14 Gifts Perfect for Any Game Master

DriveThruRPG.com

Well, it’s February and love is in the air. Or maybe not. Either way if you love TTRPG’s here are 14 gifts you can give to your favorite Game Master, whether you have romantic feelings toward them or you just want to hang out on the weekend.

(Note: this post contains affiliate links. If you purchase something through this post I will get a small commission at no extra cost to you)

Fire-Breathing Dragon Coffee Cup

If you want your GM’s coffee cup to stay as hot as dragon’s breath, try this cup out. It’s $17 but well worth the extra XP you are sure to get in appreciation.

DND Cat T-Shirt

I mean, I feel like this every single day. I bet your GM does too. Or anyone at your table. The shirt costs $20 but it’s really cute so probably worth it?

A Bag to HOld Stuff with

To be a good Game Master you have to have a lot of stuff. If you like your stuff to be physical, it’s really nice to have a bag with which to hold your stuff. (I bet there is probably a good name for a bag like that.) This one is pretty nice and your GM will be over the moon for it. It costs $60 so make sure you really do like your GM before you give it to them. Or, maybe get one for yourself.

D&D Campaign Adventures for Mythic Odysseys of Theros - Available now @ Dungeon Masters Guild

Let Your GM Be Lazy

The title of this can be misleading. The Lazy DM is one of the best books about running a great game without burning out you can find anywhere. Let’s just say I’ve had some campaigns I would never have survived without the help of Michael E. Shea and his great advice (Looking at you Storm King’s Thunder). It’s a great deal at $12. And if your GM already has this, there is a sequel called Return of the Lazy Dungeon Master which you can get for $20. Worth it’s weight in gold in time saved and headaches avoided for any GM.

Spell Area of Effect Template

It can be tough to judge actual distance of spell effects and depending on the dice roll this can be absolutely critical. Let your GM take the guess work away with this fine template that is transparent and will help everyone at the table see just how many in your party are about to bear the brunt of your wizard’s fireball spell. It’s a good deal at $14.

Keep your GM’s table nice with these coasters

These coasters are great for keeping a gaming table free from rings and water stains. There are 14 of them all with different class symbols so players know exactly where to set their mug of ale. It even comes with a pretty sweet holder to match. It costs $30.

Dice Jail!

Okay this is more of a time out chair than an actual prison. But we all know dice can behave badly and sometimes shaming them is the only way to get them back to rolling those critical successes we all need. Your GM would love one of these. Although, you may want to keep it for yourself because you don’t want Tiamat rolling a 20. The little chair and dunce cap will cost you $20.

Bronze Dragon Journal

Game masters are constantly thinking of, or seeing, things they know would be great to use in their campaigns. But the bad part about that is if you don’t have a place to organize your ideas, they just kind of go poof and disappear. So, give your GM a great place to write this stuff down. Just ask them to make sure it’s not going to be a TPK kind of idea. This journal will cost you $25.

Condition Markers

Another thing that can be very difficult to track during game is who is in what condition. Which player was poisoned again? Is that spell one that uses concentration? If you use minis in your games, these rings are super helpful and will make your Game Master’s life so much easier. These will cost you $40.

Cool Socks

Cool socks. Everyone likes cools socks. Get your GM some cool socks! Or, get some for yourself, assuming you want your feet to feel good and look great. These are $16 right now.

Roll up Dice Mat

Nothing is worse than accidentally scratching up a gaming table. This roll up dice mat does a great job of preventing those scratches. Plus it comes with dice! How could you go wrong? This neat little set costs $16.

Dragon Flame Goblet

It’s a wine goblet and it has a dragon on it. A dragon wine goblet! I mean, you don’t have to drink wine out of it but your GM will sure look like they know what they are doing when they set this thing on the table. This libation holder will run you $22.

A Great GM Screen

Your Game Master may already have a good screen but this one has pockets where they can stuff all there notes and all that good stuff which is super helpful when running a game. It’s good for nearly any kind of fantasy TTRPG. And it looks amazing. You can get this one for $50.

A Whole Bunch of Dice

What’s one thing every Game Master can always use more of? Dice. Lots and lots of dice. Why not just give them a big old pile of math rocks? This set gets you 140 dice for $23 but you can buy smaller sets if that price is too high for you.

In Conclusion

Well, that’s my list of 14 cool things to give to your favorite Game Master (or TTRPG enthusiast) on 2/14 or any other day really. I’m not trying to make the hard sell on any of this stuff. Do you need anything here to be a great Game Master? Not at all. Well, it does help to hav dice. But if you were thinking of giving someone a cool gift and you buy through this post, it really helps the blog out and allows me to keep doing what I do. Whether you buy anything or not, thanks for reading and I hope all your rolls are critical successes!

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What in the World is Going on with TTRPG’s Right Now?

Hey all, Slick Dungeon here.

As most of you who read this blog probably know, I really enjoy playing Tabletop Role Playing Games. AKA TTRPG’s. Even if you have never heard the term TTRPG in your life, you know what one is. If you’ve ever heard of Dungeons & Dragons, that is the most famous one. That game is owned by a company called Wizards of the Coast or WotC for short. Even if you’ve never heard of WotC you’ve definitely heard of the company that owns WotC. Hasbro owns WotC. So when people talk about Dungeons & Dragons being a major TTRPG, owned by a big company, owned by an even bigger company, that’s what they are talking about. Hasbro is a very famous brand but they have a bit of a problem. Not everything they make is making as much money as they would like.

One brand of theirs doing well though, is Wizards of the Coast. Not only do they release D&D stuff, they’re also the company that owns Magic: The Gathering. And they are on the verge of launching a bunch of what could be really cool stuff. There is a D&D movie coming out soon starring Chris Pine. There is a Virtual Tabletop (or VTT) coming. There are several video games, books, toys, accessories and other various merchandise about to come out. And, they are about to move to the next iteration of Dungeons & Dragons. Currently they are on the fifth edition of the game. They’re moving to the next version but they are calling it One D&D. As in, we don’t need editions any more we’re just going to say it is D&D. Whether that name and attitude sticks remains to be seen.

With all of this cool stuff on its way it would seem like WotC is in a prime spot to make more money than it ever has. And honestly, as a lover of D&D and TTRPG’s I don’t mind them being successful. We’re talking the chance for them to go Marvel or Star Wars big if they do this right.

But, there has been a major snag, of WotC’s own making in the last month or so.

Usually on this blog, I don’t really delve into current events or news or whatever about TTRPG’s, I just like to talk about the stuff I like. But I honestly can’t keep silent anymore. Everything in this blog post is nothing more than my opinion, none of it is in any way legal insight or advice, and a lot of this ground has been covered by people much more knowledgeable than myself. However, since there are people who read my blog who like TTRPG’s, I kind of feel like I owe it to them to say something even if I have what anyone would consider a small audience. Because, here is the thing, at this moment in time I think Hasbro and WotC are forgetting absolutely everything that makes their own game great in the first place. Yet, I don’t think it is too late for this all to be corrected. If you’re not a TTRPG nerd, this article may not be for you. I promise to get back to movie and book reviews and all the other stuff I do on this blog soon. But if you do play TTRPG’s I hope you’ll read this because I think it’s important that we all as enthusiasts of this hobby realize we are what make TTRPG’s work, whether you make content, play the games at your own home, or just read the books and do nothing else with them.

If you follow the world of TTRPG’s even a little bit you’ve probably heard about the huge dust up between WotC and independent creators over something called the Open Gaming License, or OGL for short. This license, along with the set of rules you can use to play D&D called the System Reference Document or SRD for short is what allows people to make things related to D&D for others to use and then buy those products. For example, if there was a creator like Matt Colville who decided to make a subclass for Rogues, and wanted to sell it for $0.99 he is allowed to do that as long as he acknowledges the OGL.

WotC and Hasbro, or more accurately, their lawyers want to change that. They want to revoke the OGL and put in a new version of the OGL. Whether or not they have the right to do that, and whether or not someone would get sued for making D&D third party content under the new license is really up in the air at this point in time. You see, WotC, sent a bunch of contracts with a new OGL, that would frankly, take away a ton of revenue from almost anyone who makes third party content for D&D. These contracts leaked to the press and there was strong outrage over the terms in there from the TTRPG creator community. I won’t get too specific here but basically it boiled down to this. WotC would almost certainly be able to tell anyone they want that they can no longer use the old OGL, and might have lawyers come after those creators. In addition, if you used the new OGL, you’d have to pay fairly high royalties to WotC. This meant that publishers such as Paizo or Kobold press, who make products that use the OGL, might very well be sued by Hasbro. Worse than that, WotC was saying they could have the rights to any new characters or ideas made using the new OGL, so, say Grogg from Critical Role, might now be a D&D property even though the folks at Critical Role clearly came up with him.

To make a long story short, community creators didn’t like this and there has been a lot of pressure put on WotC to do something about it, or at least acknowledge the problems people were complaining about. In fact, WotC waited so long, Paizo may end up looking like the biggest heroes in the TTRPG space for decades to come. (More about that later in the post.) The pressure seemed like it might have started working as people began to unsubscribe from D&D Beyond, where you can buy lots of virtual stuff for D&D fifth edition. Hasbro has assuredly at this point realized they are losing money. Whether or not they care about that is still unclear in my opinion. WotC released a statement over the whole debacle and there was something in there that just angered and saddened me so much that I had to write this post.

On the one hand, they have delayed the release of the new OGL, probably because they now need to scramble with the wording to make it more palatable for creators, but still basically suck as much money from people as WotC can. It makes sense for them to delay given the context of what is going on. But in their statement, giving what amounted to a non-apology apology, they had a paragraph in there that just blew my mind as to how adversarial and negative the Executives at WotC and Hasbro must think towards their audience.

The quote is below and I’ll talk about why it made me so upset after.

