1.5 oz Vodka
1 oz Kahlua (coffee liqueur)
1 oz Irish Cream
Pour this sucker over ice and enjoy.
See also: pour this over ICE CREAM and go to town. :). You're welcome.
This layered shot is said to have originated in the 1970s and beyond that there are some conflicting ideas as to who created it officially. I'd go into it, but I don't really care.
THE RECIPE (poured in the following over)
1) 1/2 oz Kahlua (coffee liqueur)
2) 1/2 oz Bailey's Irish Cream (Irish Cream liqueur)
3) 1/2 oz Grand Marnier (orange liqueur)
As the standard shot is a total of 1/5 oz, you layer this and drink it down like soldier. Get rekt.
If you've been paying attention, both of these recipes follow my latest personal theming discovery of Irish Cream liqueur, and finding a stronger delivery method than just pouring it over ice and adding a little almond milk and chocolate liqueur (which is still the bee's knees, so try it). The Mudslide is a drink with ice, enjoyed over time. The B-52 is a shot, pure and simple.
This week was a rough one, my friends.
In fact, it's been a rough couple of weeks. And I'm certainly not the only one.
Our presidential race is one of life or death, where our moral conscience hangs in the balance.
My nation is still full of selfish idiots that have prolonged a pandemic to the point of insanity.
My profession has been lauded as heroism then immediately thrown to the wolves to be torn asunder, and burned at the stakes of sacrifice.
And at the first sign of trouble, no matter the climate, it is ALWAYS the teacher's fault.
Student didn't turn in the work? My fault. Student called me names? I must have upset him. Student hates my guts because they got a bad grade? I didn't try hard enough to reach them and I should just, ya know, LIE about their grade so they feel better.
And when we see positive COVID cases in schools, they'll blame our protocols and our distancing, and NOT ONCE look at their stupid barbecue without masks or distance. Yeah, definitely OUR fault. Has NOTHING to do with your downplaying of a deadly contagion and refusing simple safety procedures like washing your hands and, I don't know, not coughing on people!
And I think I finally landed on the reason I stepped away from teaching for a year to pursue game mastering professionally...and why I ultimately returned, but we'll get there.
A Life Outside The Music
Anyone who knows me understands that I went to college with many interests, yet achieved quite a lot in academia. After deciding NOT to create my own major in Screenwriting & Film Music (still, that would have been very cool), I settled on Music Education. At the time, I figured I could teach during the day, and, like a superhero, pursue my other creative endeavors (Composing, comics, drawing, video editing) until they really started making some moolah. ...Hang on to that idea, it is the crux of this entry.
Long story short, the music education degree was a powerhouse of training. Hundreds of hours locked in practice rooms perfecting a tuba recital (and it was still crap), studying pedagogy of all the "great" music teachers only to make my own adaptive curriculum every year because the setting is outdated in each book (seriously, you can have the greatest lesson plan, but if you don't learn some classroom management, you're screwed), and then breezing through the simple papers in the School Of Education after the hell of the School Of Fine Arts. Seriously, we had to cut our teeth on endless rehearsals, intense training in every instrument, quarterly playing tests, building our own instruments, memorizing every sound bite of music history, sing and play everything with a near-perfect pitch, listen to a symphony and transcribe EACH INDIVIDUAL PART, and fully analyze the theoretical merits of the Futurist Movement... ALL BEFORE entering the School Of Education with all the other majors. By then, any paper they threw at us was NOTHING. Barely a blip on our radar. For all my struggling, sleepless nights, bad breakups, and insane rehearsals only to scrounge barely a 2.5 GPA, I rocked the last two years in the School Of Ed with a 4.0 easy and I slept great.
And I'm no genius. I just work hard.
By the end of that 6 year journey, I'm holding two Bachelors Degrees and an Initial Certification, and a whole bunch of workable knowledge for composing. One album and one year later subbing for everyone I could find, I decided I still didn't know enough and returned to the punishment for another two years and got my Masters Of Music Education Technology, and then spent the next 8 years paying off THAT debt (woohoo).
I was working throughout my Masters Program, and I continued to hop around districts for a couple years there, a couple years here, and picking up extra subbing gigs to supplement my income. Not once have I ever held a full-time position over the last 10 years of teaching music, which should you tell you a few things about the market of a Board Of Education and how little so many value the arts (not something they tell you when you're throwing thousands of dollars at a college program). Slowly, I was able to expand and cultivate my positions from 4 jobs to 3, then 2, and kept 2 jobs for some time.
Then, I interviewed to teach D&D. And that exploded. As you've already read about.
And as that began to expand, it helped open the door in my soul to all the things I had sealed away in order to make ends meet. In becoming a professional game master, all of my educational training came to fruition, AND I was given not only the opportunity but the follow-through of my smaller professional pursuits. I started writing music again. Writing short fiction. Designing comics. We started a podcast. I breathed new life into my YouTube channel.
With each new step, I was reforging and rekindling all the things just outside of traditional teaching that made me...happy. And now, here's a business model that not only makes me my own boss, but celebrates and networks all of my other pursuits. In a profession that often threatens to define you, I was encouraged to be MORE than a music teacher.
And for a time, it was beautiful.
Living Is Expensive
To deny that money is the driving force behind the majority of our decisions is to tempt the universe to kick the crap out of you and argue that it shouldn't matter.
My car needs repairs, electricity just tripled its delivery fee, house ownership sometimes feels like a trap, insurance is worthless - cuz you're paying anyway - and I'm convinced my car payment is cursed. Somewhere in there we need to eat, and the rest needs to be saved so as to escape the crushing reality that I'm only working to live and living only to work. I must be doing SOMETHING more than simply perpetuating.
And yet, when I was there, I felt fulfilled - needed - powerful - important - satisfied. And, with every paycheck, felt more and more helpless. Debt was rising. Selling everything I could for a quick buck. Offering extra services, some only half-formed, just to keep the lights on. All the while trying to desperately to hold onto that fire in my belly - the same inspiration I'd walk out of a team meeting with, ready to take on the world.
But the hits kept coming, We'd rally, then fall. Over and over again, until the business closed.
And I needed a job.
A Return To Security
So with a ton of experience still, and only a year away from the public sector, still teaching mind you, I set to work finding a new and old place to reside. My previous school offered me my old job back due to a sudden opening, and that meant we'd at least return to more of the same (.25 teaching assignment, woof). And then I nailed another placement at a different school (.5 assignment, better), and the two were happy to play nice with my schedule. With the latter's reassurance that full-time was coming, I would later trim down to one school...in the middle of a pandemic.
This Is Not Normal Time (Yet It Is All-Consuming)
This is where we are. Still.
I have returned to the school. Doing one main job professionally, while trying to maintain those side gigs (that used to be full gigs) to keep my sanity. And, all things considered, it's going very well.
