Miniatures, Maps, and Visual Aids

Hello everyone, today I bring a requested topic from one of my readers. The topic, “To what degree do you think figures and map quality factor into player immersion?” Thanks to Rody for posing such an interesting question! For the sake of clarity I am going to presume map quality refers to dungeon tiles and other things of that nature to represent encounter areas

As with most things D&D, miniatures and maps effects on player immersion varies from group to group. However, over the years I have developed thoughts on visual aides during D&D.

Like many gamers, I really enjoy well painted miniature, and enjoy painting miniatures a lot. Here are a couple miniatures I have actually painted.

Despite my enjoyment of miniatures, I do not actually like using them in D&D, nor do I use dungeon tiles. I have a a few reasons for this.

Extra Work and Cost to the DM

Gathering miniatures and encounter tiles can be a lot of extra work on the DM, not to mention a potentially expensive addition cost. As a DM I would rather put my time towards planning a session then painting monsters and preparing dungeon tiles.

In my experience it is the rare group that will have every member painting their own character’s miniatures. If miniatures are not being painted then I see even less of a reason to use them in a session.

During the actual game session DMs have to keep track of a LOT of information and notes, miniatures and tiles are just an additional thing for the person already doing the most work.

Dungeon Tile

Over Emphasis on Miniature Position and tile Compostion

In my experience, once miniatures and map tiles are brought into a game, there are a few effects. Players often became more focused on the map tiles and miniature position, then my verbal descriptions. For example, a play would be fiddling with a miniature, looking at the enemy miniatures placed, or looking at the map tiles, they then miss the description the DM gives, causing confusion when a detail not on the map tiles or miniatures comes into play, such as a fallen down tree not pictured, or hidden enemies popping up. 

I have found that by using tiles and miniatures, D&D begins to feel closer to a board game, and so players started to treat it as such. They want exact details, with a consistency to the board. For example, often when I move creatures I am dealing in abstract distances, they charge forward, and look to be in range for a charge this turn, or the creature pop out of the bushes several hundred feet to the right. With a grid map; however, players want exact distances, since they can see the distance represented in feet. Rather then moving my monsters forward roughly about right, they notice if one goblin moves 1 square further then the other.

This also means, that when I want to slightly fudge distances to allow players to do really neat ideas it becomes much harder, I can’t just say, oh yeah the goblins are clustered together for that Sleep spell, because on the map it is clear they aren’t.

Miniature Actions vs Descriptive Actions

With a mapped encounter and miniatures, I also have found that the descriptive nature of combat takes a side seat to the miniature movement. I found players to say, “Okay I move here, then attack, oh miss, ok your turn.” Where as without the visual tiles and miniatures they have described their actions more.

To answer Rody’s original question, in my opinion, verbal description, vocal tone, and body language should always take prime seat for player immersion, while using as minimal visual elements as possible. My favorite visual tool is actually a dry erase board, with a couple different color dry erase markers.

dry erase board

This tool is simple enough that it will never replace verbal description in the player’s attention; however, it is clear enough to help clarify encounters, especially complicated ones. As an additional plus, it is cheap! I would highly recommend giving this a try to any DM reading.

This is not to say I am completely opposed to the use of miniatures and map tiles. I think for dungeon crawls especially, miniatures and map tiles work well. DMs can spend less time describing the shape of a room, and more time describing the contents. The boundaries of a dungeons, by its very nature, is also more restrictive then the wilderness, lending itself better to this method.

There are a couple of other visual aids which I think can help immersion and general game play. One thing I have done in the past, is assign player’s poker chips to represent their health, when they take damage, chips are taken away. This gave a visual cue to other players how hurt someone was, and gave a physical representation of taking damage.

I also really like handing out notes, letters, and maps, some of which I blot with wet tea bags, or singe the edges, to give the illusion of age. I think this helps create a more immersive experience, as the players have physical representations of things their characters have, which are relatively easy to create.

Well, Rody, hopefully that answered your question. I would love to hear your, or other reader’s comments. Do you use miniatures and dungeon tiles? What are your thoughts on D&D visual aides?

As always I am interested to hear what topics readers would like to hear about, feel free to put requests in the comments.


The DM’s Conundrum

Hello everyone, today I am going to discuss a problem that I frequently run into, something I like to think of as “The Dm’s Conundrum.”

