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WindStrike is a crazy DM - Printable Version

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WindStrike is a crazy DM - WindStrike - 02-10-2014

So I probably shouldn't say this, but... my DMing style involves a crap ton of "making stuff up on the spot". Normally, one would see this as me not being prepared, however... I do come prepared. Instead of writing a super planned out story for players, I do the following ahead of time:
  • Enemies
  • NPCs
  • Some setting related stuff
  • General plot ideas
  • Some experimental stuff that I wanna try out
  • The path of the story
Heck, half of the time, I don't even have the enemies and NPCs fully written until the end of the quest. In a dungeon, I think of a map at the start, and when players only end up exploring a part of it, I change the map in my head mid-way through and change it to fit the flow the players are going with.

The way I do things is to constantly improvise. Screw plans, they're going to be ruined. For most people, it's a glorious thing when a plan comes together, but a more devastating loss when it goes down the drain. I've personally experienced this in life all the frigin' time. So instead of having to deal with the trauma that comes with plans, my DMing style steers towards "having a bunch of plans, but only going with them if the players go towards them". In other words, when things go awry, I don't stop the players on the pure basis of "it's ruined my plans for the quest". I just go with it, and you know what? It flows so much better, it feels more natural, and the players feel like they've got control over the quest's direction.

Back when ZURPG first started (or going even further back, when I ran ZCURPG), I was a stiff DM. I tried going with plans, I tried writing quest introductions, dealing with travel time, open world, random places, and just... overall, looking back at it now... I'd say those quests only lived because of the players, their actions and attempts to cope with the rather immobile path of the quest, and the battle system.

Something else that aided me in not doing well was that I constantly slept through sessions I was supposed to DM. After it went on for a bit, ZURPG went on hold for half a year, and then I tried a random quest out of nowhere, but that was interrupted by life as well.

Then April 2013 happened. After various life stuff, I decided, for whatever reason, to put my all into this game. Prior to that point, I'd been thinking of ways to better the game, but I never literally put my life into working on or towards it. And when I started putting my all into the game, suddenly, the game evolved - more items, enemies, shops, story, lore, players, locations, etc. While it wasn't "ground-breaking", it suddenly had life, and it didn't stop.

It then occurred to me that although the quality of the game itself was improving, the DMing needed to improve with it. So what did I start doing? I started experimenting and trying new things out.
  • Deviating from a "set path" and going for choices.
    • Attack on Death Mountain started this, evolved further with the Termina quests.
  • Dungeon gimmicks
    • Spirit Gems for Dampe's Grave
    • Tried it again later much more successfully with the Light Dungeon, as it also used mirrors.
  • Making up effects on the spot.
    • Kicked out of the window quests
    • ... expect another set of these in about a month.
  • Experimental boss designs that required thinking to get through it
    • The Into the Fountain quest, fighting that Oculus of Light and Shadow
    • ... expect more of these, and expect them to be just as crazy in design if not crazier.
  • Enemy synergy
    • Dampe's Grave and Ice Dungeon
    • This helped establish the mood for the quest at hand
  • Research
    • Has helped in the creation of storylines for...
      • Attack on Death Mountain
      • Raid on Gerudo Fortress
      • Dampe's Grave
        • I reiterate on this one, I researched quite a bit on this one, and to this day, I still regard this as the best quest ZURPG's had.
        • ... for now.
      • Ice Dungeons
      • Prelude
      • Sheikah Trials
      • The Final Shard
  • NPC interaction
    • Every single non-dungeon quest I've done
    • The dungeon quests had a little, but overall not much
  • Perspective
    • Looking at things through my shoes, the NPC's shoes, and the player's shoes. Made things much more clear.
    • In fact, as a DM, I learned to "play the NPCs, not control them". They felt much more natural.

So in the beginning, I didn't pride myself as anything. I knew I was a mediocre DM at best, but I never really tried to get better. When I did aim to get better and started putting life into this game, I still wasn't "good" per se, but I started improving, quite fast too. I told myself that I was getting better, but knew that I could still be better, and in fact, never forgot that. When it got down to 3-4 sessions a week, the workload was too much, and I couldn't handle it all, so then I ended up improving almost all of it.

Let's take a look at the quests that were almost completely improv'd:
  • Rayne's Present
    • Didn't even know what I wanted for this until 5 minutes before quest start. Then I decided... needed to blow up Fran.
  • Dampe's Grave
    • Yes, nearly the entirety of this was improv'd. I researched a lot, and I used that research... but the entire back story of Garunoff, the Sheikah of the past, Rokan, the Old Shadow Temple... with the exception of the prison cell section, all improv'd on the spot.
  • Light Dungeon
    • The story here was actually set in place. What was improv'd... was the dungeon gimmick of the spirit gems and the mirrors. Yes. I literally made all the puzzle-like elements of those on the spot, and theorized for the future.
  • To Saria Town
    • Wrote the enemies, and that's about it. Whole plot with the possessed villagers and guards, psh, screw plans. Especially with that group... too many crazy morally ambiguous folk to genuinely attempt to plan around.
  • Ice Dungeons
    • Believe it or not, I put more prep into the high level one, and the low level one came out better. I don't really know how. It just... happened that way.
    • High level one is still kinda up in the air.
  • Prelude
    • The story was actually written by Mizer, but about halfway into the introduction's exposition, I decided I would throw my own twist on it. The thugs and possessed guys were not part of Mizer's original idea for the quest.
  • Sheikah Trials
    • For those of you wondering about the Essence of Darkness' active skills...
      • It didn't have any. None. The room was collapsing on its own.
    • Any actions by the Essence of the Unseen were improv'd. Nothin' planned whatsoever. Expect more insanity in the final part of the quest.
  • Escort to Gerudo Valley
    • The epilogue was improv'd. Rest of it? ALL ACCORDING TO KEIKAKU.
      • Keikaku means plan.
  • The Final Shard
    • Oh please, I'm not gonna go through and write out the interiors of every abandoned building inside of a desolate and infested town. What is this, HD where that's actually true? Oh, and the diary's entries? Take a guess.
    • That second session was completely improv'd, save for the profiles. ^_^
  • Activate the volcanoes!
    • I don't even wanna know where this going. Good lord. I am afraid for dear life. Curse you Zebes and DoubleEx!
    • This quest is PROOF that plans never go according to keikaku!
  • Anything I do from now on

