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  • DidgeridooDidgeridoo Registered User regular
    As a completely new GM, I think that 5e allows for and encourages a good amount of improvisation while also giving a fairly strong framework for players to fall back on when the improv juice just isn't flowing.

    I know many of you all are table top RPG veterans, but as someone who is new to both playing and GMing, DnD has a framework of well-recognized systems and mechanics that serve our group as a nice fallback for when we are not feeling as creative as more seasoned players might be.

    I guess what I'm saying is, as a brand new GM who is currently running a 5e campaign, I do not feel nearly as constricted by DnD mechanics as some of you seem to feel about DnD in general. To me, it seems pretty clear that the player and DM handbooks are there as a guide, but that I am free to improvise or bend the rules as the play session dictates.

    Let's take the example of the failure to properly pick a lock. I don't think there's anything in the DnD guidebook that's preventing me from just deciding "You know what, fine. After slamming against the chest for half an hour, it reveals its lackluster contents."

    The question might then be why not use something other than DnD 5e. The answer is that there's a plethora of readily available modules and maps to help a new GM get started! It helps me tremendously to have a Roll 20 pack of ready made maps and tokens on offer, even if I end up modifying them heavily.

  • DarkPrimusDarkPrimus premium Registered User regular
    While there are bad habits to pick up from DMing D&D, most of what I mean when I am talking about learning bad habits refers to the role of a player. And certainly, if one is a player first, they can take those bad habits over to when they try out the other side of the GM screen.

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  • StraightziStraightzi Here we may reign secure, and in my choice, To reign is worth ambition though in HellRegistered User regular
    Yeah, D&D doesn't teach bad GM habits

    To do that, it would have to teach you how to GM

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  • webguy20webguy20 I spend too much time on the Internet Registered User regular
    Didgeridoo wrote: »
    As a completely new GM, I think that 5e allows for and encourages a good amount of improvisation while also giving a fairly strong framework for players to fall back on when the improv juice just isn't flowing.

    I know many of you all are table top RPG veterans, but as someone who is new to both playing and GMing, DnD has a framework of well-recognized systems and mechanics that serve our group as a nice fallback for when we are not feeling as creative as more seasoned players might be.

    I guess what I'm saying is, as a brand new GM who is currently running a 5e campaign, I do not feel nearly as constricted by DnD mechanics as some of you seem to feel about DnD in general. To me, it seems pretty clear that the player and DM handbooks are there as a guide, but that I am free to improvise or bend the rules as the play session dictates.

    Let's take the example of the failure to properly pick a lock. I don't think there's anything in the DnD guidebook that's preventing me from just deciding "You know what, fine. After slamming against the chest for half an hour, it reveals its lackluster contents."

    The question might then be why not use something other than DnD 5e. The answer is that there's a plethora of readily available modules and maps to help a new GM get started! It helps me tremendously to have a Roll 20 pack of ready made maps and tokens on offer, even if I end up modifying them heavily.

    My biggest beef with the DM's guide is that it doesn't go into depth on the bolded. there's probably a whole chapter easily written on tried and true methods of empowering the players through rulings and improvisations in the moment that I imagine would be a big help to a new DM. There's plenty of stories over on RPG horror stories about DMs who rule and improvise to absolutely fuck their players, and I still hold out hope that some of them could be saved just by having a clear cut guide on how to help rather than hinder.

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  • DidgeridooDidgeridoo Registered User regular
    I guess I think a guide to improvisation is kind of nonsensical? The 5e DM guide already gives quite a few examples of improvisation options, and then encourages you to create your own scenarios. Most of them are not scenarios I'd use in my own campaign, but give an idea of the type of freeform play you can get into.

    I don't think a guide to improvisation would prevent an asshole DM from fucking over their players. The guide emphasizes story and player experience over the rule set, and encourages DMs to modify the campaign to better suit the players. If the DM is inclined to be adversarial to their players, I am unconvinced that more detailed improv examples would change that tendency.

  • admanbadmanb unionize your workplace Seattle, WARegistered User regular
    edited September 24
    I disagree that a guide to improvisation would be nonsense as I’ve read a number of good ones, both for specific games as well as general role-playing. Improvisation is a skill, like anything, and can be learned and taught like any skill.

    I do agree that asshole GMs will be asshole GMs, but I think there’s a middle tier of GMs that are not fundamentally assholes but that have a view of D&D that requires an adversarial relationship. I admit I do not ascribe the DMG a lot of worth because the beginner path of 5E is starter kit > PHB, with the DMG as an afterthought for many new players — fairly, since by that point they’re $60+ deep.

    Of course I can’t truly judge what it’s like to learn D&D in 2020 since I learned D&D in 1996. But I do know what it’s like to start over and learn non-D&D games in 2017 and it was revelatory.

