Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Giving Clues As A GM

Reflecting more on our campaign session of this past Friday, there were definitely several clues and hints to the workings of that area of the Troublesome Tunnels that were missed. But none of the clues missed were a show stopper; it definitely added some confusion to the proceedings, but it also added an air of mystery to exactly what was going on with the chamber, the statue, and the cairn.

I think that’s the way clues need to be. If you get them, great—they should be illuminating and rewarding. If you don’t, they shouldn’t be a show stopper. No single missed clue in a campaign should be a total show-stopper. In other words, you shouldn’t make any one clue a fail point; build redundancy into those circuits! As a Game Master, when designing your dungeon, you have to remember that it’s very likely that not everyone encountering your scenario is going to be on the same wavelength you were when you wrote it—and the more intricate and obscure your clues, the more likely this is to be true. Missed clues should frustrate, obfuscate, and perhaps deny certain rewards or avenues, but they should not kill a campaign on their own.


Bonemaster said...

I think this is why I don't think I've run a successful mystery session. It's hard to give players clues. Either they are too hard or way too obvious. If they are too hard, players will of course try to skill roll out of it. If too easy, players will be bored.

Mike said...

A way out of that, though, is to lean towards "too easy" ... but make them so multiple clues are needed to move on to the next step of the adventure.

With just one clue, the players should know it's important, but not have enough information to make use of it. The second clue pushes them closer (and if they're really clever, it might be enough). Clues 3 & 4 should have everything making sense for the players.

Like Zachary, I try to avoid choke points where the adventure lives or dies by the players figuring out certain clues. If they figure them out, it makes the adventure easier; if not, it's just a little harder. But nothing is solely possible/impossible based on how players interpret a clue (particularly since my players often interpret clues in ways far more interesting and differently than I intended!).

Zachary The First said...

@Mike: Just so.

@Bonemaster: Mysteries can be tough to run. It's a fine balance.

Marcelo Paschoalin said...

An advice I've read once became one of my bookmarked webpages: http://www.thealexandrian.net/creations/misc/three-clue-rule.html
I think it's one of the best DM advices I've read so far.

The Rusty Battle Axe said...

Thanks for the post.

@Mike & Marcelo: Excellent advice.

A Paladin In Citadel said...

As the little fellow from Gambo might say: "first you tells 'em what your gonna tell 'em, then you tells 'em, then you tells 'em what you told 'em"