Category Archives for "Dungeon Master"

How To Include Players In Your Game

mins

Get backstories included

First of all, get breif backstories from all your players characters.

They don't have to be ten page reports, just one or two paragraphs that establish a characters goal and some bad guys you could use. Weave those characters into your world and your story.

A lot of new dungeon masters want to create their own world and they never end up using a characters story.

Getting a goal from each character is essential, especially when you need adventure hooks to start a campaign.

Don't try to run all of their stories at once, 5 side quests and a main storyline is a lot for any DM. plan out specific sessions that will highlight one PCs story.

allow players to do some worldbuilding

Let's say you have created your own world, you have mountains, cities, dungeons, oceans and so on. You have areas where different people/races live. This is a staring point for your players.

The players want to be creative making their characters just as you want to be when creating your world. Include them in the creation process.

You have an elf character? It should be easy to tell them which area on the map they came from. Or let them choose, and you can create that area on your map based on their history.

Inform your players, let them know where they are from and how they interact with the locations around them, this will let them feel more connected your world.

share the spotlight

Make sure each character gets their turn to talk and role-play.

Most games will have one or two players who lead conversations and make decisions for the group. In most cases this is OK, you need someone to move the plot along and make simple choices for the team.

A  natural leader usually emerges that the players will subconsciously follow.

Other times you will get stuck with the power gamer, rules lawyer, or attention seeker who wants to lead the group, but won't actually support the other players.

If your power gamer is trying to do everything, you'll need to stop him. (Isn't it always a "him"?)

The best way to interrupt this is to tell that player to pause and ask what another player is doing at the same time. This is easy during battle when you have to take turns already.

Outside of battle you'll need to control the pace of the story. If someone is taking up too much time, say something along the lines of "While you work on that, let's see what our thief is up to" or "Let's pause for a second and see what the elf wants to do".

This works well when you have an NPC that the players are talking to. If the player job is finding a secret cult, the NPC could say something along the lines of "Do you have a paladin or cleric in your group? I'd rather talk to an expert in the field of religion." The NPC simply won't talk to the attention seeking player.

Create the expectation that players need to share the spotlight too.

give players chances to use their spells and abilities

NPC's or guides in the game can do this for you. "I found a set of foot prints here, is there someone who knows how to follow these?" Or "Looks like this door is locked, is there a talented fellow who could help  me out?" and               "Does anyone know how to read this scroll?"

You can do this during battle as well, give your magic users and rogues something to do instead of trying to hack and slash the entire session.

 Add scrolls for the wizards to use arcana checks or read magic. Add puzzles or traps that the rogue could disarm.

This also makes a battle more interesting when you give out goals that are more complex than just defeating enemies.

Prepare obstacles that require specific skills. Do you have a fighter with a really high jump or acrobatics skill? Make sure to add a 10 foot gap that they can jump across.

A rogue with a really high climb skill? Put a treasure chest up on the side of a cliff.

Clerics who have detect poison spell? have the players walk in on a sketchy tea party.

It doesn't have to be a huge part of your story, just a chance for the players to use their skills.

If you have a druid or ranger who can talk to animals, add some creatures that they can talk to instead of fighting monsters all the time.

Every encounter doesn't have to be a battle.

Any encounter should have at least one opportunity for some skill check or spell that you know your player has.

Preparing this way does take a little extra work, knowing what the PC's abilities are, and getting to know what the players like to use.

The extra work is always worth it. It's an amazing feeling when you see your friends do something they've been trying to do for a while. Everyone gets that sense of accomplishment.

control the flow of the story

Good players will always tell you what they want to do before they actually say that they're just doing it. 

You have the final say. If you don't say it or allow it, then it won't happen.

When everyone is talking at once and things get overwhelming, stop and take one step at a time.

Teach your players that they need to take turns and show support to the others. Establish that in session zero.

If there is a player who hasn't talked in a while, ask them what they think about the situation at hand.

Some people don't want to talk, and that's OK. They will still appreciate that you are including them in the action.

Make sure you listen to all your players and acknowledge what they say and do.

Help out new players.

A lot of new players won't know what to, and it will be your job to help them. It is always OK to give hints, or tell them what you would do as their character with specific abilities.

If you have a good group, the other players will already be helping out.

A good group will let each other take turns talking or making decisions.

As a DM you are the leader and you should be training your players to be working together.

Establish a good group dynamic in session zero. Tell your players that you expect them to help each other out and work together. Especially when you have people who are new to the game.

Remember to have patience for all your players.

If people in your group are gatekeeping or being otherwise unhelpful, the new player might never want to play again. Be as supportive as possible.

it's okay to give players hints

Remind players what is going on in the world around them so they can make informed decisions.

What do the players know about the bad guys? What do the NPCs know that could help the players?

If you don't tell players what is going on, they will never know what to do.

It is your job to communicate to your players. Let them know what is going on in your world. leaving multiple clues that lead to the same place makes this easy.

Good players should be picking up on your clues and adventure hooks. And sometimes it's ok to help them out.

