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Made in gb
Imperial Agent Provocateur





London

TLDR: Advice for new DMs by a new DM.
Edit: Lots of people having been chiming in with their own advice and stories and I think that is great!

Hi all, I've been playing D&D 5e for over half a year now, mostly as a PC. However, our DM is working whilst studying for a masters degree, unsurprisingly he has less time to play so every now and then I take over DMing duties for a few sessions.

As a fairly new DM (I've got about 6-7 sessions under my belt now) I thought it might be an idea to share what has worked really well, and what has really not gone down well at all!

Just to get it out of the way I'll mention some very general advice that has been useful that I've heard from other DMs (that you probably have already heard), and then later I'll post examples of specific techniques, campaigns and encounters I've run.

So here are my obvious tips in no particular order... (I've started adding to this since the original post)

Just say yes. Saying yes can be nerve wracking because it usually means you're about to go off piste and your carefully planned quest is going to get sidelined pretty quickly. But in my experience this is when you'll have the most fun and it stops you from railroading the party (denying the party of choice).

Talk to the player character (PC) not the players. When your players interact with non player characters (NPCs), speak as the NPC and address specific PCs, this will help everyone slip in to the habit of roleplaying. If you find your players are still saying things like "my character asks when the last time the monster was seen" you can nudge them in the right direction with "How would {insert character name here} say that?". Not only will this help the player get used to speaking in character, but inflection, phrasing and tone can help add colour to an interaction.

Reward players. This doesn't have to be treasure or gold, just having an NPC compliment a PC for making an observation about the plot can make somebodies experience that much better. Also don't forget to give players inspiration points!

Use all your senses. Adding extra details about your surroundings can really help bring an environment to life. The more senses you can use the better, things like "you smell campfire smoke in air", "You can see your own breath in the freezing cave", "The forest floor leaf litter crunches under your boots".

Have a long list of names on hand. No matter how well you think you've planned, have a list of names on hand. You will end up having to fabricate an NPC in a pinch and having a selection of names to pull out quickly can help maintain suspension of disbelief. Otherwise you'll end up with a butler named Bronald.

Give players problems, not dice rolls. This is my first new suggestion. I've found myself telling players to make rolls, rather than asking them how they would solve a problem (you chase the cultists across the rooftop, make an athletics check). Try not to make assumptions about what players want to do, they could surprise you.

My next post will be about how I structure my sessions and how I document them whilst leaving scope for flexibility.

This message was edited 5 times. Last update was at 2017/04/23 11:52:00


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Heroic Senior Officer





Gone-to-ground in the craters of Coventry

All good stuff.

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Et In Arcadia Ego





Canterbury



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Incorporating Wet-Blending





Houston, TX

Just say yes is great advice. Just remember that actions always have consequences, and players should be firmly aware of this. You should give them a heads up if an action could have potentially severe consequences that they are overlooking, however. Usually. Sometimes letting them break it without realizing it until later is a valuable lesson.

Never let players engage in behavior that is likely to encourage hostility within the group or is obviously disruptive/insulting/etc. Game freedom is secondary to the players, and such behavior is indicative of a deeper issue that needs to be addressed.

I slightly disagree on the talking IC thing. I generally prefer when players distinguish their thoughts and actions from the character, as I don't want the PC to just be a proxie for the player. They should be acting according to the character's motivations, even if it conflicts with the player's. I have found many players conflate the two and doing IC all the time exacerbates this. It also avoids the stupid situations where obvious player thoughts/actions are imputed to the character with drastic consequences (IE Player says, "Man, I hate that guy." DM,"Well the king is offended by your comment and orders his guards to imprison you!"). Remember, players *control* the characters, they are *not* the characters. Generally.

Totally agree on rewards. Consequences steer behavior. If you want your players to care about more than loot, you should incentivize it. Also, if you constantly have people close to the PCs kidnapped, killed, etc. for plot reasons, it will discourage them from building relationships and encourage anti-social (IE murder hobo) play. OTOH, if players can sometimes count on help and avoid combat through clever social interactions, they will see it as a viable path.


-James
 
   
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Solahma






RVA

Great first post!

