Questions tagged [gm-techniques]

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

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51
votes
17answers
5k views

How can GMs make their game worlds more inclusive?

Many published roleplaying settings reflect our own cultural biases, for example, by putting white people in the "core" of the setting with "exotic" (i.e., not white) cultures around the less-detailed ...
51
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9answers
20k views

How to kill a character without making their player too angry

I have been DMing a game for a group of friends. In between two sessions, which ended with them facing a few enemy NPCs, I realized that these intelligent opponents had a very good way to kill one of ...
51
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5answers
28k views

How to build an evil campaign

I'm going to start DM'ing for the first time next week. When I got together with my group to figure out what type of game to play, when we got to alignment, I told them they either all needed to be ...
51
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9answers
6k views

How can I check if a new group is OK with a plotline from an ethical standpoint without spoiling the plot?

TL;DR: I am unsure if the plotline I planned is "too dark" for a new group, and would like to discuss the level of grit with them without spoiling the plotline. How can I do this? I am ...
50
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25answers
16k views

How can I avoid problems that arise from rolling ability scores?

Rolling ability scores is a time-honored tradition across many editions of D&D. However, it can sometimes cause problems for players and/or the DM. For example, one player character may end up ...
50
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7answers
6k views

How should I prevent a player from instantly recognizing a magical impostor without making them feel cheated?

In the campaign I'm running, I'm looking to introduce an NPC who is secretly an antagonistic oni in disguise. An oni's shapechange feature, however, is explicitly described as magical, and one of my ...
50
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6answers
7k views

How can I make my enemies feel real and make combat more engaging?

As a newer DM, I have trouble making some of the more routine combats feel unique or urgent. I believe this is because the enemies my PCs are fighting tend to act like an AI, or just attack until they ...
50
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11answers
6k views

How do you discourage “player knowledge” as a GM?

As a trivial random encounter is winding down, a player thinks "That was too easy... The GM wouldn't give us an encounter that doesn't give XP," and starts searching for hidden bad guys or other clues....
50
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6answers
9k views

How can I deal with a 'soft' alpha gamer player?

Alpha gamer is a type of player in cooperative games, who effectively makes a decision for another player. In this question I am asking how to deal with a 'soft' version of this player archetype, who ...
49
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10answers
8k views

How can “mimic phobia” be cured or prevented?

This has actually happened to me as a player, and a player I've DM'ed in a oneshot. In short, when we delve into a dungeon, whenever a DM describes an object in a weird way, we become very cautious to ...
49
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14answers
3k views

As a GM, how does one deal with all of the players playing nearly identical characters?

I'm running a Deadlands campaign with players who come entirely from D&D and have never played Savage Worlds before. All five people in the group have made nearly identical characters (gunslingers)...
49
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9answers
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How do I handle when my players overestimate the importance of an encounter/a location?

TL;DR: How can I (and should I) make the players' efforts worth their while when they overestimate the importance of an encounter or a location? I am running a homebrew DnD 5e adventure where the ...
48
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9answers
8k views

I want to run vast and realistic dungeons, but my players get frustrated trying to search every room

Because my players' suspension of disbelief began to suffer when exploring more "normal" dungeons, I have created some big dungeons which are based on bigger, realistic structures: castles, towns, ...
48
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10answers
3k views

Is it fair to press the players for decisions during combat?

My group tends to over-analyse during combat, which slows everything down. I press upon my players to make their decision and roll the dice quickly. My players are all experienced in the system and I ...
48
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8answers
31k views

How can I speed up combat?

Combat at my table (5 players plus me, the GM) takes a long time. Even only moderately-complex combats usually take about an hour. I find myself wanting to end the session early if the group is about ...
48
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1answer
2k views

How can I DM with aphantasia?

For those who don't know, aphantasia is a condition where a person basically lacks a mind's eye. As such, I cannot imagine characters or places that I read about, let alone create them in a way that ...
47
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15answers
10k views

Is it appropriate to punish a PC who snatches things from under the other PCs?

