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  • VideoUnboxing Catan: 3D Edition

    by W. Eric Martin

    In May 2021, publishers KOSMOS and Catan Studio announced a special 3D edition of Klaus Teuber's CATAN, and the world collectively rejoiced and said, "Finally, a game that we can play outside the confines of Flatland! I never thought I'd see a game with depth, but at last that day has come."

    Of course that day hasn't come yet as CATAN: 3D Edition isn't due out until August 2021, but that day is impending — unless you are reading this post after the game has been released, in which case yes, that day has come.

    Anyway, Catan Studio sent me an unsolicited copy of CATAN: 3D Edition, so I thought I'd throw it in front of the camera and share the look of the game with you, gentle reader, in case you were curious about it. I had intended to play it as well and take more than a single picture of the game, but family matters intervened, and that's just how life works sometimes.

    Should you be attending BGG.CON 2021 in November, you will have a better chance to check out this item as I plan to bring this game to Dallas and add it to the BGG Library for use during the convention. For now, this game is being used as a literal doorstop to keep my three cats from pushing open a door with a faulty latch and intruding upon a fourth cat that is housing with me temporarily. If nothing else, the game does make a fine doorstop because the box weighs nearly nine pounds!

    As for how it might look on your gaming table, well, there's this:

    Youtube Video Read more »
  • Hunt or Be Hunted in Cryptid: Urban Legends

    by W. Eric Martin

    Hal Duncan and Ruth Veevers' Cryptid from 2018 is a delightful deduction game in which each of the 3-5 players holds a piece of information as to where a legendary creature is located, and the challenge is to discover enough of the other players' info — without revealing too much of yours — to track down that creature first. (For more details on the game, you can read Veevers' designer diary or check out my written and video overview.)

    Now Duncan and Veevers have created Cryptid: Urban Legends, a two-player, asymmetric competitive game of deductive reasoning that publisher Osprey Games will release in April 2022. Here's an overview of the game:
    There's something hiding among us, a creature hitherto undiscovered prowling our very streets. If you track it down, well, that'd be the discovery of the century!

    Play as a determined scientist manipulating heat, movement, and sonic sensors to scan the city, identify your quarry's true location, and capture them — or take the role of a cryptid, snaking your way through shadows and back alleys of the metropolis that surrounds you, eliminating all evidence of your existence as you go, desperately avoiding capture. Emerging victorious in this high stakes cat-and-mouse chase, played out across a sprawling urban landscape, will require all your ingenuity and foresight.

    In the publisher's game announcement, the designers are quoted as follows:
    We've often described the game as a hidden movement game, but where the movement isn't actually hidden! While that might sound a like a joke, we actually arrived at the design by attempting to physically represent the possibility space of where the secret player could be in a hidden movement game. As the players engage in the game's core puzzle, they get to experience the highs and lows of seeing the cryptid's possible hiding locations grow and shrink. With both players manipulating a shared set of sensors, which can each move only once each round, they will have to balance choosing the right ones to move against managing their limited hand of cards. We hope that each round will give players an interesting new puzzle.

    The concept of shared sensors makes me think of Mr. Jack, a two-player cat-and-mouse design from Bruno Cathala and Ludovic Maublanc in which the killer and the investigator manipulate characters and street lamps to try to respectively keep as many suspects on the game board as possible or eliminate suspects before time runs out. That 2006 design is a classic, so I'm curious to learn more about Cryptid: Urban Legends... Read more »
    - Newest Items

  • Sci-fi Map Tiles 2
    Publisher: WyldFurr

    Sci-fi Map Tiles 2

    Designing your own science fiction adventure maps for the virtual tabletop is simple and easy with the block by block approach of map tiles. This package of art assets gives the Game Master (GM) the ability to create sci-fi battle maps that will bring an adventure to life!

    What is a Map Tile?

    A map tile is a block of ready-made art that depicts a grid square of terrain. Such as a patch of grass, a concrete floor, or a cobblestone floor.

    Each individual map tile is created as a part of a themed pack of map tiles, together the tiles can be used to build virtual tabletop adventure maps.

    Map tiles from Studio WyldFurr are created to a scale of 3 pixels per real world inch. Thus each map tile is designed for use with a 180 pixels square map grid.

    Designing your own Adventure Maps

    Creating an adventure map with Map Tiles is just like building with Lego. Just place down each block, one after the other, to build up the geography of your map.

