Friday, July 31, 2015

So you want to be a Dungeon Master

You’ve played D&D. You have battled dragons, foiled ambushes, stared down Demons and dueled several denizens of the Underdark and lived to tell the tale. But there’s something different now. You like to play a part in the story, but now only playing a part in it is not enough for you. You want to be the judge, the moderator, the storyteller, the world builder. You have seen your DM’s eyes as he lurks behind the screen, rolling dice, smirking as you step on a trap, laughing as your face shows your disbelief when that NPC turns out to be a vile traitor. It seems like he is constantly pulling the strings behind his screen… and that appeals to you.

You want to be the Dungeon Master.

Now witness the power of this fully operational MAGIC USER!

But what if you don’t remember all the rules? What if you’re too hard on your players? What if you’re too soft? What if you mess everything up and end up making the whole experience yet another one of those stories you recount on game night, about that one DM who just couldn’t keep it together?

Allright, first of all… chill

Being a Dungeon Master means, simply put, that you’ll come up with a story that you and your friends around the table will play out. They are the main characters in the story, and you get to narrate it with their help. You will use some rules (depending on the type of game you’re playing) and some narrative elements to convey the story to the best of your abilities. 

You will also do well to remember the following tips:

You’re a storyteller, so tell a story about your players.
Among many other things (judge, babysitter, cat-herder) a Dungeon Master is a storyteller. You tell a story, in which your players take center stage. Their actions dictate what happens next at every turn. Taking this into consideration it is in your best interest to make sure that the story has some elements that relate to your friend’s characters. Things that make them want to keep playing the game and make them become invested in their characters. Before starting to create your story ask them questions about their characters, what they want, where they come from, who their family was, how they ended up adventuring, etc. This will help you make the story relate to your players, and it will keep them coming back to your games for more adventuring goodness.
Make your stories about your players. If you don’t, they might end up not wanting to play with you, and what is a Dungeon Master without players?

Prep work, prep work, prep work.
I cannot stress this enough. PREP WORK IS IMPORTANT. In a game where the Dungeon Master needs to feed off the actions of the players, some improvisation will have to take place. However, proper preparation before every game session is going to help you with the pacing of your game, and slow pacing can kill a game. This is ESPECIALLY true if it’s your first time DMing

Look at how many encounters you could be having within a session. Write down a few notes including the AC, HP, and attacks of the creatures in those encounters. You could also roll their initiatives before the session, and keep those in your notebook. Make a quick sketch of the main areas you will be visiting during your session. Keep those maps in your notebook as well (your notebook is love, your notebook is life). If you’re going to use traps, these are encounters too, so write down how much damage a character would receive from these traps and their corresponding DC or Target Number.

After you run your first session, you’ll notice something was missing. There’s always something that you forget to write down, and stops the flow of play. Take note of that, and remember to write that down for your next session.

Gaming Supplies:

Make sure you have: Spare paper, enough pencils for everyone, a pencil sharpener, some erasers, a personal notebook (this notebook is your life, try not to lose it) and dice, TONS and TONS of dice.

Now that you have raided the local [YOUR OFFICE SUPPLIES STORE’S NAME COULD BE HERE! GIVE ME YOUR MONEY!] you are now ready to create a world with a compelling story, or a Dungeon filled with traps and treasure, or an Epic encounter with an Evil Dragon riding Overlord.

But wait… what about…



Up until now this small article might have sounded very generic to most DnD players, but here’s where my personal take on Game Mastering comes in. By now I’m assuming you’ve played your game of choice at least a few times. So you understand at least the basics of the game. Here’s the rules that you, as a DM, REALLY need to know:

Combat Rules

Skill checks

And that’s it. Once you have a strong grip on those, you’re good to go. Yes, seriously, that’s it. You don’t need to know each and every single rule of the book, just the general ones. Want to know why? Because your players will learn and use every single specific rule that pertains to their characters, and they will constantly remind you of them, to the point where you will end up memorizing their spells, keeping count of how many more times they can use a certain attack maneuver, or even what the skill modifier for their most used skill is. This is a thing that happens around every table, and it will make your job a lot easier. And if by chance, one of your players wants to do something absolutely ridiculous that sounds awesome and fun, but that is somehow not covered in the rules, just say “Yeah, sure”. Assign a skill check to what he wants to do and narrate what happens accordingly.

