New DM Advice

Onoes

Molten Core Raider
1,210
573
24d 20h 12m
I realize that this may sound a bit hasty, and it's only table talk... but has anyone played with an LCD screen as their game board? One of my group has lots of disposable income and is talking about donating to the group.

I'll pop up a couple of pictures when I get home, but I built a table with a 70" tv built into it just for this, and its been great. There are some issues here and there, and it can take a lot more prep, but everyone who's played has found it great. Now, the shitty thing is when you've invested in thousands of miniatures and the damn tokens are just soooooo much more convenient.
 

Sevens

Vyemm Raider
2,023
4,370
33d 6h 11m
Watch this series....this dude is awesome. If you want to actually watch a game is session I would advise watching some Critical Role. Its a pretty freestyle with rules but the DM is really top notch (Hes a professional voice actor, as are all the players)
 
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Szeth

Molten Core Raider
1,463
397
41d 16h 51m
I've been listening to Glass Cannon, and enjoy their pacing. I will say our groups biggest problem is the desire to talk everything over, and often influence others during their turn in combat. We also have at least one person who barely knows the basic rules, and it's causing us to lose focus during encounters and really slow down pacing. Otherwise they've only almost killed themselves about 43 times in 4 total play sessions so far.
 

Hatorade

A nice asshole.
6,245
3,342
52d 18h 29m
I've been listening to Glass Cannon, and enjoy their pacing. I will say our groups biggest problem is the desire to talk everything over, and often influence others during their turn in combat. We also have at least one person who barely knows the basic rules, and it's causing us to lose focus during encounters and really slow down pacing. Otherwise they've only almost killed themselves about 43 times in 4 total play sessions so far.

Before next game tell everyone to play their character only, if it is meta and not their turn hold their tongue. This also encourages RP.

Unless help is asked for, also give the slow guy homework and/or tell him to be thinking about what he is going to be doing before his turn.
 
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Arden

Trakanon Raider
1,584
954
47d 18h 20m
I've been listening to Glass Cannon, and enjoy their pacing. I will say our groups biggest problem is the desire to talk everything over, and often influence others during their turn in combat. We also have at least one person who barely knows the basic rules, and it's causing us to lose focus during encounters and really slow down pacing. Otherwise they've only almost killed themselves about 43 times in 4 total play sessions so far.

Yeah that’s all on you. You've gotta be pretty strict about limiting meta interaction during initiative or in any situations where reaction time is a factor.

In general role-playing situations, it’s pretty well understood that the back-and-forth between the players about strategy and other such talk could have ostensibly occurred in game time. But in situations where time is a factor, especially in combat, you can’t allow a bunch of out of character strategizing, suggesting, etc.

It’s a pretty common problem. I solved it by initiating the five second countdown rule. If a player is taking more than a few moments to tell you what he or she is going to do in combat on their turn, I give them five seconds. I hold up my hand and start ticking down the seconds in font of them. At the end of five seconds if they haven’t given me an action, I automatically assume their character has held his/her action for that round.
 
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Angerz

Lord Nagafen Raider
606
277
27d 22h 29m
The above comments are pretty spot on, but I will add something to the other side of the coin.

If your players are tactics gamers, and really enjoy the meta strategizing in combat (as Colville would say, Pushing Lead), let them. If they are, as a group, having fun playing out combat super tactically, don't take away their fun. However, this will probably lead to them destroying encounters since they aren't being forced to react quickly, so you will have to make them harder, or your monsters smarter. If the party can be deadly tacticians, so can you. Even animals hunt in packs.

The best advice I have for a newbie bogging down the game is to sit them next to a player who is willing to help, is super rules knowledgeable but resists the urge to tell someone what their most optimal play is. I understand this kind of person is kind of rare, most people with the ability to quickly coach a new player tend to be unable to resist over coaching, it's a fine line. I know when I play in Adventurer's League instead of DMing, I get this role a lot from the shop owner and it takes a lot to just not outright tell someone what to do, but instead ask what they want to do, let them know it's D&D so they can try basically anything, then translate that to a rule.

And if they refuse to actually learn, you just need to give them a talking to, reminding them that them bogging everything down isn't fun for anyone, including themselves most likely.
 
