Arcadia Issue #1 from MCDM – Review

Cover art by: Gustavo Pelissari

Hey out there all you dungeon creatures, it’s me, Slick Dungeon, here to review a super cool Dungeons & Dragons supplement you can get your hands on. I went through the first issue of Arcadia put out by MCDM and am here to give a thorough review of all the articles in it.

For those who don’t know, Matt Colville is a major name in the online Dungeons & Dragons community. He makes YouTube videos talking about his philosophy on the game, gives advice on running the game and he publishes some awesome products you can use in your own game, including a supplement I really enjoyed called Strongholds & Followers. He is currently busy with a follow up to that book with one called Kingdoms & Warfare that I can’t wait to get my hot little hands on.

I might sound like I am gushing a bit here but to be clear, I have no affiliation of any kind with MCDM, I just think the stuff they put out is extremely high quality and worth the money and I am guessing you will think so too if you love Dungeons & Dragons.

While we have all been waiting for Kingdoms & Warfare, Matt has assembled a team that just laid down a surprise product on us and, I’ll be honest, it’s chock full of awesome. It’s a magazine inspired by some of the stuff you would see in the 1980’s like Dragon magazine that not only provides cool art and talks about the game but also gives things like mini adventures you can run or stat blocks for cool creatures. This first issue has four articles and I am going to review each one of them. But first, you might want to check out what this is from Matt’s own words. The video is a little on the long side at 16 minutes or so (although that’s actually short for one of Matt’s videos) but even if you just watch the first couple of minutes you’ll get the idea of why they came up with Arcadia.

Basically, Matt felt bad his patrons were not getting anything while he is hard at work on his next book and decided to have some other people launch a magazine. And lucky for those of us who are not Matt’s patrons on Patreon, you can still purchase Arcadia at the MCDM store. You’ll have to pay around $8 if you are not a patron and if you are a patron you get it at the $5 per month level. In case I have already talked this up enough before I get into the review (which will contain spoilers) here is the link where you can get Arcadia #1.

As I mentioned, there will be spoilers to follow so if you are a player who has a Dungeon Master who might use this magazine stop reading here. Or, if you are the type of person who hates spoilers entirely, stop reading here. You have all been warned!

The artwork

You can see a bit of the artwork at the top of this post but I would be remiss if I did not mention the art in general for this magazine. When I saw the cover it took me right back to the 80’s when you could find amazing fantasy art in two places, any magazine dealing with Dungeons & Dragons and heavy metal album covers. In Matt’s intro video he talks about this and low and behold, what they were going for is exactly what it reminded me of. All of the art here is spectacular.

There are weird and interesting creatures, and even some cool maps that you can use in your game. As far as the art goes, I give this an A+.

Article #1 – The Workshop Watches

The Workshop Watches is an adventure for fifth level characters. The premise is a group of magic users was tasked to come up with a magical workshop that could attend to their needs, assist in spells and generally make life a bit easier for those who are into learning magic. They have a wealthy sponsor who has not heard from this team in a while and he is starting to get worried something may have gone wrong.

It wouldn’t be fun if something doesn’t go wrong in Dungeons & Dragons so of course something is wrong! What the party will find is a sentient magical laboratory doing its best to help magic users but is not real clear on what might or might not kill mortal beings. It’s reminiscent of Hal from the movie and book 2001: A Space Odyssey. More modern audiences might think of this as Jarvis from Iron Man gone wrong, or if Ultron from Avengers: Age of Ultron had essentially become Jarvis but didn’t turn evil, he just didn’t understand humanity.

My favorite part of this adventure is how the magical laboratory interprets things. It knows humans are mostly made up of water, so there is a chance the lab will fill the place up with three feet of water to make sure the party stays hydrated. There are several things like that in the adventure and if you want to read all about it, you’ll need to buy the issue.

I found this article to be a ton of fun and I really want to play the scenario. Of all the articles in this issue, I think this one is the best suited to play with kids and I would encourage parents to get this issue for this article alone. (Also, for more about playing Dungeons & Dragons with kids check out this post).

This article is full of fun and I could see it as a good entry point to start a whole campaign on. I am giving this article an A.

Article #2 – Titan Heart

This article is not an adventure but rather a subclass for sorcerers. It takes the idea that titans, you know those huge monstrous creatures such as krakens, demi-gods and the like, can infuse certain people with some of their magic. Thus is born the Titan Heart Sorcerer.

This is a well thought out subclass with some majorly cool stuff players can do. They get to do things like increase their size, have magic that titans know, albeit to a lesser extent than the titans themselves, and increase their armor class.

This has been play tested by MCDM but it is definitely not an official subclass at this point. Dungeon Masters will need to thoroughly review and decide if this is something they will allow in their game. There are lots of possibilities with the subclass and ways it could be used but it’s not going to be appropriate for every table.

There are two things that gave me a little pause about the concept. The first is on the player’s side. The subclass allows certain spells to be used while in titan form but only while in titan form. To me it’s a little unusual to have spells not accessible most of the time to players so depending on your game, you may need to adjust that a bit. The second is on the Dungeon Master side. While in Titan form the player gets a +2 bonus to their Armor Class for a full minute which is a pretty major bonus, especially at lower levels. However, I will say that after seeing how the creatures in Strongholds & Followers were scaled with their armor, in a MCDM campaign +2 might actually be necessary.

While I really like the concept here, I feel like it might be necessary to play around with to get right for your table. I am giving this article a B+.

Article #3 – Jumping on Mounted Combat

This expands on and adds to the mounted combat rules from the Dungeon Master’s Guide. If this were only a rules update, I would probably not think much of this article but there is a lot more to it. This not only gives some rules of how to train a mount and makes mounts capable of living longer and becoming more useful in a campaign, it also has a mini adventure (including some cool audio narration in the PDF!) and provides several examples of mounts that can be used in a campaign.

The adventure in this one is something you could drop into the middle of almost any campaign, assuming that there are creatures capable of being mounted in the campaign. It’s got a bit of a western feel to it and lays on some Dungeons & Dragons undead creature style right into it. It’s nowhere near as robust an adventure as The Workshop Watches but it would make for a great encounter if you have a party that really wants an unusual mount.

You might be surprised how often this kind of thing comes up. When I was playing Storm King’s Thunder with my son and his friends, they found and tamed an otyugh and they all wanted to ride it. I let them because I thought it was fun but I wish I had these rules at the time! It would have opened up more role play possibilities and given some rules around how the party rode.

This also has stat blocks for six new mounts, including my favorite, the owlbear. Because this article provides so much at once I am giving it an A.

Article #4 – Uqaviel the Recreant

This article is about two celestials who could become major villains (or allies) in your campaign. This article by far deals with the most unusual creatures of the whole magazine. Uqaviel is a disgraced archangel who was framed for a sin he did not commit.

I found the backstory here a little difficult to follow but perhaps I just don’t know enough about how celestials operate to get the proper appreciation for it. This article gives stat blocks for both Uqaviel and the creature that betrayed him Anahita. Just glancing at the stat blocks, these are major powerhouses. These are definitely end of campaign level creatures and they do some really cool stuff.

I am not sure I would personally incorporate all the backstory suggested in this article but both creatures are well worth using, just make sure that they are something your party has a hope of handling before they encounter them. The artwork in this article is phenomenal and even if you don’t use Uqaviel or Anahita’s stats, you might want to put their art somewhere in your campaign, especially if you have a campaign dealing with celestials at all.

While I really like the creatures themselves, the backstory felt a little less clear than I would have preferred. I am giving this article a B.

Overall

Alright, there you have my thoughts on the individual articles but what about the product as a whole? In some ways I have to reserve my judgement here. I am not saying it is easy to put out a great product the first time but if you do, that will make the next product you make have to live up to a high bar. MCDM has set an incredibly high standard here. There are two more issue slated to come out for sure and Matt has said he needs to see what the reaction is before guaranteeing issues beyond that. I will absolutely be picking up the next two issues. We’ll see if the quality and variety can be maintained. If so, I will be a loyal reader of this magazine. I will be back next month to review the next issue and let you know what I think.

For now, as a Dungeons & Dragons product I give this a solid A. And once again if you want to buy this you can do so here.

