Monster of the Month – Plants

To clarify a big thing real quick I am not doing Plants the monster type but actual plants. This does not include plant humanoids like Myconids, Treants or Wood Woads as those would be well under Humanoid Plants. I’ll also be saving Blights and Spore Servants for later posts for us to drill down into their tactics and RP elements. My focus for this Monster of the Month post is purely actual plant-like things that can attack you.

With that out of the way we still have alot to talk about. Like some of our other topics this year plants are a monster that quickly get counted out of encounters with veteran players or at higher tiers of play. This is mostly just a bit of a PR issue as they can still be just as terrifying no matter the tier of play. The main problem comes in the fact that every DM uses them the same way, making players spotting the encounter a mile off kind of the expected. So to help out I’ll not only provide a few new plant monsters, cause lets be real there are so many crazy IRL plants we can drag into D&D, but I’ll also really be hitting on the encounter set up for these leafy guys.

But first lets get our typical housekeeping out of the way, the part everyone knows at this point – what plants already exist!

Now I know what you are thinking. These are plants DM Dalliance of course they are going to show up in the same places, meaning that my players will know when to be wary. But putting them in a strange location they shouldn’t be in is even more of a red flag! This is the lamentation of a thousand DMs when it comes to plants which is why their use is quickly tossed out. It makes sense completely. However it is also our job as DMs to get into the brainpans of our players and find ways around that over vigilance they develop.

All of that is well and fine to state but what can we really do with it with something as location based as a plant encounter? Well the easiest thing to thing about is cultivated landscaping or a potted plant. This lets you put a dangerous plant someone urban and enclosed on purpose that also has a purpose. Maybe its flowers are pretty enough to fool most guests but the owner also knows it likes to eat those who get too close, so hides their valuables behind it. A Rogue attempting to break into a chest might ignore that budding plant on the desk, that is until it tries to eat them.

Okay so house plants are a thing, so is landscaping, but that still leaves us with the problem of creating realistically acceptable encounters outside of a very limited number of scenarios. For more help with that we look to nature itself! Plants adapt and change their appearance to be able to survive in different environments. It stands to reason then that an Assassin Vine in the jungle will look different then one in the forest. Now before you get all up in arms about how certain plants are tied to environments take a breath. What I’m suggesting is that behind the screen it is the Assassin Vine stat block but that to the players what they see is something that fits the space. Heck as a DM unless their passive perception meets a certain threshold or they are actively examining all of the plants around them I wouldn’t even let them see anything is going on till its too late. Changing its appearance and adding a DC for spotting it allows you to lay down plant encounters where ever you want to.

Plants and their tactics seem like a strange thing to discuss but we are doing it anyways. We kind of have two main approaches for tactics from our group of plants above. The dividing factor is normal vs awakened, as being a woke plant brings some complexity to thought and understanding that the normal plant does not. Lets build up by starting with the base plant. The main tactics are survival based of some sort – protection, procreation, food. Plants don’t go about maintaining these in the same way that creature monsters would for obvious reasons but their design and interactions are still based on them.

What I mean to say is its important to see how each plant takes into account those three things into its design when deciding just how the plant approaches conflict with a player or NPC. Take the Shambling Mound for instance – multiple attacks mean they are fast and aggressive, high HP means they are beefy, resistance to cold and fire damage means they are well suited to those types of environments or seasons, and blindsight means they aren’t actually seeing but sensing. For our big three that means that they are use to protecting themselves and possibly what they consider their territory, and they are mobile so they actively hunt for food that they engulf and absorb because sunlight alone isn’t enough to fuel them. Procreation is a little harder since most of the plants in the D&D books don’t have alot of lore laid out for them but given its a plant its safe to assume a few things. Every biology classes teaches about pollen and spores so its safe to go with seasonal and visible. Maybe a Shambling Mound with bright wide open flowers is more aggressive because of trying to pollinate, its not crazy to say that maybe being extra aggressive means that Shambling Mounds often fight or grapple helping along the process. Even more terrifying maybe they instead all gather into a grove and hibernate close to each other to attract the animals and insects needed to do it for them. So a party coming into a clearing with mounds of flowers everywhere who happens to cause a ruckus suddenly has 6 or more Shambling Mounds to deal with.

Looking at another example with the classic Assassin Vine we can see some differences about how they’d interact with a group for an encounter. False appearance means they lay in wait, resistance to cold and fire damage again points to a very hearty plant as does the high HP, and the ability to grapple then constrict or restrain a player means they are thick strong vines. We know they are more opportunistic or ambush hunters since they don’t move to hunt instead they lay in wait patiently. This probably means they have less of a need to consume prey to sustain them but maybe they do it for additional nutrients or to help creatures that benefit them. If the latter is the case that probably means this is going to be an encounter with more then just the plant(s) but also something that is either juvenile and needs the help hunting OR enjoys eating already dead things. This would most likely be a relationship that benefits both monsters one via free food the other most likely for protection from things that like to eat it.

Now lets talk about Awakened plants. We can assume most come to such a state through the spell Awaken, though I can certainly think of some other fun ways we will stick with that assumption for now. What this spell does is up the creature’s Intelligence to 10, making it just as smart as a Commoner, making it charmed by you for 30 days, and for plants it allows them to move all of their parts so say hello to locomotion! This changes alot more then you would expect since a normal Assassin Vine only has an Intelligence of 1 while a Shambling Mound is sitting at a cool 5. Any plant with a mouth (or really any ability to make a mouth like shape because magic) can now speak one language. Wolves have an Int of 12 so now that Awakened plant isn’t too far behind which means they can track, ambush, lay traps, coordinate, and more. Their actions are less instinctual and now actually thought out. Take the types of tactics you would with a group of bandits, a pack of wolves or a tribe an apply them to the awakened plant. Because an important thing to remember is despite their increased Int and new awoke status they are still plants, meaning that their ties to nature are incredibly strong and their care for protecting their own kind even more so. Careless woodsmen beware.

