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Thread: Just make it up

  1. #1
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    Just make it up

    In the discussion on 'official' sources, the idea was brought up that many DMs don't simply make it up. Is this accurate? Does everything in your game need to have a rule source?

    My perspective has always been that strict codification is for the players. DMs can certainly use this as a toolbox - I'm a great fan of taking monster A, adding template B and class levels C and calling it D. But sometimes you just create something out of whole cloth. Our group even has a euphemism for this - "It seems that the Detect Magic is showing a Plot Device enchantment" :P.

    Do other DMs not do it this way? I can't imagine running a game this way, having to come up with an exact source for the monsters, spells, etc. Sometimes when I get suprised I pull entire stat blocks out of the air. My 4th level party takes a different turn and I need some big tough warriors to stop them? Well, let's give them a 18 AC, fifty hit points, and +8 to hit. I'm sure that's about right. I don't use CRs at all, so that's no issue.

    The best way this idea was expressed was in Pkitty's story hour, when someone asked how the bad guys created some big undead thingamabob. IIRC, his response was 'The White Kingdom has dark magics that Man Was Not Meant To Know. They probably used those.'

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    I make up stuff on the fly all the time. Of course, that's a habit I developed independently (and much earlier) than 3e, and that may be part of it. I wonder if 3e and it's rather extensive codification of rules has changed the climate somewhat, especially amongst the "newer generation" of DMs.

    "I realize that I am generalizing here, but, as is often the case when I generalize, I don't care." Dave Barry

  • #3
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    I allow pretty much everything in my game. I keep it under control becuase of several reasons.

    1) if a player intorduces something overpowered then the bad guys can use it as well. Which is enough to scare most players.
    2) I can adjust my game to be a challenge regardless of what they bring in.
    3) I trust my players to know better and for the most part they do.

    I don't have clear cut rules sets. I do what is logical within the context of the game world and let it go from there.

    For example the players have been searching for a set of magical items that are more or less artifacts. I let them have the items without worry of a power imbalance for several reasons.

    I talked up how powerfully dangerous such items are and described earlier games to the point my players are scared to mess with artifacts.

    The artifacts though powerful are powerful in ways useless to the party either by being evil or universally destructive or some other balancing factor. Example a tank is powerful weapon but not useful to a spelunker regardless of what he may run into in the dungeon below.

    The normal rules of magic do not apply so they are unsure what the cause an effect is for use of the artifacts or how the "physics" of magic apply to the items.

    Just how I do things in regard to rule sets. The artifacts in the example don't have a list of abilities or spells per day the can cast, heck they barely have names beyond their descripions (The bowl, the Book etc.) So old and scary are they.

    If characters don't go out of their way to keep themselves alive... why should I?

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    I've play more made up rules than "official" rule in the past ten years that my solid understanding of 3e rules are weak. heanse the reason i have a rule question post going right now. I also feel many new Gm's, (and its possible that we all did this also) stick so hard to the rules because they don't have the experience to make things up on the fly.
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  • #5
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    I like to have a rule source for the things that I do, but I by no means feel constrained to "have" to do it. My ultimate role as DM is to entertain my players, not to provide 100% rules-compliant stat blocks.

    If it's something big, I'll try and invent the rules I need to justify it - more to help figure out ways teh PC's could counter it than anything else. For example in my last campaign, the bad guys were casting a powerful ritual to bring back a dead god. There's no spell to do that, so I made up a ritual, decided how many wizards I wanted to require, and decided that the ritual was done in stages, and could be undone in the reverse order.

    I didn't make it up spur of the moment, but it was certainly "made up".
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    Ah yes, I read where that popped up in that previous thread. Grazzt had suspected that "newer" DMs (Psion suggested "5 years" in that thread, I'd say 4 years - from August 2000 onwards) might be less inclined to "make things up" (I'm paraphrasing here).

    I've DMed for more than a decade, and I have no problems making things up - on the fly or otherwise. Now, I have done a bit of work to make my life easier (because, IMO, 3e has made it more difficult to wing it) such as making up a bunch of generic NPCs/thugs that better fit my campaign than the ones in the DMG does.

    But, other than NPCs (major pain-in-the-butt in 3e, even when using some of the tips suggested by ENWorlders), everything else can be entirely made up - storylines, encounters, locations. Obviously, I've always preferred to have the details (I'm anal, so it's my problem), but don't need 'em.

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    I only do that stuff when I get caught off guard. Make things up that is, I've learned from experiance that planning helps, but I make up what I want and add it in, sure.

  • #8
    I've seen some DMs that were really bad at this. I mean, it sounds easy to "make things up" but I saw a PrC made up by a guy I know that just plain sucked. Among other things, he gave the PrC a free flame strike at every level starting at 6. It wasn't overpowered, it was just a loophole in an overly-complicated mechanic that he didn't see.

    Of course you can say "well, he should change his mind and edit the class in mid-game!" That can get annoying. Another DM I know tinkered with stuff every game session. In the end, we stopped keeping track of the house rules.

    I can see why some people like to know what is "official". "Official", to me, means "play-tested and sanity-checked". Of course, a lot of official material has never seen a game table, which I find annoying. At that point you're better off ... making stuff up.

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  • #9
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    Quote Originally Posted by Joshua Dyal
    I wonder if 3e and it's rather extensive codification of rules has changed the climate somewhat, especially amongst the "newer generation" of DMs.
    I don't know. When you look at the original texts, you'll notice that 1e and 2e had extensive codification of rules, too. D&D has been a rules-heavy game for a long time.

    The difference, I think, is that the 1e and 2e rules tended to be pretty bad, so they were frequently ignored, forgotten, or house-ruled away. 3e has made the rules simpler and of more consistent structure.

    So, if 3e tends to lead people to play closer to the core rules, I think it's simply because the core rules are better and work more smoothly. In addition, one of the major selling points of 3e was that much of it was built out of commonly used house rules. You don't need house rules when your house rules have been adopted into the game, no do you?

  • #10
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    Quote Originally Posted by maddman75
    The best way this idea was expressed was in Pkitty's story hour, when someone asked how the bad guys created some big undead thingamabob. IIRC, his response was 'The White Kingdom has dark magics that Man Was Not Meant To Know. They probably used those.'
    I suppose that's better than the Wight Kingdom...


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