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  • webguy20webguy20 I spend too much time on the Internet Registered User regular
    admanb wrote: »
    I disagree that a guide to improvisation would be nonsense as I’ve read a number of good ones, both for specific games as well as general role-playing. Improvisation is a skill, like anything, and can be learned and taught like any skill.

    I do agree that asshole GMs will be asshole GMs, but I think there’s a middle tier of GMs that are not fundamentally assholes but that have a view of how D&D that demands an adversarial relationship. I admit I do not ascribe the DMG a lot of worth because the beginner path of 5E is starter kit > PHB, with the DMG as an afterthought for many new players — fairly, since by that point they’re $60+ deep.

    Of course I can’t truly judge what it’s like to learn D&D in 2020 since I learned D&D in 1996. But I do know what it’s like to start over and learn non-D&D games in 2017 and it was revelatory.

    I'm a big fan of 13th Age's asides with the designers talking about why they made the decisions they made and how they like to play.

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  • SleepSleep Registered User regular
    Improv is difficult when it's a bunch of folks making shit up with barely any kind of rules. Whatch the show who's line is it anyways and play some of the games they play with your d&d group. It'll take some doing to actually be good at yes anding and creating decent scenes. There's actually tons of books written about this very topic. It's a learned skill that you can definitely teach people how to do. Improv is a lot like go, fabulously simple rules (make shit up), incredibly complex strategy (actually make that shit entertaining). Doing improve where you codify the game of the scene while creating compelling game mechanics is a monumental task.

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  • JacobkoshJacobkosh Gamble a stamp. I can show you how to be a real man!Moderator mod
    Didgeridoo wrote: »
    I guess I think a guide to improvisation is kind of nonsensical?

    It's not, though. It's literally a thing people go to school for. It's a real skill that we can all really develop, like a muscle, and there are real rewards for doing so no matter what kind of game you're running. It's literally always a value-add.

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  • webguy20webguy20 I spend too much time on the Internet Registered User regular
    Are there any good online resources for it? Can someone recommend some?

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  • JacobkoshJacobkosh Gamble a stamp. I can show you how to be a real man!Moderator mod
    Actually, let's talk about that. Let's talk about things that are good for GMs to know how to do, because I feel like this is actually a subject that's hard to find out about if you're new - there's all sorts of very specific advice like "encounter building" but nobody ever really puts it all together for you.

    Off the top of my head, I think people who want to learn to be good at GMing should honestly self-assess and work to improve their

    Social intelligence. Learn how to pick up on what people like or what makes them uncomfortable. Figure out some strategies for keeping the table's energy up. Be proactive about identifying and defusing problems and personality conflicts. Learn how to teach people effectively so they pick up on the system faster. You could probably write a book about every single sentence here and they're all hugely important and yet gaming advice is super thin on the ground about this stuff!

    Rhetoric/public speaking. You ain't gotta be an actor, it's perfectly valid to just narrate what goes on in your game rather than trying to do Critical Role, but unless you're doing a pure text game knowing how to breathe and enunciate and look people in the eye and speak in a voice that carries is never not helpful! And again, this is something that barely ever gets talked about in game circles despite the fact that I've had multiple GMs who kind of turtled behind their screen, where you could only see the top of their head and hear a meek little voice going "so......you step into the [mumble mumble] and there are [sound of rolling] three orcs and [mumble]..."

    Math. Especially probabilities. I know, I know, this one is no fun for a lot of people but man even in a rules-light system it's good to be able to accurately eyeball the odds of something happening. So many early-GM mistakes, like the classic first-session TPK, often owe a lot to the DM basically grabbing numbers at random or going with what "sounded" right instead of sitting down and going "holy shit this monster has a 15% to fatally crit a PC every round."

    Improv. No matter how much prep you do, the unexpected is a part of every roleplaying game, because other people are present and there's some kind of stochastic factor like dice or cards. Learning how to roll with the punches, learning how to fold the unexpected into what you were already doing so it feels like it belonged there all along, those things will make any game better.

    Pacing. Even if you don't explicitly frame your games in terms of scenes, they have them, and knowing when the scene is done and players are about to start spinning their wheels is an important muscle to build. Very few players actually want to trudge through all the mundanities of their character's life and narrate every poop they take, and even if they do, the table probably doesn't. If you're proactive, you can go "and scene. The next morning, you wake up and" but if that feels too meddly and assertive it's still helpful to ask the table "do we think we're done here?" It's surprising how often players are actually done and ready to move on but keep going because they think someone else wants to finish a bit.

    Three-act structure. Some people recoil from the word "story" like it's acid burning them, but again, like improv, knowing how to feel out the rhythm of a story is a real skill that can benefit everyone. Practicing and making a discipline out of creating setups and then creating escalations to the setup is a good tool to have in your toolbox even if you're running a very loose-structured or sandbox game; it's what makes the difference between a rote fetch quest - "Farmer Bob asks the PCs to rescue his daughter from orcs" - and something with a little more meat - "...but the daughter went voluntarily and doesn't want to go home."

