DM's  Notes

The intent of this page is to give future and current DM's tips to be used with their games. I do not mean to say that I am the greatest DM; I'm constantly learning just like any DM. Heck, I have not even DMed a RPGA event (yet!). I'm looking for any hint that can be added. I'll be sharing my opinions and details of how I run these games, along with thoughts of other DM's.

This first hint was suggested by Kautzmicoo (don't ask me why he prefers this name). In any case, he suggests taking the game beyond the you hit or you don't hit. "For instance when someone gets hit a DM could say: 'biting deeply into his/her side', 'it slices through,' Missing: 'whoosh, right over his head', 'it clanks on her armor'."

Yogi's Response: This is critical for a good game. Players need to be able to picture what is happening around them. Minitures can help with this, but when a character is surrounded, you can put this into good effect, actually causing the stress to mount on the surrounded character, and the other players get a good feeling for how much they need to help their friend. Battle can be one of the most boring, mechanical parts of the game. Don't be afraid to add spice. This also works especially well when working with monsters, as their unique attack types really help the fantasy of the game!

This little snippit was from Steve Ratz, one of my previous players who is currently running a Ravenloft game. I'm not exactly sure how serious to take it:

 "When a mages hits a tree hard enought with thier head that they wake up with a headache that prevents them from conceranting on casting spells until the DM decideds the Annoying spell caster has learned his lesson.
As found out by Harry in this quote afterwards:
'If you really want Harry, I'll let you stay self aware..... but you're a second level mage, down to two hit points and that Vampire doesn't know your out of spells"'

 Yogi's Comments: Couple things I like here, some I don't. Let's itemize:

 1) A DM should be free to add effects or damage that may or may not be spelled out in the rules if it adds to the story, especially if it helps realism. In this example, a character took a hard crack, and as I have not idea where rules about unconciousness can be found, I can see him making that call, maybe going with a set percentage guessed at for the situation, and rolling. If you let your own common sense guide you, you shouldn't be far off. However, be willing to discuss this after the game with your players. They may have a good idea for a rule that you can pull from. Always work with your players, because no matter how much you know, you can always learn more from others.

 2) I hate seeing something as the "annoying player syndrome". That is, doing something to character to teach the player a lesson. At most, this should be used very rarely used, but overall, let the character suffer the effects of their decisions. If they talk in character as most power gamers do at the table, the constant problems make their attempts to do what they want fail. No one likes being hated, and when their heroic character is openly hated by NPC's, usually they need to think twice.
**I may have to eat my words here, as I'm about to run a small campaign to teach a player something. I'm trying to break a ahabid he has of game lawyering. I'll keep you posted on how well it is going.**

 3) In situations, always give the players a choice. The wording of this choice can allow many things though. Often, making clear to a player the effects their character could have on the world around them (often reminding them of the laws of physics is needed to) often makes the decision for them. But when they incist on being "stupid" from your perspective (and PC's always will, as they are PC's :), always give them a chance of suggest (even if that is a 2% chance), and let the player know the odds of success. If they want to do, let them. Try to adjust for them in the plot, and augment you plans. If they do succeed, be as prepared as possible to deal with it. Remember, their supposed to be heroes, and therefore succeeding in things that should never work (See Star Wars Trilogy) fits them. But they also will fail. You need to make your players realize this. If you don't get the characters a chance to do what they want, you will find yourself soon with an empty table, and that helps no-one.
 


OK, this one is from myself. Every DM goes into a session with some semblance of a plan. If they don't they should because you also may get players that wait to see what will happen. You should almost always write out your plots and list spots the PC's can get off the track. This will never help you, as the players do anything except what you expect them to, however, having those other ideas ready can help you when things get off track. You don't always have to get them back on the right track. However, the key thing for them to know is that their misadventures have effects.

 For instance, I'll take an example from my oldest campaign: Planescrape. I was running the adventure "Recruiters" from the Well of the Worlds, where the city bordering the plane of the Abyss is about to be swallowed by the Abyss because the philosophies in both places were the same. The heroes were supposed to help unite everyone and make people think more lawfully and good to keep the city from being swallowed. However, this is not what the players decided to do. They helped add to the chaos in a vain hope that they could escape (so they only we looking out for themselves). I didn't expect this, so I followed through from their actions: the city WAS swallowed by the Abyss. This turned into about 4 adventures where only three of the PC's from the group survived, but it was wonderful for plot and really added to the campaign. Also rememberr that some effects are not so obvious. Just remember these three things to bring consequences into reality: 1) Everything that is killed has a family, 2) Enemies can change tactics based on previous encounters, and 3) NPC's are dynamic, not static characters.

This tip set come from the Planescape Mailing list, sent in by Gary Ray, Mr. Bariur himself. This is what he posted (my comments will be made in italics):

Some advice from a Planescape DM six months into a campaign:

 1. Document all the things that annoy and interest you with the rules so you can mess with them later.... Maybe even the next campaign.

 2. When you make stuff up on the spot, don't forget to write it down. Doh!

 3. Try to get one of the players to be the record-keeper, writing down names, possibly keeping a journal (suitable for online publication of course). And reward them for it.

 4. It's REALLY hard getting non-planars properly motivated within Planescape. If I were in your position (and I was six months ago), I would insist on planar PC's (wish I had).

  5. Give the good guys as much detail as the bad guys. This is good advice for any campaign.

  6. Don't forget to remind them how insignificant they are on a regular basis. There's nothing worse than cocky planewalkers. ;)

  7. Background! Consider character information sheets - a list of details of things they know or have heard about - about a third useful, a third vaguely useful in the future, and a third red herrings - like "berk" is a sign of respect, etc. And of course, try to get them to come up with a background.

  8. Avoid getting bogged down, unless you want to. For example, starting in The Outlands, Sigil or Pelion can be fun, but if the characters get complacent they may avoid leaving. Big yawn. Also decide if you want to run a single plane campaign, two-plane campaign or multiple plan campaign. Check the Planewalkers Handbook for ideas on how to do this effectively.

  9. Don't fall into the trap of thinking they're incapable of going certain planes at certain levels. A low level party can go anywhere if they're prepared and know what to do. Although The Abyss should always be unforgiving.

  10. Bariaur! You need more! Baaaaaa!Responses coming when I have to OK from Gary to do so.

The Best DM Links

Roleplaying Tips - http://www.roleplayingtips.com
This page is focused on good GMing, regardless of what game you run.  It also has a really good newsletter is send out weekly that helps one improve a lot.  Great Spot!

The Big List of RPG Plots - http://www.io.com/~sjohn/plots.htm
This page has tons of great adventure ideas, with twists, so you players still won't know what to do when you reuse the same basic ideas.

Random Encounters - http://web.cs.ualberta.ca/%7Ewade/HyperDnd/Encounters/
This page has many small adventures to help fill out a world.  They are kinda cool, and there are definately a few gems in there.  Worth scanning to add as a small sidetrek.

Random Hook Generator - http://www.lifeformz.com/idea/idea.cgi
This is a bit silly and often a waste of time, but it is a random adventure source idea.  Most of the time, it is just silly and pointless, but I've pulled a gem or two out of it, so you might want to look.

Anything contributed will be added (and hopefully in as timely order). Please send me stuff. My e-mail is DUgorek@hotmail.com. Look here for future updates.

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