5e & My first time DM'ing

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5e & My first time DM'ing

Post by dilanski » Wed Jun 15, 2016 6:48 pm

So I'm running my first campaign as a DM, and I am wondering if anyone has any tips? Running Curse of Strahd for 5e. I'm not too worried on making rulings on the spot, as it is basically a WISGR where I'm the only one allowed to roll. But the improv stuff? I'm not too sure about having to make up characters on the spot, much less making them into anything over than cardboard cut-outs. Also as I understand, CoS isn't a meatgrinder, but will quite happily slaughter an unprepared or underleveled party, so does anyone have tips on guiding a party without railroading them?

I'm using Roll20 as well, which I have very little experience in if anyone has any tricks to make my life easier with that.

Other than that, general 5e thread? What modules are people enjoying?
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Re: 5e & My first time DM'ing

Post by Steel_Valkyrie » Thu Jun 16, 2016 12:08 am

As a 3.5 DM, I dislike 5e, but improv is a big part of it, be prepared to have to do it a lot depending on how serious the game or campaign is. Also, don't say the players can't do anything just because it doesn't fit with the plan you set out.
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Re: 5e & My first time DM'ing

Post by lordintype » Thu Jun 16, 2016 12:27 pm

Sometimes, though, steer them away. In Out of the Abyss, my 4th level characters almost insisted going to Menzoberrenzan.
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Re: 5e & My first time DM'ing

Post by Steel_Valkyrie » Thu Jun 16, 2016 11:27 pm

One of the parties I DM for was originally someone else's, and they sucked, so I have to find ways to make their too op weapons not op.
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Re: 5e & My first time DM'ing

Post by Ham » Fri Jun 17, 2016 3:26 am

I started a 5e campaign this past saturday, I've only ran 4e before and it was miles away better than that. Really liked running combat sans grid

No module, using a selfmade setting I've dwelled on for the past 6 years out of my hatred for elves
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Re: 5e & My first time DM'ing

Post by Quantumsurfer » Fri Jun 17, 2016 3:44 am

Being very familiar with any ruleset will help you as a gamemaster. I would advise against strict adherence to them, though. They're only there to provide a balanced structure for all players. In my mind, this has always been in the passive sense. A fallback. Players get an equal amount of spotlight time, get to share in the storytelling experience, etcetera. I always advise new DMs to remember that they're sharing a game with their players and that they are, in fact, a player themselves. It's easy to get caught up in that old school DM vs. Players mentality but that kind of gamemastering is really only good for dungeon crawls and similar simple games where the expectation is that the DM is playing the Challenge. Like a board game. Which is totally fine, of course, but if you're going deeper in plot and characterization, I find that Players are usually much more invested when they have a voice at the table. Gm is still final arbiter and vehicle for story, naturally, but there's much more of a flexibility in that mindset and, again in my experience, Players usually end up happier with the end result.
dilanski wrote:I'm not too sure about having to make up characters on the spot, much less making them into anything over than cardboard cut-outs.
I've always thought that the reason so many RPGs are filled to the gills with broad stereotypes is because they're a solidly basic foundation on which to build. Which sounds awful to say given real world connotations, I realize. But consider that the DM has the responsibility of playing the World. Along with all of its inhabitants, organizations, and powers. If you hyper delved into everything, you would never be ready to run the game. Which is precisely why improvisation is such an important skill for a GM. There's no real full answer as to how one improvs except maybe get to know your players and practice a whole bunch. Most players will forgive some stumbles. And if they don't, my suggestion is to find a group of players who understand the meaning of "having fun." Anyway, you're not going to have the time to build a detailed backstory and personality for every NPC or group, building or town, and spell or style. And if you somehow managed it, you wouldn't get to use 95% of it when the Players breeze past it, ignore its importance, or just never encounter it at all. So prepare, but don't overprepare. Find a nice balance on your own and then refine it for your regular players. And as to cut out characters, don't sweat it. Some of my most memorable NPCs started from either a prewritten stereotype or from a single basic character trait. You'll build them up over time. And, if your're doing it right, your players will too.
dilanski wrote:so does anyone have tips on guiding a party without railroading them?
One thing I remember seeing written in the inevitable Gamemaster's Advice chapter of most of the RPGs I've ever read is "illusion of choice." The basic concept goes like this: Players can take the right spooky path or the left shiny path. They have the impression that either path leads to a different location because you've laid subtle hints previously, because you're telling them so now, and/or because the paths are described so differently. You know, however, that both paths lead to the same destination. You may have to change your description of the destination or the characters' entrance into the destination in order to be logically and narratively consistent with the journey they chose but it is the same destination all the same.

Now, smart players are going to catch on eventually through simple deduction. The easiest way to deal with that is to mix it up every now and then. Prepare two destinations. Keep them guessing and they'll enjoy it more. If you get really good at improv, you can really take them for a ride and the "illusion" of choice gets to be more and more like actual choice.

Another tactic you can use to mix things up is your GM fiat. You can occasionally just say no. Of course, when you do, you might still want to hide that "no" within the illusion of choice by always saying "yes, and..." Say a player latches onto an unimportant character detail. Like, oh, hey, that guy is super sketchy, I think he's our bad guy, let's follow him and find out what he's up to. If you say, he's not your bad guy then the players are going to feel railroaded and really taken out of the moment. So you say sure, he does seem sketchy, doesn't he? You let them follow him out of the inn and down dank alleyways. Now, you've opened up several options for yourself. Can you tie this guy into your story? Like, maybe the written adventure hook was that a diplomat was going to get your characters into a castle. But now, maybe this guy is doing some shady business with the castle guards. Your players could coerce him into sneaking them into the castle, they could take out the lone guard guarding the back entrance, they could inform on the guy to the diplomat and the royals and curry favor...whatever. The choice lies entirely with them but the destination was always the same. Just allow the story to happen. Alternatively, maybe you don't want to tie this sketchy npc into your story. So the characters follow him and discover that he's engaging in illegal slave trade. Maybe the players have a short fight, maybe they call the gendarmes. Whatever the case, the side plot is terminated and the players can go back to the main plot. Maybe the diplomat hears of their noble deed and they curry favor with the royals by accident. Allow the possibilities to flow, just remember to control them. Keep these side wanderings short and sweet, moving along, and your story will end up seeming much more interesting than it actually was as planned.

