A DM's Survival Guide - tips and tricks

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Since the players had one I thought it would be cool if we made our own Survival Guide for DMs. I will occasionally read through the list and post the best ones at the top here (so make sure you give feedback on the really good or bad ones!). Since not everything works in a particular system, please say if your tips are general ones or ones specific to 3.5e, 4e, homebrew, etc.

1: Don't be a killer DM. Unless the game is one like Paranoia or Cthulhu, or the players want you to be and it is the point of the game. Never even consider becoming a regular DM if what attracts you to the role is the power it gives you over the players or because you delight in hurting or killing off their characters. The players are not in the game just so you can screw them over and kill them. You may be there for fun, but you are one person and they are several, the players won't mind so much if they die fairly, through their own fault, but if they know you are out to get them they will see you as a tyrant and they won't want to play with you anymore. And that is really what this comes down to: You are a semi-neutral party whose job it is to run the game for the others so they can have fun. Now that doesn't mean you can't have fun, but what it does mean is that that fun should not be at the expense of the half-a-dozen people who are trusting you to be fair. Which brings us to:...

2: Don't be vindictive. As above but more specific. DO NOT start a vendetta against a player. DO NOT try to kill their character for stuff they say out of character. DO NOT set out to kill anyone. The players will see you as a killer DM and you career will be short.

3a: Don't be over-generous. It is fine to let the players have little bonuses from time to time (and they will love you for it if they have earned it) but players start to get annoyed when every chest spews magic items and every hall is filled with loot, if there is too much then it has no value and the game is too easy. Give them stuff if you want, but pace yourself to a level that is fun. If the power gamer is the only one who looks happy, you are doing it wrong!

3b: Don't be under generous either.  Don't be cheap with magic items.  Seriously... some DM's treat it like they giving away real money.  Be fair and balanced.  Not cheap. (Suggested by Ghost007)

3c: Understand the mechanics of the game well.  There is nothing like when a player asks if he or she can do something in the game and the DM just flat-out says "no" simply because they don't understand the rules.  If you aren't sure how to break it down into game mechanics, be democratic and ask the players how they think it should be handled. (Suggested by Ghost007)

4: Don't Joyride. The character belongs to the player, if they aren't dominated or NPC'd they aren't yours. Don't second guess and don't make them do stupid things for your amusement. I have heard people talking (jokingly or not) about certain DMs making characters do stupid unrealistic things. These kinds of things are only funny for you not them. The player controls the character, not you. If you do it too much they might just assume you don't need them at the table since you are apparently so good at playing their character.

5: Don't be cheap. The player always needs to feel like they have a chance, or, at least, a chance to try again. Cheap deaths that would be extremely avoidably if the player was in the character's position are inexcusable. And on that note:

6: Don't leave out vitally important details a normal person would see. This comes back to not screwing over the player. If you have a room with a massive dragon in it or something else the characters should definitely be able to see THEN TELL THEM IN YOUR DESCRIPTION OF THE ROOM! If the first thing your players hear about your rooms biggest feature is that it has just BBQ'd them and they are all dead, they are going to be really really mad at you. And if the water is a nasty bright acidic chemical green don't make it sound like it is algae!

7: Describe the environment. Remember, the players are effectively blind. Start every description with the most important thing so that they can cut you off and run if they decide they are in too much danger and want to duck out before they see everything. Save your description though, they may come back better prepared or in a more stealthy way. Don't force the players make things up, if you do this they will just stop and stare at you blankly because they have no clue how to react, but instead find ways to let them feed into the campaign naturally. Give them plenty of stuff they can do and react to so that they know what the world they are in is like and feel like there is people in it, things to do, and places to see and go. It is your job to be their eyes and ears, so do a good job!

8: Give them mundane junk. As many other threads have shown, players can be masters of improvisation when it comes to bits of chalk, nails, pitons, soap, and so on. When the players are casually wandering round, add some desks with paper and ink, or cupboards with soap and saucers, a few loose planks, a handkerchief. Anything that is appropriate to the place. Then, if your players take them you will all be more likely to feel that rush that comes when a player thinks up something spectacular and puts it into action. If you players are worth gaming with you won't be disappointed. Don't be afraid to let what you think would work (maybe with a skill roll) guide if it does or not. Don't forget that monsters might be carrying all sorts of different things.

9: Monsters don't just hang around. The humanoid ones play cards, read, chat, sleep, pick their nose, play darts, the animals do animal things like forage, play and fight. Low intelligence monsters need places for food, waste, and sleep, the more intelligence, the more space needed for luxery items like tables and chairs. Use these things and put them wherever appropriate in order to bring your world to life and give the players a chance to stratgise.

10: Be creative. Your rooms need to look like somewhere that actually exists, don't be bland! Give the players details and keep track of them. Make unique environments and think about what each room is actually used for. If your game feels alive the players will stick around!

11a: Play the way your players want. Collaborate with your players to find out specifically what kind of game they want to play, such as how likely it should be that characters outright die, how much combat, how much non-combat, types of enemies, types of settings, etc. Depending on the level of trust in the group, consider deeper collaboration, including NPC secrets and plots, and history and layout of the game world. This can generate immense amounts of engagement, as players play to see how their ideas pan out. When preparing the game, ask the players questions that contain some guidance, such as "Your character has heard a frightening rumor about the town: what is it?" The players can in this way both express the kind of game they'd like to see, and contribute to the world directly. When players are the ones causing trouble for themselves, they are often more likely to explore that trouble, rather than simply smashing it flat. (Suggested by Centauri)

11b: Have a plan for failure. Figure out what can be done to keep the game interesting after failure occurs. Even if failure means death, have a plan for what it means and how to keep everyone having fun. Discuss this with your players in general and in particular. It can help them dread failure less, which can keep the game from bogging down in over-caution. Don't plan for failures you're not interested in seeing occur. And don't worry about consequences being obviously logical, just focus on making them interesting and plausible. Collaborating with your players on this can help. (Suggested by Centauri)

11c: Don't be afraid to roll with what a player says if it works. A small variation of the "Yes, and..." suggestion from the DM's handbook, you shouldn't be afraid to accept player ideas and build off of them if they sound good. Blocking off player ideas, expectations and assumptions is discouraging for a number of reasons, and tends to close off constructive ideas. If you can avoid doing this, you should, even if it "ruins" an encounter or plot you had planned. In doing this you may find you can gain access to your players' own creativity, which can operate in parallel to your own to help create more ideas than any one of you could on your own. This approach can help you see what kind of game the players really want to play, so you can focus on giving them that. (Suggested by Centauri)

11d: Turn the players' questions around. Inevitably, players will want to know things you don't have answers to. Try turning the questions back to them, by asking them "You tell me." Some players are delighted to be given the opportunity to contribute to a scene, and to see their ideas utilized and explored. Eventually, this can lead to players offering direct declarations instead of asking questions, which can flesh out the game world immensely, with ideas guaranteed to be enjoyed by the players. (Suggested by Centauri)

11e: Build trust, don't burn it. Do everything possible to build trust in your players. This starts with you trusting them. Tricking them, wasting their time, and blocking their good ideas all erode trust. When trust is high, a game can sing. When trust is low, a game can never get beyond its own rules. Sometimes that's enough, but it limits the potential greatly. Remember - most tabletop game systems are far more flexible about their rules than most people think, often rules, effects, spells, and so on, are worded so that they are open to interpretation. Predestination (and other cantrips in general) is a fine example of this in that it is intended to produce any effect that you would expect a decent mage to idly conjure with little or no thought.  (Suggested by Centauri)

12: Keep things fun, varied and interesting. This is your prime directive. The goal of the game is for the players to have fun.  If players are not having fun, TALK to them how you can make it fun for THEM, and then LISTEN. Don't just do the same old thing. Let the players tell you what kind of game you would like to play. (Suggested by Ghost007)

