DM Theory: Ripples in the Pond

One tactic I use to keep my players interested in my world is continuity. I’ve mentioned in the past that I’ve had characters meet their retired or (at times) dead characters. This is just a small bit of the gigantic pie that is my world and DMing style. Characters make real ripples in the pond of life as they adventure. I’ve taken my characters through ancient worlds and modern times, past, present, future, it all ends up the same. What they do gives purchase to what happens in the future. It’s not just the big things either.

For example to teach a rather rowdy group the importance of what they called ‘starting quests’ or ‘tutorial quests’ I created an adventure for them. In this adventure the characters lived in a small town on the outskirts of a large kingdom. This town was walled in because it was on the edge of a very dangerous forest known for its excellent selection of hard wood. The first quest they got was to check on an old woman and her older son within the town walls. The two ran an alchemical business in town that had been shut down for a few days. My players scoffed and rolled their eyes at me and demanded a more important task.

I complied and told them that they had heard rumors of a goblin uprising to the south and there were calls for adventurers to come and assist the king’s guard in defending the southern reaches. They left the town in search of gold and glory. Some time down the line they went back to share their glory with the townsfolk they knew so well only to find that the town was completely uninhabited. They later found out that the people they were supposed to check on had an accident in the basement that had opened up an ancient spider warren that contained a huge number of unhatched giant spider egg sacks in stasis. The adventurers all perished trying to kill the spiders.

Later down the line (two sets of characters later actually) the group stumbled upon an abandoned city in the thick of an overgrown forest. This city had been overrun by giant spider creatures from a time in the past. It took them some time to recognize it but when they found the bodies of their old characters in the spider’s warrens they all found a somber lesson of humble pie served up. All of them vowed to me that they would never overlook a ‘tutorial quest’ ever again.


~ by lordnightwinter on March 23, 2015.

3 Responses to “DM Theory: Ripples in the Pond”

  1. Hello,
    I’m sorry this will be seem brutal, but i conpletely disagree with you vision of mastering.

    The construction of your story is good (the city of spiders) but you failed as DM. If your players scoff at your quest it’s because you failed to interested them and then you punish them for that oO as a players and with my players it will never be accepted. Why they would help this people? Did they know them are they important? Should be the question YOU must ask yourself.
    If you players don’t want to do something don’t force them we’re not in a video game. Adhesion is the key to a good campagn

    Plus you don’t let them live with their errors, you have the opportunity to construct a very interesting story of tragical hero doing the bad choice.

    I hope you’ll have fun with your players anyway.

    • Before you judge there are some things you should know because I did not put them out there. Your assessment of the situation is way off.
      1.) The players would not work together, there was no group cohesion.
      2.) They were problem players from the start, one of them came to the game drunk.
      3.) I did not railroad them, I re-purposed the adventure for another time.
      4.) They split the party up, I did not kill them on purpose.
      5.) This was the first of two TPKs in my 22 years as being a DM.
      6.) If the players aren’t interested in something the only way to make them do it is railroad them and I do not railroad. There is only so much describing and throwing of hooks you can do for players before they scoff at the notion.

  2. I, as a DM, am there to tell a story. Dungeonmastering is not about winning the game or being the best, it’s about giving your players the framework of an epic tale and letting them write the meat of the story themselves. Do not mistake this though, if the players do something stupid I do not pull punches. It’s not fair to them or to me if I do so. I have been doing this a long time, I’ve made mistakes along the way but that’s normal. I have never had players walk away from my games angry or bored. As a matter of fact, I don’t think I’ve ever had a player walk away at all. I must be doing something right.

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