DMing for one player

A couple of weeks back @DungeonMasterSc tweeted a question about the minimum number of players dungeon masters need not to cancel a Dungeons & Dragons session. My response was ‘two’, and I added that I’d normally give them a non-player character to help them out.


I was challenged by @spaceseeker19’s response, so tonight when I just had one player, we played anyway. I’d been preparing the first few adventures from In Volo’s Wake, which features monsters from Volo’s Guide to Monsters, and there were a few opportunities to support our one player character (a dulcimer-playing human bard) with some NPCs. She was able to do okay on her own in the first adventure, but in the second adventure she really depended on some connections she’d made with non-player characters to save some dwarf children from gnolls. While the game lacked the inter-player dynamics, it was still worth doing, and the main non-player character (Eric the ‘hobby-adventurer’) proved fairly entertaining.

Here’s the Chant: will-o’-wisps, ankhegs and cave halflings

For players or DMs:

For DMs:

For anyone wanting to reflect more deeply on game themes:

Content I’ve published recently:

A cheeky response to #DungeonDrawingDudes

I’ve been enjoying the #DungeonDrawingDudes challenge this month, but I felt unhappy about today’s challenge, which is a ‘dwarf bum’. I know a lot of people who’ve been homeless, including some of my close friends. Someone calls someone a bum when they are being disrespectful. Someone calls themselves a bum when they feel bad about themselves. I felt that the language being used in today’s challenge was disrespectful, and while it is a small and perhaps petty thing to argue about language used, I felt a need to make a cheeky response: 

D&D Beyond and outraged fans


The official launch date and pricings for D&D Beyond have been announced. The platform will be ready on August 15, and you can find the rest of the details here. There’s already a lot of fans complaining about being ‘forced’ to buy all of their books again. No-one who has all the books in print or on other digital platforms has to adopt this platform. I expect it will be a really convenient way for new people (who might not want print copies) to get into the game. In fact, I’d consider not buying any more print copies if this works well.

Subterranean fey and paranoia

On Sundays I’ve normally been posting some illustrations that can be used in tabletop roleplayng games like Dungeons & Dragons. Last week I asked what kind of fey creatures folks would like me to draw, and subterranean fey were chosen. So here are a couple of subterranean fey.

A korred:


A meenlock:


While I was drawing these, I was most interested by the meenlock. I hadn’t taken a lot of interest in them before, but I had a bit of a read about them in the original Fiend Folio and the more recent Volo’s Guide to Monsters. Meenlocks have an ability to promote paranoia in other creatures, by overwhelming them with fearful messages, to the point where they are actually transformed into meenlocks themselves.

This description reminded me of an experience I had on Facebook earlier in the year. I made a fake alt right profile for myself and joined some alt right groups. I started adding people I found in those groups as friends on this fake account. I found that my newsfeed was pretty quickly filled with vary fearful content (a lot of which seemed like fake news) and it was pretty easy to get sucked in and overwhelmed by the fearful messages. (I’m pretty sure I could have a similar experience if I made a fake extreme left account.) That experience called me to question the impact that my Facebook use was having on my mindset and curb my use.

Starting at higher levels in D&D

last night I got to play a Planescape game as a player character for the first time. (My second time should be Sunday, but we’ll be trying out the Open Legend system rather than using Dungeons & Dragons 5th edition.) We were playing an adventure from Tales from the Infinite Staircase, and we started with 4th level characters. I played as a bugbear mystic (using playtest rules for mystics), which was a lot of fun.


I did find however, that starting off at level four made it harder for me to have my head around all of my character’s abilities. I need to keep that in mind for when I run adventures myself. Last time I ran an adventure (a few weeks ago) we were starting at a higher level, and one player who’d never played before found it hard to get their head around all the things they could do at that level. I think it’s a good reason to start new players at 1st level, even if they’re playing alongside other players with higher level characters. It’s easier to learn your character’s abilities if you start off with just a few and gradually gain more.

Here’s the Chant: Sheep Lord, fungal fey and Amonkhet

On Wednesdays I normally post a roundup of content related to Dungeons & Dragons and roleplaying games in general. Here’s this week’s roundup:

For players or DMs:

For DMs:

For anyone who wants to reflect more deeply on gaming:

Content I’ve recently published:

Sheep Lord and Crab Lord

On Sundays I’ve normally been posting some illustrations that can be used in tabletop roleplayng games like Dungeons & Dragons. (This week’s is a bit late – our household’s on holidays from our common work, so I’m out of town for a few days.)

Last week I asked which animal lord folks would like me to draw. Particularly in the Planescape D&D setting, animals lords are almost like minor gods who protect various kinds of animals. I’ve been interested in using animals lords as ways to promote reflection on our relationships with animals. This week folks chose the sheep lord for me to illustrate:


I’ve also put together some statistics for the sheep lord, and for the crab lord that I drew as part of the #DungeonDrawingDudes challenge. If anyone gets to try these out I’d be keen to receive feedback.
Sheep Lord

Medium fey, neutral


STR 17 (+3) DEX 18 (+4) CON 16 (+3) INT 10 (+0) WIS 20 (+5) CHA 16 (+3)

CHALLENGE: 15 (13,000 XP)

ARMOR CLASS: 17 Natural Armor

HIT POINTS: 97 (13d8 + 39)

SPEED: 30 ft.