Can you RP a plant? I mean we already know Awakened plants are different so you can with them. They talk, they think and they understand. So a player could negotiate with them for safe passage, apologize and get the group out of a combat encounter, or even convince one to help with information or combat assistance. But what about like an actual plant the ones working purely off of function and what nature gave them. You certainly can you just need to adjust how you think of RPing a little. Most get hung up on the fact of RPing being talking, becoming a Shakespearian actor fully engulfed in their role. But RPing is just about communication so it doesn’t have to be verbal. Its about being able to provide information to the players for them to react and engage with and then providing that same reaction and engagement from your end. How does the plant interact with the players? Sure it attacks but does it go simply to restrain them or does it wrap around the neck to choke them? One shows that it activates to movement or touch and just naturally latches on to the thing, maybe because it has developed a relationship with a creature that will later come along to eat it leaving the soil its planted in full of yummy nutrients. The other points to the plant as a pure aggressor latching and seeking out the life source itself to extinguish it. Those read as two very different things and its important your players know which one it is. All you have to do is describe the interactions with feeling denoters, minor motivation reveals and when in doubt do what I do and talk with your hands.

New Plant Monsters

I’m personally a fan at looking at really weird IRL things for inspiration because reality is often more bizarre than anything you can pull out of thin air. So for the next part, which is the part I know you all come to these posts for, we will be talking about a few new plants to throw at your players.

Stonebreath

If you hear crunching in the night while traveling through mountains beware it means that more then weather marks your path. Hidden amongst the stones is a flower that looks like them. But at night its opens to reveal teeth and a propensity to mimic voices to trick you off of the trail. Following its voice will cause you to fall off the trail, twist your ankle or slip right into its tooth grasp.

Vladimir’s Delight

The float on the air being carried by the wind, whole groups of them moving in mass together. Latching onto living things to pierce and drink their blood until its target is drained before gently releasing its grasp and catching the next breeze. These floating flowers look either like triangles with long whisps or almost like a bat spread wide.

Friend of the Dead

Growing in graveyards or the sites of mass death these flowers bloom along long twisting vines and look like the faces of the dearly departed or of skulls staring from empty sockets. They are drawn to death to protect it. Any invading the space put their own souls at risk as feelings of melancholy, grief, and apathy start to drain away their will to move much less live.

Storm Seeker

Seeming to buzz these plants gather in locations of frequent storms in high places. They seem to attract large lightning storms, absorbing large amounts of energy from them. Some say that the draw the lightning itself to them drinking it in like water. What is known for sure though is that when disturbed they pack quite the punch.

Maypopper

Keep an eye out for these flowers covered in small tendrils. Brushing up against them you may only feel a quick prick or two but the poison they hold will hit quickly. The true danger lays later as the tendril works its way through your body to plant itself and grow. They can only reproduce in the bodies of living creatures, the seed pod growing by feeding off the host until it dies. A strange coating then covers the body before it pops open and seedlings fly away.

With that little rambling over with, I’m JustKay your regular DM Dalliance on the web and I’ll see you next post.

Product Analysis: MacrAbeesus, Mother of Manticores

We will be doing these Product Analysis posts the last Sat of every month from now on (fingers crossed) so keep an eye out for more reviews!

Our first crack at the old review game is MacrAbeesus, Mother of Manticores‘ by Underground Oracle Publishing. The company is made up of two hard-hitting, hard-working people who churn out many a game supplement. Honestly, the amount of content they put out is impressive and the vast majority of it is free. This product seems to be their first leap into a paid item on the DMs Guild and frankly, I think they are way underselling themselves but I’ll get to that later.

To keep these posts consistent across the board we will be using a few categories to gauge where the product lands at the end of the day.

  • Aesthetic – art, layout, font, etc.
  • Writing – lore, adventure, etc.
  • Design – monsters, encounters, NPCs, etc.
  • Accessibility – ease of picking up and go, accommodations for disabilities, etc.
  • Complete package – do all of the elements fit well together and lead you down the lane to a fun game?

Aesthetic

I do think that any product over 2 – 3 pages long should have a cover as just a general rule. It makes promotional easier on the publisher and keeps things clean looking on the store when potential buyers are scrolling through. This supplement does take on a very classic two-column layout with stylized headers like we are used to seeing in the majority of our D&D supplements. This makes it easily recognizable, quick for DMs to digest and navigate, and easy for most to use.

For the art pieces themselves, I feel like the choice to go black and white on most of the monsters actually worked out really well. Taking the Crowned Soul as an example you can really see the emotion of anguish the creature has but the added layer of being in black and white enhances that, where a colored version might have lost some of the visceral emotion in the process. I think the opposite would have been true when it came to the main creature in this conflict – the manticore. Having it in color not only put it in stark contrast to the others making it obvious how important it was, but it also allowed there to be a lot more personality in it then would have been possible otherwise. Color allowed some real personality to be shown in the amount of jewelry adorning them and the fact their mouth and jowls were dripping in fresh red blood. Being in color also lets you lock onto their eyes and notice something is immediately different for this creature, they are blind. So not only will the tactics they employ against the players be different then most manticores but how the possibilities the players have to tackle the encounter opens up as well.

