Baldur's Gate 3
Character Tips, News, Opinion, Storytelling Tips

How the Baldur’s Gate 3 Panel from Hell Stream Inspires Story and Character Creation

The third Panel from Hell revealed an extensive amount of details for what’s to come in Baldur’s Gate 3. We are huge fans of the Early Access module and are excited for the future of the game. This isn’t going to be an article about all of the new things coming to Patch 5 because there’s a lot of it and you can read it all here. Instead, we’re going to be focusing on one specific aspect of the stream, the LARPG mechanic, and how it can be used to inspire story creation.

We give our top tips to creating stories and developing characters in your world to make your Dungeons & Dragons game the best it can be!

Larian Studios did something a little different than their last two Panels from Hell streams. Instead of focusing on Baldur’s Gate 3 gameplay, the studio designed an epic live-action role-playing (LARP) event involving developers acting as a Dungeons & Dragons party. Swen Vincke, founder and creative director of Larian Studios, led the party on a grand adventure taking them through the real-life castle of Gravensteen Castle.

Establishing the Party

The stream consisted of a party of four including Warlock, Fighter, Ranger, Cleric, Druid, Wizard, and Rogue. Your home game doesn’t have to include a specific class of characters nor does it need one class above all to make the party dynamic work. There is a reason skills exist and that’s why anyone is free to roll for any skill whether you’re a wizard who’s trying to pick a lock or a barbarian who’s trying to be stealthy.

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Discuss Who You are

During the stream, Swen would ask party members questions about their character. Even though the dungeon master may be aware of a character’s backstory, other players may not be. It could be used as a moment to discuss more about who your character is. Or it sets up a nice scene to talk about characters and their story.

This can be done during a quest while the party is walking through the area or dungeon or during a long rest. Partch 5 for Baldur’s Gate 3 will change how the resting system works by shifting the standard location to the area where the party is exploring. It’s during this time that characters will typically talk to one another about something on their mind. One scene showed the adventuring party resting around a campfire discussing their adventure. This is a great moment to talk about your character and their background.

Backgrounds are another great way to interact with the players and their characters. If a character has the Folk Hero background the dungeon master can pull from it to encourage role-play. For instance, a Folk Hero is able to blend in in certain scenarios. A DM can have an NPC approach the character and give them a safe place to rest for a time. From there the game master can have the NPC reach out to the Folk Hero for help and then reward them with experience points or items or whatever they so choose.

You can find a place to hide, rest, or recuperate among other commoners, unless you have shown yourself to be a danger to them.

– Player’s Handbook

Questions to inspire role-play:

  • What deity do you serve?
  • Where are you from?
  • What is your background?

Dressing the Part

LARPing is all about dressing as the character you are playing as. This can also be done at the table whether it’s digital or physical. The outfit can be full-on cosplay and include homemade weapons and armor or something like casual cosplay. Casual cosplay is matching everyday clothes you may have to that of your character’s aesthetic.

Another option is to wear accessories that your character may wear. Objects like necklaces, rings, or scarves are simple yet add so much to who your character is.

Make a Mood Room

A mood room is a place that inspires creativity. It is full of all of the stuff that helps you create a story, character, or project. While you may not have access to an entire castle like the Panel from Hell 3, you can build your own where ever you live.

Setting up a Mood Room:

  • Dungeons & Dragons minis
  • Weapons and armor
  • Books
  • Accessories
  • Sit and listen to fantasy music
  • Play a fantasy video game like Baldur’s Gate

Role-play Outside of the Game

The character’s in the stream role-played their characters throughout the panel. They spoke and acted just like their character would in a Dungeons & Dragons game. Yet beforehand they practiced their part and got into character like actors would before a movie role. It’s something you can do at home outside of the game as well. By spending time thinking or acting as your character away from the game, you can help build who they are all the time. Characters are always shifting, changing, and growing and character development can even happen outside of the game. You can also use this time to talk to other players as your character or discuss them away from the table.

Baldur’s Gate 3 Patch 5 release July 13.

Character Tips, D&D / TTRPGs, Opinion, Storytelling Tips

How to Collaborate with your DM for the Best D&D Game

We give our top tips for player-initiated DM collaboration to make your Dungeons & Dragons game the best it can be!

Playing D&D is one of our favorite things to do. The storytelling, the roleplay, the rich fantasy world. When done right, it can be the most fun and rewarding experience. But when done poorly, it can be frustrating and upsetting. One way to enhance the D&D game to ensure you and your Dungeon Master get the most out of it as possible is through collaborative storytelling. We break down the best ways to do this to be respectful of all involved, and have a fun game!

Text Your Ideas for the Next Game

One of the simplest ways to ensure a fun D&D experience is to simply text what your plans are for the next game. It doesn’t have to be in-depth or complex. Simple things like “I want to scry on this NPC”, “I plan to cast Sending to my father“, or “I want to go to this town” can add a lot of value.

