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New DM tips and things to avoid

HunterJohnsonHunterJohnson Registered User regular
I've never DM'd before and I'm looking to run my own campaign soon. I'm looking for tips on things to avoid, or conversely, things I should do.

I've listened to Chris Perkins do his thing and while I am no where near that level of skill I would like to run in that spirit.

Any suggestions?

«1

Posts

  • AuralynxAuralynx Thirty-Seven Keys Registered User regular
    The honest answer is that you should just go for it. Every DM has their own thing going on and every group dynamic is different. Pay attention to what works and what doesn't.

    There are a few things you're gonna want to avoid, because they're always going to detract from the experience:
    - Don't tell people what they're doing. Feel free to make the choices very simple if that's what your players seem to prefer.
    - Don't make your own character and let them drive the action.
    - Don't set out to "beat" the players. They should always, at minimum, have a chance.

    Space... what is the point of it? You have no idea.
    5f0qjnu1xfzo.png


    ElvenshaeKaplarSaint Justicesilence1186Hachfacedestroyah87EgosErin The Red
  • Rhesus PositiveRhesus Positive GNU Terry Pratchett Registered User regular
    If there are any pregenerated campaigns available for your system, start with them, even if it's just for the first session. It takes some of the pressure off yourself and allows you to focus on getting the game running well on the night.

    Don't say "no", say "yes, but".

    The EnderHachfaceNocren
  • HunterJohnsonHunterJohnson Registered User regular
    Can I use a "break" as a tool to regain control if the wheels come flying off. Like just say "hey lets all take 5 minutes, get some snacks, grab a smoke, etc." or is that kind of a copout?

  • FaranguFarangu I am a beardy man With a beardy planRegistered User regular
    edited November 2014
    I feel like there was another thread about this not too long ago, but it could just be my mind playing tricks.

    Taking a break isn't a cop out at all. In fact, trying to keep going when things get heated is a super Bad idea. You're trying to create a positive environment, and forcing interaction when people just don't want to interact is the opposite of positive.
    Don't say "no", say "yes, but".

    This is the biggest thing. If people try to get creative with solutions only to have you shut them down time and again, they'll pick up on that and stop trying. If you allow them to try, but with a twist - a consequence they might not have thought about, for example - that will get them to start thinking. You want to try and reward good behaviors over punishing bad behaviors.

    Stick with the pregen adventures at first, like Rhesus said, until you get your legs under you. When you feel ready to start exploring away from those, however, don't be afraid to lift things from other works that you enjoy.

    The end goal should always be taking the necessary steps to ensure your group is having fun. What is fun depends on them - pretty soon you'll be able to read whether they're power gamers or character actors, and adjust accordingly - but for your first session, just be you. Explain that you might be new, but you'll do your best to be fair and fun. That goes leagues towards making your players feel like exploring and doing their own thing.

    Don't feel the need to be chained to the rulebook. If you can't find an answer to a question within 15 seconds or so of looking, just come up with a snap judgement, and stick to it. If it makes someone sour, say that you'll be happy to go over it with them, but at a later time. You don't want to stall the game for everyone else just because one guy is sure HIS arrows have this special trait that does X and now you have to check to see how much he might be just making up and now it's 5 minutes later and everyone else isn't in the mood anymore.

    Well that got long fast.

    This doesn't matter much from your standpoint but out of curiosity what system are you running?

    Farangu on
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  • HunterJohnsonHunterJohnson Registered User regular
    Farangu wrote: »

    This doesn't matter much from your standpoint but out of curiosity what system are you running?

    5E, mostly because we have all the books for it at our disposal (thank-you gaming store) so this will be a bit of a learning curve for everybody at the table. I don't expect it to be fast paced by any means.

    Geth
  • Mikey CTSMikey CTS Registered User regular
    edited November 2014
    Always remember your players are vicious animals, come to eat your food and ruin your intricate, beautiful storylines. You think they care about the living, lush world you've created for them? They do not. They could give a good goddamn about your NPCs with full backstories and motivations. All they care about is taking the loot, eating your damn Cheetos, and drinking your soda. It is unfortunate that you need them to tell your story at all. They deserve only the most harsh treatment available to your disposal, but you can't outright kill them all. You need an audience, even if it is an audience of barbarians, to tell your story. But feel free to punish them, at length, for the plebian, hedonistic ways.

    Mikey CTS on
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  • Mikey CTSMikey CTS Registered User regular
    This is very similiar advise to the last time this thread popped up.

