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Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Dude, Your Henchman Sucks!

Henchmen and henchwomen: 
(henceforth I'm only using henchman or Hench as unisex terms.)

Many parties have them. They are the  lucky towns folks that the bard coerces, the fighter intimidates, the  cleric guilt's, and the wizard geases into carrying all of the groups stuff. 
In Adventures with a high level of resource management, a good henchmen just loaded with food and torches can mean the  difference between  getting home or starving to death in the dark while a bunch  of  albino blullywogs look on hungrily from the  darkness.

Characters ask allot form their henchmen. 
Imagine the pitch, party leader to perspective henchman:

"You carry all this stuff into a dangerous place filled with monsters, test uneven ground, and open  risky looking doors. If any of us live, we will give you enough gold to feed your family for a year. You know gold right? It's that stuff you have only dreamed about that can buy a crap ton of  dried fish and  pickled cabbage for the winter. Yeah we have a wagon load. You in?"

Sounds great.

So if a henchman is strong enough to carry all the stuff Biff Hardloins the fighter does not want to, and brave enough to  go into the "Lost Caves of Arghhhhh-burble" then why the hell are they not  adventurers in their own right?

Some GM's might say it's because they don't have that spark that makes a hero a hero. Sure. I also think that there might be some other limiting factors. Farmers farm, crafts people make things, merchants sell things, these henchmen, they don't do any of that. These folks stepping up as henchmen just might not be cut out for  the adventuring life or life in general.*

Hireling flaws:

  1. Perpetually late:
    This hireling is simply never on time.  The  problem is the  hireling already has the  stuff the party  designated  he or she to carry. When never the party sets off for an adventure roll 1d6. 
    on a 1 the  Hireling is on time ready to go. On a 2, 3, 4 the  hireling is a number of minutes late equal to the  roll  X 10. On a  6 the  hireling never shows up at all. If the party chooses to wait for the  late henchmen the GM is encouraged to roll an appropriate random encounter or event once per 10 minutes.
  2. Drunkard:
    This hench has a love for the bottle. When the party gathers to set off roll 1d6. On a 1 there is not issue on a 2 to 3 the  PC's can smell alcohol on the  henchman. The henchman  suffers a -2 on all rolls or your games equivalent.** On a 4 to 5 the henchman shows up  drunk rolls a -4 on every thing for the  rest of the day. on a 6 the  henchman is  completely pissed and belligerent to the point he is of no use to the party.
  3. Wanted: (dead or half dead)
    Your new Hench  is on the lamb and is hoping he or she can get away from the local authority  by delving deeper with some adventurer types. Any time this henchman is in a city or settlement with the  party roll 1d6. On a roll of 1 the  henchman  is recognized by a guard or constable, and the  party is confronted. It is obvious that henchman will be arrested, his stuff (the parties stuff actually) taken, and then he will be  executed for his crime. How the party handles this is up to them. What did he do? he is accused of (1.Murder so foul 2.horse thief 3.grave robber 4. treason against Whomever 5.poaching 6.laying with fey folk or being a witch. (alternate could be theft if number 6 does not fit your game.) )
    Is the henchman guilty? who knows.
  4. Lazy:
    If the a arty member asks the  henchman  to do something there is a 3 in 6 chance he or she just wont. Sure they will say "yes sir," or "right way miss," but in fact they will just wonder away and goof off. Eventuality the henchman will return with a question about the task and  if the  character answered the question there is another  3 in 6 chance that the henchman  will simply wonder off again.
  5. Thief:
    This henchman is a thief of the same level ** as the lowest level party member. This thief makes his living posing as a henchman for higher then robbing  the  party when the best opportunity presents it's self. If he is caught in the act he will beg and lie to not be killed ("Ohh please Master, My family is so hungry, my children they starve, and the gem you found it called to me it was just... too... tempting..." soobbing ensues.) and then flee as soon as possible. If he  does manage to get his hand s on some loot he will disappear at the  worst possible time for the party or slip away in the night.
    Another thief in the  party might be able to spot this grafter by observing that he or she never sets off traps, and has a knack for staying out of danger.
  6. Easily distracted.  
    This henchman simply can't stay on task, he or she is not lazy they just have no ability to concentrate. Ask her to  gather wood for cam, next thing you know she's grooming the horses, ask her to groom and feed the horses, next thing your know she is hunting  mushrooms, ask her to  weapon black the  swords,  and next thing "SQUIRREL!"
  7. Blabber mouth:
    A thousand stories, thousands of opinions, never shuts up.
    "You know that's a good way to wind a rope, but not the best! I once knew this gnome bard who could wrap and unwrap a length of rope with the  flick of her writs, and  I'll tell you that was the  best way ! Have you ever seen the  Mogmore canyon? Well Let me tell you...... " Good luck sneaking around, this guy does not have an indoor voice.
    This one can be allot of work for the gm , but it's worth it. 
  8. Enthusiastic:
    This henchman wants to be an adventurer and thinks that's what he's here for. He totally misunderstood the relationship  between himself and the rest of the group. In fact he thinks he's part of the party. He refers to his pay  as, "his cut." And he orders any other henchman around as if he were paying them. 
  9. Adrenaline junkie:
    You hired this local girl to carry health potions, food, and thirty oil flasks. She seemed nice, honest and fit. You gave her the promise of gold, a back pack, a leather jerkin as armor, and best of all a sword to protect herself, "if she has to." Now she want's to KILL ALL THE THINGS! No one doubts her bravery, but she runs head long into everything and  attacks with vigor. Treat her like a level 0 fighter, if she lives she will be at least level 1 by the end of the adventure and might even prove to be useful sometime down the line.
    Right now she's really only good at attracting random encounters back to the the party. 
    (Increase the chance of random encounters while traveling because she is actively seeking them out.)
  10. Clumsy: 
    While he or she means well this  Henchman is just an uncoordinated butter fingers.
    Any time a party member asks this henchman  for anything there is a 2 in 6 chance that the  henchman drops it. Further more this  henchman fumbles any roll on a five or less if using a D20 based system, adjust things to around 20% chance for other systems.
  11. Clingy:
    This henchman falls madly in love with a random party member. This is pure role play, the characters just have to deal with this new party dynamic however they see fit. Having a party member wake up  in camp with their head awash h in rose pedals, and one of the henchman sitting about  five feet away lovingly watching them sleep should get a reaction.
  12. Rotten Apple:
    This  henchman  took the job but is just not happy with it. So the henchman  has taken to  bitching about the  pay, the conditions, the danger, and especially the leadership. He never does it in front or in ear shot of the  party members that would be risking a paycheck. In fact he is often nice as pie to his employers.
    The net effect of this is that any other henchmen with the party  will suffer a -1 cumulative penalty to their morale for each week this person is around. If you are not using any kind of moral rules it is enough to say the other henchmen are more likely to run away, revolt, refuse to do something, or just plain quit. Worse it will only get worse as long as the rotten apple is around.
  13. Slow poke:
    He seemed fit at the time but now that he is loaded down with nine swords, a half dozen dented helmets, a weird petrified hand we found, and sixteen potions of "I kinda feel better,"  he is slow as molasses!. This  henchman  adds 1d6 hours and  appropriate rolls on  random encounter charts to any overland trip while the  party is waiting for him to catch up.
  14. Nature Boy:
    This   wants to be a ranger, a herbalist, or just wants to get high. He finds and eats mushrooms. He offers rolled up herbs to the  party members during times of stress. He will add things found in the forest to what ever the  party is cooking, some times without telling them. On occasion he will complain that being a henchman is the only way he can make money  outside of the clipping season. He ends allot of his sentences with, "trust me", muffled laughter, or vacant stares.
    I suggest using the charts and info from Narcosa to create effects when needed.
  15. Dis-Connected:
    This henchman is running away form the comfortable life of their rich merchant family. 
    No more silk cushions, flouncy underpants, and purple robes for them, oh no! The soiled life of adventure is what they want! However their powerful family disagrees with this strange desire for freedom and  are worried. They will be searching.
    Whenever the party is in town there is a 1 in 8 chance the henchman will be recognized by someone who knows the situation. Once that happens there will be Thugs hired to track down the party then kidnap the henchman, shuttling him back to his / her family. Trouble is the henchman is probably carrying some of the parties stuff.
  16. Coward:
    This henchman will flee at the first sign of combat and return a few rounds after the noise stops. 
    If the combat was with some supernatural foe there is a 1 in 8 chance the henchman just keeps running and  never comes back at all.
    If any one is wounded or bloodies there is a 3 in 6 chance that this henchman faints straight away.
  17. What the what?
    This Henchman is an intelligent parasite which has recently killed and occupied the person you thought the party actuality hired as a Henchman. 
    As time goes on the  Henchman will act less and less normal. 
    Roll 1d8 for an odd thing once a day. 
    1. A strong rotting smell 
    2. never eats or talks 
    3. Jerky motions 
    4. hair / tooth loss 
    5. Will stop moving  for 30 seconds at a time and just stare..... 
    6.One day when the party wakes up the  Henchman's neck is obviously and grotesquely broken, though he shows no sign of awareness to this fact. 
    7. Ends random sentences with  "help me." then deny s it.
    8. If injured it's blood sizzles and  smokes when it hits the ground.
    If confronted or attacked the Henchman's parasite erupts violently ala "The Thing," and tries to kill everyone. If never confronted the Henchamn will serve admirably  until you all get back to town then the above happens.
  18. Man if I had only known:
    This hench is just a jerk, always a comeback, nothing nice to say, sarcastic and abrasive. The party will either love him or kill him in the  woods somewhere.
  19. Smells like a dirty yak:
    Even by mid-evil fantasy setting standards this henchman needs some lessons on personal hygiene. Smelly, and unkempt, dirty in the extreme. Any reaction checks the party makes as a group suffer a penalty just because this  henchman is around. 
    "Excuse me, I think you have a piece of  chicken skin in your beard?"
  20. This is the best henchman ever!
    In fact he or she is a professional henchman, bearer, and hireling. On time, hard working, and  knows what the party will need before they even ask. Quick with a torch, great cook, and setting up camp has never been easier. 
    In fact while this  henchman is  working the  party gets a bonuses Up to the GM) to all  recovery rolls, and rests.
    The  only  problem is they  will only work for your party for 5 days, because they are already booked with another party next week. The henchman will be quite clear, upfront and professional about it. 
     If the adventure is not done after 5 days the  henchman will ask for their pay. If paid they simply leave. If not paid they leave and the  party will forever have a hard time hiring quality henchmen, as the insulted henchman will bad mouth the group whenever possible.

