Xanathar’s Guide to Everything: First Impressions

I feel this is one the best reviews to date I’ve had the chance to read. Rather than write my own since I’m being consumed with the National Novel Writing Month and suggest you take the time and read this one. The Kind GM has always provide exellent reviews.

JT

The Kind GM

I had other plans for today but I feel I must do this.

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NewbieDM Review: Tomb of Annihilation

Take a moment and read this review. It’s extremely well done and the Author has done a great job. My own thoughts towards the adventure are that it’s right up there with Storm Kings Thunder. The major difference between TOA and SKT is that I’m very sure I will get to use the entire book for TOA.

JT

www. Newbie DM .com

I’m going to get it out of the way before I even begin the review… I love Tomb of Annihilation. I think it is the best big adventure Wizards of the Coast has put out in the last decade, and it sets a high bar for future 5e adventures and stories. It’s 5e firing on all cylinders, with a rich and diverse world hosting an epic storyline filled with classic D&D tropes, monsters, and big bad evil bad guys.

Yes, I recommend it. Lets get to the review.

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Tomb of Annihilation is WOTC’s latest hardcover, an epic 256 page pulp adventure set in the jungles of Chult, a mostly uncharted peninsula in the southern Forgotten Realms. It takes inspiration from classic D&D adventures like Hidden Shrine of Tamoachan, Isle of Dread, and the classic deathtrap Tomb of Horrors, which ties into this adventure in a big way. It also takes…

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TTRPG Friends and Followers

Each one of you is special and if you are reading this you’ve made a positive impact in the world.

I’ve been play games for most of my life, minus my toddler years.

Over those decades, one thing I have always found is that people that play table top role playing games are some of the most accepting people on the planet.  They make space at the table for anyone who shows an interest in learning how to play.  They share their knowledge of different games and do so with passion.

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Table top role players are not the average gamer.  They have made a hobby out of it.  Constantly trying out new games with a circle of friends, often writing their own content and rules to suit the various play styles.

The earlier years of Dungeon and Dragons you saw that strange group of people at your school.  Sometimes they were the outcasts and kids who never really fit into a certain social group.  But at a game table no one was left out.  Everyone was welcome.  College was the same a few decades ago, and if you were lucky enough to find a group sitting around a table you were welcome. They were more than happy to have you join.  When the groups became large, it split into two or three group but all played together.  They shared stories and laughed about their adventures.

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Today you can see Wizards of the Coast with their pride banner saying everyone is accepted and welcome.   Game stores everywhere with Adventure League nights, and no one is turned away, and the people are amazing.

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We live in a world that still has too much distrust and hatred for my liking.  Maybe people should play more games to together and spend less time on social media, I don’t really have an answer.  I can tell you that those people I have met through social media on Twitter and Facebook are some truly awesome folks who really care about their hobby and of other people.

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I have never seen a person turned away from a table of gamers.  It doesn’t matter who you are and where you came from, there is a table ready for you. If you play a Kender you might get a few dirty looks.  No one likes those Kender things, and know that your party will kill you or you’ll be eaten by a troll.

I still have my friends from my first game and each year I have added more to the list.  These are my closet friends and nothing could every replace them.

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Thank you for following and sharing your unique worlds of adventure.

JT

Fudging Dice behind the Screen

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The DM fudging dice rolls behind the screen has always been a topic of debate.  There are a lot of reason why a dungeon Master might fudge a roll but is it right or ethical?

There are so many reason why you might be tempted to fudge a roll behind your screen.   I want to cover the most common ones from least important to the most critical reason you might be faced as a DM.  There are lot of times when you want to cheat with your dice and these are just a few examples of when and not the only reason why.

To drive the story

There are times when your story needs that player to find the thing, and without the thing your story ends and leaves the players wondering where to go.   A good example is having the hidden thing behind a magically locked door and they missed an important key to four rooms ago.  You allow the rogue to try and pick the lock or the wizard to make an arcana check to see if the figure it out.   Both of them fail the check, and you are now stuck.  You end up lowering the DC value you had put in place to allow them to succeed and continue along the way.   You may not have changed the roll but you have allowed the outcome to change.

Failure is a big part of the game and just as important as success.  If success was the only outcome the players would soon become bored.   Let them fail and provide something new.  The ability to think your feet will help you with this.   Have a plan B ready to go just in case the party fails something important.

