Archive for the ‘General’ Category

I’m going to write a post that is self-indulgent. I guess that’s true about every post on this blog in one way or another, but this blog post is going to be a story in which I am the central character, which is a little unusual for this site. Usually it’s some crazy monster, magic item, piece of advice, or game mechanic that takes center stage. If you hadn’t guessed from the title, this post will tell you how I became a somewhat, kinda, sorta, maybe, known creator in the world of tabletop roleplaying games.

I’m writing this post because several people have asked me how I “made it” in the industry. To be honest, I’m not sure I have “made it” at least by the modern definition. I’ve got a full-time gig outside the industry as a TV commercial writer/producer (which I really love). That being said, I do get paid to work on some pretty great projects in the industry and I am doing more in this space than I dared to dream, so in some ways I guess I have “made it” in this industry. At least made it further than I expected.

Still I thought sharing my story might be helpful for anyone out there interested in a freelance RPG design career, but I will say that my path is unique and involves a lot of luck, so I’m not sure it can be replicated. I was inspired to share thanks in part to the requests I got, but also by a recent episode of the Down with D&D podcast in which designers and podcasters Shawn Merwin and Chris Sniezak shared their own stories. Definitely check out the episode because they have great stories and a lot of amazing advice.

The Tome Show

In Fall of 2013 I was listening to a lot of podcasts and playing tons of D&D with my friends on Roll20. The D&D Next playtest was in full swing and I devoured every piece of D&D news I could find. One of my favorite programs was the News Desk on The Tome Show, but it only came out once a month. I searched for other D&D news podcasts, but most were actual plays, none with D&D news. I remember telling my then-girlfriend, now-wife, Bonnie, that I wanted to listen to a weekly show that covered the latest D&D news in-depth. I told her there was no show out there like it (that I knew of) and Bonnie said, “Why don’t you make it?”

What did I have to lose by giving it a shot? I already knew how to edit audio… but I didn’t know how to book guests, build an audience, or even submit a podcast feed to iTunes. At the time I was listening to backlogs of the now-defunct D&D advice podcast Critical Hits hosted by Mike Shea of Sly Flourish. At the end of each podcast he gave our his contact information, including email, and encouraged folks with questions to reach out. I emailed Mike, thanking him for his awesome contributions to the community and asked for advice on starting a podcast. I soon realized how gracious he truly was. The man gave me 600 words of free advice and told me if I wanted more I should contact Jeff Greiner, the creator and owner of the aforementioned Tome Show podcast.

Already a subscriber to Jeff’s show, I eagerly went to him for advice next. Jeff asked me to pitch him my idea and without even knowing it was coming he offered me a chance to do my show on the Tome Show’s feed, immediately hitting a large audience of subscribers! I admit, this is some pure, amazing luck. Thus my first public RPG-related creation was born: The Round Table podcast. Special thanks to Rudy Basso, Alex Basso, Greg Blair, and Vegas Lancaster for making those first several episodes with me and encouraging me to keep making the show in those first weeks. Extra special thanks to Sam Dillon for actually getting all those episodes on the air. After several months of consistent output, Jeff told me (after I asked a few times) that he trusted me enough to revive the Gamer to Gamer franchise on the network and I started interviewing professionals in the industry. (Shoutout to my first interviewee on that show, Wolfgang Baur!)

Takeaways:

  • Listen to your partner.
  • Don’t be afraid to reach out to people for advice.
  • Be gracious and grateful. People remember how you treat them. Also everyone deserves to be treated like a human.
  • Seize opportunities when luck offers them.
  • Be consistent with you work and don’t be afraid to ask for more after you’ve proven yourself.

The Blog

I was three episodes into The Round Table and seeing thousands of people listening to the show when I decided I should probably use the podcast as a platform to promote something I always wanted to do, but had been too lazy to start – a blog about homebrew design. I had a lot of time on my hands, since Bonnie was on a two-week business trip, so rather than play video games every night (which was my normal MO when she was gone before the blog and podcast), I used the time to create this site. I made a commitment to write two articles a week. To keep myself accountable, I started shouting the site out on the podcast, knowing that I would need to keep it stocked with content if people were going to show up.

The blog’s audience growth was slow, but steady. I started with less than 10 views a day, but as I kept updating it consistently and shouting out new posts to various social media groups and message boards, the views crept up. Now on days when I don’t post something new, I get about 500 hits in a day, but it took me three years to get here.

Takeaways:

  • Sometimes you need to put video games and Netflix aside to work on rewarding, fun, creative projects.
  • The best way to build and audience is put out consistent, well-crafted content that you enjoy making.
  • Hold yourself accountable for getting your own projects done. No one else will.

The Work

So how did I finally get paid for some game design? Well my first jobs came from EN5ider and Johnn Four‘s Roleplaying Tips and they came about quite differently.

I had a year of blogging and podcasting under my belt when I saw EN5ider was just starting up. I saw a post on EN World calling for article submissions, so I figured I’d give it a shot. I had been rejected before by Dungeon and Dragon magazines and by the Adventurers League, but I didn’t let that discourage me. Editor James Haeck accepted of my pitch! Give Chase was born… after careful outlining, planning, proof-reading and revising, and revising again once I got notes from James. I made sure to hit each deadline and to listen to the editor’s feedback, incorporating it into the article, rather than rejecting what was said. James and I worked well together and I’ve written a few more articles for EN5ider since then.

