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Cookiemobsta
2012-01-20, 11:02 PM
1) The rule of fun is the only rule.

Your job as DM is not to tell a great story.
It's not to build an immersive world.
Nor is it to obey and enforce the rules.

Your job as DM is to make the game fun for the players.
Period.

Everything else is vetoed by the rule of fun.
If you have an awesome story/immersive world/whatever, that's great, as long as it adds to the fun. If it doesn't add to the fun the players are having, throw it out. The game rules are important, but the rule of fun always overrules the rules of the game. If the rules say a player would die, but dying isn't fun, keep the player alive. If the rules say the player can't do something, but that something would be awesome and add to the fun, let the player do the thing anyway. Obviously, rules are important, and in general you should follow the rules to add structure to the game, but never let a game rule overrule the rule of fun.

2) The party should be heroes from day 1.

The PCs should feel like they are the A-team. They should be accomplishing heroic acts that NPCs are in awe of--and they should be doing this from the very first session.

Yes, even if the PCs start at a low level. Obviously, if your party is level 1, they're not going to be slaying any dragons or frost giants. But have the party save a town from a tribe of goblins--and have the town erect a statue of the party as thanks. Have the party hear of a plot to assassinate the king, and race against time to warn him (and get the king's personal thanks, as well as a knighthood.)

For the PCs to feel like heroes, they should feel like heroes from early on. Harry Potter didn't run around doing wizard fetch quests--he was doing heroic stuff starting early in book one. Give the party significant stuff to do, even if they are low level.

And have NPCs react. If you save a town from bandits, have the town throw the PCs a parade. Have people from the town ask the PCs to marry their daughters (or sons). Have the town declare one of the PCs their mayor. You get the idea.

3) Keep the spotlight on the PCs at all times

Similar to rule 2. For PCs to feel like heroes, they should be the most heroic people in the room. Want to have an awesome epic level wizard in your campaign? Great--but instead of putting him in a scene where you can show him off, have him need the PCs help. Want to have an NPC tag along with the PCs? Sure--but make them noncombat so the PCs have the chance to shine.

If at any moment, one of your NPCs is cooler than the party, you are doing your job wrong.

4) Make memorable, recurring NPCs.

One of the most powerful ways to get the PCs invested in the game world is by allowing them to build relationships with NPCs in the game world. So create memorable NPCs, and then bring them back regularly. If a kindly old wizard gave the party their first quest, maybe later suggest that they return to him so he can decipher a scroll they found.

Have a quirky shopkeeper who has a different eccentric item to sell the party returns to town. Give party members love interests or rivals, then use those relationships to drive the plot (have the big bad evil guy kidnap the love interest, or force the party to work together with their rivals to accomplish some larger goal.)

Remember that NPCs are only memorable so much as their interactions with the party is memorable. If you make a really cool character that doesn't interact with the party much, don't be surprised if the party forgets them entirely. But a completely bland barkeeper that the party pulls into a drinking competition will still be talked about in weeks to come.

Also, one particularly good recurring character trope is the "Ultros" character. Ultros is an octopus from final fantasy 6 that would come back repeatedly to throw a wrench in the party's plans. He wasn't a true villain--he wasn't evil per se--but he was always opposed to the party. Having a character like that can be very useful.

5) PC death should always be chosen by the player.

It's no fun to be killed by a lucky crit. If a character dies, it should be because the player has chosen that--either they want to roll a new character, or they see an very epic way for their character to go out. If the player has not chosen to let their character die, their character should never die. Have the character fall unconscious, be captured, lose an eye, whatever--but never die. This goes back to the rule of fun--it's not fun to lose a character you invested months into.

6) Think qualitative, not quantitative for rewards and penalties

Numbers are boring. A sword that adds +2 to a roll is boring.

Abilities are exciting. A sword that lets you run up a wall is exciting.

When you reward players, don't reward them with stat boots or items that give them stat boosts. Instead, reward them with items that give them new abilities. These don't have to be abilities from source books--just think of creative things the party might like to do. For instance, you might give a soup bowl that is always full (and see the creative uses the party finds for it), or a earring that lets them understand the speech of animals. Be creative!

Same thing goes for penalties. If a player triggers a poison trap, don't give them ability damage, make them turn bright blue until cured (and have them deal with that in interactions with NPC). Give players opportunities to roleplay, because that adds to fun.

7)Say "Yes" unless you have to say "No"

If a player asks you whether the inn has a bard, say "Yes" unless there's a very good reason the inn should not have a bard. Chances are, the player has a cool idea that involves a bard, and by saying that there is a bard there, you allow that cool idea to happen.

The same thing is true if they try to solve a problem in a creative way. If they attempt to talk the orc chief out of his invasion, you should let them try--and if they do a good job of talking, you should make the orc agree. It doesn't matter if you've already decided the orc is tough and brutal--if it would be more fun for the party to talk him down, you should let that happen.

Hope that helps! It's a bit of a wall of text, but with luck these ideas might be inspirational for you in your games :) Let me know if you have any questions or comments, or if there are any tips of your own you'd like to share.

EDIT: So I added some clarifying thoughts in a post below, but based on the discussion that's been happening since, it looks like most people have not seen them. So I'm reposting them here:

Hi guys,

Thanks for your feedback.

Here's my four rationales for most of these tips. I'm a DM myself, and I've applied these tips to great success at my own gaming table. Hopefully this will shed some light on my thought process and why I believe strongly in these tips:

1) Fun is more important than realism.

Is it realistic for a level 1 mook to be a hero? No. It's realistic for the dnd world to be big and scary and cruel.

But that level one mook has a player, and that player is going to have much more fun if his character is allowed to do heroic things from the get-go. Players should not have to "earn" the right to have fun by slogging through low level grinds.

I'm not the first one to come up with this idea. Read books. The Fellowship of the Ring does not spend 30 chapters earning the right to be heroes by taking care of the Shire's dire rat problem--they are thrust immediately into an epic adventure. And that goes for the hobbits too--who certainly qualify as level one mooks.

Same thing goes for NPCs never being cooler than the character. Is it realistic for Gandalf to need the help of a level 1 mook? No. But is it super fun for a player to have Gandalf ask his character for help? You bet.

And this doesn't mean that all NPCs have to be chumps or wussies. The king doesn't have to be an idiot to need the help of the party--in fact, the party is cooler if the king is cool. When Chuck Norris needs your help, then you know that you're hardcore. The king just shouldn't be cooler than the party, because then it's less fun for the players.

2)Long term fun outweighs short term fun

Does saying yes to everything mean that you have to give your party wizard the ability to craft a Batmobile? No. Letting that happen would be fun for the moment, but it would destroy realism and immersion and sabotage the ability of the game to be fun in the future. So you need to be able to sacrifice short term fun if there is a long term fun gain. Most of the situations you guys threw out as reasons why the tips don't work is an example of short-term fun that sacrifices long-term fun, which was never intended.

When pondering a DM decision, ask yourself "What decision would lead to the greatest amount of fun to the greatest amount of players for the longest amount of fun?" The answer to that question will almost always lead you to the right response.

3)The party doesn't need to know to see behind-the-scenes.

I have never killed a member of my party unless the player was willing. But I don't tell my players this. For all they know, every combat could be their last. They feel the same sense of danger and realism, but I protect them from the pain of losing a character.

4) The DM will have the most fun when the party has the most fun.

If you are having fun and your party is not having fun, you are doing a terrible job as a DM.

If your party is having fun, you will have a very hard time not having fun as well.

Focus on the fun of the party, and your fun will follow.

slaydemons
2012-01-20, 11:13 PM
I know this a is a bit of a minor thing but rule 2 and 4 seem to collide and butt heads though and rule 7 saying yes to everything is also bad one of my players asked this "can I use a bear hip bone as a boomerang." more explication in this edit I made: my player also wanted to ride bears on bears on bears to make a super bear tower because the rules didn't say he couldn't

as for rule 2 and 4 butting heads how can you make a npc memorable if no spot light is put on them if the spot light is put on the players all the time then everything else is pretty much background scenery like it would be in a play and rule 1 about the bit where players die don't let them die, I personally would be more like "ohh god, this person got creamed by something. Well he spent a lot of time on this character. Fudge the rolls so he is jut mortally wounded and should probably not try anything else for the day but this is the only time he is getting it unless he is just annihilated."

Not letting the player die takes any bit of the challenge and makes it so I can take on a great wyrm gold dragon from level one all I have to do is keep attacking and hitting him with ones until he dies. I personally don't think they should be heroes from day one I love humble beginnings and their live should depend on thought, dedication and a bit of luck.

my last examples are really just taken on how you said them and how I processed it in my mind and I mean no disrespect if it sounds like I do sorry had to be honest.

*.*.*.*
2012-01-20, 11:16 PM
5) PC death should always be chosen by the player.

It's no fun to be killed by a lucky crit. If a character dies, it should be because the player has chosen that--either they want to roll a new character, or they see an very epic way for their character to go out. If the player has not chosen to let their character die, their character should never die. Have the character fall unconscious, be captured, lose an eye, whatever--but never die. This goes back to the rule of fun--it's not fun to lose a character you invested months into.

I completely disagree, without the threat of death; the game gets boring. Being captured doesn't sound bad at all nor does falling unconscious, with losing an eye easily remedied with a regenerate spell. If monsters and NPCs can be killed by a lucky crit, so should a player. If you don't want your character to die, don't enter combat(or don't play).

Kenneth
2012-01-20, 11:23 PM
Hmm I generally agree with what you said EXCEPT for the following 'rules'

RULE 2: FOr me the players have to earn the right to be heroes. They just don't wake up and everybody praises them showers them with gifts etc etc. Maybe it my group's playstyles but while the adventurer can do thing the common man cannot starting out, That don't mean that just becuase you are a PC that you are automatically a hero. TO me what makes is ahero is not the entlitelment but the fact that you could have ran away, paid somebody else or just said ' its another person's problem' but instead took teh bull by the horns and dealt with the situation yourself is what makes you a hero.


RULE 5: WHAT?!? this one makes no sense at all.. Time to be a lvl 1 commoner in your games and proceed to solo the pantheons... Again this may be a playstyle difference in the groups I play with, but just like in real life they accept and understand the fact that people die.

and i am semi against RULE 7: Just beucase you need to put better clearification on what is a 'yes' question and what is a 'no' question.


about character dearth
Its just a character. ive literally had thousands of character in my decades of RPGs. if I got caught up and creid over any of them well.. i mean seriously.. Take this as an example. playing some pathfinder the evil mage a-hole that has been ******* us around the 3/4 of the cmapin finally made a mistake and let himself be caught off guard by my maximized/empowered disintegrate blah blah blah long story short he proceeded to wipe the party ( it had to be undone as the DM literally just made the guys abilities up) the onl person who was upset was our cleric and they looked at me and said ( fyi this was the clerics first RPG ever) 'aren't you upset' my reply was ' eh, its just paper with scribblings on it.. takes 3 minutes to make a new one no lose really, play for another 4 or 5 months and you'll understand what I am saying better'

kyoryu
2012-01-20, 11:41 PM
Its just a character. ive literally had thousands of character in my decades of RPGs.

Well, that's the thing. You're looking at it from an old-school perspective, while the OP was looking from the viewpoint of modern campaign expectations. They're two *very* different views.

Vortling
2012-01-20, 11:46 PM
I'd like to propose a new #1 rule for you. I would go so far as to declare these things about the rule I'm going to give you. No one will disagree with it. If you don't follow it, you're a bad DM. I'm not taking that back.

#1 rule: Communicate with your players.
Communicate what expectations you have for your game. Communicate to find out what the players' expectations are. Communicate the themes and style. Communicate what type of game you're playing. Communicate your house rules. Communicate why you have them. Communicate when you want people to show up. Communicate who is bringing the food.

Communicate and you'll end up with a great group which will turn you into a great DM for that group. Any other rules are details that depend on your group.

Solaris
2012-01-20, 11:47 PM
1) The rule of fun is the only rule.

Your job as DM is not to tell a great story.
It's not to build an immersive world.
Nor is it to obey and enforce the rules.

Your job as DM is to make the game fun for the players.
Period.

Everything else is vetoed by the rule of fun.
If you have an awesome story/immersive world/whatever, that's great, as long as it adds to the fun. If it doesn't add to the fun the players are having, throw it out. The game rules are important, but the rule of fun always overrules the rules of the game. If the rules say a player would die, but dying isn't fun, keep the player alive. If the rules say the player can't do something, but that something would be awesome and add to the fun, let the player do the thing anyway. Obviously, rules are important, and in general you should follow the rules to add structure to the game, but never let a game rule overrule the rule of fun.

The DM is a player, too. He puts in many more hours than the rest of the players, and he doesn't get a character to call his own.


2) The party should be heroes from day 1.

The PCs should feel like they are the A-team. They should be accomplishing heroic acts that NPCs are in awe of--and they should be doing this from the very first session.

Yes, even if the PCs start at a low level. Obviously, if your party is level 1, they're not going to be slaying any dragons or frost giants. But have the party save a town from a tribe of goblins--and have the town erect a statue of the party as thanks. Have the party hear of a plot to assassinate the king, and race against time to warn him (and get the king's personal thanks, as well as a knighthood.)

For the PCs to feel like heroes, they should feel like heroes from early on. Harry Potter didn't run around doing wizard fetch quests--he was doing heroic stuff starting early in book one. Give the party significant stuff to do, even if they are low level.

And have NPCs react. If you save a town from bandits, have the town throw the PCs a parade. Have people from the town ask the PCs to marry their daughters (or sons). Have the town declare one of the PCs their mayor. You get the idea.

Allow me to supply a clarification to this: Have the world react to the characters. Stupid fetch quests generally exist only in computer games. The players aren't going to betreated like Big Billy Badass until they are Big Billy Badass.


3) Keep the spotlight on the PCs at all times

Similar to rule 2. For PCs to feel like heroes, they should be the most heroic people in the room. Want to have an awesome epic level wizard in your campaign? Great--but instead of putting him in a scene where you can show him off, have him need the PCs help. Want to have an NPC tag along with the PCs? Sure--but make them noncombat so the PCs have the chance to shine.

If at any moment, one of your NPCs is cooler than the party, you are doing your job wrong.

You don't like your DM, do you?
Actually, scratch that. Let me rephrase it and supply an example. I once crafted a Jedi character who was supposed to be a one-shot NPC that went with the party for a specific mission (they rescued him, actually). The players loved the magnificent bastard despite the fact that he was, by their own admission, significantly cooler than they - and being an optimised Jedi guardian a few levels higher than them, able to wipe the floor with encounters way above their pay grade. He wound up being a recurring mentor/advisor character who'd join them for the really important missions.
So, going back to your first rule, if the NPC - while possibly being cooler than the PCs - increases the fun of the game... He's kosher.


4) Make memorable, recurring NPCs.

One of the most powerful ways to get the PCs invested in the game world is by allowing them to build relationships with NPCs in the game world. So create memorable NPCs, and then bring them back regularly. If a kindly old wizard gave the party their first quest, maybe later suggest that they return to him so he can decipher a scroll they found.

Have a quirky shopkeeper who has a different eccentric item to sell the party returns to town. Give party members love interests or rivals, then use those relationships to drive the plot (have the big bad evil guy kidnap the love interest, or force the party to work together with their rivals to accomplish some larger goal.)

Remember that NPCs are only memorable so much as their interactions with the party is memorable. If you make a really cool character that doesn't interact with the party much, don't be surprised if the party forgets them entirely. But a completely bland barkeeper that the party pulls into a drinking competition will still be talked about in weeks to come.

Also, one particularly good recurring character trope is the "Ultros" character. Ultros is an octopus from final fantasy 6 that would come back repeatedly to throw a wrench in the party's plans. He wasn't a true villain--he wasn't evil per se--but he was always opposed to the party. Having a character like that can be very useful.

Absolutely. That is a responsibility of the DM.


5) PC death should always be chosen by the player.

It's no fun to be killed by a lucky crit. If a character dies, it should be because the player has chosen that--either they want to roll a new character, or they see an very epic way for their character to go out. If the player has not chosen to let their character die, their character should never die. Have the character fall unconscious, be captured, lose an eye, whatever--but never die. This goes back to the rule of fun--it's not fun to lose a character you invested months into.

The player chooses to die by walking into a dungeon. More charitably, he chooses to die by doing something stupid.


6) Think qualitative, not quantitative for rewards and penalties

Numbers are boring. A sword that adds +2 to a roll is boring.

Abilities are exciting. A sword that lets you run up a wall is exciting.

When you reward players, don't reward them with stat boots or items that give them stat boosts. Instead, reward them with items that give them new abilities. These don't have to be abilities from source books--just think of creative things the party might like to do. For instance, you might give a soup bowl that is always full (and see the creative uses the party finds for it), or a earring that lets them understand the speech of animals. Be creative!

Same thing goes for penalties. If a player triggers a poison trap, don't give them ability damage, make them turn bright blue until cured (and have them deal with that in interactions with NPC). Give players opportunities to roleplay, because that adds to fun.

Agreed, to an extent.


7)Say "Yes" unless you have to say "No"

If a player asks you whether the inn has a bard, say "Yes" unless there's a very good reason the inn should not have a bard. Chances are, the player has a cool idea that involves a bard, and by saying that there is a bard there, you allow that cool idea to happen.

The same thing is true if they try to solve a problem in a creative way. If they attempt to talk the orc chief out of his invasion, you should let them try--and if they do a good job of talking, you should make the orc agree. It doesn't matter if you've already decided the orc is tough and brutal--if it would be more fun for the party to talk him down, you should let that happen.

