The campaign setting and situation (new to D&D, taking over from a GM who quit)

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Hello everyone, thanks for reading!

I'm about to take over a campaign because our GM quit.  I'm new to roleplaying in general, but I offered to take over the GM role, as the veteran players said to go for it: I'll run the story and they'll help with the rules.  There seems to be more to GMing than just story and rules, particularly planning and reacting to players.  I would love some advice on those, and outline my plans below.

First of all, let me say that I had originally planned a long plot for the PCs to follow, but after reading some GM advice, decided to create a situation that is more dynamic, and the PCs can interact with in their own way.  Then I can think how the situation would respond to their actions.



The campaign world is Warhammer-influenced, where the Empire of man is beset by threats on many fronts (political structure similar to the Holy Roman Empire).  Currently the gods of Chaos have grown strong and are sending incursions across the northern borders of the Empire.  The realm prepares for war.  To the south, some talk of strange rumours of people who have already died being seen walking the streets at night, but many dismiss these as tale tales.  Known only to a very few on the Emperor's council and the PCs, there is an underground race of rat people called Skaven with a huge under-empire spanning the Empire and beyond, but mired in endless civil war.  Lately though there has been some cooperation between factions that have resulted in surface raids.

The story to date in brief (of which I'm aware, as I jumped in at level 5, now level 8):
    -Skaven took over a Dwarven mine in a northern province. The Council member for that area requested help from the Emperor and the party was sent in.  
    -Party cleared the mine with a Ragamuffin taking over the body of the Skaven boss, making a deal with the party to act as a spy for one of the PCs (my char) who is a patron to the Emperor on the Council
    -a very powerful but unknown ring was found, and taken by one of the characters
    -returning to the city a city-wide celebration was planned by PCs and thrown for the Emperor.
    -During the main feast, a huge demon and several smaller ones were summoned to the city, defeated by the leading warriors on the council and their body guards.  No one has claimed responsibility
    -PCs hunted down the smaller demons
exit GM
    -one off prefab GM'd by myself
    -one-off prefab GM'd by another - White Plume Mountain: PCs are directed by the council to retrieve powerful artifacts from an evil wizard who may join the enemy / to prevent them from falling in to the wrong hands.
    -Characters return to the city with the powerful items… to find it in a bit of chaos. (read below)


Now my character was the one involved in the plot more as I saw it shaping the world, as he was a politically active bard, who used speech as his main medium.  He became an NPC and I will use him to drive the rest of the plot.  Here's what I'm thinking:

The scenario:

The demon summoning was a cover for another summoning - a demon prince of Slaanesh (the Chaos god of excess, pride, vanity, gluttony, etc.) who portalled in from the north to under the capital.  There he has been working to bring peace to a Skaven conflict underneath the city of Altdorf so that the clans unite and attack the surface.

To prepare for the conquest, he has been sowing chaos in the capital from afar through a corrupted noble who desires power, and sees Slaanesh and his princes as his way to gain power, influence, (and beauty) in the capital.  This demon prince is famed in the north for his use of an exceedingly addictive drink made from the blood of slain enemies and warpstone (a rare and magically active element mined by the Skaven).  He had been shipping the potion in high concentration but small amounts to the capital where the noble used it at lavish parties to bend key people to his will, for once people get on the drink it warps their mind (and perhaps their body too), and makes them addicted, eventually enslaved to the supplier out of their addiction.

The noble had been using the drink to enslave certain key people in the city, who were dark enough to be interested in his sinful parties of excess.   He has, amongst others, one of the Empire's Elector Princes, the captain of the City Guard, and the daughter of another member of the Emperor's council.  By influencing key members of the council he is able to affect city and Empire-wide policy.  Others follow the nobleman of their own will in his designs on power, and more yet follow him in an underground cult of Slaanesh (and form his most trusted servants).

(This would have been happening around the last time the PCs were not adventuring.  They then got sent to retrieve powerful artifacts.)

