Game Master/Dungeon Master Conference Hall

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Goldstein
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Game Master/Dungeon Master Conference Hall

Postby Goldstein » Fri Mar 27, 2009 7:16 pm UTC

I'd like there to be a thread in which Dungeon Masters of all manner of roleplaying games can pool ideas for interesting adventuring scenarios. And so it was. I'm thinking mostly of open-ended puzzle/skill situations to put the players in, rather than storylines, combat situations or simple character vs. world challenges such as skill checks. By open-ended I'm referring not to strict A-B-C puzzles but more general obstacles that the players can use their own ingenuity to overcome. These should usually feel like quite natural circumstances, provoke some discussion among the group, prompt the players to attempt things you haven't planned for and ideally make use of multiple skillsets.

I'll be DMing my first ever game for a group the next time we get together - I've DMed only for an individual in the past, but I'm sufficiently happy with my understanding of the rules that I want to try something more thought-provoking than combat, so I'll throw down a very mundane example of the sort of thing I'm looking at. It is especially dull because the characters are low-level.

-

The game is D&D 4e (Yuk, right?), and the party are level 2. It consists of an Elven Ranger, a dumb-as-a-post Halfling Rogue, a hulking Dragonborn Paladin and an Eladrin Wizard who hasn't yet played. I've never met the player of the Wizard though I know he's not played before, and the Paladin's player is very quiet at the table. The whole group have only gone through combat encounters up to this point - The guy now running the Rogue took us through the adventure in the back of the DM book.

The scene: The party are traversing a small sewer layout after being informed that the Mephit that appeared in the tavern came up through the now-unused sewer system. A tunnel on route passes through a relatively small room containing two stone floors separated by a 15-feet chasm, which runs 30 feet deep. An underground stream down below carries away excess water, but runs shallow and was barred off when the sewer was dug out. On one side of the chasm is the party, and on the other side lies the body of an unfortunate individual who may well still have an item or two of value on his person.

The challenge: I expect the Rogue will delight in the opportunity to put his acrobatics to use and leap the chasm, though the fall is particularly nasty. Alternatively, the group might take the steadier option of climbing down and back up the chasm. As everyone's carrying sunrods they'll probably never use, I'd like to suggest a character without low-light vision struggles to see his hand-holds if he's climbing down the pit. If the group ask if there's anywhere they can anchor a rope, I'll reveal the added detail that the many small pipes leading into the room are barred and rope could be tied to them.

These physical activities are all well and good for the majority, but I don't think the Wizard yet has any ability to help out here. As the Wizard's player is so new to the table, I'm tempted to make it easy for him to feel useful by having some sort of Arcana skill challenge at the other side by the corpse - Possibly a magic trap which explains the adventurer's demise and requires attention before the corpse can be approached. Getting the Wizard across the pit is a task left to the group, but hopefully they'll reason on using some rope.

I'm trying to avoid having the party be required to use any particular approach or require any particular power to achieve the goal of robbing the dead guy here, but I would like something a bit more involved than a skill challenge once they're across.

Contingency: The pit itself represents a pretty formidable challenge to these low-level characters, and some bad rolls could leave someone in desperate need of aid pretty quickly. I don't think the fall damage alone could kill any of the characters, so hopefully any serious injury will prompt them to proceed more carefully, but it's possible a character stuck in the chasm may be unable to climb out (I'm thinking DC 10, but two climb attempts to get out, with a 10-foot or 20-foot forfeit, respectively). It'll also be necessary to make it clear what's going on if I do involve a magical trap at the other side.

It's also essential that the players recognise the value of the dead adventurer across the room. Not being huge gamers, they may see the corpse more as a warning than an opportunity for "teh lewtz", if you will, and I'll have to be sure to make it seem significant, perhaps even going as far as to tell them that they can see something in particular beside the body.

-

I'd love to hear any thoughts anyone may have on this, and it'd be great if others fancy telling us about the tight-spots they've put their PCs in or plan to do so in future so that we might discuss it a little here. Something I've realised in drawing up the above plot is that it doesn't take a very fanciful idea for it to be an interesting encounter. As the players I'm playing with have only experienced raw combat, I'm hoping this will get them to stop and think a little. Maybe we'll even get someone to glance at their inventory sheet. That'd be a first!
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Re: Dungeon Mastering: Dungeoneering

Postby Avelion » Sat Mar 28, 2009 3:43 am UTC

If the wizard knew what he was doing he would likely just cast Tensor's Floating Disk and have it float the body to the other side, but that doesn't seem likely. One interesting encounter of this type that I recently went through was a large room flooded with blood. In the blood 4 red demons hide. Two giant statues of mintaurs holding whips stood on both sides of the room with a 15ft causeway in the middle. There was just enough room around the statues to walk on. On the other side of the room lay a sword blade and a hilt on seperate platforms suspended above the blood. Our party consisted entirely of melee fighters and a cleric. The cleric and I managed to make our way over to the causeway by leaping on the statue and then across. Once there the statues starting making whip attacks that knocked us prone and pushed us a square everytime they hit(though they never managed to hit my paladin due to crazy AC.) The cleric rolls a 20 on his jump check and leaps around 50ft the get the hilt and I use my grappling hook on the statue to swing across to the statue and then jump to blade. Once the items are picked up the statues begin attacking twice a round the the blood is whipped into a torrent. The cleric and I use the rope to swing back over to the causeway but midway the statue attacks and whips the cleric of my paladin's back. During this time the two rogues are fighting off the demons while being knocked around by the statues. The cleric swims back to the causeway and I jump back over to the other statue making it out of the room with one of the rogues. The cleric falls into the blood while attempting to jump back to the entrance. The other rogue in the room attempts to hoist him out(he's a halfling and the cleric is a dwarf so naturally this was not meant to be.) and falls in himself. I return to the room and roll a 20 on my strength check and fling them both out the door and leave myself.
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Re: Dungeon Mastering: Dungeoneering