At $5-$8 depending on how you purchase this, I’m honestly not sure I can think of a better value in a Dungeons & Dragons supplement, so help out some independent creators and get a copy for yourself!

Adventuringly yours,

Slick Dungeon

3 Reasons Why Parents Should Play Dungeons & Dragons

Huge Discounts on your Favorite RPGs @ DriveThruRPG.com

Parenting is hard. One minute you have to drop kids off for a soccer game and the next minute you have to explain why eating chocolate for breakfast is not a good idea. Next, you have to encourage a kid to face the world with bravery as she peers suspiciously down at the pool when she is getting her first diving lesson. It’s overwhelming. Parents need structure to their day, they need to improvise constantly, and they have to do it all with a sense of adventure that keeps their kids engaged. It’s no easy task. Parents need help.

There are all kinds of parenting books and advice out there. Some work well and others are a waste of time. I’ve got a tool you probably haven’t considered using in your parenting arsenal. It’s fun, it’s easy, it’s effective, and it’s something you can do with kids present or in those precious few hours you have to yourself. You’ll get the benefits either way. Obviously, I am talking about playing Dungeons & Dragons, one of the best parenting tools available.

You probably think I have a couple of screws loose in my toolbox but hear me out. Playing Dungeons & Dragons can help parents to improvise, learn to provide structure, and foster a sense of adventure. 

Improvisation

Most Role-Playing Games call for improvisation. You have to think on your feet and if you want to survive, or be a good game master, you have to do it well. You can play the game where all you care about is the math. Sometimes you just want to know if you kill the monster or not. But, In Dungeons & Dragons whether you are a Dungeon Master or player, there will come a point when you have to make something up. As a player, you will imagine what your character looks like and is doing. As a DM you have to decide what is on the other side of the wall you described but never expected your players to try to climb over. It’s time to think on your feet. If you do that while playing Dungeons & Dragons, you’ll get better at doing it as a parent. 

After you’ve improvised a thousand times for the fun of it when playing Dungeons & Dragons, it’ll be much easier to improvise a reason why Dad can stay up as late as he wants but kids have to go to bed at a reasonable time.

Structure

Improvisation is great. It can be useful in a ton of parenting situations. Do you know what’s even better? Having structure. Kids need it, parents need it, everything runs better when there are rules. Guess what Dungeons & Dragons has? Rules. Lots of them. You don’t have to know even close to all of them to play the game but knowing that they exist is important. And the more you play, the more you learn the rules. Being able to clearly state a rule and know the structure of what should happen is hugely important as a parent too.

It’s one thing to be able to tell a kid that they need to do their schoolwork so they can get good grades. It’s something else to be able to provide them with the structure needed so they can get the work done and not become stressed out about it.

Adventure

Parenting is an adventure, hands down. There is no telling what’s around the next corner, what the next monster to slay might be. Why not experience a little adventure in a safe environment at a table with some friends? That way when you see the challenges in front of you as a parent, you know you have the courage to confront them. If not, you can think about what your character would do in the situation and do that instead. Either way, having a sense of adventure is going to help you as a parent. Your character is probably one filled with bravery and sometimes reckless abandon who will stop at nothing to achieve a goal. That’s something most of us can use more of in our lives (well, not the reckless abandon part maybe) and it might just come in handy. If a kid is struggling with a problem, make it a challenge. Tell them about the time your Half-Orc Monk went into a deadly situation thinking it was going to end for her but through careful and unexpected tactics she succeeded instead.

Most of the time we can all use a little more adventure in our lives. Or at least, a sense of adventure that is fun and exciting. You get that while playing Dungeons & Dragons. Remember that feeling the next time parenting feels overwhelming and think of it as your next big adventure instead.

Plus playing Dungeons & Dragons is downright fun! So, take some time today (or whenever you get a second to yourself since I know you are busy if you are a parent) and have some fun. Play some Dungeons & Dragons with your friends or your kids. If anyone asks you why you’re doing it, tell them the obvious. You’re doing it so you can become a better parent.

If you want to know why I think kids should play Dungeons & Dragons, take a look at this post: Kids Kill Monsters – Why Kids Should Role Play.

Adventurously yours,

Slick Dungeon 

This post contains affiliate links. If you purchase something through these links I will earn a small commission at no extra cost to you.

Challenge Yourself! Books, Movies and RPGs for 2021

Hey Everyone, Slick Dungeon here. 2020 was a challenge to say the least and not in a fun way. This year I thought that I would face the challenge of the new year in a way that improves upon last year. Instead of the challenge of just muddling through life, let’s have a book, movie, and tabletop RPG challenge!

(This post contains affiliate links. If you purchase anything through them I will get a small commission at no extra cost to you.)

I haven’t done a post like this before so please let me know what you think and also, feel free to play along all year. Each list has 12 challenges so one per month should be doable but if you are an overachiever, feel free to knock these out in 12 days or less. If you do take up the challenge let me know how it went. And if you happen to post it onto your blog, let me know, so that I can link to your challenge on my blog.

Below are the rules as far as I am going to follow them. You don’t have to follow the same way I do but these are the rules I set for myself.

How Does This Work? The Rules

  1. There are three separate challenges, one for books, one for movies and one for books, movies and RPGs lumped together. I will tell you a little more about each one and give some potential suggestions for what I think I will do to complete the checkboxes.
  2. Once I finish a challenge I plan to check it off and then post about it on my blog. If you just want to do this for fun and not post on your blog, that is totally cool. If you do post on your blog, let’s compare notes!
  3. These can be done in any order. Feel free to skip to the bottom, go to the middle or meticulously hit each one as they are listed.
  4. I am not in the camp of double dipping so I will not be doing that. If you want to, you won’t get any judgement from me.
  5. If you complete any one of my challenges and post about it on your blog, I will let you choose any one thing in that list’s category for me to review (within reason). For example if you complete my movie challenge and you want me to review The Emoji Movie, I will do it. If you complete my book challenge and want me to read and review a book that you published, I will do it. If you complete my Read-Watch-Play challenge and you want me to play an RPG that you think is really cool, I will play and then review it. Side note: I won’t review anything that I think is too extreme and I have ultimate veto power over what I post on my blog but otherwise, you can tell me what to review.
  6. This is not a rule but these are all downloadable PDF’s so feel free to download and print them or pass them on to friends, relatives, neighbors or office mates looking for something to do!

Challenge 1: Book Challenge

The book challenge should be pretty straightforward. Pick one of the challenges and find a book that matches. Or if you are reading a book and realize that it fits in one of these categories, check it off once you have finished the book!

Some examples of what I plan to do are as follows. The book at the very bottom of my TBR list right now is The Ten Cent Plague, a non-fiction book about the comic book industry that I have been meaning to read forever. Maybe this challenge will finally get me through that one. For a graphic novel that is not about superheroes I plan to read Berlin which I have been told is an excellent book about the fall of the Weimar Republic.

Challenge 2: Movie Challenge

This one should also be pretty straightforward. Watch a movie that matches the category and check off the box once you have finished watching. I watch a lot of movies so for this one I might just watch first and then see if it fits the category after, although I do have some ideas for some of these. For three movies by the same director I am thinking I might take a look at Quentin Tarantino’s movies since it has been a while since I watched some of those. For a movie with an ambiguous ending I am thinking of Inception although I think there are definitely a lot more movies besides that one that have that kind of end. It’s just the first one that popped into my head.

Challenge 3: Read-Watch-Play Challenge

Out of all my challenges, this is the one that I will most likely do in order. It’s pretty easy to find books and movies to fit these categories but I realize that not everyone is familiar with good Tabletop RPG choices so I am going to tell you the ones I plan on doing and even provide you with helpful links if you need a suggestion. (These are affiliate links and if you do buy anything there it helps this blog out immensely at no extra cost to you. No pressure though, never buy anything from a website that you don’t want)

For my D&D 1 shot adventure, I plan to play Second Glance. It’s the follow-up adventure to First Blush, a one-shot that I enjoyed and reviewed on this blog. They are both duet campaigns, meaning you only need two people to play, so great for learning how to play the game. Also, they only cost $2, so it’s a great bargain to get you started.

