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INDYSTAR188
2011-12-19, 12:40 PM
First, let me thank you all for taking the time to read and post here. My question is really broad, but I feel that I do a good job planning challenging encounters. I have a very solid campaign plot with interesting twists/turns and plenty of room to let the PC's make their own stamp on it. I listen to their requests and try to work in their backgrounds and give them items and such that they need/want. But, I am terrible at role playing as well as setting the mood/scene. Usually I try to write down a description to read to them upon entering a room, but it feels kinda stale and not very dynamic. I ask them to describe all of their actions in detail so we can all feel immersed, but I think I fall behind. Any thoughts?

valadil
2011-12-19, 01:25 PM
But, I am terrible at role playing as well as setting the mood/scene.


Roleplay more! I tried a few LARPs when I went to college. The acty kind, not the foam sword kind. They did great things for my roleplaying. Try it.



Usually I try to write down a description to read to them upon entering a room, but it feels kinda stale and not very dynamic.

I've run into that too. It feels that way because it isn't dynamic. You're reading something that's set in stone. The players have to sit and listen until you're done. Instead of writing out the whole paragraph, try writing down the specific details that need to get mentioned. Improvise the text framing those details.

This also works for speech. Actually it's even more important for speech, because that has to be interactive if it's to feel like a conversation. I usually make a checklist of things an NPC has to talk about and I list those details that can't be forgotten. It works great for having a back and forth conversation, rather than a monologue.

Tyndmyr
2011-12-19, 01:38 PM
The larp idea is fantastic. It helps a great deal with a number of skills.

In addition, I suggest making use of scenes with inherent movement on it. Say, a fight set on a train, or a stagecoach or ships at sea. If dynamic is what you need, use dynamic elements, ideally ones that the PCs can exert some control over.

NikitaDarkstar
2011-12-19, 03:19 PM
I'm no DM so my suggestions might not count for much, but two things that come to mind for me is these:

Use keywords instead of whole paragraphs. Just write down a few words that describes the scene, maybe a short comment about what HAS to be mentioned, then fill in the blanks as you go.

Use visual keys for yourself. Find an image that has the mood/feel/general look you're going for, then describe it to yourself, then grab some keywords to go with it, then work it into your campaign. It can help if you're having issues visualizing the room (or whatever really) which in turn causes issues with describing it.

TheThan
2011-12-19, 03:23 PM
What I do when I sit down and describe rooms is just paint a broad picture of the room. You donít need to go into exacting detail. Just describe a few key features, the lighting and anything else that may be important.

Sometimes exacting detail will lead players astray. If they are looking for a clue, and you placed that clue on the desk, but you describe the bookshelf in greater detail then the desk, players can naturally gravitate towards the bookshelf and ignore the desk entirely. Iíve actually had something happen like that to me. Let your players imagine what the room looks and feels like. Thatís a big part of role-playing games.

Role-playing is kinda like acting. Great actors didnít get great from doing nothing. They had to practice and learn. Role-playing is very much the same way, in order to get good at it, you need to practice it, learn how to do it. Now that being said, there is no wrong or right way of learning or practicing. Just get out there are role-play. Larps, other dnd groups (that you join as a player, not as a Dm), theater, acting classes, plain old fashioned observation; all these are great ways of becoming a better role-player. Itís not something that happens overnight, and you probably wonít even notice. I guess thatís the key, good role-players donít follow a given formula, they just sorta do it.

Incanus Kindler
2011-12-19, 04:08 PM
I've found that being able to improvise can be the greatest tool a DM can have. The very first session I ran I wrote 13 pages of story and script, all for essentially a tiny dungeon crawl. I absolutely refused to stray from my plot, so I ran into issues when the players didn't do what I assumed they would.

The final session of that campaign I only had one paragraph written out, a couple of monster stat tables, and random NPC names that I could refer to if I needed them. The session was amazing.

Don't get bogged down by the details of things. And always be willing to sacrifice the plot you prepared because the players found something they thought would be cooler.

Totally Guy
2011-12-19, 06:03 PM
My games have seen much improvement since I learned to prep situations and not plots. I have then learned to play to find out what happens.

But that kind of all about the parts you say you're happy with and not the parts where you're less confident.

Cerlis
2011-12-19, 06:21 PM
The "explain it in broad terms" is a good idea but i think it needs to be expanded on as to why.

