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  1. - Top - End - #1
    Dwarf in the Playground
     
    BlackDragon

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    Default "I did some dungeon mastery today!"

    I was introduced to the concept of dungeon mastery and now I knew what had made some of my best RPG experiences memorable. Basically, you show rather than tell details that make your players draw useful conclusions about how your world works. When I say "useful" I meant that they could actually use the knowledge they learnt to accomplish something. So, an important character telling them his or her name and it being a secret password would not qualify, but correctly guessing the location of a pit trap on the floor because of the markings on the previous one would.

    So, do you have any stories of when you managed to have helpful information in the background that the players picked up, used to accomplish something and made them feel clever?

    A story I have is of a temple where a demon worshipping cult was hanging out. The players were searching for a secret door, and I'd put hieroglyphs describing the ritual in a room where the PCs were located. Because of it they could identify who was the head priest among the ring of priests all chanting in unison, not by his dress, but by his position in the room.

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    Default Re: "I did some dungeon mastery today!"

    Dungeon mastery is also a great approach for worldbuilding. It's often quite difficult to give settings deep detail that players actually care about. People tend to filter information for useful bits and things that don't appear immediately applicable tend to barely register and get very quickly forgotten. Focusing the worldbuilding on things that the players can actually use to gain a benefit when exploring dungeons or dealing with factions makes the things that players are being told much more relevant.
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    Default Re: "I did some dungeon mastery today!"

    Quote Originally Posted by nrg89 View Post

    So, do you have any stories of when you managed to have helpful information in the background that the players picked up, used to accomplish something and made them feel clever?
    I do this all the time and it is a big part of my game style. I hate the whole ''roll and have the DM tell me stuff'' style that is so popular.

    So I will warn you: at least half of the players out there don't want to pay attention and think and be clever for real. They just want to sit back, be dumb and lazy and have the DM tell them everything. So get ready for when you will describe something and the players won't even listen and they will just roll a d20 and say ''whatever, DM tell me ''. They are mostly easy to spot though: they are the roll players who have a build they want to play. They don't care about descriptions, fluff or role playing...they only care about the numbers or the causal careless gamers.

    But when you have good players, it works out great. For example:

    *I'm big on using words and phrases that can tell you a bit about someone(exactly like you can in the real world). It can show race, culture, mindset or even just were they are from. And it's a great clue for players to find for real. Like recently they caught the ''frail fur'' clue. Frail fur is an insult used by Northern half orcs for humans. It's not often used by other races. So when trying to find some half orc bandits, the players too note that the local warden used that word, got suspicious and did some investigation, and found the bandits working for him. It's not always a 100% easy to follow cartoon plot, but it can be.

    *Items, more so food and drink. Same as above.

    *The gnomes have long sought to standardize all potion tastes/flavors. Some follow the gnome rules, some don't. Goblins do the opposite of gnomes. Still players might be able to sometimes identify potions.

    *Mage Sigils can be used to identify who made something and maybe what magic it has too.

    *Marks in general can give the same information about mundane things.

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    Dwarf in the Playground
     
    BlackDragon

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    Default Re: "I did some dungeon mastery today!"

    Quote Originally Posted by Darth Ultron View Post
    I do this all the time and it is a big part of my game style. I hate the whole ''roll and have the DM tell me stuff'' style that is so popular.

    So I will warn you: at least half of the players out there don't want to pay attention and think and be clever for real.

    ...

    But when you have good players, it works out great. For example:
    I'm hesitant to seperate players into "good" or "bad" and only offer this up for the good players because I expect these little details to be missed. I do not make my adventures depend on these little details, such as an important clue, because I think it results in them feeling less memorable, rare and significant.

    The head of design for Magic: the Gathering once wrote something that stuck with me almost a decade ago. He was planning his wedding, the theme was games, and he made his wedding cake into a large version of The Game of Life. On each grid on the board he wrote custom text that specifically referenced him and his wife, but his wife didn't understand why he went through the trouble instead of using the default game text. His reasoning was that the few people who did read the text would feel special and rewarded for their curiosity, and then tell the rest of the guests to look at the text. Because you almost missed it, and many others did, you feel much more rewarded for catching that little nugge. Not all guests, but some, walked up to him and complimented him for his creativeness and said it was great fun, and that was all that mattered. They found a treasure, in plain sight, just because they looked a little closer and they were happy for it. All those hours of coming up with text was all worth it now.

    If the players are supposed to notice it I feel it diminishes the value of it. They were expected to find it, it's not a reward to have the adventure continue. I, personally, would like a positive reinforcement of finding fluff instead of a negative one as in "pay attention or you'll get stuck". That means that most of the things I describe will go in one ear and out the other but it makes me so much more happy when something is picked up and used.

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    Default Re: "I did some dungeon mastery today!"

    Quote Originally Posted by nrg89 View Post
    I'm hesitant to seperate players into "good" or "bad" and only offer this up for the good players because I expect these little details to be missed. I do not make my adventures depend on these little details, such as an important clue, because I think it results in them feeling less memorable, rare and significant.
    My ''solution'' to this non-problem is simple overload. The players get tons of detail all the time, most of it not ''important''. They have to use their own real life skills and intelligence to sort through it.