13: Don't be over-specific with certain results. If your players search say "You find no traps" or "You can't see any secrets" not "There are no secrets". If you do this the game will feel more real to them and they won't know if there are traps they simply didn't find. (This tip courtesy of Spoony's Countermonkey)

14: Ramp things up, constantly. At Paragon (Mid) Level, things should start getting really Epic If your players don't feel like they are on their way to greatness you are doing it wrong. Don't just throw them at dungeons, stick them in the middle of an invasion or siege, or a Zeppelin battle, or ALL THREE. The true mark of a really great game is when it feels like it can't get any better, yet it does again and again. Challenge your players and keep inventing. Find the best or write the best modules you can and make them evenything you can of them. Let them feel like they are fighting insurmountable odds and give them a chance to live out a proper, epic fantasy

15: Don't forget to reward roleplay and invention. Especially in the newest players, but keep it up with the experienced ones too. Special items, XP, skillpoints, Action or Style points, all these things are great little intensives for encouraging roleplay. Another good tip is to make sure the new player always levels up first - just find excuses to give them little chunks of extra XP. This will make them feel wanted and it also means that not everyone levels up at the same moment, meaning you can go over choices with the new player one-to-one before the powergamer locks himself in with you and a stack of gaming books.

16a: Improvise your story.  Don't prepare any kind of fixed or pre-planned plot for your game. This may sound strange, but you have to remember that you are not writing a book or a linear computer game, your characters aren't following any kind of a script and they will become very annoyed and frustrated if you try to force them to follow one. In a tabletop game it is best to simply create a setting and populate it with NPCs who have specific agendas and goals that they will carry out while the players are adventuring. This sounds harder to people who are used to a lot of pre-planning but it will actually make things easier for you since any group of players encountering a fixed story they are suposed to follow will automatically break it or even rebel against it, often without even realising. RPG worlds are supposed to be living, changing, things and your players must be free to make their own choices instead of being forced to follow a set path from A to B with every event along the way predetermined. The players will do things you don't expect that will quickly change or break apart a fixed story and it is a mistake to try and force them into a single course of action only because your pre-planned story requires it.  Do your best to work with the players, even if the end result isn't exactly like you planned. Don't force your players to take a road into an ambush they know is ahead when they can avoid it. In other words: No invisable walls or railway tracks. Remember, the fact that they can do all this is the reason they are playing the game in the first place! Reading the commentary for Darths and Droids may help you understand how this works (Suggested by Malph and Iserith)

16b: This includes your campaign plot. Your players are free agents and at some point they are going to force your bad guy to change his or her plans. Don't get angry, have the bad guy get angry! If a bad guy or girl has to changing their plans to deal with player involvement, that is really cool, that is the sort of thing playing an RPG should be about. If a badguy knows it was the PC that thwarted a step in his plans he could go after their family, try to ruin the PC reputation, send assassins, work it into his plan so it bites the players. BE CREATIVE! (Suggested by Kailmung)

16c: Actions have plausible consequences. Yours and theirs. That nameless NPC they roughed up? Maybe he has a vendetta now, even if it is along the lines of passive aggressive rumours. The person doesn't have to act sanely but it is best if you don't add too many mad vendettas or your players will feel like they are on eggshells in loonytown.

16d: Have a world that evolves and changes. For some reason many DMs don't do simple things like weather changes or even seasons. As a DM you should do everything you can to help keep the PC in the mindset of this being a real place. Just simple weather changes can surprise players if they have never experienced one in a game before. Have a thunderstorm roll in across the hills, spatter them with rain, force them to seek shelter, even. Then, at an opportune moment have the sun break through the clouds and watch their faces light up. Some of your best RP can come from the little things. (Suggested by Kailmung)

17a: Remember the player characters should always be in the spotlight.  You may be running the show but the players and their characters are the stars.  Don't make the game about you. (Suggested by Grimli)

17b: But don't let them feel like they own the world. Everything is more satisfying when it is earned. That adult white dragon the party beat would be more satisfying if it had shown up the group earlier. A enemy who beats the party and makes them run away, or keeps them in hiding for large parts of the game, is much more fun to beat than one they have no emotional connection with and no ongoing rivalry with

18: Root For Your Players. While you should never cheat your characters of their chance to earn their achievements and win by their own merits, make it clear that you want them to have fun and to succeed. When your monster gets locked down and loses his most devastating move, don't lament and get angry.  Be happy for your players.  Maybe even reveal your hand a little bit to say how it was great that they immobilized that guy because he has a shift 5 that prones+dazes+ongoing damage everyone he shifts next to. If your players completely neuter an encounter, don't default to being defensive and demanding for the character sheet as this is extremely hurtful to the game, the player, and destroys their achievement.  If a player is doing great, exalt the player don't whine that they would have lost if X ability wasn't broken. And when you score a critical hit against a player you can joke about it, sure, but don't throw it in their faces. Likewise, when the players start picking on a player for using their initiative, don't let them. Remember, if it looks silly but it works, it isn't silly. (Suggested by Matyr)
 
19a.  Make character's background matter to the game.  Most players love their charactor and his/her background they have in mind.  Incorporate them into campaign, adventure.  Make it count., and that player will love you long time. Ask for them to include as many plot-hooks in their background as possible, you never know where they might lead. And let players make and play the type of character theywant, not what you want. Perhaps provide some leading questions:

  • Where is the Character from,

  • How did he grow up,

  • Are there any living relatives / siblings,

  • Where did he learn / acquire his skills,

  • What is his reason for adventuring,

  • Do one or more characters already know each other – if yes how did they meet? 


19b: Communication is King. Don't assume things about your player's their character's, or your game.  Take the time to find out how you are doing as a DM.  Listen and take heart the suggestions and advice they give you. (suggested by Grimli)

20: Always Strive to be a better DM.  Never assume your gaming style is perfect.  Just because you get no complaints doesn't mean that there isn't something you could be doing to make your game better.  Read forums, take advice, and bounce suggestions off of your players, fellow DMs, and anyone who will listen.  Have an open mind with the advice you receive. (suggested by Grimli)


21. Listen to your player's small talk.  Often times, players will let drop what interests them and doesn't in how they talk to others around the table.  Boredom and interest should be noted somewhere for future reference.  Players trying to sneak around a guarded base might mention not wanting to be seen in patrols.  So you throw a token patrol in there for them to avoid.  The players will feel vindicated. HOWEVER, this should not extend to the point where the players feel like the monsters can read their minds and are countering their battle tactics before they make them. This is bad DMing. (Suggested by Mastercliff)

22: Be wary of 'little gifts' from your players that they don't want the others to know about. As sad as it sounds there are actually a few players out there who will try to bribe you with small things like sweets and other stuff with the expectation, stated or not, that you will show favouritism. Don't let them do this, if the others think you have taken a bribe, no matter how stupid it is, it will probably be the end of your DMing days with that group. Or in general.

23: Don't ask for skill checks for every little thing. If you can gauge for yourself what the result of a check will be then you shouldn't need to roll a dice. If the player can just keep trying until they succeed with no penalties then just hazard a guess as to how long you think it would take them and tell them they have done it. This can save a lot of time and frustration from other players who have to sit and wait while one player rolls and rolls until they finally succeed when simply telling them they took ages to do it is better than actually taking ages to do it and making people fidgety for no reason. The same is true for rolling dice to determine things that are already certain to happen, such as rolling to check success when the modifiers alone make the result certain. Use your judgement for when it is appropriate to roll and when it is not. (Suggested by Iserith)

24: Don't waste time. Try to get to what the players enjoy and spend as little time as possible on things they are likely not to enjoy. Pay attention to their engagement level, and enthusiasm, and be prepared to drop anything that they're not having fun with, even if you know there's going to be a big payoff later. (Suggested by Centauri)



Remember the player characters should always be in the spotlight.  You may be running but the players and their characters are the stars in this show.  Treat them as such.

