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  1. - Top - End - #1
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    NecromancerGuy

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    Default Opinions on DMing Philosophy

    This post is part rant and part query. First, the rant: I'm co-Marshalling a rather large party of Deadlands characters, and we're currently running through Devil's Tower. My co-Marshal and I had been planning the party for several months and we're about two months into the campaign, so we've frankly butted heads on DMing methodology several times. He, for example, prefers that the session start whenever he arrive, while I get there early and start setting up and so forth, and we're diametrically opposed on whether a player who's forgotten something about the setting should be reminded before or after trying something that is self-destructive.

    Naturally, some of our differences are ones of personality, and it's not those I'm wondering about. My biggest problem right now is that I'm new to DMing a game this involved, so I'm still trying to figure out whether I like the style I seem to naturally assume or the one I can observe in some depth beside me on the table that's born of experience--I can do either, but I'm not vested or confident in either, and that shows. Of course, most of this boils down to opinion, and that's exactly what I'd like more of. So what, good Playgrounders, is your opinion, as a player or as a DM, on:

    1. In-character knowledge trumping player knowledge. If a character is about to do or not do something significantly out of the norm for someone in that setting, do you remind them of where they are before they do it or let them do it without comment? As a toy example, when do you enlighten a player who doesn't know that a gazebo isn't a monster, so attacking it is weird?

    2. Adventure leads. If your players are stumped as to what course of action to next take to fulfill their goals, do you try to make the course of action you have planned out any more apparent or let them discover it as it stands?

    3. Off-session availability. How much of the business of character advancement and things of that sort do you request your players do outside a weekly session to save time? How available are you to answer questions they have regarding the campaign, etc. during this time?

    4. "Ingenious" plans. If the players come up with something totally out of left field and borderline ridiculous (albeit physically possible), do you make it reasonably difficult to try or disallow it?

    5. Silliness of the setting. Basically, Deadlands is a fairly serious setting, but it's got the odd tenet or monster that's just weird as anything. People who know Devil's Tower 3 will know the one we're currently facing, but in general, do you try to maintain a consistent tone or let things be as unusual as the module demands?

  2. - Top - End - #2
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    Default Re: Opinions on DMing Philosophy

    Let me preface my response by saying that I do not consider these questions to have any right or wrong answers. They are completely a matter of preference and the type of game you run. I don't think GMs with strong, diametrically-opposed opinions should be co-GMing, but I don't think either side is necessarily at fault just because their answers to these questions differ.

    Quote Originally Posted by Trekkin View Post
    1. In-character knowledge trumping player knowledge. If a character is about to do or not do something significantly out of the norm for someone in that setting, do you remind them of where they are before they do it or let them do it without comment? As a toy example, when do you enlighten a player who doesn't know that a gazebo isn't a monster, so attacking it is weird?
    It depends entirely on the game and the group. If I'm running a D&D group that mainly wants to hack, slash, and burn their way through a dungeon, then by Kord I'm not going to let the pesky issue of metagaming get in the way of combat strategy and phat loot. If the game is more roleplay-oriented, then I'm going to make them roll knowledge checks and/or go by their character's background when it comes to what monsters they can identify or what information their characters know.

    If they seriously don't know what a gazebo is in real life, then...yeah, they're getting something thrown at them across the table. But I would never penalize a lack of real-life knowledge, however basic, in game.

    Quote Originally Posted by Trekkin View Post
    2. Adventure leads. If your players are stumped as to what course of action to next take to fulfill their goals, do you try to make the course of action you have planned out any more apparent or let them discover it as it stands?
    If they have nowhere to go, 90% of the time it's the GM's fault. Ideally, there should always be more than one option, and the players shouldn't ever be constrained solely to what the GM has planned. If for whatever reason it does happen, the GM should throw the players a bone. Sitting around doing nothing is no fun for anyone.

    Quote Originally Posted by Trekkin View Post
    3. Off-session availability. How much of the business of character advancement and things of that sort do you request your players do outside a weekly session to save time? How available are you to answer questions they have regarding the campaign, etc. during this time?
    Unless a player is new to the system and is likely to need face-to-face help, I expect all advancement, equipment purchases, and ideally character creation to take place outside of sessions. That said, I have a fairly flexible schedule and can virtually always respond to questions, even long or complex ones, within 24 hours.


    Quote Originally Posted by Trekkin View Post
    4. "Ingenious" plans. If the players come up with something totally out of left field and borderline ridiculous (albeit physically possible), do you make it reasonably difficult to try or disallow it?
    Depends on the tone of the game. If it's comedy I'm more likely to let ridiculous things slide. If it's horror (or dark comedy) I'm likely to allow it and then have it go horribly wrong somehow. Otherwise, I go by the rulebook, or my best estimate for verisimilitude if the situation isn't cover in the rules, on how difficult it should be. If they manage the stunt, then well, they were the heroes and it was physically possible.


    Quote Originally Posted by Trekkin View Post
    5. Silliness of the setting. Basically, Deadlands is a fairly serious setting, but it's got the odd tenet or monster that's just weird as anything. People who know Devil's Tower 3 will know the one we're currently facing, but in general, do you try to maintain a consistent tone or let things be as unusual as the module demands?
    I try to maintain a consistent tone within a campaign. If I start one iteration of Deadlands, for example, as serious, then I do my best to keep that campaign serious. The next time I run Deadlands, however, I might decide to make it silly, and I'll do my best to keep that campaign funny and light-hearted.

    I rarely run published modules, but when I do, I run them by themselves with no lead-up or follow-up specifically to avoid clashes in tone and minor setting details.

  3. - Top - End - #3
    Ogre in the Playground
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    Default Re: Opinions on DMing Philosophy

    1. In-character knowledge trumping player knowledge. If a character is about to do or not do something significantly out of the norm for someone in that setting, do you remind them of where they are before they do it or let them do it without comment? As a toy example, when do you enlighten a player who doesn't know that a gazebo isn't a monster, so attacking it is weird?
    If something should be clear to the character, you should explain it.
    (If the player insists, throw the book at them. Literally, if needs be.)

    2. Adventure leads. If your players are stumped as to what course of action to next take to fulfill their goals, do you try to make the course of action you have planned out any more apparent or let them discover it as it stands?
    It's oftne better to let the players find their own way - but at the same time, you need to be giving them many paths to take to get to where you want them.
    Read these: The Three Clue Rule; Don't prepare plots; Node-based adventure design.
    Most important of those is the three clue rule. Add extra clues into all scenarios until you have at least three clues for everything the players need to know.

    3. Off-session availability. How much of the business of character advancement and things of that sort do you request your players do outside a weekly session to save time? How available are you to answer questions they have regarding the campaign, etc. during this time?
    Me, I do not allow "shopping" at the table, and I don't like characters to be advanced at the table - unless everyone is doing it, or the player has a pretty good reason for it. Then again, I run games at a club, and we have a short session to paly in.

    4. "Ingenious" plans. If the players come up with something totally out of left field and borderline ridiculous (albeit physically possible), do you make it reasonably difficult to try or disallow it?
    If the players are being silly, tell them to stop being silly. If their plan is a bit silly, but feasible, then go with it.

    5. Silliness of the setting. Basically, Deadlands is a fairly serious setting, but it's got the odd tenet or monster that's just weird as anything. People who know Devil's Tower 3 will know the one we're currently facing, but in general, do you try to maintain a consistent tone or let things be as unusual as the module demands?
    (Deadlands is a serious setting? Whatever you say - I'll just address your question.)
    Consistency of setting is sort of important to maintaining immersion. If the game is a grim undead apocalypse, then in-character levity is okay, but comedy zombies is probably less okay. Similarly, if in a Star Wars game, a giant space ship turned into a robot maid and hoovered up the atmosphere of the PCs' home world, you'd be leaving the verisimilitude far behind. Conversley, in a funny game about clones backstabbing each other in a farsical absurdist distopia, there's no room for deep political insight or graphic torture.

