Sunday, December 9, 2012

In Which Angela Rants About Good DMing... And Bad DMing.

If you've all read my geek posts, you'll probably know that DM means Dungeon Master. This is the person who runs a Dungeons and Dragons game.
Some of you will also know that I'm a DM, a D&D player, and I belong to a Dungeons and Dragons group.

As such, I feel like I can rant about DMing styles without too much grief. If anyone reading this is a bad DM, don't despair- your players love to make fun of what happens in your game.
Actually, players love to make fun of what happens no matter what it is.
It's just fun like that.

I know quite a few good Dungeons and Dragons DMs. My Uncle Erik is an incredible storyteller, and my mother always makes people laugh. My friend's dad used to DM for our D&D group, and he could keep a story going without people goofing off too much between turns.

Let's break down what makes each of these people a good DM.

My Uncle: He's really good at describing things, especially zombies flying apart when you hit them. This just makes you want to keep playing, because you want to know what happens next. It also means that certain people (*cough*me*cough*) can randomly get scared of zombies possibly attacking them in a basement after an encounter where said thing happened.

My Mom: She's silly, and she's not trying to confuse you with what's going on. If you have a question, there's a 75% chance that she'll answer it. Her games are more open ended... You have the choice of what to do, which adventure hook to chase, etc.

My Friend's Dad: He left things incredibly open world wise, and he always encouraged you to create your character's backstory. Things that might seem trivial at first (but were fun) later turned out to be major components of the story which left you feeling like you discovered something huge by yourself. He also made sure that there wasn't much Out of Game talk.

So now you know what, to me, makes a good DM. A little silliness, good storytelling and good description, and being able to let the characters do what they want while still going forward in the plot (and keeping the out of game talk to a minimum.)

Unfortunately, even though I know these amazing DMs, the majority of the time that I play D&D it's with one of two rather... Unsatisfactory DMs. We'll call them Friend One and Friend Two. Friend One is very much a player character type person, and has a hard time getting into the DM mode, and Friend Two is too focused on the plot and controlling the game to let the characters make choices.
Let's break these down as well.

Friend One: Is too focused on combat, and is likely to get carried away on a tangent (but gets irritated when the players do so, not to mention when we make fun of the game.) The upside to this person DMing is that we definitely do get a lot of experience points, and everyone more or less knows to stay on topic.

Friend Two: Is way too focused on the plot of the game. Friend Two treats the game as a story, and the players as characters he's trying to force to do one thing or another thing, which just makes us antsy (and turns at least two of us into instigators). The upside is that Friend Two doesn't mind us making fun of the game.

And now you know what frustrates me. Being too serious about the game (it is a GAME, after all), and trying to control what your players do.

And then there's DMs like me who never think to prepare stuff ahead of time (other than a rough plot outline), so they just make whatever the heck they want up while the players go through the game.
It's not the best, but it's not the worst, either.
Then again, I am biased.

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