Update

Dear Readers, I know it has been more than a bit since my last post. Life has been hitting me sideways. If it isn’t one thing, it’s another.

Long story short, a former foster kid of ours (my wife and I used to be professional foster parents) recently contacted us asking for help. The problem? She lives in Germany now and is in the German foster system. And as I know the parents pretty well, they are asking for help. And we are trying to do so, limited as it can be, both for our former foster kiddo, and the parents to some degree.

It’s a mess.

That said, I haven’t been idle. I’m still trying to maintain my sanity with my self-care, specifically with the games I play and the miniatures I paint. Even with the latter, I’ve had zero time to actually sit down and paint since…well, since the Red Slaad. I have got a little bit of painting on a commission that I am working on, but it really isn’t much, truth be told. I’ll try to get some updates there.

In a word: I’m trying.

Thanks for your understanding. I’ll be back soon. Promise.

Until next time, Dear Readers…

Out of the Office

Dear Readers, I had every intention of doing another post today, and frankly, this week. But fate had other plans.

A family member is gravely ill and my family literally packed up and left yesterday, and got in around 3 am local time. Then we got a few hours of sleep and went to the hospital, where we spent most of the day.

This is the first chance I’ve gotten to do anything but drive, eat, sleep, or talk with medical workers.

And I am exhausted.

So I don’t know when I will next have a post. Rest assured that I will be back to posting as soon as I am able, but things are just too crazy at the moment.

Thanks for your understanding.

Until next time, Dear Readers…

Online or In-Person?

Dear Readers, I have told you about several of my games: My Tuesday Ingrates, my Sunday Adventurers League (currently running Spelljammer; lots of fun there!), my Monthly in-person game (this Wednesday, actually), my monthly Roll20 game, and lastly, my weekly Discord game. Whew!

With all of those games, two are online and the rest are in-person. Someone once asked me which I prefer. Here’s the breakdown:

In Person:

There’s a lot to be said for in-person gaming as most of us found out during the pandemic. To put it into perspective, I had 9 tables at adventurers league, including my own. Now, we’re at 5 and we might end up with a 6th. I’m not sure. In any case, as we all know, the pandemic hit the gaming world hard. The alternatives became much more prevalent, but we’ll get to that later.

In-person gaming has some serious perks.

First is the face-to-face interactions. Nothing can really beat this. Being with friends, sharing adventures, eating food that’s not good for you, drinking copious amounts of your favorite beverages, are all things that are better when everyone is together.

Then there is the use of battlemats, terrain, and miniatures. As you all well know, I love painting and using miniatures. Nothing beats using them on a battlemat or some terrain. I mean, do you remember my post about using the Spelljammer ship? Yeah, not much beats that.

Lastly, it’s the synergy of everything above that makes in-person gaming such a big draw to folks.

Online:

Although there are some real benefits to playing in-person, playing online has it’s perks too.

Firstly, distance is no barrier. I mean, my monthly Roll20 game is with one of my best friends, his brother, an old friend from where I used to live and game with, and others. And the best part? Most of them are not from the same areas. This means that we can get on Roll20 once a month and start gaming. Now, due to issues we’ve had with Roll20’s video and voice chat features, we use Discord to do our voice chatting. I’ve even used Zoom to play a time or two (or used it to bring in a remote player to an in-person game!).

Sites like Fantasy Ground, Roll20, and others still let you have cool maps/terrain-ish things to play on. This works especially with pre-written/published adventures you purchase on those platforms. For example, I own Rime of the Frostmaiden, Curse of Strahd, and some other adventures on Roll20, all of which come preloaded with monster tokens, maps, etc… For Roll20 (as I’m a Pro User), I also get the use of Dynamic Lighting, which allows my players to see only what their characters can see. A major benefit over even tabletop gaming.

Next, it’s relatively easy to use. When the pandemic hit, I was easily able to pick up my games and move them online. Some when to Roll20, while others went to/stayed on Discord. I can copy/paste maps into Discord, I can import or even draw maps in Roll20, and with software like dndbeyond.com, the Beyond20 browser extension, Avrae (in Discord), and others, I can get the same functionality as if I was playing in person.

Lastly, with sites like Roll20 (and other similar programs/sites), you can easily find players or DMs who want to play. I ran a pickup game of The Haunt last year. I even charged players to play ($5 per person) as I saw so many other DMs doing that, but wanted to make it affordable so more people could sign up to play. And that was a blast.