I have a corollary to "just say yes" - also syncs nicely with "reward the players." When a player asks, "can I do X?", hold off on saying yes at that point. Instead, ask the player, "how are you attempting to do X?" This works well for two reasons: (1) it is easier for a DM to narrate the consequences of specifically described actions and (2) thinking through what they're doing tends to make the players feel like their characters are more effective in the setting of the game (generally because they actually are), which in turn encourages them to play in-character.
 juptrking wrote:
Otherwise you'll end up with a butler named Bronald.
This is not a mistake! What's most important about names is how well they connect to the object they signify. Bronald the Butler only sounds funny or inauthentic to people not involved with your game.

I'll never forget the first time someone told me there was a SM chapter called the "Space Wolves." Doesn't phase me in the slightest anymore.

This message was edited 2 times. Last update was at 2017/02/23 20:37:28


   
Made in gb
Imperial Agent Provocateur





London

Hey again, thanks for the feedback guys, all fair points. I think this thread will end up as helpful for me as it will to other fledgling DMs, it's a good chance to reflect on what I've done and get a little extra input from some of you more seasoned DMs! I think all my tips can be taken with a little pinch of salt for sure

This time I'm going to shed a little light on how I plan my sessions and keep things flexible. Specifically I'm going to cover the narrative aspect of a session.

The first time I wrote my own story arc I didn't have a clue of how to record my ideas. I wanted a way that would not only help me document the narrative but also work as a crib sheet of sorts whilst the campaign was in progress. This ended up in a sort of story draft with key actions, names and events picked out in bold. Something like this...

Spoiler:

This isn't a terrible example, but the problem of preparing your quests this way is that you will end up with a lot of text. If things happen out of sequence you'll get lost quickly.

Compare this to a more recent campaign of mine.

Spoiler:

What I wanted to do was create less of a narrative and more of a framework for a narrative. I have now got into the habit of listing various locations in a table. For each location I list the NPCs likely to be there, what informations can be learned, and what actions can be performed there. This way your players can explore an environment in any sequence and you can easily keep up without having to track through loads of text. I try and have multiple sources in multiple locations for the same clues, that improves the party's chances of not only advancing the plot but also helps the game feel spontaneous.

A note on advancing the plot: When writing a campaign I don't want to give them the plot on a plate, I want them to feel smart for figuring out what's really going on. However I often have to fight the urge to be cryptic. What's obvious to you will not be obvious to them. Your party will not have the full picture at the start and they will be grasping at straws, too many clues is better than too few.

The problem with a framework over a narrative is maintaining any kind of trajectory, keeping the story moving and relevant. Fortunately this quite easy to get around. Rather than thinking about what the NPCs will do and writing a script, I think about what they have done prior to meeting the party and what their goals and motivations are. Remembering NPC motivation will help you improvise when something unexpected happens. It will also help you work out what information NPCs will give up easily, and what details will take a little more coercing. If all else fails, I've got into the habit of giving my party an NPC companion, if they start to go off the rails, your companion can make a suggestion and get them back on track.

Next time I'm going to talk about how I pace a sessions, and how I weave narrative, exploration and combat together.

This message was edited 2 times. Last update was at 2017/02/27 10:47:39


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Imperial Agent Provocateur





London

Hey again, here is a quick lesson I learned from a recent session, last Wednesday.

I started a new story arc, in a new town. I had the PCs travel to a large city in the mountains via a Dwarven Steamtrain. I had a lot of backstory about the City that I needed them to know before they got there. I decided that whilst on the train they would share their carriage with a knowledgable NPC who lived in the city. The idea here is that I would have the NPC ask the party if they had visited before, they would say no, and then I could explain everything I needed them to know and they could ask questions.

The lesson here is think carefully about what sort of character you need for a particular role. Because in this situation, I done messed up.

In this case I chose a Fancy Halfling by the name of Felix Herkenhoff. He wore an aubergine buckled doublet and had a fancy hat with a large crimson feather in it. He also happened to work for the Guildhalls and worked for a firm competing with another key NPC I had established earlier (why!? why?! did I do this?!!!). At the time I thought I was working with existing elements and creating relevant relationships in a world building exercise. In reality I was making not only the most suspicious character EVER, but also the worlds biggest red herring. My players then spent half an hour grilling this guy, convinced he was up to no good, when really he was supposed to be a tour guide of sorts. If I could do this again, I would choose a character of low standing who couldn't possibly be seen as suspicious. Perhaps a precocious child with their guardian, the child desperate to show off what they had learned in school. In this scenario the party can feel good about themselves for humouring the child by listening to what they have to say.

