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202
votes
23answers
11k views

How do I get my PCs to not be a bunch of murderous cretins?

Most RPGs teach you that casual violence is the best solution to all your in-game problems. This is so well established a part of the vast majority of RPGs that there are entire satire RPGs like Greg ...
89
votes
17answers
7k views

How to deal with players who like to use the local authorities to solve their problems

The problem I have a player in my group which tends to approach local authorities (may it be guards or churches) when facing a threat. He thinks that, given his role (a bard in a medieval world, so, ...
79
votes
19answers
3k views

How do you help players not focus on the rules?

Background - My Group's Gaming Style When I GM, I run games loosely from a rules standpoint, and do not feel bound to adhere to what the rulebook says when it doesn't make sense in a given situation. ...
70
votes
18answers
4k views

How do I not cheapen death, while also respecting my players' time?

I DM for a group of very busy people, for whom the commitment of several hours a week is a real sacrifice: that’s a sizeable chunk of their free time for the week that I’m asking for. ...
55
votes
16answers
2k views

How can I help my PCs remember clues that they found?

I'm a new DM running my first adventure (it's D&D 4.0 but that's not relevant to my question). I've heard of the "three clue rule", that there should be at least three independent pointers to any ...
53
votes
14answers
7k views

Players playing weird characters breaking the immersion of my group

I have an issue with two players in my very large gaming group that I would like some advice from people who have perhaps dealt with players like these. In terms of age and experience, we're all ...
53
votes
21answers
2k views

How can I avoid players spending too much time planning?

Several times when I have played in or ran a game in which the players had an objective and reasonable resources, a lot of (real) time was spent trying to plan for every contingency. For example, ...
50
votes
9answers
5k views

How to Fix a Terrible Lapse in Judgement

In the gaming group I run, I said at the very first day that this was going to be a very "adult" campaign. I told them I wasn't going to pull punches, and that the party would have to really think ...
49
votes
10answers
2k views

What characterizes a “Modern” role playing game or gaming system?

I recently read about D&D clones in another question (I forget where I saw it) and noticed comments referring to gaming systems that were clones of D&D as "Old School" while others ...
47
votes
11answers
3k views

How can a GM prevent growing disillusioned with their own game?

I recently began a new game in which I gave the players much more free reign in designing their characters than I might have in the past. What I wound up with was a very morally-diverse party, with ...
46
votes
7answers
1k views

As an unreliable player, how can I lessen the burden on my group?

I'm often unreliable, in the sense that something always seems to turn up at the last minute that draws me away from our current regular game. (It's happened before as well.) Given that the reasons ...
44
votes
12answers
1k views

How do I make weather an important part of the game?

We're starting up a dark ages fantasy game, using some homebrew rules similar to D&D. As the GM, how can I make weather an important part of the game? To be clear, I'm not trying to just toss in ...
43
votes
15answers
3k views

How can I make my PCs flee?

My players never run away or avoid conflict. Ever. I throw them ridiculous encounters, they will stay and fight. If I tell them, "You know you're not gonna make it, just run," they stay and fight and ...
43
votes
6answers
2k views

Preventing saturation in a horror campaign

I am currently designing my first horror campaign and what I've come up with so far is pretty dark and gruesome. I worry that if it is gut wrenching the whole way through, eventually the players will ...
42
votes
9answers
2k views

How do I deal with PCs who use kidnap and torture as an investigative technique?

I'm running a game in a modern setting with emphasis on the paranormal (Conspiracy X). The player characters are part of a secret government organization and are tasked with investigating & ...
42
votes
10answers
2k views

Is it fair to press the players for decisions during combat?

My group tends to over-analyse during combat, which slows everything down. I press upon my players to make their decision and roll the dice quickly. My players are all experienced in the system and I ...
40
votes
14answers
3k views

How can I play dumb?