The only real disadvantage is, again, that lack of person-to-person interaction that gamers crave so much and that was so missed during the pandemic, and that benefit cannot be overstated.

Conclusion:

There are benefits and drawbacks to playing in-person as well as online. The pandemic showed us that, even though we are apart, we can still be “together” to play our favorite RPG games, whatever they may be. In-person gaming is considered the pinnacle of gaming, but online gaming keeps us connected where we don’t have that option.

Let me know what your favorite method of gaming is and why in the comments section below.

Until next time, Dear Readers…

P.S. – I know I had a post that I took down that said there’d be no post today, but I had some time to knock this out while waiting in the doctor’s office, so here you go! I guess there is something to be said for smart-phone access.

How to DM: Last-Minute Planning for a Session

Dear Readers, particularly my DM/GM readers, we’ve all been there before. You look at your schedule and there it is, in black and white: your upcoming session.

And you haven’t done squat to prepare.

Worry not, as I have some things to help you!

First, identify how much time you do have to prepare! Is it an hour? A half hour? A few hours? This is what will determine your next steps.

If you have little time to prep, maybe even the day of, I highly recommend looking at something to run as a one-off session. This means something pre-written/built. The DMs Guild website (https://www.dmsguild.com) has literally thousands of pre-written, and many of them well-written adventures for you to run. And most of these can be read through a time or two and be able to be run quite easily. This is especially true when looking around a specific seasonal holiday, like Halloween or Christmas, although there are others. Another option, also from the DMs guild website, is taking an old adventure, and reworking it for whatever edition of the game you are currently running. I’ve found that many of the older 2nd edition adventures are easily converted to 5e with a tweak here or there. Many monsters from this era have been converted to 5e at least somewhere on the internet, and, worst comes to worst, can be easily statted out by either using something close that already exists, or by re-tooling something that remotely resembles it.

Additionally, nothing says “stalling for time” than a few random encounters (see one of my previous posts about using random encounter tables!). You can’t go wrong with having/looking up some random encounter tables. And they don’t all have to be combat encounters, either! Some can be as simple as a damsel in distress, and the party needing to help fend off some baddies, or maybe a merchant whose goods were stolen by goblins/orcs/whatever. Some could even be a wandering bard wanting to tell his sad tale (which is fun as it could lead off to other adventures later on down the road!).

If you have a little bit more time, I suggest going back to your outline (remember that bit of advice for campaign writing? This is why we do this!). This will tell you where you plan on going and how you plan on getting there. Sometimes, though, you may not have completely outlined the whole campaign. That’s okay. Then only work up what you need for the current area/adventure. Let me give you an example: I had an upcoming session, and I had no clue as to how I was going to get from Point A to Point B. So I did a bit of research on, in this case, unknown secrets, and found several interesting creatures: the allip and the berbalang. I knew the party was looking for information on something that going to a library wasn’t going to solve, so I had to get them the information in some way. Also, I had planned on the party, at some point, touching into Spelljammer territory. Then it hit me. The berbalang. They usually reside on the bodies of dead deities, floating in Wildspace. I then worked backwards from there. Where would they find information on a berbalang? Okay, where is a hub of information in Wildspace? The Rock of Bral! Sweet. How to get them there? A Spelljammer ship. How to get one? An ancient ship whose existence has been hidden by the gnomes that the party had recently saved. Add the fact that the ship is now in the middle of an undead graveyard, meaning that they have to fight their way to the ship, and voila! You have several sessions worth of play! I simply started sprinkling in some encounters here, and some encounters there, and I was set. In space, I had the party harassed by space pirates, twice. I had the party going through some good role-playing sessions on the Rock of Bral, where they went looking for information, picked up supplies, and otherwise tooled around. I also set up an encounter with an infamous band of evil adventurers (for those who are keeping up with the latest in the Ingrates, you know who I’m referring to! If not, keep listening, because they are a cool group).

Whatever time you have to plan, there are options for you. I know I’ve used all of the options above in trying to plan out adventures/sessions. I’ve thrown out random encounters (some of which I ended up tying into the main story), I’ve tossed out some prewritten materials (see my sessions on The Haunt for that Halloween-y goodness!), and I’ve expanded my story outline. Whatever it is that you do, keep on keeping on, as you are the DM and you have got this.

