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Running Off The Rails

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Running Off The Rails

Raymond O'Connor and Ariel Rascoe

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Ray and Ariel equip new and experienced tabletop RPG players with actionable tips and tricks to bring their game to the next level. We have been playing Dungeons and Dragons for years now and truly believe that tabletop RPGs offer a unique life experience that everyone should enjoy. Find out how you can adapt your game to your players and ensure a successful adventure at your table.
 
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show series
 
Cory joins Ariel to discuss the extensive process he went through when designing his first homebrew class. They discuss how to balance mechanics and thematics, and how to take a concept for a class and split it into subclasses. Then Ariel talks through some of the challenges he's having refining his homebrew class for the publishing process. If you…
 
Ray and Ariel discuss how to have constructive conversations about the morals your party will live by and society's morals you introduce as a DM. D&D is only partially a medieval fantasy analog, and our morals as people outside the game are going to influence what we enjoy roleplaying at the table. But uncritically adhering to our modern day morals…
 
Ray and Ariel discuss how to emulate larger-than-life characters from fiction in TTRPGs with a tool called Gestalt Leveling. Gestalt Leveling means that when your characters level, they gain the features of two different classes simultaneously. This works particularly well for small parties that might have too many gaps in their abilities. Many of …
 
Ray and Ariel discuss how to maintain Escapism in your game of Dungeons and Dragons. We discuss how tools like Lines and Veils can be used effectively to be deliberate about which hard problems you want to place front and center in your games, and which hard problems are better avoided. Don't forget our kickstarter will in 2 days! For more informat…
 
Ray makes a status announcement on behalf of the Emery's Log team. Janek has joined the team as an editor and prompted us to create 4 new fiend eminences. We hit our first stretch goal, and we will begin work on Za'Ul and his Spire of Bones. Also 5 new raffle entry methods are detailed on the Running off the Rails Kickstarter page. website: https:/…
 
Ray and Ariel discuss how to betray the party without ruining a campaign. Betrayals are the climax of many great stories, and we want to include them in our tabletop fantasy fulfillment. Ray and Ariel discuss different ways a betrayal can be a win-win for the party and the betraying character instead of a zero sum game. It's important to think abou…
 
Ray announces our Stretch Goals on behalf of the Emery's Log team and celebrates hitting the $1000 milestone. https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/runningofftherails/emerys-log-of-legendary-eminences Running off the Rails website: https://runningofftherails.com/kickstarter Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/runningofftherails/…
 
Ray thanks the community on behalf of the Emery's Log team and announces an exciting thank you gift that will be getting added to Emery's Log. Kickstarter: https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/runningofftherails/emerys-log-of-legendary-eminences Running off the Rails website: https://runningofftherails.com/kickstarter Instagram: https://www.instagr…
 
Emery's Log of Legendary Eminences is live on Kickstarter Right Now. We added some early backer options explicitly for long time listeners of the show, so be sure to check out the kickstarter sooner rather than later. If you would like a sample of the kickstarter, fill out the form at https://runningofftherails.com/kickstarter. Filling out the form…
 
Ray and Ariel discuss how to design encounters using round-by-round objectives. Players can often go through a combat on autopilot, just using their strongest attack every round, and not feeling engages. If the stakes of the combat change each round, players have to pay attention and think on their feet. Ray and Ariel provide a wide variety of ways…
 
We are excited to announce that on Wednesday, April 13th at 11am EST, our first ever Kickstarter goes live. We are announcing this early so that our long-time listeners are prepared to take advantage of a limited number of discounted backer options. We created these explicitly as a way of saying thank you for taking this journey with us. If you wou…
 
Ray and Ariel discuss 4th Edition Monster Roles and how they can be applied to make your 5th Edition Dungeons and Dragons combat encounters more exciting. If you have played games like Team Fortress 2, Overwatch, and League of Legends, you are acutely aware of how unit specialization can make a game. Leverage this expertise in your game of D&D to m…
 
After watching Riot's hit new show Arcane, Ray and Ariel both wanted to recreate the epic drama they saw in their home games of D&D. In this episode, they answer the questions: Why were the character arcs and the drama of Arcane so engaging? And how exactly can we bring these to our tables? Ray and Ariel discuss how the simplicity and interconnecte…
 
Ray and Ariel examine the explicit expectations of high-level characters in Advanced Dungeons and Dragons (D&D 2nd Edition). In D&D 2e, it is clearly stated that high-level characters are expected to manage forts, temples, and sanctuaries. The Druid even goes so far as to remove levels from characters that lose their positions in Druidic society. D…
 
Ray and Ariel discuss Convergent and Divergent design. When is each useful? Then Ray and Ariel apply these concepts to an analysis of MCDM's new Dungeons and Dragons class, the Beastheart. MCDM's Beastheart: https://shop.mcdmproductions.com/collections/beastheart-class-companions/products/beastheart-companions Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/r…
 
Ray and Ariel respond to a question from a listener who asked what they can do to make combat more interesting for a player whose character is unconscious. They discuss all kinds of potential solutions, from incentivizing other players to heal downed characters, to wholesale changes to the rules of unconsciousness. Both mechanical changes and role …
 
