The aftermath of Shattering the DMs plot

Shattering the DMs plot

Players take an existential joy in Shattering the DMs plot created by their dungeon master. The thrill of seeing hard work thrown away, or outsmarting the dungeon master always gives players some sort of thrill. Why is this though? Why do players need to break the plot, and is it really a bad thing? To understand the answer, we must first understand the question.

When players are Shattering the DMs plot don’t panic, stay calm, assess the situation, use what you know, and work with your players.

Breaking the plot

Think of messing with the plot on easy-very hard levels. Easy is when you follow along and get railroaded. Medium is where you make decisions, but still follow the plot. Hard is where you break the plot.

When players break the plot they make the dungeon master have to re-think something. Were we supposed to get the person AND bring him back alive? If we bring him back dead we still get a reward right?

This is where the dungeon master can adjust and just raise the dead person in Dungeons and Dragons if they are important enough and the players are in a major city. Not a big deal.

What if players completely bypass encounters?

This is where players start to cause issues, but overall you can still repurpose the encounters. If the players said ‘NOPE!’ to your boat idea, just have a monster splashed into an underground lake. Re-purpose those encounters, don’t throw them away.

Shattering the DMs plot.

Oh boy. This is where things are completely screwed up. You can’t resurrect that guy, you can’t re-purpose encounters, and they have done something to change the game.

Shattering the DMs plot could start as a simple joke by the players, like having a party of only monks. Any dungeon master worth their salt will realize normal games won’t work. These players want something different, and thus you now need to watch a few kung fu panda movies to give them the experience they desire. (Or you know, actual kung fu movies that have terrible voice overs. You have to be entertained when you do your research….)

Going off the rails.

This is where players get off the railroad of a plot they were on, and completely go a different way. That guy the players were supposed to rescue? Remember him? Ya, well the players decided to rescue him, hold him for ransom, and then cannibalize the whole family in a demonic ritual when they came to pay for him.

Wow. Just wow.

There are many of these moments as a dungeon master that make you rethink your life, your group, or if you should continue to be a dungeon master and instead run for your safety. The most important thing is this,

Don’t Panic

Maybe you are internally panicking for your plot or your life. Either way, you need to be calm. If you show a reaction they will be like vipers and try to make things somehow worse.

We as humans like to see others fail for some reason, and you cannot give them that satisfaction. As a dungeon master, you have to keep a poker face on while your inner voice is screeching to the tone of a 6-year-old girl who didn’t get the doll that she wanted.

If you are able to keep calm, the players will not take the game to another level of insanity. Instead, they (sometimes) calm down and reflect upon what they have done, realizing there is no going back now. Other times, the players just continue to amp up the insanity, but you still need to keep calm.

This way, you can keep your player’s respect and your dignity if you, for some reason, care about your dignity.  Keeping the player’s respect makes them think they cannot rock you and they won’t just pull stunts to try and baffle their dungeon master. Players will also continue to respect you since you can adapt to anything, which in their minds makes a great DM. Lastly, this makes players think that they have a real say in what happens. This is always a good thing.

What Do I Do!?!?!?!

At this point, you are probably in full panic mode. That is most likely why you clicked on this article and ended the session or had the session continue and end in disaster. I hope that you just called off the session, but I am here for you.

First, think. Normally people say talk to your players but that is only when you are of sound mind. Think, why did my players do this? Did they just want to get a rise out of me? Did they want something completely different? Were the players bored?

You HAVE to answer these questions. If the players are just trying to get a rise out of you like children, then you have to make an active attempt at a poker face. This will be more important than plot, so practice it if you must. Practice looking like a wall upon receiving any news. Pretend you heard something horrible. Stoneface. Pretend anything you like but just practice. Upon practicing, you will achieve the almighty poker face and stop encouraging players to torment you.

Why did they do that?

Why are your players Shattering the DMs plot? If they aren’t children, they obviously wanted something different or thought that they for some reason should have done those insane acts. Again, why did your players do that? Think hard man! (Or woman) Were you too into the role play part of the game and players got bored?

