your weaknesses, jot down what you can do to address each one. Always late? Ask a friend to keep you accountable. Do your battles fall flat? Research battle tactics and brush up on rules. For every weakness, there’s a way to improve!


Hone your Strengths


Most resolutions are abandoned because they only focus on what you want to “fix” about yourself. As if, by having a different stat block than another, you are somehow less. We’re not about that life, and it’s time to bolster your strengths!

So, flip the page and write down everything you’re great at! Are you awesome at making engaging NPCs your players want to run away with? Are you the party scribe who keeps track of everything you’ve gotten wrapped up in? Keep it up!

Just like your weaknesses, notate how you can continue to improve what you’re already great at. This is going to require a bit more creativity to get through. More often than not, you’ll find the way to continue improving your strengths is by moving on to the next step.


Try Something New


The most fun and frightful stage will require you to jump off into something new. Going back to your list of strengths and weaknesses, look for themes. Are all your strengths centered on story development and scene? Do you feel your miniatures and maps need work? How’s your character development going?

If you’re strong at something, consider spreading your gift to the world. Look for opportunities to teach others about gaming, or writing. Challenge yourself to start publishing adventures or magical items. Lead a group of new players at your local library or after-school group. If you’re artistically inclined, share your work with the world!

Picking up a new game-related hobby is also a great way to address where you feel weakest. Enjoying a new aspect about gaming gets you in touch with new people, new ways of thinking, and increases your confidence. For example, if you’re the type to zone out mid-battle, pick up a tactile hobby like crochet or knitting.  Keeping your hands busy will help you stay engaged while you patiently wait for your turn to rage.


Involve the Whole Party

No lie, hitting your goals and improving yourself is difficult. Life gets tricky, motivation gets low, and suddenly abandoning the whole idea looks enticing. If TTRPGs teach us anything, it’s that we’re stronger as a team than alone. So, get your party involved! If one of your goals is to eat a bit healthier, get in touch with your group and discuss new options. Pizza is great, but maybe it doesn't have to be a weekly meal.

Keep each other accountable for your goals and be honest about how it’s going. If your party can survive dungeons together, anything is possible! Just don’t force your friends to firewalk across dice the moment they hit a roadblock. What are your goals for this new year? Let us know in the comments below. Happy rolling!

 

Brittany Lindstrom is a mixed media illustrator out of ye olde Boise, Idaho. Under the banner of Spice & Rose, Lindstrom is oftentimes left dreaming of deep dungeon dives while chained to her studio. On the rare occasion that she's let out, you can find her presenting panels on art and Artist Alley at conventions all around the Intermountain West. She has a deep love for playing randomized characters. 

January 15, 2019 — Coalition Technologies
Get Your New Campaign from Zero to Hero in Just 30 Days!

Get Your New Campaign from Zero to Hero in Just 30 Days!

Get Your New Campaign from Zero to Hero in Just 30 Days!


The divine hand of fate, the gods and goddesses of fortune themselves have smiled on you: your entire game group agreed on an RPG system to play, owns the right dice, were able to print a character sheet, and had access to the books needed. And then? The shiny jewel to top this? You have a schedule that works for everyone!

But wait. You’ve agreed to act as dungeon master, though. You’ve never done that. How did this happen? And what comes next? Fear not, adventurer! These suggestions are designed to get the creative juices flowing to bring that tabletop roleplaying experience to life before a single d20 gets rolled.  These are designed to be system-agnostic, meaning that you can (and should) consider these questions and flesh some out before getting everyone together.

In the following lists, the underlined prompt titles are usually just for you as the GM. As you build your game, think of these as the permits and trips to the supplies houses that the players never see…you’ll be left with a solid, but unfinished, frame for the game.

The other prompts in each “week” of the challenge are the places where your group can use their “Session Zero” of the game to “decorate” your frame. Use italicized prompts to give the players incomplete information, and bold ones to draw out more info that’s general knowledge in-game.

As you read through this plan, a few tips:

  • Don’t limit yourself! Sometimes one or two words might be all that’s needed, but really take this prep time opportunity to consider all the angles each prompt is going to offer you.
  • While it’s fine to go with “one a day” for the exercises, you might find that one idea leads you to another. That’s great! But still take the time to consider each prompt.
  • Write your answers down! I promise you, you’ll forget at least one of them during the first D&D night.

