61

As these are all new players, there's nothing wrong with a bit of "out-of-game" DM guidance at these early stages. After describing the situation you can simply say: "What you do now is your choice. You can attempt to calm the situation, shout at the attackers, fetch help, attack or something else!" Then ask each player: What do you do? You can even ...


41

Establishing a Protocol Many RPG groups have a protocol for handling potentially uncomfortable situations. At the start of your game, you give all your players a card with an X on it, and you say: "We might touch on uncomfortable topics in this game. If you encounter a topic that makes you uncomfortable, show us this card. We won't ask why the topic ...


31

I’ve seen this issue from both sides. As a GM, it’s really easy to say something ambiguous or describe something in a specific manner that the players interpret as “ooh, let’s check that out” instead of as “hmm, interesting, now let’s go”. As a player, I (which may not be the same for your players) find it fun to check out every little side thing even if ...


24

My first major campaign was almost exactly this structure, and it was a lot of fun. The setup was, the land was in danger of destruction due to the loss of eight magical load-bearing MacGuffins, so the rulers of the land offered enormous prizes for anyone who retrieved one of the MacGuffins. In my case, the PCs weren't aware that the rival party were evil ...


23

If something is too dark depends entirely on what your group is comfortable with. To illustrate the point, Let me start with three examples: I have played in at least one group in which destroying an orphanage was totally ok... no, let me rephrase that: We pulled an Exterminatus on a whole planet and it was very much expected because we played rather evil ...


21

One way to deal with this is to nest a side quest within the encounter where they have overestimated the importance. Rather than making the encounter more significant than you originally intended, keep it the same, but offer them something else—perhaps the chance to help the lord or someone else in the manor with another matter entirely—so that the encounter ...


19

What you're facing is one of the hardest problems to tackle as a DM, and probably one of the harder lessons that any teacher must face in their career. That problem being the balance between shielding them from failure and letting them learn from their mistakes. On the one hand, you want your players to have fun, and you want to create an interesting ...


15

There are different ways on how to deal with this all of them valid. You will have to choose for yourself what fits right for your group and game. Depending on what your game and preparation allows, adjust the adventure to give players actions more significance. This will reward your players for their effort and I find that it generally improves the quality ...


14

Talk to them about your game, making clear that what you have planned may include elements they find shocking If you haven't started the game yet, or even are only a few sessions into it, you can still hold the Session 0 in a campaign-general way (that is to say, this relevant story might be far enough in the future that talking about it won't immediately ...


11

There is no rule that the characters wasting time has to mean the players wasting time One technique for cutting this sort of thing short, especially if your time at the gaming table is limited, is to quickly gloss over the details by saying something like "OK, you spend half the day searching the mansion for the missing children, but find nothing even ...


10

There are a few options, depending on how much work you want to give yourself as a DM and your ability to come with things on the fly! The players find nothing other than what you originally planned for them to find. This is an option you already considered. There is no requirement for you to offer up additional rewards just because the players accidentally ...


8

I recall hearing a "Wait Wait, Don't Tell Me" interview with Jerry Springer, who was famed in the 90's for his talk show featuring all sorts of absolutely bonkers revelations. (Involving people who were also generally bonkers, and whose reactions were also predictably...bonkers. It made great daytime TV.) In the interview, Springer related that ...


7

Setting the Scene Another answer mentioned talking to your players out of the story to give them suggestions and let them know there are options, and that is absolutely something I would suggest as well. But for an in-universe option I would say that your narration and setup for a scene can provide a ton of hints on what options your party has. Something ...


7

This, to me, sounds like the answer would depend on what kind of DM you are. For some DMs, rolling with it and improvising something on-the-fly, whether that's coming up with a way in which the lord is related to the witch/children plot, or whether it's an entirely separate side quest, would be the best option, if you're the sort of DM with strong ...


