On the 5th Edition Shadow Wizard

A 5th edition wizard school for your games. With new spells.

School of Shadow

As a member of the School of Shadow, you have used the dark essence of shadowstuff to power your magics. Some shadow mages travel and discover hidden secrets, others corrupt those pure and innocent, still others watch from the shadows to insure that what is at bay, remains at bay. Shadow is a sub-school of illusion, and certain illusion spells are also considered shadow spells.

Shadow Savant
Beginning when you select this school at 2nd level, the gold and time you must spend to copy a shadow spell into your spellbook is halved.

Starting at 2nd level when you choose this school, your mastery over the powers of darkness and shadow increases. As an action, you can choose to cause a source of bright light to become dim, and an area of dim light to become dark. You also gain Darkvision out to 60 feet.

Blinding Shadow
Beginning at 6th level, You can blind creatures with shadow. Choose a creature within 30 feet. On a failed Dexterity saving throw against your wizard spell save DC they are considered blinded. They may reattempt this save at the end of each of their turns.
Also, you are considered in total cover due to being obscured while in darkness, and are considered to have three-quarters cover in dim light.

Shadow Step
Starting at 10th level, as a bonus action you may move between any area of dim light or darkness to any other area of dim light or darkness within 400 feet.

Shadow Self
Beginning at 14th level, shadow becomes infused with your essence. You gain expertise at stealth checks and your armor class increases by 2 due to the fact that you are partially immaterial.
You can also spend 1 full-round to create a Shadow Double. This double has your abilities, hit points, armor class and is identical in all ways, except it is made from shadowstuff and has no equipment or will of its own. You my command it to protect you, in which case all incoming attacks are at disadvantage due to the confusion and protection provided by the shadow double.   Or, you may command the shadow double to move anywhere within your line of sight. You can see what the shadow double sees and can cast spells having them originate through the double. It lasts as long as you maintain concentration, up to 1 minute or until it takes lethal damage.

Shadow spells
New shadow spells are italicized. Spells that are normally of other schools, categorized as shadow spells before are identical to their Players Handbook versions, excepting the fact that they manifest as shadow, instead of illusion. Blur cloaks you in shadows, rather than obscuring your form using light.


1st Level
Wall of Gloom

2nd Level
Ray of Enfeeblement
Shadow Blade

3rd Level
Shadow Anchor

4th Level
Darkening Bolt
Evard's Black Tentacles
Shadow Bolt

5th Level
Create Darkenbeast

Conjure Shadow

6th Level
Demishadow Magic

7th Level
Shadow Walk

8th Level
Shadow Form

9th Level
Mass Blindness

Shadow Cantrip
Casting Time: 1 action
Range: Touch
Components: V, S, M (a bit of soot)
Duration: Concentration, up to 1 minute
The caster touches a target wearing metal or other reflective material, and it darkens becoming black. This grants the user advantage on stealth checks when in dim light or darkness.

Wall of Gloom
1st-level Shadow
Casting Time: 1 action
Range: 60 feet
Components: V, S, M (Cotton)
Duration: Concentration, up to 1 minute
Creates a 10 foot high wall, up to 40 feet long and 10 feet thick of dim light. Any targets behind the wall are considered lightly obscured.

Shadow Blade
2nd-level Shadow
Casting Time: 1 action
Range: Self
Components: V, M (an iron rod painted black
Duration: Concentration, up to 1 minute
This spell creates a blade of darkness and shadow. It uses the casters Strength, Dexterity, or Intelligence bonus as a bonus to hit and damage, as the caster prefers. It deals 1d6 damage and is treated as a magical weapon for purposes of resistance to normal weapons.

Shadow Anchor
3rd-level Shadow
Casting Time: 1 Action
Range: 120 feet
Components: V, S, M (A small needle)
Duration: 1 minute
Choose a target. That creature must succeed on a Strength saving throw versus your spellcasting DC or is considered grappled, because their shadow is pinned to the ground. They may reattempt this save at the end of each of their turns.
At Higher Levels, If this spell is cast using a higher level spell slot, you may select one additional target for each level above third.

3rd-level Shadow
Casting Time: 1 Action
Range: Self
Components: V, S, M (A strip of gauze)
Duration: Concentration, up to 1 minute
This spell turns the caster immaterial and insubstantial. They gain resistance to non-magical bludgeoning, piercing and slashing attacks. They may pass through solid objects, no thicker than 10 feet. This spell does not grant the ability to fly, nor does it make the user invisible.

Darkening Bolt
4th-level Shadow
Casting Time: 1 action
Range: Self (100 foot line)
Components: V, S, M (A bit of dark cloth and a glass rod)
Duration: Instantaneous
A stroke of Darkness forming a line 100 feet long and 5 feet wide blasts out from you in the direction you choose. Each creature in the line must make a Dexterity saving throw. A creature takes 8d6 Necrotic damage, or half as much damage on a successful one. Targets who fail their save are blinded. They may save at the end of each of their turns in order to end this condition. Anyone viewing the bolt, sees it as a dark purple, as if they had stared at a bright light.
At Higher Levels, When you cast this spell using a spell slot of 5th level or higher, the damage increases by 1d6 for each slot level above 4th.