And lastly, keep one thing in mind (and make a point to tell your players as well): You know the answers to these questions. As GM, you know what’s behind that door. Your players know their characters—no amnesia or lone wolf storylines permitted! Encourage yourself and the PCs to add safe personal experiences into the mix. As an example, in a Monster of the Week game I was part of, my off-screen nemesis was a rival of mine from elementary school, I lived in a housing development named for my hometown, and several real-world coworkers’ names were people I could call on in the game. You’ll have to put a coat of paint on these, sure, but trust me: you—and your players—got this.

To the challenge!


Week1: Warm up with Some Location Lunges

“Week 1” is all about where the game is going to take place. That first discussion with the group is going to guide you—obviously you’re not going to be worrying about dragon-slaying in Call of Cthulhu. But setting when and where helps you decide what else can be included or discarded as you set the tale. Feeling enterprising and empowered? Try free-hand drawing a large “world view” map that hits the major points of the actual world. The “GM-only!” thinking here is light to get you started, but still, take the first three or four questions for yourself, bringing your players all they need to focus on their characters. Obviously where and what kind of game isn’t a secret, but these are the heavy-lifting you’ll need to do to have the game ready.


Marching Orders

What kind of game is this: modern, ancient, magical, high-tech, etc?

Where again?

What is the main municipality, city or other location players are going to be starting in?

It’s just down the street…

Name three local haunts for this place (bars, governance, etc.)

Tours Daily

Name three tourist locations in this place (special sites, monuments, etc.)

The (something) City!

This place is clearly famous for something. Tell me that thing!

Can’t happen soon enough…

Why might someone want to get the heck out of this place?

The legend of…

Everywhere has a weird history, dark secret, etc. What are people saying about your place?


Week 2: Do some Plot Push-Ups:

“Week 2” is all about those devilish devices, tricks, traps, and twists! Here, the first week’s “public secrets” finally get the blackout shutters closed. You’re not telling them everything on these DM-only pieces.

To ease that transition of secret vs. known, choose one of your players and, apart from the group, flesh out the ideas in “I know a guy…” These may not come up immediately, but can be held in reserve for that time where all the dice fail you, where the check DCs are too high. The inside track is best used when the player knows a lot about why they’re that insider, so a good conversation in your 1-on-1 with them can make this a great tool and less a deus ex machina.

Previously on…

Give a short summary of the last major event in your world. This can be a cultural item, a shift in politics, new tech, first contact…it’s ubiquitous even outside the city you’re starting off in.

Team Up

Right now, who’s on what sides? Describe the groups who have stakes in the day-to-day events of the setting. Think big too—are there Red States and Blue States? Trouble between orcs and humans? What about those Pure Humanity kooks and the Cyborg Union?

Winds of Change

There are signs that things are changing. First, are they subtle or overt? Second, what are some that have caught the eye of those hiring the party or within the members of the party?

I know a guy…

One of the party members is an insider. They’re might know some of how, but likely know a lot more than they’re letting on. What kind of insider are they, and how are they flaunting/hiding it?

Well, you’ve got us all here…

What is the party’s mission? Start small: what do they need to do today in service of what needs done tomorrow?

…or ELSE!

Give one of each kind of effect of failing the party’s mission:

  • minor (“We can try again tomorrow”),
  • moderate (“There’re replacement parts, but we don’t have the money now”),
  • significant (“So, this is what jail is like”), and
  • catastrophic (“Been nice knowing you”)

These can be the failure of a single person or the entire group.

You’ll need this

Discuss an item, honor, etc. given to the group as part of their mandate. Are they extra-legal? Do they have the Goddess’s protection? (etc.)


Week 3: Break a Sweat with These Character Crunches


It might seem strange to have the GM be worrying about the characters for week 3. Here, you’re not smashing square pegs into the round holes you’ve made. You’re working more as the puppetmaster. Having these kinds of big changes to the story—major planned setbacks, emerging alliances, and unseen guiding hands—are all items you’re going to be using to keep the game on track.

By virtue of this being a character-heavy week, there’s a different kind of breakdown. Questions 1-3 are DM-only, 4-5 are maybe for a few in the group with you, but not everyone, and 6-7 are for the lot of you.


Well now what?

Midway into the story, players are going to have a MAJOR setback. Discuss it here. Will the supers have issues with their power? Is there a curse? Did they summon something that shouldn’t be?