 If you set up a simple riddle or puzzle and they can't figure it out, don't berate them or call them stupid. Be patient. Give them hints. Help them out. Remember it's just a game.

Having fun should be more important than letting your players get frustrated.

If you don't enjoy helping people have fun together, you shouldn't be a DM.

If you aren't patient or adaptive with people, write a book so you can create your worlds all alone.

Have fun and happy gaming!

How to create memorable NPCs for your Dungeons and Dragons game.

mins

Non player characters aren't just cannon fodder or set pieces for your players to destroy. Memorable NPCs can be utilized for any narrative purpose or game play needs. NPCs will usually be the ones to create conflict, and move your dungeons and dragons story forward. 

Prepare your NPCs core emotion or personality type

Describe the characters main emotion in one word. Descriptors can be really simple. Nervous, confident, joyful, grumpy, sad, aloof, indifferent, etc.

 Once you have a specific word to describe an NPC you can base your entire performance on that one word.

If you would rather improvise during the game, you can prepare a list of random descriptors and personalities to have on hand. You can also prepare a list of random names because we always need to make a new NPC mid game.

How does your NPC character deal with others?

Another way to describe your characters is how they operate in a transaction or negotiation. Are they givers, takers, or matchers?

A giver would offer whatever they can to help and support his friends without expecting anything in return. A giver is happy to work as a team without getting credit for himself specifically.

A taker will manipulate and lie to get whatever they want. A taker will always steal credit for achievements and always keep the glory for himself.

A matcher is someone who will always repay a favor for a favor. If someone does a favor for a matcher, he will feel like he owes them a favor.

This character building idea was taken from reading Give and Take by Adam Grant.

What is your NPCs goal?

NPC goals can be really simple. especially if the character isn't an integral part of your story.

 A farmer wants a new plow that works better. A blacksmith who is in love with the prince. A neighbor keeps trying to borrow a cup of sugar. An apprentice who doesn't want to learn her trade. A craftsmen or merchant who needs to hire more help.

If you keep NPC goals simple, your world will be grounded realistically and feel more believable to your players. Not all their goals need to be about avenging their father or finding a secret family heirloom.

With these easy goals set up, you'll be able to direct the conversation for a good role play encounter.

Now that you have a personality, or emotion word, a give or take action and a goal, you can use all three together to tell you what will motive the NPCs actions during your game. 

let your characters grow and evolve

Allow your characters to grow throughout the game itself.

Improvise, learn, and adapt your characters just like developing a player character. Find their voice during game play. Be patient with yourself and your characters, let them grow naturally over time. The best characteristics are revealed in game ove the course of many sessions.

 Don't forget to write down important things that NPCs say or want. This way your world and characters will be consistent from session to session.

Don't worry about making NPC stats unless you know specifically that they will be fighting the players. If the NPC never sees any combat, you won't need their stats. You can make up or fudge any of their rolls if you need to.

Playe the role of the character, don't be the Dungeon Master

The Angry GM says "Play the character instead of running the game."

While in role play conversation with players, don't try to narrate and manage the game, just act in character and react to what the players do and say. 

Don't think about what will happen next in the game until the conversation is over. Acting in character will put your focus solely on the role play, the convesation at hand, and your players will feel a deeper conection with that NPC.


You can even narrate with an NPCs voice.  How will the NPC will react to what the players are doing? Focus on your NPCs main goal and try to control the conversation in character. 


Practice reacting how that character would react to different things.


how helpful is your NPC?

When players want to make weird or uninformed choices,  you can use NPCs as the voice of reason instead of the DM talking. 

When giving out quests, use NPCs to give players hints about what monsters they might fight or warnings about what dnagers lie ahead. Hopefully, (for their sake) your players are smart enough to ask questions.

Set up characters that the players can go to for advice or help. A wizard who can identify items, a cleric who can heal, and almost evey group has criminal contacts that use can utilize.

Maybe there is a woodsman or ranger who can guide the players through the forest or a hireling who has experience fighting specific monsters.

The opposite is of course helpful too. Nobody will always want the same things that your players want. There will always be difficult NPCs who will be hard to work with or become an obstacel in the players way. Develop your enemies and villians this way to create great tension during a story. 

NPC voices and acccents

If you don't want to work with specific accents, you can also consider slightly changing your voice a little bit.

Make a NPC talk a lot faster than your normal voice, or slower. Talk with a deeper or higher voice.  These changes are simple and effective. Every time my voice gets lower, my players know that the bear is talking.

Consider differnent characters using filler words. Um... Er... Maybe... break up their sentances to create different speech patterns and recognizable inflections.

You can also use different vocabulary for different types of people. Perhaps your players encounter a well-educated higher class scholar or wizard. They would use fancier words and some magical technobabble. A bum on the street or a barbarian raised in the forest probably won't be using big words.

If you want to get better with accents, you'll have to practice talking a lot in that voice, outside of the game.

Quick checklist.

Create a personality traight or core emotion.

Are they a giver or a taker?

Does your NPC have a simple goal?