Sometimes it can be fun to come up with an interesting NPC, but just make sure they are suitable for the job first!

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Imperial Agent Provocateur





London

I thought I'd talk more about the "say yes" rule, and talk about a time it really went off the rails. The first thing to mention is this happened the first time I ever DM'd.

As I mentioned before, I'd been taking over the duties from our usual DM, so this gave me a lot of existing material to work with. As a party we had recently put into power a new mayor in a large town of considerable influence. To continue the story I decided the party would uncover some information leading to a rumour of a powerful artefact in a dungeon far off into the mountains. I had the Mayor join them in secret to meet with some of her old friends at a small research station in the mountains foothills.

In a nutshell, the plan was to have the party go to the dungeon, reclaim the treasure and upon their return discover that the mayor had been captured by the bad guys. A two steps forward, one step back scenario.

Here is how it actually turned out.

I had the party march from the research station to the dungeon through a mountain pass where bandits had been known to prey upon the geologists working there. This was supposed to be a little warm up before the dungeon. I had a bandit leader by the name of Rory, he was a Gnomish wizard who would hold his victims ransom in another plane of existence. I wanted the party to outsmart him or pay the ransom to feel good about saving a hostage. Somehow the party managed to arrest the wizard and decided to take him to the research station and hand him over to the authorities. Now, in my intended timeline this is when the mayor would be kidnapped. When the party got back to the research station I had to improvise, upset researchers told the party that strange men had come and taken the mayor. Now to save myself a whole investigation scene, I said that the kidnappers had blinked into and out of the station via an alternate plane of existence so there would be no trail to follow. However the party reminded me they had the means to travel across planes via their wizard captive, Rory.

Rather than tell the party that the kidnappers couldn't be traced, we reached a scenario where the PCs were tracking their foe through a tentacle dimension (where they saw footprints in what appeared to be moss, but was actually loads of very tiny tentacles). Then the party popped out into the material plane at the opening of the dungeon where they were supposed to go in the first place. Now that the party was back on track, I could continue as normal and correct the change of plot in the next session.

In case you are wondering, they forced Rory the wizard through the entire dungeon with them, which was also very amusing.

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Incorporating Wet-Blending





Houston, TX

Keeping a hostile wizard with you while trekking through an unknown dungeon seems very risky. Especially when he demonstrates plane hopping powers. OTOH, if he is just interested in cash, he might be willing to do a little mercenary work so long as he is not placed in direct danger. Bandits preying upon geologists can't be great pay, and living in the cold is pretty miserable, after all. Heck, maybe when he sees the culprits employ skills that he can counter, he might suddenly see a place where he can ingratiate himself with the powers that be and quickly offer his services (for a reasonable fee, of course).

-James
 
   
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Imperial Agent Provocateur





London

 jmurph wrote:
Keeping a hostile wizard with you while trekking through an unknown dungeon seems very risky. Especially when he demonstrates plane hopping powers.

Ha ha good points, I guess nobody thought of that! Although they had him bound with rope to begin with, to prevent somatic spellcasting. I figured it would be more fun to have him reluctantly tag along and provide a running commentary on how the party were doing, as you can imagine he wasn't the best cheerleader!

 jmurph wrote:
Bandits preying upon geologists can't be great pay, and living in the cold is pretty miserable, after all.

I guess it depends what the geologists are digging up. The party never questioned it either, but that could have turned into an interesting fetch quest for some extra gold

 jmurph wrote:
Heck, maybe when he sees the culprits employ skills that he can counter, he might suddenly see a place where he can ingratiate himself with the powers that be and quickly offer his services (for a reasonable fee, of course).

My party aren't murder hobos just yet so they still have a strong moral compass. They handed Rory to the authorities proper after their dungeon delving. But a less scrupulous party could have definitely added a freelance wizard to their roster.

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Imperial Agent Provocateur





London

One thing I often struggle with when writing a new story arc is PC intent. It's very easy to assume that the party will do what you want them to do in a given situation, in the past I haven't thought about it at all and it has really got me in trouble.

I had a session that ended with a really exciting boss battle that involved a lot of interaction with the environment. I was going to have the party fight a warrior on a platform slowly sinking into a pool of lava. The idea here being that the available floor space would shrink with each turn and force the combat to get tighter and more intense as the fight went on. Then I was going to have a magical gateway appear in an arc of masonry at the surviving end of the platform for them to escape out of at the end.