  4. - Top - End - #4
    Ogre in the Playground
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    Default Re: Opinions on DMing Philosophy

    Quote Originally Posted by Trekkin View Post
    1. In-character knowledge trumping player knowledge. If a character is about to do or not do something significantly out of the norm for someone in that setting, do you remind them of where they are before they do it or let them do it without comment? As a toy example, when do you enlighten a player who doesn't know that a gazebo isn't a monster, so attacking it is weird?
    I remind players of what their characters are supposed to know. Players aren't monkeys dancing for my amusement, they're my fellow storytellers and deserve to be treated as such.

    2. Adventure leads. If your players are stumped as to what course of action to next take to fulfill their goals, do you try to make the course of action you have planned out any more apparent or let them discover it as it stands?
    I introduce new characters or events on the fly that are eventually connected to the larger plot.

    3. Off-session availability. How much of the business of character advancement and things of that sort do you request your players do outside a weekly session to save time? How available are you to answer questions they have regarding the campaign, etc. during this time?
    I'm usually available for my players, though I'd let them decide if they want to do character advancement and the like at the session or outside it.

    4. "Ingenious" plans. If the players come up with something totally out of left field and borderline ridiculous (albeit physically possible), do you make it reasonably difficult to try or disallow it?
    Reasonably difficult. I don't punish creativity.

    5. Silliness of the setting. Basically, Deadlands is a fairly serious setting, but it's got the odd tenet or monster that's just weird as anything. People who know Devil's Tower 3 will know the one we're currently facing, but in general, do you try to maintain a consistent tone or let things be as unusual as the module demands?
    I treat it the way the players treat it. Whatever makes it more fun for them. Personally, I can't stand "silliness" at all, but I'm not that selfish.

  5. - Top - End - #5
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    Default Re: Opinions on DMing Philosophy

    Quote Originally Posted by Trekkin View Post
    So what, good Playgrounders, is your opinion, as a player or as a DM, on:

    1. In-character knowledge trumping player knowledge. If a character is about to do or not do something significantly out of the norm for someone in that setting, do you remind them of where they are before they do it or let them do it without comment? As a toy example, when do you enlighten a player who doesn't know that a gazebo isn't a monster, so attacking it is weird?
    I'd tell the player for a few reasons:
    - players are rarely as involved as the DM about the world and campaign, and they rarely keep as much track about the campaign as does the DM. people are coming to have fun, not for a quiz.
    - it makes more sense the character knows fairly common things. it breaks immersion and spirals the game to silliness if you don't.

    2. Adventure leads. If your players are stumped as to what course of action to next take to fulfill their goals, do you try to make the course of action you have planned out any more apparent or let them discover it as it stands?
    that depends on the group and what is more fun. i do not try and edcuate the players to my way of gaming, i try to find a common ground. if the players liek realism, searching every clue and achieving everything on their own- then no telling. if they are laid back, wanna get on with the story, and so on, then i give a hint or two (often in game) however, the Alexandrian made this great article that both of you should read, that make this a redundant question.

    3. Off-session availability. How much of the business of character advancement and things of that sort do you request your players do outside a weekly session to save time? How available are you to answer questions they have regarding the campaign, etc. during this time?
    we find that any preparations for a journey and so lon really, really bog the game down. So we try to leave major discussions on next destinations and preparations for them out of the game if we can. as for sessions i assume they'll level up in, i tell them to prepare the next sheet at hand, and settle with me any "outside our normal sources" material they wish to bring (spell, feats, magic items and so on)

    I do make myself available, through emails. i don't decide things on the phone. i think of things and then reply. since out meetings are long apart (usually once every 3-4 weeks), the meeting time is Precious, so this helps save valuable game time, and lessen frustrations.

    4. "Ingenious" plans. If the players come up with something totally out of left field and borderline ridiculous (albeit physically possible), do you make it reasonably difficult to try or disallow it?
    gamin is not a solo venture- if you wish to tell a tale- don't DM, write a book. players will do the unexpected, and you should try and deal with it. however, my moto is "choices are many, decisions are difficult, and consequences vary, some not to your liking".

    i make things possible, sometimes easy, but that's the rare case. i like it when players surprise me- these are THE best moments in the game! as a DM it has thrown me off the loop a few tiems. at those cases i say "ok, let's take a 10-15 minutes break, i need to think about this." instead of disallowing it, take the idea as a challenge. not to screw your players for ruining your plan, but rather make things more interesting, mroe fun.

    a few tiems my players did things that were so out of proportion they made me redisng major portions of my campaign. and the result? it GOT BETTER! and the players really, really loved those times- highlights of the game!

    5. Silliness of the setting. Basically, Deadlands is a fairly serious setting, but it's got the odd tenet or monster that's just weird as anything. People who know Devil's Tower 3 will know the one we're currently facing, but in general, do you try to maintain a consistent tone or let things be as unusual as the module demands?
    i have rarely run modules and disliked them, but for other reasons. the thing is however- the module isn't written in stone. it is a basis on which you add modifications (most modules at least in D&D need some reworking), added touches that make it more personal for your PCs and so on.

    players might make silly of serious matters, or take laughable situations seriously. players are like that. i do like to keep the theme of the campaign, but add a few "break of the routine" moments. these however, are especially placed, and have a reason and place, not just "stuck in a dungeon" or the like.

    i hope this helped!

    Kol.
    Last edited by Kol Korran; 2011-10-17 at 06:21 AM.

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  6. - Top - End - #6
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    Default Re: Opinions on DMing Philosophy

    Quote Originally Posted by Trekkin View Post
    1. In-character knowledge trumping player knowledge. If a character is about to do or not do something significantly out of the norm for someone in that setting, do you remind them of where they are before they do it or let them do it without comment? As a toy example, when do you enlighten a player who doesn't know that a gazebo isn't a monster, so attacking it is weird?
    If there is something a character should know, that a player doesn't, I bring it to their attention. Usually, I catch these things pre-emptively by throwing in cultural descriptions and such not along with physical ones, as the gazebo issue is obviously one unlikely to happen.

    Quote Originally Posted by Trekkin View Post
    2. Adventure leads. If your players are stumped as to what course of action to next take to fulfill their goals, do you try to make the course of action you have planned out any more apparent or let them discover it as it stands?
    Assuming it is a matter of players controlling characters to accomplish the characters goals - which, admittedly, is not my default play style - I don't interfere on my own in most cases. If clarification is asked for, or even meta game details the character's don't know are requested, they are provided. That said, this is usually a non issue, as most people I play with are very proactive.

    Quote Originally Posted by Trekkin View Post
    3. Off-session availability. How much of the business of character advancement and things of that sort do you request your players do outside a weekly session to save time? How available are you to answer questions they have regarding the campaign, etc. during this time?
    Usually, its all done during the game. That said, I gravitate to rules light systems, where "character advancement" consists of a few seconds every now and then, and "purchases" have little to do with some sort of macro build, and more to do with the needs of the moment. That is, assuming I'm not just using issued equipment, or looted and given equipment as an assumption (the first being a military campaign, the second fitting in some fantasy settings).

    Quote Originally Posted by Trekkin View Post
    4. "Ingenious" plans. If the players come up with something totally out of left field and borderline ridiculous (albeit physically possible), do you make it reasonably difficult to try or disallow it?
    If it could work, I'm letting the players have the flow of play for a while. If its monumentally stupid, I'll point that out, and have had to do this on a few occasions with just bone headed moves (such as plans based upon a terrible understanding of technology. For instance, there are no such things as "speaker tubes" that connect speakers throughout a room, at least, not without stretching the definitions of wires and cables pretty far. You certainly can't climb through them).

    Quote Originally Posted by Trekkin View Post
    5. Silliness of the setting. Basically, Deadlands is a fairly serious setting, but it's got the odd tenet or monster that's just weird as anything. People who know Devil's Tower 3 will know the one we're currently facing, but in general, do you try to maintain a consistent tone or let things be as unusual as the module demands?
    I don't use modules. That said, I do try and maintain a particular tone, with some variance through that. Most good stories run the emotional gamut, so I do the same, with the parts I control while GMing. Players also have a large control in the emotional tenor of the game, but some sort of understanding of what we are doing before we start is a given, so its not as if there are issues with conflicting visions on this.
    I would really like to see a game made by Obryn, Kurald Galain, and Knaight from these forums.

