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Jay R
2019-07-10, 11:15 AM
These rules were written for myself, for the way I run games. Not everybody agrees on how to run a game, and there's nothing wrong with that.

Some of them are serious, some are deliberately exaggerated for comic effect, but all of them are actual considerations when designing or running a world.

Note: the list has been edited to include the rules added during the discussion.

1. Donít make it flammable if you donít want it burnt.

2. No matter what the character sheets says, there are only three PC alignments Ė Lawful Snotty, Neutral Greedy, and Chaotic Backstabbing.

3. What the players want today is a quick, easy victory. But what they will want tomorrow is to have faced insurmountable odds, finally defeating an enemy who they thought was about to kill them.

4. It's your job to build the problem. It's their job to find a solution. If you create a death trap with one solution, then then they cannot get out unless they figure out what your solution is. But if you build death trap with no solutions, then any clever plan they come up with might work.

a. The purpose of a death trap is not death; it is to make the players feel clever. Don't build one to cause death, and more importantly, don't build one to make them feel stupid.
b. An escape proof trap, is, by definition, escape proof. What you want is a fool proof trap, and allow your players to amaze you with the quality of fools being made today.
c. Do not confuse a death trap with no solutions with a death trap that cannot be solved. No resemblance.

5. Never let a player roll a die unless it is acceptable for the roll to succeed, and acceptable for the roll to fail.

6. At the start of the quest, the DM should have in mind several ways for the PCs to fail. By contrast, it is not his job to find a way for them to succeed.

7. Reward good tactics, consistent characterization, and brilliant ideas more than lucky die rolls.

8. A role-playing game is run by rules. But it isn't made out of rules; it's made out of ideas, characters, and imagination.

9. The more completely you know the rules, the better you can be at ignoring them when necessary.

a. "When necessary" means it should be rare, forced by an unusual situation, and non-intrusive. [And some people believe it should not happen even then.]
b. Never change a rule unless you know why it was written.

10. Never base a campaign on something you are more excited about than your players are. You may have a great idea for a story based around Andalusian left-handed barbed-wire weaving, but by definition, your players are less interested in it, and less knowledgeable about it, and won't get your clues or references. And they won't care.

11. Donít hinge your adventure on the players figuring out a specific clue. Just because it seems obvious to you doesn't mean that it will seem obvious to your players. Have multiple clues, and/or multiple entries.

a. Know what you will do if they never figure out the clue.

12. Failing to solve the puzzle can cost them hit points, time, resources, curses, some treasure, or surprise attacks, but it should never cost them the adventure.

a. Some nice treasure can be behind the secret door, but the quest object cannot. [Unless there's another way to get there.]

13. If you arenít willing for the players to have it, donít put it in the game. Remember that if the NPC uses an item on the PCs, there are only two possible outcomes:

a. They party will all die, or
b. The party will wind up with the item.

14. The players do not have the right to screw up the game. They do have the right to screw up your plot. Donít confuse the two.

a. Do not give them a set of options that includes screwing up the game.

15. The dice do not have the right to screw up the game. They do have the right to screw up your plot. Donít confuse the two.

a. Do not roll a die if one result could screw up the game.

16. The DM does not have the right to screw up the PC's story. He does have the right to screw up the PCs' plans. Donít confuse the two.

a. The player does have the right to screw up the PC's story -- even by accident. If a 2nd level PC chooses to attack a dragon, then the PC's death is his doing, not the DM's.

17. There are players who see the world as a series of activities they can safely and straightforwardly defeat, and there are players who see the world as a dangerous world with life-threatening risks behind every bush. You cannot run the same game for both sets. Neither is inherently bad, but know which kind of players you have.

a. If the term "CR" is a common part of the players' conversation, assume that you have the first group, and plan accordingly. Never count on them deciding to run away from an encounter.

18. When the players ask for something - an item, a skill, a feat, whatever - they are not planning to use it for what it is intended for, they're planning the weirdest thing it could possibly be used for.

19. PCs should not roll for common or obvious knowledge. If the world has three moons, then they don't have to roll to remember it. They've lived under that sky all their life; they don't even have the idea of a world with only one moon.

20. Backstories are like swords. Some characters need them, and others wouldn't use them even if they had them.

21. A player's backstory isn't your toy to destroy if you want; it's part of their toy. You can threaten their friends, family, or homes, but by the end of the adventure, the players should not feel abused. Use their family as hostages, but expect them to be rescued, and to come home with more than they started with. If you burn down their cottage, they should wind up with a castle. The players should be glad that the adventure happened.

22. In every session, each PC should have at least one crucial moment when they are the essential character.

a. Identify the loudest player and the pushiest player. You will never need to set up their moments; they will do so.
b. Identify the quietest player and the least active player. You will need to set up their moments every session, and make it impossible for the first two to take these moments over.

23. A game is a co-operative venture. You don't have a right to force players into your game against their will, and for the same reasons, players don't have the right to force themselves into your game against your will.

a. Not all games are alike, and that's fine. Not all players want the same things out of a game, and that's fine.
b. Avoid having players who won't like the kind of game you're running. And then run a game your players will enjoy.

The following rules have been added since the original post. I've edited it to include them just so people can easily see the entire set.

24. When a PC gets a great new ability, there needs to be an encounter in the next session for which that ability is devastatingly effective. Otherwise it doesnít exist. There should also be an encounter in the next session in which it is useless. Otherwise, the rest of that character doesnít exist.

25. The purpose of wandering monsters is to prevent the game from bogging down. If the players spend over five real minutes in useless discussion, then it's ghoul o'clock.

a. Be careful with this. Not all discussion is useless.

26. When the partyís victory is assured, the encounter is over. End it.

a. Most NPCs wonít fight to the death; they would usually rather flee, negotiate, or surrender.
b. This is your opportunity to force-feed them that obvious fact theyíve been missing, and let them believe they earned it.
c. One round earlier, when you know the PCs have won and they donít yet, is a great time for the NPCs to offer to negotiate.

27. When you design a scenario, you should be firmly on the players' side, trying to produce encounters in which they have every legitimate chance to succeed (and that poor play and bad decisions can still let them fail). But when running the scenario, you need to be a fair and neutral judge of the PCs' actions.

28. If it doesnít matter, then donít roll dice; summarize. Rolling dice for mop-up combat is as pointless as rolling dice for tying your shoes.


I repeat: These rules were written for myself. Not everybody agrees on how to run a game, and there's nothing wrong with that.

Feel free to add your own rules -- even if I would disagree with them.

Particle_Man
2019-07-10, 11:57 AM
Be very clear about your house rules and setting conventions.

Lord Torath
2019-07-10, 11:58 AM
I think I cribbed this bit from here in the Playground. It's certainly not anything I came up with myself, but I fully endorse it!
The single most useful advice I've picked up somewhere is "Be a fan of your players' characters."

This implies a lot of things: Give them opportunities to be awesome. Show confidence in their abilities. The already mentioned "say yes" (because you want to see what awesome thing they are going to do!).
Be happy about their victories, not their defeats. Cheer when they come up with an awesome idea, even if it trivializes your cool encounter.
Last and IMO most importantly: Do not go out of your way to make them look like idiots (unless that's what the players are going for). If they fail a check, let them fail but don't interpret every failure as the PCs making a fool of themselves. That awesome trapper may misinterpret that set of tracks, but he won't confuse bear tracks for those of a pigeon. If players make a mistake based on their OOC lack of IC circumstances, correct them; don't let your NPCs treat them like lunatics.

When I look back at un-fun games now, it was often due to the DM not following this principle.

NRSASD
2019-07-10, 12:26 PM
I like them! I'm not 1000% sure since you posted them here, but do you want our commentary on them?

Jay R
2019-07-10, 12:49 PM
I like them! I'm not 1000% sure since you posted them here, but do you want our commentary on them?

Sure, why not?

This is how I run games. I know lots of people disagree, and that's fine.

Commentary may be improved wording, ideas or exceptions I never thought of, mere differences in taste, or something else. Sure, let's see every person's approach, not just mine.

Sam113097
2019-07-10, 05:20 PM
These are great! I'll take notes

Thinker
2019-07-10, 05:56 PM
This is reminiscent of GM Agenda and Principles from Powered by the Apocalypse games. Here are the ones for Dungeon World




Portray a fantastic world
Fill the charactersí lives with adventure
Play to find out what happens







Draw maps, leave blanks
Address the characters, not the players
Embrace the fantastic
Make a move that follows
Never speak the name of your move
Give every monster life
Name every person
Ask questions and use the answers
Be a fan of the characters
Think dangerous
Begin and end with the fiction
Think offscreen, too



You can read them more in-depth here: http://www.dungeonworldsrd.com/gamemastering/#Agenda

Galithar
2019-07-10, 06:02 PM
Rule number 1 is my favorite :P

My own additions: (Same disclaimer as OP these are how I run my game and it's not for everyone)

1. Conflict is essential to the game, but combat is optional. (Don't be afraid to let your players get out of your planned combat encounter by persuading, intimidating, deceiving, or bribing their way through.)

2. If a character is close to dying DON'T change the encounter to effect it. (Let them die or survive on their, and their parties actions, not DM intervention)

3. If a character does something stupid and gets themselves killed, let it happen. If a character does something stupid and it's going to get SOMEONE ELSE'S character killed intervenebif and only if that someone else would not be okay with the outcome.
3a. If at all possible, don't let them know you saved them. Let them be their own hero.
3b. If they can't be their own hero let a third party member save them.

4. [Common rule I'm 'stealing'. Credit to whoever said it first because it wasn't me] If you want them to fight, they're gonna try to talk to it... If you want them to talk to someone, they're already dead. Be prepared for the opposite of your intentions.

Jay R
2019-07-10, 06:05 PM
Rule number 1 is my favorite :P

Thank you.


4. [Common rule I'm 'stealing'. Credit to whoever said it first because it wasn't me] If you want them to fight, they're gonna try to talk to it... If you want them to talk to someone, they're already dead. Be prepared for the opposite of your intentions.

Conclusion: don't want any particular outcome. You're only in charge of the problem. They're in charge of the solution.

Kaptin Keen
2019-07-11, 01:22 AM
Those are some very good rules of thumb. Nicely done.

I'd say: Be less afraid of saving players when things to wrong. Consider AC/DC. Having played music together for .. I dunno, 40 years? .. Brian Johnson is still the new guy, while Bon Scott is the real lead singer. At least to some people.

If all the members change, it's no longer an adventuring party - it's a franchise. If Tom and Thimble and Gwenlowen and Urdloch set out to defeat the dread warlock of the east, and Ben and Stitches and PhaenadiŽl and Orhak return triumphant ... well then you're telling the story of the defeat of your NPC - not the story of the succesful quest of your (original) PC's.

Pauly
2019-07-11, 02:34 AM
This is a hobby the players are playing for fun. This is their entertainment time, time they could be spending on Netflix, drinking down the pub, going fishing, curled up in bed with a good book, trying to chat up a member of the opposite sex, playing badminton, salsa dancing etc. etc, etc. itís OK to make the game challenging. Itís never OK to make it a chore.

Misereor
2019-07-11, 04:03 AM
One law for all.
If the monsters can do it, the players can do it. If the players can do it, the monsters can do it.
Helps avoid a lot of rule mechanics discussions.

Know thy stuff.
Few things are more annoying than a GM who has to look everything up, or spend time wondering about how NPCs are going to react to something unexpected. Index your books, maintain a wiki, create people to inhabit your world rather than stat blocks, and frequently review your campaign.

Props are king
No problem with making the yellow car represent the fighter, the rook the priest, and the marshmallows the goblins. But minis and dungeon props can make for epic immersion and improvisation.

Darkstar952
2019-07-11, 05:19 AM
2. If a character is close to dying DON'T change the encounter to effect it. (Let them die or survive on their, and their parties actions, not DM intervention)



I totally agree with this but with one slight addendum, if they are dying as a direct result of me majorly misjudging the challenge or an ability, then I will be a little more lenient and forgiving as it is my mistake not theirs.




3. If a character does something stupid and gets themselves killed, let it happen. If a character does something stupid and it's going to get SOMEONE ELSE'S character killed intervenebif and only if that someone else would not be okay with the outcome.
3a. If at all possible, don't let them know you saved them. Let them be their own hero.
3b. If they can't be their own hero let a third party member save them.



Again totally agree with this, and it all comes down to Know your Players and how they will react/feel about the outcome(s).

Kaptin Keen
2019-07-11, 05:19 AM
One law for all.
If the monsters can do it, the players can do it. If the players can do it, the monsters can do it.

Actually, sometimes monsters can do it, but players cannot. Generally speaking, hydras can have 9 heads, and illithids can do mind blasts - and players cannot. But the general idea I agree with, of course. If you make a character that can do 150+ damage on a charge+power attack, then so can any NPC with the same build. And so on.

Ken Murikumo
2019-07-11, 07:46 AM
5. Never let a player roll a die unless it is acceptable for the roll to succeed, and acceptable for the roll to fail.


a. Not all rolls are strictly pass and fail. Allow for degrees of success or failure. If the player wants knowledge about something specific but barely misses the DC you set, give them something relevant and usable but not exactly what they wanted.

Misereor
2019-07-11, 07:48 AM
Actually, sometimes monsters can do it, but players cannot. Generally speaking, hydras can have 9 heads, and illithids can do mind blasts - and players cannot. But the general idea I agree with, of course. If you make a character that can do 150+ damage on a charge+power attack, then so can any NPC with the same build. And so on.

Sure they can. Polymorph, Shape Change, Wish. And their heads and mind blasts will have the exact same mechanics as that of the monsters, unless otherwise noted in the rules.

But I was talking more along the lines of:
Player: "If my character is standing like this in the doorway, what is my to hit modifier with my bow?"
GM: "-4 to hit"
Player: "That is so unfair!"
GM: "Exactly like that NPC who was doing the same thing two rounds ago."
Player: "On second thought, that sounds reasonable..."

PhoenixPhyre
2019-07-11, 08:19 AM
Sure they can. Polymorph, Shape Change, Wish. And their heads and mind blasts will have the exact same mechanics as that of the monsters, unless otherwise noted in the rules.

But I was talking more along the lines of:
Player: "If my character is standing like this in the doorway, what is my to hit modifier with my bow?"
GM: "-4 to hit"
Player: "That is so unfair!"
GM: "Exactly like that NPC who was doing the same thing two rounds ago."
Player: "On second thought, that sounds reasonable..."

We might split this in half.

Abilities may or may not be symmetrical. In D&D, at least, it's an exception-based rule-set. Heck, the PCs can do a lot of things that monsters can't (at least in general).

Resolution mechanics and rulings should be symmetrical. If a PC has disadvantage/advantage in a particular circumstance, a generic NPC/monster should also have disadvantage/advantage in that same circumstance. Both sides should roll the same dice and use the same process for resolving actions, even if the actions they take can be different.

Now of course the interplay between these two can be complex, because abilities often override the resolution mechanics. A monster who has the Spider Climb special trait can walk up walls without losing speed, where a PC (or other creature without that trait) requires double speed/a check of some sort/both.

Kaptin Keen
2019-07-11, 09:33 AM
Sure they can. Polymorph, Shape Change, Wish. And their heads and mind blasts will have the exact same mechanics as that of the monsters, unless otherwise noted in the rules.

In principle, that's not wrong - but for ... let's just call it 90% of all characters, it's also not right. If you do not happen to be an arcane spellcaster, you cannot do those things. But yea, if you are, you have expanded toolboxes.

But that's not really relevant. It's an example, and while not perfect, I'm reasonably convinced you know what I mean. Of course I'm a slightly restrictive GM. If one of my players does something cheesy that offends my sensibilities, I'll tell him it doesn't work. If you polymorph into a Solar, you do not get +5 dancing swords or arrows of slaying - and no possibility of appeal or early parole. I'd propably not allow the once a day wish, either. Nor would a wizard magically become a level 20 cleric for transforming into a solar. Or whatever nonsense people might suggest the spell does in this case.

It's sort of .. academic, though. I've played a character of level 16 once, but GM'd no higher than .. 12 or so.

GloatingSwine
2019-07-11, 11:03 AM
5. Never let a player roll a die unless it is acceptable for the roll to succeed, and acceptable for the roll to fail.

As a corollary: Don't roll dice unless failure will be interesting.

Kesnit
2019-07-11, 11:38 AM
If all the members change, it's no longer an adventuring party - it's a franchise. If Tom and Thimble and Gwenlowen and Urdloch set out to defeat the dread warlock of the east, and Ben and Stitches and PhaenadiŽl and Orhak return triumphant ... well then you're telling the story of the defeat of your NPC - not the story of the succesful quest of your (original) PC's.

I don't think there is anything wrong with this. I played in a game once where my PC was the only one who survived from beginning to end. (Mostly because he knew when to run away.) The fact that PCs came and went didn't take away from the fun of the game.

I would add one rule... Know what the PCs can do.

I was playing a Totemist in a campaign with my long-term gaming group. The DM put us against some monster with an insane grapple check in a sand-filled room. (The monster's tactic was to grapple a PC and drag them under the sand to die.) My grapple check (because of feats and binds) was pretty good, and I kept from getting grappled. (The rest of the party kept failing, though they managed to find ways not to die.) I also had a bind that gave me Freedom of Movement. The DM thought she had us when the monster finally managed to grapple me - until I used FoM to get out. A few rounds later, the monster grappled me, and I used FoM. After about the third or fourth time, the DM asked me how often I could do that. I told her it was a class feature and I could do it all day long.

The encounter ended by everyone who hadn't died leaving the room. I was the only one who could avoid being grappled, but couldn't hurt it enough to kill it. The others could hurt it, but not if they are grappled and dying.

Misereor
2019-07-11, 01:51 PM
We might split this in half.

Abilities may or may not be symmetrical. In D&D, at least, it's an exception-based rule-set. Heck, the PCs can do a lot of things that monsters can't (at least in general).

Resolution mechanics and rulings should be symmetrical. If a PC has disadvantage/advantage in a particular circumstance, a generic NPC/monster should also have disadvantage/advantage in that same circumstance. Both sides should roll the same dice and use the same process for resolving actions, even if the actions they take can be different.

Now of course the interplay between these two can be complex, because abilities often override the resolution mechanics. A monster who has the Spider Climb special trait can walk up walls without losing speed, where a PC (or other creature without that trait) requires double speed/a check of some sort/both.

That field mice and 20th level Paladins operate under different circumstances should be self evident enough that it needn't be mentioned. But they operate using the same set of rules, which is sometimes less so. Over the years I've had many players argue for various rules interpretations and then protest when later an NPC was able to use the same rule to put the player at a disadvantage. GM's will occasionally do the same. One law for all.

Quertus
2019-07-11, 01:57 PM
This is an amazing list - kudos!

And people's additions thus far have been above average, too.

There's a few things I partially disagree with (like the specific direction #21 took, for example), but, all in all, that list (or maybe even the thread so far) seems like it would make good medicine for what ails the sick gaming hobby. :smallsmile:

PhoenixPhyre
2019-07-11, 02:21 PM
That field mice and 20th level Paladins operate under different circumstances should be self evident enough that it needn't be mentioned. But they operate using the same set of rules, which is sometimes less so. Over the years I've had many players argue for various rules interpretations and then protest when later an NPC was able to use the same rule to put the player at a disadvantage. GM's will occasionally do the same. One law for all.

I've had people dispute the first part (ie state that every single monster ability should be player accessible and that abilities that are "off books" are "cheating"). The second depends on what we mean by rules...but if you mean resolution mechanics, then of course. I've been known to not take advantage of something a player could do as a DM, but it's always an option.

AdmiralCheez
2019-07-11, 02:46 PM
Bookmarking this list for future reference; it's that good.

My contribution for now: Keep in mind that the PCs are the protagonists. They are the most important characters in the story. That doesn't mean they have to be the most important characters in the setting, but they should never be overshadowed by, or feel like they're the sidekicks of, the NPCs. This is the story of the party, not Johnny NPC and those adventurers he hired.

Steel Mirror
2019-07-11, 03:17 PM
One of my big rules: Out of game issues should never be addressed with in-game means. This applies to both GMs and players. If I'm annoyed by one of my players, I don't take it out on his PC in the game. If I like one of my players a lot, I don't try to suck up to him by giving his player the spotlight, letting him succeed at the things he attempts, have all the NPCs adore and reward him.

Likewise, if 2 players are having issues with each other and it starts to leak into the game, don't just let it happen! Put the breaks on for a while, let them cool down. Try and divert the game in another direction for a while. If necessary, put your foot down and tell them that you don't want player on player conflict in your game, so you are retconning that attack roll and moving on with the game.

Corollary: in-game conflict (even violent conflict) between PCs is fine so long as the players out of game are both fine with it, and both agree to accept the resolution no matter how it turns out.

NRSASD
2019-07-11, 03:30 PM
One of my big rules: Out of game issues should never be addressed with in-game means. This applies to both GMs and players. If I'm annoyed by one of my players, I don't take it out on his PC in the game. If I like one of my players a lot, I don't try to suck up to him by giving his player the spotlight, letting him succeed at the things he attempts, have all the NPCs adore and reward him.

Likewise, if 2 players are having issues with each other and it starts to leak into the game, don't just let it happen! Put the breaks on for a while, let them cool down. Try and divert the game in another direction for a while. If necessary, put your foot down and tell them that you don't want player on player conflict in your game, so you are retconning that attack roll and moving on with the game.

Corollary: in-game conflict (even violent conflict) between PCs is fine so long as the players out of game are both fine with it, and both agree to accept the resolution no matter how it turns out.

Seconded so, SO hard. We've had some issues with players getting into scuffles for OoC reasons, and it got so bad we had to eject a player over it. A pity; but seriously folks, leave your baggage at the door. We're all here to enjoy each others' company and escape reality for a bit. If you can't do that, don't show up.

Jay R
2019-07-11, 04:24 PM
a. Not all rolls are strictly pass and fail. Allow for degrees of success or failure. If the player wants knowledge about something specific but barely misses the DC you set, give them something relevant and usable but not exactly what they wanted.

You're right; thank you. Proposed new wording:

5. Never let a player roll a die unless it is acceptable to roll a 20, and acceptable to roll a 1.

Quertus
2019-07-11, 04:53 PM
You're right; thank you. Proposed new wording:

5. Never let a player roll a die unless it is acceptable to roll a 20, and acceptable to roll a 1.

"Unless any result it could produce is acceptable"?

False God
2019-07-11, 09:29 PM
"Unless any result it could produce is acceptable"?

I think the planning for extremes is the relevant bit here. Failure is one thing, success is another. Being prepared for catastrophic failure or absolute success is what matters.

Pauly
2019-07-11, 09:30 PM
"Unless any result it could produce is acceptable"?

Unless there are a range of results, any of which is acceptable. NB acceptably does not mean the player will like it, just that they will be prepared to continue playing if that outcome occurs.

Kaptin Keen
2019-07-12, 12:35 AM
I don't think there is anything wrong with this. I played in a game once where my PC was the only one who survived from beginning to end. (Mostly because he knew when to run away.) The fact that PCs came and went didn't take away from the fun of the game.

Nah, I'm not saying it's necessarily bad. But it does something to the narrative, and .. as a GM, I'm all about the narrative. I'm actually, literally crap at all the crunchy bits - but I'm similarly good at the other stuff. It's my yin and yang.

No, point is I see a lot of players and GM's here rant against the very thought of intervening to alter the outcome of an unfortunate dice roll (for instance). And my point is that, well, sometimes it's the right thing to do, because the dice rolls really aren't important. Not in and off themselves. It's about fun - and unless the dice rolls are what make it fun for you, they can be ... altered, ignored, rerolled, or their results can be mitigated in various ways.

Misereor
2019-07-12, 04:30 AM
Nah, I'm not saying it's necessarily bad. But it does something to the narrative, and .. as a GM, I'm all about the narrative

Does make specific character arcs a bit hard to integrate with major plot points.
"Why did I put so many pit traps in this dungeon? Oh well, guess the evil overlord will have to be someone else's uncle..."

