Elder Players' - DM's Comments


It hit me while reading comments about the campaign that were sent to me...that some basic agreements between us might prevent some problems that were described to me. I thought I could also use this forum to take care of some pet peaves of mine. Think of this as constructive criticism (see #9 below). Being critical of the status quo is often a good beginning to making a new and better status quo.

I'm not writing these to force rules on anyone. You can break any of these rules you want. It's a free country and we play D&D for fun. I'm not in charge of anything except the NPCs, Monsters, and the gaming world. We're all adults, and in charge of our own style-of-play. I'm just giving some hints to getting along better with the other players and the DM. In the end, we'll all enjoy the game more if we at least consider the following concepts and what they mean. I would enjoy and welcome an open discussion of any topic mentioned here...of course!

1. TALKING IN-CHARACTER - I don't mean using a funny accent...or lisping...or whatever. I mean, instead of telling us what your character is thinking...speak as your character. Say what he/she would say. Nothing fancy...nothing poetic...not using old-english words! Just tell us what your character says and does...NOT WHY! When discussing plans with the rest of the group, do so as your character would. Use your character's attitudes, prejudices, and opinions...not your own. If your character is not present in a scene...then shut up. Don't tell other players how to play their character, ever...but especially not when you aren't even present in the scene. Remember that you character is a member of a group, and that your character has depended on this group in the past for his/her survival. There should be at least some BONDS between these characters.

2. ARGUING WITH THE DUNGEON MASTER - I am the first to admit that I make mistakes. When keeping track of 7-9 players and all my NPCs and monsters...I will tend to forget things. Making hundreds of judgements every night, I will most likely make a few that you feel are incorrect. I WELCOME YOU TO DISAGREE WITH ME, BUT ONLY ARGUE YOUR POINT ONCE. Make your argument in a civil tone, make it quickly, and make it good...because I only want to hear it once. I will listen to your reasoning, and then I will decide whether I want to stick with my original decision, or change things to fit your argument. Once we've gone through this process, please just accept whatever happens and move on. I'm not perfect, but I try to be fair...and if you dwell on just ONE of my decisions, it will probably hurt the game...for you and others (and me).

3. THE IMPORTANCE OF RULES - Yes, the rules are the basis and backbone of the game. Without them...the game falls into disorder. But a perfect interpretation of every rule every time is not always necessary. STORYLINE is more important to me than rules. PLAYING YOUR CHARACTER is more important to me than rules. COOL SCENES AND EVENTS are more important to me than rules. So if a particular rule stands in the way of any of these things in a specific instance...out the window that rule will go. Along with this way of thinking comes the next topic....

4. RULE BICKERING - Nothing slows the storyline down more than rule bickering. Nothing ruins a cool moment in the game more than rule bickering. Nothing makes me more irritated than rule bickering. If you choose to interupt game-play with a disagreement about rules you had better have your rule-book open, and be ready to quote me the page number and the text of the rule you wish to bring up. If you just jump in and interupt with, "No...no...I think the rule says...," expect to be scolded and penalized. This has become my number one pet-peave lately. It would be less irritating if players bickering about rules were always correct, but lately they have been wrong as often as right. This is the age-old "rule lawyer" problem raising its ugly head.

5. KNOW YOUR SPELLS/ABILITIES - All players know what spells, special abilities, and skills their characters have ahead of time. READ ABOUT THEM...LEARN ABOUT THEM. At least know what page number they are on, so that you and I can quickly look them up if necessary. This will quicken game play, and help maintain the game's atmosphere. The combat round lasts a few minutes when there are eight players. That gives you a lot of time to look up a spell, ability, or skill before your turn of action. LOOK IT UP, and refresh your memory. You will find that your spells, special abilities, and skills are MUCH MORE SUCCESSFUL if you know what they do ahead of time.

6. DUNGEON MASTER 'HINTS' - There are times when I will say things from DM to Player that may be taken as "hints" or "suggestions" of what a player should have his character do in the game. I may do this as a friendly thing, or I may do it to speed up game-play. Other times, players feel I am hinting at them, when I have absolutely no intention of doing so. So basing your actions on "DM hints" is not really a successful strategy. YOU ARE RESPONSIBLE FOR PLAYING YOUR CHARACTER, NOT ME. I have said it before, and I will say it again...I enjoy it when players take the road-less-travelled. I enjoy surprises from the players. They can be some of the best moments in a game. On the other hand, splitting off from the rest of the group in a dangerous environment may very well lead to your death or disfigurement. In the second game in TUNIS, Jeff had his character Ruadhin stay in Robert Nevo's vault, despite the fact that it would take him out of game-play for quite awhile. He decided that was what his character would do...so that is what he did. I enjoyed that. I even hinted against him remaining behind, but he ignored me...showing how confident he was in his character's actions. I personally scored Jeff very high in Role-Playing at the end of the game. There is a lesson somewhere there.

7. SUSPENSION OF DISBELIEF - We all take a full night out of our month in order to enter the world of our D&D game. This is a night we could spend with family...or on other hobbies or interests. But we decide each and every month to play our game. The whole point of the game is to enter the fantasy of the game. To suspend our disbelief and take as much fun and reality from the game as we can. Spend more time getting into your character's thoughts and reactions. Spend more time exploring the storyline. Get to know NPCs. Be curious about the world, and explore it. Forget you are playing a game, and enjoy yourself!

8. PERSONAL ATTACKS - That is a strong way to describe out-of-character comments made by players in order to put down or insult another player's actions. But it feels that way when it is being done to you...like an attack. DON'T TELL OTHER PLAYERS HOW TO PLAY. Don't insult other player's actions. If you character is present, and wishes to comment...then comment IN-CHARACTER. But get ready for the the other player to react to your words...that is what role-playing is about. YOU DON'T ALWAYS KNOW WHY A PLAYER IS DOING SOMETHING. They may be acting on information you don't have. They may be playing elements of their character you don't know about. Or they may just play in a way you don't like or understand. Be tolerant and keep nasty comments either to yourself, or say them in-character. Try to remember not everyone is perfect...even you.

9. CONSTRUCTIVE CRITICISM - I am always willing to here comments and suggestions from you. I think it helps me adjust the game to be closer to what you enjoy. Keep it CONSTRUCTIVE, please. Telling me I suck, or what I shouldn't do is not a very successful way to approach this. That's no surprise right? Suggest treasure you would like to see...monsters you would like to fight...types of games you would like to play. That sort of thing. Tell me what works, and what doesn't...but when you tell me something didn't work...be ready to justify that and offer suggestions of what would have been better. Finally, while I always welcome your comments, I won't always agree with them. That's no surprise either, right? There is the old saying that "hindsight is always 20-20."

10. TRUST THE DUNGEON MASTER - I know that sounds funny, but I've noticed that I don't get a lot of trust. I find that strange. When I am DMing, I plan the basic storyline, I design the NPCs and Monsters, and I get to decide what they do, when they do it, and why they do it. I'm amazed at how often I am questioned on what an NPC is doing, or how they are reacting to the party. I've also noticed that people ask me questions, and other players will sometime answer them for me...even though they have no idea what they are talking about. Along the same lines, when I am DMing, I describe the world as it appears to the characters. In the second Tunis game when the characters faced the two Beholders and the party's spells were not working...I was basically "called out" and told that it was impossible. I had to show that there were two beholders, and lay pencils on the board to show the one beholder's anti-magic cone...and how the other could still have focused a magical ray at Zeek. I had to do that because there was a lack of trust...or a feeling that I was cheating, or in the very least extremely mistaken. Mapping all that out slowed down the game, and ruined the scene for me. I won't do that next time. Trust me or not, I am making a promise to myself that I will not react to that sort of baiting anymore. From this point on, demands that I explain things that should remain unknown will be met with a blank stare. Try to focus on your character's reactions to the world...not being critical of how I am running the game.

Please take these comments for what they are...comments...suggestions...things to think about. Ultimately we will each play the game with our own unique playing style...something I have no interest in changing. I enjoying running the game...I want to keep this campaign going for a long time. As I said above, I welcome any comments regarding these 10 thoughts.

In addition...with the new plan for the future putting you the players in charge of DMing the game...it will be important that we all recognize certain manners and rules of civility during play. Perhaps if we all put some thought into exactly HOW we play the game, it will help keep the game more consistent...and more fun for everyone involved. Thanks, Mark Stinson

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M. Ludwig Stinson, P.O. Box 28204, Gladstone, MO 64188