The DM's Guide to DMing

muttonchop wrote:

TL;DR things are great now but holy hell I had to wade through some sh*t to get here.

I feel like you've survived your trial by fire. Good job sticking it out!

Indeed! Things should get a lot better from here on out.

While not quite as bad; I once had a player who argued and complained constantly about how I ran the game, obnoxiously metagamed, and refused provide any information about his characters (‘because I am not a fantasy writer’). It was a welcome relief when he eventually rage quit.

Spoiler:

First, a bit of background. I’d read that the last fight in the first module in Kingmaker was pretty tough, so prior to the session I posted my policy for handling character death (or new characters, rather): new characters would come in at the same level as the lowest level member of the party. I thought that was reasonable, and it was otherwise left unspecified by this system anyway. My reasoning was that it wouldn’t be fair to the player with the lower level character to have someone die, choose to avoid the cost of raise dead, and then come in with a better character on top of that. We don’t anymore, but we were using point buy at the time, so I expected a more generous policy to be abused with replacement character the seconds (and thirds) showing up eventually.

Naturally, that guy’s character was the one who died in the fight with the Stag Lord, and he was pissed. He claimed he’d done nothing wrong, so he should be given an exception to my policy, but I told him no (and he actually had made a few strategic and several tactical errors anyway). He started repeating over and and over that it was bullsh*t: my policy hadn’t been approved by the group before the campaign started (WTF?); it was punishing him because one of the players had missed a few sessions and was a level behind, so his new character would start one level lower; and even if they raised his character, which everyone was fine with doing, that would punish everyone else by spending their treasure on something other that what the system expected. After he stormed out, the party raised his character anyway and made him the Minister of Magic in their kingdom.

Death happens in Pathfinder, especially since I run combat hard, but I’m up front about that. We eventually had more than twenty deaths over the course of that Kingmaker campaign, including several NPCs whom the party paid to have resurrected after they died and had their corpses ruined when I ran Carnival of Tears as a side story.

I'm glad that things are looking up! Group dynamics are pretty central to stuff going well. I actually made myself a rule that I'd ideally shoot for three players, with flexibility to go up to four if I knew everyone involved in advance and we had all agreed on the tone of the campaign and where the focus will be.

It is amazing how much smoother things run when groups are a little smaller. I think I really came into my own as a DM when I stopped running games that had half a dozen players, and started running with some smaller games that were initially sidebar that things clicked. Some of those fun sidebar campaigns grew into years spanning epic adventures. It gave me that same kind of feeling, where you can trust the players enough to let go of the books and just have a great collaborative experience.

One benefit of the fact that no one I ever play with really cares that much about the game is that no one gets angry about anything. We just all mess around and take the game only half seriously. Personally I prefer it that way.

I think that's the other things that tends to fracture groups - varying investments to varying aspects of the game. Some people are in it because the rules and the mechanics - the simulation aspect of it - is really enjoyable to them and all they want to do is optimize and strategize. Some people are more interested in a good, well plotted yarn. Some people want to role play and the interactive, collaborative storytelling aspect holds presidence over anything else. And some people just want it to be semi-structured messing around. All of these things are awesome, in my book, but if everyone wants a different thing out of the experience, then the group dynamics begin to suffer.

TheHarpoMarxist wrote:

I actually made myself a rule that I'd ideally shoot for three players, with flexibility to go up to four if I knew everyone involved in advance and we had all agreed on the tone of the campaign and where the focus will be.

It is amazing how much smoother things run when groups are a little smaller.

Oh man, I super agree. It's almost weird how adding one person to a functional group can make it grind to a halt. Even with no conflicts of character.

Warriorpoet897 wrote:

One benefit of the fact that no one I ever play with really cares that much about the game is that no one gets angry about anything. We just all mess around and take the game only half seriously. Personally I prefer it that way.

That's one of gaming's mantra, isn't it? As long as everyone is having fun you're doing it right. Something like that?

Found a website that does dungeons, caverns, and wilderness maps.

my favorite resource is http://donjon.bin.sh/index.html It's a great database and multiple generators for multiple editions and systems

I just started DMing my first (5E) game in years and am running some newbies through LMoP via the starter set. I've got designs on trying to weave the story into the other available adventures ToD, RoD, CoS, OotA, etc. but haven't looked into whether there is any natural progression in the story arcs yet. Does anyone know if there is a specific order to the 5E "chapters" from WotC that I can take advantage of?

Alternatively, does anyone have good things to say about 'Fantasy Grounds'? I'm thinking of running our next chapter through their system but I'm concerned about the learning curve and whether the system is only to my benefit as the DM or whether there are maps with "fog of war" and other visual aids that I could project on the wall/display on the TV for the good of the party.

