Archive for the ‘Brass Tacks’ Category

Once again I’m continuing my quest to add killer undead to the options already available in the fifth edition Monster Manual for my world of Enora. So far we’ve seen husks, skeletal dragons, vampiric dragonsvampiric vines, and elemental undead. Now I’d like to turn my attention to updating (and adding my own twists to) some old favorites: the nightcrawler, nighthaunt, nightwalker, and night wing. Thanks to EN World forum user pukunui for the idea!

Nightshades

When shadows and evil are infused with the strong will of a powerful being, they take massive forms. Appearing as giants, purple worms, and winged-beasts, this animated shadow stuff abhor life and light and desire a world covered in a shadow of death.

Massive Murderers. All nightshades are enormous combinations of solid shadow and corruption. When a strong-willed, evil beings refuse to pass into the afterlife, their souls infuse the with the same material that creates the Plane of Shadow. The souls wrestle with the shadow stuff, taking as much of it on as possible in order to anchor themselves in worlds of the living. At the same time, the shadow sucks any tiny sense of morality from the soul, creating a new being of considerable size, horrific shape, and murderous intent.

Undead Generals. Nightshades are cunning beings, who stalk the Plane of Shadow, looking for wayward victims to kill and turn into other undead through dark rituals. These undead are bound to the nightshade for as long as it exists. They follow its every command. Many nightshades search for ways to lead their armies into the Material Plane, so they might swell their ranks and experience death on a grand scale.

Work Better Together. Nightshades have great respect for others of their kind. They often form alliances to increase their slaughtering capabilities and grow the sizes of their armies.

Undead Nature. Nightshades don’t require air, food, drink, or sleep.

Nightcrawler

Nightcrawlers resemble purple worms made of pure darkness. Despite their appearance, they are extremely intelligent spellcasters who have devastating strength, burrowing capabilities, and the ability to swallow ogres whole.

Nighthaunt

Nighthaunts resemble large gargoyles and are pure malevolence. As expert tacticians, these nightshades are the best at leading armies of undead or placing guards and strategic defenses around a fortress.

Nightwalker

Nightwalkers are twenty-foot-tall humanoids silent as death. They are among the multiverse’s best stalkers and their dead eyes can cause panic in the most daring prey.

Nightwing

Nightwings appear as enormous bats made of darkness, but have the same level of cunning and guile as all other nightshades. Silent as death and nearly invisible against a black sky, these beings dive onto prey before victims even know they’re being attacked.

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Nightshades

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It’s time for another fifth edition player option! As I mentioned in some previous posts, I want show off my world of Enora. With that world comes some new player options, one of which I am happy to share now! All of these options are in playtest mode and I am looking for feedback!

Since the world of Deldoroth is six floating cities, it makes sense that druids in these crowded places would be of the Circle of the Sky. Check out the new circle below!

Circle of the Sky

The Circle of the Sky is a sect of druids who move with swift speed and grace to defend the natural world. These druids gather under open skies to hold their meetings, day or night, rain or shine. They wander open plains, traveling within herds of animals, strengthening the local flora so it can grow towards the sun. Circle of the Sky druids often use their magic to aid struggling crop farmers. This order believes clean air is the provider of all life. They abhor beings who unnecessarily pump pollution into the sky.

Speed of the Wind

When you choose this circle at 2nd level, your walking speed increases by 10 feet. This speed bonus applies to your wild shape forms. At 8th level, the bonus applies to your wild shape forms’ flying speeds, if the form you’re in already had a flying speed to begin with.

Stealth Proficiency

At 2nd level, you gain proficiency in the Stealth skill.

Skyward Leap

Starting at 6th level, the distance and height you can jump is double what it would normally be.

In addition, if you begin your turn within the reach of a creature and then jump out of that creature’s reach, that creature has disadvantage on any opportunity attacks it makes against you.

Air Servant

Starting at 10th level, you can summon an air elemental as if you had cast the spell conjure elemental without needing to expend any material components and without needing to maintain concentration. You cannot use this feature again until you complete a long rest.

Wings of the Sky

At 14th level, you have a flying speed equal to your current walking speed whenever you are not underground or indoors.

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Who doesn’t love a good tool? If you check out fifth edition D&D, gaining tool proficiencies is a big part of character creation. Many classes and backgrounds give characters a proficiency or three to help round out what they can do.

Yet how many players are really using these tool proficiencies in play? Beyond thieves’ tools, forgery kits, and the like, what’s the mechanical value of tools? I find that many players (not all) need a mechanical reason to use the tools in order for those items to become entwined in their characters’ stories. Also, if some tools don’t matter, then why take proficiency with brewer’s supplies if you can just say, “My character knows how to make beer,” and also be proficient in thieves’ tools?

Here’s a few rules modules you can add to your D&D game to make those overlooked tools shine.

Alchemist’s Supplies

Alchemist’s supplies can be used to create, double, and identify potions.

Create Potion. Using the crafting downtime rules and the Potion Prices and Crafting DCs table a character can create any non-healing potion with the DMs discretion. After you spend the proper amount of time crafting the potion, you must succeed on an Intelligence check with alchemist’s supplies or the potion and the resources you used to create it are destroyed. The DC for this check is determined by the potion’s rarity.

Your DM may rule that some potions require special components not readily available for sale and that certain potions simply cannot be created by mortals.

Potion Prices and Crafting DCs

Potion Rarity Cost Crafting DC
Common 50 gp 13
Uncommon 100 gp 15
Rare 500 gp 17
Very rare 5,000 gp 19
Legendary 50,000 gp 21

Double Potion. You can attempt to turn one potion into two of the same kind using your alchemist’s supplies. The attempt takes 1 hour. At the end of this time, you must succeed on an Intelligence check with alchemist’s supplies or the original potion and the attempted duplicate are destroyed. The DC for this check is determined by the potion’s rarity, as seen on the Doubling Potion DCs table.

Doubling Potion DCs

Potion Rarity Doubling DC
Common 15
Uncommon 17
Rare 19
Very rare 21
Legendary 23

Identify Potion. You can use your alchemist’s supplies to identify a potion by working with the potion and testing it for 10 minutes. At the end of 10 minutes, make a DC 10 Intelligence check with the alchemist’s supplies. If you succeed you know the name and effects of the potion.

Brewer’s Supplies

Brewer’s supplies let you craft fine ales (using the downtime crafting rules) and increase the potency of existing alcohols.

Increase Potency. Your brewer’s supplies allow you to attempt to increase the potency of alcohol. After spending 5 minutes per pint of alcoholic beverage you are trying to effect, make a DC 15 Intelligence check with brewer’s supplies. If you succeed, the alcohol becomes more potent and any creature that drinks the beverage must succeed on a DC 15 Constitution saving throw or become poisoned for 1 hour. If you fail, the drink simply tastes worse than it normally does.

Calligrapher’s Supplies, Carpenter’s Tools, Cobbler’s Tools, Glass Blower’s Tools, Jeweler’s Tools, Leatherworker’s Tools, Mason’s Tools, Painter’s Supplies, Potter’s Tools, Smith’s Tools, Tinker’s Tools, Weaver’s Tools, Woodcarver’s Tools

These artisan’s tools can be used to craft items per the downtime crafting rules and they can be used to appraise, gain inspiration, grow a business, reinforce, and repair.

Appraise. You can use your artisan’s tools to determine the historical and cultural relevance and worth of an art object by working with the art and appropriate tools for 10 minutes. At the end of 10 minutes, make a DC 10 Intelligence check with the appropriate tools. If you succeed you know the exact worth of the object and any historical or cultural significance the work of art may have.

Gain Inspiration. Working on a great piece of art can be inspiring. If you work with your tools on a personal craft project for one hour, at the end of that time, make a DC 10 Wisdom check with the appropriate artisan’s tools. If you succeed, you gain inspiration. You can only gain inspiration this way once per day.

