The notion of your D&D character having a background is integral to fifth edition Dungeons & Dragons. It grants you a precious few skill proficiencies, and a combination of tool and language options. While background was a part of 4E, it wasn’t nearly as prominent or impacting as it to your D&D character in this edition, and I think the reason for making background such a big deal is directly related to the attempt of 5E to harmonize mechanics and roleplay.
As Game Masters it’s our job to facilitate fun! Players have fun when they get to impact the story in a meaningful way. Often, when a player makes a new character, they think about who this character is and how great they are and so on. In my experience, every player usually has some sort of idea about how they would introduce their character such as particular circumstances or roleplaying. Character introductions really set the tone for each character, especially when it comes to more roleplay-heavy parties, like those I’m used to. An introduction or first impression can really make or break a player’s initial passion for their character.
Over the weekend there was a conversation on Twitter that really got me thinking. Titan Gaming asked RPG players how they decide when to cast their characters’ highest level spells. The proceeding conversation included terrific insights and perspectives from a handful of people and stayed on my mind for the next couple of days. So when it came time to sit down and get something written I felt like it was worth exploring what else there is to unpack. D&D spells are an expendable resource, and spellcasters have a multitude of things to consider when choosing and casting them. But they’re not the only ones. Every class has some form of resource management in D&D — some much more than others — and choosing when to expend these resources can involve a number of considerations. Whether a player holds back the good stuff for the inevitable dungeon boss, leads into an adventure with shock and awe, or waits for the right narrative moment to unleash their power, is resource management in D&D a form of metagaming? Let’s get into it.
I have been a gamer since the age of 14 when I could understand the rules in the old second edition Advanced Dungeons & Dragons Player’s Handbook. I’ve played through many editions of D&D without a thought, enjoying the ability to take on a new role or create a new world. Here unfortunately is where things take a drastic turn. On April 18, 2016 I was diagnosed with stage 3 colorectal cancer, which at current date is at stage 4. A lot of people have asked me how I dealt with it, what did I do, etc. I kept gaming. I ran Savage Worlds and D&D games. I also played in D&D and Pathfinder games. I’ve had the good fortune to play in games here on Nerdarchy not to mention unMade Gaming.
I’ve been discussing the inclusion of trans narratives in 5E D&D games via NPCs with people for a while now, and there are a few points that come up very frequently in discussions with Dungeon Masters. Many of them are very willing to include trans people but are not sure how to go about doing it — How do you include trans identities into lore and worldbuilding? I’d like to discuss some of the most common questions and thought processes DMs have that may be preventing them from tackling trans narratives, as well as providing some solutions as a starting point. This is a topic that has a lot of elements to it, so I won’t be able to cover everything in just one article, even if I tried, so please don’t expect this to be comprehensive and complete. It’s only intended to be a start.
I promise you I’m not finished talking about Dungeons & Dragons villains, but something came up this week that requires my immediate attention and I will get right back to those as soon as I’m done with this one. Yeah, we’re going to talk about player agency in 5E D&D. I can hear people groaning already. The thing is, player agency has kind of lost its meaning in the midst of all of these discussions about it and I hear it used incorrectly as often as I hear it used right.
There are many traits players can bring to the table that are less than desirable. From the edgelord who always starts in the corner not talking to anyone, to the non-adventurer playing an adventure-focused game. These traits can be tiresome. I put forth that in your D&D games, the trait that deflates a session, and maybe even a character as a whole, the fastest is the Background Uploader. In this article, we’ll explore what makes a Background Uploader, diagnose maybe why it is they do what they do so well and then, to end on a positive note, we’ll talk about ways to avoid it to include a cool background idea.
Dungeons & Dragons has had a long life with many iterations and there is no reason to believe the trend will end with fifth edition D&D. When a new team comes in, they will inevitably have a different vision than what was handed to them. Nerdarchists Dave and Ted have been speculating on what sixth edition D&D might look like, whether it will become a more modular system or something different entirely. While I don’t have a vested interest in a new edition, it can be fun to examine what we have and what it might lead to. My prediction relies on two variables: the form and success of Pathfinder Second Edition and if the current trend continues or turns around.
It’s tough to think about fantasy without the image of fantastical beasts and foes of legend coming to mind. The mighty minotaur and the mysterious centaur are just two of these creatures brought straight from myth to our tables. The Unearthed Arcana exploring and even updating these monstrous races for those interested in playing monsters in fifth edition Dungeons & Dragons has come out and while Nerdarchists Dave and Ted are reviewing the document, I figured I’d take the chance to talk about these interesting creatures and a couple of experiences I had with centaurs and minotaurs in gaming.
Demons, devils and wars, oh my! Mordenkainen’s Tome of Foes has given us all kinds of new demons and devils content to tinker with and while Nerdarchists Dave and Ted go over the creatures and lore of the D&D Blood War in the new tome, I’m going to try and give you some inspiration. I’m a Dungeon Master who uses demons and devils quite sparingly, really reserving them as true horrors and beings of pure evil. Let’s talk about the time I warped the mind of the party’s rogue with a demon that was trying to stop the summoning of a devil into the world.
We continue this archiving of my experience running a West Marches adventuring campaign style and if you haven’t read the first article and second article, you really should for context. My tabletop roleplaying game background is one that heavily focused on narrative and story. With that being said, this new RPG campaign style is a bit of a departure. This article will focus on the portions of the West Marches formula that I fell in love with, the major changes I made and the additions I constructed to bring the game closer to what I consider makes an enjoyable campaign style.
Cogs. Steam. Cogs and steam. Have the itch to get some steampunk in your fifth edition Dungeons & Dragons life? You’re not alone. Steampunk, and other niche genres derived from it, is a great addition to any fantasy setting. You can start your D&D steampunk experience by simply reskinning equipment and environments with all manner of odd baubles and whirring mechanisms or as deep as to tinker and toil brand new home brew to bring your steamy thoughts into life.
Its a very common phrase in the roleplaying circles that its “the Dungeon Master’s Game.” As with most aspects of this hobby, its not always so cut and dry. In your D&D game, you might find infusing some player agency through cooperative storytelling might get a you a new level of engagement from your players. This player agency can take many forms, to include working together with your players to collaboratively create the setting and world.
I thought what I would do for this guide is share with you the lessons I’ve learned when it comes to being a D&D Dungeon Master. I’ll get to work on some other blogs like this very soon. One of which will be on the Prisoner Dilemma. I’m still in the midst of making a video on my YouTube channel for getting started with roleplaying, which should hopefully be out soon. Anyway, on to the show!
Big news is a bit of an understatement – this week Paizo has come out saying that a new edition of their beloved Pathfinder will be out for test play by August 2. I had always wondered when this would come. Pathfinder has run first edition for a staggering teb years. I’m not 100 percent on this but I don’t know of another game company that has had an edition run that long. Many have asked why now? Is the company in trouble? Is fifth edition Dungeons & Dragons 5E rising to be too much of an RPG juggernaut?