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:
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.
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.
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:
- ‘Plane Shift: Amonkhet’ Wizards of the Coast – this installement adapts player character races, monsters and challenges from Magic: The Gathering‘s ancient-Egyptian-inspired setting to D&D 5e
- ‘RPG Legends: Forgotten Realms’ LitRPG Reads – an overview of the history of the Forgotten Realms setting
- ‘Playing by Post’ Nerdarchy – explains the nature of roleplaying online without a ruleset
- ‘Tomb of Annihilation Clues and Hints’ Power Score – SPOILERS! Gathers together a whole lot of details that can be gleaned about Tomb of Annihilation, which may be handy for DMs planning to run this adventure – but could ruin the adventure for players.
- ‘Running the Sunless Citadel: The Grove Level’ Merric’s Musings – this article presents some ways to play up the horror themes of Sunless Citadel’s climax
- ‘She’baz: Queen of Aberrations’ World Builder Blog – a backstory and D&D 5e stats for a gargantuan aberration, all mouths and tentacles
- ‘Kassandra Kray’ Crossplanes – basic description of a mercenary nonplayer-character who is secretly on a mission to liberate slaves
- ‘Terrors of the Dragon Empire: Dracotaur’ Kobold Press – this D&D 5e monster is basically a draconic centaur, with variations based on the four winds
- ‘Howl’s Menagerie Token’ D&D Beyond – a one-use token taht transforms the user into a beast
- ‘What Can King Solomon Teach Us About Slaying Demons in Our Roleplaying Games?’ Nerds on Earth – this article is a few months old, but I think it has some good ideas stemming from Solomon/Sulaiman’s apocryphal struggles with the demonic
- ‘D&D grung and other monsters are people, too’ Nerdarchy – this article describes how the DM has used monsters as non-player characters in an adventure involving conflict between grung and lizardfolk; and in a Spelljammer adventure
- ‘Fortresses, Temples and Strongholds’ Walrock Homebrew – a 17-page set of rules for building and mainataining various buildings, from cottages to palaces
- ‘5 Tips To Use Recurring Villains To Challenge Your Players’ High Level Games – this listicle shows some ways that you can make sure some of your villains last more than one adventure, and can go on to become the party’s legendary nemesis
- ‘5 Tips for Helping Beginners in RPGs’ High Level Games – this listicle has some suggestions that I think will help new players get into the game without the complexity of rules getting in the way
- ‘Supporting Players’ Marauding Owlbear – four ways that you can support shy players when running games
- ‘The Art of the Introduction’ The DM’s Table – this article has some suggestions to make sure that your game gains and maintains momentum
- ‘Just Ignore Backgrounds’ Middle Finger of Vecna – suggests that it’s better to just allow players to choose two proficiencies and ignore backgrounds in D&D 5e
- ‘Combating Metagaming’ Nerdolopedia – explains why metagaming is a problem, but also how you can use it to streamline your game
- ‘Useful Tools to Have on the Side’ Insightfulgaming – this listicle presents a few things that are helpful to have prepared whenever DMing
- ‘Ascension’ Nerdarchy – has some suggestions about how fey creatures can be made more frightening by digging deeper into mythology. I don’t think this aspect of fey creatures is as forgotten as Mike Gould suggests, but it’s definitely lost in the Disneyfied version of fairies. Also, here’s a fungal dryad I drew:
- ‘Inside the Bag of Holding’ Kobold Press – this table offers 12 things adventurers might find in a bag of holding
- ‘Fantasy Rumors & Odd Jobs’ Dicegeeks – this table offers 100 plot seeds which you could choose from or select randomly using d100
- ‘d20 #RPHOOK Plot Seeds : 181-200’ Shenorai’s Role-Playing Haven – here’s another 20 plot seeds, including one Where’s Wally/Waldo? reference
- ’30 Fantasy Gaming Flash Encounter Ideas’ Nerdarchy – 10 encounter ideas each for a urban, forest or mountain environment
For anyone who wants to reflect more deeply on gaming:
- ‘Hit Points, Dying, and Death’ Tribality – this article ponders the meaning of ‘hit points’ and how this may vary between games and editions
- ‘The Strange Story Behind Tom Hanks’ Bizarre Dungeons and Dragons Movie’ Fandom – this article looks at the story of Mazes and Monsters, a novel and films that were inspired by the moral panic of the 1980s, which included fears that Dungeons & Dragons was responsible for corrupting young people
Content I’ve recently published:
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.
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
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.
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.
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.
