Creating Memorable Moments in Dungeons and Dragons
I think most people who have played role playing games can think of some memorable moments from their games. Whether it was a PC dying, an epic attack, or something just random and funny, memorable moments are something that we strive to have in games. As a Dungeon Master how can you try and create them?
Listen To The Players
The first step is really simple, listen to the players. You’re listening to what they are interested in doing, what storylines they are going after, what they are looking for and then building upon that. If they want to know what is happening at the mill, doesn’t matter if nothing was happening there, now something should be happening there. If the player guesses what is going to happen, for example, removing part of a ritual and the ritual explodes, let that happen as a call back to that thought later. This doesn’t mean you give the players everything they want, having the big bad be at the mill because the players want them there when it doesn’t fit into the story, that doesn’t work, but something odd happening at the mill that adds to the story, that’ll be memorable.
Give Up Control
I’ve touched on this some already, but you can just see where the players are going to take you as well. You don’t need to know everything that is going to happen to create memorable moment. In fact, for them to be most memorable to you, it helps when you don’t know what’s going to happen. An example of this actually came up just a week ago in Tower of the Gods. I had an idea for the session as to where it might go, and it ended up in a bank heist with a gnome wearing stilts and a Tiefling riding a cart of cabbages into the middle of the bank and exploding them with the Thunderwave spell. With that cart, the player asked, is there are cart or anything like that around outside, the answer to that was simply, what do you need? Give it to them even if in your minds scene it wasn’t there, because you never know what wacky thing might happen because you gave them that or epic moment might happen because you let them do something that was hard.
This is one that’s a bit hard for me at times. I fall into the habit of saying at the bad guy attacked and missed or hit. But that could be described in a bigger more epic way. And this is another area when you can entrust the story into the hands of the players. In the series Critical Role, Matt Mercer always asks the question of how the players want to kill a monster when they deal the final blow, and they narrate it out. Well, I play theater of the mind, so that can be done even more. When my attack misses, I can entrust the story to the player to describe how they dodge it, especially on an important attack. But describing big is something that the Dungeon Master can set the tone for. I have 3-4 bad guys in a fight, I am describing more than everyone else. And this doesn’t have to be a fight, when there is a puzzle or an important room, I can build out more of that to help the players get a clear idea of the area, but all while holding loosely so as the players interact with it more, they can get what they need from it, which is known as the “There’s Always a Chandelier” rule or Rule of Cool. Basically, if it sounds cool, let them do it, let them have their chandelier.
You Can’t Plan Them
Finally, you really can’t plan them. My tips might foster more of those memorable moments, but those are just tips. The truly memorable moments happen when the players do something that interacts with your ideas in an unexpected and cool way. Whether that’s by a great roll, or some great role play, you’ll not know until it happens. It’s hard to give up that control at times, but when it feels like something big might be about to happen, let it happen. Now, you can help foster more of these potential situations by giving a wide variety of challenges or interactions, but you never really know which one is going to have that moment that players will remember, but also that you will remember as well.
What are some of your most memorable Dungeons and Dragons or really any RPG moments?