    // PSN: wyrd_warrior // MHW Name: Josei //
  • see317see317 Registered User regular
    Mikey CTS wrote: »
    Always remember your players are vicious animals, come to eat your food and ruin your intricate, beautiful storylines. You think they care about the living, lush world you've created for them? They do not. They could give a good goddamn about your NPCs with full backstories and motivations. All they care about is taking the loot, eating your damn Cheetos, and drinking your soda. It is unfortunate that you need them to tell your story at all. They deserve only the most harsh treatment available to your disposal, but you can't outright kill them all. You need an audience, even if it is an audience of barbarians, to tell your story. But feel free to punish them, at length, for the plebian, hedonistic ways.
    Or, you could ask them to bring the soda and Cheetos.
    It's not a perfect solution, but it's something.

    Ringo wrote: »
    Well except what see317 said. That guy's always wrong.
    AuralynxCapfalconMikey CTSElvenshaeAegeriOats
  • AuralynxAuralynx Thirty-Seven Keys Registered User regular
    see317 wrote: »
    Mikey CTS wrote: »
    Always remember your players are vicious animals, come to eat your food and ruin your intricate, beautiful storylines. You think they care about the living, lush world you've created for them? They do not. They could give a good goddamn about your NPCs with full backstories and motivations. All they care about is taking the loot, eating your damn Cheetos, and drinking your soda. It is unfortunate that you need them to tell your story at all. They deserve only the most harsh treatment available to your disposal, but you can't outright kill them all. You need an audience, even if it is an audience of barbarians, to tell your story. But feel free to punish them, at length, for the plebian, hedonistic ways.
    Or, you could ask them to bring the soda and Cheetos.
    It's not a perfect solution, but it's something.

    Hell, there was a while where I had them buying me scotch because they thought I went easier on them if they got me drunk.

    Space... what is the point of it? You have no idea.
    5f0qjnu1xfzo.png


    ToxHunterJohnsonMikey CTSKaplartzeentchlingZombie HeroSaint Justiceam0nsilence1186Evil MultifariousAegeriOatsRainfalldestroyah8738thDoe
  • Grunt's GhostsGrunt's Ghosts Registered User regular
    Roleplaying Games aren't Video Games, so keep side quest to a minimum. You can have them, just to tell a different story or maybe show the aftermath of some event from the main story but I wouldn't do side quest often and even then limit their time to one sesson. I forget this and a simple side quest for me sometimes turns into it's own campaign and the players suddenly lose track of the main quest.

    I have two Powers as a GM: My Rule Is Law and Gamemaster's Discretion*. I can make up rules and change then when I want, I normally don't, but people know that I'll make something up if I feel the need to instead of stopping to look up rules. And GM's Discretion means I'll break rules when I want, usually for the sake of the story. Party decided to burn Big Bad Vampire Lord's house down during the day and I planned on him being around for a while, nope! Your Vampire Lord is in another castle!

    *Usually when I tell people about my Powers I hold up two fingers. GM's Discretion is the middle one.

  • CapfalconCapfalcon Tunnel Snakes Rule Capital WastelandRegistered User regular
    Can I use a "break" as a tool to regain control if the wheels come flying off. Like just say "hey lets all take 5 minutes, get some snacks, grab a smoke, etc." or is that kind of a copout?

    That's completely fine.

    If you have access to it, I'd recommend Secrets of Sokol Keep. It's a nice little mystery that starts with a bar fight. I'm not a big fan of the Horde of the Dragon Queen, actually. It's pretty empty, requiring more work for the GM to fill in the blanks.

  • DevoutlyApatheticDevoutlyApathetic Registered User regular
    Can I use a "break" as a tool to regain control if the wheels come flying off. Like just say "hey lets all take 5 minutes, get some snacks, grab a smoke, etc." or is that kind of a copout?

    This is completely fine. Probably a good idea even.

    Try and learn the rules but don't be a slave to them. If you can't be sure of an answer fairly quickly (like a minute or two) make something up and note to look up the real rules sometime before next session. Tell the players you're doing this and then move on. Unless a character is gonna die it is basically not worth stalling the game and losing momentum to get the rules exactly right.

    ElvenshaeOats
  • ToxTox I kill threads Punch DimensionRegistered User regular
    Can I use a "break" as a tool to regain control if the wheels come flying off. Like just say "hey lets all take 5 minutes, get some snacks, grab a smoke, etc." or is that kind of a copout?

    This is completely fine. Probably a good idea even.

