D&D General A Novel Take on Rule 0 ((Forked from the Power of Creation Thread))

Hussar

Legend
I came across this really excellent line from @Celebrim in the https://www.enworld.org/threads/the-power-of-creation thread. I thought I'd pull it out here because I think it really deserves it's own examination.

@Celebrim said:
Rule zero for me as a GM isn't, "I can do whatever I want", because while that's true it's not fundamental. Rule zero for me as a GM is, "Be the GM you would want to have if you were a player."

I think this is something that gets lost in the conversation. For me, this is probably the primary reason I started DMing. I had a rather unfortunate string of really, really atrocious gaming experiences and I was sick of playing RPG's and then hating what was going on. So, I started running games. And I ran games with exactly the above quote in mind.

And, I do think there's a corollary here. Which would be:

Be the player you would want to have if you were the DM​

Honestly, I think that 99% of the problems at the table would be solved overnight if everyone would keep these two things in mind. I think that most table issues stem from when one side of the screen or the other forgets that the game isn't just about them and is about everyone.

I hope I didn't make a terrible hash of the point I'm trying to make here. It made so much sense in my head, but, I'm having a bit of trouble finding the right words to express my point. What do others think?
 

log in or register to remove this ad

prabe

Aspiring Lurker (He/Him)
Supporter
Two slightly different formulations, which I think are adjacent if not overlapping:

Run games you'd love to play in.

Don't be a GM you'd hate to have.

The only downside, of course, is that different players will have different preferences in the games they play and in how their GMs run them.
 

Tonguez

A suffusion of yellow
It fits the notion that RPGs are a shared storytelling game - The DM is playing too and everyone needs to help tell a fun story regardless of the rules.
Its why I like the narrative first focus of FATE and the ability of players to create scene aspects too
 

I'd rather be the DM my players would like to have. Being the one I myself would like to have as a player is a strong guideline for that (with the added bonus that it might encourage habits in other people at the table when they DM for me), but when you get into more particular preferences I think its important to remember that your own personal wish list is not necessarily for everyone.
 

kenada

Legend
This is how I GM. I try to be transparent about what I want, so the players who join my game are those who are also interested in what I’m offering. It hasn’t always worked out, but I’ve managed to establish a good group that has lasted for a while and who will humor their GM when he decides he wants to put together and run a homebrew system.
 

Frankly, I think this is why I'm such a massive skeptic of all the stuff people say about "DM empowerment." DMs have always had all the power they could ever want and more. Literally not one thing has ever altered this. No edition of D&D has ever made DMs anything less. What editions have done, however, is make it so unwise DM choices have obvious consequences, and players now have a much greater ability to critique those choices.

It seems, to me, that what a lot of DMs mean when they say they want to "return" to "DM empowerment" is that they want to be able to have consequence-free DMing. That's never going to happen.
 

I guess it depends on your experiences. I've played in AD&D, which was fairly confrontational between DM & players, but that was just an aspect of the game. As a DM, I expected it when I played, and assumed my players expected it as well. Very few DMs I met actually used the opportunity to abuse their position (at least on a regular basis), since they would lose players quickly.

Frankly, I think this is why I'm such a massive skeptic of all the stuff people say about "DM empowerment." DMs have always had all the power they could ever want and more. Literally not one thing has ever altered this. No edition of D&D has ever made DMs anything less. What editions have done, however, is make it so unwise DM choices have obvious consequences, and players now have a much greater ability to critique those choices.
It seems, to me, that what a lot of DMs mean when they say they want to "return" to "DM empowerment" is that they want to be able to have consequence-free DMing. That's never going to happen.
I disagree here. The issue IMO was that the last 2 editions have been very rules heavy, which by design limit the freedom DMs have to make judgement calls. This leads to nonsense like players assuming they can seduce an ancient dragon, no matter how much it might not make sense in the game. Obviously the DM was free to ignore the rules (Rule 0), but with the rise of RAW's popularity among players, many DMs felt constrained to run that way.

For example, when I ran 3E, and especially 4E, I could have provided a much better experience to the players than I did, but only by ignoring RAW. Since RAW became almost dogma by this time, any deviation was met with an argument from at least one player. Since players arguing with the DM isn't fun for anyone, especially the players not involved, it was better for the game to run RAW... despite the fact that it was an inferior experience.
 