My responsibilities expanded (not yet full-time, but it helps) and I'm there everyday. The kids are pretty darn cool and for the first time in 10 years, I'm able to teach music the way I've always wanted to. We're connecting, we're rocking, we're doing our best. It also doesn't hurt that I can pay the bills without worry; it's still tight, but I'm no longer desperate.
And yet, I am struggling. Immensely so.
For a time, I could not surmise nor articulate WHY I was struggling so much. I wish I could say this was some point of clarity; rolling a Natural 20 while I Insight Check myself, but the closer parallel would be a training montage of failure. Complete with 80s Synthwave and bad acting.
Gone are the days of me actively "closing my loops." I'll make my usual checklists of the past, but by the time the school day ends and I return home, I have NOTHING left to tackle these tasks. And many of these actions would make me REALLY HAPPY AND SATISFIED. Yet, I have little spell slots to dedicate to them. In fact, for a few days this week, I chose to go to bed early instead of writing this blog. That's NEVER happened before.
Am I just getting old?
Drying up and embracing boredom?
I still have surges of motivation and creativity...but they are fleeting. I can only hold on to that happy motivation for minutes or even seconds at a time, then I'm exhausted.
I have to keep telling myself that this isn't "normal time," so I shouldn't give myself normal expectations. And this is important to recognize. Do not be cruel to yourself over elements you cannot control, and be open to the changes and silver linings present in our current climate.
But there's a big difference in the tolerance and forgiveness of bad behavior, and the cultivation of poor habits. Forgive yourself, sure, but if you take no steps forward toward a goal, instead opting to always "be kind to yourself," you're only building a new habit of laziness. There's resting and recharge, and then there's using this plight as an excuse to avoid personal growth.
My personal fitness has taken a hit, and that SHOULD NOT BE OKAY. Not anymore. Why? Because I WANT to be healthy, COVID or not. Adapt your plan, sure, but don't toss it out the window just because the world's on fire. At least not every day. Be flexible, sure, but get creative on how you can still accomplish your tasks and crush your goals. Forgive yourself, sure, but try again the next day, and the next, and the next until you've got it down.
I have so many posts planned for Lore Drop, yet each is just a string of sentences and then my brain turns to jelly. I had planned out another ten fictions for Gray Owls, yet here we are at the end of the campaign. I have multitudes of podcast and video content to finish, and two commissions to write, and more painting to do...they've all taken far too long to be professional in normal time. This isn't normal time, and yet I expect myself to produce as if it were, and this doesn't change the fact that they MUST get done.
So when does your forgiveness give way to laziness? When does our lack of communication breed dishonesty? When does our tolerance allow hate to grow unchecked?
This isn't normal time. No, it is grow time.
We learn the most when in disequilibrium. So no matter what table you sit around, or what metaphor you cling to, remember that this time isn't a moment to wallow. This is your time to rebuild, to work on yourself, and decide who you will be on the other end.
I, for one, will strive to be better, with full knowledge that I won't look the same as before.
Welcome to the new you. Bring them to the table.
Irish Cream is the bomb-diggity.
Blame my sheltered alcoholic journey, but never have I ever encountered something so darn delicious in such a neat package. And to learn that it's excellent all on its own! And experience it first hand? While experimenting? Oh joyous evening!
For those unaware, Irish Cream is a liqueur of cream, cocoa, and Irish Whiskey. It is often enjoyed on its own over ice, or employed to augment your ice cream, coffee, hot chocolate, and various other sweet tooth things. However, it spirals far beyond this use; put it in some cola and be amazed. A little amaretto added in? Amazing!
The Mindflayer, via Rocks Fall, Everyone Dies (The Tavern)
This time around we put the lens back on a great YouTube channel led by a great DM. Most of his recipes I enjoy (though they can get pretty sweet), but this one I was concerned about. It just didn't look...right. Let's take a look.
"Eyeball" Recipe (meaning no exact measurements)
1 part Triple Sec
1 part Irish Cream
Splash of Grenadine
Splash of Black Sambuca
Directions: you pour about half a shot of Triple Sec, then carefully float Irish Cream on top to fill the rest. Splash of Grenadine, and a drop or two of Black Sambuca.
Drink it down shortly after - don't wait too long (I explain why below)
It might remind you of the classic Brain Hemorrhage shot, which is usually Peach Schnapps and Irish Cream, with a few drops of Grenadine (again, I'll explain).
I have a problem with this drink, and its fault lies in its chemistry. When the Grenadine hits the Irish Cream, there's a congealing reaction. Sure, it looks cool, but that brain-like blob is becoming a stringy solid. The longer you wait to drink it (and it ain't long), the more your gag reflex is going to register that something is wrong. Maybe I'm just odd, but I don't feel like chewing my shots.
How I'd fix it? ...Just don't use the Grenadine. You lose the "bloody" visual, but the Grenadine doesn't seem necessary in the first place - it sinks to the bottom and gets stuck there - and its flavor doesn't match the rest of the suite. My first go was interesting enough, but my second without the pomegranate syrup was infinitely better.
When you have something like the Brain Hemorrhage Shot, this "stringy" effect is intentional; it's not meant to feel right. And I think this variation on a theme has the same intention.
...I just don't like it.
The Dennisen (Den Variation)
In one of my Lore Drop posts, we wrote about an Illithid Corsair named Dennisen Thuul. A Mindflayer of sophistication and tactics, and, despite his nature to consume brain matter, an otherwise strict gentleman. Sure, Mindflayers are scary, but how interesting would it be to blend that terror with a measure of cool and calm? How do you make a drink unsettling but still...intoxicating?
Well, let's stick with Irish Cream for one.
Though we've already explored my distaste for the entire brand of mixology that pursues curdling creamy liqueurs on purpose, there are plenty of lovely pairings for Irish Cream. Ice cream, coffee, cocoa...these are delicious and obvious.
Coming from that vein, we'll find Frangelico (Hazelnut liqueur), Kahlua (coffee liqueur), and sometimes Grand Marnier (orange liqueur) as excellent pairings, though not always together. Vodka and Frangelico pops up here and there.
And then I found the Tequila.
I'm a fan of Gold Tequila, I'm finding, and though when this pops up in research, there are no other additions, so (when you're not following my brain path) try equal parts Irish Cream and Gold Tequila, then pour over ice.
I'm thinking that will be the "weird" that I'm craving. The rest should work well in tandem.
Does Frangelico go well with Tequila? Yes! That's the base for a "Nutty Tequila."
Grand Marnier definitely pairs well (because that's how Margaritas work).
Kahlua and Tequila? That's the "Brave Bull".
BUT. If I learned anything from mixing 5 rums together only to produce the blandest rubbing alcohol I've ever experienced...things that go well in pairs could be catastrophic in trios and quads. So we'll build it slowly.
