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Thread: Better Sessions

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    Ulysses WkAmil's Avatar

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    Default Better Sessions

    Hi. I am currently first time DMing, and realativley new. The group I am playing with have been my friends for years, and I just got them into D&D. They are used to the MMO scene, so the concept of roll playing oddly doesn't mix well. I want to know, how I can make my games the following:
    1. More immersive, because it doesn't seem like the players are being grasped as they should (ha)
    2. How to make my sessions more satisfying. I feel like I am falling behind in my job, but it might be them, I do not know
    Also, how can i encourage my players to RP more? We're all friends and kicking someone out or threats (I am the youngest, being a freshman, who can take my rosy cheeks seriously?) would be terrible. I need a way to make them become more accustom to RP, so the games can roll smoother.
    \A/ Why play fair when you can "Technically" play fair. \A/
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    SolithKnightGuy

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    1. Descriptions. Spend only a little time describing, but make it sound as epic, creepy, strange, as you can. Throw in tiny bits of detail that make them fill the rest in themselves, like dry lichen crunching under their feet as they enter the cave, the horrible stench of the mauled bodies, etc.

    Danger. People can't help but focus on things if they seem dangerous. This includes danger to their character, which, consciously or unconsciously they see as them. People respond best to 'realistic' danger, i.e. danger that doesn't seem like 'the DM trying to scare us', so a big dragon likely won't help, but a roomful of attackers and a incredibly rickety slowly collapsing bridge being the only means of retreat will, at least after a few failed rolls.

    Detail. Have the villain, mortally wounded, try to escape and die on the back steps of his secret escape stairs. Have a guard surrender. A monster tries to defend another monster so that monster can escape. Have a monster taunt the party mid fight consistently. Give a bugbear an eyepatch, a flatcap, a cigar, and an interesting weapon (like, say, a mancatcher). Organize the enemies into a hired mercenary company instead of just random mooks in the villain's lair. The key is not to give EVERYTHING details, but just add little interesting things that you put into the description that make the players stop and think about the things in your world as if they are real and not just MMO mobs.

    Loot. Describe treasure, and don't ever leave it in the form of GP. If you roll it, roll it beforehand and customize. A giant leaf with a shield grip on the back, a hand sized soapstone statuette, a suit of bronze chainmail spattered with dried blood, a sword sized for a titan with a giant ebony pommel stone... a jumbled pile of bones with a rustless sword and rusted armour.. etc. Create little vignettes for your treasure, let them tell a story (but don't try to tell your players the story.. let them work it out themselves). Players might poo poo your plotline or NPCs, but treasure is usually interesting, especially to MMO players who have been trained to value and inspect it closely.

    Devices. Wrack your brain to think up interesting gimmicks for a place or two the PCs will go. It takes very little to unlock people into actually treating the game world as real, and trying to figure out a mechanical maze with shifting rooms will get people to forget that it's not real for long enough to have a good experience in it, which immediately will make them try harder to do that again.

    2. Treat your sessions like a TV show, or a chaptered game like HL2. Try to end on high points, cliffhangers, 'the party has saved the day and is safe at an inn' kind of thing, even if it means ending a bit early or a bit late. (here is where you learn the wonders of.. pacing!). Try also for longer sessions, 4-6 hours, as the longer you play the more immersed people will become. It's not more important than other things to do this, you can still end sessions mid-dungeon, but it gives it more of a storybook feel that gets people into it.

    Try to have at least one action scene per session, even if it's just that a street thief stole the healer's pack cue chase. If you can, create homogenous environments that allow everyone to use their talents (i.e. don't have a locked door for no reason just so the rogue can use his open lock skill - have the back door to the drug den locked, so if the party tries to go in the rear either the barbarian can slam down the wooden door, or the rogue can open it silently - similarly, if goblin archers are firing at the party from a separate opposite gallery floor to the one the party are on, and the floor of the building below is covered in goblin fighters/deadly landsharks/horrible death slime, put in a chandelier, so someone can swing on it and give a goblin archer a faceful of boot.) so that people can feel involved in the game/action scene. Have someone with court influence (equestrian son of a great lord, worldly wise grand dame, whatever) strike up a conversation with the barbarian about something and seem to get along really well with them, which leads the bard to asking the barbarian to prevail upon their new friend for something (which could lead the friend to refuse, even). Involve everyone in everything as much as you can without being obvious. Being obvious ruins it.