A couple of last thoughts. First, we won’t be able to release the new OGL today, because we need to make sure we get it right, but it is coming. Second, you’re going to hear people say that they won, and we lost because making your voices heard forced us to change our plans. Those people will only be half right. They won—and so did we.

WotC STatement on 1/13/2023. Full statement available on D&D Beyond

Like I said, delaying the release of the new OGL makes perfect sense. I don’t have any issue with that. But the statement in full did not completely address some of the biggest problems with the proposed new OGL. If Wizards of the Coast was smart and could see the writing on the wall, they would have given up and said they would just stick with the old OGL.

There is another alternative WotC could have chosen but we’ll get to that later as well. What they instead chose to do, was to talk about winners and losers. I want you to keep something very basic about D&D in mind as you read the rest of this post because this just shows how little WotC and Hasbro seem to get it right now. There are no winners or losers in D&D. Never have been and never will be. We’re not playing Monopoly here. This is a cooperative game where people are supposed to work together to slay the dragon. WotC and Hasbro don’t seem to realize that at this point, they are the dragon. In my opinion, this whole “people say that they won and we lost because making your voices heard forced us to change our plans.” section absolutely is trying to devalue any opinion long time lovers of this game have. It’s not so much how they phrased that but that they think there should be any us against them at all in the TTRPG community. When D&D does well, other TTRPG’s also do well and vice versa.

In essence Hasbro expects that they can lose a bunch of old timers who have been playing this game since forever and replace them with all the new fans they will get once a shiny new movie and edition come out. They may even be right about that. It’s possible D&D will see more devoted and dedicated players than ever before and they won’t need any of us who have always played this game. But I have my doubts that will work. For one thing, I’ve never heard of a show or movie convincing anyone to actually sit down at a table and play a D&D campaign for hours on end. As successful as Stranger Things is, I don’t think there are very many people who started playing solely because they watched that show.

You know who does get people to start playing D&D? People who already play D&D. Older sisters, younger brothers, friends, cousins, teachers, mothers, fathers, sons, aunts, uncles and anyone else who just really loves the game and wants to share it with others. As much as I love this game, it’s going to be hard to tell someone I want them to play this game, but be warned, the company that makes this game does not care at all about the people who play it. And right now, that’s what I would have to say in order to be honest.

Now, maybe Hasbro actually doesn’t care about the TTRPG known as D&D. Maybe they only care about the movie, video games and VTT that are coming because those are potentially bigger money makers. But a big chunk of their audience is upset and disappointed in the direction this stuff is going. I don’t, nor should anyone, blame people who just so happen to work at WotC or Hasbro and have no influence over this decision. The people I do blame are the ones who don’t seem to understand this game at all, don’t care about the creators, players, older sisters, younger brothers, friends, cousins, teachers, mothers, fathers, sons, aunts, uncles and anyone else who just really loves the game and wants to share it with others. Instead they see us as roadblocks to money. It’s as boldfaced an incident of corporate greed as I have ever seen. And I was willing to hand my $50 over for almost any book WotC printed before. I’m not so willing now.

I had some content coming up this year that was going to feature some 5th edition D&D. I was strongly considering doing a solo D&D 5E play through and writing about it on this blog. I was also considering writing an adventure for D&D this year and releasing it on The Dungeon Master’s Guild website. I still may do so, but it is going to 100% depend on what WotC does next. I would be considered the tiniest of tiny creators but even someone as small as me is having second thoughts. I would encourage anyone reading this to think twice about making anything using the OGL at this point in time because we just don’t know what will happen and it would be a major shame for all that energy and effort to simply put you in a courtroom.

I know I sound negative and like doom and gloom is coming. But there are spots of hope. For one, WotC did delay the release of what would have been an utterly horrendous OGL and that is for one reason and one reason alone. The TTRPG community is a tight-knit, friendly community, who knows how to read and understand rules, and is more than willing to organize. For goodness sakes, most of us devour 500 page books regularly and organize 5-7 people weekly guiding our players through rules that can be very difficult to understand. That’s just to say, we can tell when a company thinks we are too dumb to understand something. That’s exactly what WotC is saying with their statement. It’s been inspiring to see the TTRPG come together and activate so quickly. Now, there are some who seem to blame people who are just doing their jobs at companies like WotC and Hasbro and that should not be the norm here. We’re better than that. Fat cat executives who only care about the price of stock and the lawyers who are more than happy to squeeze every penny out of every person playing D&D are the ones to blame, no question.

The second inspiring thing here comes from one of D&D’s largest competitors (although I don’t actually see them as competition because as I said, TTRPGs all do well when any one of them does well), Paizo. Paizo knew it would be inevitable that at some point, if the new OGL was released, they would end up in court over it. They rolled with advantage on their initiative and announced they would get behind something called the Open Resource Creative License nicknamed the ORC license. Essentially the statement from Paizo did absolutely everything right that WotC did wrong. They got ahead of an issue, even one that wasn’t of their own making, they respected the TTRPG community while doing it, and they offered to bring their lawyers to slay the dragon of Hasbro if needed. Contrast the statement below with the one above and see if you can tell which company is being friendly to their audience.

We believe, as we always have, that open gaming makes games better, improves profitability for all involved, and enriches the community of gamers who participate in this amazing hobby. And so we invite gamers from around the world to join us as we begin the next great chapter of open gaming with the release of a new open, perpetual, and irrevocable Open RPG Creative License (ORC).

Full statement available at Paizo.com

Now, we need a little bit of caution here. We haven’t seen the final draft of the ORC license but man, I already want to go around saying I have an ORC license. Something else very encouraging here is that Paizo doesn’t actually intend to be the caretaker of this license. They want to give it to a non-profit organization who has expertise in dealing with open source material. If you know anything about software think about Linnux as opposed to say Microsoft. The point is for everyone to use it and everyone to have the same basic building blocks to make stuff with. It will be important that there be some set of rules to go with the ORC license. I’m talking game rules, not law rules, although those are also important. It’s one thing for a company like Paizo to say something like this but it’s something entirely different to hear that a ton of other companies have also said they would adopt the ORC, including Chaosium Inc, Kobold Press and a bunch of other publishers well known in the TTRPG industry. This move is so bold, TTRPG gaming may have just been changed forever. And when people look back at what happened in January 2023, they are going to say Paizo innovated, thought well of their fans, and landed boat loads of good will. It’s possible Paizo’s idea won’t work but they are seriously trying to make it work and it helps that several of the people from Paizo who are working on the ORC also worked on the original OGL. In other words, Paizo had major, major credentials here.

I will admit this to everyone reading. I have never played Pathfinder which Paizo produces. I have played a few sessions of Starfinder and enjoyed it but I’m by no means as well versed with Paizo products as I am with WotC products. But I’m seriously considering the switch. (Also I love Chaosium and they were never in danger from the OGL issues but they’ve also had a good response to the whole debacle so I’ll still be playing their games.)

If you think the OGL issues has no effect on you and you play 5th edition Dungeons & Dragons at all, you’re wrong. There is some rule or mechanic, or situation you have used that came about because of the OGL. And even if you’ve never played any D&D this OGL could still affect you. The video game Knights of the Old Republic uses the same d20 system that D&D does. I don’t think Disney is going to line up to hand over money to WotC any time soon though and there’s no way, any Jedi get to become part of D&D because of this proposed move.

If WotC wanted to maintain good will and bring people back from the brink of walking away with money in their pockets, their smartest move would be to sign on to the ORC. There’s almost zero chance of that happening but if they did, I think a lot of people would come right back to sing the praises of WotC.

At this point, unless we’re major creators, all we can do is wait and see what happens. I will say this though. If you feel strongly about the OGL needing to stay as is, or if you think WotC should sign on to the ORC, the best way to demonstrate that is with money. Or, rather, the withholding of it. If you were considering purchasing a book printed by WotC, wait a little while and see how this resolves. If you have a D&D Beyond subscription, consider cancelling it. Don’t shout at WotC employees online or in real life. Even if they are executives, they won’t hear you, but they will miss your money. And if you just can’t bring yourself to cancel that D&D subscription, I totally get it. D&D is fun! It’s supposed to be fun and giving it up is hard. But, maybe, take that money you were about to spend at WotC and go buy something new from an independent creator. Buy things on Drivethrurpg. Get something from Paizo, or Kobold Press, or Chaosium or Modiphius or any other TTRPG publisher you’ve heard of and always wanted to try. Or heck, try one you’ve never heard of and find out if it’s fun. There’s a good chance it is.

If you decide to cancel your subscription to D&D Beyond or buy a book from another publisher, use the hashtag #OpenDnD to let WotC know you can’t simply be lied to. Let them know you’re not okay with that. As always, be polite about it and thoughtful in your reactions to any news you hear. Spread the word about games you love playing that are not D&D. Or, in the case of some of these publishers who are publishing 5th edition content, such as Kobold Press, buy directly from them and use their books in your games. While D&D is the biggest name out there, they are by far not the only name out there.

Some games and supplements I strongly recommend you check out, not just because of gameplay at this point, but because of the ethical response from these companies, are as follows. Call of Cthulhu by Chaosium Inc. Pathfinder and Starfinder by Paizo, Midgard by Kobold Press, Sword Chronicle by Green Ronin, Aegis of Empires by Legendary Games, Jewel of the Indigo Isles by Roll for Combat, Super Powered Legends Sourcebook for Mutants & Masterminds 3rd edition by Rogue Genius Games and anything printed by MCDM.

To be 1000% clear here, none of the links above are affiliate links, meaning I get absolutely no percentage of anything bought through those. I just think we should all take the time to take a stand against a company who will discard its own best audience. Purchasing something at the links above may help to do that.

I really hope in the end WotC saves face here, stops thinking of people like me and those of you reading this as the enemy, realizes we all can love this game together and if a smaller publisher is profiting because they are producing content for the game you have ownership of under an open license allowing them to do so, everyone benefits. The person selling the content benefits, the person buying benefits, and WotC benefits by spreading the word of this amazing game that has enamored so many of us.

