Created with Sketch.
3 Wise DMs
53 minutes | May 15, 2022
DMPCs vs. Sidekicks: What’s the Better Way to Give Your Dungeons and Dragons PCs a DM Avatar?
We’ve talked about DMPCs before, but now Tasha’s Cauldron of Everything has added a new way for DMs to have an avatar in the game to help PCs out, cover any weak spots, or just have a view across the table: The sidekick. The sidekick mechanics work a little differently than a straight DMPC (which is essentially a leveling PC that DM runs in the party). Which one is right for your campaign? That’s the question Minnesota DM brings us this week: “When making a party-companion NPC to fill the healing role, is it better to make it a character class or use the sidekick option from Tasha’s Cauldron on Everything?” In this episode, Thorin, Tony and Dave break down how they handle party companions in their games, what they think of the sidekick mechanic, and how to run a sidekick or DMPC who doesn’t overshadow the party. 3:00 A listener question: If you want to add a DM character to help the party, is it better to add a DMPC or sidekick? 5:00 DMPCs and sidekicks, what’s the difference? 12:00 How Tasha’s sidekicks work 17:00 How we would approach DMPC vs. sidekick in our games 20:00 Do DMPCs cause problems with your players? 26:00 Will your sidekick or DMPC wind up playing Penny to the PC’s Inspector Gadget? 30:00 What makes a good sidekick: Fun ideas and examples from pop culture 34:00 Do you have time to create and play a sidekick with enough personality to do them justice? 43:00 Final thoughts
73 minutes | May 8, 2022
Is ‘Don’t Over-Prepare’ the Worst Advice for New DMs?
DM prep: It can be the most important thing to putting on a good game or the biggest obstacle keeping you from getting back behind the screen. Some DMs say the most important thing to remember is to not over-prepare, but YouTube DM guru Ginny Di recently called this The Worst advice new DMs hear, and that it actually hurt her development as a young DM. Is “don’t over-prepare” bad DMing advice? There’s a lot to dig into there. In this episode, Thorin, Tony and Dave take a close look at Ginny Di’s take, the different ways they approach prep, the pros and cons of trying to DM without over-preparing, and how new DMs can find the right level of prep for them. 2:00 “The worst DM advice that everyone gets” from Ginny Di 6:00 Lightening the game up: Where “don’t over-prepare” comes from and where it goes wrong 13:00 Should the DM be responsible for doing a ton of prep for each game? Is that fun? 18:00 Managing pre-game anxiety: When you’re not prepared, do you still enjoy running the game? 21:00 Learning what you need to prep to have a fun game 30:00 How appropriate prep is different in different types of games 40:00 The Tolantia Infiltration: The high-prep and low-prep ways to do a spy mission 46:00 Ways to prep more effectively and with less waste 53:00 How does a new DM find the level of prep that’s right for them? 63:00 Final thoughts
50 minutes | May 1, 2022
Are Red Herrings Derailing Your D&D Game? Here’s What to Do About It
Rich, vivid descriptions bring your fantasy world to life. Unfortunately, they can also lead your players to think that the intricately carved and decorated elven bridge they’re crossing has to be an important clue or secret! If it weren’t, why would the DM have given it such a cool description? This is the curse of the red herring: When you’re casually monologuing details to give the world depth, and the players lock onto something that you meant to be insignificant. Next thing you know, they’re spending 3 hours trying to investigate a mystery that isn’t there. Now, you can always put a mystery there to pay off their curiosity, but that doesn’t always fit the plans, timeframe or story you wanted to cover in this session. So, what do you do? Stop describing the world? Slap the players’ hands to get them back on track? Ditch your story and follow their lead? In this episode, Thorin, Tony and Dave talk about red herrings they’ve seen get out of control and what they do in their games to try to back to the story … if they can. 3:00 A listener question: What to do when players think every detail you describe is hiding a mystery? 