As Wizards of the Coast have already, very kindly, bridged the gap between both M:tG and D&D, this should be nice and easy, right?
But that’s not the point of these articles, a shamelessly self-indulgent stretching of the creative muscles made public for anyone to use, and a bit of mental exercise at the same time. So as we have Planeshift articles for Amonkhet, Dominaria, Innistrad, Ixalan, and Zendikar, and a large guide attached to Ravnica, I’ll have to look to another plane of Magic’s collection to make things a little harder. Theros is too easy, Phyrexia is my favourite plane so probably one of the easiest options for me… (more…)
And thus the universe was doomed, for finally the dregs from Dimension 9 hath cometh. Or something like that, because today we’re going to be checking out our Top 10 Different Dimensions. To qualify as a dimension, the places simply have to be another plane of existence, meaning that it can literally be the exact same places as the real world, but so long as there’s an alternate group of people living there (even evil selves count). Sound good? Let’s go.
Constructs are fairly unique in the worlds of Dungeons & Dragons (et al) in that they are exclusively built for a purpose. Guardians, spies, couriers, and mindless automata built and animated by craftsmen and mages to serve their private needs, or on the behest of influential patrons.
Each of the constructs presented below is presented without statistics so that you can modify a basic creature such as an ape, a knight, or an elephant (for example, whatever’s good) and apply some unique abilities to it. For more advice on modifying creatures. take a look here. CR refers to the creature’s Challenge Rating.
In deeper forests where dark practitioners gather far from prying eyes, large swathes of land may be held by covens of witches, territories far larger than they could ever monitor alone. Among the trees may stalk lithe figures of woven reeds and flexible branches, humanoid but unmistakably artificial by the gaps in the hollow structure, and the clay face with a single painted eye. A creature so lucky as to topple the wandering guardian will find that several jars are woven into the structure, containing unpleasant ingredients essential to its animation, dried hearts, mummified animals, and worse by far.
Create a simple but dexterous creature such as a wolf or a scout, if it is of CR 2 or higher it should have multi-attack or magic resistance (advantage on saving throws), and if it is CR 4 or higher it should have both. Anything the Wicker Witch sees, the witch that created it also sees, so long as both creatures are on the same plane of existence. A Wicker Witch might use weapons such as whips or longbows, but otherwise would have claws similar to a creature of the same CR. You can add one or more of the following abilities for flavour:
Breath Weapon: (recommended CR 4 or higher) The Wicker Witch has a breath weapon that deals very little piercing damage for it’s CR (e.g. 1d8 for a CR 4 creature, 2d8 for a CR 7 creature) and the space becomes a cloud of stinging, biting insects. The effect functions as the Insect Plague spell, occupying the space of the breath weapon. It can use this ability once per day.
Shrill Fluting: Concentration checks made within 60 ft. of the Wicker Witch have disadvantage.
Witchsight: The Wicker Witch permanently detects magic as if by the Detect Magic spell. It can also identify any creature with spell slots such as a wizard or cleric, but cannot determine creatures with innate spellcasting, such as a tiefling’s natural ability to use Thaumaturgy.
Woodmerge: The Wicker Witch can move as if via the spell Tree Stride.
Sitting at the front of the cart is a thing that looks like a man, dressed in an excessive amount of cheap but colourful silks, complete with a large floppy hat that does not quite disguise the face below, a face painted onto a bright blue cylinder of ceramic. As it pulls up along the side of the road next to you, two more identical things unfold themselves from the top of the cart, as a smiling woman appears from inside. The smiling men begin setting up a table, and pulling bottles and trinkets from among their many loose coverings as the woman introduces herself and her wares for sale.
A Smiling Man is not the puppet it seems. They are often encountered aiding merchants, as their strength makes them superb bodyguards, and they contain a hidden pocket dimension capable of storing many items quickly and easily. Often they serve more powerful beings as spies and emissaries, and a particularly interesting creature who encounters a Smiling Man may find that they see one watching them more and more frequently over time, usually at a distance, and in the dark.
To your base creature add the equivalent of a Handy Haversack, and the ability to use the spell Sequester. A Smiling Man is also more likely to have many arms and weapons folded into it’s “disguise”, so a creature with multiattack is highly recommended. It also has one or more of the following abilities:
Nightmare Visage: The Smiling Man marks a creature that can see it. Whenever that creature casts a divination spell of 1st level or higher they must succeed on a wisdom saving throw (of appropriate DC) or the spell fails, and they see the face of the Smiling Man instead. The effect lasts until the Smiling Man ends it, marks a new target with its Nightmare Visage, or dies. A spell effect such as Remove Curse can also end the effect early.