    Tactics. This doesn't apply to every game, but if there's fightin' in your game (and there probably is), knowing how to make fights challenging and play credible opposition will make the game more fun for your players and maybe even for you. Even in a gridless freeform hippie game, being able to narrate tactics that feel effective and menacing, and assess the likelihood of PCs' various gambits, isn't going to hurt anything and is frequently useful.

    Architecture. Nobody ever brings this one up and yet I don't think I've played a single system or setting in 30+ years of this shit where I haven't gone "wait...what kind of floor plan does a basilica have?"

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  • JacobkoshJacobkosh Gamble a stamp. I can show you how to be a real man!Moderator mod
    webguy20 wrote: »
    Are there any good online resources for it? Can someone recommend some?

    I'm sure there are, there's gotta be, but most of what I know about improv comes from a couple of acting textbooks and listening to comedians on podcasts talk about working at Second City or whatever.

    A lot of what I know I learned by experimenting on hapless players. Like ten years ago I ran a long campaign of Mutants & Masterminds for some folks here and I would sometimes set challenges for myself, stuff like "wing an entire session based on 10 mad libs words players give me." Sometimes this worked out really great! Other times it was meandering and boring. Learn by doing :P If one doesn't have players who are good sports and willing to do a dumb experiment, I'd suggest getting some friends together and trying some acting and comedy exercises.

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  • JacobkoshJacobkosh Gamble a stamp. I can show you how to be a real man!Moderator mod
    last post I swear, I just had meant to reply to these
    DarkPrimus wrote: »
    While there are bad habits to pick up from DMing D&D, most of what I mean when I am talking about learning bad habits refers to the role of a player. And certainly, if one is a player first, they can take those bad habits over to when they try out the other side of the GM screen.
    Straightzi wrote: »
    Yeah, D&D doesn't teach bad GM habits

    To do that, it would have to teach you how to GM

    I'm kind of making a hand waffle motion.

    It's not universal, but I think some D&D has sometimes taught some bad GM habits. I think the absolute worst 2 examples were, firstly, the 80s adventure modules like Tomb of Horrors that were just repackaged convention tournament modules. They were meant to be played as Last Man Standing eliminations but they forgot to tell people that! So kids bought these things and read them and thought "real D&D" was full of unwinnable, random-murder bullshit, and it set the tone for a whole generation of DMs and players to assume that the game was meant to be adversarial, with both "sides" at the other's throat the whole time. DMs learned to fudge dice and plot nonsensical deathtrap dungeons while players learned to badger and bully every scrap of information they could out of the DM just to try and stay one step ahead.

    Then the second shitty thing happened, which was that string of modules in the late 80s and early 90s for settings like Dragonlance and Forgotten Realms that redefined the concept of railroading. I literally remember one FR module where, and I swear to god I'm not making this up, Elminster tells the PCs to go on this quest and if they refuse he turns them into statues and sends their souls to hell. With no save. At the end of the module, the PCs watch two gods fight, and the DM advice says that "they can roll, but it won't do anything." But if they get the evil god's attention, he obliterates them from existence. With no save. It's some of the most egregious bullshit I've ever seen, and I blame it for a bunch of traumatized players who were so radicalized that they freak out and cry "railroading" and "fiat" any time the DM does anything without rolling on a table, up to and including just announcing that it's a sunny day without rolling on the Weather Table.

    But yeah, most of the time I agree with you guys and think D&D just kind of neglects DMs.

    I do think that a ton of D&D DMing advice is incredibly D&D-specific and has almost no utility outside of that context. Pantheon design, for instance. I haven't designed a pantheon for a homebrew setting in 15 years and I fall to my kenes sobbing and thanking Jesus every day for that. I hated that shit. Or stuff like "how to make the fighter feel useful."

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  • DevoutlyApatheticDevoutlyApathetic Registered User regular
    Sleep wrote: »
    Improv is difficult when it's a bunch of folks making shit up with barely any kind of rules. Whatch the show who's line is it anyways and play some of the games they play with your d&d group. It'll take some doing to actually be good at yes anding and creating decent scenes. There's actually tons of books written about this very topic. It's a learned skill that you can definitely teach people how to do. Improv is a lot like go, fabulously simple rules (make shit up), incredibly complex strategy (actually make that shit entertaining). Doing improve where you codify the game of the scene while creating compelling game mechanics is a monumental task.

    I don't think I'd agree that improv is difficult but it needs to be learned. The go example is a pretty decent example as until you've done some basic training that shit looks completely inscrutable but once you've got some basic concepts down you can be playing games that feel better than you'd expect in no time. Sure if you taped and reviewed them they might feel awkward but games (and improv) are experienced in the moment. Taping them removes a big part of what works about them. Whose Line, for example, tends to tape much more than ever makes it into the show. You're seeing the edited best of bits on TV.