    3. Put the players into situations where they can lose or gain something. Either something they like is being taken away/lost to them, or they have a chance to get something they want. Then start roleplaying. Let them roll diplomacy or whatever, but act like the die roll is affecting the way the NPC is taking what they're saying, not that the die roll is determining their success or failure. For bonus points, have someone you've successfully made the party like or hate be the person they need to convince or talk to in this situation.

    Have some guy, some really annoying guy, constantly bedevil the party. When they think they've killed him an airship crash, nope! When they're about to rescue the princess, nope! Always laughing and taunting them, no matter how many times Tim the Fighter breaks his nose or Robyn the Elf Archer puts 15 arrows through him. He loses, obviously, otherwise you're a cheating DMPC monster, but while the party is busy with stuff they can barely handle as is, he just suddenly shows up and is all up in their business, wrenches in their plans, etc. And then when the PCs **** up somehow, suddenly, he has the power to destroy the world and the doomsday clock is ticking... and there's no-one in the world the PCs hate more.

    Create an interesting character that strikes a chord with the players in some way. Note: This is really ****ting hard. Maybe a female barkeep who acts as a liaison between the party and their shadowy employer, hardbitten and tough but not an *******, with a hint at a whole lot of pain in her past. A note for this: There is no concept that isn't cliched, there is no concept that doesn't seem corny, from orphan girl to half-alien princess clone. It's how you play it that gives it life, that changes it from 2d cutout to a real live breathing person in your players' minds.

    Again, as with everything, you can't go overboard with this. Your players are the characters in the story. You need to do everything you can to reduce the amount of screentime you take, as you'll already be trying to fit a lot of stuff in an amount of space that if you go above that leads to disconnected and asleep players.

    The key to making DnD more interesting than an MMO is taking advantage of what you have that it doesn't - adaptibility and granularity. You can change what is going on based on player actions far more easily. So do. You can focus on any one thing down to almost a microscopic level if players are interested in it. So do. The imagination, properly fired up, can see things far more intensely than even the highest definition movie screen. So lace your descriptions with tiny details that cause the player to fill in the rest himself, and trigger words that spark images in his brain (iridescent, riddled, click, raised, inscribed, echoing, gloom). Players will collectively create, through interaction, a world more detailed than you had imagined. So give them that opportunity by encouraging roleplaying, giving them the time and space to do it, and roleplaying yourself so that they feel comfortable doing so themselves.

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    Anderlith's Avatar

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    Default Re: Better Sessions

    1. Describe everything in pornographic detail. Down to the blood & sweat stinging in their eyes
    2. Have NPC's talk to them regularly & make them interesting, when player become emotionally attached to things in the game they will start to act more in character, & I always recommend throwing something at the party that could actually kill them (don't ever throw something at them that they can't kill), if a few of them die then they will learn to be more careful & take your game seriously. If they survive they will be more careful & take your game seriously

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    Bugbear in the Playground
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    Read the GM Craft section of "Ars Ludi". I've found every single piece of Ben Robbins' advice helpful over the years.
    On DMPCs: "Remember, nothing will spice up your campaign quicker than long descriptions of NPC’s doing spectacular stuff while the players sit around and watch." -Shamus Young, DM of the Rings
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    Offer a small mechanical bonus to their roll if they come up with an interesting description.

    At the end of the session ask the players to name something really cool one of the other players did. If you think they can name enough and you agree the stuff was cool, the group gets some bonus xp.

    Suggest to the players that you don't describe everything in the scene. So if they want something to be in the scene they can ask for it and if it's reasonable they'll have it. Examples are chandeliers in a fancy hall or a stack of conveniently placed boxes in a warehouse.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Bagelson View Post
    Offer a small mechanical bonus to their roll if they come up with an interesting description.
    This. It's one thing to say "I roll to intimidate." vs. "I get within his immediate vicinity, look down on him, deep into his eyes, lean forward so that I'm nearly knocking him over and say 'Move.'".
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    My current group employ a rule dubbed "you said that". At any point if you are saying something not relating to mechanics and out of character, any of the other players may invoke their single use of "you said that" for the night. We have found that it help s to keep down a great deal of the useless back chat and promote more roleplaying.
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    Quote Originally Posted by STsinderman View Post
    My current group employ a rule dubbed "you said that". At any point if you are saying something not relating to mechanics and out of character, any of the other players may invoke their single use of "you said that" for the night. We have found that it help s to keep down a great deal of the useless back chat and promote more roleplaying.
    Uh... what does the use of "you said that" actually do? I think it means that the character said it IC too, but it's left kind of unclear.

    I agree with most of the advice presented here. Description is indeed one of the most important things in running a game, but it has to be used right so that it doesn't bog the game down.
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    "I roll to intimidate."
    How? By what means?