Grow A Business. During downtime you can repair, craft, and sell small objects using your artisan’s tools. During this time you can maintain a modest lifestyle without having to pay 1 gp per day. After spending ten days of downtime in the same settlement crafting, make a DC 15 Charisma check with the appropriate tools. If you fail, there is no consequence and you make the check again after another ten days of crafting in the same settlement. If you succeed, you can afford a comfortable lifestyle in that settlement by spending your downtime crafting and at the end of ten days in the same settlement, you make another DC 15 Charisma check with the appropriate tools. If you fail, there is no consequence and you make the check again after another ten days of crafting in the same settlement. If you succeed, you can afford a wealthy lifestyle in that settlement by spending your downtime crafting.

Reinforce. You can use your artisan’s tools to reinforce a Medium or smaller object with your tools, such as a door or statue. The specific tool that must be used to reinforce the object is decided by the DM. The process of reinforcement takes one hour. At the end of the hour, make a DC 15 Intelligence check with the appropriate tools. If you succeed, the object gains hardness 5, or if it already has a hardness, its hardness increases by 5 to a maximum of 20. If you reinforce weapons or armor in this way and they gain the hardness, any creature that wears or wields the reinforced object has disadvantage on all attacks, since the items are more cumbersome than normal.

Repair. You can use your artisan’s tools to repair broken objects. After spending one hour working on an object in need of repair, make a DC 10 Dexterity check with the appropriate artisan’s tools. If you succeed, you restore 5 hit points to the object, plus 1 extra hit point for every number your check results exceeds the DC.

Cartographer’s Tools

If you use your cartographer’s tools to make maps wild traveling through the wilderness, there’s a good chance you’ll never get lost and be able to find new shortcuts!

Avoid Getting Lost. If you use your cartographer’s tools while traveling overland, you can avoid getting lost. During this time you cannot gather food, hunt, or drive any vehicles. If you focus on mapping the area, you cannot become lost while traveling. You must be proficient with cartographer’s tools to use them in this way.

Find A Shortcut. You can find shortcuts for wilderness travel by studying maps of areas you have made. The map must cover the entire area you plan to travel. To find a shortcut, make a DC 15 Wisdom check with cartographer’s tools. If you succeed, you can move at a fast pace while traveling, but have all the benefits of moving at a slow pace.

Cook’s Utensils

A good meal can re-energize allies and influence NPCs, while a bad one can make an entire day crappy.

Influence An NPC. You can spend one hour cooking a meal for up to eight creatures. At the end of the hour, make a DC 15 Intelligence check with cook’s utensils. If you succeed, you have advantage on Charisma checks made to influence any NPCs while they eat the meal. If you fail the check by 5 or more, you have disadvantage on Charisma checks made to influence any NPCs while they eat the meal.

Prepare A Hearty Meal. You can spend an hour cooking a meal for up to eight creatures. At the end of the hour, the DM makes a DC 15 Intelligence check with cook’s utensils for you and keeps the result a secret. If you succeed, each creature that ate the meal gains one of the following benefits outlined below, chosen by you when you begin to cook the meal. If you fail the check by 5 or more, each creature who ate the meal must succeed on a DC 10 Constitution saving throw or gain a level of exhaustion.

If you succeed on the check, here are the benefits your meal can bestow:

  • Gain Inspiration. Creatures who ate the meal gain inspiration and cannot gain inspiration this way again until they complete a long rest.
  • Gain More Hit Dice. Creatures who ate this meal regain 1 more hit die than they normally would the next time they finish a long rest.
  • Remove Exhaustion. Creatures who ate this meal reduce their exhaustion level by 1.

Gaming Set

Proficiency with a gaming set allows you to gamble and influence NPCs.

Gamble. You can gamble during between adventures, or at night when you’re cozied up in a tavern. For every four hours spent gambling, make an Intelligence check with the appropriate gaming set. Consult the Gambling Consequences table to see how much money you lose or gain.

Gambling Consequences

Check Result Consequence
4 or lower You lose 2d6 x 10 gp
5 – 9 You lose 1d6 x 4 gp
10 – 14 You gain 1d6 x 4 gp
15 – 19 You gain 2d6 x 10 gp
20+ You gain 4d6 x 10 gp

Influence An NPC. Many NPCs are proficient in gaming sets and enjoy a good challenge. Nobles, military leaders, tavern goers, and more jump at the chance to play a game. When you play a game with an NPC, you make opposed Intelligence checks with the appropriate gaming set. Whoever has the higher result wins the game (and a tie results in a draw). If you win, you have advantage on Charisma checks made to influence the NPC for the next hour. If you lose, you have disadvantage on those checks for one hour. A draw has no effect on your relationship with the NPC.

Musical Instrument

Musical instruments can help you gain an audience with an NPC, influence an NPC, and soothe the savage beast.

Gain An Audience. You can gain an audience with an influential NPC (such as a noble or royalty) by playing your instrument for others at an open audition. The DM decides when and where the auditions take place. To gain an audience, you must succeed on a DC 15 Charisma check made with the appropriate musical instrument. The DM decides when and where the audience happens.

Influence An NPC. You perform at least one song for a group of NPCs. Any the end of your performance, make a DC 15 Charisma check with the appropriate musical instrument. If you succeed, you have advantage on Charisma checks made to influence any NPCs who listened to you perform for the next hour. If you fail the check by 5 or more, you have disadvantage on Charisma checks made to influence any NPCs who listened to you perform for the next hour.

Soothe The Savage Beast. As an action you can make a Charisma check with a musical instrument and each mammal with the beast creature type and an Intelligence score of 3 or less that can hear you must make a Wisdom saving throw. The DC for saving throw is equal to the result of the Charisma check you made with your musical instrument. A mammal who fails this check cannot take the Attack action on its next turn. A creature who succeeds on this check is immune to the effects of your music for 24 hours. The DM may rule that music has no sway over certain beasts (such as those trained by others).

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New Tool Uses

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Note: This article first appeared in the Roleplaying Tips Newsletter.

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At the end of a long campaign, I want my players and I to feel totally satisfied. I mean the sort of satisfaction one gets when a story wraps up with no question unanswered. The kind of story that ends with every major character’s arc finished and accounted for.

This is a challenge when there’s only a single person telling a story – just think of all the novels that have left you hanging in one way or another over the years. But when a group of friends gets into collaborative tale-spinning one chapter at a time with long breaks between, it is almost impossible to wrap up everything with a tidy bow.

All that said, it can be done. With a little prep work at the start of your campaign, and by jotting down just a few notes each session, you can stay organized and tie up all your plot threads. As the finale approaches, you’ll weave those threads into a seamless story that will have your players feeling like they just finished watching all of Breaking Bad.

All you need to do is create two simple documents – a campaign outline and a list of plot threads.

Outline Your Campaign

Before your campaign begins, create a loose outline of your story. This outline can take you from the campaign’s first session to its final, or it could simply be the first story arc or adventure.

Map out where you think the characters will be headed, any major NPCs or villains they might encounter, and the quests they are trying to complete.

You know your gaming group best, so plan in as much detail and as far into your campaign as you feel comfortable while outlining.

If your group plays the kind of game in which the game master dictates a majority of the story, feel free to outline in detail if time allows.

If your players are the kind who surprise you and drive every session off the rails, just keep your outline to the big bullet points of your story and the names of important people. I imagine most groups fall somewhere in the middle.

Here’s an example of what an outline looks like at this stage.

  1. The young dragon Melicharo the White has kidnapped Duke Wellington and ransomed him
    1. Duchess Fiona, Wellington’s wife, is looking for adventurers to save him
      1. Wellington was targeted by Melicharo because the duchess has several magic items the dragon wants
      2. Fiona will give one of her magic items as a reward to the adventurers who save Wellington
    2. The adventurers will go into Melicharo’s lair to save Wellington
      1. The lair is a floating glacier that does not melt
      2. Melicharo is allied with a tribe of kobolds who worship him as a god
  2. Duchess Fiona contracts the adventurers to recover more items for her collection
    1. Duchess Fiona is a member of The Shields, a small secret society that keeps dangerous relics out of the hands of evildoers.
    2. Duchess Fiona warns the adventurers that The Society of Genius, an organization of wizards bent on world domination, might be trying to get the same magic items they’re seeking
    3. The party retrieves several items for the duchess and sometimes has run-ins with the Society of Genius
  3. As part of a massive coordinated attack against The Shields, The Society of Genius kills Duchess Fiona and steals the items the adventurers have gathered for her
  4. The adventurers must seek help from the last remaining members of The Shields who have gone into hiding
  5. The adventurers must take on The Society of Genius

In this case, the further I delved into the outline the less detailed it got. The details and the connective tissue of the campaign can be worked out later as you will see below. The characters’ first adventure is most detailed since I need to be ready to roll for the first session.