Great posts so far!

Be prepared to improvise your story.  Don't make your stories too linear and strict.  The players will sometimes do things you don't expect that changes the course of your story's arch.  It's a mistake to force them into a single course of action only because your pre-planned story requires it.  Do your best to work with the players, even if the end result isn't exactly like you planned.
Thanks. I'll add both with proper credits.
2: Don't be vindictive. As above but more specific. DO NOT start a vendetta against a player. DO NOT try to kill their character for stuff they say out of character. DO NOT set out to kill anyone unless they are really horrible and it is the only way to make them leave the group. The players will see you as a killer DM and you career will be short.



I'd like to see this amended if you don't mind. It's not alright to kill a players character to get them to leave a group. Simply ask them to change their behaviour at the table if they are horrible to be around and ask them to leave if they can't change. You don't have to open the door and let them into the groups session.

I was kinda thinking about it before you arrived, the idea was going to be more "they will leave if you do this" rather than the way it seems to have come out. The list is still kind-of a rough draft though and you are right.
1: Don't be a killer DM.

Unless your players want you to, and even then, be prepared with a way to continue having fun after all the PCs die.

2: Don't be vindictive.

Right. Everyone has conflicts from time to time. Work them out as people, outside of the game, not as players in a game.

3: Don't be over-generous either.

A non-issue. Give the players what they want. If they want tons of items, give them that. If they don't, don't.

4: Don't Joyride.

Ok.

5: Don't be cheap.

If you don't want players to die in "cheap" ways, don't make "cheap" deaths a possibility. Or be prepared to fudge dice.

6: Don't leave out details a normal person would see.

Even if you do, they'll misunderstand you or make mistakes. Less of a problem if the point of a room or scene is not to trick or kill the players. In fact, a lot of problems go away, as soon as one stops trying to trick, surprise, or kill the players.

7: Always describe the environment.

No. Collaborate on them with the environment, to the point that they can tell you what they see.

8: Give them piles of mundane junk.

Goodness no, not unless they want them. Even if they do want them, they can declare them, rather than having to be given them.

9: Monsters don't just hang around.

As above, ask your characters what they think the monsters are doing, and have them do that.

10: Be creative.

If that's the goal, then there's no reason not to collaborate with the players. Bring their creativity in line with yours, even before you hit a creative block.

11: Actions have logical consequences.

No. Actions have consequences, and probably have plausible consequences, but "logical" consequences are very often "boring" consequences. Find the "interesting" consequences, and enlist your players to help find something that would be interesting for the table.

12: Not all rumours should be right.

Don't add in false information for its own sake. That's asking for boredom and frustration. Ask the players for interesting rumors and then ask them which ones are true. If they choose to have their characters follow a false rumor, things can get interesting. If the players themselves are tricked into following a false rumor, they are likely to be frustrated and annoyed.

13: Keep things varied and interesting.

Yet you give no advice for this. I will: Elicit player input and say "Yes, and..." to it. Their input, combined with yours, will keep things as varied and interesting as need be.

14: Don't be over-specific with certain results. If your players search say "You find no traps" or "You can't see any secrets" not "There are no secrets". If you do this the game will feel more real to them (This tip courtesy of Spoony's Countermonkey)

This goes back to trying to trick and surprise players. This is a classic source of major frustration. If you find yourself needing to do this, think hard about it. There are other ways to play.

15: Ramp things up, constantly.

Yes.

16: Don't forget to reward roleplay and invention.

I can't agree. If you want to encourage roleplaying and invention, then say "Yes, and..." to it. Watching one's idea get used and incorporated is addictive, and almost automatically engaging. Players who see others ideas being used will want their ideas to get the same treatment. Soon the problem will be limiting the roleplay and invention so you're not overwhelmed.

17: Be prepared to improvise your story.

Mostly improvise your story, and do so by following the key tenet of theatrical improv: "Yes, and...."


18: Remember the player characters should always be in the spotlight.

And think about how movies and shows do this. The characters fail, but the story keeps moving. Think about how to do this.

19: When you crit a player. The prefered reaction is "Oh no!", it is not "Hell yes!" *Fistpump*. Remember, you are not a player, you are neutral, you are only rolling to simulate the game mechanics.

The DM is absolutely a player and is rarely anything like neutral. Anyway saying nothing would be the neutral reaction, and I don't think anyone would suggest that.

What does a critical mean? It means a bad thing is closer to happening. Too often, that bad thing is character death, which makes players feel stupid, cheated, bored, and a host of other bad feelings. The game can be challenging without character death, and while character death can still happen, it should be reserved for when the players themselves agree that it would be appropriate. In general, whether it's crits, or a character failing a skill challenge, the ideal reasponse should be curiousity about what's coming next, rather than primarily joy or despair.

[N]o difference is less easily overcome than the difference of opinion about semi-abstract questions. - L. Tolstoy

That list is awesome.  If I may also add:

20.  Make charactor's background matter to the game.  Most players love their charactor and his/her background they have in mind.  Incorporate them into campaign, adventure.  Make it count., and that player will love you long time.

21.  Let players make and play the type of charactor they want, not what you want.

22.  Don't be under generous either.  Cheap with magic items.  Seriously... some DM's treat it like they giving away real money.  Be fair and balanced.  Not cheap.
1: Don't be a killer DM.


The unless part needs a bit of modification.  You can delete the whole segment about them and make it: "Unless players want you to be."  I've had players get upset about dying in Ravenholdt.

6: Don't leave out details a normal person would see.


If you constantly post paragraph after paragraph for each room, most players will start to tune you out.  Then they will miss vital information.  My rule of thumb is to provide a light layout, and a sense or two(sound, smell, etc).  I also keep it brief.  Now, if it is vital, I will include it.  But do they really need to know what kind of books are in shelf #3 of room #2?  Not really.  The players will fill that in if you just leave a symbol on the map that represents bookshelves.

8: Give them piles of mundane junk.

God, no.  Players who like to improvise can bring their own things with them, or make a roll to find stuff in the environment. 

9: Monsters don't just hang around.

You get specific about humanoid things, but I've found that people miss the animal stuff.  Expand that and ditch half of the humanoid stuff.  Especially reading(though the reading thing is just me).  You could just simplify it and say that low intelligence monsters need places for food, waste, and sleep.  The more intelligence, the more space needed for luxery items like tables and chairs.

11: Actions have logical consequences.

Tell that to my last girlfriend.  Not all actions will have logical consequences.  Things are blown out of proportion all the time.
12: Not all rumours should be right.

Bad idea.  Nothing pisses people off more than to spend a couple months of exploring that cave system to only find out it was the other cave system.
13: Keep things varied and interesting.

You know, if you can't embelish on this, you should not have posted it.  I'll give you a suggestion: "Make sure to appeal to a sense or two for each description.  While it's ok to usse so and so deals so and so damage once in awhile, most of the time you want descriptions for these attacks.

14: Don't be over-specific with certain results.

  This is ok, but remember to throw in a curveball trap every once in awhile, or traps to find.  Otherwise the players will stop caring about that aspect of the game.

17: Be prepared to improvise your story. 

  I would rather explain it simpler.  "Don't rely on your players to follow the story, even if they are interested in it.  Players get side tracked/improvising/misslead themselves.  Make a general outline with branching paths at major decisions.  Much more planning around the players than that will more often go to waste than not."

18: Remember the player characters should always be in the spotlight. 

  I suggest an addendem.  Unless you are setting up something to be eventually overcome.  That adult white dragon the party beat would be more satisfying if it had shown up the group earlier.

