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Lorfarius
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So because of the Lockdown(s) I thought I'd try to get into D&D as a way of making sure I kept in touch with some friends online. It all went went well to begin with (we're starting off with LMOP)... actually really well for the first couple of sessions, with me DMing.

 

And then the party got to Phandalin....

 

Holy moly that area being more 'free-form' ended up being a logistical nightmare from my point of view. I think the players were OK with it, but it felt like it frequently completely ran away from me. It didn't help that we're of course now doing this online, and trying to remember what's happening where to who and when, combined with simultaneously wrapping my head round FoundryVTT and answering whispered messages in chat channels whilst also trying to pay attention as characters talked was a bit too mentally taxing.

 

Having read back through this thread, it seems like I underestimated the amount of prep needed to flesh out the scenario... @scottcr's posts from 2018...

 

...seem to be fantastic efforts to flesh the scenario out and stay on top of it all. Looks like I have some work to do...

 

 

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3 minutes ago, Seamonster said:

So because of the Lockdown(s) I thought I'd try to get into D&D as a way of making sure I kept in touch with some friends online. It all went went well to begin with (we're starting off with LMOP)... actually really well for the first couple of sessions, with me DMing.

 

And then the party got to Phandalin....

 

Holy moly that area being more 'free-form' ended up being a logistical nightmare from my point of view. I think the players were OK with it, but it felt like it frequently completely ran away from me. It didn't help that we're of course now doing this online, and trying to remember what's happening where to who and when, combined with simultaneously wrapping my head round FoundryVTT and answering whispered messages in chat channels whilst also trying to pay attention as characters talked was a bit too mentally taxing.

 

Having read back through this thread, it seems like I underestimated the amount of prep needed to flesh out the scenario... @scottcr's posts from 2018...

 

...seem to be fantastic efforts to flesh the scenario out and stay on top of it all. Looks like I have some work to do...

 

 

 

Must admit - as my return to DMing continued, I have gone in the completely opposite direction and doing as little prep as possible.  The one thing I do is to write up the sessions as 'story' afterwards so that keeps progress recorded, but other than that, I just wing it now.  That example you linked to was a good one.  I spent ages thinking about what happened in the inn - it turned out that the party never went to it.  None of that happened.  A piece of advice that I would give is that the more you prep, the more your players are going to do stuff you just can't foresee and the more of that prep will end up in the bin.  I keep prep to very high level themes of what I think could happen.  If I get to a bit in a session where I know I need to think a bit about what happens next, I call it a day.  

 

The most important thing is that your players haven't read the module.  They've no idea what's prep, what's supposed to happen and what you've just made up on the spot.  As you DM more you'll get more confident with having less prep and you'll start winging it more - and that's what I love most about DMing now.

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Yes, prep situations, not branching parts of the "story" as it's a waste of time trying to predict what they'll do. You want to spend the prep time you do have giving yourself tools and resources you can use when they do whatever they do.

 

http://thealexandrian.net/wordpress/4147/roleplaying-games/dont-prep-plots

 

The lazy DM has some advice about what to prep.

 

http://s3.amazonaws.com/slyflourish_content/return_of_the_lazy_dungeon_master_sample.pdf

 

  • Review the characters
  • Create a strong start
  • Outline potential scenes
  • Define secrets and clues
  • Develop fantastic locations
  • Outline important NPCs
  • Choose relevant monsters
  • Select magic item rewards

 

I rely heavily on thinking about the PCs, who they are and what they want, prepare a strong start, think about possible subsequent scenes, and then have some NPCs, maps and monsters on hand to use as seems relevant. Although I tend to rely heavily on published stuff.

 

Early in lockdown I did try to run a Stars Without Number game that was essentially improv. The first session went amazingly, the second was really bad, we've not gone back to it.

 

DMing well is far from easy, but the good news is, you can DM quite badly from your point of view and feel terrible but almost always nobody else notices. If they keep coming back, you're doing great.

 

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On 02/12/2020 at 10:32, The Hierophant said:

IDGI. 

 

Hope you've read that bit by now.. Wild Magic Barbarian sounds amazing.. :lol:

Spoiler

Death tentacles, repeated teleporting, summon exploding flumphs, your weapon is now Mjolinir, Hellish rebuke, AC increase, 15ft difficult terrain, blinding radiant beam..