For a Tabletop RPG I have never played before I have three that I am thinking about. I may end up playing them all but we’ll see. If you have played any of these, let me know what you think. The first one I am considering is Cyberpunk Red. While the video game release was a mess, I’ve always thought Cyberpunk made more sense as a tabletop game anyway. The second I am considering is Wicked Ones. This is sort of a reverse D&D where you play the monsters and try to keep those pesky adventurers from taking all your stuff and wrecking your dungeon. The third one I am considering is Altered Carbon, the TTRPG based on the popular book and Netflix series.

For a Tabletop RPG that takes place in space I plan to play Stars Without Number: Revised Edition. It’s a game about humans returning to the skies after their empire has fallen. I feel like it has a lot of sandbox potential and I’m really looking forward to it. The game has gotten great reviews and it should be interesting.

For a Tabletop RPG starring animals I plan to play Pugmire. It’s like D&D but with all pugs! The world of man is over but Pugs have evolved to take over. How great is that? If you like cats better try playing Adventures for Curious Cats set in the same setting.

I hope you enjoy the challenges I have come up with. Don’t forget to let me know if you plan to play along and how it goes if you do.

Challengingly yours,

Slick Dungeon

Kids Kill Monsters – How to Prepare to play Dungeons & Dragons with Kids Part 13

D&D Campaign Adventures for Storm King's Thunder - 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 you, walked you through the first section of the simple rules and talked about choosing a race and role playing a dwarf, role playing an elf, role playing a halfling, role playing a human, role playing a dragon born, role playing a gnome, role playing a half-elf, role playing a half-orc and role playing a Tiefling. Today, we are going to talk about Class.

In Dungeons & Dragons, if character Race is who the characters are, then Class is best described as what a character can do. In other words, while most of the traits that the characters gained for being a dwarf, a halfling, etc. are immutable, the Class traits are ones that can be learned. If you want to be a wizard, you have to learn how to do it. If you strive to be the best fighter in the land, it is going to take some practice.

At the beginning of character creation, a player’s character is already better than the average person at whatever Class they choose. A fighter isn’t just some woman who can occasionally win in a bar fight (although they probably can), she is also someone who is better than the average fighter. That’s why when it comes to class, you get certain bonuses. Class can be one of the more confusing parts of character creation because there is some math involved. We’ll go through it as it comes in future posts, but in this one, we are just going to stick to defining what class is, how it is used, and my tips for using it with kids.

What is Class?

As stated above, Class is what a character can do. More specifically, I might add, it would be something they would likely be called on to do. In other words, it’s ingrained in who they are, even if they never actually take money for it. A wizard might be hired by a king to cast battle spells but even if he loses the battle, he is still a wizard. A fighter might very well be paid to be a soldier but even if they are defeated in combat, they are still a fighter. A paladin might be a knight but even if they fall from grace, they are still a paladin.

Does it Matter What Class My Character Is?

The short answer here is, yes. This matters greatly. If you really want to use magic, you are going to want to choose a magic user. Be a wizard, a sorcerer or a warlock. If you want to get in lots of combat, a fighter or a monk is the way to go. One note here, if your character uses magic even a little bit, you are going to have to learn some magic rules. These can get complicated but they are also a ton of fun. There is usually a bit more math involved in the game if you are a spellcaster so be forewarned there.

My advice to anyone who is trying to decide what Class to be, is to pick something that you think is interesting and go with that. Be sure to read through the basic rules and have an understanding of what that Class does. You don’t have to be an expert on the math part yet, just read the descriptions of what these people do and decide if that sounds interesting to you. Pick the one that is the best fit for how you imagine your character.

Some people will demand that a party be made up of a delicate mechanical balance where you have certain classes to do certain things. To some extent, this makes sense, but don’t overdo it here. If your kids all want to be wizards, let them be wizards. Maybe have one of them learn some magic for healing and one of them learn magic for fighting but don’t stress too much if your party is not perfectly balanced. If you are the Dungeon Master, you will need to make adjustments to the bad guys based on the party and what Classes they are.

What is Multi-Classing?

This is briefly mentioned in the chapter on Class in the basic rules. What that means is that someone choose a little bit of one class and a little bit of another class. If it is your first time running or playing Dungeons & Dragons I wouldn’t really recommend it just because your character won’t necessarily live up to their full potential unless you have a really good grasp of the mechanics of the game. That being said, if you love the idea of being a fighter who learns magic and then decides to become a wizard, multiclassing can be great. You do you. Just be forewarned that it gets a little tricky.

Slick Dungeon’s Tips for Class with Kids

When it comes to kids, choosing a Class can be daunting and exciting. It is as important, if not more important, than what Race your character is. I would make sure that your kids really understand what someone in a Class is likely to do. Alternatively, you can ask your kids what they want their character to be able to do and recommend a Class to them. If they start talking about magic spells, suggest a Wizard. If they are combat focused, suggest a Fighter. If they want to be entertainers and support their friends in battle, a Bard is the way to go. If they want to heal others, a Cleric might be a good way to go. Look through the Classes (There are 12 in the basic rules) and describe to your kids what that Class does. If it sound like something they want to do, let them do it. Even if they are not good at math but really want to cast magic spells, I would let them do that. It’s much more fun to do something you want to do than to have to pretend to like something you don’t really want to do.

My next 12 posts in this series will be a deeper dive into each Class, starting with my favorite class to play, Barbarian.

Adventuringly yours,

Slick Dungeon

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First Blush – Dungeons & Dragons Duet Campaign Review

First Blush by Jonathan and Beth Ball Photo Credit: DM's Guild
First Blush by Jonathan and Beth Ball Photo Credit: DM’s Guild

Hey everyone, Slick Dungeon here. I haven’t posted about Dungeons & Dragons for a while and thought I would give you all a review of a neat product I found on the DM’s guild.

First Blush is a “duet” style campaign for one player and one Dungeon Master. The goal of the module is to not only be a fun and interesting adventure, but also to teach people how to play Dungeons & Dragons. It includes stat blocks for all of the NPCs in the adventure. There are also three maps that you can use at your table if you are using minifigures. There is some great artwork as far as the characters go as well.

The module itself lays out some scenarios that a beginning player should be able to easily manager and will make the mechanics of the game more clear as they go along. It can be placed into most Dungeons & Dragons settings so it is good for a first level adventure no matter where you prefer your campaigns to be set.

I would recommend that this be led by an experienced Dungeon Master, however, because there are terms and situations that the module seems to take for granted that the person running the module knows already. There is plenty of boxed text and lots of descriptions of NPCs making it easy to run. They do point out several times that you are not required to run these characters as written, so if you want to change something, it is perfectly fine to do so.

I have played through this successfully as the Dungeon Master and my player and I had a great time doing it. Playing Dungeons & Dragons with just one other person is a different kind of experience and for those of us who have played with large groups for a long time, this style of play can be wildly refreshing. I highly recommend this module.

Check out their trailer below.

This is also just the first part of a trilogy. I will be reviewing all three of these modules eventually. You can buy each part separate or as a bundle to get all three. This is a pay what you want module so you can pay nothing, but for the value you get out of this module, I would say that the suggested price of $2.00 is well worth the hard work the creators put in here.

If you want to really help out this blog, get your copy of First Blush by clicking on the image or one of the links in this post. It won’t cost you anything extra and you’ll get a great module to play!

If you play this module, or have played it, let me know what you thought in the comments.

P.S. If you need some dice to play, you can also help out this blog by purchasing a set from Dice Envy by clicking the image below. Again there is no additional cost to you if you choose to purchase and you’ll get some great, high quality dice!

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Get Slick Dungeon’s 10 Golden Rules of Dungeon Mastering for Kids

Hi Everyone, Slick Dungeon here.

I’ve been posting about gaming with kids on here for a while now. I came up with 10 Golden Rules of Dungeon Mastering for Kids and I want you to have it. If this is something you are interested in, all you need to do is add your email address below and sign up for my biweekly email newsletter. In my newsletter I will send you a tip about Dungeons & Dragons or other RPGs, especially as it relates to kids. I hope you enjoy the free PDF and it’s yours to keep whether you continue to subscribe to my newsletter or not. I’m a little new to the whole email newsletter thing so it may take a full day before you receive your PDF.