Unfolding Space: Attempts to teleport within 120ft of a Smiling Man provoke an opportunity attack from it as if the creature were within reach.
The Immovable Steed
A horse made of purest platinum, resplendent and beautiful, if a little cold to sit on. The Immovable Steed was supposedly forged by the gods, or back in the day when mortals wielded the gods own magic, the horse can only be gifted by a previous owner to a new rider, such riders include ancient paladins who passed on the Steed from the afterlife, Moradin, and Lor Adanos.
The Immovable Steed functions as a warhorse, except that it is immune to damage from non-magical weapons, and has resistance to all other damage except psychic and acid. As an action the Steed may choose to become Immovable. It cannot move while it remains Immovable, nor can it be forced to move by any means, magical or otherwise, including teleportation or transportation to other planes of existence. If it was falling it stops where it currently is, if it was being transported it halts in space while the transport continues to move around it. The Steed can support up to 40,000 lbs of weight while immovable.
I’m not getting tired of these, and I have some work I need to prepare for an upcoming campaign, so next week:
A list of spells and a wizard subclass for a wizard drawing from the divine realm of Bytopia, the twin paradises.
Three subraces of halflings, be warned, they have a particularly grim theme.
And a complex quest, something requiring many tasks to be performed to complete.
Not all ruins are created equal, from fallen towers to crumbling keeps, haunted, twisted, and occupied by whatever monstrous squatters are passing, but they’re all bait for any adventurer fool enough to believe that just because the walls have fallen doesn’t mean the traps stopped working. Ruins are a staple dungeon for and D&D game, but where some are simply old castles long ago abandoned, some have a far deeper history for those willing to dig a little deeper. (more…)
There are so many more interesting ways to charge into battle than on the back of a horse… or at least in a fantasy setting there are a lot more choices, gigantic riding lizards are no longer available and we are running out of most of the other interesting large animals (seriously we need to do something, we are running out of cool animals to ride into battle). Horses and dire wolves are the classics and perhaps the most sensible options, but there are other, stranger possibilities.
Here are ten different mounts with stories to go with them, individual mounts with personal tales to tell, factions with hallmark choices of warbeasts, and one magic tree. (more…)
Squids! Octopi! Aliens! What do all of these things have in common? That’s right, tentacles. Okay, aliens maybe not always, but the rest are definitely tentacled. Whether or not you’re going to have a biological tentacle, or a mechanical one, these appendages are long, limber and part of many people’s fantasies. You know what I’m talking about. Anyway, here’s our Top 10 Tentacled Beings.
Hoooo doesn’t love owlbears? They’re fuzzy balls of fluff topped with the best spiky bits from nature, but how to best use them without just dumping them into a random forest encounter? This week’s Dungeon Situational I offer up a few different ways to use these adorable hybrid beasties that may give you some ideas of your own… (more…)
I’m not much of a “Spell Component” guy, at least not material components, but the visual effect of one fusing chemicals in one’s bear hands to create fire or toxin, or vial of consecrated soil that shatters and causes the undead to flee before you, it’s all very stunning, I just find it a nuisance to track.
But to stumble across a rare material or strange artifact that might imbue a spell with power beyond its typical capabilities, even as a singular use consumable treasure, makes for an interesting treasure with unique appeal that might capture the imagination of your favourite spellslinger. (more…)
Funny how something labelled as a “versus” really shows great coordination between both sides.
That’s basically the whole story here, if you like Dungeons & Dragons & Rick & Morty… then it’s a good comic, as one would expect from a story penned by Patrick Rothfuss, fantasy author and famed D&D player with the PAX team, occasional guest star on Critical Role, and he’s a standy-up DM like me. Jim Zub co-penned the piece and has a back-catalogue of D&D comics under his belt. (more…)
Gigantic eagles circle the bay, plucking seagulls clean from the sky, as the gangplank is run out from the Merchant Knave. You push your way past the rushing deckhands down to the complex network of piers and jetties stretching out from below the bluff, that spirals up to the height of the city. As you step down you can hear the hollering of people in the simple armour of guardsmen, calling out in a variety of languages, and in a few moments you find one shouting over the crowd in a language you understand:
“Welcome to Meadsbridge! While within the confines of the city you will abide by the following laws…”
It’s something I’ve considered doing for a while but I’ve never had the recruitment power for it, a world big enough, and so full of adventure that it could support multiple groups. A couple of years ago, before resolving to be a DM for hire, I watched a video about a particular style of gameplay, The West Marches that put better form to the idle thought, and now I have a way of reaching new players.