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j00t

Ahn'Qiraj Raider
5,428
4,765
73d 18h 54m
i think the bottom line on taking long turns is whether or not it's at the expense of the table having fun. if, like angerz said, they are all apart of the tactical conversation on what to do, then let them. if one person is consistently taking forever to think of what to do, start off slow, but hand out punishments. i play with a group that during regular nights, we all play pretty quickly and are efficient. but we also have a once a year tournament where time is incredibly important so you have a very limited amount of time to do something and if you don't, your character starts getting disadvantage on attacks, or enemies get advantage against you.

it's very much about playing to the table and understanding where everyone is. DM'ing is really hard to do well because of that. if the players are super casual and move at a snail's pace because they keep socializing? if they are having fun, let them. if they are meta-gaming and trivializing encounters in really weird, outside the box ways, if they are having fun then let them. last week my dm made this really hard, really rediculous encounter that was meant to kill us, but a single wand of wonder and a couple of crits ended the encounter in 2 rounds. he was sad because he went through all the work creating this really difficult encounter, but it was so fun and hilarious that at the end of the day, it was just as memorable.

my current dm always has a long conversation with the players before a campaign, making sure he knows what kind of campaign the players want as well as making sure that all the players want the same thing,
 
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Szeth

Molten Core Raider
1,463
397
41d 16h 51m
Thanks guys, and I have done a lot of what you're suggesting already. We do have the most knowledgeable PC sitting next to the one who doesn't know as much, and he is hesitant to tell him what to do. The problem is that the PC who doesn't have a lot of knowledge seems to not be absorbing the rules, or even very basic things (we've played for a total of probably 10-15 hours already and he has rolled a D12 to hit as often if not more often than D20; I started counting his D12 rolls to try and push him towards learning). It's frustrating for the rest of the party because EVERYONE besides me has video game and basic RPG knowledge, but it's their first foray into DnD, as such they all had to do a fair bit of research into the rules, their characters etc. They feel like they've sunk a ton of time into this... and he doesn't even know what a Saving Throw is.

We are sadly thinking of letting him finish out the starter campaign but possibly not inviting him to the next one (Storm King)
 

j00t

Ahn'Qiraj Raider
5,428
4,765
73d 18h 54m
What you COULD do is just take away whatever dice he doesn't need. Unless he's a barb or has a great axe or pole arm, he doesn't even need a d12. Give him a d20, and and whatever d he needs for his weapon attacks and call it a day. When the rare occasion happens that he needs another dice, the guy next to him can hand it to him.

As the dm, you should probably ask him in private what his deal is and his commitment level is. He may really care and just get overwhelmed easily, or he may not REALLY be into it.

If he's overwhelmed, brainstorm with him on things like cheatsheets and short cuts. In most cases, he doesn't need to know his wisdom is 16, he needs to know that he needs to add 3 to his d20 roll. Redo his player sheet with him to allow quicker access to the info he needs mid combat
 
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Szeth

Molten Core Raider
1,463
397
41d 16h 51m
What you COULD do is just take away whatever dice he doesn't need. Unless he's a barb or has a great axe or pole arm, he doesn't even need a d12. Give him a d20, and and whatever d he needs for his weapon attacks and call it a day. When the rare occasion happens that he needs another dice, the guy next to him can hand it to him.

My fear is the more and more we baby him, the less and less incentive he has to learn how to play. I completely understand how complicated this game can be, we're still learning exactly how certain mechanics interact ourselves, but if he doesn't put in any additional time he will never catch up. He also wrote his character as a loner who often wants to try and investigate and possibly even fight on his own. Because he doesn't understand how everything works we've pretty much told him that he can't split the group, and he's actually pushed back against this. He's got a few more adventures to tighten it up I guess.
 

j00t

Ahn'Qiraj Raider
5,428
4,765
73d 18h 54m
Yeah, that's pretty common for players, especially new ones. Wolverine syndrome. They all want to be badass loners with tragic backstories. Each individual player starts playing like they are the hero and the other party members are npc's.

I wouldn't worry about babying him too much though, we were all there once and needed different levels of attention to succeed. I would just make sure to have a conversation in private with him about where he sees himself in the group dynamic, where he sees his character going, etc.

There are all kinds of different players for all kinds of different games. I know TONS of successful campaigns that ONLY use a d20 and the rules are all very basic. Damage tables aren't even used, just number of hits. Then you have super rule heavy games where a single encounter takes a full session because of how complex the system is. If, at the end of the day, the campaign that he wants is fundamentally different than the one everyone else wants, if you explain that to him, you won't have to kick him, he'll leave voluntarily. If you do it diplomatically enough, you can let him leave for all kinds of rp reasons. His loner character gets to sacrifice himself in a glorious battle while the others escape. Make it a no win fight, but let him ALMOST pull it off and he'll have a positive and memorable end.
 

