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DM Advice requested

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#46 buglips*the*goblin


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Posted 08 September 2012 - 11:09 AM

My real life people and my internet people are interacting! Isn't this one of those things that can, like, undo the fabric of the space-time continuum?

Anyway, yeah, turcules is the reason I think about D&D the way I do. And he's right about the close ally betrayal thing, and the hiding the villain in plain sight thing, and especially about how the players never catch on thing.

I'm pretty clever, for a goblin, but I never knew The Lotus was evil. I especially never knew The Lotus was an evil vampire! My character, if you should know, was an undead hunter. If anybody should have known The Lotus was an evil vampire, it should have been me. And I would have known if I'd bothered to check - but I never had a reason to check! She was just so helpful, and so generous, and I owed her so much, I mean she couldn't be evil. Even when she revealed herself to be evil and my cleric stood, aghast, in the center of the room while the party faced death all around and begged . . . BEGGED! For The Lotus to say it was all just a bad dream, a trick, a joke . . . anything.

For a minute (perhaps two, if we're honest) I thought about going over to her side. Sworn evil enemy or not, I kinda liked her more than my companions. And by kinda, I actually mean completely.

I miss The Lotus.

(this also shows how players remember good NPC villains - The Lotus was . . .17 years ago now? Might be one of the last memories to go when I'm finally aged and senile. Perhaps I'll get confused and think The Lotus is my granddaughter, who will no doubt come to visit me any day, Charlie, you just wait and see. She will. Shut up, I know you cheat at checkers)
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#47 Doug Sundseth

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Posted 08 September 2012 - 11:11 AM

Turcules's advice is useful, but I'll speak up for the other half of what I consider good GMing:

For many groups (including all the groups I'm interested in playing in), the players want to feel like heroes. Part of that is having worthy opponents; for that, the advice above is good. But part of that is being clever, being right, and winning sometimes.

When the players come up with a clever plan, let it work. Oh, not always, sometimes what they think is clever is less interesting (and less clever) than they think it is. But when it really is well thought out (and fun), go with it. Give them the heroic moment that they planned and worked for.

When the players look for more details, let them find more details. If they follow the tracks of the evil goblins, give them a goblin burrow (or whatever) to find. It's really not that hard to sketch out a floorplan on the fly, and populating it isn't that hard either. Do enough to finish out the night's gaming, then flesh out the rest later. And maybe make that burrow just the start of an epic underground empire. If they go looking for the crime lord who is the boss of the nasty pimp they just beat up, let them find clues, even if you didn't plan for there to be a crime boss. If they try to find the family of the peasant that was killed in the orc invasion, give them a family that's either devastated by the loss or curiously uninterested (why?).

And don't scale the difficulty of everything to be the same as (or worse, always higher than) the PCs. Remember those bandits that were such a problem at first level? When they get to sixth level, give them the same bandits occasionally. Fast, bloody, ugly, and victory. Now they'll remember that they're not the same mooks they were a few levels before.

Don't make all your treasure either gold or +x weapons and armor, because that gets boring. But don't make it impossible to get those basic tools, either. Not every magic item needs a personality, though some should certainly be unique.

Non-stop threats are great for a while, but even the greatest heroes can have more fun if they get the occasional break to recharge (figuratively or literally). Four encounters a day? Works sometimes, but a week with no encounters and a day with 15 encounters will test the characters in different ways.

I will say that I disagree with complete transparency in rolls and running exactly what you have written down. Your job as GM is to give the players an interesting time, not to provide disinterested dice rolling. Kill the characters when it's appropriate, but random death isn't fun for me (others obviously disagree). Make the character deaths either a natural consequence of bad choices or the kind of heroic sacrifice that they'll be talking about ten years hence.

Basically, it's easy to screw players as a GM. You can do whatever you want, either before the day of the game or at the table. And it's easy enough to make a mistake about the interest or difficulty of what you planned. If you're flexible, though, you can have a second wave that makes a boring walk-over into a fun fight, or drop a second wave that you originally had planned but that would just crush the PCs.

Let the PCs build an epic story; nasty brutish, and short is common enough in real life – leave it there unless there's an interesting story.

#48 buglips*the*goblin


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Posted 08 September 2012 - 11:21 AM

Turc is, IMO, the undisputed champion of rewarding clever. He's the one that taught me and our current DM how it's done. I'm a cheerleader for rewarding clever in gameplay, and I've never had a complaint. He's also good at the other necessary side of rewarding clever: punishing stupid.

