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Robot Chicken D&D: The Finale

posted Saturday, March 27th 2010 by Jonathan Drain
News, Reviews & Culture

The final three episodes of Robot Chicken D&D. If you missed them, you can catch up on the previous episodes here. The DM’s commentary series is still ongoing.

Clicky the magic link for parts 23 and 24.

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Robot Chicken D&D: DM’s Commentary #13-#18

posted Saturday, March 27th 2010 by Jonathan Drain
News, Reviews & Culture

If you haven’t already, you can catch up on the full series of Robot Chicken D&D, including parts 1-24 of the series and DM’s commentary on parts 1-12.

Clicky the link to continue to DM’s commentary for parts 14-18:

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World Building 101: Legends of Yore (and Mine)

posted Thursday, March 25th 2010 by Brandan Landgraff
Dungeon Mastering Advice

A good campaign setting has a rich history, with plenty of legends and stories of past heroes and epic deeds, gods, monsters, and powerful magics. These stories can add atmosphere, give color to the fireside conversations, provide story hooks or motivation, or even provide details of particular magic items and artifacts your players can encounter.

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DM’s Guide to Dealing With Treasure

posted Tuesday, March 23rd 2010 by Jonathan Drain
Dungeon Mastering Advice

I’m playing in a Legend of Zelda themed D&D game where the DM is having trouble deciding what magic items to give out. It’s got me thinking on methods of handing out treasure.

In D&D third edition, it’s not so important for the DM to get the items right. Players can sell unwanted magic items for half price and buy the ones they want, so two wrongs make a right. Not everyone likes this approach: it leads to magic supermarket syndrome, vendor trash hoarding and poor realism. There are solutions to these problems, though.

You can’t hand out magic items carelessly in D&D fourth edition, since items sell for 20% of their buy price. This discourages trash item hoarding, but it means players have to sell five wrong items to make the one they want. You absolutely cannot drop items a player can’t use, even if it’s unrealistic that every major villain wields the same obscure polearm as the party’s fighter. Powergamers will also hate you when they need a certain peculiar item for their build and you pick treasure at random, because unlike an MMO you can’t grind for the item.

One approach is to hand out whatever items the players ask for, but this doesn’t sit right with me. There’s no narrative to that. It’s like writing a list to Santa and then being surprised when you get everything on the list (or disappointed when they don’t). My DM’s compromise, which I somewhat like, is to ask the players for a wish-list of items, then pick from a table of these items when it comes to placing treasure. However, that still makes it hard for powergamers to intentionally get particular items.

An alternative approach is to give out extra gold and gems, and allow the players a method to buy items. If the “magic item supermarket” doesn’t sit well with you as a DM, get creative: players can hire a magic item artificer, have a temple bless the item, seek out someone who owns the item and buy it from them.

Yet another method is to let players declare a quest for the item they want. This is a useful synergy of player and character motivation and it’s easily solved by putting their item at the end of whatever dungeon you already had planned. It also creates a convenient adventure hook, secures player motivation and generates enthusiasm.

My favourite method, however, is to allow players to craft items themselves. Price the item at the usual cost, and allow any character of the appropriate spellcasting class and level to create items. For extra flavour, hand out magic item components as treasure. Magic item components count toward a certain value when crafting a magic item and can be almost anything, so long as they’re rare and valuable: a rare mineral, the horns of a powerful creature, old broken magic items, the relics of a saint, or anything else you can think up. Don’t make players craft all their own items, however, or the players who don’t know what they want will be left bemuddled.

What’s a Good RPG For Newbies?

posted Monday, March 22nd 2010 by Jonathan Drain
News, Reviews & Culture

I’ve encountered a few links this week on good RPGs for introducing new players to the roleplaying hobby.

We’re All Going To Die: a single-page RPG is a short survival horror game. The GM secretly chooses one player character as the Survivor, who will be the last player alive no matter what. The players must avoid whatever terrible threats the GM throws at them, with the GM adjudicating the results of all actions. We’re All Going To Die is free, diceless, and only 590 words long.

Blog gameplaywright.net asks on behalf of a total newcomer to the roleplaying games scene, Where to start? Suggestions include Feng Shui, a rules-light martial arts action RPG; and Dragon Age, a D&D Basic style game based on the recent Xbox 360 license.

Tabletop games podcast The Game’s the Thing has an interview on Entry-Level RPGs with Chris Pramas. In this podcast episode, Chris Pramas of publisher Green Ronin (pronounced “ro-NEEN”, apparently) discusses the Dragon Age RPG and how to draw new players into roleplaying games.

Unrelated to new gamers, but I wanted to post this anyway, blog Playing D&D With Porn Stars has a useful article for DMs, titled Hidden Traits Of NPC You Didn’t Realize Was Going To Be Important Until You Actually Started Playing.

Robot Chicken D&D: Gold Can’t Buy Hit Points

posted Sunday, March 21st 2010 by Jonathan Drain
News, Reviews & Culture

Episodes 17-21 of the Robot Chicken TV writers playing Dungeons & Dragons. See previous episodes here.

Episodes 18-21 under the snippy link.

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Product Review: Kagematsu

posted Friday, March 19th 2010 by Brandan Landgraff
News, Reviews & Culture

“Got an assignment for you if you want it,” came the message from JD. “It’s a review of a product called Kagematsu. Interested?”