Is this NPC worth developing and growing as a character? How well do the players respond to this character?

How does your NPC reaact to players during converation?

Is the NPC working to help or hinder your players?

Thank You!

Here at gamesmastery.com we want to give our appreciation and support to gamers everywhere. Our mission is to inspire creativity and help everyone enjoy the best life possible.

If you are interested in learning all that you can about being a great Dungeon Master take a look at the DM's Aresenal.

Disclosure: I am an affiliate of Bookshop.org and I will earn a commission if you click through and make a purchase with no extra cost to you.

How to stop murder hobos from destroying your D&D game.

mins

Establish game rules and behavior first

 A players behavior at the table is based on expectations and rules that need to be agreed upon before the game even starts. I am a huge advocate of stopping people from acting rude or disrespectful.


If you know that your players wanted to be murder hobos in the first place, then you should have a game style that reflects their play style. However something can always become an issue no matter what rules and expectations you establish.


During session zero, everyone in the game needs to agree on what the play style is and how evil the party wants to be. Alignments should be followed according to character. If a player wants to be evil in a party full of good people, the players need to have a really good reason for it. Good characters won't travel with known criminals or evil people. And that needs to be role played.

Give your attention to other players

If another player is always interrupting or trying to hog all of the attention your other players will never get their turn. This selfish player is probably trying to do everything without giving other players a chance. This is easy to control by simply giving the attention to another player. Interrupt the rude player if you have to.


"We know what you are about to do, now lets take turns and see what our paladin would like to do." As the DM you need to take your attention away from that player.

Players can help too

Your character can interrupt the selfish player too. The DM will probably appreciate your help.
Talk in character, "If you attack the king, you won't be my traveling companion anymore. Your actions prove to be  unbecoming and insulting. You will get no further support from me. If I (my characters) can't trust you, I can't help you." Hopefully the offending player will understand that he needs to act according to the rest of the group.

You can also say something like this
 "In order to finish our quest, we need everyone working together for the common cause. If you want to kill kings and burn down taverns, you should look for another group to travel with."
Hopefully the player will get the obvious hint.

A player can also help intervene on behalf of the story. When a bad player makes the bad decision to kill an NPC. Your character can and should hold them back. In a one shot game it isn't as important. But an ongoing campaign will most likely have dire consequences. Stay in the way of the bad player until the DM can intervene and stop the conflict.

Stop the murder hobo in Their tracks

The dungeon master has all the power to allow  anything in the story to progress. This means that if there is an interruptive or rude player, they don't get to do anything until the DM says so.

Stop a rude boy in their tracks. This trick also works to stop players from destroying your game.

Rude Boy: "I slap the bartender in the face, then I light the tavern on fire, then I kill the closest guard next to me."

Dungeon Master: (taking the wind out of rude boys sails.) "Before you get close to the bartender, I want to know what everyone else is doing. Lets take turns and go around the table."

Take turns and let all the other players go first. Usually that can de-escalate a game destroying rude boy. Since the narrative was changed by another player, the rude boy should be focused on something else beside killing. If it gets back to his turn and he still wants to be destructive, let him give it a try. Since we already know that the rude boy wants to attack the bartender first, we can have a little time to prepare while the other players are going.

The key word here is 'Before'. Don't let a rude boy get away with even getting close to what they want to do. Don't even acknowledge what rude boy is saying.  The word 'before' can be used in any situation to take control of the action and slow down a player.

"Before you get to the bartender, roll a dexterity save, (make the DC impossible to beat) you have been hit in the leg with an arrow, you will now be moving at half speed." or something like this.

"Before you move to attack the bartender, you realize that the bar is full of royal guards and other witnesses who probably want to enjoy their dinner."

"Before you attack the king, the two guards closest to you grab the crossbow out of your hands. "

Enlist the players for help

This is another diversion tactic, but a little more involved. Talk to the other players. "You see your rude companion about to attack the bartender, what are you going to do." Say this to every player before their turn. Let all the other players go first and hopefully they will help stop or otherwise slow down the attacking player.

Dealing with a party of murderers

If your whole party is a group of murder hobos, it might be hard to ask for help from other players.  So get more NPCs involved. Bring in guides or advisors who can speak for you as the DM. Warn the players of the consequences.

"I really don't think you would want the entire kingdoms army on your tail, if you do try to kill the king." 

"If you allow this fire to burn down the entire forest, it will be your heads that the wrath of the gods come down upon!" Let your party of hobos reap what they sow.

If the party wants to act like villains, every NPC in your world will treat them like villains.

Bring alignments into play and make the players suffer every time they don't act accordingly. Make them ask their gods for forgivenss in order to get their magic back. Have the thieves guild set up rules of conduct or the players won't get to be a member.  Rouges might steal, but do they draw the line at murder?

Players need to deal with consequenses

If the player still insists after a warning. Say this. "You hit the bartender in the face and suddenly you feel the point of a sword in your back. One of the guards has hit you for 900 damage. (Don't even roll for attack or damage at this point. Do enough damage to teach a lesson.)You are now unconscious and are currently being dragged toward the prisons. Now what do the other players want to do?"