Shadow Bolt
4th-level Shadow
Casting Time: 1 action
Range: 180 feet
Components: V, S, M (Iron fillings)
Duration: Instantaneous
The caster flings out a number of bolts of shadow at targets. The caster flings out 4 bolts. Each bolt makes a separate attack roll. The caster may target a separate creature with each bolt, or send as many bolts as he wishes to the same target. Each bolt that hits does 2d8+2 damage, and the target must save or gain the poisoned condition. The target may save at the end of each of its turns to end the poisoned condition.
At Higher Levels, When you cast this spell using a slot of 6th level or higher, you gain an additional bolt for every 2 slot levels above 4th.

Create Darkenbeast
5th-level shadow (ritual)
Casting Time: 1 Minute
Range: Touch
Components: V, S, M (Bone Ash)
Duration: Special
This spell turns a normal animal into a Darkenbeast under the control of the caster. The caster may only have one darkenbeast at a time. This spell lasts until the creature dies or is exposed to sunlight, at which point it reverts to its natural form. The animal gains the following traits: Magic Resistance, the creature has resistance on saving throws versus magic. Armor class increases by 2 due to shadow and sustainability. The creature gains a +6 bonus to Strength and Constitution, granting it 3 hit points per hit die, and +3 to hit and damage. 
At Higher Levels, When you cast this spell using a spell slot of 6th level or higher, the creature gains an additional point of AC and an additional +2 to Strength and Constitution for every slot above 5th.

Conjure Shadow
5th-level shadow 
Casting Time: 1 minute
Range: 90 feet
Components: V, S, M (oil)
Duration: Concentration, up to 1 hour
You call forth an a Shadow. Choose an area of darkness that fills a 10-foot cube within range. 4 shadows appear in an unoccupied space within 10 feet of it. The shadows disappear when they
drops to 0 hit points or when the spell ends.
The shadow is friendly to you and your companions for the duration. Roll initiative for the shadows, which have their own turns. They obeys any verbal commands that you issue to it (no action required by you). If you don’t issue any commands to the shadows, they defend themselves from hostile creatures but otherwise takes no actions.
If your concentration is broken, the shadows don't disappear. Instead, you lose control of the shadows, they become hostile toward you and your companions, and they might attack. An uncontrolled shadow can’t be dismissed by you, and it disappears 1 hour after you summoned it.
The DM has the shadow’s statistics.
At Higher Levels. When you cast this spell using a spell slot of 7th level or higher, more creatures appear. Twice as many shadows appear with a 7th level spell slot, and three times as many with a 9th level spell slot.

Shadow Magic
6th-level Shadow
Casting Time: Special
Range: Special
Components: V, S
Duration: Special
This spell allows the user to cast any Evocation spell of 1st to 4th level. This invocation isn't as real as a normal casting, the spell energy being substituted with shadowstuff, so the spells are considered of their base level when cast. E.g. a Fireball cast with Shadow Magic is cast as if a 3rd level spell slot were used.
All other factors involved with the spell are as they are listed above. Casting time, range, and duration are as the original spells, as are saving throws and damage. This spell can only duplicate damaging evocations: no rituals or non-attack effects.
At Higher Levels, When you cast this spell using a spell slot of 7th level or higher, you can duplicate more powerful evocations, a 7th level spell allows you to duplicate 5th level spells like Cone of Cold or Bigby's Hand (but not Wall of Force or Wall of Stone, because those are damaging evocations), an 8th level spell slot allows 6th level spells and a 9th level slot allows 7th. You may also choose to use a spell slot of 7th level or higher to increase the level of the evocation spell being cast. A 7th level spell slot will produce a fireball cast as a 4th level spell.

Shadow Walk
7th-level shadow
Casting Time: 1 action
Range: Touch
Components: V, S
Duration: Concentration, up to 1 hour
This may only be used in shade. When cast, the target enters the plane of shadow, where they may travel up to 7 miles per 10 minutes, moving normally on the plane of shadow, but a great distance on the prime material plane. This affects the target the caster touches.
At Higher Levels, When an 8th level spell slot is used to cast this spell, the duration is 8 hours and the caster may walk himself and up to 2 other people. When a 9th level spell slot is used to cast this spell, the duration is 24 hours and the caster may take up to 8 other targets with him.

7th-level shadow
Casting Time: 1 action
Range: Self
Components: V, S, M (an ivory likeness of the caster, costing 500 gp, and a strip of paper)
Duration: Concentration, up to 1 minute
This spell causes the caster to have only two dimensions, height and width, without any depth, like a sheet of paper. When viewed from the side, the caster is invisible. This allows the caster to make stealth checks at advantage anywhere, even in plain view, and on a successful stealth check be considered invisible.
The wizard can declare that he is keeping himself turned to the side against one opponent as a bonus action. This makes the caster unaffected by any form of attack from that opponent. However, any damage the caster does suffer (from area affect spells or damage from other targets) is doubled.

