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Geek and Sundry GM Tips with Satine Phoenix…and Nerdarchy!

GM Tips Geek and Sundry Satine Phoenix

Thanks to so many awesome Nerdarchy fans and supporters, Nerdarchists Dave and Ted were able to make it out to Los Angeles earlier this year to appear on GM Tips with Satine Phoenix. The Geek and Sundry program features different Game Masters each week tackling topics and themes to help the tabletop roleplaying game community. Satine is a tireless advocate for the hobby and has become a great friend to Nerdarchy, and everyone here was incredibly stoked when she made the invitation to appear on her show.

Nerdarchy on GM Tips

Off-the-Cuff Home Brew Games is the focus of Nerdarchy’s GM Tips episode. Fans of our You Tube channel and website are intimately familiar with the improvisational and personal creation approach to roleplaying games, particularly fifth edition Dungeons & Dragons in the spotlight of a lot of our content. In live stream games like the Scarlet Sisterhood of Steel and Sorcery and recorded game plays like the twin campaigns run by Nerdarchists Dave and Ted, Nerdarchy fans can discover the Gryphongaffe setting as it grows and develops right alongside the players – and the Dungeon Masters!

NerdarchyOn GM Tips, the guys discuss their philosophy on creating memorable adventures and experiences for players without a need for copious notes, crafted encounters or preplanned scenarios, all within unique campaign settings. It’s worth noting that Nerdarchy by no means discounts any other methods of running or playing D&D or any roleplaying game. Whether your gaming group runs published adventures like Tomb of Annihilation or Out of the Abyss, adventures within a setting of your own creation guided by the GM’s notes and XP-budgeted encounters, or any other method, as long as everyone at the table has fun you’re doing it right!

In the episode, the guys share their insights on several techniques, methods, tips and tricks for GMs to run immersive, player-driven stories that evoke the spirit of collaboration that makes D&D and other RPGs such a fun and unique experience. Definitely check out the GM Tips video to hear everything the guys have to say. Here’s a quick rundown of some points that emerge:

  • Appeal of homebrew settings compared to published campaign settings
  • How to run adventures with little or no preparation or written material
  • Importance of listening to players and letting them drive stories forward, aid in creation and world build
  • Gaming as an extension of friendship
  • Rolling with changes in the direction of a story
  • Taking notes during play
  • Fostering drama and group dynamics
  • Arranging a buddy system at the gaming table
  • Favorite gaming moments
  • It’s still a game – have fun!

Nerdarchy would like to thank Geek and Sundry for the incredible opportunity to visit the LA studio and appear on GM Tips with Satine Phoenix. It was an unforgettable experience! Nerdarchists Dave and Ted had an awesome time meeting everyone there, making new friends and new relationships as well as the chance to meetup with Nerdarchy fans and play some D&D. We love all our amazing fans and we’re so grateful for the Nerdarchy community as we continue to grow and share our love for gaming with people all over the world.

Stay nerdy!


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Out of the Box D&D Encounters, Series 2, #18 – “Pull!”


Out of the Box introduction

D&D encounters giants
A pair of hill giants can make a very bad day for a village in a D&D game. [Art by Wayne Reynolds]
One of the greatest challenges for addressing questions in Dungeons & Dragons is the area of “crunch”. I would like to address this area with regard to one specific segment.
I was inspired by an older broadcast by the truly talented AJ Picket on his channel “The Mighty Gluestick”. In a video wherein he described “what would happen if a giant hit a player character with a tree”, he said that they would, to paraphrase, “go flying”.
So, that inspired me to think one thing. What would happen if a giant, say a hill giant (to get the ball rolling), flung a player character into the air?
Well, that inspired research. Considering that improvised weapons (page 147-148 Player’s Handbook) references ‘a dead goblin’ as a viable possibility, then it’s on the playing field that a body could be used as a weapon.

Continue reading Out of the Box D&D Encounters, Series 2, #18 – “Pull!”

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Dark Sun Ever Mindful of D&D Psionics


D&D psionicsLike Nerdarchists Dave and Ted and Nate the Nerdarch mention in the video above, psionics has been a part of Dungeons & Dragons since 1st edition Advanced Dungeons & Dragons. In the interest of utmost accuracy, the supernatural power of psionics were first introduced to D&D in Eldritch Wizardry, a 1976 supplemental rulebook for the original edition. Also of note are the other now-iconic facets of D&D included in that 60-page digest: the druid class, demons and demon lords like Orcus and Demogorgon, mind flayers, and artifacts like the Rod of Seven Parts and Axe of the Dwarvish Lords.

