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Tangent

(she/her)
I want to share something silly that's kind of grown to have a life of its own in my campaign. Apologies in advance that there's just a lot to it...

Occasionally players can't make a session (we are all adults with spouses, kids, etc.) so I stole a device I saw on reddit to help hand-wave it. Basically, if a player can't make a session then at the start of that session a magical door opens up and a mysterious NPC invites their PC to sit out the session in a "waiting room." Simple enough, and mostly just a device to have a fictional excuse for why a PC isn't around. I decided to theme it so that the space on the other side of the door looks (to the players, if not the PCs) like a modern coffee shop plus bookstore.

Of course, part of the reason to use a device like that is that it gets your players wondering about the mystery. When a player had missed a session I would tell them that all their PC remembered was sitting and having a nice drink. One of my players wouldn't leave well enough alone (her PC was convinced the the coffee-shop-person was a god of some kind) and kept trying to pry. When she happened to get sick and miss a session, I had her roll a saving throw after the fact to see if she remembered anything. Of course she passed, so I had her RP the scene with me on a Discord.

Because the coffee-shop setup was a device to explain the absence of a player from the table, I decided that the woman who runs it (Aresh) should be aware of the players (not just the PCs) and be willing to break the fourth wall a bit in her conversations. She started that first scene by asking the PC how the player was doing (by name) and it all kind of built from there. Basically the scene played out as a kind of mix between a person sharing their troubles with the barkeep and a bit of a couch session (since the NPC knew things about the PC that she might be trying to avoid talking about in the campaign proper).

It went great, and the other players were kind of jealous, so I opened things up so that even if people didn't miss a session they could visit the coffee shop between sessions and talk to Aresh. My only rule was that the player had to feign illness in order to keep up the schtick, even if the NPC wasn't actually falling for it. The NPC kind of came across as a self-insert for me (not my intention, but oh well), so of course my wife's PC started to flirt with her.

That's all great, but like a lot of first-time DMs I also had my own plot ideas that I really wanted to get in front of the players a bit more forcefully.

Last session my players had reached a kind of oracle that could help them answer questions about their big-picture mission. To over-simplify (since this is already way too long) the players knew that they'd been selected by the five creator gods of the (homebrew) setting to try to save the world from Tiamat, who was amassing an undead army in the underworld/abyss of Ereshkagul with an intention to swarm the world of the living. Ho-hum standard fare.

What I decided to share with them was that there had actually been *six* creator gods, one of whom was Aresh, but for some reason she wasn't known/remembered any more. They pried a bit more and found out that (1) Aresh was killed at some point in pre-history, (2) the abyss Ereshkagul is more or less Aresh's remains in the mortal world, and (3) Tiamat in this setting isn't inherently evil, and is more just trying to get revenge for Aresh's death.

The players almost instantly all feigned illness so they could go into the coffee shop during a session and get answers from Aresh, the NPC they'd known for weeks. It was the most ridiculous level of overly-meta fourth-wall-breaking nonsense and I was loving it. I didn't give them too many answers because I *want* them to be a bit confused and try to figure out what is even going on, but I was pleased that they finally felt like they had some kind of personal stakes and interesting moral conflict in what had seemed (to them) like a bone-basic "save the world" campaign.
 
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Paul le Fou

24/7 lofi hip hop man to study/relax to
(He)
Patrick and Tangent, those are both very cool sessions/stories.

I, on the other hand, just finished a run of Rime of the Frostmaiden that probably omitted half the book and just kinda skimmed over most things we actually did. I don't know how much of it was the book and how much was the DM just not being very good at preparing or reading ahead or roleplaying or...... very much at all, frankly. I was on the verge of quitting for weeks, but it was my girlfriend's friends and I knew it would be ending soon. And the ending was particularly anticlimactic. It all just kind of went down like a wet fart.

