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Tabletop Weekly is a YouTube channel dedicated to tabletop role-playing game (RPG). It is hosted by Mark Hulmes, who has answered various questions from the mechanics of tabletop RPGs to how he runs his games. Listed below are some of the questions he has answered.


About Dungeons & DragonsEdit

Deity pantheon sources? Edit

Question:

I was curious on how you (Mark) decided upon the deities in your universe and where they originate from?

Video answer(s) by Mark:https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=72Y0sbMRbrE&t=1m26s

How do Feats work? Edit

Question:

how do feats work in d&d? (5e)
can they be earned?

Answer:

They are entirely optional/a variant, but if you play with them: Yes!
Humans can choose to either have +1 to every stat, or instead take the variant written in the PHB p31 bottom right which includes one feat.
And every time the players can increase their ability scores (when that is is described in the tables for each class, e.g. Level 4) they may choose to take a feat instead.
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How do players have a keep? Edit

Question:

How would you handle your players owning a keep? And would you give them soldiers to help defend it?

Answer:

In the DMG on page 127 there's a table showing maintenance cost for a keep: 100GP per day. A keep has 50 skilled hirelings and 50 untrained hirelings.
A hireling might as well be a mercenary/soldier. Maybe ask your players how many soldiers their keep should have/what percentage should be soldiers, and which should be servants to keep the keep up and running and react accordingly:
50 skilled soldiers and 45 untrained soldiers (which would be shitty commoners btw)? There probably aren't enough cooks to feed everyone, the keep would be dirty because there's no "janitor", and so on.
...
According to the DMG a Keep is a (small) castle - probably in the middle of nowhere - that needs to be maintained, defended, fed, and so on. This quickly adds up.

If you want to run a keep on a budget you could probably have just 10 people which might all be skilled hirelings mainly tasked with running the keep - a skilled hireling is 2GP/day, that's 20GP per day. Or maybe 5 skilled, 5 untrained; that's just 11GP/day (see PHB page 159 on hireling costs).
If the DMG suggests you run a keep with 100 people, and you run it with 10, think what that might mean.
There are no soldiers, if there's an attack, and the party isn't there for protection … Well you got a quest to reclaim your keep. That's no matter for Vax Machina though; their keep is in the middle of a big city.
Acquiring food/resources to work with might be hard, too, if there's one/no hunter and your keep is out in the wild. This isn't a burden, when there's a market nearby though.

Another way to look at it: You can run a keep with the personal of a guildhall, an inn, or a fortified tower. (See numbers for these in the same table above/under keep)

However, you probably think of a smaller keep with less that 100 rooms, so:
1. Tell your players: DnD's keeps are huge, meant to be in the middle of nowhere. How about a tower, or a guildhall?
2. Reskin the guildhall/tower to a tiny keep (which is probably what you want).

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Answer:

There's also a document here (Not Mine) that's a a wonderful reference you can use for building and running a base. It's free and pretty cool.

Video answer(s) by Mark:https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tkgz3cWKA_U&t=26m12s

How to get 3.5 players into 5E? Edit

Question:

I have several friends who play/played 3.5 rules, and they are fairly strongly against picking up or playing 5e, for reasons that don't seem... correct, to me. The usual criticisms I hear are things along the lines that 5e isn't complete yet, or that it's too limited, and doesn't cover X or Y or Z, or that it doesn't 'Let' players do various things ("Oh players can't craft things like in previous editions" is a frequent one I hear, along with "It makes you give out fewer magic items") ... when the impression I've gotten in my past few months picking up and playing 5e is the exact opposite; that it's more free and less restricted than any previous version. It just seems... I guess, that it puts more responsibility in your DM's hands, rather than having minutia for every possible thing. What I'm wondering is, how would you recommends going about trying to communicate this to entrenched 3.5 players that you'd like to encourage to play with you?

Answer:

YouTube deleted my comment – here's a short version:
Some old players seem to dislike it just for dislikes sake. They want rules for everything (even though without set rules you can make great stuff too, as mentioned).
However, one of the "advantages" of 5e I have read about is that some of the old playerbase which has formed the cliche of nerd in a basement "mai fairebawl doez exaactly threee point faive points of daymage, so …" is still stuck with 3.5, so 5E is fresh and new being more appealing (not saying all 3.5 players are that, by any means).
If you want to "force" them, do what you do with new players who don't like to play, see the "How to get friends into DnD?" question. Chances of success are lower than with non-players I guess though, so don't expect anything.
If it doesn't work, it doesn't work …
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Is the DMG worth it? Edit

Question:

Is the Dungeon Masters guide worth buying for running D&D campaigns? What are the benefits of using it for either a pre-made adventure or a homebrew campaign?

Answer:

When opening the DMG 90% of the time I use the magic items section; it's 70 pages of premade magic items that are well balanced (if you give them out at the suggested levels), and well made, so you don't have to create them.
5% of the time it's 6 pages about getting the Challenge Rating of a homebrew monster.
3% of the time it's stuff of my campaign, meaning short/long term madness (which are really weird, I find: not cthulu madness but: "I WANT TO EAT DIRT!!!") or chases which in my group resulted in "You bang into an overthrown horse wagon, you get into a dogfight, you get into a maze of barrels" "BUT THIS IS A LITTLE HAMLET; HOW?!".
Some of that stuff in there isn't thaaat great …

Otherwise it's very much about creating a world, creating a campaign, spicing up your campaign (with moral quandries, etc), giving you some DnD lore, like the planes of existence, inspiration on how to create NPCs and Dungeons.

Imho: Most of it is a big book of "inspirational reading" and random tables for all sorts of world building stuff, in case you either have a writers block, or need to make something up on the fly.
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Answer:

I think for a new DM it can be full of useful tips and information.

Why not 2 spell slot spells in one turn (action + bonus action)? Edit

Question:

there are ways in which I'm finding magic use to be arbitrarily limited in ways that I feel are, honestly, a bit unfair; the key one being the restriction on per-turn casting. So... as I understand, The parts of a players turn are divided into action/bonus action/movement/reaction, and other factors that may give them more of these things under appropriate circumstances. More or less, though, these parts are separate things, and you can perform one task which takes a bonus action, and then perform another task that takes an action, and that's generally fine. Except, it seems, arbitrarily and without any real reason, in the case of casting spells...

Spells are all marked as what duration they take to perform, and in most cases this aligns with a part of a turn, if it's not longer, usually an action, sometimes a bonus action, occasionally as a reaction... BUT, despite this, one cannot cast, for example, healing word as a bonus action (its listed cast time), and then charm person as your action (its listed cast time).

It seems odd that the core book specifically denies this, without giving a reason or justification (with the exception of allowing a bonus action spell, and an action cantrip), when all other combinations of actions and bonus actions are considered free game...

Answer:

It's most certainly a balancing mechanic. Even though in the higher levels is doesn't make that much sense, heaven forbid you'd be casting L1 Healing word, AND L1 Cure Wounds on your Level 18 Barbarian with 200 max HP in ONE turn!!
The way I RP imagine it, is that casting a spell slot spell is draining you, so you need to calm down, regain your energy, for a bit.
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Which DnD books are of importance to new players? Edit

Question:

Could you go through the dnd books in the background and say their importance of them, as a new player it would help to know if I should buy them to enhance the sessions

Question:

If you are just starting D&D what would be the best manual to buy?

Video answer(s) by Mark: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Aum3YLB5gio&t=13m5s https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=A3Ci11cNmr0&t=18m47s


Building the Campaign: the CharactersEdit

DM characters Edit

Question:

I'm going to be a DM but I also want a character; I wanted to be some kind of Angelic being but with a large disability to limit the power they have such as blindness or deafness. Is this a sensible idea an if so then do you have any tips?

Answer:

Excluding rare exceptions: Don't do DM-PCs.
You as the DM know more than the players, if you have a player character this unknowingness is broken.
E.g. if your group is walking through a dungeon your players will ask your character where to go next - you know that behind one door is a deadly trap, but you shouldn't. "Let's go there! But wait, what if there's a deadly trap there? Oh did I say deadly trap, there might be mighty treasure?" ¬_¬
Plus a DMPC is a great way to (knowingly or not) railroad/force your group into a certain story, which might not play well with some players.


