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57

The answer to this depends on your playstyle - but you don't have the problem you think you have. Observe: If you run a simulationist sandbox-y style of game, where you don't require your players to achieve anything in particular for you to consider the game a success, there are no wrong questions. There are questions that don't get the players the answers ...


48

Maybe I'm treating the question as more specific than it needs to be, but in your example it appears to me as though player 1's agency is being denied. Twice she stated her action clearly, and yet somehow she failed to get the results of that action back from you. You don't have to wait until all players are agreed before allowing a player to act. Now, OK, ...


41

Generally, you should only tell them what their character knows. Some DMs don't even tell them the creature's name until afterwards, they just describe its appearance. Let them make a skill check to see how much they know (eg arcana, nature, religion, history - depending on the type of creature. Or perception, if there is some visual clue). Or, if you ...


38

I've played in and run evil campaigns of various sorts in both 3.5 and 4e (though not 5e, I think my learning will transfer), and run into a lot of problems: My Guy Syndrome comes up a lot, as does a tendency to default to a regular D&D storyline only with more stealing of spoons and kicking of puppies to remind ourselves we're evil. Sometimes an evil ...


28

Write it down! Perhaps they find snippets of computer files (autosaves, etal), pages left behind on some printer, or some other written information leak (or leaks) that gives them clues as to what has really happened. Business documents are another good clue -- think along the lines of invoices, leave requests, inventory sheets, and maintenance ...


24

I think a lot of the answers in How do you help players not focus on the rules? are on point here as well. They talk about limiting time spend discussing and taking things offline, but perhaps the most important is establishing that your rulings stand and that as a more experienced player, and additionally as the GM, your interpretations of the rules are the ...


23

Expose bits of information through the agents/the minions of the villain. This can happen in several ways, e.g. Interrogations Written notes found on the bodies of the agents (in several forms - eg. it could be a message on the phone) Conversations overheard by the PCs remarks or comments addressed to the PCs I find this approach satisfying because it is ...


22

Stay Flexible Be ready to improvise about what kind of information the PCs can get by talking to various characters. Anything that hasn't been shown to the PCs yet can deviate from your notes at any time you want/need it to. Move plot points from their original "places" to be wherever the PCs happen to look. Are they asking the right questions of the ...


22

Don't let a roll (or a missed question) halt the game. Turn it into a "Yes, but..." failure, and advance the plot over the bodies of mooks. Go buy Gumshoe. The game has investigation mechanics which will likely help you here. In short, if the players have to know something to progress the plot, don't let a roll happen. If rolls are happening, then failure ...


17

The problem you have encountered was once known as the 15-minute workday. Since health, spells, etc are all things that are regained over time, the safest strategy is usually to do one fight, then back off to a safe distance and regenerate to full power before tackling the next challenge. SevenSidedDie wisely suggests ensuring that the world does not wait ...


16

When you ask your players what they're doing, formulate the question in such a way as to suggest an obvious course of action other than 'nothing' as the default. When you ask a question like "So, what do you do?" you're implying that in order to act, players must declare that they act. (Less charitably, you're assuming that the default behaviour of player ...


16

How can I get them asking the right questions without my leading them around by the nose? If players chase a trail that you haven't thought out, follow the advice laid out in the other answers here, which basically say: make it the right trail. That's good advice. I'll try to add something else, which is: "How do I not end up having to do this?" ...


16

Place a firm but fair and transparent limit on the amount of time that is allowed to be spent discussing rules issues. I keep a few cheap plastic hourglass timers handy during gaming sessions to fairly and transparently give out time for out-of-character interactions. This includes letting the party decide group tactics, adjudicating rules issues, or ...


16

The most important thing for an evil campaign to work is to give the players a goal or objective. In a good-aligned campaign, you don't need to necessarily start with a clear goal, and often you don't want to, as often the player's role is reactionary; someone does something bad and the players have to stop them. They do good for it's own sake, because ...


14

When questions come up about how much detail to plan for when prepping for a campaign/session etc, one of the answers I tend to agree with is that you only do as much as the players are going to see/experience. There's no point in having a detailed history of some far off land if it is never going to come up. To a certain extent the same applies here. ...


