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-   -   Being DM and over coming writer's block? (http://www.myth-weavers.com/showthread.php?t=177252)

jupi Jul 20 '12 7:59am

Being DM and over coming writer's block?
 
I have been playing D&D for about 3 years and my husband is often the DM. About a year ago he admitted he was going through burnout from never getting to play. So in super secret I started planning a campaign of my own that he has no idea about. He is a really really good DM and I realized about a week ago how utterly CRAPPY my own campaign was. Its just so plain and one dimensional.

How do you guys do it? How do you make something that players will be laughing about (recalling nearly fatal accidents that are funny, etc) years later?

Vox Clamantis Jul 20 '12 9:24am

Well, D&D relies heavily on dice, so random stuff is bound to happen over time. You can't really plan for memorable accidents and lucky rolls. Just create a circumstance in which having those things happen can make the difference between success and failure. It isn't the natural 20 itself that's memorable, it's what happens as a result. Make sure that you allow good (and bad!) rolls to influence the course of events.

If you have a good working dynamic with your players, you get along as people and enjoy each others' company, you don't need to write a great story or dazzle anyone with your storytelling skills. Some of my favorite memories were made in the course of gaming sessions that were as a whole rather boring. It's just that I don't remember the boring after the fact.

Carnas Jul 20 '12 11:47am

Take a break and come to it at another point. The muses don't work set hours and you may find inspiration from an "unlikely" source.

Do your players like "plain and one dimensional"? Then go with it. I know one of the players I intend my campaign for likes a little variety so I've accounted for that with a "morality dilemma".

Look through as many monster manuals and sources as you can possibly get your hands on. I've found interesting enemies in the annuls of Monster Manual 5 that would make for a nice challenge for the party. Most people don't look beyond MM1 or MM2.

Start small. Start with a background story (X god trying to kill Y god is a common one that can work in any setting or maybe someone tampering with Netherese/Imaskari technology if you don't mind Forgotten Realms setting), make/find NPCs to deliver it (I created my own Quest giving NPCs because I couldn't find any in the sourcebooks for what I wanted. You don't need to create their entire background history to the 15th ancestor just what race they are and what they do and maybe what they're wearing), design one dungeon (I used Dungeonographer as a cheat and did some fine tweaking in GIMP because I can), fill it with whatever you wish, and you've got an adventure.

I've already designed one dungeon of my campaign and would like to start another but maybe emphasise a different aspect of it. Might actually put a link to what should be the previous dungeon. In that I presume they go to the nearest spot to the originating city and work their way out.

http://www.myth-weavers.com/wiki/ind..._and_Resources <- where I found Dungeonographer and where you can find other tools to help if you're stuck.

You may want to pre-roll random loot before you start the session to save time doing that and keep the game flow going. This is presuming that you're playing tabletop, which it sounds like from what you're saying. In PbP it doesn't matter so much since people post/check at various times and you've got a little more leeway.

Hope that helps.
From a fellow newbie DM.

P.S. Working out CRs of combats with multiple enemies is annoying as heck in 3.5 but not sure about PF. I've decided to work those out and put them with the encounters so I'm not farking around trying to work out said CRs so I can work out exp quicker. It also helps any future DM who may use this, presuming I publish it into the public domain at all.

Will Caleb Jul 20 '12 1:06pm

You could always get a module and add some of your own spice (a few extra monsters, another NPC character, extra loot, take some things out) etc. Very cool that you are doing this for him by the way. He will certainly appreciate it. And you already appreciate being a DM more (the good ones make it look so easy.)

Puzzle Jul 20 '12 2:18pm

Quote:

Originally Posted by Will Caleb (Post 5868491)
You could always get a module and add some of your own spice (a few extra monsters, another NPC character, extra loot, take some things out) etc. Very cool that you are doing this for him by the way. He will certainly appreciate it. And you already appreciate being a DM more (the good ones make it look so easy.)

