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Out of the Box D&D Encounters, Series 2, #19 – “Genie in a…”

Out of the Box introduction

Reinterpretation means more than a simple reskin. By reimagining classic tropes, stories, faerie tales, movies and the like, Dungeon Masters have an endless supply of inspirations for encounters and adventures.
One old trope rarely used anymore is literally the “genie in the bottle” routine.
But, let’s be honest, there is more than just one way to reimagine the old cliche to make it fresh.

Continue reading Out of the Box D&D Encounters, Series 2, #19 – “Genie in a…”

I fell into gaming in the oddest of ways. Coming out of a bad divorce, my mom tried a lot of different things to keep my brother and I busy and out of trouble. It didn't always work. One thing that I didn't really want to do, but did because my mom asked, was enroll in Venturers. As an older Scout-type movement, I wasn't really really for the whole camping-out thing. Canoe trips and clean language were not my forte. Drag racing, BMX and foul language were. What surprised me though was one change of pace our Scout leader tried. He DMed a game of the original D&D that came out after Chainmail (and even preceedd the Red Box). All the weapons just did 1d6 damage, and the three main demi-humans (Elf, Dwarf and Halfling) were not only races, but classes. There were three alignments (Lawful, Neutral and Chaotic). It was very basic. I played all the way through high school and met a lot of new people through gaming. My expected awkwardness around the opposite sex disappeared when I had one game that was seven girls playing. They, too, never thought that they would do this, and it was a great experiement. But it got me hooked. I loved gaming, and my passion for it became infectious. Despite hanging with a very rough crowd who typically spent Fridays scoring drugs, getting into fights, and whatnot, I got them all equally hooked on my polyhedral addiction. I DMed guys around my table that had been involved in the fast-living/die young street culture of the 80s, yet they took to D&D like it was second nature. They still talk to me about those days, even when one wore a rival patch on his back to the one I was wearing. We just talked D&D. It was our language. Dungeons and Dragons opened up a whole new world too. I met lots off oddballs along with some great people. I played games like Star Frontiers, Gamma World, Car Wars, Battletech, lots of GURPS products, Cyberpunk, Shadowrun, Twilight 2000, Rolemaster, Champions, Marvel Superheroes, Earth Dawn...the list goes on. There was even a time while I was risiding with a patch on my back and I would show up for Mechwarrior (the clix kind) tournaments. I was the odd man out there. Gaming lead to me attending a D&D tournament at a local convention, which lead to being introduced to my paintball team, called Black Company (named after the book), which lead to meeting my wife. She was the sister of my 2iC (Second in Command), and I fell in love at first sight. Gaming lead to me meeting my best friend, who was my best man at my wedding and is the godfather of my youngest daughter. Life being what it is, there was some drama with my paintball team/D&D group, and we parted ways for a number of years. In that time I tried out two LARP systems, which taught me a lot about public speaking, improvisation, and confidence. There was a silver lining. I didn't play D&D again for a very long time, though. Then 5E came out. I discovered the Adventurer's League, and made a whole new group of friends. I discovered Acquisitions Incorporated, Dwarven Tavern, and Nerdarchy. I was hooked again. And now my daughter is playing. I introduced her to 5E and my style of DMing, and we talk in "gamer speak" a lot to each other (much to the shagrin of my wife/her mother...who still doesn't "get it"). It's my hope that one day she'll be behind the screen DMing her kids through an amazing adventure. Time will tell.
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Out of the Box D&D Encounters, Series 2, #18 – “Pull!”

giants

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!”