2 oz Irish Cream + 1 oz Frangelico = is beautiful. No question. And it matches; OF COURSE these flavor palettes go well together.
2 oz Irish Cream + 1 oz Frangelico + 1 oz Kahlua = something still quite lovely. So far, we're still par for the course though. We're using creamy, nutty flavors built for each other. Next, we start to turn things sideways.
2 oz Irish Cream + 1 oz Frangelico + 1 oz Kahlua + 1/2 oz Grand Marnier = ...this is where the differences begin to show. A slight tang, like an orange dipped in chocolate ice cream. Just a tad strange, with a pleasant middle, and a whiskey finish. Stop here if you want the First Mate Version.
2 oz Irish Cream + 1 oz each of Frangelico and Kahlua + 1/2 oz each of Grand Marnier and Gold Tequila.
...My gods. The drink has fundamentally CHANGED.
Tequila in general is a powerful flavor, and I tested it with only the Irish Cream before trying this out, and the result was an assault of tequila. All mixed here, though, you NEED the Grand Marnier. All paired with the cocoa whiskey base, it smooths the weird sharpness of the tequila. I wanted unsettling, but good, and I think I got the right amount of weird.
If it's too weird for you, just don't add the tequila. No foul, First Mate.
Imbibe responsibly, and don't lose your brain.
One question I often come across in various Dungeons and Dragons conversations is “How do I balance my combat encounters?” It’s far from a bad question, but reading through the various responses, it seems that it only scratches the surface of its intent. Based on the answers, there seems to be this assumption that a “balanced” encounter somehow guarantees a “fun” encounter, that if an enemy’s statistics are perfectly calculated, the party will be engaged and energized. Now I’m not at all saying that game balance is irrelevant to this topic, but oftentimes it's treated as if it's the only component worth talking about. So, if game balance is only one piece of the puzzle, what are other tools we can use to build combat encounters that reward players for their engagement?
Tool #1: Game Balance and Setting Values
Game Balance is a term that gets thrown around a lot in DMing circles, but do we know what it actually means? To keep myself accountable, I went to the most reliable information source I had: Wikipedia. Wikipedia defines game balance as a “part of game design (that) can be described as a mathematical-algorithmic model of a game’s numbers, game mechanics, and relations between those. Therefore, game balancing consists in adjusting those to create the intended experiences, usually positive ones.” And although we can debate the legitimacy of Wikipedia as a reputable source, I do agree with this definition.
The key takeaway from this is that the reason we’re adjusting game statistics is to create an “intended experience”. The game system’s numbers are set so that they give players a certain feeling when they discover them. To do this effectively with a creature stat block you tend to run in combat, you have to consider your player characters’ statistics when setting them. The only real meaning to quantities in Dungeons and Dragons is to compare them to each other. It doesn’t matter if a player character has a Strength of 20 or 40, as long as it’s in proportion to what that character should feel like compared to a commoner. If a player character has a Strength of 40, and a commoner has a Strength of 35, your player character won’t feel as exceptional.
So let’s take a look at some values we can set for our creatures, and the impact they have on the experience we intend to deliver.
Armor Class and Attack Bonus
Armor Class (AC) determines how often your creature gets hit, and will largely inform your players if Attack Rolls or Saving Throws are more reliable to use. Do note that Martial Classes rely on Attack Rolls to hit, so if you create a creature with a virtually prohibitive AC, you may invalidate the efforts of at least half of the available character classes in the game. This is fine for presenting a creature the party isn’t intended to fight, but it can be soul-crushing when the party fighter feels completely ineffective because they are excluded from participating in the fight due to statistics.
When I set a creature’s AC, I first look at my players’ average Attack Bonus. For example, in my latest game, my players were all 5th level, meaning they have a proficiency bonus of +3. If they didn’t intentionally misbuild their characters, their primary stat is probably a +3 or +4, meaning that they have an average attack bonus of +6 or +7. Therefore, if I have a creature with an AC of 17, they’ll have to roll at least a 10 or 11 on the d20 to hit, meaning they have a 50-55% chance to hit my creature. If I increase the AC any higher, that chance decreases even more. I find that when players have a 40% chance or lower to hit a creature, they’ll feel as if they’re not meant to hit it. Although we can justify the reasoning why a creature may have an AC of 18 or 19, is that reasoning more important than giving your players the excitement of hitting and dealing damage?
Of course, as with anything in TTRPGs, there are exceptions. One factor I consider when designing the environment of the encounter is how easy it is for my players to get advantage on their attack rolls. Advantage accounts for an average of an additional +5 to their attack rolls, meaning characters with a set attack bonus of +6 or +7 are now functionally rolling with a +11 or +12, and they have a greater chance to land a critical hit. If I set up an encounter where it's easy to flank, or I know one of my players brought a Druid or Mastermind Rogue that has features or spells that grant their allies advantage, I have to rethink my math. Maybe an AC of 19 or 20, especially if I’m overt about the strategic clues my players can leverage to make the most out of each of their attacks. To reiterate, this is a mechanical approach in order to deliver an intended experience that is justified with description and story afterward.
One last piece of feedback I’ve taken to heart (in terms of Armor Class) was from one of my long time players and friends. “It always feels better to have a creature with a lower AC and more Hit Points because then at least I feel like I’m doing something.”
Now the flip side to Armor Class is the Attack Bonus, the modifier that’s added to an attack roll to determine if you hit a creature’s Armor Class. Just like I calculate my creature’s AC based off of my player’s attack bonuses, I also take their AC into account when designing my creature’s attack bonus. For example, if I know one my players have an AC of 14, a +8 attack bonus means my creature has to roll a 6 or higher on the d20 to hit. Add on multiple attacks, and they are hitting far more often than they miss.
Now that same +8 to hit the tanky fighter with an 18 AC? The creature has to roll a 10 or higher, meaning they have a 55% hit rate against that character. But is that the feeling I want my fighter to have? Do I want the party fighter to get hit more than half of the time? My answer, as always, is that it depends. Sometimes I do, sometimes I don’t. If the party is fighting a single, tough monster like a troll or otyugh, then maybe the fighter takes some hits for the sake of the party. If the party is fighting a bandit captain and his goons, maybe I want the party fighter to feel a little unhittable and get excited by the fact that the goons aren’t able to make it past their masterful defense. After all, if they built their character with a high armor class, don’t we want to reward them with an encounter where they feel like they have a high armor class?
So to summarize this one quickly, first I look at the party’s average AC. The number of attacks matters here. Two attacks with a +8 modifier is a different game than one attack with +9. Remember, if a creature gets two attacks, both with +8, it's almost like they’re rolling with advantage (so really it's like one attack with a +13) with the difference being that if they roll high on both attacks, the damage is essentially doubled. In Fifth Edition’s simple math, a one point change in Attack Bonus or Armor Class can lead to a huge gap in probability, and adding or subtracting attacks or actions will quickly widen that gap further.
