Matt Mercer DM Tips: Creating Magical Items!
on Critical Role here at Geek & Sundry,
and today’s topic is the
nuts and bolts behind actual magical–
I shouldn’t say actual, because we’re
not actually creating an item.
That’d be kind of cool but no, we’re not doing that.
All right. From the top.
Now there are a number of great magical items
and equipment provided as reward options in many,
many RPG systems. However, sometimes
either you have inspiration to design and
customize a piece of enchanted gear for
a member of the adventuring party,
or a magically inclined member of the party
wishes to craft their own piece of custom loot
during in-game downtime.
Well, here are a number of tips
to consider while coming upon either
of these circumstances.
One, how prevalent are magical items
in your campaign, and how integral
do you want them to be to a PCs ability
and power level? If you hand them out rather
often, perhaps you would want to keep
the enchantment fairly light and situational,
adding it to their toolbox.
If you prefer to build the mystique of magical items,
gifting them rather infrequently, consider
making them a little more robust in description
and function, therefore, it’s a more special
occasion when it’s actually presented for them.
I’d say read up on the suggested rules on
magical item distribution.
Most systems will have a section written
for GMs describing the intended PC levels for certain items.
Use those as a gauge regarding the
general amount of power you want to
give any custom items so as not to overbalance
the party because once you do that,
it’s a little hard to reel it back, buddy.
If there is none, err on the side of less
than more at first. If the item appears to be
a dud shortly after granting it,
you can always have the item suddenly evolve
or exhibit new qualities that improve its usefulness
as they progress further in the game.
Often you’re creating a new magical item
with a specific PC or PCs in mind.
Now consider what that PC is missing,
or what benefit would make for a fun and engaging
enchantment for that PC. Are they generally
grounded and lack ranged attacks to deal with flying foes?
Perhaps a benefit that enables a ranged strike
or method of temporarily reaching a distant foe
so they don’t feel completely useless
in those situations. Now try not to load down
a new magical item with a laundry list
of abilities too early into a campaign.
It can seem overwhelming to non-veteran players
and most of those cool abilities will go forgotten and unused.
Some really good items can come with a cost,
like a curse that inhabits the item and isn’t
revealed until used. They must quest to
cleanse the item or find a powerful enough
healer to break the curse to utilize its true power.
Maybe something terrible is also seeking
the item and as long as you wield it, you know
you are slowly being stalked by the previous owner.
Some magical items can be sentient,
either harboring the soul of the creator
or a previous owner, or the item was instilled
with life essence when crafted.
Consider the personality elements of the
NPC persona locked within.
What are their goals? Their hatreds?
What would they not tolerate in a wielder?
Perhaps you design a series of magical items that,
on their own, carry a meager enchantment,
but when worn with other items from
the set the benefits increase.
Now the search is on for other members of
the item’s family. Aw… family. Bringing people together.
Now the monetary worth of the item can
follow the suggested worth in recommended
RPG systems, but also keep in mind that what
an item is worth is far more than most merchants
are willing to pay for it. I mean, after all,
that’s how they make a profit.
So when considering the party selling back
magical items through the game, merchants
will generally try and barter from anywhere
from half to a quarter of what it’s worth.
Then you can go ahead and gauge your
social encounter and how much they actually
pay for it, based on the success of the party.
Now some players may have access to materials
and resources in game to create and enchant
their own magical accessories. If so,
here are a number of things to consider,
as well as some tips to keep in mind.
How often do you imagine the adventuring party
will be able to have downtime during the adventure
you’ve set out for them? If it’s not very often,
consider truncating the recommended crafting
time to allow the PC the chance to occasionally
make use of their skills in this.
If the player wants to create a new, original
magical item, let them pitch you the gist of their item.
Maybe even send you a mock-up of the item
from their perspective. Now take that item
and compare it to other existing magical items
of similar or equal intended power level.
You can then adjust the item’s power, if needed,
to befit the level of equipment you wish your
party to have access to at their current level.
Adjust the cost, and time required to create
the item accordingly and let the player know
the changes you made. If you both can agree on it,
then allow it to be done within the game. Hurrah!
If the item they wish to create is a bit beyond
the power level you’re comfortable with
at the moment, you can always let them
craft a part of it and notify them that some pieces
needed to complete the item must be located,
recovered, or scrounged from very dangerous
locales in your world. They can now travel forward
with the party keeping an eye out for those
missing components while getting excited
at the prospect of a new piece of equipment
that they’ve been working on.
Anyway, I hope these tips have been useful
for the implementation of custom items in your campaign.
You can see other episodes of GM tips
here at geekandsundry.com.
My name is Matthew Mercer. Thank you for watching,
and I’ll see you on the internet.
[Geek & Sundry music]
Matt Mercer DM Tips: How To Create Non-Player Characters for RPGs
and the Dungeon Master for
Geek and Sundry’s Critical Role,
and welcome to my video series with
tips and tricks on Dungeon Mastering
or Game Mastering your own RPG. Today, we’re
talking about NPC creation: one of my favorite topics.
MATT: Things you want to consider when
creating your NPCs: first and foremost,
are they a major or a minor NPC? I mean, if you have a lot of
free time on your hands, you can flesh out every person
in the world to an extreme degree, but at the same
time, that can get a little… ominous. So when
you’re thinking of a minor NPC, you want to think
of just the basic elements of their character:
think of their name, their sex, their race, their
class (if any). And they don’t have to always be
classes from the player’s choices – they can be
Merchant, they can be Butcher, they can be the guy
who cleans the bathrooms in the space lodge, you
know? You don’t have to be too particular, but
note those things. Note their general alignment or
morality, if they have any political or social
affiliations in the world that you’ve created or
you’re currently running. That helps as well. If
they belong to any guilds. Any major allies or
enemies they might have. But all you need is quick
notes just in case those come up in conversation.
As you get more intense about NPCs, and more major
ones, you start considering, “What are their
ideals? What are their desires? What are their fears?”
Those are really cool driving elements
that you can understand where that character
exists in your world, and when players have
conversations with them, where a lot of their
answers would come from. You also want to keep a
little note on what their disposition is towards the
players. Sometimes they’ll start indifferent,
or even hostile, but depending on their actions and
how the players interact with them, they can
become their friends. [baby voice] Their fwiends. And
you want to make sure you note that on the
side for future use if they ever come back. Or, if they
do something really terrible down the road,
that can completely flip to the other side.
[serious voice] Not fwiends.
Also note their appearance, their equipment, what their
special skills and mannerisms may be,
especially if they’re going to be a recurring NPC. And if
they ever decide to fight alongside the
party or help them out tremendously to some extents,
you want to know what they’re capable of
and maybe hint that to the players through some
social encounters, which is kind of fun.
If they’re planning to go into battle, whether it be as an
ally or an enemy, put up a combat sheet that
generally lists what abilities they have. You can
definitely make things up on the fly, but I prefer
and would recommend having something solid on the
side at all times, even if it never comes into
play, just in case it does. It’s really helpful, and
you’ll be glad you had that, as opposed to
sweating it last minute going, “Uh, I– he has,
um– laser sword.”
If you’re doing silly voices, like I do– I do a lot of
silly voices. A lot of them. It helps keep
the psychosis at bay– keep a note of what type of
vocal texture or tone or accent you used for that
NPC so if they come back later, you can quickly
reference the ballpark of where you had them. If
they had a high, shrill voice, if they had a thin,
reedy voice, if they had a low, gravelly voice, if
they had a very intense militaristic tone, if they had
a particular dialect or accent, just write
little notes in the side to that NPC so that you know
exactly where to jump in if the players go,
“Oh, we’re going to go visit Timmy this week!” and
you’re like, “Timmy? Timmy was nine months ago.
[voice cracks] I don’t remember what Timmy sounds
like.” But they’ll remember. They always remember.
There are also a lot of great resources and a lot of
source books like the RPG Dungeon Master’s or
Game Master’s Guide or any of the source books,
the main books. They have really great tools for
creating NPCs that involve personality traits,
story hook backstories for them, and cool places
to branch off and create someone from, so don’t be
afraid to do some research. Don’t feel like it’s
lesser of you to pull from the books; they’re there for
a reason and they’re wonderful resources.
One of the most important aspects of a good story,
though, is a good villain. And creating a good
villain can be many things but it’s something you
want to make sure to put enough energy and effort
into. For one, not all villains think they’re villains.
Their morality may be skewed, and they
have their own personal goals, but what they’re doing
is for their own beliefs and for their own
personal interests, and they may see others as the
villains of their own story. So try to flesh out
why they’re doing the things they’re doing. What
are the driving experiences in their life that
gave them this twisted righteousness? What acts
have they done in the past that mark them as evil
in this world or from the player’s perspective?
These are cool things to keep in mind going
forward. Also, good versus evil, black and white,
that can work every now and then, but it’s really
fun to play in areas of gray. As you will find
out, or have already, players tend to play in
areas of gray. No matter how good you make your
characters, weird, sometimes not-so-good things
happen in games and characters spontaneously end
up dead and you have to hide bodies. Happens.