The Proving

The players are going to end up proving themselves by their actions. Here, who are they impressing? What will that outcome gain/take from them?

Good Morning, Charlie!

The group has an unseen benefactor. This can be anything from a banker to a demigod. Describe who this is and how much the players know about them.

Something to fight for

Discuss what shaped the players into who they are. Why have they joined this superhero team or what makes them investigate Things that Go Bump? Two or three plot hooks are your goal here.

Someone to fight with

This is a double-ended prompt. Who do your characters ENJOY or NEED at their side in the group? Why? Also, who are they itching to show up, beat down, or otherwise fight? Again, why?

Your father wanted you to have this…

The story is opening and the plan is set; what last thing does the group’s benefactor give them just before the first mission?

Not our First Rodeo

You are not a random group that was mercenary-hired in a bar/tavern/inn. Have each player tell you how they’re linked to the player on their left.



Week 4: Get a Ripped Villain with these Big Bad Burpees


You know where.

You know who.

You know what.

So who’s stopping the party from doing what they want?

Finish your preparation by setting up the “Big Bad” of your game. This one is always the most fun and a place where your imagination can go completely wild. The best villains are those that the party, on paper, shouldn’t have a chance against. It’s only by grit and crits that this scrappy band can take them down!

GM: have good answers for the first five questions, and set a reasonable target for introducing “The Network” information. This can be a big Wikileaks style document-dump or something more insidious and slower drips of information; both create tension in their own ways.


The True Name

Start by naming, then giving a critical weakness to, your big-bad. Is it greed? Love?

The Offices

The Biggest Bad doesn’t get their hands dirty until there’s a worthy opponent. Who’s the next level down, the face of the organization that a PC would be afraid of even as he’s hosting a press conference stating how innocent the Bad Co. guys are?

The Warehouse

Take a moment and consider the next level down. Who do the entry-level mooks report to? These guys will likely have names, and are connected both in the bad and the normal world—shady landlords, bookies, go-betweens, etc. You might even have a local politico, vs. a state or national one, here as well.

The Storefront

Describe the basic flunkies and thugs that are loyal to your big bad. Purple-clad ninja footsoldiers? Pock-marked mooks in zoot-suits? What kind of bad are they doing?

The Network

As your game opens, will the players know just how big a conspiracy they’re up against, GM?

And players, are you ready to know more about the rabbit hole?

Researching

Clearly that first experience with the bad guy’s team leads somewhere. Players and GM both describe how the linkages between isolated incidents started to add up.

Contact

Each player tells you a little about the first time they tangled with the bad guy and his network. Was there a recruitment pitch or a fight?


No full-on plan is worth its salt without a couple built-in “Cheat” days. Use the following prompts if you’re stuck on something.

CHEAT #1: The Reveal

CHEAT #2: The Ladder

CHEAT #3: The Wild Card

Cut to the end! How are the players to meet their big villain? Will it be for the final fight? Did they know the bad guy from another time?

Step away from the 5W’s of your story and focus on “how:” plot out your storyline flow here. Using an outline (but not sweating all those rules your English teacher made you follow), chart the first 3-5 meetings of your game by hitting major and minor plot points.

The party has been so focused on taking down the machinations of the big bad that…well, do they get an easy loot day? Or is there another one-off adventure they’ll never see coming?

 

 

In the real-world, Jeff Chaffee is a level-15 speech therapist, multi-classed into 10+ levels of Hubby/Dad. When not slaying the sentient grasses of Northern PA or rolling yet another character up for that game he's TOTALLY going to be running, he can usually be found teaching a new game or figuring out how to illustrate a new beta test with only Wingding fonts in Photoshop.

January 10, 2019 — David Derus
Why should you join D&D Adventurer’s League?

Why should you join D&D Adventurer’s League?

What is Adventurer’s League?

Adventurer’s League is the official Dungeons & Dragons 5th edition public play system. Adventurer’s League, commonly referred to as AL, is present at game stores, conventions, and home games across the globe.

What’s Different About AL?

The AL community is led by coordinators that accept feedback from the community and constantly strive to improve the player experience. Being a part of the AL community connects you with individuals across the world.

However, there are some differences between an AL game and a homebrew game that alter the play experience. Namely, the rules of AL change yearly and are stricter than the rules listed in the DMG and PHB, in order to give a more uniform play experience to everyone. Starting in Season 8 (Fall 2018), Magic Items are purchased using in-game Treasure Points, rather than natively found in the adventure. Similarly, gold is not found in the adventure, but is instead gained on levelling up. AL character-creation is restricted to the use of the Player’s Handbook plus one other approved resource, commonly referred to as PHB+1.