Shadow Form
8th-level shadow
Casting Time: 1 round
Range: Unlimited
Components: S
Duration: Concentration, up to 1 hour
The caster creates a transparent duplicate of herself, which appears adjacent to the caster. For the duration of the spell, the caster controls the actions of the shadowform and can perceive as if the caster were the shadow. It is an extension of the caster.
The caster does not gain any extra actions, but may use her actions to control either the form or herself. If the shadow form is struck in combat or dispelled, it vanishes, leaving nothing but dust and leaves. 

Mass Blindness
9th-level Shadow
Casting Time: 1 Action
Range: 180 feet
Components: V, S
Duration: 1 minute
All desired targets in 100 foot radius from a point the caster designates become blind. Shadowstuff crawls over their face and eyes blocking their vision. Creatures may take an action to make a Dexterity saving throw to end the effect. On a success, they target can see again. 

This post was originally published 6/22/15 and is available in print from lulu and PDF along with many other optional classes in Hack & Slash Compendium III from DTRPG. If you like this content, support me on Patreon and get special bonuses like advertisement free PDFS!

Hack & Slash 

On Spending Money

In systems where you don't spend your gold for direct increases in power (i.e. there is no "wealth by level" table), what do you spend your gold on?

This is a common refrain from players new to 5th edition, Basic/Expert, and 1st edition Dungeons & Dragons. I recently wrote a book "On Downtime and Demesnes" mostly as a tool for me to answer this question. The book goes into great depth into the many options but it isn't very portable. I'm Presenting free portable version here, and permanently available for download from DTRPG. 

What to spend money on?

The master list of relevant ways to spend money in fantasy games
Adornment: Clothing is expensive. The character gains 1 experience for every 2 gold spent, up to 100 experience. Fashion is a world unto itself in ways to represent character and values. Players can consider double layered cloaks, knife boots, harnesses, or many other things. 

Carousing: Originally proposed in 1976 in the article Orgies Inc. they "waste" the gold by partying, gaining some experience instead of using it to increase their personal wealth. Carousing also matches the pulp and picaresque fiction that Dungeons & Dragons was inspired by. Spend a random amount of gold (usually 1dX times 100 gp) and gain that many experience. On a failed saving throw, an unfortunate event happens, like a city fire, untoward tattoo, pregnancy or other circumstance. 

Sacrifice: Player characters can sacrifice gold or other valuable objects (such as livestock, virgins, willing converts, or children) to various supernatural entities, spirits, dark lords, elemental energies, and "gods" in exchange for magic items, boons, and power.

Rumors: Player characters can track down information by taking time and spending gold. For every day they go out and buy drinks (10-40 gp), they have a chance to hear a local rumor.

Healing: They can spend their time resting at a healer or in a nice room to regain hit points.

Scouting: They can pay for some equipment, specialized tools, and spend a week planning to scout the location of their next adventure, giving them a +1 on saving throws on their next adventure.

Training: They can spend their time learning special tricks, feats, increasing their skills or statistics. This may take many months and cost many thousands of gold and may require a specialized trainer to track down. 

Working: This is reverse spending. The character earns gold. They will have to explain how.

Crafting Items: They can spend gold to make things: Alchemical bombs, armor, poison, et. al.

Gain Influence: 1,000 gp per week for minor influence, 5,000 gp per week for major influence, 10,000 gp per week for Grand Influence. This is acquiring titles, responsibilities, and favors, allowing the players to gain certain rights (such as hiring mercenaries, owning land, et. al.) as well as having input on political machinations. 

Retinue: Characters can have hirelings (torchbearers, pack-apes, miscreants), henchmen (classed characters who work for a player character), mercenaries (soldiers who will fortify structures and engage in combats outside of dungeons), followers (troops and men who flock to the character. They cost nothing but must be provided for),  sidekicks (a gestalt team where experience is split 66/33 between two adventurers controlled by one player, specialists (alchemists, engineers, armorers, gem-cutters, et. al.), pets (animal or non-human companions of player characters), proteges (spending 1 gold per experience to create a 'backup' character that doesn't start at 0 experience), hangers-on (Dandelion to your Witcher), Cronies/Contacts (people with a pre-existing relationship to the character) and sages (who turn money into true answers).

Congregation: They player can spend money to acquire congregants. As long as they tend to their flock, each congregant provides 1 gp/month in labor or magical research costs. 

Investments/Mercantile Ventures: The character invests a sum of money for a term. After the time passes, depending on the risk and the amount invested, the player character will receive a return. 

Lifestyle upkeep: It costs gold every month to maintain a certain standard of living. This collects a variety of costs, taxes, housing, food, and various other expenditures. 

Clan Hordes: This refers to any family, noble, organization, or guild. The more the player contributes, the more benefits the clan horde provides. 

