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D&D General Survivor Dungeon Masters -- discussion

CleverNickName

Limit Break Dancing
... Do none of y'all have situations where you need to roll something but don't want the players to know what it is and how you rolled?
Yeah, every now and then. (Sometimes the rules require it, such as with the Augury spell.)

Most often though, I'll just roll the dice anyway, out in the open, and not declare a reason. It's amusing to watch the players exchange looks, trying to figure out what I was rolling and whether the result is good or bad (or just me messin' with them.) I don't do it frequently, but when I do it looks like this.

ME: Okay, you open the door to the chamber, and peer inside. You see a small table with a lit candle on it, dimly lighting the papers and quill pen sitting upon it. (quietly rolls a d20, gets a 5, and sets it aside) The candle flickers from the draft of the now-open door. What does everyone want to do?​
PLAYERS: (nervously exchange looks) Um.​

They don't know that the reason I was rolling was to see if the draft from the door would blow out the candle. Their imaginations are going nuts, trying to decide if I was rolling for a random encounter, a monster's Stealth check, or just to build tension.

Like I said, I don't do this constantly. But I do it often enough that me rolling dice "for no reason" is something they are accustomed to, and something that they've learned not to over-think. So it just happens in the background, and the players only take note if something immediately happen afterward or I roll a nat20 or something.
 
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CleverNickName

Limit Break Dancing
Wowserz.

So a discussion about the best of the survivor DMs of fame and infamy… boils down to who fudges dice and who doesn’t.

Who knew it was so simple!
Oh that's just the flavor of the week. I'm sure we will move on to even more pressing matters, like whether or not a DM uses a battle mat.

Or whether or not they are "on the internet."
 
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RoughCoronet0

Dragon Lover
Oh that's just the flavor of the week. I'm sure we will move on to even more pressing matters, like whether or not a DM uses a battle mat.
I enjoy games with battle maps, as I’m a very visually oriented person. It’s much easier for me to immerse myself in something if I have something visual to focus on. It’s why I prefer to watch livestreams of games then just listen to a podcast, and why I tend to enjoy music videos or even just lyric videos over simply listening to something over a radio.

But I’m getting ahead of myself. It’s not next week yet! ;)
 

TheSword

Legend
I enjoy games with battle maps, as I’m a very visually oriented person. It’s much easier for me to immerse myself in something if I have something visual to focus on. It’s why I prefer to watch livestreams of games then just listen to a podcast, and why I tend to enjoy music videos or even just lyric videos over simply listening to something over a radio.

But I’m getting ahead of myself. It’s not next week yet! ;)
Me too. But it don’t think use of the them or lack of use determines whether someone is a great DM or not.
 



CleverNickName

Limit Break Dancing
Me too. But it don’t think use of the them or lack of use determines whether someone is a great DM or not.
I think it's my fault.

We arrived on this topic when folks were discussing the DM style of Matt Colville, and @Malmuria mentioned that they didn't like Matt's style of running the game...specifically, how Matt "fudges die rolls to make encounters more dramatic, pretends that their improvisation is actually something written down in their notes."

It made me curious about how many DMs also do that, so I asked the question, and down the rabbit hole we went. I didn't know it was such a hotly-contested issue, or that it was so closely linked to the 'railroading' boilerplate.
 
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Charlaquin

Goblin Queen (She/They)
Referring to the Colville videos I posted, I think the common thread is that it is the DM's role to create an illusion of depth and player choice whether or not such depth or choice actually exists. So, for example, if you improvise a minor npc in your world, do you feel the need to pretend that was a pre-written part of the campaign world so as to create the illusion of depth (with the players suspending disbelief along the way)? Or, per the example in the latest video, do you have to point to a line in the module to reassure players that the scenario they experienced was not something made up on the spot but rather part of an already existing written scenario? Colville mentions in the video that these things shouldn't matter--and I agree that they shouldn't--but then goes on to just say, but they do, and it's the role of the dm to maintain that illusion of depth.
To answer the question, my own feeling is that, once the DM establishes something about the world - for example, the existence of this particular NPC - it becomes a fact of the world. This is true whether the established fact was improvised or pre-written. The depth and richness of the world emerges from that commitment to consistency. So, in my opinion, it doesn't matter whether an NPC is made up on the spot, ahead of time by the DM, or ahead of time by the author of a module or setting book. Once the PCs encounter them, they exist, period.

