House Rules for 5th Edition D&D Crossbows and Ballistas

As someone who has 3 crossbows (and 27 other bows - and I also makes bows and crossbows) I am ever appalled by the rules for crossbows and archery in 5th Edition D&D - and other editions for that matter.

My reasoning is because the rules don't reflect the time required to reload a crossbow, the sheer damage a crossbow does, their range, their ease of use, or their penetrating power. I am not alone in this either, crossbowmen around the world look at dismay in the way crossbows are being shown in D&D, movies, TV shows, and poorly researched fiction. (Don't even get me started with Daryl's use of the crossbow in The Walking Dead...)

The current rules are as follows:

Hand Crossbow
75 gp - 1d6 piercing - 3 lbs. -  Ammunition (range 25/100), light, loading.

Light Crossbow
25 gp - 1d8 piercing - 5 lbs. - Ammunition (range 80/320), loading, two-handed.

Heavy Crossbow
50 gp - 1d10 piercing - 18 lbs. - Ammunition (range 100/400), heavy, loading, two-handed.

The stats for the Hand Crossbow are reasonably accurate, they are fairly quick to reload. However the stats for Light Crossbow and Heavy Crossbow are woefully wrong. Not just "inaccurate", just plain wrong.

The problems are the damage (or lack thereof) and the "Loading". In the PHB:
"Loading. Because of the time required to load this weapon you can fire only one piece of ammunition from it when you use an action, bonus action, or reaction to fire it, regardless of the number of attacks you can normally make."
While that is reasonable that they would be slower, it doesn't realistically reflect how much time it takes to stick your foot in the crossbow stirrup and load a crossbow bolt - or using the windlass crank method. Therefore I must assume that these are pretty weak crossbows that can be quickly loaded by hand, instead of using a foot stirrup or a windlass.

To fix this problem and make it more realistic I have introduced to my Monday 5th Edition game the following as House Rules:

Stirrup Light Crossbow
35 gp - 1d10 piercing - 6 lbs. - Ammunition (range 90/360), moderate loading, two-handed.

Stirrup Heavy Crossbow
60 gp - 2d6 piercing - 20 lbs. - Ammunition (range 125/500), heavy, moderate loading, two-handed.

Windlass Light Crossbow
50 gp - 2d8 piercing - 7 lbs. - Ammunition (range 100/400), long loading, two-handed.

Windlass Heavy Crossbow
100 gp - 2d10 piercing - 21 lbs. - Ammunition (range 150/600), heavy, long loading, two-handed.

Large Windlass Crossbow
You will notice I am not getting rid of the old weak crossbows. They are still there. In terms of DM description I will describe them as "an old crappy crossbow". I am simply adding new crossbows that are more realistic to reload and do realistic damage.

You will also notice I fixed the ranges so that they are more realistic. In real life crossbows have comparable ranges to English warbows (think of a longbow, but even more powerful).

Quick Loading - (This replaces the standard "Loading" from the PHB.) It takes a Bonus Action to reload this weapon because it is relatively easy to reload. Because of the time required to load this weapon you can fire only one piece of ammunition from it when you use an action, bonus action, or reaction to fire it, regardless of the number of attacks you can normally make.

Moderate Loading - To reload this weapon a character must use an action or a move-equivalent action (forfeiting all movement for the round). They also cannot reload while on horseback or while being moved/jostled. Regardless of the number of attacks you can normally make, you cannot fire more than once per round (unless Hasted, in which case they can use the bonus action from being hasted to reload).

Long Loading - To reload this weapon a character must use a full round action, forfeiting all movement, actions, bonus actions and reactions. They also cannot reload while on horseback or while being moved/jostled. Regardless of the number of attacks you can normally make, you cannot fire more than once per round. (Even if hasted, they still cannot attack more than once per round.)

Lengthy Loading Speed - This weapon can only be fired once every few rounds because it takes multiple actions to load, aim and fire. This can vary on the weapon and will be listed in the weapon description. See Ballistas below as an example.

