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 put on their thinking caps to explore using dump stats and low ability scores in fifth edition Dungeons & Dragons. They talk specifically about Intelligence in this case, discussing different approaches for roleplaying and perspectives on how and why a character might have a low score. This broad topic can apply to any RPG, even games without a specific Intelligence score or even ability scores at all. Portraying a character with below average smarts can be a lot of fun but this particular ability score, like a lot of nonphysical attributes in any game, can also be tricky. It’s a lot easier to imagine an exceptionally strong or agile character or conversely a weak or clumsy one but when it comes to what we often refer to as mental stats roleplaying becomes a bit more challenging. Since Dave and Ted cover Intelligence itself, I’m curious about different kinds of intelligence. You may have heard the term ’emotional intelligence’ before and this got me thinking of ways for RPG characters to display their own types of intelligence inspired by other ability scores. So let’s get into it and come up with ideas for characters who dump Intelligence to showcase their own smarts in 5E D&D.
Over at Nerdarchy the YouTube channel Nerdarchists Dave and Ted release the kraken and talk about regular ol’ monsters and mythic monsters from Mythic Odysseys of Theros for fifth edition Dungeons & Dragons. Mythic monsters represent unique and extremely powerful creatures whose undeniable influence on the campaign setting catapult them into new dimensions of peril for adventurers. Along with these special new threats MOoT presents a collection of existing classic monsters whose presence in the setting shapes the stories and myths of the land. Extrapolating from this material gives Dungeon Masters and players a useful perspective for worldbuilding and how specific monsters — and how they’re viewed by people living in the world — can be a great resource to inspire storytelling and adventures in your own 5E D&D games. So let’s get into it.
Words have power. Just ask Ursula Le Guin. Plus, language is so much a staple of stories and storytelling we’ve even codified it in tabletop roleplaying games into a proper mechanic. When it comes to the words our RPG characters use perhaps the question isn’t, “What words should I say?” but rather, “What words would I say?” This brings us to today’s topic — vernacular. Okay, I know it’s a big word but vernacular is the everyday language used by ordinary people. Speaking of, now’s probably as good a time as any to forewarn this article contains cursing and a dissertation on cursing and racial slurs. So if you’re not comfortable with either of those topics or reading some everyday curses then maybe seek out another of many articles.
Over at Nerdarchy the YouTube channel Nerdarchists Dave and Ted share their first impressions of The Expanse RPG, a Modern AGE rules set game from Green Ronin. I didn’t know anything about The Expanse — roleplaying game or otherwise — before video planning. Afterwards further reading of the rule book and binge watching the series on Amazon Prime brought a fresh perspective on genre and fandom inspired RPGs. The Expanse RPG provides a window into several themes and elements including more than one science fiction subgenre, shipboard life stories, travel and tension. Can you guess I’ve become a fan? Nowhere near a Screaming Firehawk certainly, but then again it’s only been a few days. So let’s get into it.
Hey Folks! By now you’re likely aware Wizards of the Coast’s next big offering for fifth edition Dungeons & Dragons Icewind Dale: Rime of the Frostmaiden. Set in the titular Icewind Dale this new campaign adventure has been described by Chris Perkins as a horror story and various interviews and discussions of reveal it plays on themes of isolation, paranoia and an unforgiving environment. Inspirations for the book include movies such as Alien, The Thing and even Jaws. I don’t know about you all, but I’m on board. But I don’t play in the Forgotten Realms. Why am I so thrilled for this new book? The answer is simple. I have been working on my own cold weather setting for a while now and this promises to be an amazing tool box for my own personal campaign much in the same way that Tomb of Annihilation proved invaluable in my current nautical, island hopping campaign. I’m sure there will be a good amount of source material surrounding the adventures much like previous 5E D&D books. It has already been revealed there will be a whole lot of new monsters leaning toward cold climates.
Over at Nerdarchy the YouTube channel Nerdarchists Dave and Ted dig up artifacts and attune to magic items from Mythic Odysseys of Theros. In fifth edition Dungeons & Dragons magic items and artifiacts grant capabilities a character could rarely have otherwise or complement their owner’s capabilities in wondrous ways according to the Dungeon Master’s Guide. Theros expands on this core part of the 5E D&D experience by incorporating how magic items carry reputations as rich and storied as those who wield them. Looking closer at how MOoT’s approach to worldbuilding, storytelling and presenting a campaign setting, illustrated previously through races, subclasses, Supernatural Gifts, piety and the gods generated fresh ideas and great conversations. Viewing magic items and artifacts with the same perspective stands to reason similar outcomes will result, so let’s get into it.