What I was confused about though is how a DM who does as Matt Colville suggests and improvises things but endeavors to create the illusion that it was all planned out in advance, could be seen as running a linear game. Isn't it kind of nonlinear by definition if it's being improvised?
Yes. But I've found it liberating to play games where as the dm I don't entirely know what's going to happen next. A dnd example was a one shot playing through The Stygian Library, which is a procedurally generated dungeon. So all the room and npc descriptions are included in the text, but as dm I had no idea what the next room would be. Another example is that I am currently running a Blades in the Dark game. The gm still has a specific role, but the mechanics and advice do more to limit that role and provide opportunities for the players to collaborate on creating the world and the story.
I don't see this as being at odds with what I said. I agree that it's fun as the DM to not entirely know what's going to happen next. In fact, I rather like having a rough outline of what I think might happen next, but to remain open to things going in a completely different direction based on the players' choices and the results of the dice rolls. All of this, in my view, operates in concert with my view of the DM as another player, with a different role than the other players in this asymmetrical game.
 

Charlaquin

Goblin Queen (She/They)
Weird. I’ve been doing exactly that “impossible” thing for almost 40 years. My barbarian loves axes. We encounter a slime. I, the player, know it’s bad to use bladed weapons on a slime. My character doesn’t. So my axe-wielding barbarian hacks away at the slime. Once the character sees that’s bad news, he switches tactics. It’s really that simple.
By consciously deciding to use your axe on the slime even though you know it won't be effective, you are acting on the information that you have and your barbarian doesn't. What you're doing is imagining how your barbarian (who lacks that information) might act, given his lack of knowledge, and choosing to act the way you imagine he would. This is in contrast to the decision-making process of a hypothetical player who doesn't know the axe won't be effective against the slime. This player would decide to use or not use the axe based on their own lived experience (and/or the lived experience they imagine their character has), and may or may not choose to use the axe - for instance, maybe they would think "cutting a viscous semi-fluid creature with an axe seems like it would be kind of ineffective" and decide to use a different weapon. Or they might not think of that and just use their axe. But the fact of the matter is, that player has the ability to make a decision that is not influenced by that knowledge in some way (since they don't have it). You do not. The best you can hope to do is emulate how you imagine someone without that knowledge might act.
Your character is not you. Your game mechanics knowledge should not seep into your character’s decisions.
I don't personally think it really matters either way, but I recognize this as a legitimate preference.
It’s not hard to separate. It’s actually trivial to separate them.
No, it is literally impossible. You can consider what you know that the character might, and consciously decide to act in a way that you would not due to your knowledge, but doing so is by definition acting on your knowledge.
Step one, stop thinking D&D is a game you win. Step two, understand that the whole point of the game is to play the role of your character in the world presented by the DM.
This is, again, a matter of play style preference. It's a legitimate preference, but not the only legitimate one.
You know that from years of play. So anyone without those years of play experience likely doesn’t. A player who’s never played a caster wouldn’t know. A player new to the game wouldn’t know. A player who doesn’t memorize the spells wouldn’t know. A player without years of experience wouldn’t know.

You don’t need to stop knowing that info as a player, you shouldn’t use that knowledge as the basis of your character’s decisions. Steps one and two above. Read those bits I quoted from the Moldvay Basic and Mentzer Basic over on the roleplaying thread. Great stuff. Foundational even.
Ok, but I'm pretty sure @Lanefan is generally playing with people who do have years of experience and do know how much damage lightning bolt does.
 