So when I actually ran the session I had the party standing at a temporary bridge to the platform. Half the party looked at the lava, saw no visible means of escape and said "no thanks, not for me". The fight started and I had half the party standing on the platform fighting, and the other half over on the other-side of this bridge that was now destroyed. The guys on the platform started to think they were on the wrong side of this situation and started trying to improvise a bridge back across, but this became more and more difficult with each turn as the chasm grew and grew. Internally I was flipping out, wondering how to resolve this situation. I realised I had given the party an unidentified scroll canister earlier and decided to make it suddenly start to glow (think 1980s Transformers movie: light our darkest hour kind of situation), it opens and the spells creates a huge wave of frost that booms through the chamber turning all the lava to icy basalt stone and finishing off the boss. I had other plans for it, but this felt more important.

It ended up being a super tense situation (for the party and the DM!) If I had thought about party intent I would have changed a few things. I could have made the platform look less dangerous and then have the situation change once the party was in place, or I could have made a more obvious means of progression to spur the party on.

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Imperial Agent Provocateur





London

As I've said, I've only done a few complete story arcs. But I've more or less followed the same 3 act structure for each. So far it's worked out pretty well for me, but I might need to start mixing things up soon.

I thought i'd just elaborate a little on what these acts are and why I think it works so well.

Act 1 - Role playing and investigation

I think starting RP heavy means you don't need to dive into your character sheets straight away, maybe just the occasional ability or skill check. This is great for new players because you can ease them into the game, they just need to know how to interact with other people (hopefully this won't be a problem).

This is also a great time to start the story. As I said before I'm not a huge fan of exposition, so this is your chance to set the scene and reveal the direction of the rest of the session.

Finally it's also worth mentioning that you need time for your players to figure out who they are and how they feel about the other PCs. This will help build motivation and PCs will become invested more in one another, making things more tense when it all goes south later on

Act 2 - Exploration

At this point your party will have pieced together enough clues to figure out where they need to go next, now they need to get there. Rather than just tell the party they travel through the woods and eventually get to the dungeon, I like to play that part of the story out too. As an example, this was the part of the campaign where the party came across Rory the wizard who was preying on the geologists in the mountains (see earlier post). This is your chance to flesh out the world a bit more, what is beyond the town walls.

This is also the time to introduce combat. I like to think of it as a warm up before the bigger fight near the end, this will be a low stakes battle where the players can get to grips with their abilities and try things out.

Act 3 - Combat!

Finally you get to the big climax, I usually go a bit more old school here and throw in a dungeon or a dragon, maybe both! This is your straight up, trap checking, goblin fighting, treasure seeking side of things.

Hopefully there will be a nice narrative payoff here too. But before the campaign ends I'll leave in a cliffhanger "You recovered the item but when you return to the town... Everyone has mysteriously gone missing!". You need an excuse to play again after all.

This message was edited 1 time. Last update was at 2017/03/02 11:19:12


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Imperial Agent Provocateur





London

I've been thinking about what mechanics in a game I find particularly enjoyable, beyond skill checks and combat. It's nice to have a reoccurring mechanic that everyone can get excited about. That might sound odd but here are two examples that stick out in my mind.

Fantasy gashapon
There's a great D&D podcast called The Adventure Zone. In that podcast they have a fantasy gashapon which is essentially a vending machine that spits out a random class based magical item between each campaign arc. I think it's a really nice segment in the show because there's an exciting dice roll involved, everyone is invested, and a new magic item can potentially totally switch up future play.

Critical fail chart
For my own games I've been using DnDUI's critical fail chart. When a player rolls a 1 to hit you bring out the chart, they roll a d100 and then something hilarious happens. Again, it's a great added mechanic where something unexpected can happen and everyone is invested in the outcome.

If you know any other bonus mechanics that work for you, I'd love to hear about them

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Thanks for this, I'm finding it very interesting. It's been ages since I've played RPGs but whilst I enjoyed it as a PC, I was a terrible GM/DM, what seemed like good ideas to me almost always worked out appallingly as actual games.

