March 16 2017

Sly Flourish


    Sly Flourish

  • Running Downtime Sessions

    Most of our Dungeons & Dragons games focus on exploration, roleplaying, and combat. We typically describe time in minutes and hours for exploration and roleplaying and seconds during combat. Sometimes, though, our characters find themselves with a lot more time on their hands. After recovering a damaged ship, the characters find themselves with a week in Saltmarsh to investigate leads, run errands, talk to NPCs, and engage in other activities.

    Sessions like these, called Breather Episodes in TV tropes, extend the scope of our game from minute and hours to days and weeks. They're not the typical sort of D&D game we're used to running. They can be, however, an interesting change of pace in our games and bring a lot to the story we're sharing around the table.

    Here are some quick tips for running great downtime sessions:

    • Let your players know ahead of time that a downtime scene or session is going to take place so they can prepare for it.
    • Suggest to the players that they read about downtime activities in chapter 8 of the Player's Handbook and chapter 2 of Xanathar's Guide to Everything.
    • Read up on downtime activities yourself in the above chapters and in chapter 6 of the Dungeon Master's Guide.
    • Write down a handful of custom downtime activities for the characters' current location and place in the story.
    • Prepare some secrets and clues to fuel your downtime activities.

    Suggestions from Twitter

    In preparation for this article I asked folks on Twitter for their best tips for running downtime sessions. You can read the whole D&D downtime twitter thread here. There were a lot of responses to this query and they tended to fall in a few different groups:

    • Let the players know ahead of time that downtime is coming.
    • Feel free to run some downtime events away from the table.
    • Hand the world over to the players.
    • Define downtime options.
    • Frame events.
    • Clarify hooks.
    • If you and your group isn't into them, skip them completely.

    We'll dig into a few of these as we discuss how to make the most of downtime sessions in our D&D game.

    Reviewing the Core Books

    When considering a topic like this it always helps to go back to the core books and see what they have to say on the subject.

    Chapter 8 of the Dungeons & Dragons Player's Handbook includes descriptions of various downtime activities characters can perform when they've returned to town, immediate threats have subsided, and time in our game's world stretches out. We can recommend to our players that they read up on downtime activities in the Player's Handbook if we think we're going to be running a downtime session in the near future.

    Chapter 6 of the Dungeon Master's Guide likewise gets into this topic, offering advice for DMs on how to run such sessions. This is a good section for us DMs to review before we run downtime sessions.

    Xanathar's Guide to Everything extends these downtime activities in Chapter 2 with optional downtime rules for rivals, selling magic items, crafting, carousing, pit fighting, and more.

    The Acquisitions Incorporated Campaign Sourcebook has a whole chapter devoted to building businesses in our fantasy worlds. It includes new positions, a fast franchise generator, and a whole slew of new activities the characters can perform during their downtime. If your campaign includes the characters setting up a business, this book is packed with material to make those downtime scenes sing.

    These are all excellent sections of official D&D books to review before we run our own downtime sessions. These books really are packed with a lot of the information we need.

    Let Players Know Ahead of Time

    I recently ran an eleven-session campaign of Shadow of the Demon Lord. One of the interesting things I did was to run every session as a full adventure, beginning with at least two days of downtime since the previous. Thus, when we began each session, we'd go around the table and figure out what the characters did in the time between sessions. The players all knew this structure ahead of time so they had time to think about what their characters might be doing. These sessions also tended to focus on the profession of the character instead of their classes or focused on how the character advanced since the last session.

    This format worked well throughout the entire campaign and I believe it did so because the players knew we were having a downtime scene at the beginning of every session.

    Players probably expect traditional adventures when they sit down at our table. They're ready to hear about the quest they're going to go on and then get into the action. They're not likely thinking about what their character might do if they had a week off. Probably the best thing we can do to run a smooth downtime session is to let players know ahead of time that a downtime session or scene is coming. This gives the players ample time to think about what their character might do if they had a week to themselves. If they have any personal goals or activities tied to their backgrounds, this is the time to bring it up. If they expect they're heading down into a dungeon, they're not likely to worry about visiting their mother or commissioning a new suit of armor.

    Define Downtime Activities

    We love D&D because it's generally open ended. We don't know what is going to happen and we don't know what twists and turns the story may take. Players have many options when it comes to the actions of their characters. These options can sometimes be paralyzing which is why we're comfortable with a bunch of characters in a dungeon. Those halls and doorways give us a nice finite number of options.

    Those options fall away in downtime sessions taking place in towns or cities. The number of options are generally endless and that can be completely paralyzing.

    We can help our players out by defining some clear options. These don't need to be the only options; players are free to choose their own; but a handful of default choices can help players who might not otherwise have ideas in mind.

    We can stick to five to seven options, some general and some tailored to the adventure, location, or even the character themselves.

    Custom downtime activities can help tie characters to the story. Beyond the suggestions in the Player's Handbook we can add a handful of new ones and offer them up as suggestions. Here are some example activities for my Ghosts of Saltmarsh game:

    • Research the Black Hunger (an ink-black whale that sunk many ships).
    • Meet the local wizard Keledek.
    • Pick up rumors at the Empty Net.
    • Hunting for Ned Shakeshaft, the elusive spy.
    • Conduct ceremonies at the druid's grove or the temple of Procan.
    • Research the Endless Nadir.

    The players are, of course, free to come up with their own activities beyond these. Our goal is to offer some structure when players might not otherwise have something in mind.

    Secrets and Clues: Your Fuel for Meaningful Downtime

    A lot of options for downtime lead to the discovery of new information. As they can in many areas of our D&D games, listing out a number of secrets and clues can help you drop in useful bits of information in many different contexts during a downtime session. Carousing, meeting local contacts, or conducting research can all serve as vehicles for secrets and clues.

    If you're running a downtime session, you may want to use more than the standard ten secrets and clues recommended in Return of the Lazy Dungeon Master. Since a good piece of the session may revolve around learning such secrets and clues, you want to have a lot of secrets ready.

    Adding Small Adventures

    Even when running a downtime session adventure may find the characters. Perhaps they hear about someone lost in the sewers beneath the city. Maybe they heard about bandits lurking around the burnt-out ruins of the waystation outside of town. Maybe there's an ancient crypt beneath an old knotted tree behind the crabshack, one from which madmen hear voices begging them for release. Even in the middle of a downtime session our players may want their characters to switch back to adventure mode and engage in one of these small adventures and who are we to say no?

