Dungeon Master Tips Dungeons and Dragons Stuff for Dungeon Masters

Allowing players to suggest NPCs, places and other changes during the game

In a recent game, the party was in a dire situation being hunted by several factions in the city, including the city guard.

One player (playing a Cleric of Sekhmet) said in character: ” I know a shelter nearby created for followers of Sekhmet. It is secret as the major religious power of the city, the Temple of the Vigilance, are not keen on other religions in the city.”

So she basically created a new location (Shelter of Sekhmet), that fits her background story (Cleric of Sekhmet) and is justified by the setting I created (the Temple of Vigilance).

This type of move I find so fun to play with as a DM. It really challenges me to improvise on the spot in an unexpected way.

I posted the story on the Dungeon Craft Facebook group and it lead to a really interesting conversation that I have summarised in three points below followed by some suggestions if you want. to try this at your table.

1: The Dungeon Master

Is it ok for player characters to suggest such additions during the game or does players have to make the suggestions in private to the DM ideally before the game?

  • First of all the DM needs to be willing to improvise on the spot. Some DMs seems to cherish the idea, others don’t.
  • Second, the DM also need to feel confident enough to say “no” in front of the entire table mid-game.

2: The Players

Will players exploit this freedom and “break the game”?

Here it comes down to what is the foundational pillar of your game? Is it collaborative storytelling? Or is it more of a “winning the game / beat the DM” style (a more video game mentality)?

3: The Setting

Does this style of creative freedom fit some settings better than others?

  • A city would be a more rich environment where (almost) anything could in theory happen and leans itself more to story/social driven encounters.
  • A game based in a dungeon might be more about resource-management and survival where the DM has fine-tuned the entire experience so throwing in curve balls might have significant ripple effects.

Suggestions if you want to try it

  1. Does the suggestion fit lore, scene and setting?
  2. Can I, as the DM, use the suggestion for both positive and negative impact to the players?
  3. Can I, as a DM, make this work from an improve point of view? Will it be fun for me?

Note, just because you decide to go for it, doesn’t mean you have to say yes to every single thing the characters suggest. But you don’t have to say no either.

Taking the Shelter of Sekhmet example, there are three possible outcomes that you are in full control of as a DM:

When the heroes get to the location it turns out that…

  1. …the Shelter of Sekhmet is there as expected.
    • Bonus idea: Maybe the heroes have to solve a puzzle / find a secret door etc to get in
  2. …the Shelter of Sekhmet was a myth. The heroes are starring at an open spot or a blank wall.
  3. … the Shelter of Sekhmet was there once, but now it is abandonded.