Essentially, "Don't railroad the players into your pre-determined plot-line".

kieza
2012-01-21, 01:18 AM
1) The rule of fun is the only rule.

Your job as DM is not to tell a great story.
It's not to build an immersive world.
Nor is it to obey and enforce the rules.

Your job as DM is to make the game fun for the players.
Period.

Everything else is vetoed by the rule of fun.
If you have an awesome story/immersive world/whatever, that's great, as long as it adds to the fun. If it doesn't add to the fun the players are having, throw it out. The game rules are important, but the rule of fun always overrules the rules of the game. If the rules say a player would die, but dying isn't fun, keep the player alive. If the rules say the player can't do something, but that something would be awesome and add to the fun, let the player do the thing anyway. Obviously, rules are important, and in general you should follow the rules to add structure to the game, but never let a game rule overrule the rule of fun.

You take this too far. While I try to make my games fun for my players, I expect to have a certain amount of fun too, and I'm not going to run a game that's boring or painful for me to adjudicate. If my players want "Island of the Rich but Easy-to-Defeat Monsters" or "City of the Nubile Women With No Nudity Taboo," they should find another DM.

MukkTB
2012-01-21, 01:24 AM
Risk is a part of the game. You can die. As DM I generally try to let PCs have an opportunity to get resurrected. Its not set in stone how you deal with death. Gygax was a legendary DM and his games were far more deadly than mine.

And the DM is a player. You're not a servant of the other players. You have an equal stake. That means if there are 5 players including you, 1/5 of your time should be devoted to things you'll have fun doing. Otherwise you get tired and quit which isn't fun for anyone.

Morghen
2012-01-21, 01:29 AM
One of the things I hate most about, well... the internet in general I guess is the constant occurrence of scenes like this:

A: "Hey, I wrote this thing. Hope it helps somebody."
B: "OMGNOOB stop posting and die."

That being said, I disagree as strongly as possible with points 2, 3, and 5.


2) The party should be heroes from day 1.What? I'm some mook who learned to swing a sword last week. Or I'm an apprentice who can cast Magic Missile twice a day. Why should anybody pay attention to me until my friends and I clean out a few dungeons?


3) Keep the spotlight on the PCs at all timesWell, yeah. The title of point 3 is okay, but then you go on to say that if Elminster/Mordenkainen/Merlin, etc. are in the campaign they should drop in on my 2nd-level mook because he's the only one who can whatever. At the end, you say "If at any moment, one of your NPCs is cooler than the party, you are doing your job wrong." What is this I don't even.

Seriously. Following that rule, the kings are all going to be chumps advised by chumps. The captain of the guard is a chump. Who's going to train my mook? He's the coolest guy in town, so there's nothing to stop me from walking around like I'm the protagonist of a console RPG and just robbing everybody blind.


5) PC death should always be chosen by the player.I... no.

NO.

If there's no risk, there's no reward. I play RPGs to feel like I'm accomplishing something, even if that thing is wholly imaginary. If I have no chance of failure, I'm essentially walking a tightrope that's been lowered to the ground. Yeah, I still walked it, but I'm impressing nobody.

Vitruviansquid
2012-01-21, 01:31 AM
It seems to me that a lot of these depend on the table you're playing at or the setting you're playing in.

If we're playing a realistic, gritty setting, your character will die when I tell you he dies. :|

Crow
2012-01-21, 01:40 AM
Disagree strongly with 2 and 5 for reasons others have stated.

Cookiemobsta
2012-01-21, 02:01 AM
Hi guys,

Thanks for your feedback.

Here's my four rationales for most of these tips. I'm a DM myself, and I've applied these tips to great success at my own gaming table. Hopefully this will shed some light on my thought process and why I believe strongly in these tips:

1) Fun is more important than realism.

Is it realistic for a level 1 mook to be a hero? No. It's realistic for the dnd world to be big and scary and cruel.

But that level one mook has a player, and that player is going to have much more fun if his character is allowed to do heroic things from the get-go. Players should not have to "earn" the right to have fun by slogging through low level grinds.

I'm not the first one to come up with this idea. Read books. The Fellowship of the Ring does not spend 30 chapters earning the right to be heroes by taking care of the Shire's dire rat problem--they are thrust immediately into an epic adventure. And that goes for the hobbits too--who certainly qualify as level one mooks.

Same thing goes for NPCs never being cooler than the character. Is it realistic for Gandalf to need the help of a level 1 mook? No. But is it super fun for a player to have Gandalf ask his character for help? You bet.

And this doesn't mean that all NPCs have to be chumps or wussies. The king doesn't have to be an idiot to need the help of the party--in fact, the party is cooler if the king is cool. When Chuck Norris needs your help, then you know that you're hardcore. The king just shouldn't be cooler than the party, because then it's less fun for the players.

2)Long term fun outweighs short term fun

Does saying yes to everything mean that you have to give your party wizard the ability to craft a Batmobile? No. Letting that happen would be fun for the moment, but it would destroy realism and immersion and sabotage the ability of the game to be fun in the future. So you need to be able to sacrifice short term fun if there is a long term fun gain. Most of the situations you guys threw out as reasons why the tips don't work is an example of short-term fun that sacrifices long-term fun, which was never intended.

When pondering a DM decision, ask yourself "What decision would lead to the greatest amount of fun to the greatest amount of players for the longest amount of fun?" The answer to that question will almost always lead you to the right response.

3)The party doesn't need to know to see behind-the-scenes.

I have never killed a member of my party unless the player was willing. But I don't tell my players this. For all they know, every combat could be their last. They feel the same sense of danger and realism, but I protect them from the pain of losing a character.

4) The DM will have the most fun when the party has the most fun.

If you are having fun and your party is not having fun, you are doing a terrible job as a DM.

If your party is having fun, you will have a very hard time not having fun as well.

Focus on the fun of the party, and your fun will follow.

Zale
2012-01-21, 02:28 AM
I completely disagree, without the threat of death; the game gets boring. Being captured doesn't sound bad at all nor does falling unconscious, with losing an eye easily remedied with a regenerate spell. If monsters and NPCs can be killed by a lucky crit, so should a player. If you don't want your character to die, don't enter combat(or don't play).


My last character died within three combat rounds. Dire wolves tore his face off because I was stuck on a stupid horse. I never even got to use him. All the work I put into making him was gone within 18 game seconds.

Does that strike you as Fun?

I at least want to be able to last a few fights before my character is mercilessly slaughtered.

BladeofObliviom
2012-01-21, 02:34 AM
My last character died within three combat rounds. Dire wolves tore his face off because I was stuck on a stupid horse. I never even got to use him. All the work I put into making him was gone within 18 game seconds.

Does that strike you as Fun?

I at least want to be able to last a few fights before my character is mercilessly slaughtered.

Ah, yes. I follow that thread, mostly because I love the game and out of a morbid curiosity.

It couldn't have been fun, but I'll admit that it was a bit funny, if only because I didn't expect the DM to get into the player-killing game so quickly.

Just wait though: I'm sure that the actual Colossi will cause TPKs at that rate. :smalleek:


EDIT: To actually contribute to the discussion, while I do allow PC death, I make it a bit harder. I'll usually keep a count of die rolls that I'll fudge in their favor during a battle. That number is five, for a typical battle, and I slide it up or down depending on the actual difficulty or personal inclination.

Zale
2012-01-21, 02:37 AM
Just wait though: I'm sure that the actual Colossi will cause TPKs at that rate. :smalleek:


Yep. I'm wondering how long it will take for my second character to die.

Wiwaxia
2012-01-21, 02:51 AM
You take this too far. While I try to make my games fun for my players, I expect to have a certain amount of fun too, and I'm not going to run a game that's boring or painful for me to adjudicate. If my players want "Island of the Rich but Easy-to-Defeat Monsters" or "City of the Nubile Women With No Nudity Taboo," they should find another DM.

... but that's not fun. It looks like fun, but it's really boring as all hell, and thus banned under Rule of Fun.

Overall, I agree with most of these, except for (you guessed it) 2 and 5, which depend on setting and play style. If you're running save-the-world-and-kick-ass heroic fantasy, those rules work. If you're running a survival horror game? ... not so much.

Rule 3 works, with a slight change of words: "the spotlight should always be on the players", not "the spotlight should always be on the PCs". If you have something important to do between a bunch of NPCs, you could have your players control them for a bit. Likewise, if your PCs are foot soldiers or spies, its OK to have a general or king that's more powerful or cooler than them, so long as the story doesn't wind up being about him, and he can't just solve the PCs' problems or make them irrelevant.

I also think you need something in there about communication. (but really, communication is like rule zero of being a human being)

*.*.*.*
2012-01-21, 03:09 AM
My last character died within three combat rounds. Dire wolves tore his face off because I was stuck on a stupid horse. I never even got to use him. All the work I put into making him was gone within 18 game seconds.

Does that strike you as Fun?

I at least want to be able to last a few fights before my character is mercilessly slaughtered.

I will reiterate: Don't join combat if you are afraid to die. Being mauled to death by wolves suck, but it happens. I got triple critted(insta-death by our rules) by a bullette and would have died if I hadn't been a troll. It is to be expected that if I play a game where death can happen, I shouldn't complain about it. If the DM kills you in a fair way(Appropriate CRs and the like), get over it and move on. In D&D, death is easily reversible; no need to cry about it.

Zale
2012-01-21, 03:23 AM
That particular game has no resurrection magic of any kind.

BladeofObliviom
2012-01-21, 03:37 AM
I will reiterate: Don't join combat if you are afraid to die. Being mauled to death by wolves suck, but it happens. I got triple critted(insta-death by our rules) by a bullette and would have died if I hadn't been a troll. It is to be expected that if I play a game where death can happen, I shouldn't complain about it. If the DM kills you in a fair way(Appropriate CRs and the like), get over it and move on. In D&D, death is easily reversible; no need to cry about it.


That particular game has no resurrection magic of any kind.

As a further addendum, the fight was set up in a manner where escape was basically impossible, as the wolves were faster than the horses and said horses were already fatigued, and I think the CR was a bit too high anyway unless I calculated something wrong.

Acanous
2012-01-21, 03:40 AM
I have a policy about risk and reward in DnD. There's a reason monsters like Dragons give Triple standard treasure.
If my party want to be optimized, fighting challenging encounters, then yes there will be death involved. But there'll be enough treasure that you could bust a Reincarnate even as low as third level, without really hurting your WBL.

If you're smart, work well with your party, and a little lucky, you make out like a bandit. Otherwise you'll be set back to average wealth :p

TLDR: Killing PCs is fine if you give them the means to come back.

In a treasure-light campaign, there's always Ghostwalk.

Mastikator
2012-01-21, 03:42 AM
1. Agreed.

2. Agreed, but only if the players describe their characters as heroic. If the players say "my character isn't really the heroic type" then don't force them into that troupe.

3. So much yes.

4. Also agreed.

5. By choosing to live by the sword, the PCs have chosen to die by the sword. By choosing to enter combat and kill, the PCs have chosen death.
I'd say keep the "unluckly crits" for any combat situation you didn't actively force on the players, and make sure they are always the ones that choose violence.

6. Magic items are supremely expensive, even a +1 short sword has the monetary value of a small mercenary group. Therefore, all magic items exist for some specific reason, the +1 modifier just isn't worth it otherwise. I sort of agree with you, magic items shouldn't be "just there".

7. Very much agreed. Always let the players have their idea come to fruition, even if they explain their idea and it seems crazy or suicidal. Also let them take the consequences of their action, good or bad.

JamesonCourage
2012-01-21, 03:45 AM
I disagree.

Wiwaxia
2012-01-21, 03:46 AM
I disagree.

Care to elaborate?

MukkTB
2012-01-21, 04:40 AM
I personally feel that players should have a clear chance. If they die they should be able to trace their deaths back to a mistake they made. At worst they should be able to trace their death back to the actions of the other PCs. Maybe the mistake happened in character design, but it shouldn't be arbitrary.

Tengu_temp
2012-01-21, 07:28 AM
I agree with the 7 points the OP makes wholeheartedly. Rule 2, "the party should be heroes from day 1" doesn't mean that everyone should treat them as unstoppable badasses from the beginning. It means that from the start they are the heroes of their own story, and spend time doing relevant stuff, not boring generic stuff.

I live by rule 5. I don't care about stuff like risk and reward, if I did I'd play a video game. I've been DMing for over 12 years now, and I've yet to kill a PC in a random encounter - each time it happened, it was because the PC did something ridiculously, suicidally stupid (didn't really happen a single time during the last few years), or because the player chose for it to happen. If someone "dies" in a normal fight, they're knocked out instead (do note that I tend to play games where this happens by default, like M&M). And it works very well - the combat is tense because I know I don't have to pull my punches to ensure it's level-appropriate, the players are willing to take risks instead of playing it extra-careful (read: like cowards, not like heroes), and the stakes are high because the players are invested in the game and its story.

Zombimode
2012-01-21, 08:17 AM
1) The rule of fun is the only rule.

Your job as DM is not to tell a great story.
It's not to build an immersive world.
Nor is it to obey and enforce the rules.

You are mingling elements on seperate layers. The overarching goal of PnP is "having a good time". This can be achieved/enhanced by a great story, an immersive world and/or consistantly applied rules, or anything else. Expectations, playstyles and preferences of all group members (including yourself) can influence the ways to achieve the goal.

One of the keys to be a good DM is to know your audience. But dont lose your own perspective. Many players can and want to adapt to and experience new things and ways.
And if you, the DM, dont have fun, the game probably wont end well.


2) The party should be heroes from day 1.

This is purely a playstyle preference. Why do you think it would be a good idea to include it to a general list of DM tips?

There are several problems:
1) Not every campaign is about heroics.
2) But, ok, granted that the group has agreed, either explicit or implicit, to play something heroic. So your advice would be solid, yes?
Sadly, I dont think so. Not in general at least.
To me, overcoming obstacles and becoming a hero is what makes a heroic character interresting.
In addition, your approach has some issues:
a) If you are bending the reality of the gameworld to give your players characters nice things, your can destroy the willing suspension of disbelieve. For some players, this is rather important.
b) If you give away achievments like you suggested to easy, they will become cheap and unfullfilling. Aragorn got the girl in the end AND got crowned. Pretty awesome, right? But this guy expletive deserved it! Aragorn is heroic not because everthing works out for him or because he's untarnished and smiling the whole time (he isnt), but because even through incredible hardships and failures, he keeps going.
c) By limiting yourself to happy-sunshine-land where everthing works out ok in the end (for the characters at least) you are missing out very important parts of drama and possibilities for interesting characters.


3) Keep the spotlight on the PCs at all times
[...]
If at any moment, one of your NPCs is cooler than the party, you are doing your job wrong.

Well, kind of. A PnP campaign is about the actions of the PCs, yes. But by saying that no NPC should be cooler the any PC, your undermining a bit your next point.
Being "cool" can make NPCs memorable. Having cool and memorable NPCs while not stealing spotlight of the PC is one of the more difficult task of the DM.


4) Make memorable, recurring NPCs.


Agreed, this is important for many reasons :smallsmile:
But:

Also, one particularly good recurring character trope is the "Ultros" character. Ultros is an octopus from final fantasy 6 that would come back repeatedly to throw a wrench in the party's plans. He wasn't a true villain--he wasn't evil per se--but he was always opposed to the party. Having a character like that can be very useful.

Honestly? This can be rather annoying. But regardles, in my experience this rarely works out. Players are very keen on not letting any enemies escape, espacialy if they look like potentialy "recurring" villains. Even IF the Ultros manage to escape the first time, dont be supprised to see the player take long measures to prevent this from happening a second time to the point of specificly building their characters to counter and kill the Ultros.


5) PC death should always be chosen by the player.

Aaaand we are right back to the bad points. This is simply a playstyle preference and, I might add, one that is not really widespread. In my experience most player like the real possibility of failure and permanent character death.

And there are reasons for that, too.
In game systems where mechanicly determined (its not "random") character death is a distinct possibility, the players are not only playing the story game, but they are also playing the mechanical and tactical game. And in this aspect of the game, having a mechanical determined chance of failure (eg. death) is necessary, because otherwise the exercise of building a character and making tactical decisions becomes pointless.

I'm not saying, that your view has no place. But its hardly universal.


6) Think qualitative, not quantitative for rewards and penalties

Numbers are boring. A sword that adds +2 to a roll is boring.

Abilities are exciting. A sword that lets you run up a wall is exciting.

Yes, solid advice.

But:

Same thing goes for penalties. If a player triggers a poison trap, don't give them ability damage, make them turn bright blue until cured (and have them deal with that in interactions with NPC). Give players opportunities to roleplay, because that adds to fun.

Wuh? Ok, there are BIG problems with that.

1) Breaking versimilitude. A trap is a device installed with the intention to harm/kill the creatures springing it. A trap that can not even remotely do this in entirely pointless.
2) As with your "no mechanical PC death" suggestion, you are devalueating character choices. If traps are not harmfull, abilities for trapfinding and disarming are pointless. If you dont impose negative status effects, abilities that can cure those status effects are pointless.


7)Say "Yes" unless you have to say "No"

If a player asks you whether the inn has a bard, say "Yes" unless there's a very good reason the inn should not have a bard. Chances are, the player has a cool idea that involves a bard, and by saying that there is a bard there, you allow that cool idea to happen.