19: When you crit a player. The prefered reaction is "Oh no!", it is not "Hell yes!" *Fistpump*. Remember, you are not a player, you are neutral, you are only rolling to simulate the game mechanics.


*retyped because I thought that was critique*
You may not be a player, but you are running the game.  You should definitely fake bloodlust.  I've gone, "Ahahahah!  It's my turn to kill something!"  When the monster dies, "Noooo!  He had a future in critting players!"


23.  Listen to your player's small talk.  Often times, players will let drop what interests them and doesn't in how they talk to others around the table.  Boredom and interest should be noted somewhere for future reference.  Players trying to sneak around a guarded base might mention not wanting to be seen in patrols.  So you throw a token patrol in there for them to avoid.  The players will feel vindicated.
That list is awesome.  If I may also add:

20.  Make charactor's background matter to the game.  Most players love their charactor and his/her background they have in mind.  Incorporate them into campaign, adventure.  Make it count., and that player will love you long time.


20. Character background is very important! Perhaps provide some leading questions:

  • Where is the Character from,

  • How did he grow up,

  • Are there any living relatives / siblings,

  • Where did he learn / acquire his skills,

  • What is his reason for adventuring,

  • Do one or more characters already know each other – if yes how did they meet?


You can always expand the list later on – a great opportunity to collaborate with your players!

Panartias, ladies-man and Jack of all trades about his professions:

"Once, I was a fighter -

to conquer the heart of a beautiful lady.

Then I became a thief -

- to steal myself a kiss from her lips.

And finally, I became a mage -

- to enchant her face with a smile."

You know, if you can't embelish on this, you should not have posted it.


I didn't think I needed to elaborate, but you can if you want to.
If you constantly post paragraph after paragraph for each room, most players will start to tune you out.


I meant 'Don't leave out the eighty-foot dragon' (as it says in the discription). :p
God, no.  Players who like to improvise can bring their own things with them, or make a roll to find stuff in the environment.


Draws and cupboards should have random stuff in them they can use, which you can deside in reaction to their questions if you want, but you should furnish a few things of your own.
No. Collaborate on them with the environment,


This is a matter of preference really, but I don't think players shouldn't be expected to be the main world creators in the game. Letting the players come up with too many of the details (or providing none at all) is a very good way to kill your game. I've seen it happen, everyone just goes silent because they are the characters and they want you to feed them details so they can ask you questions for more details and act. If you don't  This can be really game-breaking. The players should be the ones to drive the direction of the story, but the DM should create about 80-90% of the world around the players and determine the results of what they do and drive the schemes of the NPCs.

Bad idea.  Nothing pisses people off more than to spend a couple months of exploring that cave system to only find out it was the other cave system.


You are right on this one.





God, no.  Players who like to improvise can bring their own things with them, or make a roll to find stuff in the environment.

Draws and cupboards should have random stuff in them they can use. Players shouldn't be expected to be the main world creators in the game, if they are then there is no way to suprise them and no progression since progresion implies there is an ultimate goal.

Surprising the players (as opposed to the characters) is a questionably attainable goal, even with complete narrative control by the DM, because it requires just as much player buy-in, either to pretend to be surprised even after they've figured it out, or to enjoy the surprise after it's revealed. Anyway, collaboration and narrative control by players actually do lead to entertaining games, and even surprises.

Player imput, direction, and free will is very good (and was mentioned a few times) but letting them make up the details of the world around them is not as this basically means that they are only placing hurdles in their path towards ultimate victory and that they can ceat at any time through invention, rendering the game pointless as a game.

A common misunderstanding.

Players who are given narrative control aren't ever "cheating," they're playing the game they want to play. I've noticed that players who go directly from a DM-controlled game into one in which they have control do tend to get a little carried away, but they soon realize that they're only cheating themselves. Anyone can have a level 30 character with all the trimmings. The actual fun comes from taking a character through the levels, experiencing the adventure (even if one helped craft it), and pitting the characters against interesting challenges.

Letting the players come up with most of the details is a very good way to kill your game and and turning it into a mellow-dramatic group storytelling session where nothing ever challenges or hinders the heroes.

Yes, if that's what everyone wants. All narrative control does is let the players have the game they want. This might even be a game in which they abdicate their narrative control back to the DM, but I find that unlikely.

The players should be the ones to drive the direction of the story, but the DM should create the world around the players and determine the results of what they do and drive the schemes of the NPCs. What I am saying is that the DM creates the world and the party interacts with it. You can take tips from them, but they shouldn't be doing any more than filling in the fine details of game, as they choose.

Good in theory, but this forum is a record of part of the long, troubled history of that approach. Not that giving players more narrative control doesn't have issues, but as it inspires deeper trust around the table, it helps lay a foundation for everyone getting the kind of experience they want for themselves and their characters, rather than hoping that what the DM delivers is what everyone will enjoy.

[N]o difference is less easily overcome than the difference of opinion about semi-abstract questions. - L. Tolstoy

The original was edited as I posted.

Draws and cupboards should have random stuff in them they can use, which you can deside in reaction to their questions if you want, but you should furnish a few things of your own.

Deciding in reaction to their questions is "DM May I" and it's slow and boring as the DM evaluates every request. "Yes, and..." is faster and fosters trust, though it does require some initial trust.

No. Collaborate on them with the environment,

This is a matter of preference really, but I don't think players shouldn't be expected to be the main world creators in the game.

Why not? Five or so creative brains are going to know what they like more than the DM does. And they don't have to be the main creators, but they should be collaborated with much more than is traditionally done. This is where the hobby is going, away from DM-as-computer and toward DM-as-fellow-collaborator.

Letting the players come up with too many of the details (or providing none at all) is a very good way to kill your game. I've seen it happen, everyone just goes silent because they are the characters and they want you to feed them details so they can ask you questions for more details and act. If you don't  This can be really game-breaking.

Quite so. It's "collaboration," not "abdication." The DM prompts them to provide the level of detail they're comfortable with.

The players should be the ones to drive the direction of the story, but the DM should create about 80-90% of the world around the players and determine the results of what they do and drive the schemes of the NPCs.

No "should" about it. That's just what people are used to, and while it generally works fine, there are a lot of problems with that approach.

[N]o difference is less easily overcome than the difference of opinion about semi-abstract questions. - L. Tolstoy

Hmm, you make good points but I think you are a bit black-or-white on the player control issue. I'm not suggesting that the DM railroad the campaign, if the players want to try or do something they should be able to. However, the world itself should be outside their direct control. They could change it by asking questions and looking for specific things or expecting them to be there, but if you let them take full control of the way the world is build the players have very little chance of failure overall and will subconsciously build their success into the world itself. What you are suggesting is a very group dependant system which is the absolute opposite of the DM who won't let the party off the train tracks for a second, and it's too much the other way and swings the world too much in the party's favour.

You can balance it, but I think it is important to not let a normal group dictate anything about the world that is extremely important and to give them most of the details yourself so they can explore it in-character.
Hmm, you make good points but I think you are a bit black-or-white on the player control issue. I'm not suggesting that the DM railroad the campaign, if the players want to try or do something they should be able to.  However, the world itself should be outside their direct control.

I'm sure we agree that "railroading" is generally bad, unless that's what they're asking for. But surely you have encountered situations in which players were bored or disengaged with what the DM was offering, or made choices that the DM couldn't decide how to make interesting.

The point of collaboration is that you have several other brains around the table and it's folly not to tap into those as directly as possible.

They could change it by asking questions

That's a start, but that's "DM May I," and tempts the DM to block the idea, rather than "Yes, and...." But if the DM is going to say "Yes, and..." anyway, that part might as well be skipped, and the player's idea simply worked with.

and looking for specific things or expecting them to be there,

Yes, that is a very modern approach and there's a lot of good about it.

but if you let them take full control of the way the world is build the players have very little chance of failure overall and will subconsciously build their success into the world itself.

