D&D General The Timing of Creation


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Charlaquin

Goblin Queen (She/Her/Hers)
So put an ogre named Bob on the left fork and an ogre named Fred on the other. No problem.
Well, the idea is that there’s only one ogre (maybe the party doesn’t have the resources to handle two), and his location, rather than being fixed, depends on where the players go.
 

Cordwainer Fish

Imp. Int. Scout Svc. (Dishon. Ret.)
Well, the idea is that there’s only one ogre (maybe the party doesn’t have the resources to handle two), and his location, rather than being fixed, depends on where the players go.
It's okay, when Bob heard what happened to Fred he packed up and got the hell out of Dodge.
 

Hriston

Dungeon Master of Middle-earth
{Laughs in OSR}
I wasn't going to respond to this because you don't seem particularly interested in having a dialogue given your post is in the form of a meme, but I wanted to say I'm a bit surprised at this response for a couple reasons. First, the OP doesn't sound to me like an instance of OSR-style play, so a discussion of OSR seems a little off topic. Second, my understanding of OSR is that while it isn’t concerned with balance and fairness, it does value testing the players' skill with reference to their engagement with the fiction. If something is not included in and can't be worked out by the players from the fiction as presented, e.g. they have no way of knowing about the healing potion in the orc’s sack until it’s too late to do anything about it, then they can't bring their skill to bear on that aspect of the fiction. Its introduction can only serve to change the parameters of the challenge which can have the effect of invalidating the test of skill the encounter was meant to represent because it negates the players' progress in wounding the orc. Although I don't think the players as described evince OSR sensibilities, I think their objection stems from a feeling of the DM pulling the rug out from under them and that the introduction of the healing potion served no other purpose in the game.
 

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.
Not that they would say so, many players with this stance are doing a sneaky exploit.

Many average DMs play only by-the-book. So anything they improv will be right off the page of a rulebook. And anything from a rulebook will be objectively weak, and maybe more so will be generic. No orc by-the-book uses a whip or a crossbow, for example. The big exploit here is nothing improved will ever be "made" or "adjusted" specifically to the PCs.

Many average DMs are unable or unwilling to improv anything even slightly powerful. Many simply don't have the rules or system mastery to do so. Many more simply don't want to do it: they want all foes in the game to be easy minons for the players beat.

And even many good DMs simply don't have the memory or recall ability to improv things with any skill or ability.
 

Charlaquin

Goblin Queen (She/Her/Hers)
Not that they would say so, many players with this stance are doing a sneaky exploit.

Many average DMs play only by-the-book. So anything they improv will be right off the page of a rulebook. And anything from a rulebook will be objectively weak, and maybe more so will be generic. No orc by-the-book uses a whip or a crossbow, for example. The big exploit here is nothing improved will ever be "made" or "adjusted" specifically to the PCs.

Many average DMs are unable or unwilling to improv anything even slightly powerful. Many simply don't have the rules or system mastery to do so. Many more simply don't want to do it: they want all foes in the game to be easy minons for the players beat.

And even many good DMs simply don't have the memory or recall ability to improv things with any skill or ability.
Sounds like you’ve already made up your mind about what you think these players want.
 

EzekielRaiden

Follower of the Way
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!"
Because it is seen as a form of cheating, breaking the gentleperson's agreement, "I am altering the deal, pray I do not alter it any further" type stuff. Even if you don't agree with that interpretation (and I'm 100% certain you don't agree!), that's how a significant group of people are going to feel. Choosing to respond to that feeling with "well you're just being irrational/wrong/whatever" is generally counterproductive.

Part of the problem here is your framing; you're treating all of the encounters as equally pure-abstraction stuff from the moment the DM says, "Hey, you want to play in my D&D game?" to the moment an encounter is completely, totally resolved. Most players--not just 5e players, most players generally--do not see things in that light. There is a transition over time, with a few important break points.

At the high concept stage, yes, absolutely, you are free to make whatever sounds cool to you. As long as the players believe you are sincere about making an enjoyable game for everyone, not just for you (or just for some specific player or players), then far-future things are quite freeform. This is because they expect to have the time and opportunity to learn what those things will be. Some players will even feel shortchanged if you deny them this ability by telling them too much up front!

In the intermediate stage, the players have learned some things, enough to make for constraints, but not hard limits. If it's an underground campaign, there won't be dragons flying in from mountaintops. If it's underwater, there shouldn't be grizzly bears. Now, these are constraints, not absolute rules--perhaps the cave opens into a massive Underdark realm where a purple dragon lives, allowing aerial attacks despite the fact that there is a ceiling. Perhaps someone keeps a massive air bubble dome underground, complete with animals--like grizzlies. Etc. But these deviations absolutely require explanation. Unlike in the previous step, where freedom is near-absolute and explanations can come later, here explanations must come first, then deviations. The explanations can still be pretty free, but the DM must do work to justify them.

