How to get into D&D

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  • EncEnc A Fool with Compassion The Land of Flowers (and Dragons)Registered User regular
    A good GM is constantly "cheating" to tailor the encounter to the player rolls and actions, ensuring it is difficult and a challenge but also interesting and completed. A full-party-wipe is a GM failure unless the players were incredibly dumb and made a great many deliberate stupid mistakes (like attacking the king in his throne room and then refusing to lay down arms, etc.).

    This changes from game to game, but in most games ive played and certainly every game I've run this has been true.

    KalnaurElvenshaeschussbowenspool32RendRainfallTNTrooperdavidsdurionsTofystedethdispatch.oHonkPLARhesus Positive
  • The EnderThe Ender Registered User regular
    edited November 2016
    minirhyder wrote: »
    Time for an update.

    So I've been reading the rules and the adventure book from the starter guide and getting comfortable with how things work, what the DM is responsible for, and what to generally do.

    It looks to me like it would be helpful to have a few pages of notes when you're DMing, is this a thing people do? If so, what pieces of information are typically a good idea to jot down in preparation?

    Yes, it is very common for DM's to have reference notes around.


    A good rule of thumb (though not an absolute!) is that you don't want to have to pull everyone out of the experience to reference rules or other source material during a session. A common way that sessions deteriorate is having to page through a rule book and/or have an argument about how a certain rule/mechanic should be interpreted. Make sure that everyone is involved in the character creation process together and there is a collective buy-in for what everyone wants to do with their character, both narratively & in gameplay terms. Make a note of these things, and be sure that everyone is on the same page about how the rules work & how said rules fit in with what their character will be doing.

    Create stat blocks for your encounters that you can reference and edit easily during a session.

    After a session, note how much time that session took! This is surprisingly vital information for planning later sessions!


    Your first run through will probably have some awkward bumps in the road, no matter how well you plan things out. This is okay! Improvised fantasy dungeon theater is a skill you develop over time! Make a note about these awkward moments after the session; this can greatly help you run a smoother game next time around.

    Also, because I didn't see it mentioned earlier in the thread: facilitating the enjoyment of the other players is important, but it is equally important that you yourself enjoy the experience. This is surprisingly easy to forget, and causes a lot of DM/GM burn out. It's a lot of work to run a campaign, and if you stop having fun alongside the players and/or feel like the campaign has gone in a direction you really dislike, that will likely lead to future problems / disinterest.

    EDIT: Oh, and the most the vital advice of all:

    In your travels, as you explore the vast and wonderful world of roleplaying games (as all GMs/DMs eventually do), you may come across some books with intriguing cover art with robots & lasers & post-apocalyptic backdrops. Some of these books will have the mystifying title, 'Rifts'.

    Leave these books undisturbed. Do not fall prey to their temptations.

    Do not make the terrible mistake that so many of us made in our wasted youths.

    The Ender on
    With Love and Courage
    minirhyder
  • Grunt's GhostsGrunt's Ghosts Registered User regular
    If you have a couple of shoe boxes, cut out the bottoms and then tape them together to create a GM's screen. There, you will tape up info that is important to your game, while also keeping your rolls hidden, which is great when players are just talking and you roll randomly for no reason and they go "Fuck... what was that roll about?" and you look at them and go "Oh... nothing to worry about."

    On this GM screen, you can put all the important info there; Player Character's stats, DC check charts, common items prices, list of conditions that might effect your players, basic stats for creatures of that level in case you need to make a creature from thin air, ect. Whatever piece of information you think will be important throughout the game. Then, as stated above, keep note cards, papers, ect, so you can write notes when something happens. Place all that stuff into a binder when you aren't playing, maybe scan or write it in a Google Doc, and keep that stuff because you have no idea how much of what you make now will be stuff you'll pull from years later.

    My first DM in my second group was a guy who had been playing D&D since almost when it first came out. He had massive binders that he could randomly open and drop an adventure on the table like it was nothing. And it wasn't just D&D, he had stuff from many roleplaying games, would file off the serial codes and drop them into a game just as well, like once we played a Vampire: The Masquerade story he made years before and no one noticed except we were dealing with a lot of noble families instead of vampires.

