How to use common D&D spells in a creative way

Image Credit: PEXELS.COM

Image Credit: PEXELS.COM

Most spells in D&D and other RPGs have a pretty straightforward use.

Cast Fireball and watch your enemies try to dance out of the way of its hot, roaring flames. Magic Missile lets you see bolts of force crash into bad guys. Cast Knock and watch that locked door click open.

Maybe it’s time to branch out. Think about casting spells in unusual ways and using their effects to cause all kinds of havoc.

Speak with Animals: Lets you comprehend and verbally communicate with beasts. A lot of times, you can get nearby animals to tell you details about who’s passed by or the features of a dungeon. You can also ask them for a favor. Convincing them to overrun a nearby orc camp, cause a distraction, or lead you out of the wilderness (many animals have an innate sense of direction) are also good uses.

Create Water: Creates up to 10 gallons of water or causes it to rain in a 30-foot cube. Drop the water on a slope, causing a miniature waterfall. Follow it with an ice/cold spell to make a frozen puddle. Ask your GM if you can drop that water inside a red dragon’s mouth and extinguish its breath weapon.

Prestidigitation: Create a small effect, object, or condition such as a puff of smoke, a simple trinket, a sound, or an illusory image. Shake it up by using this spell to flavor plain rations and make them taste delicious. You could also create a fire no matter the conditions or make keys to get yourself out of a cage.

Fear: Creates a phantasmal image of a creature’s worst fears. Typically, you use this to frighten a monster and make them run away. But with its Wisdom save, you could use it on a nearby group of low-Wisdom monsters or animals, forcing them to cause chaos around your target.

Wall of Stone: Creates a wall of stone between you and a monster. Good to wall off some unknown force, but it also has an AC of 15 and 30 HP, so holding it as a Ready action means you can throw it up just as a dragon lets off its breath weapon or a big bad minotaur comes charging your way.

Darkness: Creates magical darkness that not even darkvision can see through. Interestingly, you can cast it on an object or an item in addition to a place, so you can use it to hide an object of interest. You could also follow it by casting Devil’s Sight to let you cut through the darkness and let none of your enemies see you coming.

Find Familiar: An animal familiar appears within 10 feet of you. Interestingly, the spell does not say you have to see where the familiar is summoned, so you can have it show up on the other side of a wall, inside a building, or outside of a locked jail cell. You also communicate with it telepathically, letting you tell it to unlock a door, steal an item, or discover more information before dismissing it into the ether.

Thaumaturgy: Create a menacing effect for a minute or so, like loud noises, trembling ground, or brighter flames. Though typically used as part of an intimidation check, you can have some fun with that one. Cause a fire to flare in an enemy’s face. Drop a thunderclap in their ear. Slam a door shut when a foe tries to walk through it.

Polymorph: Turn any creature into another creature. Use it to turn the big bad into something easy to kill. It relies on a Wisdom saving throw, so a not-so-smart creature is your best target. It’s not as easy as smashing a giant demon you just turned into a chicken -- creatures revert to their original forms when reduced to 0 hit points. But everyone in the party can prepare extra spells and attacks as reactions for the moment the chicken turns back into a demon.

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How to use every item in December's Dungeon Crate

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It’s been a cold December, but thankfully we all have Dungeon Crate to warm us up.

And this month’s box was a hot one.

A special winter crate came into our mailboxes full of some awesome and exclusive items just for Dungeon Crate subscribers.

Every item is spectacular, and they’re ready to roll at your next game of Dungeons & Dragons or Pathfinder.

So what’s in this wonderful crate? Let’s dig in.

Hatching a Holiday Heist

It wouldn’t be the holidays without a special holiday-themed adventure by Kevin Coffey. In this adventure, the players join forces with an impetuous little goblin thief named Lawrence “Hotfoot” Gurgleson to, uh, steal some dragon eggs. From a nest. While the mother is away. What could go wrong?

Volcanic map tiles

Y’know that dragon lair from Hatching a Holiday Heist? Our pal at Dungeon Doodles made it a reality with these four epic map tales depicting the lair, which happens to be inside an active volcano. On the flip side is a dungeon, so these tiles are good to go for any kind of adventure.

Socks of Warming

Cold? Use these magical socks. Made specially for Dungeon Crate and covered in d20s, these epic socks will keep you warm. When you wear these socks, you should ask your GM for a +1 on all fire-related checks and attacks. We talked it over with them. They said it was cool.

Death Saves Counter

We can’t get enough of this premium item from 1980Who. Show off your new device to all your pals. If they’re jealous, feel free to closely observe their HP and villainously tick off their death save successes and failures.