I will have more stuff like this for you in the near future so if you like this or want to see something specific, drop me a line and let me know.

Gratefully yours,

Slick Dungeon

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Kids Kill Monsters – How to Prepare to play Dungeons & Dragons with Kids Part 12

D&D Campaign Adventures for Storm King's Thunder - 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 you, walked you through the first section of the simple rules and talked about choosing a race and role playing a dwarf, role playing an elf, role playing a halfling, role playing a human, role playing a dragon born, role playing a gnome, role playing a half-elf and role playing a half-orc. Today we are going to talk about role playing a Tiefling.

Tieflings are one of the most interesting playable races in the game. For those who don’t know, it’s pronounced like tea-fling. They are also increasingly popular to play because they come with backgrounds that just beg for role playing opportunities. Unlike a half-orc or half-elf, it’s virtually impossible for them to hide their appearance. And a tiefling has in their bloodline somewhere, an ancestor who committed a great sin and aligned themselves with evil. For that reason, it might be assumed that tieflings are by default evil. What makes them interesting is that they do not have to be evil. Being evil is as much a choice for a tiefling as for any other creature in the game.

Tieflings essentially look like demons or devils walking around in human form. In fact, that’s just what they look like, and their personalities can vary across the entire spectrum of personalities. Their eyes are solid color, with no pupils, they have horns on their heads, and they all have tails. The differences in these physical aspects can be whatever you want them to be, so for example, the tail can be four to five feet in length, the horns can be curved or straight and the eyes can be black, red, white, silver or gold.

All the possibilities there make for one of the most interesting looking creatures in the game. That also means that these creatures live in a world that is automatically suspicious of them. Everywhere they go, it’s hard for tieflings to make friends. But when they do make a friend, and that friend earns their trust, the tiefling is loyal for good. This can make a great entry for kids who want to play tieflings.

A lot of kids can relate to someone assuming they are up to no good. For the vast number of times they have been yelled at for trying to take a cookie from the cookie jar, there has been at least one time when they were innocent of trying to commit that crime. A kid can relate to an adult just thinking by a look on their face, that they have done something wrong. While it’s probably the case that most of the time the kid has done something wrong, there are probably instances where adults jumped to conclusions. That’s what people do when they meet tieflings, they jump to conclusions. This creature looks evil, therefore it is evil. While a spider might look scary to some people, it serves the vital function of population control of insects. The spider itself is not necessarily bad and neither is the tiefling.

Knowing that everyone is going to assume the worst of you, makes it hard to trust anyone else. If a tiefling who is just trying to fit in happens upon a group of adventurers who don’t assume the worst, take the tiefling into their good graces, and ally with that tiefling, that adventuring party has gained a powerful and loyal ally.

While you could certainly play a tiefling as evil, I don’t recommend that for kids. But there is a difference between playing someone who is evil and someone who looks evil. I see no problem with a kid playing a tiefling if they want to. And if you as a Dungeon Master are uncomfortable with the whole fiendish heritage involved in tieflings, you can take that out if it won’t work for your kid. If you do leave it in, I would say the tiefling should be misunderstood by society rather than actually evil in society, but of course, that is just my advice. You can play this game any way you want to and it’s not wrong.

One of my favorite things with tieflings actually has to do with their names. Tieflings can have three types of names. 1. If they happen to grow up in human, elf, dwarf, or whatever other culture, they could reasonably be expected to have a name from that culture. 2. They can have a name that reflects their infernal heritage, where their name is a word in the infernal language. 3. They can have what is called a “virtue” name. This is a name that signifies a virtue or other concept and the tiefling attempts to embody that concept.

To me, that third choice is simply amazing. A tiefling tending towards good might choose something like Hope, Perseverance or Glory. I love the idea of picking your name and then trying to be the living representation of that name. I feel like with kids this could go a million ways. I can see a kid choosing a name like Rich or Money. I could also see kids picking things like Beauty or Magician. The name alone might give you as the Dungeon Master a direction for the campaign. And believe me, any hints like that are hugely helpful to running a campaign.

I’ll give you a few more thoughts I have about kids and tieflings below but first let’s get into the tiefling traits.

Tiefling Traits

There are a few things you get for playing a Tiefling.

Ability Score Increase

Tieflings are smart creatures who like to learn about the world. For that reason your Intelligence score increases by 1. Tieflings are absolutely memorable to anyone that meets one. For that reason your Charisma score is increased by 2.

Age

Tieflings mature at the same rate humans do but live a little longer. “A little longer” is not defined in the rules so how much longer is sort of up to you.

Alignment

A lot of tieflings do end up as evil, but that does not mean your kid has to align that way with her character. You can absolutely have a lawful good tiefling character if you want to. The rules do say that they tend more towards chaotic and that makes sense to me because a tiefling is probably going to know that just because there is a law, does not mean that it is a just law. My advice here is to still trend toward the good side of alignment with your kids though, even though their character has a fiendish look.

Size

Tieflings are pretty much the same size as humans. For the game rule purposes you are considered medium.

Speed

Your speed in the game is 30 feet.

Darkvision

I’ve been over darkvision a few times since almost every playable race other than humans has it, but in case you need it, I am just going to put here exactly what the basic rules say. “Thanks to your infernal heritage, you have superior vision in dark and dim conditions. You can see in dim light within 60 feet of you as if it were bright light, and in darkness as if it were dim light. You can’t discern color in darkness, only shades of gray.”

Hellish Resistance

As an adult I think this description is awesome. But, you may not want your kids running around talking about their “Hellish Resistance” to their friends, teachers and neighbors. If that’s the case, just call this what it is, Fire Resistance. It just means that it’s really hard to burn a tiefling. You’d be surprised by how many monsters can burn characters so this is actually a pretty awesome trait to have.

Infernal Legacy

This trait has to do with some innate spells that tieflings can cast because of their ancestry. It’s okay if at this point you don’t know what these things mean but I will still lay them out here.

Right from the beginning you can cast the cantrip Thaumaturgy. I won’t go over this spell here because in future posts we’ll go through all the magic but at essence this spell lets you speak loudly, make the earth shake a little, make lights brighten or dim and a few other things that are pretty much harmless magic tricks. If you have watched The Fellowship of The Ring and remember the moment where Gandalf is talking with Bilbo about the ring and he makes himself look big, his voice boom, his staff light up, that is pretty much thaumaturgy right there.

When you get to third level you are able to cast Hellish Rebuke. If you don’t want your kids running around saying that they Hellishly rebuke you, just call the spell Rebuke. This spell essentially does fire damage to your enemies.

Finally, when you get to fifth level, you get the spell Darkness. This probably seems obvious, but it basically means you get to make things dark when you want to. There are definitely limits to this so go by the spell but that’s what it boils down to.

Thaumaturgy is one the character can cast whenever they want but Rebuke and Darkness are basically once a day spells. They are all really handy to have and a great little spell list, even if you don’t want to be a class that has spellcasting abilities.

Languages

You are fluent in Common and Infernal. Infernal is a language that may or may not come up, depending on what you as the Dungeon Master put in your campaign. It’s always nice for a kid to have something their character can do in an unexpected moment though, so if you have a tiefling player, consider putting at least one treasure chest that has something written in infernal on it that only that player can read.

Slick Dungeon’s Tips on Playing Tieflings

Playing a tiefling can be a ton of fun. Kids can relate to this playable race if they have ever had the situation where it was assumed they were up to no good. Kids are all about fairness so playing a tiefling can actually come naturally to them. Tieflings have a good idea of not only what is fair but also if they are being treated fairly. The one thing that can be a little bit of a trip up, depending on your household, is that the bloodline of tieflings is essentially from demons. For some families that is going to be a non-starter and in that case, just don’t let there be tieflings in your campaigns. If that is not an issue and your kids can wrap their heads around it, tieflings are a lot of fun to play. They get magical abilities that most other playable races don’t. They can walk through fire with barely an injury. And they can be loyal to a fault.

A great way to introduce a tiefling character to a party is to have that tiefling be in trouble through no fault of their own. A group of citizens might be surrounding them and calling them names when the party arrives to swoop in and defend the innocent. Of course, that is just one suggestion and there are any number of ways to play this game so do what works for you and your family.

