• Justin Handlin

Improv Tips with Unlikely Heroes

Crit Academy is joined by special guests Ryan and Rob from the Dungeons and Dragons actual play podcast 'Unlikely Heroes'. They tell us about their popular show and share tips on improvisation in roleplaying games.

Unlikely Heroes is a goofy, NSFW podcast very loosely based on the game mechanics of Dungeons & Dragons (5e). That means we roll dice sometimes! Check out their podcast here!

Give Away: Loresmyth: Modular Dungeon Tiles - Arcania

The Arcania digital tile set lets you make dark, shadowy dungeon maps, rich with the fumes of arcane secrets.

Winner: brandenbarbaro

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

Main Topic: Improv Tips with Unlikely Heroes

We will be following the outline on 7 RPG Improv Tips by 3wsedms. You can find the full article here.

1. Don’t Be Afraid to Make Calls and Stick With Them

“There’s a military saying: An OK plan executed quickly is better than a perfect plan executed too late. This is the way to good improv DMing.”

2. Think Globally, Act Locally

“The trick to improving an open-world game is not to know every little thing that could happen. It’s to have a clear vision about the big things going on so you spin out smaller details on-demand based on those bigger themes.”

3. Flesh It Out After the Fact

“Whatever happens in the session should be set in stone, but everything else is free for you to fiddle with later.”

4. Improv for Fun

“The whole point of improv DMing is to give the players agency and let them drive the narrative. But it’s important to work in things that you’ll have fun DMing. After all, the DM is a player, too.”

5. Ask the Players What They Plan to Do

“One of the big, underappreciated tricks of improv DMing is knowing when to wrap up the session. It’s not always a good idea to stop when you have no idea what the party is going to do next. Instead, RP a little longer to find out what the players want to do so you can hedge your prep.”

6. Know When the Improv Ends

“Just because you’re improving most of the time doesn’t mean you should waste the chance to build something more fixed.”

7. It’s About the Players

“Improv DMing is really about letting the players lead. You facilitate their adventures by filling in the world around them as best you can. For it to be fun, everyone has to be on board with that.”

This episode is brought to you by our generous sponsor, Kobold Press!

Unearthed Tips and Tricks! We bring you new and creative content for you to bring with you on your next adventure.

Character Concept:


“There are secrets in the peaks, mysteries I have unraveled and embraced.”

There can be no understating your kinship with your mountain home. Like the mountains, you stand tall despite the hardship of life amid the wind, snow, and ice of the highest crags. While many are proud merely to draw strength from their upbringing amid the towering peaks, you are rare and have come to embody the spirit of the mountains.

You stoneblessed, one who has an uncommon connection to stone and earth. Rock beneath your feet emboldens you, and the elements nourish you until you become the personification of your homeland’s peaks. As a stoneblessed, you draw power from the stone itself, allowing you to transcend the bounds of your mortal form and achieve astonishing acts of strength. Your attacks strike with the weight of the mountain behind them. When you reach the pinnacle of your power, you become the stone, crushing those who stand against you.

Monster Variant:


Origin Statblock: Plesiosaurus (CR2)

This blind beast stalks through dungeons, forests and swamp lands, relying on its other senses to detect prey. When it finds something it can eat, the destrakin blasts it with skull cracking waves of sound.

Lost or Altered Features. Swim speed, Speed becomes 40 ft.

New Features: 40 ft climb. Blindsight out to 60 ft. (Blind beyond this range).

Cunning Action. On each of its turns, the Destrakin can use a bonus action to take the Dash, Disengage, or Hide action.

Bellowing Blast (Recharge 6). The destrakin releases a thunderous force that sweeps out from it. Each creature in a 20-foot cube originating from it must make a DC 12 Constitution saving throw. On a failed save, a creature takes 2d8 thunder damage and is pushed 10 feet away from it. On a successful save, the creature takes half as much damage and isn’t pushed.

In addition, unsecured objects that are completely within the area of effect are automatically pushed 10 feet away from you by the power’s effect, and the spell emits a thunderous boom audible out to 300 feet.


