D&D General I have been asked for help and I am looking for input

So for years I have taught new players. Many have taken 1 or 2 campaigns with me then went on to make there own groups... now since covid I have NOT really been store running (and only 1 con so far since) but I still text and discord with old players now running.

So I am going to keep some details vauge like edition... but 1 of those old players has been DMing off and on and has a newish campaign and he has run into an issue. He has asked me how I would handle it. I will do my best to explain it here then what I have already said... although I started with a laugh emoji and 'welcome to the 'hard' part of DMing'

so the background. He put together an afterschool game (if it matters he is a sr in HS and he was an 8th grader when I first met him) this game has 6 regular players that up until now have made almost every game (witch is a small miracle). the game started at 1st level and is now 4th level and they use XP.

the issue. in a session he had a player ask about an area of the world that he had not preped yet. (he has a hand drawn map that includes city names and ruin names) and he off the top of his head made up a (IMO) cool story about the place being haunted by a ghost dragon. (no he had no stats in mind, no real seed just answering a question) however this has turned the entire session into an argument... 4 players want to investigate this (1 of the 4 wants to actually drop what they are doing right now but other 3 just want that next) BUT 2 of them not only don't want to do it but are refusing to go near a 'ghost dragon' at level 4. Now this wasn't just a pause, but they are mid adventure and a 3ish hour session was derailed by this.

his quastion is what to do when some players WANT to do something and some DON'T, how does he as the DM adjudicate this?



Okay so after laughing at him a bit I promised I would give it some thoughts, but off the top of my head it is something as a DM he has little IN GAME control of, but talking to the players out of game may be the best option...
 

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jgsugden

Legend
As a DM - don't. Unless you're running an NPC in the discussion, this is something to let the PCs resolve in character. They're making a decision about what the OCs want (or fear) to do. If they make the decision to go there on the cuff and arrive during the same session, wing it. If they make the decision to go there and you have enough in place to keep from reaching it in the session youhave time to plan.

Though not my approach, some DMs would Scooby Doo this scenario and hve the overpowered ghost dragon turn out to be other cretures in disguise using the story of the ghost to keep intelligent foes away.
 

payn

Legend
Depends on style of game. If its an open sandbox, then the players need to find a way to form a consensus. This can be difficult because D&D specifically makes splitting the party difficult and time consuming. I would find ways as a GM to encourage the group to stay together and act as a team. If its an adventure path, then refrain from making interesting dead ends for the players to ogle at.

Side tangent, the ghost dragon is pretty cool. It would certainly be doable ina few ways. The first that springs to mind is that its not actually a ghost dragon at all. Just some manageable NPC/Monster using illusory magic to scare people away. A little research into the place can go a long ways and promote recon as a game play loop. YMMV.
 

Xamnam

Loves Your Favorite Game
his quastion is what to do when some players WANT to do something and some DON'T, how does he as the DM adjudicate this?
The question is interesting, and I want to think about the broader contextless answer, but as far as this specific situation:

4 players want to investigate this (1 of the 4 wants to actually drop what they are doing right now but other 3 just want that next) BUT 2 of them not only don't want to do it but are refusing to go near a 'ghost dragon' at level 4. Now this wasn't just a pause, but they are mid adventure and a 3ish hour session was derailed by this.
This to me sounds like an issue of player assumptions about the world. The two who don't want to seem like they're (reasonably!) concerned about the danger a dragon would pose to adventurers of their power. The four who are on board seem like they're confident it's so not far beyond their capabilities that it's a fool's errand for them specifically to check it out (or, this is just a fact finding mission, and they could retreat if it goes wrong).

So, additional knowledge is the answer! The DM needs to decide how strong dragons are generally in their world, how dangerous this specific dragon is, and communicate to the players what their adventures would reasonably know as residents of that world:

Are dragons something everyone runs away from? Are adventuring parties of comparable strength the standard response to this sort of thing? Is this is a baby ghost dragon who has just started haunting, or an ancient one who has terrorized the domain for hundreds of years, or is it unknown because no one has returned?

And, if that doesn't resolve the conflict, here's a case where pulling back the curtain on their particular style might help. Either saying "Hey, I run a world where you'll die if you seek out creatures you shouldn't." (but running away might be an option) or "If that's the story you want to follow, I'll make sure it's one that's not impossible for you." (but reckless behavior might have consequences)



Edit: Me as a player? Ghost Dragon sounds way too dangerous to chase at level 4, unless we have some special weapon or know a weakness.
 