Ballistas, All Sizes Great and Small

The DMG only lists one kind of ballista, however there are many different sizes and types of ballistas. The standard DMG ballista is as follows:

Regular Ballista, Large Object
AC 15, Hit Points 50
Damage Immunities: Poison, Psychic

A ballista is a massive crossbow that fires heavy bolts. Before it can be fired, it must be loaded and aimed. It takes one action to load the weapon, one action to aim it, and one action to fire it.
  • Ballista Bolt - Ranged Weapon Attack: +6 to hit, range 120/480 ft., one target. Hit: 3d10 piercing damage.
You will note that that the standard small Ballista requires 3 actions to load, aim and fire - so in theory 3 people working as a team could reload, aim and shoot a ballista in a single round. This logically means that this isn't a very big ballista. It is quite small by ballista standards. It is probably the size of a cart, has wheels on the sides like a cannon would, and could be pulled by a donkey or a horse.

Large Ballista, Large Object
AC 15, Hit Points 75
Damage Immunities: Poison, Psychic

A large ballista is a massive crossbow that fires heavy bolts, slightly bigger than the regular large ballista. Before it can be fired, it must be loaded and aimed. It takes two actions to load the weapon, one action to aim it, and one action to fire it. In terms of size the large ballista is approx. the size of a large cart, but heavier. It requires a draft horse or an oxen to pull it.
  • Ballista Bolt - Ranged Weapon Attack: +6 to hit, range 150/600 ft., one target. Hit: 4d10 piercing damage.

Huge Ballista, Huge Object (Variant A)
AC 15, Hit Points 100
Damage Immunities: Poison, Psychic

A huge ballista is giant sized crossbow that fires very heavy bolts. Before it can be fired, it must be loaded and aimed. It takes three actions to load the weapon, one action to aim it, and one action to fire it. Due to its size this huge ballista fits on a structure the size of a large wagon and requires a team of four horses to pull it.
  • Ballista Bolt - Ranged Weapon Attack: +6 to hit, range 175/700 ft., one target. Hit: 5d10 piercing damage.

Huge Ballista, Huge Object (Variant B)
AC 15, Hit Points 125
Damage Immunities: Poison, Psychic

A huge ballista is giant sized crossbow that fires very heavy bolts. Before it can be fired, it must be loaded and aimed. It takes four actions to load the weapon, one action to aim it, and one action to fire it. Due to its size this huge ballista fits on a structure the size of a large wagon and requires a team of six horses to pull it.
  • Ballista Bolt - Ranged Weapon Attack: +6 to hit, range 200/800 ft., one target. Hit: 6d10 piercing damage.
And there are undoubtedly more variants DMs could make. I recommend sticking to the 1 action per 1d10 for the reloading/aiming/firing time. So for example if the PCs find a gigantic ballista, it might take 10 actions to reload, aim and shoot - and consequently does 10d10 piercing damage.

If the ballista is mobile, it should require an ever increasing number (or size) of beasts to pull it. A gigantic ballista for example might require a team of eight mammoths to pull it.

Alternative Ammo - Increasing Range / Forfeiting Damage

It is possible to increase the range of a crossbow bolt simply by making it lighter. The easiest way to do this are to:
  • Reduce weight of the broadhead by making it smaller.
  • Reduce the width of the shaft, and consequently the weight.
  • Make the crossbow bolt shorter lengthwise, which reduces the weight.
The reduced weight increases distance. While it is more complicated in real life to calculate how much difference this will make, in D&D terms we can simply increase the range while decreasing damage. Examples:
  • 100/400 increased to 110/440, and reducing damage from 1d10 to 1d10-1.
  • 100/400 increased to 120/480, and reducing damage from 1d10 to 1d8.
Alternative Ammo - Blunt Broadheads

Any bowhunter or crossbow hunter who likes hunting small game will know what this refers to: Blunt arrowheads, like the modern one shown in the photo on the right.

For hunting purposes blunt arrowheads (also sometimes called as bludgeoners) are used because the archer or crossbowman might hit the small game in the guts. If a sharp broadhead rips through the guts of a small animal, it will spill those guts into the quality meat - thus spoiling the meat.

Blunt arrowheads are also handy for harvesting fur, as they bludgeon the wee animal to death without damaging the fur or the meat. Since most bowhunters are using 40+ lbs bows, think of it like getting hit by 40+ lbs of force traveling at 200 fps (feet per second). The arrowhead doesn't need to be sharp to kill a wee critter with that much kinetic energy.

To put this in perspective, a 50 lb bow shooting at a deer with a sharp broadhead will sometimes see the arrow go right through the deer's ribcage and keep going. Perhaps hitting a tree behind the deer. The same bow and same broadhead against a rabbit? That would be really messy.

For Blunt Arrowheads I recommend the following change: Reduce the damage one size in die (eg. from 1d8 to 1d6), change the damage to Blunt instead of Piercing. Useful against Skeletons.