    Try and learn the rules but don't be a slave to them. If you can't be sure of an answer fairly quickly (like a minute or two) make something up and note to look up the real rules sometime before next session. Tell the players you're doing this and then move on. Unless a character is gonna die it is basically not worth stalling the game and losing momentum to get the rules exactly right.

    Two points to draw out of this:

    1) Your rulings are final. ESPECIALLY if character death is not hanging in the balance.

    2) You reserve the right to supercede a previous ruling at any time for any reason. ESPECIALLY if character death is not hanging in the balance.

    You can say, "Yes I said that before but now I'm more familiar with the rules and they say this."

    You can also say, "Before I said this because the rules say this, but now I'm more familiar with the rules and that's crap so I'm saying that now."

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    HunterJohnsonElvenshae
  • Mikey CTSMikey CTS Registered User regular
    edited November 2014
    Oh a bit of actually good advice.

    Don't feel like you need to "put the party together" at the start of a campaign. There's no need for you to bend over backwards to gather them together from the far corners of the ... whatever the planet is before the start of their first adventure together. Just throw them headfirst in as an already established party straight into adventure, sink or swim style. If they ask you how they came together, turn the question back around on them. Maybe even beat them to the chase and ask them how they came together before they have a chance to ask you. Either way, the players should come up with how they came together for themselves. This takes the stress off you, allowing you to focus on the actual adventure, and immediately establishes that they, the players, are contributors to the story just as much as you, the DM.

    Mikey CTS on
    // PSN: wyrd_warrior // MHW Name: Josei //
    am0nsilence1186HachfaceRainfalldestroyah87
  • ToxTox I kill threads Punch DimensionRegistered User regular
    Re: gathering the party

    My last group I DM'd for we split the difference.

    "You're all going to be in this town. Figure out how your character got there. They can be from as close or as far away as you want." And then when we all got settled for the first game I offered, "Your characters all happen to be in the town square, which also serves as the market for the town, so place yourselves at various spots on the map and describe what you're doing."

    Then we went around the table and they filled it in.

    Then I said, "Roll Initiative." and started putting goblin minis down on one edge of the map.

    It was fun.

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  • HunterJohnsonHunterJohnson Registered User regular
    I'm thumbing through a few pregens to get some ideas. While I know it's a horrible idea, and I will get pelted with tomatos for it. I'm tempted to take some parts of different pregens and merge them into a custom one.

    Some of my players are more experienced than me, so thats going to be a huge hurdle to get over. But I do like the "to the best of my knowledge..." concept.

    Thanks for the input guys. This is actually helping.

  • ToxTox I kill threads Punch DimensionRegistered User regular
    Nobody has more than a few months experience with 5th, so don't let it intimidate you that you have players who have been DMing longer or anything like that.

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    Elvenshae
  • DarkPrimusDarkPrimus Registered User regular
    People covered the "don't say no" already so let me add:

    Remember, role-playing games are essentially collaborative storytelling. You're in charge of everything that isn't the player characters, but this doesn't mean it's your story. It's everyone's. It's important to make sure that everyone is having fun. Make sure, if you notice that someone isn't having fun in a session, to ask them why they weren't enjoying it. Hell, even if everyone is having a good time, ask them why they were having a good time. Feedback from players is essential in order to improve your game sessions.

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  • DevoutlyApatheticDevoutlyApathetic Registered User regular
    Tox wrote: »
    Can I use a "break" as a tool to regain control if the wheels come flying off. Like just say "hey lets all take 5 minutes, get some snacks, grab a smoke, etc." or is that kind of a copout?

    This is completely fine. Probably a good idea even.

    Try and learn the rules but don't be a slave to them. If you can't be sure of an answer fairly quickly (like a minute or two) make something up and note to look up the real rules sometime before next session. Tell the players you're doing this and then move on. Unless a character is gonna die it is basically not worth stalling the game and losing momentum to get the rules exactly right.

    Two points to draw out of this:

    1) Your rulings are final. ESPECIALLY if character death is not hanging in the balance.

    2) You reserve the right to supercede a previous ruling at any time for any reason. ESPECIALLY if character death is not hanging in the balance.

    You can say, "Yes I said that before but now I'm more familiar with the rules and they say this."

    You can also say, "Before I said this because the rules say this, but now I'm more familiar with the rules and that's crap so I'm saying that now."

    Yea, but I would say try and make those changes some time where they aren't currently relevant. If somebody asks about disarm (or whatever) decide how to do it fairly quickly and stick with that for at least the session. If you then find the actual rules on disarm just open the next session by saying "Yo, things changed, here are the new rules." If somebody in the between time somehow invested resources in an action that now works differently be equitable about letting them change that investment.