    I guess you can make your ones pure pointless fluff, so if they are missed they don't matter. But if they have anything to do with the game or adventure...there is always a chance the players might miss them.

    But so what? The game roles on. The players do not need to get everything all the time. It is a given that at least half of all people won't ''get'' any one thing...you know because people are human. That is just the way it is. That is why the more modern editions of games like D&D make everything about rolls and not the actions of a real person.

    For my real life example. Just a couple weeks ago I ran the scavenger hunt at camp. Each kid(aka 13 year olds) got the same list of things to find and a map of the camp. I made it so each of the items would spell out a letter W(for Wildwood camp). I did help them a bit by saying they should mark where they got things on the map, but nothing more. Of the 25 kids...well most failed to even find half of the items. Some kids could not even figure out that a ''small smooth stone from a river'' might be found over in the river. But two kids, both girls, found the hidden ''W'' and found everything...and they were beyond happy that they figured out my clever little thing.

  6. - Top - End - #6
    Dwarf in the Playground
     
    BlackDragon

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    Default Re: "I did some dungeon mastery today!"

    Quote Originally Posted by Darth Ultron View Post
    My ''solution'' to this non-problem is simple overload. The players get tons of detail all the time, most of it not ''important''. They have to use their own real life skills and intelligence to sort through it.
    I'm not sure this is what I would have done, because this is a game and not a fantasy novel. I have no problems with the details being there for the players to ask about ("You said there was a sigil, what does it look like?") but I do have a problem with showering details over the players because there's only two possible outcomes; either the players give up trying to catch it all or they'll basically ask "is this going to be on the test?". Unless I'm misunderstanding you and the players are the ones who ask for more details?

    For my real life example. Just a couple weeks ago I ran the scavenger hunt at camp. Each kid(aka 13 year olds) got the same list of things to find and a map of the camp. I made it so each of the items would spell out a letter W(for Wildwood camp). I did help them a bit by saying they should mark where they got things on the map, but nothing more. Of the 25 kids...well most failed to even find half of the items. Some kids could not even figure out that a ''small smooth stone from a river'' might be found over in the river. But two kids, both girls, found the hidden ''W'' and found everything...and they were beyond happy that they figured out my clever little thing.
    That's an excellent example of what I mean! These kids had to figure it out by themselves, and you put a lot of faith in them, and those who found your hidden message felt very clever. That's what I think should be done more in RPGs, you can still spend all day doing things the normal way but if you're more astute and pay more attention you'll find a little tool for your quest to help you along the way.

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    Dwarf in the Playground
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    Default Re: "I did some dungeon mastery today!"

    Quote Originally Posted by Yora View Post
    Dungeon mastery is also a great approach for worldbuilding. It's often quite difficult to give settings deep detail that players actually care about. People tend to filter information for useful bits and things that don't appear immediately applicable tend to barely register and get very quickly forgotten. Focusing the worldbuilding on things that the players can actually use to gain a benefit when exploring dungeons or dealing with factions makes the things that players are being told much more relevant.
    Do you have some examples of this 'setting mastery'? It sounds interesting but I'm having trouble thinking of application.

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    Default Re: "I did some dungeon mastery today!"

    Quote Originally Posted by Darth Ultron View Post
    My ''solution'' to this non-problem is simple overload. The players get tons of detail all the time, most of it not ''important''. They have to use their own real life skills and intelligence to sort through it.
    You are obviously not an adherent of the minimalist school and so no Chekhov Guns for you. This is, of course, fine; but there are different styles of DMing.

    One key skill for DMing is description of the scene keeping this interesting is the art. I have encountered DM's who give out too much information or rely on info dumps, like the infamous box texts. Monologues are boring.

    Now you might be a great orator and be able to hold your player's attention, but likely you are not. Personally I prefer a conversational approach because interaction is interesting, though you have to put questions in your player's minds for that to work - which is another skill.
    Last edited by nedz; 2016-09-04 at 01:58 PM.
    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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    Dwarf in the Playground
     
    BlackDragon

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    Default Re: "I did some dungeon mastery today!"

    Quote Originally Posted by Alcibiades View Post
    Do you have some examples of this 'setting mastery'? It sounds interesting but I'm having trouble thinking of application.
    You've probably done it multiple times but didn't call it anything particular.

    I can use my hieroglyphs as an example again. I have rakshasa as demons in my setting, so animal heads means demons. My players saw a vase with a person with an animal head on it in the treasure chamber of a wealthy merchant. They went "oh crap" because now they knew he was working with the demons. No excessive monologues on my part needed.

    "I look for the most valuable things that's not gold."
    "There's some pottery, do you check it out?"
    "Sure, which one's the finest?"
    "There's a very fine vase with a person holding a scepter, only the person has the head of an eagle."
    "... Guys, we've been messing with some dangerous people here."
    Last edited by nrg89; 2016-09-04 at 04:15 PM.

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    Default Re: "I did some dungeon mastery today!"

