Tag Archives for " Dungeons and Dragons "

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!

Finding Meaning in the Game of Life (part 1)

shiny math rocks!
shiny math rocks!

How do we find the the meaning of life? Why do we spend so much time wondering what to do and how to live? Why is this question so hard for people to answer?  When I found the answer, it was a lot simpler than expected.

Feeling empty and pointless sucks. Feeling useless and tired is no way to live. Fighting depression and fighting the urge to give up is the worst.

Being depressed means using up all of your spell slots before you even get up in the morning. You have no energy to take care of life. No energy and no motivation puts you in a bad place. Once you are in that place, you feel more and more worthless and empty.

So what is the point?
Why are we here?  Why are we playing the game of life?
How do we find meaning when we feel like nothing matters?

       “There is a theory which states that if ever anyone discovers exactly what the Universe is for and  why it is here, it will instantly disappear and be replaced by something even more bizarre and inexplicable.
         There is another theory which states that this has already happen
ed."
                ― Douglas Adams, Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy

The meaning of life is to find what makes you happy. Find what ignites your passion and energizes your soul. Excitement is the meaning. If you feel like nothing matters, then you are probably not doing anything that excites you.

              “What is the opposite of happiness? Sadness? no. Just as love and hate are two sides of the same coin, so are happiness and sadness. Crying out of happiness is a perfect illustration of this.  The opposite of love is indifference, and the opposite of happiness is -- here's the clincher –  Boredom.”
                -Tim Ferriss, The 4-hour Work Week

The opposite of happiness is boredom. That is why Indifference and boredom make you more lazy and uncaring. Excitement is the opposite of boredom, which is why I beleive that finding happiness is the meaning of life.


When you find a part of life that you love, and you embrace it, you will never be bored again. 

life is an open world game

The game of life is and open world, sandbox adventure story where we have the freedom and the power to choose what quests to go on, and what stories to tell. Life is the ultimate rpg where we get to create the life of our main characters, ourselves. We choose how our story will play out.

Life is a free-form storytelling role-playing game. Therefore, We have to be able to tell our own story.

If life was a linear, railroaded game we would never be able to choose or create anything.

The meaning is being able to create your own adventure. The meaning is finding something that excites you enough to keep you moving forward. Something that makes you, and only you truly happy. It doesn’t matter how crazy or outlandish your wants are as long as you choose something that make you happy.

The key is to find or create your own goal and focus your energy into it.

Embracing your happiness means that you will always be a part of the adventure of life.

 We usually feel like life is satisfying or boring. We feel like life never gives us what we want in order to be happy. The trick is to stop waiting for life to happen because it never will. life only happens when you join the game. Life happens when you actively choose to play the game and become part of the adventure.

When we feel like nothing matters, we have to be able to find or create something that matters to us.

The meaning you are looking for doesn’t have to be perfect or flawless, but it should feel right for your ideal version of the life that you want. You can always change your goals and your meanings along the way.

    "Everybody arrives on this planet with uniqe desires, gifts, and talents and as you journey through life,         your job is to discover what yours are. to nurture them and to bloom into the most authentic, gleeful           and badassiest version of yourself."-Jen Sincero You are a Badass At Making Money

Finding the meaning of life is as simple as understanding what you enjoy, and then creating a life around that enjoyment. As long as we aren’t harming ourselves or others, we have the freedom to create a joyful life.

It's okay to keep it simple

If the idea of finding happiness and excitement seems too overwhelming it is totally okay to keep your meaning simple.

Creating an entire life can feel daunting and way too much work. I know it did for me for most of my life.

After the Lord of the Rings movie trilogy came out, I knew in my heart that Peter Jackson would eventually make a Hobbit movie. For years, seeing the new hobbit movie was my reason to keep going. That is the simple thing that I was able to latch onto. Because real life was too big and scary.

By the time those movies did come out, I was ultimately disappointed. I had very high expectations and I build up that excitement in my mind for years. It wasn’t the experience that I wanted, but by that time I had found other reasons to keep going. The point is that I kept living and moving forward. I kept going simply for a movie that I was excited about.

