A new episode of the podcast Rudy Basso and I make, Have Spellbook, Will Travel, is up on the show’s site!

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Behold!  The exciting conclusion to our second story arc.  Thanks for listening, and we hope you keep tuning in for more!  And why not do us a solid and tell a friend about the show if you’ve enjoyed it!

Tweet your Levels Question of the Week at us or #levelsq on Twitter!

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If you like what you’re reading please follow me on Twitter, check out my podcasts, find my products on the DMs Guild, tell your friends about the blog, and/or leave me a comment and let me know you think. Thanks!

A new episode of my podcast, The Round Table, is up on The Tome Show’s website.


I sit down with Liz TheisDave GibsonJames Haeck, and Chris Sniezak to compare, contrast, and review the Dungeons and Dragons actual play series Dice, Camera, ActionForce Grey: Giant Hunters, and Acquisitions Incorporated: The Series. Then it’s an interview with game designer Chris Harris to discuss his rune magic chapter of Kobold Press‘ Deep Magic for fifth edition. This podcast was recorded on July 3 and 24, 2016.


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WORLD BUILDER BLOG IS NOMINATED FOR AN ENNIE AWARD! You can vote for it right now along with a bunch of other awesome RPG products. The booth closes on TODAY so go vote right now. Good luck to all the awesome nominees.

This article first appeared in Johnn Four‘s Roleplaying Tips Newsletter #696.

It is time to put on your acting hat. Roleplaying NPC Mannerisms Part I revealed the importance of distinct, specific non-player character mannerisms. When a great game master inhabits an NPC, the character’s physical and verbal mannerisms help set it apart from the rest, reveal motivations, hint at history, and create a richer story.

This article builds upon the first by providing four NPC archetypes with corresponding physical and verbal mannerisms. Use the advice from that first article combined with the archetypes found here to roleplay NPCs to perfection.

How to Use These Archetypes

The descriptions and examples in this article are meant to be used as a base for creating NPCs. If you are a beginner GM or uncomfortable with acting, you can just follow the bullet points given at the end of each archetype and you will play a great character.

If you are an experienced GM who has been playing NPCs for years, use the bullet points but add one or more mannerisms each time you roleplay an NPC of that archetype. Make it a different mannerism each time to set Town Guard #1 apart from Town Guard #2. The players will definitely remember that #1 is a nose picker and #2 stutters.

Accents are always optional, but you are encouraged to give them a shot. Who cares if they are not perfect? You’re doing this for fun. If you do not quite nail the Ks of a Russian accent, no one is going to fire you. No one can even question your accent if you’re playing in a fantasy world. So what if your Spanish accent sounds like a combination of Bulgarian and Australian? Those countries do not exist in the world you create. That is just the accent of a person from Breland! Accents get better with practice, so feel free to go all out.

The most important guideline of all is to have fun with NPC mannerisms. The more you enjoy playing an NPC, the more the players will enjoy interacting with you. If you are having a blast playing your characters, your players will be more enthusiastic about playing theirs. As the GM, you set the tone for the game. If you appear awkward and forced, the entire game will feel that way. So relax – you are among friends and playing a tabletop roleplaying game. That is the best. Enjoy it!

Ancient Evil

Gods, demons, aliens, and other ancient evils often appear in our games. These superpowers should make your players quake with awe and fall to their knees…or at least convince them these are forces to be reckoned with.

Matt Mercer, professional voice actor and the GM of the hit web series Critical Role, did an amazing job playing the shadow demon Orthax. Mercer enters, leans quite far over the screen, and sticks his neck out with his head forward and up. This gives him a strange, unsettling appearance. While he is physically lower than the players, the position of his head suggests utter confidence. This unnatural posture immediately translates to otherworldly. The confidence of his tilted head suggests a powerful being who knows its capabilities.

Then Mercer speaks as Orthax. He brings his voice into a low register, which screams power. He adds a growl to his voice and some heavy breathing at the end of his sentences. These vocal qualities inform the players of the danger Orthax poses and his evil nature. They also give anyone hearing the voice the impression this being is just at the edge of its control. It could snap at any moment and unleash its otherworldly fury on the PCs.