Hope that helps a little.

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Re: 5e & My first time DM'ing

Post by dilanski » Fri Jun 17, 2016 9:43 pm

Some great advice, thanks guys. I've been reading more and more on the CoS module, and feel a bit more comfortable about altering it. I'll be using the wereravens as a sort of guardian angel for the party, and might even offer the lycanthropy curse as a gift for a player who's interested, and follows the roleplay.
Quantumsmurfer wrote:One thing I remember seeing written in the inevitable Gamemaster's Advice chapter of most of the RPGs I've ever read is "illusion of choice." The basic concept goes like this: Players can take the right spooky path or the left shiny path. They have the impression that either path leads to a different location because you've laid subtle hints previously, because you're telling them so now, and/or because the paths are described so differently. You know, however, that both paths lead to the same destination. You may have to change your description of the destination or the character's' entrance into the destination in order to be logically and narratively consistent with the journey they chose but it is the same destination all the same.
As I said, It's more about making sure my players don't go where I don't want them, as opposed to where I do. This wouldn't normally be a problem, but I don't want to pull the punches, as that is the kind of thing that irks me the most about some DM's (I've had my usual DM tell me to re-roll thrice over as he didn't like the result), I am also not going to be handing out Magic Swag like candy as some DM's seem inclined to do. Just yesterday I played a Pathfinder session with a different DM, I wasn't even halfway through my first session, the second session of the campaign, and he stopped to hand out magic items to everyone for doing basically fuck all.
Steel_Valkyrie wrote:One of the parties I DM for was originally someone else's, and they sucked, so I have to find ways to make their too op weapons not op.
This is what I am talking about. I don't think players would ever let you take their magic items outright away from them, so once they have it, there is no take-backs. IMO this situation is what Tarasques were invented for, but a party my call BS on that.
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Re: 5e & My first time DM'ing

Post by stubby » Fri Jun 17, 2016 11:35 pm

Ham wrote:I started a 5e campaign this past saturday, I've only ran 4e before and it was miles away better than that. Really liked running combat sans grid
5e is such a relief after 4e.
Ham wrote:No module, using a selfmade setting I've dwelled on for the past 6 years out of my hatred for elves
Ha ha, I want to hear more about that setting
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Re: 5e & My first time DM'ing

Post by Insert_blank » Sat Jun 18, 2016 5:49 pm

My 5e game is just Elemental Evil and we dive into the dungeon once a week for a few hours and kill everything that moves. Our DM will rain down heavenly retribution for disagreeing with him and threatened to break my friend's magical weapon when he was complaining about the crit roll. It's a lot of fun because we have to fight against the dungeon AND the whims of the DM. I'm on my 3rd character and except the meat shields half the party usually goes down per week.
I guess a lot of people play DnD for the story instead of the gameplay though so maybe no one likes tough combat except our party of masochists.
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Re: 5e & My first time DM'ing

Post by Steel_Valkyrie » Sat Jun 18, 2016 6:17 pm

I'm a nice DM, so I rarely kill players, and when I do, they usually come back. Also, I DM for my brother's group of nerds, and they have a good party and an evil party, so they sometimes run into each other. You have to make it seem real.
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Re: 5e & My first time DM'ing

Post by Keldoclock » Sun Jun 19, 2016 1:14 am

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Re: 5e & My first time DM'ing

Post by Quantumsurfer » Sun Jun 19, 2016 1:57 am

Insert_blank wrote:I guess a lot of people play DnD for the story instead of the gameplay though so maybe no one likes tough combat except our party of masochists.
Nah, most of the groups I've ever been in play other games for Role-playing and D&D for Roll-playing. D&D isn't really a story game. Much more of a crunchfest, dungeon crawl, math battle than anything else. Always has been. I mean, each edition has attempted to embrace more story than the edition before it (with the exception of 4e, which is why I liked it best...no pretense...it was a fantasy combat simulator and made no real allusions toward being anything else) and 5e is the edition that has probably been most successful so far in that regard. Best thing is to get into a regular group that can diversify over time and play multiple types of games and systems. Really get a broader experience overall.

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Re: 5e & My first time DM'ing

Post by Insert_blank » Mon Jun 20, 2016 2:28 am

Yeah I'd love to play other games but I live too far away from all my friends and I don't really have time most of the week. I'm happy playing DnD once a week and killing and looting.
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Re: 5e & My first time DM'ing

Post by Quantumsurfer » Tue Jun 21, 2016 3:15 pm

I understand that, for sure. My old group died and I haven't RPed in well over a year, IRL. The chat games here have often been a welcome relief.

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Re: 5e & My first time DM'ing

Post by dilanski » Wed Jun 22, 2016 11:42 am

So I've ran the first session, and things went pretty well. It turns out the person I was expecting to be the problem player is actually giving me the most fun as the DM, while the player who I expected to be relatively easy to handle is causing some issues. So with that in mind, does anyone have any tips for dealing with a player who is actively trying to steal from the party? Originally I let some light scamming slide as this was in the context of the players meeting, but immediately afterwards he started trying to steal gold and equipment from the party. I don't want to say NO outright to him, but I honestly couldn't fault the party if they were to find out, and outright refuse to adventure with the character from then on.
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