-It doesnt have the players Sitting there drooling as you tell a speech. If you where a good performer you could probably captivate them, but i think my Teaching teacher said something about the indiviual person's attention is only kept for 42 seconds (or something like that). Oh they might bring their attention back to what you are doing right after that, but they will get distracted and "boring" speeches are never good, expessially when there is a lack of blood, gore, or intrigue. And most dungeon rooms dont have that, (or only one bit of that)

-It keeps the discovery up. its important to know that Spot and search checks arent for stuff you see right away or notice all the time. its for stuff that you might have missed. Sure when you walk into the room you see a bed, and a desk and a mirror. But do you notice the moving screaming face on the banister? Or the diamond handles on the drawer, or the lace bed sheets are actually spider's webs? By describing the whole room you basically discover everything for them, and what is worse is that any amazement they would get is quickly trounsed by the next amazing thing. They forget about this pretty artifact cus you tell em about that crazy magic item.

-It gives you room to improvise.
DM:*describes room to player*
Player:*thinks* is there a -blank- in the room? maybe we can *blah blah blah*
Dm: *looks at room description*..."No"
Disappointment abounds.
The only thing here is to make sure you dont cater to every crazy whim they have. if it wouldnt likely be in the room, then it shouldnt be there. But is a player asks for rope, maybe you should put it in. As well as manacles, a whip, and decide that when they open the closet they find something gruesome. You just created something horrifying and intriguing in the room that you didnt have otherwise.

INDYSTAR188
2011-12-19, 07:13 PM
All very good suggestions and I appreciate them very much. I always have a 'idea' of how I want the session to run. By that I mean that I prepare a couple of encounters and see if the PC's get into it. I always let the PC's choose what to do, and usually I let them flesh out the story. In my experience, even when you DO have a set game, the PC's always do something to mess that up, so it's better to be super flexible. But like I was saying earlier, I'm not very good at pretending to be a NPC (I feel dumb getting super into it and my PC's don't do it very much either).

An example of something I might hear from my PC's though: "By the power of Khelmvor I'll send you back to the abyss foul creature!"

So, they don't do that often, but they do it enough to still have the feel that they're into it. They've told me several times that they're having a blast and I'm doing a good job, which is nice since DMing can be a lot of work. I'm just not good at setting the mood, playing an NPC, or bringing my BBEG into the picture more. I ordered the 4E DMG 2 which I hear is very good at explaining how to do this stuff well. I like the idea of playing in another game and learning that way.

theflyingkitty
2011-12-19, 07:38 PM
If you had my players, they would be quite cross at you describing the room without having them roll for it. I mean, rolling so they'd see ANYTHING in the room at all.

Sometimes, I want to beat my players with a rubber herring.

Anderlith
2011-12-19, 07:42 PM
whatever you do, don't do accents!!! (first hand knowledge)

kaomera
2011-12-19, 08:33 PM
Get yourself a handful of 3x5 index cards (or the like). On each of them write out the numbers 1-6 (or whatever, I bet you have some of them funny dice with some other number of sides). The first one, put down the five senses and ''feeling'' or something; this is your generic card. When you feel yourself getting stuck on a description, roll a die and come up with some detail appropriate to the result. Use the other cards to make more specific tables for areas that you think the PCs might end up - stuff they might find / experience in a given dungeon, city, etc. Don't be too specific, it's ok to have an idea of exactly what something is, but only jot down a word or two.

Some examples:

Sight: A single stone in a cobblestone wall that is of a different color and texture from the rest. A glint of reflected light from within the mound of debris in the corner of the room. A sign announcing the business done in a particular building, by way of a humorous pictograph.
Sound: Echoes of a distant steady dripping of water, only audible in one specific spot in the room. One of the PCs (or a nearby, possibly unseen, NPC) steps on a creaky plank in the floor. The chorus of a dwarven tavern song, repeated ad-naseum by a group of revelers too drunk to remember any of the verses.
Touch: The brass handle to a door is unexpectedly cold. A drop of something warm lands on one of the PC's neck when they bend down to examine something on the floor. Jostled in a busy market, one of the PCs briefly touches expensive silks under the coarse robes of a ''humble serving girl'' as she rushes headlong through the crowd.
Smell: The lingering smell of burnt pitch where a torch-bearing party recently passed. The unexpected and incongruous smell of fragrant spices while deep in a dungeon. The smell of breakfast burning atop the dead man's stove.
Taste: Cheat and just use Smell, or something... :smalltongue:
''Feeling'': The feeling that someone is watching you. Left seems likely, you always liked left. You're sure you've seen that face somewhere, recently.