Another game I'm in that is all homebrewed is ending soon too. That one was a lot more interesting, even if it was largely ad-hoc and got a little rushed towards the end, but I'm still enjoying it - a slow drip of interesting reveals, getting wrapped up in bigger things, and my swashbuckler/bladesinger dual class character is a lot of fun. But I'm going to be very happy to have 2 nights a week back, I was really getting burned out on D&D. Back down to one game I DM (also coming to a conclusion soon but we have different plans to keep playing) and one every-other-week that I've been in for several years now (even if it's slowed waaaaay down and lost focus a lot since switching to homebrew after we finished Curse of Strahd). I have some other character ideas I'd like to play, but I'm no longer in any rush to play them.

Now to find a game of Lancer somehow...
 

Sprite

(He/Him/His)
I’ve been getting the Nerds candy adventures and pre-rolled Nerds characters as part of this promo and I have to say, I’m very disappointed the Nerds characters don’t have racial abilities. They appear to be raceless. I would’ve given them a candy-themed version of Goodberry or something.
 

Paul le Fou

24/7 lofi hip hop man to study/relax to
(He)
After a year and three-quarters, my group finished Humblewood's printed book campaign. We've talked about it and, after a break, we're going to continue with our characters, first in a mix of published side-content and homebrewed stuff, and probably off into homebrew territory after that. Humblewood 2 is happening eventually, but who knows when? Could be forever.

So um... Who's run fully-homebrewed adventures/campaigns before, or played in really good ones, that can give me some advice here? Like, I have story ideas but I have no clue how exactly to act on them without just saying fuck it and going full on-the-spot improv.
 

Becksworth

Aging Hipster Dragon Dad
Honestly, you're better off just having story ideas and filling in the gaps with improv. My experience is players expect more freedom when not playing a published adventure, so trying to run things like one can backfire on you. Once you got them set on a direction you can start planning things out in more detail without worrying if they'll throw too many curveballs.

Considering it's pre-established characters there is also a good chance your players have some unfinished business and/or things they heard about they want to follow up on, so you might just want to start with giving them the chance to talk amongst themselves about where to go next and see what they come up for you to work off of.
 

Patrick

Magic-User
(He/Him)
I’ve been running fully improvised campaigns since 2015, except for a brief run of The Curse of Strahd. I agree with Becksworth that you can’t run things like pre-written adventures. You can’t write a story, and you can’t assume that players will follow any given hooks. Still, it’s super helpful to have a lot of stuff written down for what you think might happen.

First of all, I always have a list of names somewhere easy to find. The worst thing is when the players ask someone their name and you have to stop to think of one. It just takes everyone out of the fiction. If you have time, come up with some thematic names for your setting, and have some for Dwarves, Elves, Monsterfolk, and whatever kinds of groups your players might run in to.

Second, it’s nice to have some lists of common items someone might be carrying, plus treasure & magic items. Some players like to loot enemies, and coming up with that stuff on the spot can be tough. You can draw from that list to add items to locations on the fly too. And if enemies have a magic item, let them use it in battle.

Names & items do a ton to add character to the game, and if you have them ready ahead of time it really makes you seem like you thought through everything. Take some time to come up with weird & unique stuff.

After names & items, the most important thing is coming up with a setting & some factions. If you want to keep it simple, a town with some adventure sites nearby works. Factions could be groups or a single creature. The main thing is to give them motivations. You can’t assume that players will follow your story, but if you know what the NPCs want it’s easy to decide how they react to the party in the moment.

Finally, you need some sort of map (dyson logos has a ton of high quality maps for free), and enemies (whatever feels right to you). If you have a good setting & factions with motivations, this is the easiest part. I spend like 20 minutes each week working on this stuff before a session. I like to have a few generic caves & dungeons ready that I can throw in wherever. Other times I’ll know that the players want to go to a certain place & I’ll spend more time getting it ready.

Generally the NPCs motivations and the party’s decisions drive things. And in a worst case scenario, you can always just let your players know that you didn’t prepare for whatever is happening & ask for a few minute break. They’re your friends and they’re here for a fun game so they will be super forgiving.
 

Mogri

Round and round I go
(he)
Staff member
Moderator
It can also be helpful to tell them at the end of the session, "Next time, the party will have to choose what to do about X. What is the party going to want to do?" This lets them retain their agency while allowing you to actually plan.
 