Postby Christophoros » Sat Mar 28, 2009 1:59 pm UTC

Eladrin... Don't they have a teleport ability? He could just 'port over to the other side, and examine the body while the rest of the party take their own sweet time.
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Re: Dungeon Mastering: Dungeoneering

Postby curuinor » Sat Mar 28, 2009 2:46 pm UTC

One of my favorite things of this sort was a great big boulder, a la Indiana Jones, but made of gold with little holes in it for air and seeing(specifically too small for targeting), and a hatch on top. In the way of them getting back out was a horde of rust monsters, and there was some horde scarabs(Draconominicon, 3.5 ed) inside as well. Instead of losing any of their gold, they would get out of the boulder and kill the rust monsters from afar.

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Re: Dungeon Mastering: Dungeoneering

Postby Vaniver » Sat Mar 28, 2009 8:26 pm UTC

Avelion wrote:If the wizard knew what he was doing he would likely just cast Tensor's Floating Disk and have it float the body to the other side, but that doesn't seem likely.
It doesn't work that way anymore.

Christophoros wrote:Eladrin... Don't they have a teleport ability? He could just 'port over to the other side, and examine the body while the rest of the party take their own sweet time.
Yep. Make sure to prompt the new player- it'll get him used to a special ability that's actually quite cool (beyond just getting you out of sticky situations) and decrease the chance of him botching the first challenge he comes across ("I'll leap it." "You sure?" "Yeah, I'll probably make it." *rolls poorly*)


One thing to consider in situations like this is keeping it vague on purpose, and letting the players define their options. Make it a habit to answer yes- "Is there a place we could anchor a rope?" "Is there a piece of debris we could use as a bridge?" That way, while you might have one or two options planned out ahead of time, your players get used to being able to come up with their own solutions, instead of listening for the clues that you give them ("There's a bunch of sturdy-looking pipes").
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Re: Dungeon Mastering: Dungeoneering

Postby Goldstein » Sat Mar 28, 2009 8:43 pm UTC

Thanks for the feedback. The floating disk might not be an option but mage hand could serve some use.

Christophoros, good catch. I hadn't considered Fey Step. Now I don't want to change the encounter to prevent him from using it, but I would like to make sure that the whole encounter isn't simply resolved by teleporting over the chasm and grabbing the goods. It seems like all of my players can make a good go at this one except the ranger, but I'm struggling to see how he might offer something that the others don't. I'd like the typical solution to involve having to get two characters across the gap, so that the players can make use of ropes once one character's done all the risky legwork. I've considered swapping the corpse for a locked container, but I don't want the rogue to solve the problem entirely without any input from the rest of the group, particularly as I expect the player of the rogue to be the most vocal at the table.

Your adventure sounds fantastic, Avelion. :)
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Re: Dungeon Mastering: Dungeoneering

Postby Vaniver » Sat Mar 28, 2009 9:25 pm UTC

Goldstein wrote:Now I don't want to change the encounter to prevent him from using it, but I would like to make sure that the whole encounter isn't simply resolved by teleporting over the chasm and grabbing the goods.
Fey Step is a one-way trip (although you can go back if you wait five minutes).
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Re: Dungeon Mastering: Dungeoneering

Postby Avelion » Sun Mar 29, 2009 2:09 am UTC

Vaniver wrote:
Avelion wrote:If the wizard knew what he was doing he would likely just cast Tensor's Floating Disk and have it float the body to the other side, but that doesn't seem likely.
It doesn't work that way anymore.



I know it's a ritual now, but wizards get ritual casting for free and starting wealth will usually go to cheap and useful rituals such as the Floating Disk.
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Re: Dungeon Mastering: Dungeoneering

Postby Maseiken » Sun Mar 29, 2009 2:28 am UTC

I'd like to talk about my Paranoia game, but the players can read this thread...
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Re: Dungeon Mastering: Dungeoneering

Postby Vaniver » Sun Mar 29, 2009 2:55 am UTC

Avelion wrote:I know it's a ritual now, but wizards get ritual casting for free and starting wealth will usually go to cheap and useful rituals such as the Floating Disk.
I meant that you can't direct it across a pit, and you can't slide it underneath a corpse.
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Re: Dungeon Mastering: Dungeoneering

Postby DonChubby » Sun Mar 29, 2009 1:10 pm UTC

Maseiken wrote:I'd like to talk about my Paranoia game, but the players can read this thread...
Oh never mind that, we'll just keep out of here. *Whistles innocently*
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Re: Dungeon Mastering: Dungeoneering

Postby Maseiken » Sun Mar 29, 2009 1:24 pm UTC

So anyway, I was going to give them this support character, Bill-G-BOW... but then one of them (The one I hate most) just up and shoots him!

Well, that got tricky, but I managed to handle it with subtlety. Anyway, I'm going to get back at him in the R&D section b-

Oh crap! I've got to go, I'll see you guys later!
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Re: Dungeon Mastering: Dungeoneering

Postby DonChubby » Sun Mar 29, 2009 3:19 pm UTC

Uhm, whoops. Very subtly handled, though.
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D&D: Evolving as a DM

Postby Ixtellor » Mon Mar 30, 2009 1:44 pm UTC

I was reading the latest D&D thread about 'dungeoneering' and it reminded me of something that really started to bother me at the end of my D&D 'career'.

