D&D 5E 9 Things "Pro" DMs Do That You shouldn't

Mort

Legend
Supporter
So in a bit of procrastination (also because I'm trying to help my 14 year old who's DMing for his D&D club and would much rather hear advise from a random YouTuber than me!), I happened on this video. And I think I agree with every point. Summed up they are, Pro DM's do this, you shouldn't:

1. Long Monologues/narrative descriptions/cut scenes;
2. Focus too much on NPC talks;
3. Wait for the "perfect" moment to introduce a new/replacement PC;
4. Plan for Three hour long fights;
5. Putting the story before the game;
6. Have temporary characters that are planned to be killed off;
7. Allowing PVP or truly high tension Player moments;
8. Letting characters talk endlessly;
9. Setting expectations too high.


Now some of these are MUCH more important than others, but overall I agree with all of them.

Thoughts?
 

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very good advice... is there one for players shouldn't play like they are on a stream too?

I mean I am sure I would have fun streaming one of my games... I could even somewhat edit my 3 hour session into a 45 min fun vid to watch... but most of what we do isn't really worth spectating.

BTW that 3 hour session is already chopping 30-45 mins off for "hey how was your week" and "oh I saw this thread on enworld I wanted to talk about"
 

Jer

Legend
Supporter
I had this discussion with my kid recently - it's all about audience. They're a huge fan of The Adventure Zone and we were talking about how the McElroys' games aren't like the games I run or the games my kid runs. But it's because the audiences for these games are completely different. The McElroys are performing to a wide audience, the players are all acting towards that audience, and the game that they're running has to have a narrative throughline to it to be a satisfying podcast and keep listeners. And the game itself is often more of a tool for guided improvisation than it is a game. The DM and the players truly are there to entertain a large audience, and so there are a lot of things that make sense in that environment - like having the DM talk as multiple NPCs in different voices, or letting one PC monologue for a substantial length of time, or many of the other things on that list above - because those things are entertaining to listen to when professional entertainers are doing them.

In contrast when you're running a game for friends the audience is the folks at the table and that's it. There's no concern about how it's going to play for an audience and you're not trying to keep subscribers enthralled by your performances. The narrative only really needs to make as much sense to the extent that the folks at the table care that it makes sense (which may be a lot, or may be not at all, or may be anywhere in between). And the DM and players probably aren't professional entertainers, so listening to folks go on for long monologues isn't going to be nearly as much entertaining as it is when you're a passive consumer of entertainment.

In short, Actual Plays are great for evangelizing the game and teaching some of the basics to players who don't have a group to teach them, but aren't so great for showing what a "typical" game is going to be like or even what it should be like.
 

DND_Reborn

Legend
1. Long Monologues/narrative descriptions/cut scenes;
2. Focus too much on NPC talks;
3. Wait for the "perfect" moment to introduce a new/replacement PC;
4. Plan for Three hour long fights;
5. Putting the story before the game;
6. Have temporary characters that are planned to be killed off;
7. Allowing PVP or truly high tension Player moments;
8. Letting characters talk endlessly;
9. Setting expectations too high.
Wait a minute... what "pros" do these things???

Sorry, but most of those a most definite no-nos in my book, personally, the only exceptions being possibly 4 and 5.

#4 because I know some fights are going to be long, drawn-out, slug-fests of wave after wave of enemies. They are rare, of course, because they can be rather intense, but they happen.

#5 because (if this is what this means) often elements of the story drive the game, but sometimes the outcome of the game drives the story as well.
 

Jer

Legend
Supporter
Wait a minute... what "pros" do these things???
The ones who are doing Actual Play podcasts and YouTube shows? They're pros in the sense that they're getting paid to DM.

All of them except maybe the "three hour long fight" one seem to be pretty standard for Actual Plays that I've listened to or watched. But that's because what makes for a fun listening experience isn't the same thing as what makes for a good gameplay experience. Good APs tend to be more like improvised radio plays that use the game as a structure for improvising off of, which is not the same thing as what makes a good game IME.

(Who is running three hour combats in an AP by the way? That sounds like it would be immensely boring to listen to or watch.)
 

Mort

Legend
Supporter
Wait a minute... what "pros" do these things???

Sorry, but most of those a most definite no-nos in my book, personally, the only exceptions being possibly 4 and 5.

#4 because I know some fights are going to be long, drawn-out, slug-fests of wave after wave of enemies. They are rare, of course, because they can be rather intense, but they happen.

#5 because (if this is what this means) often elements of the story drive the game, but sometimes the outcome of the game drives the story as well.

He's mostly reacting to Critical Role and Dimension20.
 

Composer99

Adventurer
I feel like most of these could be condensed into a few points
  • Don't let a single pillar of gameplay (and in particular social interaction) dominate the game
  • Remember that you are running a game for your players to play, not creating a compelling narrative for an audience to watch

... actually, I would boil it own to those two. Everything else is kind of an example.
 

iserith

Magic Wordsmith
Agree with all of the points you listed. I'm good with 3+ hour long combats though. They aren't common in my experience, but at my table such a situation is really be something to behold. It wouldn't be sitting around waiting 30 minutes for your turn because the pace is sluggish - it is fast-paced, but complex and changing with lots of goals and sub-goals with a lot of interaction and different challenges. Really more like multiple encounters occurring simultaneously or back-to-back.
 