I know this is a long post but I want you to just hang in there with me for a little longer. Before I go, I have to mention some of the people on YouTube who have done much more insightful, thoughtful and compelling pieces on this subject than I ever could. If you haven’t seen anything from these channels, take a look at their videos. I’ve curated what I think are the best of them so far.

Dungeon Dudes
Roll for Combat
The Rules Lawyer
LegalEagle
Sherlock Hulmes

With all of that said, I’m going to sign off here. I don’t know if I’ll ever do another post like this. It was kind of heartbreaking and frustrating to write. I never thought I would ever be in any position where I might want to step away from D&D at all but here I am. I hope I never have to completely walk away but the next move is WotC’s to make. Do they want to lose people like me, move on with their megacorporation plans, and only let in new players who are just here because of what they saw on television or in a movie theater? I am all for new players but I can’t recommend anyone become one at this moment. Hasbro may not care about that. I’m going to keep playing TTRPG’s no matter what.

If things all work out, maybe my next post will be about how awesome it to use horror elements in D&D. If not, well, Call of Cthulhu is pretty damn scary if you want it to be also.

I hope you’ve gotten something out of this post. If you get nothing else out of it, just take this with you. People who play this game, even the smallest of us, deserve to be heard. We deserve to be respected and we can tell when a corporation thinks of us as walking wallets. It’s not okay to treat people that way and not okay to have an us vs. them mentality when it comes to your own customers. It’s just not. WotC needs to hear this. And while there’s pretty much zero chance they will read this, maybe some of you will. If you do, feel free to share this post, reply back to me, tell me what you think in the comments (politely) and keep playing TTRPG’s. I think no matter what happens this community of people is smart enough and kind enough to keep this hobby thriving with or without big companies trying to stop us. I hope to be talking about something more positive the next time I write but until then, do what you can to help others in this community.

Long windedly yours,

Slick Dungeon

Top 5 Sourcebooks for New Dungeon Masters

D&D Campaign Adventures for Mythic Odysseys of Theros - Available now @ Dungeon Masters Guild

Hello all, Slick Dungeon here. I can’t stand long intros to top 5 lists so I am going to get right into it. Just a couple of qualifiers first. These books are all intended to be used with the 5th edition of Dungeons & Dragons. Most Dungeon Masters who already have experience will likely have these books already so if that is you, this is probably not the post for you. But, if you are kind of new to Dungeons & Dragons and don’t exactly know where to start or which books are for what, these are the books I consider absolutely essential. You don’t necessarily need all of them to play but each one brings something of value for the new Dungeon Master. There is no particular order to these rankings because I do find them all equally valuable. Which ones are right for you is for you to decide.

(Note: this post contains affiliate links. If you purchase something through this post I will get a small commission at no extra cost to you)

5. Basic Rules

Before you spend a single cent on any Dungeons & Dragons books, you should make sure the game is truly for you. There are a lot of ways you can do this. You can play with an already established group either online or in person. You can watch live play sessions on YouTube or Twitch. You can play any number of video games based on Dungeons & Dragons. Those are all great but they don’t give you the most inside look at what the rules actually are. My recommendation is to start at the beginning and read the basic rules. You can find those by clicking the image above or clicking right here. There is no cost and if you only use these rules, you can still have a stellar game session.

4. Dungeon Master’s Guide

Cover Art by Tyler Jacobson

This one may seem obvious but if you want an expansion of the basic rules, you’ll need to get the Dungeon Master’s Guide. This book goes over the basics of how to run the game but it also has great advice on everything from what magic items there are, how to create memorable non-player characters, and how to create worlds and multiverses right at home. While no single source book can be all encompassing, this does a fair job of covering most situations you’ll find in game. I’ve read and re-read and re-re-read this book more times than I can count and I usually still come away with something new each time.

You can get your copy by clicking the image above or clicking here. This retails for $49.95 but there are often times you can find it on sale for less so watch for bargains.

3. The Player’s Handbook

Cover Art by Tyler Jacobson

As Dungeon Master you have a big job. Not only do you need to know the rules of the game, you need to know what the players know about the rules. For this reason, you’ll want to have a copy of the Player’s Handbook at your side. This book covers the types of characters players can make, gives a run down of the rules, and contains rules for things like magic spells which will be used in the game. While I have certainly read this book more than once, I refer to it less than my players do. I have a good understanding of the rules and where to look when I am in doubt. But, I don’t memorize every word in every spell or anything like that. Still, this is a vital reference and if you’re serious about playing, it’s one of the core rulebooks you cannot do without.

You can get your copy by clicking the image above or clicking here. This one also retails for $49.95 but again there are often times you can find it on sale for less so watch for bargains.

2. Tasha’s Cauldron of Everything

Cover Art by Wylie Beckert, Magali Villeneuve

Tasha’s Cauldron of Everything is the newest sourcebook on this list. I have it here because as good as the Player’s Handbook is, there were some issues with how rules for character creation happened. Tasha’s corrects some of those problems and gives more freedom to players on how to build their characters. I won’t get into the finer details in this post but it did make it so players were not quite as locked into things like every Half-Orc character having to have only certain bonuses just because they were a Half-Orc. In other words, you could have a Half-Orc who is really intelligent or charismatic etc. rather than one who just has tons of brute strength. In addition to that, however, there are also great tips in here for making puzzles and traps. Also, this has the Artificer class which is an extremely fun class to play.

You can get your copy by clicking the image above or clicking here. This one also retails for $49.95 but again there are often times you can find it on sale for less so watch for bargains.

1. The Monster Manual

Cover Art by Raymond Swanland

In a way, I’ve saved the best for last. This is my favorite of the core books. Whenever I am stuck for ideas about what to throw in front of my players, a flip through here always gives me inspiration. The Monster Manual is exactly what it sounds like. It’s a bestiary explaining the different types of monsters you can use in the game. If you’ve been playing with the basic rules, this manual helps to expand your options. And each creature gets not only a stat block to show you how to run it, but it also has good descriptions and details of where the creatures live, how they behave and what some of their goals or motivations might be. Using this book is very helpful to flesh out a session and the rules are generally clear about how to run the monsters in your own game. There are other books that expand on this one so if you ever do get tired of playing with what is here, you always have that option. But for beginners this is where to start for making great enemies (and sometimes friends) for your players.

You can get your copy by clicking the image above or clicking here. This one also retails for $49.95 but again there are often times you can find it on sale for less so watch for bargains.

Conclusion

There are my top five recommendations for sourcebooks for new Dungeon Masters. These will cover the basics for you and you can have months of fun with these alone. If I had to give you my top 3, it would be basic rules, Player’s Handbook, and Tasha’s Cauldron of Everything. The basic rules do cover a lot and the DMG is great to have but ultimately, you as the Dungeon Master, can come up with your own worlds with or without having every single rulebook.

In a future post I will go over my top 5 adventure books for fifth edition but it’s tough to play those without any sourcebooks whatsoever.

So, have you used any of these sourcebooks? If so, which one is your favorite? Let me know in the comments!

And, if you like these types of posts and want more of this type of content, consider purchasing one of the awesome books listed above through this post. It really helps out this blog when you do.

Adventurously yours,

Slick Dungeon

Arcadia Issue #5 From MCDM – Review

Arcadia Issue #5 From MCDM Artwork by Sean Andrew Murray

Hello dungeon crawlers, it’s me, Slick Dungeon! I’m back to review another issue in the awesome magazine put out by MCDM Productions, Arcadia issue #5. The magazine has delivered some great value in past issues so we’ll see how this one holds up.

The magazine is a good deal at $12 a piece right now but if you buy the bundle of the first three issues it’s $18 so I would recommend going with that. You can buy your copies here. Just a note that I am not associated with MCDM so I’m just recommending buying this because I think it’s good, not for any other reason.

I took a look at all the articles and want to give you my hot takes so far. If you don’t know what Arcadia is and you want to learn more about it before reading about issue #5 you can start at the beginning and check out my post for issue #1 here.

Also, if you want to go even further in depth about issue #5 you can see the Q&A with the creators below.

Arcadia 5e Magazine: Issue 5 Q&A with the creators

This issue features just 3 articles but it still comes in at a solid 34 pages. There are no adventures here. Instead, we get an article about long term curses, an article about a new subclass, and an article with some new spells. I’m going to go through each of these articles and give my take on them so you can see if this might be something you want to purchase for your own home game.

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THE ARTWORK

In all five of the issues I have read so far, there has never been one where I was not impressed with at least some of the artwork. Even the articles that I find only so so tend to still have fantastic artwork. And there’s always at least one piece of art which makes me think you could plan an entire campaign around that single image. Issue 5 is no different in that regard and it’s great to see it continue. I really like the art in the first and second articles in this one but the cover to me is flat out amazing. I have no idea what’s going on there but it looks downright deadly.

Artwork by Sean Andrew Murray

Long-Term Curses

In Dungeons & Dragons there are a lot of instances where curses may come up. One issue some Dungeon Masters have is the curses can become meaningless if a simple 3rd level spell, Remove Curse, can simply wipe it out. This article attempts to correct that by giving some curses which are a bit more permanent.

The article gives us six brand new curses we could use in our games. Most of them also have helpful GM tips on using these curses. Let’s take a brief look at each one.

The first curse is The Curse of the Betrayed. Basically this curse makes the player character think at all times they are going to be or already have been betrayed in some ways. This curse can also affect the whole party. While I think there are some settings where a curse like this might work (particularly some in Ravenloft) overall, I have some issue with this curse. I feel like unless you have players who are really good at not letting personal feelings come into role play, this is a powder keg for bad player behavior. Specifically, I would be afraid one problem player might feel like this curse is a license to act however they want at all times, consequences be damned. I’m sure most people wouldn’t try to do that but I could see it escalating.