    Start by placing down the floor tiles, then once the floor has been created, start to add the Wall Overlays. Then add in features such as doors or window overlays.

    Raw Art Assets Edition

    This edition of the Sci-fi Map Tiles 2 pack is designed for use by Game Masters who love building their own maps and want access to a toolbox of ready-made artistic material rather than the hassle of designing their own material from scratch. The map tiles within this package were designed to act as a library of art assets that a Game Master could simply just drag-n-drop onto a canvas to form a map.

    The package contains a wealth of raw image files in PNG file format. These image files form the building blocks which you can assemble into the form of a dungeon, fortress, monster lair, or whatever kind of adventure map structure you desire.

    Simply start with a blank canvas inside the graphics editing program of your choice, for example, Photoshop, Clip Studio Paint, Affinity Photo, or Gimp. Then start composing the form of an adventure location by grabbing a map tile from the library, then plonk it onto the canvas right where you want it to go. Keep placing down map tiles and your adventure map will take form. Building up the map, block by block like Lego.

    Using map tiles permits very granular control over the form of your adventure map chambers and passageways, rather than relying on pre-constructed rooms which you cannot change. Once the structure of the map is in place, add the final touches by dressing your map with props and object tokens such as tables, chairs, statues, etc.

    Sample Gallery

    This gallery of samples was created with the art assets from the Sci-fi Map Tiles 2 package.

    Sample Art #1

    Sample Art #2

    Sample Art #3

    Sample Art #4

    IMPORTANT: This pack of art assets are intended for use in building adventure maps for employment within virtual tabletop role-playing applications such as Fantasy Grounds, Roll20, Battlegrounds, Astral, or d20Pro. This package is not a stand-alone game, but a collection of PNG art assets for designing role-playing maps for personal use only.

    Sci-fi Map Tiles 2Price: $8.95 Read more »
  • [korea] .exe
    Publisher: Chaosium

    < 수록 시나리오 >

    -  404 Not Found

    - #403_hello_world : )

    - 세계관 소개 / NPC 소개 / QnA

    총 2개의 다인 시나리오가 수록되어 있으며 기타 궁금하셨던 것들도 같이 수록되어 있습니다.

    맞춤법 교정과 컬러(PDF)로 작업 되었습니다. (책은 흑백입니다.)

    종이책과 같은 내용을 담고 있습니다. ( 추가 파일zip도 꼭 받으세요 ) 

    시나리오는 여전히 공개로 두고 있으니 내용이 궁금하신분은 포스타입을 확인 바랍니다. 

    [korea] .exePrice: $14.00 Read more »

    Gnome Stew

  • Wyrmwood Dice Tray Review: The Coolest, Most Expensive Dice Tray on Earth
    Wyrmwood Dice Tray Review: The Coolest, Most Expensive Dice Tray on Earth

    The Wyrmwood dice tray is a luxury item that will make you the envy of your gaming group. Not only does it look great, but it also feels amazing in your hand and has a nice weight to it. The best part about this dice tray is the fact that you can roll any die (even metal ones) without them going flying off the table! It’s perfect for when you have friends over who don’t yet know how to play D&D or other roleplaying games; they’ll be reaching for their credit card before they know what hit them.

    In this article, I share my personal experience using a Wyrmwood Tabletop Dice Tray I purchased at a local gaming convention. My dice tray cost a pretty penny (around $150 at a convention discount). Yes, it’s only a dice tray, but there was a compelling reason to get one. I’m sure you all have a feeling of why. But, here’s what I think and perhaps why you may want to consider one of these dice rolling accessories for your gaming.

    Wyrmwood Dice Trays are expensive, but beautiful works of “functional art” (image credit:

    Summary (TL;DR)

    The Wyrmwood Dice Tray is a beautiful dice tray that has been crafted with an awesome design. Wyrmwood is a company that creates high-end gaming accessories, and this certainly shows in the Wyrmwood Dice Tray. These are some of the features you can expect to find:

    • The Wyrmwood dice tray has been made from handcrafted wood
    • It can be used as a rolling surface for all types of games
    • There’s also plenty of room for other items like cards and miniatures
    • Fancy dice trays make great gifts that every tabletop gamer can appreciate


    Why You Need a Dice Tray?