Yes, letting players fill in setting details that arent fleshed out yet or arent set in stone is a good idea :smallsmile:


The same thing is true if they try to solve a problem in a creative way. If they attempt to talk the orc chief out of his invasion, you should let them try--and if they do a good job of talking, you should make the orc agree. It doesn't matter if you've already decided the orc is tough and brutal--if it would be more fun for the party to talk him down, you should let that happen.

I think I would agree to a certain extend. Maybe not with your example under all circumstances.

But in general to be open to creative ideas is a good thing.
Anecdote:
The group has aquired a magical candle. They were told it would be needed to overcome a trap in the next room (they are in a dungeon).
They know from an NPC who traveled into this room, that he was overcome by wailing screams that suddenly set in as he entered the room. He fell unconscious due to the screams.
But how exactly this traps works or what the candle is supposed to do to let them overcome the trap, is beyond their knowledge.

Not knowing anything better to do they lit the candle. It becomes immediately evident what the candle does: it emmits silence within 20 ft. Of course this blocks the screams and lets them cross the room without beeing harmed. The candle has one drawback though: it burns really fast. Like in two rounds. It was desinged to let the party cross the room exactly once.
One player asks if his character can save a bit of the candle. I said "Well, ok, but it wont be enough to cross the room again. You would have to be hasted or something."

A bit later the group encounters a Bat Swarm. The player with the candle cringes "Bah, a swarm. Its immune to weapon damage..." But then he has an idea: "Hah, I will just lit the rest of the candle. Without sound bats are completely blind and confused."
That was a great idea. I ruled this action dispersed the swarm long enough for the group to proceed. :smallsmile:


Hope that helps! It's a bit of a wall of text, but with luck these ideas might be inspirational for you in your games :) Let me know if you have any questions or comments, or if there are any tips of your own you'd like to share.

Well, you have my comments. I think the biggest problem is that, (1) like I said above, you are confusing the goal of PnP with the means of achieving it, and (2) you dismiss certain means of achieving fun because... well, I dont know. Maybe you dont like them personaly?
But when making a general list, thats quite the problem.

Raum
2012-01-21, 10:11 AM
@Cookie - You've got some interesting points and I'm sure they work for a certain style of game. Not so sure they work as generic points...consider Paranoia or Dark Heresy - death is easy and getting dirt ground into the remaining stump of your arm is part of the game. ;)

For a more general set of tips, I suggest three: Communication, Communication, and Communication.

Communication because you're listening to players to know what they want out of the game.

Communication also means talking to players so they're not surprised by what the game ends up being (no, bait and switch is not communication).

Finally, communication to facilitate the game itself.

And it's worth pointing out that communication is a two-way street. It's not just listening and it's not just talking.

Jay R
2012-01-21, 11:26 AM
My experience with SCA combat disagrees with this. Fighting somebody I can always beat is nowhere near as exciting, or as fun, as fighting somebody who might beat me. And the most fun of all is beating somebody who can usually beat me.

Yeah, losing is less fun, but the only way to get the fun of beating somebody who usually beats me is to fight somebody who usually beats me.

Also, newbies are newbies. They learn, and practice, and get better. Over time, I reached the level where there are people in the SCA who think of me as one of the heroes. That has a satisfaction level that being a hero from day one cannot match.

Based on your principle that long-term fun outweighs short-term fun, I reject the notion that death is optional, or that PCs must start as heroes. It's not a game until I can lose it.

Sometimes I want to watch an adventure movie - exciting and dangerous, but I'm pretty sure the hero will win. "She doesn't get eaten by the eels at this time."

But sometimes I want to watch a sport - and I won't know until the end whether my team will win. Again, it's more fun to win, but part of the excitement and fun comes from the fact that it wasn't automatic.

I suspect that you need to separate your rules for good DMs (memorable NPCs, spotlight on the PCs) from your rules for a specific style of play (death is optional, heroes from day one, etc.).

Tengu_temp
2012-01-21, 11:40 AM
Since when character death and losing is the same? You can lose and still survive, you can die and still succeed. If your DM can't think of any consequences for losing other than character death, then he's not very creative.

Heliomance
2012-01-21, 12:20 PM
RULE 5: WHAT?!? this one makes no sense at all.. Time to be a lvl 1 commoner in your games and proceed to solo the pantheons... Again this may be a playstyle difference in the groups I play with, but just like in real life they accept and understand the fact that people die.


Attempting to solo pantheons at level 1 is choosing to die. Personally, I agree with Rule 5, to a limited extent, anyway, because dying to something that should have been an easy fight is not fun.

I personally feel that players should have a clear chance. If they die they should be able to trace their deaths back to a mistake they made. At worst they should be able to trace their death back to the actions of the other PCs. Maybe the mistake happened in character design, but it shouldn't be arbitrary.
This. So very much this. Death should not be a result of a natural 1 at the wrong time. Death should have a reason behind it.

This is not to say that the characters should never lose. Absolutely not. But dying should be a big deal. Easy resurrection spells cheapen the impact of death, I don't like them much at all. D&D is, first and foremost, a hroic fantasy game - and when was the last time Conan got killed by a random goblin that got a lucky hit?

The players are heroes. When a hero dies, it should be meaningful, memorable, and preferably epic. A natural 1 is none of these things.

Glyde
2012-01-21, 12:58 PM
What's all this about "characters that choose to be adventurers choose to die"? Who said anything about choosing to be an adventurer? Not all characters want to go into a dungeon or fight against a dragon, but sometimes they HAVE to.

Yes, there's risk. There's always going to be risk. But the DM should always use the power of the screen to weigh in what that risk should be. Having no chance for retaliation and just *dying* isn't fun. Ever. Opening up a massive epic battle with a finger of death targeting the character most likely to fail a save? Also not fun, particularly because that player will now have nothing to do while everyone else participates in the battle everyone's been waiting for. Luck has to play a part, but luck should never ruin someone's experience. Ever. That's just unsatisfying.

Dying in an encounter is all well and good, as long as it means something - Usually accomplished by the ENCOUNTERS meaning something. Not everyone wants a 'gritty' game where their characters just die for no reason. Sometimes, people play heroic fantasy games for... being in a heroic fantasy.

(...well, that was a bit of a ramble.)

Emmerask
2012-01-21, 03:22 PM
2) The party should be heroes from day 1.

The PCs should feel like they are the A-team. They should be accomplishing heroic acts that NPCs are in awe of--and they should be doing this from the very first session.

Yes, even if the PCs start at a low level. Obviously, if your party is level 1, they're not going to be slaying any dragons or frost giants. But have the party save a town from a tribe of goblins--and have the town erect a statue of the party as thanks. Have the party hear of a plot to assassinate the king, and race against time to warn him (and get the king's personal thanks, as well as a knighthood.)

For the PCs to feel like heroes, they should feel like heroes from early on. Harry Potter didn't run around doing wizard fetch quests--he was doing heroic stuff starting early in book one. Give the party significant stuff to do, even if they are low level.

And have NPCs react. If you save a town from bandits, have the town throw the PCs a parade. Have people from the town ask the PCs to marry their daughters (or sons). Have the town declare one of the PCs their mayor. You get the idea.


I can┤t say I agree with this one.

While they might help defend that town at level 1 they will most likely not single handedly do it on their own, the towns militia for example will most likely be better suited for the job then they are... the towns cleric or wizard (if played in a medium to high magic setting) will be pretty much as strong as the whole group combined (level 3 wizard or cleric).
So from a "realism" standpoint my campaigns simply won┤t allow them that.

Another thing is that if they do awesome tasks of awesome from day 1 there is a problem of escalation, the problems and tasks must become more awesome and awesome then before every time, so that in the end we are dragonball planet destroying missions in the end...

For me if my hero does all the super heroic stuff from the very beginning it also takes away the growing stronger part.
The monster will mostly be in the cr +-1-4 cr range so the only thing that makes it actually noticeable that you are foremost among heroes in the lands would be to get more important missions then before, if you have already rescued the king at age 14 then what is there left for the age 36 veteran?
Yes, saving the world by killing moonsized insects that try to eat the sun... but I generally prefer to play outside these kinds of powerlevels ^^

In summary I actually prefer to work my way up from fairly unimportant tasks to the kingdom saving stuff :smallwink:

Cookiemobsta
2012-01-21, 03:24 PM
Not everyone wants a 'gritty' game where their characters just die for no reason.


I'm argue that very few people want a gritty game where their characters die for no reason. It's possible people would be interested in a game where character death is a reality; I acknowledge that. But even then, death should be meaningful even if not player controlled. Nobody wants to die for no reason.

Razgriez
2012-01-21, 05:22 PM
As a player of one decade of experience, and hoping to DM soon, Allow me to critique these ideas from my perspective


1) The rule of fun is the only rule.

Your job as DM is not to tell a great story.
It's not to build an immersive world.
Nor is it to obey and enforce the rules.

Your job as DM is to make the game fun for the players.
Period.

Everything else is vetoed by the rule of fun.
If you have an awesome story/immersive world/whatever, that's great, as long as it adds to the fun. If it doesn't add to the fun the players are having, throw it out. The game rules are important, but the rule of fun always overrules the rules of the game. If the rules say a player would die, but dying isn't fun, keep the player alive. If the rules say the player can't do something, but that something would be awesome and add to the fun, let the player do the thing anyway. Obviously, rules are important, and in general you should follow the rules to add structure to the game, but never let a game rule overrule the rule of fun.

I disagree on this. The DMs job IS to tell a great story. the Job IS to build a world that makes our characters feel like they are a part of it. And the DM is our referee, making sure rules are followed. All of these, are critical factors in making sure a game is fun. Without a story, we are just a bunch of greedy glory hunters, without a World, we are just simply in an episodic "Dungeon/Monster of the week" game. Without rules and decision of a DM, The players and DM, can make the game annoying, tedious, and not at all fun for the others at the table, by constantly abusing various issues. While fun is a major factor of a game, it is these very things that help create this fun.

Rule 2 I'm going to have to break up in parts:


2) The party should be heroes from day 1.

The PCs should feel like they are the A-team. They should be accomplishing heroic acts that NPCs are in awe of--and they should be doing this from the very first session.

Yes, even if the PCs start at a low level. Obviously, if your party is level 1, they're not going to be slaying any dragons or frost giants. But have the party save a town from a tribe of goblins--and have the town erect a statue of the party as thanks. Have the party hear of a plot to assassinate the king, and race against time to warn him (and get the king's personal thanks, as well as a knighthood.)
Disagree slightly: At level one, NO ONE, is going to give the honor of building expensive statues in honor of a rag-tag bunch of misfits. A village saved by the party, will certainly be thankful, and may give them some coin, maybe ask one of the local crafters to make a special item (such as the local alchemist maybe providing some cure potions, for example, or even more likely, some food and rations for the parties travels) but by no means, will a small village see fit to build a statue in their honor for a group of helpful adventurers. The King may give honorary titles or even Knighthood (or equivalent depending on class), but only if the party deserves it, and even then, that can depend on who the King is. Also, depending on who the Party is, the King or local rulers, may not even be able to do that for political reasons.


For the PCs to feel like heroes, they should feel like heroes from early on. Harry Potter didn't run around doing wizard fetch quests--he was doing heroic stuff starting early in book one. Give the party significant stuff to do, even if they are low level.

And have NPCs react. If you save a town from bandits, have the town throw the PCs a parade. Have people from the town ask the PCs to marry their daughters (or sons). Have the town declare one of the PCs their mayor. You get the idea. Yes, and No.
While the PC's should feel like heroes, they have to earn it first in my book. And again, much like before, it depends on who the PCs are, where they are, and the social/political environment they are in.



3) Keep the spotlight on the PCs at all times

Similar to rule 2. For PCs to feel like heroes, they should be the most heroic people in the room. Want to have an awesome epic level wizard in your campaign? Great--but instead of putting him in a scene where you can show him off, have him need the PCs help. Want to have an NPC tag along with the PCs? Sure--but make them noncombat so the PCs have the chance to shine.

If at any moment, one of your NPCs is cooler than the party, you are doing your job wrong.
Disagree. For the most part, the Players should be the primary focus. That said, a good DM, knows when to toss in an extremely awesome NPC for a part of the game's story and plot, even if it overshadows the PCs somewhat.

All the time? No, but it's always good once in a while to show the PCs just how important an NPC is, is to, from time to time, have the NPCs yank the spot light away from the PCs. Need to show just how evil the BBEG is? Make sure he takes the stage front and center. Need a side of good, NPC Hero to show they've recognized the talents of the PCs and wants them for help? Have him show up to assist in a battle with the PCs.
In other words, I disagree that a powerful NPC should be stuck in the background all the time because of taking over the game. Is it a danger that can ruin a game? yes. but if it's an awesome NPC, let the NPC be Awesome once in a while. Don't worry, the PCs will get a chance to reclaim that spot light one way or another.


4) Make memorable, recurring NPCs.

One of the most powerful ways to get the PCs invested in the game world is by allowing them to build relationships with NPCs in the game world. So create memorable NPCs, and then bring them back regularly. If a kindly old wizard gave the party their first quest, maybe later suggest that they return to him so he can decipher a scroll they found.

Have a quirky shopkeeper who has a different eccentric item to sell the party returns to town. Give party members love interests or rivals, then use those relationships to drive the plot (have the big bad evil guy kidnap the love interest, or force the party to work together with their rivals to accomplish some larger goal.)

Remember that NPCs are only memorable so much as their interactions with the party is memorable. If you make a really cool character that doesn't interact with the party much, don't be surprised if the party forgets them entirely. But a completely bland barkeeper that the party pulls into a drinking competition will still be talked about in weeks to come.

Also, one particularly good recurring character trope is the "Ultros" character. Ultros is an octopus from final fantasy 6 that would come back repeatedly to throw a wrench in the party's plans. He wasn't a true villain--he wasn't evil per se--but he was always opposed to the party. Having a character like that can be very useful.
I agree with this. See above.


5) PC death should always be chosen by the player.

It's no fun to be killed by a lucky crit. If a character dies, it should be because the player has chosen that--either they want to roll a new character, or they see an very epic way for their character to go out. If the player has not chosen to let their character die, their character should never die. Have the character fall unconscious, be captured, lose an eye, whatever--but never die. This goes back to the rule of fun--it's not fun to lose a character you invested months into.
I vehemently disagree with this idea. A number of deaths, or cases of survival, have indeed, been a factor of absolute luck in real life. Players should have to fear possible death from a random crit. And they should be concerned about dying.

As a player, I may not like the idea that my character can die, but I hate the idea that I have to have my hand held through a rough battle in case it goes horribly wrong. Death should not be cheap, death should be an honest concern. Plus frankly, the idea that a group of rather angry monsters can slice, bash, bite, rip, shred, blast, etc etc, me to next week and that the worst I come out of it, is an easily restored injury is rather insulting to the players', and to the DM's skills to put up a challenging, tough fight.

6 shall be in multiple parts as well.

6) Think qualitative, not quantitative for rewards and penalties

Numbers are boring. A sword that adds +2 to a roll is boring.

Abilities are exciting. A sword that lets you run up a wall is exciting.

When you reward players, don't reward them with stat boots or items that give them stat boosts. Instead, reward them with items that give them new abilities. These don't have to be abilities from source books--just think of creative things the party might like to do. For instance, you might give a soup bowl that is always full (and see the creative uses the party finds for it), or a earring that lets them understand the speech of animals. Be creative!
This I can agree with to a certain point. While giving, unusual, and awesome rewards is nice, I still want it to make sense, and actually be useful for my players.


Same thing goes for penalties. If a player triggers a poison trap, don't give them ability damage, make them turn bright blue until cured (and have them deal with that in interactions with NPC). Give players opportunities to roleplay, because that adds to fun.

And we return back to the horrible idea of "Rule Five". I've taken ability damage from poisons, seen players suffer from Cold Shakes in character, and suffer the penalties. actual ability damage and the danger these carry. Suffering these penalties, does not reduce the ability to role-play, it actually enhances the ability to, because it gives the players no ways of role playing their character. Also, like my argument to your previous point, players should have to respect and fear the chance of ability damage or poisons. It's what makes a threat, a threat. It's that danger it has.


7)Say "Yes" unless you have to say "No"

If a player asks you whether the inn has a bard, say "Yes" unless there's a very good reason the inn should not have a bard. Chances are, the player has a cool idea that involves a bard, and by saying that there is a bard there, you allow that cool idea to happen.

The same thing is true if they try to solve a problem in a creative way. If they attempt to talk the orc chief out of his invasion, you should let them try--and if they do a good job of talking, you should make the orc agree. It doesn't matter if you've already decided the orc is tough and brutal--if it would be more fun for the party to talk him down, you should let that happen.

Hope that helps! It's a bit of a wall of text, but with luck these ideas might be inspirational for you in your games :) Let me know if you have any questions or comments, or if there are any tips of your own you'd like to share.
Somewhat agree. Player ingenuity is always interesting. However While some things are obvious "Yes this should be here except in extreme cases" I do feel the DM should be able to from time to time (but not all the time) stick the PCs on the railroad tracks. Not all the time, but sometimes, if it's a critical plot or story piece, then frankly the players are just going to have to do what they can with the limited options they are given. It's a give and take thing. Players should be given freedom to come up with ideas the DM doesn' plan on, but not 100% of the time.

Gnoman
2012-01-21, 06:16 PM
1) The rule of fun is the only rule.

I'm not the first one to come up with this idea. Read books. The Fellowship of the Ring does not spend 30 chapters earning the right to be heroes by taking care of the Shire's dire rat problem--they are thrust immediately into an epic adventure. And that goes for the hobbits too--who certainly qualify as level one mooks.