I second this advice. Starting to make a whole campaign from scratch is really hard, especially if you've never done it before. Look into some low-level modules and use them as a jumping off point for your own campaign. They will not only give you good plot points and NPCs to push a story with, but they'll show you what kind of things you need to have planned out if you're going to make your own adventure. And remember, you don't need to stick with the plot in the module if you (or more likely your players) don't want to. If they want to join the bad guy instead of defeat him, let them! If you have to move a dungeon to the other side of the town to make sure they stumble on to it, do it. If you want to combine two separate villages from different modules so they happen in the same place or at the same time, make it work. Making changes to existing modules is a great way to practice building your own.

matty Jul 20 '12 2:39pm

There's nothing wrong with simplicity because the chances are that anything you dish out to players they will adapt it and make it in to something else. Some of the best games I've been in were quite simple and basic but it was the players, the characters, the situations we got ourselves in to, the dice and just the group coming together to play and have fun that have made the best experiences. Simplicity isn't bad but be ready for PCs diverging away from things you have planned out and be ready to adapt your plans for whatever situations PCs may find themselves in. Just try to have ideas of what's going on, even using existing material from set campaign books, set the scene, create some potential hooks and you'll find that the PCs will be setting the theme of what's going on and then you just act as a guide to help them on their way. As long as you're all trying to have fun and making it a fun experience for everyone involved then I'm sure everyone will come together to enjoy the experience.

AugustusGloop Jul 20 '12 4:33pm

The best way to add dimension to your plot is to every so often, pull out important plot elements at random, and ask yourself how they might be related, or how they might combine into a larger element. It won't work for every pairing, but sometimes just free thinking about what they have in common will spark serious inspiration.

Also, with very little work beforehand you can add the illusion of massive depth with the secrets deck. The secrets deck is a stack of cards, one for each major and minor plot element, character, location, item etc. Each card contains the name of the plot element, a little reminder of what it is and where it belongs, and a secret about it.

Every session, draw a few cards from the secrets deck, and somehow let one or two secrets fall into your players hands. They might ignore them, and not take the bait, and that's fine. Later on, when they're using the plot element extensively, produce the secret and slap them in the face with it. It will look like you foreshadowed this major thing for them as a tease knowing full well the adventure was going to get to where it is. PRO DM.

If they pursue the secret, you have a nifty little side adventure that you can run with, and it won't be hard to tie the sideline back into the main story.

Add to the secrets deck every time the characters discover something they are even the slightest bit interested in.

This works especially well with possessions that the characters treasure, because it makes them feel like they are central to the plot.

Edit: Articles about secrets
http://www.darkshire.net/jhkim/rpg/d..._craft_21.html
http://www.darkshire.net/jhkim/rpg/d..._craft_22.html

jupi Jul 20 '12 6:23pm

My usual group is a mix of people that are uncreative blobs that couldn't take a hint if it hits them in the head. The other two are like super spy smarty pants that I love to plan for. The card deck idea might salvage my 10 months of work (I'm a sucker for detail.)

Airinal Jul 20 '12 9:13pm

Read alot of good books. Look at successful video games too like NWN or Mass Effect (BioWare specializes in this area). Ask yourself, "what draws players into a story?"

Try to implement character back stories into the campaign. One character I worked with had a loved one who was kidnapped by orcs just a month ago. He was on the hunt and found himself in the campaign from there. I used that to make the orcs servants of my main villains (who were at large organizing orcs in order to gain the human body parts they needed for necromancy). Once he learned this it gave him extra motivation to dive into the story.

Also, don't tell the characters who they are or why they do things. They will decide those. If you want to do a Baldur's Gate deal (where one character is unknowingly someone else) then you still need to leave room for them to be a free-moral agent capable of good or evil.

Also, acting lessons help alot. Being able to put on a different voice for each character is a definite plus.

AugustusGloop Jul 21 '12 12:02am

Quote:

Originally Posted by Airinal (Post 5869909)
Try to implement character back stories into the campaign. One character I worked with had a loved one who was kidnapped by orcs just a month ago. He was on the hunt and found himself in the campaign from there. I used that to make the orcs servants of my main villains (who were at large organizing orcs in order to gain the human body parts they needed for necromancy). Once he learned this it gave him extra motivation to dive into the story.

Character backstories are a gold mine for a DM. Make a list of plot elements in the backstories. Add them to the secrets deck. Also, imagine how the different characters back stories could be interrelated. Maybe two of your characters are actually siblings? Or children of blood enemies.


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