Your reason to keep going could be something as simple as waiting to see the new Dune movie coming out in 2021. The reason you get up in the morning might be as simple as taking care of someone you love, including yourself.

        “Find a place where there is joy, and the joy will burn out the pain.”
          -Joseph Campbell. The Power of Myth

Finding your joy could be playing that new d&d character that you just created. Or a new cosplay that you want to try out. Find your meaning by connecting to some cool people you meet at the next convention.

Find what you are passionate about. It could be the next book in your favorite series or the next episode of your favorite show.

Your reason to get up in the morning could be living another day so that you will be one day closer to the next concert you want to go to, or another day closer to the next video game release that you are excited about.

You need a reason to get out of bed. So why not make it simple? You need to embrace something you enjoy to push yourself into getting your pants on every day.

It is absolutely and totally okay for your reason to be simple. Even if it is just getting coffee with a friend. Allow that coffee date to move you forward one more day.

Finishing that Game of Thrones book series can totally be why you get through another day.

Choose your own adventure

The question is not why are we here. The question we should be asking is “What gets me excited?” This answer is different for each and every one of us. Only we can answer that for ourselves.

The meaning of life is finding happiness. We should allow ourselves to be happy first and as often as we can. Choosing to be happy creates a happy life.

The question could also be “What makes me happy, and how am I going to fight for that happiness everyday?” Fighting for what makes you happy is how you determine your story line.

Fighting for what makes you happy is the main quest of your life. Fighting for what makes you happy is when the adventure comes. Fighting for what makes you happy is the journey that we all must seek for ourselves. Then the adventure itself becomes the meaning.

There are as many meanings to life as you choose to give it. We have ton

      “You were born with an inner guidance system that tells you when you are on or off purpose by the amount of joy you are experiencing. The things that bring you the greatest joy are in alignment with  your purpose.”
       -Jack Canfield, The Success Principles and co creator of
       Chicken Soup for the Soul

The meaning in this game of life is to learn and grow. The more you learn, the more things you can find to get excited about. The more you learn and grow, the more you are leveled up and can handle more challenges within the game of life.

You gain more experience, the more time you spend learning. That is your ongoing quest. When you get better, life gets easier to handle.

The meaning of life is the challenge of surviving another day. The meaning of life is simply to live for a lifetime. the meaning is to stand up and tell life that you can beat it’s game. Living life is the adventure, living life gives us the excitement that we crave.

And when we are sad or scared, we fight for our lives to create even more happiness. We fight for tomorrow because we know for a fact that tomorrow has even more happiness waiting for us.

Choose happiness instead of despair. Choose excitement instead of boredom. This is why we have free will, so we can choose a life that we want.

Explore the idea of free will. We get the gift of choice.
Without choice, we can’t choose joy.
       We wouldn’t be able to forge our own paths.

       -Joeseph Campbell

do what makes you happy because no one else can

It doesn’t matter how talented or skilled or impressive you are about your passions. What matters is that your passions make you happy. What matters is the life you choose for yourself.

Do not allow others to make you feel bad or ashamed about any of your pleasures. As long as you aren’t harming anyone else, you can do what you will.

What matters is the thing that will inspire you to get out of bed to enjoy another day.

You do what makes you happy because you want to do it. You do it because it gives you joy.

I know I’m repeating myself, because I want to get this point across in as many ways as I can. Choose an authentic life that makes you happy.

Find something to get excited about and then go do it. It doesn’t have to be some grand plan. It doesn’t have to be a huge overwhelming goal of becoming rich and famous. Find something simple that you can do today.

Allow yourself to find your bliss in simple things. Playing with friends. Hanging out with loved ones. Going to the movies. Catching up on your favorite tv show. Do whatever you enjoy.

Create paintings, writing, or cosplay. Dance, run, exercise. Go for a peaceful hike in the forest. Smell those damn roses. Remodel your home. Plant your garden. Do these things for yourself for the sole purpose of enjoying it.

Do it because you care about your happiness. No one else has to care, this is for you. This is how you create and enjoy the life that you want.

