Author Archives: David Hartlage

Using Experience Points To Make D&D More Compelling

Even though experience points have fallen from the favor of the designers of Dungeons & Dragons, XP brings advantages proven by countless video games. XP show players steady progress to the reward of their next level. Players feel a sense … Continue reading

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XP Versus Milestone Advancement—At Least We Can All Agree That Awarding XP Just for Combat Is Terrible

When Dungeons & Dragons arrived in 1974, players rated experience points (XP) as one of the game’s most irresistible features. Now, all of D&D’s official adventures ignore the experience point system, and the official Adventurers League campaign has dropped XP. … Continue reading

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XP Started as One of D&D’s Breakthrough Ideas. Now the Designers Don’t See the Point

When Dave Arneson ran a session of his Blackmoor dungeon for his Dungeons & Dragons co-creator, Gary Gygax’s biggest impression came from two innovations: (1) the dungeon expedition and (2) how characters improved with experience. In Playing at the World, … Continue reading

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Concentration Frustrates D&D’s Rangers More than Paladins and Hexblades, but Unearthed Arcana Helps

Concentration rates as one of the best additions to the fifth-edition Dungeons & Dragons rules. In earlier editions, higher-level parties might enter a fight layered with spells like haste, invisibility, fly, blur, protection from energy, and on. Players needed spreadsheets … Continue reading

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New Printable Initiative Trackers for Dungeons & Dragons

When I described the best ways to track initiative in Dungeons & Dragons, I showed how I track initiative by draping named initiative tents over my dungeon master’s screen. I favor this method because I like a visible reference to … Continue reading

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Start Here: My Most Popular and Favorite Posts

This page list the most popular articles on DMDavid by category. D&D History Why Dungeon & Dragons Dropped Assassins and Renamed Thieves How D&D Shed the Troubling Implications of Half -Orcs The Threat that Nearly Killed Dungeons & Dragons—Twice The … Continue reading

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Demi-Human Level Limits, D&D Adventurers League, Open Rolls, and More From the Comment Section

Time for another visit to the comment section, starting with a request. DM Bill writes, “Could you do an article about humans versus non-humans, and the importance of the First Edition level cap, please!” Until third edition, Dungeons & Dragons … Continue reading

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Print My Custom D&D DM Screen to Defeat the Basilisk

When I run games as a dungeon master, I typically use a DM screen, but I see the appeal of skipping it. Many DMs feel that screens create an unnecessary divide that feels adversarial. By this mindset, everyone at the … Continue reading

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Can a DM Have Monsters Kill Fallen Characters Without Bringing Hurt Feelings?

In Dungeons & Dragons, the threat of death makes the game exciting, but actual death brings a character’s story to an end that usually feels sad and disappointing. Fifth-edition D&D copes with this conflict by making death virtually impossible for … Continue reading

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Turning Character Deaths in D&D Into Deals that Benefit Game and Story

A few years ago, I heard someone suggest what I then considered the worst bit of roleplaying game advice ever: Let players choose whether to allow their characters to die. Except, hear me out, maybe something like that could work. … Continue reading

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