I’ve been playing various forms of tabletop for about ten years and started DMing around 2017. That first campaign completed after four years early 2022 and I feel very fortunate to have the rare experience of a group stay together with a complete story and what I hope was a satisfying ending.
I like to do a lot of special things for my players with neat tech and interesting mechanics. And lots and lots of LED lit thing. I build custom sets, put on little shows, paint lots of minis, and almost always present combat encounters with some unique mechanic or at least good reason within the narrative. While a lot of this is flashy, I believe that story always comes first and no matter how much work you put into the fun details. And furthermore, with D&D I believe the players write the story. While I do have an overall narrative, I make it priority number one to let the players go anywhere and do anything with a mix of extreme preparation and fun improvisation.
There is a lot of content on this page, so I’ve broken it down into some categories you can easily jump to here:
Shows – Sets – LARP Activities – Costumes – Miscellaneous
While I’m fully aware I’m not much of a singer or musician, D&D is usually a
very drunk audience. And a rather tipsy performer admittedly. Much of these details are covered in the Node-red work examples page, but will paste them here as well.
One of my players’ backstories was of leaving the circus. When they eventually found that circus in the campaign, they were greeted by his old ringleader, the financially irresponsible Kervon Sen. I hired a couple dancers to show up secretly and enter at the right time in the song. We never rehearsed (you can even see me at the end looking at the dancers to try to incorporate some of the same movements, heh), and had only communicated about it over email, but I’m really happy about how it came together. One showed up about half an hour late so I had to stall for time. If you have DM’d before, you may know that it took a lot of concentration to keep the players in the right place while also doing improv activities and communicating over text at the same time. Only my fiancée knew that they were coming, and she was nervous wondering why I wasn’t starting the show on time, and it was difficult to let her know the details while staying in character and running the game. The DMX lights were animated in Unity, and connected with DMX through node red to run the show in time with music. I had two motorized RGB spotlights, a polka dot light projector, water light fixture and strobes. It also ran the 9 hue lights throughout the house.
This bar was for a tiki bar themed D&D session. I used images from Heroforge to animate about 20 minutes of footage to represent ‘memory pearls’. They were snow globes with rfid tags inside of them that would trigger lighting effects and videos. In-story, they were investigating an alternate timeline version of their group and learning the story by solving puzzles and activities delivered by NPCs. The videos were stored on a raspberry pi, and the RFID reader was a wifi enabled Arduino.
The players came across a sort of fraud magician character who did a magic show. The story presented in the show was a man from the past who froze himself in a block of ice to come forward in time. Later they learned he actually was brought from a future that no longer existed because of a paradox. The campaign dealt heavily in time travel mechanics, and is quite a bit to explain, but not relevant to this post anyway. This is a followup tech-wise to the circus show. A lot of the same fixtures, animated in Unity. The only real difference this time was the projection at the beginning.
This was sort of the precursor to all the work with node-red. Only the Hue lights were managed by node-red in this show. Everything else was activated manually.
I love to build all kinds of sets for my players. I try to create at least one interesting set for each session. I use a lot of junk from around the garage; wood, cardboard and PVC pipe. But I’ll sometimes get fancy and sculpt foam, add motors, 3d print, use magnets, and many other things.
I never cared much for the chase rules described in D&D and felt that if I was going to do a chase, I wanted to do it my way. In this particular session, the players had finally confronted a villain that they themselves had created. An NPC who’s life they had a part in negatively affecting became the main villain after they became obsessed with finding him after I tried to kill him off. I’m glad I changed my mind, because it became a very compelling part of the story moving forward. As I said above, it really is the group that collaborates to tell the story. During this session, the enemy killed off a former player character of mine. A character very beloved to me, and liked by the group. It was the bad guy’s final action before this epic chase and ultimately, his death. I believe this was the most emotional session we’ve had, ending with a funeral for that character. I couldn’t imagine doing such an emotionally charged chase scene without this exciting scrolling setpiece.
All the players in the group received special in-real-life items at the beginning of the campaign. One of which was a 3d printed talisman in which was embedded an RFID chip. About a year and a half into the campaign, it was revealed that the talisman could open up secret areas. This set was built with a linear actuator and RFID reader and extended itself up when the talisman was placed on it.
My players came across a Splash Mountain style log flume ride that told the story of the Heroes of Betara. A famous adventuring team. This session was special, as it was the first noticed hint of time travel involving their characters, as they discovered an animatronic that looked suspiciously similar to one of them…
This was a puzzle set for a Christmas themed area. I actually made it out of ice and embedded a grid of wooden craft sticks within it to create the squares. I lit it from beneath by a Made With Magic compatible set of LEDs that would react to a color changing wand.
A nice raised base for long-lengthed encounters built out of a piece of an old bed.
A three-tiered church set made from a cool table found at a garage sale. Includes a fun hidden chamber in the center.
This Stargate-style set piece was made from expanding foam and wood filler. I can slip an ipad into the back to display graphics of the portal. The players can type in addresses that they have learned in order to travel to other planes.
This was a vertical cave system sculpted from styrofoam. It was a bulette cave that the players were investigating.
I built this set from a decorative miniature waterfall using cardboard, fabric, and lots of hot glue.
Sometimes D&D is just so exciting that it can’t be contained by a table and the imaginations of the people around it. I love planning themed excursions and building “Survivor”-style physical puzzles out of wood.
For this puzzle, players had to come outside and physically pull ropes to maneuver a puck through a maze of hole. It also had projection at the top to display a timer and goal effects.
This ball maze game was inspired by the show Survivor. The players had to work together to move their ball through the maze and into holes to unlock a door in-game.
[Disclaimer: We should have been wearing gloves. Please don’t replicate without doing so] My players came across a puzzle for opening door locks by mixing special positions. Two of them were harmless color changing or layered liquids. But the third one needed to be done outside.
This group was remote during Covid-19 times, so we did a pumpkin carving competition instead. For most new groups, sometime during the first session they come across a statue sculpting competition. I give them each a mini PlayDoh container and have a group of people on Messenger vote on it in-character. It’s a lot of fun and introduces the group to the idea that we will be doing a lot of non-standard encounters.