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


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


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


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


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.


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


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


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


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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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 improvise while playing D&D

When you’re running a game of D&D, sometimes you have an adventure and players that stick to the script.

As anyone who’s been a Dungeon Master knows, sometimes you have players that break down the walls and go charging off in a new direction for which you are utterly unprepared. 

How do you handle it?

You certainly don’t have to be an expert in improv to do things on the fly at the table. 

We have some tips.

You’ve heard the first rule of improv is “yes, and…” First off, it’s not your job to allow whatever the players feel like doing. Sometimes they fail. That’s where the phrase, “Yes, but…”, comes in. You can allow their actions and implement consequences. Let’s say the king is about to give a quest to the party and then the party’s precocious rogue decides to steal the king’s signet ring. He rolls a natural 20 to steal the ring, ensuring he slips it right off the king’s hand. You say, “Yes, but…” The king might not notice his ring is gone after the rogue’s excellent sleight of hand check, but maybe the king’s adviser sees the theft or perhaps the ring is cursed.

If you’re running the game, feel free to say, “No, and…” or “No, but…” Going back to the previous encounter, let’s again say the rogue rolls an excellent sleight of hand check. You are the Dungeon Master. You say, “No. A guard sees the theft and tells the king.” Rather than sparking a fight and destroying all the prep that went into your session, come up with another solution. For example, the king thinks any rogue brave enough to steal the ring off his finger is a natural choice for his quest and he offers a bonus.

If a player has a better idea than what you had in mind, roll with it. If you are working on a plot point that is yet to be revealed, and a player comes up with a new, wildly interesting theory. Just, uh, steal that idea. Make it your own. Tell them they were incredibly perceptive to have guessed your machinations. Award them with inspiration in the game.

Take notes. It’s always a good idea to keep a notebook nearby during games for tracking hit points and initiative and whatever else. But dedicate a page (or maybe an entire notebook) to off-the-cuff ideas, whether they’re yours or your players’. Whenever you’re riffing over what could happen next in the game, write those things down and keep them in mind for later. 

Keep a few ideas in the background. Think of some side quests, new NPCs, random dungeons, or other things that your players could encounter if they abandon your original campaign idea for something else. You don’t have to flesh out some crazy world, but you could keep some pre-made adventures or modules or maps or monster stats just in case. 

Create consequences in the game. Let’s say the king hired the players to track down and deal with a clan of goblins. When they get sidetracked on some other quest or dungeon, make a note of what the goblins do in the meantime. Maybe they attack the king. Maybe they track down the adventurers. Maybe they grow ever-larger, unite with other goblin tribes, and create their own goblin empire. 

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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.

Play D&D anytime, anywhere with these tips

The hardest part of playing D&D is, you know, actually playing.

It can take months to coordinate schedules, find a location, and agree to a game. If you’re lucky, you can schedule a second session within a reasonable time frame after the first.

But you could be playing more RPGs. You could be playing them right now. That is, you could if you adjusted how you play.

We have some tips to make your game nights more mobile, more fluid, and occur much more often.

Pack everything you need in a single bag.

And we mean everything. Put the adventure you’re going to run, pregenerated characters, miniatures for everything, and enough dice for everyone in one tote bag. That way, nobody has to organize anything, they just have to show up. You’ll have everything else.

Play impromptu games.

Game night doesn’t have to be the second Wednesday at 8 p.m. Not every time. Play when at least four or five people are available. If you’re running the game, put an announcement out right before you’re playing

Stick to one-shots.

Rather than a never-ending campaign with lots of story and plot, play single-session adventures. Players won’t have to know every piece of background information, and the DM won’t either. Plus, it lets players drop in and out without worrying about missing too much.

Let players come and go as they please.

Be a little more fluid with who stops at the game table, and you don’t have to worry about everyone’s schedule lining up perfectly. Let players drop from the table when they can’t make it and invite whomever would like to join if they’re free.

Keep a stack of pregenerated character sheets.

