"Dungeons & Dragons Campaign Tips" (1x12) is the first special episode of Critical Role, which Geek & Sundry considers episode twelve.

Synopsis Edit

Pre-Show Edit

  • The character bios for Grog, Keyleth, Percy, Pike, Scanlan, Tiberius, Vax'ildan, and Vex'ahlia are played.

Announcements Edit

  • Due to player absences, this week will be a special episode: a D&D workshop.
  • The cast are introduced:
    • Marisha Ray, a.k.a. Keyleth
    • Taliesin, a.k.a. Percy
    • Orion, a.k.a. Tiberius
    • Birthday boy Liam O'Brien (a.k.a. Vax)
  • Matt will be completely improvising a short game for a few of the Critical Role support team:
    • Dan Casey, who describes himself as a "lapsed D&D player" who used to play 3.5 and AD&D. He has most recently picked up a bit of Pathfinder.
    • Zac Eubank, Overlord / Snugglelord.
    • Ify, who is still in transit, is a fairly proficient D&D player.
  • Matt opens a few gifts from fans:
    • an inflatable Cthulhu beard for his Clarota persona
    • a glittery dragon dungeon master mug
    • crocheted beholder bag
  • Matt reads the letter from Scott Graupner / Useless Rogue that he did not have time to read at the end of last week's session.
  • Zac notes that at 3150 subscribers, there will be a giveaway for a signed photo of the Critical Role cast and a signed Player's Handbook.
  • Ify arrives and introduces himself.
  • Today is also Laura's birthday (she shares a birthday with Liam, which inspired their characters being twins). However, she is on vacation with Travis in Greece.

Part I: D&D Campaign Tips Edit

Matt gives an introduction to character creation, starting with the race-class system. Dan decides to be a dwarf rogue, Zac a tiefling fiend-pact warlock, and Ify a dwarven fighter specializing in two-handed weapons. Matt helps them roll their stats, explaining the six attributes and the seven different dice. The characters will be starting at level 2.

Taliesin, Marisha, Orion, and Liam then help the players determine their class-specific abilities while Matt gives an introduction to the responsibilities of a Dungeon Master.

As a Dungeon Master, you want to be a fair judge; you want to rationalize the world around [the characters]; you want to try and make sure the players have the opportunity to be heroes and have those heroic moments; reward them for doing good, cool things; try and detract them from ruining other people's fun or doing things that are out of character; and build a world for them to play in.
Matthew Mercer

On the subject of world-building, Matt gives the example of his own home-brewed town of Stilben, and outlines how he might plan a tiefling NPC called Edge who runs the local thieves' guild in that town. He discusses building a larger city, with perhaps many more factions and districts than a small one, and how this is likely to involve more improvisation from the DM. Finally, he goes in depth on story hooks and goals, mentioning how to design an encounter during a quest.

As far as maps go, Matt notes that they are fun and helpful, but not at all necessary for smaller groups. He describes his principles for awarding experience based on successful encounters and good in-character moments. He discusses a few of the things that he likes about D&D 5e. To illustrate the usefulness of the Backgrounds system, Dan introduces his character, Salty Pete.

Matt then takes a few questions from the chat room.

Chat Room Q&A Edit

Q: (from Manoose) How do you handle magical items?
Matt outlines the Dungeon Master's Guide's breakdown for magical item rarities and how they should correlate with player level and price. He notes that he has to be careful not to hand out too many items, to avoid them becoming less interesting.

Q: (from NSFThermont) To what degree do you allow/encourage the players to contribute to the world's lore?
The characters' backgrounds contributed heavily to world lore, and they will occasionally cross paths with something from their past in the story. However, he likes them to know where they came from and not where they are going. For instance, Orion gave Matt a list of items and where they were, but Matt decided whether or not they existed and what each one did. Marisha gave Matt the four tribes of the Ashari, but as an Air Ashari, her character knows very little about the other three. Taliesin told Matt what the Briarwoods did when they came to his castle, but only Matt knows what they wanted there. The twins fleshed out their backstories together, then were surprised when their estranged father and his new family became a major part of one of their quests.

Q: (from Skyfalls1) How do you handle player-controlled allies and their level progression? Are they part of the character who controls that ally, such as Trinket being the bear, a familiar, or do they have their own independent leveling guide?
It's different from system to system, but Trinket is part of the beastmaster ranger class. As such, Trinket's progression is tied to Vex's progression as a ranger, and gets better attacks as her proficiency improves.

Orion discusses his method of roleplaying, by becoming a 12-year-old again in his mind and focusing on having fun. Taliesin points out that the DM's goal is not to kill the players' characters, but to make them heroes. Matt notes that some DMs do want to kill their PCs; for example, the Tomb of Horrors campaign. However, that is not his personal style. Liam likes to court death on purpose, and Matt agrees that a certain amount of risk-taking is necessary for epic moments.

Q: Matt's opinion on DM player characters?
They can be fine if well done. However, Matt once got very frustrated with a DM PC that seemed to break a lot of rules and always got the best loot. The biggest problem is that the DM, by definition, knows what is coming and how to prepare for it, and having a PC with that knowledge can defeat the purpose and the fun of the game.

