25 Takes on Record of Lodoss War for DMs

Due to fanboying on Twitter about Sousou no Frieren, and proclaiming it to be quite possibly the best anime I've ever seen, I was asked if I'd ever watched Record of Lodoss War. I had not. So I remedied that. Since it's directly based on a "replay" of a Dungeons and Dragons game from 1986 it was incredibly inspirational (and beautifully animated). I came away feeling that Frieren is better, but it was marvelous regardless.

Here are my 25 takes on Record of Lodoss War for Dungeon Masters and game/adventure designers.

1. Cleric players should have books of actual prayers for each of their spells, based on their god. Short little couplets. Nothing longer than 5 or 6 lines at high level.

2. More callouts should be made to let players know their characters are sweaty and uncomfortable.


3. Make note of how PC squabbles and arguments can be heard echoing around and through the dungeon.


4. I don't like when the party splits up (because almost every time it's ever happened in one of my games it's felt like the splitter is trying to get more spotlight time for themselves), BUT traps that separate the party are very nice and I should use them more often.


5. Weapons should get stuck in monsters more often.


6. When the big monster gets incredibly wounded, and you're not there specifically to kill it, run.


7. Giving some monsters different colored blood is a good move on lots of levels. Especially if it's going to be a common enemy (e.g., orcs/goblins).

8. Killing a goblin to save a girl causes a problem for the whole village because it causes the goblins to seek revenge. A mob forms. The headman is thankful even though it was his rule the PCs broke, but everyone is scared and he may lose control because the fear is justified.


9. Glowing red eyes is a fantastic way to show a spell effect, and to show that the goblins are angry and on the warpath. Makes it real easy to see that there's more going on that meets the eye. It gives you your immediate combat threat and signals there's a mystery to look into afterward.


10. A massacre of a village is 1000% more brutal when it's the unintended consequences of the player's choices. The risk needs to be communicated before hand (villager mobs are an excellent way to do this). Also, it's always better to have the massacre happen AFTER the PCs have seen the village in a normal state. Don't be like the Diablo 3 and 4 developers where the massacre always occurs "right before" the players arrived. Doing that signals that player choices don't matter and all massacres are scripted, so it's easy for the party to quickly stop caring when they roll into yet another town they couldn't save. Make 'em feel it.


11. Adventurers are higher in the food chain than goblins. But never forget (and frequently remind players) that goblins are higher on the food chain than level 0 NPC villagers.


12. More cities, especially big, fortified ones, need to take a "fuck off, we're closed" attitude to adventurers and strangers. Especially when there's war in the air. Or fear. Fear really seems to be the defining characteristic of Record of Lodoss War, and that fear is frequently missing from contemporary RPGs. My current theory is that this is due to the constant push to make all races avilable to players as character types. Which led to the sort of "magical rennfaire" type situation we see in 3.5e D&D and onward. You can't have an invading army of orcs or goblins or even demons because they're no longer monsters. They're people, just like you and me!!


13. Don't forget to put phenomenal shoulders on gear. As Patrick of Falsemachine said, oh so long ago now: Jesus Likes Your Backpack. (alt version here)


14. Faeries are like internet trolls. They bait you to respond and break whatever esoteric rules are in place in the location they haunt.


15. Bad guys are better when they occasionally say things that are true.


16. Give teleport spells a "struck by lightning" effect for maximum aesthetics.


17. Don't put castles or fortifications in valleys. Armies can mass on the high ground, then ride down and take them. This happened over and over to the castles along the Rhine River. If you want to build a checkpoint or something, the bulk of the base should be on the highground, and the lower path (even though it's the main traffic area) should be the satellite. That said, if you've got a situation like the Rhine river where there's tons of traffic and nobles are building castles every 5 feet to tax the shit out of it, the nobles should be smart enough to know that they'll likely fall and change hands a few times. If someone's going to invest in such a precarious position, it's got to be "worth it". If your nobility is stupid, well, that's a whole other scenario.


18. Putting powerful intelligences inside objects that possess the user/wielder seems to have fallen out of favor and that's incredibly unfortunate. A powerful sorceress who "changes bodies like a dress" and has lived 500+ years is quality.


19. If you're sitting at the table, playing D&D, you're on the team. If you're not on the team, leave the table or make a new character. There's only so much time to play, and we need to spend that time going after the bad guys, not "figuring out why our characters want to work together or trust each other." No. Don't waste people's time.


20. Telekenesis is only underrated because it's inherently so powerful, and every edition does everything possible to nerf it into uselessness. This is likely also because psionics have such different core assumption compared to magic. All you've ever got to do with telekenesis is pick someone up, squeeze them, and let them go so gravity can do the real dirty work.


21. Sacrifices always need to be functional. "In order to call forth the bottomless power which awaits us, a High Elf's life must be offered." They provide excellent motivations for your bad guys.

22. Long distance "premonitions" and "visions" aren't utilized enough these days. Likely because it's so easy to do poorly. But avoiding them altogether is a mistake. Along the same lines, if foul magic is afoot, tell the mage or cleric they can feel the evil. Have it do something to them, like make them sweat. Or feel cold. Give them something they can hook onto as a character. So many players will run with the tiniest morsel like this and take it somewhere fantastic. If a druid character is supposed to be connected to nature, and the bad guy sets an ancient forest on fire 300 miles away, let the druid feel it. Even if they don't know what exactly is wrong, let them know they can feel something wrong. Then a short time later, give them the news. And now, they know they really are in tune with nature. Gives 'em purpose.

23. Creating items that stop super powerful creatures from harming the user is good. Ensuring the affected creatures are intelligent enough to use the environment to attack the wielders of said items is perfection.


24. It's often better, especially as the game progresses, to let spells straight up kill monsters. It feels more magical. It shows more player power. Allowing magic to be reduced to an effect that takes away hit points just... bleh. Fight the urge to give big bad evil guys special lieutenants designed to "soak damage". There's always a better way.


25. Happy endings are underrated.


  1. Honestly, these tips are the rare kind that are fantastic to both veteran GMs and newbies. Great stuff; feel like I walked away having learnt a lot here!

  2. Lots of great ways to feel atmosphere, setting, and that good ole weirdness of a magical world. Great post!


Post a Comment