6:00 Sometimes DM-PC miscommunications are an opportunity for better storytelling 10:00 Balancing descriptions: What you spend time on the players will spend time on 12:00 Baby Walter and the creative power of player investment 19:00 Managing red herrings with consistent descriptions 26:00 How “Gotchya” moments lead to future DM-Player miscommunication 30:00 Getting the party back on track and off of the false lead 38:00 What really are the important scenes and secrets in your game? 42:00 Final thoughts
70 minutes | Apr 24, 2022
DM Hacks and Tricks to Make Running D&D Less Tedious and More Fun
What’s some of the tedious stuff you have to do as a DM that you really wish had an easy button? Why does WotC make some essential DMing info hard to find (or at least hard to find while you’re trying to run a game)? This idea comes from Kaila Evans on Twitter, DM of the Comedy of Terrors podcast, who posted, “I've been waiting for some OG Dungeon Master to show up and starting giving us all some wicked obscure advice on the craft nobody ever heard of yet. Like maybe there's a hidden page in the DMG where the cost of magic items is fucking calculated already.” Well, we’re OGs, so in this episode, we’re going to talk about the tricks and tips we use to try to make DM chores from magic item pricing to map making and initiative tracking less tedious and more fun. And, spoiler alert, it’s different for all of us because every DM has different things they find tedious in running the game. Here’s our best advice, let us know in the comments if this advice is wise or just makes things even more complicated. 2:00 How can you make DMing less tedious? 4:00 Making it easier to go magic item shopping 23:00 What’s tedious for you? Identify the aspects of DMing that you want to spend your time on and what you don’t 28:00 How little prep can you get away with without introducing plot holes 31:00 Maps hacks, and how often do you really need them? 35:00 Don’t be afraid to ask your players to handle some of the things you find tedious, from initiative tracking to map making (and here’s how Thorin runs his combats). 46:00 Tracking (or not tracking) PC gold and other character sheet violations 57:00 Do you use and track spell components? 59:00 Why D&D 5E doesn’t always make things easy to find 64:00 Final thoughts
56 minutes | Apr 17, 2022
How Many Players Are Too Many for One D&D Game? What About Other RPG Systems?
The oldest Dungeons & Dragons books said the game was for 4 to 50 players, and we know people who DMed white box D&D campaigns with groups in the 20s. But that was then, and D&D 5th Edition runs into a lot of issues once you pass a certain number of players. So, what do you do when your game is already at 6 players and 3 more want to join? That’s the question posed by one of our listeners in this week’s episode of 3 Wise DMs. How many players can you comfortably DM at one time in D&D 5E? How does that compare to earlier editions and other systems? And what do you do when your group passes that number? In this episode, Thorin, Tony and Dave talk about how many players is too many, the reasons it becomes a problem, tips and tricks for managing the chaos, and when to break the game up into two groups. 3:00 A listener question: How to handle a 6-player game when 3 more people want to join? 7:00 The challenges of managing combat and story with a lot of players 12:00 More players can make the game less interesting because managing their turns cuts into time for other things, even the DM’s descriptions and narrative 18:00 What’s the ideal number of players for a game, and is that different across systems? 22:00 Ditch the battle map? Ways to streamline the game for more players 32:00 Can you split the party up into two or more groups? 46:00 Final thoughts
70 minutes | Apr 10, 2022
Putting PCs In Charge: How Do You Handle RPG Players Characters Moving Up to Become Kings, Queens and Leaders of Powerful Organizations In Your World?