I have a half-ogre character at my local larp group, and one of the roleplay-enforced restrictions for half-ogres is that they have low intelligence. I often find myself biting my tongue not to say ...
39
votes
14answers
6k views

Dealing with “fearless” players

I have some "badass" players in my group who do not fear death, 4 out of 6 to be precise, which causes problems for the rest players as they feel they are always getting dragged into trouble, trying ...
38
votes
9answers
2k views

How do I avoid clichés while improvising?

Tropes are not bad, but clichés usually are. Sadly, when I need to come up with something on the fly it's much easier and faster to use clichés: if I suddenly need a barkeep, he's probably fat with a ...
38
votes
15answers
2k views

How can I help a player craft a backstory that gives me plot hooks?

I have a new player joining my game soon who has taken the place of another player. Unfortunately, the character's backstory is lacking. It doesn't tell me a lot about the character. Because I draw ...
36
votes
14answers
2k views

How to get out of a story deadlock

As with most of my questions, this is more of a general "how to handle a special situation" and not a plea to solve an existing problem. What is the best way to handle story deadlocks (as in: The ...
36
votes
12answers
5k views

What living apex lifeforms are there other than dragons?

When a theme is dragon* on. Dragons are apex predators and widely regarded by most players and systems as about one of the worst things you can ever deal with. I have a campaign that's been running ...
36
votes
14answers
2k views

How can I replace a player character with an impostor without alerting the group?

I recently picked up a book of example NPCs (the Pathfinder NPC Codex, incidentally) and came across an entry for a "master spy". In the flavor text, it describes how his "secret identities have ...
36
votes
12answers
1k views

What rewards can compete with experience points?

My group is running a series of published adventures. I am GMing one of the modules (level 21-24) after which another member will be taking the reins. I have plans for a side-adventure that will take ...
36
votes
3answers
586 views

How do I build a sense of wonder in my games?

I guess this is part three of a series of questions, with part I being on building tension, and part II being on building comedy. Greg Stafford has talked of his primary motivation as a gamemaster ...
35
votes
12answers
7k views

As a GM, how can I stop killing my games?

Probably the worst issue I have as a Game Master is that I think of a game, I write a campaign plot for it -- End, Beginning and Middle, get hyped, hype my players, and after 2 months I get bored with ...
35
votes
12answers
3k views

Storytelling with lie detection

Most of the fantasy systems I know has a spell to detect lies, speak with the dead, and the like. Imagine how long great movies like The Usual Suspects or In the Heat of the Night would have lasted ...
35
votes
8answers
2k views

What ways are there to anger the PC's without angering the players?

Since I got so many good ideas on my last question, here's part 2: What ways are there to really anger my PC's -- give them that sense of unbridled rage and fury -- without pissing the players off ...
35
votes
12answers
2k views

How do I create a great fantasy villain that inspires the party to rally against them?

In my early years of GMing it was simple enough to say that the badguys were evil and that was all the justification we needed. They are attacking the village because they are evil, they are stealing ...
34
votes
13answers
5k views

How to secretly talk to one of the players while DM'ing?

To cut it short, the players (it's a 3 people party) are in some kind of a Secret Service of a rebel prince who wants the throne. One of my players is working for the current king secretly, feeding ...
33
votes
6answers
2k views

How can I check whether an extremely adult/mature plot idea would be accepted by players without revealing any details of the idea itself?

I am running a post-apocalyptic zombie game with a dark and mature story, exploring a number of adult themes. I have complete buy-in from the players; some of them have stated it is their favourite ...
33
votes
7answers
2k views

Pre-modern farming: What percent of the population is in agriculture?

I'm running a premodern setting where the characters will be involved in local administration. Assuming no magic, how many farmers does it take to support one non-farmer? Any statistics/estimates ...
33
votes
4answers
2k views

Resources for Complex Puzzle-Traps

I'm looking for resources for designing complex challenges - something that's not quite a puzzle and not quite a trap, but somewhere in between. There are tons of resources for really complex or ...
32
votes
11answers
1k views

What are some dangerous non-fantasy creatures?