“Absolutely, boss”, I replied, without hesitation. Then I popped open a browser to find out what I’d just agreed to review. Chewing idly on my pen, I browsed to the product website and read aloud the description there.

“It is Japan 1572, the end of the Senguko period of history. Like many transitions of power the country is filled with strife, warring factions pulling any able bodied men into war, leaving villages populated by only women, children and old men.

Now a small, nearly indefensible village is living under the horror of a dangerous threat that casts its long shadow over the village. Without a defender, its people are almost certainly doomed.

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World Building 101: Signs and Portents

posted Thursday, March 18th 2010 by Brandan Landgraff
Dungeon Mastering Advice

Prophecy can lend a sense of great purpose to a campaign. It can provide direction when PCs are struggling to decide what to do next, create tension when they must race to prevent a condition of prophecy being fulfilled. Signs and portents can provide foreshadowing, and ultimately shape the entire world of your campaign.

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Robot Chicken D&D: Foretold by Prophecy

posted Saturday, March 13th 2010 by Jonathan Drain
Fourth EditionNews, Reviews & Culture

The writers of TV’s Robot Chicken play Dungeons & Dragons. There was no update last week, so this week I’m posting parts 13-16. Earlier I also posted the DM’s commentary episodes from the past two weeks.

I previously posted part 1-3, part 4-6, part 7-9 plus DM’s commentary for parts 1-4, part 10-12 plus DM’s commentary for parts 5-6.

Parts 14-16 are behind the cut.

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D&D Robot Chicken: DM’s Commentary

posted Saturday, March 13th 2010 by Jonathan Drain
Fourth EditionNews, Reviews & Culture

The writers of TV’s Robot Chicken play Dungeons & Dragons. There was no update last week, so this week I’m posting parts 7-12 of the DM’s commentary version. Today in another post I’m also including parts 13-16 of the regular edition.

D20 Source previously posted part 1-3, part 4-6, part 7-9 plus DM’s commentary for parts 1-4, part 10-12 plus DM’s commentary for parts 5-6.

Parts 8-12 are behind the cut.

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World Building 101: Incorporating New Content

posted Thursday, March 11th 2010 by Brandan Landgraff
Dungeon Mastering Advice

Roleplaying games evolve continually. Even “dead” editions, that have been retired by their publishers, can still see unofficial support from fan communities. For systems still in print, new content tends to emerge on a regular basis, and it’s inevitable that at some point, player and DM alike will see something new that stirs them sufficiently to warrant inclusion into the existing campaign. For magic items or powers, this is pretty straightforward, but for new classes or character races, it can lead to complications.

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Really Good Dwarf Feat

posted Tuesday, March 9th 2010 by Jonathan Drain
News, Reviews & Culture

Just a quick post to link to this dwarf feat. It’s good to see player-made content like this. The feat’s for D&D fourth edition, but I imagine it can work in third edition too.

Happy GM’s Day 2010!

posted Thursday, March 4th 2010 by Jonathan Drain
News, Reviews & Culture

March 4th is worldwide GM’s day, when we celebrate the tireless efforts of our Dungeon Masters and game referees. To encourage players to buy gifts for their Dungeon Masters, several retailers are offering discounts of interest to both players and DMs.

PDF retailer RPG Now is offering 25% off a range of products until Sunday 8th March (one “fourth” off, get it?)

Monte Cook’s third edition publisher Malhavoc Press is also offering 25% off all PDF products for the same duration. Book of Experimental Might and Book of Experimental Might II are on offer for $6.75 each, the colossal 808-page Ptolus campaign setting for $45, and 4E designer Mike Mearls’ Book of Iron Might for $5.25.

Finally, Monte Cook’s third edition Dungeon a Day is offering a year’s membership for $84 for the rest of March. They’re also offering free months for introducing friends.

World-Building 101: Watch your Language!

posted Thursday, March 4th 2010 by Brandan Landgraff
Dungeon Mastering Advice

Anyone who has read Lord of the Rings has encountered the fictional elven tongues Tolkien created for Middle Earth. Anyone familiar with Star Trek has heard snippets of Klingon. Fans of Star Wars can more than likely recognize Huttese, and for serious fans it’s not unheard of to be able to read, write, and speak any of these imaginary languages. Fictional languages lend depth and life to a setting, and can be used to great effect in a roleplaying campaign.

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The 5 Most Bad-Ass D&D Villains

posted Tuesday, March 2nd 2010 by Jonathan Drain
None of the Above

Vecna is a chump. Sure, he founded an empire, became a lich before it went mainstream clawed his own way up to deityhood, but he’s still not as awesome and gnarly as these characters from Dungeons & Dragons canon.

5. Kyuss (3E, Age of Worms)

Like many Dungeons & Dragons villains, Kyuss had a massive cult of fanatically loyal followers and more high-level magic than the Epic Level Handbook. Unlike most villains, Kyuss discovered a way to ascend to godhood, at the cost of permanent imprisonment in an ancient monolith. Not to be deterred, Kyuss took the deal, but not before setting in motion an elaborate two thousand year long plan to have his cultists break him out of prison.

What’s especially awesome is that it works. Elements of the plan include slaughtering most of his followers, inventing and creating the first dracolich, establishing a cult to last for two thousand years, establishing a fake second cult just to distract adventurers, and bringing about the End Times just so that he can escape.

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