We’ve all been there. The campaign has slowed to a crawl, morale is low, and players are getting more and more physically violent with every session. Soon, the blood-harvest comes. As a DM, you already know none of this is your fault. However, as the sovereign of your gaming group it is your right, nay, holy duty to return the light of goodness, truth, and the Gygaxian Way to your table. Allow me to assist.
Spunky Sunshine Mephit
Some DM’s, myself included, find a familiar albatross around their neck in the form of the same tired old plots week after week. There’s nothing worse than having the D&D equivalent of Spaghetti Thursdays at your gaming table.
What your game needs is a little help… or should I say, a little helper?
One commonly used tactic in many popular TV shows over the years is to add a cute and sassy kid to the mix to freshen things up. Let’s call this kid Cousin Olefar.
Always brave and daring, but just too darn spunky to have any regard for the well-being of any creature, Cousin Olefar can brighten up even the dullest combats. Now every combat has an exciting secondary objective!
Just imagine how the players would feel if they let the cute little bugger die.
Jumping The Bulette
Your players are probably bored with the standard fare of mystery, exploration, exciting combat, and deep roleplay. They can get that anywhere. You should give them something cooler. Remember the early seasons of Happy Days when it was boring and about stupid stuff American life and emotions? Remember when all the girls got anachronistic perms and Fonzie started getting superpowers he could invoke with a simple “AYYYY?”
That’s what you can do for your campaign. It works, too. Historically, the best campaigns are the ones where about halfway through, you drop everything and decide that you already know what’s going to happen. You tease your players incessantly about it for about 2 weeks beforehand, even dropping little hints about “wormsign” and “the likes of which God has never seen.” Everything leads up to a super exciting moment that you’ve been dreaming of for so long, and it’s gonna be so cool, and you don’t even need game mechanics you just make it happen.
When everybody sees the mage (with a brand new perm) riding bareback atop a half-lich bulette tarrasqueomancer through no real conscious choice of his own after an unlikely but charming sequence of events, they’ll all understand it was worth it.
Then you blow up the PC’s lair and have a guy from Murphy Brown chase them through time. Aww yeah.
Another fantastic TV trope you can use in your campaign is the old “amnesia caused by a bonk on the head” trick. I recommend you invoke this every time a player takes damage or fails a DEX check.
No metagaming, players! You’ll need to take another bonk on the head to remember who you are. Also, if a monster uses Claw / Claw / Bite, you may think of it as Forget / Remember / Forget.
Freaky Friday Night Magic
How many times over the years in movies and TV has a magic spell been cast or a lever been pulled causing characters to swap bodies? Countless. And it’s a thing of beauty every single time. Every DM should do this to their players at least twice in a given campaign.
Fun fact: skills, spellcasting ability, and weapon/armor proficiencies don’t transfer along with a person’s consciousness. Just their voice, memories, and a schedule that really isn’t conducive to having another person at the wheel much less a dwarf NOW I’LL NEVER GET MARRIED.
Quest For The Closet Of Elemental Water
PC’s never fear death anymore. Not with healing surges and resurrection and rings of regeneration all ready and waiting to save their imaginary butts.
Solving this issue means gleaning dark knowledge from the vilest master of terror that ever whitened a hair or startled an innocent puppy — Wakko Warner. To know true fear, a PC needs to be faced with a fate worse than death. A potty emergency.
Everybody always wants to know the secret of making 4e combat run fast and exciting. If every PC has an overfull bladder and cursed pants they can’t remove until they find and defeat the end boss of the dungeon, this problem is now officially solved.
Be warned, there are some minor mechanical issues to work out if you decide to go this route. For instance, who can say if the PC’s should be making Fort checks, Will checks, or a combination of the two to avoid certain embarassment and chafing. Regardless, I recommend making this check every 5 minutes of actual time, starting the DC at 0 and raising it by 5 after each check.
Bonus Tip: in the original Oriental Adventures book from TSR, there is a Wu Jen spell called Urine to Acid. Use this in the event that your players still fail to become excited at these new developments.
Special thanks to TvTropes.org (especially their “Random” button) for all the article ideas and for straight up murdering my productivity for many years.
And yes, you can probably blame Chatty for this too.