Category Archives: Advice

10 Ways to Build a Character That Will Earn the Love of Your Party

In Dungeons & Dragons, rolling handfuls of damage dice feels like a good way to shine among party members, but know this secret: Other players usually overlook the damage you do. If you really want to shine, find ways to … Continue reading

Posted in Advice | Tagged , | 1 Comment

Should Charm Person Work Like a Jedi Mind Trick?

In three original, brown Dungeons & Dragons books, what spell ranks as the most powerful? At 6th level, disintegrate could turn someone to dust, but charm person could put someone “completely under the influence of the Magic-User until such time … Continue reading

Posted in Advice | Tagged , , , , | 5 Comments

Should a Dungeon Master Invite Players to Help Create the D&D World Beyond Their Characters?

In 1970, Dungeons & Dragons co-creator Dave Arneson joined the Castles & Crusades Society, a group of miniature gamers formed by D&D co-creator Gary Gygax. The group imagined a Great Kingdom and parceled out territories to players to develop for … Continue reading

Posted in Advice | Tagged , , , | 5 Comments

How to Use the Players’ Metagaming to Mess With Their Heads (and Improve Your Game)

In the original Dungeon Master’s Guide, Dungeon & Dragons co-creator Gary Gygax suggested speeding overcautious players by rolling “huge handfuls of dice” to raise fears of nearby monsters. Of course, the characters in the game world never hear the die … Continue reading

Posted in Advice | Tagged , , , , | 7 Comments

The Plight of the Unfrozen Dungeon Master

If you play Dungeons & Dragons in game stores, you will meet an unfrozen dungeon master. Fifteen years ago, I was one. The first surge in the popularity of D&D started in 1977, when I found the first Basic Set, … Continue reading

Posted in Advice, Role-playing game history | Tagged , | 21 Comments

Event-driven D&D Adventures Aren’t About Events; They’re About Villains

The plot of every vintage James Bond movie resembles a role-playing scenario based on an investigation and events. A hook like the theft of an atomic bomb sets Bond into motion. In an investigation, he chases leads from one situation … Continue reading

Posted in Advice | Tagged , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Dungeon Masters, Instead of Plots, Prepare Secrets, Clues, and Leads

Planning a Dungeons & Dragons game around encounters and plots leads to trouble. In my last post, I explained how preparing encounters proves less flexible than preparing situations. Situations can take dungeon masters far. Every D&D adventure published before 1982 … Continue reading

Posted in Advice | Tagged , , , , , , , | 4 Comments

Dungeon Masters, Don’t Prepare Plots and Encounters—Do This Instead

Every dungeon master sometimes throws characters into a combat encounter, and then sees players do something unexpected. We never expect a peaceful dialog. Later, the characters reach a mountain outpost stocked with perfectly crafted encounters and the players show ingenuity … Continue reading

Posted in Advice | Tagged , , , , , , , | 10 Comments

The Best Ways to Track Initiative in Dungeons & Dragons

In my last post on tracking initiative, I surveyed every tracking technique I knew, from apps to combat pads. Five years later, I feel ready for a stronger statement: If you don’t use card stock tents to track initiative, you … Continue reading

Posted in Advice | Tagged , , , | 17 Comments

D&D Locations and Tactics that Encourage Dynamic Combat Scenes

Last summer, I played in the Dungeons & Dragons adventure Hecatomb. The multi-table event put numerous parties on a massive battlefield. Our characters scrambled to destroy arcane obelisks while fighting monsters. To start the event, the dungeon master pointed to … Continue reading

Posted in Advice | Tagged , | 11 Comments