Arcadia Issue #2 From MCDM – Review

Arcadia Banner from MCDM

Hello dungeon creatures and crawlers, it’s me Slick Dungeon. Guess what? The second issue of the super awesome Dungeons & Dragons magazine Arcadia by MCDM is out! 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 #2 check out my post here.

Even more exciting is that this magazine seems like it has the green light to go through issue #6 so there is going to be a lot of 5th edition goodness you can get your hands on. Matt Coleville summarizes what is in the issue in the video below. The release schedule does still seem to be tentative so I can’t say when issue #3 will be available but if they stick to the schedule it should be sometime in March.

I also want to reiterate that I have no association with MCDM in any way whatsoever, I just think that their products are top notch and worth every penny if you love playing Dungeons & Dragons 5th edition. That being said, if you want to pick up the first or second issue of Arcadia you can do it here. If you buy them both you can get them discounted as a bundle.

Arcadia #2 Announcement

Alright, enough about me telling you how to buy the awesome stuff, let me review the awesome stuff. Once again, there will be some spoilers as to what is in the issue but I won’t give too much away. To get the full story you definitely need to buy the magazine. Also like last time I will give each article a grade.

The artwork

I can’t review this magazine without mentioning the artwork. For the second time in a row, the artists have blown me away with their handiwork. The creatures depicted are cool and weird and all of the artwork is evocative and interesting. As if that were not enough, the adventure that is included in the magazine has useable maps for Dungeon Masters to use in their game. This month I am giving the artwork an A+ again.

Article #1 Subclasses of the Season

Have you ever wanted to play a character who had a subclass based on a season? Well, now you can. There are four subclasses for four different spellcasting classes. There is a winter themed subclass for wizards, a spring themed subclass for bards, a summer themed subclass for sorcerers and an autumn themed subclass for warlocks.

You’ll have to excuse me a little bit on judging these because I tend to be the DM more than the player and I tend to play a barbarian or druid so I can’t say with certainty how awesome these would be for players.

I found the winter subclass to be the least interesting because it seems to mostly rely on using rest time or downtime for the bonuses to work. That’s going to be somewhat dependent on how your Dungeon Master deals with short and long rests. It’s still a really cool idea, it just excited me the least of the four.

On the other hand, the autumn subclass for warlocks seemed amazing to me. I have never really wanted to be a warlock but I might reconsider that with this.

Now, because there are four different subclasses for four different spell casting classes this could be a little hit and miss. Some people are going to love one subclass more than another and if you love the subclass but you really don’t want to play a bard, that makes it a little difficult to give this an A.

Still, the variety here is fun and I am sure a lot of people are going to find something they do love here so I give this article a B+.

Article #2 – The Periodic Table of Elementals

Let me start objectively and without bias here. I freaking love this! As a dungeon master, I have had the experience of running a campaign with lots of elementals in it and they tend to get repetitive. While you can come up with creative ways to use them, at a certain point, the players know what’s coming and tend to be able to strategize well enough that elementals, which should be challenging, are a bit of a walk in the park. Not anymore.

Author Mackenzie De Armas has come up with what are called Nova elementals. These are elementals based on things other than just fire, earth, air and water. Things like lithium and potassium combine to make an elemental called a Comburo, precious metals like gold and copper make up what is called a Conducere elemental, and there are two others that I will just let you buy the magazine to know more about.

As cool as those are on their own, and they are cool, that’s not even my favorite part of this article! This article has alternate rules that allow the elementals to work together, powering one another in varying ways, that is just amazing. If your players have confronted elementals over and over again, they are not going to see this coming at all. I think it will make for a more interesting scenario for both the dungeon master and the players if you use this.

The price tag for this magazine is worth this article alone so I give this one an A+.

Article #2 – The Well of the Lost Gods

The Well of the Lost Gods is an adventure scenario for 4-5 players at 8th level. Much like the adventure scenario in the first issue of Arcadia this scenario is a combination of magic and a bit of technology. I think it would be best suited for a setting like Ravnica or maybe Eberron but since there is a dimensional portal in it, you could literally drop this anywhere in your game. It’s got two full maps with an interesting set up and both would make for a good dungeon crawl. There is also a bit of a hook to get started although, depending on your campaign, you might need to make adjustments so it doesn’t seem too forced for the characters to investigate.

