Hello everyone! Exciting news from The Geek Pantheon crew…we now have a Patreon. Have a listen as Philip and Eric breakdown all of the ins and outs of why we are launching a Patreon, and what exciting things you can get!
This week on Eberron Renewed we continue the journey back to Stormreach. But first, what in the world is happening with the lycanthropes who just walked out of the Xen’drik jungle? Dex, Beric, and Booyah try to figure things out on their way home.
This week Eric and Philip dive into the elegant art of homebrews and houserules, or as it’s known to early D&D players: breaking the game! All kidding aside, we take a look at the do’s and don’ts of tweaking D&D to fit your table’s needs, and share our success stories and our horrible, horrible failures.
This week on Eberron Renewed, the party finds themselves face to face with a forgotten foe: The Brelish Monarchy. They have to defend themselves and find out the answers as to why they continue to be hunted by the nation they once called home.
The party of Dex, Beric, and Booyah begin their return journey through the Xen’drik jungle with Oargev and Barasha, as they attempt to find their way back to Stormreach. But all five of them have just been through a harrowing experience and come face to face with a very powerful foil, what questions will begin to creep into the party on the road back to the city?
This week Eric flies solo with Philip feeling ill. Eric breaks down some different ways to look at a campaign’s structure to shake up your table’s experience. The long form, narrative driven campaign is the industry norm for a reason, but if you find that being Frodo, Luke Skywalker, or King Arthur just isn’t for you; why not try shaking things up a bit?
This week we return to our reoccurring show Eberron Reviewed! Jeff and Eric sit down to discuss the Ancient Memories arc. Join us as we breakdown the massive storyline and pull back the curtain as to some of the decisions made during the arc.
This week our epic journey through the Giant Ruins comes to an end. But what does that mean exactly? Will our intrepid band of adventurers make it out whole and healthy, or will the vampires of the Qabalrin be too much for them to handle? Find out on this week’s Eberron Renewed!
Having vanquished the Cult of the Forgotten Pharaoh, and resurrected his last victim, the adventurers have decided to travel to Alkenstar in the Mana Wastes, hoping to find another workshop belonging to the ancient genius and engineer Chissisek. To do so, they spend some of the massive wealth (my players are frugal and tend to horde gold) to charter a ship, making use of Reza’s pirate contacts. And what good DM doesn’t want to have a battle on the high seas? So, I had decided to send a rival group of pirates after their ship. The previous session ended with the lookout spotting a pirate ship closing on them.
I spent the time between sessions planning the battle and crewing the ship. For the nefarious captain, I found a mini I’d been wanting to use for a while of a Mind-Flayer with an eyepatch. An Illithid Pirate! What could be more awesome! He was a one-shot, so I tweaked the standard stats a bit and moved on. Then I got a phone call. One of my players had a couple friends who would like to come and play with us just the once. That meant my players just went from five to seven! I began reworking the encounter. More pirates were just out of the question; running dozens of NPCs is just too much, even if I make them one-hit minions. I needed something to up the power of the encounter without making it harder to run. So, I did the obvious thing. I added in a sea monster.
For my sea monster I took the stats of a hydra and tweaked it to be more aquatic. Now I’m ready.
The battle begins with my players launching a volley of high-level spells against the enemy ship: Ice Storm, Sun Beam, Disintegrate, Control Water (whirlpool) and Shatter in a matter of seconds. The pirate ship makes it through, but just. Then the players spot the captain and a shudder runs through the experienced D&D players while the others wonder what new danger this is. I’m delighted. Battle ensues, and the players are mopping the floor with the pirates while the Artificer and the Mind Flayer trade spells, gunfire, and psychic blasts. Then, both ships tremble as if bumped. Suddenly the five-headed Hydra rises from the water. Terror rocks the party as it makes its five attacks, eating several pirates and badly injuring the party Monk. It’s going to be a magnificent, fun, dangerous encounter that I think the party will just scrape through without dying. Then the bard speaks.
“I need the Hydra to make a Wisdom saving throw. I’m casting Polymorph.”
Guess what? Hydra’s aren’t great at Wisdom saving throws. One second later, my glorious hydra (whose mini I spent hours on) is a sea bass. I’ll admit to being a little dejected, but the players are rolling with laughter. The last pirates are subdued and the captain makes one last telepathic threat to the artificer about how delicious her brain will be and plane shifts out.
The adventurers set about looting the sinking pirate vessel and using magic to force the water out of it while they work to plug the holes with a mix of magic and know-how. Part way through the Polymorph wears off. The Hydra immediately reappears. It’s time to get my revenge. We roll initiative. The Bard wins…. And my Hydra is once again a sea bass. This time the adventurers manage to capture the sea bass with some great rolls, contain it in a crate and set it adrift so it can’t follow them until they are well away.
The players are having fun and I’m consoling myself, but then something interesting happens. The party had taken a couple pirates captive and discovered they were thralls of the mind-flayer captain. The captives were tied up on the deck while the cleric tried to figure out how to disenthrall them. I had given the captain a magical item allowing him to see through the eyes of his thralls (The eyepatch of seeing, get it?), and the party noticed the way the eyes of the thralls followed them. This gets the shiver I’m looking for, but rather than blindfold them, Reza the Bard decides to parade the stolen treasures from the captain’s quarters in front of the thralls, taunting the mind flayer. Suddenly this mind flayer isn’t a nameless one-shot enemy. He’s a nemesis. A nemesis and a villain are different in my vcoab. Villains are the great threat the party must face (Thanos, Sauron, Emperor Palpatine). A nemesis is a personl enemy (the Joker, Boba Fett) who has it in for the party or one of its members. Adventurers battle villains to save the world, their friends, and for various other altruistic reasons. They battle a nemesis because if they don’t, he’ll come for them and they’ll never be safe. It’s personal. There is a connection. In my opinion, a good campaign will have both villains and nemeses, and of course sometimes they become one and the same.