The second curse is The Curse of Cassandra. It’s pretty much a curse where players see a little bit into the future about and event that is going to happen to them. It’s not a maybe kind of prophecy, if they have this curse, the negative thing is going to happen. Of course, they can try to stop it and if they do, that’s one way to reverse the curse. But for this one I think this makes things difficult for the Dungeon Master. It’s hard enough to keep a table of players focused on what is happening right now sometimes, let alone on something you may have to shoehorn into your campaign.

The third curse is The Curse of the Living Dead. This is hands down my favorite curse in here, and the only one I really might consider using in my own campaigns. Rather than a player or party being cursed, this applies to a whole town or village. And, just like you might expect, this has to do with zombies and other undead. There’s a pretty creative take here though where any dead anything rises at midnight. I could see a pretty good Pet Cemetery style campaign happening here, or just straight up Night of the Living Dead.

Next we have the Curse of the Sordino. This one has a pretty good hook for bards where sound really comes into play. But if you don’t have bards in your party, it’s probably not the curse for you. However, it does seem like a fun adventure hook. I would say more but I don’t want to spoil it for those who might buy the magazine.

Curse of the Watchers is one where I think it would work really well if you are running Curse of Strahd, specifically because it involves ravens. Don’t use this if any of your players have a bird phobia though, it could be traumatic! We do get a pretty neat stat block for a Swarm of Cursed Ravens which could be used in almost any campaign.

Finally, we get Slow Polymorph. In essence, this curse changes a player character to be a little more monster-like but usually with some benefit as well. It’s probably not a condition any player would really want to keep for long though. I think this one could be used at any table but only if you really talk to your players about it first because it’s going to change them, potentially permanently.

Out of the six curses here there are only two I see where you probably don’t need to have long discussions with your players before implementing and only if characters are playing in certain types of settings. While all the curses are unique and might make a nice change from the usual curses players end up with, I can only give this article a C+. There’s simply too much prep work and potential for players to end up in fights with one another over some of these. If you do use one of these curses in your game, let me know how it goes because I’m really curious how well it turned out for you.

GoldMonger Subclass

One of the odd quirks of Dungeons & Dragons 5e is you tend to accumulate a lot of wealth if you live long enough. After all, you are plundering dragons hoards, raiding castles for magic items, and plunging the depths of cavernous dungeons, snatching up whatever coin comes your way. This article creates subclasses for those who have greed as one of their main motivations for what they do in the game.

The article gives us a deity of deals, three subclasses, and an NPC to play with. Let’s dig into those.

The deity they give us is a god of deals. I could see this one being played any number of ways and it would fit into any campaign where any transaction might be important. It’s also a unique deity your players aren’t going to have seen before so it’s definitely something fresh. And since this god had to do with deals, not just gold, it doesn’t have to be a transaction involving gold to use this in a campaign. I haven’t played a campaign using this but it seems like it could be fun.

The first subclass is a new domain for Clerics called the Avarice domain. This introduces a lot of neat features for Clerics. There are tons of subclasses for Clerics already so I can’t say this one is better or worse than the others but I could easily see a player hamming it up as a Cleric who is all about material goods.

The second subclass is a Druid Circle: Circle of the Gilded. This subclass is all about gems. Druids use the elemental powers granted to them by certain gems in order to protect the precious natural resources where the gems come from. The gems become part of the Druid and deal some types damage (lighting, acid, etc). A lot of the features in here seem really fun to play and since Druids are all about nature and precious gems come from nature, this one really makes a lot of sense.

The final subclass is an Oath for Paladins: The Oath of Acquisitions. I think this one is really cool. It basically allows Paladins to become mercenaries. They’re not necessarily out there for good or bad but for payment. They’re going to help, certainly, if you need, as long as you will fairly compensate the Paladin. I can’t even number the amount of stories where a mercenary is the main character in all kinds of fantasy. It gives you some cool magic stuff but again I can’t say it’s better or worse than other Paladin classes mechanically. Thematically though, I love this.

There are three retainer stat blocks listed next but if you don’t have Strongholds & Followers this won’t mean much to you. Just think of them as potential NPC stat blocks with some really simple attack mechanics.

Finally this article has an NPC with a full stat block who I could see coming in handy both as a quest giver for a party and a sometimes battle companion. It’s got a bit of good flavor here but as always you’ll want to make your NPC’s your own.

I really found a lot to like in this article. I especially like the deity and NPC provided but the subclasses are good as well. However, with a plethora of good subclasses already available for Clerics, Druids, and Paladins, I’m not sure there is a ton of reason to go with these over any of those. All in all this is a good article and I like how the theme of avarice ties everything together here. I give this a solid B.

Alabaster’s Almanac

In this article we get new spells for Bards, Druids, Sorcerers, Warlocks and Wizards. These are presented in the form of an Almanac with some notes from someone named Alabaster.

I’m not going to go through each and every spell here but there are a few I want to mention so you can have an idea of what is offered here.

There’s a pretty potent 6th level spell for Druids and Wizards which essentially allows a creature to traverse “The World Below” without taking too much damage. It seems pretty fun and would be suitable for a setting like the Underdark so if you have a campaign set there this might be good to use.

Another spell is a sort of modified Mage Hand spell but instead of there being a spectral hand, you can teleport small objects to you. There are a lot of restrictions to it however, and it is a first level spell so it’s not always going to be the most effective of your spells.

The last spell I want to mention is really good counter to any scrying spells called Scryspike. With this spell not only can you stop the scrying spell from happening, you can also do some damage to the person who cast it in the first place.

There are several other spells listed in this article and most of them are really fun. Whether they are right for your table or not is going to depend on you and your party so definitely read through carefully before allowing any player to use them.

I think this was the best article in this issue, even if it was just more spells. But then again, who doesn’t want more spells? Spells are fun!

I’m giving this article an A.

If you’ve enjoyed this review and want to help out this blog, consider subscribing to my newsletter. If you want to find cool D&D resources and support this blog click on one of the DM’s Guild banners.

Adventuringly yours,

Slick Dungeon

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Top 5 YouTube Channels for Dungeon Masters

Hello dungeon crawlers, it’s Slick Dungeon here. I know how daunting it can be to be a Dungeon Master (or Game Master for any tabletop role playing game). Fortunately, the internet is full of helpful resources. Personally, I find YouTube to be one of the best resources when I sit down to plan a game. I’m going to give you five YouTube channels I think are extremely useful for various reasons. I’ll let you know what they are and why I like them. These are not in a particular order because they all serve a different purpose.

5. Don’t Stop Thinking

Don’t Stop Thinking has a great How to Play series

The Don’t Stop Thinking channel on YouTube is fun and informative. There is a fantastic series on how to play Dungeons & Dragons that breaks down the rules into simple and digestible videos. Plus, they are animated and the host has a great sense of humor so the videos are very entertaining as well. A lot of times when I have new players who are intimidated by the big books of rules I refer them to this channel. It might take a few viewings but you’ll get a great sense of how the game is played if you watch.

4. Dungeon Dudes

Dungeon Dudes is great at going in depth on rules, giving tips to Dungeon Masters, has great guides for players, and has a really fun live play game called Dungeons of Drakenheim

If you want to go a little more in depth on the rules, Dungeon Dudes has you covered. They have a huge backlog of videos where they share their best advice for Dungeon Master and Players. They always have an interesting and lively discussion and to top all of that off, you can watch them play in their own campaign to see how they put their own advice into practice. These videos do tend to be a little on the longer side, usually around 30 minutes but they are all well worth a view. If you are a player, they have tons of advice on how to optimize your characters, get more out of combat, and just generally be better at the game.

3. LUnch Break Heroes

Lunch Break Heroes is fantastic at fleshing out a story so you have a better idea of how to run a campaign as a Dungeon Master

If you are anything like me, you like using the pre-written modules in 5th edition. The trouble is, as comprehensive as those are, they don’t always flesh out the full story. Lunch Break Heroes is great at taking these modules and rounding them out in a way to make the module feel fully realized. It also saves a ton of time on preparation if you watch these. So far there are playlists for Curse of Strahd, Rime of the Frostmaiden, and Lost Mines of Phandelver, all of which are incredibly helpful. You may not end up using all of these ideas but you’ll definitely pick up a few.

2. AJ Pickett

AJ Pickett dives as deep as you can go into monster and environment lore. Great for a bit of background flavor when you need it

Sometimes you want a deeper, richer, history of a creature you are using or the part of the world you are creating. AJ Pickett has you covered in this department. He has fantastic videos that dive as deep into the lore as you can imagine. After watching his videos you’ll know why a creature is there, what it wants, and where it came from. This can be immensely useful for a Dungeon Master who needs to have something to say when her players succeed on a history check.

1. Mathew Colville

Mathew Colville is great to watch for philosophy of the game

Mathew Colville also has a series of videos about how to run the game but his are a little different. I wouldn’t say these come in bite sized and digestible videos. Matt does tend to talk a lot and at a fast pace. I’m not saying that’s bad, in fact I find it quite entertaining, but it can be a little hard to follow. However, what Matt brings that other channels do not is his philosophy of the game. He has thought for years about how to run Dungeons & Dragons and what different influences have had on the game throughout the years. Anytime I watch one of his videos I find myself thinking about what he said and usually it helps to shape my own attitude to the game.

There are literally hundreds of YouTube channels I could list here all about Dungeons & Dragons but these five are the ones I tend to turn to the most often. If you know of a great D&D channel let me know in the comments. And, if you want more tips like these, subscribe to my newsletter.

Adventuringly yours,

Slick Dungeon

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Arcadia Issue #4 From MCDM – Review

Arcadia Issue #4 from MCDM

Hello dungeon creatures and crawlers, it’s me Slick Dungeon. I know I’m a lot of issues behind here but I finally bought the fourth issue of Arcadia put out by Matt Colville’s MCDM productions.