Olli

(he/him)
Also, you can make some content that is adjustable enough so that you can reuse it in another context. If not immediately, then a bit later.
 

Paul le Fou

24/7 lofi hip hop man to study/relax to
(He)
Good advice all-around, thanks. Also makes me feel much better about going into it - my biggest concern about running homebrew stuff is its taking more time and effort than running from a book, and I think leaning on the players and on improv can help mitigate a lot of that.

I think the big question marks left for me are the things that will usually require a bit more preparation and really benefit from having a book to run out of, like dungeons/maps and combat encounters - coming up with fights that are appropriate (not pointlessly easy or grindingly hard ((unless the situation calls for that)), but also not samey and monotonous. Encounters that are about more than "kill everything," are against an interesting variety of enemies, or take place in an interesting setting or some other twist, stuff like that. Not every encounter has to be like that, to be sure, but I still want a way to shake things up now and then without having to railroad them into an encounter just because I spent so much time planning it/not use an encounter I spent so much time planning because they didn't end up going with that.

I guess an obvious answer which comes to me as I type this is to plan the bigger/cooler encounters for things like climactic episodes or things we're directly set up to do next week. Like "We're going to storm the hideout," then I can spend time planning a bigger/more interesting hideout encounter. Or a boss fight that we've been leading to for a while. Or find a way for the story to lead naturally to the ruins I planned an encounter at, rather than say "Don't go to the cave, go to the ruins." OR, plan more interesting random encounters than I can slot in anywhere - running into X monster in the wilderness, etc. (We already do a medium-light amount of travel/random encounter stuff when appropriate, or at least have done so far, so this wouldn't feel shoehorned in). All of that seems very doable and not so demanding.

The last thing would be advice for throwing together less-complex/less-premeditated encounters on the fly and still making them interesting. Like if there are CR calculator tools or things for Roll20 et al that help with that. I think my thing is that my knowledge of the monster manual isn't super deep so I'm not as confident that I can dig deep enough to get some interesting monsters to fight. And/or how to throw together a new monster on my own.
 

Becksworth

Aging Hipster Dragon Dad
For creating new monsters, a good shortcut would be just to find an appropriate stat block in the monster manual and use that as a base, then tweak as appropriate. You can get away with lots of small changes to things like damage types, monster types, etc. without significantly altering the overall CR, and your players won't likely notice your clockwork gnome army is just reskinned goblins for example.
 

Patrick

Magic-User
(He/Him)
This is the best encounter building cheat sheet I’ve found:

Sly Flourish encounter builder
Edit- the link isn’t working for me, so here it is:
https://slyflourish_content.s3.us-east-1.amazonaws.com/5e_encounter_building.pdf

Each row represents your party’s level, and looking across it shows how many enemies you should include for a given CR. Following this exactly came up with fights that were too easy for my group, so I usually looked a couple of rows below their level. The nice thing about this chart is that it’s dead simple and consistent. It’s a very quick way to get rough estimates for difficulty. Once you have a good idea of what your party can handle you can come up with new encounters on the spot.

Getting more interesting encounters comes down to giving the monsters interesting motivations. Have something they’re protecting or trying to get. Don’t have every monster fight to the death. Also, add interesting terrain. Cliffs, things to climb on, moving parts, secret doors, etc. make fights more interesting.

Reskinning stuff from the Monster Manual is definitely the way to go for unique stuff.

And you can put some more time into creating a cool location for a big setpiece dungeon. Just don’t have that be the only thing you prepare. Your party may not go there right away or at all, so it’s better to have options.
 

Bulgakov

Yes, that Russian author.
(He/Him)
The last thing would be advice for throwing together less-complex/less-premeditated encounters on the fly and still making them interesting. Like if there are CR calculator tools or things for Roll20 et al that help with that. I think my thing is that my knowledge of the monster manual isn't super deep so I'm not as confident that I can dig deep enough to get some interesting monsters to fight. And/or how to throw together a new monster on my own.