Many RPG campaigns end with the players taking over kingdoms, wizard colleges, crime syndicates or other powerful organizations in the world as a sort of epilogue. But what about when they want to take these titles during the campaign and actively run their new empires? How do you handle putting your player characters in charge of powerful organizations in your world as an active part of the game? In this episode, Thorin, Tony and Dave take on a listener question about how to let PCs take on these responsibilities in the game without ruining the fun. Here’s how the 3 Wise DMs have put players in charge in their campaigns, the tricks they used to handle it, and how to make it fun for everyone. 1:00 Everybody Wants to Rule the World – A side quest about high school and musicals 5:00 A listener question: How do you handle PCs taking control of kingdoms, organizations and other powerful bodies in their world 10:00 How we’ve run players ruling kingdoms in our games 17:00 Is it good to be king? That depends on the perks and resources you give them 25:00 It’s not all on your PCs: How kingdoms and castles more or less ran themselves in history 41:00 How is taking over an organization, like a thieves’ guild, different from becoming king? 46:00 Where are the perks? How do you make running these things fun and rewarding for your players? 53:00 How many ways are there to run a kingdom? 61:00 Final thoughts
68 minutes | Apr 3, 2022
When Should You Bend RPG Rules? Handling Players Who Want to Adjust Game Mechanics They Don’t Like
Not every player is OK playing RPGs by the rules as they’re written. Some can’t even get through character creation without asking the DM to make some kind of mechanical adjustment. This may seem like an easy situation – do it my way or play with someone else – but it’s not always that simple. Sometimes the change may look harmless. Other times it’s a house rule you want to play with. And in rare occasions, it can become a battle of wills between the DM and a player constantly trying to twist rules to fit what they want to do, often without even asking first. How do you handle those situations? Clearly, the players are invested enough in the game to be thinking about how things could be better, but they can also cause massive power imbalances, an expectation that every player can bend the rules, and an overall broken game vibe. Those very questions came up for a couple of our readers this week. Listen in as Thorin, Tony and Dave help these D&D 5E DMs figure out how to handle a player who wants to play a wizard without memorizing spells and a veteran who misinterprets the rules for his own benefit, much to the DM’s frustration. 2:00 2 listener questions about players bending rules 4:00 The RAW to Rule of Cool Spectrum: How firm are the rules in your game? 8:00 Does removing D&D’s weird Vancian magic system break the Wizard class? 11:00 Called shots: How RAW and Rule of Cool change the game and beg the question, “Why can’t I”? 14:00 When bending the rules isn’t innocent and makes that PC better than everyone else 24:00 Negotiating with a player who wanted to bend the rules 28:00 If you’re going to let a player bend the rules, tie it to an item or boon that you can take away if it goes wrong 34:00 Making PC deities: Some of our adventures with homebrew power and abilities 37:00 How we handle players who want to bend the rules that we may or may not agree with 48:00 Handling a player who keeps misrepresenting the rules in their favor 58:00 Final thoughts
52 minutes | Mar 27, 2022
How Do You Make New DMs?
It’s the question forever DMs everywhere ponder at night: How do I get one of my players to jump in and DM their own stuff so I can get some playing time?! (And also, so they can express themselves, expand the hobby, and all that other good stuff.) It’s not always easy. Sometimes the players you think would be the best DMs don’t have the interest. Other times your own presence may be intimidating them out of trying. Perhaps you just don’t make DMing look very fun to them? With those obstacles in mind, how do you make new DMs? Here’s how Thorin, Tony and Dave approach recruiting new players to DM, encouraging them to take the mantle, and supporting them as they take the reins. 2:00 A listener question: How do you convince players who’d be good DMs to try DMing? 3:00 How and why we started DMing and recruited each other to run games 13:00 How we try to talk players who’ve never run a game into DMing, and why they may say “No” 24:00 How do you spot players who will want to DM and help them overcome their obstacles? 26:00 The pros and cons of starting with official, “boxed” adventures 32:00 Sometimes younger players are more excited to try DMing than older, more experienced players 34:00 Let new DMs know you like their ideas and are excited to step back and be a player in their world 37:00 How do you help a new DM who struggles in their first game? 40:00 Bring your enthusiasm to their game 42:00 Final thoughts: Make DMing look fun, and more players will want to do it 48:00 P.S. The creed of 3 Wise DMs: Everyone gets to play what they want to play and do everything they want to do