Often. So, you know, villains also can play in areas
of gray. Sometimes a character who starts
good can turn evil. A character that starts evil
can turn good. Sometimes they just borderline that
middle area where even the players aren’t sure if
they’re good or evil for a lot of the game and
it’s one of those, “Are they useful in the moment?”
It’s fun to leave those questions up to
them and let them make those choices. And you
secretly know what the outcome is. Haha!
Now as far as grandiose villains, it’s good to
choose an archetype. And a really great reference
that I pull from is the classic DnD book called
Book of Vile Darkness. The 3.5 one in particular
has a wonderful breakdown on deliciously built
villains. They have archetypes like the scheming
liar, the tyrant, the sophisticate, the misguided fool,
or the monster. These are all different,
great personality types that you can build a great
villain off of. The sophisticate, in particular –
one that’s very involved in societal, grandiose
attention, and uses society to get their means,
and sees themselves as definitely an erudite and
above-it-all type persona, is really fun – versus
the monster, which is the straight-up murderer,
a person that relishes in the death and destruction
they cause. You can pick from any of these and
customize and alter from those bases, but I
find that those are five really cool bases to
build a villain off of.
And then once you’ve created a cool villain,
consider how much power do they wield? Are they
solo? Are they just this unbridled force of chaos
in the world, or do they have a network of
henchmen and people that work for them that
either agree with their cause or at least can be paid
enough to go along with it? Is there some sort of long
reveal that you can build the character
towards? – something about their history that’s either
dark or very surprising that you can,
later on, pepper in clues to as the players progress.
These are cool things to discuss as you’re
building this villain. And don’t be afraid to let
the villain have a grandiose death, no matter how
attached you are. If the players are really smart
and really intelligent about it, sometimes the
final encounter may not be as epic as you think,
and you don’t want to steal that from the players
just because they were really clever and really
intelligent in how they approached it. Just make
sure you give him his Hans Gruber final scream as
he falls off the building into all of oblivion.
Thank you guys so much for watching! We’ll have
more of these videos available for you to watch on
the geekandsundry.com website and we’ll see
you next time.
Does D&D facilitate the game you want to play?
New video! What…is D&D…for?what if anything is Dungeons and Dragons about and how is it about it I don’t mean what do you do you fight monsters I mean more why why are these rules like this let me ask that question a different way if you’re a new player this question won’t make a lot of sense to you but if you’ve played fifth edition long enough to get a character from say first level to fifth then this question is for you you know the list of equipment right this thing let me ask you a question what is this doing in here there’s over a hundred items on this list how many have you ever used I mean how many times have you even used this list at all let me make it easier after you made your character did you ever use this list again do you know why there’s a a mirror on this list or why there’s a 10-foot pole on here do you know what you’re supposed to do with those things and why it’s 10 feet long and not 12 or 6. there are answers to these questions maybe your table relies on this list more than others and I’m sure a lot of people right now are thinking well that’s not the point the point is you could use it a lot if that’s a fair answer but I don’t think it’s accurate I think the reason this list of gear is in here is because it’s always been in d d this list almost exactly the same list has been in every edition of the game with maybe one exception since at least 1979 I know when I checked and my God it’s basically the same list they had in 1974. since the first edition in addition so old no one calls it first if they call the second edition first edition do you think we’re playing the same game as those folks back in 1974 do you think you’re playing the same way they played do we need the same list of gear or is this something they put in because Gen X freaks out if d d doesn’t have this list in there somewhere you know putting this list in here makes it look and feel like d d to those of us from the 80s and that has value to the people who bought this brand even if we never or almost never really use this list what about Dungeons what are they for how often do you use them the game is called Dungeons and Dragons this list of gear was created because they are all tools for exploring and surviving a dungeon is that how you play DND do you spend most of your time in a dungeon solving problems with nothing but a single spell this list of equipment and your wits hey everybody Matt Colville here we’re talking about styles of play and for the purpose of this video a style of play is the manner in which the rules of a game reinforce a certain theme tone or genre that’s your style of play you have rules designed to evoke a genre and that combination rules plus genre is your style of play what is the game about genre and how is it about it rules the meme I think of when it comes to this idea is the it really makes you feel like Spider-Man meme we see this all the time in licensed video games it’s really it’s the bar of quality for a licensed game do you actually feel like you’re playing superhero and the way you achieve that is by designing game mechanics that are unique to that hero and that genre if you take a generic third person action arm and just put the player in a Spider-Man costume is the player going to feel like they’re playing Spider-Man if you took Counter-Strike and just replaced all the models with Marvel Superheroes would it feel like a superhero game nope because a style of play is more than just the Cosmetic coat of paint you put over something it’s about the design of the game the actual rules better example for d d Players let’s say you’re running an adventure set in a haunted house with ghosts and whatnot so it has all the trappings of a horror game it seems like horror sure absolutely the DM can absolutely create a mood a tone and evoke a genre without any rules you can do this just telling a story around a campfire you can create that tone in any RPG any rule set just by the choices you make when you made the adventure and things like your tone of voice the language you use all of that can make your adventure seem like horror but do the rules think they’re the rules for a horror game fifth edition has a lot of rules for fighting monsters is that what horror is about killing monsters with swords and spells another way of looking at the same question is how much work do you have to do versus how much work are the rules doing I think in a well-designed RPG the rules can do most of the work and if you find you have to do most of the work then there’s a problem somewhere so how much work is fifth edition doing and what genre is it trying to evoke is it heroic fantasy Lord of the Rings is maybe the best example we have in the culture for Heroic fantasy how much time do those characters actually spend fighting monsters that seems to be mostly what d d concerns itself with do bormir or Aragorn ever argue about taking a short rest versus a long rest does Gandalf ever talk about spell slots does Legolas ever talk about Armor class so me I don’t really see anything about heroic fantasy and fifth edition maybe it’s high fantasy well I’ve run several campaigns I thought of as high fantasy the chain of acheron maybe qualifies but a fifth edition is high fantasy what are those first five levels doing in there if you’re going to make a high Fantasy game shouldn’t the character start as Heroes like servanizor in dusk metal Driscoll definitely felt like a high fantasy hero when he was only first level and he said so a lot of new players come to the game expecting a DM and therefore a campaign to be like this DM they saw on YouTube or that DM they saw on Twitch is that as close as we get to talking about styles of Play Just which DM inspires you they release a new adventure about once a year and these Adventures definitely have a theme and a tone like curse of straw is gothic horror but apart from the look and the feel and and the topic is there anything about the rules of fifth edition that make it Gothic horror let’s imagine I had one character sheet from a curse of straw player and another from a dungeon of the Mad Mage player right Gothic horror Dungeon Crawler would you be able to tell just looking at their character sheets which was from which game I mean apart from like the notes the players take are there any game mechanics referenced on their sheets that indicate which genre the characters are in are people even aware that the design of an RPG can create a style of play my friend Phil runs DND in his own setting called valengard we streamed some of it it is intended to be a very low Magic game and indeed the dungeon Masters Guide acknowledges that this style of play exists there’s a chart for how to run a low magic standard or high Magic game this is it this is all the advice literally the only difference is starting gear that’s it Phil and I had a very informal discussion about what it might take to turn valengarde into a product and I said well for me the fun of something like that would be creating new classes you’d need at least six of them that allow the players to do heroic and cool stuff but have very limited access to Magic because in his world there is basically no magic no spells no potions no Scrolls anywhere except for the PCS your hero represents some kind of Awakening the magic is returning that kind of thing but even then the magic is very limited and I said to me that’s the fun accepting that design challenge taking 5th edition and reimagining it in a low magic sense now that would be a lot of work you’re basically designing a new RPG at that point using the bones of fifth edition what kind of monsters would you have goblins sure but are there Goblin shamans maybe but they’d be closer to herbalists and Alchemists than Dr Strange and then there probably aren’t creatures like overbinds or voiceless talkers everything in valengarde is more grounded and much less Fantastical so making valengard as a fifth edition product for real would mean rebuilding most of the game from the ground up but if you ask most people playing 5D if you could use it to run a low Magic game a sword and sorcery game or survival horror they’d probably say sure but I don’t think that they would mean what Phil or even I mean by low magic they’re probably imagining just using the gritty healing rules or limiting classes only Fighters Rangers barbarians and maybe Rogues but then you’d also have to limit subclasses Rangers paladins and bards would be out but you could probably concludes it and just remove their spell casting trade but even then the classes and monsters you’d be left with weren’t designed to be used in a low Magic game so yeah you can do it but do folks imagine 5th edition was designed for that so it’s a little weird for me that folks just assume that 5e is equally well adapted to any style of fantasy game but really why would you think differently I suspect most people playing d d right now not only is 5th edition the only edition of d d they’ve ever played I think most players d d is the only TT RPG they’ve ever played what style of play is 5e it’s the 5e style of play circular reasoning what’s that it’s weird because