You don’t need to be a talented artist. If you want to knit an ugly Christmas sweater, then do it! Do it simply because you want to. Make an ugly quilt if you want! No one is stopping you from doing what you love! Do what you want to simply because it's fun. You don't need any other reason to do what you enjoy.

Write your fan-fiction because it brings you happiness. Create your original characters because you like them! No one else has to like them.

This is for you! This is your life, your creation, your joy.

If all you want to do is survive another week so you can play D&D again, that’s great! You have something to look forward to! You have chosen something that makes you happy. You have chosen something to live for.

take a look at part 2 of finding meaning in the game of life

Thank You!

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.

For more dungeon master information, insight, and inspiration, please visit gamesmastery.com

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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.

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What Critical Role teaches us about being Dungeons and Dragons players

mins

What exactly is a good player?

In my very humble opinion, a good player is at the table for only two reasons. Too have fun and play with their friends. This answer is very vague on purpose because every game is different and group of players is different. Some players take their game nights very seriously while others just want attention and other players just want to see how much they can get away with. All of this is fine if it fits in with the group dynamics and the culture in that specific game.

So what makes a good player? Someone who can work well with their group to increase the amount of fun for everyone at the table. The whole point of playing in a group is to enjoy being together and creating something fun that you wouldn't be able to create by yourself. 

The World is your Classroom

Critical role is a you tube show where a bunch of professionals play some Dungeons and Dragons. Here is a link to Season 2. Because its better. https://youtu.be/byva0hOj8CU


If you are here you probably already know what all this is. so I'll get on with it!

Watching others play role playing games such as Critical Role or Adventure Zone can help you learn how to be a better role player and actor. We always want to learn from the best! Here are some excellent takeaways that I got from the players of Critical Role.

Good palyers are attentive and prepared

During a battle, the players are always ready for their turns and they know what they want to do. Making a choice on their turn is always better than stalling. You'll never see the CR cast wasting time by not making a decision. If they don't know what to do, they ask for help, in character, and the group role plays to get to a solution.

Act like you are reading from a script. Your character is not in every scene and they shouldn't be, in order to make a good story. Your character is not talking in every conversation. Good players know that some scenes are not all about them, other players need their own screen time too. Caleb doesn't interrupt when Fjord and Beau are having a conversation, unless it adds to the interaction.

Wait for your turn before your characters speaks. Wait until a scene is over before you try to start a new one or try to change the subject. Wait for a conversation to be over before starting a new one.

Good players Don't interrupt

The players in Critical Role never interrupt the DM. They always wait for Matt Mercer to finish his story or describe what is going on before they do any talking. They show the ultimate respect for their DM and other players.

The players never argue with the DM, whatever he says goes. The only thing that arguing accomplishes is wasting your play time.

Don't be the player who is always interrupting. The players need to hear the DM so they know what is going on. You should be listening too. A good DM will give you a chance to role play or make decisions, you'll just have to wait for it. It's okay to ask questions and offer suggestions. But never interrupt the DM or the players who are trying to role play. Role playing is a collaborative experience, and it only works when you let other people have a turn to talk. 

Another player interrupting or trying to change the subject will always destroy the flow of a conversation and therefore the flow of the game. Wait for the scene to play out before you take your turn. You will never see players on Critical Role  interrupting or trying to take up all the attention.

An intersting story can only develop when a scene comes to its conclusion.
Allow yourself as a player to sit back and watch the game unfold. Take your time with the game and let the story develop naturally, one scene at a time.

 Don't try to advance a scene until the previous one is over. This is especially important for DM's who ignore or dismiss a player trying to role play. Matt Mercer never interrupts his players when they are role playing. Matt is usually in character as an NPC, role playing along with them.

When the other players are done talking, that is your cue to either react and say something in character. Do not interrupt or change the subject until that story beat or plot point is concluded.

The Role-play Is Only as Good as it's players

The players rarely bring up side conversations, and if it happens, they are still very quiet and focused on the story. There is no talk that is completely out of game. Save it for the commercial break. If a pop culture reference is mentioned, they still keep it within the confines of the story. The players never go off on tangents and talk about a subject that isn't part of the game. Good players stay focused because they know that the show must go on.