The scenario includes two NPC’s you can play and has six new monster stat blocks. While I wish there were illustrations for all the new monsters, you can only pack so much amazing art into one issue. They do have one illustration for a CR 10 monster that is sure to leave players gasping when the Dungeon Master reveals it.

The adventure itself is more complex than the one in the last issue but since both have to do with technology and magic, I could easily see the two being tied together to make more of a campaign. I will say that the adventure seems potentially deadly but then again, what’s the fun in having no chance of death in Dungeons & Dragons? Do take caution before you use it n your game though to make sure your players could be a match for it.

For this article I am giving it an A. I would have bumped it to an A+ if there were more images to go with the stat blocks but it’s easily worth a read and I definitely want to build a campaign around this.

Overall

Once again this issue has impressed me. The quality did not degrade from the last issue in any way. And while I can’t say that this issue is better than the first, that’s because the first issue was so incredibly good. To have matched the quality is quite the feat here and if this continues, this is going on my must purchase list, with the hope that someday MCDM would put out a full hardcover anthology book that I would gladly pass my money over for.

For now at $7 an issue, it’s a steal. And if you bundle the two for $12 that’s an even better deal. If you love D&D, I am here to tell you, you gotta get this, it’s great.

Adventuringly yours,

Slick Dungeon

Slick Dungeons 10 Golden Rules of Dungeon Mastering for Kids

Howdy folks! Slick Dungeon here and I play a lot of Dungeons & Dragons. I have had conversations that have lasted for hours just on the topic. One thing I don’t see a lot of are guides or suggestions for how to play this game with kids. I’ve run into parents who have children who want to play but the parents are too intimidated to give it a try. To help solve that problem, I came up with a few rules and I want to give those rules to you for… absolutely free!

If this sounds like something you might be interested in just download the free 18 page PDF below. If you like it, consider signing up for my mailing list. If you hate my tips, you can always unsubscribe. You don’t have to sign up to the mailing list to get the PDF but if you do, it will put a swing in my step and a shine on my top hat!

Happy gaming everyone!

Here’s the PDF:

Get the 10 Golden Rules by clicking the image above

Processing…
Success! You're on the list.

Kids Kill Monsters – How to Prepare to play Dungeons & Dragons with Kids Part 14

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 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. Today we are going to talk about playing as a Barbarian.

Oil your muscles up, do a few stretches and get ready to let the fury of your rage loose upon the world. You are a barbarian. You might not have those fancy spells that go flying around the battlefield all the time but that’s fine, you don’t need them. You just need a handy melee weapon, the strength of your rage and something to hit!

I love playing a barbarian and there are tons of examples from literature and popular entertainment you can base this character upon. Barbarians also get some pretty neat class skills which can be quite fun to play.

When I think of barbarians one that I think most kids could understand and relate to would the The Incredible Hulk. While a Dungeons & Dragons character is not likely to go from academic scientist to raging gamma monster (although that would be possible in certain settings) the way that Hulk rages is very much like what a barbarian does. When Hulk gets angry, he hits harder than anyone else. Yet, even in his state of rage, he is usually aware enough to protect his friends and only go after bad guys. Sure, he does a lot of structural damage but he isn’t known to be a killer (at least not in my favorite interpretations of him).

His anger is often misunderstood and it can be a frightening sight to see even for his friends but ultimately, they are glad he is on their side. Also, when Hulk is angry its harder to hurt him. The blows glance off him for the most part unless you happen to be a god of thunder.

However, this rage can only last so long and after a while Hulk will wear himself out, especially if he runs out of stuff to hit.

Another model of barbarianism I think of is Conan the Barbarian because, well, it’s in the name. If you read some Conan stories though, it’s pretty obvious he may not be the best role model for children. There are some good qualities a kid playing a barbarian can adapt from Conan though. He never gives up on a fight and he will not abandon his friends no matter what the odds are. He’s a bit self centered and will take as much treasure as he can get his hands on but he’s not so greedy that he won’t share fairly in the spoils. And Conan, unlike the Hulk, is able to keep his head (literally and figuratively) not only in a fight but usually in a social situation. He respects magic while not using it and really only cares what someone else believes when it becomes a problem for him or anyone innocent around him.

