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  1. - Top - End - #1
    Pixie in the Playground
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    Dec 2017

    Default New Dm, Keep getting stuck

    Hey guys this is my first post on this forum, im taking a swing at Dm for my new group at my home. Basically 4 new players and 1 mostly new player to the game. Ive been hitting a quite a few speed bumps and was hoping for some ideas or advice on how to move forward. One of the issues i have been having for example is how to best deal with plot deviation. I understand the Pc's need the freedom to do what they wish that is partly what makes the game fun but im not the most creative person in my opinion and making stuff up on the fly is something i feel i really need to work on. So for example i started with a premade adventure to have some solid ground work to go off of and i have been kind of ramping off of that into my own thing. But getting them onto the basic path for the adventure is dificult when they jump to a random turn or go some where random right at the beggining lol. And with this story they are arriving seperately to the starting location and i need them to get to a specific area to start the basic intro to the adventure and such but thats seeming to be difficult. Also getting them to group is an issue due to race and backround choices. Like how for example do i get a tiefling to get along with a druid. What spin could i usetha would make them grouping together make any kind of sense?

  2. - Top - End - #2
    Bugbear in the Playground
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    Default Re: New Dm, Keep getting stuck

    These are issues everyone has to deal with, so you'll get better with them in time and experience.

    Since you are new and your players are also new, I suggest starting simple: just make everyone agree that they knew and are at least casual friends with each other before the adventure begins. Don't worry about conflicting backgrounds, there's nothing suggesting a tiefling and a druid can't work together. The only issue here is extreme examples like a paladin and an obviously evil character, or anyone chaotic stupid. This way everyone has a motivation to stick together and you don't need to waste effort thinking of one.

    As for making sure the party stays on track, one thing to remember: make sure they always have a clear goal in mind. This is why adventures where the party is asked or hired to do something work best. They'll know what to do because they were told what to do - how to do it is up to them, but there's a prize to keep their eyes on. Once again, just keep things simple.

  3. - Top - End - #3
    Ettin in the Playground
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    Feb 2012

    Default Re: New Dm, Keep getting stuck

    In campaigns with that sort of structure, I like to end each session with a talk to the players about what they want to do next. Make sure they know the purpose is that you can prepare that. This should put you and the players on the same page, and subtly point out that you have to prepare - that they need to show a little consideration of that. Then you can also ask them to not do the thing you aren't ready for right now, but rather when you've had the chance to get ready.

    Edit: Another trick is to have some material that can be put in almost anywhere. So if the players decide to go somewhere you haven't planned for, you let them, and run the pick pocket encounter (where the PCs find that one of them is carrying an object s/he has no idea where came from, and a thief just tried to steal it - interrogation of the thief or examination of the object will lead to adventure).
    Last edited by hymer; 2017-12-05 at 06:46 AM.
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  4. - Top - End - #4
    Ogre in the Playground
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    Default Re: New Dm, Keep getting stuck

    There is a reason that a lot of old (pre 3.X) adventures start in a tavern or Inn. You have all of your characters in one location, they are assumed to have known each other prior to meeting up there (or they all just happened to be having a drink in the same tavern when the plot hook rears its head), and as such, it is easy to get them all out the door and on the same track at the same time.

    Don't try to get too bogged down in the "how did you all meet" area. It's honestly not that important in the long run. As a DM I've used the tavern/inn hook, and I've had all the players characters be from he same (mixed race) village. There are a bunch of ways you can handle that part. If your characters are starting out at advanced levels (anything over level 1 or 2), then they are assumed to know each other, and have been adventuring together for the previous (unplayed) levels.

    As for plot deviation... I tend to make my campaigns modular. I'll have certain events that have to take place for the plot to progress, but I won't tie them to any specific location. If the party needs to talk to the old wise man of the mountain, but instead head off into the Endless Desert, then the old wise man of the mountain, becomes the old wise man of the desert, and they find him at an oasis when they stop for water.

    I tend to write my campaigns up as outlines (or sometimes, flow-charts), marking certain events that happen as the party reaches specific levels, and then drop them into the player's path as needed. This gives the players a lot of freedom on where to go, but still allows me to keep the plot moving, regardless.

    There will be times that you will want to herd your players to a specific location, and that's okay. I try not to do it too much, but sending them to X city to stop a BBEG's minion before he completes the blood sacrifice required to summon a demon, is fine once in a while.
    Last edited by Mutazoia; 2017-12-05 at 06:58 AM.
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  5. - Top - End - #5
    Titan in the Playground
     
    Jay R's Avatar

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    Default Re: New Dm, Keep getting stuck

    You can build a sandbox, letting them go anywhere because it's all worked out in advance. This is lots of work, or lots of improv.

    Or you can tell them where the adventure is, with an NPC who hires them, or a town where everybody's talking about the ogre to the south who eats children, or they've been kidnapped by today's villain, or some such.or some such.

    There's nothing wrong with telling them where the adventure is. If you have one adventure planned, put them on it.