In the worlds of Dungeons & Dragons, or really any fantasy based roleplaying game the theology is very important. In the real world, where we all live our daily lives, I think a smaller amount of people think about their immortal soul than those who live in a world where it is incontrovertible that magic exists and there is an afterlife. It is even possible to visit the realm of the dead or come back to life. With this in mind and considering there are agents working both sides, why are angels and fiends not seeing more of a hand in the events of the mortal world? We know there are playable races with divine or fiendish blood, and we hopefully do not need a biology lesson of the birds and bees to know how you got there, but why are the celestials not serving major cities as advisors, looking out for a family line? Or why are their not infernals attempting to do the same?
Over at Nerdarchy the YouTube channel Nerdarchists Dave and Ted establish a link to the gods and discuss Piety in fifth edition Dungeons & Dragons. Introduced in the 5E D&D Dungeon Master’s Guide right in chapter 1, Piety is a variation of the Renown system. When 5E D&D first launched, a prominent part of the marketing focused on Factions — important forces in a campaign world — and characters’ interactions with these organizations. Adventurers League players grew quite familiar with Harpers, Order of the Gauntlet, Emerald Enclave, Lords Alliance and Zhentarim through Renown and for me this was a particularly exciting part of the game. Later books like Acquisitions Incorporated and Guildmasters Guide to Ravnica expand on Renown through their franchise and guild ranks and advancement. Since curating playable races and subclasses for characters as a campaign creation and worldbuilding tool generated good ideas and conversations let’s see how Piety and Renown can be used. Lots of creators already laid strong foundations for using Renown in your 5E D&D games, so we’ll start with what we’ve already got and come up with some new ideas to add.
Tabletop roleplaying games are absolutely amazing. Not only do they allow us to bond with others on the fundamentally human levels of storytelling and cooperation but they also provide safe spaces to explore problem solving, social situations and identity. In a tabletop roleplaying game you take control of your character, allowing for a degree of agency you simply don’t find in other avenues like video games and that’s part of what makes them absolutely magical! Who doesn’t love thinking of a character to participate in an epic story, where you can choose to be a mighty hero or an imposing villain? Roleplaying games are for everyone.
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! Today we’re going to talk about monsters and their tendency to fight to the death every single time in tabletop roleplaying games like fifth edition Dungeons & Dragons. Now, I’m not saying they should break and run every single time but morale is a real thing. Dungeon Masters have a tendency to get into the middle of a game and hit a point where we’re thinking about the things on the battlefield just as things on the battlefield for the adventurers to hit then vend treasure and experience points from. But it matters why the monsters are on the field and what they’re trying to accomplish. A group of goblins who got bullied into joining this fight by a much larger hobgoblin probably aren’t going to stick around, for example, after their hobgoblin bully gets decapitated. Consider what monsters are trying to take and what they’re trying to protect. What are the stakes for your 5E D&D antagonists and creatures and what happens if they lose? Is it going to be worse than dying?
Over at Nerdarchy the YouTube channel Nerdarchists Dave and Ted share their thoughts on the two new fifth edition Dungeons & Dragons subclasses inside Mythic Odysseys of Theros. College of Eloquence bards and Oath of Glory paladins bring new options for players tied to the themes and concepts of the new 5E D&D campaign setting. If I’m honest it was surprising there aren’t more new subclasses included with MOoT. Circle of Stars felt like a surefire piece of the Theros puzzle! On the other hand if it shows up in a future product more closely tied to the stars (like Spelljammer?!) or a Feywild campaign adventure you won’t find me grousing about it. In the meantime, since I enjoyed thinking about how curating the playable races for characters can become a resource for campaign creation and worldbuilding why not apply the same principles to subclass options?
Helping to run a small business dedicated to tabletop roleplaying games puts me in a position to think about RPGs. A lot. While I consider myself far from an expert game designer or theorist I’ve got to assume writing, editing, planning and considering these games leaves me with at least a little insight and today I want to share a profound moment from my RPG experiences. A while back I wrote about how the best RPGs let you know clearly up front what the game is about. The post found traction and stimulated good conversations. The idea for that post came after reading an early backer version of Vaesen — Nordic Horror Roleplaying and you can check it out here. I bring it up because this post also comes from ideas inspired from the same rule book. One small sidebar in one of the mysteries included with the game changed my whole perspective on verisimilitude and reminded me the importance of remembering we’re still playing a game. So let’s get into it.
Over at Nerdarchy the YouTube channel Nerdarchists Dave and Ted continue exploring Mythic Odysseys of Theros for fifth edition Dungeons & Dragons. This time they take a close look at the new races for character options in the campaign setting. Up until now in my own games players have been free to create characters with very little restriction. But with the inclusion of Supernatural Gifts for characters adventuring in Theros there’s been a shift in my thinking. Let’s get into the new races in MOoT and touch on how it changes perspective on what to include and exclude when it comes to creating a setting, worldbuilding and running a campaign in 5E D&D.