log in or register to remove this ad

 

D&D General How to be a Better DM: One Size Doesn't Fit All


log in or register to remove this ad

overgeeked

B/X Known World
Just like two lovers discussing what they like from the adult film clips they've watched on the internet
If you think there are no videos out there specifically designed to teach people...techniques...then I'd suggest you're not constructing your searches very well.
 




Snarf Zagyg

Notorious Liquefactionist
If Snarf will enjoy a bard scene, I'm afraid of what will be happening to the bard...

Imagine there's no minstrels
It's easy if you try
No bards to annoy us
No lutes for them to try

Imagine all the people
Killin' a bard today
Ah

Imagine there's no troubadours
It isn't hard to do
No valor bards to annoy us
And no lore bards, too

Imagine all the people
Hackin' a bard to pieces
You

You may say that Snarf's a dreamer
But I'm not the only one
I hope someday you'll join me
And all the bards in the world will be done
 

Bolares

Hero
Imagine there's no minstrels
It's easy if you try
No bards to annoy us
No lutes for them to try

Imagine all the people
Killin' a bard today
Ah

Imagine there's no troubadours
It isn't hard to do
No valor bards to annoy us
And no lore bards, too

Imagine all the people
Hackin' a bard to pieces
You

You may say that Snarf's a dreamer
But I'm not the only one
I hope someday you'll join me
And all the bards in the world will be done
yeah, you hate bards.... sure buddy :p

And all the bards in the world will be done
Let me correct that for you:

*And all the bards but Snarf will be done.


I sense a Bardlander vibe here (THERE CAN ONLY BE ONE)
 

Please note- I am using the term "DM" instead of "GM," because I feel like it, because I'm mostly discussing D&D, and because I want to. Feel free to use whatever your preferred nomenclature is.
I prefer Games Operation Director, shortening it to the acronym ;)

Great post. Your stuff is hit or miss, but this was a critical hit!
Other DMs might have good advice
People hopefully understand that everyone's post should just be advice, and you're correct that every source should be treated this way (particularly Sage Advice, which too many people take as gospel). A DM really needs to read the group and figure out how things work best for everyone. Unfortunately even for experienced DMs this is a process with a new group.
Yes, we should note that the doctors, lawyers, engineers, scientists.. and professionals in general, are trained, and learn the specific technical meanings of their terms in that training. GMs are more in the realm of being self-taught.
This greatly saddens me. When I first started all those years ago in 1E, it was common for DMs to apprentice potential DMs. While it was almost necessary back then, since the rules were only found in the DMG, I've tried to continue this tradition. I haven't taken one on since the beginning of 5E, but that's because I've only played with the same group since then, which is blessed with 4 out of 7 people being DMs. If I ever go back to running public games at a FLGS, I'll once again be on the lookout for potential DMs to see if any are interested.
 

Snarf Zagyg

Notorious Liquefactionist
I prefer Games Operation Director, shortening it to the acronym ;)

"What's the difference between a DM and God?"

"God doesn't think he's a DM."

Great post. Your stuff is hit or miss, but this was a critical hit!

That's why my posts are so long! I operate on the "infinite number of monkeys" theory of posts; eventually, I will write something so long, and so ramble-y, that the complete works of Shakespeare will be within it.
 

To build on this post a bit, I think that a big part of why we actually grapple over definitions for 50 pages even when we become aware that our argument hinges over differences in semantics is because Language itself often defines our values, so the grappling over semantics is a kind of cultural battle over values. Take the thread about changing perceptions of roleplaying for instance, there are multiple instances where people utilize and defend language to promote their own gaming values, with multiple people fighting over the same word.

One poster views metagaming to include cheating by reading the monster manual, even as we're mostly talking about different means of making decisions (e.g. should I do what I as a player think is best to defeat the dragon, or will my character's emotional state have them do something else)

Another insisted to me that their desire to overcome obstacles was different than 'playing to win' because they had the perception that I wasn't tolerant of sub-optimal decisions, despite the fact that by the end it didn't seem like we had very different expectations at all, but saw our expectations differently-- to them it seemed like the way we played was an expected baseline of good faith effort in overcoming obstacles with 'playing to win' as some sweaty tryhard next level analogous to picking on children.

Then there was another person later who focused their entire argument on the manual's use of the word 'actor' as self evidentally referring to a specific process of thought, rather than as a more general descriptor.

These viewpoints hinge on grouping behaviors under the same language that could in theory, be separated.
 

jgsugden

Legend
I disagree with some of this advice. And I do so based upon the wise advice of Dr. Suess in Green Eggs and Ham.

