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Episode 2 Lightning Round

In the “Lightning Round” blog series, I offer up quick, easily-digestible answers to many of the questions I couldn’t get to in the weekly YouTube videos series. Have something you want to ask? Head over to Quest Chests' Instagram account every Monday to submit your questions!

How do you keep your players’ interest over time?

If you’re looking to run a campaign that doesn’t die out after three months, the best thing you can do is talk to your players. Ask them what they want out of the campaign, what types of themes or setting they’d like to explore, and where they’d like their characters to be by the end of it. Once you’ve done that, you can begin designing villains, NPCs, and storylines that actually appeal to your players’ interests rather than ones you think might be exciting. Speaking of exciting, don’t let your campaign’s momentum die down! If you want to keep your players interested, having their progress come to a grinding halt is undoubtedly going to kill their enthusiasm. The easiest way to avoid this is by not bogging the players (and the story) down with too much crap. Too many side quests, too many random encounters, too many “go fetch this thing so we can use it to do this thing” type missions. Those are all great in moderation, but when you have so many of them that five sessions go by and your players are no closer to achieving their goal, then you’ve got a problem. I’m guilty of doing this in my current campaign, but I made some adjustments that got the wheels spinning again, and the campaign is better than ever!

How can I bring futuristic weapons (DMG 268) into my campaign if I think they’re overpowered?

You may not like my answer, but I feel that these types of weapons are meant to be overpowered because let’s be real here. When something is called an “antimatter rifle,” it just makes sense that it would pump out more damage than a heavy crossbow. However, I do think there are ways to balance out these weapons without adjusting the damage. My first thought would be to give them a recharge feature similar to a dragon’s breath attack. Now a player can fire off a laser rifle and deal 3d8 radiant damage, but they aren’t doing that again until they roll a 5 or a 6 depending on the recharge requirements. Alternatively, you can make ammunition for these types of weapons complicated to obtain or create. Maybe an antimatter rifle can only be recharged by trapping the spirit of a ghost inside its power cell? Or perhaps a laser rifle needs to be targeted with the finger of death spell to refill its ammunition tank? This would probably be my preferred method because it encourages the players to only use the weapon when they believe it is absolutely necessary, rather than Anakin Skywalkering every goblin village they find with searing hot bolts of plasma.

How do you handle huge battles or wars?

My first suggestion would be to not worry about the intricate mechanics of running huge battles or wars as it will only slow your game down. Instead, focus on the players and their characters’ role in the conflict. Let the nameless troops hack and slash themselves down to the last soldier. The characters have more important things to do. See that giant three-headed rat pulling an enormous battering ram towards the front gates of the citadel? That’s what the characters should be worried about. Does the enemy have a command station where a powerful mage is magically sending out orders and information? That’s where the characters should be heading. Has the enemy’s leader revealed themselves on the battlefield? That’s who your characters should be fighting. Let the characters’ successes and failures determine the outcome of the conflict. This not only means you don’t have to master the art of large-scale warfare in an afternoon, but it also means that the characters stay in the spotlight, which is what the game is all about.

Would you allow a small character to ride on a medium one? (ex. A halfling on the tusks of a luxadon)

Absolutely! I actually came across a piece by Conner Fawcett which shows this exact concept, and I think it looks hilariously entertaining.

"Basket Boys" by Conner Fawcett

So if I would do this, the question then becomes “how?" What mechanics would I introduce to make this type of strategy viable? My approach will, of course, not work at every table, but if my players wanted to do this, I would apply the following rules.

The Rider:

  • Has half-cover as a result of sitting in a basket, being tucked behind the carrier’s shoulders/head, etc.

  • Has disadvantage on melee attacks as a result of being raised above the ground and restricted in their movement.

  • Must succeed on a DC 10 Dexterity (Acrobatics) to dismount if the carrier moved that turn or isn’t using their action to help the rider dismount, landing prone on a failure.

The Carrier:

  • Has their speed reduced by 5 feet in order to keep their balance with the extra weight.

  • Has disadvantage on Dexterity (Acrobatics) checks and Dexterity saving throws to avoid throwing off the rider.

  • Gains a +2 to their passive Wisdom (Perception) for having a second set of eyes looking out for them.

How do you create an engaging adventure?

If we replace the word “engaging” with the word “attractive,” then this question becomes a lot easier to answer. The most unforgettable and engaging adventures all have a balanced amount of combat, exploration, and roleplaying opportunities. That’s because no two players are ever the same, so when you’ve got four or five of them sitting at your table, you’re going to have a lot of different preferences. Some of them will love to stab anything that has any semblance of life, others will want to make sure they’ve checked every room in every dungeon for treasure, and some will want to talk to every single shopkeep or random NPC they meet. Do you need to have a perfect balance of all three at every session? Of course not. Sometimes a combat is going to eat up 3+ hours of a session, and that’s fine. What’s important is that you come into the next session with opportunities for roleplaying and exploration, so the players who don’t necessarily love combat know their interests are being taken into consideration. An easy way to make sure you’re doing this is to make a list of three check-boxes labeled “combat,” “exploration,” and “roleplaying.” Then, as your doing your session prep, check off a box once you’ve thought of a way to incorporate that type of encounter into the upcoming session. Once you’ve checked all three boxes, you’ll know you have an engaging adventure ready for your players.

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