New DM needs plot help

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I’m a brand-new DM, and I’ve run into a plot snag.  I’m hoping all the creative and experienced DMs here can offer some insight/opinions.

The PCs are in a City.  A warehouse near the merchant district explodes, and dozens of battle-ready orc warriors rush from the building and make some general mayhem.  Murder and pillage, etc.  The PCs and City Guards fight them.

The whole thing is a diversion.

Meanwhile, another group of orcs use a series of abandoned tunnels to sneak into the Capitol building, intent on killing all the Senators.  Unless the PCs end the street fight quickly or sense that something’s wrong, the Senators will all be killed.

In the aftermath, the PCs will want to know how the orcs managed to get into the City.  This will lead them to the tunnel network.  Internal governmental corruption prevents the City Guard from investigating, so the PCs will have to go in on their own.

They run into more orcs, which lets them know they’re headed in the right direction.

Eventually they come to the Nexus (from Scales of War #2).  They come to the Nexus because I want to run the Nexus.  It looks like a really fun encounter.  If you haven’t seen that adventure, the Nexus is a hub chamber where all these smaller tunnels meet up.  The Nexus can be sealed using some fancy embedded technology.  There are steam vents and rising boiling water and lots of minions coming at you from all sides.  The goal of the encounter is to seal the Nexus, thus cutting off the tunnels and preventing the bad guys from getting to where they want to go.

Anyway,

PROBLEM #1: Having sealed the Nexus, the PCs won’t naturally find their way to the Big Orc Lair, which is actually several miles outside the City and is accessible via the tunnel network.  My PCs will probably think “problem solved,” at least for a few days.  (Uh, why are there still orcs around here?")  This is unacceptable.  I need to keep them moving.  How can they seal the Nexus (from the inside, essentially) then continue on to the Big Orc Lair?

PROBLEM #2: There is a Boss Orc.  The PCs know him.  They will be glad to finally fight him.  Where should this fight happen?  My inclination is to put the Boss in the Capitol building.  His goal (the reason all these orcs are attacking) is to kill the Senators -- he’s not going to leave the completion of the main objective to his underlings.  The PCs will probably get to the Capitol too late to stop the assassinations but soon enough to fight the assassins, including the Boss Orc, seems like.  Putting Boss Orc in the Nexus would be fun.  Am I missing something?

PROBLEM #3: Also, it’s time for the PCs to fight a dragon.  This seems like a good place to do it.  Boss Orc riding the first dragon the PCs have ever seen -- sounds good, right?  Problem is, dragons are not subtle.  The Capitol invasion is kinda subtle.  Should I put the dragon at the diversion site?  Where does it come from?  Inside the warehouse?  Alone at another diversiion site?  Is Boss Orc going to trust an underling with his dragon?

PROBLEM #4: This is a question about narrative structure, rising action and climax and all that.  I am worried that the PCs will kill Boss Orc and go “yay, we won!” and not look any further.  I can keep them moving, but I’m worried that the next encounters (tunnels, Nexus) will seem tacked-on and a let-down in comparison.  In terms of plot structure, this Act seems like it should end in the Big Orc Lair, which contains good transitional “everything has changed” elements.

PROBLEM #5: I mentioned above that between the Boss Orc fight and the Nexus, there should probably be at least one encounter.  More orcs makes sense, but by the end of this act, the PCs will be sick of orcs.  What other monsters make sense?  It seems that if the orcs have already come through these long-abandoned tunnels, they would already have killed the wandering dungeon-type monsters that I would normally use here.

As I said, I’m a new DM, so maybe the answers to these questions are obvious.  Any help would be appreciated.  Thanks.
Alrite most of this is gonna be me grabbing at strings and trying to knit a sweater, even though i don't have enough strings.

 Horrible intro aside, i am just going to throw ideas at you and see if you like any of them;

What you could do to solve some issues would be to make the boss character either only show up at the prime locations and then get beaten to a pulp in the assassination plot or in the nexus. I would advise for the nexus.

The Ideal Situation

So assuming this, the dragon pops up in the merchant district(dragon of fire + exploding warehouse = dragon exploding a warehouse), the ork boss is spotted near there and then leaves with assassins towards the capitol (make it seem a tad obvious with something like hearing noises in the sewers or tunnels below).Also possibly dragon being smuggled inside by a third party or organization giving a chance for further plots.

After meeting him in the capitol with his assassins, and while the assassins are keeping the party busy. The Orc Boss goes off back into the tunnels he came from, when the PC's chase him, the horribly wounded dragon finds a weak section of the tunnel and breaks through the ceiling.

This being awesome and shocking at the same time hopefully scares the players into hiding for the incoming jet of flame which gives Boss enough time to mount it , Orc Boss barely scrapes it and runs away. Stress how the Dragon cannot carry him far due to its injuries. Now at this point they should come across the Nexus as they are in the tunnel system to begin with (maybe thats where the dragon landed, can go straight into that and then after they seal ALL entrances they simply climb out of the hole on top).

Now during the sealing of the nexus Ork boss comes back with a troll, after defeating the troll they could also probably finally put an end to the boss (thirds the charm) because hell seeing the same face run away gets annoying. So in his death throes (if by any chance the players haven't surmised that the boss having been beaten brutally with his armour beaten to crap comes back with bandages, new weaponry (gives a chance for power variations) and reinforcements to the Nexus has actually gone a few miles and gotten them from the lair) he would say something like "cant stop us, *point in direction of lair* There are more of us waiting".

Tried to incorporate all your problems there into this ideal situation.

Except for problem #5, now for this maybe the Orc Boss has some authority over lowlier creatures? then he could stride past them in the tunnels and order them to attack the party to give him time to run. They then see him in the Nexus when the dragon allows his escape. Or even Orc Boss simply walks (implying he cant walk far for the orc lair bit) out of the tunnels and the dragon is the one they engage in an epic sacrifice scene from the dragon.