Stronger enemies are usually better than more enemies: Combat can drag under the best of circumstances, so using a stronger enemy (especially one with lots of attacks) to stand in for numbers makes the fight easier to run, and also more interesting because of diverse threats.
As your players advance in level, be prepared for crazy abilities, and roll with it: I would be lying if I said I didn’t think about fudging the Hydra’s wisdom save the second time. I really wanted that fight, and I had a really cool mini and set-up for it, but that would have been unjust. The adventurers won by good use of abilities and saving spells slots for the right moment. Also, the players really loved the absurdity of it. Fun was had, and that’s really all it’s about.
Powerful characters will make powerful enemies: As Bilbo Baggins said, “Never laugh at live dragons.” My player characters taunted a Mind Flayer. That has consequences. Not you-return-home-to-find-everyone-you-love-murdered consequences, but consequences. Mind Flayers are notoriously vain, and they are schemers. As a DM, you should be on the look out for opportunities for a nemesis. I have typically found that my players have been at least as satisfied with the eventual defeat of a minor lieutenant who had been a thorn in their side long enough to become a nemesis as they have been with the defeat of the true villain of the story.
If you attack your party with a ship, they will find a way to commandeer it, every time: Just FYI…
So, my Hydra is a bass, but I’ve got a very nice consolation prize. The adventurers have made a nemesis, and now I get to plot his revenge, and I think very few D&D monsters have the capacity to plot revenge like a Mind Flayer. I’ve got his current scheme, which is to get the adventurers arrested when they return to Alkenstar from their foray to Chissisek’s workshop (he’s used scrying to learn their plans), but only after he steals back his ship (they left it with a crew to earn some money for them) and sends a message in blood.
The heroes find themselves face to face with a mysterious figure who claims to hold answers. But can he be trusted? What does he want from the heroes? How high of price will they pay for the knowledge they have already gained? Find out this week on Eberron Renewed!
This week Eric and Philip break down the most terrifying aspect of D&D for some players… ROLEPLAYING. We take away some of the stigma surrounding roleplaying and give some tips on how to start out if roleplaying “isn’t your thing”.
This week our heroes journey underneath the Giant Ruins after having made it past the boisterous executioner. But are they prepared for the horrors that lie below, or will the party find the guardians too great to overcome?
This week Eric takes an episode off while Philip outlines some recommendations of Non-D&D games to play if you are looking for a little variety at your table. Philip breaks down the highlights of each system, and why they are worth you time. Come join us for the first episode of the New Year on The Knowledge Check!
The journey down continues as Beric, Drakir, Booyah, and Dex find themselves facing down their biggest threat yet. The hunt for Barasha and the Giant Weapons ramps up as the group must continue to work together for as long as they can.
This week on Eberron Renewed the party attempts to investigate further into the giant ruins, while remaining undetected. But things prove difficult as an unexpected entity arrives to question the motivations of the group!
Our adventure continues as the party comes to terms with an unexpected reunion, and they decide what their next steps are. What dangers await them in the Giant Ruins of Bazek Mohl? Will they be able to help their friend, or will their urgency of their larger mission get in the way? Find out on Eberron Renewed!
In the spirit of the season Philip and Eric are taking a look at the greatest gift of all: LOOT! We dive into the different types of items that you can give and receive as loot, some of favorites, making your own, and a general guide to what has worked for us in the past. So grab some hot cocoa, curl up next to the fire, and settle in for another episode of The Knowledge Check!
This week on Eberron Renewed the party continues their trek to find Giant ruins and gain weapons to fight back against the mysterious Lich. But, what terrors do the jungles of Xen’drik hold for the intrepid band?
What is going on with the DCEU, and why are audiences not connecting with some of the most popular heroes in the world? I take a deep dive into the two cinematic and look at what could be behind the fledgling DCEU.
This week on Eberron Renewed the gang continues their journey away from the drow, but first they must make through some elementals that do not seem happy to meet them. Come join us as the heroes take stock of what’s happened over the past couple days, what may have caused it, and what they can do to prevent something similar from happening.
We have another Reviewed Episode for all of you! Jeff, Eric, and Philip take a deep dive into the previous arc and breakdown everything that happened. Join us for the inside look into the characters time in Khyber!
On this episode of The Knowledge Check Eric and Philip dive into what it takes to play an evil character effectively and without alienating your fellow party members, as well as how to make a compelling villain and manage their evil machinations without upsetting your players.
This week on Eberron Renewed we continue the journey to appease Drakir desire to separate Beric from the Blade. Join us as our heroes attempt to come together to survive the harsh Xendrik Jungle, and the foul beings that live there.
Theme Parks, Sandboxes, and a Night Without Combat
By Philip Ledbetter
These posts are an homage to the incomparable Chris Perkins. Throughout the lifespan of D&D’s 4th edition, Mr. Perkins wrote a series of articles called the Dungeon Master Experience, in which he doled out wisdom based on his many years of DMing by sharing experiences from his tables. As a new DM and player, I found them to be extremely helpful. Once The Geek Pantheon started expanding into blog posts, I decided to try my hand at something similar. To here we go. I’m currently involved in several games, both as a player and a DM. I won’t bore you with the details here. Tonight I’ll be drawing from a recently resumed game using 5th edition and Paizo’s Mummy’s Mask adventure path.