While some DM/Player relationships can be focused on one-upping and stumping one another, if you are looking to really advance story and character development, being clear about your intentions is best. This gives your DM time to prepare for what you want to do, and ensure the experience is meaningful and not a rushed, throw-away moment.

Discuss What you Want for Your Character

Your DM can’t put character-focused choices and consequences in front of you if they do not know what you want. Be clear about your characters motivations and intentions. Not only in the game, but especially out of it. Take the time to talk to your DM about what your character wants or is afraid of. And definitely make it clear when these things change throughout the game.

When having these clear conversations, your DM can better cater quests to the interests of your character. This has the benefit of driving conflict and plot along.

Ask if There Are Ways You Can Help

It can be overwhelming being a Dungeon Master. Asking if there are any ways you can help can go a long way. Even if your DM doesn’t need any help, the offer is kind. Or, they might want you to help design a part of a dungeon or city if it is related to your character, give input on what encounters you want to face, or even select music for the night.

Have a Post-Game Chat

One of the most powerful tools is having a chat after the game with your DM. Whether this is in-person, over the phone, or through text. It is best if it’s one-on-one, instead of as part of a group. Highlight what you really liked so they know what aspects of the story were exciting for you. Mention anything you want to follow up on, or see come up in a later game.

And if anything didn’t feel right to you, or you felt was missed out on, communicate this in a respectful way. Phrases like “I was actually expecting ___ to happen“, “I am curious why ____ didn’t get back with me“, or “Can we follow up with this next game?” can open up dialogue to enhance the story. Your DM might not even know you were interested in a story point happening unless you clarify.

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A Note About Respect

A healthy player-DM relationship is all about having the most fun game possible. So when communicating with your DM about what you want, do so in a polite and open-minded manner. Don’t make assumptions or put down the game. Respect the time they have put into the story, and what plots they might have in mind. A good DM will want your input and will not want to have tyrant-like control over the game. It can be hard to come up with ideas for each game, so your DM will truly appreciate your thoughts on your character.

D&D / TTRPGs, Opinion, Storytelling Tips

How to Use Magic the Gathering to Build Dungeons & Dragons Encounters

As a Dungeon Master, planning out future sessions can be difficult and time-consuming. For instance, there may be times when you forget to create an encounter altogether or have no ideas at all. It happens to the new game masters and some of the best world builders around. We’re here to provide some quick tips and tricks to building an encounter in no time.

One of our more recent ideas involves Magic the Gathering. With the announcement of the Dungeons & Dragons: Forgotten Realms card set we have been getting back into the card game. After spending hours looking at new cards and playing Magic the Gathering: Arena we got the idea of how to build an encounter using Magic cards.

If you’re in a pinch and need to create an encounter just grab a stack of Magic cards.

Physical Card Deck

If you, like us, collected Magic the Gathering cards then there are hundreds if not thousands of them lying around. All you need to do is shuffly the cards into two different piles: Lands and creatures and effects. However, you can go one step further and divide creatures and effects into two seperate piles to create three piles of cards.

Land. The Land acts as the location for the encounter.

Effect/Creature. These cards act as the encounter scenario and can be social or a fight.

Shuffle the cards and select one land and two cards from the creature/effects deck. The chosen cards will act as your encounter.

Digital Randomizer

The second way to make a random encounter is to go to Magic’s website. Through it you can search through any card released for the game. You can either search for specific cards by typing in a name or effect or use the random card option.

Example. We went with the digital randomizer while writing this article and this is what we put together in a few seconds.

We were given Dimir Aqueduct, Hunting Pack, and Rishadan Dockhand. Dimir Aqueduct will be the location where the encounter takes place. From the picture, we can gather that it is someplace underground perhaps outside of a city or along the path of the aqueduct itself. The card is a blue and black mana so it can be pure and clean water or water that is tainted by undeath or necromancy.

The other two cards help flesh out the encounter itself. Hunting Pack could represent a pack of hyenas who have made their home inside the aqueduct. Rishadan Dockhand could be the NPC who presents the quest to the party and they need the hyenas cleared out so people can drink the water again.

This is one of many ways you can interpret the cards chosen. By using the picture, text, or mana color you can quickly build encounters on the fly for your next Dungeons & Dragons session.

Character Tips, Fantasy Topics, Storytelling Tips

How to Find Fantasy Names for Your Stories

We look into strategies on how to name your characters and places within a fantasy setting! Plus we include a handy list to pull from!

Fantasy is such a fun genre to create for. Whether you write stories, lead tabletop RPG’s, produce video games, or anything in between, there is so much to explore within a limitless world. But having such a wide breadth of creative liberty also creates its own challenges. One which is naming characters and things within the world. Where do you even begin? We put together this guide on some tried and tested methods to finding names to help you out!

