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Preparing for the Unexpected! (Game Master Tips)

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Come hither as Critical Role’s Matt Mercer tells you how to be a better GM / DM. Today’s episode shows you how to roll with the unexpected player choices! Catch these tips a week early on Vessel, and on GeekandSundry.com every Friday! For more on RPGs, go to http://bit.ly/GS_RPG Visit us on http://geekandsundry.com Subscribe to Geek and Sundry: http://goo.gl/B62jl Join our community at: http://geekandsundry.com/community Twitter: http://twitter.com/geekandsundry Facebook: http://facebook.com/geekandsundry Instagram: http://instagram.com/geekandsundry Google+: https://plus.google.com/+GeekandSundry/
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Text Comments (397)
Jessica Brown (7 days ago)
Okay, a player who plays an arcane trickster named Loki derailed my entire campaign by trying to kill Arkhan ..... yes, the Force Grey Arkhan.
The Cult of the Jim (23 days ago)
King sent us to kill vampires who took over the government of a neighboring nation. Third session, we got an idea to open up a brewery/brothel/bath/drug lab- main campaign derailed for a session to get the business up and running, it is now a central theme, and the DM has cut back severely on coins/jewels since we have an income. We met the resistance a couple sessions later, who wanted us to prove our worth. Instead of something rational, like disrupt the vampire lord's business, we went straight for steal his coffin. This accelerated the timetable we the players were planning on (we wanted to be more established with the politics to make the city of Whoropolis a reality), but at least the townsfolk now fear the Big Assed Spider ho eats souls which killed their beloved vampire lord, and we chased through the streets carrying the severed head of the vampire (well, at least 56% of the town believe it, hopefully more will be fearful of the ethereal spider after I use the wand of major image a couple times- at least we had the foresight to say it can't eat your soul if you're intoxicated to give our establishment more business). I ponder what must be going through our DM's head, but at least she's given us enough rope to hang ourselves with, only choking us a couple times with it (both times were pretty major). I wonder what will happen when we try to open up our premier charity- the Whorphanage. Alas, she just recently ruled I have to free my slave, which isn't what he wants as being the mastermind behind the party works so much better when others think of him as a mere senile servant. Well, at least he's a very good liar, and acting the part once we move on to the next town won't be a problem.
David Gillam (24 days ago)
I still haven't found my arm :'(
DAEsaster (1 month ago)
The Lich (2 months ago)
One time in my game I thought they were just going to leave the drow fort after they slaughtered there entire militia NOPE they took it for themselves and I was like "Ummmm.. ok" not were I was expecting to do but who cares they had fun fortifying it with downtime so I ran with it.
BigRedGuy (2 months ago)
oh how my players got the drop on me one time, the where going to infiltrate an enemy camp and weaken the. I had all thies things planed for when they got in. NAH! they just seduced one guard and gave him the plauge. EASY DONE DEAL
Lamiria (2 months ago)
Lmao For the third session I had as a dm I was really good prepared, even wrote down a little dialogue the guard captain would have with the party later into the session... only to be completely out of it when the rogue started the session wanting to loot the cultists they finished off at the end of the last session, which I had no inventory for at all.
Vytautas Volcauskas (2 months ago)
''Trips''' the combination of tips and tricks
The Monkey Prince (2 months ago)
The most amazing thing that we always bring up is a character named shrug he didn’t know what his name was so we called him shrug cuz he kept shrugging he was really annoying so I tried to know him out and he died
Cormandine (2 months ago)
I am good at coming up with names, but, I have had slip-ups every once in a while... like Steve the Sarenrae Cleric.
Mike Guilmette (3 months ago)
Improv class. A very practical tip. Thank you.
Mad Bishop Gaming (3 months ago)
Players NEVER do what you expect. I prepare and prepare and prepare and they still find the one or two things that I barely prepared for or have never considered. It never fails. Gotta be ready for anything as a DM/GM.