My players and I often have a bit of conflict or frustration in our games because one player in particular is quite controlling, and feels that they can have their character just snatch up what they ...
47
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15answers
5k views

How to get out of a story deadlock

As with most of my questions, this is more of a general "how to handle a special situation" and not a plea to solve an existing problem. What is the best way to handle story deadlocks (as in: The ...
47
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17answers
9k views

Metagaming when there isn't actually anything there?

So, it's a fairly common question of how to keep players from metagaming. Typically, these questions are of the sort that a player knows monster x is weak to y despite their character not having ...
47
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12answers
8k views

Suggestions for decreasing metagaming and increasing player immersion?

This question is posed in a great way over on the Paizo boards, where I hang out since I play/run a lot of Pathfinder. Immersion is one of the key parts of the RPG experience to me, so I loved the ...
47
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5answers
6k views

Keeping the world alive whilst PCs take a rest mid-adventure?

My players and I just started up Lost Mines of Phandelver and upon discovering the Cragmaw Hideout at the start of the adventure, they decided to double back to where they left the oxen at the initial ...
47
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5answers
8k views

How do I avoid lecturing my players

Background I am running Lost Mines of Phandelver and yesterday my party got to Phandalin. One of the party has a background about wanting to help civilise the place (Which he reads as wanting to run ...
46
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8answers
11k views

How do I explain to an AD&D player that items that increase Armor Class in D&D 5e are overpowered?

Context: I have recently started a campaign with a new player that comes from an AD&D background. He wishes to convert and import his character to the campaign. We did this once, and I helped him ...
46
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14answers
8k views

How can I replace a player character with an impostor without alerting the group?

I recently picked up a book of example NPCs (the Pathfinder NPC Codex, incidentally) and came across an entry for a "master spy". In the flavor text, it describes how his "secret identities have ...
46
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8answers
14k views

How to deal with a player who says no all the time?

I am a fairly new DM. I am playing with a group I have tried to DM and have played with as a PC. There is one person in that group that plays as a PC that says no, AKA he is the opposite of a murder ...
46
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9answers
4k views

How do I avoid clichés while improvising?

Tropes are not bad, but clichés usually are. Sadly, when I need to come up with something on the fly it's much easier and faster to use clichés: if I suddenly need a barkeep, he's probably fat with a ...
46
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8answers
9k 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 ...
46
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6answers
14k views

Players constantly capture enemies and question them, how to deal with it?

I'm running a campaign for five sixth level players and the bard has hypnotic pattern. Whenever the party runs into any fights with enemies who can speak, they always find some way of making an enemy ...
46
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12answers
10k views

Techniques for making undead scary again

Undead used to be scary things: dead, rotting bodies seeking to devour all life, outnumbering their foes, and replacing their fallen with slain enemies. But nowadays players see them and think '...
45
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12answers
8k views

How can I prevent a TPK without obvious Deus Ex Machina?

I've gotten into a situation in my Pathfinder game where I will certainly kill my entire party (perhaps excepting one or two who can flee quickly) if I let the situation play out. We arrived in this ...
45
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13answers
10k views

How should I handle retconning (or not) a session with a drunk player and character deaths?

What Happened Tonight, one of my players began the session pretty drunk. That's not the problem I need help with; it hasn't happened before, and if it becomes a thing then I can deal with that. But I ...
45
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9answers
7k views

How To Divide Up Loot?

I've been GMing a very successful (Pathfinder) campaign for quite a few months now, but we've developed a bit of a problem I'm not sure how to resolve: loot distribution. None of my players are ...
45
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12answers
9k views

Unhate-able Villains

There are so many guides on how to make a villain your players will truly hate, but I am trying to make a villain that the characters will feel for. How can I create a "good" villain, like someone who ...
45
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5answers
6k views

How does “failure” work in Dungeon World? How does it move the story forward?