TheCatsJaguar wrote:

Alternatively, does anyone have good things to say about 'Fantasy Grounds'? I'm thinking of running our next chapter through their system but I'm concerned about the learning curve and whether the system is only to my benefit as the DM or whether there are maps with "fog of war" and other visual aids that I could project on the wall/display on the TV for the good of the party.

*Disclaimer* I've not used Fantasy Grounds. I have used other digital game spaces though.

I've never found that they add much to a "live" game. They're great for playing with people far away, but they're more hassle than they're worth at the table. If your group is really into the Battle Chess side of RPGs, then having the fog of war and mapping can be useful. Overall my group has always found that digitizing our gaming table is more work than benefit.

I think the Tyrrany of Dragons set is supposed to be a smooth transition from the Starter Set but I've also heard those adventures are fairly linear so it depends on what your group likes.

The only way to link the different story lines would be by location and Tier of play (typically tier of play is a level range 1-4, 5-10, 11-14, 14-20) So look at the big map of the Forgotten Realms and the locations for the various modules and you can string them together like that if you want. As you get comfortable as a DM you can insert your own NPC's and have them move across the modules (travelling merchants, bards, and scoundrels are the easiest and can be fun)

Not a double post but a question for you all.

My players are taking on a job with a "retired" adventurer so he can go on one final run into "The Savage Lands" (in my campaign it's Russia but it's been overrun by the myths and legends of all the various European/norse/slavic mythologies).

In Actuality the adventurer is a Revenant that has taken over another corpse and re-assumed his old identity, his original corpse is a stone statue in the garden of a Medusa with his old adventuring team.

Should i do a giant reveal (his statue in the throne room with the Medusa) a quiet reveal (if the players go exploring they can find his team and him in the garden) or as a twist reveal (after the fight with the Medusa as they're leaving they run into an old enemy who reveals his undead status)?

Or any other thoughts that come to mind?

It might be fun if any informational or prediction spells that referenced the revenant somehow pointed at the statue instead of the active body. So a location spell would point over yonder even though he's sitting right there. Or a magic mirror or other widget that gives a vision of the party (past, present, or future) shows the revenant with his original appearance, giving them a chance to identify the statue later on.

Maybe the medusa can un-stone the original, who tries to destroy the revenant then switches sides to fight the medusa.

qaraq wrote:

It might be fun if any informational or prediction spells that referenced the revenant somehow pointed at the statue instead of the active body. So a location spell would point over yonder even though he's sitting right there. Or a magic mirror or other widget that gives a vision of the party (past, present, or future) shows the revenant with his original appearance, giving them a chance to identify the statue later on.

Maybe the medusa can un-stone the original, who tries to destroy the revenant then switches sides to fight the medusa.

If none of the above are happening, maybe throw in an outdated war cry or phrase of speech that would be a generation or so too old or from a different region? Just anachronisms that sorta sound off but might just be the cooky old adventurer?

TheCatsJaguar wrote:

I just started DMing my first (5E) game in years and am running some newbies through LMoP via the starter set. I've got designs on trying to weave the story into the other available adventures ToD, RoD, CoS, OotA, etc. but haven't looked into whether there is any natural progression in the story arcs yet. Does anyone know if there is a specific order to the 5E "chapters" from WotC that I can take advantage of?

Princes of the Apocalypse links into LMoP pretty well. The starting town, Red Larch, is in the same general area as Phandalin. The start of the main adventure is aimed at level 3 players so your party will be pretty close to that at the end of LMoP (probably a couple levels higher). I ran LMoP into PotA and the transition was pretty smooth. The PotA book has some good suggestions on how to link the two adventures.

Out of the Abyss starts at level 1 in the Underdark. I've only experienced this one as a player so I don't know if the book has any info on bridging adventures but it doesn't seem like that would work very well.

I haven't played/read Curse of Strahd but apparently it's a level 1-10 adventure so your players would likely already be in the middle of that level range which might trivialize a lot of encounters.

I don't know much about the Dragon books but I've heard that LMoP links into them pretty well.

muttonchop wrote:

Princes of the Apocalypse links into LMoP pretty well. The starting town, Red Larch, is in the same general area as Phandalin. The start of the main adventure is aimed at level 3 players so your party will be pretty close to that at the end of LMoP (probably a couple levels higher). I ran LMoP into PotA and the transition was pretty smooth. The PotA book has some good suggestions on how to link the two adventures.

