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

Character Sheet: Dragonborn Barbarian AKA Myshon Elro

This character sheet design was born from a Dice Advent Calendar prize. On day one, I received this wonderful die and instantly saw the draconic writing style. Katie’s mind, however, went straight to The Hobbit

I would have compromised and said this die belonged to a Dragonborn Druid, but this is a 12 sided die (d12) and not a d8. My next thought was a Halfling with Draconic Bloodline Sorcery, but again they have d6s for hit die and not a d12.

That’s when I saw who this die belonged to. A Dragonborn Barbarian with the Hermit Background! She is an ancestral guardian of the forest that once belonged to Halflings. 

Backstory

Myshon Elro is a stern woman and a highly valued member of the Dragonborn Elro clan. Generations ago, the Elros went into hiding after being rejected from their mainlands. They left war and political rebellion behind in the hope of finding a quiet life.

In their travels, the Elros found a quiet and soulful group of Halflings. It took a while for the Dragonborn’s to adapt to their new cohabiting life, but the Halflings of Featherfall were a generous and understanding people.

Soon the Dragonborns developed a strong protective community around the Halflings, offering to travel the harsher lands to find game and bat away roaming monsters. The Halflings, in turn, taught their new friends about using the world around them with harmonious intentions.

Because of this unexpected collaboration, a new generation of people emerged. Some Halflings started to develop magical wonders of Draconic Bloodline Sorcery, while some Dragonborns connected to the spirits of the lands.

Myshon Elro was one of the first to develop this connection. 

The spirits have told her that something strange is happening in the lands. Curious and ready to defend her people before the problem becomes dangerous, Myshon has started to travel to new locations and follow her spiritual friend’s guidance.

Images created using Hero Forge.

Character Sheet

Below is the playable character sheet for Myshon Elro! If you want the sheet in PDF form, you can get it here. If you would like it on D&D Beyond, click here.

Character Sheet: Dwarven Rune Knight AKA “Raggron Stormbreaker”

The character inspiration for this character sheet was created from a single die in an Advent Calendar.

When I first saw this die, my mind instantly went to Dr. Strange, but Katie saw Dwarven hands in the creation of the sketchings.

However, Dr. Strange is a Wizard or Sorcerer character, and I couldn’t find an official subclass specializing in runes. If you know of something I’ve missed, put it in the comment section below!

The beautiful rune markings show signs of either an old language or a knowledgeable arcana. These elegant carvings cannot be ignored, so I’ve put the thought of Dr. Strange away for a moment to create a Dwarven Rune Knight

I know Fighters only have a 10-sided hit die, but how can I pick anything else for this rune-covered magic rock!

Backstory

Raggron Stormbreaker is from a clan of strong-willed wizards who practice the knowledge of runes. Raggron wasn’t smart enough to join in with the arcana classes but proved himself in wrestling matches.

Although Raggron is considered a good fighter, he has been consistently belittled for his lack of rune understanding. Frustrated, Raggron spent a decade secretly practicing arcana until one day, he was able to produce a single rune. 

Realizing his intelligence comes from active learning and not reading books, Raggron decided to leave his clan and travel the world, hoping to learn even more things on his trip.

Picture created using Hero Forge.

Character Sheet

You can bookmark this page to use the character sheet below, use the PDF here for the physical form, or you can use this online D&D Beyond sheet. All of which are playable Raggron Stormbreaker character sheets.

DND Christmas Advent Calendar Review

Slight turn of events, you’ve entered the Mirror Plane. Usually you’d be reading M’s posts about all things DND related, but for this post I’m taking over. Hi there, it’s K here.

It’s that time of the year again, the nights are drawing in and the heating’s on.

As I was browsing the DND gifts for M’s Christmas present I stumbled upon dice advent calendars, a very exciting prospect for a household of DND fans. For those of you unfamiliar with advent calendars, they are a holiday tradition here in the UK where each day of December on the lead up to Christmas Day you get to open a door of the calendar to reveal a treasure inside. These are usually filled with chocolate, but you can buy all kinds of advent calendars ranging from alcohol to socks and all things in between, including DND dice sets…

At first I was skeptical, they’re a lot of money when you’re not entirely sure on the quality of die. Being used to paying £3 (roughly $4) for a chocolate advent calendar from the grocery store, £34 (roughly $45) is a lot of money to spend on the unknown but that’s half the fun of it and who doesn’t love dice!

Thinking about it in terms of bang for your buck, you’d be getting 24 dice for £34 which is very reasonable and of course the anticipation and thrill of opening them one at a time on the lead up to Christmas.

After a bit of research I settled on this dice advent calendar – for any readers over the pond here’s the US version. The reviews were good and you end with a complete set of dice as well as other fun festive themed ones and a final metal die!

First off, the packaging is great – if you’re thinking about buying this as a gift it’s good quality. It arrived really quickly and with only a week until December you better get ordering! Of course, we haven’t opened up the windows yet! M will be revealing each window every day of December to continue this review – so stay tuned or if you want to join us in this adventure, buy the calendar here.

Come back on the 1st of December for the first reveal!


Happy 1st first of December everyone!

I was so ecstatic when Katie bought me this dice advent calendar! I’m not a big fan of chocolate (I can hear your gasp from here), but I love to join in with the December tradition.

With the box in my hand, I could hear the dice rattling around. This worried me. If the dice could move too much, then it might slip out of its container leaving some days with more dice and others without.

image of dnd calendar door

This morning, it was time to open up the first window, and as you can see, my nervousness was unwarranted!

The cardboard casing fits flush against the plastic container, which means that there isn’t any room for the die to go. A sign of good manufacturing and forethought!

The window even had a lovely message telling me to roll for hugs. How cute!

Today I received a lime green die with yellow numbers carved in a draconic or hobbit style. The straight lines and direct points reminded me of dragon literature, but Katie instantly saw the shire.

I would have compromised and said this die belonged to a Dragonborn Druid, but this is a 12 sided die (d12) and not a d8. My next thought was a Halfling with Draconic Bloodline Sorcery, but again they have d6s for hit die and not a d12.

