A DM's Survival Guide - tips and tricks

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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.

Ok. If I point out a known problem with someone's way, is that telling them their way is wrong? If I point out a way to deal with that problem, is that telling them that that way is the only way? I just want to be clear.

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

Centauri: 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.


This this an opinion, based on your preference and style of play.


Centauri:
Collaborate on them with the environment, to the point that they can tell you what they see.

You and I have already discussed this point, but again this is an opinion based on your personal preference of play.



I know you are simply making suggestions to improve their game based on your preference of play, but there are times that you, and others come off rather strong, as if your way is the only way, mainly because you are so adamant about it.
Why do Centauri's opinions bother you, if you know they are only opinions?

Is it possible that how Centauri's posts read in your head are not how they are intended by him? 

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  |  Dark Sun Full-Contact Futbol   |   Pre-Generated D&D 5e PCs  |  Re-Imagining Phandelver

Follow me on Twitter: @is3rith

Why do Centauri's opinions bother you, if you know they are only opinions?

Is it possible that how Centauri's posts read in your head are not how they are intended by him? 



That's not what this is about, don't try to make it personal. It's about Dungeons and Dragons and how unless it is creating a legitimate problem amongst the group, it isn't a wrong way to play.
Except that nobody is saying it's "the wrong way to play." You're implying that's what he (and I suspect me) is saying and you are wrong.

He's saying, "Look, there are known issues with that advice. You should be aware of it. Here is a solution to that known issue, if you want." There's a difference there. You're just reading into it. Like you do.

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  |  Dark Sun Full-Contact Futbol   |   Pre-Generated D&D 5e PCs  |  Re-Imagining Phandelver

Follow me on Twitter: @is3rith

Except that nobody is saying it's "the wrong way to play." You're implying that's what he (and I suspect me) is saying and you are wrong.

He's saying, "Look, there are known issues with that advice. You should be aware of it. Here is a solution to that known issue, if you want." There's a difference there. You're just reading into it. Like you do.



Personal Attack.

Please tell me I'm reading into it.

Not once did I mention you. We are debating opinions on DMing and I am making it known here that you are the one who for some reason has a problem with me. (Probably because I have called you on your BS before) But anyways, I wasn't trying to make it personal.

He was making statements about other rules, and being blunt about it. There is no way of misreading that, the proof can be seen in pages 2,3 and 4 of the thread, as he was forced to elaborate on his bluntness. What's the point of being blunt? Why not say, exactly what you just said he was saying? "look there are known issues with that advice" not; "No."

I was bringing up his opinion on;
Centauri:
Collaborate on them with the environment, to the point that they can tell you what they see.

Because that's not how I play, and absolutely no problems have come from it. and far more notable DM's describe the areas themselves. there is no isse with either one, but I have seen it argued that it is a better way, and it isn't, just better due to personal preference.





This this an opinion, based on your preference and style of play.

It's an opinion, but it's not based on my preference, or style of play. It's based on what I've seen, and done, and continue to see, but don't continue to do. I don't really think I'm the only one who has encountered frustrution when following this advice. Yes, it's easily found in published adventures and books, but there are issues with it. The fact that there are issues isn't really an opinion. Hang around on these boards long enough, and you'll see people asking about them.


You and I have already discussed this point, but again this is an opinion based on your personal preference of play.

That's advice. Follow it or not, as with anything else on that list, which, I might add, is almost entirely opinion of a similar form (if different content) to mine.

I know you are simply making suggestions to improve their game based on your preference of play, but there are times that you, and others come off rather strong, as if your way is the only way, mainly because you are so adamant about it.

True, and I imagine I sometimes steamroll people who were expecting a more constructive response. I will try to be more constructive. It is the case, though, that there are some established and entrenched ways to play the game. Alternate approaches to the game are easily dismissed and drowned out, unless they are repeated and strongly presented.

It's about Dungeons and Dragons and how unless it is creating a legitimate problem amongst the group, it isn't a wrong way to play.

When I was in Little League, I was practicing catching pop flies and was told not to do it the way I was doing it. I didn't like the other way I was shown, I felt it exposed me to personal risk, and I told myself "Why does it matter how I catch the ball, as long as I catch it?" The fallacy within that statement is that I was more likely to catch the ball if I did it the way I was shown. Yes, I was more likely to get beaned, at least at first, but catching the ball was the point of the activity, so I should focus on that.

I try not to advise people who aren't having problems, but this board is all about people who are having problems. This list is intended for people who are having problems, and some of those problems stem directly from some of the approaches outlined in the list. So, I felt that counter-opinions should be offered.

Now, I have an advantage: the approach I use hasn't been widely used, so there are fewer bad experiences with it. But I also have a disadvantage, because almost no one has had a good experience with it, because few people have tried it. I still hope to put up an example of it working.

