Author: Troy E. Taylor

About The Author

Troy E. Taylor

Troy's happiest when up to his elbows in plaster molds and craft paint, creating terrain and detailing minis for his home game. A career journalist and Werecabbages freelancer, he also claims mastery of his kettle grill, from which he serves up pizza to his wife and three children.


Troy’s Crock Pot: Putting your frog princes to work

One way to keep a party of adventurers on their toes is to present them with unappealing allies. These are non-player characters who, for one reason or another, have an aspect of their personality, demeanor or appearance that the PCs might be inclined to dismiss, keep at arm’s length or even despise. Just as PCs might be caught in the allure of a charismatic or a beguiling villain, they might find themselves rejecting help when it comes from someone they despise or pity. Beyond being a great storytelling technique, it is an interesting social experiment. Even within the confines...

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Troy’s Crock Pot: Floating Down the Lazy River

Ordinarily, you’d find me in the same camp as those who advocate that a well-run gaming session is one that is highly structured. And that a good GM is someone who is purposeful, putting to good use the time allotted to them. Keep up the energy. Maintain pacing. Provide direct interactions. For certain, there’s been an industry trend that emphasizes structured play, such as for conventions, organized leagues and scheduled streaming sessions, mostly to meet the demands of our time-crunched lives. So, what I’m about to suggest in this column runs counter to that perspective. No, I’m not abandoning...

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Troy’s Crock Pot: Holy Orders

  Raid dungeons. Slay monsters. Take the treasure. What about praying for deliverance? Seeking serenity? Finding oneness with nature? Players whose characters with a religious bent — priests, clerics, druids, avengers and such — need to feel their contribution to the game is more than serving as a healing machine or turning shambling undead. GMs should resolve to provide story beats that provide characters of faith a compelling reason to raid dungeons and accompany their fellows on their quests for wealth and magic. Relic hunting This might be the easiest to arrange — placing an artifact of importance to...

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Troy’s Crock Pot: Volo’s Guide, something to meow about

Since Volo’s Guide to Monsters arrived, I’ve been enjoying my exploration of this gaming supplement to the Dungeons and Dragons fifth edition of the rules. For DMs and players, it’s got lots of little treasures, bits of lore that can spruce up a monster encounter, a batch of player races, and of course, monsters. This is not a review, however. That would be deadly dull, and not in keeping with the spirit of the product. Volothamp Geddarm’s a not-so-acute observer, after all, and my thoughts ought to reflect a similar outlook. (Frankly, I trust Volo’s insights on feasthalls more...

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Troy’s Crock Pot: Frontier Campaign

A straightforward idea that GMs could employ as they embark on their first campaign is to present a series of adventures set on civilization’s frontier. In a frontier campaign, PCs are part of an effort to explore wilderness territory. They can confront the threat represented by monstrous races who roam unchecked, and the petty kingdoms set up by society’s outcasts. Initially, the PCs go as directed by a noble patron or governing authority, which provides incentives — such as the promise of lands, titles or riches — to adventurers. A frontier outpost or town serves as the PCs’ base of operations....

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Troy’s Crock Pot: Tinkering With the D&D Ranger

Regardless of the edition of Dungeons and Dragons, it seems that no class invites revision faster than the ranger. It’s seen variously as under-powered or overpowered; too much of this, too little of that; or in flavor and concept, failing to match up with someone’s idea of what the prototypical ranger is. Should the ranger be more like Aragorn, Calamity Jane, Drizzt, Sheena, William Tell, Van Helsing, Robin Hood or Atalanta? While we’re discussing literary and folklore archetypes, where did all those spells come from? Robin Goodfellow or Puck, I suppose. And speaking plainly, many GMs know from experience...

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Troy’s Crock Pot: Adversaries that play to PC Strengths

Like the good host of a banquet party, whose table fare is filled with a variety of tasty treats, a game master should be giving the PCs plenty to sink their teeth into. So in building encounters, pick adversaries with the strengths of the player characters in mind. Such encounters should still be challenging — no one enjoys a pushover. But when players get to use those abilities that are part of their characters’ specialities, you’ll see smiles break out on the faces gathered at your table. Muscle How do you feed the brawny hand-to-hand combatants, or at least,...