I hope you got something out of this post and have some ideas for your table if your kid wants to play a tiefling.

My next Kids Kill Monsters post is going to be about classes. We’re going to go through each one in the basic rules, one at a time. This is usually the spot where some math gets involved and things can get tricky but I’ll do my best to walk you through it.

But before that, I have an announcement. I have written Slick Dungeon’s 10 Golden Rules of Dungeon Mastering for Kids. It’s a free PDF with some of my best advice on playing Dungeons & Dragons with kids and I want you to have it. All you will have to do to get a copy is to sign up for my mailing list newsletter. If you sign up for the newsletter you will get the free PDF and I will send tips to your email about Role Playing Games every other Friday. Watch for your chance to sign up in my next post, set to go live on 7/21/2020. I hope you’ll consider signing up for it and please feel free to share it with anyone that you think might enjoy some gaming tips from your old pal, Slick.

Adventuringly yours,

Slick Dungeon

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Kids Kill Monsters – How to Prepare to play Dungeons & Dragons with Kids Part 11

D&D Campaign Adventures for Storm King's Thunder - 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 you, walked you through the first section of the simple rules and talked about choosing a race and role playing a dwarf, role playing an elf, role playing a halfling, role playing a human, role playing a dragon born, role playing a gnome and role playing a half-elf. Today we are going to talk about role playing a Half-Orc.

One thing to know before I get too far into this is that there is a bit of a debate raging among the role play community over whether or not Half-Orcs and Orcs should be in the game in the way they are written. There is an argument to be made that these particular playable races, among others, can be read as racist stereotypes. I happen to think that there is an argument to be made there but that what is needed is some adjustment to the wording and nuance of the creatures in the game. Wizards of the Coast, the manufacturers of Dungeons & Dragons, say they are working to correct these problematic stereotypes. I think this is a step in the right direction but we’ll have to wait to see what the real result is. I believe that the more people that feel welcome playing this game the better, which is why I write these posts about how to play this game with kids. All that being said, take my suggestions and information below with a grain of salt for two reasons. 1. I will be using the descriptions and mechanics as currently written in the basic rules. 2. It’s very likely that with the corrections WoTC are making, some of this below is subject to change. Once there is an updated version, I will likely do another post to update my recommendations.

I will say that as an adult, I have found playing a Half-Orc to be extremely enjoyable and I usually go with that or a halfling when I play with adults. I do tend to play a little against type though, and usually my character is more misunderstood than aggressive. I’ll get more into this later, but that’s also my general recommendation for how a kid can play a Half-Orc.

Since its early beginnings, orcs have been one of the more villainous creatures in the game, often used as a horde of creatures opposing the forces of good. But sometimes, in the midst of all the fighting, there is a pause or a truce. There is opportunity for humans and orcs to cooperate. This gives rise to half-orcs where a creature has both human and orc blood running through their veins. These creatures usually look more orc than human but are equally of both playable races. Half-orcs can live either with orc tribes or in human cities. They are potentially the most common of the uncommon races (with half-elves possibly edging them out depending on the campaign setting). They’re pretty hefty and weigh between 180 and 250 pounds and can be anywhere from 5 to 7 feet tall.

In the basic rules they state that half-orcs tend to have scars. I feel like this is totally optional depending on how you want to play the character. They also mention that these scars can come from them being “a former slave or a disgraced exile”. Out of those two, if you are playing with kids, I absolutely recommend going with disgraced exile. As adults we can be a lot more nuanced in our definition of being a former slave but for kids, just omit that, it’s way too difficult to wrap everyone’s head around. I think a kid can easily understand being someone who made a mistake or didn’t get along with others and was told to leave. But lets not go around having our kids thinking of themselves as slaves, even in fantasy role play. I can’t imagine that is great for child development. It’s descriptions like that, which cause this whole playable race to be problematic in the first place so I am hesitant to recommend the whole slave background to anyone. That, of course, is just my opinion but there you have it.

Orcs are aggressive, warlike creatures who worship the disgraced one-eyed god Gruumsh. Gruumsh is angry and full of rage. This god is powerful enough that the orcs and even some half-orcs feel his calling to war. In essence, this makes half-orcs feel things more strongly than other playable races. They certainly feel rage, especially when fighting, but they also feel sadness quite deeply and likewise can soar to heights on the more positive emotions of joy and laughter. A half-orc truly can feel life to its fullest. This can make it difficult for some half-orcs to control their emotions in public. As a kid, this is quite relatable. Kids feel emotions incredibly deeply. And while a tantrum might come and go in an instant for a very young kid, the emotion is utterly overwhelming. Even for a ten year old kid, when they feel an emotion, it is felt deeply and strongly. Almost any kid can relate to feeling like they could lose control, or feel something that feels bigger than they are. Kids don’t get to control the world around them because adults make the rules. Half-orcs similarly did not create the rules of society or the prejudices in it, but they must react to it. This can lead to a loss of control. The awesome part of playing a half-orc is that when they do feel that emotion, they can channel it into something useful like battle prowess and resilience.

If you are trying to explain a half-orc to a kid, a great example is The Incredible Hulk. There is a guy who doesn’t quite belong anywhere, who feels major emotions and tries to control it but even when he does lose control, he doesn’t hurt the innocent. He cares about people and usually risks his neck to save people. And he also happens to be majorly strong. He’s not the only example of a good half-orc but I think he’s the one I most model my characters after. If you read the comics, it happens over and over that the Hulk is actually trying to help someone but when people who don’t like the Hulk, or are prejudiced against him, encounter him his actions are quickly misinterpreted and then Hulk has no choice but to defend himself and his friends. This act of defense is then taken as aggression towards those already prejudiced against the Hulk. The cycle never really ends. I think it can be pretty interesting for kids to play half-orcs who are really, truly very good at heart but who are assumed by others to be up to no good. The one thing I would say to make an exception to that is with the other party members. They should all know that the half-orc who may look big, strong and intimidating, is really kind, caring and loyal to her friends.

If you do go with the whole, “disgraced exile” backstory for a half-orc character, a weirdly appropriate model is Jar-jar Binks from Star Wars. Jar-jar was just kind of clumsy and not trying to hurt anyone but it was enough to get him banished. I think this works great for kids, no matter what you think of the character of Jar-jar. A half-orc could easily end up in a situation where she is misunderstood and due to her larger and more powerful frame ends up breaking something, on accident, that was precious to the community. Now she has a reason to go on an adventure. She needs to prove she is worthy of her own community. How does one do that? By becoming a heroic adventurer who, through the power of friendship, is able to save the world. That’s exactly what happened to Jar-jar. Well, before he went and messed everything up in Episode II and III but we’ll forget that for the moment.

There are a variety of half-orc names offered in the basic rules and I think those tend to be pretty fitting so I’m not really going to go into any extra recommendations of names for this particular playable race.

Let’s take a look at what the half-orc traits are as currently written

Half-Orc Traits

There are a few things you get for playing a Half-Orc.

Ability Score Increase

Half-orcs are very strong and they also have a strong stomach. For this reason they get to add 2 to their strength score and 1 to their constitution.

Age

Half-orcs mature by age 14 and live to be around 75 but usually not more than that.

Alignment

Here’s another spot where the half-orc description needs some improvement. It says, “Half-orcs inherit a tendency toward chaos from their orc parents and are not strongly inclined toward good. Half-orcs raised among orcs and willing to live out their lives among them are usually evil.” Why though? Why do orcs or half-orcs have to trend toward evil? Half-orcs are as individual as anyone else so there can still be plenty of good half-orcs, or even orcs. I understand that their god is out of favor and is full of rage, but for that reason, I actually think it’s more interesting if they buck the system and trend toward good. Humans are not inherently evil because they are humans but they have definitely waged as much war as orcs ever have, so I really don’t like this description. But, if you want to use your alignment that way, feel free. I still do not recommend having a kid play an evil character though. If nothing else, it is guaranteed that this will cause problems at the table because at some point, the kid who is playing the evil character is going to want to do something bad to someone in their own party. This just causes a mess. Kids can have a much harder time not taking in game actions personally. If Johnny is robbed by Jenny’s evil character, Johnny is going to think that Jenny in real life doesn’t like him. And then it will be up to you as Dungeon Master to sort the whole thing out. Just avoid the headache and make sure the half-orc in the party is good. Again this is just my opinion though.