That’s when I saw who this die belonged to. A Dragonborn Barbarian with the Hermit Background! She is an ancestral guardian of the forest that once belonged to Halflings. I can feel her backstory brewing!

Now, all that’s left is to see how many hit points this raging recluse has.

Oh I think she will do well.

Willow was certainly impressed.

Want to see her character sheet? – Click here! What do you see in the December 1st die?


Welcome to day two of our advent calendar journey!

Today, the door said there was “one banana left,” and we should “roll for initiative”…. I’m not a banana fan, so I’ll use the disengage action this time.

Today, we received a dark blue 12-sided die with strange bright orange runes.

My mind instantly went to Dr. Strange, and Katie saw Dwarven hands in the creation of the sketchings.

However, Dr. Strange is a Wizard or Sorcerer character, and I couldn’t find an official subclass specializing in runes. If you know of something I’ve missed, put it in the comment section below!

The beautiful rune markings show signs of either an old language or a knowledgeable arcana. These elegant carvings cannot be ignored, so I’ve put the thought of Dr. Strange away for a moment to create a Dwarven Rune Knight

I know Fighters only have a 10-sided hit die, but how can I pick anything else for this rune-covered magic rock!

Now it’s time to see how durable our Dwarvish Fighter is!

Another 10! This party is going to be super strong.

If you want to see the character sheet for our Dwarven Rune Knight friend, click here!


I’ve been snooping around Twitter, looking at other dice advent calendars, when I realized that other people who have the same calendar as us were receiving different dice!

I suspect that the manufacturers are using this fun game as a way to sell their least loved die, and I’m all for it. It’s an ingenious way to stop waste and keep up profits.

Still, these dice are anything but bottom shelf! I’ve been getting so much inspiration from these little math rocks, and I’m hoping the rest of the month continues in this muse-like fashion!

I opened up door number 3 to find a mosquito out for revenge! 

They advised to roll for a “Hand Attack,” but our cat Willow knew that her “Bite” move was much stronger.

This Tabaxi Barbaran takes orders from no one.

I was hoping to start building a set at this point, as other people using the same product were beginning to see a pattern brewing. Unfortunately, my wish didn’t come true today, but I’m not disappointed.

The die I received was a gorgeous red 8-sided die, with white borders and snowflakes flowing through the background.

If you roll over to where the number 8 should be, you’ll find an adorable little Santa hat!

This little festive charm is by far my favorite die yet! I’ll have to use it during my Christmas Session!

But who does this die belong to? Well, it has to be Father Christmas himself! But do you think he would be an Artificer, a Bard, or a Druid?

I’m sold on all three options, what do you think? Tell us in the comment section below!

But for now, let’s see how many hit points this jolly old fella has.

Oh no …… Well, he is getting old, after all.


It’s day four, and today’s die is a little … unexpected.

But I’m getting ahead of myself. We all know the first part of this review is the door opening.

Our first task this lovely Saturday morning was going shopping! Roll for Strength! I love the idea of mundane roles, so this had me chuckling.

But when I looked at the dice, I wasn’t sure what to make of it. What was it trying to be? Why was the number 10 symbol a wheel? What reference am I missing?

If you can see something I can’t, let me know in the comments!

It took a much longer time for me to think of something creative with this die, but I settled on an Air Genasi (because of the golden squiggles) and an artificer (because of the wheel). And with a d10, this character clearly uses a heavy crossbow!

Now to see how strong that crossbow can hit!

Wow, a 10! This Genasi has aim!


It’s day 5, and I’m really hoping to grow a set with today’s door.

These advent calendars are meant to have one whole Christmas set, and the rest are random. The red d4 with snowflakes and a Christmas hat has to be our set, right?

Fingers crossed for another!

Today’s door gave a wonderful premonition of a cute little puppy. 

Willow was nowhere to be seen. Sometimes, I think she can read…

The die isn’t part of any set yet, but it was intriguing.

More like “The Nightmare Before Christmas,” this holiday gift is dark and ashy with faint swirls of grey. If you shine a light on it, you’ll see a slight tint of green. The numbers seem ancient as the gold colors lean into a coppery hue.

The symbol in the middle is a broken and erratic circle.

I knew exactly what I was looking at when I pulled this intriguing item out of the calendar. This is a Warlock’s dagger that has been corrupted by a Blade Wade cantrip.  

However, Katie saw something slightly different. She saw a trivial attempt at a basic language. I didn’t agree, but it led me to think about the Kobold race. Kobolds are known to have tribal societies and worship Tiamats or Dragons.

This Kobold Warlock has taken The Great Old One Pact. Proven his worth in this tribe, an ancient dragon has given him the chance to explore the world. This dragon wants to grow strong again and needs a large feasting ceremony to achieve this. 

This player could end up being an accomplice to the Big Bad Evil Guy (BBEG)! 

Let’s see how strong we should make our Kobold friend.

A 3 … He shouldn’t be overlooked.

If you want to see this little trouble maker’s character sheet, click here.


December is a fantastic month, because even though it’s a Monday, I’m still excited to wake up and see my new die!

Day 6 has brought us an investigation check, as we open the door to find our cookies were stolen!

But wait, do you see the die? It’s the same pattern as day 3! 

Looks like we have a set forming!

The d8 of the set had an Elf’s hat to replace the 8, but the d20 has a seasonal bell. The image is wonderfully clear and a classic replica of the holiday image.

I should point out that once this door was opened, it would be easy to see most of the dice in the box. As the windows are deep to allow for the big size of the treats, just lying the box down reveals the top line of dice. 

I don’t want to spoil myself, so I haven’t looked too clearly, but as this is a review you need to be aware of this little fault. People who hate spoilers at all costs might be put off by this.

But back to the games! We want to use our investigation suggestion to see just how intelligent Santa really is. Let’s roll for his Intelligence stat….

Oh wow, this mythical man got a 20! I guess running a business for centuries will make you smart.


Although it’s fun to roll dice and makeup character creations, today’s door had me question the target audience of this advent calendar. As a review article, I want to make sure that prospective buyers know exactly what they are getting themselves in for before purchasing anything.