I fell into gaming in the oddest of ways. Coming out of a bad divorce, my mom tried a lot of different things to keep my brother and I busy and out of trouble. It didn't always work. One thing that I didn't really want to do, but did because my mom asked, was enroll in Venturers. As an older Scout-type movement, I wasn't really really for the whole camping-out thing. Canoe trips and clean language were not my forte. Drag racing, BMX and foul language were. What surprised me though was one change of pace our Scout leader tried. He DMed a game of the original D&D that came out after Chainmail (and even preceedd the Red Box). All the weapons just did 1d6 damage, and the three main demi-humans (Elf, Dwarf and Halfling) were not only races, but classes. There were three alignments (Lawful, Neutral and Chaotic). It was very basic. I played all the way through high school and met a lot of new people through gaming. My expected awkwardness around the opposite sex disappeared when I had one game that was seven girls playing. They, too, never thought that they would do this, and it was a great experiement. But it got me hooked. I loved gaming, and my passion for it became infectious. Despite hanging with a very rough crowd who typically spent Fridays scoring drugs, getting into fights, and whatnot, I got them all equally hooked on my polyhedral addiction. I DMed guys around my table that had been involved in the fast-living/die young street culture of the 80s, yet they took to D&D like it was second nature. They still talk to me about those days, even when one wore a rival patch on his back to the one I was wearing. We just talked D&D. It was our language. Dungeons and Dragons opened up a whole new world too. I met lots off oddballs along with some great people. I played games like Star Frontiers, Gamma World, Car Wars, Battletech, lots of GURPS products, Cyberpunk, Shadowrun, Twilight 2000, Rolemaster, Champions, Marvel Superheroes, Earth Dawn...the list goes on. There was even a time while I was risiding with a patch on my back and I would show up for Mechwarrior (the clix kind) tournaments. I was the odd man out there. Gaming lead to me attending a D&D tournament at a local convention, which lead to being introduced to my paintball team, called Black Company (named after the book), which lead to meeting my wife. She was the sister of my 2iC (Second in Command), and I fell in love at first sight. Gaming lead to me meeting my best friend, who was my best man at my wedding and is the godfather of my youngest daughter. Life being what it is, there was some drama with my paintball team/D&D group, and we parted ways for a number of years. In that time I tried out two LARP systems, which taught me a lot about public speaking, improvisation, and confidence. There was a silver lining. I didn't play D&D again for a very long time, though. Then 5E came out. I discovered the Adventurer's League, and made a whole new group of friends. I discovered Acquisitions Incorporated, Dwarven Tavern, and Nerdarchy. I was hooked again. And now my daughter is playing. I introduced her to 5E and my style of DMing, and we talk in "gamer speak" a lot to each other (much to the shagrin of my wife/her mother...who still doesn't "get it"). It's my hope that one day she'll be behind the screen DMing her kids through an amazing adventure. Time will tell.
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Out of the Box, D&D Encounters, Series 2, #17 – “The Ante”

Introduction to the Out of the Box Encounter:

out of the box encounter
DMG5e Feywild Cladio Pozas pg 50 CC SA 3.0

The series of articles have touched on the Feywild before, but it was more from the point of view of chasing or following denizens there. In the realms of fantasy, there are many hidden portals and doorways of all kinds all over our reality where not on the Feywild, but other possible realities can be accessed.

Why not?

   Indeed, this may answer a few questions that many players have as well as provide its own series of opportunities and story hooks to expand a single portal into a whole series of adventures.

In this particular case, I would like to present a specific possibility. What if a door…any door (specific or random) possesses the property of being a gateway to other realities. This could be a broom closet door, the doorway into a particular room in an Inn, or even the rickety door on a rundown shed or outhouse.

   What lays beyond is up to the DM in question, but I would like to present a Feywild scenario.

Fey Portal
Feywild Portal CC SA 3.0

Imagine, if you will, that denizens of a faraway plane have one of these portals to our world, and they use it as a “neutral ground” to resolve differences and seek opportunities. This might be how they view it. The mortals on the Prime Material might see it as wondrous or dangerous, whereas the more clever might see it as an opportunity to answer questions only someone from the Feywild, The Nine Hells, Celestia, Mechanus, Limbo, or other realities might know. What would you ask? What would the alien denizens wish in return for that answer?

This, then, presents another opportunity. How? What some might see as a stumbling block might be perceived as an opportunity by others. The “how” IS the answer. And what better way to provide not only a great roleplaying opportunity but to also inject risk…than a game. This game is the mini-game within the game. It might be a round of cards, dice, riddles, or other game you choose. The vision that came to me when I thought of this was such:

The players, in exploring either a ruin, castle or inn open up a broom closet door. Within were not the cleaning tools and assorted other materials, but a larger room wherein the strangest game of poker was played between strange creatures. Most assuredly, this scenario has played out before in stories where devils play for souls, dogs get painted onto velvet, or dice games happen inside Gelatinous Cubes… but this strange game can also can be an opportunity to found Warlock Pacts, discover secrets, unlock mysteries, start others, or remove curses or other conditions. It’s all in the stakes of the game. And there’s one seat open….

Environment: Urban/Dungeon/Tavern/Inn/etc.

Level: Any, but 1-4 is optimal

Description:  Whether it’s by chance or it’s been set up by a previous encounter (go to this specific door at midnight on Midsummer Night’s Eve, for example), the players will have occasion to open this one door. In this case, it will be something very plain – an out of the way inn room that may not be that desirable (perhaps it’s over the stable and smells, or over the kitchen and it’s hot on summer days, etc.). Whether the player characters have rented this room, heard about it in a rumor or quest, or are exploring for their own reasons, they will arrive at their own accord.