HP and Damage Output
Hit points are a measurement of progress in a fight, and I actually find that the average hit points presented in the Monster Manual cause combat to get over with a little too quickly. However, maxing out a creature’s potential hit points is a great way to create tension in a combat encounter. Remember that game statistics are used for reference. If your 5th level Barbarian has sixty something hit points, and the thing their fighting has 240, how will your Barbarian feel in comparison?
Also remember that you as the DM are at liberty to change a creature’s hit points on the fly (a contentious opinion, but my opinion nonetheless). For example, I remember a one shot I participated in where we were introducing a brand new player to Dungeons and Dragons. We were all 4th level, and were fighting a young green dragon as an end boss. The new player, a Paladin, had used a potion of flying, which the DM described as giving him two luminescent angel wings. On his next turn, just as the dragon’s breath weapon knocked out my druid (the healer) and the sorcerer (our primary damage dealer up until that point), the paladin catapulted toward the dragon, hit with a Natural 20, used Divine Smite, and slayed the beast. After the game, the DM admitted to me in a private message that really, the dragon would have had 1 hit point left, but what made for a better story? The paladin (again, played by a NEW player) charging forward with heavenly wings and smiting with the wrath of Celestia? Or the ranger shooting another mundane arrow. When there’s an epic moment that can generate a memorable finish to a fight, why does the last hit point matter?
My final piece of advice on hit points is to include more resistances and vulnerabilities to your creatures. I took this from Zee Bashew’s Making Enemies in 5e Witchery (link https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GhjkPv4qo5w&t=46s), and it’s only made my combats more exciting since. One of our goals in crafting exciting encounters is to reward players with engagement, meaning they’re paying attention to story clues that can help them strategize in combat. I can’t count the number of times a DM has given a lengthy and vivid description of their monster, and when I went to act on that description to give me an edge in combat, they’re response is “Well, that was for flavor. There are no mechanics to take advantage of”. To me, they might have well have said “Thank you for listening to my lengthy description. It doesn’t actually matter if you did or not. I’m just using it to justify a bunch of custom mechanics to make your life more difficult”. And I’m not picking on one person. I’ve played with a lot of different DMs, and this has come up time and time again.
Rather, wouldn’t it reward engagement if it did matter? For example, if I said, “The aboleth’s skin glistens with a slimy coat of mucus as it cranes its body over the party”, and a player said, “Slimy? If I use a cold spell, will it restrict its movement?”, I may double movement penalties caused by a ray of frost, or give it disadvantage on a Constitution save against cone of cold. If my players are engaged with my descriptions, shouldn’t I reward them for that (even if I didn’t think of it during prep)? Even better, I may have cold damage deal double to this aboleth because of their logic. By offering different creatures with different vulnerabilities, it encourages players to try different spells and damage types in order to discover what works best against each kind of enemy. And, even though they’re dealing double damage, the creature’s hit points are maxed anyways so the rhythm of the fight isn’t really disrupted.
Resistances also give the players new information. If you present a creature with a resistance (that makes sense given its lore), then players may find that their go-to damage choice isn’t working, and encourages players to prepare two or more options of damage types to switch between. This way, a player doesn’t go through multiple combats relying on a single choice, then feeling as if an encounter was designed against them because their only prepared option doesn’t work. One thing to note on vulnerabilities and resistances: I almost never use them for physical damage (bludgeoning, piercing, slashing). If a creature is resistant in this way, it's to non-magical attacks. Most martial characters are built with a single weapon specialty in mind, and often only have one weapon damage type as their only option. When a DM enforces carry weight and variant encumbrance (like I do), it also complicates matters. Fifth Edition rewards casting characters much more than martial characters as is, so reducing the complications of feeling successful as a martial character improves the health of the party’s relationships.
As for damage output, I find that many times the default monster actions tend to do a great job at conveying how hard a creature can hit. If anything, I may increase or decrease the damage die by one size (like making a 2d6 attack 2d8), but I find that the number of attacks or actions is a much more relevant value to adjust rather than the damage it hits for. Like I said before, two attacks with a +8 attack bonus can be much more deadly than one attack with a +9, and understanding how much damage a creature is likely to output has to do with its action economy (more on that later).
Saving Throw Bonuses and Spell Save DC
It makes sense that each creature would have natural defenses against certain kinds of attacks, and that they should have greater saving throw bonuses to match. Like with vulnerabilities and resistances, the key to creating an exciting encounter is to give the enemy creature a discoverable weakness the players can leverage into their strategy. Also, as said before, those high and low saving throws should be based on context clues you include in your description, encouraging your players to remain engaged with the details you give them. A spindly creature with spider-like movements may have a high Dexterity save, but hitting them with a Wisdom saving spell may have a higher chance to succeed. A calculating enemy wizard may have studied how to protect their mind, but requiring them to succeed Dexterity saves may be more difficult for them.
Now each creature in Fifth Edition has a Saving Throw bonus to each of its main six abilities. However, three of them are more common than the rest, and these are the ones that matter in terms of game balance: Dexterity, Constitution, and Wisdom. When designing an encounter I usually have one of these saves be higher and one be lower, or keep all of them at relatively neutral values. Like how we set AC in relation to the party’s average Attack Bonus, taking their Spell Save DC into account. A +7 bonus to a Saving Throw might not sound like much, but if a player’s Spell Save DC is only 13, then it’s more likely than not your creature will succeed its save, and the player may not feel that spell is effective.
One counter example I’ve heard is that “old monsters are old for a reason”, and that they would have developed natural defenses to these common kinds of attacks. The logic does track. An ancient dragon is ancient because it figured out how to withstand Dexterity saves, is tough enough to handle a Constitution save, and may be wily enough to avoid a Wisdom save. However, if a creature has no weakness, it's just as boring as an encounter where everything always works.
This is where I like to employ conditional weaknesses. For example, let’s say the party is fighting an ancient red dragon. The dragon has decent saves across the board, and its immunity to fire damage and resistance to cold (at least, my dragon) is proving to be a challenge. However, when the dragon tries to fly, one of my players (who played Pokémon) decides to try to hit it with a call lightning spell. While the dragon isn’t vulnerable to lightning damage, it does have disadvantage on saving throws against lightning while it’s flying. By creating a condition that reveals the creature’s weakness, it encourages the party to strategize to solve the puzzle of the combat.
The last piece of this puzzle is legendary resistances, a mechanic I despise because it’s never been used to create excitement. Because legendary resistances are only used after the DM knows that the monster’s saving throw has failed, they retroactively rewrite a player’s success by design, which can leave a player feeling that their choice was meaningless. Now this doesn’t mean I don’t use legendary resistances at all, but the form they take is definitely adjusted from the by-the-book approach.