Previously on Mummy’s Mask…
The Forgotten Pharaoh lies dead! Well, sort of. Actually Hakotep I has been dead for six millennia, and the person the PCs just killed was an innocent cleric of Nethys whose only crime was not reading the seal of a canopic jar carefully enough while on an archaeological dig. For the past month she’s been possessed by a fragment of Hakotep’s soul and has led a cult dedicated to restoring the long dead pharaoh to life. In thwarting those plans, the PCs have killed her.
So, the villain has been thwarted, the bad guys defeated. What now? If you’re my players, then their characters scatter to the winds and immerse themselves if extensive downtime activities. Elarion the half-elf monk departs for the monastery of Tar Kuata to gain some peace and self-reflection. Tess, the human artificer dives into research in the recently rediscovered extra-planar workshop of a long dead engineer named Chisisek. Sabine, the human paladin of the Raven Queen, departs for her home in the north to take up her now-dead father’s mantel as Marshal of the Dead. Rezza, the half-elf bard/paladin, takes up residence in a hermitage to study the ways of Horus, and Ali, the elf cleric of Sarenrae, ponders what to do with the corpse of recently-possessed archaeologist.
The campaign up to now has been something of a theme park ride. The PCs have known there was a looming danger. They’ve been thrust into situations where the adventure came to them, or asked by powerful NPCs to go on missions. All of this has had the goal of destroying the Cult of the Forgotten Pharaoh. But know they’ve done it. The rails are at an end, and it’s time to enter the sandbox.
Along the way the players have picked up hooks or dropped character details that I’ve turned into plot hooks. Elarion was once owned by a wizard named Elar and has a tattoo of the unholy symbol of the demon lord Lamashtu on his neck. Tess has discovered the locations of other magical workshops built long ago by Chisisek. Rezza owes a debt to the nefarious Aspis Consortium. Now that the obvious threat is past, it’s time to give full control to the players and let them decide where to go. As of last night’s game, it looks like the workshop’s hold the most interest, though Ali is lobbying hard for tracking down demon-cultists and slavers. The search for the worshops looks like it will move us from the Egypt-themed Osirion to the Steampunk wastelands around Alkenstart. It’s a pretty hard shift of tone and theme, but it’s clear to me that the players mostly want a break from dire threats and evil cults.
Speaking of last night. Ali made the unilateral decision to cast raise dead on the dead archaeologist. She wakes up confused, with bits of the Pharaoh’s memory still floating around. Worse, her right arm has rotted to a zombie-like state, and was not restored by the spell. This is the introduction of Nouf, a new PC run by Sabine’s player (Sabine is going on hiatus, or perhaps retirement, we’ll see). Nouf panics and Ali seems perplexed by the failure of the one spell to solve all problems. She tries cure wounds. I roll a percentage dice and suddenly everyone but Nouf is turned invisible. The spell wears off and Ali tries Greater Restoration. I roll again and Nouf turn’s blue. Remove Curse, and Nouf grows a third eye. Remove Curse directly into the necrotic arm, and Nouf inadvertently casts magic missile at a 5th level. Nouf panics and makes a run for it. Ali casts hold person and Nouf begins to fly. Ali casts Protection from Evil and a planar rift opens out of which steps a Unicorn, whose name we soon learn is Bree.
Eventually we learn that Nouf is a Wild Magic Sorcerer. She was a Cleric, but has lost her connection to Nethys, but has retained the Sorcerous powers of Hakotep, though in an admittedly unstable form. Once things calm down, Ali and Tess work together to craft a magical gauntlet that both prevents the spread of the necrotic tissue, and helps stabilize Nouf’s magic a bit.
Next on Ali’s agenda is getting the band back together, so we’re off to Tar Kuata to bring Elarion out of seclusion. The remainder of the night is spent roleplaying the encounter with Elarion and the other monks and convincing Elarion to leave the monastery and set off for the Mana Wastes. This is not too hard. Elarion’s player reasons that no one has ever come back for him before.
Sandbox and Railroad aren’t mutually exclusive. Most campaigns do – and I’d say should- include both. Sometimes the openness of the sandbox is freeing to players, sometimes it gives them decision fatigue. Sometimes the headlong rush of the Railroad/Theme Park Ride is a blast, sometimes it feels like the DM is the only one actually playing, while everyone else just rolls dice. My best results have come from mixing the two. Run a few Theme Park adventures, but then let the players decide what to do with the information they’ve gained or the changes the adventures wrought in their players. The Sandbox gives the PCs room to breathe develop. Maybe the direction the players go will lead to the start of the next theme park ride, or maybe we’ll spend a few months exploring a ruined city. I don’t know, but it’ll be fun to find out.
Don’t rush the players. I like combat. I enjoy the challenge of creating combat encounters that are interesting and challenging and not just a hit point grind. I like for a session to have at least one action scene. Last night didn’t – I had one planned, but we didn’t get there – but it will certainly be one of the more memorable sessions of the campaign. The players and I were helpless with laughter as I rolled again and again on the Wild Magic table, and Elarion’s player got to more deeply explore his character’s motivations. There wasn’t any combat, and there was very little dice-rolling, but it was an outstanding night of gaming for all of us. I was tempted to just summarize the resurrection of Nouf, but then we’d have missed some of the most hilarious chaos of our game.
A mid-campaign introduction takes thought and planning. I wasn’t ready for Sabine to retire, but her player was getting tired of the Paladin and felt Sabine’s story had culminated. She was ready to try something new. This is where my stable of fun NPCs could come in handy. She and I sat down and talked through some characters the players were already acquainted with, but none of them appealed. Then I learned that Ali planned to resurrect Nouf. I pitched it, and the player snapped it up immediately. She settled on a Wild Magic sorcerer to fit the unstable nature of her grasp on things and even chose spells based on the biblical Ten Plagues of Egypt to show the origin of her magic in the Pharaoh. I built in the necrotic arm to give Nouf a problem that required the aid of the PCs. This gave her a reason to trust them and a chance to get to know them enough to be willing to adventure with her. I also quickly severed Nouf’s support structure from her old life. She’s not a Cleric anymore so she has no place in the church. To the Arcana-obsessed church of Nethys, Nouf is more an academic curiosity of specimen than a friend anymore. This gave her no way to just stay home. She’s got to go somewhere, and the PCs have shown a willingness to help her, even if they did kill her first.