  • Have a couple recurring mini-boss/boss level NPCs created with a few henchmen. Pre-set up situations where the miniboss starts in the fight but leaves after 2-3 rounds for reasons (a bomb's going to go off, their sneaky plan was countered by the PCs and they're scampering away for failure, they're absconding with the loot that the PCs happened upon them acquiring, etc.). Have a few of these encounters ready in your back pocket and you can always run them if the opportunity presents itself. Escalate the encounters each time the PCs encounter the same miniboss until you're ready to have it be a true fight to the death.

  • Find a grouping of one creature in your setting for each PC that that prospective PC will have a hard time with (E.G. a wight for a fighter, a regenerative tank for a wizard, a group of 6 zombies for a rogue). Figure out a reason these creatures would be in the same place at the same time, and then let the PCs figure out how to compensate for one another's weaknesses.

  • Run a scenario where a condition has to be met before some or all of the enemies take damage (a barrier that archers are hiding behind must be destroyed or navigated around, it might be possible to cause a rockslide if you can get to the top of chasm, the ship needs to raise anchor before it can escape, etc.). Just having a list of alternate win conditions ready for your encounter can make them feel much more dynamic.

  • Take the time to make one or two unique, iconic, gimmicky monsters for your setting. After the characters have 1-2 good encounters with them, start hitting them with variations of that monster they haven't seen before. The fun is in the players wondering how you're going to mess with them next, and you get to adapt the creature to their strategies.

  • Have a standby encounter with one easily-dispatched group of foes and a single foe that would be a more even match if the easily dispatched foes weren't gumming up the works. It is very easy to kill off the easily dispatched faster or lower the hitpoints of the big monster behind the DM screen if the encounter is proving too difficult.

  • If you are using a "World map" or have specific locations your characters will visit know what possible natural hazards or monsters are in each zone/location in advance. Know what they would be doing if going about their normal business (hunting, farming, mining, searching for the PCs, etc.). You can either pre-plan groups or roll a number of enemies to appear when you need an encounter. It's the responsibility of the players to know if they need to retreat!

  • Give one member of an otherwise normal grunt-level encounter a ridiculous magic weapon that they have no business having. It turns the tide of battle, but it's hard for the grunt to use either because of stat block issues or because they found a half-broken version of the thing and are making the best of a bad situation. Once or twice in the encounter it'll go off and freak out the players, and it will also surprise them in what they thought would be a run-of-the-mill event.
Hope that helps!
 

Becksworth

Aging Hipster Dragon Dad
One word of warning with recurring boss villains is be prepared for the possibility that players will completely focus on the boss characters and go to borderline suicidal extremes to try and kill them before they can escape. Many systems have specifically introduced mechanics were players are rewarded with metanarrative rewards like hero/fate points and the like just to go with the flow and accept that the GM wants to use this character again. It's that common of an issue.
 

Paul le Fou

24/7 lofi hip hop man to study/relax to
(He)
Yeah, I've definitely had some close calls with players getting a bit too close for comfort to an escaping NPC that was kinda key to later developments (but at least Humblewood did include several NPCs' worth of "if so-and-so is dead" for a good chunk of the campaign as written, which is always a good idea).
 

Torzelbaum

????? LV 13 HP 292/ 292
(he, him, his)
One word of warning with recurring boss villains is be prepared for the possibility that players will completely focus on the boss characters and go to borderline suicidal extremes to try and kill them before they can escape. Many systems have specifically introduced mechanics were players are rewarded with metanarrative rewards like hero/fate points and the like just to go with the flow and accept that the GM wants to use this character again. It's that common of an issue.
Because there is nothing more infuriating than a slippery villain.
 

Paul le Fou

24/7 lofi hip hop man to study/relax to
(He)
This is the best encounter building cheat sheet I’ve found:

Sly Flourish encounter builder
Edit- the link isn’t working for me, so here it is:
https://slyflourish_content.s3.us-east-1.amazonaws.com/5e_encounter_building.pdf

Each row represents your party’s level, and looking across it shows how many enemies you should include for a given CR. Following this exactly came up with fights that were too easy for my group, so I usually looked a couple of rows below their level. The nice thing about this chart is that it’s dead simple and consistent. It’s a very quick way to get rough estimates for difficulty. Once you have a good idea of what your party can handle you can come up with new encounters on the spot.

