A Guide To Mounted Combat – D&D 5e

Upon your steed, you gallop into battle. Ogres, Orcs, and Goblins all stand in your way, but with a slight lean to your left and your shortsword in hand, you slash your foes and dash back to safety.

That sounds like a classic Dungeons and Dragons scene, right? Well, it turns out many of us don’t bother using a mount, let alone ride one into battle. When combat starts, some of us try to hide our horses because “if anyone dares touch Sir Galloper, this whole village will go up in flames!”

Well, just as you can be healed with a Cure Wounds spell, so can your mount. So, let’s see what we could do with an animal companion.

Contents:

Player’s Handbook Word-For-Word

Player’s Handbook Broken Down

Classic Mounting Options

Jousting

Best Classes For Mounted Combat

Summary

Player’s Handbook Word-For-Word

You can find the information for mounted combat on page 198 of the Player’s Handbook. Below is a word-for-word reiteration from this section.

The first thing the manual explains is how to mount and dismount your steed.

The second is how to control your steed.

This is literally everything the handbook says about controlling your horse (or other creature). Using the information given and the rest of the manuals, we will explain what this means and how to use a mount in combat.

Player’s Handbook Broken Down

Although the information is concise, it doesn’t give us a lot of examples. We want to show you how you can use the information provided in a way that is completely within the rules of 5th Edition.

Mounting Costs Half Your Speed

The handbook says it will cost half your Speed to mount a creature. It doesn’t matter what your Speed is; a Goliath will take the same time to get on a horse as a Gnome.

If you have two levels of Exhaustion, your Speed is halved. Therefore, a level two Exhausted player would take their whole movement to mount a creature. This is because your overall Speed is used for both scenarios. 

In the same vein of thought, a character who has been “Hasted” (the spell Haste has been cast on them) still takes half their movement to mount a creature. This means their speed is doubled due to the spell, and then halved back to their original number when mounted.

The same goes for the Dash Action.

For example, Elves have 30 feet of Speed. When “Hasted” or Dashing, their Speed doubles to 60 feet. The Elf then mounts a horse, which drops their remaining movement back to 30 feet again.

At this point, it should be noted that once you’ve mounted your creature, they can take a turn in battle. This means you don’t need to save your movement, as your steed can move you. 

Because of this, it might be more useful to see a character running to their mount.

Using the same example, this Elf has 30 feet of movement. They want to run away from an encounter, but their horse is 25ft away. Although they can run up to the creature, they will not be able to mount it on this turn.

Knowing this, the Elf Dashes, using up their action. They run 25ft toward the horse. They now have 35ft of movement left. With more than half of their extended Speed remaining, the Elf can mount the creature. The horse now has a turn to use their Action and their Movement. Using a Dash Action themselves, the horse can sprint away to safety.

In total, on this Player’s turn, they will have moved 140 feet and still have a Reaction, and Bonus Action left.

The Elf could also have run up to the horse and then cast Haste for the same effect. This is because the Player’s Speed (not used movement) is counted. As the overall Speed is doubled, they now have time to mount.

Your Mount Falls Prone Or Is Pushed Back

The next part of the handbook might sound contradictory, but there is a method to the madness.

The manual says that if your mount is pushed against its will (while you’re on it), you must make a DC10 Dexterity Saving Throw or be made Prone. The next statement says that if your mount is made Prone you can use a Reaction to dismount and land on your feet, or you will also be made Prone.

It stands to reason that if you can use a Reaction to dismount, you can also do this if you fail your Dexterity Saving Throw. 

This means you can attempt the save, get a 5, then use your Reaction to stop yourself from falling Prone. Using your Reaction still means you are forced off your mount, but at least you have all of your movement.

Remember that if you are Prone, it will take you half your movement to stand up, and it takes another half to mount a creature.

Because of this, you might not want to use your Reaction. Instead you can save it, and use your full movement to stand and mount.

The handbook specifically states that if you fall off your mount, you land within 5 feet of the creature. To climb back on, you need to be within 5 feet. This means you will have full ability to simply climb back on.

If your mount is pushed back and knocked Prone at the same time, you can use your Reaction to jump off the creature as it gets pushed away from the encounter.

The Tidal Wave spell, for example, pushes creatures away regardless of if they succeed on their save. However, if someone fails, they are pushed away and knocked Prone. 

For example, if the Player Character is a Fighter (a melee class), they might want to stay close to the battle. The enemy casts Tidal Wave forcing the Fighter’s mount backward. Dice are rolled, and the mount fails their Dexterity Saving Throw. The Fighter decides that they want to stay in the heat of the battle, and so dismounts as a Reaction. This keeps them next to the enemy.

The Height Of A Mount

The eagle-eyed among you might have noticed that the Tidal Wave spell can reach up to 10 feet tall. 

Depending on the height of the mount, our Fighter might have been forced to make the Saving Throw too.

Let’s go with the standard Riding Horse again. This creature is considered Large. A Large creature is 10 feet tall and 10 feet wide. 

The rules do not state whether we should use the full height of the creature or the mid-way height of a creature to determine where the rider sits.

I believe this is a Dungeon Master’s call. A horse, for example, would likely have their rider sit 5 feet above the ground. However, an Owlbear, which is also a Large creature, doesn’t have their back midway down their height. The Dungeon Master may decide that a rider of an Owlbear sits 10 feet above the ground.

