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  1. - Top - End - #1
    Ogre in the Playground
     
    Kobold

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    Jan 2012

    Default Explaining things as DM

    Hi,
    I recently ran a high-tension session after which players (including me) needed some time to unwind. During that time players asked some questions about what happened. I am the kind of person who loves explaining stuff so I did (also more genre savvy players seemed a little suspicious about the whole thing making sense). Players are happy but I started to wonder if explaining plot to much will ruin the game (it's light horror/ mystery game). What are your thoughts & experiences on explaining what happened?

    Spoiler: TODO: about the session
    Show

    To Be Done - it was 6-ish hours long so quite a lot happened, I'll fill in later

  2. - Top - End - #2
    Ettin in the Playground
     
    Kobold

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    Default Re: Explaining things as DM

    I'll explain things when those things are history. If they're in progress, even if the players don't see it yet, I'll hold the cards close to my chest. So far my players have trusted me when I've told them there's more to come and I don't want to spoil the surprise.
    If you like what I have to say, please check out my GMing Blog where I discuss writing and roleplaying in greater depth.

  3. - Top - End - #3
    Bugbear in the Playground
     
    themaque's Avatar

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    Default Re: Explaining things as DM

    It also depends on how far askew would their player and character knowledge. Especially in a world you crafted it's hard for them to know without asking what is standard knowledge.

    I've had similar issues when running Deadlands.
    “You know what your problem is, it's that you haven't seen enough movies - all of life's riddles are answered in the movies.” Davis. -Steve Martin- Grand Canyon

    Picard management tip: Debate honestly. The goal is to arrive at the truth, not at your preconception.

  4. - Top - End - #4
    Ettin in the Playground
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    Feb 2012

    Default Re: Explaining things as DM

    This used to be one of the jokes about me in my early DM days. Spending some time plying me with questions would almost inevitably cause me to slip up and reveal stuff that wasn't supposed to be known, at least not yet. Because I love talking about my game, of course i do.
    These days I'm better at keeping things back, and I'd rather keep back one thing that could've been told than reveal one thing that shouldn't have been told.
    Last edited by hymer; 2015-11-05 at 03:01 AM.
    My D&D 5th ed. Druid Handbook

  5. - Top - End - #5
    Ettin in the Playground
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    Dec 2010

    Default Re: Explaining things as DM

    I have this habit, but I think its better to explain less. Actually, the biggest problem is with feeling a need to make sure that the players 'have it right' or understand not just what happened, but why. If you give in to this instinct, you sort of cheat your players out of the ability to be surprised or mistaken about things - e.g. to figure it out on their own.

    That said, if its after the fact and it won't be relevant again, I think explanations are fine if the players are interested. It's just, I think its better to quash that reaction of 'nope, they got the reason wrong, I have to correct their misunderstanding!'

  6. - Top - End - #6
    Titan in the Playground
     
    nedz's Avatar

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    Default Re: Explaining things as DM

    Show don't Tell.

    You should never explain the plot. The actions of NPCs should show the plot.
    π = 4
    Consider a 5' radius blast: this affects 4 squares which have a circumference of 40' — Actually it's worse than that.


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  7. - Top - End - #7
    Ogre in the Playground
     
    Kobold

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    Jan 2012

    Default Re: Explaining things as DM

    Thanks everyone up the thread, I think I can use your advice as-is. However I need a bit more detail on that one:

    Quote Originally Posted by nedz View Post
    Show don't Tell.

    You should never explain the plot. The actions of NPCs should show the plot.
    Spoiler: Session as seen by PCs
    Show

    Everything is happening during arctic night @ Alaskan town.

    PCs met at the bar, superficially knowing each other (and having clues that the town is being cut off from outside world (clue count/strength depending on PC inquisitiveness during individual intro). They heard sheriff warning everyone to stay home (iff they have a generator) or meet at the bar (otherwise) and be cautious.

    A couple of PCs went to sheriff office to ask what's going on and found a corpse and obvious marks of fighting. Then they came back to other PCs @ the bar.

    As PCs returned everyone heard shots & noticed burning buildings. After regrouping PCs decided to stock up on supplies @ home of one of them. They did (on the way running into a burning fuel transporter trap). They got some supplies but the house was set up on fire, so they had to run. They went to a luxurious hotel (my addition to the town) and investigated a bit. At kitchen they found about whole population of the town slowly bleeding out to a blood collector. PCs decided to run at that point. They got two cars. folks in first car were preempted by a newbie vampire (I didn't tell them that at the time), others got some distance and watched folks in first car dispose of the vamp.