Kaptin Keen
2019-07-12, 08:42 AM
Does make specific character arcs a bit hard to integrate with major plot points.
"Why did I put so many pit traps in this dungeon? Oh well, guess the evil overlord will have to be someone else's uncle..."

Ha! Precisely. So when the evil overloard finally exclaims 'Luke - I am you father!' everything doesn't stop, while everyone looks at each other, going 'Luke? Luke who?! What's he on about?'

'.. oh wait, Grimalkin, didn't you say there was a guy who was part of the group before you joined? Wasn't he called Luke or Loon or Loke or something??'

jintoya
2019-07-12, 11:32 AM
Consider AC/DC.

[Hell's bells/highway to hell intensifies]

But on a serious note, the one I hold myself to is:

"If it's not fun, you are doing it wrong"
The point is to have fun, some people like a good challenge, but I've known DM who think it's just about them

Jay R
2019-07-12, 11:42 AM
Ha! Precisely. So when the evil overloard finally exclaims 'Luke - I am you father!' everything doesn't stop, while everyone looks at each other, going 'Luke? Luke who?! What's he on about?'

'.. oh wait, Grimalkin, didn't you say there was a guy who was part of the group before you joined? Wasn't he called Luke or Loon or Loke or something??'

This gets back to rule 15:
15. The dice do not have the right to screw up the game. They do have the right to screw up your plot. Donít confuse the two.

The dice can occasionally kill a PC. Therefore it is all right to have a PC's life necessary to the plot, but not to have the PC's life necessary to the game. So the fact that the PC's father is the evil overlord can be crucial to the plot, but not to the game.

If Luke dies before the big reveal, then the plot of Luke examining where his loyalties should be would be lost, but the Star Wars story would continue. Just make sure the game is about more than that plot.

Khedrac
2019-07-12, 12:58 PM
This gets back to rule 15:
15. The dice do not have the right to screw up the game. They do have the right to screw up your plot. Donít confuse the two.

The dice can occasionally kill a PC. Therefore it is all right to have a PC's life necessary to the plot, but not to have the PC's life necessary to the game. So the fact that the PC's father is the evil overlord can be crucial to the plot, but not to the game.

If Luke dies before the big reveal, then the plot of Luke examining where his loyalties should be would be lost, but the Star Wars story would continue. Just make sure the game is about more than that plot.

As an example of how to do this, look at the TV series NCIS - even though the character of Tony Dinozzo has been gone for 2 or 3 series, the occasional guest character of his father is still a "regular" occasional; they just continued his relationships with the rest of the cast (and built new ones with replacement characters) to keep using the character/actor.

In the case of a related "evil overlord" if the character hasn't also been appearing in their "normal NPC" persona of "Luke's father" on a regular basis then you should be able to link them to any of the current PCs (if not as a father); what's more, unless the character has been established even the "I'm your father" revalation is unlikely to be a huge 'thing' - possible reaction "let's see, you never wrote, you never called, you let me think you were dead and you killed my real father (the one who adopted me) - time for you to die for real!"
At the very least, if you want the revalation of an NPC's link to a player to have a big impact they need to build a connection, which could just be by letters, at which point the rest of the party can pick up the link after the loss of the PC, it may not be the same like, but it needs to be there.

And back to the "rules" - yes I like them too.

Guizonde
2019-07-12, 02:45 PM
[Hell's bells/highway to hell intensifies]

But on a serious note, the one I hold myself to is:

"If it's not fun, you are doing it wrong"
The point is to have fun, some people like a good challenge, but I've known DM who think it's just about them

this is my main rule, too, and your wording is spot-on.

i'd like to add a rule or two.

"if you have the choice between following the rules and an unexpected dose of awesome, choose the latter."

with my regular band of freaks i call my players, i've broken rules, bent them, and generally did things to them that would net me a jail sentence just because the result was too awesome not to use!. now of course, i told them that was exceptionnal and i made sure the players knew i respected the rules. unless of course somebody distilled awesomesauce and made everyone take a shot.

"if the dice are exceptionnal, make sure the result is memorable."

here's an example: a player wanted to get into an elite unit, who threw him on the shooting equivalent of a snipe hunt. to wit, shoot a target 150 yards away, through a crowded corridor, behind a wall, in total darkness, blindfolded. the player was very careful to save up his rerolls, roleplayed it cool yet nervous, i gave him the difficulty check and... he aced it. on his first try. technically, the shot was impossible. the die roll and the way he played it made it so that the tale was recounted as pure skill on his part rather than blind luck. i wanted the player to succeed yet made sure that it was epically tough. i broke the rules by allowing him all his bonuses (thing he never knew about) . i mean come on! the team's sniper basically used the force to frag a target! in a universe where the force doesn't exist.

that same character went on to shoot through the fourth wall. i was a player then, and not the dm, but that dm knew that it had to be that level of awesome to reflect the die roll that player did. hell, i still tell the tale to this day, and yet i just know it was a lucky die roll and a convenient gust of wind that made that character one-hit-kill the miniboss... and made the miniboss's character sheet fall into a puddle of water. breaking rules? check. breaking the fourth wall? check. 85į ABV (awesomeness by volume)? triple check. for posterity's sake, that character's name was farren. he... keeps on being awesome and has mutated into our universe's keith richards, since even the grim reaper can't find him.

that was 6 years ago, and the tale is still told by the players to this day. it was a ballistic skill test. it was litterally a die roll.

Pleh
2019-07-13, 09:53 AM
1. Donít make it flammable if you donít want it burnt.

13. If you arenít willing for the players to have it, donít put it in the game. Remember that if the NPC uses an item on the PCs, there are only two possible outcomes:

a. They party will all die, or
b. The party will wind up with the item.

These actually feel like they're not that different. Seems like the rules could be easily consolidated into a rule that DMs should put nothing into the game they don't want the characters to steal or destroy.


2. No matter what the character sheets says, there are only three PC alignments Ė Lawful Snotty, Neutral Greedy, and Chaotic Backstabbing.

I've actually seen a number of players who just want to be a hero. I guess you might try to lump them into Lawful Snotty, but they're really not. They just want to smash monsters that are objectively evil (and to avoid having to target fellow party members rather than relishing the opportunity to do so) and feel like they made the world a better place in doing so. They seem to actively resist efforts to make anything more or less of their desire to just be a good guy in the story. Unlike Lawful Snotty, they tend to be pretty lax with questionable party members as long as rocking the boat doesn't escalate to full on capsizing. I would call their alignment Generic Good.

False God
2019-07-13, 10:55 AM
...I would call their alignment Generic Good.

This is verbatim the alignment I've written on about 3/4ths of my character sheets in the last 3 years.

A good person who wants to adventure and kick evil's butt. Why complicate matters?

jintoya
2019-07-13, 11:43 AM
this is my main rule, too, and your wording is spot-on.

i'd like to add a rule or two.

"if you have the choice between following the rules and an unexpected dose of awesome, choose the latter."

with my regular band of freaks i call my players, i've broken rules, bent them, and generally did things to them that would net me a jail sentence just because the result was too awesome not to use!. now of course, i told them that was exceptionnal and i made sure the players knew i respected the rules. unless of course somebody distilled awesomesauce and made everyone take a shot.

"if the dice are exceptionnal, make sure the result is memorable."

here's an example: a player wanted to get into an elite unit, who threw him on the shooting equivalent of a snipe hunt. to wit, shoot a target 150 yards away, through a crowded corridor, behind a wall, in total darkness, blindfolded. the player was very careful to save up his rerolls, roleplayed it cool yet nervous, i gave him the difficulty check and... he aced it. on his first try. technically, the shot was impossible. the die roll and the way he played it made it so that the tale was recounted as pure skill on his part rather than blind luck. i wanted the player to succeed yet made sure that it was epically tough. i broke the rules by allowing him all his bonuses (thing he never knew about) . i mean come on! the team's sniper basically used the force to frag a target! in a universe where the force doesn't exist.

that same character went on to shoot through the fourth wall. i was a player then, and not the dm, but that dm knew that it had to be that level of awesome to reflect the die roll that player did. hell, i still tell the tale to this day, and yet i just know it was a lucky die roll and a convenient gust of wind that made that character one-hit-kill the miniboss... and made the miniboss's character sheet fall into a puddle of water. breaking rules? check. breaking the fourth wall? check. 85į ABV (awesomeness by volume)? triple check. for posterity's sake, that character's name was farren. he... keeps on being awesome and has mutated into our universe's keith richards, since even the grim reaper can't find him.

that was 6 years ago, and the tale is still told by the players to this day. it was a ballistic skill test. it was litterally a die roll.


I don't want to get off into the weeds too far, but I follow the "roll 3 nats in a row and it's an instant kill, now this has only happened a single time in 15 years of gaming, but it was epic when it did.

My friend playing a ranger and had been thwarting an epic blackguard for like 6 months (the BBEG) who sent one of his generals to face him, well I had planned for his horse to get startled by the enemies and run off, alerting him to the combatants and starting the fight... Instead the horse gets surprised and kicks the generals 2nd in command, triple crits and decaps him before running off... My friend and I laughed for about 5 min and the general left some units to face him instead, reporting back that he is so strong that even his horse can one-shot an officer... Good times

The Library DM
2019-07-13, 02:58 PM
Excellent list. As I lead a group of teen newbies, I tell them from the start that I will fudge die rolls, if it helps the story move forward. But if they choose to have their character do something stupid, the dice will stand as they fall, and the characters will fall as the dice say. (See my sig line for an example...)

Also, the players need to understand that the DM is the rulebook. And they donít get to look up anything in the DMG or MM (or whatever equivalent the version uses). If they do it in their own time and want to bring it up later OoG as a point of discussion, thatís fineó but ďthe moving finger writes, and having writ, moves on...Ē The results in the game donít change.

One I learned is: ďNever have one path anywhere, but if you allow multiple paths, donít be surprised if the players take the unexpected one.Ē

I had one adventure which has a somewhat linear story line (getting locked in to a wizardís lair), but also includes alternate ways of entry that avoids the locking trigger event...which of course is exactly the path one group foundó and thus they proceeded to discover the solution for a problem they didnít yet know they had. I had to think on my feet to deal with the reversal of expected actions as they essentially went the opposite direction of the normal progression of the adventure! At the end, one player realized what had happened. ďWe solved the adventure backwards!Ē he cried. And they loved it.:smallsmile: (And I learned an important lesson, too.)

Jay R
2019-07-14, 09:52 AM
Several of you have contributed good, useful rules. Thank you. I have no need to comment on them.

A couple of replies to good comments on my rules:


These actually feel like they're not that different. Seems like the rules could be easily consolidated into a rule that DMs should put nothing into the game they don't want the characters to steal or destroy.

You are absolutely correct. And that's not the only overlap in those rules.

I won't try to combine them, because I like the concreteness of the flammable/burnt one, and the clear, specific example of "either they all die or they wind up with the item" in the second one.

A version that includes them both with generic language would be far less interesting to read, and therefore have less impact.


I've actually seen a number of players who just want to be a hero. I guess you might try to lump them into Lawful Snotty, but they're really not. They just want to smash monsters that are objectively evil (and to avoid having to target fellow party members rather than relishing the opportunity to do so) and feel like they made the world a better place in doing so. They seem to actively resist efforts to make anything more or less of their desire to just be a good guy in the story. Unlike Lawful Snotty, they tend to be pretty lax with questionable party members as long as rocking the boat doesn't escalate to full on capsizing. I would call their alignment Generic Good.

Again, you are absolutely right. This rule started out as just a flip comment, decades ago (when it was more true than it is today). The only reason it's still in the rules in to remind me that I can't make the PCs more complex than the players do.

I may rephrase it as, "The DM cannot make the PCs more complex than the players do. No matter what the character sheet says, there are usually only three PC alignments Ė Lawful Snotty, Neutral Greedy, and Chaotic Backstabbing."

That still ignores the exceptions. I may drop it as a rule. But I won't add shades of meaning that reduce its value as a memorable idea.



