So, Dungeon Master, your party just defeated the Tarrasque (again!) and are bored with the yet another campaign against the evil archlich Evil McBadguy. They’re so powerful they yawn at any monster you throw at them and you can only use so many two headed, tentacled T-rexes. What to do? My first answer is play an edition of Dungeons & Dragons where the characters aren’t superheroes at 1st level but that’s just me. Get off my lawn.
Over at Nerdarchy the YouTube channel Nerdarchists Dave and Ted explore crafting a magic item as a plot device leading to more fifth edition Dungeons & Dragons adventure. During one of our weekly live chats Ted took inspiration from the bag of beans, a magic item that’s been part of D&D since the earliest days and even way back then advised Dungeon Masters how “thought, imagination and judgment are required with this item.” While researching the bag of beans further for this here post I came across a story shared by a player about this magic item’s tremendous impact on their very first 5E D&D campaign. Turns out campaigns and adventures across the history of D&D experienced the ups and downs of this kooky magic item. So let’s get into it and look at some first hand accounts of how the bag of beans affected some D&D players and give you some ideas for your own games.
Several of the most fun and memorable Dungeons & Dragons adventures I’ve participated in involved the Feywild and fey themes. I love the myth and magic of fairy courts in tales from our own world’s history and culture and especially the portrayal of the Twilight Realm of Faerie in Neil Gaiman’s Sandman comic books. I borrow heavily from that fabled writer and in my own setting the Feywild is represented by the Dreaming World to contrast with the Material Plane called the Waking World. So you can imagine my excitement when Through the Veil: Tales of the Feywild released at Dungeon Masters Guild. Producer and Project Lead Elise Cretel — @DNDElise on Twitter and a Dungeon Master I’ve got great respect for — sent me a copy and I am more than happy to signal boost this terrific book of fey adventures for fifth edition D&D.
A while back over at Nerdarchy the YouTube channel Nerdarchists Dave and Ted looked at all the spells in fifth edition Dungeons & Dragons to determine the most expensive ones to cast. Part of the research for the video involved noting all the spells with expensive material components, both those consumed in the casting and the ones where the component is not consumed and therefore reusable. Any time you take a close, thoughtful look at the minutiae within 5E D&D you can find new inspiration for characters, adventures and campaigns and what I took away from this video research is a new appreciation for one of the oldest spells in D&D — Leomund’s secret chest.
One of the scenarios RPG players face time and time again is the inconsistent group. For many the greatest villain in fifth edition Dungeons & Dragons or any tabletop roleplaying game is Scheduling. Oh, the trials and tribulations involved with maintaining an RPG player group on a regular basis. Online gaming goes a long way towards mitigating this challenge because it’s easier than ever to find people to roll funny shaped dice with but what about keeping one group of people together consistently enough to complete a long campaign, or even a few sessions to finish a single adventure? Personally I frequently run into an issue getting a group to meet more than once with any consistency. I still manage to satisfy my gaming itch, but whether as a player or Game Master I yearn to experience a protracted RPG campaign following the same group of characters. While going through some notes I came across one with a potential way to circumvent some of the issues I’ve faced keeping an adventuring group together. So let’s get into it.
Over at Nerdarchy the YouTube channel Nerdarchists Dave and Ted veer from the main adventure to explore side quests in fifth edition Dungeons & Dragons. Side quests in 5E D&D emerged as a discussion topic a while back during the old Saturday live chat and following newsletter. (If you’re interested in either of those, they found a home together on the website here.) When I look back at that now it becomes clear to me my approach to games changed considerably, as a player and Game Master. Side quests in tabletop roleplaying games present as good an opportunity as any to revisit some ideas. At one time RPG side quests formed the bulk of a campaign but if I’m honest now these adventures without direct bearing on the primary goal feel like distractions. Have I turned the corner from exalting side quests to avoiding them? Let’s get into it and find out.
Salutations, nerds! A couple of months ago I wrote about the use of geas in your fifth edition Dungeons & Dragons game with some of the fun ways you can implement this classic spell. Today I thought I’d dust the concept back off and come back at you with a list, I daresay a table even, of potential geas you could use for your players to have fun with. If you’re interested in the original post check out Effective Use of Geas in D&D here.
