For many roleplayers and certainly many characters, treasure is one of the primary reasons for their adventures. Treasure is rarely the end goal (unless the characters are truly shallow) but fine quality loot is a mainstay of an adventurer’s diet.
So how do you make finding ever increasing sums of gold and piles of magic items interesting? Well, that’s what we’re here to talk about!
Names. Names are everything. Names are a part of your identity and with the right name you can compel a demon to do your bidding and in some settings reshape the world.
Names are also really hard! Giving a character or NPC a name is a very tricky task indeed and requires you to carefully consider just what that name means for a person in your world.
Names tend to have meanings attached to them, implied characteristics and cultural baggage and choosing the wrong name for an NPC is worse than not naming them at all.
Discussed here are a few examples of doing this right and doing it wrong. Of course these aren’t hard and fast rules but I hope I can teach you a thing or two with regards to naming.
You know what I really love about Roleplaying games in general and pre-published adventures specifically? Maps! I really like a well-drawn map of a fantastical location. There’s something about a map that makes a place a tangible, real location instead of just some place in the mind of the game-master.
Other pieces of artwork can have the same effect but maps are special to me. You see, a map provides the thing I value most in roleplaying games: Consistency. You can look at a map and compare with the location the PCs are at and know that if you go left, then right at the fountain, you’re going to end up in the room where you fought the bugbears.
However, a lot of people seem to have issues using maps well in their games. Speaking with a friend about this topic, I noticed a few things that almost everyone can easily incorporate into their games to enhance the experience. I’ve also got a few tips and tricks to get you started using maps.
One of the challenges I’ve been encountering in my D&D game is the placement of treasure. Even in 5th edition, D&D still thrives on a steady drip of gold, gems, artwork and magical or semi-magical items. And placing those items in a natural-feeling way is hard.
Sure, you could just roll on the treasure tables for every enemy the PCs search but that will quickly get weird. As an experiment, I rolled on that table for every feasible encounter in my game so far. (That is: I didn’t roll for creatures like wolves or rats, but I did roll for everything that was at least smart enough to recognize that gold = value).
Had I used those results, the PCs would’ve entered an abandoned mine and gotten out with a magical scale mail (resists fire damage), 6 paintings, each worth a good chunk of cash, a small pile of gens, a few hundred gold pieces along with whatever weapons and armor they stole from their enemies. That would be for first level adventurers.
“You can play however you want and be whoever you want”
That’s how roleplaying games were once described to me. And to an extend that’s true. With the right GM you can play any sort of setting, from Game of Thrones with the serial numbers filed off to a setting where you can fly through space on the back of dragons shooting lasers at storm troopers.
And as a part of that, the players will work together to make create a world, intricate lore and compelling characters. However, what most people will do is use a standard set of rules and everything that comes with it. And that often results in a game that has an amazing backstory and awesome lore but whose mechanics have no way of representing that awesome lore.
As I mentioned in my previous post on mega-dungeons, it’s vitally important to have the dungeon seem like a living space that the adventurers. Monsters need lairs, locations where they hang out, places even they avoid and so on.
Similarly, the PCs also need a lair; a location to hang out, sell their treasure, purchase new gear, get healed from the horrific injuries sustained within the dungeon and so on.
In video games these sorts of location are commonly referred to as hub location, because they function as a central location that the players can return to periodically. These are places like Dark Souls’ Firelink Shrine, Mass Effect’s Normandy (and the Citadel to a lesser extent) or the eponymous keep in the classic adventure ‘Keep on the Borderlands’.
The key to a good hub location is making it feel safe, making it feel welcoming and making it feel useful. I’ll be going over some of the things I’ve figured out and providing you with a few tips and tricks here to make your own hubs feel alive.
This post was inspired by a discussion I had with another GM on the topic of a player who seems to always want to either play a dragon or play something thematically close to a dragon.
I’ve had players in my groups that had similar fascinations, some with undead, some with dragons or a totally awesome character they saw in an anime or movie. And let’s be honest, we’ve all been there at some point. Hell, I had a pretty big fascination with playing a Deathknight when Exalted 2nd edition’s Abyssals supplement came out. (And can you blame me? They were both cool AND overpowered!)
So why make a post about something so common? Because there are many, many ways of dealing with it. Most GMs won’t indulge in these sorts of fantasies, citing reasons such as ‘Dragons are too powerful’ or ‘make up something original instead of playing another clone of Wolverine’ or ‘undead don’t fit into my setting’ (this one makes sense). I’ve been one of those GMs, getting snippy at players who, in my eyes, can’t come up with something original.
This will be the first post in a series on game mastering dungeons and specifically mega-dungeons.
First, a definition. A mega-dungeon is, in my eyes, any adventure that takes place in a boxed-in environment (such as a dungeon, cave, virtual maze) where the player’s primary goal is interacting with and exploring said boxed-in environment. The environment is a set environment, usually with some random encounters mixed in for variety but it generally acts as a walled-off sandbox.
This definition is intentionally fairly broad and many adventures could be described as a mega-dungeon. To me, the most important aspects of a mega-dungeon are the set environment and the focus on exploring that environment.
It’s also something that, until recently, I had never run. I’d run D&D before. I’ve run games focused on exploration and games that were heavily combat-focused. But having read the 5th edition D&D rules and having seen the discourse online on this new edition, I figured I’d give it a try.