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Side tangent, the ghost dragon is pretty cool. It would certainly be doable ina few ways. The first that springs to mind is that its not actually a ghost dragon at all. Just some manageable NPC/Monster using illusory magic to scare people away. A little research into the place can go a long ways and promote recon as a game play loop. YMMV.
TBH the ghost dragon was what I thought was the best part of this... and I did tell him that it was a great ad lib that didn't tie him down so I thought it was a sighn he was doing well..
 

payn

Legend
TBH the ghost dragon was what I thought was the best part of this... and I did tell him that it was a great ad lib that didn't tie him down so I thought it was a sighn he was doing well..
Yeap, its a double sided ad lib drop. Ghost dragon seems way cooler than just a ghost. Though, it also sounds above the paygrade of a low level PC troop. For future reference, I'd recommend the GM consider level and player mindset when going ad lib. This, of course, takes time and experience with a group to develop.
 

I agree with @jgsugden , Don't. If it gets 'bad' enough, then help the players out by having them talk about it out of character. "Hey everyone, let's talk about this out of character for a moment..."

Now, there are lots of things the DM can do before they get there, depending upon how big the map is and how long travel etc would take. Fill the time with rumors and stories. Add some myths to the mix. Just because they have heard the place is home to a ghost dragon doesn't mean it is, and it doesn't mean the dragon is evil or aggressive. Maybe the dragon only roams the land on nights of a full moon, and can be appeased with sacrifices, or... x, y, or z. Maybe their are local nomands who live or travel through the area and take shelter in magical zones when the dragon is about.

But all in all, it's not (should not be) up to the DM to decide what the characters chose to do. Help the players figure out how their characters will come to a consensus, but don't drive the decision.
 

iserith

Magic Wordsmith
his quastion is what to do when some players WANT to do something and some DON'T, how does he as the DM adjudicate this?
It's a table rule issue. Here is the table rule in my games:

"Keep Things Moving. We do this by saying "Yes, and..." to our fellow players. When a reasonable idea is proposed, we accept it ("Yes...") and add to it ("and..."). We don't shut down other people's ideas or try to tell other people how to play their characters unless they ask for help. It's discouraging to others and slows the game down."

So in this case, whoever proposed a good faith idea to investigate the ghost dragon is supported by everyone else. The two people who in this situation are refusing to go would work on finding a way to be okay with it. "Yes, and since we're scared that a ghost dragon is a bit more than we can handle in a direct fight, let's focus on ways to be stealthy when we approach the lair and have an exit strategy if things go badly." Then someone can "Yes, and..." that offer until a plan comes into focus.
 


FitzTheRuke

Legend
It's a table rule issue. Here is the table rule in my games:

"Keep Things Moving. We do this by saying "Yes, and..." to our fellow players. When a reasonable idea is proposed, we accept it ("Yes...") and add to it ("and..."). We don't shut down other people's ideas or try to tell other people how to play their characters unless they ask for help. It's discouraging to others and slows the game down."

So in this case, whoever proposed a good faith idea to investigate the ghost dragon is supported by everyone else. The two people who in this situation are refusing to go would work on finding a way to be okay with it. "Yes, and since we're scared that a ghost dragon is a bit more than we can handle in a direct fight, let's focus on ways to be stealthy when we approach the lair and have an exit strategy if things go badly." Then someone can "Yes, and..." that offer until a plan comes into focus.

I agree. "Yes, and we might just want to have a look around, gather some info, and get the heck out if we actually run into the ghost dragon, because it's probably more than we can handle."
 

The DM could do the following
  • note that not all encounters are combat encounters. Maybe they can chat with the ghost dragon, figure out what it wants. Maybe it's a ghost of a dragon that was killed by...adventurers? An army? Another dragon?
  • the ghost dragon could be a rumor that is false or partially true. Maybe it's a ghost of a dragonborn that became exaggerated into a tale about a ghost dragon?
  • hook the players who don't want to go via their backstory or motivations, so they become invested in the quest/exploration
  • I would actually recommend the DM be upfront that this part of the world is not really prepared, and that the table will sort of be exploring/creating it together.
 

Oofta

Legend
As others have said, you have a few options. It's a Scooby Doo mystery and the ghost dragon is completely fake. However, this could be a letdown for the group.

Another option is that it's real and, IMHO, should be terrifying. This is a monster of legend something that, if it notices them, could easily wipe them out with a ghostly sneeze. So the DM needs to set up a way for them to find this out, and that sometimes retreat is the better part of valor. Have NPCs warn them on their way, let them know that a local kingdom is sending a small army to take care of it once and for all and let them run into the lone survivor of a brigade barely alive having only escaped by sheer luck. Heck, have them get close and then just let the fear effect make them run away. Or combine the two, someone was using the legend of a ghost dragon for their own means but accidentally woke the real ghost dragon up and now it's really, really pissed.

This sets up the ghost dragon as a long term nemesis, one that possibly now knows about their existence and will literally haunt their dreams. An alternative is that the dragon offers to make them a deal or casts geas (or similar) or they die. This makes a story arc of either having a new master and dealing with that or looking for a way to break the control.

