I Just Hope They’re Not Talking About Me
Posted by Doug on April 27, 2009
The possibility exists that I might be serving as Dungeon Master for a player new to Dungeons & Dragons, and so I have been trawling the official D&D Fourth Edition forums, partly for general inspiration, and partly in the hopes of finding some nuggets of wisdom relevant to the task of DMing a new player, and partly just to pass the time.
Posts like “1001 Worst DMs to Ever Have in a Game“, while generally long and whiney, do speak to an underlying truth: some DMs, simply put, suck, and quite frequently the individuals in question are utterly unaware that they do, in fact, suck. The worst part of it all is that as I read the comments in threads like those, I inevitably start finding descriptions that are eerily familiar, almost as if I’m looking at a mirror…
For example, “the Conductor”, who railroads his players into what he thinks is a brilliant story about amazing NPCs, utterly disregarding the fact that the players want the story to be about them, and expect to have a healthy degree of free will. Or the “Low-Magic Nerfer”, who refuses to let the players have access to powerful magic, sometimes outlawing it altogether…but of course there are NPCs who crank the spellcasting up to eleven. Yes, it shames me to admit there was a time when I thought that these sorts of things were perfectly acceptable. Mea culpa. My only redeeming quality might be that I am consciously trying to deal with these sorts of behaviors.
As far as my Conductor-ishness, keeping the PCs at the center of the story is going to be an essential element I work into future campaign concepts. The 2-3 session “Dungeons Rove the Land” one-player mini-campaign I’m working on will, by necessity, involve some use of the DM’s Storyline Express (all aboard!), but given that the entire campaign is based around essentially one dungeon, if the player decides he doesn’t want to pick up on the glaringly obvious plot hook, then the entire campaign just doesn’t happen at all. I will still argue that in most campaigns, some level of DM funneling or railroading is necessary, especially in the beginning. But less, as they say, is more.
When it comes to my Magic-Nerfing ways, I think I’m over that phase: if you’re doing heroic fantasy like D&D, magic is the lifeblood of the world, and, by extension, the campaign. I just got to remember to tell myself Stop worrying and love the wand of quickened empowered maximized energy admixtured twinned split scorching ray.
Aaaaaaand now I await the comments from this site’s co-author Yamane Ishi, who has suffered through my DMing for a great length of time…