    Keep a handful of maps to small lairs handy to support such small adventures. Dyson's maps, the maps in the back of the Dungeon Master's Guide, and the lazy lairs in the Lazy DM's Workbook can help you improvise such small adventures in the middle of your downtime sessions.

    A Different Type of D&D

    Both players and DMs tend to think about D&D within the context of exploration, roleplaying, and combat. Downtime scenes are their own kind of scene; different from the others. The extended amount of time in such scenes and the nearly unlimited options of activities set them apart from our typical group-based adventures. Running downtime scenes without the proper preparation can lead to slow, boring, and frustrating sessions. With some preparation, however, downtime scenes can end up defining the characters and building the story more than any other scene in our game.

    Read more »
  • The Case for Static Monster Damage

    This article has been updated from the original written in November 2015.

    The Dungeons & Dragons fifth edition Monster Manual includes static damage as the default in every monsters' stat block and yet 90% of us still roll for damage. The 40 year tradition of rolling for monster damage is a hard habit to break and many have no intention of doing so. This is, of course, perfectly fine. In this article, however, I'll make the case for using static damage values for monster attacks.

    Static Damage Speeds Up Combat

    Combat speed isn't a critical factor in the fifth edition of D&D like it was with the fourth edition but we can always trim out parts of our game that aren't as vital to the story unfolding at our table. Rolling for monster damage may be one of those parts. Rolling only attack rolls, even when compared to rolling attacks and damage together, is much faster than rolling both attack and damage rolls. It isn't just about the roll, it's also about the math. Some of us are really good at doing quick addition in our head but its still not as fast as reciting a number we already have in front of us.

    Other independent RPGs such as 13th Age and Numenera have moved to static monster damage not only as the default but as the only method of quantifying monster damage. Those of us who have played these games have seen it work well.

    There's also an advantage in needing less dice. I've carried a small set of Easy Roller metal dice in my on-the-go DM bag for a while now and I've never need more dice than the seven in that little box (I replaced the percentile die with another d20 for advantage and disadvantage). A simple kit means I can spend more time thinking about the world and less time fumbling around with a giant bag of dice. Blasphemy for some, I am sure, but sometimes we must let old gods die.

    While combat length is no longer the problem it once was, using static monster damage is a quick and easy way to speed up our game and put our minds where it belongs—in the story.

    It's Within the Rules

    Take a look at Monster Manual stat block and you'll notice that the static damage is outside the parentheses with the dice equation on the inside of the parentheses. The implication is that the static damage number is the default rule but, of course, you can roll the equation if you want. Most do. You'll notice that hit points are the same way. How many people roll for a monster's hit points? I'd bet hardly any. How many roll for monster damage? Nine in ten. Why? Because it's what we're used to.

    If you think using average monster damage is against the rules, it isn't. It's right there on the page. If you think it goes against the spirit of the game, you might consider that the spirit has changed across editions. Rolling for monster damage isn't as important as it used to be.

    No One Cares

    The easiest argument to make for using static monster damage is that, generally, no one really cares. Players love to see the variance in their own damage but they tend not to pay much attention to how well a monster's damage roll went. If things are really down to the wire they might pay attention to how many hits they have left but unless its right on the edge, it still doesn't matter.

    "My players will metagame" is a common argument I've heard as I proselytize the use of static monster damage but I don't think it happens that often and, when it does, I don't think it matters that much. If you do see your players continually metagaming monster damage, ask yourself if it really matters that much. They can guess the average amount of damage anyway if they're already paying attention. If the metagaming gets bad, you might have a bigger problem going on. Why aren't the players drawn into the story? And, of course, you can always switch back to dice damage if you want to.

    Rolling attack rolls matters a lot. There's a whole lot of variance in that 1d20 roll. There's far less variance in that 6d6 + 7 that a fire giant rolls for damage. Make your life easier and stick to the 28. Focus more of your attention on the story going in on the game and the descriptions of the world as it unfolds and less on the math.

    Handling Crits

    How do you handle critical hits when using static damage? Given its infrequency, this isn't a bad time to pull out the dice. If a monster has a static damage score of "9 (1d8 + 4)" and rolls a critical hit, just roll the extra 1d8 you would have rolled on a hit. On a crit, roll whatever dice are listed in the equation. If you happen to know the average of each die (rounded down), you can use that instead but only if it is actually faster than rolling. It's probably easiest is just to roll the die.

    -3 + 1d6

    If you want to add a little bit of variance to your damage rolls, you can use the Chris Perkins trick of subtracting 3 from the static damage amount and adding the results of a single 1d6 roll. A fire giant's attack might do 25 + 1d6 instead of the static 27. Honestly, I'm not sure that matters very much and at that point we're back to rolling dice which defeats much of the advantage we had with static damage in the first place. Its one option, however, if we're worried about too little variance.

    Tune Monster Damage On the Fly

    One other huge advantage of static damage is that we can tune monster damage on the fly based on the story and pacing. We can use the listed average but we don't have to. When I spoke with Jeremy Crawford on the DM's Deep Dive he mentioned that we are free to tune monster damage within the listed dice range, including maxing it out if we desire. This lets us tune monsters as we're running the game to hit the right level of danger when needed. That fire giant's 27 points of damage seems scary. You know what's scarier? A fire giant hitting for 43 damage every hit. That's scary.

    In my experience, many of the higher challenge rating monsters don't hit nearly hard enough to threaten higher level characters. Maxing out their damage is an easy trick to increase their threat where it should be.

    Sure, you can add more dice to a damage roll to get the same effect but players will notice and the swing is going to change a lot. Adding another 6d6 onto a fire giant's attack gives you the same general average damage but now the fire giant is hitting for 12d6 + 7 and that might have too high an upper threshold.

    Give It A Try

    Even after reading this you might still be apprehensive about using static damage for monsters. It might not feel right to you after all those years rolling monster damage. If you really don't want to use it, you certainly don't have to. You might give it a try. Maybe use it on a battle with a lot of enemies whose damage variance is largely inconsequential. See how it feels.

    Like me, and like many others who have since switched over to static monster damage, you just might start to like it.

    Read more »
  • Running Ghosts of Saltmarsh Chapter 2: The Sinister Secret of Saltmarsh

    Warning: This article contains spoilers for the adventure Ghosts of Saltmarsh.

    Sinister Secret of Saltmarsh is the first adventure in the Ghosts of Saltmarsh campaign adventure book. In this article we offer some tweaks and advice to make this 37 year old adventure as fun as it can be.

    We began this Ghosts of Saltmarsh campaign with a Ghosts of Saltmarsh session zero.

