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.

Guild Adept PDFs - Available exclusively @ Dungeon Masters Guild

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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Top 5 Tabletop RPG’s to play in 2022

You probably don’t need this many dice to play but it can’t hurt

Hey everyone, Slick Dungeon, here and I wanted to talk about the top 5 roleplaying games I think you should play this year. Just a note, this list is designed for people who are newer to role playing games so if you are an experienced player or game master there’s a chance you already play several of these games. But you never know, maybe you’ll find something here you haven’t seen before!

(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)

Without any further ado let’s get on with the list!

5. Call of Cthulhu: 7th Edition

Call of Cthulhu Starter Set

After Dungeons & Dragons, Call of Cthulhu is my favorite role playing game of all time. Unlike the sword and sorcery of D&D this game starts its characters from a realistic place. Sure, you will end up fighting cosmic monsters, weird things from beyond the grave, and the unknowable fathoms of human evil but your characters are fundamentally fragile. In this game, a bullet is more than enough to kill your character. It’s usually best to avoid combat whenever possible but if you do get into combat, it’s usually a lot of fun. While this is a horror game, the horror level tends to be a roughly PG-13 vibe although as Keeper you can increase or decrease the intensity however you want. The rules system is pretty easy to learn although it does take some time to get used to. However, my main reason for putting this game on the list here besides all of that is the phenomenal starter set you can get for this game. In the set you get character sheets, dice, introductory rules and a couple of scenarios. You get all of this for $5.99 but right now on Drivethrurpg.com you can get it for just $4.49. And one thing to mention is that the scenario Alone Against the Flames which comes in the box, is a solo campaign. This means if you’re on the fence about whether your group will enjoy it or not you can play through a whole scenario (which also does a great job of teaching you the rules) by yourself to see if it’s something you are into. The price is really good here for what amounts to hours of fun. If you want to get the set and help out this blog click the image above or click right here to order your own set!

4. Tiny Dungeon: Second Edition

Tiny Dungeon: Second Edition

Tiny Dungeon is minimalist fantasy role play and when the game designers say that, they mean it. You can literally fit everything you need for your characters on a 3×5 index card. You only need d6 (the typical dice you find in most board games) and two people to get started. It is recommended you have one game master and three adventurers but you can do this game one on one and have a great time. If you have younger kids this can be a gateway into other role playing games as they get older. Also, if you have always wanted to play a role playing game but were intimidated by all the fancy books, little set pieces, and number of dice you see on a table, this is the perfect antidote to that problem. It’s fast to learn and fun to play. For this game there is not a starter set but it’s straight forward enough all you really need to start is in the PDF you can get on Drivethrurpg.com. That version retails for $17.99 but it’s on sale for $11.69 right now. But if you get are like me, you like to have your hands on a physical book. I’d recommend going with the PDF + Softcover black and white book option. This is usually $42.99 but you can get it today for $28.25. Again, if you want to help out this blog you can but through the image above or click here.

3. Traveller

Traveller Core Rulebook

A top 5 list of tabletop rpg’s would not be complete without at least one space game. There are licensed games for Star Wars, Star Trek, and Alien just to name a few. I thought about putting one of those on this list but I think Traveller is great because it does not fall into our preconceived notions of those franchises. You get to have your own version of space in your head as you play. This book walks you through the rules, how to create characters, and basically everything you need to create an adventure to go explore the galaxy. Be forewarned, much like Dungeons & Dragons, there are a million books out there you can get so if you do start Traveller and enjoy it, you can end up getting in deep fast. If you are into space travel games this one is a great choice and it’s been around for a long time so it’s easy to find other people who have been playing a long time who can give you advice about running the game. Usually this book sells for $30.00 but you can get a mild discount today with a price of $25.50. Get your copy at the image above or by clicking here.

2. Worlds Without Number

Worlds Without Number by Kevin Crawford

In my mind Kevin Crawford is one of the most outstanding game designers out there. He has an excellent space rpg called Stars Without Number. It’s an expansive game with pretty clear rules and it was a definite hit in the tabletop rpg world. Now he has set his mind to sword and sorcery fantasy with Worlds Without Number. It’s fully compatible with its predecessor but you do not have to play that game for Worlds Without Number to be enjoyable. I would say this game is a little more gritty than D&D but it sort of takes the best parts of the OSR rules system and allows the great narrative of the 5th edition rule set of Dungeons & Dragons. The rules are unique to this game but if you have played D&D of any version you’ll catch on very quickly. It’s got a very sandbox feel, meaning you can make any kind of adventures you want to without feeling restricted by an adventure module of some kind. The best part of this, however, is that you can start this game for nothing. The free set of rules is quite comprehensive and does give you everything you need to get started. If you’re not sure if this game is for you, you can get the free version. Just scroll down on the description when you click the link in the image or click here. If you already know you like sword and sorcery role playing games, I do recommend you get the PDF which you can get for $16.99 today by clicking here.