    If you want to see a DM screen:
    eclpxkwgocfx.jpg

    KalnaurThe EnderminirhyderMrVyngaardEncRhesus Positive
  • schussschuss Registered User regular
    Also - a good tip for tuning encounters - pick monsters with some nasty special abilities. If your players are being pants-on-head, use them sparingly. If they're powergaming, use them relentlessly. Easy way to keep things moving without massive handwaving of "they run away, while you're all dying on the floor"

    EncHachfacePLA
  • CelestialBadgerCelestialBadger Registered User regular
    Honk wrote: »
    Someone surely mentioned it earlier but just one thing that I've gathered by being a player and never DMing. My DM says balancing encounters has been fairly difficult for him. Like what type of monsters can we take on and have a challenging fight, while not making it a suicide mission. So to start out he used some pre-made stuff but changed the locations up, but essentially used the combat encounters from the pre-mades. That way he got some experience conducting and scaling those things.

    There's a margin for error because as experience has shown me it's easy to either have a fight where the players roll really good and just chew through what was supposed to be a challenge, but it's also just as frequent that we all roll super low and almost die from what was supposed to be a pushover encounter.

    If you're whole group is starting from scratch and wanting to get into playing I would as a DM probably cheat a little. Like occasionally flub the result of a dice roll or be lenient towards the death element in the game. In my point of view as long as it's fun then that's great!

    D&D was originally designed with the philosophy that you *will* die and have to create new characters quite a lot while you are learning. These days wuss-GMs tend to fudge things if they misjudged how deadly the monster was. Kids these days are used to things like MMORPGs where death is a time-out, so you will probably piss off all your players if you kill them randomly.

    Auralynx
  • EncEnc A Fool with Compassion The Land of Flowers (and Dragons)Registered User regular
    edited November 2016
    schuss wrote: »
    Also - a good tip for tuning encounters - pick monsters with some nasty special abilities. If your players are being pants-on-head, use them sparingly. If they're powergaming, use them relentlessly. Easy way to keep things moving without massive handwaving of "they run away, while you're all dying on the floor"

    I always have a single deus ex machina prepared for every campaign I run, something only to be used once, but enough hinted at to where if it happens its not a bonkers out of left field thing.

    For example, in one campaign I ran a player built Hatman, sort of a cross between Oddjob and Batman, who was a masked vigilante. In a later campaign, players were adventuring in the city this former player character was in and there were hints that Hatman was still running around the streets fighting crime. The idea was if a player wipe was ever 100% going to happen, I could "pop" in Hatman for a one time save to drive off the villains, leave a calling card that players would appreciate, and also stress the "everyone gets one" spiderman line. I try to have something similar in each campaign I run (one time it was a MacGuffin they picked up and couldn't figure out what the strange snowglobe did. When the last player went down to death saves, it fell out of their inventory and summoned a set of Frosty-the-Snowknights for each player to control to finish the battle. The key is to not make them too frequent. The snowglobe, once shattered, was clearly gone. They knew that was their one "do over" and they realized their party dynamic needed to tighten up, but nobody had to reroll for one set of mistakes.

    Death is a tricky thing in D&D, some players will quit a game if they loose the character they built. Some love rerolling. The key is balancing danger and adventure, which takes trial and error to really get right. That doesn't mean hardcore games where player death is common are bad, but that also doesn't mean they are the best way to do things. It depends upon your party. I have a circle of about 12 players that flirt through the 2-3 games I have running at any point in time. 4 of them are old school, and if they go down don't want to get back up and are thrilled to make new characters. About 6 have invested so much into their characters that killing them off would be akin to telling them to stop playing. They won't be willing to reroll. A pair I have share a character (they don't play on the same nights, and the character has split personality disorder making it work) and killing it off would probably be a huge loss to the fun everyone involved has with the character (especially as they dont trade notes on what happened as the personalities are not aware of eachother).