It's not "full control." The term "collaboration" is specific, because it means "working together" not "give up control."

Yes, I have noticed a tendency for players to give themselves a lot of power, but most of this is a reaction to being freed from the restrictions of what they're used to. The same thing happens to certain players when they go from an video game environment to a roleplaying environment. Things quickly cool down and the DM finds the balance point, and the players learn that they're only cheating themselves.

And, yes, a certain amount of trust is required, but not really any more than needs to be present for a smoothing running game of any kind.

What you are suggesting is a very group dependant system which is the absolute opposite of the DM who won't let the party off the train tracks for a second, and it's too much the other way and swings the world too much in the party's favour.

It's as far the other way as the group wants it.

If a group of players gives themselves absolute power and enjoys that, then there's a good bet they were bridling under the DM's control anyway. I don't see much fun in a game like that, but some people might.

You can balance it, but I think it is important to not let a normal group dictate anything about the world that is extremely important and to give them most of the details yourself so they can explore it in-character.

This idea of "extremely important" things in the world is worrying. Extremely important in what way? To some plans the DM is intent on bringing about, whether the players are interested in it or not? DMs have been told for so long that it's their story and their world, that they can easily get very proprietary. This sets them up to block player ideas, which causes problems at the table. Once the DM can give up any notion that any particular idea is more important than collaboration at the table, then really interesting and creative things can start to happen at the table.

As for exploring, surely every DM is familiar with the group that grows bored of exploring, or completely misses the surprise the DM put in for them to find, or is nonplussed by it, or actively dislikes it - or realized the surprise well in advance and either wrecked it or went along with it. The percentage of time when exploration is actually engaging and not a repetitive grind in search for a rare nugget is very low. Most tables won't miss it at all, I daresay. And tables that are collaborating on their exploration do still make remarkable discoveries. They just don't all come from the DM. Hard to understand perhaps, but give it a try.

[N]o difference is less easily overcome than the difference of opinion about semi-abstract questions. - L. Tolstoy

Bottom line, the tradition of treating the DM as a thing that invents and delivers a simulation to the players and players as things that just move around that simulation is one that needs a serious look. This division is the cause of many of the problems that are asked about on these boards and of a lot of the feeling that certain game sessions could be somehow be better or easier.

[N]o difference is less easily overcome than the difference of opinion about semi-abstract questions. - L. Tolstoy

If I may suggest another:  

*Understand the mechanics of the game well.  There is nothing like a player asking he/she wants to do something in Combat or Skill challenges & the DM simply says "no" because he/she don't understand the rules to break it down.  If not sure how to break it down into game mechanics, ask the players how it should be handled.

*Maintain the Prime Directive...players as a whole having fun.  If players are not having fun, TALK to them how you can make it fun for THEM, and then LISTEN.

A few more that came to me:


Communication is King. Don't assume things about your player's their character's, or your game.  Take the time to find out how you are doing as a DM.  Listen and take heart the suggestions and advice they give you.


Always Strive to be a better DM.  Never assume your gaming style is perfect.  Just because you get no complaints doesn't mean that there isn't something you could be doing to make your game better.  Read forums, take advice, and bounce suggestions off of your players, fellow DMs, and anyone who will listen.  Have an open mind with the advice you recieve.

Good suggestions both, I've added them.


But surely you have encountered situations in which players were bored or disengaged with what the DM was offering, or made choices that the DM couldn't decide how to make interesting.



Of course, but I think you are still thinking that I'm saying that players should have no control at all when I'm saying that they should have have influence with the DM - i.e. the player looks for what they expect and the DM decides if it is there. Limits provide very interesting roleplay. For example here is how I understand your game sessions to work so far:


DM: There is a monster at the door!

Player: I grab a wand from under the sink and blast it!

(or)

Player: I grab some planks of wood and nail it shut!


Either way the situation is resolved by instant expectation - the player creates the planks or the wand and the monster is dealt with with little thought. Now here is how a game might go in the same situation with a DM who isn't afraid to say no:


DM: There is a monster at the door!

Player 1: I search for a weapon or something to block the door.

DM: The room is bare except for a small square table. (This is true to his notes)

Player 1: I grab the table and wedge the end under the handle

DM: You are lifting the table but the monster will get through if the others move!

Player 2: Is the latch on this side?

DM: Yes!

Player 2: I use a dagger to lever it down and jam it!

Player 1: I shunt the table forward and try to wedge it against the door!

DM: How do you do that?

Player 1: I turn it upside-down and prop it against the door and wedge it so it sticks.

DM: You seem to have stopped it for now and the monster curses.


Now, you see, it looks like the DM is dictating, but he didn't even think about how the players might use the table or what kind of lock the door might have until the player mentioned it and it became a latch on this side. This is a little convenient, but it isn't *too* convenient and it means that the players have to work with what is available to them at the time to get what they want instead of instantly having it. This means it is less of a group storytelling session and more like a group on an actual adventure. Don't get me wrong, I will add a note about your method at some point, but I think it should be the exception, not the rule.

Heng, with your wand and planks example you are leaving out the Dm prompting details, like "Where did you get the planks and nails? "Do you think you can seal the door before the monster gets in? Will that hold out the monster? What other ways are there in and out of the room?"

The wand would make me say "Why is there a wand under the sink? What does it do? Does it have anything to do with the monster at the door?"

Your longer example is actually a lot like what Centauri is talking about, asking the players questions and such. The difference is if my notes didn't say there was a table in the room and a player said "I want to push a table up against the door" I'd probably let them, cause, well, it's a table.

If they said "I transform into a flying unicorn and teleport out of the room," then it might lead to more of a discussion. But allowing the players to make decisions and add to the story is, I feel, always good.

I suspect my play style is actually closer to yours than Centauri's, but my playstyle now is much closer to Centauri's than it was in years past, and I and my players are have a lot more fun because of that.
23?.  Whenever a player says, "Can I . . .?" the answer is yes.  Page 42 them.  This applies for actions out of combat as well.  It may not work in the way the player expected -- and to keep things interesting it probably shouldn't -- but letting your players think creatively almost always adds to the fun quotient.

Edit:  Also, great thread.  Thanks for starting it, Hengeyokai. 
But surely you have encountered situations in which players were bored or disengaged with what the DM was offering, or made choices that the DM couldn't decide how to make interesting.

Of course, but I think you are still thinking that I'm saying that players should have no control at all when I'm saying that they should have have influence with the DM - i.e. the player looks for what they expect and the DM decides if it is there. Limits provide very interesting roleplay.

Not universally. They can also be needlessly frustrating.

For example here is how I understand your game sessions to work so far:

DM: There is a monster at the door!

Player: I grab a wand from under the sink and blast it!

(or)

Player: I grab some planks of wood and nail it shut!

Either way the situation is resolved by instant expectation - the player creates the planks or the wand and the monster is dealt with with little thought.

I don't know how you can say it was with little thought. Why did it occur to the player that there would be a wand or planks handy? Even if I never learn the answer to that, it's clear that they were imagining the setting their characters were in, and seeing things that made sense to them to be there. I can probably come up with reasons why those things are true, and if I can't I can ask them.

Why was there a monster at the door? Why did I think that they'd enjoy dealing with it in the ways I'd imagined? I haven't lost anything because of how they dealt with it. There's no reason to believe their situation is anything close to resolved, but even if it is what they've done is allowed us to move on to another situation that they are more interested in dealing with.

D&D players aren't serving themselves if they cut through ever single situation, and when they realize this (as they shortly will) they'll collaborate in ways that challenge themselves.

Now here is how a game might go in the same situation with a DM who isn't afraid to say no:

DM: There is a monster at the door!