    (* Funny thing in my  AAIE game the  characters are all incompetent to start with and the pool of hirelings is where players draw from to replace their dead characters.)
    (** This is system agnostic, adjust it to what ever suits your game. The term level might not mean anything in your game, but if  someone is reading  obscure little RPG blogs like this one chances are they have done those kind of system adjustments a thousand times already)

    Well thank you for reading.
    If you use it let me know how it turns out.
    hand your  comments and questions to the  gibbering  Henchman  below.

Monday, December 29, 2014

A non review of "A Red and Pleasant Land"

Being this is my 200th post I expect Cake.

From the  tumbler "humanHeart" I can't site the  real source.

Here is my non-review of, "A Red and Pleasant Land" by Zak Smith.
This is based on my reading of the PDF. I'm waiting on my physical copy which wont be here in the states for a while yet.


"If You have been on the fence about buying it, Buy it.  Or Just Buy it, It's very good."

End of Review.
Forget that it is hard cover and amazing to look at.
fro get that the  production values make this book a game changer.
Forget that the  artwork is miles ahead of any of the photo-shop paintings that have become all the rage in the gaming industry.

The only thing that matters to me is  that It's game-able.
It has interesting usable charts.
It has ideas, style, thoughts and all kinds of things that a GM could use / steal even if they don't give a darn about the setting.
It is a usable game book, In fact one of the most usable I have ever seen.

No need for me to hoist 10000 words on this one.

Here is Zak Smith talking about it
Here is a review on Dungeon of Signs
"Again this art is better to my eye than anything I’ve seen in a game book, because Smith is a very talented professional artist and unafraid to work in a style that is unique and quite far from the glossy concept art style of digital painting popular in most current high quality game products." From teh review above.
Here is a Player perspective on Save Vs. TPK

Another review from Nemo's lounge

Something by Nerdwerds.
And this From the Geek Life Project
"Zak does have one major advantage over the rest of us who scribble down various gaming projects. He’s his own artist and a damn good one too. The words and pictures on the page come from the same brain. Like Vornheim, the artwork isn't just something to give a visual representation to the reader. It is part of the product. Not only functionally but it blends with the words to create a consistent and unique vision." From the review linked above
See a pattern?
It's a damn good product.

As this is the  200th post here I figure I should  write a bit about where the blog is going for hopefully the next 200 posts:

Look out for more purely gamble posts in the future.  I have put allot of opinion words on the wall here lately and owe a  great deal of "back tax" as they say. As a loose rule, I'm no longer going to dedicate this blog space to my personal projects. I'm simply not looking to develop anything like I was when I started this blog.  The AAIE game is still out there and I do plan on doing some work on it in the future if I do I will  let everyone here know but I'm not going to write about the process as much. For the record The game as it stands now is a mess, but it's a fun train wreck to watch so I should make an effort to get back to it.

As always
Thank you for reading.
Please leave any questions or comments in the bowl of crumpet batter below.

Saturday, December 20, 2014

Krampus After action report (actual Play)

First off here are my notes form the game. 
Everybody does it this way. Right?

On a 9"x 12" piece of  70 lb  drawing paper with a uniball micro.
an awful scan,
The characters:
  • Damascus: Played by Neal, A self disguising magic wielding, energy sword having nano from Numenera. Made for this game specifically, I think.
  • Reginald: A Paladin 5th level from A&D second edition.  This character has been played by Russ for a long time.
  • Howard Bristleshield: Another 2nd ed Paladin played to the hilt by Chris, originally made for my 2nd ed game this was Howard's first real run.
  • Rik: Another long time character this time played by Jay. Rik was written in the Phase Abandon rule set which is kind of our own in house game.
  • Quizaris: Which I may have misspelled Run  by Otto as only he can a Necromancer using the 5th ed rules.
I have to quickly touch on one of the  biggest troubles with online gaming. We're all adults ranging in age from 22 through over 40. We all have jobs and some of us get up ass early in the morning. We started the game at 8 pm, and it ran until midnight.  By the time we were done, we lost Otto and Chris to attrition (and perhaps to Mead), Neal was up against a time limit, Jay had to work in the morning, and I was dog tired, I feel comfortable saying Russ likely was to. However, there's just no other way to get everyone together this time of year.

I shouldn't have dragged the set up as much as I did, but we were having fun with the  messengers and the dwarves and the party coming together. It took to long and I had to make up for it on the back end, cutting allot of the actual Kramups Caves features as I went.

The game opened with  each character dealing with  the effects of a particularly cold and difficult late fall early winter. Very low temperatures tons of snow that sort of thing. In turn each character is visited by a messenger carrying a plea for help and the  promise of a reward that woudl appeal to them. Ric was promised treasure, The mages were promised an open library, the Paladins the  chance to save an awful lot of people.
The message held instructions to head to the  port of Everthaw and find a ship that will be waiting to sail north.

Neal had a good time with his Numenera character playing him as if he was from the  9th world, and  had no idea what the heck Everthaw is and rubbing against the logic of a fantasy world. It as good stuff as he entered Everthaw disguised as beggar and began rubbing shoulders with the other characters.

As the characters filter into town they can't help but notice the a large ship in the harbor is a double stacked steamer equipped as an ice breaker. First off ice breakers are uncommon and steamers even more so. The unusual ship painted bright red jumped out at everyone as their obvious destination.

It was Neal's Damascus who first ran into two members of the ships crew both Dwarves, one named Donner and the other named Dasher. Damascus dressed as a beggar engaged them while they were buying supplies for the ship and  even  gathered a couple of coins before being told to find a job.
Damascus for his part was quite confused having never seen "abhumans" of the  dwarven sort.

the other charters spent time pumping the local  innkeeper and  some  other  tradesmen for information about the  large ship in the harbor. The inn-keep took the  bribes offered by the  characters but actually had very little information other than, "ship from the  north , dwarf crew.," easiest gold that guy ever made.
After a time the  characters all gathered on the dock an were greeted by Donner which served as a kind of informal introduction. He explained that each  party member ha a custom room on the  boat including a dark below deck area for  Quizaris the Drow. 
Ric recognized Damascus as the beggar from town and  simply nodded to him as a show of respect form one sketchy disguise guy to another.

The trip north was uneventful besides it being exceedingly cold and the ice breaker making though work through pack ice.
Here is one point I had an encounter planned for the trip, but the real world clock was ticking.

