So I kind of feel it is neccessary to say what kind of campaigns I have done in the past so I'll start with what I gave group 1 and then what I gave group 2 and how long each of these campaigns lasted. To group 1 we had a basic campaign- lasted 3 months and they never left the city ended before they tried to solve the major plot points; a fantasy adventure campaign semi-military in nature- lasted 1 year and it took 2 months almost always to get to the next city ended before it came to a real end; an oriental campaign- lasted 6 months ended with epic death scenes where they were killed off in ways they just couldn't find unsatisfying as an end to the great lives and adventures their characters had built; a pirate/adventurer/airship campaign- lasted 1 year fell apart because of out of game drama and failure to move forward in the plot after a 8 months had passed. Currently we are running a celtic/nordic campaign that has been going for around 6 months now.
With group 2 we have been through a normal campaign (my first one)- 2 months ended abruptly; a psionic campagin- 2 weeks ended abrputly; an oriental campaign- 3 months and ended halfway through the plot; an underwater campaign- 2 months ended before they got to the major plot point; a evil one-shot campaign- 1 week was very productive; and finally another one-shot done in regular campaign setting- very successful very productive lasted 1 week.
BTW if you want more details on a specific campaign I did feel free to ask and I will fill you in on the details of how I set up the world.
So now I bring to you my questions, my concerns and above all else my need for your unbiased opinions on what I could do to improve the way I DM.
First question is how do you cut down on travel time without diminishing the value of what it is to travel in a world where they maybe 6 hours or more travel distance between cities? This for me has been one of my biggest challenges as a DM as when I have them traveling I often have no idea how to scale the time it takes for them to get there in game time into actual time I should invest to it via session time; in more than one occasion a lot of time was wasted traveling to the destination where the plot was rather than actually doing plot related activities. I don't want to just go oh and you guys travel for two days and then arrive at town B but yet I don't want to detail how they spend everyday traveling (especially for the adventure where the next plot related event could be a weeks travel away. I want to get just that right level so the characters can get the feel that travel is not just instantaneous and that days have meaning but yet be able to go through things quick enough that unless something important is supposed to happen on the way or they don't pick up some random side quest I have made it should get done in one night.
Second how detailed is too detailed. In the past I have been told by my players that among all the things I do best in a campaign is creating the actual word, I can spend hours and hours and hours on end creating characters, figuring out how the world works, making maps of cities (or entire continents), the politics, the social classes, the racial interactions, and even fabricated historical events, but sometimes I feel like I do too much; this became especially apparent when one of my players who was playing a bard asked if he could get a copy of all the things I thought a bard should know about important current and past events 10pages into typing it up I realized that even though he meant well he would not remember any of what I had typed if he even bothered to read it. So my question is where is a good place to draw a line and at what point do you think a DM should stop thinking "what if they ask about this" when concerning the world?
The third question is about trusting and respecting players without babying them and drawing the line between what is and isn't acceptable player conduct. I'll preface what I'm about to say with this, in the past I have done some things as a DM that have made me sick and tolerated behavior from players I wouldn't from my best friend. I believe as a DM there are a few golden rules you should have to keep players happy 1) Respect and listen to what they have to say they know what they like better then what you think they like (this includes asking players how they felt about the current session when it's over and asking what they thought about a campaign as a whole once it is finished) 2)Keep things chill most of the time, present them with a challenge when it seems necessary and don't ever put them in a no hope situation (ex. throwing CR7 monster at a level 2 party) and if you know something is going to be to a far degree more challenging tell them that your cranking things up a notch to spice things up 3) Make sure every character gets some time to show face and throw in their opinion in game 4) Don't railroad them unless absolutely necessary 5) Don't tolerate or be a rules lawyer I've found nothing ruins a session more than spending 1hour debating on how a rules should work rather than just freaking going with how you think it works because you are the DM.
There are of course more rules but sometimes I feel I don't know how to draw the line between babying and dictatorship. Ex. I once had a dungeon so hard that my friends called it the Demon's soul dungeon and have forever feared that I might make a dungeon like that again they also have a profound fear of any ancient door they see from an incident that can only be refered to as the "Silver Door" incident; I also once let my players completely destroy a campaign by letting them pick whatever race and class they wanted as well as having let my players in the past bully the crap out of me into allowing certain feats, spells, races, and rules. I need to know how do you know when you're being too nice or too mean to your players?
Four I need to know what you do about power gaming. In the past I have had massive problems with a power gamer who would find every possible way to make my life miserable (he single handedly forced me to go on every online forum I could find and note down any build meant for power gaming and ban any combination of really specific class, race, weapon, spell, or feat that could be used to do so); I asked him to stop multiple time but the story of his power gaming didn't end until the night he got the entire party accept himself TPKed by an entire town because he killed the town leader leaves the group to die then comes back to get the extra exp from killing the remaining people because he was strong enough all along to kill them without even suffering a single blow. My question is what do you do to stop power gaming and how do you handle it when a player does thing to inhibit the game playing experience for yourself and other players?
Five what do you do about people who refuse role play because they only want to roll play. I should say I don't think of dnd as a number game where you meet up with a bunch on numbers on a piece of paper, roll a dice add those numbers to the previous numbers and compare them to numbers your dm wants you to beat. On the contrary I love role playing, getting in character, and coming up with unique character personalities, and I love even more when my players get into their roles and cease to act like things are a linear video game where you kill things and get exp and loot but rather you are this person in this world doing these things while everything else is happening around you, where you have choice to how you act and a personality that defines you in this world. With the players in group 2 and the 4 consistent players in group 1 these guys are some of the best role players ever, halfling paladin who thought he was human bc he was adopted to a human family that lived in area where halflings were not a common sight, self-loathing halforc rogue/wizard who learned through the practice of archery and magic found that he had worth, barbarian elf that had developed a drinking problem because she wasn't excepted by her people for her brutish nature, and just many more awesome things. Then there are the players who don't role play but roll play...these people quite frankly sicken me. I've done my best in coaching and rewarding good role playing but sometimes it just doesn't seem like it's enough so I ask what do you do to get your players to role play rather than roll play?