Roleplaying Tips came about in a much different way. World Builder Blog was a regular contributor to the monthly RPG Blog Carnival and through that Johnn noticed my work, he reached out to me and asked if I would write an article for his newsletter that gave worldbuilding lessons. I’d be paid for the work and I could repost it here on the blog. That’s a great deal, so of course I said yes. Johnn and I have worked together on a few projects since, including a massive adventure that should be coming soon!

It was about another year before I got to do work for more people. In that time the DMs Guild launched. I already had a heaping helping of fifth edition content on this blog, so I put some of that into PDFs (without having ever done layout). The reputation I had built for myself on the blog and podcast helped get my products some buzz and a few became best-sellers. That’s when things really started to pick up.

The Adventurers League asked me to write an adventure for them and Shawn Merwin asked me to write another for Baldman Games. Roll20’s owners (who I met after applying for their game master job, which I did not get but did give me a chance to make connections with these very cool people) asked me to create their introductory fifth edition adventure, The Master’s Vault. Since then I’ve worked on a few other projects, but those are going to stay secret for now. Many of them are people I have met at conventions.

You know the rest of the tale. I’ve continued to create and since left the Tome Show to create my own podcast network with Rudy Basso. What’s in store for the future? Only time shall tell!

Takeaways:

  • Keep submitting to open calls. Rejection happens! That’s ok. Don’t take it personally and keep pitching.
  • Be an active part of the community.
  • Write, revise, proofread, and hit your deadlines. People will want to work with you again.
  • Create, create, create for yourself before someone asks you to do it for them. You’ll learn your craft and build a library of content to show off or even sell.
  • Go to conventions. Meet your heroes, ask them for advice. This industry is smaller than you think and people are super approachable and awesome.

Luck and Hard Work

I clearly owe a lot of people many thanks. I could not have made it to even where I am today without them. My timing worked out and I was very lucky, but I also created some of my own luck by working hard. Hopefully this story helps some of you out there!

If you like what you’re reading please follow me on Twitter, like World Builder Blog on Facebook, 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 few weeks ago I was running a game in my homebrew setting Exploration Age. The characters were on a beach slinging ranged attacks at an approaching metal warship full of anarchist dragonborn. That’s when Vegas Lancaster, who plays Ichabod Dragonsblood, drow bard, asked, “Hey can I cast heat metal on the warship?”

I laughed. “I don’t think the spell can heat up a warship.”

Vegas shot back, “Well it says, ‘Choose a manufactured metal object, such as a metal weapon or a suit of heavy or medium metal armor, that you can see within range. You cause the object to glow red-hot.’ No real parameters on the object otherwise.”

I’m sure this was one of those moments where rules as written clashed with rules as intended. The Dungeons and Dragons default assumption is that most boats, buildings, and other large objects aren’t made of metal so this would never come up. I didn’t realize I’d break the game with my (admittedly ridiculous) battleship.

Since there were plenty of other enormous metal objects in the party’s future, I didn’t want to say yes outright. I also didn’t want to kill a player’s cool idea, so I said, “You can heat the entire ship… if you use an 8th level spell slot.” Vegas agreed and the dragonborn fried.

That got me thinking about how spells could be used with higher level spell slots to do things beyond their normal description and the “at higher levels” description. I came up with a rough system below. Let me know what you think! I’m definitely still playing with it.

Using Higher Level Spell Slots

When it comes to using higher level spell slots in creative ways, there are two things I’m keeping in mind:

  1. I don’t want to step on the sorcerer’s toes. Metamagic is one of the sorcerer’s biggest class features. I’m not going to try to replicate what exclusively belongs to that class.
  2. Warlocks are use higher level spell slots to cast lower level spells. Pact Magic means a high-level warlock is always using 5th level spell slots to cast spells. While this won’t have too great an impact, since the intent is for warlocks to be able to cast a few powerful spells between short rests, I am still going to keep an eye on this, particularly as it pertains to spells that don’t already have an “at higher level” effect.
Increase Area of Effect

Spells that have an area of effect which is a cone, cube, cylinder, line, or sphere, and already contain an “at higher levels” effect in their description are eligible for this spell slot upgrade, which is used in place of the current “at higher levels” effect. The spell’s area of effect dimensions are doubled when the spell is cast using a spell slot two levels higher than the spell’s initial casting slot.

Eschew Materials

Spells that have a material component for which there is no cost listed are eligible for this spell slot upgrade, which is used in place of any current “at higher levels” effect. The material component is not required to cast the spell if the spell is cast using a spell slot one level higher than the spell’s initial casting slot.

Change Save

Spells that require a saving throw are eligible for this spell slot upgrade, which is used in place of any current “at higher levels” effect. If the spell requires a Constitution, Dexterity, or Wisdom saving throw, you can change the save to be one of the others in that list if the spell is cast using a spell slot two levels higher than the spell’s initial slot. If the spell requires a Strength, Intelligence, or Charisma saving throw, you can change the save to be any other save if the spell is cast using a spell slot two levels higher than the spell’s initial slot. You must describe how your spell has changed to require this new save.