Writing

So wow there is a lot of lore presented in this supplement. It is honestly a gold mine for that if nothing else. For practiced DMs out there having some deeply established location lore is very useful and supplements like this can provide some lovely gardens for you to pick through and keep in your back pocket. You could even use all of this as the lore of a land like an ancient greek story about why they hold a celebration on a certain day or why the sign of the manticore is seen as a great evil etc. Though I did have the question of how our dear MacrAbeesus produces children since you know things have to happen I’m assuming. I’m not an expert in manticore biology but~… Should you want to crank up the creep and fiend factor in your encounter you can easily explain it away as children of MacrAbeesus and her demonic patron. Outside of that most questions are answered and the team does a great job laying out groundwork and providing tools for DMs to use, making the lore flexible (because players do what they want) and useful.

A really useful thing you see happen here that I think all DMs should take for the BBEG, even minor ones, is the use of traits when filling out the lore and background for an encounter. It is a quick and easy way to handle over the core of the BBEG to the DM so that they have a compass to go by when the players go off the rails and into the wilderness. As long as the decisions the BBEG makes sticks to those traits that make up who they are then everything else is flexible.

One small thing that I have to pick on though – commas. It’s not just UO Publishing but all TTRPG supplements seem to have this problem, and its a back and forth I have alot when I’m editing as well. Please stop using a sea of commas. Honestly, if you are using so many of them that you can’t get through a single sentence without it please instead rework it into separate sentences. You need to look at the context of your comma use not just in the single sentence in which it occurs but in the great environment of the paragraph. Also for the record if you will be reading it versus if someone will be speaking it also has a different comma context as well. That is totally a different type of rant though but I just wanted to say it.

Design

I was a little confused by what the suggested level of the players should be for this adventure until I saw the CR gap between the Crowned Soul (CR 5) and our dear MacrAbeesus (CR 16). Really should be stated upfront that players of Tier 3 or 4 are best suited. Now from most things, it seems like they are trying to allow for this to be used anywhere in anyone’s campaign. If that is the case then it really needs more hand-holding when it comes to suggested encounters at locations. We really need the encounters to be a little more laid out in how many of each creature the DM should run there AND if my previous thought is correct how to scale each encounter for the different tiers of play. Since that is lacking altogether it makes a plug and play approach to this for a DM alot harder to pull off.

The huge gap in the CRs is another problem that DMs using the supplement can run into quickly. To try and manage this situation I suggest using the Trapped Soul template to generate some creatures along the curve between CR 5 and CR 16. That solution being said really keep an eye on what creature you use the template with. It seems like a quick CR buff for most creatures but there is the possibility of it creating unbalanced encounters with some of the abilities. Be ready to make on the fly adjustments as needed. Having said that I personally love providing a harder fight for my players so have some experience with mid-encounter adjustments, not all DMs are comfortable doing this. It really lends itself as playing better for an experienced DM.

Each of the creatures in this supplement are honestly really well tied into the lore and the setting very well. I think they are amazingly creative and I’ll probably have them feature in some future encounters with my own players. So I hope it doesn’t come across that I think they are terrible in any way. But I want to use these product reviews as a way to teach design as well where possible. The amount of thought and care that went into the creatures is noticeable and really benefits the whole package. Again the majority of the falling short comes in thinking about the encounters.

So quick things to keep an eye on though when using the creatures in the supplement – In general alot of abilities with stunning potential so keep an eye out on how that is effecting your players to avoid TPKs and adjust as needed. The easiest thing to do is to add further limitations on uses. The Feeder Soul’s Moan action holy shit can that really screw over a low-level group of players or someone with bad rolls that night. Its base DC may be a little high for a CR 1/4 but that quickly doesn’t become a problem with Tier 3 or 4 players, again backing my idea of level suggestions. I think it would have been a good idea to have the generic Crowned Soul creature be instead a fully flavored Cleric Erest, as he would have made a great mini-boss to give the group a taste of horrors to come. Other than that the Crowned Soul is pretty well balanced but keep an eye out on how the Necrotic Shield (stun potential) and Abject Sacrifice (frightened) are effecting the player’s action economy. The build for MacrAbeesus is beefy but I found it strange that she didn’t have any magic considering her Demonic pact especially as the lore had her liking to manipulate things from a distance. I was expecting something more controller based rather than up close fighter but I think the up-close approach is going to quickly terrify players. I did find it a little weird that a bite action is a legendary action without added benefits like poison or additional damage, and that there were no lair actions despite the island being listed out as a liar. This does though allow the DM to do some flavoring by adding in liar actions they think may be appropriate and customize it more to the makeup of the player group.

Accessibility

This supplement is something that new DMs should probably avoid as the experience level needed to adjust encounters on the fly, generate balanced encounters, create templated creatures that aren’t OP, and guide a player group through to the end without a TPK is a tall order otherwise. It isn’t a pickup and go adventure or encounter for those reasons as well.

Headers and clear labels make it mostly easy for a text reader to navigate however the frequent use of additional information boxes can quickly muddle the waters. A table of contents or bookmarks within the PDF that you could navigate using would go a long way to improving its accessibility in this regard. (Note: I am not an accessibility expert and am only giving my opinion using the knowledge of things I have learned)

Complete Package

This supplement does present some challenges for DMs hoping that they can just drop this onto their players with little to no preparation. However, for experienced DMs it does layout all the tools needed to craft a very compelling story arc of encounters leading to a BBEG that the players will truly hate making your job easier in the motivation department. I also find that it is a gold mine of lore, creatures, and encounters that can be woven into other existing story arcs. The value in this product is really in the depth that it goes to in order to build foundations that DMs can then build on top of. Its actually a great thing for DMs to pick up if they are looking to start creating their own story arcs or adventures but aren’t ready to jump into creating without a blueprint.