Everyone in Critical Role acts like respectful adults who go with the flow of the game and they are mature enough to listen and wait patiently for their turns. When Nott and Jester are playing cards, the other 5 players listen patiently and let the scene play out to it's conclusion. Only one conversation should be happening at a time, no matter who is talking.

Role play doesn't work unless at least two characters are involved and interacting with each other. The cast is constantly reacting and asking questions in character to keep the energy and role play alive. If you want more role play in your group, you need to react in character to whatever is going on. When you react to another player, who is role playing, it gets you into the scene and lets the other characters role play with you.

If a character says something and no one else reacts or get involved, then the role play dies.  Role won't ever happen if other players are dismissive or don't engage in the conversation. A lot of lines that are spoken in character fall flat simply because other players never respond to them. 

The cast of critical role are always engaged and always ready to react. Their performances are fun and entertaining because of how much energy they put into staying in the action and paying attention.

The CR Players are confident in their characters, choices and actions. They think before they speak. Having confidence means knowing you can handle whatever comes up. A good player learns and grows along with their character throughout the course of the game.

Support your game to make endure

Why does critical role work so well? Why do they have a game full of energy and continues to work for multiple seasons?
Aside from them being professional actors, they do whatever they can to support the game and the story.

Critical Role avoids all the pitfalls of game ending behaviors. There isn't a player who is constantly trying to get all the attention. They always share the scenes with other players. There is no interruptive player who messes things up for other players. They are all great listeners and they know how to react and engage in the story without upstaging others.

The PC's are always supporting each other to keep the story moving forward. Make sure your character is supporting the other characters with their goals or plans. The more effort you put into the characters friendship, the more you will get out of it. You won't get a Beau and Jester without that conscious effort. Your characters are always playing and fighting together they should become friends pretty quickly.

 If you want your game to last 6 seasons and a movie, then give the DM and PC's all of your attention and support.

The DM is a great listener too, he doesn't rush a scene forward, he takes the time to listen to his players role play.

 But the most important reason that this show has gone on so long is that everyone continually supports each other. The players take the time to make sure their characters genuinely care for and support the other characters during the game. Supporting other characters goals and plans,  creates a lasting bond you will never see in other games.

You will never see a lone wolf edge lord character who is only out for himself in Critical Role. Because it is a group game. A game where supportive characters make a better story. The loner has no place in a group game and Critical Role knows it.

Show kindness and Respect

If you want a good story and you want to put on a good show, remember to always be attentive, always be ready for your turn. Do not interrupt or try to change focus when a scene is already in play. Do not hog the spotlight. Be active in the story by reacting and engaging, in character,  with what is going on. Go with the flow.

Be supportive of all the players and make an effort to include them all. This applies to players and game masters alike. If you aren't including others,  no one will want to play with you.

And most importantly be a good listener. The best way to get support from other players is to support them first. Listen to other ideas and work with each other. The player who listens is the player that will be included.

The Monsters Know What They’re Doing

kick your players butts

Combat Tactics For Dungeon Masters.

 By Keith Ammann.

The Monsters Know What They're Doing is an insightful collection about how monsters and villains act in a Dungeons and Dragons game.

The information here is specific for 5th edition D&D. It is Based on the popular blog of the same name by Keith Ammann. Themonstersknow.com

I am recommending this book and blog because I believe in helping dungeon masters run the best game possible.

I believe in sharing knowledge and supporting each other the best that we can.

Information and advice should be shared from multiple sources and we can always learn new things from different teachers.

The Monsters Know What They're Doing is a translation and expansion of the info we get in the monsters manual. The stat blocks in the Monsters Manual never revealed its secrets to me until now.

Until now, I had just copied and pasted the monsters stat blocks and didn’t think twice about them. Ammann gets right to the point and shows us the tactics in a precise and simple way.

After reading The Monsters Know What They're Doing , I had found what I was missing. This book taught me how to interpret the stats to make the D&D creatures come to life. Now my creatures and boss battles are so much more engaging and dynamic than ever before!