Whenever a player comes in and out, ask them what they’d like to play. Then hand them a character sheet. They won’t have to worry about building a complicated character, fitting it into the story, or maintaining party balance. You’ll do that all for them.

Consider an RPG that’s rules-light. Extremely rules-light.

Ever heard of a micro-RPG? They’re games that exist on a single page or less, meaning they have few rules to learn and deal with. They’re ideal for new players since everyone — hardcore gamers and newbies, too — learns how to play at the same time. They’re also good for more casual sessions because there aren’t quite so many elements people have to remember.

Most of all, keep it casual.

Especially for those of us who are longtime gamers. It’s fun to have all the dice, all the miniatures, all the terrain, all the rulebooks, but incorporating all of that into a quick, play-anywhere game session is nearly impossible. Keep things light and quick and friendly, and it will be much easier to game anytime you feel like it.

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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 March's Dungeon Crate

Every single Dungeon Crate is packed with goodness.

Miniatures for your D&D games. Tokens that work with any fantasy RPG. Plenty of dice to keep filling that dice bag. Adventures to run at your table. 

So. Much. Stuff.

But this crate is special. It’s full of unique items you can only get in Dungeon Crate.

Let’s dig into the loot and find what this crate has to offer for your game table.

“The God Shard Trilogy: Rise of the Fallen Emperor”

The epic adventure trilogy comes to a close with “Rise of the Fallen Emperor.” This adventure, written by Floyd Cocklin and Kevin Coffey, involves an epic battle at the gates of a stronghold, a fast-paced race against a fearsome foe, and an epic showdown over a mythic God Shard. Playable as a sequel to the previous installments or on its own, the adventure is a whole lot of fun.

Cyclops miniature

Drop this fearsome foe on your friends. This ugly guy is ready to drop a club onto the head of any adventurer that strays into its path. This cyclops miniature was lovingly created by Reaper.

Dragon Head Pin

Pin this dragon head pin to your bag/hat/jacket/shirt to show people just how much you love dragons. Or wear as a trophy of sorts to show off that you have slain a dragon in game play. Or use it to let people know that you’re into D&D. We love this pin designed by Dungeon Doodles.

Ninja Dice

You need dice. Always. More. Dice. A full set of dice from the wonderful people at Chessex, these dark dice will be there for when you need to sneak around and assassinate someone, practice the dark arts, or dabble in necromancy. 

Dice Dungeon

Bad dice! Show your faulty dice how much you’re upset with them by locking them inside this acrylic dice dungeon from the Lords of Adventure and Wargames. Maybe they’ll roll better after they’ve served some time.

Battle Splats

Use these to mark hit points, denote those fallen in battle, or add ambiance to your bloody dungeons. These blood-red splat markers from Lords of Adventure and Wargames have all kinds of uses. 

Advantage and Disadvantage Token

How do you remember if you’ve got advantage or disadvantage in your 5e games? Instead of just marking it on your character sheet, use this token from Dungeon Crate to remember that you’re rolling two dice on the next attack. 

Map Tile

The back of the insert telling you about every item? It’s reusable as a nifty little map tile. Collect enough and you’ll have a giant map. Cool, right?

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 play D&D with kids

The time is here! You had kids, and you’ve been waiting until the day you can finally game with them.

They’re probably as excited as you are after seeing books full of gorgeous art and tables stacked with sparkly dice and funny little monster miniatures.

To do things right, it’s best to prepare a little before your first session of Dungeons & Dragons with your kids.

The last thing you want to do is sour them on the experience, so they never want to game with you again. Then you’d lose out on the always-available gaming group, which was the main reason you had kids. (Right?)

We have some pointers to help you out.

Pick the Right RPG

D&D is a hard game to learn. It has a lot of rules and even more exceptions to them. Though your heart is set on D&D, you might want to start with something else.

Made-for-kids RPGs like Amazing Tales or Hero Kids are wonderful for children. They’re like D&D but are simple and adaptive. It might also be worth looking at Genesys, which uses narrative dice full of symbols rather than numbers.