Until next time, Dear Readers…

Painting Update: Red Slaad and Famine

Dear readers, here we are again with another painting update! Today, I got some highlighting done as well as painting his claws and nails. I’ll sign it up. Doing a little bit of touch-up work on his hands and fingers as I found spots that I missed. I did the teeth in what I can only say is a great job all things considered. Lastly, I painted the eyes a nice red with the vertical stripe.

See for yourself:

Isn’t he pretty?

I know I didn’t take the picture after I had it done, but his toe nails are also painted black.

I also made a decision as to how I’m going to deal with the basing. The friend of mine that did all the miniatures for the Ingrates will be doing the basing at my request. I want this guy and the other slaadi to be well done. I’m confident with the painting job, just not as much with the basing.

Next, we have our boy, Famine, who is a firbolg. Due to the fact that several of my players read this blog, I’m not saying anymore about him. But I do want to show the paint job. Here’s what I got:

After priming

Due to the fact that he is the incarnation of famine, I decided to go with a more moldy skin tone for him.

Personally, I think that it works very well. Apparently I have this propensity for taking pictures before. I’ve actually finished the miniature, so his legs aren’t showing having been painted. Believe me, they are painted. I plan on having more of him done by next week.

Well, that’s all I have for today. Thanks so much for joining me and don’t forget to hit that subscribe button!

Until next time, Dear Readers…

When Party Cohesion is at Risk

Dear Readers, it goes without saying that a party’s effectiveness relies on effective party leadership.

Trying to not give anything away, the following statement was said at last night’s game (the Ingrates):

“Dammit! _________’s been gone for not even one whole session and everything is already falling apart!” Or something to that effect.

The party leader is no longer…with the party. Again, not going to say who or why, as that will be some SERIOUS spoilers, but it’s left the group in serious disarray.

The group, upon reaching their destination (again, spoilers), stayed together for a bit, met some interesting NPCs, and then proceeded to SPLIT UP!

There’s a song for that actually called “Never Split the Party.” The group knows this song.

And the player who used to have the character who was the party leader is playing a brand new character, a never-before-seen character who is unique in a variety of ways, and is still establishing his character as even a member of the party. Sheesh, did I have multiple calls for insight checks. Brutal.

In any case, the party split between the Temple District, the Market Square, and the Library. Then, after some shopping, searching, and…pretty-fying…one of the groups came across a long-time foe, tried to track them down, and proceeded to get absolutely wrecked. Like…downed and two death failed death saves, type wrecked.

Thankfully, another character was nearby trying to keep up with this other wrecked character, and fed them a healing potion just in time.

It was brutal.

The party was absolutely pissed. Pissed at the aggressor, pissed at the character that got wrecked, and pissed at themselves for splitting up when they absolutely KNOW better, especially when this had bitten them in the backsides previously (this is in a previous edition of “A DM’s Perspective” when Avery got shanked).

To add insult to injury, in the next episode, the rest of “The 5” reappeared, killing several party members who were caught alone, or in small, more manageable groups, thus furthering and reinforcing the idea that the group is directionless.

So, what to do?

  1. Encourage the election/assignment of a party leader

    This makes sure that there is someone to give direction to the party (since the party’s ship captain is unavailable as his player is currently engaging in other activities that take him away from the game table, and we are therefore making him the current Spelljammer, a.k.a., the pilot)
  2. Help steer the party yourself

    As the DM, you have a lot of leeway when it comes to how you help engage the group. Don’t be afraid to use it. There are lots of ways to do this, but for me, one of the most effective ones is tossing an encounter at them. In the session following the one above, the party still seemed to be floundering with their leaderlessness, and to get them re-engaged in the tasks at hand, I tossed another encounter with several of “The 5.” THAT got them moving! Frankly, I didn’t care what direction they went in, I just wanted them to get moving.
  3. Do nothing

    This is actually a very real option. Let them flounder until they get back on track themselves. I really considered doing this, but for the sake of the game and the podcast, I decided against it, using #2 above. There is a downside to this, as there is the very real possibility that some of the players may get bored and/or disinterested in the game.

Conclusion

Party cohesion is very important to the flow of the game and to the ability for a group of players/characters to work together. Without this, a party will flounder and get way off track, never advancing the storyline and possibly creating their own minor sidequests that have no bearing on the story whatsoever.

TLDR: Always have SOMEONE to lead the party

Until next time, Dear Readers…

P.S. – I know I owe you, my Premium Subscribers, a new Ingrates preview, but there was an issue last night and it didn’t get posted. It will be up next week. Thanks for your patience.