You're right; thank you. Proposed new wording:

5. Never let a player roll a die unless it is acceptable to roll a 20, and acceptable to roll a 1.

"Unless any result it could produce is acceptable"?

Your wording is slightly more correct, and slightly more generic. I will keep the concreteness of the 20/1 wording.

Of course, you all can phrase your version of the rules any way you like.

Pleh
2019-07-14, 11:33 AM
A version that includes them both with generic language would be far less interesting to read, and therefore have less impact.

Maybe. If you're looking for a punchy tagline, I'm reminded of the old Rogue's addage, "anything that ain't nailed down is mine for the taking, and anything I can pry loose ain't nailed down."

Might need some adjustment, but it's pretty punchy.

Jay R
2019-07-14, 12:33 PM
Maybe. If you're looking for a punchy tagline, I'm reminded of the old Rogue's addage, "anything that ain't nailed down is mine for the taking, and anything I can pry loose ain't nailed down."

Might need some adjustment, but it's pretty punchy.

Exactly. That's a well-written, catchy rule for the right kind of player. It's not a DM rule, of course.

Wraith
2019-07-14, 06:04 PM
18. When the players ask for something - an item, a skill, a feat, whatever - they are not planning to use it for what it is intended for, they're planning the weirdest thing it could possibly be used for.

I would like to add my own personal corollary to this rule, which is this: If your players ask you for something, never say "No".

DISCLAIMER: This is not the same thing as saying "always say yes". Saying "yes" to everything that your players ask for will kill all the mystique of the game and ultimately leave them spoiled and unsatisfied. Instead, you should say "Okay, if...", or say "Maybe..." or say "No, unless....".

Here's a practical example; your players in the middle of a fight, and one of them asks you, "Is there a big table in the room? Big enough that I can stand upon?"
Why not tell him "yes"? Maybe it was hiding being a fat guy who just moved out of the way, or it fell out of some passing kangaroo's pouch, or something. Hell; magically teleport a 4ft by 8ft solid mahogany dining table in there is you have to, because it represents two important facts: 1) tables are not that important in the grand scheme of things, and 2) your PLAYER is telling you that he WANTS a table to be there, so that he can do something COOL with it! Let your players do cool, if unimportant things!

Negotiate, if you need to. "You don't see an enormous pile of gold and rubies piled into the corner like you asked for, but you DO see a battered looking lamp with the words 'rub me' etched onto the side of it" is always better than "No, there's no pile, shut up idiot".
Cue tangentially related plot device! There may be piles of gold and rubies at the end of it! Honest! Or possibly Cthulhu, if you continue tapping your pencil against that empty glass....

"Never Saying No" has, in the past, gotten me these wonderful little anecdotes simply because it's fun to let your players, play.

Tanarii
2019-07-14, 09:38 PM
I would like to add my own personal corollary to this rule, which is this: If your players ask you for something, never say "No".
That's a terrible rule.

Pleh
2019-07-14, 09:57 PM
That's a terrible rule.

A bit unfair to conclude without citing the disclaimer.


I would like to add my own personal corollary to this rule, which is this: If your players ask you for something, never say "No".

DISCLAIMER: This is not the same thing as saying "always say yes". Saying "yes" to everything that your players ask for will kill all the mystique of the game and ultimately leave them spoiled and unsatisfied. Instead, you should say "Okay, if...", or say "Maybe..." or say "No, unless....".

It's not a rule to say let the players do or have whatever they want. It's to let them try anything they want. It's to never refute their input without also leading them towards something else.

Because, let's face it, nothing is more frustrating and unfun than sitting around trying to guess the text based adventure's prescripted command phrase with absolutely no clue as to what was wrong with your attempted solution.

False God
2019-07-14, 10:20 PM
A bit unfair to conclude without citing the disclaimer.



It's not a rule to say let the players do or have whatever they want. It's to let them try anything they want. It's to never refute their input without also leading them towards something else.

Because, let's face it, nothing is more frustrating and unfun than sitting around trying to guess the text based adventure's prescripted command phrase with absolutely no clue as to what was wrong with your attempted solution.

BAH HUMBUG. Sometimes there are wrong answers. Sometimes "NO" is the right answer. This isn't customer service and boundaries are healthy. Some things are just not gonna cut it, and it's unfair to the players to say, set an unreasonably high DC for success (one you know they can't beat) or set out an "option" that is so nearly impossible as to be tantamount to being actually impossible.

Sometimes you need the Blue Key. Sometimes you don't. If you're at a place in the game where there are many possible answers to a situation great by all means let players experiment to see which way they want to resolve things, but sometimes you're just at a big door that requires a big key. You can't talk to it, you can't break it down, you can't seduce it, you just gotta solve the riddle or find the missing keyrune or whatever.

"NO" is a perfectly acceptable answer, an answer that every human being has been brought up to understand that sometimes things just don't go the way you want them to. D&D is no exception. If the answer could be "anything" then the answer is meaningless.

Particle_Man
2019-07-15, 12:45 AM
Sometimes you need the Blue Key. Sometimes you don't. If you're at a place in the game where there are many possible answers to a situation great by all means let players experiment to see which way they want to resolve things, but sometimes you're just at a big door that requires a big key. You can't talk to it, you can't break it down, you can't seduce it, you just gotta solve the riddle or find the missing keyrune or whatever.

And if they don't the game stops and they all go home and the DM cries into his cheetos wondering why the players wouldn't do exactly what they were supposed to do like the good little characters in his novel that they are supposed to be?

Kaptin Keen
2019-07-15, 01:35 AM
I would like to add my own personal corollary to this rule, which is this: If your players ask you for something, never say "No".

I have an example that's amusing - at least to me.

I'm fairly restrictive as a GM, boiling down to (generally) 'I do not GM material I do not own!' In other words, that feat or weapon or class or feature you found in some random source isn't available unless I own the book - and my total number of owned rulebooks and supplements is ... like, maybe 10 books. Core rules for D&D, Shadowrun, Dark Heresy, Earthdawn. End of list.

So I point this out at the start of new games. Quite clearly.

One guy joined my game, accepting this premise. Then, weeks later, he decided he wanted to build something that was well outside that premise - a four mechadendril techpriest, with each sporting a multi laser. Which is patently absurd.

It's a somewhat extreme example, but a very good moment to say clearly no. In fact, this could be a rule: The more absurt your players suggestions, the clearer the no.

False God
2019-07-15, 08:00 AM
And if they don't the game stops and they all go home and the DM cries into his cheetos wondering why the players wouldn't do exactly what they were supposed to do like the good little characters in his novel that they are supposed to be?

Sometimes doors are locked and you need keys. Why is this so unreasonable to folks who promote the "Yes, but...." theory?

It has nothing to do with railroads or expecting players to deal with a DM who won't give them any agency. Not being able to use any solution is not the same as having no solutions. But it drastically devalues problems if any player can approach it, choose any option, and have a reasonable chance of success.

It confuses me because quite frankly, if your players put you under threat of "Let us do it our way or we're going home." it sounds a lot more like they're holding the DM hostage, rather than the reverse.

Jay R
2019-07-15, 08:15 AM
I'm not sure you're really that far off from each other. You each want limits, but you're phrasing it differently.

It depends on the players and what they ask for.

Player 1: I want to buy a rifle.
DM: No. This world has no gunpowder. You may buy a crossbow if you like.
Player 2: I want to buy a greatsword.
DM: Yes.
Player 1: I buy a bunch of grenades.
DM: No, there is no gunpowder on this world. You can buy thunderstones if you like.
Player 2: Can I buy some caltrops?
DM: Yes.

If I were to add a rule on this topic, it would be some version of "Allow your players to run with reasonable and imaginative ideas, but don't decide what the answer to a question is until you hear the question."

Pleh
2019-07-15, 08:35 AM
Sometimes doors are locked and you need keys. Why is this so unreasonable to folks who promote the "Yes, but...." theory?

It has nothing to do with railroads or expecting players to deal with a DM who won't give them any agency. Not being able to use any solution is not the same as having no solutions. But it drastically devalues problems if any player can approach it, choose any option, and have a reasonable chance of success.

It confuses me because quite frankly, if your players put you under threat of "Let us do it our way or we're going home." it sounds a lot more like they're holding the DM hostage, rather than the reverse.

Are we really going to tread the old Locked Door debate? Let's cover the arguments briefly and call it good, right?

"Sometimes doors are locked and you need keys."

"I cast Knock."

"I use Mountain Hammer to ignore the door's hardness and break it down after 30 to 60 seconds."

"I use my Dimension Door to move 10ft to the other side of the door."


4. It's your job to build the problem. It's their job to find a solution.

It is your job as DM to define the problem (in this example, a locked door). It is not your job to define the solution (you must use the right key).

The game provides players a deep wealth of resources to be used for solving problems. The DM is not supposed to actively negate these resources to force the players into a specific response.

If you have to say NO because their scenario dictates it, you have crafted a bad scenario.

Kaptin Keen is arguing on a very different level and this other example interacts with a different Jay R DMing rule.


'I do not GM material I do not own!' In other words, that feat or weapon or class or feature you found in some random source isn't available unless I own the book - and my total number of owned rulebooks and supplements is ... like, maybe 10 books. Core rules for D&D, Shadowrun, Dark Heresy, Earthdawn. End of list.

So I point this out at the start of new games. Quite clearly.

One guy joined my game, accepting this premise. Then, weeks later, he decided he wanted to build something that was well outside that premise - a four mechadendril techpriest, with each sporting a multi laser. Which is patently absurd.


14. The players do not have the right to screw up the game. They do have the right to screw up your plot. Donít confuse the two.

a. Do not give them a set of options that includes screwing up the game.

Hopefully, this illustrates the difference. Your PLOT may require them to find the BLUE KEY to open the door, but it isn't screwing up your game for them to outsmart the door and simply teleport past it or break it down. They are using legally provided character resources to solve a problem you placed in front of them and that is exactly the game. That's only screwing up your plot. Adding Gunpowder to a game that doesn't use it DOES screw up the game, by adding elements that fit neither the aesthetic, nor the mechanical balance of the game.

Wraith
2019-07-15, 12:02 PM
"NO" is a perfectly acceptable answer, an answer that every human being has been brought up to understand that sometimes things just don't go the way you want them to. D&D is no exception. If the answer could be "anything" then the answer is meaningless.

My response to this is that "No." is still the wrong answer; "No, unless..." or "No, but..." are both far more fun for the players and for the DM. I've never yet played D&D because I want to replicate the boring limitations of my real life; give me fun and new limitations that I can throw fireballs at until they go away! :smallbiggrin:


One guy joined my game, accepting this premise. Then, weeks later, he decided he wanted to build something that was well outside that premise - a four mechadendril techpriest, with each sporting a multi laser. Which is patently absurd.

To me, that sounds like a very clear candidate for an answer along the lines of "Not yet."

At the very least, it's "not until I've borrowed your book for a week and had chance to read it all and decide with more information".
If the player is lucky, it's more like "Not yet - you first need to go on a quest to find someone who'll supply the parts, and then perform the surgery", so that they can have their input and explore what they want to do in the game, but they first have to work for it and (hopefully) reach a point in the game where it has been earned and no longer feels absurd. Or the character dies, I'm not above "creatively engineering" an encounter or two.

If the player is really unlucky, it might just be "Not yet, please try that in the next game I run when I'm prepared to deal with it". Invite them to hold on to the idea and enjoy the anticipation of it, rather than just tell them that they're stupid and should feel bad. Something being absurd isn't the problem, after all; its just finding a way valid way to justify it in your world. :smalltongue:

The latter is only very subtly different to "no" in practical terms, but the difference in how you react to your player is the key. That's what I'm trying to advocate.


If I were to add a rule on this topic, it would be some version of "Allow your players to run with reasonable and imaginative ideas, but don't decide what the answer to a question is until you hear the question."

Thank you, that's a far more accurate way of stating what I was thinking.