    I play a game where is is quite formalised. You state what you intend to make happen. And you state how you will do it. I then use my GMing prowess to assess whether those two things align and approve the validity of the roll then I state a complication for failure. Then the dice are rolled.
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    Quote Originally Posted by Ulysses WkAmil View Post
    Hi. I am currently first time DMing, and realativley new. The group I am playing with have been my friends for years, and I just got them into D&D. They are used to the MMO scene, so the concept of roll playing oddly doesn't mix well. I want to know, how I can make my games the following:
    First off, good on you for asking. That's always the first step, and the people who freely admit they don't know it all are always those who seem to learn DMing the fastest/best. There's always more out there, =)

    1. More immersive, because it doesn't seem like the players are being grasped as they should (ha)
    Ask them what they like...see what perks them up at the table, and add that to the list. Consider asking them for the top three things their char wants...and if you get answers like "power", ask why they want power. You want to find out what motivates them.

    2. How to make my sessions more satisfying. I feel like I am falling behind in my job, but it might be them, I do not know
    Well, why do you have the feeling you're falling behind? There's a lot of possible reasons for that.

    Also, how can i encourage my players to RP more? We're all friends and kicking someone out or threats (I am the youngest, being a freshman, who can take my rosy cheeks seriously?) would be terrible. I need a way to make them become more accustom to RP, so the games can roll smoother.
    First thing I'd suggest...use char names for initiative and such at the table. When you're referring to them as "bob", it's not a reminder in the way that say, "korgath" would be.

    Also, blatant bribes sometimes work. The sleazy gentleman who offers you a pile of money to go talk to someone and make a deal can lead to RP.
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    Quote Originally Posted by Anderlith View Post
    1. Describe everything in pornographic detail. Down to the blood & sweat stinging in their eyes
    +1 to this. As a player, it really makes a difference when that +1 Tower Shield I dug up is detailed in some way, or has a short history when I roll Bardic Knowledge. Even "Rusted, half-broken, and poorly made -You can't imagine someone paying for this garbage" adds flavor and atmosphere. When picking someone's pockets, avoiding round numbers (leaving the last few digits to a d10, perhaps throwing in a locket, a key or two, a shopping list, or some lint) makes it feel more like someone's pocket than a number you just pulled out of your ***.


    I've heard of DMs preparing random NPC stats the party might interact with. For example one "peasant", or one "generic guardsman" statblock could be quickly retrieved and recycled in case the party wants to interact with a peasant or guardsman (no matter where the party happens to be). W

    Writing down a list of names on a sheet, then crossing them off (maybe a brief word as to who s/he happened to be if s/he might come back later) as they're used for otherwise-unnamed NPCs, so you can calmly rattle names off when necessary.
    Last edited by Slipperychicken; 2012-02-07 at 05:43 PM.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Slipperychicken View Post
    +1 to this. As a player, it really makes a difference when that +1 Tower Shield I dug up is detailed in some way, or has a short history when I roll Bardic Knowledge. Even "Rusted, half-broken, and poorly made -You can't imagine someone paying for this garbage" adds flavor and atmosphere. When picking someone's pockets, avoiding round numbers (leaving the last few digits to a d10, perhaps throwing in a locket, a key or two, a shopping list, or some lint) makes it feel more like someone's pocket than a number you just pulled out of your ***.


    I've heard of DMs preparing random NPC stats the party might interact with. For example one "peasant", or one "generic guardsman" statblock could be quickly retrieved and recycled in case the party wants to interact with a peasant or guardsman (no matter where the party happens to be). W

    Writing down a list of names on a sheet, then crossing them off (maybe a brief word as to who s/he happened to be if s/he might come back later) as they're used for otherwise-unnamed NPCs, so you can calmly rattle names off when necessary.
    Ah yes, I support this. Write out a very very long list of random names & last names for random NPC's cross of the ones you use, rinse & repeat. I also keep an index card of statblocks with random "generic" npcs, like you describe, as well : )
    Last edited by Anderlith; 2012-02-07 at 07:02 PM.

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    Two of the guys in my group do roleplay a bit, but mostly shouting sterio-typical dwarf things such as "MUH BEAAARRRDD" and stone puns.
    I think that this whole "motivate with stuff" thing would work, because they love free stuff. My #2 (he helps the party stay on the rails) would be the most predictable, saying either power, money, or fame. I think I may need to get their creative juices flowing, because after 2 years plaing World of Warcraft, you lose the ability to think for yourself . I try to incorporate my characters (pitifully small) backstorys into the adventures, but it never works out as expected. What type of bonus would you reccomend to get them creating more intricate backstorys?
    Last edited by Ulysses WkAmil; 2012-02-07 at 09:46 PM.
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    SolithKnightGuy

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    Spotlight time. Players with backstories have **** from their backstories, people, objects, places, come up allatime and be important in the plot. They get facetime for it, not that the party can't involve themselves, but generic NPC X knows Player Y, so that player becomes the mouthpiece for the party and gets more chance to do stuff.

