Developing a Campaign M&M Questionnaire

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My game officially died on Sunday, when I wiped the party to the last man. Assuming they ever want me to run a game again, I need to know what went right and wrong from their perspective.

I need some really probing and insightful questions to help me get to the root of my problem, and I'm mostly coming up with generic (albeit still-needed) questions that won't necessarily provide crunchy feedback.

Can you guys help me develop about 20 questions to this effect? Not all of my players have been big creative writers, so I don't know if I'll get a substantial amount of text for the questions. That's why they have to be good: to draw those answers out.

(1) What did you like best about the campaign?
(2) What did you like least (other than the TPK) about the campaign?
(3) Which event stands out most in your memory (encounter, plot thread, visit to locale x)?
(4) What do you ~need~ in a game, that I was able to provide for you (example)?
(5) What did you ~not~ want in a game, that I gave you (example)?
(6) Did the game ever stop being fun, on a consistent basis, before the TPK? If yes, when, and what stopped it (other than the TPK) from being fun again?
(7) Name the time you had the most fun at my table.
(8) Name the time you had the least fun (other than the TPK) at my table?
(?)


I suppose the last couple questions should be, "Would you ever again play in a home game that I am running?" and, "If I were to run a home game again, would you want to continue this one?" I mean, maybe I'm over-reacting and a TPK is just a downer... But one of my players did get up at the end and just say, "I'm done." So, I can honestly say I don't know the answer to either of those questions from any of my players.





(Fun Fact: "M&M" stands for "Morbidity and Mortality," a type of interview that a panel of doctors convene to determine responsibility for a patient's death. First heard about it years ago on "Scrubs," but it turns out that it's a real thing, and not just a plot device.)

58286228 wrote:
As a DM, I find it easier to just punish the players no matter what they pick, as I assume they will pick stuff that is broken. I mean, fight after fight they kill all the monsters without getting killed themselves! What sort of a game is this, anyway?

 

An insightful observation about the nature of 4e, and why it hasn't succeeded as well as other editions. (from the DDN General Discussions, 2014-05-07)

Rundell wrote:

   

Emerikol wrote:

       

Foxface wrote:

        4e was the "modern" D&D, right?  The one that had design notes that drew from more modern games, and generally appealed to those who preferred the design priorities of modern games.  I'm only speculating, but I'd hazard a guess that those same 4e players are the ones running the wide gamut of other games at Origins.

       
        D&D 4e players are pretty much by definition the players who didn't mind, and often embraced, D&D being "different".  That willingness to embrace the different might also mean they are less attached to 4e itself, and are willing to go elsewhere.

    This is a brilliant insight.  I was thinking along those lines myself.  

 

    There are so many tiny indie games that if you added them all together they would definitely rival Pathfinder.   If there were a dominant game for those people it would do better but there is no dominant game.  Until 4e, the indie people were ignored by the makers of D&D.

 

Yep. 4E was embraced by the 'system matters' crowd who love analyzing and innovating systems. That crowd had turned its back on D&D as a clunky anachronism. But with 4E, their design values were embraced and validated. 4E was D&D for system-wonks. And with support for 4E pulled, the system-wonks have moved on to other systems. The tropes and traditions of D&D never had much appeal for them anyway. Now there are other systems to learn and study. It's like boardgamegeeks - always a new system on the horizon. Why play an ancient games that's seven years old?

 

Of course, not all people who play and enjoy 4E fit that mould. I'm running a 4E campaign right now, and my long-time D&D players are enjoying it fine. But with the system-wonks decamping, the 4E players-base lost the wind in its sails.

Are the players your friends such that you can just call them on the phone or meet with them over coffee and talk to them rather than sending them an exit interview questionnaire? I know if it was me and I received a list of 20 questions, I'd just pick up the phone and call you to discuss it. It's faster and there's no chance of misinterpreting tone and intent.

If you don't have that kind of relationship or it's an internet-only game (forums, Maptools, etc.), then I guess I can see the value in an email like this. Otherwise, I'd definitely talk to them directly.

For any decision or adjudication, ask yourself, "Is this going to be fun for everyone?" and "Is this going to lead to the creation of an exciting, memorable story?"

DMs: Dungeon Master 101  |  Session Zero  |  How to Adjudicate Actions  |  No Myth Roleplaying  |  5e Monster Index & Encounter Calculator
Players: Players 101  |  11 Ways to Be a Better Roleplayer  |  You Are Not Your Character  |  Pre-Gen D&D 5e PCs

Content I Created: Adventure Scenarios  |  Actual Play Reports  |  Tools  |  Game Transcripts

Follow me on Twitter: @is3rith

It was an in-person game. The reason I wanted to put together a questionnaire is that it would give people time to think and consider their responses, instead of the first thing off the cuff.

One of my players, who runs his own game, has had a similar problem (well, not the TPK) when asking for feedback.

"What do you think about my game? And comments or questions?"
"... ...we like it. You're doing a good job."

And then something happens where it causes concern or grief during gameplay. (He's done a much better job of mitigating it, though, so it comes up much less frequently.)

A basic set of questions I could post to our facebook group seemed like a better play for honest answers than talking to them over the phone or face-to-face. Also, even if I did ask each player in person, I still need more questions - the ones I wrote above, I'm sure won't give me enough data points to not screw up the job of DMing again.

58286228 wrote:
As a DM, I find it easier to just punish the players no matter what they pick, as I assume they will pick stuff that is broken. I mean, fight after fight they kill all the monsters without getting killed themselves! What sort of a game is this, anyway?