When playing an ancient evil:

  • Lean far forward
  • Stick out your neck and raise your head
  • Speak in a very low register
  • Add a growl and heavy breathing to your voice

Law Enforcement

Law enforcement personnel are police officers, space marines, and town guards. They are in gatehouses, towers, streets, prisons, bars, and more, keeping the peace, taking a bribe, and chasing after thieves. These NPCs are often among the first a party of adventurers meets in a settlement. They provide information and directions.

Roleplaying them can be a pretty uninteresting encounter, but only if you play them as uninteresting people.

Let’s take another look at Matt Mercer. In this clip he’s playing a town guard in episode 1 of Critical Role. He first describes a pair of city watch dwarves observing the PCs. Immediately after describing them, Mercer takes on the physical posture of one guard. He mimes holding a spear comfortably, with a relaxed bent arm, and leans back. The NPC’s posture indicates he is comfortable with his weapon and at ease in his own city. Law enforcement should feel comfortable within the walls of cities where they wield authority.

When he opens his mouth to speak as one of the guards, the real magic begins. He leans back even further to show how relaxed the guard is even when talking to a group of well-armed strangers. His volume is a bit louder than normal, and his voice is steady and confident. It is a clear display of authority without being threatening. After all, the guard has no reason to distrust the adventurers at the moment.

As the guard speaks, he uses big arm movements. Mercer extends his arms fully to point to various landmarks and tilts his head in the opposite direction of his hand to give the impression his arms are even longer than they are. This action is another indicator of the guard being in his comfort zone. He has no fear that the adventurers or anyone else will accost him, so he feels fine leaving his arms wide open.

When playing law enforcement….

  • Lean back in a relaxed posture
  • Use big arm movements
  • Raise the volume of your voice
  • Keep your voice steady

Mercer sets his guard apart from the rest by making him a rather jovial fellow. He cocks his head to the side, indicating interest in the person he is speaking with, and lets the register of his voice get higher when the guard cracks a joke or gets excited. If you want a jovial town guard, add these mannerisms:

  • Tilt your head slightly to one side
  • Raise the register of your voice when you are excited

One final note on this scene. At the beginning of the encounter, Mercer briefly portrays both guards speaking to one another. You can tell them apart become he leans one way and speaks with a high voice before turning around to face the opposite direct and lowering his vocal register to be the other guard. It is simple and genius. A quick turn and a deeper voice make all the difference between the two.

Seducer

Seducers are manipulators who exude sex appeal. They are the kind of people who are attractive to everyone in some way. They are great performers, con artists, politicians, and business people. These NPCs can wrap anyone around their little fingers, and use their good looks and beguiling wit to make others do their dirty work.

We turn to the GM of GMs, Chris Perkins. In this clip from a 2012 Pax Acquisitions Inc. game, Perkins plays a seductress dark elf who convinces the plucky band of adventurers to steal gems for her. We hear her voice before we see any of her physical mannerisms, as she’s sneaking up on the PCs in the dark. It is husky and breathless, vocal qualities scientifically proven to be attractive. She speaks with a sultry lower tone, and to make things extra sexy, Perkins gives her a French accent (which is largely considered one of the world’s most romantic languages).

When she comes out of the shadows, Perkins displays the woman’s physical mannerisms. He tilts his head down slightly and looks up at the person he is talking to, which gives him a submissive air. When he speaks, he picks a specific individual to focus his attention on and keeps constant eye contact while leaning toward that person. This behavior makes a player feel singled out and special. An attractive person empowers them by giving undivided attention.

When playing a seducer….

  • Tilt your head down slightly
  • Focus your attention on each player one at a time
  • Lean toward the focus of your attention and maintain eye contact
  • Lower the tone of your voice
  • Make your voice husky and breathy
  • Use a French accent (optional)

Superior Intellectuals

Haughty wizards, know-it-all telepaths, and pedantic scientists are just a few of the people who fall into the superior intellectual archetype. They are the smartest people in the room and know it. Because of their smarts, these NPCs think themselves above every other living being. Odds are the players will cross paths with someone like as they seek an intelligent being to help them unravel some mystery.

