The Mystery Your Missing in D&D 5e…

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World of Darkness: Red Talons

drg359_unsolved_mysteries.previewHello fellow Nerdarchists, Hope to see you all having awesome game sessions! In this article I wanted to address the common problem that a lot of game masters have trying to keep their players engaged by using the elements that are at the core of the RPG and that is… Mystery!
I have been recently tasked with running a large group of new gamers and teaching them the game of the newer Dungeons & Dragons 5e. So, with more players added I found it hard to keep each player involved on a personal level as well as how to keep the game sessions intriguing. I wanted to share with you a few tricks I learned about how to use Mystery as a tool to keep everyone happy and having a good time. On a side note, I usually don’t feel comfortable running a game for more than five players so with seven players it has become a bit of a challenge. So let’s get started…
First, I in general character backgrounds are normally a great way to engage players, but when you have seven people at the table it can become a bit overwhelming. Luckily for me my custom game world “Dark Myth” had a built-in way for me to deal with this being a Time Line. The time line in a game setting can be an easy way for players and DMs alike to quickly and easily come up with back stories to link things together. Also it can leave quite a bit of room for mystery such as “Why, did the war start in the first place?” or “Who is the spy” and many more. Questions like these can lead to a whole plethora of time-line related mysteries to keep gamers on the edge of their seats!
The second way I’ve found to add a bit of intrigue is to add fun new mechanics to the game. In my custom game world, I have added the “Corruption Point” system symbolizing the evil that is creeping back into the world as an old god returns to have his revenge. The mysterious part and sometimes quite entertaining part is the players trying to find a way around or how to be cleansed of the corruption. In Dungeons-and-Dragons-Neverwinter_2my game I have now three players who have become tainted and gained random inanities; one obsessed with cleanliness, on a kleptomaniac and the other (my own daughter) obsessed with crime fighting, thus making for a rather humorous party mechanic. However, it also makes them strive to find a cure. Leading them to even more danger and horror bound mysteries to come.
The third and most obvious way to add mystery in the game, is of course the plot its self. Now most D&D players will except a typical dungeon crawl with monsters, but why not spice it up a bit. Add some mystery by perhaps their employer having an alternate agenda the players will come to find out about inside the dangerous dungeon and then be forced to figure out why this agenda exists. This as an example but you can see where its leading. This kind of story can allow you as a dungeon master to add various NPCs who add even further to the plot. It could even take a turn for the worst or for the better depending on the actions of the player characters.
Next, I’d like to address the 5e mechanics as a way of adding mystery to the game. I know it sounds a bit dorks-r-us-784604odd, but trust me it really does help. In using things like traps, and environments and monster’s abilities you can give a sense of immediate mystery making the players struggle to figure out how they can win or at least suffer the least (hehe! “evil DM laugh”) using simply just the combat aspect of a game. Adding things like underwater combat against a Chull who has grappled a fellow player and dragged them into a deep underground lake was my first attempt at doing this. Showing the players, the freedom of 360-degree movement and the mechanic of how long you can hold your breath before you drown, was great I found “immediate” mystery to be quite fun and not your A-typical mystery to the game. Rules and mechanics can be a great help in adding mystery to any game session.
On a final note, mystery as a whole is what drives most players and even DMs to be involved in. These simple things when added to danger and heroism give the full feeling of emersion to most good games. I myself love being the one describing and playing the parts of the NPCs and pushing myself to providing the most immersive game to my players even with so many players. I’m learning myself each session new tricks I hope to share with you all to come.
Well that’s all I have for you this time. I hope the ideas keep coming and your passion never dies for gaming!
So until next time… Stay Nerdy!

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  1. Kyle McDowell
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    I really like the idea of dragging a player to an underground lake to spice things up. I can imagine the pickle the other players were in when they had to decide wether or not to go after the poor soul.

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