This entrance sounds like the advent calendar has talked about something really bad. Don’t worry; it hasn’t. But, if you were hoping to buy this for a very young child, you might have doubts.

It’s Day 7, and with the door open, I was told to roll for deception because Santa isn’t real.

Such a dramatic statement kind of ruined the Christmas magic for me this morning, but I could be a sensitive soul. Breaking the “fourth wall” like this might be off-putting to children or child-like minds like mine. However, others may find this a casual bit of fun.

Decide what’s best for the gift-ee, as you will know them best!

Now back to the fun bit. What dice are we getting today!

It looks like another red and snowflaked die for our growing collection, and this time as a d4!

I imagine that this d4 comes from a bardic inspiration of Christmas joy!

It seems like old St Nicholas didn’t like my comment about the door. Still, I’m happy to receive a bit of inspiration for the day!

It looks like another red and snowflaked die for our growing collection, and this time as a d4!

I imagine that this d4 comes from a bardic inspiration of Christmas joy!

It seems like old St Nicholas didn’t like my comment about the door. Still, I’m happy to receive a bit of inspiration for the day! 

Willow definitely seems excited!


It’s day 8 and today’s door has given us a magical clue.

This only adds to the evidence that Willow can read, and maybe she has some knowledge about magic …. Perhaps a True Polymorph spell was cast on her, leaving her smarter than everyone but without the ability to speak.

But back to the die! Today we are blessed with a black d6 with golden numbers encased by a golden dragon.

What a beauty! This is the perfect die to take on a dragon, or maybe this character has draconic blood.

A Dragonborn Draconic Bloodline Sorcerer who is the King of his people. With the biggest genetic connection to their magical ancestors, this leader will protect their lineage above all else.

Let’s see how many hit points this NPC has.


It’s day 9, and today we finally talk about the quality of the die.

So far in our article, the dice quality has been so standard that we could ignore weight or practicality and instead focus on the design. 

However, the more I looked at this die, the more the design confused me. Before I explain why let’s check out the door.

Today we are blessed with a shopping sequence, and if you know us, you’ll know we love to talk about shopping as an adventure

Willow was also interested in the prospect of haggling!

In the door, we found a black and mustard-colored d20 with ropes that tangled through the numbers. I initially thought the design was cute, but the more I looked, the more I got confused.

There were two 5s, two 6’s and more duplicate numbers. I made a closer inspection and realized I was wrong. Phew! However, the 1s in the 15, 16, 13, etc., were covered in the same pattern as the background, making it super hard to see.

If you don’t have great eyesight, or if you read super fast, this die might confuse you too.

Focused on the impractical quality of the design, the only backstory I could give this die was that it belonged to a sailor.

This sailor has to be good at Charisma if they can succeed in a haggle, so let’s see what their Charisma score would be.

Oh no….


We had to post today’s review late, as life got hectic and work needed to come first. But now that the weekend is here, we have time to do what we love again! 

It’s day 10, and I was so surprised by the die that I completely ignored the door for a second.

The die has the same design as our growing Christmas collection, but it is shaped like a d6 with curved edges. My dumb brain instantly thought that this must be a rare 3 sided die, but after close inspection, I realized it was a d4.

The curved edges stop the die from rolling on a non-numbered side which is ingenious! The design is also my favorite from the collection. There is falling snow, a Christmas tree, a snowman, and a snowflake! And none of these patterns don’t obscure the numbers. It’s magical!

Just look at how cleanly this die can roll!

The door today asked about reindeer names. Can you name them all?


On day 11, I was greeted with a beautiful message of joy and love. It might have been the most “Christmassy” message I had received so far! 

Inside there was a pale green d10 with boots carved around the numbers. I assumed this was another Christmas-themed die, but when I searched for the 10 number, I saw an animal wearing a hat!

Katie thinks it’s a bear, but I think it’s a cat … We have no idea what it’s referencing. Let us know in the comments if you have any ideas!

Either way, I’m seeing a Tabaxi Paladin vagabond who travels the land and helps those in his travels.

He has a rapier and fancy boots! You bet his name is “Puss”!

Check out our character sheet for him!

Rapiers are normally 1d8, but Puss has clearly had his modified. Let’s see how he wields his weapon!


We’re on day 12 of our festive calendar, and it’s telling me to eat cake! It doesn’t matter that it’s only 8 am, I’ve got to do as I’m told.

The d20 die today is translucent with red numbers, which gives the die a lovely pink hue. I instantly saw a bard from the Feywilds when looking at the colors and markings, but Katie saw blood.

With Critical Role’s Fearne in mind, I imagined a Satyr from the Feywilds. This Bard of Eloquence can talk riddles around anyone and delights in using words to cause pain.

Let’s see how high her Charisma Score is.

Oh wow, a 16! This character is one heck of a charmer. Want to see her whole character sheet? Click here!


Although the 13th day is unlucky for some, I found myself with a new die! My growing collection of Christmas dice must be complete soon, as today I received a d10!

The colors are a Christmas red with gentle snow falling in the faces of the die, while more snow settles around the edges. The number 10 has been replaced with a Christmas tree! It is honestly such a beautiful collection.

Looking at the door, I was told to “roll for driving,” and as someone without a license, it makes sense that this suggestion fell on the 13th.

Let’s see how well I can control the clutch!

Ah, a 6 is good for someone who has never taken the test! Maybe next year, I’ll join Santa on the slay.


It’s day 14, and I opened the door to find a day of choice.

Willow instantly saw her opportunity and bit the window. She didn’t need to be told twice!

Today, our die is a glittery light blue d6, with pinky-orange numbers and clear dwarven writing.

How could this die belong to anyone but a dwarf! But when I asked Katie what she saw, her mind went to wizardry. The swirling blue arcane magic painted through the resin was a clear sign of studied magic in her eyes.

I couldn’t agree more, and with a dwarven race, it makes sense for the school of magic to be Bladesinging.

Dwarves are a tuneful race, with an extensive history all collected and shared through music and the spoken word.