59 minutes | Mar 20, 2022
No Rest for the Weary: How the Rest Cadence of D&D 5E Can Completely Change Your Game
Rest! In some D&D 5E campaigns, it’s taken for granted. In others, like Tomb of Annihilation, PCs may have to make their HP and long-rest abilities stretch for days. And like in real life, sleep deprivation changes the game! As we’ve started our Tomb campaign, it’s really driven home how Dungeons & Dragons’s rest cadence has a huge impact on how characters play, and it’s not an even handicap. Barbarians, fighters and warlocks barely notice. Clerics, wizards, sorcerers and artificers (poor Bixy!) have to hoard power uses like platinum pieces — we hope you know where you stowed that crossbow you got during character creation! And that’s just the start of our questions about rests in D&D. Is it realistic for the party to take an hour-long lunch break in the dragon’s lair like this is a union gig? What do you do about parties that try to rest after every fight? Is the full-healing you get with a long rest essentially, as one Wise DM put it, “D&D on super baby mode”? How can the DM use all of these nuances to their advantage to tortu… er, have fun with the players? Thorin, Tony and Dave discuss all that and more in this episode of 3 Wise DMs. 1:00 Sleep deprivation and your adventurers: Tomb of Annihilation doesn’t allow long rests in the jungle, here’s how it’s effecting our PCs 4:00 All classes are not equal: Rest restrictions hit certain PCs completely differently 13:00 Whittling away your will to survive: Is 5e’s long-rest full-healing mechanic “super baby mode”? 18:00 Some idea for increasing spell recharging without long rests 24:00 Make sure your players know what they’re getting into 27:00 Limiting long rests puts less burden on the difficulty and length of encounters 31:00 How frequently should the party be able to rest in your average D&D 5E game? 41:00 Are their lunch breaks in the dragon’s lair?! When and where is it OK to let the party short rest? 51:00 Final thoughts
65 minutes | Mar 13, 2022
The Sinister 7: How to Run 7 Iconic D&D Monsters for Maximum Mystique
Dungeons & Dragons is a lot more than just dungeons and dragons. The game is full of iconic monsters with unique legends and mystique, some pulled from mythology and others found only in this game. But from D&D, many of these monsters have become pop culture icons with stories and expectations that have taken on a life of their own. There is a fine line between meeting expectations and playing a boring cliché, though. In some ways, the iconic monsters can be the hardest to DM because you have a type to play, but it helps to play against it just a little to make the game more fun. Here are seven of the most iconic monsters in D&D and how Thorin, Tony and Dave get the most out of them in their campaigns. 2:00 Embracing the legends: How do you make goblins feel like goblins and vampires feel like vampires, but still make them memorable? 4:00 Give yourself some range for memorable characters … but not too much 6:00 Monster 1: What makes goblins iconic? 16:00 Monster 2: Kobolds – a short flight 20:00 Monster 3: Orcs from D&D to Star Trek 29:00 Monster 4: Mind flayers – Squids From Space! Bring your inner H.R. Geiger to play 38:00 Monster 5: Black pudding or gelatinous cube? 42:00 Monster 0: The Logo: Dragons – listen to episode 62 for more 44:00 Monster 6: Giants – Storm, fire and thunder 52:00 Monster 7: Beholders – The Round Mound of Eye-Beam Beatdown 60:00 Final thoughts
64 minutes | Mar 6, 2022
Do D&D Magic Item Limits Crimp Your DM Style?
Do the magic item attunement rules and limits make D&D 5E a better game or just add a layer of frustration? When we started playing 5E, we actually ignored attunement. Now, we’ve started using it across all of our campaigns to understand how the game is meant to be played. … And we have some concerns. What role do magic items play in your game? Are they rewards? Character development tools? Just items that help optimize PC builds? We’ve found that attunement, while it helps keep PC power in check, can be an obstacle to playing how we want to play. It changes PC motivations and reward mechanisms in ways that aren’t always in line with our goals. So, what should we do about it? In this episode, Thorin, Tony and Dave talk about attunement, magic items in older editions, and the role these tools play in their games. 1:00 What is attunement and why does it matter? 5:00 A quick history of magic items’ role in D&D from Basic to 5E 12:00 How attunement can get your PC killed (and make higher-level play more boring) 20:00 Does attunement make treasure rewards less interesting? 29:00 How magic item limits impact PC motivations 34:00 Does breaking the attunement rule make D&D 5E any worse? 38:00 What role do you want magic items to play in your games? 43:00 Character-defining magic items 52:00 Final thoughts
63 minutes | Feb 27, 2022
The Fetch Quest: Are They Fun? Are They Worth It? Are They Just Filler for the Big Story?