If you have a specific idea you don’t want to forget (e.g. Duke Wellington is secretly a member of The Society of Genius), add that in your outline too.

If you’re running a sandbox style adventure, your outline will look a little different. Each Roman numeral might be a different event, adventure site, or influential NPC in the area. It could just be a list of those things in bullet points rather than a formal outline format.

How your outline looks is up to you, as long as you know what it means.

Add PC Backgrounds

If you’re running a longer campaign with a lot of plot threads, odds are your players might create some sort of backstory for their characters. It might be built into the system you’re playing, it could be something you ask the players to write, or you could send them a questionnaire with prompts.

Many players use this as an opportunity to introduce new plot threads into your game. A backstory thread could be a task the PC is trying to complete, such as hunting down a sibling’s murderer or garner enough money to bail a loved one out of jail. Likewise, a character could be running from something in a backstory like a cult or jilted lover.

After you get these backstories it’s time to begin a new document: a list of plot threads. This one is easy to create. Just list all the open plot threads you have at the start of a campaign.

Here’s what the plot thread document for my sample campaign might look like after receiving the PC backstories:

  • Duke Wellington has been captured and ransomed by the dragon Melicharo
  • Duchess Fiona works for The Shields and will ask adventurers who impress her to recover relics
  • The Society of Genius is seeking the same items as The Shields
  • Thog (half-orc barbarian) is searching for the necromancer who killed his brother
  • Rhea (human wizard) needs enough gold for a diamond to raise her old mentor from the dead so she can learn the location of his old spellbook
  • Tippy Shortstockings (halfling rogue) is running from her old thieves’ guild after she stole the thief queen’s crown
  • Grimbeard McShandy (dwarf cleric) lost track of his husband years ago after he disappeared mysteriously in the night

After I gather these threads I incorporate some or all of them into my outline. As the threads are worked in, I cross them off. The first three are already crossed-off, since they are included in the original outline. If I can’t find a place for a new thread in the outline, I let it remain uncrossed. I’m going to revisit the list after each session to see what’s changed (more on that later).

See how the outline looks now that I’ve added some of the backstory plot threads? Note I’ve added a side quests section to the outline now, as not every thread applies to the overarching plot of the campaign. I can work those side quests in as I see fit.

For a sandbox campaign, there really is no such thing as a side quest, so the outline would be different as each quest would be its own category with a Roman numeral.

  1. The young dragon Melicharo the White has kidnapped Duke Wellington and ransomed her
    1. Duchess Fiona, Wellington’s wife, is looking for adventurers to save him
      1. Wellington was targeted by Melicharo because the duchess has several magic items the dragon wants
      2. Fiona will give one of her magic items as a reward to the adventurers who save Wellington
    2. The adventurers will go into Melicharo’s lair to save Wellington
      1. The lair is a floating glacier that does not melt
      2. Melicharo is allied with a tribe of kobolds who worship him as a god
      3. Melicharo has a large diamond in his hoard that could be used by Rhea to bring her old mentor back to life
  2. Duchess Fiona contracts the adventurers to recover more items for her collection
    1. Duchess Fiona is a member of The Shields, a small secret society that keeps dangerous relics out of the hands of evildoers
    2. Duchess Fiona warns the adventurers that The Society of Genius, an organization of wizards bent on world domination, might be trying to get the same magic items they’re seeking
    3. The party retrieves several items for the duchess and sometimes has run-ins with the Society of Genius
    4. During the course of these adventures, Tippy’s old thieves’ guild strikes while the characters are away and steals one of the recovered magic items
      1. The guild threatens to sell the item to The Society of Genius unless the thief queen’s crown is returned
      2. The party must find the thieves’ guild and decide how to deal with them
  3. As part of a massive coordinated attack against The Shields, The Society of Genius kills Duchess Fiona and steals the items the adventurers have gathered for her
  4. The adventurers must seek help from the last remaining members of The Shields who have gone into hiding
  5. The adventurers must take on The Society of Genius
  6. Side Quests
    1. At night Grimbeard McShandy keeps receiving prophetic dreams of his missing husband screaming in pain

As you can see, there’s still room for more detail and side quests. Thog’s thread has yet to be incorporated into the outline. After this it’s a quick cross-off of the Rhea, Tippy, and Grimbeard bullet points on the thread list. Thog’s bullet point remains uncrossed as it has yet to be worked into the plot.

It helps if you keep both these documents in some sort of digital form, preferably in a cloud-based storage system like Google Drive. If your campaign takes years and you change devices or move, it helps these all-important campaign tracking documents remain intact.

Once you’ve worked all the backstory threads you want into your outline, you’re ready to start playing. When the campaign gets underway, a few notes each session will go a long way.

Take Notes

Whether it’s during the session or right after, take note of any new threads that have opened up during your game. If you want to bring back the goblin who managed to run away as a magically enhanced megavillain seeking revenge on the party for the death of her friends, you should write that down before you forget. A quick note will do, just something to jog your memory.

Sometimes you’ll get an idea for a new plot thread totally outside the realm of gaming. You might be grabbing a cup of coffee in the break room, watching a child’s soccer game, or playing a video game and think, “I should bring that into my game.” Take note of these ideas too. Gone are the days of needing to have a piece of paper and something to write with in order to remember a great idea. If you’ve got a phone, you’ve got a note-taking application.

When you sit down to plan your next session, take a minute and add your new ideas into the open plot thread document. Our updated sample looks like this after the first session.

  • Duke Wellington has been captured and ransomed by the dragon Melicharo.
  • Duchess Fiona works for The Shields and will ask adventurers who impress her to recover relics.
  • The Society of Genius is seeking the same items as The Shields.
  • Thog (half-orc barbarian) is searching for the necromancer who killed his brother.
  • Rhea (human wizard) needs enough gold for a diamond to raise her old mentor from the dead so she can learn the location of his old spellbook.
  • Tippy Shortstockings (halfling rogue) is running from her old thieves’ guild after she stole the thief queen’s crown.
  • Grimbeard McShandy (dwarf cleric) lost track of his husband years ago after he disappeared mysteriously in the night.
  • The kobold shaman Skull-Skull in Melicharo's lair escaped after watching his friends die at the hands of the adventurers and promised revenge.
  • In Grimbeard McShandy's dreams, his husband is being tortured by an otherworldly creature called a feldyra, a monster that slowly steals the life force of others and lives in a literal nightmare realm.
  • Rhea has the diamond to bring back her mentor.
  • Tippy is trying to seduce Duke Wellington and he seems into it...
  • Duke Wellington is tired of playing second fiddle to his wife and is secretly a member of The Society of Genius.
  • Melicharo's mother, Brindratharix, is out there and coming for the adventurers. When she learns The Society of Genius is searching for them, she joins forces.

After that, take a few minutes and update your outline just like you did with the character backstories. Check the old uncrossed threads too. You might be able to incorporate those. Just like last time, it’s fine to leave off any threads you can’t work into the outline. Leave them uncrossed. Here’s our sample with the new information.

