DM Tips and Tricks – Episode 1

I’m about to give away some serious DM secrets here. There are some key elements to running any game mainly due to the player factor. Think about it, how can one person come up with enough contingencies to successfully get his campaign running? You can’t. I know I touched on this with DMing for the new guy but there’s more! So much more.

Trick #1 – Riddles and Puzzles
While crafting a puzzle or a riddle sometimes I don’t think of a solution, Just the trap, puzzle, or riddle in question. This sounds silly at first but think about it. The characters will come up with a brilliant solution, trust me!

Example: Energy Signatures
DM (Me): Before you is an odd sight. This room has been turned in to one gigantic carving. Each wall depicts a floating orb with beams of light flowing outward in runs and rivulets. Every one branches out in to hundreds. The entire floor has been carved out like some miniature irrigation system. On the far wall, opposite the tunnel you just left there stands a door. It is just as intricately carved. On a stone pedestal sits three glass orbs one white, one blue, one red all in a row. Like three glass eyes they stare unblinkingly awaiting your next move.

Player 1 (Ranger): Is there anything else in the room?

DM: In the corner you see what looks like a bundle of rags heaped up in a pile.

Player 2 (Rogue): What about the ceiling?

DM: The ceiling has been carved as well. It looks like a scene of some god gathering up his followers in a shower of light.

Player 1: What happens when I step on the floor?

DM: Nothing.

Player 3 (Wizard): We go investigate the rags.

DM: As you shift the bundle of cloth around you realize it’s clothing a second too late. A charred pile of bones rolls out of the shifted robe and scatters across the floor, barely a wisp of hair remains on the charred skull and a few rogue swatches of skin cling desperately to these old bones.

Player 1: (In Character, IC) “Well I think we know what kind of room this is.”

Player 2: (IC) “Indeed we do. I say we proceed with caution.”

Player 3: I’d like to inspect the orbs without touching them.

DM: As you move about the room you can feel something watching you. You’re not entirely sure but as you approach the orbs you have the sneaking suspicion that it may be them.

Player 3: “I touch the white orb.”

Other Players: “NO!”

DM: You get to him too late, as Cornelius places his hand on the white orb the carving on the left side of the room lights up and a cascade of light fills the room. The rivulets leading from that orb carving begin filling up with a white light that looks almost like a liquid but not quite.

Player 2: “You have to touch everything don’t you?”

Player 3: “Sorry!”

Player 1: How fast is it filling up?

DM: It’s rather slow but as you turn around to investigate you realize that a stone door has slid silently over the exit, leaving you trapped in the room.

Player 2: What happens if I touch the orb again?

DM: Nothing you can see.

Player 3: What about the other orbs?

DM: Which one?

Player 3: The middle orb, the blue one.

DM: The door flares once and a blue light begins pouring out onto the ground at your feet. Activating the second orb seems to have sped up the process and the light is approaching you faster.

Player 1: “Don’t let the light touch you!”

Player 3: I cast Tenser’s Floating Disc and we all climb on!

DM: You successfully cast the spell and climb on board but the light keeps pouring out. Where the blue and the white mix the colors turn from white and blue respectively and begin to merge into a lighter blue. The room keeps filling up.

Player 2: Touch the last orb.

Player 1: I don’t think that’s a good idea.

Player 3: We’re already here we might as well. I touch it.

DM: The third orb lights up and a red light begins filling the rivulets from the right wall as did the white on the left one. You watch as the room fills with a purple radiance and you suddenly realize that it is starting to get rather hot in the room.

Player 1: “Charred bones.”

Player 2: “You mean it’s going to explode?”

Player 3: I’d like to roll an arcana check to see if I can figure out how to turn the orbs off. I want to see if they can move or anything like that.
D20 – 19 + Arcana Mod of 12 = 31

DM: The apparatus is divine in nature but you can see, as you poke and prod around it seems that the orbs can come out of their sockets.

Player 3: “The orbs are loose, I think they can come out of their resting places but I don’t know what that will do.”

Player 2: Okay, think about it. If you have red, white, and blue which one usually means explode?

Player 1: Red.

Player 3: Okay but what does blue mean?

Player 2: A catalyst?

Player 3: I’d like to reposition the orbs. I want the white in the middle, the blue on the opposite side and the red on the other side. Hopefully that will separate the energies and maybe give us time to think of a way out.

DM: You reposition the orbs. Initially nothing happens but you realize the temperature has begun to drop. The energy begins to part ways and a bridge of white light forms between the two doors. Both open. The blue energy and red energy replace the purple but remain separated.

And there you go, player ingenuity. We played this scenario out on the 4th of July. I had no solution to this puzzle, just an amount of time before the energy went critical mass on them. The players surprised me by working together so well. One had an idea and the other rolled with it and there is an excellent example of a no solution puzzle. The same runs for riddles. Say something cryptic and when you hear an answer you like, go with it!

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~ by lordnightwinter on October 23, 2011.

2 Responses to “DM Tips and Tricks – Episode 1”

  1. I like this… but now I know your secrets! Hahahahaa

  2. It will do you no good! Haha! How will you know if I have a solution or not… unless you’re in my head… GET OUT OF MY HEAD! AAAAHHHHHHHHHHH!

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