Sometimes your players want something, or you want to give them something, that would be kind of lame to just leave lying around. After all, The Awesome Staff of Mega Power probably deserves its own quest to find. But how long should that quest be? And how do you keep the other players personally involved so they don’t get bored? In this episode, Thorin, Tony, and Dave talk about a fetch quest they just started in the Curse of Strahd game, how it could play out, and the risks of other players tuning out while Hawk leads them off to get his Megasword. Along the way, they talk about how they handle player requests, fitting them into your campaign, and much more. 2:00 An aside about game styles 6:00 Getting Hawk’s new sword and what we mean by fetch quest 14:00 Giving a focus PC some spotlight time 17:00 Does focusing on one player’s goal undermine the other PCs’ motivations? 26:00 How much time should it take to get that fetch item? 32:00 How do you bring an item or idea your player wants into the game? 37:00 When is the best time to give out custom items in the PCs’ careers? 44:00 Heirloom weapon pros and cons: Items that level up with the character (include pendragon sword write up) 47:00 Managing fetch quest time 56:00 Final thoughts
69 minutes | Feb 20, 2022
Getting the “Face” Player to Shut Up and Let Other Players Share the Spotlight
Some players are more assertive than others, as every DM quickly learns. Some players sit quietly waiting for their turn to speak, while the “Face,” like his A-Team counterpart, never misses a chance to go to town. Before you know it, the party is down another rabbit hole or skipping through a conversation without anyone else getting a chance to participate. Or, as this week’s listener question asks: “How do you get the “Face” to STFU? To be fair, none of us actually recommends telling a player to shut up. But every group deals with some variation of this issue, and while the Face can be entertaining, none of your other players wants to play Robin to their Batman. Worse, you have other players in your group who want to contribute just as much as the Face, but they can’t get a word in edgewise. What’s a DM to do? In this episode, Thorin, Tony and Dave talk about how they handle the more dominant role players in their groups (especially when it’s one of them) and the tricks they use to make sure everyone gets to roleplay the way they want to. 1:00 A reader question about balancing the personalities in your game that really hits home 6:00 As a player: Have you made your point? Have you started repeating yourself? Then stop talking 8:00 Turns matter outside of combat, too: Don’t let one player take more than a turn’s worth of actions or advance the conversation to a new topic without letting everyone have a chance to do something 13:00 How our games are becoming more roleplay-focused, which can make the “Face” problem worse 16:00 An example of turn-based roleplaying in our games and tricks we use to make sure everyone gets to talk and act 27:00 Pros and cons of handling single-character vignettes outside of the game vs. at the table 36:00 Chaos in Marvel Town: An example of a couple characters jumping the gun and pushing the whole party into a God fight (a fight Thorin swears he didn’t start…) 55:00 How to rein in the Face if they’re still disrupting the game 60:00 Final thoughts
78 minutes | Feb 13, 2022
9 Alternate D&D Rules to Try: Our Favorite Optional Mechanics From the DMG, Homebrew and Other Games
Vanilla Dungeons & Dragons 5E is a fine game, but depending on the atmosphere you want to set and the possibilities of your setting, there are a lot of alternate rules that can bring your game to the next level. The D&D 5E Dungeon Masters Guide has some great optional rules you can use to bring different genres of games to life by playing up things like honor and horror. Beyond D&D itself, a lot of other games use mechanics that are worth porting in to create certain effects in your campaign world. Your own unique homebrew mechanics can be even more powerful tools for bringing your setting more to life. In this episode, Thorin, Tony and Dave talk about their favorite optional rules, how to use them and when. They’ll also talk about how they designed alternate combat and wrestling rules, and how the right alternate mechanics make your campaign feel more like the world you’re trying to portray. There’s a difference between making your game more immersive and just making it more complicated, and this episode will help you know when you’re on the right side of that line. 1:00 An aside about U2, changing up musical rules, and the weird stuff you see at business conferences (we’re not sorry) 5:00 Alternate rules and a new question from Jared 8:00 Mechanic 1: Doing more with Skills and Proficiencies — and what exactly can a cleric use on a Rod of Lordly Might? 