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Today I was on a podcast with Jim and Johnathan Pruitt, the guys from WebDM. We taped a show that will be out next Friday, if I remember right.
We talked about D&D for just about two hours and, somehow, we didn't get to everything. Quite a number of their patrons posted questions for me to answer. I was only able to answer a few, so I figured I'd post the answers to the rest of them right here.
Hunter: Hunter said that his group had kept the little girl from Curse of Strahd as a sidekick, and wanted advice on how to handle it. I assume he is talking about Arabelle, the vistana who is related to Madame Eva.
First, I think you should check out Dice, Camera, Action episode 26. Liisa Lee plays Arabelle and did a great job IMO. Chris set it up where the group needed to kill Arabelle in order to enact a ritual.
Second, I think it would be cool if you played up the mysterious powers of Arabelle and have her be a weird but helpful ally. At certain points in the adventure, she could do tarokka readings that help them out of a jam or give the group some kind of magical boon to aid them in their quest.
The Dark Powers would probably see her as the person who should replace Strahd, so they'd reach out to her now and again. Baba Lysaga might want her as a step-daughter, or maybe the hag wants to eat her.
Daniel: Daniel asked me what influenced me to "smooth out modules" through my guides.
When I was a kid, I didn't know I had ADHD. I also didn't know it was an actual thing that can affect your life until I took medication for it when I was much older. My entire life changed!
Most of the time, I could not read one page of Dungeon Magazine. I'd read the first sentence of an adventure over and over, but I couldn't retain it. Obviously, this made running adventures very difficult.
Eventually, I taught myself to take notes as I read. It helped me retain information and maintain my focus for more than a nanosecond. When I was done, I had a "cheat sheet". Dungeons & Dragons taught me how to study.
Early on in this blog, I was getting ready to run Hoard of the Dragon Queen. As usual, I had pages and pages of hand-written notes that guaranteed I would have no problem running this thing. I was always looking for content to put on this blog, so it seemed like a fun thing to do.
I figured that 5e would have a lot of new DMs who would need help. I started the guide, basically "sharing my work" as I went, so new people could see way to link everything together and all that stuff.
Richard: Richard had two questions. He asked me how I would build a homebrew pantheon and if I had any house rules.
Pantheon: In my experience, players aren't going to remember most of your gods. You can make 20 of them, but the group will probably only deal with a few of them.
The gods that matter in your campaign are the ones worshiped by the party paladin or cleric, the god of healing (if they have churches where people can pay to get diseases cured, raise dead, etc.) and the evil god that's usually the cause of the bad things going on in the world.
If I were going to make a homebrew pantheon from scratch, I'd probably make one god for each alignment. That's a simple, organized way to make 9 distinct entities, and you have a good starting point for each of their personalities.
House Rules: Here's some of my house rules:
- Floor Dice Don't Count: If your die falls on the floor when you roll it, the roll doesn't count. Some people have a natural tendency to pick it up and re-roll if it's a 1, but they'll keep it if it's a 20.
- Rape Does Not "Exist": Rape doesn't happen in my campaign except as part of a tragic backstory. Nobody ever considers doing it. I just don't want it in my game. I'm not sure if I ever told the story of how I ran a female character modeled after LaToya Jackson, but you can probably guess what happened.
- If It's Cool, It Happens: If someone has an idea that gets me excited, it's happening in some form. I used to let die rolls shut down things that would have been hilarious, but not any more. I think one of the main things we're doing in D&D is mining for cool moments. When you get one, don't throw it in the garbage.
Jacob: Jacob asked what my favorite ways to start a campaign are.
I do a montage of scenes that show off each character. It just involves one die roll. Usually the point of it is to let the player convey their character's personality and style. If it was a TV show, they'd do their cool thing, then the video would freeze with them giving a thumbs up and their name would appear on the screen for a moment, and then we'd cut to the next character.
Robert: I answered some of Robert's questions on the show, but we got sidetracked. He asked me what I recommend for people who want to make their own adventures and content for the DMs Guild.
I made a list:
- Download the Monster Maker (it's free): It makes stat blocks that look like the ones in the official books.
- Use the Homebrewery: I don't use this, but it pumps out documents that look nearly identical to the Player's Handbook interior.
- Art: There are sites that have free art that you can use. Just make sure it's cleared for "commercial use". Pixabay and wikimedia commons have quite a lot of art that is completely free to use. It takes some time to dig through it all.
As far as writing, I'm still learning that side of it. Things I've noticed so far:
- Try to be succinct and avoid walls of text. Breezy adventures are good, as most people don't have time to read a massive, dense adventure.
- Look at the work of D&D creators you like and see how they do things. My favorites: Monte Cook, James Jacobs, Bruce Cordell, Michael Curtis and F. Wesley Schneider.
- Don't under-price yourself! I have no problem paying a couple bucks for a useful book. My experience with pay-what-you-want is that 1 in 10 people pay.
- Write about what you like. If you used one particular thing in your campaign and made material for it, you should use it. You spent hours and hours creating these ideas and playtesting them, and I think that shines through.
- The books that generally sell are monster books, new spells and player options. Adventures generally don't sell well. Collections of adventures seem to do very well, though.
- Don't be afraid to send your stuff to bloggers to review. Many of them love getting that kind of thing. Just remember that they might not like it, so definitely get a real life friend to give it a look with fresh eyes before you send it out.