Thanks for the heads-up, I purchased PotA and will try to stitch it together with LMoP; if it works I might try to do the same with OotA afterwards and modify/replace the monsters as necessary to match the difficulty curve. I suspect I'll need to start writing my own campaign eventually as my players outpace the official D&D materials but for now it's nice to have all the minutia preordained.

In the meantime, it's been interesting trying to make the most out of the preexisting materials in LMoP. Our most recent session closely resembled the Futurama episode 'Murder on the Planet Express' because the party split up to chase the doppelganger through Cragmaw Castle.

First it assumed the identity of the party's goblin guide "Droop", then after our bard accepted a "healing potion" (vial of 'Drow Poison') from "Doop" it took the bard's form, then after being spotted taking a swipe at our rogue by our barbarian, it grappled with the rogue and took its form, a short dialogue exchange of "Kill her!" vs "No, kill HER!" allowed it to release the Owlbear from its turret and a extended Benny Hill sketch ensued... priceless.

I'm glad to have found this thread. I just DM'd for the first time ever last Wednesday and I think it went pretty well.

I'm running my group through the Pathfinder Carrion Crown adventure path so that had made planning a lot easier.

The party hasn't encountered any combat yet (gulp!) and I think that will be the real test of my abilities.

I have been loving Matt Colville's Running the Game series as I've begun my DMing adventures. His goal is to demystify the other side of the screen and encourage more people to give it a shot. I particularly like his advice about different kinds of players - namely that some players are audience members and the fact that they aren't engaging and roleplaying doesn't mean that they aren't enjoying spectating. I relaxed about getting my three new players to engage.

My game is three sessions in now and they've made it to level 2. My three new players did a great job of grounding their backstories in the world and giving me a lot of plot hooks to work with. There's the dragonborn paladin whose temple was destroyed by undead while he was away - he is about to learn that those zombies had the same symbol emblazoned on them as the ones they've fought. The rogue was a dancer, framed for the assassination of a corrupt senator, now pursued by an orc sorcerer whose finger she has preserved in a jar to warn when he is near. The druid was once a smuggler, set up by his enemies to transport a sabotaged rune. It exploded on him but did not manage to kill him, instead transforming him to a wood elf and giving him a connection to nature. (Little does he know, the fey presence is strong in the woods where this happened...) So I'm having great fun working those into the plot. The sorcerer is really just along for the ride.

So, last night one of my players got cursed with Lycanthropy. He doesn't know it yet, he just knows he failed a Constitution save after getting gored and that he felt "weird" afterward. I figure it won't take effect until the next full moon (great, now I gotta start tracking the lunar cycle in my campaign), at which point I'll spring a surprise transformation on him and then fill him in on the details.

Per the 5e monster manual, he can:
a) get it cured
b) try to fight it, resisting the corrupting influence but losing control and changing every full moon
c) embrace it, gaining more control over his transformations at the cost of an alignment/personality change

Knowing the player, he'll probably choose either b or c (probably c). The interesting thing is that he's a Bear Totem Barbarian but he got infected by a Wereboar. I'm tempted to play up some sort of internal spiritual conflict, maybe culminating in a sidequest to perform some sort of totemic ritual to alter/cleanse his curse and become a Werebear instead.

Not too worried about the damage immunities since he's already resistant to just about everything while raging. He's only slightly harder to kill now.

I think this could be fun! Lots of neat things I can throw at him later on, depending on how things play out. Maybe word gets out that he's a lycanthrope and people start trying to hunt him down. Maybe he'll infect someone else and gain a Wereboar follower/rival/nemesis.

Anyone else had to deal with a lycanthrope PC? Any suggestions/warnings/stories?

I have a little experience with Lycanthrope players. The one thing that I would use is the vulnerabilities that affect those creatures and have the player affected by them as well. You have to take the bad with the good. At least they did in my campaign!

If the player's tendency is towards "C" it might be fun to really double down on the totem / spiritual struggle. Is losing the favor of Bear the price for not trying to cure Boar? What happens if he does a totem shift? I think you have some really excellent opportunities to give the player compelling choices with benefits and drawbacks to each, and if you can tune the options so that they are all appealing to the player in some way, that's a great position to be in.

I guess the question is, why would this specific player go with "C" and how can you make "A" and "B" more appealing to them, or even add in a "D"?

This is awesome, there's so much to mine from this type of event!

TheHarpoMarxist wrote:

I guess the question is, why would this specific player go with "C" and how can you make "A" and "B" more appealing to them, or even add in a "D"?