In the Tidal Wave example, a Fighter sitting on a Riding Horse would have to make their own Saving Throw. But, if they were mounted to an Owlbear, the Fighter would not be affected by the Tidal Wave spell and could use their Reaction to dismount once the spell was cast.

How Much Can The Mount Carry

All creatures, including Player Characters, can measure their carrying capacity in the same way.

Simply multiply the creature’s Strength Score by 15. This answer will be your carrying capacity in pounds.

Reach While Mounted

As we said before, the height of a rider while mounted is determined by the Dungeon Master. However, this matter should be discussed before playing the game, because most melee combat options are limited by a 5 foot reach.

If you are 10 feet in the air, riding an Owlbear, your 5 foot reach from a shortsword will not hit a 3 foot tall Halfling. 

Because of this, a mounted melee fighter should own these weapons:

Glaive1d10 Slashing DamageHeavy, Reach, Two-Handed
Halberd1d10 Slashing DamageHeavy, Reach, Two-Handed
Lance1d12 Piercing DamageReach, Special
Pike1d10 Piercing DamageHeavy, Reach, Two-Handed
Whip1d4 Slashing DamageFinesse, Reach

All of these melee weapons have the Reach ability, which means that they can hit people 10 feet away.

The best melee weapon to use while mounted is the Lance. This is because you don’t need to use two hands to wield the Lance while you are mounted (but you do if you are not mounted). 

The other weapons (not including the Whip) need two hands to wield with accuracy. At the Dungeon Master’s discretion, you will either forfeit your aim or your control over the mount when using these weapons. 

The Dungeon Master might force you into rolling with disadvantage, or they could roll a 1d6 to see which direction your steed goes (1 and 6 means the mount follows original orders. 2, 3, 4 & 5 represent South, East, North, and West).

The Whip would be the best option for a mounted Rogue due to the Finesse property. Finesse weapons can be used with a Rogue’s Sneak Attack feature.

We will go into more detail about mounted Rogues later on.

Controlling A Trained Mount

The definition of a trained mount comes under two categories; classic creatures that can be trained (like a horse, a donkey, and a camel) and creatures that can be trained in the Dungeon Master’s world.

Both of these options are up to the Dungeon Master (DM). For example, if a Player sees a horse in the wild, the DM can say that the horse is wild so hasn’t been trained. This is a valid option and sticks with the settings.

A trained mount only has three options for their Action; this is regardless of their actual abilities. 

Trained mounts can only Dash, Disengage, or Dodge. Dashing allows the mount to double their Speed for one round. 

Disengaging allows the mount to move away from an enemy without getting hit with an Opportunity Attack. This Action only lasts for one round.

Dodge forces enemies into attacking with disadvantage when aimed at the mount or rider; it also gives the mount and rider advantage to all Dexterity Saving Throws.

When in battle, you should optimize this extra ability to Dodge. As you are riding the mount, you are connected to all of their movements. Just as the mount carries you long distances, they can also grant you a Dodge advantage. 

However, if you plan on rushing through a crowd, and tell your mount to disengage, only they will be untouched by Opportunity Attacks. If your opponent can reach you, their Opportunity Attack can still strike.

Controlling An Untrained Or Independent Mount

Unlike a trained mount, an untrained or independent mount has their own initiative order. 

The difference between untrained and independent comes down to intelligence. 

An untrained mount is like a horse or an Owlbear that was never tamed. They run wild and may become distressed when you attempt to mount them. To them, it may feel like a grapple.

An independent mount understands what’s going on and can make their own judgments. 

Having a rider does not hinder the mount, and these creatures can do anything they want in combat. This includes using their Attack Actions as normal and trying to kick you off their back.

If a mount tries to throw you off their back, this would be a contested Athletics Check (mount) against either an Athletics or Acrobatic Check (rider). Both make their roll, and the highest number succeeds. 

Depending on the creature’s intelligence, the Dungeon Master could allow a Player try taming them. There is no official rule on how to train a mount. A Dungeon Master could create their own rules or use one made by online homebrewers like DragonCrown.

DragonCrown’s guide to training is simple and effective. They also have readjusted the whole mounted combat process! Check out their content for more options.

Druids As Mounts

A shapeshifter or wild-shaped druid can also become a mount. In this instance, they will be considered an intelligent, independent creature and have their own initiative count.

While they act as a mount, they can use their Creature actions as normal and are not encumbered by their rider as long as they can hold the rider’s weight.

Remember that the maximum any creature can carry in pounds (including Players) is their Strength Score multiplied by 15.

Classic Mounting Options

The best mounted option from the classic range is the Warhorse.

Out of all of the classic options, a Warhorse has the best Speed and the best Armor Class. However, if you want a tank for a mount, the Elephant has the biggest Hit Point count.

Small Player Characters, like Gnomes and Halflings, would benefit from a smaller steed, like a Mastiff or a Pony. Ponies have higher Hit Points, but Mastiffs have a better Armor Class.

There is nothing in the rules about Small Characters riding Large creatures, however visually they might prefer a mount that matches their size.

Although anything large enough could become a steed, this is the whole list of classic mounts:

If you want to ride something more unusual, try a homebrew creature or a monster. Elven Firefly’s Harrasaem mount is just one of the amazing creatures created by homebrew artists! Explore the community or create them yourself!