The party arrives at a far northern port village, with an incongruous temple built near the docks.
Here the  party meet Nicolas and the rest of his  Dwarf companions.  Nicolas is the  High priest of the  Cult of Saturnus, and  the man who called on these heroes to help him.  the cult has one responsibility  to maintain this village and temple so that yearly a ritual can be held that calls spring into the  world. The ritual must be  performed by children  younger than 13, and is held in this remote location as to protect it from the  evils of the  world. It's isolation  insures that the  ritual will persist. But this year the ice elves have summoned a demon known only as the Krampus, who has stolen the children away in an attempt to ensure an everlasting  winter.
Nicolas also gave the advice that The Krampus may be weak to silver, something I thought at the time no one picked up on, but I learned latter they did.
He has Totally seen this flim before.

This would normally leed to characters tracking and  finding and investigating. Again  clock was ticking.

the party traveled through the  village with  three dwarf guides Donner "the steady one" Dasher "the  inpatient one" and Blitzen "the bezerker."

Quizaris took time to stop and borrow clothing from a distraught family with story that it would assist him in  tracking down their daughter. He then proceeds to raise a skeleton form the  local grave yard and attempt to  disguise the skeleton as a child. The rest of the party balks , the paladins are luckily  ahead with the dwarves, things get strange. Damascus makes an attempt to magically  assist in the disguise effort when Neal rolls of 1 which in Numenera allows me a GM intrusion. I told them the Skeleton Grows to  8 foot tall destroying any chance to disguise it and ripping the borrowed coat to shreds, it also alerts the rest of the party  to in't presence. Chris's Paladin jumps to kill the thing, but  Quizaris uses some quick glamour and  illusion to convince ever on that this  sin against nature is not what it appears and  they move on. Had this not been a one off  for fun adventure I'm sure that whole fiasco would have degenerated into a character on character blood letting of some sort.

Again we fast forward a bit and the party arrives at the cave of Krampus the entrance of which is  guarded by two ice elves riding polar bears. The wizards hang back with the big ass skeleton as not to be seen while  the  paladins and the dwarves sneak forward. Rick being snaky moves forward attempting to get closer under the cover of an illusion cast by Damascus.

A quick fight broke out .

here I have to say something about Ric and Phase abandon. Jay rolled about as badly as a person can roll last night, and in D&D you might be able to get by, but in Phase you get screwed hard when the dice don't go your way. 
In this instance he managed to jump at both elves with a sneak attack killing one elf  outright, but ending up only  punching the other and getting in a fist fight on the back of now out of control polar bear.

Reginald  killed off the second elf I think with a 2nd edition 2 handed sword strike to the face.

The party collected some potions from the dead elves, and then promptly fed one to Dasher. I used the chart from page 97 in the Narcosa PDF and good old dash promptly go high and went blind for two days. Good going. They tied him to Donner and soldiered on.

This is about when things get fuzzy for me. We lost Chris to the rules of his household and soon after Otto succumbed to his long hours at work, and some good mead.

Once in the ice caves another fight with ice elves broke out.

Mixing the three RPG systems still involved in the game worked smoothly. I had to remember to have Neal make dodge roles ala Cipher system and have Russ tell me what AC he hit ala THAC0, but beyond that it was pretty smooth. 

Jay rolled badly the  whole fight which nullified the extreme narrative control that phase allows. I mean he could have narrated any darn thing he wanted on  successes and I would have had to  adapted to what he said, which would have complicated the merging of systems but not too much.

The next room featured a summoning circle made of iron dust which Regi  ruined as soon as he saw it which drew then attention of the  Krampus himself (in the name of time again.) 
Krampus loosed five prepubescent mind controlled children clumsily wielding swords on the party. This left the party with a  problem, none of them wanted to fight eh children, Reignald the paladin in fact could have no part in it. So  Regi bum-rushed through them to take the fight to the demon.  

Ric used a sleep gas bomb to knock out two of the kids and the blind Dasher(another crappy roll.) Ric made it his mission to  gather necklaces off the children which he figured must be controlling them.
Donner and Blitzen were reduced to parrying clumsy sword strikes.
Damascus Fired magic at the  Krampus then moved in with his energy sword for close combat.

Mechanically  the  fight was interesting:
  • Kramup's aura of evil cancelled out  most of Regies Paladin Bonuses making it an even fight. 
  • Regi's steel sword was only doing half damage. 
  • For the record I cut about  50 HP off Krampus so that we could all get to bed before we died.
  • Damascus was doing full damage with his energy blade spell and was rolling hot so that helped even the field a bit. 
  • The Krampus tried to disarm Rginald and a full on "give me that sword" wrestling match  broke out.
  • Regi failed a saving throw and was paralyzed for a round after being stung by Krampuses tail. He was about the get "demon curb stommped" when Damascus landed a blow that opened up the Krampus down to the ribs.
  • Blitzen joined in fighting Krampus and got kicked around a bit, but not taken out.
  • Due to bad rolls Ric was having a hell of a time with the remaining kids, story wise he was trying not to hurt them but still disarm them which was getting him cut up in a myriad of ways. I honestly thought he was going to die the death of 1000 cuts.
  • Regi now back on his feet literally tried to rip Krampuses heart out of his chest.(Krampu's heart for the record looks like a lump of throbbing burning coals)
    The  Krampus's rib cage closed shut on Regies arm and  the demon began to gnaw on his face doing decent Damage.
  • Damascus hit for solid damage cutting away the rib cage,  sending the heart flying. Regi then  speared the heart midair with a silver dagger he has had since 1998 (no kidding) finally killing the beast with what was the rpg equivalent of a tag team fatality.
  • This unlocked the children's minds the fell weeping to the floor. 
  • We then wrapped everything up quickly and scurried off to bed.

So There it is. 
The Krampus defeated for another year.

The only thrift I gave using the different systems is the chart I drew on the  left hand side of my notes which I used to normalize everyone's damage to the  number of ht points I was giving monsters.
Neal was only ever going to do 9 damage tops which is sweet in Numenera. Ric could have hoped on a fantastic role to do 7 or 8 damage with one action. Comparatively Regi could have done 18+4 with his sword vs a large foe. I normalized the damaged by giving he  Phase and the Cipher players a damage boost based on what they rolled within their own systems. If Ric rolled 3 damage I would have counted it as 6 hp worth of damage. It was nothing precise or scientific but it seemed to work in the context of the adventure.

Thank you for reading 
Happy Hoidays
Merry Krampus.

Please leave any questions or comments in the  wicker basket of stolen children below.

Thursday, December 18, 2014

So I bought the D&D 5th edition Dungeon Masters Guide, Here is what I think, about all of it.

And you know what? It's pretty legit.
This is going to be a long post, you have been warned. I should split this bear up, but I didn't.

This blog entry will be written one hundred percent from my perspective as a guy who runs games, not from the stance of a review. This will be me riffing on the  new DMG. I can safely assume there will be thousands of reviews written on blogs that  are written by people who are more adept than I could ever be at pulling apart a book and  tweazzing every pube out of it.
So here's my  "review"
     It's legit, buy it if you want a 5th ed DMG.
     You can quote me.*
What I'm going to do is point out things that I think that I would in fact get some use out of. I will also point out parts I'm going to steal form my own games, or change so that they become useful.

So what do I look for in a DMG?
I have a love / hate relationship with  Dungeon Masters guides. I don't want a book preaching to me about how to run my game,  that's what a starter set is for. All the  rules to make kick ass characters are in the Players Hand book, so we wont see any of that in the dungeon masters guide. I don't like endless lists of crappy magic items, save those for a splat book I wont buy.
What I want is a tool kit of things that the  authors wanted to do with the system and did not implement for whatever reason. I also want random things piles of them so if I get stuck for an idea while I'm working on my game I can roll on a few charts and hopefully be inspired by the results.
For the record I think the 5th ed DMG does a pretty nice job giving me the toy box I want. While some of this post might be negative, my overall impression  as I stated twice before comes to "The books Legit" **

Lets get rolling!

The introductions:
Know your role know your players, what is a GM and all that good stuff. I look at this section as the mission statement of a book. The part that has to be written, should be remembered, and is not be read all that often. The phrase "The DM creates a world for the other players to explore" crops up right at the start.
Two things I like in that defining statement. "FOR the OTHER PLAYERS".
That phrase is loaded with win. Yes DM's do it for the players. The game is about the characters and for them solely. DM's do it because DM's love to create and DM's love to see their ideas come to fruit, but in the end it's for the players. If the players are not interested in what the DM is running then no matter how skilled the DM the game isn't going to fly. Secondly "The Other Players" yes the DM is a player! Have fun, Play the game, enjoy what is going on. Be an active player and participant.

