Shields, the piece of metal or wood between you and pain, and the thing that turns your fighter from a bucket of hit points into an indomitable tank. Because it’s not dealing damage it often gets overlooked by today’s modern bloodthirsty types, and it might take more than a hefty plank with handles to convince your players to maybe drop a sword in favour of some protection.
Presented below, five examples of shields with story, magical power, secrets, or just present something more interesting than a boost to armour class. The rules referenced are for Dungeons & Dragons 5th edition, but can be readily modified for other editions or systems. (more…)
Growing in popularity thanks to their frequent reoccurrence in Critical Role’s second campaign, the race of gentle fey giants appearing in Volo’s Guide to Monsters are forest-dwelling wardens and guardians, living peacefully and quietly with nature until situation demands that they act to protect their sworn homes. Despite their incredible size, they are more adept in matters of stealth and ambuscade, and are better fit to silently exterminate interlopers in the night than to assault them head-on.
A quick review of firbolgs as they appear in Volo’s, they’re tough to fit into an adventuring party without some heavy modifications to narrative: they abhor greed, prefer not to leave their homes, and are generally peaceful and slow to resort to violence. They also utterly lack a physical description, but general opinion seems to lean more toward hints of the bovine, hircine, or cervine elements mixed into an oversized humanoid body.
Here I present ten ideas on how to use this race, in which I will be including a few variations on the theme, none of which will be characters from Critical Role (although some artwork from the series may appear). (more…)
The spells of D&D 5e – as contained within the Players Handbook, Xanathar’s Guide to everything and other sources – appeal to a broad range of characters with applications in combat and in many instances of day to day life. In a world of unexpected and varied dangers it pays to cover all bases… but what if the more a plot unravels, the more specific forms of magic become useful to you?
Presented here are very specific spells designed to inspire ideas specific to your own campaign, referring to motives of specific factions or parties, designed for combating a particular type of opponent, or overcome a particular type of obstacle. The rules as listed use Dungeons & Dragons 5th edition, but should be readily modified to suit most fantasy systems. Here are three campaign-specific spells.
3rd level abjuration
Casting Time: 1 action
Components: V, S, M (A trilliant cut emerald worth at least 200 GP)
Duration: Concentration, up to 10 minutes.
Snakes, yuan-ti, hydras, and other serpentine creatures within 10 feet of you must succeed on a wisdom saving throw or be afraid of you. While afraid of you they cannot use their action for anything other than dashing away from you. Creatures must repeat the saving throw when they enter or start their turn within the range of the spell. Creatures you designate within the range have advantage on saving throws against poison effects, and resistance to poison damage.
At higher levels: When you cast this spell using a spell slot of 5th level or higher, you may increase the radius of the spell by 10 feet, and again when you use a 7th level spell slot, and again when you use a 9th level spell slot.
6th level divination (ritual)
Casting Time: 1 minute
Components: V, M (a complex puzzle of wooden or metal pieces that has been solved)
Duration: Concentration, up to 1 hour.
For the duration your mind sees through elaborate and complicated patterns as if they were childishly simple, isolating clues, and comprehending solutions. The affected creature has a +10 bonus to intelligence checks made to solve riddles, puzzles, and devices. This bonus applies to all checks made to recall knowledge concerning the riddle, puzzle, or device, and to investigation checks made to search for clues, hidden components, or hidden patterns.
The spell does not account for active deceptions, or any knowledge not overtly possessed by the creature, such as languages it does not understand. If a component is missing, the spell will allow the creature to observe this fact, but will not reveal the location of the missing object, unless it is something they have already encountered, or if it is something that can be found within areas the creature investigates while affected by the spell.
Mark of Bel’Taln
Casting Time: 1 action
Duration: 1 hour
When you cast Mark of Bel’Taln, take 1 fire damage. A brand in the shape of the arcane mark appears on your skin on a location of your choosing, and remains there for the duration before fading.
The mark is used to identify members of the cult of Worshipful Bel’Taln to one another, and can only be taught to members by other members. A creature does not need to have the spellcasting feature to be able to cast Mark of Bel’Taln, but you must have a wisdom or charisma score of 13 or higher. This spell cannot be learned by elves or half elves.
