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Robz888

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Dungeons and Dragons
« on: November 14, 2018, 03:21:27 pm »
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Due two a number of unexpected circumstances, I am now the DM for not one, but TWO D&D groups. Both meet monthly. I was formerly a player in one of the groups, but the DM moved away so I was asked to take over, and then it turned out he had another group, etc.

I've now hosted three sessions. It's so much fun! And it's going decently well. But I thought I'd post here, in case any of you have more experience DMing, maybe you have tips to share.
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Dsell

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Re: Dungeons and Dragons
« Reply #1 on: November 14, 2018, 04:50:56 pm »
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I was the DM for a group for a short while before life became too hectic for me and a couple other members of the group. We played a little loose with the rules (partially because I don't have a strong mastery of the D&D rules myself) but it was SO FUN. But also, it was so much work. I was trying to create an interesting narrative structure instead of relying on my own powers of improv, and I was spending several minimum before each bi-weekly session writing out scenarios and creating characters/monsters.

Most likely, my way of DM-ing and prepping for DM-ing was like the least efficient method out there, so I have no tips! Except, use an app to create and track monsters. Holy shit, I did one session with everything on 3x5 cards and it was horrible.
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Awaclus

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Re: Dungeons and Dragons
« Reply #2 on: November 14, 2018, 09:30:30 pm »
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I tried D&D once. It was fine, but very disappointing compared to RuneQuest.
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werothegreat

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Re: Dungeons and Dragons
« Reply #3 on: November 15, 2018, 12:14:04 am »
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I'm actually currently running a homebrew campaign once a week.  Tips:

* You don't necessarily need to write a full narrative for a session, but at least be familiar with your setting.  Know your NPCs, and which monsters are lurking where, in case your players head there.
* Always be ready to improvise.  It's usually more fun to roll with whatever the players make up, rather than saying "nah, this guy wouldn't do that, that's dumb".  Let your players have their fantasy, as long as it's not too ridiculous.
* Challenge your players.  A fight where they all almost die is going to be remembered better than one where they kill everything in two turns.
* If you have an idea of where you want your players to go, try to make it happen naturally.  Make it seem like their decision.  Entice them into your story, rather than frogmarching them down your narrative.
* Honestly, have fun with it.  Make up silly voices for your NPCs.  Make weird noises for your monsters.  Narrate all the little details about how their weapons cleave off which body parts, or how their spells affect their enemies.
« Last Edit: November 15, 2018, 12:15:10 am by werothegreat »
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Kuildeous

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Re: Dungeons and Dragons
« Reply #4 on: November 15, 2018, 10:00:39 am »
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Not my RPG of choice, but I'm all for talking about RPGs in general.

As a GM, you're the storyteller. The other players are also storytellers, but they typically have less agency than you do when bending the rules. That depends on the type of game you're running though. Some GMs prefer running things strictly out of the box while others are cool with players suggesting narrative changes and roll with it.

My weekly Torg game is on the heroic, freeform side. I have an idea for stories, but Torg allows players to add drama with subplot cards. There might be a wandering monster, an unrealized trap, a new minion, or an unexpected hostage. Actually, I highly suggest using subplot cards in general. Torg has a very specific deck of cards for this, but you could also look up Whimsy Cards or Storypath Cards. They allow players to add some zest to a game, but the GM has to be very flexible. Maybe you intended for the group to simply invade the orc camp, but thanks to that interloper card that someone played, there's also a group of drow spies sneaking around that may abscond with a mysterious scroll if they aren't stopped.

Don't be afraid to say yes. If a player asks if there's a chandelier hanging nearby, then the player is contemplating doing something cool. Let it happen. Obviously not every suggestion is feasible, so don't be afraid to say no. The rules of improv are in play here. Embrace the "Yes and…" but also provide some outputs with "No but…" No, this tavern is too short for a chandelier, but a stick of dynamite did fall out of someone's pack and is rolling toward one of the floor lamps.

One of my pet peeves in RPGs is needless rolling. Make every die roll count. A not-so-exaggerated example is knocking down a door with no danger looming over it. The GM says to roll Strength. Nope, that 8 isn't going to do it. Roll again. Nope, not on 12 either. Keep on rolling. Oh, good, after 15 rolls, you finally beat the 19 needed to break down the door. The room is empty. Ugh, bad GM!

Instead, if the PC has the means to eventually succeed, hand-wave it if there's not a threat. There's a door, and with some great effort you break it down. Beyond is an empty room. Move on to the next action.

But dice-rolling has its place. If there is a threat on the other side, then they are aware of the PCs trying to break down the door and can prepare for the attack. Each failed roll gives them more time to prepare.

You could also use 13th Age's fail-forward mechanic. You don't roll a bunch of times. You roll once. And you succeed. But if you don't beat a certain number, that success may come at a price. You didn't beat 19 on the Strength test, so you slam into the door several times before it breaks apart but now you're facing some very prepared and buffed enemies. If you had rolled 19+ on that roll, then you kick in the door and descend upon the enemies while they're scrambling to draw their weapons.

I'm a little curious about the recently Kickstarted Over the Edge reprint. From what I read, the player rolls once to determine success or failure. It sounds like it'll be very narrative-based.
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tripwire

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Re: Dungeons and Dragons
« Reply #5 on: November 18, 2018, 05:35:44 pm »
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I also am no longer DMing D&D (I'm running a game of Urban Shadows), but I DM'ed a homebrew 5E game for about two years. I agree that too much prep time can be a real trap (it's part of the reason I'm playing a PBtA game now) and I also agree to get comfortable improving and allowing your players to add interesting bits to the world. This can be like the subplot cards Kuildeous is talking about, or simply asking them to flesh out the parts of the world your players' characters would know best ("You're part of the thieves guild? Okay, tell me about who runs it? Do they have any competition? Etc.) I find a collaboratively built world is always infinitely more interesting than one I just made, and the players can end up having more investment in it too.

Finally, the thing I hate most in D&D games is constant combat with trash mobs (You are attacked by 5 kobolds! [roll dice back and forth] Next encounter, you are attacked by SIX kobolds!) I find D&D can grind really slowly during combat, so I try to always plan for a narrative turning point in each encounter (the last remaining kobold pulls out a flask and chugs it, he grows 4 times his size!)
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Kuildeous

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Re: Dungeons and Dragons
« Reply #6 on: November 18, 2018, 09:27:37 pm »
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The combat can be quite the grind, and it is worse if that is how players perceive it as necessary to advance.

Back in the D&D3 days, a friend of mine started up a Midnight campaign. I had been playing Pathfinder Society, which gives 1 XP per adventure, win or lose. I suggested to the GM that we don't track XP. Instead, he tells us when he feels we've done enough to justify leveling. Turned out to be a really rewarding system. We didn't have to worry if we would get dinged on XP for doing an encounter wrong. You play out the encounter as it makes sense. If there's violence, then you resolve it. If it involves stealth or diplomacy, then you resolve it that way instead.

And that model is showing up in more D&D games now. Pathfinder's adventure paths provide XP, but they also advise what levels the PCs should be at certain points, so the GM can gauge milestone leveling. It's actually canon in 13th Age.

It's a weird feeling because in the old days, the GM would reward or punish the players based on how they reacted to the encounters. Feel that the PCs were being cowardly by sneaking past the guards? Give them zero XP--or only a quarter to half if you're feeling generous. Accidentally kill the hostage? Reduced XP. And so on. With milestone, the group gets the same XP whether they choose to fight in every encounter or if they talk their way to the boss. You reward the play style that the players want.
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