Alternative Ammo for "Stone Crossbows" and Ballistas

Windlass Stone Crossbow
Crossbows and ballistas don't actually have to use a crossbow bolts to shoot. The crossbow (or ballista) can also be designed to shoot a metal ball instead. For crossbows this would be equivalent in size to a sling bullet, for ballistas it would be sized similar to a small or large cannon ball (depending on the size of the ballista).

Historically the bullet shooting crossbow has been around for over 2100 years. It is sometimes called a "Stone Crossbow" because it shoots stones or metal balls instead of crossbow bolts. (The name will doubtlessly confuse players until they figure out what it uses for ammo.) Early versions of this weapon shot ceramic clay balls instead of metal, because they were cheap and light. Later versions used a half ounce lead ball.

So why shoot crossbow bullets or metal balls instead?

#1. Increased range. If a missile weighs less, it gains more speed and can travel further distances, but it comes at a cost of impact damage. (Some of the kinetic energy is used making the object travel faster, but this means when it finally hits the target that it deals less damage.
#2. Bludgeoning damage, combined with piercing damage if it actually does pierce the target.

I already explained blunt broadheads and increasing range/forfeiting damage further above. Using lead balls basically combines the two, dramatically reducing the weight and switching the damage from piercing to blunt.

Slingshot Stone Crossbow
To use this kind of ammo, a crossbow or ballista needs to be designed with a chute for the ball to travel through similar to a rifle barrel. Alternatives to this are using a device similar in shape to a slingshot - see photo on the right. It could also be designed with a funnel with more ammo in it for slightly faster reloading.

The big downside of crossbow bullets was that they dealt less damage. Historically stone crossbows were used for shooting birds and small game. They were very accurate at long distances, but did very little damage to the target.

For calculating the distance and damage of crossbow bullets, I recommend the following:
  • Reduce the damage approx. 25%. So 1d8 for example becomes 1d6. Or 1d6 becomes 1d4. Round up or down to the nearest logically die size.
  • Increase the range of the weapon by 25%. So for example a range of 100/400 becomes 125/500.
  • Piercing damage becomes Bludgeoning damage. Or depending on circumstances, both.

Higher Quality Weapons / Alternative Weapons

I am a fan of alternative designs for weapons, making them with extra features / modifications that other weapons do not have. Examples of such weapon modifications are:
  • Increasing / decreasing range.
  • Increasing / decreasing damage.
  • Changing the loading time requirements.
  • Increasing / decreasing weapon weight.
  • Increasing / decreasing weapon cost in gp.
  • +1 to hit / -1 to hit.
  • +1 to damage / -1 to damage.
Each time you modify a weapon, there should be a price exacted, usually in combination with the gold piece cost, weight, and the time required to make it. A prototype for example will likely take 3 or 5 times longer than a standard weapon to create as it will require experimentation.

The Top 50 D&D Modules of All Time

The following list, The Top 50 D&D Modules of All Time, was compiled using multiple sources that ranked the best D&D modules of all time. Some of the lists were top 10, top 20, top 25, top 30, etc. Some of the lists focused mostly on dungeon crawls. Others had a mix of dungeon crawls and alternative adventures. It should therefore then come as no surprise that the top two modules are TOEE and Ravenloft, a classic dungeon crawl, and a mixture of dungeon crawl/alternative adventure.

Some of the modules are old classics. Some of them are newer. They are all ranked here.

To rank the modules I awarded points to the order adventure models were listed in. Then I repeated this process for each list, and tallied up the points. In other words, the more modules an adventure was listed in, and the higher their ranking in those lists, determined how high they ranked here. I also had to adjust for how some lists only listed the top 10 or top 20, and thus had to make an effort to find lists that were longer and more inclusive.

Star rankings were then given to modules based on their overall rank, and ordered by their points within the individual sections below.

Five Star Modules
  1. Temple of Elemental Evil
  2. Ravenloft

4.75 Star Modules
  1. Tomb of Horrors
  2. Keep on the Borderlands
  3. Queen of the Spiders
  4. White Plume Mountain
  5. Lost Caverns of Tsojcanth
Note - There will doubtlessly be people who complain and claim that one or more of the above 5 modules belong in the top two or three spots. You are entitled to your opinion. In which case I encourage you to post your alternative top list in the comments section at the bottom.

