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29

Give bonus skill points for a good backstory! If someone writes up a good backstory, and the character should logically have certain skills from that backstory, that aren’t actually useful (or, at least, unlikely to be useful) in the campaign, turn those skills into rewards for writing a good backstory. That’s a great story of how a former ...


24

It depends on your style When I first ran my first game, I kept all the rules transparent. Barring some things that could reverse-engineer the NPC's I didn't want them to be able to gauge, I let every last thing be entirely known to them. "You need 3 successes (we were playing Shadowrun) at TN 6 to sink all the damage" There is nothing wrong with giving ...


23

The best approach, I think, is to separate the players and the NPCs by Plot! The NPCs get kidnapped, detained, lost, side-tracked, bogged down, diverted, or called away, but in a way that is meaningful to the players. They are not just “put on a bus” in the TV Tropes lingo, but somehow the plot separates them and reuniting becomes a major ...


17

I played D&D solo with my dad as the player for almost six years as a kid. We ran AD&D and 3.5 D&D. Frankly, it surprises me that more people don't play the game this way. It makes for an extremely good bonding time, it's a lot of fun, and two people with a good relationship can create some very great campaigns together. Here are a few party ...


17

As others have mentioned, this is a play-style issue that needs to be worked out amongst the group to avoid hard feelings, misunderstandings, and frustration. However, if despite prior discussions/agreements you find you're about to face conflicting character reactions, there are steps the GM can take to reduce players ability to dominate such scenes and ...


14

I play online almost exclusively these days, using MapTool. I DM two campaigns, and this particular issue comes up often enough. First, you have to keep things interesting. Try to design combats with more than just "attack roll -> damage roll". It's not a simple task, but it's really important to make combats interesting. Add some ranged enemies, healing ...


12

One solution we used was to pick the date our campaign was set in and use a moon phase website (e.g., stardate.org) to keep track of what the phase was for any given day. As time passed in game, we could just look up the phase when we needed it.


12

The answer to this is going to greatly depend on your playstyle. I'm currently playing in a few groups. One of them has no cleric (but has a paladin) the other has no cleric or paladin. Another group has no arcane spell casters of any kind. And another has a cleric, a wizard, a fighter and a rogue. The group with the cleric, wizard, fighter and rogue is ...


12

You're trying to railroad the game when the players are telling you very loudly where they want the campaign to go instead. Take them there. If the NPCs are boring you, that's a different problem. Be sure you're making NPCs that engage you and not just your players. You have to enjoy the game too. To run an interesting socially-focused game, you might need ...


12

A big part of it is what the character could assess from the situation. A character knows their own ability and understands the world around them. For instance, climbing a wall, you can assess the building material, the abundance of footholds and the effectiveness of your equipment. Your character could see that it is a DC 15 and then decide whether their ...


11

So, let me get this straight - you've created a setting and characters that your players are so immensely invested in that they're helping you build it themselves? What exactly is the problem again? Kidding. Sorta. Anyway, I'm kinda seeing this in the Marvel game I'm running now; the players are assuming anything beyond purse-snatchers are beyond them ...


10

If you have a Deathstab McMurderBaron amongst your players who cuts his way through the encounters like a Great Wyrm dragon through a burrow of kobolds, talk to them. Ask for them about what they want from a game, and what you want to do with the game. If all players are on the same page as you, great! If not, you can do a few things: Figure out what the ...


10

It depends on whether or not the players should have that information, or not. And that depends on the game you are playing and/or the contract you have with your players about that. In general, in a role-playing game where you are the game master (GM) with more knowledge than the players about the situation, you may want to mainly decide this based on ...


9

In my experience, the best way to find uses for obscure skills is to let the players come up with them, and just go along with their suggestions if they're halfway plausible. If your players are creative enough, as yours seem to be, they will come up with ways to use their oddball skills if you let them. To make this work best, you'll need to let your ...


8

I had this problem in an Exalted game (which is virtually the same system, if you're not familiar), and it took a while before they got in the habit of using Willpower for important rolls (although saved Willpower is a bit more important in that system, so that could be a reason). A few tricks I used to make sure they knew it was a resource meant for them ...