Watch again as Chris Perkins portrays Flabbergast in the latest PAX Acquisitions, Inc. game. Like Mercer, he begins by describing the NPC. Then Perkins sticks out his neck just a bit so the rest his body is led by his head. This indicates he is intellectually focused. He then raises his chin and looks down his nose at the players, signaling Flabbergast’s belief that he is far more intelligent than the group. These physical mannerisms suggest a smart, conceited individual. They are enhanced by the fact that Perkins has chosen to stand. It literally puts him above the players.

Perkins then produces a voice which can only be described as nasally Alan Rickman. The nasal quality sells Flabbergast as an intellectual, and the low tone of voice mixed with disdain and condescension leaves no question that this wizard believes he is the smartest guy in the room.

The superior intellectual keeps his movements small and close. In general, these people are untrusting of others because everyone else is too stupid to do anything right. Perkins keeps his wrists loose and close to his body as he pets a phantom cat, or keeps his hands folded in front of him. These movements suggest the wizard is guarded, untrusting, and physically unimpressive.

When playing superior intellectuals…

  • Lead with your head
  • Tilt your chin up
  • Lower your voice
  • Use a nasally voice with condescension and disdain
  • Use small, weak movements
  • Stand (optional)

Flabbergast’s cat is a nice touch. It demonstrates the wizard prefers the company of animals to people and makes him an instantly distinct and memorable NPC.

If you like what you’re reading, please check out my podcasts, follow me on Twitter, tell your friends and share this blog post, and/or leave me a comment and let me know you think. Thanks!

A new behind-the-scenes episode of the podcast Rudy Basso and I make, Have Spellbook, Will Travel, is up on the show’s site!

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Rudy and James interview Dave Breidenstine, one half of the writing/composing team behind the Clam Song and Thoven’s Song from Episode 2-2.  In addition to being a talented musician, Dave voices the Clam himself, along with a number of other memorable characters.  Then we’re joined by the other half of the team – John Fischer- to learn more about the song writing/composing process.  An incredibly fascinating listen – enjoy!

If you like what you’re reading please follow me on Twitter, check out my podcasts, find my products on the DMs Guild, tell your friends about the blog, and/or leave me a comment and let me know you think. Thanks!

A new episode of my podcast, The Round Table, is up on The Tome Show’s website.


I sit down with Andrew KaneRudy BassoAlex Basso, and Round Table newbie Phil Collins to discuss the latest D&D movie announcement and the D&D supplement for Magic: The Gathering’s Innistrad setting.Then it’s an interview with David Silver about his ongoing Kickstarter for fifth edition Ponyfinder. This podcast was recorded on July 12, 2016.


Please rate and review The Tome Show on iTunes. It takes 30 seconds and helps us a bunch!




Links:

If you like what you’re reading please follow me on Twitter, check out my podcasts, find my products on the DMs Guild, tell your friends about the blog, and/or leave me a comment and let me know you think. Thanks!

Quick note here: WORLD BUILDER BLOG IS NOMINATED FOR AN ENNIE AWARD! You can vote for it right now along with a bunch of other awesome RPG products. The booth closes on July 21st so go vote right now. Good luck to all the awesome nominees.

My players are always looking to buy potions. I’m not sure what drives them go into town and ask the local apothecary to list every single item in stock, but it inevitably happens with both of my regular groups whenever they get back to town. Here’s the thing: I let them buy these things.

Why? For one thing it seems the default assumption of fifth edition Dungeons and Dragons is that player characters should at least be able to buy healing potions in many places. They are in the Player’s Handbook. In my own game I’ve taken this further and all (four) common rarity consumable magic items in the Dungeon Master’s Guide are available for sale in most of Exploration Age’s major settlements. (I even allow my players to often buy rarer consumables, but that’s another blog post).

