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D&D 3E
Questions that came up last session. 
3rd-Jan-2005 10:42 am
bitch
I had a few questions come up that I wanted to ask everyone here in the community that I jotted down while running my session yesterday.

1. How do you make a dungeon challenging besides throwing monsters in it?

2. Where do you get ideas for clever traps, and how do you get around the rogue that checks for traps every time they're in a room?

3. Do you let players do the optional "take the 20" rule where they search for a long period of time and get an automatic success on, say, search checks?

4. If you use riddles, what do you do for the group that doesn't like to think as players, and wants to use their character's intelligence score to solve the riddle instead of solving it themselves?

5. How do you incorporate good monsters into your campaign (if your party is good aligned)?

6. How do you make an NPC/long-term villain terrifying to the players without killing one of them, especially when they all act fearless?

7. In dungeons, do you draw a map for your players as the DM while they're going through the dungeon (or if you're a player, does the DM do this for you), is there a player that draws the maps, or do you run dungeons where they just randomly go left and right without a map guiding them? How do you incorporate visuals into the concepts of a dungeon if you don't provide the players with an ongoing map/drawing of the rooms they enter?

8. Have you ever had a PC roleplay falling in love with an NPC? (This wasn't planned, but this instance is starting to happen between one of my PCs and an NPC I have through his clever use of roleplaying, and I like encouraging roleplaying, so I want to try to encourage this.) What have you done if you had this scenario?

9. How do you handle when the group splits up?

Thanks for your input in advance!
Comments 
3rd-Jan-2005 06:57 pm (UTC)
1. Maze. Traps. Hidden/secret doors. Strange environmental factors like deep lava filled trenches, gravity that isn't constant, and anti-magic fields.

2. Books are a great source of clever traps. Movies aren't bad either. You can also start off with a desired effect (say, decapitation) and work backwards until you figure out a cool trap. As for rogues who find them - that's what they do. Getting around a rogue is the same as telling the rogue player that their character doesn't matter. Make them hard to find, make them multilayered, or make them impossible to disarm ("you can disarm this one but it will render the passage unpassable.")

3. Yes, I allow it. It takes 20 times as long to search an area, which means 20 rounds (2 minutes) per 5-foot square. A large room could take hours. Make sure that anyone who knows the PCs are there takes advantage of it.

4. I don't think you can prevent this in good conscience, unless you instate dueling with boffer weapons for combat. Someone with mediocre or even bad intelligence could be playing a character who is a genius. I don't like to make things completely passive, however, so I like to give hints based on Int checks rather than just give away the answer.

5. The same way you incorporate bad monsters? What problems are you having?

6. If your players won't play their characters realistically enough for them to be afraid, ever, then there's nothing you can do. My flippant answer is "find a group who actually wants to play this game and not a computer RPG."

7. I have done all three. Usually I draw out the map on the battlemat and they can copy it down. If they are running or confused or lost, they don't get map drawings.

8. Oh yeah. That can be a ball. In the most memorable occassion, the characters got married and I used the NPC as a hostage. :)

9. Try to get them back together, and if you can't, try to take each part of the group a little at a time. So, one encounter or decision with group A, one with group B, etc. That way no one gets left out for a long time.
3rd-Jan-2005 07:16 pm (UTC)
I agree with number 3. I remember one point where our party was searching for a secret door in the courtyard of a castle ruins. The DM allowed our rogue to take 20, but it calculated that it would take 4 days for him to search the entire courtyard. So, we made camp for 4 days while the rogue searched for the secret door.
3rd-Jan-2005 07:04 pm (UTC)
That's quite a list...

1) Challenging in what way? If you mean challenging to get through, puzzles are always helpful (invisible ledges and stuff work great for this). Also traps and hazards will make a dungeon more interesting. Maybe put some kind of restriction on the dungeon... like if you have the whole place coated in oil for some reason, the wizard can't bust out the handy fireball without incinerating the group. Or maybe the group can't make any noise or they'll attract something they don't want to deal with. I don't think there's a simple answer to this question.