  1. The young dragon Melicharo the White has kidnapped Duke Wellington and ransomed her
    1. Duchess Fiona, Wellington’s wife, is looking for adventurers to save him
      1. Wellington was targeted by Melicharo because the duchess has several magic items the dragon wants
      2. Fiona will give one of her magic items as a reward to the adventurers who save Wellington
    2. The adventurers will go into Melicharo’s lair to save Wellington
      1. The lair is a floating glacier which does not melt
      2. Melicharo is allied with a tribe of kobolds who worship him as a god
      3. Melicharo has a large diamond in his hoard which could be used by Rhea to bring her old mentor back to life
  2. Duchess Fiona contracts the adventurers to recover more items for her collection
    1. Duchess Fiona is a member of The Shields, a small secret society that keeps dangerous relics out of the hands of evildoers
    2. Duchess Fiona warns the adventurers that The Society of Genius, an organization of wizards bent on world domination, might be trying to get the same magic items they’re seeking
    3. The party retrieves several items for the duchess and sometimes has run-ins with the Society of Genius
    4. During the course of these adventures, Tippy’s old thieves’ guild strikes while the characters are away and steals one of the recovered magic items
      1. The guild threatens to sell the item to The Society of Genius unless the thief queen’s crown is returned
      2. The party must find the thieve’s guild and decide how to deal with them
  3. As part of a massive coordinated attack against The Shields, The Society of Genius kills Duchess Fiona and steals the items the adventurers have gathered for her
    1. Duke Wellington is gone. As a secret member of The Society of Genius, he got the inside information from his wife and helped plan the attacks.
  4. The adventurers must seek help from the last remaining members of The Shields who have gone into hiding
  5. The adventurers must take out the allies of The Society of Genius to weaken them
    1. Brindratharix is supporting them and in her son's old lair
    2. Tippy's old thieves' guild may align themselves with The Society of Genius after interacting with them
  6. The adventurers must take on The Society of Genius
    1. At some point Thog will face his brother's killer
  7. Side Quests
    1. At night Grimbeard McShandy keeps receiving prophetic dreams of his missing husband screaming in pain
      1. Grimbeard McShandy must find a way to enter the nightmare realm to save his husband from a feldyra
      2. If he does not rescue his husband in 90 days, his husband will die from the feldyra's constant feeding
    2. Rhea brings her mentor back from death
      1. His old spellbook was rigged to teleport into a secret underground prison for vampires in the event of his death
        1. The prison used to be run by lycanthropes friendly to the mentor, but since his death the vampires broke free and control the place
        2. The head vampire found the spellbook and is currently using it to keep his leadership position
      2. The mentor is familiar with the necromancer who killed Thog's brother
        1. Necromancer is a member of The Society of Genius
        2. Was a former student of the mentor
    3. Skull-Skull will return with his Ettin friend to stomp the party

Once you start playing, a single plot thread can spawn a lot of ideas. Some are side quests and others take place further down the road. But now you’ve got an idea of how the story can be connected and how to work it into your game. You won’t leave anything hanging unless you want to.

Tie Up Threads As You Go

Weave threads together over the course of the story. Do not save every thread for the final session. In the early days of running games, I kept all threads, major and minor, open until the very end of a campaign. It made for an almost comical finale.

Until the last session, every recurring villain got away, the characters never fully confronted their shady pasts, every missing person important to the party stayed missing… you get the idea. It felt like the final episode of a television series canceled mid-season. There was a hasty wrap-up.

If you close threads along the way throughout the campaign, you’ll be surprised at how much richer your story becomes.

Tying up many threads earlier will create new ones for you. As you can see in the example above, the party’s wizard raises her mentor and it leads to new revelations and quests. This gives the story extra layers of plot and creates a deeper tale that’s more satisfying when all is done.

It may seem overwhelming at first, but if you take a few notes each session and a few minutes to update your outline between games, you’re going to accomplish telling a spectacular, complete story.

End the Campaign

When it comes time to start bringing your story to a conclusion, you’ll need to start tying up plot threads. I know my game master brain can’t stop introducing new ideas, which is totally fine, but at some point you need make sure you’re closing down more plot threads then you’re adding to have everything wrapped up by the story’s conclusion.

It’s cliche, but true – all good things must come to an end. Some campaigns continue on until the gaming group breaks up and the story just fizzles out, but to get the most out of this method, you need to bring it home. If you outline at the start, take notes, update, and tie up threads throughout, your gaming group will want the campaign to end. The satisfaction of completing an epic story together will propel you into your next adventure together.

Roll20CON Wrap-Up!

I also just wanted to thank everyone who made the Roll20CON livestream awesome. Your support, views, and encouragement mean more than you know!

You can checkout both our games in the links below. The first Dungeons and Dragons game with Rudy Basso, Nadja Otikor, James D’Amato, Richard Zayas, and Greg Bilsland starts in the first video around the 03:09:10 mark. The second game with Anna Prosser Robinson, Holly Conrad, Jared Knabenbaur, and Chris Perkins starts in the first video around the 12:20:25 mark and continues into the second.

https://player.twitch.tv/?video=v70242239

https://player.twitch.tv/?video=v70365584

Thanks to everyone involved. All players were amazing. Roll20 folks were amazing. The audience and community were amazing. The other games and panels were amazing. I was amazed.

Two announcements to come out of this…

  1. Roll20 will be putting out a FREE starter adventure designed by yours truly with maps from Russ Hapke and Gabriel Pickard, puzzle tiles from Stephen Shomo, and tokens from Phillip Wright. If you’ve never played on Roll20 or if you’ve never played fifth edition Dungeons and Dragons or if both of those statements apply to you, this is the adventure that will teach you how. If you’re an expert with both it’s still a fun time. We played through the adventure in the first game I DMed.
  2. During the second game we played Merric Blackman‘s adventure Death in the Cornfields (with a little Tarokka Expansion mixed in). It is an awesome mystery that can be played in one session. Do it.

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!

My Tarokka deck needs something to do.

It’s not that I don’t love the purchase. It’s a wonderful item with a lot of great art. Worth every penny. But I feel like I can make it worth more.

As I mentioned in my one-shot Strahd post, I’m not currently playing Curse of Strahd. Even if I were, I’d want to make expanded use of the Tarokka deck. It’s great for readings, but wouldn’t it be awesome if it could be used for random encounters, treasure tables, and more? It totally can.

Tarokkas and Random Tables

Whether you’re playing Curse of Strahd or not, you can draw cards from your Tarokka deck instead of rolling dice on a random table for encounters, treasure, and more. I’ve made it super easy for you and myself by writing out the numbers on a table below.

I’m aware that other than the d6 column, these cards don’t perfectly correspond to the same probability as a throw of an actual die. If this were a saving throw, ability check, attack or damage roll, I wouldn’t allow it. For a DM’s random table this is close enough. It’s as good as it’s going to get without adding extra cards to the deck!

Making players draw these cards themselves for treasure and encounters is especially fun. It adds a moment of drama at the table as you whip out the cards and ask them to draw. Psychologically it also shifts the onus of the result on the player as the others watch, hoping for a good result.

Check out the table below, or grab it in the link below as a PDF or from the Free Game Resources section of this site.

Tarokka Deck as Dice

Tarokka Deck as DiceA Little Preview

This post is actually a little preview of an upcoming DMs Guild product I’m working on. It’s a recurring encounter for Curse of Strahd that involves a magic Tarokka deck. To learn more about this side trek, you’ll have to wait for next week and watch my game with Chris Perkins during…

Roll20CON

If you haven’t heard about Roll20CON yet, the info is below!

The free, online-only celebration of the Roll20 Community will take place on June 3rd, 2016 for just 24 hours – but you can start preparing, listing, and joining games now! From 12AM – 11:59PM Pacific time, there will be games galore played on my favorite virtual table. You’ll want to join in the action and get to try some of the Plus and Pro subscription features for free. That’s right. Dynamic Lighting (and tons of other awesome features) will be free during Roll20CON.

During the convention, some of your favorite streamers, publishers, podcasters, and I will be live on Twitch helping raise money for Cybersmile, the international non-profit supporting victims of cyberbullying.

If you haven’t seen the schedule for Roll20CON check it out below. You’ll notice I’m running two games during the 24-hour live stream with some of the biggest names in Dungeons and Dragons including my good friend Rudy Basso of the Tome Show’s D&D V&G podcast and Have Spellbook, Will Travel, Nadja Otikor of Misscliks D&D Prophecy, Greg Bilsland of Wizards of the Coast and member of the Dungeons and Dragons team, and, oh yeah, Chris Freakin’ Perkins, a Wizards of the Coast D&D employee who needs no introduction.