Some board games might scratch your RPG itch without overloading your child. You could start with a board game like the classic Dungeon! that has easy-to-follow rules.

If You Must Play D&D, Keep It Simple

RPGs can be really complicated with loads of rules. It’s best to keep things simple and distraction-free when you’re playing them with children. For starters, play with level 1 characters who have very few abilities. Provide them with pre-generated characters. Pick an exciting, but relatively uncomplicated adventure.

Also consider simplifying the character sheets, writing down only what information is vitally important (armor class, hit points, attacks, proficient skills) to play the game.

Color-code the Dice

Kids aren’t always great at figuring out the difference between a d10 and a d12 — many adults aren’t either — so you could try color-coding the dice. Use only red d6s, blue d8s, green d10s, etc. Then there’s less searching for what they need. “Roll two red dice!” Much easier.

Let the Game Show Them How It Works

It’s better to let them learn by playing than trying to explain every single rule before you go. Good adventures for kids (and any beginner, really) start with a small encounter or a simple trap, and then move onto skill-based playing. Introduce some roleplaying. Slowly build up combat encounters with more bad guys until they get the hang of it.

Team Up

For the first session, it might be better to let each kid team up with a parent or other adult who has played before. They can play the character together and ask their mom how things work or what their character can do next. After a few sessions, the adult can start playing a second character.

Be as Visual as Possible

Maybe it’s video games or maybe it’s just how kids are, but they seem to be more visual creatures. That means it’s helpful for them to have something to look at. A theater-of-the-mind-style game will not work as well as gridded maps and miniatures. With a grid, it’s more like a board game, and they can count each square and see exactly where everything is.

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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.

Things RPG players should bring to every single game


It’s game night. You’re ready to roll. Ready to do some damage.

Oh, but you forgot a pencil to mark down your hit points. And your d8 is missing. And, oh no, everyone brought snacks but you.

As every gamer knows, you may find yourself in need of some spells or an extra healing potion, so it’s best to be prepared at being prepared.

A Notebook and Pencil

Even as technology advances, tabletop RPGs are still mostly based on tactile things like pencils, paper, and books. You’re going to need to write things down (XP, names, loot, notes, etc.), so it’ll behoove you to have a notebook and a pencil. Nobody likes the guy who never remembers his pencil, so go ahead and buy a whole pack and stick ‘em in your bag.

It’s also benefits you to write down important stuff: proper names, places, NPC names, and weird details the barkeep mentions about that old haunted mansion south of town. It’ll help you remember things going forward, which helps the GM save from regurgitating the same information every session.


Every player should have their own dice. If you’re new to the game, get yourself a set. If you’re a GM who runs games for newbies, pack a couple extra sets players can borrow for the session.

If you’re a longtime player, chances are you have a lot of dice. Just make sure you have the ones you need. If you’re playing 5th edition, pack two d20s to roll advantage and disadvantage. If you’re playing Dungeon World, make sure you have enough d6s. If you know your rogue does a lot of sneak attack damage or your wizard will be casting plenty of fireballs, pack a few extra d6s.


We’ve heard of GMs who cook for their players in addition to hosting game night and, y’know, running the game. If that’s how your group rolls, count your blessings, but it’s always nice to help the crew out by bringing a shareable snack and/or beverage.

Ask your fellow players if there are any allergies you should be aware of and, if you’re playing in a shared space like a game store, respect their policies on outside food and drink.


If you’re playing a long session, you might want to pack a few extra items just in case. We’re talking hand sanitizer, a bottle of water, tissues, or whatever you might need while sitting at a table for a few hours. (These things are even more essential if you’re gaming at a convention.)

Your Character Sheet

Unless your GM is providing a pregenerated character or you’re coming to the first session to roll up new characters, bring your sheet. Nothing is worse than showing up for game night without it and not being able to remember what your character can do.


