Times we have made mistake as DMs and how we would do things differently

James Gasik

We don't talk about Pun-Pun
Some from today's session:

Lessons learned: why do I always give the players multiple plot hooks simultaneously? It's just going to lead to time spent debating where to go.

Also, if you don't want the PC's to go someplace because they aren't ready for it, that is the one place they really want to go!

Stocking shops with useful items doesn't do you any good if the party is poor and doesn't think they can afford things.

If there is a potential for a combat, the players will always choose to fight.

If it looks like a dragon, expect the players to seriously consider turning around and going home!

16 cr 1/8's and a cr 1/4 might look like an ok encounter on paper, until you have to start rolling dice. Especially if a bunch of them have pack tactics!

Lighting rules suck.

Letting players find useful magic items doesn't help if they don't have the ability to identify those items in a timely fashion.

Players with darkvision will never say they have a light source unless you impose some penalty to them for being in dim light.

log in or register to remove this ad


B/X Known World
My first time was a wonderful disaster. Absolute learning & teaching moment.

I tried to run a module. I say tried because the players immediately zigged when they needed to zag. Immediately as in the first five minutes of the first session. All the money and time prepping it went out the window. I learned real quick to adapt and go with the flow. It was still an incredibly rough session, about four hours of improvising when I hadn’t planned on improvising at all.

But still, lesson learned. Never again. No set story, no railroads, no story-based modules, no adventure paths, no illusionism. It’s all open-world sandboxes or nothing.

The other (terrible) option is to force the players to follow the module, i.e. railroading. Which means I don’t need players at all. Which, to me, entirely defeats the point or running games.

The other (even worse) option is to force start games after any potentially catastrophic decision points. But that’s an even worse kind of railroading.


Ravenous Bugblatter Beast of Traal
I gave out a magic items and abilities that allowed spell DCs to go to crazy levels. In my Odyssey of the Dragon Lords campaign I think the combination of an extra feat at first level and a slightly more generous point buy (which I did at first level) meant it was really easy to start with 18 casting stat. The player chose the stat increase and very early on got this to 22. I added a magic harp that would increase his save DCs really on because I want to give them an item they would really appreciate and later on there was a town that improved charisma by another 2. All together this meant by mid levels had a spell DC of 21-22. Any non-legendary creature was instantly neutralized unless they rolled high teens and (most often a nat 20).
I'd like to point this out. Because I love this whole response. Yes, you made a mistake that started with good intentions of making the PCs a bit more heroic, but did realize it.

On reflection, prevention is better than cure. I would be very very careful about adding in Items that raise a casting stat above 20, and I probably wouldn’t make it easy to get starting stats above 17 from the get go. I’d also be very careful adding save increasing items (there are quite a few out there in various products) where a caster already has a high save.
And here you have how to prevent it going forward in future campaigns, showing you fully understood and laying it out for others.

I considered upping the difficulty and enemy saving throws and/or using creatures immune to the bards powers but I felt this would be undermining their character and make them feel crappy.

How we resolved it instead (because it was a great campaign) was by having an honest conversation at the start of one of the sessions about how I thought the PCs were a bit more than I could handle and that it was making it really hard to run encounters. All the PCs agreed to slightly modify their characters. The bard swapped the +2 Charisma for the crown to something else. It wasn’t a perfect solution but it did let us carry on the campaign for another 5 or 6 player levels where I otherwise probably would have lost interest in DMing the campaign and quit.
And you talked about mitigation in the current campaign, including showing an idea you discarded.

And ended up with treating your players like adult, communicating with them, owning up to the issue and the results it brought, and working with them.

Learning from other's mistakes like the OP says is great - it's avoiding bad design patterns. But this goes further, to positive design patterns that GMs should learn as well.



So this goes all the way back to high school....

I had a group of four players, but they wanted a 5th, but we could not find anyone. Then one of my sisters girl friends is over the house and sees my D&D stuff. She loves the game, but also can't find a game. So I invite her to join mine.