2) I'm only just starting to use more traps... I tend to pick one of an appropiate CR out of the DMG, and then think of a way that I can be sure the players will fall into it. For example, placing a pit trap somewhere that they will be running. Or I put a trap under a pile of treasure, they go to loot and get hit with a spear. As for the rogue checking for traps, I managed to get around this by putting a time limit on the dungeon (the characters had to rescue someone, and fast before they died). See, searching for traps and stuff takes lots of time. If you play this up (i.e., as the other players what they're going to do for the 10 minutes while the rogue is combing the room) then perhaps your rogue will back off a bit. Or, if you know the rogue is going to be combing for traps, have him find one but not the other, or have the disarming of the first trap spring the second. That kind of thing.

3) Usually, assuming they can take 20 (in other words, they have the time to search). Remember, that taking 20 assumes that you tried the check over and over again until you got a 20 (in other words, on the first try you got a 1, then a 2, then a 3... and so on). So if there is a penalty for failure, that happens (or they can't take 20). Also, if even having a 20 on a roll won't let make the check (with a DC 30 and less than +10 skill or something), then all the time in the world won't help.

4) I rarely use riddles, and most players don't want to play dumber than they are (or if they do, then they just won't say anything even if they know the answer. If you want to roleplay, separate player/character info and that'll do the trick). If the characters are supposed to be smarter than the player, I usually let them make an intelligence check to get a clue to the riddle, if they can't figure it out.

5) The same way you'd incorporate good NPCs, I'd imagine. For something to be good or evil seems to denote a level of intelligence

6) Kill off one of their friends. We had a great villain who staged his own death with an illusion spell (killed off a henchman and then made the body look like his own). It was terrifying when we found out the guy was still alive, and we had been following the wrong trail.

7) We usually have the DM draw out the map as we're going through the dungeon. If it's really simply I'll sometimes just describe it and let the players imagine it (actually I usually do this, and then draw it out when the players are too dense to understand). But then I don't usually do maze-like dungeons.

8) Hasn't happened in my game, sorry.

9) I just swap between which group is playing, let each one check out a room or play a few rounds of combat or whatever, then go to the other group. Or, discourage them from splitting up ;p
3rd-Jan-2005 07:12 pm (UTC)
A 20 isn't an auto-sucess on skill checks, so if they take a 20 they still have to have enough ranks to make the difficulty. Yes I allow it and it's not an option they take up all that often...how long do you think it takes to search a room?? well it's just taken 20 times as long-that could be nearly a full day for a large furnished room. It's part of the reason I find a strict timeline useful, sure they can choose to take hours searching, but what will have happened while they're messing around??

Making a dungeon chalenging without just chucking monsters in is really rather difficult; use a combination of terrain, traps and monsters and you can end up with having to make a climb up an oil slicked bank, while being fired on by kobold archers who are behind lots of cover in the dark(so kobolds are low challenge rating-sick something like this on the PCs and suddenly kobolds are really rather scary).

Why get around the thief, if he can't stop traps he's not a happy bunny. Again though timing can come into it. I also think some traps are going to be higher DCs that they can consistently roll-or possibly even reach with a 20.

If the players don't like riddles it's probably best to avoid them(either the riddles or the players depending on which you prefer). It is possible to drop in extra hints for those with higher int scores too, but if you're telling them the answers then it's time to give up on the riddles.

I'm not sure what you're getting at with 5 but it sounds interesting, what exactly do you mean? As PCs, as NPCs, how others view them, whether they're on the PCs side because they're good, or something other?
3rd-Jan-2005 07:12 pm (UTC)
1. the usual, traps, puzzles, devious monsters. I like to throw in monsters that use the terrain of the dungeon to thier advantage. Attacking from hard to reach vantage points. Using a existing trap as an ambush point. etc.

2. i have trouble with traps too. But i got two books ledgends and lairs has two great books out filled with hundreds of traps that can lead to even better ideas. I would recommend looking them up.

3. don't take 20 on searches and traps. it just leads to game busters. and players not really playing just moving through the game like it was some Black isle studio games with the search for traps icon toggled.

4. Even the smartest among us can be the dumbest when it comes to puzzles. Tell them to deal with it. If worst comes to worst and you feel sorry for them make them make an inspiration check. An intelligence check with a dc you chose depending on how irritated you are.

