Friday, January 20, 2017

"d100 Dungeon Master Tips" Critiqued - Volume 2: #s 62, 48, 07

We continue riffing off "d100 Dungeon Master Tips" by Mike Shea, as featured in Dragon+. Three tips critiqued, every Friday!

#62: "Give monsters an interesting array of weaponry. They don't all fight with the same short sword."

This is actually useful. See, ideally, different weapons promote different tactics, and an encounter group of enemies with varied tactics and roles can be an engaging challenge. Don't bother simply throwing in a couple of extra weapon types for flavor - all you're doing is changing a couple of damage dice here and there for no appreciable benefit. Think how a club-wielding goblin might behave differently than a spear-wielding goblin, and don't be afraid to adjust stats, HP, and other pieces of equipment (armor, shields, loot, etc) accordingly.

In fact, you might just be best off coming up with a couple of different stat blocks to cover that variety. I recently built a goblin encounter from a mix of "goblin bashers" (club and shield), "goblin slashers" (dual sabers), "gobin throwers" (javelins), and "goblin shamans" (alchemy and a couple spells) - each had stats, abilities, and descriptions built around different combat rolls. (The Angry GM goes way more in-depth here if you're down for a long read.)

#48: "If your adventure had a sensationalist newspaper headline, how would it read?"


Personally I tend to DM more sand-box-oriented campaigns, but if I had to come up with "a sensationalist newspaper headline" for my current one, it would be: "King Othric Opens Westlands to Settlement - Scum and Villainy Take Advantage of Royal Pardon and Depart for the Frontier!" (More on my current campaign in not too long.)

#07: "Spend a few minutes thinking about the strength of each of the characters and build interesting situations that help them show off those abilities."

...Maybe? It depends on the group you're playing with, perhaps. If they're just in it to feel powerful and spotlit, sure, toss them some bones. Me? I like (both giving and receiving) challenges with no straightforward solution that require thought and creativity (so - NOT "oh, one of my players has a cleric PC with Turn Undead, so I'll just have a scene with like ten mookish skeletons so she can go crazy and turn them all and save the day just like that"). In my method, GMs should create challenges for story and flavor reasons, and then watch as player creativity organically solves those challenges. You usually don't need to know HOW they'll do it - just watch it happen. (And make sure the "challenge" isn't just a slug-it-out fight-to-the-death with no retreat possible. Give 'em a chance to run, rendezvous, recover, and return with plans and tactics in hand.)

In short, MY advice is that you throw players bones if that's what they get off to, but aim for a more mature group that relishes complex problems with no obvious solutions.

Previous volumes:
Volume 1

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