The Game Master Advice Exchange Thread

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Lachlan the Sane
Location: I come from the land down under, where women blow and men chunder

The Game Master Advice Exchange Thread

Postby Lachlan the Sane » Tue Nov 10, 2015 11:09 am

Hey all, I'm starting up this thread so that people who want to GM games can ask questions if they need some advice about how to design encounters, write stories, stop everyone arguing over pineapple on the pizza etc. etc.

Anyone can ask questions here if they want, but I've got a couple to start us off with. All questions are based on D&D 3.5.

1. How do you make an encounter that's supposed to be run from rather than fought -- and how do you convince your players to scarper? I would like to design an encounter where most of the party have to hold off a big tough monster while a couple of members need to work on opening a puzzle door (more on that below). In 3.5, the attack and damage progressions mean that an enemy who massively outlevels the party will probably one-shot anyone it attacks, so simply throwing a too-hard enemy isn't enough.

2. What's a good way to make a locked door with a puzzle that's more complicated than "Get the rogue to take 20 on an Open Lock check"? Does anyone have cool ideas for puzzle doors?

3. Let's suppose that the party runs into an extraordinarily powerful enemy -- like, say, an Old dragon -- who has been brought low, and longs for death. The dragon is willing to bargain with the party if they promise to kill him afterwards. How would you balance and reward this encounter?
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Daemian Lucifer

Re: The Game Master Advice Exchange Thread

Postby Daemian Lucifer » Tue Nov 10, 2015 12:06 pm

Lachlan the Mad wrote:1. How do you make an encounter that's supposed to be run from rather than fought -- and how do you convince your players to scarper? I would like to design an encounter where most of the party have to hold off a big tough monster while a couple of members need to work on opening a puzzle door (more on that below). In 3.5, the attack and damage progressions mean that an enemy who massively outlevels the party will probably one-shot anyone it attacks, so simply throwing a too-hard enemy isn't enough.


You can make the monster nigh invulnerable,but sluggish.Having one of their weapons break on the first hit is a good way to do it.

Or,if they are genre savvy,you can throw something big and slow at them that they should instantly recognize.

Or maybe show them that the enemy severely outnumbers them.For example,send them through a hallway filled with statues on either side,dozens and dozens of them,and then just as they reach the end of the hallway,tell them that the statues on the other end slowly start to move.Then the ones next to them,and so on.

Lachlan the Mad wrote:2. What's a good way to make a locked door with a puzzle that's more complicated than "Get the rogue to take 20 on an Open Lock check"? Does anyone have cool ideas for puzzle doors?


A golden claw?

Lachlan the Mad wrote:3. Let's suppose that the party runs into an extraordinarily powerful enemy -- like, say, an Old dragon -- who has been brought low, and longs for death. The dragon is willing to bargain with the party if they promise to kill him afterwards. How would you balance and reward this encounter?


Instead of the classic "hack at him until he keels over",a dragon could ask them to brew a poison for him.So they wouldnt actually fight the dragon himself(though you can make a side effect of the poison be a minute or so of pure madness where they have to avoid being scorched and pummeled).As for the hoard,you can say that the dragon was plundered,or he spent it on something,or maybe he gambled it all(which would be an interesting twist,since dragons arent known for their gambling problems).This way,they would receive only a small part that was left.
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4th Dimension

Re: The Game Master Advice Exchange Thread

Postby 4th Dimension » Tue Nov 10, 2015 12:19 pm

I'm not a GM but I'm thinking about what might work on my if I were to play a hypothetical game. If the enemy is that powerful than he cannot directly fight your players and you need to show them how much of a bad news he is. On top of my head include an NPC who is higher level than PCs, and then in the first encounter use the baddie to utterly obliterate him. The sight of you rolling all those dice for all those attacks enemy has should (if they are sane) convince them that fleeing is smarter (drop hints, or outright pointers like "The last blow sends MartyrNPC flying so hard he hits and breaks through the wall. The room beyond looks like an escape route").
As for the escape encounter, obviosly they can not fight unless you gimp the baddie but that might convince the PCs he is not so great a threat. So I wouldn't use actual encounter mechanics, but try something like a battle of wills where half the team is trying to slow down the baddie via traps and holding down the doors or even talking him to death is possible.
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krellen
Location: The City in New Mexico
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Re: The Game Master Advice Exchange Thread

Postby krellen » Tue Nov 10, 2015 2:32 pm

Lachlan the Mad wrote:1. How do you make an encounter that's supposed to be run from rather than fought -- and how do you convince your players to scarper?