P.P.S. – I want to remind everyone that, on our pages, we have our podcast episodes. I’ve been translating posts (or at least the ones that can translate) into podcast format for those who would rather listen to my posts!

P.P.P.S. – Also don’t forget to like and subscribe to The Blog!

P.P.P.P.S. – Lastly, don’t forget to get your Daily Dungeon Master Blog merchandise which can be found here. Remember that all proceeds go to helping make the Blog a better place!

Painting Update: Red Slaad

Dear Readers, I know that it’s been…awhile…since I have done a painting update of any kind. Why?

Well, after that Elven Spelljammer Ship and the associated tree dock, I was worn out with painting!

But that is now past and I need to do some more painting and get back in the saddle, so to speak.

So here’s my new project: the red Slaad.

I have a blue one as well as a grey and death Slaad, but we’ll get to those when we get to them.

For now, let’s concentrate on what we have now.

Here’s what we are working with:

Based on the surface area we are looking at, I’m thinking that our newish Speedpaints will work great for the main part of the slaad.

Looking at my collection, I’m thinking Slaughter Red is the way to go.

It should give us a nice middle of the road red, with pinkish highlights and a deep red for the recesses.

Then I am going to be using Matt Black for the claws/nails/spikes, and a standard red for the eyes (with a black line for their snake-like pupils) covered in a glossy varnish to make them look more like eyes.

Then we’ll do some basing, and we’ll be done!

Of course, as you all well know, there will be… complications. It comes with the territory.

So, let’s get some speedpaint on this bad boy!

I’m fairly happy with how he’s turning out so far. I had to go back over it and touch up some areas that I had missed, like sides of fingers inside of thighs, things like that.

The only thing I’ve discovered is that just because it’s a speed paint doesn’t mean it’s speed dries.

I will have to wait till later to go back and do the other colors. But that’s okay. I’ll get some more paint on the other bits tomorrow and report back next week on the results.

Until next time, Dear Readers…

A Short Break

Dear Readers, with the exception of a post here and there, you may have noticed my continued absences and sporadic posts.

There’s a reason for this: my mental health.

I’ve really been struggling lately, and I appreciate your continued love and patience.

That said, I’m going to try and post more often.

I’m SO behind in my “A DM’s Perspective” that I’m worried that I won’t catch up.

My video editor has been having technical difficulties making getting my Premium Content posts up and going (he’s been trying, God love him!).

And lastly, my depression has been getting the better of me throughout this whole ordeal.

So I needed a break.

The other night, this past Sunday evening to be exact, my daughter wanted to go see a movie and invited me along. I was surprised but excited. We hadn’t had a dad/daughter date in a long while. We went to go see Bullet Train. It was easily in my top 5 favorite action movies ever, up there with Die Hard, Lethal Weapon, Boondock Saints, and Red. It was that good.

And I needed that sort of break.

To add insult to injury, I’m coming up on my birthday. It’s a number that marks me as being in/close to middle aged.

To say the least, I’ve been stressed out.

Some things I’m working on: getting caught up with my “A DM’s Perspective,” another painting project (personal project; after those monolithic projects [the spelljammer ship and the tree/dock], I really need to get back to my painting), releasing more Inglorious Ingrates episodes (episodes for the masses!), and another “A Player’s Perspective” for our more recent forays in the town of Arkham Falls for our “Kids on Bikes” campaign. In other words, I’m getting back to work!

Again, thanks for the patience and kindness in letting me take a break!

Until next time, Dear Readers…

New Favorite Halloween Adventure!

Dear Readers, I have been truly blessed with several things while running this blog. I get some exposure on other blogs, I get to post articles from other blogs, and I sometimes get asked to review a product or, in this case, adventure for folks.

Now. I want to put a disclaimer on this today:

IF YOU ARE ONE OF MY PLAYERS OR ARE PLAYING THIS ADVENTURE, STOP READING IMMEDIATELY, AS THERE MAY BE SOME SPOILERS!!

Ahem. As I was saying.

Move over “The Haunt” series, and welcome “Fear the Reaper” by Ammon Hansen! This person emailed me and asked me to look over their adventure and help give an assessment. Flattered, I did.

And let me tell you: I was impressed. And I am not impressed easily, when it comes to new adventures, especially from community-published adventures on the DMs Guild website (www.dmsguild.com)! I’ve been burned too many times with community-published adventures. They have been railroad-y, poorly thought out, or otherwise just plain badly written. Don’t get me wrong! I’ve found a few gems here and there, but I pay CLOSE attention to the reviews now. I mean, I got “The Haunt” from there, as well as “The Lich Who Stole Christmas” among others. Those are the exceptions, not the rule.