    The core skills in improv are extremely transferable to gaming. Active listening, agreement, character development and basic plotting pretty much all port right over. Some other stuff, like heightening or game, aren't typical things in tabletop but play really well. Most established RPG groups do something similar to those two but it is just viewed as having fun with friends, which is the entire point of this hobby.

    If folks are interested in an decent intro to the overlap between gaming and improv I'd point you towards Karen Twelves book Improv for Gamers. She's a long time improv performer/teacher and an editor for Evil Hat. She totally knows her stuff and the book is really accessible.

    https://www.evilhat.com/home/improv-for-gamers/

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  • DidgeridooDidgeridoo Registered User regular
    Jacobkosh wrote: »
    Didgeridoo wrote: »
    I guess I think a guide to improvisation is kind of nonsensical?

    It's not, though. It's literally a thing people go to school for. It's a real skill that we can all really develop, like a muscle, and there are real rewards for doing so no matter what kind of game you're running. It's literally always a value-add.

    Nonsensical was a poor word choice on my part. Improvisation as a skill can definitely be taught, and is worthwhile. But I'm having a hard time envisioning how it would be fit into a rules guide.

    I made that first post because I wanted to push back on the idea that DnD is particularly bad for new GMs and new players to learn, since that hasn't been my experience. But maybe I just haven't seen a system that actually does teach skills like improv to their GMs.
    Straightzi wrote: »
    Yeah, D&D doesn't teach bad GM habits

    To do that, it would have to teach you how to GM

    What systems do you feel teach people how to GM?

  • NaphtaliNaphtali Null Registered User regular
    edited September 24
    Didgeridoo wrote: »
    Straightzi wrote: »
    Yeah, D&D doesn't teach bad GM habits

    To do that, it would have to teach you how to GM

    What systems do you feel teach people how to GM?

    Realistically? Experience. The first game I ran was just straight up awful (in my estimation, anyways), I did it by the seat of my pants for most of it and I didn't plan things well. I was more trying to play off of what the characters wanted to do, which didn't do too well; for them or for me. But I learned a lot from that game and the next one I ran was far better.

    edit: caveat here - the game I ran was homebrew, not D&D. But good GMing is a universal skill regardless of your playsetting.

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  • StraightziStraightzi Here we may reign secure, and in my choice, To reign is worth ambition though in HellRegistered User regular
    Didgeridoo wrote: »
    Straightzi wrote: »
    Yeah, D&D doesn't teach bad GM habits

    To do that, it would have to teach you how to GM

    What systems do you feel teach people how to GM?

    Hmm, let's see, here are a few of my favorites:
    • Monsterhearts has just generally good GM advice. The GMing chapter is just full of good concise tips and paragraph long explanations for why you should be doing things that way, stuff like "Give side characters simple, divisive motivations" and "Make monsters seem human, and vice versa" are given detail as to how that can help with your narrative structure and make the game more fun. Plus full explanations of what all the GM moves actually mean and how to use them, and a bit of detail on story structure - how to set up a good first scene, a satisfying climax, that sort of thing.
    • Blades in the Dark provides excellent GM tools baked into the system itself. It also has some decent GM advice, which oughtn't be overlooked (including a section on bad GM habits that you should try to avoid that I like quite a lot), but more significant for me is the way that clocks and the faction game are just already a part of the game as soon as you start playing. These structures do a good job (for me) of straddling the line between a pre-written adventure or other prescriptive GMing structure and the full open world of "just make something up."
    • Cthulhu Dark has some overall strong advice on story structure and writing a good horror mystery, including ten different models you can use to look at your role as a storyteller through (the Director, the Railroad, the Fearmonger, etc). Also specific tips on describing horror, and breakdowns of a number of classic Lovecraftian monsters to talk about what they represent and the themes that should be in play. A lot of this is very genre specific and focused on genre emulation, which makes for a weird comparison to the proudly genre-less D&D, but I find it really useful personally.

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  • joshgotrojoshgotro Queen CityRegistered User regular
    My favorite way to play 5E is 5E with a ton of PBtA spices disguised as house rules.

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  • StraightziStraightzi Here we may reign secure, and in my choice, To reign is worth ambition though in HellRegistered User regular
    In direct terms of D&D, I don't necessarily think that a focus on improv is what the game needs to be teaching GMs. It's useful, as many of us could attest, but technically speaking D&D is supposed to be more about crafted world adventures than directly spitballing off what the players say.

    So what I would like to see is advice on how to structure and run a good adventure. Some of the best examples of this I can think of in other games are games that are focused on genre emulation, which does make this a bit more difficult, but in that, I think it would just need to have more. The DM's Guide is a full book; let's make it worthwhile. Give me a chapter on how to build a good dungeon (cause/effect, ecosystems, how to create non-violent encounters in a violent world), a chapter on how to write a good mystery (distributing clues, building structure, providing options), and so on. Maybe include some extra systems you can bolt on to the game for while you're running those specific genre emulations. Or big campaign stuff, a chapter explaining the difference between an epic quest and a west marches and an open world game.