    “Roll for initiative!” The Dungeon Master bellowed, and I swiftly scooped up D20 from the table. “No way,” my friend, Matt said as he shuffled his character sheet. “It’s rigged.” The others in my gaming group nodded in agreement as they sat around our makeshift gaming table. Rolling my eyes at their naivety, I struggled to keep a straight face. I pulled the Wyrmwood dice tray from my bag and placed on the table.

    “Oh, let’s try it!,” Matt yells. He’s the first to throw his D20…on my dice tray!

    I’ve used my Bolivian Rosewood Dice Tray for years in countless games, e.g., RPGs, Boardgames, and Tabletop Miniature Wargaming such as Warhammer 40k. (Image credit: Tangible Day)

    A lot of gamers find dice trays to be a necessity, but not everybody agrees. Dice can roll all over the table causing a mess. Big, metal dice can knock over miniatures and ruin a nicely setup table. If you’re playing with friends, you might end up spilling something on the table and making your stuff dirty. Dice can roll into beverage cups, knocking them over, or into bags of chips. Indeed, my group plays rough! Several dice tray companies have come out with different types of designs, so there are pros and cons for each dice tray. Wyrmwood has made many different woodworking items that look great and the classic tabletop dice tray is one of them.

    I ended up buying one of the Wyrmwood dice trays at a convention I attended. It happened to be a beautiful Bolivian Rosewood dice tray with a leather rolling surface. It wasn’t cheap. In fact, it’s stupid expensive for what it was–a dice tray that cost me over $150. I think they cost even more nowadays. But, I still have mine and love it to death.

    A big D20 is ready for battle. (Image credit: Tangible Day)

    What is a Wyrmwood Dice Tray?

    Wyrmwood dice trays come in two different shapes and sizes: a tabletop size and personal sized tray (which is the smaller one I don’t have). There is some custom options, which I won’t get into, but you can see on the Wyrmwood website. Wyrmwood even offers the option for a Wyrmwood Dice Tray + a Wyrmwood dice tower, a great combo. In any case, Wyrmwood has many different gaming accessory options to choose from.

    More than a dice tray, I use mine to keep other gaming accessories organized on the gaming tabletop. (Image credit: Tangible Day)

    I’ve followed Wyrmwood since their days on Etsy and then their multiple (and successful) campaigns on Kickstarter. If I were chime in on their company talking points, I’d say that the  Wyrmwood Dice Trays are handcrafted by artisans with extra care given to every detail. I’m not 100% sure this is true, but in my experience with my tray and the others I’ve seen in person seem to prove it. Wyrmwood dice trays are made out of solid wood, and have a beautiful finish that has been durable in the years I’ve had mine. I recall being instructed to condition the leather on my dice tray to keep it from drying out and cracking. But, the wood and leather on my dice tray has lasted a long time without any maintenance (more than 5 years so far!).

    Here’s Some Useful Info About Wyrmwood Dice Trays

    Wyrmwood dice trays are precision cut with a full-length divider for organization of your stuff, e.g., dice, whatever. They’re laser engraved with the Wyrmwood logo, and hand sanded to provide a nice look and feel. Some gamers will use Wyrmwood Dice Trays for keeping their gaming supplies organized in a travel bag, too. They are also fairly compact and fit on any playing surface.

    Wyrmwood Tabletop Dice Trays come in a handsome size (10.6″ x 8.6″ x 1.4″).

    Wyrmwood Dice Trays come in 8 (or more) different species of wood that range from common (Cherry wood) to exotic (Macassar Ebony). The trays also have real authentic leather rolling surfaces, which feel soft and supple to the touch. Dice roll with a satisfying thump, with a subtle undertone “clunk” sound (depending on the weight of your dice, e.g., metal vs resin dice, and the density of the wood you’ve chosen). They just feel so good to use.

    Quick Pros and Cons about Wyrmwood Tabletop Dice Trays


    • Durable Wyrmwood material that doesn’t warp in heat or absorb moisture
    • The Wyrmwood Dice Tray has an aesthetic appeal to it
    • The Wyrmwood Dice Tray has a one inch lip to catch dice on all sides


    • Might be too bulky for smaller tables
    • Could require upkeep (e.g., leather can dry out)
    • Expensive (very)

    What Made Me Buy a Wyrmwood Dice Tray?

    They are beautiful. Yup, that’s about it. It’s expensive, but I wanted something unique. Certainly I could have opted for a custom personal dice tray (which you can see some custom dice tray examples of here).

