Sly Flourish’s Lazy DM Prep
Frostmaiden Session 8: House of the Triad Finale
Ability Checks, Failing Forward, and Succeeding with a Cost

Ability Checks, Failing Forward, and Succeeding with a Cost

April 7, 2021

Mike gives a short talk about ability checks, failing forward, and succeeding with a cost.

Podcast Contents:

  • 00:00 Intro
  • 00:38 The core mechanic of D&D
  • 01:35 You don't need an ability check for easy stuff
  • 02:02 Easy steps to choose a DC
  • 03:04 DCs don't change based on the character's abilities
  • 03:52 The power of improvising ability checks
  • 04:32 Ability checks in complicated situations
  • 07:08 Understand the in-world situation instead of focusing on mechanics
  • 09:09 Asking for a check without a DC to see if they succeed at a cost
  • 10:45 The improvisational power of ability checks, succeeding at a cost, and failing forward
Frostmaiden Session 7: House of the Triad
Frostmaiden Session 6: Holed Up Finale
D&D Quest Model: The Three-of-Five Collection Quest

D&D Quest Model: The Three-of-Five Collection Quest

March 24, 2021

Mike describes a robust D&D adventure or campaign quest model that offers a lot of flexibility and prevents quests from being thwarted with the capture or removal of a single key.

Frostmaiden Session 5: Holed Up Part 2

Frostmaiden Session 5: Holed Up Part 2

March 21, 2021

Mike prepares for his latest session of Icewind Dale, Rime of the Frostmaiden!

Game Pacing in D&D
Frostmaiden Session 4: Holed Up

Frostmaiden Session 4: Holed Up

March 14, 2021

Mike prepares for his latest session of Icewind Dale, Rime of the Frostmaiden!

Frostmaiden Session 3: The Mead Must Flow - Lazy DM Prep
Be on the Players’ Side

Be on the Players’ Side

March 3, 2021

Mike talks about the importance of being on the players' side when we run our D&D games.

Youtube video version

Core principles

- Working *with* the players, not against them.
- You're not a competitor.
- The DM is an antenna to another world. We're the vehicle for storytelling.
- We're not the baddies. We're not our villains. We're not on the opposite side of the chess board.
- We're *fans* of the characters (Thanks Dungeon World!)
- The players understand about half of what's going on.
- The characters understand far more than the players do.
- The characters are smart and skilled in their roles. They have knowledge the characters do not.
- Fun doesn't mean just upward beats, it means risk and reward, upward and downward beats. Hard situations and hard meaningful decisions.

The DM's Job

- Build the situation around the story, not around the characters.
- Clarify that situation to the players. We're their eyes and ears.
- Help them meet their intent.
- Let the dice complicate things. They are the cold-hearted arbiter of the results of the situation.
- Balance acting true to the situation with the fun of the game; leaning towards fun and away from things that are *not* fun.
- The world and the story puts the characters in hard situations. The DM helps the characters make informed choices to navigate those situations.

Examples

- Warn them when they're walking into a potentially deadly situation.
- Assume characters that aren't involved in investigating a trap aren't putting themselves at risk.
- Let characters move that extra five feet if they can't quite get up to a monster.
- Ask the characters to make a group stealth check even if they don't ask for it if it makes sense that they'd be sneaking.
- Use characters passive scores to locate secret doors.
- Ask "are you sure" when they're doing something that clearly won't work or is clearly dangerous.
- Let players roll back spells cast if their character would know that it clearly wouldn't have worked. "A 1st level sleep spell won't be powerful enough to put them to sleep."
- Ask for the players intent and help them reach it.
- Offer deals: "You can make a DC 16 Intelligence (Arcana) check to channel energy from the unstable arcane node. On a success, enemies will have disadvantage on their saving throws against your spell. Fail and you'll take 2d10 force damage."
- Remind the players about advantageous terrain.
- Give players hints and clues about puzzles their characters would clearly understand.
- Remind players of things their characters would likely remember.
- Use skill checks and the characters' backgrounds go offer clues and tips.
- In complicated situations, offer strategic recommendations the players may not recognize.
- Remind players of impending dangers: "You have two rounds left before the orcish hoard falls upon you".
- Remind the players about items their characters possess that they may have forgotten.
- Offer suggestions for spell uses players might not remember or consider.
- Give characters inspiration or advantage when they take risky moves that move the story forward.
- Offer alternatives: "You can charge the first one and attack or you can ready your attack for the first one to charge up to you and stay close to your protecting paladin."
- Clarify impossibilities: "Hard as you might try, this door is beyond your capability to break down.