The Dm’s Conundrum

Basically,  the conundrum is that I am constantly getting ideas, inspiration, or excitement over a adventure/campaign idea, booklet, setting, or even gaming system, always before I am anywhere close to finishing my current campaign.Usually this entails me spending several hours reading and thinking about a theoretical situation or group, in which this adventure or story would be amazing, often when I should be planning the very real D&D sessions that are right around the corner. I get really jazzed about a certain idea, and them am less invested in the current story I am running, as I am more excited for the new shiny idea I have just had! Does this happen to anyone else?

This most recent round of Dming waffling came about while I was reading The Curse of Strahd adventure, which I had checked out from my local library. This adventure seems awesome, it is spooky, dark, Gothic, has an awesome blend of social and combat encounters, AND it has an amazing unforgettable villain. It’s the whole package!


I of course  wanted to go to my friendly local game store and buy it right away; however, I guiltily looked at my Temple of Elemental Evil adventure, which my party has just entered, but not started, and realized it will be at least a year before I need more material. Resigned that I wouldn’t get to play out the amazing Gothic horror that is Castle Ravenloft I returned the adventure to the library, and went back to reading the Temple of Elemental Evil. Don’t get me wrong, I am PUMPED for the Temple; however, in the moment I was disappointed that I most likely would not get a chance for a very long time to run the Curse of Strahd.

temple of elemental evil

This brings me to my DM Conundrum. Most DMs read a lot of D&D material for inspiration and ideas. The more someone DMs the more they read if this material, and the more they think about theoretical ideas. This inevitably leads to theoretical campaigns, getting off track, and spiraling down the rabbit hole that is scanning thru your adventure collection. This would also lead to the conclusion that the more a person DMs, the more unfulfilled ideas you will have, and the more you will debate running additional games to get your favorite ideas at the game table. This inevitably leads to over commitment and failed campaigns, if over indulged, at least it has for me.

While I won’t stop looking at new material, I am going to make it a goal to read all of the Temple of Elemental Evil before looking at new adventures, that way I get excited for the adventure I am actually on. This particular adventure is quite complicated, so I think I could very much so use some time to not just read, but also map out the social connections within the adventure, as well as adapting the dungeon.

Perhaps this is just a problem I have, who knows :), but I would be interested to see if anyone else has experienced this, and if they have found solutions.

Character Knowledge vs Player Knowledge

Hello everyone, after a recent discussion with my group I have been thinking about one of the age old D&D debates, Character Knowledge vs. Player Knowledge, also known as Metagaming.

Meta Gaming

What is metagaming?

Before i begin discussing my thoughts I am sure some people are wondering what do this mean and how does it matter. Basically it is inevitable that some player(s) will have knowledge that their character may or may not possess.

Often, it is the grizzled veterans who run into this the most. After years or decades playing, it is tough to not to have parts of the Monster Manual memorized, especially for those players that also DM. This can manifest itself in a character utilizing the perfect strategy against a monster, despite the fact that the party has never encountered it. Or it could even take place during character creation, for example if the players know they are entering Castle Ravenloft they may spend extra money to purchase silver weapons, because the players, but not the characters, know undead will be their main enemy.

Grizzled vets may also have played an adventure already, if you are using a prewritten adventure. For example, one of my Dad’s and his group’s favorite adventures is Keep on the Borderlands, they have played through it dozens of times. This means that they remember, without investigating, what most of the caves hold, and which ones to  go in first, for big rewards. It also means that some of the false rumors in the book don’t have the same impact, as they know the rumors are false.

New players could also have this happen. Perhaps the best example from either vets or new players is when a Rogue rolls a Natural 1 to search for traps, suddenly everyone is either hesitant to open the door, or also asking to search themselves!


Why metagaming is a problem?

I could go on longer, but I think it’s pretty clear what I mean by Character Knowledge vs. Player Knowledge.

Now, some people may be wondering, why is this a problem? Characters metagaming can have several negative impacts on the game. Metagaming can disrupt the immersion of the game. Metagaming can turn what would be an exciting encounter against a new monster, into a cake walk, as players use abilities to take advantage of monster weaknesses that they learned in another game, with another character. Finally, metagaming can really bog down game play, as people attempt to bully, argue, or reason their way into characters doing things that just doesn’t make sense for the character.

