D&D General 100 Amazing Links for Dungeon Masters

Every week, I email out a list of ten cool D&D-related links, mostly aimed at helping Dungeon Masters improve their game. Here is a compilation of lists #91 through #100, containing 100 links in total. There is a heroes feast of great material here. You can find lots of other link compilations on my blog.

These items were emailed between October 25th and December 29th, 2023.
  1. Michael Ghelfi, the Ambience Bard, has shared 20 curated Spotify playlists for your games. It includes music for combat, exploration, various locations, and so on. I've listened to several of these, and they are top-shelf.
  2. OSR Vault reveals 100 spine-chilling discoveries awaiting you in the depths of an ancient crypt. Some very creative ideas are on this list; I've pinched a few already.
  3. I found this story amusing! Moreau Vazh started her D&D campaign as a Conan-inspired hack-and-slasher. She then made a simple rules change, and the game unexpectedly morphed into a Monopoly-style business simulation.
  4. Wyrm Den shares five ways to make your monsters more interesting. From experience, these sorts of suggestions can make a big difference to your play experience.
  5. In How Do I Make Dungeon Maps, Eldritch Fields takes you step-by-step through map crafting with GIMP. It's a tight but valuable tutorial.
  6. The Dungeon Master's Guide 5E is much criticized but little read. There are some gems in there, though they sometimes need some polishing. The Alexandrian has taken the conversation reactions table from Chapter 8 and developed it into a robust relationship management system.
  7. Marcia B. had a couple hours to kill and played an old-school game of D&D using completely random elements. It was low-stakes, low-effort, and she had a blast. You learn a lot about the game in these sorts of improvised sessions.
  8. I find this simply fascinating. Prince of Nothing is looking at some old issues of Casus Belli, a French gaming magazine from the 1980s. In this article, he translates an AD&D adventure from the magazine called The Heart of Death. It is pretty gonzo, with lions, samurai, and weird wizard tricks!
  9. Lowell Francis continues to highlight great game mechanics. This week, he looks at Journeys, Lorebooks, and Epistolary. I first encountered epistolary (that is, letter writing) mechanics in Good Society, and they were so much fun. I want to find a way to weave that into my D&D campaign.
  10. Assassin NPC has created Roll Me a Merchant, which does exactly what it says on the tin. It is a well-crafted set of tables, though it's crying out to be automated.
  11. Dawn Fist explains how to use animal traits as inspiration when naming and describing things. It is a terrific world-building hack.
  12. Sly Flourish has helped thousands of DMs improve their games. Here, he summarises the Eight Lazy Steps at the core of his process.
  13. David McGrogan shares a list of inspirational fantasy reading for each historical era, from the Stone Age to the Early Modern. I adore such reading lists.
  14. The Alexandrian has some suggestions for better passive perception. He lists some intriguing variants, including one I hadn't seen before called "Take 0."
  15. Luke Gearing commends the use of split initiative. I use a system like this in my World War Weird game, and it worked very well during playtests at PAX AU. I'd consider this for my regular D&D game, except we use Avrae under Discord, which takes care of initiative for us.
  16. Knicks & Knacks explains the different types of magic in the ancient Near East. There's some great inspiration here for someone who wants to reconfigure the spell schools in their campaign.
  17. WOTC just released a guide to bastions, and everyone has an opinion. Spriggan's Den goes back to first principles and asks what's the function of a stronghold in D&D?
  18. Grognardia writes a post in praise of small dragons. In Iskandar, I've always considered dragons to be relatively rare and powerful, but this post has made me reconsider. How common are dragons in your campaign?
  19. Realm Builder Guy explains why plot-driven campaigns are not ideal. I'm not convinced by all his arguments, but I agree that we must prioritize player agency.
  20. Dump Stat Adventures has released a free supplement called the Corpse Stitcher's Kit. It's basically Build-A-Bear for flesh golems!
  21. Chris McDowell has released the Mythic Bastionland Quickstart for free. Although not quite D&D, there is plenty of material that will inspire your game, such as the spark tables, the mythic challenges, and even the exploration rules.
