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114

Reward the PCs with attention A group of level 2 PCs with a staff of the magi will soon find that everyone wants it. Many of these will be bad guys, but a few of them will be good guys. The GM can reward the PCs for their superior play by having the good guys contact the PCs and offer to take the staff off their hands for their own safety (instead of, for ...


78

While a lot of the other answers are perfectly valid and good ideas, I'd like to offer an alternative solution that hasn't been mentioned yet which can also work in some situations: deal with the problem out-of-game, not through DM fiat, but rather through admitting you made a mistake. DMs shouldn't be expected to be infallible. If you can explain to your ...


42

The Brinks Job, The Italian Job, Willow, or Charlie Varrick? the players worked their way through a series of fiendish traps into a high security vault, where they recovered a Staff of the Magi. Your low level PC's broke into a secure storage site and stole something extremely valuable. Hollywood is packed with this trope, a big heist and the ... uh ...


41

Make it be cursed. A very powerful item will make many adventuring parties suspicious, but if yours are just happy to go forward using it, they are in for a surprise. I would pick an "interesting" curse that makes them wary of using it but still leaves them (technically) with the option to do so. For example, every charge used could alert some extraplanar ...


27

It sounds like they're having trouble because they can't figure out where the plot is. Their actions make it clear they would like to fight chaos, but in the absence of chaos to fight, they're filling time by lining their own pockets. You've already made some progress toward the solution by giving them criminal organizations to destroy. It sounds like they ...


18

The narrative technique can work so well in literature, film and video That is because none of those who make decisions are put into the situation abruptly. Those three are passive arts. It's a technique for passive observers of the action. It's only "in medias res" for those who do not need to make any decision. To capture that feeling you need to ...


17

Let the players make up all that stuff! How about letting the players fill the rest of the exposition? So following from your quote: Wilma: (shouts) "I'll cover you. GO!" I turn dive behind the garbage cans in teh alley, drawing my gun. That first goon is going to have a nasty shock. The rest will get suppression fire. Craig: (over comms) "Debbie, ...


15

Preserve Player Agency in Role Playing Games While "DM decides" is a standard tool to keep play moving, removing player agency for what players decide to do can turn role playing into roll playing (letting the dice drive everything) and lead to low player satisfaction. The best way to deal with this is to role play the situation. Ability checks are not ...


13

While I partially agree with KorvinStarmast's answer when it comes to preserving player agency, you don't have to make social skills useless in the hands of NPCs to do so. Simply not allowing an NPC to affect a PC with a skill like Intimidation or Persuasion because the PCs don't like being told what to do is utterly preposterous. NPCs have social skill ...


11

Hint it and measure enthousiasm The general approach I take when I'm not sure what my players like, or whether they'd enjoy a specific thing, is to hint to it during the session and see if they bite. This works best in an open world or if you've already taught your players that they can say "no" and the story will go on, but even if they're used to being ...


11

Actually, I happen to be in a similar situation as you. My group has played games that vary in pace from Shadowrun games where we spend three real time weeks (one session per week) planning for a single run, to Pathfinder games where we clear a new dungeon every session. Right now, we're playing a D&D 5e game set in a Dying Earth styled setting in ...


10

It's important to note that while in literature the two are often synonymous, in media res does not mean "without information" but rather "in the middle of the action". In my experience, this is actually a fairly typical way to start off Action or Mystery games. The key is not to provide a high action situation with no information, but rather to provide ...


10

Have someone powerful show up and trade it with them for multiple other, less powerful items. Make it clear that the powerful person wants to trade because he is a good guy, not because he feels that he and the party are on equal footing. Let him both explain that his trade of the major item for 10 minor ones is fair and better for the party, since they'll ...


8

I've used the in media res start several times, and I've found it works best when player characters have a succinct, easily-described goal in the midst of action that can also be easily delineated. The goal keeps players focused and gives them enough that they're not too frustrated by the relative lack of surrounding information. As the action unfolds, that ...


8

As a DM, this is how I handle it: Pick an arbitrary DC, based on what the PLAYER was last doing. For instance, if the player is confronting the NPC because he's bored and wants a fight, then the DC to intimidate him might be 12. If it's because he's desperate to save his dying sister, then he's a lot more motivated and harder to intimidate - so maybe an ...