And those are the basics. With a few games under your belt you’ll start developing your own way of running a game. And in time, you could become one of those DMs that everyone talks about, because of how great games are around their table.

 Next week (Possibly every Friday from now on) I’ll be going into more specific situations that may arise around an RPG table. Let me know if there’s anything you’d like to know about DMing (or playing) an RPG and I’ll work on an article about it.

Thanks for reading

Thursday, July 30, 2015

The free spirit - Chaotic Neutral

The free spirit - Chaotic Neutral
“Me? I’m dishonest, and a dishonest man you can always trust to be dishonest. Honestly. ”
Remember that quote ;)
Ah… Chaotic Neutral. Have you ever had a party in which EVERYONE started out with Chaotic Neutral characters? Yes? I don’t think anyone who’s played 3rd Edition DnD could say No to that question.
Chaotic Neutral means you’re absolutely free from the dictates of Law and tradition, while also never defining yourself as good or evil. This alignment looks very attractive to any new players who are unsure what to choose for their alignment. And honestly, who can blame them? This is what the Player’s Handbook says: 
“Chaotic neutral is the best alignment you can be because it represents true freedom from both society’s restrictions and a do-gooder’s zeal.”
Who wouldn’t want that??
And I won’t blame you for wanting to play this alignment after you finish Reading this post. The real problem with playing a TRULY Chaotic Neutral character in an adventuring party is that CN characters are not the best team players. They follow their whims. They are individualists first and last. Their freedom (THEIR freedom) is the most important thing and will always be their driving force. I have ONE player in my party who is chaotic neutral and plays it PERFECTLY (Kike, if you’re reading this, I’m just gonna say this: either you’re gonna get us all killed, or you’re going to make US kill you. Keep it up buddy :D) 

(Notes from the future: Surprise surprise, he didn't kill us, but we were very close to killing him, several times XD)
Disorder, chaos, anarchy, freedom. Those are the key words behind a Chaotic Neutral character.

Now for the chart! Remember the quote at the beginning? if you recognized who says that then you already know The poster-boy for Chaotic Neutral is…


Take all you can, give nothin' back
Captain Jack Sparrow!

Seriously, I could have titled this post: Captain Jack Sparrow - Chaotic Neutral, and then write a bunch of Pirates of the Caribbean quotes…

Like this one
Elizabeth: Whose side is Jack on?
Will Turner: At the moment?

Or this one:
Jack Sparrow: [Wakes up and sees Elizabeth burning the rum] No! Not good! Stop! Not good! What are you doing? You burned all the food, the shade… the rum.
Elizabeth: Yes, the rum is gone.
Jack Sparrow: Why is the rum gone?
Elizabeth: One: because it is a vile drink that turns even the most respectable men into complete scoundrels. Two: that signal is over a thousand feet high. The entire Royal Navy is out looking for me. Do you really think there is even the slightest chance they won’t see it?
Jack Sparrow: But why is the rum gone?

And most importantly… this one:
Jack Sparrow: I love this song. Really bad eggs. Ooh.
Jack Sparrow: When I get the Pearl back, I’m gonna teach it to the whole crew, and we’ll sing it all the time.
Elizabeth: And you’ll be positively the most fearsome pirates in the Spanish Main.
Jack Sparrow: Not just the Spanish Main, love. The entire ocean. The entire wo'ld. Wherever we want to go, we’ll go. That’s what a ship is, you know. It’s not just a keel and a hull and a deck and sails, that’s what a ship needs but what a ship is… what the Black Pearl really is… is freedom.

Sea Turtles mates… Sea Turtles.