Change Damage Type

Spells that deal damage are eligible for this spell slot upgrade, which is used in place of any current “at higher levels” effect. You can change the damage type of the spell to any other damage type if the spell is cast using a spell slot two levels higher than the spell’s initial slot.

Increase Effect

At the DM’s discretion, you can increase the effect of a spell to make it more potent. You propose how you’d like to use the spell. For instance you might say, “I’d to target a creature with and Intelligence score of less than 4 with Tasha’s hideous laughter,” or, “I want to block both undead and fiends with my magic circle.” The DM then determines if this action is possible and if so, what level spell slot should be used to create the desired effect.

To decide which slot should be used, DM’s should first ask, “Does this new effect come close to the effect of another spell?” If the answer is yes, then the spell slot required should be that comparable’s spell’s level plus two. For instance, if a character wants to shape a fireball spell into a 60-foot-cone, that’s an area similar to the 5th-level cone of cold spell, so the DM might tell the character this is possible using a 7th-level slot.

If the desired effect isn’t similar to any spell that already exists, then think about the scale sliding in powers of two. If the change is rather minor, it should cost a spell slot two levels higher than the initial casting. If it is a major change, it should cost four levels higher than the initial casting. If the change completely redefines what the spell can do, it should cost six levels higher than the initial casting. DMs should let the player know this is an experimental process and that rulings may change.

In all cases the spell should gain no other benefits from the higher level casting than what the player and DM agree upon.

If you like what you’re reading please follow me on Twitter, like World Builder Blog on Facebook, 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!

Have you ever sat down to run a D&D game and thought, “Oh crap. What am I gonna do? Why didn’t I prepare ANYTHING?” This happened to me sometimes as a kid and now it happens more than I care to admit as an adult. People get busy. There’s chores to be done, work to be accomplished, family obligations, social obligations, and more. These commitments also often get in the way of actual game time, so I’d rather run a game unprepared because who knows when the next time we’ll get to play is? Not only that, my players have cleared time on their schedules and made a commitment to the game. I don’t want to let them down. At the same time I don’t to run a bad game either which can be a result of unpreparedness. What’s a DM to do? You should prepare to be unprepared.

This blog post provides a few tricks you can try for those games when you couldn’t even spare the last-minute prep.

Read Adventures

Having an adventure you can pull off the shelf that you’ve already read makes life easy when you haven’t prepped. As a bonus, reading a well-written D&D adventure can be just as enjoyable as reading a book. Yet where can we find the time for pleasurable reading? We don’t even have time to prep our games! Fear not, there’s some solutions. First try multitasking. If you commute using public transportation or get a little cardio in on a treadmill or bike during the week, these are perfect times to read an adventure. If neither of those things work for you, remember – everyone poops.

I know reading the Wizards of the Coast hardcover D&D adventures can seem daunting. If you don’t have the time, desire, or money to read one, you don’t have to do that. There are tons of adventures you can for free (like on this site or found in Dragon+) or very cheap on the DMs guild or DriveThruRPG. Ratings and rankings can help you discover which adventures are well written as can the in-depth reviews from Merric’s Musings. If you’ve got time to scroll through social media, odds are you have time to read a short adventure.

As you read an adventure, the best thing to do is mark segments and encounters you really love. You just slap a quick post it note on a hard copy or place a bookmark on a PDF. When the fateful day comes that you’re unprepared you’ll be able to grab what you need and go. You don’t need to use the whole adventure, just take the parts you like (more on that below).

If you’re playing a longer campaign with a connected story, you can still make use of published encounters and adventures. Some simple re-flavoring (or re-skinning) will make everything fit in your story. For example, let’s say you’re running a story in which giants are the main antagonists, but you really want to use a red dragon encounter from Rise of Tiamat. Simply re-flavor the red dragon to be fire giant eldritch knight (the breath weapon and flight abilities are spells and the attacks are various weapons and stomps). The minions can likely stay the same. Boom. No math required. It’s all done on the fly.

Steal, Steal, Steal from Podcasts and Web Series

In a world full of actual play and advice podcasts and web videos, it’s even easier to multitask. The Adventure Zone, Total Party ThrillCritical Role, Behind the DMs Screen on The Tome Show, Venture MaidensDice, Camera, Action, and more have lots of folks playing or talking about their D&D campaigns. If you’re hurting for an idea, there’s absolutely no shame in stealing from these properties, especially if your players aren’t part of the audience of the property you’re stealing from. Even then you can make an idea work, provided you add a bit of a twist of your own or apply some of that reskinning.

Practice Improv

When you do have time to prepare, build a little improv into your game. Maybe write the first and last scene for a session, but let the players decide how to get from beginning to end. You can use random tables in the Dungeon Master’s Guide and have a few of the resources listed below ready to roll as a safety net. If you don’t feel comfortable doing that, maybe just have a single improvised scene and go from there. Improvisational storytelling is a muscle. Work it out, build it up, and you’ll be ready if you find yourself running a game for which you did not prepare.