If nothing else, consider this; if you player asks you for something, listen to figure out what it is they want which is not necessarily the same thing.
To refer again to Kaptain Keen's example; their player was asking for an inappropriate character build. That's what he asked for, but perhaps what he wanted was to play in the type of game where that was an acceptable character? That's NOT a criticism of Kaptain Keen or their game or the style in which they DM, it's just something to think about. Players should be encouraged to ask for anything, and "No" is the fastest way to end what could otherwise be a very interesting conversation. :smallsmile:

Tanarii
2019-07-15, 01:28 PM
A bit unfair to conclude without citing the disclaimer.I didnt cite the diclaimer because its still a terrible rule with the disclaimer.

Galithar
2019-07-15, 03:24 PM
I didnt cite the diclaimer because its still a terrible rule with the disclaimer.

For your style of gaming.
It's very good and appropriate for others though. Remember this thread is for us to all share OUR rules for DMs. Things that have become rules that I follow when I DM may not be applicable to your game. Let's not turn this into a "You're DMing wrong" thread please.


To get back on topic a rule that I now use is

No matter how amazing their backstory and character sounds don't be lenient with any player until you've SEEN them play.


It's a rule for me because in the last campaign I started there was a player with an awesome backstory and character concept. I had talked to this player repeatedly and fell in love with the character. I then became lenient on character creation to allow for the concept to really take off (I made no exceptions for this player that weren't at least offered to the others). As soon as the game started the whole concept of RP went out the window and I saw the player for the powergaming murder hobo they really were. But I had already set the precedence of leniency and it was difficult to regain control.

Edit: I hope it's clear that when I say don't be lenient with a player I don't mean treating each player differently. I mean find the player most likely to look for ways to abuse the system and give EVERYONE the same treatment as you would that one. This is to protect the integrity of the game as a whole, not to punish the powergamer/munchkin/loopholer. So everyone should be given the same limitations.

False God
2019-07-15, 03:28 PM
Are we really going to tread the old Locked Door debate? Let's cover the arguments briefly and call it good, right?

"Sometimes doors are locked and you need keys."

"I cast Knock."

"I use Mountain Hammer to ignore the door's hardness and break it down after 30 to 60 seconds."

"I use my Dimension Door to move 10ft to the other side of the door."
Okay, so there are 4 answers to getting past the perfectly mundane, breakable door.

You can't say, seduce the door. You can't for example, use Dancing Lights to get past the door.

I'm not saying there must be one solution, I'm only saying that sometimes there are a limited number of solutions. That the answer to any particular question is not "Whatever the players want it to be." but sometimes the answer is limited. If they don't have a caster to magic it open, if they don't have a thief to pick the lock, if they lack a big bruiser to beat it down the answer does not change because the party is unprepared for the obstacle.


It is your job as DM to define the problem (in this example, a locked door). It is not your job to define the solution (you must use the right key).

The game provides players a deep wealth of resources to be used for solving problems. The DM is not supposed to actively negate these resources to force the players into a specific response.

If you have to say NO because their scenario dictates it, you have crafted a bad scenario.
Says you.

If the party failed to prepare, if the party failed to chase down the leads provided that would lead to solutions and instead went straight to the door and decided to bash their heads against it until it opens, that's on them.

The fact that I don't think "whatever the party wants" should be an acceptable answer doesn't mean I didn't provide the party opportunities to find solutions.

Saying "no" helps define boundaries, and while D&D may stretch the boundaries out far beyond what you can do IRL, that doesn't mean there aren't boundaries or that there shouldn't be boundaries.

Working with the party to come up with create solutions is fine. But you can't unlock your car with your house key. And you can't unlock your house with a wet noodle. Some "ideas" to resolve problems just don't work.

Kaptin Keen
2019-07-15, 04:06 PM
To me, that sounds like a very clear candidate for an answer along the lines of "Not yet."

At the very least, it's "not until I've borrowed your book for a week and had chance to read it all and decide with more information".
If the player is lucky, it's more like "Not yet - you first need to go on a quest to find someone who'll supply the parts, and then perform the surgery", so that they can have their input and explore what they want to do in the game, but they first have to work for it and (hopefully) reach a point in the game where it has been earned and no longer feels absurd. Or the character dies, I'm not above "creatively engineering" an encounter or two.

If the player is really unlucky, it might just be "Not yet, please try that in the next game I run when I'm prepared to deal with it". Invite them to hold on to the idea and enjoy the anticipation of it, rather than just tell them that they're stupid and should feel bad. Something being absurd isn't the problem, after all; its just finding a way valid way to justify it in your world. :smalltongue:

The latter is only very subtly different to "no" in practical terms, but the difference in how you react to your player is the key. That's what I'm trying to advocate.

To me, it's a very clear case of 'I must not be hearing you right, young man, I made the rules very very clear before you signed up. Also, that's patently impossible by any interpretation of the rules, mechadendrites can carry pistols, and can be upgraded to compact basic weapons, but they cannot ever, under any circumstances carry heavy weapons!'

Also, a case of 'no - you cannot have that. Not now, and not ever.' I was more diplomatic with him than that, but I gave him a straight no, and a friendly reminder that I'd made this clear from the start, and that what he wanted was well outside anything allowed by the rules. He proceeded to post that his character was detonating the ships drives, killing the game. I proceeded to ask a moderator to kindly remove him from the thread.

I'm a firm believer in a form of ... 'social contract'? When we start a game, we all agree to play nice with each other, and we accept the authority of the GM. The GM for his part accepts an obligation to deliver entertainment to the players. And if, like me, he's conscious of strong and weak suits of his playstyle and abilities (well some of them at least), he'll point them out in advance. I feel that's to everyone's benefit.

My example was pretty much intended to show how wildly outside the realm of reason some players stray.

Oh, also - I did not tell the guy he was stupid and should feel bad. Not even after he tried to sabotage the game for the other players.

Pleh
2019-07-15, 04:19 PM
Okay, so there are 4 answers to getting past the perfectly mundane, breakable door.

You can't say, seduce the door. You can't for example, use Dancing Lights to get past the door.

I'm not saying there must be one solution, I'm only saying that sometimes there are a limited number of solutions. That the answer to any particular question is not "Whatever the players want it to be." but sometimes the answer is limited. If they don't have a caster to magic it open, if they don't have a thief to pick the lock, if they lack a big bruiser to beat it down the answer does not change because the party is unprepared for the obstacle.

No, the answer doesn't change, but the DM should be less adversarial in how they handle the problem, and that is exactly the point of the rule.

Don't waste everyone's time with a blank, "no." Instead, communicate the same sentiment while also guiding them to a different answer.

"I Seduce the door."

"The door does not respond."

"I use Dancing Lights to open the door."

"How do you imagine that would work?"

Saying NO without guiding the game towards something more constructive in this manner is poor form for a DM and that is what the rule is trying to communicate, not that you allow anything, because that's explicitly not what's being said.

The point is to not shut down player ideas, just resolve them naturally and keep the game going. Failure is a natural consequence, so don't bother disallowing the action, "I'm the DM and I don't allow that." Instead, say, "yes, you cast Dancing Lights on the door, but you still cannot open it."

Instead of No, you say Yes, But....



Saying "no" helps define boundaries, and while D&D may stretch the boundaries out far beyond what you can do IRL, that doesn't mean there aren't boundaries or that there shouldn't be boundaries.

And that isn't remotely what is being suggested here. What's being suggested is that we manage boundaries that point players back into a positive direction and don't get stuck in the rut of constantly naysaying whatever ideas they come up with.

The idea is to be cooperative with the players even as you must occasionally oppose their actions.

The point is to not be adversarial in adjudicating the game. Clearly, the rule isn't about the actual literal use of the word, "no." It's about reshaping a DM's attitude towards how they confront player solutions that won't work.

And that's what a lot of these rules are, not precise instructions for how to DM, but punchy taglines to reorient how they perceive and deal with player problems.

Tanarii
2019-07-15, 10:34 PM
Don't waste everyone's time with a blank, "no." Instead, communicate the same sentiment while also guiding them to a different answer.Thats a little bit different. "No, because ..." can sometimes work when a No is required.

But sometimes a DM just needs to say no that doesn't work, and it's up to the PCs to figure out why. Information should be available if gathered in the correct way, and the world needs to be interact able. Sometimes that's part of the challenge of playing an open-ended game. Just so long as the DM doesn't fall into the trap of pixel-bitching, where only one solution works, it's fine to say no, with no special explanation, which just turns into them trying to "counter-argue" your "argument" anyway, to some of the utterly ludicrous things players want to try and do.

Pleh
2019-07-16, 05:00 AM
Thats a little bit different. "No, because ..." can sometimes work when a No is required.

But sometimes a DM just needs to say no that doesn't work, and it's up to the PCs to figure out why. Information should be available if gathered in the correct way, and the world needs to be interact able. Sometimes that's part of the challenge of playing an open-ended game. Just so long as the DM doesn't fall into the trap of pixel-bitching, where only one solution works, it's fine to say no, with no special explanation, which just turns into them trying to "counter-argue" your "argument" anyway, to some of the utterly ludicrous things players want to try and do.

Ok, again, this is an example of players trying to screw up your game, not your plot. Trying to advance their character's agenda through tactics that shouldn't work is basically cheating of a different variety. You can say no to cheating, especially if, as you say, they're just being munchkins.

Players don't have the right to willfully disregard or abuse the game rules. If they are wasting game time with absurd arguments to try to get away with something, then not only should you say No, but you should also communicate that they need to change their play style or find a different DM.

If your players are playing the game honestly, there shouldn't be much resistance to you evaluating their efforts as failure, especially if they had to go out on a limb to justify the potential for success.

Perhaps the rule is better said,
Never use No while In Character as the DM (instead using leading refusals such as "Yes, But" or "No, Unless")

a. You may sometimes need to really say No Out of Character if players are screwing up the game, and not just your plot.

Tanarii
2019-07-16, 03:10 PM
Lets get concrete: players says they leap off the cliff, landing on the dragon, shove their daggers in either side of its neck, then use that to steer the dragon and ...

Lets just stop at this point without hearing why they want to steer or or what they want to accomplish.

Yes? No, but? Yes, but? Or No?

MrSandman
2019-07-16, 03:30 PM
Lets get concrete: players says they leap off the cliff, landing on the dragon, shove their daggers in either side of its neck, then use that to steer the dragon and ...

Lets just stop at this point without hearing why they want to steer or or what they want to accomplish.

Yes? No, but? Yes, but? Or No?

Well, I think there'd be a bunch of rolls involved to see if they succeed or how they die. But I wouldn't just say "no, you can't jump off the cliff."

Galithar
2019-07-16, 04:34 PM
Lets get concrete: players says they leap off the cliff, landing on the dragon, shove their daggers in either side of its neck, then use that to steer the dragon and ...

Lets just stop at this point without hearing why they want to steer or or what they want to accomplish.

Yes? No, but? Yes, but? Or No?

I would stop them at 'leap off the cliff' for the appropriate roll to attempt to land on the Dragon.
When they say they 'shove their daggers in either side of it's neck' I would probably just take that as intent to attack, but if they are the creative type I might ask what their goal is. Then proceed from there.

With an explicit intent to 'steer' the dragon I would ask for an attack roll, damage if it is a hit, and tell them that the Dragon isn't affected other then damage.

Never would I tell them no to any of this. They say what they are doing and what the goal is and I simply resolve the actions. Just because the result isn't what they were aiming for doesn't mean I ever have to stop and say no to an action. At least at me tables it's pretty standard to know that you tell the DM what you're doing, NOT the effect of what you do. (Unless of course it's a mechanical effect, like casting dispel magic on someone benefiting from haste and rolling a 20 on the check. We go ahead and jump to the effect in situations like that because they are hard coded into the rules)

Pleh
2019-07-16, 06:39 PM
Well, I think there'd be a bunch of rolls involved to see if they succeed or how they die. But I wouldn't just say "no, you can't jump off the cliff."


I would stop them at 'leap off the cliff' for the appropriate roll to attempt to land on the Dragon.
When they say they 'shove their daggers in either side of it's neck' I would probably just take that as intent to attack, but if they are the creative type I might ask what their goal is. Then proceed from there.