Same thing goes for NPCs never being cooler than the character. Is it realistic for Gandalf to need the help of a level 1 mook? No. But is it super fun for a player to have Gandalf ask his character for help? You bet.


Read it again. The hobbits of the shire spend until Rivendell blundering from one crisis to another, either being rescued by more experienced persons or simply running away, until Rivendell. After Rivendell, they are paired up with five extremely experienced persons who do much of the heavy lifting until the fellowship is divided. True, they (especially Frodo and Sam) shoe very heroic behaviour throughout, but it's not until nearly halfway through the saga (first of three books, but the other two are divided between two (three at times) seperate viewpoints) that they really become heroes.

Likewise, Harry Potter spends the bulk of his first year studying and having minor adventures. He has a heroic attitude, but he's not really a hero until the very end of the book.

LCP
2012-01-21, 06:50 PM
I absolutely have to throw my hat in with everyone who is disagreeing with 'rule 5'.

I run Dark Heresy and Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay (on these forums, no less), and I think one of the core components that makes the games fun - for the players and for me - is the overriding element of danger. Particularly with my Dark Heresy group, who have to do so much running away that they might as well be in an episode of Doctor Who. In our very first game, a genestealer ripped one of the PCs in half in a single round of combat - and he was the party's melee tank.

When your PC has plot armour and you win a fight, you feel a vague sense of satisfaction at the good guys winning, predictably, again. When the PCs are consistently risking their lives against their enemies, their victories feel much more tangible.

Eldan
2012-01-21, 07:03 PM
That in turn reminds me of our current Shadowrun DM. "So, you make characters with one quarter less points than normal, and no starting equipment except basic weapons. First fight? Oh, those 10 gang members with better weapons over there."

We won.

Belril Duskwalk
2012-01-21, 11:46 PM
I vehemently disagree with this idea. A number of deaths, or cases of survival, have indeed, been a factor of absolute luck in real life. Players should have to fear possible death from a random crit. And they should be concerned about dying.

As a player, I may not like the idea that my character can die, but I hate the idea that I have to have my hand held through a rough battle in case it goes horribly wrong. Death should not be cheap, death should be an honest concern. Plus frankly, the idea that a group of rather angry monsters can slice, bash, bite, rip, shred, blast, etc etc, me to next week and that the worst I come out of it, is an easily restored injury is rather insulting to the players', and to the DM's skills to put up a challenging, tough fight.

I have to agree on this. In the game I DM I recently pitted the party against a number of moderately challenging enemies. Between their own bad rolls and a bizarre decision to go with the Scooby Doo Plan (Let's Split Up, Gang) they managed to get put within an attack or two of dying against some bandits. My bandits were rolling just as terrible (I blame the table) but at some point one of the player's voiced a suspicion that I was fudging attack rolls DOWN to keep them alive. For a brief moment half the players at the table looked outright OFFENDED that I might be cheating in the PCs favor. I denied having done any such thing and the moment passed, the PCs wound up pulling through casualty-free, but about half of them were in single digit HP before it was over.

The point is, the frequency of Death in a campaign is largely game-group dependent. I don't think it's generally good advice to tell all DM's to avoid killing their players except in dramatically appropriate moments. In some games, PC Death is a big deal. In others, PC Death means its Saturday.

DonDuckie
2012-01-22, 08:25 AM
I haven't read all replies... fair warning

1) I do agree with the rule, but all the other jobs also belong with the DM. DM fun is just as important as player fun.

2) No, and fixed with more mature players. Adversity is good for RP. RP is good for RPGs.

3) and 4) Warning: collision detected!. You can't create good memorable NPCs without removing the spotlight from the players. And the DM is also in the game, he deserves some spotlight. I agree with 4), and 3) is fixed with more mature players.

5) No, just no... It's a game, and with so many ways to overcome death, it should not be a players choice. Even if it was permanent, still 'no'. It's a game, sometimes you're unlucky. Again, fixed with more mature players.

6) Yes and no. Interesting treasure is good. But numbers is a big part of the game. Also: players shouldn't be spoiled brats.. You can't just have everything you wish for. Unless you cast or are granted wishes*.

7) Sort of. If you can say 'yes', say 'yes, but...' if not, say 'no, but...'

*Warning(read fast): wishes may not give you everything you want, you may not want what you wish for, you may not wish for what you want, wish contains small parts which may be a choking hazard, wish comes with no guarantee to the extent permitted by the Plane of Law. By uttering a wish you forgo any and all rights of a refund.

Morghen
2012-01-22, 06:17 PM
It's not a game until I can lose it.Agreed.

Until that point, it's shooting fish in a barrel. I don't want to play a game where I have to pretend that my character is in danger.

Aniu
2012-01-23, 04:34 AM
Ok, time for my 2 copper pieces

1) Agree. You are there to make sure players (and yourself!) enjoy the game in the long run. Short time setbacks or lower enthusiasm levels may be worthwhile if they contribute to the long term game. As with so many other things, it's a balancing act.

2) If I understand your intent, agreed. The heroes (in a heroic game) should feel more than random mooks, they are after all heroes. They aren't here to perform hundreds of fetch quests or clear rats from a basement. They are there to overcome important challenges. This may be removing bandits from the region or raiding an ancient tomb, but it should be significant to them in some way. Note that important does not mean that they should be saving kings and overthrowing nations at level 1, probably more along the lives of saving a child lost in the woods, or rescuing a prisoner. As others have said though, it depends on play styles.

3) Somewhat agree. You are telling the player's story. They should (rightly) be the focus most of the time. But occasional highlights of other people in the world actually having an impact? That can add to the verisimilitude of the game.

4) Agreed. Memorable NPCs are a powerful ally to the DM. Plan to make a few yourself, but also take a note of NPCs that the players seem to already remember, and start planning to re-incorporate them to your game. That bartender is a great example.

5) I understand where you're coming from - dying in routine combat is not fun, but there does need to be some element of risk. Whether that is a handicap to a character, imprisonment, or death is up to the DM. If death is cheap, then it serves as a great way of adding challenge to the game. If you prefer death to be more significant, then save it for special occurrences. For my table, I probably agree most with the sentiment that a death should be able to be traced back to a mistake, or series of mistakes, that a player made.

6) Yes, to an extent. Just be careful not to overuse it, or the unique abilities lose their appeal.

7) Agreed, but remember that 'Yes, but...' or 'No, but...' are also very effective.

Rationales

1) See above reply to 1 and 2

2) Certainly agreed :smallbiggrin:

3) Be careful. If you are intentionally (for example) fudging dice without player knowledge, and they find out, the penalties could outweigh the benefits.

4) Generally yes. But often, no. I have some players that enjoy dungeon crawls and powerful rewards, and like to look amazing whenever possible. If I were to cater to a group that shared this mentality, I would soon quit out of frustration. Luckily, this isn't so much a problem as my group is fairly mixed in play styles, so I just have to juggle various elements that the individual players, and group as a whole, enjoy.

Hope I could provide some insight, or something useful!

Heliomance
2012-01-23, 05:41 AM
Agreed.

Until that point, it's shooting fish in a barrel. I don't want to play a game where I have to pretend that my character is in danger.

There are plenty of ways to lose, to fail, without dying. Death is the ultimate dramatic consequence, and should be treated as such. Also, it's incredibly boring to die to a lucky crit early in the session and then have nothing to do for the rest of the evening.

Siegel
2012-01-23, 06:16 AM
1) The rule of fun is the only rule.

Yeah... right now i am really heavy on playing games as they are intented and there are a lot of games that are supposed to be run as written (example : Mouse Guard)
If you don't have fun with the rules of the game then maybe change the system for what you want to do.
Don't use DnD for a campaign heavy on courtly interaction and sailing arround, trading goods and collecting money to buy titles and don't play Dresden Files if you want to have a tolkienesque dungeoncrawl.
If you don't have fun with the rules than maybe it's not the rules - it's you.

2) The party should be heroes from day 1.

Unless you play Horror, or something that is about Drama (it was a mutual decision comes to mind).
The PCs should always be the protagonists seems better to me.


5) PC death should always be chosen by the player.

Oh no...
If a Pc decides to enter a dangerous situation it should be dangerous. And that doesn't mean "only stupidity kills". If a character fights badly and dies against a group of 6 goblins than he does. There is no drama if there is no danger.
Rolling openly greatly improves that. If you roll behind the screen and no one knows than you don't even have to roll at all because it doesn't change the outcome.
Roll openly and tada -> more drama and more danger

7)Say "Yes" unless you have to say "No"

Say yes or roll the dies 'nuf said

Edit: not enough said.

Your Orc Chieftain example. The players want to talk him down, great. It isn't really the orc-chieftain way to get a whimsy elf and his two human bodies to talk you down in front of the clan.
Now you have three ways to things generaly
Say no : no the orc doesn't listen to you (and orders to get you killed in his camp)
Say yes : the player roleplay a bit and got what they wanted
Role the dice : let them role their social skills and convince him. Enter a "social combat" if your system has it. You still have roleplay but you have meaningfull choices in terms of skill and in terms of strategy.
If you are not sure what to do, let them role dice for it. (this of course can only work if you have resolution mechanics that back this thing up and allow for it.)

Deth Muncher
2012-01-23, 06:21 AM
1) The rule of fun is the only rule.

2) The party should be heroes from day 1.

3) Keep the spotlight on the PCs at all times

4) Make memorable, recurring NPCs.

5) PC death should always be chosen by the player.

6) Think qualitative, not quantitative for rewards and penalties

7)Say "Yes" unless you have to say "No"


Subpoint 4) The DM will have the most fun when the party has the most fun.
If you are having fun and your party is not having fun, you are doing a terrible job as a DM.
If your party is having fun, you will have a very hard time not having fun as well.
Focus on the fun of the party, and your fun will follow.

Er...okay. I'm spoilering this, because basically every other point has an essay response. Also, I've read no responses.


1. I ALMOST agree with this. If you consistently end up spending time on things that you think will be fun and the players don't...then there is an obvious disconnect between the players and the DM. You shouldn't automatically scrap everything you've done up to this point - you either get a new group who is more in tune with your play-style as a DM, or you talk to the players and come to a compromise. The "Oops, they don't like it, guess I'll just scrap this whole plot arc I came up with" thing isn't exactly viable for people who spend any amount of time on building their world.

2. Absolutely.

3. I assume you mean non-villain NPCs in this - the dreaded DMPC who's LIEK TOTALLY KEWLER THAN ALL DA PCs...yeah, okay, sure, that's pretty well an awful life choice. But sometimes you've gotta give in to your inner evil overlord when you've crafted a fine villain.

4. Of course.

5. Most certainly NOT. A character dies, a character dies. That happens. That's a part of the game. If a player knows they can't die, then they aren't going to be as invested otherwise. They aren't going to actually come up with reasonable ideas, they're just going to do stupid things because they know that there will be no major negative repercussion.

That being said, there are three ways to deal with character death: 1. Character is dead. Roll a new one. I find most oldschool players adhere to this. 2. Roll a temp character for as long as it takes the party to get your original character revived somehow - Resurrection, Reincarnation, what have you. 3. Make them seem like they've died, but restore them to full health in a way that progresses the plot. This is MOST like what you've described, and it really only works in a handful of situations - I've done this before when a character died due to us not remembering a rule correctly, and so Thor revived him and buffed up his weapon, and in the process reset the party on the path of the main plot. But to just say "Oh, yeah. That Orc who was wailing on you with his +5 Sword of Wounding? He uh...pulled back at the last second. And captured you. Even though he was in full bloodrage and by all rights should have slaughtered you and eaten your entrails as an after-battle snack." I'm sorry, I personally feel that breaks the verisimilitude much more than having them die and come back somehow. But hey, if that's what works for your group then by all means.

6. I'm sorry, I almost wholeheartedly disagree with you once again. Almost. I DO enjoy fun and interesting rewards for things. Saying that Bob the Cleric just got a +2 Mace is...less than wowing, sure. Saying he instead got a mace that lets him cast Know Direction with it (i.e. lets it act as a compass) is neat, and can lead to fun things. So sure, I'm with you so far. But the whole non-damaging trap thing? I'm sorry, no one is going to trap their lair with a trap that does absolutely zilch in the way of defending. That's...what traps are for. To trap intruders. I highly doubt an epic level lich is going to go "Hm, I need to make sure the heroes don't get in. I know! I'll have a trap that changes their hair color one tone! That will show them! Nyahahahaha!" That's called a Trap of Prestidigitation. No. Now, am I saying that that should never happen? Of course not. If you're going somewhere where joke traps are okay then absolutely, be my guest. But this whole nondamaging trap thing seems to be related to the "Don't kill a PC" thing - a trap that deals recurring ability damage can add a sense of urgency to the encounter, if the party lacks a Cleric. Suddenly, they NEED to either get done with this or get back to town, or Bob the Fighter is going to suffer some permanent brain damage. Or whatever.

7. Mmmmyeah okay. This is pretty well good.

Subpoint 4. Well that's not very nice at all. Not to sound mean here, but do you know who Gary Gygax was? Do you know what his dungeons were LIKE? Have you HEARD of the Tomb of Horrors? 1e and 2e DMs basically REVELED in finding ways to murder PCs. To just go out and say "If your party isn't having fun, you're a terrible DM" is downright rude. Sometimes, PCs don't have fun because something happened. Maybe the Druid's animal companion got ganked last fight, or the main villain had a minor triumph that the PCs failed to stop. Sometimes, the game DOESN'T go the way the PCs wanted it to. That happens, and is necessary for character growth. If the PCs don't suffer any kind of setback...then you're not really playing a game, are you? It's just "Hey, look at my cool character! It does these awesome things! And I win, all the time!"

Now. All of that being said - I get the feeling that you play a very upbeat kind of game. A world in which the heroes are heroes all the time, are nigh invincible regardless of their own actual abilities, and always, always triumph. And y'know what? That is PERFECTLY okay! But with regards to saying that these 7 rules are the guaranteed fast track to being a great DM? I'm not so sure. You've missed a very key point, which encompasses many nitpicks I've had with you - before you start playing, a DM needs to sit down with their players and address what kind of game they're looking for. If they want the kind of game you've described, then by all means. But some players want their games grittier. Some people enjoy the challenge of "Hard Mode" as it might be termed today, if you think about RPGs like Fallout 3, or the "Nuzlocke Challenge" for Pokemon. Ultimately, you need to understand your players before you can really go into making a game everyone - DM included - can enjoy.

Jay R
2012-01-23, 07:22 AM
If rule 1 says that it's "the only rule", how can there be any rules 2-7?

Assuming Rule 1 is true ("The rule of fun is the only rule"), then rules 2-7 are just your belief that all players, at all times, everywhere, agree about what is fun.

If some players want to earn hero status over many adventures, ...
If some players like to occasionally focus on a rich, complex world, ...
If some players like traveling around the world, or planet to planet, ...
If some players think the risk of death adds to the fun, ...
If some players like to receive +5 swords, ...
If some players want an environment run by clear, strict rules, ...

... then rule 1 says that the other rules are wrong.

Ajadea
2012-01-23, 08:06 AM
Let's see:

1): Yes, to an extent. Rule of Fun triumphs over grappling minutiae. Dying is rarely fun, however, sometimes, it's expected. You walk up to an assassin and threaten to take him to the guards instead of, say, shooting him? I believe that would be termed 'assisted suicide'.

2): No. The players need to be the protagonists from day 1. They need to be the heroes of their own story, be important within their scope... but not everyone needs to love them, or even like them. You save the village from the kobolds. Great. They can't afford to put up a bloody statue, and there's certainly no time for parades in summer when everyone has a farm to take care of. The mayor thanks you, you get your pay. The bartender probably knows your name. That's great. The guy from the next town over? Doesn't know you from John Doe.

3): Not... exactly. It's actually okay to put stronger allies in the game. They add some dimension. Even though the game should revolve around the PCs, it shouldn't look like it revolves around the PCs until they do something to earn that. Maintaining the illusion of a great big world out there does wonders sometimes. The PCs don't need to be the most heroic people in the room. You just need a good strong reason as to why they are doing X as opposed to someone else. Maybe the awe-inspiring wizard doesn't actually want to get off his ass and grub around in a random tomb for some artifact that probably doesn't exist when there's a poker game on Tuesday? Maybe he doesn't believe that this could happen at all, and people tend to ignore things that contradict their viewpoints.

4): Yes. NPCs are one of the most fundamental building blocks of the campaign. You don't need much to make a good and memorable NPC. A role to fill, a few lines of description, a driving force (as simple as staying with the people they care about or as wide-ranging as world-peace), and a distinguishing feature (Anything from a big billowy cloak to a fatherly demeanor will do nicely). My players are still obsessing over the elven waiter simply because it's an elven waiter.

5): It varies. Heavily. Danger is one of the most important deciders of tone. For long and story-driven games, you may want to shy away from death effects and random crits. But the newest game I'm DMing has it set out very clearly that ignomious death should be expected and I will not pull any punches.

6): This varies too. I dunno. A +2 sword can be damn rewarding. There's a feeling of satisfaction in that, and it's every bit as valid as the feeling of satisfaction someone gets from slippers of wall-walking, with the added benefit of less bookkeeping.

7): Yes, but... Sometimes it doesn't make sense for an inn to have a bard. Sometimes half the point is that the orc chieftain cannot be swayed by the words of outsiders. Let them try to solve problems in a creative way, but not at the expense of verisimilitude and sanity.

Morghen
2012-01-23, 08:36 AM
One thing I'd like to bring back up from my post on the first page is this:

Thanks for bringing these things up, Cookiemobsta. A lot of times, on message boards, I see people taking time to write something that they're clearly proud of and then EVERY SINGLE PERSON who responds tells them how wrong they are and how their ideas are dumb.

