Three Episodes In A Month, The Campaign Diaries Begin, And Let’s Talk Magic Items – By Ben Clemmer.
All of our podcast content from the month of June was very combat focused. Our most recent episode with Casey Stombaugh focused on combat from many different pieces of media. Dungeons & Dragons is at its most basic level a combat game, so that trend continued into July with our episodes of our campaign diaries.
Stephen and I have been having conversations about D&D since we reconnected in college. We had both played D&D in college, but never at the same table. After we began to play Fate Core together, it was clear that D&D informed elements of both of our approaches to running RPGs. Stephen taught himself to DM 5th edition and wrote about it for the Storytelling Breakdown blog. That got the wheels turning for me too.
In 2021, I began to teach myself to DM 5th edition. It combined so many things I like immensely. It gave me an opportunity to tell stories, build worlds and characters, voice act, improvise, lead a group, and play games with friends. Those friends began to create characters, including Gorg, Larissa’s aasimar barbarian. You can see him on the far left in Michael Ganser’s amazing artwork for the logo.
Larissa and all of the other players at our table were very patient with me as I was still a relatively new DM finding his way with a new system. Did I know what checks or saving throws were appropriate to ask for in different situations? For the most part, yes. Was I able to run combat efficiently? The first three combats of the campaign went pretty well, although there was definitely a creature or two that shouldn’t have appeared in my first session. You can hear more about that in the first campaign diary episode.
Did I equip my players with appropriate magic items for their level and class? We covered this a little bit in episode two, but this is where my first time DMing of 5e showed up a bit. Going character by character, how much did I screw this up?
Ada has an Artificer Sword on her back that her character got before the events of the campaign. It has an unknown curse on it and because of that, Ada has not attuned to the item, at least through our first two sessions. While a character being unable to use the only magic item she started with might sound lame at first blush, it did provide an opportunity to make breaking the curse a part of the story. Being able to use the sword could become Ada’s reward for doing something heroic. Overall, I’m happy with how this item has turned out.
Alphabetical order takes us to Delilah next, the rabbitfolk rogue. I am playing my own rogue in Stephen’s campaign, so starting from level one, the two kits looked very similar. Delilah was armed with a rapier, shortsword, and as many daggers as she could carry. By the end of the first session, she’d found a magic sword called the Swift Rapier. It has two simple, but powerful abilities. When you make an attack with this weapon, you can immediately make one additional attack. It also gives a +2 bonus to attack and damage rolls. Some of you might already be realizing that this item is considered legendary and I put it in the paws of a level one character in session one.
Bad move? Sure. However…
There are a couple of ways in which Delilah having this rapier, that you can see at her belt in the artwork, have provided opportunities to patch some things. I may have thrown a hag at the party too early, before reaching level four gave them the opportunity to bump up their attack bonuses by improving the necessary ability scores. The hag’s armor class of 17 proved too high for so many attacks in that fight and the only party member who could consistently land a hit was Delilah. Once the party reached level five, basically all of our martial class players unlocked their extra attack. Delilah didn’t get this ability as a rogue, but the Swift Rapier made it so she’s had it all along.
Next up are Gorg’s Gauntlets of Flame. This is one of the best examples of me as an inexperienced DM not realizing what I was giving my players. The gauntlets allow the user to cast the Flame Blade spell. This would be cool for almost every class in the game, especially at level one. The one exception is barbarian. From first level, one of the most important barbarian abilities is rage and you can’t concentrate on spells while you are raging. Flame Blade also requires a free hand. Gorg has a pretty good kit now. There are one-handed, non-raging attack options that make it so he can use Flame Blade. That said, you can see him pictured in the artwork holding a great club, which requires two hands. These days he often opts for a war hammer and shield. Neither of these are circumstances where Gorg can cast Flame Blade.
Now on to Nerine’s Ring of Blackrock. With our last two characters here being a sorcerer and fighter, you might have realized that this party really doesn’t have a designated healer. With that in mind, giving this ring to Nerine made sense. It ties up an attunement slot, but having access to a Cure Wounds spell when it is needed is huge, especially at early levels. Sure I gave a spellcaster an item that gives her one more spell to work with, but this one has come in handy a few times thus far. More information will be provided on Nerine’s pet once we get that far in the campaign diaries.
Our final item is Siv’s Belt of Battle. This one is a little complex, but for a fighter it can provide Siv with a bunch of cool abilities through basically every level of play. It gives her advantage on initiative rolls, increasing her chances of acting early or first in combat encounters. It also gives her charges to spend that can give her additional movement, an additional reaction, or an additional action depending on how many charges she spends. She usually has enough charges to get the extra action once, the reaction and movement once, or the extra movement three times. With the party sitting at level five as I’m writing this, the prospect of being able to unload an attack action with an extra attack and offhand attack, then use action surge and the belt to get four more attacks in a single turn has been awesome. You can see Siv in the artwork is opting for dual wielding, with her longsword attached to her belt, the bright red leather of the Belt of Battle.
As you can probably tell, all of this D&D stuff is a ton of fun to write and talk about. Stephen and I both had a blast introducing our parties at level one, despite the challenges that can come with that. Now that we are two episodes into each diary, you can keep up with both of us wherever you get your podcasts. This is also where I need to thank both of the artists. Michael Ganser spent a ton of time getting the personalities of Ada, Delilah, Gorg, Nerine, and Siv to jump off of the page. Jeremy Stroup also did amazing work on his own version of Castle Ravenloft. We even had Jeremy on the podcast at the end of last season for our Spotlight on The Secret of Kells.
Thank you for reading and supporting Storytelling Breakdown. Our next episode drops Friday.