    Its not a wuss-GM thing in my opinion. Its understanding your players and knowing people have different ideas of what fun means. If roguelike is your party's idea of fun, awesome! If not, don't look down on other folks. Its about the people at the table having a good time.

    Rules are just tools, after all.

    Enc on
  • RendRend Registered User regular
    All d20 system games are super swingy due to the large random variance in the d20.

    Be prepared for the dice to come up either way. We've already discussed fudging combat a bit if things get too out of control, but also out of combat try, when appropriate, to "fail forward." Basically, if a player makes a skill check and fails it, perhaps they still do what they wanted but a complication arises. Straight failure often tends to stop the action, fail forward lets you keep moving on with it even when the dice hate your players.

    TofystedethOats
  • RainfallRainfall Registered User regular
    Honk wrote: »
    Someone surely mentioned it earlier but just one thing that I've gathered by being a player and never DMing. My DM says balancing encounters has been fairly difficult for him. Like what type of monsters can we take on and have a challenging fight, while not making it a suicide mission. So to start out he used some pre-made stuff but changed the locations up, but essentially used the combat encounters from the pre-mades. That way he got some experience conducting and scaling those things.

    There's a margin for error because as experience has shown me it's easy to either have a fight where the players roll really good and just chew through what was supposed to be a challenge, but it's also just as frequent that we all roll super low and almost die from what was supposed to be a pushover encounter.

    If you're whole group is starting from scratch and wanting to get into playing I would as a DM probably cheat a little. Like occasionally flub the result of a dice roll or be lenient towards the death element in the game. In my point of view as long as it's fun then that's great!

    D&D was originally designed with the philosophy that you *will* die and have to create new characters quite a lot while you are learning. These days wuss-GMs tend to fudge things if they misjudged how deadly the monster was. Kids these days are used to things like MMORPGs where death is a time-out, so you will probably piss off all your players if you kill them randomly.

    Well, the philosophy of roleplaying has changed quite a bit since original D&D. Players don't make Melf the Male Elf anymore, the popular mode of play has more complex character and story arcs rather than "find dungeon get paid."

    Since it takes time for players to make a character and they invest a lot into the process, it makes less sense to kill them out of hand. If you're playing a deadly game, make sure you set that expectation with your players or they're likely going to be unhappy.

    Also, did you unironically use "kids these days" and "mmos"? What's next, bitching about people streaming/podcasting their games?

    bowenEncSmrtnik
  • bowenbowen How you doin'? Registered User regular
    What incentive is there for a player to play or keep playing if the DM is trying to kill you all the time? It takes the fun out of it. On the other hand you don't want to carebear it either.

    not a doctor, not a lawyer, examples I use may not be fully researched so don't take out of context plz, don't @ me
    EncRainfallschussSmrtnik
  • MrVyngaardMrVyngaard Live From New Etoile Straight Outta SosariaRegistered User regular
    edited November 2016
    In the event you don't have the main book handy at any given time, the 5e System Resource Document is a partial view of what exists in the official printed Player's Handbook hardback as a reference for game developers - although the real book is definitely more interesting than just this!

    http://www.5esrd.com/

    Here's a free DM screen template that might work well with the shoebox screen backing suggested above:

    https://www.reddit.com/r/DnD/comments/2j5qlg/final_version_of_my_5e_dm_screenplayer_cheat_sheet/

    Additionally, if you decide you really like D&D and ALSO decide you want to try lots of other variations (many are free!) on it:

    http://taxidermicowlbear.weebly.com/dd-retroclones.html

    Many of them are based off earlier/older editions of D&D, but there's something for everyone there.

    Welcome to the hobby and I hope you have many fun sessions!

    MrVyngaard on
    "now I've got this mental image of caucuses as cafeteria tables in prison, and new congressmen having to beat someone up on inauguration day." - Raiden333
    camo_sig2.png
    minirhyder
  • ZxerolZxerol bat tail beaver /w a measuring tape Registered User regular
    Though if you do want to try kind of old-school, ultralethal "DM hates your ass" kind of adversarial dungeon crawling, but within the framework of a more modern system, you can take a look at Dungeon Crawl Classics. The twist here is that you actually generate four expendable meatbags characters at once before you send them into the grinder, and ideally one survives to get to level 1. I haven't actually played it myself, but sat in while my friend ran a couple of sessions, and it's been well-received.

