Content of the article: "1st time DM asks: How do I collaboratively storytell versus telling a story?"
Hi all. Second question on this sub, but first, a few things to start:
- Thank you all so much already for everything this sub is! This community is amazing, and I've only just started coming here.
- I highly encourage and appreciate multiple lines and trains of thought when it comes to the questions I'll be asking here. Please feel free to offer your opinions and insights, nothing in mundane or invalid.
- If the questions I ask are already located in a mega thread somewhere, I apologize in advance for not finding it.
Ok, on with the meat and potatoes!
As a new DM, I'm read a lot over the past month. I've consumed tons of information from how to's to encounter building to monster blocks to NPC generation…you get my point. And all of that stuff is relevant, I realize that. But I feel like one thing people don't exactly address, as if it were the proverbial elephant in the room, is collaborative storytelling vs. telling a story.
What I mean by that is that it is made very clear that, as a DM, it is very important to learn the distinction between the two: telling your story to a group of people and watching them react to your world *versus* guiding a group of people through locales and encounters you've concocted, but allowing the narrative direction be governed by them.
Where I think I'm hitting a block with this is the fact that I have always been a good storyteller, and it's something that I've always thought could make me a great DM. But now that I'm here, I'm realizing my idea of what I was supposed to be doing may be skewed and I want to make sure the content I'm consuming is taking me in the direction I should be heading. How do you all tell your story, while still giving the PC's free will to go and do what they want (within reason and the confines of your Grand Plan)?
For example, I am running 4 brand new players through Lost Mines, with the plan of moving to a homebrew story after the module wraps up. Now, I always knew I wanted to stretch the module by a level or two, just to give myself room to stretch my improv skills along the way. And I already have a huge collection of random encounters, small adventures and the like (mostly all thanks to this sub and DMsguild) to use interspersed as I need. I guess my real question is, when I'm telling the story during/after the module, how do I avoid railroading?
My players know already that were doing a starter module into a HB, and the module will get them to level 5. I'm not sure if telling them this in session 0 was good or bad, but it is what it is. I plan on seeding in info and hooks about my HB throughout the LmoP playthrough to get them engaged in the continuing storyline to come. I plan on having a beginning, a middle, and an end to my campaign, with 1 main antagonist and many smaller ones throughout. But again, how do I avoid just telling them a story about a BBEG at the end of one giant adventure, and get them to help me *live* this story together in our minds?
This may all seem vague and not concise, but there are those of you out there reading this right now who know exactly what I'm trying to ask. I'm sorry I couldn't word it better.
*TL;DR* I'm new, and I need help figuring out how to properly story plan and offer my players an immersive living world without railroading them.
- Unpopular Opinion: Railroading is okay.
- Players/DM getting frustrated with dead-ends and lack of progress/engagement (very minor early spoilers for PoTA)
- Suggestion for D&D modules in the future
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