A Dungeons & Dragons campaign features so many rules that it's easy to forget some, or even many, of them while playing.
A thick handbook imparts the rules by which players must abide during their journey. Another tome details all of the strengths and weaknesses of the monsters that adventurers will face in their travels. And yet another dictates the rules for the Dungeon Masters.
Amidst this avalanche of text are possibilities for the Dungeon Master to exploit and to manipulate the lives of the heroic campaigners. There are even tricks they may pull that the players won't see coming. Here are 10 of them.
10 Use Your Backstory Against You
Everybody wants to feel important and an adventurer's backstory is vital in creating a believable world with compelling characters. Some players might even want to embellish on the lives of their charismatic avatars.
Many that face the perils of a Dungeons & Dragons campaign perceive their heroes as the ultimate warrior or the chosen one. Orphaned at a young age or struck with tragedy time and time again.
A wily Dungeon Master can use this narrative to convince players that they are important to a quest or story arc. Only too late will they recognize the subterfuge for what it really is.
9 Reinforce Survival Rules
You're crossing a desert. When was the last time you drank some water? You've been hunting for a bandit leader for three days. Has your party taken a long rest recently? Congratulations on killing the necromancer in the dungeon, but you can't possibly carry that chest of gold in addition to your weapons and equipment.
Dungeon Masters can be benevolent at times but they can also force the party to adhere to rules that many overlook. Rations, sleep, inventory management. All of these can affect you and leave you fatigued or over-encumbered.
8 Have You Work For The Bad Guy
Almost all quests start off with someone asking for help. Something has been attacking the village or strange events keep occurring throughout the land. And adventurers usually feel that they are on the lawful and good side of things as they complete quests for glory or for compensation. But what if a sinister hand is pulling the strings without the party's knowledge?
That can certainly happen. Dungeon Masters must weave a tale that keeps the players engaged. What better way to do that then to sweep the rug out from under them and reveal the evil machinations that have influenced their actions.
7 Change Your Alignment
A lawful good rogue who keeps pickpocketing innocents and backstabbing someone around every corner. It doesn't seem to fit. And it doesn't have to, either. A Dungeon Master has the power to alter the nature of a character or a story.
If your character sheet does not reflect the actions that your hero continues to perform throughout the campaign, don't be surprised if the DM changes things up. Kill too many innocents and your spotless record will be blemished. You're chaotic now. Best get used to it.
6 Enforce Spell Requirements
Wizards, druids, and other classes in Dungeons & Dragons have so many spells that they can prepare during a campaign. The stronger a character becomes the more spells at their disposal. Spells don't just happen, though. They require energy. They require components. And they can even require extended concentration.
All of these can be easily forgotten in the heat of battle when six-second combat turns cycle faster and faster. That doesn't mean a Dungeon Master won't ask if you've got the foraged supplies necessary for a certain attack, though. Or the time and space to finish casting safely.
5 Skip Your Turn
Skip a character's turn? The horror. The sheer inhumanity of it. If you're taking too much time to decide on something, then it's totally reasonable for the DM to move on.
Combat turns last six seconds. If the party has to wait five minutes every time that one person in your group tries to make up their mind, the campaign will last for years. Have to flip through your spellbook for a refresher on the rules? Too late. The goblin has attacked again. Yikes. Looks like it rolled a critical hit...
4 Make NPCs Fully-Realized Characters
Believe it or not, but not every traveler or merchant in the world is there for your benefit. Truly exceptional Dungeon Masters will create NPCs with their own agendas. Their own intentions. That might mean a less-than-stellar encounter or a difficult trade.
Real people though don't always act in the interest of whoever they're dealing with. They act in their own interests. Dungeon Masters have the power to build a universe and that power extends to the people that populate the world.
3 Cursed Items
Receiving a magical item upon completion of a quest, or in the pursuit of a character's own story arc, is immensely satisfying.
A healing staff that buffs the whole party? Boots that cling to any surface? There's nothing better than improving the weapons and armor of a character with magical gear. All the better, then, to shock the wearer of the magical item with knowledge of its accursed nature.
A healing staff that restores the health of other adventurers at the expense of its owner. Boots that lose traction if the wearer breaks concentration. It's more interesting when there's a downside.
2 Introduce A Doppelgänger
Nothing sows chaos like an unaccounted variable. Dungeon Masters possess a degree of narrative power close to omnipotence. Which provides so many unique opportunities for storytelling. Like bringing in a doppelgänger to make a complete mess of the situation.
The one place from which players don't expect trouble is their own group of misfits. They may have their differences, but a common purpose usually binds the adventurers together. Unless one of them is an imposter! What wickedness. Dungeon Masters, take note of the possibilities.
1 Edit The Story
Most Dungeon Masters take hours to create the campaign for the players. That prep work can be exhausting, but it enables the story to progress smoothly. That doesn't mean things can't change, though.
Just because a Dungeon Master has a particular story in mind at the beginning doesn't prohibit them from editing it from time to time. If the party is making decisions that open up new avenues for the narrative, or if the DM conjures up some devious obstacles for them, the story can be adjusted.
Nothing is set in stone. And players are never safe for long. A good Dungeon Master keeps the adventurers on their toes.