    On my Dice Tray, made of Bolivian Rosewood (a middle-of-the road wood material), my polyhedrals and d6 dice for RPGs and wargames roll easily and often clack against the wooden side walls. Every gaming choice I make is reinforced with a tactile and audible experience!

    Their storage compartment on the side acts like a “margin” where you keep your other gaming accessories. Perhaps your dice and tokens go there, or your pens you use for writing on your character sheet. Pretty much anything you want can go in a Wyrmwood Dice Tray, i.e., dice, tokens, cards or whatever you need them for in the tray itself so that they’re right at your fingertips. I’ve even used a Wyrmwood dice tray to hold a hot coffee mug (when my host couldn’t find a suitable coaster).

    I painted this miniature for a Pathfinder Campaign! (Image credit: Tangible Day)


    My Final Opinion: Are Wyrmwood Dice Trays Worth It?

    When this tray is so expensive and any old cigar box or wooden board would do just as well, I can’t imagine why anyone would buy it. No, seriously. Then, I take mine out and use it while gaming, and I’m reminded how cool it is to just have one!

    You might think buying a dice tray is akin to buying furniture. And while you may get some nice tables out there, its functionally the same no matter what as long as it isn’t crappy enough to fall apart.

    If you are just looking for a functional product, then there is not much difference to justify Wyrmwood. However, if you really like the wood or aesthetic of their products or think that one of their trays might be a special item you keep as a reminder for those good times at the gaming session, then Wyrmwood trays are about enhancing that experience. Honestly, only you can answer this question of “value”, as it is dependent on your personal opinion. If they look really cool and you have the means to get one, I would recommend buying a Wyrmwood tray for yourself.

    While their design is stunning, the price of a Wyrmwood may take them out of reach to some gamers. It really just comes down to what your priorities are. For anywhere from $5-40, you could get a sweet looking, more affordable dice tray (check these custom dice trays out!).

    Oh, look! All my dice stay in one place. (Image credit: Tangible Day)


    The Wyrmwood Dice Tray is a beautiful product with an minimalist design. It’s crafted by a company that creates high-end gaming accessories, and this shows in my experience with the tabletop dice tray. Wyrmwood trays accentuate your games by providing a place where you can store your dice apart from the table so it doesn’t get lost during gameplay — as well as making rolling dice more enjoyable through a tactile and audible experience ( a tad corny, but it’s a real thing!). Suffice it to say, I love mine.

    Of course, like any gaming accessory, there will be people who love them and those who don’t. Wyrmwood dice trays are worth it for the experiential component of using one. But, there may be cheaper options on the market that can do what a fancy Wyrmwood dice tray does at a lower cost. Ultimately, there will be people who like Wyrmwood dice trays and those who don’t.

    Do you have a Wyrmwood Dice Tray? Do you think they are worth the expense? Let me know below!


    Read more »
  • Kang the Conqueror + Revenant – Monster Combo
    Kang the Conqueror + Revenant – Monster Combo

    Welcome to Monster Combo, a series of articles in which we will create some backstory, encounters, variations, and a bit of lore for monsters from different games and genres. From Lovecraftian horror and medieval fantasy creatures to sci-fi cyborgs and weird entities. This series is to stay system neutral so you can grab these ideas and port them to any game of your liking. If there are stats for the monster we will reverse engineer what the creature is good at and use its lore or create our own to apply to our ideas. Steal all you wish from these and suggest your own ideas or combos in the comments!


    Without going into spoilers, there’s definitely a reason why creating a monster based on Kang the Conqueror from Marvel came to mind. It just makes a lot of sense to mix this comic-book villain with some other monster and create an interesting new archnemesis for your game. I grabbed 5e’s Monster Manual, picked a random page, and I looked upon the revenant. An idea immediately sprang to mind, so I’ll share it for you to steal and use in your games.

    Monster Description

    Kang the Conqueror

    I wouldn’t call him a monster, but for this purpose, it fits the category. In a nutshell, Kang is a being from the future that comes to the past to fix it. There’s a ton you can play with just by using this premise. Kang may not come alone to the present day, but accompanied by different versions of himself from different timelines and realities. This means that your version of Kang could perfectly be a scientist the player characters will kill in the future, or ruin their life in some way or another. Remember that gal the crime boss ordered you to steal from? She came back from the future to destroy you as your actions created a butterfly effect that destroys a whole city!