Research Library: Tomes and libraries and books are quite rare and valuable for magical research, learning new spells, researching unknown magics, creating magic items, and more. In order to perform these tasks, a library of sufficient value must be present. The following items will all require a research library.
Brewing a potion: 500 gp and 1 week per level.
Crafting a magic item: Takes 1 day per 500 gp of the item. 
Spell Research: 1000 gp and 2 weeks per level.
Vat Creatures & Crossbreeds: 2000 gp per hit die, 5000 gp per special ability
Constructs and Vehicles: 500 gp per ton for wooden, 3,000 gp per ton for metal. 

And last but not least:

Construction: Characters can build castles, keeps, druid groves, churches, mobile cities, giant mechs, underwater or volcano bases, floating islands, dimensional pockets, or new planets or planes.

You may notice many of these integrate the characters within the world. This is what gives depth to the game, and why focusing on the 'non-fun' parts drives engagement.

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On Dragonlance Denied

"We are not moving toward breach of contract, but we will not approve any further drafts." -Defendant, Wizards of the Coast.

Margert Weis and Tracy Hickman, authors of the best-selling Dragonlance saga have filed suit against Hasbro/Wizards of the Coast for breach of contract.

There are two completed new Dragonlance books! We can't read them!

I'll be describing parts of the filing, but if you want to look for yourself, it's right here. That is a plaintiff filing, and there's been no response yet. That means we only have one side of the story. There may be facts that come to light—but more likely a settlement. That makes everything in this article that isn't a quote or a link from a document unfounded conjecture. 

It's important to note that Tracy Hickman is a New York times bestselling novelist, and  10 million dollars seems to be a completely realistic total for how well a new Dragonlance trilogy will sell. They have already sold twenty-two million copies. 

What is Dragonlance? It was a revolutionary series of novels, music, and adventure modules co-written by Margert Weis and Tracy Hickman, chronicling a war of the lance among dragons destined to return the gods to the world, and two brothers, one good and strong, the other feeble and evil, and what the evil brother will sacrifice to become a god. 

I'm going to say some things about Tracy Hickman, and merely mentioning them may cause people to assume I'm casting aspersions. I am not. Here are some facts regarding Tracy Hickman.

Dragonlance and D&D

He is known for co-writing the Dragonlance Novels, and writing the Dragonlance series of adventures.

"If the party fights the elves, they must take on the rest of the elven army, one unit every game hour. . .  they keep coming, wave after wave, fighting for their homeland with cold fierceness. They fight to the death." -DL1 Dragons of Despair

"If the PCs foolishly decide to attack the unicorn, he calls at once for magical forest creatures to defend him. . . .From now until the PCs leave the woods, all creatures encountered attack them on sight." -DL1 Dragons of Despair

Dragons of Despair is one of the less restrictive modules in the series. It "allows" you to use your own Characters: "Players may wish to use PCs from the DRAGONLANCE story, detailed on character cards in the center of the module. It is generally an advantage for players to use these characters rather than bring their own into the campaign."

The module indicates when the characters should read their backgrounds, and later instructs them to read the prophecy out loud to each other, and then sing the song of Goldmoon, the white savior who finds the golden plates of Morm—I mean the discs of Mishikal with the truth about the old gods of Krynn.

Apropos of nothing, Tracy Hickman is a proud Mormon. 

"Song of Riverwind is in the center of this module. If Goldmoon is a PC in the adventure, have the player . . . sing them with the music provided."

Music is provided. It's even on the internet

But it's Dragons of Flame that led to the 'force a narrative' shift from adventure and exploration based play of first edition. To wit:

"To run this module properly, you must think of it as a story, and try to motivate your players subtly to follow the right path. . . This module introduces several enemy NPCs. . .Since these NPCs appear in later . . . try to make them have “obscure deaths” if they are killed. . . their bodies should not be found. Then, when the NPCs appear in later modules, you have a chance to explain their presence. Be creative; think up an explanation for their “miraculous” survival. The same rule applies to the PCs on pages 17-18. Most of them have roles in future modules, and must be able to return to life somehow. This does not apply to PCs other than those who are part of the story."

This was the genesis of the sea change in the approach of the game. Dragons of Flame has a literal secret door that must be found for the adventure to progress. 

Adventure Module DL3: Dragons of Hope introduced the Aghar—Gully Dwarves. From the module:

"Aghar are the lowest class in the dwarven cast systems—indeed, most Mountain Dwarves say that they aren't part of any caste. These raggedly clothed dwarves vary in skin color from parchment to mottled to olive. Their hair is as unkempt as their clothing. Their health is generally bad, their bodies bear sores and scars, and they smell. 

Though humans often find the Aghar comical, they are a disgusting race who's motto is "Do anything, no matter how mean, to survive." Occasionally a decent moral Aghar can be found but those are extremely rare. Gully Dwarves. . . have weak constitutions and low intelligence. . . An average Aghar cannot count higher than two."

You see, on Krynn. the world on which the Dragonlance novels take place, all dwarves are ignorant filthy subhumans with giant noses who are too stupid to count.