I love this magazine because it’s full of amazing art, has great, useful articles for your at home games, and is written by some of the most gifted creators in the TTRPG community. Each issue has so far delivered. They are a good deal at $12 a piece right now but if you buy the bundle of the first three issues it’s $18 so I would highly recommend going with that. You can buy your copies here. Just a note that I am not associated with MCDM so I’m just recommending buying this because I think it’s good, not for any other reason.

I took a look at all the articles and want to give you my hot takes so far. If you don’t know what Arcadia is and you want to learn more about it before reading about issue #4 you can start at the beginning and check out my post for issue #1 here.

Also, if you want to go even further in depth about issue #4 you can see the Q&A with the creators below.

Arcadia Issue 4 Q&A

The Artwork

If I was told I could only give you one single reason to check out Arcadia, my choice would be easy. It’s the artwork. Even if you read every single word of the issue and can’t find a single thing to use in your game (which is really unlikely) there is a piece of artwork here to inspire you. It’s consistently high quality and in fact, I think it at times outdoes the artwork in the official Wizards of the Coast materials. If you don’t believe me, just take one look at this cover.

Issue #4 cover of Arcadia. Artwork by Grace Cheung

I don’t know who this guy is or what his story is before reading the issue but I know I want to use him in my campaign.

Letter From the Editor

Typically, I haven’t really mentioned this section in my past reviews but they mention something here that I think is worth highlighting. They mention due to a Patreon survey they will be concentrating less on fully packaged adventures because most of the people reading the magazine want new creatures, items, etc. so they can use them in worlds they are creating. While there’s nothing wrong with that, I hope they don’t decide to completely drop adventures because I personally find them really useful. I love when I find an adventure which can take a session or two to drop in my campaign. It helps me save in preparation time and to me that’s invaluable. The rest of the letter is just what you would expect but there’s a couple of jokes in there that might make you chuckle.

Swimming Through Sand to Sea

One of the more innovative things in the first issue of Arcadia was a new set of rules to use for mounts. It gave us some new creatures and items to use for those who were tired of using standard mounts such as horses. In this article, Willy Abeel, is back to provide us with creature to mount for those hard to reach places such as dungeons or underwater.

As far as the magic items go here, several of them are neat and fun, but you’ll want to really think through whether you want to grant these to your players. Some of these items mimic some pretty good spells so use caution. Pretty much all of the items do allow mounts to go to places they normally can’t though and that can be really useful for players. No one wants to leave their trusty mount behind just because it can’t swim or fly.

As far as new mounts go, there are options for Axolottle, which is a type of salamander, Chuul, Bulette, and Purple Worm. While all of these will depend on the situation of your party and your gaming table, I love the idea of having and unusual mount. I particularly like the Chuul and Bulette mounts. But again, if you are the Dungeon Master, take caution before giving your part any of these. Some of these creatures are pretty strong and a huge asset to any party. I’m not saying you shouldn’t do it, I’m just saying be sure you really want to.

My favorite thing in this article is the Omnimounts. These are enormous creatures who can traverse continents, or even planes of existence, with ease. The example given is of a giant Purple Worm that wants to travel long distances. The twist is, if the party rides this mount and doesn’t travel far enough for its taste, it takes payment by swallowing the riders whole.

I wish there was a lot more to the Omnimounts and it sounds like there may be an article in future issues but otherwise I’d say this article is about equal to the mounts article in the first issue. Since we’ve seen this one before, more or less, I’m giving it a B.

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The Chained Library

The Chained Library is a location housing powerful tomes of knowledge. If this is reminding you of Candlekeep, you would not be wrong. However, in this library, no one is allowed to read the books, not even the librarians because they are too dangerous. The idea here is that there are certain books out in the world full of danger, even if used with good intentions. There are NPC agents of the Chained Library described here who work both within and outside of the library.

There are also several magic items and books described in this article mostly having to do with trying to suppress dangerous knowledge. It’s clear if the player characters were to get their hands on one of these books, there would be a high cost to pay for whatever advantage they might get from it.

While I like the idea of the library as a location, I really like the idea of the NPCs from the library trying to get a book from the party. I think I may insert some of this into my Curse of Strahd campaign as I think it works well with a magic item from that campaign. The artwork for the library and for the “Eyeless Guardians” is really cool and I’m definitely inserting those into my campaign.

There’s also a nice little map if you do decide to use this as a location in your campaign. In addition they give several adventure hooks in case you do want to get your players here.

While I do think the location is neat, I can’t say it’s totally original, just because we already have a cool and interesting library in 5th edition at Candlekeep but it’s still a fun little place. If there wasn’t a Candlekeep I would give this one an A but because it’s slightly less than original I’m giving it a B+

On the Road Encounters

This article offers five encounters meant to be used for lower level players traveling from one point to another. You can increase the challenge rating by swapping out monsters if your players are up to around 8th level but beyond that these would just be a minor distraction no matter who you fiddle with it.

The first encounter involves a group of Kobolds who took over a toll bridge and guardhouse. It’s a fairly standard encounter but there are a couple of unique things about the leader of the Kobolds.

The second encounter has the players defending a group of merchants from a bandit attack. This sounds fairly straightforward and possibly even dull, however, it’s not. This encounter really encourages players to do something they don’t always think of. Prepare for the fight and make traps to stop their enemies. I think these kinds of encounters can be really fun and if done well, show players that out and out melee combat is not always the right option.

The third of these encounters involves a moral quandary. The party comes upon a duel between a noble and a peasant where the peasant is severely outmatched by the noble. The party can do the right thing and help the peasant out but if they do, there’s a good chance they will be in deep trouble in the future. There is also a sidebar with a couple of nice twists on the situation that I like.

The fourth encounter is a bait and switch encounter where four people come out of the woods claiming to be hostages. In reality they are Bandits and lead the party into an ambush. This is one of those encounters that can work well but if the players get suspicious it can just turn into a melee ordeal. There’s nothing wrong with that, just know going in that it’s possible for it to end up that way.

The final encounter is more of an NPC. He’s a cartographer who is painting on the side of the road when the characters come upon him. He is secretly on a mission to find the treasure of a dragon and is looking for warriors to assist him. For this one, I see two ways to play it. First, you could have the characters for once, meet a relatively calm and normal NPC to make your world feel more full and vibrant. It’s good sometimes to see things that don’t actually affect the party in any real way happen to provide a sense that the world still moves without them. Secondly, you could use this character as a gateway into a much larger and longer campaign. If you do that, I would suggest using this encounter first out of all the encounters and lead the characters from there.

While I really like the idea of the second encounter most, I don’t think there is enough new here to make this a great article. It’s got some good ideas and again has some great art but I feel like we’ve seen variations of all of these encounters over and over again. Still, everyone is going to need these kinds of encounters to keep a game going so I’m not saying not to use them.

For this one I am giving it a C.

If you’ve enjoyed this review and want to help out this blog, consider subscribing to my newsletter. If you want to find cool D&D resources and support this blog click on one of the DM’s Guild banners.

Adventuringly yours,

Slick Dungeon

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Kids Kill Monsters – How to Prepare to play Dungeons & Dragons with Kids Part 15

D&D Campaign Adventures for Mythic Odysseys of Theros - Available now @ Dungeon Masters Guild

Hi Everyone! It’s your friendly Dungeon Master, Slick Dungeon here. Today I want to talk more about how to role play with kids. In my last posts I talked about whether you should play D&D with kidswhy playing D&D was healthy for kids, I showed you who does what at the table, gave you a tour of the dice and told you to read through the simple ruleswent through the Introduction of the simple rules with youwalked you through the first section of the simple rules and talked about choosing a race and role playing a dwarfrole playing an elfrole playing a halflingrole playing a humanrole playing a dragon bornrole playing a gnomerole playing a half-elfrole playing a half-orcrole playing a Tiefling. and talked about Class. I also showed you how to play as a Barbarian Today we are going to talk about playing as a Bard.

That’s right, get your lutes out, do a few warm up vocal exercises, and get ready for people to toss coins and rotten tomatoes at you because we are talking about Bards. Bards are often the butt of a joke in movies, books, and video games but in Dungeons & Dragons bards are multitalented jacks of all trades who not only support the party they play along with but who can literally kill monsters with the power of their words.

Playing a bard can be a ton of fun and while they do often fall into stereotypes, they don’t have to. There are a few unique challenges for kids who may want to play a Bard and I will get into those later in the post. If a kid is interested in a character who has musical talent, loves to act, or just simply enjoys telling a wonderful tale while her compatriots sit by the fire, a Bard is the way to go.

Bards are often considered a support class in Dungeons & Dragons, meaning their primary role is to help the party gain some benefits and advantages when making skill checks or in combat. However, Bards can be fierce on their own. This all depends on what type of spells they use and what College they gain skills from.

One thing to remember in Dungeons & Dragons is that there is a vibration to the magic in the world. Bards, whether they sing, play an instrument, or simply tell a good story are tapping into these vibrations with their words and can channel this energy into usable magic.

I’ve seen a lot of Bards based on actual celebrities and that can be really fun. As adults, a lot of players use Bards to be, let’s just say overly flirtatious. Those may not be great examples for kids to play. When a kid plays a Bard I think it’s usually best for them to think of what would inspire them to go out into the world to spread music, stories, or other entertainment into the world. This usually gives a good touch point to play a Bard.

Unfortunately, in a lot of media Bards do get a bad rap and it’s kind of hard to point to a great example of a good Bard. But if you think about someone like Orpheus from Greek myth that would be a great starting point. His words and music were enough to influence the gods. Theoretically a Bard can become that impressive. Also, if your group does like to be silly and one of your players loves to be the center of that silliness, well, you can’t go wrong with a Bard in that situation.

Alright, without further ado, let’s get into what it means to play a Bard.

