The practical arts and methods applied to gamemastering.

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How do I prevent my players from immediately recognising an ambush?

I'm absolutely new to DnD, as my whole group is, and I am the DM. For an easy introduction to the game I chose the H1 adventure (Keep on the Shadowfell). In the first and second combat encounter the ...
17
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8answers
845 views

My necromancer keeps dying (and can't raise himself)!

Sometimes in the course of running an adventure you will run into an encounter that calls for a summoner to bring on a horde of undead (often minions). I have a simple problem: My summoners die in ...
17
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8answers
952 views

How to get players to care about their and each others characters and play them like they are actual people

This question made me think about a problem I have been having that was brought up last night during a session. This session was the first of a new campaign I was running, with the party meeting ...
17
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6answers
532 views

How to implicate the players in the horror?

Good horror implicates the watcher/reader, at least in drama. There is always moment when the audience should cry out, "no, stop, don't!" but of course we don't because we're a well-behaved audience, ...
17
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8answers
400 views

What are some proven methods of generating attachment to locations/objects in a campaign?

It is a truism that a GM can never really be sure what a group of players will do, or which NPCs they are going to grow fond of. Places and objects, however... are they the same? In games like Star ...
17
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7answers
559 views

Fantasy and magic in a primarily realistic setting

I'm running a game that's best described as "medieval fantasy," in the sense that we're actually trying to have the lives of people in the setting strongly resemble the historical Middle Ages. There ...
17
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8answers
885 views

How valid is lying to players about the rolls they are making in The Dresden Files?

In last weeks Dresden Files game, the players followed the bad guy using a tracking spell, and found him in the projects at an apartment that they knew little about. Seeing his car, they decided to ...
17
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7answers
321 views

How do you maintain a balance between mystery and offering clues?

Giving good clues that offer just enough information can be difficult. I think I tend to not give the players enough information and then to overcompensate with a reveal that comes too easily. ...
17
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5answers
781 views

How to handle the PCs within a large military?

On some level, this might actually be getting closer to RPGs’ roots: I want to try a campaign where the PCs are members of a larger military. There may be need for them to coordinate with other ...
17
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9answers
618 views

How to help players settle down and focus?

We have a weekly game in the evenings; however, we often don't start playing for a few hours after we get together, if at all. This has been exacerbated recently by other events with the same people ...
17
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5answers
563 views

How do I make a single combat in a day challenging and interesting?

4e is a game of resource attrition. I can't find the quote in DMG right now, but from memory and experience, it works best with about 3-5 combat encounters in an adventuring day. That way, some of the ...
17
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3answers
336 views

Is buying game ebooks practical?

I am looking into buying some game rules books as ebooks, but I want to know if anyone else has done this. Ebooks/PDFs are cheaper and easier to get, but I am wondering if that is worth the trade off ...
16
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10answers
3k views

Can I roll for a PC in secret?

As a GM, can I roll in secret so my players don't even know I rolled? For example, a PC walks past a secret door; if I ask the player to roll perception he may suspect there is something. Can I roll ...
16
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7answers
576 views

Techniques for skimming through travel (fast travel) without meta-teleportation

In most of my group's campaigns, we spend a lot of time traveling. Unfortunately, this leans one of two ways: Uninteresting or distracting obstacles. If you want to spend time but keep it fresh, ...
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5answers
3k views

How do I remove a poorly-designed rule without my players feeling cheated?

(This question is inspired by by Neil Slater's answer here: What are the acceptable limits for questions using the probability tag?. Other related questions are: Rules for increasing ability scores in ...
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7answers
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How Can I Make Supplies Matter In D&D 3.5e?

On long journeys we always forget to track supplies so I am looking for a way to make supplies actually matter in D&D 3.5.
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4answers
1k views

Please stop giving the town sheriff a noogie!

Related to this question but more closely related to this question. How can I get my PCs to not cause a single or small handful of characters to become the butt of a joke when that humor could easily ...
16
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6answers
2k views

When to give up on an obstacle

I had a situation in a recent game where the PCs (who are all robots, in a setting where humans are long dead) came across a rusted-out android in a dilapidated shack on a small dock. They needed fuel ...
16
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7answers
473 views

How can I use a frame story and keep a sense of danger and mystery?

I am planning a campaign that I would like to present as a frame story: the heroes are recounting their adventures in a tavern in exchange for drinks (and then picking up the last leg of the adventure ...
16
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7answers
641 views

As an experienced GM, what pitfalls should I watch out for? [on hold]

I've been GMing for 20 years and have recently started to question if I need a GM-makeover. We are still having fun but could the game be more fun if I shed some bad, and well ingrained habits? I ...
16
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7answers
738 views

How can I make downtime interesting?

My group is running a set of published adventures, so there's a pretty linear path between them. But between modules, there is the opportunity to go back to town, spend some money, and get some good ...
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5answers
2k views

How do I build interesting dungeons?

I'm a new GM and I need to undestand how to build enjoyable locations. I don't get how to build interesting dungeons. For example, I need to explore a castle. But a castle is not as complicated as ...
16
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6answers
430 views

Techniques for speeding up a game with many players at the table?

I have a table of six players already, and have more people interested in joining my game. I wanted to consult people who had experience with running large tables to see if running for larger groups ...
16
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3answers
628 views

Shouldn't The Doctor almost always be an NPC?

I'm considering GMing Doctor Who: Adventures in Time and Space, but there's something I fundamentally don't understand: Why is The Doctor a player-character option? And why is it the default ...
16
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4answers
448 views

How would I quickly put together a believable map of an area?

