Out of Character

"Has anyone seen my D20?"



Skill Check

The past few hours I was tinkering with ideas about skills checks, and a thought occurred to me.  If you leaf through most modules there are always instances where the GM will be told to ask players for a specific type of skill check, or a range of skills. There’s nothing wrong with a GM having an idea for a certain type of situation to call on a select range of skills, but it may deprive players of a chance to flex their roleplaying muscles. The example I thought up while I was wasting time at work today uses Dungeons & Dragons 5e, but the principle applies to any rpg with a skill system.

Imagine your players have entered a local pub looking for information, now let’s also pretend that this didn’t devolve into a ballroom brawl ( a certain monk and warlock I know could probably learn something from this come to think of it.) One of the patrons, a minotaur sailor known to have dealings with the black market, overhears them chatting up the crowd and takes an interest.

Maybe he’s been soured on smugglers after years of being cheated? Or perhaps he’s hoping to send some trouble towards his competitors? Whatever his reasoning he’s not inclined to impart information to anyone who he doesn’t trust. Stomping his way through the pub he proposes a challenge to test their mettle, in this case a pepper eating contest.

Now some GM’s would probably ask for a Constitution saving throw, but there’s plenty of opportunity for creative players to find a way to win out this encounter. A saving throw might favor the broad shouldered goliath barbarian, but the other members of the party could have a great deal more difficulty measuring up. Now there’s something be said for a comical failure and they certainly provide opportunity for roleplay, but let’s examine a few other possibilites.

The halfling bard might manage to deceive the minotaur, pretending that to him the pepper is no hotter than piece of bread. A dragonborn wizard skilled at sleight of hand might tuck the offending pepper into his sleeve. The elf druid might fallback on her knowledge of herb lore and attempt to make a nature check to see what she has on hand that might counter the burning sensation of the peppers.

Give your players an chance to get creative an approach the problem from a different angle. Now a GM also has to know when to say no, but saying yes present much more exciting results for the table more often than not.



Castlevania Part 1

After watching the new Castlevania series on Netflix  couldn’t help thinking it would make a great setting for a very dark Dungeons and Dragons campaign with some cool steampunk elements. I’m actually working on a short module that takes players through a brief adventure in that world. However creatures from that setting can be folded into almost any D&D game with a little imagination.

For folks who have yet to see the show please stop reading now if you care about spoilers.

I’d also like to let everyone know in advance I am not a longtime fan of Castlevania, I’ve been aware of the franchise for many years but I never played any of the games. If I get any of the terminology wrong please forgive me.

Also Castlevania is the property of Konami and the Netflix series is the property of Netflix, I claim no ownership of either. All of the art pictured here is from the Netflix series and belongs to their artists, it is also pretty great and definitely helps make the show worth your time. So without further ado…


I’ve seen these things called imps and goblins, to me they look like Red Court vampires from The Dresden Files. At any rate they seem to make up the bulk of Dracula’s demonic army.


Medium fiend, chaotic evil

Armor Class 13 (natural armor)

Hit Points 18

Speed 60 ft., climb 20 ft, flight 40 ft.

Str 10 (+0) Dex 16 (+3) Con 12 (+1) Int 8 (-1) Wis 10 (+0) Cha 8 (-1)

Skills Perception +2, Stealth +5

Damage Vulnerabilities Cold, radiant

Damage Immunities Fire

Senses darkvision 60 ft., passive Perception 10

Languages  Abyssal, Common

Challenge 1


Claws. Melee Weapon Attack: +4 to hit, reach 5 ft., one target. Hit: 6 (1d6+3) slashing damage.

Infernal Blast. Range Weapon Attack: +4 to hit, 60/100 ft., one target. Hit: 12 (1d8+6) fire damage. Creatures within 30 ft. of the target must make a DC 14 Dexterity Saving throw, on a failed saving throw they take half as much damage as the hit target, on a successful saving throw they take no damage. All objects in the radius of the attack that are not being held burst into flames.