And like each of these sections, the flip side of calculating my creature’s Saving Throw bonuses is their Spell Save DC (or just DCs for whatever nasty effect they may have up their sleeves). However, unless the creature’s main abilities will revolve around the Spell Save DC rather than Attack Rolls, I’ll try to keep the Spell Save DC a little lower (usually between 13 and 15). The reason for this is that I usually tinker with my monsters’ action economy to balance out certain effects against the party, meaning they can spam Saving Throw features that inflict conditions that can really hamper the party. Because party members are more likely to have to make these saves, to me it creates a better flow to have them succeed slightly more than they fail. If that Save DC is too high, my players can be overwhelmed easily. Like I said before though, if the party is facing off against a dedicated caster whose whole schtick is using Saving Throw spells, then the Spell Save DC will be a little higher (probably a 17 or 18), although I usually design some kind of other flaw into their Stat Block that the party can take advantage of.
In summary of this tool, keep your players’ stats in mind while setting or adjusting the stats for the creatures you want to run. If you don’t know your players’ stats, build a quick character at their level and see what stats you’d generate. It’ll give you a pretty good idea of what numbers to work with to create an exciting experience. Just remember, little changes make a big difference, and even a one point change can be the difference between an exciting battle, a frustrating one, or worse yet a boring one.
Tool #2: Action Economy
One resource that fundamentally changed the way I look at running enemy creatures was Matt Coleville’s Action Oriented Monsters video (link https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=y_zl8WWaSyI&t=1282s), which posits that giving monsters a full action economy can change the dynamic between player characters and their foes. Most creatures don’t get a bonus action or reaction in the same way that PCs with Class Levels get. If you break down a standard action economy, a single big creature gets one turn for every four turns that an enemy party gets, which means the player character party gets to hit four times as many times as the one big monster. While this might be balanced by just giving the one big monster higher stats, like we determined earlier, four times as many actions is a very different economy then two bigger attacks.
Now there is a little bit of divergence I’ve taken from Coleville’s approach. Coleville grants his monsters extra actions that coincide with the same language as the players. Oftentimes, I ignore this mechanical language to bring my players’ attention to the action at hand, both in description and in function. Rather than have my creatures choose between casting a spell or attacking twice, I let them do both. Why? I’m the DM, I say so, and it creates more exciting encounters. Not only do my solo monsters deal damage, they usually have an additional condition-inflicting effect that can change the circumstances of the encounter. It’s one thing to know that the giant we’re fighting deals a nasty amount of damage. It’s another when they can swing twice, then use a third action to attempt to knock another creature prone with a Dexterity save. This may change the party’s strategy and position, and the team may have to pivot rolls to best deal with this threat.
Of course, another simple solution is to just add more pieces to the board you control. While I think this may ultimately slow down play (as the DM has to now remember the actions and features of more than one creature), it can work to divide the party’s attention between multiple threats and give them more targeting choices than just the one big monster.
My favorite approach lies somewhere in the middle. Have one big monster with usually two attacks and some kind of spell/condition effect, then give them a bunch of minions to annoy the party. The more variables you add to the encounter, the more chances your players have to utilize situational spells and create memorable moments.
Tool #3: Changing Circumstances
This is a term I’ve used a bit throughout this post, but it does ring true. When we talk about dynamic combat, we’re literally talking about combat that changes and progresses. Oftentimes, high level encounters amount to facing enemies with a bevy of defenses and immunities, which encourages players to choose reliable damage dealing options because there’s virtually no chance for success.
Remember how I mentioned I hate Legendary Resistances? Well this final tool is what’s turned my combat encounters from predictable, stale damage slogs into dynamic and engaging puzzles. Circumstances change as the battles progress. By including puzzle pieces like damage vulnerabilities and resistances, players at my table know that by trying different options, there is new information to discover. Newly discovered information is a change to the battle’s structure. I’m also not above changing those static values we mentioned earlier due to logical happenstance. For example, if I present a stone golem with a high AC, but a caster uses an acid spell (a damage type that’s often ignored because of its lower damage output), then often I reason that the acid erodes the golem’s tough armor, and maybe even lowers its AC, making it easier for the martial characters to hit. And those legendary resistances? Each time my players deplete a creature’s hit points past certain thresholds, my legendary monsters lose their legendary resistances accordingly. Legendary resistances prevent legendary monsters from being defeated instantly due to a bad roll against a feeblemind or eyebite spell, but having those spells never work is just as boring. So by relegating those spells toward the end of the fight, it encourages my players to save their best spells for when the legendary monster is tired and hurt, and as such can’t use legendary resistances even if they haven’t used one all fight. I distinctly remember the collective cheer at the table when my player’s lowered by ancient dragon’s hit points below 25% maximum, and I told them it meant that there were no more legendary resistances left. It’s a celebratory moment that opens the possibilities to more dramatic endings to epic set piece encounters.
My last point for this section is that you can let your players know their choice mattered through mechanical change. For example, if your players are interested in having their social interaction mid-combat affect the enemy’s behavior, have your enemy choose their targets differently. If your player has a clever description or idea, introducing game elements that can get in the way of it succeeding discourages your player from pursuing such ideas in the future. Whether a certain line of thinking excites you or not, remember that how you rule situations mechanically determines the storytelling potential you allow for at your table. And there is nothing wrong with saying “No”.
There were a few tools within tools I mentioned here, and all of this may be overwhelming to take in at first. Do note that while this is a fairly comprehensive list of the factors I take into account when designing my encounters, this was by no means learned overnight. It was years of running encounter after encounter, including small changes over time that lead to this. Hopefully you’ve found something useful in these notes, and you might even find yourself coming back to them to slowly integrate different elements. The overarching theme is to pay attention to what energizes your players. I’ve run encounters of simple goblins with no real strategy and had my players have a blast, and I’ve run more complex encounters with players feeling like it wasn’t fair. Use what works for you and leave the rest. This is just what’s worked for me, and as I learn more, I’ll be sure to share that with you as well.
Study Hard, Play Hard
There's a favorite red drink among bartenders that holds a less-flattering terminology that I probably can't repeat on this blog (about drinking, no less), so let's just refer to it as a Red-Headed...Lady, cuz what she does with her body is entirely HER choice.
It is a sweet and fruity drink that is wholly deceptive. It's meant to knock you on your butt before you know what hit you...or why you just pounded down three of them over a tasty hour or so. Oops.
The Red-Headed Lady - Classic Version
For this you need Jaegermeister, Peach Schnapps, and some Cranberry Juice. Ratio goes 1-1-2.
For the laymen:
1 oz. Jaegermeister
1 oz Peach Schnapps
2 oz Cranberry Juice
Shake in a mixer with ice and pour into a few shots or a shooter glass.