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
On Sundays I normally post some illustrations of creatures that can be used in tabletop roleplaying games like Dungeons & Dragons. (Because last week was really busy in our household and this week I’ve been doing an intensive class, I haven’t been able to post as often as I have been, but I’m posting some illustrations now.) Folks on Twitter voted for me to draw some kobolds this time, so here are a kobold dragonshield and a kobold inventor:
I drew a winged kobold earlier in the year. Having reflect on them a bit, I’m not convinced that they should be considered lawful evil. In Volo’s Guide to Monsters they’re described as being willing to sacrifice themselves so that other members of their tribe might escape their enemies. It seems like the main reason that they’re considered to be evil-aligned is because they tend to come under the sway of evil dragons and other evil creatures. I’m not saying that they should be considered good-aligned, but I wonder if they should be considered lawful neutral or true neutral?
A couple of other things I’ve been wondering about have been elderly kobolds and the lost kobold god Kurtulmak. Volo’s Guide says that while most kobolds are short-lived, some live up to 120 years old. I wonder what kind of abilities such an elderly kobold would have?
I was also thinking that it would be interesting to run an adventure involving kobolds trying to free Kurtulmak from the maze where he’s imprisoned. Since I’ve been running Planescape adventures recently, I thought it could be interesting to change the Kurtulmak’s story a bit and have him trapped in the Lady of Pain’s maze in the city of Sigil – perhaps due to gnomes’ trcikery.
- ‘Races of Planescape in 5th Edition: Githzerai and Bariaur’ Kor Artificer – the player race options have been adapted from the 2nd Edition Planescape versions
- ‘Spelljammer Spells’ The Dour DM – converts some Spelljammer spells from 2nd Edition to 5th Edition
- ‘Eberron Spells’ @Makaros83 – some 5th Edition spells for the Eberron setting
- ‘Lumeran River Scout’ Kobold Press – a 5th Edition river pirate background for the Midgard setting
- ‘Player Character Conflict’ Marauding Owlbear – explains how conflict between player characters can bring depth to the story, and how players can avoid in-game conflict being taken personally
For players and DMs:
- ‘A Guide to Oozes, Slimes and Jellies’ Power Score – a roundup for ooze content from all editions, including monsters, non-player characters and player character options. I’ve done a drawing of the oozemaster:
- ‘Running City Adventures’ Power Score – I found it challenging a couple of weeks ago running an adventure set in Sigil the City of doors. Sean offers some suggestions here that should help DMs running urban adventures.
- ‘Magic Item Special features for Planescape Campaigns’ Tribality – tables with random features associated with the different factions and planes of the Planescape setting
- ‘Alternate Fey Courts’ Tribality – provides some options other than the Seelie and Unseelie courts
- ‘Black Annis’ Gorgon Breath Games – illustration and monster stats for the mother of hags
- ‘IT Wizardry’ Gnome Stew – some ideas about how a magical Interweb could be used in your game
- ‘Don’t Let Your D&D Players Do This!!’ Don’t Stop Thinking – looks at some ways that players can ruin the game for others, and how to respond
- ‘Instant NPCs for Fifth Edition D&D’ Sly Flourish – inspired by the simplicity of the Cipher system, this article looks at how you can simplify non-player characters so that they require less preparation
- ‘More Mechanics to Steal to Make Your D&D Game Better’ Geek & Sundry – some ideas from 13th Age, Fate Core and Shadow of the Demon Lord that could be used in D&D
- ‘Tick Tock: The Weird Clock Speed of D&D’ The Angrey GM – explains how some games get bogged down with unnecessary decision-making
- ‘Pokemon Gen 1 Starters’ WhiteMageTeam – D&D 5e monster stats for Pokémon
For anyone wanting to reflect more deeply on RPGs:
- ‘Dungeons & Dragons Wouldn’t Be What It Is Today Without These Women’ Kotaku – looks at the contributions of women who were involved in shaping Dungeons & Dragons early on
- ‘Learn the Fascinating Theory Behind Roleplaying Games’ Geek & Sundry – explains three ways of classifying RPGs, which may help you clarify the kind of game you want to run or play
Content I’ve published this week:
- ‘D&D & Dinosaurs’ – a short reflection about a Planescape adventure I ran based on Jurassic Park
- ‘Owlbear Illustrations and Alternative Origins’ – I drew some owlbears, @sethnidilaw and his daughter wrote up stats for my majestic owlbear, and I listed some alternate origin possibilities for owlbears
On Sundays I’ve generally been posting some of my illustrations, which can be used for miniatures in Dungeons & Dragons and other tabletop roleplaying games. This week @sethnidilaw mentioned on Twitter that he and his kids like seeing my drawings each week. So I asked if his kids would like to choose some monsters that I could present as options for this week. Folks ended up voting for owlbears, so here are a couple of owlbear drawings:
As you can see, one of them isn’t like a standard owlbear – it has fully-formed wings. I’ve been thinking about how to alter the stats for a regular owlbear, to make it a majestic, flying owlbear. I think I’d give it a flying speed of 60 feet, less hit points (to reflect a lighter creature, with a flying ability), as well as decreating strength and increasing dexterity. This is @sethnidilaw and his daughter’s take on the magestic owlbear:
While I was drawing these I was thinking about the origins of owlbears. It seems like most editions of Dungeons & Dragons suggest that owlbears were probably created by a wizard. But what other possibilities are there? (Some of these are a bit odd. But may I remind you that we’re talking about owlbears?)