20:00 From firearms to madness: A few of the alternate rules we already play with 24:00 Mechanic 2: Monsters with character classes and levels like Strahd 26:00 Mechanic 3: Opposed-roll parries and abusing them with 2E Bladesingers 30:00 Mechanic 4: House-ruling treasure to make it less predictable 32:00 Using alternate mechanics to feed the atmosphere of your campaign — like human sacrifice 38:00 Mechanic 5: Slow natural healing and lingering injuries 41:00 Mechanic 6: Taking weapons off simple mode and adding deeper combat mechanics 47:00 Mechanic 7: Damage rules for crits, mass damage, and more 55:00 Mechanic 8: Honor and reputation systems for codifying how PC’s impact the world 63:00 Mechanic 9: Divine intervention and how the Ghatanothoa sentient sacrifice mechanic works 67:00 Final thoughts and more mechanics we’d like to play with
75 minutes | Feb 6, 2022
How to Handle a Backseat DM: 11 Things to Know
Why won’t the experienced DM playing in your game back off and let you run it? A backseat DM can be a frustrating experience and force some difficult conversations — but having an experienced DM on the player side of the table to help lookup rulings and encourage the other players can also be a really beneficial asset in your game. How do you leverage that DM player as a good assistant and not let them become your worst critic? At 3 Wise DMS, we’ve played with backseat DMs, been backseat DMs, and even been backseat DMs to each other. In this episode, Thorin, Tony and Dave talk about how they handle the situation, how they try to leverage DM players as helpers, and how they communicate when the backseat DMing gets out of line (including when it’s one of us getting out of line). Here are 11 things you should know about handling the backseat DM in your game. 2:00 2 listeners who feel undermined by experienced DMs playing in their campaigns 4:00 Assistants and food critics: The benefits and pitfalls of having another seasoned DM at the table 8:00 Rules vs adjudication, and times we’ve been the backseat DMs 12:00 Understand the rule before you house rule — and the danger of bad calls that become precedents and problems going forward 16:00 Be open to reasonable feedback and make adjustments if they have a point 20:00 How DMs should act when playing in another DM’s game (especially if you taught them the game) 24:00 Letting a new DM run the game their way will teach you new things about DMing 34:00 How we handle backseat DMs when we’re DMing 39:00 Exerting your authority to bring a backseat DM player inline 44:00 Knowing the rules, making wise decisions, and ruling with consistency all reinforce your authority 50:00 How to handle a DM player who wants you to step aside and kill your campaign 56:00 Adjust your pacing to the frequency of play: Monthly games have to feel like the players accomplished something 67:00 Final thoughts
85 minutes | Jan 30, 2022
Sharing RPG Worlds: Balancing PC Power Levels and NPC Portrayals Across Shared Campaigns With Multiple DMs
Across the games we’re running and playing, we have several campaign worlds, NPCs, and PCs that cross over between DMs. Usually, this is no big deal, but sometimes what one DM does can unbalance what another DM is trying to do. Often this revolves around PC power, with characters in both our Marvel and Woodstock Wanderers game sometimes breaking the curve for the other DMs/GMs. But conflict can also arise over how shared NPCs and campaign worlds are portrayed. If one DM’s giant unfeeling tentacle monster is going to destroy the world, they can’t have another DM turning it into a Chibi Cthulhu familiar. How do you handle balance and communication with these shared world pieces? That’s what Thorin, Tony and Dave are digging into in this episode of 3 Wise DMs. They talk about where the conflicts arise, why they’re a problem, and how they’ve dealt with them so everyone can run the games they want but still dip into the other campaigns in a fun way. 2:00 DMing PCs in shared universes with multiple DMs 4:00 PC power levels in shared universes: Our Marvel Super Heroes and D&D Sword Coast campaigns 8:00 Don’t be the grandparent spoiling the kids and sending them home to their “parent” DM 13:00 The ol’ “Mom said no, go ask dad” DMing conundrum 16:00 When Storm King’s Thunder came to Woodstock: Why a level 13 Wizard tried to wrestle an ancient green dragon … and almost won 22:00 How one over-powered character can bust the encounter curve and drive up difficulty 29:00 “But my character played in those games and earned those boons. They deserve to be able to use them.” 31:00 Making PCs from other games NPCs in your games in a shared universe 34:00 Topping out: When have you given out too much power? 38:00 Where should the boundaries be for giving out magic and homebrew? 46:00 How the sacrifice boons work in Woodstock Wanderers 50:00 How much level and power variation is OK between characters in the same game? 62:00 Dealing with differences in DM style 66:00 How do you communicate and manage these issues with the other DMs? 72:00 Sharing NPCs without taking them “off-brand” 77:00 Final thoughts