This comes down to knowing your players. From the sound of it, you're not sure your players would run - probably because they never have before? If they show no inclinations for self-preservation, you are probably not going to convince them that there are unwinnable fights without a player death (or at least incapacitation). I had a group that was wise enough to run from a city full of guards after them, but not wise enough to run from a keep full of hobgoblins after them (at least not until the barbarian was killed - though the monk still insisted on retrieving his body because apparently my players are Marines).

2. What's a good way to make a locked door with a puzzle that's more complicated than "Get the rogue to take 20 on an Open Lock check"? Does anyone have cool ideas for puzzle doors?

Well, there's always the tried-and-true method of making an actual puzzle for your players to solve. Barring that, if you like having dice decide things, look over the player's skills and set up a skill challenge - basically a way of making each player contribute towards the goal. The wizard needs to pass a history check to identify a clue in the puzzle, the thief needs to Sleight of Hand to manipulate the blocks, maybe the fighter's mentor once went over this ancient society in training and their military tactics were a large part of their culture, giving a clue to the puzzle (if the fighter doesn't have any strategy/tactics skills, this could be a relatively simple intelligence check instead).

Given the scenario you're looking at, most of these checks should be free/quick actions, so they can continue to engage with the implacable foe while trying to open the door.

3. Let's suppose that the party runs into an extraordinarily powerful enemy -- like, say, an Old dragon -- who has been brought low, and longs for death. The dragon is willing to bargain with the party if they promise to kill him afterwards. How would you balance and reward this encounter?

If the foe is not going to use all its powers and abilities to try to survive, you certainly should not reward the players at the creature's full CR. If there's some question as to whether the creature will accept the deal or not, then I'd probably reward them upon successful negotiation as if they'd overcome a challenge of equal level (or somewhat higher/lower, depending on how tense and difficult the negotiations were).

If it's pretty much a done deal, then I'd reward the whole affair as a roleplaying encounter; 3.5 does have rules for this (it's something like 50*level xp, more for good roleplaying).

As far as the treasure goes, that depends on the campaign as a whole - in DnD, the game is balanced around players having certain resources at certain levels, and falling behind (or getting ahead) directly affects their power. This sort of encounter could be a way to rebalance a party that has fallen behind (and, in fact, a lot of creatures give extra treasure basically to make up for the fact that others given less or none). If they aren't lagging, then a clever thing to do is promise them a share of the hoard, in exchange for delivering the rest to an offspring or some long-wronged individual. If the dragon's old and powerful enough, you could even seal it with a geas, especially if your players aren't good at keeping their word in-game.

Of course, any number of contrivances could also diminish the dragon's hoard; maybe a group of adventurers had recently raided it, taking a large share, and the dragon is too old and tired to pursue them. Perhaps this could even be the source of the dragon's melancholy; it realises it has grown too feeble to defend its own domain, but wishes a "honourable" death in battle or such.
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Lachlan the Sane
Location: I come from the land down under, where women blow and men chunder

Re: The Game Master Advice Exchange Thread

Postby Lachlan the Sane » Wed Nov 11, 2015 3:19 am

Hmm, okay...

Regarding #1, the creature in question is supposed to be a big monster made up of a lot of ghosts smashed together (kind of like this beastie but with ghosts instead of zombies). One thing which I'm considering is to have it be particularly scared of anti-undead magic like Cure Wounds spells and Turn Undead -- so if the party cleric tries to turn it, it'll scarper even if they don't roll a high enough check. It's also supposed to have an engulf-type attack, so maybe the clerics have to avoid turning it when someone is engulfed or they'll get carried away with it?

