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D&D General The DM Should Only Talk 30% of the Time... Agree or Disagree?

Jmarso

Adventurer
If students are speaking 70% of the time and teachers only 30%, where is the learning happening? Do the kids magically teach one another? I think not.

Get back to the teachers speaking 70% of the time. And what's more, let 100% of that speaking be about reading, writing, arithmetic, etc, and not their own home life, political beliefs, and any other naughty word not directly related to teaching kids.

I found it appalling when my middle school aged kids would come home with all sorts of 'personal' stories about their teachers. When I was a kid in school, the only way we knew a teacher was married was if they were wearing a ring, and I couldn't tell you how a single one of my teachers voted- especially my teachers in civics and social studies. But I could damn sure read, write, spell, and do math.
 

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BookTenTiger

He / Him
If students are speaking 70% of the time and teachers only 30%, where is the learning happening? Do the kids magically teach one another? I think not.

Get back to the teachers speaking 70% of the time. And what's more, let 100% of that speaking be about reading, writing, arithmetic, etc, and not their own home life, political beliefs, and any other naughty word not directly related to teaching kids.

I found it appalling when my middle school aged kids would come home with all sorts of 'personal' stories about their teachers. When I was a kid in school, the only way we knew a teacher was married was if they were wearing a ring, and I couldn't tell you how a single one of my teachers voted- especially my teachers in civics and social studies. But I could damn sure read, write, spell, and do math.
You've veered far off topic, but because I love talking about teaching I'll send you a message to continue this conversation.
 


bloodtide

Adventurer
If you are a DM that finds the game to be a burden, then this approach is just fine. It will also work for casual DMs and ones with "no time".

A DM has to do 99.9% of the work for any D&D game, and for most players that .1% is just "they showed up".

The vast majority of players want to be players as it's "no work and all fun". So few will want to do the DMs work for them. On top of that, few players can even if they want too. Not everyone is creative or can describe things. You will be lucky to get some things like "um the castle looks like um a castle with stone and stuff".

Really tough if you want a game where everyone talks all the time, try any Storyteller Type game and not D&D.
 



BookTenTiger

He / Him
There have been some really interesting replies to this thread! I appreciate folks for chiming in.

Here are some of my developing thoughts:

On the 30% / 70% split... Please keep in mind that these are not meant to be exact numbers. I'm borrowing the concept from education, which is why I kept the numbers, but you can generalize them as "less than half / more than half." Very few people are actually going into classrooms, recording, and calculating the split in conversation time, and nobody is doing that at the table, either. :) ...as far as I know...

D&D definitely puts the burden of work on the DM. The DM is positioned as a kind of "arbiter of truth" about the world and the rules. Because of this, it is difficult to, in the middle of a session, hand the reigns over to a player.

So to meet the goal of 30% talking, I think a lot of proactive work would have to be done. As others have mentioned in the thread, it would take something of a shift in how a D&D session is prepared and run.

Maybe it would mean giving up some of that work and authority to the players? In FATE games, players can actually impact what is narratively true about a setting... I could see creating some kind of system that allows / encourages players to be active creators within the setting.

For example... let's say the characters come into a town. The players could spend some kind of point or token to influence what kinds of shops, NPCs, or opportunities are in the town. Maybe the player of the Wizard spends a token (I guess these are the Plot Points in the DMG) to put a magic academy, or a library of forbidden books, or a scroll store in the town? The players then work together (including the DM) to describe and flesh out this addition.

Could the same thing happen in a dungeon? It's a little crazy to think about... but I do like the idea of players somehow contributing to the dangers and rewards of an adventure!

Oh, and finally, this is totally only something that would happen with the consent and willing participation of the players! This kind of stuff wouldn't be appropriate for every game, but it's something I'm interested in exploring.
 

TerraDave

5ever, or until 2024
Creating work for the players is probably not really the solution to this problem.

There is the related, and I feel bigger, problem of a single player that talks 30+% of the time.

I think the solution to both is just to create situations were everybody talks. This can even mean going around the table--out of combat--to get everybody to speak about a situation, as well as the slightly harder task of ensuring everyone gets some good moments over the course of a session.
 