With that little rambling over with, I’m JustKay your regular DM Dalliance on the web and I’ll see you next post.

Community Spotlight – The NonProfits Making a Difference

Hi ya’ll so for the month of November I’m trying to use the platform I have for us to give thanks for some of those that really fight to make our community better. This post is all about some of my favorite Non-Profits trying to do just that for us.

DOTS RPG

This org is amazing and working really hard to make sure that the resources and TTRPGs we love are accessible to all. They tirelessly fight to make sure no vision impairment can stop someone from loving and playing together with friends. I was very lucky to get a chance to ask them a few questions, I hope you all go check them out. I know from now on I’m packing a set or two of brail dice for any visuall impaired players I may have join my table at events.

DOTS was started in large part to help a particular gamer, D, be able to play games. Can you tell us a little bit more about him?

D was an amazing force of good in the world. He was a game master that couldn’t get enough of different systems and titles, wanting to try everything. Being blind, he had to have his sighted players and friends read the rulebooks to him. What amazed everyone was his ability to memorize countless books down to the individual page numbers. He was quite often telling sighted players where to find the information they needed in their books! D was a wonderful, kind, excited individual who loved to spread laughter wherever he went. He unfortunately passed away in January 2018 and didn’t get a chance to enjoy what DOTS has become. We continue on in his memory, changing the world for the better one gamer at a time.

I know that the DOTS RPG Project started off in order to provide gamers who are visually impaired with what they needed to join in and enjoy the game at the table. How has that mission grown and changed over time?

As we moved from a private project between friends into the public eye, the amount of people asking for help with their individual disabilities was overwhelming. It was heartbreaking to see so many reaching out just to be heard, hoping there was something we were doing to make their game experience easier. We didn’t know much about other disabilities, but we’re taking the time to learn and educate ourselves on things so we can help as many people as possible.

Is there anything that you wish more people knew about your organization? Is there anything you wish more people knew about the issues of accessibility in TTRPGs you and others are trying to solve?

Accessibility issues in the world of TTRPGs is something many people are not aware of, as simple as they may be. A blind or visually impaired person does not have access to a majority of published books which is something that doesn’t cross people’s minds often. Without a braille book or computerized version, they need a sighted person to read the books to them. Things like a fully optimized PDF can enable anyone with a screen reader to have full access to the entire title. That could be possible just by a few changes and save as settings depending on the program the publisher is developing in. Often the largest problems have easy fixes, but not everyone is aware of them.

Currently, you help create braille rulebooks and gaming aids like dice or HP trackers. What are some other areas or aides that you’d like to create but need help either resource-wise or volunteer wise?

We’re always in need of assistance, because we couldn’t and shouldn’t do this alone. There are many different things we’re working on that have the opportunity for volunteers to get involved; from our braille transcriptions to image description writing, product design and 3D modeling, even down to just helping us spread the word. If someone wants to be involved but their disabilities make it hard for them, sharing their knowledge, input, and life experiences is just as important. We want to learn from members of the community what kinds of things they need so we can help in a more personalized way.

If you could collaborate with any company or organization to get your message out, or to get products out there, who would it be?

We’ve been incredibly lucky at the type of response we’ve gotten from the TTRPG community as a whole. There has been so much support from average gamers as well as industry professionals and celebrities! So many people have reached out to work with us from big name publishers yet to be announced to other non profit organizations like RPG Research, Game to Grow, Take This, Able Gamers, and various schools and other programs. The disabled community has come out in support as well, with plans being put in place for a partnership with National Braille Press and other disability focused organizations. Even with all of the friends we’ve made along the way this last year and a half, there’s always room for more! Whenever someone takes the time out of their day to say “hey, this is important, how can I help?” it’s just a dream come true. Accessibility should not be a second thought, but we are making great progress in a short amount of time so it can become something at the front of everyone’s mind.

What is your favorite example of the way you’ve seen your organization’s work make a difference?

Countless stories have been shared with us of individuals using our braille dice, being able to roll their own dice for the first time in their entire life without having someone else tell them the result. These stories are both heartwarming and heartbreaking at the same time. We’re thrilled to be able to make this happen, but it’s unfortunate it’s taken so long. Something that always sticks out in our mind lately is our interactions with Astrolago Press. They published a 5e supplement, Faerie Fire in 2018. We reached out to them to work on transcribing the book, and began to treat it like any of our other partnerships. What we didn’t expect, however, was for the writers and artists behind Faerie Fire to incorporate a blind individual as a writer in their newest supplement Witch+Craft. It was something so very simple, but it brought most of us to tears. Knowing these books are going out to all of their backers and future customers with artwork of a blind individual in a book, especially as a writer, was something we never imagined. It’s going to be seen as normal now to these people using this book, and it’s one step further in the direction of making accessibility normal. If we didn’t contact them last year, if they lost our email, if we never began working on Faerie Fire, they may never have even thought to include artwork for a blind character.

