dnd moment

That works...

So I was having a conversation w/ a friend about interesting DnD moments, he decides to tell me about the one player who fulfilled his role a little differently.

Him: So the guy creates a Half Orc Rogue, okay?

Me: O-Kay… Different but it could work…

Him: The thing is, he puts no points into Stealth.

Me: Uhh….

Him: Instead, he only does intimidation. He cranked the points really high. So whenever he needed to perform a stealth check, he’d just walk up to the people he’s sneaking by and yell “YOU CANT SEE GROG!!!” and because of his intimidation points, the people would just respond in fear, “I can’t see you! I can’t see you”.

Dungeon Crafting: Puzzle Dungeons

image source: Legend of Zelda: Oracle of Ages

Now, I don’t know if you people have seen Mark Brown’s miniseries on YouTube known as Boss Keys, but it’s pretty great. It picks apart and analyzes some of my favorite dungeons from the Legend of Zelda games and finds out what makes a dungeon a Zelda dungeon. I have always loved these dungeons because they have a lot of density and force you to explore the space slowly and think your way through its puzzles. Definitely check out Boss Keys. From what I learned from those videos plus my own experiences as a DM, I’m going to try and detail how to create a Zelda-like puzzle dungeon. There are a few hallmarks that you should hit on:

Dungeon Density

Each area in the dungeon should be complex. It should have several things to interact with in each room other than the monsters or guardians. Everything doesn’t have to be immediately useful or usable, but it should provide context for the dungeon. For ideas, think what the dungeon was used for and research what sorts of things might be in an ancient tomb, lost temple, or forgotten keep. Have certain puzzle elements stand out. A good example from the Legend of Zelda is the eyeball above a closed door. I would stray away from that type of “puzzle” as it’s very well-known, I assume, that you have to hit the eye to open the door. On the other hand, a well-known puzzle like that could signal to the players that this is going to be one of “those” dungeons.

Making a dungeon complex and dense will mean that you have less rooms to populate, and will make it feel robust and well-used. It will also give a feeling of slight confusion for the players as they try to organize all of the information you’re giving them, but as the dungeon progresses, they can pick and choose which parts of the dense dungeon are integral to solving the dungeon!

Hub Areas

With all of that dungeon density I’ve been talking about, it’s good to have some sort of hub area. It could be a large room, a safe sanctuary, or have some overbearing landmark for players to imprint on. This will be the main part of the dungeon that they remember and can rely on. They will pay the most attention to this hub. So if this hub is a main part of solving your dungeon puzzle, they will notice changes made to the room very easily. For instance, a hub room could be a gaping chasm with bridges that seem to be mechanical. When certain levers in other parts of the dungeon are pulled, some pathways in the hub open up and some close off as the bridges ascend, descend, or turn. Back in my post about dungeon tempo, this creates a nice rhythm for players to always come back to a room that they’ve cleared and notice progress.

Branching Paths

Branching paths are a key part of puzzle dungeons. Don’t have a dungeon that is all one path that railroads players to the end of the dungeon with a puzzle for each room. Players need to be able to explore and discover the available paths in the dungeon and find the path for themselves. In the Boss Keys miniseries I mentioned, Mark constantly differs Legend of Zelda dungeons by whether they make you find a path versus making you follow a path. I personally enjoy finding the path and I think most players do too. It is key in creating what are known as…

A-Ha Moments

An a-ha moment is not that feeling you get when listening to Take On Me, but it’s pretty close. It’s that feeling a player gets when they figure out a puzzle by suddenly putting two and two together. There are a few aspects to create this in dungeon and level design:

  • Foreshadowing: implying that one part of the dungeon must be revisited later or implying something further in the dungeon exists. Laying this groundwork puts thoughts in players’ heads to help them markedly acknowledge that it’s okay to leave this area, because something lies ahead.
  • State Changes: the environment of the dungeon or its parts changes based on the actions of the players. This is the “puzzle” part of the a-ha moment. Pressing a button to change gravity, move a pylon, or change water levels can would count as a state change. Even acquiring a key item that can affect the dungeon or the players’ movement would count (see Link’s Pegasus Boots, Hover Boots, Silver Gauntlets, etc.)
  • Backtracking: After the state change, the dungeon has shifted. Some areas that were once inaccessible can now be accessed, and areas that were once open have closed off. This forces the players to backtrack. Where do they backtrack to? The place that foreshadowed the backtracking.

