• Justin Handlin

Being a Dungeon Master



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Crit Academy discusses the art of being the Dungeon Master or DM in a Dungeons and Dragons game. We believe that being a DM is one of the best jobs in the game. You get to take on many different roles, this includes building the world, playing the NPC's, running the monsters and assisting the players in their D&D/RPG experience.


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


Character Concept:

Depressed Medic

Most people imagine a healer as being an altruistic, friendly cleric who is always looking

for the best in people. What if, instead, they follow their own definitions of good and evil

and only help or aid people that they feel are truly worthy?


This character was once a combat medic, but he was discharged from the military when

it was discovered he suffered from severe depression. After his discharge, he began seeing

evil everywhere, and he took up a mighty maul and vowed to rid the world of evil wherever he saw it. If he caught a thief, he’d break a hand or two so they couldn’t thieve again. Not everyone agrees with his methods, so he’s not always welcome in every party.


Encounter Concept:

The Chaotic Escort

For this encounter, the players’ goal is to protect and deliver an individual with an unexpected chaotic power: a wild magic surge that occurs at inopportune moments. The

individual themselves can be pretty much anything, but you want them to be something

unassuming and ordinary: like a young child or an inexperienced noble. The catch is, whenever they get stressed - like, say, when bandits attack or if a sudden storm makes the road hazardous - their innate uncontrollable magic takes effect.


Whenever something triggers it, roll on the Wild Magic Surge table from the Sorcerer class

description. An otherwise straightforward encounter with some bandits might become just

a bit harder when the escort suddenly engulfs themselves in a fireball or randomly teleports

to and from the Astral Plane.


Magic Item:

Sensu Beads

Wondrous, Rare

The Sensu Beads are a magic item that can store and channel healing spells. At any point,

a spellcaster with the Cure Wounds or Healing Word spells prepared can expend a spell slot

of 1st, 2nd, or 3rd level to cast the healing spells into a bead. At any point thereafter, any

character may spend an action to cast the stored spell from the item, casting it at the level of the spell slot cast into it.


A bead can only carry one spell at a time, and once the stored spell is cast the bead will be free to store another spell.


DM Tips:

Fighting Smart and Dumb

Let me ask a question: how often do your players run away from combat?

Probably not very often. Escape may not always be an option but chances are your players

probably never run away because they’re used to monsters always being an appropriately-levelled challenge for their party. While this isn’t a problem in and of itself, it can engender an attitude within your players that will make them feel like their only option in any case is to

just keep attacking.


If this is something you would like to change, then the first thing you can do is to stop keeping combats appropriately-levelled! Throw a legendary monster at your party that is far, far too high of a level for your party to defeat. Don’t necessarily have it run in and kill the party a TPK is rarely fun and it might make your point a bit too well but let the players see it (and make skill checks to determine whether they know how impossible of a fight it would be) so they can decide to avoid the encounter if they wish. This will teach your players that they aren’t the biggest fish in the pond, and if you make this a semi-regular occurrence then it will constantly remind them that running from combat is always an option.


Player Tip: Don't be a Dick!

How did you learn that?

Your party is hired to track down and kill an evil green dragon that’s been terrorizing a

village. Remembering that your character is a Ranger with the Favored Enemy: Dragons

ability, you proudly proclaim that you will lead the expedition!


Think about that for a second. Why does your character have that ability? Were your

parents killed by Dragons? Were you part of an ancient order that was tasked by the gods

with eradicating dragons from the earth? Do you hate dragons, or do you just hunt them as a

profession? How many of them have you killed? If you do hate dragons, does this hatred extend to dragonborn or half-dragons of other races? Did your character spend years learning what sort of spoor or tracks dragons leave behind, or do they have a supernatural ability to sense where a dragon has been recently?


These sorts of questions can really flesh out your character and give you inspiration for new

ways to play the character. Also, it doesn’t have to stop at abilities like Favored Enemy. Who

taught your fighter to properly wield a sword? Who was the original caster that developed the Fireball spell that you’ve used to great effect? Who taught you the ins and outs of lockpicking? Think about these questions to make your character feel more real!


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