On a related note, I'd also have them talk to the players. I run an open more-or-less sandbox campaign, but I simply ask that we not completely change direction during a session. Something like this needs to be discussed as a group and even if it's not an ad-lib I still prefer to have some prep time to ensure I can set up encounters that will be enjoyable. Most groups are fine with the reality that DMs don't have an entire world prepped, even if they're okay with the PCs going off the rails.
 

Quickleaf

Legend
so the background. He put together an afterschool game (if it matters he is a senior in High School and he was an 8th grader when I first met him) this game has 6 regular players that up until now have made almost every game (witch is a small miracle). the game started at 1st level and is now 4th level and they use XP.

the issue. ...cool story about the place haunted by a ghost dragon... however this has turned the entire session into an argument... 4 players want to investigate this (1 of the 4 wants to actually drop what they are doing right now but other 3 just want that next) BUT 2 of them not only don't want to do it but are refusing to go near a 'ghost dragon' at level 4. Now this wasn't just a pause, but they are mid adventure and a 3ish hour session was derailed by this.

his quastion is what to do when some players WANT to do something and some DON'T, how does he as the DM adjudicate this?

When I run for younger players, and they hit a point where they are at loggerheads, unlike with my adult players (whom I can usually say "hey, this is eating lots of our game time, can you find a way to resolve it in the next few minutes?"), with youngers I try to propose a compromise.

Part of them accepting my compromise, yeah, it is in the compromise being wisely imagined and presented well, but I'm sure part of that is also the authority of me being older. So this may not be AS effective for your High Schooler acquaintance, but here's what I would say to the players:

"You've heard of (midway point connecting current plot to the ghost dragon-haunted place - probably at edge of the map), and so-and-so asks you to venture there to discover why people are vanishing and learn why there is an unusually high level of ghostly activity in the area."

This acknowledges:
  • Concerns of the 2 players who are "nope, that's too tough for us at 4th level", by giving them an intermediary adventure zone that's still something kinda familiar (i.e. connected to current plot & at edge of map).
  • Desire for majority (4 players) to go towards the ghost dragon storyline.
While also being firm that:
  • Just because 1 player is loudly asking to go after ghost dragon right now, the DM doesn't cater to just 1 player's desires, but to the entire group.
 


billd91

Not your screen monkey (he/him)
I agree with @jgsugden , Don't. If it gets 'bad' enough, then help the players out by having them talk about it out of character. "Hey everyone, let's talk about this out of character for a moment..."
As far as helping the PCs come to some kind of decision, I agree that it's a player-based dispute that should be handled among the players. But since it is also derailing the session with unproductive arguing, that's a group dynamic issue that is worth wading into. My advice would be to tell the players to put the discussion on hold until after the session.
And if it helps to "lift the veil" a bit, just tell them that there are parts of the world that are sketched out and not fully developed yet but that the interests they express will help them, as DM, prioritize what to more fully develop.

There are a number of other areas that, as DM, I try not to get involve in - treasure division being another significant one. But when any of those player-managed topics starts to put players at serious loggerheads, that's my cue to put on my Group Management hat.
 

Many here seem focussed on what the Ghost Dragon is which I feel is unimportant. The DM can plan information gleaned/rumours heard, the travel, the obstacles and the actual creature whatever it is - the real issue is what does one do with the current adventure in mid-progress and how does one resolve the issue amongst the players.

Like some have said, do not have the DM interfere. Answers questions they may ask, but let the characters hash it out during play. Could abandoning the quest result in any consequences/repercussions - those could be communicated to the PCs. Otherwise just inform them of the passage of time.
If the PCs have a henchman or two or familiar NPCs , you could use them to roleplay them for and against the idea.
Perhaps one highlights the possible treasures to be found, another informs them of the terrible rumours they heard of the place, a third would perhaps steer them to the people in the know or a craftsman who is said to produce weapons ideal for hunting dragons...etc
 


CreamCloud0

One day, I hope to actually play DnD.
Hmmm, probably offer a middle ground between going all in to fight it or ignoring it completely, some town or city closer to the ruins or listening to the hearsay in the local tavern on what kind of experiences people have had, a DMPC who’s also planning to investigate the ruins who’s going ahead to scout and will be waiting at said closer town for 3 days if they do decide to come along
 

Stormonu

Legend
If the players want to go for it, and it may possibly mean splitting the party I might throw some warning signs, but its there choice. I would make it clear though, that I need some time to prep that direction of the game properly. Those that want to stay on the current path, we could continue that. The others, I’d DM as far as I felt comfortable ad-libbing, but there would likely be some stutter before we got to encountering the Ghost Dragon. Them’s the breaks.
 

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