Cover Image: How to Defend Your Lair

How to Defend Your Lair

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Member Reviews

We bought the book, in addition to the other two.
The book is a great resource for creating games from scratch. I hope it boosts membership in our library's D&D group.
Thanks to NetGalley for the eARC.

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I an unable to review this title, as it was archived before I had a chance to download and read it. This feedback is only to stop this title from adversely affecting my net galley feedback rate. If in the future I have the opportunity to read this title, I will post a proper review here.

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This book goes spells out some strategies for Dungeon Masters when building content. It goes into great details and is very specific. It is recommended for someone who is spending a lot of time building game content, not for someone dabbling.
Not for me even though I am a frequent DnD player, but I know some others who would love it.

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I love RPG books so much, I write <a href="">my own</a>. I also have a terrible weakness for buying more, especially if they'll facilitate my own campaigns, whether solo or otherwise. Since most of my groups tend to play D&D (and I do a fill-in campaign for one of them. Oh, and professionally DM every so often, too,) anything that can help me sharpen my DMing skills is a must read.

So I was really psyched to get a copy of Keith Ammann's How To Defend Your Lair. I'm not super familiar with online D&D personalities, but his credentials and endorsements are legit. I was a little taken aback by the combative tone of the introduction -- hi, I'm a reader who is interested in what you have to say, not a PC to be battled -- but that fortunately fades quickly, as Mr Ammann gets into the nitty gritty of what it means to design a big bad's lair, and why you would want to invest the time and energy into doing so.

At which point, I need to make a disclaimer: if you are a vibes GM*, like me, a lot of this stuff might not be pertinent to you. I continuously ratchet difficulty levels up and down for my players because I do not think TPKs are fun <i>and</i> I also want them to each get their shots in before downing the bad guys. I like for my players to feel involved in combats, and to experience the terror of thinking they're going to die (but not actually killing them.) As a GM, I feel that my job is to challenge the players but not frustrate them.

And as much as I've loved the hundreds of players I've run games for over the years, I can confidently state that most of them don't play D&D, or any other role-playing games, in order to think. They're there for the action, and they're there for the drama. The fun ones are also there for the lolz. My job as the DM is to facilitate all this, to make my players feel smart and capable and like big damn heroes. I have thrown away so many puzzles and lowered the success rates of so many secrets just to make sure my tables have a good time getting through carefully constructed adventures, whether my own or others' (I'm a big fan of running from pre-written modules.)

But if your players really do love a challenge, and if you as a DM want to design rich, well-thought-out settings for your big confrontations in D&D 5E, then this book is a must-read. Mr Ammann knows his stuff, as he discusses the basics of medieval architecture, defense and combat (arcane fantasy being the general setting of most D&D campaigns.) Honestly, this book also works as a great resource if you're working on worldbuilding for your fantasy novel.

Perhaps the most valuable part of this book for seasoned DMs, however, is the section detailing Sixteen Lairs. These are sixteen enemy bastions rigorously designed to confound any adventuring party, complete with beautifully detailed maps, lists of personnel and calculated CR/XP. Ordered by difficulty level, each lair is a great seed for an overarching campaign, and a mighty challenge for thoughtful parties of combatants. One thing I really appreciated is the diversity of settings, analogous to different real world backgrounds, cultures and fantasy traditions. And Lio Pressland's cover illustration is just the perfect blend of cute and vicious, tho it may bely the sophistication of the book's contents.

This was a valuable reading experience for me as a GM, player and general appreciator of all things role-playing, but I'm not sure how much of it I'll actually use. It's a great addition to the library of any serious DMs tho.

*Note for those less familiar with RPGs: in this review, I use DM as short-form for Dungeon Master when referring specifically to Dungeons & Dragons. I use GM for Game Master in reference to any RPG, including D&D.

How To Defend Your Lair by Keith Ammann was published November 29 2022 and is available from all good booksellers, including <a href="">Bookshop!</a>

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How To Defend Your Lair by Keith Ammann

I discovered Keith Ammann like most people, I assume - through his website. Reading his incredibly thoughtful and thought/provoking analysis of Fifth Edition Dungeons & Dragons monster tactics really opened me up to a new way of thinking about how to be a Dungeon Master. My DMing got much better and I really enjoyed reading what he had to say.

So when I saw his new book, How to Defend Your Lair, available on NetGalley, I requested an eARC.

Frustratingly, his new book is not really for me. As a Dungeon Master, I use mostly official D&D adventures (what they used to call modules when I was a kid). I’m not creating my own worlds and adventures- I prefer to have that done for me. I’ll change things up, of course, but I’m not usually making things up from scratch.

This book is much more designed for the DMs out there that are making up their entire adventures. And it mostly seems to do a good job, I guess? But a lot of it feels like filler to me, and dull filler at that. But I’m sure this book will be great for the right audience.

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As someone who runs tabletop games on a regular basis, often for students who are young and new to the hobby, I have found Keith Ammann's previous "The Monsters Know What They're Doing" blog and books invaluable in making my combat more interesting and entertaining both for my players and myself. His excellent player-focused book, "Live to Tell the Tale", is one that I have recommended often to my players, and I consistently see those who read it learn so much about the game and their role in it.

As such, after learning from him how to make my dragons more engaging, I was very excited to learn that Mr. Ammann was releasing "How to Defend Your Lair", a work focused on the other half of D&D: dungeons. I had candidly expected that the book would provide some strategies for running creatures in their home bases, along with perhaps some lair actions or other mechanical tips, and that certainly would have been enough, but it delves so much deeper than that.

Written with Mr. Ammann's characteristic detail and sense of humor, "How to Defend Your Lair" provides a sociological and practical logic to the concept of bases, lairs, dungeons, or wherever your baddies might hunker down. Tired of wandering into a ten foot by ten foot room in which a bored orc guards a chest for no particular purpose? This book helps you design lairs that actually make logical sense by first helping you outline the goals and needs of the inhabitants in a well-researched yet elegant system that lets you understand your bad guys and make their base seem like an actual organization rather than a video game level stuffed with loot.

The book also includes some detailed and flavorful example lairs, crafted with these tools in mind, that are ready to use right "out of the box" -- perfect for many different roleplaying game systems, not just D&D.

This book has changed the way I think about the worlds I create in the games I run. It will make you a better game master, and it will make your players have a better time in your lairs.

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In this book author Keith Amman turns his knowledgeable gaze to the creation of lairs, giving insight to developing more complex and interesting environments for player encounters. Topics like terrain type, defensive magic, resources, and tactics all provide great information for designing lairs, making this a valuable resource for a DM. Also included are sixteen different lairs that the author has created to be quickly dropped into a game or used as a starting point for the readers own lair. This book is not only a helpful resource for DMs to add to their toolbox but is also a great read for any author looking for assistance designing logical and unique lairs in their writing.

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I am thrilled to see Ammann expanding his advice in tabletop gaming to a realm away from combat roles. While I found those enjoyable, I find so much of what is presented on the other side of RPGs to be what lends the most to my sessions. The advice presented is well laid out, well thought out, and humorously presented. I recommend Ammann all the time to people looking to supplement their games and How to Defend Your Lair is a great addition to this collection.

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