Category Archives: Tabletop

Nonpost 04/19/19: D&D Homebrew Prepping

So, yeah, I was hoping to have some normal content today.  This week has been weird, and today I’ve been trying to prep for a D&D homebrew game as a DM.  For a game tomorrow.  Oh, crap.

I am going to have to learn to plan better and manage my own expectations.  Especially when I’m throwing these games together somewhat ad-hoc as I and my players have time for occasional games.  In my head I hear: “I haven’t read through the DMG yet” and “this was supposed to be a tightly woven and cohesive story you’ve worked on for years,” but I’m gonna have to wing it somewhat.  Hopefully things will turn out well, and the players will enjoy themselves.

I have thought about this campaign setting off and on for 10 years or so, and occasionally beef up the world when I think about it.  I want to give the party freedom to explore, which will help me sharpen my improv skills if I don’t flounder too much.  At the same time, I have general ideas of some concepts and story threads I want to work in, but I don’t have them pinned down.  Some of it is a mystery, and I’m afraid it’s not going to connect well if I don’t plan it well in advance, but I don’t have much time now.

Ugh.

Maybe I’ll be able to sketch out more of it in time for the game.

Wish me luck!

3D Print Logging Catchup

I’m trying to catch up on logging some of my 3D prints.  This isn’t all of them, but it’s an update.

wall face 2.jpg

My wizard found one of these as an item on the wall a while back, and took it with him.  I thought I should print one to have on hand for roleplaying.

Wall Face (Acererak)

cat familiars.jpg

Cat Familiar

mockers.jpg

That is totally just a normal chest.  What could go wrong?

Mocker

goblin wolf.jpg

Dog/Wolf Mini for D&D

flatminis guards

I needed more guardsmen for urban encounters.

FlatMinis: Town Guard

pretty woman mini3.jpg

I needed a druid mini for an urban encounter, so I slightly remixed one to add a base.

Pretty Woman

 

The Homebrewery: DM Module Template

Recently I was looking for a template so that I could write my notes for an upcoming homebrew game in a format similar to modules.  If I want to share it later it would be easier, and in any case I thought it might help me to organize my thoughts on the adventure… at least until the party inevitably takes it off the planned rails.

Enter The Homebrewery.

I did a quick search online for a helpful tool, and came across a recommendation to use this site:
https://homebrewery.naturalcrit.com/

Upon inspection, I was impressed.  It uses a CSS editor on the left side of the screen and a live preview of the document you are writing on the right.   The formatting is very similar to what the D&D hardcover adventures use.  It looks nice and professional, and just takes a little bit of paying attention to their frontpage introduction example.  The information in it is useful, and you can use the editing side of the page to learn how to make the effects on the right side of the page.

I’m looking forward to continuing using it.  It’s helping me keep in mind the methods used in professional adventure writing to ease the flow of the campaign.  Box text, subheadings for developments within the same encounter, etc.  It even does the fancy calligraphic letter for the first text on the page at a certain header level.

D&D AL Tips Part 3: One-Time Prep

One-Time Homework

Know Your Character Sheet

Take the time between to learn where things are on character sheets.  As long as you are using the same format character sheet, no matter which character of yours you are playing, you should know where to look when the DM asks for AC, initiative, your scores, your modifiers, your attack rolls and damage, etc.  You don’t by any stretch of the imagination need to have the contents of the sheets memorized, but you should take the time to learn where to look.  Knowing where to quickly find information is just as important if not more so than knowing the information itself.  I’ve covered these parts in a separate post; link is below.

Get To Know Your Character Sheet: Overview

 

Read Chapter 9: Combat, in the Player’s Handbook

This section of the rulebook is applicable to all players and the DM.  This section of the book covers most of the generic elements that you are going to be doing in combat, or at least the general mechanics of them.  Actions, bonus actions, movements, reactions, etc. are covered here.  Information relating to the specifics of spellcasting are in Chapter 10.

While I’m on the subject, turn to page 195 in your Player’s Handbook.  Please.  Look in the lower left corner, and read the section on Opportunity Attacks.  Come back to my blog post when you are finished.

Done?  Good.  Now read it again, please.  I don’t know how many times I’ve seen this one misused or misquoted. We all tend to remember simplified versions of rules as they were first explained to us.  I’ve seen a lot of people (myself included) who had a rule told to them at the table, explained as it pertained to the specific situation at hand, and then misapply that to other situations because they hadn’t ever read the actual rule themselves.

 

Spellcasters, read Chapter 10: Spellcasting, in the Player’s Handbook

Spellcasters, you really need to read this section once.  It explains how magic works.  Components required, casting times, preparing spells, rituals, etc.  It’s not that long of a chapter, and you don’t have to memorize it, but if you don’t read it you’re going to keep butting heads with your DM as you attempt to do things that aren’t legal in D&D.

