Characters’ Starting Stats, the Method I Use

Throughout my years as a player and a DM I have always struggled with how to generate stats. A character’s starting stats often define them as much as their class, so it always seemed like a very influential decision, and there are quite a few methods out there.

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I used to really love the novelty of rolling dice, it provided the potential for extremely good stats and very poor. I really liked the excitement of seeing the promise of your character springing forth. However, often, even rolling 4D6 and discarding the lowest, players would roll some very poor stats, with the highest number a 14.

Perhaps even worse then low stats, nearly every group had one player, you know the jerk with three 18s, two 16s, and a low score of 14. This was always extremely annoying, with such disparity between party members the weaker member would inevitably feel inadequate, or do less impressive things, while super human PC showed off.

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To solve this I experimented with a points system, where players get a certain amount of points to spread among stats as they saw fit. This worked well to put everyone at the same starting point, but often I found players gravitating towards 2 extremely high stats and several very low. This also felt wrong, as it created extremely unbalanced characters, and really penalized characters which needed to fill multiple roles.

Since 5th Edition’s release; however, I have been very, very happy with the method of distributing 6 pre-made numbers, 15,14,13,12,10, and 8, described on page 13 of the Player’s Handbook. This works great as it gives a nice even spread between stats. Character’s stats are then boosted by their race to impressive, but not obnoxious levels starting out. It also forces every player to have a negative stat, something I think is essential to create fun characters, as well as curb players’ egos. I also really like that they allow some room for growth under the 5th edition caps. Finally, it still has a lot of flexibility for players to decide which numbers are going to which stat. Overall, I strongly recommend all my D&D readers give this method a try if you are struggling to have a balanced party.

I am using this with my upcoming campaign, so I will be sure to report what my players’ long term reactions are.

What is your preferred method of rolling stats?

Product Review: Spellbook Cards for Classes

Hello readers! For many of you that frequently visit game stores you have probably seen this product, the Spellbook Cards for each class. They come in a little box and contain brief mention of what they are. They look like this:

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Normally I do not buy into many of the mini products that are put out as player aids. I often find that they cost more then they are worth. My Dad; however, is a big fan of D&D products, and so we bought him a set of Bard Spellbook Cards for his birthday. Surprisingly I am actually really impressed with these items. While not essential they are very useful and can help assist smooth and quicker play.

Nearly every D&D group has had the experience of passing the Player’s Handbook around the group as everyone simultaneously wants to look up spells, abilities, and rules. This can become quite cumbersome when a party contains multiple spellcasters and only one Player’s Handbook. Often the solution is to try to get more Player’s Handbooks; however, this is a rather costly solution. A great alternative is the Spellbook Cards. These cards give full details for all the spells in the Player’s Handbook, so they are a great quick reference guide for each spellcaster, without needing to purchase another Player’s Handbook. I was impressed the cards’ text is legible and well organized. These cards are also a great visual cue for players for what spells they have prepared for the day. Finally, instead of looking through a whole book, they merely need to grab the specific card and read it. Occasionally players will need to look up rules in the Player’s Handbook, but the Spellbook cards certainly cut down on this need.

The Spellbook Cards are also fairly priced with a range between $20-10, considering these could be used as frequently as a player sheet this seems reasonable.

Overall, while not essential to get gaming, I think the Spellbook Cards are a great addition to any D&D Gamer’s collection, especially for spell heavy classes like Wizards, Clerics, and Druids.

What do you think? Have you seen these cards? Have you used them?

Creating a Campaign: Player Handouts

Hello readers! One of the things I do semi-frequently to try to improve my DMing is read various sources for tips and tricks. I have recently begun digging into the 5th edition Dungeon Master’s Guide. In a section detailing beginning a campaign there is a section about creating handouts for players. This isn’t a new concept to me, but is something I haven’t done for a while. The section mentioned to keep the handout relatively brief, roughly 2 pages, giving players basic details about the setting and any special rules for creating a character.

As I have said I will soon begin my own D&D Campaign, starting with the adventure The Sunless Citadel, a 3rd Edition adventure I recently bought from a local game store. I am excited, it is spoken of pretty highly online, so should form a great foundation for me to tweak as I see fit.