With the outbreak of conflict in the north, and the spilling of blood, the demon prince's band of followers are able to prepare his vile concoction in larger quantities, and begin shipping it in mass to the city from the north.  The dark noble uses it against the populous general, selling it out of more classy parts of the city, particularly in pleasure dens, raunchy taverns, and even the theatre.. (Later he will even start selling it to the fringe of society, where he can control them and large parts of the population in general.) 

(PC return time - option 1)

As war breaks out, and many of the men of Altdorf are conscripted in to the army, more and more of the potion comes in to the city.  Soon the drink is being sold everywhere, though mostly in a very dilute form.  People who partake in the questionable beverage begin to seek it in stronger and stronger quantities, pulling the city away from moral and proper behaviour toward excess, sin, and in some rare cases, mutation.  

As the city begins to fall in to chaos, the council can watch but do nothing, as key members block appropriate action. Some members of the state religion of Sigmar, seeing that the council and state do nothing, rebel and create fanatical religious militias, seeking out those who bear the marks of excess.  The city begins to divide in to factions…  

Some on the council have figured out something strange is going on with the prominent noble that relates to the current crisis facing the city, and deadlock in the council.  The council has been anything but unanimous on the topic however.  One leading councillor 'cannot believe that noble has anything to do with it' and refuses to drag his name through the mud with an accusation or investigation.  

A member of the council finally gets a piece of evidence, and despite still being divided, those against the nobleman browbeat the others in to creating a commission to investigate.  The commissioner has issued an edict with the Emperor's seal, to search the noble's property and question him.  However, little do they know that the investigator is also under the nobleman's sway, and nothing will come of it.

The group also managed to include in the commission's charter to investigate the new drink that has become so prominent in some parts of the city, particularly with commoners.  On this one member who was not under the influence of the noble was put in command, my previous PC (Brighton).  Brighton has been charged with investigating the drink's effect on society, as a noticeable number of city guard and other civic staff have at times been derelict of their duties whilst on a binge, and some rumour it is causing the strange effects on people, including beautification, and sometimes perversion.

(PC return time - option 2)

The Future:

The PCs arrive back at the capital with the weapons and report to the council.  There could be some politicking about the future of the weapons in the divided council, and if the players express interest then I can follow that up.  However what I'm hoping is...

My NPC Brighton will ask one of the PCs who is an ex Captain of the City Guard to lead a selection of 'neutral' or good city guard to investigate the drink, and he will be stumped if he tries without the help of the other PCs because of the allegiance of the real Captain of the guard.  They will adventure around the city with the help of some low level NPCs (as they have no healer in the party), and maybe follow the potion's trail north, which will lead them to the demon prince's war band.  There they may find out about his summoning to under the city, and his further plans, after which they should race back to try and stop him!

I think he should take the hook, and the other PCs should be willing to follow, but otherwise, one other PC has his large house in the city, which he values much, and so he should have an interest in maintaining order in the capital, and thus get involved in the story.  (We have only one other regular player, who is a newcomer, and has not been written in to the story yet).

I have an idea of what resources the villains have at their disposal, and their plan of action forward.  Therefore I can start to pit the PCs actions against his.  Though I did originally have a scripted, linear path for them to follow, I have instead created a dynamic system, which can respond to player actions!

If things are left unchecked, the city will fall to civil war, paralyzing the Empire, and then the demon-prince will direct Skaven forces to destroy/occupy it from within, all whilst the war rages in the north, and the Empire loses territory to Chaos factions.  Perhaps then the city can be relieved by other forces, but I'm not going to think too far down this road.

After this, my old char will turn evil, as he has no heir, and has been vainly seeking a solution.  Eventually he will turn to searching out necromancy or vampirism.  His interest in these pursuits can be masked by the need to learn about the chaos demons to fight the war (undead are unknown by and large and can be conflated), and he can have the party seek out powerful artifacts 'for the council' to progress the war effort that further his plans.  He'll head south back to his lands if suspected, and hole up in his keep (I have already worked out his lands and story, so would love to use the material since I've abandoned playing the character).

