Unfolding the Encounter

Do not reveal the entire encounter to the players right at its start; let it flow over several rounds. Sometimes, it feels like an archaeologist just cannot catch a break. Just when you finally begin to feel that you have a solid grasp on things – BAM – another twist makes the scenario more complex. Life is [...]

Into the Third Dimension!

Breaking off the battle map and onto 3D terrain can bring your combat encounters to the next level. A big part of Dungeons and Dragons 4e, and may other RPGs, is tactical combat. Movement, range, zones of control, and areas of effect all play in to making battles that can be both exciting and highly [...]

Skill Challenges - Needle in a Haystack

When you run a skill challenge, give players choices beyond which skill to use. Skill challenges provide a way to engage the entire party in something other than combat. A well-formed skill challenge can pull quiet players out of their shell, and they can also provide a structure in which more dynamic players can still [...]

Safe at Home

Giving your heroes a home base opens up new options for fun at the table. How old were you when you started playing Dungeons and Dragons? If the answer to that question ends in, “-teen,” then you probably at some point spent hours and hours hunched over sheets of graph paper, meticulously drafting your favorite [...]

Turn-Based Dungeon Exploration

Running exploration similarly to combat means that all players can be engaged. Exploration play can be one of the most fun aspects of a good role-playing game session. Many players enjoy the sense of discovery and the apprehension of what can be lurking around the next corner. Exploration play is also a scenario where many [...]

Making Magic Items Special Again

Use inherent bonuses to make magic items feel special in your game. Fantasy literature is rife with magical swords, amulets, cloaks, and many other enchanted items, but there is a unifying theme to most all of the magical objects in our favorite stories: they are special. Bilbo did not find his bravery fighting spiders with [...]

In Favor of the Shorter Adventure

Shorter adventures break up the campaign story into chunks that are easy for the Dungeon Master to run and easy for the players to understand. My first experience with Dungeons and Dragons 4e was as a player in Demon Queen’s Enclave. One of my buddies had picked up the adventure, and he wanted to give a [...]

Winter is Coming - Terrain Powers in a Guest Post

The Winter is Coming blog festival is in full force, organized Jim (Wombat) White. You should really check it out. Many skilled writers and game designers have contributed all sorts of winter-themed content. This is a great opportunity to introduce your players to the harsh realities of a frozen adventure. Instead of writing my usual [...]

Skill Challenges - The Woodland Sneak

Skill challenges can vary from the norms established in the Rules Compendium. Pass-or-total-failure checks can make for intense moments. This past week, the heroes in my game decided to sneak through a forest occupied by gnoll raiders. This seemed like a great opportunity for a skill challenge, but I always try to deviate from the [...]

Travel Via Skill Challenge

Skill challenges provide a great opportunity for a unified travel mechanic. Travel is almost always a bit of a problem in tabletop role-playing games. Should we handle it by skipping over it, as frequently happens in movies? Should we make our players tells us who is keeping watch each night? Do we just give a [...]

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