5

Make it a laugh for the players. So the characters have this elaborate plan, scheme and execution to investigate the mansion. Let the players do exactly that. Without knowing exactly how you imagine the mansion I can envisage some investigation in the cellar (find a rat's nest that the inhabitants would be glad to be rid of just never got around to). Some ...


5

This is a classic Session Zero issue I have an appreciation (though not exclusive) for the GrimDark sub-genre of written fiction. Although my tastes in RPG subject matter are significantly different (GrimDark in a tabletop RPG always feels more oppressive to me than in a book I can put down) I still belong to the victory-through-adversity and hard-choices-...


5

This sounds like a really fun campaign design! I've run some politics-and-intrigue games (though not in Rolemaster) in which I've needed some similar dynamics, and some of the solutions I found might suit you here as well: It's easier if the goal is not just about the MacGuffin Many, perhaps most, TTRPG plots involving MacGuffins have a basic setup of "...


4

Quantum Reward Make every quest they take is not your intended quest (or at least not the intended reward). You mention your intent is to troll your players 'to hate themselves for not taking it sooner'. This is usually because the reward of the quest is very good or the impact of completing the quest will significantly help the other quests, so make it ...


3

This depends on the style of play of the group, GM included. Investigations are proper challenges If you play so that solving mysteries and figuring out how things work is part of the challenge, then the players decide where they spend their effort and the decision might be good or bad. Here they happened to guess wrong. Sometimes they do guess wrong. This ...


3

One technique I use to ensure players can (and sometimes should) run away is: I send a massive, but otherwise peaceful, giant walking across the landscape passed them. Something 40m tall. Tell them they realise, upon seeing its vast size, that they obviously can't defeat it. It will ignore them if they try to talk to it - they have nothing it wants. So ...


3

A famous spy thriller author once said, "Whenever I write myself into a corner, I have someone kick in the door and start firing." So have someone kick in the door and start firing. This can be done (justifiably) in two ways: 1) Now that the party has wiped out the local thieves guild, the villains are aware of them, and are worried that they'll be next. ...


3

In Mystery Writing, work backwards from your Mystery Please note- I'm aware that the Original Poster stated that they're not really running a mystery adventure: The focus won't so much be in really solving the mystery like in a detective story either, ... ...but I felt it important to answer the question as written, to benefit future readers who ...


2

On the "flaws" of DM based RPGs is that players know there is "off the rails" unplanned stuff, and "story hooks" for long well laid out and planned adventures. The off the rails stuff is fun and all, but it can never match the epicness of Defeating The Big Bad of Evilness (tm). This means that even if players KNOW they have multiple options, they can find ...


2

A wider survey of 'taboo' topics Don't ask about the few specific topics you have planned, ask about all the things for which you're unclear if they would consider it as 'taboo' in your games. Hand out a generic "session 0" survey listing all the common plausible "mature topics" and having the players mark down if there's something they'd ...


1

I played years ago - never as a DM. I remember that the biggest thing for me was immersion. I remember trying all sorts of real-life type solutions that the DM couldn't have possibly anticipated. Luckily the DM was adept at accommodating this without distracting from the main story. My solution would be that they find a document that details the location of ...


1

It may feel a little silly or perhaps unnecessary to ask people to tell you if they feel uncomfortable, especially at the start of a gaming session. However, in my experience, people respect me more for establishing a way to make sure everyone feels comfortable, and they express gratitude for it. 1. Plan Ahead If you know your players very well, you may ...


1

If you don't want to have to give a content warning, you might be better off making the adventure less contentious instead. For this specific situation: D&D 5e has a rule that if you don't want to kill an opponent you're attacking, you just have to declare a nonlethal attack, and they're knocked out when they reach 0HP instead. So there really shouldn't ...


1

It is all about choices. There is a perceived goal to the players (might not be the actual goal) and different options that the players can take (each with a perceived quality). If the players know the actual goal (getting the McGuffin) and the only thing that they think could prevent them from getting it is the sorceress, killing her looks like a ...


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