most RPGs I think it’s fair to say are about something they’re trying to capture a certain tone or emulate some genre of fiction or deliver on a style of play but d d and I mean specifically fifth edition doesn’t seem like it’s trying to support any style of play it just sort of sits back and says you’re on your own I wonder how many people watch my videos and they think well I don’t want to run a game starting in a medieval European village with a blacksmith and goblins kidnapping people so I guess I don’t want to play D D and they have no idea that they only saw a tiny tiny slice of what can be done because fifth edition doesn’t really have meaningful dials in the design to let you easily run a sword and sorcery game or a high Fantasy game or a survival horror game you can’t detect the existence of these options in the player’s handbook the DM’s guy just has a couple of paragraphs for each style saying yeah that exists awesome thanks compare this with a game like let’s pick a classic Call of Cthulhu Call of Cthulhu is a tabletop RPG designed to support a very specific style of play Cosmic horror and if you’ve only ever played D you might think well I can do cosmic Horror in 5e okay sure it’s an RPG you can run it however you like but it wasn’t designed for Cosmic horror Call of Cthulhu presents a whole sold approach to the idea of cosmic horror everything in the game all the rules character creation the official Adventures are all designed to reinforce the style of play for instance your character is a normal person living in what seems like the real world you can’t cast spells or turn into a bear you’re a teacher or a taxi driver or a librarian the adventures are all about normal people not Heroes who get drawn into some small innocuous local problem and they become investigators Often by necessity and Circumstance then they discover that this local disappearance is tied into some deep Grand conspiracy and as they get closer to the truth they start experiencing some very weird things there are monsters in Call of Cthulhu but if you ever encounter one it is very likely you’re going to die because you are a normal person and if you ever get close to the truth the real truth which is that the universe is governed by these Elder alien Gods who are so inhuman their existence violates basic laws of geometry well just seeing one of these things can instantly drive you mad those are the only outcomes by the way for the classic Call of Cthulhu PC you either die fighting an unspeakable horror or your mind is shattered because you saw something so alien to your experience that your tiny ape brain just turns into applesauce in fact there is a stat in Call of Cthulhu explicitly designed to track this called sanity it’s all right that that’s in every contract that’s that’s what they call a sanity Clause you can’t fool me there ain’t no sanity Clause wow it’s uh it’s it’s been a little while since we’ve seen the machine neat anyway your sanity starts at some nice robust number but it only ever goes down eventually inevitably you run out and that’s it for your character hope you enjoy Arkham Asylum which by the way is not original to Batman it’s something they lifted from the Lovecraft Mythos there are lots of horror genres but this is what makes Call of Cthulhu Cosmic horror you are not a hero you can’t solve the fact that humans don’t matter and we live at the whim of alien Gods you can’t win I had a lot of friends in the 90s who didn’t really care for d d being a heroic monster fighter wasn’t a fantasy that appealed to them but they loved Cthulhu they loved that conceit that you’re eventually going to die or go insane and they would enthusiastically roll sanity checks anytime something weird happened without the G I’m even asking for it they were looking forward to losing their character and the only question was when and how now compare this to fifth edition there is actually an optional rule for sanity in the dungeon Masters Guide it gets a few paragraphs but do you think that just running normal DND and throwing salmon in makes it Cosmic horror does the player’s handbook even admit the possibility that you might want to run a normal person as a PC are there any official Adventures that assume that finding a single Monster is a life or death scenario and your best hope is to run away this is what I mean by styles of play a style of play is not just a theme or an attitude it is about how the rules work to create a certain feeling or tone or attitude it is not by accident that your character in Call of Cthulhu is a normal person you don’t play a hero because Heroes Have agency heroes are important and we expect the hero to win the Call of Cthulhu isn’t heroic if a hero is ever afraid that’s because their story their character Arc is about overcoming fear but in Cosmic horror fear cannot be overcome that’s what makes it horror you are not powerful you cannot affect the outcome you do not matter the universe is vast and incomprehensible and the only reason you can go about your job at the library is because you have no idea what’s really going on if you did it would break your brain that powerlessness in the face of a hostile uncaring inhuman universe is what makes it Cosmic horror and not some other kind of horror it’s the movie Alien if everyone died or it’s John Carpenter’s The Thing no one wins no one gets out two characters survive to the end which means they get to freeze to death why don’t we just wait here a little while see what happens paranoia is a great example very different style of play we played paranoia live on stream you can watch it here and the one thing I screwed up was character creation because I had never run paranoia before and this was a new addition to me and character creation was a little weird because paranoia is a comedy RPG and not just any style of Comedy it is explicitly about life in a bureaucratic science fiction dystopia it’s a lot like a cross between The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy and the Terry Gilliam movie Brazil and character creation is all about well screwing with the other players you are not actually in control of making your character because if you were you might be tempted to make a hero well paranoia makes sure that won’t happen as other players at the table give you flaws and silly traits and change your stats and you’re doing the same thing to their character so the characters you all end up with are a mess the whole party ends up a team of complete idiots and that is part of the fun and there may be some people watching this video who say I don’t like the idea that my character will inevitably go insane I don’t like the idea that other players are going to turn my character cool guy 420 underscore 69 into a blithering idiot but the reason some people have this very strong negative reaction to these ideas is the same reason other people love these games because they are actually about something Call of Cthulhu is about Cosmic horror paranoia is about the absurdity of bureaucracy and when a work is about something that means some people will like what it’s about and some won’t if you are primarily interested in increasing shareholder value this is a bad thing because it means you just lost some customers so you make a product that isn’t about anything so no one thinks anything about it it’s not even about not offending anyone it’s about avoiding your audience having any reaction at all the only thing that doesn’t offend anyone is oatmeal I mean I like oatmeal but not very exciting not offensive just oatmeal now your experience might be different from mine but to me fifth edition isn’t really about anything in fact I think it’s trying to avoid being about anything because if it supported any one style of play then it would turn off everyone who wants something else so it sort of does everything a little remember the toward better rewards video the one about having like Quest cards and rewarding players for completing quests well I think folks sort of focused on the idea of quests and Quest cards but really the point I was making was just this the behavior the game rewards is the behavior it encourages and I was sort of hoping folks would stop and think about the game they are currently playing and ask themselves what Behavior does 5e reward what is 5e about what is 5V well I I don’t know what it is but I know what it’s not and it’s not a Dungeon Crawler this is why I asked what are dungeons for why have them is d d actually about Dungeons well it used to be D used to be 100 a Dungeon Crawler and really the reason I wanted to make this video is because I realized a lot of people don’t know that dungeon crawling is a style of play it is a kind of RPG just having a dungeon in your adventure I submit does not make it a Dungeon Crawler and now we get back to this list of equipment because this is about dungeon crawling that’s why this list is in here or really I think it’s an homage to that time when d d was a Dungeon Crawler they keep it in so folks like me who remember those days see it sigh with fond memories of the 80s and what d d meant to us back then and then we move on and basically forget the whole thing and play a modern narrative game with no real style of Play We like that this equipment is in here but it doesn’t really have anything to do with how we play now A Dungeon Crawler is and this may surprise some folks a kind of survival horror game yeah back in the 70s d d was a Dungeon Crawler it was really only a Dungeon Crawler there was the implication of politics and high fantasy later but the game assumed that that was after your character retired in a classic Dungeon Crawler your character is spectacularly unequipped to deal with what’s in the dungeon your class gives you almost no tools for Success if you want to win you need this list and some wits some clever thinking outside the box thinking dungeon crawler’s challenge of the players not just their character sheets going into a dungeon in this style of play is terrifying you are pretty close to a normal person at first and if you don’t find loot then that’s not going to change this is the gameplay Loop of a Dungeon Crawler risk life and certain death to get enough magic items and gear to allow you to explore deeper which means nastier monsters so you need better magic to fight them and that means going deeper into the you get it in a Dungeon Crawler you worry about light a lot light is a precious resource the creatures who live down here don’t really need it but you do because you’re only a little better than a normal person you need to track how many torches you have it’s important running out of light means well depending on how far down you are it could mean certain death you don’t just need enough light to explore you need enough light to escape to retreat to find your way out in a Dungeon Crawler you always know the radius of light your torches shed because it is important once you’ve found a few gold pieces you rush back to town and you get a bullseye Lantern it is way more expensive and it doesn’t really shed more light but you can close it it’s got a little sliding panel on it that lets the light out when it’s open and when you close it it stops letting light out which in a classic Dungeon Crawler is a big deal being able to quickly almost instantly extinguish your light if you’re afraid you’ve attracted attention is huge food is just as important you need to eat running low on supplies is dramatic it ratchets up the tension we’re running low well we have to go back to town can we survive the wilderness of course ammunition is important you need to track every arrow and if this if this sounds tedious you’re missing the point it a game annoyed you have to track every arrow your terrified you’re going to run out the