    The great part about having Kang the Conqueror be a villain in your game is that even if you killed one version of him, a different version of himself can always return to torment the player characters. It can get old quickly if used repetitively, but if used intelligently you can create not only an interesting story but a great problem for your players to solve. As far as powers or abilities from Kang, he has none, but you can add your own. However, in the comics he is a super-genius with tons of knowledge from different sciences, especially all surrounding time travel. As this was not enough, he has hyper technology from the future that may end up in your player characters’ hands.


    Kang by itself is an interesting enough “monster”, but it wouldn’t be a Monster Combo if we didn’t add anything else to the mix! The revenant from D&D5e is a particularly interesting option because just like Kang, it always comes back. Now imagine if this revenant is from someone the characters kill in the future, travelling back in time to kill them at an earlier stage? By making some slight changes we can make it so that the revenant has sworn vengeance to the entire group of characters. Having a personal preference on one single player character can also create a fun dynamic, as the others will have to make sure they protect their ally at all times from the undead traveler.

    As far as how its abilities work, the revenant can continuously regenerate, meaning you can create scenes ala Terminator in which the revenant takes hundreds of gunshots as it keeps moving and its wounds heal. Additionally,  the revenant’s spirit can possess other corpses when dead, which can create horror scenes like the ones from the movie The Thing. This, however, comes with a countdown, as the revenant only has one year to kill their target. We can entirely remove this,  or make it so that the timer is due to some sort of battery that returns the revenant to the future when the time is complete. The Turn Immunity makes it all the more interesting because no matter which RPG you are playing, a priest will be no help. Lastly, all the remaining abilities can be justified and reskinned with futuristic tech.

    Bringing the Futuristic Revenant to your game

    This is when I usually would offer you a whole encounter for you to use this villain in your game. However, I believe that the best moment to place this enemy in your campaign is when you see it fit. The futuristic interdimensional revenant can present itself at any moment, but it’s going to appear after the characters do something important, or kill someone. It shouldn’t be difficult to spark a whole campaign out of this revenant concept. One of the player characters, or an NPC, did something wrong, and now a futuristic version of a dead man came from an alternate dimension to raise a group of extradimensional versions from this same entity that were killed as well. Now the characters need to do something to get rid of all these revenants, who know at all times where their target is.

    This concept can be reflavored for pretty much any setting and/or game. In a superhero game, you already have Kang the Conqueror as an example (go see him in the many animated Marvel shows to get some inspiration). Add more of a mad scientist and zombie feel to this villain if you are going for a horror vibe. It definitely fits the unkillable type of monster, as it always comes back even if you kill it (which should be difficult). More of an everyday/slice of life game? Time traveling usually creates a nice twist for those sort of stories, and this villain can easily be the first piece of the domino (more info on how to GM time-traveling stories HERE). Fantasy genre? This guy can be a priest using the divine magic from the time gods to come back in time. Alternatively, he could be using some powerful forgotten magic to travel in time.

    What’s your opinion on this particular concept? Would you use a time-traveling multiversal enemy in your game? Are you planning on using it? If so, which RPG would you run it on? Would you make some modifications to it? Let me know in the comments below!

    Read more »

    RPGWatch Newsfeed

  • The Ascent - Released
    The Action-Shooter RPG The Ascent has been released today: The Ascent is a solo and co-op action RPG, set on Veles, a packed cyberpunk world. Welcome to The Ascent Group arcology, a self-contained corporate-run metropolis, stretching high into the sky and filled with creatures from all over the galaxy.... Read more »
  • Eldest Souls - Released
    The action RPG Eldest Souls has been released today: Eldest Souls Following centuries of servitude, Man finally rebelled against the Old Gods, imprisoning these colossal calamities within the sacred walls of the Citadel. loading... But an evil stirred within.... Read more »

    Sly Flourish

  • Lazy Magic Items

    New to Sly Flourish? Start Here!

    Here's a simple and lazy way to create unique magic items that fit well into the story, act as great vehicles for secrets and clues, excite players, and matter to characters.

    First, choose an item. Often this will be a weapon or piece of armor but it could be something else if it fits your goal.

