Thursday, October 8, 2015

Quick Fix: The Inn's On Fire Problem

Hello, and welcome to Pact of the Tome! The Quick Fix series of posts covers common Dungeon Master problems along with my solutions to them. The goal is to keep each piece to 500 words or fewer in order to improve readability and hone my writing and editing skills.

The Inn's On Fire Problem
The party has gathered in a tavern, looking for adventure. "Would you like to talk to the hooded man in the corner?" asks the Dungeon Master. Within minutes, the quest-giver's been stabbed, all the money's been stolen from the till, and someone's set fire to the inn.

The Core Issue
It's a problem that's plagued Dungeon Masters for decades: the players just aren't interested in following your adventure plans. Instead, they decide they'd rather assume the role of "murder hobos," running around the world and causing chaos. D&D is a game about doing whatever you want, right?

A common reaction to this problem is to try and stop the players within the game. This could involve sending town guards and bounty hunters after them, telling your players they can't take certain actions (perhaps referencing their character's alignment), or punishing them with arbitrary penalties and bolts of blue lightning from the sky.

These approaches can occasionally be effective. Sometimes players just need a gentle nudge in the right direction. However, they're very risky: once the players and DM start fighting for control of the game, everything falls apart.

Here's the real problem: the players above haven't agreed to the "social contract" of the game. As the Dungeon Master, you've presented them with an opportunity to go along with your plans and they've ignored it.

Thursday, October 1, 2015

Five Lessons from playing Rise of Tiamat in 24 hours

Hello folks, and welcome to Pact of the Tome! Today I'm going to report on my personal experience playing through the official Rise of Tiamat adventure in 24 hours - straight!

Fighting Tiamat, helping kids. All in a day's work - literally!
Artist: Unknown
For the last two semesters of college, my friends and I have gotten together to play D&D for 24 hours without stopping. Through the Extra Life charity, we created a drive where we play through the official D&D adventures - Hoard of the Dragon Queen and Rise of Tiamat, so far - to raise money for Children's Miracle Network Hospitals. Last April, we ran through Rise of Tiamat, beginning with a deadly iceberg expedition and ending with the final battle against Tiamat herself. (If you want to read our live blogs of Hoard and Tiamat, feel free. Be warned - they're a bit incoherent, and tend to peter out halfway through as we run out of energy. Also, there's a bit of language.)

The charity drives have led to a lot of crazy adventures for us, but the latest session made me realize that there's a lot to learn from our experience as well. When you've already been playing for 18 hours, it's much easier to notice what you dislike about your game. Conversely, there are so many awesome moments that it's easy to pick out what made them memorable.

Before you read further, be aware - spoilers for Rise of Tiamat lie beyond.

Here's what we learned: