View Full Version : A Despondent DM

2008-01-01, 11:08 AM
I DM a game of five or six people which meets infrequently throughout the year. Of late though, I've noticed that I'm stuck between two imperfect situations. Either I make intricate maps and plans which mean that I can give the players all sorts of gorgeous situational information (which means that the party gets railroaded because I've invested too much time for them not to hit the puzzle - either I don't know what else is around that, or it's uneconomic for them to miss it) OR I just go in with a little prep material and make stuff up / add it as the inspiration hits me, which is more freeform, but the quality of their material suffers. Either I contain where they go, or I get spread too thin to do much.

I'm not sure what the solution is, and I need some help. Thanks,

2008-01-01, 11:20 AM
One option I've found and loved is a random dungeon generator. Works only for indoor, constructed places, no caves or outdoor environs, but it saves a lot of time. It also generates treasure (which can be set to coins, gems, items or any mix) and monsters according to what level you set it at. I just run the generator, which has a few programable parameters, take what I get as a base, then a little trimming, and we have a dungeon crawl!(which is mostly what my group likes to do) The only feature I don't care for as much is the monsters. It tends to leave them very fragmented, no theme. You end up with a displacer beast in one room, skeletons in the next, and a dire bear in the next. Also, if you set the dungeon level to 1, all the monsters will be elf warriors....:smallannoyed:

I don't use this exclusively, but within an already constructed plot or setting, it can be really handy. A perfect tool for when your adventurers take the left fork, instead of the right one. You can save your exquisitely hand-crafted dungeon for later and just whip them up one in about 5 min for where they're headed now.

I'll try to find where I got it from and post a link when I get home from work tonight.:smallsmile:

2008-01-01, 11:20 AM
There is no solution; those are just two possible approaches to being a DM. Some like to fall into one extremity or the other, whilst others prefer to strike a balance (either by way of alternating between the two styles or amalgamating them).

The best approach for me has always been to develop as much of the setting as possible, along with adventure locations, settlements, NPCs, etc... and then 'wing it' as much as possible (which I think is a lot easier when you have a developed setting). That gives you plenty to fall back on for those occasions where structured play is desired.

This is quite a lengthy subject, actually, and my best advice is to read up on your options, try a variety of approaches and see which one works best for you.

Irreverent Fool
2008-01-01, 11:36 AM
If you really need a break, work some published material into your campaign. Change a few details, work up to it, and a few published adventures may breathe some life into your DM'ing and let you have more fun with it.

Also, bear in mind that if the PCs pass up some spectacular plot you've made for them, there's nothing stopping you from springing it on them later. I've thrown a half-dozen options at my group, they've chosen number seven, and still ended up encountering the one dungeon I had prepared. I've also had them knock a castle to the ground before exploring it and used the exact same adventure later in the campaign with only a change to the majority race.

They don't know what you've got ready for them and what you don't. :D

Miles Invictus
2008-01-01, 07:58 PM
From what you've said, Pheonix, it sounds like you're planning your sessions too narrowly. You could afford to branch out a little -- instead of planning one intricate path through the session, figure out a number of different ways things could go.

2008-01-01, 08:08 PM
Also, try communicating more with your players. End sessions by asking "so what do you guys plan on doing next game," so you have time to prep. Also, make stats for monsters / NPCs dead last, and make stats only up to where your players could get.

2008-01-01, 08:11 PM
OR I just go in with a little prep material and make stuff up / add it as the inspiration hits me, which is more freeform, but the quality of their material suffers.

I'm more than a lot guilty of that. I just.. I can't work well with too much planning. I need a few key things, and then I just go. And thankfully I've been blessed with the ability to have cohesive made up on the spot plots, atleast to the point where my players are never entirely sure if I made something up then, or if it was planned to be that way. But.. if you don't want to do the heavy prep work, you may want to practice your improv DM skills. It's exactly like making up a story, only with other people giving you input as you go.