Welcome to the club!
By - agrady262
Ask them. Most players understand that the next session will be lore enjoyable if DM knows what to do
Oh, of course. Communication is incredibly important. But, it is impossible, even with communication, to prepare for every ridiculous choice players make. Saying, "Hey guys, how do you think you are going to approach the puzzle next session?" Isn't an option when they don't even know there will be a puzzle next session.
Oh, I have a simple solution to puzzles. Make it simple, think out ONE primary and ONE secondary way to approach them.
Let them invent stuff on their own and listen to their ideas. If you try to Dr. Strange every encounter, holy shit you can't keep your head together. Just let them make up ideas, and own those ideas. Sometimes you can even say you knew this was going to happen, and you were 100% prepared for it, even though you just heard of it.
But sometimes you should let them own their ideas, since a player feels creative juices a lot more often when they thought about something the DM missed completely.
I unfortunately caused one of those “impossible to predict” moments when I half jokingly/half lore reasons put on a cursed helm that opened a portal that allowed awaiting minotaurs to enter the VERY small room we were occupying. Luckily the party had some really good roles against the minotaurs and my character was able to eventually remove the helm after a couple turns agonizing in a separate pocket dimension, but now we are all the wiser that all actions joking or not will have consequences.
I just....... communicate with my players. It isn't really that hard. End of session and/or in the next few days I ask them as a group and then eacjbplauer in private what their character wants/wants to do/would be thinking about what happened in the last session, and use that to guide my prep. Sure sometimes things will go sideways quickly during a session and my prep gets largely thrown out, but most of the time I can use player input to make prep that pans out because it's at least loosely based on what the players actually want.
Example: Monster Hunting (up to this point) campaign led to players in an LE Underdark Drow city clearing out an abandoned mine of Kruthiks. The players communicate with me that they want to try to claim ownership of the mine since "it was abandoned and we cleared it out, so it's ours now". So based on that I really fleshed out the city's political structure and the next session (instead of what I would have prepped as another monster contract) was them being approached by members of multiple of the city's powerful families who are looking to use the party to increase their own influence.
If not for the communication I wouldn't have had time to develop the lore of the families and figure out how each power group in the city would reasonably react to these newcomers to their city making a bid for influence
Or, you know, just ask them. When my party completes a quest I just straight up ask them where they want to go next, and what they plan to do when they get there. If they don't know we'll recap what's happened recently so they can get some ideas.
That's my DM in a nutshell. Except, instead of just making monsters or NPCs as normal, he makes them walking bunkers. No weaknesses at all.
I don't ask them because part of what makes my fun is being an all-knowing God of what my characters and world will do, and then inserting a bunch of wild, unknown elements into it. My fun as a DM comes from being pressured to create and build reactions and changes in the world to actions I had no clue would happen.
Bonus points if you read this in Omni Mans voice actor J.K. Simmons
You can't prepare for every eventuality. But you can be prepared for *any* eventuality!
This is why I'll never dm another game, I dont have the creative brain too try and herd cats
The best way to prepare is to just know the world and fill in the specifics as you go. If the players randomly pick a direction and walk, just say they stumble across a wounded druid from a hidden civilization. If they wrong a shop owner, say they were secretly an operation of a druidic order. If they kill a wolf during a random encounter, have it turn into a druid.
You’re not going to escape my druid-themed campaign, you fucks.
You see I’ve developed a special set of skills for this very occasion, it’s called: *Improvising*
I used to have this problem then I picked up The Return of the Lazy Dungeon Master. Instead of spending time trying to combat your players ability to destroy your prep, embrace and utilize it.
u/Mshea0001 is a genius.
I don’t know about that but thank you!
1. Prepare a thing.
2. Let your players to do something.
3. Improvise your way into the result of the thing they did leading to the thing you prepared.
I love it when that happens. My most recent session I ran (basically mass effect but built out of 5e), I had an encounter near a railing.
I did not realize that one of my PCs had a power (think leveled spell) that would let them lift and move an enemy. They had to roll to hit. They missed, i wanted to reward the good idea and gave them inspiration/advantage on the roll. Then they hit and lifted the last and toughest enemy and dropped them over the side to end the fight.
It was great.
"Don't prepare? Or don't know what's going to happen?"
My biggest note to new dms is that you should be making encounters and plots from other characters not writing stories generally. Also never assume your players will understand anything but also don't baby them. Let there be several paths to the end goal
One of my players turned into a hyena to piss on a burning building.
Three big ole guidelines for trpgs full stop;
- **Play to learn to play**. The best way to get better is just to do it, stop for five to double check something, and then keep playing, it’s how you learn what parts of it you find fun and what parts interest you. Don’t expect grand sweeping heroic narratives out the gate, just keep playing and eventually it’ll get there. It’s less about learning the rules and more about learning the logic of them and how to achieve certain effects with your role play/game design, to make an environment pressured and clustered by limiting movement and sight,creating tension of a certain threat with constant low dc checks.
- **Commit to the bit**. Don’t shit on other peoples moment with your disinterest, if you make a bad call as a dm when it’s solely upto you play it through, or misread and then misuse a spell/feature as a player, commit to it. Pulling back on calls breaks the idea that decisions have weight, you’ve got to fail forward. Stick with bad calls in NPCs, don’t let your characters be perfect and friendly unless they’re meant to be as long as you the player/dm are supportive and engaging with the story through your character, it should still allow for the plot to move forward and be influenced in a way that doesn’t just shut down the forward narrative.
- **respect the spec**. As a dm this is the easiest thing to skip over, but you shouldn’t, if your party’s sorcerer takes a mage initiate wizard feat to be able to cast find familiar, don’t give your cleric a familiar for free, a bardfighter shouldn’t be able to make a cantrip attack in place of one their fighter attacks because that’s a blade singer subclass ability, Even if the character is incredibly pious they shouldn’t be able to try for divine intervention. Levelling characters and following subclasses is about trade offs, respect the trade off your players make by both enforcing their limitations and allowing for their specialities to shine. If your players still want to exceed the bounds of their abilities make them work for it in down time, don’t make it something that can be achieved with a quick skill check while under pressure. Likewise, the background features have strong narrative implications that should give the player access to the world through an angle outside of rolling dice, choosing and actively using these backgrounds should rewarded in the same vein as the ethos of the background. Respect the Spec isn’t antithetical to the rule of cool, because the rule of cool is suspending the normal bounds of abilities to achieve something fitting with the intention of the ability ie arms out stretched (TAZ), it isn’t allowing players to make a skill check to mimic another classes ability.
Even more experienced DMs with the same group: “Why prepare? I know what they’re doing next. I’ve known for weeks.”
Pro tip: prepare as much as you can. Your players will never take a route you wrote and built, so by planning forward, you take down options for them to choose and know slightly better what they will do! *Not* as you want them!
I've gone 6 sessions without prepping anything... I feel like a terrible DM but my players are having a blast fighting gods in a divine realm/meeting the BBEG I made a year ago/ and f*ing a minotaur to death. I'm not sure what this has all come to, but I'm glad they are happy