 4.5 Star Modules
  1. The Haunted Halls of Eveningstar
  2. Red Hand of Doom
  3. Desert of Desolation
  4. Expedition to the Barrier Peaks
  5. Castle Amber
  6. Dragons of Despair (DL1)
  7. Sinister Secret of Saltmarsh

4.25 Star Modules
  1. Against the Giants
  2. Hidden Shrine of Tamoachan
  3. Isle of Dread
  4. Lost City
  5. In Search of the Unknown

Four Star Modules
  1. Treasure Hunt
  2. Dragonlance (DL1 to DL12)
  3. Irilian (Parts 1 to 6)
  4. Feast of Goblyns
  5. Bloodstone Pass
  6. Dead Gods
  7. Mad Monkey vs the Dragon Claw
  8. Lich-Queen's Beloved
  9. Die Vecna Die!
  10. Return to the Temple of Elemental Evil
  11. The Last Days of Constantinople
  12. Return to the Tomb of Horrors
  13. In Search of New Gods
  14. Whispering Cairn
  15. Gates of Firestorm Peak
  16. When A Star Falls
  17. Queen of the Demonweb Pits
  18. Forge of Fury
  19. Curse of the Azure Bonds
  20. Dwellers of the Forbidden City
  21. When Black Roses Bloom
  22. Dead Gods
  23. Revenge of the Giants
  24. The Lair of Maldred the Mighty
  25. Night Below
  26. The Dancing Hut of Baba Yaga
  27. Ruins of Undermountain
  28. Red Arrow, Black Shield
  29. The Veiled Society
  30. King of the Trollhaunt Warrens
  31. Against the Cult of the Reptile God

Honourable Mentions
  1. Scourge of the Slave Lords
  2. Marauders of the Dune Sea
  3. Dark Tower
  4. Forgotten Temple of Tharzidun
  5. City of the Spider Queen
  6. City of Skulls
  7. The Assassin's Knot
  8. Ghost Tower of Inverness
  9. Palace of the Silver Princess
  10. Palace of the Vampire Queen
So yeah. Technically I went overboard and ranked 60 instead of 50. Hence the honourable mentions. Sue me.

The Beginning of the End for The Walking Dead

Spoiler Alert

Seasons 4, 5 and 6 were the best seasons of the hit TV show "The Walking Dead".

The problem however was that in season 6 they kept teasing the death of fan favourite, Glenn.

And then the season 6 finale in which it was clear someone had died, but we didn't know who.

Speaking for myself and my wife, we were really annoyed with the season 6 finale. It was super annoying.

So when the season 7 premiere aired on October 23rd we were basically just waiting to see who had died. In the comic books it was supposed to be Glenn. They had teased killing off Glenn during season 6.

The wife and I looked at the camera angle. There was no hair in the eyes of the person who died, and based on that combination of factors we determined it could be Glenn. Glenn was too far to the side and he had hair dangling down in his eyes. The only character that made sense was Abraham.

So when the season 7 premiere came our theory was vindicated. Abraham was killed off.

And then the baddie Negan killed Glenn too. You know, just for kicks. Two characters gone.

That was the last episode the wife and I watched together.

We stopped watching The Walking Dead, which had been our Sunday ritual. Some people go to church, we went to my mother-in-law's and watched The Walking Dead as a family.

We started watching West World and other TV shows instead. Or playing video games on the PS4. Watching movies. Waiting for Game of Thrones to be on, a show where we are okay with characters dying regularly, because sometimes they come back to life or are revealed to have never died at all.

For example, Stannis isn't dead. Brienne did swing a sword at him, but they never showed him dying. Stannis is now missing a leg, but he is still alive.

Anywho, back to the topic of The Walking Dead.

The viewership of The Walking Dead has dropped dramatically during season 7. The wife and I are not the only people who went cold turkey on watching the show.

During seasons 4, 5 and 6 the show had consistent double digit viewership in the millions.
  • Season 4 had viewership of 11.29 million to 16.11 million viewers in the USA.
  • Season 5 had viewership of 12.27 million to 17.29 million viewers in the USA.
  • Season 6 had viewership of 12.18 million to 14.63 million viewers in the USA.

The average viewership for episodes for those 3 seasons were typically 12, 13 or 14 million viewers.

And now season 7...

Season 7 opened strong with 17.03 million viewers, mostly because many people wanted to know who had died.

Episode 2 dropped to 12.46 million.
Episode 3 dropped to 11.72 million.