Use a Baby Names Website

We are not parents, but we do use the site frequently. Why? To find fantasy names! This site and similar ones are great because they offer a variety of ways to search for names across a huge number of ethnicities. That way you don’t fall into the trap of having all your names sound Britain-medieval.

A great strategy is to start looking up names based around their meaning. Are you naming an evil character? If you do a search for names that mean “Dark”, you will get a large list that includes names like Blackburn, Gethin, and Morrisa. If you do a search for “Brave” you will get names like Nuhad, Isamu, and Virika. This can help invoke a sense around a character based on their name meaning.

From there, you can also jumble up the name, changed the spelling, or even combine two names that you like.

Use the “Random Letter” Method

Another fun idea is to open a Word doc, close your eyes, and hit a random letter on the keyboard. You can stop there, or keep going as long as you’d like. Open your eyes again, and see what you come up with. If, on the off chance, you typed something legible, then great! But otherwise, try to get creative and sound out the word. Then, type it again into something that is easier to read.

Use an Actual Name You Know

Don’t be afraid to use a “real life” name. Including names like Jim or Nina will not detract from your fantasy world. It’s actually quite nice to occasionally read names we are familiar with in these vast fantasy settings. It is grounding.

Use a “Noun” Name

Noun names are nice, and can really sell something for the right character or place. Shadow, Jasper, Storm, or Primrose all have a nice vibe to them while not being completely made up. Try looking up really obscure names of flowers or gems or birds. These can be a lot of fun to pull from!

How We Named Our Thread of Souls Characters

Here was our strategy in naming some of our Thread of Souls characters:

  • Taliesin – An ancient Celtic name rarely in use today. We heard it from Critical Role as one of the actor’s names.
  • Jade – A gemstone that is fitting with a Druid character. Though we originally heard the gem used as a name in Jackie Chan Adventures!
  • Sen – The character created by our friend Sean. He took out the “a’ in his name and used Sen.
  • Unole – The friend that created this character is Cherokee and used the Cherokee word for wind.
  • Artemis – Named after the Greek goddess.
  • Ruuda – One of those names that just “comes” when you think for a name. It popped into Scott’s (Ru’s) head when he was thinking of a name for her.
  • Zok – Our friend who created this character flipped his last name, Kozma, backwards to get Amzok. “Am Zok”. So he used Zok. (Yes, for the baseball fans reading this. Our friend is the brother of Pete Kozma).
  • Skar – A “word” name just with a slightly different spelling. (Scar)

Here is a list of names by meaning to freely pull from!


  • Alodia
  • Serwa
  • Tomi
  • Yasser
  • Edmund


  • Castiel
  • Serafina
  • Angelito
  • Malak
  • Angeli


  • Ashford
  • Ebony
  • Aspen
  • Hideki
  • Chinara


  • Dera
  • Kumani
  • Destinarea
  • Katet
  • Qismah


  • Koa
  • Finley
  • Lajos
  • Kella
  • Mordechai


  • Dido
  • Toi
  • Ksenia
  • Wendell
  • Peregrine

D&D / TTRPGs, Storytelling Tips

The Best Subtle Ways to Drive Plot in D&D

It can be difficult to get your players going in the right direction in D&D. You may have built a fantastic quest that leads to an incredibly difficult fight, stunning rewards, or level up but somewhere along the way the players can get sidetracked and end up somewhere else. Here are a few subtle ways you can keep everyone on the correct path.

Tips & Tricks

Whether the D&D party is exploring a vast dungeon, a wizards library, or the Underdark, they will need direction from time to time. Without outright saying, you should go check out this area, you can instead have them notice something amiss or use an NPC to delivery key information.

Using an NPC is a great way to move plot forward but the party won’t always be around someone. It doesn’t really make sense for a random NPC to show up when the party needs guidance, especially if they’re in the middle of a delve. Try shaking things up a bit by adding other natural ways to advance the narrative.

By perceiving something – with their Passive Perception – a character may notice an open book on a table. The book can be surrounded by other ruined or destroyed books to drive the point across that the open book is rather important.


The book doesn’t have to go into great detail either. This is a great way the Dungeon Master can push the story forward without arising suspicion that they’re guiding the characters. Whether they prepare the information that’s in the book ahead of time or adlib it on the spot, having it there will help the party understand what to do.

The book can also take the form of notes, a ledger, or a journal. This also makes your world feel more alive and realistic. The concept is used rather well in Skyrim. Oftentimes when you’re exploring mines, dungeons, or ruins there are notes and journals that contain information about the area. Everyone is written by a former explorer and adds new little details to the world that can be pulled from later as needed.

