Converting from 5e to Pathfinder and back

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So you’ve got this killer adventure. But it’s made for Pathfinder, and your group plays 5e D&D. That problem can be frustrating but isn’t so uncommon. Maybe you love the idea of running the epic vampire adventure Curse of Strahd, but you prefer to play Pathfinder. Or you’ve been eyeballing Skull & Shackles for years but your gaming group runs 5e. 

Here’s the thing: A great story is a great story even if it’s written for a system that you don’t prefer, and it’s not too hard to convert from one to the other. 

I put together this guide to help you do just that, starting with some general advice and moving into more specific guidelines.

Wing It

Yeah, you read that right. Rather than going line-by-line through an adventure to adjust every monster, trap and difficulty check, just make little adjustments as you go. Most fantasy RPGs follow a similar enough format that you can simply adjust each piece as you go.

Find someone else’s conversion

If you can find someone else’s conversion, that can save you a lot of stress. It’s always a good bet to read through it a little to see if they got things right. If the converter wasn’t too good with math or encounter building, you may end up with some issues.

Do a full conversion yourself

To be honest, it’s not that hard to convert between Pathfinder’s first edition (which is based on D&D 3.5) and D&D 5e. You can do it. It might take some time, but you can surely pull it off. 

Just remember the golden rule: There are no hard and fast rules. If something doesn’t seem quite right, you can change it. This is your conversion after all. 

Some general guidelines when making conversions:

  • Focus on the most important things! You don’t have to change every single line of a module. Focus on monsters, encounter difficulty and anything that requires a difficulty check (perception checks, traps, etc.). If there’s something you don’t think the players will notice or care about, don’t bother converting it.

  • There is purposefully less treasure in 5th edition than in previous editions. (Pathfinder and 4e, for example, count on each player having magic weapons, magic armor and other powerful items, but 5e does not.) If you’re converting from 5e to Pathfinder, you may want to consider handing out more magic items and gold than is listed.

How to convert from 5e to Pathfinder

Though Pathfinder has loads of rules and monsters while 5e has relatively fewer, they’re actually not too far apart. For example, character levels are roughly equivalent at least through 20th level. (Pathfinder goes up to level 30, which is significantly more powerful.)

As with any conversion, you’ll want to sub out 5e monster stats for Pathfinder monster stats. Be wary of the difference in challenge rating between one set of stats and another. For example, a Pathfinder goblin has a challenge of ⅓ while a 5e goblin has a challenge of ¼, making the Pathfinder goblins a little more dangerous. (Roughly 3 PF goblins are equal to 4 5e goblins.) 

That leads to a general rule of thumb: Because of the way the game is designed, Pathfinder monsters, checks and other elements are higher than 5e. In fact, 5e’s numbers tend to be roughly ¾ of their Pathfinder equivalents. For example, an armor class on a monster in 5e might be 12 while its equivalent monster in Pathfinder might have an AC of 16. 

Multiply those 5e checks by 1.33 to get its Pathfinder equivalent. (And you still might want to adjust as seems necessary.)

If you don’t make adjustments, the difficulty checks and numbers of monsters listed in a 5e adventure may be a bit too easy for your Pathfinder group. Feel free to adjust them upwards just a little bit.

Also remember in Pathfinder, encounter areas are often more detailed and offer special ways characters can interact with the environment and what kinds of magic are present. 

How to convert from Pathfinder to 5e

As you may have read above, Pathfinder and 5th edition are not too far apart. 

You can always sub out equivalent monsters, but remember that Pathfinder’s 1st edition has six full bestiaries. That’s a lot of monsters. You might have to get a little creative (or consult 3rd party monster books) to find the right 5e-compatible monster. Don’t be afraid to take a 5e monster that has an equivalent challenge rating and simply call it by the name of the Pathfinder monster. (Your players will never know anyway.)

And as above, 5e’s checks (including traps, monster AC, lockpicking and others) are about ¾ of those in Pathfinder. So if the perception check to discover a trap in your Pathfinder adventure is 17, it should be 15 in your 5e conversion.

You may also want to eliminate some magic items, possibly converting them to their cash equivalent, and reduce the amount of treasure by half. 

What about Pathfinder 2?

Paizo recently released the 2nd edition of Pathfinder, so it’s all relatively new. Until the system gets more time out in the wild, it’s hard to say how you’d convert 5e to Pathfinder 2. 

But you’re in luck! Paizo released an official conversion guide to get things P2 ready. It’s available for free here. So with that in mind, you might be able to figure something out.

Kevin Coffey is a writer and editor — he operates the tabletop blog Crit For Brains — as well as a husband, dad, comic nerd, Mets fan and part-time Dungeon Master.

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Keep up with everything we’re doing. Find and follow us on FacebookInstagramTwitterPinterest and watch us play games on Twitch. Listen to our free DnD5e and Dungeon Crate podcasts. You can also score some sweet loot if you check out our online store.

How to use every item in September's Dungeon Crate

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There’s dice. There’s maps. There’s minis. 

But best of all, there’s adventure.

That is what you’ll find contained inside this month’s Dungeon Crate. And that’s exactly what we want inside a big box of Dungeons & Dragons-themed loot. Right?

(And hey, even if you don’t play D&D specifically there’s lots to love here if you’re playing Pathfinder or Dungeon World or whatever fantasy RPG is your jam. That’s what’s great about Dungeon Crate.)

Let’s take a look at what’s inside this wonderful box of treasure, shall we?

“Wrath of Thexus” and “The Wolves of Winter” 

What’s this? Two new encounters from the pen of James Rodehaver, who you may know as the Evil GM JimJam of the popular Dragons and Things streaming show. One features an ogre mage who seeks more power, and the other has a monstrous wolf preying on a farmer’s sheep. Of course, there’s more to each adventure than initially appears. These aren’t your usual adventure modules either. They come as a set of cards featuring the encounters as well as extra cards featuring new monster stats and magic items. They’re easy to run at your table, and they’re fun, too. The cards are designed for D&D 5e, but you can download Pathfinder-compatible versions in the digital crate. (More on that in a bit.)

Glow-in-the-dark dice

Inside this month’s box is a full, 7-piece, purple RPG dice set. And they’re adorably miniature. And they glow in the dark! These will be fun to bring to your next session. 

Bloodwolf miniature

That’s one grizzly wolf. Wow. This thing looks mean, and it’ll be great for anyone running “The Wolves of Winter.” And if you’re anything like me, you enjoy sending giant wolves to terrorize traveling adventurers. Just ask the guys I’m running through “Curse of Strahd” right now. (And if you haven’t checked out the minis from Reaper’s Black series, you should. They’re pretty.)

Wild Boar miniature

From WizKids’ Deep Cut series of unpainted minis, this pair of boars will fit in your farm scene. Or a forest encounter. Or as familiars. Or as part of your druid’s wild shape menagerie. Or for that wizard who just loves to polymorph giant demons into farm animals. If you’ve never picked up WizKids’ unpainted line, you should know they’re super-detailed and ready to paint right out of the box.