It's a commonly accepted fact that Tolkien founded the dwarves on semetic tropes, but World War II caused him to re-evaluate the horror of those stereotypes, and portray them more positively. ("I do think of the 'Dwarves' like Jews: at once native and alien in their habitations" and "[t]he Dwarves of course are quite obviously—couldn't you say that in many ways they remind you of the Jews? Their words are Semitic, obviously, constructed to be Semitic "J.R.R. Tolkien)

You know, let's step away from Krynn, Gully Dwarves, pale-skinned saints and kleptomaniac Kinder who wear bright clothing and roam around in caravans completely immune to fear. 

Ethics in Fantasy

D&D 3rd edition was released early in the year 2000. A few years later, sensing a shift away from moralist heroic fantasy, Tracy wrote the essay  called "Ethics in Fantasy: Morality & Dungeons & Dragons". The link takes you to the wayback machine, which is the only place you will find the essay.

The essay was not up long, for reasons that seem quite apparent from a cursory read. 

"Fantasy is not escapist fiction; it is a morally based genre. Good fantasy demands ethics and good fantasy role playing demands ethical play and design.

Ethics is not something which is outmoded; truth is not situation nor relative and we shouldn't pretend that it is. Our games are teaching people around us not just about a fantasy world, but about how we deal with each other. If we cannot learn to deal with each other honestly in our imaginations, how can we hope to deal with each other face to face in the real world?" -Tracy Hickman, Summary, Ethics in Fantasy Gaming. 

It  seems born out of a desire to educate fearful clergy about the reality of Dungeons & Dragons by selling the idea: it's a moral testing ground. 

It contains some bold, unproven claims: "Because of this heavy identification, players in role playing games learn lessons from their games as though they really were experiencing the adventure. They don't set out to learn anything. It's just a game, isn't it? No, they learn from their experience in the game." -Ethics in Fantasy: Part 3: The Moral Imperative of Fantasy

"Do thieves always get away with their crimes in your game? Do player character assassins murder at will? Do your players use torture without being tortured themselves? Are towns being ravaged by players without fear of retribution from the king?

If you answer yes to any of these or similar questions, then you are not only misusing the game but you are teaching false and negative lessons to your players. . . 

Games that allow such things are not only teaching the wrong lessons, they are bad games."

TL; DR—Stop having badwrong fun.

Still, he says, there are some ethics we can all agree on in fantasy.

  • The Omniscience and Omnipotence of God
  • The Good Redeems its own
  • Evil Feeds upon itself
  • Man may choose good or evil for himself
And last, but not least
  • Consequence for our choices are mandated by nature.
These are all obviously true to everyone who plays fantasy games, right? (Narrator: "They were not.")

Do consequences being mandated by nature have any relationship to the poor gully dwarves? The Kender?

I'm not giving Tracy Hickman a hard time, I'm telling you who he is, so you have some perspective for what comes next. 

The Lawsuit, Finally.

I'd like to start here. (Download the whole complaint)
"35. On or about August 13, 2020, [Wizards of the Coast] held a telephonic meeting with plaintiff[s]. . . At that meeting with no forewarning [WotC] refused to perform under the license agreement. . . respond[ing] with the nonsensical statement 

"We are not moving toward breach (of the contract), but we will not approve any further drafts."
Like a robot, over and over. 

What's going on here? Simple. They had a contract. They were gonna write 3 books about Dragonlance. 2 were written. Penguin Random House was going to publish them. The plaintiffs (Tracy Hickman & Margret Weis) agreed to rewrite whatever Wizards of the Coast wanted, and indeed claim they did, cutting and changing at one time as much as 70 pages of the book.  But even though they claim they were willing to make the changes—Wizards of the Coast won't breach the contract, but they won't approve any of the drafts written.

The plaintiffs make the claim the "Wizard's of the Coast's arbitrary decision to terminate the License Agreement. . . was based on events that had nothing to do with . . .the work or Plaintiff-Creators. (Tracy and Margaret). . . Defendant was embroiled in a series of embarrassing public disputes wherby its non-Dragonlance publications were excoriated for racism and sexism. Morever the company itself was vilified by well-publicized allegations of misogyny and racist hiring and employment practices. . ."
  • In June of 2019, Hasbro/Wizards of the Coast Expressly approved a detailed outline of Book I ("Dragons of Deceit")
  • In November 2019, the complete manuscript was submitted and expressly approved by January 2020 via written approval form #272074-0
  • In June 2020 Liz Schuh and Hilary Ross were removed and replaced with Nic Kelman and Paul Morrissey.
Mr. Kelman is a controversial figure himself. In their lawyer's words: "Kelman issued a four-point set of comments dealing with various sensitivity issues ranging from the use of love potions. . . to concerns of sexism, inclusivity, and potential negative connotations of certain character names."

They claim to have complied with all these changes.

Then they found out that Wizards of the Coast was communicating directly with Penguin Random House about "editorial topics" while excluding them, leading to August 13th, and the meeting at the start of the section. 