The PCs are off to the Mana Wastes. There are several routes to take, and while I think I know which is most likely, I’ve learned never to assume with my players. That means I’ll need to have something ready for whichever route they take. So I’m going to need to build some travel encounters.
Eric and Philip discuss one of the most dreaded and feared events that can occur at a table: Character Death. They break down how it can happen, what to do afterwards, and how to bring them back (if that’s what you want to do).
This week we move on. The party finds themselves dealing with the aftermath of the fight with the wereboars, and figure where to go next. Join us as we pick up right where we left off with Dex asking the question “What are you going to do to bring him back?”
Our intrepid heroes depart into the legendary jungles of Xendrik as the search for the Giant relics that hold the key to stopping the darkness. But there is no way Dex, Therudak, and Beric could have prepared for the dangers ahead.
This week on Eberron Renewed the heroes begin planning their journey into the dreaded jungle of Xendrik. But before their journey can begin, Dex finds himself confronted by a relic of his past. All of this and more on this week’s Eberron Renewed!
This week on the Knowledge Check, Eric sits down to give you some insight into where he goes in pop culture for inspiration as a DM and as a player. For example…Pro Wrestling in the first one he mentions, so that gives you as idea for how outside the bounds of Tolkien and Lewis we are headed. Join us for another episode of The Knowledge Check.
Eberron Renewed kicks off a new chapter as the party begins their time in Stormreach, a seedy town full of pirates and criminals. Naturally the only way to begin an adventure is such a place is with a dinner party! Join us for another episode of political intrigue, daring duels, and Eric awkwardly roleplaying a women who is flirting with Beric.
This week on The Knowledge Check we have an exciting review of the latest book for 5th Edition D&D: Tomb of Annihilation. Eric breaks down the book and points out the ups and downs of the latest offering from Wizards of the Coast, and touches on how he would fix some of the more glaring issues.
This week we have another installment of Eberron Reduced, with Beric exploring his relationship with Curse-Bringer further. Come join us as Beric discovers where Curse-Bringer came from, how his father came to be tied into the Pact, and where Beric goes from here.
Therudak, Beric, and Dex find themselves back where it all began: The Faded Forest. Jacob finally gets to return home, but will the triumphant return of our heroes be everything they hoped it would be? Why does Jacob need to talk to Gram? How does Jeff’s joke end? Find out this week on Eberron Renewed!
Tabletop gaming is fun. I know that’s an overly simple premise, and every gaming group has a different definition of the term; however, if we aren’t at least having our own brand of fun, then why play the game? And as we can all attest from experience: when this game is fun, it creates memories that last a lifetime.
But when it isn’t fun… it can be devastating for everyone around the table, staring at a shattered story, dead characters, and a free night to binge more Netflix because your gaming group just broke up. But this scenario can be avoided, and you can consistently create game sessions that are memorable, engaging, and fun, or course, with the following five guidelines that I’ve picked up over the years.
Know Your World, Not Your Story
Easy Tolkien, I’m not saying you can’t have an epic story that stretches over years leading to an amazing conclusion; I’ve done it before (check out Episode 12 of The Knowledge Check podcast for some easy ways to pull it off) and it can be a lot of fun. But many Dungeon Masters make the mistake of knowing the story they want to tell like the back of their hand, only for the players to have other ideas and immediately hop off of the rails.
A much better approach is to have your story in the back of your head: what clues do the players need to discover this session, which NPC’s should they meet, which villains show up, etc; but rather than focusing on knowing your plot, you should know your world. Before your session starts, ask yourself some of the following questions: What region of the world are we in? What are the common creatures that live here? What notable cities are nearby? Who are some of the bigger politics and/or criminal figures in this part of the world? What is the history of this part of the world? As long as you have answers to these questions (and more) then your players will never be able to catch you unprepared. You can easily drop in your story element into whatever quest your players find themselves in, and you will need to practice this skill because your players will find a way to go off on their own, outside of whatever you had planned for that week.
Be the Cart, Not the Horse
When Dungeon Masters have a carefully crafted tale they are trying to tell over the course of a session, an adventure, or even a whole campaign, it is very easy to fall into the trap of thinking that it is their job to move the story forward. You are presenting the monsters, the obstacles, the friendly NPCs, and the grand epic tale, so therefore you should keep them moving along that path. This is a very natural impulse, because the last thing that sounds fun is your players aimlessly wandering around, not quite sure where they should be headed. At the same time though, I think we can all agree that the term “railroading” has become a dirty word in the world of DMing (perhaps unfairly, but that’s the nature of the beast). There is a happy middle ground however, called wagoning (or wagon ride, not sure…just made it up).
“Wagoning” means that you do not move the story forward. The players are the horses, they keep the game going, and without them there wouldn’t be a story to tell. The DM is the wagon, you carry all of the baggage (interesting NPC’s, plot points, villainous plans) and you do your best to steer the players in the right direction with the aforementioned baggage (I never said it was a perfect metaphor).