I would be remiss if I didn’t mention the female version of Conan, Red Sonja. She’s a little less hot tempered than Conan and she had a very rough childhood where she had to learn to fend for herself, a child whose teacher was nature itself. She learned her lessons well and is one of the few people who can easily keep up with Conan. I actually think she might be a better role model for kids than Conan but she still went through some things that you might want to wait until your kids are older to explain. She has boundless courage and is always ready to lend a helping hand to those in need. She is somehow stealthy despite her shock of red hair that you would think could be seen by just about anyone. Her choice of battle gear is a bit… exposed, let’s say. It does leave her flexible though and as a barbarian you don’t want to be clunking around although, it would be wise to get yourself a shield from your closest merchant.

Barbarians tend to live for danger and are willing to take risks for themselves, especially if their actions might protect those they care about. There are all kinds of barbarians though and they often come in surprising packages. Being a barbarian isn’t about how big you are but about how bold you are. Halflings and dwarves make barbarians just as well as elves and goliaths do.

It can also be fun to play a barbarian a little against type. There’s no reason a barbarian can’t be smart or kind or even reluctant to get into battle. the one thing that should be consistent with barbarians is that once they are in battle, they revel in it, almost to the point where they are blind with rage but very effective up close.

So, now that I have given you some barbarian examples, how does one make a barbarian? Let’s take a look at what the basic rules have to tell us shall we?

Creating a Barbarian

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 barbarian?

For this class the rules recommend putting your highest ability score in Strength, followed by Constitution. This makes sense because as a barbarian your weapon attacks are going to use strength, your rage gives you some bonuses to your strength. You also want high constitution because this is how healthy you are and since you are likely to get bashed around plenty, you want to have enough hit points that you aren’t getting knocked out ever other round in combat.

Second they recommend the Outlander background. In a later series of posts I will go more into each background but I will say that Outlander can be a great choice for a barbarian but it is not the only choice. I have played a barbarian with the folklore background and that worked out very well for me. I also think that if you made a few adjustments a barbarian could be a noble. Sure, she might not come from a fancy castle and want to pay for the most luxurious accommodations every night but there’s no reason they can’t be the leader of their tribe or a proud noble of a people who shun the niceties of civilization.

There are different features you get for being a barbarian and while you are unlikely to get to the top ranks of levels with a group of kids, I’ll give you a rundown of these things anyway.

Class Features

Hit dice: Barbarians get to use a d12 when figuring out their hit points and hit dice which is pretty great since a lot of other classes use smaller dice meaning barbarians are sturdier. For your hit dice you get 1d12 per barbarian level.

Hit points: At first level it’s 1d12 + your constitution modifier. (This is where having con as one of your higher stats really helps) For every level after that you get 1d12 (or 7 if you are using averages) + your Constitution modifier per barbarian 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 d12s 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 barbarian has several proficiencies to begin with.

Armor: Barbarians are good with Light armor, medium armor, and shields. While I highly recommend you pick up a shield, you may not want to wear armor because if you do, you won’t be able to use Unarmored Defense which I will talk about more below.

Weapons: Barbarians are good with simple weapons and martial weapons. Spears, daggers, axes these are a few of the types of weapons barbarians are good with. They’re not great with a bow or anything that takes great practice and skill to perfect but that’s fine because a barbarian is going to want to get up close and be right in the middle of melee as much as possible.

Tools: None. Alright, barbarians just don’t have the patience for tools. That’s what rogues are for.

Saving Throws: Strength, Constitution. Saving throws are when you might befall an attack or damage of some kind. If the check for that attack or damage calls for strength or constitution you are going to be glad you are a barbarian

Skills: Choose two from Animal Handling, Athletics, Intimidation, Nature, Perception, and Survival. We’ll talk more about skills more in future posts but for now, these do basically what they sound like although I will point out Survival doesn’t mean just how long yo live. It’s more like, how long can you live in nature on your own instincts.