With those bits of long forgotten secrets behind us now, let’s turn our clairsentience to the future. Based on hints and bits of information shared through social media and in interviews, a fifth edition D&D iteration of Dark Sun is almost certain.

We’ve already got the mystic class available through the Dungeon Master’s Guild, giving D&D players the opportunity to utilize the awesome power of psionics in D&D 5E.

Now we only await the introduction of the sun-scorched setting of Dark Sun. Continue reading Dark Sun Ever Mindful of D&D Psionics

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Ten Things DMs Should Know About the PCs in Their Game

5th editionHey nerds!

As the Dungeon Master it can be a chore sometimes to keep the action moving, and many of us want to give each PC a shot in the spotlight by picking on them individually.

That can be difficult though, if you don’t know much about them. I’m not talking AC or hit point totals, though, I’m talking about backgrounds, preferences – generally the fluffy bits.

So today, we’re going to talk about ten things you can ask your players about their characters that make for good points to pick at when it comes to tailoring sessions specifically for them.

I’m going into this assuming you already know to keep it even and get around to everybody, and that playing favorites is bad.

If we’re all on the same page, then here come the questions. Continue reading Ten Things DMs Should Know About the PCs in Their Game

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D&D Dragonborn Illustrate Why the Reason Why Matters

The inclusion of breasts on dragonborn in Dungeons & Dragons is a subject that I’ve noticed come up on occasion. I’m aware that it’s a thing that was included in fourth edition D&D dragonborn, but they’ve since been removed from fifth edition D&D. This is official canon, coming straight from the mouth of the developers themselves:

Continue reading D&D Dragonborn Illustrate Why the Reason Why Matters

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Matt Mercer & Friends Prove Every Roll Matters in Gen Con GM Improv Showdown

D&D Gen Con adventure

Gen Con 50 was a records-shattering celebration of gaming culture with countless seminars, panels, events and of course games! Nerdarchy made the pilgrimage to Indianapolis, where Nerdarchist Dave and Web editor Doug met fans and colleagues, met awesome industry influencers and forged new friendships with gamers of every stripe.

Nerdarchy also had the honor of livestreaming a very special event, immediately following the live Maze Arcana game that Nerdarchist Dave played in with DM Ruty Rutenberg and players Satine Phoenix, Amy Vorpahl, Amy Dallen and Andrew Armstrong. Continue reading Matt Mercer & Friends Prove Every Roll Matters in Gen Con GM Improv Showdown

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D&D adventure within adventure at Gen Con 50

D&D Gen Con adventure

D&D Gen Con adventureA couple of days have passed since returning home from Gen Con 50 adventure. Decompression and recovery efforts were successful – getting back to the gym and catching up on sleep work wonders!

All the physical stuff is unpacked, flipped through wistfully, played again, read, and admired now on the shelf. So I thought I’d unpack the intangibles to share. The memories, experiences and lessons for fellow nerds and gamers.

I love me some tabletop games, and this trip to gamers mecca did not disappoint. But of all the games in all the world, that sweet, sweet D&D is my favorite. Continue reading D&D adventure within adventure at Gen Con 50

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D&D Homebrew: What I’ve Learned

D&D homebrew
Homebrew content for D&D can help make the world of your game unique and memorable. Just be careful when designing.

Last week I did a review on a fifth edition Dungeons & Dragons homebrew I particularly liked. Namely the Dark Arts Player’s Companion. This week has been an interesting one. I have gotten rave reviews, decently high traffic, and some not so nice rants too. I have learned a few things that people like and things they don’t like. The most important thing, I have learned what people like to see. Here is what I have learned, and I hope it helps you in your own homebrew. Continue reading D&D Homebrew: What I’ve Learned

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Theatrical Roleplaying in Modern RPGs

Beowulf graphic novel, translated by Santiago Garcia and art by David Rubin

In the past, I’ve talked a lot from my perspective as a writer, and from what I’ve learned from my college education in literary theory and rhetorical criticism as an English major. There are other aspects of my life, though, that I haven’t really touched on much.

In my article about utilizing critical success and failures, I mentioned some tenants of improv, which I’m tangentially familiar with from my 15 years of acting on stage. While it was mostly school and community theater work, and I haven’t been on stage in 15 years (although, lately I’ve been thinking of trying to break back in), it’s not a thing that ever leaves you.