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  7. - Top - End - #7
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    PirateCaptain

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    Default Re: Opinions on DMing Philosophy

    Quote Originally Posted by Trekkin View Post

    1. In-character knowledge trumping player knowledge. If a character is about to do or not do something significantly out of the norm for someone in that setting, do you remind them of where they are before they do it or let them do it without comment? As a toy example, when do you enlighten a player who doesn't know that a gazebo isn't a monster, so attacking it is weird?
    This is called Metagaming. And It depends.

    If they are simply acting oddly for somebody in the setting, a gentle reminder that "In this setting, it's more standard to do X" is usually as far as I go. If they wish to continue acting counter to standard social norms in the setting, that's up to them.

    If they lack knowledge that is common in the setting, I tell them said knowledge. For example, if I mention that a bridge is controlled by the Kingdom of Voltar (Which famously hates Elves), and the party decides to cross it with their elves in tow, I would remind them "You know, Voltarians hate elves".

    If they are using knowledge that their character would not have, that is Treason, Punishable by summary execution.
    2. Adventure leads. If your players are stumped as to what course of action to next take to fulfill their goals, do you try to make the course of action you have planned out any more apparent or let them discover it as it stands?
    I try to make my plot hooks obvious. I always have at least one solution be highly obvious (Although it may not be the best solution, and with a little creativity they can usually find something better). At no point should the players have no idea what their next step could be (as opposed to SHOULD be. They can debate about their strategy plenty, but they should always have some goal).

    3. Off-session availability. How much of the business of character advancement and things of that sort do you request your players do outside a weekly session to save time? How available are you to answer questions they have regarding the campaign, etc. during this time?
    I like my players to level up their characters between sessions as much as possible, but that's mainly because I'm lazy.
    4. "Ingenious" plans. If the players come up with something totally out of left field and borderline ridiculous (albeit physically possible), do you make it reasonably difficult to try or disallow it?
    If it's impossible, disallow it. If it's ridiculous, inform them that it may be a terrible idea. If they insist on doing something stupid, don't be afraid to squash them flat.
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  8. - Top - End - #8
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    Default Re: Opinions on DMing Philosophy

    Quote Originally Posted by Trekkin View Post
    1. In-character knowledge trumping player knowledge. If a character is about to do or not do something significantly out of the norm for someone in that setting, do you remind them of where they are before they do it or let them do it without comment? As a toy example, when do you enlighten a player who doesn't know that a gazebo isn't a monster, so attacking it is weird?
    I always ask the in a patronizing tone "Do you really think x would do y? Really? It seems to work
    Quote Originally Posted by Trekkin View Post
    2. Adventure leads. If your players are stumped as to what course of action to next take to fulfill their goals, do you try to make the course of action you have planned out any more apparent or let them discover it as it stands?
    Never tell your characters where to go, if they don't know don't put up a big red flare saying "go this way". Let them find their own way & adapt your material to fit their decisions.
    3. Off-session availability. How much of the business of character advancement and things of that sort do you request your players do outside a weekly session to save time? How available are you to answer questions they have regarding the campaign, etc. during this time?[/QUOTE]
    Roll HP & other leveling up dice rolls in front of me at the end of session, other than that I don't care, but I won't stop a game for someone to level up. Usually me & my friends hang out a bit after we stop the game so they usually spend this time passing the books around to level up.
    Quote Originally Posted by Trekkin View Post
    4. "Ingenious" plans. If the players come up with something totally out of left field and borderline ridiculous (albeit physically possible), do you make it reasonably difficult to try or disallow it?
    Let them do it, make sure that the you properly judge the difficulty of what they are doing. Give a realistic consequence to their failure. If you kill them, well at least they will learn something. Don't worry about killing characters if you did not put them in a situation for them to die easily. An encounter with an overpowered dragon is not the same as the characters drowning because they decided to swim across a river instead of finding a boat.
    Quote Originally Posted by Trekkin View Post
    5. Silliness of the setting. Basically, Deadlands is a fairly serious setting, but it's got the odd tenet or monster that's just weird as anything. People who know Devil's Tower 3 will know the one we're currently facing, but in general, do you try to maintain a consistent tone or let things be as unusual as the module demands?
    That goes with whatever tone you want to have in your own game. If you want serious business then give the offending player a stern look or pointedly clear your throat & remind them of the seriousness of the game (maybe at pointing out just how their character is vulnerable to the enemy, it makes them aware of a flaw they may not know they had (& they can compensate for it now) & it makes them a lot more somber)

  9. - Top - End - #9
    Ettin in the Playground
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    Quote Originally Posted by Trekkin View Post
    1. In-character knowledge trumping player knowledge. If a character is about to do or not do something significantly out of the norm for someone in that setting, do you remind them of where they are before they do it or let them do it without comment? As a toy example, when do you enlighten a player who doesn't know that a gazebo isn't a monster, so attacking it is weird?
    Metagaming doesn't trouble me much, as long as a player can pull it off without breaking suspension of disbelief (or otherwise manages it without me noticing). To an extent, I reward player knowledge of logic, common sense, narrative structures, pop trivia, so on and so forth. However, when there's blatantly no way for a character to know something, I'll say just that and ignore any suggestions based on such information. When a character should know something but the player doesn't, I will exposit or remind them of the important parts.

    Persisting stupidity is not smoothed over, however. If a player can't take a hint, foolish acts will have foolish consequences.
    Quote Originally Posted by Trekkin View Post
    2. Adventure leads. If your players are stumped as to what course of action to next take to fulfill their goals, do you try to make the course of action you have planned out any more apparent or let them discover it as it stands?
    I will usually start throwing questions at them ("What are your characters after? What would they find interesting?") or gives examples from other media ("Bilbo Baggins set out on adventure because..."). If they don't come up with any answers, I'll start giving them suggestions.

    I don't, however, plot ahead extensively. My approach is to give my players a map and ask "where you'd want to go?" If they go snooping around, I will give them hints of events going on elsewhere, but these will include red herrings and incomplete information - there is no place where the PCs should go. If I design a plot, event or location, I design them so that they will resolve themselves whether the PCs are ever there or not.

    Quote Originally Posted by Trekkin View Post
    3. Off-session availability. How much of the business of character advancement and things of that sort do you request your players do outside a weekly session to save time? How available are you to answer questions they have regarding the campaign, etc. during this time?
    I don't expect them to do anything. When I hold a session, I reserve a lot of time for it just so people can do that while I'm present. I have little patience for dealing with game-related stuff when not actually gaming.

    Quote Originally Posted by Trekkin View Post
    4. "Ingenious" plans. If the players come up with something totally out of left field and borderline ridiculous (albeit physically possible), do you make it reasonably difficult to try or disallow it?
    Most of the time, things like that boil down to the same thing(s) as other resolutions: roll dice. If they get lucky, they get lucky. That's all there is to it.

    Of course, most of the time when my players have ingenious ideas, they're just stupid ideas, or otherwise do not convey any benefit under the rules I'm using. I am not above mocking or lampshading obviously faulty reasoning or needless complexity in player plans. When their characters should, by all accounts, realize this, I will inform them along the guidelines discussed under the first question.

    Quote Originally Posted by Trekkin View Post
    5. Silliness of the setting. Basically, Deadlands is a fairly serious setting, but it's got the odd tenet or monster that's just weird as anything. People who know Devil's Tower 3 will know the one we're currently facing, but in general, do you try to maintain a consistent tone or let things be as unusual as the module demands?
    Mood Whiplash doesn't bother me that much. In fact, I find it fun to pull off intentionally, though mostly from funny to serious rather than the opposite. I do favor consistency, but in setting details and elements rather than something as nebulous as "mood" or "feel".
    "It's the fate of all things under the sky,
    to grow old and wither and die."