 The Monsters Know What They’re Doing is not a replacement for the D&D monsters manual. You’ll still need the manual and the Players Handbook for game rules. The Monsters Know What They’re Doing focuses on things you won't find in the monsters manual. Keith's focus leans more toward monster's tactics and instincts more than just a block of stats.

 I’ve been DMing for over 15 years now, (started with 3rd edition) and the combat tactics I have learned from this book are greatly appreciated. Most of the information Ammann gives us is pretty new to me. My mind was blown when I first sat down to read The Monsters Know What They're Doing. 

When it comes to monsters, my DM style was completely lazy. I usually ignore most stats, I hate math and numbers, and I never calculate experience points, and I always thought CR was just a guideline.

When preparing, I only ever paid attention to enemy attacks, spells I liked, and special abilities. I rarely thought twice about ability scores, and skills like perception, stealth and the rest. I never thought twice about how goblins actually behave in battle. I just threw them at the players and treated the goblins like low level cannon fodder.

 Boy was I wrong.

Kieth says, “High-strength and high-constitution creatures are brutes that welcome a close-quarters slugfest.” Before now, all I would see is how much damage a monster does.

Ammanns advice gets deeper and more specific. Every section and chapter in the book focuses on a different type of monster; NPCs, undead, dragons, aberrations, constructs, demons and much more. 

I am currently excited to run a vampire in one of my current campaigns. I learned how a vampire would use its spells, and special abilities more tactfully long before a battle even starts. I learned the way it can manipulate other monsters and PCs to its advantage.

I admit that I haven’t read the whole book, I have just skipped around and read about the creatures that I was interested in or was planning on running in an upcoming session.

This Book makes it easy for DM’s to skip around and find the info they need. The organization is great for campaign planning when you don’t have much time.

If you aren’t too familiar with the 5th edition rules, it might get kind of confusing. But I don’t think that would be a problem for most DMs.

I learned and will continue to learn how to run monsters and enemies more effectively than I ever had before. Ammanns’ book is an amazing resource that I will be using for many more years to come. 

A professional dungeon master never stops learning. If you want to improve your encounters, and your game, this book is most definitely for you. I believe every dungeon master could benefit from Keith Ammanns sage advice.

The Monsters Know What They’re Doing is an insightful eye opener that deserves its place on the shelf next to the Dungeon Masters guide. It is essential reading for dungeon masters who want to improve their game.

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 Be A Good D&D Player

mins


Be Prepared and Be Ready For Your Turn

A good Dungeons and Dragons player will always have a general idea of what their character wants to do and what their goal is. This is key during battle. Know what dice you need to roll before your turn. Know when you are next in initiative.

Know what your spells and abilities can do beforehand. If you are ready to go, the battles are quicker and the game runs a lot more smoothly.

Don't waste the parties time by looking stuff up during your turn and trying to figure out what to do. You should have time before your turn to look up what you need to. Make sure you know everything on your character sheet and what dice you need to roll for a specific attack or ability.

You don't need to know all the rules, that's to much work and can get overwhelming quickly. All you need to know are the attacks, abilities, and spells that you are planning on using.

Make the game run smoothly by being prepared.

If you don't know, ask questions before a battle starts or before your turn.

Use your Ablities and items in creative ways

This isn't a video game. That means you should not be hoarding all your magic items or special abilities for the final boss. The DM is giving you items for a reason. They want to help you out. Dungeon Masters want you to use your cool items that they give you.

If you aren't using your cool gear and special abilities, you are wasting some great opportunities.
You will always find more loot and items.

Do not be afraid to try new things. I recently had a player tie a bear trap to a rope and throw it in the air to attack a harpy that was flying around. He rolled well, and I let it work. It was a great idea and a cool move.

 A good DM will let you try anything within reason.

 A roll of the dice can decide how well it works out. Use your thunderwave spell to knock enemies off of cliffs. Tie your giant spider fang to a dagger for some poison damage.

Be creative.

Use a prestidigitation spell to add a special effect to your diplomacy or performance skill. Cover your blade in holy water before you attack the zombies.

The more creative you get, the more interesting circumstances arise to make a more exciting and memorable game.