Save What You Don’t Use

Sometimes players go off the rails, causing you to throw out what you’ve prepared. Don’t walk away from that sweet kobold dungeon just because your players decided to hunt pirates on the high seas. Keep that for your less-than-prepared day.

Let the Players Take the Reins

If you haven’t prepared anything and feel comfortable with improv, let your players decide where the story goes next. Maybe they have downtime between adventures and decide to pursue a plot thread from one of their backstories or an enemy that got away during a previous quest. Maybe they have a dark relic that they want to figure out how to destroy. Maybe they want to blow off the main quest anyway and hunt pirates. If this is the case, ask lots of questions at the start and listen to the players as they respond. Let them construct the plan of action. Ask what they want to do and how they want to accomplish it. Take notes and answer any of their questions and you’re ready to roll. For some players it might be weird to open up a game by asking, “What do YOU want to do?” but once they realize what’s happening, most will love it.

Find Products Made Just For This

In addition to the resources listed in this post, you might also want to checkout Kobold Press’ Prepared! by Jon Sawatsky and the Book of Lairs. The former is a book of encounters and the latter is a book of dungeons. Put ’em together and you got game nights to spare! I also recommend two products by Michael E. Shea of Sly FlourishFantastic Locations gives you a bunch of amazing abstract locations that can be turned into dungeons large and small. His latest (currently) ongoing Kickstarter for Fantastic Adventures is a bunch of short one-shot D&D adventures with fun twists and turns. This book can be used with Fantastic Locations to really flesh out adventures and have an awesome experience.

If you like what you’re reading please follow me on Twitter, like World Builder Blog on Facebook, 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!

Last year I gave not one, but two status updates about my sales on the Dungeon Master’s Guild. I’ve got several pay what you want products in addition to a few paid products now on the guild. One of those paid products is the D&D Adventurers League adventure DDAL 05-05 A Dish Best Served Cold which is an official part of the Storm King’s Thunder storyline. (You can find Travis Woodall’s amazing Deluxe Maps for the adventure here.) People have been asking me to do another update and share my AL sales. I’m more than happy to do that.

First Let’s Take A Look At Pay What You Want One More Time

Below are all my sale numbers including free downloads of my pay what you want products:

And here are the sale numbers with paid purchases only:

For reference, the pay what you want products are:

*Free purchases are not factored into a pay what you want product’s average payment.

So it seems a lot of my assumptions about pay what you want products vs paid products hold true after over a year. Pay what you want products see lots of downloads and get your name out there. They can quickly become “best sellers” since any sale of $0.01 or more counts towards your numbers. Sounds great, right? Yet one year in and I’ve still made less than $0.01 a word on these products. Any further releases I have on the DMs Guild will likely be paid only.

If you want to know more about why I made my initial products pay what you want, see my first post on this topic. I’ve learned tons about layout, editing, and art acquisition since I started posting products on the DMs Guild, so future products will not only be paid, but they should also be of a superior quality to my pay what you want products.

Let’s Talk About Adventurers League Adventures

When it comes to making paid products, sales skyrocket if a product is part of the main D&D Adventurers League storyline. A Dish Best Served Cold has only been up since November 1, 2016, yet has over 1000 sales and is already close to Platinum Best Seller status. Add to that the fact that adventure designers make 60% commission on their D&D Adventurers League adventures if they were published in season five or later and it is by far my biggest money-maker, despite the fact that it has roughly 1/10th the downloads of 50 New Magic Items.

Now the question becomes, does this hold true for adventures in the convention created content program? Not as much.

If you don’t know what the convention created content program is, here’s a nutshell description. Wizards of the Coast allows conventions to create adventures set in the Moonsea region of the Forgotten Realms. Those adventures are then played at the convention that created them, are considered Adventurers League legal, and can be sold on the DMs Guild after the convention.

Many of the same folks who work on the main D&D Adventurers League adventures also write the con created content. The con created content adventures are often just as professional and put together as the main Adventurers League adventures, yet they have lower sales. I wrote a con created content adventure called Tales of Good & Evil for Baldman Games that premiered at Gen Con. It’s been available to the public since December 2016. While I don’t have the exact sale numbers, I can tell you that they are somewhere between 100 and 260 sales, since it’s a Silver Best Seller at the moment (more on best seller medals below).

Now, that doesn’t mean writing con created content isn’t worth it. First of all, it’s a blast to write in the Forgotten Realms and to share that story with players everywhere. Second, that’s a published adventure with your name on it, baby! I’m so proud of Tales of Good & Evil and it allowed me to work with an amazing team of people. (Don’t tell Shawn Merwin, but I would have done it for free.) If we’re talking financially, Baldman Games made sure designers were taken care of. In addition to a commission split that is handled by Baldman (which is why I don’t see the exact number of sales… that’s in their hands), Baldman also paid me an up front fee for my words. So yes, working on con created content does indeed pay, despite smaller sales.

Medals

After having products on the DMs Guild for over a year I feel confident saying the following numbers and medals correspond. It appears to take medals several hours to update, so if you just hit one of these numbers, give it a day or two.