In homebrew games, the rules can vary widely from table to table, but usually are comparable to those present in the PHB and DMG. The DM has more flexibility to create and award magic items and gold, as well as to create or allow new character options. The DM can also create homebrew content, adventures, items, spells, etc. This can be beneficial in crafting a more unique experience. However, the character may not be taken to other tables or other groups, so you are locked into a single group for that character.

Both AL and homebrew are valid and fun ways to play DnD, and ultimately you just need to choose which experience works best for you. However, if you’re just starting to play table top role-playing games and RPGs, and are looking to break into DnD as a hobby, playing with AL can give you a well-rounded and easy entryway into the hobby.

Why play Adventurer’s League?

The major upside of AL is the community is very open and accepting of new players, and you can always find a game to play. AL allows players to create characters, governed by a set of rules similar to those present in the Player’s Handbook (PHB), and play those characters at any AL-official table. This means that you can create a character and play them anywhere in the world, whether it’s a home game or game store, a convention, on a cruise ship in the Bahamas or online on a website like Roll20 or Fantasy Grounds. The only thing that determines whether a game is AL legal is whether the players and DM agree to follow the AL rules and guidelines.

This portability offers an unprecedented flexibility to play wherever you are, without being tied down to a specific home game or group. You can play as many (or as few) games as you want, with the same group or a variety of pick up groups, and adjust your gameplay to match your schedule.

Because thousands of people are part of AL, you have the opportunity to make friends with people you would have otherwise never met. AL is especially open and welcoming to new players, with DMs and veteran players teaching the game and offering advice to players during the game.

How do I start playing?

If you’re interested in playing, check out the How to Get Started and D&D AL Player’s Guide and FAQ. Follow their rules for character creation and then look for a game in your area.

Where do I play?

Wizards of the Coast has a Store Locator that can help you find a store in your area that runs AL games. You can also look on Facebook and Twitter at the official AL pages, as well as regional and local group pages that advertise games. Online games are often run on Fantasy Grounds and Roll20, and are advertised on The Moonsea Pub Facebook group.

What do I need to play?

You will need a character sheet to start playing, as well as a pencil and a dnd dice set, at minimum. Many players purchase multiple sets of dice, which you will need as your character levels up and requires more dice per attack. You may also want to have a separate dice set for each character, with different colors and textures matching a character’s clothing or attitude. A miniature can also be used to identify the character on a battle mat, or an extra die can be used if necessary.

You may also want to purchase the core player books, such as the Player’s Handbook, Volo’s Guide to Monsters, and Xanathar’s Guide to Everything, which can provide you with expanded character and spell options.  

How do I start DMing?

If you’re interested in DMing, check out the D&D AL DM's Guide & FAQ. Anyone can be a DM, as long as they follow the guidelines for AL DMs; this includes running AL-approved hardcovers and modules, following the listed guidelines, and enforcing the Community Standards at their table.

You can also start your own group. Each game will need one DM and between two to seven players to be AL-legal. Recruit friends or advertise to find other players in the area.

What do I need to DM?

As a DM, you will need several Dungeons and Dragons dice set, including at least two d20s for advantage/disadvantage rolls. Because you will be running several monsters during each encounter, having several sets of polyhedral dice will help to speed up combat. Having sets of color-coded dice can also help match monster tokens to their dice, making it easier to manage combat.

A DM will also need the Monster Manual and DMG, as well as a battle mat and miniatures to represent monsters. In a pinch, extra dice can also be used as monster tokens on a combat mat. A Dungeon Master’s Screen is also a useful accessory for many DMs. 

 

Emily Smith is a D&D Writer, TTRPG Blogger and DMs Guild Content Creator based in Los Angeles, CA. She is a regular DM and player for Adventurer's League, the official organized play system for D&D 5e. In her free time, she enjoys playing League of Legends, cooking, and cat herding.

January 05, 2019 — David Derus
10 Reasons to Make Dice Envy Your Dice Go-To

10 Reasons to Make Dice Envy Your Dice Go-To

10. We want to make a bigger table

We encourage new players of all kinds through our help columns and through offering them their first set of dice for just 99 cents. 