“Try them, try them, and you may! Try them and you may, I say.”

As a DM, my game has only improved by listening to others, trying their advice and evaluating 1.) what I wanted to steal for myself, 2.) what I wanted to twist in other ways, and 2.) what I definitely do not enjoy.

The games I ran as a 8 year old, 16 year old, 20 year old, 30 year old, 40 year old and cough cough year old are all very different. I enjoyed all of them, but I've become a better DM by being open to what others suggest, by experimenting, and by outright stealing from the best of the DMs I have seen/enjoyed.

I am often very firm in telling people that their game will improve if they watch Critical Role and try to emulate it in their games for a bit. This is not to say that copying that style of game is possible for everyone, or the style is exactly what you'll enjoy - but putting on those shoes as well as you can for a bit can open your eyes to a variety of elements that you do not see in the same way as you will after you try them.

There are plenty of things someone recommended to me that I thought were rubbish ... and proved to be horrible when I tried them myself. There are a small number of things I thought were rubbish that I tried - and found to be Green and Eggy with a side of Ham.

Trying them is not committing to them - it is just learning what you can from them and giving yourself a chance to evaluate them for yourself.
 

Oofta

Title? I don't need no stinkin' title.
To be clear about the analogy-

It's not that people can't learn anything at all about, um, intimate relations from adult films. Obviously, they can!

It's just that adult films aren't about capturing the actual experience- they are about entertainment. If you believe that ... for lack of a better phrase ... this is how things really work ... you will end up with some profound misunderstandings.

Same with Critical Role and similar shows. Yes, you can get some tips here and there; but if you go in there believing that this is how your D&D table actually works, then .. you will end up with some profound misunderstandings.

I get that no stream is going to work for everyone, but I enjoy CR and watch it while I exercise. Just now I watched it while making banana bread. I get ideas on how to run things from them all the time. Is it entertainment? Yes. Is it a D&D game? I would also say yes. Do I expect anyone at my table to be a voice actor? Of course not. Do I expect my game to work like it? Of course not, no more than any other stream that I could watch.

But I completely disagree with the idea that "this is not how D&D works". It is how it works for their game. Just like how my game is not going to match yours. I see a group of friends sitting around playing a game, rolling dice, laughing and having fun. All of that looks an awful lot like my home game. 🤷‍♂️
 

Umbran

Mod Squad
Staff member
Do I expect anyone at my table to be a voice actor? Of course not.

And, therein lies some major differences. The interpersonal interactions on Critical Role are all performed before a camera, and by professional actors trying to make a thing interesting for an audience. Both of those are significant differences from most of our tables, and if you aren't specifically and actively adjusting for those facts, you can end up with problems when you try to do what they do, and not have anything like the same results.
 

Oofta

Title? I don't need no stinkin' title.
I prefer Games Operation Director, shortening it to the acronym ...
Back in LFR public games, I used to have character tents with my name and character name, along with an image for my PC. When I DMed, instead of a player name I did have G.O.D. along with a cartoon image of the proto-typical old bearded man looking down from the clouds. :)
 

Oofta

Title? I don't need no stinkin' title.
And, therein lies some major differences. The interpersonal interactions on Critical Role are all performed before a camera, and by professional actors trying to make a thing interesting for an audience. Both of those are significant differences from most of our tables, and if you aren't specifically and actively adjusting for those facts, you can end up with problems when you try to do what they do, and not have anything like the same results.

I see a difference between their regular streamed show and when they're at conventions. When they're at conventions they do feel more like they're acting for an audience. When it's just a regular stream? I'm not going to say I run a professional game and certainly I don't run a game full of voice actors but, yes, in many ways I look at it and see similarities to my home game.

Are they acting? Aren't most of us acting when we're getting into characters? Do I have as much exposition or straight RP between PCs as they do? Not in all games, but there are times when it comes close. Do I expect to have the range of voices or special sound effects as Matt Mercer? Of course not. I wouldn't even try to replicate his combat set pieces, I'm not sure I'd even want to try.

To say that they aren't playing D&D though, to me, is a bit silly. Just because I'm not a voice actor doesn't mean I can't pick up ideas on how to characterize NPCs from Matt or pick up ideas on how to run encounters whether I ever choose to implement those ideas.