5. It depends on the monster, the party, and the type of campaign i am doing.

6. NPC long term villians are great when you do it right. The thing you have to remember is NPC villians do not have to be total bad asses. They can be weak 1st level guys.. you just have to play them right. Resources are key, and avoiding toe to toe fighting. The PC's may not even know or see the Villian until the very end. But they will learn to hate him with a passion. You just have to figure out what the PC's value or prize and destroy that or corrupt it with the NPC. They don't have to fear the villan, Frustration with the villian can be just as bad. Players usually expect to be able to walk into a dungeon and get to the end to the big prize. But when they cannot see the clear cut goals and have to make them up to get to the prize they can feel in the gut is there.. well.. that makes for some good gaming.

7. I find drawing the map for them fixes arguments. I have one of those big chessex vinyl grids with the erasable markers.. Works wonderful and the players get to use minitures which they all seem to adore...

8. If it is not an important NPC. i usually turn it over to the player to figure out and i give basic information as to how the date goes and they build around it and i okay it. Being male with alot of male roleplayers has a tendency to weird me out on roleplaying flirting.. I find it better to let the player work that out in thier mind and tell me about it and i do any corrections. its worked for me for the last 15 years.

9. groups split up usually because they need to or because of a key player moving. When a group spits beacuse they need to it is important to evaluate why this was needed and then figure out if you are the problem or if thier was a player problem. Then reform from the members that can stand each other and if they can stand you and go from there. there will be ups and downs.. My group at one time was 8 players at a table. It dwindled to two over the years. Highschool, Jobs, and marriage do that to groups. its just a dynamic of the game. If you want more players... look for them.. if you want another group... look for them.
3rd-Jan-2005 07:13 pm (UTC)
Answers:

1. How do you make a dungeon challenging besides throwing monsters in it?

Do you mean "challenging" or "interesting?" For the former, you can vary the challenges -- traps, NPCs, and obstacles all can work. For the latter, try some non-combat encounters. (i.e., scouting, conversation, rescue of an innocent)</i>

2. Where do you get ideas for clever traps, and how do you get around the rogue that checks for traps every time they're in a room?

Stop putting traps in every room. Or, just allow for it. Or, give the PCs reason to hurry through a dungeon.

3. Do you let players do the optional "take the 20" rule where they search for a long period of time and get an automatic success on, say, search checks?

That is NOT optional!

Take 20 and Take 10 are core rules. *ANY* skill that the party can retry without problem lets them Take 20.

4. If you use riddles, what do you do for the group that doesn't like to think as players, and wants to use their character's intelligence score to solve the riddle instead of solving it themselves?

Tell them "no." Or, let the high INT PCs get a clue, but not the whole thing.

5. How do you incorporate good monsters into your campaign (if your party is good aligned)?

They're dungeon crawling, which means looting tombs, and may mean inadvertent evil acts, right? Easy enough to make them enemies -- especially if they're servants of a different divinity. Good men fight all the time in the real world; no reason not to do the same in fantasy.

FWIW, though, it's customary to have Good monsters be ran more like good NPCs.

6. How do you make an NPC/long-term villain terrifying to the players without killing one of them, especially when they all act fearless?

Give the NPC a reason to capture, rather than kill. Depending on how highly magical that is, your NPC could hold or even kill and raise a PC or two.

I've also had players grow to loathe NPCs that are evil, act evil, and are able to best them more than once. Casting Evard's Black Tentacles was probably the most aggrivating thing she did, and it was a perfect strategy for her.

7. In dungeons, do you draw a map for your players as the DM while they're going through the dungeon (or if you're a player, does the DM do this for you), is there a player that draws the maps, or do you run dungeons where they just randomly go left and right without a map guiding them? How do you incorporate visuals into the concepts of a dungeon if you don't provide the players with an ongoing map/drawing of the rooms they enter?

You describe each room. i.e., "A long passageway stretches before you. As you walk down it, your torchlight flickers and falls short of illuminating the end. Eventually a doorway appears, with its door shattered and lying upon the floor. THrough the doorway is a small square room, not much larger than your individual rooms back at the inn."

If the party wants to take careful measurements, require one-minute actions, half or quarter their movement, make them roll to get the measurements right (DC 15 int. check, rolling a 5 or lower means they don't know they're off. You should probably make this roll for them).

I had a party get lost in a dungeon a few months ago. I had a blast, and the party was fairly entertained and had great cause for roleplaying, as they wandered through the passageway. They were able to find their way out because I had consistent descriptions with a few landmarks (i.e., a red door. the door they broke down. A pit trap.)