Wednesday, July 29, 2015

The Balance - True Neutral

The Balance - True Neutral
Side? I am on nobody’s side, because nobody is on my side, little orc
A True Neutral character finds him-or-herself right in the middle of our alignment grid. Back when I was starting to play 3rd edition D&D, many of my friends chose true neutral as the alignment of their party, because they felt choosing good or evil would be… I don’t know… too mainstream I guess. However the true neutral alignment is much more complicated than being just “not evil” or “not good”. If “order” was the key-word for Lawful Neutral, then “balance” is what defines a true neutral character.
So let’s look at a hypothetical situation.
Remember the guy who stole the loaf of bread because he had no money to eat? A true neutral character would view his deeds on a balance and ask himself the following questions: Did the baker charge more than what’s reasonable for the bread? Why didn’t the guy have any money? Was he a gambler? Was he robbed?
A True Neutral Character usually lives by the law of “eye for an eye”.  Some may take it to more extreme ends than others, but that’s how their moral system works.
Many Druid characters choose this alignment because they believe that no matter what happens in the struggles between good and evil, they both need each other. If good wins a battle, evil will rise again. If evil builds a Death Star, Good ol’ Luke Skywalker will shoot a pair of proton torpedoes into that exhaust port and blow it up. But the Empire WILL strike back, and drop a BOMB on Luke [insert “who’s your daddy” joke here].
Druids believe in Nature as the main catalyst for these balance shifts. And many times the druids themselves choose (or as a true druid would say: accept) to be the ones to drive the balancing actions.
So how does one role-play a character whose allegiance might change the way the wind changes course?
True Neutral characters are usually very self-centered. Sure, if you’re a Druid it may sound as if you’re acting for a good cause, which is Protecting Nature in general, but as I said before, it’s more complicated than that. If you’re with them, or working towards the goals of the organization that benefits their goals, then the true neutral character will help you out. If not, then he will remain on the sidelines.
A band of orcs is raiding the countryside? So long as they don’t touch the woods he’s protecting, the true neutral druid won’t move a finger, no matter how much death they may cause. Once they start chopping down trees to build their fort, that’s when the true neutral druid (or ranger) will get in there and rain Nature’s wrath upon them. Now let’s go back to our handy dandy alignment chart.
The perfect example for a true neutral character for today is: 

Treebeard: is actually kind of a dick...

I used his quote from the two towers at the beginning of this entry because I really could not think of a better way to describe his way of acting. We end up liking treebeard by the end of the two towers because he brings the hammer down on Isengard for killing all those trees. You could say that if the Ents didn’t intervene in the war then surely the battle for Isengard would have taken at least a few months to resolve.

Then again, he was only moved to action when he saw what Saruman had done to Fangorn forest… selfish behavior if ever there was one, but really…truly… neutral.

Tuesday, July 28, 2015

The Judge - Lawful Neutral

The Judge - Lawful Neutral

“You follow a strict code of rules. For you it’s not about what’s good or bad… it’s about what’s just.”
This may seem odd to those who game with me frequently, but the first alignment I’ll write about is my favorite one in the “Grey” area: “Lawful Neutral”
By now you should understand that I’m talking about 3rd and 3.5 edition Edition DnD. (Note from the future: I wrote this back when 5th edition was not out yet) The oversimplified 5 alignment system of 4th edition does not really work for me. Here’s another explanation while I’m at it: I call the Neutral alignments “Grey areas” mainly because they are the hardest to explain. Evil and Good alignments almost speak for themselves.
Lawful Neutral means that your character lives (and dies) by an established set of rules. You believe that these rules are there to give order to an inherently chaotic world.
Let’s look at this situation:
A guy steals a loaf of bread. He is caught and brought before a judge. The guy says that he did it because he had no money to eat. The Judge (a lawful neutral judge) looks at the following facts:
- The person committed a minor crime.
- The law says that stealing is punishable by incarceration from 1 month to a year.
- The person pleaded guilty.
Taking these facts into account the judge sentences the man to 1 month in prison. That’s what the law says, and since the man is pleading guilty he throws him in jail with the lightest available sentence.
That’s what a judge does. He doesn’t make an exception because the man is hungry. He doesn’t sentence him to death to set an example. He sticks to what the law says. It’s not his job to feed the poor and tend to the sick, he has to uphold the law and nothing else.
So how do you role-play someone who does not believe in “Grey areas”?
Well for starters there are some classes who can’t be lawful: The bard, the barbarian, and the rogue are not very law abiding and tend to lean towards chaos. Let’s rule out the Paladin right away (Lawful good), and you’re left with: Cleric, Fighter, Monk, Sorcerer, Ranger and Druid. In any of these cases it is good to point out that a Lawful neutral character will follow the law of the place he lives in so long as the law is just. Also, if there is no law, or a specific set of rules, then the character may live by his own moral code. (Note from the future: GREAT SCOTT!! ALIGNMENTS ARE NO LONGER A CLASS REQUIREMENT/RESTRICTION IN 5th EDITION D&D MARTY!!!)
Once this “personal code” has been established the character must adhere to it.
Here’s where the first big question pops up:
How do you know if that personal code is neutral and not “good or evil”?
If the code serves to instill fear and maintain a position of power, or if they are meant to favor the good in people and tend to be very compassionate, then you’re no longer Neutral my friend…
The key word in a Lawful neutral character is “Order”. Now, let’s take a look at a chart I’m sure many of you are very familiar with, and insert a picture of the prime example of a Lawful Neutral Character:

