New DM needs Control and Guidance Advice
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  1. #1
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    New DM needs Control and Guidance Advice

    Hello everyone,

    Iíve been playing D&D for only a few years now. Really only have experience with 3rd
    edition. A friend of mine frequently posts on your board here. He is a very experienced
    player and DM, and he told me to ask all of you for advice.

    We started a game a few months ago. It is a low level/power campaign set in a Dark Sun
    style desert scenario. When we planned to start playing, it was agreed that this game
    would be my first DMing experience, because my friend really wanted to play instead of
    DM. He would DM half the time, and I would DM half the time, and we would work up
    to me going full time. Our gaming group consists of him, his girlfriend, a friend of ours,
    and myself. Iíll refer to them by their character names, Neebo, Luula, Garac, and myself

    The problem that Iím having is a DMing problem. Let me give a brief description of
    how each player is like. Neebo is a very fine player and a wonderful DM. He will with no
    doubt read the post that I am writing here. Unfortunately, the guy is so charismatic, that
    when a problem comes up, and he offers advice, it always sounds really good. Iím not
    saying it isnít good advice. Luula is something. Sheís a great player, but if you give her
    an inch.... Sometimes she has problems with extremes. If her stat in something is 9 or 11,
    she might play a total extreme high or low of that stat, when it isnít called for. Also, she
    has a problem with looking at papers she shouldnít be looking at, ďOh my god! Heís level
    five!Ē she shouts as a peaked at the NPC sheet of the captain of the guard that her level
    two character has just gotten into a fight with. Garac is very experienced with first edition
    and heís done his homework when it comes to third edition. The guy really thinks outside
    of the box sometimes. The second he sat down at the table, he brought up logical points
    that none of us at the table had thought about. Such as food and water for our mounts in
    the desert; being that food and water is one of those things that we are forced to keep
    track of in the world we are in. So, everyone is a fine person, and a fine player, and when
    they all site on the opposite side of the DM screen from me, it really does look

    While Iíve been on the DM side of the table, some things have happened that have
    concerned me. Keep in mind that all these characters are desert dwelling people, born,
    live and probably die as people of the desert. Three of the characters are from a rural
    village; Luula is a tom-boy hunter, Balak is a god fearing young man, and Garac is an
    ex-trouble-maker. Neebo is a scrawny desert bandit who stole from the party, was beaten
    by the party, and was used by the party. Now, due to circumstance, heís still around.

    The first thing that has started that makes me worried is that everyone now has picked
    up levels in rouge, which in itself isnít bad. It seems that many have dumped some
    valuable skill points into roguish things like pickpocket, which in itself isnít bad. The
    problem is though is that ever since reaching level and gaining the rouge levels, I have
    received a lot more note passing about little things. People asking me questions about
    how difficult it would be to pick the pocket of their party member right now or take
    something off their mount when they arenít looking. Poison darts are being made by one
    character, which in itself isnít bad, but honestly, I donít think that it is of any use in the
    scenario unless you are planning to assassinate someone. Now, nothing has flat-out
    happened YET! But I want to take some preventative measures before they do. The other
    thing that really got to me was the characters finally got to the oasis that they were going
    to. Unfortunately, it was covered in dense foliage that contained poisonous vines and a
    lair of a dozen or so basketball-sized beetles guarding their territory at the waterfront. It
    seemed like a very nice little set up to have a group of level twos against many many
    half-level bugs. The poisonous vines were added because Neebo asked what type of
    plants are there and pointed me to a random roll chart he had for plants. Well, they did
    solve the conflict. They burned down the entire oasis. :-( Which, I guess, solved the
    problem, but seemed VERY uncharacteristic of the characters and their livelihood.

    When Neebo DMs these little things donít come to a head or I donít notice them, and
    Iíve been kinda feeling that whenever I DM things go wrong, and Iím just glad that I
    know heís DMing next time and he can fix it. Sometimes I even think that the players
    play differently with him as a DM and with me as a DM. Anyway, what should I do?
    Should I do anything? Do I just need practice? Am I just being paranoid? Whatís up? I
    thank you ahead of time for any comments, questions, criticism you will have. Thank

    Patrick (Balak)

  2. #2
    If your characters want to rob & murder each other, I would say - let 'em get at it. Just don't allow characters to generate characters designed specifically to kill another party member. What are their alignments?

  3. #3
    well firstly.

    1. pay close attention to what your experienced DM does. not from a player "i have to pay attention or i may miss something aspect," but from a DM perspective. look at the minutiae that he does.... its like learning a craft. watch... do... watch... do...

    2. Never let PC's see stuff. If they do accidentily thats fine, that happens, but when they deliberately do it, inform them thats not ok--- change everything they saw on the fly--- if it happens again tell them again thats not ok and dock them exp. if they persist, don't play with 'em.

    3. IF the pc's want to backstab each other let them. remember you're role as fate.... honestly its no fun and they'll eventually figure it out.

    just off the top of my head....

    joe b.