Ray and Ariel discuss how previous editions of dungeons and dragons made progression feel more earned, and how we can get use these lessons to improve our fifth edition games. There are three priorities Ray and Ariel outline when deciding how to level your party: 1) Player engagement, 2) Realism with narrative character development, and 3) Uniquene…
 
Ray and Ariel discuss how some skill checks can feel anti-climactic. How can we make important Persuasion, Insight, and Investigation checks feel more suspenseful? How can we mitigate the risk of an important narrative moment going "all wrong" because of a single bad dice roll. How can we make intense political encounters feel like a combat with hi…
 
Ray and Ariel do something a little different and look back on the past year of making this podcast together. They discuss some of the advice that has impacted their own games the most, the published materials they've been inspired by, and the future of the podcast going forward. If you enjoyed today's episode, please share us with a friend. You ca…
 
Ray is joined by the creator of DnDestiny, GoodGameKitty, to discuss how all DMs design and curate the game at their table. Kitty gives some pointers about how to bring your favorite mechanics and experiences from video games to your own table. The world of video game design has so many amazing resources; we should not ignore this source of researc…
 
Ray and Ariel talk about how to make conditions more exciting at your table. How can you present conditions to your players in ways that feel threatening and uncertain? How can you homebrew conditions at your table to make poisons, curses, and diseases "explorable?" Really highlight what is different about your setting by customizing the environmen…
 
Ray and Ariel help build magic items that deliberately add the right amount of power-ups and new story hooks. An item that is very powerful will likely change your combats, and an item that is legendary and consequential can push your campaign in a brand new direction. Ray and Ariel use The Arms of Accord from Arcadia issue 10 as a great example of…
 
Ray interviews Trevor Armstrong, the creator of the Grim Press. The Grim Press has launched a variety of ultra-successful 3rd party D&D 5E supplements including Adaptable NPCs. The Grim Press successfully launched the Allies and Antagonists on Kickstarter at $19,151 USD. First, Trevor discusses his core design philosophy when creating memorable NPC…
 
Ray and Ariel discuss a hot topic in the TTRPG community: is it wrong for player characters to use meta knowledge at the the table. In this episode, we make the case that meta knowledge can not only make many D&D encounters safer and more fun, but it can also engage the players as the DM's audience members. After all, there's no more engaged reader…
 
Ray and Ariel help start your adventure off with a funnel adventure to play through your character's humble pre-heroic beginnings at the table. As an example, we walk through Filthy Peasants, a port of a classic funnel to 5th edition D&D from MCDM's ninth issue of Arcadia. We discuss how it can make that first day of adventurers meeting up a lot le…
 
Ben from We Speak Common joins us for another episode to discuss his homebrew world. What is the difference between taking inspiration and being derivative? When does it become worth it to write your own homebrew world? We discuss this and more on today's episode of Running off the Rails. If you enjoyed the show today, please follow us on Instagram…
 
Ben from We Speak Common joins Ray to discuss his priority list when planning a session of D&D. How does this list affect the resulting session? What are the differences between Ray and Ben's lists and how can those differences be felt by players. We cover all this and more. If you enjoyed the show today, please follow us on Instagram and Twitter f…
 
Mark joins Ray to discuss supporting different styles of play. Mark prefers a looser interpretation of the rules and asserts that Ray wouldn't enjoy playing in his game. Mark and Ray go off the rails and discover that they want VERY different things from D&D 5.5e. If you enjoyed the show today, please follow us on Instagram and Twitter for updates …
 
Ali joins Ray to discuss a time when Ray disappointed her as her DM. Ali talks about how players can bring critical feedback to their DM in a productive way and how DMs can create an environment that fosters collaboration and problem-solving. If you enjoyed the show today, please follow us on Instagram and Twitter for updates about giveaways, blog …
 
Ray is joined by special guest, Ace, creator of the Forged Concordance to discuss playing D&D on Discord. There are many D&D Discord servers that connect hundreds of players. Many games are run every day allowing players to play D&D on their own schedule. DMs are in demand and can schedule a game to be run whenever they feel like it. Level up your …
 
Ray and Ariel discuss "The Future of D&D" panel that occurred at D&D Celebration 2021. We discuss how it unlikely it is that Wizards of the Coast will make meaningful changes to the way 5th edition works today. Fear not though, instead of waiting until 2024 for Wizards of the Coast to release the new core rulebooks, bring the changes you are excite…
 
Ray and Ariel learn lessons from creative writing to improve their DMing skills. Brandon Sanderson talks about the importance of character and plot over setting in creative writing. We explore the parallels between a Dungeons and Dragons character/plot/setting structure with a more traditional structure from the world of fiction. We discuss the dif…
 
Ray and Ariel discuss how gold quickly shifts from a player problem to a DM problem in D&D. After buying that set of plate armor, your players usually run out of cool, available things to buy. This is often paired with a sudden explosion of gold handed out by DMs, resulting in players carrying around Tens of Thousands of gold pieces with nothing to…
 