And a steady decline. The lowest being 10.40 million for episode 6. The first 6 episodes of season 7 only pulled in an average of 11.05 million viewers in the USA.

The mid-season finale only had 10.58 million viewers.

Last week's mid-season premiere on February 12th should have had good numbers, but instead only had 12.00 million viewers.

Now these are still technically good numbers compared to seasons 1 and 2, back when the show was barely talked about and only "zombie nerds" like myself were watching it. (Back when I hadn't even met my future wife and I was a lonely bachelor.)

Now I am not the only person to notice the loss of fans for The Walking Dead. The ratings for season 7 are also down.

Translation. Fans are pissed that they killed off Glenn.

HBO is publicly bragging about the 12 million viewers they had for the mid-season premiere last Sunday. However that is actually lower than the average season 4 episode, and is therefore nothing to be bragging about.

HBO knows that The Walking Dead is now on the downward slope of its popularity. They knew it when they saw the viewership for the first five episodes of season 7, as shown below.

And they know they made a mistake killing off Glenn as a character.

He had been there since episode 1, even if he was only the voice in the tank speaking to Rick on the radio.

But it is too late now. No backsies. This isn't Dallas where you can pretend an entire season of a TV show was just Pamela's bad dream.

Now the only thing they can do for the show to revive it is to start thinking radically.

Do they kill off more characters, especially the ones fan's don't like very much?

Do they bring in big name actors who will draw a crowd? Could you imagine if they got Tom Hanks or a similar brand name actor to do a season or half of a season on the show? Truly that would be a gamble.

Do they do something controversial that will get people talking about the show on social media?

Or should they just keep to what they were doing, knowing that they might be screwed anyway?

Perhaps it is time they start thinking about the end game? A cure for the disease. Or maybe they find someone who is immune to it.

Perhaps crossovers with Fear the Walking Dead (the spinoff show) might revitalize the franchise?

Can they win back the fans who left because they were pissed over Glenn's death? Maybe.

Or maybe this is truly the Beginning of the End for The Walking Dead. Maybe the show is dying and cannot be revived. Maybe it will limp downwards in viewership and ratings, but stay alive - just barely - and become undead.

At which point maybe it will be time to shoot it in the head and just end it.

How to use a Deck of Cards instead of Dice in a D&D Game

How to Replicate D20 Dice Rolls using a Deck of Cards
(For best results, shuffle multiple decks together.)

Sometimes you just don't have dice handy, but you want to play anyway. If you have a deck of cards (or multiple decks) handy then here is what you need to do.

Remove 14 cards from each deck used. Remove three 2s, three 4s, three 6s, three 8s, and two 10s. Make separate decks using these 14 cards. They will be used for rolling d4s, d6s, etc.

To roll a d20...
  • Draw Two Cards simultaneously.
  • Add their values together to get a total.
  • Face cards are 10s.
  • Aces are 11s, unless you draw two of them...
  • Two Aces (snake eyes) is a critical fail.
  • A score of 20 or 21 is not a critical hit.
  • If there is a joker, only then is it a critical hit. The chance of drawing a joker when drawing two cards from a 40 card deck is 1 in 20, so critical hits will still be just as common as normal d20s.
  • Whenever a joker is drawn, reshuffle the deck of 40 cards.

While there are more face cards and 10s, there is still only 14 of them out of 40 cards. In a deck of 54 cards the average "roll" would end up being relatively low, but this deck has only 40 cards. Aces being 11s brings the average up a bit, as 10s and 11s are now 18 out of the 40 cards. Counting the 2 jokers, the resulting "rolls" should roughly mimic normal d20 dice rolling.

Note. Critical fails (snakes eyes) will be pretty rare. Something funny should happen, as decided by the DM.

With the 14 excess cards make decks for rolling a d4, d6, d8 and d10. For d12s use the d6 deck twice. Because the cards are all even numbers it will make damage higher on average, but the damage will also be higher for baddies so it evens out.