  4. #4
    Novice (Lvl 1)

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    Ý Block Airwolf

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    First off, pawned79, Greetings and Welcome!

    Second: Use Rule 0, lots!

    Third: Know the characters. Know their strengths and weaknesses. Work an adventure that will challenge the group on their weaknesses and also encounter situations where a character can use his/her strength to shine.

    Fourth: Come up with an outline for the session but be aware that PC's have a knack for leaving the script, don't get flustered and just roll with the punches. If the characters get really off track call a short break and jot down a few ideas about how the situation they are in will turn out and see if you can come up with and idea that might get them back to where you want them.

    Fifth: If a PC has something you don't want him/her to have relieve him/her of it. There are plenty of ways to do this. I am sure your co-DM can suggest some ways for you.

    Sixth: Have fun. If you are not having fun there is a good chance that the players are not having fun.

    Seventh: Use this board. There are lots of smart people here that can help give you ideas. Not that I claim to be one of these smart people. Most of the people here are nice and you can ignore the ones that arenít.

    Eighth: Beware the halfling mafia. Or at use it to scare your players. <insert evil laugh here>

    Lama (Lvl 13)

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    Re: New DM needs Control and Guidance Advice

    Originally posted by pawned79
    Hello everyone,

    Also, she has a problem with looking at papers she shouldnít be looking at, ďOh my god! Heís level five!Ē she shouts as a peaked at the NPC sheet of the captain of the guard that her level two character has just gotten into a fight with.

    The problem is though is that ever since reaching level and gaining the rouge levels, I have received a lot more note passing about little things. People asking me questions about how difficult it would be to pick the pocket of their party member right now or take something off their mount when they arenít looking.

    Anyway, what should I do?
    Welcome Patrick!

    "Level five? Not any more..." (move sheet behind screen and adjust level upward a bit...)

    Institute the "no-note-passing" policy. Bottom line is that D&D (the 3E version, at any rate) really requires players to act as a group to survive, so you'd be doing them a favor. If they ask why, tell them they will become better role players and help you out as a DM if they can simply be open when in character and separate character knowledge from player knowledge as need be. Tell them you have set aside some harsh penalties for not being able to keep these things separate. If they complain, ask them to try it for a while and see how it goes. Never bring it up again and if they do tell them that you haven't felt it has been given a fair chance yet but you will let them know...

    Good luck!

  6. #6
    Orcus on an Off-Day (Lvl 22)

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    Let them screw each other if they want to, first off; they can rp their characters however they want, but if the group splits don't run sepreate parties; make the players roll up new characters except for the one you want to keep following (for continuity). It's not like they can't play their old characters again sometime, but they'll have to work out a semi-cooperative group first. I've run campaigns with kids who killed each other or split up the group and made new characters up constantly. It was fun and light-hearted. But eventually, they settled into a regular party.

    I'd let them pass notes, especially since it sounds like Luula might have trouble seperating out player and character knowledge. Otherwise they'll just end up taking you into the other room for a minute all the time. But point out at the start of the session that notes slow down the game so to keep them to a minimum.

    If they see something they shouldn't, change it. Suddenly the guard captain isn't a fifth level warrior, he's a fifth level fighter/1st level sorcerer. He doesn't have a +1 sword anymore. Or maybe he's tenth level; whatever, letting pcs know the stats of their enemies is bad.

  7. #7
    Well, from what you posted it sounds like you have a fairly common combination of problems. Disclaimer: Just going by what you posted, personal bias, etc., etc., so take the following ramble as just One Guy's Opinion(tm).

    Tag-team DMing is a great way to make sure you get some playing time in. Tag-team DMing the same PCs in the same campaign, however... well, personally I've had only marginal success with that. Based on my own past experience, I have to wonder whether your players would "behave" better while you DM if yours was a separate campaign. Even just a series of one-shots, just to travel the learning curve with.

    The "table rules" problem can often be solved with a brief but serious chat. Be careful with your notes, review/revise the seating arrangement, and be forthcoming... "Hey, it's a little annoying when you're looking at my stuff over here. Back off, will ya?" You've all got the same goal, after all: you're trying to knit a good story together. Everyone has a contribution to make, and as DM yours is to spring surprises on the PCs from time to time and thereby guide the "external" plot. Stuff is going to happen around the characters constantly, and the players' contribution is to dictate how their characters respond. Simple, right? Not intimidating at all.

    Now, you really can't veto the way players play their characters, but you ought to take a firm hand when enforcing consequences. Is there someone who would take exception to their burning down the oasis? Isn't there? Well, come up with someone.... In general, make sure the characters sink or swim together, and are forced to rely on each other... the inter-character conflict may just blow over. Make it clear periodically that if they are not willing to work together, they will most likely die separately. It's a harsh world, right? At the same time, be certain you do not mix DM dissatisfaction/disgruntlement with reasonable plot development. D&D is not a contest between DM and players; it's actually okay if the characters enjoy their successes (a lesson I personally took a long time learning ).