    A New Hook

    Our adventure begins with the characters traveling to a supposedly haunted mansion. The adventure itself, however, doesn't offer very strong hooks to get there. In fact, more than one NPC has a goal to ensure the characters don't to go the mansion.

    Thus, we can help this adventure out by offering a stronger hook. For example, the body of a woman can wash up on shore. This woman was last seen with her brother, both of whom were adventurers that planned to go to the haunted mansion and recover the alchemist's gold. Instead, he never returned and she washes up on shore drowned and wearing prisoner's garb with binding markings on her wrists and ankles.

    The body causes great concern among the council members. The traditionalists believe it has something to do with the recent rise of the king's forces in the area while the loyalists believe it is a clear sign of the return of the Sea Princes. Only Anders Solmor acts as the balance between the two, bringing together the characters to investigate the situation as outside advisors to the council.

    This creates a stronger hook than those proposed in the adventure itself. Your own hooks may work better than any others, of course.

    The Sinister Secret in Saltmarsh

    There is a sinister secret in Saltmarsh that we can begin to put into play with this hook. You see, Anders Solmor isn't acting on his own in this. He is being fed information and advice from his family's longtime advisor, Skerrin Wavechaser, a secret agent of the Scarlet Brotherhood. We need not introduce Skerrin to the characters (players have a nose for secret villains like a bloodhound) but he is working in the background none the less. His goal is to destabilize the council of Saltmarsh and take it over with members he can control, just as he controls Anders.

    Skerrin has sent another agent to the haunted mansion, Ned Shakeshaft. Skerrin sent Ned to find out what the smugglers are doing there so Skerrin can figure out how to use it to the advantage of the Brotherhood.

    Ned, however, doesn't know who Skerrin is. Ned was sent from a nearby city and met his contact in Saltmarsh who appeared cloaked and masked. The masked man had a strange affectation, however. He often told jokes and, after doing so, would clear his throat as though punctuating the joke.

    This is a ruse, however. The loyalist council member and smuggler Gellan Primewater himself has such an affectation and Skerrin knows it so he uses it to steer attention away from him and towards the corrupt council member who he plans to either turn to the Brotherhood or remove from the council.

    This is our sinister scarlet secret in Saltmarsh and we can play it out between all of the adventures we run in this book.

    When to Level Characters

    Looking back at the actual Sinister Secret of Saltmarsh adventure itself, we need to pay special attention to the characters' first level.

    This tends to come up as advice in every article I write for 1st level adventures and it's still just as important when running Sinister Secret of Saltmarsh.

    1st level characters are really squishy. No other level in D&D is nearly as dangerous as 1st. Four 16th level characters facing an ancient blue dragon archmage and her simulacrum isn't nearly as deadly as four 1st level characters facing four giant centipedes.

    1st level D&D adventures are their own special game and these games should be treated differently than every other D&D game we run.

    The low hit points of 1st level characters is the main reason things are so hard. Characters can drop very easily, especially when they're hit by creatures like giant poisonous snakes (16 damage on a hit and failed save) and giant centipedes (14 damage on a hit and with a failed save).

    Chapter 2 of Ghosts of Saltmarsh doesn't describe when to level characters. I recommend leveling characters to 2nd level when they have cleared the first and second floors of the mansion and 3rd level by the time they have cleared out the smugglers in the caves below the mansion. Level the characters to 4th level once they have dealt with the Sea Ghost and reported to the council of Saltmarsh that the smuggled weapons are going to the lizardfolk at Dunwater river.

    Running the Cellar

    Most of the upper two floors of the mansion in chapter 2 of Ghosts of Saltmarsh runs smoothly and requires little modification from the book. The cellars, however, are a great example of how we build situations and let the players navigate that situation. The smugglers in the basement don't break down into perfectly balanced little combat encounter groups. They're a dynamic bunch. Among them are three scouts, five bandits, two hobgoblins, and Sanbalet the wizard. How they split up, group up, and face the characters will depend on how the characters act. If the characters triggered the screaming magic mouths, the smugglers know they're coming. That doesn't mean they'll act perfectly, however. These are simple bandits. They're not very bright, not that easy to control, and prone to either acting stupidly or running away.

    Thus, when the characters come down the stairs in area 20, the smugglers are likely to hear them. The smugglers enjoying dinner in area 21 are likely to grab Sanbalet in area 22 and they all go back down into the tunnels in areas 25 through 29. When the characters are done dealing with the skeletons and the alchemist (a really fun encounter so hopefully the characters don't skip it), they will face split groups of scouts and bandits throughout the caves.

    This can be a really hard fight at 2nd level so be nice to the characters. Bandits may flee if they take a hit. They may provoke opportunity attacks. They may have less than average hit points. If the characters are having some bad luck you can tweak things on the other side so the bandits luck isn't so great either.

    Hopefully it's a fun epic battle in which the characters struggle but prevail.

    Failing Forward

    What if they lose? This is a good chance to fail forward. Sanbalet can capture the characters and stick them in area 27 under guard. The characters might escape or might be transported to the Sea Ghost when it comes back in. From there you'll have to decide how things might turn out given how the characters react to the situation. Luckily, as hard as the situations can be in the caves and on the Sea Ghost, capture is a realistic option and escape is a fun approach to get out of it.

    The Weapons of King Skotti

    For a fun twist, we can add a secret and clue to our game that the smuggled weapons found by the characters are actual weapons of King Skotti's armies. This adds a potential conspiracy theory that somehow the King's forces are behind the arming of the lizardfolk against Saltmarsh. This works right into the hands of the Scarlet Brotherhood and adds pressure in the opposite direction from the rumor that the dead woman shows that the Sea Princes are returning. Who actually is selling the king's weapons to the smugglers? An agent of the Scarlet Brotherhood of course! This particular agent, however, will end up dead if the council (and thus Skerrin) finds out that the characters know who it is.

    Running a Downtime Session

    Between clearing out the haunted mansion and taking on the Sea Ghost, we might have a downtime scene or session. In this session the characters can spend a few days reconnecting with Saltmarsh, tying back in with their backgrounds, investigating leads they might have come across, or anything else they might want to do. Running downtime sessions, which we'll talk about in detail in another article, are a different type of D&D scene. In particular, when running downtime sessions you'll want to do the following:

    • Let your players know there will be a downtime scene or session ahead of the game so they can think about what their characters might do.
    • Ask your players to review the downtime activities in chapter 2 of the Player's Handbook.
    • Review the downtime activities in the Player's Handbook, the Dungeon Master's Guide, Xanathar's Guide to Everything, and the downtime activities listed in the Ghosts of Saltmarsh adventure book.
    • Write down a handful of possible downtime activities given their location, the current point in the story, and the backgrounds of the characters.
    • During the session ask the players to describe what they want to do within the week-long period while the council figures out what they want to do about the smuggling ship.
    • Pay special attention to the time and make sure every player gets a chance to talk about what they want to do.