While I disagree with some of your original points, I'm glad you brought them up. If nobody advanced any ideas at all for fear of being shouted down, this (and by extension, most message boards) would be a boring place.


But really, why would a wizard put a trap in his tower just to turn the victim blue?

Socratov
2012-01-23, 08:55 AM
*finds several copperpieces*
*throws said copperpieces in the thread*

I haven't DM-ed yet, but when I do I will adhere to a few of these as well as several others. first the rule I will treat as rule 0 is the rule of balance: not game balance, but balance in the group. and by that i mean that the fun should be spread evenly between palyers. Sure sometimes it won't really add up and some people will have slightly more spotlight then others, but everyone at the tabel should be able to enjoy himself, have equal spoltight time (except the DM since he facilitates the interactions), and to a certain extent each should have a say in decisions as his right dictates (players should be free to make their own decisions, DM's shoudl be free in limiting sourcebooks and using houserules, etc.). this rule could also be called "use your common sense" (it includes communication and nay player to playerto DM interaction)

1) yes, though don't forget the DM is in for fun too (unless you pay him for it, then it's a service)
2) rule 0, the DM creates the world and there is always a bigger fish, but the party should at the very least be the group of 'special' people deserving special attention, alos, no grinding!
3) no, there are bigger fish, and in the earleir levels the pc's should get assignments and occasional a courtisan accompanying them on their quest, however, refer to rule 0 for measurement
4) see rule 3
5) No, the goblin will not go to an extreme extent to make shishkebab of himslef, nor should the enemy wizard try his hand at martial combat. think about it: if there is no risk of death involved, why doesnt every commoner go adventuring? not everyone has knee related injuries... risk is the defining element of a game: it governs the rush people get from combat encounters, it develops story, and it is the main reason people don't adventure and why the pc's are special. note: if the risk of death is present in every day quantities, at least make resurrections available in the world.
6) i would give wealth and have the PC's make/buy their own weapons, that way people will get exactly what they want. in the case of artifacts yes. another point to consider is with the magicmart no class is be´ng favorited.
7) see rule 0, common sense is the key denominator here.

anecdote:
My very first character died randomly when the DM tried to kill off a munchkin as it was simply reaking the game in both directions (he would both die and kill too easily completely wrecking encounters. after the 20th encounter where half the spells go to cure him it wasn't even funny enaymore). My character got killed, his character kept living. sure I felt bad at first but then i got extra screentime by be´ng a consultant from beyond the grave. Resurrection was possible, but my party was derping at the time. ong sotry short, I rerolled and made one of my funniest characters yet. moral of the story, death isn't always the end, it can be quite hilarious when the lesbian bard tries to make a move on the partycleric by flirting through a 'speak with dead' spell.

Blackfang108
2012-01-23, 09:34 AM
As a player, I have to disagree with the wording of #5. I'd say: Make PC death exciting.

Dying from a lucky crit is boring. Dying while protecting a lot of people by holding off several stronger enemies, giving as good as you get? Exciting.

caden_varn
2012-01-23, 11:03 AM
Whilst I agree that there needs to be an element of danger and death in games, (and I've lost my share of characters over the years), rule 5 does work if you read it a certain way.

If you are playing in a game where combat is dangerous, and there is the chance of death from a random crit, you have already agreed to your character's death. It's basically like signing a disclaimer before you try a dangerous activity.
Ok, you hope they'll live and you try to keep them alive, but if the dice fall poorly, you've agreed just by playing in that kind of game.

The important thing, as others have pointed out before me, is communication. The players need to know what sort of game you are proposing so they can decide whether they want to play.

All that said, you do have to sort of look at the point a bit sideways to see it that way. It does need to be spelled out a bit better, perhaps...

jindra34
2012-01-23, 11:14 AM
Of all the rules #1 is the only one that I can give a solid I agree to.
If #2 is saying the that the PCs should always be at least a cut above the average Joe then I can agree with that too. But being a 'hero' or 'legend' is something I prefer to assess at the end of a characters play not the beginning, and while players should have the option for that they shouldn't be given it at the start.
Rules 3, and 5 are just no's to me. Unless the PCs are the first serious adventurers (highly unlikely) there are going to be people better, cooler and/or more awesome out there and the PCs are inevitably going to bump into them. And while its nice to let PCs always chose their deaths, by sitting down and picking a system everyone (including the DM/GM) agrees to play by the rules of the system and the results and repercussions that follow from that. Players don't like it when the DM/GM fudges the dice (or concocts events) to save a favored NPC so why should they be granted those same advantages.

Rule 4 strikes me as a duh. No more to be said there.

Rule 6 depends on the system and setting, but I would agree that giving a reason for the damage is a good idea (turning bright blue doing charisma damage for instance).

Rule seven I don't get what you are saying, are you saying to work with PCs, to let PCs dictate world qualities unless you have a plan for something else, or what?

In general while the your rules sound great from a PC perspective they need to be better defined and take into consideration the workload of the DM/GM and the fact that you agreed to the system.

My guidlines are (in order of importance): Make sure everyone is having a good time, communicate openly and often with the players, keep the world and rules consistent and work with the players. I think that ends up covering most of your points but also does not force or assume genre rules.

Archpaladin Zousha
2012-01-23, 02:50 PM
One tip that I would add, and one I think is the most important is simply the Boy Scout Motto: "Be Prepared."

Seriously, I've found that in my limited time of DMing the key to a successful session and campaign is to simply be ready for it. Know what you're doing in advance and anticipate the PCs moves so the story can flow well, even if it does so in a direction that you weren't originally planning.

All the games I've run that fell apart did so because I was running things from the seat of my pants, and quickly ground to a halt because I had no idea what to throw at the PCs or where to send them next. DMing isn't something you can BS after five minutes of preparation. You've got to spend at least a half-hour to even a full day making sure you know what you're doing so you can focus on making the experience great for the players.

That's not to say spontaneity isn't an important DM trait, players go off the rails all the time and a DM needs to be ready for that. What I'm saying is that if you want to DM, you've got to do your homework on time.

Rakmakallan
2012-01-23, 04:36 PM
Due to the diversity of the players, GMs and gaming groups around, I don't believe there can be a cast-in-stone set of rules on better GMing. Furthermore, a huge issue is personal opinion, making attempts to codify gaming idiosyncrasies absurd.
So, here are my two drachmas on the tips. Note that at all times (especially for 5) I function under the assumption of a group that is at least trying to be the least bit serious, i.e. not trying to solo pantheons at level 1, and all views are strictly personal.

1)Yes but with many exceptions.It is not exactly your job to tell a story. In that case you would be better off writing a novel. While I accept the premise of co-operative storytelling (which I assume the op meant) and that rules should be the least of concerns, there are many other factors in a game, such as consistency -both of the story and the world- and immersion.

2)Depends on the game. Traditionally D&D is associated with heroic deeds, but what about CoC or Paranoia? Of course the deeds of the PCs should reflect on the world and they should be properly compensated ethically and reap the benefits but on a proper scale.

3)Well, not really. When there is a vast world out there, events are going to happen even outside the reach of the PCs. Not saying that random NPCs should barge in and hog the spotlight on a regular basis, but players should be aware of their lesser position in a setting.

4)Yes. I agree on this, though it seems to contradict (3) to some extent.

5)Almost yes. This one seems to be the most problematic, as the subject of diversity and play styles comes into account. Perhaps the golden rule would be "Know thy group". On one hand there are people who expect death around every corner, on the other there are many who will pelt you with dice or never show up again if they die (aka almost every group I've GMed in my 10 or so years of playing RPGs). Secondly, examine the matter situationally from setting and story perspective. In Polaris, you expect to die or become corrupted, but know from the start that the game is meant to narrate a tragedy. In D&D, not so much. Random deaths resulting from dice rolls are right out but when a battle is turning sour, you can always talk it out with a player and "foresee" their demise, and maybe even incorporate it in the story. Since 99% of the time I play as GM (only two sessions as player in over a decade), I deal with such matters thinking whether I would enjoy it or not as a player. I would not enjoy dying, ergo my players don't die. I would not enjoy save-or-die/suck, ergo these effects are removed from the game. I would enjoy detailed descriptions of gore and macabre, so they find their way in my games.

6)Yes. Quantitative notions are a byproduct of the system used. If you don't like them, fix it appropriately or use another.

7)Seems legit. Most often you have to say no. Players tend to abuse elements of the setting or even the rule of cool the op proposed.

Siegel
2012-01-23, 04:59 PM
7)Seems legit. Most often you have to say no. Players tend to abuse elements of the setting or even the rule of cool the op proposed.

Ergo, say yes or role dice

Rakmakallan
2012-01-23, 05:16 PM
Ergo, say yes or role dice

Ergo, say no, unless it is appropriate to say yes. *Hates dice, plays almost exclusively diceless*

Frozen_Feet
2012-01-23, 05:23 PM
The only tip I completely agree with is 4. 6 is in the right direction, though with the addendum that in many system, a simple numeric bonus can allow for things that would've otherwise been impossible.

1, 5 and 7 I disagree with because following them detracts from the game part of RPGs. When I bring rules to the table, I bring them to be used. Part of the point is having fun within the framework of those rules. If I have to constantly compromise the rules or can't expect others to follow them, the whole experience is watered down.

When a game calls for random chance, random chance is followed. But the trick is: GM chooses elements of the game. If you don't like random chance, you don't include elements that require it! This is called not pointing a gun at things you're not willing to shoot. It's part of the game to accept that whenever dice are rolled, the result is meaningful - they're not inherently less worthy because they weren't planned beforehand!

Sure, the results might be anti-climatic, but that's another thing, and is mostly a matter of attitude - in games like D&D (or many card games), where luck factors in greatly, it's part of being a good sport to be willing to stick to the outcome.

2 and 3 I disagree with on principle. What if you make clear to the players that they're supposed to be heroes, yet they still don't live up to it? Why on earth should I hand that position and all that comes with it to them within the game, if it fits them like a wrong hand's glove? Treating player characters as something they're not goes againt the roleplaying part of RPGs; it only serves to break verisimilitude of the setting if the PCs are treated as something they clearly aren't.

eulmanis12
2012-01-23, 06:03 PM
The players don't necesarily need to be the biggest heroes around. I run a lot of historical campaigns and my charecters are generaly ordinary/semi-ordinary soldiers, often bumping into "actual" (read existed in real life) heroes. For instance, just the other day, they were part of Washingnton's crossing of the Deleware river, Note one of them is a seargent, one a corporal, the rest are just privates, none are high ranking, or signifigantly distinguised in game from the rest of the common soldiers. Though they have bumped into NPC's that are more "Heroic" than they can be such as Daniel Morgan, Anthony Wayne, Patrick Henry, Paul Revere, and the like. (for those who haven't guessed yet this campaign is based on the American Revolution, completely realistic, no magic.)

Overall we still have a lot of fun despite the spotlight not always being on the charecters, them not always being the big heroes, etc. They are still the "heroes" of their story, but their story is just part of a larger event with its own, admittedly pre-determined, heroes.

shaddy_24
2012-01-23, 06:05 PM
I'd just like to point out that all the other rules are under the pervue of rule 1. "Players should choose their deaths" unless it's more fun otherwise. "PCs should be heroes from level 1" unless it's more fun otherwise.

I've run games on both sides of those rules. I've had a game where I blatently fudged rolls in front of the players because I'd rolled 6 critical hits in a row and someone was already unconscious before they'd managed to do anything. I've had a game where I killed a party member in the first round of his first encounter. It depends on the style of game and what people want to play. In the first, they wanted to keep their character's deaths (if any) to be epic and appropriate. In the second, it was a much more gritty world, where they weren't heroes, they were merely another group of mercenaries. Rule #1 decided how the games would go.

So, what I'm saying, if you don't agree with the other rules, Rule #1 comes into play. If it's more fun to ignore the other rules, ignore them.

Cookiemobsta
2012-01-23, 10:37 PM
I'd just like to point out that all the other rules are under the pervue of rule 1. "Players should choose their deaths" unless it's more fun otherwise. "PCs should be heroes from level 1" unless it's more fun otherwise.


That's an extremely good point, and one I should have pointed out. If your players will have more fun in a game where they die frequently, or where they are insignificant mooks trying to survive, then by all means, run one of those games.

I think that in most cases, players will have much, much more fun when the other rules are followed. I see a nasty trend in many games (Dnd and otherwise) where players need to "earn" fun moments by slogging through something boring or painful because that's "realistic." My post was in part a reaction against that, and partially an opportunity to share what's been very successful around my own gaming table. I'm well aware that every gaming group is different, and different things will be fun for different groups.

But do make sure it's fun :) Do what works for your table--as long as rule 1 is followed, everything else will fall into place.

Jerthanis
2012-01-23, 11:25 PM
1) The rule of fun is the only rule.

Yes, but interesting stories, immersive worlds, and the occassional failure are part of the fun. Saying to forego these in favor of fun is like saying to forego food in favor of taste when preparing dinner.



2) The party should be heroes from day 1.

Heroes in the sense that they are the protagonists, yes. In an action game this will often mean they should be badasses, but part of the point of having advancement systems is to mirror the character arc of the characters growing as people until they can overcome their challenges. A sense of scale can be built up when the world is developed over time and then threatened that won't be there when the world is in peril in the very first session. Some of the greatest games can start with the characters attending a simple carnival because of the contrast when they save the world later.



3) Keep the spotlight on the PCs at all times

Agreed 100%


4) Make memorable, recurring NPCs.

Agreed 110%


5) PC death should always be chosen by the player.

I'll agree in story-heavy games, because a death at the wrong time of the wrong character can make a story move in an unwanted direction. In the game I'm currently in, one character is secretly the last living legitimate heir of the kingdom and several other characters are going to betray the Harpers for his sake. If he were to die, the game stops being about a power struggle over a throne and starts being... 'stuff happening'. So his character dying would probably harm the story. However, sometimes a death will actually help the storyline in unexpected ways, so you can't be totally unwilling to ever see the end of a character outside the plan.



6) Think qualitative, not quantitative for rewards and penalties

Sure, but I wouldn't go so far as to universally call quantitative rewards boring across the board... for instance, a +4 Cloak of Charisma item might give a Bard an additional casting per day of many of his spell levels, enabling more interesting, diverse and intrinsic powers than a Cloak of the Bat would.


7)Say "Yes" unless you have to say "No"

Sure, as long as you're not saying yes to absurd and impossible things like "I'll do a spacewalk naked and survive by holding my breath" or "Could you have the barmaid really be a chicken who was polymorphed into a human and doesn't remember it?"



1) Fun is more important than realism.

You seem to be making the point that PCs should have a call to action to a quest beyond their qualifications and I agree, but it has to have verisimillitude... the appearance of reality or justification. If Luke Skywalker were just some kid, Obiwan would have had no business getting him caught up in the war. If Obiwan hadn't had the story of his father being a Jedi, Luke and his player would both have the reasonable question of "Why is this guy so intent on getting me to come along? What's so special about me? I got my ass kicked by that Orc guy and he had to save my stupid life."

Sure, PCs take center stage and more is asked of them than they can reasonably be expected, and so when they deliver it signifies growth, but they can't take center stage in direct opposition to reason.


2)Long term fun outweighs short term fun

Basically... use your best judgement and moderation.


4) The DM will have the most fun when the party has the most fun.

I actually find the two groups' fun levels don't have a particularly strong correlation, and neither do the fun levels of different players. Some like some stuff, others like other stuff. I know I've been bored out of my mind as a DM as my players have an absolute blast doing things like running around naked with flamethrowers, and I've been bored as a player while another player lovingly describes the logistics of a barbeque that their PC sets up in the game and does things like... roleplay buying ketchup with the friggin' sales clerk and stuff like that.

Basically, who is having fun at a table is not simple to break down. It is true that as a DM, it's your responsibility to make the game fun for the players, but it's the players' responsibility to make it fun for you and each other as well.

Mikeavelli
2012-01-24, 04:00 AM
#2 is getting a lot of disagreement here, but I feel it is utmost important.

Especially combined with #3, the spotlight is on the players.

What the players are doing is important. They are at the center of the action, they are the movers and shakers of the world, they are the important ones.

When starting a campaign, I always try to make the very first adventure something important, even at low levels. They save the village, solve the mystery, explore the ancient ruins, and people notice. The rest of the game doesn't even have to be planned out, it naturally follows from the fact that NPC's notice the players are especially good at getting things done, and seek them out.

This philosophy is directly at odds with...




You save the village from the kobolds. Great. They can't afford to put up a bloody statue, and there's certainly no time for parades in summer when everyone has a farm to take care of. The mayor thanks you, you get your pay. The bartender probably knows your name. That's great. The guy from the next town over? Doesn't know you from John Doe.


No No No No, A thousand times no! you have saved their lives, they are very grateful. They can't afford much, but you're always welcome in their town. The mayor thanks you, and gives you a letter of recommendation to the Baron in charge of the entire Barony.

NPC's have heard the stories, your party is good at what they do, but that was just a backwater, this is real, how do you measure up?

When it turns out the PC's really do have what it takes, NPC's take notice. The scale expands, their fame grows, people seek them out for advice, missions, maybe even vengeance.

[hr]

I've read a lot about "realism," or making sure the PC's "Know their place" - that there are bigger things out there. Deciding to do something because, "It's more realistic this way" has very, very rarely ever turned out to be a good decision in game.