ability to attack a creature safely at range is a big deal in a Dungeon Crawler and so you’re constantly making this tactical decision about is it worth risking an arrow I get to fire at range but I might lose the arrow different tables had different house rules about recovering arrows melee means I get to keep my arrows but I am putting myself at much greater risk how confident am I we can kill this thing let me put that another way I have a Max of seven hit points and I’m second level how confident are we that we can kill this thing before it kills me remember the mirror mirrors let you discreetly look around corners without worrying about getting an arrow in your eye that is why there is a small mirror on this list did you know that it’s cool right and if the thing around the corner is a basilisk or a cockatrice or a Medusa well that mirror might save more than your eye that 10-foot pole is 10 feet long because the grid they played on back then used 10 foot squares and a long pole let you tap the floor and the ceiling and see if there are any traps you can trigger I remember someone saying the gelatinous cube was the only creature evolutionarily adapted to survive on graph paper the dungeon is dark and hostile and alien some dungeons had no Monsters Just traps and puzzles some were so complex you could explore them for years the ancient ruins of some mighty Empire now long dead and forgotten who knows what’s down here could be literally anything I think this is the main reason why d d monsters got so weird because they’re about scaring you the main job of a monster in classic d d was to scare you because it could kill you go back and check out that first Monster manual they weren’t trying to make monsters fun to run or fight hello they were trying to make them scary the thing that made goblins scary was they could kill you actually the thing that made them scary was that one could kill you at low level and there are usually a lot of goblins eventually obviously that’s not enough and that’s when you start to get Nightmare monsters mind flares and beholders check out the fiend folio it’s a horror book now this may all seem old and unfashionable but I think lots of people would still love this style of play if the game were designed for it because it is really fun and creative a majority of a Dungeon Crawl is trying to solve the dungeon not fight it I wasn’t kidding when I said your only tools are this list a single spell and your wits that’s a great book by the way with a single spell no idea if it holds up probably but your wits were probably the most important part of that equation Dungeon Crawlers aren’t like Diablo where you just click your mouse enough and eventually you will kill everything they used to call that kind of game masturbation DMS spent their time imagining these environments complexly and how deadly they were and some DMS leaned more on Vera similitude and making the dungeons really plausible or at least self-consistent and some DMS liked more wacky fun house Dungeons and there was a whole Spectrum your dungeon was Uniquely Yours hopefully you can see now how an entire Adventure could happen in a single dungeon in fact the entire game for about 10 years was just about building and exploring Dungeons and people loved it now me I like that kind of game I loved darkest dungeon for instance and it is pretty close to that feel if not that literal gameplay but I also like narrative Adventures I like it all it’s all fun it’s just down to taste and you can play a Dungeon Crawler for a few months and then play something else now is that what 5th edition is about I mean I would say no that is not what it’s for a dungeon absolutely the five room dungeon is very popular but that’s not what I just described I just described a whole sold approach to a survival horror game is that fifth edition light is important food is important ammunition is important healing is incredibly precious you are basically a normal person with a little more experience than your average peasant if you’re a wizard you know one spell if you’re a warrior you know how to swing a sword want more spells better weapons they lie below because they want these things to be important because these ideas are the point of the game and they are what makes exploring dungeons scary just getting back to town is a huge challenge the Wilderness between here and there is deadly and if you survive spending the weeks it takes to get back well by the time you finally make it back to the dungeon the denizens will be ready more traps allies reinforcements so you have this great tension where you don’t want to leave the dungeon you don’t want to give the things that live down here the chance to prepare and the Wilderness is deadly maybe maybe if we just keep exploring we’ll find stuff that makes us nastier than the forest and you don’t want a rival party stealing the loot that you’re trying to steal so you gotta stay down here but it’s too dangerous you can’t stay down here there are tons of great tensions that arise out of this style of play as long as you have a rules set that supports it now if I’ve done a good job then some of you are like damn that is cool how how do we do that well I don’t know actually I certainly wouldn’t recommend trying to play any edition of d d before Third Edition Third Edition was pretty good for a low-level dungeon crawling as I remember but it wasn’t really survival horror the way the original game was but it was closer than fourth or fifth edition and look I’m not stupid I know people are going to say 5e is great for this I just uh I disagree if you think fifth edition is a survival horror game then I just think we disagree about what that means nor am I advocating that anybody stopped playing fifth edition if you are having fun why would you stop or switch systems but if you watch this video and the survival horror themes of the Dungeon Crawler sound cool to you and you don’t just want like Dungeon Crawler wallpaper you want actual design that supports this style well there are lots of other modern RPGs that will give you that probably you can find examples in the comments probably hopefully we’ll see a lot of people will recommend games produced in the last 10 years that are more about replicating the actual 1970s rules so make sure you know what you want do you want that retro Vibe lots of modern games will give you that or do you want a more modern streamlined design there are Dungeon Crawlers for that too don’t just assume that the game someone is recommending is the one you’d like because they’re probably recommending it because they like it and they don’t know you or why you like this idea so you’re gonna need to do a little research you know I bet there are videos on YouTube comparing different dungeon crawling RPGs I just don’t know what they are I already wrote this whole script do I have to do everything I’ve been working on this script off and on for months maybe longer and that’s not unusual I got lots of ideas for scripts and some of them spend literally years as just a bunch of notes but I’ve been thinking about system design as it’s called recently and so it seemed like a good time for this video but at the same time and honestly by coincidence there’s a huge debate in certain corners of the internet right now about playing other games there are people on one side advocating for people trying different systems people on the other side saying stop telling people what to do and I think it is inevitable that this video will be seen in that context but honestly the only reason I made this video was because I saw people referring to 5th edition As a Dungeon Crawler because lots of DnD Adventures include a dungeon and I was like hang on fifth edition is not a Dungeon Crawler that was the 70s and part of the 80s I don’t think playing other systems is a virtue I don’t think it makes you a better or more moral person I don’t think not playing other systems makes you narrow-minded if you’re having fun with 5th edition good I’ve had fun with it lots of people have I said this before to me the rules of an RPG are like a language I did a whole video on this I don’t think speaking different languages makes you a better human being I don’t think only speaking one language is any kind of moral failing however I do respect someone who speaks multiple languages I think that’s cool good for you and I mean it and I often wish I spoke different languages that does not seem like a contradiction to me respecting someone for their accomplishments does not mean I think less of someone who hasn’t accomplished those things but I also think and I’ve said this a million times that every style of play is fun if properly implemented people in the 70s play D D As a Dungeon Crawler and they had a ton of fun we’re better designers now but I don’t think fun has changed we just have way more kinds of fun available to us so Dungeon Crawlers are no longer fashionable but I never cared about fashion except you know maybe for six months in like 1987. I think a well-designed modern Dungeon Crawler would still be tons of fun and millions of people would like it I don’t have any particular desire to design such a thing right now but I don’t need to there are plenty out there already the dungeon has a setting for survival horror is still a cool idea unfashionable maybe but still fun I played a lot of different RPGs I just started playing in a Star Finder game and I will say this I don’t think playing lots of different games makes you a better person or a better player or a better DM but it absolutely makes you a better designer I think every game I’ve ever played even games I didn’t like had something cool in them some brilliant little solution to a problem or an implementation of an idea and really I think a game designer is just somebody who’s played a lot of games and thinks about them critically Someone Who develops a language for thinking about game design so do you want to be a better designer yeah play lots of different games otherwise play what you like but maybe keep an open mind about other games that does seem virtuous to me thanks for watching folks hopefully people don’t think this is some kind of Slam against 5e I still like 5th edition quite a lot and as a designer and the owner of this company I have tons of ideas about cool stuff you could add to this game to make it more fun give it some style you know add some flavor to the oatmeal if you would like some delicious flavor for your oatmeal I strongly recommend you come by our patreon where for only 10 bucks a month you get Arcadia three articles look at that cover three articles every month Each of which is actually usable stuff for your game we got stuff for players and DMS in here we just released our Halloween issue featuring a very spooky cover from Nick to Spain one of our staff artists inside you get stats for some famous Cryptid monsters from The Real World like the Mothman or the gray aliens from various alien abduction stories rules for NPCs you might meet in a lighthearted horror game doesn’t all have to be serious humor is important and a whole Adventure called puzzling Out the Devil which is actually horror themed for real and has some very cool puzzles in it all of it is fully Illustrated full color throughout and your 10 bucks gets you all the back issues which at this point is like it’s like over 60 articles at this point Madness thanks for watching folks next video I think is going to be another excerpt from a twitch stream in which somebody asked me a very interesting question about what I would do with the Lord of the Rings and I suspect you’re going to get a kick out of that answer until next time peace out https://t.co/e1ARYkSh3Z
— Matt Colville? (@mattcolville) November 9, 2022
What Makes a Good Villain?