If the DM is feeling especially creative they can print out physical versions – or create digital documents for virtual games. Having handouts for the D&D players really makes everything come alive.

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Other ways to advance the plot

  • Voice of a god
  • Mysterious message
    • From a ghost, spirit, or magical spell
  • Blood trail
  • Doors lead to one area
  • Mysterious noise

Fantasy Topics, Storytelling Tips, Writing Tips

How to Get New Ideas for Your Fantasy Book

The ultimate guide to brainstorming endless fresh ideas to help you plot your next fantasy best-seller!

Whether you are a published writer, an aspiring writer, a fanfiction author, or just someone who wants to write a book one day, we are all faced with the same problem. At some point, we have to write down some solid ideas. While it is easy to have quick visions of characters, scenes, and dialogue, actually getting to the point where you have a concrete plot idea is difficult.

So here we’ve compiled the ultimate list of tested ways to get your creative juices flowing! You can use this to get a brand new story idea, or to expand upon ideas you already have. Personally, when I get a story idea going, I like to use a bunch of these over the course of a few months to help me fully plot out my book!

  • Listen to Music.
    • Not just any music. Listen to ALL music! Hearing songs or instrumentals you are not familiar with is a great way to get new ideas. Let the lyrics and emotion in the melody help your mind wander.
  • Look at Fantasy Art.
    • Browse the internet to any and all sites that contain fantasy-based art. We’re talking DeviantArt, Pinterest, Twitter, Instagram, and everything in between. Save content that really speaks to you.
  • Play a Tabletop Role-Playing Game.
    • Getting into games like Dungeons & Dragons or Pathfinder helps you explore a fantasy world and think creatively about the characters and conflicts within.
  • Have a Fantasy Movie Marathon.
    • Break out movies like the Lord of the Rings and have a long marathon! Keep a notebook or your phone near you to jot down ideas as they come.
  • Go for Long Walks.
    • Walks are great to get your mind going. Pay attention to your surroundings, but also keep a internal dialogue going. It’s great to let your mind freely wander, just don’t forget to jot down ideas as they come! Never trust that you’ll remember when you get home.
  • Go to a Museum.
    • Easier said than done in this age of COVID, but if you can get to a museum that is a fantastic way to see new sights that spark your imagination.
  • Play Dress Up.
    • Let your inner child out and dress up in all kinds of outfits. Costumes are better, but whatever you have will suffice! The purpose is to get your creativity going. Think of what type of character would wear certain clothes, why, and what their history would be.
  • Play a Video Game.
    • Fantasy games like The Legend of Zelda, Elder Scrolls, or Baldur’s Gate 3 are fantastic for brewing new ideas. Let yourself get lost in the game for a few (or more) hours.
  • Watch Movies You Don’t Usually Watch.
    • While fantasy movies are an easy go-to to get ideas, try something in a new genre, as well. Horror, historical, drama, or thriller can open up unexpected lines of ideas. You could even try imaging the plot and characters in a fantasy setting, and see how things would change.
  • Read a Book.
    • Books are great. Read more to stay motivated and see what other authors do.
  • Go Camping.
    • Taking a night out in nature is a great way to broaden your mind.
  • Travel.
    • If you are able, traveling will help you plot books and generate more ideas. As you are exposed to different food, sights, and ways of life, it helps flesh out the world of your book.
  • Read Mythology.
    • Learning about mythology from a variety of cultures is a great way to be inspired.
  • Learn about Archeology.
    • The intrigue within the archeological field is a solid way to get your own ideas going. Trying to discover and research and guess helps you uncover your own story.
  • Flip the Dictionary.
    • If you don’t have a physical dictionary, any book will do. Flip to a page and write down the first word you see. Do this a series of times, and see if you can piece them together into some sort of idea.
  • Draw or Color.
    • You don’t have to be an artist for this to help. Allow yourself to freeform draw, or use an adult coloring book, to get the creative side of your brain going.
  • Start Recording Dreams.
    • Keep a notepad by your bedside, or keep your phone on, and jot down anything from a dream you remember each morning. You will get better at it as time goes on.
  • Set up a “Mood Room”.
    • You don’t have to sacrifice a whole room to this. You can set up a small area, or even do a temporary one-day set up as you take time for yourself. Try to keep a consistent theme, like red, the ocean, food, or weapons. Having that stimulus all around you can help ideas come. If you have the capabilities for mood lighting, that is all the better!
  • Browse a Shop.
    • This can be either a physical store or one online, like Etsy. Browsing their wares, especially if they are fantasy-themed, is a good idea-starter. Just keep your wallet in check!
  • Look at Cards. Do you have any interesting cards in your home? Yugioh cards, Magic the Gathering, tarot cards, or anything else can help ideas flow. Play with them, look at their pictures, or randomly flip to try to generate idea connections.