But about the public dice rolls, initially I thought it was a bad idea as well. However, the truth is that if you exploit randomness as a roleplaying tool (and make the results fair and without question) the game is infinitely more exciting, tense, and fun. Yes, sometimes it's brutish and short. But for all of us who've had our paladins eaten by bugs, or gone through 32 characters before one lived to tell, we'd never change a thing.

Story is what makes it roleplaying.

Chance is what makes it a game.

ETA: I'm also a firm believer in not preserving a campaign if the party commits an Epic Level stupid. I was running a campaign where the party was being pursued by demons, and needed to recharge themeselves. However, even though they managed to withdraw from the fight - they were still being pursued! They forgot this, everybody used a nap spell, and the demons walked up to find a field full of soundly sleeping adventurers. Killed them all in their sleep, and then took over the world. End campaign.
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#49 turcules



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Posted 08 September 2012 - 12:39 PM

Some good points... I am a big believer too in letter them flesh out the skeleton of a good campaign... just give them the tools. I am not a big killer or partys or anything, I just had one PC with some real bad luck. I have never harshly obliterated anyone who was'nt going out of their way to ruin the game for everyone else. That is important a role as any DM can have. THe goal is to make the game fun for everyone, and if this means grinding a few down - well it happens. Thankfully reaper is making it easier to provide replacement minatures with their new bones line. I did feel some remorse at the slaying to the noble warrior Dirk - whose player bought him for 10 bucks and spend a month painting them (no I do not receive commissions from reaper, but sometimes I think Buglips is on the take)

By giving hard tasks for PC's to accomplish I find it make Heroism come naturally. But if the threat of death is totally eliminated (and I have played in these games) - things get boring fast. I totally agree with avoiding things written down - that might have been misconstrued. I have never played with much more then a notebook labelled the "book of evil". Once a player character stole a peek to learn my secrets - only to find there actually was little in there at all and that some of the notes were ideas that they had throw out there while investigating stuff. Sometimes they will take the dm on an adventure. Sometimes that mine cart that I hadn't put there until they looked for it makes for an awesome edge of your seat roller coaster escape for the goblin horde. Those are the best games

I took have misjudged the impact of an encounter (over 27 years - probably 100's) sometimes the pc's just walk all over what I had planned. I don't mind that - I totally agree. Nothing better then letting the PC's make some monsters look like chumps. There are also times when I have said - oops - may have made this a little too powerful, you guys better run. My comments of scaling humanoid difficulties were more to just say it is the nature of the NPC that makes things interesting and difficult - not the stats in the monsterous compendium.

I have had many a game ruined at the same time by a newer player that just wants to stroke his own ego and mess with either me or the other characters. That sort of play ruins everyones night and can undo a an excellent game in a few sessions. It is important to step in and deal with it accordingly.

Totally aggree with treasure being a bit outside the scope of xp+magic items+gold. Pride, stature, respect, vengence, or even the chance to gloat or to kick around a drow high priestesses head like a soccer ball are rewards that character really want. You have to be careful with magic too - it can quickly scale too far and then it becomes an arms race. When the pc's get too many magic items, their opponents need them, then the PC's get more. But don't skimp either - it is the hardest goal I think to pull off though - that balance.

I reward clever but at the same time, I have come to expect it. I certainly don't mess with PC's just to be a prick but as a general rule I challenge them in interesting role playing scenarios and combat. I will give some encounter they will know that have to be smart to suceed. Allow them maybe the opportunity to escape it they made a horrible mistake or sometimes drop a few hints that there might be some flaws in their plan. But eliminate the risk of death and you encourage people to phone it in - what does it matter - people are just going to survive. Random death can be funny and enjoyable too. We all still laugh at some of the deaths that have happedbut as generally rule some of my campaigns have literally lasted years with the same characters. But they all knew death was waiting to take them to disneyworld so they got AMAZINGLY clever. So much to the point I had to strain to challenge them, they loved every minute of it. I have literally had to pull out old first edition books in a vain effort to wrap my head around some of the insanely clever plans my players have come up with.

Round one: "I cast animal summoning"... "OK, what do you want to summon" /...."mastodons" - "wow, great idea"

Round two: "What are you doing mage"... "Casting haste".... "just remember it will age everyone a year, do you really want to do that"....*PC cackles with glee* "No, I want to cast it on the mastodons."....

Round three: miscellaneous squishing sounds

The one thing I think everyone agrees on is to get the PC's to drive the story and let them help develop what happens. There really is no substitute for making a good campaign. Good PC's also need good villians. But sometimes you have to let the dice fly - and deal with the fun and excitement that can ensue. I once had a new player tell me it was the first time a DM had ever killed one of his characters (I think ghouls ate him, failed a save vs paralysis.) Feeling bad I apologized (very unlike me)... he said no - that was AWESOME and we still play with him to the day 13 years later.