Singing the song of his people, this mighty warrior moves faster than his allies and can protect the other wizards of his clan.

Let’s see how many hit points this old fellow has.

A 4, that’s respectable.


Day 15’s die was the most surprising of them all.

First off the door told me to do some last-minute Christmas shopping, creating a lovely bit of panic in the morning. But the die instantly got my attention, to the point where shopping was off the cards.

The die is a deep black color with twilight twinkles of sparkling blue. The numbers are written in a flowing font with delicate little hoof prints walking along the sides, and their color is salmon pink. But most importantly, the 6 has been replaced with an outline of an animal.

The best shock of this morning came from holding a die of a llama, sitting like a bread loaf.

Look at that little thing!

Instantly, both Katie and I knew this die belonged to a Druid, but because of the dark swirling blues, I think it has to be a Circle of the Moon Druid. With the llama being such an important statement to this character, I think they would have an affinity to four-legged creatures. This is why I think this person’s race must be a Centaur.

Although magic is this character’s main weapon of choice, when she is pushed into a corner, it’s a spear that she pulls out.

Let’s see how good her aim is.

A llama-induced 6! Maybe this powerful woman takes a couple of classes in Fighter? Click here for her character sheet!


It’s day 16, and I’m starting to question the effort put into these advent calendar doors.

Today, I have been asked to search for a spoon… Why? I don’t know…I could have searched for a missing present or a slacking elf, but no, I shall look for a spoon.

Our die today is another one from our Christmas collection. It has the same classic red background with snowy borders and snowflakes dotted around the face.

The number 12 of this d12 has been replaced with its own snowflake for a bit of Christmas magic.

I can imagine Santa wielding a great ax. When he makes his precious wooden toys, he would cut down the trees himself!

So let’s see how strong his hand is!

An 8! Very nice!


Today is the 17th day of December. 

My door reminded me of how much sleep I had been missing out on, so I guess it’s time for me to roll for Exhaustion.

The die today has a sleepy design of a sky blue background and yellow numbers. Nothing special in its display, just a simple mellow pattern.

Maybe I should roll to see how Exhausted I am.

A three? Oh no, I’m not going to get any work done today…..


It’s day 18!

Today it looks like I’m are cooking Christmas dinner, but I’ve forgotten an ingredient.

Luckily the advent calendar gave me another die for our Christmas dice set! It’s one-half of a percentile die, with the 100 number replaced with a festive tree.

Let’s see how close our improvised ingredient is, compared to the original recipe.

Oh … 10% …. Well, I never said I was a chef! Ha.


On day 19, I received a strange die! So far, the numbers have either been clearly elven or dwarven, but this time the distinct font isn’t magical.

I’m getting ahead of myself! First, we should look at the door. Apparently, it’s time for us to clean the windows. But in the dead of winter, I don’t think it matters how shiny the glass is.

The die is way more interesting than the door. It’s a 6 sided die, with 90s style computer numbers and mechanical tools around the side.

This die clearly belongs to a Warforged creature.

The color seems a little harder to pinpoint. The background is a foggy white, while the numbers and decorations are a forest green. These seem unusual for a robotic creature. 

The green color makes me think of druids, and the foggy background could almost be spores.

The pieces are coming together. I think this Warforged creature was built to heal the earth. As part of the Circle of Spores, this person doesn’t see the problem with life and death, as it’s a natural part of the ever-changing world. Ironic, seeing as they will not die from natural causes themselves. 

They walk through the world, making sure this natural balance continues, searching for places of unresting dead or infertile land, and putting them back into the natural cycle.

If you get in this Warforged’s path, they will not hesitate to bring you to the ground. Let’s see how strong their Symbiotic Entity is as they deal an extra 1d6 necromancy damage to their melee weapon attack.

A 6. Wow, this robot isn’t playing around…

Click here, if you want to see the character sheet for this Warforged Druid.


It’s day 20, and there are only 4 dice left to go!

Today, I was asked to dress up like Santa, and roll for performance. 

The die behind today’s door was a sandy d20, or so I thought. The more I looked at this die, the more details I saw. The 13 points on the d20 sides were actually tiny skulls, and the sandy texture shows signs of buried bone.

This is a die belonging to a collector of the dead, that was clear.

Instantly, I saw two parts to this design. The sandy nature of a natural creature and, of course, a necromancer.

When it comes to race, I jumped to a Lizardfolk person. A classic trait of Lizardfolk is their ability to turn bones into shields and javelins. They use every part of a creature in their cold and calculating survival instincts. 

Stereotypically, Lizardfolk aren’t the smartest race. They normally make great barbarians and rangers but aren’t found in the scholarly rooms of a wizard’s tower. However, there are always exceptions….

This Lizardfolk man has found a way to connect to the spirits which linger in bones. Through natural curiosity, he places the bones in a pattern of his choice, and sometimes ancient magic is released because of it.

No one taught this man how to use the forces of spirits, and he could not explain to you how he makes it happen, but his instinctual knowledge around bones and their owners allows him to raise the dead.

Let’s see how smart our necromancer is.

Ah, well, that tracks. This character sheet will be perfect for a roleplayer!


Day 21, and we have managed to complete our Christmas Dice Collection!

This last d6 has been beautifully crafted, with a red background and a fluffy snow outline. Snowflakes fall on each face of the die, and replacing the number 6 is a present!

And it rolls like a dream!

But today, the calendar proved to me again that it shouldn’t be given to kids. 

I’ve been asked to roll for seduction. Not to flirt or to say “hi” to my crush, but to seduce.

“Seduction” is a very sensual and sexual word that doesn’t fit in with child-like romances. This is the final nail for me now, and I can safely say that this calendar should not be given to any kid under the age of 16.

Tell me your thoughts in the comment section below.


It’s day 22, and although it’s not the Night(mare) Before Christmas, I’m starting to get a Halloween vibe.

Today, the door said to resist Grandma’s food, but ‘tis the season to get podgy after all! You guys better be enjoying my puns and bad jokes because they won’t stop coming.

Back to the Halloween vibe from our Christmas die! 