The character in question doesn't exactly have a strong moral compass, he's your classic "get angry and murder everything with a big sword" style barbarian. On top of that he's a former criminal. It also just seems like something the player would enjoy doing.

TheHarpoMarxist wrote:

If the player's tendency is towards "C" it might be fun to really double down on the totem / spiritual struggle. Is losing the favor of Bear the price for not trying to cure Boar? What happens if he does a totem shift? I think you have some really excellent opportunities to give the player compelling choices with benefits and drawbacks to each, and if you can tune the options so that they are all appealing to the player in some way, that's a great position to be in.

One fun thing there is he's already on decent terms with the Tree Ghost tribe of Uthgardt barbarians, who are an offshoot of the Blue Bear tribe. They're pretty much all about totem spirits and they have a connection to a bear spirit via their Blue Bear ancestry. If the player wants to pursue that angle they seem like pretty much the perfect people to get involved.

I think I'll start it off slow with some weird dreams/visions featuring a bear wrestling with a massive black boar. Maybe over time one of them will start winning depending on the player's choices.

muttonchop wrote:

I think I'll start it off slow with some weird dreams/visions featuring a bear wrestling with a massive black boar. Maybe over time one of them will start winning depending on the player's choices.

I think that's awesome!

And from the sound of the character, it seems like you should definitely be able to milk this for more than a few interesting choices.

Had an interesting moment in last night's game. In Princes of the Apocalypse there is a type of enemy called a One-Eyed Shiver. Basically it's a person who replaced one of their own eyes with an orb of magical frost that gives them magical powers and lets them shoot Ray of Frost out of their eye. They're pretty neat! Anyway, my party finally met one for the first time.

During the ensuing fight, they managed to case Hold Person on him and then beat him unconscious using non-lethal damage. While he was knocked out, the Wizard managed to remove the orb intact (I asked him to make a Medicine check, he rolled like an 18 or something).

So now he has this dude's magic frosty eyeball. Originally I planned to just have the eye melt when they killed him, but since they went to great lengths to keep this guy alive and carefully extract the orb I feel like they deserve to keep it. I just have no idea what they're going to do with it. I told the Wizard he could always try replacing one of his own eyes with it, but he didn't seem to keen on that idea for some reason. I'll have to come up with some fun other no-eye-transplant-required use for it.

Also we ended the session there but next session the Shiver is going to freak the f*ck out when he wakes up and realizes that they stole his magic eyeball. That'll be fun.

OK, so you said that, and this came to mind.

If the eyeball is a frozen something or other, that means that there had to be some sort of opposing heat emanating from the now-vacant eye socket in order to keep the brain from being frozen. It would be awfully unfortunate for your party if this shiver all of a sudden has a Cyclops (from XMen)-like beam of heat coming from his eyeball now.

I smell a nemesis! This shiver could be the perfect recurring bad guy. This loss of his eye could drive him to experiment with other "socketable" items. He may even attempt to ascend to lichdom and have a phylactery in his head.

Man, I'd love to have one of the PCs put the eye in. It might make for some real interesting hooks:

-The eye can "see" the path towards some artifact / object of power. It turns out the Shiver had bigger plans, or was some small part of a grander conspiracy revolving around this artifact.
-The person who has the eyes starts have flashes of memories from Shiver's life (and those memories could also have plot hooks galore.)
-There is some sort of extra-dimensional menace that is hidden from the naked eye or conventional magic... But the eye can see them.
-Someone else has the other eye - and the player with Shiver's eye can see everything that individual can see... And vice versa.

It would probably get it destroyed instantly, but since I sort of dig the grotesque, I'd probably have one of the PCs awake to find the frost eye attempting to insert itself into their head by pulling out their eyeball itself. With little frosty spider legs.

Those are some great ideas. There is an extra-dimensional menace, the Shiver belongs to a water cult trying to summon a massively powerful (and evil) being from the plane of Elemental Water. There's also at least one more Shiver written into the adventure so there could be some sort of link between the eyes. Actually, I really do like the idea of there being only two eyes so if there are more than two Shivers I might just swap the extra ones out with something else.

Also, now I'll have to assume that they'll probably try to steal the other guy's eye too. I've got a bunch of magical eye thieves on my hands. Adventuring parties sure get weird sometimes.

So far the wizard seems pretty reluctant to replace one of his own eyes. One of the other players suggested he could embed it in his chest, "arc reactor style", but he shot down that idea too. This party's full of weird dumb ideas though so I'm sure they'll find something to do with it. I'm not going to give them the full suite of Shiver powers without one of them actually putting the eye in, but I'll still probably let them freeze stuff with it and possibly eventually craft an item out of it or something.