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


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Snarf Zagyg

Notorious Liquefactionist
This was needed like a spring sunshine after a gloomy winter. Thank you. Your words are always well crafted, and even better, enjoyable to read. Thank you.

Thank you! I mostly took off the Thanksgiving week- I find that having drunken relatives starting weird arguments with me roughly approximates the experience of participating in some of these threads. ;)


If you're curious, there's a compilation of (most of) my older threads here-

Eventually, I'll put a compilation together.
 

@Snarf Zagyg Your conclusions are crap and you should do things the way I do them!!!!
(and if you are following your own advice you'll ignore that).

Now for the serious part of my comment. All of your advice is wrong and right and like anything on the internet should be exacted with more than a pinch of sodium chloride.

I quote the great President Ronald Reagan when taking advice.... Trust, but verify. It's a good rule of thumb. All advice should be weighed against the merits of its validity.

For Instance you should never dump water on anyone else, sounds like a good general rule. If that person's clothing is on fire, it may be detrimental NOT to. As gamers we all know about situational modifiers, and advice, like combat is rife with them.

Keep up the insightful posts, love your stuff.
 

Umbran

Mod Squad
Staff member
Supporter
One of the best things to happen to the growth of D&D is the rise of the streaming games; but this is, conversely, one of the worst things to happen to DMs. Yes, there are actual games by actual DMs streamed out there- but the truly popular ones? Those aren't D&D games, those are entertainment. You will learn as much about being a good DM for your home game from watching Critical Role as you would learn to be a considerate lover from watching adult film clips off the internet; it's just not in the same ballpark.

I used to agree with this. I used to give this same advice. For new GMs, I still agree with this.

For more experienced GMs, I have come to disagree. Since this was originally posted, I decided to watch some CR, for sake of gaming-culture literacy, and have come to think that it is much less different from most home games than I initially thought. The players and GM on these shows do have skills most home tables do not, and have some gaming style elements that most of us don't use. But an experienced GM can see when those are in action, to pick out other GMing bits that may be of use, and those skills and style can be learned and applied, if the results seem like they'd be enjoyable.
 

Lyxen

Great Old One
I used to agree with this. I used to give this same advice. For new GMs, I still agree with this.

For more experienced GMs, I have come to disagree. Since this was originally posted, I decided to watch some CR, for sake of gaming-culture literacy, and have come to think that it is much less different from most home games than I initially thought. The players and GM on these shows do have skills most home tables do not, and have some gaming style elements that most of us don't use. But an experienced GM can see when those are in action, to pick out other GMing bits that may be of use, and those skills and style can be learned and applied, if the results seem like they'd be enjoyable.

I completely agree with you. I think of myself as a very experienced DM, I've played for long stretches of times in clubs in many countries on four continents, and I've seen a large range of DMing styles.

I can't say about the later sessions of CR in particular, since I've only watched the beginning of the first campaign, but honestly, it was way closer to our style of playing than a lot of styles I've seen through the years. And still, there were differences, and good ones, interesting ideas to catch. As for beginner DMs, I think the main danger there is possibly making them self-conscious about their own limitations, or the limitations of their players, and the fear of not being at that "level" of play, so when I point out CR to beginning players, I take care to tell them "and remember that this is only a style of play, that these guys have been playing for years together, and that the main thing is to have fun, don't expect your games to be exactly like CR".

As for later CR campaigns. I understand that there's tons of props and efforts to make it more commercial, and that the players start to behave more like they are hosts of a TV show, which probably annoys people who would prefer to see more "pure play", but I would not be able to tell, having not tried to watch those.
 

Umbran

Mod Squad
Staff member
Supporter
As for later CR campaigns. I understand that there's tons of props and efforts to make it more commercial, and that the players start to behave more like they are hosts of a TV show, which probably annoys people who would prefer to see more "pure play", but I would not be able to tell, having not tried to watch those.

I've been watching the current, third campaign. A dozen episodes in, there's not "tons of props". There's some nice terrain for minis on the big combat set pieces, which don't happen in every episode.

At the start of an episode, and in the mid-episode break, they do have announcements where they talk about merch, and sponsors. But that doesn't continue into play. I am not sure what "behave more like they are hosts of a TV show" means, nor do I know how they behaved in the earlier campaigns, so I can't really say if there's been a relevant change there.

There are elements of it being a show that may skew people's perceptions somewhat, if they aren't experienced GMs. For example - slower, talky sessions. They happen in our games, and in CR. But, if you are a fan of the show, I can imagine those seeming positive in the show, but seem like they are lacking in person.
 

Thomas Shey

Legend
Hopefully!

The best table dynamics are created through open communication. As weird as it sounds, a lot of tables don't have that. DMs that don't solicit input from players. And players that don't provide good feedback to the DMs.

I'll go as far as to say that even when both of those are occurring in theory, there are often a lot of personal and interpersonal dynamics going on that impair how honest and complete the communication that's going on is.
 

carmachu

Explorer
Honestly? Once one gets away from forums And their arguments, and understands the one basic idea, everything gets easier. Doesn't matter what top tier DMs do. Or what Mercer and gang does. Or what paid DMs do.

Its your table, your rules. If you and your players are having fun and it works for you, that's all that counts. Kitchen sink approach to races, limited selection on classes, railroads, sand boxes, dungeon crawls. All combat, no combat and all role-playing. Or all roll playing.

Your table, your rules.
 

Thomas Shey

Legend
Honestly? Once one gets away from forums And their arguments, and understands the one basic idea, everything gets easier. Doesn't matter what top tier DMs do. Or what Mercer and gang does. Or what paid DMs do.

Its your table, your rules. If you and your players are having fun and it works for you, that's all that counts. Kitchen sink approach to races, limited selection on classes, railroads, sand boxes, dungeon crawls. All combat, no combat and all role-playing. Or all roll playing.

Your table, your rules.
Of course that's a big "if" in your second sentence in your second paragraph. The world is full of games where things aren't entirely working for GMs and players are sometimes having fun. Trying to figure out how to rectify those qualifications is often what GMs go on a search about.
 

carmachu

Explorer
Of course that's a big "if" in your second sentence in your second paragraph. The world is full of games where things aren't entirely working for GMs and players are sometimes having fun. Trying to figure out how to rectify those qualifications is often what GMs go on a search about.
Right but not realky. Fun is subjective, so you have to manage expectations. But that's for you as a DM and your players to work out. What works for Mercer or paid dms may not work for me, you.

I treat DM role like I do buying adventures: I don't use anything whole cloth. Take a bit from column A, some from C and maybe a bit of column K
 
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