Questions tagged [gm-techniques]

For questions about the practical arts and methods applied to gamemastering (GMing).

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79
votes
23answers
20k views

How can a GM quickly create interesting, engaging NPCs?

What techniques do people have for coming up with interesting personalities and histories for non-player characters? I'm mostly interested in the GM side of things. I don't want to do a ton of prep. I ...
50
votes
7answers
3k views

What is a good way to become a better NPC/monster actor?

One of the biggest problems I have as Game Master, (going on 30+yrs) is in portraying NPC and Monsters in any RPG. Is there a good resource for becoming a better 'actor'? Instead of just saying... ...
67
votes
15answers
47k views

How do I get my players to form a PC party without just forcing them to?

I believe that it is generally a good thing that all the PCs travel together, as a "party". This way the GM has to manage one environment – not, say, five. The problem is how the GM can ensure such a ...
55
votes
11answers
5k views

Techniques for allowing character defeat without character death

Character death can be extremely disruptive to an ongoing RPG, particularly in a game where character agendas are the driving force behind the plot. However, for a good story with a sense of conflict ...
53
votes
6answers
8k 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 ...
36
votes
4answers
6k views

How do you handle monsters using social skills vs PCs?

I've checked the books and can't find an answer by RAW other than the DM decides, so I'd like to know how people handle this in their games. What happens if a thug tries to intimidate/persuade the PCs?...
74
votes
17answers
5k views

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

I'm a new DM running my first adventure in D&D 4e. I've heard of the "three clue rule", that there should be at least three independent pointers to any plot element you want the PCs to take note ...
66
votes
11answers
13k views

How to ease down the munchkin factor?

I've been playing RPGs since the early eighties and have come to terms with the fact that not everyone enjoys this hobby for the same reasons as myself. I'm into it for the sake of the adventure, the ...
23
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5answers
2k views

When planning a campaign, should I know what the ending is before we start?

I am planning the next campaign while the current one comes to a close. Our group favours sandbox play and I facilitate that with Icar's event driven system. While writing down the list of events ...
29
votes
11answers
2k views

Dealing with skill rerolls by several players

I could use some advice as a GM on how to handle rolls which get repeated by several players one after the other. Example 1 The PCs stand in front of a locked door and try to force it open. The ...
26
votes
5answers
63k views

Is playing D&D 5e with two people feasible?

My girlfriend and I want to get into roleplaying games, we've both been interested in trying out Dungeons and Dragons. She has never played a pen and paper RPG before, I've played the Swedish Drakar ...
23
votes
19answers
3k views

What role-playing games have good gamemaster advice sections? [closed]

Which RPG's, in your experience, have good advice for gamemasters in their rulebooks, both for novice and experienced gamemasters? Please keep in mind that this question is not about good games for ...
21
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4answers
3k views

Maintaining balance with a very large group

I played DnD 3.5 while in the military and due to a shortage of DMs, was constantly flooded by players. Some of my games would include up to 10 or 11. I discovered quickly that balancing for this in 3....
37
votes
6answers
4k views

How to deal with players not taking things seriously?

As both a player and GM I play with my group of players (and close friends) on multiple occasions and they will often make fun of either my characters, NPC or a specific situation and won't stop ...
33
votes
10answers
5k views

Strategies for dealing with turtle or roach players?

How should GMs deal with players who turtle or roach? By turtle I am referring to players who obviously wanted to play because they joined the game, but when they're actually at the table they keep ...
26
votes
7answers
3k views

How to encourage a player's creativity without breaking the game?

I've just started a new D&D 4e campaign with a new group of players. One of my players came straight from 2nd edition, and has never played 4e before. She doesn't seem to grasp the layer of ...
25
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7answers
4k views

What are possible ways to deal with a player who frequently switches characters?

I have had problems in the past with players who are serial character creators. What I'm referring to are the players who cannot seem to stick with a character more than two sessions at a time without ...
15
votes
5answers
995 views

As a GM, what aids could I use to create adventure scenes on the spot?

