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Articles By Author - Jerry LeNeave

The 4th Pillar: Focusing on Fun

When it comes to the 4th pillar of your game, which if you haven’t figured out by now is fun, there are lots of alternative options to traditional XP. We all know that, when players earn XP for the NPCs and monsters they defeat, “defeat” doesn’t necessarily always spell death, but it usually does, hence ye olde Murderhobo stereotype. So when it comes to focusing on fun at your table, you should also consider the following...

The 4th Pillar: Mythbusters (Party Composition Edition)

Everyone loves to talk about group composition. I feel like the prevalence and popularity of video games have only bolstered these arguments over the years as well. There’s the ever-unavoidable “holy trinity”: classes that primarily take damage (tanks), classes that primarily heal damage (healers), and classes that primarily deal damage (DPS). Even the acronym for damage dealing classes is plucked from video games, yet nobody is measuring...

The 4th Pillar: Risk and Reward

In our last installment, we talked about spicing up your encounters with some actionable dungeon flair, bits and pieces within your environments that players can use to even the odds and make things interesting. Today we’re going to be talking about a few other aspects of imbalanced encounter building, and those are what I like to refer to as banes and gambits. These are quite the opposite of what we discussed last time in that they will...

The 4th Pillar: Earn Your First Piece of Dungeon Flair

So when it comes to skipping steps on the encounter budget staircase, a great way to counterbalance your “rule of cool” is within the environs that characters are going to be playing in. After all, why should it only be epic monsters that get lair actions? I’ve always found that one of the best ways to offset players being outmatched is by giving them tools in the world around them that allow a turning of the tide or even...

The 4th Pillar: Learning to Let Go

Lots of RPGs in the D&D vein have progression systems based on accumulating XP and balancing systems based on the difficulty of monsters and challenges therein, which grant XP accordingly and keep the wheels of the game turning. Because of this, we often have guidelines on how to create balanced encounters, so players can be challenged accordingly, usually referred to as the encounter budget. The budget typically exists as a few pages of...

The 4th Pillar: Rethinking Encounter Design

The most interesting stories, the ones we share the most over the years and that stick with us longer than any others, are those that defy the odds. That inherent unfairness is what can make for the most satisfying, beautiful, and rewarding experiences possible. If the stories of David and Goliath or Frodo Baggins and the Fellowship were “balanced,” they wouldn’t have nearly the same impact that they do. When it comes to...

Cult Activity: Helvetesfönster

An ancient immortal creature stalks the Margreve Forest, and an entire village of cannibal cultists worship it as their god. They will gladly use any trespassers as ritual sacrifice to keep it placated. Cult Activity gives you a cult-driven set piece: location, background, hooks, everything you need to build your own adventures in Midgard. Background Somewhere within the thick of the Margreve Forest lies a small village inhabited by a dozen or...

From Diablo 3 to D&D: Memorable and Challenging Boss Battles (Part 2 of 2)

Today we’re going to finish talking about boss battles in your tabletop games, including how you can borrow a few ideas from Diablo 3 and other titles as well. Arenas, Temptations, and Movement: Providing a Memorable and Challenging Environment Another idea to borrow from Diablo 3 when it comes to boss battles is to crank it up to 11 when it comes to the arenas in which they are fought. Despite the game’s dungeon-crawling heart, you’ll find...

From Diablo 3 to D&D: Memorable and Challenging Boss Battles (Part 1 of 2)

Today we’re going to talk about boss battles in your tabletop games, including how you can borrow a few ideas from Diablo 3 and other titles as well. Making these climactic encounters a true apex to your adventures is crucial, and they are loads of fun to dream up. Remember, folks, D&D invented the “boss battle.” So let’s jump right in! Phases of Combat: Changing Strengths and Weaknesses A common idea in video games during boss battles is...

From Diablo 3 to D&D: Traps with a Twist (Part 2)

Take a look at the second part of a two-part article from Jerry that explores Diablo’s traps. This time Jerry tackles events that can work as larger traps. Traps as Events Does a trap have to be a single-fire, whizz-bang affair? Certainly not. Diablo 3 does a pretty good job of emphasizing constant peril and the ever-present sense of danger. Another great example of a play on classic traps is the random dungeon event. The premise is simple:...

From Diablo 3 to D&D: Traps with a Twist (Part 1)

This week, we have the first part of a two-part article from Jerry that explores Diablo’s traps, which might make a few GMs out there happy. Players should take heed, though: Sometimes your characters can take advantage of traps, too! Old Traps, New Ideas Traps are pretty common in a lot of D&D campaigns, especially those that are dungeon-centric. With a game such as Diablo, the entirety of the game could almost be considered a...

From Diablo 3 to D&D: Socketed Items

Welcome to the third installment in Jerry’s Diablo 3 to D&D series of blog posts. You can read about skill runes and treasure pygmies (the first two parts) before starting with socketed items. How It Works Aside from whatever magical properties armor and weapons has, most items function in only a few different ways. That’s not the case with slotted items in Diablo 3. Creating slotted items and armor in your tabletop games is a great way to...

From Diablo 3 to D&D: Treasure Pygmies

Welcome to the second installment in Jerry’s Diablo 3 to D&D series of blog posts. You can read about skill runes first, if you want, or dive right into this week’s topic: treasure pygmies. Ah, treasure pygmies. Here’s another bit of Diablo 3 that any fun-loving group of gamers should readily enjoy at their tables. Inserting a treasure pygmy into your game should be effortless, provided you have ample means of whipping up a...

From Diablo 3 to D&D: Skill Runes

Let me preface this series of articles by introducing myself. My name is Jerry LeNeave, and I’ve been addicted to games far longer than I care to mention. I run a blog over at The Dread Gazebo, help run the show over at Obsidian Portal, and also co-host the Haste podcast. I’ve been playing video games since I was five years old, long before I was ever chucking dice at a table. I’m very passionate about blending these two mediums and I’m...

D&D Next: Shaping up to be a cookbook full of recipes for “Awesome”

My experience with the D&D Next playtest process over the past few months has been nothing short of amazing. My players and I have really come out of our shells, so to speak. Characters are developing more than ever, emergent storytelling is at the forefront of our games, and—most importantly—referencing game materials and rules has become marginal. The flow of D&D Next so far has been immensely smooth. Now let me give you a little...

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