A DM's Imagination

SckizoBoy

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So, I've been contracted to write an RPG adventure and I'm doing my prep notes for it ATM, but just something for RPG DM's/gamers out there...

Player or DM (just for perspective)?
Do you prefer playing/running official modules or homebrew (or something which is not quite either but fully a bit of both)?

And for general anecdotes: what was the most fun campaign you played/ran?
 
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Zykon TheLich

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I've GM'd much, much more than I've played, but that has made the times I've played very enjoyable.

Your own stories are far, far better or even just player lead adventures. I don't mind official stuff on lazy days or for a bit of an interlude. Plus you can adapt official stuff to fit your world.

Most fun was the old CP2020 campaign with my mates in secondary school. Partially due to playing with my buds of course.
 

Eacaraxe

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Modules are fine for a "grab and go" one-shot or short campaign experience. Beyond that, you have to start modifying things or writing your own content to fit the story as it develops. The reality is, when the dice hit the table players rarely, if ever, just go with it.

I've talked about my most recent Star Wars d6 game here in the past. I originally wrote a homemade one-shot adventure for it, everyone enjoyed the hell out of it, so I went with it and used the Tapani Sector instant adventures as a bridge until I could get prepped for a longer campaign. The homemade one-shot was a prototypical "the PC's are members of CorSec who get sucked into a rabbit hole when they discover an Inquisitor kidnapping Force sensitive kids" setup. The PC's became fugitives on the run from it, got smuggled off Corellia by Garm Bel Iblis, and sent to the Tapani Sector to lay low for the meantime.

From Tapani Sector Instant Adventures, I ran "Event of the Season" where the PC's got to mingle within their cover identities and get themselves on some house nobles' (good and bad) radar -- and catch the eye of some ISB operatives. They needed money for a ship and one of the major events in Capitol Season is a grand sabacc tournament, so they did "Bacta Heist" to secure the entry fee for the tournament. The finale for the Tapani sector story arc was a story about the tournament I wrote myself, that was tonally somewhere between Casino Royale, The Good The Bad and the Ugly, and Maverick, as the PC's had to fend off the ISB, the Mecrosa Order, and a Mandalorian bounty hunter with a nasty trick up her sleeve...while the best gambler in the party participated in the tournament.

Highlight of the game was the PC made it to the final table, sitting across from...Lando Calrissian. That PC being a Twi'lek female, Lando gonna Lando. They got together during a break and worked out a plan to hustle the other players out of the game, and when it was down to just the two of them, things got pretty serious. The PC finally managed to bust out Lando, and he was so impressed by her play, he gave her and the rest of the PC's a ride on his ship (which was still the Falcon) to his used starship lot and gave them a deal on the ship they'd use the rest of the campaign...right up until it was destroyed in the Battle of Scarif, in the second-to-last session.

I mean, Lando got the tournament's grand prize either way.
 

Elvis Starburst

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I'm basically a full time DM, I've only been a player maybe 3 times for one offs in the past 8 years or so. I always use homebrew worlds and universes, I find myself too tied down with modules. I tend to have too many ideas or stories or characters that I want to do myself without having to do some weird adaptation of other people's content. Unfortunately however, a lot of my campaigns tend to run long (we're talking 2 years on average) and I unfortunately have had to end a few early due to burnout or simply wanting to do something else. My current campaign I have planned right now is gonna be a lot smaller scale than my others, so hopefully it'll actually have an ending.

I'd say I've had some of the most fun in my most recent campaign, as started right around the time I began to get a better handle on storytelling and world building, and setting up events and payoffs down the line. Some of the characters I got to play were a joy as well (I go the full mile, with defined personalities, voices, inflections, quirks, etc). And the world I've created this time around is probably my favourite as well. It's what I believe is called a 'high fantasy' setting. I just recently gave it a huge revamp to suit the new campaign and help drastically improve the next one that will take place on the same continent. Very excited to get started again! Finally got a new group forming as we speak as well
 

SilentPony

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As someone in a few games right now, I can say DM have a problem with getting so far up their own ass that their story is great, they often forget the players need to #1 play, and #2 have fun.
The DM in my Deathwatch game has openly said if she could think of a great story that leads to all of the players dying in a campaign, she'd love to do it. As if that's something players want. As if not playing the game is why players joined a game. I don't get why DM's think so long as the campaign is good enough, inevitable player deaths are okay. People didn't clear schedules, set aside time, learn rules, create characters, create accounts on Roll20 or whatever and sit down with 6 other people just to die and stop playing, but hey, at least it was fun while it lasted.
Also always always run a session 0. I have many a horror stories about DM/players just going off the rails on something they thought was understood, but wasn't.