Remember how monsters were such a big thing in the ’90s and early aughts? If you grew up in that time (like I did) then you’d be hard pressed to have avoided any number of monster themed TV shows, games and the like. Shows like Goosebumps, Are You Afraid of the Dark, Animorphs and many more showcased monsters in a variety of contexts from creepy to vicious to the occasional twist or subversion of the benevolent monster. And then you had the genre that really grabbed my young attention and held it for hours — monsters as allies and companions. I remember waking up at the ghastly hour of 5 a.m. many days just to watch Monster Rancher (now on Amazon Prime and I’m stoked!). As soon as I got off school I watched Pokémon then Digimon before starting on homework. Something about having a loyal friend just as big and scary as the things opposing the main characters made those shows special. It made it feel like the heroes had a real shot at winning, and it gave into the power fantasy of fighting fire with fire. It also helped teach me not to judge people and situations by initial impressions. After all, if the heroes in my favorite shows and games could befriend monsters, maybe making friends in general wasn’t as scary as I often felt.
In this fifth edition Dungeons & Dragons adventure a party catches wind of villagers gone missing. If you’ve played D&D for any length of time this scenario arises fairly commonly — someone or groups of people often need rescuing — with perilous circumstances on both sides. In this case a Demon Priest of Yeenoghu orchestrates a diabolical plan to swell the ranks of gnolls in the area. Thankfully adventurers take up the cause to put a stop to the demonic designs.
Are your fifth edition Dungeons & Dragons adventurers afraid of the dark? After a jaunt into a world perpetual darkness to face the threat of the Void Eye, they will be. I felt inspired to create some new stuff to go along with Gaze of the Void eye over at Nerdarchy the Store. You might find this new NPC shadow assassin and their powerful magic rings useful to add as a precursor to an evening adventure or to take your campaign in an unexpected direction. Lair of the Void’s Eye should challenge 4-6 characters of 10th-14th level, plus there’s new Shadow Spells, magic items, creatures including Bharagru the void eye and tools for traversing a 5E D&D world of darkness.
Most of the time when a D&D Dungeon Master calls for everyone to roll initiative you have two choices. Your characters can stand and fight looking to slay whatever creature stands before them or they can run away to live another day. Player characters rarely seek to keep their opponents alive in battle, and hostile monsters definitely do their best to kill adventurers. On rare occasions combat might cease and segue to a roleplaying discussion. In this encounter a group of villagers tasks adventurers with occupying the attention of a froghemoth while they perform a ritual to restore its mind. For the villagers you can use grung, bullywugs or any swamp dwelling race you like. When I ran this, I used grung as I had a grung character in the party.
Over at Nerdarchy the YouTube channel Nerdarchists Dave and Ted get wrapped up discussing the mummy lord for fifth edition Dungeons & Dragons. I took a close look at this creature entry in the 5E D&D Monster Manual after watching The Mummy, a 2017 film starring Tom Cruise, Sofia Boutella and Annabelle Wallis. It blew me away! The classic monster’s representation in the game is spectacular and if I’m honest I couldn’t believe we don’t see mummies and mummy lords featured more prominently in adventures. They make incredible antagonists with built in features and flair practically begging to become an ongoing antagonist keeping adventurers on their toes.
For our April Patreon rewards we released Hairable Ideas, a follow up to last year’s Beardomancy. This proved one of our most popular products ever! Fifth edition Dungeons & Dragons players and Dungeon Masters alike enjoyed adding beardomancy magic to their campaigns and player wizards following this new Arcane Tradition. One of the players in Nerdarchist Ted’s D&D In A Castle 2019 campaign played a School of Beardomancy wizard as a matter of fact. So when April rolled around this year we knew we wanted to take another trip to the Beard Dimension and came up with lots of new spells and subclasses drawing on beardomantic energy. Of course there’s monsters and magic items too, but one of the snippets left on the cutting room floor was Hairable Terrain, an encounter based on the content and a play on our classic Terrible Terrain material. Since Hairable Ideas is now over at Nerdarchy the Store we thought it would be fun to include this encounter here on the website in a post. So let’s get into it.
Never one to leave a writing series dangling, I promised in The Secret History of Merfolk to follow up with the third and final book in the series by Ari Berk. The Secret History of Hobgoblins presents another tapestry of folklore and kitschy monster stuff...
Over at Nerdarchy the YouTube channel Nerdarchists Dave and Ted fulfill a community request to create a master of disguise for fifth edition Dungeons & Dragons. In the video Dave and Ted discuss skill, feats, class features and spells players have to work with for making a master of disguise character. There’s plenty of options in 5E D&D for characters seeking to disguise themselves, from mundane to magical means including inherent abilities like a kenku’s Mimicry trait and a changeling’s Shapechanger trait. Players who focus on their character’s ability to alter their appearance open avenues to adventure a more straightforward character might not find easily accessible. But for Dungeon Masters, fear not! You’ve got even more tools to work with including a robust list of creatures whose mastery of disguise open up pathways for you to introduce adventure too — right under the party’s noses! Let’s get into it and take a look at creatures with the Shapechanger trait making them masters of disguise for 5E D&D.