Today’s die was as far away from snowy as can be. The black background of this d8 was packed with orange decorations. Bats, faces, ghosts, and ghouls. 

The number 8 was replaced with a large pumpkin grinning from side to side. 

Because this die is so far removed from Christmas, I have to name it Jack Skellington. But what kind of person is Jack?

Because Jack can shift through the world of celebrations, I think he has to be a Changeling. But as he has brought Halloween into the time of Christmas, he has to be an Oathbreaker Paladin

No longer content with scaring children and brewing nightmares, Jack Skellington tries to bring joy into the world. But, his scary persona and intimidating presence haven’t quite translated into this new role yet. 

Jack’s whole mission is to truly be a Jolly Good Fellow!

However, in battle, Jack cannot help but use his natural deadly instinct. When using Bestow Curse, let’s see how strong his additional necromancy damage is.

Ah, it seems as though Jack has got some self-control after all. It’s a Christmas Miracle!


It’s day 23 of our Dice Advent Calendar review, and after this update, there will only be one left!

I’m going to be a little sad when the 25th comes. Oh, who am I kidding? It will be Christmas!

The door today asked me to Roll for Batman. It’s clear that at this point, the creators had lost their Christmas spirit.

But the real reason for this calendar has always been about the dice. So let’s see what we received today.

Behind door number 23 is a brown d10 with yellow carvings. At first, I thought I saw a picture of the world in the carving. Next, I thought I saw “Keep Clear” signs around the top.

But once Katie looked at this die, she explained I was looking at the inside of a lock! 

Above every number is a small keyhole, and around every center is a clockwork mechanism that keeps the lock secure.

Of course, this die must belong to a Rogue! But what type of Rogue would know this much about the mechanics behind their lock picking methods?

That’s when it all clicked into place. A Gnome Rogue!

Gnomes have a natural knack for tinkering, which explains their intellectual ability to unpick a door.

A Rogue only has d8s for hit points, but let’s allow this little Gnome a Christmas boost.

Oh, it seems like there isn’t any Christmas Cheer around this tinkerer. Is anyone else picturing Chutney?


It’s Christmas Eve, which means our wonderful calendar is giving us its final gift.

I knew this last die would be a metal one because that’s what the back of the packet said. But I still had no idea what to expect.

I opened the door as normal to find a stealth mission. We can see precisely how Santa’s magic works as long as we pass this test.

Before we get rolling, let’s see what type of character is leering on Father Christmas.

Today’s die is very similar to yesterday’s. It has exactly the same markings, depicting the inside of a lock. But this time, the colors are different.

The background is a Christmas red, while the border and images are exposed metal.

The red colors and metal outline give me a whole different vibe from yesterday’s yellow and brown.

Today, I see the body of a Warforged creature whose insides are covered in blood. Blood fuels this killing machine and powers it into a Rage.

This die belongs to a Warforged Barbarian

Usually, you’d roll 1d20 for a stealth check, but seeing as it’s Christmas, we will roll our new 1d10 and double the answer.

Let’s see how quiet this robot is.

A 5… so a 10. This middle-of-the-road sneaker still needs some practice to get past Santa.

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! 

Setting Up Phandalin For Your First Session – Dragon of Icespire Peak

The advice we are about to give you is mostly aimed at new Dungeon Masters, but anyone can gain some inspiration and guidance from our suggestions for preparing phandalin. 

Before you do anything, you need to have read pages 8 to 11 of the Dragon of Icespire Peak module, at least. If you have read the whole thing, that would be better. You can then flick back through the pages as a reference.

The story of Dragon of Icespire Peak starts in Phandalin, a small town in Neverwinter. On page 7 of the adventure, you are bombarded with facts about this town which all come down to nothing. It’s essentially history to a story from centuries ago, and if you aren’t aware of Neverwinter’s past, then it’s all pointless.

Today, we plan on helping you navigate through some of the wasted text, and help you create a real beginning to your first session.

Know Your Players’ Characters

As a Dungeon Master (DM), you have to know the world you have created, your Non Player Characters (NPCs), and your Players’ Characters (PCs). 

Knowing the PCs doesn’t mean understanding their thought process inside and out, but instead understanding what might drive them and why they are in Phandalin. These questions will help you create a beginning for the players to get their teeth into.

For example, one of your players could be a bard who simply wants to earn money and travel the lands. Maybe you also have a wizard who uses their magic to create fun tricks.

It would make sense for these two characters to start their journey in the local tavern of Stonehill Inn. There you could describe the empty pub with a happy owner who is joyous to finally have guests. Maybe the bard is playing the lute, and the wizard is creating dancing lights to cast a humanoid image to sway with.  The bard and the wizard then role performance checks to see who the owner likes the most. 

This would then be the first roll of the game. By knowing your PCs you will have written an introduction that takes them into a likely place that feels comfortable for the characters, and let them have a friendly interaction to set off their role playing.

If you have multiple PCs or maybe some that don’t mesh well on paper, then you can plan a mini confrontation. For example, a rogue could be scouting Barthens Provisions for some wine, you describe the low stocked store, and ask the rogue PC if they would like to steal from the poor NPC.

After the decision is made, the PC then either rolls sleight of hand or walks away. Regardless, the Paladin PC notices the interaction from afar. You can then ask the Paladin how they want to react to the scene they just witnessed.

With each decision, you are giving the PCs unexpected agency and allowing each person to enter the story as it best fits their character. Think about the PCS your players’ have created and what would make the best introductory encounter for them. Not only does this allow the players to see the town without starting a 10-minute speech, it also puts the PCs at the center of the session.

If you need help building a character for Dragon of Icespire Peak, then click here for our Player Character suggestions!

Making Notes and Structuring your Sessions

As we said in our article “Starting your Preparations,” you need to have a skeleton structure for the session.

Unlike the other pages in the module, there is no guide to tell you how to begin. So using your knowledge of the players, figure out why the character might have wandered into this sleepy town and where they might have headed.

As this beginning section will be very loose, you may need to make notes about every building in the town. We don’t mean every house and NPC living in it, but instead, you should make a note about what the Shrine looks like, what items you could find in the Armory, and so forth. 