Horror Stories about Disruptive D&D Players

Years ago I was in a 1st edition game and there was a disruptive player named Darryl in it. Darryl would do the following things:

● Argue during gametime, effectively wasting everyone's time.
● Write long emails to everyone using Reply All and write them in a nonsensical argumentative manner USING ALL CAPS AT WEIRD TIMES. These were so annoying to read that people would eventually refuse to even bother reading them.
● Argue over distribution of magical items and try to redistribute magical items to his new characters, even though they were never there during the original distribution.
● Plot to steal magical items from other PCs.
● Disrupt well thought out group plans because it wasn't "his plan", usually by going off by himself and somehow ruining the element of surprise.
● Rules Lawyering to the point of people jokingly dying of boredom. (People joked about their PCs committing suicide.)
● Standing there and doing nothing during combat, waiting for something bad to happen to an ally - so that he can steal their magical items.
● He would say he wanted to do something dangerous, the DM would warn him that this could backfire, it would then backfire and he would complain about it backfiring. He would then try to rules lawyer his way out of the backfire - which never worked.
● Metagaming - he would routinely try to use out of game knowledge or knowledge his character does not possess to try and gain something he is not supposed to have or even know about. He would also try to use this metagaming knowledge to get other PCs killed, take their magical items, deliberately disrupt the game.
● Insulting other players to the point that people wanted to punch him.
● I told the DM at one point that if he disrupts the game one more time I will punch him in the fucking face.
● Soon afterwards the DM expelled him from the game.

Years later I was hanging out with my sister downtown and we ran into a friend of hers from a different gaming group. They got to talking and I sort of tuned out and looked at my cellphone. Then they started talking about what to do about a disruptive player in their group.

I looked up and asked "Whats his name?"


Same guy. Still doing the same shit he always does. He never changes. They later kicked him out of their group too.

Since then I have encountered Darryl twice in other games. Still doing the same things. He seems to bounce from game to game, his gaming style more suitable to an evil campaign where anything goes and rules lawyering is encouraged.

Got any horror stories about disruptive players? Share them below in the comments section.


I posted the above post on a Facebook group for 5th Edition DMs and got a slew of responses. Too many to list them all here. Here are a few of the ones that caught my attention.


Simen L Stangeland - The GM's girlfriend... Who got to play a vampire at least four generations higher than the rest of us, and got to whine her way out of ANY negative situation. The kicker was that she was the one to gather the group in the first place...


Midori Hirtzel-Church - A guy who tried to copy all the other players' characters in order to be the biggest badass in the game, and told me I should consider him, "adoptive family" when we'd known each other less than a month. I asked him to leave after that last incident.

There was the time I ran a game at a con and these two guys walked in, sat down, and warned me that they were going to "break [my] game." Not even a "Hello," just jumped right to that. One of them pointed to the woman who'd walked in with them and told me, "We challenged her, and now she doesn't run games for us anymore," like it was something to be proud of. I felt bad for her.

Then I proceeded to run rings around them.


Kimball Kinnison - Ended up cradle killing a game when i handed him a pregen and he only wanted to upgrade a vibrodagger (star wars) if it could cut through walls. And then also wanted to argue that his character was force sensitive because "everything in star wars is"


Jeremy Lowder - I once participated in a game where our fighter refused to fight during combat. He ended up quitting because he felt that the DM was making fun of his characters portly nature, and thus his own heavyset frame.


Bill Adcock - At a con game I ran the other weekend, I had:

- a guy who didn't actually look at his character sheet until a half hour into the session, and then declared that his character would be "back at the hotel smoking opium" the whole time.
- that player's wife, who thought I was making fun of *her* weight when she ended up with a character that had "heavyset" listed as a physical descriptor. They also brought their eight year old daughter (this was a post-midnight horror game) who spent the game standing next to me complaining how tired she was
- their polyamorous +1, who was there to show off her new cleavage tattoo
- a guy who hadn't played in 20 years, but played a lot 20 years ago and presumed to dictate to me how the rules work in this edition.

It was a rough night.

Making Magical Items more Realistic

Okay Dungeons and Dragons DMs... Think of every myth, legend, folklore and fantasy book you can think of...

When has a hero in such folklore or books ever had one of the following?

Magic armour?
Weird magical items only found in D&D?

Frodo/Bilbo have mithral armour, but it isn't magical.

Hermione has a bag of holding (although clearly J. K. Rowling ripped many things off from D&D and made all wizards channelers who have to channel their magic through wands). Outside of Harry Potter, when have you ever seen a bag of holding in folklore or books?

Magical shields I have seen.

Magical weapons, very popular.

Potions, yes.

Scrolls, rarely.

A low level fighter hoping to find a magical item should obviously be looking for a weapon.

From a DM perspective it should not be their main weapon either.

And when they do find a magical item (weapon or otherwise) they should not know what the weapon actually is and will have to discover what it does over time (or use an Identify spell, which traditionally costs 100 gp to cast).