    I also forgot the most important advice before:

    Remember everybody is there to have fun.

    Fair challenges are fun. If something you're doing is just annoying the hell out of people then maybe question why you think it is something the group should spend time on.

    Elvenshae
  • ToxTox I kill threads Punch DimensionRegistered User regular
    Yes sorry that's a good point. Make an on the spot ruling, and then make a note to investigate it. When you investigate it, and come to what you feel like is your final conclusion, share that with the group, sooner rather than later, so that everybody knows what game you're playing.

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    Elvenshae
  • ZomroZomro Registered User regular
    The only real thing I can say about DMing is this:

    Be flexible.

    It doesn't matter what plans you have or quest leads you provide, chances are your players are going to come up with something you haven't thought of. If you can roll with it, it'll make the whole experience that much more rewarding.

    Example: DnD 4E. The party's Fighter and Warlord have been captured by the big bad evil empire and have been forced to fight in a gladitorial arena. I set up a map for the arena and filled it with all sorts of nasty traps that would be controlled by the bad guys in the audience. The Warlord makes his perception check and notices a few of the traps, including a pitfall trap.

    One of their arena fights include a pair of ogres, one brute and the other a skirmisher (ran around throwing spears). The brute gets up to the Fighter and Warlord, and he's near the pitfall. The Warlord tells the Fighter to bullrush the ogre onto the pitfall. I think to myself, "Smart idea. But, they don't know that it's not an automatic trap trigger." The Warlord on his turn then used his At-Will to let the Fighter take a swing at... the trap door of the pit trap.

    I was caught completely off guard by this, but it was such a genius idea. I let the Fighter make a damage roll, to see if he hit the trap hard enough to force it to trigger. I didn't make it too hard, since I wanted to reward this smart play (he would've only failed if he rolled snake eyes on his Maul damage). He makes the roll, the trap springs, and the ogre finds himself falling into a pit of spikes.

    It was one of my favorite parts in that campaign. It was so cinematic.

    The Hanged Manam0nKaplarRear Admiral Choco
  • Rhesus PositiveRhesus Positive GNU Terry Pratchett Registered User regular
    Another example from 4th Ed:

    A novice group I was running decided to take a nap in the dungeon to get their healing and Daily powers back. They kept watch, so I didn't bother with an ambush, but the adventure as written only had one more encounter in so I wanted to give them another fight so that they weren't going into it completely fresh and not have any tension on whether they would all survive.

    As they discussed amongst themselves who would keep watch, I flicked through the Monster Manual and decided that the dreams of the Dragonborn would summon a young White Dragon through a portal they examined earlier, just with fewer hitpoints because fuck brutes when you don't have a striker in the party. The group had the opportunity to scry on the dragon using a magic pool that they had found, so they had the option of seeing where it was going and avoid it, or try and surprise it.

    The Dragonborn comes up with the idea of using diplomacy. They had some gold as a tribute, she spoke its language, and there was an area of the dragon which was magically cold, so they offered it residence in the dungeon and give it details of where it could find more gold (the location of the Rogue who had betrayed them and left them without their purses a few nights before).

    So as it turned out, they went into the last fight completely fresh, but proud of themselves for outwitting a serious threat without having to kill it.

    ToxElvenshae
  • am0nam0n Registered User regular
    edited November 2014
    Tox wrote: »
    Re: gathering the party

    My last group I DM'd for we split the difference.

    "You're all going to be in this town. Figure out how your character got there. They can be from as close or as far away as you want." And then when we all got settled for the first game I offered, "Your characters all happen to be in the town square, which also serves as the market for the town, so place yourselves at various spots on the map and describe what you're doing."

    Then we went around the table and they filled it in.

    Then I said, "Roll Initiative." and started putting goblin minis down on one edge of the map.

    It was fun.

    This is usually how I do it. "You are all here and heading over there. Why?"

    Edit: Also, I hate you guys and your great stories. It reminds me how bad of a DM I am. :(

    am0n on
  • silence1186silence1186 Character shields down! As a wingmanRegistered User regular
    I've only started DMing recently, but these a few things I've found that worked:

    The Law of Narrative Causality is in effect at all times. If something is happening, it should be advancing the story. You do not want to get bogged down with things that are ultimately not important.

    I will second you have no way of predicting how the PCs react to what you have prepared. You can plan for some likely contingencies when you write your campaign, but you will have to make things up on the fly. Example for this: In a recent session, my PCs encounter an evil but not hostile adventure party. The head of this group tried to get the PCs to scout ahead, while a jackalwere (in disguise, and the PCs just thing it's a gaunt man) kept telling them the opposite of the evil leader. The PCs agree to go, but their condition is to take the jackalwere with them. It took some convincing on the evil leader's part that this would end awful for the PCs, and they ended up bring another, less deranged guest NPC along.

