Skald of Shenanigans Collections of Goodies

Published 11/7/21 Update 1/23/22

Kathy's Collections by Skald of Shenanigans

I first met Skald of Shenanigans on Twitter through one of the self promo days. I was very interested in their collection as I am one who enjoys seeing what other dm's are using to create fun in their games. These little pocketbooks with DM treasures were collected by Skald of Shenanigans, both currently free to purchase on their Ko-fi page. When you download the collections you get two pdf copies for each title: one that looks as if it was created on parchment, and a second that is black and white labeled “printer friendly.” The pictures are still there but in grey scale, so expect to still use a lot of black ink if you are printing them out for your DM binders.

“Kathy’s ____ Collections” both are collections of things that Skald of Shenanigans has put together in booklet format. As stated in the Preface of the two documents, they do not take any credit for the written creations inside as their personal works. Some of the entries (not all) have accreditations to who these snippets came from [for example @indubitablyodin created #8 Mirror, Mirror of the Tips, Tricks and Traps for Dungeon Masters]. Though Skald did not do the writing of the pieces I do enjoy the pieces that they have pieced together to create two unique collections in the way of tips, tricks and traps that fit the theme of the document. I have enjoyed reading my way through both Kathy's Crafty and Creepy Collections.

Kathy’s Crafty Collection: Tips, Tricks and Traps for Dungeon Masters

This is their first publication on Ko-if and is a pocket book with 21 pages to print holding lots of different topics from“Traps and Puzzles” to “Tips and Tricks.” This Collection has 24 selections under the title of Traps and Puzzles, and an additional 5 pieces under the Tips and Tricks.

Traps and Puzzles- One thing that I appreciated is Skald of Shenanigans wanted this document to be as ttrpg adaptable as possible but did note that they were heavily weighted towards D&D/ Pathfinder. Some information for these traps and puzzles were omitted (such as DC saves) to make sure you as a Dungeon Master could easily adapt and use the information as you wish with whatever tabletop game you are running.

In this collection you can find harmless illusions, classic traps re-worked, nature that pose challenges, Traps/puzzles that give some fun (like putting the floor on a teeter-totter like in Fall Guys with some acid slime to fall into) and things that require your players to use their skills (dice checks) to succeed. Others of note include illusionary magics like #1 The Wall of Fire; classic movie magic traps like the Spike traps from Indiana Jones (#2), and using nature to enforce skill checks to pass the obstacles (#3, #4). The Potion Mixing puzzle (#7) comes with a nice visual aid and reminds me of a phone game that Dm Bork plays.

I think my favorite one is the #14 Creature Matching puzzle where you figure which real creatures make the fantastic versions (owl + bear = owl bear). This puzzle concept can be (and has been in my group) adapted to feature other things as well. It can be used for plants (healing & poison), animals (the given example) and deities/demigods to get the religion checks from players.

There is also the reminder that locking and trapping the pre-existing doors in your areas can also slow down players and pose a challenge. On that note I will say that make sure you are locking/trapping to pose a challenge vs. making it an annoyance. If every door is locked and trapped it will slow down your play and will become more of an annoyance than something fun. Locking and trapping doors should show that there is something important/dangerous/plot related behind that door. No broom closet or empty storage room should have a lock and trap in this fox’s opinion. This also goes for loot. Trap the shinies on the floor! If there is something that looks too good to be true don’t hesitate to ward it from those greedy tomb raiders.

The second portion of the collection is titled “Tips and Tricks” under which there is some solid advice. I too have a love for running a session zero before my games no matter what; one shots and campaigns alike. As stated in the collection, session zero has a lot of purposes such as setting the tone, going over character sheets and setting up the communication / boundaries for the game. I do all three of the things listed in the collection (and more) when running a session zero. Even if you are only meeting for an hour it is still valuable time for players and DM’s to connect to make sure that everything is sorted before coming into session one and “roll for initiative.” Communication is also very important for players to have with their DM’s. I too agree that it is important to receive feedback and to make sure that everyone at the table feels positive and welcomed. I agree with the communication section and think that it was a great addition to add into this section of advice.

As for the name cards, I agree that having a visual for players to see where they are in initiative is very helpful. I have a set of player/monster cards from Gyld but it's easy to make your own or use a magnet board or clothes pins on a pole. The Technical Tips and Techniques also has some good sound advice as you players will do random things but as long as you the dm are excited and are having fun it will most likely come back to you as the players will enjoy and have fun as well. For the titled section "Be Prepared" I agree that it is important for the DM to be prepared but I also think that it could be expanded towards your players as well because it is just as important for your players to have their character sheets understood and their materials gathered ahead of each session. I also think players should be prepared and review notes that they take. Preparedness is a two way street in my book and I'm glad that this document acknowledged part of that.

Kathy’s Creepy Collection: Spooky Traps, Puzzles and Tips for Dungeon Masters

This creepy collection was put out just in time for the 2021 spooky season. The collection is rightly named, as the collection hopes to bring something creepy and spooky into your table top games. This collection is 17 pages long and comes in a black and white or "scroll" colored version. This collection is specifically put into two sections; the first being Traps and Puzzles, followed by Tips and Tricks.