Work With Your Players

- D&D is a cooperative game and we're part of that cooperative.
- We have to know when to let bad things happen.
- Build trust with the players. Don't violate it. Be on their side. Avoid "gotcha"s.
- The world is cruel, you are not.

Frostmaiden Session 2: The Mead Must Flow - Lazy DM Prep
Running Great D&D Combat

Running Great D&D Combat

February 24, 2021

Mike discusses tips for running awesome D&D combat.

Original Youtube Video

Support Sly Flourish on Patreon

Podcast Contents

  • 00:00 Intro
  • 00:18 Run with four players.
  • 00:57 Run lower level games. Level 3 is the sweet spot.
  • 01:38 Use static monster damage.
  • 02:15 Run theater of the mind combat for small battles.
  • 03:02 Inject the story and fiction into large battles.
  • 04:49 Draw characters in off-turn with skill checks and info.
  • 05:36 Use abstract maps – break out of the grid.
  • 08:04 Ask for intent.
  • 09:13 Have alternative goals - Add a Combat Out.
  • 11:04 Don't say "Let's Call it Right Here".
  • 11:53 Adjusting the dials (HP, Damage, Number of Monsters, Number of Attacks).
  • 13:11 Offer Cinematic Advantage
  • 15:10 Randomly select targets
  • 16:06 Make boss fights interesting

Relevant articles

 

DM Deep Dive: Fairness vs. Being Fans of the Characters with Ryan Servis

DM Deep Dive: Fairness vs. Being Fans of the Characters with Ryan Servis

February 23, 2021

Mike talks with Ryan Servis of 2C Gaming about the role of the DM and debating objectivity versus a bias towards the characters in our D&D games.

Frostmaiden Session 1: Foaming Mugs - Lazy DM Prep
Rime of the Frostmaiden Session Zero - Lazy DM Prep
Eberron Campaign Conclusion and Final Thoughts

Eberron Campaign Conclusion and Final Thoughts

February 7, 2021

Mike's final thoughts on his homebrew Eberron campaign. This is a rebroadcast of Mike’s Lazy DM Prep show broadcast live on Twitch and reposted to YouTube and here in podcast form.

Original Youtube Video

Eberron Campaign Notebook

This episode is brought to you ad-free by the patrons of Sly Flourish.

Safety Tools in D&D

Safety Tools in D&D

February 4, 2021

Mike talks about safety tools in D&D including the X-card, lines and veils, script change, and others.

Youtube version of this discussion

Resources

Video Contents

00:00 What are safety tools?

01:05 Why use safety tools?

03:01 The X-Card

03:39 Lines and Veils

08:11 Script Change

09:13 The Door is Open

10:20 Why do I suddenly care?

13:48 A Safety Tool Stack (rating, lines & veils, "pause")

16:27 Recognizing full-consent decisions versus majority rule

17:49 DMs using "Pause for a Second"

19:18 More on why we want safety tools

23:08 The Awesome Value of free tools

DM’s Deep Dive: Dave Chalker on D&D Combat Styles

DM’s Deep Dive: Dave Chalker on D&D Combat Styles

February 2, 2021

Mike talks with Dave Chalker about the various combat styles we can bring to D&D including gridded combat, abstract maps, and theater of the mind.

This is a rebroadcast of the show broadcast live on Twitch and reposted to YouTube and here in podcast form.

Original Youtube Video

This episode is brought to you ad-free by the patrons of Sly Flourish.

 

Eberron Session 46 – Sly Flourish’s Lazy DM Prep

Eberron Session 46 – Sly Flourish’s Lazy DM Prep

January 31, 2021

Mike's latest episode of Sly Flourish's Lazy DM Prep for his homebrew Eberron game. This is a rebroadcast of Mike’s Lazy DM Prep show broadcast live on Twitch and reposted to YouTube and here in podcast form.

Original Youtube Video

This episode is brought to you ad-free by the patrons of Sly Flourish.

All About 4th Edition D&D with Enrique Bertran

All About 4th Edition D&D with Enrique Bertran

January 27, 2021

In this somewhat-raw discussion with Mike Shea (@slyflourish) and Enrique Bertran (@NewbieDM) we talk about our experiences with the 4th edition of Dungeons & Dragons!

Youtube Version of the Chat

This episode is brought to you ad-free by the patrons of Sly Flourish.

Eberron Session 45 – Sly Flourish’s Lazy DM Prep

Eberron Session 45 – Sly Flourish’s Lazy DM Prep

January 24, 2021

Mike's latest episode of Sly Flourish's Lazy DM Prep for his homebrew Eberron game. This is a rebroadcast of Mike’s Lazy DM Prep show broadcast live on Twitch and reposted to YouTube and here in podcast form.

