D&D General The Timing of Creation

Larnievc

Hero
So one of our local DMs got married and "quit D&D for now". So he handed his campaign off to me so I could finish it for the players.

So the DM left some vague "framing notes", but it's mostly a player lead improv game. The players do stuff at random, and the DM just improvs stuff right in front of the characters. Some times each player will half remember their "backstory quest" and mention it. Mostly they are five strangers not even pretending to be a group and each of them just does what they want on a whim. And they "discuss" things in "arguments" at lot, and step on each others toes.

So the "player plot" is all the characters are looking for two orc brothers that did their families wrong. That is the old DM wove all five backstories of all five PCs together to make the two orc brothers the bad guys for each story. So the idea is the "group" is together to find the two orc brothers.

Currently they are in the Orc Swamp lands, randomly attacking every orc they see and asking "is this orc one of the brothers?" So it's a fun improv mindless combat game.

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So of the five players, two are potential good players and the other three helped make this post. So...the problem is...."when can a DM create or change" anything in the game? This question is for complex rules games, like D&D, not the lite games where a GM can just say "orc AC 11 HP12 AT2 DM6" in one breath and be done.

The three endlessly complain that I, as the DM, am "creating and changing things wrong". When I asked for some clarification it was mostly "you are not like our old DM". I tell them this is true, as I'm not your old DM. They get mad and say things. I try to stick to "well, ok, what exactly do you want me to do it make you happy?" And they don't have an answer exactly. So I was hopping the Internet could help out. As when a DM can create and/or change things is an old topic.

So, they don't have much problem at first with the DM making up stuff before the game. They think that is "ok". At least until they nitpick(see below).

And they Love it when the DM just improvs things on the spot. They think the game is at it's best when the DM just 'pops' stuff into the game on the spot. What does the DM put in the Frame of the Cave Encounter: ten orcs with clubs! Raaaahhh, the players have their characters attack!

The problem comes a couple of rounds later when I say "the wounded orc in the back drinks a potion of healing". The three players go wild with the accusation that "just gave" that orc a potion of healing because they were wounded and I wanted that orc to live a bit longer. My response is I only "improved" this orc into existence a couple of minutes ago, so they are still in the creation time. They respond with the DM can only create/improv for that one second, then everything is set and carved in stone. I asked for how this "player rule" would work: could they spell it out in words. Of course, they could not.

So by the Player Logic: at 6PM the DM "improv creates" an Orc Warrior. For that one second the DM is free to give the orc anything, b"by the rules". But after that one second the orc is locked: the DM can never add or change anything.

I ask the obvious questions of:

Well, how do the players police what the DM creates? Even I make the orc with a potion of healing in his sack, I'm never going to say "The orc is in hide armor with a culb...oh, and somehow you know the orc has a potion of healing in his sack".

If I do improv that the orc has a potion of healing, how do I prove it? Write it down? Make a note of the date and time? Tell all the players OOC?

Are you saying you want to stop the game every time any foe is introduced so you players can be given a list of the foes class abilities, equipment, weapons, spells and anything else they might have?

Is your "player rule" that the DM must write down all the detail of each foe?

Will all the players be writing down the detail of each foe in each Game Pause too?

Of course the players let slip part of their real Exploit Plan here: they said the DM MUST pause the game and give the players the full details of each foe AND the DM must write them all down. And this cam with the sneaky snicker of "well, if you just use the By-The-Book foes, then you don't have to do all that!" So it's basically a not so sneaky way to stop the DM from adding anything to the game.

I said I'd never agree to that. But I know other games do "random sandboxy improv", so how do you do it?
If you are gong to be the DM you need to do it your way- not by committee. In session zero you lay out what is expected. If some of them can’t agree they aren’t being forced to play.

DMing can be exhausting so having people constantly raise complaints is going to grind you and them into the ground.

And besides: how do they know you didn’t improv the orcs with perfectly reasonable healing potions?
 

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Well....game over. They found and fought the orc brothers....and TPK. So, on to a new campaign...

My question was not really about this game, or the three players. It was a more general question. Really any time I encounter fifth generation type gamers I run into the creation problem.

So many players have this odd Player Rule they want DMs to follow: The DM may not alter or change an encounter once the encounter starts. Of course, in any traditional game the players would never know...but many more neo DMs tell their players everything. Though in any case the players will always say "it's wrong" and the DM "must not do it"

But why? To me, it seems silly and pointless. Even if the DM did not add something to an encounter, they could just do so in the next encounter. So for the players to get all worked up over "DM you are forbidden from changing encounter four!", but then saying "Oh sure DM you can make encounter five anything!"