How does this look in practice? Let’s make an example:

The players enter a dungeon and quickly make it to a hub area with four doors. three of the doors have a bridge extending from it to a central platform. The platform and bridges are 100 ft. above a pit of spikes, which are very satisfying to kick the kobolds in this room onto. Once players tire themselves of punting kobolds, they notice that the central platform has a large plinth with a stationary mirror set into it. The mirror is facing one of the directions of the bridges. The mirror can’t be easily moved without tools, and it has no apparent use yet. The players move on to one of the doors connected by the bridge.

The players go through several chambers, fighting monsters and avoiding traps, when they find a room with a lever in it. When pulled, they hear a low rumbling and grinding of stone elsewhere in the dungeon. When they return to the hub room, the central platform and bridges have rotated, allowing passage to the door that didn’t have a bridge leading to it before.

Down this new route, the players find a stone button with an angel relief on it. After pushing a huge rock onto it, they hear another rumbling. On returning to the hub room, an angel relief is now visible on the wall as a stone slab has moved away to reveal it.

The yet unexplored room is still accessible by the bridge, and after exploring down that path, the players find a crank near a gilded relief of a sun. The crank opens up a sunroof in the hub area. The sun (if daytime) shines light onto the central mirror in that room, which then reflects it out in one direction. The only problem is, the beam of light from the mirror isn’t facing the way the PCs want (towards the revealed angel relief in the hub area).

Realizing that they need to point the mirror so the light shines on the angel relief, they must backtrack to the room with the lever that rotates the bridges and mirror until the mirror is oriented the way they want.

This example has density. It’s essentially four rooms with all the things they need to solve a puzzle in the hub area (the central room with the bridges). It could use more density though with more puzzle intertwined throughout some filler rooms or with more things to do in each room; I was light on description for the purpose of the example. It has three branching paths (four if you include where they entered from). The mirror foreshadows a light puzzle, and the sun icon foreshadows the opening of the sunroof. The bridges, angel relief, and sunroof all exist in the hub area and change states based on the players’ actions in the rest of the dungeon. Players have to backtrack to the room that changes the bridge orientation so they can rotate the mirror to face the right direction. This is a fairly simple puzzle, but in the context of a session of D&D where the story less shown and more told, it can prove more difficult. Keep all of these factors in mind when making a puzzle dungeon, and don’t forget to watch Boss Keys!

So recently my D&D group decided to have a between-players tournament. The first battle was the party cleric, Athuriel, versus the paladin Galain. 

Athuriel was at 23 HP, Galain at 24. Athie cast Guiding Bolt, and got a nat-20.

But see

The thing is

Galain has an item called the Ring of Retribution. What it does is, when an attacker scores a critical hit on the user, the attacker takes however much damage they deal.

Athie’s attack dealt 23 damage. 

She literally dealt the exact amount of damage needed to knock her to 0 HP.

It was so fantastic, I couldn’t stop cackling

Instant and Sorcery spells of Zendikar in D&D

Something new for this blog, homebrew spells! I thought I’d start with Zendikar, as I’ve been working with that setting a lot.

Chain Reaction
4th-level evocation
Casting Time: 1 action
Range: 10 feet
Components: S
Duration: Instantaneous
A bolt of lightning blasts from your palms, arcing between enemies and allies alike. Choose one target. All creatures within 5 feet of that target are affected. Every creature affected by this spell must make a dexterity saving throw. On a failed save, a creature takes 1d4 lightning damage for each affected creature, or half as much on a successful save. The caster is not affected by this spell.
At higher levels. When you cast this spell using a spell slot of 5th level or higher, the range increases by 5 feet for each spell slot level above 4th.

I focused on the mechanic of this spell being higher damage for higher number of creatures affected, but added the clause of the dexterity saving throw, as is standard with many spells, and dexterity is used for other lightning based spells like call lightning and lightning arrow. Limiting the radius seemed appropriate as it could reach pretty ridiculous amounts of damage in mass combat. It does retain the capability to do said ridiculous damage in mass combat, but only for higher level characters.

This spell is suggested for: Druid, Sorcerer, and Wizard

Momentous Fall
4th-level necromancy
Casting Time: 1 reaction, which you can take when a creature dies within 60 feet of you.
Range: 60 feet
Components: S
Duration: Instantaneous
You draw the dwindling life force of a dying creature into your allies, healing them. Up to six characters within 60 feet of the creature as it dies regain hitpoints equal to 2d8 + your spellcasting ability modifier.
At higher levels. When you cast this spell using a spell slot of 5th level or higher, the healing increases by 1d8 for each spell level above 4th.

The healing effect I based on cure wounds, in that the core part of this card that can be translated to D&D is the healing, which, combined with the death of a creature, can be an interesting way to make a “natural” healing spell.

