I am a better DM than a player (THREAD-O-MANCY)


First Post
I hate being a player and I truly suck at making twinky/min maxed characters.

I DM almost all the time, though, and can make challenging monsters, npcs, and situations very easily.

As a player I get bored easily and find myself wanting to move the game along, but I am unable to get the group moving.

As a DM, if things get slow, I speed it up to the action. If plots fall apart, I create new paths to be explored.

I like deciding what new rules/books to use and seeing how players interact with my world.

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First Post
I'm there with the lot of ya. I ceded the DM seat to a player that wanted to try his hand at DMing and now I'm regretting it. I just tell myself I need to cut him some slack since he's making the same mistakes I did when I started DMing almost 17 years ago and instead focus on my own faults as a player, many of which seem similar to those others have posted above.

An maybe it is time to also reflect on my faults as a DM :D


Moderator Emeritus

I was hunting around in the archives and while I have not had a chance to play a PC on the regular since I first created this thread. .. I think it is still true - and something worth asking the community about again. . .

I cast Thread Necromancy five years after it dwindled away - so now I am casting it again, an additional 14 years later! I find it an interesting subject.


Unserious gamer
I generally think I'm a better DM than a player, as long as I stick to my wheelhouse, which is relatively short, high velocity games. My main weaknesses as a DM are impatience and an abhorrence of detailed prep, so my games tend to start well and then accelerate quickly until we end up in some high-powered climax.


He / Him
Two thoughts on this:

I'm playing now with a group I've only been a DM for. It is honestly difficult to sit back and not try to facilitate! I'm also finding that I have to do a lot of sketching or other creative stuff to keep myself occupied when it's not my turn. On the other hand, I can relax and drink more!

This reminds me a lot of being a teacher. If you ever want to see a room full of very ill-behaved students, look for a classroom full of teachers! During teacher training, we are whispering to each other, passing notes, looking at our phones, interrupting, getting off topic... I feel like sometimes those who are used to being in charge really let go once someone else steps up!


I usually DM about 60% of the time. It's probably true that I'm better at the one than the other. I am a "helpful" player - in that I tend to help both the DM and the other players by trying to keep everyone engaged. I can see how it might be possible to step on a DM's toes this way, but I've never had anyone complain to my face, while I've had DMs thank me, so I think I juggle the act well enough.

But... to add a new tangent to this discussion: I have discovered since the pandemic that I am a terrible player in live online gaming. I just can't get into it. I fall asleep, I web-browse, I don't pay attention. My group has been playing by MS Teams, and I HATE EVERY SECOND of it. (I mean, it's better than NOT gaming, but still!) I'd be better at DMing those games (at least I wouldn't get distracted), but I hate it so much that I don't want to DM. My heart's just not in it.


I like to think that I'm a better DM than I was in 2002AD when the thread started. I would like to play more and now appreciate the DM more and would think that I would help propel the game and aid the DM more.

Think about how many tool are around now compared to 2002. The amount of information on the internet and sites with help are increasing. The 3pp sites and companies with maps and such. The campaign help and things that help the player. I hope things have not plateaued out.


CR 1/8
Used to be, I was a better DM, I think because inhabiting a single character for the long haul is not terribly interesting to me. And similar to TwoSix, I also prefer DMing shorter campaigns... probably because inhabiting a single setting for the long haul is not terribly interesting to me.

But in fact, I've done so little significant gaming in the last decade, that I don't really know anymore. :(


Aspiring Lurker (He/Him)
I know I'm a pretty good GM. I try to run games I'd enjoy being a player in, and that seems to make for games lots of people enjoy playing in.

I think I'm a pretty good player. I try to be a player I'd enjoy GMing for. I do run into problems as a player, some, because I have ... strong preferences for what I want in/from a TRPG--and though lots of people seem to enjoy those things as players (see my first paragraph) it is difficult to find a GM running that way; and I can and do get frustrated when I don't align to the game I'm playing in.


Moderator Emeritus
have your own feeling/experience on the issue changed in the interim?
You know what? Not really.

I still don't think I am a bad player. I am a good enough player and probably what I could not admit or understand in 2002 that I can in 2021, is that good enough is the best for most things. That said, I have only played in two regular games since 2002 and none since 2016, and both of those were with the same DM, so maybe it'd be different now.

I also think this impatience and carelessness on my part is negligible when I play in one-off games, but develops over time - though being cognizant of it, I work to mitigate it and thus, as I said, I think I am good enough.


For me it seems to be a bit of a positive feedback loop.
I’m a dm I learn something that I apply to playing and then I learn something as a player to apply to my DMing.

Soon I’ll be UNSTOPPABLE!! Both player and DM perfection!! The world will worship me and despair!!

I've had the opportunity to play far more since 5E, and especially since lockdown started last year.