    So as the plot develops, use other tools to lay obvious hints that you want things smoothed out between the characters. DMPCs are most interesting tools when they are liked and trusted by the other characters. I've had DMPCs fill numerous roles in parties, and I like them a lot... when I have the campaign all to myself. You might even use him to comment on Luula's anomalous behavior... although perhaps the reason her character *has* the average score is because sometimes she is brilliant and sometimes she is dull (I picture the attribute scores in question being INT/WIS/CHA).

    Everyone's first go at DMing is fraught with frustration and confusion and a sense of being lost. I know mine was. There is no Zen lesson in this, it just appears to me to be the case. It may be time to just kick back a bit, let the PCs have their head, and then whack 'em for it if they deserve a bit of whacking. They'll get the hint; or they won't, in which case you get to have them make new characters and start again!

  8. #8
    Well, I'm Neebo's player and the other Co-DM, so I thought I'd make a few comments as well...

    I think Patrick is an excellent DM, but as anyone who is doing something they aren't experienced at, they tend to be overly self-critical. He handles the party well and his games have always been fun, which is what's important. I think he's done a heck of a job, so don't be too hard on yourself!

    I suspect one of the issues he's having is that things are simply not going according to the plans he's made. I make my plots in one of two ways; as a loose storyline that allows a lot of wiggle room for the players to pick up and drop the plot as they wish; or as a very solid and tight storyline that doesn't railroad them, but events are happening around them in a timed and planned manner. In our Endless Desert campaign (our no-magic/no-psionics game that Patrick mentioned above), I tend to go with the looser style of storytelling. It might not look that way to the players, cause as a DM I rely on my ability to bluff quite a bit . I try to make everything seemed planned and thought out... act 100% certain when you're only 51% certain.

    Anyway, it doesn't bother me too much when the players go off track a bit, cause I can bring them back on course later on. How you go about doing that though, is hard to explain, maybe it's just simply experience. I know that if I have one of them hear a mysterious noise to the east, they might not investigate it... but if an hour later I add a bright flash of light coming from the eastern horizon, which might draw them to it. I also tend to add a lot of red herrings in my game, so I'm sure that doesn't help Patrick when it comes to figuring out what I'm doing when I'm DM'ng... hehe. Anyway, I'm a firm believer that an echo of a thing will draw more curiosity then a completely obvious plot device.

    On the Luula issue, I agree that he needs to be harsher with her when it comes to out of character info and in-character info. I'm guessing that since Patrick is still mastering all the rules of 3rd ed, that he's not completely comfortable with modifying NPC's and monsters. If one of the players peeks at my encounter, I'll change it... giving a giant intelligent spider 5 levels in rouge is always a nasty thing .

    On the issue of players not properly portraying desert nomads and such, if I feel a player isn't playing their characters properly, I will mention it to them. You can't force players to role-play in one particular way or another, but you can give them positive and negative stimulus for it. If they are RP'ng properly, award them for it... the fates are simply nicer to them. Is it "unrealistic"... yes, but so what . If the character isn't following what you would deem acceptable behavior, punish them for it... start giving out XP penalties. I wouldn't necessarily say it's for "bad role-playing", cause that might hurt people's feelings a bit, but simply for being out of tune with the desert.

    As far as the party picking up levels in rogue, I don't have a big issue with that. The campaign we're in relies very much on skills and less on combat ability, so I'm not surprised to see that. I don't see the party turning evil or betraying each other any time soon as well, but that's simply my impression. Perhaps there's something to what Patrick says, but I don't see it. (Poison weapons are common in subsistence cultures, so it doesn't seem odd that they would use it).

    Now, unto the burning oasis... I'll say this much, Patrick didn't give us a lot of options on this one. We needed water and we needed access to the oasis for several days (we were waiting for another group to meet up with us there). So the nasty vines that surrounded the place made it entirely inhospitable and the beetles didn't help. I know that Patrick probably saw other "solutions" to the issue, but as a player I didn't see many (mind you, burning the place down wasn't my idea :P).

    Last edited by Arravis; Friday, 13th December, 2002 at 07:16 PM.

  9. #9
    Originally posted by Marius Delphus
    Now, you really can't veto the way players play their characters, but you ought to take a firm hand when enforcing consequences. Is there someone who would take exception to their burning down the oasis? Isn't there? Well, come up with someone
    Use use Consequences liberally and brutally as a teaching tool. A person who burns an entire oasis becomes a social pariah. The Oasis is the difference between life and death in a desert and their destruction is serious stuff. Make sure rumours spread that this group is insane, do not offer them shelter, have the son of a powerful scorcerer die because the Oasis had been destryoed and now the Scorcerer is hunting those responsible.

    Let them back stab each other but let if they get caught let them play out the consequences

    be flexible and ready to change things on the fly

  10. #10
    Marius Delphus, I see that you're in Huntsville too... I wonder if we know each other, hehe. My real name is Pablo, so if you know one that games, it might be me .

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