Ray and Ariel look at the catch-22 of dangerous Dungeons and Dragons encounters. On the one hand, not every creature in the world should be the same level as your characters. On the other hand, balanced encounters tend to be the most fun, and are important for any campaign. We walk through three ways you as a DM can put completely insane combats in…
 
Ray and Ariel explore one of the toughest challenges in D&D: can you create epic battle for your campaign? Large scale clashes between your enemies and your allies have been a part of published dungeons and dragons adventures forever, but the rules haven't supported them. Ray and Ariel discuss why these kinds of battles are so important for your pa…
 
Ray and Ariel help make your adventuring party's faction feel fantastical and exciting throughout your campaign. As an example, we walk through The Pickling Guild, a perfect prototype for your party from MCDM's seventh issue of Arcadia. We discuss how it succeeds in some places where more traditional factions, like The Harpers from Wizards of the C…
 
Ray, Ariel and Ben discuss common misconceptions about running darkness and darkvision in D&D. Then we dig into how to really leverage darkness in your game as a set piece in your combats and setting. If you liked the show today, please follow us on Instagram and Twitter. If you want more Ben, check out his show We Speak Common.…
 
Ray and Ariel explore ways to make artifact-level magic items special and engaging to your players throughout an entire campaign. They also warn listeners of the ways powerful artifacts can make your Dungeons and Dragons game less fun. For some examples of both scenarios, we once again dive into MCDM's new flagship product, Kingdoms & Warfare, and …
 
Ray and Ariel try to disprove the assumption that being a party of "murder hobos" is the wrong way to play Dungeons and Dragons. We look at how the rules of D&D encourage players to kill their foes, and we give DMs the tools to embrace their players' power fantasies while maintaining a realistic and character focused story. If you've ever felt like…
 
Ray and Ariel discuss what makes a compelling rival in fiction and how to incorporate one into a D&D campaign. We lay out a checklist for designing compelling rivals so that your players will love to compete against them throughout the adventure. Then, we go over The Grim Accord, an evil adventuring party from MCDM's sixth issue of Arcadia, and tal…
 
Ray and Ariel dive into MCDM's newest flagship product, Kingdoms & Warfare. Today we cover the monsters section of the book and discuss Villainous Actions. Matt Colville first discusses Action-Oriented Monsters in this YouTube Video. Kingdoms & Warfare is purchasable now for $30 on The MCDM Store *We are not affiliated with MCDM, nor do we gain any…
 
Ray and Ariel discuss what makes a good one shot for D&D. We lay out a checklist for keeping your players engaged while making sure your session stays short and sweet. Then, we go over two examples of published material that implement these concepts in different ways. And at the end, Ray regales us with the story of his first one shot as a cautiona…
 
Ray and Ariel discuss what is at the core of every faction in D&D. We sort through some of the logistics you will need to cover and the different levers you can pull to make your factions feel unique. Then, we improvise a faction from scratch using the list we discuss in the beginning of the episode. If you liked the show today, please follow us on…
 
Ray and Ariel dive into MCDM's FIFTH issue of Arcadia. Arcadia is a supplemental magazine that equips DMs and players alike with new and inspiring content. We discuss Leon Barillaro's maladies in "Long Term Curses," Carlos Cisco’s greed based character options, "Goldmonger Subclasses," and Sam Mannell’s new spells from "Alabaster’s Almanac". Arcadi…
 
Ray and Ariel discuss what is at the core of every faction in D&D. We sort through some of the logistics you will need to cover and the different levers you can pull to make your factions feel unique. Then, we improvise a faction from scratch using the list we discuss in the beginning of the episode. If you liked the show today, please follow us on…
 
Ray and Ariel Improvise a Lvl 5 and a Lvl 10 encounter. We hope that by demonstrating our own creative process, others will gain pieces of an actionable formula that they can use to apply to their own encounter design. We tinker with an existing monstrous statblock and create an encounter against humanoid foes. We discuss how to change the monsters…
 
Ray and Ariel dive into MCDM's FOURTH issue of Arcadia. Arcadia is a supplemental magazine that equips DMs and players alike with new and inspiring content. We discuss Willy Abeel's mounts, and magic items in "Swimming Through Sand To Sea," Cat Evans' new location, "The Chained Library," and Derek Ruiz's "On-The-Road Encounters". Arcadia #4 is purc…
 
Ray and Ariel discuss a few of the major decisions a DM makes when designing a pantheon for their game. Is any god on the table? How can a DM choose a duality pantheon like Law vs Chaos, but still be supportive of a player that wants to worship a god or saint of death? When is the best time to start planning your pantheon? Do you need to have it na…
 
Sometimes we can poor our heart into building a portion of the world that our players never end up encountering. Other times the task can seem so large and daunting that we have trouble approaching worldbuilding at all. Ray and Ariel discuss specific strategies, tactics, and tools that we use to worldbuild our D&D settings with intention. If you en…
 
Special guest JJ, Ray, and Ariel discuss what to do when what you want to do isn't what your character would want to do. Sometimes it makes sense to make player decisions for characters instead of purely roleplay-driven decisions. What will result in the best time and the best story for everyone at the table? We discuss how to navigate conflict tha…
 
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