1. Dungeons & Dragons: 5th Edition

Dungeons & Dragons Photo Credit: Wizards of the Coast

Dungeons & Dragons is the undisputed king of all role playing games. It’s the most popular, it’s hitting the cultural zeitgeist harder than ever before, and it’s easy to find in pretty much any book store, hobby shop, or toy store you go into. While not everyone in the world loves the game, and there is valid debate as to which edition is the most fun to play, I think the best version of this game ever is the 5th edition. It’s extremely flexible, it’s hours upon hours upon hour upon hours of fun. It can be full of humor, drama, horror, and lifelong memories. It’s understandable if you are intimidated by the sheer volume of what is out there but that’s part of why this game is so great. There are any number of resources at your fingertips. And while there are a million books for D&D 5th edition (not to mention miniatures, maps, and other supporting materials) you do not have to buy a single one of them to start playing. I always recommend new players simply go to the Dungeons & Dragons website and download the Basic Rules. The website will try to get you to buy the starter sets and essentials kits and stuff like that. Don’t start there. Take a look at the basic rules and give them a read through. If they are something you are into, get a group of friends together, play a game and decide if you want to commit to any more before you spend a dime. One thing you may need to pay for is a set of gaming dice but honestly, if you are okay just using an app on a phone, you don’t even need those. Also, if you happen to have kids who want to play this game but you’re not sure how to begin, check out my series on playing D&D with kids called Kids Kill Monsters. Honestly, I can’t recommend this game enough.

Well, that’s the list. What games are you looking forward to playing in the coming year? If you have any good recommendations drop them in the comments below!

Thanks for reading!

Adventuringly yours,

Slick Dungeon

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

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Challenge Yourself! Books, Movies and RPGs for 2022

Hey Everyone, Slick Dungeon here. 2021 was a year full of challenges for most of us. Instead of the kind that life throws in our way I thought we could have some fun with challenges I made myself. Rather than 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.)

This is the second year I have thrown down challenges but I would love to know what you all think of them so please let me know 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. They are the same rules I followed last year.

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. (Although there may be time constraints and I reserve the right to change my mind!) 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! Share, share, share!

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 first book I remember reading is Cat in the Hat by Dr. Seuss. That should be a pretty quick read. I am reading Revival by Stephen King and that one is definitely more than 500 pages long. I’m not sure what I will do for the rest yet but you get the idea.

Slick Dungeon’s 2022 Book Challenge!

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 a Horror Comedy I might go back to the Toxic Avenger series. The first movie I remember seeing in a theater was The Great Muppet Caper where the muppets try to steal the “baseball diamond”. I’ve had an intense love for film, and puns, not to mention muppets, ever since. I will likely watch The Godfather II for a sequel that is better than the original but I have a couple other ideas in mind for that one as well. Remember, you get to decide if the movie you are watching fits into your category so you do you.

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 the first role playing game I remember playing, it is of course Dungeons & Dragons and you can get started on it for free using the basic rules.

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. I wanted to play this last year but I never quite got around to it. The second I am considering is Traveller. This is a space role playing game and it has been around forever but I have not yet played it. I’m curious how it would compare to something like the several Star Wars, Star Trek and Alien role playing games since this one is not set in a licensed movie or television world. The third one I am considering is The One Ring, the TTRPG based on the works of J.R.R. Tolkien. For as much inspiration as other role playing games take from those books, it has not been often that LOTR has gotten involved in tabletop gaming with the actual franchise. I’m very curious how it compares to the sword and sorcery heavy Dungeons & Dragons.

For a sci-fi role playing game 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 played it a little bit last year and had a blast so I’m ready to go back!

For a one page Tabletop RPG I plan to play Crash Pandas. The reason I want to play it? I’m just going to let the description here speak for itself: “You’re a bunch of raccoons, all trying to drive the same souped-up sports car, desperate to make a name for yourselves on the cut-throat LA street-racing circuit. But: why?” Yeah, who wouldn’t want to play that?? Seriously.

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.

If you enjoy the content I make please give a like and a follow on my wordpress blog site!