    Once their downtime activities have concluded, it's time to jump to the next part of this adventure.

    Running the Sea Ghost

    Just like the cellar encounter, the Sea Ghost is another big and dynamic situation. To make things a little easier on the characters, consider leveling them to 3rd once they have cleared out the smugglers under the house so they have more resources to take on the crew of the Sea Ghost. As written, it's a tough situation.

    When the characters return to Saltmarsh, the council asks them to go back out to the mansion and infiltrate the Sea Ghost to learn where the pirates on the Sea Ghost are bringing those weapons. If the characters already learned that the weapons are going to the lizardfolk, the council wants them to learn where exactly these lizardfolk are.

    Open Situations, Focused Quests

    When we're setting up a big scene like the infiltration of the Sea Ghost, we want to keep potential approaches open but also focus the required quests so the players know what they're supposed to do and can choose how they want to do it. When it comes to the infiltration of the Sea Ghost, the council of Saltmarsh gives the characters the following quests:

    • Learn where the smugglers are bringing the weapons.
    • Neutralize the crew of the Sea Ghost.

    These quests are important otherwise the characters will be floundering around on the ship itself, unsure how to deal with it and unsure why they're there in the first place. This can lead to a lot of frustration if the quests aren't clarified.

    Beyond clarifying their goals, we can also help guide the conversations the players are having about their approach towards the Sea Ghost by steering it towards realistic options. Will it be possible that they sneak on disguised as the smugglers from the haunted mansion? Do we think they can realistically row up and challenge the whole crew at once? We can offer some guidance in the form of levels of difficulty.

    Offer clear goals and leave the approaches open.

    If things go straight into combat on the Sea Ghost, spread things out so the characters aren't facing all of the crew at once. Some crew might be sleeping. Some might be afraid to run up on deck. Some might need a couple of rounds to get their pants on and find their sabers. Let them attack in waves and don't be afraid to tweak their hit points for the flow of the story. When it works well, a fight on the Sea Ghost can feel like the one of the best action adventure movies we've seen.

    With the Sea Ghost taken down, our characters return to Saltmarsh with the information they need to head into Ghosts of Saltmarsh Chapter 3: The Danger in Dunwater.

    Stretching our DM Muscles

    The Sinister Secret of Saltmarsh is a wonderful adventure that helps us stretch a lot of DM muscles that we often talk about on this website and in Return of the Lazy Dungeon Master. This adventure is full of dynamic situations, intrigue, and potential downtime activities. It's hard to run some of these situations. We really have to be comfortable thinking on our feet. When they run well, however, such adventures can feel like magic.

    Read more »
  • VideoDM's Deep Dive with David Christ

    In July 2019 I had the pleasure of speaking with David Chris on the DM's Deep Dive. David Christ is the owner of Baldman Games, the company that runs D&D organized play events at a half-dozen of conventions every year. At Gencon alone he runs 8,000 players through about 1,200 games. He's run over fifty shows at this point and manages over 2,500 DMs over the years. He also runs surveys of all of these DMs, receiving feedback on what worked well and what has not.

    This gives David a unique perspective on Dungeons & Dragons dungeon mastering. David has DM feedback on thousands of games. Though these views are limited to convention games, which don't always correlate well to how DMs run home games, it's still a huge amount of experience we were able to tap into during this interview.

    You can watch the full interview in the video below, directly on YouTube, or listen to the podcast on the Don't Split the Podcast Network.

    .embed-container { position: relative; padding-bottom: 56.25%; height: 0; overflow: hidden; max-width: 100%; } .embed-container iframe, .embed-container object, .embed-container embed { position: absolute; top: 0; left: 0; width: 100%; height: 100%; }

    The rest of this article contains notes from our discussion.

    David Christ's Top Three Tips

    Running a D&D game is about the group, not you. D&D is a collaborative story. The players have as much control over that story as the DM. Bring the group into the story.

    Have fun. Smile. Laugh. You don't have to know all of the rules. If you're running a fun game it will make up for other defficiencies. Everything else takes care of itself. Hiccups are easier to take care of when everyone's laughing about it.

    Nothing goes as planned but disasters are fun. If you roll with the punches things turn out well.

    Top Traits of High-Scoring DMs

    Preparation. Lack of preparation shows. If you've read, re-read, and taken notes on your material you're in a much better place to handle the strange things that happen. You don't want to have to worry about what the next encounter is. A good DM prepares. A good DM is ready to improvise. If you don't prepare it's hard to improvise.

    Smile. It's a game. Have fun. If you start stressing out it leaks through the rest of the game. It's a bad cycle when you're stressed out and the players see it. Take a ten minute break and regroup.

    One of the easiest ways to get a low rating as a DM is for the DM to say "I'm telling the story, you're just along for the ride". The DM who is so certain that their way is the right way is the one who is going to get crappy ratings. If a DM thinks their way is the best, that's a sure sign that they're taking in feedback from their table.

    Mike compares this to the Dunning Krueger effect. Someone who thinks they're really good many not be as good as they think while those who realize they have much to learn are on the path towards greatness.

    Some of the newest DMs are the best DMs because they're not encumbered by historical baggage. DMs who think they're great DMs will ignore the results and then select themselves out of the program.

    Not being prepared is a sure sign of a low rating game. Your numbers fall if you stop at the beginning the game to read the module. This is a particular problem at convention organized play games. People paid for these games and don't want to sit there watch someone read a module.

    David's Preparation Tips

    Read the adventure and take notes. Write down NPC names. Pronounce them ahead of time. Put monster stat blocks on cards. Use an initiative tracker. Preroll initiative.

    Players who see a DM with their shit together will feel more confident in the game and their DM. It's contagious.

    DMs at conventions talk to other DMs in their tier and with those running the same adventures. Sometimes they're even talking to the authors of the adventures. How do we replicate this at home?

    David believes people get a score bump for using candy for monsters. A timeless classic. In Dave's opinion Reece's Peanut Butter cups are more well-liked than miniatures.