 

An insightful observation about the nature of 4e, and why it hasn't succeeded as well as other editions. (from the DDN General Discussions, 2014-05-07)

Rundell wrote:

   

Emerikol wrote:

       

Foxface wrote:

        4e was the "modern" D&D, right?  The one that had design notes that drew from more modern games, and generally appealed to those who preferred the design priorities of modern games.  I'm only speculating, but I'd hazard a guess that those same 4e players are the ones running the wide gamut of other games at Origins.

       
        D&D 4e players are pretty much by definition the players who didn't mind, and often embraced, D&D being "different".  That willingness to embrace the different might also mean they are less attached to 4e itself, and are willing to go elsewhere.

    This is a brilliant insight.  I was thinking along those lines myself.  

 

    There are so many tiny indie games that if you added them all together they would definitely rival Pathfinder.   If there were a dominant game for those people it would do better but there is no dominant game.  Until 4e, the indie people were ignored by the makers of D&D.

 

Yep. 4E was embraced by the 'system matters' crowd who love analyzing and innovating systems. That crowd had turned its back on D&D as a clunky anachronism. But with 4E, their design values were embraced and validated. 4E was D&D for system-wonks. And with support for 4E pulled, the system-wonks have moved on to other systems. The tropes and traditions of D&D never had much appeal for them anyway. Now there are other systems to learn and study. It's like boardgamegeeks - always a new system on the horizon. Why play an ancient games that's seven years old?

 

Of course, not all people who play and enjoy 4E fit that mould. I'm running a 4E campaign right now, and my long-time D&D players are enjoying it fine. But with the system-wonks decamping, the 4E players-base lost the wind in its sails.

Okay. I could probably help with some of those questions. Asking questions is what I do for a living and is a big part of my DMing style. It would help me if you could describe what you think happened to cause the game to fall apart (if it did). What steps led to this? What were the warning signs? How did you handle it? What sort of interpersonal conflicts have arisen at the table in the past? What style of DMing were you using - railroad/illusion of choice, sandbox, etc.?

For any decision or adjudication, ask yourself, "Is this going to be fun for everyone?" and "Is this going to lead to the creation of an exciting, memorable story?"

DMs: Dungeon Master 101  |  Session Zero  |  How to Adjudicate Actions  |  No Myth Roleplaying  |  5e Monster Index & Encounter Calculator
Players: Players 101  |  11 Ways to Be a Better Roleplayer  |  You Are Not Your Character  |  Pre-Gen D&D 5e PCs

Content I Created: Adventure Scenarios  |  Actual Play Reports  |  Tools  |  Game Transcripts

Follow me on Twitter: @is3rith

Rate 1-5 (1 means “I want less of this” or “I am completely unsatisfied with this” while 5 means “This is great/do more of this.")
























OVERALL



Level of satisfaction with the campaign



Level of satisfaction with your character



Level of satisfaction with NPCs



Level of satisfaction with combat encounters



Level of satisfaction with side-scenes 







































STORY AND PLOT ELEMENTS



Comedy



Philosophy/Existentialism



Tragedy



Romance (NPC to NPC)



Romance (PC to NPC)



“I want to become stronger”



Betrayal



Dark themes and imagery



War themes



Saving the World













































COMBAT ELEMENTS



Easier Encounters



Harder Encounters



Blocking, Hindering, Difficult, and deadly terrain



Direct Encounters[1]



Puzzle Encounters[2]



Solos



Minions



More standard enemies, less HP



Significant initiative advantage over enemies



Wound Points



Supports



Combination Attacks/Techniques


















BUILD ELEMENTS



Boons



Bonus Feats



Custom Paragon Paths







[1] In this context, a direct encounter is a battle where the PCs succeed by reducing all enemies to 0 HP.




[2] In this context, a puzzle encounter is an encounter where the PCs succeed through some means other than reducing enemies to 0 HP. 





Back to Basics - A Guide to Basic Attacks You might be playing DnD wrong if... "Only two things are infinite, the universe and human stupidity, and I'm not sure about the former." Albert Einstein
The biggest problem, I suppose, has been hard control. Against the players. I even had one player leave mid-campaign citing that as one of his reasons (he had a few others, as well, that included cross-talk and encounter length).

I handled the problem, I thought, by decreasing the frequency of hard control in my encounter designs. (I'd need to go check the numbers to make sure, but I ~felt~ like I was using it less often.) When I did return to use it on those occasions, though, it just seemed to be nastier for the lack of having not been there previously. And stun was something that was seen two, maybe three times in the entire campaign, but it never landed on a PC that I remember.

My style? I take plot threads from each of the characters' backgrounds and thread them into a whole narrative. Usually, when there's no pressing background arc running, I have about 3 or 4 threads available to let the PCs pick through. Whichever hook they take becomes the next story arc we run through until it's reached its natural end. I try to seed other hooks and NPCs through these arcs to get an early sense of PC desire and direction so I'm not planning 4 plot tracks only to discard three of them, in order to make some kind of fluid narrative based on player desire. So, kind of sandbox-ish?

58286228 wrote:
As a DM, I find it easier to just punish the players no matter what they pick, as I assume they will pick stuff that is broken. I mean, fight after fight they kill all the monsters without getting killed themselves! What sort of a game is this, anyway?

 

An insightful observation about the nature of 4e, and why it hasn't succeeded as well as other editions. (from the DDN General Discussions, 2014-05-07)

Rundell wrote:

   

Emerikol wrote:

       

Foxface wrote:

        4e was the "modern" D&D, right?  The one that had design notes that drew from more modern games, and generally appealed to those who preferred the design priorities of modern games.  I'm only speculating, but I'd hazard a guess that those same 4e players are the ones running the wide gamut of other games at Origins.

       
        D&D 4e players are pretty much by definition the players who didn't mind, and often embraced, D&D being "different".  That willingness to embrace the different might also mean they are less attached to 4e itself, and are willing to go elsewhere.

    This is a brilliant insight.  I was thinking along those lines myself.  

 

    There are so many tiny indie games that if you added them all together they would definitely rival Pathfinder.   If there were a dominant game for those people it would do better but there is no dominant game.  Until 4e, the indie people were ignored by the makers of D&D.

 

Yep. 4E was embraced by the 'system matters' crowd who love analyzing and innovating systems. That crowd had turned its back on D&D as a clunky anachronism. But with 4E, their design values were embraced and validated. 4E was D&D for system-wonks. And with support for 4E pulled, the system-wonks have moved on to other systems. The tropes and traditions of D&D never had much appeal for them anyway. Now there are other systems to learn and study. It's like boardgamegeeks - always a new system on the horizon. Why play an ancient games that's seven years old?

 

Of course, not all people who play and enjoy 4E fit that mould. I'm running a 4E campaign right now, and my long-time D&D players are enjoying it fine. But with the system-wonks decamping, the 4E players-base lost the wind in its sails.

My previous post above was a similar questionaire that the DM gave to me just before I started the last campaign (it was part 2 of an extended campaign and he gave the same questionaire to those that were continuing).
Back to Basics - A Guide to Basic Attacks You might be playing DnD wrong if... "Only two things are infinite, the universe and human stupidity, and I'm not sure about the former." Albert Einstein
As to what caused the game to fall apart? I did.

After I wiped the party and had one of my players say, "I'm done," I knew I was going to be, too. That guy was my best player at the table, so I know that if I've made him mad enough to walk away from the game, I shouldn't be running a game.

It's not like the game actually fell apart and ended completely because my group left the table. I was the one who called time-of-death on it.

58286228 wrote:
As a DM, I find it easier to just punish the players no matter what they pick, as I assume they will pick stuff that is broken. I mean, fight after fight they kill all the monsters without getting killed themselves! What sort of a game is this, anyway?

 

An insightful observation about the nature of 4e, and why it hasn't succeeded as well as other editions. (from the DDN General Discussions, 2014-05-07)

Rundell wrote:

   

Emerikol wrote:

       

Foxface wrote:

        4e was the "modern" D&D, right?  The one that had design notes that drew from more modern games, and generally appealed to those who preferred the design priorities of modern games.  I'm only speculating, but I'd hazard a guess that those same 4e players are the ones running the wide gamut of other games at Origins.

       
        D&D 4e players are pretty much by definition the players who didn't mind, and often embraced, D&D being "different".  That willingness to embrace the different might also mean they are less attached to 4e itself, and are willing to go elsewhere.

    This is a brilliant insight.  I was thinking along those lines myself.  

 

    There are so many tiny indie games that if you added them all together they would definitely rival Pathfinder.   If there were a dominant game for those people it would do better but there is no dominant game.  Until 4e, the indie people were ignored by the makers of D&D.

 

Yep. 4E was embraced by the 'system matters' crowd who love analyzing and innovating systems. That crowd had turned its back on D&D as a clunky anachronism. But with 4E, their design values were embraced and validated. 4E was D&D for system-wonks. And with support for 4E pulled, the system-wonks have moved on to other systems. The tropes and traditions of D&D never had much appeal for them anyway. Now there are other systems to learn and study. It's like boardgamegeeks - always a new system on the horizon. Why play an ancient games that's seven years old?

 

Of course, not all people who play and enjoy 4E fit that mould. I'm running a 4E campaign right now, and my long-time D&D players are enjoying it fine. But with the system-wonks decamping, the 4E players-base lost the wind in its sails.

While I do believe that players should trust their DM and roll with the punches of a game, the simple truth is that players have likes and dislikes and while these can and will change, the DM can't force anything. If players don't like, for instance, hard control and TPKs, then there's no reason or excuse for using those aspects of the game (though there's little enough guidance in the DMGs for avoiding TPKs). If a DM really wants to use something that can reasonably be expected to rankle the players, it can preserve a lot of trust for the DM to be upfront with the players about his or her wishes, in order to reach a compromise.

If you are able to get the game back together, I recommend a more free-form approach, to keep from getting locked into elements that are causing a lack of enjoyment at the table. Be willing to change things, even on the fly, to something else that you enjoy running (blasting vs. hard control, for instance), but which is more enjoyable to the players.

(Death is a tricky one: players claim they want a risk of death, but when actual death and often related TPK death-spiral actually occur, players might still be displeased. There are ways around this, but even suggesting them seems to cause threads to devolve into muck-throwing, so send me a private message if you're interested. It could be said that you have nothing left to lose.)

If I have to ask the GM for it, then I don't want it.

Here, one of your players has posted about this session in another forum.

Maybe you should talk to each other.

For any decision or adjudication, ask yourself, "Is this going to be fun for everyone?" and "Is this going to lead to the creation of an exciting, memorable story?"

DMs: Dungeon Master 101  |  Session Zero  |  How to Adjudicate Actions  |  No Myth Roleplaying  |  5e Monster Index & Encounter Calculator
Players: Players 101  |  11 Ways to Be a Better Roleplayer  |  You Are Not Your Character  |  Pre-Gen D&D 5e PCs

Content I Created: Adventure Scenarios  |  Actual Play Reports  |  Tools  |  Game Transcripts

Follow me on Twitter: @is3rith

I did speak to him before posting this, actually. He's actually the player I mentioned in my last post, and part of why I wanted to build this to question the rest of my players - so I could get his level of honesty from the rest of the table.

He's always given me the most constructive feedback in helping to build my campaign, in mechanics and story. ... He's also been the one who's most tolerant of my "experiments" and preventing the table from flipping when I'd leave the reservation and try something new.

When I talked to him, I just did my best to explain my design theory, and how it failed to meet the players' and my expectations. And it's awesome he thinks I want a second chance, but I wasn't going to ask for it - made my bed, after all, so why get just a slap on the wrists after abusing these guys for the last year, right? I probably don't deserve one.

It was a lot of broken trust in some people who, after all that time, probably didn't have much trust left in me to begin with. You'd think I'd have used up my second chances by now.

58286228 wrote:
As a DM, I find it easier to just punish the players no matter what they pick, as I assume they will pick stuff that is broken. I mean, fight after fight they kill all the monsters without getting killed themselves! What sort of a game is this, anyway?

 

An insightful observation about the nature of 4e, and why it hasn't succeeded as well as other editions. (from the DDN General Discussions, 2014-05-07)

Rundell wrote:

   

Emerikol wrote:

       

Foxface wrote:

        4e was the "modern" D&D, right?  The one that had design notes that drew from more modern games, and generally appealed to those who preferred the design priorities of modern games.  I'm only speculating, but I'd hazard a guess that those same 4e players are the ones running the wide gamut of other games at Origins.

       
        D&D 4e players are pretty much by definition the players who didn't mind, and often embraced, D&D being "different".  That willingness to embrace the different might also mean they are less attached to 4e itself, and are willing to go elsewhere.

    This is a brilliant insight.  I was thinking along those lines myself.  

 

    There are so many tiny indie games that if you added them all together they would definitely rival Pathfinder.   If there were a dominant game for those people it would do better but there is no dominant game.  Until 4e, the indie people were ignored by the makers of D&D.

 

Yep. 4E was embraced by the 'system matters' crowd who love analyzing and innovating systems. That crowd had turned its back on D&D as a clunky anachronism. But with 4E, their design values were embraced and validated. 4E was D&D for system-wonks. And with support for 4E pulled, the system-wonks have moved on to other systems. The tropes and traditions of D&D never had much appeal for them anyway. Now there are other systems to learn and study. It's like boardgamegeeks - always a new system on the horizon. Why play an ancient games that's seven years old?

 

Of course, not all people who play and enjoy 4E fit that mould. I'm running a 4E campaign right now, and my long-time D&D players are enjoying it fine. But with the system-wonks decamping, the 4E players-base lost the wind in its sails.

I did speak to him before posting this, actually. He's actually the player I mentioned in my last post, and part of why I wanted to build this to question the rest of my players - so I could get his level of honesty from the rest of the table.

He's always given me the most constructive feedback in helping to build my campaign, in mechanics and story. ... He's also been the one who's most tolerant of my "experiments" and preventing the table from flipping when I'd leave the reservation and try something new.

When I talked to him, I just did my best to explain my design theory, and how it failed to meet the players' and my expectations. And it's awesome he thinks I want a second chance, but I wasn't going to ask for it - made my bed, after all, so why get just a slap on the wrists after abusing these guys for the last year, right? I probably don't deserve one.

It was a lot of broken trust in some people who, after all that time, probably didn't have much trust left in me to begin with. You'd think I'd have used up my second chances by now.



It's a game. You are hand-wringing a bit too much over this (it could just be the tone of your posts, but I'm assuming you are serious in what you are writing). If there are other issues, social issues, those need to be dealt with, but no one should walk away from the table feeling horrible because of what happened in-game, including the DM. It's not worth that kind of drama.
I am mostly serious. Maybe you're right, and I'm suffering over it a bit much, but it was just hard to watch happen, and watch no one leave the table happy.

I do tend to carry things for quite some time. But it's also been my first TPK where it wasn't supposed to be. Encounters? No one cared if an encounter wiped you -- the last few seasons were barely palateable anyway, so it didn't matter what happened. LFR? It was rare, but no one got their own plots and backgrounds explored, so no one cared, because you never got a chance there, either. Shadowrun? Lethal game, it happens. Call of Cthulhu? ...It's expected.

After 15+ years of throwing dice, you'd think a person would know how to run a game and NOT wipe a party. Sure, I'm hand-wringing, but it eats at me that I've made what feels like a pretty amateur mistake that left a lot of people mad at me.

58286228 wrote:
As a DM, I find it easier to just punish the players no matter what they pick, as I assume they will pick stuff that is broken. I mean, fight after fight they kill all the monsters without getting killed themselves! What sort of a game is this, anyway?

 

An insightful observation about the nature of 4e, and why it hasn't succeeded as well as other editions. (from the DDN General Discussions, 2014-05-07)

Rundell wrote:

   

Emerikol wrote:

       

Foxface wrote:

        4e was the "modern" D&D, right?  The one that had design notes that drew from more modern games, and generally appealed to those who preferred the design priorities of modern games.  I'm only speculating, but I'd hazard a guess that those same 4e players are the ones running the wide gamut of other games at Origins.