Things to do:
create NPCs char sheets
create maps of important locations such as the place where the drink is shipped to, the noble's residence, the tunnels below the city leading to the demon-prince
create creatures and demons of Slaanesh
create other game components for other Chaos gods if the party head north



Okay, sorry that was so long!  What do you guys think of my first take on GMing?  Any advice?
I've still got a week or more before our next session!

Thanks!

He forgot to tell us what edition the group is playing. 

If I was the group. I would of do two things.

1. Stop the drug traffic

2. Raid the drug traffic and use it on their own people.  
Be prepared to shelve or discard any of your ideas in the course of running the game. What commonly happens is the players will make decisions that look like they'll take the game off in a direction you weren't expecting. Let them. If you're not sure what to do next, admit as much and work with them to improvise enough to get through the session. Do not cling to your ideas, no matter how good, if doing so means you need to block player ideas. Say "Yes, and..." as much as you can.

Good luck.

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

Thanks for your replies guys.

TheOne:
1. First the players have to figure out that the stuff is sinister.  Hopefully doing that will send htem on a collision course with the noble.  If they defeat him, someone else can step up to fill his shoes.  Trying to stop the drug flow will hopefully lead them north to the demon prince's warband, there they can find the plans and realize the biggest threat remains under the capital.
2. One of the lures of the drug is that it has a beautifying effect, though too much and it mutates you a la Chaos.  Also the PCs alignment should prevent htem from such action.

Centauri:
Thanks for the advice.  I understand and I'll try to take it to heart.  Hoping things work out, as the first adventure I ran was a good learning opportunity, as I seem to have made lots of mistakes about shaping the plot.  Also had this problem where the PCs kept killing people who were supposed to supply them with information.

edit: removed blocked quotation
Thanks for the advice.  I understand and I'll try to take it to heart.  Hoping things work out, as the first adventure I ran was a good learning opportunity, as I seem to have made lots of mistakes about shaping the plot.  Also had this problem where the PCs kept killing people who were supposed to supply them with information.

Yeah, that's a classic way for a planned game to collapse. It strongly indicates that the players are not interested in the plot that the information would pertain to. A DM can either drop that thread, or have it come to its logical conclusion behind the scenes, if doing so would create interesting changes in the world. I don't suggest that a DM should just say, whelp, you killed the wizard who knew about the magic ring, so the dark lord found it and has taken over the world, while you were off doing other things. That could be awesome, but it's more likely to be seen as a punishment for not following the DM's plot. But, if a war starts because the PCs didn't prevent it (or failed to prevent it) that's a change that's more likely to be interesting. If you want a guaranteed interesting failure mode, ask your players what would interest them. Accept "nothing" as an answer.

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

I'd keep your old PC out of it; I suspect that you care too much about that character to avoid making him the star of the show.
if i was playing in your game, i would kill your char as a npc just to grind your gears then i would be the guinea pig and drink the addictive potion.

gives you a idea of how pc's can be unpredictable, Never put the villian/NPC in the same room(without a way out) as the pc's if you dont want him to get killed
if i was playing in your game, i would kill your char as a npc just to grind your gears then i would be the guinea pig and drink the addictive potion.

gives you a idea of how pc's can be unpredictable,

And serves as a good example of a time to talk to the player and see what's up.

 Never put the villian/NPC in the same room(without a way out) as the pc's if you dont want him to get killed

Good advice, assuming you haven't gotten player buy in that the NPC will definitely escape this time.

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

Okay, first off I hate using this board on FFox with javascript disabled.  I keep hitting the back button and losing all my message...  Just lost 20 mins of typing.  Back to pretyping in textedit..


