DM Tips in 140 characters or so #4

Alright more twitter questions answered by DMs from all over the world.

#1. DMs do you roll behind a screen or in front? Why?

WolfSamurai: Behind. Players don’t need to see the numbers, only the results. This also lets me adjust difficulty on the fly if need be.

pdunwin: In front. Builds trust, more fun for all to cheer/boo, I like getting to deal with the randomness. I roll blank dice behind a transparent screen. Dice aren’t the boss of me!

plays2much_DnD: in my dnd games, I don’t use a screen at all. I feel that the more open I am with my dice, the more players will be with theirs.

DMSamuel: combat to hit &damage rolls go in the dice tray in the open, others behind

bensrpgpile: Always roll in front – it’s more fun (& intense) if everyone sees the DM rolls:)

countingku: I’ve mostly played with DMs that live roll, which I like because of the uncertainty factor.

DarthKevin: behind. Gives me the chance to fudge numbers to move the story. Rare occurence tho. Story trumps rules. 🙂

Milambus: I rarely use a screen. I don’t like it cutting me off from the table.

SarahDarkmagic: I don’t like screens either. With me being 5′ tall, it’s really hard for me to run a game from behind one.

phaezen: I roll behind the screen, keep a bit of the mystery and lets me fudge where needed. I use the screen, but I tend to stand and walk around the table when I am dming.

Macadosche: Behind a screen to kill story spoilers. Ex: for Percp checks I can make up something they ‘perceive’ even if they fail the check.

WastexGames: I use my DM Screen off the table as well. I prefer to have a nice view of the battlefield so I can watch the PCs cry out in pain!

#2. DMs do you have any personal tips for speeding up combat in 4e?

d20plusmodifier: Note card initiative order on the DM screen, also make sure everyone knows their characters’ powers.

plays2much_DnD: to speed up play, I have initiatives rolled before we start, then put 3x5s with PC/NPC names in order while working up to the encounter. After combat, we roll again to prep for the next encounter while PCs are looting etc.

bensrpgpile: Always call out who’s on deck in initiative order. Use effect cards & templates. DM should pre-roll all his monster init’s.

pdunwin: DM should provoke OAs, trigger marks, suck up auto damage & not work so hard to preserve enemies. Seriously. Optimization slows. Provoking is more exciting & will speed things along nicely. It can even be very plausible. Why WOULDN’T the hi HP, hi defense, low dmg solo provoke to attack the squishy?

WastexGames: Players pay attention and plan together. Inattentiveness kills it!

Java_Jawa: to speed up encounters roll 1x to hit 1x for dmg for burst/blast effects – house rule.

jediknightgirl: giving players a time limit to make their combat move. It encourages people to think ahead and prep before their turn.

DarthKevin: I give a +1 bonus token to rolls for players that finish their turn very quickly. They can use it for any D20 roll. Stole that 1.

Atrophied: PCs have 10*Max(Int:Wis) seconds to play their round, otherwise they forfeit their remaining actions.

#3: DMs how often do you buy new dice?

WastexGames: ALL the time! I don’t need them, just can’t stop myself from buying them. check out a blog post I wrote on Monday about dice! #dnd #dice #d20

plays2much_DnD: I only buy dice as needed due to losing them to players over the years … usually a mixed Lb every 4+/- yrs

DMSamuel: me too – I don’t need anymore dice at all – really – but I can’t stop myself from buying them… 🙂 I bought the chessex pound o’dice, on top of my personal sets. my players like that I bring dice for all

jediknightgirl: whenever I wander into a gaming store and see an awesome new set. If I’m self-controlled, a new set every six months or so.

dylanmcintosh: I don’t buy new ones unless I need some for whatever I am playing. I want to get some more soon tho.

WolfSamurai: I may be buying them now. It’s entirely possible. I like new dice.

countingku: I might be a dice addict. You can never have enough.

pdunwin: I never buy dice. Still using the sets that came with my Red & Blue Boxes + some I was given.

AlioTheFool: Wish 1/month. 1/year is reality.

1QUrsu: I only have 5 dice sets for myself… 4xchessex and 1xsmall metall dice 😀 DiceSets: Chessex Scarab Blue Blood, Jade and Royal Blue, Chessex Gemini Black&Red and Silver Metall ones.

#4: DMs how much background/history do DMs ideally want from their players? (Submitted by WolfSamurai)

CombatCast: I think it depends a lot on the campaign-I asked for a whole lot to put info on our site and stuff-but we’re not a normal group.

WolfSamurai: To answer my own question, I like a few paragraphs to a couple of pages. Enough to give the player some idea of who their character is and how they came to be that way as well as give me as DM some material to work into the overall campaign.

AceDrummer_CLB: 1-3 sentence sketch. The rest comes out as part of role-playing and story creation.

theangrydm: Broad strokes and 1 or 2 hooks/goals up front. BGs tend to grow over time as people get to know their chars better. 3 paragraphs. Too much up front prevents players from being able to ‘suddenly remember’ (make up) new background details as the game warrants.

d20plusmodifier: As much as possible. I love that stuff.

mrpixelcrash: for putting all the character stories together as a team, I just asked for a few main ideas, but they can expand as we go.

Chip17: only as much as they want to. I believe people play for different reasons, so a character background may hold no importance to some and to others it may be the biggest part of their character. I do like goals though. But I don’t need them in writing.

DrOct: I want as much as a player is willing to give! Generally I’d like them to leave stuff vague so I/they can fill in later though.

jediknightgirl: I encourage as much as possible. The more background I have from them, the more involved the RP can get.

plays2much_DnD: PCs should give just enough to be read fluently, but kept short & focused on what matters most to the character’s actual build the BGs are encouraged to include just a hint at short & long term goals as well.

DarthKevin: I want them to know birthplace, age, why the character is their class, which group member they trust and which they don’t and why I believe those things make it easier for them to answer “what would my character do?” When needed.

jmpress: maybe a page of interesting things from their past that I can use for adventure hooks. I’m ok working with less, but no novels.

Thanks again to all the people on Twitter who give such great answers every week. I’m gonna keep asking as long as they keep answering.


Part idiot. Part old man. All geek. Thadeous can't think of anything interesting about him self right now. Know this though if he could it would be creative and funny as well as thought provoking.

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Thadeous can't think of anything interesting about him self right now. Know this though if he could it would be creative and funny as well as thought provoking.
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