Saving Throws: STR +8, DEX +9, WIS +10, CHA +8

Skills: Intimidation +8, Nature +10

Damage Resistances: Bludgeoning, Piercing, and Slashing from Magic Weapons

Condition Immunities: Charmed, Exhaustion, Frightened, Paralyzed, Poisoned

Senses: Passive Perception 15

Languages: Telepathy 60 ft

Shapechanger. The sheep lord can use its action to polymorph into the form of a humanoid or into its sheep form. Its statistics are the same in each form. Any equipment it carries is not transformed. If slain, the sheep lord reverts to its sheep form.

Magic Resistance. The sheep lord has advantage on saving throws against spells and other magical effects. 

Succession. A destroyed sheep lord will be succeeded by another sheep in 24 hours. The successor becomes a sheep lord and gains the memories of its predecessor. 

Spellcasting. The sheep lord is a 13th-level spellcaster. Its spellcasting ability is Wisdom (spell save DC 17, +9 to hit with spell attacks). The crab lord has the following druid spells prepared:

Cantrips (at will): shillelagh, druidcraft 

1st level (4 slots): charm person, detect poison and disease, entangle 

2nd level (3 slots): gust of wind, moonbeam, pass without trace 

3rd level (3 slots): conjure animals, meld into stone

4th level (3 slots): divination, plant growth

5th level (2 slots): geas, mass cure wounds 

6th level (1 slot): wall of thorns

7th level (1 slot): plane shift


Actions

Multiattack. The sheep lord makes one attack with its horns and one attack with its planar crook.

Horns. Melee Weapon Attack: +9 to hit, reach 5 ft., one target. Hit: 35 (9d6 + 4) bludgeoning damage and the target is grappled (escape DC 16).

Planar crook. Melee Weapon Attack: +11 to hit, reach 10 ft., one target. Hit: 6 (1d4 + 4) piercing damage and the target is grappled (escape DC 16). The crook can only be used to grapple small, medium or large creatures, and only one creature at a time. When a creature is grappled with a planar crook it cannot be transported to another plane. If it tries to do so, it is inflicted with 1d10+4 magical damage and must succeed on a DC 16 Constitution save or become unconscious. The sheep lord planar can only use the planar crook while in humanoid form.


Legendary Actions

The sheep lord can take 3 legendary actions, choosing from the options below. Only one legendary action option can be used at a time and only at the end of another creature’s turn. The sheep lord regains spent legendary actions at the start of its turn.

Attack. The crab lord makes one attack with its horns or planar crook.

Blinding Dust. Blinding dust and sand swirls magically around the sheep lord. Each creature within 5 feet of the sheep lord must succeed on a DC 16 Constitution saving throw or be blinded until the end of the creature’s next turn.

Bolster. The sheep lord bolsters all nonhostile creatures within 120 feet of it until the end of its next turn. Bolstered creatures can’t be charmed or frightened, and they gain advantage on ability checks and saving throws until the end of the sheep lord’s turn.

Description

The sheep lord can appear in sheep form or in the form of a horned, fleece-clad. The sheep lord is the protector of sheep or various kinds, and may also take responsibility for other herd animals. It makes its home on the Beastlands, but it could turn up wherever crabs are in trouble.
The crab lord is typically accompanied by a retinue of 2d20 + 10 sheep or goats and 1d12 + 2 giant sheep or goats.


Crab Lord

Large fey, neutral


STR 18 (+4)   DEX 10 (+0)   CON 17 (+3)   INT 16 (+3)   WIS 20 (+5)   CHA 16 (+3)

CHALLENGE: 15 (13,000 XP)

ARMOR CLASS: 17 Natural Armor

HIT POINTS: 97 (13d8 + 39)

SPEED: 30 ft. (swim 30 ft.)

Saving Throws: CON +8, INT +8, WIS +10, CHA +8

Skills: Intimidation +5, Nature +5

Damage Resistances: Bludgeoning, Piercing, and Slashing from Magic Weapons

Condition Immunities: Charmed, Exhaustion, Frightened, Paralyzed, Poisoned

Senses: Blindsight 60 ft, Passive Perception 15

Languages: Telepathy 60 ft


Shapechanger. The crab lord can use its action to polymorph into the form of a humanoid or into its crab form. Its statistics are the same in each form. In its crab form it uses a claw attack and in in its humanoid form it uses a crush attack. Any equipment it carries is not transformed. If slain, the crab lord reverts to its crab form.

Amphibious. The crab lord can breathe air and water.

Magic Resistance. The crab lord has advantage on saving throws against spells and other magical effects. 

Succession. A destroyed crab lord will be succeeded by another crab in 24 hours. The successor becomes a crab lord and gains the memories of its predecessor. 