The first thing I realized was how much a player cares about their character (often more so than the adventure, plot, world, etc...). This is something I've tried to keep in mind when I've returned to the other side of the DM screen from time to time.

I'm not sure I'd be able to say which I was better at though?

Being a DM for so long certainly leaves one with certain habits as a player, a mixture of good and bad.

I have sympathy for the DM, and try to avoid giving them a hard time.
But I can't really stand it when people get the rules wrong (not interpret them, get them wrong), luckily I can usually express that helpfully and point to page numbers and so on.
I avoid making spotlight-stealing PCs because I still have the instinct to ensure everyone has a good time.
But I always optimize my PCs fairly hard because I want them to be mechanically effective at what they're doing and I'm very aware of stuff that felt powerful and effective from the other side of the screen.

I often end up acting as a sort of DM's assistant in 5E, because the DM can offload looking up rules and organising stuff to me a bit.

I've also learned that, actually, playing can, at times, be more fun than DMing, and that's made me more selective about what I DM, which has in turn made DMing more fun, at the cost of a few "I don't want to run that anymore" discussions.


I'd hate to say it, but I'm definitely a better GM than player.

As a player I have many of the same traits noted by others --- I get impatient/restless if things move too slow. I don't find character optimization to generally be satisfying, but as a player it's one of the only loci of control you have, so I end up leaning into it pretty heavily.

My characters inevitably end up being utility / general purpose focused, because I absolutely hate feeling useless in any given game context. I think this is one of the reasons I gravitated pretty hard to Savage Worlds for a long time, because it allows for highly competent characters across a wide range skills and focuses.

The other GMs in my group aren't generally aware of how much system matters. Everything gets approached as a traditional, plot-hook-laden campaign. They're not aware of more "modern" GM techniques, and so their approaches tend to lead into the same style of gameplay.

To my credit, I find that as a GM I'm generally quite good at running an improvisational style of game, and so when I notice one of our other GMs getting caught up in minutiae around trying to extrapolate things that contradict their prep/notes, it can feel . . . exasperating, I suppose, especially since my train of thought is to not treat game notes as exactly "precious" to begin with.

My biggest drawback as a player is probably that I'm so totally over combat in the game. For 3 or 4 years now, combat is consistently the part of the game I am least interested in at every level. As a player, if a combat takes longer than 30 minutes total to resolve, it begins to feel like a waste of time.

But the other players in our group tend to relish combat, so I don't know how to reconcile that as a GM.

I'm actually gearing up to GM an Edge of the Empire campaign in January, so this is an interesting thought exercise as I'm getting back into the swing of things.

@innerdude I’m not familiar with the Edge of Empire rules at all, but I share a lot of your feelings about combat as a GM. I find combat should be tense, exciting, and brief. Instead, it often feels like a chore.

This is in my D&D games, though. In the 5e game I’m playing in, the combats take a significant amount of time. They can feel exciting and tense at times, but those are mere moments amidst the entire process.

In the Blades in the Dark game I run, any combat feels inherently dangerous and risky. Fighting also tends to be brief and fierce. This is largely due to the mechanics and the lack of things like Hit Points.

I’m also GMing a Spire campaign, and that game also tends to have short combats that are tense and exciting. Things can go horribly wrong quickly, and can have meaningful consequences. In our first combat in the campaign, one PC’s leg was broken, another was shot and slowly bleeding out.

Again, I don’t know what system Edge of Empire uses, but if it’s a HP pool or similar, you may want to tweak it to get what you’re looking for.


Moderator Emeritus
My biggest drawback as a player is probably that I'm so totally over combat in the game. For 3 or 4 years now, combat is consistently the part of the game I am least interested in at every level. As a player, if a combat takes longer than 30 minutes total to resolve, it begins to feel like a waste of time.

But the other players in our group tend to relish combat, so I don't know how to reconcile that as a GM.

I am the opposite as a player. I get impatient in the role-play scenes and want to get to combat (tactical combat with interesting stakes in cool locations is the juice for me). If folks want to talk in character for 30 minutes just for the sake of developing their character's voice/personality my instinct is to want to say something like, "Can't you do that over discord between sessions?" Which is not to say I don't like role-playing or social challenges, I just don't find most folks to be great actors and it can feel repetitive and indulgent. As a DM I can make sure we move on, as a player I am at the other DM's mercy.

I DM a lot more than play, so it's become much more of a forte for me. Going back into playing was an adjustment, but it has its perks, too. Namely, getting to rest a little bit, not having to be "on" for as long.


I really enjoy DMing more. The only reason I used to play was to get a perspective from the other side of the screen to improve my DMing.

When you first posted this thread, I would have agreed that I was a bad player. However, I have worked hard at being a better player and I am a decent player these days. I even posted a thread a few years about the steps I took to becoming a better player.

Unlike some groups, everyone I play with seems very content to play while I run. That's cool by me.

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