Centauri:
I guess if they know or should know what they're doing, and do it anyway it seems reasonable.  On the other hand, if they couldn't have known of the consequences of their actions, then it just seems unfair.  Or perhaps I'm projecting my behaviour-management style as a teacher; if you give Ss a fair warning about what the consequences of their behaviour and choices are beforehand then they don't feel resentment toward you (as much).

Litmus:
I think you're probably right.  I guess if I want to use him, I have to be willing to let him go as he may.  I'd prefer him to fall amongst the grand finale of his villainous plans, but must accept if he dies ignominiously.

Jan 29, 2013 -- 4:10PM, Shogun_Assassin wrote:
if i was playing in your game, i would kill your char as a npc just to grind your gears then i would be the guinea pig and drink the addictive potion.

gives you a idea of how pc's can be unpredictable,
And serves as a good example of a time to talk to the player and see what's up.

Yeah, if anyone did this in my game, We'd probably have a talk.  I mean, our group likes to have fun--we're not too serious--but we try to role-play our characters instead of just doing what we feel like as players.  Would an anti-roleplaying XP penalty be appropriate if the player insisted on doing it for fun or to piss me off?  I'd probably rather kick them out, or back out myself, ask them to GM.  It's a lot of work, even with prefabs!  I expect a little respect for the work I'm doing, even if it's not their dream-plot.

As to a way out, Brighton has invisibility, though the PCs saw him use it a lot, and may expect it.  I'll have to think of some other stuff, thx for the heads up!
I'm thinking that he may steal the Blackrazor later to attune himself to it and try to learn the secrets of the undead from it.

Another note, the party will now have no healer, and the previous GMs have let us off the hook a few times when we got in over our heads instead of making us pay the piper.  I'm nervous that the players will continue to throw themselves at everything instead of being parsimonious with their HP and choosing their encounters carefully, after all, they won't often be trapped in by four walls of a dungeon.  I'm thinking to write in a low-level NPC healer at the start with them to wean them from the tit, as it were.

Anyway, I decided to email the players an intro to the storyline asking them to tell me what might interest them about the scenario, and to try to hype it up.  I found though, that I didn't want to give away many details.  So here's what I wrote:


The traffic on the way in to town seems less than usual, and as you approach the city gates, the place seems a little empty.  Then you remember the call to arms that was issued as you were leaving for White Plume, and the doomed tribe of Alaric the Destroyer.  You wonder what ever became of the northerner.  Perhaps you will see him in the city, or perhaps he has left north with the raised army of the Emperor.  You wonder at the fate of the north, and expect to see troubled eyes abound in the city.  Looking around though, the place and the people seem more beautiful than you remember.  An uneasy sense of peace falls over you.



After coming home and setting in for a rest, there's a knock on your door.  A fairly nondescript paige dressed in the colours of House Brighton standing in front of two city guard looks you up and down to confirm your identity, then places a message fixed with the seal of the council in your hand.  Then he gives you a second note sealed with Brighton's crest.  With a **** smirk he tells you these two fine city guardsmen will see you to the council tomorrow, and protect from the city guard over night.  You open your mouth but he immediately cuts you off exclaiming "Just read the letters.  I'm sure Lord Brighton and the Council can answer any questions tomorrow."  He smiles, turns, and leaves.  One of the guardsmen, says in an honest voice "If you have any trouble, just holler, Sir.  This neibourhood's been quiet, but if if need be we'll send for help." and then they both cover up their colours beneath their canvas cloaks and step to the sides of your door.

You open the letters and read the following from the council:


You are summoned to the Council to deliver the artifacts at the Council Chamber tomorrow at noon.