Shock troops for Dracula these summoned monsters serve as the foot soldiers in his army. They are capable warriors able to spread violence throughout cities and the surrounding countryside with ease.

Please note, Infernal Blast is meant to be a powerful attack capable of dealing huge damage. It can kill or seriously injure an entire low-level party if they aren’t careful as well as setting fire to everything in the immediate area. I designed it that way because we see these things peppering cities with these blasts and setting them ablaze in minutes. You may want to warn the party by having one of these things fire off a round at NPCs or buildings before opening fire on your players.


I love seeing a cyclops used as a monster, and this one is a bit like a beholder crossed with a cyclops. Easily the best monster in the Netflix series so far in my opinion.

Stone-Eye Cyclops

Huge fiend, lawful evil

Armor Class 16 (natural armor)

Hit Points 82

Speed 20 ft.

Str 18 (+4) Dex 12 (+1) Con 16 (+3) Int 10 (+0) Wis 10 (+0) Cha 8 (-1)

Skills Perception +5

Condition Immunities Petrified

Damage Vulnerabilities Radiant

Senses darkvision 60 ft., passive Perception 12

Languages  Abyssal, Common

Challenge 5

Feast on Terror. The Stone-Eye Cyclops feeds on the terror of those it has turned to stone, it regains 1d4 hit points each turn for each living victim it has turned to stone. It also adds +1 to any roll it makes for each living victim it has petrified.

Thundering Footsteps. Creatures and objects within 5 ft. of the Stone-Eye Cyclops when it moves take 1d4 bludgeoning damage.


Slam. Melee Weapon Attack: +5 to hit, reach 10 ft., one target. Hit: 10 (1d8+6) bludgeoning damage.

Eye Ray. Range Weapon Attack: +0 to hit, 30/60 ft., one target. The target must succeed on a DC 14 Dexterity saving throw. On a failed saving throw, the creatures turns to stone and is petrified.  Petrified creatures can only be returned to normal by killing the Stone-Eye cyclops that turned them to stone.

Powerful guardians that can be utilized to protect valuables or locations from unwanted visitors these towering behemoths are terrors to all. Although they’re more than capable or tearing treasure hunters limb from limb whenever the mood strikes them, they usually prefer turning intruders to stone so that they can feed off of their fear. The lair of a Stone-Eye Cyclops is almost always marked by the petrified bodies of their victims.

As I said this thing is like a cyclops and a beholder crossbreed, which amazing and horrifying all at once. The eye ray requires the cyclops to hit the opponents AC and then the players gets to make a dex save to avoid being petrified. This is, again, a savage attack that can take a player out of the action in one stroke. The cyclops shouldn’t be able to sneak up on a party so they’ll have some warning of what is coming. I went this direction because unlike the beholder who slowly turns victims to stone I wanted to give a more cinematic feel to the cyclops.  A huge beam engulfs your wizard and they’re just gone in an instant.

Anyway I hope someone out there finds these amusing if nothing else, thanks for reading.

Episode 97: Adventures in Middle-Earth Character Creation

Before diving back into the adventure I wante to share our character creation sesssion for Adventures in Middle-Earth.

Episode 96: Adventures in Middle-Earth Part Unexpected Guests

Aliens of La Mancha

Our friend Joelle Mellon wrote a short story for a contest sponsored by  It is about some strange creatures from another world who stumble upon Earth and have a close encounter with Spanish wine. I thought it was funny, and she wanted to share it with our readers.  So, without further ado:

Aliens of La Mancha

Glog had been piloting his ship all night, but reluctantly, he pressed the navigation stick steadily down to the floor, causing the craft to land.

“Are we finally home?” his wife demanded, “We only have one bottle of Ikoe left!”

He knew they should have packed more. Glog and Xemvahr derived all of their nourishment from alcohol-based beverages, just as plants photosynthesize sunlight.

