Side Stories and Changeing DMs

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So I discovered that it's really hard to make a session. It takes a lot of effort and eventually I found that it was near impossible to keep up with demand. So I decided that I would ask each person to make at least one story Arc as a side quest. Each Arc seems to last anywhere from 2-4 10 hour sessions, and although it's easy for me to come up with a story, it seems like everyone else is having a hard time.

I'm a Writer with a English/Psych double major and do this sort of thing as a hobby, but the group I have seems to not know how even the most basic structure of stories work. They're having a hard time coming up with reasons why NPC's are doing what they are doing (like a level 15 wizard losing his familiar because his familiar somehow forgot what it was doing and that it even existed.) Comming up with puzzles that are fair, and overall plots. A lot of them are excited to be able to run their own Session, while others are a little shyer. I’m doing this for two reasons, to give myself a break, and to help them understand the game better because they are all new. After knowing all that here's my question.

How can I help people write a good story and a good set of puzzles/encounters/NPC's without just giving them the awnsers. Should I just guide them with the mechanics and making it fun without any focus on plot? Or should I just give them a scenario that I write up if they can’t think of a good one.


So I discovered that it's really hard to make a session. It takes a lot of effort and eventually I found that it was near impossible to keep up with demand. So I decided that I would ask each person to make at least one story Arc as a side quest. Each Arc seems to last anywhere from 2-4 10 hour sessions, and although it's easy for me to come up with a story, it seems like everyone else is having a hard time.

I'm a Writer with a English/Psych double major and do this sort of thing as a hobby, but the group I have seems to not know how even the most basic structure of stories work. They're having a hard time coming up with reasons why NPC's are doing what they are doing (like a level 15 wizard losing his familiar because his familiar somehow forgot what it was doing and that it even existed.) Comming up with puzzles that are fair, and overall plots. A lot of them are excited to be able to run their own Session, while others are a little shyer. I’m doing this for two reasons, to give myself a break, and to help them understand the game better because they are all new. After knowing all that here's my question.

How can I help people write a good story and a good set of puzzles/encounters/NPC's without just giving them the awnsers. Should I just guide them with the mechanics and making it fun without any focus on plot? Or should I just give them a scenario that I write up if they can’t think of a good one.




Get a good feel of what they want the character to be, then offer them a selection of stories to work with. Keep them simple at first. Such as the wizard. He seems rather forgetful. One story there is that he's fighting the effects of aging and struggles to remember his familiar. Add details later, such as he seeks a youth restoration spell. Another possibility is that he has a mental disease and seeks a cure.

With such inexperience and indecisiveness, it's going to be on you to come up with a lot of the information.

However, it's possible they want to do more action and less character centric storytelling. Which means you can focus more on creating an adventure for them to run through that doesn't focus on the characters personal plots.

In that case, you know your players. It's up to you to make the call. 
My username should actually read: Lunar Savage (damn you WotC!) *Tips top hat, adjusts monocle, and walks away with cane* and yes, that IS Mr. Peanut laying unconscious on the curb. http://asylumjournals.tumblr.com/
Not all players want to dm, or can make a adventure from scratch. I think simply asking who wants to dm and use already written module is easier for beginner dming.
Not all players want to dm, or can make a adventure from scratch. I think simply asking who wants to dm and use already written module is easier for beginner dming.



I'm with Ghost on this, it's asking tomuch of a first time DM to run their own adventures. More importantly it's not going to give you a break from the DM job if you are always so invloved helping the others in the group DM. If you think you are finding it hard to find time to prepare as a DM, try teaching a whole group to DM. This is one time when it's more healthy for you to step out of the way, let people make mistakes and offer short quick advice if things go really badly or people ask for it.

There's a time when DM's can't always be in control and a bit of personal self care is more important.
Actually this was my first time running an adventure too, one that I made from scratch, and I had only played one game before this. It's funny because after I announced that I would be passing off DMing for side quests there was this sort of "oh ****" silence, but low and behold a few days latter they had all thought up a scinario and seem to enjoy working on it.

I'm planning on just giving them hints and limits, making sure their stuff is nice and simple. I think you're right with the whole 'step back and watch', though this whole ordeal will happen over the next three, maybe even four months. 
10 hour sessions


This might be your biggest problem, both for your own burn out and the story telling for the PC-come-DMs.