James Boaldin (3 months ago)
3:41I know that guys can be nurses, but imagining a female nurse named Dave has got me laughing
Joel Rodrigues (3 months ago)
I Dm a game of Game of thrones and one of my players tried to intimidate a dothraki whit his dick , and was hilarious xD
alex bartschi (3 months ago)
Vitaliy Novikov (3 months ago)
Ayy, Matt rocking that "How do you wanna do this?" shirt :)
Mike Molash (3 months ago)
#find David’s arm
Dani Bright (4 months ago)
Is it bad if I want to send my players on a quest to find nurse David's arm that was taken by demons now? 😂
Teagan P (4 months ago)
Names. Our GM needs to keep a list of names. Probably half the time when we ask an NPC their name, it's "Ugh, you want a name?" Last week, we were escorted to the library by "faceless lackey 1-a," and from the library to the noble's house by "faceless lackey 2-a." It's a little bit of fun still, though, I should try to start a conversation with one of these faceless lackeys sometime.
Rachel Jones (4 months ago)
"We've gotta find Dave's arm!" :-)
I love the daves arm quest. Absolutely love it. Why did demons take his arm? What are they gonna do with it? Where are they keeping it? How can the players get to it, get it back safely and either reattach it or enable Dave to use it for whatever functions the demons wanted it for.
Gaming Ninja (4 months ago)
What I do is I pretty much have some randomizer papers I do whenever I want to make up a backstory, name, quest, etc. While the game is happening....recommend it, though you can get some pretty weird results
JKoby99 (4 months ago)
Does someone know the background music?
Fire Ice (5 months ago)
Dave: I’m missing an arm Me: Oh, I didn’t notice that
Simone Simonazzi (5 months ago)
I'm having a lot of fun watching your videos, Matt, it really helps me out with my party since we're all beginners. Now, I know I have to be flexible as GM, but at some point really weird and absurd questions come up, questions to which I have no answer: the arcanist wants to create a machine gun that shoots infinite magic arrows... How am I supposed to handle something like that?
Mick Ross (5 months ago)
(((Completely insane)))
EpicPie9121 (5 months ago)
love me some tips and trips
Jarod Jagges (5 months ago)
I'm not really the right kind of person for being a dm but I love watching these because I think it gives players perspective on what the dm goes through to prep but also how to get into/help make the experience better for the party
Septlaxer Gaming (5 months ago)
Ran my first campaign with my friends, my friend decided to seduce a corrupt official to distract him whilst our thief found evidence of his crimes. Definitely not expected, definitely fun.
Rocketman Namtecor (5 months ago)
During a game a friend and I managed to convince a whole group of enemies to join the city guard including a orc warior two goblins a hill giant and a litch
Patrilicus ! (5 months ago)
We gotta find Dave's arm!!
Shadowfire Angel (6 months ago)
"Some of those will make for the best stories for one." First thing that came to mind when he mentioned this was a Goblin-Hobgoblin Civil War that occurred all because a Hobgoblin Archer rolled a natural 1 and killed a Goblin.
Greenflame1971 (6 months ago)
I feel like some of the best NPC names arise when the GM has to invent them on the spot. My personal favourites from that category are Ben Tabulous, Guy Manson, Sssss Sss, and Phurburt Timmils.
Casper Hooft (6 months ago)
FRKNSPACEWIZARD!!! Brett (6 months ago)
I like using the concept of the "chaos character", which is very similar to this. Along with all of the side characters that you make, just in case, have a character that links to the story that the players randomly run in to if everything goes so incredibly batshit insane that you can't possibly think of anything to do with it. Maybe they mention the consequences of the players not doing anything, maybe they mention how the chaos is causing greater powers to rise elsewhere and no one is willing to fight this second threat, or maybe they're just straight up a god in disguise that refuses to be ignored as they tell the party that they are powerless and weaklings and that he will crush them with his hoard of powerful magic item equipped army and destroy everything, leaving nothing left for the players to interact with - pillage or otherwise.
Declan Galvin (6 months ago)
I know it's cheating but sometimes when I have to come up with NPCs on the spot I pull one out of a book, TV show, movie, or game I like and just using them as an NPC basically
Owen Eastman (6 months ago)
We gotta find Dave’s arm!