Before coming to this stage, you should already have ruled out some of the NPCs and buildings you don’t care about. For example, we suggest ignoring the Miners Exchange and instead have a shifty-looking NPC in their place. This person will find a buyer for any strange items the PCs want to sell and will find any information they want, for a price.

Whatever you decide to do, make a description for every important building in the town and give these buildings a way for the players to interact with them. The module suggests rolling a D6 to determine a conversion, but we will discuss why a pre-made topic might be better next.

Plan Your Non-Player Characters

So you know how your Players’ Characters will enter into this campaign, and you know what buildings are made available to them. Next, you need to create your Non-Player Characters.

Looking at the module, pick out information that seems interesting to you, and chuck out all the rest. Add the NPC to the information on their connected buildings, so they become easy to find. Then flesh out the NPC until you feel as though you know them. Lastly, summarize the NPC into a couple of bullet points, so their stand-out features are easy to spot for quick reference.

On page 8 of the module, we learn that the owner of the Stonehill Inn is Toblen Stonehill. He tried to be a miner but did better as an innkeeper. You can use this information to envision a large human man with a sensitive heart. 

In my previous example, I said that the owner was joyful to finally receive guests in his inn. When the players finally find this NPC, he could bond with them instantly because of their patronage. It won’t take long for Toblen to express his worry about his friends in the Dwarven Excavation site. 

“A dragon is rumored to fly around this side of Neverwinter Wood. Since the rumors began, fewer people have come to stay in the town. This doesn’t mean it’s true, of course, but I doubt any have told Dazlyn and Norbus, my old friends at the mine. If I pay you 50gp, will you spread a word of danger to them?” 

If pressed, Toblen can explain that he left them for a quiet life and worries his old friends hate him because of the abandonment, and that’s why he won’t go himself.

Again this is just an example, but if you can create your own backstory for the NPCs, one that fits into your story and doesn’t stray away from the main plot, then you can make their plea more realistic and engaging for the PCs. The players are more likely to bond with your NPCs once they have had a connection to them.

The Paladin and Rogue from before would not care about this quest I have just set up, but the Bard and Wizard might feel a warmth towards Toblen after he cheered on their show.

You can always adlib a conversation to create a bond between the NPCs and the PCs, but to do that well, you need to know what makes the NPCs special.

Set Up The First Three Quests

We have kind of already touched on this with my example of Toblen’s conversation about his miner friends.

In the module, on page 10, you’ll notice that Phandalin has a quest board where the spooked mayor puts jobs up for budding adventurers.

This can be a great way to structure your game as the PCs will know that they can find the quests in one simple place. However, quest boards can sometimes feel like a checklist. If you want your players to feel like part of the world, they need to interact with it. 

The method I set up before connects the problems to the town. The Dwarfs in the mines being friends with Toblen gives them a sense of immediacy and allows the players to have a real reason to help. 

With the Umbrage Hill quest (which asks the PCs to return the healer to the town of Phandalin), you could have her be an ex-partner of an NPC in Phandalin. Maybe Linene the Smith is worried about Ababra’s safety, as she is living all alone. But Linene cannot ask her to come back home due to their quarrel. Again we have a human connection to link the healer to Phandalin and a dash of a love story to give the town some history. 

If you are worried that your players will never find the quest if left to their own devices, you can make the quest come to them. Maybe Linene is drinking in the tavern, and Toblen tells the PCs that she only does this when she’s anxious. Here the players have a story-like beginning to a new quest without feeling railroaded.

In my opinion, the Gnomengard quest should come after the first two. Maybe a letter arrived at the Inn where the adventurers are staying, asking them to visit the Mayor in his home. At this point, Harbin Wester (the mayor) has seen how the party is taking on scary jobs and so wants to hire them. He lets them into his manor house, locks the doors up, and keeps the room in dim light. Those with darkvision can see that his home is a tip, and his hair is out of control. This is a man in despair. 

Harbin then asks the players to go to Gnomenguard to find an item to help fight against the dragon. 

At this point, the dragon will have been mentioned to the players twice, and they are aware that everyone is mildly scared. This allows them to slowly take in the short history of the town, and at the same time, the players will begin to develop a growing worry about the dragon.

Of course, these are all suggestions, and you might have found your own ideas in the module. Either way, writing up these interactions to introduce the quests will make them more realistic and exciting to the players. As Cryovain, the dragon, will not be around for a while, we need to show the NPCs growing worried.

Set Up Cryovain’s Terror

All of these quests only touch on the problems that Cryovain gives. In “Starting your Preparations,” I discuss making a mini-story for every place Cryovain visits, under “Utilize The Dragon, Cryovain.” That way, when the Players reach this location, they can see how Cryovain has affected the area. 

When you are just starting up the campaign, you don’t need to add too much emphasis on the dragon. A mild worry is all they need to progress the story at this point. However, as the game goes on, Cryovain’s power needs to be increasingly realized. 

If it has been a couple of sessions between the mention of the dragon, you could add in an NPC who comes from one of the attacked locations and have them flee to Phandalin. They might not ask for help, like a quest, but instead, you can describe their wounds and worries.

The only problem with this idea is that the PCs might see it as a plot hook and will try to visit the area too early for their level (and your preparations). If that sounds like your party, you could instead describe the dragon flying in the distance and a ray of white pulsing from its mouth. The closer Cryovain is, the more obvious this ray is ice.

Either way, you should always keep the looming threat of Cryovain in the back of your mind. For the first session, however, these mild worries are enough to push forward a quest. 

Plug The Later Quests

Lastly, your sessions should contain plugs for later quests. Don’t set them up like we did with Toblen or Linene, but instead, you could have a carriage set up near the back of Barthen’s Provisions as foreshadowing for the Loggers Camp quest, or maybe the shopkeep could sell Butterskull butter from Butterskull Ranch.

Little things like this dotted around will create a “Eureka” moment when the players make the connections, making the quests seem like a real part of an ever-moving world.

