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67

Don't ask your players to roll the dice unless failure has a consequence. This mantra isn't particularly obvious in the rules of D&D as many times the checks are relatively pointless and failure at those checks doesn't really come with much cost. Failure is an opportunity both for you as the DM and for your players. Here are some ideas as to how to make ...


47

Historically speaking, your players aren't doing anything wrong. Incendiary weaponry has a long history in europe stretching back to the early middle ages and "dark" ages. Fire was and is a psychologically powerful weapon and all sorts of things from flaming oil to bursting clay pots were used against enemies. See Greek Fire as an example from as early as ...


41

Whenever my players roll before they establish their actions in the fiction (my system is Dungeon World), I say something like: "Whoa whoa whoa wait a moment. What are you doing and how are you doing it? We do not even know yet whether a roll is even required for that." I then have them explain what they do and if it triggers a move (=rolling), I'll have ...


19

It's a very good idea As you mentioned, literally all the main issues with GMPCs can be avoided by making said GMPC into an animal. The GMPC is almost non-knowing due to animal intelligence. It does not steal spotlight in non-combat situations because it doesn't normally interact with people that much. Especially not on its own initiative. They may use ...


19

Otherwise, it’s a failure, which means the character or monster makes no progress toward the objective or makes progress combined with a setback determined by the DM. In the 5e Basic Rules, the 5e PHB, or the 5e MM progress combined with a setback is not specifically defined. When this is the case, the first place to look for an answer is to look ...


16

There are two ways of doing it: Open Simply speak the information aloud. All players must trust that the others are not going to use out of character information to make decisions. That is, everyone's characters must act as if they don't know that the rogue has kept gold to himself. Closed Pass the information only to the player that knows it. In old ...


16

Game time calendar Our group solves the exact problem you are describing using a game time calendar. This is essentially exactly what it sounds like: a table listing dates in a column, with checkboxes next to them on which we can mark the passing of days. We also left some space for short notes. We used this extensively in a very long sandbox like fantasy ...


15

You Don't The problem here is the premise. This isn't school or work. You can't force people to do homework if they don't want to, at least not without creating bad feelings at the table. The single most important rule of gaming is to have fun. Are they having fun when you try to force them to do these things? I don't feel that most of what I'm asking ...


13

Divide the boss encounter into sections that have a different feel. You can do this by time (at 1, 2, and 3 hours into the fight) or by in-character progress (when the dragon reaches 3/4, 1/2, and 1/4 hit points). At each transition, make something dramatic happen that changes the circumstances of the battle. At the first transition, maybe the dragon ...


13

Flesh to stone. Then, after 20 years passed, Stone to Flesh (feel free to cheat on the saving throw. :)) But a truly evil regime might turn them back and forth regularly, giving them a day or two "off" and have some fun. (I'm not saying who's going to have the aforesaid "fun", and what they mean by "fun." Let's leave it to your evil masterminds.) For a ...


13

The Molotov Issue Don't punish or limit your players, Challenge them! Your PCs may be great at coming up with incendiary devices that'll wreak havoc on their enemies, but once those enemies foolish enough to fall into the trap are dealt with, it stands to reason that the next foe will come prepared. Indeed, the might even pick up on the idea of using ...


12

Most normal creatures don't fight to the death as a matter of course, except in D&D. Most creatures will, when confronted with a threat (note, not food nor a rock1), run away, as this is the cheapest way of preserving life. Only if they can't run away will they fight. If they fight, they'll fight until they can... run away (see a pattern here?) For ...


12

Technically, @Joshua Aslan Smith 's points are correct, and in general they're good maxims for a GM to follow. However, @BESW 's comment on the dangers of escalation of brutally effective battlefield tactics is spot on. Even for more mundane applications, occasionally someone comes up with something unbalancingly clever, and while you definitely want to ...


11

I've been reading about this recently, both an AngryDM and in the XDM book by Tracy and Curtis Hickman. The short answer is as follows. Character attempts an action If there is no chance of success then the action fails and the character pays the appropriate cost. If there is no chance of failure then the action succeeds and the character pays the ...


11

If you're into it; you can write down the riddle in multiple descriptions and give the appropriate one to each player. The description for a character who is dumb as a door might be little more than "you see weird symbols on the wall" without even drawing them in the image (thus not even allowing the player to figure it out unless the others talk him through ...