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    Default Re: Opinions on DMing Philosophy

    Quote Originally Posted by Trekkin View Post
    This post is part rant and part query. First, the rant: I'm co-Marshalling
    The correct terminology is "partial marshal" ;-)


    Quote Originally Posted by Trekkin View Post
    1. In-character knowledge trumping player knowledge. If a character is about to do or not do something significantly out of the norm for someone in that setting, do you remind them of where they are before they do it or let them do it without comment? As a toy example, when do you enlighten a player who doesn't know that a gazebo isn't a monster, so attacking it is weird?
    I go for what makes sense. One of my groups has a player who doesn't pay attention to what's drawn on the map. He'll walk over walls and off piers because he claims he can't see the marker. It doesn't make sense that his character would go for a swim mid-combat, so we remind him that the pier ended 3 squares ago.

    That said, I'll only remind someone of the same fact so many times. If the players haven't figured out that they need to headshot zombies in Deadlands after five combats, that's their own problem.

    Quote Originally Posted by Trekkin View Post
    2. Adventure leads. If your players are stumped as to what course of action to next take to fulfill their goals, do you try to make the course of action you have planned out any more apparent or let them discover it as it stands?
    My plots proceed on their own. If the NPC who wanted to hire the PCs fails to do so, he'll hire someone else instead. Maybe the PCs will notice.

    I never run a single plot thread at a time though. It's okay if the players ignore half the plots. I also have so many plots going that at least one of them will be able to interrupt the PCs and prompt them for attention if needed.

    Quote Originally Posted by Trekkin View Post
    3. Off-session availability. How much of the business of character advancement and things of that sort do you request your players do outside a weekly session to save time? How available are you to answer questions they have regarding the campaign, etc. during this time?
    Leveling happens outside of game. I try to make loot division happen there too, but haven't been successful at that. Last game I had a couple players who didn't like email and they ended up bogging down email based loot distribution to the point where it wasn't worth the trouble.

    I try to be available to answer questions. I don't pretend to have the highest level of system mastery at the table. In D&D 4e, I fully expect every player to know his own class better than I do.

    Quote Originally Posted by Trekkin View Post
    4. "Ingenious" plans. If the players come up with something totally out of left field and borderline ridiculous (albeit physically possible), do you make it reasonably difficult to try or disallow it?
    I want my players to surprise me with their creativity. I will never outright shut down a creative idea.

    One mistake I've seen other GMs make is that if they don't think an idea will work, they tell the players. A few games ago, I got told I couldn't cast an illusion on some wooden discs to make them look like gold coins because the weight would be wrong. That's a perfectly legit reason for the ruse to fail, but the GM shut me down before I could even attempt it. The correct response would be to let me cast the spell, maybe give me a perception check to notice what was off about the coins, and then let the NPCs react to being given wooden coins.

    I also like it when players come up with legit, working solutions that I never saw coming. I'll happily let them bypass a few sessions worth of my prep work. They feel awesome when they do. If their solution causes the game to deviate so far from what I expected that I can't recover, I'll even go so far as to ask them for help coming up with ways to get back to where I need to be. Outsourcing narrative work to your players will make them feel like contributors to the story instead of just an audience.

    Quote Originally Posted by Trekkin View Post
    5. Silliness of the setting. Basically, Deadlands is a fairly serious setting, but it's got the odd tenet or monster that's just weird as anything. People who know Devil's Tower 3 will know the one we're currently facing, but in general, do you try to maintain a consistent tone or let things be as unusual as the module demands?
    I don't do modules, so I can't comment on that. For Deadlands, I don't think there's anything wrong with having the occasional comic relief module.
    If you like what I have to say, please check out my GMing Blog where I discuss writing and roleplaying in greater depth.

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    Default Re: Opinions on DMing Philosophy

    There are few, if any, parts of DMing philosophy that are Natural Laws. Even things which seem like requirements for any game (e.g. Player choices impact the storyline, Player Characters are the drivers of the story) can be violated depending on system and the sort of game that the Players want to play. So, do with these responses as you will, but don't expect to find any more truth in them than any other random collection of Dudes On The Internet could provide.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Trekkin View Post
    1. In-character knowledge trumping player knowledge. If a character is about to do or not do something significantly out of the norm for someone in that setting, do you remind them of where they are before they do it or let them do it without comment? As a toy example, when do you enlighten a player who doesn't know that a gazebo isn't a monster, so attacking it is weird?
    I always remind Players when I notice they are acting on assumptions that are false from an in-game perspective. In part this is because I run primarily homebrew worlds and I have long since given up on Players reading up on every world I create

    Mostly, however, I find that Players don't like having their assumptions shown false in this fashion. To them, it seems very much like hiding the ball -- they should have known what they were doing was stupid as characters, but the Players weren't informed what their characters should have known.

    Of course, it is not always easy to tell when a Player is acting off of incorrect assumptions, so I have a habit of asking "why are you doing that?" whenever I notice a Player acting "erratically" from my perspective. It still doesn't catch every time, but it helps a lot.

    Quote Originally Posted by Trekkin View Post
    2. Adventure leads. If your players are stumped as to what course of action to next take to fulfill their goals, do you try to make the course of action you have planned out any more apparent or let them discover it as it stands?
    I never write adventures where this happens. In part this is from practice -- it is easy to write yourself into Bottleneck Adventures, but once you have a few of those under your belt, it is easier still to avoid them. I also am more than willing to use Illusionism to keep the ball rolling if the Players go off on a completely random path and even simple interrogation of Players to see if they've actually forgotten an important clue. I don't use these techniques much anymore, but I always have them in the toolbox to use rather than let the game stall out and not be fun.

    Quote Originally Posted by Trekkin View Post
    3. Off-session availability. How much of the business of character advancement and things of that sort do you request your players do outside a weekly session to save time? How available are you to answer questions they have regarding the campaign, etc. during this time?
    I require my Players to do as little as possible between sessions, and always do my best to answer questions between sessions. Gaming shouldn't be a burden on anyone aside from the DM, and I also find games run smoother when the action takes place in public and under the unblinking eye of the DM

    Quote Originally Posted by Trekkin View Post
    4. "Ingenious" plans. If the players come up with something totally out of left field and borderline ridiculous (albeit physically possible), do you make it reasonably difficult to try or disallow it?
    Depends entirely on the feel of the game and the situation. "Million to One" shots are usually disallowed by DM interrogation (i.e. pointing out fatal flaws in plans) but if the party is really excited about a risky plan I tend to let it play out. Notably, these sorts of plans seldom are Silver Bullets and are rarely preferable to more reasonable plans; I mostly allow them for when the party has placed itself in a bind and needs some way to get out of it and continue the adventure.

    Quote Originally Posted by Trekkin View Post
    5. Silliness of the setting. Basically, Deadlands is a fairly serious setting, but it's got the odd tenet or monster that's just weird as anything. People who know Devil's Tower 3 will know the one we're currently facing, but in general, do you try to maintain a consistent tone or let things be as unusual as the module demands?
    I don't use modules. Every campaign I run is designed with a consistent tone in mind (excepting Breather Episodes, on occasion) and I do my damnedest to stick to those expectations. The more you violate the tone of a campaign, the harder it is to enmesh the Players in it.
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    Default Re: Opinions on DMing Philosophy

    I usually run the "take part in a fantasy novel" kind of adventure, not the hack&slash, nor the "I give you tasks, you figure out how to solve them" type.
    So my answers are valid only when you are the kind of DM for whom the story is the most important.

    1. Players should only use in-character knowledge. You should always remind the players if they forget something their characters know for a fact, and do not let them use out of character knowledge.
    Bonus points if you tailor the events around them to the characters' eyes and ears.
    For example:
    Wizard: "Two magicians of the southlands are debating about the safety of long distance teleportation."
    Fighter: "Two thin, silly-dressed foreigners are talking about magic, using words that make your head hurt."

    2. Neither. Use a set of pre-designed events which happen around the PC-s, even if they won't do a thing. It's not a computer game, so your players can shape these events and you can react dinamically, so the game won't feel cutscene heavy.

