Session 13.5

I’m not saying I invented the term “Session Zero”. I don’t have the data to support that statement. I can say that I referred to sessions by number early in my career, and that my post about Session Zero predates, often by several years, almost everything you can find about it with an online search, and I leave it to my readers to draw any conclusions.

And while Session Zero is great at putting everybody on the same page before a campaign begins, its relevance fades as the campaign progresses. Over time, things change. Characters evolve. The plot makes unexpected swerves. Some people leave and others join, both in-game and out. The players’ impression of the campaign halfway through is not (and should not be) the same as it was before they made their first initiative roll. For long-running games, Session Zero and its decisions disappear ever more into the background, and sometimes it serves the table to take a step back, look at what’s happening, and make any necessary course corrections.

That’s where Session 13.5 comes in. Continue reading

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The Warlock Problem

Today is the twenty-fifth anniversary of the release of one of my favorite video games of all time, Final Fantasy VI (or Final Fantasy 3 if you’re the type who hasn’t played a video game since 1998). I spent a while thinking about whether I could do a post about it here. Could I talk about adapting Final Fantasy’s magic system to D&D? Could I make alternate rules for changing job classes mid-campaign? Should I come up with custom monsters or races? As I thought about the confluence between FF and D&D, I realized something about 5E that’s been bothering me for a while, though I haven’t had occasion to put it into words.

I’m calling it the Warlock Problem. It’s a pithy term but a bit of a misnomer. The warlock isn’t a problem. It’s a sole solution, and that in itself is a problem. Continue reading

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March of Madness: Honorable Mentions

Several demon lords didn’t make it into 5E, and now that I’ve looked into them I see why. 5E’s demon lords aren’t necessarily fun or interesting, but they’re all at least somewhat active. They have goals, usually some form of domination or omnicide, and they actively work toward them. The lords who didn’t make the cut were much quieter, content to sit back and enact small-scale plans unless a group of heroes stumbled into their path. It’s logical, and it increases the verisimilitude of the setting, but that’s not what the designers wanted. They wanted monsters PCs could punch, and somebody who avoids being punched has no place here.

Here are brief treatments of some demon lords we lost. You can use them in your campaign as background noise or targets of lore. If you want a more nuanced enemy than the standard demon lords, you can use one or more of these instead with only a few changes. There’s a lot of material about them if you look for it, enough to make any one of them a proper campaign villain. Continue reading

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March of Madness: Demogorgon

Demogorgon is the big bad of big bads. As the self-styled Prince of Demons, he’s been making life difficult for players for more then thirty years. From what I can tell, he is one of the three most powerful monsters in all of 5E. I have a poster of Demogorgon, and I don’t even like demon lords. That’s how influential he is.

To Demogorgon, there’s no power like overpower. He rolls in like a force of nature, destroying anything he can see before his enemies even know he’s aware of their existence. He hates everything, including and especially himself, and his perfect world is no world at all. His followers generally worship him out of fear or insanity; either they don’t have sufficient control of their faculties to resist his commands, or they’re certain he’ll eventually triumph and they think it’s better to be on his good side before their inevitable destruction. Continue reading

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March of Madness: Juiblex

Juiblex is the closest thing there is to a deific ooze. It’s a creature of slime…and that’s its description in totality. Juiblex is pretty straightforward.

Its goals aren’t entirely clear because it doesn’t have a lot of interaction with sapient creatures. It’s generally believed that it wants to consume all things, not to destroy them but to make the universe one with itself, an infinite morass with it at the center. Progress is slow because its closest associations are with oozes, creatures who typically don’t have any religion or a plan beyond “I want to eat the thing.” Coming up with an interesting way to use Juiblex in a campaign isn’t easy, but that’s the task the designers intended, so here we go. Continue reading

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