Alignment is an oft maligned holdover from the wargaming beginnings of D&D, where you could look at a PC or NPC and determine literally what team they were on by the alignment on their sheet. That’s why Alignment Languages were a thing: When coordinating military action, everyone on the same team has to speak the same language. Your alignment in early D&D wasn’t just how you acted, it was literally what team you were on in the grand cosmic war.
Cult of Ashod Deep in the frozen wastelands of Stygia, The fortress of Kitoposh stands alone, far from the machinations of the other Devils. Ashod and his forces are composed entirely of Devils who felt their former masters were mistreating them. Ashod once served Geryon, but rebelled from him when he was ordered to infiltrate a well established demonic cult on the material plane. Convinced that this plan was an unnecessary risk, and quite possibly designed to kill a dangerously powerful underling, Ashod assigned an imp to the duty, and felt justified when the imp was torn apart by a demonic assault.
Abstracting Hit Points One of my favorite aspects of 5th Edition D&D is that it explicitly calls out that Hit Points aren’t meat. When you have a 15th level fighter with 80 hit points, he can’t actually absorb 10 times the damage as the first level rogue with 8hp. This has long been the case, but has also been the source of a lot of debates throughout the history of D&D.
Here’s some more random, useless magical items, to add a sense of wonder to the game without making your PCs overpowered. Writing Desk Slow-falling Glassware House Seed Fruit Root Quill Scribe Book of Lending Athanor of Purity Witchweed Half Empty Cup Everburning Fireplace Corlins Connectors Writing Desk Wondrous Item, common This desk, which is almost always found mounted and secured below decks in a ship, renders the person seated there immune to the pitching and rocking of the ship.
1d6 Galeb Duhr Here’s a few options on how to flesh out the 1d6 Galeb Duhr from my Random Mountain Encounters. Instead of the standard way of just counting how many of the creature to encounter, here’s a list of unique different types of the creature. You can roll on here multiple times if you feel like it, or just go with a single roll. Galeb Duhr are earth-aligned fae spirits, and often have alliances with fae creatures in their region.
1d4 Rocs Here’s a few options on how to flesh out the 1d4 Rocs from my Random Mountain Encounters. 1) Recent Kill The characters are passing along a trail below a cliff, when a whole elk drops onto the trail in front of them, glancing up, they see a huge Roc dropping from the cliff overhead diving towards them to retrieve the kill that it dropped. They have 1 round before the beast will be upon them,
I’m currently running The Moon is a Mirror from Trilemma design, and having a great old time with it, but I’m adding some old-school hex crawl around the area. This uses the 2e standard of rolling 1d8+1d12 to generate an encounter. The advantage of this method is that it gives you a nicely centered distribution that allows you to put less common encounters on the outer edges (2-3, 19-20) and more common encounters in the center (9-13).
The party restrained the Duergar and Svirfneblin who were battling in the middle of town, and headed off to the Svirfneblin encampment. They were able to defeat the 4 Duergar who were attacking the door quick enough that the other 8 decided to head back to the Duergar encampment to regroup and re-enforce. After speaking with the Svirfneblin, and checking out the warehouse very briefly, the PCs moved their army to the gnomish fungus garden, and helped gather and cremate the dead gnomes.
I like handing out magical items that are immensely useful in world to the average denizen of a fantasy world, but are basically useless to most PCs. Roofing Sealant Stone of Warmth Washing Tub Everfull Canteen Portable Clearing Animated Broom Polishing Cloth Shelf of Preservation Mosquito Stone Collar of Obedience Navigating Pebble Roofing Sealant Wondrous Item, uncommon This item is a large pot of a foul-smelling alchemical mixture.
Notes from the Feb. 13, 2017 D&D session Picking up from last session the PCs were venturing into a Goblin holdout in the underdark. I had a chance in between games to prep this a bit, so I picked a few chewy nuggets of inspriation from a goblin-based adventure from the En5ider magazine that EnWorld puts out. Oooh, and Nilbogs. So, the first point for the game to pick up was Eric Tealeaf sneaking into the Goblin cavern just before the guards were able to roll a stone blocking the entrance.
Notes from the Jan. 29, 2016 D&D session Started off with a bit of bookeeping in Gauntlgrym, where the PCs decided they needed to speak with Trevion Stonechalk, a dwarf working for the Granitespike family who had contact with Jaezred and owes him some money. Trevion gave them some details on Gravenhollow, namely that they should speak with the Stone Giants to find the route there. He said that he had held the Kybere in his hands, and knew that it was evil.
Notes from the Jan. 15, 2016 D&D session The game picked up with Uthgar and Kendal negotiating with Autie Bertha to keep Uthgar’s home intact. Bertha’s gout is temporarily alleviated by Kendal’s magics, but she’s still getting old and is looking for a way to retire and support herself. Uthgar offers to let her stay at his house, so she can sell her own house, and live off of the profits, with the caveat that she not molest/touch Grandfather Thornbeard’s beard, which is preserved in state on the wall of the house.
One of my least favorite aspects of D&D is what I call the “Conga Line of Death” initiative system. At the beginning of the combat (or turn in earlier editions), you figure out what order everyone is going to act in, and then no matter what happens “mid round”, the characters proceed to act one after the other in the order established previously, like dancers in a conga line. This is easy for the DM to track, as they can just have an ordered list like a baseball lineup, calling each ‘hitter’ up to bat in order.