Back to the official guides – these are your Mount’s gear:

And here are the Saddles you can use:

Jousting

If your Players want to Joust, you can follow our homebrew setup for the encounter:

  1. Two players stand on opposite sides of an arena.
  2. Have both roll for Initiative, using the mount’s Dexterity Modifier.
  3. Whoever rolls the highest runs fastest. They get to Hit first.
  4. Roll to Hit and Roll for Damage as normal.
  5. If the damage (at any point) is half or more of the player’s total Hit Points, the player is knocked Prone and loses.
  6. After 5 rounds, the Player with the most Hits wins (if none is knocked Prone).

In this game, landing a Hit is more important than rolling high damage. However, if you produce enough damage, you can end the game early as your opponent is knocked off their mount.

Best Classes For Mounted Combat

All classes can be useful with a mount, but two, in particular, would benefit the most.

Cavalier Fighter 

The first is the Cavalier Fighter. This Fighter is designed to battle on the back of a mount.

At 3rd level, they have advantage on Saving Throws to stay on their steed, and it only costs them 5 feet of movement to mount their ride.

At 7th level, the Warding Maneuver allows them to use their Reaction to increase their mounts Armor Class. This also works on the Player and their allies within 5 feet.

And at 15th level, they gain the charging spirit of their mount and can knock someone Prone, after charging 10 feet in a straight line. They can do this whether they are mounted or not.

The Cavalier Fighter is built for a steed and is the perfect Class for mounted combat.

Soulknife Rogue

The second best Subclass for mounted combat is the Soulknife Rouge

In fact, all Rogues will benefit from riding a steed due to their Sneak Attack feature.

For the Sneak Attack feature to activate, the Player Character needs to have advantage or be within 5 feet of their target’s enemy.

If the mount attacks the target outright, they will be considered an enemy. However, to most Dungeon Master’s, being an active member of the party will be enough to count as the target’s enemy.

This means that the Rogue will automatically get to use their Steak Attack while mounted.

If they use a Whip, as we said before, they will be able to reach enemies 10 ft away and still manage to use their Sneak Attack due to the finesse weapon. Of course, that is only true if an enemy of the target is within 5 feet.

However, the Soulknife Rouge can take this one step further.

At 3rd level, a Soulknife Rouge can pull psionic power from their soul to create a finesse or thrown weapon, just like a Dagger. This means it can be used for Sneak Attack.

This Soul Blade does 1d6 damage, which is more than a Dagger’s 1d4 or a Whips 1d4. And unlike a Dagger, it will also return back to the Player.

The last thing that makes it impressive is its 60 foot range. 

Normally Rogues are in the thick of the battle, but with a Soul Blade and a mount, a Soulknife Rogue can act more defensively. They can ride into battle, use a Sneak Attack on their target using the Soul Blade. Next their steed can use Dodge and run away. Then the Rogue can use their Two-Weapon Fighting feat to hit with a second Soul Blade from 60 feet away.

Sneak Attack can only be used once per round, so getting out of the enemy’s melee range after hitting is a smart tactic. They can still use their Bonus Action for use their Two-Weapon Fighting feat, but be at a safe distance.

Granted, the second attack is only 1d4, but this Rogue keeps their weapon, has disadvantaged any enemy Opportunity Attacks, and always has Sneak Attack.

Mounted Combatant Feat

The Mounted Combatant feat can be found on page 168 of the Player’s Handbook.

No matter what class you pick, if you plan on riding a mount often, choose this feat. This is especially true if you are a Rogue.

Rogues always want advantage when attacking, so they can use their Sneak Attack. If your Dungeon Master doesn’t agree that your mount is your target’s enemy, then this feat can grant you a constant advantage instead. Just make sure your mount is the biggest in battle.

Summary

Apart from the jousting portion, everything in this article has used official rules from  Dungeons and Dragons manuals.

Now you know how to use mounts in combat, which weapons to use, and understand mount heights. 

The biggest confusion that most Dungeon Master’s face is around the trained mount’s actions. Remember, a trained mount can only use Dodge, Disengage, and Dash. The three Ds.

And if you Player Characters want to mount an unexpected creature, the creature can hold 15 times their Strength Score. It will usually be fine unless the mount is small.

Bookmark this page for future reference, as you’ll never know what mounted combat could crop up in your sessions!


Feature image by kudybadorota

How To Edit Your Sessions When Your Players Have Real Life Levels of Exhaustion – 5e

If one or more of your players are parents of newborns, work on the graveyard shift, or have issues sleeping, then you may need to edit your session to cater to your sleepy friend’s needs.

Today, we will remind you that Dungeons and Dragons is meant to be a fun game about role-playing, interacting with magic, and hanging out with your friends. If you cannot achieve everything you wanted in a session because someone fell asleep, it’s not the end of the world. 

In fact, it might be the perfect excuse for more world-building.

Yawning Is Not A Sign Of Boredom

If you see a player opening their mouth for a big fat yawn, try not to be disheartened. There could be a myriad of reasons for why they are feeling tired, but that doesn’t mean they are bored with your game.

It also isn’t necessarily a sign that the session should stop there. Although your players might be tired, this could be a continuous state of being for them. Hanging out with their friends could be a genuine reason for why they want to push through their tired feelings instead of going to sleep.

If you haven’t spoken to the player/s in question yet, ask them how they want to play these games. I have a couple of suggestions that you can discuss with them, but the first one should be about open communication. 

Remind your friend, in private, that they can ask to leave the session early if they are worried about falling asleep. That way, when a yawn comes, you know that your buddy will come to you if they need a break. Otherwise, you can carry on.

Checking in on your friends as the session goes on will also help you feel the vibe of the party. Make this a normal part of your games, so it doesn’t feel awkward or forced. You could do this by having a bathroom break every couple of hours and asking everyone how they are feeling.