    3. Ask the players how much "homework" do they want. Some like to design a whole set of poisons and a backstory for their weapon between sessions, while others like to level up on the way to the game. Both are ok, but you always make sure, when the game starts, the game starts, and by that time, everyone should be ready.

    4. Reasonably difficult.
    May overlap with 1., when the player comes up with an impossibly ridicoulus way to do something when their character should know a much more straightforward way. Remind them that ["you won't want to trap the church door, because it's most likely some priests will come through first, and the whole idea is just absurd"], but reward them (in XP-s) if you find the idea [of the trap] otherwise great.

    5. Consistent tone.
    If you throw dragon than demon than sorcerer than orc chieftain at them in the same nonspecific environment to fight a sample battle to the death, your players won't feel the difference, nor the perspective and there will be no mood. If the module does this too much, ditch it.
    It's much more fun, when there is a 3-4 hour buildup before the players even meet the orc chieftain, the previously polite sorcerer only turns on them at the end of the session, the demon is just something rumored, but never found and when the dragon shows up unexpectedly, everyone is in awe.

  13. - Top - End - #13
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    Default Re: Opinions on DMing Philosophy

    Quote Originally Posted by Trekkin View Post
    1. In-character knowledge trumping player knowledge. If a character is about to do or not do something significantly out of the norm for someone in that setting, do you remind them of where they are before they do it or let them do it without comment? As a toy example, when do you enlighten a player who doesn't know that a gazebo isn't a monster, so attacking it is weird?
    If the player is misunderstanding the situation, it's not because of player-error, it's because the DM didn't describe the situation clearly enough. The characters are there, they can glance around and see a million details of what is around them. The players are in your gaming room, relying entirely on your description of what is around them. There's going to be detail lost in the translation, but the characters would have caught those details.

    A picture is worth a thousand words -- therefore if you are describing a scene you better have uttered a thousand words or your players might very well imagine a different picture than what you were intending. Which of course is impossible, unless you want to monologue the entire session away.

    Far simpler to describe the scene in short, clear sentences, and then correct the players when they are clearly lacking information that their characters could easily see before them. If they try to leap across the chasm, thinking it was only a five foot leap to the ledge beyond, their characters are going to see it was a 50 foot gap and balk at the idea.

    It becomes harder, of course, when the players don't have the same vocabulary as you. When I recognize the player doesn't know what a Gazebo is, then of course I tell them. But what if the player doesn't know what a 'chasm' is? How and when do I recognize that?

    Quote Originally Posted by Trekkin View Post
    2. Adventure leads. If your players are stumped as to what course of action to next take to fulfill their goals, do you try to make the course of action you have planned out any more apparent or let them discover it as it stands?
    Depends on the nature of the next course of action. If the players were 'supposed' to go that way, then maybe I should nudge them that direction. If that direction was only 'optional', then they only get to go that way if they discover the clues that lead them their. If it's a place they need to go, but not on any particular timetable, then I allow time for the 3-clue rule to do it's job.

    The real quandry I have had in the past is when they interpret 'clue #3' to lead to location X, but have already visited location X because of 'clue #2', but my players don't realize that both clues were for the same issue. In those situations I usually just level with the players. "Yeah, this clue leads to the hideout of Lord Farquath, but you already trashed that place two months ago. You can disregard that clue, no need to bring it up again."

    Quote Originally Posted by Trekkin View Post
    3. Off-session availability. How much of the business of character advancement and things of that sort do you request your players do outside a weekly session to save time? How available are you to answer questions they have regarding the campaign, etc. during this time?
    I run my games online, so I am always available to answer questions by email. As for character advancement, I run a slow level advancement game, so it's really not much 'homework' to do. Though I do expect you to do it at home, and not during the gaming sessions.

    Our group tends to write alot of stories about the ongoing game, and yeah, you're supposed to do that on your own time, not during sessions. But as that is voluntary, it's not exactly 'homework to be done before next session'.

    Quote Originally Posted by Trekkin View Post
    4. "Ingenious" plans. If the players come up with something totally out of left field and borderline ridiculous (albeit physically possible), do you make it reasonably difficult to try or disallow it?
    My very first DM had a policy of squishing any plan he didn't personally approve of (meaning, ideas he had thought of himself). And I don't mean just examples of how the plan wouldn't work because of a 50 foot chasm instead of a 5 foot chasm (which the DM wouldn't warn you about, you should have noted that yourself), but rather, he'd find any possible flaw in your idea in order to nerf the tactic to uselessness, or even so far that it would blow up in your face.

    That was no fun.

    It also led to the players not even attempting to think up creative ideas. It was too risky for too little reward. Instead, we'd just go in straightforward, take our lumps as the trap/ambush/whatever was sprung on us, and then we'd roll dice to fight our way through the pain.

    I decided right then and there to promote the opposite: If the players came up with a creative plan, even if a bit far-fetched, and more importantly, **even if there was an obvious flaw that the players couldn't have known about**, I WILL LET IT WORK ANYWAY!

    After the plan works, if there is that obvious flaw, I'll let the players know about it. If it was far-fetched, I'd just tell them that this tactic won't work again in the future, "But it was a cool idea so I let it work this once". If it had an obvious flaw, just a detail that they missed, I'll work around it. "The chasm is twenty feet wide, but since you could have grabbed boards from room 4, I'll just assume you spanned the expanse and crossed that way. Continue with your idea!" And if there was details they couldn't have possibly known about, details that would have foiled an otherwise solid idea, I'll just find a way around my own details. "You're attempt to sneak around the fortress would have hit a major snag, because of a guard posted down this hallway that would have seen you go by. Fortunately for you, I rolled to see how alert he was, and flubbed the roll badly" (of course, I didn't roll at all).

    I've even been known to change reality to fit their plans. If the chasm is 50 feet wide, and there are no 50 foot long boards they could span the chasm with... but I do like their idea, and think it would make a fun session to play through... then *poof*, it actually only was a 20 foot wide chasm, and their plan can go forward.

    Now if the players were to design a plan around "shooting a torpedo down the exhaust shaft, thus blowing up the Death Star", well, no, that's too obvious and therefore won't work. But if they present me with a plan that relies on an assumed weakness in a creature, and the plan is good but the weakness is not... then I might very well decide that the creature *does* have that weakness after all, just to allow the plan to work.

    As a result of this policy, my players are much more likely to try ideas, knowing that they're likely to work. I'll mess things up a bit for them sometimes, to keep them honest, mostly when it would make things more interesting (and never when it would be deadly!). But mostly, they are rewarded for their creative thinking, which encourages more creative thinking.

    And lo and behold, given that freedom, they've gone ahead and made sure that the ideas are mostly solid and not that 'out-there'. They self-regulate their own outrageousness, and present me with well thought out plans. Maybe knowing that they could present a plan where they catapult themselves over the walls makes them want to come up with an idea where they get over the walls by more reasonable means?

    Quote Originally Posted by Trekkin View Post
    5. Silliness of the setting. Basically, Deadlands is a fairly serious setting, but it's got the odd tenet or monster that's just weird as anything. People who know Devil's Tower 3 will know the one we're currently facing, but in general, do you try to maintain a consistent tone or let things be as unusual as the module demands?
    I like humor. I hate silliness. Goofy characters do not find a home in my world. Kender do not exist. Nor do Gully Dwarves. Nor do... ah, well, anything from Dragonlance, or anything similar to that. I have an old quote: "Characters with stupid names WILL be terminated".

    Still, I like the occasional dip into the humorous, even recurring, as long as it's not dwelled upon.

    But then the players came up with a perfectly logical plan of action, one that I would normally allow based on my policy of allowing plans to work, but required that they act completly silly and goofy for the plan to work. Ah, my players have foiled me in my own contradictions!!!

