Dnd DM help

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Posts: 62
Joined: Fri Jul 26, 2013 5:46 pm
Location: Bucharest, Romania

Tue Dec 31, 2013 2:20 am

Here's my personal opinion of how a campaign should be created, I urge you guys to post your experiences and tips.

1. Setting :
- Get a vague idea of the campaign world ( You can get inspiration from pc games, books, movies, your own stuff, w/e). You have a vague idea about what you want to do with your world.
- Get a rule system that you know well.
- Now brainstorm some initial details ( NPC Characters, Vague Maps, go into some description of places stuff like that).
- Start fleshing out the begging of your world
- Keep the player characters in mind and think of ways of providing them options and helping them make their character more interesting ( Be very careful since you usually have to balance between railroading and full sandbox, neither are good because too much liberty can screw with your campaign though that isn't a problem as often as railroading where the players are spectators to your story. Try to provide as much content as you can).

2. Immersion :
- The Hooks :
- While you go further into detailing your world think of a hook you have for your player characters ( Why should they care? Why should they get involved in your adventure? ).
- Leave room for characters backstory.
- Try to provide some mystery.
- Immersion is very important. ( If your player characters don't know or interact with an NPC they won't care if it dies, give NPCs a life and details)
- You should first have a vague idea of your hook and then change it and flesh it out with new ideas and character backstories.
- It's good to have one fairly early in the story ( Right at the start if possible)

- Details( I think this is at least 75% of the work in creating a campaign) :
- In the core handbook there's not that much of details a plate armor is a plate armor a shield is a shield etc. try to provide details ( Emblems, Shape, etc)
- A good source of inspiration is the Modules ( pre-written adventures) they have a lot of flavor text for details. (try to have as much of it as possible) "You see a ranger with a composite bow" isn't interesting.
- Well detailed/made grids, maps, NPCs

- Consistency :
- Try to keep the mood constant ( lets say you make a campaign with a bleak mood and so on)
- If your mood is constantly changing the immersion is lost.
- Don't have random stuff happen all the time.
- Try to make stuff make sense.

- Connection :
- Connection to the character ( allowing opportunities and encouraging roleplaying and background stories)
- Connection to the NPCs (details and interaction)
- Connection to the World (details details details)

3. Rules :
- Know your rules well. Have the books/references on hand.
- Character creation rules :
- Stats, Available races/classes/feats/items note that some of the stuff in the advanced/3rd party books aren't that well balanced esp compared to the core classes and how the work together.
- Be very careful of overpowered player characters compared to others, 1 guy should carry the entire party that takes the fun out of it for the rest of the players.
- I prefer using point buy with lower points because lvl 1 characters shouldn't feel like heroes.
- Alignments (If you're new don't allow evil alignments, very hard to manage for you and the players. Chaotic neutral can also cause trouble if you have immature players. Evaluate your players.)
- Good - Evil Preservation of life (They value life or not)
- Lawful - Chaos You like things ordered and well defined and you like laws and rules - Or you don't and you want more free spirit
- How powerful do you want the player characters to be?
- Evil games can be very rewarding if you have mature and experienced players.

4. Packaging ( What the players need to know before we start) :
- Rules.
- Player backgrounds, so you can integrate them into the campaign and also making them care more for their characters.
- Maybe reward extra gold for every paragraph in the background to a max of X or offer them some magic items for their backgrounds if you need to provide some incentive.

5. Integrating players :
- People will usually come up with better things than you could of come up with for them.
- Saves you time for fleshing out the world when you integrate them.
- More freedom for backgrounds = Better.
- You may have to modify things in your first vision of the campaign to be able to integrate them.
- The sooner you get the backgrounds the better.
- Sidequests from backgrounds.