Realism is boring, it distorts game balance (Fighters can't have nice things because it's "not realistic"), and it's blatantly out of place in a world where people can throw fireballs from their fingertips and teleport across the planet.

"Knowing their place" and keeping the PC's in line is usually a sign of overreacting to past experiences with munchkin/powergamer players at best, and blatant railroading at worst. Please for the love of Boccob whenever you're making a decision with this justification, don't do it!

Blacky the Blackball
2012-01-24, 04:52 AM
1) The rule of fun is the only rule.

Your job as DM is not to tell a great story.
It's not to build an immersive world.
Nor is it to obey and enforce the rules.

Your job as DM is to make the game fun for the players.
Period.

Agree.


2) The party should be heroes from day 1.

The PCs should feel like they are the A-team. They should be accomplishing heroic acts that NPCs are in awe of--and they should be doing this from the very first session.

Disagree.

Being a hero is that much sweeter if you've had to struggle to get there, not just having it handed to you on day 1.


3) Keep the spotlight on the PCs at all times

Similar to rule 2. For PCs to feel like heroes, they should be the most heroic people in the room. Want to have an awesome epic level wizard in your campaign? Great--but instead of putting him in a scene where you can show him off, have him need the PCs help. Want to have an NPC tag along with the PCs? Sure--but make them noncombat so the PCs have the chance to shine.

If at any moment, one of your NPCs is cooler than the party, you are doing your job wrong.


Partially agree.

It's important to have higher level characters around to avoid the feel that the world is "levelling up" with the PCs.

If the PCs establish a higher level NPC as a contact and ally, and then call on that contact for aid, the help the NPC gives should be suitably "cool". Partly to give the PCs something to aspire to, and partly to reward them for the work they put into getting the ally.

Having said that, that's a far cry from a DMPC character who intrusively muscles in on the action and overshadows the party when the party don't want it.


4) Make memorable, recurring NPCs.

One of the most powerful ways to get the PCs invested in the game world is by allowing them to build relationships with NPCs in the game world. So create memorable NPCs, and then bring them back regularly. If a kindly old wizard gave the party their first quest, maybe later suggest that they return to him so he can decipher a scroll they found.

Agree.


5) PC death should always be chosen by the player.

It's no fun to be killed by a lucky crit. If a character dies, it should be because the player has chosen that--either they want to roll a new character, or they see an very epic way for their character to go out. If the player has not chosen to let their character die, their character should never die. Have the character fall unconscious, be captured, lose an eye, whatever--but never die. This goes back to the rule of fun--it's not fun to lose a character you invested months into.

Disagree strongly.

If the risk of dying from a "lucky crit" isn't there then combat goes from an exciting life-or-death struggle to a "see how many enemies I can kill, aren't I awesome" pantomime.

The players know the rules of the game. Every time they do something that has a chance of killing their characters, they are implicitly "choosing" to let their character die by the very act of taking the risk. If I fudged things to keep my players' characters alive every time they took a calculated risk and it didn't pay off then they'd rightly feel cheated.

Besides, D&D (in most editions) balances the "Zap! You're dead!" moments with "Zap! You're better!" spells and abilities. Dying does not mean permanently losing the character you've invested months into.


6) Think qualitative, not quantitative for rewards and penalties

Numbers are boring. A sword that adds +2 to a roll is boring.

Abilities are exciting. A sword that lets you run up a wall is exciting.

Agree.


7)Say "Yes" unless you have to say "No"

If a player asks you whether the inn has a bard, say "Yes" unless there's a very good reason the inn should not have a bard. Chances are, the player has a cool idea that involves a bard, and by saying that there is a bard there, you allow that cool idea to happen.

Agree, within reason.

Cookiemobsta
2012-01-24, 03:45 PM
I've read a lot about "realism," or making sure the PC's "Know their place" - that there are bigger things out there. Deciding to do something because, "It's more realistic this way" has very, very rarely ever turned out to be a good decision in game.

Realism is boring, it distorts game balance (Fighters can't have nice things because it's "not realistic"), and it's blatantly out of place in a world where people can throw fireballs from their fingertips and teleport across the planet.

"Knowing their place" and keeping the PC's in line is usually a sign of overreacting to past experiences with munchkin/powergamer players at best, and blatant railroading at worst. Please for the love of Boccob whenever you're making a decision with this justification, don't do it!

A thousand times this. Setting up your world or campaign in such a way to remind the PCs that they are puny and insignificant rarely results in a fun campaign--because Dnd is fantasy escapism, and who wants to escape to a world where they are puny and insignificant?

Sure, it's fine to have challenges that are too big for the PCs to overcome (at least at first.) It's fine to punish PCs with a stint in the local prison if they decide that at level 3 they'll let a tavern brawl turn into a fight against the entire town. But the PCs should feel like heroic adventurers--heroic adventurers just starting out, perhaps, but still heroic.

Often times when a DM insists on forcing the PCs to be puny and insignificant, it's because the DM is letting their vision of the game world or of "realism" interfere with what's best for the game. DMs should never do this. I don't care if you've spent 20 hours writing up a campaign setting; if part of the campaign setting is just not fun, throw it out the window and do something fun. The rule of fun is the only rule.

Kaun
2012-01-24, 04:27 PM
A thousand times this. Setting up your world or campaign in such a way to remind the PCs that they are puny and insignificant rarely results in a fun campaign--because Dnd is fantasy escapism, and who wants to escape to a world where they are puny and insignificant?

Not a lotr's guy?

I have played in games where i was a tiny cog in the scheme of things, just because i can't change the world doesn't mean i can't have fun with it.


The rule of fun is the only rule.

Who's fun are we talking about? because of the 6 or so people that generally sit around my table (myself included) they all enjoy very different aspects of the game (that's not to say they don't have common elements they enjoy as well.)

kyoryu
2012-01-24, 04:49 PM
I have played in games where i was a tiny cog in the scheme of things, just because i can't change the world doesn't mean i can't have fun with it.


The point of starting out as a cog is that eventually you *can* change the world. I saw a "greyhawk design goals" list once that said something like "Greyhawk is bigger than the characters. But the characters can become as large as Greyhawk." That's a reasonable summary of how I feel.

horseboy
2012-01-25, 07:34 AM
:smallconfused: I'm confused. Is this just advice for newb DM's or all DM's. It's solid advice for Newbs because they've got so much to deal with their first time out, but much like the oversimplification of any subject in grade school, it doesn't hold out as being right when you start getting more advanced.


1) The rule of fun is the only rule.

Your job as DM is not to tell a great story.
It's not to build an immersive world.
Nor is it to obey and enforce the rules.
This is a good idea for a newb GM, however, for an experienced one you learn that it's not your job to tell a story, but to facilitate the players telling theirs. There's a slight difference, but that's what makes you a "great" GM. One of the best ways to facilitate player fun is with an immersive world. It's why Bethesda wins "Game of the Year" every single game. Learn first to tell a great story, then learn to facilitate others in telling theirs. "First learn walk, then learn fly. Nature's rule Daniel-san, not mine.



2) The party should be heroes from day 1. Good idea for a newb DM to keep in mind, especially with a newb group, however several people have brought up the difference between "hero" and "protagonist".



3) Keep the spotlight on the PCs at all times It's important for the newb DM to not purposefully create the annoying overpowered DMNPC. Eventually you will learn how to interweave the overpowered NPC's into a setting without rocking the boat.


4) Make memorable, recurring NPCs. This is true, and indeed is one of the reasons an immersive world is fun. Oh, don't really worry much over their names. The player's aren't going to remember, and will likely come up with their own, usually unflattering nick names. One or two syllables.


Also, one particularly good recurring character trope is the "Ultros" character. Ultros is an octopus from final fantasy 6 that would come back repeatedly to throw a wrench in the party's plans. He wasn't a true villain--he wasn't evil per se--but he was always opposed to the party. Having a character like that can be very useful. Oh dear God no! If you put something in front of a player they're going to kill it. If it survives the first encounter it's not going to survive the second that it actively opposes the party. If your going to do this, it has to be running parallel to the party. They'll likely still end up trying to kill it and takes it's stuff, but rarely the NPC may actually survive and become a useful exposition tool.

5) PC death should always be chosen by the player.

It's no fun to be killed by a lucky crit. It is far more fun to be killed by a lucky crit than it is to be coddled the whole time. It's far better to not have "random fights" in an RPG than it is to not let them die in one. If the fight doesn't serve the purpose of the story, why are you wasting the player's time with it? If the fight serves a purpose then it's perfectly acceptable for the character to die in it.


6) Think qualitative, not quantitative for rewards and penalties

Numbers are boring. A sword that adds +2 to a roll is boring.

Abilities are exciting. A sword that lets you run up a wall is exciting.
Honestly, you need both. A sword that adds +2 to being able to run up walls is both things and provides the player with an idea of just how good they are at being able to run up walls.



7)Say "Yes" unless you have to say "No" Kinda sorta. This generally works well with facilitation, however always remain true to your NPC's as well. This maintains verisimilitude. It's also why you shouldn't really bother with rails, as an enterprising player is just going to hop them anyway at a stop you'd never have come up with yourself in a million years. Keeps it fresh for everybody.




1) Fun is more important than realism. Realism or verisimilitude is important in that you have to have it to maintain player agency. If a player can't realistically have a decent guess of their action's repercussions, they're going to be whipped into the passivity corner. Agency is fun, so verisimilitude is fun.


2)Long term fun outweighs short term fun
This I'll agree with and is really what you should have said.

3)The party doesn't need to know to see behind-the-scenes.


I have never killed a member of my party unless the player was willing. But I don't tell my players this. For all they know, every combat could be their last. They feel the same sense of danger and realism, but I protect them from the pain of losing a character.So you protect them from the pain of growth? Seems odd.


4) The DM will have the most fun when the party has the most fun.

If you are having fun and your party is not having fun, you are doing a terrible job as a DM.

If your party is having fun, you will have a very hard time not having fun as well.

Focus on the fun of the party, and your fun will follow.Well....sometimes it's fun as a GM to make the party squirm and cry. A really good example of this is Tomb of Horrors. Heck I sent a pre-established group into there. They're cursing and screaming the whole time they're there, but the challenge and that they're "winning" on their own rather than me coddling through it fills them with pride that hand holding would never give them.

Eldan
2012-01-25, 01:57 PM
Yes. The most fun I can have as a DM is sitting behind my screen, steepling my hand and smiling while the party is planning a mission. Maybe rattle my papers a little. Throw in a few "heh"s and "Are you sure?" for good measure. Making them sweat blood is great fun.

That said, the players enjoy that too, I hope, so it's still true.

Cookiemobsta
2012-01-26, 10:58 AM
Yes. The most fun I can have as a DM is sitting behind my screen, steepling my hand and smiling while the party is planning a mission. Maybe rattle my papers a little. Throw in a few "heh"s and "Are you sure?" for good measure. Making them sweat blood is great fun.

That said, the players enjoy that too, I hope, so it's still true.

If the players are having fun, then you're doing a good job. But it is easy to assume the players are having fun when in reality they're really just tolerating what's going on. Doing debriefs every now and then--what did you like, what did you not like, what new thing would you like to have happen--can help you be a better DM. Not that you have to take the players suggestions, but if you know where they're at you can at least take that into consideration when you're planning.

Polarity Shift
2012-01-26, 11:20 AM
I read the first line and then stopped because I could tell the entire list would be dead wrong.

Solaris
2012-01-26, 02:20 PM
I read the first line and then stopped because I could tell the entire list would be dead wrong.

Nonsense, some of it is decent. It's deeply player-centric and... perhaps a bit shallow, but not 'dead wrong'.

Emmerask
2012-01-26, 02:22 PM
Well the list is not "wrong" in itself, its just that the list is not universally true for every group.
People want different things from their games and therefore creating such a list will almost never be true for evryone... though the first line actually is pretty true for a great majority of dms...

Solaris
2012-01-26, 02:53 PM
Well the list is not "wrong" in itself, its just that the list is not universally true for every group.
People want different things from their games and therefore creating such a list will almost never be true for evryone... though the first line actually is pretty true for a great majority of dms...

The first line, sure, but it's when he starts trying to expand upon it that he runs into snags.

Polarity Shift
2012-01-26, 07:08 PM
Nonsense, some of it is decent. It's deeply player-centric and... perhaps a bit shallow, but not 'dead wrong'.

Anything that begins with that line is written by someone that doesn't understand the game or even what they are saying. Some find it fun to intentionally disrupt games. According to that line it's just as acceptable as anything else and the disruptive player has just as much right to ruin the game as the constructive players have to play it. Good luck actually convincing people that destroying a game makes you in the right unless the game is completely terrible. If it is, you have worse problems.

It's also the hallmark of the screw the rules crowd. If you're not going to play by the rules why are you playing at all?

Finally take a look around. If I were completely offbase, most of the posters wouldn't be saying similar things before I posted that I didn't see until after the fact. I'd be the odd woman out.

kyoryu
2012-01-26, 07:38 PM
The rule of fun is pretty clearly the overall #1 rule - if a group isn't having fun, they won't play. But a naive interpretation of that means "if a player thinks it's fun to do something, let them." I'd disagree with that.

A more in-depth reading of that idea would suggest that the overall fun of the group is important, and that following the rules is important because it gives the group a sense of understanding of what they're actually doing. It also allows for the idea of "non-fun" things happening to allow for greater fun in the long run.

For instance, character death may not be "fun", but the possibility of it makes for rather epic stories and heroic actions, as well as making the party actually think about how to accomplish their goals rather than charging ahead blindly. If you remove character death, you also remove a lot of things that also have value and arguably degrade the experience significantly. So in this way, you can argue that following the idea of "The rule of fun is the only rule" in fact means that at times un-fun things should happen.

There's also the fact that different players may be looking for different types of "fun." A traditional 1e game has a different type of "fun" than a game of Burning Wheel. They're both fun, just different. And so the group should have a common idea of what type of fun they're looking for, as catering to one player's desires may make the game less fun for everyone else involved.

Knaight
2012-01-26, 10:27 PM
1) Fun is more important than realism.
2) The party should be heroes from day 1.
3) Keep the spotlight on the PCs at all times
4) Make memorable, recurring NPCs.
5) PC death should always be chosen by the player.
6) Think qualitative, not quantitative for rewards and penalties
7)Say "Yes" unless you have to say "No"


Responding as a player and GM.
1) Sure. That said, unbelievable settings sap fun like nothing else.
2) This depends on the game. If I'm playing Trail of Cthulhu, I don't want to be a hero at all, let alone initially. If I'm playing Qin, then yeah, bring on the heroism. As a GM, the same thing applies.
3) This depends on the player group. It usually works, sure, but I've successfully cut away from the PCs before. For instance, one can transition to a whole new group of characters who are played briefly - my players universally enjoy that, even in cases where the people they are playing temporarily are directly at odds with their original characters.
4) Yes.
5) Yes, but with caveats. It must be chosen, it need not be chosen on the spot. If I'm joining a Trail of Cthulhu game, I agreed right then and there for my character to die horribly somewhere. In others, they will die if and when I decide they will.
6) I really don't see the "reward-penalty" model as useful. That said, sure.
7) Again, sure.

Given the variety, this just further confirms why communication is a good thing. If one player thinks that death is on the table, and another thinks it is off, somebody is going to be disappointed. That remains true with "death" replaced by any number of other things that can happen in a game.

Also, I'd like to just formally point out at this point that the list is not billed as just being about D&D, and as such really breaks down at the extremes. There are games which don't even have GMs, which can safely be ignored - but then there are games with variable GMs (e.g. Shock: Social Science Fiction) which behave entirely differently. Similarly, in some games "the PC" makes no sense, such as in Pendragon and Ars Magica which have generational play mechanics and troupe play mechanics, respectively.

Solaris
2012-01-27, 12:01 AM
Anything that begins with that line is written by someone that doesn't understand the game or even what they are saying. Some find it fun to intentionally disrupt games. According to that line it's just as acceptable as anything else and the disruptive player has just as much right to ruin the game as the constructive players have to play it. Good luck actually convincing people that destroying a game makes you in the right unless the game is completely terrible. If it is, you have worse problems.

I somehow doubt the OP had those people in mind when he said "The rule of fun is the only rule". If something is fun for only one person there and decidedly not fun for the rest of the crew, it seems it'd be in violation of even the OP's simplistic, anti-DM idea of the rule of fun.
In other words, you're straw-manning. Don't. There's plenty wrong with the 'Seven Tips' to take on without drawing things to absurdity.


It's also the hallmark of the screw the rules crowd. If you're not going to play by the rules why are you playing at all?

I find the problem there is that the group doesn't like the ruleset as presented and comes up with their own. I find nothing wrong with that. It's not my cup of tea, but it's no problem of mine.


Finally take a look around. If I were completely offbase, most of the posters wouldn't be saying similar things before I posted that I didn't see until after the fact. I'd be the odd woman out.

You're pretty much the only one who dismissed everything completely without acknowledging that there might be something salvageable in there (hey, he's got almost the right idea when it comes to NPCs... almost)... so yes, you are the odd woman out.

Polarity Shift
2012-01-27, 09:12 AM
I somehow doubt the OP had those people in mind when he said "The rule of fun is the only rule". If something is fun for only one person there and decidedly not fun for the rest of the crew, it seems it'd be in violation of even the OP's simplistic, anti-DM idea of the rule of fun.
In other words, you're straw-manning. Don't. There's plenty wrong with the 'Seven Tips' to take on without drawing things to absurdity.

Even then, the rest of my post goes on to describe what happens when you interpret it in less absurd ways.