ASL for RPG

Another org I love because they are fighting to make sure that those who are hard of hearing or deaf can still enjoy playing at the table. As someone who is hard of hearing there is always the thought in the back of my mind about if my hearing loss gets worse what that means for the things I love. TTRPGs, music, even just talking to friends late into the night. But thanks to the hard work that ASL for RPG and the hard work Mysty Vander is putting in at least one of those isn’t such a big point of worry for me anymore. I look forward to being able to continue to play the games I love and have already been giving the opportunity to welcome another hard of hearing person to the table and sign with them using some of this orgs shorthand.

Now I wasn’t able to get ahold of them for questions but if that changes I’ll be more then happy to update this post with those. Until then please check them out, watch some of their videos, and think about incorporating some of them at your game table even if its just a home game.

Take This

An often taboo subject to talk about, mental health, is something that we have started talking more about today. But not alot of places talk about how to improve it or what can be done to work on your own mental health. Often times in TTRPGs we escape into a world our DMs create in order to often work through (or work out) things that are going on. Many of my friends have found out who they are through games. They become comfortable with who they really are enough to take that knowledge outside of the game and away from the table into the real world.

This group gathers the resources of everyone at the table to use but they also take active steps to make sure our community is mentally healthy. They advocate, they educate, and they do nothing but work hard for us. Take This even provides educational resources so that not only can you educate yourself but you can become an advocate for education in your own gaming community. But even more amazing is they work in the community they are trying to help the biggest of which is through their one-shot “Gardens of Fog“. You take on helping someone out with their own mental issues, you become empowered as you learn how to handle it. The adventure lets you explore and talk about some very heavy subjects in a meaningful way. Honestly please go pick it up!

It is now that time in the post while I say goodbye but before I do I want to really make sure that you don’t just read this post and walk away. We all need to be involved in making our community better. The responsibility for improvement is on us. These orgs can’t do it all on there on so here are a few ways to do more than read about them:

  • Touch base with them on Twitter (@ASLforRPG, @DOTSrpg, @TakeThisOrg) and ask how you can help.
  • Spread the word and share the news!
  • Be an advocate for accessibility in your gaming communities both local and online.
  • Join newsletters and follow them on social media to keep up to date on all the work they are doing.

With that little rambling over with, I’m JustKay your regular DM Dalliance on the web and I’ll see you next post.

Community Spotlight – Podcasts & Streams You Should Know About

The list towards the end of this article is just a small taste of some of the amazing groups and people working hard to make sure that every player sees themselves in the game. Representation matters. There isn’t anyway to argue that. As someone who grew up with editions and versions of TTRPG systems that defaulted to he pronouns, male faces and often white faces in their books and lore I feel the need for representation to my core. Now before you go off YES it is better now then it was but that doesn’t mean there still isn’t work for improvement. I will give a standing ovation to those who have fought within the companies and systems to make it more diverse, inclusive and more representative of the people that actually play the games. But I will also be the first to point out that not all of the systems are quite there yet.

I mentioned a list at the end of this article in which I’ve listed out some streams and podcasts of POC, women, LGBTQA+ and other minorities you should check out. This isn’t everyone of them by any means so feel free to add info and links about your favorites if they aren’t on the list in the comments! But outside of a list I wanted to take a minute and highlight some of the ones that I personally really enjoy as a consumer who I see working hard constantly in the space.

Rivals of Waterdeep

I’ll admit I was a little bias and in love with this stream from the start because it has one of my favorite people of all time on it, Tanya DePass. She is amazing and the interactions I’ve had with her and the times I was lucky enough to work with her were the best. So I was already super excited when I heard about the show. The fact that Wizard’s was stepping up and making sure their own Twitch had a show on it that was diverse and full of talent was big. Yes they sometimes get the short end of the stick when it comes to advertising, surveys, or boosting but they don’t let that stop them.

Also can we just talk about the game dynamic? These people play so well together and it is honestly so much fun to watch. I have enjoyed exploring with this amazing cast and rediscovering my love of this game as they move thru it.

Tales of the Swordfall

First off I will say that Paul is an amazing DM, I have experience in this from the Gates of Orchid & Iris games, and I have no idea how he so seamlessly runs two alternating groups in the same world that actually effect each other. Like I get into my head and make crazy plots for the games I run that don’t even look at each other so I am blown away by how easy he makes it look.

d20 Dames

With masterfully crafted characters that suck you in and strangely thoughtful actions full of purpose that drive the storyline. These ladies really lean into the roleplay and collaboration side of things in the system. I love every second of it! They also have these fantastic and unexpected reactions with encounters and “monsters” that will keep you on your toes the whole time.

Tales from the Mist

I’m a big horror fan its one of my favorite genres to consume even the poorly done ones. This podcast is leagues away from terrible as it strikes the perfect gothic horror notes in its storytelling. It is dark, it is moody and just leeches out spooky atmosphere that infects you to drag you into the mist. Every episode is a dark twisted journey through Ravenloft that will have you making a dark deal for more.

The Sirens

All girl bard band. I mean really that’s all you need to say. Like go watch it now. *sigh* I guess if you need more~. Satine is a truly brilliant DM that is just so amazing to watch and her, along with the rest of the cast, get really into it. Which honestly just makes it so much fun to watch. Just be careful you may end up with songs and quick diddies stuck in your head of weeks.

Dames & Dragons

This podcast will put you in stitches. I have many a time looked like a crazy person on BART by dying at laughter from their antics. They are a joy to listen to as they explore this amazing world that Kat has built for them. Honestly always look forward to the little storytime lore drops she’ll do at the beginnings of story arcs. If you are a DM thinking of building and weaving your own world for a campaign study the crap out of this one.

The list you keep hearing about:

With that little rambling of education over with, I’m JustKay your regular DM Dalliance on the web and I’ll see you next post.