    Also can get loot or whatever due to backstory. Essentially reward them but do it in game.

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    Orc in the Playground
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    Quote Originally Posted by Bagelson View Post
    At the end of the session ask the players to name something really cool one of the other players did. If you think they can name enough and you agree the stuff was cool, the group gets some bonus xp.
    I had a DM that did that. When I was telling him I wasn't learning or having fun, he didn't get it. >.< Bad bad bad idea.

    Quote Originally Posted by NOhara24 View Post
    This. It's one thing to say "I roll to intimidate." vs. "I get within his immediate vicinity, look down on him, deep into his eyes, lean forward so that I'm nearly knocking him over and say 'Move.'".
    Oh hell yes!


    Quote Originally Posted by Slipperychicken View Post
    +1 to this. As a player, it really makes a difference when that +1 Tower Shield I dug up is detailed in some way, or has a short history when I roll Bardic Knowledge. Even "Rusted, half-broken, and poorly made -You can't imagine someone paying for this garbage" adds flavor and atmosphere. When picking someone's pockets, avoiding round numbers (leaving the last few digits to a d10, perhaps throwing in a locket, a key or two, a shopping list, or some lint) makes it feel more like someone's pocket than a number you just pulled out of your ***.
    I agree, I try to do this as much as I can. I'm not good at it but it does spark their interest. Or a hand-carved message on the strap of the shield to a love one.

    Quote Originally Posted by Ulysses WkAmil View Post
    because after 2 years plaing World of Warcraft, you lose the ability to think for yourself.
    * Same with playing DnD consulting the rules too much.

    What type of bonus would you reccomend to get them creating more intricate backstorys?
    They get more flexibly in that area. Those NPCs come out of the wood work and start sending letters. Money(within reason), etc...
    Remember that guy that gave up? Neither does no one else.

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    Troll in the Playground
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    If they're mostly MMO players, try presenting them with situation where 'thinking outside the box' is vastly preferrable to the brute-force solution. And let it work when they come up with crazy stuff like redirecting a river to flood out a trap-laden kobold den, or get through the iron door by luring a rust-monster into the same room.

    It was mentioned above, but try to make the environment more than just background scenery. Put fights on rickety platforms that will collapse with too much weight, icy windswept ridges, a cluttered wizard's workshop, the middle of running streams, up and down stairs, and and anywhere else where both sides can try to use their surroundings to their advantage.
    Last edited by Arbane; 2012-02-08 at 06:07 PM.
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    Quote Originally Posted by NOhara24 View Post
    It's one thing to say "I roll to intimidate." vs. "I get within his immediate vicinity, look down on him, deep into his eyes, lean forward so that I'm nearly knocking him over and say 'Move.'".
    Quote Originally Posted by Sudain View Post
    Oh hell yes!
    A thousand times yes!

    I wish my players would roleplay on this level more often. I should really mention to them and offer some minor bonuses on rolls when they roleplay in this way.

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    Barbarian in the Playground
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    You should reward good behaviour.

    Make sure that you realise you're immersing them in a world and you're not telling a story (having an epic escape scene for a villain sucks for them if they try to stop the villain and everything fails by default).

    You should read these: http://www.giantitp.com/Gaming.html

    You can make the world more realistic, force out of the box thinking and role-playing by making them face potential threats that are sure to kick their ass in a battle (meaning you could role-play your way out, avoid them or escape, but not do something MMO-style and just attack them). Make sure to not soften the encounter up if they do decide to go for it (also make sure they understand they're facing someone powerful), a dead PC makes for a good lesson.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Rejakor View Post
    Spotlight time. Players with backstories have **** from their backstories, people, objects, places, come up allatime and be important in the plot. They get facetime for it, not that the party can't involve themselves, but generic NPC X knows Player Y, so that player becomes the mouthpiece for the party and gets more chance to do stuff.