With an explicit intent to 'steer' the dragon I would ask for an attack roll, damage if it is a hit, and tell them that the Dragon isn't affected other then damage.

Never would I tell them no to any of this. They say what they are doing and what the goal is and I simply resolve the actions. Just because the result isn't what they were aiming for doesn't mean I ever have to stop and say no to an action. At least at me tables it's pretty standard to know that you tell the DM what you're doing, NOT the effect of what you do. (Unless of course it's a mechanical effect, like casting dispel magic on someone benefiting from haste and rolling a 20 on the check. We go ahead and jump to the effect in situations like that because they are hard coded into the rules)

Both of these are great answers.

I feel like a player who proposes jumping off a cliff onto an enemy is ready to hear the old phrase, "Are you sure about that?" The old GM code for, "I won't stop you, but you probably won't like how this goes."

False God
2019-07-16, 08:06 PM
Lets get concrete: players says they leap off the cliff, landing on the dragon, shove their daggers in either side of its neck, then use that to steer the dragon and ...

Lets just stop at this point without hearing why they want to steer or or what they want to accomplish.

Yes? No, but? Yes, but? Or No?

So me, being the big "No." guy so far next to yourself, would break it down(at least, in 3.W/E).

Lets assume for the sake of the scenario the dragon happens to be passing by said cliff.
Jump off a cliff? Yep there's a jump check for that. Running or standing there's rules for that.
Landing on the dragon? Acrobatics/tumble and a grapple check.
Stabbing the dragon? That's an attack roll.
Stabbing your daggers INTO the dragon? Gotta at least break it's DR.
---at this point, we could probably roll all of this into a charge with an acrobatics/jump/tumble check.
***note, the trick to me here is making all of this in one turn. Which would make me think you'd need Pounce or at least Improved Grab, preferably both (if you just so happen to be a were-tiger, congrats!). Otherwise, for the sake of the game and maintaining a structured turn where only a limited number of things can take place (I've seen the alternative and dare not go there), you may not be able to accomplish all of this on a single turn.
Controlling the dragon via pain and daggers would be some kind of grapple/contested strength/fortitude check and would probably occur on the next turn. And we're talking some limited level of directional control mostly angled down or straight, not like, mind control where you control the dragon's turn.

Frankly, this kind of "scene" is pretty common in a lot of fantasy that involves dragons and other flying monsters (as well as sy-fy), and I'd be inclined to let a player try it. Honestly, it's probably one of the least "absurd" ideas I've seen and has probably seen play in a number of my games (I run dragon-heavy campaigns).

As Pleh says, when they propose this idea they're probably going to hear "Are you sure about that?" and if they say yes well...

Honestly my idea of a "no" would be say, jumping off a cliff and expecting to gain the benefits of the Fly spell by attempting to "miss" the ground.

Dragons aren't doors. They're flying death dinosaurs, but they're also highly intelligent, and as such there's a multitude of possible ways to solve the "problem" of their arrival. Not every problem is so complex.

Given that they are capable sorcerers though, I wouldn't put it past a dragon to Grease himself if he suspected a party member of attempting this. THAT would be funny.

Tanarii
2019-07-16, 09:53 PM
Well, I think there'd be a bunch of rolls involved to see if they succeed or how they die. But I wouldn't just say "no, you can't jump off the cliff."
It wasn't thinking specifically of the part about landing on a flying dragon or stabbing it, I was really thinking of in regards to the yes/no in this scenario.

But in that regards, a more common scenario is "I jump down on them (from a significant distance), attacking from above ..." with intent they either do greater damage or inflict their fall damage on the target.

I've can see a DM that rule you split the falling damage, you both take it, you take damage but can make the attack, and nope that's silly you can't control your fall from a great height you fall and miss and go splat and no attack. I can see all of those being a fine ruling depending on the genre.


Honestly my idea of a "no" would be say, jumping off a cliff and expecting to gain the benefits of the Fly spell by attempting to "miss" the ground.
Unless you're playing a hitchhiker game of course. But hopefully that'd have a rule built in for that. :smallamused:

False God
2019-07-16, 10:18 PM
It wasn't thinking specifically of the part about landing on a flying dragon or stabbing it, I was really thinking of in regards to the yes/no in this scenario.
The problem I have with answering it as "yes but" or "no" or "no but" is how multi-step it is. The concept isn't that far fetched, and in fantasy it's practically the primary way to attack your enemy. I mean, at least 4 scenes in recent media come to mind, and a half dozen more in older media, ranging from Star Wars to the MCU to Avatar (the blue cat people one which, if I recall, did it multiple times).


But in that regards, a more common scenario is "I jump down on them (from a significant distance), attacking from above ..." with intent they either do greater damage or inflict their fall damage on the target.

I've can see a DM that rule you split the falling damage, you both take it, you take damage but can make the attack, and nope that's silly you can't control your fall from a great height you fall and miss and go splat and no attack. I can see all of those being a fine ruling depending on the genre.
Also, isn't there a feat for this? And a related build? I swear it was some charger variant where you had to fall to get extra damage. Assuming those kind of builds are allowed in the game, I'd think jumping off things to hurt your target would be encouraged.


Unless you're playing a hitchhiker game of course. But hopefully that'd have a rule built in for that. :smallamused:
Of course, just remember your towel.

----
I'm not terribly concerned with shutting down player insanity. We're all mad here. I'm more concerned about shutting down absurdity. Things that clearly have no chance of success, and the player should know this (and probably does), which means attempting them translates to a waste of time. We're adults, we have jobs, we have lives, we want to play other games, our gaming time is precious. I do not take fondly to folks who willfully waste it.

Outside of the "door problem", another example of when I might use "NO" as an answer is someone who creates a "goofy and ineffective character" for no purpose other than to screw around. Often expecting the party to cover them while they create problems, save them when they get into something they can't handle, or actively undercut party efforts to resolve situations in a certain manner. It is unfortunate that one of these characters is etched into D&D history not just as an individual but with an entire race.

I have, IME, encountered players who take that character and that race to be their entire purpose in a game. To be as obtuse, ineffective, and disruptive to party, social, and combat dynamics as possible.

The purpose of a DM being comfortable saying "NO" is that the use of "NO" is often to cut off players who are inclined to hog the spotlight if given an opening. "yes but..." provides that opening. It gives a player who is long-winded, who is light on following the rules, who is quick to come up with one idea after another an opportunity to keep going. To, by hook or by crook, by accident or intention, keep the spotlight on themselves. You can't manage a team, you can't run a group, you can't have a leadership position if you're not willing, or not capable of saying "NO".

Pex
2019-07-16, 10:23 PM
Do not be happy when a PC is killed. The monster wants to kill the PC. You should not. There's a difference.

Do not take it personally when a player outsmarts you in a situation having their character win the day in a way you did not expect. The player is supposed to do that. Certainly be mindful the character does not end up too powerful/broken/Wins D&D, etc.

It's ok for a PC to be powerful. The PC is supposed to be able to do amazing things.

Not everything needs a risk of failure. PCs are supposed to do things just because the player wants to do it. Of course not everything a player wants, but it's a far cry from never.

5E specific:

Let the party rest already. They're supposed to use and get back their stuff.

5E does not forbid magic items. Magic items exist. PCs are supposed to have them. The game does not fall apart because the PCs have permanent magic items that help in combat.

Lord Arkon
2019-07-17, 04:02 AM
"I use Dancing Lights to open the door."

"How do you imagine that would work?"


"Whoever is on the other side will see the glow and open to investigate."

".... Okay.

"You hear a horn being blown on the other side of the door. For the next hour you hear marching and clanging of heavy armor through the door, as well as the ponderous, heavy rumble of stone being moved across stone. After an hour of this, the room grows silent, and there is a clicking sound from the door. Roll initiative."

Sorry, once the image was in my head it had to come out. Just picture the monsters on the other side setting up cover and breaking out the tower shields. But the one about to use a ten foot pole to open the door will give the party a free alchemist's fire, so bonus!

Pleh
2019-07-17, 04:46 AM
I'm not terribly concerned with shutting down player insanity. We're all mad here. I'm more concerned about shutting down absurdity. Things that clearly have no chance of success, and the player should know this (and probably does), which means attempting them translates to a waste of time. We're adults, we have jobs, we have lives, we want to play other games, our gaming time is precious. I do not take fondly to folks who willfully waste it.

Outside of the "door problem", another example of when I might use "NO" as an answer is someone who creates a "goofy and ineffective character" for no purpose other than to screw around. Often expecting the party to cover them while they create problems, save them when they get into something they can't handle, or actively undercut party efforts to resolve situations in a certain manner. It is unfortunate that one of these characters is etched into D&D history not just as an individual but with an entire race.

I have, IME, encountered players who take that character and that race to be their entire purpose in a game. To be as obtuse, ineffective, and disruptive to party, social, and combat dynamics as possible.

The purpose of a DM being comfortable saying "NO" is that the use of "NO" is often to cut off players who are inclined to hog the spotlight if given an opening. "yes but..." provides that opening. It gives a player who is long-winded, who is light on following the rules, who is quick to come up with one idea after another an opportunity to keep going. To, by hook or by crook, by accident or intention, keep the spotlight on themselves. You can't manage a team, you can't run a group, you can't have a leadership position if you're not willing, or not capable of saying "NO".

But again, all of this calls for a discussion outside of the game. A DM can ban the Kender race from play. The group can disinvite a disruptive player.

If a player is screwing up the game (and not just your plot), pause the session and confront them. Ask everyone else if they feel the same way. Inform the player what behaviors are unacceptable and that continuing will result in either the player being dropped, or the DM resigning from the campaign (if the other players are unwilling to boot).

Again, there shouldn't be a good place to say No while the session is in play and all players are participating honestly. If disruptive behavior arises, it's best handled out of character, so stop the game and explain your position.

The rule is less about literally saying no and more about how to say no.

Cozzer
2019-07-17, 05:30 AM
I honestly can't understand where all these problems with the word 'no' are coming from. Even without getting into disruptive behavior, the game takes place in a world with its internal logic. I, as a player, will ask questions to check whenever there's an ambiguity ("My fighter is already been estabilished as superhumanly strong, can he just kick a hole in the wall instead of bothering with the door?"). Sometimes, the answer will be yes, sometimes it will be no. Sometimes there will be "if"s or "but"s, sometimes there won't be.

I mean, ok, we're all scared of power-hungry GMs turning their game into "read my mind and guess the one and only question that won't get a 'no' as a response", but that doesn't mean the opposite is better. If I, as a player, know that just asking if my character is strong enough to kick open a hole in the wall means the world will have to provide such a way ("No, but since you asked, a couple of Wall-Kicking Boots have just spawned in the treasury..."), the world suddenly becomes way less interesting.

(I know there are games with narrative-powered mechanics that simulate the situation I just described, such as Fate with its "use a Fate point to create an element of the scene you can use" mechanic. That's perfectly OK but it's just one of several perfectly acceptable kinds of gaming).

False God
2019-07-17, 08:20 AM
But again, all of this calls for a discussion outside of the game. A DM can ban the Kender race from play. The group can disinvite a disruptive player.

If a player is screwing up the game (and not just your plot), pause the session and confront them. Ask everyone else if they feel the same way. Inform the player what behaviors are unacceptable and that continuing will result in either the player being dropped, or the DM resigning from the campaign (if the other players are unwilling to boot).

Again, there shouldn't be a good place to say No while the session is in play and all players are participating honestly. If disruptive behavior arises, it's best handled out of character, so stop the game and explain your position.

The rule is less about literally saying no and more about how to say no.

So saying "yes" is now about saying "no" but in a way people will find more tolerable?

Sorry, sometimes "no" is just "no" and sometimes "no" is the right answer. I just can't get behind the idea that you should never say "no" in-game.

"No" works pretty well for me and my players. So, agree to disagree here.

Pleh
2019-07-17, 09:18 AM
If I, as a player, know that just asking if my character is strong enough to kick open a hole in the wall means the world will have to provide such a way ("No, but since you asked, a couple of Wall-Kicking Boots have just spawned in the treasury..."), the world suddenly becomes way less interesting.