Size

I’ve stated the height and weight average above but for game purposes you are considered medium size if you play a half-orc.

Speed

Half-orcs move at a speed of 30 feet.

Darkvision

The description in the rules sums this up nicely. “Thanks to your orc blood, you have superior vision in dark and dim conditions. You can see in dim light within 60 feet of you as if it were bright light, and in darkness as if it were dim light. You can’t discern color in darkness, only shades of gray.”

Menacing

Even if your kid is playing a nice half-orc, they can still, when they want to, look frightening. For this reason, you gain proficiency in the intimidation skill. Even if this doesn’t make a ton of sense now, just know that half-orcs can intimidate people easier than some of the other playable races. You’d be surprised how often kids make use of this skill and it certainly can be handy for getting information or trying to get into someplace the characters are not allowed to be otherwise.

Relentless Endurance

This is my favorite feature of half-orcs. When you are reduced to 0 hit points, meaning you would normally be dead at that point, you can drop to 1 hit point instead. Just so you know, a player character can still do everything they normally would with full health, if they have even a single hit point left. That basically means that when half-orcs are potentially killed, they are able to get up and give it one more try before it’s all over for them. They do have to take a long rest to use this again though, so you can basically think of this as a once a day feature.

Savage Attacks

This one takes a little bit of explaining so hang in there with me for a minute. Here’s how this feature is described in the basic rules, “When you score a critical hit with 
a melee weapon attack, you can roll one of the weapon’s damage dice one additional time and add it to the extra damage of the critical hit.”

To score a critical hit means that when you make an attack roll, you rolled a 20. (There are some limited exceptions where rolling between 18-20 counts as a critical hit) Once you roll that 20, you then get to roll your damage dice. This is not a D20 but will depend on what class you play and what weapon you are using. For rolling that 20 you get to roll your damage dice twice. So if your damage dice is a D12, you get to roll it twice and add that up to your critical hit damage. But with this feature you actually get to roll that damage dice three times. An example would be a half-orc barbarian scores a critical hit by rolling a 20. Then they get to roll a D12 for their regular damage. Then they get to roll it again for their critical hit damage. Then they get to roll it a third time for the savage attack feature. You add those three numbers together, then add any modifiers that add to the damage and you end up with a major amount of damage.

If that’s still unclear, don’t worry. Just know that half-orcs get to do more damage when they roll a 20 in combat than other playable races get to.

Languages

As a half-orc you get to speak Common and Orc. Orc uses dwarvish characters but doesn’t really sound at all like any of the other languages in the game. It’s a pretty harsh and gruff language with a lot of hard consonants.

Slick Dungeon’s Tips on Playing Half-Orcs

As I said above, I like the half-orc characters to be misunderstood rather than actually aggressive. Of course, there are tons of ways to play these characters and it’s absolutely up to you how you and your kids should play this. But I think that trending toward evil alignment is going to make it more difficult to manage the table. And that’s true no matter the playable race that is evil. In my mind a good connection point for kids with half-orcs is that strong emotion they feel. It can be really good for a kid to role play getting emotions under control in a positive way. And, that does not always have to mean just in combat. A half-orc might feel frustration at the fact that a wall is difficult to climb. That frustration turns to anger, but the half-orc focuses his anger on the task at hand. Before you know it, he is able to pound footholds into the wall with his axe and he and his friends can climb up. He felt the frustration, he channeled it and he solved the problem. This helps to show kids that their emotions are not invalid but that they should be used in a constructive manner when possible.

The background of half-orcs as written can be a little troubling and tricky, so before letting your kid play one, make sure you have thoroughly read the description and have talked to them about how they want to play the character. I have not read the book yet, but supposedly The Explorer’s Guide to Wildemount has more nuanced descriptions of orcs and other less common playable races. That may be worth a look if you want your kid to play a more nuanced character that is less of a stereotype, but again I have not read it so I can’t say for sure.

Half-orcs can really be a ton of fun to play because they are big, strong and if you play them right, perfectly suited to go adventuring. A lot of kids can relate to imagining themselves big and strong. They’re told that’s how they are supposed to grow up all the time. It’s the whole reason they are forced to eat vegetables, so they might as well get used to being big and strong now. Even if that’s just in their own imagination.

I think that an excellent example here really is The Incredible Hulk. And if your kid wants to be more professor Hulk than rage Hulk, there’s no problem there either. I think a highly intelligent half-orc who wants to learn to solve problems in ways that don’t involve weapons at all, is totally appropriate for kids. It’s whatever you want to make out of it, so tweak it with your kid as needed and have at it.

Next time I will get into the last of the uncommon races in the basic rules, the Tiefling.

After that, before I get into classes, I am going to have something a little special for everyone who reads this blog and likes these posts, so be on the look out for a bit of an announcement.

Adventuringly yours,

Slick Dungeon

skull-splitter metal dice

This page contains affiliate links. If you purchase a product through one of them, I will receive a commission (at no additional cost to you). I only ever endorse products I have personally used. Thank you for your support!

Kids Kill Monsters – How to Prepare to play Dungeons & Dragons with Kids Part 10

D&D Campaign Adventures for Storm King's Thunder - 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 you, walked you through the first section of the simple rules and talked about choosing a race and role playing a dwarf, role playing an elf, role playing a halfling, role playing a human, role playing a dragon born and role playing a gnome. Today we are going to talk about playing characters caught between two worlds, Half-Elves.

Half-Elfs are what they sound like. They are half human and half elf. While they carry some of the traits of elves, they also carry some of the traits of humans. In Dungeons & Dragons they don’t quite fit in with human society and they don’t quite fit in with elves either. Oddly, half-elves who grow up in human communities tend to have elvish names while half-elves growing up in elvish society tend to take human names. This isn’t set in stone or anything, and a kid could play a half-elf with either a human or elvish name, depending on what they want.

One of the interesting things about this playable race is that they tend to take on only the better parts of both humans and elves. They are graceful and in tune with nature, like elves, while still being curious and inventive like humans.

A lot of fantasy stories have been written about creatures like half-elves, where there tends to be an internal struggle in the character, trying to understand just how they fit into the world. As far as kids go, there are a couple of ways to look at this. For some kids this will be too much to take in and be able to role play well. Kids don’t have to be great role players to have fun though, so if they want to be a half-elf, my advice is to let them be a half-elf. On the other hand, this type of situation is very relatable to a lot of children. There are kids who have split families and need to understand what their role is on one side and what it is on the other. Divorced parents see this all the time. Rules are different in different households and a different side of a kid’s personality may come out depending on where they are at. The same goes for kids who might be biracial or mixed race who just want to understand both sides of their own heritage. This can hold true for all kinds of situations for kids. They know that they act one way at school and another at home. For some kids role playing something like a half-elf where you get to be on the good side of both halves of yourself can be extremely rewarding. The kid who shows up to obey mom’s rules in one house and knows his other mom is a little more relaxed on the rules at her house still sees himself as a good person in both places. He knows he might have to be diplomatic in certain situations and usually has a pretty good idea what the consequences of acting one way or another will be, no matter which house he finds himself in at the time.

Half-elves are all about being diplomatic. They can walk between multiple viewpoints because that is how they are made. In the game rules it says that half-elves are great diplomats, with the exception of between humans and elves. The reason, so the rules state, is that elves and humans always assume the half-elf favors the other side. I’ll be honest here, this has always kind of bothered me. I don’t see why either humans or elves couldn’t trust a half-elf to be diplomatic. If anything, they should be able to understand both points of view better than either race alone. Whether or not they are good at being diplomatic should really be based on what the character does, rather than who they are. That’s just my opinion though.

The rules say that this playable race is fairly uncommon but they’re not so uncommon that they would be a complete novelty to anyone really. To humans they look elvish while elves think they look human. They usually have the pointy ears of elves but are also able to grow facial hair, unlike elves.

They tend to be around five to six feet tall and weigh between 100 and 180 pounds. In other words, they tend to be average weight and height for a thin human or a somewhat stocky elf.