Ready Yourself For Unexpected Stops

Following this same thought process, if a player randomly asks for the session to stop because they need to go to sleep, don’t try and force them into playing for another 30 minutes because “they are really close to a good stopping point.” Instead, listen to your friends and recognize their needs. They could have been trying to tell you to stop for a while and only just developed the courage to say something.

Either way, you should be ready to stop the game when your players need it, instead of waiting at a particular location. Prepare your sessions with this in mind.

Sometimes, a player may ask you to pause a game instead of stopping it. This could be because their baby has just started crying, and they need a feed, or something else has come up. In these moments, the players could need a 30-minute break to get their child back to sleep. 

Knowing your players’ needs, you should prepare to pause your game again. Maybe encourage the others to roleplay amongst themselves, or have a backup idea in place as you wait for your friend to come back. Either way, you should be prepared for these breaks and ready to be helpful to your buddies.

If Your Players Fall Asleep

As you read this, you might be thinking, “But what about the other players? We shouldn’t all have to stop for one person.” And that is a valid point. 

If everyone involved (including your sleepy friend) would rather the game continue while they rest, then you could use these moments to include some worldbuilding magic.

This is what I did for my friends whose newborn children often made two party members fall asleep at the table; I included strange sleep magic that infected the people at random.

The Slumber has always existed. It is in every history book and in every memory. Every creature on this plane has experienced The Slumber at least once. It exists in the air and cannot be stopped, but do not fear as you will awaken again. At least, that’s true if your body is protected.

If you notice a player has fallen asleep at the table or needs to run off to look after their children, you can make the player infected by The Slumber. They flop to the floor without taking damage and cannot be awakened by magical or mundane means. The PC only wakes up once the player has returned.

This can create interesting dynamics for the other people at the table. If the party were in town shopping, they might need to pay for a room in a tavern. If they were traveling through a dangerous area, the players might need to roll for deception, so crooked NPCs don’t notice the Slumbering PC. And if the party were in the middle of a dungeon, they’ll have to decide if they should hide the Slumbered or take them along.

Again you might be reading this and thinking, “but you shouldn’t punish the player for looking after their child.” Or instead, your mind could have gone the other way, thinking, “the other players shouldn’t be punished and forced into looking after The Slumbered.” And again, that is valid.

This concept of The Slumber should only be used if everyone at your table agrees. If the idea doesn’t work at your table, you could tweak it to fit better. Maybe instead of;

At least, that’s true if your body is protected.

The next part says;

It exists in the air and cannot be stopped, but do not fear as you will awaken again. To anyone watching, they’ll notice you fade. Only a glimmer will shine where you once were. 

It could be minutes, days, or years before your next return, but it will only feel like seconds have passed. 

In this version of The Slumber, the body of the PC has been removed from the area. This means that the remaining players won’t have to worry about hiding a Slumbered body, and the exhausted player won’t feel cheated into a character death while they were away.

This, of course, is just an idea. You can use it in your campaign or be inspired to do your own version of The Slumber, where your players who can’t always be present can often be taken out of the story, even if it’s just for a couple of minutes.

Keep The Plot Simple

If your players are able to stay awake and present during your games or not, they will likely be drained from their daily activities. This means that focusing on quests or making notes on long winding plotlines could be super difficult.

If your other players are willing to do all the notetaking and keep on top of this part of the game, then keeping the plot simple shouldn’t be a worry. However, if most of your players are finding it hard to focus, then it might be more helpful to only have one or two plot lines going at the same time.

If that’s the case, I suggest having an overarching plotline and a session-by-session plotline. For example, this could mean your party’s overarching plotline is finding the Demi-Lich who plans to steal every soul in town, but while they search for the items to make the perfect weapon, they only follow one other small plotline. This could be to do with a player’s backstory or something in the area which gives them a break from the main plot. It shouldn’t last long and could be connected to the main storyline. 

If you give your exhausted players too many bread crumbs to follow, they will start forgetting what their goal is. This will end with you being frustrated and hurt as they ignore obvious clues to a quest from months ago. Or the players could feel lost and stupid as they wrack their heads trying to remember something out of their reach.

To stop any of these upsets, it would be easier to limit the number of background storylines and instead focus their attention on the main plot and a single subplot that fits in with the session.

You might think that even this subplot will be too much for your players, so use your knowledge of their ability to concentrate and reduce your content to fit that level.

Allow Your Games To Be Fluid

The idea of making your games fluid goes back to the concept of readying yourself for unexpected stops. What I mean is don’t be focused on fitting everything into a session. If your players end up taking 5 breaks, this will push your session back, and that’s okay. 

If you don’t let them have these breaks, then they will end up getting frustrated, grumpy, or fall asleep. Instead, you have to accept the fact that your players might not reach that really cool ending you had in your head. Instead, save it for the next session so you don’t push your friend’s mental ability.

Allowing your games to be fluid might feel like going against the classic novel idea of slow rising adventure, the climax of discovery, and the epic battle, but remember that even when we read a novel, we allow ourselves to take breaks.

Your story will be just as loved and just as appreciated, even if it is broken up into smaller pieces.

If you are playing a one-shot, however, you may need to plan a smaller session than normal and add in a lot of time for breaks. This is to allow your game to be fluid and go with the player’s flow. 

If it turns out the PCs finished the game earlier than expected, then you can use your saved time to chat about the game and talk about the cool things the characters did.