Getting more interesting encounters comes down to giving the monsters interesting motivations. Have something they’re protecting or trying to get. Don’t have every monster fight to the death. Also, add interesting terrain. Cliffs, things to climb on, moving parts, secret doors, etc. make fights more interesting.

Reskinning stuff from the Monster Manual is definitely the way to go for unique stuff.

And you can put some more time into creating a cool location for a big setpiece dungeon. Just don’t have that be the only thing you prepare. Your party may not go there right away or at all, so it’s better to have options.
The bolded part makes sense to me. I've found that combat in 5e at "expected" levels is, frankly, really easy. In Humblewood part of it was that, like many unofficial/homebrew things, the spells and items were a bit stronger than they "should" have been, but even in other totally-standard games I've been a player in, the balance is definitely on the side of the players. Which is fine and good, to a point! Some DMs like their players to be constantly on the brink of death, or adhere to the old "combat should be very deadly and only a last resort" idea. (I think that's a great idea which falls apart instantly with D&D because it is very much a combat/adventure game with meagre and unrewarding roleplaying mechanics grafted sloppily onto it, but I digress.) I think combat should be fun, ultimately. Stuff that's too difficult or too limiting can just get frustrating. But also, when combat is too easy it just starts feeling like a pointless waste of everyone's time, not only because the outcome is a foregone conclusion but because you don't even get time or opportunity to use your cool powerful stuff. Nothing is worse than setting up your raging druid bearbarian with a turn or two of setting up your shift and rage only for the encounter to end before you get to dive in.

I try to balance my encounters so that:
-Players feel useful and powerful. Characters can, if they wish, go nova and unload all their powerful features, or tease them out and use them strategically; and either way play an active and significant role in the battle and feel rewarded for doing so. 5e is pretty good about all of its classes and options being powerful and useful in at least a couple situations (and it's fine to have one where the rogue is a little less useful than the wizard as long as there are times the rogue gets to be more useful than the wizard too, and those times are roughly equal; just like Bulgakov mentioned with situations each character struggles with). This also speaks to stuff like enemies with, let's say, anti-magic fields or crazy high save rolls. Being the only caster against a monster with legendary saves or enemies with counterspell really blows, especially if the fighters don't also have something else impeding them like that. If it's a one-off fight, it's part of the balance, but if your one-caster party hits a mage-proof boss fight at a critical moment, that's just not going to feel good for the sorcerer.*
-Everyone has the opportunity to do so. So one person going nova will have a big effect, and know that they definitely contributed, but not end the encounter immediately or trivialize the rest of it. Also that nobody has to go an entire encounter being useful; if it's nothing but lots of zombies the rogue will just get bored and combat will feel pointless, but if they have something else to do while the mages handle the AOE mobs, all is well.
-Those both apply to the DM too, albeit at a lower priority than the players. Having my players absolutely stomp my encounter without even a hint of risk or the slightest chance of turnabout doesn't feel any better than having my DM absolutely stomp my party without a chance. A DM enables and guides their players' adventure much more than the players are there to enable the DM's. But at the end of the day, the DM is also a player in the larger game and should be having fun. It's just important to keep in mind that their fun cannot come at the expense of the players'.
-Players in combat are presented with an actual threat they can't just completely ignore. I'd never aim for a TPK (unless, like, the level 1s insist on challenging the ancient dragon (and even then I'd find more interesting consequences than "well, you all died")). But if one or two characters get knocked down throughout battle, I call that a win from a fight-design perspective. I don't relish tormenting my players (ok maybe just a tiny bit), I just want the party to sweat a little; that sense of urgency and danger draws you in and keeps you engaged, and also makes you think about options and strategies that you might not otherwise ever need to. The failure of that is "OK, I attack twice with my bow again. Hit, miss. Welp, brb getting a drink, see you in 45 minutes for my next turn."