The Power Player

You have that one power player who can bash your poor minions to bits and never gets hit due to a high Armour Class.   To combat this you change your rolls to critical and add damage to your rolls.  You are trying to make it a challenge for the power player.   There are Dungeon Masters that use the constant hits and extra damage as a punishment to players who have min/max characters designed to beat certain types of creatures and with defeating the DM’s normal array of traps and bad guys.   Changing dice rolls or having this player hit regardless of the roll is normal action for a frustrated DM.

IMG_5419Don’t change the rolls.  Adjust the encounters and perhaps add a few custom beast that have resistance to certain power player weapons and abilities.   Everyone has a weakness.

If you have an issue with a min/max player there is always a weakness to exploit without having to fudge your dice rolls.  You can always change encounters up that make one of the other players shine.   There is a difference between a DM who challenges you to your limits, and one that is actively trying to kill you.

Saving a Players life

downloadThis has to be the number one dice alternating scenario.  You have that player who is down to 2 hit points and you roll a hit doing damage enough to start making the character begin the death saving roll cycle.  It’s one of the most difficult situations to be put in.   You are about to potential kill one of you players characters.  Its heart pulling.  That player maybe very attached to the character.  You turn that hit into a miss to save the character.

Sometime characters die.  Sometime the characters are a favorite of yours and the party.  Sometimes a player made the mistake of naming his character Sean Bean setting into motion the eventful death that was sure to follow.  Character death is part of the story and it happens.  There is lots of information on how to treat character death so I won’t touch on it.  It shapes the other characters and may create a whole story that didn’t exist before.

Those little plastic poly shaped objects are not just there for show, and give the players something to play with when it’s not their turn.  They represent the random element that happens in life.

As an example:   You’re driving down an icy road after stopping off to get your morning coffee.  You decide to take the risk of trying to take a sip of that yummy and delicious wake up liquid.  You make a DEX check to balance the coffee in your hand and fail.  The coffee spills all over your lap and you need to make a CON save to handle the pain of hot coffee on your sensitive parts. You fail and lose control of the car on the icy road.  You make another DEX with disadvantage because of the icy roads.  Natural 20… yeah you are going to be fine, minus a few points of damage and your evening date plan ruined.  All of those rolls have an impact on how you are molded as a character.

Those rolls you and your players make, create the story and define the outcome of events.  When you change a roll you change the story and the possibilities of what could have been.

It’s easy to acquire the god complex as a DM but when does it stop being about how much you control and become more of the player’s story.

You already have total control without having to change rolls.   You are in control of the encounters, the NPC’s, the Land & Sea, and the gods.  What more do you need?  Remember you are more a facilitator to the player’s story that they are in control of.  They choose where they go and what they do.  You can provide some interesting hooks to draw them into a story but it is really up to them.

I have my own opinion on dice.  When designing encounters I careful think these out.  I look at the party as a whole and challenge them according to their skills and limits.  Never actively try to kill someone or teach them a lesson by changing die rolls.  Use your imagination and be clever.

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If you change one die roll you can change them all.   So why use them?  Just tell your players when they are hit and what damage they take.

Players will do stupid things, and you cannot control that.  They know it’s risky and probably not a good idea but try it anyways.  Let chance make the choice.  Poor decisions have consequences and a new story is born from it.

Missing some D&D players? Try these six rarely-used alternatives

There are some excellent ideas in this. One might also consider a West Marches style game with alternate characters that can be brought to the table in simple one shot adventures.

The RPG Athenaeum

For most of us, gaming is a hobby, meaning that actual life responsibilities can and often do take precedence over playing games. It is to be expected, then, that one or more players may not be able to attend a regularly scheduled D&D session for such reasons, leaving those in attendance questioning how best to proceed. Fortunately, having one or more missing players doesn’t mean that those players able to attend are relegated to the most common or, for campaign purposes, inane solutions to player absenteeism such as watching fantasy films, playing a different tabletop game or turning on a video game console. Neither does having absent players make it necessary to run the player characters (PCs) of missing players in their absence.

The challenge is finding a way to enrich the ongoing D&D campaign for those present – without cheating attending players out of the role-playing fun the missing players would have brought, or exposing the PCs normally controlled…

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Social anxiety and coping with conventions, what I wish you knew.