Needless to say I am thrilled about this and nervous. I’d love your support and love on game day. So if you’re around at 5AM or 2PM Pacific time on June 3, 2016, check out Twitch and watch us play D&D!

schedule3

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 announcement: The meaty World Builder Blog posts will now come every Thursday, since episodes of Have Spellbook, Will Travel drop on Wednesdays and I don’t want to overload you.

Time for even more aberrations!

A few weeks ago I made the case for needing more high challenge rating aberrations than the ones in the Monster Manual for my soon-to-be-published Exploration Age campaign setting. There’s only 19 total aberration stat blocks in the book, and the highest CR is 14 (beholder in lair), so you might want some more aberrations for your world too! That’s why I’m sharing them on this blog.

In that post I showed off the Lovecraft-inspired moonbeast. Then in a later post I presented my hound of Tindalos and after that my gug. In this post I’m showing off my fifth edition Dungeons and Dragons version of the dimensional shambler!

Publisher’s Choice Quality Stock Art © Rich Hershey / Fat Goblin Games

Publisher’s Choice Quality Stock Art © Rich Hershey / Fat Goblin Games

Dimensional Shambler

Dimensional shamblers are 5-foot tall hairless beasts of humanoid form. Tight grey and red skin binds their unnerving crouched form. Their hands sport cruel claws and their almost simian head can open terrifyingly wide to reveal rows of canine teeth. Very little is known about their motivations, but theories abound.

Hunters of Intelligent Life. Dimensional shamblers cross the multiverse using their innate plane-shifting abilities looking for prey. While no one is certain what exactly attracts shamblers to a particular prey, they seem to be drawn to intelligent humanoids who use magic to travel to and summon creatures from other planes. While such victims appear to be a shambler’s preferred target, they are known to abduct any creature with above animal intelligence. A shambler can spend years tracking a single target.

Soul-Devouring Torturers. While dimensional shamblers are powerful combatants and known to kill large groups of humanoids, they much prefer to drag off a single intelligent creature from a fight. They will carry these victims to forgotten corners of the multiverse and bathe them in a ooze-like substance called gray mire. The gray mire painfully devours and nourishes a victim over the course of weeks as the shambler watches, never resting. Eventually the victim’s body is completely destroyed by the mire, leaving only their soul which is devoured by the shambler.

Power in Numbers. While dimensional shamblers often work alone, they do cross paths in the multiverse. Sometimes these horrors agree to work together to capture prey. A strange bond forms between shamblers who agree to work together, increasing each’s power exponentially.

Dimensional Shambler

Medium aberration, chaotic evil


Armor Class 17 (natural armor)

Hit Points 171 (18d8 + 90)

Speed 30 ft.


STR DEX CON INT WIS CHA
20 (+5)  16 (+3) 20 (+5) 10 (+0) 14 (+2) 20 (+5)

Saving Throws Dex +7, Int +4, Wis +6, Cha +9

Damage Resistances bludgeoning, piercing, and slashing damage from nonmagical weapons

Damage Immunities psychic

Condition Immunities exhaustion, charmed

Skills Perception +6, Stealth +7, Survival +7

Senses truesight 120 ft. passive perception 16

Languages Deep Speech, telepathy 120 ft.

Challenge 12 (8,400 XP)


Aggressive Plane Shift. When the shambler casts plane shift any creatures it is grappling must succeed on a DC 17 Charisma saving throw or be teleported with the shambler. If the shambler is touching an unconscious creature when it casts this spell, that creature is automatically transported with the shambler.

Hypnotic Presence. Creatures who start their turns within 30 feet of the shambler and can see the creature must succeed on a DC 17 Wisdom saving throw or become paralyzed for 1 minute. A paralyzed creature can repeat the saving throw at the end of each of its turns, ending the effect on itself on a success. If a creature’s saving throw is successful or the effect ends for it, the creature is immune to the shambler’s Hypnotic Presence (and the hypnotice presence of all dimensional shamblers) for the next 24 hours.

Spellcasting. The shambler’s innate spellcasting ability is Charisma (spell save DC 17). The shambler can innately cast the following spells, requiring no material components:

At-will: dimension door, misty step

3/day: dominate monsterplane shift, telekinesis

Strength in Numbers. The DC of the shambler’s spells and Hypnotic Presence ability increases by 1 (to a maximum of 20) for every other dimensional shambler within 100 feet on the same plane.

Actions

Multiattack. The shambler can make three attacks: two with its claws, and one with its bite.

Bite. Melee Weapon Attack: +9 to hit, reach 5 ft., one target. Hit: 16 (2d10 + 5) piercing damage.

Claws. Melee Weapon Attack: +9 to hit, reach 5 ft., one target. Hit: 12 (2d6 + 5) slashing damage and the target is grappled (escaped DC 17). Until this grapple ends, the target is restrained and the shambler can’t use its claws to attack another target.

Create Gray Mire. The shambler touches any 10-foot-square area of natural ground such as dirt, stone, grass, sand, or ice and it becomes a 5-f00t-deep pool of gray mire. Creatures who enter or start their turns in the area must succeed on a DC 17 Constitution saving throw or become paralyzed for 24 hours. During this time the gray mire nourishes them, so they don’t need to eat, sleep, or breathe, but it also eats away at their flesh, dealing 1 necrotic damage which cannot be reduced in anyway. The target’s hit point maximum is reduced by an amount equal to the damage taken effect. This reduction lasts until the target finishes a long rest outside of a pool of gray mire. If a creature’s hit point maximum is reduced to 0 by this effect, it is consumed by the pool and any dimensional shamblers nearby regain 171 hit points. At the end of 24 hours of being paralyzed, the creature must succeed on another DC 17 Constitution saving throw or suffer the same effect if it still in the pool.

The pool counts as difficult terrain. Creatures who start their turn in the pool or enter the pool on their turn must succeed on a DC 17 Strength saving throw or become grappled by the mire until the start of their next turn. A creature who is in the pool can be pulled out of it by another creature not in the pool who can reach the creature in the pool with a DC 17 Strength check made as an action. Being pulled from the pool ends any grappled or paralyzed condition caused by the mire.

Dimensional shamblers are immune to the effects of the gray mire.

PDF

Would you like this Lovecraftian beastie to threaten your players’ characters? Grab it now in its own PDF or alongside a lot of Exploration Age’s monsters! Like the icebreaker shark, gaping maw, morchia, and mystauk.

Dimensional Shambler

All Monsters

If you liked these creatures be sure to check out my other offerings in the Free Game Resources section of this site and my Pay What You Want products on the DMs Guild for backgrounds, magic items, optional rules, and more.

Playtest it up!

Now I ask you my readers to please go forth and test this nasty. Throw it at your players and see how they fare! If you have any feedback for my monster please leave it in the comments below or email me (james.introcaso@gmail.com). If you tell me your name and the names of your players I’ll give you credit as playtesters in the Exploration Age Campaign Guide!

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!

Let’s make some more aberrations!

A few weeks ago I made the case for needing more high challenge rating aberrations than the ones in the Monster Manual for my soon-to-be-published Exploration Age campaign setting. There’s only 19 total aberration stat blocks in the book, and the highest CR is 14 (beholder in lair), so you might want some more aberrations for your world too! That’s why I’m sharing them on this blog.

In that post I showed off the Lovecraft-inspired moonbeast. In this post I’m showing off the hound of Tindalos.

Publisher’s Choice Quality Stock Art © Rich Hershey / Fat Goblin Games

Hound of Tindalos

Little is known about the hounds of Tindalos, since few people see one and live to tell the tell. These mind-bending beings have thin canine bodies and bat-like faces. Like many aberrations, their unsettling, bestial appearance belies their clever, murderous minds. They are named for the city of their origin in the Far Realm.

Planar Predators. The odd physiology of the hounds allows them to teleport instantly across the planes. These beasts constantly hunger for the lifeblood of spellcasters. The more accomplished the caster, the greater the hound’s hunger for that person. Since beings of such power are rare on a single plane, the beasts stalk the multiverse for new victims.