At the very least, bring the game’s core rulebook. That way you don’t have to constantly ask your neighbor to borrow hers.

It also helps to bookmark the pages you frequently reference, such as spell names, how cover works, or the details of a class feature.

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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 February's Dungeon Crate


Check your mail.

Your Dungeon Crate could be waiting there for you. Didn’t get this month’s Dungeon Crate? That’s cool. You can pick up missed items in the Dungeon Crate store and subscribe so you don’t miss next month’s crate.

There’s a lot in this box: Adventures, miniatures, tattoos, stickers, mystery items, and a cool, unique item that will help you build characters for every game you play for the foreseeable future.

Let’s dig into our box of loot, shall we?

The God Shard Trilogy: The Crystal Key

The second installment of The God Shard Trilogy is here! Taking off from the first adventure, the goal is to unite several disparate clans against an encroaching warlord. The adventure introduces players to another realm of Halcyon and to new NPCs. If you didn’t play the first adventure, that’s OK. This one’s full of encounters and adventures you can drop into your regular game without trouble.

Owlbear Miniature

This. Thing. Is. So. Freaking. Awesome. From Reaper Miniatures, this owlbear is big and beautifully sculpted. It’s also casted in Reaper’s new material from its Black series. Oh, and Reaper has sold out. That makes Dungeon Crate one of the last places to get one.

Centaur Miniature

This one’s ready for some paint. Each box had either a male or female centaur, and they’re ready for battle. (Spoiler Alert!) Hold on to this one because you’ll need it if you’re running, “The Crystal Key.”

Character Sheet Notepad

An exclusive from Dungeon Crate, this notepad has dozens of simplified character sheets. Use it to make pregenerated characters for friends. Or to hash out builds when you’re rolling up a new character. You can also use it to make all those new characters you haven’t found time to play yet.

Temporary Tattoos

Show off your love of D&D and all things RPG by slapping on one of these bad boys.

Pencils of Writing

If you use this pencil, you get a +1 to everything you write down, but you have to attune to the pencil first. It’s magic. We spoke to your DM, she said it was cool.


You love Dungeon Crate! Stick this on something you like. Take a picture. Show off.

Mystery item

We’ve been crafting some mysterious and arcane items in the Dungeon Crate Dungeon. We dropped a few of these magic items into the crates this month. We didn’t think you’d mind! 

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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 Dungeon Master


You have friends. You have dice. You have miniatures. You have Dungeon Crate.

(If you don’t have Dungeon Crate, come on.)

But someone needs to run this game.

After much consideration, the group has named you as its Dungeon Master. Congratulations! It’s a big honor. But now you’re also realizing that it’s a little bit of work.

Don’t panic. It’s not that hard. Maybe you’ve seen Critical Role and think all DMs do crazy voices. (They don’t.) Maybe you think a Dungeon Master knows every rule. (Trust us, they don’t.) Maybe you think it’s your responsibility to make sure everyone has fun. (It isn’t.)

Your job is a simple one. First, you tell the story. Second, you are the judge. Third, you play the monsters. So, you get to tell the players what’s going on. When they roll dice, you tell them whether they’re successful or not. Last of all, it’s your job to challenge them by playing the bad guys. (And playing the bad guys is really, really fun.)

Gather your materials. For starters, you’ll need the game rules, some dice, an adventure, and some pencils and paper. That’s really it. You can get more involved with rulebooks and miniatures and all kinds of other accessories (did we mention Dungeon Crate?), but you can start your first game with the basics.

An adventure? Do I have to make everything up? No, you do not. If you’re into that sort of thing, you can build a campaign world, craft an epic adventure, and send your players into it. But there are loads of pre-written, tested, and fun adventures of all different flavors out there waiting for you. You can buy a big, epic hardcover book or get a small, short adventure. Whatever you like, really.

What should I have prepared? At a minimum, read through the portion of the adventure your group will play next. If it’s the first game, be sure to read the introductory pages, too. It’ll help you know what to expect when you’re at the game table and how things might unfold.