I'm much more of a Plan type DM. I have tons of pre made content. And my default NPC has a ton of equipment: what I think an average person would have based on everything about the character. Most fifth generation players and DMs don't care about equipment: at the most they can only be bothered to say they have the "equipment pack" from page 11." Though few fifth generation type games even use equipment other then "tools" needed for game rule actions. So anything I create will have a ton more stuff then nearly all players can even dream of...

And this hold true for "Improv" too. When I'm just improving a Orc Warrior to just 'pop' in from thin air with equipment and magic items. So when they "suddenly" use something a minute later, I had already thought they had it. Of course with nothing written down, the players will always think "the DM just made it up" in some hostile way.

So my question here was: what do other improv DMs do?

I have no problem with all my good players, as they understand things. So, it's just all the 'other' players I play with sometimes. The type of player that just go crazy yelling when I have a drow drink a potion.

But these players do play in other game where the DM improvs the whole game. And the players never react that way. They just accept whatever the DM says and don't cause a problem.

So, is there a special modern "buzz word" I can say to calm them down?
 


dave2008

Legend
I told you not to DM them - you should ahv e
Well....game over. They found and fought the orc brothers....and TPK. So, on to a new campaign...
I told you not to DM them. I even offered to pay you not to! Predictable failure, oh well.
So many players have this odd Player Rule they want DMs to follow: The DM may not alter or change an encounter once the encounter starts. Of course, in any traditional game the players would never know...but many more neo DMs tell their players everything. Though in any case the players will always say "it's wrong" and the DM "must not do it"
I have never seen this as a player's rule, but it is a form of social contract that should be discussed in session 0. It is the idea that you let the dice fall where the may, not make changes to make it (the game) the way you want it.

For me personally I have only seen players complain if:
  1. The DM makes arbitrary changes not related to the fiction of the game.
  2. The DM makes changes for solely to punish or "harm" the characters and/or players
If you avoid those two you should be good.
 

Charlaquin

Goblin Queen (She/Her/Hers)
I have never seen this as a player's rule, but it is a form of social contract that should be discussed in session 0. It is the idea that you let the dice fall where the may, not make changes to make it (the game) the way you want it.

For me personally I have only seen players complain if:
  1. The DM makes arbitrary changes not related to the fiction of the game.
  2. The DM makes changes for solely to punish or "harm" the characters and/or players
If you avoid those two you should be good.
I’ve certainly seen players who dislike DMs changing things on the fly, like adjusting monster HP behind the screen, and “quantum ogres” are a pretty controversial technique. What’s odd to me is this stance combined with a strong preference for improvised content. I suspect there’s a miscommunication going on between the players and the DM here.
 

dave2008

Legend
I’ve certainly seen players who dislike DMs changing things on the fly, like adjusting monster HP behind the screen,
To me that falls under 1 & 2 (or can at least)
and “quantum ogres” are a pretty controversial technique.
What is this? Never heard of it.
What’s odd to me is this stance combined with a strong preference for improvised content. I suspect there’s a miscommunication going on between the players and the DM here.
Yes
 

Charlaquin

Goblin Queen (She/Her/Hers)
What is this? Never heard of it.
Quantum ogres? It’s basically a pithy name for encounters that the DM moves around to put in the PCs’ paths, no matter where they go. The oversimplified version is, the PCs are exploring a dungeon and the path forks. The DM has an encounter with an ogre prepared, so they decide that whether the players decide to go left or right, the ogre will be there. It’s effectively in quantum superposition, and whatever path the players choose, that’s where the ogre will be.

People tend to be pretty polarized about this sort of thing, either considering it to be a violation of the players’ agency that prevents their choices from actually mattering, or perfectly normal DMing that it’s absurd anyone would critique. Or, at least, that’s the way it is when the subject comes up on the internet. I think most people’s opinions on the matter are more nuanced than that, and in actual play it probably goes unnoticed 99% of the time anyway. But it’s definitely a controversial subject.
 


Tonguez

A suffusion of yellow
You players are being dicks. Stop and have an open discussion where you make it clear that you are not the old DM and your style is different, then give them the chance to say what they like and whether its worth continuing the "Orc brothers" campaign.

Then look at Dungeon Worlds Fronts to give you an outline to improvise off. Also if you can be bothered - give them what they want. Everytime you introduce a new Enemy tell them if its a gang of mooks, a leader/captain or a Boss. Tell them that theres an Orc shaman at the back with a carved skull staff.
You dont need to say that the orc leader has a potion,you've let the players know its different and more than a mook.

If they still dont like it, then they really are being dicks
 

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