Every battle is going to have something new and fun!

I know a DM who'd love a character who is essentially a walking Wand of Wonder! :D

 

 

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5 minutes ago, MDY said:

 

Hope you've read that bit by now.. Wild Magic Barbarian sounds amazing.. :lol:

  Hide contents

Death tentacles, repeated teleporting, summon exploding flumphs, your weapon is now Mjolinir, Hellish rebuke, AC increase, 15ft difficult terrain, blinding radiant beam..

Every battle is going to have something new and fun!

I know a DM who'd love a character who is essentially a walking Wand of Wonder! :D

 

 


 

Don’t encourage anyone!

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I guess the main thing I lost track of was 'what is the main story thread?'. It just felt like the search for Gundren/The mine went completely unmentioned, which was my fault obviously, but switching between the different locations/NPCs as the PCs trundled around town was problematic.

 

It was also too easy to just read up on the NPCs and and have not much for them to say/do other than deliver a quest. I need to get it feeling more organic than that and act as useful/interesting characters to begin with and bring their quests in as needed. I think I overwhelmed the PCs with side-quests...

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Yes, I think LMOP is a bit tricky for the reason you say, it’s easy for them to lose the thread and not be able to get to Gundrun or Wave Echo Cave. And then the side quests are barely sketched with nowhere interesting to take them. So I ended up using the chess pieces I have to make things happen when they get lost. 
 

I found the stuff with the Redbrands in Phandalin was pretty strong, and Glassstaff escaped so I could use him as a prime mover to ambush them and point the way back to Gundrun and the Black Spider. 
 

I used the best NPCs I could, the retired marshal and the halfling kid, and we also ended up with some plot lines about burning down and rebuilding pubs (in a big community barn raising) and the cowardly mayor fucked off and we had an election (the PCs and good guys lost and the Zhents run the place now). 
 

All of that wasn’t planned, it was just building on what had already happened, and me trying to think of the logical consequences of that. 
 

if I run LMOP again I’ll also use some Icespire Peak subquests to give them more choice of content. 

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I think it shows the weakness of assuming there’s a main plot thread. An adventure that’s a “railroad” can break down. So that’s where you prep and improvise some NPCs and factions so they’ve got personalities and agendas and can make things happen if players aren’t or can’t. And you can use secrets and clues (see lazy DM) to point them to your prepared content. Maybe there’s other threads that lead to Cragmaw Castle or Wave Echo cave. 

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9 hours ago, Seamonster said:

So because of the Lockdown(s) I thought I'd try to get into D&D as a way of making sure I kept in touch with some friends online. It all went went well to begin with (we're starting off with LMOP)... actually really well for the first couple of sessions, with me DMing.

 

And then the party got to Phandalin....

 

Holy moly that area being more 'free-form' ended up being a logistical nightmare from my point of view. I think the players were OK with it, but it felt like it frequently completely ran away from me. It didn't help that we're of course now doing this online, and trying to remember what's happening where to who and when, combined with simultaneously wrapping my head round FoundryVTT and answering whispered messages in chat channels whilst also trying to pay attention as characters talked was a bit too mentally taxing.

 

Having read back through this thread, it seems like I underestimated the amount of prep needed to flesh out the scenario... @scottcr's posts from 2018...

 

...seem to be fantastic efforts to flesh the scenario out and stay on top of it all. Looks like I have some work to do...

 

 

 

My 25 years experience of DMing has led me to the point of discarding any session idea that can't be summed up in a single sentence. You simply can't trust a party of players, let alone the dice, to have something play out the way you'd expect it to.

 

In the game I run, at the end of the session one of the players says he wants to wander off alone and do something. Fine, just turn up half an hour early to the next session and we'll sort it before anyone else gets here. What are you planning on doing? Oh, Activity X, no problem - makes sense. Early session begins and he says that he's changed his mind and wants to do something different. It's a good job I plan in broad strokes and not specific events!

 

Same player then went on to massively disrupt a court scene (no problem, it's in character, he's cool with the consequences and the NPC is question absolutely fucked his dice roll), and everything immediately became more interesting than I had planned, so out the window it all goes and we deal with the social consequences of violence in an environment where the top and most important rule is no violence.