10

Don't I want to answer your problem, without actually answering your specific question. If this is not good, feel free to downvote into oblivion. If you need them to be occupied for a set amount of time for something to happen in the background, then I have two possible options for you. Time Travel: If you need them gone, just make something happen that ...


10

What I tend to do is to incorporate breaks in the game where everyone can stand, stretch, and talk about something else besides the game. The switch in contexts helps a lot. You are also experiencing "decision fatigue", which is the true reason for the blank looks and mistakes in the end. Playing the game requires an incredible number of decisions to make, ...


9

Train them, or it will lead to bad habits Establishing a clear statement that you always use before a player rolls helps, I find. Saying "Roll them" (or ringing a small bell) before every roll is a bit tedious but it helps form a habit, so if the words haven't been said they know. If they roll before the cue then simply ignore the roll completely, don't ...


9

Short version: No. Slightly longer version: Anything you are treating as not-an-npc is not an npc and therefore takes spotlight from players and therefore is bad. If you are scrupulously fair about it, the character is basically just an npc that travels with the party and helps frame and put spotlight on players. If you aren't, then you are taking ...


9

Tie it into Role-Playing Since the answer is yes (out of game), you as the storyteller, should enable that player to gain that knowledge in game. There are many methods he can come about this. Perhaps using his computer skills on a Hunter database. Or perhaps there is a Hunter meeting/gathering and he can use his perception skills to come across a ...


9

I have absolutely no problems with PCs being smart, creative and inventive while solving problems. I have a problem though, when the players are smart/inventive in ways which don't fit the setting or their supposed PC knowledge. It seems to me that this is not an in-game issue, it is a social contract issue. The same could be said if the players ...


8

First, figure out why the puzzle exists in your game in the first place. If the goal of the puzzle is to challenge or entertain the players directly, then focus on that and don't worry about their character resources so much — those are secondary to the experience you're going for in the moment. You may be thinking, "But what about game balance?" Most ...


8

To add to fgysin's answer, if your campaign takes place over longer scales, with travel taking e.g. weeks, quad paper becomes useful: In this case you'd use either a separate sheet, the other side of the paper or the right half for notes. Cross over days that go past with nothing significant happening, but use a number for notes if something is important: ...


7

DMPCs do often tend to steal the spotlight, but I've seen it work well under a few circumstances. Basically, if you don't want to give your PC an unfair advantage, do the opposite. Give them unfair disadvantages. Trust me, no one will complain about that. The Useless A prominent mapmaker needs to make a map of some extremely dangerous territory. She hires ...


6

In general, I feel that the main issue here is with your intended pacing of the session. With a four hour session, I don't think it is generally possible for the entire time to be intense and expect full concentration from your players. It simply isn't going to happen no matter what you try and do. I run sessions of a similar length, and always always plan ...


6

You Can't. There is absolutely no way that you can run a DMPC fairly. There are many reasons for this, a few being: You know everything about your world as the DM and it's impossible to keep character knowledge separate from DM knowledge Since it's your character you'll get attached to it. You'll want to protect it and watch it thrive. You'll be tempted ...


6

In some game systems, you can remind them that they are playing a character, not themselves. Have them roll against their intelligence, idea, luck, education, wisdom, etc to discover if their character is capable of coming up with the idea, then against other attributes to find out if they actually carried it out successfully. You don't need to make it ...


6

The problems with your approach seems to be the problems with MacGyver: People don't just instantly invent super technology that works extremely well and immediately solves problems and defeats strong opponents, except rarely and in extremely limited conditions that usually involve one-time surprises more than it's that their invention is a new uber-weapon. ...


5

I think I see your confusion, and in retrospect, that is somewhat oddly worded given that Location and Dangers aren't really detailed elsewhere. I'm going to start from the root of this, so if one of these sections looks really basic and obvious try skipping to the next section. Use a monster, danger, or location move In Dungeon World, the GM is limited ...


5

There's more than one way to come up with a backstory. Some of us can be told to write two pages of history and personality and we'll just do it. That's great. But it's not the only way to flesh out a character. I've met players who need a little more prodding. You can do this by giving them a set of questions to answer about the character. A full page ...



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