*This is also why I hate D&D's inherent hit/miss or save/suck mechanics, because you're faced with "here's my big moment, I'm turning the tide of battle! Oops actually literally nothing happened and I wasted my one shot." Especially for low-level characters, who have so few of those powerful options to begin with and even fewer ways to ensure they're used effectively. Later on, fighters get multiple attacks and casters get more spell slots, and everyone gets ways to mitigate risk or failure and bonuses to what they can do. That's also why I don't think I'll ever run a game below a starting level of 5 again if I have my druthers; 3 at the absolute minimum. I'll never run or play levels 1 or 2 again, unless I'm with more than one beginner. (And I'll still grumble about it to myself.)
 

Dracula

Plastic Vampire
(He/His)
I typically run homebrew.

My best advice (and this comes from sly flourish's excellent Lazy GM book) is to always review your player characters before writing your prep. Design stuff that is tied to their backgrounds or interacts well with their builds. Know what your players like and use it to tailor the adventure to them.
 

Mogri

Round and round I go
(he)
Staff member
Moderator
Yeah, it's a great idea to take inspiration from players' backstories for your major plot beats.
 

Paul le Fou

24/7 lofi hip hop man to study/relax to
(He)
Yup, the first branch I managed to work in a bunch of stuff with one character's backstory, which was easy enough because he came from the main city we spent a lot of time in. Two other characters are from other countries entirely, but luckily there's a big port city on the map that we didn't visit in the main campaign and elements in their backstories that make for easy tie-ins. The fourth character is from the edges of the forest we've been in this whole time, and I managed to tie in a one-off reference to the missing grandmother she's looking for, but I'm still not entirely sure how to tie her story in (the hook I thought I had for the first arc ended up going a completely different way, and now I have an idea but it's on a much bigger scale than the other two characters' save for one tenuous conceptual similarity, so I'm still working out how to make that happen).
 

Adrenaline

Post Reader
(He/Him)
When I'm planning the next session of a homebrew campaign I try to plan enough that I can comfortably run the game for the few hours that it will take, without getting so specific that that effort will feel wasted if the players do something or go somewhere you don't expect (which they probably will). Improv skill is definitely useful, but at least for me that's not as difficult as it seems. If you have a good idea in your head of what the world is like and specifically what the place where the characters are is like, then you can usually come up with something that seems reasonable. Having a list of names of important places and people is good. Also it's good to know at the end of the session what the players are likely to pursue in the next session. If you don't know you can ask.
 

Dracula

Plastic Vampire
(He/His)
Another quick tip, regarding important plot threads, secrets, clues, etc., is to write them independently of NPC or location. That way if (when) your players get "off-track," you can always slip the important details in wherever they end up.
 

Patrick

Magic-User
(He/Him)
We hadn’t played D&D for a couple of months due to a bunch of IRL factors, but I ran an adventure last night that was a ton of fun. I threw it together at the last minute, so it was very rough around the edges.

Basically, the party accidentally teleported to a cave in the shadowfell that was full of various skeletons, and they had to find their way out. I played the skeletons as goofy and mostly uninterested in the party. Some were playing chess or napping, and they all kind of had their own thing going on.

They were able to explore a bit and gather hints and finally made their way to the boss room. It was full of skeletons doing various tasks (piling up and organizing bones, filling buckets with ichor, emptying buckets of ichor, moving bones from one pile to another, etc.) The Warlock used disguise self to look like a skeleton, the Ranger constructed a crude costume out of spare bones & dust, and they turned the rest of the party invisible. We had a lot of fun with them sneaking around & trying to figure out what was going on while helping with various tasks & pretending like they knew what they were doing. They mostly avoided the boss, Boneclaw, but they eventually decided to try to charm him. Boneclaws are immune to charm though, so it turned into a big chaotic fight.

They were doing pretty well until Boneclaw grappled the Fighter, teleported across the room, and dumped her in a river of ichor. But, the Druid countered by turning into a dinosaur and ate Boneclaw while the Warlock pulled the fighter out using levitation boots. Apparently eating the boss was the key to escaping, because a portal appeared and they all dove through it, ending the session.
 

Paul le Fou

24/7 lofi hip hop man to study/relax to
(He)
To fill in a break before we start the second arc of Humblewood, one of my players is taking a turn DMing and he's running Genefunk 2090, a pretty comprehensive retool of 5e into a bio-punk future setting, and so far it's pretty sweet.