In the penultimate stage, the players have a good idea of what specifically lies ahead. This forbids some of the more outlandish stuff, but still allows quite a bit of wiggle-room. As an example of the former (forbidding dramatic shifts), the PCs have a reliable map of the cave network which contradicts the possibility of entering a sufficiently massive cavern for an aerial dragon attack. As an example of the latter (an appropriate shift), the players have heard that goblins have invaded the forest and killed many animals for food and hides, but that doesn't prevent the existence of ogres as well, who might be working with the goblins, against them, or neutral (and possibly recruit-able!)

In the final stage, the encounter itself actually starts. There are creatures, on the field. Those creatures have characteristics, things the PCs can observe. Changing those creatures once they are actually in front of the PCs, unless a very significant justification is provided, is generally not acceptable, for the same reason that (say) a referee changing the point values of strokes midway through a golf game would be unacceptable, or a teacher changing the assignment criteria midway through a timed group project. For D&D, whether the players are more "simulation"-minded or "gamism"-minded, they will likely be very annoyed, because the former strongly dislike it when the world shifts and changes without internally-explained rhyme or reason, while the latter dislike it when the rules of play shift and change without any rhyme or reason. Altering a monster during combat like this happens to be both things at once, and thus is one of the rare times when "sim" and "gamist" types actually agree about something.

TL;DR: You're abstracting encounters too much. Many players see it as a gradual coming into focus, and once something is known, it can't be changed unless you explain why (or at least explain that) it changed. Focus happens in stages:
1. High concept. Almost anything goes, as long as it isn't wildly inappropriate for spirit/theme/tone/etc.
2. Basic premise. You can still make big changes, but explanations will be expected if the change is big.
3. Knowledge gained. Big changes will be very difficult to employ. Players will expect explanations for most changes now.
4. Actually fighting. Even small changes will be expected to have an explanation now.

Note, you can defer the explanation until later, but this just means you MUST eventually give a good explanation. Don't fall into the trap the writers of LOST did.

So anything I create will have a ton more stuff then nearly all players can even dream of...
I'm not really sure how this is relevant?

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.
Well, I hate to break it to you, but it kinda is almost impossible to tell the difference between "I thought of this five minutes ago" and "I'm just blocking your clever plan with something that popped into my head after you said it." As a player, the two can look nearly identical. Put yourself in a player's shoes; the GM has, three times now, nixed a plan you thought was smart, because of something they claim was there in their head five minutes ago. What evidence do you have of that claim? How could you tell the difference between that and said GM just fiat declaring "no" and pretending to have imagined all these contingencies in advance?

It sounds, to me, like your players don't really believe that you will play fairly with them. This is one of the serious risks of railroading (and why I never railroad, myself.) When it gets discovered, it erodes belief that the GM plays fair.

If I were in your situation, I would ask the players about whether they believe you adjudicate things fairly. Do they think you only do things for extremely good reasons, despite never being told what those reasons are? Or do they think you do things simply because you feel like it, changing stuff whenever it suits you, even if it means contradicting yourself or dashing their plans because of a new thought you just had?

So my question here was: what do other improv DMs do?
I establish player trust by:

1. Showing them my work, when I have it to show (usually after the fact, not in the heat of the moment.)
2. Building justifications for changes, especially doing so well in advance, using things the players do know about.
3. Never railroading.
4. Always giving the players a fair hearing for any ideas they have, making sure it works out if it's feasible, and coming up with a compromise if it isn't.
5. Taking player preferences, interests, and needs into account when preparing content, e.g. talking about the food and clothing of a place because the anthropology major loves that stuff, including skullduggery and manipulation because another player likes that, making sure there's good tactical combat (at least, as much as the system allows), etc.
6. Never, ever lying to my players. I will sometimes refuse to answer questions, though I try to only do that very rarely. I, as GM, never lie. The characters I portray sometimes lie. But when I speak to them as GM? I am never stating something false.

So, is there a special modern "buzz word" I can say to calm them down?
I think this reflects rather more of the problem than you realize. If you believe invoking a single word could resolve a situation like this, you have massively misunderstood what is going wrong. There is no magic word which suddenly makes people give you their trust.
 

In my games, the players don't have access to any information their characters would not. They certainly don't see stat blocks! And my players are quite happy with that. They even role-play ignorance when they happen to have meta knowledge that is not apparent to their character.

However, I do not change monster stats after a fight has started. Even though the players would never know, that just feels like cheating to me.

Having said that, I would not consider myself an improv DM. Improv is something I only do occasionally, when the players do something I haven't predicted. However, even though I am a compulsive planner (for any eventuality I can foresee), I do not write everything down. A lot of my plans are stored in my head. But I think the important thing is, my players trust me. They don't see the game as a competition between the players and the DM, and know that everything I put in is intended to entertain them, not screw them over.
 

Because it is seen as a form of cheating, breaking the gentleperson's agreement, "I am altering the deal, pray I do not alter it any further" type stuff. Even if you don't agree with that interpretation (and I'm 100% certain you don't agree!), that's how a significant group of people are going to feel. Choosing to respond to that feeling with "well you're just being irrational/wrong/whatever" is generally counterproductive.
I see the problem here is so many people think of the DM "as a player". A player in a traditional RPG only players the game with a single character and is powerless to alter the game reality. A player in such a RPG can't just see a dragon and say "oh, my character has a dragon slaying sword...hehe". If they could, there would be no "game". A player could just say "I rule. Game over." This is why players are near powerless in transnational RPGs.