 

I've always found that I always feel like I've failed as a GM when I overplan and the players do something else entirely. Now I just call them all dickheads and go to make a cup of tea while I think about which way to go - and it always works out. It's easier for me perhaps because I tend to play highly social games where my emphasis is on how the players succeed and the fallout from their actions rather than whether they'll succeed. I suspect my strategy would fall apart if I was playing a game requiring heavily tuned combats.

 

It's also important never to feel afraid to tell everyone around the table to STFU while I'm trying to deal with a specific player or tap out messages or something. There's nothing worse than having a group of people basically shouting at you because they've got a thing they want to do!

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On 04/12/2020 at 12:42, Seamonster said:

So because of the Lockdown(s) I thought I'd try to get into D&D as a way of making sure I kept in touch with some friends online. It all went went well to begin with (we're starting off with LMOP)... actually really well for the first couple of sessions, with me DMing.

 

And then the party got to Phandalin....

 

Holy moly that area being more 'free-form' ended up being a logistical nightmare from my point of view. I think the players were OK with it, but it felt like it frequently completely ran away from me. It didn't help that we're of course now doing this online, and trying to remember what's happening where to who and when, combined with simultaneously wrapping my head round FoundryVTT and answering whispered messages in chat channels whilst also trying to pay attention as characters talked was a bit too mentally taxing.

 

I've done exactly the same as you (albeit we were able to get through most of the campaign in person) and this was the first point at which both I and the players started to struggle. Got it back on track eventually but there were a couple of confusing sessions. It would have been much better using something like the quest cards from the Essentials kit.

 

How are you finding Foundry? I gave Roll20 a go but just found it really awkward to use and have held the last couple of sessions using powerpoint (and a shared screen).

 

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1 hour ago, phresh said:

 

How are you finding Foundry? I gave Roll20 a go but just found it really awkward to use and have held the last couple of sessions using powerpoint (and a shared screen).

 

Pros:

 

- The look and feel of the app is much more modern and better laid out than Roll20

- As a result it's easier to use... once you've learned how to use it.

- Performance can be better than with Roll20 (but you may need to tinker around with modules/settings to get there)

- Dynamic lighting actually works

- It's a one time cost, rather than a subscription

- There are many many modules you can install that add or tweak functionality to get it to work the way you want it to.

 

Cons:

 

- It's another app to learn, and there is quite a lot to take in before you could run your first session (although a guy called Encounter Library on YouTube has put up some excellent training videos). Halfway through getting LMOP set up I did think "Is this worth the effort? I could just run this with combination of Zoom, DNDBeyond and the 'theatre of the mind'"...

- Performance is more configurable, but may be bad for a few people initially as by default it starts out with some quite high graphical settings (depending on the device(s) the players are using). For example, it defaults to having the framerate set at 60 fps and certain shadow effects switched on, which caused one player's Macbook to shutdown after a few mins as it was overheating. Setting framerate to 30fps (which is more than enough) and switching off soft shadows fixed this though. These settings are per player so each person can have as much graphical wizzbang as they like.

- Unlike Roll20 which is hosted in the cloud, the DM's machine is hosting the app and acting as a server for all of the other players. As such it is likely to be more bandwidth/resource intensive on that machine

- And whereas Roll20 lets you buy pre-configured scenarios that already have maps, journal entries, player handouts etc etc already set out for you, Foundry doesn't (except where it does... see below)

 

 

However, there are a few modules and 'supporting services' that have sprung up around Foundry that eradicate a few of the cons listed above

 

- Foundry can be hosted in the cloud, either by setting it all up yourself in AWS or similar, or using a service called The Forge. It seems to work really well, was painless to set up, and removes the additional resource requirements on the DM's machine. Players get lower latency as well, which works well for me as one player is based in Canada. It is a service though and therefore requires an ongoing subscription payment.

- Foundry uses WebRTC (same as Roll20) for video chat. It's crap. However there's a Jitsi module that can be installed and works much better, allowing the video chat to stay in the Foundy screen, and the players not to have the hassle of having Discord or Zoom open in another window.