The letter from Brighton is sealed with a griffon crest, and reads as follows:


Dearest friends and colleagues,

There has been much about during your trip to White Plume Mountain and back.  With many men off in the Emperor's army, there has been mischief here in Altdorf.  Corruption and decadence have come together in the highest of society, and vice and chaos are spreading all over the city.  Many common people now spend their evenings and even daylight hours in pleasure dens, raunchy taverns, and even bawdy houses, while some of the nobler folk attend raw plays and burlesque theatre, while there has been talk of all night orgies. In these places, the mark of Chaos has shown itself as some strange mutations in people.  Rumours abound that the city is falling to sin and to Chaos.  Some fanatical Sigmarites have banded together and splintered off the church, creating a small witch-hunting militia that has garnered much popular support.  They now do battle with the city guard as they attempt to push their way in to burn anyone bearing the marks of mutation and even some of the business in which the more prominent deformities have been discovered.  Some say the city will fall in to civil war without political action.

The Council, however, has done nothing, as both Lords Peter Jackson of Neverland, and Lionel Liu of Middenheim battle wit against Lords Firebrand Overscar of Skyrkland and Erimus the Bright of Wiseland while the rest of the council mostly undecided.  Just yesterday, however, a lady died of mutation to her ****, had sworn before an honourable patron of the council that she developed the mutation while at a party of Lord Gruber, a prominent, but not politically powerful Lord of old blood.  This swayed enough council members for the Emperor to create a commission to investigate the incident, and to investigate some of the other rumoured incidents.  

I have been charged with supporting the investigation of the malice in general.  There has been some question of the City Guard's role in all this, and so I have proffered the name of Sam Vimes, ex leader of the Guard to lead a contingent of troops to enforce the commission's work in this matter.  

I dearly hope and expect that the Council may rely on your band of adventurers, and you will be recompensed appropriately.

As to the artifacts, their fate will fall to the council tomorrow, though they should end up in the safety of our Emperor' Magnus the Pious' keep's treasury.

I will look for you tomorrow,


Brighton


The replies were something like this:
-I'm new to D&D so my voice doesn't count
-ok, but keep a balance with dungeoneering
-cool intro, sounds political (from that player, probably not a compliment..)
-no reply as of now
-no reply as of now

So maybe back to the drawing board…

Unfortunately it doesn't sound like you have much buy-in from your players. One of the things about the collaborative style (having everyone help generate the story) is you get to avoid moments like this when you put in a lot of work up front and then have the players go "meh" when you present the hooks.

Honestly, I wouldn't put much time and effort into a game if that was all the response I got from my players, and I absolutely would tell them as much.
Centauri:
I guess if they know or should know what they're doing, and do it anyway it seems reasonable.  On the other hand, if they couldn't have known of the consequences of their actions, then it just seems unfair.  Or perhaps I'm projecting my behaviour-management style as a teacher; if you give Ss a fair warning about what the consequences of their behaviour and choices are beforehand then they don't feel resentment toward you (as much).

Kids you're teaching or raising are different than people you're gaming with. It's okay to put a kid in time out, or to take away priviledges, or to otherwise make life less enjoyable for the kid, because you're trying to teach them life lessons.

A fellow player isn't there to learn life lessons, but to have a fun time playing the game. There are "priviledges" and rewards that can be withheld within the context of the game, but at a certain point certain punishments can essentially remove the priviledge of playing the game at all. Even if a player knew that outcome could occur, there's really no reason or excuse for meting out punishment that makes the game frustrating to play. Make any sense?

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

Centauri:
I guess if they know or should know what they're doing, and do it anyway it seems reasonable.  On the other hand, if they couldn't have known of the consequences of their actions, then it just seems unfair.  Or perhaps I'm projecting my behaviour-management style as a teacher; if you give Ss a fair warning about what the consequences of their behaviour and choices are beforehand then they don't feel resentment toward you (as much).

Kids you're teaching or raising are different than people you're gaming with. It's okay to put a kid in time out, or to take away priviledges, or to otherwise make life less enjoyable for the kid, because you're trying to teach them life lessons.

A fellow player isn't there to learn life lessons, but to have a fun time playing the game. There are "priviledges" and rewards that can be withheld within the context of the game, but at a certain point certain punishments can essentially remove the priviledge of playing the game at all. Even if a player knew that outcome could occur, there's really no reason or excuse for meting out punishment that makes the game frustrating to play. Make any sense?