Why would someone create a thin walkway, surrounded by lava, full of demons, with a magic item sitting at the other end?

The entire concept of a dungeon full of traps and odd random monsters, and magic items just sitting in weird places, is all really really... odd.

What kind of being creates a place like that? A demented sorcerer deep in the throws of insanity? A totally alien creature whose motives humans can never understand?

And assuming people like this do exist, how many of them could their possible be?

Towards the end of my DMing days, I didn't put anything in a premade 'adventure' unless there was a 'logical' reason for it to be there. Basically most 'evil' people are going to work from the point of trying to gain power and wealth. Having a floating sword in a sphere with a minotaur who tells riddles... doesn't help that end.

Did any other DM's out there 'evolve' or 'devolve' into this kind of thinking as well?

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Re: D&D: Evolving as a DM

Postby Xaddak » Mon Mar 30, 2009 1:59 pm UTC

Did you ever play Diablo II? Remember the Arcane Sanctuary? Remember the mind-bending collection of twisting paths and teleporters? It made no sense, but it was more fun than walking down a corridor and killing things.

Same thing.

Although, with that said, I tend to logically justify everything in my campaigns, too. The thing is, sometimes that justification is "a wizard did it".
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Re: D&D: Evolving as a DM

Postby Ixtellor » Mon Mar 30, 2009 2:41 pm UTC

Xaddak wrote:The thing is, sometimes that justification is "a wizard did it".
.


Yes but for me, there had to be a WHY, why did the wizard do that?

Same thing applies to magic items. Why did a wizard take the time and spend the resources to make item X.

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Re: D&D: Evolving as a DM

Postby Naurgul » Mon Mar 30, 2009 3:03 pm UTC

Xaddak wrote:The thing is, sometimes that justification is "a wizard did it". Why did a wizard take the time and spend the resources to make item X?
This.

But seriously, one of the reasons I abandoned the standard dungeoneering style of RPGs was that I ran out of ideas to justify the impossibility of the impractical nature of the design of the dungeons (among other things). The whole well-defined challenge aspect of it is very difficult to be rationalized with plot and character motivations.

Spoiler:
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Re: D&D: Evolving as a DM

Postby ryanismean » Mon Mar 30, 2009 3:17 pm UTC

Yeah, that kind of dungeoneering is better suited for kids or people with easily suspended disbelief, I think. Our group is all over 30 and I rotate DM duties with another guy; neither of us really use that kind of inexplicable dungeon. It's fun to run old Gygax modules and just cackle at the sheer ridiculousness of it, though.

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Re: D&D: Evolving as a DM

Postby Serrin » Mon Mar 30, 2009 10:01 pm UTC

Ever play Tomb of Horrors? If I were a lich, that's exactly what I'd do. The only disbelief there is that it wouldn't be even MORE hardcore. Like, my tomb wouldn't have air in it, I think. Maybe just permanent cloudkill.

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Re: D&D: Evolving as a DM

Postby SecondTalon » Mon Mar 30, 2009 10:14 pm UTC

Perhaps the No Interference-style of DMing would be your speed.

Spoiler:
No Interference wrote:
I've been a DM for quite a long while, and I believe it is high time for an article on how to do it the right way; the right way being the Objective Improvisational style. Learn my simple step-by-step program and you will be well on your way to getting all the chicks and running great games. Possibly both.

OWN TOO MANY DICE.
Dice bags are for SISSIES. Get that crap out of here. Real DMs put their dice in a container of some sort, usually a tackle box, as that is the only thing large enough to hold the correct amount of dice. Players are stupid and they always forget their dice, so keep plenty of extra for the dummies and the freeloaders.

Beware of cats!

While cats can make great pets, they are DICE FIENDS. They will jump on your table and knock over everything just to swat the dice around and be obnoxious. Dogs lose to cats in all aspects of life except being sane when dice are rolling around.

GET ORGANIZED!

Get a folder. Put the name of your campaign on the front and the date it began, along with the names of the PCs. Keep track of which ones die, because it's funny. PCs always die in good campaigns. If people aren't dying at least once every 10 sessions, you're too soft. Stop being a weakling and start killing some players.

Your folder should contain relevant campaign information. Put notes and papers and stuff in the left pocket, house rules and addendums and errata on the right, and NPC and current info in the cute little center binder. This also means you need a hole puncher. Your folder should be NEAT and TIDY so you can find things when you need them.

Record keeping for idiots (that means you).

Always keep track of what happens in your game sessions. You won't remember what happened last week because YOU ARE DUMB. Get a sheet of paper and keep track of combats, events, and all the other crap you can't remember. Put it all in your folder for next week.

Note taking is an art that many DMs need practice with. When something happens in your game, write it down. Make large lists of information in this way so you can reference it later and your players will think you are smart and planned for it all along.

When a campaign is finished, either because the players want a new game or because you have slain everyone in brutal combat (the correct option), take all this garbage you've been writing down and FILE it for later reference.


GET A BATTLE GRID AND USE MINIATURES.

If you like to imagine your combats, go play World of Darkness. D&D is about killing stuff and taking said stuff's treasure, and as such you need to see what's going on so the players can't wheedle any tactics on you. If you can't afford miniatures then you have to get creative. I use a combination of miniatures, dice, and other assorted things. I also use wet-erase markers to draw with.

Note: Always wash off your markings after a session as they can stain your battle mat and that makes YOU LOOK STUPID.


