D&D (2024) DMG adventure design advice - a bit contradictory?

pemerton

Legend
Encounter: the players encounter the bandits at their camp. Their confrontation will possibly take the story to its end
Event: If the PCs don't intervene, the bandits will attack the town in 1 week's time.
But that event is not and "encounter[] or event[] that take the characters from the beginning of the adventure to the end".

If I wanted to tell a GM to prep that, I would say something like "Determine an immediate goal for your antagonist, that they are hoping to achieve and that is likely to bring them into conflict with the PCs."
 

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Parmandur

Book-Friend
See above. My "concerns" are a singular concern: the text is contradictory, because it says to determine some stuff and then it says to not determine that same stuff.
No, it says detailed planning ia careful, but to be ready to shift gears. There ia literally no contradiction...?
 

Clint_L

Legend
I'm with you up to here.

But here we part ways, in that IMO the underlying assumption that the DM is specifically trying to author/tell/develop a structured story (as opposed to just letting play drift where it will) is misguided.
Three act structure is pretty much universal. Every story is going to have some sort of inciting incident. It's going to have some development. And it's going to have some sort of resolution.

In D&D, I have tons of bread crumbs out there, and then the players come up with some on their own. Ideally, these tie into character wants and needs, but they don't have to. Okay, so the players have opted to follow up on those rumours about a something causing problems in the swamp. There's our beginning. Now they are going to investigate: middle. And next they are going to deal with the problem: end.

And that can then build into another story arc (in fact, that one did). How they dealt with the problem created a new problem. So now they have to figure out what to do about that. And then they have to resolve it. And so on. Find out about the dungeon. Explore the dungeon. Defeat the BBEG, TPK, give up...all possible endings.

I don't think there's much difference between how you and I are prepping; three act structure is just automatic to how I think about any narrative, but I think if you look at any game, it's there.
 

pemerton

Legend
No, it says detailed planning ia careful, but to be ready to shift gears. There ia literally no contradiction...?
Sometime people read things differently?

Just to be clear, I'm referring to this text:
Follow these steps to create an adventure: . . .

Step 3. Plan Encounters. How does the adventure play out? Determine the encounters or events that take the characters from the beginning of the adventure to the end.

Step 4. Bring It to an End. How do you expect the adventure will end? Think about possible endings as well as rewards for the characters. . . . .

[W]hile it's worthwhile to compare an adventure to these other forms of storytelling [novels, movies, comics, TV], remember that an adventure isn't a complete story until you play. . . . the events of the story shouldn't be pre-determined: the actions of the players' characters have to matter. For example, if a major villain shows up before the end of the adventure, the adventure should allow for the possibility that the heroes defeat that villain. Otherwise, players can feel as if they've been railroaded - set onto a course that has only one destination, no matter how hard they try to change it.

You might find it helpful to think about an adventure not as a narrative that arcs from beginning to end with little chance for deviation, but more in terms of situations that you are presenting to the characters. The adventure unfolds organically from the players' responses to the situations you present.​
The word "careful" doesn't appear in that text. There is the word "remember" - remember that an adventure isn't a complete story until your play. That sounds like a true statement.

I'm focusing on two statements, that I am now quoting verbatim:

Determine the encounters or events that take the characters from the beginning of the adventure to the end.

the events of the story shouldn't be pre-determined​

Immediately preceding the first of these statements is "How does the adventure play out?" and immediately following it is "Bring it to an End. How do you expect the adventure will end?" Thus it is clear that "the end" in the first statement means "the end of the adventure".

And I'm simply saying that it is contradictory to be told to determine the encounters or events that take the characters from the beginning of the adventure to the end of the adventure, while also being told not to pre-determine the events of the adventure. To follow the first instruction is to disobey the second. And vice versa.

How would I determine the encounters or events that take the characters from the beginning of the adventure to the end of the adventure without pre-determining the events of the story?
 

I'm A Banana

Potassium-Rich
Here the perception of an issue:

(1) How does the adventure play out? Determine the encounters or events that take the characters from the beginning of the adventure to the end.​
(2) the events of the story shouldn't be pre-determined​

(1) and (2) - which are both direct quotes - seem like conflicting instructions to me. How can I determine in advance without pre-determining?
And I'm simply saying that it is contradictory to be told to determine the encounters or events that take the characters from the beginning of the adventure to the end of the adventure, while also being told not to pre-determine the events of the adventure.
It is pretty contradictory as written.