Crate Insert Card/Map tile

The card that explains everything that comes in the box? Flip that bad boy over. It’s also a mini map. Neat, huh?! 

Kittypult

This one’s exclusive to Dungeon Crate, and it’s a pint-sized catapult. Why would you need a tiny catapult? I have ideas, folks. Perhaps you want a war machine for your gaming table’s epic battle scene. Maybe you want a very, very dramatic way to roll dice at your next session. Possibly, you’d like to annoy your pets. This thing’s not too hard to assemble so long as you check out the video in the digital crate. (“What’s this digital crate?” you ask. Read ahead!)

Digital Crate

The stuff in the actual box that arrives in the mail isn’t all you get. There’s a bunch of downloadable stuff at DungeonCrate.com, too! This month’s digital crate includes a handy video showing you how to assemble that catapult. The rest are high-resolution downloads of the adventure cards (for both 5e and Pathfinder!), maps and artwork, which are handy if you’re running the thing on a virtual tabletop such as Roll20 or you want to print the maps out full-scale to lay out on your gaming table.

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Kevin Coffey is a writer and editor — he operates the tabletop blog Crit For Brains — as well as a husband, dad, comic nerd, Mets fan and part-time Dungeon Master.

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Keep up with everything we’re doing. Find and follow us on FacebookInstagramTwitterPinterest and watch us play games on Twitch. Listen to our free DnD5e and Dungeon Crate podcasts. You can also score some sweet loot if you check out our online store.

Starting a new campaign? Here are four fun first encounters for level 1 adventurers

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Whether you’re a brand-new DM or a steely-eyed veteran, running a group of squishy adventurers through their first encounter can be tough.

Make it too hard, and the low-hit point characters will get slaughtered. Too easy, and they just might not be engaged in the campaign.

Too simple, and it won’t seem very fun. Too complicated, and it’ll derail the whole campaign. Use the same low-level monsters — kobolds, skeletons, bandits — and it may not be memorable.

But make it challenging and engaging fun, and you just may have a great start to the rest of the campaign. 

We’ve outlined four encounter ideas for 1st-level adventurers that will be exciting and memorable. 

An escort for a lord

How to play it: The adventurers are tasked with getting a lord (or a lady or a duke or a king or queen or whatever) from point A to point B. In the middle of the escort mission, send a horde of goblins or wolves or some kind of low-level creature not to stop them on the road but to run directly through the middle of the group. Perhaps it causes a big enough distraction for one member of the horde to kidnap an NPC or steal an important item. 

Why it’s engaging: Rather than your standard road encounter where something’s in your path, there will be a chaotic scene when the group of creatures runs directly through their party. The players may feel overwhelmed at times, but they can easily accomplish their mission by defending the lord. Plus they’ll be compelled to find out who sent this horde directly in their path. 

A large red dragon (that’s not really a dragon at all)

How to play it: The adventurers come across an adult red dragon, which isn’t something new adventurers would normally be able to handle. But it turns out the dragon isn’t anything more than an illusion (perhaps it uses its breath weapon as a scare tactic and not as an attack) created by a wizard, sorcerer, or some kind of illusionist. 

Why it’s engaging: Low-level parties will be scared to death of a dragon they couldn’t possibly defeat. They could run away, wondering why in the world they found a dragon. Or they could fight it and realize it’s completely ethereal. Either way, it plants a seed of mystery: How did this dragon get here, who sent it and why? 

Another adventuring party

How to play it: Ever have a quest get double-booked? It stands to reason that whomever granted a quest hedged their bets by sending another adventuring party. Bumping into a rival group of adventurers is a fun way to spice up any standard encounter especially when things come to blows. Make the rivals have the same party makeup: the same races and classes, perhaps even eerily look the same.

Why it’s engaging: The characters thought they’d be dealing with magic and goblins and treasure, instead they’re dealing with other adventurers who could take the treasure and XP right out from under them. Plus who are these other guys and who do they work for?

A dungeon full of dead monsters

How to play it: Send them to a dungeon with a quest. They’ll expect the usual stuff: treasure chests and monsters guarding it. But when they arrive, every monster they find inside has already perished. Maybe they were slaughtered by a bigger, badder monster already inside. Perhaps someone came in and stole the important magic item they’re seeking, leaving only a note behind.

Why it’s engaging: It will absolutely subvert expectations, especially if you play the first portion of the adventure like they’re actually going through with your standard dungeon crawl. They may even be creeped out as they enter each successive chamber looking for enemies and finding none. 

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Keep up with everything we’re doing. Find and follow us on FacebookInstagramTwitterPinterest and watch us play games on Twitch. Listen to our free DnD5e and Dungeon Crate podcasts. You can also score some sweet loot if you check out our online store.

How to use Dungeon Crate's new Encounter Cards

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Dungeon Crate has introduced a new format for its adventures: Encounter Cards.

The idea behind the cards was to make running and playing our adventures as simple and fun as possible. Each set of Encounter Cards includes three cards — an adventure card, an item card, and a monster card — packed with adventure!

Each card has exactly the information you need to play a fun and exciting original encounter, plus killer artwork.

Let’s take a look at the cards:

Adventure Card

  • Includes an original 5e-compatible encounter

  • Can be played as a one-off adventure 

  • Fits easily into your ongoing campaign 

Item Card

  • A brand new, original 5e magic item

  • Item is found in the accompanying adventure

  • Reverse side illustrated to show players 

  • Can be handed to the player who acquires the item to use in their character’s inventory

Monster Card

  • A brand new, original 5e monster

  • Monster is a part of the accompanying adventure

  • Reverse side of the card is illustrated to show to players

  • Makes planning and running encounters easy

July’s Dungeon Crate included two sets of Encounter Cards: A Snake in the Sand and The Lost Tomb of Seketon. August’s crate featured two more: A Sword in the Dark and Chaos at the Temple.

Usually, the adventures are similarly themed. July’s cards are desert adventures, but the beauty of the cards is that they can be slightly altered to fit in just about any campaign. A Snake In the Sand is about a giant sand snake that’s been stealing and eating anything it can find along a desert road. The Lost Tomb of Seketon is about a long-dead but now risen queen who is gathering an army to her underground tomb.

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Keep up with everything we’re doing. Find and follow us on FacebookInstagramTwitterPinterest and watch us play games on Twitch. Listen to our free DnD5e and Dungeon Crate podcasts. You can also score some sweet loot if you check out our online store.

What are the most popular tabletop RPGs?

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You’re going to roll dice and slay monsters. But what game are you going to play?

These days, you have a lot of choices.

There’s the classic Dungeons & Dragons. There’s Pathfinder, which now has a second edition. There are other fantasy RPGs such as Dungeon World and Warhammer Fantasy.