Regarding #2, I need two puzzle doors; one that the party will need to spend multiple actions on solving while the ghost monster harasses them, and one which hides a gang of imps' treasure hoard. I think I've got an idea for the gang of imps' hoard (it exploits the fact that imps are Small creatures), but still looking for a nice multi-step puzzle for the ghost monster thing.

Regarding #3, treasure balance isn't a huge problem because this dragon has been imprisoned for a while and never had much of a chance to build a hoard; she basically wants to die because she doesn't want to be absorbed into the giant ghost monster's collective (insane) consciousness. The dragon would probably prefer to be killed by a spell like disintegrate or destruction, so that her body isn't misused, but this encounter is being built for 9th-level characters, who wouldn't have access to those spells. What if there was some kind of one-use rod/wand/staff/scroll of destruction in her hoard, and she requested that it be used on her?
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Daemian Lucifer

Re: The Game Master Advice Exchange Thread

Postby Daemian Lucifer » Wed Nov 11, 2015 4:08 am

Lachlan the Mad wrote:What if there was some kind of one-use rod/wand/staff/scroll of destruction in her hoard, and she requested that it be used on her?


That could work.But you have to be extra careful when giving your party railroady artifacts like that.They often have a habit of trying to use them for what you did not want them to do(like fight that ghost monster of yours).Also,having a corpse of a dragon is an alluring prize that some just dont want to give up.
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Lachlan the Sane
Location: I come from the land down under, where women blow and men chunder

Re: The Game Master Advice Exchange Thread

Postby Lachlan the Sane » Wed Nov 11, 2015 4:11 am

Daemian Lucifer wrote:
Lachlan the Mad wrote:What if there was some kind of one-use rod/wand/staff/scroll of destruction in her hoard, and she requested that it be used on her?


That could work.But you have to be extra careful when giving your party railroady artifacts like that.They often have a habit of trying to use them for what you did not want them to do(like fight that ghost monster of yours).Also,having a corpse of a dragon is an alluring prize that some just dont want to give up.

Oh, absolutely. I know that if I do this the party's going to try to take the scroll and run, because they're bastards like that. The dragon will attack if they take it, though.
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Supahewok

Re: The Game Master Advice Exchange Thread

Postby Supahewok » Wed Nov 11, 2015 5:19 am

Another way to help with Question 1 is to add environmental hazards. You said you have a ghost monster. Have it scream and start a cave-in, where standing around swinging at the monster means you're gonna be hit by falling debris. This doesn't work with all players; if you've got stubborn folks, they'll stand in the same place all day and let themselves die. But that's true of any method to try to get your players to run away. It's something you can add to other things that've been mentioned here.

For #2, I personally don't like the idea of tying puzzle doors to fights. There's no guarantee that the people best equipped to handle puzzles (either in character or out), or the skill checks necessary to open the door, will actually be the ones trying to open it, rather than swinging or casting spells at the monster. I'm also the sort of guy who prefers riddles to skill checks. Simply rolling a different kind of check every round in a certain order feels... meh. Too abstract. I much prefer to be able to think about the puzzle alongside my character, rather than have the character do all the work. But I would let skill checks give hints to the riddle's solution.

Consider a mechanical puzzle. There are a few switches in the room, the door gives a riddle to the order they need to be hit, some of your guys have to run around hitting the switches while the others hold off the monsters. Maybe give the puzzle a little twist by having one of the switches be rusty and require tricking the monster into hitting it (dunno how'd you'd make that work with a ghost monster, though). This both gives the players agency while requiring them to spend multiple rounds opening the door (and you've got a great deal of control of how many rounds it'll take, if you know your players' movement speed). Maybe layer in some environmental hazards around the switches that are neutralized with skills, if you still want skill rolls.