Aiden Yoo (7 months ago)
Already the best dm on youtube, and now the best dm taecher.
Cody Cosman (7 months ago)
So the last time my group got together, the Ranger got really upset with the merchant in the town, and so she killed him. Right in front of our Lawful Good Fighter. He told her to turn herself in, and she naturally refused. So he tried to apprehend her, and she said that he would have to kill her first. She attacked him, and that was exactly what happened. She got a nat 20 to kill the merchant, and a nat 1 to save herself, with the Fighter getting a nat 20 to hit. That merchant was supposed to be a major player in the game. Now I have to think of someone else to fill his role lol!
amedeus40k (8 months ago)
I find that the “unexpected” events are what often make the game so very interesting and exciting. As a GM, don’t worry if your players suddenly go off in a direction that is not what you intended, and is not really part of the scenario that you had in mind. Just remember that EVERYTHING can be solved with “story,” and every action your players make has consequences. If they’ve fallen off the beaten path, simply change the storyline to help guide your players back to where you want them to be. You must do this in a very subtle way. As Matt says, you don’t want to railroad your players, or at least, you don’t want them knowing that you’re putting them back on your intended path. For example, if you have an over zealous thief in your party, and is always trying come up with new ways of stealing something, and it’s leading your game into areas that have nothing to do with your adventure, just remember that there are always consequences to your players actions. Say your adventure is set around a group of werewolves that are terrorizing a city, and while speaking to the mayor about the problem all your thief can think about is stealing the mayors prized ruby ring. Simply make that “ring” part of your central story, and say that the Mayor is actually the werewolves leader, and that the ring is the only thing that keeps the mayor from transforming into a werewolf during a full moon. As I said, EVERYTHING can be fixed through the subtle manipulation of the story. By changing the story a little, you’ve allowed your player to play their character as they think they should, while at the same time bringing the party back on track with your planned adventure. I’m addition, you’ve added an element of intrigue to the story that really wasn’t there before.
Turbine360 (8 months ago)
0:30 yeah "off the cuffs" is how I would put it. I had my PCs buy a book a man steals the book. Instantly someone shoots him in the leg, and one of my, what I would consider sane, friends suggests that they should and I quote "cut off his legs so he won't get away" yeah their pretty unpredictable :\
David Ahmad (8 months ago)
Can I help you? I'm David
Shady Br1T (8 months ago)
I remember once my dm let me cut the dick off of a monster that turned me into stone
Just a Manatee (8 months ago)
Tips and trips?
Igna M. Gavier (8 months ago)
Let's save David's arm!
Bein' Ian (9 months ago)
"You talk to him for a while, and learn that he's missing an arm." They must have rolled a 1 for perception if it took a conversation to point that out to them xD
QuantumLolliepop (9 months ago)
You hear about the situations where the DM sets a scene that the players aren't supposed to use at the time but remember or return to later and think "OMG it's this place again. So THAT'S what that was." Then a player rolls a natural 20 and, to avoid making the players actions seem useless, play along and that story element gets ruined by it. What can you do to prepare for/react to those unexpected successes without nullifying the twist or reveal later?
Eric Whitt (8 months ago)
Nat 20 doesn't mean it has to be a positive success. I mean someone can look into an empty bucket searching for hidden treasure and rolls a nat 20 "You look into the bucket, and you are definitely sure there is nothing of value in that bucket. You have never been more sure of anything in your life." If a rogue is trying to pick the lock of a door they aren't supposed to be in "You spend a few minutes examining the door and trying to understand the locking mechanism. You pull out your trusted lock pick and start to work. A few minutes of attempting to pick this lock and you realize that you do not have the necessary skills or items required to unlock this door. But because you were so cautious, you didn't alert any nearby beings to your presence. You gather that someone or something important must be behind this door and vow to return to it at a later time."
Darth Stuticus (9 months ago)
I pretty much never prepare. I wing almost everything i do.
Freed Crow (9 months ago)
You know what even Mathew didn't expect? The Unexpectables.