Wizards of the Coast won't end the contract because of penalties, won't complete the contract in good faith. 

What's a writer to do?

And the road goes ever on. . . 

Could Tracy Hickman write hard enough to make people forget he's a conservative Mormon? 

There are easily millions of dollars here at stake, but millions apparently isn't enough to make it work with Tracy and Margaret. This is not a thing that is this way or that. I've seen "two sides" of this discussion and repudiate them both. Death of the Author has been a thing since the late 1960's. 

Consider the story and consent implications of a love potion and the likely intended introduction of a transsexual or bisexual character.  Consider the complaint's focus on Wizard's of the Coast "supposed reasoning," rather than on the text of the contract. Why did they pull two women off of the project and put two men on the project, one of whom has a book involving sexual descriptions of child prostitutes? 

If published there would be backlash—even if it met the standards of the sensitivity writer. Would it hurt sales? What are their reasons for stalling the book? Hasbro itself might not even know.

Wizards of the Coast is and always has been a place of unorganized chaos. From the sex orgies in the pre-corporate days (and all the harassment present in any environment where people are having sex in a common area), to divisive intense political 'fiefdoms' within the company, to alienating the Magic: the Gathering userbase this week. What is it we expect them to do?

They are not and have never been gatekeepers of fantasy. 
I aspire to Isaiah 52:7. “How beautiful upon the mountains are the feet of him that bringeth good tidings, that publisheth peace; that bringeth good tidings of good, that publisheth salvation; that saith unto Zion, Thy God reigneth!” It is my hope that in all that I write I am publishing peace.- Tracy Hickman
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On a Crisis of Housing


It is wild times out there.

From October 21st to October 31st, I'm donating 20% of my proceeds on DTRPG to the Rape, Abuse, and Incest National Network (RAINN)

This week, I personally became aware of the increasing homeless in our city. The Mortgage Bankers Association released a report saying over six million citizens of the United states of America did not pay rent in September. That's more than 1 in every hundred Americans. 

You can't trust anything, but you should know that the MBA noted above is a Political Action Committee that is non-partisan. That is to say, they are partisan to the housing industry. Their data is likely accurate. We can see here how they conduct themselves for yourself, but it appears they use their influence as a PAC to advance housing interest, and not a specific party.

I worked in a hospital that had a women's unit for 7 years. There I worked with many women with many challenges; and I came to understand just how differently a housing crisis puts women at risk then it does men. And I tell you again, I can see this here, in my local community, over the last few weeks. 

There are some people who still feel that voting (no matter your politics) doesn't matter. But no matter who you vote for, if politicians see people taking initiative to vote, then they will understand that to stay in power, they will need to address the concerns of the voters. So no matter who you vote for, vote. Millions of men in the past gave their lives so you have that power. 

If you'd like to help me take action, you can find more to read and links to my work in the Directory

On the Deadly Difference

There's a big difference between this. . .
There are no players who do foolish things. There are only poor Dungeon Masters.

This is a real problem that affects even the best Dungeon Masters.

They are good Dungeon Masters because it's very hard in their game for a player to do a foolish thing.

Players, of course, do stupid things aplenty.

Foolish (adj.) resulting from or showing a lack of sense; ill-considered; unwise
Stupid (adj.) lacking intelligence or common sense.
What we are talking about is how to avoid falling into the Fantasy Gap.

The Fantasy Gap

"A great city sits among the trees, surrounded by clouds. Strange fey creatures move among the high branches wearing what appears to be the forest itself. You feel a powerful sense of awe as the city looms above you."

. . . and this.
Ok, so what's the city made of? How is it connected to the trees? How tall are the fey creatures? A "good" player might ask these questions, maybe. But how many more questions could we think of that they didn't ask? Let's try something even more complex.

"A shadowy path leads further into the bandit woods."

What's the player\s action here? What's the first thing you do if you need to go down the path? Prepare for ambushes, right? Or are you checking for traps? How far can the characters see into these woods? Is there underbrush? Would you say you were checking the treetops?

These things seem trivial to ask, but no matter how many questions players ask there are always more they cannot ask. If the players don't ask a question, it's because the players have made an assumption, and I can guarantee not all of your assumptions will match mine. The Dungeon Master knows the right answers, and the players don't.

A "Historically-Effected" Consciousness

The brain was formed by a variety of genetic factors, and then exposed to a certain lifestyle and set of experiences. Those experiences affect the way people view the world and the assumptions they make. These assumptions will never completely match another persons.

Any time the Dungeon Master is describing something in Dungeons and Dragons, it is imagined in each player's mind in a totally different way, a way that matches their developed consciousness. Good, skilled, players ask as few questions as they can to narrow this gap as much as possible.

This process of closing this gap is so difficult, the general trend in gaming has been to eliminate as much of it from the gameplay as possible.

Witness the birth of character skill gaming!

Fusing Horizons

So any time the Dungeon Master sees a player about to do something "Showing a lack of common sense; ill-considered; unwise" it is almost universally because they don't understand the situation well enough to predict the consequences of their actions. 