DON'T PLAN ANYTHING.

Got a great epic storyline planned out? Throw it in the garbage. You are not writing a novel. As an RPG, Dungeons and Dragons is a freeform type of game. This means that the more you as the DM plan, the more it sucks. What you want to do is create specific types of things and use the players to fill in the story; after all the game is supposed to be the story of the PCs. How can the DM possibly plan that out? Quite simply, he cannot. All you need is some random encounter tables, a stack of NPCs, some basic information about the local area, and a few simple maps. Only create what you know you're going to use and make the rest up, because your players are going to do something else anyway.

Events.

This is my favorite tactic. You create events that take place at specific locations at specific times, regardless of what your players are doing. Most DMs have specific encounters take place regardless of what the PCs are doing. This is unbalancing to the karma of D&D and should be avoided. This is done to avoid planning going to waste. This is why we simply don't plan.

The players are dropped into various situations and you should let the dice do the work. Say you have a really great encounter you want the players to experience. Well, chances are, they think your encounter sucks. So instead of mapping everything out, you stay basic. You figure out what's going to happen and with whom, where it's going to take place and when. The most important question to answer is Why? Why are there four trolls rampaging down this hill at this specific place and point in time? Why is one of them carrying a sack full of dead bodies? As long as you know why things happen, everything else will fall into place.

Events can be made with NPCs, monsters, items, weather, maps, or anything else you can think of. Call heavy rains in 3 days. Where are the PCs in 3 days? Did they leave on schedule and make it to the next village, or are they stuck out in the woods getting wet because they decided to party late into the night?

Random Encounters.

This ties in well with the events. Quite simply, if you have no events you dice a random encounter and create a new event. You can also grab for that stack of NPCs. Always be using that brain, since you never use it any other time. Just because you dice up 17 orcs doesn't mean they see the party and charge. Maybe they're taking a meal break. Maybe they're fighting with something more powerful (that you also just diced up) and dying. The orcs would probably be pretty thankful to the PCs for saving their butts (although they'd likely not admit to it). Maybe they are wandering around hunting, or maybe a villain you created hired them to hassle the PCs. No need to stress over game stats either; just crack open that monster manual. You payed $30 for it, right? Use it.

Framework.

If you're not a moron, you have figured out that making things up on the fly by using your basic knowledge of NPCs and monsters is a great way to DM. Although it seems haphazard, you do not want your game to be a collection of random crap. You want it all to tie in on some level to the PCs, the local area, other NPCs, the government, whatever you want. All it has to do is make sense. Build your skeleton and let the players add the flesh, while you add flesh of your own as their actions fuel your brain.

Reality.

Even as a fantasy game, you want some basis in reality. What this means is that if your players are constantly fighting and encountering things with appropriate CR, then you are in the wrong and must correct this. Don't use appropriate challenges all the time just because the PCs are a certain level. Let them tangle with something much more powerful and surrender (or better yet be wiped off the face of the game world). Let them demolish a herd of goblins at level 14. Why would goblins stop trying to rob adventurers just because they're higher level? Do they just give off that aura of power? Hell no. Not in a form some idiot goblin can detect. All he knows is that there's 35 of him and only 4 of them, and they have a lot more shiny things than he does.

Quick NPCs

Don't know the stats for an NPC? 10. Is he an NPC class of any merit? 8,9,10,11,12,13. A PC class of merit? 8,10,12,13,14,15. Default arrays. If you need an NPC RIGHT NOW, just slap these stats on them and account for level and magic items and you are all set. The best way to do this on the fly is to build them gradually in your NOTES and then later come up with their full stats (if necessary).

DON'T GET ATTACHED.

Got a great villain that you'd just hate to see die? Let him die anyway. There's ALWAYS more villains. If the PCs happen to get the drop on your Big Bad Mamma Jamma, let it play out. The dice know best. Don't be afraid to watch something you've created get turned into trash by a few lucky rolls. All you should have on this guy anyway is game stats, a very brief personality and description (most likely memorized), and a little calendar of events that possibly involves him. The rest should either be in your notes or in your head.

CHALLENGE YOUR PLAYERS.

Don't be afraid to beat the crap out of your PCs on a regular basis. Use all kinds of sneaky powergaming tactics and odd terrain features. Have that dragon be wearing half of its magical treasure. A good game of D&D has a lot of suffering. Make them suffer.

Always make sure all the players have something they can be doing in a given encounter. Nothing is more lame than sitting around watching other people play D&D.

DOWNTIME, DOWNTIME, DOWNTIME!

For the love of all that is holy, the players NEED TO REST. This is not Lord of the Rings. Putting the PCs on a constant and strict time schedule is the WRONG ANSWER. Let them identify their magic items. Let the wizard write scrolls. Let them relax. Can you imagine fighting monsters on a daily basis for 3 months straight? I'd sure be wishing for a month or two off to spend my cash and just chill. You can go through 2 months in 2 minutes in this game. Don't be afraid to do it.

CRACK THE WHIP

When players cause trouble, it's time to lay down the law. Don't take any crap from anybody. Do not be afraid to raise your voice, curse, or simply pummel your players into submission. This is your game, and while the story is about the players, somebody has to be the referee and make sure everything flows smoothly. When someone starts breaking the flow then it is time for they themselves to become broken. You should develop your own tactics for harming your gamers. Watch as this elder DM unhinges his jaw to swallow whole a troublesome player.