Charlaquin

Goblin Queen (She/They)
They know what their PCs can cast, and thus what dice to roll when a PC casts one. They don't know what their opponent can cast, or how many dice are involved. All they know is that a bolt just hit 'em for 32; and as the players knowing whether that 32 came from 6d6 or 12d6 will almost certainly metagame-affect what their PCs do next, it's better that they not know.
Ok, but if any of your players have played wizards who can cast lightning bolt, or even considered doing so, they probably know how much damage lightning bolt does, right? That's my point, I don't think "how many dice did the DM just roll for that lightning bolt spell?" is as mysterious as you seem to be presenting it as. Unless you change the damage of spells when NPCs cast them, which from what I know of your preferences seems unlikely - you're very much a "the NPCs play by the same rules as the PCs" DM, which means if the players know how lightning bolt works when they cast it, they know how it works when NPCs cast it, whether you roll those dice behind the screen or in front.
 

Charlaquin

Goblin Queen (She/They)
In my game the damage dice scale by level, thus a 6th-level caster does 6d6, 12th-level does 12d6, etc. If it was always the same roll no matter what level the spell was cast at, I wouldn't be as concerned.
Oh! Ok, now it makes sense. Nevermind.
 

Charlaquin

Goblin Queen (She/They)
... Do none of y'all have situations where you need to roll something but don't want the players to know what it is and how you rolled?
No. If whatever I'm doing is ruined by the players knowing what the dice roll is, it wasn't designed well enough to begin with.
 


overgeeked

B/X Known World
By consciously deciding to use your axe on the slime even though you know it won't be effective, you are acting on the information that you have and your barbarian doesn't.
No. The character in question, a barbarian uses axes exclusively, either a battle axe or hand axes...like literally has no weapons that aren't axes. I did not decide to use an axe because it wouldn't be effective. I used the default weapon my character wields despite me as a player knowing it wouldn't be awesome. There's a world of difference between those two positions.
What you're doing is imagining how your barbarian (who lacks that information) might act, given his lack of knowledge, and choosing to act the way you imagine he would. This is in contrast to the decision-making process of a hypothetical player who doesn't know the axe won't be effective against the slime. This player would decide to use or not use the axe based on their own lived experience (and/or the lived experience they imagine their character has), and may or may not choose to use the axe - for instance, maybe they would think "cutting a viscous semi-fluid creature with an axe seems like it would be kind of ineffective" and decide to use a different weapon. Or they might not think of that and just use their axe. But the fact of the matter is, that player has the ability to make a decision that is not influenced by that knowledge in some way (since they don't have it).
That's all based on your incorrect reading of the situation.
You do not. The best you can hope to do is emulate how you imagine someone without that knowledge might act.
That's literally what role-playing is. Behaving how you imagine someone with a different set of experiences and knowledge would act in a given situation.
No, it is literally impossible.
Sorry this is such a blind spot for you. It's literally what tens of thousands to millions of people do on a weekly basis.
 

Charlaquin

Goblin Queen (She/They)
No. The character in question, a barbarian uses axes exclusively, either a battle axe or hand axes...like literally has no weapons that aren't axes. I did not decide to use an axe because it wouldn't be effective. I used the default weapon my character wields despite me as a player knowing it wouldn't be awesome. There's a world of difference between those two positions.
Your knowledge that it wouldn't be awesome still impacted your decision-making process. It is impossible not to let information you have access to influence your decision-making. It's the "strike it from the record" issue. Short of forgetting information, you can't truly make decisions as if you didn't have it. You can only do your best to emulate how you imagine you might have acted if you had lacked that information.
That's literally what role-playing is. Behaving how you imagine someone with a different set of experiences and knowledge would act in a given situation.
Yes, I agree. You can absolutely roleplay as someone who lacks information that you have.
Sorry this is such a blind spot for you. It's literally what tens of thousands to millions of people do on a weekly basis.
It's not a blind spot, it's just psychology. What tens of thousands to millions of people do on a weekly basis is roleplay as characters who might not know the same things they know. But the things they know are still influencing their decision-making. This shouldn't be an outlandish claim to you, given that this fact is the very basis for why many DMs choose to hide information from the players that their characters wouldn't have. Because they understand that while a player may think they can avoid metagaming, merely having knowledge your character doesn't will always influence your decisions in some way.
 


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