    "Nale!!!" "Nale!!!" "nale!!!" "XCGH???" "You know, the first two, I probably should have seen coming. The leprechaun costume? Not so much."
    Quote Originally Posted by Swordguy View Post
    Casters effectively lost every weakness they had (from AD&D), and everyone else suffered for it. Since this was done as a direct result of player requests ("make magic better!"), I consider it one of the all-time best reasons NOT to listen to player requests.

    Most people wouldn't know what makes a good game if it stripped naked, painted itself purple, and jumped up on a table singing "look what a good game I am!".

  14. - Top - End - #14
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    Default Re: Opinions on DMing Philosophy

    Whatever is fun for the players (me included).
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    Default Re: Opinions on DMing Philosophy

    Quote Originally Posted by Trekkin View Post
    This post is part rant and part query. First, the rant: I'm co-Marshalling a rather large party of Deadlands characters, and we're currently running through Devil's Tower. My co-Marshal and I had been planning the party for several months and we're about two months into the campaign, so we've frankly butted heads on DMing methodology several times. He, for example, prefers that the session start whenever he arrive, while I get there early and start setting up and so forth, and we're diametrically opposed on whether a player who's forgotten something about the setting should be reminded before or after trying something that is self-destructive.

    Naturally, some of our differences are ones of personality, and it's not those I'm wondering about. My biggest problem right now is that I'm new to DMing a game this involved, so I'm still trying to figure out whether I like the style I seem to naturally assume or the one I can observe in some depth beside me on the table that's born of experience--I can do either, but I'm not vested or confident in either, and that shows. Of course, most of this boils down to opinion, and that's exactly what I'd like more of. So what, good Playgrounders, is your opinion, as a player or as a DM, on:

    1. In-character knowledge trumping player knowledge. If a character is about to do or not do something significantly out of the norm for someone in that setting, do you remind them of where they are before they do it or let them do it without comment? As a toy example, when do you enlighten a player who doesn't know that a gazebo isn't a monster, so attacking it is weird?

    2. Adventure leads. If your players are stumped as to what course of action to next take to fulfill their goals, do you try to make the course of action you have planned out any more apparent or let them discover it as it stands?

    3. Off-session availability. How much of the business of character advancement and things of that sort do you request your players do outside a weekly session to save time? How available are you to answer questions they have regarding the campaign, etc. during this time?

    4. "Ingenious" plans. If the players come up with something totally out of left field and borderline ridiculous (albeit physically possible), do you make it reasonably difficult to try or disallow it?

    5. Silliness of the setting. Basically, Deadlands is a fairly serious setting, but it's got the odd tenet or monster that's just weird as anything. People who know Devil's Tower 3 will know the one we're currently facing, but in general, do you try to maintain a consistent tone or let things be as unusual as the module demands?
    My coppers:

    1. My group really likes to keep a divide between knowledge in and out of character. attempting to burn red dragons, using harm on a wight, and stabbing each other when a darkness spell got cast in a melee are all things that happened at our table, for the most extreme examples.

    2. Worst case scenario is that the players have managed to skip all five of my leads, by failing the checks, ignoring/misinterpreting messages, disregarding the tracks, and so on. at this point, an NPC of some description will flat out give it to them. this didn't happen too many times before they realized that certain things are pretty much always plot hooks just so they can be recognized as such(like a strange note seeming to indicae an abandoned tower).

    3. We don't really play with magic mart past character creation, which is rarely higher than level 3 anyway. however, we do expect each other to level up outside the session to spend more time playing. I'll answer just about any question i can, and often point them here.

    4. I love ingenious plans, and so do my other players. the DM rarely changes reality to allow it to work, and rolls of some sort may be required depending on your actions, but the players always try to make sure it's something they can seriously envision working so it can happen right. case in point: rogue, split from the party, being chased by several trolls. he ran through the abandoned NPC campsite, grabbed some stuff as he ran with some dex checks, and threw burning tents at the trolls.

    5. We don't usually run with serious settings because only 2 of our players get seriousness(one of them is me). the others are....obnoxious at times, silly at others, and over the top at others. I know for a fact that they would do badly in a serious situation, so we avoid them as much as possible.
    "Thursdays. I could never get the hang of Thursdays."-Arthur Dent, The Hitchhiker's Guide

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    Default Re: Opinions on DMing Philosophy

    Quote Originally Posted by Trekkin View Post
    T1. In-character knowledge trumping player knowledge. If a character is about to do or not do something significantly out of the norm for someone in that setting, do you remind them of where they are before they do it or let them do it without comment? As a toy example, when do you enlighten a player who doesn't know that a gazebo isn't a monster, so attacking it is weird?
    A) A mimic disguised as a gazebo killed my sister B) That gazebo was an exact duplicate of another gazebo a few adventures ago that was at the center of a park where children kept disappearing C) We were in the middle of a vast desert, and the gazebo was the only structure for miles D) My character is a Paladin of Lowe, goddess of patio furniture, and that gazebo's orange and purple color scheme was an unholy abomination in her eyes. So, I don't care if it's weird, I'm charging!

    Now, what was the question again? Oh yeah, I remind players of what their characters know all the time, such as telling them that they know the constabulary in this village do not take kindly to visitors stabbing every loud-mouth drunk they come across.
    Quote Originally Posted by Trekkin View Post
    2. Adventure leads. If your players are stumped as to what course of action to next take to fulfill their goals, do you try to make the course of action you have planned out any more apparent or let them discover it as it stands?
    If they are stumped, I am Captain Obvious. I even have a list of quest leads that I will gladly read to them. My least favorite game of all time is "guess what the DM/game designer is thinking," so I do my best to eliminate that. But, that's if they're stumped. Otherwise, if they're feeling out the setting and exploring, I let them go.
    Quote Originally Posted by Trekkin View Post
    3. Off-session availability. How much of the business of character advancement and things of that sort do you request your players do outside a weekly session to save time? How available are you to answer questions they have regarding the campaign, etc. during this time?
    Well, our sessions aren't weekly, so I can't help you there. Much more downtime to work on these aspects.
    Quote Originally Posted by Trekkin View Post
    4. "Ingenious" plans. If the players come up with something totally out of left field and borderline ridiculous (albeit physically possible), do you make it reasonably difficult to try or disallow it?
    Try to make it reasonably fun. I'm actually subtly encouraging my players to participate in imagining and creating the battlefield, so if they want to do something cool but need a prop to exist, it may well suddenly exist.
    Quote Originally Posted by Trekkin View Post
    5. Silliness of the setting. Basically, Deadlands is a fairly serious setting, but it's got the odd tenet or monster that's just weird as anything. People who know Devil's Tower 3 will know the one we're currently facing, but in general, do you try to maintain a consistent tone or let things be as unusual as the module demands?
    The underlying story is the only constant, and should set the overall mood. That doesn't mean there won't be deviations.

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    Default Re: Opinions on DMing Philosophy

    Look at all these long posts. The best answer is the short one.

    Which option is more fun for everyone?

    In general, in times of uncertainty, you should favor styles which SUGGEST (not force) courses of action. In combat, transparency suggests tactics. Out of combat, obfuscation suggests investigation. In a game, informing players of things there characters would know suggests roleplaying.

    As far as tone goes, that's something you just have to guess and get a feel for. I recommend asking players for feedback. Name specific things you want feedback on ("how did the session go" is bad. "did this monster/scenario seem a bit too silly for you all" is good).

    Off-session availability is something that's great to have, but is impossible to force players to do. My gaming group has a Facebook group that we use to discuss advancement/plans so we can get on with stuff when the session comes. A lot of my previous games have used wikis. E-mails are also great.

  18. - Top - End - #18
    Barbarian in the Playground
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    Default Re: Opinions on DMing Philosophy

    Quote Originally Posted by Trekkin View Post
    1. In-character knowledge trumping player knowledge. If a character is about to do or not do something significantly out of the norm for someone in that setting, do you remind them of where they are before they do it or let them do it without comment? As a toy example, when do you enlighten a player who doesn't know that a gazebo isn't a monster, so attacking it is weird?
    If there's something the character would know that the player doesn't, I'll describe the scene or call for an appropriate knowledge check. (Realizing that a gazebo is not a big threatening monster would probably fall under the former.)