Equipment

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

  • (a) a greataxe or (b) any martial melee weapon
  • (a) two handaxes or (b) any simple weapon
  • An explorer’s pack and four javelins

These are all good weapons for a barbarian and it’s basically down to your preference of how you want to hit stuff.

Features

Alright, now for the fun stuff! On top of all the things listed above, barbarians get several features. Like I said before, kids are not likely to go all the way to level 20 but I will talk about all of these anyway. The descriptions with the bullets and stuff are taken right from the basic rules but I will give you my spin on each one. The first few are the ones to focus on at the beginning.

Rage

This is the key to being a barbarian. Whenever you get into combat you are going to want to Rage. It gives you bonuses that make you much tougher but there are some drawbacks to it so make sure you know how it works.

So what is it exactly?

On your turn, you can enter a rage as a bonus action.

While raging, you gain the following benefits if you aren’t wearing heavy armor:

  • You have advantage on Strength checks and Strength saving throws.
  • When you make a melee weapon attack using Strength, you gain a bonus to the damage roll that increases as you gain levels as a barbarian, as shown in the Rage Damage column of the Barbarian table.
  • You have resistance to bludgeoning, piercing, and slashing damage.

To sum this up, you are stronger when raging and as you level up you get to do even more damage per level. On top of that if an enemy is hitting you with any weapon that does bludgeoning, piercing or slashing damage, you get to reduce the amount of damage you would take.

There are some limits though. They are listed below.

If you are able to cast spells, you can’t cast them or concentrate on them while raging.

Your rage lasts for 1 minute. It ends early if you are knocked unconscious or if your turn ends and you haven’t attacked a hostile creature since your last turn or taken damage since then. You can also end your rage on your turn as a bonus action.

Once you have raged the number of times shown for your barbarian level in the Rages column of the Barbarian table, you must finish a long rest before you can rage again.

Those are the limits, let’s talk a little bit more about them.

Some barbarians do a little bit of magic so if you have an awesome spell, make sure you cast it before you rage. If it’s a concentration spell wait until the effect ends before you rage. It’s all about timing.

You can also lose your rage in a number of ways. First of all it only lasts for one full minute. Now, that’s actually quite a few rounds in most combat situations but if it’s a really long battle you’re going to want to make sure you go into the rage at the most opportune time.

Also, if you get knocked unconscious your rage is gone, so try not to get clobbered to the point where you have zero hit points.

On the other hand, you also lose your rage if you don’t either tried to hit an enemy or gotten hit by an enemy so if you are raging, be sure you are in the thick of the fight.

You can also choose to just stop raging, unlike the Hulk, so if you rage and then realize you should cast a spell you can drop that rage.

The final limitation is that you can only rage twice per day so if you are pretty sure you are going to be in ten combats, save your rage for the hardest two. You get your rages back after a long rest.

Unarmored Defense

While you are not wearing any armor, your Armor Class equals 10 + your Dexterity modifier + your Constitution modifier. You can use a shield and still gain this benefit.

Ok, here’s the deal with unarmored defense. You don’t want to wear armor. Why? Because adding all those numbers above is probably going to be more defensive for you than wearing armor in the first place. Plus, if you have a shield you get a +2 to your AC while you use it so you can boost that number even higher. Also, you and your Monk buddy (we’ll talk about Monks in a later post) are going to be the quickest to get out of the inn to see what all the ruckus is in the middle of the night. Why? It takes 10 minutes to put all that armor on but you don’t have to. Your armor is your flesh.

Reckless Attack

Starting at 2nd level, you can throw aside all concern for defense to attack with fierce desperation. When you make your first attack on your turn, you can decide to attack recklessly. Doing so gives you advantage on melee weapon attack rolls using Strength during this turn, but attack rolls against you have advantage until your next turn.

This is an awesome feature but I will give you caution that using it on an adult dragon might be unwise. Basically at the start of your attack you can do so recklessly which means you get to roll two d20s and take the higher number for your attack roll. The drawback? That same creature has advantage against you on its next attack. If it’s a squishy little goblin with no armor that’s probably fine but if it’s something bigger than you just remember it gets to hit back.