98 minutes | Jan 23, 2022
Does D&D 5E Need Character Levels? Radical (Heretical?) Ideas About D&D Advancement
Leveling up! It’s synonymous with D&D and one of the game’s biggest contributions to gaming culture. The very idea of gaining a level has become a staple of RPG video games, board games, and even most (but not all, as we’ll discuss) Tabletop Roleplaying Games. But is it the best way to handle character advancement in D&D 5th Edition? Dael Kingsmill of the MonarchsFactory YouTube channel has some different ideas. In a recent video, she even suggested that D&D shouldn’t use levels! Our knee-jerk reaction was to pass out the torches and pitchforks, but maybe she’s on to something. A lot of RPGs handle leveling in different ways, and we play a couple (TSR’s Marvel Super Heroes RPG and Call of Cthulhu, to name two) that don’t use leveling at all. Maybe it’s not so crazy to consider swapping levels out of D&D for the kind of open XP-buy system Dael suggests? Also, this is our first podcast recorded in-person as the guys finally get together in 3WD headquarters: Our game room. (We apologize for the extra echoes and room sounds.) Together with about two gallons of coffee, Thorin, Tony and Dave break down Dael’s suggestions and talk about how different games and older D&D editions handled leveling, player agency in PC advancement, leveling beyond 20 and more! Don’t miss it. 2:00 Dael Kingsmill says D&D shouldn’t use character levels. Is that a crazy idea? 4:00 Do D&D classes have 20 levels worth of good level-up stuff? 8:00 Using XP as a currency to buy character powers (much like the TSR Marvel Super Heroes RPG) 13:00 How to grind: Looking at how different systems handle leveling up, including past D&D editions 18:00 Are levels hard for new players to understand? 23:00 DM emotional blackmail and a little bit about our Christmas games 25:00 Is D&D inherently a level-up game? 27:00 “I got a rock” - Should we offer a way to pass up your class level ability for a feat or some other type of flexibility? 34:00 What we like and don’t like about how D&D 5E handles leveling, and how you could improve it 43:00 Does more flexibility make your character decisions less meaningful? 51:00 Character convergence: Unlimited customization can lead to a smaller number of builds actually being played 55:00 How can we add more options and player agency to leveling up? 64:00 Leveling beyond level 20 and how to challenge players once they get there 91:00 Final thoughts
77 minutes | Jan 16, 2022
How to DM PC Builds and Abilities That Piss You Off
In any TTRPG, but perhaps especially D&D 5E, the DM runs the world and the players run their characters, who are built within the rules of the game. You should let players build the characters they want to play, but that doesn’t mean you have to like it! It’s OK to have a TTRPG PC build that pisses you off. Whether it’s because they’re unkillable, unhittable, undetectable, unsurvivable, or, like our listener question this week, they passively perceive absolutely frickin’ everything! This may mean you have to change your game or not use pieces you wanted to use — like big dumb monster fights against casters with Banish. (“Which is BULL$#!7!” – DM Thorin.) But you can adjust both your own DMing and the player expectations of how their showcase abilities work in the game. In this episode, Thorin, Tony and Dave talk about how to handle builds that piss you off or at least challenge you as a DM. Along the way, they talk about builds, abilities and spells they’ve struggled with and how you can handle the situation without ruining the game for yourself or any of your players. 2:00: Extreme passives: A listener asks how to handle a D&D 5E PC with extremely high passive perception and investigation who expects all the secrets to be revealed automatically 6:00 Respect is a 2-way street: Just like the DM wants to run the world they built, the players want to play the characters they created 10:00 How we handle passive perception, use stats and dice rolls, and the problem with dice rolls 16:00 Is it unfair for a player to build a character so good in one area they automatically succeed? 21:00 The Observant Problem: Creating challenges and obstacles for builds that see all the secrets 26:00 DMing Sherlock Holmes: How do you reign the player in but make sure they’re still having fun? 32:00 Player builds and abilities that piss us off — and why Banishment is a really poorly designed spell 45:00 Moon Druids, Barbarians, and dealing with ridiculous damage absorption 55:00 Challenging control and stealth character builds in D&D 5E 64:00 “If we’re not encouraging clever ideas at the table, then what are we doing as DMs?” Adapting your DMing style to fit the character builds at your table 69:00 Final thoughts
88 minutes | Jan 9, 2022
How Hard Is Too Hard for Your RPG Campaign and Players?