 
I’m a brand-new DM, and I’ve run into a plot snag.  I’m hoping all the creative and experienced DMs here can offer some insight/opinions.

The PCs are in a City.  A warehouse near the merchant district explodes, and dozens of battle-ready orc warriors rush from the building and make some general mayhem.  Murder and pillage, etc.  The PCs and City Guards fight them.

The whole thing is a diversion.

Meanwhile, another group of orcs use a series of abandoned tunnels to sneak into the Capitol building, intent on killing all the Senators.  Unless the PCs end the street fight quickly or sense that something’s wrong, the Senators will all be killed.

In the aftermath, the PCs will want to know how the orcs managed to get into the City.  This will lead them to the tunnel network.  Internal governmental corruption prevents the City Guard from investigating, so the PCs will have to go in on their own.

They run into more orcs, which lets them know they’re headed in the right direction. Eventually they come to the Nexus (from Scales of War #2). They come to the Nexus because I want to run the Nexus.



I would start the adventure at this point. Everything before the Nexus is not really a matter of meaningful choice for the PCs. I have no doubt it could be fun to play out, but it assumes that the PCs will zig instead of zag and if they zag, you'll be forced to take action to get them to zig to stay on the path you've laid out. You can avoid that by moving the needle on the starting point and filling in the gaps as to why they're exploring the Nexus. You can fill in the gaps on everything prior to the Nexus either through a form of Question & Answer shard storytelling or by simply giving them background information explaining how they got to this point. The former approach is best if you trust your players to help you build the story. The latter is the more traditional approach I've seen in D&D modules. It works in this game system, but it's not my preference and it might not be your players' preference. Check to make sure before doing anything.

It looks like a really fun encounter.  If you haven’t seen that adventure, the Nexus is a hub chamber where all these smaller tunnels meet up.  The Nexus can be sealed using some fancy embedded technology.  There are steam vents and rising boiling water and lots of minions coming at you from all sides.  The goal of the encounter is to seal the Nexus, thus cutting off the tunnels and preventing the bad guys from getting to where they want to go.



I ran this when it first came out. We had fun with it. It's a good location-based adventure and if I remember correctly, it changed depending on how the PCs did things because the Orcs Are Coming. It had some plot holes, but if you're not running SoW as written, it shouldn't be an issue.

PROBLEM #1: Having sealed the Nexus, the PCs won’t naturally find their way to the Big Orc Lair, which is actually several miles outside the City and is accessible via the tunnel network.  My PCs will probably think “problem solved,” at least for a few days.  (Uh, why are there still orcs around here?")  This is unacceptable.  I need to keep them moving.  How can they seal the Nexus (from the inside, essentially) then continue on to the Big Orc Lair?



You can plant clues in the Nexus indicating the location of the Big Orc Lair. If you decide to do it that way, you need to consider two approaches in concert. First, you'll always want to plant three different clues pointing at the lair. This way, they have three chances to find and make the "right" decision to go there. If you want to make doubly sure they find the clues, then you put those clues in front of the PCs, regardless of where the PCs go. This is called Shrodinger's Gun - the clues are always wherever the PCs are looking, whether that's on orc bodies, in a pile of loot, or in their own navels. Note that much like everything prior to the Nexus, this is a form of railroading which in and of itself is not bad. Just be aware some players don't like that. Check to be sure.

If you decided to go with making the events prior to the Nexus a matter of Q&A with the players or told the story of said events straight-up, you could include the Big Orc Lair in that exchange. Either you ask them, "Ragnar, what do you know of the Big Orc Lair a few miles from town?" Let Ragnar's player answer and use the answers. Or if you just tell the story yourself, you can mention the Big Orc Lair's existence, where it is, and why it might be important later.

PROBLEM #2: There is a Boss Orc.  The PCs know him.  They will be glad to finally fight him.  Where should this fight happen?  My inclination is to put the Boss in the Capitol building.  His goal (the reason all these orcs are attacking) is to kill the Senators -- he’s not going to leave the completion of the main objective to his underlings.  The PCs will probably get to the Capitol too late to stop the assassinations but soon enough to fight the assassins, including the Boss Orc, seems like.  Putting Boss Orc in the Nexus would be fun.  Am I missing something?



If you really want them to go to the Big Orc Lair, he's one of the clues... Boss Orc is in the Big Orc Lair. Go there and you can finally walk in his blood. Leave the killing of the Senators to his trusted lieutenant who succeeds or fails as appropriate. A good Boss Orc delegates before he regulates.

PROBLEM #3: Also, it’s time for the PCs to fight a dragon.  This seems like a good place to do it.  Boss Orc riding the first dragon the PCs have ever seen -- sounds good, right?  Problem is, dragons are not subtle.  The Capitol invasion is kinda subtle.  Should I put the dragon at the diversion site?  Where does it come from?  Inside the warehouse?  Alone at another diversiion site?  Is Boss Orc going to trust an underling with his dragon?



What level are your PCs? I don't think you can get the full effect of a dragon and all its iconic glory until somewhere just short of paragon and then only with some tinkering. I don't to this day understand why so many adventures have baby dragons in them.

PROBLEM #4: This is a question about narrative structure, rising action and climax and all that.  I am worried that the PCs will kill Boss Orc and go “yay, we won!” and not look any further.  I can keep them moving, but I’m worried that the next encounters (tunnels, Nexus) will seem tacked-on and a let-down in comparison.  In terms of plot structure, this Act seems like it should end in the Big Orc Lair, which contains good transitional “everything has changed” elements.



Another good reason for Boss Orc to be in the Big Orc Lair.