For those of us that are born writers, writing a book is incredibly fulfilling. But it is also hard work and requires patience, a focus on details, and creativity. Try out all of these ideas, and happy writing!

D&D / TTRPGs, Storytelling Tips, World Building & Lore

How to Create a Dungeons & Dragons Campaign World

There are plenty of official Dungeons & Dragons campaign guides and worlds but what if you want your own world? Well, homebrew is the way to go. For dungeon masters who want to create their own unique setting, there are a few main things to keep in mind. We’ve laid out the hard work of designing our own personal world and have some tips and tricks for dungeon masters on the fence.

Here’s how to create your own Dungeons & Dragons campaign world

It may sound like a daunting process but if taken slowly, it is a rewarding experience for both the dungeon master and the players. One important thing to keep in mind is when in doubt, keep things on the smaller scale.

Start Small

We started our homebrew Dungeons & Dragons campaign in 2015. As the dungeon master, I quite frankly didn’t have any idea what I was doing. I just knew I wanted to play in a fantasy world with friends. So, I got the Monster Manual, Player’s Handbook, and Dungeon Master’s Guide and hit the ground running by creating a minor village with a few non-player characters.

By having a smaller starting area you don’t have to worry about players going off of the rails and wandering into the unknown. Although, that will come later, for now staying within the boundaries of a small town is enough. To help build the town – and subsequent larger ones later on – keep these tips in mind.

  • Have one or two quests for the characters to follow
  • Create a couple of named NPCs they can talk to
  • Jot down names of a few taverns, shops, and important landmarks like churches or shrines
  • Note where the town is located: the coast, mountains, forest, etc.
  • Pull from characters and their backstories

Knowing these things will help you craft a lively and engaging D&D homebrew world. But you don’t have to do it alone.
dungeons & dragons campaign

Create Together

Building the Dungeons & Dragons campaign world with your players is fun and frees you up to focus on other areas of the world. If you’re just starting out have the player create their starting town or even entire region where their character is from. It can have their own currency, creatures, and government. Make sure you work with them to ensure they don’t derail the plot with wacky or outrageous ideas or create too much. You’re all in this together and it helps their character really understand the area they come from.

Key factors to consider:

  • Keep area notes to a few pages. Two at best.
  • Who rules the region, town, or area and who lives there?
  • What races or cultures call it home: Halfling, Giants, Dire Beasts, Humans, etc.

The Big Picture

After nailing down some smaller towns and regions of your world, it’s now time to focus on something larger. People, animals, and creatures need places to live so use them to base your cities, towns, regions, and structures off of.

Perhaps individual people and communities built their own capital city. There could be cities that are more elven in nature that are near nature or are constructed to look overly beautiful. Whereas dwarven cities may be halfway underground, be built into a mountainside, or be built out of sturdy stone and thick curved archways.

No matter what community it may be, you can also pull from each culture in your world. Try combining human architecture with gnomish looking designs. Something that is simple and big blended with whirring gadgets and gears. Or combine elves and dwarves and have the city be a blend of magnificent stone and spiraling vines.

  • What does the world look like?
    • Draw a map
    • Generate on online
    • Roll all of your dice onto graph paper then draw around them
  • Are areas governed individually or is the entire region ruled by a monarch or emperor/empress
  • Does a city have a criminal organization in it?
  • What Trades can be found?
  • Are there any guilds?
dungeons & dragons campaign

Randomly Generate

Choosing to randomly create areas in your Dungeons & Dragons campaign homebrew world is one viable route as well. Though we will say it works better when putting together a smaller section, village, or encounter.

If you’re in a pinch and need to come up with something quick, here are some tips.

  • Use the roll tables provided in the Dungeon Master’s Guide
  • Know your world and the story you’re telling.
    • Understanding your world will help you get a better feel for randomly thinking on the fly
  • Stick to these guidelines:
    • Who is in charge and who will the characters speak with?
    • What can be found there?
      • Important items, landmarks, treasure, creatures, etc.
    • Why should the characters care about this place?
      • Is it to resupply, seek assistance, is their home here, do they have friends or allies here?
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Build from Inspiration

There are plenty of fantasy stories to pull inspiration from. Lord of the Rings, The Hobbit, and D&D books such as the Dragonlance series and our own Thread of Souls series offer great examples. There is no shame in pulling ideas from popular media but just be sure to change the name of locations, characters, and creatures when necessary.

Another great resource is pulling from Wizard of the Coast campaign guides. During our first year, we did end up playing Curse of Strahd and pulled a lot of inspiration from its horror.

One other great sources of inspiration can be found in video games. If you know you want your world to have a certain feel or vibe to it, play games that are closely related to it.