You now have everything you need to DM without overplanning. Get to it.
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Re: D&D: Evolving as a DM

Postby Xanthir » Tue Mar 31, 2009 2:18 am UTC

I roll with the idea that The Dungeon is a god in and of itself. All caves, basements, crypts, and gazebos are twisted by the will of The Dungeon into inexplicable deathtraps.
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Re: D&D: Evolving as a DM

Postby Ginger » Tue Mar 31, 2009 8:38 am UTC

Wow, that is an awesome idea, Xanthir! Do you mind if I use it for any hypothetical campaigns in the future during which the thought would become relevant? Another origin story for some dungeons: They come into existence when a person with extraordinary willpower dies in an area possessing copious amounts of ambient magic and his or her last thoughts are something along the lines of, "I wish this place had its own monster population, some ridiculously complicated traps and a talking shield or two!" Where there's a will there's a way indeed.
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Re: D&D: Evolving as a DM

Postby Xanthir » Tue Mar 31, 2009 12:33 pm UTC

No, it's copyrighted. Use it and I'll sue.

By which I mean *of course* you can use it. I wouldn't have posted it if it wasn't meant for others to use. I stole it from someone else originally anyway (though I don't remember who).
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Re: D&D: Evolving as a DM

Postby Ixtellor » Tue Mar 31, 2009 7:16 pm UTC

SecondTalon wrote:Perhaps the No Interference-style of DMing would be your speed.



Nice article. Thats almost exactly how I DM'ed towards the end of my 'career'.
One thing mentioned in that very link, was the downtime.

I utilized a lot of this, and it had the added/enjoyable/realistic affect of making characters age. By the time our characters started getting into the higher levels, they were middle aged or older.

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Re: D&D: Evolving as a DM

Postby Xaddak » Tue Mar 31, 2009 8:16 pm UTC

I think that is the play style I am going to start using in the campaign I am making. My players are new, so I am going to be making the characters and letting them choose which they want to play. I borrowed a bit from Dwarf Fortress for some of how the goblin society works and for a name here and there.

So far what I have is this:

Spoiler:
The characters start the campaign with amnesia that cannot be cured, no matter what the characters attempt. The amnesia is the result of a potion forced down prisoner’s throats (in order to reduce escape attempts) before they are pressed into servitude, and the only possible cure is kept in the Obsidian Tower, the goblin capital. The slaves were controlled by a spell that forces them to obey the commands of their goblin masters, but it must be recast every day.

Half-Orc Fighter

Now: Champion fighter of the slave pens – competed in gladiatorial arena for the amusement of goblins.

Then: Travelling outcast prior to capture. Unwelcome in most towns due to prejudice against orcs because of wandering orc warbands. Unwelcome in the warbands due to half-human nature.

Human Rogue

Now: Learned rogue skills working for the Master Thief in the Obsidian Tower.

Then: Only child, and son/daughter of a nobleman, who is distraught while looking for his missing child.

Dwarf Cleric

Now: Used as an assistant to the High Priest of the Obsidian Tower, and eventually discovered their own faith, whatever that may be.

Then: Fleeing convict from the Dwarven Mountainhomes. Was a drunk that one day killed a guard in a fit of inebriated rage.

Gnome Wizard

Now: Used as an assistant to the Master Mage of the Obsidian Tower.

Then: Brilliant gnomish inventor. Founded a floating zeppelin city that has since crashed, because nobody else could fix the engines, and one exploded, sending the city careening into a mountainside. Very few escaped the wreck.

Halfling Ranger

Now: Taken on many wilderness scouting expeditions by the Master Ranger in the Obsidian Tower.

Then: Previously a cook, captured while gathering herbs.

Elf Druid

Now: Served under the Master (and only) Druid of the Obsidian Tower.

Then: Was a hunter, became lost and was captured by a raiding party.


The elf and the halfling don't have much in the way of plot hooks, but they can't all be stellar. I'm not even sure if I like how it is, where they gained skills by serving as a slave (usually as a glorified pack mule or doing bitch work - cleaning weapons, etc.) for a goblin that did that job and eventually picked up enough bits and pieces to hit level one.

The game starts with an earthquake that breaks open the slave pens, killing many slaves and guards, and releasing most of the surviving slaves into the wild. With a bit more work on the game world geography and political structure, and major events that I want to occur, I think it could be ready for No Interference.
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Re: D&D: Evolving as a DM

Postby Ginger » Tue Mar 31, 2009 10:07 pm UTC

Xanthir wrote:No, it's copyrighted. Use it and I'll sue.

By which I mean *of course* you can use it. I wouldn't have posted it if it wasn't meant for others to use. I stole it from someone else originally anyway (though I don't remember who).

You scared me for a moment there but then I read the rest of your post! :P Thank you. I had to ask just in case you were protective of ideas that you use. The idea of The Dungeon might not work in every campaign but it is convenient and interesting enough for those campaigns where it would work out well. I'd have more than enough fun working out the commandments of such a deity to its followers.
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Re: D&D: Evolving as a DM

Postby Xaddak » Wed Apr 01, 2009 2:02 pm UTC

...I'm gonna have to do that, too.
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Re: D&D: Evolving as a DM

Postby Ixtellor » Wed Apr 01, 2009 6:36 pm UTC

Meteorswarm wrote:My DM uses economics to explain a lot of things - for example, why we got the expected wealth gain every level. You see, that's what any adventurer expects to earn, so if you want to hire adventurers, you need to pay them that much or you won't be able to hire the calibre you want, so of course the king pays us that amount. Works better than saying "...and you have this much money now."