    The people with terrain and minis can make a great experience. A DM with the maps and minis, however, can be too tied into their own story to forget about all of the important stuff. The guy with the empty table might be running a great game. Minis and terrain are no indicator of how good a game it will be although it does show a DM who has prepared.

    The Difference Between Home and Convention Games

    According to David, convention games don't have the same flexibility as a home game. Side quests are a feature in home games but a bug in convention games. There's much better food at home games. Home games have a much greater sense of flexibility than convention games.

    A really good convention DM knows how to railroad characters back into the plot of an adventure without the players knowing its happening.

    The Growth of D&D

    Theres been an explosive growth in D&D over the past three years and David is seeing this in the convention games he manages in the following ways:

    • The average age is going down.
    • Players are typically looking for shorter games.
    • New players want shorter campaign arcs.
    • Everyone likes rolling dice.
    • Many more women and better diversity.
    • Not as much about the wargame mentality versus story.

    On the Importance of Rules Knowledge

    Rules knowledge is the least important trait of the four traits on which Baldman Games scores DMs. In order the importance of traits are:

    • Prepared
    • Friendly
    • Fun
    • Rules knowledge

    If prepared numbers are low, all the rest of the numbers are usually low. If rules knowledge is low, it doesn't correlate to lower scores in the other categories. Friendly is more important than fun but the two are often tied together.

    A lack of rules knowledge can actually help break past an adversarial relationship when the DM asks the players to help with rules.

    Other Notes

    There were fifty new DMs at Gencon.

    The internet has done many terrible things but it gives us a wide range of DMs with whom we can share experiences.

    We have a huge online D&D community with tremendous interconnection between DMs sharing experiences but then each of us goes home and runs a game in isolation for our four to six players. What happens at that table doesn't have any effect on the rest of the world. It's a very different sort of hobby. Some really great DMs in home play cannot work well in organized play.

    Thanks again to David Christ for letting us squeeze his brain and get his experience running so many D&D games over the years.

    Read more »
  • D&D DM Tip Generator

    Over the past ten years, I've been posting a single D&D dungeon master tip each day to Twitter. I've collected these over the years and released them in a single big archive so anyone who wants to use them, can do so.

    I also wrote a Twitter bot that randomly selects one of the older tweets and posts it to Twitter each day. That bot is called dndtweets. It's a fun one to follow if you like what you find on Sly Flourish. You'll see daily tips, top retweeted #dnd hashtagged tweets, and article reposts twice a week.

    Lately I've become fascinated by randomness and creativity and also by Brian Eno and his deck of cards for breaking out of creative ruts called Oblique Strategies. You can see his Oblique Straties in action on the web. They're a set of random concepts intended to break creative people out of a jam. Like rolling a d20 and letting it change our D&D games, these cards force us to think about problems in a new way.

    The D&D Tip Generator

    Recently I combined these ideas into a new D&D dm tip generator backed by 1,700 tweets from about the past four and a half years. I selected this time period to avoid a whole bunch of largely outdated 4th edition D&D tips. I also cleaned them up a bit.

    The generator posts a single tip on a clean and fast HTML page. It's suitable for mobile or desktop. You can click on the tip to load a new one if you want to go through a few.

    You can bookmark the site or stick it on the home screen of your phone if you want. Anytime you're preparing for a D&D game or thinking about your game you can pull it up, take a look at the tip, and see if it inspires you to think a little differently about your game.

    Hopefully you find it a fun little tool.

    Read more »
  • VideoGhosts of Saltmarsh Session Zero

    Chapter 17 of Return of the Lazy Dungeon Master describes the value of running a "session zero" for a new campaign. In a session zero, our players can build their characters together while also discussing the story of the campaign. It's a great time to reinforce the main themes of the campaign, integrate the characters together into a group, and discuss any sensative issues anyone might have with these themes.

    With our Waterdeep Dragon Heist campaign complete, my two groups both began their adventures in Ghosts of Saltmarsh. This was the perfect time to start fresh, take a deep breath, get together with our friends, and learn about the world and the characters who will sit in its center.

    The Ghosts of Saltmarsh Player's Guide

    Download the Ghosts of Saltmarsh Player's Guide

    For this session zero I wrote a Ghosts of Saltmarsh Player's Guide. This one-page guide, influenced heavily by Matt Coleville's video on the value of player guides, is intended to give the players everything they need to understand where the campaign is going and how their character might fit into it. It offers some history of the region; the notable details of Saltmarsh such as inns, taverns, and other landmarks; their potential backgrounds; and, most importantly, the central theme for their characters:

    Above all you are companions who, together, seek to bring safety and prosperity to the village of Saltmarsh.

    Such a refined and focused drive for the characters helps ensure the players bring characters to the table who will work well together and fit the theme of the campaign. This avoids the oddball character who comes in with a clearly different motive and drive that never quite fits either the group or the adventure.

    Getting to Know Saltmarsh

    Session Zeros are a great time to relax with our friends before the adventure begins. We don't need eye-popping strong starts at the beginning of the session. We can describe the locations of Saltmarsh, letting players jump in when they hear of a place about which they want to know more.

    It's a great time to introduce notable NPCs such as the council members, Wellgar Brinehanded the cleric of Procan, and Ferrin Kastilar the druid with his pet bullfrog Lorys. The characters can learn of the tension between the traditionalists and the loyalists. They can pick up some rumors at the docks.

    Session zeros are great times to let the characters explore Saltmarsh and learn what it has to offer before they go out with swords drawn into the dangers surrounding the seaside town.

    Some Session Zero Props

    Props can help make the ethereal ghosts of our campaign begin to feel solid and real. I recommend both a color map of the village of Saltmarsh and a black-and-white map of the Saltmarsh region. The D&D Beyond version of Ghosts of Saltmarsh includes high resolution versions of both of these maps along with high-resolution maps of all of the locations in the whole book. The Saltmarsh village and regional maps can be printed on 17x24 for about $3 each at your local Staples or Fedex print center and they look great on the table when you're running your session zero and describing the locations. Players can fill in the blank regional map as they discover new locations throughout their adventure.

    What Sources to Allow

    We're getting to the point where there are quite a few books containing a wide assortment of races. In some campaigns this doesn't matter too much but it's hard to figure out why a githyanki or yuan-ti might be involved in the issues surrounding a fishing village. You might either select a specific list of allowed races that fit the theme of the campaign or allow certain books such as Xanathar's Guide to Everything, Volo's Guide to Monsters, and the Elemental Evil Player's Companion. You could also let the players know that anything in the Player's Handbook is fine but they should bring up any other options with you before they pick it so together you can decide if it fits what's going on.