    Second, think about the history of that item. Who built it? Where did it come from? You can use the tables on page 142 of the Dungeon Master's Guide or pages 13 and 14 of the Lazy DM's Workbook to fill in a history and creator of the item but often it works best if it's tied to the history and creators that make sense in your adventures and campaign world.

    Third, if it's a weapon or piece of armor, give it a +1 bonus. If the characters are above 10th level you might consider +2 or even +3 if you're very generous.

    Fourth, give the item the ability to let the character attuned to it cast a spell they can't otherwise cast. They can do so once and the ability recharges on the next dawn. If you want to choose randomly, page 14 of the Lazy DM's Workbook has a table of 50 random spells you can roll on. Or, instead, choose a spell from the [Player's Handbook] or any other 5e resource you trust that fits the item.

    Choose a DC or spell attack bonus that fits the power of the item; somewhere between +4 and +8 for the spell attack or DC 12 to 16 for the DC. Likewise, to change things up, you can change what type of action is required to cast the spell. Perhaps someone finds a knight's sword that can cast true strike as a bonus action instead of an action.

    You can also use this opportunity to choose spells that characters often don't take the time to prepare or cast. Many spells aren't ideal when compared to the others in their spell level but when they can be cast for free on an item they suddenly become useful again.

    Finally, give the item a cool name so it feels epic and unique in the world.

    As an example item, we have "Moon's Sliver". This is a rapier wielded by the drow swordmage priestess at the Temple of the Moon. Our heroic rogue finds the blade in the priestess's coffin as her mummified body hands it to him, knowing he is worthy of the blade. Moon's Sliver is a +1 rapier forged from beams of moonlight by the drow bladesmiths. When attuned, the character wielding the blade can use an action to cast the spell Moonbeam once with a DC of 13. The blade regains this feature at the next dawn.

    It takes hardly any effort to make magic items like this yet such items add a tremendous amount of flavor to the game and go well beyond a typical and boring +1 weapon or piece of armor.

    Use this technique to build fun and unique items in your own campaign and watch your players smile as their characters wield them in their adventures.

    Related Articles

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    Article copyright 2021 by Mike Shea of Sly Flourish.

    Read more »
  • VideoTroublesome Quest Models

    New to Sly Flourish? Start Here!

    Quest models are frameworks you can use to build interesting quests and adventures in your D&D games. There are a number of common and self-evident quest models we can use when building our own adventures. Here are a few examples:

    • Kill a boss
    • Recover an item
    • Rescue someone
    • Destroy a monument
    • Clear out monsters

    There are many others, some more complicated. I'm a big fan of the "heist" model in which the characters must steal something from a guarded place because it's built around a situation and lets the players choose their approach. It's perfect situation-based D&D. I'm also a huge fan of the Seven Samurai model in which the characters defend a village from marauders. You can change this model in lots of ways and still have an interesting adventure that, like the heist, is built around the approach of the characters.

    Some common models seem like good ideas, though, but often fall apart in play. These include:

    • Chases
    • Capture and escape
    • Solving predefined mysteries
    • All-or-nothing collection quests
    • Facing insurmountable bosses
    • Solving puzzles
    • Recovering stolen stuff
    • Dream sequences and flashbacks
    • Escaping villains
    • Betrayal
    • Subsystems

    We see quests like this often because they're so common in popular fiction. Chases, mysteries, escape from being captured; these are all common stories that should fall right into our D&D games, but why don't they work?

    All of them tend not to work for a few reasons:

    1. They assume the characters act a certain way.
    2. They often remove character agency.

    Many times these quests rely on the characters doing something in just the right way for the story to go forward. Sometimes, in order to ensure that the quest goes that way, the adventure forces them. You can run, but not too fast or you gain exhaustion. You can stay where you are but if you do, you'll be overwhelmed and killed off-screen. You can fight the adult blue dragon but if you do, she'll kill you with one blow.

    The tricky part is that sometimes these models can work. We see them often enough and they don't always fall flat, but, I argue, it's much harder to get these quests to work well than more open-ended quests with a greater opportunity for character agency and multiple paths.

    Often these troublesome quest models work fine if they happen organically. Yes, bosses can escape, but they may not. Yes, you might have to chase someone or something but you might catch up quickly or it might get away. You might end up facing an insurmountable villain early or they might take your stuff and you have to retrieve it. All of these things work much better if they happen as a course of the story. They fall apart, however, when they're the expectation and not the result of the character's actions.