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

Because that's not how I play, and absolutely no problems have come from it. and far more notable DM's describe the areas themselves. there is no isse with either one, but I have seen it argued that it is a better way, and it isn't, just better due to personal preference.



Because you have no problems with a given piece of advice, doesn't mean there aren't problems with it. This forum contains all the proof you need that some of the advice above can come with issues attached.

Also, you are now blocked. Off you go.

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  |  Dark Sun Full-Contact Futbol   |   Pre-Generated D&D 5e PCs  |  Re-Imagining Phandelver

Follow me on Twitter: @is3rith

Because that's not how I play, and absolutely no problems have come from it. and far more notable DM's describe the areas themselves. there is no isse with either one, but I have seen it argued that it is a better way, and it isn't, just better due to personal preference.



Because you have no problems with a given piece of advice, doesn't mean there aren't problems with it. This forum contains all the proof you need that some of the advice above can come with issues attached.

Also, you are now blocked. Off you go.




I like that you personally attack me and then tell me that I'm blocked. This Is why adivce from him should be taken lightly. And yes Centauri, you come off strong, as does Iserith, might as well not worry about name dropping now. Proof of how strong Iserith comes off as can be seen above. iserith did post a great example of how you should take the time to present your ideas, rather than as you put it 'Steamrolling' over people. It makes it seem like you and only you know what you're talking about.

I'm one of the few people that have bothered calling it out rather than simply arguing, which is probably why it has iserith in such a ninny. I actually appreciated his wisdom before he began treating me like that.

Anyways, There was no intention for this thread to get thrown off in this crazy tangeant.
I see lots of good advice here and some that is pointing in the right direction, but doesn't exactly tell you how to get there.

"Be creative" for instance. Creativity is definitely a good skill to have as DM, but it's hard to nail down a step-by-step guide to creativity. I'm a firm believer that creativity is something everyone is born with, some more than others, but it is a skill that can be nurtured.

I think Centauri's reccommendation (I don't think I've spelled that correctly, sue me) to give more power to the player is a good one in theory, although it hasn't worked very well for me in practice, at least not to the extent it seems to work for him. Whenever I ask the players what happens next and put the ball in their court in such a way, the general response I get is for a player to say (sometimes in an annoyed tone), "I don't know. I thought you were DM".

However, I have found one trick that seems to work along those lines to give me some ideas as to where a player's head is at. Whenever there's a lull in the action or I'm running low on creative fuel, I turn to a player who hasn't had a chance to be the center of the action in a while and ask, "What do you think would be the most interesting thing to happen to your character right at this moment?" You may get a silly answer. Don't dismiss it out of hand, but see if you can alter it a bit to make it fit. You may also get an interesting plot development that weaves that player's character nicely into important things going on in your campaign world.

I'm not sure I'm understanding Centauri's statement about the false information, though. Depending on how I read it I either totally agree or totally disagree that this is good advice.
A rogue with a bowl of slop can be a controller. WIZARD PC: Can I substitute Celestial Roc Guano for my fireball spells? DM: Awesome. Yes. When in doubt, take action.... that's generally the best course. Even Sun Tsu knew that, and he didn't have internets.
iserith did post a great example of how you should take the time to present your ideas, rather than as you put it 'Steamrolling' over people. It makes it seem like you and only you know what you're talking about.

Well, I do want to be seen as knowing what I'm talking about. And I feel that I generally do present ideas as reasonable suggestions rather than as "this is wrong." Perhaps just less so in this thread.

I do tend to react strongly when I'm told that the way I'm suggesting won't work for most people. My position is that the way that people are generally suggested to play doesn't work for some people, as demonstrated by the questions on this forum, and when I'm advised not to think much of my idea because it's unpopular, well, I myself feel a little steamrolled.

Anyways, There was no intention for this thread to get thrown off in this crazy tangeant.

Agreed. I will try to compose my suggestions as additions to the list, rather than contradictions and then repost it.

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

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.



I think what centauri is advocating is very different from what my post advocated.  I advocated letting players own the game by allowing their characters do most whatever the player can come up with, whether those actions are explicitly allowed in the rules or not.  Centauri advocates allowing the players to become active participants in the creation and plotting of the game.  Both are valid approaches to DMing and if one follows Centauri's advice, they will also surely be following mine; but the reverse is not always the case.

As an aside, I've yet to run a game where I've used the DMing method Centauri advocates because the group I currently DM has expressed no interest in collaborative game play. 
I think Centauri's reccommendation (I don't think I've spelled that correctly, sue me) to give more power to the player is a good one in theory, although it hasn't worked very well for me in practice, at least not to the extent it seems to work for him. Whenever I ask the players what happens next and put the ball in their court in such a way, the general response I get is for a player to say (sometimes in an annoyed tone), "I don't know. I thought you were DM".



Heh, I had this happen to me quite recently with a player not used to the approach. Old traditions die hard.