Community Spotlight – Places to Grab Your Dice

I wanted to take this month for Community Spotlights to show you some of the great people in our community. For this week I wanted to show off some of the smaller dice makers that my goblin heart lusts after all the time. But I wanted to do it in a JustKay flair style so I bring to you some free characters you can use in your game based on the dice from the shops. We all know that those of us that hoard the polyhedral rollers pick sets to go with our characters so why not the reverse! Enjoy the pretty dice and click the pictures to be taken to a custom character just for it. All of them will be level 3 so that you can see their subclass selections as well but still be able to level them up during usage in your own games. You will notice I filled in everything but the backstory for ya’ll, I want you to feel like you can grab a copy of these characters and build them into your own.

forgetmenot
Dispel DiceForget Me Not
rosebud
Dispel DiceRosebud
Level Up Dice - Sakura Rose Quartz
Level Up DiceSakura Rose Quartz
Pyrite_Purple_HP_1080x
Level Up Dice – Pyrite Purple Imperial Jasper TruStone
Level Up Dice - Ionized Raised Hematite
Level Up Dice – Ionized Raised Hematite
Dice Envy - Brimestone Dice
Dice EnvyBrimestone Dice
Dice Envy -  Green Infinity Dice (Hylian Edition) 
Dice Envy –  Green Infinity Dice (Hylian Edition)
Dice Envy -  Ice Mage
Dice Envy –  Ice Mage
2E4D99E0-DF57-4DDC-B028-DC31412EACB6+2
Dicey DungeonsDrow Magic (inked in silver)
FB46EF01-DDC8-4ADE-93A7-F4E699B1AACF
Dicey Dungeons –  Deep Field (inked in silver)
5C6ED6E0-541A-4C48-B414-FD55CCB0927C+2
Dicey Dungeons –  Crystals of the Underdark
peaksofflame
YaniirPeaks of Flame
Yaniir - Astral Sea
YaniirAstral Sea
gravesgift
YaniirGrave’s Gift

With that less of a ramble more like a gift over with, I’m JustKay your regular DM Dalliance on the web and I’ll see you next post.

Monster of the Month – Mimics

Okay so this one is going to be an interesting one for a Monster of the Month post for a couple of reasons. A big one being that there are only 2 cannon D&D mimics in the current RAW. In reality that’s all you need… sort of. We will get to that later. But I kind of want to do what I did for the Hags post and provide alot more discussion on use, RP, and interactions with them. Now before I get to freaking you all out to start off this November month lets get to the normal housekeeping of talking existing Mimics.

That’s it, just those two. Now we do have an even larger homebrew Mimic the size of a house. Which I find both terrifying and delightful to be entirely honest but we aren’t there yet. Back to RAW (what is it good for~). The normal Mimic and Giant Mimic are only a CR apart and in fact only a size category apart. The giant one gets a multiattack but has the same attack modifier and damage modifier. Its a pretty simple alternative for the base Mimic creature but honestly doesn’t give us a lot to work with in shaking things up.

So what might be a good way to do that? You may ask yourself because you can’t do that to me in this blog post because it’s already been written. Well, I’m glad you talk to yourself because we are getting to that. We expect to find chests, doors, drawers, wardrobes, desks, chairs, couches, etc as mimics. If we are in a dungeon or a underground basement like fortress we will run into these at least once so that the rest of the time players are paranoid. Its kind of a given at this point. But why do we limit ourselves to those objects when there is nothing saying we have to.

Mimics are shapeshifting predators able to take on the form of inanimate objects to lure creatures to their doom. In dungeons, these cunning creatures most often take the form of doors and chests, having learned that such forms attract a steady stream of prey.

Now that snippet from the Monster Manual is normally where most people stop when prepping for an encounter that involves a Mimic. This is the entire thing it revolves around, inanimate objects that you can lump in with doors and chests. Which really kills the imagination and fun we can have with this shape changing sticky bitey friend-os.

Mimics can alter their outward texture to resemble wood, stone, and other basic materials, and they have evolved to assume the appearance of objects that other creatures are likely to come into contact with.

Okay the first bit goes with the previous part we talked about. It lets the appearance be more believable and means that the first touch still carries forward the illusion. The part I want you to keep in mind though is that they have evolved specifically to mimic things they know their prey interacts with. Cause you know they need to eat so they aren’t going to pretend to be a thing no one goes near. So we can assume the environment would greatly shape and change what the mimics look like.

Mimics live and hunt alone, though they occasionally share their feeding grounds with other creatures. Although most mimics have only predatory intelligence, a rare few evolve greater cunning and the ability to carry on simple conversations in Common or Undercommon. Such mimics might allow safe passage through their domains or provide useful information in exchange for food.

Two big things we get to play with from this part – they are solitary BUT aren’t against partnering with other creatures in a symbiotic no touchy kind of way. The part that gets me excited though is the smart Mimic, the Mimic that can talk to and have the party persuade into things. There is so much that you can do with that! Just you wait and see, oh just you wait and see. But that wraps up the RAW from the books to go over for these creatures.

Now to do what I do best, upping how terrified you can make your players. Remember when I talked about how their environment shapes the forms it takes well watch me go. We are going to give a couple of more unusual places to place your Mimic! Sorry not sorry for what’s about to be spawned.

Swamp – Now swamps are a dangerous place on a normal day but what if the bridge, the floating logs, the strange raft just there waiting all were trying to eat you? Making a deal with a Mimic smart enough to realize if they eat every person trying to cross the swamp that travelers will stop coming through this way is a fun way to shake your players out of their haze. Talk about making sure they understand that sometimes they can’t win by might.