Mort

Legend
Supporter
Agree with all of the points you listed. I'm good with 3+ hour long combats though. They aren't common in my experience, but at my table such a situation is really be something to behold. It wouldn't be sitting around waiting 30 minutes for your turn because the pace is sluggish - it is fast-paced, but complex and changing with lots of goals and sub-goals with a lot of interaction and different challenges. Really more like multiple encounters occurring simultaneously or back-to-back.

His point is more: don't STRIVE for 3 hour long combats. If they happen, they happen (and they sometimes happen) but don't plan for it just for the sake of having a "big long fight."
 

DND_Reborn

Legend
The ones who are doing Actual Play podcasts and YouTube shows? They're pros in the sense that they're getting paid to DM.

All of them except maybe the "three hour long fight" one seem to be pretty standard for Actual Plays that I've listened to or watched. But that's because what makes for a fun listening experience isn't the same thing as what makes for a good gameplay experience. Good APs tend to be more like improvised radio plays that use the game as a structure for improvising off of, which is not the same thing as what makes a good game IME.

(Who is running three hour combats in an AP by the way? That sounds like it would be immensely boring to listen to or watch.)
Oh, got it. Yeah, I can't get into watching others play. I have tried and found it boring as paint drying. I think it is a horrible method for new DMs to learn to DM because trying to make a good passive experience (the "pros" people watch/listen to for entertainment) is nothing like trying to make a good active experience (playing).
 

Composer99

Adventurer
(Who is running three hour combats in an AP by the way? That sounds like it would be immensely boring to listen to or watch.)
I've seen a few combats on Critical Role run for an hour, hour-and-a-half that feel longer, especially towards the tail end once it's clear the player characters are winning. Dunno about three-hour-long combats.



Not a direct reply to the above:

I'm inclined to say that Critical Role and such shows are an odd mixture of actual gameplay and audience-targeted narrative. There have been a few fights, for instance, that weren't very exciting to watch (from an audience perspective) that the players seemed to be enjoying. So they're not exactly shows meant for audience entertainment, but they certainly aren't home games, and DMs should be careful about what lessons to draw from them.
 

Mort

Legend
Supporter
Oh, got it. Yeah, I can't get into watching others play. I have tried and found it boring as paint drying. I think it is a horrible method for new DMs to learn to DM because trying to make a good passive experience (the "pros") is nothing like trying to make a good active experience (playing).

Yes,

The big point is - DMing for players is VERY different from DMing for viewers. DMs AND players really need to be cognizant of this big difference.
 

Dausuul

Legend
1. Long Monologues/narrative descriptions/cut scenes;
2. Focus too much on NPC talks;
3. Wait for the "perfect" moment to introduce a new/replacement PC;
4. Plan for Three hour long fights;
5. Putting the story before the game;
6. Have temporary characters that are planned to be killed off;
7. Allowing PVP or truly high tension Player moments;
8. Letting characters talk endlessly;
9. Setting expectations too high.
I'll disagree a bit on #7. PvP is okay with the right players. In my group it typically happens when a PC turns to the dark side, and the player of that character wants a spectacular end to the PC's fall.

However, the "griefer" style of PvP should absolutely not be tolerated.
 

Mort

Legend
Supporter
I'll disagree a bit on #7. PvP is okay with the right players. In my group it typically happens when a PC turns to the dark side, and the player of that character wants a spectacular end to the PC's fall.

However, the "griefer" style of PvP should absolutely not be tolerated.

I suppose it could , in theory, work. For the right group.

But in 35 years of gaming I have, never, not once seen it work well in D&D.

Even in a D&D game where everyone was a mature adult and we agreed beforehand that PvP was fine and everyone was playing an evil character. Though the reason for that one not working was different. Everyone was so intent on doing their own thing that the DM had to split his attention like 6 different ways - most of the time most of the players were bored silly and it was just not a fun experience.

So can it be done? I'm sure it can, and I've seen it work in other games (Paranoia being a prime example). But I haven't seen it done satisfactorily in D&D.
 



Yora

Legend
I'll disagree a bit on #7. PvP is okay with the right players. In my group it typically happens when a PC turns to the dark side, and the player of that character wants a spectacular end to the PC's fall.

However, the "griefer" style of PvP should absolutely not be tolerated.
It's something that requires moderation by the GM with established ground rules.

However, I see the opposite with number 8: If you're players are talking, don't interrupt them. They are playing the game.
 

Mort

Legend
Supporter
It's something that requires moderation by the GM with established ground rules.

However, I see the opposite with number 8: If you're players are talking, don't interrupt them. They are playing the game.

True unless, it's just one or two players doing all the talking and the other players can't get a word in edgewise (and would clearly like to or to participate in some other way). That's spotlight hogging and needs to be dealt with.
 


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