I don't know the finer points about encounter balance in 3.5e (which I've never played on tabletop). I also don't know how hard you want the encounter with the dragon to be. I'd say that you should decide what CR you want the encounter to be, look up the dragon age category that matches that CR, and use that dragon's stats and XP reward for the wounded Old dragon. Seems simplest.
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Lachlan the Sane
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Re: The Game Master Advice Exchange Thread

Postby Lachlan the Sane » Wed Nov 11, 2015 7:21 am

Hmm... mechanical rather than skill-based puzzle is definitely the way to go here. What about a time-based solution? Suppose that you have a Zelda-style puzzle where each switch only stays pressed for a limited amount of time (between 2 and 5 rounds), and then resets and can't be pressed for 1 round. You have to get every switch pressed at the same time before the door will open. That's something which would be difficult to do in mid-combat, and the more characters you could dedicate to it the better.
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Supahewok

Re: The Game Master Advice Exchange Thread

Postby Supahewok » Wed Nov 11, 2015 7:34 am

Depends on how long you want the encounter to last, bearing in mind the longer the encounter, the less damage your Uber-Monster should deal out, and therefore the more likely it is that the party will think they can take it on. Unless you make it obvious that they aren't damaging it, or that it has mad regeneration, or something. Maybe it sucks up a new ghost every couple rounds, healing it? Or maybe it has some sort of life-drain field, that drains like 5 hp from each party member within 10 ft to heal himself with. That also provides the aforementioned environmental hazard.

How's the party supposed to eventually deal with the monster? You'll want to tie whatever Macguffin or trap or whatever to its offense/defense thematically.
Xaossa

Re: The Game Master Advice Exchange Thread

Postby Xaossa » Wed Nov 11, 2015 3:35 pm

First of all, thank you for making this thread, Lachlan. I have some questions as well.

1. How do you make an encounter that's supposed to be run from rather than fought -- and how do you convince your players to scarper? I would like to design an encounter where most of the party have to hold off a big tough monster while a couple of members need to work on opening a puzzle door (more on that below). In 3.5, the attack and damage progressions mean that an enemy who massively outlevels the party will probably one-shot anyone it attacks, so simply throwing a too-hard enemy isn't enough.


Oh boy. Running? In a linear adventure path campaign, where the players get xp from combat, and they only get combat from the plot? eeeeeh. I feel like players used to this kind of campaign have been conditioned NOT to run. If you want running to at least be ACCEPTABLE to them, you have to change how they gain experience points. If they are playing on a mission, they should get xp for completing mission goals. If they are delving into the local old school megadungeon mostly to grab treasure because the PCs can't think of anything better to do this session and defaulted to treasure hunting, they should get xp from gp. etc.

"Oh no, the GM wouldn't actually give us an IMPOSSIBLE fight we were SUPPOSED TO LOSE! This is just his/her attempt to spice up the combat!"

(Now, worse than that, even if you flat out tell, or the PCs flat out KNOW that the monster is above their CR, they still might fight it because, if they can deal damage, then there is in fact a chance. And think of the experience!)

2. What's a good way to make a locked door with a puzzle that's more complicated than "Get the rogue to take 20 on an Open Lock check"? Does anyone have cool ideas for puzzle doors?


Warning. This is going to be one of my infamously long rants trying to convey a simple concept.

First of all, consider empty rooms and "player-skill" searching for traps in old school games (before "trap-searching" skills were a thing. The Thief didn't exist in Whitebox until the first Supplement, but traps certainly did.) Specifically: read "On Binding the Design Demon" and about the

When players have their characters walk into the room, they get a description of all relevant manipulable widgets. This way if they miss something, it is due to player choice/skill and not due to a die roll.


The "manipulable widgets" (emphasis mine) are any item in the room (furniture, mosaics in the wall, a chest placed on a dais, everything in the room covered in dust except for the last ten feet of corridor), and while some of these items might just be time wasters (only important if there's a danger from wandering monsters, or if the PCs are on a tight schedule before the cultists sacrifice the princess at midnight, and midnight WILL come and pass them by if they mismanage their time because the DM is keeping track of in-game time.), but some of them might be hiding mechanical switches, or treasure,...or be trapped (the gameplay purpose of traps in a non-linear dungeon is to add another risk to exploration), and the DM just (dispassionately) describes the most obviously details each of immediately notable things in the room, and answers every question the players think to ask about their surrounding. Like chests in Skyrim, your character only notices tripwires tied to the chest when YOU, the player, are thinking about tripwires and being careful at the moment.