Creating a Bard

When you first play Dungeons & Dragons with kids and the basic rules tell you what to use for a quick build I would say it’s probably best to start there. It’s the least amount of poring over and trying to figure out stats you can do and since this part was written by the game designers you tend to get a fairly balanced class out of it. The one place you might change is in the suggested backgrounds. I feel like the backgrounds are more a role playing choice than a mechanic (although they have that too) and thus should be left up to the kid playing. Also, for those who don’t know, when I talk about “mechanics” I just mean how the rules operate, usually with some number crunching involved.

What do the basic rules suggest we do with our bard?

For this class the rules recommend putting your highest ability score in Charisma, followed by Dexterity. These are great choices because a Bard has to have high Charisma in order to cast spells and they usually want the spotlight anyway. Dexterity is good for two reasons. First, if your party is using a Bard to give buffs to other players you want that to happen early in the round and Dexterity is what helps determine who goes first. Secondly, the weapons Bards will be proficient in are mostly Dexterity based weapons so again you want this number to be high.

The basic rules next recommend the Entertainer background. In a later series of posts I will go more into each background but I will say that Entertainer can be a great choice for a Bard but it is not the only choice. A Bard could come from a noble establishment and have the Noble background. Perhaps they became titled simply because of how well they entertained some Lord or other. Another good background might be Sage and the Bard could be spreading the knowledge they gain through tales they tell of the cosmos. Criminal is another good background for Bards. What easier way to hide one’s habit of pickpocketing than to be the one person in the room who is supposed to have coins in their pockets? All these backgrounds and more are possibilities so just choose something interesting for the kid to play. Make sure she relates to it well enough for it to be fun.

The basic rules also recommend taking the following spells. Dancing Lights and Vicious Mockery as cantrips and the following spells at first level – Charm Person, Detect Magic, Healing Word, and Thunderwave.

This is the first class I have gone into that relies on magic. I’ll get around to a more in depth post about how magic works in the future but for now the spells above are all solid choices for a Bard and I would go with those if you have not played D&D before. Since we do mention them here I will give a quick description of what each of these spells does but we’ll leave the mechanics for later.

But before I get into that let’s talk about what a cantrip is and what a leveled spell is. For a lot of magical casters in Dungeons & Dragons they use what are called spell slots and leveled spells.

The exception to this is what are called cantrips. Basically, a character can cast a cantrip whenever they want. They don’t run out of this magic and they can do it over and over with no penalty just for casting it. (Although if you cast the spell bonfire in a dark room and suddenly a swarm of goblins sees you, well, that’s your fault)

Every other type of spell is leveled and typically uses a spell slot. The spell slot is the number of spells you can cast per day. As characters level up, they earn more of these slots. The spells themselves have a level as well. So for example, you can have two 2nd level spell slots but know three 1st level spells. In this case you can cast a 1st level spell at 2nd level, increasing it’s power.

I know that’s still a little confusing and we will get more into it down the line but for now the best way to know about a spell is to just learn what it does. So let’s take a look at these recommended spells.

Cantrips:

Dancing Lights – This spell allows you to create four separate lights that look like torches, orbs or lanterns. You can also combine these lights to make a vaguely humanoid shape. This spell is great when you need to see but it’s also an amazing distraction when needed.

Vicious Mockery – This is one of my favorite spells in the entire game. This spell allows a Bard to insult a creature, whether they can understand the words or not, and causes that creature to take psychic damage and have disadvantage on its next attack roll. It’s a case of words can actually hurt you. For a good number of players this spell is the whole reason they play a Bard in the first place.

It can be great fun to use this spell and I have seen a lot of players come up with actual insults that do some damage to creatures. As adults there’s no real issue with doing that and it’s super fun seeing how clever the Bard can be with an insult.

With this spell there is a bit of caution I have to give when playing with younger kids. It’s a lot of fun to have a kid get to make silly insults at a monster they are fighting and have that monster take some damage. But sometimes kids who are playing together might use this spell on a player character. Some kids have no problem with this and feel like they are in on the joke. But other kids can’t separate themselves being insulted from their character being insulted. So when I play this with kids, I allow them to come up with insults (silly not mean ones) directed towards any monster they fight. But if they want to cast the spell at another player character, I tell them they should just say they cast the spell but not go into insults. This doesn’t have to be your rule but I do advise caution on how you handle this particular spell with kids.

1st level spells:

Charm Person: This one is a lot like what it sounds like. This spell, if it succeeds, makes the target (who must be a humanoid) charmed by the spellcaster. This doesn’t mean they will do anything at all that the Bard says but the target will be more friendly towards the spellcaster. Once the spell ends, the same target knows it was charmed so if the spell goes away, there well could be trouble. This spell also ends if the target is attacked by the party. It’s best to try Charm Person before the Barbarian goes into rage mode and accidentally knocks the target out of the spell.

Detect Magic: This is another spell that does what it sounds like. It can identify if magic is in the area. There are definite limitations to it as it can’t tell you more than that magic is present and what school of magic it might be. This is great for doing things like identifying that traps are present but it’s still up to the players to figure out how to disarm it.

Healing Word: This is one of the most important spells if your Bard is there to support the party. It allows creatures to regain hit points which can be essential in a combat. If you play a Bard I definitely recommend taking this spell and using it often.

Thunderwave: Other than Vicious Mockery the spells listed above are all either to distract an enemy or help heal. Of course a Bard needs at least one attack spell and Thunderwave is a great choice. It is again a lot like it sounds. It sends a wave of thunderous force in the direction the caster sends it and does thunder damage. It of course comes with a thunderous sound and can push unsecured objects 10 feet back. There’s nothing like seeing a friendly, happy Bard suddenly ring out with thunder and knock enemies to the floor.

A final note about magic here. These are not the only spells you can choose but they are a great starting list for this class. Before you or any kids you play with make final decisions be sure to take a look at the rules and make sure these are the spells they want. I also have sometimes had a kid playing who wanted to change spells mid-game. I usually allow this between sessions but not during a session. If a spell doesn’t work the way a kid expects it can be frustrating to be stuck with it. They can at higher levels change these when they level up anyway. Just make sure the replacement spell is of a similar level to the original spell.

Class Features

Hit dice: Bards get to use a d8 when figuring out their hit points and hit dice. This is pretty typical for spell casting classes and if rolled well can be a considerable amount of health. For your hit dice you get 1d8 per bard level.

Hit points: At first level it’s 1d8 + your constitution modifier. For every level after that you get 1d8 (or 5 if you are using averages) + your Constitution modifier per bard level after 1st.

Just a quick note here because I know this was confusing to me when I learned to play. What is the difference between hit dice and hit points? Hit dice you get to roll when you take a short rest. These will be however many d8s you roll per level. You get to add the number you roll to your hit points if you have taken any damage. Your hit points are how many points of health you have. The easiest analogy is probably a health bar in a video game. If that number gets down to zero or below, you are likely in trouble. When you roll your hit dice you get to refill that bar. And just like in a video game, you can’t exceed the maximum of your health even if you roll higher than that number.

Proficiencies: These are basically things you are good at. A bard has several proficiencies to begin with.

Armor: Light Armor. Bards are not known to be warriors capable of wearing heavy armor and wielding heavy weapons. Rather they are quick and light on their feet so the only armor they are proficient in to begin with is light armor.

Weapons: Bards are good with Simple weapons, hand crossbows, longswords, rapiers, and shortswords. These are all light, easy to use weapons perfect for a Bard to carry.

Tools: Bards get to have three musical instruments of their choice. This makes a lot of sense because these instruments can literally channel magic.

Saving Throws: Dexterity, Charisma. Saving throws are when you might befall an attack or damage of some kind. If the check for that attack or damage calls for dexterity or charisma you are going to be glad you are a bard.

Skills: Choose any three. Bards are basically good at almost anything they put their minds to so getting to choose any three is a nice, wide selection. You’ll probably want to tailor the choices to what the campaign will be most dealing with so try to choose skills that will work well in multiple situations.

Equipment:

You start with the following equipment, in addition to the equipment granted by your background:

  • (a) a rapier, (b) a longsword, or (c) any simple weapon
  • (a) a diplomat’s pack or (b) an entertainer’s pack
  • (a) a lute or (b) any other musical instrument
  • Leather armor and a dagger

A lot of the items here are useful for a Bard but the musical instrument is often the most useful.

Spellcasting: The basic rules say this about the Bard’s spellcasting ability. “You have learned to untangle and reshape the fabric of reality in harmony with your wishes and music. Your spells are part of your vast repertoire, magic that you can tune to different situations.” In other words the music of a Bard is literally magical and can reshape reality. Pretty cool right?

Cantrips: We talked about these a little bit above but at the start a Bard gets to take two cantrips from the Bard spell list. There are several to choose from so take a look at the rules to decide what is best for the character.

Spell Slots: We’ll go further in depth on spell slots in a future post. Just know there is a table in the basic rules that tells you how many spells and of what level a Bard can have. This changes as they progress through the levels of the game and earn more spells as they go on.

Spells Known of 1st Level and Higher: To start out with a Bard gets four 1st level spells from the Bard spell list. This again increases according to the table in the simple rules.

Spellcasting Ability: Charisma is your spellcasting ability for your bard spells. This is why you want to put your highest ability score into Charisma. It increases the magic potential of the character and makes attack, defense, and healing spells all work better.

We’ll get more into this when we take a deep dive into spellcasting but for now just know more Charisma is good for Bards.

Spell Save DC: In this case DC stands for Difficulty Class. Basically it means how hard it is to do something. A spell save DC is how you defend against magic used against you. For a Bard the way they get that number is 8 + your proficiency bonus + your Charisma modifier. Again, the higher your Charisma, the better. In this case a Bard might cast a spell that forces a creature to make a spell save. In that case the bard uses the formula listed above to know how hard it is for that creature to make that saving throw.

Spell Attack Modifier: This formula is a bit easier to understand. There are several spells that are “attack” spells. It’s very similar to how a Barbarian or fighter might know if their weapon does damage to a creature. The only difference is that in this case it is a magical attack. To know this number a Bard uses this formula 8 + your proficiency bonus + your Charisma modifier. Again you can see that Charisma is vital for a Bard. The better the Charisma, the stronger the spell attack.