Then the nice how to use this book blurb along with the presentation of the Master of Worlds, Master of Adventurers, and Master of Rules paradigm the authors put forward. Good stuff if the reader is new to GMing.

I like the "know your players section." Knowing that different people want different things from their games is one of the first hurdles Gm's have to jump while learning to run a game. Having it right up front like that I think is a very good idea.

Part 1 Master of Worlds.
First off we get a full color picture at the start of Part 1 a druid a ranger, a half-ling, and some fairy dragon thing. I am not an artist everything in this book is better than I can do, but I will say that it's not may favorite piece in the book.

The authors start out with core assumptions for the  standard vanilla D&D world.  Then the "It's your world" section basically says "you can do what ever the F# you want.
I love that. It hearkens back to the  2nd ed days where  Birthright, forgotten, and, Dark Sun all shared shelf space. It's your game. If the DM wants a world with no magic, go for it. You bought the book, do what you like.
In fact the blurb for  "The world is new," inspired me to think about  creating a world that's brand spanking new, as it's the opposite of what I normally run.

Then off to deities. Something that I have never really dealt with in fine detail in my game. Sure there are gods and different regions worship different gods, but I have never sketched the pantheon or anything like that.

Page 10 gives us a nice list of the Dawn War Deities, and page 11 references the 4th edition hand book  form which those gods spawn. Fantastic. I like that the  5th edition remembers that there are 40 years of history behind it. More references to old editions please. (Note: I never found another one.)

Four whole pages for gods including  types of religious systems Monotheism, Dualism, Animism and so on. Putting forth again that the DM doesn't need to use the forgotten realms pantheon, make up your own, or don't, or worship the  spirits in all things, its your campaign.

The splotch ink wash / watercolor like borders around the interior art works on for the picture shown on page 13 and is distracting as hell in other places.

The mapping your campaign section is excellent in that is speaks of and gives a system for zooming in and out and making maps to scale. Again this is an issue many new GM's fight with and having a solid three pages solely on this topic this early in the book is a great idea.

I like the  art plate on page 15. I want my maps to look like that isometric drawing, they don't.

The information about settlements, adventure sites, and  towns is solid. The bullet list questions are a nice starting framework for location creation.  I started thinking about Dungeon World while I was reading this section as it has a similar feel to that games treatment of locations, if not as regimented. I can see some  experienced GM's scoffing that the guidelines in the  book do not offer enough information to run a game with.  I would  argue allot of experienced GM's myself included create volumes of information that they never use in game, it's the nature of the beast.

Page 18 first random chart. Forms of government, each one being explained on the joining page. Again this is useful stuff when setting up a game, Even if it only serves to get the  DM's creative juices flowing.

Skipping a bit to Factions and Organisations on page 21.
This is good stuff. Again the factions feel like something from Dungeon World. I can see a DW influence here that I might be imagining ***

The subsystem for Renown that is presented on page 22 is the first optional system presented in the book and  I would use it in a hot second.I woudl use it even if it does remind me of doing quests for  ranks in an MMO on my computer. It's a system that ties the actions of the players back to the  world in a way that can be quantified and that's one of those things that tickles my design jones in a positive way.

On Pages 23 to 24 is a section called "magic in your world." It's good, but I'm not sure if it's in the right spot?
The section about teleportation circles misses an opportunity to say "Think how a teleportation circle would change the very foundation of a worlds economy."

The next section is  "creating a campaign."
Here we go with a bit of usable advice and a handful of small random tables.****  The tables are fun but very small. Six leader types? Ten world shaking events?
I'm not complaining. Anytime I can roll 1d10 and get a random idea to riff on I'm happy.
For example:
I like Pg. 28  Cataclysmic Disaster chart number 6 "Rain of Fire (meteoric impact)." Hell a DM could base a hole campaign off that one. Survivors of the blast crawling out of their shelters to find a world changed and their way of life gone..GO!

The art on the top of page 29?

The small charts and idea sections for things like, "extinctions / depletion" and "discoveries" go on for a healthy five pages and are chock full of ideas. I could complain that it's all kind of vanilla stuff, but I feel it should be. This isn't Narcosa, this is a basic guide for DM's. If someone reads the DMG and reacts with, "Well these charts are all boring as shit." I would say that reader is first of all correct and secondly that same reader is ready to go searching until they find Dungeons Dozens and never want for a chart again. This DMG is handing us the tools and if we want for more there are an amazing amount of home made materials floating around out there to use.

On page thirty four the book starts addressing play style. For one page.

Hack and Slash, Immerseive story telling, something between. I feel strongly this deserves more space, and more examination. If knowing your players is worth a full page in the books opening, learning what style works for them and  how to support those styles with the  rules deserves more than one page front. I fell this is decent section but a missed opportunity. ***** As an aside the bullet questions on page 34 are very good and any DM would do well to answer most of them with the players before starting out.

Tiers of play on pages 36-37, I skipped it I'm not going to lie. I don't like the idea of player character tiers. If a level twenty warrior wants to go back to her home village and make it the  most well protected potato farming village ever, I see no problem with that. Even if she is not "determining the  fate of millions in the material plane."

Handy chart on 38 if you start your players out above level 1.

Another nice section on "Flavors of fantasy" again hammering home the idea that a DM can do what ever she wants with the game. Interesting inclusion of Wuxia as a genre. I like the chart on 41 that gives the names of some Chinese and Japanese weapons, as well as linking them to D&D weapons that are already stated out. I understand that someone is going to  yell, "A katana a Jian and a long sword are NOT the same or equal! SNORT RAGE.."*x6 Fine stat them out yourself have a blast, please post it. I'm just happy to see the  Chinese names printed out considering they are not as commonly known.

Page 41 Ghost Busters reference, FTW.

Chapter 2 creating a multiverse will appeal to somebody, but I don't use the planes of existence in my games so for me it's just kind of filler.
I was thinking the  whole time I read the twenty six page faces *x7 dedicate to the planes that, "Hey man save something for the Planescape rule book..that I will never buy .. and can avoid."
Aside form my  own opinion about the  planes in general, I like the  special rules for each plan.
The  optional rules are evocative, simple, and  very interesting. It's great way to make planes feel different and be more significant than just aesthetic differences from ye old prime material. I might steal some of those rules for other uses in my game.

One nice thing this section  has some fun artwork  page 42 is a full page plate that's actually interesting showing some adventures trying not to be found by the characters from the next big pixar film (modrons from Mechanus I think.) Another silly plate of modrons on page 66 which is a refreshing palate cleanser after a shameful lack of silly images in D&D products in the past 10 years.

I also like the plates of pages 56-57.

Known worlds of the material plane page 68 .... are they going to do new setting materials for all 7 of the settings named? possibly even  Aebrynis as in Birthright to? Please.  Dark sun, Please and and .................Sorry I forgot to breath and passed out ... back to work.

Part 2 Master of adventures:
Page 70:  BabaYaga,s hut! I love that picture.

This begins the creating  adventures section, which is bound to be useful. In the  introduction the  authors move slightly away from the  whole "this is for the  players" idea that they put forward in the opening of the  book with "writing  adventures let you do it your way."
I look at the introduction text like a coaches pep talk. Just fluff to get the reader excited about this next section. They do go on to say "adventures must meet the needs of the players and the campaign." which I feel is true.

The beginning of this section reads again a bit like dungeon world. "Familiar tropes with Clever twists" could equal  "Portray a fantastic world." "Heroes who matter" is a bit like "be a fan of the characters." and so on. I know it's a stretch, both games cover similar ground and I do think connections can be drawn. This DMG is definitely  written with a different slant than the  3rd edition DMG form example.

Page 73 holds what for me are the first truly meaty charts for the game. Dungeon goals and Wilderness goals. One roll and start riffing off the result. These kind of things can be a life saver if a Gm gets stuck for an idea and just needs a boost. Again the  entries are kind of plain, but again I feel they should be  for this book. I want my character to have to enter a dungeon in order to win a bet, that has a rousing game written all over it.
Page 73 is where for me the book finally gets out of it's own way. It's like the authors said, "At last we finished all the parts we HAVE to write now lets get to the workable parts."

Nice green demon face reference in the plate on page 73.