Q: What about another player playing someone else's character by proxy when the other player is absent?
Totally fine if the players agree. Matt tends to NPC characters for missing players, or find story reasons for them to be absent.

Q: (from CometCalvin) I want my players to be more immersed in the story, like instead of saying to me, "So I tell them to go west." Are there any tips on stimulating people? (In other words, how do you encourage people to roleplay more and get into character rather than simply direct commands at each other?)
First of all, this is not necessary if players are not comfortable being fully immersed in a character. Players who remove themselves from their characters may be taking baby steps toward more immersive roleplay, and should be allowed to do that. The DM can invite their players to play more in character, and if players are down for it, then the DM can start to put the law down. For instance, by treating every conversation as in character, players will have to become more conscious of their roleplay. It is also important for the DM to then set the example with their own NPCs, and reward players for their roleplaying with things like inspiration dice.

Q: Suggestions on running a complex system for a bunch of new players?
Be patient. Simplify the rules. For instance, reduce combat to just action and movement, with no bonus action. Get rid of feats, or backgrounds. Halve the spell lists. Pick the rules that you feel are important, then over time add things back in as players become more comfortable.

Orion and Taliesin give examples of things they have home-brewed with Matt. Matt emphasizes that it is important to help balance custom homebrews if they turn out to be overpowered over time. The DMG or Monster Manual has an algorithm for scaling monsters to suit a dungeon.

Part II: The Good, the Rad, and the Nubbly Edit

Matt prefaces the adventure by noting that he has prepared precisely nothing and will be improvising everything. Ify and Zac introduce their characters, Ulfgar Fireforge and Snugglelord, in addition to the already-discussed Salty Pete.

As our story begins, Snugglelord has met Ulfgar and Salty Pete one evening in a dark tavern. He promises them that wonders await them in the temple of the Overlord, and pays them to accompany him as bodyguards. Over the next two days, they ride to the town of Roch Mar in hopes of riches, virgins, a chat room, or something of that nature.

Roch Mar proves to be a town of about 60 hovels with no signs of life, save for four figures in the center of town. The figures scatter as the heroes approach. Ulfgar goes to look in the well at the center of town and finds a few gold coins at the bottom. When they lower Salty into the well to retrieve the coins, they quickly find that the liquid in the well is corrosive, as Salty's hand begins to burn from acid damage.

Finishing their business with the well, they catch a house door closing on the edge of their vision. Both Ulfgar and Salty fail to open the door, so with Snugglelord's help they set the house on fire instead. Out of the burning house comes a malnourished halfling girl.

The girl, Lilly, confesses that she isn't from this village, but her group found it empty and haven't been able to leave. They are continually drawn to a stage in the center of the town. She takes them toward it to where a tent city has been set up. There, her father tells them that they have been stuck in this town for two weeks, running out of food, their water poisoned and their dreams haunted by nightmares. He offers them all his savings, 120 gold, for their help.

In the center of town, the heroes find a large indentation in the sandy earth. Salty gets dragged into the sand, along with Ulfgar who attempts to save him. Snugglelord jumps in after them for good measure. The three of them fall through the earth into darkness.

They find themselves in an underground room. On a nearby platform is a baseball-sized glowing blue crystal with a circular moat in the floor around it. Ulfgar tosses a rope into the area, attempting to trigger any traps. In response, sandstone blocks come out of the walls and form into a nine-foot-tall animated humanoid figure. They do battle briefly, until Ulfgar snatches the blue orb from its pedestal. Snugglelord delivers a shattering blow to the crystal, removing half of Salty's hand in the process.

The sandstone golem disintegrates with the destruction of the crystal, and the dark, acidic liquid in the moat seems to alter and become pure water once again. They go back to the entrance and are helped back to the surface by the grateful townspeople. Ulfgar tries to convince Lilly to go with them, to no avail; however, Salty picks up the violin-playing crone.

Featured Characters Edit

New Edit

Inventory Edit

Adjustment Count Item Source Destination Notes
Acquired 1 handful of gold coins well in Roch Mar Ulfgar retrieved by Salty Pete, whose hand was burnt by acid in the process
Transferred 1 gold Ulfgar Salty Pete for retrieving the coins
Lost 1 horse Snugglelord - punched out by Ulfgar
Acquired 60 gold Lilly's father Ulfgar payment for saving the town
Acquired 60 gold Lilly's father Salty Pete payment for saving the town

Quotations Edit

  • Salty Pete: Show me mine, I'll show you yours. Or vice-versa. Sorry, the salt has addled my brain.
    Snugglelord: Idiots.
  • Ulfgar: All right, so I pull out my two longswords. So, I got two longswords, I use 'em at the same time. I like to call this one Regina and this one Lindy. You get it? Right, left? Haha, I'm hilarious. And then I got this crossbow right here. I use it with one hand, it'll bust somebody in the face. Any questions?
  • Salty Pete: I'm a little shorthanded.

External Links Edit

References Edit


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