- There are ways to import campaigns/scenarios from DNDBeyond into Foundry, with quite a lot of the legwork taken out of the setup process as a result. I bought LMOP on DNDBeyond and used a module called VTTAssets to import it into Foundry. All the sections get imported, maps (and walls for dynamic lighting and LOS) are set up for you, and you can even import player characters. The scenarios do need some tinkering around with to get them 'just right' but having them in DNDB and Foundry works really well once done.

 

 

 

All of the players much prefer Foundry to Roll20. Once it's set up it makes Roll20 look 15 years out of date...

 

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On 04/12/2020 at 13:04, Graham S said:

Yes, prep situations, not branching parts of the "story" as it's a waste of time trying to predict what they'll do. You want to spend the prep time you do have giving yourself tools and resources you can use when they do whatever they do.

 

http://thealexandrian.net/wordpress/4147/roleplaying-games/dont-prep-plots

 

The lazy DM has some advice about what to prep.

 

http://s3.amazonaws.com/slyflourish_content/return_of_the_lazy_dungeon_master_sample.pdf

 

  • Review the characters
  • Create a strong start
  • Outline potential scenes
  • Define secrets and clues
  • Develop fantastic locations
  • Outline important NPCs
  • Choose relevant monsters
  • Select magic item rewards

 

I rely heavily on thinking about the PCs, who they are and what they want, prepare a strong start, think about possible subsequent scenes, and then have some NPCs, maps and monsters on hand to use as seems relevant. Although I tend to rely heavily on published stuff.

 

Early in lockdown I did try to run a Stars Without Number game that was essentially improv. The first session went amazingly, the second was really bad, we've not gone back to it.

 

DMing well is far from easy, but the good news is, you can DM quite badly from your point of view and feel terrible but almost always nobody else notices. If they keep coming back, you're doing great.

 

 

@Seamonster

 

This is great advice. I still tend to overprep as I have so many ideas I think would be great then end up chucking them away as the PCs go off and do something else. I need to work on my plot hooks as it sometimes feels as if I have to whack players over the head with them.

 

I bought the lazy dungeon master book which has been very helpful. I use the session worksheet to write out the info mentioned by Graham before each game. You can print off the session planner free here: https://slyflourish_content.s3.amazonaws.com/lazy_dm_workbook_fill-in_pages.pdf

 

One thing I do, which has worked well to combat confusion over objectives etc. is to implement quest tracking using the journal entries on Roll20. I shamelessly stole this from @Graham S (merci!). I just write a little entry for each of the quests they might encounter and it is revealed in their "Active Quests" list when they stumble across it. Once complete, it goes in their "Completed Quests" for future reference.

 

Spoilers: LMoP quests

Spoiler

quests.jpg.3138363f4de91b0d1e0259b516164d83.jpg

 

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As per my screenshot above, despite having fully roleplayed conversations with Linene Greywind on 3 occasions (and they like her), they still have not managed to tell her where her bloody missing supplies are...

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On 04/12/2020 at 13:04, Graham S said:

 

I picked this up yesterday and even after a pretty quick read through it's given me a lot more clarity on how to prepare sessions. Or at least the key things to prepare that will keep the session fun and entertaining. I wish i'd read this before starting my first campaign!

 

I've decided to run LMoP for the new group, and i'm quite looking forward to re-running it with everything i've learnt first time round.

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Don't bother with the workbook one, but the Return of the Lazy DM is really good. Just get the PDF, it's only $8 I think. It's not going to tell you anything 'new' particularly but it does lay out a very clear process for preparing a session.

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I like SlyFlourish/Lazy DMs articles and advice, so I was happy to pay for the kickstarters for the books. I don't think there's actually loads of useful extra content in the book, in a way you can get all you need from the free sample, as I find the checklist a useful way to organise my prep but I don't use most of the rest of it.

 

I think a lot of beginner / intermediate DM advice can seem like stating the obvious to experienced DMs. But I think for people who haven't been DMing for years and lived through multiple editions, it's one thing that Fifth Edition could do better. Figuring out how to DM for me has involved a lot of twitter/blogposts/youtube. I think WotC might have realised there's a bit of a gap to fill, Tasha's seems to have a fair bit of DM advice covering the stuff that's widely discussed elsewhere.

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