Arden

Trakanon Raider
1,584
954
47d 18h 20m
My fear is the more and more we baby him, the less and less incentive he has to learn how to play. I completely understand how complicated this game can be, we're still learning exactly how certain mechanics interact ourselves, but if he doesn't put in any additional time he will never catch up. He also wrote his character as a loner who often wants to try and investigate and possibly even fight on his own. Because he doesn't understand how everything works we've pretty much told him that he can't split the group, and he's actually pushed back against this. He's got a few more adventures to tighten it up I guess.

If you are running a challenging campaign, loners should die fast and often- especially inexperienced loners. Death often cures lazy play, especially when the player ends up spending half a gaming session waiting on the bench for you to fit their new character in.
 

j00t

Ahn'Qiraj Raider
5,428
4,765
73d 18h 54m
If you are running ANY kind of campaign there should be natural consequences. There are times when you can split the party and its fine. Exploring the underdark is not one them. Going shopping is. If he is obsessed with going off alone, give an appropriate amount of warnings, and if he still is determined, let him go and get himself killed. And let him die in a way that he can't get ressed from, like a disintegration ray or something. I read once about a guy who didn't want to play anymore so he kept trying to kill his character but the group kept saving him.
 

Ome

Golden Knight of the Realm
456
442
33d 8h 17m
The problem is that the PC who doesn't have a lot of knowledge seems to not be absorbing the rules, or even very basic things (we've played for a total of probably 10-15 hours already and he has rolled a D12 to hit as often if not more often than D20; I started counting his D12 rolls to try and push him towards learning).

We are sadly thinking of letting him finish out the starter campaign but possibly not inviting him to the next one (Storm King)

If he breathes with his mouth open you might want to just cut your losses as you mentioned. However, if hes a cool guy, who is truly interested and seems to bring something to the table then work with them as that person might end up being one of your best players.
 
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Quineloe

Ahn'Qiraj Raider
6,976
4,457
48d 23h 56m
If you are running ANY kind of campaign there should be natural consequences. There are times when you can split the party and its fine. Exploring the underdark is not one them. Going shopping is. If he is obsessed with going off alone, give an appropriate amount of warnings, and if he still is determined, let him go and get himself killed. And let him die in a way that he can't get ressed from, like a disintegration ray or something. I read once about a guy who didn't want to play anymore so he kept trying to kill his character but the group kept saving him.

Jeez, just tell the DM if you want your character to die, something dramatic can be arranged.
 

Himeo

Blackwing Lair Raider
3,211
2,731
Anyone have experience and want to share basic advice to help us get started?

Level 1: Keep the game moving.

Try to keep a mental "out of combat initiative" list, or go around the table asking people what they want to do in turn. Try to give each player 45 seconds - 1 minute of spotlight time and allow other players the freedom to jump in on other people's "turn", but if they take more than ten seconds stuck on a decision tell them to think about it and skip to the next person.

Now, there are rare times when this isn't a good idea. I was in a game one time where the party was split on an important decision and we spent four hours arguing over what to do without ever rolling dice. The DM sat back and watched, bringing up questions of his own from time to time or asking the quieter members of the group for their thoughts.

If the problem is big enough, it becomes the game. If the problem is small, move on.

Level 2: Describe the environment in terms of the PC's trained skills.

I learned this from Chris Perkins and the first Acquisitions Inc. podcast. Timestamp is 27:15. In the clip, one of the player's makes a joke about wanting to one-shot the boss of a dungeon from the entrance, without going in.

One of the most important skills for someone that wants to be a great DM and storyteller is "Yes, and". It's a rule from improvisational theater. Whatever your players want to do, take that energy and redirect it to your planned adventure or, if you can't, redirect it to some form of conflict to keep the story moving.

Skills are a great way to do this. Describing the world in terms of their trained skills adds a unique flavor for the players and help make the game more immersive. How does a Cleric see this dungeon? A rogue? A Fighter?

Every time your player uses a skill, give them something. If it's a success give them something real and useful. If it's a failure, give them something interesting that hints at what's to come, and when they roll a critical failure give them false information.

"I don't trust this guy, I roll an insight check." *Critical Failure* "Okay, your character senses that this guy is out to get him" (He wasn't.) Or, "Your instincts are normally pretty good about people. Your gut tells you there's something wrong with this character (there is, but because of the low roll and the way you're constantly giving bad information on critical failures they'll think you're lying.)

"I want to check for traps. I roll perception. *Critical Failure* "Okay, you find a trap." "I do?" "Yep, you find a series of pressure plates in the floor that are going to take you a significant amount of time to clear." "Okay, well we avoid the traps." "Uh, no, you're surrounded in traps. Traps are fucking everywhere. It's like you're at an anime convention." "Okay, I try to disable one of the traps to clear a path." "Roll thievery." *Thievery roll doesn't matter* "Cool. Turns out those weren't traps, just the pattern of the floor." "... Fuck you."