But what are the most popular games? What games are you most likely to find? How many people are playing them?

To find out, turn to the Orr Group Industry Report. It’s compiled by the good folks at Roll20, the virtual tabletop service, and it examines all the games played on the popular service.

(If you’ve never used Roll20, imagine taking the maps and miniatures and character sheets and dice and monster stat blocks from your physical table and putting them online. It’s free, and it lets you play with friends without anyone having to leave home.)

Anyway, the report analyzes every account and campaign played on Roll20 to show a cross section of the tabletop RPG industry.

So what’s the most popular? We looked at the most recent findings to figure it out.

Dungeons & Dragons

D&D is easily the most popular game being played. The game’s current iteration, 5th edition, is at the top, making up more than 54% of all games. It is far and away the most popular game system (and edition) played by tabletop roleplayers.

Though it’s new and popular, it’s not the only version of D&D being played. People are still playing D&D’s previous editions such as 3.5, 4 and AD&D. They’re all in the top 25.

Call of Cthulhu

Coming in at No. 2 is Call of Cthulhu. Surprised? For all the attention other game systems get, this one’s actually played by more people. Nearly 10% of all campaigns on Roll20 are using this horror fiction ruleset. Based on H.P. Lovecraft’s stories, the game positions players as investigators uncovering dark mysteries, and it has a unique Sanity system. 

Pathfinder

Next on the list is Pathfinder. Since 2009, Paizo has published Pathfinder, a fantasy RPG based on D&D’s then-discontinued 3.5 edition. It’s been pretty popular, publishing dozens and dozens of adventures, supplements and rulebooks. And now there’s a new edition. In August 2019, Pathfinder’s second edition was released with an all-new Core Rulebook, Bestiary and adventures. And lots more is on the way. (The release of Pathfinder 2 will likely push the game back up the Orr Group’s list.)

Warhammer Fantasy

If your favorite flavor of fantasy is more of the epic and dark variety, you might dig Games Workshop’s RPG version of its Warhammer world. A new edition of the game was released by Cubicle 7 last year, and it’ll feel familiar to anyone who has played the Warhammer miniature wargame.

World of Darkness

If you didn’t get enough vampires and werewolves by playing the D&D adventure Curse of Strahd, maybe you should give the World of Darkness a try. The game is the combination of the distinct worlds of Vampire: The Masquerade, Werewolf: The Apocalypse and Mage: The Ascension. So if you dig horror-like monsters and rolling lots of d10s, this is the game for you.

Starfinder/Star Wars/Shadowrun

Interestingly, after you get through the fantasy RPGs (what most people probably think about when they think about tabletop roleplaying), you run into three straight sci-fi games. Starfinder is from Paizo, the makers of Pathfinder, and it’s essentially a space-faring version of the fantasy game. Have you heard of Star Wars? Of course you have. The currently published Star Wars RPG is from Fantasy Flight Games, and it uses their innovative Narrative Dice System. Then there’s Shadowrun, which is more of a science fantasy game (something of a magic/sci-fi/cyberpunk hybrid) from Catalyst Game Labs.

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Keep up with everything we’re doing. Find and follow us on FacebookInstagramTwitterPinterest and watch us play games on Twitch. Listen to our free DnD5e and Dungeon Crate podcasts. You can also score some sweet loot if you check out our online store.

How to use every item in August’s Dungeon Crate

Another month, another crate full of wonderful, magical, mesmerizing dungeon loot.

That’s what you get in Dungeon Crate every single month, and that’s what’s packed into August’s edition of the subscription box. 

Let’s tear into this month’s tabletop treasure chest — full of items ready for your Dungeons & Dragons, Pathfinder or other fantasy RPG games — and see what adventures, dice, minis and maps are contained within.

The Crimson Herald

This. Thing. Is. Creepy. From Reaper Miniatures, this model is part of their Black Series. They’re high definition plastic models, and they look good with or without paint. This one serves as a wizard character or a mysterious NPC or a big, bad villain.

Dreadmere Fishing Boat

Need to cross a river? Head to shore? Visit a dungeon located in the center of a large lake? This miniature fishing boat is also from Reaper, and another model in the Black Series. It fits a few medium-sized character minis and is great for any campaign where players are heading out on the water. 

Flesh Golem

These official D&D miniatures from WizKids are highly detailed models that are primed and ready to paint. And there’s two of them. Paint them differently. Use them in separate campaigns. Make them into monstrous brothers ready to tear apart unaware adventurers.

Chaos at the Temple

A new Epic Encounter from Dungeon Crate writer Kevin Coffey, this adventure is supposed to be a simple one. Head into a temple to find some treasure. Except the monsters the adventurers expected are already being fought by a tribe of bugbear raiders. It’s designed for a level 3 party.

A Sword in the Dark

Another new Epic Encounter from Dungeon Crate writer Kevin Coffey starts as a good time in a local tavern, until an important sword goes missing and appears to have been stolen by some cranky goblins who hid the whole thing down in a sewer. Ick. Good luck getting that thing back!

Bag o’ Snakes

Three acrylic tokens from the Lords of Adventure and Wargames, these snakes come in multiple colors that stand out wherever you place them on the table.

Speckled Water polyhedral 7-die Set - Chessex

What’s a campaign without a sweet set of dice? These seven speckled dice, in a watery blue, will be beautiful fun for a ton of rolls. 

Dungeon Tile/Insert

One side of this glossy card tells you what’s in the crate. (Handy!) The other side is a map tile. (Even handier!) If you receive Dungeon Crate every month, you’ll find the tiles form one large map illustrated by Dungeon Doodles. Awesome.

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Keep up with everything we’re doing. Find and follow us on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, Pinterest and watch us play games on Twitch. Listen to our free DnD5e and Dungeon Crate podcasts. You can also score some sweet loot if you check out our online store.

It's the 5th anniversary of D&D's 5th edition; What are your favorite 5e memories?

Dungeons & Dragons’ 5th edition was released in 2014.

The free Basic Rules and the Starter Set were released in July 2014, and the Players’ Handbook and Hoard of the Dragon Queen followed in August. More adventures and more sourcebooks followed throughout the year.

Now, it’s been five years since 5e was released.

In five years, the fans of Dungeon Crate have had some fun, funny, and fantastic experiences at the gaming table. We asked them to share their favorite memories.

To defeat a monster, I threw a dead goblin at it. We were doing an undermountain campaign, and I was playing a ranger/rogue whose favored enemy was goblins. We had a pet mimic, and we just killed a small group of goblins. I was dragging a goblin body through the corridors to go feed our mimic when a pillar started to glow and come alive. So I threw the dead goblin at it.

— Nick Siegler

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I converted Sunless Citadel to Dungeon Crawl Classics and ran it as a zero level funnel. After defeating the end boss, one of my son’s peasants investigated a shrine I placed there. A warty toad climbed down his throat thus setting him down the path to become a cleric of Bobugbubilz the demon god of amphibians. The look on his face was priceless.