However, I have found one trick that seems to work along those lines to give me some ideas as to where a player's head is at. Whenever there's a lull in the action or I'm running low on creative fuel, I turn to a player who hasn't had a chance to be the center of the action in a while and ask, "What do you think would be the most interesting thing to happen to your character right at this moment?" You may get a silly answer. Don't dismiss it out of hand, but see if you can alter it a bit to make it fit. You may also get an interesting plot development that weaves that player's character nicely into important things going on in your campaign world.



Yes, that's it exactly. This is the process being advocated in a nutshell.

I'm not sure I'm understanding Centauri's statement about the false information, though. Depending on how I read it I either totally agree or totally disagree that this is good advice.



A snippet from a good blog post on this matter is in the spoiler block below. It refers to red herrings in mystery games, but I think it applies to any potentially false information handed out in a game that leads nowhere. Chasing false leads basically amounts to wasting time and losing forward momentum in the game, which can be quite annoying to many players.

Show
COROLLARY: RED HERRINGS ARE OVERRATED

Red herrings are a classic element of the mystery genre: All the evidence points towards X, but its a red herring! The real murderer is Y!


When it comes to designing a scenario for an RPG, however, red herrings are overrated. I’m not going to go so far as to say that you should never use them, but I will go so far as to say that you should only use them with extreme caution.


There are two reasons for this:


First, getting the players to make the deductions they’re supposed to make is hard enough. Throwing in a red herring just makes it all the harder. More importantly, however, once the players have reached a conclusion they’ll tend to latch onto it. It can be extremely difficult to convince them to let it go and re-assess the evidence. (One of the ways to make a red herring work is to make sure that there will be an absolutely incontrovertible refutation of it: For example, the murders continue even after the PCs arrest a suspect. Unfortunately, what your concept of an “incontrovertible refutation” may hold just as much water as your concept of a “really obvious clue that cannot be missed.)


Second, there’s really no need for you to make up a red herring: The players are almost certainly going to take care of it for you. If you fill your adventure with nothing but clues pointing conclusively and decisively at the real killer, I can virtually guarantee you that the players will become suspicious of at least three other people before they figure out who’s really behind it all. They will become very attached to these suspicions and begin weaving complicated theories explaining how the evidence they have fits the suspect they want.


In other words, the big trick in designing a mystery scenario is to try to avoid a car wreck. Throwing red herrings into the mix is like boozing the players before putting them behind the wheel of the car.

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  |  Dark Sun Full-Contact Futbol   |   Pre-Generated D&D 5e PCs  |  Re-Imagining Phandelver

Follow me on Twitter: @is3rith

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 often they want to see characters 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.

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.

Say "Yes, and...": Not necessarily literally, but this means "accept player ideas implicitly, and build off of them." Blocking of 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 as much as possible, even if it would "ruin" an encounter or plot, you will gain access to the players' own creativity, which can operate in parallel to create more ideas than any one of you could on your own. Furthermore, this approach helps you see what kind of game the players really want to play, so you can focus on giving them that.

Don't waste time: 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.

Err on the side of the players: Let yourself make mistakes, because you're not a computer. When you do make mistakes, try to make them in the players' favor. If you're not sure if something hit a PC, it didn't. If you're not sure if a PC hit something, they did. This builds trust by making it clear that you're more interested in a fun game, than in "winning" against the players. Let the players have their way: it's literally nothing to the DM.

Turn the players' questions around: Inevitably, players will want to know things there are no 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.

Ask leading questions: 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.

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, blocking their 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.


There. It's not even close to all the advice I think a DM should be exposed to, to counter a lot of the problematic stuff that's been floating around for decades, but it's a start.

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

I think Centauri's reccommendation (I don't think I've spelled that correctly, sue me) to give more power to the player is a good one in theory, although it hasn't worked very well for me in practice, at least not to the extent it seems to work for him. Whenever I ask the players what happens next and put the ball in their court in such a way, the general response I get is for a player to say (sometimes in an annoyed tone), "I don't know. I thought you were DM".



Heh, I had this happen to me quite recently with a player not used to the approach. Old traditions die hard.

However, I have found one trick that seems to work along those lines to give me some ideas as to where a player's head is at. Whenever there's a lull in the action or I'm running low on creative fuel, I turn to a player who hasn't had a chance to be the center of the action in a while and ask, "What do you think would be the most interesting thing to happen to your character right at this moment?" You may get a silly answer. Don't dismiss it out of hand, but see if you can alter it a bit to make it fit. You may also get an interesting plot development that weaves that player's character nicely into important things going on in your campaign world.



Yes, that's it exactly. This is the process being advocated in a nutshell.

I'm not sure I'm understanding Centauri's statement about the false information, though. Depending on how I read it I either totally agree or totally disagree that this is good advice.