“I’m afraid not, dear,” he ventured, timidly.

“I told you to let the ship drive itself, but would you listen?” she demanded, “Where in Drahkt’s name are we?”

“According to the navigation module,” he said, squinting, “We seem to be on — Earth. Specifically, Spain. Even more specifically — La Mancha.”

“Why does that sound so familiar?”

“Not sure,” Glog replied, “Something from intergalactic broadcast?”

“That’s it!” she exclaimed, “The film from that Earth director with all the bright colors, remember?”

“Oooh, yes,” her huband agreed, “Almodovar.”

“Almodovar,” the ship’s computer repeated in a monotone, thinking that the shouted name had been a request for entertainment. Almost instantly, it queued up Volver and began playing it on a screen.

“We know there’s alcohol here, anyhow,” she said, “Let’s go find some.”

Xemvahr, ever the more practical of the two, took the precaution of strapping the last bottle of Ikoe to her belt, in case they didn’t find anything suitable to drink soon. At the push of a button, the ship’s hatch opened, and the two aliens ventured out into the night. She led them toward an area where the most lights seemed to still be twinkling, assuming that would be their best chance at finding some drinks. Soon, they came to a friendly looking cafe with the words,

“La Fabula” emblazoned over the door in silver script. Several tables had been set outside on the sidewalk. Hurrying over to one of them, they zeroed in on two half-full bottles of wine, which had been mysteriously abandoned by their owners.

“Tempranillo,” Glog read aloud.

Tipping the bottle into his mouth, he was filled with a sense of unabashed pleasure as the wine warmed and filled his translucent body. Almost immediately, he turned a deep shade of burgundy red. If just a mouthful was this much more nutritionally efficient that Ikoe, he realized, what remained in these two bottles would keep them going for weeks.

“Malvar,” his wife pronounced, reading her label.

She swallowed, and a pale golden color suffused her, almost seeming to make her glow with happiness. After a moment, however, an expression of concern settled over her features.

“We don’t have any local currency,” she said.

An hour later, one of the cafe employees came outside to bring the tables in for the night. Much to his surprise, he saw that a full bottle of some exotic blue liqueur had been left behind.

“Hey,” he called back into the restaurant, “I think Manuel’s been ordering some weird stuff again. Want to try it?”


To find out more about the competition and explore the idea of Spanish wine tourism, be sure to check out:

Way of the Iron Lightning

Fans of Critical Role will probably be familiar with the Gunslinger Martial Archetype for Fighters created by Matthew Mercer. I used that as a guidepost for creating a character centered on firerarms, but I went in a very different direction with this Monastic Tradition.

These monks employ firearms at close range in unison with martial arts making them even more deadly. The idea was inspired by history and fiction in equal measure, and I think it would make for some very interesting characters.

I didn’t want to break the game, or just saddle characters with a useless lump of iron. Nor did I want to steal from Matthew Mercer, who made the Gunsmith into something pretty amazing. To that end I went to the drawing board and started tinkering.

For the most part these monks don’t have the extreme range one might expect from such a thing, but again they’re meant to be using their weapons at close range. There are mechanics to better explain how that works below. I also wanted to emphasize their ability to use ki and to channel it through these weapons.

Is this perfect? Heck no and it could sure use some playtesting. I still think it is a worthwhile idea and I’d be happy to hear people’s thoughts on it.

Way of the Iron Lightning

A Monastic Tradition for the Monk Class

Monks of the Way of the Soaring Iron are masters at employing firearms at range and in close combat, utilizing them to deal devastating damage to their foes when partnered with their martial prowess. Monks who follow this path have learned the secret arts of forging firearms, and then how to employ them at close range to devastating effect. These monks are usually sworn to the service of a power, and serve as guardians or protectors of that power until their dying day. It is not unheard of for some to abandon their vows of service to take to the road as mercenaries.

Fists that Hold the Roar of Thunder

Starting when you choose this tradition at 3rd level you gain proficiency with firearms allowing you to add your proficiency bonus when making attacks with them.