  • DevoutlyApatheticDevoutlyApathetic Registered User regular
    bowen wrote: »
    What incentive is there for a player to play or keep playing if the DM is trying to kill you all the time? It takes the fun out of it. On the other hand you don't want to carebear it either.

    Ideally the PCs should think they could die at any moment but never do.

    Maintaining that balance is a key part of the art of DMing.

    AuralynxRainfallMrTLiciousLockedOnTargetIncenjucar
  • EncEnc A Fool with Compassion The Land of Flowers (and Dragons)Registered User regular
    bowen wrote: »
    What incentive is there for a player to play or keep playing if the DM is trying to kill you all the time? It takes the fun out of it. On the other hand you don't want to carebear it either.

    Ideally the PCs should think they could die at any moment but never do.

    Maintaining that balance is a key part of the art of DMing.

    Depends on the situation, depends on the game. Some campaigns I've run this is 100% true. Certain peril at every corner. Others are more cozy and character driven things, where the combat elements are secondary to mystery solving or collaborative storytelling.

    TofystedethMrVyngaardIncenjucar
  • Hahnsoo1Hahnsoo1 Make Ready. We Hunt.Registered User regular
    The biggest lesson to learn as a DM is "Roll With It". Not as in rolling actual dice, but whatever happens or whatever the players throw at you, you should pick up the cue and run. No matter how well you prepare or plan, the players are going to screw everything up. It's not your job to make sure they follow your script.

    So if they come up to your intricately-designed combat encounter and decide "Hey, we want to negotiate with them", then you do it! The story might actually be more interesting that way, or you can do a decoy-switch: "Thank you for speaking with us, oh mighty adventurers... a rival tribe further down the cave with a weirdly identical set of weapons and skills is besieging us!" If the players come up with a crazier idea than you thought, go with that idea! The game is way more fun that way.

    Learn how to fail forward. If the whole party gets wiped out due to bad dice rolls, have them captured and dragged off to a prison instead. If the main negotiator fails to win over the heart of the king, then have the (evil) vizier secretly approach the players after they are thrown out of the castle. There are a hundred and one ways to keep the game going despite the best/worst efforts of your players.

    Finally, for new groups, it's often difficult for players to figure out what to do. "I'm just sitting here... I have no good ideas!" is a common thought when it comes to playing RPGs, and it's also your job as a GM to keep this from happening. Some players, especially new ones, don't have the initiative to push plans or goals toward you. Whenever you have a scene, think of at least one way for each player to contribute to the scene, and if they are stuck, you can suggest they can do that action. Or you can do a round-robin and ask each player straight-up: "So, how do you think your character would deal with this?"

    Di87pOF.jpg
    PSN: Hahnsoo | MHGU: Hahnsoo, Switch FC: SW-0085-2679-5212
    AuralynxEncDarkPrimusRainfallbowenIncenjucar
  • Grunt's GhostsGrunt's Ghosts Registered User regular
    To add to Enc's thing, only named villains can kill PCs. It's not a rule, but make it so.

    Goblin 1 might be able to bring their HPs to 0, but that just means that they are knocked out.

    But if Gur'rust the Deboner brings their HPs to 0, they need to make death saving throws. If they fail enough times, Gur'rust lives up to his name, ripping the bones right out of their corpses and using them as weapons against the party.

    Enc
  • EncEnc A Fool with Compassion The Land of Flowers (and Dragons)Registered User regular
    Yeah, boss encounters are always lethal fights. It's not explicitly stated in most of my games, but generally understood.

    Hey, you guys are taking on a giant steampunk tank piloted by the big bad! Yep, its the end of the arc, ladies and gentlemen. Lets see who survives to next season.