Consequences are only limited by your imagination.

Players killed a bartender or burnt down a town? Now there is a price on their heads. High level NPCs will always be hunting them down. Rogue NPCs will turn them in for a reward at any moment.

The PCs are never the strongest people in your world. If they just keep surviving, throw something stronger at them. Make them learn their lessons the hard way. There is always a bigger fish. There will always be something or someone stronger than your PCs. Bring the gods down if you have to. Have celestials and archons hunt the players down. You have my permission to make your murder hobos life a living hell.

Even more consequenses

The murder hobos faces are plastered on wanted posters everywhere. Every NPC knows what the players look like. Guards won't let your party into town. Shopkeepers and taverns refuse to serve the criminal party. "You burnt down my grannys hometown! There's no way I will let you into our city!"

If the party has a reputation for evil, cultists, murderers, and other criminals might want to join forces with the party. "We know you killed the royal guards in the city, maybe you can help us destroy them all! Take down their peacekeeping ways!" or, "Clearly you don't have any qualms about preserving life, so maybe you can help us summon our great god of death"

At this point the players should be questioning their morality, if not, the campaign just turned into a villains story. An evil party. All the good guys will be constantly hunting them down.

Thank You!

Here at gamesmastery.com we want to give our appreciation and support to gamers everywhere. Our mission is to inspire creativity and help everyone enjoy the best life possible.

If you are interested in learning all that you can about being a great Dungeon Master take a look at the DM's Aresenal.

Disclosure: I am an affiliate of Bookshop.org and I will earn a commission if you click through and make a purchase with no extra cost to you.

RPG Ideas From Spider-Man 2

mins

Spider-man's stories have been deeply personal. Peter Parker is always dealing with real life situations and mundane problems that we can all relate to. The villains are also uniquely personal to Pete's' life. His story is universal. Today I want to talk about the Spider-Man 2 movie, with Tobey McGuire, and how to make a story more personal.

As a dungeon master you will want to tell the story with a villain that has a personal relationship to one of the players characters. In Spider-Man 2, we don't have a random monster-of-the week. We have a person that Peter looks up to, A scientific genius that Peter idolized.

make it personal

Every encounter Pete has with Doc Ock is also part of his personal story. When our villain decides to rob a bank, he doesn't just go to a random bank in the city. It's at the bank where Pete and Aunt May are visiting. This bring two plot lines together with them trying to get a loan. 

Give your villain a plan, and put your players in the villains path or vise versa. Once the players find out about the villain and are directly in their path, they can decide what to do about the baddie.

This is my favorite way of introducing the big bad and easily moves the plot forward. This is also a good way to set up the baddies in a way that the players see it directly. The players should not know the full extent of the bad guys plans right away, but they'll get a taste of it.

Spider-Man tries to stop Doc Ock, and when he grabs a meat shield, it's not just a random citizen at the bank, it is, of course Aunt May. This is a great example of raising the stakes. It's not just a nameless NPC who could get hurt, but someone your players should care about.

In the spirit of keeping things personal, we have another plot thread about Harry. He blames Spidey for his fathers death and is out to seek justice.

Every person in Peters life is affected by the story. Keeping things personal. 

Doc Ock and Harry end up working together, and theirs plans involve Peter. Once the villain meets your players, they need to start anticipating the players moves if they know the heroes will try to get in their way.

keep Your story moving forward

Just as Peter and MJ start patching things together and things might start going well, is the exact moment that Doc Ock attacks, interrupting their almost kiss.

This is hard to plan as a DM, because the players can be unpredictable. You can always interrupt the players when they are trying to rest or shop. 

Don't interrupt too often though because the players will get sick of it and they'll stop having fun if they can't catch a break. 

This continually raises the stakes if our hero doesn't seem to get a break. In the end, Doc Ock keeps MJ as a prisoner so she doesn't go to the police. Our villain doesn't know that she has a connection to Spidey, but we do, and of course you as the DM will know how to make it personal.

Raising The Stakes

The final battle in Spider-Man 2 is a great example of crafting an exciting and memorable encounter. 

Just defeating the bad guy isn't enough, especially in a boss battle. Spidey has to fight Doc Ock, save Mary Jane, and turn off the reactor all at the same time. 

The stakes are raised again because not only is MJ in danger but the entire city could be destroyed. Give your players lots to do in a boss battle and it will be a lot more interesting. 

You can also create a time limit to put pressure on your players. Deactivate the reactor (magic item, demon summoning etc.) so nobody dies. Spidey is also fighting someone who he knows and respected.

 To make things more exciting, the building they are fighting in is falling down all around them, adding more risk to MJ and our players. Adding danger in the location itself builds a more epic encounter. 

Add traps, puzzles, magic items that could do damage, rough terrain and anything else you can think of to make it more interesting.

Allow Role-Play During Battle

I also love this because they continue to tell the story during battle. Peter takes a turn to try to talk to Ock. He reveals himself and makes it personal to the villain and ultimately MJ. Peter talks Doc Ock out of fighting and it works. 