However, I didn’t come here to talk about my past exploits.

I started out laying out an overview of my credentials because I want it to be clear what I have to say comes from a place of experience, even if those experiences were a lifetime ago. That’s because today I wanted to talk about approaching roleplaying your characters, whether you’re a Game Master or a player, from the perspective of an actor. Continue reading Theatrical Roleplaying in Modern RPGs

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Ten D&D Character Flaws that Won’t Bog Down Your Game

D&D character flaws
The cover of the Sword Coast Adventurer’s Guide illustrates a diverse group of D&D characters. They look perfect, right? One might have bad table manners, another a gambling problem and that tiefling ought to use deodorant. [Art by Tyler Jacobson]
What’s up, nerds?

You know how sometimes D&D characters come off as too perfect? There’s hardly anything as annoying as a character who can do absolutely no wrong, the one the player steps in the way and has to backpedal and retcon endlessly because “Oh, that was a mistake and my precious character wouldn’t have made one.” That character.

Well, except for badly played character flaws.

You know what I mean. The character flaws they have to interrupt the game for every five minutes to act out. Continue reading Ten D&D Character Flaws that Won’t Bog Down Your Game

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D&D Fluff and Mechanics Make the RPG Go ‘Round

D&D fluff and mechanicsDebates swirl around the various forums and subreddits in the Dungeons & Dragons community; they’re chief among the interactions we have with each other. These debates often vary in their complexity, but a lot of the disagreement with how to even proceed with the debate itself is based on a misunderstanding some have about what the debate is even about. Is this a ‘flavour’ issue or a ‘rules’ issue? What’s the difference? Does it matter?

In this article, we’ll be delving into what ‘mechanics’ are, what ‘fluff’ is and how changing either can change your D&D game, for good or ill. The hope is that after reading, you should feel a bit more confident in your ability to discuss things, possibly even change things, in your games. Continue reading D&D Fluff and Mechanics Make the RPG Go ‘Round

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D&D Spelljammer Warlock: Into the Void

D&D warlock

D&D warlockIn a past article I mentioned customized warlock pacts in my fifth edition Dungeons & Dragons Spelljammer campaign.

It came up again during a live chat with Nate the Nerdarch.

With my feet now held to the eldritch fire by publicly mentioning it twice, I’d better put money where my pact-making mouth is and get into it.

This material is an evolving work in progress stemming from my home game.

Although it’s inspired by the Spelljammer setting, it can be adapted for any D&D campaign. Continue reading D&D Spelljammer Warlock: Into the Void

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Campaign Rebirth: How to Keep Your Campaign Fresh

Campaign Rebirth

How to Keep Your Campaign Fresh

All campaigns experience highs and lows, even if you’re the party on the cover of the Sword Coast Adventurer’s Guide. [Art by Tyler Jacobson]
I just wrapped up a campaign that had been going on for about six years. In that time we had a few lulls, and a few highlights. The thing is, we kept things changing and getting them to refresh as needed.

This is something many groups fail to do in various roleplaying games like Dungeons & Dragons, World of Darkness, and Pathfinder. Changing the focus, the goals, or the theme to spice things up. The problem is that not every group can do this, and some cannot even recognize when it is happening.

I hope that this little article will help you in both these regards and assist you in steering the proverbial horse away from the cliff. Let’s delve into campaign rebirth Continue reading Campaign Rebirth: How to Keep Your Campaign Fresh

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Slavery in RPG Campaigns: Making a Case for Inclusion


A master leading his slave. [“Iron Ring Slaves” art by Jason Engle]
I want to let that hang there for a minute, because this is going to be a pretty serious topic. I want everyone to know this is going to be held with extreme gravity.

Slavery is a thing that’s been a problem throughout human history as much as it is exists in modern a fantasy tabletop RPG campaign like D&D.

It’s not necessarily everywhere, but it’s in there. Slavery is a subject included in these entries in the fifth edition Dungeons & Dragons Monster Manual: on page 5 (under towns and cities), and described in the aboleth, azer (the efreeti attempted to enslave them), beholders, bugbears, devils, red dragons, driders, duergar, drow, fomorian, genies, fire giants, gith, grimlock, hags, hobgoblins, jackalweres, kuo-toa, lamia, mind flayers, mummies, salamanders, yuan-ti, and even the commoner.