9. Dice in new styles and materials monthly

We are constantly at work to bring you new types of dice. Not just new colors but designs and materials as well. 

8. Quantity Dice

We take pride in our work. If you don't like your dice for any reason, we will take them back and ship you a replacement free of charge.

7. Reasonable prices

We typically charge about 25% less than our competitors when it comes to metal dice. Our acrylic dice are about the same as anywhere else. We keep our custom dice in reasonable price ranges too. Our mystery dice sets have some of the lowest prices in the business. Also, we have regular sales that bring the price point down further. 

6. Wide selection

While some dice companies stock similar dice in some cases we have a large collection of dice that we are committed to growing. Chances are you will find the color and material you are looking for here. 

5. No Hassle Customer Service

You want out of our subscription box, you find a funny charge on your card, can't find a set of dice even though the USPS says it was delivered? We will fix it. We will not try to keep your money or make it so you have to tell us a dozen times that you want to cancel. We are in the business of getting you cool dice that you love. So lets do that instead of haggling over sales you don't want to make.

4. Fast Shipping

Speaking of shipping, we are based in the US. We typically ship all dice within 24 hours of ordering. While you might find slightly cheaper dice through oversees generic manufacturers, you will get our dice in days, not weeks. 

3. We help sick children!

Monthly we run auctions of some of our prototypes to help support Extra Life. Extra Life is a non-profit run by gamers that give 100% of their proceeds to children's hospitals. 

2. We support content creators

We use our success as a platform to give voice to content creators that may need the exposure. We do this buy featuring them in our subscription boxes, website, and social media feeds. 

1. No FOMO 

We are committed to making sure everyone who wants some of our dice gets them. Some companies rely on the fear of missing out in order to buy their small batch dice. We pre-sell our new dice styles to allow everyone who wants them to gets them. With our dice subscription box, every month you are guaranteed to get the newest thing we are working on. 

December 21, 2018 — David Derus
3D Printing for D&D and Other Tabletop RPGs

3D Printing for D&D and Other Tabletop RPGs

By: Maxwell Gawlick

I’m one of many DMs out there who uses battlemaps, miniatures, and terrain to enhance immersion in role-playing games, usually the iconic Dungeons and Dragons. Being able to physically contextualize the playing field makes it feel more real than anything else. Imagination gets you far, but physical pieces get you even farther. 3d printing D&D pieces go beyond that, allowing you to perfectly customize pieces for yourself, along with a slew of other benefits. 3d printed D&D terrain and 3d printed D&D minis are here, and they’re easier to make than ever. If you’ve ever wanted to play God, now’s the time. Just remember to use a light touch. When you do things right, people won’t be sure you’ve done anything at all.

Typical Expenses

I’m a student, and if you know anything about being a student, that means you’re poor. I have 3 classes and no money. Why can’t I have no classes and three money? Unfortunately, that’s not the case, and typical D&D pieces are expensive. A good starter set of Dwarven Forge dungeon tiles will run you about $200, and larger miniatures can cost anywhere from $15 - 60 each. That’s not to mention the typical mooks, player characters, and paints. Going for themed sets can cost you even more. You can try handcrafting terrain, but that takes time that I don’t have. Luckily, 3d printed D&D pieces are our salvation.

Dragon figurine

The Alternative

3d printed D&D terrain and 3d printed D&D minis are the perfect replacement for expensive sets. I recently began 3d printing my own D&D pieces and it’s dirt cheap. Most models don’t cost me more than thirty cents to print. That’s more money for stonks. The starting costs may seem scary at first. Some printers go for thousands of dollars. But, just like with food, there’s always a cheaper option. I bought and highly recommend a Monoprice MP Select Mini V2 from Amazon. It’s only $200! That’s cheap for 3d printing. As far as materials go, a roll of filament can last you for over a month and only costs $20, also from Amazon. Altogether, that’s the same price as a single Dwarven Forge set but gets you countless sets going into the future.

The Time Factor

You still have to consider time for your D&D 3d printing. Depending on the model, 3d printed D&D minis can take 3-4 hours to print. 3d printed D&D terrain can take even longer. The good news is, once you’ve got printing set up, it automates itself. There will still be a learning curve and fine-tuning, though. If you’re smooth-brained like me and want something super simple, printers like the Creality CR-20 come pre-assembled and are ready to go right out the gate. More popular printers have the advantage of having more documentation as well. And, you can go join the apes at Reddit and Facebook for helpful resources and a dedicated community.