    Throughout it give me sidebars on what to do about those damn players - what if they miss the clues you laid for them, what if they ignore your plot hooks, what if they try to side with the villains - as a form of contingency plan, as that's where I see DMs frequently needing the most improv help. Talk about managing your players as a group (basic interpersonal skills, different types of players and knowing what they want) and your party as a group (how to balance stories and elements for a variety of character classes and archetypes).

    In my dream form, this is also a DM's Guide that's honest about what D&D is. That is to say, during the mystery chapter, it should be clear about the fact that D&D is not made for investigating crimes - if you want a mystery that will frequently involve killing a bugbear to take its clues from it, it will work, but if you want long drawn out interrogation scenes, there might be a better game out there for you.

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  • ZonugalZonugal The Holiday Armadillo I'm Santa's representative for all the southern states. And Mexico!Registered User regular
    As someone who used to perform improv comedy, while I think a book could contain useful passages I don't think reading up on improv is a good way to get better at it.

    You get better at improv by actively doing it over and over and over again.

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  • StraightziStraightzi Here we may reign secure, and in my choice, To reign is worth ambition though in HellRegistered User regular
    Zonugal wrote: »
    As someone who used to perform improv comedy, while I think a book could contain useful passages I don't think reading up on improv is a good way to get better at it.

    You get better at improv by actively doing it over and over and over again.

    I don't think a book could help you get better at improv

    But I do think a book could teach you the fundamentals of improv, if you've never encountered them before

    "Yes and" and "No but" can be revelatory if you've never encountered them before, and especially if we're looking at improv specific to a roleplaying game, there's a lot of good guidelines you could put out there to make things a bit smoother

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  • TynnanTynnan seldom correct, never unsure Registered User regular
    I’ve started using PbtA/Blades-style “outcome ranges” for adjudicating roll outcomes in my 5e game and it’s been a great change. D&D has a nasty habit of making rolls have a binary outcome, where that’s just not fun. So having a middle ground of “you succeed, but with a cost or complication” is really useful. Those systems do a better job of laying out how that works right from the start.

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  • Hexmage-PAHexmage-PA Registered User regular
    edited September 24
    So I guess as an example of people hacking D&D to get what they want from it I've begun working on a framework for how to build and maintain a mining colony, as per the wishes of one of my players. Fortunately, I've got several publications to draw inspiration from:
    • First, I'm using the Seven-Pillared Hall from 4E's Thunderspire Mountain as the main hub location. The original adventure involved clearing out the nearby Well of Demons, a labyrinth city once inhabited by peaceful minotaurs before the demon lord Baphomet drove them to madness (the ancient minotaurs were long gone by the time of the adventure; kind of a weird choice to set your adventure in a minotaur-built ruin but feature no actual minotaurs). I've decided that the Well of Demons was largely cleared of threats decades ago and now is primarily a place where refugees from the Deeps of the Underdark too poor to afford the limited residences in the Seven-Pillared Hall live. Both the Deepgem Clan of dwarves and the Grimmerzhul Clan of duergar who maintain outposts in the Hall are interested in using the winding passages of the Well of Demons as starting points for prospecting and would be glad to give the PC some start up money (that they'd expect a return investment in) if they find a promising mining location (the wealthy dwarves are nearly as bad as the duergar, BTW, as their home city of Kraghammer as described in the Tal'Dorei setting book is startlingly oppressive and personally sounds more like a stereotypical duergar city in some respects). Some of the refugees could be interested in getting work as miners, which hopefully the Chaotic Good mining-enthusiast PC and his Lawful Good cleric PC ally would treat fairly, much to the chagrin of the corrupt Deepgem dwarves and the secretly-diabolist Grimmerzhul duergar (meaning that the PC could come into conflict with whichever faction provided the start-up money, a representative demanding that the workers are pushed harder and more product is delivered to the parent company). Plus there's always the possibility that the miners could stumble upon encounter locations from the original 4E module and need the party to clear them out.
    • Second, the PC in question is a Hollow One Dragonborn, Hollow Ones being a kind of quasi-undead from Explorer's Guide to Wildemount created by exposure to the weird ambient magic of a place called Blightshore. Said location is close to the ruins of Draconia, an oppressive city-state where the tailed draconblood dragonborn forced the tailless ravenite dragonborn to mine for them. Draconia was destroyed decades ago, the surviving draconbloods leaving with whatever wealth they could carry to try and start new lives in the wider world while the surviving ravenites celebrated their freedom from their oppressors and began working on establishing a new nation. The PC in my campaign doesn't have any memories other than a fascination with gems (probably because the player knows nothing about the Exandria setting), so I'm thinking he might be a ravenite who died during the destruction of Draconia but was brought back by Blightshore's weird magic as an amnesiac. Subconsciously he's returning to what he knows, but this time as someone starting their own mine instead of being forced to work for the draconblood caste.
    • Third, D&D 5E does thankfully have some guidelines for constructing buildings and running businesses, both in the DMG and in the Acquisitions Incorporated book. I can draw on those for inspiration.
    • Fourth, the 4E sourcebook Underdark included an example of a thriving Underdark mining colony and descriptions of several less fortunate and abandoned ones. That can certainly serve as inspiration as well.