— Rob Knobbe

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After an almost 30 year hiatus playing D&D, my favorite memory was being invited to join a group of people who’ve been playing for years together and being accepted. After two years of adventuring with them, I’ve now got some really good friends. Making new friends as an adult is an incredible thing.

— Johnr Schmidt

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I had a character in a 5e campaign who had to work a side job with the town’s alchemist. At one point, she was tasked with making a potion of speed without a recipe to do so. In a panic, I had her lump several herbs and plants that were known to help increase awareness and productivity. After trial and error, she was left with what the DM said was his world’s first energy drink. It’s a minty concoction named Alphina's Lightning Bolt. Then sometime later our group had a potluck where everyone was supposed to bring a themed item. I ended up bringing my own alcoholic version of the in-game item!

— Robert McGill

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My character, Ayrah, was a cleric of Talos. A bunch of pirates pulled up next to us thinking they’re gonna take over our boat. I critted on a thunderwave spell, killing most everyone on deck. Then immediately, she critted on an intimidation check. That’s Ayrah’s boat now. 

— Jarvis Shawnda

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During the final battle of the last session of a two-year campaign, almost the entire party was paralyzed or rolling death saves during a battle with a beholder and his minions. The wizard, who has been jokingly collecting daggers the whole campaign is prone and almost dead was in the beholder’s anti-magic ray and couldn’t cast spells. He reached into his pack and threw a dagger at it. He rolls a natural 20, hitting it directly in the eye, and inflicts the last 8 points of damage needed to kill it. It was a great way to end the campaign.

— Floyd Cocklin

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Keep up with everything we’re doing. Find and follow us on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, Pinterest and watch us play games on Twitch. Listen to our free DnD5e and Dungeon Crate podcasts. You can also score some sweet loot if you check out our online store.



How to build a great character backstory

You have your stats. You have your feats. You’ve picked out weapons and spells and armor and equipment. 

But who is your character? Where are they from? What motivates them?

D&D, Pathfinder, and other RPGs are roleplaying games, after all, so defining the backstory of your character is important. It can be intimidating to create a person from whole cloth with motivations, ideals, flaws, and a lifetime worth of stories.

We can help you with that. Next time you roll up a character, consider our tips on how to build a great RPG character backstory.

Rely on prepared backgrounds. A big part of D&D 5e is the backgrounds that are part of building a character. They can give some great inspiration as well as goals, flaws, ideals, and bonds. They’re prebuilt and can help you whip something up fast. Pathfinder also has a huge library of traits that can give you tips on how to flesh out a character. Feel free to use them as a basis to make something more specific or to simply create your own background or trait from whole cloth.

Give them some motivation. Are they looking for someone? Is there a long-lost family heirloom they seek to obtain? Did a great green dragon devastate their home village? If you can find out what your character wants, you’ll know a lot about them. 

Don’t make it too complicated. Especially if you’re starting with a 1st level character, make sure you don’t give them some kind of background where they’ve been apprenticed to a great wizard for decades or engaged in massive battles for decades. It won’t make a whole lot of sense to have such an elaborate backstory when they barely have any skills in the first several levels.

A backstory should push your character into action. Make sure it explains why they’re out adventuring or what exactly spurred them to learn great skills in battle and take on monsters. 

You can base it on another character. If you’re so inclined, you can create a character that’s like one of your favorites from fiction such as Indiana Jones, Link, Teela, Black Widow, Jaime Lannister, or Buffy. Just, you know, make sure to adapt their story to your game’s campaign world. 

Include a flaw. It doesn’t have to be something insane or bad or extremely limiting. But flawed characters are a little more real and a lot more fun.

Keep it simple. If you want to write a few chapters about your character, you’re well on your way to a novel. But you don’t need that much for an RPG character. Keep it to a few paragraphs. This is more than enough to explain a brief background for your character and why she seeks an adventurer’s life.

Create an NPC that hooks into your backstory. It’s a nice little gift to the GM, who could use it to tie your character into the overall campaign. 

Include a potential adventure hook in your character’s story. This will also let the GM make something rewarding for your character down the road. 

Clear it with your GM before you get to the table. Don’t include material that contradicts the campaign or the setting. Don’t make it too complicated. Don’t make it an exhaustive history of your character and his deeds. 

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Keep up with everything we’re doing. Find and follow us on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, Pinterest and watch us play games on Twitch. Listen to our free DnD5e and Dungeon Crate podcasts. You can also score some sweet loot if you check out our online store.

How to use every item in July's Dungeon Crate

This crate has cool stuff.

Every month, Dungeon Crate sends a treasure chest full of tabletop goodies to your door, and this month’s box is no exception. Inside you’ll find a load of coins, miniatures, adventures, tokens, monsters, and maps perfect for your sessions of Dungeons & Dragons, Pathfinder, or any fantasy RPG.

It’s quite the crate of loot.

Let’s take a review of this month’s Dungeon Crate, shall we?

d20 Coin

This is an Epic d20. The coin from Campaign Coins depicts your standard d20. Give it a flip, and it’ll come up with a 20 on one side (crit!) and a 1 on the other side (fail!). Throw it in your dice bag and use it as a d2 or use it to decide tricky outcomes at the table.

Wizard’s Room Miniatures

Dress up your dungeons with this miniature set. They’re part of WizKids’ Deep Cuts line of unpainted miniatures, and the box includes books, bottles, crystal balls, gargoyles, and lots more. Give them a little paint, and they’ll spruce up your dungeon. 

Marilith Miniature

We wouldn’t want to fight this thing. The monster — half snake, half woman but with six arms —  has quite the stat block. Seven attacks per round! Teleportation! It’s enough to take on a whole party of adventurers, and this official D&D mini from WizKids’ Nolzur’s Marvelous Miniatures line is gorgeous. She comes unpainted, but you can make her look even better with a coat of paint.

The Lost Tomb of Seketon

Oh no! A mummy queen is luring adventurers to their doom. In this mid-level adventure, the monster and her undead minions are beneath a sand-swept desert, and their army is growing one lost explorer at a time. The set of Encounter Cards includes the 5e-compatible adventure, written by Kevin Coffey and illustrated by Dungeon Doodles, plus a brand-new magic item and brand-new monster.

A Snake in the Sand

Traveling from town to town isn’t a big deal. At least, it’s not until a giant sand worm comes along and starts eating everything in sight. Follow the worm back to its underground lair to complete this adventure. Another set of Encounter Cards by Kevin Coffey and Dungeon Doodles, this 5e-compatible adventure features another new magic item and another new monster.

Wall of Flame tokens

Cast fireball. Cast wall of fire. Cast fire shield. Cast fire storm. Really, cast any kind of fire. Then you’ll get to pull out this set of acrylic tokens from the Lords of Adventure and Wargames. The flames are perfect for whenever the wizard or sorcerer wants to light up the room.

