The Week’s DM Academy Responses

The Week’s DM Academy Responses

Reddit Icon in front of a pic of my Dice Envy rainbow dice set.

I love making inspirational tables so I can make jobs on the fly with a roll of 3d6.

Here’s an example.

The Client Needs:

1-2) Blood

3-4) Intel

5-6) An Item

The players will take this from:

  1. Local Crime Org
  2. Warlock’s Demon’s Cult
  3. Local City Guard
  4. Local Politician
  5. Foreign Power

Wild Card Table

Something strange in the mix is:

  1. A Rival Demon (or Devil)
  2. Zealous Paladins
  3. Local Adventurers making a mess
  4. Local Craft Guild
  5. Cult from the countryside
  6. Local Noble

Hope that helps!

Good luck!

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Have you heard of the saying, “Don’t prep plots, prep situations.”

Might help. Here are a few links:

Here’s a series of links where I take something and mine the situation from it called Situation Mining:

I made a brainstorming document called Context, Cool Shit and Consequences. Hope it helps your process.

Hope those links are helpful. Good luck!

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Keeping the game moving isn’t only your responsibility. The game being fun isn’t only your responsibility.

Everyone can help to keep the game moving. Everyone needs to be helping to make the game fun.

Talk to your friends about how the arguing wasn’t fun and come up with a way together to make decisions in a way that is more fun.

Good luck! it is not all on you.

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Don’t judge them. Ask them why they are doing that or ask what their characters are thinking but do so out of curiosity, not judging their choices.

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This Week’s DM’s Academy Posts

Player: I want to Investigate…

DM: What do you do?

Player: I investigate. Should I roll?

DM: Not just yet. Tell me what the investigation looks like. What is your character doing? If it is a montage scene, what are we seeing?

Player: Oh! Well, I go to the locals on this street near where the arch-mage was murdered and ask questions, see if they heard anything strange that night.

DM: So, to be clear, you are a Tiefling in a Dragonborn neighborhood, just after the Tiefling and Dragonborn armies have been at war for nearly a decade, asking questions about a murder. How do you think that is going to go?

Player: Good point, I forget about how they might feel about me showing up. I use my illusion magic to seem like…what were the people whose mercenaries helped the Dragonborn armies during the war?

DM: That was the elven mercenaries.

Player: Awesome, I illusion myself to look like an elf and I’ll even add that cool tattoo all of the elf mercs had over one eye.

DM: Nice detail! Roll with advantage.

Player: 18 with Intelligence added in!

DM: Cool, you hear over and over that one of the locals dragon-hawks was screeching all night but stopped for about an hour and then started again, this time even louder.

Player: Did I talk to the dragon-hawk’s owner?

DM: Yeah, and the beautiful dragon-hawk, covered in red and black scales with blue wings was still screeching, something about mating season.

Player: Oh shit, someone used a silence spell!

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The first source of inspiration I look to is the characters:

What actions have they taken that could make the world react in interesting ways?

What pieces of their background and backstory could I bring out?

If that doesn’t work, something is likely very wrong.

Would a brainstorming cheat sheet help? I use one called Context, Cool Shit and Consequences.

If so, here’s one:

Hope that is helpful! Good luck!

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Here’s what I said to a friend when he was playing a character that wasn’t participating:

“I really like gaming with you but the way you play this character makes that very difficult. It is as if they don’t want to participate in the game. Can you change the way you play the character or should we make a new one so I can play fun games with my friend?”

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I really like how Blades in the Dark does it.

3 NPC names with 3 descriptive words after them – short and I can glance at it during play and it’ll all come back.

Clocks, showing what the faction is working on and hoping for. I love it when factions are IN MOTION. It gives them motivation when the players deal with them and makes it easier for me to make the world feel alive.

Allies and Rivals – in case I need a fast mission idea. Maybe the players fought the faction’s rival last game and so this faction will now be really friendly to them because the enemy of my enemy is my friend or maybe they will get a cold reception because they messed up an ally.

tl;dr short, evocative bits that help the world feel alive and dense

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DM’s Academy question about originality

DM’s Academy question about originality

I remain fascinated by the DM’s Academy subreddit and post there a few times a week. The following was popular:

So I'm working on some history for my world and I get this great idea. My players are finding these objects of unidentifiable ancient magic, and I wasn't sure what they were for yet. Then I thought well they're solving these draconic riddles to reach the objects, maybe they're like seals placed a thousand years ago by a dragon cult to seal evil dragons away in the earth! Cool! Dammit, that's basically Skyrim. Still doing it.

What do you do when you realize your idea is too close to a book/movie/game? Roll with it? Scrap it?

My answer, with a shocking 100-something upvotes:

Fuck originality.

It will become original through the amazingly imaginative things your friends do in response to it all and the game and your decisions in the moment as the dice add their element.

Don't sweat it. Unleash your friends on it.
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The trick is not being ashamed of unoriginality and twisting on it until it is, in fact, something quite fresh and new. It doesn’t take much. Let’s play with such an idea that I was daydreaming about in the car today. Let’s play with, daydream about and twist on the idea of the Dwarven Mining Company. I have a pinterest board dedicated to the premise; it has been in the back of my mind somewhere for years.

Dwarven miners….not original at all. Okay, What organizes them? We’ll use the Burning Wheel dwarven lifepaths as inspiration – again, using others’ work – not original. We could futz with those in charge of the company but let’s drill down a bit, so to speak. Who are those dwarves who dig the tunnels, who have slate and mud in their beards?

Yes, the game will be about the scouts who descend into untouched subterranean vistas and leave markers for the miners and tunnel-diggers. In a perfect world the scouts would leave markers for a good spot for the miners to make basecamp and organize the tunnellers, tunnels would get sunk and gems, gold and the occasional mithril would vomit forth. Let’s make the world less perfect. That is how we create Situation.

The scouts are being forced into an area their grand-sires avoided for centuries; the mining company is hesitant but also greedy. Someone is putting pressure on them. Who? The Prince of the Holdfast is putting pressure on the company to attain riches. Why? Hm.

The Prince is in debt…to necromantic bankers from the west. Cool. Let’s keep an eye on that, make sure that evil bankers don’t take the shape of any antisemitic tropes.

What are scouts watching out for on a good day? They are making sure the tunnels don’t run afoul of any trolls. Maybe there are stories of dwarves who delved too greedily and too deep and awoke a demon (NOT original); the scouts are watching out for that.

Me, being me, I want giant spiders to show up. I’d probably have the first session have the scouts run into troll refugees running from what they say is an army of giant spiders. They are desperate enough to head into tunnels that everyone knows has sleeping dragon or balrogs or something the grand-sires spoke of in fiery hushed tones.

Maybe I don’t even start that dramatic. Maybe it is just competition with a rival mining company that wants these unclaimed tunnels for themselves, throw the trolls and the spiders in later after we’ve created some context and gotten a feel for the tunnels.

Either way, it starts unoriginal and then you push on it and twist it and think about points of view you’ve never seen in fantasy novels or never seen in the way you wanted them to. By the time the players make characters and the dice hit the table, the idea will gain a fresh point of view. All we have to do is get over the shame of being unoriginal.

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