This spell is suggested for: Druid and Ranger

Overwhelming Denial
4th-level abjuration - You may cast this spell as a 2nd-level abjuration if another friendly creature already cast a spell this turn.
Casting Time: 1 reaction, which you can take when you see a creature within 60 feet of you cast a spell.
Range: 60 feet
Components: S
Duration: Instantaneous
You attempt to interrupt a creature in the process of casting a spell. If the creature is casting a spell is of 3rd level or lower, its spell fails and it has no effect. If it is of 4th level or higher, make an ability check using your spellcasting ability. The DC equals 10 + the spell’s level. On a success, the creature’s spell fails and has no effect. Reactions cannot be made against casting Overwhelming Denial.

I thought surge would be interesting to use in D&D as it provides some advantage to coming later in initiative order: If you’re going after another spellcaster in your party, neat! You get a slightly better spell! If you’re going before them, you’re early in initiative order, and that’s normally the place you want to be anyway. And if a character with this spell is up against a powerful mage and really want to be ready to cast Overwhelming Denial? Well, they can still hold their action! The extra clause of stopping reactions means that creatures cannot counter it with “spells or abilities.”

This spell is suggested for Sorcerer and Wizard

Spell Pierce
1st-level abjuration
Casting Time: 1 reaction, which you can take when you see a creature within 60 feet of you cast a spell.
Range: 60 feet
Components: S
Duration: Instantaneous
You attempt to interrupt a creature in the process of casting a spell. If the creature is casting a spell is of 3rd level or lower, its spell fails and it has no effect, unless it expends an additional spell slot of first level or higher. If it is of 4th level or higher, make an ability check using your spellcasting ability. The DC equals 10 + the spell’s level. On a success, the creature’s spell fails and has no effect.

Another counterspell! I thought it’d be interesting to translate lower-costed conditional counterspells into D&D, and since there’s one in Zendikar this is my first attempt at that. I decided to set the conditional cost at 1st level and not 2nd to make it more appropriately balanced with a 1st level spell, when counterspell is normally 3rd level.

This spell is suggested for Sorcerer and Wizard

Vines of Vastwood
1st-level transmutation
Casting Time: 1 reaction, which you can take when you see a creature within 60 feet of you become targeted by a spell.
Range: 60 feet
Components: S
Duration: Instantaneous
Target creature gains advantage on spell saving throws and resistance to spell damage until the end of the round.
At higher levels. When you cast this spell using a spell slot of 2nd level or higher, the target also gains +4 on their attack rolls and +4 to their AC until the end of the round. 

Translating spells with kicker to D&D is great because they essentially have an “At higher levels” part built in to work from. I gave this spell the effect of vastly lowering the effectiveness of spells instead of outright stopping a character being targeted, as that almost acts like a counterspell, and it seemed more flavourful to be a reaction to a character being targeted. The kicker ability I wanted to make as close to what +4/+4 does in magic, so i gave it an effect to boost the likelihood of a successful attack, and boost resilience.

This spell is suggested for Druid, Ranger, and Nature Domain Clerics 

So that’s it for my first attempt at spells! I’m nearing the last Zendikar equipment post, so I’ve started working on some mundane and magic items from other planes, as well as having some more Zendikar subclasses ready for posting.

DDR and the mvp Dribbles

Context: a few friends and i were playing what was supposed to be a short, spur of the moment dnd game cause we were all in the mood. there were three playing, A pathetically squishy elven cleric (ramiel, male) and two fighters; a dragon born (donner, male) and a half-elf (dagger, female (my character)) together we were DDR

the guy playing donner had played another game before with everyone else at the table other than me where he had taken a young child under his wing; her name was poppy but he lovingly called her dribbles and because the image of a two year old girl on the shoulders of a shredded dragonborn was too hilarious, dribbles stayed with us in this quest.

anyway, after a few scuffles and fights, ramiel set off a trap that had us all running uncharted style from falling rocks and a flowing lava like substance. Dagger and Donner both failed a perception check and fell through an open hole in the floor, the damage knocking us both unconscious. ramiel tried to go down to help but because he had the worst hp even the (much MUCH) lessened damage he took knocked him unconscious.

Everyone: /sitting in completely stunned silence/

Dagger (ooc): did a trap door seriously tpk us?!

Donner and Ramiel (ooc): /laughter/

DM: hang on, does anyone have any health potions left?

Ramiel (ooc): i have one, yeah.