I've got to admit though that one thing I'd never be particularly comfortable with is the idea of speaking/acting in character, I know annecdotally some groups seem to prefer that kind of thing even down to encouraging adopting accents, but that really isn't for me
   
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Imperial Agent Provocateur





London

Hey simonr1978, great to hear you're finding it useful

I think playing in character definitely takes some getting used to, and it's not for everyone. Personally it drives me nuts when people do overly dramatic voices, I don't know if you saw Vin Diesel playing D&D on YouTube with Matt Mercer, but I had to give up because the voices were making me cringe! I think The Adventure Zone is the only D&D podcast I've listened to where I actually like the accents they do.

I try to encourage my players to speak in character, but I never ask them to do voices or accents. After the first 10 minutes or so people tend to settle into it and speak more confidently. I know speaking in character is in my top tips, but it only applies for dialogue with NPCs really (although I like to include a lot of NPCs).

As the DM I try and do accents myself, but this is mostly because I play so many characters that voices help players remember who is who. It's probably also worth mentioning that a voice can tell you a lot about what kind a character an NPC is, for example if you give them a gruff voice they're probably hard as nails etc.

If you and your players drink, a few beers can also make doing accents a lot easier

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Houston, TX

Yeah, I think voices can be very useful for the GM to help players keep whose who straight and inject personality. Varying cadence, tone, etc. all affects perception. But players need to have enough space to separate themselves from their character. Sometimes, they will be comfortable with accents, mannerisms, etc. that help them focus. Other times, it is needless distraction. Varies by group and player.

For example, I once played a goblin thief type adopted did a slightly higher, rough voice with limited vocabulary. He didn't talk that often, and tended to make rather astute observations (like emphasizing hints the GM had thrown us) and was a mediator for party conflict, always encouraging practical cooperation. The combination worked, and the group liked it, eventually promoting him to the de facto group leader, despite not being the strongest fighter, most powerful wizard, etc. In this case, I think that because the voice wasn't overdone (annoying), attention seeking, and encouraged party cohesiveness, it was successful.

OTOH, I have seen groups roll their eyes at poorly down attempts or become frustrated with ham handed characterization. YMMV.

-James
 
   
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Imperial Agent Provocateur





London

This post is about dice rolls. Most actions in D&D will be decided by a dice roll, however as DM you won't always want to leave things to chance. There will be sometimes when you will want/need to cheat, and this is totally fine.

As DM you should go ahead and find yourself a DM screen, whether it be the fancy WotC one, a sheet of cardboard, or a dice app on your phone, it doesn't really matter. The point is you want a place to roll dice without people seeing.

So why might you want to cheat? Not to kill the party that's for sure, in fact quite the opposite. Lets say you've got a big boss fight, who has had a particularly fierce rivalry with a certain player in your party. Wouldn't it be more satisfying if that party member got the kill? In this case you can fudge a dice roll to make sure somebody else doesn't steal the kill first.

However, think carefully about when you roll behind the screen, it can cut the other way. You don't want them to think you're cheating to get a TPK (total party kill). For example, I had a situation where a player was prone on a cliff edge and defending with his shield against a manticore shooting tail spikes from the valley below. The player had gone to extreme lengths to avoid behind hit, but I got a great roll and still hit him. The problem was I rolled behind the screen, the player was not pleased, he didn't feel like he had a fair shake. If I had rolled in front of the screen it would have been a great moment for everyone, staring in disbelief as the manticore hits him square, against all odds. But as I had hidden the dice, I think everyone felt a bit frustrated.

In short, I would say roll behind the screen unless the player in question has gone to efforts to mitigate or influence your dice roll.

This message was edited 1 time. Last update was at 2017/03/06 11:26:04


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Storm Trooper with Maglight





West Sussex, UK

This is all good advice. Been Dm'ing for a fair few years and the whole three act thing is great way to plan it out. However its nice switching it up from time to time. Ran a Dark heresy a few months ago where the party were ambushed by cultists whilst on the way to the mission briefing. I don't do much combat and doing it so quickly after starting was a real surprise for them. Little things like that keep it fresh.

This message was edited 1 time. Last update was at 2017/03/06 12:20:40


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Houston, TX

Player trust is essential. I like keeping all GM rolls to myself and just use them as a guide, unless required by the system (for example, D&D requires a lot of dice rolling to resolve combat). I will always cheat the dice in favor of characters, but also don't rely on them to resolve fairly obvious outcome or save the players from their own stupidity. So, if you character wants to dive into the lava, fine. He dies. Horribly. OTOH, if you tried to save the alderman being held by those monsters by slipping around a narrow ledge on the lava tunnel, a failed roll isn't going to pitch you in. In fact, if it's a pretty good plan and you are an agile type who took some preparation, maybe roll some dice for dramatic tension, but you're going to make it unless there's a good reason (like maybe to pause to see that the ceremonial ritual actually angers the lava beast they were trying to summon and it rears up and devours the monstrous shaman).