       
        D&D 4e players are pretty much by definition the players who didn't mind, and often embraced, D&D being "different".  That willingness to embrace the different might also mean they are less attached to 4e itself, and are willing to go elsewhere.

    This is a brilliant insight.  I was thinking along those lines myself.  

 

    There are so many tiny indie games that if you added them all together they would definitely rival Pathfinder.   If there were a dominant game for those people it would do better but there is no dominant game.  Until 4e, the indie people were ignored by the makers of D&D.

 

Yep. 4E was embraced by the 'system matters' crowd who love analyzing and innovating systems. That crowd had turned its back on D&D as a clunky anachronism. But with 4E, their design values were embraced and validated. 4E was D&D for system-wonks. And with support for 4E pulled, the system-wonks have moved on to other systems. The tropes and traditions of D&D never had much appeal for them anyway. Now there are other systems to learn and study. It's like boardgamegeeks - always a new system on the horizon. Why play an ancient games that's seven years old?

 

Of course, not all people who play and enjoy 4E fit that mould. I'm running a 4E campaign right now, and my long-time D&D players are enjoying it fine. But with the system-wonks decamping, the 4E players-base lost the wind in its sails.

It's understandable. I'd be upset, too. There is nothing like direct, honest communication between everyone after cooler heads have prevailed if there is going to be some rectification of the situation. It may be that after that conversation you walk away still with no game, but with some valuable insight. Or you may come away from that talk with both and can move forward as a group, secure in the knowledge of what everyone expects from the game.

As a DM, I always look within if I sense there is a problem before looking externally. If you can withstand an honest conversation (and occasional assault no doubt) from strangers on how you approach DMing, you can also post your DMing approach here and get some feedback. This would be in addition to talking to your players directly. Then square the advice up into a coherent plan and move forward stronger than ever.

For any decision or adjudication, ask yourself, "Is this going to be fun for everyone?" and "Is this going to lead to the creation of an exciting, memorable story?"

DMs: Dungeon Master 101  |  Session Zero  |  How to Adjudicate Actions  |  No Myth Roleplaying  |  5e Monster Index & Encounter Calculator
Players: Players 101  |  11 Ways to Be a Better Roleplayer  |  You Are Not Your Character  |  Pre-Gen D&D 5e PCs

Content I Created: Adventure Scenarios  |  Actual Play Reports  |  Tools  |  Game Transcripts

Follow me on Twitter: @is3rith

As to what caused the game to fall apart? I did.

After I wiped the party and had one of my players say, "I'm done," I knew I was going to be, too. That guy was my best player at the table, so I know that if I've made him mad enough to walk away from the game, I shouldn't be running a game.

It's not like the game actually fell apart and ended completely because my group left the table. I was the one who called time-of-death on it.

The monster's at-will ability shouldn't have been so bad except that, if you'll notice such creatures as the succubus... many creatures who rely on controlling the minds of their enemies don't ALSO have powerful combat abilities. This monster was simply beyond what the party could handle.

I assume that no one in the party had access to a protection from evil or other such spell to stop this mind control. If the players were glad to get him down to 50 hit points, it must have been pretty tough to begin with.

I can understand the players not fleeing at first sight, c'mon.. you've got to have SOME dignity and pride... but maybe they SHOULD have fled once they saw how tough he was. Especially since they had no way to prevent being overtaken by mental control. Or did they?

I totally understand if they felt afraid to flee. I've had a DM pull out the old 'no matter what you choose will be wrong' bit. Couldn't fight, couldn't flee, couldn't beg for mercy, couldn't join the baddy's cult, couldn't even coup-de-grace myself with a scorching ray up the nose...
Thinking I was missing something, I asked the DM what I could have done to survive that encounter (which was thrust upon me randomly) or at least have died with dignity. The answer? Nothing. We quit playing in his world after that... for a long long time.

All that said... talk to them. Tell them you made a boo boo and move on. If you already have said that, then ask what they want you to do to fix it. Then do that or offer an alternative until you all come to an agreement.

It was just a bad dream... but you all had the same bad dream. Don't knock this cheesy device. It's probably better than the alternative. Once you move past the situation and get into more interesting encounters, it will all seem like that... a bad dream.





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.
The encounter that had the at-will dominators happened the session before. The first fight of the final session did not have dominate. The second fight only had "dominate if previously marked by villain" as a power. I only used that once (which was enough, unfortunately, as it dropped another PC because of a crit).

I didn't want to get into specifics of the encounter. But I will post the creature I was using in the post-cutscene. This was supposed to be a recurring villain that the players could not touch, but had to work against indirectly (because of the players being marked): Wormskull Fleshscraper

This monster opened with a monologue about how powerful he was, and told the characters to flee. Every time he dropped another player, he told them to flee. He even tried to leave the map, but the last remaining players said they would continue to chase him. (They would have -- In LFR games, where a villain is just supposed to flee, these same players had chased the villain through 3 previous maps, in at least one mod. But that time, they actually had numbers that could defeat the villain who was just trying to sneak away with his life.)

58286228 wrote:
As a DM, I find it easier to just punish the players no matter what they pick, as I assume they will pick stuff that is broken. I mean, fight after fight they kill all the monsters without getting killed themselves! What sort of a game is this, anyway?