    Better are resilient quests offering multiple options and paths. Think about how many ways the heist or village defense quests can go.

    Resilient quests offer meaningful choices and options to the players and work regardless of which choice they make. Brittle quest models fall apart if the characters don't act a certain way.

    Note that, for the sake of this article, I'm using the term "quests" loosely. In many cases these are more like encounters than quests. Sometimes they're full-length adventures, sometimes just a scene in a larger context. Forgive the misuse of the term quest when it doesn't fit.

    Here are some examples of brittle quests often requiring the characters to act a certain way or remove character agency to move the story forward.


    Page 252 of the Dungeon Master's Guide includes rules for a chase, as does chapter 4 of Waterdeep Dragon Heist. How can this quest model be bad if they're baked into D&D? Let's look at a quote from Waterdeep Dragon Heist:

    The Stone of Golorr possesses an intelligent, alien intellect and has enough prescience to realize that the characters are destined to find it. The stone doesn't want to be found too easily, though.

    If the characters obtain the stone earlier than expected, it proves uncooperative and tries to separate itself from the party as quickly as possible, refusing to share any knowledge with characters in the meantime.

    This is the problem with a chase. You need things to go just right to keep the chase going. What if the characters use misty step and grab the stone too early? The stone decides it doesn't want to be caught. Lame. What if the characters take a long rest before the chase begins? Does the chase stop until the characters start chasing it again?

    Forcing a chase is one of the worst forms of railroading. It requires characters to act exactly a certain way so they don't finish the chase too early or not at all.

    Fixing the chase. Chases, when they do occur, should happen naturally at the table, and not be planned ahead of time. Anytime you think a chase might happen, ask yourself if the chase will work if it ends quickly or never gets followed at all. The chase is a tool you can use when the situation happens spontaneously but planning one out usually ends in ways you can't plan for.

    Capture and Escape

    Another common story in fiction, escape seems like it should be a great story idea for our D&D games. The problem comes with the capture. Players, generally, hate losing and if you have to throw an overwhelming force at them to get them to lose, they'll hate that too. Worse, they may find a way to circumvent it or, even worse than that, half of them will find a way to avoid capture while the other half are captured. Good luck running that situation.

    Throwing an overwhelming force at your characters just to stick them in a jail cell isn't going to be as much fun as you think.

    Fixing Escape Quests. Escaping capture only works if the characters begin in captivity and, I'd argue, this only works well if the players know ahead of time that they'll begin captured. This, for example, is the way Out of the Abyss starts and I know if I ran it again, I'd ensure, during my session zero, that the players know they begin enslaved by the drow.

    Being captured as part of the ongoing story is a fine way to handle a potential total-party-kill, should it happen. Being captured isn't a problem if it happens organically during the game. Forcing the characters to be captured sucks.

    Solving Predefined Mysteries

    Mysteries, like the other quests here, have centuries of history in our fiction so surely they make for a fun D&D game, right?

    Not so much.

    Like chases, many mysteries assume the characters find the right clues at the right time to figure out the mystery only when the time is right. All too often the characters either figure it out right away or miss the vital clues completely. What happens during the rest of the adventure if a character figures it out and stabs the murderer in the first scene? What do you do with the other 3.5 hours of the adventure?

    Fixing the mystery. Like other solutions described in this article, a mystery can work well as long as you don't make assumptions about what the characters learn and when they'll learn it. Mysteries can work well as situations as long as how the characters find the right clues isn't pre-defined. Justin Alexander, for example, recommends the three clues style, in which you ensure that, for any vital piece of information, three clues exist. My own secrets and clues approach gives you ten secrets or clues that can drop into the game anywhere which will, eventually, lead to the discovery you want the characters to find. If your mystery depends on the characters finding the right things the right way at the right time, it's probably too brittle.

    All-or-Nothing Collection Quests

    The cult of the dragon needs the five dragon masks to summon Tiamat. The characters need the nine puzzle cubes to open the door to the Tomb of the Nine Gods. These seem like nice and clean quest models except for one big problem. What happens if the characters get just one of the masks and throws it into the ocean? What if the Red Wizards of Thay get one of the puzzle cubes and hide it in Szass Tam's fanny pack? You're screwed. Now you have to force some sort of heist, either by the characters or the villains depending on who needs it. All-or-nothing quests are brittle because just one item falling into the wrong hands ends the whole quest. It forces DM to contrive situations just so the quest can continue.