When you reach 5th level, and good standing within the cult, you may be granted one of the additional features listed below. You may gain additional features at 11th level, and again at 17th. You must be granted these features by a a higher ranking member of the cult. When you cast the Mark of Bel’Taln, you take additional fire damage equal to twice the number of additional features you know.
- While you bear his mark, you may speak the language of Bel’Taln. You can understand and be understood by monstrosities as if you shared a language, and you have advantage on charisma checks and animal handling checks made to influence their behaviour.
- While you bear his mark, you have the blessing of Bel’Taln. You have resistance to acid and cold damage. Your unarmed attacks deal bludgeoning damage equal to your proficiency modifier, and you may choose to make unarmed attacks using your spellcasting modifier instead of strength.
- While you bear his mark, you know the heart of Bel’Taln. You may teach the cantrip Mark of Bel’Taln to another creature. Doing so takes 1 hour, and the process ordains the creature into the cult of Worshipful Bel’Taln. That creature must meet the requirements to learn the cantrip as listed above.
- While you bear his mark, you know the wrath of Bel’Taln. When a creature makes a melee attack against you, you may use your reaction to deal an amount of acid damage to that creature equal to your spellcasting modifier.
- While you bear his mark, you know the enemies of Bel’Taln. You have advantage on skill checks when they specifically pertain to elves. For example, you have advantage on stealth checks made to hide from elves, or insight checks made to sense the motives of elves.
Ok, I think we run this series through November and then put it to rest for a few months. I have had an idea for something else for next year, and I have some films chalked up to review. As for next week:
Books and their secrets, some tomes of knowledge that grant unexpected benefits, such as spells, formulas for magic items, or unveiling the location of incredible treasures.
An extra planar encounter table, detailing potential encounters within… let’s see… Carceri! The Prison Plane, the inescapable torment.
Or three different ways in which paladins can embrace or interpret their oaths, and the laws that they abide by.
Sufficiently challenging your players at higher levels can be a difficult task for any DM/GM. With players of 15th level or higher who can take out creatures like dragons with relative ease, making encounters that are both interesting and a challenge can be tricky but ultimately worthwhile, if done well.
Below I have prepared a number of encounters using 3 different sets of monsters, two of which are from Mordenkainen’s Tome of Foes, that have been designed to both be a challenge to a party and be interesting and unique encounters.
Information is a valuable commodity to an adventuring party, no matter the setting. Whether the group are seeking information on a quest they’re already involved in, or looking for a job to keep them in gold and hot meals, keeping an ear to the ground in taverns or out in the street can be an excellent source of information, but only once they have separated out all of the misinformation from the truth.
Among the rumours listed below is a mixture of truth, half-truth, and out and out lies, and within that information there are hooks for two quests, the location of a dungeon, and one piece of mundane gossip. It is up to your players how they will learn which is which, and up to you where the truth is.
Among the many weapons in the DMs arsenal, often we overlook the idea of curses. Monsters and traps aplenty, puzzles and challenges, sure, but a curse is something wholly other. Disease is frequently too random, we rarely use disease because it is not something earned through foolish action, but a curse can be laid upon a player who does something foolish, or stumbles across something terrible.
These curses broadly use Dungeons & Dragons 5th edition rules, but can easily be adjusted for other systems and settings.
Right, where were we? Travelling companions eleven through twenty. Here’s one through ten if you missed them.
The softly spoken halfling dresses in soft leathers and expensive looking silks, but without much by way of ornamentation or showy colours. Her hair is a thick bundle of dun dreadlocks tied with a chord, and she goes barefoot most places while travelling. She’s hard to hear in the midst of heavy conversation, but happy enough to listen and participate only when she feels it’s her “turn” to speak, waiting for lulls where she might be heard clearly. (more…)
Ahhh… this may have to be a two-parter. This is going to be a two-parter. Having hit 1600+ words with only half of my wandering NPCs written, I shall save another ten for next Thursday.
Here below I offer you ten NPCs who may travel with your party. Some may help, others may hinder, all were created using random tables and generators for race, gender, jobs and roles, although the names and details are all my own. Thanks to the Hyper Halfling’s Book of Lists, Xanathar’s Guide to Everything, and Fantasy Name Generators for giving the bare bones of the characters brought to life below.
Allow these fine folk to join the party for their next journey to help bridge the gaps between civilisation and adventure. If nothing else… it’ll be memorable. (more…)