A few good adventure creation charts follow, with "adventure ally" being a stand out that could add some nice random twists to an adventure that needs it. I question the  Ideal Adventure Climax  chart given that the DM would have to force the adventure in the direction of an ideal climax and  that's never good.
Pages 75 to 78 are called "event based adventure design" and there are some good tidbits. I do wish at some point the text said "Create the event have it happen if the players choose to ignore it so be it. Move on to something else." That will happen, The GM could have a necromancer rob an apothecary and turn the proprietor into a zombie right in front of some players and they might  just turn around and leave, all that planning concerning the necromancers motives, curing the merchant, and  the  wizards hide out  would go up in smoke. That's the problem with railroads, sometimes things go off the rails.

page 79 framing events chart is useful and well done.

I like the  quandary list shown on page 80 if only because it  puts inter-character interactions and NPC interactions in the spotlight as important parts of adventures.

I have to be honest to everyone reading , I read page 82 Combat encounters and my eyes glazed over.

"Determine the  party's XP threshold" what? Modify Total XP for Multiple Monsters, huh?
Will this make my game more interesting? I don't think so. I know why it has to be here, but honestly as long as I own this book, I will never look at page 82 again.

I do like that the authors offer a few different ways to build encounters over the next couple pages. On Page 85 there are bullet points about making  encounters fun and interesting, which are all things we need to be reminded of. Orc standing in  cave..meh. Orc standing onto of a pile of rubble wielding a juvenile rust monster  lashed to a stick..*x8 Fun and interesting.

I like the notes on page 86 about creating your  own random encounter tables, solid advice.

Sylvan Forrest encounters example chart entries 5 ,10, 15, 18 , 19. That's what I'm talking about. Make charts with all kinds of stuff on them. Then drop the  unicorn at 20 and replace it with "Giant Sloth ridden by obese goblin."

Starting on page 89 we get creating NPC's.
A few charts to roll up random quick NPCs which I will undoubtedly use.

Page 93 features NPC loyalty rules which I like very much. I don't know if I would remember to  track loyalty if I used it, but I think I would like to TRY and use it. This is a great example of the DMG acting as a tool kit for the DM. It's simple and usable and 100% optional.

How about some NPC boons linked to loyalty? Future blog fodder.

Page 94 and 95  Villain  Scheme's and Methods charts of nested charts ...majestic.
For a big bad using a chart to set things up is not a great idea but for a fast minor villain or supporting cast bad guy I love he idea of  riffing off of a few results from these charts.
"Bargrad the  one eyed works for Vorul. He is currently tracking the player characters but meanwhile he is also scheming to "seize control of an army," by "forcing press gangs." to fight for him. "
I rolled that just now.  Bargrad the one eyed seems more interesting now that he is not just some lackey tracking the players around? Right?

Some nice evil class options on the next page (96.) I have always liked the idea of having a separate class for a fallen paladin or an anti paladin.. I digress.

Dungeons get the next five pages. This section is sort of DMG  dungeons 101, What is a portcullis? Is the kind of question the reader finds answered here.
Again I can almost see the authors banging away at their  keyboards on this section while thinking about another section. The opening section contains some nice charts to randomly  make up  the  basics of why, what and who concerning your new dungeon. I like the charts. I'll say again it's fun to roll a few results then just start riffing off the results. I will say result 1 under "dungeon Purpose" is death trap. If Gary Gygax were still alive the one question I would ask him is, "why would some NPC build a vast, expensive, deathtrap and then just leave it there hoping adventurers would dig it up go in and die? "

Next up wilderness gets a similar treatment and I'm glad to see it. The section starts out by presenting two ways of approaching wilderness travel which  serves to remind the  DM sometimes walking to a place can also be pretty dangerous. I have long held the belief that D&D has never done wilderness justice. Imagine slogging up and down slopes, through swamps, crossed streams and what not with a pack ad armor on.Things like thirst and  hunger get short shift in D&D and they are at least addressed here.
On page 110 they even mention altitude which is a nice thing to see.

Page 112 to 116 is chuck full of charts for  building  settlements and urban areas.  This is good stuff.
I will make use of these charts. Why was this not back near page 14? Why don't my maps look like the full page picture on page 115?  I will never know either answer.

Under water and and the sea get the next page, and on page 119 the  air gets a paragraph. Sorry Griffon Rider your screwed.

Page 122 and 123 deal  with traps and offer some sample traps up to and including a fricking sphere of annihilation somehow mounted in the  face of a gaping statue. "Push the elf in it will be a hoot!" I was hoping for some alternative disarm rules rather than just setting a DC and roll here but no such luck. The traps are all well described, there are plenty of forms and types of traps to get a DM's creative juices flowing.

Chapter 6 between adventures:
I have been looking forward to this.

What the characters do between adventures has always been a pet interest of mine. I want them to spend all that ill gotten gold on houses, ale, whores, horses, weapons, and  hopefully this section will give me some ways to facilitate that.
Some nice Gm advise about planting adventure seeds starts the section, thank you.  We also get a very handy chart for daily expenses for  things owned. Which I like very much  because it allows me to have an amount of gold to ask for when the party returns to town and all their hirelings have their hands out expecting a paycheck.
Page 128 building a strong hold needs more than one column. I have some old 2nd edition  books that can fill in those blanks nicely.

There is a very politically correct carousing chart, which I am glad to see, but still use this one instead, and extend it with this and your game will have some REAL carousing that Hasbro could never approve of.

Crafting magic items gets a blurb, I like that it's not overly complicated. I am sure there will be more in depth  item forging rules published eventually.

Running a business gets a chart,
There are some good things here but all in all the between adventures section feels a bit too brief. Though I have restate I'm just happy to see it in here, and all of the most common things players like to do after the adventure is over are covered.

Page 135 to 139 hold some swank treasure charts including gems, art objects and magic items. Which my players will say I may never use because I never give out magic items. They are right I never give out random magic items.

Page 140 mixing potions and scroll mishaps yes please.  Spell activates 1d12 hours latter  oh that's fun when your trying to cast lightning bolt.
These charts are nice , but if a DM spends about  a minute on the internet they can find bigger and more interesting charts that cover the same ground. I'm glad these charts are here, but I would rather have seen some alternate rules for adjudicating spell back fires, like the DCC magical taint rules.

The boxed text Magic item formulas on page 141 reads right out of some MMO text about crafting.

The chart on 142 and 143 are gold and are begging to be extended. What quirk does it have? "My wand causes me a flash of intense pain when I use it." That is golden. as a gm I woudl attach some small mechanical effect to the  quirks, like an initiative penalty on the  next round after using the painful wand. At least ever want of magic missiles ones not have to be a carbon copy of every other wand of magic missiles.

144 to 149 random magic item tables. Nice to have.

Pages 150 to 213 magic item descriptions.. Holy hell that's allot of pages. Why not give me more tools for creating magic items? Some kind of optional rules for magic items? The Cipher system is pretty popular right now, why not optional rules for cipher style magic items?

Ok I'm going to do this quick and dirty. Magic Items. My feeling is that the  authors are giving us the basics of magic items and we will have to fill in the details ourselves. The problem for me and perhaps some other long time player / DM's is that I have seen all of these items (give or take) in other books ad-nauseam. "Bag of holding." no surprises here. I have never had the temptation to grab an sharpie and go all Zak Smith on an RPG book until I hit this section. I wanted to just rip it up and write my own stuff ll over it. *x9

  • Amulet of Health, makes your con 19 if your con is 19  it is a cool necklace.  I could not with a clean conscious give that boring piece of crap to a player. Mind you it's a good mathematical bonus, but why is it there, who the hell makes them? Is there any more to it?
  • Ammunition +1 +2 +3, gives me the same reaction as the amulet. Can't these be just well crafted arrows?
  • Apparatus of Kwalish is pretty darn cool. I like any thing that will confuse the hell out of the players for a few minutes.
  • Bag of beans, a nice distraction.
  • Three different bags of tricks Sweet.
  • Word of advice. Wait until your campaign is over before dropping a deck of many things on the party. It will ruin every thing. also write your own custom cards. It's a [piece of shit McGuffin of an item.
  • I like the  dust of sneezing and choking.
  • Iron Bands of Bilarro are evocative (Pg 177.)  I could see players coming up with off label ways to make use of them.
  • I like the oath Bow page 183 I could see that leading to some interesting situations. The item creates it's own story hook. I would  have that sworn enemy escape, making the user of the oath bow have to hunt them down.
  • The tentacle rod (page 208) makes me think of this. whihc is positive. The item, which is made by the drow, hits with tentacles at + 9 if three tentacles hit the target must save Vs. dc 15 or the targets speed is ............. ohh sorry I dozed off.
I don't want to continue this complaining and end up sounding like a complete ass. Basically I'm not impressed with this huge swath of recycled magic items in the middle of the book. I feel for the authors honestly. If they left them out people would  have screamed, "Where are my magic items?!" Once they started putting them in they have to hit all the classics, the bags of holding and the hammer of thunderbolts type items HAVE TO BE THERE. or someone would cry foul. Then once the authors take the time to write all of those magic items (again) someone like me who is tired of reading the  same magic item descriptions for 20 years whines like a baby. It's a no win.
For the record, the items are well illustrated, and well described and  as brief as the  necessity to include the classics allows. They did a good job with this section. My wanting to read it or not is completely irrelevant.