Max Mustermann (9 months ago)
Matt Mercer seems like an awesome guy and he fits perfectly for his group (obviously) but I wouldn't like to have him as my DM.
Disapoint - (9 months ago)
*can i help you im david*
lionei33 (10 months ago)
Making a giant sun lazer out of all the maginfing glasses and mirrors in town then enlarging the item with a spell just to destroy one vampire
TheUsernameIsInUse (10 months ago)
Dave, The Nurse liked this
Walter Ingle (10 months ago)
What sometimes messed with my characters, very often, is that I generally created a world/setting, and they were free to do pretty much 'whatever'. 90% of actual gameplay during my games were generally run off the cuff. Impromptu. Both a 2nd Ed D&D game, as well as a World of Darkness game that ended up lasting years, and was even redone with new players. I was celebrated on my planning skills. Illusion is pretty awesome. I've got a poker face about as strong as Matt's. All I have to say on that. LOL. And the random NPCs with names, some of mine, at least, actually became significant characters later. So enjoyable, some would be indoctrinated into the players' extended family. :) I also kept a list of "weird stuff", like a random encounter table, just oddball stuff that had purpose, but seemed, well, weird. Scan the list if the players start seeming less engaged. Just in case /I/ got bored. It happens... :P Keeps players a little paranoid. Healthy paranoia in a game is a /good/ thing.
Dave Haskell (10 months ago)
"We gotta go find Dave's arm", that actually happened one session, strait up tru story, except for the daemons lol
Kris Simonis (10 months ago)
The way I do it, probably not the best for a lot of people. I don't write a particular story, instead I focus on creating a villain, flesh out his goals, plans, motives and ideas, then work out how he/she would attain said goals, and carry out his/her nefarious plots. This then leads to a what I call a 'sphere of influence' on how these things affect the world, and thus how other NPCs react to this, and through them impart this onto the players. This way, I have the players slowly become entangled into the web of an adventure, and let the story evolve around them naturally. Ofcourse to make matters interesting, I Always use the affected NPCs to colour the events unfolding int he world as a result of the villain's actions, having them tell the events through their perspective, which might not even be entirely correct, as NPCs wouldn't have ALL the info and can easily draw wrong conclusions about things. This way requires a lot of improvisation as a GM, but makes the story far more organic, instead of a railroad of 'hear about the evil plot, find the evil doers lair, fight through said lair, defeat the villain'
Loren Garms (10 months ago)
Alexn Andum (10 months ago)
The vinegar treatment in this campaign I am a PC in.
Cygnus Gaming (10 months ago)
Tips and trips
Jack Walsh (10 months ago)
Bob Bobson (10 months ago)
One time I was the DM for a group of people I thought I knew well, then out of the blue our rogue gets taken to be executed. The entire party goes to rescue him, aggravating some important people. Some other stuff went down and a session later they had started a full fledged revolution. Keep in mind the story I had written went the complete opposite direction.
Would a player choosing to catch a giant log of a ballista bolt and using it as a bat be counted as unexpected
John Crum (10 months ago)
What's up, fellow ProJared fan!
Bryan Floyd (11 months ago)
Anyone else want to find David's arm?
Dave DeWitt (11 months ago)
I am a nurse named David... this hit home for me
IshKetchup27 (11 months ago)
I have a monodrone friend named bob who has a top hat and monocle
Christian Daniel (11 months ago)
"In Case of Player Free Will, Break Glass."
Blackmantis1 (11 months ago)
In the first game I played, as a elvish rogue, the DMV put a morality check of an old man getting abused for not paying his overly high taxes, we overthrew the kingdom
ochentan (11 months ago)
this applies perfectly to what i had to deal today, thank god I'm seeing now this and the fun part it was the most hilarious way on getting to the boss of the dungeon, it was like how to skip 1/2 of the dungeon in a ridiculous way
daisyfairy42 (11 months ago)
I actually had an interesting time as a player when I threw my party for a loop. We were in a police station, the barricade that was holding back zombies was giving way, and we had no way into an armory. It had bulletproof glass, and a locked metal door. The keys were lost to the horde of zombies. Earlier, I had gotten the sort of tool that a mortician uses to split open ribs as a weapon, and I figured, hey, let's jam it in the door lock and try to pry it open! My party looked at me like I was nuts. The DM was actually pretty down with my idea. I passed it to our hobo (yes someone was playing a hobo) and they set it up, and rolled magically. Yep. We opened a big old metal door with a pair of rib splitters. Good times.