Give your players chances to talk and role play during their turns instead of just fighting. The bad guys can do this too. They will seem much more realistic and add depth to characters and battles.

Remember to have big plans for the bad guys and put the players in their path. Make sure the bad guys are connected to a player or players in some way. 

Use NPC's that the players care about so we can toy with their emotions by putting them in danger. Add more than one goal to a boss battle. 

Insert something dangerous in the environment for the players to deal with. Encourage players and enemies to role play during battle. 

Be adaptable to your players. 

And above all, have fun!

Thank You!

Here at GamesMastery we want to give our appreciation and support to gamers everywhere. Our mission is to inspire creativity and help everyone enjoy the best life possible.

If you are interested in learning all that you can about being a great Dungeon Master take a look at the DM's Aresenal.

Disclosure: I am an affiliate of Bookshop.org and I will earn a commission if you click through and make a purchase with no extra cost to you.

Use “Adventure Hooks” To Create Exciting Stories

gold dragon

Start Simple.

I think the best way to start a story for your dungeons and dragons game is to find out what the players want and integrate their backstories into your plot.

This gives you a great foundation to build on. This way you aren't totally starting from scratch and it lets the players be involved in the process.

The DM isn't the only one who wants to be creative, so let your players give you ideas and goals for their characters.

Use MacGuffins. A MacGuffin is an artifact or a goal that the players are trying to find or fight for. The term was created by Alfred Hitchcock for his style of storytelling.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/MacGuffin

The best part is, a MacGuffin can be anything, including characters.

 The best examples are; the plans to the death star, the lost ark, the wizard of oz, or the infinity stones.

 In Wizard of Oz, the characters goal was to make it back home.

The MacGuffin was getting the wizards help.

A MacGuffin is a means to an end.

A driving force to keep the characters motivated to do something and the plot to move forward.

In a mystery story, every lead or clue, that the detective finds is a MacGuffin.

A suspect or missing character can be a MacGuffin too.

 Like Will Byers in the first season of stranger things. The characters were all motivated to find Will and they wind up getting caught up in the their own stories.

Making Up a MacGuffin.

Use a treasure the party needs to find, or a magic item that needs to be sought out to complete their quest.

Do you have a wizard who wants to learn new or obscure magic? Give them a hidden staff or an ancient spell book to find.

Do you have a character with a missing family member or a bad guy that the player wants to bring to justice?

These can be MacGuffins too.

 Have a mission where players have to protect a caravan or cargo ship from bandits or pirates.

Maybe a cult or a mafia organization is terrorizing a city and the players need kill all the bad guys who are hiding underground.

Don't worry about being original.

Yes, these stories are simple. Yes, they have been done before. That's okay. Do it. Have fun with it.

 It's OK to have stories and ideas prepared for just a couple play sessions.

 Don't overwhelm yourself by trying to create a grand epic like Game of Thrones. The epic is slowly built one session/session at a time.

Keep it simple. One session at a time.

Of course you can plant seeds and foreshadow your ideas for things to come. Let those seeds grow over time instead of trying to cram a ton of story, lore, and exposition into one session.

Keep the end goal simple.

Dorothy just wanted to get home.

The avengers needed to stop and invasion and close a portal above New York.

Indie wanted to find the Ark.

The goal can always be simple, and it's more memorable  that way.

The obstacles and conflicts makes up the story.

Characters in movies always need to find or protect nuclear launch codes, simple idea.

 In The Girl in the Spiders Web movie, the kid who knows the launch code is the MacGuffin. The story in that movie is Lizbeths' relationship with her sister and the conflict between them.

A simple goal will always work.

Especially when you have obstacles and conflict that are in the heroes way.

A simple goal could be that the players want the treasure that is behind a locked door.

The obstacle is  to find pieces of a magic key that can open the door. Now you can add as many obstacles you want.

  • A thief that has a piece of the key needs to be tracked down.
  •  A monster needs to be killed in order to get a key piece.
  • A grumpy swamp witch won't give up her piece until you fetch some herbs in for her.

The goal is still the same, but the quest now has multiple parts.

This simple quest could take as long as you want it to take.

Story Sample.

Part One.

Let's say one of your players is a wizard who wants to learn a forgotten spell on a magic scroll. Simple story with the scroll as the MacGuffin.                                                                    
Now, let's add some obstacles.  First problem may be finding the location of the scroll.

 The players could ask around town, meet NPC's that might be important later.

Players get info from some ancient myths or local legends about a hidden temple or crypt. Maybe they have to seek out a NPC who is lost in the woods somewhere before they get the right information.

The temple can be your "dungeon" where players will have to fight through different monsters, riddles, and traps in order to find the scroll.

All these are obstacles in your players way.

You can even add obstacles on the way to the dungeon. Add a gorge in the forest that needs crossing and the old rope bridge there has fallen apart.

The players fight their way through the dungeon, solve some puzzles, and obtain the scroll.

Part Two.