Help The Community

If you have any additional ideas to help DMs cater to players who are exhausted, add them to the comment section below! 

Dragon of Icespire Peak: Starting Your Preparations

First time Dungeon Masters picking up the Dragon of Icespire Peak module can have a hard time navigating the information. For one, it has a lot to work with, and secondly it can go in so many directions.

This is why many DMs love the campaign, but if you haven’t Dungeon Mastered before, the data can be overwhelming.

We are making an ultimate guide to DoIP (Dragon of Icespire Peak), to help anyone struggling to sift through the information and find the meat of the story! Today, we are starting at the very beginning – preparation.

We aren’t going to go through every single quest in the book right now; instead we are going to show you how to visualise the settling. If you want a more detailed guide for each part of the story you can search through our website by clicking here.

Warning – Spoilers Ahead

Reading Through The Module

It may seem obvious to read through the module you have picked up, but on page 10 the book explains that only 3 of the quests are listed on the quest board. This might lead you to thinking that only reading the first 3 is fine, however you may end up confusing yourself later on.

The first 3 quests don’t really connect to the overall storyline of the campaign. Instead they are more of a “get to know your character” and “have fun role playing” kind of session. This isn’t bad of course, but the players may start wondering why their characters are even following these quests.

If you read through the module, you will know what two things are happening in the world at the moment. Storyline one is that a dragon named Cryovain has moved into the area, forcing dangerous monsters into the humanoid lands. This displacement is actively causing chaos and harm. To solve the problem, you need to remove the dragon. That way the orcs, ogres and manticores can return to their homes, and leave the humanoids in peace.

The second storyline is that a group of orc cultists are attempting to bring their God Gorthok the Thunder Boar into this world. Their reasons are unclear, but there are a couple of instances where boars can be seen in the area.

I personally found the boar storyline more interesting than the dragon one, but (as a new Dungeon Master), I found the story too disconnected from the main plot to piece it all together. Unfortunately, I fell into the trap of only looking at the first three quests before reading on. If I had known that these random boars were important, I would have added more detail to their story.

The reason why the boar storyline is so flat is because the creators of the campaign expect you to add to it. As a Dungeon Master, you will have your own creative ideas about how this jigsaw fits together, and your players will end up influencing the story too. This gap is deliberate to allow everyone to have some control in the game. 

To ensure you don’t miss out on any juicy details that can help you create the world, you should read the whole campaign even if you are nowhere near that quest yet. Your Warlock Player’s patron could be Abbathor, your Cleric’s God could be Savras. These are Gods already in the book that can help your characters connect to the story. Reading through can help you pick out these details and develop the story from an open concept to a touching story.

Prepare A Skeleton

Just like the creators have left ideas and concepts for you, you shouldn’t overload your story either. Your players can and will have a massive effect on the continued world they interact with. Not everything will have a “butterfly effect” moment, but if your players persuade the villages of Phandalin to move to Butterskull Ranch for their safety, then you should have enough room in the story to let this happen. This idea is called a “skeleton”; the structure or “bones” of the story is written, but the “meat” is created as you play.

To give yourself some guidance but still allow your players to influence the world, you should only make a skeleton guide of the campaign. You could argue that the module already has a skeleton ready for you to pick up and run on the day, but most of us cannot read a piece of paper once and fully comprehend it. Instead, you should use this premade skeleton as a guide.

The best skeletons have fixed facts that will not change, readily prepared along with beginning speeches. The start of a session, no matter if it’s session 1 or session 20, will not be controlled by the Player. They cannot influence anything they haven’t had a chance to touch yet. This means you can set the scene, bring the drama and tell the characters what they see.

Apart from this beginning scene, there won’t be a lot of chances for you to give massive description speeches. You might think that the players will go through the front door of the Logger Camp, but instead, they jump through the window. If you already made a speech for this entry, then this sudden unexpected entrance means your speech doesn’t make sense. To some, that would be enough to make you lose focus and become confused. You might even seem angry that the players didn’t play the way you expected. That isn’t the issue, of course; it just means you’re suddenly unprepared, and that can be stressful. To avoid this issue, don’t make massive speeches. Instead, write a couple of notes about what you imagine your players will see. Then when they reach this location, through the window or the door, you can use your notes to paint the picture.  

Going back to the adventure’s premade skeleton piece, re-write the contents in a way that makes sense to you. For example, the detail in Gnomengarde was beautiful but crowded. On game day, I needed to pick up a piece of paper that had quick details and sharp notes so I could move as fast as my players. To prepare, I wrote bullet points for each room. The ability checks, devices, and monsters were reduced to a shorthand that I could understand at a glance. Then I wrote down all the gnomes’ names (and there are many) and put them on a separate sheet. I knew my players would care about what each NPC (non-player character) was called, so I wanted an accessible location to pick up the information. 

These are the ways in which I personalized the skeleton. You might care about other details, and long detailed paragraphs might not be hard for you to read quickly. However you like to play, edit the sessions to make them easier for you.

Utilize The Dragon: Cryovain

Cryovain is the main villain of the story. He is happy to cause destruction and eats humanoids, orcs, and livestock in what he considers his territory. In the beginning, the players will be too weak to battle a dragon. Instead, they need to level up with quests to gain the experience they need to be strong. 

However, if you ignore the dragon too much, the players won’t realize how much of a threat he is meant to be to the story. 

On page 11, the campaign suggests that you should roll a d20 to see where the dragon lands each day to feed. 