12

There are two techniques that can go 90% of the way to making playing-initiated retreats like this not boring or tedious. "Time passes" Use your role as DM to control the passage of time. Skip the uneventful parts. Do you know that nothing will inconvenience them on the way out of the dungeon? Narrate to skip ahead then. You backtrack through the halls ...


11

You have several major options depending on your desired playstyle. Easy Game Mode - Either level them up so they overwhelm the dungeon, or sprinkle in more magic (especially healing), or just change the rules so they can recover everything with a short rest. There are infinite variations on this. No death penalty! If you kill an enemy you regain your ...


10

All of these factions are trying to stay secret, that doesn't mean they leave no marks upon the world or cannot be interacted with by outside factions like the PCs. Know What's Going On First, it's important to keep track of characters within the secret societies, what they are doing, and what they know. GMing often involves some degree of abstraction and ...


10

You're not going to stop the players from going a step ahead sometimes, or several steps. To stretch your example a bit, consider that one day even making the axe will be a step ahead, because you'll want to dictate the result of gathering the materials. Your players won't know where a step too far is, since they're not psychic or omniscient. You need to ...


10

You can't It is not possible for you to model the thought processes of God, no matter how much time you spend on it. There are too many fundamental barriers to emulating its mind, some of which you have touched upon in this question and in your previous one. The silver lining here is that your players aren't in a position to do this either. Nobody, in the ...


10

It's Up to the DM Really, it is. Does the DM want everyone to roll every time a character opens their mouth? Or just when they're "selling an idea?" It's up to the DM. As Often As Is Needed This is a good rule of thumb. Roll bluff as often as it is needed. For me, whenever I DM, I only call for bluff checks whenever someone is trying to "sell an idea." ...


8

I generally don't give anything away. Discovery is part of the fun to the player. I try to give a very detailed description of the monster as the players would see it (if it's in low light they may not see ALL the tentacles). If a player has a skill that might give them some more information I'd let them roll to see if they'd know a bit more.


7

I don't know if this answer will be pertinent to your group and it doesn't strictly answer the question, but mine was once in a very similar situation and, as we learned to play the game (this was 2nd edition), we noticed that the problem eventually disappeared due to a slight change in our combat approach. We were somehow doing it "wrong", and it was ...


7

Make the NPCs a vital part of the story. Earning Trust Perhaps the NPC is there for the PCs during tough times. Receiving a "get out of jail free card" once in a while from a prominent NPC can go a long way into the PCs caring. Also, increasing the amount of dialogue and feedback between the PCs and the NPCs also go a long way into developing a ...


7

Assess the Needs of Your Group Where play styles and player preferences are involved, there's no "one size fits all" solution. Some groups do just fine if you present them with a sandboxy environment to interact with in any way they choose. They'll strike out because they're naturally motivated to do so. Others don't, and it sounds like your group needs ...


7

Great suggestions all around. My thoughts re-iterate on some points that @Jessa touched on, but hopefully provides some additional context. Let's face it, for a lot of players, RP dialogue is hard. It can feel awkward for some people and it can be especially hard to think of clever questions or keep lots of plot details in mind when you're uncomfortable. ...


7

It seems to me like you've taken the wrong message from some of the previous answers; I haven't read them, so I don't know exactly where they were coming from, but here's the gist: While "don't make the players roll for something they have to find to proceed" is an okay rule of thumb, it's not very nuanced. A better version of that rule is "do not give ...


6

I'd deal with it differently according to two separate cases. Either way, first you need to get the the player to acknowledge that he keeps being proved wrong by the lookup, and he doesn't know his spells as well as he'd like, and the lookups are disruptive and undesirable. It might be that this is how he thinks the game should be played. It might be this ...


6

Whenever I ask players to make a roll I have the following two things into consideration: Would it be dramatic for the players to fail at this point in time? Is this a place where the failure or success of the players can lead to a branch or some other consequence in the story? A practical example: The current plot requires that two characters sneak ...


5

Encourage your players to have goals Most often when a game gets bogged down like this, it's because there isn't a clear goal for the party to focus on. Your players will respond in their own ways, by arbitrarily aiming themselves at something, by focusing on some alternate point of interest that affects only themselves, or by checking out of the game ...



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