    My main concern is that establishing a mine/party HQ is something that takes time, and I'm not certain how much downtime I was going to let the party have during the campaign as my intention was for them to become explorers of another abandoned Underdark city filled with multiple warring factions (although one of those factions is made up of deep gnomes who are getting preyed upon by nearly everything else, so maybe they'd jump at a chance to relocate to the party's mine HQ). Establishing an outpost won't take as long or be as expensive as described in the DMG because they're taking advantage of the structures already present in the Well of Demons. However, they'd also effectively be starting a small colony of NPCs outside the established area of the Seven-Pillared Hall, so I'd need to figure out who the major NPCs here are and how they manage to stay safe outside the protection offered by the Seven-Pillared Hall.

    EDIT: Seeing as I've placed Seven-Pillared Hall and the Well of Demons fairly close to locations detailed in episodes of the first several episodes of Critical Role (a series that one of my players is a big fan of) I'm also having to go through several episode descriptions for details on how this section of the Underdark was described.

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  • The Zombie PenguinThe Zombie Penguin Eternal Hungry Corpse Registered User regular
    "Net result our bouncing 72 limbed Avian-Crustacean Chimera has a single razor sharp horn and can spit balls of electrified mucus at things. Additionally, it's feathered covered parts hide a rubbery, insulating skin, while it's crustacean parts are extra thick and armored."

    Hmm, yes, i think this newest version of my Grand Beast Generator is working very well. Another test resulted in a "Lumbeirng Ten-Limbed Ooze with an unfolding head crest that release blinding flashes of light, symbiotic growths hosting hives of insects, and a huge thick sword tail."

    Ideas hate it when you anthropomorphize them
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  • ElvenshaeElvenshae Registered User regular
    "Net result our bouncing 72 limbed Avian-Crustacean Chimera has a single razor sharp horn and can spit balls of electrified mucus at things. Additionally, it's feathered covered parts hide a rubbery, insulating skin, while it's crustacean parts are extra thick and armored."

    Hmm, yes, i think this newest version of my Grand Beast Generator is working very well. Another test resulted in a "Lumbeirng Ten-Limbed Ooze with an unfolding head crest that release blinding flashes of light, symbiotic growths hosting hives of insects, and a huge thick sword tail."

    Yes, I would like to fight one of those, please.

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  • The Zombie PenguinThe Zombie Penguin Eternal Hungry Corpse Registered User regular
    Personally, i think the bouncing 72 limbed avian crustacean sounds like a real blast. I'm imagining it looking like a Sprint tail-mantishrimp millipede sort of fucker, so it's just scuttling around, feathers waving, beak clacking and then BAM it's flying straight at you, electric mucus's raining down as it goes in for a goring hit.

    Ideas hate it when you anthropomorphize them
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  • webguy20webguy20 I spend too much time on the Internet Registered User regular
    Straightzi wrote: »
    In direct terms of D&D, I don't necessarily think that a focus on improv is what the game needs to be teaching GMs. It's useful, as many of us could attest, but technically speaking D&D is supposed to be more about crafted world adventures than directly spitballing off what the players say.

    So what I would like to see is advice on how to structure and run a good adventure. Some of the best examples of this I can think of in other games are games that are focused on genre emulation, which does make this a bit more difficult, but in that, I think it would just need to have more. The DM's Guide is a full book; let's make it worthwhile. Give me a chapter on how to build a good dungeon (cause/effect, ecosystems, how to create non-violent encounters in a violent world), a chapter on how to write a good mystery (distributing clues, building structure, providing options), and so on. Maybe include some extra systems you can bolt on to the game for while you're running those specific genre emulations. Or big campaign stuff, a chapter explaining the difference between an epic quest and a west marches and an open world game.

    Throughout it give me sidebars on what to do about those damn players - what if they miss the clues you laid for them, what if they ignore your plot hooks, what if they try to side with the villains - as a form of contingency plan, as that's where I see DMs frequently needing the most improv help. Talk about managing your players as a group (basic interpersonal skills, different types of players and knowing what they want) and your party as a group (how to balance stories and elements for a variety of character classes and archetypes).