8. Have you ever had a PC roleplay falling in love with an NPC? (This wasn't planned, but this instance is starting to happen between one of my PCs and an NPC I have through his clever use of roleplaying, and I like encouraging roleplaying, so I want to try to encourage this.) What have you done if you had this scenario?

Yes. I decide how much I want to roleplay the interaction, and for most PCs I simply decide if the NPC returns their affection. If she does, I let it play out for a bit and eventually just let it move to the backstage.
3rd-Jan-2005 07:13 pm (UTC) - more answers...

9. How do you handle when the group splits up?

If the group really is splitting -- with about even numbers on either side -- we just shift focus back and forth after every encouner or so. Sometimes I had bit NPCs to the other players.

If it's just one person heading out on a way I hadn't expected, I die-roll the whole thing in long-term action and focus on where most of the players are. (My standing rule about leaving the party is simple: If your PC leaves, it's not my problem. The line is "ok, that's nice" and you'll likely be bored for the rest of the night.)
3rd-Jan-2005 07:14 pm (UTC)
1. Adaptive dungeons. If there are plants inside the dungeons, let them grow at alarming rates, changing the layout of the dungeon ever so often. Several of the sections of walls could be illusionary, often covering openings that would save them tons of trouble, or actually covering actual walls that will create quite a headache should they charge through them.

2. Take existing traps, such as "fire shoots from a hole in the wall," and change it to something more spectacular, "the young dragon in the unbreakable and unreachable cage shoots a jet of fire at you." That way, they have to figure out a way around the trap that a rogue can't disable.

3. Take 20 is a blessing and a curse. Depending on what they're doing, the average take 20 can use up an hour or more of time. In that time, the monsters of the dungeon could have become alerted to their presence, they get a bit more fatigued and closer to needing sleep, or something interesting or important happening in another section occurs without their knowledge and they miss it, only to find out later. Let your PCs know that taking 20 is a handy, but somewhat cheap way to do something that your character may need to build skill in and that it does take up time.

4. Have the riddles consist of more than just verbal problems. IE, there is a locked door leading to a great treasure. you've got five statues of five different weights on one pedastal of three and you've got to get a certain amount of weight onto the third one, but the statues only fit together in a certain order, and you can move no more than four at a time, never touching the ground. If too much weight is put on the pedastal, the door opens but another door shuts behind it. This way, they actually have to figure it out, but can use their character's intelligence to provide clues such as: DC 10, the pedastals open the door. DC 15, only one of them is useful. DC 20, it must be the weight of the pedastals that trigger the door. DC 25, the statues must be placed in the correct order, DC 30, the statues must be moved back and forth between the three statues until the correct order is reached.

5. Good monsters can be used as helpers for your PCs, leading them in right directions, helping them avoid or defeat traps, but only in exchange for something, such as assistance or protection themselves.

6. Something bad has to happen to instill fear. Death, albeit a horrible resource, is often the best way to go. However, the villain can do horrific things to help get the PCs a bit afraid. Have him slaughter an entire village by placing the dead, blood-dripping bodies of the parents of the town hanging over a cage containing the children and several dire wolves who want the blood-soaked youngsters but there isn't anything the PCs can do. Have him abduct one of the PCs and torture them in devilish ways, possibly crippling them in some fashion (gouging out an eye or cutting out their tongue) before letting them go. Have him torture an NPC they are familiar with infront of their eyes by cutting and peeling off layers of their flesh slowly and methodically.

(Trust me, I don't normally think like that in daily life.)
3rd-Jan-2005 07:14 pm (UTC)
7. I generally prefer to have a map of the dungeon handy for me. This way, I know when they get to stuff they need, encounter traps or monsters, and know how close they are to key points or exits. If a PC says he is actively mapping, I describe "You go about thirty feet (which ends up being six squares) down the hall before reaching an impass. There is a door to your right and a smaller (five foot wide) hallway to the left." Otherwise, if no one specifies, no one gets a map except me.

8. If that happens, make sure the PC knows the consequences. If you allow him to be intimate, there may be a pregnancy. If that happens, he has to provide assistance either in presence or through money, or the NPC or his/her parents may put a bounty on the PC. If too much time passes between meetings, the spouse might cheat on the PC. If the PC ever cheats on the spouse, his guilt may cause him to take negatives to rolls involving good-aligned creatures/NPCs.