Also, personal experience: Playing a PC is a bit of a fulltime job. A DM is too. Means you have to do the work for 2 people, where you are only one person. This is what made me drop my DMPC of at the next temple to be never seen in a fight again.
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Video answer(s) by Mark: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=A3Ci11cNmr0&t=15m2s

Enchanted jewelry class? Edit

Question:

If I was making a DND character who makes enchanted jewelry what class would they best fall into?

Video answer(s) by Mark:https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=72Y0sbMRbrE&t=38m48s

Evil-ish Druids? Edit

Question:

I want to make a druid tiefling who is open to their demon side and likes fire and darkness but druids seem to favor adorable elven princesses from the forest. It has to be a druid.

Answer:

>druids seem to favor adorable elven princesses from the forest
says who? (there's other druids in dnd than the elora stereotype …)
E.g. my druid PC grew up in a city, and should have became a diplomat, following their parents. But he thought naah and ran away.



What you need for a druid is some connection to nature. (Read the druid flavor text in the PHB on page 64 and 65)
Why is your character fascinated by nature?
Fire and nature is pretty interesting in nature. Some plants specifically rely on forests being burned down by great heat, and then thrive in the fertile ashes left behind. This is even interesting to me IRL.
Darkness is also pretty interesting in regards to animals. Owls, Bats and so on use the dark to hunt. Others use it to hide.
And you should also wonder: How does your characters demon side play with being a druid?
Maybe he is fierce hunter as an animal? Maybe his animal forms are all very demonic versions? (Brown Bear = Charred black fur and red glowing eyes. Just for looks though, not stats).


If you have answers to every question of: Why is this demonic, fire and darkness loving tiefling a druid? You are A-OK to go.
If you don't, either don't bother with a background (ask your group if they are okay with it), or switch to a more obvious class, like warlock, sorcerer, etc.
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How much to interfere in character backstory? Edit

Question:

How much do you meddle in character backstory as a DM? Like, the character choose a goddess, and I decide that the character has been favoured because the rest of her followers are crazy fish people with short attention span. What crosses the line when meshing your setting with their stories?

Video answer(s) by Mark:https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=72Y0sbMRbrE&t=32m25s

Multiclassing Paladin + Warlock Edit

Question:

My friend asked me about multiclassig a warlock and a paladin and now I am curious how would you do this?

Video answer(s) by Mark:https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=A3Ci11cNmr0&t=7m46s

My PCs should have secrets, but they don't want any. Edit

Question:

I was watching an RPG over at Geek and Sundry called Titansgrave. The GM (Wil Wheaton) gave the characters secrets about themselves and I liked this idea so I did it for my D&D but about half of the players want 'I want to kill the rest of the characters' as their secrets. If I deny them this they'll get angry. What should I do?

Answer:

3 choices imo:
1. Don't do it. I bet GnS picked a special cast which were very knowing that their session will be online, and has to be entertaining. This means, to what I've seen so far: Heavy RP, intrigues, and so on - I have yet to see a online DnD campaign with unexperienced DnD-is-a-videogame "KILL EVERYTHING!" players.
2. Tell your players to pick something more serious. Probably won't work if your players aren't thinking of your campaign like a book/movie being written by playing, but more of a videogame.
3. Roll with it and marvel at the backstab-fest you party will become. Don't expect a lengthy campaign of that though.
And maybe a fourth choice:
4. If your PCs have a bit of a backstory: You give them their secret based on their backstory. This could very possibly end in "THAT'S NOT MY BACKSTORY!!" angryness, if your players already get angry by denying them "kill everyone" as a secret.
And considering you already told them you wanted to make everyone have a secret, but are now backing off and making their secrets yourself it'll probably feel very forced to your players. (Maybe even teacher-y: "You don't know what a good secret is! I'll tell you, you stupid brat!" which would make it even worse)
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Playing as a construct Edit

Question:

What advice can you give for someone who wants to play as a construct? (i.e. Iron Golem or Stone Golem)

Video answer(s) by Mark: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qObzbqBjZSE&t=1m44s

What to do when every player has a similar class/archetype? Edit

Question:

I'm planning on running a homebrew campaign, with four players. I met with them individually and then as a group and they all made character designs and concepts for their level one characters. The problem is, they're all playing bow and arrow based rouges. My first priority is always making sure the players have fun, so if they all want to play that I'm certainly not going to force anyone to change. I can pretty easily design combat that'll be balanced for them since I'm creating all my own creatures and such from scratch, so I'm not worried there. The big problem is that because we're level one, same class, same weapons, I'm worried that I'll have trouble giving each player a chance to shine. They all have similar skill sets, so I'm having trouble thinking of ways I can make puzzles, non-combat encounters, and challenging NPCs for them to specialize in handling since they are all good at similar things. As they level up, their equipment and abilities will begin to diversify and I'll get to know both the players and the characters better, but I don't want them to feel like they're slogging through the first portion of the campaign, or like they're not contributing anything special. Any advice?

Answer:

A group where every character is almost the same doesn't play out that well in DnD. It might work, but a diverse group definitely fares better …
I think there's 2 options you have:
A) Ask each player if they have an alternative character they would like to play, telling them that as a diverse group they will fare better against monsters.
or if no one has/wants to
B) Start at Level 3 where they will get their rougeish archetype and amend your story/encounters accordingly.
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Video answer(s) by Mark:https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zGhSSSuVxTk&t=17m54s

Why doesn't every race have darkvision? Edit

Question:

Why do so many PC races in DnD 5e have dark vision (6 out of 9 in the players handbook)? Do they not want darkness to be a mechanic? It just bugs me because to me a racial trait should make the one player who has it feel special and important when it comes up, like the torch gets put out and the drow has to be the hero and lead the party out of the cave. As it stands it seems its always just one player who doesn't have it and then they feel like a burden. If I was to DM a group I would be worried about creating balance issues if I simply removed it, but it doesn't seem very well thought out. Any way if I'm way off in my judgement I'd be thrilled to hear why, otherwise what would be the best way to get rid of it and keep the balance?

Answer:

I find DnD focuses on going through the dungeon, and killing monsters, rather than managing what you see, how long your torch lasts, etc. Thus nearly every race has dark vision.
Why they don't ignore it entirely/make everyone have some basic darkvision is a bit of a weird one to me too.If you don't want the human to be a burden for your group because they need to carry a torch, which means they are a beacon of light making stealth impossible, or something alike, just feel free to ignore it.

If you want a campaign/game that does focus on torchlight, makes torches finite, and darkness "scary" you could try out torchbearer (and I think mausgard, too?) - you could try to bring in some torchbearer mechanics to DnD, too; it might break things though.
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Answer:

Darkvisions a hangover from older editions. The sort of thing that if they removed it, would cause a lot of fuss for no reason. So they leave it up to the DMs to handle.

I don't have Darkvision in my campaigns, except for spells/abilities. As then it feels truly special and allows for interesting scenarios/encounters.

Building the Campaign: the StoryEdit

Applying special characteristics to monsters/races Edit

Question:

Are there any behavioral, societal, etc. characteristics that you like to apply to different races/monsters that aren't specifically stated in any of the manuals? For example real life hyenas live in matriarchal packs with females being physically larger than males, so I like to apply that to gnolls.

Video answer(s) by Mark: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8Mf0pFwPoCM&t=4m26s

Creating villains + death saves Edit

Question:

When you create level-based villains, do your roll their stats as for characters or do you use the standard array? As for the death saving throws, do you use it for them?

Video answer(s) by Mark: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qObzbqBjZSE&t=10m42s

How much backstory should I have for a campaign? Edit

Question:

How much backstory should I have for a custom campaign?