Adventurers are centred in a single area, a point of civilisation on the brink of wilderness, within which lies adventure. There can be dozens of players, all gathered in the city of Meadsbridge, talking, communicating, sharing what they’ve found, recruiting for expeditions in the great green beyond to learn more and more about their surroundings, and follow rumours about some of the plot hooks that I have seeded throughout the small-nation sized space mapped out beyond… my map, they’re not allowed to see it.
Of course you may not want – or be able to share information, some players have already landed themselves far from Meadsbridge in one of the outlying settlements with no easy way to communicate with the larger settlements nearby, and have already got a couple of secrets they’d rather not share with everyone… but they’ll soon learn that without friends, they’ll find themselves in fatal situations with no one to depend upon for help.
The players will need to keep their ears out for rumours and plot hooks, not just from one another, but also the citizens of the cities and settlements, and the wandering caravans beyond. Wandering into the wilds will yield some results, but the true treasures must be sought, rather than stumbled across.
Every hex on the map (built in hexographer if you’re interested) works out to roughly half a day’s travel on foot, about fifteen miles, and for every half-day of travel there is an enormous random encounter table, with changing regional effects, different possibilities depending on the intent of travel, some fixed landmarks that can help with navigation, such as the estuary or certain distant forests, ridges, and settlements. The region is awash with bandits, gnolls, incursions of demons, hidden enclaves of halflings, dwarven mines, hives of serpentflies, nests of manticores and griffons, and the spawning lakes of whales. There are about a dozen side-quests, dungeons, and wandering monsters to pursue with more being added constantly, and amidst all of it a hidden story, scattered like pieces of a jigsaw puzzle between the people who set out from that single point of light and into the darkness.
Which sounds grandiose for a project that is little more than a Facebook community page, but as the first dozen players are starting to scratch the surface, now felt like the time to share the ridiculous scope of the Meadsbrdige wilderness.
For this MMTTRPG I’ve made the process of character creation a guided affair for two reasons:
The first is to try and keep things fair. Players still roll dice to determine their statistics, but those rolls have an inverse effect on your character choices later on. Points are used to buy things like the ability to choose your race and class, or to start with a magic item, or a map, or additional information, and the better your stats, the fewer of those points you receive. A player with bad stats can choose to start at second level rather than first. It makes people whose dice rolls have turned against them feel a little more empowered.
And second is to create something a little more unique and immersive. Four human nations, a twist on the subraces of both halflings and dwarves, a little more personality granted to elves, and four different human nations. Additionally I have traded the classic exotic races (dragonborn, gnomes, half elves, half orcs, and tieflings) with a collection from Volo’s Guide to Monsters, aasimar to reflect that the world is young, and the blood of gods still flows in mortal veins, goliaths and firbolgs, as giants are prolific across the world, and kenku and lizardfolk from far-off lands to lend some mystery to the world at large.
Once a character is made each player gets a short .pdf with all the information they need to get started, and a hefty chunk of lore that they can dive into for inspiration. Any character options, like their magic items, extra rumours, or anything else they might have chosen gets added to this file. After a few levels of play, players may want to retire their character, because doing so yields more options at character creation, with additional points depending on the successes and deeds of their last character, and the positive behaviours of the player.
The Shropshire Dungeon Master IX
So this is kind of a business diary, because this grand idea of mine (that I stole) currently has thirteen players, of which only seven have played, and four more at the weekend. recruiting isn’t too difficult, as interest is always high, the problem will be finding venues for games as most of the groups will eventually be strangers to one another (to start with) and will want to meet on neutral ground, at least for their first few sessions. Pubs are often busy, and most private spaces require a fee – usually more than my margin, thus negating the point of running games as a living.
As regular readers know – especially if you read my old DMing 101 series – I do not like playing online, it’s fine for some, and has some amazing benefits, but I find it hinders the enjoyment of the game and as my players now pay to be at the table, I want them to have the best experience possible.
I have been working on this project for months and it is so gratifying to roll it out to real players, but I knew there would be pitfalls and problems, and there’s a certain amount of fun to be found in overcoming those problems, but when your players are your customers it’s always better to be on top of the minor issues so that the game is the focus of the experience, not the days spent finding a table at which to play.
This April I will be disappearing a long way north for a week to run a long game of D&D at the Wargaming Nationals that I attended last year, and then shortly thereafter at Insomnia in Birmingham. Additionally in June, I have a table at Comics Salopia and upcoming celebration of Shropshire’s deep connection to the comic book industry, the wealth of local artists and writers, and I will be raising by geeky standard and running games for anyone who comes to see.