Tuesday, May 18, 2010


As mentioned in "The unpredictability of PCs", the key to good DMing is improvising. It was also mentioned that an article about improvising would be coming soon. Well, here it is!
When you improvise, keep in mind the time. Don't make the players wait for 10 minutes for you to come up with what happens after they enter the cave. On the other hand, don't rush through it, either, as you have to make what happens reasonable, in-keeping with the rules of DMing, and fun.
In case you haven't noticed, the two are mutually exclusive, but you, as a DM, have to do them. The optimal time for improvising is usually about 5-30 seconds or so. Behind the DM screen, this is the secret life of the Dungeon Master that I hope to reveal and enrich. DMing is not just about coming up with a solution, and then making sure everyone follows it. It is also about making sure the solution appeals to all of the players.
Under all this pressure, a non-Dungeon Master may think that the role of controlling the D&D universe is a chore, something to be avoided like the plague. They would be wrong. Underneath all the fun of creating the campaign, there are tedious, tiring things to do. But under all the tedious, tiring things to do, there is always the fun of creating the campaign. And, of course, saying that improvising is a tedious, tiring thing to do, is my opinion. Some people may think it is actually a fun advantage of Dungeon Mastering that they look forward to. And you may be one of those people.
However you choose to view improvising, though, you have to do it. To bring us back to the subject, here are some tips that I discovered and found useful(Try using these the next time you write an essay... I discovered them while writing one. At least you call it an essay. In Singapore, we call it a composition.):
1)Do not choose the first thing you think of
Often it is a wild idea that the PCs will hate anyway
2)Break rule 1) as often as possible
When I say as often as possible, I mean when it's NOT a wild idea. If it's not, it's probably useful and will save you time in the long run
3)Make sure your ideas are reasonable
Even if you think carefully about your idea, MAKE SURE IT IS REASONABLE. A wild idea, which at least is different from the usual hack n' slash, is infinitely better than "As you walk into the legendary Cave of Eternal Peace, a group of demons attack you."
4)Make sure your idea is fun!
This is the golden rule. Even if the idea is carefully crafted,thought about and considered, if the PCs don't have fun, discard it forever, or at least until the next gaming group.

Look! It's the guy who killed the Beholder!

Fame and fortune are what most adventurers set out to achieve. Very few, however, actually earn it. But the point of playing D&D is because it's fun. Since fame and fortune is perceived as "fun", it makes sense to letting the players get known for their deeds and maybe earn some gold along the way. In fact, Wizards of the Coast themselves openly support fame(as shown ever since they introduced renown points)!
You can't just give out renown points whenever you feel like it, though. There are many consequences if the players have a large amount of renown points. Sure, abuse is one matter, but we covered that in Abuse of Power(which should be a few posts before this one). What is the real matter is, well, the most obvious one.
I assume all of us know the famous Genghis Khan(if you don't, pay more attention to your history lessons). When we ask people, "Do you know who is Genghis Khan?" they know. Similarly, the PCs should be just as famous as even though they may not have led a rampaging army across China, they probably did save a few(a few hundred thousand, that is)towns from the evil Warlord/Tyrant/Dragon/Beholder/Zombie King/Other super evil and powerful monster etc etc, and will probably be just as famous as Genghis(imagine this: one day you walk into history class, and your teacher Mrs Smith explains that today we will study Bob the Dwarven Fighter...).
The PCs should, in my opinion, also be awarded renown points if they show off their trophies(as mentioned in the post just before this one, "Trophies and Rewards"). Once you let them know that they will be actively rewarded fame, they will be much more likely to try and score renown points(and then show them off in the real world and gain even more renown points there, which will lead people to inviting them to join their gaming group-I call it the Snowball of Fame effect)