 

An insightful observation about the nature of 4e, and why it hasn't succeeded as well as other editions. (from the DDN General Discussions, 2014-05-07)

Rundell wrote:

   

Emerikol wrote:

       

Foxface wrote:

        4e was the "modern" D&D, right?  The one that had design notes that drew from more modern games, and generally appealed to those who preferred the design priorities of modern games.  I'm only speculating, but I'd hazard a guess that those same 4e players are the ones running the wide gamut of other games at Origins.

       
        D&D 4e players are pretty much by definition the players who didn't mind, and often embraced, D&D being "different".  That willingness to embrace the different might also mean they are less attached to 4e itself, and are willing to go elsewhere.

    This is a brilliant insight.  I was thinking along those lines myself.  

 

    There are so many tiny indie games that if you added them all together they would definitely rival Pathfinder.   If there were a dominant game for those people it would do better but there is no dominant game.  Until 4e, the indie people were ignored by the makers of D&D.

 

Yep. 4E was embraced by the 'system matters' crowd who love analyzing and innovating systems. That crowd had turned its back on D&D as a clunky anachronism. But with 4E, their design values were embraced and validated. 4E was D&D for system-wonks. And with support for 4E pulled, the system-wonks have moved on to other systems. The tropes and traditions of D&D never had much appeal for them anyway. Now there are other systems to learn and study. It's like boardgamegeeks - always a new system on the horizon. Why play an ancient games that's seven years old?

 

Of course, not all people who play and enjoy 4E fit that mould. I'm running a 4E campaign right now, and my long-time D&D players are enjoying it fine. But with the system-wonks decamping, the 4E players-base lost the wind in its sails.

And I actually did the, "It was all a dream," once. It was something that actually happened in, for lack of a better term, Dreamlands. And they won there.

I have about 4 other plot devices I can use to bring the story forward without breaking continuity or handwaving the TPK away. I always try to have a Plan M (the one where dies) in reserve should the worst happen.  Never did I PLAN on the worst happening, though.

A wipe was never going to be part of my design or plot.

58286228 wrote:
As a DM, I find it easier to just punish the players no matter what they pick, as I assume they will pick stuff that is broken. I mean, fight after fight they kill all the monsters without getting killed themselves! What sort of a game is this, anyway?

 

An insightful observation about the nature of 4e, and why it hasn't succeeded as well as other editions. (from the DDN General Discussions, 2014-05-07)

Rundell wrote:

   

Emerikol wrote:

       

Foxface wrote:

        4e was the "modern" D&D, right?  The one that had design notes that drew from more modern games, and generally appealed to those who preferred the design priorities of modern games.  I'm only speculating, but I'd hazard a guess that those same 4e players are the ones running the wide gamut of other games at Origins.

       
        D&D 4e players are pretty much by definition the players who didn't mind, and often embraced, D&D being "different".  That willingness to embrace the different might also mean they are less attached to 4e itself, and are willing to go elsewhere.

    This is a brilliant insight.  I was thinking along those lines myself.  

 

    There are so many tiny indie games that if you added them all together they would definitely rival Pathfinder.   If there were a dominant game for those people it would do better but there is no dominant game.  Until 4e, the indie people were ignored by the makers of D&D.

 

Yep. 4E was embraced by the 'system matters' crowd who love analyzing and innovating systems. That crowd had turned its back on D&D as a clunky anachronism. But with 4E, their design values were embraced and validated. 4E was D&D for system-wonks. And with support for 4E pulled, the system-wonks have moved on to other systems. The tropes and traditions of D&D never had much appeal for them anyway. Now there are other systems to learn and study. It's like boardgamegeeks - always a new system on the horizon. Why play an ancient games that's seven years old?

 

Of course, not all people who play and enjoy 4E fit that mould. I'm running a 4E campaign right now, and my long-time D&D players are enjoying it fine. But with the system-wonks decamping, the 4E players-base lost the wind in its sails.

Have you ever had any luck getting players to flee? In my experience, players would rather their characters die than retreat. I tend to this this is because retreat is deprotagonizing for the characters, and an admission of error by the players. Also, players sometimes seem to think that a DM is bluffing about killing them, because, as we see, killing players has a tendency not to be much fun.

If I have to ask the GM for it, then I don't want it.

Rood -

Part of why I'm replying is because I had what I would call a 'heavy' DM before, and I left his game very frustrated and never returned. (The last straw was some magical city where only humans were immune to the effects and for every sq you were away from the ONLY human we had in the party, your speed dropped by 1.) Sorry, I digress:

You want your players to be heroes. You want to give them the chance to do amazing things that have them leaving your table feeling like they can take on the world. I think you also want to make them sweat a little bit. I do it by stacking lots of smaller things, rather than ramping up big things.

Case in point: My players were in a small room, fighting a few weak flying creatures that had some forced movement. No big deal. But the floor in part of the room was crumbling over a huge crevasse and the flying creatures knew it, so the players were constantly being shoved back toward the giant pit. It wasn't an overwhelming challenge, but it required some ingenuity and creativity on their parts and they felt awesome at the end.

I would also encourage you to look at the monsters currently in existance at your players' levels. Match those mechanics. Or better yet, just take the monster off the shelf and call it something else. Your players' PCs are designed to handle certain things along the way, and if you're pulling stuff off the top shelf, when they're only ready for the bottom, no one will be happy.

Finally, don't take the right to decide away from your players. As much as you are crafting the world, they deserve to craft their way through it. This means you need to be ready for them to run off the rails, and you need to be okay with it.