Meta Gaming 3

I have played with players who try stunts like this, it is fun for no one. 

As a players, how can I avoid metagaming?

Avoiding metagaming; however, does not mean that players cannot use their own logic, problem solving, and even personal knowledge.

Most player knowledge actually makes sense for characters to possess. Even the dumbest fighter would have heard that goblins are cowardly, ogres are strong but dumb, and that vampire drink blood. It is not even outside the realm of possibilities that most characters have heard that trolls are weak to fire, after all trolls are not that uncommon, and vanquishing adventures would love to spread stories of their conquests.

Think of all the various pieces of knowledge and trivia we possess about our own world, your own characters will have at least that much, most likely more, as they, unlike most of us, have been out wandering around, facing dangers, and testing their skills along their journey to be adventures.

I often find someone stopping and discussing whether or not their character would know X or Y is actually just as disruptive as just using the knowledge.

So where does the line between playing smart and metagaming lay? Honestly there is no black and white divide, smarter characters will know more about their world, while survivalist will obviously have large stock piles of info on the natural world. I find that the best way to avoid metagaming is to think a little bit about your character’s background. Where did they grow up? Who raised them? What did they do before their adventuring career?

These questions help supply context of what knowledge your character possesses, which will help you avoid metagaming. For example, if I am playing a Human Wizard, raised in a city his whole life, chances are he does not know what poison ivy looks like; however, his time studying books should allow him to know that ghouls are a form of undead with paralyzing touch, as they are a pretty common threat. What age a Red Dragon begins casting certain spells; however, is much rarer knowledge, that this character most likely does not possess. This is when a DM may require researching it in game, or a knowledge check. After all, dragons are rare creatures, and information that specific rarer still.

Using this method can also help you think about what knowledge your character may possess, that you yourself do not. This is where die rolls, with specific goals come in. For example, I really enjoyed playing a country priest, who had knowledge of farming and healing. When presented with some uncommon plant growth I asked the DM if I could examine it and use my knowlege nature skill to gain some knowledge on it. I myself would have no idea about various patterns of plant growth, but my characters did.

Meta gaming 2

What tools does a DM have to stop metagaming?

The biggest deterrent for metagaming is perhaps unsurprisingly the DM.

Some DMs I have talked to set hard and fast rules about what players know and what characters do. They are concerned about stopping players from metagaming, and have discussions about it when it pops up. This style emphasizes putting the responsibility on the players to not metagame.

While this isn’t a bad strategy, I think there are a few tips I can give that will quickly deter instances of metagaming. My style tweaks the game in slight ways from time to time, that makes metagaming knowledge less valuable. My players know this, and so often are focused on information in the game, rather then their stockpile of experience, to overcome challenges. Here are some of my tips:

  • As the Dm feel free to tweak or change pre-written adventures or monsters. Maybe this particular tribe of orcs is very skilled in magic, but not as physically strong. Perhaps you switched the occupants of a cave in Keep on the Borderlands. Subtle changes like this can keep a party of players on their toes, while also continually discovering new things in the world, always a fun experience. When tweaking common monsters like orcs, goblins, kobolds, ect. I suggest before the end of the adventure supplying some logical reason they were different. In the orc example, maybe their leader is a ancient wizard, who uses them for his own nefarious purposes and as apprentices. If you do this players will go into your adventures with some basic knowledge; however, they will also constantly be aware that threats could be different then expected. Don’t switch this up too frequently, as you want most common monsters to stay that way, common and basic.
  • When appropriate, ask a player to roll something hidden, or do the roll yourself. This heightens tension and excitement for the rest of the players. If a player is attempting to mentally reason whether their character would be worried or not, the impact of a scare, threat, or trap will be lessened. Keeping the knowledge hidden until it happens removes this problem.
  • Encourage and allow opportunities for interested characters to research villains, religions, rare monsters, or frequent threats. By doing this, you are giving an outlet for their curiosity and desire to equip their characters with tools to face threats. This can also be a great chance to bring in elements of the story plot that might otherwise not be clear to the party. You can also charge money and time for their research, which is an excellent chance to relieve players of their vast piles of loot.
  • Finally, be firm, fair, and consistent with players. Don’t get into arguments of logic or reasoning, just make a ruling, and continue on with the game. If you do this in a consistent and fair way, the game will move on fine, and most players should be fine with it. If you keep having problems with a player, consider talking to them, or even not inviting them back.