Danger Sense

At 2nd level, you gain an uncanny sense of when things nearby aren’t as they should be, giving you an edge when you dodge away from danger.

You have advantage on Dexterity saving throws against effects that you can see, such as traps and spells. To gain this benefit, you can’t be blinded , deafened , or incapacitated.

For this one you get a bit more of a chance of escaping damage caused by your environment or your enemies, so long as you can see it. It doesn’t work if you have the blinded , deafened , or incapacitated conditions going against you. We’ll talk more about conditions in a later post but they do basically what they sound like.

Primal Path

At 3rd level, you choose a path that shapes the nature of your rage. Choose the Path of the Berserker or the Path of the Totem Warrior, both detailed at the end of the class description. Your choice grants you features at 3rd level and again at 6th, 10th, and 14th levels.

Look, this one sounds confusing but basically you get to pick one of two cool ways to manifest your rage. Since they both get entries in the end of the barbarian section I will go into more detail about both the Path of the Berserker and the Path of the Totem Warrior later in this post.

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.

Extra Attack

Beginning at 5th level, you can attack twice, instead of once, whenever you take the Attack action on your turn.

Yeah! You get to hit stuff more. Hitting more stuff is good for a barbarian!

Fast Movement

Starting at 5th level, your speed increases by 10 feet while you aren’t wearing heavy armor.

We’ve been over this, barbarians don’t want to wear armor and this is another reason. You can move faster. Faster is good because then you get to hit stuff sooner!

Feral Instinct

By 7th level, your instincts are so honed that you have advantage on initiative rolls.

Additionally, if you are surprised at the beginning of combat and aren’t incapacitated, you can act normally on your first turn, but only if you enter your rage before doing anything else on that turn.

If you are sort of new to D&D this just sounds confusing. This is mostly wrapped up in some mechanics. Basically the idea is that you notice when things are about to get hairy before others do so you are more likely to get into combat first. And if you are new to D&D the whole surprised thing can be tough to figure out. It’s a sort of weirdly complicated mechanic of figuring out who goes first in combat. I’ll do a post later that talks about this so for now, don’t worry too much about it. Having the Feral Instinct is very helpful, just know that much.

Brutal Critical

Beginning at 9th level, you can roll one additional weapon damage die when determining the extra damage for a critical hit with a melee attack.

This increases to two additional dice at 13th level and three additional dice at 17th level.

I know this one sounds kind of jargony but it boils down to this. You get to roll more damage dice when you roll a 20 on your attack roll. In other words, you hit really hard.

Relentless Rage

Starting at 11th level, your rage can keep you fighting despite grievous wounds. If you drop to 0 hit points while you’re raging and don’t die outright, you can make a DC 10 Constitution saving throw. If you succeed, you drop to 1 hit point instead.

Each time you use this feature after the first, the DC increases by 5. When you finish a short or long rest, the DC resets to 10.

This one is fun because just when it looks like you are down and out, you get back up again. That bugbear that thought it just struck a killing blow against you? Guess what? It’s your turn now!

Persistent Rage

Beginning at 15th level, your rage is so fierce that it ends early only if you fall unconscious or if you choose to end it.

Yes! You can be in a near perpetual state of rage unless you decide to calm down or you get knocked out.

Indomitable Might

Beginning at 18th level, if your total for a Strength check is less than your Strength score, you can use that score in place of the total.

By this time you are probably pretty strong so getting to use your strength score is usually going to be way better than a low roll on a d20.

Primal Champion

At 20th level, you embody the power of the wilds. Your Strength and Constitution scores increase by 4. Your maximum for those scores is now 24.

Again, this doesn’t seem that neat from a role playing perspective but it does make you stronger and sturdier. I can’t say I have played a level 20 barbarian (yet) so I am not sure how helpful this is but most of the score caps are 20 so an extra four ain’t bad.

Primal Paths

So what exactly are Primal Paths and how do they work? This is the part of the class that lets you add a little style to your barbarian. There are two paths you can choose from in the basic rules, the Path of the Berserker and the Path of the Totem.