A Visit to the Doctor

The characters enter a small town. The adventurers are quickly identified by Richye (M, Halfing acolyte). Calling out to them, huffing and heaving from exhaustion. He explains that the local leader’s daughter Lala Dornac (F, commoner) is currently visiting the village's physician Doctor. Frill, (F, Human acolyte). Regardless if the characters help or not, she dies 1d4 days later. Doctor Frill needs two special ingredients to complete the herbal cure for the rare disease. A red and pink mushroom that grows deep within caverns to the north. The final ingredient is the roots of a tree imbued with magic. With a successful DC 14 Survival check, a character knows that the particular mushroom grows as a result of the excrement of a cave dwelling grick(MM). With a successful DC 14 Intelligence (Arcana/Nature) the character knows that a tree with imbued magic is referring to an awakened tree (MM).

The characters must race against time to gain the missing ingredients to save the young girl. As DM using survival and knowledge checks to help the characters along. This is a race against time skill challenge. The characters must succeed on five skill checks before they gain three failures. Every failure means lost time. This can take the form of getting lost, hazards slowing them down, or even a monster encounter. Rests should be limited, and should be clear the potential risks involved.

Magic Item:

Thrifted Pants

Wondrous item, Common

Wow, these pants are quite worn. Once per day the wearer may rummage through the pockets obtaining one item from the Thrifted Pants Table.

They look like zip-off cargo pants in my head, but can certainly be reskinned to fit your world.

Thrifted Pants Table

1 An entire handful of lint that smells like cheese.

2 An old, smelly boiled egg (without the shell).

3 A can of beans with the lid cracked open

4 A half-used chapstick.

5 A 4 of clubs playing card.

6 A cherry stem tied into a knot.

7 A dried up humanoid thumb.

8 A pear with an angry face carved into it.

9 A cat toy shaped like a mouse with a jingly bell attached to it’s tail.

10 A ring that changes color with the temperature (mood ring).

11 A real gold piece with a bite mark.

12 A chocolate coin with a bite mark.

13 A pen that never runs out of ink (unless broken).

14 An eyepatch with a crude drawing of an eye on the outside of the flap.

15 A comb with a curly hair stuck to it.

16 A ring that laughs at a joke that nobody else laughed at.

17 A small metal knight figurine that glows in the dark.

18 A test tube that has the appearance of a lava lamp inside.

19 A seashell that whispers calm reassurances when held to the users ear.

20 A candle that has a rainbow flame when lit.

Dungeon Master Tip:

Damage thresholds!

Typically damage thresholds are for ship, buildings and other objects. Consider hit point thresholds as an alternative to damage immunities and resistance on big bad boss monsters. This means any damage below the threshold is only superficial and doesn't weaken the boss in any form. This will likely force the characters out of their traditional “I attack” mentality. Instead, force them to get creative. When you do this, create objects and hazards on the battlefield the characters must use to win.

Player Tip: Don’t be a Dick

Bigby’s Firm Handshake - Bigby’s Handbook of Creative Spell Uses

The grapple is probably the most commonly contested check during combat. The greatest benefit of the grapple is its ability to render an enemy immobile, reducing their effectiveness in combat.

This technique allows you to take this one step further: giving you the upper ‘hand’ in the contested grapple and then allowing you to inflict substantial damage each round as a bonus action on the grappled opponent.

Bigby’s Hand: You create a Large hand of shimmering, translucent force in an unoccupied space that you can see within range.

  • Grasping Hand. The hand attempts to grapple a Huge or smaller creature within 5 feet of it. You use the hand’s Strength score (26) to resolve the grapple. If the target is Medium or smaller, you have advantage on the check. While the hand is grappling the target, you can use a bonus action to have the hand crush it. When you do so, the target takes bludgeoning damage equal to 2d6 + your spellcasting ability modifier.

Hex: You place a curse on a creature that you can see within range. Until the spell ends, you deal an extra 1d6 necrotic damage to the target whenever you hit it with an attack. Also, choose one ability when you cast the spell. The target has disadvantage on ability checks made with the chosen ability.

Give Away: Jeff Stevens Games: Scourge of the Nightingale: Part 1 A Song of Love

A masked menace terrifies the region. The adventurers stumble into her scheme: the kidnapping of a famous performer known as Devon Artis. Their mission is to deliver a ransom and collect Devon.

Winner: mag_jisson

Didn’t win? Np, head to www.critacademy.com/jeffstevens for more phat lootz.

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