~The "races" are all genotypes, some of them strange-looking or even monstrous-looking, genetically engineered specifically for some purpose or other.
~The six ability scores are the same but skills have been added and subtracted to match the setting - skills like computers, mechanics, driving, and streetwise join renamed ones like Life Science and classics like athletics and stealth.

~The power levels have been cranked up; genomes give you way more features and some of them get what one would call pretty broken in regular 5e, like just one might give you +4 strength, +2 con, +2 dex, and increase your strength and con maximums by 4 and 2 respectively, stuff like that. There's also an interesting one (which I took) where one of the few "unaltered human" genomes is a veteran; their biggest class feature is being one level higher than normal characters at their experience level, while they also have two backgrounds and get a use-it-or-lose-it cash infusion to build their character with. Weapons do more damage, especially guns; but also, armor has higher AC and some has innate damage reduction, and everyone has more HP. I'm still waiting to see how this plays out in application, whether it breaks everything or works as intended, but I really like the concept for reasons I can (and probably will) ramble about in-depth later.

~Guns are a pretty big thing, not surprisingly, and come in different types, with mechanics for ammo (including special types), recoil, auto-fire and more; a whole class is built around them.

~The classic D&D classes have kind of been thrown into a blender and rebuilt from that, so there isn't a one-to-one match of "this is the paladin, this is the barbarian, this is the rogue, this is the monk..." - there are fewer classes overall, I think, and each one is recognizably built from familiar 5e class features, but often remixed into something unique. So like, the Samurai has elements of monk and some fighter features; the Hardcase is a Barbarian/fighter/monk mashup, with subclasses taking it farther one direction or the other; the Face is kind of a bard/warlock mix; "metamagic" exists for one subclass of one of the hacking types but there isn't one class you'd say is a sorcerer.

~Magic is "hacking," be it bio-hacking, mind-hacking, mechanical, computer, or others, and it only goes to 5th-level. While a lot of familiar spells have clear analogs or direct transplants, there's also a lot of new stuff specific to the setting.

~There's new stuff for e.g. body upgrades and modifications

and so on. I've been wanting to try different games, but at least one of my players didn't think they'd be up for learning an entirely new system, but this manages a happy medium of still definitely being D&D 5e, but with a comprehensive reskin, so it's new and exciting. I of course went with a gunfighter (subclass of "boomstick operator" i.e. shotgun specialist, though the sniper one looked interesting too, and the pistol- and machine gun-specific subclasses are neat too) since it's the least familiar to any of the regular/familiar playstyles (maybe).
 

Patrick

Magic-User
(He/Him)
That sounds like a fun game, Paul. Let us know how it goes.

I'm preparing The Caverns of Thracia for Basic D&D once we finish our current campaign (I think we have about 3 sessions to go). I'm hoping to get at least a few sessions out of it, depending on how tolerant my group is of old D&D. I'll be happy if they explore at least some of the second level and find some of the weirder stuff going on. And one of my players is preparing to DM a full campaign in 5e after that.

I've been working on my character for that campaign. My plan is to make a spellblade style fencer. I'm going mostly College of Swords Bard, with a level of Divine Soul Sorcerer at second level. I feel like Green Flame Blade, Firebolt, Sacred Flame, Control Flames, and Absorb Elements would fit my image of a spellblade better than going straight Bard. Plus, Favored by the Gods would give me an extra 2d4 to one saving throw per short rest, which will come in handy for concentration while in melee. And I would get a couple of extra first level spells. I'll get the Dueling fighting style, Sword Flourishes, and a second attack from College of Swords, and I'm going to take variant human to pick the Defensive Duelist feat. Green Flame Blade doesn't mesh with the Flourishes or the second attack, but I like having options and I don't think 5e characters need to be 100% optimized anyway.