If the dragon lands in the same area as the players, they can attempt to hurt him, but he will run away after losing 10hp. 

The concept is good, as it allows the players to see Cryovain’s destruction and how powerful he is, but there is only a 5% chance of this happening.  Without this interaction, your players won’t understand just how much he can destroy the land.

Instead, I recommend noting every place he visits each day and creating a mini-story about what happened there. For example, the dragon could land at the Logger’s Camp. The players could find pools of freshwater near the river which an intelligence check can confirm shouldn’t be there. They might even find dead Ankhegs (the monster of the area) lying on the sand with wounds from a weapon no longer in the body. Again, an intelligence check could find evidence of a frozen exoskeleton. 

This way, although the players haven’t seen the dragon, they have seen its effect. This could even happen in locations the players have been to before. Maybe a letter comes from Butterskull Ranch, asking for further assistance after the dragon stole his pigs?

Making the dragon more destructive and visible will allow your players to create a strong dislike for the beast, and they will have a greater connection to the story. 

Don’t Be Afraid To Add To The Content

From everything we have said so far, it should be clear that these modules are meant to be used in collaboration with you and your party. Don’t stick to them religiously, instead explore what they could mean and how they can evolve as the story goes on. 

Maybe the cultists are calling upon their God because they want the boar to take down Cryovain. They might think the party is on the dragon’s side unless your players try to talk them into a truce?

These storylines cropping into your mind could turn this template into a world you can see and predict. Follow your ideas and your players’ ideas to create something you can all connect to. 

Don’t Be Afraid To Take Away From The Content

In the same thought process as adding to the module, you can take away from it too. The Wizards of the Coast (the creators of these games) often use The Forgotten Realms in their campaigns. These games have been around for years, and so it’s only natural that lore and easter eggs have developed. But as a new DM, these unnecessary add ons meant nothing to me. 

Easter eggs are fun but useless content that nods towards other content, like when one Marvel movie has an item from another Marvel movie in the background.

Halia, the human who works at the exchange shop, is one of these easter eggs. She is part of a secret organization called Zhentarim. With so much detail added to this NPC, you would expect her character to play a significant role, or at least the secret organization should be meaningful. Instead, she was just an insert to allow more experienced Dungeon Masters to connect their stories together.

Unless you can see potential in these one-off details, I would recommend taking them out of the story. Otherwise, your players might follow this red herring towards content that isn’t part of the campaign, and (as a new DM) you don’t know how to manifest. 

My advice is to avoid confusion. When you go through the module, pick up on these little extras and cross them out. 

You may find that other parts of the story seem pointless, unnecessary, or too complicated. If that’s the case, cross those parts out too. You want the game to be easy to follow so you don’t get tripped up on too many storylines. Follow your instincts and edit the campaign to make it more enjoyable for you.

Summary

Some of the information I have said in this article can be used on all or most other modules too. Always make personalized skeleton modules of the campaigns you are using, and always edit and adjust them to suit your table.

If you are reading this, then you are probably still a little new or nervous about being a Dungeon Master. Most people who pick up this campaign are just starting out. Don’t think of this advice as a cheat or a “dumb it down” method. Experienced Dungeon Masters will already be doing this level of preparation, and the module itself says to “modify the adventure to suit your tastes.” 

Dungeons and Dragons is all about collaborative role-playing, so remember that Dragons of Icespire Peak is an adventure suggestion, and you can collaborate with the creators to make it fit your fantasy. 

If you have any worries or questions, add them to our comments and I will do my best to help you. If you have any additional advice to help your fellow newbies, throw those into the comment section too! We can’t wait to see how you’ve been playing this game.


Turn Buying And Selling Into An Adventure 5e

Shopping in Dungeons and Dragons can feel like a real bore. If your campaign doesn’t have strong Non-Player Characters that the players want to talk to, then all you’re really doing is pointing out how much money the characters have and what the items are in the shop.

New Dungeon Masters often find this part of D&D a struggle because, apart from the odd teen montage, there isn’t a lot of TV or Film inspiration to go off. 

Buying and selling doesn’t have to be as dull as following a list. There are a couple of ways to bring the excitement which should fit into any campaign, and once you get the hang of these, you can adapt and grow more ideas as you play!

Buying Magical Items The 5e Way

Following Xanathar’s Guide To Everything on page 126, the official way to buy magical items is through a randomized chart. After rolling a persuasion check on the seller, the Dungeon Master then rolls a dice to see what items the players can buy. BORING!

This type of DMing is good for when your players move the game into an unexpected direction and are demanding shopping scene, but you usually will know how the game is going and when shopping is available. Randomized charts can give your players items they don’t care about and are entirely irrelevant to your campaign.

Instead, if you want to add magical items to your game, check your character’s level and roll on the Dungeon Master’s Guide hoard table on page 136. I know what you’re thinking: “didn’t you just say that randomized tables were boring and bad.” I did, and I stick to it! This table shouldn’t be used to blindly add to your campaign but to help you give a magical item that isn’t overpowered or underpowered. Use it as a guide and not as a “well, that’s what I rolled” answer.

Using this table, you can scroll through the book and see what items spark your interest. When you have a couple to note down, we can finally start creating this shopping adventure!

Making Each Town or City A Specialist

Depending on your campaign, magical items are a rare sight in the D&D world. This means that most shops will only have non-magical items.

To make shopping more of an adventure and less of a chore, make each town or city in your campaign a specialist in certain items; magical or non-magical.