    2. Adventure leads. If your players are stumped as to what course of action to next take to fulfill their goals, do you try to make the course of action you have planned out any more apparent or let them discover it as it stands?
    If the players are well and truly stumped, I'll throw them a lead. If they just haven't tried some obvious (or "obvious") options, I'll let them sit and discuss for a few more minutes and then start nudging.

    3. Off-session availability. How much of the business of character advancement and things of that sort do you request your players do outside a weekly session to save time? How available are you to answer questions they have regarding the campaign, etc. during this time?
    Advancement and shopping are done between sessions with a few minor exceptions. (A few weeks ago, the PCs met an NPC traveling salesman with some non-standard wares, and shopping was done at the table.)
    If any of my players has any rules or campaign questions that need answers, I'm generally pretty good to respond to emails quickly.

    4. "Ingenious" plans. If the players come up with something totally out of left field and borderline ridiculous (albeit physically possible), do you make it reasonably difficult to try or disallow it?
    If the plan's just silly and has no chance of working, I'll encourage the players to try something different. (If they do it anyways, appropriate dice will be rolled and the plan will likely fail in the absence of lots of nat 20s.) If it's a decent plan that's just a little silly, but could definitely work, I'll make it reasonably difficult.

    5. Silliness of the setting. Basically, Deadlands is a fairly serious setting, but it's got the odd tenet or monster that's just weird as anything. People who know Devil's Tower 3 will know the one we're currently facing, but in general, do you try to maintain a consistent tone or let things be as unusual as the module demands?
    I try to keep the tone consistent, but won't lose sleep over letting it have more and less serious sections. (I very nearly ran a premade adventure involving a calzone golem, but opted not to at the last minute.)

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    Default Re: Opinions on DMing Philosophy

    Quote Originally Posted by Trekkin View Post
    So what, good Playgrounders, is your opinion, as a player or as a DM, on:
    Actually, I think I can answer all of these questions at once. It may not completely answer all of them, but I think you'll be able to tease out the meanings.

    Part of my DMing style is that I am not in complete control of the setting or scenario. I am the final arbiter, but to get the players invested in the game I allow them to *invest* in the game. To that end, they are encouraged to make stuff up just as much as I do. I'll modify and amend what they come up with, but I'll never just say 'no' flat out.

    For example, one player wanted to play a Centaur. I hadn't planned on centaurs being a player race as using the standard 3.x rules they started too powerful. But she came back with a variant scheme for racial classes, similar to the stuff in the Savage book, but different, and I shruged and went along with it. She built an entire culture out of a few lines of notes I had about centaurs, and during the game itself we never had any problems with game balance with her Centaur Sorceress.

    I recommend sites like http://learnimprov.com/ for prospective GMs. Usually they're set up from comedy because that's the most popular type of improv right now, but most of the concepts will translate into drama and RPGs reasonably well. The primary tennant is 'don't negate it, go with it.' The best improv involves everyone on the stage building the routine together, each adding something on top. The worst improv is where someone decides they're the only one allowed to improv and that everyone else has to do what they say.
    Fhaolan by me! Raga avatar by Mephibosheth!

  20. - Top - End - #20
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    RedWizardGuy

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    Default Re: Opinions on DMing Philosophy

    Quote Originally Posted by Trekkin View Post
    1. In-character knowledge trumping player knowledge. If a character is about to do or not do something significantly out of the norm for someone in that setting, do you remind them of where they are before they do it or let them do it without comment? As a toy example, when do you enlighten a player who doesn't know that a gazebo isn't a monster, so attacking it is weird?
    Never. I let a player do whatever they want for things like this. If the player does need help I'll add in a NPC or such to give advise or otherwise make things so they can't do things 'out of the norm'.


    Quote Originally Posted by Trekkin View Post
    2. Adventure leads. If your players are stumped as to what course of action to next take to fulfill their goals, do you try to make the course of action you have planned out any more apparent or let them discover it as it stands?
    Drop a hint or such. You have to, unless you just want to sit there.

    Quote Originally Posted by Trekkin View Post
    3. Off-session availability. How much of the business of character advancement and things of that sort do you request your players do outside a weekly session to save time? How available are you to answer questions they have regarding the campaign, etc. during this time?
    I have my players do a lot outside of the game time, but they all understand that actual game play time is limited.

    I'm available always for game questions and such. My groups do it mostly by e-mail as it's quick and easy. Some times I'll have a person come over something like an hour before the game starts or such.

    Quote Originally Posted by Trekkin View Post
    4. "Ingenious" plans. If the players come up with something totally out of left field and borderline ridiculous (albeit physically possible), do you make it reasonably difficult to try or disallow it?
    A player is always free to try to do anything in the game.

    Quote Originally Posted by Trekkin View Post
    5. Silliness of the setting. Basically, Deadlands is a fairly serious setting, but it's got the odd tenet or monster that's just weird as anything. People who know Devil's Tower 3 will know the one we're currently facing, but in general, do you try to maintain a consistent tone or let things be as unusual as the module demands?
    I always go for an unusual tone. My players always need to be on their toes as the 'tone' can change quickly or not quite be what they expected.

  21. - Top - End - #21
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    RogueGuy

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    Default Re: Opinions on DMing Philosophy

    Quote Originally Posted by Trekkin View Post
    1. In-character knowledge trumping player knowledge. If a character is about to do or not do something significantly out of the norm for someone in that setting, do you remind them of where they are before they do it or let them do it without comment? As a toy example, when do you enlighten a player who doesn't know that a gazebo isn't a monster, so attacking it is weird?
    If they trip across a detail that hasn't come up notably in game before, like the town they want to go through hating elves, or their latest travel plans assume the existence of bridges that aren't there, I will take the time to inform them. Of course, after the first few mentions I assume they will remember, and if they don't, that will be their problem.

    Quote Originally Posted by Trekkin View Post
    2. Adventure leads. If your players are stumped as to what course of action to next take to fulfill their goals, do you try to make the course of action you have planned out any more apparent or let them discover it as it stands?
    I try to add enough hooks that they won't miss it the first time, but failing that I will add new enticements and pointers towards what I have prepared. The alternative is that they might give up their current quest and head out on a completely different one. Which can work, but you need to be confident as a DM that you can play through what they are doing and plan their next step on their impromptu adventure faster than they can play what they are doing.

    Quote Originally Posted by Trekkin View Post
    3. Off-session availability. How much of the business of character advancement and things of that sort do you request your players do outside a weekly session to save time? How available are you to answer questions they have regarding the campaign, etc. during this time?
    I try to encourage them to do as much of the book-keeping, level-ups, scroll/tool/weapon-shopping as possible outside the session. We game anywhere from once every two weeks to once every month and a half, any time I don't spend selling PCs mundane equipment is more time tracking down fantastical felons or killing orcs. Facebook is great for this type of stuff.

    Quote Originally Posted by Trekkin View Post
    4. "Ingenious" plans. If the players come up with something totally out of left field and borderline ridiculous (albeit physically possible), do you make it reasonably difficult to try or disallow it?
    If it's possible they can try it. Set the difficulty appropriate to however wildly improbable their plan is. If it works, most of them will be surprised and have a great time. If it fails, well there's a reason people don't normally choose taking a 100 foot climb down a bridge over being arrested.
    78% of all DM's start their first campaign in a tavern. If you're among the 22% who didn't, copy and paste this into your signature and tell us where you DID begin.
    The docks of a small fishing village. One of the character's nearly drown trying to catch a fish barehanded.
    Quote Originally Posted by navar100 View Post
    What the DM says goes. If he says enough stupid stuff, the players go too.