I am having trouble understanding the specifics of failure in Dungeon World. According to the rules, a GM should "make a move" against players when they fail, and that's alright, I get that. What I ...
45
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3answers
3k views

How do I cater to the Three Stooges and good roleplayers at the same time?

As a little background, in case it matters: most of the players in my group (but not all) are college aged, and all of them are personal friends of mine. We're playing D&D 3.5. I myself am the ...
45
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4answers
7k views

Resources for Complex Puzzle-Traps

I'm looking for resources for designing complex challenges - something that's not quite a puzzle and not quite a trap, but somewhere in between. There are tons of resources for really complex or off-...
44
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10answers
22k views

How do I deal with players who make friends with goblins?

I want to run a campaign "from the book" for a group of new players (played RPGs before, but stuff much much lighter then D&D, and I've not DMed this edition before. I DMed D&D 4e once: over ...
44
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6answers
3k views

GMing a setting when your players are more familiar with it than you

My players often ask me to GM games in specific settings we all like. Most of the time, they know FAR more than me about that setting. They will object to events I have happen or how I play an NPC, ...
44
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6answers
7k views

How do I keep my players from focusing too deeply on unimportant details?

A little bit of backstory. Me and a few friends from my job decided to play D&D 5e while we're kinda stuck in one place and were quite bored. So we got everything we needed and they chose me to DM....
44
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7answers
10k views

How to deal with a player who “jumps the gun” with premature rules-lawyering?

My question is somewhat similar to this question, however I feel I have a different situation in which my question is not covered by the answers stated. I have a player in my campaign group of 5 ...
44
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8answers
6k views

How to play a devious character when you are not personally devious?

I am GMing a low-fantasy GURPS game, and I find that my amoral or immoral NPC's are easily seen through. On several occasions, I have tried to have an NPC dupe my players into being pawns. And every ...
44
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6answers
6k views

How much do I tell new players about new monsters?

Background I am a brand-new DM, about to lead a game for brand-new players. I have a lot of knowledge of rules from playing Baldur's Gate and Neverwinter Nights over and over, leafing through a ...
43
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9answers
24k views

How do I run a successful and engaging campaign without combat?

I'm thinking of starting my own campaign with a few of my friends with me as DM, primarily because I wasn't extremely impressed with the campaign my friend was DMing. When I started thinking about the ...
43
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10answers
7k views

What can I do to give the players the same feel their characters would have about wilderness travel?

I find that in a lot of our group's games, traveling long distances through wilderness is too easy. In real life, it's quite arduous traveling overland. No one who's just walked a hundred miles is ...
43
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26answers
15k views

How do you deal with missing players? [closed]

If you know ahead of time that you're going to be missing a player, do you reschedule? Or just play them as an NPC or as a group puppet?
43
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7answers
6k views

I saved my players from a tough battle, what now?

In my last game my players were almost overwhelmed and I saved them, with a NPC joining the battle. My players were bummed out after the fight and had a heated discussion about the fight. How can I ...
43
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4answers
6k views

What techniques can I use to seduce a PC without arousing suspicion of ulterior motives?

I am looking to have an NPC try and seduce one of the PCs in my party. The NPC has an ulterior motive of course, but I don't want the player immediately suspecting a succubus or similar. What ...
43
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7answers
3k views

How do you handle verbal exchanges between NPCs without taking the PCs out of the spotlight?

One of the assumptions I make as GM is that the players should always be in the spotlight. Sometimes the players find themselves in a situation where they watch NPCs speak to each other. I don't ...
42
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10answers
6k views

Using a rash decision to move gameplay forward

I DM'd my first game recently, I'm pretty happy with how it turned out, and most of the group were pretty lax about the quality of it all, so it all went fairly smoothly. However, there is one thing ...
42
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7answers
9k views

How do I, as a DM, handle a party that decides to set up an ambush in a dungeon?

Warning: Lost Mine of Phandelver Chapter 1 spoilers below. One of my players then pushed the party into moving out, probably because he's also a DM and could see that I was struggling to find a ...

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