Monday, May 17, 2010

Trophies and Rewards

"Beauty is in the eye of the beholder." In our world, it means that only certain people know how to appreciate the beauty of something. In the world of D&D, with Wizards summoning comets every other day, and "Take care of the zombie infestation" has transformed from a seemingly impossible task to yet another household chore, it would probably mean that a beholder's eye on a wall is beautiful to look at. This is very true. We hang moose heads on our walls, but what about in D&D, where moose do not exist? Then they hang the equivalent of moose, such as Beholder Eyes or Dragon Heads.
When your party slays a Black Dragon, do they ever cut off it's head to show off to others? Or maybe keep its blood, which can revive dead people? I know I would. If PCs do such things, and then one of the PCs resigns, the DM knows he has hit the jackpot. If he is a creative and resourceful one, the players can almost confirm that he will make the resigned guy an owner of a tavern.... with the Black Dragon head on the wall.
Also, you can be sure that the players will need his help to kill the rampaging horde of orcs. After all, Moonstone the Wizard was useful in the past(cue epic flashbacks of times when Moonstone saves the party using his _______ spell/ritual), so why not ask for his help now? His pay is, by the way, much easier to get since:
1) He probably feels a sense of loyalty and is eager to get out his old Staff of Annihilation+1 again
2)He knows the value of a Goblinmade Magic Axe+1, unlike other tavern owners which require you to search for days for a cloth to mop the bar table.....
This is what Dungeon Mastering is all about. The expressions of shock on the players' faces when they see old Moonstone again, and the expressions of relief on the players' faces when they realize that means NO STUPID HUNTING IN THE MOUNTAINS FOR A ****ING CLOTH!
This could be continued in a cycle, with one of the PCs bringing back the Orc King's Head(or scepter or whatever).
In conclusion, Trophies can be a powerful element in your roleplaying if you know how to use it properly. They could change the course of the story.... and not to mention that instant increase in renown points once you start showing off that Death's Scythe +8 you got from the Grim Reaper...

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

10th post Celebration:D&D blogging intro

There are now officially 10 posts on this blog(not including the announcement that we will be adding pictures)! Every time a milestone is reached(10th post, 25th post, 50th post, anniversary), there will be a short post about D&D blogging itself. Today's theme will be.... the introduction to blogging about D&D, of course!
1)Create A Blog
When creating a website/blog, I recommend either one made with website creators or one made using "host" websites such as www.blogspot.com(which this blog is created on) or www.webs.com, as custom HTML code websites take longer and are generally uglier-looking unless you are a HTML expert.
2)Choose A Topic
Obviously, the theme is D&D, but there are several aspects of D&D to blog about. Today, do you want to talk about encounters, or skill challenges? Maybe you should tell the readers how to make a good NPC? No, no, you should post a review on that new book that just came out. It could even be the discussion of a certain mechanic(Rituals, Retraining, Extended Rests, Swords, anything)! There are several things to try and avoid, however. Do not write about out of date versions is one. Currently, the most recent version of D&D(as released by Wizards Of The Coast)is 4E, so my blog posts are mostly about it. Another thing to avoid is charts. There is nothing more boring than staring at the list of Fire-Resistant Swords. You can, however, talk about Fire-Resistant Swords, then bring up one or two examples.
3)Remember To Keep Your Blog Updated!
There are several people out there that I know who would have written great blogs, and in fact they did.... but forgot to update it regularly. If you want to keep a healthy readership going, update your blog every now and then, reply to comments, and maybe even tweak it a little here and there, if the need for it arises. Otherwise, your blog will turn into a worthless page with 3 posts about D&D written 5 years ago... and they were about 4E, which by then will be outdated- 5.6E or so will probably have been released.

Monday, May 10, 2010

The Unpredictability of PCs

PCs can be unpredictable. These 4 words should be carved in a DM's mind and used to guide him when he makes yet another adventure. On the surface, a good adventure may seem like just something to entertain people, but it actually takes a lot of work before it is created.
Just like the weather, PCs are nearly impossible to predict as nowadays, they are getting more creative. They don't know that you have written only one line of script for the retired soldier they met while going to the local tavern for a drink, and may be FAR more interested in him(What war did you fight in? What rank were you? What was it like?)then in the quest to save Archbishop Kendell's son from a group of barbarian marauders(Ah, that's boring. Not worth the effort.), and may even try to hire the ex-soldier into helping them with their quest!
They aren't unpredictable over only NPCs, though. If you present them with a cave which a horde of Ogres are attacking, it won't help to list down the damage all the items in the cave would deal if used as a weapon(Stalagmite-3 damage. Runestone-1 damage. Large rock-3 damage.)because you know what? In the end they will just make the cave collapse on the Ogres.
But how do you plan out what happens next, in that case? The answer: Improvise, Plan and Prepare. First, you prepare for the obvious routes like killing the Ogres or teleporting out with the new scroll of teleportation they just got. Then, you plan the results. In this case, if they fight the Ogres, there would be an encounter, obviously. Or they simply teleport out of the cave. Finally, when the actual thing comes, and the players to something you never expected(and believe me: it happens.), improvise! Make sure you come up with a result that is realistic, reasonable and meets the players' expectations.