Players need to be able to interact with the story, and their actions should be able to change it. Going back to Deathwatch, we had a session around July last year that I still remember. We're a squad of Space Marines doing Marines things. And at one point we have an Inquisitor, played by the DM, a local General, played by the DM, an Eldar warleader, played by the DM, a Mechanicus rep, played by the DM, and a ship captain, played by Gilbert Gottfried, just kidding it was the DM again, all in a conversation briefing us Marines on what to do. Not only was it hard to follow, entire minutes went by of just the DM talking to herself between different characters. I turned my microphone off and just alt tabed into some Roller Coaster Tycoon until the session started up again.
While the DM should be keeping track of the story and whatnot, the players and their enjoyment sorta need to be center stage.
 

Agema

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Player or DM (just for perspective)?
Do you prefer playing/running official modules or homebrew (or something which is not quite either but fully a bit of both)?
GM, currently. I prefer to run my own. But they take a staggering shit-ton of time to do properly: may as well write a novel. My game has been on pause for about 2-3 months because I haven't had the time to finish the next chapter.

I adapt stuff from novels and RPG modules as a time-saver. It's not plagiarism, it's research.

The DM in my Deathwatch game has openly said if she could think of a great story that leads to all of the players dying in a campaign, she'd love to do it. As if that's something players want. As if not playing the game is why players joined a game. I don't get why DM's think so long as the campaign is good enough, inevitable player deaths are okay. People didn't clear schedules, set aside time, learn rules, create characters, create accounts on Roll20 or whatever and sit down with 6 other people just to die and stop playing, but hey, at least it was fun while it lasted.
My rule is that assuming the player isn't deciding to sacrifice their character, never, ever kill one without a) plenty of dice rolls, or b) plenty of warnings (getting more explicit) that their character faces termination and they need to do something different.

Mind you, I have seen a player mulishly force a GM to kill their character because the GM would not agree to let them do something stupid and absurdly implausible. The GM gave them a (very low) chance to pass a skill check, and then when that failed no less than a dozen chances to back off and back down in the face of certain death. In the end, I think the GM just had to uphold narrative consistency, because the player was just being such a twat.
 

SilentPony

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My rule is that assuming the player isn't deciding to sacrifice their character, never, ever kill one without a) plenty of dice rolls, or b) plenty of warnings (getting more explicit) that their character faces termination and they need to do something different.
I had an experience once playing gamma world. Session 0 we made out characters. I was a crazed hobo with psychic powers and a trashcan lid for a shield, other players were equally wacky. Session 1 we get a quest for a farmer that something is eating his frogchickens, so we track it down. Its a mutant badger.
Turn 1, combat 1, session 1, badger turns out to be a fire breathing badger and shoots a fireball at me. DM rolls a critical, does double damage, rolls double criticals for the damage and my character is instantly vaporized. "What?" "Yeah, you're dead. The fire turns you to cinders. You can make another character if you want for next session, but you're done today." So speechless, and I'll admit upset, I got to another table to start working my way through a new character.
Over the course of the first session vs this badger, 3 of our 5 player characters are killed. Me and two others, more players dead than are left. DM shrugs, says that's the way the dice go, better luck next time. I never went back for another session.
 

Zykon TheLich

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I had an experience once playing gamma world. Session 0 we made out characters. I was a crazed hobo with psychic powers and a trashcan lid for a shield, other players were equally wacky. Session 1 we get a quest for a farmer that something is eating his frogchickens, so we track it down. Its a mutant badger.
Turn 1, combat 1, session 1, badger turns out to be a fire breathing badger and shoots a fireball at me. DM rolls a critical, does double damage, rolls double criticals for the damage and my character is instantly vaporized. "What?" "Yeah, you're dead. The fire turns you to cinders. You can make another character if you want for next session, but you're done today." So speechless, and I'll admit upset, I got to another table to start working my way through a new character.
Over the course of the first session vs this badger, 3 of our 5 player characters are killed. Me and two others, more players dead than are left. DM shrugs, says that's the way the dice go, better luck next time. I never went back for another session.
One CP2020 side game the chaps had made some quick characters, with short backstories etc.
First combat of the game, first attack he makes, one of them manages to fumble and shoot himself point blank in the head with the equivalent of a .44 magnum. Instantly death.
Now technically we did have a house rule in place that he could have used to avoid it, but it was just so funny and only a secondary game/character, so we just rolled with it.
 

SilentPony

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One CP2020 side game the chaps had made some quick characters, with short backstories etc.
First combat of the game, first attack he makes, one of them manages to fumble and shoot himself point blank in the head with the equivalent of a .44 magnum. Instantly death.
Now technically we did have a house rule in place that he could have used to avoid it, but it was just so funny and only a secondary game/character, so we just rolled with it.
See that might be fun, because they're side characters and its a player error. When its just the DM, who is allowed to fudge any dice roll, just one-shotting 3/5ths of the party in the first session, I'm left with the distinct feeling the DM didn't want to play the game and was trying to drive us away.
 