Another reason I let my players buy potions and scrolls: they have a lot of gold. So much that it’s difficult for them to find ways to spend it (though here are some suggested purchases). One way to get them to spend that money is to buy potions. They earned that gold and they deserve to spend it. It makes the gold they find in the game after traveling hundreds of miles to dive into a cramped space full of monsters worth something

With these points in mind I’m present to you a bunch of new common rarity consumables for your game based on the idea that they should be about as powerful as the potion of climbing or potion of healing (the two common rarity potions in the Dungeon Master’s Guide) and less powerful than the oil of slipperiness, philter of love, potion of animal friendship, potion of greater healing, potion of growth, and potion of resistance (the uncommon rarity potions in the Dungeon Master’s Guide).

Common Rarity Potions

All the following items are available for purchase at the DM’s discretion and normally cost 50 gp.

Oil of Buoyancy

Potion, common

This murky oil reeks of the sea and can be poured over the body of one Medium or smaller creature. Applying the oil takes 1 minute. Once applied, the creature gains a swimming speed equal to its walking speed for 1 hour. During this time, the creature has advantage on Strength (Athletics) checks made to swim.

Oil of Elements

Potion, common

This oil can be used to coat one melee weapon or up to 5 pieces of ammunition. Applying the oil takes 1 minute. For 1 hour, the coated item has a +1 bonus to damage rolls. The GM chooses this damage type or determines it randomly from the options below.

d6 Damage Type
1 Acid
2 Cold
3 Fire
4 Lightning
5 Poison
6 Thunder
Oil of Phasing

Potion, common

This clear oil reeks of vanilla and can be poured over the body of one Medium or smaller creature. Applying the oil takes 1 minute. Once applied, the creature can phase through one wall or object up to 5 feet thick provided it does so within 1 hour of applying the oil. If the creature ends its turn in an object, it takes 5 (1d10) force damage and is pushed out of the object in a direction of the GMs choosing. Once the creature phases through one object, the oil has no further effect.

Potion of Beige Cow

Potion, common

When you drink this potion, you remove one level of exhaustion for 1 hour. At the end of that hour, your exhaustion level increases by two. This potion is yellow-green and tastes like citrus and sugar.

Potion of Bless

Potion, common

When you drink this potion you gain the effect of the bless spell for 1 minute (no concentration required, only targets you). This potion is a dark blue liquid with floating flecks of gold inside.

Potion of Bolstering

Potion, common

For 1 minute after drinking it, you gain 10 temporary hit points that last for 1 minute. This brown potion tastes and smells like a hard whiskey.

Potion of Drunk Muscles

Potion, common

When you drink this potion and are poisoned, you gain a +2 bonus to your Strength score to a maximum of 20. This increase lasts for 1 hour or until the poisoned condition ends, whichever comes first. When the effect wears off, you gain one level of exhaustion. This potion is a pure yellow liquid that tastes like raw eggs.

Potion of Half Invisibility

Potion, common

This potion’s container looks half empty (of half full if you’re optimistic) but feels as though it is full of the purple liquid within. When you drink it, roll any die. If you roll an even number, you become invisible above the waist. If you roll an odd number, you become invisible below the waist for 1 hour. Anything you wear or carry on that part of your body is invisible also invisible. While half invisible like this, you have advantage on Dexterity (Stealth) checks made to hide. The effect ends early if you attack or cast a spell.

Potion of Keen Ears

Potion, common

When you drink this potion, your ears turn blue for 1 hour. During this time you have advantage on Wisdom (Perception) checks that rely on hearing. Ear wax sits at the bottom of this light blue liquid that tastes like mud.

Potion of Keen Eyes

Potion, common

When you drink this potion, your eyes turn orange for 1 hour. During this time you have advantage on Wisdom (Perception) checks that rely on sight. Eye lashes float in this orange liquid that tastes like salty water.

Potion of Keen Nostrils

Potion, common

When you drink this potion, your nose turns green for 1 hour. During this time you have advantage on Wisdom (Perception) and (Survival) checks that rely on smell. Nose hairs float in this thick, green liquid that tastes like mucus.

Potion of Liar’s Tongue

Potion, common

When you drink this potion, you have advantage on Charisma (Deception) checks made to tell lies for the next hour. During this time you cannot speak or write any truths. This black liquid tastes like anise.