    You also might be the sort of DM who lets players choose anything and come what may. That's a fine option too but you might have to do some story-yoga to figure out why a githzeri makes sense in Saltmarsh.

    The Body on the Beach

    As a fun way to get the story started, you might have a body wash up on the beach. A woman, drowned, clearly looking as though she was recently bound and died trying to swim away. The state of her clothing shows her as a potential prisoner. Are the slavers back? Where did she come from? Someone might recognize her as one of two adventurers, brother and sister, who came to town with dreams of finding the alchemist's gold at the haunted mansion only to never be found again.

    The loyalists see the body as a sign that the town needs more protection and a heavier hand. The traditionalists see it as meddling by the outside iron gauntlet of the king. Both groups, through the council, want to send the characters to the haunted mansion to see if they can find her brother and uncover the woman's mysterious death.

    Thus our adventure begins.

    A Time to Build the World

    Session zeros give us a chance to spend time with our players and watch the world come together. With a whole session dedicated to understanding the town, the region, the themes of the campaign, the characters, and their relationships we have a much better start to a nice long campaign. The next time you're getting ready to start a new campaign, start it off with a session zero and watch the world come together.

    Read more »
  • Learning About the Characters

    The first step for Dungeon & Dragons game prep recommended in Return of the Lazy Dungeon Master is to review the characters. The characters are the primary interface between the players and the world. For each player, their character is the most important aspect of the game. Thus, it behooves us DMs to not only do our best to understand the characters, but help the other players understand them as well.

    Before we begin any other preparation activity we can spend some time reviewing the characters. This helps us get their backgrounds into our minds before we start building out the rest of the adventure for our next session.

    During the session, however, we can do some things to elicit more details of the characters so us DMs and the rest of the players can better understand each of the characters in our story.

    Today we're going to look at a few ways we can learn more about the characters in the games we play.

    What's Their One Unique Thing

    If we want to make our characters truly unique in the world we can steal an idea from the excellent roleplaying game 13th Age. Beyond being a wonderful d20-based superheroic fantasy game, 13th Age includes a ton material to steal and throw into our existing Dungeons & Dragons game. "One Unique Thing" is one such example. In 13th Age, each character chooses one unique thing about their character; one thing, often fantastic, that makes them unique in the world. For example, in one such game I had a paladin who was actually guided by the ghosts of three hags only I could see.

    We can bring this idea right into our D&D games if we want. We can ask, often during our session zero, what makes a player's character unique in the world. We can keep this somewhat mundane or make it as fantastic as the world allows depending on the theme we're shooting for in the campaign.

    Tales Around a Campfire

    The game Savage Worlds includes an interesting mechanic for players to talk about the backgrounds of their characters. At some point in the adventure, when the characters are around a campfire or the like, a randomly-selected player can pull a card from a deck. Depending on the pull they can share a story of love (hearts), victory (diamonds), tragedy (clubs), or loss and defeat (spades). This rewards the character with some sort of boon. In our D&D games we might reward inspiration, for example, or some other interesting effect to that character, maybe even a boon from the Dungeon Master's Guide that lasts for the day.

    Ask Guiding Questions

    Aother option is to write down one question for each character during the character review in our game prep and then ask it at our next game. We don't have to do this every session but it might be fun once in a while. Our questions can be specific, with a veto option by the player if they have some other aspects of the character they want to discuss. Here are some examples:

    "Shelby, what made you leave Ahoyhoy?"

    "Stone, what happened on the ship when all those civilians died?"

    "Feski, how did you learn about your ancestor, Fausto the Reluctant?"

    "Truth, when did you decide to end the source of the Death Curse?"

    "Fromash, when did you find your true connection with the preservation of the natural cycle of death?"

    Write down the answers when you get them and add them to your game notes for your next prep session. Doing this every few sessions can define interesting details of the characters we would otherwise never know and gives those details to the other players as well as us.

    Downtime Activities

    If the story of our game offers some in-game time between sessions, we can ask the players what their characters did during that time. At the beginning of the session, even before our strong start, we can ask for a volunteer to tell us what their character did during this downtime. Maybe they conducted some research in a library. Maybe they spent some time with an old flame. Maybe they talked to some seedy contacts in the rough bar in the docks district. Sometimes these descriptions might lead to a skill check to see what they learn. It's a perfect opportunity to drop in some secrets and clues depending on what they do and how well they do it.

    These independent montages may help us learn about the character while they get something done. The players are filling out a piece of the world right in front of our eyes, while, at the same time, telling us more about their character than we otherwise know. Sometimes these events might completely change a session, which is perfectly fine for us flexible DMs.

    A Little Bit At a Time

    It helps us when we learn about a character a little bit at a time. We might often start D&D games with large backstories for characters (when we do them at all) but the most interesting characters evolve over the course of the game. We don't need huge backstories. A little bit each session lets us all watch characters grow and evolve as we play.

    This is particularly true in convention games. Our friend DM David talks about this his article with the pithy title How to Get D&D Players to Make Unforgettable Character Introductions That Take a Minute or Less. We can ask for more than a race and class, instead asking for a line or two that describes the character. Even in one-shot games this helps us add some flavor to the overall adventure.

    A Greater Understanding of the Characters

    All of this is intended to help us, and the other players, get a better understanding of the characters in our story. The more we know about them, the more they can interweave into that story. We don't need a novel's worth of material, sometimes just a line or two can do it. Spend time next game getting to know a thing or two about the characters in your world.

    Read more »
  • Two Thugs in the Woods

    Here at Sly Flourish we're big on setting up situations in our Dungeons & Dragons games instead of building pre-determined encounters. Instead of deciding that there are three bandits and two scouts in a chamber underneath the haunted mansion, we know that there are roughly six bandits, two scouts, two hobgoblins, and an evil wizard hanging out in the whole cave complex down there. Depending on what they're up to and whether they hear of the characters, they could be in various places; eating, checking on their fine stolen wares, or looking longingly over the sea. Which bandits, scouts, hobgoblins, or wizards the characters will encounter first depends on how they approach the situation. If they're sneaky, maybe they can catch two of them unaware playing dice or sharing a bottle. If they're loud, the whole hideout might prepare for their imminent attack, choosing which corridors to defend or which rooms to reinforce.

    We set up situations so our players can interact with them any way they wish. They can sneak around, they can talk their way through it, they can rush in and attack; whatever way they choose, the situation will adapt. We don't have to build scenes around one of the three styles of play: roleplaying, exploration, or combat. Instead we can build out a situation and let the players choose how to approach it.