#50 DirkDiggler69


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Posted 13 September 2012 - 08:50 AM

Lots of good advice so far, here are some other idea's. Challenge the characters more than WoW mechanics. Oh look the warrior is tanking the baddies, while the wizard blasts them...again. Does every NPC have to charge the meanest looking PC? My GM seems to do a fair job of this.

Also might want to consider using some kind of timer for each persons turn during combat. Rather than letting each players move become a 5 minute group conversation about what he should do. I mean it's combat not chit-chat time. In fact why not just make it where nobody can talk during another players turn during combat. Unless they're really new and need a little help.

If they want to tell another player something tactical their character should have to shout it during their turn, roll before he actually shouts what it is he wants/needs to test if the other character can understand him over the clash of swords, etc. If he fails he just hears shouting. Fun fun adds tension.

Plus Mr. I'm a combat mechanic genius doesn't get to play the entire party during combat. Where he instructs everybody move for move what to do. So that Wizard who moved one square too many over to get a better shot, but opened themselves up to be charged, and would have been corrected by Mr. Combat mechanic genius...well at least the wizard got a better shot before he got charged. Lesson learned.

Feel free to lay up a character. They do something crazy, and get nearly killed IE negative hitpoints. Don't throw them a potion out of nowhere so they can be in the next fight. In fact make the party carry him to a healers, and fight to do it. Maybe they'll buy more potions, or not all roll fighters, and wizards.

Funny scenario party gets into a bad situation in the open, and presses the fight. IE archers have the high ground, outnumbered. Wizard steps out of his magic obscurring cloud to deal death, does some hurt, then the archers pelt him to death. Now he's laying on the grounds dying...where's the healer? Wait the only person who even has any healing/first aid ability is the rogue? Where's the rogue? Hiding in the woods flinging arrows...but he's neutral. Think he's going to run out in the open to try to patch you up and get killed? Nope...but he'll miss you. lol
In fact should the fight turn south he might stick around long enough to fling some arrows, and cover your retreat...maybe. Either way he'll remember those brave if not foolhardy adventurers.

#51 smokingwreckage



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Posted 16 September 2012 - 05:30 AM

Plus Mr. I'm a combat mechanic genius doesn't get to play the entire party during combat.

Let him, via shouted commands. And then have the baddies single him out as the leader.
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 It's the perfect time to put on  your yellow boots and go meandering around the woods looking for...well stuff. In my experience looking for stuff is the best way to find it. -Loim

#52 MikeD



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Posted 11 October 2012 - 01:42 PM

"(I didn't intend these encounters, just random rolls on a table.)"

Just one piece of advice from a sometimes GM. Don't be a slave to die rolls and tables if it interferes with the story you are trying to tell or ruines the players enjoyment of the game.

Ignore the tables and give them an uneventful trip to town or create nothing but meaningless encounters that do not do fatal harm to the party, but just waste their time/resourses/patience or create some non-combat encounters to test their role playing or non-combat skills (when I GM I always throw puzzles and non-combat challenges at PCs to encourage the players to invest in non-combat skills or magic items).
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#53 smokingwreckage



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Posted 11 October 2012 - 06:09 PM

The purpose, technically, of random encounters is to sand down the party's resources and to make time a pressing concern. Too many "stop for 8 hours to recharge the magic" should put them at risk. If random encounters are becoming more than a nuisance/long term background threat maybe you need to tone down the table a bit.

 It's the perfect time to put on  your yellow boots and go meandering around the woods looking for...well stuff. In my experience looking for stuff is the best way to find it. -Loim

#54 Rogue_7



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Posted 11 October 2012 - 07:25 PM

Thank you everyone for all the advice, it's been really enlightening (and I hope the thread keeps moving)

The purpose, technically, of random encounters is to sand down the party's resources and to make time a pressing concern. Too many "stop for 8 hours to recharge the magic" should put them at risk. If random encounters are becoming more than a nuisance/long term background threat maybe you need to tone down the table a bit.

In this case I was using the Random Encounter to provide easy targets to get the players use to the fight mechanics, without putting the characters at risk
A Squad of squints in my Y, Not a problem.

#55 smokingwreckage



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Posted 12 October 2012 - 01:40 AM

There's no rules against bounding the table, though. Houserule-in a "limited risk encounter" where monsters over a set level and/or set number get re-rolled. Just an idea.

 It's the perfect time to put on  your yellow boots and go meandering around the woods looking for...well stuff. In my experience looking for stuff is the best way to find it. -Loim

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