Challengingly yours,

Slick Dungeon

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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

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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

Book Review – Van Richten’s Guide to Ravenloft

Classic Dungeons & Dragons back in print! - Available now @ Dungeon Masters Guild

Rating: 5 out of 5.

Hey everyone, Slick Dungeon here. I don’t usually review D&D books on this site although I do post a lot of D&D content. I wanted to review Van Richten’s Guide to Ravenloft because I have not been this excited about a Dungeons & Dragons book in a long time. I’m going to give a brief review of the sections in the book and give you my overall opinion of it, as well as a tip or two on how you can use this book to amp up your own horror campaigns. I’ll likely do further posts on content in this book as well because it has given me a lot to think about so watch out for those.

(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)

Also, I know this is not the most recent book Wizards of the Coast has put out but I am not reviewing the most recent one because I don’t have it yet and Van Richten’s Guide fits a lot better with the month of October because, uh… Halloween of course!

So let’s get into it.

chapter 1: Character Creation

This chapter gives several new character options. There are lineages, subclass options and backgrounds. Some of these are going to be familiar with those who follow unearthed arcana. You can create a Dhampir which is basically a vampire who can walk in daylight (think Blade from Marvel for reference), a Hexblood, basically a character who has made a bad deal with a Hag and now has some cool powers but is in debt to the Hag, and a Reborn which is pretty much Frankenstein’s monster although that’s not the only way to play it.

While those lineages are cool, the stuff I really like in this chapter is the dark gifts and the backgrounds. They give several options that can allow your players to really lean into horror if they want to. If there is a horror character or trope you want to play, you can probably find it in one of these backgrounds. Dark gifts are serious powers you gain but at a cost, be it physical, mental, or spiritual.

In addition to all of that, this chapter gives us a Horror Trinket table with lots of horror related objects players could find or have. If I was running a Ravenloft campaign I would probably drop a lot of these trinkets in odd or unsettling places for my players to find.

Chapter 2: Creating Domains of Dread

This chapter is really cool. If you’ve ever played Curse of Strahd you know that Strahd Von Zarovitch is a vampire cursed to live in his own domain, subtly tortured by his own past, destined to see horrors of his own making come to pass over and over again. Well guess what? You can make your own dark lord! This can be anything from the most twisted soul you can imagine, say a barber who is out for revenge and likes to cut throats while singing, to something much less frightening but still fun like an old man who is trying to keep those meddling kids out of his amusement park. I love this idea. They walk you through how to create this dark lord of your own realm and then they tell you how to create the domain they are trapped in. There is great advice on how to tie this dark lord’s actions into the domain so it’s sort of their own personal version of Hell but everyone there just sort of endures it because they don’t know any different.

Another fantastic feature of this chapter is the overview and breakdown of different types of horror. They go over body horror, cosmic horror, dark fantasy, Ghost stories and a host of others. They even give some recommendations of what monsters from the Monster Manual work well within each genre.

Chapter 3: Domains of Ravenloft

Here is where the meat of the book can be found. This chapter gives a deep dive into Ravenloft as a whole and then gives a deep dive into several of the domains of dread.

There are seventeen domains they fully flesh out and give several pages on. They start with Barovia and I will say if you are playing or have played Curse of Strahd this section is still worth a read because there are some great tips on ways to change it up and surprise your players. In addition to those seventeen domains they also give twenty-two domains the short treatment where it’s a paragraph or two but it leaves your imagination running wild.

My favorite one out of these shorter ones is the last train leaving from Eberron where a mysterious passenger shows up, holds the train up and demands to be let on and kicks a bunch of other passengers off so they can have their stuff loaded. No one on the train knows it but they did not make it away from the explosion and they’ve all been dead traveling with this person who caused their deaths. I really want to make a campaign out of that.

Out of all of these domains there was really only one or two where I didn’t quite get it and wasn’t that interested in running as a horror campaign. All the rest have huge potential for a great setting for part or all of a fantastic campaign.

The chapter also highlights some of the natives you can find wandering the mists of Ravenloft, including Van Richten himself, the Vistani, and some characters sure to be familiar with those who love older editions of the game.

chapter 4: Horror Adventures

This chapter is very helpful to Dungeon Masters because is gives some solid advice on making sure people can enjoy a horror campaign without suffering actual trauma. Safety is always a concern when running horror because while it’s fun to be scared in an imaginary way, it’s never good when someone’s actual trauma or phobias are triggered. They give some standard advice about safety tools such as having a session zero (which I think you should have no matter what kind of campaign you are running) and subtle ways players can signal the DM that a line they are not comfortable with is getting crossed. I think though, the main thing to take away, is you should always keep your lines of communication open and make sure people are having fun.