9. The group as PCs or the group as players? As PCs, I try to encourage them to stick together. The last thing you want is a six-person split and having each person wait while you deal with the other five's roleplay individually. If you have to, get them to go in groups. Try to have no more than two or three individual roleplays that you have to deal with, then switch back and forth frequently. Just before group A walks into the temple, switch back to group B that was just about to introduce themselves to the guardsman, then after they speak, back to group C who was in combat with the blink dogs.

If it's your actual roleplaying group that is splitting up, I'd say make sure everyone leaves on good terms without harsh feelings. That's the best you can do.

Hope some of these suggestions help!

--
Avery W. Krouse
3rd-Jan-2005 07:34 pm (UTC)
2: As others have said, the main problem with checking for traps is the time. If it takes the party three hours to get past the first guardpost in a goblin warren, how much preparing will the goblins be able to do in that time? Also, combining monsters with traps can make sure that they don't have time to (or think to) search continually.

Consider that the party intimidates a goblin to lead them through the warren. He goes ahead of the party, leading them down "safe" passages and "disarming" traps. After the party stays safe for a while, they'll probably let their guard down...

Also, in the watchpost, there is a rope hanging through a small hole in the ceiling; without breaking through 5 foot of solid rock, there's no way to tell if pulling it will unlock the door, or signal an alarm. There are also a few bottles of healing potion. except that they really contain a poison. What would the party do, then?

3: Yes, of course. But it takes hours to check even a small area this way, and (as others have said) it's not garaunteed. The rest of the party may get annoyed at facing a dozen wandering monsters every time a search check is made.

5: By giving them different aims to the party. A bronze dragon that possesses a powerful magical item that the party needs to defeat a lich should make for an interesting encounter; he's not going to give up his toy lightly, and possibly not while he lives.

7: I let them map it themselves, on plain paper without measuring tools (unless they have a cartographer with theodolite who takes the time to make accurate measurements). This way, when they're running from a Big Bad, I can tell them to turn the map upside down and make them make instant decisions when they come to junctions. It's good to get the party lost once in a while.
3rd-Jan-2005 08:27 pm (UTC)
"1. How do you make a dungeon challenging besides throwing monsters in it?"

Depends. If the monsters are intelligent, they'll use the dungeon against the characters (taking secret passages behind the PCs, concealed pits, etc).

To make the dungeon more challenging, I'll usually put in "problems without solutions". Little things like fifteen-foot wide pits, underwater doors, etc that players really have to think about. It's times like that when PC backgrounds and professions really come in handy!

"2. Where do you get ideas for clever traps, and how do you get around the rogue that checks for traps every time they're in a room?"

Old issues of Dungeon and previous editions of AD&D. And Grimtooth's books. ;)

If the rogue wants to check every room, let him! :)

"3. Do you let players do the optional "take the 20" rule where they search for a long period of time and get an automatic success on, say, search checks?"

Yes, but at two minutes per 5' square or object, it could take a while. Spells will expire, enemies will regroup, etc... spending days doing something may not be a viable option.

"4. If you use riddles, what do you do for the group that doesn't like to think as players, and wants to use their character's intelligence score to solve the riddle instead of solving it themselves?"

If the riddle is something that can be solved reasonably by characters, then they'll get a check of some kind. But obscure riddles can be plot hooks for future adventures.

"5. How do you incorporate good monsters into your campaign (if your party is good aligned)?"

Any creature or NPC can sponsor a party for various quests. In fact... the party has accidentally worked for more evil NPCs and creatures than good ones.

"6. How do you make an NPC/long-term villain terrifying to the players without killing one of them, especially when they all act fearless?"

Hit the PCs where it hurts. Have the villain attack their friends, families and supply lines. Or arrange it such that the PC carries part of the taint/evil/curse with him, and until it's properly dealt with things aren't over.

Or do something to make them feel out-of-control, without railroading. Dreams and visions can be used to hint at great power and control without having the villain do something to confirm his l33t status.

"7. In dungeons, do you draw a map for your players as the DM while they're going through the dungeon?"

Since I've started using a battlemat, the rooms tend to be drawn out. Before then, I used to fudge and give my players an unmarked map.