That's not what's being advocated at all.

"Am I strong enough to kick down the door?"

"I'm not revealing the Strength Check DC, but you may try and find out for yourself."

"Does my character think they could kick down the door?"

"Give me a wisdom check."

See? It's about resolving character choices by prompting players to action, using leading refusals rather than blankly shooting them down.


So saying "yes" is now about saying "no" but in a way people will find more tolerable?

"Tact is the ability to tell someone to go to hell in such a manner that they look forward to the trip."

The point is to always posture your DMing constructively and not adversarially. If you need to refuse a player decision, work with them to explain what is wrong with their choice through gameplay.

"That doesn't work, here's what the character experiences that tells them what went wrong."

If the character might not live to regret it, "Are you sure about that?"

If the player is being actually disruptive to the game, stop play and talk about it above the table.

It's not that you can't use the word No, just that you resist the tendency for the word to discourage your players' creativity, by instead pointing their creativity in a better direction.

Lord Torath
2019-07-17, 11:37 AM
Do not be happy when a PC is killed. The monster wants to kill the PC. You should not. There's a difference.

Do not take it personally when a player outsmarts you in a situation having their character win the day in a way you did not expect. The player is supposed to do that. Certainly be mindful the character does not end up too powerful/broken/Wins D&D, etc.

It's ok for a PC to be powerful. The PC is supposed to be able to do amazing things.

Not everything needs a risk of failure. PCs are supposed to do things just because the player wants to do it. Of course not everything a player wants, but it's a far cry from never.

5E specific:

Let the party rest already. They're supposed to use and get back their stuff.

5E does not forbid magic items. Magic items exist. PCs are supposed to have them. The game does not fall apart because the PCs have permanent magic items that help in combat.I really like your first rule. I think your second and third rules could be part of Jay's Rule 14. Your fourth rule fits under Rule 5.

Tanarii
2019-07-17, 04:07 PM
That's not what's being advocated at all.
It is exactly what is advocated by many, even most, online (especially in blogs) about "No, but ..."

It's just not advocated by you. "If you say no, give reasonable feedback as to what the hell is going on in universe and why that didn't work" is a, not remotely unreasonable, different thing from the Never Say No folks. You're fighting an uphill battle because you're trying to defend a position that isn't the one that's actually put forth, against the backlash generated the actual position as it has been historically presented.

patchyman
2019-07-17, 04:25 PM
That's not what's being advocated at all.

"Am I strong enough to kick down the door?"

"I'm not revealing the Strength Check DC, but you may try and find out for yourself."

"Does my character think they could kick down the door?"

"Give me a wisdom check."

See? It's about resolving character choices by prompting players to action, using leading refusals rather than blankly shooting them down.


You should only ask for an ability check in a case where the outcome is in doubt. The player may not know whether the character can kick through the wall (because the DM didnít describe it), but the character does.

My question here is ďwhy not say no?Ē By not saying no, the DM slowed down the pace of the game.

Pleh
2019-07-17, 04:47 PM
It is exactly what is advocated by many, even most, online (especially in blogs) about "No, but ..."

It's just not advocated by you. "If you say no, give reasonable feedback as to what the hell is going on in universe and why that didn't work" is a, not remotely unreasonable, different thing from the Never Say No folks. You're fighting an uphill battle because you're trying to defend a position that isn't the one that's actually put forth, against the backlash generated the actual position as it has been historically presented.

Fair enough. I hadn't had the impression that anyone in this thread was advocating for DMs to never say no in any way.


You should only ask for an ability check in a case where the outcome is in doubt. The player may not know whether the character can kick through the wall (because the DM didnít describe it), but the character does.

My question here is ďwhy not say no?Ē By not saying no, the DM slowed down the pace of the game.

First, the character *doesn't* necessarily know if they can kick down a door. They may think they can, or can't, or they may not be sure.

Fair enough the DM can skip the wisdom roll for expediency, but you still aren't limited to a straight yes or no if the concern is expediency.

"Does my character think they can kick down the door?"

You could answer negatory by implying that the door seems too fortified for anything less than a battering ram. Here we see, "no, unless" come into play.

Point being you can still avoid blanket naysaying that leaves no room for the player to pursue the issue further. What if they could improvise a battering ram?

Cozzer
2019-07-18, 02:45 AM
First, the character *doesn't* necessarily know if they can kick down a door. They may think they can, or can't, or they may not be sure.

Fair enough the DM can skip the wisdom roll for expediency, but you still aren't limited to a straight yes or no if the concern is expediency.

You could answer negatory by implying that the door seems too fortified for anything less than a battering ram. Here we see, "no, unless" come into play.

Point being you can still avoid blanket naysaying that leaves no room for the player to pursue the issue further. What if they could improvise a battering ram?

I don't disagree with any of that, but... I mean, how does "you can't kick down the wall" imply that the characters can't bring the wall down with a battering ram?

It's not the GM's job to present solutions to the players. Sometimes it can and should be done, but sometimes it just takes away initiative from the players and prompts them to follow the dotted line. If the GM mentions battering rams, the players' mindset will be influnced. They would feel a lot better if they just looked around at what's available and came up with the idea of improvising a battering ram themselves (or a ladder, or tools for digging under the wall, and so on).

I mean no disrespect, but this whole "the GM shouldn't say no" thing seems to me like a big overcorrection for other GMs' powertripping attitude. It takes away useful tools from the GM just because they might be used in a bad way.

The "yes, and...", "no, but...", "no, unless..." and so on rules come from improvisional theatre, and exist for the sake of the audience. If you're livestreaming your campaign or something (young people these days) then it would make sense to implement them, but it would mean that both the GM and the players are performers for a third party. When the GM and the players are performing for each other, the pacing and flow are completely different.

Pleh
2019-07-18, 04:43 AM
I don't disagree with any of that, but... I mean, how does "you can't kick down the wall" imply that the characters can't bring the wall down with a battering ram?

It's not the GM's job to present solutions to the players. Sometimes it can and should be done, but sometimes it just takes away initiative from the players and prompts them to follow the dotted line. If the GM mentions battering rams, the players' mindset will be influnced. They would feel a lot better if they just looked around at what's available and came up with the idea of improvising a battering ram themselves (or a ladder, or tools for digging under the wall, and so on).

If the player is asking the DM for information about the world, they are looking for hints. Otherwise, they needn't bother looking for information. What do they stand to lose by finding out if the can kick a wall down by kicking it really hard?

If the player wants to avoid hand holding and figuring it out on their own, they won't need to ask the DM what their character thinks.


I mean no disrespect, but this whole "the GM shouldn't say no" thing seems to me like a big overcorrection for other GMs' powertripping attitude.

It is, to an extent, but remember all of Jay R's rules are less absolute and more like general guidelines. Any of them can be broken under the right circumstances. We could nitpick most of them apart if we choose to interpret them far too literally. Most are compensating for some kind of common GM pitfall that not everyone struggles with. That's more or less what the thread's about.


The "yes, and...", "no, but...", "no, unless..." and so on rules come from improvisional theatre, and exist for the sake of the audience. If you're livestreaming your campaign or something (young people these days) then it would make sense to implement them, but it would mean that both the GM and the players are performers for a third party. When the GM and the players are performing for each other, the pacing and flow are completely different.

But it's serving the same purpose. TTRPGs are a cooperative game, including the GM. Sometimes, players have plenty of ideas with how to explore or resolve a scenario, sometimes they don't. In the cases where they have ideas, saying No doesn't affect the pacing because they just switch to their next tactic when the first doesn't work. The game grinds to a halt when you've refused their last choice and they're out of ideas.

You don't need an audience for the pace to be important. Yes, it's fine for a game to stop and consider a problem for a while moreso than in improv theatre, but the game starts to sour if you stay there too long. There is still value to keeping engaged, even as you answer, even with simple affirmative or negatory responses.

Also, "yes, but" et al. isn't necessarily proposing solutions. If we consider our example of kicking down a door woth the GM suggesting they'd need a battering ram, that solution isn't helpful if time is a limiting factor. Suppose the characters are being chased or the room is filling with sand. The players might not be able to improvise a battering ram in the time they have remaining. It might not be a solution that is provided, but merely contextual information that informs the player what they are up against.

Cozzer
2019-07-18, 05:28 AM
@Pleh: I agree with more or less everything, and it's true that using "no, but..." or "no, unless..." responses is useful to add details to the scene. I also agree that it's necessary when the scene feels directionless or it feels like the players have no idea how to go forward. It's up to the GM's skills to determine, case by case, when they can let the players provide ideas and when it's better to drop a few hints.

It's just... I don't know, lately I've seen some fixation of this idea that "the GM should never say no" that seems a bit unhealthy to me. It's just a part of the toolbox, and taking it away or demonizing it because a(n overrepresented on the Internet) minority of GMs misuses it feels wrong to me. (Not talking about you, Pleh, or necessarily about people on this thread. Just my read on the Internet gaming culture in general).

Jay R
2019-07-18, 07:35 AM
It is, to an extent, but remember all of Jay R's rules are less absolute and more like general guidelines. Any of them can be broken under the right circumstances.

Exactly. That's the idea behind rules #8 & #9.

If I had a rule about how to respond to player requests, it would be some version of this:

X. Don't plan how to answer a player's question until you know what the question is. And don't approach all players the same.

a. The player who asks for nonsense will most often get a "No". The player whose requests are pretty basic and reasonable will most often get a "Yes". The player who asks for something cool and cinematic but unlikely requires a careful judgment call. She should sometimes get it -- but rarely enough that it creates a climactic moment, not an average move.
b. Think about a movie where you've seen something like this happen. Did the hero do it often? Probably the player should be allowed to do it often. Did the hero do it once, as a desperate move, at the big finish? Then save it for the big finish

Pleh
2019-07-18, 09:13 AM
To be fair, it's becoming increasingly clear that there's more to the "never say no" movement than I had been aware of (that there was a movement, for one).

I don't believe it's a magic formula that somehow works. Clearly, there will be times to say no. I just find merit in the policy of using it as a last resort (when other GM tools have failed).

As I mentioned earlier, I like the exhortation of DMs to respond tactfully, as opposed to cryptically. Sometimes cryptic answers heighten the atmosphere, sometimes they're just needlessly adversarial. It seems wise to avoid curt answers unless there is a good reason to have one.

kyoryu
2019-07-18, 12:49 PM
Thereís a difference between ďno, you canít try thatĒ and ďno, that wonít workĒ.

Cozzer
2019-07-18, 02:04 PM
To be fair, it's becoming increasingly clear that there's more to the "never say no" movement than I had been aware of (that there was a movement, for one).

I don't believe it's a magic formula that somehow works. Clearly, there will be times to say no. I just find merit in the policy of using it as a last resort (when other GM tools have failed).

As I mentioned earlier, I like the exhortation of DMs to respond tactfully, as opposed to cryptically. Sometimes cryptic answers heighten the atmosphere, sometimes they're just needlessly adversarial. It seems wise to avoid curt answers unless there is a good reason to have one.

Well then, I guess we were agreeing with each other the whole way without realizing. :smalltongue: Sorry for the misunderstanding.

Great Dragon
2019-07-22, 04:22 PM
Iím a little tired right now, but Iím slowly reading through the Thread.
Looks interesting so far.

Also: Same disclaimer as OP (and others) these are how I run my game/s and it's not for everyone.

@Jay R;
My thoughts:

1. "Donít make it flammable if you donít want it burnt."
Don't make it so pretty you can't allow Changes.

2. No matter what the character sheets says, there are only three PC alignments Ė Lawful Snotty, Neutral Greedy, and Chaotic Backstabbing.
ROF lol !!!

3. Unchallenged PCs make for Lousy Hero Stories.

4. "It's your job to build the problem. It's their job to find a solution." I try to avoid Gygaxian Tactics, and plan for multiple ways to solve a Death Trap.

5. "Never let a player roll a die unless it is acceptable for the roll to succeed, and acceptable for the roll to fail." These things should always add flavor to the game, and never big it down.