You also learn channel your ki through your firearms giving you supernatural abilities when using them. You no longer have disadvantage when making attack rolls with your firearms when targeting a foe within 5 ft.

Unlike other firearms you also learn to use yours in melee as bludgeoning weapons. They are usually fitted with heavy weight in the handles, making them like clubs.

Ki Crafted Firearms

You gain proficiency with Tinkerer’s Tools. You may use them to craft ammunition or firearms, or to repair damaged firearms. All weapons created by monks of the Way of the Iron Lightning are crafted by channeling ki into them. Ki is an essential part of these tools, and they cannot be employed by anyone who has not learned to harness these mystic energies.

Cacophany of Thundering Shots

At the 6th level you gain additional abilities to channel your ki into your firearms.  Immediately after you take the Attack action on your turn, you can spend 1 ki points to an additional with your firearm as a bonus action.

You can also spend 1 ki point to convert the damage from your firearm to thunder or lightning type when using this ability.

Eyes that See the Path

At the 11th level you gain a preternatural ability to sense oncoming attacks at range. All ranged attacks targeting you alone (This does not include cones, lines, blasts, cubes, spheres, or cylinders) have disadvantage. When a ranged attack misses you, you can immediately make an attack with your firearm as a bonus action.

Serenity of the Swooping Eagle

At the 17th level you gain the ability to take spend a full round aiming for your next shot, you cannot take any other actions during this round of combat, including bonus actions. When making your next attack add a +10 bonus to your attack roll and 2d12 to your damage. If the attack is successful the target must make a Dexterity saving throw with a DC equal to your attack roll, on a failed saving throw the target is knocked back 5 ft., and knocked prone.


Name                              Cost                       Damage                                         Weight                 Range  

The Coming Storm       Crafted                 1d8 Piercing/1d8 bludgeoning      10 lbs                (50/80)

The Twin Suns (Dual)  Crafted                 2d8 Piercing/2d8 bludgeoning      18 lbs                (40/75)

The Winding Path         Crafted                 2d10 Piercing                                   22 lbs              (100/300)


All of the firearms employed by monks of this monastic tradition are single-load weapons. They must be reloaded after each shot.

Hagrid’s Enchanted Motorbike 5e Version

One of the first magical items seen in the Harry Potter series, and certainly the loudest, is Hagrid’s enchanted motorbike. Hagrid has always been one of my favorite character from the books, and the thought of creating a version of his bike that could work in a D&D game amused me to no end.

Enchanted Motorbike

Wondrous Item, Unique

Originally belonging to Sirius Black it was passed on to Rubeus Hagrid after the deaths of Lily and James Potter. This enchanted enchanted motorbike is capable of flying over long distances at great speed. It was later modified to include defensive measures meant to aid in the escort of Harry Potter during The Second Wizard War.

Normally the enchanted motorbike has a flying movement of 150 ft., and a ground movement of 75 ft.

The headlight is capable of producing bright light directly in front of itself for a distance of 50 ft.

One weakness of the enchanted motorbike is that it is extremely loud and easy to track magically. Characters attempting to make a Dexterity (Stealth) check while using the enchanted motorbike have disadvantage and suffer a -10 penalty to their roll. Spells rolls and Wisdom (Perception) checks made to attempt to track the motorbike’s movement have advantage.

The traps and defenses added to the enchanted motorbike make it far more powerful, but each can only be used once per day. The motorbike regains the use of these powers after 24 hours.

Net: Loaded with an enchanted net that is expelled from the exhaust pipe it functions much the same as a Muggle net, but is propelled magically. See pg. 148 of The Player’s Handbook for rules on nets.

Brick Wall: Functioning similarly to the spell Wall of Stone the Enchanted Motorbike expels a solid brick wall directly in the path of an oncoming pursuer. This version of the spell has the benefit of requiring no components, or concentration to be maintained. Once the wall is created it remains present unless destroyed. See pg. 287 of The Player’s Handbook for the full explanation of the spell.