Except all the players hate her......because "girls don't play D&D." But I did not quite get the level of hate.....

So we play the game....and they are really bad. always wanting her character to 'scout way far away' or 'stay and guard the horses' or 'cook for the group'. And worse by not really 'playing' with her character...leaving her character out of group things and refusing to heal her character or help or support in any way at all. They were trying to make her miserable so she would quit. And I fell for all of it...all their lies and tricks. And she never complained or said anything to me.

It was months later, she brought a friend to 'try try game" and she spotted in in like a second and told me. I was shocked...both that they were attacking her constantly....and that I just did not see it. So that group ended right there. Though I continued the game with the two girls...and a couple more girl players.

And...I'd like to say such thinking is in the past......but:

Last summer I was set to run a Marvels Super Hero game with the Avenger's from the first MCU movie. The spots filled fast with all guys...except one: Black Widow. None of the guys cared much and just "wanted to start". I found a woman to play Black Widow......but as soon as she got to the game, all the guys were like "oh, Black Widow is on a secret mission and can't be in our group". So that ended that game right there....


Mistakes I have made as a DM:

Over-prepping to the point of writing plots, instead of creating situations for the characters to resolve. It's much more fun for everyone at the table when things are open ended

Being way more invested in the game and the players characters than the players are. I've learned that if the players don't really think about the game and their character outside of sessions, I don't need to be bending over backwards to put their character stuff into the campaign

Letting a player who was a bad fit for the group keep playing for the whole campaign.


I wouldn't do the following differently, my suggestion is: Don't retcon your mistakes, just correct them and move on.

When my friends and I first started playing, we made so many mistakes, rather than checking the rules I simply made a ruling and moved on, making a note to check it when we finished. If needed I let my players know the correct rule and then we applied it from the next session. This could be from how cube areas work (specifically thunderwave, we all read the description wrong), or what sneak attack could apply to (I let my arcane trickster player apply it to their cantrips).


Ravenous Bugblatter Beast of Traal
I'm going to leapfrog off of yours as they remind me of my own and/or I have a comment.
Lessons learned: why do I always give the players multiple plot hooks simultaneously? It's just going to lead to time spent debating where to go.
Yes, I do a bunch of extra prep for this too - but I find both that the players are more likely to be invested in the one they pick, and I often can reuse the other stuff because it doesn't just disappear because the party didn't address it then.

Also, if you don't want the PC's to go someplace because they aren't ready for it, that is the one place they really want to go!
I find training players that not all encounters are "balanced" means a great deal for them evaluating choices and not engaging at times. Moving away from Killing-Monsters-only-way-to-get-XP was a needed pre-req for that. Though last campaign I did have a paladin that almost wanted the party to take on a large and established kingdom of blood-magic gnomes with a wereleopard warrior caste that they knew nothing about.

Stocking shops with useful items doesn't do you any good if the party is poor and doesn't think they can afford things.
I so agree with this. And Libraries/Sages that no one thinks to consult.


Ravenous Bugblatter Beast of Traal
I’ve never understood this sentiment. The deck introduces chaos. Chaos is awesome in RPGs.
I haven't used it in 5e because it's ended several campaigns. Does it still have chances for characters to be perma-dead and unrevivable/soul imprisoned? And for a party member to jump up a bunch of levels on everyone else?

One campaign where it didn't end it but instead was insanely powerful was AD&D 2nd with a Wild Mage, who had like a 50% chance to control what he drew. The player didn't abuse it very often which we were all grateful for, but more than once a character was Wished back to full health in combat.


I'm the Straw Man in your argument
Allowing certain jerk players a second chance.
There has only really been one for me, but I should have walked away from the table. No fuss, no explanations, no ultimatums (eg "he goes or i go"). Just between sessions I should've said "Sorry guys this isn't working out for me."

Voidrunner's Codex

Remove ads