Imith Anala knows nine languages: Abyssal, Celestial, Draconic, Dwarvish, Elvish, Giant, Orc, Sylvan and Common.
Impressive! He’s just one of a few “language master” characters in our current D&D Next: Murder in Baldur’s Gate-inspired Forgotten Realms campaign.
Immediately upon seeing that language list, I knew I wanted to do something new as DM – yet simple and elegant – to highlight character languages and make those multilingual choices flavorful and rewarding.
We’ve all seen them or created them – characters with a ridiculously long and eclectic list of languages. Like me, you’ve probably gone the typical route when an NPC or monster speaks an unusual language – if one of the PCs knows it, you translate the scene aloud right into “Common” on the spot.
Easy, quick and yet – how rewarding is it? Does it really add any flavor or realism to the campaign? What about the characters who really wouldn’t understand the full details of a flirtatious exchange of Infernal between the tiefling bard and the tiefling leader of a band of noble estate squatters? Or when an orc insults or creatively curses out that disgusting elf mage Imith in Orcish – while spitting in his face?
How much monster culture, history, strengths and weaknesses should be divulged to the player characters? What’s common knowledge, what’s within reach and what’s impossible to unearth?
Player characters’ degree of monster knowledge has always been a touchy subject throughout D&D’s editions as it directly impacts the atmosphere of the adventures, the pace of the game session and the ability of characters to more soundly and quickly triumph over monsters, in and out of combat.
While 4e moved towards a more skill-specific and encyclopedic approach, the D&D Next playtest materials have covered the entire spectrum on monster knowledge. By the final playtest packet, the rules were quiet on the subject, if not more organic.
“What do we know about this monster?” It seems a question best left to DMs to answer based on their campaign world and play style preferences. With D&D 5e’s modular complexity, that may just be the best solution.
But is there a best approach? What are the pros and cons? Here are five key questions to consider when deciding how to handle monster knowledge checks in your games. We start by channeling Leonine Roar’s all-time most popular article in question #1:
Curious about Dragon Age? Or what a tabletop RPG like Dragon Age or Dungeons & Dragons might look and sound like? In case you missed it or want to show some new or potential gamer friends, here are a couple of great videos to give you a feel and flavor.
Now I roleplay more theatrically (voices, gestures, etc.) than Chris Pramas (the GM in the videos, and designer of the Dragon Age RPG) whether I DM or play D&D or play Dragon Age. A little too light on the RP for me, though everyone of course slides a bit differently on that scale. I get great joy out of trying to create more cinematic and memorable NPCs and monsters – not just for me, but for everyone’s entertainment!
You can definitely see how actor Sam Witwer of Being Human (watch it!) is the most comfortable RP’er of the bunch. Then again, when he tells you more about his hobbies and gaming growing up – it all makes sense.
Even the latest D&D Next playtest packet mentions going as theatrical as you want as DMs or players. I say GO FOR IT, RP like you mean it! Be awesome. Make your characters and monsters leap off the page!
I’m excited: I’m finally digging into the last rules packet plus my two D&D Next super adventures are on their way!
Murder in Baldur’s Gate and Legacy of the Crystal Shard are now officially on the table as we wrap up our tremendous Dragon Age campaign. I might use these Forgotten Realms adventures mostly as is, or for inspiration for a new D&D Next mini-campaign. My last “Seascape” D&D Next mini-campaign was well received – though admittedly the stories, adventures and personalities moreso than the chaos of the playtest packets – so I’m looking forward to putting the DM hat back on in February.
If you haven’t seen them yet, you get D&D Next DM Screens (awesome!) with these Realms adventures, plus they’re sourcebooks too – great value! And sure, the playtest packets – even the final one – are “unfinished” D&D 2014, but they’re as close as we can get till the real thing hits shelves in mid or late 2014 – and that day I can’t wait for!
The playtest experience was new to everyone, so my playgroup’s reaction was mixed. I can see where it’s frustrating changing back and forth on rules, and wondering why certain rules are so vague or plain missing. But then again, like the packets say – it’s playtesting! You have to expect some of that. And ultimately, I personally enjoyed being part of the experience and sending them survey feedback. Read the rest of this entry »
About ten days ago, the final D&D Next playtest packet was announced and released.
What a wonderful, unique opportunity it’s been to playtest and provide feedback to the designers of D&D’s upcoming 40th anniversary edition. It’s been up and down for everyone, as playtesting is even more chaotic than I anticipated, but ultimately, we all had our fun as we test drove different rules and evolutions of the rules as the playtest went on.