Those are my thoughts on player knowledge vs character knowledge, what are your thoughts on it? Have you had any instances where this has really impacted a game?

DMing Tip: Music

Hello everyone! Today I am going to discuss a DM tip I have only recently become an advocate for, the use of music. Audio aspects of play are often overlooked, but I have found they are a great tool to setting moods and getting my players focused.

While I primarily focus on DMs using music, a canny player could work in music themed for their character. Maybe you play a specific song after each victory, or perhaps while interacting with NPCs you have a mix you play. Aldo, the Bard in my current campaign and author of the Bards Tale, plays a specific song every time the party rests, representing a music box he possesses and sleeps too. 

Music can really help set the mood and tempo. One of the best uses for music I have found is during scary moments in game. It is extremely tough to get players on edge; however, the right use of verbal description with the right spooky music, and suddenly players  are on the edge of their seats.

To put this in perspective think of a horror video game, like Resident Evil or Silent Hill, the music, while subtle, can really influence your reaction to the game, heightening tension and nervousness.

Another excellent chance to set mood and tempo with music is during combat, the right songs playing in the background can help make combat feel like the intense action in players’ favorite movies. Music can be used to establish other moods, I am always on the look out for new songs to use during urban and wilderness moments.

In my sessions, having music playing has helped get my players further invested in the game. They often regularly comment, “Ohh this music is perfect,” or “Yeah, i’m not really feeling this.”


Music can also serve as an audio cue. For example, I only play certain songs during combat, giving my players an additional cue to what is happening in game. A real world example of this can be heard in Pokemon game, the moment the battle music starts playing players know they are in a battle. Other examples are Final Fantasy games, which always have a shift in music when the party enters combat, this helps players transition from exploration, social encounter, ect. to combat.

(How many of you heard the victory music without it even playing?)

I have even purchased a CD of nature sounds when I want to emphasize specific weather or settings, rainstorms and thunder for example has worked well. Without this audio cue its easy to forget that it is raining in game.

Right, so now you are sold that you should try to use music in game, but how?

First, you do not want to use music with words, a few words are ok, but for the most part I stick to only instrumental. Words can be too distracting and pull players away from what I am saying.

This of course means do NOT use popular band music, as your players will start focusing on their favorite hits, rather then the game. These songs are also not very appropriate for fantasy style game.

My go to for music has been soundtracks to certain movies and games. These are valuable for two reasons, first they are a great source of music without words; Star Wars, Harry Potter, and Lord of the Rings are some good ones. My absolute favorite is the original Conan the Barbarian soundtrack. It has amazing combat and exploration music, the Riddle of Steel/Riders of Doom (skip to 2:11 for the combat part) is one of my all time favorites, it gets everyone pumped for combat.

The second reason I like these soundtracks is because many have context already ingrained in the players, from the moments of the game or movie. For example, it would be nearly impossible to find someone who hears the Imperial March from Star Wars, and not picture ranks of stormtroopers and Darth Vader.


As a DM I use this to my advantage, plugging these recognizable songs in at moments when I want to instill similar feelings to the iconic moments in the movies.

At the suggestion of my assistant DM (Fizzywink’s player), I once used Arabian Nights, from Aladdin, to set the mood for my party moving into a desert nation during a new story arc of my Lost City campaign. It worked really well, getting the party pumped for a new phase of the campaign, and helped serve as a clear transition.

You have to be careful with this, as players may recognize a song that actually conflicts with the mood of the game. For example the Imperial March played while first meeting a good ruler may unintentionally cause them to suspect said leader.

When using music I have found the key to success is variation. I don’t play music directly off a CD, my players will eventually get tired of hearing Harry Potter song after Harry Potter song; however, several different sources of music mixed together gives variation and keeps the music fresh.

I sort my music into 3 generic mixes; Town, Exploration,  and Combat/pump up. These are the various moods I often find I am looking for. If my mixes are 12+ songs then I can just play them and not fiddle too much with my ipod during the game, except when switching settings. The exception to this is when I have a specific song in mind, in which case I make note of it, and actually switch to it when the time comes.

Worth noting is Midnight Syndicate,  which is music made specifically for roleplaying games. The cd Realm of Shadows has been my favorite for setting creepy moods. Whenever I play it for a new group they always comment on how much they like it. There are a number of CDs by Midnight Syndicate, and they are definitely worth considering.