A snippet from a good blog post on this matter is in the spoiler block below. It refers to red herrings in mystery games, but I think it applies to any potentially false information handed out in a game that leads nowhere. Chasing false leads basically amounts to wasting time and losing forward momentum in the game, which can be quite annoying to many players.

Show
COROLLARY: RED HERRINGS ARE OVERRATED

Red herrings are a classic element of the mystery genre: All the evidence points towards X, but its a red herring! The real murderer is Y!


When it comes to designing a scenario for an RPG, however, red herrings are overrated. I’m not going to go so far as to say that you should never use them, but I will go so far as to say that you should only use them with extreme caution.


There are two reasons for this:


First, getting the players to make the deductions they’re supposed to make is hard enough. Throwing in a red herring just makes it all the harder. More importantly, however, once the players have reached a conclusion they’ll tend to latch onto it. It can be extremely difficult to convince them to let it go and re-assess the evidence. (One of the ways to make a red herring work is to make sure that there will be an absolutely incontrovertible refutation of it: For example, the murders continue even after the PCs arrest a suspect. Unfortunately, what your concept of an “incontrovertible refutation” may hold just as much water as your concept of a “really obvious clue that cannot be missed.)


Second, there’s really no need for you to make up a red herring: The players are almost certainly going to take care of it for you. If you fill your adventure with nothing but clues pointing conclusively and decisively at the real killer, I can virtually guarantee you that the players will become suspicious of at least three other people before they figure out who’s really behind it all. They will become very attached to these suspicions and begin weaving complicated theories explaining how the evidence they have fits the suspect they want.


In other words, the big trick in designing a mystery scenario is to try to avoid a car wreck. Throwing red herrings into the mix is like boozing the players before putting them behind the wheel of the car.


It wasn't because they were stuck in some sort of traditional idea of how the game is played. They just weren't interested. One said "Dude, if I wanted to be DM, I'd be DM".

If you're advocating is getting player feedback and incorporating into the game when possible, I'm all for that... 100%.

However, several of the posts you have written read as if you are advocating something entirely different, which may explain why you are getting such strong negative reactions. It seems as if you are suggesting that the DM should just sit back and let the players entertain him with a story about their character's exploits.

I can see how that would be entertaining for the DM ("Hey mommy, tell me a story"). However, it seems like the method you suggest, as written, would essentially relegate the DM to a non-participatory role. It would also relegate the players to mere story tellers, rather than allowing them a chance to participate in the story, which I think is why many players play the game. Perhaps I'm just mis-reading the posts?

A rogue with a bowl of slop can be a controller. WIZARD PC: Can I substitute Celestial Roc Guano for my fireball spells? DM: Awesome. Yes. When in doubt, take action.... that's generally the best course. Even Sun Tsu knew that, and he didn't have internets.
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 often they want to see characters 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.

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.

Say "Yes, and...": Not necessarily literally, but this means "accept player ideas implicitly, and build off of them." Blocking of 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 as much as possible, even if it would "ruin" an encounter or plot, you will gain access to the players' own creativity, which can operate in parallel to create more ideas than any one of you could on your own. Furthermore, this approach helps you see what kind of game the players really want to play, so you can focus on giving them that.

Don't waste time: 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.

Err on the side of the players: Let yourself make mistakes, because you're not a computer. When you do make mistakes, try to make them in the players' favor. If you're not sure if something hit a PC, it didn't. If you're not sure if a PC hit something, they did. This builds trust by making it clear that you're more interested in a fun game, than in "winning" against the players. Let the players have their way: it's literally nothing to the DM.

Turn the players' questions around: Inevitably, players will want to know things there are no 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.

Ask leading questions: 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.

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, blocking their 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.


There. It's not even close to all the advice I think a DM should be exposed to, to counter a lot of the problematic stuff that's been floating around for decades, but it's a start.

What sort of problematic stuff?
A rogue with a bowl of slop can be a controller. WIZARD PC: Can I substitute Celestial Roc Guano for my fireball spells? DM: Awesome. Yes. When in doubt, take action.... that's generally the best course. Even Sun Tsu knew that, and he didn't have internets.
It wasn't because they were stuck in some sort of traditional idea of how the game is played. They just weren't interested. One said "Dude, if I wanted to be DM, I'd be DM".



And that is the traditional role of the DM - to be the person who answers the very question you asked of said player. The response is not surprising. It's the way people have played for years and years. You do this thing, I do that thing. There's no particularly good reason it needs to be that way (and I can think of many reasons why it shouldn't that I won't get into here), but that's the way it has been and what most people are used to.

If you're advocating is getting player feedback and incorporating into the game when possible, I'm all for that... 100%.



We agree here. We may simply disagree on when to ask for that feedback and how often it's incorporated. For my part, it's very frequently and very often, provided the player hasn't offered anything that contradicts existing fiction.