I disagree here. The issue IMO was that the last 2 editions have been very rules heavy, which by design limit the freedom DMs have to make judgement calls. This leads to nonsense like players assuming they can seduce an ancient dragon, no matter how much it might not make sense in the game. Obviously the DM was free to ignore the rules (Rule 0), but with the rise of RAW's popularity among players, many DMs felt constrained to run that way.
That they felt constrained does not mean they were constrained. And that "popularity among players" is exactly my point. There is a consequence to "do whatever the heck you like, no matter what's written in the books available to players, without communicating with them or making sure everyone's on the same page." That's exactly what wanting to DM without consequences is: presuming that everyone will always just meekly accept what you choose to do without comment or criticism.

The "rise of RAW's popularity" didn't weaken DM power. At all. You yourself just admitted that. What it did is make it so there were actual consequences for using certain kinds of DM techniques. And it turns out, when you've been used to doing whatever-the-heck-you-like, having actual consequences for your choices can be a rude awakening.

For example, when I ran 3E, and especially 4E, I could have provided a much better experience to the players than I did, but only by ignoring RAW. Since RAW became almost dogma by this time, any deviation was met with an argument from at least one player. Since players arguing with the DM isn't fun for anyone, especially the players not involved, it was better for the game to run RAW... despite the fact that it was an inferior experience.
Why does it have to be an argument? Why can't you just have a frank discussion, or say, "I understand your criticisms, but I'd appreciate it if we can save that discussion for after the session, please."? It sounds to me like exactly what I was talking about above. You don't feel you actually need to get your players on board with what you're doing before you do it. You just do it, and expect them to follow like obedient little players. That's not a realistic thing to expect, especially as knowledge of the system becomes pervasive.

Much better to give your players enough respect that you get them on the same page. At the very least, giving them a reason to expect that the common, shared understanding provided by the books is not actually common nor shared, and some kind of evidence that yes, the loss of this common, shared understanding will in fact be worthwhile.
 

prabe

Aspiring Lurker (He/Him)
Supporter
Much better to give your players enough respect that you get them on the same page. At the very least, giving them a reason to expect that the common, shared understanding provided by the books is not actually common nor shared, and some kind of evidence that yes, the loss of this common, shared understanding will in fact be worthwhile.
Or at least give the players reason to believe the DM has thought through whatever differences there are between the game they want to run and the game the players expect from reading the book/s.
 

That they felt constrained does not mean they were constrained. And that "popularity among players" is exactly my point. There is a consequence to "do whatever the heck you like, no matter what's written in the books available to players, without communicating with them or making sure everyone's on the same page." That's exactly what wanting to DM without consequences is: presuming that everyone will always just meekly accept what you choose to do without comment or criticism.
Doing "whatever the heck I like" has provided an excellent gaming experience for over 25 years. The fact that you put it this way is pretty damn insulting, since you don't know jack about me or my DMing style. The way I run a game is exactly the type of game I enjoy playing in, and the only complaints I've received has been about dealing with RAW.
The "rise of RAW's popularity" didn't weaken DM power. At all. You yourself just admitted that. What it did is make it so there were actual consequences for using certain kinds of DM techniques. And it turns out, when you've been used to doing whatever-the-heck-you-like, having actual consequences for your choices can be a rude awakening.
Yes, it did weaken my power as a DM. If the players refuse to play anything but RAW, then I either give up my ability to run a good game, or I don't DM. After years of the former, I eventually settled on the latter for those editions. Unsurprisingly, with the playtest and 5E I've been able to run excellent games for years (I finally took my first hiatus this year), since they've moved away from the idiocy that is RAW.
Why does it have to be an argument? Why can't you just have a frank discussion, or say, "I understand your criticisms, but I'd appreciate it if we can save that discussion for after the session, please."? It sounds to me like exactly what I was talking about above. You don't feel you actually need to get your players on board with what you're doing before you do it. You just do it, and expect them to follow like obedient little players. That's not a realistic thing to expect, especially as knowledge of the system becomes pervasive.

