I am an avid gamer. I play a good number of video game, board games, and role-playing games. I am a poor college student (almost out of the woods) so I mostly play the same games over and over again. Recently, I have watched some very cool, and necessarily cheap, ways of creating terrain and have been building up my own supply of terrain pieces over the last year. While doing so, I have been DM’ing a game of D&D Next as a sandbox adventure, writing my own virtual DM Screen program, brewing small batches of beer, and playing loads of board games.
My recent kicks for games have been, in no particular order, Medieval II Total War, The Binding of Isaac, Terraria, Bang!, Pandemic, and Avalon. Those can and do change though.
DM’ing D&D Next is very engaging for me and I have learned a lot over the last year and half that I have been running this campaign. I always had trouble running a sandbox before but some useful blog posts by a variety of people really helped me to sort out my DM style. I run a hex based map of 6-mile hexes for over-world travel and run a grid-less system for tactical combat and dungeon crawling. The over-world map is something I have drawn out on paper and hexed out with Hexographer. Hexographer Website. I started off using the free version, but it was so useful (and went on sale) that I went ahead and spent money on the full version. Here’s a map of an area my players are in right now. I like to keep the symbols vague enough that I can spin them on the fly to what I roll up in random tables.
|The Southern Orc-Lands|
The world is a creation of my own, Evylos. I have some basics of it fleshed out and a general over-world map, but I enjoy building it up around my players as they explore a la Truman Show. It helps keep some mystery about it too, as they only really have access to information that they ask about or encounter, and there may well be a demi-god or hidden cult waiting around any corner or behind any plot (and boy do my players come up with some convoluted plots of who is behind everyday coincidences).
For my tactical and dungeon crawling times, I run without a grid in a sort of 2.5 D terrain style. DMScotty introduced me to this style DMScotty’s Youtube Channel and his channel is a cool place to see terrain features that can be made with only cardboard, glue, and paint. My players took a bit of adjusting to get used to a grid-less system but it works for us and feels more realistic/free flowing (i.e. confirmation bias)
|A long fight in the second to last floor of a mini-Mega Dungeon.|
To make all this randomness possible without a textbook of random tables and hours of dice-rolling, I have been building myself a digital DM Screen that is able to handle most of my needs. It handles encounter rolls, encounter types, treasure hordes, and much more. I now DM with my girlfriends broken laptop (half the screen doesn’t work), a scrap paper for monster HP, and my maps. Granted, I like making things up, so the descriptions on most things are left pretty vague and open to detailing. There is plenty of random occurrences, but that doesn’t stop my players from adding in their own subtext and connecting dots that may not be there. I am happy to flesh out the half-paranoid rantings of my players or attach it to the schemes of NPC’s. Boy, do they come up with some crazy ideas. The key is never letting them know what was planned out and what was random…