With a few Canadian Comic Expo’s coming up this month this struck a cord. We enter into a vast sea of people at conventions and how some of us deal with it can be overwhelming. This is a excellent read and maybe help you at your next convention. You’re not alone.

Katie's Game Corner

Anxiety comes in many forms, for many reasons and is a very personal thing for anybody dealing with it. It’s something that a lot of people deal with but hardly anybody is talking about. I hope that by talking about these issues, I can contribute to a community where this stuff is normal, accepted, talked about and I want to help in any way that I can. I can’t fix your problems, but I can reassure you that you are OK, that this is normal and that you are NOT alone.

I can remember a time when I didn’t live with anxiety. I have always dealt with depression, but anxiety is a fairly new (well in the last 7 years or so) concept to me.  I remember a time when simple things like going up to a cashier or making a phone call didn’t make me panic but a series…

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#RPGaDay 2017: Day 25 – What is the best way to thank your GM?

I cannot say enough good things about this Day 25 article. Read it and than go thank your DM/GM. The last player that thanked me was one I mentored as DM/GM. She has her own group now and told how much she appreciated all the extra work she now realizes goes into running a great session. You want to really thank your DM/GM…… bring them cookies!!

The Kind GM

There are so many ways to thank your GM.

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World Building

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For most Dungeon Masters, the creation of a world is the pinnacle of our imagination coming to life.  Stories yet to be told and adventures that are all waiting for players to jump in and explore the complex plots you have spent untold hours preparing maps and notes for.

You’ve spent every bit of spare time bringing your inner creative genius to the table.  You set the stage for your heroic patrons to finally have a seat at the table and part take in your final design.

Here is where a lot Dungeon Master make their first mistake.  There is nothing wrong with the world you have spent your valuable time creating.  The political backgrounds and intricate NPC’s you have dreamt of, or the vast unexplored temples and long forgotten ruins they have yet to be explored are not a problem. It’s your players that become an issue.

Not all players are going to enjoy your newly created mega world.

As you can imagine, every player is unique and each one of them needs something very different from the person sitting beside them.   Their dream character they also spent time crafting may not match your new campaign world.  Your world ends before it really gets started.

To resolve the great disappointment you might face I can offer couple of quick tips.

World Building Session Zero

Before you start penning your ideas, sit with your players.  You can do this either as a group or one on one.  I suggest a little of both.  Communicating one on one with each player is my preferred method before bring them together as group.  This way each players can express without influence their own thoughts and ideas.

This session zero idea lets players tell you what they like and don’t like.  Some like horror adventures fill with villains from the underworld while some may like cities to explore.  Perhaps one of your players secretly loves roaming the high seas as his swashbuckling rogue swings from mast to mast battling pirates and sea monsters.

Getting player feedback is one of the most important resources a good dungeon master has.   Finding out what they like and dislike helps you prepare a world filled with player stories.   Make notes and do your best to remember to appeal to each of them.  You are just a facilitator and players are the real story.

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Once you have collected all this information from your players you are now ready to begin creating.

Start Small

You have sat with your players and gotten some valuable feedback.  It’s time to get started on the world you wish to design. It becomes a jigsaw puzzle of different lands and cites mixed in with numerous places to explore and become lost in.   Mystical ruins and coastal cites spring up over a large map.   You have placed dwarf strong holds and Elven tree towns next to the lands of orc and goblin warlords.  Skeleton pirates roam the seas and high kings do what they can to keep the peace while political infighting threatens the very fabric of each kingdom.  Your map begins to become its own monster.

This was also my first mistake.  Where do the players start?  After a year of gaming once a week the players never really stepped out of the area they had started in.  I was left with 80% of a binder full of notes that will never be used.  All the wasted time could have been spent polishing the areas that the players actually started in.

Don’t scratch out that large map you made but at the same time start small.  Polish the starting area.  I mean really polish it.  Add in those important and reoccurring NPC’s and detail the area.   If you leave the rest of the areas mostly open you have areas to adjust to suit the players, and mold it into what they need.

Those character they spent time creating are the stars of the show.

Review those notes from your players and study what they have enjoyed often.  Make a world that will last so the stories told will last decades.

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Happy players are your best reward.  Forget that +1 sword, give them what they truly want.