"8. Have you ever had a PC roleplay falling in love with an NPC?"

Never happened in my games, because the PCs tend to fall for each other. ;)

"9. How do you handle when the group splits up?"

That depends on why and how the group split up. If only one PC is off and not doing something important, he'll get shafted in terms of time. When the group splits up for a good reason, I try to give time appropriate to the number of characters, and leave things with a cliffhanger.
3rd-Jan-2005 08:51 pm (UTC)
1. The PCs have to be sneaky so that they are not discovered (while they might not fear the resulting combat, the villain might get away with the hostage then...). Or they are under a time limit (disable these fortifications so that our army can attack them tomorrow), giving them less time to prepare appropriate equipment and spells and forcing them to be careful with their resources.

5. Simple: The PCs lack the necessary information to judge the situation carefully and believe the monster to be evil thanks to some misleading hints. Or the monster is simply on a different "side" of good (working for a rival religion, etc.) - while it might hesitate to kill the PCs, trying to knock them out or otherwise take them out is entirely possible.

6. Never let them meet the villain until the final battle, or in purely social settings where they can't use weapons without dire consequences (and even then you have to be careful - PCs might attack him anyway, social conventions be damned). Just show how he has his way with other people the PCs care about. Relatives and Loved Ones are cliche... but how about that friendly sage or aristocrat who has been helping them in former adventures? Or that innkeeper whose beer was simply amazing? Populate the world with friendly PCs so that you have a large supply of professional victims...

And let his henchmen follow the PCs around. Not to attack them... just to keep an eye on him and note their every movement. Even when they are not being observed they will still feel paranoid.

8. First, I let both their relatives get involved - the NPC's parents should be at least initially distrustful, and the PC's parents should be hugely embarrassing. And of course, the new set of relatives can provide plenty of new plot hooks. Then the marriage can proceed, which should have several memorable disasters - no wedding goes off without any problems, after all. This is the perfect opportunity to let some old and new villains interrupt the ceremony.

Milk it for all it's worth - after all, relationships can strengthen with shared adversity. And then come the joys of parenthood...
3rd-Jan-2005 10:28 pm (UTC)
I didn't read the other responses, because I didn't want to spoil my answers, so here it goes, sorry for any repeats...



1. How do you make a dungeon challenging besides throwing monsters in it?

There are a few ways. First, set a time limit. Something must happen by this time or something else will happen. For example, you must retrieve this item before the temple collapses. This makes a sense of urgency. Second, I'm sure someone said puzzles and traps, so here's another one... the dungeon constantly shifts. Imagine how hard it would be to find your way through a constantly changing maze! There are more but that will do for now.

2. Where do you get ideas for clever traps, and how do you get around the rogue that checks for traps every time they're in a room?

Some traps aren't traps at all. If it looks beneficial, it doesn't have to be a trap. One of my favorites is a teleporter that teleports all metal items to a certain location elsewhere. Imagine how hard it is for a party to navigate a dungeon with no metal...lock picks, most weapons, armor, keys, grappling hooks, etc. A chance for spellcasters and druids to shine.


3. Do you let players do the optional "take the 20" rule where they search for a long period of time and get an automatic success on, say, search checks?

Nope. A failed search can result in the trap being sprung. I allow a spot, which may pick up abnormalities. For a search they must pry and poke. This can set off a trap if they don't find it.


4. If you use riddles, what do you do for the group that doesn't like to think as players, and wants to use their character's intelligence score to solve the riddle instead of solving it themselves?

Bugger that. Ask yourself, is that fun?

5. How do you incorporate good monsters into your campaign (if your party is good aligned)?

It depends. Some monsters are inherently good, some are just good. For example, werebears are good (at least they were). If however a werebear needs something the players have, or vice versa, combat may ensue. Remember that killing a good creature, even with reason, can be an evil act.

6. How do you make an NPC/long-term villain terrifying to the players without killing one of them, especially when they all act fearless?

Ever seen the movie Fallen? Chances are most of your players haven't. If you haven't seen it, see it. If you have, do it. A disembodied villain is the most terrifying thing around. I remember the scariest thing I ever had happen to me as a player was recieving a note from an NPC saying the enemy was "this close". Enclosed was a lock of my character's hair.