It's also possible that in a game of 4 players and 1 DM 3 players decide to ruin the game. Same scenario except now a majority is doing it. That still doesn't make it right to ruin games however, despite some people finding it enjoyable to do so.

The point I was making is that since different people enjoy different things and it is likely those desires will conflict at least a little, saying that fun is all that matters is the same as saying nothing at all.


I find the problem there is that the group doesn't like the ruleset as presented and comes up with their own. I find nothing wrong with that. It's not my cup of tea, but it's no problem of mine.

It's more buying something and then not using it. Why not just not buy it? That mentality also tends to provoke everything from fumble rules to "fixes" that actually fix nothing and make the problems they are intended to fix worse, to you can't because I said so and I don't like it type rules.


You're pretty much the only one who dismissed everything completely without acknowledging that there might be something salvageable in there (hey, he's got almost the right idea when it comes to NPCs... almost)... so yes, you are the odd woman out.

The ruleset is clearly intended to be taken as a whole. If it starts off that completely offbase I'm not going to have much confidence it will get better. When most of the other people that are responding are saying only 1 or 2 of them are right but are also contradictory, broken clocks are the first thing that comes to mind.

Cookiemobsta
2012-01-29, 09:05 PM
The point I was making is that since different people enjoy different things and it is likely those desires will conflict at least a little, saying that fun is all that matters is the same as saying nothing at all.


You might have moments that are more fun for some players and less fun for other players, but very rarely should there be moments where one or more of your players are not having any fun at all. If that's happening, it generally means that something is going wrong and you need to fix it. Even if one player is having a spotlight moment, it should be an engaging and interesting enough spotlight moment that the other players enjoy observing. If one (or multiple) players are griefing and causing another player to not have any fun at all, you need to deal with it. Fun should never be taken at another player's expense.

Anderlith
2012-01-30, 12:01 AM
1) The rule of fun is the only rule.

Your job as DM is not to tell a great story.
It's not to build an immersive world.
Nor is it to obey and enforce the rules.

Your job as DM is to make the game fun for the players.
Period.
The DM's job is to tell a great story. That's it. Not all stories are fun at all times. Read A Song of Ice & Fire. Not fun, but I would love to play in that setting. It is the DM's job to inforce the rules or it is just a group of people sitting around saying "yeah I'm totally awesome & can cut a mountain in half. What do you mean my strength isn't that high? Why can't I crush people with my bare hands? So unfair!!!"



2) The party should be heroes from day 1.
No. Frodo wasn't a hero in the beginning. He did a lot of walking & fought some undead in a barrow. & cried a lot. Actually he had to be saved by an NPC, most of the party did a one point or another. Many heroes have to be saved by NPC's or they would have died. Heroes are heroes because of what they choose saying on a character sheet that you saved an orphanage from a pyromaniac wizard is one thing. Actually rolling dice to do it is another. A character should develop into a myth. Starting as one kind of like being a Pro Athlete without a rookie season. Players should be exceptional but that doesn't mean that they have to be heroes.


3) Keep the spotlight on the PCs at all times
Does the spot light stay on only one person in a movie? No. What about a book? No. There are other people in the world than you & statistics say that most of them are better than you. This doesn't mean that you should have NPC's doing all the work, that's what adventurers are for.


4) Make memorable, recurring NPCs.
I agree with this for the most part...


5) PC death should always be chosen by the player.
Not really. If by "chosen by the player" you mean that the character decided to stand in front of the four hill giants while the rest of the party was running then yes. If you mean that they don't die unless they want to then no. This removes all sense danger to the player. Fear is a great thing to have in a game. Not to the point where they don't want to take any action, just to the point where they don't take obviously stupid decisions.


6) Think qualitative, not quantitative for rewards and penalties
Meh yes & no. You need stats on your sheet but that doesn't mean that they can't be layered in an inch or two of fluff.


7)Say "Yes" unless you have to say "No"
Again I disagree, while you should refrain from saying "No" this does not mean you should say "Yes". To flat out deny a player something is stupid. If their is no reason something should happen do not shoehorn it in. It's like reading the Neverending Story, but you are constantly scribbling in the margins about what would make it sooo much "cooler"




3)The party doesn't need to know to see behind-the-scenes.

I have never killed a member of my party unless the player was willing. But I don't tell my players this. For all they know, every combat could be their last. They feel the same sense of danger and realism, but I protect them from the pain of losing a character.

4) The DM will have the most fun when the party has the most fun.

If you are having fun and your party is not having fun, you are doing a terrible job as a DM.

If your party is having fun, you will have a very hard time not having fun as well.

Focus on the fun of the party, and your fun will follow.

Look if you can think of a way that outside forces can help the PC's then that is a good thing (I've had NPCs come help the PCs but only if their was a rational explanation for them doing it in the first place, the only experienced warrior in town shouldn't show up to save the day if the PCs have been jerks to the guy), but don't protect them from death.

Stardrake
2012-01-30, 06:56 AM
Reading through the responses, I think there are a couple of ways in which Rules 2 and 5 are being misinterpreted.

For the first of those - my reading of Rule 2 isn't that the PCs have to be saving kingdoms from day 1, but that what they do should matter. Venturing into the sewers to kill kobolds because you need to reach some arbitrary level before you're allowed to do anything isn't interesting. Rescuing a tavernkeeper's daughter from the kobolds when the town guard couldn't be bothered (or have bigger fish to fry), earning free drinks from the bartender, the awed respect of the nonadventuring regulars, and possibly a romantic entanglement for one of the PCs and/or the notice of the town guard captain as someone who might be useful to help with bigger problems might involve the same combat encounters and lead to a followup adventure that also has the same combat encounters, but is much more satisfying.

Regarding Rule 5 - permission to kill a player's character does not necessarily mean an explicit 'please kill my character' from that player. There are times when, through knowing there's a very real chance of death from an act and doing it anyway, the player is effectively daring fate, the dice, and the DM to do their best to kill the character. Heroically dying in that manner is still fun. Expecting to die heroically and pulling through regardless is awesome.

However, unless that's the type of game you're playing, there are some times when death isn't fun. A random crit from full health to dead in what should have been a routine encounter isn't fun... and that's probably why 3.5 orcs from the monster manual have falchions rather than greataxes (note, though, that a random crit that turns a routine encounter into a crisis does add to the fun). Likewise, dying because a cabal of sorcerors ambushed the party with finger of death spells and statistically someone was going to fail isn't fun, nor is it fun to be in a situation where you know you're going to lose, but the DM gives you no option to get out of it without most or all of the party dying in the process.

(I had one DM once that was a bit like that - if things started going badly enough for the party to want to bug out, he just would not let go. Surrender? Not an option unless the encounter was designed as one where the characters weren't expected to have any viable option besides surrendering - otherwise the monsters would only be content with the deaths of the characters. Attempt to run? You'd better believe they'll use every means at their disposal to chase you down - and when it comes to a foot chase, the typical monster group is generally faster and has better senses (scent is a fairly common ability in the MM) than the typical adventuring party.)

Siegel
2012-01-30, 07:08 AM
There shouldn't be routine encounters

Polarity Shift
2012-01-30, 08:06 AM
You might have moments that are more fun for some players and less fun for other players, but very rarely should there be moments where one or more of your players are not having any fun at all. If that's happening, it generally means that something is going wrong and you need to fix it. Even if one player is having a spotlight moment, it should be an engaging and interesting enough spotlight moment that the other players enjoy observing. If one (or multiple) players are griefing and causing another player to not have any fun at all, you need to deal with it. Fun should never be taken at another player's expense.

You are still missing the point. The point is that if you say fun is all that matters, that legitimizes many things in which (a skewed sort of) fun is destroying the game. That is not the same as saying that enjoying the game does not matter.

It is saying that you need more meaningful and better defined standards.


However, unless that's the type of game you're playing, there are some times when death isn't fun. A random crit from full health to dead in what should have been a routine encounter isn't fun... and that's probably why 3.5 orcs from the monster manual have falchions rather than greataxes (note, though, that a random crit that turns a routine encounter into a crisis does add to the fun). Likewise, dying because a cabal of sorcerors ambushed the party with finger of death spells and statistically someone was going to fail isn't fun, nor is it fun to be in a situation where you know you're going to lose, but the DM gives you no option to get out of it without most or all of the party dying in the process.

The funny thing is that orcs would be less dangerous with a greataxe. In both cases they 2 hit kill people or one crit kill people. The Falchion crits three times more often. By the time you get to the level where this isn't true anymore, you're either not fighting orcs or fighting so many of them that the Falchion still ends up more dangerous.

So it might have been done to make them safer but it didn't work. The real problem is low levels though and not low level enemies.

Jay R
2012-01-30, 04:15 PM
1) The rule of fun is the only rule.

This is true, but only in a sense in which it is unhelpful. Your explanatory text seems to indicate that you don't believe consistent rules, real risks, an immersive world or a great story is fun. This is simply untrue. Many players desire these things, and have less fun without them. Therefore if "the rule of fun is the only rule", then these things should be there.

This rule is acceptable only if all players agree with you in all particulars, or if the person applying this rule rejects everything you think this rule requires.

The best replacement rule is this: "A DM should run games for people whose idea of a fun game is similar enough to the DM's," which does not mean it has to be similar to Cookiemobsta's


2) The party should be heroes from day 1.

Not if "the only rule is the rule of fun", and any players, ever, in any game, want to earn the reward of being heroes.

I would prefer the rule: "The players should be able to have an effect on the scenario fairly early in the game, and to achieve some success from day one."


4) Make memorable, recurring NPCs.

Depends on the scenario. If they are exploring an archipelago, there won't be any recurring NPCs. Besides, this implies that one-shot NPCs don't need to be memorable. How about this: NPCs should be memorable characters, not merely plot points."


5) PC death should always be chosen by the player.

This is equivalent to the proposition that all players, everywhere, are exactly like Cookiemobsta. No. Just no.

"The game should be the kind of game these particular players will enjoy."


6) Think qualitative, not quantitative for rewards and penalties

Numbers are boring. A sword that adds +2 to a roll is boring.

It's an interesting assertion, but players have been excited when they get +2 swords since 1974, and to say otherwise is simply a falsehood. Try this version: "Be creative in your rewards. The ones in the book, but so are new inventive ones."


7)Say "Yes" unless you have to say "No"

Well, yes, I suppose. But since you always try to make the best possible decision, this rule is equivalent to "Say 'No' unless you have to say 'Yes'."

What you mean, I suspect, is "Always give in to player whims unless it destroys the game." If so, then you're actually playing Dungeons and Indulgences.

I prefer "Listen to all requests, and make the best choice after considering all issues, including the other players, and the game itself."

Finally, your rules do not include the following, which I consider crucial:

A. The players must always be given challenges they might not be able to beat.

B. The players should not always win. Winning on the second or third try is far more satisfying.

C. The PCs should not be the only people that matter in the world, even to the PCs.

D. At the start of the game, the DM should have in mind several ways for the PCs to fail. By contrast, it is not his job to find a way for them to succeed.

E. There must be enough rules consistency, and world consistency, that the players know what they can count on.

F. Reward good tactics, consistent characterization, and brilliant ideas. Do not reward just showing up.

And for a superior DM: After a successful venture, the players should always be able to believe that other players might not have done as well with the same characters and situation as they did.

I suspect that my proposed rules are just as biased as yours, but toward the preferences of the players I play with. If so, fine. That just means that people will be able to take potshots at me just as easily as at you, which is only fair.

Karoht
2012-01-30, 05:09 PM
1) The rule of fun is the only rule.
2) The party should be heroes from day 1.
3) Keep the spotlight on the PCs at all times
4) Make memorable, recurring NPCs.
5) PC death should always be chosen by the player.
6) Think qualitative, not quantitative for rewards and penalties
7)Say "Yes" unless you have to say "No"
I generally agree with everything here, to a point. I think that point, or the line drawn by DM's, varies from person to person, and where to draw the line is going to be different for every playgroup. That said, some specific thoughts I had. Not issues, thoughts.

2) The party should be heroes from day 1.
Yes, they are level 1 mooks. They can still save the day, provided the day can even be saved by level 1 mooks. It's not impossible to turn zeroes into heroes at level one. Usually this is the hook that starts the ball rolling for the plot. Sometimes not though. The challenge here is to keep it appropriately challenging.

3) Keep the spotlight on the PCs at all times
Gain the initiative and keep the ball rolling. After a while the players will likely make themselves the center of attention. However, remember that any player, with the spotlight on them for long enough will either run out of material, or light something on fire to keep the ball rolling. Be careful.


4) Make memorable, recurring NPCs.
This is storytelling 101.

5) PC death should always be chosen by the player.
Lucky crits do suck, and feel arbitrary. This I agree with. As for the realm of Save VS X effects, the DM should never be throwing something at their players that can make these kinds of checks to the point where success is nigh impossible, and not without some kind of recourse. Resurrection is pretty much universally an option, albeit not a great option in all cases.
On the other hand, if the player dies while doing something stupid, most would consider that choosing their death to some extent. Choosing to greatly endanger yourself is in the same vein as choosing death.

Also, while the risk of death may always be present, the actual happenstance can be greatly minimized. Indeed, not every enemy out there is out to kill. Some do take prisoners, some don't. Some take sacrifices to make to their deity/overlord, some don't.

The risk of death is also what makes the heroes the heroes. Make of that what you will.


6) Think qualitative, not quantitative for rewards and penalties
I agree, and there are even provisions for this in just about all of the item creation systems in the game currently. There are weapons that grant whole feats for example, and I've rarely seen DM's use them beyond lucky rolls on the item drop. It can also make swapping items out during combat a bit more interesting as well. IE-A Two-Handed Sword that lets me use Whirlwind is great when I'm fighting lots of mooks, but that 1-handed Rapier that grants me Flurry of Blades (Flurry of Blows with a sword) is a bit better for fighting one guy.

7)Say "Yes" unless you have to say "No"
Again, agree to a point. All things in moderation. Some players want absolutely no rails, some don't mind being on the rails so long as the direction is favorable. Again, entirely dependant on the playgroup. Also, it can become difficult, especially for newer DMs, to know when it's time to say no.

Magnema
2012-01-30, 07:06 PM
I think that most of these hold true for DMs leading new or young players - that is to say, either players who do not have an established playstyle (and one is not immediately obvious from personal experience with that person) or young players (e.g. I DM for middle schoolers, and these are good tips for them; however, were I DMing for my personal friends, I would DM differently). That said, on to the individual points:

1) Agree in your idea. Fun should be the ultimate end; story, etc. should be the means to this end.
2) Agree under the condition that "hero" does not mean "save-the-world hero," but rather that they are doing something. The PCs should not be performing "grunt work" (assuming a DnD-3.5-like system in style, and assuming that this style is appropriate for the players - see opening statement).
3) "All" is rather absolute, but in general this is true. If you are new or the players are new to DMing, then, generally, they will not want to listen to you praise a character that is not them. In other words: the PCs should be acting, not listening (unless their chosen action is to listen).
4) Absolutely. Recurring NPCs are often what I perceive to be one of the greatest sources of fun for DM and player alike, and particularly for new players. That said, don't railroad: if the players come up with a legitimate way to kill your BBEG, only let him get away if you can come up with a reasonable reason for him to do so.
5) Yes in theory, but you don't want to ask your player; you want to assess how likely the player is to accept the character's death given the circumstances. If you introduced the game as a tactical wargame, or as a CoC-esque game to begin with, then this is assumed to be a privilege automatically granted to the DM. Otherwise, save death for suitable moments that the PC would enjoy (if in doubt, do not kill): fighting a BBEG, in most cases, fine; random encounter to level up, not so much. In other words: kill the PCs when dramatically appropriate, but in a game like CoC or KAMB, it's always appropriate.
6) Eh... bring a balance. Remember: quantitative aids routine play; qualitative aids interesting play. A +2 sword will help you every fight, but a run-up-walls sword will help you once in a while. If it helps you constantly, though, then it stops being interesting. So, bring to the table quantitative bonuses for day-to-day fun, or qualitative bonuses for that one really fun session, but if you bring to the table a qualitative bonus that is used routinely, then it stops being interesting, and doesn't make for one really fun session, but rather sessions that are routinely boring as one creative idea renders future challenges moot.
7) Yes. However, be liberal with your saying "no." Don't hesitate to say "no" if you feel that something would detract from the game, but don't hesitate to say "yes" if you feel it would not.

Most of the play-style debatable ones hold true for the right audiences, which tend to include those of new players, particularly younger new players. In other words: if trying to wrap someone newly into DnD, these are good tips; if trying to work with an established group, or with players with established preferences, communicate, both ways, those preferences.

Communicate the type of game to the players in any case. If the players have a preferred type of game, note it and attempt to make this game for them, if it is within your "realm of fun"; if they do not, these tips will make for a fun game to default to for most people.

ZakRenning
2012-01-30, 11:54 PM
Wow. Just Wow.

Now I realize many people enjoy the pointless arguing but come one people.

Can't people understand subtext anymore?

1) The point is to have fun. Most people play these games for relaxation. If you are too stressed about a game, you've got a problem. That's what I think Cookie was talking about. It's the end all and be all of the rules. In a essay outline it would be the Thesis and the rest of these "rules" are his body paragraphs on what can augment games.

2) They need to feel needed. My first game I ever played I hated every second of it. I felt useless, and we were useless. We did errands. Nothing else. and then were rewarded with enough money to pay for an inn. The Players need to be appreciated enough so the game is not a "And you will spend the next 3 hours gathering corn! YAY" (Believe me it was not fun)

3) Don't purposefully overshadow the PCS with your DMPC just because you just watched an anime and have a cool character concept. That's all this means. They can have the spotlight on other characters, but just don't make it the NPC show, guest starring some PCS!"

