Dungeon Master Minute: The DM Train

Every day at the Pawn and Pint, we have a cool daily feature – today’s is a blog post from Donald the DM! 

One of the more challenging aspects of running a successful RPG Campaign is ensuring that your party actually progresses from Point A to Point B of the plot without getting so horridly sidetracked that the story falls beyond repair. Today we will discuss techniques for keeping your story, and your players, on task.

The first and best piece of advice we can give any DM is: Do Not abuse the DM Train!


Players board the DM Train when they are “Railroaded” in the story, that is, forced to go from one plot point to the other without a chance to change course or interrupt flow. While in certain circumstances this is necessary, even enjoyable, for the experience of the players, it is also the easiest way to abuse story telling. The fun of RPGs comes largely from the open world and the player’s ability to impact their course and destiny. The trick becomes accomplishing this without losing the story’s trail.

One method to consider is Burying the Lead.

Purposefully take your major plot points and hold them in reserve, allowing the lesser characteristics of your story to take center stage. Then, regardless of the path your players choose to follow, you can introduce your major plot threads at your convenience. For example, your players have a choice between exploring an old mine, an abandoned mansion or a drained quarry. No matter which they choose, you have the players uncover the same plot related artifact in that location. The players have chosen their path, and you have your story hook.

Another easy method to consider is World Consequence.

If the players wish to stray away from the rumors of a new Lich building an army of Undead, let them. Then, three weeks later, mention how much worse it is getting. If they continue to ignore this plot thread, have it continue to grow unchecked. Eventually, let the Lich and his full Army come crashing down on the players. They had every chance to interact with the story, now the story may interact with them! Remember that your world is not stagnant, and world events change the story whether or not the players are active. Let them know that their actions, or lack there of, will impact the story.

Finally, remember to Bait the Hook.

Give your players incentive or reason to want to see your story told. If they’re not initially invested, give them incentive or reason to want to see your story told. If they’re not initially invested, give them a reason to want to see your story told. If they’re not initially invested, give them incentive or reason to want to see your story told. If they’re not initially invested, give them reason to be. Perhaps the rumors of a far off King abusing power is remote and disinteresting, but have that King’s influence harm the players actions or things in the story they have become attached to, and suddenly it becomes personal. Now the King is interfering with the party, and they have a vested interest in seeing him vanquished.

Curious about other techniques you can use to keep your story moving in a positive direction? Join us at Pawn & Pint for our RPG Workshops with Donald The DM where we discuss world building, character generation, creative story telling and learn new RPGs! These Workshops are Free to our Members, or $5 at the Door for any others interested in attending. Follow us on Facebook and Twitter to see our Events Calendars and plan to join us for our next Workshop!

Don’t forget, every Wednesday is RPG Day! Mention This Post and you’ll also receive a Free Ticket that allows you to Re-Roll One Dice in any RPG you play while at Pawn & Pint!

And did we mention? If you’re running an RPG at Pawn & Pint, DMs always play for Free!

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