IMO, (1) is more explicit than it should be.

"How might the adventure play out?" is a more useful angle than "How does the adventure play out?"

And "Determine the potential encounters or events that could happen to the characters, from the beginning adventure to the end." is a more useful framing than how the text is currently presented.

So, when you're writing an adventure, you should (a) try to prepare encounters you think will happen, and (b) consider the flow of the adventure from beginning to end.

And, when you're playing through the adventure, you shouldn't pre-determine the story. Let the players' decisions affect the encounters that actually happen, and be prepared to improvise.

An example might be the classic dungeon. If each room has something living in it, these are all potential encounters, and the DM should determine what these could be. That determination might be a random table or a detailed battle plan or whatever, but the encounters are all potential. The players will decide their path through the dungeon, though, and their decisions are part of the fun, so let those decision be impactful - don't decide that no matter what, the first room they open will be X and the second room they open will be Y and the third room they open will be Z. If the players notice, that can feel like a robbery of agency, since the decisions the players made about what order to tackle the rooms in was made kind of meaningless.
 

pemerton

Legend
"How might the adventure play out?" is a more useful angle than "How does the adventure play out?"

And "Determine the potential encounters or events that could happen to the characters, from the beginning adventure to the end." is a more useful framing than how the text is currently presented.
I agree that this is the sort of thing that could make it non-contradictory.
 

EzekielRaiden

Follower of the Way
There’s no contradiction at all there. You should both have a plan and remember that the game isn’t a novel and things will go where they go.

I don’t even really see where there could be a perception of an issue there.
Seems to me a pretty obvious contradiction. Don't plan endings...but plan endings. Don't railroad, but plan every event and encounter.

This is the Dungeon Master's Guide. It should never leave key words implicit. The "potential," "possible," etc. that should be there are not there. One of the greatest problems of the 5.0 DMG was that it was crap-awful at actually guiding. This preview, while only a small slice, does not bode well for improvements on that front.
 

Parmandur

Book-Friend
And I'm simply saying that it is contradictory to be told to determine the encounters or events that take the characters from the beginning of the adventure to the end of the adventure, while also being told not to pre-determine the events of the adventure. To follow the first instruction is to disobey the second. And vice versa.

How would I determine the encounters or events that take the characters from the beginning of the adventure to the end of the adventure without pre-determining the events of the story?
You are conflating encounters and events with the word plot, which seems to be the error here. You will want to plan out combat encounters, and a shape, but not to predetermined exactly how it goes down, being willing to go with it. This is Norma l D&D prep, again as can easily be experienced by running a 5E Adventure...?
 

Parmandur

Book-Friend
We actually give you example adventures, several of them, and these are not in the style of our big published adventure books— they’re written in a way that we hope DMs will want to emulate for their home games . . . It is a more streamlined version of adventure design, and the reason why we’re doing that is to be mindful of the of the DM’s time, to help them prepare adventures quickly—you don’t have to write an adventure out in the way we publish adventures. When you’re running your own adventures and designing your own adventures, there’s kind of a shorthand way that you can do it, and we show you how, and then we give you several examples.
It is worth noting that the sample Adventures here have been described as follows

"There’s plenty more ready-to-use content in the new DMG, including several example adventures. These are presented in a streamlined notation format compared to published DnD adventures, to give new DMs an example that’s easier for them to use when creating their own homebrew content."


It isn't the prep style thwt is different, but that the samples are being presented in a "streamlined notation format". What we have here ia just the introduction page of a chapter that is going to get into the nitty gritty and provide built up examples. They might even provide scripted examples kf play, as they are doing with the PHB section on "What is an RPG?" to get across how to not run these as predetermined.
 

pemerton

Legend
You are conflating encounters and events with the word plot, which seems to be the error here.
I haven't used the word "plot", and it doesn't appear in the passages I've quoted.

I'm just saying that it's not possible to follow an instruction to determine X while also heeding advice that one should not determine X.

If, rather than "determine X", what is meant is consider a range of possible Xs (as per @I'm A Banana's post not far upthread), then it's not hard to write that instead of what has actually been written.
 

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