Relentless Hunters. Hounds of Tindalos never give up on prey once they’ve decided to pursue it. Their bodies are sensitive to subtle changes in magical currents. As such they can tell when a being near them teleports, alters time, or travels through time (be it physically with a spell like time stop or a simple glance into the future or past with a spell like legend lore). It uses this sense to hunt creatures of magical power and follows them through the multiverse until it sees an opportunity to strike.

Hound of Tindalos

Medium aberration, chaotic evil


Armor Class 20 (natural armor)

Hit Points  189 (18d8 + 108)

Speed  50 ft.


STR DEX CON INT WIS CHA
20 (+5)  24 (+7) 22 (+6) 19 (+4) 20 (+5) 24 (+7)

Saving Throws  Dex +12, Wis +10, Cha +12

Damage Resistances bludgeoning, piercing, and slashing damage from nonmagical weapons

Condition Immunities exhaustion

Skills Perception +10, Survival +10

Senses truesight 120 ft. passive perception 20

Languages Deep Speech, telepathy 120 ft.

Challenge 15 (13,000 XP)


Magic Resistance. The hound has advantage on saving throws against spells and other magical effects.

Magic Sensitivity. The hound automatically knows when the exact location of a spellcaster casting a conjuration, divination, or transmutation spell is cast within 1 mile of its location. If the spell moves the spellcaster (e.g. dimension door) the hound knows the exact location to which the spell took the caster, even if that location is outside the 1-mile range of the hound’s sensitivity.

Magic Weapons. The hound’s weapon attacks are magical.

Spellcasting. The hound’s spellcasting ability is Charisma (spell save DC 20, +12 to hit with spell attacks). It can innately cast the following spells, requiring no material components.

At will: detect magic, locate creature, locate object

3/day: dispel magic, phantasmal killer, scrying

1/day: time stop

Actions

Multiattack. The hound can use Paralyzing Howl and make three attacks: two with its claws, and one attack with its bite or proboscis.

Bite. Melee Weapon Attack: +12 to hit, reach 5 ft., one target. Hit: 18 (2d10 + 7) piercing damage. If the target is a creature it is then grappled (escaped DC 18). Until the grapple ends the target is restrained and the hound cannot use its bite against another target.

Claw. Melee Weapon Attack: +12 to hit, reach 5 ft., one target. Hit: 14 (2d6 + 7) slashing damage.

ProboscisMelee Weapon Attack: +12 to hit, reach 5 ft., one creature that is grappled by the hound, incapacitated, or restrained. Hit: 14 (2d6 + 7) piercing damage plus 20 (6d6) necrotic damage. The target’s hit point maximum is reduced by an amount equal to the damage taken and the hound regains hit points equal to that amount. The reduction lasts until the target finishes a long rest. The target dies if this effect reduces its hit point maximum to 0.

Angled Entry. The hound can cast plane shift at-will, but it can only cast the spell on itself and its destination point must be adjacent to a fixed angle or corner in the physical environment, such as a wall, floor, or ceiling (as determined by the GM); temporary angles created by cloth, flesh, or Tiny or smaller items are not sufficient. It cannot use this ability to enter curved architecture or open outdoor environments.

Paralyzing Howl. Creatures within 30 feet of the hound that can hear the creature must succeed on a DC 20 Wisdom saving throw or become paralyzed for 1 minute. A creature can repeat the saving throw at the end of each of its turns, ending the effect on itself on a success. If a creature’s saving throw is successful or the effect ends for it, the creature is immune to the Paralyzing Howl of all hounds of Tindalos for the next 24 hours.

PDF

Would you like this Lovecraftian beastie to threaten your players’ characters? Grab it now in its own PDF or alongside a lot of Exploration Age’s monsters! Like the icebreaker shark, gaping maw, morchia, and mystauk.

Hound of Tindalos

All Monsters

If you liked these creatures be sure to check out my other offerings in the Free Game Resources section of this site and my Pay What You Want products on the DMs Guild for backgrounds, magic items, optional rules, and more.

Playtest It Up

Now I ask you my readers to please go forth and test this nasty. Throw it at your players and see how they fare! If you have any feedback for my monster please leave it in the comments below or email me (james.introcaso@gmail.com). If you tell me your name and the names of your players I’ll give you credit as playtesters in the Exploration Age Campaign Guide!

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!

It’s time to make a moonbeast!

Aberrations play a big role in the history of Canus, the Material Plane of my Exploration Age campaign setting. They are the main villains in one of my home campaigns at the moment. That group is currently 16th level. The highest level challenge rating aberration in the Monster Manual is 14 (beholder in its lair).  The highest level non-legendary aberration is the challenge 10 death slaad. While throwing a pile of nothics at the PCs can be fun, it gets to be a grind after a time.

In fact there’s only 19 aberration stat blocks in the entire fifth edition Monster Manual. At this point my players have fought them all many times over. Even in groups they’re becoming less of a challenge so I need to make some new high CR aberrations. I’ve made the Star Wars-inspired gaping maw, but I need some others.

History of Aberrations in Exploration Age

Aberrations came to Canus long ago from the Far Realm. They found the new world was full of resources and as of yet uninhabited by intelligent life. These alien creatures ruled over the world until the dragons awoke from beneath the surface of Canus.

No one knows if the dragons lived on the surface of Canus for years and then retreated below to sleep or if they were simply born of the core of the world. Their climb through the earth created the tunnels of the Underground and their spilled blood became the elf races.

When the dragons reached the surface, the authority of aberrations enraged them. The aberrations thought no better of the dragons. All out war was inevitable. The dragons used their magic to destroy any connection Canus had to the home plane of the aberrations. Those that were on Canus could not call for reinforcements. The Far Realm remains out of reach to this day.

During this time of violence, the dragons created intelligent races to aid them in their battles. New humanoids were created and began to walk the earth.

The war decimated both sides. In the end, the defeated aberrations retreated to the Underground while the dragons retreated to their various lairs, weary from millennia of fighting. The humanoids inherited the broken world and began to rebuild.

Dragons lost the desire to rule through the scars of battle but their foes are a different story. Aberrations believe this world is rightfully theirs and was taken unjustly. Now it belongs to the inferior humanoids. They want Canus back. They’re ready to reclaim it.

Lovecraftian Inspiration

It’s clear that I need some more aberrations to really make my campaign and world complete, especially since this creature type has such a rich history in Exploration Age. Around the same time I was thinking I wanted to make more aberrations, a product called Publisher’s Choice Lovecraftian Horrors Subscription went on sale at RPGNow.

Since I’ve been creating more products I need a steady supply of good art and Fat Goblin Games has some of the best. They’re constantly adding baddies to this product. If you’re a creator who needs art, check it out! For me it is worth the investment. No one is paying me or even asking me to say that.

Just my luck this little thing was on sale at the time I needed it! H.P. Lovecraft’s imagination has spawned so many wonderful otherworldly creatures. Many of those creatures clearly inspire D&D’s aberrations. Mind flayers are basically mini Cthulhus!

I decided to convert a few of these beasties into fifth edition D&D rules for Exploration Age. I’m going to make their stories my own, but the names and forms of the beasts shall remain the same! Behold the first of these terrors, the moonbeast!

Publisher's Choice Quality Stock Art © Rick Hershey / Fat Goblin Games

Publisher’s Choice Quality Stock Art © Rick Hershey / Fat Goblin Games

Moonbeast

The eyeless, greyish-scaled form of the moonbeast is a horrifying sight to behold. It’s slippery body can change size in an instant. Deadly claws and a blunt snout of teeth surrounded by tentacles complete this aberration’s bestial appearance. Many are fooled by this ferocious look and find out too late that a moonbeast is far smarter and more devious than it seems.

Greedy Slavers. Moonbeasts covet gold. They hatch all manner of villainous schemes to get their claws on the stuff but their most profitable industry is slavery. Their greed drives them to sell any prisoners to others aberrations. Any humanoids defeated at the hands of a moonbeast who live eventually end up serving an aberration master – a fate far worse than death.

Horrific Travelers. Moonbeasts will often use their own slaves or shapeshifting aberrations to help them travel with their slave cargo from place to place. They can easily change their size and shape to hide amongst the cargo holds of ships, wagons, and other vehicles while they telepathically dole out orders.