Level 3: Be a troll and constantly fuck with your player characters. They'll love you for it.

I couldn't do this until I was comfortable with the mechanics of running tabletop games which took me several years. Once I learned this my games became way more fun and my campaigns became long remembered highlights of gaming. "Remember that time X happened. Fuck you, I'm still pissed."

Try to get a feel for where the scene you're in is going. How do your players think this scene will end? Once you identify the momentum of the scene, it's your job to subvert it.

For example, your players are bartering with a shop keeper. How will this scene end? Your players are expecting to make a deal and leave. Don't let them. Maybe as they're walking out they notice one of their items is missing. Maybe the villain kicks open the door and starts murdering civilians. Don't give them what they're expecting, ever.

"This is the scene where the players buy gear."

Wrong.

"This is the scene where the players think they're buying gear, but they're really buying stolen goods."

Or

"This is the scene where the players think they're buying gear, but the gear is enchanted with paralysis spell, and the party wakes up in bathtubs full of ice and their kidney's are gone."

I once ran a Keep on the Shadowfell game, and after the party cleared the dungeon, saved the town, etc. They came back to Winterhaven to a big celebration. Carnival masks, ticker tape parade, giant banner running across town "Thank you Heroes!"

The players were like, "WTF? How do they know about this?" Then when the party reached the center of the crowd I pulled the rug out from under them. Another party of adventurer's were on stage stealing the credit and glory. When the party leader started to object, the crowd turned on them, glazed looks in their eyes, hypnotized by the bad guys.

"The Lord of Winterhaven, under mind control, orders the crowd to arrest you. Are you going to kill the people you spent the last 4 game sessions trying to save, or will you run away, or will you surrender? What do you do?"

They surrendered, and I rubbed the salt in their wound. "The bad guys laugh at you as the town guards move in. The Lord leads the peasants in a rousing cheer for Winterhaven's heroes, and the last thing you see as the guards lead you away in chains is the the party leader's smug grin."

That's the kind of cliff hanger you want to end your gaming sessions on. "Okay, see you next week." "What? We're stopping here? WE'RE STOPPING HERE?" "Yep."
 
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Himeo

Blackwing Lair Raider
3,211
2,731
Have you had any experience with DMs switching between campaigns? Also have you ever had one of your own characters run with the party, but have him or her be controlled by the other players? I was debating if it would be possible to do in such a way that next campaign if I weren't DM I could have a character that's not stunted compared to the others.

Please, God, don't be that guy. No matter how well you try to play it, it makes the game worse. Don't be a DM/Player.
 
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Himeo

Blackwing Lair Raider
3,211
2,731
Don't stress out about trying to improvise. If you improvise yourself into a corner and your players catch you, bluff your way out.

"No, we turned left back there. I know because I was mapping the dungeon as we went along."

Never lie to your players about things they know. Lie to them about everything else, which an entire universe of possibilities.

Acknowledge the problem and the contradiction. "Yeah, you're right. You did go left. That's... strange." *Smug smile.*

"... shit."

"Bullshit, DM. We killed this guy two months ago. I have it written down right here."

"Good catch. You're right, you totally remember killing him... and he's standing right in front of you alive and breathing. He looks like he's well rested and well fed for a corpse."

One problem is a problem, two problems are an opportunity for a cool "plot twist" solution.

Everything is a web of conspiracies around your players. Everything is connected, even when it's not. Keep notes after your games for the choices your players make. Reward and punish them as needed.

I've talked a lot about fucking with your players, punishing them, trolling them. I do this because I assume you're letting them win often enough to keep the game fun. Beat the shit out of them so the rewards you do give are that much better.
 
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Sinzar

Trakanon Raider
3,145
264
10d 4h 19m
I'm curious how some of you experienced DM's handle player deaths. I play with a group that gets together for a game night maybe once or twice a month, if that. On the rare occasion we have time to do a big five hour game night, it feels like we're immortal because our DM doesn't want to kill anyone off and have the rest of their game night "wasted". As a player, I feel like it takes away from the game knowing that there's almost no risk. I can send my level 3 character into a dragons cave and the DM will say something like the dragon isn't home right now just to avoid killing off a player.
 

Szeth

Molten Core Raider
1,463
397
41d 16h 51m
I’m not experienced in it... but I’m fully willing to kill off people. I’m playing through tombs of annihilation right now, and as much as I love my character I’m fully aware that he’ll likely die either a heroic death, or an unceremonious one. Probably not likely to survive the whole thing