Maybe I just don't understand the criticism. They started out as a home game, their stream becoming a big thing was completely unexpected. They claim that they just enjoy playing the game and that it's not at all scripted. I have no reason to believe they're lying. You don't have to like it. I think there are some negative effects if people expect their home game to match the visuals or the voice acting of the group. But saying they're just actors, to me, is off base. They're talented voice actors who happen to play D&D.
 

jgsugden

Legend
And, therein lies some major differences. The interpersonal interactions on Critical Role are all performed before a camera, and by professional actors trying to make a thing interesting for an audience. Both of those are significant differences from most of our tables, and if you aren't specifically and actively adjusting for those facts, you can end up with problems when you try to do what they do, and not have anything like the same results.
If you watch the video of them playing from their home games, before the stream, their style is substantially similar. While a couple of the cast members are audience conscious and adjust their playing to suit the audience (mostly Sam), most of them didn't need to make any adjustments - they're just playing D&D as they did before the stream.

Go back and watch the first few streamed sessions. They had a tiny audience and had no expectations. They were just playing ... and it is very similar to what we saw all the way along. T

Not all DMs run a game like Matt Mercer, and not all players play like his group does - but that style is something I saw as far back as 1982. Immersive play is not a fallacy.
 

Snarf Zagyg

Notorious Liquefactionist
Maybe I just don't understand the criticism.

No, you don't! And that's fine. Because it doesn't have to be negative; no one is saying that entertaining people is bad.

Instead, it's similar to Mitchell & Webb's Kitchen Nightmares:


In effect, you're right. It's just a normal home game.

A normal home game where:
A. The players are paid to play.
B. The players are all talented voice actors.
C. The DM's career is based off of the game.
D. The DM is a talented voice actor.
E. Effectively infinite resources (in time and money) to prep for games- including making lore and props as needed.

Yes, it is "D&D." But thinking it is the same as your home game is a category error; it just isn't. That's not a bad thing, at all! People can watch (for example) Gordon Ramsay cook and be inspired to cook more food. People can watch the Bucks win the NBA championship and want to shoot some hoops at the Y. But there is a difference.


What is odd (IMO) is the number of people who reflexively assume that those who correctly note that this game is different than most D&D games are somehow besmirching the reputation of Critical Role as opposed to acknowledging the obvious- that viewing this as typical D&D (as opposed to performance, or entertainment D&D) tends to cause quite a few issues. The reason it's weird is because it would be like someone saying, "How dare you note that this Disney Marvel movie is different than what I am doing in my local community theater? How dare you, sir???" No one was insulting Disney for having higher production values than you local community theater- far from it. :)
 

prabe

Aspiring Lurker (He/Him)
Yes, it is "D&D." But thinking it is the same as your home game is a category error; it just isn't.
Even aside from the category error ... Even if the way they play on the stream is basically the way they played without the cameras ... Every table is different. What works at Mercer's table isn't at all guaranteed to work at your table, even aside from differences in theatrical-ish talent or props budget or whatever. That doesn't mean there's absolutely nothing any other GM can learn from them; it just means ... it just means that Mercer's table is different.
 

Snarf Zagyg

Notorious Liquefactionist
Even aside from the category error ... Even if the way they play on the stream is basically the way they played without the cameras ... Every table is different. What works at Mercer's table isn't at all guaranteed to work at your table, even aside from differences in theatrical-ish talent or props budget or whatever. That doesn't mean there's absolutely nothing any other GM can learn from them; it just means ... it just means that Mercer's table is different.

There's that, but there's also a more fundamental distinction which was implicit in the other factors.

An audience. The presence of observers necessarily changes how you approach things. Most people, the vast majority of people, do not play D&D as a performance or a product. Even when you are performing for the people around you, you aren't performing for a larger audience that is observing you (and, for that matter, directly or indirectly paying you).

But for the limited number of people who stream their games for an audience, or those that play public exhibition games. this involves certain choices that would not be relevant to most tables.
 

Mort

Legend
Even aside from the category error ... Even if the way they play on the stream is basically the way they played without the cameras ... Every table is different. What works at Mercer's table isn't at all guaranteed to work at your table, even aside from differences in theatrical-ish talent or props budget or whatever. That doesn't mean there's absolutely nothing any other GM can learn from them; it just means ... it just means that Mercer's table is different.

Mercer is a good DM and the players are REALLY game and like to chew scenery - but strip that away and his game is near bog standard D&D 5e.
It's zero to hero, start small (small area, single town) and expand the world from there.
The rules are standard 5e with Nary even a homebrew (he shoehorned in a pathfinder class initially and has introduced more stuff as he goes but mostly classes and items, the rules remain untouched).

This is not a criticism - it's a comment stating anyone who wanted to start their own campaign could use the way he started and expanded his as an easy to follow model.
 

Level Up!

An Advertisement

Advertisement4

Top