  • Copper. 50 paid sales
  • Silver. 100 paid sales
  • Electrum. 260 paid sales
  • Gold. 525 paid sales
  • Platinum. 1050 paid sales

How do I know this? At the moment, here are my own medals.

My copper best sellers are:

My silver best sellers is:

I have no electrum best sellers at the moment, but I do have two gold:

Finally, my two platinum best sellers are:

Ratings and Reviews

Ratings and reviews are tough to come by on the DMs Guild, and even more difficult to get organically. When I was starting out, I asked friends to take a look at and rate honestly my pay what you want products, so keep that in mind when you see the numbers below.

Here’s how my reviews are stacking up:

  • 15 New Backgrounds – 36 ratings, 8 of which include a written review (up since Jan 22, 2016)
  • 20 New Traps – 20 ratings, 3 of which include a written review (up since February 8, 2016)
  • 50 New Magic Items – 32 ratings, 3 of which include a written review (up since February 18, 2016)
  • Arachnids, Wraiths, & Zombies – 8 ratings, 1 of which includes a written review (up since March 9, 2016)
  • Archons – 13 ratings, 1 of which includes a written review (from a personal friend) on (up since January 19, 2016)
  • Catastrophic Dragons – 23 ratings, 5 of which include a written review (up since January 19, 2016)
  • Greater & Elder Elementals – 13 ratings, 0 of which include a written review on Greater & Elder Elements (up since February 1, 2016)
  • Tarokka Expansion 2 ratings, 1 of which includes a written review (up since June 1, 2016)
  • A Dish Best Served Cold – 7 ratings, 1 of which includes a written review (up since November 1, 2016)
  • Tales of Good & Evil – 2 ratings, 1 of which includes a written review (up since December 2016)

I will say that my free and pay what you want products have more reviews than my paid products, even when you take into account the five friends I asked to rate things for me (not all of whom actually did because they didn’t have time to read the products). It MAY be that a small number of people who download for free take the time to leave a rating (essentially giving their time instead of their cash to a product).

So there you have. The latest update on the DMs Guild. Anyone else out there having success? Did I get anything wrong? Is this information helpful to you? Sound off in the comments below!

If you like what you’re reading please follow me on Twitter, like World Builder Blog on Facebook, 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!

Today 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. Today we enter the world of undead plants! (You read that right). You might say, “Whoa, James. Plants that are evil and dead? C’mon.” To that I’d say, “Of course, dear reader. Haven’t you ever seen Evil Dead? The most terrifying scene involves trees (that are presumably both evil and dead).”

It is with great pleasure that I now show off vampiric vines.

Vampiric Vine

Vampiric vines are sentient clusters of black thorned vines that thirst for the blood of the living. When a plant dies as the result of necrotic magic and its seeds are scatter on desecrated ground, these vines grow forth and eventually uproot themselves and crawl out into the night in search of a drink.

Nocturnal Hunters. During the day, a tangle of vampiric vines stays in the desecrated dirt from which it sprung forth. At night, the undead plant crawls forth, looking for unsuspecting creatures and an easy meal before returning home. The vines leave the bodies of their drained victims behind, sometimes causing panic that a den of vampires is nearby, attacking the land at night.

Hidden in Plain Sight. Vampiric vines appear to be normal dead brush when at rest. If a victim wanders into a lair, the vine waits until it is within striking distance and then pounces.

Save Snacks for Later. Vampiric vines are surprisingly strong, and will sometimes drain enough blood from a victim to drop it unconscious and then drag the prey back to its lair for more feeding later. Sometimes vampiric vines will feed off a victim for days before drinking enough blood to kill it.

Want the Stats?

Get them in the PDF below or grab them anytime on the Free Game Resources page. These stats are in playtest mode, so I’d love any feedback you have for me!

Vampiric Vines

If you like what you’re reading please follow me on Twitter, like World Builder Blog on Facebook, 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!

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In the last two weeks, I showed off some new undead (skeletal dragons and husks), to help fill the undead Challenge Rating gaps in the fifth edition Dungeons and Dragons Monster Manual for my world of Enora. Today I’m continuing the parade of new undead with vampire dragons!

Vampiric Dragon

Vampiric dragons are the unfathomable result of dragons undergoing transitions to become potent, blood-sucking undead. Of the few such terrors that exist, most underwent the transition willingly. There are many reasons for a dragon to become a vampire, fear of death and increased power chief among them.

Vampiric Qualities. Like humanoid vampires, vampiric dragons do not cast shadows or reflections and have a thirst for blood. In their normal state, they are generally undistinguishable from their dragon counterparts who are not undead. Unlike normal vampires, vampiric dragons do not need to be invited to enter a residence and have nothing to fear from running water.

Feed and Slumber. When vampiric dragons feed, they can ravage miles of countryside or an entire city in a single night. Their thirst for blood is nigh insatiable, and a vampiric dragon can devastate an entire province before it slumbers, creating armies of vampire spawn to guard its lair.

Relief comes when the dragon decides to rest. Finally satiated, the beast enters a long slumber of one-hundred years before it wakes to feed again.

Undead Nature. Vampiric dragons do not require air. Since they have nothing to fear from running water and no need to breathe, many make their lairs deep in bodies of water.