Ritual Casting: You can cast any bard spell you know as a ritual if that spell has the ritual tag. This one takes a little bit of explanation. There are certain spells that have what is called a “ritual tag”. This means that rather than using a spell slot, if you have the time and components to do it, you can cast the spell as a ritual. The reason to do this is that it does not cost you a spell slot. The drawback is that it takes time. So, if a Bard wants to Detect Magic in a huge empty room and can take ten minutes to do it, they can take the time to detect magic. Of course, if a pack of goblins come in and interrupt that ritual, the spell is not going to work and the Bard is going to be distracted.

Spell Casting Focus: You can use a musical instrument as a spellcasting focus for your bard spells. We’ll get more into spell casting focuses in a post about spellcasting. Just know that this is why you want to have several instruments as a Bard. You can basically channel magic through it and if you use a spell casting focus, you don’t have to use the material components in spells. This is fantastic and a great benefit to being a Bard.

Bardic Inspiration: Bards are great at inspiring others around them to do better. To fully understand how good this is we need to take a look at what the rules say. From the rules:

“You can inspire others through stirring words or music. To do so, you use a bonus action on your turn to choose one creature other than yourself within 60 feet of you who can hear you. That creature gains one Bardic Inspiration die, a d6.

Once within the next 10 minutes, the creature can roll the die and add the number rolled to one ability check, attack roll, or saving throw it makes. The creature can wait until after it rolls the d20 before deciding to use the Bardic Inspiration die, but must decide before the DM says whether the roll succeeds or fails. Once the Bardic Inspiration die is rolled, it is lost. A creature can have only one Bardic Inspiration die at a time.

You can use this feature a number of times equal to your Charisma modifier (a minimum of once). You regain any expended uses when you finish a long rest.”

Basically, a Bard gets to allow another player to do better on a roll they make. This is hugely beneficial and makes Bards one of the most essential party members. This also increases as Bards gain levels.

Jack of All Trades: There is a little bit of math to this one but the point is that Bards are good at almost anything they try to do. The feature says, “Starting at 2nd level, you can add half your proficiency bonus, rounded down, to any ability check you make that doesn’t already include your proficiency bonus.” This sounds a bit wonky but it means Bards are much more likely to succeed on ability checks of any type than any other class.

Song of Rest: This one is pretty straightforward. It helps the party gain more health when you rest.

Beginning at 2nd level, you can use soothing music or oration to help revitalize your wounded allies during a short rest. If you or any friendly creatures who can hear your performance regain hit points at the end of the short rest by spending one or more Hit Dice, each of those creatures regains an extra 1d6 hit points.

Again, this increases with the Bard’s level.

Bard College: We’ll talk a little bit more about this further in the post. But at 3rd level a Bard gets to choose a College that will add to their features. In the basic rules they list two colleges you can choose from, the College of Lore or the College of Valor. Oddly, in the Basic Rules it says they have a description of both but at least in the version on D&D Beyond, they actually don’t list the College of Valor. Don’t worry though, I have you covered and we’ll go into it below.

Expertise: Bards only get better at what they do so this feature is awesome.

At 3rd level, choose two of your skill proficiencies. Your proficiency bonus is doubled for any ability check you make that uses either of the chosen proficiencies.

You also get to choose another two at 10th level.

Ability Score Improvement:

When you reach 4th level, and again at 8th, 12th, 16th, and 19th level, you can increase one ability score of your choice by 2, or you can increase two ability scores of your choice by 1. As normal, you can’t increase an ability score above 20 using this feature.

Meh. You get to increase some numbers on your stats here which is cool and all but not that nifty as far as role playing goes. We’ll go way more in depth on Ability Scores in a later post.

Font of Inspiration: This one is super helpful to buff the party when needed.

Beginning when you reach 5th level, you regain all of your expended uses of Bardic Inspiration when you finish a short or long rest.

This is really useful and simply put helps the party to attack better and stay alive longer.

Counter Charm: This is another feature that buffs the party as a whole and can come in very handy.

At 6th level, you gain the ability to use musical notes or words of power to disrupt mind-influencing effects. As an action, you can start a performance that lasts until the end of your next turn. During that time, you and any friendly creatures within 30 feet of you have advantage on saving throws against being frightened or charmed. A creature must be able to hear you to gain this benefit. The performance ends early if you are incapacitated or silenced or if you voluntarily end it (no action required).

Magical Secrets: This basically allows you to get more spells. The really neat thing about Bards though is that they can choose spells that are from any spellcasting class. They can take wizard, druid, sorcerer etc. spells if they want to. No other class really gets this so take advantage of it if you are a Bard.

By 10th level, you have plundered magical knowledge from a wide spectrum of disciplines. Choose two spells from any classes, including this one. A spell you choose must be of a level you can cast, as shown on the Bard table, or a cantrip.

The chosen spells count as bard spells for you and are included in the number in the Spells Known column of the Bard table.

You get to do this again at 14th and 18th level.

Superior Inspiration: This is way better than it sounds but you have to be at the highest level of the game to gain it.

At 20th level, when you roll initiative and have no uses of Bardic Inspiration left, you regain one use.

This can literally be the difference between a party living and getting completely wiped out.

Bard Colleges: Bards form loose associations, which they call colleges, to facilitate their gatherings and preserve their traditions. This is where they gain a bunch of great features as a class. You’ll want to consider carefully before deciding what College to use though.

College of Lore: Bards who ascribe to the College of Lore know something about everything. They are astute observers and pick up knowledge with ease. These are the people who are willing to tell the truth no matter the risk and no matter what noble it might offend.

Bonus Proficiencies: Again going with the theme of Bards being good at whatever they want to learn when you join the College of Lore at 3rd level, you gain proficiency with three skills of your choice. This sounds simple but it’s really effective at making the Bard a character who can be reliable in almost any situation.

Cutting Words: This is basically a de-buff against any opponents you may be facing. The text from the simple rules sounds complicated but that is the basics of what it means. Here’s the simple rules actual text:

“Also at 3rd level, you learn how to use your wit to distract, confuse, and otherwise sap the confidence and competence of others. When a creature that you can see within 60 feet of you makes an attack roll, an ability check, or a damage roll, you can use your reaction to expend one of your uses of Bardic Inspiration, rolling a Bardic Inspiration die and subtracting the number rolled from the creature’s roll. You can choose to use this feature after the creature makes its roll, but before the DM determines whether the attack roll or ability check succeeds or fails, or before the creature deals its damage. The creature is immune if it can’t hear you or if it’s immune to being charmed.”

Rather than making your party good at something, this allows the Bard to make someone else bad at something.

Additional Magical Secrets: This one is really simple. You get two more spells. You can never have enough spells as a Bard. There are some restrictions as it must be a spell you can actually cast at your level or be a cantrip. But it can be from any class which gives the Bard access to tons of spell possibilities. The exact text from simple rules is below.

“At 6th level, you learn two spells of your choice from any class. A spell you choose must be of a level you can cast, as shown on the Bard table, or a cantrip. The chosen spells count as bard spells for you but don’t count against the number of bard spells you know.”

Peerless Skill: Again, Bards really are good at everything as long as they put their mind to it. No ability shows that quite like peerless skill. Here’s what it says:

“Starting at 14th level, when you make an ability check, you can expend one use of Bardic Inspiration. Roll a Bardic Inspiration die and add the number rolled to your ability check. You can choose to do so after you roll the die for the ability check, but before the DM tells you whether you succeed or fail.”

The long and short of it is that Bardic Inspiration die is a way to make something you are trying to do a lot more likely to happen.

College of Valor: Bards in the College of Valor might be closer to the type of Bards you see in books and movies. They go around telling the tales of what has happened in the past. They also seek out significant events of the day so they can be there to record the tale and spread the word of what happened. They are a bit more likely to engage in close combat so the bonuses reflect that.

Bonus Proficiencies: In the player handbook it says, “When you join the College of Valor at 3rd level, you gain proficiency with medium armor, shields, and martial weapons.”

This is significant because it expands what weapons and armor a Bard can use by a large margin. These Bards can be dangerous and deadly even as they entertain.

Combat Inspiration: For this bonus the Player’s Handbook says, “Also at 3rd level, you learn to inspire others in battle. A creature that has a Bardic Inspiration die from you can roll that die and add the number rolled to a weapon damage roll it just made. Alternatively, when an attack roll is made against the creature, it can use its reaction to roll the Bardic Inspiration die and add the number rolled to its AC against that attack, after seeing the roll but before knowing whether it hits or misses.”

This benefits anyone in the same party as the Bard and overall makes the whole group more dangerous and deadly. They also can use it for defense which allows the party to live longer.

Extra Attack: This is exactly what it sounds like. You get to attack twice when you normally get to attack once. You get this at 6th level. Here’s what the Player’s Handbook says, “Starting at 6th level, you can attack twice, instead of once, whenever you take the Attack action on your turn.”

Battle Magic: Imagine not only being able to cast a spell but to do that and then follow it up with a vicious weapon attack. Well, that’s exactly what Bards in the College of Valor get to do.

From the Player’s Handbook, “At 14th level, you have mastered the art of weaving spellcasting and weapon use into a single harmonious act. When you use your action to cast a bard spell, you can make one weapon attack as a bonus action.”

This makes these Bards extremely effective in combat in a variety of ways. They are not only good spellcasters, these Bards are good fighters.

Slick Dungeon’s Tips on Playing Bards: There are tons of roleplaying opportunities for kids to play Bards. They can be a lot of fun and tend to be good at what they do. However, there are many ways to play a Bard and they can be funny, full of song, reflective and into history or poetry. One thing most Bards tend to have in common is that they enjoy the spotlight. Some kids may not be comfortable playing in this way. Alternatively it can be great for a kid to use their character to show an aspect of themselves they may not show normally. Like any class make sure any kid you are playing with really wants to play the class. This type of character can often end up on the sidelines helping others during combat. This is great for kids who don’t necessarily want to get up close and personal with the creature attacking them. However, if a kid is really into being the center of attention during combat, a Bard may not be the best choice.