My character was previously a very talented and well-known fencer, but he was injured in a fire and lost mobility in his dominant hand, and also has a limp from jumping out of a window to escape the flames. He's re-learning how to fight using his non-dominant hand, and has been studying magic to help him catch up more quickly. He has become obsessed with controlling fire (hence the Sorcerer spells). He hides his rapier in a cane and doesn't advertise his ability to fight or cast spells unless necessary. In combat he uses a lot of flashy sword moves and incorporates fire in his attacks, and out of combat he has a ton of low key manipulative magic from the Bard spell list.
 

Paul le Fou

24/7 lofi hip hop man to study/relax to
(He)
Allow me to sing the praises of Booming Blade for a spellblade. GFB is great for multiple targets, but Booming Blade excels against single targets. Looks like college of swords doesn't get free disengage, but they do get a shove, which would work well with getting a target to move and trigger the boom without exposing yourself to AoOs. Although the AC buff can help with an AoO and further attacks until your next turn (if it works like shield, which I think it does...?) Not that you need to optimize of course, but the spellblades I've played have all ended up giving booming blade heavy use as a staple cantrip.
 

Dracula

Plastic Vampire
(He/His)
I'm preparing The Caverns of Thracia for Basic D&D once we finish our current campaign (I think we have about 3 sessions to go). I'm hoping to get at least a few sessions out of it, depending on how tolerant my group is of old D&D. I'll be happy if they explore at least some of the second level and find some of the weirder stuff going on. And one of my players is preparing to DM a full campaign in 5e after that.

Oh neat! I downloaded and read some of Thracia years ago. I love megadungeon modules and this one provided me some inspiration for the one I've been working on for ages. And basic D&D is a lot of fun if your players are all on the same page in terms of how it works. Hope you enjoy it!
 

Patrick

Magic-User
(He/Him)
Allow me to sing the praises of Booming Blade for a spellblade. GFB is great for multiple targets, but Booming Blade excels against single targets. Looks like college of swords doesn't get free disengage, but they do get a shove, which would work well with getting a target to move and trigger the boom without exposing yourself to AoOs. Although the AC buff can help with an AoO and further attacks until your next turn (if it works like shield, which I think it does...?) Not that you need to optimize of course, but the spellblades I've played have all ended up giving booming blade heavy use as a staple cantrip.
Unfortunately, you can only trigger the Sword Flourishes with an attack action, and Booming Blade counts as a spell. That would be a slick combo if it worked though. The rest of my party is not going to be optimized at all anyway, so I feel like I have a lot of leeway to build for flavor.
Oh neat! I downloaded and read some of Thracia years ago. I love megadungeon modules and this one provided me some inspiration for the one I've been working on for ages. And basic D&D is a lot of fun if your players are all on the same page in terms of how it works. Hope you enjoy it!
Thanks! I'm going to use basic encumbrance (speed is based on your armor, then gets slower if you're carrying a bunch of treasure), and I'm planning to track time. Otherwise it's pretty similar to 5e but with fewer abilities. I'm not sure if they'll take to it, but at least a few of them are interested in seeing what old D&D was like.
 

Kirin

Summon for hire
(he/him)
I haven't played around with D&D in ages, but was just skimming the thread and that spellblade build seems like a lot of fun!
 

Jeanie

(Fem or Gender Neutral)
Allow me to sing the praises of Booming Blade for a spellblade. GFB is great for multiple targets, but Booming Blade excels against single targets. Looks like college of swords doesn't get free disengage, but they do get a shove, which would work well with getting a target to move and trigger the boom without exposing yourself to AoOs. Although the AC buff can help with an AoO and further attacks until your next turn (if it works like shield, which I think it does...?) Not that you need to optimize of course, but the spellblades I've played have all ended up giving booming blade heavy use as a staple cantrip.

Unfortunately, you can only trigger the Sword Flourishes with an attack action, and Booming Blade counts as a spell. That would be a slick combo if it worked though. The rest of my party is not going to be optimized at all anyway, so I feel like I have a lot of leeway to build for flavor
My Dao Genie Warlock loves the heck out of BB if an enemy gets too near. I can use the Crusher feat to push them back and then skedaddle back out of range, so they have the choice of pursuing and trigger the extra damage or stay there and I blast them with Eldritch Blast and then move them even further back.
 
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