6. Designing :
- Towns :
- Geography of the area/town (have the towns fit into the geography)
- Size / Population ( population diversity as well)
- Wealth ( related to the resources and shops you can find there as well )
- Shops ( Owner, Items, you can also use random percentages lets say a shop has 25% chance to have a martial weapon or a magic item. You can also have certain services(upgrade normal to masterwork)/sidequests(buys monster heads or w/e) and stuff like that)
- Major Figures ( who is significant in the town. roleplaying opportunities etc)
- Flavor text to give a sense of how the town is right. You don't need it for each building in the town but the more the better.
- Dungeons :
- Hook
- Think about how this dungeon would be like if the adventurers would never be there. ( Helps describing the dungeon and building it)
- Variety :
- Skill checks ( the more variety the better. Acrobatics, Read magic, Knowledge )
- Traps
- Fighting ( special bosses, special moves, special encounters, different env to have encounters )
- Loot ( special loot with description, lets say an armor with + intimidation , doesn't have to be a huge item)
- Secrets (passages, doorways)
- Routes ( some are s8 forward, try having multiples routes to the same end or even better some dead ends where they have to backtrack)
- Flavor and Atmosphere ( try to anticipate some player questions in the flavor text ) "What am i seeing" "It's a room" booooring
- Lighting
- NPCs :
- Some NPCs don't need all their stats but some that players interact with should, esp the important ones, like the major characters in towns.
- Villains :
- Build them up, the first time the player fight them shouldn't be the first time they hear about it, etc.
- Have them have memorable minions that stand out. You could have a few adventures just combating this minion. (Lord of the ring Sauron main villain , Saruman memorable minion)
- Multiple escapes, the minions(or main villain) keep coming back, either raised from the dead or make an escape. Although it can frustrate the players it will make it all that more rewarding when they manage to defeat it.
- Build up to it, give it significance, make it motivating.

7. Pre-game :
- Make sure you've reviewed your notes.
- Material, make sure you got all your stuff ready.
- Go in with a positive attitude.
- Your players will be understanding.

8. After Session:
- What went well?
- How will your game change? What did the players or you introduce that was unplanned? Take that into consideration to make your world more dynamic, find a way to make your players feel like the impacted the world.
- What can you add, improve for the next time? What wasn't enough?
- Was it too easy or too hard?
- Try to start anticipating your players actions.
- Maybe provide some experience rewards for players writing somewhere( wink wink, cohhilition forum) a log or a journal or reflect on the last session. This is a way to keep the players thinking about their characters outside the session time. (This will help them get more immersed)
- It's also a good idea to ask the players what they liked / didn't like about the session.

Sorry for any grammatical or spelling mistakes. English is not my first language.
Posts: 62
Joined: Fri Jul 26, 2013 5:46 pm
Location: Bucharest, Romania

Tue Dec 31, 2013 2:56 am

Other tips :
The books are guidelines the DM is in charge ("there's no lions in my world", "wizards don't do magic in my world").

Make sure one player is not neglected. Give opportunities to everyone. Try to distribute time equally.
If a player is dominating the game you can try to steer the conversation away from him.
Try to let the player have as much roleplaying time as they want ( IMMERSION ).

NPCs are a great resource.
Bring in NPCs to promote roleplaying maybe help create interaction between the players.
You can bring NPCs into battle as well but and even assist in the planning but let the players do as much of it.

Don't force balance on the party you can compensate for things with NPCs/Mercs and magic items. Party balance shouldn't be a concern whatsoever for the players the main concern should be what kind of character they wanna play.

Be careful not to upgrade loot too fast, make loot meaningful and be careful at the pacing ( good to look at how much gold a player gets at each level and provide based on that, also make it realistic a tiger won't have gold on it).
You can add whatever you want to the game, if you wanna make a ring that gives an extra 1st lvl spell/day is fine.

Try to keep people equally powered and keep fights balanced and fair, consider how good your players are, you can change and tweak what the monsters do and what stats they have as you wish, even in the middle of combat.

Music also helps create immersion like a nice instrumental /choir background music, be careful on the volume though it should be just a very faint background music, the thing that makes you hum it a bit after the session. Also helps get people more relaxed, so more likely to interact and RP with eachother.

Be careful about racism, there's no China Germany , etc in your world. So the fact that for example all or some of or one of your elves talk in an Italian accent is no problem. Granted if it's only one it's a bit weird. Accents help with immersion too if you have the aptitude to do them.