Moonbeast

Large aberration, neutral evil


Armor Class 20 (natural armor)

Hit Points  230 (20d10 + 120)

Speed  50 ft., climb 30 ft.


STR DEX CON INT WIS CHA
25 (+7) 16 (+3) 23 (+6) 23 (+6) 18 (+4) 18 (+4)

Saving Throws  Dex +9, Int +12, Wis +10

Damage Resistances bludgeoning, piercing, and slashing damage from nonmagical weapons

Damage Immunities psychic

Condition Immunities blinded, charmed, prone

Skills Insight +10, Perception +10

Senses blindsight 120 ft. passive perception 20

Languages Deep Speech, telepathy 120 ft.

Challenge 17 (18,000 XP)


Amorphous. The moonbeast can move through a space as narrow as 1 inch wide without squeezing.

Horrifying Visage. Creatures who start their turns within 30 feet of the moonbeast and can see the creature must succeed on a DC 18 Wisdom saving throw or become frightened of the moonbeast for 1 minute. A creature can repeat the saving throw at the end of each of its turns, ending the effect on itself on a success. If a creature’s saving throw is successful or the effect ends for it, the creature is immune to the moonbeast’s Horrifying Visage for the next 24 hours.

Magic Resistance. The moonbeast has advantage on saving throws against spells and other magical effects.

Magic Weapons. The moonbeast’s weapon attacks are magical.

Quickened Enlarge/Reduce. As a bonus action the moonbeast can cast enlarge/reduce on itself. The moonbeast does not require concentration to maintain this spell.

Spellcasting. The moonbeast’s spellcasting ability is Intelligence (spell save DC 20, +12 to hit with spell attacks). It can innately cast the following spells, requiring no material components.

At will: charm monsterhold monster, misty step, scrying, zone of truth

3/day: dispel magicdominate monster

1/day: plane shift (self only), time stop

Actions

Multiattack. The moonbeast can make one attack with its claws, one attack with its tentacles, and one attack with its bite.

Bite. Melee Weapon Attack: +13 to hit, reach 10 ft., one target. Hit: 18 (2d10 + 7) piercing damage.

Claw. Melee Weapon Attack: +13 to hit, reach 5 ft., one target. Hit: 14 (2d6 + 7) slashing damage.

Tentacles. Melee Weapon Attack: +13 to hit, reach 15 ft., one target. Hit: 14 (2d6 + 7) bludgeoning damage and the target is grappled (escape DC 21) and pulled adjacent to the moonbeast. Until the grapple ends the target is restrained and the moonbeast cannot use its tentacles against another target. Until the grapple ends the target must succeed on a DC 20 Constitution saving throw at the start of its turns or suffer a level of exhaustion.

Healing Consumption. The moonbeast eats an adjacent Small or Medium unconscious creature. When the creature is consumed, it dies and its body and all of its nonmagical possessions are devoured by the moonbeast. The moonbeast regains 50 hit points.

PDF

Would you like this Lovecraftian beastie to threaten your players’ characters? Grab it now in its own PDF or alongside a lot of Exploration Age’s monsters! Like the icebreaker shark, gaping maw, morchia, and mystauk.

All Monsters

Moonbeast

If you liked these creatures be sure to check out my other offerings in the Free Game Resources section of this site and my Pay What You Want products on the DMs Guild for backgrounds, magic items, optional rules, and more.

Playtest It Up

Now I ask you my readers to please go forth and test this nasty. Throw it at your players and see how they fare! If you have any feedback for my monster please leave it in the comments below or email me (james.introcaso@gmail.com). If you tell me your name and the names of your players I’ll give you credit as playtesters in the Exploration Age Campaign Guide!

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!

Over the last couple weeks on this blog I dove deep into my campaign setting, Exploration Age. First I wrote about the design principles behind the setting and then I gave you my hex crawl tips, since Exploration Age was built for that sort of adventure. Now it’s time to blog about building random encounter tables to give your hex crawls some extra awesome.

I find hex crawls call for huge varied encounter tables. The more variety you can inject into a table, the more interesting your game play will be. A lot of different encounters will keep your hex crawl from becoming a predictable grind. Pages 85 – 87 of the Dungeon Master’s Guide have some great advice for building your own random encounter tables, so I won’t rehash what’s already been written.

Check for Encounters

When my players embark on a big hex crawl, I create three different tables – a hostile encounters table, a exploration encounters table, and a story encounters table. In general I check from random encounters twice per day during a hex crawl. Once during the travel day and once when the PCs stop to take a long rest. If they take any short rests, make a lot of noise, try to take a short cut, or do anything else that might attract attention (or if I just feel like it), I’ll check more than the usual twice. Use your discretion and roll whenever you feel it is necessary. Sometimes you may just want to make a particular type of encounter happen, in that case just skip the “check for encounters” step, roll on the appropriate table, and get going.

I check for a random encounter by rolling a d20. On a roll of 1-16, no encounter occurs. On a roll of 17-18, a hostile encounter occurs, on a roll of 19 an exploration encounter occurs, and on a 20 a story encounter occurs.

If I feel too much of a particular type of encounter has occurred, I’ll change the numbers to give a new kind of encounter a greater chance of occurring. Heck, if there’s a particular encounter I really want to occur, I’ll just make it happen and won’t even roll. The point is, you can easily adjust the numbers if your group prefers a particular type of encounter over the others. I have a better chance of hostile encounters occurring more than story or exploration because those are what my group likes. Combat encounters make hex crawling dangerous fun. You can do whatever you like and change midstream to fit your game!

One of my groups is currently crawling through the blank area of The Sprawling Jungle in Verda, so I’ll be using jungle encounters as examples.

World Map of Canus

World Map of Canus

Hostile Encounter Table

For a combat encounters table, I follow the advice in the Dungeon Master’s Guide, but I make every encounter on the table a hostile encounter. It’s that simple.

The big question you have to answer… will you build your random encounter table so that each encounter falls within the easy – hard encounter difficulty rating for your party (as the Dungeon Master’s Guide suggests) or will you build a random encounter table that includes encounters difficulty ratings well above and below what the party can handle?

I know many old school gamers may prefer the latter. After all, why would The Sprawling Jungle care what level the PCs are? They might even call it realistic. If that’s what you want to do, by all means, go ahead. Just make sure your players know what they’re in for. This is not my preferred method, but if it works for your group, game on.

In my experience having a single random encounter with a challenge rating well above the party’s level end in a party wipe just stinks. I want my players to feel like the heroes of the story. How crappy would The Lord of the Rings be if the Fellowship got entirely wiped out by a group of 1d6+4 owlbears at the start of the journey? I understand it may not seem realistic, but neither do dragons, magic, or mind flayers, so I’m good with it.

Here’s an example of a hostile encounter table below for The Sprawling Jungle in Exploration Age. The encounters are tailored for a group for four level 11 PCs. Remember that a hostile encounter doesn’t have to be resolved by combat. Let the PCs tackle the encounter with diplomacy or attempt to avoid it, especially if they see the enemy before the enemy sees them.

d12 + d8 Encounter
2 1 behir
3 1d2 Tyrannosaurus rex
4 1 hydra
5 1d6+3 saber-toothed tiger
6 1d2+1 shambling mounds
7 1d2+1 trolls
8 1 orc war cheif, 2 orogs, and 1d6 orcs
9 1d2 giant apes
10 1 lizard king/queen, 1 lizardfolk shaman, and 2d6 lizardfolk
11 1d4+4 swarms of poisonous snakes
12 1 gnoll fang of Yeenoghu, 1 gnoll pack lord, and 2d6 gnolls
13 1d6+2 giant scorpions
14 1d10+6 giant spiders
15 1d6+3 mystuak-inhanbited berserkers
16 1d3 cyclopes
17 1d2+1 green hags
18 1 yuan-ti abomination, 1 yuan-ti malison, and 1d4 yuan-ti purebloods
19 1d2 morchia
20 1 adult green dragon