Much better to give your players enough respect that you get them on the same page. At the very least, giving them a reason to expect that the common, shared understanding provided by the books is not actually common nor shared, and some kind of evidence that yes, the loss of this common, shared understanding will in fact be worthwhile.
I've never shied away from explaining my reasoning for my style, both up front (session 0) and in the moment. As for a "frank discussion," well I've only recently gotten to a point where I can be selective about my players. There are a lot of <expletive> players out there, some of who seem to enjoy arguing about the rules more than playing the game. Rules lawyers are by far the worse for that, since they'll "lose" if they can't change the ruling immediately. Fortunately I no longer have to put up with players like that, having a fairly stable group, but I image there are a lot of other DMs still in that boat.
 

Quickleaf

Legend
Hussar said:
Rule zero for me as a GM is, "Be the GM you would want to have if you were a player."

Yeah, empathy / listening / thinking-of-others / mindfulness is a pretty foundational human guideline. That's my default in pretty much every arena of life, including gaming.

I'd say gamers, at least the majority I've had the pleasure of interacting with, are more likely to sway towards this sort of empathic reciprocal thinking (at least compared to the general American public). Maybe because there's a bit of imagination involved in thinking about another person's experience.
 

delericho

Legend
Rule zero for me as a GM is, "Be the GM you would want to have if you were a player."

And, I do think there's a corollary here. Which would be:

Be the player you would want to have if you were the DM​
Yep, I like both of these. Wise words!

Like @Hussar, I largely came to DMing after several experiences with fairly poor DMs. Though I'm probably over-estimating my own performance in the early days - my best guess is that my players had to endure "slightly better" on a long, slow journey to "okay-ish"!
 

DND_Reborn

Legend
What editions have done, however, is make it so unwise DM choices have obvious consequences, and players now have a much greater ability to critique those choices.

It seems, to me, that what a lot of DMs mean when they say they want to "return" to "DM empowerment" is that they want to be able to have consequence-free DMing. That's never going to happen.
The consequences are the same as they have always been as well-- players get upset and can leave, or whatever.

I agree DM's have all the power they ever had--nothing has changed any of that--but I don't see how the consequences have changed, either.

FWIW, I am an "iron-fisted DM" when I run my games. There is no questioning my rulings DURING the game. I don't put up with it. If a player doesn't like how I run things, I will point them to the door. Period.

Now, after the session (because actual playing time is too precious to waste), I am more than willing to listen to discussions, arguments, or whatever. Sometimes I will change things for the future, other times I won't. Regardless of which I do, if the player can't abide with my decision, they are free to not return.

DMing was never consequence free IMO.
 

The consequences are the same as they have always been as well-- players get upset and can leave, or whatever.

I agree DM's have all the power they ever had--nothing has changed any of that--but I don't see how the consequences have changed, either.

FWIW, I am an "iron-fisted DM" when I run my games. There is no questioning my rulings DURING the game. I don't put up with it. If a player doesn't like how I run things, I will point them to the door. Period.

Now, after the session (because actual playing time is too precious to waste), I am more than willing to listen to discussions, arguments, or whatever. Sometimes I will change things for the future, other times I won't. Regardless of which I do, if the player can't abide with my decision, they are free to not return.

DMing was never consequence free IMO.
I don't really think the consequences have changed. I think the rate at which consequences occur, and the vehemence and volume of those consequences, has changed. That is, players are better-informed, better equipped to identify DM behaviors (good, bad, or indifferent), and less willing to tolerate undesirable or uncomfortable practices.

Some of this comes from the higher system transparency (even in 5e, despite the fact that it goes out of its way to be opaque at times.) Some of it comes from the Internet enabling far greater discussion and analysis and outside ideas: when all you know is the one game run by your friend who is your age, and you don't know anyone else who plays outside your friend group, you have no standard of comparison, but now we have legions of people to talk to and examples to compare against (for better and for worse.) Some of it, I'm sure, is a culture difference between the players of the 2010s and 2020s and the players of the 1970s and 1980s.

As with any social phenomenon, there are a host of reasons. But the ultimate fact is, the consequences for less-appreciated techniques in DMing come a lot faster and, usually, a lot more vocally than they did in ye olden dayse. I find DMs mistake "players actually criticize DM techniques and don't meekly accept ones they dislike" for "players are entitled jerks who refuse to let me show them the grand masterpiece they COULD have had if they weren't UNGRATEFUL DONKEYS."

I assume my phrasing makes it quite clear which position I think is the more reasonable one.
 

Dungeon Delver's Guide

An Advertisement

Advertisement4

Top