    Also can get loot or whatever due to backstory. Essentially reward them but do it in game.
    This worked great, this morning one of my players already had a lengthy backstory, somewhat romantic one, with Russian-cultural elves, but awesome
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    Quote Originally Posted by Ulysses WkAmil View Post
    This worked great, this morning one of my players already had a lengthy backstory, somewhat romantic one, with Russian-cultural elves, but awesome
    Good. Have the lover play some future role. Maybe he/she writes a letter, or maybe the character gets word that he/she died trapped in the dungeon of a corrupt official. Then make the player watch Braveheart and see what he/she does.

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    Put them in non-combat situations. Have them be in places where they have to role play what they are doing, and let them get used to doing it. Then work on getting them to transfer that to other elements of the session.

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    You're advice is working great people, thank you. Unfortunatley, there's still one thing I need your help with. Coming from the MMO scene, they are used to having their information handed to them, either by Thottbot or WoWhead or NPC's or whatever. They don't make the optional checks (perception, insight, nature,ect.), unless I tell them. I remind them every now and then, but they forget. They don't ever make perception checks after a fight, or Nature checks during one. If I suggest they make one, it puts my plans in an obvious position. Forcing them to make checks seems kinda railroady, or like it would prevent learning.
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    Quote Originally Posted by Ulysses WkAmil View Post
    You're advice is working great people, thank you. Unfortunatley, there's still one thing I need your help with. Coming from the MMO scene, they are used to having their information handed to them, either by Thottbot or WoWhead or NPC's or whatever. They don't make the optional checks (perception, insight, nature,ect.), unless I tell them. I remind them every now and then, but they forget. They don't ever make perception checks after a fight, or Nature checks during one. If I suggest they make one, it puts my plans in an obvious position. Forcing them to make checks seems kinda railroady, or like it would prevent learning.
    Most groups I ran with have the DM call for perception checks when needed. They also call for unnecessary perception checks, so the fact he is asking for one doesn't necessarily mean anything.

    For the other examples, they should be taking the initiative. How about you demonstrate what they missed out on? You could do that out of game, tell them "Guys, there was 10,000gp of loot that you missed out on because you didn't look for it, you might want to take a more active approach next time". And if they do search, make sure they find something cool to help them realize how much of a good thing it can be. Same thing with enemies, find something with a huge, exploitable weakness that the party is equipped to deal with, then tell them about it afterwards(assuming you won't re-use the enemy), so they can see how much it could help them. Or have an NPC chime in the with the advice, let them see how much it helps the combat, and then point out that they should have been able to realize it themselves.
    If you can clearly demonstrate the payoff for the actions, it will probably help get them into the habit.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Ulysses WkAmil View Post
    Coming from the MMO scene, they are used to having their information handed to them, either by Thottbot or WoWhead or NPC's or whatever. They don't make the optional checks (perception, insight, nature,ect.), unless I tell them. I remind them every now and then, but they forget. They don't ever make perception checks after a fight, or Nature checks during one. If I suggest they make one, it puts my plans in an obvious position. Forcing them to make checks seems kinda railroady, or like it would prevent learning.
    Make a list to keep behind your GM screen of their "passive" check bonuses, then add 10. This assumes they are generally taking 10 on passive checks, and you can just compare the result to the DC or opposed checks of the NPCs/monsters. This way, they don't always have to remember to roll, but if they ask to roll they can.
    Passive checks would be Spot, Listen, possibly Knowledges, maybe Sense Motive and Survival if you feel generous.
    Settings: Weird West
    Work in Progress: Fulcrum

  25. - Top - End - #25
    Dwarf in the Playground
     
    Ulysses WkAmil's Avatar

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    Aug 2011
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    Default Re: Better Sessions

    I do love a "trial by fire" lesson. I'll be sure to impliment the passive thing, I haven't used it much. Any advice on setting DC's on the spot? For unexpected/unplanned courses of action?
    \A/ Why play fair when you can "Technically" play fair. \A/
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    Ah say ah canno' jump, ya' jus' 'ave ta' toss meh!

  26. - Top - End - #26
    Troll in the Playground
    Join Date
    May 2010

    Default Re: Better Sessions

    One idea I had was to prepare ahead of time some index card with facts the PCs could know if they passed the appropriate knowledge checks, then give them to the players, so their characters can tell everyone else.

    "Well, as you'd KNOW if you had an education, that's a demon, not a devil. We need iron weaponry, and don't bother with lightning."
    Imagine if all real-world conversations were like internet D&D conversations...
    Protip: DnD is an incredibly social game played by some of the most socially inept people on the planet - Lev
    I read this somewhere and I stick to it: "I would rather play a bad system with my friends than a great system with nobody". - Trevlac
    Quote Originally Posted by Kelb_Panthera View Post
    That said, trolling is entirely counterproductive (yes, even when it's hilarious).

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