Temple dragon miniature

We can’t get enough of this sculpt. It’s a beautiful one from Reaper miniatures. The dragon sits perched atop a plinth, menacingly awaiting your adventuring party. Give it some paint and drop it on the table. Or display it for your fellow gamers. It’s that good.

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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 deal with cheating at the D&D game table

It’s weird when people cheat at tabletop RPGs.

There’s no winner in D&D. It’s just some friends getting together to tell a great story and participate in a little adventure.

So why would someone fudge their die rolls or lie about their passive perception score?

It could be to feel heroic. Being the guy who finally took down that dragon with one huge fireball blast feels pretty cool. It could be for comedy. Sometimes, players purposefully drop their scores for comedic effect. And it could be an accident. Math suddenly becomes hard when you’re adding up 7d12 in front of a bunch of other people.

No matter the reason, nobody wants that sort of thing at their game table. It messes with the chance component that’s such a big part of tabletop RPGs.

So how do you deal with it?

Establish some rules about dice. If the die goes off the table, do you keep the roll or reroll? What if a die lands sideways against a book or a mini? Decide upfront how those sorts of things work so you don’t have players deciding that tilted die is a 14, rather than a 4.

Use community dice. It’s common with board games for there to be a pile of dice for everyone to use at the center of the table. You can do this with your Dungeons & Dragons games, too. That way everyone’s using the same dice and rolling in the middle of the table in front of everyone else.

Ask players to see their character sheets. If you’re suspicious of a cheating player as GM, this can help stop that. They’re less likely to mess with stats, abilities and scores if they know you’ll be checking their math. But this also serves another function: It’s important to know what the characters can do and what players are interested in, so you can challenge them and tailor the game to their abilities.

Make sure everyone knows how their modifiers work. This can be nefarious, but it can also be an innocent mistake. With all the modifiers and proficiency bonuses and pluses and minuses, it can occasionally be confusing to add all that stuff together just to figure out how high your character can jump.

Tell players the story goes on. If their players lose in battle, that doesn’t mean the campaign is over. Maybe instead of a straight TPK, they get captured instead. If a player’s character dies, make sure they know they can roll a new character to join the party. If players know the fun will continue, they might be less likely to cheat.

Play on a virtual tabletop. Using something like Roll20 or Fantasy Grounds makes it way harder to cheat. Everyone’s dice rolls are recorded, and their character sheets are built into the software. GMs can see everything that’s going on, and it reduces the likelihood of cheating or fudging.

Let it go. Sometimes, it’s an accident or unintentional. Just keep an eye on that person whose rolls always seem a little suspicious.

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How to give your D&D character a great backstory

Too often we see the same character backstories: The thief with a heart of gold. The last son of a noble house. The annoyingly heroic paladin. A dark elf with, ahem, two magical scimitars.

But we can do better, can’t we?

A character backstory is important, and a good one is even more so. It influences how you play your character, what their motivations are, and how they react to all kinds of situations (roleplaying and even combat, too!) when you’re playing games like D&D and Pathfinder.

So how do you come up with a good backstory?

We have some ideas.

Model your character after another character you really like. This can be a movie character or one from a book or comic. Whatever. If you dig their story, you can use it as a template to craft a new one.

Use a provided background or trait. D&D’s 5th edition has a load of backgrounds to help you create your character. They’re in the free basic rules, the Player’s Handbook, and almost every published adventure. If you’re playing Pathfinder, use the traits from adventure paths and other sources to craft a backstory. Though spelled-out backgrounds like those may seem limiting, they actually offer a lot of customization. And nothing says you can’t use them as the basis to create something new.

Start with an occupation. What is your character’s job? Most aren’t strictly adventurers or at least don’t start out that way. Ask where they work this job? How did they learn how to do it? Where did they come from? You’ll start racking up details fast.

Give your character a problem to solve. What are they seeking? Is there a mystery they’re after? What long lost question are they trying to solve? Once you figure out that they’re attempting to discover who murdered their grandfather, you can decide how else that motivates them.

If you’re playing an evil character, give them a reason to be evil. Evil and murder and plunder just for its own sake is rarely fun or interesting. Give them a patron or religion or some kind of force that guides their evil hand and makes them do the bad things they do.

Have your character live by a code. It’ll put your character firmly into the lawful side of the alignment chart, but having some kind of law, code, or set of rules by which they live may help you play out the character well. What is the code? Why do they follow it? Are they strict in abiding by the law? What would cause them to break the rules?

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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.