The rules also mention that half-elves can tend to be wanderers rather than diplomats. They try to find other half-elves to associate with but if that is too difficult they might live off the land as hunter gatherers. Or even blend into a city as a human and maybe even become a thief or swindler. That last one is not my favorite for kids to play unless they are playing the rogue class, which we’ll get into when we go over classes.

Playing a diplomat or a wanderer can be challenging for some kids but if it sparks their imagination, let them have at it. For some kids it’s a great entry point into the game and you’d be surprised at just how creative kids can be at trying to stop a fight before it happens in the game. I will say that if a kid is going to play the wanderer type, you might want them to have in mind that through the course of the game, that wanderer will come to have and depend on friends. The game is collaborative so if you have a half-elf who just wants to be alone in the woods all the time, that can make it difficult for anything to happen to that character. Having that character going from fiercely independent to accepting of a group of friends is really satisfying though and can be seen in tons of popular media.

Some people, and this is mostly adults, just want to play half-elves for some of the game mechanic benefits you get for that. I have no problem with people doing that if that’s what they want. But I will say that I don’t think that’s the best reason for a kid to play this playable race though. If they are intrigued by the idea of being a half-elf and really think it’s interesting, by all means they should play one. But if they love the idea of being a gnome or halfling or whatever but say they want to be a half-elf simply because they get some interesting bonuses down the line, I would discourage that. They can always make a new character later if they end up unhappy but I have just found that it’s better to go with what sparks the imagination than what might add up to a better dice roll.

And with that bit of advice, let’s get into the traits.

Half-Elf Traits

There are a few things you get for playing a Half-Elf.

Ability Score Increase

As I said above, half-elves can be very diplomatic. For that reason you get to add 2 to your charisma score. Half-elves are also partly human, which means they get some fierce independence. For that reason you get to choose two other ability scores and increase those by 1. Which scores a kid might want to boost here will depend on a lot of factors, one of the major ones being what class they play. I don’t have a general recommendation of what to increase here because it really does matter if you are going to be a wizard, or a fighter or a cleric or.. well you get the point. If your kid already knows what class she is going to play, I would recommend she boost the most important ability for that class. For example if you are playing a half-elf wizard, your spell casting is going to rely on intelligence and that’s what you should increase. If you don’t know the class yet, don’t worry about what to boost at this point.

Age

Half-elves grow at the pace that humans do, so they are more or less adults by age 20. The real difference is that they live much longer than most humans and can easily become older than 180 in their lifetime.

Alignment

Honestly, the entry here in the basic rules is contradictory. They talk about how half-elves can make great diplomats yet they say this – “Half-elves share the chaotic bent of their elven heritage. They value both personal freedom and creative expression, demonstrating neither love of leaders nor desire for followers. They chafe at rules, resent others’ demands, and sometimes prove unreliable, or at least unpredictable.” I don’t see how chafing at rules and resenting demands (unless they are unjust) and being unreliable or unpredictable gets you anywhere in diplomatic circles. It’s contradictions like this one that make a lot of Dungeon Masters not want to use alignment at all. Everyone is nuanced in the real world and you might make the right choice in one situation but not in another. So while the rules say that Half-elves trend toward chaotic, make sure that makes sense with the character your kid is playing if you use alignment at all.

Size

As I said above half-elves basically are between the size of humans and elves. For game play purposes your size is medium.

Speed

Half-elves are somewhat fleet of foot but by no means the fastest creature in the game. They get a walking speed of 30 feet.

Darkvision

This is the same as what elves and a lot of other playable races get but it’s still really handy. You can see in dim light within 60 feet of you as if it were bright light, and in darkness as if it were dim light. You can’t discern color in darkness, only shades of gray.

Fey Ancestry

This is also something elves get. You have advantage on saving throws against being charmed, and magic can’t put you to sleep. There are quite a few times that monsters or other enemies might try to charm the characters so having defense against that is pretty good. Defending against magic that puts you to sleep is also helpful, especially if the rest of the party succumbs to one of those spells.

Skill Versatility

You gain proficiency in two skills of your choice. It’s okay if you don’t quite know what this means yet but there are several skills that a player character can have. Most of them are pretty self explanatory, such as stealth or acrobatics. Your kid just gets to choose two of those skills they get to be especially good at. This comes from the human side of the half-elf characters.

Languages

Half-elves are pretty smart so they get to speak common, elvish and one extra language. If you have a half-elf in your party and you know for example that the campaign is all about giants, you might have the half-elf know how to speak giant. It makes for much smoother communication.

There are not any subraces for half-elves in the basic rules. I think this is because you get a hefty amount of bonuses and flexibility in the game mechanics with being a half-elf. For this reason I am not going over any subraces for this entry.

Slick Dungeon’s Tips on Playing Half-Elves

As a player, I find this one to be tricky to pull off. Lucky for me, I mostly choose to be the Dungeon Master anyway. But kids can really get into this type of character. It will, as always, depend on the kid. If they love the idea of being caught between two worlds, learning to make friends after being an independent loner, or are really into the idea of smoothing over a situation before it gets out of hand, half-elves are for them. They get to be graceful and in tune with nature when they want to be but can also have the impulsiveness and energetic spirit of being human whenever they want. It’s a nuanced type of character and can mean you and your kid really need to nail down what the character is all about before getting all the way into it.

My biggest recommendation on this one is to ask why the kid wants to play a half-elf. If they just think half-elves are cool, that is an awesome reason to be a half-elf. If they say that they are looking forward to the mechanical bonus you get down the line, that may not be the best of reasons to take on this playable race. I like to let kids play whatever playable race they want but I usually want to know their motivation on it because that helps me to be a better Dungeon Master for them. I will say, I do find the mechanical bonus issue to appear more in older kids, usually because they are more familiar with the rules and are quicker with the bit of math that goes along with it. And if they are really insistent that they want to play a half-elf because of those bonuses and no other playable race will do, that’s okay too. You just have to realize the role playing moments might be a bit tougher to come by in that case.

Half-elves can be super interesting and they’re actually one of my favorite type of character to watch adults play. If you watch Critical Role, you know about Vax and Vex and how nuanced they can get. For kids, it can be a challenge, but depending on their situation it may be the absolute best fit.

I hope you enjoyed this post and got something useful out of it. Next time I am going to be back to talk about my favorite playable race to be when I am a player, the Half-Orc. They’re almost the complete opposite of Half-elves which can make for some fun stuff. They do have their issues too so I hope you’ll be back to read what I have to say on it.

Adventuringly yours,

Slick Dungeon

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Kids Kill Monsters – How to Prepare to play Dungeons & Dragons with Kids Part 9

Gnome
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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 you, walked you through the first section of the simple rules and talked about choosing a race and role playing a dwarf, role playing an elf, role playing a halfling, role playing a human and role playing a dragon born. Today we are going to talk about playing the smallest and most full of life character race, gnomes.

If you think about gnomes outside of Dungeons & Dragons, a few things probably come to mind. You might be thinking of the annoying little gnomes that Ron, Harry and Hermione enjoyed tossing out of the Weasley’s garden. You might be thinking of the vicious gnomes that show up in Grimm’s Fairy Tales or you might be thinking of the little cutesy lawn gnomes that keep watch over your grandmother’s house. When it comes to D&D, that’s all sort of accurate with the game, except that the gnomes don’t tend to be mean spirited or especially annoying and they can be cunning warriors, excellent wizards or even mighty paladins. On second thought, D&D gnomes are really unlike any of the ones you are probably familiar with. The good news is, I’m here to tell you about playing a gnome and why this can be a great character race for a kid to play into, especially if they love to make jokes or puns.

Gnomes live for centuries. Anywhere between three and five hundred years is average for them. Unlike elves, who tend to take the time to slowly savor the world, gnomes feel like they need to make maximum use out of their time and live life to the absolute fullest extent they can. For this reason, they tend to make great adventurers. They really want to get out int the world and see everything there is to see. If there is a quest to kill a dragon, a gnome will want to go, not for treasure, not for violence, but because they have never actually seen one and who wouldn’t want to do that?

Gnomes also tend to be pretty upbeat and cheerful which can be a whole lot of fun to play both as a character and as a nonplayer character if you have one in your game. I always like to have a gnome I can play at some point in my game and I’ll tell you why in a little bit.