No one is going to not light a torch and walk into a wall in the dungeon. No savvy adventurer is just going to walk right into traps on the way to a bandit camp. No reasonable person is going to attempt a jump they have no chance of making. They are taking those actions because their perception of the situation is a different one than yours!

So what's the solution?

Good Dungeon Masters usually indicate what the consequences of an action might be, no matter what action the player takes. Every single time a player does something that seems foolish to them they take a moment to make sure the player understands the situation accurately.

Often, they proceed to do the stupid thing anyway—but aware of the consequences instead of ignorant about them.


Isn't this just coaching the players? Letting them play on easy mode?

Absolutely not! 

No, no, you're wrong. You're telling them what's going to happen before they take an action!

I understand. You're the Dungeon Master. It all seems so clear to you behind the screen. How would telling them what's going to happen not be coaching?

First, the players don't know what's behind the action. 
There is a tapestry hanging on the wall. What could possibly happen?
Burning it could open a secret door. Moving it could uncover a mirror with heinous effects. It could be treasure. Undead could be hiding behind it. It could be covering a concealed door. It may be there to keep the room warm. Quick! Which of those options is true?

Second, you don't have to tell them the consequence, just possible consequences.
If players are doing something 'foolish', then it's an indicator that they don't understand what consequences can result from their choice. So list more than one. Sometimes you can include the actual real consequence in the list, sometimes you can list other options. Either way, the players don't know, you're just creating a situation they can make an informed choice in.

But every time I do this the players will know something is up!

First, that's not a problem. Players knowing where gameplay is, is a feature, not a bug.
Second, Good dungeon masters get in the habit of informing players of possible consequences any time they take actions and checking to make sure it is what they intend to do.

But how will my players learn to be good players if I'm telling them what will happen all the time?

I interpret this question as saying "I want to play a game and hide the rules. If they were good, they would know them already!" 

This activity, of asking questions, of "Fusing Horizons", of communicating clearly with another human being is so difficult that there are college courses about it, millions spent on projects to do it effectively, and the plain fact that they moved towards removing it from the game in third and fourth edition because of how hard it was to do.

So, yes, if your players haven't been playing for at least 5 years, if not a decade, assume that they are very inexperienced. Hell, my brother who'd been playing D&D for nearly as long as I have had no idea what yellow mold was. 

Communicating isn't cheating. The gameplay isn't in obfuscation of consequences. They are already obfuscated by virtue of being a player. It's in making the correct informed choice when you clearly understand the situation and the possible consequences.

Originally published on 2/17/2014.This content is available in print at Lulu and digitally from DTRPG. See the Directory for more articles. 

Hack & Slash 
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On a Generator of Missions

I've run many, many games. No matter the game, the party gains access to a commerce hub and immediately begins asking about work. Here is a tool to help you generate missions and their complications. Links to the enhanced/illustrated downloadable version of this are at the bottom of the post. 

  1. Assault/Raid
    1. Fortress
    2. Town
    3. Ship
    4. Ambush
    5. Skirmish
  2. Extraction (Voluntary/Involuntary)
    1. Jail
    2. Prison camp
    3. Private prison
    4. Prisoner of war
    5. From employment (corporation/crown)
    6. Natural Disaster
    7. From hostile forces
      1. Tower
      2. Dungeon
      3. Jail
      4. Camp
      5. Building
  3. Theft
    1. Caravan
    2. Individual
    3. Building
    4. Hijacking
    5. Kidnapping
    6. Piracy (Tranfer of goods between vehicles)
    7. Salvage
  4. Bounty
    1. Monster
    2. Individual
    3. Posse
    4. Pest-Control
    5. Hunting (Safari-style)
    6. Hunting (Commercial gain)
      1. Any of the above may be Dead or Alive
  5. Escort
    1. Caravan
      1. Commercial
      2. Pilgrimage
    2. Animal (Cattle)
    3. Object/Transport
    4. Message/Parcel
    5. Personnel
    6. Smuggling
      1. Goods
      2. Weapons
      3. People/Items
  6. Coup d'etat
  7. Duel/Contest
    1. Sport
    2. Weapons
    3. One vs. One
    4. Team vs. Team
    5. Tournament+
    6. Brawl
  8. Assassination
  9. Sabotage
    1. Arson
    2. Destruction
    3. Planting evidence
    4. Forgery
  10. Exploration
    1. Area
      1. Mapping
      2. Trailblazing
    2. Spying
      1. Armies
      2. Governments
      3. Populations
  11. Mysteries
    1. Murder
    2. Disappearance
    3. Riddle/Puzzle
  12. Skill (Cooking/Leatherworking, etc.)
    1. Labor (Farmhand, General Labor)
    2. White Collar (Appraiser, Scribe)
    3. Black Market (Forger, Lockpicker)
    4. Service (Armor Tester, Waiter, Usher, Etc.)
Any mission above may be given by the Authority, an Individual (such as a Merchant, Noble, Wizard/Scientist/Alchemist, Politician, Public Servant), Rebels, Feuding families or groups, or a Faction. Any of the above may come with an "Obstacle Course" or test before employment. Any of the above may also be just a preface for a different actual task.