  22. - Top - End - #22
    Ogre in the Playground
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    Default Re: Opinions on DMing Philosophy

    Quote Originally Posted by Trekkin View Post
    1. In-character knowledge trumping player knowledge.
    A. If it is an obvious misunderstanding - such as the gazebo - I'll clear it up.
    B. If it is a possible misunderstanding, I'll give a hint or ask a question as to their motive - "why?" If their answer makes it clear that it was a misunderstanding, see A. If they have a good rationale, go ahead. If they have no rationale, still go ahead. Consequences ensue if appropriate.
    C. If it is a matter of world disassociation - like a character walking down the street wearing the hide of a formerly sentient being - I'll remind them about the game world, or ask a question like "really?" or "are you sure?" That's usually enough to make them think twice. I try not to do this too often, since one or two reminders per session should be enough to get the point across. If they do it anyway, let them, but consequences ensue if appropriate.

    2. Adventure leads. If your players are stumped as to what course of action to next take to fulfill their goals, do you try to make the course of action you have planned out any more apparent or let them discover it as it stands?
    I try to make multiple paths to the same conclusion. They might miss X, but might notice Y. They might not make the right conclusion from Y, but then may put the pieces together when they discover Z.
    I try not to railroad. They are free to think creatively, approach the issue however they want. If they approach it in one way, there may be one outcome. If they approach it another way, there may be a different outcome. If they don't approach it at all, yet a third outcome.
    My planning philosophy is sort of a mixed bag. I come up with an overarching story. This is what the antagonist does, this is his motive, this is what would happen if the PCs did not exist. THEN I try to account for as many potential PC interactions as possible. But it's important to leave it flexible. It's a weird balance of plan vs knowing that the PCs will do unexpected things.

    3. Off-session availability. How much of the business of character advancement and things of that sort do you request your players do outside a weekly session to save time? How available are you to answer questions they have regarding the campaign, etc. during this time?
    Character creation and level advancement is done outside the normal session, but I will lend a hand if need be, I'll approve "off-source" material (from books we don't normally use, homebrew feats, etc - though my players tend to stick to source), I'll discuss character concepts. They usually get me through FB, but I also hang out with my players outside D&D, so we'll just chat about it sometimes.

    4. "Ingenious" plans. If the players come up with something totally out of left field and borderline ridiculous (albeit physically possible), do you make it reasonably difficult to try or disallow it?
    I LOVE it when my players think outside the box, even though it makes things more difficult for me. I'll set a reasonable difficulty if necessary for checks. If it really throws me off my game, after they present their plan I'll say - "okay, I didn't expect this, let's break for 10 so I can figure this out." It makes the game interesting, and makes the players feel clever and accomplished when it works.

    5. Silliness of the setting... in general, do you try to maintain a consistent tone or let things be as unusual as the module demands?
    The games I run are not necessarily set in the same location, world, or even system, so it varies depending on what we want. We'll make it clear beforehand the tone we want, and then generally stick to it. A horror game is not going to have much joking (except out of character when the players get rambunctious), but a game of Paranoia! of course has plenty elements of the ridiculous by design. As long as everyone has similar expectations going in, it shouldn't be an issue. I've run a low-level 3.5 game where they played monstrous races that had been wronged by the glorious hero NPCs, and were out for revenge. That was intentionally a bit silly. The kobold got chased by a dire moose, the hobgoblin worshipped Hobgoblin Jesus, etc. This was set in the same campaign world where the evil magelord Draloch was siphoning souls in order to attain godhood.
    Another thing to keep in mind is that regardless of the world you're in, characters will vary. Just like the real world, some people are just goofballs and some are more serious than necessary. In an evil Star Wars campaign I ran, I played a sadistic schizophrenic assassin with some Deadpool influence. It was a somewhat serious game, and I didn't play it for cheap laughs, but he would talk to himself, used nonsensical logic, and had a bit of "4th dimensional awareness" which was really just his mental illness. He'd make pop culture references that made no sense in the Star Wars universe, stuff like that. I discussed the character beforehand with the GM, and it was a go. One of my most memorable moments of that character was when he created his "big red button." It was literally a big red button, similar to the Staples' "Easy" button, with a magnet on the back so it could stick to anything. A sleight of hand check, a bluff check, and "this car is wired to explode with enough payload to level you and this building. Let us through or I push the big red button." We got through (of course we also had to get the heck out of there fairly quickly).
    THIS DOESN'T ALWAYS WORK. Discussion with your GM (and other players) is usually advised. I've seen it done well, I've seen it done poorly. It's like a book or movie - subtle is good. Showing - not telling - is good. If the GM or players had asked me to throttle it back, I would have done so. If it interfered with the story, I would have eased up.
    In an example of this done poorly, I ran a superhero game where the PCs were members of a government-metahuman police force. One player played a non-powered martial artist. This was fine. However, in-game, he spontaneously generated an overt sexist and racist personality. This was a) off-putting to the other players and b) out of line for a government official (at least keep it private and subtle). He later scrapped the character (the lack of powers was also becoming an issue).
    Settings: Weird West
    Work in Progress: Fulcrum

  23. - Top - End - #23
    Ogre in the Playground
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    Default Re: Opinions on DMing Philosophy

    Quote Originally Posted by Trekkin View Post
    1. In-character knowledge trumping player knowledge. If a character is about to do or not do something significantly out of the norm for someone in that setting, do you remind them of where they are before they do it or let them do it without comment? As a toy example, when do you enlighten a player who doesn't know that a gazebo isn't a monster, so attacking it is weird?
    Babysitting bores me. I'm not going to tell players how to play their characters. Not even if/when the action is out of place. However, I do have the world react "in-character". Did they cast a spell in public in Deadlands? Cries of "Burn the Witch" are likely. Did they attack someone without in-game evidence? Rumors to bounty hunters to law enforcement will follow the "murderers" as appropriate for the setting.

    2. Adventure leads. If your players are stumped as to what course of action to next take to fulfill their goals, do you try to make the course of action you have planned out any more apparent or let them discover it as it stands?
    When things get slow and players start looking lost or bored, Ninjas Attack! Not necessarily real ninjas, could be bandits in Deadlands. Point is, sometimes you do have to drive the action. You can also use said action to drop another triplet* of clues.

    *Always follow the "rule of three" - leave at least three clues, three paths, or three whatever.

    Even with three clues out there sometimes you'll need to co-opt one of the player's ideas and turn that into the game reality. Some of my best games have come out of situations where the players missed all the clues I threw out in favor of following a piece of scenery. So I used the scenery...changed the narrative to match and moved on.

    3. Off-session availability. How much of the business of character advancement and things of that sort do you request your players do outside a weekly session to save time? How available are you to answer questions they have regarding the campaign, etc. during this time?
    Not much of an issue for me...running FATE (DFRPG) right now. Character advancement doesn't take much time.

    4. "Ingenious" plans. If the players come up with something totally out of left field and borderline ridiculous (albeit physically possible), do you make it reasonably difficult to try or disallow it?
    Depends on the world, the play style, how outlandish the plans are, and how lost the players are (see #2's answer). In general, I enjoy running with player created plans. It's part of what keeps me interested in GMing. I get bored if the players don't change things on me.

    5. Silliness of the setting. Basically, Deadlands is a fairly serious setting, but it's got the odd tenet or monster that's just weird as anything. People who know Devil's Tower 3 will know the one we're currently facing, but in general, do you try to maintain a consistent tone or let things be as unusual as the module demands?
    The tone of a given adventure can be completely different from the tone of a campaign. Sometimes it needs to be different.

    My current campaign is fairly serious in tone & setting. The city's corruption and ghosts of past mistakes are major themes chosen by the players when we started. Yet last session one player ended up with his shoelaces in a Gordian knot, his jeans sewn to the tops of his sneakers, and every pocket sewn shut. (Don't piss off the brownies and then completely fail your Alertness check! ) While all this is going on they're also deciding how to deal with potential evidence of one or more murders which was dumped on one of the characters.

    The session wasn't serious at all but it did provide a good break from the campaign's concentration on death and corruption. I didn't start the adventure intending slapstick comedy though - that was instigated by one of the players. Then we ran with it and had fun.
    -
    I laugh at myself first, before anyone else can.
    -- Paraphrased from Elsa Maxwell
    -
    The more labels you have for yourself, the dumber they make you.
    -- Paul Graham in Keep Your Identity Small

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