So for anyone wondering why HD is taking so long, it's because I'm designing it around my DMing style - improv. I'm currently doing lots of shop work, because I want there to be a lot more items and abilities overall. Not just for battles, but out of combat as well. The quest starts with a story in mind, but I don't count on that story's intended direction lasting longer than a session or two, especially not with some of the crazy players we've got.

There. I rambled. I babbled. I starting writing this with an idea in mind, but then deviated, and then deviated back on and off repeatedly. Think whatcha will of me. Just know this... while I don't constantly degrade myself saying "this isn't good enough, it needs to be better, time to rewrite it all", I strive to constantly improve, because I know it can be better. Expect more experimental stuff, and if my DMing ever stops doing crazy stuff or stops improving, someone slap me and remind me that my style is insanity incarnate. At this point, I can't call myself a "mediocre DM" either, because after seeing some other players try and struggle to DM, some more successful than others, it makes me realize how much it took to get to this point, and that I've learned what it takes and means to DM. People have told me I'm a good DM, so I'm just gonna accept it. I'm a good DM, and I'm gonna get better, and I ain't backin' down from it.

RE: WindStrike is a crazy DM - Sephiroth - 02-10-2014

(02-10-2014, 03:37 AM)WindStrike Wrote: Scissors I'm a good DM, and I'm gonna get better, and I ain't backin' down from it.

Yes. Yes you are. Keep up the awesome work, sir. Smile

RE: WindStrike is a crazy DM - Lightwulf - 02-11-2014

I'll have to agree that you're a good DM!

I'd try DM'ing myself if I had the time...

(02-10-2014, 03:37 AM)WindStrike Wrote: ...
  • The story was actually written by Mizer, but about halfway into the introduction's exposition, I decided I would throw my own twist on it. The thugs and possessed guys were not part of Mizer's original idea for the quest.

It was a cool twist, too! A good reason for me to not join the Hylian Guard. I had a feeling you were going to find a way for me to not want to join, but I didn't know until the last minute.

RE: WindStrike is a crazy DM - WindStrike - 02-11-2014

You could have joined if you wanted to still. But yes, that was sort of a deterrent.

RE: WindStrike is a crazy DM - WindStrike - 02-12-2014

There is something that I'm really not sure if it's a problem or not...

I feel obligated to throw in battles. Regularly. My justification is that ZURPG is ultimately a game, first and foremost, and therefore its experiences should reflect that. The game itself has a battle system with highly customizable profiles and abilities... but it's also a roleplaying game. As much emphasis as I put in my stories, I feel, for whatever reason, that if there's no battles for the players, they might feel the game is a little on the boring side. I honestly do not know what the players feel. So, I guess my question is... should I continue doing this and finding natural ways to do so, or should I aim for something else?

RE: WindStrike is a crazy DM - Darte Fellshard - 02-12-2014

I feel that pacing should be balanced, but it may also depend on the group. If the party doesn't seem to interact much outside of combat, it may be likely that they're combat-driven. Likewise, if party activity flows out beyond combat, give a bit of flex room to let them explore, in a sense. Add more surrounding the combat. I for one think that while combat makes the game more satisfying, it needs to be balanced out with content, or it just feels like everything else is just an excuse to explain the combat, and that should never be the case. Either call it what it is (combat-centric) and nullify the bulk of the fluff, or call it what it is (combat-oriented, but still roleplaying) and give the characters other situations besides combat to work with.

RE: WindStrike is a crazy DM - Orithan - 02-12-2014

I would say give a little more emphasis in battles, but keep it balanced. As each session runs for 2.5-3.5 hours (with 4 being a more extreme scenario) and each battle typically eats up 40-60 minutes depending on the scenario, I would say we should have an average of 1-2 battles each session to balance it out with the roleplaying. Again, that depends on the context of the scenario - Obviously a quest in Hyrule Castle where you have to find a lost vase shouldn't have many battles unless something happens to the guards or something and an improv dungeon shouldn't have too much roleplaying unless it was built specifically for roleplaying.

RE: WindStrike is a crazy DM - Sephiroth - 02-12-2014

I kinda think you've been doing a great job, and to just continue with what you have been doing, Wind.

RE: WindStrike is a crazy DM - Lightwulf - 02-14-2014

Personally, I like the roleplaying part of it... but I get no EXP or rupees that way! Ya' gotta' throw in them battles or we's gets no income!!! Razz (or level advancement)

Seriously, though, I say ditto to what Sephiroth said. I think you're doing a great job, too! Smile

RE: WindStrike is a crazy DM - FireSeraphim - 10-28-2014

I think you're doing an excellent job to be honest. You deserve some recognition for your hard work with ZURPG and to be honest I think It will be quite some time yet before I can become good as you.