DM: okay /silent for a few seconds/ the pain you feel on impact causes your vision to black out and you can feel yourself slipping into the darkness; is this the end of DDR? 

when suddenly you, ramiel, feel a sharp pain of something being shoved up your nose and come to consciousness coughing and spluttering, choking on some liquid of some sort. you open your eyes and instead of the faces of your beloved companions above you, the drooling, dirt smeared face of dribbles appears before you.

DDR (ooc): /decending into hysterical laughter as this is all going on/

Donner (ooc): /just completely losing his shit/ fucking dribbles saved us oh my fucking GOD

in summery: we got out mostly alive (ramiel died after that but we fixed it!!) and Dribbles got ‘SAVED THE GAME’ scrawled in huge capital letters on her character sheet.

i’m going to talk about my dnd char edda because i can

so edda sinclair, my gnome bard, was born into a large (and by large i’m talkin like. tolkien levels of genealogy) family mainly composed of wizards and bards (with a couple rogues and paladins and clerics and etc. scattered here and there of course but most of them are wizards and bards)

most of them are scholastic in nature and those that aren’t are adventurous and full of wanderlust. this is where most of the family fortunes come from

(aka: pre-the hobbit bilbos vs. the hobbit bilbos.)

edda is the youngest in the clan at about 30-40 years of age. left for her adventures as soon as she graduated from the college of lore

her parents are druids who spend most of their time studying the wild flora and fauna that live around and in their home city, which is essentially fantasy new york if i had to compare it to something irl

or like. fantasy los angeles? take your pick.

edda’s a huge history buff and specializes in ancient arcana; she wants to follow in the footsteps of her aunt jubilee sinclair, a famous archaeologist who discovered many a relic from ancient empires long fallen to dust

that’s not to say that edda can’t lay down the Sick Rhymes™ when she needs to she’s not a bard for nothin i tell ya what

her unseen servant’s name is clarence and he’s almost always in a state of annoyance whenever edda summons him

“edda if you don’t have anything interesting to tell me don’t summon me i was halfway through my soaps???”


her favored musical instrument is a lute but she’s got a flute too

           I s a b e l l a  C l a i r  M a r x           @blue-rose-assassin

 Caught in the Rain ||  Art Commissioned By @askthestargazers

quality moments with my gnome bard

  • once did the macarena to convince a cluster of giant bugs to relocate their home
  • it worked
  • helped a shy goliath with a charisma of 4 get the elf gf of his dreams
  • opened a door to see a banshee waiting on the other side
  • closed the door
  • asked a grue if they had any limbs
  • the grue put its dick in her hand in response
  • edda: “k”
Critical Fails

So I’m in the middle of a game of DnD/pathfinder at the moment, and we just finished an encounter against 2 gargoyles.

Our Ranger ( @heartshapedemerald ) rolled a 1 when attacking so she ended up dropping her bow, sat down and held her head.

Our Cleric tried to inflict serious wounds on the enemy… and ended up inflicting serious wounds on HERSELF.

Our Mage, who had been out drinking the night before, failed casting a spell and ended up barfing in the bushes.

Our Monk did okay, managed to land attacks slightly more than missing them.

Our Dragonrider failed to parkour over his dragon. His dragon failed a roll when trying to breathe a line of fire at a gargoyle, but Fate (our DM) was kind and let him reroll.

And then I, the rogue, just kept doing sneak attacks and wasn’t a complete fail. AND THEN I ROLLED A NATURAL 20. THE GARGOYLE TURNS ITS HEAD AT THE WRONG MOMENT AND I SLICED OFF ITS WING AND ARM. And it died. I celebrated by dipping my fingers in the blood of the gargoyle and wiping it on my cheeks like warpaint.

The party is terrified of me now.

there was a moment in dnd last week that both defined bell and ornas relationship and katie and i’s really well where the characters were all signing off on a new contract and i was like “oh, im going to sign with my full name” bc his identity is out now so Why Not and in a really deadpan voice katie just goes “that’s gay” and it was really emblematic of our interactions

Fan art for Tiberius Stormwind from the DND youtube show Critical Role, episode 6, Breaching the Emberhold. Tiberius, discovering he has no viable actions and at a loss for anything else to do, tells the other party members: “I encourage violence!”

For the bookish sorts playing along at home, Tiberius has a girdle book hanging off his right hip.

No offense but I will never have a finer moment in dnd history than the “Annabelle, have you ever been in love?” conversation

Actually no there was directly before that everything that triggered that conversation to occur. Especially how everyone thought I was Actually Actually Crying for Real when I was just acting ajdjajnskakdjd.