7

Anything your players like, including NPCs, is more important than your presuppositions of the plot. The reason for this is simple - the goal of the game is to entertain the group. If they like something, they will be more invested in it and thus more entertained. If you set up a dichotomy between "things you want" and "things they want," well, there's a ...


7

If your goal is to come up with great stories together, I would recommend a combination of all three - have your wife make a 'primary character', and then each story arc, she gets a new set of NPCs. It's kind of like Conan the Barbarian / Sinbad the Sailor / The Doctor - as you travel around having adventures, you have 'local party members'. So say your ...


6

All three methods work quite well, and it doesn't depend on experience. (There is a classic actual play report of a dad running D&D for his 7-year-old who played five PCs, and it was not only not a problem, but the kid was awesome-creative with the roleplaying.) Ask your player which she likes the sound of! Then do that.


6

You wait Your players will name it, most likely. If they don't, the Horror remains unNamed. That's fine! Nothing ever goes as planned.


6

I don't believe that there are some hard and fast rules about this. It's too much dependent on the situation, the context and the state of the players. But there are some ways that you can use in order to be better at spotting those "dead-meat" scenes. Know the genre you're working with No matter what game you are playing, it will fall to a certain genre. ...


5

The answer depends greatly on your DM. You can be effective with any group and setup, provided you actually focus on the group's strengths and avoid it's weaknesses. This means you need a DM that allows those opportunities. Published adventures are railroading. They have a very narrow focus and can only accomplish so much without knowing what the party will ...


5

Here's a little tidbit that Microscope taught me: every scene has a particular question (or questions) associated with it. When that question is answered, the scene is over. You want to skip over scenes with questions that are uninteresting, and jump to the ones which are interesting, and that's exactly what you did. This is why nobody runs games with ...


5

Use physical props. Here's what I use: (Custom made from Dapper Devil.) Having tokens to represent Willpower and Vitae means that players get used to receiving them and handing them over. The tactile nature of them means they can view them as currency to be traded.


4

When DMing, you should more consider yourself as telling the story of a movie or a video game than of a book. Because unlike writing a book, you have a budget. In our case, the budget is the time your group of player (and you) allow to the game. So, since the group is giving the budget, the group should decide how to use it. If they want a lot of non ...


4

The first answer to questions like this is always "Talk to your players." Are they bothered by this? If not, then it's not a problem. They may in fact be relying on Violence McGee as a running gag to get them out of their endless negotiations. That said, the fact that this is happening may point to some problems with your campaign design. I ran the World's ...


4

The answer is: It deppends on the game you are playing and how you handle the challenges. 5E isn't a "tactical minis" game as 4E was, but there is still a certain degree of "role balance" on it. You're deffinitely gonna have a harder time without a Paladin and Cleric that can use Healing Powers (even with access to Hit Dice mechanics), or a Bard or Druid ...


4

I believe that if you have a definite plan for a genre/setting for your campaign, you and your players have to work together to make it work. This includes character creation. It's going to be tough to fit a pacifist, privately educated art historian into a campaign based around the mob and violent crime. The first thing I do with any campaign is to present ...


4

What's wrong with just letting them use the skill? Even if it just happens once or twice in the entire session, give them an opportunity to have their skill become useful. Often, allowing a story to go in this direction becomes a memorable experience for the player. For example, one of the characters has a "Boating" skill. Perhaps the players could normally ...


4

It's entirely appropriate to tell them. It's also entirely appropriate not to tell them. Some games (particularly ones with a more tactical emphasis) are run with all dice out on the table and all difficulties announced a head of time. That allows players to make informed tactical decisions. Other games focus more on the role-playing, the mystery, the ...


3

The other answers are good for moving the focus off of the NPCs, but there's an alternative way to go: Make the NPCs into the PCs. Turn your players and say something like "You seem to like these allies... how would you like to play as them?" Let them each choose who to take over, and go forward from there. You can either alternate between the ...



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