PROBLEM #5: I mentioned above that between the Boss Orc fight and the Nexus, there should probably be at least one encounter.  More orcs makes sense, but by the end of this act, the PCs will be sick of orcs.  What other monsters make sense?  It seems that if the orcs have already come through these long-abandoned tunnels, they would already have killed the wandering dungeon-type monsters that I would normally use here.



It only seems that way in your minds' eye because you're the DM. The players won't care if they enjoy combat encounters. So, I'd recommend throwing something at them which foreshadows upcoming threats that are sure to follow in the wake of the orcs' destruction.

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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Couple of thoughts post - uh - post:

On Problem #5, the most interesting "wandering" monster is one that could hate the PCs, but has even more reason to hate the orcs. It should be a threat to the PCs, possibly the lackeys and minions of the next Big Threat. In the moment, they may be enemies or they may be allies - let the PCs' actions determine that. It sets up the possibility of a more interesting dynamic down the road.

Also, I'm realizing now that the Nexus you're referring to is just the one room and not the whole dungeon as I had envisioned. I'd recommend running that dungeon. I remember liking it. Then just make the Big Orc Lair accessible by means other than the tunnel system that becomes flooded when the PCs accomplish their mission. Tying this together with Problem #5, the orcs can still invade, but without the tunnels, they'll have to go overland through very treacherous terrain, populated by hostile creatures - the same ones I suggested as wandering monsters above.

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!

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#1), #2) and #4) Hmmm, if not all of the senators die, but some are taken captive, then it would be kind of natural to follow through to the Lair wouldn't it? If you like that idea, the Boss Orc could hold hostages in the Orc Lair, and combat would become very interesting as the party not only must think about killing off the boss, but also keeping the senator(s) alive.

#5) If you are looking for an encounter in between the Nexus and Big Orc Lair, I have a few ideas:


  • Maybe it was impossible for the orcs to have gotten into the city all by themselves somehow. If so, maybe one of the senators who is mysteriously still alive, cooperated with the orcs to coup the council. One of the orcs in the Nexus might give this away with his last breath or during interrogation. If you go for this, you could have en encounter with the senator who can be whatever class you like, maybe a necromancer with minions or just a nobody with lots of people working for him.

  • Instead of Big Orc riding the dragon, maybe a dragon used the Nexus for her lair. If so, she could be away while the PCs battle the orcs, but come into the frey before the players manages to seal off the Nexus. (I have no idea what the Nexus is so maybe none of this works)

  • When the Nexus is sealed, maybe there is no way out except somewhere with a puzzle? Not the best of ideas, but puzzles are also encounters and might be enjoyable after all the fighting if you find a natural way to include it in your adventure.

  • One of the tunnels not yet touched by orcs or anyone else happens to be the only way out after the Nexus is sealed. Then you could include wandering monster without this being a problem.





 
JarnUlfrinn -- I like the idea of the dragon bursting out of a warehouse, then having the building explode underneath it.  Very cinematic.  And you’re absolutely right about introducing a 3rd party -- the orcs definitely had help engineering the assassination.  CinnamonKing also hit on this idea.

Having Boss Orc escape the Capitol into the tunnels is a great way to keep the PCs moving!  If he makes it all the way to the Nexus, my players might even choose to forgo sealing the tunnels in order to hunt him down.

I also like the idea of the tunnel monsters being allied with the orcs.  The PCs have dealt with mind-altering charms (long-term domination etc) before, and it makes sense for the orcs to coerce rather than attack the creatures, if possible.

Iserith -- Your suggestion to start the adventure at a chronologically later point is an interesting one, and would be a major departure from the way I’ve been running the campaign so far.  I’d never even considered the “here’s what you’ve been up to since last session” approach.  I can see how it would be very helpful for creating smaller “episodes,” but part of what I enjoy about our game is the unbroken continuity.  It seems like the Skip Ahead/Episodic approach would be best suited to groups that meet infrequently (“now, a month later, let’s return to where you were last time: in the middle of the barren wasteland in which there are no monsters or NPCs, only hundreds of Endurance checks” ).  Is that a correct assumption?  My group plays every week.  Also I am wondering how they will react to me hand-waving the intervening days.  In part, I am reluctant to introduce this storytelling device because I’m worried they might turn it on me (“your railroad is slow and boring, let’s skip ahead” ), which seems like a laudable and right thing for them to do in theory, but would totally wreck me, since I’m new at DMing and am not yet comfortable with my ability to improvise.

Regarding heroic-tier dragons: I think I got the idea from PHB1.  There’s something in there like “in heroic tier, if you fight a dragon, it will be young.  In paragon tier, if you fight a dragon, it will be formidable etc”.  Do you reject this on the grounds that dragons should always be awesome and not leveled-down?
I'm not sure if this has been suggested, but why not flip the order?  Instead of doing the nexus first, have the PC's find the nexus on their way to the Orc Boss' lair.  It's calm and peaceful there, or even a small encounter with some sentries, but the PC's have a chance to look at it and see how it works.

But instead of sealing it, they carry on, find the Orc Boss's lair, kill the Orc Boss, then have to escape back through the tunnels.  The Orc Boss' remaining men chase them, perhaps even this dragon in a rage (at that age it might be little more than a pet), and activate the nexus in order to stop them.  The PC's play the nexus encounter now in order to use the Orc's tactics against them, seal the tunnels and escape.

The Boss fight doesn't always have to be the end.  Sometimes the best thing about a Boss fight is the escape afterwards.

I think my favorite part of Ocarina of Time was escaping from the tower at the end while it collapsed.
Sleeping with interns on Colonial 1
Iserith -- Your suggestion to start the adventure at a chronologically later point is an interesting one, and would be a major departure from the way I’ve been running the campaign so far.