My first question is, why is the king paying you instead of using his soldiers to 'complete these tasks'? If he doesn't have enough/good enough soldiers to complete these tasks, why not just kill the king and his worthless non-monster killing soldiers and take over?

Secondly, you don't just get money for going up in levels. There shouldn't be a situation where the DM says "you get money" without an explanation. Its not like you hit 3rd level and find extra gold on your person.

Third, how much gold is the King paying you? Is it cost effective for him to do so? What is he getting out of it, that would make it worth him paying you gold (i.e. See Cost-Benefit analysis) Would it be cheaper to pay 50 level 1 soldiers to do the same task as you?

Fourth, does the king check to see that you completed your task?

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Re: D&D: Evolving as a DM

Postby AvalonXQ » Wed Apr 01, 2009 8:02 pm UTC

I entirely agree that "dungeons" need to be there for a purpose. But finding a legitimate purpose isn't really that difficult.
Why leave a powerful item protected by traps, puzzles, and creatures at the end of a hard-to-reach place? Because the item's owner wants the item secure, but not permanently lost/inaccessable. He wants to be able to retrieve the item himself some time in the future, or have someone else be able to retrieve it at his specific direction. So he plants traps he knows how to avoid, puzzles he already knows the solution to, and creatures he has a relationship with.
I'll note, however -- in my dungeons there is not always a set or obvious way for the players to traverse all of the obstacles, for the obvious reason that the players may not know enough or have the right skill set.
Also note -- if a community uses or lives in a "dungeon", some sort of path is always accessible to someone who knows enough. Or else, how do they get in/out?
If you think about the history behind the place you're making, you can put in "dungeon"-like elements that actually make logical sense.

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Re: D&D: Evolving as a DM

Postby Ixtellor » Wed Apr 01, 2009 8:35 pm UTC

AvalonXQ wrote:He wants to be able to retrieve the item himself some time in the future, or have someone else be able to retrieve it at his specific direction. So he plants traps he knows how to avoid, puzzles he already knows the solution to, and creatures he has a relationship with.


1) In order to make a 'dungeon' you have to have either significant money, man power, or magical ability. Why not hire bodyguards instead of building a complex dungeon? If you just have money, and presumably hire people to build the dungeon, you are already taking a huge risk by trusting others, so just cut out the silly dungeon and hire a bodyguard.

If your using magic to create the complex dungeon, how is that simpler than just making a bag of holding or some such object that you can carry on your person?

If you are living in the dungeon, how is that more efficient or cost affective than just building a stronghold armed with soldiers? Isn't hiring a lot of soldiers easier than training umberhulks to guard your loot and not destory the place in process?

2) If you are 'living' somewhere and dont' intend to move around, once again the stronghold makes more sense than a 'dungeon'. You and your cronies can walk around without worrying about deadly traps and pitfalls. You don't have to worry about hiring odd unintelligent monsters whose behavior could lead to your demise.

If you are a powerful mage, why not just make a simple place that is hard to get to rather, than an easy to get to place full of traps? Extra-dimensional spaces, other planes, small places accessable only by teleportation, etc. Filling a room with lava and getting devils to guard a glowing sword... seems a lot harder and less worth it.

If you move around alot, why is making a dungeon more useful than just hiding an object? Assuming you cant' carry it with you. Burying a lot of gold in the middle of the forest would take less work, or in a chest at the bottom of the sea hidden by spells, etc. Again, convincing trolls and a minotaur to guard your stuff seems more difficult and with greater risk.

I realize there will be bizarre exceptions, but the various worlds of D&D seem to be plum full of dungeons. You can't walk through the forest without tripping on an ancient dungeon full of beholders and fire hounds...

IMHO, encountering your classic D&D dungeon full of traps, riddles, and mismatched monsters should be insanely rare. How many Halisters (forgotten Realms) are there really?


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Re: D&D: Evolving as a DM

Postby Folx » Wed Apr 01, 2009 8:40 pm UTC

Ixtellor wrote:IMHO, encountering your classic D&D dungeon full of traps, riddles, and mismatched monsters should be insanely rare. How many Halisters (forgotten Realms) are there really?
Ixtellor


IF your dungeons are complicated complexes that seem build for the express purposes of defending an object/body that happens to have said objects on them/home of an eccentric hermit ... you're probably Doing It Wrong.

As has been said - if you want to seal away an object, there's dozens of ways of permanently doing it in D&D world - use one of them. If you think you may need the object later, build an order of fighters/monks/scholar wizards or whatever around it to defend it. If you don't believe anyone should ever have access to it again like in a burial situation - there's dozens of ways of doing it.


IF.. however, your dungeons are more or less natural cave systems that some group/person has moved into and modified to fit their needs due to not having the appropriate Skin Color|Height|Number of Limbs|Ear Pointedness to get along with the rest of society, it should also reflect that - lots of living spaces, open areas for meetings, rooms that seem to serve no purpose if you don't know it's where the daily lectures are held, that sort of thing.

If your dungeons have a 10x10 Room with an Orc in the middle, you've already fucked up beyond all recognition and might as well just have a laptop out and run your players through Nethack or something.

So.. yeah, the mishmatched monsters coexisting in static peace in an assortment of square rooms connected by square corridors is... outside of perhaps some mage's magical trap that ports you to a pocket dimension created just to drive it's prisoners insane....