7. In dungeons, do you draw a map for your players as the DM while they're going through the dungeon (or if you're a player, does the DM do this for you), is there a player that draws the maps, or do you run dungeons where they just randomly go left and right without a map guiding them? How do you incorporate visuals into the concepts of a dungeon if you don't provide the players with an ongoing map/drawing of the rooms they enter?

Let them draw the map. Their mistakes could also be their characters mistakes. If the player shows it to me and asks for clarification, I will if they have it totally wrong. You have to make sure you describe it correctly.


8. Have you ever had a PC roleplay falling in love with an NPC? (This wasn't planned, but this instance is starting to happen between one of my PCs and an NPC I have through his clever use of roleplaying, and I like encouraging roleplaying, so I want to try to encourage this.) What have you done if you had this scenario?

What needs to be done?

9. How do you handle when the group splits up?

Two ways, either handle it quickly and get them back together, or hold seperate sessions. IF it looks like it's going to be a permanent split, you need to decide which group of players you want to make new characters.

4th-Jan-2005 03:56 am (UTC)
2. traps and rogues
As others have said, if they take time to check every nook, door, etc. then that is time spent while the enemy regroups, fortifies, or simply stumbles upon them.

Leave enough regular traps for the rogue to feel useful, but put other types of traps in place or obstacles that require other "skills". A door with a magical eye that will only open when someone casts Arcane Mark and spells out something. Or maybe it requires an illusion of the "owner" to knock three times. A heavy door literally stuck shut from lack of use or one of its hinges bent from an ogre that got mad and slammed it. A tunnel filled with water that is too far to swim through (if you know someone can cast Breathe Water or has a fancy item). Use non-evil NPCs (see below).

3. Take 20
Let them, but they should know the consequences. We always play with critical fumbles. Roll a 1 and it doesn't matter, you're toast (or pricked or zapped or whatever).

4. Riddles; player and character knowledge
Riddles are tough. Sometimes players are smarter than characters, and sometimes not. Sometimes smart people can't figure out what seems painfully obvious. If you use a riddle, have plenty of clues ready. Also be ready for someone to solve it way quicker than expected. People are unpredictable.

Instead of riddles, consider "challenges". "Collect the 5 items to assemble the map/key/potion." Each challenge can be different; some requiring brawn, some magic, etc.

5. "Good" monsters
Just like PCs, good monsters have motivations as well. They also have fears, quirks, and stubborn qualities. A hidden cave entrance to the liche's lair might also be the cave an irritated but friendly storm giant lives in. I've even had a few parties run into other bands of adventurers. As they were about to enter a portal, a group of 5 diverse people (a fighter, a cleric, a rogue, a wizard, a ranger) stepped through from the other direction and they were holding the portal key. They weren't evil, but they weren't about to give it up for free either.
4th-Jan-2005 03:56 am (UTC)
6. long-term villain
Many have posted the "mess with their friends/loved ones". That works, but also means they care about NPCs or innocent bystanders to begin with. Some people suggest whacking one of the characters. I've found that near-death is worse. Bring them down as low as they can go, maybe even negative HP. Put the wizard in an anti-magic zone. Hit the warrior with a temporary strength sapping effect.

From another post: "I remember the scariest thing I ever had happen to me as a player was recieving a note from an NPC saying the enemy was "this close". Enclosed was a lock of my character's hair."

Making it personal without constantly invalidating their abilities can be tough to balance, but quite rewarding for everyone. I liked the idea of having them followed to make them paranoid too. My party is about to encounter someone they already killed (and not undead). Then they will encounter two of him! Then three! I've been setting up this "WTF" moment for more than a month. =)

Be as descriptive as possible. I've found the simplest of persons or situations can seem much more important if they have depth. The mage "wielding a wand made from a small leg bone, perhaps that of a child" is creepier than "a guy with a wand". That Enervation spell that they just shrugged off due to the save, "sends chills through your body and leaves a taste of rancid meat in your mouth".

7. Maps
I usually draw them for the players, but I don't use a grid except for combat. I do it kind of rough and "eyeball" distances. Never use mazes. They will only frustrate someone, possibly the DM. I speak from experience.

8. Love and relationships
I've never quite had a love relationship, but I've had characters become smitten with NPCs. I let them play it out. I make them roll Charisma/Bluff/Diplomacy checks. I give bonuses for creativity. Sometimes I have NPCs be smitten with PCs. The noble may be huffy with everyone until he talks to that charming druid who has been keeping quiet thus far.