For more information about improvising, see the next few posts. One of them should be about improvising. Happy Reading!;)

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Spice up your game

What is a typical monster? Usually it's a Orc blocking your path. After about 9000 Orc battles, though, the players might get a teeny weeny bit bored, you know. To add some flavour to your game, I'll present to you... the Top 5 anti typical monsters and characters!

1)Orc Paladin

2)Elf Fighter

3)Shardmind Druid

4)A level 1 rat who has resistance to all forms of damage

5)An Epic Tier Fighter who drops dead immediately after taking a specific type of damage

However, there are roleplaying and realisticality factors to consider. Why would a Shardmind want to protect forests when his main goal is to rebuild the Diamond Gate(or whatever it was)? That doesn't mean you can't use these monsters and characters in your campaign, though. Maybe the Shardmind believes that only the power of nature can rebuild the Gate? Or maybe the Epic Tier Fighter got cursed to be incredibly weak to fire damage? Could it be the rat's ability to adapt to living in sewers that grants it high resistance? Or perhaps the Orc has realized that evil will never win? As you can see, a creative DM can provide realistic reasons for the anti typical monsters to be anti typical.

Good News

Everybody, I'm finally going to put pictures on all posts from now onwards!

Abuse of Power

What happens if the PCs abuse their power? This is very unlikely to happen, but PCs are often unpredictable. If a town makes a PC the duke of the town, the PC *might* attempt to execute that guy in the tavern that they don't like or something like that. If you do that, the other townspeople may fear for their lives and run away from the town or maybe even revolt against said PC!
This, obviously, is not good. Even though the PC may kill them easily, it probably will lead any survivors into leading a bigger revolt with hired (and more powerful than normal townsfolk) mercenaries, and a gigantic group of angry people. And even if he eliminates everybody in the original revolt, he still will take damage. Also, I don't think the local magician who didn't participate in the revolt (and therefore wasn't killed) will be eager to help you anytime soon.

Another thing is, his fellow party members may try to stop him. For example, the Chaotic Evil Warlock who was trying to kill the local bartender will likely meet resistance from the good alignment Cleric. This could lead to BIG trouble. The Cleric may refuse to heal the Warlock from then onwards, and as a Level 9 PC, would deal more than a little damage to him. He/she might even leave the party!

As a general rule, try not to abuse your power, with the exception being if the bartender is actually a Werewolf or something. DMs can also add interesting plot hooks if abuse of power happens.

Sunday, May 2, 2010

The D&D survival guide Part 3

fNow, let's say you followed all the intructions mentioned in Part 1 and 2, but for some reason you still died! We'll now look at the different ways to do after a PC's death
1)Bury him
For the sake of role playing, we'll assume that the party has a strong connection with the dead PC and decides to bury him. You can't just randomly bury PCs, however. I don't think the dead player would appreciate being buried in the middle of a monster infested dungeon or below the smoking remains of an evil villian's base. Try to bury the PC somewhere where monsters won't find him and eat his corpse. I suggest in a forest, where the creatures are mostly harmless or even if the are not that harmless, at least won't use the body in some complex ritual to summon/revive the King of Demons or whatever. An alternative method is to bury the PC in a town. There, you can safely say that nobody will disturb the remains. Be wary, though, if and when the DM decides to have a necromancer attack the town and turn everything in the graveyard into zombies...
2)Attempt to revive him
If you have a revival item on hand, I suggest reviving the PC. This will not only bring back a fallen party member, but also saves you the trouble of burying him. If you do not have a revival item on hand, then try to find some way to bring back the PC. For example, you could go through the Portal to Darkness that the DM told you about earlier, and try to make a pact with the demon/devil/evil monstrous abnomination there, requesting for the PC to live again in return for something.(very commonly, your soul but the DM may let you give GP as well)
3)Make sure his death isn't in vain
IF the dead guy consents(and he may not), you can loot his dead body and then burn it, thus ensuring that his death is not for nothing. Take note, though, of your moral alignment. Don't try to persuade a group of Good-alignment Paladins to burn their former friend and loot his corpse just to find a couple of health potions and a rusty dagger.

I know this post is short but I hoped you enjoyed it!