So if you know your world really well, then you can let your players hone in on what seems interesting to them while “steering” them with your story. Do they want to go check out those ancient ruins, even though you had planned on them heading into town? That’s fine: the scroll that once belonged to the archmage that you were going to have them find in the apothecary shop? Now it’s sealed in an ancient chest amongst the ruins. That’s all there is to it, your players get to have a fun session battling whatever your decided were the guardians of the ancient ruins (skeletons, goblins, ghosts, the possibilities are endless!) and they found a clue about your story, that’s what we call a win-win…well except for whoever your players killed to get to the scroll, they definitely lost.
The Story Can Be Sweet Loot
Far too often at tabletops all over the world you can hear a collective sigh as players realize that there is about to be a 20+ minute long DM exposition dump. It is time for the players to marvel at the genius and clever tale their DM has woven together over the past couple sessions, culminating at this very moment. There’s just one problem: Your players aren’t playing. As a DM you’ve got a lot of jobs, but if at any point you stop the players in their tracks to do one of your jobs then something has gone horribly wrong.
Instead, look at the type of session we’ve begun building up to this point in the list: You are ready for anything the players can throw at you, they are moving the story forward, and you are peppering elements of your story throughout the session. What this does for you as a DM is builds suspense, because the players feel in control. They are driving the story forward through their actions, after all if they hadn’t gone to check out those ruins they never would have found the ancient scroll describing the spell your Big Bad Evil Guy is planning on unleashing out into the world, and the story isn’t being thrown in their face; it is unveiling itself as they go along, because it is THEIR story rather than being a story told to them.
So what happens after they discover the trap door that leads beneath the ruins (which was originally in the back room of the apothecary’s shop, but you are a crafty and clever DM that has no problem adapting) which inevitably leads them to a rescuing someone who was being experimented on by your Big Bad Evil Guy’s organization? The players will want to know what in the world is happening! You won’t need to have the victim launch into exposition mode, because before you even have the chance your players will be throwing questions at him left and right. They want the story, they are invested in the story, and chunks of the story can become a form of loot. Your players will begin investigating dungeons, castles, and haunted mansions; not because they want the hidden treasures (I mean, they’ll be stoked about the magic sword still…they are human after all) but because they want to know what’s going to happen next, how can they stop the villain, and they want to be the heroes of the story.
Be the Villains You Wish To See
Most Dungeon Masters know that your Big Bad Evil Guys need to be fleshed out characters with their own motivations and desires (If you need a refresher go check out Episode 3 of The Knowledge Check). But what goes overlooked far too often is, well, everyone else. I have both played in and ran combat encounters where the villains might as well have been giant wooden blocks, they have no personality, no ambition, and no voice. They simply existed to be in the party’s way before the next bit of narrative and added nothing to the session.
What we should all be doing instead is injecting these rank and file bad guys with ambitions and desires of their own. That’s not to say you should write an in-depth back story for each and every monster the party encounters, but rather you should view the group of villains as parts of a whole. They are fighting the party for some reason, even if they aren’t humanoid. The party of heroes are not average people who a pack of wolves would think are an easy meal, so why are the wolves so desperate to fight the party? Are they starving because there’s been an unnatural famine in the area? Have they taken up residence in a nearby cave that the party can explore? Or are they being controlled by an evil druid that lives in these woods?
Take our running example and let’s apply this concept. Now I could hear some of you exclaiming during the last entry: “But what if the party doesn’t find the trap door?!” And I acknowledge that it is risky to hinge a big story moment on a Perception check, although you are a good enough DM to store that encounter away for another day. But I have a solution for you, let the party know it’s there. No, I don’t mean you as the DM say, “Hey guys, check out that trap door back there!” What I am saying is why are the guardians there? If they are skeletons, does the magic animating them emanate from the back of the ruins (where the trap door is)? Do the orc guards shout “Take these puny thieves down or else the creepy wizard man won’t pay us?” Or if your party has stealth tendencies, then how about letting them see some of the guards walk towards the back of the ruins and not come back because they went down the trap door? Giving your henchmen the ability to have agency and impart knowledge to the party not only makes the story telling easier, but it enriches your world to the point of getting that player investment, because they will view every fight as a chance to get the sweetest loot of all: more story.
Don’t Be Afraid to Sit Back and Enjoy the Show
I was talking to a friend once about Dungeons and Dragons, and he complained that he doesn’t get to play very much because he can’t find a DM. I chuckled as I asked him, “Why don’t you do it?” He responded that he couldn’t even imagine talking that much. I was taken aback a bit by that. I started thinking about my own table, and whether or not I was the one doing the most talking. Sadly, I was. Every since then I have taken the approach that everyone should talk the same amount, at most. Ideally I do as little talking as possible at the table, because I want the party driving the story, talking to each other, planning out their next move, and discussing the latest crazy discovery they’ve just made.
It is easy to fall into the habit of doing the majority of the speaking at the table as the DM, in fact I’ve known some great Dungeon Masters that run their tables that way. But most of the time what happens is the DM starts describing some aspect of the world, going into great detail about the attire of an NPC, or the bartender starts giving the PC’s the entire history of the nearby kingdom; and the cell phones slowly start coming out, dice pyramids start getting built, and bathroom breaks become more frequent. You’ve lost your players, and getting them back is not easy.
But if you’ve taken all of the previous tips to heart, then you should have your players primed to take over the talking role from you. With invested players, they are going to want to know why the deposed prince of the next kingdom over was kidnapped by the crazy necromancer that had skeletons guarding the ancient ruins that sat over his hideout as he tinkered with an experimental spell that his unknown boss had told him to look into for him. And amazingly, they will begin discussing what to do next without any prompting from you. The best thing you can do in moments like this is get out of their way.
So what do you think? How many of these tips have you already been doings at your table? And please let me know if I missed anything. What do you do at your table to make sessions as memorable as possible?