Elvis Starburst

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See that might be fun, because they're side characters and its a player error. When its just the DM, who is allowed to fudge any dice roll, just one-shotting 3/5ths of the party in the first session, I'm left with the distinct feeling the DM didn't want to play the game and was trying to drive us away.
Man, you sound like you've had some total twats for GMs. I had the total opposite problem of making characters so intricately tied to the plot that I realize too late that I've given them plot armor so thick they can't ever die. I've since fixed that my past few runs and it's been a good balance so far, I've only maybe had 3 character deaths in 2 campaigns over the course of... 5 years time?
 

SilentPony

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Man, you sound like you've had some total twats for GMs. I had the total opposite problem of making characters so intricately tied to the plot that I realize too late that I've given them plot armor so thick they can't ever die. I've since fixed that my past few runs and it's been a good balance so far, I've only maybe had 3 character deaths in 2 campaigns over the course of... 5 years time?
I have had what I considered terrible experience in pen/paper games, from the above mentioned almost tpk session 1, to joke/troll players the DM was in on, to players being allowed to play my characters and getting them killed or worse, to even now Im in a few games where Im convinced the DM and other players think Im the problem player because I keep track of what NPCs say and bring it back up sessions later, and the DM doesn't like that.
 

Elvis Starburst

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I have had what I considered terrible experience in pen/paper games, from the above mentioned almost tpk session 1, to joke/troll players the DM was in on, to players being allowed to play my characters and getting them killed or worse, to even now Im in a few games where Im convinced the DM and other players think Im the problem player because I keep track of what NPCs say and bring it back up sessions later, and the DM doesn't like that.
I feel... really, really bad for you having to go through games like that D= I'd love to have a player that keeps track of what NPCs say like you do, that's supposed to help keep things consistent, and to help keep the DM's shit together. Sounds to me like your DM just wants to nonsense their way through everything. Which is a shame, cause the storytelling is supposed to be one of the best parts (And is something I value extremely highly as a DM personally)
 

Zykon TheLich

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See that might be fun, because they're side characters and its a player error. When its just the DM, who is allowed to fudge any dice roll, just one-shotting 3/5ths of the party in the first session, I'm left with the distinct feeling the DM didn't want to play the game and was trying to drive us away.
I only have a very passing familiarity with gamma world, how easy is it to do that accidentally? Noob GMs can cock things up. Cyberpunk was very easy to get a TPK if the GM didn't know what they were doing.
 

Kae

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I prefer doing my own thing, every time I've run a module I've ended up ignoring most of the content in it and making up my own stuff anyways, so I know me and modules don't mesh, but then again even when I write my own thing I ignore most of it and improvise the vast majority of what I run.

Most fun played: well I've talked about it before and it hasn't really been surpassed but an L5R campaign where I was playing a pacifist priestess who was mainly a healer and had some very heretic beliefs where she interpreted the code of bushido very differently and due to meeting a priest from a religion very similar to Christianity and finding proof that religion was also real but also that the religion she followed was also real, she had some pretty wild cosmological theories, nothing ever went her way and she died pretty horribly after being exiled and contaminated by the shadowlands, by the end of the campaign she had no legs and only one arm and she floated everywhere like a ghost, but it was interesting to play, there was a lot of philosphical roleplay in that campaign and it was great.

Most fun ran: I once spent years writing a CoC campaign, then I read an article about a terrorist attack in New York by some Italian Anarchists in the 1920s on the day the campaign was starting and I threw everything I wrote in the garbage and made up a campaign around that on that same day, it was a blast to improvise everything and look up wikipedia articles of real people and pretend those were my notes I had written, everyone had fun, it ended with New York being destroyed while the players interrupted a ritual and half the party died, but to be fair they didn't die until the last session, which for CoC it's not too bad, that lasted like 5 months.
 
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SilentPony

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I only have a very passing familiarity with gamma world, how easy is it to do that accidentally? Noob GMs can cock things up. Cyberpunk was very easy to get a TPK if the GM didn't know what they were doing.
Honestly I dont know because that was my first and last time in Gamma world. So maybe that's to be expected of a new GM, maybe it was intentional.
 