Gods are often tied to certain cultures and classes such as clerics, paladins, and warlocks. You can pick from the many lists presented in core D&D books or pull from any fiction or real world religion. We were inspired by gods and then made them our own.

Some quick ways to make gods are to associate them with specific cultures or seasons.

  • Early civilizations could have thought the sun was a god so they worshipped it.
    • The actual god could have noticed this reaction and adopted a more light or sunny demeanor
  • Deity of Magic
  • Deity of Death
  • Deity of Life
  • Deity of Birth
  • So on and so forth
dungeons & dragons campaign
Lady Raven: Goddess of Death from Thread of Souls


Don’t think too hard when it comes to tracking time or dates. You could just as easily adopt the real world calendar to fit your tabletop game. The world could have even existed well before the calendar was made. A certain event could be the reason people now keep track of time.

  • Important anniversaries
  • A comet marks the first day of the year
  • A gods death
  • Birthdays
  • Specific moments the DM can use to advance the story
    • Maybe the planes are weaker during a certain week
    • Magic doesn’t work
  • Annual holidays
    • A great way to make the world feel more lively
dungeons & Dragons campaign
Thread of Souls Monthly Calendar
Quick Tips
  • To keep players from exploring too far before the world is complete, give them reasons to stay in a certain area.
  • Adding landmarks to the world makes it feel vibrant and alive.
  • Ask players what they want to explore then build off of that.
  • If you aren’t finished building an area, pull from fiction or fantasy
  • Pull from characters and their backstories

Characters and Players

When in doubt on what to do, try pulling from character backstories. Even the smallest detail of their history can help add more vividness and life to an area. For instance, if a character is a bard, where did they learn their craft? There may be an academy that teaches specific courses on oration, linguistics, musical theory, or vocals. Likewise, if a character has an animal companion, you can use that as inspiration to build as well. Mayhaps the specific animal only comes from a magical forest or only one location in the world.

There isn’t one right way to build a D&D world. Starting with a smaller section of the map is a great stepping stone. From there you can work on larger areas when the time is right. At the end of it all, the most important thing is to make sure you and your players are having fun. Work together to create an entertaining and heroic story and setting to explore.

Character Tips, D&D / TTRPGs, Opinion, Storytelling Tips, World Building & Lore

How to Play Dungeons & Dragons with Just Two People

Official Dungeons & Dragons adventure books include a phrase that can strike fear into the hearts of beginner dungeon masters. “Designed for an adventuring party of four to six 1st-level characters” or something similar to that effect.

Getting four to six people to sit around a table (or online) for a few hours a week or month can be challenging. But it’s old fashioned terminology and we believe it should be gotten rid of. For there are ways to play any D&D session, or TTRPG for that matter, without having multiple people.

dungeons & dragons

We here at Tal and Ru Travels started playing our homebrew world of Thread of Souls in 2015. In the beginning, we had three players. Three is a good magic number but I (Scott) the DM wanted more. The group evolved into five and fluctuated from that to six or seven at times.

Having more players gives much more fluidity when it comes to leading conversations, character development, and plot. Dungeon masters can focus on individual characters when the time comes but there are times when it can be too much. Combat, for instance, is definitely bogged down with a larger party size. Eventually our group fell apart as they often do and it was left with Ashley ( Tal) and myself. Sometimes all it takes is two.

Dungeons & Dragons

Just the Two of Us

Since 2018, we’ve been playing weekly two player sessions of Dungeons & Dragons. We play in our home brew world of Thread of Souls so we don’t have to worry about basing encounters off of a specific number of players. Instead we each play multiple characters each with their own unique skills and backstories.

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Playing Multiple Player Characters

While the DM will play every NPC the party encounters, they can also play an adventurer that explores with the party. In our case I play two player characters along with my other tasks. Both have a backstory and take turns in conversations and performing skills like investigating.

It’s all about knowing what your character would know and acting how they would act. If you’re the DM, just keep in mind that while you may know the story or campaign book, your character is just as oblivious as the other player.

dungeons & dragons

Increase Intimacy

Speaking of the other player. Playing with anyone in a one-on-one setting is a great way to grow and build your relationship. You both get to know the other person through the eyes of multiple characters and personalities by having them control as many player characters as they feel comfortable. It also helps if each one acts, speaks, and behaves differently so the DM can tell the difference more easily.

The more comfortable you are with on another, the more fun and deeper role play can get. And if you’re just starting out in a one-on-one setting and don’t know the other person as well, it’s a great ice breaker and allows you both to build a friendship. Or if you just want to fight and gain loot, that’s perfectly okay too.

Story Collaboration

As the DM you can also build encounters around the other players characters. Everyone is a part of the story and they all need time to shine. Make sure you take the time to talk with the player to see what they want to get out of the game. Maybe they like exploring and just want to search for treasure. While others are all about that role play and wish to delve deeper into emotions and plot.