Map Tile

On the back of the insert describing the contents of each crate is a map tile. How cool! The gridded map is good for dry erase. Collect them all to form a giant dungeon map. 

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Keep up with everything we’re doing. Find and follow us on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, Pinterest and watch us play games on Twitch. Listen to our free DnD5e and Dungeon Crate podcasts. You can also score some sweet loot if you check out our online store.



25 adventure hooks for your D&D game

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Not sure what to play at this week’s session?

We get that. Sometimes you need a break from the long campaign. Sometimes you need something to break up the monotony of a long journey. Sometimes the adventures go way off the rails and you need something to throw in front of them to slow things down before they go completely haywire. 

To help you out, we created this long list of adventure hooks. Little things to start new games, give some new flavor to a session or to take things in a new direction. 

If you want to pick one randomly, you know what to do: Roll a d20.

  1. Five gems — blue, white, black, red and green — rest inside a wooden box engraved with the head of a dragon. Several humanoids in hooded black cloaks approach, and one says, “I believe that is ours.”

  2. Dragons all over the land are turning up dead. A green dragon comes to see the adventurers, and it offers a quest: Solve the mystery of the dead dragons, and you can have its entire hoard.

  3. A perpetual storm has besieged a small port town. Despite wind and other surrounding weather, the rainclouds never seem to move.

  4. A famed adventurer was hired by a town to investigate a haunted house deep in the woods. Moments after he stepped inside, the house shook and a thunderclap rumbled overhead. The adventurer never came back out.

  5. While sifting through a box of trinkets, a shopkeeper finds a strange, pulsing gem. He’s not sure what it is or how to use it, but it feels powerful.

  6. During a rowdy night at the local tavern, a man falls dead from the bar. Chaos breaks out as the patrons seek to discover what killed the dead man. You see two people in black cloaks slip out the door, and one drops a vial of swirling blue liquid.

  7. A local wizard of some renown has heard of your adventuring party, and he wishes to hear stories of your exploits. When you arrive at his arcane tower at the appointed time, he’s nowhere to be found. When you ask about him back in town, the locals no longer seem to know who he is.

  8. A stranger greets you at a crossroads and offers great riches in return for learning your deepest, darkest secrets.

  9. A pack of goblins charges through town on the backs of giant warthogs. They appear to be having a race of some kind.

  10. An avalanche knocks the snow off of the side of a tall mountain. When the rock underneath is exposed, it appears to be a massive, sleeping snow giant.

  11. Last night, a star fell from the sky and created a massive crater in a nearby forest. The crater appears to glow from a distance.

  12. Local residents have been found just outside their front doors, each completely drained of blood but showing no visible wounds.

  13. After a great storm on the ocean, all sorts of sea monsters have begun to wash up on the shore. One of them is still alive, and it speaks of a great coming cataclysm before it perishes.

  14. A mysterious island appears hovering above a city, and several large vines hang from its shores all the way down to the ground. It seems to have appeared there overnight

  15. An invitation arrives, inviting the adventurers to a dinner that evening at a nearby castle. It contains no other details, and it is signed, “An old friend.”

  16. A boisterous adventurer recruits your group to find a missing artifact in a subterranean dungeon. All the way to the dungeon, he tells elaborate tales of his adventuring prowess. But upon arriving at the locale, he begins to sweat profusely. 

  17. You march into a town, and it is totally abandoned. Everything otherwise seems as it should. It’s as if everyone simply disappeared

  18. Once a week, a dragon appears overhead, circles the area five times and flies away. Today, it circled the area four times and then dove to the ground.

  19. A courier sprints up to you and places a piece of dark parchment in your hands. Before he has a chance to explain, he turns and runs away. When you open the letter, the page is blank.

  20. In the common room of a local inn, a bard regales the crowd with songs and stories. After a few minutes, he falls to the floor, breaking his instrument. When you investigate, you see a glowing blue rune on his neck as it fades into nothingness. 

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Keep up with everything we’re doing. Find and follow us on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, Pinterest and watch us play games on Twitch. Listen to our free DnD5e and Dungeon Crate podcasts. You can also score some sweet loot if you check out our online store.

How to use every item in June's Dungeon Crate

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Every month, another treasure chest packed with loot.

That’s what you get with Dungeon Crate. And this month’s box is no different. It’s filled with pins, adventures, monsters, miniatures, and other stuff any adventurer will want to take into the next dungeon. 

Let’s tear into June’s Dungeon Crate and talk about how to use every last bit of it. 

D20 pins

Show your inner dice nerd with these three enamel pins from 1980Who. The pins can go on your hat, jacket, bag, or whatever. Show off your D&D pride!

Rescue the Dead

Another adventure from James Rodehaver, the evil GM of Dragons and Things, this adventure is the final installment in a trilogy of modules surrounding the strange artificer Anders Von Horning and the automaton to which he attempted to transfer his consciousness. This 24-page adventure comes in two editions: Pathfinder and D&D 5e.

Monster Markers

These nifty tokens from Lords of Adventure and Wargames, will help when you need to mark monster multiples. When the monster is defeated, pick up the mini and leave the ring (marked with a skull) to show where the downed baddie fell in combat.

Crate Cards

This set of two cards features a duo of new monsters. They’re convenient for GMs who need monster stats on the table, and the large format art from Dungeon Doodles lets you show exactly what the monsters look like to the players at your table.

Dwarf King miniature

All hail the dwarf king! This guy’s ready for an audience. Sitting on top of a throne on a dais, the king seems comfortable with his feet splayed out on a bearskin rug. Once you give the mini from Reaper a little paint, it will be a great display piece or perfect for when the party must meet with a dwarven leader.

Dragon key ring

Everybody needs a key ring. Why not rock one that lets you show off how much you love dragons? Or maybe how much you love slaying them. This green dragon key ring is definitely a conversation starter.

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Keep up with everything we’re doing. Find and follow us on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, Pinterest and watch us play games on Twitch. Listen to our free DnD5e and Dungeon Crate podcasts. You can also score some sweet loot if you check out our online store.

First-time GM? How to prep an adventure

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So you’re going to be the GM.

Whether you’re a longtime player who is finally making the jump to running games for your group or a new gamer who simply wants to run the show, welcome to the club. 

Somebody needs to run your RPG, and that somebody is you. 

For starters: You got this. You’re going to be fine. As intimidating as it may seem to run a game, it’s not that hard.

But if it’s your first time, we have some advice culled from our years of experience running our own games.

Decide how you’re going to play the game. You could play in person. You could do it online. You could play by post or text. There are a multitude of ways to run your game. Do what’s best for you and your group. Whatever you choose, it will dictate how you’re going to prep.