    My style, while still evolving, is a bit like Zork.

    "You come out of the woods and see a road. There are a few buildings stretched along it, some people are walking around."
    "What sort of people."
    "Workers mostly, some in military uniform and some with weapons. Some are hauling stuff around, others are waiting."

    And they can ask about and detail and I will detail it as much as is appropriate. The characters only notice things they pay attention to.

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    Default Re: "I did some dungeon mastery today!"

    Quote Originally Posted by nedz View Post
    You are obviously not an adherent of the minimalist school and so no Chekhov Guns for you. This is, of course, fine; but there are different styles of DMing.
    I do very much hate the minimalist way. I say go play a video game or watch some fiction if you want minimalist. The whole thing where the players find ''the red key'' and then use their amazing brains to figure out ''the red key must open the red door, wow, we are so smart'' is just not for me.

    This is one of my number one ways to kill of a character. Even after a player is told like fifteen times that I don't do the minimalist way, they will still leap into a pool of acid filled with acidborn sharks to get a ''shinny thing'' because they are deluded and they think ''everything the DM says must be a very important part of the adventure.''

    Quote Originally Posted by Alcibiades View Post
    Do you have some examples of this 'setting mastery'? It sounds interesting but I'm having trouble thinking of application.
    GNAT(the Gnome Alchemical Traders, the ''N'' is silent) have attempted to standardize potions world wide. So for example, a potion of healing always looks/tastes like honey. And folks that use the system will put a small gnat on the bottle(gnomes) or cork(everyone else). A player with this knowledge can identify potions for real in the game and not just lazily roll and say ''ok DM tell me what my character knows".

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    Default Re: "I did some dungeon mastery today!"

    Quote Originally Posted by Yora View Post
    Dungeon mastery is also a great approach for worldbuilding. It's often quite difficult to give settings deep detail that players actually care about.
    I like the idea of involving the players in creating the game world. There's a free PDF game "Dawn of Worlds" along these lines.
    Last edited by SowelBlack; 2016-09-05 at 04:06 PM.

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    Default Re: "I did some dungeon mastery today!"

    Quote Originally Posted by Darth Ultron View Post
    Quote Originally Posted by nedz View Post
    You are obviously not an adherent of the minimalist school and so no Chekhov Guns for you. This is, of course, fine; but there are different styles of DMing.
    I do very much hate the minimalist way. I say go play a video game or watch some fiction if you want minimalist. The whole thing where the players find ''the red key'' and then use their amazing brains to figure out ''the red key must open the red door, wow, we are so smart'' is just not for me.

    This is one of my number one ways to kill of a character. Even after a player is told like fifteen times that I don't do the minimalist way, they will still leap into a pool of acid filled with acidborn sharks to get a ''shinny thing'' because they are deluded and they think ''everything the DM says must be a very important part of the adventure.''
    Well it's from modernist theatre, but whatever.

    It can be done well - though the examples you gave are of it being done badly.

    It's not my style either but I do sometimes use foreshadowing - which is similar. The trick, with either, is to make it obvious only in hind sight.
    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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    Default Re: "I did some dungeon mastery today!"

    I'm a fan of not really having the important details set, but rolling with an interesting conclusion the players latch onto. I'm told this is bad and lazy, but I fail to see the bad. It's nearly impossible to tell what a player is going to decide is relevant, and it's nice to be right about things once in a while.

    For example, I introduced a faerie hunter who my players thought was a faerie himself. I made that true, because it seemed fun. The players were like "oh you, with the obvious twists!" and felt very clever for outsmarting me.

    Granted, there are other reasons to do this. If players have latched onto something that I didn't intend, I view it as a failure on my part to foreshadow properly. It sometimes gets to the point where I feel like I've flubbed enough that they'd think I changed it because they got it right. So I sometimes change it so they're mostly right.

    I don't always. They have it in their heads that this one Imperialist is secretly working for the Resistance (wow, where'd I get this plot), and I never intended that. But, I did realize that it's possible that he doesn't know his country's true intentions and he'd become sympathetic if he did.
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    Default Re: "I did some dungeon mastery today!"

    Quote Originally Posted by nrg89 View Post
    I was introduced to the concept of dungeon mastery and now I knew what had made some of my best RPG experiences memorable. Basically, you show rather than tell details that make your players draw useful conclusions about how your world works. When I say "useful" I meant that they could actually use the knowledge they learnt to accomplish something. So, an important character telling them his or her name and it being a secret password would not qualify, but correctly guessing the location of a pit trap on the floor because of the markings on the previous one would.

    So, do you have any stories of when you managed to have helpful information in the background that the players picked up, used to accomplish something and made them feel clever?

    A story I have is of a temple where a demon worshipping cult was hanging out. The players were searching for a secret door, and I'd put hieroglyphs describing the ritual in a room where the PCs were located. Because of it they could identify who was the head priest among the ring of priests all chanting in unison, not by his dress, but by his position in the room.

    Good work man, "show don't tell" is actually one of the core foundations to good storytelling / writing as well, so it makes sense that it'd translate well into DMing :)
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