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 [...]

The Power of Surprises

Engage your players by surprising them, not just their characters. It can be so hard to surprise your players these days. The stats on every magic item are available in a digital, indexed format. The population at large is far more knowledgeable about common literary tropes than ever before. There is a pervasive feeling of, [...]

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 [...]

Into the Sandbox - Casting Plot Hooks

Quietly redundant plot hooks can push your players in the right direction. I think it is great that we try to engage our players in the stories we craft through a tool called “plot hooks”. Plot hooks make me think of fishing, and the analogy could not be more apt. Have you ever gone fishing? [...]

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 [...]

Into the Sandbox - Flow Charts

Flowcharts provide great flexibility when planning your campaign, but they also afford enough structure to make sure you never feel lost in your own game. Sandbox-style game play, where players are free to explore and engage in the game world in a non-linear fashion, is often held up as a sort of ideal to which [...]

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