Dredd is judging you and your browsing history...

Not Sylverster Stallone Dredd… I’m talking Karl Urban Dredd and comic book Dredd.
My favorite quote from this guy has got to be “I AM THE LAW”
Sure, the laws of his post-apocalyptic future are pretty extreme, but that’s the society he lives in, and they are the laws needed in order to avert chaos. You say you’re 99% sure you’ve got a guy who committed murder? This guy will say: “You can’t dictate a death sentence on 99%”
And THAT… is Lawful Neutral.
More Notes from the future:
Well… as I edited this text I realized how much my gaming mentality has changed in the last two years. As of right now it is very possible to be something other than Lawful Good (in spirit) and also be a Paladin. So… you’ll see more comments like that in the next few posts written by “Me from the past” Next up: True Neutral… oh boy…
Thanks for reading,



So I’ve decided that this blog “Dice Head -  Gaming with Julio”, will start off with some of my favorite posts from when I started posting on Tumblr. This one - "Do your thing!" is actually my favorite one. Enjoy! :D
Do your thing!
Something happened to me today that I’d like to share with everyone.
In the morning while I was running some errands I was basically told I needed to pay 400 dollars in order to have something done. This was unexpected and as you may imagine the shock of it brought me down a few steps on the emotional ladder.
I finished running the errands, picked my wife up from work, then we went and had lunch. There we figured out how and when we were going to come up with all that money. I was still pretty ticked off and she kept telling me not  to worry, that everything would be ok in the end. She’s very sweet and supportive, but when I’m not in a cheerful mood I tend to stay that way for a pretty long time.

We finished eating, then we decided to go and buy some groceries.
At the supermarket it was crowded as usual. Since it was payday the lines were long, and we knew we would take at least an hour to get what we were looking for, so we might as well just get on with it. At one point I had to leave my wife to go and get some granola bars.
So I get to where those things usually are, and noticed some kids were playing around with some toys from the toy department. For some reason, the toys were right next to the granola bars.
I don’t get why they would arrange them that way either, but luckily that set up the following scene:
One of the kids immediately looks at me - he must have been between 7 or 10 years old… - while holding a toy gun he was using to “fire” at his little brother. The kid smiled mischievously and said:
“It’s time for you to do your thing”
I wasn’t sure he was talking to me, and since I wasn’t in the mood to listen to anything he had to say I just ignored him and looked past him to see if I could find those granola bars.
But he would not be denied… not today…
The boy walked up to me and offered me a handshake. I was kinda surprised by this, but shook his hand anyway. He then said, while pointing his finger at my chest:
“I’m doing evil things, you need to do your thing”
I had no idea what he was talking about, but then it hit me…
I was wearing my Green Lantern t-shirt.
Right then and there I forgot about the ridiculous amount of money I had to pay, the lines, the crowded supermarket… Heck I even forgot about the granola bars.
So the kid started to walk away, but I wasn’t about to let him go as easy as that. So I made a fist with my right hand, pointed it at him, and made the best possible sound effect for a green lantern ring I could come up with, and the kid froze “mid air” with a big smile on his face.
I got my granola and left.
That was 2 hours ago.
I’m still smiling…
In brightest day, in blackest night, no evil shall escape my sight... motherfuckers :D