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    Firbolg in the Playground
     
    ElfRangerGuy

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    Default Re: New Dm, Keep getting stuck

    Yeah, improvisational skills are an important part of being a DM. Don't worry, you'll get better at it as you gain experience.
    "Nothing you can't spell will ever work." - Will Rogers

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  7. - Top - End - #7
    Barbarian in the Playground
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    Default Re: New Dm, Keep getting stuck

    I would recommend to simply talk with them. Tell them frankly that you need them, at least for the first adventure, to follow the plot as written. If they do something which is not expected by the pre-made adventure, just tell them "Great idea, sounds interesting, but unfortunately it's not in this adventure so please do something else". You are all learning this together, so I would hope they accept that you also need to have some "training wheels", so to speak.

    Later, once you are more comfortable, you can gradually allow them more freedom as you can handle it. Expanding on hymer's suggestion, agree with them that if they decide on a course of action for the next session they stick to it, at least for most of the session. And don't be afraid to end a session early, telling them "okay guys, I did not prepare that options, let's continue there next session once I had the chance to plan it out". I am sure they prefer to have a well-designed session a little later instead of something hacked-together now.
    Quote Originally Posted by Azriel2021
    Like how for example do i get a tiefling to get along with a druid. What spin could i usetha would make them grouping together make any kind of sense?
    That one is really easy - you don't have to think about it. Have them come up with an explanation instead, this are their characters after all.

  8. - Top - End - #8
    Titan in the Playground
     
    Segev's Avatar

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    Default Re: New Dm, Keep getting stuck

    Quote Originally Posted by Firest Kathon View Post
    I would recommend to simply talk with them. Tell them frankly that you need them, at least for the first adventure, to follow the plot as written. If they do something which is not expected by the pre-made adventure, just tell them "Great idea, sounds interesting, but unfortunately it's not in this adventure so please do something else". You are all learning this together, so I would hope they accept that you also need to have some "training wheels", so to speak.

    Later, once you are more comfortable, you can gradually allow them more freedom as you can handle it. Expanding on hymer's suggestion, agree with them that if they decide on a course of action for the next session they stick to it, at least for most of the session. And don't be afraid to end a session early, telling them "okay guys, I did not prepare that options, let's continue there next session once I had the chance to plan it out". I am sure they prefer to have a well-designed session a little later instead of something hacked-together now.

    That one is really easy - you don't have to think about it. Have them come up with an explanation instead, this are their characters after all.
    This is all solid advice. I will put in one caveat: while asking them to go along with the motivation and hook is perfectly fine, be sure to consider any unusual solutions they come up with that might derail things. Can you extrapolate from various NPC motivations and what's going on what would happen based on their solution? If so, I encourage you to run with it. Often, such things won't completely change the bad guys' plot nor the cosmic events behind whatever's happening (depending on the nature of the adventure), so it doesn't totally wreck the module. But it will make the adventure their own.

    If you really see no way to continue should they go that route, though, discuss that with them. You're all learning.

  9. - Top - End - #9
    Orc in the Playground
     
    Planetar

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    Default Re: New Dm, Keep getting stuck

    Ah diversions. They can be endlessly entertaining or endlessly annoying. Or both.

    For starters I definitely second sitting down and talking to the players... or sitting down and talking with the characters, depending on the campaign. It is never too late to have a Session Zero. Or if you did have one and you screwed it up that's okay, you can always have another. At that session you should determine a few things. Why is the group is travelling together? What does the group as a whole want? What does each individual character want?

    If the group is unable to answer these questions I usually offer a few possibilities such as "You all grew up together as friends. Upon reaching maturity you are heading out to see the world and tackle a life of adventure. Although you may have your differences nothing can shatter the bond you've developed." Or "You are all in the employ of the local government." Or "After waking up in an alley you discover that you can't move more than 500 feet from the next closest party member without a mysterious tattoo on your back flaring up and causing you immense crippling pain."

    Usually the players will have some sort of idea what the characters individually want. Tim is after magical artifacts. Sam is after inner peace. Suzy is after blood-soaked revenge for the death of her dog even though all she knows is the killer has 7 toes. But unless the group as a whole has a goal (hey rhyming) the question of why are they travelling together is indeed a valid one. Don't let it go unanswered.
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  10. - Top - End - #10
    Ettin in the Playground
     
    WolfInSheepsClothing

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    Default Re: New Dm, Keep getting stuck

    As a new DM, it is really best to just have all the characters know each other from childhood. It is simple enough: they grew up together and now adventure together. You could do the trick and have all the characters part of some group or organization...but then you'd have to do that for real and that is a lot of work.

    The two easy ways are player greed and force. Greed is easy enough: give the players a reason to stay together that they want. Money, a magic item, whatever. Force also works great, either some sort of social force or even some magical one or such.

    For the adventure, you want to keep things as focused as possible. A good way to do this is to get the players to go along. If the players want to do ''x'', they will. Again, greed works great here, as does force.