My second finally, don't let your pride keep you from going back to DM'ing. Learning it is a process and one you are obviously on the road of, don't give that up now.
Also, this:
Mar 9, 2011 -- 10:52AM, Arithezoo wrote:

As a DM, I find it easier to just punish the players no matter what they pick, as I assume they will pick stuff that is broken.  I mean, fight after fight they kill all the monsters without getting killed themselves!  What sort of a game is this, anyway?

Is really not a great DM'ing mentality. So what if they pick stuff that's broken?!

We often look at PCs as a one-directional thing, they're just there to hit stuff. So they're going to build characters to his stuff as hard as they can. But PCs have a wide range of choices to make, and when the game world engages them in new ways, those choices become more relevant.

I think it is Centauri who has done a wonderul job with 'alternate goals' in combat settings, where just killing the bad guys isn't the only purpose to being there. These types of scenarios encourage players to spread out their resources rather than front-loading combat mehanics, which leads to less brokenness.


I will also admit, I'm not the expert DM here, so take my opinions as you please...."window.parent.tinyMCE.get('post_content').onLoad.dispatch();" class="mceContentBody " contenteditable="true" />
Though I'm sure that quote is largely tongue-in-cheek, that mentality is a thing in our hobby. And I'm almost certain it comes from a source not many consider: "stories."

Hear me out: Let's say you're DMing. You've written the story and plot points. You know how it's going to go, more or less, beginning to end. (Hint: The BBEG is always at the end.) There are literally no surprises to be had for the DM outside of a new ribald joke that somebody picked up earlier in the week. The players are expected to go from one encounter to the next and win every time. If you ask me, that's pretty boring. So after a while, you can't help but want the PCs to have a "real" challenge, one that might actually turn out in a way that might not be the same old process of killing monsters along the rail until getting to the BBEG. You start tinkering with your encounters to make them harder and harder until - oops - now the players are just as frustrated as you are, but for different reasons.

I say this because it was my own experience and, in speaking with some others DMs, their own as well. I used to create plots and stories for the PCs to experience. Week after week, I saw my challenges blown away by frost cheese and radiant mafias and you name it. It was pretty frustrating, not because I didn't like losing (DMs are losers), but because there wereno surprises. Nothing ever happened that I didn't see coming. So you find yourself upping the ante on the monsters to add at least some uncertainty to the game until you slip off that razor's edge of challenge and damage the group.

The solution for me: No more plots and stories. I create locations or situations whose outcomes are not only fun and surprising, but are actually replayable. (And actually some players will replay them themselves over and over.) I put reasonable monsters in these locations and situations and if they die, they die. It's not so much whether or not the PCs are challenged by their mechanics but rather what the outcomes of those fights mean in the context of their goals. It's really fun for me and keeps me off the path of upping the ante on my encounters just to insert some uncertainty to my games, as the style creates loads of uncertainty on its own. I'd recommend the OP try it if the group gets back together. It might just prevent future occurrences of this issue.

For any decision or adjudication, ask yourself, "Is this going to be fun for everyone?" and "Is this going to lead to the creation of an exciting, memorable story?"

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The fact that you're so worried about it and want to approach your group for ways to improve says a lot.  The best thing you can do, as others have said, is sit down and talk with your group.  See what your players want and tell them what you want.  Then see if you can work it all out. 

I've been a DM for a long time and it's not easy.  You make lots of mistakes.  Fortunatley, you can learn from them and move on (hopefully).  So let me give you a little perspective as both a DM and and player. 

From the player side of the table:

Players (like I am when I play) want to be the heroes.  They want to win and really they're supposed to.  That's what the game is all about really.  The players are big parts of your game world, playing the heroes of your story.  So when it comes time to fight, they want to fight and they want to win.  Running away isn't very heroic, so no one wants to do it.  I've never seen a party run from a fight.  Never. 

As a player, when you get into a combat, you assume you're supposed to win.  The game is designed so that encounters are balanced and they should be able to win, with varying degrees of difficulty.  So if a combat starts and dice are rolled, players think it's a fight they can win.  That's how the game is designed and they know it.  So running doesn't really occur to them, as the game is made so that they get into reasonalby fair fights and win. 

From the DM side of the table:

If you don't want a villain to die, don't put them in an encounter.  It's awesome to have a big bad villain for the players to work against.  Just don't put them in a fight until you're ready to kill said villain.  If a fight breaks out, the PCs are supposed to win. 

Try to avoid railroading if you can.  Role playing is about the freedom of choice for your group.  Players like role playing as it gives them the freedom to do what they want.  They aren't picking dialogue options in a video game.  They have total freedom.  If you only give them one choice and you know they aren't going to like it, they won't leave the table happy.  So in your scenarior where you had the TPK, there are a couple of things you could do.  Instead of running, drop a hint that the PCs could use something magical to banish the villain while they regroup.  Or have the PCs maneuver the villain into a trap where the building collapses or they fall into something.  Then when the PCs go to check, the body is mysteriously gone.  You get the same result, your villain escapes.  The Party gets to "win" and nobody has to die.  Creativity is your friend.  If the PCs come up with a wild solution, run with it.  It makes them feel good and you can still get what you want too. 

Finally, it's a group activity.  The more you include them in the choices of the game and how everything plays out, the more fun and the more invested they become.  It's not you vs them.  It's everyone together.  It's group storytelling with game mechanics.  There should never be "one solution".  Let ideas run wild.  You'll have to be little more flexible, but your players will appreciate the effort. 