Eacaraxe

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The DM in my Deathwatch game has openly said if she could think of a great story that leads to all of the players dying in a campaign, she'd love to do it. As if that's something players want. As if not playing the game is why players joined a game. I don't get why DM's think so long as the campaign is good enough, inevitable player deaths are okay. People didn't clear schedules, set aside time, learn rules, create characters, create accounts on Roll20 or whatever and sit down with 6 other people just to die and stop playing, but hey, at least it was fun while it lasted.
In my Star Wars RPG game, when it came to larger-scale battles, campaigns, and engagements, I introduced an "NPC pool" rule where if a PC was incapacitated or simply wasn't in that battle at all, the player could pick up one of the NPC's from the spec ops group they were all in or a generic NPC depending on circumstances. You'd think players wouldn't necessarily be happy not playing their PC's, but my players actually ended up liking it because they could see battles from other characters' perspectives, do stupid badass shit they wouldn't do with their actual PC's, and -- most important -- make decisions true to their characters which necessarily involved party separation without weakening the overall group or keeping players out of the fun.

The latter was something I heavily incentivized, as any NPC who distinguished themselves that way would likely be noticed and end up being invited to join the mission group. In other words, the player was allowed to name and create a backstory for that NPC, buy up some stuff of their choice with character points, and that character would become a regular NPC.

There were even some moments where I had to take positive action to curb players' decisions to draw from the NPC pool, or encouraged it, depending on circumstance. A couple times, the choice was "well, you can play your pilot PC and make a bunch of piloting rolls while your character flies CAS for the planetary assault...or...you can play a freaking Mandalorian participating in an organized jetpack-assisted aerial insertion, all Old Republic style". No matter how much you may love your PC, that decision's pretty easy.

[Yes, I memorized the words and beat of Dha Werda Verda for that scene. Scared the dogshit out of my players when I built up to a quiet and tense scene at the start of the assault, and my players expected some kind of "motivational leader speech" only for me to start slamming my fists down on the table, against my chest, and stomping my feet while shouting a war chant at the top of my lungs.

Two of my players -- one who made a second, Mandalorian, character after his first's story arc was complete, and another who went to the campaign-long exceptional effort to become one -- took to the habit of reciting it, Ka'rta Tor, and Vode An when they went into battle.]
 
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Schadrach

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I'd love to have a player that keeps track of what NPCs say like you do, that's supposed to help keep things consistent, and to help keep the DM's shit together. Sounds to me like your DM just wants to nonsense their way through everything. Which is a shame, cause the storytelling is supposed to be one of the best parts (And is something I value extremely highly as a DM personally)
Just so long that they are aware that NPCs are not omniscient, not necessarily honest, and often unreliable narrators of their own stories.

If GMs want to kill off PCs in job lots they need to dig out Paranoia and run with that.
The only system where "We need you to repaint hallway Alpha-102-3417 with the paint from storeroom B107." can become an epic adventure, because entering the blue hallway and touching the green paint are both overtly treasonous activities for your Red class Troubleshooters.

I prefer doing my own thing, every time I've run a module I've ended up ignoring most of the content in it and making up my own stuff anyways, so I know me and modules don't mesh, but then again even when I write my own thing I ignore most of it and improvise the vast majority of what I run.
I've stolen bits and pieces from modules before - individual encounters, scenarios or structures that sounded interesting. But I don't like running prewritten modules outright. Maybe if it's like converting an old, old module that was a meat grinder because I need some final challenge to culminate a campaign or something (I've thought about converting S6 Labyrinth of Madness as a final hurrah for a campaign before).

I introduced an "NPC pool" rule where if a PC was incapacitated or simply wasn't in that battle at all, the player could pick up one of the NPC's from the spec ops group they were all in or a generic NPC depending on circumstances.
There's a system called Tremulus that is essentially Call of Cthulhu using Apocalypse World rules that does something like this as a core mechanic. Character sheets are a booklet that prints on 8.5 x 11 paper, character creation can be completed in under 5 minutes, there's supposed to be a selection of booklets at the center of the table, and the whole expectation is that someone is going to lose a character during any given session and when that happens they can just grab another booklet out of the pile and roll a new one quickly. When you run out of booklets, you run out of available people that are remotely willing to take part in the adventure, probably for their own good.
 

Kae

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I've stolen bits and pieces from modules before - individual encounters, scenarios or structures that sounded interesting. But I don't like running prewritten modules outright. Maybe if it's like converting an old, old module that was a meat grinder because I need some final challenge to culminate a campaign or something (I've thought about converting S6 Labyrinth of Madness as a final hurrah for a campaign before).
That's great, pretty close to my approach to GM-ing, I basically just design or steal random encounters, NPCs, lore bits and just dish them out whenever I feel it's appropriate if I don't have enough creative juices to make something up on the spot, that way I can keep the game going regardless of my current mental state, and I can adapt to how the players are reacting to the story, particularly hearing them craft theories of what's going on and stealing bits and pieces of their theories and incorporating them into the campaign in an effort to sell them the idea that there's some grand plan or mystery they are discovering.

Just do whatever works for you though.