• Justin Handlin

Anatomy of a D&D Campaign

Updated: Jan 21, 2020

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Crit Nation, thanks for joining us today here at the “Crit Academy” studios where everything is made up and your rolls don’t matter. Yup, that’s right; your rolls are like a stealth rogue trying to hide in an open field.

Give Away: Loresmyth: Modular Dungeon Tiles - Arcania

Modular dungeon tiles are an easy way to create your own beautiful digital maps. The Arcania lets you make dark, shadowy dungeon map, rich with the fumes of arcane secrets.

Winner: taulover55

Didn’t win? Np, head to www.critacademy.com/loresmyth a free set of digital terrain and much more.

Segment 2: Crit Nation Feedback: Let’s talk about Blank! (Answer questions!)

Amazon leaks new D&D book!

The upcoming Dungeons & Dragons campaign settings book entitled Explorer's Guide to Wildemount was announced earlier this week, and it will allow you explore the world of Critical Role beginning on March 17th. However, you'll want to book your ticket early because the book probably isn't going to get any cheaper in pre-order than it is right now.

Segment 3: Main Topic: Anatomy of a D&D Campaign - Christian Hoffer Author on Comicbook.com!

Find Christian on Twitter: @CHofferCBus

Christian, can you tell us a little bit about yourself?

Is writing for Comicbook.com a full time job?

What is your most memorable D&D moment?

Do you have any moment where you failed as a DM/Player?

Anatomy of a D&D Campaign:

Anatomy of a D&D Campaign is a week-by-week look at the planning of Dungeons & Dragons sessions. While D&D 101 looks at broader topics, Anatomy of a D&D Campaign will dig a little deeper into technical elements, with discussions about encounter design, crafting unique monsters, and handling unique challenges that come up at the table.

“group agreed to focus on a smaller, story-driven campaign, one that didn’t necessarily involve a lot of sandbox exploration.”

This sounds a lot like they wanted their game to be more on rails.

"but I pointed out that evil campaigns often fizzle out as “being evil” isn’t much of a motivation for a good storyline"

Why do you think that is?

"We tossed around a few ideas – maybe someone had imprisoned the god of death.."

This is interesting, it sounds as if you worked with your group to build the overall story plot, is that correct? This is interesting, can you tell us more about this sort of campaign building?

"they needed to free their dragon god within three months to save the world from a threat of Krona’s making."

I love that there is a time limit here, seems to push urgency, can you tell us more about this decision?

"I decided to quickly build a small setting from scratch,"

Why not choose an existing world such as Ravnic? Can you walk us through your worldbuilding process?

"When I said that the island was the size of the big island of Hawaii, my players immediately assumed that it had a dormant volcano and lush jungles, so I quickly scratched out my original plan"

I love this, you seem to actively alter your story and campaign setting to what your players suggest. What led to this sort of DMing style?

Let us know what design and planning elements you want to see discussed, find Christian on Twitter at @CHofferCBus to talk all things D&D!

Christian's Pokemon Podcast: A wild podcast has appeared.

Give Away: Jeff Stevens: Encounters on the Savage Seas II!

Revolutionize your game with this collection 16 mini-adventures and includes NPCs, locations, new creatures, and magic items to add to your nautical adventures.

Winner: ricks.john

Didn’t win? Np, head to www.critacademy.com/jeffstevens to get Encounters on the Savage Seas III Free

Unearthed Tips and Tricks: New and reusable D&D content for you to bring with you on your next adventure.

Character Concept:


“My enemies must pay for their crimes, and the only payment I will accept is in blood.”

Evil emerges from the darkness to devour the innocent. Only those with courageous souls stand against their machinations. Helping heal and rebuild the lives of the innocent. For bloodsworn, though, guarding against wickedness is not enough. They insist on taking the fight to their foe in a quest to destroy them all, no exceptions.

The darkness of evil is what brings a bloodsworn into existence. Some terrible event sows the seeds of vengeance in an individual’s heart, goading them to take up sword and spell to fight back against evil. Often, bloodsworn are survivors of slaughters, whether from raiding orcs, a dark cult’s sacrifices, or a dragon attack. Swearing bitter vows to the gods or to their dead comrades, bloodsworn travel a path of righteous vengeance.