    "I don't remember the rules on that off hand. I'm ruling this way for now, and we can check the rules in detail during our down time later." I can recall 65% of the PHB from memory, and what chapter another 15% is in. I still would rather not waste my players time checking the rules for minutiae. Keep the session going so people don't get distracted or bored.

    If someone seems like they're not having fun, try to get some feedback from them. One of my players tends to ask the group what he should do instead of picking himself, so I told him, "it's fine to want to cooperate and strategize, but it's your character, and you can be what you want (not what the group needs) and play it how you see fit."

    While it's important to play the game, taking time occasionally to do world building and foreshadowing can build player anticipation. Consider having enemies drop journals or notes, with juicy details (painting a half picture) of some of the things to come.

    Side quests shouldn't become beasts of their own. Use them to enhance to enhance the main quest (rescuing an NPC who happens to be in somewhere you needed to go anyway) or guide them back towards the main quest if they go astray (collect ingredients in this suspicious area where major disturbances in the area are originating from).

    I'm a big fan of starting the party right in the thick of things. For my current campaign, the first thing they heard was "you are in prison!" And they started a jailbreak shortly thereafter. Action, right away. You are telling a story, so draw experience from stories you've enjoyed in the past.

    Cannibalizing pre-gens into a fused campaign of sorts is not a bad idea at all. It lets you use cool ideas but craft your own unique story.

    Find out what your players like. One of my players said "we're fighting an awful lot," so then traps, terrain, and social interactions all got an increase in appearance in future sessions. My PCs spent almost a real life hour negotiating with a hobgoblin leader, and loved every minute of it.

    V wrote:
    Words will always retain their power. Words offer the means to meaning, and for those who will listen, the enunciation of truth.

    Elvenshae
  • Hahnsoo1Hahnsoo1 Make Ready. We Hunt.Registered User regular
    Yeah, as posted above, ask for feedback. Every group is different, and they will like different things. Ask about their favorite parts or favorite things that their character did. Some groups love combat and will ignore pretty much every other aspect of the game other than combat. Other groups will love dicking around in town running scenes that are meaningless to the plot. You won't know unless you ask them.

    Take some time to acknowledge what the characters are doing. You can write down cool moments and recap those moments at the end of the session, or take notes to use for plot hooks later, even from innocuous little things. For example, a player loots a sword from a bandit and starts using it a lot... this is an extremely common act in RPGs, but you can easily turn it into a plot hook. Later, they run into an angry boy who says "You have my father's sword!" Or you can tell the player "It's good that you like the sword... but now it's starting to talk to you. That's weird." Or "Hey, there's an advertisement up looking for a Lost Sword matching your sword's description exactly... and the reward is huge!"

    You are there to make the game fun for everyone (including yourself), so make sure that the rule of "everyone having fun!" overrules anything else. Dealing with the group dynamic sometimes is about preventing one person from hogging all of the fun for themselves and democratically making the game fun for the whole group. This is why splitting the party is bad (Hey, now only half the party is having fun, while the other half sits on their hands), this is why alpha gamers are bad (Hey, now one person is stealing the spotlight while everyone else does nothing), and why player elimination in board games is bad (I'm looking at YOU, Risk/Monopoly).

    Learn how to fail forward. This means when things go bad for the party, or bad for your carefully-laid plot, just roll with it. Find ways to push the narrative forward even if you have a failstate. The party isn't all dead... they are just in Limbo and now have to make a deal with a devil-god. The party isn't all dead, they are just captured. The big bad was murdered with a lucky PC roll... but he wasn't the REAL big bad after all! The PCs all failed the perception roll to find the secret hint... but wait, an explorer just showed up with a map leading to the location (but can the PCs trust the explorer, or is he an agent of evil?). Things like that.

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  • Joe DizzyJoe Dizzy Registered User regular
    Don't shy away from saying "no". But when you do, be transparent to why you did so. Even if it's a bad reason like "I think it would be better for the overall story if things went like this..." At the very least your players will know what kind of game they're taking part in. A "no" without explanation is just shutting down player participation. But a "no" that has a reason, gives players a glimpse into this world you're adventuring in. It's the chance to dive in deeper and find out something new.