The actual adventure comes in the twist however. Common permutations of the above options are listed below. This is your VALUE-ADD.

  • Assault/Raid
    • You must attack and kill/retrieve a macguffin
    • You must defend a structure that someone is planning to attack
    • You attack the structure, but the 'victims' welcome you
    • You attack the structure and the victims welcome you, but then try to kill you
    • There are long term consequences of the Assault
  • Extraction:
    • You must recover or retrieve the macguffin
    • You must insert or place the macguffin in the target area
    • You are the macguffin to be retrieved
    • You go to the macguffin and they want to stay or you see a reason retrieving it would be bad
    • You go to the macguffin and they want to stay because they just wanted to expose weaknesses where they are (or some other method via they help their captors)
    • You go to the macguffin and decide retrieving it would be bad, but really it's bad to not retrieve it because you were misinformed
    • There is no macguffin and never was
    • The maguffin is surprisingly difficult to retrieve
  • Theft:
    • You must steal a macguffin
    • You must protect the macguffin from theft
    • When you go to steal the macguffin it's not their or is not what you expected
    • As above, except it secretly is (illusion, secret compartment)
    • You go to steal the item and discover the owners are glad to part with it or the macguffin wants to be stolen
    • There is no treasure to steal
  • Bounty:
    • You get paid for killing a creature
    • You get paid for preventing people from poaching or killing a creature
    • The bounty is on your head
    • The creature or the reward is fictional
    • No one believes the creature still exists but it does
    • The bounty on a creature is very high, after killing many of them, the effects on the ecosystem become known
  • Escort:
    • You must accompany a macguffin to a destination
    • You are the person to be escorted
    • Something has affected the destination that makes completion of the mission impossible
    • The macguffin is not what it appears, making delivery impossible
  • Coup d'eat:
    • You must unseat a person in power
    • You are the person in power someone is attempting to unseat
    • The person in power is actually the one who should be
    • The person in power is the one who hired you to depose him
    • You don't need to unseat the person in power because of their new position
    • Performing the Coup d'eat destablizes the region and the fallout changes the shape of the campaign
  • Duel/Contest:
    • You must defeat an opponent
    • Someone is trying to stop or defeat you
    • Your opponent throws the match
    • Your opponent loses, meanwhile he's accomplishing his goal while you're tied up with him
    • The contest is called on account of weather
    • The contest doesn't need to occur because of other developments that put you and your opponent on the same side
  • Assassination:
    • You must kill a target
    • People have taken a contract out on your life
    • The person is paying you to kill them
    • The person is paying you to kill them, but is actually under the control of the players enemies
    • When you go to kill them, they are removed in another way as an obstacle (or perhaps they leave the prime material) meaning it is no longer necessary to kill them
    • Assassinating your target causes more problems then it solves
  • Sabotage:
    • You must sabotage a target
    • You must protect a target from being sabotaged
    • There is a non-functional device that must be repaired
    • The target you set out to sabotage is already non-functional
    • The non-functional target is actually just a ruse, the real danger is coming from another foreshadowed source
    • The target due for sabotage fails of its own accord for entirly seperate reasons
    • Sabotaging the target actually makes your own goals more difficult to achieve
  • Exploration:
    • You must explore an area
    • You must prevent a group from finding out about an area
    • You set out to explore an area only to discover it is already well mapped
    • You discover a well mapped out area that you set out to explore but find that all the maps are very inaccurate
  • Mysteries:
    • You must solve a mystery
    • You must prevent someone from discovering what you have done
    • You set out to solve a mystery, but the solution is easily found. Knowing it causes a whole new set of problems
    • Something happened with an obvious solution, a close examination will show that perhaps the obvious solution isn't correct
    • Something that appears to be a mystery is clearly not when examined
  • Skill:
    • Your skill or work is tested
    • You are needing to hire people for a project
    • You set out to do a job, but it turns out there are bigger problems
    • The bigger problems require a different skill you have
    • It turns out that a skilled person wasn't needed at all

Originally published on September 24th, 2013. An enhanced version is available in digital form on Patreon and for free  on DTRPG. 
For other works, be sure and check out the Directory.

On Megadungeon #5

 I hope everyone is doing well! 

Megadungeon #5 is available in PDF. Print will be coming soon!

It's got new dragons and non-player character's, three amazing dungeons; the lavish mine of fur slime, the alchemical trials, and the tunnels of the tuth. It's got articles on how megadungeons are exciting and upgrading your home base in a megadungeon campaign, with examples for arclight. Drain your player's funds by allowing them access to dangerous grenades and weapons! 

It's over 60 pages and my daughter made the table of contents on her own accord!

People are, I think, sleeping on this, so here's some insides. 

Did I mention it's illustrated on nearly every page? AND it's only 5$? Get on it, without delay!

Hack & Slash 

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