    Fixing the all-or-nothing quest. My solution to the all-or-nothing collection quest is the three of five collection quest model. If you need only the majority of items to succeed, now things get interesting. The opposing side must collect more than half to thwart the other side. It becomes a race with many different paths and many different options. You can see more about this in my three of five collection quest Youtube video.

    Facing Insurmountable Bosses

    Another common trope is the early face-off with the insurmountable foe. Hoard of the Dragon Queen commits this sin twice in the first chapter. The characters, 1st or 2nd level, find themselves face to face with an adult blue dragon. How exactly is that encounter supposed to go? Why wouldn't the dragon just kill them? What are the characters supposed to do? What options to they have? Groveling and hoping for a high persuasion check is about it.

    Big villains are rare so low level characters aren't likely to run into them. Best keep powerful bosses for powerful characters.

    Strahd is an exception. He loves to personally check out the fresh meat.

    Solving Puzzles

    A lot of DMs likely disagree with me on this one but I'm not a fan of puzzles. First, they're hard to prep; definitely not lazy. Second, they rarely make sense. Why would anyone spend the time and energy to protect something with a puzzle? Why not just put a good lock in place? Do they have to navigate their own bullshit puzzle every time they want to make a withdrawal?

    Puzzles also often fail in gameplay. Rarely are all players invested in a puzzle and those that aren't quickly grab onto their phones. Stick to the core mechanics and gameplay of D&D and leave puzzles aside.

    Recovering Stolen Stuff

    Likely every DM makes this mistake at least once in their lives. What better motivation for the characters than recovering their stolen gear? The problem is that loss aversion is real and players hate it when their stuff gets stolen. They also don't feel good even when they get it back. They feel like they're back where they started. Don't steal the characters' stuff.

    Dream Sequences and Flashbacks

    Another common quest model, why not show some history with a flashback or take the game into a new dimension with a dream sequence? The problem is that the characters usually end up where they started only three hours later. The characters don't get much from these. They don't really have agency. They can't change history. It's usually the longest lore dump ever. Skip dream sequences or flashbacks unless you have a really good reason and the characters have some agency over the situation.

    Exception: a cool Inception-style dream heist might be a lot of fun. You might also use a dream sequence or flashback as a way to write history by the actions of the characters. Like the players deciding the location of the key items in i6 Ravenloft or Curse of Strahd, they might define things by their actions and choices in the past.

    Escaping Villains

    Like losing gear, watching villains run off too often sucks, particularly when the characters know there was no way to stop it from happening. It's one thing if a villain manages to escape on their own. It's something else when the DM forces the issue. Lichs and vampires have built-in escape options so they're an exception. Otherwise, forcing a villainous escape feels lame.


    Here's another bad idea DMs often try once. When trusted NPCs betray the characters, you're breaking trust with the players. The same is true when one of the player characters betrays the rest of the party and the DM is in on it. It seems fun and exciting but it's really just lame. It breaks trust all around the table and that's not fun and won't lead the game in the right direction. Avoid betrayals.

    There are clear exceptions to this rule when the players know there's betrayal going on and it's all discussed and agreed upon in a session zero.


    DMs often love tinkering with the mechanics in D&D. Why not have an entire vehicle sub-system or a whole mechanical subsystem for handling complex rituals? What about a system for running a bar or piloting an airship?

    The problem with subsystems is that often the mechanics don't work nearly as well as the rest of the game. Players don't want to learn them because they know they're temporary. You also don't really need them. Ability checks cover just about anything you need to do in the game. Anyone who remembers the Mako from Mass Effect knows what I'm talking about. The players are invested in their characters and the existing mechanics of D&D. Let them focus on that instead of having to learn new and buggy subsystems for things an ability check likely covers.

    Use Flexible Quest Models

    When you seek quest models to build your D&D adventures, seek those offering robust and flexible options for your adventures. Find those that build off of situation-based adventures in which the characters have meaningful options and multiple solutions. Use quest models where even you have no idea how they'll play out at the table. As for these troublesome quest models? Let them happen if that's how the story evolves but don't use them as an incoming assumption ahead of time.

    Keep flexible quest models in your bag of tricks and run awesome open-ended adventures with your friends. Play to see what happens.

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    Article copyright 2021 by Mike Shea of Sly Flourish.

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