Player 1: I search for a weapon or something to block the door.

DM: The room is bare except for a small square table. (This is true to his notes)

Why? It's clear that the DM had an expectation here, and tried to make sure that the encounter would go a specific way. That's likely to lead to further blocking.

Player 1: I grab the table and wedge the end under the handle

Why didn't the player have to ask if the table was light enough to be moved? Maybe it's bolted down. Maybe it involves stone or a lot of metal or sharp edges. The player doesn't know. Is it in the DM's notes? Or is the DM going to go with the PC's expectation?

DM: You are lifting the table but the monster will get through if the others move!

An acceptable escalation.

Player 2: Is the latch on this side?

DM: Yes!

That's in the DM's notes? Or did the DM just decide in favor of the player? Since that's what you're saying a player would do anyway, why not just let them do it?

Player 2: I use a dagger to lever it down and jam it!

That's quite an expectation.

Player 1: I shunt the table forward and try to wedge it against the door!

DM: How do you do that?

Player 1: I turn it upside-down and prop it against the door and wedge it so it sticks.

Wait, wedging at table against a door requires an explanation, but the dagger thing doesn't? I get that this is just a quick example, but I really don't think it would happen that way.

DM: You seem to have stopped it for now and the monster curses.

And so does the DM, probably. He had notes, he'd clearly planned something to happen here, and the PCs shut it down. What if the opening for the whole adventure hinged, in the DM's notes, on the creature getting through that door? Why didn't the PCs want to participate in what the DM had planned? What if he found out what they wanted to participate in, and just gave them that?

Now, you see, it looks like the DM is dictating, but he didn't even think about how the players might use the table or what kind of lock the door might have until the player mentioned it and it became a latch on this side.

What very often happens is that a "DM who isn't afraid to say no" will say it much more than in your example, and will carefully weigh the information they give, stretching their notes (or their imagination) to find ways why the characters' plans won't work. The DM in this scenario was clearly also not afraid to say "Yes, and..." (if implicitly) to some of the players' ideas, but in another situation, a DM who doesn't default to "Yes, and..." is likely to shut down a clever player idea. Don't decide where to draw the line, work with the players to find out where they want the line.

As I've said, when I first got into collaborative mode with my players, they walked pretty easily through that first session. This was due in part to me setting up challenges they weren't really interested in. Now, they take part in determining the challenges, so I know they're interested in participating and not short circuiting them. Or, I let them short circuit them. What's it to me?

This is a little convenient, but it isn't *too* convenient

Who decides what's too convenient?

and it means that the players have to work with what is available to them at the time to get what they want instead of instantly having it.

You're railing against the worst case of something I don't think you've given a fair shake. I've given "not afraid to say no" DMing a fair shake, and even non-worst-cases have severe issues.

This means it is less of a group storytelling session and more like a group on an actual adventure.

A meaningless distinction. The point is entertainment and excitement, not the exact form of it.

Don't get me wrong, I will add a note about your method at some point, but I think it should be the exception, not the rule.

Then don't bother adding that note.

Heng, with your wand and planks example you are leaving out the Dm prompting details, like "Where did you get the planks and nails? "Do you think you can seal the door before the monster gets in? Will that hold out the monster? What other ways are there in and out of the room?"

The wand would make me say "Why is there a wand under the sink? What does it do? Does it have anything to do with the monster at the door?"

Yes, follow-up questions are appropriate, as long as they aren't taken as accusative, or as necessary for the players established detail to be effective.

Your longer example is actually a lot like what Centauri is talking about, asking the players questions and such. The difference is if my notes didn't say there was a table in the room and a player said "I want to push a table up against the door" I'd probably let them, cause, well, it's a table.

If they said "I transform into a flying unicorn and teleport out of the room," then it might lead to more of a discussion. But allowing the players to make decisions and add to the story is, I feel, always good.

Yes, at a certain point, there are player declarations that a DM won't be sure how to deal with, and more discussion is warranted.

I suspect my play style is actually closer to yours than Centauri's, but my playstyle now is much closer to Centauri's than it was in years past, and I and my players are have a lot more fun because of that.

Glad to hear it. I don't even play the exact way I advocate. Part of that is habit, partly it's quicker to establish something and rely on the players' good will to go along. But once "Yes, and..." is the guiding principle, and the players' brains are put to the task of helping make the game they want to play, a lot of amazing things can happen. A lot of new games are built on this principle. I can't claim to have invented it.

[N]o difference is less easily overcome than the difference of opinion about semi-abstract questions. - L. Tolstoy

I personally don't like the idea of giving the player's control over parts of the universe. I tend to agree more with the OP, but that's not to say I don't believe that the players can't add input. For my group at least, we all seem to really enjoy the concept of piecing a puzzle together and completing a challenge based on what they are given. Like how my group used the bodies of recently killed goblins to lure some giant serpents to their doom, or using a rope from a bridge they destroyed to lasso a troll. I find that if I leave my descriptions a bit vague despite the important details it allows them to add their own stuff to use it as they please. However, they still go through the "DM may I" simply as a rule for all of them, so no one point become too overpowered. The last thing I would like to happen is for one person to be overpowered and ruin even just one battle, because I think it might make us lose interest. This especially lies true with Player to player conflicts. Too many times have I seen another player pull out some bullshit and really anger the other. It all lies on your players. So while I believe Centauri's methods might work and allow for some fun RP, it does bring some risk that I just not willing to take.

I think some groups might expect the DM to do the work and enjoy it. I for one am a fan of working within the lines to get what I want. A great sense of achievement can come from it. Likewise, I know plenty of creative players who don't liked to be bogged down by the DMs command and have great ideas that they want ot try out, but the DMs story doesn't allow it.
So while I belive Centauri's methods might work and allow for some fun RP, it does bring some risk that I just not willing to take.



What do you perceive the risk as being exactly?

I for one am a fan of working within the lines to get what I want. A great sense of achievement can come from it.



It's the same with the approach Centauri advocates. The constraint is the existing fiction. That's how consistency and challenge is maintained. "Yes, and" requires all persons at the table to do it, not just the DM. That means respecting previously established details and working within those bounds.

The only real difference in approach is that, in the one he (and I) advocate, your ability to change the fictional world is not limited to your character's ability to do those things.

No amount of tips, tricks, or gimmicks will ever be better than simply talking directly to your fellow players to resolve your issues.
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I personally don't like the idea of giving the player's control over parts of the universe.

It's not control, it's "collaboration."

I tend to agree more with the OP, but that's not to say I don't believe that the players can't add input.

As long as you have the ability to say no, right?

For my group at least, we all seem to really enjoy the concept of piecing a puzzle together and completing a challenge based on what they are given. Like how my group used the bodies of recently killed goblins to lure some giant serpents to their doom, or using a rope from a bridge they destroyed to lasso a troll. I find that if I leave my descriptions a bit vague despite the important details it allows them to add their own stuff to use it as they please.

Collaboration and even narrative control doesn't mean this can't, doesn't, or won't happen. If players like that sort of thing, as mine do, then they'll do it even if the DM would let them do just about anyone else. But it's the players finding their own preferred limits of creativity, not the DM.

However, they still go through the "DM may I" simply as a rule for all of them, so no one point become too overpowered. The last thing I would like to happen is for one person to be overpowered and ruin even just one battle, because I think it might make us lose interest.

Look carefully at this: what does it mean to "ruin" a battle? Creatively find something that short circuits it? What if you accidentally left all the necessary pieces in place for the players to win a battle without a fight? Would you then say no, just to stop them? Would you risk shutting down their creativity just to make sure the battle plays out a certain way.

I don't think you would. You mentioned lassoing a troll. You didn't have to let them be able to retrieve that rope, or to lasso the troll, or to have lassoing the troll be an effective tactic. Yet you did. I imagine the players had to ask permission at every step, but you let them do it.