The_Sunless_CitadelIt is my plan to posts semi-frequent logs on my party’s progress as well as posting packets of my own DM plans. Because my party reads my blog I won’t be able to post everything until after they pass it, so keep an eye out here.

For anyone wondering what a starting handout would look like here is the one I created for my own party in about a hour and a half.

The Adventure Begins Here: Player’s Handout

Welcome to the land of Aincrad, a relatively small nation ruled from the central capitol of Pathos. Aincrad was formed several centuries ago springing forth from an alliance between the Hill Dwarf clan Blackmountain and the Human villages strung throughout the Plains of Plenty. Originally joined together to protect against the shadowy cult calling itself Death’s Head, the mutual benefit of the alliance evolved into the nation of Aincrad. The two different peoples’ have had centuries to intermingle and influence each other and now stand firm together as one, despite some continued differences. In the centuries since its formation the nation of Aincrad destroyed the Death’s Head cult, scattering it to the depths of the wilderness.

Aincrad is ruled by the Council, a trio of rulers to represent their own groups, as well as the nation. A Dwarf and a Human always each hold a seat on the council, with the third seat rotating between the nation’s other groups. Currently the third seat is held by the lyrical Bard Vespith Vespuchia, a bubbly male Tiefling.
The frontiers of Aincrad largely border the wilderness, a place filled with danger. Hidden ruins of the Death’s Head Cult serve as bases of operations for raiders, bandits, and other darker menaces, both outside and within the borders of Aincrad, though there has been little sign of the Cult in generations.

Nation’s Features:
• Largely Lawful, due to the heavy influence from the Blackmountain Dwarf clan.
• Accepting of a wide variety of people, presuming they do not cause trouble.
• Produces impressive feats of craftsman’s ship, as well as plentiful crops.
• Pathos the central city is a massive stone citadel.

Divine Pantheon:
While the pantheon of this world can be quite varied, Aincradians primarily pay tribute to a select few gods, which each hold specific divine roles. The creator deity, was slain long ago in struggles against elder evils, all that remains of the original pantheon are the wizened brother of the creator Thoth, and the offspring of the first pantheon.
• Arawn- The androgynous god of life and death, symbol a Black star on gray background. Domains include Life and Death. Celebrated for life giving powers, followers of the darker aspect of death often are eccentric or shunned individuals.

•Tyr- God of courage and strategy, his symbol is the sword. Viewed as the just side of war, he is often honored by generals and warriors, his domains are War and Light.

• Freya-The goddess if fertility and love, her love for her followers is often depicted as a shining light, protecting from the darkness. Her domains include Light and Life.

• Silvanus- the god of Nature, forests, and natural growth, Silvanus’ symbol is a summer oak tree. Silvanus is often honored especially by elves and Halflings, though enclaves of druids scattered throughout Aincrad serve as his envoys. His domains are Nature and Tempest.

• Morrigan- the goddess of battle, her symbol is two crossed spears. Her domains include Tempest and War. Though honored by many warriors, Tyr is seen as the more honorable of the aspects of War. Her followers are often berserkers with little regard to the safety of others during combat.

• Thoth- The wizened eldest god worshipped by Aincrad. Thoth is the last remnant of the first Pantheon, usually found digging through his mountains of knowledge. Domains are Knowledge.

• The Blackmountain clan also draws power from their ancestors, whom they enshrine and honor, which manifest itself as Life, Knowledge, War, and Light domains.

New Features of the Campaign:

Muls: A new playable race, Muls are the result of dwarves and humans mixing and having children. A mul is slightly taller than a dwarf, but still shorter than human. They are very hairy, like their dwarven ancestors, and are incredibly muscular. Almost as tough as dwarves, muls are stronger because of their extra size. They often live longer than humans, but shorter then dwarves. Viewed by some purists as second class citizens, legally Muls have all the same rights as any Aincradian.
Ability Score Increase: Your Strength score increases by 2. Your Constitution score increases by 1.

Size: Mul stand between 6 and 6 ½ feet tall and weigh about 270 pounds on average. Your size is medium.
Speed: Your base land speed is 30 feet. Your speed is not reduced by wearing heavy armor.
Uncanny Fortitude: As an action, you may reduce your exhaustion by one level. You cannot use this feature again until after you have taken a long rest.