Video answer(s) by Mark:https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tkgz3cWKA_U&t=13m30s

How much info to give to players (out of game)? Edit

Question:

how much information should I give to my players in person (ie, actual me to actual them) and how much should I keep quiet about and let them look for it in-game? I find I have a bad habit of blurting out info the PC's wouldn't know inherently, but I also am not sure what would be a good way to give it to them in game.

Answer:

This depends entirely on you.
If you think your players should figure everything out themselves, you shouldn't tell them anything.
If you have a great story, don't spoil anything. Don't spoil minor things too; I found, if I "spoil" minor things, and players ask me a major thing they think is minor, and I tell them "Well … I can't tell you …" they know it's major.

Personal opinion: Don't tell them too much/anything out of character. I have one player who wants to know a lot and in hindsight I always feel bad for spoiling him (even though it's just minor things)

What I've found is relatively safe are things that are of the past, things the players just can not find out anymore. Say they prematurely killed an evil side-quest guy, because the party had good tactics, so now his great plan, and his motifs can't be discovered.
Then it's safe to tell them: He would have done X and Y, because A and B. Sort of like an epilog. You're not spoiling anything, so I think it's fine.
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How to create teacher NPCs? Edit

Question:

I am creating a Hogwarts like school for adventurers and was wondering how strong the teachers should be? Should I treat them as if they were PCs and give them class levels and features?

Video answer(s) by Mark:https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8Mf0pFwPoCM&t=1m10s

I need ideas for my campaign! Edit

Question:

I need some ideas for a next section of my campaign got any ideas

Answer:

Without knowing your campaign (and not even the system, I just assume it's DnD 5E):

That's what the Dungeon Masters guide is actually really good at: Being inspirational, giving ideas.
On page 73 to 81 there's a lot of tables for random stuff that might happen, so you could either roll on a table, see how to use the result, or just take a look at the table and use what you think is best.
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Answer:

It's difficult to give people suggestions for their campaigns because it is a very individual thing. I don't know your group, what they enjoy, etc. Ask your group what they like/want to do. Read books and watch TV shows and take your favourite ideas and do your own twist etc.

Keep a campaign interesting, add variety Edit

Question:

I'm curious as to how I keep the campaign interesting and add more variety to the world I have created?

Video answer(s) by Mark:https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=P5lOALs7gRc&t=19m41s

Low fantasy: How to keep it diverse/interesting/add variety? Edit

Question:

When DMing a low-fantasy campaign where the characters are peasants, what can you recommend to keep variety in not only mini-events but also in foes.

Video answer(s) by Mark:https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vAGfpShmWj4&t=16m10s

Should I use a custom or premade campaign? Edit

Question:

If i want to do a multi-plane pirate campaign, should i do a custom or premade campaign(sea of swords style)?

Answer:

You should do what you think you and your players would like best.
Advantage of a premade campaign is that you don't have to spend the time on making a whole campaign.
If you do have the time and are in the mood for making a campaign, and your players are fine with it, that's an option too
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Starting at 1st level in a high level area? Edit

Question:

I plan to make an adventure where the opening is where the party wakes up in prison cell in the plane of Orcus, when they are released by a ghost who tells them to find a mad archmage trapped in the same prison so he can send them back to their home plane (i based it on the opening to Elder Scrolls Online). my problem is how do I tailor this opening for 1st level characters, in terms of monster encounters, challenges and NPC interaction?

Video answer(s) by Mark:https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zGhSSSuVxTk&t=14m6s

Story based on characters or characters based on story? Edit

Question:

Do you base your stories on the player characters or fit them into your story?

Video answer(s) by Mark:https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=72Y0sbMRbrE&t=2m30s

Story reason for players leveling up Edit

Question:

When players are out adventuring, miles from civilisation and they level up and learn new spells, how would you describe how they learn them in a story based way?

Video answer(s) by Mark:https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2Zl-rdgUlp8&t=14m18s

Building the Campaign: the WorldEdit

Creating a feeling of low magic, eventhough players may cast magic Edit

Question:

I'm making a new campaign world which is low magic and I want to know how would I give them the feeling of the lack of magic in the world even though they can cast it?

Video answer(s) by Mark: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qObzbqBjZSE&t=17m51s

Creating maps and dungeons Edit

Question:

Any tips for creating maps and dungeon maps? tools you use etc?

Video answer(s) by Mark: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qObzbqBjZSE&t=4m14s

How to design a city? Edit

Question:

How do you design a vibrant living city? With districts, hooks, and interesting NPCs or at least memorable moments?

Video answer(s) by Mark: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=A3Ci11cNmr0&t=9m47s

My party goes to a lot of dangerous places and often nearly dies, what do? Edit

Question:

I just started my campaign so the characters are quite weak but my friends who are playing as them are new to D&D and are always running into dangerous places in my world that were meant for later in the campaign. They are all very close to dyeing , what should I do?

Answer:

I think there's 3 ways you could tackle this:
1. Scale the area down, if it's not that important. This assumes a bit of a sandboxy game though – or that the area your guys are going to isn't that important - or that you can easily reroute/rewrite your story to fit in that the players went to this place early.
2. Tough luck. Make it clear while fighting, that your party has no chance of winning, and give them chances to run away. If they don't run away, when they are nearly dead … their fault
If you know beforehand your players are going to [dangerours place]:
3. Make it clear the place they are going to is really dangerous. Drop in random NPCs that say something like "Where are you going?" "To [dangerous place]!" "OH NO! Be careful there's dragons there, they'll beat you up!".
If your party doesn't listen to this, continue with way number 2.
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Answer:

Sounds like you have a very open-world/sandboxy game like Skyrim etc. Best thing is for them to learn by doing, which might involve one or two of them dying. A lot of new players do this, because they think the game is going to be "on their side" like a videogame.

Give them warnings like above. Not just from NPCs telling them it's bad, but visual clues. Bodies ravaged and torn apart, the stench of death, ghostly wails and screams.

If they do get their asses kicked and feel a bit dejected, have an NPC ask them to take care of a problem you know is more their level and give them a couple of easy encounters to smash through to build their confidence again.

Planning a sandbox campaign Edit

Question:

Do you have any experience in creating a sandbox styled campaign and if so, do you have any tips on how to manage the planning and not overwhelming the players with all the choices of what to do?

Video answer(s) by Mark:https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=72Y0sbMRbrE&t=41m52s

Sandboxing: How far should players be able to go/where should the DM intervene? Edit

Question:

I've been running a homebrew campaign for a couple of weeks now, and I found myself struggling with how open my world should be. How much do you think the players should be able to decide for themselves where they're going and how much should the DM try to intervene?

Video answer(s) by Mark:https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tkgz3cWKA_U&t=10m35s

What is the Underdark, how to get there? Edit

Question:

What is the underdark, and how do you get there?

Answer:

The underdark is a sprawling network of caves mostly dug by monsters (a bit by dwarves and other humanoids, too though) deep underground.
Many evil monsters live there, and the drow. Have a look through the PBH/DMG, if I remember correctly there's a bit of lore about the Drow in there.
Entrances to the underdark can be everywhere, where you can enter the underground:
* A tunnel in a basement in a big city
* A cave, the front part inhabited by a bear
* A chasm, created by a great earthquake, maybe splitting apart 2 tunnels in the higher part of the underdark

There's some more literature about the underdark somewhere around (don't ask me where though :x). If you want an adventure that revolves around the underdark look for WotC's Out of the Abyss campaign.
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What program to use to make maps? Edit

Question:

What programs do you know for CREATING maps on. I want to make some instead of using Google images.

Video answer(s) by Mark:https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fTPXyKka0To&t=10m57s

Campaign Management: the CampaignEdit

Anti-Magic items Edit

Question:

how would you handle anti-magic (spell negating) items like a sword, lance, or staff? I mean like stats and availability.

Answer:

This is mostly about the bigger question of creating own balanced items. If you don't have any experience you should just try something out, and err on the side of making the item too weak (making them more powerful if necessary), otherwise you'll have problems getting the item back from the player, if it's too powerful.