(Still, traps do serve a purpose... though they're also completely idiotic.. but that's a whole different rant)
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Re: D&D: Evolving as a DM

Postby Ixtellor » Wed Apr 01, 2009 8:43 pm UTC

Meteorswarm wrote:Well, we were generally doing things that were diplomatically sensitive. Without attempting to explain the entire context of the campaign, we were attempting to tilt a war in favor of the king - complementing the army in ways the army couldn't. And we only got the money when we leveled because we used a free-form leveling system (and not XP) where we got a level or two at logical break points in the story arc. I actually like that method better, and it allows for arbitrary pacing.


1) D&D should always be played in a way that is fun to the group. There is no right way to do it, so whatever suits your group is always going to be ok.

2) I still don't get how you suddenly get more gold. Is it "The king realizes your getting very skilled and bumps your wages, based on your successes and ability to get ever increasing difficult tasks completed", or is it, "your level 4 now, you find 150 gold"

3) If you go by a strict rules driven D&D xp system, its dumb as hell. There was an old dragon magazine cartoon: Of an adventurer standing in front of a box with just one slit in it, and a skeleton on the inside. With a caption on the box that said something like "insert sword here for 77 exp" (I forgot the exact exp of a damn skeleton... been too long)

Hence I like the free form system. In the end of my days, I think the DM would just tell you how much exp you earned, based on difficutly, accomplishments, etc. Not by adding up the Monster Maual exp + other misc crap.

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Re: D&D: Evolving as a DM

Postby Folx » Wed Apr 01, 2009 8:46 pm UTC

Sometimes it's just nice to not even worry about keeping track of experience, just have the DM every now and again say "Oh, next week level your character before you get here"
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Re: D&D: Evolving as a DM

Postby Xaddak » Wed Apr 01, 2009 8:47 pm UTC

Ixtellor wrote:
Meteorswarm wrote:My DM uses economics to explain a lot of things - for example, why we got the expected wealth gain every level. You see, that's what any adventurer expects to earn, so if you want to hire adventurers, you need to pay them that much or you won't be able to hire the calibre you want, so of course the king pays us that amount. Works better than saying "...and you have this much money now."


My first question is, why is the king paying you instead of using his soldiers to 'complete these tasks'? If he doesn't have enough/good enough soldiers to complete these tasks, why not just kill the king and his worthless non-monster killing soldiers and take over?

Secondly, you don't just get money for going up in levels. There shouldn't be a situation where the DM says "you get money" without an explanation. Its not like you hit 3rd level and find extra gold on your person.

Third, how much gold is the King paying you? Is it cost effective for him to do so? What is he getting out of it, that would make it worth him paying you gold (i.e. See Cost-Benefit analysis) Would it be cheaper to pay 50 level 1 soldiers to do the same task as you?

Fourth, does the king check to see that you completed your task?

Ixtellor


I'm not involved in the campaign, but here are the answers I would provide:

First, perhaps even 50 level 1 soldiers couldn't complete those tasks. Or even 100 of them. Logistics could prevent it - a magic portal that only six people can go through and then it closes, or impossible to maintain supply lines. Numbers could prevent it - the king might have enough soldiers to keep the kingdom secure, but not enough to send on quests. That said, the task the adventuring party was completing might have been suitable for the party, but it is a rare/very high level adventuring party that is suited to laying siege to an entire kingdom, presumably guarded by thousands of soldiers, even though attacking from the inside out evens the odds considerably. Regardless, 1000 arrows each only doing 1 damage is still a possiblity of ONE THOUSAND damage. That's a lot.

Second, I don't think he was saying they get money for leveling. He was saying the king was paying them more as high-level mercenaries, just as in real world business, you pay more for an expert, well-known contractor than you do for a kid fresh out of college with no major experience under his belt. One of my professors, for example, charges hundreds of dollars per hour for his expert advice. If somebody doesn't like it, he tells them they can go get advice from somebody else.

Third, I think I answered this one already in the other two. If the DM is being logical enough to bring economics into it in the first place, I'm pretty sure he has found a way to justify it with a cost/benefit analysis.

Fourth, presumably he does. "Hey, we, uh, we killed the bad guy, planted the magic bombs where you said to, and blew up his castle. Yeah. Its, uh, gone. Can we get paid now?" "Well, you know, I've got this wizard on staff, you know the guy, he made the bombs and scryed out where to put them, smart guy. Yeah, he did some more scrying, and says you guys were hiding in the woods for a week blowing up bears and squirrels, not in the wastelands blowing up an evil lich's castle. No money for you."
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Re: D&D: Evolving as a DM

Postby Ixtellor » Wed Apr 01, 2009 9:02 pm UTC

Um... Now I really am just playing devils advocate.. but...

Xaddak wrote:Well, you know, I've got this wizard on staff, you know the guy, he made the bombs and scryed out where to put them, smart guy. Yeah, he did some more scrying, and says you guys were hiding in the woods for a week blowing up bears and squirrels, not in the wastelands blowing up an evil lich's castle. No money for you


So you have a wizard on staff who can make magic bomb and scy on a lich... why didn't he just handle the assignment?

How much money does it take to hire people to try and blow up a lich's castle? That sounds like a very difficult task, and imagine it was very expensive. Also, why attack a lich's castle?

If the king is both rich and being threatened by the lich, why not divert his vast army,himself, and his on staff super mage to go battle it? Why risk hiring a couple wandering adventureres with the security of your kingdom?

If they lich wasn't really a theat, why risk spending soo much gold on possibly invoking its wrath? (Dont get a lich mad at you) Even assuming the adventurers kill the lich... was it really worth all that gold (enough gold to hire adventureres capable of kiling a lich in his own castle!!!).