  22. AlphaStream just went to GameHole Con and returned with 12 RPG Design Lessons. It includes several great tips for running better tables.
  23. Do you want more crunch in your 5E combat without resorting to a grid? Gus has devised some Tactical Combat Mechanics for theatre of the mind play. It's more complex than I like, though I am attracted to combat stances (perhaps for fighters only).
  24. Mindstorm Press looks at what Over the Garden Wall can teach us about adventure design. Quite a lot, it turns out! And make sure you watch that series if you have not yet done so.
  25. RPG Library hosts one of my favorite world-building tools, The Domesday Book, which is based on a study of medieval demographics. You enter the population size of a settlement, and the utility tells you which businesses will be there. It is fantastic for creating villages, towns, and cities.
  26. Dawnfist explains How to Improvise as a DM. It is a detailed article with lots of valuable tips.
  27. Meguay Baker, author of Apocalypse World, reflects on why we like games that deal with death. I've been thinking about this myself as I consider how lethal to make my new D&D campaign.
  28. Sly Flourish advises DMs to Focus Prep on the Characters. He mentions flash fiction, which I intend to incorporate into my next campaign. However, in my case, it will be the players writing the fiction to describe various downtime activities.
  29. Spider Queen Gaming looks at the difference between Lore vs. Actionable Information. One of my background projects is the Iskandar Campaign Handbook, so this topic is very relevant to me.
  30. Tamás Kisbali created an old-school dungeon crawl called Delver's Delight and is giving it away for free. There are lots of fun ideas here.
  31. Baron de Ropp outlines some essential elements in 6 Things Your Dungeon Must Have. It is solid advice, and I especially like the feature he calls "valves."
  32. OSR Vault presents 100 harmless dungeon denizens. It is a terrific list! Some of these can serve as non-hostile NPCs, some as red herrings, and others as evocative dungeon dressing.
  33. Master the Dungeon suggests DMs should help players use all their options. While character sheet mastery is part of the game, folks sometimes needs a little poke in the right direction.
  34. The 7-year-old DM has ten tips for improving chase encounters. They are good, especially "going vertical." I anticipate revised chase rules in the 2024 Dungeon Master's Guide.
  35. In How to Run a Horrible Campaign Successfully, Josh Storey describes how he rescued a poorly-written published campaign. These are good strategies that you can use more broadly.
  36. In The Obliqueness of Real-World Place Names, David McGrogan (Yoon-Suin) explains why fantasy names often fall flat. He has a simple hack for world-builders.
  37. This article is for those who enjoy RPG history. Cannibal Halfling Gaming has posted a retrospective review of Shared Fantasy, the first academic book on RPGs. It offers some fascinating insights into 1970s gameplay!
  38. Some time ago, Emmy "Cavegirl" Allen (The Gardens of Ynn) invented an adventure pattern called the "social depth crawl." Xaosseed has adapted this to a masquerade setting in his campaign. It's not far from the "Banquet Bingo" pattern I shared last week. I'm very interested in gamifying social scenarios like this.
  39. The Alexandrian has been posting some killer articles recently, just in time for the release of his new book. This time, he discusses investigative game mechanics in Running Mysteries: The Two Types of Leads.
  40. Ramoth has some tips on how to keep your players engaged. Great stuff!
  41. Gazing Hermit suggests answering some Frequently Asked Questions before your D&D campaign kicks off. This comprehensive list will help define the flavor of your game. Recommended.
  42. JoJo Palambas from the DM Academy has a simple but cool hack to the Dungeon Master's perennial question: Are you sure you want to do that?
  43. Life circumstances forced Brian Rideout to radically reduce his game preparation time. Along the way, he discovered something surprising about random tables and also figured out how to gamify elements of his prep. For me, gamified prep is the holy grail.
  44. Dungeons tend to run themselves, but many DMs need help with urban environments. Never fear - Sly Flourish shows you how to run a D&D town.
  45. D4 Caltrops shares a list of d100 magical robes & raiment. Not everyone enjoys these lists, but I find them an excellent source of inspiration.