    RainfallMrVyngaardOats
  • Hahnsoo1Hahnsoo1 Make Ready. We Hunt.Registered User regular
    But if Gur'rust the Deboner brings their HPs to 0, they need to make death saving throws. If they fail enough times, Gur'rust lives up to his name, ripping the bones right out of their corpses and using them as weapons against the party.
    Man, Gur'rust the Deboner is a big dick. Why do we keep inviting him to our parties?

    Di87pOF.jpg
    PSN: Hahnsoo | MHGU: Hahnsoo, Switch FC: SW-0085-2679-5212
    Grunt's Ghosts
  • TNTrooperTNTrooper Registered User regular
    Hahnsoo1 wrote: »
    But if Gur'rust the Deboner brings their HPs to 0, they need to make death saving throws. If they fail enough times, Gur'rust lives up to his name, ripping the bones right out of their corpses and using them as weapons against the party.
    Man, Gur'rust the Deboner is a big dick. Why do we keep inviting him to our parties?

    Cause he got the hook up at the pizza place.

    steam_sig.png
    Grunt's Ghosts
  • TofystedethTofystedeth veni, veneri, vamoosi Registered User regular
    TNTrooper wrote: »
    Hahnsoo1 wrote: »
    But if Gur'rust the Deboner brings their HPs to 0, they need to make death saving throws. If they fail enough times, Gur'rust lives up to his name, ripping the bones right out of their corpses and using them as weapons against the party.
    Man, Gur'rust the Deboner is a big dick. Why do we keep inviting him to our parties?

    Cause he got the hook up at the pizza place.

    He really likes their chicken wings. Gives him something to do.

    steam_sig.png
    TNTrooperGrunt's GhostsbowenSanderJKHappylilElfJihadJesuskilroydos
  • dispatch.odispatch.o Registered User regular
    We used to run a karma system. It was essentially a value the DM tracked that you started with 1 point at creation and when you leveled up depending on how the DM felt you played your role you may get another.

    If a roll occurred that would result in your death. The DM would spend the point and let you change your action and roll again. You never knew if you had a point beyond the initial one and it let the DM give a do-over with the appearance of having a method to it. It worked well because it let him award new players who tried to play their character in a fun and consistent way the chance to find their footing. More experienced players who played rules lawyer? Sorry you died.

  • Grunt's GhostsGrunt's Ghosts Registered User regular
    TNTrooper wrote: »
    Hahnsoo1 wrote: »
    But if Gur'rust the Deboner brings their HPs to 0, they need to make death saving throws. If they fail enough times, Gur'rust lives up to his name, ripping the bones right out of their corpses and using them as weapons against the party.
    Man, Gur'rust the Deboner is a big dick. Why do we keep inviting him to our parties?

    Cause he got the hook up at the pizza place.

    He really likes their chicken wings. Gives him something to do.

    The true origins of his name.

  • HonkHonk Honk is this poster. Registered User, __BANNED USERS regular
    bowen wrote: »
    What incentive is there for a player to play or keep playing if the DM is trying to kill you all the time? It takes the fun out of it. On the other hand you don't want to carebear it either.

    Ideally the PCs should think they could die at any moment but never do.

    Maintaining that balance is a key part of the art of DMing.

    For the campaign I'm playing now this has certainly been a good thing to keep suspension. We're four PCs and we've had quite a few times now where half the party has been downed in fights, that's been really exciting.

    But I also kind of like the combat the most in DnD, I could see being more chill with the stakes being very reasonable if the focus is on storytelling and RP.

    PSN: Honkalot
  • evilthecatevilthecat Registered User regular
    So much good advice already!

    I've been DMing for nearly 2 years now and one other bit of advice I can give you is similar to a poker proverb: You aren't playing the game as much as you are playing the players.

    The rules are there to give people structure and prevent adults from descending to bickering children.
    They're the framework for what generally works and what doesn't.