This especially lies true with Player to player conflicts. Too many times have I seen another player pull out some bullshit and really anger the other.

Player-to-player conflicts are their own thing, and not an indictment of any particular approach. They do indicate very low levels of trust at the table, though, which makes any approach, even the assumed one, harder.

It all lies on your players.

No, it lies in the ability of everyone around the table to trust one another to want to make the game fun.

So while I believe Centauri's methods might work and allow for some fun RP, it does bring some risk that I just not willing to take.

Even for one session, or even one encounter? Hard to believe.

I think some groups might expect the DM to do the work and enjoy it.

There's no "I think" about it. Of course they do, and the game supports them in that way of thinking. But that way of thinking has some serious issues with it.

I for one am a fan of working within the lines to get what I want.

So are many people, including me. But it's folly to depend on the DM to supply any lines at all.

A great sense of achievement can come from it. Likewise, I know plenty of creative players who don't liked to be bogged down by the DMs command and have great ideas that they want ot try out, but the DMs story doesn't allow it.

We all know players like that. "Yes, and..." was ensconced in 4e for a reason, and it was to acknowledge that there are 3 to 5 other creative brains at your table, and that playing gatekeeper to their ideas is not the way to encourage their creativity.

[N]o difference is less easily overcome than the difference of opinion about semi-abstract questions. - L. Tolstoy

Maybe I'm getting the wrong idea here, but it seems to me that "collaborating" is giving players some creative control over the game. In the sense that they can create objects, enemies, or npcs appropriotely based on the environment. Is this right or is there more to it?
As for the risk, I see it as one player ruining something all the other players were enjoying, and perhaps disbanding the group. Simply due to how seldom we play, one bad experience could mean the end to it entirely if we lose interest.
Maybe I'm getting the wrong idea here, but it seems to me that "collaborating" is giving players some creative control over the game. In the sense that they can create objects, enemies, or npcs appropriotely based on the environment. Is this right or is there more to it?



This is correct at its most basic level. However, it should be noted that you have to work within the established fiction because "Yes and..." means you're building from what has come before. You cannot contradict existing fiction, only build from it. If the DM says there is a door, Player A cannot now say there is no door. If Player A says that his character hears the sounds of orcs ahead, provided this does not contradict existing fiction, then there are orcs ahead. The DM and other players must build upon that detail.

As for the risk, I see it as one player ruining something all the other players were enjoying, and perhaps disbanding the group. Simply due to how seldom we play, one bad experience could mean the end to it entirely if we lose interest.



This sounds more like an out-of-game problem than an in-game problem. If someone is ruining the game, it's not their character doing it - it's them. This would be dealt with by an out-of-game conversation.

No amount of tips, tricks, or gimmicks will ever be better than simply talking directly to your fellow players to resolve your issues.
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As I see it, "Collaboration" seems to be evolutionary. One would have to build into it due to how it involves a lot of trust and understanding of the plot and storytelling. Definetly not something I feel comfortable with given  the current state of the group.
As I see it, "Collaboration" seems to be evolutionary. One would have to build into it due to how it involves a lot of trust and understanding of the plot and storytelling. Definetly not something I feel comfortable with given  the current state of the group.



That's understandable. It should be noted that trust is earned best by accepting ideas and adding onto them. When people see their ideas being used, they'll want to use the ideas of others, too. Trust builds very quickly in this scenario. Sure, there may be some hiccups at the beginning, but your game in the long run is much improved, at least in my experience.

I'd add that in this style, there isn't a plot or story, so there is no concern about needing to have a grasp of it beforehand to make it work. A story is what you produce by playing, not before playing.

No amount of tips, tricks, or gimmicks will ever be better than simply talking directly to your fellow players to resolve your issues.
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Guys, this has turned into an argument and I really don't want to participate any more since it is ruining what could possibly be a very good thing to have on the forum. Centauri, if you post an example of how your system works without simply criticising everything I say then I will happily listen and consider adding it to the list. However, if it is the same as what RednBlack said I'm afraid I can't add it as it simply won't work for most players.
Guys, this has turned into an argument and I really don't want to participate any more since it is ruining what could possibly be a very good thing to have on the forum. Centauri, if you post an example of how your system works without simply criticising everything I say then I will happily listen and consider adding it to the list. However, if it is the same as what RednBlack said I'm afraid I can't add it as it simply won't work for most players.



It's not an argument - it's a discussion. And no different than the discussions that happen below the initial reserved posts in the CharOp guides. My advice would be to let it play out and simply do your part as editor and add the things you think should be in the initial post. Anyone who wants to read and comment below the initial post should be permitted to do so.

I'd add that the reason you're getting criticized is that some of the advice suggested really does have some long established problems with it (see these very forums for examples). In addition, saying things like "I can't add it as it simply won't work for most players" belies a fundamental misunderstanding of what is being discussed and an assumption on your part based upon that misunderstanding. Granted, what is being discussed could be explained better or in a better format. I'll definitely give you that and welcome Centauri to do his thing.

This is otherwise a good and helpful attempt at condensing DMing wisdom, so I thank you for your efforts. 

No amount of tips, tricks, or gimmicks will ever be better than simply talking directly to your fellow players to resolve your issues.
DMs: Don't Prep the Plot | Structure First, Story Last | Prep Tips | Spoilers Don't Spoil Anything | No Myth Roleplaying
Players: 11 Ways to Be a Better Roleplayer | You Are Not Your Character     Hilarious D&D Actual Play Podcast: Crit Juice!

FREE CONTENT: Encounters With Alternate Goals  |  Full-Contact Futbol   |   Pre-Gen D&D 5e PCs  |  Re-Imagining Phandelver  |  Three Pillars of Immersion

Follow me on Twitter: @is3rith

I'll add a couple of my own:

24. Save yourself time and effort by resisting the urge to write the story. Don't prep the plot. Story is an artifact of play - it comes as a result of playing and is not created by the DM beforehand to be experienced later by the players.

25. Don't ask for skill checks for every little thing. If success AND failure are not both interesting, it's not a skill check. The PC in question simply performs the action with or without cost, which the player should be permitted to negotiate.

No amount of tips, tricks, or gimmicks will ever be better than simply talking directly to your fellow players to resolve your issues.
DMs: Don't Prep the Plot | Structure First, Story Last | Prep Tips | Spoilers Don't Spoil Anything | No Myth Roleplaying
Players: 11 Ways to Be a Better Roleplayer | You Are Not Your Character     Hilarious D&D Actual Play Podcast: Crit Juice!

FREE CONTENT: Encounters With Alternate Goals  |  Full-Contact Futbol   |   Pre-Gen D&D 5e PCs  |  Re-Imagining Phandelver  |  Three Pillars of Immersion

Follow me on Twitter: @is3rith

When what I say to someone is broken down by the other person into thirty or so parts with a rather scathing commentary that appears to have been written while the post was being read then I find it hard not to think that we are in argument. I am happy to listen to constructive criticism and have already altered the list significantly in order to bring it into line with what other people have said, however I don't wish to turn this into a debate.

This list is simply about giving good advice that is applicable to as many DMs as possible and I cannot turn it into an essay on how Cent runs a D&D group since most players simply don't play the kinds of games Cent seems to. If Cent would like to set out their advice as to how their system works then I will see if it is something that would be helpful for the DMs who read this list to know. I'm sorry if you don't like this method but I have to consider the wider implications of all the advice that gets added to the list since it is not there for just one or two people but for everyone who plays tabletop RPGs.
I am happy to listen to constructive criticism and have already altered the list significantly in order to bring it into line with what other people have said, however I don't wish to turn this into a debate.

Ok.