  46. Graham Ward is a DM-for-hire with staggering amounts of table time under his belt. In this article, he shows you how to prep a published adventure like a pro.
  47. Dump Stat Adventures goes against the grain and suggests five reasons that railroading is a good idea. Justin Alexander was not available for comment.
  48. Worldbuilders take note! Arthur has a list of helpful books for you. They look intriguing, and I plan on picking up some of them.
  49. The DMG 5E gives little attention to dungeon stocking. By contrast, the OSR gives it pride of place, with stocking formulas swapped like secret family recipes. Miranda recently published her dungeon stocking procedure, and it is a good one.
  50. Lich Van Winkle has a simple remedy for player character motivation problems. It works for me!
  51. Scott Fitzgerald Grey is thinking about adventure hooks and suggests alternatives to the “NPC in need” trope. Organic hooks, I find, are easier to discover as your campaign ages.
  52. The Grumpy Wizard explains how to evoke emotion in fantasy adventure games. It is a long and thoughtful exploration of this critical topic, and I recommend it.
  53. Dawn Fist addresses one of the perennial issues of table management in her explanation of how to handle missing players. We use the "tag-along" method.
  54. Ktrey presents d100 Benevolent Blessings, a collection of minor character buffs. These might be attached to a magic pool, a divine statue, or something similar. It is a fantastic table, and I suspect I will use it a lot in the future!
  55. Duncan describes how to design and deploy lieutenants. I want to use lieutenants more effectively in my games, and this guide looks useful.
  56. In an older post, Colors of Pentagrams offers 15 quick tips for DMs. The first paragraph includes links to even more tips, and there is much silver and only a little dross.
  57. Tomas Rioja explains why he prefers shorter campaigns. My players suggested our next campaign be shorter, so I'm all ears.
  58. In a deeply personal post, Brian Rideout explores the power of names. I wish Brian a speedy recovery.
  59. Intense Adventure Rules is a free compendium of rules designed to make D&D games more challenging. Its production values are top-shelf.
  60. Is it that time of year again? Surely not! Here's a free Christmas adventure called The Shadow Over Yuletide.
  61. Scroll for Initiative asked some "industry heavyweights" to name their favorite RPG adventures of all time. There are some unusual answers, and it makes for a fascinating read. I was flattered to make the list.
  62. One of the boffins at the DM Academy asked for everyone's favorite house rules. There were some fun responses, including a few I had not seen before.
  63. I've been talking about campaign kick-offs lately. I recently discovered this classic post by Christopher Chinn, containing ten questions to answer before your game starts to ensure you are all on the same page. It is an excellent questionnaire for someone who wants to join your table.
  64. Ariadne Stringweaver just released a compendium of 30 new magic items. It is a very nice-looking book with some solid items.
  65. Sly Flourish has some great advice on prepping a dungeon. There's lots more to explore, but this should get you started.
  66. Castle Grief suggests five ways to make combat more fun in RPGs. You may have heard these tips before, but they are worth revisiting.
  67. Grumpy Wizard has some strategies to ensure players engage with your adventure hooks. Although his context is a sandbox campaign, the ideas are generally applicable.
  68. DM David explains what Choose-Your-Own-Adventure Books can teach us about pacing and decisions.
  69. Nick Hendricks has devised strategies to inject more roleplaying into his D&D campaign. I designed last week's carousing rules, at least in part, to address this problem.
  70. Dwiz has a thick but intriguing post about solving the RPG mystery scenario problem.
  71. Do you want to plan a D&D game in 10 minutes? The superlative Scott Fitzgerald Gray has a proven formula for fast prep.
  72. Ktrey has created a resource so good that you are tempted to keep it to yourself. He has taken an old-school D&D encounter table and made a list of 100 encounter activities for every single entry. The result is thousands of encounter ideas.
  73. WOTC recently published a free introductory adventure called Peril in Pinebrook. It was written by Shawn Merwin and is dragon-centric - a great combination!
  74. Patrick Stuart, one of the most imaginative designers in the business, has created an excellent set of monster generation tables.
