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Questions tagged [gm-techniques]

The practical arts and methods applied to gamemastering.

218
votes
15answers
28k views

Managing a Medieval Low Orbit Ion Cannon

Sometimes I hate my players. My table is currently composed of five diabolically inventive players. They come from a mixed IT/Engineering background, so more often than not, I have to deal with some ...
156
votes
6answers
11k views

How to let my players fail their rolls intentionally, but covertly?

I'm experimenting with some pen-and-paper role-playing involving characters with hidden agendas. To foster a proper sense of paranoia, I want these hidden agendas to be unknown to not only the other ...
138
votes
18answers
18k views

How to deal with players who like to use the local authorities to solve their problems

The problem I have a player in my group which tends to approach local authorities (may it be guards or churches) when facing a threat. He thinks that, given his role (a bard in a medieval world, so, ...
130
votes
21answers
14k views

How do you help players not focus on the rules?

Background - My Group's Gaming Style When I GM, I run games loosely from a rules standpoint, and do not feel bound to adhere to what the rulebook says when it doesn't make sense in a given situation. ...
127
votes
14answers
21k 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 ...
126
votes
14answers
15k views

How can DMs effectively telegraph specific dangers in D&D?

There are some play-styles of D&D in which the spectre of player-character death is considered a feature of the game rather than a bug. For my own reasons (which aren't the point of the question), ...
110
votes
18answers
21k views

What can I do when I accidentally gave out an overpowered item?

In our last game, the players worked their way through a series of fiendish traps into a high security vault, where they recovered a Staff of the Magi. After the game I looked at the stats, and ...
110
votes
12answers
19k views

Evil Campaigns: How to explain the difference between being evil and being a jerk?

My friend has recently started running an evil campaign. His players are having serious difficulty telling the difference between comitting evil deeds and doing random things that are evil acts. ...
110
votes
10answers
18k 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 ...
105
votes
20answers
8k 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 ...
98
votes
22answers
23k views

How to deal with player MacGyver-ism?

Role playing is an excellent hobby to train your problem solving skills. You learn to look at situations from different view points (i.e. the characters) and you have various skills and resources at ...
96
votes
18answers
12k views

When should I fudge dice rolls?

When I started my first D&D campaign as a DM, I accidentally rolled and confirmed a crit on a PC from a goblin. It was an instant kill as our campaign had no cleric. That time I decided to fudge ...
96
votes
18answers
12k views

How can I make my PCs flee?

My players never run away or avoid conflict. Ever. I throw them ridiculous encounters, they will stay and fight. If I tell them, "You know you're not gonna make it, just run," they stay and fight and ...
88
votes
14answers
13k views

What do you do when your players guess your plots?

So I'm a new GM and am running my first campaign. I'm by no means running a terribly complicated game with Elizabethan parlor intrigue, but I do have a few twists that I'm excited to throw at my ...
83
votes
11answers
22k views

I failed to open a lock. Now what?

Picking a lock typically requires a DC 15 Dexterity check (Basic rules, p. 49). Likewise for manacles (p. 50), which can alternately be escaped with a DC 20 Dexterity check or broken with a DC 20 ...
83
votes
16answers
13k views

Total Party Kill - What do I do as a GM?

Your party has had a streak of bad luck and/or made a poor choice and are now staring down death. The rules were followed to the letter and loss is assured. How do you handle this as a GM? Does ...
82
votes
10answers
13k views

Should I warn my players when they're about to do something stupid?

As a GM, I occasionally run into situations where the players want to do something very poorly thought-out. Honest mistakes, not intentional derailing. In these situations, I often feel the urge to ...
79
votes
16answers
9k views

How do I stop my PCs from acting like insomniac monkeys on crack?

An issue came up in the last session of my Pathfinder campaign - that of chronic PC impatience. It happens especially when they go to cities and between major adventures. They go into a frenzy of ...
79
votes
14answers
9k views

How do I keep the game moving without undermining player agency?

In basically every game I've run or played, regardless of the system, I've encountered the same problem: things that should be quick decisions end up taking ten, twenty or even thirty minutes, and not ...
78
votes
23answers
17k 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 ...
77
votes
16answers
17k views

How do I communicate to my players that a door is, for the time being, absolutely locked to them?

I have a small dungeon in my campaign, a temple, that is a significant location for the broader story of my world. The players might very well enter this temple pretty early on in their adventuring. ...
76
votes
12answers
21k views

Did I overstep my power as DM?

While playing a game with a previous group, in the middle of a combat, I had an enemy caster hidden from general combat, but still casting different spells like heal and other non-damage spells to ...
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 ...
73
votes
14answers
8k views

Is it wrong to ask a player to justify their character's actions?

When a player has their character do something completely outside of the perceived norm for that character, is it okay to ask them for a justification? If they can not give satisfactory justification,...
71
votes
11answers
11k views

Is saying “Your PC wouldn't do that” to a player denying their agency?

In a comment to my answer to What would be the side effects on a Druid of wearing metal armor?, @Kevin asked: "So, RAW a druid will never choose to wear metal armor or use metal shields, so the ...
70
votes
14answers
18k views

My PCs have a plan that will get them all killed; how and why should I save them?