Considering a normal setting of "magic is abundant/nothing special" what I would do (without having tried this):
I personally would give this item out as a very special, unique item, found in a very hidden dungeon or so a treasure.
Stat-wise: A normal (+0) weapon. The magic neutralization effect may either be a continuous self-centered AoE with a range of ~5ft that completely mitigates all magic. Or a once per day "debuff" that makes the person it's cast upon unable to use magic for 1 minute. Scale as necessary.
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How detailed should NPCs be (e.g. evil guys: create them as a player, or NPC?) Edit

Question:

When it comes to NPC's do you create any as a complete character sheet or do you use the examples in the monster manual? Do you also do this for very important (and battle likely) NPC's

Video answer(s) by Mark:https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tkgz3cWKA_U&t=21m7s

How to award XP? Edit

Question:

My question is... how do you award XP to players? I don't want to hand out too much too quickly, but i also don't want to be too stingy with it either.

Question:

but then sometimes I'll have an encounter against creatures that I've altered or that I've used just because of where they are in he world. So I don't want to give the party the full XP because what they fight would give them like 2 full levels or something stupid like that.

Answer:

You can actually calculate how many XP you have to award based on an encounter.
In every statblock in the Monster Manual next to the Challenge Rating there is a number of XP in parentheses next to it.
Unless you're just using one monster per encounter there's some extra multipliers to add, because in DnD more monsters=more danger.
Rules for that are in the DMG on page 82 and 83.
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Answer:

If your monsters have other stats than the one they have in the monster manual you have to recalculate the challenge rating using the rules in the DMG on page 274 and 275.

So say you have a weak green dragon with AC13, 75 HP, +3 Attack Bonus, 8 Damage per round and a save DC of 13, this means (according to the table on page 274) a CR of 1 - it's a bit more complicated if you have something that's not just a row of that table - have a look at the text on page 274 on how to calculate the CR then.

A CR of 1 means the monster is worth 200XP (there's a table for this in several places, on page 275 right next to 274, too!), so bam, 200XP for your CR 1 weakened dragon.

If you do NOT have concrete stats for your weak green dragon and just winged it you should then think how hard the encounter was and use the table on page 82 of the DMG for that.
Unless you have just one monster you need to factor in multipliers for adjusted XP: Divide the XP every player would get by the Encounter multipliers (also on page 82).

However this is WAY to nitty-gritty for me.
Using the values as is isn't that bad either, giving them a bit to much XP in case you're unprepared doesn't insta-level them to L20.
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Video answer(s) by Mark:https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aCWwmIwlv8s&t=15m54s https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fKZi1MmWYnU&t=20m18s

How to describe without giving everything away? Edit

Question:

My players often miss things or don't fully investigate areas, how do I describe "What do I see" without giving everything but engage the players to roll a perception or investigation check?

Video answer(s) by Mark:https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8Mf0pFwPoCM&t=8m33s

How to prepare for a session as a DM? Edit

Question:

I was wondering how you could plan for a session as a DM. Since anything can happen in D&D, how can you prepare? I just don't know what notes to make.

Video answer(s) by Mark:https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9tpeMUxMnIA&t=9m49s

NPC stats? Edit

Question:

I'm running my first campaign and i really need some help with creating NPC'S like how to get their stats and stuff like that please can you give me some advice

Question:

I am planning on running my own DnD game and I am not certain on how to make NPCs balanced also how do I not make NPCs crazy powerful?

Answer:

Creating an NPCs that seem real and interesting is a bit of a bigger question, NPC stats is a simple one though:

First of all: Does every NPC you encounter NEED stats?
Do you plan that every town guard, every priest and every peasant in the city will eventually fight, or has to do any die roll at all? Probably not … Only decide on stats if you're sure you will need them, or on the fly, if your players decide to go nuts and kill the local barkeep for whatever weird reason.

In the Monster Manual, there's a whole section of NPC characters from page 342 onwards that has 8 pages of NPC stats if you need them.
Need a bandit? Page 343. CR 1/8, so if you have 4 of them that's a medium encounter for a L1 party.
Need a town guard? Page 347. Also CR 1/8.
Need an assassin? Page 343. CR 8 … Well, he'll one hit KO your party … Why not use the bandit from above instead? Make him 2 more dextrous and 2 less strong maybe, so he's more sneaky.
If a statblock doesn't fit your needs either reskin an existing monster by making minor changes, or if that doesn't work you may alternatively scale an existing monster up or down using the Rules for that in the Dungeon Masters Guide page 274 if you have it.
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Answer:

Back of the Monster Manual has stats for non-monster enemies and these can be used for NPCs as well. There's no hard and fast rule for making NPCs, but I would suggest you don't make them as powerful as a player character unless they are very special. Most of my NPCs are either based on one from the back of the Monster Manual, using their CR rating instead of a level.

Video answer(s) by Mark:https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8Mf0pFwPoCM&t=19m12s

Opinion on wish spell/divine intervention? Edit

Question:

What's your stance and opinion on abilities like divine intervention and spells like wish, just wondering as how much wiggly room you allow with these abilities and spells?

Video answer(s) by Mark:https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=A3Ci11cNmr0&t=1m19s

Restrictions on the wish spell? Edit

Question:

I was wondering if as a DM you would place any restrictions on what the wish spell can achieve. My players are about to reach the level at which this spell can be cast and I'm worried about crazy ideas that my players will come up with. How do you deal with that spell.

Video answer(s) by Mark:https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=72Y0sbMRbrE&t=15m44s

Resurrecting characters? Edit

Question:

As a DM how would i go about resurrecting fallen characters and should I at all?

Answer:

This is a thing you should really talk to your players about once at the beginning, and again ~10 sessions in: "What if your character dies? Should they get another chance, or should they die?" - Important thing is to ask this before someone dies; in the heat of the battle/tragedy of the death players might very well do a decision they aren't happy about afterwards.



Resurrection then is a very personal thing, varying wildly from DM to DM and setting to setting, so here's my personal opinion:


Resurrection should have a cost. Don't just handwave it; have your players earn it. Make the players go out on a quest, or the dead one has to go out on a quest in the afterlife in a little solo session if it fits with ending the session on the death. Maybe the players earned a "get out of jail"/"be revived" card after an important quest, that gives them a resurrection. If there's a priest nearby that knows resurrection magic: Great - they don't have to do the quest (this magic often costs $$$ though).
After the resurrection make it clear something has changed, related to the character, the quest that resurrected them, or something else. E.g. a revived warlock will get resurrected as a tiefling/demon hybrid by his fiend patron, which makes everyone from now on pretty suspicious of them because … well, they're a demon now.
I usually give people only one extra life too, and make this obvious to them when they are being revived.

Gist of all this: Death should have consequences. You don't just come back.


This is contrasting the DnD spells themselves. For these, if you have the high level spell slots, and the spare change you can die 20 times a day, with your body being made into a lump of flesh. Your cleric just has to expend a high level spell slot, spend a buttload of diamonds, and you're back better than ever.


No resurrection at all is a thing I wouldn't do if you're inexperienced. You may put your group up against a monster that should be okay regarding CR, level of your players, etc. - but it might have a spell/attack that one-shots a player if the dice think it's killing day, which you didn't think of while making the encounter. (Nearly) true story: So here's your L5 player of a 5 player party. Didn't even get a turn, because their initiative is only a 9, blue young dragon (CR 9 - means it's a hard - not deadly - encounter according to the DMG rules) goes before them, attacks the ranger who has 42 max HP. So the dragon uses his lightning breath attack: You roll your … 10d10? What, this is deadly! Umm. roll all the 9s and 10s; add it all up That's 85 damage. Ranger insta-dies, and couldn't even do something about it. Enjoy your player being grumpy for a week.


Bonus: If a player doesn't want an extra life: Think of something (or ask them) they would like to do with their last breath as they die.
E.g. a sorcerer might erupt in a huge fireball dealing big damage to every enemy in range, totally burning their own body though. Or a barbarian totally loses it and mindlessly charges at the guy who "killed" him trying to take his killer with him to the grave.
Makes their exit more epic.
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Taming animals Edit

Question:

What are your rules on taming animals and beasts? One of my party rolled 2 natural 20s in a row to tame an owlbear while quite low level, so I felt I had to give it to gim, how can I balance this in encounters?