Maybe the Wood Elves create the best bows, so they would pay a better price for a +1 Arrow as they understand it’s worth. Perhaps there is one city in the land that can create Potions of Healing, which means the players have to stock up before leaving. Suppose there is an amazing Artificer who will make you any magical item of your choice if you have the time and money for it. 

I personally like to make each location amazing at one type of manufacturing. In my latest campaign, the players all had bad Charisma stats, so when they visited a Halfling village, I made the community specializing in flowers. They had one magical item which was part of their heritage, the Perfume of Bewitching. They made this perfume with the flowers they grew and were the only ones in the lands who could sell it. The fragrance gave my characters advantage to Charisma checks, which they soon became hooked on. This meant coming back to the Halfling Village of Teatime (if you know the reference, well done) whenever they wanted to start a social encounter, allowing me to create an event in the community to spark an exciting adventure while they were there.

Spreading out shops like this forces your players to weigh up their money bags and decide which destination is worth the hassle. It also means they cannot waste their items without thinking about how hard it is to buy new ones. 

Creating An Interaction Without Explicitly Saying The Item’s Name

If you were hoping for more guidance while you are in the shop, then have no fear. I have an answer for that too!

Describe the item, show the characters what it can do, and then give the price. Basically, create a small cut scene. 

I’ve talked about this before in our Dungeons And Dragons Essentials Kit – Overall Review. Allowing your players to interact with the item will encourage them to roleplay and mess around with the adventure. 

In that example, I said to give the players a weapon and had them roll to hit and roll damage against practice targets. This makes the players the center focus of the scene instead of the items. Plus, we all love a good excuse to roll our dice.

When it comes to magical items, you can instead create a bit of mystery. For example:

The dwarf looks you up and down. With a huff, he mutters, “yeah, you might fit.” He walks down a small corridor without another word, ignoring the steel armor that hangs from the walls. Eventually, the smithy stops and looks up at a golden tinted plate of armor with thick boots and a helmet with only slots to see out of.

“Well, go on then.” He says.

At this point, you let your characters interact. When the character picks up the plate armor, make them do an Athletic Check. If they fail, the armor falls on top of them, the weight crushing them for 2 health points. If they succeed, describe how surprisingly heavy the item is. For example:

You go to lift the armor from its hooks, but it takes you a while to find a firm footing. The armor is clunky, with an odd weight distribution that you cannot balance. You manage to release it from the walls, and you carefully hold it in your arms. 

The weight alone makes you question how you would move in battle, but you put on the armor nonetheless. After 10 minutes, you finally tighten the last buckle and stand up strong. 

You go to move your foot but find your feet are firmly still on the floor.

The dwarf laughs at your attempt. “This is Dwarven Plate Armor. If someone uses magic to push you or move you against your will, this heavy tank will help you keep balance.”

At this point, you could have your other players roll attacks against the plated player. The plated player wouldn’t know if the attack hit or not, and you can announce if the +2 Armor Class bonus protected them.

Of course, this type of interaction takes up time, but sometimes a whole session dedicated to shopping is more interesting than whipping through it to get back to the action. This is the time when your players really get to roleplay and be silly without major consequences. A lighthearted session is often needed after a hardcore one, after all.

Selling Magical Items The 5e Way

Looking back at Xanathar’s Guide To Everything, page 133, the official way to sell magic items is through another Persuasion Check and a Percentile dice roll to see if anyone will buy it. Again this is too random for my taste.

How would my Halfling flower village know anything about Dwarven Armor, for example? If my party tried to sell the armor to the village, the Halflings would probably pay 50 gp maximum, enough to put a deposit on a mortgage. The armor is a very rare item, and so it is worth around 50,000 gp, so of course, my players shouldn’t accept that deal! And expecting the Halfling to have that much money doesn’t make sense either. 

This is why I would not use the table to sell a magical item unless the players have put you on the spot. If you have time, you should create an adventure instead! The adventure doesn’t have to be big. Just like before, it can just be a fun chance to play around.

However, using the Magical Item Sale Complications table on page 134 could lead to some interesting plot hooks…

Placing Plot Hooks for Special Buyers

Maybe your party found a +1 Longbow in an orc raid, but none of you are rangers and so don’t have a need for this item. They know that the Wood Elves would love an item like this and so would pay a great fee. The players tell this to you as the Dungeon Master, which means you have time to plan something interesting.

Maybe an orc survived their raid and is stalking them to get the bow back. Perhaps the Elves short-change the players and try to use the bow against them! Or suppose getting to the elves is the real problem. 

Summary

Before your players tell you that they want to buy or sell some items, have some plot hooks or magic item cutscenes ready at hand. You cannot predict everything your party does, so going with the flow might end up being your best option, but remember that everything is a storytelling moment, and every action is a chance to roleplay!

If you have any other suggestions to make buying and selling in Dungeons and Dragons fun, add them to our comment section! We would love to know what ideas you have!

Pricing Items 5e

This article is for Dungeon Masters who have to create a shop on the fly, and haven’t had time to make a note on each item’s price. 

We’ve all been there, when a player is desperate to sell a random item they found on their adventure so they can free up space in their backpack. They might even try to make a surprise offer to an NPC.

Rogue’s should know the ball-park price of any item, but that doesn’t mean the player does. 

Bookmark this page so when your players try to shift their item or buy one off a random NPC, you have some standard figures to offer.