We're running a fantasy game where the adventurers frequently travel through the wilderness. Too many of the threatening encounters they have are with fantasy creatures (like goblins, orcs, etc.). ...
32
votes
14answers
2k views

How to deal effectively with a player unable to lose?

How do you effectively handle a player that overreacts to any loss of his character (level drain, death) ?
32
votes
9answers
961 views

How can I cut short a doomed fight?

Occasionally one of my PC's wanders off and gets himself into a battle he simply cannot win. I know the player wants to play out the battle to see if they can somehow pull it out, but it's boring for ...
32
votes
9answers
1k views

What can I do to give the players the same feel their characters would have about wilderness travel?

I find that in a lot of our group's games, traveling long distances through wilderness is too easy. In real life, it's quite arduous traveling overland. No one who's just walked a hundred miles is ...
32
votes
6answers
1k views

How do you handle verbal exchanges between NPCs without taking the PCs out of the spotlight?

One of the assumptions I make as GM is that the players should always be in the spotlight. Sometimes the players find themselves in a situation where they watch NPCs speak to each other. I don't ...
32
votes
7answers
2k views

Is it possible to produce a bowl-shaped probability curve with dice rolls?

In D&D's basic D20 system, you roll one d20 and add in some modifiers, then compare the result to a target number. Each modifier effectively adds or removes a 5% chance of success with the roll. ...
32
votes
7answers
2k views

What to do when a player character does something suicidal?

Every now and then a player character does something extremely risky because "it would be fun." What are some good ways to handle this as a GM, for the different styles of play? I like playing ...
32
votes
5answers
665 views

How to support useful Intraparty Conflict

This is a question calling for tried and tested methods for facilitating entertaining CvC intraparty conflict. Although Player versus Player (PvP) seems to be the accepted term among a large ...
31
votes
19answers
2k views

How do I add a recurring fantasy villain without frustrating the players?

I am currently running a campaign which is still in its early stages, and I plan to introduce a recurring villain. However, if the villain is always the main "big bad" behind every session and he gets ...
31
votes
14answers
1k views

What kinds of rules promote good team cohesion?

It seems like a lot of roleplaying games have no problems with players playing antisocial characters who can't really be part of the team. I've been part of groups (in D&D) with both a noble ...
31
votes
12answers
3k views

How to deal with players asking for an “infodump”

I read some questions about how to have players ask questions, but I happen to have the opposite issue. While players asking questions is nice, I often am in the situation where they ask too much ...
31
votes
7answers
921 views

Using a Time-Skip as a Plot Device

In the game that I'm currently running, the PCs have traveled to the Realm of the Fae to gather information on their (im)mortal enemy, a Lich. When they emerge from the Fae Realm, I was planning on ...
31
votes
8answers
1k views

How do I get better at narrating/storytelling as a GM?

Personally, I've always had difficulty telling coherent stories, even from my own experiences. My wife has even coined a term (jokingly) for the type of story I tell, one that either makes no sense, ...
30
votes
5answers
944 views

How do I emphasize role-playing during combat?

Right now, the group that I GM for is very, very tactical-combat focused. To some extent, we may as well be playing a dungeon crawl board game for all the role-play we manage. Now, in and of itself ...
29
votes
16answers
1k views

How do I get the PCs to visit scary places at night?

Sometimes when I design scenarios, I realize that my mental image of the adventure is only exciting because it takes place at night. When the players actually play through the adventure, they might ...
29
votes
6answers
976 views

How can I learn how to negotiate as an NPC?

I'm a new GM (the system is DND 4.0 but that's not relevant here). I've quickly found that I perform very poorly when I'm portraying a negotiation between the PCs and one or more NPCs. Even when they ...
29
votes
4answers
956 views

How do I keep a long-range plot cohesive and coherent?

I enjoy GMing but I much prefer to to have some sort of long running plot (or meta-plot) rather than having a series of unconnected unfortunate events afflict my PCs. For example, I would love to ...