Imagine a D&D group with 3 warriors, a rogue, a wizard and a cleric. The main weapons of the group are perhaps greataxe, scimitar, composite longbow, shortsword, quarterstaff, and mace. Pretty generic. But that doesn't mean when they go looking for items that they automatically find the items they use...

What would make more sense for a low level party is if they found similar or complimentary items...

Throwing Axe +1
Curved Dagger of Ambidexterity
Arrows +2 x6 (or maybe a single Arrow of Undead Slaying)
Crossbow +1
Dagger of the Pyromancer +1 (boosts fire damage spells)
Blessed Cudgel +1

The above list still caters to the PCs, but it compliments their main their weapons rather than replacing them.

☆ Or just roll items randomly and reroll anything that is inappropriate. Which is what I normally do.

Low Magic D&D Games and Slow Level Progression

I like running low magic games because of several reasons. I find they are more balanced. I also favour slow level progression, which to anyone who knows how that works... slow level progression means PCs typically get MORE magical items than a fast game.

Imagine playing 10 sessions of a game, each PC levels every session, and you give out an average of 2 permanent magical items per session (ignoring consumables). After 10 sessions the party has 20 magical items.

In contrast in a slow progression game, 50 sessions to get level 10 (leveling up on average every 5 sessions) you might only give out 1 item every session... but after 50 sessions that is 50 items. If you give out an average of 1 item every 2 sessions, it still ends up being 25 items by the time they reach level 10. Plus more gold, more power, more allies, and by the time they reach levels 11 or higher they have probably had enough downtime to be making their own magical items.

Thus game balance has to be maintained in a slow progression low magic campaign because they accumulate more items.

In a fast progression game it doesn't matter so much because by the time they reach level 10 they don't accumulate many items.

I find the speed of a fast progression game results in the characters getting very little time to explore their characters roleplaying wise. Longer campaigns with slow progression is when you get a chance to truly develop the personality of the character.

Mapmaking for Fantasy Worlds

Have you ever noticed how people sometimes don't put much effort into their mapmaking? Whether it is for a book or for a D&D game, it really annoys me if they did a sloppy job of making a map.

If they at least made a map, that is a good thing in my opinion.

If they take the effort to make a well made map and stretch their mapmaking skills, well then I am a happy camper.

But if they don't make the effort at all... Then I get really annoyed. Obviously I love fantasy maps, hence all the posts on the subject, but when a fantasy author publishes a book and doesn't even make a map it decreases my enjoyment of the book.

The map below for example is deliberately meta and generic. "The Kingdom" doesn't even have a real name, and places are just "The Wood" or "The Glacier". It is deliberately bad.

Awhile back I contacted a fantasy author via Twitter regarding her series of books... because there was no map in the book. There were cities, mountains, specific places, but no map.

And she responded that she and her editor both felt a map was unnecessary and not needed.

To which I was flabbergasted.

To me a map of the region makes the place feel more real. You can look at the map and compare locations, and understand how they got from point A to point B. Maps tell a story all by themselves, and that story gives greater depth and "realness" to the story.

So to me not having a map at all just feels... Lazy. Incomplete. Unfinished. The kind of thing my lazy slacker procrastinating friend Randy would have done back in high school (he is much better now). And it diminishes the feeling of reality.

For example below is the map(s) from The Soddit (a farce version of The Hobbit). Even though the story/world is a farce, the map only adds lots of extra details about the world. eg. Mt Dumb and Mt Dumba.

As such, the map from The Soddit does an excellent job of doing what a map is supposed to do: Tell a story.

Mt Dumb and Mt Dumba is not important to the plot of the book The Soddit. I don't think they are even mentioned in the story at all. Neither are the towns Er, Ur and Um. But who cares? It is FUNNY, which is exactly what a map from a farce world should be.

Below is another example of a farciful map. It is from the book / film The Princess Bride - a film so amazing that even the "Everything Wrong With" guy cannot say anything bad about it. So you see the locations of the Fire Swamp, the Farm where Buttercup lived, etc. But you also see places like the Zoo of Death which did not appear in the film (I have not read the book, I don't know if that appears in the book).

The beauty of the above map is that even though the Princess Bride is ridiculous and funny, the map only serves to enhance it. It isn't as silly as The Soddit map from further above, but the Princess Bride is more realistic despite its silliness - and the map reflects that same duality of realism/silliness.

So if you're a fantasy author, please make a map and do a good job of it.