You don't have to wait for the end of a fight. Use your turn to do something besides attacking. Unlock a door or pull the lever on your turn.

Free a prisoner. The prisoner might be able to help in battle. Doing something besides attacking adds more strategy and complexity to a simple combat. Let yourself be part of the narrative by doing something different.

Most games don't last very long, you are lucky if you get a campaign that lasts longer than 10 or so sessions. Use what you have now because the next session might never come!

help out other players and take turns

The biggest part of the game is finding a good group that plays well together. The more you can do to make players feel welcome and accepted, the more fun the game will be.

 There is no game without the group.

Do your part to make it a good experience. It is a group game. Games fall apart for a lot of reasons, usually it's because of a bad DM, a bad player, or a general lack of energy.

Do not be the bad player.

Do not be the player who feels the need to lead the party at every turn. Let other players role play and use their ideas. You don't need to be doing everything. Since you are part of the group, you need to let other players try things.

 Sometimes the best thing you can do is to support other players with their ideas or abilities. Different classes have different abilities for a reason, you should not be trying to solve every problem and kill every enemy.

Share the spotlight with other players so when it's your turn to do something cool, the other players will be there to support you.

Take time to step back and listen to everyone else. You will be much more appreciated when you can just listen. 

Share information with the party

Apparently this can be a problem in some games. Players keep secrets from each other and try to be special because they have a secret.

The only time to keep secrets is for a character story arc. Those secrets should be planned in advance with the DM.

If you have relevant info that the party needs to survive, tell them. Lack of communication is a problem in every group. Be helpful and be engaging.

 Have a clear backstory prepared ,  and a character goal

Your backstory doesn't have to be a 30 page epic. And it shouldn't be, especially if you are starting at level 1. No one is going to read something 30 pages long. Make it more like a paragraph or two with only 4 or 5 sentences each.

Make your backstory something easy that the DM can build off of and expand later on.

If you want good storytelling for your character, you need a backstory.

You need something connecting your character the the world around them. The more connections your character makes, the more you will be invested in the story.

Type up your backstory. Make sure your DM gets it and can work with your ideas.

 This is your chance to be a part of the world building and creative process, don't squander this opportunity.

Make sure your character has a goal to work toward. It doesn't have to be groundbreaking, just something to motivate your character to be a part of the game world and a reason to be there. It can be something as simple as wanting to own a castle or finding loot. Maybe you are searching for your lost siblings or you just want to go do some good in this crazy world.

Communicate with your DM in order to play your character effectively. Make sure your DM knows what your goals are so they can add it to the story. A good DM will listen and create opportunities for you to role play and advance toward your characters goal.  Your characters story will suffer if you don't take advantage of those opportunities

The better goal you have, the better story your character will get. Without your characters story, you might as well be playing a board game. For more ideas on character creation check this out.

ask questions to advance the plot

Asking questions is key to a good game, a lot of players can end up missing out on things. If you have a good or helpful dungeon master, they will end up sharing helpful hints.

 Let the characters tell you stories and plot threads. You'll know exactly where to go next if you are paying attention.

Most DM's add things to the game for a reason. Ask about the odd looking painting on the wall. Find out why the villagers seem so stressed out. Ask why the orc shaman has a such better quality robes than the rest of her tribe. Ask the lord who hired you if they have anything that could help you on the quest.

In big cities, there might be clerics or seers who could spy on your enemies for you. Or a special shop selling the exact spell you were looking for. If you can't buy a spell, maybe you can hire someone who can cast the spell for you.

Dungeon masters can't possibly prepare everything, but if you ask for it, and let the DM know what you want, they can put it in the game for you. Ask for the flaming sword your character wants or the address to the vampires estate.

You want more loot? Ask about where the banks are, or the opulent merchants guild. As long as you make sure the DM knows what you want, you will probably end up getting it.

It never hurts to ask.

Role play on your turn.

You can ask questions during battle. Talk to your enemies. As a DM, I get so bored when players just attack every turn.

Get your enemies name before you destroy them.  You do not have to attack all the time, but you should always be helping out the party in some way.

You don't have to kill every enemy. Allow your blood lust to have a little mercy. Tie your enemies up and get info from them.