If that's the case, go with your own approach, provided your players are enjoying it. I only point it out because what you're doing is creating a rail for the PCs to follow which ultimately limits freedom of choice. That's not in and of itself a bad thing and D&D supports that kind of play. I've played and run many a game like that and had fun with it. But you need buy-in from your players first. I assume (or hope) if this is an ongoing campaign, you've already gotten that buy-in at least tacitly if not directly.

I’d never even considered the “here’s what you’ve been up to since last session” approach.



This is a great forum for new ideas and why I'm most active in this one. I get a lot of good stuff here.

I can see how it would be very helpful for creating smaller “episodes,” but part of what I enjoy about our game is the unbroken continuity.  It seems like the Skip Ahead/Episodic approach would be best suited to groups that meet infrequently (“now, a month later, let’s return to where you were last time: in the middle of the barren wasteland in which there are no monsters or NPCs, only hundreds of Endurance checks” ).  Is that a correct assumption?  My group plays every week.  Also I am wondering how they will react to me hand-waving the intervening days.  In part, I am reluctant to introduce this storytelling device because I’m worried they might turn it on me (“your railroad is slow and boring, let’s skip ahead” ), which seems like a laudable and right thing for them to do in theory, but would totally wreck me, since I’m new at DMing and am not yet comfortable with my ability to improvise.



Correct assumption? Yes and no. It is a good approach for any game, but it may be in a lot of cases an optimal approach for a game that meets less often, as you say. What you're referring to though is a question of pacing and what I was recommending was changing your adventure to increase player choice because as I pointed out, everything prior to the Nexus is a predetermined rail which can create its own problems if your players are not onboard with that. As far as their reaction, that's something you'll want to determine by way of a conversation (as with anything) before delving in. That would include the issue of limiting choice to tell a story.

I can understand your reluctance if you're new to the DM's chair. I offer it merely as a possibility. It's on you to make it your own!

Regarding heroic-tier dragons: I think I got the idea from PHB1.  There’s something in there like “in heroic tier, if you fight a dragon, it will be young.  In paragon tier, if you fight a dragon, it will be formidable etc”.  Do you reject this on the grounds that dragons should always be awesome and not leveled-down?



I don't reject it on its face. It's simply a matter of preference which I may have stated or implied erroneously as fact. I personally hold that if you're playing Dungeons & Dragons, then dragons should be pretty amazing, fantastical even. I just don't see that when I look at a young one. Sure, the fight can be made to be hard at any level, but when I think of iconic fantasy battles between mortals and dragons, I like to create on a much bigger scale. Here's an example of something I did that might help illustrate my point. Big Red Dragon Fight

(Incidentally the campaign in which that encounter appeared was on a rail!)

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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PROBLEM #5: I mentioned above that between the Boss Orc fight and the Nexus, there should probably be at least one encounter.  More orcs makes sense, but by the end of this act, the PCs will be sick of orcs.  What other monsters make sense?  It seems that if the orcs have already come through these long-abandoned tunnels, they would already have killed the wandering dungeon-type monsters that I would normally use here.

As I said, I’m a new DM, so maybe the answers to these questions are obvious.  Any help would be appreciated.  Thanks.




DnD is about immersion.  If your characters are deeply embroiled in a conflict with orcs, than your players will want to feel immersed in that conflict.  Pile on the orcs all day.  Make orcs come out their noses.  Did they stop in the middle of Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom to switch from turban-wearing Hindu cultists back to Nazis, purely for the sake of variety?  No.  It's turban-wearing Hindu cultists from the moment he arrives in India till the end.  If your players are sick of orcs, they'll be motivated to finish the job and move on.  Most heroes get frustrated by their enemies once in a while.

What you should do between tunnels and Boss fight is fill it with skill challenges to run recon of the orc camp, sneak past sentries, kill sentries quietly, destroy armories, disrupt supply lines.  Or, the PC's might find at the orc camp that they're building warmachines to siege the city, so they destroy or sabotage them.
Sleeping with interns on Colonial 1
DnD is about immersion.  If your characters are deeply embroiled in a conflict with orcs, than your players will want to feel immersed in that conflict.



While I won't disagree with the assertion that D&D is in part about immersion, I would like to point out that immersion is a feeling and feelings are not in the DM's control because "immersion" exists solely in the mind of the other. You might be able to influence or evoke that feeling, but it's not worth spending time on. They'll either feel immersed or they won't, regardless of what you do. A bad day at work will do for that. If I could control people's days at work, I'd be rich and living on a volcanic island working on my next project.

Did they stop in the middle of Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom to switch from turban-wearing Hindu cultists back to Nazis, purely for the sake of variety?  No.  It's turban-wearing Hindu cultists from the moment he arrives in India till the end.



Possible case for why that was the worst of all the movies barring the latest one which was on par with Temple, only more immediately annoying?

If your players are sick of orcs, they'll be motivated to finish the job and move on.



There is no guarantee of this. They may just move on. Which would be fine if you're not running a game on a predetermined storyline. But this is not the case.

What you should do between tunnels and Boss fight is fill it with skill challenges to run recon of the orc camp, sneak past sentries, kill sentries quietly, destroy armories, disrupt supply lines.  Or, the PC's might find at the orc camp that they're building warmachines to siege the city, so they destroy or sabotage them.



That sounds fun to me.

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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Are you sure you want to argue that it's not the place of the DM to create an environment that promotes a feeling or that it's not worth spending time on?  Because I was pretty sure that's why we're here.  Tactical combat only gets you so much, and gamers can honestly go anywhere to get it.  We play DnD so that the DM can read us a really good Choose Your Own Adventure book.  Stories are about feelings, and enough players choose DnD for the story that I think it's fair to conclude it's worth the effort.