Relentless Endurance: When you are reduced to 0 hit points but not killed outright, you can drop to 1 hit point instead. You cannot use this feature again until after you have taken a short or long rest.

Ancestors’ Toughness: Your hit point maximum increases by 1, and it increases by 1 every time you gain a level.

Languages: You can speak, read, and write Common or Dwarf and one language of your choice.

Deities: Like Dwarves, Muls may worship primarily their ancestors.

Campaigns Start:
The adventure begins with the party having recently arrived separately into the small town of Oakhurst. The town is not on the frontier, but not near the capitol either, and is one of the many farming communities along the Plains of Plenty. Oakhurst rests near the Old Road, a path little used for the present, though it used to be a major path of travel. Rumor has it that some old ruins rests somewhere by the Old Road, near Oakhurst, which is why travel ceased along the road, too much opportunity for banditry. Rumors also have reached you that once every midsummer a local goblin tribe secretly ransoms a single piece of magical fruit to the highest bidder in Oakhurst. The fruit is said to be an apple of perfect hue, and heals those who suffer from any disease or other ailment. You have arrived a few weeks before midsummer.
*Note: Players may arrive individually, or alongside party members, though each must think of a reason for them to have ventured forth to this town.

With this example here are some basic rules I follow when planning a campaign or adventure.

I always start at a small focused point, and expand outwards as required by the progress and choices of the party. In this case the starting dot is Oakhurst, with some basic details of the larger area it is in. My goal is to create the feeling of a setting, but not spend hours planning details the party won’t get to for a long time, if ever. I like to think of my setting as concentric circles which I expand out with the party.

The other rule is that I am creating a setting, NOT a story. This is a mistake I see many DMs and Adventure Modules making. The goal is not to create a story for the party, but to create a interactive setting with logic and repercussions, that the player’s choices and actions interact with, creating the story of the campaign.

Often this means that a DM can only start a story line, thinking about a group’s goals and actions, but cannot know where these actions will lead until the party has played for a while, otherwise player actions begin to feel pointless.

Well those are some of my thoughts on DMing as well as the handout I will be using for my campaign. I would love to hear some reactions and thoughts from readers.

Story Time: The Legacy of Legon

Greetings readers, today I bring another story from my The Lost City. This one revolves around the antics and legacy of Legon, the elven Thief.

Legon was the first character this player had ever created, was his first foray into D&D. I think mentally my player initially pictured his character like this:

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Legon focused on ranged combat, hence the similarity to the name Legolas :).

Legon joined the group a session or two after the start of the campaign. He met the party while fleeing for his life from a pack of hungry, scurrying, giant weasels. Little did I know that this introduction would be a great snap shot into the life choices of Legon.

Legon was a coward. He would fight if cornered, but had no qualms about fleeing from combat, even if it meant abandoning a party member, though in his defense he usually gave warnings he was about to run.

This was an interesting experience for me, I had never DMed a PC that chose flight over fight so readily, even more interesting the group largely embraced these actions without oaths of vengeance. It was just part of who the character was.

This really gave me some interesting potential while DMing. Usually players are very fight first think second, seeming to view themselves as close if not the top of the food chain. Because of this mentality it is quite difficult to instill any sense of fear or worry into a party during most encounters. Legon switched up the formula, the player, maybe due to his inexperience, was worried about most things. His character viewed most things as a major threat, and reacted to them as such. Once he was down to half health, if things weren’t clearly in the party’s favor Legon began looking for an exit.

This behavior helped instill fear into the rest of the party. Legon’s player voiced his nervousness very well, in both comedic shouts, curses, and oaths.

As the campaign went on, Legon’s experience grew, as did his confidence. He ran less, became more invested in the party, and saw more things to fight for. However, his legacy of fleeing over having a tough fight remained a major component of his character.

While many players may consider mocking such actions, Legon was the only player I had who kept his first character alive throughout the campaign, a feat I attribute at least in part to his caution and “strategic withdraws.”

Here’s to you Legon!

Have you ever had a party member that seemed to flee when the going get tough? Have you played a character which fled? Does fleeing have a place in D&D or should players stick to their guns and hope for the best?