Potion of Minute Resistance

Potion, common

When you drink this potion, you gain resistance to one type of damage for 1 minute. The GM chooses the type or determines it randomly from the options below.

d10 Damage Type
1 Acid
2 Cold
3 Fire
4 Force
5 Lightning
6 Necrotic
7 Poison
8 Psychic
9 Radiant
10 Thunder
Potion of Sniper’s Brew

Potion, common

When you drink this potion, you have advantage on the next ranged weapon attack you make as long as it is made within 1 minute of drinking the potion. The liquid in this vial is clear and tastes like peppermint and ginger.

Potion of Sustaining Stuff

Potion, common

When you drink this potion, you do not need to eat or drink water for 48 hours. A floating bean sits inside a thick, green mush.

While Supplies Last!

These are fun potions, but you (probably) don’t want your level 17 party with tons of gold to buy an unlimited supply of potions of keen ears and never fail a Wisdom (Perception) check again. As a rule I roll a d10 for each type of potion available and that’s all the store has in stock when the characters come to visit.

PDF

Want this potions in a handy PDF? It’s below!

Potions

Want some more? Check out the PDFs below…

50 New Magic Items (DMs Guild – Pay What You Want… includes 50 new magic items plus 100 common weapon properties, 100 common wondrous items, and 100 cursed item properties)

Bioarcane Items

Magic Firearms and Bombs

Wubba Wubba, The

The Blades of Findalay

Artifact – Crown of Bewitching Enchantment

Artifact – Tools of Order

All of these items live on the Free Game Resources section of this site, so come grab them anytime!

If you like what you’re reading, please check out my podcasts, follow me on Twitter, tell your friends and share this blog post, and/or leave me a comment and let me know you think. Thanks!

A new episode of the podcast Rudy Basso and I make, Have Spellbook, Will Travel, is up on the show’s site!

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The mystery of the bogfrops and their sudden competence and thirst for blood continues to unfold!  Plus – singing!

Tweet your Levels Question of the Week at us or #levelsq on Twitter!

Send your mailbag questions via the Contact page.

If you like what you’re reading please follow me on Twitter, check out my podcasts, find my products on the DMs Guild, tell your friends about the blog, and/or leave me a comment and let me know you think. Thanks!

A new episode of my podcast, Gamer to Gamer, is up on The Tome Show’s website.


I sit down with game designer Pedro Barrenechea of Paradigm Concepts to discuss his love of games, career in gaming, Rotted Capes, the Arcanis campaign setting, the Forged in Magic Kickstarter, and a whole lot more. This podcast was recorded on July 5, 2016.


Please rate and review The Tome Show on iTunes. It takes 30 seconds and is a huge help!



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If you like what you’re reading please follow me on Twitter, check out my podcasts, find my products on the DMs Guild, tell your friends about the blog, and/or leave me a comment and let me know you think. Thanks!

Hey there! Just a quick update to let you know it’s time to vote for the ENnie Awards. This very site is nominated for Best Blog! You can only vote until July 21st so click this link to vote! It takes only five minutes of your time.

I’m wishing all the blogs and other category nominees out there good luck. It’s honestly an honor and surprise to be in such talented, hardworking company. I also have to thank Greg Blair for proofreading this blog all the time. He is amazing! Most of all a huge thanks to readers like you who make this blog a success.

If you like what you’re reading please follow me on Twitter, check out my podcasts, find my products on the DMs Guild, tell your friends about the blog, and/or leave me a comment and let me know you think. Thanks!

A new episode of my podcast, The Round Table, is up on The Tome Show’s website.


I sit down with game designer Monte Cook of Monte Cook Games to discuss the tenth anniversary of Ptolusplayers and game masters sharing the cost for RPG productsNumenaraThe StrangeGods of the FallNo Thank You, Evil!Gen Con, and more. This podcast was recorded on July 8, 2016.


DMs Guild Pick of the Episode: 18 Cursed Magic Items



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Links:

If you like what you’re reading please follow me on Twitter, check out my podcasts, find my products on the DMs Guild, tell your friends about the blog, and/or leave me a comment and let me know you think. Thanks!