Original Youtube Video

This episode is brought to you ad-free by the patrons of Sly Flourish.

Descent into Avernus Chapter 4, 5, and Final Tips

Descent into Avernus Chapter 4, 5, and Final Tips

January 23, 2021

Mike covers tips and tricks for running chapter 3 from Descent into Avernus. 

Original Youtube Video

This episode is brought to you ad-free by the patrons of Sly Flourish.

Video Contents

  • 00:00​ Intro
  • 00:25​ Mike's Top Tips for Descent into Avernus
  • 08:14​ Chapter 4 Discussion
  • 18:50​ Chapter 5 Discussion
  • 27:52​ Overall Thoughts on Descent into Avernus
  • 33:18​ Do I recommend it? Maybe?
  • 36:08​ Useful Descent into Avernus Supplements

 

Eberron Session 44 – Sly Flourish’s Lazy DM Prep

Eberron Session 44 – Sly Flourish’s Lazy DM Prep

January 17, 2021

Mike's latest episode of Sly Flourish's Lazy DM Prep for his homebrew Eberron game. This is a rebroadcast of Mike’s Lazy DM Prep show broadcast live on Twitch and reposted to YouTube and here in podcast form.

Original Youtube Video

This episode is brought to you ad-free by the patrons of Sly Flourish.

Eberron Session 43 – Sly Flourish’s Lazy DM Prep

Eberron Session 43 – Sly Flourish’s Lazy DM Prep

January 10, 2021

Mike's latest episode of Sly Flourish's Lazy DM Prep for his homebrew Eberron game. This is a rebroadcast of Mike’s Lazy DM Prep show broadcast live on Twitch and reposted to YouTube and here in podcast form.

Original Youtube Video

This episode is brought to you ad-free by the patrons of Sly Flourish.

Eberron Session 42 – Sly Flourish’s Lazy DM Prep

Eberron Session 42 – Sly Flourish’s Lazy DM Prep

January 3, 2021

Mike's latest episode of Sly Flourish's Lazy DM Prep for his homebrew Eberron game. This is a rebroadcast of Mike’s Lazy DM Prep show broadcast live on Twitch and reposted to YouTube and here in podcast form.

Original Youtube Video

This episode is brought to you ad-free by the patrons of Sly Flourish.

Eberron Session 41 – Sly Flourish’s Lazy DM Prep

Eberron Session 41 – Sly Flourish’s Lazy DM Prep

December 27, 2020

Mike's latest episode of Sly Flourish's Lazy DM Prep for his homebrew Eberron game. This is a rebroadcast of Mike’s Lazy DM Prep show broadcast live on Twitch and reposted to YouTube and here in podcast form.

Original Youtube Video

This episode is brought to you ad-free by the patrons of Sly Flourish.

Eberron Session 40 – Sly Flourish’s Lazy DM Prep

Eberron Session 40 – Sly Flourish’s Lazy DM Prep

December 20, 2020

Mike's latest episode of Sly Flourish's Lazy DM Prep for his homebrew Eberron game. This is a rebroadcast of Mike’s Lazy DM Prep show broadcast live on Twitch and reposted to YouTube and here in podcast form.

Original Youtube Video

This episode is brought to you ad-free by the patrons of Sly Flourish.

Eberron Session 39 – Sly Flourish’s Lazy DM Prep

Eberron Session 39 – Sly Flourish’s Lazy DM Prep

December 13, 2020

Mike's latest episode of Sly Flourish's Lazy DM Prep for his homebrew Eberron game. This is a rebroadcast of Mike’s Lazy DM Prep show broadcast live on Twitch and reposted to YouTube and here in podcast form.

Original Youtube Video

This episode is brought to you ad-free by the patrons of Sly Flourish.

Eberron Session 38 – Sly Flourish’s Lazy DM Prep

Eberron Session 38 – Sly Flourish’s Lazy DM Prep

December 6, 2020

Mike's latest episode of Sly Flourish's Lazy DM Prep for his homebrew Eberron game. This is a rebroadcast of Mike’s Lazy DM Prep show broadcast live on Twitch and reposted to YouTube and here in podcast form.

Original Youtube Video

This episode is brought to you ad-free by the patrons of Sly Flourish.

Eberron Session 37 – Sly Flourish’s Lazy DM Prep

Eberron Session 37 – Sly Flourish’s Lazy DM Prep

November 29, 2020

Mike's latest episode of Sly Flourish's Lazy DM Prep for his homebrew Eberron game. This is a rebroadcast of Mike’s Lazy DM Prep show broadcast live on Twitch and reposted to YouTube and here in podcast form.

Original Youtube Video

This episode is brought to you ad-free by the patrons of Sly Flourish.

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