“The 5×5 Method” Dragon Magazine Article

The Short Version

I have an article in the 2nd to last (for now) issue of Dragon, and it’s a redone version of my most popular article on Critical Hits. It was also my first paid piece in my RPG designer career.

The Longer Version

In 2009, after a few offhand mentions of developing a new way to plan my campaign and others asking me to share, I posted the original 5×5 Method article.

A few months later, James Wyatt at WotC reached out to me, said he really enjoyed the article and was wondering if I would be interested in refining and expanding it for use in a future Dungeon Master’s Guide. Of course I said yes. Over the next few weeks I worked on a new, improved versions with more examples and tables. I turned it in, and was quickly paid: my first check for RPG work! (My first paycheck in the game industry was in 1999 for an article for Pyramid Magazine.)

That DMG was announced at Gen Con, so I sat in the room smirking because I knew I would have a (small) part in it. And then, months passed, with the book slipping back on the schedule, being renamed, and eventually, disappearing altogether.

Since then, I’ve written more about it, as have others, as well as giving seminars about the 5×5 Method, collecting everything I could find in one post. It’s even been stolen by other sites without credit (even though it’s creative commons licensed.) The original is, by far, the most popular post I’ve ever written, and continues to draw steady traffic.

I thought that was it for the article until Steve Winter (someone I was also very excited to work with) reached out to me last August about doing a 5×5 Method article for Dragon magazine. I told him I already did one that they already paid me for. A few messages back and forth and we found that they still had it, and Steve gave me some great ideas on how to expand the idea even further.

The end result is what was published in today’s Dragon magazine. It’s my favorite iteration of that text so far, and has just gotten better each revision. I don’t know how many people still subscribe to the magazines (I had to renew my DDI for this month to get it), but I hope people download it and enjoy it. It also has a great article by THE Shawn Merwin.

In case you missed any, here’s all the articles I’ve had published in Dragon and Dungeon magazines:

Having been able to reintroduce the Ninja to D&D, work Planescape factions back into the game, introduce the Singularity Grenade to D&D (which originated in my group as the spell “Grand Total”), and now, my best DM advice, I’m pretty happy with the past few years of work.

About Dave

Dave "The Game" Chalker is the Editor-in-Chief and Co-Founder of Critical Hits. Since 2005, he has been bringing readers game news and advice, as well as editing nearly everything published here. He is the designer of the Origins Award-winning Get Bit!, a freelance designer and developer, son of a science fiction author, and a Master of Arts. He lives in MD with e, their three dogs, and two cats.


  1. It’s really a pity that practically everyone has canceled their D&D Insider subscriptions by now. I might have held on longer if they’d been posting more material like this.

  2. DarkplaneDM says:

    Absolutely love your stuff, Dave! Keep it coming.