Monster Variant:


Phane a creatures consisting of coalescent mists. While from its torso up it resembles a shadow like humanoid, its lower half is similar to that of a panther. It’s coalescing mist ripples around it, as if it can barely hold its form together. Native to the Astral Sea. They use their ability to manipulate time to sow the seeds of chaos across the cosmos.


A character knows the following information with a successful Intelligence(Arcana or Religion) check.

DC 16. Phanes are native to the Astral Sea, but can be found all across the cosmos as they often form pacts with more powerful beings who share their destructive nature. They are a difficult foe to deal with, as it is believed they can manipulate the very fabric of time itself.

DC 25. Phanes prefer to fight from a distance. Slowing their foes with magical blast of energy that alter’s time around them, weakening them before going in for the final blow. Their ability to cast spells such as slow and haste make them terrifying enemies.

Origin: Death Slaad

Lost Features: Telepathy, Shapechanger, Regeneration, Bite, Greatsword and its current spell list.

New Features:

Spell list:

At Will: blade ward, ray of sickness true strike,

2/day each: Haste, Ray of Enfeeblement, Slow

1/day each: cloudkill, plane shift

Claws become Temporal Touch. Melee Weapon Attack: +9 to hit, reach 5ft., one target. It: 10 (1d10+5) slashing damage plu 7 (2d6) necrotic damage. The target must succeed a DC 15 Constitution saving throw or its movement speed is halved until the end of the phane’s next turn and it can’t take reactions until the start of its next turn.

The phane can take 3 legendary actions, choosing from the options below. Only one legendary action option can be used at a time and only at the end of another creature’s turn. The phane regains spent legendary actions at the start of its turn.

Temporal Touch. The phane makes one temporal touch attack.

Cast a Spell(Costs 2 Actions). The phane casts a spell from its list of prepared spells, using a spell slot as normal.



Merchant vessels setting sale from ports in the kingdom, have been disappearing before arriving at their destination. While this isn’t completely unheard of, the number of vessels has ticked up to nearly double in recent months. As the party’s investigation continues, they learn that the majority of the vessels that have gone missing, all seem to be hauling slaves. as their primary merchandise. Once the PC’s follow or join the slave trader vessel, they are attacked by Vampire Pirates while at sea in complete darkness.

The PC’s learn that this nest of Vampires avoids deadly adventurers by taking out slave trader ships, which they themselves are likely to avoid adventurers. With the collection of slaves, it allows the nest to feed for months. The recent uptick is that there is a new leader of the nest, one with a much stronger thirst, so he has ordered his spotters to mark twice as many ships to feed his hunger.

Magic Item:

Star of the Astral Sea


This large sapphire pendant glows when an ally is near death, allowing you to transfer for own life force to rejuvenate them.

This necklace has 3 charges and regains 1d4 expended charges daily at dawn. You can use an action to expend a number of Hit Dice up to your Constitution modifier, when you do, a creature with less than half their maximum hit points can immediately gain a number of hit points equal to half the number rolled plus your constitution modifier. A creature cannot gain this benefit again until they finish a short or long rest.

Dungeon Master Tip:

The Inciting Incident

“An inciting incident is the pebble that brings on the avalanche: that moment in a play or movie that if it didn’t happen, the rest of the story would never occur. It’s not always the first scene in the play, but it can be. It’s an important moment that drives the rest of the story into high gear and sets the central conflict into motion. The inciting incident is hard to quantify. It’s worth trying. Understanding the nature of the inciting incident can give the DM a powerful sense of how to introduce conflicts and storylines to a regular weekly game.”

Use Vampirates as example.

The Kobold Guide to Game Design: Volume I

Player Tip: Don't be a Dick! You can avoid dickitude by...

Don’t Check Everything!

Many players like to poke the floor with a ten-foot pole as they move through the hall and check every door for traps. Better safe than sorry!

This cliché often ignores the additional risk that it should be creating. If you’ve got your head

down and are moving at a crawl, you’re giving enemies more time to rally their forces and set up ambushes or surround you. If you’re too busy tinkering with a door for several minutes, you won’t surprise anything lurking on the other side, more likely, they will have readied actions, waiting for the door to swing open. But, more than anything, it’s boring. It’s no fun for the group or the DM. You’ll use your time more profitably by checking only in likely spots.

Closing: Please join us on our next episode we will be discussing the Flow of Combat with Popular DnD Youtuber Zipperon Disney

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I am your host Justin and I am your guest(name). Thanks for listening.

Keep your blades sharp and spells prepared heroes!

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