A boss or some bandits steal the scroll for their own goals, and now the players have to track down the enemy.

One of the enemies could be introduced in the starting town, and she hears about the players looking for the scroll. This big bad wants the scroll for herself.

The enemies can be anything, vampires, orcs, bandits of any race and class, and a character or two relating to a players backstory.

Make it personal by adding a bad guy from a players backstory, a guy who killed Uncle Ben, or an orc from a tribe that killed a players parents.

This gives the players more motivation to find the bad guys and it makes the story personal to the characters.

The players still have the same goal of retrieving the scroll, but now it's personal.

The players might want revenge.

After the enemies steal the scroll, they hide it in one of their hideouts, which could be the next "dungeon" location the players have to get through.

Same MacGuffin, new obstacles.

The next location can be anything that is part of the PC's or enemies stories. A warehouse, a thieves guild or a valley hidden in the mountains.

Same formula, the players have to fight enemies and get past traps in the second location.

After fighting through the dungeon and defeating a mini boss at this second location, The players could finally get the scroll.

The story setup with the scroll is now paid off and a players got what he wanted.

But now the adventuring party is involved in a plot with the bad guys!

The big bad evil guy continues her evil plans without the MacGuffin scroll.

Part Three.

The players find out that the baddies are going to enslave, take over, or destroy the town where the players live.

Lives are at stake!

The players have family that lives in this town.

The Players have to stop them!

Stopping the enemy and saving the town is the new MacGuffin.

The enemy is now the goal and the obstacle.

The villains could send out mercenaries or assassins to try to get rid of the players before the players even get back to town.

The bad guys are now consciously putting obstacles in the player way.

Once our heroes arrive in town, they have more problems and obstacles.

Treat the town itself as a "dungeon" location.

The bad guys have barricaded the roads and buildings, lighting houses on fire, creating obstacles for our players.

Add new goals.

An NPC runs up to the players and tells them that the players family is locked up or are about to be sacrificed to an evil god.

Make sure you have some NPC or another story device that lets the players know what their new goals are and what is at stake.

The villain doesn't need to know that it's the family, they just needed sacrifices and the family just happened to be there.

If you want the villain to be extra evil, she would know about the family in order to make the players suffer.

Not only do the players have to fight through enemies and defeat the villain, they have the new goal of saving the family and townspeople people as well.

The enemies will use as many obstacles as they can in order to slow down the heroes so they can achieve their goal.

Remember to Start Simple

What started out as a simple fetch quest to find a scroll is now an epic story line that spans multiple sessions and game nights.

The first night of playing, you might just be searching the town for clues, fighting a monster and getting across a broken bridge.

So don't worry right away about specific details and obstacles in your second and third locations.

Plan only one or two sessions at a time so you don't overwhelm yourself.

Plant clues about what you think might come next.

The story comes from the obstacles in the way of the players goals.

Use details and characters from players backstories to make it personal.

Make the obstacles, enemies, and puzzles interesting instead of a really complicated plot and obscure goals.

Making the enemies create obstacles can be really fun and it specifically involves the players.

Use whatever ideas that inspires you and make them your own!

Thank You!

Here at GamesMastery we want to give our appreciation and support to gamers everywhere. Our mission is to inspire creativity and help everyone enjoy the best life possible.

If you are interested in learning all that you can about being a great Dungeon Master take a look at the DM's Aresenal.

Disclosure: I am an affiliate of Bookshop.org and I will earn a commission if you click through and make a purchase with no extra cost to you.

How to handle Your Villains Getting Killed Too Early

baddie bad boi

How to handle your villain getting killed before their time.

Good job! They win. Game over. Go home.

Did you have a high level werewolf that you set up as a big bad? But the players somehow kill him before the final boss fight.

Let them do it! Give them a victory, especially if it is a very clever way of winning.

Being a good DM means being adaptable and working with what the players want to do. Within reason. Don't let them burn down your city. But Let them kill your big bad early. They'll feel accomplished for taking down something powerful and they'll appreciate you for allowing them to be creative.

Just because a big bad is dead, doesn't mean the story is over. It means you will have to adapt and improvise your way through the story.

 Anyway you "had a plan" all along. Keep the story going.

Use a new boss with the same exact stats that you have already prepared.


The enemies should be adaptable too. They heard about what the players did and now the new boss can prepare for that situation.

The vampire lord, that got killed too early, has an evil step sister who now wants revenge for her brothers death. Use the same final battle you had planned with a different character. A different character that has a special defense against what the players did to win last time.

The story isn't over. In the star wars books, the emperor cloned himself. Final battles for days!

There will always be one more power orb to destroy, one more magic weapon to find. One more town to save.

The story isn't over.

The players might have killed your robber baron but they still have to find the deed to the ranch. The Players still need to clear out the dungeon of kobold minions and evil cultists who were working for the dead boss.

Don't give up and don't let the players stop your game. There is always something else that needs to get done.

Protect your villain during battle.


Fudge the dice! Change your stats mid-battle! This is one of the best powers a DM has at her disposal.