As to the manticore situation, don't let dice trump narrative. If the manticore really shouldn't hit him, just say it missed, no roll required (don't worry, you have unlimited manticores if you need one later :-)). OTOH, it can be a good reminder that you are never safe in combat. Turn the anger towards the monster- he hit the character after all (or the player that provoked said monster). Heck, maybe have him taunt the player about it. Will make it that much more satisfying when the players eventually defeat it.


-James
 
   
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 juptrking wrote:
This post is about dice rolls. Most actions in D&D will be decided by a dice roll, however as DM you won't always want to leave things to chance. There will be sometimes when you will want/need to cheat, and this is totally fine.

As DM you should go ahead and find yourself a DM screen, whether it be the fancy WotC one, a sheet of cardboard, or a dice app on your phone, it doesn't really matter. The point is you want a place to roll dice without people seeing.

So why might you want to cheat? Not to kill the party that's for sure, in fact quite the opposite. Lets say you've got a big boss fight, who has had a particularly fierce rivalry with a certain player in your party. Wouldn't it be more satisfying if that party member got the kill? In this case you can fudge a dice roll to make sure somebody else doesn't steal the kill first.

However, think carefully about when you roll behind the screen, it can cut the other way. You don't want them to think you're cheating to get a TPK (total party kill). For example, I had a situation where a player was prone on a cliff edge and defending with his shield against a manticore shooting tail spikes from the valley below. The player had gone to extreme lengths to avoid behind hit, but I got a great roll and still hit him. The problem was I rolled behind the screen, the player was not pleased, he didn't feel like he had a fair shake. If I had rolled in front of the screen it would have been a great moment for everyone, staring in disbelief as the manticore hits him square, against all odds. But as I had hidden the dice, I think everyone felt a bit frustrated.

In short, I would say roll behind the screen unless the player in question has gone to efforts to mitigate or influence your dice roll.


I would say rolling behind the screen is fine, unless it's a do or die. Like a Save vs. Poison or Die, then those rolls should always be out in the open.


Automatically Appended Next Post:
 jmurph wrote:
don't let dice trump narrative


I disagree. I think there are certainly cases where this applies, but there are also cases where the dice create the narrative. Say some guy wants to take an outrageous action with like a 5% chance of success. I wouldn't fudge it for him to automatically succeed/fail. I would make him roll and see what happens.

This message was edited 1 time. Last update was at 2017/03/07 15:29:47


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 jreilly89 wrote:
I disagree. I think there are certainly cases where this applies, but there are also cases where the dice create the narrative. Say some guy wants to take an outrageous action with like a 5% chance of success. I wouldn't fudge it for him to automatically succeed/fail. I would make him roll and see what happens.

There is definitely a balance to be struck. Like I said, I've fudged dice rolls for narrative purposes (although always in pretty minor ways), but improvisation and going on piste is half of the fun of D&D. If a dice roll can send you on an unexpected tangent that is fun to explore with your group, then I say let the roll rule.

This message was edited 2 times. Last update was at 2017/03/07 16:00:34


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 juptrking wrote:
 jreilly89 wrote:
I disagree. I think there are certainly cases where this applies, but there are also cases where the dice create the narrative. Say some guy wants to take an outrageous action with like a 5% chance of success. I wouldn't fudge it for him to automatically succeed/fail. I would make him roll and see what happens.

There is definitely a balance to be struck. Like I said, I've fudged dice rolls for narrative purposes (although always in pretty minor ways), but improvisation and going on piste is half of the fun of D&D. If a dice roll can send you on an unexpected tangent that is fun to explore with your group, then I say let the roll rule.


Well and also I think people should be held accountable for their actions. Like with the Manticore, sure it shouldn't have hit him, but it's still an outside chance that it could.

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 jreilly89 wrote:
Well and also I think people should be held accountable for their actions. Like with the Manticore, sure it shouldn't have hit him, but it's still an outside chance that it could.