Tyler Knox01 (11 months ago)
Don't look behind the curtain!
My friend went to push over an ogre from behind. He ended up failing and rammed his arm up its bum.
Doyle Tristian (1 year ago)
Alright, so I'm doing my first official big campaign. I'm used to doing One-Shots. Anyway, I created this pit, where I put a device used somewhat of an elevator of sorts for this 230 feet pit. My characters were worried about the weight capacity, and so three out of four of my characters went on this elevatorish machine, while our super heavy dwarf climbed down with a chain wrapped around as a safety precaution. He failed the climb check and falls, but the chain caught him, but broke the elevator... All of this was on the fly, and the characters ended up combining the chain and the weapons to use as a swing of sorts, to get down. So I was impressed, I was thrown off at first, hopefully they couldn't tell, but they seemed to love it.
Robert Morris (1 year ago)
@geek and sundry I'm a recently new GM and have only run 3 campaigns so far. My newest group has a particular member that is bad about doing things that just don't go with the rest of the group. Also i have troubles giving the player's characters inspired to do things. Any tips?
Albert Landau (1 year ago)
my players are insane. but they are my insane players and it is fantastic to see what they do (:
Step 1: Be hot with an even hotter voice.
Displeased Sociopath (1 year ago)
My favorite so far is when my players attacked, openly attacked mind you, a Greater God of Death that showed interest in them and decided manifest and to talk to them. They were level 5. Yup. Fun times.
Drone of the Nation (1 year ago)
David is a great guy and a great nurse. He got really depressed last year after his mother died, but I think that Clarissa helped him a lot. I can't wait for him to propose.
Armygamr117 (1 year ago)
I'm in a campaign right now and we are in prison (on a mountain) and our DM had 3 ways to get out planed and are dwarf barbarian said I'm gonna dig our way out and DM said "ok how?" Dwarf "with one spoon and a dwarven spoon at that it" our DM said ok it had to be one of the funniest things to happen so far
Hawk Mitora (1 year ago)
Our GM still won't let us find a mans missing 3rd ball named joey.
doublea125 (1 year ago)
Anytime I try to set up a plot in my campaigns, I always have to recall the time I forced everyone into prison at the very beginning and expected them to give in to the NPC's easy way out of jail. Big mistake. They killed what was supposed to be a recurring villain, proceeded to break out and killed all of the town guards which lead the entire capital city to a lawless distopia. You need only make the mistake of expectancy once to learn from it.
Alexandria Fawcett (1 year ago)
I ran the 'Dave's arm' encounter, turns out Dave was a rakshasa named Si'Kovel and he wanted to lure the party into a cave filled with demons because he needed the Aasimar character's blood to open a demon portal and fulfil his pact with demogorgon. Real Dave had been killed in the woods 3 days prior
Polyrogue Games (1 year ago)
"David" and the proceeding line caught me greatly off guard. Nicely done.
thi_jo Gaming (1 year ago)
the two left hand torches bug me :/
Jessica Lee (1 year ago)
The one thing I learned to anticipate with my most recent group, was that I couldn't prepare ANYTHING. As a player I don't like "rails" so I give players a lot of freedom. I had a few large-scale events/characters that were in the world and having an effect on the world whether the players got involved or not, and _after_ every improv encounter or location, I would just keep it and try and weave it back into parts of the narrative they hadn't gotten to yet (that, and I would listen to everything the players said about what they thought was going on, and use it). I guess it was... POSTparation? Especially since it was usually done during the hour after the session was over and everybody went home, or the hour before the next session. I somehow kept such an air of authority as GM, the "I know what I'm doing, and this is totally according to plan", that when the campaign was over they thought it was the most well-constructed, intricately woven tapestry of foreshadowing and payoff, mysteries, narrow escapes, and nail-biting challenges they had ever played. They applauded at the end. It was awesome. Inside, I was like "You guys have no idea how far we have just cruised by the seat of my pants." Full disclosure: the stars aligned that ONE time, but I've run plenty of campaigns that took a while to find their stride, with a lot of sessions where players weren't sure what to do, or we all lost track of any clear "goals" for that point in the game, and so on. I wouldn't be watching these videos if I thought I had it all figured out!