    Not all situations have to be this complicated. Sometimes simple situation can offer many potential options while also teaching us something about our players and bringing a lot of fun to our game.

    Two Thugs in the Woods

    Let's say the characters are on an island trying to find the site of a dark ritual going on in the woods. While sneaking through the woods the characters come upon two thugs hanging around slacking at their job of looking for intruders.

    We don't have to build a big set-piece battle for a situation like this. We don't have to pull up Kobold Fight Club and see how hard the fight is going to be. We don't have to ensure there's all sorts of special terrain to keep people busy or write up two pages of history on these two thugs and their issues with their troubled childhoods.

    It's two thugs in the woods. That's the situation.

    And yet there are many ways to deal with this situation. Will the characters try to sneak up and listen to their conversation? Will the characters try to trick the thugs into thinking they're with the cultists performing the ritual? Will they sneak around them? Will they jump them and beat them into the dirt? A situation of two thugs in the woods has a lot of potential for many different styles of play.

    Two thugs in the woods is an excellent way to gauge the interests of your players as well. Listen to the conversation your players are having while planning it. Watch their body language. Who is looking to have a conversation? Who is looking to listen in? Who wants to kick their asses? You'll learn a lot about your players when they choose their approach towards the two thugs in the woods.

    Such simple situations aren't the whole picture. Sometimes we want a great boss battle. Sometimes we want the characters to run into a whole army of bandits or a ship full of pirates instead of just a couple of thugs. Sometimes we do need to consider how an entire hobgoblin war party occupies the ruined castle.

    Sometimes, though, two thugs in the woods is all we need to build an interesting encounter, give our players the freedom to choose their approach, and help us learn more about our players' desires.

    Read more »
  • VideoDM Deep Dive: Monster Design with Jeremy Crawford

    Back in July 2018 I had the great honor to talk with Jeremy Crawford on the DM's Deep Dive. I had neglected to write up the notes for this interview and seek to remedy that problem right now.

    You can watch the video below or watch it directly on Youtube.

    .embed-container { position: relative; padding-bottom: 56.25%; height: 0; overflow: hidden; max-width: 100%; } .embed-container iframe, .embed-container object, .embed-container embed { position: absolute; top: 0; left: 0; width: 100%; height: 100%; }

    Here are some notes from the interview.

    Jeremy's Top Three Tips to Get the Most Out of D&D Monsters:

    A monster is more than a sack of hit points. Monsters are characters. They're a roleplaying opportunities and story building blocks. Jeremy will flip through Volo's Guide to Monsters or Mordenkainen's Tome of Foes and look for a monster that sparks his imagination. Look for a way to make a monster funny or scary. Monsters can dispense story information in the midsts of combat.

    Use monsters as the seeds of adventure design.

    Monsters imply an environment. Monster choices can have a ripple effect for your adventure design, campaign design, and roleplaying.

    Adjust numbers on the fly. Your players don't see what's behind the screen. Hit points are the average and can fall anywhere within a monster's hit dice range. Adjust on the fly to make combats memorable and appropriate for the moment in the story. Adjust the numbers to hit the appropriate emotional beats. If a battle is dragging on too long, drop the hit points and let the monster die sooner. The hit dice number is a tool for DMs to know the range of hit points.

    You can do the same thing with damage. The average is listed but so is the range. As a DM you can go anywhere within that range. If you want your monsters to do minimum damage or maximum damage, go for it; although maximum damage is really scary. Imagine fire giants hitting for 86 damage!

    The DM is the adjudicator of the threat and can tune the numbers appropriately.

    Monsters have bad days too. DMs, be kind to yourself. Sometimes you'll forget an ability of a monster and realize after the game that things would have been much different if you remembered. Don't beat yourself up. It happens to everyone. Use this as an opportunity for a second chance. Perhaps Bob the minotaur's sister, Charlotte, shows up.

    D&D has endless opportunities for DMs to get better.

    Mike's tip: when running boss monsters, find ways to run a boss monster twice so you can try it out once and then run it for real the second time. Lichs, vampires, and spellcasters with simulacrums have built-in ways to die and come back later.

    How Does WOTC Make Monsters?

    The process WOTC uses to build monsters varies depending on the book. If they're building monsters for an adventure, they know they'll need monsters of a particular challenge rating. For a monster book, their origins are more vague. They'll start with concepts, then abilities, then the CR calculator, and then reality-check the monster. Where do they fit within the range of existing monsters?

    A monster's design says something about the broader world. New monsters impact the world and older monsters define the world in a way that matters in the process of creating new ones.

    Wizards of the Coast uses their own internal challenge rating calculator when designing any official D&D monster. The guidelines in the Dungeon Master's Guide are a loose extrapolation of this internal challenge rating calculator. The internal one has much more atomicity than the DMG guidelines. The calculator adjusts challenge on the fly every time a monster gains a new feature.

    Sometimes monsters are tweaked based on the art, which explains the Winter Eladrin and its sad bow attack. Man, it's been a year and, looking back, that Winter Eladrin is really really sad.

    The DMG monster design rules tend to lead to monsters with higher hit points and more damage than monsters designed with the internal challenge rating calculator Wizards of the Coast uses.

    Since the design of the Monster Manual, Wizards of the Coast is willing to let a monster's challenge rating change based on their capabilities other than hit points and damage.

    How Do We Run High-End Boss Monsters?

    A boss isn't designed to be encountered in a white room. They should be encountered in the battlefield they chose. If you're going into their throne room, you will arrive tuckered out from traps and previous encounters. If you're fighting the boss fresh after a night's rest, that is very different than fighting through eight waves of guards.

    There are three ways to tune the difficulty of a boss monster.

    • Encounter sequencing. What encounters took place ahead of time?
    • The setting of the battle. Where does it take place?
    • Bosses don't appear alone. What monsters will protect the boss?

    When we talk about encounter difficulty, boss battles should be on the "hard" level. It's ok even to make them "deadly".

    Bosses have ways to escape. Vampires and lichs have built-in ways to escape defeat.

    Jeremy has run vampires for the entire life of fifth edition and has yet had a group defeat one. He plays them as geniuses. They don't stick around in a fight they're not going to win.

    Night hags can planeshift. They're not going to stick around if they're getting their asses kicked.

    Questions from the Audience

    What considerations are made for bosses that aren't legendary?

    Monsters without legendary traits are expected to be with other creatures. A really high CR monster might be a threat for a single group. If a single non-legendary monster faces a group of characters with a CR equal to level, it's going to get squashed.