6. Success and Failure should both add to the Story. Consider what happens in each case..

7. "Reward good tactics, consistent characterization, and brilliant ideas more than lucky die rolls."
Your Players will love you for this.

8. "A role-playing game is run by rules. But it isn't made out of rules; it's made out of ideas, characters, and imagination."
Right. You control the Rules, not the reverse.

9. Be cautious changing Rules. Don't be afraid to seek advice before using any changes.

10. "Never base a campaign on something you are more excited about than your players are."
If they show interest in something in the game, change your focus to that.

11. "Have multiple clues, and/or multiple entries."
Also, Have more than one person/source for it.

12. "Failing to solve the puzzle can cost them hit points, time, resources, curses, some treasure, or surprise attacks, but it should never cost them the adventure." Deciding which ahead of game time causes less headache during the game.

13. "If you arenít willing for the players to have it, donít put it in the game." Exactly.

14. "Do not give them a set of options that includes screwing up the game."
Make plans, then improvise.

15. "Do not roll a die if one result could screw up the game." Yep.

16. Villains based on a PC's Background should always involve the Player.
Surprises can create problems.

17. Make sure everyone understands the type of Game/s you run. Be flexible.

18. Enjoy being surprised by your Players..

19. "PCs should not roll for common or obvious knowledge." Seriously.

20. Backstories should be rewarded, but never required.

21. "The players should be glad that the adventure happened." Always.

22. No one wants to be ignored.

23. I Agree.


Be very clear about your house rules and setting conventions.
Insist on Session Zero. Meet with new players on a non game day, to explain these.

@Lord Torath "Be a fan of your players' characters."
Agreed. Your DMPC snowflake should very rarely be the source of the Solution to PC/s Problems. Sure, it's your World, but it's their Story.
Remember that only when combined, plus Luck (Dice) makes the Game what it's supposed to be.

@Galithar:

1. "Conflict is essential to the game, but combat is optional. (Don't be afraid to let your players get out of your planned combat encounter by persuading, intimidating, deceiving, or bribing their way through.)"
Giving NPCs quirks and Flaws that Inquisitive Players can discover and use makes them more remembered.

2. "If a character is close to dying DON'T change the encounter to effect it. (Let them die or survive on their, and their parties actions, not DM intervention)"
For smart monsters, don't avoid them targeting a downed PC (or at least threaten to) if that makes sense.

3. "If a character does something stupid and gets themselves killed, let it happen. If a character does something stupid and it's going to get SOMEONE ELSE'S character killed, intervene if and only if that someone else would not be okay with the outcome.
3a. If at all possible, don't let them know you saved them. Let them be their own hero.
3b. If they can't be their own hero let a third party member save them.Ē
This is very nicely put.

4. [Common rule I'm 'stealing'. Credit to whoever said it first because it wasn't me] If you want them to fight, they're gonna try to talk to it... If you want them to talk to someone, they're already dead. Be prepared for the opposite of your intentions.[/QUOTE]
Donít plan for a specific outcome, think of at least two possible outcomes, and still be prepared to improvise. Players are Wily like that.



This is a hobby, the players are playing for fun. <Snip> itís OK to make the game challenging. Itís never OK to make it a chore.
Agree.

@Misereor: ďOne law for all.Ē
I disagree. Player's should not have Legendary Actions or Resistances before Epic.
Permanently based 17+ Level PCs might get Lair Actions.

"Know thy stuff."
Absolutely.
Acknowledge the Fact that you'll never know it all.
Because when you finally do - they change the Edition!!! :redcloak:

"Props are king."
They can be nice, but don't depend on them.

@Ken Murikumo: "Allow for degrees of success or failure."
Something I've been doing for years.

Tanarii
2019-07-22, 08:14 PM
Well then, I guess we were agreeing with each other the whole way without realizing. :smalltongue: Sorry for the misunderstanding.
Welcome to the Internet.

I know I'm certainly glad Pleh took the time to make his point clear. It helped me examine just how knee-jerk & reactionary to a perceived extremist point (strawman in my own mind, so to speak) I was being.

Pleh
2019-07-23, 09:05 AM
Likewise. I always am pleased when a conversation turns out well and everyone learns something (especially myself)

Jay R
2019-07-23, 10:02 AM
A few additions:


24. When a PC gets a great new ability, there needs to be an encounter in the next session for which that ability is devastatingly effective. Otherwise it doesnít exist. There should also be an encounter in the next session in which it is useless. Otherwise, the rest of that character doesnít exist.

25. The purpose of wandering monsters is to prevent the game from bogging down. If the players spend over five real minutes in useless discussion, then it's ghoul o'clock.

a. Be careful with this. Not all discussion is useless.

26. When the partyís victory is assured, the encounter has lost all suspense. Mop-up combat is boring, so end it. Remember, the NPCs donít want to die; they would usually rather flee or surrender.

27. When you design a scenario, you should be firmly on the players' side, trying to produce encounters in which they have every legitimate chance to succeed (and that poor play and bad decisions can still let them fail). But when running the scenario, you need to be a fair and neutral judge of the PCs' actions.



Also, #26 is important, but the phrasing has no style. Anybody have a good re-write?

Kardwill
2019-07-23, 10:20 AM
I would like to add my own personal corollary to this rule, which is this: If your players ask you for something, never say "No".

DISCLAIMER: This is not the same thing as saying "always say yes". Saying "yes" to everything that your players ask for will kill all the mystique of the game and ultimately leave them spoiled and unsatisfied. Instead, you should say "Okay, if...", or say "Maybe..." or say "No, unless....".


That's one I try to cling to. My personal version is "If a player asks a loaded question, I don't say no unless I have a very good reason not to. And no, that reason I instinctively thought of when he asked is probably not good enough, think seriously about it"

It's not a license to accept whatever Toon-level absurdity the party clown just threw at you. It's a reminder that a player asking a question is often a player who just had an idea to move the game forward, to solve the problem at hand, or to do cool stuff.
"Can I flap my arms and fly away" has a pretty obvious reason to say "no", sure (i.e. the verisimilitude of the game). But unless I just described the bridge as a sturdy stonework drenched in rain, replying "yes" to the question "Is the bridge flamable?" breaks nothing and is the beginning of a plan.

"Do my order have one of our secret libraries in this town?", "Is there an open firepit in the middle of the tavern?", "Do I recognise one of those thugs?" are questions that I could instinctively shoot down if I feel they lead away from my "perfect solution to the problem at hand", but if I snuff down that impulse and ask myself "Do I really have a reason to say no?", they are gateways to cool stuff and to proactive PCs.

And if I don't want the players to have an easy time, then "No, but", Yes, but" and "Yes, and" replies allow me to catch those ideas and twist them just enough to present a challenge. :p

"No, the town is too small for a full blown secret library. But you heard one of your adepts lives here, and she might have a personal collection"
"Yes, one of them is good old Jeremiah. You know, Sheryl's husband. Yeah, THAT Sheryl. He looks pissed"
"Yes, the bridge is flammable. You're sure of it, because a bunch of goblin raiders are torching it to cut off your retreat. You might want to speed up."

Note that it applies to my GMing style : Character-centered stuff and improvisation heavy, with a fluid plot weaved around the PCs action. I guess it's not as good for high-prep, problem solving GMing like a dungeon crawl, where integrating new stuff might conflict with other already prepped elements.

farothel
2019-07-23, 12:42 PM
@Misereor: ďOne law for all.Ē
I disagree. Player's should not have Legendary Actions or Resistances before Epic.
Permanently based 17+ Level PCs might get Lair Actions.


It depends on the game. For instance in our Scion game the rule was that any boon or knack the PC scions had, the NPC scions could also have. Of course, the reverse applied as well.
In L5R on the other hand, the PCs will not have shadowlands powers (they can, but it's not a good idea to do so).

I would also add a rule on PCs dying: depending on the game you play, PCs can and will die easily. Let the players know up front how lethal the game will be (in some games it's build in, like L5R, but in others it might be best to state this up front).

Great Dragon
2019-07-23, 02:20 PM
Note that it applies to my GMing style : Character-centered stuff and improvisation heavy, with a fluid plot weaved around the PCs action. I guess it's not as good for high-prep, problem solving GMing like a dungeon crawl, where integrating new stuff might conflict with other already prepped elements.

All very good.
As a note: I usually end up with a lot of Dungeon Crawl games.

Keeping a lot of the things here is something I do (YmMv).

I really like DotMM, and still use a lot of the old Undermountain content in here. Really mixes things up. Preping is ok, but expect PCs to find unusual ways to solve/avoid them.

And yeah, plan for Combat with (evil) Humanoids, but figure in RP solutions as well. Like stated, very few will Fight to the Death, without a very good reason.

Thanks for reading.

DMThac0
2019-07-23, 02:37 PM
26. When the partyís victory is assured, the encounter has lost all suspense. Mop-up combat is boring, so end it. Remember, the NPCs donít want to die; they would usually rather flee or surrender.


Know when the encounter is over and wrap it up appropriately.

a. Not every creature/monster fights to the death. Have them run, surrender, or negotiate.

b. It is okay to summarize the end of combat early if there is no longer any threat to the PCs and their victory is assured.

Jay R
2019-08-01, 08:37 AM
Know when the encounter is over and wrap it up appropriately.

a. Not every creature/monster fights to the death. Have them run, surrender, or negotiate.

b. It is okay to summarize the end of combat early if there is no longer any threat to the PCs and their victory is assured.

Thanks. I took your approach, re-cast it into my voice, and added a sub-point. I think it's much better now due to your input.

I also turned your supboint into its own point.

26. When the partyís victory is assured, the encounter is over. End it.

a. Most NPCs wonít fight to the death; they would usually rather flee, negotiate, or surrender.
b. One round earlier, when you know the PCs have won and they donít yet, is a great time for the NPCs to offer to negotiate.
c. This is your opportunity to force-feed them that obvious fact theyíve been missing, and let them believe they earned it.

28. If it doesnít matter, then donít roll dice; summarize. Rolling dice for mop-up combat, or for diplomacy when the NPC is already on your side, is as pointless as rolling dice for tying your shoes.

lacco36
2019-08-01, 09:10 AM
If I had a rule about how to respond to player requests, it would be some version of this:

X. Don't plan how to answer a player's question until you know what the question is. And don't approach all players the same.

a. The player who asks for nonsense will most often get a "No". The player whose requests are pretty basic and reasonable will most often get a "Yes". The player who asks for something cool and cinematic but unlikely requires a careful judgment call. She should sometimes get it -- but rarely enough that it creates a climactic moment, not an average move.
b. Think about a movie where you've seen something like this happen. Did the hero do it often? Probably the player should be allowed to do it often. Did the hero do it once, as a desperate move, at the big finish? Then save it for the big finish

One that took years for me to learn and I still forget it:
Never be sure you know the player's intentions. When you don't like the player's request, ask "Why?" and keep asking until you arrive at explanation. Then re-evaluate.

If you're twiddling your thumbs but the players still discuss, check around the table. If the others listen, give them few minutes more. If some listen, provide ambience. If nobody listens, it's time for Chandler's golden rule.

One of mine (some/many people might object):
Unless stated otherwise in game rules, GM shall not control the player's character. However, unless stated otherwise in game rules, character's perception should be subjective.

Players' backstory is divided into author perspective (objective) or character perspective (subjective). Objective backstories/parts should be discussed and aligned between GM and player. Subjective ones are matter of perception.
(in line with Jay R's rule 21, my usual verification tool for any changes to character's perception of events is "When time comes and they find out, will they go "Whoa...that is epic!"; if not, do not do this. Some knowledge of players is required)

Also for regular groups:
Once in a while switch the table around in a one-shot. Do something different. Try new system, genre or playstyle. Persuade the silent guy group play "Face", the joker to go for the Tommy Lee Jones-like persona, GM a "Parody dungeon" with rules from Toon, Paranoia and Munchkin combined. Expand your limits and the players' too.

hoaiphong123
2019-08-08, 09:58 PM
You can find the rule in this link www dungeonworldsrd.. com/gamemastering/#Agenda

Sorry I can't post links