...And yet, though that be the classic recipe, that ain't how a lot of people enjoy this drink. Sure, order this at a bar in shot form, and you'll get a nice fruity Jaegerbomb with Cranberry, but let me share with you a few other variations.
Other Ways Of Enjoying Your Lady
VARIATION 1 - Jaegerlite
Maybe you're not a fan of the German licorice herbal liqueur and you'd like a bit less. In that case, we adjust the ratios a tad.
1/2 oz Jaegermeister
2 oz Peach Schnapps
3 oz Cranberry Juice
**This one's more of a drink than a shot, unless you're up for a few in a row.
VARIATION 2 - The Red Shirley
Splash of Jaegermeister
2 oz Peach Schnapps
3 oz Cranberry Juice
Fill with Sprite
**I am convinced that THIS concoction is what the bartender kept giving my fiancé at her bachelorette party. And, as she normally HATES Jaegermeister, this drink's minimal use of a key ingredient makes perfect sense.
VARIATION 3 - The Red Crown
1 oz Jaegermeister
1 oz Peach Schnapps
1 oz Crown Royal
1 oz Cranberry Vodka
VARIATION 4 - Red-Headed Cowgirl
1 oz Southern Comfort
1 oz Rye Whiskey
2 oz Raspberry Liqueur
Heck, there's even one that brings champagne to the mix. If you want to feel special, I guess you could add a splash of Coca-Cola to the original recipe and call yourself Lindsey Lohan.
Moonriver Take - The Incubus
It's deceptive and tasty. We have to both bind the flavors of the Jaeger with the Peach, then throw in a twist to both darken and smooth out the palette...without completely derivative. I choose dark, smooth, and a little spicy, just like one of my favorite monsters to run in a mature game.
VARIATION 5 - The Incubus
1 oz Jaegermeister
1 oz Peach Schnapps
2 oz Raspberry Liqueur
1 oz Aftershock (cinnamon liqueur)
1 oz Amaretto
Fill with Sprite
Sweet, seductive, with a little spice.
The Dark and Stormy is often considered a variation on a Mule. A little alcohol and some ginger beer. However, for my first casual Drinking and Dragons, I was inspired by an excellent barkeep online who shared
The Classic Dark and Stormy
The Dark and Stormy is a classic for a reason. It's easy and it's yummy. Don't try so hard.
Take your desired glass.
Pour in 2 oz of dark rum
Then fill the rest with Ginger Beer
If you're feeling sassy, splash in a little lime juice and ice.
The Storm Giant - by Palm Of Vecna, via Rocks Fall, Everyone Dies
I wish I could take credit for this one.
There's an excellent channel on the YouTubes called Rocks Fall, Everyone Dies. The creator ran a separate show for a brief time called "The Tavern" where he shares, mixes, and tastes drinks he's drafting. It's good content and you should check it out (click the name in the section title above). One of his cast members created this beauty.
STORM GIANT RECIPE
3 oz Kraken or Oakheart rum
1.5 oz Moonshine
1 can of Ginger Beer
Pour this simple mix into a large mug with ice and enjoy!
The Thunderstep (Den Draft)
The first time I mixed The Storm Giant, it absolutely required ice and a straw due to sheer volume. It was also bloody tasty, so I wanted to try my hand at something similar. I wanted it to be yummy and STRONG, without knowing it. So you enjoy it, then feel the thunder. Just like a certain spell I know. Warning: this is a One Drink Wonder. Make one and done.
4 oz Captain Morgan (spiced rum)
4 oz Root Beer liqueur
3 oz Moonshine
1 can of Dr. Pepper
Pour all into a large goblet or stein, add ice, sit back, and enjoy.
It makes a lot. It IS for a GIANT, after all.
The following is a sweet shooter.
Another draft of my own head, I wanted to make something that goes down quick and easy - like the liquid courage one downs before a tough job. We'll need two fruity liqueurs, some vodka, and a smidge of cola.
The Sidearm Recipe
1/2 oz Raspberry Liqueur
1/2 oz Vanilla Vodka
1/2 oz Peachtree Schnapps
1 oz Coca-Cola
...Makes about 2 shots or one shooter.
Mix it up, pour it out, and suck it down. If too fruity, swap out the Vanilla Vodka for a measure of standard or Black Vodka.
Good job, kid, now go punch that Orc in the face! You'll be fine.
Easy going this week.
Shoot straight and responsibly.
World-building. It’s a term that you’ll hear in a variety of contexts including literature, cinema, television series, video games, and our usual focus, Dungeons and Dragons. A lot of Dungeon Masters became Dungeon Masters because of the creative control they have over their own world, and a lot of players come to Dungeons and Dragons to relax into an immersive experience that combines the intricacies of careful craftsmanship and the thrill of spontaneous play. It’s a space that not only allows us to momentarily escape the troubles of our real lives, but also empowers us to confront those same troubles in a practiced and graceful way. That being said, if mishandled, worldbuilding can also be confusing, exclusionary, and at its worst prohibitive to a player’s enjoyment of a D&D experience.
Now I will be the last person to downplay the value of worldbuilding when crafting an immersive experience, but the prep work alone doesn’t contribute to immersion. Immersion is all about the delivery of intricate information you as the Dungeon Master have spent time carefully crafting, and when mishandled this can have a variety of less than ideal outcomes. Reserve too much information and it's easier for the players to resist immersing themselves in your vision. Ramble too much where the players don’t have the chance to make choices and interact, and they get bored. So what’s the solution?
In my experience, it all comes down to frequent and honest communication. Some players will be more interested in the world than others. Some players will have extremely detailed backgrounds while others are fine creating characters they learn about as they go. So let’s create a space where everyone wins, including you, the world-builder.
Let Your Players Create Too
Now I will admit, my world building is nothing exceptional. I have little interest and skill in crafting highly specific settings with complex layers of intrigue and novel ideas that keep my players guessing. Most of my interesting world-building concepts are rearranged ideas from other sources (but then again, isn’t all art?). So this is a little tip that has gone a long way for me.
My players often create locations, home towns, and points of interest in their back stories that become focal points for a campaign. For example, in my latest game, I had a player create a town next to a forest of fairies. Boom. In the game. This is probably the most direct way that a player can be included in the world-building process, and it doesn’t mean you have to forgo your boundaries for creating your world. If that player mentions something about the world’s overall economy, or another major component you’ve thought through, ask what they’re really trying to convey, and then ask if you can edit or include additional details that further integrates their setting more closely with the overall world you’re creating. You’re creating something together, just like the story you’ll spontaneously tell later on at the table.