My normal session is about 3 hours long, but I've tried an all day (approx 8 hour) session before. The pure amount of prep work I tried to do made it so that in parts I felt like I was railroading the party (by forcing them to play my story, instead of me reacting to their story). At other times I was winging it because I let them go down a totally unexpected part, and my contributions were faily bland.

I think having a 3 hour session gives us time to get into the groove (as opposed to a lunch-break session) and advance the story, and give me enough time to do some prep work (advancing the plot and including fun elements) but still have enough leeway that I get to react to them. I tend to have a relatively firm plan for the session, a rough idea for the next session and a very hazy idea for the session 2 weeks later. It means I can do some foreshadowing and setting, but also gives me a lot of flexibility to rewrite the story to include their ideas.

Do you have to do it in 10 hour sessions, or would you be flexible to reduce it? It would also make it really hard on the rest of the party to make big 10-hours-of-planning-at-a-time sessions ... unless they do the method suggested by a few here of "make a starting situation only then let the players decide most of it. As a DM you steer the story and provide the rules. The DM doesn't provide the plot or the majority of the reactions."
Actually this was my first time running an adventure too, one that I made from scratch, and I had only played one game before this. It's funny because after I announced that I would be passing off DMing for side quests there was this sort of "oh ****" silence, but low and behold a few days latter they had all thought up a scinario and seem to enjoy working on it.

I'm planning on just giving them hints and limits, making sure their stuff is nice and simple. I think you're right with the whole 'step back and watch', though this whole ordeal will happen over the next three, maybe even four months. 



The first time I DMed I ran my own adventure, I found it a tough job. I figured that what I could create was going to be better than any premade adventure, I was wrong. My players didn't accept any of my hooks and did their own thing, as a result I had to dump everything. I found myself preparing every week for what I thought might happen. It was a very stressful period in my life and got more difficult later, avoid this situation for your players and yourself. If you can make your own adventures and people buy into them, your doing well, but it's time consuming as you state. As time has passed I have adapted a new method, I use premade adventures where I can but butcher them as the players or I get bored. I have built my resources around improvised game play, to account for players moving off the set path; I have all the monster manuals, a pile of premade maps, a tablet with images, and a app that allows me to build enounters in about 2 minutes, it even helps me run the game. But everyone has a different style based on what they are comfortable with.

I think you are heading in the right direction if you provide hints and suggest they keep things simple. I would not set limits, unless it's how long the adventure will take to run. Good luck with getting your head around stepping back and watching, it's easy to say but harder to do.
What Prom said. Modules are written exactly because of the difficulties you are having. You don't have to follow them to the letter - they can just give you a nice skeleton to build around. Completely making up a campaign is a lot of work - I know I can only do it at a rate of about one 5-6 hour session every 2-3 weeks. More than that and I just burn out. If the players want to play more often, tell them someone else can DM a game that alternates with yours or something - don't just work harder to meet their demands. D&D is supposed to be fun for everyone, including the DM.

Also keep in mind your story doesn't always have to be completely innovative and unexpected. Fall back on known tropes when you need to - rescue a princess, recover an artifact, vanquish a villain. Creativity is great, but classics are classics for a reason, and they can really help keep things moving.

Finally, pushing players to make up stories is generally not a good idea. I always ask my players for background info, and then use those as seeds for side quests. Some players give me a well-written story, and others never give me a back story at all.

Actually 10 hour sessions usually end pretty well. It's not like we play straight, and the reason why we go for so long is that our players are just not pro. They take a lot of time, they ask a lot of questions about mechanics and what they can do, and over all like exploring.

Now as far as not wanting to go somewhere, I've only had that problem once. Basically It's just the refusal of the call. If you know what the hero's journey is, you know what this is, and it's common in most forms of interactive media. But yea, I'm not looking for a solution to my time problems because that’s easy to fix, just give myself another week. This Temp DM thing was so that players got more involved into the game, and felt like they were really apart of making it and not just actors on the set.

Players knowing what it's like to be the DM as your goal, is smart. My own views of DMing have changed when I shifted from player to DM. I hope it achieves what you would like to see develop.
Don't worry about "giving them the answers," and make the game less about coming up with the answers, and more about putting those answers to work.

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

I believe the best course of action is to maybe not let them come up with their own side quests but to maybe just ask them if they have ideas for one. I've been lucky to be in a group where all of us can DM and we take turn as well as play different games. I know for me that when I'm just playing a character I want to do nothing but play and not worry about building a story. After all I just did that for 8-9 months or sometimes more. And if they dot want to DM it maybe just turn them off from the game.
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