Feelings are the results of conditions.  They are, of course, reactions to those conditions, and the reactions can be unpredictable, but your just as likely to get an enthusiastic reaction as a jaded one.  It's certainly worth the effort, especially since players who care about RP almost always respond well to effort.  Why would your characters choose to walk away from the conflict with the orcs?  Why are they even here to begin with if not to be a hero?

Excluding Crystal Skulls, every Indiana Jones movie is equally awesome and equally cheesy as every other one.   They are three identical movies, except one has Sean Connery in it, which does mean something.

Thank you for ending your post with something positive.  I'm happy to hear that my skill challenge ideas are favorable to you.
Sleeping with interns on Colonial 1
Are you sure you want to argue that it's not the place of the DM to create an environment that promotes a feeling or that it's not worth spending time on?



You'd first have to define what you think "immersion" means because it's a buzzword like "metagaming," "spotlighting," or "railroading." It means a lot of different things to people with multiple conflicting connotations.

I personally don't like using the word for that reason and for the reasons I've already stated. But if you want to talk about it further, I'm game once you define exactly what we'll be talking about. Otherwise, we're headed for an argument.

Thank you for ending your post with something positive.  I'm happy to hear that my skill challenge ideas are favorable to you.



Like immersion, I can't control the tone with which you read my posts. In my head, I was being engaging and playful. In your head, it sounds like that's not the case. Or did I just project an erroneous tone onto your words? (See how controlling "immersion" might be tricky already?)

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 | Seahorse Run

Follow me on Twitter: @is3rith



Like immersion, I can't control the tone with which you read my posts. In my head, I was being engaging and playful. In your head, it sounds like that's not the case. Or did I just project an erroneous tone onto your words? (See how controlling "immersion" might be tricky already?)



It's natural to become irritated when a constructive post is itemized and rebutted line-by-line like that.  So you didn't project any kind of erroneous tone onto my comments, and neither did I onto yours.  Whether you intended to or not, the comprehensiveness of an itemized rebuttal naturally comes across as excessive, and most people who experience it generally come away feeling jabbed.  They don't say that, but they almost inevitably push back.

So I didn't necessarily take offense to your comments.  I just generally have an unfavorable opinion of multi-qoute responses.  They tend to snowball, and no one likes feeling picked apart.

You and I have generally had very positive interactions on these boards, so I genuinely appreciated that my skill challenge ideas sounded fun to you.  Because, after reading the rest of your post I was left feeling a little beaten up.  Again, whether you meant to or not.

As far as 'immersion,' I don't see it as a buzz word.  I don't see metagame as a buzz word either, because it has a very specific meaning and when I use it I mean it.  Immersion is a state of being.  It's a condition of complete attention or mental focus.  The more you concentrate on an experience, activity, or source of material, the more immersed you _are_ in it, the more absorbed, or engrossed in it.

If the experience is that of a guerrilla conflict with a marauder tribe of orcs, then the more orcs you encounter, the more detailed their operation, the more elaborate their camp, the more daunting their numbers, the more opportunity you have to "sink your teeth into" the experience.  Of course, the DM can only set the stage and hope the PC's buy into it.  But odds are that they will, and it's equally true that the PC's will never have a chance to become immersed in it if you don't make the effort to make it deep enough in the first place.
Sleeping with interns on Colonial 1
It's natural to become irritated when a constructive post is itemized and rebutted line-by-line like that.  So you didn't project any kind of erroneous tone onto my comments, and neither did I onto yours.  Whether you intended to or not, the comprehensiveness of an itemized rebuttal naturally comes across as excessive, and most people who experience it generally come away feeling jabbed.  They don't say that, but they almost inevitably push back.

So I didn't necessarily take offense to your comments.  I just generally have an unfavorable opinion of multi-qoute responses.  They tend to snowball, and no one likes feeling picked apart.

You and I have generally had very positive interactions on these boards, so I genuinely appreciated that my skill challenge ideas sounded fun to you.  Because, after reading the rest of your post I was left feeling a little beaten up.  Again, whether you meant to or not.



Fair enough. I wasn't aware multi-quote postings were taken that way, honestly. I do it for clarity so people know what I'm referencing, especially if multiple topics of discussion are in play. Otherwise, the discussion becomes one about the discussion rather than the topic at hand. In any event, I'll keep it in mind... after this post, that is, which I feel deserves a multi-quote for clarity.

And certainly please don't take my words at an attempt at beating you or your ideas up. My hope is for a lively and productive discussion because these are things that you really can't point to in a book and prove you're right. It's an abstract idea and we're going to disagree. By way of those (civil) disagreements, perhaps one or more of us will gain some insight, however useful.

As far as 'immersion,' I don't see it as a buzz word.  I don't see metagame as a buzz word either, because it has a very specific meaning and when I use it I mean it.  Immersion is a state of being.  It's a condition of complete attention or mental focus.  The more you concentrate on an experience, activity, or source of material, the more immersed you _are_ in it, the more absorbed, or engrossed in it.

If the experience is that of a guerrilla conflict with a marauder tribe of orcs, then the more orcs you encounter, the more detailed their operation, the more elaborate their camp, the more daunting their numbers, the more opportunity you have to "sink your teeth into" the experience.  Of course, the DM can only set the stage and hope the PC's buy into it.  But odds are that they will, and it's equally true that the PC's will never have a chance to become immersed in it if you don't make the effort to make it deep enough in the first place.



Okay, we're on the same page on "immersion" with regard to its definition if not its value. I also agree that the DM can only set the stage and hope the PC's buy into it. (That's pretty much my whole point in a nutshell.) I disagree with the premise that odds are that they will buy into it. That's going to be highly dependent on a number of factors outside the DM's control so much so that I do not feel it's worth putting a lot of prep time into making "immersion" a goal of the session. It will happen on its own or it won't. It will be an immersive experience for some; for others, it won't be, even on the same night at the same table, no matter how much focus the DM put on it. I hesitate to call it a coin flip as I have no facts to back that statistic up, but for these reasons, I see no value in it as a concern for a DM. I can't really control it, so I'm not going to worry about it. I'm just going to run the best damn game possible and, as you say, hope for the best.