Eric and Philip take a look at Philip’s current campaign, that is beginning to come to an end, and craft an epic ending to it worthy of his party. They take a look back at the advice they’ve given in the past two episodes and use it to make something the party will remember.
The gang finds themselves staring down a nation of angels, and trying to figure out how in the world they are going to get back to Eberron. Join us for an exciting episode of celestial beings, a confused Beric, a mouthy Dex, and Therudak still trying to figure out what is happening around him….so, you know… the usual.
Coming off of the last episode’s multi-year, highly successful campaign Eric and Philip discuss the sequel campaign: The Mark of Vengeance. They discuss their lofty expectations for their follow-up story, and how it all fell apart before their eyes. Come join in as Eric and Philip highlight what they did wrong and how to avoid making the same mistakes they did.
On the latest Eberron Reviewed Jeff, Eric, and Philip discuss the divisive ending to “Into the Gloaming”, along with Dex’s new abilities, the Druids of the Eldeen Reaches, and what in the world that thing was with all of the mouths. Come join us for another episode of Eberron Reviewed.
Eberron Renewed continues this week as the adventurers find themselves amongst the largest gathering of druids ever. But the main question is why? Beric, Therudak, and Dex travel deeper into the Towering Wood to find answers, help the druids, and face perhaps the greatest challenge that they have encountered yet! All this and more on this week’s episode of Eberron Renewed!
This week Eric and Philip revisit their masterpiece campaign: Unfinished Wars, and try to breakdown what went right, what could have gone better, and how you can use what they learned to craft a multi-year campaign for you group (hopefully).
This episode of Eberron Renewed features gibberish, cute bear faces, and Therudak figuring out when Dex is Dex and when Lyle is Lyle. Come join us as the group ventures deeper into the Towering Woods in search of answers.
This week on Eberron Renewed Beric, Dex, and Therudak venture into the Towering Woods to seek out the Druids that were spotted fighting the Shadows. Once they enter though, things are far more perilous than they seem, and one of the adventures has their life changed…. FOREVER!
This week Eric and Philip discuss what it’s like to step out from behind the DM screen and play at the table. We discuss some of the pitfalls that we’ve seen at a table, and also how you can energize and help a game even when you aren’t behind the screen.
How does magic work? What makes a wizard different from a sorcerer? Eric and Philip try to answer these questions and more as they dive into the arcane classes and try to differentiate how the magic works.
This week on Eberron Renewed, Jeff and Eric sit down for another installment of Eberron Reviewed where they discuss the Darkness Rising storyline, missed opportunities for the characters, and playing mental chess with Philip. Come join us for another fun episode of Eberron Renewed!
Eberron Renewed continues this week as Dex, Beric, and Therudak continue tracking down those responsible for the bombing in Sharn. Join is as they attempt to outsmart their prisoners and get them to start talking.
On Eberron Renewed Beric, Therudak, and Dex infiltrate the town of Xandrar to try and figure out what is going on, but not before dealing with the shadows that are attacking the town. Will they be able to drive back the shadows? What role do they Swords of Liberty have in all of this? Find out on this week’s Eberron Renewed!
This week on Eberron Renewed Eric, Jeff, and Philip welcome Randy to the new as they embark on a new adventure. The journey to track down Jacob and Draconos ramps up as the adventurers get a new lead to track down. Join us for another exciting episode of Eberron Renewed!
This week Eric and Philip dive into gods, religion, and all things divine as they discuss classic archetypes in fantasy pantheons, interesting ways for players to interact with the divine, and some campaign ideas centered around the gods. They also react to all of the info dropped during the Stream of Annihilation and take a look at the latest Unearthed Arcana. Come join us for another exciting episode of The Knowledge Check.
This week on Eberron Renewed we have a double feature. Eric and our newest addition Randy sit down to discuss his character, his history with D&D, and what it’s like for him to record a podcast for the first time. After that, Eric and Philip explore Beric’s relationship with his sword and its history with his family.
This week we have another episode of Eberron Reviewed, Jeff sits down with Eric and Trevor to discuss the Seeking the Teacher arc, the darker tones introduced in the previous three episodes, and Draconos’s journey as a character.
This week Eric and Philip dive into everyone’s favorite stickler of what’s right and wrong… The Paladin. But 5e has changed a lot of things about the Paladin class, and if you wrote if off a long time ago as a boring boy scout class… It may be time to take a second look. All that and more on this week’s The Knowledge Check!
This week on Eberron Renewed we continue to follow Beric, Dex, and Draconos as they hunt down whatever may be targeting warforged in the Cogs. But the trail heats up quickly as the group gets closer to the truth. Join us for another exciting episode of Eberron Renewed!
Beric, Dex, and Draconos have tracked down Drac’s old mentor Crast, but other things are happening as Crast is on the trail of a serial killer! How will our heroes convince him to abandon his investigation, or will they have to solve the mystery first? Find out this week on Eberron Renewed!
This week Eric and Philip dive into a concept that Eric has been using for quite some time now as a way to cut his prep time for sessions way down, and make it easier to adapt to player action during gameplay. Come join us to find out more!
Beric, Dex, and Draconos finally arrive in Sharn as the seek out Drac’s old master. But the city of Sharn has many hidden threat’s that the party must navigate before they hope to continue the hunt for Jacob. Come join us for another exciting episode of Eberron Renewed!
This week after a long absence from The Geek Pantheon Podcast Eric, Trevor, and Jeff dive into politics in comic books and discuss whether or not they belong, how to do them correctly, and whether some of the outcry against the comic book industry has been valid. Come join us for another episode of The Geek Pantheon Podcast!