How much improv is involved? Depends on your play style. It’s totally OK to play things straight out of the book. It’s also OK to make things up as you go along. Just do what makes you comfortable.

What if I don’t know a rule? That’s fine! Most DMs don’t know every rule. We like to handle it one of a few ways: Simply say, “Pause. I have to look up that rule really quick.” Or, if you think you know the rule, go ahead and make a quick ruling at the table now and look up the exact text at the next break. You could also task one of the other players to look it up for you.

You don’t always have to be the Dungeon Master. If you don’t want to be the one always running games, your group can rotate. You can do that every few sessions or every time you finish a small adventure or whatever is comfortable for your table.

You’re going to do great. We believe in you.

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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.

What are the most popular fantasy RPGs?


We have this habit of calling all RPGs by a single name: Dungeons & Dragons.

There’s good reason for it. It’s the biggest and the one that started them all. Even the next biggest game, Pathfinder, is an off-shoot of a past edition of D&D.

But not all fantasy RPGs are created equal.

There are lots of different games with different systems. Whether you’re looking to try a new flavor of tabletop games or simply wanting to branch out and find a rules system that fits your playing style, we can help.

To help you get started in your quest, we consulted the top lists on DriveThruRPG, Amazon, and Roll20 to identify the most popular games out there.

Dungeons & Dragons: The mother of them all is still immensely popular. The game’s 5th edition is its latest, and it’s popular for a few reasons. The rules allow for multiple styles of gameplay whether they’re battle-heavy, roleplay-focused, or rules-light. It combines favorite aspects of previous editions, and its hardcover adventure books take delight in referencing popular old D&D adventures.

Pathfinder: This one’s an off-shoot of D&D’s 3.5 edition and has been published continuously for more than 15 years. Therefore, Pathfinder has an immense number of rules, character classes, variants, and adventures from which to choose. If there’s a character type you want to try, Pathfinder has it. If there’s an adventure flavor you want to take for a spin, Pathfinder has it. It’s grown so much that Pathfinder is currently working on a 2nd edition.

Adventures in Middle-Earth: This uses D&D’s 5th edition as its basis for rules, but the game offers so much more in terms of flavor, new rules, and play style. If you adore J.R.R. Tolkien’s world and all the hobbits and orcs and wizards contained therein, you’ll dig this game. It’s all about epic journeys and world-changing battles. Playing it makes you feel like you’re in one of the books or movies.

Dungeon World: If you like old-school RPGs, this might be the game for you. It has that old-school feel but with modern, updated rules. The classes and basic things about the game are very similar to D&D, but you roll d6s instead of a d20. The results of your roll can mean success, success with a slight problem, or trouble. That makes the game fun and adaptable.

World of Darkness: If you love horror, this could be your new favorite. World of Darkness is the catch-all for the RPG settings Vampire: The Masquerade, Werewolf: The Apocalypse, Mage: The Ascension, and others. It’s full of supernatural wonder and scary monsters.

Legend of the Five Rings: Based on feudal Japan, the empire of Rokugan is full of mythical beasts and loads of magic. The game uses 10-sided dice exclusively and is dangerous. Characters are known to be killed if they’re not careful. A new edition of the game was released in 2018.

Song of Swords: Calling itself a “realistic” swords and sorcery RPG, this game is focused on combat. That makes it fun for anyone who wants weapons and armor based on historical fact. It’s also considered low-fantasy, so not everyone is running around slinging spells. It was funded on Kickstarter and released in 2018.

Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay: The RPG version of the popular wargame, Warhammer, this one is high fantasy and filled with doom and darkness and secret cults and mutants and rat-people. A brand-new edition was released in 2018.

Amazing Tales: Do you have kids? Then you can finally game with them. This is a rules-light game focused on having fun with your children in any setting (fantasy, pirates, space!) that they might like. It starts by taking you through creating a new character with your kid and then leading them on fun adventures.

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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.