Exploration Encounter Table

My exploration encounters include interactions with non-hostile NPCs and locations the PCs may meet along the way. These encounters could lead to side quests, provide challenges or rewards, or give flavor to the world. As each encounter occurs, I cross it off the list. In general it isn’t very fun for a specific of exploration encounter to occur more than once. I usually keep these tables smaller since these encounters take a lot more prep than a random encounter. I add new exploration encounters between sessions to fill-in the ones I’ve crossed off the list. Checkout my example for The Sprawling Jungle below.

d6 Encounter
1 A wagon surrounded by decomposing humanoid corpses wearing rainbow colored cloaks. The wagon contains a hidden compartment (DC 15 Wisdom (Perception) to notice) which holds 4d6 x 100 doses of orange spice inside.
2 Hidden mud pit 20 feet deep with a 10-foot-square opening. DC 15 Wisdom (Perception) to notice. A creature which enters the mud pit must succeed on a DC 15 Strength saving throw or be submerged 5 feet in the mud, restrained, and continue to sink at the end of its turn at a rate of 5 feet per round. Once the mud covers the creature’s head it is blinded and it begins suffocating if it requires air to live. A submerged creature can make a DC 15 Strength (Athletics) check as an action to climb 5 feet out of the pit and also not sink at the end of its turn. A nonsubmerged creature can aid a submerged creature by lending it a hand or long object (such as a branch), which gives the submerged creature advantage on its Strength (Athletics) check.
3 A grove of casgrove fruit. The fruit is worth 500 gp. Harvesting the fruit takes 2 hours. There is a 50% 3d6 mystauk with no host inhabit the grove as well.
4 A band of adventurers from the Explorers’ Guild (50%) or the Society of Seekers (50%) looking for a nearby aberrant ruin. They will pay the adventurers 50 gp for any information which could aid them in their search.
5 An aberrant ruin. Use Shuzal or roll on the aberrant ruin table.
6 The nomadic panther tribe comes through. Their chief, Bergonthal the Brave, has contracted slug snot after exploring a a cave which leads to the Underdark. If the PCs heal the cheif, the tribe’s shaman, Ferix the Wolf, reward the PCs with a charm of victorious armor.

Story Encounters Table

Story encounters are more abstract. They inject PC backstories and past campaign events into the game. A story encounter should help introduce new story elements into your campaign or move a particular story forward. When a result on the table calls for a particular PC you can randomly choose one character by rolling a die or by picking whichever PC’s story makes the most sense at the moment given the time and location of the encounter. You could also simply pick a PC who hasn’t been in the spotlight for a time.

Some of the results on the table call for a NPC to ask the players for help. If you’re stuck on what the NPC should ask for, roll on your hostile encounters table and have the NPC ask players for help defeating that enemy which is chasing the NPC, has stolen something which belongs to the NPC, or raiding a nearby settlement.

A NPC offering aid could offer their own services as an adventurer, healing spells, food, or equipment. A few potions never hurt anyone (and a few cursed potions really make the game interesting).

d6 Encounter
1 A hostile creature from a PC’s background
2 A hostile creature that got away from the PCs or has returned from the dead after they killed it
3 A friendly creature from the PC’s background asking for help with something or offering aid
4 A henchmen or assassin hired by a villain the PCs are working against come to kill the PCs or infiltrate them as a spy
5 A NPC the entire party has met before asking for help with something or offering aid
6 A NPC who knows someone the PCs know or has heard of them who needs help or is asking for aid

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I am a lucky man! My series, “Epic Threats,” just had its second installment published in EN World’s EN5ider Magazine. “Epic Threats” is a series which fills out bestiary ranks with more high challenge rating fifth edition monsters. I’ve found in the upper echelons of the game that there aren’t enough threats to give my PCs the variety of challenges and creature I like, so I made a few of my own, submitted them to EN5ider and they’re being published! You can read my first installment in the series, “Epic Threats: NPCs,” and the second installment, “Epic Threats: Goblinoids and Orcs,” by subscribing to EN5ider for as little as $1 a month through Patreon.

Screen Shot 2016-01-06 at 5.58.23 PM

I have to say, if you’re playing fifth edition and craving more content, EN5ider is a great place to get it. I’m not just saying that because I’ve now written for them three times. You get one short adventure a month plus another three articles with advice on running chases, new diseasesnew druid circles, creating puzzles, and so much more. You get all that for $2 a month. If you don’t want the adventure, you can still score the articles for $1 a month. That’s less than a bottle of water in most places. The articles are of a great quality and EN World creator, Russ Morrissey, writes several of the best. You can grab some sample articles and an adventure for free so check it out.

I also have to give a super special shoutout to EN5ider editor, James J. Haeck. He’s brilliant, creative, and a blast to work with. Every letter that man touches becomes better for it and this series of articles would be a lot worse without his hard work.

Whenever I have an article come out in EN5ider I like to write a companion blog post to help promote the article. You can checkout the companion piece I wrote for “Epic Threats: NPCs,” “Get Sick,” and, “Give Chase.” Now it’s time to present a companion piece for, “Epic Threats: Goblinoids and Orcs.” The article gives you five new monsters to throw at your PCs, CR 14 – 20. I’m going to show you a CR 12 orc I wrote that I didn’t submit with the article so I could tease you here on the blog.

Orc Punisher

Orc punishers are burning with divine fires inside of them which are fueled by pain. Every piece of steel, arrow, and spell they suffer grows their savage fury until they erupt with radiant energy which sears their hated foes.

Orc Punisher

Medium humanoid (orc), chaotic evil

Armor Class 15 (studded leather)

Hit Points 190 (20d8 + 100)

Speed 30 ft.

STR

DEX

CON

INT

WIS

CHA

22 (+6)

16 (+3)

20 (+5)

10 (+0)

12 (+1)

8 (-1)

Saving Throws Strength +10, Con +9, Wis +5

Damage Resistance radiant

Skills Athletics +10, Intimidation +3

Senses passive Perception 11

Languages Common, Orc

Challenge 12 (8,400 XP)

Aggressive. As a bonus action, the orc can move up to its speed toward a hostile creature that it can see.

Charging Advantage. If the orc moves at least 10 feet it has advantage on all attack rolls made before the end of its turn.

Eye for an EyeWhenever the orc takes damage, it gains a number of punishing points equal to the damage taken. These points are cumulative and the orc can have a maximum of 50 punishing points. These points disappear when the orc takes a short rest.

When the orc hits a target with a melee attack, it can choose to spend any number of punishing points. The number of points the orc spends equal the number of bonus radiant damage points dealt by the attack.

Actions

Multiattack. The orc makes four attacks.

Greataxe. Melee Weapon Attack: +10 to hit, reach 5 ft., one target. Hit: 12 (1d12 + 6) slashing damage.

Javelin. Melee or Ranged Weapon Attack: +10 to hit, reach 5 ft. or range 30/120 ft., one target. Hit: 9 (1d6 + 6) piercing damage.

Blinding Burst. The orc spends 20 punishing points and releases a burst of radiant energy in a 20-foot-radius sphere centered on itself. Hostile creatures within the sphere must succeed on a DC 17 Constitution saving throw or take 15 points of radiant damage and become blinded until the end of the orc’s next turn. Allies in the sphere heal 5 hit points.

Fey Step. The orc spends 5 punishing points to cast fey step.

PDF

Would you like this monster in a PDF along with all the other fifth edition D&D baddies I’ve designed? Grab them below.

Orc Punisher

All Monsters

If you don’t want to grab them now, but decide you want the PDFs at a future date, head on over to the Free Game Resources section of this site where the documents will live along with magic items, backgroundsD&D fifth edition rules modulesspellsadventures, and more created by yours truly.

Of course as a bonus this bad boy is elligible to be another submission to this month’s RPG Blog Carnival, which I am hosting here on World Builder Blog. The theme is “Homebrew Holiday Gifts,” and I’m asking bloggers everywhere to share their RPG creations for their favorite systems with me. At the end of the month I’ll make a list linking all participating blog posts so everyone can checkout the fine homebrew creations in one place.

If you like what you’re reading, please check out my podcasts on The Tome Show, 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!