Really, just sit down and talk to them.  If you want to, let them know you'd like to give it another shot.  Be willing, as a group, to stop playing for a minute and discuss an issue as it comes up.  Try to avoid leaving angry as it means they likely won't come back.  My table has a standing  house rule where we all have a playing card.  If you have an issue with anything that comes up during a game, with me, the story, or another player, you throw your card on the table.  The game stops and we talk it out until it's resolved on the spot.  No one leaves with hurt feelings and the issue is settled right there. 
Its already been said and some time has passed since your original post, but I would reiterate the point of talking to the players and being ready to take some constructive (and not so constructive) criticism.  Let them know you genuinely want to get the group back together and find a solution (together).  Dont beat yourself up too much; being the DM is one of the hardest positions at the table to maintain consistently.  Let it be a lesson to not invest yourself or get too much tunnel vision with what you want the story to be.  You always want that threat there, but you also must always remember why you all come back to the table; to have fun!  Another consideration for the future; call a break in the middle of that kind of mess.  Its not the best thing to do to maintain the full effect of the game, but it sure beats a TPK any day.  Tell your players you need 5 - 10 minutes to figure some things out before you continue.  That will give you a chance to regroup with yourself and take the story in the direction it is meant to go; everyone has fun.

In hindsight, perhaps you could have taken this encounter (monster/villain) to the next level and given it more purpose within the campaign by enslaving the PC's as opposed to killing them all.  Then the PC's would have a chance to find a weakness while enthralled and get a chance at revenge at the right time.

If you are able to get everyone back to the table, I strongly disagree with a long questionaire.  This tends to get boring for a person to go through that sort of activity.  An open dialogue tends to be best suited for better conversatins - in my opinion.  You do want some probing questions for sure, in terms of what did they like and what they didnt, but beyond that you dont want to interrogate your players.  Additionally, one thing you might try is encouraging your players to write down some ideas they would like to see incorporated in to the world moving forward.  You obviously already have one person to rely upon for making the game smoother (your friend with the most background), so you may try asking one of the other players for a semi co-DM role to help with story and plot help.  This person would assist you either before or after the game to specifically help with elements that can be fixed in to the game - this would create some major buy-in from this person I feel.  If no one is interested in this role, then that is fine - you always have your friend to lean on.  Always keep in mind though, that ALL of your players help develop story at all times throughout the session, and it is from this that you should be weaving your story.  This additional "helper" is there to help with special NPCs that can arise, in game awards that would be "cool" and encounters that would be "fun" to go up against.

Good luck sir.

And if you cant get them all back together, dont beat yourself up too much, it just means it wasnt meant to be.  You would then have learned a lot as a DM and can focus your energies one what you will do better when you come to the table again down the road.

This monster opened with a monologue about how powerful he was, and told the characters to flee. Every time he dropped another player, he told them to flee. He even tried to leave the map, but the last remaining players said they would continue to chase him. (They would have -- In LFR games, where a villain is just supposed to flee, these same players had chased the villain through 3 previous maps, in at least one mod. But that time, they actually had numbers that could defeat the villain who was just trying to sneak away with his life.)



I just wanted to comment on this part Rood.

If you WANT the bad guy to run away he does.  Your players PCs were getting stomped and you made the decision to have the BBEG run away, but then a play said they were going to chase him so you decided to stay and fight IN THE HOPE that your players would decide to run away themselves.

As the DM you noticed that things weren't going well for your players so you said to yourself "I'll make my BBEG run away".  That was probably the best decision at this point.  Just because a player says his PC is going to chase him shouldn't have changed your decision.  You could have easily done several things to prevent any of the PCs from following.  Here's just a few quick examples off the top of my head.

1) BBEG turns and goes through a door.  Door slams shut.  One or more PCs attempt to follow.  They try to open the door.  It's locked.  Maybe the figure a way through the door (pick the lock, bust it down, whatever), but now the BBEG is nowhere to be seen.  Maybe just some trace evidence that he left at the scene, but he is gone.

2) BBEG Teleports out of there.

3) BBEG puts up a wall of force or something along those lines between him and the PCs and walks away.

I think you get the point here.  You had a great BBEG that you said you wanted to use as a continuing force against the PCs throughtout the campaign.  You could have made that happen but instead ended up with a TPK.


From your posts I see you realize that you made a mistake and I'm not trying to bash on you.  I'm just hoping to give you some ideas that you could've gone with instead of what happened.

I think Centauri said it, "Have you ever had any luck getting your players to flee?"  Never assume that just because you put an Ancient Wyrm Red Dragon in front of a group of 1st level PCs that they are going to run away.  The PCs are supposed to be the hero's of the story and Hero's don't typically run from danger, even if it's life threatening.

So two things for you to chew on.

1) Keep creatures mechanically at the level of what the party can handle as I think someone already mentioned so that you don't put the party into this kind of situation ever again.

2) If somehow they do end up in this situation and you decide to have the enemy flee, or some other event occur that prevents a TPK (without being all Dues Ex Machina about it), THEN IT HAPPENS that way.

I hope this helps, and again I'm not trying to bash you, just trying to help you think of different options.
Honestly, I think it speaks pretty highly of you as a DM that the outcome bugs you, and that you want to improve.  I read your player's post first, and honestly I felt you sounded a little shell shocked at the end...it seemed clear from his post, that you weren't trying to  be a lethal DM, and that things just got out of hand.  I think the fact that you want to learn from what went wrong is reason enough to give you another chance, and I hope your players do so.
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