But this person…this person was different. They were asking for feedback before publishing! They wanted some input to make their product better! I couldn’t possibly have been more excited. Oh, I had my share of trepidation when they emailed it to me, believe it. I, frankly, was half expecting the drivel that I normally see on the DMs Guild website.

But no…absolutely not. I had found yet another gem! Sure, it needed some polishing, but a gem nonetheless!

After some back and forth, with some recommendations from yours truly (and, I’m sure, other DMs), they sent out a final copy to me that blew my mind. Here’s the premise:

Traveling through a thick, dangerous forest, you find the road ahead blocked by fallen trees. A heavy thunderstorm begins as the party backtracks to find a mysterious hotel, only to quickly discover the great evil housed within.

I mean, if that doesn’t grab your attention, nothing will.

As for the adventure itself:

It has a wonderful premise. Granted, the whole “the way is blocked, oh look, a thunderstorm, oh look an inn!” shtick has been done before, it really works here.

Now, the NPCs: I found them interesting and engaging. Even moreso once you see/find out the twist regarding them.

The horror level goes from 1-100 very quickly. I wish there was a little more build up to it, but based on everything else in the adventure, I get why Ammon did things this way. It really gets the PC’s into the action without dilly-dallying around. I can appreciate it.

The final reveal as to who/what the badguy(s) is/are is more than a bit interesting. It relied on a modified version of a critter, but that’s more than okay, as it adds to the mystery of the adventure, and the horror that accompanies it.

The best part about the adventure is that, while originally made for a party of level 5 adventurers, there is a chart inside that shows how to scale it. This is super useful for running it for higher level parties, although I don’t think it would be okay to scale it past, say, level 10 or so. Beyond that, it would be too easy to bypass the cool parts of the adventure. Personally, I think level 9 is the highest I would run this adventure at, and the level that I intend on actually running it for one of my groups (the Ingrates), and somewhere between 5 and 9 for my monthly group.

In any case, this adventure is WELL worth the purchase, and, again, can be found on the DMs Guild website here. I cannot recommend it enough.

Let me know what you think about the adventure in the comment section below, either now, or after Halloween (when I, too, plan on running it!).

Until next time, Dear Readers…

It Was Awesome!

Dear Readers, today (without too much context, as I haven’t caught you all up on the Ingrates’ shenanigans) I will show you all what the board looked like prior to the fight. Here it is, in all its glory, with all of the terrain:

That’s just the terrain.

Here is when we added the monsters (with faces cleverly edited out)…

As you can see, it turned out awesomely. And let me tell you, the fight was really touch and go for a minute. I had a lich in there for story reasons, and I had two death knights in there to give them urgency to get across the board. And then, in addition to the mass number of zombies and skeletons, new zombies popped up at the end of every round. It was epic.

The sad thing is, the party really struggled. I really thought they would start using some sort of teleportation to get to the ship. But they didn’t. They tried to stand and fight for a bit. Not sure why they decided to stand and fight against two death knights and a lich, but you can never predict what your players are going to do.

Additionally, and I won’t say which one, we saw one of the characters leave. Of course, we saw a new one join the party, but the story reason behind it was over a year in the making. I mean, this is something that that particular player and I had been planning since character creation.

And it was awesome.

Needless to say, the party was fairly devastated when that character left. But, there’s always the possibility that they return. That will take some work, but that character can return.

That’s all I have for today folks, so tune in next time to get some more updates on the Ingrates!

Until next time, Dear Readers….

Today’s the Day!

Well, Dear Readers, today is the day!

Today is the day that I get to finally showcase that ship that you all have been seeing. Today is the day it finally makes an appearance on my game table!

TODAY!!!

I am so very excited.

I don’t want to give things away, but the Ingrates are in for a HUGE set of surprises tonight.

Yes, pictures will be posted of all of the terrain, miniatures, and such that are going to come with the ship and the tree dock. I wouldn’t leave you all hanging with just a description! You should know me better than that…

But I digress.

Tonight is going to to be absolutely epic. I look forward to posting pictures, even if they are out of context (I’m a bit behind on my “A DM’s Perspective”, and my editor started a new job and is behind on the episode previews).

Until next time, Dear Readers…