There follows a nice section about sentient magic items.  With guidelines and charts to roll them up. Its very brief, but it is as much as a DM needs to get started down the  talking sword route.

Page 219 and 220 contain the rules for  creating  artifacts which is pretty much what I would use to create any magic item, because a glove that makes you immune to  disease but leaves you deaf,  and can only be destroyed if swallowed by a dragon turtle seems more interesting to me than a ring of disease resistance.
Why not give me 10 pages of  charts like these to create random magic items instead of  60 pages of recycled magic items? (still bitching)
I wish this section was more in depth.

There are some sample artifacts provided which read like a whose who of things that were the goals in old modules. Even the  hand and eye of Vecna make an appearance! Each one has a history and built in story hooks so they are interesting and usable. This is how I like my magic items. *x10

228 and 229 the book talks about other rewards like Parcels of land and favors. I think these things are far more likely than being given a ring that shoots fire, or a crown that reads minds. I like the  concept of giving land and letters of recommendation to players at the end of a campaign, either one could lead to further adventures.

Epic Boons?
For level 20 characters when you complete some mighty task rather than being rewarded with stuff the character could get a Boon. It could be looked at as increasing the power of characters that have already maxed out their levels. The the next page has a list of 26 example boons. Yes I like this it's a usable option, and  it ties the deeds of the characters to advancement beyond the constraints of the experience system. I would use this. I would also work out my own boons as the ones in the book are not fantastic, but so what it's a great idea. (more fodder for future blogs)

Part 3 running the game:
Starts at page 235
Starts with the table rules section about  what to do when  players miss games, fostering respect and rules discussions at the table. I'm surprised this was not earlier in the book.
These are some of the things that can  flummox a new DM and it seems a bit buried back here. The next few pages are full of solid advice for running the mechanics.
Page 240 contains a lengthy section about inspiration a mechanic which  I felt was not explained well enough in the players hand book. They even offer a variant where only players can give inspiration to other players which is exactly how I would do it with my own group.
Page 242 includes a section called success at a cost, which says if the player fails by 1 or 2 they let them succeed only at a cost, and  play more Dungeon World. All Jokes aside its a good option that as a DM I have pulled out on occasion long before dungeon world codified it into a system. "Ok You hit ..buttttt the ogre tosses you into the camp fire."

The Resolving  Interactions section on page 244  is quick and to the point which is nice to see. Too much  mechanical dickering  when it comes to social interaction can stifle players. Just walking up to  NPC's and  talking which for me is one of the  fun parts. Don't over complicate reactions or the whole group DM included will avoid interacting.

Pages 247 to 253 contain some detailed fiddling with  combat. Rules for using  grids and miniatures all that good stuff.
This section includes a quick and dirty option for a singles player character fighting a mob of monsters. I will use that.
There are also rules for adjudicating a chase which  I don't think I would ever use, they just seem clunky, just narrate the damn chase. I do like the  charts on page 254, chase complications, I will totally use the charts.

Suddenly siege equipment.. not sure how this happened but here we are with  nice descriptions of  Rams and Cannon. Then we move onto the  next logical  subject diseases. I'm not sure how this was ordered and laid out, I guess everything has to go somewhere, but I don't see any internal logic in how this part of the book is put together.
(search the interweb for "Random D&D diseases" to find better stuff.)

I like the art plate on page 256 it's evocative and implies a story.

Nice sections on poison and  Madness, again if you look around on the web there are people out there who have done great treatments of random madness and  poisons of all kinds. Within the scope of this book both sections are quite good.

Page 261 contains the  Level Advancement Without Xp option.  It's literally 4 paragraphs at the bottom of the page, but it sums up this edition nicely. You don't like XP? Screw it! level up via story based goals, or by numbers of sessions.. whatever gets your horse to a gallop cowboy.

 For the record I have been leveling characters via story based goals for years, tracking  XP seems burdensome to me a this point. So for me it's kind of nice to be validated even if it is in an obscure blurb at the bottom of an obscure page.

Chapter 9  Dungeon Masters Work Shop:
A whole section of optional rules each one deserves it's own blog so for this writing I'm just going to touch on some quick points.
  • Will the rule improve my game
  • Will the players like it.
Yes I didn't directly quote the book, yes it is purposeful.  Will the players like it and will it improve the game are definitely a great place to start a section like this . If the DM starts dropping in options that the players hate, then there is no point.  I think it was wise of the  authors to put that right out front.

Proficiency Die:
looks good gives being good at a things a more tactile presence. On the other hand it takes the  player bonuses and  makes them random, which will lessen the  average effectiveness of the character and  blah blah.
I don't think I would use this but I like it. If I did use it I would allow the shifting of the  Proficiency die up or down a die in certain circumstances as a supplement to advantage / disadvantage. The player narrates some clever way to sneak attack that orc, cool shift your d4 proficiency to a d6.

Under Skill variants after a quick reading I would use "Personality Trait Proficiency," or " Background Proficiency," as they tie effectiveness back to the character and I'm all about that.

Hero points are interesting, but why not just say the  character can have advantage a few times a game for free. Mathematically it's pretty much a wash. I think if I were to give out hero points they would be to add some element into the present situation. Like I spend a hero point and, "hey there's a trap door under this rug!" That just might be my grimy story gamer underwear showing.

Honor and sanity attributes are great for exactly what the book says they are great for, settings that need them. I am currently playing in a game that is Cthulhu like investigation, that game needs sanity. My normal vanilla fantasy setting, not so much,

Adventuring Options 
Fear and Horror again  great if the setting calls for it.

The Healing options section and rest section is a run down of the healing methods from every edition of D&D. Which is cool but what it fails to address is if  a GM is going to adjust how slowly or quickly characters heal they also have to adjust your encounters accordingly. If a gm is going to use that nice new 5th ed monster manual that same Gm might not want to mess too much with how healing works, at least not yet.

This has always been a D&D bugaboo. It's nice to see them addressed here. The 5th edition DMG gives a very quick overview and as I have said before for this book it's enough. I think if a DM is bringing firearms especially modern fire arms into a game then they are probably comfortable with  house ruling a few things.  The damage for many of the modern items listed in the DMG are a bit low. 3d6 save for half for dynamite. I'm nitpicking. (The HR4 A mighty Fortress source book for second edition did a nice treatment of historic fire arms.)

Alien technology? Cool. Could I just retro fit spell effects or magic items that already exist in the game? Sure I could. Seems a silly inclusion at this level of depth. Aliens would need a book of their own, or something, play gamma world.

Plot points:
This is what I wanted to see under hero points, and I like these options, even though I might not use them in a straight D&D game.
Option 3 is right in my wheelhouse the rotating GM thing would play well with the group I play with. I don't think I would run a full campaign that way but a few games in a row might be fun.

I  am happy to see these options included. It says to me that the designers of this edition cast a wide net into the waters of indy design and story gaming while trolling for ideas. Which in my opinion is a good thing. The venerable formula known as D&D needs to rub up against new ideas every now and again even if it's just to recognize what doesn't work.
Initiative options are funny because I use all of them wherever I think they fit, Nice to see speed factors get a nod. Speed factors just always felt right to me. Big slow sword or small fast daggers. It gives a player a reason to look at what weapon they use based on more than just  damage die.

Action options
Hey Mark is  in here I can rebuild my 4th edition fighter..I'm not gonna but I can.

I think this option for disarming make it a bit too easy. I would expect  swords flying all over the place if this option was in play.

Overrun will be handy for  phase-ball matches.. (inside joke.)

The lingering injury and the System shock rules would  add an edge to combat. I like system shock, and I would definitely use it. If a character has 20 Hp and takes 15 Hp of damage from a  two handed sword, yeah going into shock is the least of the character's worries.