    Everything else is you understanding and communicating with your players. What people enjoy and will want to do and how much they will contribute to the story on their own varies wildly and chances are even a group of good friends might not enjoy the same sort of game.
    I think some good starting areas to probe your players in are:

    sandbox vs rails. Yeah a great DM will be able to do both but when you're starting out you'll probably have to pick between the two. Sandboxes are great for creating a borderless environment, rails are great for creating depth and awesome setpieces.

    Powergamers. It's important to find out how adept your players are at the mechanics of the game. My players, for example, aren't, so throwing them a level appropriate challenge is going to get them killed. Which brings me to the next point:

    Death. Never easy to handle, particularly for a first time DM. Out of all of the things you learn along the way (and know how to address and handle if you were to ever run a new campaign), this one carries the most weight. People get really attached to their characters, but if you don't threaten them the game will lose it's edge. If they aren't powergamers, they'll be less likely to accept that running into a room without, e.g. checking it for traps or magic, can result in death. Generally, I find it's easier to kill off people in the lower levels (both for them, they're less attached, and for you, as you now don't have to figure out a way to incorporate a level 14 monk-bard into your story) and when they do really stupid things. Like taunting an elder dragon.

    One could go on but I think those are large enough.
    Curious to see how your first games go!

    tip.. tip.. TALLY.. HOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO!
  • HachfaceHachface Not the Minister Farrakhan you're thinking of Registered User regular
    Kill one character before level 5 and they will fear you forever.

    CelestialBadgerPLASteelhawkMrVyngaardRainfallIncenjucar
  • CelestialBadgerCelestialBadger Registered User regular
    Hachface wrote: »
    Kill one character before level 5 and they will fear you forever.

    TV shows do this, too. There's usually a "sacrificial" character in a TV show that wants to be edgy, who dies quite early.

  • PLAPLA The process.Registered User regular
    Balancing encounters is hard, but a DM can just say that the monster is different and then it's different.

  • DarkPrimusDarkPrimus premium Registered User regular
    PLA wrote: »
    Balancing encounters is hard, but a DM can just say that the monster is different and then it's different.

    Did you have a flame elemental prepared but they decided to travel north?

    Just change the fire damage to cold damage and you've got an ice elemental.

    You wanted them to fight some bandits but they wanted to join the bandits? Now they have to fight a group of rangers hired to take the bandits out.

    The players don't see the stats you're looking at, so don't feel restricted to using what's on the page. Change things to fit the situation.

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    Gamertag: PrimusD | Rock Band DLC | GW:OttW - arrcd | WLD - Thortar
    CelestialBadgerElvenshaeMrVyngaardbowenTofystedethRhesus PositiveIncenjucar
  • CelestialBadgerCelestialBadger Registered User regular
    In the same way, you can have "wandering dungeons" - you make a dungeon for the players to explore but they walk past it. Fortunately it turns up below the sewers in the next town.

    ElvenshaeSmrtnikTofystedethRhesus Positive
  • Grunt's GhostsGrunt's Ghosts Registered User regular
    Yep, when needed, file the serial numbers off and call it something new.

    No one will noticed.

    Trust me.

    ElvenshaeMrVyngaardRainfallTofystedethAndy JoeIncenjucar
  • JebusUDJebusUD Adventure! Candy IslandRegistered User regular
    evilthecat wrote: »

    Death. Never easy to handle, particularly for a first time DM. Out of all of the things you learn along the way (and know how to address and handle if you were to ever run a new campaign), this one carries the most weight. People get really attached to their characters, but if you don't threaten them the game will lose it's edge. If they aren't powergamers, they'll be less likely to accept that running into a room without, e.g. checking it for traps or magic, can result in death. Generally, I find it's easier to kill off people in the lower levels (both for them, they're less attached, and for you, as you now don't have to figure out a way to incorporate a level 14 monk-bard into your story) and when they do really stupid things. Like taunting an elder dragon.

    Speaking of traps and magic, At the same time you don't want to encourage "I roll to check for traps" and "I roll to search everything" and "I take 2 steps and then do a perception check, and then do it again in 2 more steps." Characters should act the way people would act. If there is no reason for them to search for a trap, then don't hesitate to make them feel silly for staring at the floor for a few minutes.