Related: How do I help my players figure out how to stay alive in a realistically-deadly sandbox campaign? I am running a sandbox game for a group of players who are used to more traditional ...
67
votes
12answers
8k views

How do I narrate a player's PC's actions without causing unintended consequences for the PC?

Daxius: "I'd like to roll an investigate check on Statue 1." Rolls. "Solid... 19." DM: "You walk around the statue, gliding your fingers along the rough outlines of it's crisp, defined ...
66
votes
13answers
14k views

Dealing with PC that constantly lies to NPCs

I have a player playing a rogue in her first RPG, and she is constantly lying to NPCs. She says it is one of her character flaws and I like that she is playing the character to the fullest, but she ...
66
votes
11answers
9k views

How can I invoke actual fear in my players?

I'm a DM that focuses heavily on story, description and setting. My goal is to send players home wanting — no, longing — to actually be part of the mythos I've created. The ultimate goal for me as a ...
65
votes
17answers
23k views

How do I manage a player who is handling traps by metagaming?

I have a high-hitpoint character who barges down hallways without regard to traps because that's what His Guy would do. In reality, he's metagaming: doing this because he knows he has the HPs to soak ...
65
votes
12answers
15k views

How do I indicate to my players that an NPC is no longer useful and that they should move on?

I am a rather new DM, still learning stuff. So I have noticed that my characters tend to talk too much with the NPCs, trying to get a lot of information, and probably even trying to 'cheat', thinking ...
64
votes
12answers
14k views

Is it OK for me to give my players' characters punitive backstories when they don't provide their own?

As a GM I have a rule where I write a players background for the player in a way that will affect them badly if they say the are amnesiacs in order to get out of writing a backstory. I tend to require ...
64
votes
6answers
11k views

Our DM keeps interrupting our long rests

In the latest campaign, we're still around the third level, but every single night we've spend in the wild so far, we were interrupted by hard combat encounters (as in DMG-worded "hard"), forcing us ...
64
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 ...
64
votes
14answers
41k 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 ...
63
votes
11answers
12k 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 ...
63
votes
6answers
8k views

How should the DM manage the discrepancy between the player's memory and their PC's memory?

It may happen that, during a session, players don't remember the name of a NPC that they met (or, more generally, information about something that happened) during the previous session. Obviously, ...
62
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'...
59
votes
7answers
16k views

A player was bucking my style and I lost my temper. What can I do from here?

New DM here. Under a year of experience, but I have learned alot from my friend who has helped guide me through the basics of DMing. Basically the only games that I have run have been with my close ...
59
votes
9answers
16k views

The PC claims to know an NPC they just met, how should I react as the DM?

My friends and I are new to RP and we've only had one session of dnd-5e trying out the starter set. As we are quite into fantasy in general, we thought we could make our own PCs. So instead of playing ...
58
votes
14answers
7k views

How can I get players to realize that their enemies aren't evil?

For an upcoming game, I'm planning on making one of the early hooks a standard-seeming "tribe of monstrous humanoids (in this case, lizardfolk, if that makes a difference) is bothering us, go deal ...
57
votes
14answers
35k views

Dislike how players accurately place fireballs. Is there an alternative?

I'm running 5e on a grid with minis. The one thing that I hate is when sorcerers or wizards casts a fireball that perfectly hits enemies in the AOE. The player counts the squares on the grid to ...
56
votes
12answers
9k views

How can I show-not-tell my players that they are The Bad Guys?

My players have an interesting habit of changing their behavior on a dime. Between objectives, they'll be trying to fix problems at small towns they pass through and helping the locals, but once they ...
56
votes
10answers
11k views

How do I handle a group that does not understand the 'assumption rule'?

1st rule of D&D (as of 3rd edition/pathfinder): The GM is the final arbiter on all rules. I understand this, completely, and do not disagree. That said, I'm having trouble with a group that doesn'...
56
votes
13answers
5k views

How to communicate to the players that an encounter can be solved also through diplomacy?

When you play D&D, you are not supposed to chat with the enemy during encounters. The system is made for fighting. However, in some circumstances, it would be nice to make the players conscious ...
56
votes
22answers
3k views

What approaches are there to lessen or eliminate reliance upon dice in an RPG? [closed]

Is it necessary to use dice all the time in a dice-based RPG system? In other words, are there occasions or means by which you speed up gameplay by either reducing the number of rolls or removing the ...
56
votes
7answers
9k views

GMing for a hyper optimized character

One of my players loves building characters that are, for lack of a better term, broken. I don't mean he min/maxes them, I mean he builds characters that are way more powerful than they should be ...
56
votes
11answers
3k views

How do I make weather an important part of the game?

We're starting up a dark ages fantasy game, using some homebrew rules similar to D&D. As the GM, how can I make weather an important part of the game? To be clear, I'm not trying to just toss in ...
55
votes
11answers
12k views

How can I impose consequences when PCs commit severe crimes?

For context, this is my first adventure as a DM. The PCs are level 2. About 40 minutes into the first session, while investigating the rumours about a ghost ship, the group meets with Aleyd Burrows, ...
55
votes
20answers
8k views

Need out-of-game solution for spell choice paralysis

I could really use some advice from someone with experience with new players dealing with D&D spell analysis paralysis. I'm about to kick off a second D&D 5e campaign for a set of friends ...