D&D General How to move a game forward?

bloodtide

Legend
So hanging out with some fellow DMs the other day. We cross a bunch of players in each others games. So, many players coming from may game rave about having a great adventure. The DMs hearing many such stories then asked me my "secret" to a good game: How do I do it?

My answer was that I, as the Overlord Tyrant Tycoon, make, control and force everything in the game to happen.

The other two DMs did not like that answer...of course. And asked if there was some other way. And I said....well, no, not really. As I can think of only two other ways:

*The non game acting way: The DM and players all sit down and write a script. What each character will do and when and how. Just like a movie/tv show/play. Then everyone just acts out the script. This is not really a "game" , as it is just following a script. "Ok, on round one your cleric will swing and miss, but both orcs will hit your cleric. When your cleric take the damage say "grrr...I hate orcs!" "

*The Improv Quantum World: This Player Lead game just has the players do things at random and the DM tags along and just makes the game reality right in front of where the players choose to step. So no matter what random mess the players do, it always is the game moving forward.

But is there another way?

So for example: the group asks for "we want a long term foe that comes back around to us every so often". So the DM sets out to do that. But how? How does the DM make a foe that the PCs will encounter often and not capture or just outright kill?

And to be clear I see three types of Forced Gameplay:

*The Classic Clumsy Railroad: used mostly by new, inexperienced, casual, clueless, jerk and bad DMs. This is the stuff of railroad nightmares. Here the DM just ignores the players and does whatever the DM wants. So in this game the foe always just "escapes" no matter what the PCs do as the DM chuckles.

*The Metagame: Slightly more sneaky. In this game the DM just has the foe know everything about the PCs and the game universe, so the foe can always "amazingly" escape. So they foe always has just the right counter or ability or whatever is needed to escape. And always does....no matter what the PCs do.

*Hard Fun: And here is finally my type of game. I ether make the foe smart enough to have set and pre planned escapes using whatever skills, abilities and such the foe has OR I make the foe and game reality something else. For example, the foe will be a mystery to the PCs. They encounter the evil plans often, but not the foe themselves...so he has no need to 'escape' as they can't catch him as they don't know who it is. Or the for might have some connection to the PCs. Or the foe might be politically or socially untouchable. Or the foe simply never fights the PCs in close melee.

So, then the question is.....is there another way?
 

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Stormonu

Legend
There's a hundred ways to skin players to dress up the DM. Just about any DM who gets the players to come back to their table has some successful way of pulling off the game that works for them and their crew.

Putting that method into words can be hard, because we probably don't always handle things the same way twice. Players are a crazy lot, they'll do things you weren't expecting and if you want to be successful you have to adjust on the fly or remember some tip or trick you read somewhere that fits the occasion.

I try to do a fair amount of planning beforehand, so I've got a good grip on the situation before the players encounter it. If something goes sideways, the more thought I've put into it, the better the chances I can think my way through resolving what's going on in a logical way. Sometimes, you just plan the wrong thing though, and you have to throw away that work and go with what's in front of you. That's where the next point comes in.

I also listen to what my players are saying and doing. If you can get into their heads, you can draw on ideas and activities that they'll enjoy. What's their power fantasy? What's their fear? What motivates them to action or reaction? Why should they care? If you can work backwards from that, a lot of times that can save you from a lot of extraneous overplanning. Get to the heart of what your players want to do, and they can move mountains.
 

EzekielRaiden

Follower of the Way
I ask my players what they want to see in the game (themes, tropes, genres, etc.) And then I build from that.

I help them make characters they like playing, and that can grow in ways they didn't expect.

I make monsters that pique their curiosity, or challenge their thinking, or threaten more than just HP loss.

I play NPC allies that are good people, good friends, worthy of the players' invested time and care.

I play NPC opponents that are cunning, dangerous, charismatic, mysterious.

I keep the world consistent--and on the rare occasions I fail at this, I work with the players to make it right.

In brief?

I make a world worth adventuring in, with, and for. And I make sure my players know I want them to enjoy it at least as much as I do.
 

FrogReaver

As long as i get to be the frog
*The Classic Clumsy Railroad: used mostly by new, inexperienced, casual, clueless, jerk and bad DMs. This is the stuff of railroad nightmares. Here the DM just ignores the players and does whatever the DM wants. So in this game the foe always just "escapes" no matter what the PCs do as the DM chuckles.

*Hard Fun: And here is finally my type of game. I ether make the foe smart enough to have set and pre planned escapes using whatever skills, abilities and such the foe has OR I make the foe and game reality something else. For example, the foe will be a mystery to the PCs. They encounter the evil plans often, but not the foe themselves...so he has no need to 'escape' as they can't catch him as they don't know who it is. Or the for might have some connection to the PCs. Or the foe might be politically or socially untouchable. Or the foe simply never fights the PCs in close melee.
What's the actual difference between these?
 

Distracted DM

Distracted DM
Supporter
I'm confused by the title and what you've written- what is the actual question here?

"How to move the game forward?"

Present the situations.
Press for answers, what they want to do.
If they're hard pressed, present options. Recap what their characters should know.

Communication is important- I'm often too subtle, I can also be unclear... So I clarify to make sure we're all on the same page.
 


Andvari

Hero
It depends. You don't need to have players meticulously act out everything. If the party enters a town and starts wondering if there's any interesting things to do, instead of having them walk around randomly, you can simply shift the scene to the point where they find out which interesting things to do there are. "You ask around town and end up at the mayor's office. The mayor's name is Majorie, a shrewd-looking, dark-haired lady. She tells you about the orc raids..." Then, when they realize they don't know where the orc raiders are coming from, you can similarly shift the scene to the location of the most recent attack, where the clues to the orc camp can also be found.

Sometimes the players head straight for the tavern. Then perhaps the owner notices they're adventurers and suggests the visit major Majorie at the town hall. Lots of ways to point them in the right direction.

Of course, if they don't bite any hooks, you may want to go back to session 0 stuff and evaluate what being an adventurer and playing the game implies. I use Sly Flourish's method of adding a blurb to the session zero document that indicates what is expected of the characters in order to play the actual adventure and move in a common direction. Such as "Your character wants to explore the Barrow Den of Gormash and stop the spiritual forces threatening the town of Veeledge."
 
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There are many components I believe in the question you're asking, but these few (not a comprehensive list) are universal for any game

1- Get a good night's rest the night before.
2- Think about the session (set-up, framing, scenarios/possibilities, contingencies) beforehand i.e. like when you're showering, commuting to work ...etc
3- Create interesting and engaging NPCs.
4- Keenly listen to the players at the table.
 
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aco175

Legend
I recently finished the Stormwreck Isle box set and are moving the PCs to the mainland. I started the campaign with them on a ship shat crashes and they all end up on a rowboat washing ashore. I was planning making several additional adventures on the island after the box set was completed, but all one of the players wants is to get off the island and has worked on repairing the rowboat and searching for passing ships or trying to hire the pirates stealing dragon bones. So, now I scrap the other adventures I kind of had ideas for and are focusing on the mainland.

I guess I can force the players to stay on the island and sink the boat or make a hurricane come along and force them, but I now find that I can try and use the Beyond Icespire Peak modules that the group did not bite onto after we finished that box set.
 


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