View Full Version : DM Help GM help?

2016-11-03, 11:39 AM
This is a frightening admission to post. I've never been a GM for a game that's lasted this long, and I'm being stretched past what I've thought I could do. A year ago, I started a mid-level D&D game with monsters as PCs and since then, I've run through a lot of my prepared content and I've had to scrap a good deal of other prepared material (because seriously, few plans survive contact with PCs). In no way am I frustrated with this outcome: I'm grateful and surprised the game has lasted longer than a year. Still, I have some concerns.

This game I've designed has many possible ending I've thought about, but I have a sense that my stamina for this game is running low, which is a frightening feeling. I don't want to quit, and I want to see it through, it's just a strange sensation. It's like I'm close to both a breakdown and a breakthrough. I'm not sure what advice I need, really, because I've never been in this situation.

Can any of you playgrounders offer some advice?

2016-11-03, 12:33 PM
Well, first, don't DM if it's not fun for you anymore. The game will suffer and players can always sense somethings off.

If you're not sure where to go next, let the players lead you there. Work on you're improvising skills and let the players run loose. Without having specifics about your game it'd be hard to tell you exactly what direction to send them in next, so I'd say let them do it.

If you've never run a game this long, you may be feeling a little burnt out. This is fine, and it happens. DMing can take a lot out of you. Ask your players if one of them would like to DM for a little while and give you the chance to play a bit. Being on the other side of the screen can help you to see player interactions you've never noticed before, and you get to take a break from DMing while the game continues on. It can give you time to plan a next move and just relax. Play a big dumb barbarian type character who's primarily good at hitting things with a big stick. Become endearing to the party. And then when you take back over, kill your character dead to kick off the next leg of the adventure.

2016-11-03, 01:10 PM
Firstly, congratulations. A year is actually longer than many campaigns go on for. To have kept your players engaged is good.

I would start by thinking exactly what you mean when you say you want "to see it through". What does through mean to you. Do you have an end to the arc? Or by through do you mean until the players die? Until the bad guy is defeated? Or is there some particular content you want to run before the end? Or a combination of these.

If you have an end in sight you can work towards it methodically. You have set up a bad guy for the PCs to kill? Accelerate the end by giving out better loot so the PCs can take him on sooner. They need to find his location - throw an encounter at them with a henchman that can give away information. You want the players on board? Give them a condition that gets worse with time or a threat that's on a clock.

Set yourself a target for how many sessions you want left. Work backwards from the end. So last session is the bad guy fight - so session before is setting that up, what do they need to get there? Now we are missing the motivation to do that now, so lets have the session before that give them the confidence/push to go for the throat on this guy and so on...

2016-11-03, 04:23 PM
This is excellent advice, both of you! Thanks~ I really like the idea of asking tobswap GM roles. That is oddly...exciting for a prospect.

There are a number of conclusions that can go from here in the players' direction, and there is a definite end to the current arc. Taking these two suggestions in tandem is actually a really interesting idea!!

Mr Stabby, your whole post is full of gold, and I wish to digest it further later. Have you had lots of success working backwards?

2016-11-03, 06:54 PM
Having success working backwards... yes and no.

I have never felt the need to tie up a campaign quickly before so not in the sense that you are using it, however I do use it a lot in general planning.

I see an end - usually aiming for a climactic fight and see what the PCs need for it to be plausible. Motivation, information and capability. From these three pillars I can work back to provide an encounter for each, or sometimes one encounter can cover off a couple of these. Each of these in turn needs a Motivation/Information/Capability set up. A lot of these can have multiple set ups - so if you need to get into the drowned temple to close the portal to the elemental plane of water then there may be magic items, spells or pumping equipment that could solve it. I liberally sprinkle the world with different solutions and allow players to contrive their own. I usually want players to have at least two options that I have thought of to solve a problem so they always have a meaningful choice (plus their own suggestions).

Of course when I plan out a world this means a huge tree of possibilities where the players start at the leaves and progress towards the trunk. At the start of the campaign, not seeing the end they are wading around in a sea of seemingly unconnected information and events and gradually they piece them together and build patterns. I tend to plan out in more detail the ultimate plans/resources of the bad guy and the starting information/paths of investigation and keep things more vague in the few steps ahead down the tree so I can accommodate the way the PCs drive things.

So yeah, working backwards works for me but you need to be quite flexible with it - learn the details to plan and the areas to keep high level and you will be fine.

The final thing - take joy in your world. As long as you have fun creating it then it makes the "duty" of being DM less of a drag.