    In my dream form, this is also a DM's Guide that's honest about what D&D is. That is to say, during the mystery chapter, it should be clear about the fact that D&D is not made for investigating crimes - if you want a mystery that will frequently involve killing a bugbear to take its clues from it, it will work, but if you want long drawn out interrogation scenes, there might be a better game out there for you.

    Matt Colville has a video where he makes a basic dungeon and its awesome. The dungeon fits in the world, the couple traps make complete sense, as does the layout and secret passage. He slaps a basic story on it with monsters that fit and good hooks for the players. Its a really useful video and its like a half hour long. The Delian Tomb I think its called.

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  • Albino BunnyAlbino Bunny Jackie Registered User regular
    Tynnan wrote: »
    I’ve started using PbtA/Blades-style “outcome ranges” for adjudicating roll outcomes in my 5e game and it’s been a great change. D&D has a nasty habit of making rolls have a binary outcome, where that’s just not fun. So having a middle ground of “you succeed, but with a cost or complication” is really useful. Those systems do a better job of laying out how that works right from the start.

    Just work with margins of success.

    Within 5/10 (depending on how silly the bonuses are at whatever level of 5e this is) of the target number? That's a mixed result. Better than that is solid and clean, for better or worse.

  • Endless_SerpentsEndless_Serpents Registered User regular
    I’m back on dry land for a week. Time to force people to play my starfighter pilot game, fortunately I’ve fooled people before that I can run a fun game, so this’ll be easy! Mwhahaha!

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  • AistanAistan Tiny Bat Registered User regular
    My main problem with the improv thing is that when I don't know what to say in a situation I just don't say anything. It's not a skill I can improve because if I can't think of anything I can't think of anything, there's no 'say whatever and if it doesn't work then oh well you tried and will do better next time.' No, I've got fucking nothing.

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  • DepressperadoDepressperado I just wanted to see you laughing in the pizza rainRegistered User regular
    that, my friend, is when you lean on other media

    is there a similar situation in a book you've read or a movie you've seen? play off that

    note: this only works if you don't really have a life and consume media voraciously.

  • Beef AvengerBeef Avenger Registered User regular
    Aistan wrote: »
    My main problem with the improv thing is that when I don't know what to say in a situation I just don't say anything. It's not a skill I can improve because if I can't think of anything I can't think of anything, there's no 'say whatever and if it doesn't work then oh well you tried and will do better next time.' No, I've got fucking nothing.

    This is where good GM guides prep you for that sort of situation so that you can hopefully anticipate them and already have something prepared to fall back on

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  • StraightziStraightzi Here we may reign secure, and in my choice, To reign is worth ambition though in HellRegistered User regular
    Aistan wrote: »
    My main problem with the improv thing is that when I don't know what to say in a situation I just don't say anything. It's not a skill I can improve because if I can't think of anything I can't think of anything, there's no 'say whatever and if it doesn't work then oh well you tried and will do better next time.' No, I've got fucking nothing.

    Can you give an example of the sort of situation that you're thinking of with this?

    Like, I'm not going to pretend that I definitely have a solution, but I've got a few decades of acting and roleplaying games under my belt, and I might know a few techniques that could help prepare you for that situation (or ones similar) in the future.

  • GrogGrog My sword is only steel in a useful shape.Registered User regular
    Aistan wrote: »
    My main problem with the improv thing is that when I don't know what to say in a situation I just don't say anything. It's not a skill I can improve because if I can't think of anything I can't think of anything, there's no 'say whatever and if it doesn't work then oh well you tried and will do better next time.' No, I've got fucking nothing.

    This is where good GM guides prep you for that sort of situation so that you can hopefully anticipate them and already have something prepared to fall back on

    Or throw it to the group. (Good) GMs and players will understand if you're stumped and can work together to come up with suggestions.

    Personally, I love asking a player questions about another player's character. The latter still gets final say, but I've found it helps get people invested in eachother's characters.

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  • DevoutlyApatheticDevoutlyApathetic Registered User regular
    Zonugal wrote: »
    As someone who used to perform improv comedy, while I think a book could contain useful passages I don't think reading up on improv is a good way to get better at it.

    You get better at improv by actively doing it over and over and over again.

    Being in the same situation, I agree with that though I think practice is more about getting better than starting from scratch. I know the book up above contains some basic group games you could do with folks that have no training to help build up those skills. You could get some of those benefits with just a group so long as you can get folks on board with trying it.
    Aistan wrote: »
    My main problem with the improv thing is that when I don't know what to say in a situation I just don't say anything. It's not a skill I can improve because if I can't think of anything I can't think of anything, there's no 'say whatever and if it doesn't work then oh well you tried and will do better next time.' No, I've got fucking nothing.

    Yeah, so guess what one of the skills that it teaches is? It is actually one of those things that the practice really helps with. You internalize that no matter what is running through your head it will absolutely be better than silence.