Still, all Bards, like all kids are individuals and there is no wrong way to roleplay them. This class is great fun to play but it also comes with some complexity as it is a spellcasting class. Not only that, Bards have special rules to their spellcasting so they can seem pretty complex. It helps if the Dungeon Master really knows how spells and Bards work the first time a kid plays this class. If you are new to the game I wouldn’t tell a kid you are DM’ing for not to play a Bard if they want to. I would just say, make sure you have really read and understood how they work and let the kid know you are going to learn a bit about it together.

I hope you have enjoyed this post. Thanks so much for reading to the end if you are still here with me. Next time we are going to talk about the class that can literally channel divinity as we dive into Clerics.

Adventuringly yours,

Slick Dungeon

(Note: this post contains affiliate links. If you purchase something through this post I will get a small commission at no extra cost to you)

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Dungeon Master Tool Review – Strahd Gives Me Goosebumps

Happy Halloween Eve dungeon crawlers! It’s me Slick Dungeon and I am back to review another Dungeon Master tool useful for running horror campaigns with kids. In my last post I reviewed Ravenloft Gives Me Goosebumps which is a handy primer for running spooky campaigns with kids ages 8-12. But what if you want to run the most popular and famous gothic horror campaign Dungeons & Dragons has ever made but don’t know how to adapt that for kids?

Well, I have good news for you. There is Strahd Gives Me Goosebunmps by Thomas Kolar. He and his wife clearly think deeply about horror, kids, and horror gaming with kids. If you know of the D&D adventure Curse of Strahd you may know that it is a particularly bleak and depressing place to end up which can be tons of fun for an adult audience but might be too much for kids. There’s also a bit of rampant child murder and other questionable topics for kids in that campaign.

This handy primer takes on the most questionable chapters of Curse of Strahd and tells you how to make a few tweaks that make this adventure much more suitable to kids.

I will say that the general advice given for playing a horror scenario with kids is very similar to what is in Ravenloft Gives Me Goosebumps but it’s still solid advice. This is worth the price of the supplement which is on sale right now for only $.60 because there is some advice specific to Curse of Strahd. Also, this probably goes without saying but this supplement is only useful if you have Curse of Strahd and want to run it with kids.

So, if you like to do what I do on Halloween, which is running Curse of Strahd and want to involve some kids in the action, this is the perfect supplement for you. Get it today so you can play it tomorrow!

Horrifically yours,

Slick Dungeon

Dungeon Master Tool Review – Ravenloft Gives Me Goosebumps: Genres of Horror

Hey everyone, Slick Dungeon here. It’s Halloween weekend time and you know what that means! Time to play some spooky D&D.

If you have kids and you like to play Dungeons & Dragons and you want to do something that has a bit of horror flavor, I have the tool for you. It’s called Ravenloft Gives Me Goosebumps: Genres of Horror and at the moment you can get it for just $.60!

In the recent book Van Richten’s Guide to Ravenloft there was a fantastic section called Genres of Horror where the authors went through virtually every type of horror imaginable with tips and suggestions on how to run each genre as a D&D campaign. Not all of their ideas were suitable for children but this supplement fixes that nicely.

Thomas and Raachel Kolar have come up with an excellent guide with lots of brilliant advice for how to run horror genres for kids 8-12. It first gives some general advice on gaming with kids which, honestly, is good advice for any gaming table. Some of the tips include having a session zero, discussing what topics to stay away from with horror etc. There is also kid specific advice about who should be the focus of the story and what the villains should or shouldn’t be doing. I think we can all agree that horror can be fun but no one wants to genuinely scare a child so much that it is a traumatic event for them.

After the general advice the authors go through each genre of horror giving a run down of what the genre is and ways it might work for kids. For example Body Horror for adults tends to be full of guts and gore and could be disturbing for children but if we adapt that to be more of a gross out, icky goo but not necessarily blood kind of scenario, this could work for kids. Think along the lines of some of the Goosebumps stories.

The genres they talk about are Body Horror, Cosmic Horror, Dark Fantasy, Folk Horror, Ghost Stories, Gothic Horror, Disaster Horror, Occult Investigation, Psychological Horror and Slasher Horror. All of these genres can work for kids but not all kids are going to like all of these horror genres so again, having that discussion prior to playing is hugely important. I found the take here on Cosmic Horror for kids especially insightful but all of the advice here is solid in this supplement.

The best part of this tool is that the authors clearly understand horror for kids and provide concrete examples of stories you probably know and can easily adapt to make a good horror campaign for kids. It covers everything from Scooby-Doo to Coraline and also has some gems you may not have heard of but are great reads or views.

There is a fantastic recommended reading list at the end and that alone is probably worth the cost of this supplement.

If you want to get a copy click on the image above or get yours right here – Ravenloft Gives Me Goosebumps: Genres of Horror!

Horrifically yours,

Slick Dungeon

(Note: this post contains affiliate links. If you purchase something through this post I will get a small commission at no extra cost to you)

Top 5 Horror One Shots for Dungeons & Dragons

Guild Adept PDFs - Available exclusively @ Dungeon Masters Guild

Hey all, Slick Dungeon here. I hate long intros to top 5 lists so we’ll get right into it. These are my five favorite horror one shots for Dungeons & Dragons.

(Note: this post contains affiliate links. If you purchase something through this post I will get a small commission at no extra cost to you)

5. The House of Lament from Van Richten’s Guide to Ravenloft

Spirit Board from House of Lament

The House of Lament is a highly customizable haunted house adventure made for a party of 4-6 1st level characters who will advance to 3rd level by the end. The idea is pretty simple here, there is a house that is not at rest. The party will be lead there by whatever adventure hook you want to come up with (if you decide to do a longer campaign in Ravenloft you’ll definitely want to incorporate the mists somehow). Once the part is there they will meet some friendly NPC’s who are trying to figure out why the house is haunted and want to shut it down. I won’t go into too much detail for fear of spoilers but the players get to conduct a few seances with the help of a spirit board that leads them to clues about why the house is haunted. For the DM there are several scenarios this can take so you may want to pick which spirits are haunting the house ahead of time. The goal is for the players to go through the house and help or in some cases defeat the spirits and put the house back at rest. Whether or not you turn this into a longer campaign is up to you. Right now you can only find this adventure in Van Richten’s Guide to Ravenloft. I have a full review of that book here and I highly recommend picking it up. Also handy are these handouts you can find on the Dungeon Master’s Guild Van Richten’s Guide to Ravenloft: The House of Lament DM Resources Pack and Van Richten’s Guide to Ravenloft: House of Lament Props & Handouts. Because it’s so customizable it can be a bit difficult to run for a newer Dungeon Master so be sure to read through before playing.

4. The Haunt

The Haunt

The Haunt is another haunted manor style campaign. It can definitely be run in about 3-4 hours or less, depending on how many obstacles you put in your players way. It’s made for a party of 4th-5th level characters. There are several good scares in here and some unique monsters to fight. The first one you can adapt to play with kids if your kids are okay with somewhat scary happenings but be forewarned that the sequels get pretty dark pretty fast. If you are into that sort of thing there is a great special hardcover edition you can get for $54.95 but I would still recommend starting with the first one and seeing how you like it. The original The Haunt is on the DM’s Guild for just $6.95. There’s a very well thought out back story and reason for the strange events in the adventure and when I played this with my gaming group they were all in on the frights.

3. Death House

Death House One Shot Adventure

Death House is a one shot adventure that was printed in Curse of Strahd but also was released online for free. You can download it right from the image above at the cost of nothing. While there are some issues with it, this does work great as an introduction to Curse of Strahd but I think it’s more fun to run as a stand alone adventure as a horror one shot on a dark Halloween night. This is yet another haunted house adventure. It’s for first level characters who could go up to level three by the end. It’s got a great moody introduction with a couple of very memorable kids involved. The back story is pretty twisted but you could definitely make a few adjustments and run this with kids. My party really liked the exploration aspects of this one because there is a lot to find in the house. When I ran it this only took 2-3 hours but your results will vary.

2. Tomb of Horrors

Tomb of Horrors

Full of deadly traps and vicious monsters, Tomb of Horrors has long been considered one of the most difficult adventures for players, even skilled and experienced ones. Gary Gygax wrote the original module because he felt players were feeling too sure of themselves surviving an adventure and pulled this out to warp their perceptions. The most current version (the one you can use for 5e) can be found as a standalone adventure on D&D Beyond or you can purchase the book of collected adventures Tales From the Yawning Portal and find it there. Personally, I like getting the book because there are several other fun adventures adapted from older editions included but you do you. This is a pretty complex dungeon with lots of tricks to figure out so it can be a challenge to players. But if you love survival horror, this is an excellent adventure to play. There are a variety of monsters here and there are tons of traps so starting around 14th level is probably a good idea for your party but if you want to make it really nasty you could start at lower levels.

1. Curse of Strahd

That’s right, you can play this entire campaign as a one-shot adventure. It takes a fair amount of tweaks and adjustments ahead of time but it’s doable. It’s definitely a longer game sessions but Curse of Strahd is a blast to play in a single evening. It’s also easier to keep the mood going for just one night rather than multiple nights. There is great article on D&D Beyond that tells you exactly how to do this. You do have to have the campaign book obviously and you’ll need the Tarokka deck, whether you print that yourself or just buy a deck. A one hour timer is also very helpful. This adventure still remains the best example of gothic horror you can find in Dungeons & Dragons and that makes it extremely well suited to an evening of horrific fun on a dark Halloween night.

Do you have any favorite horror one shots you’ve run? Let me know it the comments and Happy Halloween month!

Horrifically yours,

Slick Dungeon