If a hung tapestry is cutting off vision to part of a room, and the player asks the DM in a general kind of way "what's so special about the tapestry", then the DM answers "The tapestry might be part of a trap, or cursed, or hiding an ambushing enemy. Or the person behind the tapestry might be a friend or other useful person to have along who just doesn't know if you're trustworthy. It might be there to keep the draft out. It might be valuable as treasure. It might be a Cloaker about to eat you. It might be covered in some kind of dangerous fungal spores. It might be important to someone ...or something... that lives here and taking it with you will spell trouble down the road. Or it might just be an unimportant rag. Now, QUICK! Which one of these is true?"

And then when the player says they are interacting with a thing, the DM always, asks "Alright, now tell me EXACTLY what you are doing." Do this for every harmless little thing.

The problem is, THIS kind of responsibility might be the thing that gets the players running away, and DM must never, ever mope or tell them what wonderful treasure they missed. And if that puzzle-door is the ONLY way to get to the mission goal.....well, this is why I hate linearity.

Basically, learn how to run traps (and puzzles are only slightly different from traps, only they open doors instead, you know, NOT killing you) without modern gaming skills. It might be strange for players to switch from "rolling your search check" to actually asking the DM questions about the room, but puzzles like this demand that the players use their brains instead of their character sheet. It would be helpful if the rest of the game used more player skill and less character skill, to train them to think like that. Character skills aren't bad, but sometimes they remove, instead of enhance, gameplay when they are poorly implemented. (I also have problems with modern initiative, especially on online games. People go watch youtube when its not their turn...)

So, basically: try to think about the environment of the room itself as a way to open the door, and tossing the room/rolling a search check just isn't going to cut it. (Its not going to be a realistic security measure, but that's the problem with traps, too: As DM you want the trap/puzzle to be fair, as somebody who would build the trap/puzzle as a security measure to keep themselves safe, you want it to be UNFAIR. The vast majority of these things are better explained as the creations of an ancient civilization that wanted to insure that their artifacts were only used by "the worthy"....whoever that might be.... than as what Dr. Malev would put to keep the riffraff out of this secret volcanic island lair.)

3. Let's suppose that the party runs into an extraordinarily powerful enemy -- like, say, an Old dragon -- who has been brought low, and longs for death. The dragon is willing to bargain with the party if they promise to kill him afterwards. How would you balance and reward this encounter?


Uggh. Death-Seekers/Warhammer(tm) Dwarf Slayers/Orsimer and their "good deaths". Well, if the dragon will accept being disintegrated by a one-use item in her hoard, then you could kill the dragon in any number of ways. Look, let's say if a low-level unsavory scoundrel has a knife up against the throat of the until-recently sleeping 20th level fighter he just snuck up on, and demands to know the location of the McGuffin the fighter hid away. That knife doesn't take away 1d4 hit point out of 200 in that situation, that knife KILLS! So, as long as the dragon isn't actually fighting, it shouldn't be too hard to find a way to kill it. Being crushed, dragonsbane poison, some sort of improvised Garguantuan sized Guillotine? Maybe her captors included a way to kill her, so all they have to do is pull a lever.


(I'll post my questions later. They're going to require...some wording....and I'm out of time.)
RedSun
Location: Hayward, CA

Re: The Game Master Advice Exchange Thread

Postby RedSun » Wed Nov 11, 2015 9:30 pm

Regarding 1: If they're in a dungeon: try making it a monster that destroys the terrain. Think of something like a gelatinous cube, but one so potent that it melts the walls and floor of the dungeon, and ignores arrow fire. Or maybe make an avatar of pestilence-everything that touches the monster that creeps through the caverns goes pale and is covered in blisters, for instance. Make them not want to fight it by making them not want to go anywhere near it.

Regarding 2: I almost never deal in straight "puzzle doors" like that because of this. Or if I do, I"ll make a door covered in, say, spell traps, and have all the spells be at least kind of interesting. Maybe have a trap that triggers a silence spell within the room, but also causes everyone to turn invisible, or a trap that fills the room with monsters-half real, half illusionary. Failing the check triggers the trap, which triggers something of a puzzle.