A DM, however, is not a "player". They are not controlling a single player and moving them through the game world. The DM can "just say" anything at any time.

Well, I hate to break it to you, but it kinda is almost impossible to tell the difference between "I thought of this five minutes ago" and "I'm just blocking your clever plan with something that popped into my head after you said it." As a player, the two can look nearly identical. Put yourself in a player's shoes; the GM has, three times now, nixed a plan you thought was smart, because of something they claim was there in their head five minutes ago. What evidence do you have of that claim? How could you tell the difference between that and said GM just fiat declaring "no" and pretending to have imagined all these contingencies in advance?
Agreed more or less.


It sounds, to me, like your players don't really believe that you will play fairly with them. This is one of the serious risks of railroading (and why I never railroad, myself.) When it gets discovered, it erodes belief that the GM plays fair.
My game is explicitly Unfair. It really has noting to do with Railroading.

If I were in your situation, I would ask the players about whether they believe you adjudicate things fairly. Do they think you only do things for extremely good reasons, despite never being told what those reasons are? Or do they think you do things simply because you feel like it, changing stuff whenever it suits you, even if it means contradicting yourself or dashing their plans because of a new thought you just had?
I have. They say: No. Though they are players full of hate for anyone that does not think like they do and agree with them on nearly everything. They consider anything they don't like a personal attack on them.

I establish player trust by:

1. Showing them my work, when I have it to show (usually after the fact, not in the heat of the moment.)
I do this, as I love to brag. Of course, the bad players don't like this much. "Yea, see I put this trap right here as I knew you would have your character stumble into the room like a fool and trigger the trap."
2. Building justifications for changes, especially doing so well in advance, using things the players do know about.
Kind of the same as above.
3. Never railroading.
Is a Railroad Tycoon.
4. Always giving the players a fair hearing for any ideas they have, making sure it works out if it's feasible, and coming up with a compromise if it isn't.
Well, I do love the Old School style of players coming up with and doing things. Though I don't run an easy button game. Far too many DMs let the players simply do any "crazy wacky plan" : just like what the players see in most movies. I don't do that.
5. Taking player preferences, interests, and needs into account when preparing content, e.g. talking about the food and clothing of a place because the anthropology major loves that stuff, including skullduggery and manipulation because another player likes that, making sure there's good tactical combat (at least, as much as the system allows), etc.
Do this.
6. Never, ever lying to my players. I will sometimes refuse to answer questions, though I try to only do that very rarely. I, as GM, never lie. The characters I portray sometimes lie. But when I speak to them as GM? I am never stating something false.
I don't have any reason to lie as a DM or a person. Of course a lot of players don't understand that when they talk to an NPC it's not "me talking". So many players get mad when they talk to a NPC called Lyingsnake and are told "there is no trap over there. Then the player has the character go over there and a trap is sprung.
I think this reflects rather more of the problem than you realize. If you believe invoking a single word could resolve a situation like this, you have massively misunderstood what is going wrong. There is no magic word which suddenly makes people give you their trust.
For many 5th generation type games are obsessed with words. "Sandbox" is a great example: Tell players your game is a "sandbox" and they will love the game no matter what it's like Because they are told "it's a sandbox" and they "like sandboxes".
 

dave2008

Legend
I see the problem here is so many people think of the DM "as a player". A player in a traditional RPG only players the game with a single character and is powerless to alter the game reality. A player in such a RPG can't just see a dragon and say "oh, my character has a dragon slaying sword...hehe". If they could, there would be no "game". A player could just say "I rule. Game over." This is why players are near powerless in transnational RPGs.

A DM, however, is not a "player". They are not controlling a single player and moving them through the game world. The DM can "just say" anything at any time.


Agreed more or less.



My game is explicitly Unfair. It really has noting to do with Railroading.


I have. They say: No. Though they are players full of hate for anyone that does not think like they do and agree with them on nearly everything. They consider anything they don't like a personal attack on them.


I do this, as I love to brag. Of course, the bad players don't like this much. "Yea, see I put this trap right here as I knew you would have your character stumble into the room like a fool and trigger the trap."

Kind of the same as above.

Is a Railroad Tycoon.

Well, I do love the Old School style of players coming up with and doing things. Though I don't run an easy button game. Far too many DMs let the players simply do any "crazy wacky plan" : just like what the players see in most movies. I don't do that.

Do this.

I don't have any reason to lie as a DM or a person. Of course a lot of players don't understand that when they talk to an NPC it's not "me talking". So many players get mad when they talk to a NPC called Lyingsnake and are told "there is no trap over there. Then the player has the character go over there and a trap is sprung.

For many 5th generation type games are obsessed with words. "Sandbox" is a great example: Tell players your game is a "sandbox" and they will love the game no matter what it's like Because they are told "it's a sandbox" and they "like sandboxes".
I was going to reply to this on many points, but then I realized it was waste of time. Good luck in your future endeavors.
 

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