- Mutation caused by a magical accident – owlbears could conceivably have been created by wild magic, or by fallout from a magical, industrial disaster (a fantasy equivalent of a nuclear meltdown)
- Missing evolutionary link – if you’re up for something absurd or surreal in your setting, you could suggest that owlbears are the common evolutionary ancestor of both owls and bears
- Polymorph chaos – sometimes, when an owl and a bear really love each other… Okay that’s a silly idea. But if you wanted to go with it, you could say that an owlbear is a bear who had a ancestor who was an owl polymorphed as a bear. (Similar to how tieflings, aasimar and genasi’s odd appearances reflect their planar heritage.)
- Planar influence – in issue #12 of Dragon+, Adam Lee described a pocket dimension inhabited mainly by cats. What if there were also similar dimensions for bears or owls? Maybe an owl who had grown up in a bear dimension, or a bear who had grown up in an owl dimension would become something like an owlbear?
- Fey origin – the 5th edition Monster Manual suggests that owlbears may have come from the Feywild, where it’s said that they’ve always existed
Here’s a backstory for owlbears that @sethnidilaw and his daughter wrote:
When the Elven civilzation decided to leave and go to the Prime Material Plane some of them took young Owlbeas with them, intended to be used as they were in the Feywild, as guardians of their realm.
But the travel between planes had unforseeable affects on the beast and so the Owlbears that arrived were not like the ones that left the Feywild.
Over the course of a few generations, magically triggered mutations turned the once docile creatures into the fierce predators they are known as now.
The Majestic Owlbears are a bit of a different story.
Until some time ago they were only a myth, told by adventurers who passed through the Broken Spine Mountains.
But recently repots have been uncovered in the great library of Avon in Ashbrooke, adding fact to fiction.
Those documents show that since Owlbears have the ancestry of both their namesakes, their appearances can be dominated by either one of those.
In case of the Majestic Owlbear the owls are the dominant part.
The most prominent features are their wings and general size. Compared to regular Owlbears the known Majestic Owlbear specimens are about one and a half times to twice their size and can weigh up to five times as much.
Like their smaller, earthbound relatives they are ferociously territorial and only share to mate and raise offspring until they’re old enough to hunt. But their hunting grounds are much larger in comparison, since they dominate the highest peaks of the Broken Spine Mountains where prey is scarse.
In addition the Majestic Owlbears are solely nocturnal and build their eyries on the topmost peaks which adds to them being spotted so rarely.
But elven rangers from Amrenrion have secretly been following them and documenting their development.
Given the dangerous environment and the Majestic Owlbears not being the only predators in that region, most didn’t make it back and so reports have been slow and irregularly coming back to the elven stronghold.
Over two hundrer yeas passed after the fall of Amrenrioni before the first pieces of literature were salvaged and it took another half millenium until the first reports of Majestic Owlbears had found their new home at Ashbrooke.
Since the library at Ashbrooke is a place seldomely visited it took even longer until word had reached Port Aven and the other cities.
On Sundays I normally post a monster illustration I’ve made to use in Dungeons & Dragons. Today’s monster is a displacer beast:
One of the things this monster got me thinking about is how the most bizarre monsters in D&D can become normalised. It’s basically a panther with six legs and clawed tentacles, but any seasoned player is going to know what makes this monster tricky to deal with. Displacer beasts are based on extraterrestrials called Coeurl, featured in the work of sci-fi author A. E. van Vogt. In his writing, humans who first encounter them don’t realise that they’re dangerous or even sentient. I think in D&D it can be hard to recreate this kind of situation with seasoned players if you’re using monsters from official books. Dylan has suggested using some features from Dungeon Crawl Classics, which allow the DM to generate monsters with random features so that the players can’t predict the creature’s behaviour. (If you can get a hold of the DCC core rulebook, check out the section called, ‘Making Monsters Mysterious’.)