I don't think that some of the advice you're giving is positive advice. I think it either needs to include the risks inherent in the advice, offer additional suggestions (along with their risks), or be left out.

The risks inherent in a collaborative approach to description and design are, among other things, exposure to an unfamiliar approach and formerly unrealized trust issues surfacing. DMs may find that not all their ideas are used, but I don't see this as risk.

This list is simply about giving good advice that is applicable to as many DMs as possible and I cannot turn it into an essay on how Cent runs a D&D group since most players simply don't play the kinds of games Cent seems to.

The kind of game I play, is one in which the DM trusts the players, and vice versa. It's trust that makes any game work at all, and collaboration is about putting that trust to work, while simultaneously building more of it.

If Cent would like to set out their advice as to how their system works then I will see if it is something that would be helpful for the DMs who read this list to know.

Ok, I'll try to explain it further in another post, but it's really not a "system." It's nothing that most DMs don't already do to some extent, as indicated by your own example scenario.

I'm sorry if you don't like this method but I have to consider the wider implications of all the advice that gets added to the list since it is not there for just one or two people but for everyone who plays tabletop RPGs.

My concern is that you're only considering the wider implications of the new idea, and not of the old, traditional idea.

[N]o difference is less easily overcome than the difference of opinion about semi-abstract questions. - L. Tolstoy

This list is simply about giving good advice that is applicable to as many DMs as possible and I cannot turn it into an essay on how Cent runs a D&D group since most players simply don't play the kinds of games Cent seems to. If Cent would like to set out their advice as to how their system works then I will see if it is something that would be helpful for the DMs who read this list to know. I'm sorry if you don't like this method but I have to consider the wider implications of all the advice that gets added to the list since it is not there for just one or two people but for everyone who plays tabletop RPGs.



Editorial bias notwithstanding, fair enough.

I'll add some more:

26. Encourage your players to accept the ideas of others. If someone comes up with a plan, address it as if it's the only plan and ask the players to add onto it, not come up with their own separate plans. If everyone comes up with a plan of their own, that likely means that you've spent WAY too much session time on the issue. It also means that - since only one plan is likely to be used anyway - 4 other people get the shaft. It's better to back the first plan that comes up and add your own spin to it rather than say why it can't work and come up with something else. This way, everyone gets their ideas included and the game moves forward.

27. Failure mitigation kills game pacing. I'm sure everyone has been in the 30 minute discussion about how exactly to attack the goblin camp or avoid the trap, only to have a player bored with the discussion run in and attack or set off the trap just to get some freakin' action and get the game moving forward. If the players are spending a lot of session time discussing ways to avoid trouble, ask them why. Then ask them what sort of trouble they'd LIKE to get into. Whatever they tell you, give them that. 

No amount of tips, tricks, or gimmicks will ever be better than simply talking directly to your fellow players to resolve your issues.
DMs: Don't Prep the Plot | Structure First, Story Last | Prep Tips | Spoilers Don't Spoil Anything | No Myth Roleplaying
Players: 11 Ways to Be a Better Roleplayer | You Are Not Your Character     Hilarious D&D Actual Play Podcast: Crit Juice!

FREE CONTENT: Encounters With Alternate Goals  |  Full-Contact Futbol   |   Pre-Gen D&D 5e PCs  |  Re-Imagining Phandelver  |  Three Pillars of Immersion

Follow me on Twitter: @is3rith

Editorial bias notwithstanding


That is defiantly going to be the case with any list and, unfortunately, there isn't really any way to prevent it. You seem to be coming up with some good suggestions and I am currently adding and merging a lot of your ideas with the list. 24 has been used to revise and improve no 16 but I think I need to think a little more about 26 and  27 as there may be a way to merge them and improve 26. What does everyone else think?

I think it either needs to include the risks inherent in the advice, offer additional suggestions (along with their risks), or be left out.


0k, that is fair enough. I have tried to do that where possible but please do tell me about pitfalls that I haven't mentioned.

My concern is that you're only considering the wider implications of the new idea, and not of the old, traditional idea.


Your concern is a fair one and I don't deny that it may play a part. The snag is that the solution to a faulty system is not to simply do the opposite but to look for what works, which is what I am really after.
I think it either needs to include the risks inherent in the advice, offer additional suggestions (along with their risks), or be left out.

0k, that is fair enough. I have tried to do that where possible but please do tell me about pitfalls that I haven't mentioned.

I will try to.

My concern is that you're only considering the wider implications of the new idea, and not of the old, traditional idea.

Your concern is a fair one and I don't deny that it may play a part. The snag is that the solution to a faulty system is not to simply do the opposite but to look for what works, which is what I am really after.

That strikes me as an odd thing to say. If something isn't working, do something else. You still seem to think that I'm saying "Instead of the DM inventing and describing everything, the players do it." What I'm saying is that if the DM trusts the players (which they must to some extent even to play) it's possible to give players more control than they usually have, and thereby not only share the creative duties, but speed up play (since less "permission" is required), and invent things that no one person around the table could have thought of.

The "system" is really just the "Yes, and..." approach, which is detailed in the 4e DMG. I expand on it slightly by not waiting for players to ask me things, but to ask them things and treat the answers as true things to build on. This can be done a lot, or a little. The important thing is to close down player ideas as little as possible. This encourages more ideas, shared creativity, surprising discoveries, and trust.

[N]o difference is less easily overcome than the difference of opinion about semi-abstract questions. - L. Tolstoy

That strikes me as an odd thing to say. If something isn't working, do something else.


Do something else, yes. Doing the oposite should not be the default, however. The oposite of a broken system can be a far worse sytem.

What I'm saying is that if the DM trusts the players (which they must to some extent even to play) it's possible to give players more control than they usually have, and thereby not only share the creative duties, but speed up play (since less "permission" is required), and invent things that no one person around the table could have thought of.


0k, this sounds interesting, but could you give me a full discription of how this works and maybe an example (preferably one from experence). It would be good if you could explain what methods you use to prevent players from taking this too far. At the moment I am looking at creating an entry that explains this as an optional method that some people may like to try but I need you to explain in depth how your method is diferent from the DMG one.



What I'm saying is that if the DM trusts the players (which they must to some extent even to play) it's possible to give players more control than they usually have, and thereby not only share the creative duties, but speed up play (since less "permission" is required), and invent things that no one person around the table could have thought of.


0k, this sounds interesting, but could you give me a full discription of how this works and maybe an example (preferably one from experence). It would be good if you could explain what methods you use to prevent players from taking this too far. At the moment I am looking at creating an entry that explains this as an optional method that some people may like to try but I need you to explain in depth how your method is diferent from the DMG one.

Ok, I'll try to do that before to long. But it doesn't differ from what's in the DMG, because the DMG says to say "Yes, and...." That's what I do. The DMG2 offers good examples of collaboration, too, some of the best I've seen in any RPG book.

That strikes me as an odd thing to say. If something isn't working, do something else.

Do something else, yes. Doing the oposite should not be the default, however. the oposite of a bad system can be a far worse sytem.

You can stop talking about "the opposite." No one is suggesting "the opposite." That's a key part of your misunderstanding and, I suspect, your reluctance (not complete, I'm happy to admit) to consider the idea.

[N]o difference is less easily overcome than the difference of opinion about semi-abstract questions. - L. Tolstoy

The problem im seeing with this is, Heng has made a list of rules he follows as a DM, and then others have debated those rules by citing rules of their own, and some have argued Heng's rules going as far to say that there are problems with them. The problem is that some of the DM's here have a problem accepting that many people have their own way of playing DnD or running a game and seem to think that is the 'only' way to do it, thus they argue that it is the best way with out considering other player preferences.

I'm all for debate, I enjoy reading how other DM's do things and their different approaches, but a lot of this borders between debate and telling someone their way is wrong.