Dec 5, 2014

Building D&D 5e Encounters

With the lack of D&D 5e modules currently out on the market, I find myself running more older edition modules, and convert the creatures up to the latest version.

Two new websites I've recently come across help greatly with the problems and issues that come out of conversions.

First, why the new Monster Manual is a great resource of your 5e game, and chock full of all the classic monsters you could be looking for, not everything from past editions is in the book (nor could it be, without ending up looking like the unabridged Oxford English Dictionary.

So if you're older edition module calls for a creature not yet stated in 5e terms, or you have your eye set on a particular monster from an old favorite book, what can you do?

With that in mind, I offer the following web page:

Here, the author has set up a nifty little utility for converting 1e and 3e monsters into their 5e equivalents. Fill out a few fields and you get a easy to copy and past stat block in 5e terms. Note, the conversion guidelines are unofficial, and you may need to do a little tweaking, but this is a great start.

Secondly, now that you have your 5e monsters, you should probably re-check your encounters, just to make sure you didn't accidentally create a deadly encounter when it should have been easy. As we know from The Angry DM's youtube video about 5e encounters, they can be a little more tricky than previous editions.

Thankfully, we have a great website, Kobold Fight Club where you can define the number and level of your PCs, then build out an encounter. The result is a calculation for the experience points for the encounter, and the adjusted XP for determining the lethality of the encounter.

The site also allows you to search for monsters from a number of sources (D&D Basic, MM, etc) and filter by various criteria, such as CR range, monster type, and environment.

Not only do I use this for checking converted encounters, but also for brainstorming original encounters as well. The site also allows you to save encounters for later reference.

Whether you're running older modules, or original content, these two sites can greatly speed up your prep time. Hope you find them as useful as I do.

Nov 20, 2014

The Lego / D&D Project: Part 2

Last post we looked at some simple Lego ideas for chairs. As a companion to that posting, let's look at the next logical piece of gaming scenery -- the table.

A table can be just as simple as a chair, all you really need is some size brick and a slightly larger plate (or tile).

You can make small tables using just 1x1 bricks and 2x2 plates, and thankfully these pieces come in almost every possible color you could want, but I find this structure is usually top heavy and doesn't stand up well to the casual dings a gaming table can take during a game session.

If you really need a small table like this, consider using a Scala Base brick, as the "feet" on the bottom of the piece provide a bit more stability.

But more common tables are 4x4, 4x6, or 4x8. And with these, you have some options for the table base, either just a simple brick (like a 2x2 or 2x4 underneath the tabletop, or 1x1 bricks for legs, 1x1 round bricks, archs, or even stacking 1x1 round plates for effect.

Leg options for tables

Like we did with the chairs in the last post, you can use tiles to make the tables look less lego-y. In this case, you can use 1x4 tiles to make the top look smooth.

And for longer tabels, you may want to consider benches, instead of chairs. As you can see, benches are much easier to build than chairs.

Plates (2x6 and two 1x2)

Plates (two 1x2) and Tiles (two 1x8)

Also, if you visit the Citizen Brick website, you can get printed 1x4 and 1x6 tiles that look like wooden boards.
Note: Citizen Brick is a third party company, so while their products look like Lego, and are 100% compatible, they are not official Lego product (not that this should matter for our purposes here).
Next time, we'll look at some really simple ways to dress up our tables.

Oct 30, 2014

Dungeonscape Undone

Seems tis the season for projects to go belly up. Last week the UpWorks KS was shutdown, with a note saying that it would probably never be revived. 

This week is word that Dungeonscape, the Dungeons and Dragons 5e online toolset from Trapdoor Technologies, was cancelled by Wizards of the Coast, and that the existing beta would be shut down shortly. Dungeonscape, originally announced as Project Morningstar, seemed to be on track for a 2014, or early 2015 release, and while they only had a character creator available for the beta, the application had received high praise from those who used it. Prior to this announcement, there was no indication that the project was in any jeopardy of being released. 
This marks yet another failure of Wizards to release software in a timely manner for their table top games going all the way back to second edition. Second edition software, released manny years after the hardback edition of the rules, was plagued with content bugs and included a stripped down Campaign Mapper program, instead of the more popular (at the time) Campaign Cartographer. 
Third edition included a Character Creator that was supposed to preview a full featured character creator/campaign manager tool. Several years later, e-Tools was released, eventually moving from one development company to another, and never having the all the features originally promised. 
For Fourth Edition, once again the originally promised feature set never arrived. It took years before a virtual tabletop was available as well as web based (and therefore Mac usable) tools. 
Dungeonscape was shaping up to be the first time D&D tabletop software was going to ready in a timely manner, with a full feature set, and be web and tablet ready out of the gate. Sadly, with today's announcement, fifth edition is shaping up to be just like previous editions (but not in a good way).

Oct 24, 2014


Monsters are the life blood of any good Dungeons and Dragons game. How many past stories do you tell that hing on encountering the imposing dragon or the horrific lich?

There are plenty of Monster Manuals and Bestiaries available for you to choose from, but every so often you may want something original.

For new monster inspiration, I often look to Animal Planet and other nature channels and websites. Recently, I can across a web channel Earth Unplugged and a great video about Bizarre Animals.

Check this out if you want some ideas for easily tweaking animals for your next adventure.

