Permanent Vacation

My Halloween WreathMy players have been stuck in Shadowfell since July 30, 2015. The trip through the planar portal was supposed to be a few quick sessions leading up to Halloween last year, but … it’s become something bigger than I imagined. It’s my goal to get them out by October. Having them roll for Shadowfell Despair (Dungeon Master’s Guide, Page 52) has been hilarious and has added tons of comedic relief, but it’s time to find their way home.

Here’s some of the things we’ve been listening to while visiting the shadow plane:

Shadowfell Vacation Time

This was the first playlist I created for the game. I pinched a few songs from my actual Halloween playlist that fit the mood of the place. Creating playlists for my homebrew campaign is a blast. I really enjoy this part of running the game. These are always set to random play but every now and then I put on specific tunes for an encounter or as things get suspenseful during gameplay.


Blackholme Island

These adventures in Shadowfell take place on the island Kingdom of Blackholme. It’s a shadow of Kingdom of Londolothl, where they started this campaign back in January of 2015.


Shadowfell’s Nightlife

This playlist is what I’m currently using while they fight their way through the streets of Undergate, the fortified capital of Blackholme. It hangs thousands of feet lower than the cliffs surrounding it, and all that can be seen below it is a deep grey pit full of swirling purple and black storm clouds. The cliffs surrounding Undergate are so sheer they make travel to any other section of the continent nearly impossible. The storm surrounding the city makes for great skyfishing (yes the lures float in the air!)

Feel free to subscribe to these playlists or copy them for use in your campaigns. Or you can just blast these songs while doing housework (like I’ve done more than once!)


It’s a Map!

The group of friends and family I DM for try to meet up every Thursday, and we alternate between the Lost Mine of Phandelver and a homebrew campaign I’m writing called The Herald of the Abyss (yeah, should have googled that name before I was several days into the storyline, I’ll change the title later). When I started conceiving my campaign, I had a massive rush of ambition, and wanted a memorable storyline, NPCs for days, a grandiose and dickish evil being for an end boss, an accompanying soundtrack, and tons of maps.

Well I started off making one map, and now that the party has cleared the area I can share it with you. Oh, and it’s the only map I’ve done so far.

Map of Serpenthead Rock


I came across a fantastic blog that you might have heard of, Dyson’s Dodecahedron. This map of Serpenthead Rock is done in the style shown in Dyson’s map tutorial section. You should take a peek at the amazing maps and content contained in that blog.

Go ahead and use this map for your campaigns if you’d like. The place used to belong to a crotchety old Orc Chieftain called Mauhagr Serpenthead, but hey, he’s dead now thanks to the party and the map is available now! The creepy eyes were supposed to be for a band’s logo that I was working on, but they’ve been re-purposed into hidden guard towers full of goblins and other sordid things. Fun times!

It’s about time for me to get another map going, I think. Especially since I convinced the adventurers to buy a little shack housing a stronghold that belonged to a half-orc merchant (whom they rescued from Serpenthead Rock.)

Music, Playlists, And What Does A Wizard’s Workshop Sound Like Anyway?

When it comes to music, we live in a moment of playlists. At least that’s where I’m residing for now. I make playlists for road trips, house parties, Halloween, Christmas, the workday, workouts, painting, and you’d likely guess that I make them for our Dungeons & Dragons sessions. I do.

So, yeah … I have no idea of what a wizard’s place would sound like, but I can imagine how my wizard’s home would sound.  In fact with a small effort put into searching online you’ll find that lots and lots of others have already dived into this idea and provided links to their game night music. That said, playlists are wonderful, useful tools for us whether we’re playing a campaign or putting one together.

Continue reading

I Am The Dungeon Master (In Training)

The days come and go quickly, and only sometimes, however infrequently, do I realize that a whole month has come and gone. It’s time for an update around here.

Everyone in my group has led a very busy life this past month, myself included. We haven’t sat down to play as often as we’d like, and when we have, quite a bit of time has elapsed. I find myself wondering “What were we even doing last time?” even though my hastily taken notes are in a neat Markdown file nestled within the DM Materials folder inside the D&D folder that I’ve set up in my Dropbox account.

You’d think it is organized. That it’s relatively easy to hop back into the campaign. It’s not that way at all. I’ve only run a handful of games and it’s a bit daunting every time we get started. That’s not a complaint or a bad thing. It’s a great place to start talking about what I’ve been doing lately to become a better DM: watching, listening, reading, and taking notes. Continue reading

The Dungeon Master’s Guide

The Dungeon Master's GuideWith a release date of December 9th, 2014, the Dungeon Master’s Guide is the last of the three essential D&D core rulebooks. It aims to be as handy as possible to Dungeon Masters everywhere, providing tools to add depth to your campaigns,  as well as additional magic items, rules, and tips for the DM to help build the best worlds imaginable. Sounds powerful, doesn’t it?

The book was pushed back from its original date in order to provide extra time for design and editing. The team working on it is committed to producing a product of the highest quality, and I’m happy to see a company take the time (and deal with the extra costs) to deliver the best book they can.

My group will continue playing through the Lost Mine Of Phandelver, and then move on to Hoard Of The Dragon Queen. I have a feeling that soon after that we’ll start on The Rise of Tiamat, and when we’ve finished that adventure the path to start creating my own campaigns will open up. When that happens this book is going to meet its aim, and come in very handy.