Want the Template and as Sample Vampiric Dragon?

Here you go. I put them into a nice little PDF for you:

Vampiric Dragons

If you like what you’re reading please follow me on Twitter, like World Builder Blog on Facebook, 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!

dragon-1957809

Last week, I wrote about my desire to create more undead of varying challenge ratings. I need a ton of these rotting beasties for my world of Enora. Up next are skeletal dragons!

By the way, if you like these baddies, you might enjoy my zombie dragons available on the DMs Guild in the pay-what-you-want product Arachnids, Wraiths, and Zombies.

Dragon Skeletons

Animating the bones of a dragon is no small feat. A huge infusion of dark magic must be brought to bear to make the skeleton of an ancient wyrm rise. Even more power is required to maintain control over the bones. While such beasts are most often created by intentional rituals, if a dragon’s grave is desecrated, over the course of a century or more dark magic can seep into the bones. This causes the skeleton to rise and wreak havoc on the world of living for no reason other than it was not allowed to rest.

Not Your Average Skeleton. Dragon skeletons are more mentally capable than their boney counterparts. They can think critically and improvise. These undead sometimes lead other minions as a result.

Undead Nature. A dragon skeleton doesn’t require air, food, drink, or sleep.

Want the Stats?

Here you go. I put them into a nice little PDF for you:

Skeletal Dragons

If you like what you’re reading please follow me on Twitter, like World Builder Blog on Facebook, 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!

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As I’ve said before, I’m starting to make some progress in my world of Enora, where undead rule the surface of the planet! There’s just one monster of a problem with this idea: the fifth edition Dungeons and Dragons Monster Manual has a serious Challenge Rating gap when it comes to undead. There’s a handful of Challenge 5 undead and then it jumps to 13 with the vampire. What’s a DM with a taste for rotting flesh to do when hankering for some good mid-level baddies (not to mention during the thinner highest levels of the game)? Time to put on the necromancer hat and make some new fifth edition undead!

Over the next few weeks, I’ll be revealing some of my creations and asking for your critiques and feedback. Let me know what you think! These critters are in playtest mode. First up is the husk.

Husks

Husks are the undead shell of a creature, animated skin and muscle of surprising strength that do the bidding of their creators. Many necromancers see these horrid creations as a two-for-one deal that does not waste a corpse’s fleshy parts after animating a skeleton. Husks are loyal to the wielders of dark magic who create them, but sometimes these undead rise of their own accord in places where mass murder occurs. Husks without a master desire only the death of other creatures.

Created by Power. Only the most powerful necromancers and most atrocious acts of murder can create a husk. The creatures require a massive amount of dark energy to move without a skeleton. Having a husk servant is a point of pride for evil spellcasters. The larger the husk, the more dangerous the master.

Insatiable Desire to Kill. Even husks who are bound to masters have a strong desire to murder any living creatures they come across. A husk’s master can feel this desire and only those necromancers with the strongest wills do not give into this temptation themselves. For many dark wizards giving into the temptation is not a problem at all.

Murder Victims Only. Husks can only be created from corpses that were murdered in cold blood. Many necromancers kidnap victims and murder them one at a time when they are learning the ritual required to create a husk. Husks that rise on their own usually do so in groups, and only in places of sorrow after a mass slaying has occurred. Beyond this requirement, any creature with skin and flesh may become a husk.

Size Matters. Most husks of a given size have the same abilities. A husk that was once a human and a husk that was once a panther are statistically the same, but they might move, smell, and sound very different from one another.

Undead Nature. A husk doesn’t require air, food, drink, or sleep.

Want the Stats?

Here you go. I put them into a nice little PDF for you:

Husks

If you like what you’re reading please follow me on Twitter, like World Builder Blog on Facebook, 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 a new year! Here’s hoping it brings you gaming goodness.

I’ve been doing a lot of thinking and running games in Exploration Age since this blog started. I feel I have enough material to publish a book, but it need a lot of work – editing, layout, development, and it’d be great to get some playtesting feedback. The book will most-likely be a massive endeavor unlike any I’ve taken on. I’ve never even created a print product on my own!

To that end, I’ve decided to switch my focus for a while to a smaller world so that I can get my feet wet. Exploration Age will not go away. I’ll still be playing games in that wonderful world, but it may be some time before consumers get their mitts on it. So with that in mind, I want to focus on the smaller, but evocative world of Enora the Bound Sky.

What is Enora?

I’ve already written about this world in two different posts, One-Hour Worldbuilding and 5 Campaign Worlds for Your Next D&D Game. If you want a quick summary, read on below!

Six floating cities hover above the darkness of Enora in Bound Sky. Once a prosperous nation, Enora was home to humans, elves, halflings, gnomes, and dragonborn. The country was run by the Dordune, a council of mage governors, each acting as the leader of one of Enora’s thirteen major cities. Beneath Enora’s surface, the nation’s dwarf and tiefling allies lived happily in the kingdom of Drakefire. Except for the occasional marauding gnoll pack or angry dragon, all was well in Enora. Any threats which appeared were dealt with swiftly and efficiently by the Dordune.

