Ask the Game Master: Should I allow Unearthed Arcana?

Got a gaming question? Ask the Game Master to make a ruling, provide advice or referee your gaming troubles. Send your questions to [email protected]. This week, we’re talking absent players and those board games you never seem to play.

How do you handle third-party material at the table? We’re playing 5th edition, and most of my players create pretty standard characters based around the Player’s Handbook. But with all the third-party material on DM’s Guild and from other publishers plus all the Unearthed Arcana stuff, I’m not sure what to allow them to use. What do you think?

The more that D&D expands with 5e, the harder it can feel for a DM. You probably know the core game really well, but it’s almost impossible to keep up with all the extra stuff especially when players want to create new and interesting characters.

For starters, if you’re the DM, it’s your game. You can decide what is allowed and what isn’t.

I think how you handle the material depends on what it is.

At my table, I ask players to provide me a copy (maybe a scan or a printout or just borrowing the book) of whatever extra material they’re using simply so I can have a look.

If it’s a published item from a better-known publisher such as Kobold Press, the material has been tested and vetted before it’s been published. You can probably trust it not to break your game.

There’s some great stuff on DM’s Guild, but literally anyone can publish there. It doesn’t have to be playtested, and you should lend a close eye to the material. If it seems broken or overpowered, talk to the player about it.

As for Unearthed Arcana, it’s “official” in that it’s published by Wizards, but it is, by definition, playtest material. UA classes and rules don’t always work 100 percent, and they are often updated and changed after players report how they work. If a player is using the material for her character, you should have her update her sheet if it changes.

Once again, it’s your game. Players should understand if something is unworkable or overpowered that you don’t want it on the table.

I have a recurring and frustrating issue while playing role-playing games. I just can’t do voices. I become too self-conscious and embarrassed. Any tips?

We’ve all had the friend who does crazy voices or play-acts everything, and it’s amazing.

Then there’s people like you and me.

I actually do voice overs, and I can do voices in a booth with no one watching and after practicing the script. But at the game table, on the spot, I’m terrible. I get embarrassed and self-conscious when I try to come up with some cool, new voice for a character.

One simple option is to not do voices. Good role-play comes from playing your character well, not making him into a cartoon character. If you’re the DM, the story should be the focus.

You don’t need to do wacky voices to have fun at the table. Focus on the story and your character.

But if you really want to do voices, I have some ideas.

Can you do any voice well? If you can do a celebrity impression, try doing that. How about an accent? Simply adding a British accent can flavor your character voice just right. What about cadence? Changing up the cadence of your speaking voice (think Christopher Walken) can be memorable.

And if you want to get really good, try practicing the voice at home before game night. Print out a scene from a favorite movie, and read it out in your new voice.

As for me, I do voices at the table even if they’re no good. We’re running Curse of Strahd right now, and every one of my characters is a bad Bela Lugosi impression. But it gets the point across. We still have a good time.

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