It's not about you, it's about the players. If you wanna play out your exact plot you'll have to play alone, you're not a movie director, you're a DM. Railroading = BAD

Death is not the end, thought shouldn't be exploited take this for example as a plot hook :
You present your characters introduce them to the world, a really hard fight breaks out for some reason and the whole party dies to be resurrected after some years by X god for some particular reason. ( Aka the guaranteed loss, of course your character don't have to die they can just be defeated.)

Major battles ( thousands of people ) are hard to do, be prepared for it to take a 1-2 sessions.
A few ways to do it :
- Players work as generals or head of a squad or a unit.
- It helps giving squads AC/ HP / Attack. You can take HP into consideration for how many people are left.
- Another way to do it is the Troy way where you focus on the major figures fighting while soldiers fight @ them.
- Maybe have the players be like a powerful elite squad going for place to place on the battlefield to turn the tide.
- Be careful not to lose immersion in favor of strategy make sure the battle feels real.
- Again immersion is in the details.

Don't overdevelop parts of the world that the players will probably not interact with any time soon. (For example some land to the east bla bla, always ask yourself "Is this relevant to your players).

Be aware of metagaming. For example a player may figure out the answer to a riddle but their character has 7 int and 7 wis. Or the best example the fact that a troll regenerates until you burn them or hit them with acid, if the character doesn't have the knowledge they would never know that. Be sure to remind the players when you go into the campaign about metagaming.

Another good way to encourage players to roleplay is to roleplay your rolls. Describe the attacks of the monsters. (not just the ogre rolls to hit he hits he does x damage describe it like for example the towering ogre does an overhead swing his club smashing towards you with mighty force, you roll lets say the ogre misses and you can describe all that or how it hits and so on) Immersion is in the details.

Rewards don't have to be just about killing monsters you can rewards your players with exp every time they overcome an obstacle, same for loot. Maybe they fight a great monster but it escapes, it could drop it's sword or it could have been protecting some kind of treasure.
You can reward roleplay experience points for players improving their own roleplay.
You can also reward skill points feats and special abilities or even stat points while keeping balance in mind, even flavor feats and stuff for some very specific stuff.
You can even give them lets say a faith chip that lets them reroll once for some really nice roleplay.
You can grant people titles and stuff like that, lets say the party enters a tavern and out of the sudden the local bard is singing a song about the party.
You don't have to follow the equipment rules if you keep balance in mind, usually custom rewards are more enjoyable to the players.
Maybe have an exp reward / skill upgrades for effective/creative use of skills. ( rerolls, spell-like abilities, special bonuses) This can also be used with spells.

Treat building monsters like building NPCs you can have them level up change up their stats, all that. You can change the equipment and the level when you want. As always Immersion is in the details.

Try to have an interesting start to your campaign, not just "So your all in the tavern and a merchant comes in asking for help".

Diversify your combat. You can throw in special moves and stuff for monsters. This will also help you with balance and making encounters more challenging. Don't keep it tank and spank it's tricky to make the fighter feel threatened while not having the mobs 1 shot the mage try to keep it challenging but fair to everyone. Balance rewarding builds without trivializing the encounters.

For new players :
Try to steer new players away for prepared spell casting roles and start them at level 1.
Maybe have a sort of combat simulator for the new players (holo-deck) and help them correct their mistakes.
Consider having a mini-campaign for new players (4-5 sessions) while including all sides of a DnD game.
Don't expect anything from them.
Posts: 62
Joined: Fri Jul 26, 2013 5:46 pm
Location: Bucharest, Romania

Tue Dec 31, 2013 10:41 am

- http://paizo.com/paizo ( http://paizo.com/pathfinderRPG/prd )
- http://www.d20pfsrd.com/
- http://roll20.net/ (for online play and creating maps/grids)
- Google is your friend, story ideas, plot hooks, it doesn't have to be a fantasy setting you can take ideas from any plot and tailor it to your world. (Books, Movies, etc).
- Various DnD/Pathfinder Modules.
- I'm a very big fan of DawnforgedCast and PhDnD on youtube he has a lot of good tips. For example a lot of plot hooks [media=youtube]0LAponfKQtE[/media] [media=youtube]PKMEkexpJBo[/media]
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