Video answer(s) by Mark:https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=A3Ci11cNmr0&t=3m59s

Too many magic items. Edit

Question:

I am a bit concerned that I may have accidentally been to generous with distributing magic items to the party. Is there a good way to scale back on this so that they do not get too powerful too fast, but without making it seem like a massive reversal/disappointment...?

Video answer(s) by Mark:https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=72Y0sbMRbrE&t=27m32s

What about "evolving" magic items? Edit

Question:

How do you feel about magic items that evolve with the character? by this i mean they could get a magic shield at level three, and it could have the base +2 AC of a shield, but when you get to say level 7, it has +3 AC and lets you shield someone as a reaction to add 1 AC to them for that attack, or impose disadvantage

Answer:

A magic item "evolving" with the character is just flavour.
Whether your player slays a dragon, and in it's treasure hoard there's a +3 shield, or goes on a a quest to collect some mystic metal which the wizard XYZ may use to upgrade his shield from +2 to +3, what's the difference? Nothing mayor, so yeah, it's cool from a game perspective.

In general be careful with adding new features to your magic items though, to not make them overpowered (which is another topic - Shield someone as a reaction at Level 7 seems fine to me though).
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What about echoing spells/fireballs? Edit

Question:

how do you deal with "sound" that a combat situation will make echoing though a location? For example a fireball would make a lot of noise and surely alert enemies over 3/4 rooms away?

Answer:

There's no written rule about it, so I would say. Yeah! A fireball is loud, roll with it!

However, if this was a topic of discussion: also talk with your players about this. Important: Outside of the game/session; While casting the fireball they'll say it's quiet, to not f- themselves and pull 3 more monster groups.
Ask them on their opinion about it, if they all unambigiously say a fireball is quiet; well then it probably is, you all make the game. Enforcing a loud fireball while everyone thinks a fireball is quiet feels out of place.
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Answer:

Casting usually involves a verbal component, so it's not going to be silent. The spell will have a V on it. The sound of the actual fireball probably depends on what it is burning. Like, a fwoosh as it suddenly consumes oxygen, and maybe crackling if there are impurities it can burn up on the way. I think most of the fire-noise is the fuel.

Answer:

And absolutely I use "sound" in that way, if the situation would cause enough noise to attract guards or other monsters, I would absolutely factor it in.

Will require a judgement call on "what makes noise" though, and you may want to start asking questions like; "Are you moving in quietly? How loud do you say that exactly?" etc. Will cause your players to panic, but that can be fun. :)

Campaign Management: the CharactersEdit

Murder hobos. Edit

Question:

How do you stop new players being murder hobos?

Video answer(s) by Mark:https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=72Y0sbMRbrE&t=11m1s

What to do when something completely unexpected happens? (no notes on an area, e.g.) Edit

Question:

As a DM how do you deal with a situation when something completely unexpected happens and you have no notes on a particular area your adventures end up in?

Video answer(s) by Mark:https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9tpeMUxMnIA&t=13m41s

Campaign Management: the CombatEdit

All my encounters are too strong or to weak, never right! Edit

Question:

My question is... How do you plan for future encounters that will keep the players on edge? I currently DM two fighters who miss a lot, a rogue/cleric and a warlock who never misses and it seems whatever I throw at them is either way too strong or way too weak.

Answer:

I suppose you already are using the rules to build an encounter from the DMG page 82/83 (or kobold.club like Mark mentioned).However these rules are only a vague guideline. If you have 4 rangers fight against 4 melee fighters which start 2 rounds away from the party; the party has a great advantage.I personally just make every encounter hard, and my party plows through it, dotting in the occasional medium encounter, for my party to feel cool.

If you really want to make something difficult (or easy) that it is, you could fumble rolls, or increase HP of a monster while fighting. (This always feels somewhat wrong to me though.)
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How to balance encounters with a single overpowered PC? Edit

Question:

How do you try to create balanced battles when you have a PC that stands out above the rest of the party? I don't want them to face off against something that'd be too challenging, but at the same time, this PC is making quick mincemeat of anything that should be an actual challenge under normal circumstances. Any advice on this is appreciated.

Answer:

How does this character stand out? Is he higher level, than the other guys? Then the XP thresholds for encounters (see DMG p82 and 83) increase.
Do they have too many too strong magic items? Maybe try treating them as one level higher. And try to get "rid" of their magic items, e.g. the huge magic signature of this player draws a strong magic eating monster which eats all the items magic, but the towns wizard knows: To regain the magic properties go on this epic quest which makes you gain 4 levels, so the item isn't as OP anymore. Or something alike; if I remember correctly Mark already answered this question, how to get "rid" of items.
Alternatively have a monster that has resistance (half-damage) against magic weapons, or lawful good players, or paladins, or something that fits your player (and is story-wise reasonable) so the other characters get a chance to shine.
Last but not least you might be able to build an encounter that targets the weaknesses of the OP player. Maybe they are especially well in close quarters: Have them be attacked from the other side of a ravine. Vice versa if they're good in ranged combat have them be in an ambush so they start of in closed quarters.
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How to figure out attack bonuses? Edit

Question:

How do you figure out attack bonuses in d and d

Answer:

Are you talking about damage bonus (e.g. roll 1d8 to see how much damage you do) or hit bonus (roll a d20 to see whether you hit)?

Hit Bonus:
This depends on 2 factors (or maybe 3 …?):
1. Is the user proficient with the weapon? If yes, add the proficiency modifier to the attack bonus. The proficiency-modifier depends on the level of the player.
2. Is the weapon a melee weapon or a ranged, or light-melee-weapon?
Ranged/Light-Melee-Weapon: Add the DEX modifier to the attack modifier
Melee Weapon: Add the STR modifier to the attack modifier
In case of a light-melee-weapon (it says if it's light in the PHB table) you can choose which modifier to add STR or DEX, not both.
3. If it's a spell you still add your proficiency mod, but instead of DEX/STR you add your spellcasting ability modifier which is one of CHA/WIS/INT. It will say so in the class description.

Damage Bonus:
Spells: None
Ranged Weapon: Add the DEX mod to the damage
Melee weapon: Add the STR mod to the damage
Light melee weapon: Choose either DEX mod or STR mod
If you do a second attack with a light melee weapon as a bonus action you don't add any mod to that though!

Also have a look at Mark's videos on how to create a DnD character, he'll probably talk about it somewhere.
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How to make encounters interesting? Edit

Question:

I've been working on the first dungeon. The beginning and the end are alright, but I'm having trouble with the middle. Where they go through four rooms full of skeletons. My problem is I don't know how to make this encounter interesting for the players. So how do I make this encounter interesting without changing the monsters and not by numbers?

Video answer(s) by Mark: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Aum3YLB5gio&t=17m13s

How to tell when players are ready to face the boss? Edit

Question:

How can you tell when the players are ready to take on the main boss of your campaign without it seeming to rushed, yet not drawn out?

Answer:

This depends on your campaign and your players.
First consider what your campaign is built. There will be several McGuffins your players need or things that need to be done, before the boss can be fought. You'll probably have all this planned, and dotted in some sidequests, if your players feel like they want a little diversion from the main quest.
Second listen how your players feel with the sidequests you put in. Do they willingly take them all, and have fun doing them? Or is it more like "Aww, come on, not another side-quest! Just leave this city!!", in that case you should speed it up, skip some sidequests, maybe even main-quests.
If they however, when thinking about your boss sound more like "Can we beat them? What about X? How do we deal with that?" you could put in some more main-things into your campaign, to make the players feel more certain about fighting the boss.
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Martial arts (Monk) Edit

Question:

Please could you clarify how to use martial arts as a monk? My campaign uses roll20 so if I want to use the attack and get my bonus action from it, would I first attack with martial arts and then use my unarmed attack or would I first use the unarmed attack? Als, in this situation would a monk weapon be okay to use in place of the unarmed attack?