This week Philip and Eric look back on their history as players and try to impart some hard-earned lessons. They cover how to treat other players, interacting with the world, and most importantly how to have fun! Also Eric uses a lot of movie analogies, including possibly the last film franchise you would ever expect to hear used in a D&D discussion. Come join us for a fun filled discussion about playing D&D!
This week we take a break from the campaign to dive into the nuts and bolts of what makes the story work. Jeff sits down with Eric and Philip to discuss the story so far, where things may be headed, and taking a closer look at Beric’s character. It’s a fun hour talking about all things Eberron Renewed. Come join us!
This week Eric and Philip break down the ten things they wish they knew we they first sat down behind the DM’s screen. We go through all of the pitfalls that lead us to learn these lessons: share stories of sessions gone wrong, campaigns that have fizzled out after a handful of sessions, and moments of triumph where a breakthrough occurred. We also take a look at some listener questions and comments, and breakdown the latest Unearthed Arcana articles that have been coming out! Join us for another episode of The Knowledge Check!
The journey continues as Berric, Lyle, and Draconos find themselves under attack on the way to Sharn! The heroes must stave off the attack and protect the passengers from the Warforged raiders, and make it to Sharn to continue their hunt for Jacob.
It’s time for our heroes return home, and figure out what comes next. The hunt for Jacob continues, but new tactics are needed if the heroes want to rescue the young boy. Join us and discover what new leads rise up and where the trail leads on Eberron Renewed!
This week on The Knowledge Check Eric and Philip break down the Warlock class, figuring out where this class shines, what to discuss with your DM, and how to get the most mileage out of your Patron’s story. We also look at D&D Beyond, the Mystic class, and do another build off to see how truly different the Warlock can be. Come check it out on The Knowledge Check Podcast!
This week we have a special episode to go along with our normally scheduled episode tomorrow. Eric has been busy all weekend diving into Tales from the Yawning Portal and now he wants to share his thoughts with all of you: what he liked, what he thought could have been better, and most importantly what this book can bring to your campaign to make it that much better. So enjoy some extra goodness from the Knowledge Check as we look at the latest book from Dungeons & Dragons!
This week on Eberron Renewed we are doing something a little different. Eric and Jeff sit down to discuss the campaign, both what has happened and where it’s going. We get a deeper look into Lyle’s character and motivations, along with some insight of where Eric drew inspiration for the campaign. Jeff also gets Eric to reveal the big mistake that he made during the game, and find out how Eric adapted to it and is happier now that the mistake was made. Come join us for an inside look at Eberron Renewed.
Where we last left our heroes they had just defeated Drec Shugaan, the hobgoblin who had been presiding over the befriended goblins. Now that they have the aid of the goblins, the hunt for Jacob can continue…but what other surprises wait for our heroes in this underground hideout? Find out this week on Eberron Renewed!
The adventure is coming to a close, everything the heroes have done is coming to a head, and there is one last thing to do….Take down the big bad evil guy. But how do we as Dungeon Masters craft a unique, compelling, and dynamic ending to the campaign? Listen in as Eric and Philip break everything down through the lens of a BBEG fight they created for a campaign of their own, and what they think worked along with what they wish they could do differently now. Come join us for a new edition of The Knowledge Check!
The time has arrived for the next episode of Eberron Renewed! This week we see our heroes venture deeper into the Faded Forest as the hunt for young Jacob continues, but will the goblins turn out to be friend or foe? Find out this week on Eberron Renewed!
This week on The Geek Pantheon Podcast, we welcome Scott as a guest host since Trevor is out of town. We dive into The Batman, and all of the turmoil surrounding it. Come listen as we discuss what we would like to see out of The Batman moving forward, along with all sorts of other geek news and general nonsense on The Geek Pantheon Podcast!
Welcome to the first episode of Eberron Renewed, an actual play D&D 5e podcast focused on storytelling and character development. In this episode we meet our heroes: Berric, Lyle, and Draconos, and we see them set out on their first adventure in a town that is known for its lack of excitement. Join us for the first episode of Eberron Renewed!
This week on The Knowledge Check Podcast, Eric and Philip dive into the Fighter Class. The often overlooked class is featured and its strengths are highlighted, and we discuss why it may actually be the one of the most versatile classes in the game. The new Unearthed Arcanas, featuring Warlocks, Wizards, and Mass Combat, are broken down into the most interesting bits, and we have ourselves a build off! Eric and Philip do their best to wow you with some very interesting fighter builds that show off how vastly far you can go beyond “I swing my sword and hit him”. All this and more on this week’s The Knowledge Check!
The End Is Here! We reach the conclusion of the adventures of Tinsel, Eol, and Hugh! Our heroes continue their fight with Lang, but will they triumph against the half-dragon? Or will Lang repeat his defeat of Hugh? Join us for the epic finale. And later on this week, keep an eye out for Eberron Renewed, our new D&D Actual Play Podcast that is beginning as this adventure draws to an end. And we will see you all in a couple weeks as we return to our normal format moving forward!
The epic journey of three adventurers inexplicably failing up continues! Tinsel, Eol, and Hugh have found themselves escaping capture and attempting to smash some dragon eggs on the way out. Naturally, as you have come to expect, things do not work out the way our heroes intended nor desired. Join us for another episode of The Geek Pantheon: Against All Odds!
It’s that time again! Tinsel, Eol, and Hugh continue their adventure on the road to track down the raiders that attacked Askelios. But the three heroes quickly discover that not all is as it seems on the road to the raider’s camp, and that maybe they should tread lightly in such dangerous territory!
Welcome to The Knowledge Check, a D&D 5e Discussion podcast where we dive deep into the system to see what wonderful things we can discover and share with you. In the first episode, Eric and Philip introduce themselves and give you their backgrounds in tabletop gaming, along with an idea of how 5th edition stacks up against the other games they have played. We also discuss the new Sorcerer Origins WotC released and give our opinions on it. So saddle up, grab your Bag of Holding, and get ready for The Knowledge Check!