Now, turn to page 202.  In about the middle of the page, there is a section labelled Casting Time.  Please read this section now.  Please read the Bonus Action subsection again.  This one trips a lot of us up.  It seems that everytime I or someone else at the table tries to quote it, we get it wrong in mechanically significant ways.

 

Read the Adventure League Player’s Guide

Each season of D&D Adventurer’s League they update the rules that exist solely for Adventurer’s League.  The main rules for players are currently 4 pages long.  Please read them before playing.  This cover the basics for Adventurers League.  If it doesn’t answer your questions, the FAQ and the Dungeonmaster’s Guide to Adventurers League are also available for free online.  Feel free to ask questions, but you are expected to at least read the player’s guide at some point.  I recommend printing it out and carrying a copy with you for reference, since it’s so short, but be aware that it will change periodically.  They can be found here:

Adventurer’s League Rule Pack

 

Tab the chapters of your Player’s Handbook

Few things are more frustrating than having to stop a session for a few minutes to look up a bit of information.  I find that putting easy to use, labelled tabs on my player’s handbook greatly speeds up my ability to find information.  I put tabs on each chapter on the side, and occasionally I’ll put temporary ones at the top of the rulebook for things that I use frequently, such as the wizard class section when I’m playing a wizard.  Tabbing the rulebook isn’t a requirement, and is usually considered above and beyond the normal prep expected, but being able to quickly find information can be almost as good as already knowing the answer.  We can’t all have photographic memory.  I’ve found this so useful that I’ve tabbed ALL my rulebooks this way (YMMV on the other rulebooks, they aren’t all as neatly delineated as the player’s handbook).

Tabbed Book

Get To Know Your Character Sheet: Overview

Knowing where to find information quickly on you character sheet is vitally important.  I highly recommend taking a bit of time getting familiar with where things are located on character sheets, so no matter which character you play you can quickly get to slaying goblins rather than get lost on the way to your combat stats.  I was originally going to include this as a portion of D&D AL Tips Part 3, but it was making the whole post too long.  That post will include a link back to this one for reference.

Here’s the character sheet as a whole, so you can find your way around my cropping in the later sections.

Character Sheet Image.png

Note:  Particularly with Adventurers League the top of the page will change visually from sheet to sheet as the seasons progress, but the location of the information should remain the same.

General Information

Location: Top of the page

General Information.png

This section gives the basic identity of your character; name, class, level, background, race, and alignment.  The information people usually want to know when you introduce the character.  It also includes a space for player name and a spot for tracking your experience points (note: in AL you mostly keep track of your experience on your logsheet).

Ability Scores

Location: Left edge

Ability Scores.png

This is where the 6 basic stats are kept.  If the dungeonmaster calls for an ability check, this is where you look.

Inspiration and Proficiency

Location: Upper left, just to the right of the ability scores.

Inspiration and Proficiency.png

You can mark whether or not you have an inspiration use given from the DM.  You can only have one at a time.  The proficiency bonus is a stat that slowly changes as you level, and factors into everything you have proficiency with (specific saving throws, skill checks, attacks, and spellcasting).  If you’ve kept your sheet up to date as you level, you won’t normally have to reference it at the table.

Saving Throws

Location:  Left side, just to the right of the ability scores and below the proficiency bonus

Saving Throws.png

Anytime a trap gets triggered, and often when a spell is cast on you, you’ll have to look here for your saving throws.  I hope you roll well, because if the DM is calling for one of these, a failure usually means more pain for your character… or the party at large if something is trying to control you.

Skill Checks

Location:  Left side, below the saving throws

Saving throws and Skill Checks.png

These are going to get referenced a lot.  Anytime you do that has a chance of failure, other than an attack, will use one of these scores.  Note that at the bottom there is a specific blank for your passive perception.  The DM will often ask for this at the beginning of the session, so they’ll know whether you notice things if your character isn’t specifically looking around at a given time.

Combat

Location: Center of the page

Combat.png

This section is in the center of your character sheet for a reason, as you are going to use it a lot.  A lot of players seem to get lost trying to find information in this section, so I’ll probably do another mini article on it at some point.  Generally, though if it’s combat related , it’s in the center.

Your attacks are in the box at the center of the page.

Other Proficiencies and Languages

Location: Bottom left corner

Proficiencies and Languages.png

If the DM asks if your character knows certain languages, or is proficient in various armors, weapons, tools, or vehicles, it will be listed here.