Video answer(s) by Mark:https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8Mf0pFwPoCM&t=14m1s

Online DnD maps? Edit

Question:

Do you have an advice on how to make an online D&D work better because I'm worried about my friends not having the physicality of minies on a map and them not visualizing the world around them.

Answer:

Try to have good icons/images for player characters (that's a one time job, so putting more effort in there should be justified) and then have functional maps.
Simple lines mapping where there are walls and so on definitely do it, that's how I, and many other people do it anyways. For monsters simple circles definitely do it in my online campaign (where I'm a PC). The DM has to describe what monster this is, how it looks, and so on.
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What to do if players beat deadly encounters easily Edit

Question:

I'm running Rise of Tiamat and one of the encounters in the book says to make it a deadly encounter, which I did using the rules in the DMG and kobold fight club. Problem was the party steamrolled it, now the dice gods did not smile upon me and I do like giving magic items out, so it maybe my own fault but would like your opinion either way. P.S some of my players are under 14 so magic items are even more fun for them that's why I do it.

Video answer(s) by Mark:https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2Zl-rdgUlp8&t=16m49s

What to do when constantly rolling 20s, destroying everyone unwillingly? Edit

Question:

What do you do in a situation where in a fight, as DM, you KEEP rolling natural 20's and rolling max damage? To a point where you are just going to annihilate everyone? Would you ever lie about the dice you roll if it will spoil the game? Or roll with it and try to come up with a story for it?

Video answer(s) by Mark:https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=72Y0sbMRbrE&t=20m42s

When is a battlemap required? What about 13 goblins? Edit

Question:

Going to be DMing for the first time soon and in regards to using maps and mini/tokens to do combat, when is the point where it's more useful to use them in terms of the amount of creatures in the encounter. Like if there's like 13 goblins I'd imagine its easier to keep track of on a map and would save time explaining where each is.

Answer:

There's a bit on AoE and Many Mobs (with or without miniatures) in the DMG on page 249 and 250. Might be of help (haven't read it though, lol).

You certainly can try to run an encounter with 13 goblins and 4 players. However, don't be thinking of a grid in your head, trying to keep the distance from each and everyone in there, to map out exact movement; that's a battlemap notion. If you don't have a battlemap operate more on common sense, and have rough ideas in your head.

Certain things with measurements you may need without a map:
* If in closed quarters: Size of the battlefield (for ranged people).
* Starting point for ranged attackers in relation to their enemies.
Otherwise think/write who is next to whom, so melee becomes straightforward.

I have not answered your question yet, where the point is that maps become better (personal opinions here):
* If you have more than 5 players a map might be useful.
* If you have more than 2 ranged monsters at different points on the map a map might be useful.
* If you have more than ~10 melee monsters a map might be useful.

But this begs the question: Will there be 13 goblin encounters at all in your campaign? I recently had an encounter with 9 whimsy thugs, and it was a PAIN to run; when I started my turn my players just phased out, because it took a few minutes, many dicerolls, and every time some thug was hit I had to write it into my big HP list - having a map helped me run it, but even with a map it was a pain.
If you have more than 1½ monsters per player, ask yourself why.
There are exceptions, like big boss battles, or a battle in a city with civilians in the crossfire, where I make everything other than the PCs and main-monsters have 1HP and act on Initiative 0. Running these without a battlemap might be hard.

However: To me this question seems like a justification (not in a malevolent way! might be reading into it too, though) to buy and use a battlemap, which is totally fine! A battlemap is optional, but adds a strategic/boardgame element to it.
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Custom/Homebrew Campaigns and ContentsEdit

Conscious weapons Edit

Question:

How would you go about creating conscious weapons?

Answer:

The DMG actually has you covered on this one. Have a look at pages 214 to 218.

Crafting Items? Edit

Question:

As a DM I find that my PC's would like to craft stuff, but I cannot find any clear rules how it might work. I would appreciate any ideas about blacksmithing, magic item crafting, enchanting, spell making and potion making as I'm having a real problem figuring it out.

Video answer(s) by Mark:https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=P5lOALs7gRc&t=12m37s

Guns? Edit

Question:

As we know guns aren't a part of the regular DnD universe rather more of a homebrew add in. How is it you go about making rules for guns?

Video answer(s) by Mark:https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=72Y0sbMRbrE&t=31m32s

How much setting information to give the players in a homebrew campaign? Edit

Question:

when running a homebrew campaign, how much information of the world should I give my Players before we start the campaign?

Answer:

As much as the type of character they are would know. Basic education for everyone (very simple world history, a bit of folklore and religious teaching etc) and then consider giving characters with proficiency in skills like History/Arcana more in-depth knowledge based on their chosen field. :) Makes them feel special!
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Video answer(s) by Mark:https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9tpeMUxMnIA&t=7m59s

How to come up with a new campaign/oneshot? Edit

Question:

As a DM, when you need to come up with a new campaign/oneshot how do you get started?

Answer:

Start with a hanger, start with something interesting, with the main thing, and then work reverse from that.
E.g. Main thing: Summoning an evil god.
How? Through cultists.
Why? Because the god promised power.
What power? Magic items.
What items … And so on.
Afterwards go through your stuff the right way, to see if it all checks out.
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How to create interesting locations? Edit

Question:

How do you make a location that intrigues or interests the players?

Video answer(s) by Mark:https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=72Y0sbMRbrE&t=36m33s

How to deal with "overflowing" out of genre references (e.g. russian mafioso player character in DnD)? Edit

Question:

I started a new game recently and let the players make their characters. But when they make their characters they never take it seriously and sometimes make characters from other games that don't even come from the same genre. I don't mind the odd reference but It gets irritating having a Russian Gangster fighting goblins. Do any of you have any suggestions for future games?

Answer:

Your campaign will have a fun undertone, know that and play on that. E.g. have some other goblins which behave like a competing mafia family. And the Big bad evil guy? He's the goblin godfather MUAHAHA

Unless you don't just want to tell your player: This shouldn't have happened, make a new character please. (This will probably annoy your players to shit, because you quickly bond with your character).
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Answer:

Don't force a type of game onto a group who aren't interested, go with what they find fun and find a way to make it work for you.

Lighthearted fun games can be nice, not everything needs to be mega drama serious RP, you really need the right group for that.

Influences for Marks homebrew worlds? Edit

Question:

What influences do you draw on when you are creating aspects of your home-brew worlds?

Video answer(s) by Mark:https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vAGfpShmWj4&t=19m14s

Role-playingEdit

How to RP opposite gender (female) PCs? Edit

Question:

For a tabletop RPG I'll be involved with next month I'll be playing as a female PC. Any tips on how to rollplay as the opposite gender, I've seen yourself and Matt Mercer rollplay female NPC's so any differences for PC?

Answer:

Personal experience (only with NPCs that travel longer with the party though):

1. Unless you're good at it: Don't bother with a high-pitch female voice (which is what my intentional female voices are …). After 5 minutes either your throat will hurt, or your players will get sick of squeaky McSqueakface.

2. Unless you are going to play a female character for a particular reason there's nothing to consider. Do the same thing you're doing when roleplaying as you always do: Consider what makes your character special, and build/roleplay on it. If there is a particular reason your character is female you'll be doing this already.
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Answer:

I have an observation that might help you on the voice front: Relative tone does a great deal to convey the character feeling, even without absolutely adjusting your pitch. A male friend of mine who sometimes plays female characters doesn't attempt full on 'high' pitches, but when they speak for a female character, there is a tangible shift in their speaking range, to something softer and higher. It's not a lit, and it's still very much within their normal comfort range, and to someone who didn't know them, it would be unlikely that they'd identify the voice as anything other than a soft-spoken male, but because we know what their normal voice is like, the impression of a higher, softer, and more effeminate voice comes across perfectly well, without them having to strain themselves.