We start with Traps and Puzzles that features 23 different selections that can be added to your campaign to make things more haunting for your players. Under Tips and Tricks we have 4 pages of combat notes, thoughts on death and saves and some final remarks. The document in total is 17 pages. Some of the selections that I liked the most from this Creepy Collection include #2 Haunted Painting with a unique Doppelgänger encounter, #3 mimic door, #7 Witch’s Brew and #18 Haunted Memento.

As in their first publication, this one also had a second section of sound advice in its own "Tips and Tricks." Here you have some advice on timers. I love using timers and have different sand timers that I will pull out to make players sweat (ranging from 1 min to 7 minutes). Having egg timers bring tension even if there is nothing at the end of the timer. There is also a new suggestion for rolling initiative alternatively.

Late active poison is another way to create chaos and so is character possession when it comes to spooky play. I will say that it is important to make sure that your players are comfortable or ok with player possession before brining that into play (a great way thing to talk about in a session zero). Talking about session zero there is another section in here mentioning player sheets, communication and boundaries and some good advice on how to approach these in a session zero setting.

The last portion of the advice "Tips and Tricks" focuses on death saves and murder as something that can happen in your game. I personally try to make sure that tpks do not happen at my table but I agree that if you do the death saves for the players behind the screen it would be more intense, but I personally like having my players be in charge of their own dice rolls for death saves so it is not my hand (dice) that kills a player.

Last Thoughts from the Fox

As a Dm I love seeing the advice and tips that others in the ttrpg community have created to help enhance their tabletop games. As written by Skald of Shenanigans in the Preface of both publications “One of the wonderful things about table-top role-playing games is their collaborative nature. There is no shortage of creativity, whether it is between players or Dungeon Masters.” I cannot agree more with that statement. You do not have to use every idea that you find, but having more information stored away in the brain doesn’t hurt. Both documents are pretty quick reads and have reference materials that a DM could use as needed. I also find that it is so very sweet that the collections are currently named for Skald Of Shenanigan's Grandmother as Kathy was an encouraging figure in their life.

As stated in the “Tips and Tricks” intro page for both documents, each dm has their own play style and voice, these two collections are just that, collections of work that game masters can add into their games if they choose. I appreciate that there is a variety of flavored things to choose from. I also like that each collection has different options in the ways of traps and puzzles. These were two simple, fun documents that can be used as extra materials to add to your game. Out of the two, my favorite Skald of Shenanigans documents was the Creepy Collection as I found more pieces that I would likely add to my own games. Some selections I even modified for a Call of Cthulhu ttrpg. The items found in the collections use writing that is easy to understand and read. There is also lots of flexibility to turn descriptions into something that is more akin to your dm style.

I would recommend pre-reading all of the entries in the two collections before adding them to your game, and I personally would not add more than two into a premade dungeon. The Crafty Collection is more of a reference document whereas in The Creepy Collection you could use more if you were building a Spooky dungeon from scratch in a pinch and needed to fill a lot of empty space. Personally I like that DC’s are not written into the works of the collection as it makes it easier to customize to your game, but I can see how it may be confusing to new DM’s not familiar with setting Dc’s or not having all the pieces presented to them.

I am the type of DM who enjoys bouncing ideas off others and gathering more possible things into my DM arsenal. For the great price of “free” I would also recommend checking out the collections presented by Skald of Shenanigans to see for yourself if there is anything that you can add/modify for our own ttrpg game.

A thing I wish was more consistent is the acknowledgements of who wrote the different pieces in the collections or where it came from. Out of the two documents there are only 3 citations. There is a generalized credits of ideas from Hope 4 TTRPGs Discord and other DMGuild/Twitter public posts. I too like getting ideas from such places (Pinterest, Instagram, Twitter, etc.) but as a creator I am finding that I like having citations to make sure I give credit.

Get Your Own Copies!

You can follow Skald of Shenanigans on Twitter at @SkaldofShenan you can get your own copies off their Ko-fi page here. Both collections are free and have the fox paw of approval as they are both creative collections to reference at your own discretion to add to your games.

More and More Content!

Skald of Shenanigans has been hard at work and now has a total of 6 collections for you to enjoy! They are all still free and each has a unique theme. Added to the collection includes booklets for Dungeons, Winter, Maritime and a more multi use booklet titled "Curious."

In the Curious Collection you can find some hallway and room sized puzzles to add to your adventures. Goodies such as Room of Seasons, Bridge and Torch, Leap of Faith along with Planets and Stars can be found in this collection. What I liked about this collection in particular is there are 14 written out riddles with solutions that can be used at your table.

I personally got very excited for "Nine Tides Collection" as it brings more content that I can throw at my very intellectual Salt Marsh group. I can see me using all 20 different puzzles during the course of Salt Marsh campaign. Fog and Doldrums, to Jellyfish and sharks there are both ship, land and marine encounters for your players to experience. The last few pages of this collection has some good tips on running a water based campaign and how to deal with travel and providing new life to skill checks in a marine way.