As a GM, many a time I run into a situation that I know nothing of, am not prepared about, and need something, NOW! Maybe it is a freeform adventure and plot was not prepared, maybe I prepared some ...
27
votes
7answers
966 views

How can I communicate setting and campaign information to the PCs without providing direct exposition myself or through a DMPC?

In the past, I've almost always had at least one NPC that would travel with the characters as a type of "lore master" to expand on the story. I've tried to make the character witty and, once the ...
27
votes
9answers
2k views

How can I create within-party intrigue without destroying group cohesion?

I am a novice GM playing with several more experienced D&D players (who happen to be good friends). I wanted to spice up the game for them and take advantage of their own intelligence/experience ...
26
votes
7answers
6k views

How can I reduce the number of encounters per day without throwing off game balance?

I'm running an Open Table sandbox game this summer. The 5E DMG states that they expect 6-8 Medium or Hard combat encounters per day, with about two short rests. If I tried to do that, we'd never get ...
22
votes
2answers
4k views

What rolls should players get to see?

I'm a new DM and over the last few weeks I've been slowly learning the game and how it runs. My party consists of 5 PCs. One thing I have been wondering after our last two sessions is: What rolls ...
16
votes
2answers
2k views

Tasks for a split party

I'm running a 4th ed game, but I don't think that makes a difference in this case. Last session my party decided to split up for a couple tasks. The hybrid bard/rogue and the avenger (affectionately ...
31
votes
11answers
6k views

Can I roll for a PC in secret?

As a GM, can I roll in secret so my players don't even know I rolled? For example, a PC walks past a secret door; if I ask the player to roll perception he may suspect there is something. Can I roll ...
27
votes
8answers
6k views

How do I use Passive Perception to have some characters notice parts of the environment?

I'm new to DM'ing and have an issue I'm not sure how to deal with. The situation is this: It's pitch black outside and the PC is walking, with a lantern in hand, toward a building. A bird is ...
26
votes
6answers
5k views

How do I prevent retreating to rest and heal from being tedious?

I found an answer to this question for a custom 4e campaign, but was hoping to get some more answers specific to 5e. Background: I'm running the 5e starter set campaign and my group is in the final ...
17
votes
3answers
4k views

How do I help my players get more engaged in the story?

I play in a group where we routinely switch out GMs. When I GM I tend to prefer story-based games with lots of character building and descriptive role play. We tend to run Paizo's Adventure Paths ...
16
votes
9answers
4k views

When should a GM roll behind the GM Screen?

I was wondering what is the point of rolling behind a screen as a GM? If nobody can see the roll then I could claim that I rolled any number I require, right? If I would have to show the roll, then ...
12
votes
4answers
3k views

How can I solve burst damage problem when rolling group initiative?

Problem The PHB states, at p. 189 The DM makes one roll for an entire group of identical creatures, so each member of the group acts at the same time. Honestly, I usually ignored this one, except ...
10
votes
11answers
3k views

How to use a GMPC for the good of the campaign?

I find myself prone to creating GMPCs. For the unfamiliar, a GMPC is an NPC that the GM has a special fondness for, much like a "Mary Sue" in fiction. They are often overpowered, have plot armour, a ...
9
votes
4answers
5k views

How do I deal with my players not roleplaying at all? [duplicate]

I know I should "let them have fun" or something, but the game isn't really working. I'm GMing a pathfinder campaign, but this isn't system-dependent. My players aren't roleplaying at all. Ok, they ...
3
votes
5answers
887 views

When modifying treasure distribution to enforce WBL, what do you do when it doesn't work?

Let's say I'm running a game in which I seek to enforce-ish the WBL guidelines (by which I mean that I seek to have the party's wealth be primarily a function of level rather than time). If the party ...
21
votes
8answers
2k views

What to do when your PCs skip an important part of the story line

In the earliest stage of my new duet campaign, I thought I had "rail-roaded" the PC into the first important encounter, one that leads to a major story line for the campaign. Specifically, the PC was ...
21
votes
8answers
2k views

How valid is lying to players about the rolls they are making in The Dresden Files?