The same goes in reverse, for players with naturally higher voices trying to pitch for deeper-speaking characters; selling the impression with a small shift seems to work very well on its own, mainly on the strength that we're familiar enough with the player's original voice that the shift feels very pronounced by contrast.

The other thing I'd like to mention, and this one is from personal experience, is the importance of body language; the body language you display when speaking for them carries a great deal of the weight in creating the believable impression of a character, and their emotional state, or it will do if you're in a face-to-face setting with your fellow players.

How to become better at improvising? Edit

Question:

So i'm trying to organise a D&D game with some friends, but this will be our first one and i'm DMing for the first time. I would like to know what are some of the most difficult skills to learn as a DM, and what do you think would be a good way to learn it.

Answer:

To be more certain about improvising make sure you know how your world works.
If there actually is a point where you are not certain what would happen just make a call based on your related notes and important write it down, to be consistent!

If it's a minor (or maybe major - depends on you) thing you don't know the results to, you may also from time to time ask your players what it does (don't do that too often though).
E.g. in my group a player cut out a ghoul's tongue. "What can you do with a ghouls tongue??" "Dunno, what CAN you do with a ghouls tongue? YOU tell me." "Whoever drinks a ghouls tongue potion becomes a ghoul themselves!" "Okay - noted." 4 Sessions later the player uses the ghouls tongue to poison an evil base water supply, and everyone there becomes a ghoul. Well remembered!

If you want help in learning how to improv there's improv classes. However DMing is a great improv class too! As always, practice makes masters.
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Video answer(s) by Mark:https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fKZi1MmWYnU&t=24m38s

How to get Fight-Heavy parties more into RP (as a PC)? Edit

Question:

I'm playing DnD with my dad and his friends son (to teach them 5e) but they are only in it for the fighting and they dont like to rp, at all, so is there any way that me as a fellow player can encourage RPing?

Answer:

Try to be a sane voice when your party plans their next assault: "I don't think we should just head on fight them. Let's see if we can talk ourselves around it."
This somewhat depends on the DM though, and if you are only a PC, and your DM is only in it for the fighting, too there won't be much RP-plothooks/RP-ways to get around to start with.
In that case you should probably just change your expectations for this game. See it more as a boardgame, maybe like playing descent, only more freeform.
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How to keep your party RP-wise together/not start in a random tavern/they don't trust each other! Edit

Question:

how do you keep a group of adventures to stay together and become a party (a reason for the party to stay together rp wise)

Answer:

1. Having everyone on their own and suddenly all working together without even knowing each other feels somewhat weird and forced to me.
So make the characters already travel together/know each other for a while.
Let's say they all have their places they want to go in the world: "Hey, you need to go to X, yeah I need to go to Y, but X is on the way, let's travel together, it's safer." Or they might have met on a caravan, and talked to each other.
Work out how the characters might have met, what they would have talked about, and so on.
This might be hard with the occasional "I'm the loneish, cool guy"-character. Tell them that either they wouldn't be with the group this way (RP, but they're not in), or they'll just be thrown in without much introduction (less RP, but they're in, see No.3).
2. Give them all an overwhelming threat or huge reward that is worth for them all to stick together.
An evil god descents on the city, and tells that the end is coming, because his cultists are nearly finished with his summoning ritual. Or the king has invited each member of the group to fullfil a big quest for them, in reward they gain chambers filled with gold. (Great example: The start of "force grey giant hunters")
This "forces" the characters to work together, however they'll get to know each other along the way. And if your players don't care about 100% perfect RP this is a great alibi to continue together even after the "first arc" is done.
3. Just throw them together and don't care.
This isn't that good, but if no one cares (ask your players) it's okay, too! A dungeon crawl oneshot doesn't begin with an hour long backstory of how the adventurers met, but just starts.
Pick one of the standard "boring" introductions and roll with it:
You are in a tavern, suddenly there's a brawl, and the bar catches fire. The players together bring down the brawl, and extinguish the fire. The barkeep is happy and gives them a quest to look for their missing daughter, because they are definitely skilled in fighting. And they gain a bit of gold as a reward, too.
If the players don't care that much about RP they'll happily fight together. "Bait" them from one quest to another, to the big main quest, and bam you're done.
Comment-Link

Video answer(s) by Mark:https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tkgz3cWKA_U&t=16m24s

How to make NPCs more threatening (RP sense, without a fight)? Edit

Question:

How can you make your players (who are getting a bit cocky) fearful of a powerful but friendly NPC that they believe they could over power? Without resorting to shoving said NPC's sword in the players face.

Video answer(s) by Mark:https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=72Y0sbMRbrE&t=23m53s

How to make social encounters enteraining? Edit

Question:

I'm finding it a bit difficult to do some entertaining rp the most the most i can do is a conversation with the barkeep or some important npc.

Answer:

Do your conversations with a random stranger around the street have to be entertaining?
Conversations shouldn't be entertaining, but should be a gateway into the world; feel real. So your RP should be how the NPC your party is talking to would react - entertaining or not.

If you are running a serious campaign they don't have to be.
You can, dot in some crazy NPCs around like Gilmore from critical role, or thariz'dun from high rollers, to spice it up from time to time. These crazy ones are easy to entertain with, because they are by definition crazy and entertaining.

If the premise of your campaign is that everyone is crazy however. Go crazy :D
Comment-Link

Answer:

Broad question, but don't ever feel you have to be an "entertainer". Not everyone can be Matt Mercer. Run a solid game, create interesting and fun NPCs and run with them. This is where improv practice will help a lot.

How to overcome RP awkwardness and become immersed? Edit

Question:

As a new player unaccustomed to improv and verbally roleplaying, what are ways to overcome the awkwardness, and become immersed into the game?

Video answer(s) by Mark:https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=P5lOALs7gRc&t=16m26s

Pseudo-Classes (Sneaky cleric → Rogue) Edit

Question:

What do you think of pseudo classes? ie, making a sneaky cleric as a stand-in rogue. Are they viable?

Video answer(s) by Mark:https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=72Y0sbMRbrE&t=18m33s

MiscellaneousEdit

8 player parties Edit

Question:

I'm a new DM and many people wanted to join my party so now I have an 8 player party... I've seen High Rollers so I've had a general idea of how to run it but what changes on the DM side of things once you add more players?

Answer:

Urgh, for your players sanity: Don't. DawnforgedCast made a video about it: Why You Shouldn't Run a Large Group
Crux: As a DM you'll have fun, always have something to do.
For your players it's very easy to phase out in combat, because it takes a long time between their turns (even my 5 player online campaign takes 45 minutes for 3 full combat turns, that's 18 seconds :| )
Out of combat there will be two or three players that are generally more talkative that will shadow the more introverted players making it very important (and somewhat difficult, too) to manage the spotlight, with which as a new dm you'll have trouble from time to time making it less enjoyable for the introverted guys.

The better solution here would be to run 2 campaigns. See who knows whom, or if people don't care ask what general class preferences people have, and set them together in a somewhat fitting manner, then have a session 0 for character creation, and so on yadayada.

Another thing you'll only learn from actually being a GM: Value your time.
If you haven't DMed anything before you're full of energy, inviting everyone in. One group? Easy! Another one? Yeah. A third once a month? Sure. A oneshot? Yeah!
fast forward 6 weeks I don't have time for anything T_T Especially if you have holidays from school/university/work, don't have anything to do you might want to use that time for TTRPG. Don't overdo it, you'll regret it when the holidays are over. Try one group for a month or two, see how your time schedule works out, if it allows, start another one. If it doesn't: learn to say no to new campaigns/people.
Comment-Link

Brandons Books Edit

Question:

I just saw all the Mistborn and the Stormlight Books what do you think of Brandons Books and do they inspire your DMing at all?

Video answer(s) by Mark: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Aum3YLB5gio&t=22m50s

DM advice regarding bad players Edit

Question:

What is your advice for running a campaign for complete twats. Namely Alex Smith. Thanks, Barry.