273 to 283 Creating Monsters and some note on NPC's:
This is a big section on creating monsters. I think the most useful three items out of these 10 pages are the chart titled "Monster Statistics by Challenge Rating" on page 274, and the "Monster Features" chart on 280 and 281, followed closely by the  NPC feature chart on page 282. With those charts I could rough out a monster's stats on the fly and the rest would be narrative and description.

I don't think I will will ever calculate a monsters overall damage output, or  calculate DC's much beyond using the  table and shifting the numbers op or down a bit.

The blurb called "Monsters with Classes"  basically says, yeah your monsters can have a class , but they don't get the equipment, don't use the class HD and don't get the proficiency bonus. The features are what's important, and in the book they use the  example of a 4th level barbarian werewolf, Which should be a thing.

Page 283 contains my favorite art from this book.

Creating a spell:
Quarter page, they could have just said "wing it." I'm sure there will be research rules somewhere down the line in  splat book. Though the chart for spell damage by level on page 284 is a handy reference.
The spell creation blurb is followed by an almost as brief section on creating magic items. The advice here is modify existing  magic items when appropriate. Yes please do that. The rest of the texts are brief  guidelines on keeping new magic items in balance with the  system as written.  Not really much of any use to me on this page. 

Creating New Character Options:
This section covers sub-races like Tall Dwarfs, and Shaftlings. *x11 Like most of the book the most useful part of this brief chapter are the bullet points. Answer those questions and a GM is well on the way to having a sub-race or race. There are even two examples given, the Eladrin another brand of fey folk and the Aasimar a breed of part celestial that are competing with the  aardvark for domination of the worlds dictionaries.

Next up is Modifying a class. 
This is about how to keep your ideas working within the mathematics balance of D&D 5th edition. Page 288 offers an honest to goodness variant when it presents "spell Points." While I like the idea it ends in  function being very similar to using spell slots as written. Though the text says a caster may never reduce their spell slots below zero. I say screw that. Yes you can, at the risk of  mutation, madness and the attention of demons whose bonds are starting fray. In other words this variant could  be used to open a door on more interesting spell casting in D&D.

Creating a new Background. 
This section simply goes over each part of a background. The section never mentions that ideas should be written as to have one option per alignment, which I found odd in that the PHB maintains that form.  It does say that background features should ignore strict game benefits which I'm glad to see. Writing a background with the benefit if being given a fine longsword of such quality if grands a +1 damage bonus, would be counter to the  spirit of the background mechanic.
Here is a big old list of community made backgrounds.

Apendix A: random Dungeons.. 
I love this kind of thing so happy to see it here.
This series of charts is well laid out easy to read and very usable. Good fun. Some nice charts here, on page 295 Current Chamber State  room full of ashes? Yes Please. Again some of the entries might seem bland by internet / G+ / blog  standards but I have said a few times in this ridiculously long blog, for the intent of this book I think the tables are excellent.

Random tricks and Dungeon dressings are handy tables. Even if rolling "Ages first person to touch the object" would royally suck for whomever touched the object. That will teach the characters not to wonder about willy nilly in the dungeon touching this and that.

 Pages 290 to 301 are ten pages of random tables of stuff, which I love they always come in handy at some point.

Apendix B Contains random monster charts, I hardly ever use them but it is nice to see them here, at the back of the book where thy will be easy to find if I do need them.

Urban monsters last entry "Tarrasque," So that ole dogs gone all citified on us?

We also get Monsters by challenge rating which is also a handy reference. 

Is the art in this section taken from the monster manual? It's good, I particularly like the Bulette on page 304 and the  Troglodyte on page 306. That might be the  first picture of a troglodyte I have ever seen that is not just a crappy lizard man.

Apendix C maps:
The windmill is cool, Page 313's bay settlement is  lovely. These are all well done maps. It's nice to show what can be done, I would have liked to have seen at least one print of a scratched,  marked up, drawn on, soda stained piece of crap from someones actual game table. Just so new GM's would know what to expect.
Go here for more usable maps and such.

Next is Apendix D inspirations a long list of books. Nice to  see G Gygax's books listed as well as "Microscope" and "Grimtooth's Traps."

finally we me to the complete index which as I just implied is quite complete for this book. Tough it does not as some indexes in the past have also index the PHB for cross referencing. I think they should have, 

Whew.. that's it. My whirlwind tour of the  5th editions Dungeon master's guide is at long last complete.

Idon't have nay grand conclusion, I think its a good book and a legit reference for a new GM coming into the game. I also think there are vastly better versions of the things contained in the book out there online for free, which have been produced by the DIY RPG community.  I also recognize not every player particularly new players are going to know where to look or even take the time to look for all that online goodness.

 The one major omission I have to point out is that there is not one word about playing online via whatever method a DM pleases to connect on line. G+ hangouts, Roll20, and I-tabletop. I know they don't want to promote other companies services. I also know they explicitly want to promote at the table games. However an awful lot of people play online now days, and it changes the games dynamics to a enough of a degree that I feel online gaming deserves at least a paragraph or two in this book. Perhaps in the next printing they will drop "The Helm of Brilliance" and use that text space to give online DM'ing a mention.

If you are still here thank you for holding on.
Questions and comments are welcome in the hollow pit of wailing souls below.


(* Quoting me would be awesome if you want to confuse your reader by quoting  someone no one has ever heard of.)

(** WARNING DIGRESSIVE RANT AHEAD: This line is like my internet disclaimer, I am crying out  I LIKE THE BOOK , but I might have some things negative to say about aspects of the book. I know that once I post this someone will  post a comment about how stupid I am for not liking the best DMG produced in the past 1000 years. When I explain to them I clearly state in the text that I do like the  book  and that they may have misunderstood my intent it will lead to s spiral of  bull shit.. I love the internet. I love the internet a bit less each day.)

(***I don't think I am, cross pollination is awesome and unavoidable)

(**** The tables should have reference numbers..Booooo)

(***** What are the looking at in the picture on page 35? do the  dwarf and the wizard not see it who has a flash light off frame to the left? we'll never know.)

(*X6 also leave the cult of katana superiority at the door. I'm no expert and don't claim to be but, I don't buy it. The katana as uber-sword has been  propagated by movies and pop culture, I have never seen any historic prof.)

(*x7 Did I mention play styles got less than a page?)

(*x8 The juveniles are even more potent than the adults.. lil bastards)

(*x9 You can still find the encyclopedia Magic in 4 volumes floating around out there, its 4 books of magic items from 2nd ed and it's better than this. I'm sorry but Armor +1 +2 and +3 really?)

(*x10 why does Orcus have a wand? Because Demigorgon says he can, and only for that reason.)

(*x11 Those shaftlings are some bad mutha .... hush yo mouth!)

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Krampus 2014 "The Kramping"

This is a post that will be primarily of interest to group I normally game with. I figured I would post it publicly because every one loves a good train wreck.

The  annual Krampus fantasy adventure is upon us!
The  bitter anti-saint is again terrorizing the land and heroes are needed.

Last year Jay ran the wildly successful caves of Krampus, this year I'll be doing the honors.
Big elf shoes to fill, no doubt.

here are the rules of the game.
  • Bring any character from any fantasy  based game we have played.
  • Normalize that character to  5th level.
  • Your charater will be treated in accordance to whatever system they were built in.
    • WTF? I'll explain
    • If  Russ uses a 3rd edition character, when he attempts something. I will set a difficulty that he will have to beat on a d20 + atrib mods , using feats.
    • If Jay uses a first edition character he will be using D20 Vs a THAC0 armor class.
    • If someone uses a dungeon world character I will  slot his  action into  moves and he will roll 2d6 +applicable mods to determine success and so on.
    • Someone  uses a AAIE character expect to roll 3d20.
    • And so on
  • We will not be using grid based combat. That might hinder someone wanting to use a 4th ed character or a Block game character. I'm sorry.
  • Lets try to keep it to games we have played, I don't want to learn a new system for a one off.
  • I will try to keep it to one night? 
  • Treasure and such will be one use and exclusive to this pocket dimension Cypher system style. If you find it it's not going home with you.
  • This is an adventure not a campaign so expect a bit of railroading and  set pieces, not my usual shtick but  that's the point.
  • Things will be confusing and screwed up, it's the power of Krampus that compels me.