    You also want to keep things moving. Avoid slow spots where the players might get bored and then wander.

    And should the players wander, just lead them right back to the adventure.

  11. - Top - End - #11
    Ogre in the Playground
     
    OldWizardGuy

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    Default Re: New Dm, Keep getting stuck

    If you're doing a premade adventure and want to stick with that, just tell your players as much.

    To get players heading in the same direction in other scenarios, tell them what the game is "about" beforehand, and have them make characters that would make sense in that game. If you're wandering monster hunters, then a guy who just wants politics doesn't make sense - and vice versa. Collaborative character generation (see Fate) or even setting generation can help as well.

    As far as improvisation goes, I look at it like this: Every scene/encounter is going to involve either the players advancing their agendas, or responding to something. So, before a game, come up with a number of things you can use that they may have to respond to - things that could go wrong based on the current situation. You may use them, you may not.

    Now, for what the players do, in their more proactive scenes, the trick is to implicitly let them do the heavy lifting. When they say they go somewhere, ask them what they're trying to accomplish. Then, if what they're trying to accomplish is reasoanble *at all*, figure out who or what might oppose that. And then you can pretty much go from there.

    The key to improvised games is going to be in your NPCs. Strong NPCs with agendas will drive the game, as they respond to the actions of the PCs, and vice versa. This engine of opposition is what will keep your game going. If you've heard the advice "prep situations, not plots", this is what it means - know who is doing what, and how they relate to each other. This will give you endless abilities to extrapolate from the current action into the future. On the other hand, a static set of things you expect the players to do is very fragile and will break as soon as the players decide not to do that.

    For the initial start, make something happen. I like to call these things plot grenades - they're something that forces the players to move, but not in a particular direction. Monsters show up. A king dies. There's a food riot. Something big that simply can't be ignored, but that doesn't necessarily force the players down a specific route.
    Last edited by kyoryu; 2017-12-05 at 12:15 PM.
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  12. - Top - End - #12
    Ogre in the Playground
     
    Demidos's Avatar

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    Default Re: New Dm, Keep getting stuck

    Here are some points of advice --

    Regarding getting the group to mesh together, I guarantee that anything you try to do won't work -- why? Because that's something the players have to decide, and since it is IC decisions for each player, there's no way you can regulate that. In short, ask them what sort of adventure they want to run (looting artifacts, mercenaries for hire, magic schoolteachers (who knows)), and then mesh it with the game you want to run (apocalypse, political, dungeon-crawling). Once you all agree on a rough adventure, and here's the important part, they all need to bring characters that will be willing to play ball both with the agreed on story outline and the other PCs. You can't regulate the party, so tell them they have to work together, or the game will be dysfunctional. If there's IC conflict that OOC everyone is happy with, well, that's fine. But OOC everyone needs to be on the same page.

    Regarding advice on how to DM more freeform, here are 3 points that I found invaluable in my own DMing experience --
    • Ask your party what their general plan is for the next session. While it can be fun to surprise your DM at times, it's no fun for anyone if there is nothing prepared because you went out into left field and left your DM hanging.
    • Reskinning is your best friend. Need a cultist for a 1st level adventure? Take a normal trogdolyte from the Monster Manual and describe the miasma of evil purple spirits sapping your ability to move (stench). The Trogdolyte can also turn into an apprentice mage, or a pit fighter with a terrifying aura. Need a high-level assasin? Take the standard ghost and watch your player's looks of horror as half their attacks simply go through the assassin's body, and he steps through walls to escape. It's easy, it's flavorful, and it makes generating new encounters a matter of minutes.
    • Come up with a list of 8-12 "mover and shaker" people who really MATTER in your campaign world. Whether it be the evil Vizier poisoning the King, a savvy mage on the verge of granting at-will spells to all of ogre-kind, or George Washington training his separatist armies on Dinosaur-back for his upcoming invasion of the moon, these people will alter the face of your campaign setting with their actions. Then draw out timelines for each -- The moon-ship will be ready in 4 months, if they can find the materials, while the invasion must go off in exactly 7 months due to the alignment of the planets. The last part is to show the PC's some of this -- maybe the mine they cleared of monsters is now requisitioned by the government to supply the invasion force. The PC's can choose to interfere with the timelines, and this allows them choice of how to interact with the plot while also creating a flexible, easy to manage campaign that grows organically from the player's actions.
    My Homebrew:
    WIP
    The Fortunar Base Class: A Fortuneteller wielding a minor Deck of Many Things. Mid T3.

    Completed Classes
    The Grandmaster : A master of animated stattuettes and tactical magic. High tier 3.
    The Hidden Word: An infiltrator with a wide range of abilities that works best in small teams. Tier 2-3
    Web-Spinner: A martial class based around using webs. Mid T3.
    The True Warrior: A swift mundane martial combat class that can dodge and slice their way to victory. Low Tier 3.

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