4) Obvious.

5) Alright here we go. My favorite. Summation: Don't be a jerk and kill off you players in bizarro accident random battles. Yes there is realism involved, but is this game realistic? I should hope not too much. If that's how some of you play remind me not to play with you guys :smallwink: I think most people have looked at this one and said "NO! I need to have the power to kill characters because it makes it fun and realistic and they shouldn't cry about it because this is an intense game where the goal is to win!", no. Go back to your corner and chillax a bit. The main thing about this one is to be sensitive to the players. If they are really attached to their character and are having the time of their life roleplaying and you know that their job sucks, fudge the dice. Keep the outside "reality" at bay for them. Whereas if they are fairly indifferent about it, then sure, keep it realistic and keep the mega crits. But as soon as you get angry at a guy for being emotionally distraught about their character's death, realize it's a game, a game that we use to take a break from the outside world.

6) Fairly obvious. Use both, but realize named treasure can be more fun than the +2 stuff.

7) Goes back to 1). Hey this is an MLA format paper! Make it interesting let them be the drivers of the game, and you be the navigator.

Okay so, tl;dr, These are guidelines for augmentation. They are not for all groups, but they can definitely help younger groups. Fantastic list CookieMobsta, I disagree with some, but all in all I like them.

kyoryu
2012-01-31, 01:41 PM
5) Alright here we go. My favorite. Summation: Don't be a jerk and kill off you players in bizarro accident random battles.

Player death should be a result of their decisions. That's my take on it.

If random encounters are a part of the game, then they're there for a reason and aren't really "meaningless." They're a part of the cost of getting from Point A to Point B. Choosing that journey means accepting the risks. Note that this assumes that the players have a choice on taking the journey or not... if not, then see the point about "a result of player decisions."

Even then, a dragon random encounter doesn't mean that the dragon lands at your feet and you roll for initiative. It means you *see* a dragon. If you're low level and smart, it means you scurry for cover and hope it doesn't see you.

If you choose to charge it, well, that's on you.

Karoht
2012-02-01, 01:43 PM
@Lucky Crit Deaths
I turn off crits on most of my NPC's. I say most and not all. Here's why, and how I compensate.
If an enemy can't reasonably challenge them with a regular attack, then having that lucky attack suddenly challenging them just feels too random. I consider leaving crits on for these guys, but usually I don't really bother.
If a regular attack can challenge them, then a crit can and probably will kill someone.

How I compensate? Easy. Enemies with a heigtened +hit chance and usually a matching +damage. If an enemy has any kind of Save VS I play it straight and I don't pull my punches with those. Save or Die spells are usually single target, enemy spellcasters who are faced with a group of adventurers usually tend to focus on the group or area debuffs. I save the nastier save or suck/dies for boss fights, and most of the time they're expected at that point.

Another creative way to deal with crits if you don't want them to completely disappear, turn the damage into bleed damage rather than upfront. Or small amounts of temporary stat damage (IE-Take a minus 1 DEX for 1 hour after that savage blow leaves you somewhat dazed). Or instead of just doubling the damage of a crit, roll a follow up attack at the highest base attack bonus of the NPC. You can use other effects beyond 'take large number of damage, hope you don't die from it' such as sickened, nauseated, dazed, stun, knockdown, trip, disarm, sunder, etc.

Not only does it add a bit of flavor and character to your NPC's but it can greatly even out the damage, and even increase challenge factor, without possibly killing your player party characters in a single attack that they can largely do nothing about. More interesting combat and happier party members are good things, and you can do it without losing challenge factor.

SowZ
2012-02-01, 02:09 PM
Some of the rules can be contradictory. For example, when I play I want to literally feel that I am in the world and literally making the decisions to influence my place in it. I want to remove as much meta element as humanly possible. This is not to say that getting into character cannot be done but I, as a person and a player, want to feel the anxiety my character feels if he or she takes a risky action. So some of your rules seriously contradict the first rule, for me.

I want to feel as if I am carving out my place in the game world. If things get too Monty Haul, I don't feel like I am finding my place in the world. If the universe revolves around me, I can't feel that it is realistic. If I know there is no real chance of death, I absolutely cannot feel, as the player, the emotions my character feels. In character I could, sure, but I want a legitimite challenge as well.

As for the gamist aspect of it, if players are allowed to do awesome things without the relevant skills and don't actually die, the fact that my character is a master acrobat based on skill points or an expert in jump or I've built my character to have awesome saves becomes somewhat meaningless. A better solution is not to throw monsters with save or die effects at the party or monsters that stun a character for the rest of the long battle rather than fudging saves and damage rolls.

Shoot, if your players don't like dying you can easily come up with justifiable reasons before a fairly challenging combat why the enemy is only trying to capture the party not kill them OR give your party a number of expendable items that are very valuable that they don't want to use up since they are limited but will be forced to use if they are losing too bad. I think even for a party that wants things to be fun and epic and free from death will find this much more satisfying. You can make the game a real challenge and a game with consequences and one without die fudging without having player death as a serious concern.

kyoryu
2012-02-01, 04:03 PM
I want to feel as if I am carving out my place in the game world. If things get too Monty Haul, I don't feel like I am finding my place in the world. If the universe revolves around me, I can't feel that it is realistic. If I know there is no real chance of death, I absolutely cannot feel, as the player, the emotions my character feels. In character I could, sure, but I want a legitimite challenge as well.

And I agree, but this is a particular playstyle, and is not necessarily universal. The "the party is going through a big long plot" playstyle is extremely popular, and not killing players makes a certain level of sense in that style of game. Which is pretty much why DragonLance introduced "plot armor" in the 80s.

JamesonCourage
2012-02-03, 07:14 AM
Yes there is realism involved, but is this game realistic? I should hope not too much. If that's how some of you play remind me not to play with you guys :smallwink:
Don't play with me.

big teej
2012-02-03, 01:53 PM
My last character died within three combat rounds. Dire wolves tore his face off because I was stuck on a stupid horse. I never even got to use him. All the work I put into making him was gone within 18 game seconds.

Does that strike you as Fun?

I at least want to be able to last a few fights before my character is mercilessly slaughtered.

backup characters exist for a reason.
I have (as of last counting) 80+ characters ready to see play.

this is also in full knowledge that the typical 3.x DM doesn't kill PCs off in droves like in older editions.

in the event the dice have decided my character's time is up, I happily VERY happily bring in a new character.

in the event that I character is slain before I'm through having fun with him, I shelf him for another game.

it's not like the almighty die of Gygax is going to roll down from the heavens and smite ye for re-using characters.

ZakRenning
2012-02-03, 06:39 PM
Don't play with me.

Which is all good. There are different gaming dynamics, and we shouldn't, myself included, assume everyone plays the same way.

I personally don't like total realism, but other people totally love it. We're human we can't help it :smalltongue:

Sturmcrow
2012-02-03, 09:13 PM
I completely disagree, without the threat of death; the game gets boring. Being captured doesn't sound bad at all nor does falling unconscious, with losing an eye easily remedied with a regenerate spell. If monsters and NPCs can be killed by a lucky crit, so should a player. If you don't want your character to die, don't enter combat(or don't play).

I have to go along with this. Random death is bad, but, I have found players will be disappointed if they feel you save them from bad things happening.

Solaris
2012-02-04, 07:59 AM
it's not like the almighty die of Gygax is going to roll down from the heavens and smite ye for re-using characters.

Hide behind the pile of dead bards!

Z3ro
2012-02-04, 11:17 AM
I have to go along with this. Random death is bad, but, I have found players will be disappointed if they feel you save them from bad things happening.

I don't know about that. My groups often use very liberal rules with regards to deaths, making character deaths rare. But as a result, we get captured and imprisoned all the time. And let me tell you, having to fight your way out of a cell, with no equipment, seconds ahead of fanatics looking to sacrafice you to their dark gods, often leaving your gear behind, is often a bigger punishment then just rerolling a character.

But really it's a win-win for use. We're punished for not succeeding (thrown off the plot, miss the macguffin, losing our gear, etc.), plus there's an interesting escape session. Everyone's happy.

Delwugor
2012-02-04, 12:42 PM
1) The rule of fun is the only rule.
2) The party should be heroes from day 1.
3) Keep the spotlight on the PCs at all times
4) Make memorable, recurring NPCs.
5) PC death should always be chosen by the player.
6) Think qualitative, not quantitative for rewards and penalties
7)Say "Yes" unless you have to say "No"

1) Agree but fun can be different among players.
2) Depends on the game. Sometimes "I want to survive" is really good to play.
3) I'd reword a bit. The game is about the PCs.
4) Memorable yes, recurring is not necessary nor always desirable.
5) There are 10,000 different ways of handling PC death, none of them are necessarily wrong. Personally if my character dies I want to brag about how cool it was.
6) Very good!!!
7) Agreed as long as the GM is not afraid to say "No".

Delwugor's Good GMing Rule:
0) Pay 75% of your attention to the players, 20% to the game and 5% to the rules.

big teej
2012-02-06, 10:05 AM
Hide behind the pile of dead bards!

oddly enough, in my game, it'd be more appropriate to hide behind the dead rangers (though there isn't a 'pile' yet)

Slipperychicken
2012-02-06, 11:15 AM
I like most of these. My thoughts on player death are that it has a place in the world, and being max-damage-critted by Bandit #8 has the effect of making the world seem random or chaotic, much like the dice themselves. Like all things, there needs to be a balance.

I love unique or well-described loot, including ones that leave me scratching my head thinking "How am I going to put this to use?", or "Wow, this world actually has depth". A +1 Adamantium Tower Shield is just a statblock. But if examine it and notice strange emblems and symbols from a time long forgotten, that's memorable, even if you do end up dumping it on a merchant. I think there's a whole web-page somewhere devoted to interesting-but-mechanically-useless items.

Cookiemobsta
2012-02-08, 12:38 PM
backup characters exist for a reason.
I have (as of last counting) 80+ characters ready to see play.


How long does it take you to make a new character? If I'm going to make a new character, it's usually a multi-day process, both to brainstorm the backstory/personality, and to built out the mechanics. For me to make 80+ characters would take a long, long, long time.

big teej
2012-02-08, 12:50 PM
How long does it take you to make a new character? If I'm going to make a new character, it's usually a multi-day process, both to brainstorm the backstory/personality, and to built out the mechanics. For me to make 80+ characters would take a long, long, long time.

it's a cheap answer, but the best one I can give is "it depends"

the biggest determining factors are
1. how inspired the character concept is.
2. how familiar I am with what I'm trying to do (example: melee vs caster)
3. how interested I am in the character (which I do differentaite from inspired)
4. how invested I am in the character (which I also differentiate from inspired or interested)
5. sources available (and sources required)
6. if you count 'shopping' as part of char-gen (I do and I don't)
7. how much money I have to spend.
8. level

and an optional
9. if I'm using point buy or 4d6 drop lowest (add a few hours if I'm using point buy)

to illustrate why it depends on so many things, allow me to describe a few things I know I've done

I have churned out characters of up to level 3 in under an hour.

I've also managed to take 2 weeks to make a level 4 character

I can churn out a Knight or a barbarian in roughly a 1/10th of the time it would take me to create a sorcerer or wizard of the same level (with clerics falling somewhere in the middle)


it also depends on how thorough a backstory the DM wants... if he wants hundreds and hundreds of questiosn answered vs. a short paragraph with some plot hooks, naturally that factors in as well.

/ramble...

EDIT: alternative answer

"you underestimate how often I get to play instead of DM"

Karoht
2012-02-08, 01:03 PM
How long does it take you to make a new character? If I'm going to make a new character, it's usually a multi-day process, both to brainstorm the backstory/personality, and to built out the mechanics. For me to make 80+ characters would take a long, long, long time.I have a friend who used to just make characters in order to get to know various game systems. He had a pretty thick folder full of them as well. If we started a new campaign ever, he not only pulled out something and had the DM approve it, but would usually offer a character or two from the folder to the party.

As for me, when I'm playing character A, I am usually thinking a bit about characters B, C, and D. B is usually in another campaign, C is the backup character that I want to play should A or B end up dead, and D is the concept that I've heard good things about and lightly investigate from time to time.

Right now I'm playing an Oracle in one campaign and a druid in another. If either one die, I have a Cleric that is planned out and would take all of 10 minutes for me to polish up and finish (level dependant, I only stats for level 1 but I have feat and skill selection planed for the current level of the campaign, including my spell list, I would just need the go ahead from the DM and the level at which I enter and my WBL), and D is the Bard that is currently in the works.

Clawhound
2012-02-08, 02:43 PM
On character death, I support the idea that the genre matters.

More specifically, I support the idea that killing a character should not be a random thing. Bad luck happens. We've all had character dies for stupid reason.

In my games, I invented a "brink of death" status to make death a harder to reach. You can certainly still die, and certainly lose, but you have a chance to rescue the dead character. I found that the party got excited and worked hard when those disasters came. That also freed me from having to dish out resurrections.

Yeah, I redefined death. Worked wonders.

kyoryu
2012-02-08, 04:05 PM
In my games, I invented a "brink of death" status to make death a harder to reach. You can certainly still die, and certainly lose, but you have a chance to rescue the dead character. I found that the party got excited and worked hard when those disasters came. That also freed me from having to dish out resurrections.

Yeah, I redefined death. Worked wonders.

I think a lot of the issue with people being anti-character death is due to the fact that "random" death is pretty easy in 1-3e, and especially so in 3e (due to 3X crits).

At any rate, I agree that death should be due to bad decisions, not (solely) bad rolls. One of the things I liked about GURPS is that (in fantasy scenarios, anyway), it's easy to get knocked out, but not so easy to immediately die. Same thing in 4e. In both cases, it allowed me as a DM/GM to keep the party "on the edge" more than in previous editions of the game.

Cookiemobsta
2012-02-08, 05:16 PM
In my games, I invented a "brink of death" status to make death a harder to reach. You can certainly still die, and certainly lose, but you have a chance to rescue the dead character. I found that the party got excited and worked hard when those disasters came. That also freed me from having to dish out resurrections.

Yeah, I redefined death. Worked wonders.

I actually did something very similar. I set it up so that it's impossible to go below 0 HP from one hit. If something would reduce you to less than 0 HP, it just reduces you to 0 HP, and then you bleed out 1 hp per round as normal (without stabilization.) However, if you get hit by something that would normally take you below 0 HP, then you get an injury that you have to carry around for a long time until it heals (the injury would give you a -2 to something, or would cause you damage when you tried to do something strenuous, or whatever.) You can also not be revived until after combat; healing potions can take you back up to 0 HP, but can't bring you back to consciousness (which means that if the danger is constant, the party has to pull your unconscious butt out of there.)

I found this works very well in creating excitement and the feel of costly battle, while still protecting party members from dying to a random crit.

Delwugor
2012-02-10, 08:48 PM
I actually did something very similar. I set it up so that it's impossible to go below 0 HP from one hit. If something would reduce you to less than 0 HP, it just reduces you to 0 HP, and then you bleed out 1 hp per round as normal (without stabilization.) However, if you get hit by something that would normally take you below 0 HP, then you get an injury that you have to carry around for a long time until it heals (the injury would give you a -2 to something, or would cause you damage when you tried to do something strenuous, or whatever.) You can also not be revived until after combat; healing potions can take you back up to 0 HP, but can't bring you back to consciousness (which means that if the danger is constant, the party has to pull your unconscious butt out of there.)

I found this works very well in creating excitement and the feel of costly battle, while still protecting party members from dying to a random crit.
*Hefts Dwarven battle axe in salute to your great idea.*

Cookiemobsta
2012-02-15, 11:21 AM
*Hefts Dwarven battle axe in salute to your great idea.*

Huzzah! I based it off of Dragon Age 1 style combat, where having a character go down hurt (since injuries lasted until you return to camp or use up a injury kit), but where you can still survive even if only one of your characters is left standing. Since implementing this new rule I've had two characters get knocked to 0 HP and it's increased the excitement dramatically.

SowZ
2012-02-15, 02:09 PM
Huzzah! I based it off of Dragon Age 1 style combat, where having a character go down hurt (since injuries lasted until you return to camp or use up a injury kit), but where you can still survive even if only one of your characters is left standing. Since implementing this new rule I've had two characters get knocked to 0 HP and it's increased the excitement dramatically.

That's interesting and I like it. Have you had any deaths since this new rule?

A recent implementation in my games is that you have to go negative your Constitution score plus your level before dying.

Not to say one is better than the other, but making death a little less of an issue can be a good idea, especially with newer players.

Ozreth
2012-02-15, 10:28 PM
Whoa, this is crap. Especially number five! I would never play in an RPG where I only knew I would die if I chose to. Without the fear of making poor decisions and dying whats the point of playing? It's just silly then.

And the rest of your points are totally subjective. I don't want to be doing crazy heroic things at early levels.

You also need to consider that lots of people play different editions, and earlier editions cater to VASTLY different play styles.

Knaight
2012-02-16, 06:29 PM
Whoa, this is crap. Especially number five! I would never play in an RPG where I only knew I would die if I chose to. Without the fear of making poor decisions and dying whats the point of playing? It's just silly then.
As we've gone over time and time again, there are consequences other than death.

And the rest of your points are totally subjective. I don't want to be doing crazy heroic things at early levels.

You also need to consider that lots of people play different editions, and earlier editions cater to VASTLY different play styles.
Or, you know, different games, and not just different editions. D&D isn't the totality of the industry, let alone the hobby.