Read through the entire adventure. Once you’ve decided on what to run, give the thing a gander. Reading the adventure gives you a sense of all the plot developments, NPCs, monsters and locations. Maybe it’s not practical to read every page of a long hardcover module, but do your best to at least give each section a thorough exploration. It’ll help you get a sense of how things will progress.

What’s going to happen first? And then what will happen after that. Unless you’re running a marathon session, you’ll probably only get through one or two portions of an adventure. That’s all you need to prep for that session. Don’t get overwhelmed trying to plan for an entire huge module.

Have a contingency. Players are notorious for running things right off the rails. Have an idea (maybe even an extra encounter) in case things don’t go as planned. 

Take notes. While you’re reading and flipping through the pages, go ahead and write down ideas or an outline or anything you’ll want to remember come game time. Remember, your notes are just for you. Nobody else will see them, so it’s totally cool to write down a step-by-step plan or even specific dialog for an NPC. Do whatever you need to make sure you remember key details.

Make copies. You can certainly bookmark pages in the Monster Manual or your adventure, but it can be helpful to make photocopies of the pages you need. Then you can have the pertinent information right in front of you. Plus, you won’t have to worry about ruining your book by writing notes in the margins or highlighting passages.

Gather your accessories. If you’re running a physical table with maps and miniatures, make sure you pull all the pieces you might need. If you’re running an adventure from a PDF, make sure your tablet is charged up. If you’re playing a virtual tabletop, get your maps and tokens ready. Have your dice, pens, cards, trackers, tokens and a pencil and paper handy. 

Prep as much as you feel comfortable prepping. If you want every detail just right, spend some time getting that ready. If you’re up for improvising a lot, maybe you don’t need to do so much. If you’re way into miniatures, gather all the ones you think you’ll need. Just do what feels best for you.

Take a deep breath. Relax. You can do this. It’s easier than it looks. Just let loose and have a good time!

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Keep up with everything we’re doing. Find and follow us on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, Pinterest and watch us play games on Twitch. Listen to our free DnD5e and Dungeon Crate podcasts. You can also score some sweet loot if you check out our online store.

How to be a better D&D player

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You like to play games. You’re probably pretty good at it. But we can all do a little better. 

Numerous things can turn a normally fun game night into a stress-inducing headache. Nobody wants that when it’s time to play Dungeons & Dragons.

Follow some of our tips, and you’ll be the monster-slaying, spell-casting, epic hero you’ve always dreamed of being. Oh, and you’ll be a hero to your gaming group, too.

Be available and be on time.

One of the hardest things about playing an RPG with several people is arranging a time when those people are available. If you’re going to commit to a game, commit to it. Make it a priority or else you won’t be able to play. Not only that, your absence can derail the good time for everyone else in the group. 

Once you’ve agreed upon a time, be courteous and get there on time. How many game sessions have to start late because one person was running behind? In a collaborative game like Dungeons & Dragons, it’s hard to start when even a single player isn’t there.

Play a character that plays well with others.

We all know the character that likes to argue with other adventurers, steal from their fellow party members, and generally cause havoc. “Lone Wolf” characters that are out for themselves and nobody else seem like fun in fiction, but RPGs are a collaborative game where everyone is generally supposed to work together. 

That’s not to say that inter-party conflict can’t be occasionally entertaining, but when one character is at everyone’s throats, it can be frustrating. When you’re working like a team that’s firing on all cylinders, you’ll all feel like superheroes. 

Get into the game.

Pay attention. Engage. Be helpful. Participate whenever possible. Even when it’s not your turn, you are a part of the game. It’s rude to be doing something else while you’re playing. Instead of being on your phone or stacking your dice, realize you’re a part of the story. This is a game about your heroic character! 

And, y’know, it’s not always about you. Sometimes the story won’t go your way or won’t be the flavor of game that’s your favorite. That’s cool. Just stick with it. And do your best to let other players shine. Nobody likes the guy who always steals the spotlight. 

Know what you want to do next. Then do it.

D&D is a game of turns and rounds and rolling dice. It can take an hour to resolve a five-minute battle, and it’s all so much more fun if it moves quickly. When it’s not your turn, pay attention and figure out your next move. Then when you’re up, you can just act. 

This is especially true if you’re playing a multi-faceted character class like a wizard with complicated spells or powers. You’ll get to play more of the game if you react quickly.

Find the fun.

If we simply wanted wizards and monsters and swords and fantasy, we’d watch a movie or read a book. There are plenty of them. But playing the game is supposed to be fun! Take risks. Do crazy stuff. Take on the big scary dragon. Do something heroic. It’s supposed to be a good time. Don’t forget that!

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Keep up with everything we’re doing. Find and follow us on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, Pinterest and watch us play games on Twitch. Listen to our free DnD5e and Dungeon Crate podcasts. You can also score some sweet loot if you check out our online store.

How to handle missing players

It’s game night. Everything feels good. You’re ready to roll.

Except there’s one problem: Somebody didn’t show up.

So what do you do now? Nobody wants to cancel game night, especially considering how hard it can be to schedule one in the first place. (Man, adult life is tough sometimes, right?)

You could cancel the game or keep playing. You have a lot of options. Let us help you figure it out.

Ignore the missing player and just keep playing. You could just play the session without that one person and ignore the fact that their character seemed to disappear for a time. If you’re in a story-heavy game, that can be hard to do but it’s almost always the easiest option.

Within the game world, give the character something else to do. As the GM, you can decide the missing player’s character had something else to do. Make up whatever you want, but it’s extra fun to think up something they really could be doing. Bonus points if you check in with the player later and have them roleplay and roll dice to see how their side quest turned out.

Let somebody else run the character. This is a touchy one. Some players would be happy their characters continued to be in the game. Others would be upset if someone so much as touched their character sheets. It’s up to the players, but is a good option for keeping the game going if someone’s missing.

Keep an on-call player or two. We all have friends who love to play but either can’t make it to a regular session or are simply busy with another game. Keep them as an on-call player to help round out the table by playing a character (a new one or a friendly NPC always works well) when someone else can’t make it.

Don’t punish the missing player. Welcome them back to the table when they’re able to make it. Make sure you, the GM, fill them in or designate another player to relay the last session’s events. If they’d like, the player could also explain where their character was during the last session.

Adjust the frequency. Are game nights happening too often for some players to make it consistently? Are they so infrequent that they no longer feel important? It might be time to change up the schedule to make it more accomodating for everyone.

Consider taking the game to a new location. If you play online, it might be more fun for some players to play at a physical table. If you play at one person’s house every week, maybe you should move things to a neutral spot like a game store.

Most of all, just keep the game going. Find another time. Play short-handed. Do whatever you have to do keep the game alive.

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Keep up with everything we’re doing. Find and follow us on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, Pinterest and watch us play games on Twitch. Listen to our free DnD5e and Dungeon Crate podcasts. You can also score some sweet loot if you check out our online store.

How to use everything in May's Dungeon Crate

More maps. More minis. More adventures. More tokens. More, more, more stuff for your game table.