Organizing A Reference Document
Now, it goes without saying that the COVID-19 pandemic caused many sudden shifts for many different people. In terms of D&D, this led to a shift of at-the-table play to online play, which led to my greatest discovery: Google Drive. And this in turn led to the greatest world-building tool I’ve ever had: the Google Doc. What this tool allows for is you, the Dungeon Master, to detail a world’s common knowledge to your heart’s content, as well as include homebrew rules and systems, with your players’ understanding that you can edit and expand on information you present.
With the shift from tabletop to online gaming, one of the biggest discoveries I’ve had about myself and my gaming preferences is how much I love storytelling in gaming, and how my focus on mechanical understanding was to deliver the story I wanted to tell on my terms, without the DM telling me my idea didn’t fit what the book said. So when I sit down to DM games in my latest world, I view my players as storytelling contributors that write for their own characters, and I want them to have every tool imaginable.
So, I started with a Setting Reference Document (not to be confused with 5e’s SRD, which is a whole different can of worms). The Setting Reference Doc includes a gazetteer (in the fashion of Eberron: Rising from the Last War or Explorer’s Guide to Wildemount) with brief descriptions of the major regions that any character would reasonably know about. For an analogue to our real world, you don’t need a Harvard education to know that England has a Queen and Japan had warriors in its history named samurai. By elaborating on a few key iconic details from each region of the world, it gives each player a sense of what the overall world is like, as well as decide where their character hails from.
Once they make that decision, it’s time for a one-on-one conversation with each player. While every player knows the information in the living document about each region, I give each individual player more specific information about their home region, that they are free to share with other players (or not). This is how you create complex systems of character information without making it feel as if the DM is gating information from everyone. Each player has a little more information in one area than the others, and it allows them to express unique perspectives on different situations as the party dynamics mature and develop.
The key concept here is conversation. It’s not about hiding things from your players. It's about giving them the proper tools to allow themselves to immerse themselves into your world and ask better questions to drive the story. This happens by communicating what you want, and listening to how they communicate what they want. And it's not going to be perfect each time, but the more you respect the angle they’re taking with their character, and rewarding that with exclusive details about your world, the more trust they’ll have in you to take them through an immersive and rich experience.
Nuts and Bolts Tip: If you’re planning on using a Google Doc to communicate your world-building, expectations, or other homebrew systems, make sure you’re the only one who can edit it and the players you invite to view it are commenters. You don’t want one of your players to accidentally delete all of your hard work.
Now, I’ve played in plenty of games where I’ve really thought through the world building process. However, in the heat of the game, not every player is going to pick up on every little detail you describe, and some may not even interpret the same detail the same way. By having your world-building details written down and accessible to your players, your players can clarify details with each other. If they remember a location but don’t remember its name, they can look it up. If they hear the name of something, and they know if they’ve heard it before, they can look it up. And if your players discover secrets about the world they’re characters may not have known before, you as the DM can always update the document to contain the most detailed information all players would reasonably have access to.
There’s a certain beauty in being able to say “look it up in the doc” or “you can find it in the doc”. And just to clarify, this isn’t intended as a punishment, or a “gotcha!” It just empowers your players to create compelling characters using details you’ve provided them so that they can respect the work you’ve put in while creating unique characters that allow them to express themselves. Everyone wins.
As a DM, I’ve forgotten details. As a player, I’ve forgotten details. As a player, I’ve seen a DM forget details, and then try to scramble to pretend that they didn’t. And this situation only gets messier if none of it is written down. It gets even messier if a player wrote it down, and the DM tries to cover their butt by saying they misinterpreted or wrote it down wrong, creating tension with that player.
If anything, not only does a living document organize your thoughts and creations into a useful tool, it also keeps everyone at the table accountable. If a player tries to say they didn’t understand something you’ve made abundantly clear, other players are empowered to help you adjudicate. If you’ve made a mistake, other players have something you’ve written to keep you on track. I’ve found ever since implementing a living document detailing my world, my players have felt that I’ve been more accountable in delivering a quality experience, which has actually led to more trust in my judgment. Fear of accountability is a symptom of doubt in ability. The DM that fears accountability or being called out for a misruling they’ve laid the precedent for is one that tends to be more interested in maintaining an unbalanced power dynamic than one that’s interested in crafting the most quality experience for everyone, including themselves.
And ultimately, this is our goal. When your players are included in your thought process, imagination, and creativity, they become more interested in the little things that make your world yours. And that leads to their investment and ultimately their immersion. It’s okay to hold onto some secrets about your world for your players to discover. In fact, it’s encouraged. However, it's a whole other thing to get them to care about the secrets your world holds that they can discover. And the best way I’ve found to get players to care about your world is to make them a part of it, from its design to its play at the table.
When you present your document, I recommend running it as part of a session zero. Explain your expectations, variant game mechanics and why they’re more appropriate to the style of game you’re going for, then dive into the nitty gritty. Where are the players going to go? What races can they play, and do they conform or differ from the traditions set by the PHB? What are the problems in each region, and how could they fit into a character’s story?
A great tool to ignite a player’s imagination while character building is the ten question exercise I posed in the previous Study Hall post. If you can ground the players in the world, while also having a consistent resource for information you freely give, and give them exclusive information based on the choices they make at character creation, you present far more investment into your world, and they begin to actually care about it. That’s what increases immersion. And that’s what makes D&D so magical.
Study Hard, Play Hard
My wife and I love Star Trek.
We have for a long time, in our separate lives, and it was strangely a new discovery for the both of us as we were surfing the Netflix and Prime catalogues seeking to scratch that interstellar itch.
She began expositing on the 2009 reboot, which we were searching for, but unwilling to pay for at the time, and I chimed in on my love for Star Trek: Generations, despite how "meh" it's aged over the years. My favorite of the TNG run was always First Contact (#8 in the classic run, and #2 with the TNG crew), but I was quite pleased with the 2009 reboot.
And so...we seem to be working through a bunch of Star Trek films, rewatching old loves of cinema, and poking fun at them through a modern lens. Some stack up better than others, standing the test of time through snappy writing, strong dialogue, and some kick-ass music. In fact, that's something the 2009 Star Trek had going for it, more so than many other films that came out at the same time.
It felt like something familiar and nostalgic, despite its shiny lens-flaring new model. This effect, for those of us listening intently, was no accident. Composer Michael Giacchinno sculpted the entire soundtrack as a rising action and resolution into the original TV series theme by Alexander Courage. And the theme is heard all over the place! If one isn't careful, one might assume it's being beaten over your head, but it never feels that way. Giacchino skillfully explores the musical theme in various styles to fit the action and setting; sometimes its reverent chordal structures, other times bombastic horns and strings, sometimes just a haunting choir. It is masterfully done.
And this immersive element, coupled with great cinematography, wonderful sound design, strong characters, and excellent story beats...makes you happily overlook the moments in the story where the YouTube-critic in us all would nit-pick the hell out of it. Yes, why wasn't Vulcan already evacuating? Yeah, how the heck does Earth not have ships or planetary defenses engaging Nero? Why do the Romulans look so weird?