Dragon Fire: A line of flame erupts from the exhaust pipe sending the Enchanted Motorbike rocketing forward, effectively doubling its movement speed for one round. The range of the line is 100 ft., any creature standing directly in the path of the line must make a Dexterity saving throw. On a failed saving throw the hit creatures take 10d10 fire damage, on a successful saving throw they take half damage.

Speed 150 mph

Crew 1

Passengers 1

Cargo –

AC 15

HP 120

Damage Threshold 10

The Red Rope

-An account from the personal papers of Laurlias Appleborn XVI, bard of some acclaim, and slayer of the demonic harpist of Lion’s Share, thank you very much.

A very special inn nestled on a bustling main street, at a glance the building stands out among the neighboring structures. Tall and spindly-looking the roof splits into a trio of steeples and a small army of chimneys that belch forth smoke day and night. Large windows of multicolored enchanted glass display scenes of battle, heroism, and the news of the day moving as though they were alive. The more looking respectable shopfronts surrounding the inn make it look even more unworldly and out of place.

Tearing your eyes from the steeples and the wondrous shards of glass though and you’ll find the entryway standing open night and day. Wrought from solid gold, but with the appearance of wood the archway cut into the edifice glows dimly permeating warmth and comfort to all.

On any day you’ll find a crowd gathered outside, held at bay by lengths of chain stretched between iron poles along the street. A thick thread of red rope, the inn’s namesake, is drawn across the open archway. You’ll also spot a 12 foot tall legless golem bestride a mechanical wheelchair. Carved from white stone trace with sigils and runes that glow hot pink the golem lurks outside keeping a wary eye on the crowds, and barring passage to anyone attempting to make their way inside. Woe betide anyone who thinks they’re clever enough or fast enough to slip past the golem.

Precious few souls ever set foot indoors though, for only those lucky few whose names appear on The List will be allowed entry. At a glance it might appear to be nothing more than a bit of rolled parchment, but as with many things it is more than it appears to be. Each name on the list belongs to a great living hero, or at least one destined to rise to the uppermost heights of fame and adventure. The document will accept no ink, and any quill set to it immediately burst into flames. Each day the names change, some remaining in place, while others are added or removed.

When someone is lucky enough to be allowed passage they’ll almost always find themselves besieged by the onlookers waiting outside. Desperate souls, representatives dispatched at the behest of governing bodies from around the world, sycophants, fortune seekers, autograph hunters, and all manner of people find reason to wait outside. The golem keeps the throngs at bay and the heroes pass through the entry way, music sounding as they do. The type of music is always different.Sometimes long blasts of a hunting horn ring out, for others the stringing of a harp, in at least one case a somber melody made up of a twelve piece orchestra flooded the street for a full hour.

Immediately within one will see the grand chamber, the central room that welcomes everyone. A stone hearth blazes brightly with a large fire encircled by twenty or so small wooden tables. Armchairs, stools, and benches rest against the wall beneath a large window on the first floor. (At last inspection the window portrayed Hela daughter of No-Man arm-wrestling the troll chief Lurug Speartooth.) Upon approaching one of the tables a seat appropriate to the size and preferences of the occupant will soar across the floor settling itself beneath them. The grand chamber does not want for decoration. Tapestries and portraits hang in abundance.

Playing host to the world’s greatest heroes who are in need of a safe place to rest their heads, the comfort of a warm hearth, a good meal, or a night of frivolity is a nightly affair for the innkeeper. Barra Beararms was an adventurer in her younger days, she spent many nights beneath the roof of The Red Rope, and after years of wandering one evening she chose to remain. Innkeeper, retired hero, and landlady all rolled into one. She greets everyone who entering her inn personally and sees to their needs, doing the work of twelve herself.