Magic Item Pricing 5e

Pricing your magical items is easy. Each time should already be rated by it’s rarity, and you can find that information next to the item’s name. Once you know that, just follow this table:

RarityBasic Price
Common75 gp
Uncommon300 gp
Rare2,750 gp
Very Rare27,500 gp
Legendary125,000 gp

I used the Magic Item Base Price table on page 133 of Xanathar’s Guide to Everything and the Magic Item Rarity table on page 135 of Dungeon Master’s Guide to get these figures. 

Neither table gives you a standard basic pricing to whip out randomly, which is why I wanted to create an easy one-look table for you. Instead, the Magic Item Base Price table is for players who want to make a quest out of selling an item, and the Magic Item Rarity table gives you a range of prices to choose from. The range is a good way to know if you have lowered your price too much, or bought an item for more than it’s worth, but not for a quick price that you can refer back to.

Want to know how to make selling an item into a quest? Check out our page Turn Buying And Selling Into An Adventure 5e.

Non-Magic Item Base Pricing 5e

Surprisingly, non-magic items (also known as mundane items) are more difficult to price. It’s because almost anything can fall into the category of non-magic, from a tankard to a battleship.

Instead, you will need to think about five factors that go into making a non-magical item. These are the materials they are made out of, the usefulness of the item, the rarity of the item, the size of the item, and how long it took the creator to make this item.

These factors will help you edit a spellbook value from a classic history book and a notebook with detailed plans on killing a king.

Using the tables below, follow this equation to price your non-magic item quickly:

(Material Worth + Rarity + Size) x (Usefulness x Time to make)

What Is The Item Made Of?

An item made of wood will be cheaper than an item made of gold. But if your campaign is set in the gold mines of Eldorado, whose land is infertile, then wood might be worth so much more!

Knowing your campaign, follow this table to figure out the material’s worth:

MaterialPrice
Common (wood, cotton, paper, copper, etc.)1 gp
Uncommon (steel, silver, flowers, etc.)5 gp
Rare (gold, dragonscale, giant crocodile tooth, etc.)30 gp
Very Rare (platinum, dragon hide, etc.)200 gp
Legendary (Aboleth hide, Gem from a God, etc.)1,000 gp

How Rare Is The Item

Because we are using a different type of table, you shouldn’t use the rarity guideline for magic items above. Mundane items can still be hard to find (like a ruby necklace), so this needs to be factored into our equation. 

RarityValue
Common1
Uncommon2
Rare5
Very Rare10
Legendary20

What Size Is The Item

SizeValue
Tiny (thimble, dice, pins, ring, etc.)1
Small (fork, necklace, ring, map, etc.)2
Medium (chest, chair, painting, etc.)1
Large (wardrobe, door, cart, etc.)5
Huge (house, boat, etc.)10
Gigantic (town, castle, farm, etc.)20

How Useful Is the Item?

Battle enhancing items are super useful and tend to cost more, but beautiful art can also bring a high price tag. Items we use every day, like a knife and fork, are amazingly useful, but they are so expected that they are worth next to nothing.

Follow this table to gauge how to price the item’s usefulness:

UsefulnessValue
Everyday Item (fork, coin purse, plain clothes, etc.)0.3
Expected Item (Wardrobe, backpack, chest, etc.)0.5
Helpful items (hireling, wheelbarrow, tool kit, etc.)1
Weapon (sword, longbow, shield, etc.)2
Travel (horse, cart, boat, etc.)5
Beauty (necklace, ring, portrait, etc.)5
Fortify (drawbridge, Ballista, assassin, etc.)10

How Long Would It Take To Make This Item

We can be vague with how long it takes to make an item. We can assume that building a house might take a month, but crafting a basket might take an hour. 

I don’t want us to be smart with this answer either because this table is meant to be quick. It doesn’t matter how skilled the person is, if they take breaks, or how many people help them create this item. 

We are going to use generalizations to make this an easy equation.

Time to Make ItemValue
A Minute0.1
An Hour0.5
A Day1
A Week7
A Month28
A Year336

Example Items Using These Tables

In our first example, I compared a spellbook, a classic history book, and a notebook detailing how to kill the king.

(Material Worth x Rarity x Size) x (Usefulness x Time to make)

I’ll use the tables to figure out their worth quickly.

Blank Spellbook

(Paper 1gp + Common 1 + Small 1) x (Weapon 2 x Week 7) = ?

(1 + 1 + 1) x (2 x 7)

3 x 14 = 42

Using this equation, a blank spellbook is worth 42 gp. Usually, a blank spellbook could cost 50 gp. But this equation is meant to make creating values quick and easy. If the value of an item already exists, and you know it off the top of your head, then use that value. If not, this equation is a good back up.

Classic History Book

(Paper 1gp + Common 1 + Small 1) x (Expected Item 0.3 x Three Months 84) = 

(1 + 1 + 1) x (0.3 x 84)

3 x 25.2 = 75 gp 6sp

Notebook With Plans To Kill The King

(Paper 1gp + Very Rare 10 + Small 1) x (Weapon 2 x Three Months 84) 

(1 + 10 + 1) x (2 x 84)

11 x 168 = 1,848 gp

Your players might want to sell this information to the king, and seeing as it has a lot of interested parties in the margins, they could try and bump the price to 2,000 gp. Or the guards might suggest that the notebook is a fake and try to reduce the cost to 1,500 gp. 

As a Dungeon Master, either way, you have a guide price for this plot thickening item!

Bookmark this page so you can make up pricing at any time!

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