Still. I'm down to watch it again, and I've listened to its musical score hundreds of times.
Which got me thinking.
Film was, for many, the natural evolution of the theater. And the theater was our first great lesson in IMMERSION.
Imagine, for a moment, entering a theater with a stage that protrudes into the audience. You settle into your seats and talk amongst yourselves, perusing the program that has just been handed to you. On its front, in brilliant stylized lettering, you find the words, "The Phantom Of The Opera". Scanning the cast, you find familiar names, and new ones; some leads, some barely mentioned - perhaps you skip to the back and read up on a few. Somewhere under the stage, in a pit below, an errant violin tunes its strings, poised to play; you listen a moment longer before turning back to the program in your lap. Beyond the title, you are presented with an act structure, and, if it's a musical, the song order and who sings it. You are given the entire story's structure, framing, and resolution in a tight little package at the onset - yet there's still such an electricity in the air. This is a LIVE performance.
The lights dim, and two actors take the stage as the curtain slowly rises, revealing a destroyed and dilapidated set. A fallen chandelier rests in the center of the stage, rubble and ruin surrounding it. The two actors, well-dressed businessmen, discuss an upcoming auction and of the terrible accident that ended this theater's life. The two actors leave as the room grows darker, all eyes on the chandelier. A chill wind rolls across the stage, distant thunder booming somewhere outside. And then, you hear it.
Wind swirls around the rubble, the rocks and stone moving and shifting back into place. Lanterns and torchlight flicker to life surrounding the stage, a brilliance returning to the space. And then, the chandelier...RISES, as light flows across its crystalline visage. The stage turns back in time, drawing you in to the time before, transporting you to this story. The music, the visuals, the sounds, the smells, everything draws you to this singular moment.
And this, ladies and gentlemen, is what they call an Overture.
The Death Of The Overture
An Overture is not unheard of in film. In fact, under the synonym "Opening Titles", was utilized by a multitude of film, especially those in the 90s. It was a clear and effective way to draw in your audience.
The first, and probably most iconic, overture that springs to mind...is Superman.
And who better to usher in the 1978 classic than the immortal John Williams. The guy is a masterclass in the Overture.
But what is the musical purpose of an Overture?
Well, in a stage production, it would fall into one of two categories: A Medley - showing off segments of all of the musical cues and leitmotifs you're about to experience in broader forms; or an Opening Number - a lead-in to the first big showstopping number. In film...that still happens. Star Wars is a great example of the "Opening Number" - we get the iconic theme, the text crawl, and we're into the opening scene and off running. Here, though, we are instead treated to a Medley of sorts; an extended version of the hero's theme with elements intertwined that highlight other cues in the film.
Two others fall into this framework. One, more like Superman, with a reverence and patience to its Overture, and the other with a sharp cue that pulls us directly into the opening scene, and both have beautifully stood the test of time in my memory. Let me share them with you.
Listening to these again, even after all this time, is truly an arresting experience. It quiets me. Reminds me of the sheer power and beauty of the aesthetic. Just shut up and LISTEN to that. Put your damn phone down, and listen; be drawn into this world.
And this wasn't a rare thing. I'm not that old, and yet I've watched this trend evolve, change, and steadily die. Films nowadays hold little reverence for their music, despite soundtracks being lauded. Musicians are given little time to construct a great score, and I wonder sometimes what it must be like in this modern age of speed and satisfaction to know that your audience can't seem to give you the time of day for the next few minutes so you can flex something beautiful.
And yet, we still crave it. I wonder if this immersive novelty is one of many reasons that has ensnared me with the art of cooperative storytelling. Why so many of my campaigns have evolved to support and explore deep social, emotional encounters as opposed to fast action. How so many crave the rich lore that surrounds them and beg for just another moment inside their imaginary world.
The Overture At The Table
We as gamers and masters draw each other into our collective imaginations; it is no small part of what makes this powerful hobby so rewarding. To join together in collective reverence and immersion, all in pursuit of creating a more satisfying and rewarding experience, is one of the greatest feats a table can achieve.
But that respect for each other, and your game master, is paramount.
We can set up a practiced intro crawl, different voices to set the mood, cool music to set the tone, but we need the PLAYERS to come along for the journey. And if you are a player that struggles with this; if you find yourself bored or distracted, itching for that phone or that desktop or that next round of Fall Guys...I challenge you to slow down.
I challenge you:
Walk into that theater. Sit down. Allow yourself to be drawn slowly into something magical. And when that first cue hits, ride it all the way down the rabbit hole. You might be surprised what you'll find when you allow yourself to really feel something special.
Now pick up your sword and your favorite Drink Me. The musicians are tuning their instruments...the show's about to start.
See you at the table.
PS: One more for the road. ;)
One of the first games I ever ran professionally had a stalwart knight with a belabored backstory full of twists, turns, and dead siblings. His name was Denimus Umbra, oldest brother to the main not-villain of the first arc, Warrick Umbra (whom he thought was dead; actually nearly assassinated by the head of the church of Tiamat, along with his two younger brothers...who Warrick saved by summoning hounds to hold their spirits to the material plane) ...He wasn't in the right campaign.
Let's drink to his memory!
The Classic Daiquiri
Even before all your frozen daiquiri variations found their marks, the Daiquiri was a creature of elegance. Another simple cocktail of minimal ingredients, best served cold.
It is a vehicle for light rum, simple syrup, and a little lime. Simple and to the point.
2 oz light rum
1 oz Lime juice
3/4 oz simple syrup
Serve chilled or not, whatever works.
Denimus was a Paladin in the Third Age of Ionian Lore. He served his station with heroism and virtue. ...Which means, we have some nasty smite damage to work into this simple cocktail.
The simple answer is to roll in some dark Rum; probably Kraken. Instead of Lime, how about some Lemon? Grenadine (simple syrup with pomegranate) will fill that role. And then we need something else; a tiny radiant punch at the end.
2 oz Kraken spiced rum
1 oz Cherry Liqueur
1 oz Lemon Juice
3/4 oz Grenadine
---Makes 4 shots total
This is where the metaphor gives way in favor of convenient alliteration. This will not remind you of a valiant knight charging into battle. Instead, this goes down smooth and sweet, SMITING you after the hit with a nice buzz. As I'm discovering, I make things that are tasty and strong, so be careful how many spell slot shots you dole out with this one.
Professional Game Master musician, music teacher, game designer, amateur bartender, and aspiring fiction author.
Mondays: Patreon Mini
Tuesday: Lore Drop
Wednesday: Other Corners
Thursday: Moonriver Bar
Friday: Podcast goes up!
Saturday: GM's Corner
Sunday: REST DAY