Graveyard – This section is brought to you by this amazing piece of Sage Advice. What does a graveyard have a ton of? Corpses. According to Jeremy Crawford that makes it an inanimate object so our Mimics can both turn into it. Honestly I just picture the scene from The Thing (1982) where they are trying to use a defibrillator on the guy and a giant mouth just takes off the arms instead. You can think of the kind of horror that may cause if a few corpses are laying around or maybe even partially out of graves. There is also the obvious headstones, mausoleum,  coffins, and creepy creepy graveyard statues. An A+ addition to any encounter you’d like to make into a horror scene.

Mountain – You might be thinking that all this is going to be is a bunch of rocks. We certainly could take it that way. A bunch of smart toothy rocks hurtling down in avalanche fashion to squish and then slurp up some unwary travelers. But why would we stop there? A false entrance to a cave, a rope bridge over a chasm, a dead tree on the side of the path. There are just so many things to create drama~.

Traveling on the Road – A frequently traveled road could easily house a multitude of hiding mimics. A hard to read road sign, an out of the way campsite, a shack of fresh-cut wood, an abandoned tent or carelessly left adventurer pack. No one would notice if a few travelers went missing especially with bandits about. I see this type of Mimic as a smart almost psychotic serial killer. Picking victims and messing with their heads before devouring them in the shadows.

Shops or Workrooms – How about we miniaturize our little mimic buddies and make some swarms? Smart tiny mimics would know they couldn’t kill the thing they needed to eat so could team up together. Especially if they were bred and raised as attack dogs for protection against thieves. Nothing like a flock of teeth chomping mini mimics swarming over you to drown out your bloodcurdling screams with noming noises. Shelves and tables holding potion bottles, books, nicknacks and more suddenly got alot more sinister.

With environments that terrify lets also jump back to that smart Mimic, our high IQ friend. Able to wheel and deal with trespassers in their territory. Able to grant a boon or passage or information for a favor. Guarding a portal as a false door this unusual creature might have the assigned job of protecting something. Or maybe it has learned that not everyone can survive past a certain point so why not get some food out of it. Are you really sure you want to go down this tunnel? This one that end in a pit of black ooze. Good luck to you. Or you know you could sacrifice some of those tasty goblins from the last level and I could share a safe route down to the treasure.

The last thing I will bring up are the many homebrews out there for house sized Mimics. I love them. They are an example of a simple thing you can do with any monster to surprise your players with. Sizing. If all you ever expect is something chest size to have teeth you aren’t going to think about that tiny potion bottle that suddenly sprouts eyes or that weird house you have to go into that might have blinked at you. Well I guess you will now but I hope you can scare your players with it first.

I hope these inspire you to widen where you can find these dear Mimics. They can be found anywhere, shaped to fit into their environment, and can be smarter than your players. Play with the CRs and up, or lower, their size in order to throw them curve balls! This message paid for by the Association of Totally Not Mimics.

With that little rambling over with, I’m JustKay your regular DM Dalliance on the web and I’ll see you next post.

Spooky Monsters: Pumpkinfolk Stats Set 5

Yo spooky DMs! Here is the last time we will be speaking to each other about some creepy pumpkinfolk monster stats. But for anyone just finding this series – I was really just super inspired by this set of monsters made by RetroGrade Minis and really wanted to shed some light on the amazing talent they provide for the community. These are all minis you can download and print at home that provide an amazingly unique art style to your table.

For this set we have another straggler in the form of a Pumpkinfolk Brute with a Variant, swishing along with a Tendril and royal goodness with the Pumpkinfolk Ruler and variant.

Enjoy and if you do end up throwing this creepy guys at your players let me know on twitter by tagging @JustThinkingKay!

pumpkinfolk-stat-brutepumpkinfolk-stat-brutevariantpumpkinfolk-stat-tendrilpumpkinfolk-stat-rulerpumpkinfolk-stat-rulervariant

It wasn’t a ramble this time but a gift to the DMs, I’m JustKay your regular DM Dalliance on the web and I’ll see you next post.

Spooky Monsters: Pumpkinfolk Stats Set 4

Hey ho spooky folxs! 3rd verse, same as the first two so ya’ll know it by now. But for anyone just finding this series – I was really just super inspired by this set of monsters made by RetroGrade Minis and really wanted to shed some light on the amazing talent they provide for the community. These are all minis you can download and print at home that provide an amazingly unique art style to your table.

For this set we have another straggler in the form of a Pumpkinfolk Cultist Variant, got some intense Inquisitors and some Pumpkin Golems to throw in the mix.

Enjoy and see ya’ll next time for the final set!

pumpkinfolk-stat-cultistvariant5

pumpkinfolk-stat-inquisitor

pumpkinfolk-stat-inquisitorvariant

pumpkinfolk-stat-golem

pumpkinfolk-stat-golemvariant

It wasn’t a ramble this time but a gift to the DMs, I’m JustKay your regular DM Dalliance on the web and I’ll see you next post.

Spooky Monsters: Pumpkinfolk Stats Sets 2 & 3

Hey ho spooky folxs! I thought I’d bump it up and give you two sets at once for the good Pumpkinfolks. I was really just super inspired by this set of monsters made by RetroGrade Minis and really wanted to shed some light on the amazing talent they provide for the community. These are all minis you can download and print at home that provide an amazingly unique art style to your table.