Endarire
2011-12-20, 01:27 AM
Learn how to challenge 3.5 and Pathfinder parties in practice (http://antioch.snow-fall.com/~Endarire/DnD/Challenging%203.5%20and%20Pathfinder%20Parties%201 %2031%2011.doc).

Knowledge is power. Really.

Practice makes permanent.

Delwugor
2011-12-20, 02:18 PM
Delwugor's #1 rule for good GMing:
Give 75% of your attention to the players, 20% to the adventure notes and 5% to the rules and mechanics.

For scene description I agree with just writing down main features. When actually describing think like your players instead of a GM; what do they like, what parts of a scene interest them. Now present those features paying attention to your players and then let them explore and find details.

Fate systems have a great mechanism for players to add to a scene. Basically they say what they would like in a room and then either roll against their reasoning (SoF) or spend a Fate point (Bulldogs!, DFRPG) to determine their description gets into the scene. If their description is more for flavor or adds excitement/interest then I often just say yes without anything.

Major NPCs is where a GM gets to roleplay, so I treat run them as if I was a player with that character. Have fun playing while GMing! The only thing to be aware of is slipping into DMPC or controlling mode.

This year I tried something with minor NPCs that works really well. I specify as little as possible and then allow players to fill in details if they wish. Name, looks and even some motives if they don't clash with the NPC purpose.
For example in the last game I ran there was a senior sergeant working under a captain that was a rival of the PCs captain. One character a sergeant bucking for officer met the NPC and decided to give him a name. After some sergeant talk and so forth the player wanted an ally just in case. We talked briefly and decided he wasn't a straight ally but instead a friendly rival.
So a no-name NPC ended up having a role in the adventure and my player was very happy with him. Most importantly I did very little work for it.

INDYSTAR188
2011-12-21, 02:52 PM
Get yourself a handful of 3x5 index cards (or the like). On each of them write out the numbers 1-6 (or whatever, I bet you have some of them funny dice with some other number of sides). The first one, put down the five senses and ''feeling'' or something; this is your generic card. When you feel yourself getting stuck on a description, roll a die and come up with some detail appropriate to the result. Use the other cards to make more specific tables for areas that you think the PCs might end up - stuff they might find / experience in a given dungeon, city, etc. Don't be too specific, it's ok to have an idea of exactly what something is, but only jot down a word or two.

Some examples:

Sight: A single stone in a cobblestone wall that is of a different color and texture from the rest. A glint of reflected light from within the mound of debris in the corner of the room. A sign announcing the business done in a particular building, by way of a humorous pictograph.
Sound: Echoes of a distant steady dripping of water, only audible in one specific spot in the room. One of the PCs (or a nearby, possibly unseen, NPC) steps on a creaky plank in the floor. The chorus of a dwarven tavern song, repeated ad-naseum by a group of revelers too drunk to remember any of the verses.
Touch: The brass handle to a door is unexpectedly cold. A drop of something warm lands on one of the PC's neck when they bend down to examine something on the floor. Jostled in a busy market, one of the PCs briefly touches expensive silks under the coarse robes of a ''humble serving girl'' as she rushes headlong through the crowd.
Smell: The lingering smell of burnt pitch where a torch-bearing party recently passed. The unexpected and incongruous smell of fragrant spices while deep in a dungeon. The smell of breakfast burning atop the dead man's stove.
Taste: Cheat and just use Smell, or something... :smalltongue:
''Feeling'': The feeling that someone is watching you. Left seems likely, you always liked left. You're sure you've seen that face somewhere, recently.

Awesome! Thanks for everyone's help, I'll take it all in and try to do a better job. I don't know if it matters but we're playing 4e but I thought I'd post here since it's more of a me thing than a system thing.

Noedig
2011-12-21, 02:59 PM
One thing as a new DM that I have encountered is the player's propensity for doing exactly what I wasn't expecting. Suddenly the nature of an encounter changes and I have to roll with it on the fly. Some of our best moments have come from this spur of the moment DMing. My advise therefore is to not get married to the things you have produced. Players have a way of throwing a wrench in everything.