    Don't be afraid to frustrate your players from time to time, if things just aren't going their way. Some times dice simply won't roll the numbers you want. Some times your best laid plans simply don't pan out. It is not your responsibility to shield players from failure. It's your job to give them a fighting chance. Be honest and be fair and you will allow them to play a great game together that will result in a memorable story. Because every achievement and every success will be earned. There's no better story than that.

    Auralynx
  • OatsOats Registered User regular
    Some of the best DMing advice I've ever found comes from the free rules for Apocalypse World.

    They don't fit D&D perfectly, but they're a great start, and will help you flesh out the world you're building.

    The ones I try to cram in to anything I'm running:

    • Address yourself to the characters, not the players.
    • Ask provocative questions and build on the answers.
    • Respond with fuckery and intermittent rewards.
    • Be a fan of the players’ characters.
    • Make maps like crazy.
    • Turn questions back on the asker or over to the group at large.
    • Digress occasionally.
    • Elide the action sometimes, and zoom in on its details other times.
    • Go around the table.
    • Barf forth apocalyptica (details, setting, random bits of interest that add life to the world).

    Edith Upwards
  • ToxTox I kill threads Punch DimensionRegistered User regular
    Oats wrote: »
    • Be a fan of the players’ characters.

    Oh man how did I forget this.

    Always.

    Always.

    Root for team PC.

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    Edith Upwards
  • Vincent GraysonVincent Grayson Frederick, MDRegistered User regular
    Tox wrote: »
    Oats wrote: »
    • Be a fan of the players’ characters.

    Oh man how did I forget this.

    Always.

    Always.

    Root for team PC.

    Agreed. I've never understood the DMs who get into this whole "It's my job to torture the player and try to kill their characters in the most ruthless possible ways."

    destroyah87
  • AuralynxAuralynx Thirty-Seven Keys Registered User regular
    Tox wrote: »
    Oats wrote: »
    • Be a fan of the players’ characters.

    Oh man how did I forget this.

    Always.

    Always.

    Root for team PC.

    Agreed. I've never understood the DMs who get into this whole "It's my job to torture the player and try to kill their characters in the most ruthless possible ways."

    I run a fairly adversarial game when I run D&D, and it's absolutely by preference. This newfangled collective-storytelling stuff is fun, but I really do want to kill Dirk the Fighter by dropping him into a pit of acid.

    The three things to remember, if that's who it turns out you are behind the screen, are these:

    - When the acid pit opens up beneath Dirk because he charged your Bugbear Illusionist, it shouldn't be a surprise to the players. The stakes need to be clear before you start putting character sheets into your Graveyard Binder.
    - The body-count isn't the point. The point is seeing what tonight's roster of good guys can pull off before they die. The playing-field should be near-level unless the players deliberately choose to do something silly like break open the brass-bound lead coffin they found a few sessions ago because "they can probably handle whatever's in there." If they can't, at least it was their call to take on the Dire Wraith.
    - The most important corollary to that second point is that you do not have to go hard at all times. Some fights can be there as the equivalent of a speed-bump or morale boost. Plus, that means the harder ones will wear them down and the risk / reward calculus gets more exciting over time.

    And yes, you should absolutely make fun of your players if they greet a description like "This area is full of lava. There are several platforms you could try to traverse, and a couple of bridges that might help you get around. You're pretty sure you could make it across if you work at it. Oh, and over there you're pretty sure you see a huge snake made of fire looking at you for a minute before it dives under the lava," with "We leave immediately."

    Space... what is the point of it? You have no idea.
    5f0qjnu1xfzo.png


  • ToxTox I kill threads Punch DimensionRegistered User regular
    edited November 2014
    Eh, I don't necessarily think the two are mutually exclusive.

    Like, if I, as DM, design a dungeon that is an absolutely murder pit, that doesn't preclude me from cheering with the rest of the group when the Barbarian makes his save after the pit opens under his feet and barely manages to grab the ledge.

    Adversarial DMs can still root for team PC. After all, the more successful they are, the more murderous of a dungeon they have....earned

    Tox on
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  • silence1186silence1186 Character shields down! As a wingmanRegistered User regular
    Auralynx wrote: »
    Tox wrote: »
    Oats wrote: »
    • Be a fan of the players’ characters.

    Oh man how did I forget this.

    Always.

    Always.

    Root for team PC.

    Agreed. I've never understood the DMs who get into this whole "It's my job to torture the player and try to kill their characters in the most ruthless possible ways."

    I run a fairly adversarial game when I run D&D, and it's absolutely by preference. This newfangled collective-storytelling stuff is fun, but I really do want to kill Dirk the Fighter by dropping him into a pit of acid.