Perhaps I'm just mis-reading the posts?



Yes, that's what it sounds like to me. You're not alone in that. I'm sure the "Me" of several years ago would think what I'm saying is pretty "out there," too, on first read.

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  |  Dark Sun Full-Contact Futbol   |   Pre-Generated D&D 5e PCs  |  Re-Imagining Phandelver

Follow me on Twitter: @is3rith

@centauri, I'm a big fan of a lot of that.  My players don't like collaborating on encounters or plot, but they do tend to come up with good stuff when I present an NPC as someone they've known before.  I've likewise had good results asking them about specific plot elements OOC, while I've had limited luck asking direct "what kind of game would you like?" questions.
It wasn't because they were stuck in some sort of traditional idea of how the game is played. They just weren't interested. One said "Dude, if I wanted to be DM, I'd be DM".



And that is the traditional role of the DM - to be the person who answers the very question you asked of said player. The response is not surprising. It's the way people have played for years and years. You do this thing, I do that thing. There's no particularly good reason it needs to be that way (and I can think of many reasons why it shouldn't that I won't get into here), but that's the way it has been and what most people are used to.

If you're advocating is getting player feedback and incorporating into the game when possible, I'm all for that... 100%.



We agree here. We may simply disagree on when to ask for that feedback and how often it's incorporated. For my part, it's very frequently and very often, provided the player hasn't offered anything that contradicts existing fiction.

Perhaps I'm just mis-reading the posts?



Yes, that's what it sounds like to me. You're not alone in that. I'm sure the "Me" of several years ago would think what I'm saying is pretty "out there," too, on first read.

You're a bit condescending in your tone, and mistaken as well about there not being a particularly good reason.

There are several particularly good reasons it is better the traditional way, one reason being that if the players already know what's going to happen, it eliminates any chance for suspense.

I do use the technique to an extent... I'm sure every DM does to some extent.. even if they don't realize it. If a DM asks... would you rather do a dungeon adventure or city adventure, he's using the technique. However, I submit that at some point, some players will come to resent the DM saying "What's beyond the door?" and not because they're stuck in some old-fashioned mode of thinking, as you suggest, but because they want to empathize with their character's lack of knowing and be better able to react appropriately.

A rogue with a bowl of slop can be a controller. WIZARD PC: Can I substitute Celestial Roc Guano for my fireball spells? DM: Awesome. Yes. When in doubt, take action.... that's generally the best course. Even Sun Tsu knew that, and he didn't have internets.
There are several particularly good reasons it is better the traditional way, one reason being that if the players already know what's going to happen, it eliminates any chance for suspense.



That's not actually true. I can see why that might be what people assume though. There are plenty of surprises and suspense in this method, and better still, it tends to be surprises and suspense that actually have an impact since it is the players' own ideas. People engage more on their own ideas. That's just human nature. A single person calling the shots takes the risk of his or her ideas falling flat. I'm not saying "don't take that risk." I'm just saying you don't have to if you don't want to. It's collaboration, not abdication.

I do use the technique to an extent... I'm sure every DM does to some extent.. even if they don't realize it. If a DM asks... would you rather do a dungeon adventure or city adventure, he's using the technique.



Right. Which is why I find it odd when I get so much pushback. Most DMs in my experience already do what we're advocating. They're perhaps not doing it as much or as focused as we suggest. Or with an eye as to why and how it can improve your game and obviate a lot of pitfalls common to the traditional approach. But they're doing it.

However, I submit that at some point, some players will come to resent the DM saying "What's beyond the door?" and not because they're stuck in some old-fashioned mode of thinking, as you suggest, but because they want to empathize with their character's lack of knowing and be better able to react appropriately.



Maybe they will, maybe they won't. (That's a bad question to ask a player anyway, but I get what you're trying to say.) Also, I said "traditional," not "old-fashioned." The latter has a negative connotation; the former does not. This may be why you're reading my words as condescending when that's not my intent. As for reacting to lack of knowledge, I can only say that in my experience there are plenty if not more surprises - even for the DM - in this approach. Your supposition isn't inherently true based upon my experience.

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  |  Dark Sun Full-Contact Futbol   |   Pre-Generated D&D 5e PCs  |  Re-Imagining Phandelver

Follow me on Twitter: @is3rith

Speaking of player contibution. I once gathered their old character sheets from previous campaigns, and after some adjustments for the passage of time, used them as the main NPCs in the new campaign.
Speaking of player contibution. I once gathered their old character sheets from previous campaigns, and after some adjustments for the passage of time, used them as the main NPCs in the new campaign.

Yeah that's pretty awesome. There's a few NPC's in my current game that were once characters of some of the players, one one of the big evils in the current world was once a player character of an older group that some of the current players got a kick out of.

I love using things like that as a way to shape the world,  players love it too.