Some of my favorites include the pig-nose turtle (possibly a companion to an underwater ranger, the pig-noose granting some bonus to perception), the thorny devil (lizard with thorny/sharp hide) and the blue dragon (sea slug).

For the blue dragon, I envision a monstrous land based slug with tentacles (which naturally include grapple capabilities) and maybe an ability where if it is hit with poison, not only is it immune, but then it's next attack includes poison damage.

Check out the video here.

Oct 17, 2014

Upworks KS - Cancelled

I'm sad to report that the Upworks KS that launched a few weeks ago has been cancelled by the project creators, citing personal reasons.

Not only has the KS been cancelled, but the company has already sold the Upworks domain (and moved over to, in an attempt to recover some of their costs of the project so far. From the updates on the KS page, it doesn't look like Upworks will be starting up anytime soon.

In the meantime, the Miniature Building Authority KS is still in full swing, and close to quadrupling their funding goal, with 4 more days to go. If you're looking for some castle pieces for your game, this might be worth checking out.

Oct 16, 2014

D&D - Back in the day

I saw a recent post of an article about Dungeons and Dragons from 1985. It includes all the typical D&D-hysteria, and quotes from all the usual suspects, like Patricia Pulling and Thomas Radecki.

What I found surprising about the article was the fact that at least some nod was paid to journalistic balance, in the form of positive comments about D&D from The Association for Gifted-Creative Children, Steven Spielberg, and Dr. Joyce Brothers.

Check out the article yourself here.

For some previous posts about D&D Controversies, check out this list.

Oct 9, 2014

Game Session: When Kobolds Fly! (Part 1)

After the events of the last adventure, Duncan and Ataraxia decided to follow up on the rumors they had previously hear about even more kobold activity in the area.

Traveling northward in the Southern Dargaard Mountains, the duo came across a lone man hanging upside down from a tree calling out for help. The man appeared exhausted and weakened from being out in the elements for days. After being rescued, the old man explained that he was a passenger on a road carriage heading for Saltmarsh.

The man, who identified himself as Erik Frause, was in route to the city on behalf of his employee, Diam uth Wathor. He traveled with several other people, including a young boy, a pair of men he recognized as Oswald and Hubert Fastralli (sons of a wealthy gem merchant from Saltmarsh), and the carriage driver.

When the carriage was attacked, Erik was thrown from the vehicle and beaten by a group of kobolds. They then stripped him and hung him upside down from the tree. Erik was able to see some of the kobolds leading the other humans away on foot. In near delirium, he also saw a pair of kobolds seemingly grab a hold of the sky and begin to fly.

This last statement confused Duncan, and Ataraxia. They tried to get Erik to clarify what he meant, but the herald could not explain better what he had seen, other than noting that shortly afterward he passed out from the beating he had received.

The pair gave the old man some clothing, supplies and directions back to Sandyford, and then set off in the direction of the kobold lair.

After crossing the nearby ravine, the duo found themselves before the cave opening where Erik's instructions lead them. The unlit cave was about thirty feet wide at the opening, but quickly narrowed to a tight five foot opening just 12-15 feet inside. The cave roof, at a mere six feet, just cleared Duncan's head. With Duncan's sunrod, the light cut through the darkness and showed the narrow path quickly opening up into a roughly semi circular room with an exit at the opposite end.

Ataraxia noticed something wasn't right in the room. The monk saw that all the tracks in the room followed the right side only. A little poking around revealed that most of the room was covered in a sticky tar substance topped with a layer of dust for camouflage, and only the path to the right seemed clear. After going around it, the pair found the exit hallway covered in shattered glass, which only would be an issue if they weren't wearing their shoes.

The next room was really just a ledge on both sides of the room, with a huge, gaping natural cavern in the middle. On the ledge near the party, a quartet of kobolds were scrambling to react. Two were drawing weapons to attack while the other two were fumbling with some strange harnesses and tarps.

After defeating the two attackers, the other two drew weapons to attack. Soon they were defeated as well. Duncan and Ataraxia examined the strange harnesses and realized that it was some kind of wing contraption. After looking it over for a few moments, it seemed to match the herald's description. Unfortunately these flying devices were only sized for the small and lighter kobolds, neither the cleric nor the monk were willing to test these devices across  the huge cavern separating them from the rest of the cave system.

Instead the monk climbed down the cavern wall to the floor, about 60 feet below. Once there, Ataraxia was attacked by a bunch of huge rats that lived off the trash and waste here. After fighting off a few of the rodents, the rest ran back to their dark corners.

Ataraxia started climbing up the other side of the cavern when the monk found a rough natural stairway. Soon the monk and Duncan were standing on the far side of the cavern.

After confronting a few more kobolds, who were quickly defeated before raising any alarms, the pair came across a secret room in the middle of the hallway. Going inside, they found the room cold and damp, stale area filled their lungs, and a palpable stench filled their noses as a demonic beast lumbered out of the darkness. The mindless creature attacked Duncan with it's powerful arms, but the cleric and monk soon defeated the otherworldly creature. In the room they found the remains of a long dead black-robed wizard and the summoning circle that failed to contain the creature.

Journeying further into the caverns, the pair entered a room full of bat guano, which was also the lair of a swarm of bats. After chasing them off, they found a crude door at one end of the room and another hallway at the other end.

Thinking they might find more demon creatures, or kobold warriors, Duncan and Ataraxia were surprised to find instead a young man, who looked to be a recent prisoner of the kobold tribe.