Interestingly, where I see "immersion" being used most in discourse is for reasons to disallow things or narrow options to fit a particular viewpoint, usually the DM's. ("Metagaming ruins immersion." "You can't have/do that in my campaign world because it will break immersion." "I won't tell you the DC in my description because that will break immersion.") Which is odd because the one thing that might, just might, actually cause a player to be immersed in your game is inclusion of their ideas and their direct involvement in shared storytelling at all levels. This is not the style the OP has chosen, however. He or she's choosing to tell his or her own story and the players will experience it through the lens of their characters. Which is cool! I'll play in those games and come back to ask for seconds. But focusing on immersion as a goal in this case is likely not very productive since the players have no skin in the game other than their characters. And if that immersion is viewed to be "more orcs," then I think that the OP might have assessed it correctly... his or her players will be sick of orcs. And that's close to the opposite of being immersed.

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
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Will the PCs get tired of orcs?

I think "it depends" is the only right answer. It is certainly possible for the DM to prevent this from happening. But if all the orcs are exactly the same, I have to agree with Iserith. They don't need to be though. With enough effort put into it, the players could still be excited to fight orcs.

If the hierarky of the orcs were something more than just Boss - Minions, you're already getting somewhere. If some orcs have names and personalities, then even better. Maybe there's a storyline involving some of the orcs. For instance, a group of them could have stolen something, kidnapped a virgin, and fight each other over the matter.

Anything's possible, and I think it's a bit destructive to say things like "this is how it will go" or this won't work". 
Will the PCs get tired of orcs?

I think "it depends" is the only right answer. It is certainly possible for the DM to prevent this from happening. But if all the orcs are exactly the same, I have to agree with Iserith. They don't need to be though. With enough effort put into it, the players could still be excited to fight orcs.

If the hierarky of the orcs were something more than just Boss - Minions, you're already getting somewhere. If some orcs have names and personalities, then even better. Maybe there's a storyline involving some of the orcs. For instance, a group of them could have stolen something, kidnapped a virgin, and fight each other over the matter.

Anything's possible, and I think it's a bit destructive to say things like "this is how it will go" or this won't work". 



I don't think anybody's suggesting all the orcs be the same.  What I'm saying is the OP knows his or her players better than we do. If he or she says they'll be sick of orcs and that is what was said, I don't think any amount of prep from the DM is really going to change that. I could easily write a whole campaign about orcs (I have a few ideas...) and even my own players would be like, "FFS, orcs again?"

The discussion gaiusbaltar and I are having is only somewhat related to the topic at hand.

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!

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I have a feeling the tone in my comments differ from the tone I intend. A really good point though, Iserith. OP stated that his players would be tired of orcs, so that's probably what we should assume when trying to help Smileys help though, right?
I have a feeling the tone in my comments differ from the tone I intend. A really good point though, Iserith. OP stated that his players would be tired of orcs, so that's probably what we should assume when trying to help Smileys help though, right?



Yeah, everyone's kind of getting each other wrong in this thread. I'm sure that's my fault. I'm going to leave off for a bit and come back to it tomorrow.

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!

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I have a feeling the tone in my comments differ from the tone I intend. A really good point though, Iserith. OP stated that his players would be tired of orcs, so that's probably what we should assume when trying to help Smileys help though, right?



Yeah, everyone's kind of getting each other wrong in this thread. I'm sure that's my fault. I'm going to leave off for a bit and come back to it tomorrow.



I'm sure it's not Texts are sooo easy to misinterpret, it probably happens to everyone all the time. I wouldn't say this was a heated argument exactly, but who knows what the others feel right?
Perhaps not more orcs, but rather, orcs+.   Ogres and troll and giants, and of course goblins, are all things that might accompany orcs, and all offer unique contrasts to your bog standard orc.  A Remorhaz offers a unique contrast to your bog standard orc, too, but would likely trash an average players suspension of disbelief.  Perhaps immersion shouldn't be a goal, but continuity should.

Dropping a random dungeon monster into an established troop movement route would certainly provide variety, but it would rob your players of the _opportunity_ to take the story seriously.

A good DM should at least offer an opportunity for immersion, for depth and for texture in the themes that he employs.  And hedging your bets against it seems like you're selling your players short.  That's a clear example of harming the game with your expectations, your low expectations in this case.

Err on the side of depth.  I'm not suggesting you force it on your players, but you should always have a mind to offer it.
Sleeping with interns on Colonial 1
It's tomorrow, technically.

Why would a remorhaz trash someone's suspension of disbelief if prior to the remorhaz they were fighting orcs? Are remhorhaz's more based in fantasy or otherwise less believable than an orc? Is it because it's not humanoid? How does putting a random monster in an estalished route take away any seriousness from the story? These assertions beg explanation. In a game of fantasy adventure, the only reason something can't make sense is because you say it can't. And for no other reason. Because really, there's an explanation for anything in fantasy. That's why it's fantasy. If nothing else, a wizard did it.

A DM of any stripe offers opportunity for immersion by sitting down with his or her players and running a game. That's the beginning and end of it, really. Because as we've established, immersion is a state of being, a condition of complete attention and mental focus. That relies upon the individual. Adding depth and texture are ways to run the game and as you've established, the DM can only hope that it helps with immersion. The measure and proportion of depth and texture speak to the DM's general style (or specific style for that game). His or her style and execution might make him or her a good or bad DM to the players at the table.

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 | Seahorse Run

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Ultimately we are talking about styles.  That's fair, and if you want to play the conscientious objector and find fault with my suggestions you're certainly capable of doing that, and neither one of us will ever prove the other wrong.