This is actually a common mistake. Dungeon master’s think about what they want out of a game, but never take the time to think about what players want out of a game. If you are in this position, look at the ‘be on the same page as your players’ section here.

Now that you are on the same page as your players, you should have a better idea of where to go with your plot. Normally, players get bored of doing something they hate. Combat when they want RP, etc. But what if they are doing what they want, you are on the same page, and the players still are doing this?

When players still shatter the plot, this is because you are not doing something or your players just don’t know what to do.

Let’s work with you first.

If you are not sure on how to enhance your game, geek and sundry have three basic tips to help. You still are having issues? Then it is time to take a deep look at yourself and your game. Why is it not working? If you are not entertaining your players, you need to ask what think you can do better.

Asking this makes the players feel alright to give tips since they are not directly insulting you. You also should not feel bad since the players are not insulting you but instead giving their advice on how to make the game better. No one wants to play a bad game, so most of the time you can take this advice, run with it, and get your game back to being a stable masterpiece!

What if my players just don’t know anything?

This is where it is tough for you as a dungeon master. You want to try out all these cool ideas and perhaps have the experience to get bored of a basic game. You now need to view yourself as a teacher, or as a cool spymaster.

If you are a teacher, then you can educate the players by giving them options and after the fact tell them what you think they could have done. This is of course if they ask you. Do not give advice that wasn’t asked for, or you are a preachy busybody. No one likes those people….

You can teach through NPCs, or just out of game when players ask. Always leave the options open. Do not give a right answer, but instead give a start to an answer or hints to make the player think of a solution.

Here is an example. Timmy asks me why he can’t seem to kill anything. I ask what he is referring to specifically. I make sure that we look at one encounter at a time because generalizations don’t give him any ideas other than he needs to do better. So let’s look at the most recent encounter with fire elementals. Timmy is a pyromaniac and kept throwing fire at the elementals. I ask what happened when his fire hit the elementals. He answers that it did nothing! So I ask if something fails, should you keep doing it? A light bulb goes off and little Timmy starts to think of new ideas.

Yes, some players do this and forget the obvious. Why? Well here is why I think this is the case.

My players aren’t that dumb….

Okay, we don’t all have malleable little idiots as our players who are mentally ten. Sometimes our players just don’t know what to do because they have not been in a roleplaying game.

In this case, have non-player characters (NPCS) interact with the player directly. It can be as simple as a beggar asking for help, or a merchant asking why the player thinks they are so entitled. what do you think these two scenarios do? Write a comment below and tell me your thoughts.

I believe that these two scenarios are perfect for grounding the player in the game. It forces the player to encounter real-world issues and address them as that player would as an actual person! Are these common everyday occurrences? No, no they are not but these scenarios are perfectly plausible in our world today. That is why I think it makes the player understand the game better. They are playing a person, just with magic. I think this is what will help players understand the game best.

But I wanna be a spymasta!

Being a spymasta is much cooler than being a spymaster, so here is how you do it. You get an experienced player to infiltrate the group and teach the group. When the players are about to do something that breaks the laws of sanity, you have an inside man or woman to question them directly.

Remember, our job as a dungeon master is to facilitate. This means that we shouldn’t judge the players and question them directly unless their actions lead to obvious consequences. But in that moment? In that moment you can do nothing. This is where your spy comes in.

As a player, your spy is able to question what in the worlds above and below they are thinking? Why would you ever turn a person who you were going to save into a ransom? You were already getting money for his return so why do you want more? On second thought, why are you trying to initiate a satanic ritual? How do you think this will be good for you?

As an insider, he can make the players reconsider their actions. Your spy can also get the players to think more realistically by doing sane actions and being rewarded for it. Don’t give extra rewards, but do reward good gameplay. If your players don’t know what they are doing, this will give them an example with rewards. Who doesn’t love getting rewards?

That is how you become a spymasta!


From being a spymasta or teacher to understanding your players and yourself, I hope that I have given you some useful tips on how to deal with players Shattering the DMs plot.

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