DM Diary: Once more in to the mine

Our little Dungeons and Dragons group got together again this weekend for another action packed adventure. We are still pushing forward with The Mines of Phandelver and managed to flush out the Redbrand Bandit leaving the town safe for now against the local chavs. I like to think of Phandelver as a nicer Luton, you know since the murder rate is probably lower.

In this game we had some fun with animal masks and hand signalled role play. We have never taken DnD too seriously, after all we are here for fun not to read the rules in silence and sacrifice goats to the dice god.

After learning about the location of the Redbrand brothers hideout from the farmers son Carp, our adventurers took their pain-train over to the sleeping giants tap house to see if they could gather any more information from the regulars. This cause of action led to a fight between some lingering Redbrand. After a little scuffle and some head crushing the group learned more information about the local annoyance.

This scenario played out well, we stepped away from the grid system and acted out the scenario in our heads.

This scenario played out well, we stepped away from the grid system and acted out the scenario in our heads. It wasn’t completely void of a pen and paper, some loose diagrams where drawn about where everyone was but nothing to formal. This lead to the group engaging more with their imagination leading to a much more intresting encounter than your standard grid based battle.

With all this information the group decided to take the secret entrance into the hideout and see if they could convince the locals that they were the newest members of the Redbrand after stealing the clothes off the men they had just beaten.


After a few encounters they where left having to convince 3 Redbrand they where part of the crew and the bard convinced them that he was the entertainment. The other members not in disguise had to convince them that they where in-fact the a band accompanying the bard – allot of charisma checks in coming.

This lead to a “The Voice” scenario and although they managed to convince WILLIAM that they were part of his cyber revolution things soon became unraveled. After a few failed charisma checks our merry group of singers became the butchers of Redbrand manor. Although the law abiding members of the group decided to spare some of the younger Redbrand members in exchange for information, this did not hold up with the more morally challenged and so some necks where left open after other members of the group had left.

Its become obvious now that the team is split on its morals and this will likely become a bigger theme later on when instead of it becoming something done out of sight the options will be laid bare in front of them.

The general theme of our encounters so far had been loose, based on what we all accepted as the situation and so ideas flowed and fights ended quickly. We did however act out the final fight with the mage running the Redbrand which unfortunately worked out to be less epic. None of my spell where particularly powerful and at no point did the party feel under any strain. It also didn’t help that I had 6 players rolling an action before a spell could be used. Future boss fights will need to be faster passed and make the party feel like they are in very real danger, unfortunately the end of this dungeon kinda failed.

Despite smashing our way through the Brotherhoods hideout we found ourselves at another pause. I managed to outline what the group has been up to and what the group needs to do in the future and hopefully will lead the game into a more linear experience in the next episode. This will require some skewing of the campaign content, although I will be taking away some sandbox aspect of the game and narrowing the options this is what was expressed to me by the players – more a straight line, than a squiggle.

This idea of narrowing the options is good for me as a DM. My main problems lye in remembering all the details of each individual encounter and with the option for the players to go anywhere or do anything my ability to be prepared for the encounter goes out the window. Unless I sit down and religiously read through the whole campaign until I know everything about everyone and I can channel Carp in away that makes the players believe that i am an adolescent troublemaker.


So why is everyone wearing an animal mask?. Well in order to bring some more hilarity to a game full of infanticide I decided to bring in a new game mechanic.

Rules are as follows:

  • Role a natural 1 – Pick a mask to wear for 5 mins
  • Role a natural 20 – Pick someone to wear a mask for 5 mins

…..its just a giant shit storm of arm waving

When your in the mask you cannot speak instead you have to action out what you want your character to do through the timeless are of mime. This leads to all sort of fun and opens up a giant can of “WTF is going on”. If you manage to get more than one mask in play; well its just a giant shit storm of arm waving.

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Things you quickly pick up being a new DM

Another Sunday, another month and another game of DnD.

Our little group of novice DnD players are busy killing and pillaging every NPC they can find, along with sweet talking and killing anyone which looks like they might hold something of value. Not to mention all the skin eating… so much skin eating. Its not normal and that’s why planing for these things is proving more and more challenging. So “winging” it seems to be a better strategy.

You have no idea what your walking into

Im not talking about the players, they seem happy falling into all sorts of situations and coming up with some rather unique plans to solve what seems to be a straight forward situation. I have to admit I’m impressed, which makes it even more difficult to DM a game.

How do you plan for 5 people imaginations?

Its a bit like herding ducks on drugs, with morning-stars. Some go where you want and some dress up as the opposite sex and try to “brute force” charisma role their way into an enemy compound. It’s allot of fun but difficult to plan, I mean how do you plan for 5 people imaginations. Simply put you can’t. Saying no isn’t productive and should mostly be avoided.

People coming up with random shit and wanting to do it is part of the game and doesn’t always fit into your beloved dungeon plan. So when it comes to planning: notes and ideas are best loosely worked out, then on the day use your imagination and a few charts to help you best judge how to handle the situation.


Sometimes your party is eager to get hold of the latest orc bustin longsword and forgets what they are actually here todo. Gentle reminders work at first but sometimes you have to be blunt: “You are trying to do this, maybe you should ask around town about how best to achieve this”.

When you need to get the game back on track try not to limit the options. What this means is taking the players ideas and joining them back up to the intended goal. This requires you to stay one step ahead of your adventuring mob and the out come of what they want to do should in someway bring them back to the main quest.

Keep the game going

If your party is taking too long to get something done, solve the problem for them and move on as quickly as possible. Having the players re-enact an EU discussion on immigration over a small issue is both boring and time consuming. So just end it, kill it, move on.

What can I plan?

Plan out the goals, plan out the location, plan out key NPC and of cause plan out all the hows, whys and what nots of the scenario. Why are you hear, what are you going to accomplish, why can’t I just murder this guy straight-up and steal the quest reward, then go on a bloody murder spree where I collect NPC ears.

We are currently working our way through Lost Mine of Phandelver. It’s a fun little adventure which is showing us the basics of how the game works and how to guide a group through. Unfortunately its not really holding up against my players imagination and general dis-regard for human decency, so I’ve had to take a new approach of using the game as a loose guide to try and direct everyone to the end result.

Will see how it all works out over the next few months, but this way of playing is proving both challenging and fun.

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