Fifty years ago Governor Kira Vae, an elf wizard, was nearing the end of her long life. Some say fear of death gripped the governor, others say it was an unsatiated lust for power. Whatever the reason, Vae transformed herself into a lich. The transformation warped her mind, seeding a dark hatred of all life in her heart. The lich declared herself Empress of Enora. Empress Vae turned the citizens of her city, Cambor, into an undead army. The rest of Enora tried to stand against the threat, but so sudden and severe did the undead strike that seven of Enora’s cities fell to Vae.

Every victory added more soldiers to her undead ranks. Messengers were sent to Drakefire, asking for military against the undead legions, but the underground kingdom was already over run by Vae’s minions. Any survivors from Drakefire had already fled even deeper underground by the time the messengers arrived.

As the armies of Empress Vae closed around Enora’s six remaining cities, the Dordune made a decision to enact a powerful ritual which raised the cities and their people into the sky away from Vae and her undead. Away from a fight they knew they could not win. As the cities rose, Vae swore to eradicate the rest of Enora’s living. She is eternal as is her hate for all people who defy her.

Now the six floating cities of Deldoroth find themselves safe from Empress Vae’s undead, but they have their own troubles. With limited land to produce resources, the six cities have begun treating each other more like separate countries than one cooperative nation. The Dordune have disbanded and each governor acts as a city’s monarch. As competition for food, water, and shelter grows each day, many less fortunate turn to a life of crime or legal savagery to survive. Airships transporting goods from one city to another are wary of pirates, and many make a killing or die trying in the cities’ gladiatorial arenas (which were introduced by the governors to help control population growth).

Beneath Deldoroth, dead Enora can no longer be seen. Thick layers of black clouds hang between the floating cities and the surface. The undead built massive stoves and constantly pipe ash into the sky to blot out the sun they hate so much. Sometimes at night the victorious howls of the undead can be heard through the blackness by the people of Deldoroth. It is an unsettling reminder that Enora is no longer their home and what drove them out long ago still hungers for them.

The situation underground is no better. Resources are scarce in Redwind, the last remaining city of Drakefire. Plenty of unsavory beasts that burrow made their way underground when the undead took the surface. Everyday the hoard bangs on Redwind’s doors and it is only a matter of time before they break through and devour the residents… if disease or starvation doesn’t take them first.

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This map of Enora before the fall made on Roll20 using Russ Hapke‘s Old World Style Maps

So in the coming weeks, prepare to hear more about the world of Enora. In the meantime, may I present for your consideration…. the dwiefling PC race. This is in its rough stages, so take a look and let me know what you think!

Dwiefling

In the crowded city of Redwind, some dwarves and tieflings have married, producing dwiefling offspring. Dwieflings walk in multiple worlds like other mixed races, but because they grow up in a densely packed city from which there is no escape, they cannot run from odd looks, name-calling, and occasional violent reactions. Though most know taking on a dwiefling mano a mano is a dangerous idea, since they have the toughness of dwarves, the suspicious nature of tieflings, and the self-reliant values of both parents. They are versatile and dangerous adventurers who dare to wander the unsafe halls of Drakefire’s fallen cities. The boldest dwieflings make trips to the surface to scout for more resources and spy on the undead legions of Empress Vae.

Devilish Dwarves

Dwieflings have the basic body structure of dwarves, but stand a bit taller. They are just about 5 feet tall, stout, and compact, weighing 200 to 300 pounds. Many share the blunt tongue of their dwarf ancestors as well. Yet there is no hiding the infernal blood of this race. They have the horns and pupil-less eyes of a tiefling, though they lack a tail. Their skin is often purple, red, brown, or black. Perhaps the most unique feature of dwieflings is complete hairlessness. They do not have a single follicle on their heads, faces, or bodies, including eyebrows.

Reliable and Short-Tempered

A life as outcasts in a city they cannot leave makes dwieflings suspicious of everyone they interact with at first. Most people find them closed off, or even cold. A dwiefling’s trust is difficult to gain, but once it is won, there is no greater ally. They place great importance on the bonds shared with their few close friends, and fiercely defend those allies with a passionate tenacity. Those closest to a dwiefling can even engage their friend in a reasoned debated, something that many fear to attempt with good reason.

The temper of dwieflings is legendary. Most carry an innate anger and explode with words, fists, or spells when provoked, particularly when their heritage is mocked. This causes many closet racists to just give a passing dwiefling a funny look, while other bigots ignite that infamous temper to start a fight for amusement. The latter often regret this decision, since the sturdy dwieflings rarely lose.

Outcast Artists In Crowded Tunnels

Because dwieflings and their parents are often shunned by others in Redwind, most try to keep to themselves. They lurk in dark corners or small alleys, pursuing artistic crafting hobbies, reading ancient lore, or practicing with steel or magic. Dwieflings sometimes pursue these self-taught skills to the point of obsession and become experts in these crafts, though no one else may know it.

Dwiefling Names

Dwieflings usually have a dwarf or tiefling name, given to them by one of their parents.

Dwiefling Traits

Your dwiefling character has the following racial traits.

Ability Score Increase. Your Strength, Constitution, and Intelligence scores each increase by 1.

