Friday, February 9, 2018

What makes a good DM

I was just looking at a post that was put up yesterday on a Facebook, AD&D page. It asked the question, "What makes a good DM?" About 200 comments into it I have learned that:

A: It is the DM's responsibility to insure that the game is fun for the players.
B: It is the DM's responsibility to know when to break the rules and when not to.
C: Most importantly, the DM needs to be flexible.
D: The DM must be a good story TELLER.
E: The DM is responsible for keeping the players engrossed.
F: The DM must be lucky enough to have good players and a good mentor.
G: The DM must be able to say no to his or her players.
H: The DM needs to have the ability to satisfy all of the players in-game desires.
I: Beer and snacks.
J: And then there are the catch-all statements that apply to ANY social situations: Adaptability, Creativity, Communication skills, Cooperation, and Agreeability.

I didn't look at the whole list, because why would I? And to be fair, being "organized" was included more than once. Most of the rest of it can be either assumed or thrown in the lake. To be clear, I disagreed with most of the statements made. I did not take any of the efforts represented here as serious.

Thursday, December 14, 2017


Quoting myself, "It is not a failure to be completely unprepared for what players want to do (in the game). It is a failure if you tell your players that because of their surprise choice, you have to cancel today's game, so that you can prepare."

What? Digging a hole in the wall of the dungeon isn't in your game module's design? The players are outside the box again. Okay, okay, we'll let it go. Maybe we'll get a few fun sessions out of this new direction. That would be great. Then we can all get back to TELLING MY STORY... But I digress. I am not here to talk about the sin of getting the players back into the (my) storyline. I am here to discuss being ready.

I am all about preparedness, being ready for what I think the players will do in the coming games sessions. More than that, I am all for being prepared for what the players have not thought about doing, or may never do. That all said, there will be many times when I am not prepared. My players are geniuses, smarter than me by any standard. They will come up with stuff that I have not considered. So what should I do? Should I say "no you can't do that"? Of course not (unless it is impossible.) Should I trick them into doing what I want them to do, what I am prepared for? Again, of course not. Should I sweeten the pot to make my desired path a better option? Again, no. I am not here to manipulate or lie to my friends and loved ones, as I have said before.

So, think on your feet. Use your imagination. Be brilliant. That unformed idea that has been kicking around in your brain? Make it happen. Free yourself!

Tuesday, November 28, 2017

"Tricks" - Appendix H From the Dungeon Masters Guide

"Most experienced Dungeon Masters will probably already have a proud repertoire of clever and innovative (not to mention unique and astounding) artifices, deceptions, conundrums, and sundry tricks which will put to shame the humble offering which follows. Nonetheless, this enumeration might serve for those who have not yet had the experience and seasoning necessary to invent more clever devices to bring consternation to overbold and incautious characters" (Gygax, 1979, p. 216).

Most often I feel that tricks are not my responsibility as DM. I am not big on traps either. I have had terrible experiences, terrible, where the neat thing had to be figured out by the players before success or progress could be had. The DM does not help when he or she chides the players for not getting the right or desired answer. What is that chiding good for? Is it my job to teach the players to be careful, with real-world advice? Shouldn't my description of an area or thing be enough to suggest that something is dangerous or difficult?

But JoMo, what about the monster's point of view? Surely the monster wouldn't want characters to get through certain areas. Well, it seems to me that such contests of wit would be as difficult as guessing someone's email password. Unless figuring out the oh so clever trick can be resolved by brute force, there does not seem a good use for the monster's point of view regarding tricks. Even then.

I also think it is lazy to say that puzzles and such are there because the boss monster at the end of the dungeon only wants the smartest minds to get through. Yes, the Mind Flayer sits waiting for only the juiciest brains to come. That's great, thanks. Let's just face that the DM wants to give the game a twist that is different from combat and traps. I challenge my fellow DMs to do better.

Gygax, G. (1979). Advanced Dungeons and Dragons: dungeon masters guide. T.S.R.

Thursday, November 16, 2017

Admitting My Mistake

I really want to be right. A novel concept I know. Last week I confused two different rule structures during my game session and it led to me making an ass of myself for fifteen minutes or so. Fifteen minutes of precious game time that none of us will ever get back.

My monster had 50% magic resistance and I was adamant that there was no chance for my player's 9th level Magic User (MU) to break through with his spells. This wasn't a misunderstanding of the rules regarding magic resistance, as clearly spelled out in the Monster Manual (p. 5-6). It wasn't me trying to save my monster. This was a confusion of the rules for the spell Dispel Magic and the math involved in that. I applied the Dispel Magic formula to Magic Resistance. I figured that it starts at 50%, then I added 10% to the difficulty as the MU was two levels under the arbitrary 11th level plateau, making it 60%. Then I added the monster's 50% resistance and came to over 100%. Very confused was I.

The worst part was that I was adamant about it and wouldn't let it go. One player thought I was making a new rule. Another was ready to give up and accept my confusion as the way things would be. Then another actually read the Monster Manual entry and my brick house came tumbling down. So certain was I.
I apologized to all of my players, more than that, I begged them to keep me honest and to help me in my efforts as DM. In the end I think I gained their respect as a person, if not as a DM.

Looking forward to this week's game!

Monday, November 13, 2017

My Tarot Deck of Many Things

I use the Aleister Crowley tarot deck for my Deck of Many Things. The definitions of the cards are here. Here are some of the images from my deck.

Monday, October 30, 2017

Monday, October 2, 2017

Thank You Mr. Gygax

The only good thing about the Gygaxian framework is that it reminds you that you need a framework.

Friday, September 29, 2017

Fun for Halloween

I'm not sure how much value this video has for a long term campaign, but looks super fun for parties.