If you are a little unsure on using music, give it a try, youtube has some great play lists, which are free. The library is also a great free source to try for various soundtracks and spooky Halloween music.

Hopefully this has been an interesting/ useful discussion. I would love to hear if any of you play in games which use music, or if you have specific songs/ CDs you like.

DMing Tip: Compelling Descriptions

Hello everyone, today I am going to discuss the importance of description in a game of D&D, an excellent topic requested by Jon, a regular reader and a friend of mine who also DMs. Thanks for the topic Jon!

Description is often the difference between a fun session of D&D and a immersive, compelling, session, during which people lose track of time, because they are so invested in what is happening.

Description is the words/visuals used to help a player better visualize and imagine the action currently taking place in the game. The better a player can imagine a setting, the more they will interact with it, or take it into account. A fight with goblins on a tight mountain pass should not be described, or feel the same, as a fight with goblins in a field.

Description is important as it provides clues to players about the contents of an area, as well as helps them become more invested in the game.


Equally important are combat descriptions. Take the image above as an example of a combat turn.

I could say, you are attacking from the front, you are flanking , roll to hit… hit… how much damage… and then move onto the next player. However, combat becomes far more interesting if DMs and players make effort to describe their actions, rather then just describe the rules.


You lunge forward with your axe, the hairy beast is off balance and attempting to fend off you and your ally, roll to hit you have advantage. With a tremendous swipe your axe cleaves into the beast’s side, blood sprays out of the wound, the beast howls in fury and glares down at you.

This second example is more exciting, it pulls greater investment from the players, and makes the game easier to picture. It also makes the monster more then just a combination of stats and abilities.

I will give a few techniques I have found personally to work. Description is something I at times still struggle with, so I am constantly evaluating how clear and interesting my descriptions were after each session. If I noticed that several players seemed confused by certain encounters or settings I view that as signifying that my description could have been better.

Repetitive description can be especially tough to avoid in room after room of the same dungeon, if you find yourself in a slump try to make a room slightly different, maybe the next one has some fuzzy green moss growing on the walls, or some mysterious dark stains on the ground. Mechanically both rooms are the same, but these little details make them feel different.

Keep Descriptions Brief

I read in an article that 3-4 sentences should be the max you use for an initial description, after that its just too much info at once.

In those 3-4 sentences you want to describe the general shape or environment of an area, any threats or points of interest in the area. Only worry about important details in this first description.  Give every important item or creature in a room at least one adjective, if possible even 2 or 3 adjectives, to make it easier to picture. This is not how many people write; however, for a visual game like D&D it works.

Here is an example of a room description I recently used:

Within the cramped room five dusty sarcophagi are clustered, standing along the walls. Their heavy, stone lids have swung open, and are all empty. On the West wall, with an looming, empty, stone sarcophagi standing along either side, is a ornately carved obsidian shrine. A single ghostly blue candle illuminates the various items on the glimmering black alter in a cold blue light.

I repeat multiple times that there are sarcophagi in the room, but they are empty, and then I give a great deal of attention to the shrine, highlighting the two major features of the room.

Give additional details throughout the encounter: If the party spends more then a few moments in an area, or around a creature be prepared to supply additional description.

For instance, when fighting zombies, I will initially describe the vague numbers of the swarm to my group, describing their gaping wounds and reaching arms. As combat continues my descriptions of the monsters won’t cease, nor will I keep repeating the same thing. Instead, I will build on the foundation my initial description gave. I will describe the smells, noises, feel, or other details of the encounter, to better flesh it out for the party.

This can be as simple as just sprinkling in this additional information when it feels appropriate.

Use Body Language and vocal tones: As a DM you have to make a wide variety of creatures and beings come to life in a player’s mind. While word choice can go a long way, subtle tone and voice changes can also be very effective, as can body language. If I am describing ,or roleplaying, as a wizened, old, wizard, I will  hunch over and maybe wheeze some during my sentences. During combat descriptions I my use my hands to act out some of the motions of melee, or use my facial expressions to mimic a creatures. This may feel funny or strange at first, but if you keep at it, it will definitely make your games more fun. The key with this is to not get too over the top, as it can then make a serious moment silly. Try to find a balance that will work best for you and your group.