Balance can be the trickiest thing to strike in any RPG campaign. On the one hand, the DM is running monsters and villains who are literally plotting the PC’s destruction. If their plans aren’t good or their combat abilities aren’t challenging, like DM Tony says, it’s like playing the game on baby mode. A game that’s not challenging is unrewarding. On the other, a game that gets too hard can frustrate your players right out of wanting to play it. So where is the balance? How hard is too hard for your style of game and your players? In this episode, Thorin, Tony and Dave go deep on what makes things hard. They talk frankly about their own troubles keeping things balanced and times their players were just about ready to turn their vorpal blades on the DM and mutiny. Along the way, we get into the difference between difficult “hard” and time-consuming “hard” (both of which can derail a game), why it’s never just about numbers, and the one thing that really tells you if your encounters have gotten too hard. 2:00 Is it too hard or too long? 11:00 Managing time and difficulty for large groups (7+ players) – should there be less combat? 15:00 How D&D 5E makes this harder by favoring multimonster fights 21:00 How hard is too hard? Learning from our COS Strahd fight and super-powered Santas 29:00 When is a more powerful big bad hounding the players too much? 36:00 Fights that’ve been too hard: When NPCs and homebrew goes wrong 45:00 How players may read hard encounters 56:00 When players get frustrated … and is that a reasonable way to judge your game? 65:00 How much can you frustrate your players before they don’t want to play? 69:00 Why the book Strahd isn’t a fun fight, even if he is technically balanced and challenging 75:00 No number can tell you how hard is too hard, but your players will 81:00 Final thoughts
78 minutes | Jan 2, 2022
Characters Over Combat: What We Learned From Gaming in 2021
Happy New Year! It’s a new year for new games or just continuing the ones you already love. But before we look forward to 2022, it’s important to look back at what we learned from gaming in 2021. Between playing and running about 6 different campaigns throughout the year, not to mention talking about all of it here on 3 Wise DMs, we learned a lot. From speeding up combat to the importance of good characters, especially PCs, the way we play and DM keeps evolving. In this episode, Thorin, Tony and Dave talk about everything they learned throughout 2021, how it’s changed the way they play, and what they’re planning for 2022. 2:00 2021: A year in 3 Wise DMs gaming 5:00 Tony hints at some upcoming post-level-20 house rules for D&D 5E 11:00 Is it better to push characters into epic-level, beyond-20 play or start new characters? 17:00 Why don’t 5E’s published adventures support high-level play? 23:00 How do you keep the tension and interest up to continue playing after you complete a book adventure? 26:00 Moments we remember from gaming in 2021: Epic-powered one-shots Teaching people who are totally new to gaming Completing classic book modules Alien technology Making new characters 30:00 Cross-overs and shared DM universes 35:00 Running a totally different, combat-light, character-focused RPG in Call of Cthulhu 43:00 Time management: The tension between letting players figure things out and do their own things, D&D combat, and slowing the game down 50:00 Confronting the time-twisting horror of maps! 54:00 Time management and large games (6 players and up … plus pets) 56:00 Is D&D 5E just another big, clunky combat system? 59:00 Making combat more epic and less time-consuming 63:00 What did we learn in 2021? Tony’s trying to limit plot complexity Dave’s trying to learn to balance Tony’s storytelling with Thorin’s improv Creating your own world vs running a book module Thorin’s still trying to speed up sessions and combat 69:00 Final thoughts and the games we’re looking forward to in 2022
Terms of Service
Do Not Sell My Personal Information
© Stitcher 2022