For some reason the basic rules on D&D Beyond don’t actually give the details for the Path of the Totem but I have you covered.

Here is how the basic rules describes Primal Paths:

Rage burns in every barbarian’s heart, a furnace that drives him or her toward greatness. Different barbarians attribute their rage to different sources, however. For some, it is an internal reservoir where pain, grief, and anger are forged into a fury hard as steel. Others see it as a spiritual blessing, a gift of a totem animal.

Pretty cool right? Let’s take a look at each option.

Path of the Berserker

If your kid wants to basically be the Hulk when she plays, have her take the Path of the Berserker. You get some cool features to use and you get to be the scariest thing in the room.

Here is what you get.

Frenzy

Starting when you choose this path at 3rd level, you can go into a frenzy when you rage. If you do so, for the duration of your rage you can make a single melee weapon attack as a bonus action on each of your turns after this one. When your rage ends, you suffer one level of exhaustion.

Basically you get to hit more frequently in battle but there is a cost. Once you are done, you really need to take a rest otherwise you suffer a level of exhaustion. exhaustion is a condition and again. we will talk about those in a later post but suffice to say it can lead to death eventually if you are not careful.

Mindless Rage

Beginning at 6th level, you can’t be charmed or frightened while raging. If you are charmed or frightened when you enter your rage, the effect is suspended for the duration of the rage.

None of that mind control spell funny business for you. You are way too focused on your rage to listen to anyone else. When the rage ends that wizard can get back to charming you… if he hasn’t fallen to your greataxe by then.

Intimidating Presence

Beginning at 10th level, you can use your action to frighten someone with your menacing presence. When you do so, choose one creature that you can see within 30 feet of you. If the creature can see or hear you, it must succeed on a Wisdom saving throw (DC equal to 8 + your proficiency bonus + your Charisma modifier) or be frightened of you until the end of your next turn. On subsequent turns, you can use your action to extend the duration of this effect on the frightened creature until the end of your next turn. This effect ends if the creature ends its turn out of line of sight or more than 60 feet away from you.

If the creature succeeds on its saving throw, you can’t use this feature on that creature again for 24 hours.

The Hulk is big and scary and he makes people afraid. Barbarians get to use that to their advantage. The caveat is that the creature has to be close enough and if they succeed on their saving throw, they don’t think you’re such a big deal anymore. Be sure to have a weapon ready to remind them that they are wrong about that.

Retaliation

Starting at 14th level, when you take damage from a creature that is within 5 feet of you, you can use your reaction to make a melee weapon attack against that creature.

If you hit me I hit you back is pretty much what this is. It’s pretty effective for barbarians.

Path of the Totem Warrior

The Totem Warrior is very in tune with nature and all the animals and spirits of animals around them. This is a much more mystical take on the barbarian and it can be a lot of fun to play.

The Player’s Handbook describes it like this:

The Path of the Totem Warrior is a spiritual journey, as the barbarian accepts a spirit animal as guide, protector, and inspiration. In battle, your totem spirit fills you with supernatural might, adding magical fuel to your barbarian rage.

It’s sort of like Brother Bear but if instead of only learning life lessons about acceptance, you also learned how to be really good in a fight.

Here is what you get with this path.

Spirit Seeker

Yours is a path that seeks attunement with the natural world, giving you a kinship with beasts. At 3rd level when you adopt this path, you gain the ability to cast the beast sense and speak with animals spells, but only as rituals.

Basically what this means is that you can use a beast’s eyes and listen through it’s ears which can be great when scouting an area. You can also talk with animals to find out about what’s going on in the area. However, it takes time for you to do that because you have to do it as a ritual. We’ll get more into that when we talk about magic in a later post but for now just know, ritual spell means you need a bit of time to cast it.

Totem Spirit

At 3rd level, when you adopt this path, you choose a totem spirit and gain its feature. You must make or acquire a physical totem object — an amulet or similar adornment — that incorporates fur or feathers, claws, teeth, or bones of the totem animal. At your option, you also gain minor physical attributes that are reminiscent of your totem spirit. For example, if you have a bear totem spirit, you might be unusually hairy and thick-skinned, or if your totem is the eagle, your eyes turn bright yellow.

