Ask a Question

Answers to Life, the Universe and Roleplaying
(New blogs every TUESDAY [probably] until I get a steady supply of questions.  I may occasionally post twice a week.)

Welcome to Ask the Dungeon Master!  As the Dungeon Master, I am an authority on all things in life.  I have been a DM for over fifteen years, and the trials and tribulations faced throughout my campaigns have gifted me with insights that extend well beyond the mundane physical world.

I welcome questions on nearly every topic: relationships, the universe, or the mating habits of the honey badger, but for obvious reasons, what I know best is all things Geek.  In regard to all questions on roleplaying, I would prefer to avoid topics such as rule interpretation and the details of game mechanics, mostly because there exist a hundred other blogs and forums just for that purpose.

I would prefer questions seeking advice on actual ROLEplaying; whether you’re a Dungeon Master trying to learn how to be the best DM you can be, or a player with a really irritating Dungeon Master, I have the answers you seek!

In order to submit a letter, please e-mail your questions to dungeonmastermind@gmail.com, or you can Tweet me a question @AsktheDM. And make sure to review the disclaimer below.

You can see me in action in One Die Short.

Advice Column Disclaimer

By submitting a letter to this blog, you grant Ask the Dungeon Master, Matt Forcella, and all affiliated websites, including One Die Short, permission to publish it on this site or elsewhere including print publications. Your full name and email address will never be included or distributed.  There is no guarantee that a question will be responded to, and we reserve the right to edit letters for clarity (we won’t make you say anything you didn’t say or sound stupid, I promise).

The Dungeon Master offers his opinions on a variety of subjects. He is expressing personal and professional opinions and views. These opinions or views are not intended to treat or diagnose.  Matt Forcella,  Ask the Dungeon Master and One Die Short are not responsible for the outcome or results of following the Dungeon Master’s advice in any given situation. You are completely responsible for your actions and neither Matt Forcella, Ask the Dungeon Master, or One Die Short has any liability for any situation in your life past, present or future.

If you screw up, it’s your own fault.  Never slap your Dungeon Master.

23 Responses to Ask a Question

  1. LUC says:

    I’m a somewhat experienced GM and player (about nine years all together) of different systems. I’ve run quick zombie apocalypse one-offs to epic lvls5-30 campaigns but there has always been a single BBEG or hordes of minion-type baddies.
    Something I’ve always wanted to run is a mid-range, high fantasy campaign where there is an antagonist party working toward an equal but opposite goal than the heroes, but the roadblock I’m having comes in the form of balance and encounter issues. I’m not quite sure how to broach the player:npc party gap or how to run encounters with the antagonist party without the characters becoming stale or obvious (players don’t know they’re bad guys until mid to late-game).
    Any advice or recommendations would be greatly appreciated!

  2. Wonder says:

    Me and another player have a good rule knowledge while the GM instead have many gaps and misuse his monsters special qualities. I try to keep my mouth shut about rules to let the game flow but often the GM answers with “i don’t know” to questions like “is that a spell? Can i try to dispel it ?” and we end up with a lot of book reading and the session slow down to death.
    How can i help my gm and the party to have better role play and avoid book dipping ?

    During our last game session, for a mistake, he made a spell impossible to surpass for us, locking everybody in place and when he realized the monster was about to kill me he suddenly failed all the dice rolls in order to save me … that’s a bit frustrating

  3. atomskhowl says:

    I have a RP problem. My character earlier on in the campaign killed a baby troll. This did not sit well with the monk in our group and ever since we have been at odds. The only character that stood up for me while everyone else took a step back from the situation was killed by a rock trap and bad dice rolls. I have tried all that I could think of to help him get past it. Also, he has been walking that thin line between good and bad ever since. What can I do? Also the player and I are cool it’s just RP.

  4. Trevor says:

    I’m trying to get a 2nd edition game going, but the combat rules of this edition seem very nonspecific. My main question is how far can a character move in a round? And how much space is represented by the squares on the battle map (important for area of effect spells)?