The episode we have all been dreading, our last episode with Trevor M! In honor of Trevor starting the next chapter of his life by letting him pick our show topic, which is of course… POKEMON! Join us as Eric, Jeff, Trevor, and Trevor come up with brand new Pokemon types along with a gym and some specific Pokemon in our type. We also talk about the new Batman movie, 1984, and some of the new shows coming up on Netflix. Come back for a return to our classic show format as we make some exciting new announcements in regards to The Geek Pantheon!
Hello Citizens and welcome once again to our Actual Play series where Eol, Tinsel, and Hugh step up to the challenge thrown down by a new foe. What will the fate of Askelios be? How much longer will the raiders be raiding? Will Hugh finally stab Tinsel for one too many Christmas puns? Find out all that and more on this weeks episode of The Geek Pantheon!
This week on The Geek Pantheon Podcast we continue the adventures of Eol, Tinsel, and Hugh as they attempt to save the most precious of all things… a mill. It is a far more exciting episode than you would be lead to believe; with nail-biting combat, witty banter, and a cliff-hanger ending that will leave you wanting more this is one of the most exciting hours you could ever hope for! Some come join us for another exciting episode of The Geek Pantheon!
The Geek Pantheon continues is adventure into the world of Dungeons & Dragons this week as Tinsel, Eol, and Hugh begin to learn more about the situation in Askelios while they of course kill more Kobolds! But our heroes come across a far deadlier foe as their adventure takes them underground, and they gain a new ally in one of the town guards, Garreth! Join us for another exciting episode of The Geek Pantheon!
This week on The Geek Pantheon Podcast Eric introduces the gang to one of his favorite hobbies: Dungeons & Dragons! Eric plays DM for Trevor, Trevor, and a special guest Jeff! We dive right in with Tinsel, Eol, and Hugh as they kick their adventure off right: With the indiscriminate murder of creatures they neither know nor understand! The heroes come upon a village under attack by a dragon, and jump into hilarious action. Come join us for a fun filled night of D&D on another episode of The Geek Pantheon Podcast.
We ring in the new year by talking about one of the biggest movies of last year, Rogue One! The guys also wanted to bring in a bonafide Star Wars expert, so they invited Tatum to join in on the discussion and bring her thoughts on what was good and bad about the latest Star Wars film. Join us for another fun filled discussion on the Geek Pantheon Podcast!
We have a very special Christmas Gift for everyone… Eric, Trevor, and Trevor sit down to watch the greatest Star Wars film to date: The Star Wars Holiday Special! We dive into the train wreck and never look away. Come join us for another fun-filled episode of The Geek Pantheon Podcast!
This week on the Geek Pantheon Eric, Trevor, and Trevor dive into the Lord of the Rings franchise as we look at a few different “What If” scenarios and discuss how we think the saga would play out differently if certain characters lived, died, or didn’t fight. We also dive into the new Spider-Man trailer and get pumped up for Rogue One. Join us for another fun-filled episode of The Geek Pantheon Podcast!
This week on the Geek Pantheon Podcast we welcome back Trevor M to the show as we dive in to our favorite film trilogies for a good old fashioned Nerd Fight! We bring three top tier movie franchises to the table and duke it out to convince all of you which trilogy stands above the rest. We also discuss the new Guardians of the Galaxy trailer, the latest info on the new Legend of Zelda game, and so much more of the latest episode of the Geek Pantheon Podcast!
This week on The Geek Pantheon Podcast we welcome our newest host: Kymber! In this week’s episode we talk about one of the saddest topics we have ever tackled, video game movies. Eric, Kymber, and Trevor discuss their picks for the best and worst video game movie adaptations, as well as what games we would love/hate to see adapted. We also discuss Arrival, Ubisoft, and (in spite of Eric’s best efforts) Pokemon. Come join us for another fun filled episode of The Geek Pantheon Podcast!
Fire up your ovens, set the table, and get ready to eat yourself into a stupor because it is time for Thanksgiving! This week on the Geek Pantheon Podcast we are celebrating Turkey Day the best way we know how, talking about super nerdy stuff! We talk about what fictional characters we would invite to our Thanksgiving table, what we would ask them to bring, and why. It’s a fun episode full of surprise choices, listener questions, and the results of the infamous Pokemon bet! Come join us for another exciting episode of The Geek Pantheon!
We have a special treat this week for all of you! This episode we have brought in an expert guest, Maile! She is coming in as our resident Harry Potter expert for a heated discussion over whether or not the Harry Potter series loses some of its magic as we get older, pr maybe its just the fact that Eric is a curmudgeon who didn’t read them as a kid. We also discuss the new Ghost in the Shell trailer, Trevor M.’s plans for playing Pokemon Sun & Moon, and which fandom’s don’t really engage us. Come join us for another exciting episode of The Geek Pantheon Podcast!
Greetings All! Welcome to the 13th episode of The Geek Pantheon Podcast, where we pull out our crystal balls to look into the future of the Marvel Cinematic Universe and where we believe they are heading coming off of Dr. Strange. We also discuss Arrival coming out this week, take a look at a new iTunes review, and hear about Trevor R.’s camping trip. Join us for another fun-filled episode of The Geek Pantheon Podcast!
It is the spookiest time of the year and The Geek Pantheon is joining in on the fun! Come listen in as we talk about the horror movies that terrified us as kids, favorite Halloween movies, and how Trevor M lost a sock to a nightmare. All of this along with more singing from the Trevors, terrible impressions, and everything you’ve come to expect from The Geek Pantheon!