As part of my "Closed Circle" campaign, I'm looking for ways to quickly put together a believable map of a college campus and surrounding area, complete with believable building placement. "Quickly" ...
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8answers
781 views

How can I increase tension during roleplaying?

In my games, I tend to run into a problem at least once per session. My players just seem to follow the dice and make no effort to either engage with combat or chase adventure. They let the dice fall ...
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2answers
2k views

Are DCs supposed to be secret?

Are players not supposed to ask what is the DC for a roll? If you're the DM and someone asks, would you tell them you can't say? Would you instead tell them the difficulty in relative terms like, ...
16
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6answers
2k views

How to help my low-level spellcaster PCs feel more useful

My party right now consists of a pair of incredibly optimized characters (a half-orc fighter and a ranger/scout), one fairly well optimized character (a swashbuckler who's thinking about mutliclassing ...
16
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5answers
978 views

What to do in the first session of a campaign?

The first session of my new D&D 4e campaign is coming up pretty soon and I'm not quite sure how to go about the introduction into this new campaign. I have the geography and landmarks and things ...
16
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3answers
1k views

How do I help my players get more engaged in the story?

I play in a group where we routinely switch out GMs. When I GM I tend to prefer story-based games with lots of character building and descriptive role play. We tend to run Paizo's Adventure Paths ...
16
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3answers
894 views

How to make a dense, immersive horror atmosphere?

I'm currently narrating a horror-esque campaign set in a dystopian future based on the Lovecraft Mythos. My problem is that my players break their own sense of immersion often, making the game seem ...
16
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2answers
351 views

What are the main factors to consider when a PC gains a major airport in V:tM?

Depending on the type of Vampire: the Masquerade campaign, PC's may experience unusual growth in resources. This should generally come with a (potentially complicated) system of pros and cons as well ...
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4answers
735 views

Unknowingly improving my players' luck

As a GM, I'd like to give my players a lucky item, one that improves their dice rolls. However, I don't want them to immediately realize that the item is improving their rolls. One thought I had was ...
15
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6answers
397 views

How to make players care about a community

I've built a lot of villages, some towns and a city or two but I've failed to bring them to life and make the PCs feel like they belong there (maybe not much belong but to just make them care about ...
15
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4answers
728 views

What should a DM do if a player wants to do something impossible?

If a player wants to do something a little out of the ordinary such as punching down a wall with his bare fists, what should I do? Do I make a DC for it? Do I make it so that no matter how much he ...
15
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12answers
901 views

How can I speed up combat with a large number of enemies?

I'm DMing for a campaign where the player characters will sometimes face small squads of creatures, most recently six ground troops and two archers helping out. In this setting, these creatures ...
15
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9answers
500 views

How can I encourage my group to become more well rounded?

My gaming group tends to each go in their own direction for character creation. Sometimes this leads to great games where folks are strongly opposed on dramatic elements and character interaction is ...
15
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4answers
478 views

Filling in holes in published adventures?

I have had really bad experiences with Published adventures whenever I try and run a game. My parties always seem to do or ask questions that the published material just doesn't answer. Many times I ...
15
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4answers
388 views

How do I signal a flashback?

I have several flashbacks planned that introduce the characters to a backstory that is too complex for a typical plot dump. The problem is that the flashbacks are triggered in the context of the ...
15
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5answers
616 views

How can I add story to every encounter so that they don't seem like I'm just piling monsters on the characters for xp?

I am running a Viking themed 3.5 adventure and the party is traveling to confront a barbarian king on the way though they have just been fighting wild animals and it feels like these encounters don't ...
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3answers
2k views

What is all the backstory in an Adventure Path for if the players never see it?

I'm new to tabletop RPGs (although I have been interested for a long time, just had difficulty finding like-minded companions, and the funds required to get some of the stuff). When I was finally ...
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5answers
435 views

How can I mechanistically empower a prophecy or fortune without railroading the plot?

I am interested in the idea of incorporating fate (via prophecy or fortunes told) in my campaign. I would like to come up with a set of rules/mechanics to make a prophecy or fortune teller's ...
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4answers
1k views

How can I make investigation engaging for the whole party?

I'm about to start a campaign that takes place on a pirate ship. Low magic fantasy setting, loosely based on the Caribbean in the 1600s. Much of the action is going to be centered around various ...
15
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5answers
572 views

How would you play test an RPG before all of its rules are complete?

I've been writing my own RPG, mainly to address some of the flaws / frustrations I've come across in other games. Luckily, I've found a few willing participants to help test the rules and mechanics in ...
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5answers
515 views

Adding comic relief

As a GM, I would like to add comic relief to my sessions. Comic relief is the inclusion of a humorous character, scene or witty dialogue in an otherwise serious work, often to relieve tension. ...
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3answers
24k views

Calculating and balancing challenge ratings

Are there standard rules for calculating CR of groups? For example, in my Pathfinder bestiary, a single Stirge is listed as CR 1/2, and a group of 2d4 (average 5) of them is listed as an average CR 4. ...
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7answers
391 views

How to I create material (on the fly) to support plot changes?

In both pre-plotted adventures and more story-telling ones, a lot of situations occur where monsters/npcs/magical items/geography appear, which wasn't thought of beforehand. I.e. I do not have the ...
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3answers
654 views

How to run time-limited one shots

I and some friends are determined to try for this winter running only one-shots. rotating the GM for each one different characters each time the adventure must be completed in a single session one ...
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5answers
365 views

How to abstract a trial?

A session I am writing for my gaming group will take the characters through a murder trial. One of the players is the accused, and he and his companions will need to build a case and defend ...
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4answers
353 views

GM Tips for a Rashomon style game

I want to run a Rashomon style session soon and I'm looking for solid advice, as well as lessons learned from your own experience doing so.