bits, diy

Initiative Trackers

WP_20160109_13_19_45_Rich_LIThere are dozens of ideas floating out there suggesting how best to track initiative at the table. Some DM’s simply jot down a list in their notes. Some prefer to hang folded cards on their screens. There are templates for printing and small whiteboards for marking. Apparently there are dedicated online tools, web sites, programs and apps for this as well.

SlyFlourish writes on the topic as it pertains to his Lazy DM Method and DMDavid wrote one of the best articles I’ve read on the topic. Standing on all of these giants, I made some iniative tracking cards for my games that bring a little flair to the table, help me delegate some work at the beginning of an encounter and make it easy to manage shifting iniative places as they happen.

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5e, dndnext, houserules

Alchemy in D&D

alchemy-labOn multiple occasions throughout the years my friends and I have discussed how to best insert alchemy into D&D. Across each edition, alchemy has taken different forms. Sometimes it’s presented as a skill. The (awesome) potion miscibility table in AD&D was a form of alchemy in its own right. And in fourth edition, various alchemical compounds found their way into the consumables catalog along with potions, scrolls, and whetstones. Now that I’m playing fifth edition, one of my players asked how he might mix a little alchemy into his bard’s bag of tricks. That sounded like a good excuse to dream up a little sub-system that might work as part of the game. In the spirit of a more “hackable” D&D, I thought I would share those ideas here.

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dndnext, personal

5th Edition so far…

It’s probably been almost two years since I started reading about D&D Next. It has been fascinating to see the game evolve over that time – reading discussion forums and comment threads debating the merits of Vancian spell casting, flattened math, and a more flexible, “hack-able” framework. Now that I have two of the three core rulebooks, and have played about 20 sessions, I am happy to report that D&D “5th Edition” has renewed my love for the game. It’s awesome and my favorite edition so far.

That’s not to say that I wasn’t really enjoying 4th Edition. I was. Playing 5E just feels right… it flows in a way that 4th didn’t but doesn’t turn its back on the things that 4E got right. Lots has been said about this edition and others… I’ve enjoyed playing each one, and am now enjoying the modern incarnation.

Being excited about the new edition has also stirred my interest in creating content for my game and contributing more to the community. I know a few people have occasioned across this space over the past year and I hope that you’ve found something useful on your visit. Now that I’m playing and creating more, I hope to add more frequently.

Until then, keep a d20 close and keep rolling.


Color and Texture

DDToday in his Dragon’s-Eye View column, Jon asked the community to share ideas about the color and texture of Dungeons & Dragons. The more I thought about it today, the more I’ve found that I really like the question. Beyond color and typeface, there is a lot of texture in D&D. Whether you are playing a high fantasy/high magic setting or something grittier, characters are almost constantly surrounded by it: hand-crafted leather armor, meticulously woven chainmail, and battle-notched blades are staple accessories. And almost every adventurer will come across craggy mountain peaks, crumbling ruin walls, or welcoming cobblestone streets eventually.

So what are the defining textures in D&D for me?

The background is a black leather texture I found online (these are all shamelessly ripped off from Bing Image search). Leather was the first image that came to mind this morning… but as I browsed leather textures online, I was disappointed that many of them felt wrong. Real leather is wonderful to hold and looks great on an old tome. On-screen (or page) leather texture can look really lame. Almost like it is trying to hard to by old and gritty. Used sparingly, I like it. But I chose four different elements that represent D&D to me:

Gold coins represent not just treasure, loot, and reward, but you can almost feel them slip through your fingers as you enjoy the spoils of your last adventure. The luster is seductive and the metallic shine hints of all of the other ways in which metal is used in fantasy worlds.

Fire is unpredictable, dangerous, violent, and primal. Dragons breathe fire (at least the red ones do). Wizards hurl fireballs into battle. Torches illuminate even the deepest, dankest dungeons. No fire = no D&D.

The Northern Lights are almost otherworldly and call to mind the mysterious, the magical, and the mystical side of D&D. Bilbo’s Sting glows blue when Orcs and Goblins are near. Arcane runes glow blue and green when activated. Even in a low-magic campaign setting, the unexplained often manifests itself as shimmering lights.

Stone statues make me think of a time when great craftsmen put their soul into incredible works of earth and stone. Statues are erected to heroes and to gods. The stone walls and buildings which they adorn are the very surroundings in which most D&D adventures take place.

What do you think? Does these images look like D&D to you? I really enjoyed the comment stream on this one… lots of great ideas out there.

bits, diy, tools

Making the most of the Insider maps archive

Creating high-quality maps for our encounters seems to be an almost universal quest amongst DMs. Everybody has their favorite approach: from Chris Perkins’ Map Fu with the venerable wet-erase battlemat to published poster maps and Dungeon Tiles. Recently, Mike Shea released a short video in which he demonstrated the benefits of sandwiching your dungeon tiles between black toolbox liner and an acrylic sheet. I’ve been using the acrylic sheet for awhile now and can vouch for it’s awesomeness… more on that later.

But I don’t use Dungeon Tiles or poster maps… I’ve always wanted to, but the limited selection of settings and pieces always leaves me wanting more. In the past I’ve played with creating some of my own tiles but, after a lot of work, I had that same “locked in” feeling. What I needed was an almost infinite source of high-quality maps that I could tweak or re-purpose as needed.

Enter the D&D Insider Map Gallery

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