7

Roleplaying is a situation where the players are both the creators and audience improvising at the same time. Other forms of media the creators know what the reasons are,or, effectively have time to develop/discover it, and craft and edit that long before the audience gets to seeing the results. Because of this, you end up with three choices when you want ...


6

Preface: I love the in medias res technique in literature and I am fascinated by its potential uses in gaming. I even named one of my campaigns In Medias Res because that's how it started. Despite that, I am skeptical that it is a general purpose, out-of-the-box tool for everyday use. There are both player management issues and narrative design issues ...


6

All play does happen in scenes, intentional or not. According to Fate Core A scene is a unit of game time…during which the players try to achieve a goal or otherwise accomplish something significant…[o]nce the action shifts to a new goal, moves to a new place related to that goal, or jumps in time, you’re in the next scene. —Defining Scenes Even ...


5

As a D&D 4e DM, I was seriously thrown out of my (at the time) habitual game preparation techniques because of the emphasis that 4e put on challenging and balanced encounters instead of "there are two goblins on this room" that would probably be solved by the initiative check. So, quickly I found out that preparing a full maze and let people explore as I ...


5

In general, I would say that starting in media res can work well, and is a useful perspective to consider when starting any game, at least as a contrast to the way you otherwise had in mind to start. That's because, in my experience, one of the greatest obstacles to player involvement in an RPG background, is lack of familiarity and density and remoteness of ...


5

I would let things run the natural course. So ask yourself the following question: is someone going to miss the Staff? The person who put it there, other people who were trying to break the vault? If the answer is yes, then you have someone searching for the PCs, which may want to take it back from them by good or evil means. Someone with a crazy vault and ...


4

Page 29 of the PDF mentions Don’t cheat the other players. While you will be playing the role of their adversaries, you are not their enemy. Everyone is in this together, and the players must trust you. and Don’t monopolize the story. Ask the other players about their characters and what they are up to. Make sure that they are active ...


4

I've been in a few groups where the GM role was regularly passed on, but the main characters and setting remained. My advice would be: Focus on fixing the problem your group is experiencing. If GMs are running 5-10 sessions before running out of steam, then focus on that and don't "oversteer" to swapping GMs each session. One session stories can be nice, ...


4

I typically use non-combat mapping to help show the relative distances between things and the players. This is typically done using a "You are here" dot for the players and simple lines for relevant features. I even use notations on the map to denote distances given the map is often "not to scale". This means that I still build for a combat, but the players ...


3

Just Start It Start introducing the new stuff - slowly - and see how the players react. This is similar to Erik's suggestion, but the main difference is that rather than dropping just hints about the new tone, you instead simply start to move the game in that direction, complete with appropriate plot elements, characters, and narration style. Narration ...


3

A system like Roll for Shoes, where your character develops from their actions, might work well with in medias res. More generally, building a character creation system around in medias res might work. Each player's actions in the game have mechanical impact on the character they are creating. Asking about detail, or narrating that detail, might get you ...


3

You can abstract a labyrinth into a list of possible approaches, and their stages, requirements, and results. In this way, you can choose what you want the results of different approaches to be like. As just one possible example of this, perhaps you want the labyrinth to be a test of spiritual fortitude, and you anticipate the following approaches: If a ...


3

Consider a grid such as this one: Numbers represent a fight/trap/obstacle the party will have to overcome while navigating the maze. Numbers with a letter represent a harder version of the encounter (harder/more enemies, higher skill DCs for traps/obstacles, etc.); the farther the letter is into the alphabet, the harder the encounter gets (so B is harder ...


3

As a slight twist on the other suggestions, you can have a good guy turn up and say that it is his staff and it was stolen from him. He will offer the players rewards (and I agree prestige, relations, favours, etc is better than gold) if they return his stolen property to him. He can provide proof that it is his of some sort, which could be as simple as a ...


2

I recommend using a deck of playing cards and having events assigned to card types, suits, evens or odds. It depends on how complex you want the maze. Here's an example of a D&D 5e maze I just ran my party through. As they moved through this maze, the path behind them would be obscured by a magical fog that was impenetrable. If they attempted to enter ...



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