If I know my party is going to fight a lot of the same monsters over the course of several combats, I try to jot down a few different ways to describe similar things. One group of goblins may be cowering wretches, while another may be quivering, dirty, dregs, pretty much the same thing, but it adds variety to my descriptions, keeping things fresh.

Get Players Involved: Getting party members involved in describing their own actions can be difficult, some players will, others will not. I often give an opportunity for my players to describe their actions, even asking “How do you do this attack.” For my more hesitant party members I will describe their attacks for them. This allows the visuals in my game to be maintained at a nice level, while allowing for a variety of experience and comfort levels. I have found the more consistently I employ my own descriptions, the more my party members get involved.

Look for Inspiration: If I can’t mentally picture an environment I will google pictures of similar landscapes, or even watch movies that I know have the settings in them. A great movie to help find inspiration for cramp, claustrophobic, cave exploration is The Descent. Even if I don’t write any notes down, if I can better envision an environment I can then describe it better.

The same goes for monsters, read the Monster Manual descriptions to better understand what the monster looks like, moves, and acts like. This will help your creatures come alive. If the Monster Manual doesn’t cover it try to make some educated thoughts of your own.

If you are struggling to find good examples of descriptive D&D play, try watching Community Season 2, Episode 14 or Season 5, Episode 10 (Season 2’s version is better). Both episodes have great examples of goofy, but vivid D&D descriptive play, highlighting how much fun it can be, and how to go about doing it.

I would love to hear if this has helped people. How do you go about describing your actions and encounters? As usual if you have a topic you would like me to cover feel free to send in a request through the comments :).

DMing Tips: Spending Party Loot


Greetings, today I bring a discussion which my fellow DMJon (who has commented on many of my posts) and I had on players’ loot in D&D. Both Jon and I agreed we liked that magical items were rarer in the current edition of D&D. No longer were players expecting enter a sizable settlement and buy magical items, or carry around dozens of +1 items to try to sell for gold, because this was no longer essential to their success. Instead, magical items are truly something rare and exciting, something to be, well, treasured. However, this does create a problem, with the lack of magical goods to buy, what should parties spend their hard earned loot on?

I have come up with a few solutions to this dilemma, but first I have to state my policy on treasure. In my games, I always attempt to give my party just enough to feel rewarded, but still feel the pinch when buying a lot of goods. If the party begins flashing too much cash in a large city they may be targeted by pickpockets and thieves. Often, merchants will not have the gold available to pay anywhere near full price for valuable art, gems, and jewelry, with the party lucky if they get 25% value. In my opinion, when it comes to treasure, less is more. I would rather my party feel poor and look forward to loot, then feel overly wealthy and not be impressed with rubies. This may not work with every party, but it works with mine.



Right, so things for characters to spend their hard earned loot on:

-Over coasted goods. Often, if my party is in a small village, or the wilderness, the weapons and goods available will be much more expensive then listed in the Player’s Handbook. I explain that the Player’s Handbook is a cost guide for a city, so while a city may have several blacksmiths, a town will have one or none, and few if any swords or suits of armor. Because of this, a sword in a small village costs a LOT more then in a city. In comparison, food and other goods like that will be cheaper, same with inn rooms, ect.

This helps gives a sense of realism to your world, but it also separate low level characters from their treasure, as they will often be looking for small weapon changes, or more arrows, ect. You can pair this with equipment used by enemies often ending up damaged and unusable, maybe even party member’s gear breaks with critical misses, requiring more future purchases.

-One use magical items, such as healing potions and scrolls. These items should still be very rare, but in larger settlements a few could be available, for a large price. I like to make my healing potions at least 300 gold.

I have found that these one off items give the party some tools to deal with a variety of situations, healing potion if the healer gets knocked out for instance, but since they are one use they do not over power the party.

The party may not want to pay the exorbitant prices, in which case the seller could request a specific favor, sparking of a mini adventure.

-Information and hirelings. Both of these are resources that can be extremely valuable to a party. Imagine having a doctor who follows along with the party, for a fee, stabilizing party members after (or during for a higher fee) combat, but refusing to fight himself, or a Fletcher who keeps the party supplied with ranged implements.

If the party is trying to find information on something, rather then just giving information with a Investigation check, have the party find a source of information, but have them play the encounter out. Often these informants will require an exorbitant fee for their services. Some solid diplomacy can decrease the cost, but not eliminate it. Perhaps the gold spent on information reveals the location of a magical artifact, allowing players, in a fashion, to buy magical items, but they then have to delve into a dungeon for them.