Be Careful When Squatting In The Bushes

In the fairly recent post Run, Adventurers … The Monster Manual Is Coming, I mentioned having the desire to drop an unexpected encounter into our Lost Mine of Phandelver campaign. Reading page 44 of the Monster Manual gave me the setup I had been looking for: the Crawling Claw.

With only 1d4 hit points, it seemed the perfect little enemy to mix things up. It didn’t seem too difficult for them and wasn’t related to current events in the campaign. Once I decided how this gross little creature could be found, I rolled (successfully) to see if they actually would find it in the wild.

The adventurers were setting up an ambush on a narrow, poorly cleared path in the woods surrounded by dense brush and trees. As they finished the setup, the tanks took their place up front, the ranger took to the trees as a lookout, and our party’s necromancer decided to squat and hide in the bushes. This was the perfect place for him to feel scratching at his ankles and pick up an unwanted passenger.

The way I expected events to unfold was that the necromancer would just pull out his dagger and be done with it. Nothing would be that simple. That eventually would happen, after a debate within the party that using his available cantrips so close to his leg wasn’t the best way to detach the animated hand from himself. So, once the dagger was unsheathed, we all thought this encounter would soon be behind us. However, I didn’t expect him to miss a disembodied hand attached to his ankle from inches away.

Things turned out well in the end, save for a few lost hit points. Using the Monster Manual right away made for a fun night filled with plenty of great laughs. It was even funnier when the party was going back down that same path later in the evening. I rolled a random encounter with two ghouls and decided these undead only had three hands between them both.

Extra Life: A Full Day of D&D Live For Charity

Extra Life Ad_300x250Gamers gaming to raise funds for kids. That’s the idea that fuels Extra Life, a 24-hour game marathon benefitting Children’s Miracle Network Hospitals. It has been an amazing and incredibly fun way to raise money for a great cause since its inception in 2008. The event is officially happening again this year on October 25th and 26th.

The D&D team are playing  24 hours of Dungeons & Dragons live on October 25 to help out again this year! You’ll be able to watch their journey through Hoard of the Dragon Queen live on their D&D Twitch channel. They raised ton of money last time they played, and have set the goal much higher this year.

The people at D&D are going to announce this year’s team in early October. You’ll be able to support them with donations, as well as help them choose what characters to play and more. Find out how you can participate in this article at D&D’s site. You can always get a head start and donate now.

Head on over to Extra Life’s site to learn more, and stay updated on events via their Twitter and like them on Facebook.

Run, Adventurers … The Monster Manual Is Coming

Dungeons & Dragons Monster Manual

Even though my group’s adventurers are just getting into the Starter Set’s Lost Mine of Phandelver story, I’m interested in throwing them something unexpected, something dreadful yet worth the encounter. I haven’t gone through with it since I’m still a very green DM and if I dropped a monster that was a smidgen too powerful for them this early on in the game (maybe that Beholder from the Manual’s cover?) … well, you know what might happen.

The September 30th, 2014 release of The Monster Manual will provide an ample supply of beasties to drop into any future campaign. The pages within draw from all previous editions of the rulebook to give insight into monsters, their backstories, and their stats. I’ve already pre-ordered my copy of it. I couldn’t resist.

Of the three core D&D rulebooks, this one is the most exciting to me right now. I’ve mentioned before that I never really played Dungeons & Dragons until now, but I poured over and studied the books when I was a young kid. I’d borrow the books from friends and read about the game for hours on end. The Monster Manual was the book I was least likely to put down. After reading about the different enemies, backstories, and lore, I’d then break out my paper, pencils, and pens and recreate what I thought these awesome creatures could look like. The Manual was a deep well of creativity for me, and it added to the points in my life that set me on the path of art and imagination that I still travel.

It’s exciting to know that decades after returning the last of those books to my friends, I’ll finally have my own tome of monster lore nestled comfortably in between other books on my shelf, ready help shape and inspire future adventures. Or maybe it will light the creative spark for someone new when they find it there and open it up.

The Player’s Handbook Is Arriving Soon, So Let’s Celebrate With A TPK

The Player's Handbook CoverI’m kidding about the TPK. No, really, just kidding. The Player’s Handbook is arriving August 19th, and I’m very excited to jump right into the heart of it when it arrives. There’s a nice discount for pre-ordering it (which I have,) but it’s always cool to support your local games shop.

Even though it’s all old news by now, Ethan Gilsdorf got an exclusive first look at the Handbook over at Boing Boing, complete with gorgeous hi-res artwork from the tome’s pages, and a sneak peek at the Warlock class. Mike Mearls also offered a bit more info on the book and the usefulness of character backgrounds at the Dungeons & Dragons site.

You might want to roll new characters once this rulebook is out because, well, it’s good fun.

Editable Character Sheets Exist, No Paper Required

Even though using paper and pencil might be the easiest way to maintain your character sheets (or at least the traditional way,) you can use your device of choice with form editable PDFs now. Bring your tablet, computer, phone, or whatever to the game and don’t worry about forgetting your sheets at home … I can always save your current character sheets to Dropbox in a shared folder for you.

Download the collection of 5th edition character sheets here. You’ll find the form editable copies in the zip file.