Character Traits

Location:  Upper right, just below the general information

Character Traits.png

These are here mostly for roleplaying purposes.  They have no direct mechanical effect on gameplay or rolls (at least in Adventurers League), but DMs sometimes hand out inspiration if you do things that particularly adhere to these traits.  This is here so your characters have more life and personality at the table, instead of being cardboard cutouts with stats.

Note:  If you play at a non-AL table, DMs may factor these into the gameplay more, and start wrapping parts of the story elements around the various characters’ character traits.  I’ve known some to use the flaws section against you… which can be highly entertaining if done well.

Equipment

Location: Bottom center

Equipment.png

At least when you first make your character, all equipment you are carrying should be listed here.  I highly recommend getting or making a separate inventory sheet.

Features and Traits

Location: Bottom right corner

Features and Traits.png

This is where all of your class abilities should be listed.  I highly recommend listing the book’s abbreviation and page number for each one, as a lot of them are too wordy to write out here.

D&D AL Tips Part 2: Between Sessions

This section is focused on recommended time with your character sheet between sessions.  As you gain experience (as a player, not as a character), you likely won’t need to spend quite as much time on this, but you should still probably check back on these every so often, particularly with:  new characters, levelling up, and coming back from a long absence.

Note:  Some of the notes I’ll make will refer to using the rulebooks under the assumption that you have your own.  I understand that not everyone can readily obtain their own copies of rulebooks, particularly when they are deciding whether they like the game.  If you don’t have your own rulebook, I recommend doing what you can to arrive early and go through these steps by asking to borrow a book from one of the other early arrivals at the table until the session gets going.  I’m making a note here so I don’t have to keep repeating myself.

Between Sessions:

Take Time to Learn Your Character

Take time to look over your character’s abilities and make sure you understand how they work.  If you have questions, write them down and ask the DM for clarification after you’ve tried to look up answers for them in the rulebook first.  If your group has a discord or other way of communicating out of game, ask on there between sessions if you can.  I hesitate to recommend using sources further from the table, as some are good and some are full of bovine excrement.  Overall, remember Rule Zero: the DM has final say and judgment about the game they are running.

For a lot of abilities that would be tedious to write out in the abilities section of the character sheet, I recommend reading over the full ability in the book, and marking your character sheet with the ability name, book it came from, and page number.  ESPECIALLY if you are using a +1 rulebook to go with the standard PHB rules for characters.

Spellcasters, Prepare Your Spellbooks

I HIGHLY recommend that you find or create a reference for your spells if you play a spellcaster. And have that reference open to the correct spell BEFORE your turn comes around.  Waiting for people to look up spells after someone has already said what spell they plan to cast drives the rest of the table bonkers.  Starting out, I highly recommend keeping a copy of the Player’s Handbook nearby when gaming, so you don’t have to hunt down a book in the middle of the game.  Lately, I mostly use the spell cards Wizard’s of the Coast makes for convenience (though they are frustratingly expensive).  In some cases I go a bit overboard, trading time in place of money.  I wrote my current character’s spellbook out, only writing down the spells the character had and keeping them sorted by spell level.  If you build your own reference like I did, I highly recommend keeping notes for the correct book and page number.  There are often times when the DM will call into question the exact wording of a spell description and ask you to look it up in the official rulebook.

Normal Wizardry:

normal wizardry.jpg

Expensive Wizardry:

expensive wizardry.jpg

WHY DO YOU DO THIS TO YOURSELF?

spellbook.jpg

spellbook3.jpg

Keep Your Character Sheet Up To Date

If your character is supposed to level up, make sure you level it up between sessions (if possible) so you don’t lose valuable play time to level your character.  This is a lot more flexible in homebrew, but in Adventurer’s League we’re on the clock, particularly with Season 8’s rules.  Also, game stores throw us out at closing time.  Their employees need sleep too.
Oh, and make sure your inventory is right.  I’m banging my head against a wall myself for not having kept some stuff up to date as I went along.  I was recently trying to make sure my character stable was ready for the next game night, and I didn’t appear to have transcribed some of the inventory from the logsheets to the actual inventory page.  D’oh!

Reflect on the last session

This feels a bit odd to put in here, but I recommend thinking about the last session at some point before the next one.  What worked, and what didn’t work?  If there were player/character conflicts at the table, think on why they happened, and if there is anything you can do to resolve it or work around it.  I won’t harp on this too much, but I think it can be productive to at least think about sessions in between.

Examples:

Someone with a low AC was ambushed from behind.  Would changing the party marching order help?

The party was blindsided by a trap.  How could you increase your chances of finding and disabling that kind of trap in the future?

 

Spending a little time between sessions helps us all maximize our gaming time, and reduces headaches.