-Encourage your players to invest in their characters’ goals. If you players mentions forming a thieves guild in passing, encourage them to do it, not only will this help invest them in the game, but it will be a great opportunity to use treasure. The same can be done if your player wants to make a mercenary company ect.

The key here is to make sure the investment feels worth it, the guild, business, ect needs to give something back, be it meat shields, reputation, more treasure, a combination.

Long term character improvement also goes along with this. Many of my players eventually ask how to get more skills, a new language, weapons training, ect. I will often allow the players to explore this potential; however, hiring a trainer takes time and a LOT of loot. A skill takes about 80 days to trains and 500 gold. This can be scaled to your campaign. It could also be tweaked for the goal, learning Infernal would be much more difficult then say Elven in an elf dominated kingdom.

player logic

How do you handle players wealth? Do you view them accumulating too much being a problem? What do you think of my strategies?

Dming Tips: Hosting a One Off

Hello everyone! Before starting my topic a big shout out to Jon for reading most of my posts, commenting on most, and continuing the conversations :). Comments and feedback is what makes blogging fun, so thanks man!

Right, so today I am going to discuss how to approach DMing a One off adventure, from the perspective of a new DM. Thanks to Mickey Panda for yet another excellent topic idea!

One important thing you have decided, which will make you DMing job much easier, is the time frame for your adventure, a one off. This means the adventure, and therefore story arc, should be completed within a single session.

Before going further you now need to decide what is your time frame for this one off? Is a weekend marathon, an 5 hour session, a lengthy 12 hour session in a single night?

You also need to think who will be playing in your group. Often when I DM one offs is have a group of mixed ages, with a trend towards inexperience with roleplaying. This then effects what I plan for my adventure.

Finally, you need to think what is your goal for this adventure. Is it to give you and your friends a taste of D&D? Is it to experiment with a specific genre?

One of my best friends, Logan, remembers his favorite time playing D&D as a one off I did in celebration of Halloween. The party explored a haunted plantation, with many of the party members dying in a gory manner by various horror tropes. The party entered into the game presuming that death loomed around the corner, and so they just had a great time with this. Even for experienced parties one offs can be a nice break to try something new, or even give someone a chance to try DMing without the commitment of a full campaign.


Since I have talked to Mickey a bit I am going to make a presumption that she is considering dipping her toes into the D&D world, and has been drafted as a DM. First of all, good for you! DMing is the hardest, but also most rewarding job in D&D.

One thing I would consider is buying the starter box for what ever D&D edition you are considering. These boxes often have most of the rules, dice, some premade characters, and a simple yet fun beginning adventure created to be played in about a session.

The one in the third edition box looked something like this:

Adventure Begins

These starter boxes are a great way to start, as they are much cheaper then the Players Handbook and Monster Manual. If you decide D&D isn’t for you then you haven’t spent too much money.

The issue with this method is that these starter boxes often are not useful once you begin playing more. Players will want to make their own characters, and you will want to expand beyond the basic dungeon.

If you already have a strong suspicion that you will like D&D and want to continue with it then I would instead start with the Player’s Handbook and Monster Manual. From there you can begin planning your one off.

Keeping in mind your time frame I think on average most one offs will only have roughly 3-5 combat encounters, 1-2 social, and maybe 1 trap. This is enough content that gives you a feel for the game, but is still doable in a short time frame.

Using this formula, you can then begin to think about the story for your adventure. I can’t give many more specifics without knowing your exact time frame and style (horror, adventure, dungeons, wilderness, ect.). I will leave you with these last few tips.

-Have the story complete by the end of the session; however, feel free to leave some loose ends. This could entice your players to play more, or give you a future jumping off point.

-When planning encounters try to make each counter have a different thing that needs something special, such as an emphasis or ranged fighting, magic, weird terrain, ect. Feel free to plan less encounters, but really make each one fun.

-Leave your players wanting more. If you feel like your adventure is a bit short that is fine, its better at the end for everyone to wish there was more to do, then to wish it had ended an few hours ago.

-Don’t be afraid to make mistakes, especially if its your first time DMing.

Well I hope that helps! Please do tell me how your game goes :)!