• Justin Handlin

The Task Oriented Dungeon Master



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Crit Academy discusses Task-Oriented Dungeon Mastering, a set of Dungeons and Dragons process tools, that can help keeping your story and campaigns moving forward. It all starts with setting guidelines for identifying the tasks at hand. We cover some example tasks and situations and how the DM might handle the situation.

Exploration Task:

  1. Describe the Options

  2. Get the players to inform you what their characters are doing.

  3. Identify player responses

  4. Interruption with obstacles/encounters

  5. Advance to the next decision point

Conversation Task:

  1. Describe scene and the NPC

  2. Decided the goals of the NPC

  3. Give an opening line

  4. Roleplay conversation

  5. End conversation

Combat Task:

  1. Set positions

  2. Roll Initiative

  3. Determine surprise

  4. Run battle


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


Character Concept:

The Drunken Master

The concept of a Drunken Master isn’t anything new - it’s an archetype for the Monk class and has existed in fiction for decades. But why stop at Monks and martial artists? Any character can be an example of a Drunken Master; all it takes is to have them act in unexpected ways, stumble around to catch opponents off guard, and make it look like their deft maneuvering is an accident. Maybe your Wizard begins to cast a spell, but he trips and falls at the last second sending a “Firebolt” directly into the opponent’s sneering face. A fighter could move to stab an enemy with his sword, but instead he slips the blade (and the hand holding it) harmlessly past the enemy’s chest to grab them in a bear hug and slam them onto the floor.


Encounter Concept:

Retrieve a Stolen Item

This encounter runs like a familiar fantasy trope, but with a little bit of a twist. The players

are hired by a down-on-their-luck merchant or noble to retrieve an important artifact or heirloom that was stolen. The players investigate and track down the thieves. When they’re

apprehended, however, the thieves insist that they bought the heirloom fair and square or

that it was theirs to begin with; they might even have the documentation to prove it.


Instead of a simple and clear goal - retrieve stolen goods - they are forced to investigate

further, or pick which side they believe in. Either the artifact was stolen and the thieves

were able to falsify documents to back up their claim, or the merchant or noble was attempting to trick some unwitting heroes into stealing some new wares for him under a pretense of rightful ownership. After all, they can’t both be telling the truth, can they?


Magic Item:

Spool of Infinite Rope

Wondrous item, Rare

This spool magically dispenses exactly the right amount of rope when you need it. As long as

the rope is connected to the spool, there is no limit to how long of a rope can be unspooled

from it, and the spool’s size will never decrease. However, if the rope is ever cut any unspooled rope will disintegrate after 24 hours.


DM Tip:

Fighting Smart and Dumb

Your NPCs and monsters don’t simply have to be a pile of hit points and melee damage. Look at the enemies’ intelligence scores - are they smart? Stupid? A smart foe is as deadly as they are prepared, so have your high-intelligence monsters set traps, coordinate attacks, train minions, and so on. They might prepare protections against the players’ most common

spells and attacks, or lure them into traps using treasures they know the players are looking for.


Don’t forget the stupid enemies either! They can have just as much depth as intelligent

enemies. A low-intelligence monster might not fight until death and instead choose to flee.

Conversely, they might not realize escape is an option, so they might keep fighting until

their dying breath!


Player Tip: Don't be a Dick!

Take the Hooks the DM Gives You

You came to the gaming table to go on an adventure. When

the DM gives you a hook for an adventure, instead of thinking, “Would my character

want to go on this adventure?” you should be asking, “Why does my character want to go on this adventure?” Whether or not you’re going to go adventuring shouldn’t be in question.

Instead, you should use the adventure to flesh out your character, and come up with a reason why you would be interested if one doesn’t arise. If you can’t think of a reason why your character would go on an adventure, then make a new character that would go on the adventure. Leave your old character behind to be an NPC.



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