    • Well, it’s been a long time since I played 2nd edition, but let me see what I recall. The base movement for a character was 12 feet I believe, which was how far they could move in a round (10 seconds). Now, keep in mind the rules of 1st and 2nd edition were often nonspecific and vague and sometimes this made things feel convoluted. From my perspective it was great, because it meant the DMs had more room to play. As for squares on battle maps, most people playing 2nd edition AD&D didn’t have battle maps. Battle maps were a thing of war games, not RPGs at that point. Players were meant to use their imaginations, which meant the DM really had to be a good storyteller. If you’re using a battle map, make the squares whatever works for you: 1 foot, 3 feet, whatever. My suggestion though: do it the way we did when I was 12 and toss the battle map out the window.

  5. michael says:

    would like to ask, i have 2 people in my group who have a similar ability, we never strictly defined exact stats for it, but the question arose, who’s ability was more powerful, id like to have them roll for it, what dice should they roll to make it fair.

    • Not sure if I understand the question. Do you want them to roll randomly, as in whoever rolls highest has the more powerful power? Because in that case it would make no difference what dice were rolled so long as they were both rolling the same dice. If you’re asking something else, I need more clarification.

    • Kiana says:

      Suipnrsirgly well-written and informative for a free online article.

  6. Dear DM,

    Recently found your blog, thought it would be spiffing to ask something.
    What are your opinions on GURPS? Ever Played? How does it compare to D&D

    May the dice be ever in your favour,
    Arthur

    • Trevor says:

      It’s fun. Gurps can be adapted to any setting. Its strength is having a rule for everything, however it can get a bit complicated. I recommend it big time.

    • Thanks Trevor, I guess I missed this post. I have to say I’ve never played GURPS, but have been wanting to for some time. I’m not sure how I feel about a rule for everything, but I’ll give it a shot…

  7. Nich - Jr. DM says:

    Dear Dungeon Master,

    I have had a game running for a few months, lots of fun and I am wondering which would be the best way to kill my players off? (as they are too overpowered)

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  9. Paul says:

    I know I’m a bit late to this conversation, but wanted to add my 2 coppers anyhow.

    As much as I like 4E and I ran a campaign from 1-30 recently, I would not recommend it for a large group 7-8 players, so I have to stay that Firesickle did right by keeping with the previous edition to run the large group through. Large groups are harder to to I find, things get bogged down in combat, people talk at the table too much, and there are just too many distractions going on to really “get into” the game.

    The advice I have for the DM running such a large group is not to hold back all the time, it’s not culling if you are challenging the group. I always like to mix up my encounters, give players a chance to shine one week and throw some easy stuff at them, then the next session give them a bigger challenge. If you kill off some of them it might even make things more interesting for the whole group and get then to really invest in the game sitting on the edge of their seats waiting to roll that 20.

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  11. firesickle says:

    Dear DM,

    I was recently invited to run a D&D game for a group of friends who have been playing together for a couple years. I am acquainted with everyone, but I was not really a part of the group (I played for a bit but didn’t like the DM they had and I peacefully left). Now that I am running the whole group turns out for each session and I am struggling with making the game challenging for the 7 or 8 players in their group. I wouldn’t feel right “culling the herd” on them since they have been playing together for so long.

    While we do plenty of role playing and story based quests, I try to squeeze a combat in every session. I’d like these to be challenging, but I am finding it very hard to balance. More often than not, the combat is either very very easy or I have to fudge a couple rolls to keep from killing the whole party off at the end. (On either extreme end). The players seem to be having a lot of fun, and I am too, but I was hoping you might have some tips on running D&D for a large group of players.

    (I’m running 3.5e D&D – Call me old fashioned, a few hundred dollars into buying 4e books, I just didn’t care for that system…)

    Thank you,
    Sean

    • Ask the DM says:

      Great question! This is a problem I am all too familiar with, and I will certainly take a stab at it next Tuesday! Thanks for reading (and asking!).

      The DM

  12. Dr. Mookenstein M.D. says:

    Could you tell me anything about the breeding habits of orcs? Are there more than one species? Do they interbreed? I think I saw an orc having sex with my dog the other day. What’s up with that?

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