Warlock 3d model

 

Incredible Ease of Use

Once you’re beyond the initial time and money investment, your D&D 3d printing will be easier than ever. At 3 cents per 3d printed D&D mini, you can pump them out and quickly grow your collection. You’ll be popping out pieces faster than the BBG can produce faceless enemies. You don’t even have to design them yourself. There’s an extensive library throughout the internet, with my personal favorite being Thingiverse. And, you’re not limited to 3d printed D&D terrain and minis. You can print any number of things, from other game pieces to dice. You could even print yourself a metal dice set! Some of my best dice are 3d-printed (but don’t tell Dice Envy I told you that.)

A Worthwhile Investment

3d printing D&D pieces is incredibly worth it. Everyone I know who’s done it is more than satisfied with the results. As with most things, you’ll need to do your research and find what’s best for you, as well as invest some time and money upfront. But, when you start printing an expansive gaming tabletop, you’ll never go back. Regularly priced D&D pieces are a thing of the past. Welcome to the age of 3d printing.

December 15, 2018 — David Derus
Roll For It! December Microevents for Dungeons and Dragons and other RPGs

Roll For It! December Microevents for Dungeons and Dragons and other RPGs

The holiday season leaves everyone pressed for time. Between family engagements, merry parties, and yet another cookie exchange at work, what’s a Dungeon Master to do? The answer is simple—roll for it! So grab your favorite polyhedral Dice Envy caltrop and see where fate will take your adventurers.


Each wintry scenario below is crafted to fit into a D&D homebrewed campaign or become a stand-alone adventure with a bit of elbow grease. If you use any of the scenarios below, let us know how it went!


Merry rolling!


—1—


While out adventuring, the party discovers a beautiful lake. The recent rush of winter air has caused the water to freeze over into a perfectly smooth crystalline top. At the far end of the lake, the party spots a heard of deer frolicking on the ice. Anyone with a keen eye will observe a trail of tiny hoofprints curving away from the lake. A small, sad, bleating can be heard, along with the hushed whispers of a masculine voice speaking in elvish.

Following the trail, the party finds a soft grey reindeer fawn, laying down and clearly distraught. A wood elf druid who is kneeling in the snow, comforting the young doe. He introduces himself as Hadriel Autumnstrider, a caretaker and shepherd in these parts of the woods. The fawn, Snowball, is too small and sickly to play with her reindeer companions. Snowball looks to your party with pleading eyes, and Hadriel asks if you would be so kind as to play with her.


If you accept his proposition, Snowball bleats in delight and Hadriel shifts into a majestic reindeer form. You spend the rest of the day frolicking with Snowball and teaching her how to skate across the ice. Eventually, the rest of the herd will join you and Snowball lights up with joy.

A day of frolicking complete, the herd moves into the woods before nightfall and Hadrien invites you back to his cottage. As thanks, he offers the party safe lodging and food for the evening, as well as a sachet filled with berries and a tuft of soft fur. This minor magical item will allow a druid to wild shape into a reindeer. This transformation is a cosmetic upgrade to elk form.


—2—


Wandering into town after their latest adventure, the party is bombarded by fliers, town criers, and royal blue pennants. The pennants sport a crisp, white, runic sigil. A particularly loud Town Crier bundled up in furs exclaims, “Hear ye, Lords and Ladies! The Brawler’s Area annual Chills and Thrills Bash will take place in three days!  Those seeking glory are to sign up at The Chilly Cap Tavern by sundown two morrows hence!”

Should the party chose to fight, they must register at the booker’s table in The Chilly Cap Tavern. A world-weary gnome known as Dreary Shiverfeet will register the party in exchange for 10 gold per fighter. All fighters will be going head-to-head with fearsome creatures from the Northlands. Survival is not guaranteed, but should the party win all 4 rounds they will net a neat sum of 250 gold and a cache of weapons and armor. Shiverfeet also warns that anyone caught using fire-based spells, weapons, or abilities will be disqualified.

Winterhold Area is located 3 miles outside of town and is a massive Colosseum crafted entirely from ice and magic. Pine garlands and magically lit sconces provide light and decoration. Between rounds, players are allowed to mingle with other fighters, bet on fights, and drink. There are 5 other teams, including a solo female goliath barbarian. Should the party survive 4 rounds, they must fight the barbarian in a tiebreaker round to claim all the glory.