    The three things to remember, if that's who it turns out you are behind the screen, are these:

    - When the acid pit opens up beneath Dirk because he charged your Bugbear Illusionist, it shouldn't be a surprise to the players. The stakes need to be clear before you start putting character sheets into your Graveyard Binder.
    - The body-count isn't the point. The point is seeing what tonight's roster of good guys can pull off before they die. The playing-field should be near-level unless the players deliberately choose to do something silly like break open the brass-bound lead coffin they found a few sessions ago because "they can probably handle whatever's in there." If they can't, at least it was their call to take on the Dire Wraith.
    - The most important corollary to that second point is that you do not have to go hard at all times. Some fights can be there as the equivalent of a speed-bump or morale boost. Plus, that means the harder ones will wear them down and the risk / reward calculus gets more exciting over time.

    And yes, you should absolutely make fun of your players if they greet a description like "This area is full of lava. There are several platforms you could try to traverse, and a couple of bridges that might help you get around. You're pretty sure you could make it across if you work at it. Oh, and over there you're pretty sure you see a huge snake made of fire looking at you for a minute before it dives under the lava," with "We leave immediately."

    If for you PC death is inevitable, it makes perfect sense for your players to just say "we leave" whenever you describe a treacherous death trap.

    V wrote:
    Words will always retain their power. Words offer the means to meaning, and for those who will listen, the enunciation of truth.

    Calica
  • ToxTox I kill threads Punch DimensionRegistered User regular
    Yeah I'm gonna go ahead and say while I'll never genuinely tell anybody they're playing pretend elves wrong, maybe actively antagonizing and "making fun" of your players is probably not for everybody and while that may work for you and your group, you should absolutely realize that's a function of the people in that group and the style of play they've grown to expect and enjoy.

    In other words probably it's not very good advice for a new DM, sooo

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  • AuralynxAuralynx Thirty-Seven Keys Registered User regular
    Tox wrote: »
    Yeah I'm gonna go ahead and say while I'll never genuinely tell anybody they're playing pretend elves wrong, maybe actively antagonizing and "making fun" of your players is probably not for everybody and while that may work for you and your group, you should absolutely realize that's a function of the people in that group and the style of play they've grown to expect and enjoy.

    In other words probably it's not very good advice for a new DM, sooo

    I know. That's why I gave him way more generalized advice at the start of the thread and qualified the entire post you guys are having trouble with "If that's who it turns out you are behind the screen." It's not how everyone should be running their game, but it is how things worked out in my little world.

    Cooperative storytelling and running a more-adversarial game are not the same animal, and many of the things that work well for the former are options you need to discard or go to more rarely with the latter.

    Space... what is the point of it? You have no idea.
    5f0qjnu1xfzo.png


  • FaranguFarangu I am a beardy man With a beardy planRegistered User regular
    @HunterJohnson‌ I hope you'll repay all this advice with a report on how your first adventure went once it happens.

    ToxcrimsoncoyoteSaint Justicedestroyah87Erin The Red
  • TorgaironTorgairon Registered User regular
    sorry to bump this and not have updates from the OP, but I've been playing D&D for a month or so now (5e only), have been lurking the 5e thread for a similar amount of time and am going to DM for the first time tomorrow to cover for my brother who's been busy with work and college and told me today that he doesn't have anything prepared for his own campaign.

    I have a bunch of encounters prepared for a level 1 party of 3-4 players, and I'm a little concerned that some of them will be overpowering given the extensive criticism of 1st level lethality. I have what seems like a fairly standard goblin/kobold/hobgoblin lair planned out, all the encounters were made with the 5e XP rules in mind, but I'm terrified of:

    1) boring the two relative veterans at the table who have been playing pathfinder and now 5e for at least a year
    2) murdering them viciously with all the little bonuses that these particular monsters get when working in teams

    I'm mapping out the podunk town I want the party to start in and the dungeon, and when I start thinking about ways to vary up the latter's hallways and rooms I'm really drawing a blank on what I can do that doesn't make the PC's lives harder than they already are at level 1. I don't fear enforcing rules or roleplaying unforeseen situations so much as making featureless corridors of murder that discourage the players by beating the shit out of them before they can inhabit the characters they've made.

    so, to actually get some concrete Q&A before tomorrow if anyone reads this:

    - I have an NPC prisoner who is the main reason the PCs might want to engage the dungeon, and because I'm convinced they'll need it I was leaning towards having him fight with them against one or two of the final encounters. is it better to stat him with an NPC template or make an entire character sheet with PC stat rolls or an array?
    - what sort of actions can I take to make level 1 a bit less rocky? the 5e group I'm playing in has a bunch of weird holdovers from what I assume are older editions of D&D, like getting a feat at levels 1 and 3, and an insanely generous stat rolling process (4d6 drop the lowest, reroll all 1's- my half-elf sorcerer under this system has 18 CHA, DEX and WIS). would a free feat at level 1 balance out later, I don't have the PHB in front of me but I think first-level characters already get their max roll on hit dice + CON for free so that's built in, I guess.