New Lair!

Hello everyone, sorry for the delay in posts I recently moved into a apartment and packing, unpacking, and getting Internet all made blog next to impossible.

Excitingly now that I am in my new place I will be starting a new campaign the first weekend of October, and I have an awesome gaming room to use. Here is a picture of my D&D shelf with all my books, all my dragon and dungeon magazines are on another shelf :).

Organizing Published Adventures

I love published adventures. They are a great foundation for me to build off of, and offer a ton of inspiration. I don’t love how disorganized mine have been though. Today I decided I would organize them into binders, using clear plastic binder sleeves. One binder is lower level, the other higher, with a third binder being my “bucket” list adventures to dm.


Here is my bucket list binder it includes adventures I have heard a lot about but have not played thru.


The contents include village hommlet, tomb of horrors, against the Giants, descent into the depths of the earth, queen of the demon web pits, forge of fury, the standing stone, deep horizon, bastion of broken souls, and finally the red hand of doom. I am working on purchasing Ravenloft and The Temple of Elemental Evil to also add.

Random Encounter: Twig Blights

This will be the first installment of a regular feature on The Room Fills with Water, the Random Encounter. This will be a chance for me to focus on a specific monster, discuss my thoughts on it, share some stories, and suggest some interesting ways it can be used (or fought against).

A shout out to the player of FizzyWinks for this first monster request!

Twig Blights originally appeared in the 3rd edition adventure The Sunless Citadel.

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While the specifics of the adventure are unimportant for this discussion, Twig Blights serve as a new henchmen of the big baddie at the end of the adventure.

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Standing about 3 and 1/2 feet tall, Twig Blights are a series of leafless branches, which interlock to create a diminutive humanoid shape. These strange creatures draw their origins from the Gulthias Tree, a tree grown from a stake used to slay a powerful vampire. The Gulthias Tree possessed innate, but evil, power. Twice a year fruit springs from the tree, the seeds of which create Twig Blights.

Most likely due to their dark origins Twig Blights crave the taste of blood, often attacking living creatures, and then drawing sustenance from their bodies. Their alignment is Chaotic Evil.

Twig Blights can root themselves into the ground and reproduce through their root system, allowing them to multiply even if the tree of their origins is slain.

twig_blightTwig Blights offer a really interesting opportunity, low levels are often a ton of fun, and the most frequently played; however, several creatures are often used as the main monsters; Goblins, Orcs, Kobolds, ect. Twig Blights are very level appropriate for a starting group AND avoid the repetition of yet another Goblin lair.

They are also quite creepy, and so can add an element of horror to early levels. Perhaps villagers have been complaining of animals disappearing when grazing near the forest, often at night. All that the farmer hears over the bleating of the animal is an unsettling rustling and clattering, like dozens of claws rusting in the wind. By the time they make it to the pasture all that remains is a trail of blood leading into the woods.Maybe a young child, as often happens in horror movies, can mention the funny wood men that skirt through the homestead late at night. The options are really endless.

Finally, they are a really neat opportunity to explore a Evil Druid or Ranger villain, that perhaps utilizes Twig Blights and other Evil forest creatures to harass civilization. Maybe the villain is using their minions to sustain and nurture a new Gulthias tree! To extend their use, or variety, maybe your Twig Blights grow bigger with age, increasing hit points and damage, of course only after having fed regularly :).

I haven’t used them extensively in my own games, and so no interesting stories come to mind, but keep an eye on this blog, as they are sure to appear in future adventures of mine :).

A few things to be careful of, do not over use Twig Blights, keep the mystery surrounding them as long as possible. Their effect will be lessened if seeming endless numbers of them appear at regular intervals. Instead use them sparingly. If possible have them drag their dead away. There is a fear and excitement in the unknown. A few Twig Blights utilized well as in a early adventure is far more likely to be remembered then yet another Kobold or Goblin cave. You can supplement Twig Blights by also using Vine and Needles Blights, allowing some nice variety for an early adventure.

Well that is all I have to say about Twig Blights. Have you used Twig Blights in your own games, or faced them before? What are your thoughts on them?

If there is a monster you would like me to focus on for the next Random Encounter segment, please put the suggestion in the comments :).