"Black Dougal gasps 'Poison!' and falls to the floor. He looks dead."

Saturday, June 6, 2009

Possible DM Lessons from the Northern Marches

After considering the feedback from players and the comments in the previous post here are a few lessons that I will try to implement:

1) More treasure. I made a post HERE that I knew I was being too stingy with the loot. This may have fed unwittingly into the issue where the party was unwilling to hire retainers or spend money to gather information.

2) Have explicit out of game discussions about philosophy and design instead of have these things discovered in game. I'm still not too sure about this one. I learned how to play B/X D&D without such hand holding. In fact, some of the most memorable sessions were the ones where lessons were learned. But if it is what it takes to get players to learn and appreciate B/X then okay. [EDIT: Not that this is tough to get anyway with this blog which is linked on the campaign website which also contains a bunch of stuff]

3) One thing I have been considering is inserting an NPC party that can play the role of competition and foil. The characters can then see the NPCs hire retainers, buy drinks for sailors, etc. I am still not 100% sure on this one. Does it take away from the party's sense of accomplishment?

Things I am not going to do:
1) Reduce the danger level. The encounters in the Northern Marches have been by-the-book in terms of difficulty and I even took it easy on the party tactically a couple of times.

2) Change my underlying philosophy about B/X and my "gameist" preferences.

Are there any other suggestions? Any comments?


  1. I think the NPC can help them along the way and then fade in importance in that role as the players get the hang of it.

    Yes, loot is an important aspect I too have chinced on a bit, with much the same result. That is no longer the issue, but I can see how it may negatively affect your group.

    Glad to see you aren't backing down on 1). Danger.

    Keep us posted?


  2. No need to sell down the danger level: B/X isn't WFRP after all!

    I agree that I think play of the game pretty much informs play, but the reason why discussion may be appropriate is the paradigm shift needed for "veteran role-players." They already have expectations of what D&D "should be" based on their previous experiences. For complete newbies, I'd think this discussion unnecessary.

    BTW: your blog (and Grognardia) have largely inspired me to start-up my own "old school" blog. Thanks for the inspiration!

  3. Re: #2, I'm not sure if you were in the same boat as was I, but when I "learned" Dungeons and Dragons, we were ALL learning Dungeons and Dragons. Including the DM. There's a big difference there...

    In your situation, you're quite likely the expert amongst your group. You're the "shepard", the "maestro", etc. As soon as they get the hang of it, they'll either take to it like ducks to water, or they won't.

    When you and I learned D&D we didn't need hand holding, because there wasn't anyone around to hold our hands. ;-) You're coming at the game w/ decades of experience and preconceptions under your belt.