If a random dungeon crawl cameo doesn't bother you than that is perfectly fine.  To me, a groomed and maintained, and likely fortified, system of tunnels currently being used to transport troops shouldn't be populated by carrion crawlers and destrachan like some moldy dungeon that has been abandoned for 500 years.  That makes perfect sense to me.

What I've established is that immersion isn't possible without a certain amount of depth, and that depth comes from, among other things, continuity.  It doesn't rely on just the individual, because the individual misses out on the opportunity to savor the depth when the DM resorts to just tossing random dungeon fodder at him.
Sleeping with interns on Colonial 1
I'm not finding fault. I'm trying to understand your point of view. It's not the first time I've seen that viewpoint and nobody's ever been able to explain it to me. Perhaps you might be able to. I can think of reasons - quite logical reasons, right off the top of my head - why you might find carrion crawlers and destrachan in the tunnel system.

But you seem to indicate their existence falls short of making perfect sense to you somehow. That it would have less continuity and therefore less depth. And without that depth, immersion is less possible. I'm just not following.

Is this an attempt at some kind of weird fantasy realism?

EDIT: Incidentally, my "style" would be to ask the characters why they think there are carrion crawlers or destrachan in the tunnels and use what they give me. Shared storytelling.

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!

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I've never understood the way some folks scoff at the idea of maintaining an element of realism, just cause it's fantasy.  There has to be a reason for something to happen, even in fantasy.  Everything is ultimately explained in familiar terms so that the reader/gamer can make sense of it all.  So why guffaw when someone suggests that something might not be realistic. 

Sure, there are reasons one can imagine for anything.  But you're the one who originally advocated that the effort wasn't worth it.  It seems to me that dreaming up some convoluted explanation for why we came here to fight orcs but we're fighting a gelatinous cube instead seems like a wasted effort.  It's forced and inorganic, so why bother?  Just focus on having some fun with the orcs and goblins and trolls and ettins and save the gelatinous cube for an actual dungeon crawl.
Sleeping with interns on Colonial 1
Ah, okay. So it is the realism argument. I'm not scoffing at the idea. I just don't see how one fantasy explanation is any more logical than another. It's splitting hairs in my opinion to no particularly good effect.

I actually wouldn't come up with a convoluted explanation as you put it. I wouldn't need to because I don't feel the need to justify it as I don't believe in the concept of fantasy realism. If a player really wanted to know why a carrion crawler was in the tunnel, I'd just say, "Great question. Why do YOU think it's in there?" He might say, "The orcs breed them and use them as mounts sometimes. Maybe these escaped their cages." To which I'd reply, "You may well be right!" Then, I'd have some lance-wielding carrion crawler riding orcs outside Boss Orc's lair.

How immersed do you think that player will be when he sees his own ideas come to life?

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 | Seahorse Run

Follow me on Twitter: @is3rith

But you seem to indicate their existence falls short of making perfect sense to you somehow. That it would have less continuity and therefore less depth. And without that depth, immersion is less possible. I'm just not following.



Check it out.

When you study film, one of the first things you learn about is how the earliest filmmakers figured out that when you cut from one shot to another, that the cut has to be a smooth as possible, almost imperceptible.  The earliest filmmakers understood that you have to make every effort to get the audience to forget that they're watching a movie, so they could focus on the drama.  That is, immersion.  If the transitions are jarring or awkward then that disrupts the experience.

You see?  Continuity and depth go hand-in-hand, because when you stumble over transitions you cause a disruption that mars the ability to enjoy the depth.

Same with forcing random monsters on a party that's here to fight specific ones.  You're wasting time with a bunch of destrachan when you should be engaged in asymmetric warfare with the orcs.

EDIT:  and honestly, if I asked my players if they'd rather fight this gelatinous cube or go guerrilla on a superior enemy force, I can't believe they'd prefer to piddle around with the cube.
Sleeping with interns on Colonial 1
How immersed do you think that player will be when he sees his own ideas come to life?



Terribly...   The difference is that I'm just defending my own suggestion while you're actually trying to tell someone else that their approach is wrong.
Sleeping with interns on Colonial 1
RPG's aren't film or literature. I know we DMs like to think highly of ourselves in that regard, but let's not get carried away about what we're doing here.

I'm pretty certain after this discussion and the many previous with people who believe in immersion and fantasy realism that what we're really talking about is control. Specifically, the DM's control. Or, as was just pointed out to me, code for "I can only imagine one way in which this makes sense."

Also, those destrachans aren't random. They are scouts and skirmishers for an invading group of aberrations from the Underdark led by three medusas. (I just asked one of my players, "Why are there destrachans in the orc tunnels?" That's what he told me, cold with no background. If I were running this game, that'd be my next Big Threat. And I didn't have to do anything but ask a question and not care whether I thought it was realistic or not.)

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 | Seahorse Run

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Terribly...   The difference is that I'm just defending my own suggestion while you're actually trying to tell someone else that their approach is wrong.



I stop short of saying your approach is wrong. I simply disagree with the thought process behind it as I consider it very limiting in a game that needs no limits.

But this was a good discussion and very enlightening for me. I appreciate you taking the time.

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!

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Sometimes we stand on soapboxes and call people out for standing on soapboxes.  I don't care if you think I'm being pretentious.  My players love the games I make for them.

Players look to the DM to tell them a story.  It's not about control.  It's about telling a story.

In between sessions I talk to my players about what they want, about character arc and goals, and then I give it to them.  They have tons of input.  Just cause you'd throw out a random monster and then expect your players to give you an explanation for it doesn't mean that you're more permissive or cooperative than I am.  That's ridiculous.  Control! 