    Then they went to a secure place (trash processing plant with overblown security system) and recovered. After that they ran for camp outside the city (backstory of one of PCs). One PC became NPC and attempted to kill one of PCs (players idea for the PC), other PCs survived to see next sunrise (including to-be-PvP-victim).

    (this took 6-ish hours so a lot of detail was ommited)


    Spoiler: Plot summary
    Show

    Tremere (semi-ported from oWoD to nWod) was testing his reverse-engineered version of that Assamite ritual that lets one convert a huge amount of blood from vampires into potion that improves one blood potency. The Tremere used whole town as blood & vampire source for perfecting the formula. As he had surplus of subjects and PCs seemed interesting he played with them for a while & decided to put them to a different use (namely offing vampires that he wants dead).


    Now I did explain (almost) everything to players, but please do tell me how could I show more of what was going on to PCs via NPC actions instead of explaining as DM to players (do ask for more detail if it will be helpful)(sure, I can not undo the past but I plan some surprises for my players in the future (I planned this as one-of session, which was a reason for me explaining so much, but players asked for continuation so I think I should do a better job next time)).

  8. - Top - End - #8
    Titan in the Playground
     
    nedz's Avatar

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    Default Re: Explaining things as DM

    My point was a general one based on my reading of your original post. Having now seen the details this doesn't seem to be an issue.

    Questions (semi-rhetorical):
    1) Have you told them the contents of the second spoiler box ?
    2) Do you intend to run another session ?

    If the answer to 2) is no then it's fine if the answer to 1) is yes; and the opposite is true also.

    Though since you haven't run a 2nd session you could always twist your plot perhaps by adding another external factor ?

    Incidentally the fact that you are always seeking to do things better is a good indicator of a good DM — IMHO.
    π = 4
    Consider a 5' radius blast: this affects 4 squares which have a circumference of 40' — Actually it's worse than that.


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  9. - Top - End - #9
    Troll in the Playground
     
    BardGuy

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    Jan 2009

    Default Re: Explaining things as DM

    Assuming there will be a section session where you finish the game, I recommend:

    1. Don't tell the players any details, but tell them that their questions are reasonable and that there is a good reason in-game for what happened. It should become clear during the game or, if it doesn't, you'll be happy to tell them after the game is done. For now, no spoilers.
    2. If any details are completely irrelevant now, tell them. Especially if it's something that seemed contrived and made them suspect you were just trying to make things hard. For example, if the fire that drove them out of their base was something already planned in the plot, or happened but they could have prevented it if they made a Spot check (or whatever, for the system) or if they noticed this or that clue, feel free to tell them that. It doesn't spoil anything, and it lets them know they had a chance. This could be especially true if a player is focused on the question.
    3. If some of the questions are due to an uncomfortable level of tension or the players being upset at something seeming contrived, explain specifically in that instance there is a good reason, but you really can't tell them why yet. (This is an elaboration of #1 above.)

    Some examples from a game I was in.
    1. After the name ended, the DM told us what allies of ours were actually evil and the big plot the bad guys had going on.
    2. In a mage game, our cabal got a magic sword and traded it to the Camarilla. Due to misreading a prophecy, I (and thus my character) thought we needed the sword, so I had a lot of plans to get the sword. The GM eventually told me the sword didn't matter at this point in the plot and why it was in the game in the first place.
    3. One time something just felt really contrived by the DM. I... honestly forget the details, but it felt like he wasn't happy with what we were doing and so he asked us to trust him that it did in fact make sense. A few sessions later we realized why it did and understood.

  10. - Top - End - #10
    Titan in the Playground
     
    ElfRangerGuy

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    Default Re: Explaining things as DM

    I agree with the others saying that it's better to not over-share all the background details of the game, at least not while whether the players know or don't know those details is still relevant. Usually, after the end of an adventure is a good time to reveal most of that information, but don't divulge anything that will continue to be a recurring plot element.

    The issue, of course, is that this requires an additional level of trust between the DM and the players. At a minimum, games such as D&D and World of Darkness require the DM/Storyteller be trusted to run the world and the NPCs with competence and relative impartiality. What is even better is when the players also trust that the story being told is well thought out and has some internal consistency, and that events which seem unusual are unusual for a good reason (even if those things are not apparent until later).
    "Nothing you can't spell will ever work." - Will Rogers

    "What you must learn is that these rules are no different than the rules of a computer system. Some of them can be bent. Others can be broken." - Morpheus, The Matrix

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    Remember, Evil isn't "selfish". It's Evil. "Look out for number one" is a Neutral attitude. Evil looks out for number one while crushing number two.

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