It’s the next installment of Dear DM! Enjoy, and don’t forget to post more questions below!
@Alan: Dear DM,
While I don’t play much D&D, having a stealthy character similar to a rogue is useful in a lot of systems, however, since a large part of the character concept of this kind of character is stealing stuff, there comes a point at which they will probably get caught by local authorities.
I am not too fond of having lazy guards, or prisons which are easily escapable, unless it is reasonable to do so. this kind of activity would tend to have a large impact on the party activity.
So how do you keep a rogue (With or without mascara) interested, but not imprisoned / outlawed / bounty hunted – unless this would make an interesting side quest.
Also, how would you resolve issues where a character steals from other PCs?
Also, how do you fit an evil character into a (Mostly) good campaign – for example, if a D&D rogue wanted to be an assassin?
The first part of your question is really easy. If your roguey player takes any precautions at all against getting caught, let them work. If he doesn’t, ask him if he’s sure he doesn’t want to, and then let him get caught. The next time he steals something, ask him exactly the same question, with exactly the same results. I promise this will work. Training players is pretty much the same as training dogs. Consistency counts.
As for players who steal from other players, I have only one role-play-restrictive rule in my games, and this is it. If you act against the other player characters, you are an NPC. Give me your sheet and roll up another. (You need to make sure that everyone knows this ahead of time and understands what it means, and make sure that the player knows that they are about to violate the rule before they actually do.)
Evil characters can fit fine into good campaigns if they’re handled with understanding. An evil person can have friends that he is loyal and kind towards, and good people need not inflict their morals on everyone around them. Have you ever had a friend you trusted never to let you come to harm, but you wouldn’t leave alone in your home? In my opinion, alignments can really be pretty much ignored in D&D, as long as the player can come up with their own version of the character’s basic moral compass. An evil character may be the loner or the black sheep in a good group, but he can also be the guy they rely on to take care of the things no one else wants to get their hands dirty with. Your biggest hurdle will be “good” players who think they need to oppress others with their worldview. Decide for yourself if you think that really represents the kind of “good” you want in your game.
@Joe: Dear DM, How do you encourage cooperative playing in the group? Many players don’t realize that it is partially their role to go along with the story line to keep the quest progressing and the plot developing. All too often they are focused on reaping XP and lewt rather than tracking down that villian you have set up. Truth be told, in most games I have played if I was the villain I would have taken over the world just by distracting the would be heros with shinies and damsels in distress.
You have lots of great options here. A good one is presenting the players with bad guys who work cooperatively and kick their butt. Another is actually allowing the main villains to really win, as long as you can drive home the fact that it was because they were disorganized. (Then maybe allowing the players a last-ditch second chance to pull their shit together and win.)
It is possible that you are in a two-game scenario, which is a little more difficult to deal with. That is, you and players are trying to play two different games. You are playing a deep, story-driven, emotional game with real choices and real consequences, and they are playing Whack-a-Mole. In this circumstance the easiest thing to do is give in and give ’em what they want. If you’re miserable, tell them, and if they don’t care, get a new group. Giving in however isn’t all bad, it’s really just a matter of resetting your expectations for the game.
Many DMs handle this by having “fight-nights” and “role-play nights”. Don’t give the players a chance to fight anything, instead make them deal with the annoying sister who is trying to set them up on a date with her new boyfriend’s best friend… and see what happens. Players also respond well when you give them things, so give them property and let them work up how they want to allocate resources and serfs and such. They’ll be busy all night without a fight in sight.
As far as forcing players to play your game the way you want it to be played… my experience is that this is a losing (and alienating) battle. My best advice, talk to your players about what they want in a game, and have a vote.
@Dave: Dear DM, is there any way to run a solo campaign in 4e without having my player or myself run extra characters? Any suggestions for solo campaigns to run? Thanks.
Super easy. Fewer/ weenier bad guys. Use lots of minions. Allow plenty of theatric play from your player, and let him or her play with as many zany ideas as they can come up with. Put plenty of healing potions in the treasure, or a cheap alchemist next door to the character’s favorite inn. I am not aware of any pre-published solo adventures, but I imagine that making up games for one player would have to be easier than making up games for six.
On a related note…
@Fletcher: Dear DM, In your experience, at what point does the size of a gaming group max out? Six? Eight? Thirteen?
I have run thirteen people at once, (coincidentally) and while it was great fun, I wouldn’t want to do it weekly. My current group is six, but I think my favorite size is five. (Players, not including myself.) I think I would not enjoy seven or more as much, so I guess my answer is six. Of course this depends dramatically on the players in question. Sometimes one is too many, and sometimes eight is just fine.
@Gary: Dear DM, what is the difference between a “GM” and a “DM”?
In case anyone out there doesn’t actually know this already, “DM” stand for “Dungeon Master”, is a copy written title, and can only be used with D&D and related materials. “GM” stands for “Game Master” and is used by everyone else.)
@Orald: Dear DM, I’ve been trying to convince my DM that in a medieval society no one (including the authorities) would really care investigate the murder of poor, powerless individuals and that their souls would usually rather go to the afterlife than haunt the killers (or else ghosts would be as common as there are dead in all the battles and murders), and that I should be allowed to kill the occasional whore, begger or farmer in secret without the authorities, relatives or ghosts trying to track me down. After all, bandits kill dozens of people, and they’re never haunted by their spirits, and the authorities only care because they do so openly and damage the commerce. So what do you think?
I think that “real” medieval life is more or less completely irrelevant to whatever your DM says, as is the behavior of “real” ghosts vis-a-vis mass-murdering bandits. However, in point of fact murder was taken as seriously as was practical in medieval Europe. Police science was pretty mush nonexistent, but most any noble had a seriously vested interest in pursuing major crimes on his lands. After all, the basic contract between lord and serf was that the serf obeyed the lord in exchange for food and SAFETY. The penalty for non-noble on non-noble terminal violence was still death, and nobles could be fined, have bits chopped off, or even have their lands stripped away.
Plus, bandits are TOTALLY haunted by the ghosts of their murdered victims.