  • DarkPrimusDarkPrimus Registered User regular
    edited November 2014
    You don't make NPCs with the same tools as PCs.

    PCs are limited in different ways than NPC/monsters are, and that's by design.

    Other systems have very similar statistics for NPCs and PCs, but D&D is not one of those systems.

    DarkPrimus on
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  • HachfaceHachface Not the Minister Farrakhan you're thinking of Registered User regular
    edited November 2014
    DarkPrimus wrote: »
    You don't make NPCs with the same tools as PCs.

    PCs are limited in different ways than NPC/monsters are, and that's by design.

    Other systems have very similar statistics for NPCs and PCs, but D&D is not one of those systems.

    This isn't quite accurate. In editions of D&D prior to 4th, non-monster NPCs who were built according to PC creation rules were very common; in 3.x, even monsters had a symmetrical creation system with PCs. Leaks from the NPC chapter of the 5e DMG suggest that in 5e, DMs will have the option of making NPCs in the same manner as PCs.

    I think that making a companion character according to PC rules is especially fine. The problems associated with PC-like NPCs are mainly centered around the balance of combat encounters. If the NPC is going to be on the same side as the PCs, the problem goes away.

    The main reason NPCs built like PCs didn't work in 4e was resource management: enemy NPCs were generally only around for a single combat, so they had no reason not to go all-out with Daily powers. And PC powers were generally so damaging that two opposing creatures built like PCs would be playing rocket tag. Fifth edition is already rocket tag, so go nuts. The only reason not to build NPCs like PCs in 5e is simplicity.

    Hachface on
  • badpoetbadpoet Registered User regular
    Eh, I think the lethality 5E is overplayed if you've got vets there that don't do stupid things. I know I'm in the minority on that, but if you build encounters and really pay attention to what you're throwing at people it's not really an issue.

    You'd be surprised at how much a party of level ones can take. And, you'd be surprised at how differently the same encounter goes with people that have some experience vs. complete newbies or people that are there just to mess around. At the store I play at, there are two groups. Ours does just fine (zero PC deaths, but a couple of close calls), but the other group is straight up idiotic. They've had multiple PC deaths and have almost wiped on encounters where we took very little if any damage. Things like knowing when to cast sleep, entangle or other impairment spells; positioning to help rogues get their +d6; keeping non-melee characters at range (they have a guy who plays a wizard and is always trying to charge into the fray, which would be fine, but he doesn't really cast spells and he sucks with his sword (he's died multiple times and keeps remaking the same character, to each his own I guess)); and just thinking ahead a little bit (buying/getting ball bearings or oil flasks or other things that can be helpful) go a long way.

    Most D&D vets do those things without thinking. And, inexperienced people often look towards the vets to guide their actions or ask questions about what they should do. Which dramatically reduces deaths.

    If anything, it might be worthwhile to make the NPC a healer of some type if it's feasible to help bolster the party if they need it (even Bless is a huge help to first levels) and reduce downtime if they don't. I'd roll him up as a PC.

    A free feat at first level isn't going to break anything. I might make it at level two to give them a carrot (and then stagger them a bit so they get feat levels when there aren't other big bumps, like spell levels, so they can get one or two more feat choices on the way to 20), but that's just me. I don't like the "choose to add two to an attribute or a feat" decision very much because it really is not a choice, even for non munchkins. Getting two more points to a main stat is a no brainer. It's just too useful.

  • legallytiredlegallytired Registered User regular
    edited November 2014
    badpoet wrote: »
    Eh, I think the lethality 5E is overplayed if you've got vets there that don't do stupid things. I know I'm in the minority on that, but if you build encounters and really pay attention to what you're throwing at people it's not really an issue.You'd be surprised at how much a party of level ones can take.

    Considering that a monster winning initiative can one-shot a player, I don't see how a veteran can avoid that. This is the lethality problem.

    As for new DM tips..I'd say if you think up something cool to do. DO IT NOW. Don't think about keeping it for later since a lot of games die before you get to that point.

    legallytired on
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