Far to the north past even the ice escarpments beyond the wall of Krom, lies a secluded valley. Secluded and unknown to most. It is the  home of the yearly rights of Saturn that mark the mid of winter and summon the power spring.
The Children who perform the  ritual are trained from early childhood until the age of nine to perform the  ritual exactly. It is both a ritual and a child's right of passage. The ritual is unknown outside this northern valley,  but the Saturn ritual benefits all.
But all is not right.
The children are missing.
The ritual can not be performed.
There will be no  ritual of Saturn.
No spring.
Winter everlasting.
Other Cliches.
The elders know it is the work of the Krampus.
Heroes must be  summoned, this can not stand!


Tuesday, December 9, 2014

Campaign Notes: Providing players room to Breath.

In this post I'm going to share with every one The most recent handout or "player info page" (It's all computerized now days, I host this stuff on another blog.) from my fantasy style game. (Usually run in  D&D , but has been run in several flavors over the years)
I'm posting it just to point a few things out that are probably not helpful.

  • First off there are implied hooks in the text but, but nothing overt, no jump out and grab the player things going on, it's all very  vanilla. I limit the description to things that the character's might know when arriving in the area.
    • Why? I need room to breath. If the  players go off to do something I never even gave a thought to  I will have enough room to fill in the blanks, also if I have a lightning bolt idea for an adventure hook I can place it with out having to contradict or overwrite some hook I already had in place.
  • Why so much odd ball information about population and what these  towns sell?
    • These are things people would know  if they were going off into these areas. I might no know the millers name in Hill Fjord but the mills are relatively well known as far south as Torin. Just like I don't know much about Hampton New Hampshire, but I know Smutty Nose Brewery is there. This group of characters might well know that Twin Streams is a place furriers operate out of, considering one of the party members is a druid and he might decide to burn the place down. (stranger things have happened)
  • No hex numbers?
    • I made this in Gimp so I have another layer overlaid with some  random encounter locations, and  hex notes. I don't do anything as detailed as could be called  a "hex crawl." I mostly note things left behind from past settlements, old ruins, battle fields, things like that  that the  players might not know, but might be able to stumble on.
    • This is a land and a game world of  amazing loss. The war that tore through this area  wiped out a generation, and left uncounted ruins behind. If the  players put their swords in the ground anywhere there is a good chance they will hit old cobble stones and ground bone. The map and text I give the players is what the characters see now and what their historian Johann might know off the op of his head without doing any research.
  • You say in the test that there are small  villages every few miles but they are not on the map or named what gives?
    • For me there needs to be some sort of  population density that is  at least sort of realistic. There needs to be  some kind of small settlement at least each day swalk from each other, and when I say days walk I mean a peasant on foot carrying  gathered wood or  turnips or what ever. Not  "Joe Barbarian and his band of retainers, carrying a sword, and his  flask of ever full ale." A peasant farmer is not walking  alone out into the wood 10 miles from home and back, that decisions would shorten his already  short life span. For whatever reason I am determined to make peasants in game have some sense of self preservation.   In other words stay close to home, keep your head down mouth shut, and toil. 
    • There should be small groups of buildings every few miles especially along waterways, even though these are small, fast, foothill  rivers that are not as suited for the transport goods, I am sure the locals would ply them in small craft.
    • I don't name them all to lessen clutter. If I need to give a name of some small three family village I'll do so at the table. If the characters inexplicably decide to put down roots in one of these villages I'll flesh it out more completely. 
    • Fleshing out the tiny villages before hand would be helpful at the table but in actuality it might be allot of work I may never use. Think of it this way, do you know where Tivoli New York is? Tivoli for the record is a cool little town. I grew up near there (in Red Hook) so I know quite a bit about it. It has businesses, and cool history.  Nearby is a large historic mansion with a state park and a well known college. A person might have never heard of it and if that person is traveling to New York City there aren't many reasons to stop there, or worry about who the mayor is. As a Gm I wouldn't flesh out the villages of Tivoli, Annandale-on-Hudson, or the town of Clermont unless the characters somehow ended up there.
  • Why did you only outline one ruling  family in the  text?  Won't the player want to know more about the areas NPC power players?
    • They might , but those are the ones they may have heard of  as they traveled into the area. They run the largest town in  a pretty large area so their name woudl be out there.
    • Sure there are others and I have a few notes , but it the players don't need to know they unless they choose to get involved in the high county politicking that goes on at the  Glaston Fields Market. They might never decide to do that.
    • As an aside. In an area like this a group of 5th level  characters pretty much become the power players while they are passing through. They have retainers,  money,  magic, and generally don't give two shits beyond what there current goal is so they can be unpredictable. In my mind a Duke and Dutchess of a small town like  Glaston Fields would be wise to court their graces.
Below is what I provided between our last sessions:
(Admittedly we have not gotten back to D&D in a while due to scheduling and  the  holidays.)

Start Player text:

yes I know East and West got reversed, no I don't know why. i'll fix it.
(I do know why I'm dyslexic and I did not notice it until latter)

Movement of roughly three Hexes a day can be expected.

Small villages of  between  20 and 100 people can be found  about every  three to four  miles.
with an average population density of about 50 per square mile on average. (Making it more populated than  the British isles during the  mid evil times , but  less so than say France or Germany.)

The country side is littered with burnt out farms and ruined villages all but taken over completely by the local forests. There're many unexplained hedge rows and low walls crisscrossing the  country side which speaks of there once being a much greater population in the area.

A historian  woudl be able to  speak about there being much  death and destruction  in this area during the  Alerian / Orduth Wars and that this is still considered a frontier. The area is too far North of Aleria to be considered under the empires control and  yet South of  the  Orduth ruins.

The  Rivers flow  North, away from the large Iron-Spine Mountains that loom further to the  South.

Twin Stream and  Hill Fjord are small towns
Populations around 1000 to 1200 people.

Hill Fjord is a walled town situated on the only high country crossing of the river Clear-Mead. The town has grown up around a large milling facility  leftover from pre war times. A stack of  six water wheels following along the waters edge drive several large grinding stones, the nearby population will travel to bring their wheat to the mills and pay a fair price from grinding. The  town is also known for it's  dried pasta products and is a popular setting off point for those traveling to the mountains from the south.

Twin Stream, is a hunters village that in known for its furs and it's furriers. In the  fall caravans will head south from Twin streams to sell their goods to mountaineers who will then sell the furs to merchant caravans heading into Aleria, or Torin to the south. Twin streams is one of the many small villages that are the first cog in a system that feeds the empires hunger for materials.

Glaston Fields is notable in that it is the largest town in the area.
Population 2000.
Situation on excellent farmlands Glaston Fields is a  walled town  that is  nearly 100% agrarian.
The town also hosts tradesmen that are needed to support it's population, but it's bread and butter is in the  growing and trade of  food stuffs with  smaller towns and villages. every  20 days there is a large street market held in Glaston that attracts vendors, travelers and merchants from a fair distance.

Glaston Fields is maintained and overseen by a Baron, a position  currently held by  Baron Richtag Sveld and his wife the  Baroness Sveld.
this title was granted by a regent of the Alerian empire generations ago. The Sveld Family still holds the authority in Glaston the title provides In truth it is  a forgotten title held by a forgotten frontier patron, whose family has not  been to court or paid a tax levy in well over a hundred years.
Regardless the Sveld's rule fairly and have produced two heirs, the people seem happy and the title is not in dispute.

Traders leap is a a tiny  village of under 100 regular residents. It is only notable in that it's the place where adventurers and treasure sneakers mount sorties into the ruins of Careth.
In fact the things coming out of  the  ruins in the form of art, gold and  usable tidbits and the people going in to find such things are the  villages only industry. Farms nearby make a solid living selling food and consumables those who pass through.

End Player text

So how will I outline the actual ruins of Careth?
it is the biggest feature in the area and no, I'm not going to map it all square by square old school style. That woudl be allot of drawing that I may never use.
I think I will dedicate a post in the near future about how I plan on mapping the vast ruins of the once great breadbasket city.

An outline like this is all about players/ characters having room to breath. They're in the ruins of Careth, staying at Traders Leap. They have made one sortie into the ruins but nothing concrete. By providing an outline of the surrounding area the players can breath a bit and  take in their options, getting involved where they want rather than the GM (me) shoving some adventure down their throats. Sure I have notes about the surrounding area and I know whats what, but that's up to them to explore or discover on their own. In reality, if each square covers 23 square miles a map this size could support a great deal of campaign style exploration. They may never do that and that's OK with me I will just do another map for the next area they travel to with the same concepts in mind. In the end the game is about the players creating their story and  chasing their wild rabbits.

Thank you for reading I hope you enjoyed.
Please leave your questions and comments in that gossamer purse of forgotten dreams resting quietly under your pillow.