Sean's Epiphany - Wait. How am I going to do this?

I couldn’t make it to Evercon this weekend. Weather got shitty. But that allowed me to game with my long-time game group. You know, the one with Jeff. We’re still going through Tomb of Annihilation.

As I was running the group through this crazy prepublished module, it dawned on me. There are a lot of things that we do as GM’s that we really need to think about on the fly and have it make sense. Now you may be saying “uh, duh, Sean…you should already know this.” But here’s the thing. Everyone knows I run prepublished stuff, but even those robust description and rules of a game trips up GM’s - beginner or advanced. The latter may just have a quicker way to devise a mini-system to make an encounter work. How many GMs get to an encounter and say “oh shit, how am i going to do this?”

I’ll give you an example.

You enter a room. There’s an object that triggers a trap. Say, it’s “if a pc picks up a goblet off the altar it triggers this trap.” No problem. Pretty easy. Either someone detects it and then disables it, foregoes it, or triggers it.

Say it’s triggered. There are 10 secret doors that now open and release 10 beasties into the room. The room is a bit more robust, a teleportation mechanism moves the character into a space without another pc. You have teleportation spot, and once teleported, THAT pc then figures out how to teleport back into the room. So you have PC’s appearing and disappearing, while some are not, and the 10 beasties going after whomever they can.

But how do you as a GM manage this? Do you have all 10 swarm one person. Is that fair? Beasties have, I think, 4-6 INT, so they’re not that bright. I’m also doing this all theater of the mind, while pointing on a small grid/map “this is where this is, this is where this is.” I came up with an approach, as we do, but how many would stumped. The environment is laid out well, but how to handle all the moving pieces was not.

I realize this does not provide all the details without actually copy/paste the entire details of the room that take up one, 2 column, page.

I was thinking of doing a video of this encounter and then narrating how I tackled it. I think THESE situations are what could make GM’ing easier or more approachable to those that have a difficult time devising how to best run these encounters.



This falls under “No plan survives contact with the enemy” . Having a good plan is very helpful, but no GM or module can plan for everything. As someone who has run published modules a lot, I can say the author can help with ideals and possibilities but will never be able to cover it all. Now that I have stated the obvious. I feel this is the skill that a GM develops over time while both playing and GMing. There are so many variables, from players to player character abilities and skills, to GM’s and their experiences. I feel having “ALL” the information ahead of time only gets someone so far and no one know how something will go until they get into it.
It can also cause some GM’s to have a flexibility issue if they are set in how this must go.


Yeah, I wish I could really explain this better. It’s not so much everything going amuck, but applying a systematic, while pragmatic, approach to running an encounter. I think this is where educating, especially newer GM’s, gains value.

I think I’m going to sit down and see if I can reenact the encounter and explain how I tackled it and why i did it the way I did it.

I think the standard GM’ing stuff can be learned quite easily, but it’s these “shit, how am I going to do this” without the players either losing their minds because you’re not making any sense or they sit stupified because you don’t have a grasp of the encounter.

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I may not be tracking exactly what you’re getting at, but the scenario I think you’re describing, if there’s just a random mosh pit of players in and out, confused monsters with animal intelligence, I tend to roll a die and see who they attack unless specifically engaged.

I agree with you, there really isn’t a perfect answer, my answer is keep things moving so no one notices I have no idea what I’m doing.

I seriously want to do a video explaining this specific encounter. Then show exactly what I did to run it and why. While it may be madness, there is a method.


I’m not sure I’m following either, but I’ll stab at it: I don’t tend to use prepublished modules anymore, but I definitely have found myself in a situation where either through rolls or clever/choatic players, suddenly one character is facing a bunch of creatures that I planned to have for a group. In that case, I either base it off the creature’s “intelligence” vs. the character’s “show” (coupled with clever player response - anyone who has played with me knows I love to reward players for coming up with things I didn’t foresee). It’s kinda like Brett’s comment (in a show long ago): the monsters run the f*ck away. If they are low-intelligence, not-rage-filled, and the single character does something to be intimidating, creatures will probably run away. Or, I may roll intelligence for them to find a new target if their current target disappears. If for some reason they must attack, then it’s a roll to see where they go, barring a character specifically engaging them as @LaramieWall said.

I’d love to see your video @sean.

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I hate to follow a theme, but I, too, think, but am far from sure, that I understand what you are getting at.

I’m picking up lots of monsters, multiple entrances for said monsters to come in, multiple PC targets, and determining the proper course of action for said monsters.

When it comes to randomized decisions from creatures that wouldn’t have a detailed reasoning process, I really love games that give me a luck stat, like DCC or Call of Cthulhu.

Playing off @MelissaofGaia, I LOVE when systems have/ GMs use, good morale systems. I use the HackMaster one all the time, and it’s fantastic. No one, or animal, really WANTS to fight to the death.

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Just last week in my AD&D2E game, (don’t edition slap me this game has been running for 29 years), they landed on an island to finally track down the 1/2 Drow Princess when they saw she had amassed a stiff defence. About 75 undead ranging from zombies to Death Knights arrayed in front of Orcus. Keep in mind these characters are very high level characters. They made an all out attack on Orcus, he didn’t risk being banned from the plane, so when they knocked him back, he decided to exit stage left to his own plane and chaos in the ranks of the undead ensued. They lost all direction, I had them randomly attack the nearest living creature, decimating the Princess’ troops and allowing them to force her to retreat with her Illithid inner circle to the basement of the ruined church, and time ran out…
In their last encounter they rescued a captured young silver dragon from her dungeon, so they rescued a dragon from a princess…Rimshot…

The next episode of the podcast may flesh this out a bit.

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