New Running The Game! What makes a good villain? what makes a good villain I mean the the actual bad guy of your story or Adventure or whatever I think folks get distracted by motivation and right now as I’m thinking about this I don’t think motivation is actually that important maybe I’ll feel differently later but right now I think there are more mechanical practical things that make good villains motivation gets into psychology and that is a tricky area but there’s lots to talk about before we get into the motivation stuff first of all a good villain does villainous stuff before the reader or or the viewer or the player meets the villain they should probably have some experience of what the villain does we need to see the aftermath of their abilities see what makes them a villain we got a million great examples to pull from but let’s start with the most recent stranger things season four so I guess these are spoilers but only for episode one I think and you don’t need to have seen the show this example is pretty straightforward when vecna I can’t believe I’m talking about vecten again I have a cool job when vecna kills Chrissy at the end of episode one two important things happen and I think it would be easy to get distracted by the first one and not notice the second first of all a cheerleader dies in a pretty horrific way and we see it coming and then we see it happen and this is it’s really important let me tell you why it’s important because she’s not just some random cheerleader she’s a character we’ve met spent time with and gotten to know we like this girl because there’s a sort of cheerleader archetype in these kinds of stories right but she shows us the real person behind the costume she opens up to Eddie and is vulnerable and human and so we like her this is why her really quite gruesome death is Meaningful because the show takes the time to let us get to know her and like her and we can see she is struggling with some darkness and we want to see her overcome it we want to see her win if she was just a nice girl who gets trash compacted four feet in the air it wouldn’t have the same impact we can see she has this dark tension inside her we don’t know its source or cause but she is fighting against something and she’s reaching out asking for help so we hate it when she dies not just because we liked her but because we wanted to see her win and she loses she loses everything okay so that’s the first thing bechna does he kills a cheerleader and we see it happen and so we hate this bad guy we know what he can do even before we’ve met him we hate this dude and we want to stop him awesome but there’s more he kills Chrissy in front of Eddie I mean vecina doesn’t know Eddie’s there that’s not the point the point is because the town perceives Eddie as a burnout and he’s alone with Chrissy which no one will believe is basically innocent the town blames Eddie vechna kills Chrissy and the town blames Eddie that is the second half of vekna’s villainy and it is completely unintended by vechna but entirely intended by the writers it’s that second part the fact that Eddie is now on the Run he’s literally hunted the town turns against him that means anytime Eddie is on screen or anyone’s talking about him we feel for him and blame vekna but even when vekna is not present and no one is in immediate danger the fact that Eddie can’t rest which means the kids can’t rest means we are always reminded of vekna’s villainy and this is good writing so good villains do villainous things they kill people and they make them afraid and worse than afraid I realize for a lot of people imagining horrible things the villain might do to people is difficult you know what that’s fine you can be a successful writer or dungeon master and never worry about half of this stuff but if you want dope pulp fantasy or heroic fantasy villains you need to imagine villainous stuff part of that is knowing your audience you can definitely go too far with this stuff but if you’re just writing a novel then you can just you know write whatever you believe write what inspires you come up with something that horrifies you and rest certain in the knowledge that it’s going to work on someone and vecna is a super interesting bad guy because he can kill people without even being there this makes him very powerful indeed he can murder innocent people without anyone seeing him or even knowing he exists if he had to be there then he would be vulnerable and known people would know what was happening but he has to follow the rules of drama if he’s so powerful he can kill people without even being there just by thinking about them then there needs to be a lot of warning that something awful is going to happen to this person we need several stages these potential victims are going to go through before vekna harvests their souls or whatever they have nightmares and then headaches then they start reaching out for help so there’s several days of growing tension during which the heroes can be learning about what’s happening and dealing with the growing realization that they are currently powerless to stop it now I think it would be easy for a new DM to latch onto this idea and use it against the heroes but best to stick with NPCs you might be able to get away with the last victim being one of the heroes that’s what they do on the show but that is really tricky because players have agency which we do not want to mess with so I would stick with NPCs but good villains also put the heroes on the defensive Eddie and his friends are are hunted by the jocks evil and vechna isn’t there the heroes are hugely inconvenienced by his actions they are never allowed to forget him even when he’s not in the same universe they’re in to see how powerful this is for us as storytellers just being able to rest to recharge to plan to think is a major Boon in this scenario denying that to the heroes puts enormous pressure on them the clock is always ticking you can just show The Players here’s what the bad guy does isn’t it awful and that will work but gosh wouldn’t it be hugely more effective if everyone blamed the heroes for the villains actions yes yes it would okay so uh villains do villainous stuff and they put the screws to the heroes what else well good villains gloat and we need to see it we need to put the villain in front of the heroes and let him sneer at them this is so important the villain can’t just be this abstract concept where if you just kill enough monsters and kick down enough doors eventually the villain is behind one of them we want to keep the heroes motivated we want them to keep the villain at the front of their mind but also we want to be able to give the villain a personality that’s part of the fun and we want to give the heroes the chance to be defiant to talk to the villain remember you’re the dungeon master you could always get the last word in but let the heroes talk to the villain it is fun for them at the end of the hero’s witty retort you can always just have the villain say I wonder if anyone will remember your clever words when your bodies are smoking Corpses the value of putting the heroes and the villain together several times before the final confrontation is huge and hopefully obvious but how do you do it well there’s a bunch of ways I advocated for actually having the real villain show up at the very beginning of the campaign when the heroes are way too low level to do anything about it sure they might let their rashness get the better of them and make a play for the dude right here but so what they are beneath his notice he stuns them or knocks them out and gloats and leaves why doesn’t he kill them well because he wants people to be afraid of him and lose hope and leaving beaten Heroes behind is a good way of doing this of course the NPCs watching might lose hope but the heroes won’t they’ll just get more pissed now I said that in an early video and lots of people have had great success with that technique as a result But It’s Tricky and it really only works once per campaign we need something simpler and more reliable something we can do more than once without it seeming contrived so there’s a few ways and they’re all cheesy but they work super well first the villain could possess someone and his voice comes out of their mouths now this can absolutely work with a PC but that depends a lot on the player and how they feel about being taken over so you can always just have it happen to an NPC someone the heroes like it could be a different NPC every time possessing a character and speaking through them is classic villain nonsense and I 100 guarantee you it will work and your players will be excited and motivated okay second idea Holograms this is more of a Sci-Fi thing I guess although it seems explicitly Fantastical to me but a cool fantasy version of the same thing is to use mirrors or Reflections or even pools of water at certain critical points in the plot you have the villain appear before the heroes in a mirror or a reflection or maybe even just yeah a 3D illusion yeah like a hologram looks totally real but lacks substance lots of illusion magic in d d go crazy this works really well and can be relied upon over and over there’s almost no downside except overuse and maybe you don’t feel confident role playing the villain yet but that’s not how confidence works first you do it and you suck at it and then you learn and you do it again and you suck at it a little less or maybe you suck at it differently and that’s how you build confidence and the great thing about d d is it’s fun the whole time even when you’re sucking at it the point is to let the heroes and the villain interact without anyone involved thinking actual combat is on the line these are interludes not encounters sure you can maybe once try and trick the heroes into thinking that this is the real villain really in front of them and that’s fun but it’s just a trick then later when they think it’s an illusion it’s not it’s the real thing and they didn’t realize it and it’s actually the finale of the story or the adventure and now they’re boned and we can all think of examples of this from movies and TV so possession Holograms both work super well what about dreams this is a fantasy world in which dreams can be Windows into another world most ancient cultures here in the real world assumed because why wouldn’t you that dreams were important that they represented some real phenomenon the gods try to tell you something or whatever the idea of the villain appearing in the hero’s dreams is awesome because it lets you design the Dreamscape you can even ask the player hey your character has a really Vivid dream a dream of something that really happened to you when you were younger what is that dream let the player describe the Dreamscape to you then insert the villain into the dream that is well spooky of course the Dreamscape can also be frightening a dream the villain implanted or really abstract like the Under the Skin World they use in stranger things it could even be a shared dream that is also very cool and spooky the players might not even realize it’s a dream if it’s a shared dream and they’re all there they might just think it’s the next scene in The Adventure then things start to get weird in the dream and the villain shows up totally interactive but initiative is never rolled not an encounter just an inner Hood but if it’s a dream couldn’t it be an encounter couldn’t you roll initiative and play out combat and then when someone dies everyone wakes up and they discover it was only a dream a preview of the final battle in which they get to actually fight the villain and see what he can do all right so that’s three ways to put the villain in front of your heroes in an interactive way possess an NPC appear before them as an illusion or in a mirror or reflection or appear before them in their dreams but there are other ways to remind the heroes that the villain is out there scheming against them these aren’t interactive but they will totally work and the second one is super important stay tuned the first trick and the one I rely on all the time and it never fails is dramatic irony dramatic irony is when the audience knows something the characters don’t and this is a major source of tension in fiction simplest example uh we see a shock two people having coffee together at a table in a coffee shop they are relaxed and happy and vulnerable unsuspecting the camera pans down and we see there’s a ticking bomb under the table do the people drinking coffee know about the bomb they don’t act like it who planted the bomb will it go off will the heroes foreign that is dramatic irony it really ratchets up the tension because the