In last weeks Dresden Files game, the players followed the bad guy using a tracking spell, and found him in the projects at an apartment that they knew little about. Seeing his car, they decided to ...
13
votes
3answers
2k views

How can I decrease the difficulty of a scene on the fly?

I was a DM for the first time yesterday. It was a lot of fun, and all things considered, I think I've made a pretty darn good first session. It was, however, too difficult. I've based the various ...
9
votes
4answers
5k views

How to handle initiative when a new force joins a combat in progress

I am DMing a small hunger-games-like adventure where there are multiple parties of NPC who also are participating. It is pretty likely that the PCs will happen upon some of the NPCs fighting some ...
131
votes
15answers
23k views

Betrayed by my GM; how can I respond?

I was introduced to D&D three months ago and really delved into the world. I had so much fun creating my character and tried very hard to roleplay him differently from myself. I did my very best ...
65
votes
7answers
10k views

How can I effectively drop clues of corruption in my campaigns?

In many games I GM, corruption plays a big role. Either in my fantasy games with a church with a firm hand on the king or dystopian future like Shadowrun. Almost every time in my games, corruption is ...
30
votes
14answers
29k views

How do I design exciting, fun boss fights for my players?

So I've DM'd three separate games, of which one that I'm largely happy with. However, one consistent problem I run into is designing fun, exciting, and interesting boss fights. I've run into two major ...
53
votes
10answers
4k views

Running games for a constantly unreliable group

My RP club has been going on for many years, which has the unfortunate effect of us getting older. Many members of my club have started to acquire a 'real life', with more of their time devoted to ...
108
votes
20answers
9k views

How should a GM deal with “standing orders?”

I have a player who always tells me whenever he goes into a dungeon or other hazardous location, I am always checking for traps wherever I go. Assume that I am always looking around, wary and being ...
44
votes
8answers
6k views

Can party betrayal be done successfully?

After reading How much experience should a PC be worth? I was wondering if and how party betrayal can be done successfully, especially since it's a real possibility in my campaign. Criteria for ...
36
votes
14answers
9k views

How do I run a maze scenario without using a map?

Inspired by a question on another site, what's the best way to add a labyrinth to an adventure scenario without making the challenges contingent upon player skill at mapping or navigation? I'd like ...
51
votes
12answers
8k views

How do you deal with metagaming based on die results?

I ran into this problem in a session I had earlier today. My characters were going through a dungeon and after a fairly lengthy fight with a person who lived there, they decided they would question ...
118
votes
9answers
19k views

How to stop players from making the game X-rated

After 30 years, a few of my friends and I finally managed to get together and play D&D. We've managed to play 2hrs once a week for the last 6 weeks. I unfortunately ended up being the DM. My ...
22
votes
6answers
19k views

What to do in the first session of a campaign?

The first session of my new D&D 4e campaign is coming up pretty soon and I'm not quite sure how to go about the introduction into this new campaign. I have the geography and landmarks and things ...
65
votes
8answers
11k views

How to work with a player who cites ADHD as reason for disruptive behavior

I regularly run an Adventurers League table at a local game cafe. For the last few weeks I've been trying to incorporate a college age player into the group who hasn't worked out at other tables. He'...
51
votes
9answers
7k views

What to do when a player character does something that seems 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 non-...
22
votes
5answers
3k views

How can I make investigation engaging for the whole party?

I'm about to start a campaign that takes place on a pirate ship. Low magic fantasy setting, loosely based on the Caribbean in the 1600s. Much of the action is going to be centered around various ...
30
votes
11answers
3k views

How can GMs evoke the tone of danger in an RPG?

Forked from this question which focuses more on exploring signals of specific danger. Here, my question is: how can a GM evoke the feeling of danger during a game? How can they create tension that ...