You can see we have one straggler that matches more closely with the last set, some fun undeadlings and some creepy cultists. I hope these help make your Halloween game extra scary!

Enjoy and see ya’ll for set 4!

retrogrademinis-stats-pumpkinfolk-butcher

retrogrademinis-stats-pumpkinfolk-ghoul

retrogrademinis-stats-pumpkinfolk-ghoulvariant

retrogrademinis-stats-pumpkinfolk-cultist

retrogrademinis-stats-pumpkinfolk-cultistvariant

retrogrademinis-stats-pumpkinfolk-cultistvariant2

retrogrademinis-stats-pumpkinfolk-cultistvariant3

retrogrademinis-stats-pumpkinfolk-cultistvariant4

It wasn’t a ramble this time but a gift to the DMs, I’m JustKay your regular DM Dalliance on the web and I’ll see you next post.

Monster of the Month – Trolls

So I grew up with movies like ‘Troll in Central Park’ (your first hint for the troll) but the 5e version of Trolls is decidedly not that kind of troll. These trolls are mean and don’t mind attempting a TPK if disturbed. They are often feared by players and are strategically placed by DMs for a maximum effect both thematically and in combat. If nothing else is true the Trolls of 5e are highly thematic and are amazing tools to use to reinforce those.

As always we will start things off by talking about the Trolls that already exist in Wizard’s official books for 5e. This is our standard bread and butter for games so its important to keep them in mind for the next few parts of this post.

This is actually a nice mix of things without being a list made impossibly long by micro-adjustments. Everything has a tight theme and a very real and sometimes viscerally imagery to invoke actions and reactions from the players.

Fearsome green-skinned giants, trolls eat anything they can catch and devour. Only acid and fire can arrest the regenerative properties of a troll’s flesh.

So these are some pretty terrifying creatures to go up against when its just a normal Troll. These are chaotic beings that just devour everything they can catch and see trespassing in their domain as the ultimate offense. If you come within their bounds you are fair game for dinner and will be attacked with a large about of prejudice and ferocity. It makes RPing a Troll pretty easy for a DM as they are dumb but ridiculously strong creatures of hunger. They are driven by that hunger on a primal level. Their low INT and WIS scores does mean its possible to trick them or if you are lucky charm them into helping the party in a fight. But even a friendly troll is one looking to devour to try and satisfy its hunger.

When they fight it is most likely going to be in a frenzied rush, we can guess this based on their high STR and CON scores compared to the rest of their stats. They could also recognize that hurling large boulders and trees at the party will help weaken their prey. Yes they aren’t the brightest bulb and they definitely aren’t the yellow crayon in the box, but they are master hunters. They have to be to catch and eat large game that can fight back. A troll doesn’t survive long without being able to attack and fight like mad, another troll would have swooped in to steal their hunting ground if they felt the current owner was weak in any way. Most trolls, for this reason, are loners but two trolls with either enough game to satisfy them both or who are at conflict with each other both stumbling on the party could quickly ruin their day and drain some party resources.

Now everything I have said above is based on what is considered the default or nature order when it comes to Trolls. But there are always exceptions to those rules that are established. As a DM don’t be afraid to subvert the trends and expected outcomes of an encounter or monster. Its one of the best things to throw your players off of their game and really make them think or question something they thought to be a universal truth in the game. I will again point to Stanely from ‘Troll in Central Park’ as a great example of subverting the norm in a way directly tied to story. But I’ll the interpretation and implementation of those up to you awesome DMs out there reading this.

Right’o ya’ll now comes the part alot of you are here for, the new Trolls for your game!

Grave Troll – This lifeless seeming troll has slacked grey skin and clouded over eyes with pieces of themselves falling off and can be found in the company of mass graves, plague outbreaks, and anywhere a large amount of death has happened. They devour the flesh of the dead and are rumored to devour souls of their victims as well. They are seen as heralds of doom and a warning of destruction to come. Their touch is said to drain the life out of their captive which the Grave Troll uses to repair some of its damaged body.

Deep Sea Troll – Found at great depths in the Ocean only the most unfortunate adventurers run into a Deep Sea Troll. Built for the massive pressures at that depth their bulky bodies hide a deathly fast predator. Using their overly widened mouth full of massive sharp rows of teeth they use hypnotic patterns that flash across their flesh to distract their prey long enough to sink those into their flesh. Once latched on the Troll is very hard to shake.

Cave Troll – Made for the darkness of deep caverns, tunnels, and caves the Cave Troll is most at home in the pitch black. It hunts by stalking its prey with its overly elongated thin form hiding in the shadows. Curved claws drip with a strange dark purple ooze as saliva dribbles from the corner of its mouth to drop and sizzle on the rocks under it. Be careful where you sleep in the dark.

Sewer Troll – Filth calls to it and festers around it, diseases grow in the disgusting piles of unidentifiable substances that seem to grow in its lair. Sickness can roll out from it in waves infecting a city and causing death. Where other creatures who live in the excrement of a society like gelatinous cubes seem to feast on the filth left behind the Sewer Troll seems to generate it. Unaware or inebriated passersby that get to close to a sewer grate often go missing to never be seen again.

Corrupted Troll – Something went horribly wrong in order to create such a twisted, grotesque form of life. Its features aren’t quite right and churn the stomach to look at them. When near this Troll make a WIS save or have your greatest weakness amplified when its mad eyes fall on you. Those who cross its path aren’t often heard from again but when the odd lucky soul manages to escape they have often already fallen into madness.

With that little rambling over with, I’m JustKay your regular DM Dalliance on the web and I’ll see you next post.

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