Another great way to handle two player games is to have the player control certain aspects of the session. For instance, if it’s alright with the DM, they can take over for NPCs and speak with the game masters characters.

Tabletop games are all about collaboration. It isn’t DM versus players. It’s a shared story where anyone should feel comfortable to speak up and take part in the epic tale.

Playing together is also great for introverts who aren’t comfortable being in large settings around people. As an introvert, I can say being able to just play with someone I know makes me open up more and come out of my shell.

Honestly, you can make just about any game into a two player game. If you have a single player video game you can hand the controller back and forth to complete different quests or control different characters.

Dungeons & Dragons and TTRPGs aren’t strictly for groups of players. They are intimate, fun, freeing, and allow for character growth for both the players and their characters. It’s just like writing a book. There is an author and an editor. Imagine both players as the authors and editors of the game, world, and characters.

D&D / TTRPGs, Storytelling Tips, Thread of Souls, World Building & Lore, Writing Tips

Turning a D&D Game into a Book

How we turned a 5+ year game into a fantasy series!

When Scottie discovered D&D in 2015, I (Ashley) did not understand it. How do you play? What do you mean there is no board? But as a lifelong lover of fantasy, my interest was piqued. And when Scott ran his first game and only two friends showed up, I offered to play to help build out the group. And the rest, as they say, is history.

D&D worked its way into all aspects of our life. Art, cosplay, decorations, conventions, video games, board games . . . anything related to Dungeons & Dragons we wanted as part of our lives. So when it came to writing, this just seemed like another natural progression.

I knew early on I wanted to turn our D&D story into a book series. I have written stories my whole life and was actively involved in fanfiction as a teenager. I actually won a few community awards for my fanfics including Best Romance, Best Adventure, and Story of the Year. I had published a middle grade fantasy fiction through Amazon before as my fist “official” book. But after years of playing the same storyline in D&D, the passion for it fully took hold. I just had to turn this into a book!

As an experienced writer (and an online journalist through sites like The Nerd Stash and The Drive) I felt up to the task of translating a D&D game into a book. And I wanted it to be as dark and gritty as the actual game, but with points of humor and fun. I wanted it to capture this sweeping homebrew world that was created as well as easily dive into the very personal struggles of each character.

So here is a look at what it takes to translate D&D into your own story!

Don’t Lore Drop All at Once

As the DM, Scott had fleshed out an incredible homebrew world. As Assistant to the DM, he consulted me for geographical tips, historical events, and overall world building. So from early on in the game it very much felt like our own creation. Players were all given a few pages detailing Corventos as well as a map and a calendar.

However, that kind of stuff doesn’t really work for a book. You can’t drop all the history of the world at the beginning. It has to be worked throughout the story, sometimes across a few books. One big tip is that things should be name-dropped or hinted at first before really getting into the details. This helps readers not feel overwhelmed when they get to the lore.

Extrapolating on Scenes & Dialogue

I kept detailed notes of our games after about a 1 – 2 years of playing. I even kept track of some impactful dialogue I could remember. But, games flow differently than a book. Some scenes are skipped over in D&D for ease of telling the story and making adjustments for player changes. We had one player change out his class entirely (he was experimenting with a DM’s Guild class but ended up not liking it). He did really good at trying to keep a roleplay reason for it, but in the end all other characters accepted the changes easily without too many questions. It just helps push the story forward.

But in a book, more detail and explanation are needed. Often I find myself creating entire scenes from scratch to fill in these “holes” and tell a smoother story. So you definitely need to know your world and your characters thoroughly to be able to deviate from what happened in-game and make it feel right in the book.

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Copyrighted Stuffs

As it was a homebrew world, we already had many creations of our own. We even had alternative names for the gods as well as our own take on them and what they meant. We especially took the lore of the drow and duergar and made it our own, creating brand new backstories, societal systems, and our own take on their religion. But of course we used normal monster names and item names that were already in the books.

So we have had to make up our own names for these things, or even reinvent them entirely. For example, we fought beholders in the game. But beholders got a complete remake for the book, including abilities, appearance, and a name. Many magical items are ignored for the book unless they have a central point to the plot. Readers don’t care about a +1 magical dagger for our rogue. But a dagger that comes back to the hand thrown is important.

This has had the added benefit of enhancing our D&D games more. Now we use pretty much entirely homebrewed creations.

Point of View

One of the biggest questions was what point of view was this story going to get told in? I had always used third person omniscient, but that just didn’t feel like enough. I wanted to really be able to dive into each character and explore their minds and perspective. We also had a larger cast of main characters, and I wanted to ensure no one got steamrolled over the other.