    Similarly, give real cues for danger and caution. They are entering an ancient trapped dungeon? Maybe there is a sprung trap a few feet in with a skeleton hanging from it. Goblins are expecting you? A trip wire set to knock over some rusty helmets at the door makes sense. DM's need to make sure these things make sense, and I think first timers are likely to just slap stuff in for lols. Here is a crushinating trap at the entrance to a random cave for no reason. Not very compelling.

    And I won, so you lose,
    Guess it always comes down to.
  • TNTrooperTNTrooper Registered User regular
    Killing a player gives them a way to reroll their character if they aren't happy with how some things turned out.

    steam_sig.png
  • DevoutlyApatheticDevoutlyApathetic Registered User regular
    edited November 2016
    JebusUD wrote: »
    Speaking of traps and magic, At the same time you don't want to encourage "I roll to check for traps" and "I roll to search everything" and "I take 2 steps and then do a perception check, and then do it again in 2 more steps." Characters should act the way people would act. If there is no reason for them to search for a trap, then don't hesitate to make them feel silly for staring at the floor for a few minutes.

    The corollary to this is don't use traps if you don't want to deal with folks searching. If you put traps that missing has real and lasting consequences in the game then expect players to search every single square. This is just the natural result and what reasonable folks would do.

    So if you want a heroic kick down the doors style of game go very light on the traps or you're going to get a more methodical "Classic Rainbow Six" style of game.

    DevoutlyApathetic on
    Elvenshae
  • Grunt's GhostsGrunt's Ghosts Registered User regular
    JebusUD wrote: »
    evilthecat wrote: »

    Death. Never easy to handle, particularly for a first time DM. Out of all of the things you learn along the way (and know how to address and handle if you were to ever run a new campaign), this one carries the most weight. People get really attached to their characters, but if you don't threaten them the game will lose it's edge. If they aren't powergamers, they'll be less likely to accept that running into a room without, e.g. checking it for traps or magic, can result in death. Generally, I find it's easier to kill off people in the lower levels (both for them, they're less attached, and for you, as you now don't have to figure out a way to incorporate a level 14 monk-bard into your story) and when they do really stupid things. Like taunting an elder dragon.

    Speaking of traps and magic, At the same time you don't want to encourage "I roll to check for traps" and "I roll to search everything" and "I take 2 steps and then do a perception check, and then do it again in 2 more steps." Characters should act the way people would act. If there is no reason for them to search for a trap, then don't hesitate to make them feel silly for staring at the floor for a few minutes.

    Similarly, give real cues for danger and caution. They are entering an ancient trapped dungeon? Maybe there is a sprung trap a few feet in with a skeleton hanging from it. Goblins are expecting you? A trip wire set to knock over some rusty helmets at the door makes sense. DM's need to make sure these things make sense, and I think first timers are likely to just slap stuff in for lols. Here is a crushinating trap at the entrance to a random cave for no reason. Not very compelling.

    As a player, if a random cave was trapped like that, I'd ask myself the question of "Who would spend time to trap a cave and what's in there that is so important?" Which could be a story in and of itself.

    JebusUDElvenshaeSmrtnikTofystedethAuralynx
  • CelestialBadgerCelestialBadger Registered User regular
    TNTrooper wrote: »
    Killing a player gives them a way to reroll their character if they aren't happy with how some things turned out.

    Yeah, if someone says to you "I think I'd like to retire my character and try a new class" you can privately suggest a dramatic end to put the fear of Lolth into the other players.

    ElvenshaeEncMrVyngaardbowenTofystedethRhesus Positive
  • SmrtnikSmrtnik job boli zub Registered User regular
    Zxerol wrote: »
    Though if you do want to try kind of old-school, ultralethal "DM hates your ass" kind of adversarial dungeon crawling, but within the framework of a more modern system, you can take a look at Dungeon Crawl Classics. The twist here is that you actually generate four expendable meatbags characters at once before you send them into the grinder, and ideally one survives to get to level 1. I haven't actually played it myself, but sat in while my friend ran a couple of sessions, and it's been well-received.