If you're running a fantasy D&D game, again make a map. Make it available to your Dungeons and Dragons players (print out a smaller version perhaps and keep a larger version for yourself).

Every good story deserves a map. 

That doesn't mean that all stories need a map. If all the action happens inside a single building for example, you might not need a map. But if your story takes place in a town, like Sleepy Hollow or Castle Rock (as per Stephen King) then perhaps a map of the town would be handy.

In some cases much of the action in the story might take place outside of normal space-time, in which case if there is geography to this strange realm, then it also needs a map.

For example lets say you want to write a story that takes place in a Dreamworld. Then maybe a map of the dreamworld would actually make sense for your story. Something similar to the map below.

Forgotten Realms in Toronto

Today I did several things...

One - I started a new blog post label "Forgotten Realms in Toronto" which relates specifically to my Monday Forgotten Realms campaign. AKA, Monday Night Modules. This is mostly for my use, so I can place public notes about the campaign on the website and if I need to find them quickly I can just click a single bookmark on my phone and scroll down.

Two - I started a discussion board thread on titled "Forgotten Realms 5th Edition " which also pertains to the same game, on which I posted the following:

Since June of 2016 I have been running a Forgotten Realms 5th edition game at the Ryerson Hub Cafeteria. The group meets every 2 or 3 weeks, which allows for a more relaxed atmosphere and we also allow drop-in players to join. See the latest group event postings for details.

We have now expanded and have two DMs, which means instead of 8 players we now have a cap of 16 players. If 9 or more people show up, we separate into two groups and run two groups simultaneously, which can both interact/influence each other/events in the region.

This style of gaming dates back to Gary Gygax / Dave Arneson running huge gaming sessions in Castle Greyhawk (an immense dungeon) and marking off rooms that had been completed with an X. We are doing something similar, but are currently in the Stonelands region of Cormyr - which is a region dotted with dungeons and adventuring opportunities.

In order to allow parties to pick and choose which adventures they want to go on, our goal has been to create a map of possible adventures so that regardless of where the two parties (Alpha Team and Omega Team) go there are adventure hooks for them to choose from.

The game started in Eveningstar, running the Haunted Halls of Eveningstar. The party is now in Arabel, where they now have a wide assortment of quests to choose from.

People wishing to join have but to find the latest event posting.

February 13th 2017:­

Three - I am working on constructing / finishing up an Adventuring Map, which both myself and my colleague DM will be able to use to coordinate which adventures / adventure hooks are available to the party depending on their location.

So if they go to section C3 on the map, the adventure hook of a specific module (or homebrew adventure) will be available.

If they go to D2 on the map, a different module or homebrew adventure will be available.

And so on and so forth.

Making an Adventuring Map means I am basically going over older maps of Cormyr, the region the party is currently in, and picking out specific quest modules (including Dungeon Magazine Adventures set in the Forgotten Realms). Some maps, as you can see below, are much more detailed than others. My preference is for the older maps and I am taking notes from the new maps and making a Master Adventuring Map which leaves nothing out.

Elven Villages and Architecture

Elves live in all sorts of place where they can be close to nature. Trees, forests, swamps, marshes, waterfalls, rocky mountains...

Elven Village in a Valley

Elven Village in a Swamp

Wonder Woman schools a Dictator...

The above image of a dictator getting schooled by Wonder Woman reminds me of Donald Trump.

Trump, aka He Who Must Not Be Named, is basically a James Bond villain.

With nuclear weapons.

And brags about how super rich he is. Like Goldfinger and a host of other Bond villains. Only problem is Trump is real, and James Bond is fictional.

Trump also bears similarities to Voldermort (the villain from Harry Potter) with his obsession against Muslims and Mexicans - whereas in the Harry Potter franchise, Voldermort hates "mudbloods" and "muggles", but the comparison is apt.

Clearly Darth Trump is strong with the power of the Dark Side.

In Star Trek terms Trump is basically a Ferengi. And the USA just elected him Grand Nagus, with the power to commit genocide and nuclear war.

And last but not least...

Game of Thrones. In which Trump is basically like almost every villain you can think of.

Sadly Wonder Woman isn't around to school Donald Trump on why he is an horrible person and how we probably destroy the USA and the word "Trump" in the future will have a very different meaning.

Fool. Stupid. Racist. Worse than Hitler. That kind of thing. Trump will make Hitler look like an amateur.
There was an error in this gadget

Popular Posts