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  • MahnmutMahnmut Registered User regular
    edited September 24
    Straightzi wrote: »
    Didgeridoo wrote: »
    Straightzi wrote: »
    Yeah, D&D doesn't teach bad GM habits

    To do that, it would have to teach you how to GM

    What systems do you feel teach people how to GM?

    Hmm, let's see, here are a few of my favorites:
    • Monsterhearts has just generally good GM advice. The GMing chapter is just full of good concise tips and paragraph long explanations for why you should be doing things that way, stuff like "Give side characters simple, divisive motivations" and "Make monsters seem human, and vice versa" are given detail as to how that can help with your narrative structure and make the game more fun. Plus full explanations of what all the GM moves actually mean and how to use them, and a bit of detail on story structure - how to set up a good first scene, a satisfying climax, that sort of thing.
    • Blades in the Dark provides excellent GM tools baked into the system itself. It also has some decent GM advice, which oughtn't be overlooked (including a section on bad GM habits that you should try to avoid that I like quite a lot), but more significant for me is the way that clocks and the faction game are just already a part of the game as soon as you start playing. These structures do a good job (for me) of straddling the line between a pre-written adventure or other prescriptive GMing structure and the full open world of "just make something up."
    • Cthulhu Dark has some overall strong advice on story structure and writing a good horror mystery, including ten different models you can use to look at your role as a storyteller through (the Director, the Railroad, the Fearmonger, etc). Also specific tips on describing horror, and breakdowns of a number of classic Lovecraftian monsters to talk about what they represent and the themes that should be in play. A lot of this is very genre specific and focused on genre emulation, which makes for a weird comparison to the proudly genre-less D&D, but I find it really useful personally.

    Apocalypse World itself, really refreshing in how directly and helpfully it addresses GMs -- perhaps a big reason PbtA took off like it did.

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  • JacobkoshJacobkosh Gamble a stamp. I can show you how to be a real man!Moderator mod
    Mahnmut wrote: »
    Straightzi wrote: »
    Didgeridoo wrote: »
    Straightzi wrote: »
    Yeah, D&D doesn't teach bad GM habits

    To do that, it would have to teach you how to GM

    What systems do you feel teach people how to GM?

    Hmm, let's see, here are a few of my favorites:
    • Monsterhearts has just generally good GM advice. The GMing chapter is just full of good concise tips and paragraph long explanations for why you should be doing things that way, stuff like "Give side characters simple, divisive motivations" and "Make monsters seem human, and vice versa" are given detail as to how that can help with your narrative structure and make the game more fun. Plus full explanations of what all the GM moves actually mean and how to use them, and a bit of detail on story structure - how to set up a good first scene, a satisfying climax, that sort of thing.
    • Blades in the Dark provides excellent GM tools baked into the system itself. It also has some decent GM advice, which oughtn't be overlooked (including a section on bad GM habits that you should try to avoid that I like quite a lot), but more significant for me is the way that clocks and the faction game are just already a part of the game as soon as you start playing. These structures do a good job (for me) of straddling the line between a pre-written adventure or other prescriptive GMing structure and the full open world of "just make something up."
    • Cthulhu Dark has some overall strong advice on story structure and writing a good horror mystery, including ten different models you can use to look at your role as a storyteller through (the Director, the Railroad, the Fearmonger, etc). Also specific tips on describing horror, and breakdowns of a number of classic Lovecraftian monsters to talk about what they represent and the themes that should be in play. A lot of this is very genre specific and focused on genre emulation, which makes for a weird comparison to the proudly genre-less D&D, but I find it really useful personally.

    Apocalypse World itself, really refreshing in how directly and helpfully it addresses GMs -- perhaps a big reason PbtA took off like it did.

    Vincent Baker's previous game, Dogs in the Vineyard, also had some really strong, clear GM advice. Even as someone who wasn't new to GMing at the time, ten years ago, the whole section about "say yes or roll the dice" was...not revelatory, but certainly clarifying.

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  • webguy20webguy20 I spend too much time on the Internet Registered User regular
    For my wizard i have the shotgun wizard comic printed out and use it for guidance when Im trying to determine a course of action in the moment. I recommend finding that kind of inspiration in a character similar to the one you’re playing. Something to look at and go “what would they do?”

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  • Albino BunnyAlbino Bunny Jackie Registered User regular
    I'm a big fan of "what is in reach right now?" as a question.

    Both for the physical shit you can touch and also for like, what skills are you good at, what spells or equipment do you have.

    If the answer to anything you can reach sticks in your head for more than a second it's probably a good add to the scene.

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  • AistanAistan Tiny Bat Registered User regular
    It's just that i've been playing these games with these people for three years now and i'm not any better. This specific character for a full year. I had a week to come up with things to do in this interaction I knew was upcoming. And could think of shit-all and basically just sat in silence for the full three hour session.

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