—3—


It snowed last night! The party wakes up to the gleeful sound of children running up and down the streets outside the tavern walls. During breakfast, the Dwarven innkeeper is exceptionally jolly. He shares with the party this town’s annual tradition--on the first snowfall, the largest and steepest hill in the center of town is converted into an extreme sledding course. He rambles on sharing stories of glory and crashes past.


By late morning, the obstacle course is ready. Children of all ages take turns navigating the steep curves while dodging snow walls and large snowballs thrown by onlookers. Shopkeeps are manning pop-up stands, offering fresh gingerbread, warm cider, sledding charms, and winter attire. A particularly popular stand, Snowpuff’s, offers sweetened snow in a cookie cup.

Anyone brave enough to challenge the course may do for 1 copper. The player must use their dice to roll a series of successful perception and dexterity checks. Anyone lucky enough to complete the course unscathed is awarded a toy sleigh and a Snowpuff treat.


—4—


A local Lord has put out the call for adventurers: He is offering a large sack of riches and a seat at his Winterfest table in exchange for the most beautiful and ancient pine in the forest. Finding the tree is simple enough, but the party soon discovers the evergreen serves as a home for the local fauna and a pack of dryads.

In a silvery voice, the dryads warn that the Lord’s prize is a sleeping Treant. They offer the party a deal. In exchange for leaving the Treant’s grove in peace, the Dryads will enchant a smaller tree to take on the appearance of the gargantuan evergreen. The enchantment will only last two days but would grant the party plenty of time to claim their reward and flee town. If they accept the deal, the dryads will also gift the party with a small acorn tree, capable of producing 3 nutritious nuts daily.

Should the party refuse the dryad’s offer, the forest awakens. The party must conquer the Ancient Treant and a score of dryads. If the victor, the party lays claim to the Treant’s body now a bit ramshackle and dropping needles. Seeing the Treant’s corpse, the Lord will be mortified. He is convinced that the party has cursed him, and will turn the party away sans reward.  

 

Brittany Lindstrom is a mixed media illustrator out of ye olde Boise, Idaho. Under the banner of Spice & Rose, Lindstrom is oftentimes left dreaming of deep dungeon dives while chained to her studio. On the rare occasion that she's let out, you can find her presenting panels on art and Artist Alley at conventions all around the Intermountain West. She has a deep love for playing randomized characters. 

December 11, 2018 — David Derus

6 Awesome Ways to Give Your D&D Character Personality

A D&D character is defined by 4 things: personality traits, ideals, bonds, and flaws. When you set out on your campaign, you’d be wise to follow these standards. Otherwise, you may end up like the last season of Game of Thrones. When you put thought into these details, your character gets unique D&D ideals and bonds that set the stage for limitless opportunities when gameplay starts.

Portraits of multiple characters

Personality Traits

D&D personality traits are unique and quirky traits that define how your character behaves day to day. Common examples are Type-A/hyper-organized (Monica Geller, Amy Santiago, Leslie Knope), Deadpan/monotone (Drax the Destroyer, Ron Swanson), and Goofball (Andy Dwyer, Phillip J. Fry, Homer Simpson). They can be as minor as “I love a good cup of tea” or enough to define your entire character. Combining several of them creates a multidimensional character with different facets to their personality.

Alternatives

You can also choose one or two personality traits that tie into a character’s backstory and offer a general impression of how they will act. *Touches necklace* My mother used to choose personality traits that tied into a character’s backstory…

While this doesn’t have the fine granularity of the previously mentioned D&D personality traits, it gives an overarching impression of how a character would act in many different situations.

Ideals

D&D ideals are beliefs that drive a character. They can include ideas like Generosity or Greed, Respect or Might, Tradition or Freedom. Common archetypes are the noble warrior (Aragorn, Steve Rogers, She-ra), loose cannon (Jinx, Harley Quinn), and morally grey (Geralt of Rivia, Sabrina Spellman). These ideals help define character alignment, which defines how other PCs and NPCs view the character. The noble warrior, for instance, will often be considered lawful good. Developing ideals helps define what a character deeply believes in and shapes their history as well as how they roleplay situations that threaten various beliefs. These ideals can also be reflected in D&D characters’ personality traits.