Yeah totally, but I think the guy would have been a lot more ok with it if he saw the roll

I've been listening to a lot of Friends at the Table podcast recently which is a great roleplay heavy Dungeon World podcast. One of the things I really like about it, is the players are very much involved in the world building of their campaign. This is something I like to sprinkle into my games, nothing major at this point, but we'll see. Just as an example, when the party goes to a new location I'll ask them if their character has ever visited this place in the past. If they decide their character has, I'll ask them things about it. If the party says they want to investigate the local pub/tavern I'll assume their character has been there before so I'll ask them what the pub is called, what the clientele is like etc.

This is a nice subtle way to get players that little bit more invested in their surroundings.

Bonus extra
I went to a London D&D meet up on Monday (if you're in London and looking to play more, I heartily recommend checking this out), and participated as a player. It was great to try a little one off campaign, it felt different but I really enjoyed it. I just thought it was worth mentioning that I expect a good chunk of the stuff I'm posting about is only relevant to longer campaigns. On Monday I don't think we ran into a single NPC we didn't end up fighting! Didn't stop me trying to talk my way out of a few situations though. I was the most diplomatic barbarian you've ever seen

This message was edited 1 time. Last update was at 2017/03/09 11:00:31


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 juptrking wrote:
Didn't stop me trying to talk my way out of a few situations though. I was the most diplomatic barbarian you've ever seen


"Look, me and the guys are having a hog roast tonight, why don't you come over, have some ales, and we can discuss shared ownership of this artefact instead of killing you?"
   
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nareik wrote:
"Look, me and the guys are having a hog roast tonight, why don't you come over, have some ales, and we can discuss shared ownership of this artefact instead of killing you?"

"And of course by 'shared ownership' I mean I get it on weekdays and weekends, and you get the rest! That sounds fair doesn't it?"

There was a situation where we saw these half ogre half jaguar things in the Jungle. As a barbarian who knew the local fauna, I passed a nature check and knew that they were pack animals with a dominant alpha, that they spoke giant (like me), and they are pretty easy to trick. So I went over and tried to convince them their leader had a secret weakness and hoped to cause some infighting. It didn't quite work according to plan as I couldn't tell who the leader was. Turned out it was some sort of elf wizard using magic to pose as their leader!

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"Hey bros, what's up! That is a sick pelt. And some killer fangs, bra. Say, I noticed your leader has been acting a little... how can I put this... dainty? I mean, I'm not saying he's a coward or anything, but come on, berries for every meal? Isn't that a bit elfin? And have you ever seen him actually pick up maul or giant axe, much less use one? All I'm saying is that you don't become top dawg by waving your hands and speaking gibberish."

-James
 
   
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Ah man, I thought I had a great idea to sell to WotC, but it turns out it's already been done!


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This time I thought I'd share some of the free online resources I use to help plan/run my games.

D&D Cheatsheet
This one is a must have, it's a cheatsheet for all the different player actions, status definitions and environmental effects. It will save you a ton of time looking things up in the core books.

Weak magical item generator
Want to reward your players with magic items? Afraid the stuff in the Dungeon Masters book are all woefully overpowered? You're in luck, the weak magical items generator has got your back.

Kobold Fight Club
This tool will help you balance your combat encounters for your games. Simply put in the number of players and their level, and Kobold Fight Club will help you pick out the perfect monsters for any occasion.

Matt Mercer's GM tips
A decent video playlist of general GMing advice from Geek and Sundry's own Matt Mercer.

Music
I also have a couple of go to youtube videos I use for atmosphere music during my games. I like these to be really long because there's usually no telling how long an encounter can go on for. I also pick out things that set atmosphere without drawing too much attention themselves, theres nothing more annoying than an overly intrusive song that never seems to end!

- Super Metroid - Red Soil Swamp Pulse (Lower Brinstar) 10 HOURS
- Epic Music Soundtracks (Battle Music, 42min)
- 1 Hour of Medieval Instrumental Music - Medieval Life

- Playlist of FF7 music all extended versions

When it comes to music, I like to listen to the music I'm going to use in the campaign as I write it. I don't know why but I think I concentrate better with it, and also it puts me in the right frame of mind.

Finally, just thought I'd mention I'll be DMing this Friday so I'll post a little summary of how that goes early next week.

This message was edited 2 times. Last update was at 2017/03/13 16:56:48


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Here is my summary of yesterdays game.

It was the second half of a small standalone campaign, however between the last session and this one I decided to tie it in with our usual on going campaign (I'll mention that more in a future post).