    What are some of your most favorite and terrifying monster abilities?

    Jeremy is able to terrify within the roleplaying sphere but nothing scares players more than hit point drain or mind control, especially long-term mind control. Mike's tip: make hit point drain require a lesser or greater restoration instead of just a long rest to cure. Now it's REALLY scary.

    Mike thinks young kruthiks are very scary. CR 1/8 and it has pack tactics. Jeremy mentions that pack tactics makes low challenge monsters a good threat to high challenge creatures. Thugs are always dangerous.

    What are some favorite combat systems in non-D&D RPGs?

    Jeremy was fascinated by the combat system in Ryuutama. Jeremy likes the abstract combat system based on zones instead of concrete measurements. Jeremy likes more abstracted combat systems than the measured concrete system in D&D.

    Mike likes Numenera's combat system because of the simplicity of its challenge rating. Monsters are just a single number which makes it really easy to build things on the fly. Mike also likes the abstract distances in 13th Age.

    None of the Wizards design team uses miniatures anymore. Chris Perkins got rid of his huge vat of miniatures he used to wheel around. He gave them away as gifts.

    Jeremy rarely ever builds his own monsters for his own game. He'll just reskin existing NPC stat blocks. There's almost always some stat block he can already use.

    Thanks to Jeremy Crawford for taking the time to share his wisdom!

    Read more »
  • Waterdeep Dragon Heist Chapter 5: The Heist

    This article contains spoilers for Waterdeep Dragon Heist.

    This is one of a series of articles covering the hardback Dungeons & Dragons adventure Waterdeep Dragon Heist. You can read all of the articles here:

    One of the common complains about Waterdeep Dragon Heist is that it doesn't actually contain a heist. The heist in this adventure actually took place years earlier when Dagault Neverember embezzled half a million gold dragons from the people of the Sword Coast. Instead, as we outlined in our session zero, our characters are conducting an investigation, not getting involved in a heist. There's a way, however, to add a heist to our Dragon Heist game that also squeezes more out of the Waterdeep Dragon Heist book itself and sets up a fun situation for the characters to navigate.

    Chapters 5 through 8 of Waterdeep Dragon Heist contain descriptions of four major lairs for four possible villains including Jarlaxle, Manshoon, the Cassalanters, and the Xanathar. These lairs don't come directly into play in the written adventure. They are optional areas DMs can use if the situation happens to arise.

    We're going to ensure that it does.

    In a previous article we talked about how to turn Chapter 4 into a situational investigation. The Stone of Golorr goes missing and the characters have to follow the trail to figure out where it went. Instead of running chapter 4 as a chase, we ensure the stone gets away and the characters' job is to find out where it went and steal it back instead of intercepting it on the way.

    Where did it go? To one of the lairs in chapter 5 through 8.

    The villain you chose when you began this adventure will determine where the Stone of Golorr ends up. In my game, it ends up in the Cassalanter's villa.

    Setting Up the Situation

    Urstel Floxin, the former Zhentarim assassin, has delivered the Stone of Golorr to the Cassalanters. They want to use it to recover the gold from the Vault of Dragons so they can buy out of their contract with Asmodeus and save the souls of their two remaining children. They will be doing so when things die down in Waterdeep given that the whole situation to recover the Stone of Golorr got so hot in the first place.

    The Cassalanters plan to recover the gold in a few days time. First, they're just about to have a big event at the house. Unknown to them (and this deviates from the published adventure but I like this better), their head butler, Willifort Crowelle, plans to poison the guests of the Cassalanters so he can raise his station among the worshipers of Asmodeus. He thinks that the Cassalanters have lost their edge when it comes to devil worship and wants to take over.

    Ammalia Cassalanter has taken the Stone of Golorr to her transformed son Osvaldo Cassalanter, now a chain devil, who may reside in his room if you choose or in a vault down in the temple to Asmodeus down in the cellar, which I chose.

    The characters need to prevent the poisoning of the guests and recover the stone. How they go about this is up to them and up to the evolving situation at the mansion

    Options Other Than Combat

    A direct assault on the villa isn't the best solution to this problem and smart players will spend some time figuring out how best to infiltrate the villa during the party without bloodshed, or much bloodshed. They may pose as guests, they might break in through a well in the center of the villa's yard, they might pretend to be hired servants, or they might just break on in. The fun of setting up a situation like this is that the players can spend some time thinking up different ways to get in and then the situation plays out, often much differently than they planned. Of course, the characters don't have all of the variables. They don't know about the poisoning yet. They may discover it while they're there, seeing Willifort poisoning the fancy foods the Cassalanters plan to serve to their guests.

    As for the other variables, arcana checks might help the characters discover that the stone is down in the cellar or they might learn it from an interrogated guard or servant. When they get down there, characters might even strike up a deal with Ammalia Cassalanter herself if they promise to save her children. Victorio is likely not as accommodating.

    You'll want to make sure the players don't spend too much time planning ahead of time. Help them solidify their plans and put them underway. Remind them that things aren't likely to play out the way they think. If their characters would know or remember something that the players do not, help them out. Too much planning can get boring and, as every good group knows, it all goes out the window the minute they get there.

    Going Easy

    Players aren't always perfectly coordinated either and we don't want to punish them for this. Go easy on them if their plans don't work out perfectly. Add complications for failed checks and don't let the whole house come crashing down on them. If their attempts are solid enough, give them advantage on checks. Help them succeed even if their success doesn't follow the plan. If everything does seem to be going their way, add some complications. Maybe Jarlaxle shows up. Maybe the Blackstaff shows up. Maybe the Open Lord herself shows up. Maybe all three.

    Running situations like this is a good way to keep your upward and downward beats continually oscillating.

    The Dungeon Below

    When the characters make it down to the cellar, we have an opportunity for some traditional dungeon delving. The cellar can be full of cultists, fanatics, and lesser devils. They might run into the room containing the transformed Osvaldo, a room full of chains he can animate to make life very hard for the characters. Perhaps only Ammalia can save them and only if they promise to help her restore her son and save her other two children.

    Returning to Chapter 4 and the Vault of Dragons

    When the characters complete this heist, it's probably a good time to level them to sixth before they return to chapter 4 and head into the Vault of Dragons. From there, the adventure takes a traditional path. We likely don't need a writeup of running that part of the adventure. Thus this article concludes our look at running Waterdeep Dragon Heist. With the right modifications this adventure can fill in as one of the best city-based adventures you and your group may experience.

    Make it your own and enjoy it.

    Read more »