Person holding compass

Bonds

D&D bonds are things, people, or places that a character cares deeply about and would fight to protect. A bard may be a specific magical instrument that was stolen from you long ago that you now seek to find and reclaim. A young monk could be bonded to her master, sworn to protect him and the monastery at all costs. The leader of a gang may be so committed to having “a plan” that he jeopardizes the gang multiple times to sail to Tahiti.

Built in Real-Time

While many bonds exist in character creation, they can also be gained during gameplay and showed off in your D&D personality traits. Evelyn and Paultin from Dice, Camera, Action developed a bond with a living puppet construct during their time in Barovia. As the adventures continued, they experienced various ups and downs together, finally coming to think of their puppet, Simon, as their son. This bond has led to many emotional and powerful roleplaying experiences facilitated by their DM, Chris Perkins. When combined with your D&D ideals and personality traits, you get a more fully realized game. Forget virtual reality, this is what it feels like to really live inside a game.

Flaws

Flaws are weaknesses in a person’s character that can lead them astray. Common vices, such as lust, gluttony, pride, sloth, greedy, envy, and wrath are common general flaws. But, you can get as specific as you like, such as Thanos’s near-sidedness at wiping out half of all living things, or Boromir’s insatiable desire for the ring to save Gondor. The more specific, the more unique roleplaying opportunities you get.\

Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden

Intersections

 

Flaws can also be overindulgences of D&D personality traits, bonds, and ideals. Wanda Maximoff’s bond with her family led her to unintentionally mind-control an entire town. Her attachment blinded her to the side effects, and only set her up for more tragedy down the road. A Type-A personality often needs things to be orderly and can’t function otherwise.

 

These aren’t inherently bad, either. Instead, they offer increased depth and realism to your characters. Real people are flawed, they aren’t made up of perfect fictional ideals. When characters face their flaws head-on and choose instead to do what is right, their choices become more deeply meaningful and powerful. Just don’t go too far. You don’t want to end up like the Gang from It’s Always Sunny.

Character Props

Beyond D&D personality traits and background, additional props may be used for each character. This helps other players identify them more easily and helps you roleplay more effectively. A circular vibranium shield is a good indicator of who that character is. Or perhaps two swords, one silver, and one metal, for different types of enemies. Maybe your character has a child that only shows up when it’s relevant to the plot, because of reasons.

Getting Literal

You can take props to a literal level with a unique Dungeons & Dragons miniature for each character, including premade minis from retailers like Reaper Miniatures or Avatars of War, or designing a unique miniature from a series such as Hero Forge. That way, you can help other players identify your character and give a first impression of your D&D personality traits, ideals, and bonds. Additional props like Campaign Coins can give flair and memorability to unique characters.

Collection of figurines

Special Dice

Take it even further with a unique dice set. With plenty of different options such as metal dice or unique infinity d4s, you can get a diverse set of advantages depending on your character. Mario Party does it, and everyone loves Mario Party. For your campaign, a warlock that worships Tiamat might use a fire-red D&D polyhedral dice set to represent the burning flames that he burns his enemies with, channeled from the power of his patron.

How to RP

Once you’ve fleshed out a character’s D&D personality traits, ideals, bonds, and flaws at character creation, you’re ready to begin roleplaying. Roleplaying in a tabletop role-playing game can be a daunting task, especially for new players. Having a well-established personality written out during character creation makes roleplaying during the game much easier. Don’t be the guy that reads off notecards the whole time, though. Nobody likes that guy.

Writing in notebook

Proper Personality Notes

Create notes of special traits the smart way by placing them on your character sheet. You can add notes of special NPCs and locations you visit, and how your character feels about them. Skim the notes quickly each session, and you’ll be good to go. This helps develop your D&D personality traits and reminds you of all your great adventures.

Bring Depth to Your Game

In summary, developing a well-rounded character during creation, with all the proper aspects and facets, while difficult to do, set the stage for a great roleplaying game. Keep notes of your adventures to build on your development. But don’t take it too far. You don’t want to be the next George R.R. Martin here. Give it your best, well-rounded shot for an evolving, multidimensional character and plenty of opportunities for memorable roleplaying experiences. Get some props like figurines and dice, and get ready to watch your campaigns triple in fun.


Emily Smith is a D&D Writer, TTRPG Blogger, and DMs Guild Content Creator based in Los Angeles, CA. She is a regular DM and player for Adventurer's League, the official organized play system for D&D 5e. In her free time, she enjoys playing League of Legends, cooking, and cat herding.

December 01, 2018 — David Derus