This month’s Dungeon Crate is super packed with new and exclusive stuff that’s usable with the included adventure booklet. But it’s also good for anything you’ve got going on your game table.

Let’s dig in, shall we?

“Friends in Low Places”

A new adventure from Dragons and Things’ evil GM, James Rodehaver, “Friends in Low Places” involves the search for a strange artificer. The intrigue leads to an arcane scrapyard where wizards and alchemists come to shop, but things get crazy when a goblin-infested series of tunnels and laboratories is discovered underneath. This adventure is printed in both 5th edition and Pathfinder versions.

Questickers 

Have you seen Questickers? They’re reusable stickers designed for tabletop. Stick the markers and terrain down on your maps. Stick the monsters and NPCs to the included stands. Then peel them and stick them over and over and over again. Questickers are super cool.

Graveyard Golem

Undead aren’t the only things lurking around the cemetery in your next game. This golem from Reaper is built of fences, monuments, and gravestones. It’s ready for you to paint and plop on the table.

Brain in a Jar

What is keeping it alive? What’s it doing? Can it still think? This brain is suspended in a jar, using wires and magic to control the legs sprouting from its case. It’s a very cool miniature. 

Crate Cards

These cards are handy for any GM. They act as a quick reference with stats for the GM’s use and with large images from Dungeon Doodles so you can show exactly what they look like to players.

Spell Effect Tokens

Perfect for any caster character, these acrylic tokens show exactly how their spells look when they land on the table. One is an entanglement spell (weeds and vines) and the other is a web spell (spider webs). Made by Lords of Adventure and Wargames, the tokens will keep the monsters restrained.

Bag O’ Dice

From the fine purveyors of dice at Chessex, these packs of random dice will add some weight to your ever-growing collection.

Map Tiles

This four-pack of glossy map tiles are double-sided. One side shows off a scrap yard and the other, a laboratory. Use them with “Friends in Low Places” adventure or any other with which they fit. You can also use dry erase markers on them. 

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Keep up with everything we’re doing. Find and follow us on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, Pinterest and watch us play games on Twitch. Listen to our free DnD5e and Dungeon Crate podcasts. You can also score some sweet loot if you check out our online store.

Q&A: 'Dragons & Things' GM James Rodehaver talks about his new adventure series for Dungeon Crate

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Every month in Dungeon Crate, there’s an adventure.

We’re excited that three crates will include a trilogy of adventures from our friend James Rodehaver, the GM for the RPG stream “Dragons and Things,” created a new trilogy for Dungeon Crate.

“The Phoenix Initiative” is a trilogy of adventures centered around the eccentric artificer Anders Von Horning. It includes “The Mystery of the Mechanized Manor,” May’s upcoming “Friends in Low Places” and June’s adventure, “Rescue the Dead.”

We caught up with Jim to talk about his ideas for the trilogy, Dragons and Things and how much fun he’s had writing The Phoenix Initiative.

Dungeon Crate: Where'd you derive the idea for this trilogy?

James Rodehaver: This idea started with Anders Von Horning. I'm not really a huge steampunk guy, but for tabletop games I really like the alchemist and artificer types for villains. I love the idea of mad science fused with magic being a driving force behind the adventure. I was also listening to a podcast about the Winchester Mansion and that particular story fascinated me. I really wanted to do an adventure set in that type of old-timey, eccentric millionaire's mansion. From there, the rest of the Von Hornings started to take shape, and I knew that I wanted to give them that backbiting, petty, greedy flair, really set them against each other with the PCs acting as these disposable pawns in their eyes.

DC: Did you have fun writing it?

JR: I had a lot of fun writing this series. I was originally approached to write just a single installment, but once I got to the end of that first adventure, “The Mystery of the Mechanized Manor,” my mind just kept going. I was thinking of what I'd throw at my players next if I were running this adventure, and so I wrote it out and asked Wayne if he wanted to print a trilogy. Luckily, he said yes, and so I got to keep writing. If I'm being honest, I could keep rolling with this Von Horning arc for many more months. I kind of hope that someday I get to revisit it.

DC: Has any of your “Dragons and Things” experience translated to these adventures?

JR: “Dragons and Things” influences a lot of what I do with gaming now in the sense that it has been going for three years now and I've grown a lot as a GM because of that. My players, like a lot of players, always keep me on my toes, and they taught me to write a great structure for an adventure but leave room for their choices. That's why the trilogy features a lot of different victory conditions and different rewards based on what the players choose to do. I didn't want to make any one victory condition a clearly better choice than the others, and I really tried to balance the rewards for each so that the players could have a unique experience without feeling cheated. It's something I've had to learn to do at my own table because I got tired of running into those "what if the players just blow all this up?" roadblocks that we all run into.

DC: Without giving too much away, what happens in the final adventure?

JR: The final adventure is a little sad in my opinion. We finally get to see the Von Hornings for what they are, and we get to understand the consequences of Anders Von Horning's megalomania. They are a really messed up family, and even though I kind of hate them, I also pity them for what they became.

DC: How'd you bring the adventures together? Did you have an overarching story in mind?

JR: I didn't originally have much beyond the first installment planned out until I got to the end of it. Once I'd written it and submitted it, the following two installments came to me right away. I knew I wanted to pursue Anders' story, and I knew how his project, The Phoenix Initiative, had ultimately unfolded. From that point it was just connecting the dots.

DC: Any advice for GMs running your adventures?  

JR: I think the key to running my adventures is to run them your way. When I'm writing, I start to get very hung up on different ways the PCs can solve a situation, or how an NPC might react to a myriad of choices the PCs make. Unfortunately, I have a word limit. This means that I know my writing doesn't cover all the crazy possibilities a party of adventurers or a crafty GM can bring to the table. While I'm very proud of the story that came out of this, and I hope GMs enjoy it enough to want to run it, I also know that there are so many other ways these adventures can be played. I would encourage GMs to view these adventures as a framework to build their own story with their players.

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Keep up with everything we’re doing. Find and follow us on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, Pinterest and watch us play games on Twitch. Listen to our free DnD5e and Dungeon Crate podcasts. You can also score some sweet loot if you check out our online store.

How to use every item in April's Dungeon Crate

Dungeon Crate has done it again.

Another box is filled with wondrous items, a menagerie of monstrous miniatures and arcane artifacts that’ll dazzle at the game table. The best part: Dungeon Crate delivers it all straight to your door.

You could play a pretty good game of Dungeons & Dragons or Pathfinder with just the items in this month’s box.

Let’s dig into this month’s crate filled with tabletop treasures, shall we?

“The Mystery of Mechanized Manor”

Exclusive to Dungeon Crate, this adventure from Dragons and Things’ “evil” GM Jim Rodehaver is a blast. Uh, literally. (Things explode. Just, y’know, roll to defuse. What could go wrong?) Something is amiss at the manor of a strange, hermetic artificer. What’s he building down in that shop? It’s up to a party of clever adventurers (maybe that’s you!) to figure it out.