  75. Sly Flourish is back and explains why secret paths are the best paths.
  76. Here's another one for the game designers (that is, all of you). Monte Cook explains how to create the perfect rulebook.
  77. What happens when you invite someone to your table who turns out to be a bad fit? Kobold Press recently put this question to a panel of experts.
  78. In a detailed post, Hipsters and Dragons explains how to run a heist adventure in D&D. It's challenging, but Duncan breaks it down.
  79. Here's a free old-school adventure that looks fun: The Curse of the Ganshoggr. The writer, Gus L, is very talented.
  80. Oh, you like free adventures, do you? Dragonsfoot Forums just collated a list of over 300 free D&D adventures from their site. You will need to convert these from AD&D or OSR, but don't let that scare you, as it is pretty simple.
  81. Sly Flourish has some excellent ideas for roleplaying between game sessions. It might be my favorite SF article of the year! I've already adopted flash fiction into my game.
  82. The perpetually-creative Ktrey just released the Dolmenwood Dozen, twelve one-page adventures for the old-school Dolmenwood setting. It is free! You'll need to bring your own monsters and prepare yourself for a kind of "dark whimsy," but these are good little dungeons.
  83. Xaosseed ran an open-table, low-prep, drop-in game of D&D based on a West Marches model. He explains what tools he used and how the game progressed over 22 sessions. I want to run a regular open-table game online when I get more time.
  84. David Prokopetz describes 10 ways to deal with player character death. It's a strong list that includes some ideas I have not seen before.
  85. In an insightful article, the Alexandrian examines how the Harmon Story Cycle interacts with episodic RPG scenarios - and finds we are missing an important step.
  86. One of the boffins at the DM Academy says you don't have to start every quest with a dialog. Honestly, I think she makes a great point.
  87. The Gameatory was impressed by the luck mechanic in Call of Cthulhu, and so proposes a similar mechanic for D&D 5E.
  88. Dawnfist offers two pieces of advice when using riddles in RPGs. I've had a decidedly mixed experience with riddles. What about you?
  89. Do you need some dungeon map inspiration? Check out CaveMaps.org, which contains dozens of cave surveys.
  90. John from Dark Eagle Games suggests we should delay dice rolls when resolving out-of-combat actions. I already do this with stealth checks, and it's a much better approach.
  91. With the new year approaching, it might be time for a new gaming world. Scroll for Initiative suggests seven twists to make your D&D world unique.
  92. There is a new Studio Ghibli movie called "The Boy and the Heron," which features a fascinating underworld. Rotten Pulp has 10 great ideas to steal from the movie and apply to the Underdark in your campaign. Combine some of these with one or more of the "twists" above, and you will have an intriguing setting.
  93. You will want to map your new world, of course. Using real-life antique maps, K.M. Alexander has assembled a marvelous collection of fantasy map brushes for Photoshop. The results are stunning. If you put together a map using one of these brush sets, I would like to see it!
  94. To help your players fully experience your new world, the 7-year-old DM has ten tips to make exploring fun.
  95. Some of you will relate to this. For years, Jeremy Friesen struggled to get a regular gaming group together. He recently changed tactics and started a weekly open table at his local gaming store. In this post, he shares the procedure he followed to make it a success.
  96. Have you ever wondered how everyone else is running their D&D campaigns? Johnn Four surveyed over 1,300 Dungeon Masters and asked them this question. Here are the results. Sandbox campaigns are more popular than I expected!
  97. Speaking of sandbox campaigns, they need plenty of plot hooks. Right on cue, OSR Vault presents 100 interesting rumors or potential plot hooks. I have a link to this list in my campaign notes in Notion, and I refer to it for inspiration when I put together hooks for each session.
  98. But (you might ask), how do you weave these plot hooks into an ongoing campaign? In this extended play report, Lord Gwydion shows you exactly how to plant the seeds of adventure into your game.
  99. David McGrogan, author of the marvelous Yoon-Suin, lists his best five posts of 2023. McGrogan has strong opinions and always makes me think.
  100. Do you use fumble rules in your game? Zeemeerman has a quick hack to make them fun.

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