Video answer(s) by Mark: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8Mf0pFwPoCM&t=16m52s

Do I have to buy minis? Edit

Question:

I don't have a lot of cash to splash do I have to buy D&D miniatures or can I use little toys from other things?

Video answer(s) by Mark:https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fKZi1MmWYnU&t=18m8s

Do I need a maps and minis? Edit

Question:

I'm DMing a campaign and I was wondering if I needed any models or maps. I have a map of the world but my players are very feisty and I never know when or where they will get into a fight so I can't have a map for every fight (and I can't find any D&D miniatures in any nearby shops) Do you think I can do without them. If so do I keep track of distances from certain characters and their targets or do I just estimate? Any help from anyone would be helpful.

Answer:

Fighting without miniatures:
Somewhat related (first part): When is a battlemap required
Keep rough measurements in your head and think of: Who is next to whom. Player A next to Goblin A and Bear A, …

Cheapo minis + battlemat:
Here's a gallery + descriptions of how I started, and where I'm at now: Images Gallery
My personal recommendation is the Pathfinder Battlemat. Cost me 15€ on amazon and boy is it great. That plus paper minis and you're in cheap TTRPG heaven.
Comment-Link

Video answer(s) by Mark:https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zGhSSSuVxTk&t=22m59s

Fudging dice rolls? Edit

Question:

When is it (if ever) ok to fudge dice rolls?

Video answer(s) by Mark:https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8Mf0pFwPoCM&t=12m14s

High fantasy free form/simple system? Edit

Question:

Do you know of any good high fantasy RPG's that play like either Star Wars Edge of the Empire or YogsQuest 2 & 3? Because I find that pseudo-freeform gameplay with flexible rules to lend itself very well to silly, light-hearted, comedic adventures.

Answer:

You could try and take a rules light system and build upon that, like world of dungeons

Video answer(s) by Mark:https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aCWwmIwlv8s&t=19m43s

How did Mark get into DMing? Edit

Question:

How did you get into DM-ing? Were you a player first or did you go straight for it, because of your imagination and ability to create amazing worlds?

Video answer(s) by Mark:https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=72Y0sbMRbrE&t=26m3s

How to get friends into DnD? Edit

Question:

I want to get my friend to play d&d with me but they don't think they would like it even though I know they would. How do I get them into it?

Video answer(s) by Mark:https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fTPXyKka0To&t=472s

How to get people started in a campaign, when put in character-backstories? Edit

Question:

DO you have any tips for getting people started in a campaign? For example, how do you judge what sort of plot hook to give them to get them invested, and how do you handle character backstories? (get them right away, or wait a few sessions for people to figure out their playstyle?)

Video answer(s) by Mark:https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aCWwmIwlv8s&t=22m19s

How to keep the group focused? Edit

Question:

I DM D&D5e for my friends and we only meet up every two weeks as we are a bit busy, when we meet up we catch up first and have a laugh as friends do but when we start to play we keep getting distracted, as I'm a new DM I would appreciate it if an experienced DM such as [Mark] could give me a few tips on how to keep the group focused and the game rolling smoothly.

Video answer(s) by Mark:https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=72Y0sbMRbrE&t=5m2s

My players like DnD but don't attend the session, what do? Edit

Question:

A very good friend of mine has recently decided to get into d&d. He says that he loves the game and is having loads of fun in the party. However, it's come to my attention that he doesn't actually want to go to our sessions, despite the game currently being focused on his characters backstory. He's finally decided that he is refusing to go to the next session because he "can't be assed". How should I react? He's a really good friend but I'm not willing to stand that kind of selfishness when everyone else is really looking forward to the game.

Answer:

You should be open to him and tell him that this doesn't work.
DnD to some extent is a social event, a social gathering, where everyone has their loose responsibilities. DM prepares the game, players attend, bring their character sheets, and so on.
If your friend likes DnD, enjoys being with your party, and even has their own arc now, but doesn't want to play he doesn't fit into the party as a set player.

Ask them why he doesn't want to come, maybe it's just something stupid like "it's too far" maybe play online then? or if he seriously don't feel like attending every session ask him what he thinks of opting in from session to session and have him sort of like a "reappearing guest" - he wouldn't get his big story, but he can be in and with the other guys when he feels like it.

If all this doesn't work your friend and DnD (at least now) doesn't play together well, it's sad, but some people just don't (feel) like it.
Comment-Link

Players hating each other!/Shouting at me for being a bad DM! Edit

Question:

A couple of years ago, I did a Yogsquest style campaign. It all went wrong when the PCs got mad over some homebrew game mechanics. As a inexperienced GM back then, I satisfied then by giving the cool stuff. But after that they went back to challenge things which made them mad again, resulting in a loop of torment and shouting over the table for me. I felt exploited but how do you break out of this loop?
Also, how do you deal with players that decide to break off from 4 to 5 PC groups into tiny groups of for mess? The groups both hate each other in-game and in real life.

Answer:

I hope you told your players before playing you're not experienced.
If they - knowingly - shout at you for this, I would tell them once, that you're sorry and they should be understanding, that you are not experienced, and you're trying your best.
If they still shout at you I'd just stop playing. DnD should be fun for everyone including the DM. And neither you, nor the players have fun in this scenario.

> The groups both hate each other in-game and in real life.
These people probably can't play together … DnD is a social interaction, a conversation, not a videogame where you can ignore that the tank is a dumbass, as long as he's soaking damage.
Don't feel yourself forced to keep a group together, just because you'd like to see the end of the campaign. If the players hate each other it doesn't work.

Always keep in mind:
You are a human, your players are humans, DnD is a social gathering.
If something doesn't work out: Talk to your players, and if that doesn't work then sadly DnD isn't the thing for these people.
Comment-Link

Answer:

I would also like to add that as the DM, you're ALWAYS right. Too many people imagine DnD like a computer game and that the DM only is the "system" that runs it. Your world, your rules. Do you like a set of rules you find in the DM's Guild? Then use them! Do you think a set of rules in the core book doesn't make sense? Change them!

As long as you're clear with your players that you're using homebrew rules (you do not have to tell them what these rules are) it should be all be fine.

With that said, I've had players call out mistake's i've made, and that's okay. As long as it's done respectfully and it actually was a mistake to begin with, there's no reason to not correct it. What makes the game so fun (in my eyes at least) is that even though the DM is the one deciding the rules, everyone, including the DM, then has to follow those rules. That's what make's it a game.
(Except those rare occassions where you REALLY feel the need to "cheat" for the greater good of the game, but that's a discussion for another time.)

Telling a DM you're not enjoying their campaign? Edit

Question:

Is it okay to tell a DM that you're not enjoying his/her campaign? And if so, how do you go about telling them?

Answer:

Yes; in fact (speaking as a DM) please do! Give constructive criticism though, "I don't like it cuz' duh" doesn't help.
Personally I've found that my groups will always answer my question of "How was it" (especially after a more complain-y session) with a mediocre "Yeah, it was ok.", leaving me hanging with a "Was that just to be nice, because they know I invest hours of time, or was it honest?".
Hearing something honest like "Hey, you're doing a good job, you're a good DM." always makes me happy, what's even more useful though is "I didn't like ABC, can you do something about it?" because that's telling me where my weaknesses are, so I can improve, and eventually become the Super-DM-GM-Overlord (and make my player's lifes better in the process).
Comment-Link

Video answer(s) by Mark:https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=A3Ci11cNmr0&t=13m02s

Answer:

Its absolutely ok, just don't be rude or mean about it. It should be handled with care and do remember that your DM is working his or her hardest on it and maybe is having trouble. One possible way to do this is share what you like about it and suggest that things go in that direction and less in the way that you don't like. Also are the other players having similar feelings, because if not then maybe you don't fit into the campaign well. You can always ask to join another group if possible and or just talk with them and see if there is a way for a happy medium.

What should players/DMs prepare for their first session? Edit

Question:

What do you recommend first time players to prepare them for their first game? What would you recommend first time DMs do for their first game (to DM) as well?

Video answer(s) by Mark:https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vAGfpShmWj4&t=11m45s

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