Dungeon Master - Creator of Worlds!

Author: Andrew /

Destroyer of Worlds sounds way more dramatic but that would be a little counter-productive in this case.

Alright, to DM or not to DM, that is the question. For me, I shied away from it for a while because running a game, especially after playing in so many, you get an appreciation for what the DM does and you realize that it's a LOT. Or, well, it used to be. It's not so much any more.

I don't mean to make it seem like DMs don't really have their work cut out for them any more, as if now it's just a total "anyone could do it" piece of cake (or easy as pie, if you're a pie person) but it's easier. With D&D 4.0, they took D&D's rather high overall barrier to entry and smashed it to pieces. Now, it's easy to understand D&D, it's easy to jump in and play and, following suit, it's easier to DM.

Now, never having DM'd and jumping into 4th edition, you won't understand what DMing was like in 3rd edition. There were massive amounts of prep work involved, monsters were trickier, overall it was just a lot of work. Now they have monsters that have stat blocks which make running an encounter a piece of cake! When I run games, I simply write down, for instance, "Goblin 1, Goblin 2, Goblin 3" and write their total hit points next to their names. As they're hit, I deduct points from that. Apart from that, I just reference the handy-dandy stat block in the Monster Manual. It's GREAT! Makes setting up an encounter much easier to ad lib.

The main thing I want to talk about in relation to being a DM, though, is what I see as the most important thing of all. Adaptability.

If you're adaptable, if you can think on your feet and you have a can-do attitude, you can be the best DM in the world. The players should be able to do anything they want, within reason, and your job is to facilitate that and make it fun. If you have the game planned to the point where you only have an option for them if they turn left, and they turn right, what do you do? You adapt! (In this case, you could just say that what was going to happen when they turn left, instead happens when they turn right). That's just a simple example of adapting.

Next thing to mention is railroading, and that goes in line with what I wrote about adaptability. DON'T RAILROAD PLAYERS! Give them some direction but don't say "No, you can't do that" when really, if it were real life, they could. Forcing your players to do things takes them from being in the movie, influencing the world and the story, to watching the movie, yelling helplessly at the screen. That's the worst feeling in the game. The trick is to learn how to run with what the players throw at you and turn all ideas into something fun for not only them, but you as well!

DM Vs. Players! Now this is a serious issue. I've heard of (thankfully never personally experienced) DMs who's sole objective was to decimate the party (group of players). They keep headcounts, the works. They feel good when they crush the players again and again. To me, that doesn't make sense, for this reason. Being the DM means you're controlling the system. What you say, goes. You can say "The villain is invincible" and it is. You can say "It starts to snow in the desert" and it does. You can say "You and all the players drop dead" and they do. That's like having a game start you at level one, drop a huge level 100 boss in front of you, smashing you to a pulp and then having the game cheer about it. There's no satisfaction in that kind of victory.

Now sure, you're supposed to present the players with challenges; sure you're supposed to give them obstacles, but they're supposed to overcome them or at least still progress the story forward. You (The DM) and the players are on the SAME side! You're the author but without your characters, there is no story! You need them as much as they need you so treat them well! Give them challenges and cheer when they beat them, because that means that they get to move on in the story, level up and run into bigger, badder and more awesome challenges down the line!

Alright, I think that wraps up this little number. I hope that you were able to glean some information about DMing and what's great about it. Feel free to ask any questions you may have in the comments, it's a big topic, I know! Next time, I'm thinking the subject on the menu is Reward systems! Until then, thanks for reading!



mechamonogatari said...

An interesting blog, this is.

One note: while I agree that railroading players is almost always a bad idea, there are still a few times when some "forcing" or "pushing" of the PCs actions is necessary, particularly with new groups of players who may not really get the whole open-ended nature of D&D. Funneling them through the first adventure can keep them from floundering in such a situation. However, relying on this on anything even resembling a regular basis, or using it with players that possess even a modicum of familiarity with the game, is, as you say, a rather bad idea.

Andrew said...

I absolutely agree. I don't know if I consider that a true railroading though. Coaching, nudging, kick-in-the-pants-ing though, very much so. Sometimes the players don't really catch something you were hoping they would and you're stuck and gotta give em a nudge in the right direction (whether it be big or small). The big difference is this: Bad railroading is telling the players what to do and or deliberately forcing their hand when there are obviously plenty of options and choices they could make. Bad railroading removes the player's ability to choose. Good railroading is when the players really have tried, have exhausted what options they can think of and they're stuck. Thanks for the comment, hope to hear back from you on more of the posts!

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