Something I'm guilty of not doing:

Don't save your best stuff for later- All to often we save a characters background hook or a cool quest idea for later in the campaign. Players usually are happy to engage almost immediately. Starting the story as close to the good part as narratively suitable.

This sin't to say that always makes sense in D&D where the journey is often more important, but running the players through a bunch of mundane dungeons isn't worth the suspense.

Also, a few of these short story writing tips from Kurt Vonnegut might be useful:

  1. Use the time of a total stranger in such a way that he or she will not feel the time was wasted.

  2. Give the reader at least one character he or she can root for.

  3. Every character should want something, even if it is only a glass of water.

  4. Every sentence must do one of two things—reveal character or advance the action.

  5. Start as close to the end as possible.

  6. Be a sadist. No matter how sweet and innocent your leading characters, make awful things happen to them—in order that the reader may see what they are made of.

  7. Write to please just one person. If you open a window and make love to the world, so to speak, your story will get pneumonia.

  8. Give your readers as much information as possible as soon as possible. To heck with suspense. Readers should have such complete understanding of what is going on, where and why, that they could finish the story themselves, should cockroaches eat the last few pages.


I think they help more in the sense of planning an adventure than a campaign.
A few guidelines for using the internet: 1. Mentally add "In my opinion" to the end of basically anything someone else says. Of course it's their opinion, they don't need to let you know. You're pretty smart. 2. Assume everyone means everything in the best manner they could mean it. Save yourself some stress and give people the benefit of the doubt. We'll all be happier if we type less emoticons. 3. Don't try to read people's minds. Sometimes people mean exactly what they say. You probably don't know them any better than they know themselves. 4. Let grammar slide. If you understood what they meant, you're good. It's better for your health. 5. Breath. It's just a dumb game.
I'm going to echo that "don't save it for later." I've had entire campaigns crumble or fade before the players never got to the big reveal, the awesome villain, or the cool place. It took me years to realize that was probably why the campaign failed.

Now I bring out the big, fun, unusual stuff right away. You can still do some buildup, but it should be the centerpiece, not the end piece.

Another tip: Secrets are for characters, not players. I'm firm believer that if you want your character to have some uber secret that could shake the foundation of the heroes' world, all the players should know and get to enjoy playing with this hidden gem. Be up front, tell them its a secret, and I think it is even fine for the player whose character has the secret to determine how and when it comes to light. But let everyone in on it at the table.

Otherwise it's just lonely fun.
This may have already been addressed but I'm going to say it anyway as I can't remember for sure if it has.

IMO one of the biggest things to remember is that every, and I do mean EVERY, gaming group is different.  Even if it's just the addition or subtraction of one player, that can greatly change how the group sees/does things, and how they want their game to go.

That being said, I think that both the Player input (collaboration) method and the more DM led focus have merit, but it depends entirely on the group.  Now, if you are running a campaign for a group that you've been with a long time I think it is easier to work with them to find what works best.  If, however you are running a one-shot adventure at a Con or some other event it is a little more difficult as you probably don't know any, or maybe only a few, of the players sitting at the table.  Therefore, I think it is important to follow two guidelines.

The first I'm positive was mentioned before.  Be creative.  Whatever adventure, be it a module or a homebrew, that you are running, don't be afraid to add some of your own personal flair to it.

The second has been mentioned time and again and I am a big fan of it.  Flexibility.  the "Yes, and..." method.  I personally love this and use it for the games I run and my friends also use it when they run games.  Whether you are using lots of player input and collaboration in your game or just a little, it is important to be flexible.  In fact IMO it is even more important to be flexible when you use less player input, because it is inevitable that at some point (unless you are railroading players, which I think is not a good method at all) that something is going to happen unexpectedly that will foil your well laid plans.

Once again, these are only suggestions on how to run a game and make it fun for everyone and these may or may not work within your group.  There are in fact some groups that work very well using their own methods that others might completely disagree with, but it's what works for that group.
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 often they want to see characters die, how much combat, how much non-combat, types of enemies, types of settings, etc.


This is actually the most useful advice I've ever seen you post.

I have done this with my players, and I know for a fact they do NOT want to know what's coming up, they do not want to know anything their characters' would not.  

On collaboration, if my player wants to invent his hometown and place it in my homebrew world, I'm all for it.   I'll set a couple of parameters, and he can fill in the rest.
However, asking my players questions like "What do you think happened to your horses while they were gone?" will never have a place at my table.  This isn't being obstinate, it's being confident in knowing what my players enjoy.   Their characters take actions in the world, and I decide how the world responds.   That's what they want from a DM, and that's what I give 'em.


Back on the OP's topic.   Tip:  Ask pointed questions to the quieter players.   Do not accept indecisive ones.  