Spellcasting. The crab lord is a 13th-level spellcaster. Its spellcasting ability is Wisdom (spell save DC 17, +9 to hit with spell attacks). The crab lord has the following cleric spells prepared:

  • Cantrips (at will): spare the dying, thaumaturgy 
  • 1st level (4 slots): command, sanctuary, shield of faith 
  • 2nd level (3 slots): hold person, silence, spiritual weapon 
  • 3rd level (3 slots): dispel magic, meld into stone
  • 4th level (3 slots): divination, control water 
  • 5th level (2 slots): dispel evil and good, geas 
  • 6th level (1 slot): forbiddance
  • 7th level (1 slot): plane shift

Actions
Multiattack. The crab lord makes one attack with its claw and one attack with its planar mancatcher.
Claw (Crush in Humanoid Form). Melee Weapon Attack: +9 to hit, reach 5 ft., one target. Hit: 35 (9d6 + 4) bludgeoning damage and the target is grappled (escape DC 16). The crab lord has two claws (or two arms in humanoid form), but one is large and the other is small. Only the larger one can be used to attack or grapple.

Planar Mancatcher. Melee Weapon Attack: +11 to hit, reach 10 ft., one target. Hit: 6 (1d4 + 4) piercing damage and the target is grappled (escape DC 16). The mancatcher can only be used to grapple small, medium or large creatures, and only one creature at a time. When a creature is grappled with a planar mancatcher it cannot be transported to another plane. If it tries to do so, it is inflicted with 1d10+4 magical damage and must succeed on a DC 16 Constitution save or become unconscious.

 

Legendary Actions

The crab lord can take 3 legendary actions, choosing from the options below. Only one legendary action option can be used at a time and only at the end of another creature’s turn. The crab lord regains spent legendary actions at the start of its turn.

Attack. The crab lord makes one attack with its claw or planar mancatcher.

Blinding Dust. Blinding dust and sand swirls magically around the crab lord. Each creature within 5 feet of the crab lord must succeed on a DC 16 Constitution saving throw or be blinded until the end of the creature’s next turn.

Whirlwind of Sand (Costs 2 Actions). The crab lord magically transforms into a whirlwind of sand, moves up to 60 feet, and reverts to its normal form. While in whirlwind form, the crab lord is immune to all damage, and it can’t be grappled, petrified, knocked prone, restrained, or stunned. Equipment worn or carried by the crab lord remain in its possession.
Description

The crab lord can appear in crab form or in the form of a large, armored humanoid. In humanoid form it has one large, muscular arm and one small, weak arm. The crab lord is the protector of crabs or various kinds, and may also take responsibility for other crustaceans. It makes its home on the Beastlands, but it could turn up wherever crabs are in trouble.

The crab lord is typically accompanied by a retinue of 2d20 + 10 crabs and 1d12 + 2 giant crabs.

Genesis and weresharks

Sunday to Wednesday I was in a class on Indigenous Theologies and Methods, which NAIITS (North American Institute for Indigenous Theological Studies) was running here through Whitley College. One of the things we spent a lot of time discussing was the differences between how Western Christians have read the Bible and how the Bible might be read from Indigenous cultural perspectives. One particular emphasis that our teacher Terry LeBlanc (a Mi’qmac man from Canada) noted was the tendency for Western Christians to focus on the rupturing of creation in Genesis 3 and overlook the goodness of creation in Genesis 1-2. His suggestion was that rather than Genesis 3 being an ultimate fall from perfection, it is more like a break in relationship between people, God, spirits and fellow creatures.

At the same time I’ve been participating in the #DungeonDrawingDudes challenge for July. Each day there’s a Dungeons & Dragons creature to draw, and Tuesday’s challenge was a wereshark, which I really enjoyed drawing.


@bodieh, who lives in Western Australia (where the government has encouraged the culling of sharks) is one of the organisers of the challenge, commented on this one. I wondered whether this wereshark might be looking for former Western Australian premier Colin Barnett? I wondered whether we should be paying attention to what sharks may be trying to say to us, rather than culling them? It certainly seems unfair to me that we would venture into their natural environment and then kill them when they attack us.

Here’s the Chant: Planescape factions, dragon totem barbarians and frogs

On Wednesdays each week I’ve been posting a roundup of content related to Dungeons & Dragons and other roleplaying games. Here’s today’s roundup:

For players and DMs:

  • D&D Beyond – the second and third stages of beta testing are now live, which means you can create characters, manage campaigns and publish some forms of homebrew. I’ve enjoyed seeing how this is eveloping, but there are still some problems – it’s beta testing. (The main problems are with being able to edit homebrew items after they’re saved or published, and I’m sure those problems will be ironed out.)
  • ‘Eberron turns Thirteen’ Keith Baker – the creator of the Eberron campaign setting reflects on the thirteenth anniversary of the setting’s first publication, and answers some players questions about the setting

For players:


Godsman illustration: Tony DiTerlizzi

For DMs:

Content I’ve published: