Tuesday, May 19, 2009

The Responsibility of a DM

The following is from the Afterword in S4, The Lost Caverns of Tsojcanth. I thought it was an interesting how Gary Gygax handled the earning of experience points.

"...player characters may accumulate enough experience points to qualify for an increase in level. Because the caverns are so far removed from any place where characters can train, the DM may allow player characters to advance without prior training, provided that the quality of play has been very high.

Poor play does not merit special consideration. Players will not improve if the DM pampers rather than challenges them. If your players perform badly, do not allow their characters to increase in experience level. Be more judicious in how you handle awards to player characters. Allowing foolish or ignorant players to advance their characters to high levels reflects badly upon the game and even more upon the Dungeon Master who allowed this travesty to occur."

Right here EGG is drawing a line for all DMs. A quality assurance speech to let all DMs know that lowering of standards is not acceptable. That to lower your standards is to fail personally. That it's a travesty. Wow. I never felt so much pressure to DM.

A good DM knows the people he plays with, knowing their styles, their quirks, who they team up with and who they dislike. You know who is going to use out of game knowledge to further their interests. You know who is going to make trouble for the party by going his own way or stealing from the others. Even if you play a pickup game player's personalities come out strong during a game. Since I don't play with too many outsiders (which I would like to do more) I know my group very well and make sure the adventures/campaign highlight the play that they enjoy. I discourage poor play especially when personal vendettas are brought to the gaming table or vice versa.

Players of course have different levels of competence. Some only want to play fireball slinging mages who likes to burn down villages and horde as much treasure as possible. Others can play a wide range of characters with different motivations and goals. The one thing I've learn by DMing is every action has a reaction good or bad. My players will tell you one I love to get them into situations where there is no true right answer. If a mage wants to fireball villages to the ground a knight and his retinue will hunt him down and make a pin cushion out of his body.

One of the more memorable conclusions to one of these characters was after he'd caused a lot of mayhem and destruction. This elven mage was warned to change or he would be punished. He continued. Eventually he was caught and tried in a court of elven law. Though this character had killed many an elven court does not see death as a proper punishment. Instead the judge said, "You have done terrible things and give no more thought to you actions than an animal. You have acted like an animal so therefore you will become an animal. For one hundred years you shall carry upon your back the people who wish to cross the cold waters of the river." The mage was turned into a mule and saddled. I gladly stole that from a folklore story I had read once. The effect it had on the player was great. His next character was still a bit psychotic, but a bit more restrained. Hey, it was an improvement.

There are so many directions one can go with this subject. I do think it's a good idea to have a DM help improve the players' play. But it also must be considered what the DM considers good play and the player considers good play to be two different animals.

1 comment:

  1. A very intuitive post, straight from the master himself.

    Well done and thank you.