Example:  in the Undermountain campaign, there is an encounter with a woman who was brought back to life, but she asks the party to take her back to where she was buried.   She wants them to kill her so she can rejoin her dead husband.   Her husband's ghost asks the party not to kill her, but to take her back to town and find her surviving relatives, and show her the joys of living.

When I asked my players what they thought of the matter, some of their characters said "Whatever she wants to do."   Unacceptable.  Demand an opinion.  Some players may not enjoy roleplaying, but they can certainly determine an opinion.     Do not judge the rightness or wrongness of it, but make them make one.    Caveat:  there's really nothing wrong with a roleplayed character actually having the opinion of "Whatever she wants to do."   I put this example down as a way of encouraging dialogue from quieter players, nothing more...."window.parent.tinyMCE.get('post_content').onLoad.dispatch();" contenteditable="true" />


Jan 17, 2013 -- 5:46PM, Sir_Joseph_the_Crowe wrote:

I do use the technique to an extent... I'm sure every DM does to some extent.. even if they don't realize it. If a DM asks... would you rather do a dungeon adventure or city adventure, he's using the technique.




Iserith: Right. Which is why I find it odd when I get so much pushback. Most DMs in my experience already do what we're advocating. They're perhaps not doing it as much or as focused as we suggest. Or with an eye as to why and how it can improve your game and obviate a lot of pitfalls common to the traditional approach. But they're doing it.

-
It's probably the AMOUNT of use of the technique you are suggesting. As if it is not only a good idea, but the ONLY good idea and that all else is bad DMing and that the technique has no drawbacks, or has less drawbacks than its more traditional use as an occasional boost over the hurdle created when a DM has writer's block or is on the verge of burnout. The condescension I was feeling was, at least in your writing, a sense that you weren't acknowledging that the technique has some unique flaws of its own (flaws other than a traditionalist's refusal to try something not within the established tradition).

Many (most?) DMs ask for some sort of background about the character and if they jump the campaign a few years might ask what the player has been up to in that time. So, yes, most (if not all) DMs use the technique to an extent, and it should definitely be remembered as a technique than can be used as a trick to get players involved and creative juices flowing.

It's like salt. Salt is great as a flavoring, maybe not so great as a 4 course meal. Maybe not the best analogy, but close to how the detractors are seeing it, I think.
A rogue with a bowl of slop can be a controller. WIZARD PC: Can I substitute Celestial Roc Guano for my fireball spells? DM: Awesome. Yes. When in doubt, take action.... that's generally the best course. Even Sun Tsu knew that, and he didn't have internets.
Something I'm guilty of not doing:

Don't save your best stuff for later- All to often we save a characters background hook or a cool quest idea for later in the campaign. Players usually are happy to engage almost immediately. Starting the story as close to the good part as narratively suitable.

This sin't to say that always makes sense in D&D where the journey is often more important, but running the players through a bunch of mundane dungeons isn't worth the suspense.

Also, a few of these short story writing tips from Kurt Vonnegut might be useful:

  1. Use the time of a total stranger in such a way that he or she will not feel the time was wasted.

  2. Give the reader at least one character he or she can root for.

  3. Every character should want something, even if it is only a glass of water.

  4. Every sentence must do one of two things—reveal character or advance the action.

  5. Start as close to the end as possible.

  6. Be a sadist. No matter how sweet and innocent your leading characters, make awful things happen to them—in order that the reader may see what they are made of.

  7. Write to please just one person. If you open a window and make love to the world, so to speak, your story will get pneumonia.

  8. Give your readers as much information as possible as soon as possible. To heck with suspense. Readers should have such complete understanding of what is going on, where and why, that they could finish the story themselves, should cockroaches eat the last few pages.


I think they help more in the sense of planning an adventure than a campaign.

Good list.
A rogue with a bowl of slop can be a controller. WIZARD PC: Can I substitute Celestial Roc Guano for my fireball spells? DM: Awesome. Yes. When in doubt, take action.... that's generally the best course. Even Sun Tsu knew that, and he didn't have internets.
It's probably the AMOUNT of use of the technique you are suggesting. As if it is not only a good idea, but the ONLY good idea and that all else is bad DMing and that the technique has no drawbacks, or has less drawbacks than its more traditional use as an occasional boost over the hurdle created when a DM has writer's block or is on the verge of burnout. The condescension I was feeling was, at least in your writing, a sense that you weren't acknowledging that the technique has some unique flaws of its own (flaws other than a traditionalist's refusal to try something not within the established tradition).

Many (most?) DMs ask for some sort of background about the character and if they jump the campaign a few years might ask what the player has been up to in that time. So, yes, most (if not all) DMs use the technique to an extent, and it should definitely be remembered as a technique than can be used as a trick to get players involved and creative juices flowing.

It's like salt. Salt is great as a flavoring, maybe not so great as a 4 course meal. Maybe not the best analogy, but close to how the detractors are seeing it, I think.