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Troy’s Crock Pot: Roll for Initiative

They are three magic words, as distinctive as the starter’s horn for sprinters and swimmers at the Olympic Games or the command to “Start your engines” at Indianapolis Motor Speedway. But for gamers, especially those who play Dungeons & Dragons, Pathfinder and other games in the d20 sphere, it carries the same significance. “Roll for initiative.”   I can still remember the first time I played using the Third Edition rules. It was a hot summer day, gathered around the dining table of Ken, who was serving as host and game master. I was playing Telfair Montague, a bard. (Go...

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Troy’s Crock Pot: Take it outside, kiddos

Ahhh, the great outdoors. It’s a great place to host a roleplaying game. A little camping, a little gaming, what’s not to love? The woods. The ticks. The blistering sunburn. The blood-sucking mosquitoes. The thieving raccoons. The dead humid air on a 90-degree day. Nothing like leaving the cozy confines of the proverbial parent’s basement and venturing into the sunlight. Or, if your players are less adventurous than the in-game characters they are portraying, then how about the backyard patio, the front porch, or a pavilion at the nearest park. (They say D&D’s founder, E. Gary Gygax, liked to...

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Troy’s Crock Pot: Tracking that Spotlight time

One way to ensure spotlight time for the players around your table is to write it into the adventure. This encounter favors a cleric, this one a rogue, this one a fighter, et cetera, et cetera. All well and good if the adventure is exploration, say of a dungeon, and as GM, you’ve devised encounters for certain areas. But what happens when the players take the adventure in a different direction and the GM has to resort to improvisation? How do you endeavor to provide spotlight time then? Tracking by quarter hour This little trick I picked up by...

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Troy’s Crock Pot: Inside the mind of a trapper

I had the occasion recently to spend the day at a Boy Scout winter encampment. This is where Scouts test out what they’ve learned in a fairly harsh environment. (Not hostile, mind you, just harsh, as in cold). There were activity stations set up across the state park, which the Scouts had to reach by sled. Then when they were there, they took part in whatever activity was designated. So, here the Scouts demonstrated stuff that would be Adventuring 101 to any group of player characters. They had to start a fire with flint and steel, hoist a pack...

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Troy’s Crock Pot: Publishing to DM’s Guild

January turned into a whirlwind for me shortly after Wizards of the Coast announced its partnership with One Book Shelf to launch the Dungeon Master’s Guild. And as quickly as I could manage, I had uploaded the DM’s Kit: On the Trail of Tyranny to the site. One Book Shelf, which you probably recognize from its flagship digital marketplaces DriveThruRPG and RPGNow, also manages the DMsGuild. DMsGuild is like those other stores, except the content must use the Fifth Edition rules of D&D, and if it includes setting material, be about the Forgotten Realms campaign setting. As it happens,...

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Troy’s Crock Pot: Four Ways to Keep the Mission in Mind

You had this adventure all figured out. Pacing was going to be important, you’ve got a cleverly crafted encounter area, and the players were even given a mission objective by their patron. Then one of the players decides their player character is going shopping. Well, if one PC is going shopping, they are all going shopping. And before you know it, the GM’s pacing plan is tossed out the window and you’ve become an NPC merchant haggling with a PC over the cost of some mundane magic item. And if one PC gets to haggle, well, soon all the...

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Troy’s Crock Pot: Making Realms Accessible Again

Not so far back, I wrote a fairly scathing critique of the Neverwinter entry in the Sword Coast Adventurer’s Guide. I stand by that. But I also think it fair to note that on the whole, D&D’s creators have been engaged in a long process to make the Forgotten Realms accessible again, to make it inviting to new players and to resonate with its established fan base. No single product or event has brought D&D to this point. Rather it has been a concerted effort to remove barriers of entry from the longstanding campaign setting. The Road Back “Sundering”...

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Troy’s Crock Pot: It’s all about that base

New GM. New players. First adventure exploring a dungeon is a success. But now the players are going to ask things like: Where’s the nearest town so my PC can cash in this loot? Where does my character come from? Where’s she live? Where do the PCs get information about the next adventure? Here is where the GM should anticipate that need by having a home base in mind. Now, there are plenty of published adventure sites the GM can use to provide a center of civilization in a world otherwise run amok with goblins, orcs and evil wizards....

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