Regarding 3: Have the dragon/warrior/whatever fight not to kill the party, but to test them. Have it, say, turn into a massive ogre and try to beat the crap out of everyone with it's fists using nonlethal damage. If it wins, the party isn't worthy of killing it and it fucks off. If they do, it allows them to finish the fight in it's true form.
As for the reward, whenever you have the chance, make a custom magic item. Magic mart items are made to be bought;this should be something unique.
RedSun
Location: Hayward, CA

Re: The Game Master Advice Exchange Thread

Postby RedSun » Wed Nov 11, 2015 9:43 pm

Xaossa wrote: Look, let's say if a low-level unsavory scoundrel has a knife up against the throat of the until-recently sleeping 20th level fighter he just snuck up on, and demands to know the location of the McGuffin the fighter hid away. That knife doesn't take away 1d4 hit point out of 200 in that situation, that knife KILLS!

That's a coup de grace. The lowly scoundrel will auto crit the fighter, who will have to make a Fortitude save equal to the knife's damage+10(probably around DC 16 or so, unless the scoundrel is a rogue, which'll increase the average DC by 4 per sneak attack dice). I don't get why people act like slitting someone's throat is some kind of incredible unknown quantity in D&D. Roll damage. Defender rolls Fort to see if they're a bad enough dude to survive getting their throat opened. If you're a level 20 fighter, typically you're a pretty bad dude, and if you have friends around, they get an attack of opportunity.

I'm aware this is a very pedantic thing to say, but it's worth remembering that D&D is almost never a "DM, May I?" game, though 5th has a bit of that. Almost nothing "just kills". This is a big messy crunchy game with tons of rules prepared for a lot of eventualities. And that's good, because sometimes you're the 20th level fighter and the GM is the one with a knife at your throat and you want to say "fuck your knife, I've got a +20 to Fort!".
Steve C

Re: The Game Master Advice Exchange Thread

Postby Steve C » Thu Nov 12, 2015 6:10 am

Lachlan the Mad wrote:Regarding #2, I need two puzzle doors; one that the party will need to spend multiple actions on solving while the ghost monster harasses them, and one which hides a gang of imps' treasure hoard. I think I've got an idea for the gang of imps' hoard (it exploits the fact that imps are Small creatures), but still looking for a nice multi-step puzzle for the ghost monster thing.


The simple thing to do with the imps is to have a tiny door. Preferably with a tiny hallway after it with a ceiling pressure plate for big things that try to squeeze in. I assume that's the sort of thing you were already thinking of though.

As for getting PCs to run away... I have a hard time providing any specific guidance without knowing your group's personalities and how you've been running the game up to this point. Getting your players to realize they are outmatched has more to do with their past gaming sessions than a specific encounter you design. If the DM has always been "fair and balanced" and gives the players a fighting chance then that's what they will expect. It won't occur to them that at any moment things can go to shit. They won't run away.

My first DM was the other sort. He was "fair and uncaring". He was the sort that if the players did something that trivialized a dangerous encounter, then he would laugh and shrug and just say, you guys win. I remember one where we levitated above with a large group of wights and dropped burning oil onto them in complete safety. It would have been a brutal fight if we had approached it straight. On the other side of it he would not pull punches either.

I've played with both types. I picked up my own personal style primarily from him though. My players know that running away is an unspoken option because they learn that a fight has no inherent reason to be fair. If it seems a standard straight up fight, it probably is. If it seems grossly in their favor, it probably is. If it seems dangerous as hell, it probably is.

Rutskarn's games sound similar. Great successes are rewarded just as much as great failures are not. And everyone at the table already understands that.
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Supahewok

Re: The Game Master Advice Exchange Thread

Postby Supahewok » Thu Nov 12, 2015 6:32 am

I think there are 2 major things that get players hung up when they're supposed to run away but don't: First, they assume that success = victory. If they don't win a fight, they didn't succeed at that fight. Cultivating a table attitude that progress equals success, rather than victory, is essential for setting up things like this, and it isn't something you can just snap your fingers and make happen in a single sitting. It takes time to establish the attitude and atmosphere that guides players' decisions.