As I just mentioned in another thread, that while I provide this technique as a solution to many problems inherent in the game, it is not the only solution and I'm not saying it is. Certain posters read into it that way. I leave others to post differing viewpoints and then the OP can decide what's right for them. 

The only real flaw I've found in this technique isn't much of one. Basically, when someone who is used to the traditional style of play is given a heaping dose of narrative control, they can run wild with it. But that's okay! Because once they realize they're running roughshod over their own challenges, they bring it back to a level with which they are comfortable. Otherwise, our games simply don't have the same problems you see all over these forums week after week. We must be doing something right. (To be clear, that statement doesn't mean other people are doing something wrong. CYA, eh?)

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  |  Dark Sun Full-Contact Futbol   |   Pre-Generated D&D 5e PCs  |  Re-Imagining Phandelver

Follow me on Twitter: @is3rith

I don't have the time to read the thread at the moment so I don't know if this has been gone over beforehand.  But I wanted to post this before I forgot about it.

Root For Your Players
Not only should you not be adversarial in your DMing, it should be clear that you are rooting for your players.  My players enjoy the challenges because they know I built them and I am running them, but I still want them to win.  When your monster gets locked down and loses his most devastating move, don't lament and get angry.  Be happy for your players.  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 (something near this, but not exactly like this came up with me as a player and I was shocked DMs would actually do this).  If a player is doing great, exalt the player don't whine that they would have lost if X ability wasn't broken.

Specific instances (if anyone was interested)
Mine: Ring of Personal Gravity + Mark + Certain Justice on a solo with no teleport.  The DM was upset

Controller:  Alternate win condition combat included needing to protect a portal square for 6 rounds.  Any enemy that started next to the square could "damage" it and the square could take 6 instances of "damage".  Controller used Visions of Avarice and constantly pulled the targets away so many of them couldn't start their turn adjacent.  Rather than congratulate the player on his good play and describe the scene around how well they were doing, the DM and other players started griping about how overpowered that spell was and how wizards were stupid.
Currently working on making a Dex based defender. Check it out here
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Need a few pre-generated characters for a one-shot you are running? Want to get a baseline for what an effective build for a class you aren't familiar with? Check out the Pregen thread here If ever you are interested what it sounds like to be at my table check out my blog and podcast here Also, I've recently done an episode on "Refluffing". You can check that out here
The only flaw I see in trusting one's players is if they're not trustworthy. Even then, if one can bear with it for a while, trusting them can cause them to become more trustworthy, as well as causing one to become more relaxed about what constitutes a breach of trust.

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

Not sure if this has been said, mainly cause I don't want to slog through everything about Centauri.

Have a world that evolves and changes -
 Most DM I have encountered as a player don't do simple things like weather changes or even seasons for that matter. As a DM I find that doing stuff like this can help keep the PC in the mindset of this being a real place. It can also freak them out if they have never experianced this. In my last session a thunderstorm rolled across the area they were traveling ... they freaked out.

This also goes for campaign plot purposes as well. Make your BBEG have to change his plans. Have him get angry. Changing his plans could cause better plot devlopment overall. If he know it was the PC that thwarted a step in his plans he could go after their family, maybe hire some Rakshasa to ruin the PC reputation while they are away exploring.


As for Centauri, there are sometimes in the past where it seems like his views come off strong. As if "you should be doing it my way or it is wrong", by counter to this would be do what your PC want. As it is ultimatly about what they want that is important. Tailor what your campagin and it's style to them. When playing with first time players I find it is easier to railroad them for the first couple of sessions so they can get their feet wet. Then you can unleash them upon the world you have created.

But there are some people, like those that like the combat more than the role playing, who prefer to be railroaded to the next monster filled dungeon. Usually after 3 to 4 sessions you should be able to tell what they like without having to out right asking them. That is not to say that bouncing ideas off the PC is a bad thing to do.

Some of my PC play in other games and hearing about what they like and don't like about those games has made it easier to make my game more enjoyable to them. Example, in the other game they are running a variation of the old D&D cartoon. So I have placed around my world artifacts that are specific to each PC. I am not going to out and out hand them to them. Finding them will be more fun for them.

But like I said the playstyle you use should be come down to what it is best for the PC and nothing else.
0k, that got a little intense back there and I desided to just let it be. It looks like while I have been gone several people landed some good suggestions that have been adopted into our fledgling list (Because no matter what some people may think it is OUR list). Kail, Matyr, some of your ideas have been worked in and I am still considering many others. Centuri, as much as you may grump about it, you have had a big influence on this list and have seen several flawed ideas removed or improved. Your entry-based list was a big help in understanding what you are trying to get across and I hope we can all keep on writing things that improve the list without letting our feelings set us against eachother.
By the way, if you see duplicate, badly worded, or contraditory stuff on the list don't be afraid to help me re-write it.