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P.S. I would never ask these questions as a player and just go along with it. But D&D is far more enjoyable as both a DM and player when there is a logical explanation for the actions of your worlds participants... IMHO. REPEAT: There is no correct way to play D&D.
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Re: D&D: Evolving as a DM

Postby Xaddak » Wed Apr 01, 2009 9:12 pm UTC

Ixtellor wrote:Um... Now I really am just playing devils advocate.. but...

Xaddak wrote:Well, you know, I've got this wizard on staff, you know the guy, he made the bombs and scryed out where to put them, smart guy. Yeah, he did some more scrying, and says you guys were hiding in the woods for a week blowing up bears and squirrels, not in the wastelands blowing up an evil lich's castle. No money for you


So you have a wizard on staff who can make magic bomb and scy on a lich... why didn't he just handle the assignment?

How much money does it take to hire people to try and blow up a lich's castle? That sounds like a very difficult task, and imagine it was very expensive. Also, why attack a lich's castle?

If the king is both rich and being threatened by the lich, why not divert his vast army,himself, and his on staff super mage to go battle it? Why risk hiring a couple wandering adventureres with the security of your kingdom?

If they lich wasn't really a theat, why risk spending soo much gold on possibly invoking its wrath? (Dont get a lich mad at you) Even assuming the adventurers kill the lich... was it really worth all that gold (enough gold to hire adventureres capable of kiling a lich in his own castle!!!).

Ixtellor

P.S. I would never ask these questions as a player and just go along with it. But D&D is far more enjoyable as both a DM and player when there is a logical explanation for the actions of your worlds participants... IMHO. REPEAT: There is no correct way to play D&D.


Maybe the on-staff mage was too old and frail to handle the assignment, and a younger, more durable crowd had to be sent.

Etc. etc. etc. We can do this all day. It's kind of like a little kid asking "But why?" about everything after every previous explanation. Even if there is a perfectly logical explanation, you know it, and you're willing to teach it, eventually your patience runs out.

Point is: just because you don't know it, doesn't mean there isn't a logical explanation. Plus common sense combined with knowing the game world can help. Like I said, I'm not involved in that campaign. I was BSing the lich stuff as an example.
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Re: D&D: Evolving as a DM

Postby Jesse » Wed Apr 01, 2009 11:13 pm UTC

Suspension of disbelief.

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Re: D&D: Evolving as a DM

Postby Yakk » Wed Apr 01, 2009 11:50 pm UTC

There doesn't have to be a bajillion different dungeons.

There just has to be the handful of dungeons and crypts and catacombs the players happen to go into.

The player's characters don't have to be typical -- you don't need an adventuring guild for your players to be adventurers.

And why a dungeon? Because it generates an encounter graph that is easy to describe and justify within its own context. Which makes planning easier.

If in each dungeon the players gain 3 levels, and they spend only half of their time in dungeons, you only need about 3 dungeons in the entire world for a party to reach level 20. Coming up with justifications for 3 dungeons isn't hard.

Sure, many of the D&D 'worlds' built up (especially ones like living greyhawk) end up having 'adventurer' being a standard profession. But as you noted, there being dozens of dungeons all over the place has issues.

You can play D&D as an "Indiana Jones" game, where your party is a bunch of people poking into ancient ruins buried under the ground (protected by magic, etc), and they happen to find out that if they don't do X (which might involve another buried ruin) the world is screwed.

And there is little reason why a wizard who is a master of divination magic need be a master of any other kind of magic, unless your goal is PC/NPC symmetry. Drop PC/NPC symmetry (the PC classes are a description of how a heroic wizard develops, not how a generic wizard develops, and heroic wizards are unique)...

As for conventional forces: conventional forces are slow, and might already be tied down. If you go with 'points of light', the duke might have a force strong enough to deal with the trolls in the swamp, the goblins in the hills, the hags in the bog, the strange creatures in the ruins of the old sewer system, the cult of orcus that is messing around in town, or the fey creatures messing with the people near the forest -- but if the duke moves the force into play, the duke becomes open to the other threats. So the dukes forces are forced to be defensive.

The players, meanwhile, are excess forces that the duke considers expendable. If they fail? No skin off the duke's nose. If they win, that is one less threat (that might have killed 30% of his force if he attacked it) dealt with.

2) I still don't get how you suddenly get more gold. Is it "The king realizes your getting very skilled and bumps your wages, based on your successes and ability to get ever increasing difficult tasks completed", or is it, "your level 4 now, you find 150 gold"

More likely: You return to the king, and the king rewards you with 150 gold. Oh, and by the way, gain a level.
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Re: D&D: Evolving as a DM

Postby headprogrammingczar » Wed Apr 01, 2009 11:55 pm UTC

Jesse wrote:Suspension of disbelief.

This. No matter how well you explain something, if you dig deep enough, something about the explanation is going to make you say "what the hell?". The players won't be analyzing your scenario that obsessively so just come up with something that shuts them up and move on with the scenario.
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Re: D&D: Evolving as a DM

Postby AvalonXQ » Thu Apr 02, 2009 12:27 pm UTC

Ixtellor wrote:If your using magic to create the complex dungeon, how is that simpler than just making a bag of holding or some such object that you can carry on your person?


Because you don't want the item on your person -- where it can potentially be filched, or where one death which would otherwise be a minor inconvenience turns into a major problem.
In high-level games, I've hired adventurers to ransack vaults. I've built strongholds up in the mountains full of traps to guard my stuff. Because of the situations I was in, those were the most logical actions for me to take at the time. So, you can continue to claim that this option is ludicrous -- but there are a number of situations under which it actually makes a lot of sense.


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