 If you have 5 players attacking one bad guy, that's 5 attacks versus the bad guys 1 turn.  So the enemy needs a lot of extra HP or other bad guys that the players can target their attacks.

If you see the players are doing too much damage to your big bad, ending your epic fight too early, give your big bad 100 extra HP. An intelligent enemy will always try to heal themselves. Give your big bad as any healing potions as he needs.

Give your bad guys special resistances or a powerful magical shield that the players can't penetrate until you decide when the baddie gets hurt.
  
Give the big bad an extra spell every turn. Matt Coville calls them Villainous actions. ledgendary actions are neccecary whenever the party gets too strong.

Let your big bad get in an extra attack or special spell to control the flow of battle. Let your boss go into a rage that lets him deal out and extra dice of damage. Have a second or third wave of minions come in to help the boss out.

 The players can't take down your big bad right away if they have to deal with his bodyguards first. Let the big bad run away.  Let your villain use a teleport or fly spell to escape a loosing battle.

Have goals set up that aren't just about killing things.


Make sure the players have a goal that is more complicated then just killing the bad guys.

They need to turn off the doomsday machine before time runs out. Dispel or de-power the magic orb the enemy was using to open portals.

If you have goals already set up, you can put in as many obstacles in the way as you want. This way when the boss does die too early, your story can continue and the players still have things to do.

If you need more time to prepare, send some skeletons or robots after the party. The players won't be able to talk or charm their way out of battle with mindless creatures.

During the battle you can have some time to think up whats next.

It's okay to take a 10-15 minute break mid-game to think up something new.



Thank You!

Here at GamesMastery we want to give our appreciation and support to gamers everywhere. Our mission is to inspire creativity and help everyone enjoy the best life possible.

If you are interested in learning all that you can about being a great Dungeon Master take a look at the DM's Aresenal.

Disclosure: I am an affiliate of Bookshop.org and I will earn a commission if you click through and make a purchase with no extra cost to you.

How To Make Your RPG Battles More Exciting!

Dragon Min

Do you feel like your battles are getting slow and stagnant? Are your players zoning out immidiatley after their turn? Here are some tricks and tactics to help engage your players and enhance your battle prowess. 

use different weapons and terrian

Do you have a battle prepared with bandits on the road? Sounds simple. But we can do more!

 Instead of all the bandits lining up and using swords, have a few bandits in up the trees. Using archers shooting down onto the party adds a new level to the combat. Players will have to defend from above and below.

 Give your enemies different types of weapons and magic items.

If you are looking for specific monster tactics, The Monsters Know is essential reading.

use more magic

Place a bandit who is hiding in the trees with a wand of magic missile to shake things up. Make sure players are using at least one different type of saving throw during a combat.

Spell casting can add a lot more obstacles to a simple battle.

A bad guy can mess up the battleground by using entangle or a fog cloud.

 Don't forget that enemies can heal themselves with potions and magic.

Enemies using magic will always be more memorable than a couple grunts with swords.

Use traps and magical effects

Maybe the bandits placed traps in the road for the players to avoid or disable.

The terrain itself can end up being an encounter on its own. Use traps, pressure plates, caltrops or simple trip wires to slow the players down.

Getting attacked by swords is fun, but a sword fight where you have to avoid traps is a lot more engaging.

Maybe the players will have to get around a cloud of poison gas. Or Get through a couple locked doors.

Have spike traps that pop up every other round or a magic trap that damages players every turn until they  solve a puzzle. 

use the environment

Make the land itself more exciting. Fighting bandits on the road in the forest? Good start. Perhaps the road is now on the edge of a cliff and the enemies try to push the players off. Have bandits attack the players while they are on an old crumbling bridge.

 Maybe the fight takes place in the fire swamp where everyone will have to avoid quicksand and fire traps.

How about a duel inside a building on fire with the roof crashing down on the combatants. Maybe a cave is collapsing around as the battle rages on.

diversify monster types

Have monsters with different abilities fight alongside the bandits.

A sword fight against bandits suddenly gets weird when one of them changes into a werewolf.

Maybe the fight disturbs a nest of giant spiders or an owl-bear nearby. It's not such simple a sword fight anymore when some wood nymphs are trying to protect their trees.

Maybe the enemies and players team up to defeat a random monster that has just appeared.

The fight with the wizard just got more complicated when you find out he has an ogre body guard or he commands a tribe of knolls to fight for him.

add personality to the bad guys

 Make the enemies more human and relate-able. Give all the random bandits some names if they survive.

The bandits, John and Erin, get sad or angry when they see their comrades die in battle.

 The enemies can talk to the players on their turns and try to make deals. Role-play always makes a battle more intersting.

Maybe your enemies decide to run away and get revenge on the players later. Or maybe they fortify in a castle or fort to defend against the players

 Maybe the bandits were just following orders and don't want to get killed in a random battle.

When a goblin gets killed by a player, another one suddenly cries out, "Gratz! Don't die today! you are my only brother!"