So I employed a strategy to vary whose point of view the chapter is told from. I kept it to third person limited and changed it out each chapter. That way I could pick whoever was best for that specific chapter, and also get to dive into their needs and wants without pushing out other characters.

I first saw this used as a teenager in Jonathan Stroud’s Bartimaeus books. I absolutely love those books and was fascinated how he would go back and forth between two characters in third person limited chapters. But also how he would use the first person perspective for Bartimaeus’ chapters. And with the chapter titles simply being their names, that shaped the young writer in me.

Telling a Story in Progress

The Thread of Souls series is based off our D&D game. But this campaign is not finished. So we are essentially telling a story in progress. I ensured I didn’t start writing until I was a few books ahead based upon my rough outlines. Currently I’m in the process of writing Book 3. But we are currently playing Book 7. This has impacted the way we play the games, but I think for the better all around. We are so committed to telling a great story, and delivering emotional roleplaying, that this has only enhanced our game.

Don’t be afraid to record your own D&D games! It doesn’t have to be as a book. Maybe as art, or aesthetic boards, or story arc playlists. As we found out from our survey on D&D players’ personality types, most of us that play are heavily creative and insightful. And the more ways we express our joys, the better.

You can read all about the Thread of Souls book series on our website page, as well as visit the Amazon to links to purchase them!

Bardic Inspiration, D&D / TTRPGs, Storytelling Tips

Bardic Inspiration: Taverns

Adding Music Tracks to your TTRPG

So, it’s been a long time coming but I have had the idea to write about music tracks for a Dungeons & Dragons session. Really, these Bardic Inspiration pieces can be used for just about any fantasy based TTRPG. Adding music to the game can make it feel more realistic and emotional. Like the backdrop to a movie or video game, soundtracks are there to inspire and drive the story.

bardic inspiration

This segment, titled Bardic Inspiration, will go into what tracks work best in a given scenario. As a dungeon master it may seem daunting to plan, roleplay, and cue music on time. But if taken slowly, both players and DM will find it can enhance a game in a number of ways. If you’re exploring ancient arcane runes, perhaps Kingdoms of Amalur’s Dalentarth is best on repeat. While resting at a campsite or at an inn may call for something a bit lowkey and melodic such as Pillars of Eternity’s Oldsong.

It’s been several years, alright a decade, since I last studied music, but it’s stayed with me ever since I picked up a trumpet in marching band. If anyone wishes to chime in (really, chime?) with their favorite track, composer, a bit of musical knowledge, or why a piece of music worked well in a game feel free to start a conversation.

I could honestly talk Pillars of Eternity all day everyday 365 but I know there is far more music out there. If there are any other tracks that you think should be touched on or hidden gems you prefer, let us know! Now, on with the music!

It Began in a Tavern

The most classic way to begin any Dungeons & Dragons session is to do so in a tavern. So why not start with tavern music. There is a cornucopia of songs that have the upbeat vibe of sitting around a roaring fire drinking ale and chomping on mutton. Whether it’s from the Witcher series or Dragon Age, there is a song fit for beginning an adventure.

But if you really want to set the mood, perhaps the best track to start with is from World of Warcraft. Simple titled Tavern, the track is composed by Jason Hayes, a veteran composer of 24 years who has written for just about everything with Blizzard’s name on it.

Tavern is lively and medieval. It’s a classic example of what a tavern feels like. It combines a mandolin, flute, and drums to drive home that feeling of gearing up for a grand adventure. It’s a shorter track as well and one that can be left on repeat while the party chats with the local barkeep about a gnoll problem in the forest.

While Justin Bell’s The Lover Cried Out from Pillars of Eternity is a completely different piece altogether. It’s slow soothing tempo is pleasing and relaxing. It’s a track that is perfect for winding down at the end of a long day of adventuring or one that can be used to bring the party together while the players introduce themselves around the table.

Bell has been composing professionally for 13 years and is the studio audio director at Obsidian Entertainment. You’ll find his work in Outer Worlds, Fallout New Vegas, and the upcoming RPG Avowed.

If you want some more upbeat tones to set the mood while you explain the town, government, or overall plot, Dragon Age 2 and the Witcher are good choices to go with. Emmy award winning composer Inon Zur really made DA2 much more appealing when you crank up the volume. The story is wonderful but the OST is fantastic. Tavern Music is a great fast-paced track to use while you describe the chaotic world in which your players will soon explore.

The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt‘s music director Marcin Przybyłowicz is a masterful composer. Both A Story You Won’t Believe and Another Round for Everyone are full of rhythm and dancing beats. They make excellent choices for when that inevitable bar fight breaks out and the paladin won’t put down the barstool.

Those are just a few Bardic Inspiration examples of how to enhance a standard tavern scene. There are far more song choices to choose from as well. Once you create a Spotify list of a few tavern songs, the rest should start showing up as recommendations. Until next time!