The other thing is the reward aspect. Lots of games give XP for killing monsters, and of course there's treasure. If players are greedy (and what players that enjoy DnD aren't?), they'll want to squeeze the reward out of everything. If they assume that all monsters are walking pinata's, they're gonna want to stick around to beat them until they burst.

My own preferred method to get around that is to just not give XP for slaying monsters. I'll tell players after they finish a major quest, "Okay, you're halfway to your next level up." Simple. I don't have to track and add up a bunch of little numbers. I don't have to worry about making sure the party gets enough XP at a steady enough rate to progress. And the players know that there isn't an optimal way to farm XP. If players manage to handle a challenge unexpectedly early, I can just say they earned a whole level up, rather than half.

I was tickled pink to learn that Fate and other narrative heavy games do something similar.

Anyway, those are both important concepts to keep in mind in regards to player attitude, when you think up encounters like this.
Xaossa

Re: The Game Master Advice Exchange Thread

Postby Xaossa » Sun Nov 15, 2015 1:49 pm

RedSun wrote:I don't get why people act like slitting someone's throat is some kind of incredible unknown quantity in D&D.


Well. Excuse me for trying to give advice on simplifying the plot-sensitive assisted suicide of a dragon.
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Cuthalion

Re: The Game Master Advice Exchange Thread

Postby Cuthalion » Thu Dec 10, 2015 3:02 am

When it comes to rewards and avoiding the compulsion to fight everything for exp, one alternate Exp scheme I use for my homebrew is to give exp for monsters the players have defeated (or survived, if that was the goal of the encounter), occasional exp for completing quests and plot points, but also for the beginning-of-session recap. I've formalized it in my system as the main way to gain exp (I'd say about half their exp comes from the recap), with a small table where I award exp based on how many events the players are able to recall from the last session.

My particular chart is as follows, though it definitely works better in a game where exp requirements ramp up gradually over levels rather than doubling or tripling every level like D&D:

Experiences Recalled Experience for Party
0-5 ... 40 per experience
6-10 ... 20 per experience + 100
11+ ... 10 per experience + 200

For scale, in this game, a low-level character needs 100 exp to get from lv1 to lv2, and a high-level needs 500 exp to get from lv9 to lv10. (Exp is spent every level, not accumulated.) To use this in D&D, where the per-level jumps every time, you'd have to assign a multiplier to each level to keep the pace even.

Exp is split among the party members in my implementation. So, a larger party will tend to be recalling 11+ experiences from the previous session pretty consistently, but then they split it 5 or 6 ways. Sessions with more combat will be less eventful for purposes of recap exp, but that's fine, since they already got combat exp.

This is one way (not the only way!) to mechanically reward non-combat activities. If you do a bunch of memorable stuff, you can end up with just as much exp as if you spent half the session fighting.

I prefer this method personally over GM-decided leveling or 1-to-3-exp-per-session (Savage Worlds, The One Ring) because it still lets the players feel like they're earning their advancement rather than just waiting for the GM to decide it's time for them to level up (which I think it even feels like in SW and TOR since it's GM-determined and very non-granular), and they can see how close they are to a level and get excited about it (and sometimes whine that they just need a little more, but that's half the fun).

I prefer it over not giving exp for monsters at all (and just giving it for plot/quests) because combat takes a long time, and players seem to like being rewarded for that time (and for playing that side of the game). Yet, this lets you scale down how much exp monsters give, since they now have another source, so the emphasis shifts off of the metagame "I must kill for exp!" and onto, "What sorts of things would be fun to do here?"

Plus, it turns the typical "what happened last time?" part of the session into part of the game while also encouraging players to pay attention and remember what happened last.

Of course, that's just me. It does have the disadvantage of getting people back into it only to break the flow when players get enough from the recap to level up. (And they'll want to level immediately instead of waiting for the end!)
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krellen
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Re: The Game Master Advice Exchange Thread

Postby krellen » Thu Dec 10, 2015 2:42 pm

Just a minor note: since 3rd edition, Dungeons and Dragons has rewarded experience for "overcoming challenges", not defeating enemies. If you bluff or sneak past the minotaur, you have overcome it and should be rewarded as if you defeated it in combat.

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