 This is great for adding detail and world building. The enemies aren't just random bowling pins to be knocked down anymore when they have thoughts and feelings.

The NPC's aren't just simple meat for the grinder. The best battles will mean something to somebody. make it personal for oe of the players or the enemies.

During the obligatory tavern brawl, the players might have accidentally killed the daughter of a nobleman. Now it's not just a random bar fight, its part of the continuing story.

  -The players will have to figure out what to do when the guards come asking around.

   -The nobles could do a lot to try to get revenge.

  -They could send assassins to kill the players.

   -The nobles could outlaw weapons and magic items throughout the land.

  -The players could get arrested for murder.

put obstacles in the players way

The players might need to solve a puzzle or get into a magic portal before they can kill the bad guy.

Make the players fight through a few waves of enemies before they reach the boss.

Give the big boss a shield or force field the players need to take down before they can hurt him. All while the boss can still hit them.

If your bosses are dying quickly, or your players ar getting overpowered, read how to handle your villains getting killed to early.

Make the players cast a ritual spell that takes more than one turn to cast while the battle rages around them.

establish goals to Accomplish aside from just killing monsters

The party needs to get the contents of a treasure chest before the bandits do.

The bandits could have hostages that the players need to save before the battle ends.

Maybe a bandit is using a weapon or magic item that the players need to obtain for their quest.

The players could be tasked with stopping an evil cult from performing a ritual before time runs out and the bandits are in the way.

Creating some kind of time limit will make a battle more intense. They only have 4 rounds before the magic orb explodes and destroys everyone.

Stop a magic artifact before it burns down the whole forest.

add narrative flavor to attacks and abilities

Focusing on the numbers can get boring really quickly.

 Explain why the goblin rolled a 1. He tripped and missed his attack.He just saw his fellow tribesmen get slaughtered by one of the players, of course he would get a little rattled.

 If a roll is close but doesn't hit, talk about how the arrow hit the armor and bounced off. The attack connected but it didn't do any damage.

Describe how a player with high dexterity was able to dogde the attack. The player was just an inch away from dodging a sword to the face.

Let players describe how their attacks and spells look. Let the players describe what they do for the killing blow of an enemy.

Everyone likes to explain in detail how they hit a guy. Describe the misses too.

make it personal

 If you have ample time to prepare an ongoing campaign, make each encounter personal to the characters back story or connect it to a goal of a mission or side quest.

A player is on the way to find their missing brother?

Erin the bandit used to work with the missing brother and has info on him. Hopefully the players don't kill her first...

If you are a good DM you can make this stuff up on the spot.

Have the characters talk during battle. John the bandit might know the location of the lost dungeon the players are looking for.

The missing brother could have owed money to the bandits, or there was a secret love triangle with some of them.

If you plan this well, you won't ever need random encounters. The villains goals can be just as much a part of the story as the players.

You don't have to add all of these things to every battle of course, that would make things complicated very quickly. I suggest one plot or backstory battle per session.

Communicate with your players

Give players hints about monster resistances and other special abilities.

The game will go slowly if you have skeletons who resist piercing damage and all the players are using swords. Let the players notice that the swords aren't as effective as they should be. Let players use investiate or perception checks to understand their enemeis.

Let your players use knowledge checks to realize that a hammer or club would do a better job.

Don't let the battle go on forever when each player is only doing 3 damage. This just makes the battle last longer and wastes everyones time.

Players will appreciate the help and feel more accomplished when they figure stuff out. But you have to give them clues.

Characters have a lot of abilities and sometimes players won't know about them, or won't know what they do.

 It is your job as the DM to give hints and suggestions. Make sure players are aware of all their class abilities, spells and items that could be useful.

Have more experienced players help out the group to free up your precious time as the dungeon master.

speed up the battle

 Delegate what you can to your players in order make the battles go faster. Then you can more easily focus on what you need to.

Have a player keep track of initiative for you.

Have a player check the stats or hit points of each other character so the players know what they have.

If you have a small battle with goblins that are not imperative to the plot line, have a player keep track of the goblins hit points. 

Having players help out gives you extra time to plan on whats next, or role play a conversation during battle.

 Have players draw maps for you.

Ask for a players help to move around minis and other game pieces.

Most players are always willing to help, and you should let them. It frees up your time and the players feel more involved.

Tell players that you expect them to know what dice they are rolling and what modifiers and bonuses to add.

The DM should take time at the beginning of the game to help players out so battle will run smoothly later on.

If players are ready for their turn and know what they are doing, you can shave off a ton of extra time in battle. Have players roll all their attacks and damage dice at the same time.

I have a way to use initiative that speeds up the battles and helps communicate whats going on in my games. Maybe you should ask about it.

Thank You!

Here at GamesMastery we want to give our appreciation and support to gamers everywhere. Our mission is to inspire creativity and help everyone enjoy the best life possible.

If you are interested in learning all that you can about being a great Dungeon Master take a look at the DM's Aresenal.

Disclosure: I am an affiliate of Bookshop.org and I will earn a commission if you click through and make a purchase with no extra cost to you.