It’s in there. Continue reading Slavery in RPG Campaigns: Making a Case for Inclusion

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Out of the Box D&D Encounters, Series 2, #11 – “Building Bridges”

D&D puzzle encounter
This D&D party looks like they could use a team-building retreat. Say no more! This Out of the Box encounter is better than a trust fall for the party.


Have you ever needed an icebreaker encounter for either a new group, or maybe introduce a new D&D player to the concept of roleplaying without challenging their untested knowledge of any rules?
I have. Often new players are uncomfortable with the concept of roleplaying, especially in front of established or experienced players.
A way to get around this is to create an opportunity where the success of the party is tied less to die rolls and more to player actions or choices. When they feel there’s less weight behind a new character’s (likely) less powerful abilities and more behind player choice, there’s a chance for confidence to build.
“Building Bridges” is one such chance, and it’s done in a cooperative manner. It’s a simple puzzle, but a necessary one. It’s designed around the social skills of the players as well as the characters. This will ease the transition from player to character for some newer D&D players and begin the journey into roleplaying.


Wilderness/A Bridge




puzzle encounter
This looks like the perfect location for D&D players to build some bridges. [“Broken Bridge” art by Satoruwada from]
The party will find themselves at some sort of physical impasse (a gorge, river, crevasse, etc.) where the road or path they are travelling has a bridge. This bridge should be longer than the players can just jump by normal means (perhaps 30+ feet).
However, there’s a problem in this puzzle encounter. The main body of the bridge is broken into pieces. The pieces of the bridge itself are large, and the number of pieces that need to be reassembled are exactly the same as the number of players at the table.
A statue sits at the entry of either end of the bridge. The statue is of a figure holding a musical instrument (Dungeon Master’s choice) and that appears to be singing or laughing. The same statue exists on both sides of the impasse.
A small brass plaque is affixed to the base of both of the statues. The plaque reads as follows:
“To build a bridge between two sides, make the other smile with pride.”
This is obviously a riddle, and the solution, though simple, may take a while to arrive at. The solution to both the puzzle and the bridge is the same. For each player that sings, tells a joke, recites poetry, tells a short tale, or other social interaction of value, one piece of the bridge will rise and lock into place.
Each player can only raise one piece each, but they can assist another player with song, clapping, etc. to allow for another piece to rise. A good rule of thumb for this is the reaction of the table. If a joke, song, or story gets any other player at the table to smile (DM included), that player’s piece of the bridge will rise.
A new player might even wish to talk about their backstory or go into detail about their Traits, Ideals, Bonds or Flaws. All are perfectly acceptable, and allow for great character building as well as an introduction to the roleplaying aspect of D&D.
To arrive at this social interaction, I suspect some players more involved in the mechanics or problem solving aspects of D&D may utilize spells or skills to help in the solution to the puzzle. There’s no reason a DM should disallow this.
It is perfectly feasible to allow an Intelligence (History) check to know about the lore surrounding such a bridge, or for a magical character like a Wizard, Sorcerer, Warlock, or Bard to make an Intelligence (Arcana) check to see if there’s a magical effect in play. A DC 14 should suffice for either check.
A detect magic spell cast on the bridge will reveal transmutation magic in play. Higher level spells like legend lore might reveal the exact nature of the bridge, although such a high level spell may not be used in this case when characters of that level have many ways to bypass or fly over a bridge such as this.
There is no specific order the pieces need to be raised to work, and the order in which they raise and lock into place is up to the DM in question. Once the bridge has been crossed by the players, the pieces tumble back where they were previous to the solution again, requiring the characters to repeat the performance again to cross the bridge in the opposite direction.
I would suggest the players be encouraged to ham it up. The point is to entertain everyone at the table as well as solve the puzzle. This is not, however, a competition. Not everyone is as witty as the others, so alternatives in storytelling should be available. Stage fright takes us all at some time or another. Be aware of this and judge accordingly. It’s my bet that such encounters will become easier over time.
This is also a good choice for an encounter when things have been particularly heavy. There may have been the death of a treasured player character, NPC, or pet. This can then be an opportunity to lighten the mood as well as create collaborative problem solving.






The only complication that might arise from such an encounter might be frustration. Players who are at their wits end after a long day might be less likely to have patience for such an encounter or will be stymied by the simplest of puzzles. We’ve all been there.
In such cases, feel free to lower DCs on appropriate skill checks regarding the puzzle, or have otherworldly help like familiars give hints as to the nature of such a magical bridge.
Then again, knowing my own players, they might just try to build a rope bridge between the two statues and cross that way. The best laid plans of mice and men…