Should they listen at the door, no matter what they achieve on their Wisdom/Perception checks, they will hear nothing beyond the door. Not wind, insects, creaking, nor small furry creatures from Alpha-Centauri …nothing. That may or may not alert your player characters to something unusual.

The door itself is unremarkable and opens easily. What lay beyond is very remarkable.

An occupied room, perhaps 30’x30’, and is richly appointed. A finely embroidered rug lines the floor. Dim lanterns float from unseen chains in each corner, while frescos made from tiny ceramic tiles decorate each wall. These frescoes depict various nature scenes that move in as lifelike a manner as tiles allow. The ceiling above is also covered in a fresco, showing an alternating scene of day and night.  A large 10’ diameter table of rich dark wood has an odd cast of characters seated around it. An empty chair at this table sits with it’s back to the door. Starting to the left of the empty chair, the figures seated around the table are as follows:

Satyr (Monster Manual page 267) wearing a bowler (a hat also called a derby), spectacles, and smoking a cigar. This is “Bellish”. Bellish is abrupt, outgoing, and perpetually inappropriate. He is a collector of secrets, flaws, and hidden truths. He traffics in the whispers of Sprites, Pixies, and other tiny Fey if only to manipulate this information into a potential tryst with someone he may have a secret over.

Yes, that’s blackmail. He’s not proud. He has Stinkfinger’s Nose, although it’s been transformed into the hat on his head. He’ll take every chance to flirt with Trinka or any female player characters that enter the room, whether they sit at the table or not.

 Boggle (Volo’s, page 128) named “Stinkfinger”. Stinkfinger is lucky not be eating the cards in his hand. He doesn’t remember why he’s even at this game and has been ruthlessly punished by the other players for his antics to the point where someone at the table has taken his nose, and he’s determined to get it back. When a new player sits down, he may blame them for taking his nose, or he tries to get them to find it for him. Stinkfinger is not so “good with his words”, though, and may just resort to sticking the player to their chair or making their cards oily and hard to hold on to.

A tall and beautiful grey-skinned “elf” in garb that looks like it’s made from black thorns and wreathed in dark smoke. Trinka is a Darkling Elder (Volo’s, page 134). Trinka is bored beyond imagination of this who experience and would just like to stare at the moving sun and moon artwork above. Because she’s so distracted, she hasn’t noticed that the door has opened. When she finally does, she will be very upset if anyone is carrying or using bright light. Trinka trades in stories of death. She craves a well-wrought story of loss, tragedy, and sorrow. A tale of woe that brings others to tears is music to her ears, and this game has lasted so very long…

out of the box, d&d, fey, feywild, sea hag
Sea Hag pg 113 Monter Manual

A salmon-like humanoid with bulging eyes and constant stare. This is “Shagatha”, the Sea Hag (page 179, Monster Manual)  in a very bad attempt to mimic a Kuo Toa. Shagatha detests Trinka and anything beautiful. Characters with a high Charisma or some other beautiful trait will incur her aversion and animosity, even if only comical at first.

Shagatha craves nothing more than the suffering of her fellow Fey or any others that enter the room. She delights in Stinkfinger’s lost nose, Trinka’s boredom, and Bellish’s unrequited desires. Whatever the players bring to the table might just ramp this up.

The last chair is for a player to choose.

The Fey within this room are for the Dm’s use. That means that they can be there for their own story hooks, plot leads, villain roster, or other use. These NPCs may well know the answer to a question that the players have or they might know whom else could be asked or what quests that need be completed. This is totally a chance for the DM to provide hooks or shake-up stale leads.

The way to provide these answers is simple. Fey never answer a straight question. It’s always a series of riddles and quests, tests, and games. Therefore, to add to this scene, I will propose a game-within-a-game.

Out of the Box, D&D Encounters, Series 2, #17 – “The Ante”

“In Between”.

The rules are simple. This can be played as a one or two player game, but all other players at the table can wager on this.

As a one-player game, the single player requires three 20-sided dice (d20 after this). The single player rolling will have to declare, before rolling any of them, which is to be “Between”. The other two are called the “Surrounds”. Then all three are rolled at once.

If the Between is a value between the other two dice and equal to neither, the rolling player wins the bet. Simple.

If the “Surrounds” are sequential (like 10, 11 or 15, 16) then the rolling player automatically loses. If the “Surrounds” are doubles, then the rolling player can either accept the loss or can roll again. If they lose again, then their loss is double. Otherwise, if the value of the roll is between the Surrounds as per the normal winning conditions, the roller wins.

In a two player game, one player rolls the Between, and the other rolls the Surrounds. When the Surrounds are doubles, then the Surrounds player elects to roll or not, and THEY lose double their wager to the Betweener. If the Surrounds player rolls sequential dice, they automatically win.