Gnomes have a refreshing take on life because they love to joke around but they are also able to get down to business when the stakes are high. They take well to tasks they set out to do. While some set out to become wealthy, and they have a love of gems, their true passion really is just the experience of life. They do live underground but they are likely to be found outside more often than dwarves tend to be. Gnomes can be found as any of the character classes in the rules but they do make especially good bards, wizards and paladins. They even do pretty well as rogues considering their small stature and the ability they have to sneak around when needed.

Gnomes love to joke, play pranks, and make puns. I am a dad and being a dad means that you are legally required to make a certain number of dad jokes, silly pranks and bad puns per year. I get the majority of mine in when I put a gnome NPC in the game. Why? Well, then it’s not dad telling the joke right? It’s the gnome! Okay, so my kid still rolls his eyes at the jokes but I enjoy it anyway. A gnome is a great comedic vehicle when you need oneand that’s how I use it but of course you don’t need to do that if you don’t want to.

Before we get into all the ability bonuses and stuff you get for being a gnome, I want to take a minute and talk about gnome names. In the basic rules they tell you that gnomes love to have a ton of names. They have so many names it’s hard for humans to keep track of what they should be called. But the gnomes always pick the names that they think are the most fun to say. Now usually I would say just name characters whatever you want, and that’s still true in this case but I am also going to give you another great source of gnome name inspiration. The master of all time at fun sounding names is one, Dr. Seuss. When looking for gnome names, his books are a gold mine. Barholomew Cubbins? Cindy Lou Who? Benjamin B. Bicklebaum? Oh those are such gnome names. And those are ones you have probably heard of. Look for some of the more obscure ones if you need to and I promise you are going to find a name that is fun to say.

Gnome Traits

There are a few things you get for playing a gnome

Ability Score Increase

Gnomes take quickly to the things they learn and they have a long lifespan of experience to draw from. For that reason they get to add 2 to their Intelligence score

Age

As I said above gnomes live 300-500 years or so but they age at the same pace as humans and are considered adults around age 40.

Alignment

If you use alignment in your game, gnomes tend toward the good side. This is pretty good news for the rest of the world because they can be a bit mischievous and like to play tricks on others.

Size

Gnomes are the smallest of the playable races in the basic rules. They stand only 3-4 feet tall and are very light usually coming in around 40 pounds. For game purposes your size is small.

Speed

Gnomes aren’t exceedingly fast but they are not exceptionally slow either. Their speed is 25 feet.

Darkvision

Since gnomes live underground they are pretty used to seeing in the dark. For this reason they get darkvision which means you can see out to 60 feet as if it were bright light while in dim light and in darkness you see out to 60 feet as if it were dim light.

Gnome Cunning

Gnomes can be smart, wise and charming so they get to have advantage on saving throws with these traits when a magic spell using one of them calls for it. Don’t worry if you don’t know exactly what that means yet, just know that gnomes are resistant to a lot of types of magic but certainly not all types.

Languages

Gnomes are fluent in common and gnomish. Gnomish is fairly complex due to the fact that gnomes live so long and learn so much but it still uses dwarvish script when written. Other creatures are able to learn gnomish but gnomes don’t necessarily share the language easily with anyone unless they are very close to them.

Subraces

I just discovered something odd when doing my research for this post. I look at the rules that are posted on D&D Beyond for the basic rules. In there they mention two subraces, the rock gnomes and the forest gnomes. However, they only explain the rock gnomes in there. So, in case you want to play one, I have done the research and I can share with you what the forest gnomes are like as well.

Forest Gnomes

Forest gnomes are quick and stealthy. They have a knack for illusion as well. They are also in tune with the forestand the animals that live in it.

Ability Score Increase

You get to increase your dexterity score by 1.

Natural Illusionist

You know the minor illusion cantrip. Intelligence is your spellcasting ability for it. Basically what this means is that your gnome can cast a spell where you can cast asmall but pretty convincing illusion. This is a surprisingly useful spell and I have had a lot of interesting role play moments because of the spell so it can be quite fun to have.

Speak With Small Beasts

Forest gnomes love animals and animals love them right back. For that reason, forest gnomes can speak with any animal that is size small or smaller. They have to do it through sounds and gestures but communication is quite possible among gnomes and animals.

Rock Gnomes

Rock gnomes are the most common type of gnome in D&D. They are hardy and inventive.

Ability Score Increase

Because they are hardy, rock gnomes get to increase their constitution score by 1. This just means it’s harder for them to get sick or poisoned.

Artificer’s Lore

This one is a little wonky but it’s cool. here’s what the rules say exactly: Whenever you make an Intelligence (History) check related to magic items, alchemical objects, or technological devices, you can add twice your proficiency bonus, instead of any proficiency bonus you normally apply. Now, I know that sounds confusing but here is the takeaway, when a gnome is looking at magical, alchemical, or technological stuff, they know more about it than others would. The reason is pretty obvious, gnomes live a long time and love to learn, so they know stuff.

Tinker

This one is pretty cool too. Basically a gnome can spend 10 gold and one hour and make a clockwork device. That’s as long as they have artisan’s tinker tools. Most gnomes do so that shouldn’t really be an issue. The device will stop working after 24 hours unless it is repaired. The gnome can also choose to take it apart and recover the parts of it. they are allowed to have up to 3 of these at a time.

If you are thinking that a gnome could make anything with this, that is not quite true. There are only three types of devices that can be made in this way.

Clockwork toy: This is basically a wind up toy that can be in the shape of a bunch of different stuff. The rules set limits but I don’t think you need to restrict it too much unless your kid wants it to be a tank with full fire power or something like that. If you are wondering what use these could possibly be you have clearly not played D&D before. These toys make great gifts to little kids the characters meet, they can be an excellent way to distract an unobservant guard, and maybe most importantly, they can be used to check if the floor has any traps set into it.

Fire Starter: This device produces a miniature flame. It’s good for lighting candles, torches or campfires. Personally, I think this one is less fun than the clockwork toy but it can come in handy when there are no other light orfire sources available.

Music Box: This is just your basic music box. It plays one song when open. It can also be used in some creative ways and as a distraction if done well, but the clockwork toy is still my favorite of the three.

Deep Gnomes

There is technically another type of gnome called the deep gnome or svirfneblin. They live in the underdark, in the same place dark elves live. They tend to still be good, but they have a lot less humor to them. I don’t strongly recommend this subrace for kids but if they really really want to play it, just remind the kid that these gnomes are still kind and good and want to help.

Slick Dungeon’s Tips on Playing Gnomes

Gnomes can be a huge amount of fun for a kid to play. They get to be kind, caring, inquisitive and have a sense of humor. If you have a kid who likes to tell jokes, play pranks, or say puns, the gnome option is perfect. Even if your kid doesn’t want to tell jokes and all that, but wishes to play a character that loves life, this is an excellent choice. Most kids love life and they are natural learners so they identify well with gnomes.

Of course they can be played any way you and your kid wants them to be played. Maybe they do want to play the only bored gnome in existence. Or one that has zero sense of humor. That’s totally fine, each character is always an individual, just make sure you understand what direction your kid wants to take it when they start out.

As a Dungeon Master, I think gnomes are really fun to play. They can take the most mundane item and give a three hour lecture on it, all while keeping the crowd entertained. This can be a little challenging to role play, so one thing you may want to do is look up some jokes ahead of time. Got one you have been waiting to tell your kid? Drop it on them in the guise of a gnome character and see what kind of a reaction you get. You might be surprised to see that a joke that normally gets a groan will get a laugh in the game. Try to have fun with it. I also think gnomes make pretty good merchant characters. They can go on and on about an item they are going to sell to the party and gnomes tend to be nice so you don’t have the problem of a store keeper who really doesn’t want to be there.

As always, it’s up to you how you do it, this is just the way I like to run gnomes.

I hope you found this post useful and picked up one or two tips for playing in your own game.

Next time we will get into how to play a Half-Elf.

Adventuringly yours,

Slick Dungeon

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This page contains affiliate links. If you purchase a product through one of them, I will receive a commission (at no additional cost to you). I only ever endorse products I have personally used. Thank you for your support!