Soon the D&D 5th edition core rules will be complete and ours for the creative taking! The D&D 5th edition Dungeon Master’s Guide will finally slay shelves and be in our hands in less than ten days.
There are a few particular things I can’t wait to investigate… or devour! Here are five things I’ll be searching its hallowed pages for immediately:
Critical Hit Alternative Rules. It’s no secret I love impactfulcritical hits in my D&D. Who wants critical hits that don’t… feel critical? Crits that aren’t scary, that disappoint? The 5e critical hit is flawed in that you can actually end up with less than a normal strike’s maximum damage, which I find to be no less than ridiculous. Surely, there’s other options to consider, like a few of those during playtest? I personally enjoyed the “max your damage and then roll one more die” critical hit from playtest. But I can do even better! See my Stop Rolling Your Bonus Crit Dice article for cooler, deadlier crit options for your D&D game.
Want something completely different on game night? Your game night doesn’t have to be the usual, weekly full campaign.
Want to keep D&D, Dragon Age or whatever RPGs you play exciting and easy to jump into, week after week? Game type variety is what you need!
Full Campaigns: The Bad and the Ugly
There are two big drawbacks to always playing full campaigns. First, full campaigns can feel overwhelming and long. Going from levels 1-20 or 1-30 can really feel like a slog for some players – and GMs! If the pace of XP and level gain isn’t right, you risk never experiencing the whole game – even if you play for a few real-life years!
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!