audience knows about the danger the heroes do not and the audience can’t do anything about it we want to warn them but we can’t we’re hostages not them they’re innocent and about to be innocent victims but we have knowledge and so we experience the tension alone without the characters on screen able to act out our emotions for us which is sort of their job normally dramatic irony is a very powerful tool Frank Herbert used it all the time we all know there’s a traitor in Dune and we know who it is way before the heroes do it’s obvious how to do that in a novel or a movie but how do you do it in an RPG you’re running you just use a cutscene you describe to the players the camera cutting to another location describe the location just like you were setting any other scene what do we see what happens who’s there what do they do then you can show the villain doing their thing without the heroes even around to see it or know about it brilliant I do this all the time but because I’m a writer I used to write up these little interludes I can write a scene showing the villain in his lair with his servants I can really play up the idea that this villain is powerful and terrifying and the players can’t do anything about it all they can do is read someone watching dusk described it as threat fiction that’s a little reductive you could use this technique to convey any number of things including what is going on back home with everyone you left behind what did The Peasants think about the heroes after they left you can put anything in a cutscene now sometimes a player will say how do our characters know this and the answer is they don’t it is a dramatic conceit I’ve done this dozens of times with many different groups and I have never seen it be a problem everyone at the table has had the experience in movies and comics and books of seeing the villain plotting or whatever while the heroes weren’t around so they get it it may not be to your taste but I know it actually does work even when we were kids and I did this stuff I never had a player try to exploit this knowledge and really I’m not even sure what there is to exploit yeah there’s a villain and he’s super evil but they knew that already this fiction is also a great opportunity to show the heroes how effective they are being every Milestone I write up a little thing showing how pissed the villains are that the heroes are making progress and also how insanely dangerous and lethal the villains are if I do a good job the players feel badass because they see their successes are pissing off the bad guys and they feel like we did that it lets me show them that success has consequences not just failure but they feel like ultimate Victory is impossible because the ultimate villain is too powerful and I can tell you this works I did this several times to great effect in dusk I’ve included links to all the fiction I wrote for that game and if you stick around to the end of this video we might have a surprise guest for you another way to put the villain in front of the heroes before the final confrontation is by proxy in other words we don’t meet the villain before the end we meet their lieutenants and this is very powerful and necessary I think the chain of Akron met Ajax the Invincible in the first session and everyone was very impressed but then it’s like literally 20 sessions later and he is now a distant memory that is not good the players shouldn’t forget about the villain sure I could have ajax’s wizard mind control someone and taunt the heroes remotely or appear before them in mirrors all that would be great but I realized after the fact that a major problem with the chain of Akron campaign was the fact that Ajax had no obvious lieutenants in capital right they fought the black Iron pact but do they remember their names your campaign might have a very high level bad guy that the players are eager to fight eventually but regardless of how well you set this bad guy up and establish what he can do if the players are too low level to do anything about it right now then I think you need lieutenants for them to beat every once in a while every level or every three levels or whatever so they know they’re making progress the players need to feel like they are making a difference and they are getting closer to the villain without actually involving the villain in any way and lieutenants make that very easy and fun you could have lieutenants for every Milestone everyone is nastier than the last one and you can make them each unique and give them different personalities and Powers and it’s just fun to make up bad guys and as they die they praise their Master you have defeated me but you cannot defeat the one above all so that’s several ways to keep the villain in the players minds and let them interact with him in a non-combat environment possession Holograms and dreams then we have a couple of ways to remind the players of the villain without interacting with them directly cutscenes and lieutenants what else do good villains need well I think stranger things shows us that good villains need to be solved low pan is an unbeatable Immortal God but for a brief moment during his wedding ceremony he is vulnerable once the players learn that they have learned how to beat him most of stranger things is about the kids learning or figuring out how to beat the villain this is a classic dramatic Arc at the beginning the villain seems invulnerable but he has weaknesses it could be vekna isn’t vulnerable unless someone has the sword of costs in other words he has some Kryptonite or he relies on some artifact to keep him alive or his powers come from the Moon and he’s vulnerable during a new moon I can’t tell you what your villain’s vulnerabilities are because I don’t know your villain but good vulnerabilities aren’t like fire or lightning they’re things you need to quest after they’re plot coupons you need to collect they’re places you need to go and rituals you need to perform or disrupt there you know in a situation where vechna can only be killed by the sword of costs because then only the player who wields that sword can make any progress but you can make it so that once he’s wounded By The Sword now he’s vulnerable and everyone can fight him ideally there are multiple fail States maybe you decide there are four obelisks the heroes must visit and perform a ritual at and there’s a lieutenant at each one and an epic fight with a countdown cool well what happens if the players fail once or twice or even all four times it should still be possible to meet the villain just harder right so now whether the players succeed or fail something dramatic is going to happen and remember failure doesn’t mean the heroes die no no it just means Lieutenant completed the ritual or maybe the heroes defeat the lieutenant but his minions complete the ritual this kind of scenario of the villain has to be solved the players can fail without it grinding the entire game to a halt this makes each confrontation really dramatic the players remember their successes and failures and wonder what it’s all going to mean in the final confrontation now how do the players know what the villain’s weaknesses are or how to beat him well that’s where your lore delivery device comes in remember that it’s almost like I play in these videos so that’s it folks good villains do villainous things the players see those things and hate the villain good villains gloat over the heroes using Illusions or possession or something so the players know this is an initiative it’s just an interlude and good villains have entertaining memorable lieutenants so the players have someone to fight now while they’re too low level to fight the actual villain and when they beat the lieutenant they feel like they’re making progress we’ll worry about the villain’s motivation later but for now I hope something in this video made you think Aha and your adventure suddenly got more dramatic as a result if you want to talk about this video with other like-minded folks come by our Discord Link in the doobly-doo if you want to support the channel we got a ton of dope Minis on our website like for instance all the Beast heart companion minis are back in stock like feathers the Albert any character can have a companion a pet right if your wizard finds a baby Albert or an egg do all bears lay eggs hell’s legs if your wizard finds an owl bear egg couldn’t you raise it up and have it as a pet yes you can and we got rules for that in the Beast heart PDF and an entire class A Very Cool Custom class that specializes in pets and you get this PDF free if you buy one of these minis one of these minis yep there’s five of them you got feathers the owl bear or you could get Spike the dino a pet Dino Jason’s really sad because he loves the and it is the one we sold the least of do people not like pet dinos I guess it’s D and D right dinos are more Ray harryhausen than high fantasy maybe you’d like a pet hellhound well here is Maxine the hellhound our friend Zach medir painted these and I think they’re amazing I didn’t know Zach was let’s go to painter check this out Jerry can we get a close-up she is glowing from the inside that is awesome super cool you want to pet dragon we got you covered here is zix the dragon wormling of course what you really want is a pet mushroom right everyone wants a little mushroom dude to follow him around so here is Mott the spoiling rules for each of these pets and a bunch more are in the Beast heart which as a reminder you get the Beast heart free if you buy one of these minis I don’t know why we didn’t do that before but we’re smarter now that’s it folks thanks for watching I mentioned the interludes I wrote for dusk you can find links to those below but my friend and YouTube neighbor Dale Kingsmill was one of our players and she read all this stuff out loud on her Stream So with her permission here is a sample of some of that threat fiction until next time peace out it’s called the black acolyte the orb went dark what does it mean blood load Forex spun around and glad wildly at his assembled lieutenants the other demo goblins avoided his gaze he turned wait I need to make glasses give me a second I don’t want to admit it but I do he turned to the figure in Black acolyte what does it mean the black acolyte turned from the window overlooking the sprawling Camp outside and surveyed the assembled dimmer Goblin leaders brittle tools but sharp it means the northern tower has fallen the shrouded figure oiled Fallen impossible impossible what did you see in the Stone Forex frowned there were five elves two elves then a goal a dragon knight what seemed a demi-theist to my eyes how could five such oppose a blood Drinker how could they even survive in our world At The Mention Of The Barrel man assessorations susuration saturation it’s not a word I’m familiar with I’m trying my best oh that’s a jet hey Matt um uh At The Mention Of The Barrel man assassination past among the demo Goblins the presence of one of the hakan was always a sign that fate had taken an active interest in the world the black acolyte flowed toward the planning table and picked up a missive scribbled onto the vellum the exact description our agent in dalrath gave 5. rat catchers he called them your informant said the goal was a war leader death Captain sergov spoke to the acolyte a gold War leader could do it they could move where they wanted strike whenever they pleased and then fade back into the world even with the power of the bleeding tree opposing them a goal War leader could adapt upset Forex exclaimed definitely avoiding addressing the fact that he ignored the missive when it first arrived wrote it off as meaningless detail how could five defeat a blood trigger and an entire fist I really like that there that each like Squad are called a fist I like that um we don’t know that they did sire death Captain sogov said all we know is they stole the orb if they can steal the orb it doesn’t matter if they eliminated the Oh wrong wrong voice if they can steal the orb it doesn’t matter if they eliminated the entire fist the acolyte said it means they’re operating unopposed unopposed the acolyte shroud the acolytes shrouded head turned to the howling demo Goblin leader and this movement alone was enough to bring vorax to heal unopposed for at least several days inside our territory I care not for body count they are free to do what they want in our territory and this is unacceptable but why vorax asked fuming striding back and forth across the top of the high tower why us here now when we are so close so close about to Mike he made a snatching motion with his hands then vorax peered at the black cloaked figure do your