Knowledge is power. Lots of enemies will know more than your character does.

Help the DM

Help your DM by stopping other players from making stupid game breaking choices. There is no reason to allow the edge-lord player to kill the bartender or burn down the potion shop. Stop the player who continually tries to kill the king. It makes things a lot simpler for everyone.

Help out by looking up rules, keeping track of initiative, or anything else you could possibly handle to make the dungeon masters job a little easier.

 It's usually pretty easy to see where the DM wants you to go, and what they have prepared. A good DM will let you stray from the railroad tracks. If you can tell that the story is lagging, or getting low on energy, it's probably because the story is off track. Go back to where you are supposed to go. Let the DM give you what they spent time preparing for you.

Don't be a dick. don't fight Against other players

There is a big difference between playing a character, and just generally being an asshole. Don't waste too much time debating with other players. No one wants to sit there for an hour while you argue about opening the next door. It's tedious and no fun. This is not a competitive game.

 No one wants to watch you try to kill the other players. The games take long enough without your pointless squabbles. I'm not going to sit there wasting my game time while you are basically measuring your long sword against other players.

We are not here to feed your insecure nerd ego and your ego has nothing to do with the game. Leave the ego at home.

If you want a fight, go play a video game online and don't waste our time at the table. D&D is a group game, and you should be working together. As a DM I do not allow players to fight each other.

Do Not expect other players or the DM to know all the rules. Do not argue with the DM. It's OK to tell the DM what the rule is, but you have to let the DM  make the final decision. You have to accept that decision and move forward.

It's okay to help out and let people know the rules. There is no reason to hide information. There is no benefit to criticizing or making someone feel bad about not knowing a rule or ability.

No one will want to play with you if you are purposefully being mean, or making things harder.

Don't condescend or berate other players when they don't know something.

Don't be a cheater

Make sure your numbers and stats on your character sheet are correct. Have someone double check for you when you level up. If you are using an app for your character and stats, make sure you still know what your abilities are and where you are getting your numbers.

Make sure you aren't lying or cheating on your dice rolls. You can't be good at everything all the time. This is why we're rolling in the first place.

You need a random element of chance to tell an interesting story. Failure always makes things more interesting. If you are lying about your rolls,  or otherwise cheating, you deserve a boring story.

You need to be honest for the rest of the group to trust you. Don't let it become a problem. If your DM tells you to roll a different dice or roll for everyone too see, do it without arguing.

you cannot do whatever you want

Despite popular conceptions, you can't do whatever you want. More accurately, you can BE whatever you want.

You can't burn down the village just for fun. You can't kill the king during his speech. You can't purposefully break the game or you won't have a game left to play.

 Use your cool ideas and great role playing. but don't go so extreme as to destroy everything.

The DM built a world for you to play in, and the players came to do some fun stuff. Don't ruin things for the group. Don't destroy things without a purpose or a plan. Don't use your evil alignment as an excuse. Show respect to the world that your DM took the time to create for you.

If you plan on destroying something or killing someone important, Let the party know about it. Let the DM have time to plan for what happens. Let the story progress instead of chopping it's legs off without warning.

Be Appreciative

Be happy that you have a group to play with.

Be thankful that you have a great game master who builds amazing worlds for you to play in and continuously runs games for you.

Be grateful that you are always invited back to their table.

Remember to have fun!

Come to the gaming table with a good attitude, and maintain that attitude.

The better you feel and the happier you are, the game will be that much more enjoyable for everyone.

The key here is to maintain a good attitude. Like maintaining a car or a good looking costume.

Being happy is a habit you have to form just like anything else in life. Being happy and actively choosing that is an essential part of any experience.

Especially a game where you have to work with other people. Choosing to be happy is essential to having fun. Having fun is what the game is ultimately all about!

Get organized

Have an idea about what you are going to do next. Before your turn.

Be creative and ask questions.

Use your abilities and magic items.

Support other players. Be a good listener. Do what you can to help out the dungeon master. Don't be a dick.

Keep the game moving forward.

maintain a good attitude for a great game!

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.

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!

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

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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.