Last time, we started with 3 players with new characters at level 1. Each party member had responded to a letter to solve a missing persons case far to the north in a city called Wolfswater. I told the party that this game would be set in the same world as our usual campaign but set far into the past or future. I wanted a familiar geography but didn't want the two stories stepping on each others toes too much.

Last time, the games progress went a lot slower than I had anticipated, in fact the party didn't get into a single combat encounter (although they did manage to talk their way out of a street mugging). I wanted this second game to have a much quicker pace, generally I think timing is one of the things I struggle with the most. Next time I write a game I need to cut half the content from the first draft

At the start of the game, the party had discovered a dead body in the home of the man they were sent to find, it appears the man had joined a cult and this murder was his initiation. I had the cult turn up to take the body while the party were in the house. As intended, the party stalked the cult through the streets back towards their hide out. Here I had the party use stealth checks to stalk the party, I had a gang controlled street with a toll, this slowed them down and required them to pick up the trail. They failed their check so I had an NPC they met earlier run past, it turned out they were chasing these cultists too. This then lead to a pursuit, the cultist climbed the side of a building and the party found themselves leaping from rooftop to rooftop. They made low to medium rolls for athletics, so I had them make the jump but one of their companions failed. The choice was save the NPC or continue pursuing the cult. They opted for the former but failed a strength check and the NPC fell.

I think there were some good choices that arose for the players to make, but I need to try harder to stop a game feeling like a string of skills checks down a linear path.

They managed to stabilise the NPC and headed home and decided to pick up the trail in the morning. This was all very enjoyable but my original plan was for them to follow the cult back to their base. What should have been a few checks ended up taking up most of the evening. I had a scene where they tracked the cultists through the woods and a multi room dungeon at the end. I had to cut all of it apart from one dungeon room, in order to finish on time.

I think I also need to focus on rewarding the players more, I never even had the NPC thank the players for saving their life.

Aside from that, I think there was plenty of unexpected twists for the party and myself!

Bonus extra!
I've been listening to a lot of "Friends at the Table" podcast, and they sometimes start their episodes with a written passage from the DM. I decided to have a go myself and I thought I'd post it here for you to see

Spoiler:
Far to the north, out past the Prospectors Spine, beyond the High Spire, and deep into the jaws of Erisdar’s Teeth, the sun crowns only the tallest peaks with it’s pale winter glow. Cladded to the side of Cloud Cutter Peak stands the city of Wolfswater, creeping up the mighty stone edifice like dark lichen up a tree. She reaches out of the valley with limbs of brick and stone towards the evening sunlight, like submerged hands grasping for air. Night has fallen but Wolfswater never sleeps. Deep in the slum steeps, the dance of the sun and moon are of no concern to the sons and daughters who live there. Here the shadows need only fear the iridescent shine of the gas lamps above.

We turn our attention skywards towards the resplendent College of Arcana. A troubled scholar licks his finger as he turns the page of a weighty tome. As he reads the words they wash over his mind like water on the waxed feathers of a mallard. He’s thinking about the scrap of paper presented to him by three misguided strangers, and how he couldn’t save them.

A young woman with red hair tosses and turns in her bed. She cannot sleep, how could she? She swings her legs out from the warmth of pressed linen sheets and lowers her feet onto the cold wooden floor. As she open her bedroom window, the chill night air gently blows delicate snowflakes into the room. Her first love Jarrek is still missing.

Across town, in the slums of the steep, stand three investigators. With them a young man who has recently been forced to come to terms with an ugly reality. Thick blood coagulates on the side of an old Brunswick leather steamer trunk. The investigation continues...



Automatically Appended Next Post:
After thinking about it a little more, I think the mistake I'm making is asking the players to make checks. Rather than saying "make an athletics check to cross to the other roof", I should say "The cultists leap from one roof to another, the gap looks to be about 15 feet, what do you do?". That way they can assess their team and decide if they can all make it safely across, or try and find an alternative solution.

This message was edited 3 times. Last update was at 2017/03/18 15:23:04


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Piggy backing off juptrking's thread, what are some good tips for keeping players engaged? I generally run modules, due to time and kids, but have no problems improving as needed.

My PC's seem to enjoy playing, but half the time either A) are always on their phone or B) wait for me the DM to drive the action, i.e. they just walk forward constantly until something happens.

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