people have enemies that you have not told us about the acolyte ignored him our informant in Dole wrath reported an entire Village disappeared two weeks ago I took it as a sign our plan is working villagers deserting their homes fleeing South to he looked at death Captain sergov to bediger dreadlord yes around our new world he stretched out a thin hand his jet black fingers turning pale white as some hidden light illuminated them he touched the map a twin to the ones sent to the watchtowers stroked the fine boned stroked fine boned fingers against the red ink Cloud on the map that represented the bloodwood he suddenly looked or appeared to look at death captain zergov but what if they tried to go through Captain sergov did not flinch from the black acolytes hooded gaze it’s possible dreadlord she admitted then would it not be tradition for these mortals to seek a band of their own these rat catchers Heroes to save the townspoken poetic if they have one of the midnight Stones sergav observed it will make operating in the bloodwood easier for them and harder for us to track them if they can unlock its power we did they defy us they Define me vorex exclaimed he placed his hands on the giant black stone sat on the pedestal the master Stone we will find them we will send the Red Death by Elite he thrust a finger at death Captain Zerg off find these elves and whoever was foolish enough to trust them and bring them to me alive I will drink their blood before no the Accolade said what you dare defy me I command the stranded figure Strode across the tower his cloak billowing like smoke he reached out a thin arm and grabbed bloodlord vorax by the color of his breastplate lifted him up pulled him in close and hissed at him remember who gave you the midnight Stones the black arrows remember who raised you above the other blood drinkers I could drain your life in an instant and lay this filthy stinking Camp to waste before your corpse was cold spammy I could like to spare me the acolyte tossed for exercise the other demo goblins in the tower were all astutely avoiding looking at the scene except sergov we will strike where they are weak the acolyte announced find the humans The Villages they’re in our world somewhere these elves are hiding them protecting them find these helpless peasants exterminate them and The Elves and the fools they’ve enlisted to help them will simply fade away go back to whatever homes they might enjoy for the moment vorextun to sergov you will take 10 of my Elite find and exterminate these villages and should we in the course of executing your will death Captain sergov bowed slightly come across these rat catches vorax glanced at the acolyte studying the map in that event you are ordered to eliminate them you will bring me their skin and the ward off’s red arm as a trophy the acolyte’s head snapped around what what did you say uh for for you Lord Forex bowed and script we will deliver her red arm to you the acolyte once more Strode to confront vorax describe this elf to me it was a a road elf dreadlord vorex coward with a red arm ritual tattooing or red was it red or Crystal what does it matter it was a filthy crawling word elf it doesn’t borax think carefully bloodlord vorex’s eyes darted around the room looking for allies it was yes it was red Crystal blood red ruby a ruby right arm the black cloaked figure Drew itself up to its full height towered over the demo goblins black smoke billowed out from its cloak making it impossible to see where the fabric ended and the Perpetual cloud of soot began hearts and he whispered he reached out a hand and caressed vorax Redford cheek the demo Goblin leader trembled you have done well vorax you have exceeded all my hopes for you he turned to death to death Captain sergov who stood a little straighter to attention you will not hunt these elves and their allies these rat catches focus on the villagers and should you encounter these Elven Heroes with their dragon knight you are instructed to give them a wide berth do not engage even to defend yourselves do you understand are we to ignore them vorax called out let them pick off our troops one by one no the black Accolade in toned I will deal with them personally you it is fitting that I be the one it is fate calm yourself vorax we are closer than I dreamed to our goal your goal all this work the new world and we are still no closer to freeing the what above all fear not my faithful servant the acolyte turned to study the master map you will stand before your Patron air long this my goddess has promised you no acolyte vorak said Darkly your goddess promised you and you he said looking to each of his lieutenants all heavily armed and battle scarred willing to die on the bloodlord’s command have promised us poo https://t.co/aNdlmf3sAE
— Matt Colville? (@mattcolville) October 26, 2022
Matt Mercer DM Tips: Player Character Deaths!
Critical Role here on Geek & Sundry,
and today’s topic is the joyous,
wondrous event of player character death.
In running most RPGs there is the inevitable
scenario of a PC falling in battle without
means of recovery. Months or years of
character development and investment
gone in a flash. Now how do you guide your
players through such an intense scenario
and move forward in a positive way.
I mean it’s the danger you must maintain
in your game if it’s to hold any real weight
and stakes for the players.
In the earlier levels it can really be a constant,
real threat. It can be a emotional and difficult
scenario to see through as a GM so
be ready and here are some ways to hopefully
make it easier for the player to digest,
and make it a real powerful and memorable
moment for the game as a whole.
First, let the players know that when you
begin the campaign that player death is
indeed a real possibility. Make sure they understand
that fact early in so as you progress it
doesn’t catch them off guard when it
does happen for the first time.
At least, as off guard as it would.
It’s going to catch you off guard regardless,
but, you know what I mean. Now when
the moment does happen, don’t gloss over it.
Explain the death as cinematically as you can,
letting the epic final moments ring out in the
party is a powerful if incredibly sad, moment.
Now, outside of a non-recoverable corpse,
or a death that destroys the body instantly,
consider letting the player get a few last words
out as a battle cry or inspiration to their friends
to carry on that will allow a very clear crystal
moment for that character to really be remembered
by the rest of the players and the PCs for that matter.
If there is no resurrection recourse for the PCs
give some time to let the group mourn in game,
in character and perhaps, if in game time allows,
hold a role playing wake.
Try your best to play up the warriors wake
with celebration of their life over hanging on
to the sadness of death instead.
It really helps the players kind of digest
in a positive light and tell rousing stories
of great memories they had with their party member
and kind of just overall gives a better and more
healing spin on the whole experience.
Also, let the player of the deceased character
write an epilogue for their tale.
Perhaps as a way to get down those unspoken words
they never really got a chance to say
before their untimely end came.
After the session is done in which the character falls,
maybe shortly in the future, depending on gauging it,
go out with the players to get drinks or a fine meal
to celebrate the memory of the character as
just a group of friends sitting in a restaurant somewhere.
It really also helps to get rid of all the tension
of the moment and let you guys remind yourself
that it’s just a game and you’re all friends
still having a good time even when
the sad moments happen. As soon as it feels
comfortable after the session, go ahead and
speak directly with the player about the excitement
of getting to create a brand new character
and all the endless possibilities for
trying out new skills and abilities.
Brainstorm new character story ideas and how
they would fit into the current campaign.
If they’re still really attached to their dead
characters, perhaps you could brainstorm
a way to have the new character involved in the
backstory of the deceased PC so that a
spiritual successor is found and it carries the torch.
You can discuss with the other players
ways to keep the memory of the fallen
in the game as you go on. They could craft
bracelets of remembrance they refer to in
the future during moments of tension.
Perhaps they could name their new keep after
the dead. They could use their name as a war cry
in future struggles. Things like that. Ways to keep
the memory of that character alive as they play on.
There is sometimes difficulty in incorporating
a new character into a long-running adventuring party.
Filling a hole in a long-established rapport
can be strange and finding a way for you,
the GM, to bring them in without feeling too forced
can really be an interesting challenge. Trust me.
It sucks. I recommend finding a way to tie
them to the main narrative threads or the
current overarching quest. Talk with the player about this,
and talk with your other PCs about being receptive,
as much as their PCs can be, to a new ally.
The new PC can be related to, or a friend or ally,
to the deceased PC, wishing to avenge them
and see their goal to completion in their honor.
The new PC could even be an off-screen NPC
from another player’s character’s backstory,
with that player’s permission of course,
already tying them to the party and giving
them inherent stakes in the story. The new PC
could have strongly aligned goals with the party
and having heard of their proven skills and renown
wish to ensure the best means of
success for both of them. They could even arrive
to the party with extremely essential information,
or an essential artifact of the main quest,
quickly tying them to the fate of the adventuring party.
The new PC could have a long history with
the main antagonist – wishing to tear them down
for personal reasons, and they seek like-minded allies
to achieve this goal. The new PC could even pick up
the reins of a non-essential NPC you introduced
that the player took a shine to and bring them to
the forefront of the story as a PC now.
You inform the player of what you had developed
regarding that NPC and their story and
let them take that and run with it for the future.
These are all options and ideas of ways to do it,
and there are many others that you may want
to research on your own, but I hope that at least
these will be somewhat helpful in tackling
this somewhat difficult circumstance in your game.
Well thank you so much for watching.
You can see other episodes of GM Tips
here on geekandsundry.com.
I’m Matthew Mercer and I’ll see you on the internet.
[Geek & Sundry theme music]
Matt Mercer DM Tips: Getting Players to Roleplay
for Critical Role here on Geek & Sundry,
and welcome to today’s episode of GM tips.
Today’s theme: getting your players
to engage in more roleplay.
Now, I want to preface this with the idea
that you cannot force your players to roleplay.
Some just may not be comfortable with it.
Some may not be into this game for heavy RP,
and instead want more of a Diablo-like
kill shit, take loot experience–
and that’s totally fine, it’s totally great–
a little worrying, but totally great!
However, you can certainly engage them
with some of the following tips,
and you may be surprised which elements
they pick up and end up liking.
My first recommendation is to talk to your group
in advance about wanting to
actually RP more in the campaign.
You don’t want them being caught off-guard
with an aggressive change in GMing style
that asks more of them.
It puts them in a weird, awkward place
where they feel like they have to
perform more for you. You want it to be
natural and fun, so listen to them.
Engage with their eagerness,
and adjust your expectations accordingly.
Next, if the group is on board,
have them develop some written background stories,
or history about their character,
or general personality traits if they haven’t already.
I mean, not everyone has to write a
multi-page backstory, you just have to
have a half-page or one-page history
that helps them become more invested
in their character, if anything.
It aids them in finding elements of
their history and informing them of their
own personality traits, impulses,
and general reactions to elements they
may encounter throughout the campaign.
It’s a useful tool for anyone involved.
You can even award bonus experience
or some other small reward if you feel inclined
if you need just a little push to finish it–
which you will, because we’re all
human beings who are busy… and lazy…
I’m very lazy.