I think, sometimes, it can be challenging for people to seperate the game from their social world. The DM tends to be looked at as the "leader," the one in charge, and that can cause serious issues when the format of the game is used to reinforce things in the social group.

For example, I ran a D&D game at a friend's house, and one of the players was nasty the whole session, argued with me on every roll, made snide comments as I was describing scenes, pretty much ruined the game for me and made everyone uncomfortable. After it was over and he had left, I said to my friend, the one whose house we were playing at and the one who invited this person to play, why she didn't say something.

"You're the DM," she said. "That's your job."

I pointed out if I invited everyone to watch a movie at my house and she picked the movie and a guest of mine kept bitching at her because he didn't like the film, I sure as hell would say something to him.
It sounds like you are putting far too much emphasis on what you want with the story.  I know it seems kind of silly given all of the work you put in to getting a game going, but you must be extremely fluid when developing story with your group.

Personally after my sessions I come up with a few amazing story lines and plots I would like my players to follow (and quite frankly, I'm blessed and yet cursed with a group that is happy to follow just about any lead I throw at them), but I ultimately have to stop myself.  I have to question; what really would motivate their characters (and players themselves to a good extent) to follow this hook?    Besides which, how in the heck will they react to what I am throwing at them right now?  As stated before by others, you can never be truly ready for what players will do in your session - whether its them seeing things from a different perspective from your description, suddenly finding their new motivations, or really dozens of other factors.

This will require a lot of pantomime and improvisational skills to be fluid like that, but with anything the more you exercise these skills the better you get at them.  There are things you can do that will help you become good at these kind of skills as well; plenty of npc generators with attitudes on the net, npc names, tavern generators, and a whole bunch of links at the front of this forum to help source some "on the go" resources.  Typically when I run a session, all I need is my small book of npc names (categorized by race, giving me around 200 names with all), some random tavern outlines (and dungeon), npc attitudes and motivations/backgrounds (quick two sentence versions), and a few pages of random treasure.  You always want to have a few cool "fleshed out" npcs in your backpocket as  well so you can introduce them as the game rolls on and you find a way to get them in there.

Since you are just starting out though, think very very broad and not so specific when it comes to story.  Give yourself and players some latitude by having a few story hooks.  The last thing you want to do is lead your players by the nose - it often ends up even more tedious for you, and not so fun for them.  Keep in mind, you will have your stamp on this game throughout most parts of the session whether you realize this or not.  That is why it is so important to follow the PC's lead in developing story - gives them a chance to truly be involved in the game and ultimately create a whole bunch of fun.  Seeing everyone lean forward and being completely engaged is one of the best feelings when you get things really rolling.

I agree about finding a way to ditch your character.  Whenever I have one (which is certainly rare), I get fairly attached to them.  Heck, even some of the NPC's I come up with that I get attached to, the PC's counfound me and find a way to depose of them - but if it suites the story they are helping create, I'm all game.

Keep in mind improvisational skills arent something that you either have or dont have.  It can be learned and with practice, honed.  Hope that helps, and good luck.  Dont be afraid to talk a little before and/or after the session on what the players feel works and doesnt work.  You dont have to interrogate them, but asking questions like" ...so what was fun?" - if they seem to have a so-so response, thats ok.  As long as they arent saying there wasnt anything they didnt like, just amp up what you did from that session in to the next session.  I tend to ask the players how things are after every 3rd session or so unless I notice something wholly out of place.

Good luck man - welcome to the league of DM/GM.  A thankless job that is more tedious and not fun to....ah just kidding!  This is the best seat in the house!  You are the orchestrator!  ;)
Check my sig for a couple of articles on why you shouldn't bother writing plots at all. It's more work for a lot of risk, and potential problems during play.

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!