D&D, "in between" game for the out of the box encounter, "the ante"
3 sided dice by chimsam

The Fey in this room have been playing “In Between” for an indeterminate amount of time to mortals, and may truly look forward to the intervention of the player characters. They will not volunteer any answer whatsoever. The players will have to play with and against these characters and may risk harm, or worse. Each NPC will have their own desires and wants and will wager those wants and desires against what the player characters want. It is the hope that this will not lead to violence, but given how player characters operate, this may.

Other player characters or Fey can hold side-bets on the results. Keep in mind that any bet made as a side bet is also beholden to the Doubles rule, so bet carefully. Fey will not have endless gold or magic items, so if a player tries to bet for a magic item that they do not possess, (or even if they actually do), they may reveal the location of such an item or treasure to the players in riddle form. That treasure or magic item will still be guarded by monsters, traps, hazards or other Fey…

but they certainly won’t say.

A Fey that wins any bet, side or otherwise, will demand what is in character with their personalities. Trinka might want to hear of a player characters worse loss in all its tragic detail….and delight all the while. Bellish may want a kiss or more. Stinkfinger wants his nose. Shagatha may render a character ugly (even if only temporary) or she may insinuate herself into a player character’s life in the worst way.

This is all up to the DM in question for interpretation.

The player characters have an opportunity to learn secrets, get answers, develop allies…the imagination of the players and the DM are truly open when it comes to the possibilities.

Monsters for this out of the box encounter:

“Bellish” – Satyr – As per Monster Manual, page 267 – except as noted.

“Stinkfinger” – Boggle – As per Volo’s Guide to Monsters, page 128.

“Trinka” – Darkling Elder – As per Volo’s Guide to Monsters, page 134.

“Shagatha” – Sea Hag – As per Monster Manual, page 179.

Treasure: Information, Plot hooks, and shaking things up a little. That’s worth more than gold.

Complications: That truly depends on the win/loss ration of the game of “In Between.” Be careful to note what may happen as DM, because this is your chance to place opportunities for role-playing and plot development before the players. Curses, ruining player plans and making their lives difficult has its value, but can be taken too far when it comes to extraplanar beings. Tread with care and go only as far as your players can tolerate. Provide positive hooks when things get too negative, and give your players a chance for an “out” should they get in too deep with negative characters like “Shagatha”.

This is supposed to be fun, remember?

– Mike Gould

If you would like to check out more on the out of the box encounters by Mike you can check out some of the Nerdarchy crews favorites here

 

I fell into gaming in the oddest of ways. Coming out of a bad divorce, my mom tried a lot of different things to keep my brother and I busy and out of trouble. It didn't always work. One thing that I didn't really want to do, but did because my mom asked, was enroll in Venturers. As an older Scout-type movement, I wasn't really really for the whole camping-out thing. Canoe trips and clean language were not my forte. Drag racing, BMX and foul language were. What surprised me though was one change of pace our Scout leader tried. He DMed a game of the original D&D that came out after Chainmail (and even preceedd the Red Box). All the weapons just did 1d6 damage, and the three main demi-humans (Elf, Dwarf and Halfling) were not only races, but classes. There were three alignments (Lawful, Neutral and Chaotic). It was very basic. I played all the way through high school and met a lot of new people through gaming. My expected awkwardness around the opposite sex disappeared when I had one game that was seven girls playing. They, too, never thought that they would do this, and it was a great experiement. But it got me hooked. I loved gaming, and my passion for it became infectious. Despite hanging with a very rough crowd who typically spent Fridays scoring drugs, getting into fights, and whatnot, I got them all equally hooked on my polyhedral addiction. I DMed guys around my table that had been involved in the fast-living/die young street culture of the 80s, yet they took to D&D like it was second nature. They still talk to me about those days, even when one wore a rival patch on his back to the one I was wearing. We just talked D&D. It was our language. Dungeons and Dragons opened up a whole new world too. I met lots off oddballs along with some great people. I played games like Star Frontiers, Gamma World, Car Wars, Battletech, lots of GURPS products, Cyberpunk, Shadowrun, Twilight 2000, Rolemaster, Champions, Marvel Superheroes, Earth Dawn...the list goes on. There was even a time while I was risiding with a patch on my back and I would show up for Mechwarrior (the clix kind) tournaments. I was the odd man out there. Gaming lead to me attending a D&D tournament at a local convention, which lead to being introduced to my paintball team, called Black Company (named after the book), which lead to meeting my wife. She was the sister of my 2iC (Second in Command), and I fell in love at first sight. Gaming lead to me meeting my best friend, who was my best man at my wedding and is the godfather of my youngest daughter. Life being what it is, there was some drama with my paintball team/D&D group, and we parted ways for a number of years. In that time I tried out two LARP systems, which taught me a lot about public speaking, improvisation, and confidence. There was a silver lining. I didn't play D&D again for a very long time, though. Then 5E came out. I discovered the Adventurer's League, and made a whole new group of friends. I discovered Acquisitions Incorporated, Dwarven Tavern, and Nerdarchy. I was hooked again. And now my daughter is playing. I introduced her to 5E and my style of DMing, and we talk in "gamer speak" a lot to each other (much to the shagrin of my wife/her mother...who still doesn't "get it"). It's my hope that one day she'll be behind the screen DMing her kids through an amazing adventure. Time will tell.
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Out of the Box D&D Encounters, Series 2, #16 – “Stomp”