Age. Dwieflings mature more slowly than humans and are considered adults at around age 25. They can live for 150 years.

Alignment. Dwieflings tend to trust in themselves and are very loyal to the few friends they make. They often favor a neutral alignment.

Size. Dwieflings stand about 5 feet tall and weigh around 250 pounds. Your size is Medium.

Speed. Your base walking speed is 30 feet.

Darkvision. Your infernal heritage and dwarf blood grant you superior vision in dark and dim conditions. You can see in dim light within 60 feet of you as if it were bright light, and in darkness as if it were dim light. You can’t discern color in darkness, only shades of gray.

Expanded Knowledge. You gain proficiency in one set of artisan’s tools or melee weapon of your choice or one of the following skills: Arcana, History, Nature, or Religion.

Hellish Bind. When a creature hits you with an attack that deals damage, you can use your reaction to force that creature to make a Wisdom saving throw as your pain imparts psychic visions of torture to it. The DC for this saving throw equals 8 + your Constitution modifier + your proficiency bonus. On a failure, the creature is stunned until the end of its next turn. After you use Hellish Bind, you cannot use it again until you finish a long rest.

Menacing. You gain proficiency in the Intimidation skill.

Languages. You can speak, read, and write Common, Dwarvish, and Infernal.

If you like what you’re reading please follow me on Twitter, like World Builder Blog on Facebook, 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!

If you’ve been following my podcast on The Tome Show Network, The Round Table, then odds are you already know some pieces of the news I’m going to share. Rudy Basso and I have started a new gaming podcast network called Don’t Split the Podcast Network. Look for the launch in January 2017.

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Leaving The Tome Show

In order to pursue this new venture, something had to give. Rudy and I will no longer host any podcasts on The Tome Show. Our departure from the network is a very amicable one. I consider Jeff Greiner, owner and creator of The Tome Show, a great human being and friend. He gave me the opportunity to create a new podcast on his network with a huge built-in subscriber base he had grown over years. This is not to be overlooked or taken for granted. Jeff is a positive force in the industry. He doesn’t shy away from tough subjects and celebrates all things games with a genuine love for fun. Rudy and I do not leave the network lightly. We give Jeff and the entire Tome Show crew our thanks, our love, and our high-fives as we exit. (And just because we won’t be hosting any shows doesn’t mean we won’t be back to visit and give our two cents on one of their podcasts!)

While Rudy’s podcast, D&D V&G is wrapping up, the ones I hosted will still be on the network. The host of Gamer to Gamer is currently uncertain, but I know Jeff has some plans in the works, including possibly hosting the monthly podcast himself!

If you don’t already know, then I’m happy as a kobold in a cave to tell you that Topher Kohan will be taking over the hosting duties of The Round Table. Topher and I have been friends for years and no one is more tapped into what’s happening in the world of Dungeons and Dragons than he. Topher has written for CNN’s Geek Out! Blog, got an exclusive look at fifth edition before the public playtest, and served as the South East Regional Coordinator for the D&D Adventurers League. We are cohosting two podcasts together before I go, both of which have already been recorded. I can honestly say that Topher is far more qualified for the job of hosting The Round Table than I ever was. In addition to being a D&D expert, Topher is a great friend, amazing host, and a gamer that you should be ecstatic to spend hours listening to. I know I am.

The Future: Don’t Split the Podcast Network

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I’m leaving The Tome Show, but I’ll be starting right up with a new podcast. The overlap is so seamless, you won’t miss my dolcet tones at all. On January 2, 2017 I’ll cohost my final Round Table and the first full episode of my new show, Table Top Babble, will premiere. The first one is a doozy too. It’s a big, fat, juicy interview with none other than Mike Mearls, one of the lead designers of fifth edition D&D. I was so excited to sit down with Mike and pick his brain about everything from upcoming Unearthed Arcana to the D&D movie. Table Top Babble will have a new episode each week that features advice, reviews, interviews, and more from industry experts and panelists about all your favorite RPGs. You can start subscribing if you’re on iTunes or Stitcher and listen to a quick episode 0. Here’s the RSS feed. Google Play coming soon!

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Of course, my new show isn’t the only new one on the network. Have Spellbook, Will Travel will be brought under the Don’t Split the Podcast umbrella. If you haven’t been listening to the scripted comedy podcast based on our D&D games, now is a perfect time to catch up. The story is really heating up and turning into something special. Our voice actors are talented, the editing is superb, and if you like me, I do some writing and acting on it. This is truly a brilliant podcast from the mind of Rudy Basso.

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Speaking of my good buddy, Rudy and his brother Alex will be launching a new video game podcast in 2017 called Game O’Clock. Game O’Clock is both retrospective and modern examination of video games. Every month, the lifelong gamers and brothers focus on a specific genre and spend a week each looking at its history, highlights/lowlights, their personal favorites within it, and the game they wish someone would make. They’ll always be joined by a knowledgable guest and friend to round out the discussion and bring a unique perspective.

This is the start of something special and exciting that’s been in the works for a long time. I’m excited to share it with you and there is at least one more podcast to reveal in the coming week!

If you like what you’re reading please follow me on Twitter, like World Builder Blog on Facebook, 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!