oldschoolsmart (1 year ago)
Okay, what do you do when David's arm finds you?
Parker DeVenney (1 year ago)
Hi my name is David
Barokai Rein (1 year ago)
I've never actually prepared a properly as a GM aside from looking up pictures of forests,towns,dungeons and all the monsters but I make the story up as I go most of the time. I've written like entire 100 pages long book about the main story of the campaign but the players never manage to follow it properly for some reason so I just make almost everything up as I go and they have no fucking idea that's happening because I never stutter when they ask random shit and I just reply with something random that would make sense after taking few moments to say some RP stuff about the man stroking his beard or smth while thinking about why something is that way so there's no awkward silence. I can't thank Matt enough for all of these tips because I watched all of these videos before I started my own campaign and it's been going really well for almost 10 sessions now and all of the players seem happy.
Thomas Pappin (1 year ago)
This guy is hands down the single best dm to ever be a dm
Einomies (1 year ago)
Ohh that moment when the GM goes "um... suure" always promises something really interesting is about to happen.
Sackajui (1 year ago)
in one of my campains, my players desided to set up a trap, where thy set up a tripwire and then they threw ink in the beast eyes, and then through a shit ton of fish at him, it whats quite something
Christopher Park (1 year ago)
Had to say this, I think one of my players has been watching r/DMAcademy and decided to get the party to go fishing... Edit: It was so mundane that I couldn't prepare for it.
Wren (1 year ago)
Am I the only one that will 100% find a way to include Dave the Nurse in my campaign?
Grater Good (1 year ago)
For some weird reason, my players are now interns in an adventurers guild. That actually helps a lot, tbf. Time to find that Winters Mirror!
camerakid76 (1 year ago)
WHERE IN THE HELL IS DAVE'S ARM!?! I have to know...! We need to find Dave's arm!!!
I'm gonna GM with a few friends for first time in two weeks, wish me luck.
Roasted Pheasant (1 year ago)
In our group's first session (my first ever D&D game) just last month, we awoke in a massive necropolis. My character (Gror the Bear, king of all that he sees) immediately leapt across the room towards what he perceived to be a villain draining his life force away. Landed an immediate critical strike and turned the creature into jelly with a single punch. My first action in my first game with my first character was to murder our guide on accident. Luckily, since our guide was made of enchanted paper, she was able to pull herself together. But the table was shocked to say the least.
iksar121 (1 year ago)
Hey David here and i could really use my arm back over here!
Salsa (1 year ago)
One time while I was DMing, I had an elemental door made of pure fire that stood in their way. Since it was a fire dungeon all of their canteens had been used up as they progressed. The Monk Drow decided it'd be a smart idea to pee on the door. So each adventurer whipped out their willies or shucked down their pants and simultaneously pissed on the door. The fire was demolished and they continued on their merry way. By far the oddest way to solve a problem.
Quick Attack Films (1 year ago)
No plan survives first contact with the enemy.
Philippe Morin (1 year ago)
Great example of this. In one old quest (years ago) the DM allowed for a treasure chest with random loot. Rolled for a shrinking potion. Later in the game: Boss is a giant crocodile. Friend asks...can he tie the shrinking potion vial to an arrow and shoot it in the croc's mouth? Dm pauses.....laughs....ok roll damn it. Roll is high, it works. Boss crocodile eats the potion, shrinks, is caught by the tail like a newt. D&D!

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