Some systems, like fifth edition
Dungeons and Dragons have a whole section
of the source book on characters, personalities,
and backgrounds that can be a great guide
to fleshing out a character’s personality–
or just rolling for it if you just don’t give a [beep].
Get comfortable enough with your early NPCs
and their dialogue points to try and engage
players with a lot of eye contact and direct gestures.
Do not read the entire encounter off the page,
because they’ll disengage immediately and
not really be willing to meet you on a level
that you’re not willing to meet them.
When you begin your endgame foray into upping
the RP with your players, you really need
to speak to them as the NPCs in the same nature
that you wish them to RP in return.
Make direct eye-contact with whichever
party member or members who are
leading that encounter. Lean in and gesture,
or point them when asking a question
for their character! Let them know
that they are in the moment, and
this is their moment to seize!
When a player begins to describe
the gist of their response instead of in-character,
gently remind them to try and respond
in-character, like, “Great! How would Durmans
ask that question to me, the jailer?”
or “Sure! And as those angry thoughts fill her mind,
how would Leila express that verbally?”
Now, players, sometimes a different or
silly voice can help. Textures, speaking
in a lighter place in your palate, or something
that’s a little different than your normal speaking voice.
Fun voices and accents are by no means
necessary for the game, but they can help
you as well as your fellow players and GM
separate your in-character dialogue from
your own thoughts and comments in the game.
Physicality helps too! Think of how different
your character would hold themselves
compared to you. Would they sit up straight,
broaden their shoulders– or curl up and
act like a crazy person?
Maybe they give giant, bombastic gestures!
You may find yourself physically embodying
your character in RP moments more often once
you think on these little details.
For all you GMs, you need to be patient.
For some players, it’s a really big step
in letting go of their own insecurities and embracing
the play that makes these games so wonderful.
Don’t expect a huge, sudden change.
It may just take a while– sometimes
a very long while, if at all. Be supportive.
Compliment players after a session for good
roleplaying and don’t scold them for any
missed moments or opportunities during the session.
Players, also be supportive to your
other players and willing to elevate your
less comfortable players.
Let them have the spotlight.
Pay attention to them when they’re speaking,
and back up their statements with your own
in-character moments: “Indeed!” or
“Exactly, Leila!” if they make a good point in RP.
Most of all, have fun! Even just the slightest
shift in this direction can lead to some of
the most immersive RP experiences,
but you have to make sure that all these
experiences are still fun for everyone involved.
That’s the key to the game,
and that’s the key to making your
players want to engage more on a roleplaying level.
Anyway, I hope these tips have
been useful to you at all.
You can find more GM Tips here on geekandsundry.com.
I look forward to seeing you
somewhere on the Internet in the future.
[Geek & Sundry musical theme]
Matt Mercer DM Tips: Fixing GM Mistakes!
Role, here at Geek & Sundry, and welcome to
today’s episode of GM Tips, where we discuss
fixing GM mistakes.
MATT: Being the game master for an entire world,
guiding heroic players through stories from inside
your mind, can be an incredibly fun and rewarding
experience. However, you are not infallible.
Mistakes do happen. Perhaps a misinterpreted note
led to a conflict in story resolution, or an NPC
you designed to be integral ends up killed by the
party, you let slip a tiny tidbit of secret info
that undermines your big reveal, or you gift a
player with an item that is far too powerful than
you thought, throwing party in-game balance
entirely out of whack.
How do you correct these unintentional errors to
maintain the game you want to run? Well, let’s
discuss a number of solutions to these
Let’s say you’re running an encounter that isn’t
intended to be that difficult. Either you
miscalculated the power of the enemies or the luck
was so against the party that a whimpering,
anticlimactic TPK is imminent. Here some examples
of how to correct that situation. You could
suddenly have an arrow or spell fly in from out of
nowhere, rocking one of the more dangerous foes,
and have an allied NPC enter the fray to save them
from the claws of defeat. You could also consider
that if it’s an intelligent foe, perhaps they see
the PCs’ terrible situation and see them worth
more alive and enslaved than dead. Have them fight
not to the death, and instead knock them
unconscious or force them to their knees and swear
themselves to the foe. This could even lead to a
cool escape or revenge-type mission in the near
future. You could also have a terrible, screeching
roar blast across the sky, and your enemies
suddenly look more frightened than they’ve ever
been before. They quickly assess their
situation, decide to flee, leaving you to the fate
of some possibly scarier creature. The wounded
party now has to hide from this mystery creature
to survive. Or you could just have them TPK and
explain how the darkness– or the light, possibly,
as well– fades as they awaken in a stone room,
shackled and held down. Suddenly, it appears that
a powerful mage has resurrected the party. Who
knows what plans he has for them? All he knows is
that they are a party of skilled heroes and they
have utility for such a powerful mage. (chuckles)
Now, mind you, if the encounter is intended to be
dangerous, challenging, and possibly deadly, let
the dice fall as it may. That’s part of the
game. You don’t want to undermine the ever-present
danger and tension of the game. However, you also
don’t want to completely end the story that you
and your players have put into for months and months
due to just an unexpectedly shitty scenario.
Another situation is you’ve given clues and
information and hints as to where to discover and
follow the main plot, but no one is figuring it
out or picking up on your nudges. The game is
quite literally going nowhere. Don’t be afraid to
be a little more blunt with your additional
information. While some hints may seem like
obvious reveals to you, you also already have all
the information in your head. A PC getting these
hints in a vacuum might end up either completely
confused or misinterpret the vague info and
extrapolate an entirely new and entirely wrong
plot. If it goes on too long, drop more direct
hints via NPCs they encounter, or have more clues
found as they go, or just reveal information as
part of the terrain as they progress forward.
You can tailor and reshuffle your intended plot
points and plot NPCs to be a little more direct
with their info, or even appear in unintended,
more convenient areas if the PCs aren’t as focused
or driven as you expected. Moving the plot along
for everyone’s benefit is more important than
adhering to a theoretical structure that you
created in your own little headspace.
Here’s another example of a situation: you’ve
offered information about your plot throughout the
game, and the players discover an accidental,
fairly large contradiction in your storytelling
that confuses them or undermines your entire
plot’s direction. First off, let them discuss the
confusion while you consider options and how to
retroactively disprove one side of that info. Pick
which side of the plot conflict is more
interesting to pursue, and let them seek answers
in-game as to which side is false. Perhaps an ally
who provided some of the info can now be revealed
to be a saboteur or a mole, or information was
planted by an unseen antagonistic force trying to
throw off the scent.
No reveal is immediately necessary. You can stall
for time between sessions to unravel your mistake
and make it work for you as opposed to against
Another possibility is you accidentally spill a
lead, like an info leak or secret about your main
plot and spoil a grand surprise you’d been
looking forward to dropping down the road. First
off, don’t admit the mistake. Own it. Let the
party think you intentionally did so and follow
their lead. If needed, take a break shortly
thereafter, or, if possible, even between
sessions, and brainstorm a way to alter your
current story to enhance the reveal, or even
change it to be a bait-and-switch so you can still
surprise them later on. If it was indeed info
revealed by an NPC, you can also have that NPC
feed them a bunch of additional misinformation to
confuse the players into perhaps not believing
anything they’ve said. You can later play out that
they were either not in their right mind, like being
mentally controlled by some crazy witchcraft, or
perhaps a doppelganger trying to misinform the
party. Doppelgangers are always fun. Make your
party real nervous. Trust no one.
If the reveal was largely due to a very clever
player connecting the dots, don’t punish them for
being clever. Let them enjoy that victory. Just do
your best to not show any confirmation of their
deduction until it’s put into action, leaving them
to possibly second-guess their own idea in the
interim. Then, if they stick to it, reward them. I
mean, few moments for a PC really beat figuring
out the villain’s plot and watching it unfold
accordingly. Unless there’s nothing they can do to
stop the plot, and they’re fucked, in which
case, (nervous laugh).
Another mistake-based situation may involve you
giving a magical item or items to the party that
quickly appear to be way more powerful than you
anticipated. It completely wrecks your intended
game balance and can sometime cause the other PCs
to resent that unfair advantage that player now
has. Well, here are some suggested ways to handle
fixing that scenario. You could perhaps introduce
a very powerful entity who lost that magical item
or object and has been actively seeking it. They
stumble upon the PCs and offer, in exchange for
the item, other grand rewards and the favor of a
powerful being that they can keep in mind for
future use. Or the item can slowly be revealed to
be cursed: the longer they use it, the more
dangerous or penalizing it becomes. Now they must
quest to cleanse it, and while doing so lessens
its abilities, in the end, it can now be used
without issue, and they’ve earned that item’s true
Another way would be: perhaps the enchantment was
unstable due to strange, arcane experiments and
the item shatters. It must now be reforged using
safer components, which produces a comparable, if
possibly lessened version that lasts indefinitely.
Or, by the time they repair the item, the party
has reached a power level where it seems to befit
the current game balance.
Not all these options are possible, and there are
many other awesome possibilities you can use to
fix these issues that you can find and research
online, but I hope these tips have at least been
somewhat helpful if one of these scenarios does
find its way into your campaign.
Thank you so much for watching. My name is Matthew
Mercer. You can find more GM Tips here at
GeekandSundry.com, and I’ll see you on the