Questions tagged [gm-techniques]

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

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15 answers
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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 ...
T. Sar's user avatar
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181 votes
7 answers
15k 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 ...
kviiri's user avatar
  • 54k
165 votes
13 answers
22k 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), ...
SevenSidedDie's user avatar
161 votes
18 answers
24k 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, ...
user avatar
158 votes
22 answers
20k 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. ...
mxyzplk's user avatar
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151 votes
14 answers
33k 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 ...
user9623's user avatar
  • 1,383
142 votes
9 answers
25k 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 ...
The Lost Kitten's user avatar
141 votes
17 answers
28k 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 ...
Benubird's user avatar
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130 votes
12 answers
25k 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. ...
Maiko Chikyu's user avatar
  • 20.9k
122 votes
20 answers
12k 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 ...
Extrakun's user avatar
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116 votes
22 answers
28k 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 ...
fgysin's user avatar
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114 votes
11 answers
41k 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 ...
Bradd Szonye's user avatar
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110 votes
18 answers
22k 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 ...
h313's user avatar
  • 2,213
109 votes
14 answers
16k 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 ...
SkippyG's user avatar
  • 1,053
109 votes
18 answers
19k 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 ...
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95 votes
13 answers
14k 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 ...
Tack's user avatar
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94 votes
12 answers
25k 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 ...
gareth the elf's user avatar
94 votes
11 answers
25k views

As a girl, how can I voice male characters effectively?

I was curious how to voice my male NPCs. I don't want to fill my world with female NPCs just because I can't voice male characters. I want to get more into the roleplay aspect of the game, but my ...
Sadcardboardcat's user avatar
93 votes
16 answers
24k 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 ...
Maximillian's user avatar
91 votes
17 answers
24k 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. ...
Pink Sweetener's user avatar
89 votes
16 answers
12k 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 ...
mxyzplk's user avatar
  • 175k
89 votes
10 answers
16k 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 ...
kviiri's user avatar
  • 54k
86 votes
14 answers
22k 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 ...
Tim C's user avatar
  • 9,713
83 votes
12 answers
12k 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 ...
Dale M's user avatar
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82 votes
23 answers
29k 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 ...
Adam Dray's user avatar
  • 20k
82 votes
17 answers
21k views

How should a DM resolve a smooth-talking player with a weak Charisma score PC? [closed]

If a player is naturally a smooth-talker, does well with on-the-spot dialogue, is instinctively persuasive, and is overall great in social situations, but role-plays a character with a poor Charisma ...
He Who Rules As Intended's user avatar
81 votes
17 answers
7k 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 ...
Snowbody's user avatar
  • 3,564
81 votes
16 answers
86k views

How do I get my players to form a 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 ...
Vorac's user avatar
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78 votes
14 answers
10k 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,...
Zach's user avatar
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78 votes
11 answers
16k 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 ...
thomax's user avatar
  • 5,394
78 votes
7 answers
9k views

As a GM, is it bad form to ask for a moment to think when improvising?

As an amateur GM, I, like many other new GMs, often find myself having to improvise in the wake of unexpected player action. In the past, my approach to this has been to rush to think of something on ...
Mayube's user avatar
  • 833
75 votes
12 answers
10k views

What is the purpose of easy combat scenarios that don't need resource expenditure?

This is something I've been thinking about as a DM in my encounter design: Why have easy/medium/etc combat encounters that don't really require resources to successfully complete? Given the limited ...
NotArch's user avatar
  • 125k
75 votes
8 answers
14k 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'...
Passiflora's user avatar
  • 1,835
75 votes
13 answers
9k 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 ...
Euch's user avatar
  • 4,076
74 votes
11 answers
9k views

How can I run an open-world game with vast power differences, without resulting in constant TPKs?

I would like to run a game with an open world, where the party can explore unconstrained. I would like to do it in D&D 5E, but the power differences are very stark between levels. How can I make ...
gruszczy's user avatar
  • 2,125
71 votes
8 answers
9k views

In a low-combat campaign, most PC abilities seem useless; what few fights there are barely use up resources. How do I deal with this as the DM?

As part of session 0, I discovered my group wanted a campaign with a heavier amount of intrigue, exploration, investigation, etc. Well, I did it. And I think the general perception is that it's going ...
Gadianton's user avatar
  • 1,221
71 votes
11 answers
17k 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 ...
nopcorn's user avatar
  • 1,359
70 votes
12 answers
17k 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 ...
DoomCross's user avatar
  • 753
70 votes
6 answers
15k 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, ...
firion's user avatar
  • 8,610
69 votes
17 answers
37k 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 ...
Jason's user avatar
  • 1,271
69 votes
13 answers
16k 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 ...
aitchpat's user avatar
  • 679
69 votes
13 answers
7k 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 ...
Stefano Borini's user avatar
68 votes
17 answers
79k views

I 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 cast a fireball that perfectly hits enemies in the AOE. The player counts the squares on the grid to ...
user28536's user avatar
  • 3,458
68 votes
13 answers
19k 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, ...
Honore Shadeshield's user avatar
68 votes
7 answers
12k 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 ...
user avatar
65 votes
10 answers
21k views

As a DM, how can I handle my Druid spying on everything with Wild shape as a spider?

I GM Lost Mines of Phandelver. My player's level 2 (soon 3) Druid has discovered that while in Wild Shape in spider form, they are almost impossible to catch, especially since in caves etc. they "fit ...
Hobbamok's user avatar
  • 1,819
65 votes
12 answers
11k 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 ...
N. A.'s user avatar
  • 1,057
65 votes
9 answers
19k 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 ...
Jacob's user avatar
  • 623
65 votes
13 answers
10k views

What to do when players bypass plot hooks

I am going to just start out by acknowledging that this is the best possible 'problem' a GM can ever have. My players are awesome, I just didn't know how awesome. They solved months of combat, ...
Tritium21's user avatar
  • 9,848
65 votes
13 answers
9k views

What can I do to encourage my players to use their consumables?

Frequently when I DM I will give my players consumables (i.e. potions and scrolls) in loot drops in place of gold. My intention is to give them more flexibility in strategy during exploration and ...
SeeDerekEngineer's user avatar

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