Food and drink flow from the kitchens into the grand room and special orders are never a cause for concern. Don’t try to find your way into the kitchen to filch a midnight snack however, no one’s ever been able to find it. Once you’ve been filled to bursting Barra will deposit a key to your room and shove you upstairs to your bed.

The main stair leading up to the high floors is an avalanche of a staircase, a massive and imposing lumberyard nailed together from polished dark wood. Numerous scholars, academics, and tricksters have tried to puzzle out the mystery of this staircase for years without success. You see there are at least seven stories to The Red Rope, eight if you count the attic rooms, but the stair will deliver anyone climbing it immediately to whatever floor their room is on.

Each room in the inn is large, and well furnished with an odd assortment of comfortable oddities. Without exception everyone who spends a night in the Red Rope professes it to e the best night’s sleep they’ve ever had. Aside from the rooms the inn boasts a number of other amenities including: a fully-stocked alchemical laboratory, a working forge, a sauna, a heated bath, an extensive library with books on almost every subject, a map room boasting a spinning globe the size of a carriage, an archery range, a hedge maze and indoor garden, a tomb for the honored dead, a dock with at least two ships, an open air aviary, a courtyard with extensive footpaths, and more privies than anyone has a right to.

When the time comes to leave, the heroes all settle the tab in the same way. They leave something dear to them behind for safekeeping. Barra displays these items proudly telling tales of the heroes who dined in her halls and sought the comfort of her inn. Once in a while someone will point out an item and she’ll grow quiet before returning to the task of running the inn.

If one was of a mind to seek the comfort of The Red Rope I would do so without delay, but be certain it is what you want. More than one mercenary or war hero has had their hopes dashed as they barred entry and left standing in the streets outside. I was shocked enough when I entered, in truth I’d never heard of the inn. Barra explained the whole business to me while I feasted on the finest blackberry pie I’ve ever eaten.


The Lasso of Truth: Revised

Edit: I updated the range of the Lasso of Truth on the advice of a few folks. Sorry if people are disappointed. You can always adjust it as you see fit in your own game.

A few days ago I saw a short clip of Wonder Woman using The Lasso of Truth in her upcoming movie. Wonder Woman has some of the coolest gear in all of the superhero world! She has an invisible jet (I think it is great and I don’t care what anyone else has to say on the matter), bracelets that can deflect bullets, a variety of Amazonian weapons, an of course a magical lasso capable of forcing anyone to tell the truth. After seeing the video I immediately wanted to create a Dungeons & Dragons version of it.

Creating it was a bit difficult though, I mean this is an item forged by a literal god and used by one of the most powerful heroes in all of history. I took a look at the Rope of Entanglement in the Dungeon Master’s Guide, but that just wouldn’t do so I went back to the drawing board.

I know some people will say it is too powerful, but you know what? In my mind it SHOULD be super powerful. Anyway I hope some people like this, and maybe it will find a home in some D&D games.

The Lasso of Truth

Legendary item (requires attunement)

This Lasso of Truth is infinitely long extending itself as the user wishes, but only weighing 15 pounds. Any creature bound by Lasso of Truth is compelled to speak only the truth, and will answer any questions imposed on it to the best of its ability. If you hold one end of The Lasso of Truth you can make an attack using your Dexterity, on a hit the target is restrained by it. The effective range of the Lasso of Truth is 80 ft./160ft. As an action you can extend the rope an additional 15 feet.

You can release the creature by using a bonus action. A target restrained by the rope can use an action to make a DC 25 Strength or Dexterity check (the target’s choice). On a success, the creature is no longer restrained by the rope. As an action you can also fling a bound target dealing 2d12 + your Strength modifier bludgeoning damage.

Creatures vulnerable to radiant damage are incapacitated while bound by The Lasso of Truth.

Forged by Hephaestus himself he Lasso of Truth is unbreakable, only a true denial of the truth or a god/goddess of deception might prove capable of destroying it.

The Lasso of Truth provides bright light source in a 5 foot vicinity.



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