Summary

Woah, take a breath. All of this might sound overwhelming. I have just given you a lot of information, and I wouldn’t be surprised if you reached the summary portion a little dazed. So let’s wrap it all up in an easy bow to help you navigate the module as well as your own thoughts.

When you are creating Phandalin and beginning to write up your first session, you should think about these 7 points:

  1. Read the Module. You want to read pages 8 – 11 in Dragon of Icespire Peak. They tell you the buildings in Phandalin, the NPCs, as well as the quests.
  2. Ask The Players About Their PCs. You need to figure out how to place the PCs into this world. What are they interested in? This information can help you build the NPCs, as you will know what will get the best reaction from the players.
  3. Build the Town. Using the module as a guide, remove information that seems pointless to you, and write a new script that makes sense to your visualization of the world. Include descriptions you can read out loud.
  4. Build the NPCs. You know what the players will be interested in and what parts of the town you want to keep. You have created a description for all the buildings, so now add the NPCs. It doesn’t need to be deep, but their thoughts should reflect the world they are living in. Think about the threat of Cryovain and quest plots that could be on their mind.
  5. Get the First Three Quests Prepared. Using the quest board or a storybook approach, find a way to give the players a quest. If you only want to have one prepared at a time, then limit them to one at a time. You’re the DM, after all.
  6. Remember Cryovain. Add in drops of evidence that Cryovain exists. The players might not be facing him yet, but they need to know his power.
  7. Lay Breadcrumbs for Later Quests. You don’t have to do this for every quest or even in every session. But if you can see a clear connection between one NPC and a later quest, then sprinkle in some information for the players to connect to later.

Once you’ve done all of this hard work, you won’t need to mess with Phandalin’s structure again, as it won’t change too much after that. This initial setup will take the longest, but once it is done, you can refer back to the buildings and people at any time. They will be premade, ready for whatever the players throw at you.

Next, you need to set up the Dwarven Excavation Quest, Umbrage Hill Quest, and Gnomengarde Quest. We have guidance to help you with these preparations too. I suggest you have at least the Dwarven Excavation Quest written and ready before you begin the campaign. 

Now pat yourself on the back! You have completed the first session of Dragon of Icespire Peak. Here everyone can introduce their character, start to navigate Phandalin, and learn about the adventure they are about to embark on. 

How to Prepare Umbrage Hill Quest – Dragon of Icespire Peak

Umbrage Hill is a simple quest, which allows your players to choose between combat and conversation. 

If you or your players are new to Dungeons and Dragons, you might expect to fight your way out of every situation. That’s because the typical answer to most fantasy games is to kill your enemy; D&D is different. Umbrage Hill is the perfect example of how combat could be halted if the players use their knowledge or skills wisely.  

Connecting The Quest To The Players And Phandalin

The campaign suggests using a quest board to hand out adventures. In our article “Setting Up Phandalin,” we said that although this process is an easy method, it can feel a little boring. Instead, we suggested making the campaign feel more personal to the players; that way, they have a genuine reason to help out the town and not leave them to their own devices.

The original quest asked the players to find Adabra Gwynn and bring her back to Phandalin, where she would be safe (page 10 of the adventure book).

However, I felt that this type of request should come from a lover, “Come back and be safe.” But then why wouldn’t the lover find their partner themselves? Ah, maybe an ex-lover.

In “Setting Up Phandalin,” I suggested that maybe Linene the Smith is worried about Ababra’s safety, as she lives alone. But Linene cannot ask her to come back home due to their quarrel. This gives the players a human connection to link the healer to Phandalin. It also drops with a dash of a love story to provide the town with some history. 

If the players don’t naturally arrive at the Lionshield Coster (page 9), you can make the quest come to them. Maybe Linene is drinking in the tavern, and Toblen tells the PCs (player characters) that she only does this when she’s anxious. Here the players have a story-like beginning to a new quest without feeling railroaded.

Developing this story-like entrance just means adding a “cut screen” moment before the players enter the Lionshielf Coster or as they enter the Tavern.

For example:

You walk into the Tavern and see Toblin cleaning down some tables. Sitting in the shadows is a stocky-looking woman. With one hand cradling her head and the other hugging her ale, you can sense a sadness surrounding her.

If the players go over, you can add in some dialogue for the PCs to bounce off of.

“Toblin said you helped him, so I hoped you could help me too” Linene tries to focus on you, but you notice her eyes are dropping a little. “Ababra doesn’t know about that Dragon flying around. She’s all alone and too stubborn to listen to me. I need her to come back. To be safe, I mean….” A slight redness colors her cheeks. “Look, if I give you 25gp, will you bring her back here, so she’s safe? Just don’t tell her I sent you.”

The players could then dive deeper into this star-crossed lover storyline, or they could accept this drunkard’s money and run. Either way, the quest is theirs now, and the history of this village is developing.

What To Expect At Umbrage Hill

The map to Umbrage Hill is small. The makers have tried to add history to the land, but as I said with my “Dwarven Excavation” guide, these historical additions are fun but unnecessary. And to new DMs (Dungeon Masters), it will just add confusion.

The unnecessary history in Umbrage Hill is the lost feud of dwarven clans. At the top of the hill, you’ll notice rocks that are acting as tombstones from this long-forgotten battle. And under U.2, you’ll see a stone house fallen to ruins. These shapes will make excellent hiding spots and cover advantages if a battle commences, but other than that, you don’t need to add a ton of history or story to them.

If any players ask, you can say that Cryovain knocked down the stone walls, putting the dragon straight into the story, or that Ababra built around an old and forgotten building.

Arriving at Umbrage Hill

When you arrive at the quest destination, you’re meant to find a Manticore clawing at the windmill’s front door as a woman leans out the window, asking for your help.

The quest tells the DM that if the players try to talk to the Manticore, give him 25 gp in treasure, or offer him meat, the monster will fly away. But the entrance doesn’t suggest to the players that this is an option. 

So I suggest changing it up a bit. 

After a couple hours of walking, you notice a small windmill in the distance. Its blades slowly move in the wind as it sits atop a grassy hill. A wooden fence hugs the landscape around the building.