Dungeons and dragons

Out of the Box Introduction

orc There are two approaches to scaling encounters for players when using lower CR monsters. The first is to just add more of the same. The second is to change how they are used, or use them in a way in which they act in concert with another monster type or mechanic.
As you might guess, I am more of a fan of the latter over the former. Changing perspectives or tactics is what “Out of the Box” is all about. Furthermore, I like to draw upon other games or activities as inspirations at times.
The game I would like to call upon this time is one that was a tactical tabletop game that I used to play that involved, well, let’s say giant battle robots with pilots inside. There are a few out there. Pick your favourite as a reference and we’ll call it fair. The game in question isn’t as important as the visual.
Furthermore, the visual from inside this construct isn’t as important as the visual from those facing these constructs.

Continue reading Out of the Box D&D Encounters, Series 2, #16 – “Stomp”

I fell into gaming in the oddest of ways. Coming out of a bad divorce, my mom tried a lot of different things to keep my brother and I busy and out of trouble. It didn't always work. One thing that I didn't really want to do, but did because my mom asked, was enroll in Venturers. As an older Scout-type movement, I wasn't really really for the whole camping-out thing. Canoe trips and clean language were not my forte. Drag racing, BMX and foul language were. What surprised me though was one change of pace our Scout leader tried. He DMed a game of the original D&D that came out after Chainmail (and even preceedd the Red Box). All the weapons just did 1d6 damage, and the three main demi-humans (Elf, Dwarf and Halfling) were not only races, but classes. There were three alignments (Lawful, Neutral and Chaotic). It was very basic. I played all the way through high school and met a lot of new people through gaming. My expected awkwardness around the opposite sex disappeared when I had one game that was seven girls playing. They, too, never thought that they would do this, and it was a great experiement. But it got me hooked. I loved gaming, and my passion for it became infectious. Despite hanging with a very rough crowd who typically spent Fridays scoring drugs, getting into fights, and whatnot, I got them all equally hooked on my polyhedral addiction. I DMed guys around my table that had been involved in the fast-living/die young street culture of the 80s, yet they took to D&D like it was second nature. They still talk to me about those days, even when one wore a rival patch on his back to the one I was wearing. We just talked D&D. It was our language. Dungeons and Dragons opened up a whole new world too. I met lots off oddballs along with some great people. I played games like Star Frontiers, Gamma World, Car Wars, Battletech, lots of GURPS products, Cyberpunk, Shadowrun, Twilight 2000, Rolemaster, Champions, Marvel Superheroes, Earth Dawn...the list goes on. There was even a time while I was risiding with a patch on my back and I would show up for Mechwarrior (the clix kind) tournaments. I was the odd man out there. Gaming lead to me attending a D&D tournament at a local convention, which lead to being introduced to my paintball team, called Black Company (named after the book), which lead to meeting my wife. She was the sister of my 2iC (Second in Command), and I fell in love at first sight. Gaming lead to me meeting my best friend, who was my best man at my wedding and is the godfather of my youngest daughter. Life being what it is, there was some drama with my paintball team/D&D group, and we parted ways for a number of years. In that time I tried out two LARP systems, which taught me a lot about public speaking, improvisation, and confidence. There was a silver lining. I didn't play D&D again for a very long time, though. Then 5E came out. I discovered the Adventurer's League, and made a whole new group of friends. I discovered Acquisitions Incorporated, Dwarven Tavern, and Nerdarchy. I was hooked again. And now my daughter is playing. I introduced her to 5E and my style of DMing, and we talk in "gamer speak" a lot to each other (much to the shagrin of my wife/her mother...who still doesn't "get it"). It's my hope that one day she'll be behind the screen DMing her kids through an amazing adventure. Time will tell.