How's this for control?  I'm haven't once told you that you were wrong.  All I've done this entire time is defend a suggestion that _I_ made.  You've been picking me apart ever since.  Now who's desperate for control?
Sleeping with interns on Colonial 1
But this was a good discussion and very enlightening for me. I appreciate you taking the time.



And to you, too.
Sleeping with interns on Colonial 1
Or, as was just pointed out to me, code for "I can only imagine one way in which this makes sense."



I've actually conceeded to you several times that I'm sure you could come up with plenty of explanations.  My point was that you shouldn't have to, and that includes tossing it up for the players.

If we're going to get cheeseburgers, why are we stopping on the way to get tacos?  Why not get the best cheesburgers we can get today and go for tacos tomorrow?
Sleeping with interns on Colonial 1
Hey man, I kind of know how these discussions degenerate when people on either side of this divide get to talking abstractions. We're not going to change each other's minds. You have a mental process you need to work through to make things click in your head. That's cool. I'm sure your game is plenty fun.

Do you think maybe we can just leave it "And to you, too," so spunxow's thread can try to get back on course?

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 | Seahorse Run

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When you study film, one of the first things you learn about is how the earliest filmmakers figured out that when you cut from one shot to another, that the cut has to be a smooth as possible, almost imperceptible.  The earliest filmmakers understood that you have to make every effort to get the audience to forget that they're watching a movie, so they could focus on the drama.  That is, immersion.  If the transitions are jarring or awkward then that disrupts the experience.

You see?  Continuity and depth go hand-in-hand, because when you stumble over transitions you cause a disruption that mars the ability to enjoy the depth.

Same with forcing random monsters on a party that's here to fight specific ones.  You're wasting time with a bunch of destrachan when you should be engaged in asymmetric warfare with the orcs.

There's also the risk that the players will find the destrachan or whatever random thing more compelling than whatever they've been fighting and decide to explore what they think is a new hook which, if it's not prepared for, could lead to a lot of improvisation from the DM and a lot of jarring cuts. It's smoother if the DM just sticks with the prepared story, and doesn't risk de-reeling things.

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

@iserith.  You've said that a couple of times, that our discussion isn't entirely relevant to the thread.  As far a PROBLEM #5 goes, I think this has been an extremely relevant discussion.  All I was suggesting is that "just more orcs" doesn't have to be so bad if you just spend a little quality time developing interesting orcs.  That's all.

As far as immersion and realism and ego, yeah, that's definitely swurving all over the road.  So I'm cool with letting it go. 

Hey, maybe we could take this to General Discussion and get more people involved.  Probably not, though.  That'd be a real can of worms.
Sleeping with interns on Colonial 1
That'd be a real can of worms.



Now that's a bit of realism I can definitely agree with.

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 | Seahorse Run

Follow me on Twitter: @is3rith

..can I say I agree with both of you.. ..it sounds to me like you are debating/discussing two different points..


..Iserith I totally agree with you, in the sheer randomness of randomness for random's sake, anything can be reasonably explained.. ..in a fantasy environment I could put anything anywhere at anytime and find a way to make it sound believable or acceptable..

..Gaius I totally agree with you, from a story tellers perspective explaining things that arent absolutely pertinent to the scene would be like watching the scene from The Sixth Sense, where the doctors confront the mother about child abuse with a strong german accent.. ..i mean sure there could have been an extra scene where the mother gets angry that she is being accused of child abuse by someone that speaks english as a second language because he is over here on some exchange program.. ..yudda yudda yudda..


..Iserith it seems to me like you are saying, "why not?"

..Gaius it seems to me like you are saying, "why?"


..does that make any sense *scrunches nose*..
A little nonsense now and then is relished by the wisest men. - Willy Wonka
Deleted my post here because my post was useless and maybe slightly annoying
Forum etiquette question: I will probably have more unrelated questions in the future.    Should I add them to this thread, make a new general purpose “Clueless DM Asks…” thread, or give each question its own thread?
I think I'd generally ask different questions in different threads, and only piggy-back new questions on old threads if they are reasonably close to the original topic.

"What should I do about a group that wants to run an Evil Campaign" could piggy-back "I've decided to do it, how do I run an Evil Campaign", while "where can I find some good free dungeon maps" would certainly deserve its own thread, so that it gets the attention of the folks who don't care about Evil Campaigns, but know their free DM resources like the backs of their hands or enjoy making and sharing their own maps.
[spoiler New DM Tips]
  • Trying to solve out-of-game problems (like cheating, bad attitudes, or poor sportsmanship) with in-game solutions will almost always result in failure, and will probably make matters worse.
  • Gun Safety Rule #5: Never point the gun at anything you don't intend to destroy. (Never introduce a character, PC, NPC, Villain, or fate of the world into even the possibility of a deadly combat or other dangerous situation, unless you are prepared to destroy it instantly and completely forever.)
  • Know your group's character sheets, and check them over carefully. You don't want surprises, but, more importantly, they are a gold mine of ideas!
  • "If it ain't broke, don't fix it." It's a problem if the players aren't having fun and it interferes with a DM's ability to run the game effectively; if it's not a problem, 'fixing' at best does little to help, and at worst causes problems that didn't exist before.
  • "Hulk Smash" characters are a bad match for open-ended exploration in crowds of civilians; get them out of civilization where they can break things and kill monsters in peace.
  • Success is not necessarily the same thing as killing an opponent. Failure is not necessarily the same thing as dying.
  • Failure is always an option. And it's a fine option, too, as long as failure is interesting, entertaining, and fun!
[/spoiler] The New DM's Group Horror in RPGs "This is exactly what the Leprechauns want you to believe!" - Merb101 "Broken or not, unbalanced or not, if something seems to be preventing the game from being enjoyable, something has to give: either that thing, or other aspects of the game, or your idea of what's enjoyable." - Centauri