Here, Have Some Free Material From Me: Encounters With Alternate Goals  |  Dark Sun Full-Contact Futbol   |   Pre-Generated D&D 5e PCs

Follow me on Twitter: @is3rith

I was going to write a bunch of stuff, but Phlanex already said most of it.

I won't go so far as to say NEVER write a plot, but If you have an adventure that hinges on the players chomping down on plot-hooks, I would talk to the players first to see if they like the taste of the bait before I run the whole trot-line. In other words, I'm repeating and stressing the point that others have made here, but bears repeating... don't plan anything in advance based on the assumption that the player is going to do something. At best, you might plan some events based on what the characters have already done or are doing, but I recommend that you not make assumptions. Ask the players what they plan to do next and THEN make preparations for those actions.

As a graphic artist, I have advice for graphic artists for dealing with clients. The phrase applies to dungeon-mastering...

Don't marry your design. Even if it's PERFECT, the client (the player) won't always recognize that fact and inevitably want to change it.
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.
Ask the players what they plan to do next and THEN make preparations for those actions.



Do you mean prepare on the fly for their proposed actions or stop the game to prepare (e.g. "What are we doing next week, guys?")?

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!

Here, Have Some Free Material From Me: Encounters With Alternate Goals  |  Dark Sun Full-Contact Futbol   |   Pre-Generated D&D 5e PCs

Follow me on Twitter: @is3rith

Ask the players what they plan to do next and THEN make preparations for those actions.



Do you mean prepare on the fly for their proposed actions or stop the game to prepare (e.g. "What are we doing next week, guys?")?

I mean prepare BETWEEN adventures for what the players plan to do next week...
I try to end my adventures either on a cliff-hanger (in which case I already have sufficient material for the next session) or at a good stopping point where I can ask the players what they plan to do next session.

Players aren't going to begrudge the DM if there is an unplanned encounter and you need to take a few minutes to draw up what treasure the encounter has. Overall, while there are players at the table, the DM should either be improvising or working with what he/she has already worked out. Respect your fellow player's time, yea verily.
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.
I mean prepare BETWEEN adventures for what the players plan to do next week...
I try to end my adventures either on a cliff-hanger (in which case I already have sufficient material for the next session) or at a good stopping point where I can ask the players what they plan to do next session.

Players aren't going to begrudge the DM if there is an unplanned encounter and you need to take a few minutes to draw up what treasure the encounter has. Overall, while there are players at the table, the DM should either be improvising or working with what he/she has already worked out. Respect your fellow player's time, yea verily.



Yes, and I used to do that, too. That mostly arose from a plot-based approach that I used for many years. It works fine as long as your players have bought into the idea that what they decided last week is what they're doing this week.

For what it's worth, if you use locations and situations instead of plots, you don't need to do that anymore because all the prep you'll possibly need to do for that location or situation will be done before you play (and as a side benefit represent a lot less work than the plot-based approach). Not counting stat blocks and maps/pogs (which I have to create because of online play), the specific discussion of the campaign only in the OP's original post is three times the word count of the prep for my last location which ended up being 16 to 18 hours of dynamic gameplay and was replayable for 3 different groups so far. And his post was probably just a brief overview of the work that he'll be doing for each individual session which will represent much more prep indeed.

That's a strong selling point for me, in addition to not having to worry about whether my players will be lukewarm on my plot ideas. 

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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If you're hung up on setting, I would suggest one of two directions:
(1) Collaborative world construction as per the DMG2
or
(2) Choose a trademarked setting that your players would want to adventure in (DarkSun, Forgotten Realms, Eberron, etc.) and follow those rules.

As a new DM, these are the two easiest approaches and the players' voices are heard. 

The background you created is elaborate and interesting, but there is no way to tell if the players (or their characters while role-playing) would be interested in following your plan. Try not to plan the future too far in advance. Give a few hooks to figure out what the players are interested in pursuing and plan short encounters or modules from there. 

btw, all DMs are guilty of planning too far forward and then through  he natural course of party choices never see that future vision come to fruition. Just reign it in a bit...