As the blades move, you notice something large between the wooden material and the wall.

You get closer still and start to see the figure’s shape. A large body of a lion, but with the wings of a dragon. Its main has spikes as long as your arm, and they trail down to the beast’s tail.

You are close enough, now, to hear the faint scratch of claw on wood.

“Don’t be scared, human. I’m only hungry.” The deep voice of the creature travels through the wind, and its steady tone holds a hint of sadistic intent.

The window on the second door flies open. “You there! Help me!” You see a young human woman waving a cloth in your direction. 

The beast hears her too and moves away from the door. In the light, you see its skinny frame with its bones visible through its skin.

It doesn’t speak, but you notice its expression holds a hint of apprehension. 

What do you do?

This intro is much longer than the suggested piece, but here the players can see the creature is hungry, ready to kill, but obviously malnourished. They also learn that the Manticore can speak. This opens up the encounter to the players, allowing them to think about the possible ways that they could help Ababra and maybe even the Manticore.

Just adding a little bit of detail will give your players ideas of how to go forward. I suggest playing the Manticore as scared but willing to fight. At this point, it is outnumbered and will want to live another day, use that to create this monster’s story.

The stats for the Manticore can be found on page 60 of the adventure book or page 213 of the Monster Manual.

Ababra’s Choice To Stay

The adventure book suggests that Ababra would rather stay at her windmill and brace the troubles that Cryovain will bring. She will even offer a written note as proof of the conversation. 

This is another fantastic way for the players to get involved with roleplay and social interaction. Will they try to trick her into coming back, persuade her by breaking their promise to Linene and explaining she is worried about her, or would they respect her decision?

There are so many things that the players could do, all of which could have a butterfly effect throughout the game.

For example, if they persuade Ababra to go back to Phandalin, maybe she will set up a herbal shop in town, allowing the players to receive potions more easily. Or if she stays, perhaps Cryovain could visit the windmill too, while the players are elsewhere, causing a new “damsel in distress” quest to appear.

Make a note of how your players deal with this situation and adapt the campaign to fit the changes.

Letting The Manticore Live

If the PCs decide to let the Manticore live, the adventure book suggests that he comes back every now and then to get more food or treasure from Ababra. 

We can be a little more creative than that. Maybe the Manticore comes back and settles near Ababra, creating an unlikely alliance between humans and monsters. Or perhaps the players notice their new friend dead on the road in the lead up to Cryovain’s big fight. This character could have been popping up every now and then for fun moments in the story, and just when everything is going too well, the players see a frostbite wound on their friend’s leg. Cryovain was clearly the culprit.

Depending on how the interaction went, make a note of how the Manticore will feel about these adventures, then create an extra storyline that could pop up later in the campaign. These moments can create amazing connections for the players later on, so have fun with the domino effect taking place.

Treasure

The only official treasure mentioned in this quest is a handful of Potions of Healing. These are super valuable items, but it doesn’t make sense to only have three in the whole campaign.

Depending on how the story goes, it would make sense for Ababra to make friends with the PCs after this quest. It also makes sense for her to make these potions for a living. I suggest that every time a quest has been completed, Ababra will have finished brewing one potion. She can then sell the positions for 25gp (a discounted price for saving her). This keeps the game from becoming too easy while also helping your players through tough spots. 

Learning The NPCs

As there are only two Non-Player Characters in this quest, it shouldn’t be hard to understand their motives. 

Ababra Gwynn

Depending on why the players have come to Umbrage Hill, you should develop Ababra’s backstory based on the information you have already given out.

With my suggestion, Ababra and Linene were ex-lovers who fell out, causing Ababra to start a new life in Umbrage Hill. So the question is, why did they fall out, and is the relationship mendable? 

For my players, I gave them all a love triangle and said that Halia from the Miner Exchange successfully seduced Ababra as a ruse to get her herbal shop and take over the small town’s real estate. Linene found out and dumped her true love, while Ababra ran away in shame.

The players persuaded Ababra to return to Phandalin, where Linene and Ababra mended their trust. 

Whatever stories you have already started, try to build a backstory for them, so you can answer any questions your players throw at you. Then try to reply as the NPC would. 

The adventuring book suggests that Ababra has commoner stats, but we can play around with the flavor of her weapon. If for some reason, Ababra joins in the battle, you could turn her “club” into a chair. If the Manticore makes it into the windmill, she could pick up the chair and try to smash it over his head.

Just replace the storytelling aspect while keeping the club’s stats.

Manticore

The Manticore has moved from his lands in the rocky mountains to a landscape filled with trees. His wings are not as useful in such an area, which should tell any intelligent character that something is wrong.

The adventure book suggests that the Manticore is trying to find food and a new home since Cryovain the dragon displaced him. In all honesty, his backstory doesn’t need to be much bigger than that.

It reminds the players about Cryovain and shows how the dragon needs to be stopped, as the ecosystem cannot handle the new threat.

Remember the Manicore’s stats too. He is at his most powerful when using the multi-attack, but because the creature can fly and has a ranged tail spike attack, it makes sense for the beast to fly up to the top of the windmill and fire his missiles when no one can catch him.

If you do use the tail spike, however, you need to count how many spikes get used up, as the Manticore can only grow so many in a day.

Remembering Cryovain

Although Cryovain is only the catalyst to this quest, we cannot forget that without him, the Manticore would not have attacked our lovely herbalist. Dripping the details of the dragon into the storyline will remind the players who the real enemy is. You only need to mention him once or twice for the players to pick up on this worry.

Summary

Umbrage Hill is a wonderful quest for first-time players and first-time DMs. You only have two NPCs to worry about, both of which can have detailed storylines that you can easily follow without getting confused.

The quest itself can be completed by the player’s choices. If they are a group that loves to battle, then the fight will be epic. If they are a group that wants to be diplomatic, then they can talk to this magical beast. Most importantly, the players will have complete control over how this quest plays out, and it will give the DM a lot of options for the future of the campaign.

My advice is to make notes throughout the session, so you can pick up on anything the NPCs might do in the session or in the future.

And remember, have fun!

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