9. How do you handle when the group splits up?
Minimize it if possible. Switch between groups every few rounds if possible. Sometimes you can even let people cross-play, meaning they can be peanut gallery for the group they are not actively playing. You have to be careful there, but sometimes it is ok. At least with my group, they often police themselves more than I do. "Oh, I'm not there. Forget I said that."
4th-Jan-2005 06:00 am (UTC) - How to make it interesting.
Make a moral choice. Where the advantage would make them break their moral code (I hate the alginment system)

just because a monsters good doesn't mean you can't not use it. They will still be guardians of treasures the PCs want or need to get. Just because they are motivated by noble causes doesn't makeit any less good to kill them lessfor treasure.

Make the villan become an NPC in disguise..PC's trust him etc. Also having the NPC capture the PCs...i.e. 10 grappling ogres.

4th-Jan-2005 06:43 pm (UTC)
2. Ridiculous and bizarre magical traps; flip through the spells section of the PHB and pick one at random.

For example, *flipflipflip*, Antilife Shell. Hmm. So, let's say a particularly powerful druid worked up enchantments to make a permanent Antilife Shell. Put a permanent Antilife Shell in the middle of a 10-ft.-wide corridor, and it becomes impossible to get through: the PCs have to work out some way of dispelling it or getting around it (for example, tunneling through the walls).
11th-Jan-2005 02:33 am (UTC)
lot of good ideas and feedback, I'll try not to duplicate...

1. Make it dynamic. If it's an extensive dungeon or labyrinth, have one of the denizens actively recruiting for his army or gang. Imagine the shock when the party returns after recovering from a foray to find some of it repopulated. "I thought we cleared out this gallery last week!" This allows a hook for the party to try to find the recruiter *outside* the dungeon and discourage his activities.

2. Tons of resources and great ideas already mentioned. Personally I think traps should have a purpose other than to challenge PCs. Who built the dungeon? large scale excavation, even magically accomplished, is costly and time consuming. Traps could be designed for various purposes and varying degrees of stealth. Take the "hall of chompers" scene from Galaxy Quest: a very obvious trap designed to discourage someone from wandering down a particular hallway; sure you could disarm each of the dozen mechanical thingies, or trust to your dexterity. The idol scene from Raiders of the Lost Ark is another great concept for a trap: ancient, primitive, but difficult to surpass because of the sheer number of pressure points.

6. If you can't make the players fear your villain, make them hate him. A lot of good suggestions have already been made. To that I add, never underestimate the power of a good capture scene. If you can isolate and overpower one of the PCs, you don't have to kill him; but having someone wake up in a dark place with chains followed by a nerve-wracking interrogation scene can add "flavor" to a villain. Or you can go the Bond route, put the PC in an elaborate death trap with a chance of escaping.

One thing I try to do is always know what my villain is doing behind the scenes, and always determine what my villain knows about the actions of the PCs. Having the villain act through henchmen and intermediaries early in a campaign can allow hints and foreshadowing to be dropped about a particular villain's scope and resources, perhaps in the form of a letter addressed to the gang leader the party has just neutralized, letting them know that a few abductions are actually part of a larger slavery ring... you get the idea.

7. I never drew maps FOR my players, other than maybe a small sketch to illustrate a description. I of course use a grid for tactical combat. If the players keep asking me to repeat dimensions or descriptions, I assume the characters are taking extra care to make their own maps... and nearly every time something happens to discourage them from dallying...

8. Not as a GM, though one game I played in, my PC (a cavalier) had a "high court crush" on a foreign queen. It was a major NPC in the campaign, and was a lot of fun to roleplay (it didn't work out of course, I was beneath her station and she had to marry within her own race).

9. One thing one of my favorite GMs would do is switch between groups at a dramatically climactic moment to keep the tension heightened, kind of the way in Return of the Jedi the focus switches between the ground battle, the space battle, and duel. It's difficult to switch scenes in the middle of combat, of course, but between individual melees during the climax of an adventure... also, for the players not involved in the current scene, the GM would allow them to play NPC bad guys (usually flunkies, not major villains).

Just make sure you keep track of time for each group :)
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