There is also some advice on ways to set the mood for horror. If you already watch a lot of horror or have played these types of campaigns you might not get as much use out of this advice as others would. Still, it’s got some good reminders about setting the mood but also making sure the game is accessible to all. There is also advice on how to talk to players after an intense session.

They go over the use of props and handouts as well but for that, it really depends on what your gaming groups like. A lot of groups love handouts but not every group does and it sort of depends on what kind of handout you are talking about in the first place. I know if I get a handout that’s supposed to be a handwritten note and it’s illegible, I would much rather someone had read me the text to begin with.

The end of the chapter has an adventure that can be used as a way to get a party entered into the mists of Ravenloft, after which you can have them land wherever you want. It’s a solid adventure that is balanced for four to six characters starting at level one who advance to level three by the end. I don’t want to give spoilers away here but you could definitely use some of the NPC’s found in here as a springboard to a larger adventure.

Technically there already is an adventure like this called Death House that pairs with Curse of Strahd so if you plan to go into Barovia, you may want to use that one instead.

Chapter 5: Monsters of Ravenloft

This chapter is exactly what it sounds like. There is a bestiary here with stat blocks and all that good crunchy rules stuff you need for a game. There are some new takes on old monsters which are interesting and sound fun. But there are some absolutely fantastic new monsters in here as well. Let me just say that the Bagman is going to haunt my players dreams without a doubt.

There are monsters that are terrifying and ones that are silly which is great. You could absolutely run an Invasion of the Body Snatchers style campaign but it could also just as easily be a Little Shop of Horrors campaign based around the plant creatures they give here.

There is also the ridiculous like Brain in a Jar perfect for lovers of old weird movies and definitely surprising to those who don’t watch them.

In Summary

Dungeons & Dragons has a long history of horror campaigns. Some of the oldest modules out there have less to do with finding treasure and more to do with facing your character’s fears. In all those years there has never been a book as good at getting down into how to think about, create, and run horror campaigns as Van Richten’s Guide to Ravenloft. While it’s not perfect and there are some sections which could have been a little more robust this book is absolutely worth the money. Even if you actually love running other RPG’s like Call of Cthulhu there is still some great advice in this book you could pluck out and use.

I’ve always loved playing horror campaigns, or at least campaigns with a few horrific elements here and there, but with this book I feel like I have been given a whole new arsenal and way to think about these campaigns. If you are a horror fan and a Dungeons & Dragons fan you should pick this book up.

Also, if you want to run campaigns more on the spooky but not scary side, you can definitely do that with this book. You may have to make adjustments based on how intense you want things to be but there is enough flexibility in the domains of dread that you can definitely do it.

In future posts I plan to break down and dive much deeper into the sections of this book and not only talk about them in general but also about how you could use this book with kids if you are running a game with younger players. I’ve got a few other ideas in mind as well but I’ll get into those in future posts.

For now I hope you liked my review and I’ll see you next time.

Horrifically yours,

Slick Dungeon

Dungeon Master Tool Review – Scary Stories to Play in the Dark

Spooky Stories to Play in the Dark

Hi all, Slick Dungeon here. I was messing around in the DM’s Guild recently because I was thinking about writing something with advice about running horror campaigns for kids. It can be both super fun and a difficult challenge all at once.

Imagine my surprise when I came upon some creators who already did this for adapting games from famous horror books suitable for kids 8-12 years old.

I’ll still be giving my take on this sort of thing later this month but Thomas and Rachel Kolar have basically knocked it out of the park in a nutshell with this little supplement.

The authors give general advice on running games involving horror with kids, give some solid examples of horror kids are reading (both old and newer), and give general advice on how to increase or decrease the horror level on your campaigns.

They take films or books you are likely familiar with, give a bit of advice on how to adapt so the players are the stars of the show but shouldn’t be overly traumatized by the scary things that can happen, and give an excellent list of recommended reading.

The best part? It’s 100% free on the DM’s guild. I will say though, that the Kolar’s obviously put some time and effort into this so if you can please support them by giving them a few cents for it.

Also, they have a more in-depth guide that I plan to check out myself called Ravenloft Gives Me Goosebumps: Genres of Horror for only $0.99! In this one they go through how to run games with kids 8-12 using the Genres of Horror section in Van Richten’s Guide to Ravenloft. That makes two ideas I was going to post about they thought of before I did!

Horrifically yours,

Slick Dungeon