Your totem animal might be an animal related to those listed here but more appropriate to your homeland. For example, you could choose a hawk or vulture in place of an eagle.

Bear. While raging, you have resistance to all damage except psychic damage. The spirit of the bear makes you tough enough to stand up to any punishment.

Eagle. While you’re raging, other creatures have disadvantage on opportunity attack rolls against you, and you can use the Dash action as a bonus action on your turn. The spirit of the eagle makes you into a predator who can weave through the fray with ease.

Wolf. While you’re raging, your friends have advantage on melee attack rolls against any creature within 5 feet of you that is hostile to you. The spirit of the wolf makes you a leader of hunters.

I think these are pretty straightforward but the gist of it is that you get to choose an animal and gain some of the benefits that animal naturally possesses.

Aspect of the Beast

At 6th level, you gain a magical benefit based on the totem animal of your choice. You can choose the same animal you selected at 3rd level or a different one.

Bear. You gain the might of a bear. Your carrying capacity (including maximum load and maximum lift) is doubled, and you have advantage on Strength checks made to push, pull, lift, or break objects.

Eagle. You gain the eyesight of an eagle. You can see up to 1 mile away with no difficulty, able to discern even fine details as though looking at something no more than 100 feet away from you. Additionally, dim light doesn’t impose disadvantage on your Wisdom (Perception) checks.

Wolf. You gain the hunting sensibilities of a wolf. You can track other creatures while traveling at a fast pace, and you can move stealthily while traveling at a normal pace.

Again I think this is pretty straightforward but this time the effect is magical. You do only get to choose each animal once so make sure you choose wisely.

Totemic Attunement

At 14th level, you gain a magical benefit based on a totem animal of your choice. You can choose the same animal you selected previously or a different one.

Bear. While you’re raging, any creature within 5 feet of you that’s hostile to you has disadvantage on attack rolls against targets other than you or another character with this feature. An enemy is immune to this effect if it can’t see or hear you or if it can’t be frightened.

Eagle. While raging, you have a flying speed equal to your current walking speed. This benefit works only in short bursts; you fall if you end your turn in the air and nothing else is holding you aloft.

Wolf. While you’re raging, you can use a bonus action on your turn to knock a Large or smaller creature prone when you hit it with melee weapon attack.

Ditto for this one, you get the benefits of the creatures you choose and they are magical. They are all pretty useful so have fun with it.

Slick Dungeon’s Tips on Playing Barbarians

When you tell a kid that they can play a barbarian you might think you would regret that decision. I mean, a character who is all about rage and anger? Is that something we want our kids to do? Well, I think yes because anger is a huge emotion for kids. It’s something they understand and if they have ever had a tantrum they know there are times it is scary and they might feel like there is no way of controlling it. Guess what? That’s just like a barbarian but there is one major difference. They get to experience this in a safe environment without real world consequences. They might be able to see that their character is able to reign in that rage when needed and they can use that emotion towards something positive, namely protecting their friends. Also, kids are kind of egomaniacs. That’s not an insult, it’s just who kids are and how they develop. That being the case, sometimes they want to get to feel super powerful and playing as a barbarian is a great outlet for that.

The main caution with playing a barbarian is not to take things too far. You don’t want the role play of the rage to turn into actual anger so make sure that the rules of what is allowed at the table while playing are well set ahead of time.

Other than that, let your kid have fun, let them be powerful. Let them feel like the strongest in the room. It will be a ton of fun, I promise you.

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 ultimate in entertainment and support when we talk about bards.

Adventuringly yours,

Slick Dungeon

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!

Processing…
Success! You're on the list.

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.

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

Want Dungeons & Dragons tips in your inbox from Slick Dungeon? Join my mailing list below!

Processing…
Success! You're on the list.

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!

Want Dungeons & Dragons tips in your inbox from Slick Dungeon? Join my mailing list below!

Processing…
Success! You're on the list.

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

Processing…
Success! You're on the list.

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

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 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!