Iron Golem miniature

Paint it like a regular old iron golem. (Grey paint will do.) Paint it like Iron Man. (Crimson and gold!) Paint her pink! (You know you want to!) You can make this little baddie from Reaper Miniatures into whatever you want with a little creativity and some mini paints.

Wall of Ice

This thing is cool. If you’re a wizard, use it when you cast, y’know, the wall of ice spell. If you’re a DM, use it to show off spell effects. If you’re anyone else, use it for whatever. This little plastic wall of frost from Reaper looks amazing no matter what you’re using it for.

Bestiary cards

Here at Dungeon Crate, we’ve made a lot of monsters. Every adventure we’ve created for years has included new monsters. This month’s box is no different, and these glossy finish cards are great as a DM reference (stats!) and to show to your players (amazing art from Dungeon Doodles!) You can also mark them up — track hit points, make notes, etc. — with wet or dry erase markers.

Flight stand

Make your miniatures soar. From the Lords of Adventure and Wargames, these acrylic stands offer 5-foot and 10-foot heights in case your character has prepared fly or rides a dragon or somehow is suspended in the air.

Invisibility token

When the thief hides, the wizard casts greater invisibility or someone just straight-up vanishes — accidental and purposeful teleportations are a part of D&D, folks — mark their place with this handy token from Lords of Adventure and Wargames. It’ll help.

Speckled d20

This is a hefty die. From Chessex, this 34mm speckled “golden recon” die will command respect at the table. Especially if you roll 20s with it. It feels good in your hand, and it looks pretty, too.

Dice Bag

It feels so good. This large bag from Metallic Dice Games will fit a lot of dice. The soft and silky bag is a full 6 x 8 inches, and it closes with a drawstring. Use it for your whole collection or maybe for that one special set of dice that deserves its own bag. You know the one.

Digital Crate

As always, there’s even more stuff online. If you’re a subscriber, be sure to check your e-mail to get the digital crate code!

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Keep up with everything we’re doing. Find and follow us on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, Pinterest and watch us play games on Twitch. Listen to our free DnD5e and Dungeon Crate podcasts. You can also score some sweet loot if you check out our online store.

How to run a sandbox game in D&D

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In our last blog, we talked about building a sandbox-style world for your Dungeons & Dragons games.

Now, we’ll talk about running those games.

Whether you built your own world or are running a published adventure — D&D 5e has some sandbox adventures including Curse of Strahd, Out of the Abyss, and Princes of the Apocalypse — these tips will help keep your open-world game going.

Give them something to do. A true sandbox sets players in a world and lets them, well, do whatever they want. That’s why it’s called a sandbox. There are no rules, structure, or plotline. But a game without a quest or a story is pretty boring. The best sandbox adventures have an open world with a grand plot or long-term aim. So, set the scene with some sort of quest, adventure, or encounter that pulls the adventurers into the overarching story.

Provide information. Open-world games can die quickly if the players feel lost or don’t know what to do next. Keep them plied with information about other places, new quests to undertake, or NPCs that need their help. Pull them into the next part of the story.

Introduce hooks. A good sandbox world is a connected world, so new adventure hooks should be popping up naturally. But make sure to dangle a few hooks in front of them whenever possible. When they’re done with the current adventure, they’ll be pulled toward the next one.

Use your NPCs. Non-player characters can serve all sorts of functions in any kind of game, but they’re most important in a sandbox game. They provide information, hand out quests, and can be there to guide players when they get stuck. Even after you’ve provided plenty of hints, sometimes players still can’t figure out their next step. That’s when an NPC shows up at the tavern and whispers some inside information, pushing them to the next place.

Keep in mind what could come next. Since they’re open worlds, these kinds of adventures tend to be able to go in any direction. Do your best to anticipate what the players could do next, so you’re prepared with a different dungeon or encounter if directions switch.

Remember it’s OK to break from the game for a second. If your players do something totally out of left field, pause the game to address them. “Hey, you guys can go into this cave or you can go to the town, but I honestly don’t have the cave prepared right now. It’s fine if you decide to do that, but we’ll have to break now and pick back up there at the next session.” They should be cool with it.

Tie the characters’ backgrounds into the game, if you can. The open nature of this kind of game lets you build elements of the player characters’ backstories into the game, which will lead to more investment in the plot and more excitement, too.

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Keep up with everything we’re doing. Find and follow us on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, Pinterest and watch us play games on Twitch. Listen to our free DnD5e and Dungeon Crate podcasts. You can also score some sweet loot if you check out our online store.

How to build a sandbox world in D&D

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Adventure can take you anywhere.

And if you’re playing in a sandbox world, the adventure can go literally anywhere.

While some adventures follow a distinct plotline, sandbox adventures let the players dictate the direction of the story. 

Not every gaming group likes a sandbox — some want more structure — but many players enjoy the freedom to explore a world the way they want rather than be railroaded through the story. 

If you’re creating a sandbox adventure during your RPG games, we have some ways to help forge your world.
Start small and expand. Your game is going to start in one location with a small group of people, so start there and work outwards. For example, it’s better to know what’s going on in the town where your adventurers will begin their game than to know what system of government operates the kingdom. 

But also craft a larger conflict. There definitely should be something pushing your adventurers to, well, adventure. This can be small-scale at first, but it should connect to a larger happening in the world. It doesn’t have to be world-altering, universe-saving adventure, but something should be happening.

Populate your world with places. Start in the place where your campaign will begin and add onto it. If it’s a small town, add a tavern, the mayor’s house, a general store, a trade outpost, or whatever might be in that town. Then add features around the town, other towns, and geographical features (forests, rivers, mountains, lakes, etc.). Keep expanding outward, adding cities and adjacent kingdoms and more. This is a sandbox. By its very nature, your players will be exploring. You need to give them somewhere to go. 

Now add people. While we often think of fantasy worlds being populated with dark forests, ruined castles, and underground dungeons, the adventurers will more often interact with the people who live there than they will the places themselves. So, start putting people — NPCs and monsters, too — in the places your players will visit. Give them names and quick back stories — the goblin war chief who led his people from the mountains, the tavern keeper who used to be an adventurer — so that you can describe them when they’re eventually encountered.

Connect your people and places. This is where your world will stop being some random mishmash of ideas and start feeling like a real world. It will also start creating plot threads and adventure ideas. Two NPCs in a town could be having an affair. The tavern keeper used to work for the king. Two brothers operate trade posts in towns far away. Two adjacent kingdoms aren’t at war, but one is poor, and one is rich. These sorts of connections will also help push the adventurers from one place to another.

Give everyone something to do. The real world is rarely stationary. People come and go. They live their lives. Every NPC and monster should have some reason for existing. They’ll be far more interesting if they have a story — even a short one!

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