    We are playing this on the offnights from our regular story and it's a lot of fun. Because the characters have no real background and their personalities emerge kind of randomly as you play.
    In our main game shit has hit the fan and we will likely have a total party wipe within the first hour if our next session. Given the amount of time investment I've put into generating a back story before even playing, cross coordinating with another player so our characters are siblings with shared but distinct history, and then i bought a custom minifig, I'll be pretty pissed when it does go down. The GM has hinted that we can make new characters and that fine, but i expect I'll be putting in 0 effort beyond the numbers and go just to hang out then actually enjoy the story had going on.

    steam_sig.png
  • evilthecatevilthecat Registered User regular
    Re: Traps

    Well that's what passive perception is for!
    I think traps, or anything that's dangerous, requires sign posting in one narrative way or another. This will establish a status quo, one that you as the DM can then subvert for comedic/dramatic effect.

    putting glyphs of warding into the coin purses of commoners is just being a dick.

    tip.. tip.. TALLY.. HOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO!
  • EncEnc A Fool with Compassion The Land of Flowers (and Dragons)Registered User regular
    Can't stress enough: all perception rolls should be made by the GM as passive perception. Usually without the players knowing. Behavior changes when they see their roll "I look at this desk" [1] You see nothing. "I LOOK HARDER, HEY EVERYONE COME OVER HERE." vs. rolling a passive perceptionc heck when players enter the room and using that for how observant they are at the things they look into. IE: Player 1 rolled a 16, if he chooses to look at things he will probably see XY and Z. that doesn't mean he automatically sees things. On a 19-20 roll perhaps they immediately see things!

    It works super great.

  • CelestialBadgerCelestialBadger Registered User regular
    Players should be expected to verbally ask to check for traps only when doing something obviously dangerous like hacking down a locked door or opening a sinister chest. If you want them to check when doing something innocuous like walking down a corridor, mention the "blackened, scorched walls" or "half-dissolved bones."

    SmrtnikHappylilElf
  • ScooterScooter Registered User regular
    DarkPrimus wrote: »
    PLA wrote: »
    Balancing encounters is hard, but a DM can just say that the monster is different and then it's different.

    Did you have a flame elemental prepared but they decided to travel north?

    Just change the fire damage to cold damage and you've got an ice elemental.

    You wanted them to fight some bandits but they wanted to join the bandits? Now they have to fight a group of rangers hired to take the bandits out.

    The players don't see the stats you're looking at, so don't feel restricted to using what's on the page. Change things to fit the situation.

    One variation factor I use often in my combat scenarios is the determination of the enemies. While my group has fought a few robots and animals, most of their opponents have been humans. That means fighting people smart enough to go "Hmm, a moment ago I was at 16/16 and now I'm at 3/16. Do I really want to die today?" If I want to press the players harder, it might be a fight to the death, but if it's a sideshow, then the mooks will generally surrender when they've obviously lost.

    Of course, that also opens opportunities for my players to specifically try intimidation tactics to force a surrender rather than making it a straight combat situation.

    JebusUD
  • HappylilElfHappylilElf Registered User regular
    Enc wrote: »
    Can't stress enough: all perception rolls should be made by the GM as passive perception. Usually without the players knowing. Behavior changes when they see their roll "I look at this desk" [1] You see nothing. "I LOOK HARDER, HEY EVERYONE COME OVER HERE." vs. rolling a passive perceptionc heck when players enter the room and using that for how observant they are at the things they look into. IE: Player 1 rolled a 16, if he chooses to look at things he will probably see XY and Z. that doesn't mean he automatically sees things. On a 19-20 roll perhaps they immediately see things!

    It works super great.

    Also if the players begin to catch on to you rolling passive perception checks and begin using it as a signal to begin actively searching?

    Feel free to occasionally roll dice for no actual reason, frown slightly at them and then look up at the group smiling and enjoy the looks of apprehension and/or terror

    LindDarkPrimusEncElvenshaeAndy Joe
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