Yora

Legend
It depends on a lot of factors. My personal approach is pretty much what Apocalypse World says to do - GMs say stuff when players look to them to find out what happens next or if there's a lull. If players are going at it and having a good time no need to intervene. Our groups tend to have a good deal of scenes where player characters are interacting with each other. When that happens I'm mostly there as a rule resource and avid audience member.
That style of running games, especially when running D&D, always sounded way too good to be true. There's always been older GMs who say they just set up a situation and improvise from there, and it's much less work because they don't really have to do that much, with the players mostly entertaining themselves. That never sounded right, but when I started doing it, it was all that had been promised. Immediately my adventures became the best I've ever run.

The key to running games like this is to get past the curse of Dragonlance and stop trying to write a story in advance and making it happen during play. That's not how RPG as a medium is made to work. People can do it, and have been doing it millions of times over several decades. But it significantly increased the preparation time and workload for the GM and results in less fun games for the players.

A good adventure starts with a place that is inhabited by people who are in conflict about something, and someone is about to do something drastic, or has just done it. Know who the actors are, what they want, and what they are capable of, and then release the players on the field. There is of course a bit more to that, but not really that much. There need to be ways players can find loose threads to pull on and stakes they might care about, and it helps a lot to have basic maps for the places that are most likely to become the sites of fights or sneaking around. But an incredible amount of work in "conventional" modern adventures is about making sure that scenes are going to happen and to play out in a certain way that ensure the following scenes will also happen. Both in the preparation of the adventure, and in running the adventure in play.
Without the need that certain things will play out in a certain way, the workload on the GM shrinks significantly. And when it's done reasonably well, the players are having a blast with it. The players are free to do and pursue anything that seems like it could get a result. Any result. They no longer have to figure out what they are supposed to do to progress to the next scene. This is a way to run games in which "default to saying yes" is easy and comes natural, and doesn't result in random anarchy. It's not about any NPCs anymore, it's about the PCs living through an interesting or chaotic situation and eventually coming out on the other side. Whether it's heroically riding of in the sunset, or fleeing into the night. And that's how you get players doing most of the talking in a game. Talking about what they want to do, why they want to do it, and how they want to accomplish it. Not trying to figure out what the next point on the script is that they are supposed to do but not being told about.
 

doctorbadwolf

Heretic of The Seventh Circle
Allow players to play as NPCs in scenes their characters aren't present in ("Kathy, why don't you play as the blacksmith...")
Love this.
I think the better takeaway here is that the DM should outsource what they can to players, rather than trying to come up with a particular percentage of time they should be talking. A couple of things I have seen successfully outsourced to players:

-doing a recap of previous sessions
-looking up a rule in question while the DM continues to run the game
I do those, and it helps. I also ask players to tell me about their home (town and nation/kingdom/whatever) and families and such, and to help me define things like how the church they are part of works, what the aesthetic is, etc.
 

Lanefan

Victoria Rules
So what do you think? Is this a strange, quixotic quest with no real benefit? Is this a molehill just I'm willing to die on?

Do you think there's any benefit to a DM speaking only 30% of the time?
Only if the DM wants an even higher percentage of the time to be lost to non-game chatter or to silence than is already the case.

That said, the DM does need to know when to shut up and let the players RP their characters; and sometimes this means not talking for half a session or more except to answer occasional questions around things the players have forgotten but their characters would remember.
 

This seems like the sort of principle that would just help my anxiety over being a good teacher bleed into my anxiety over being a good Dungeon Master, and that happens enough already.

I think a classroom teacher often has to limit how much they talk because students often will not participate if they can just passively listen to the teacher instead, and will not even passively listen to the teacher if they can just zone out instead. I think the dynamics of a D&D group should be different. Hopefully it is made up of people wanting to be there, hopefully with everyone ready to participate when given the opportunity, hopefully with everyone comfortable speaking in front of the group, and hopefully with players willing to interrupt the DM where appropriate to a degree we discourage in schoolchildren interacting with their teacher. If the DM has to monitor and moderate their speaking time to get players participating there are probably more fundamental issues with the group, better addressed by working to get players more comfortable interjecting and asserting themselves rather than by stressing out over DM talking time.
 

Lyxen

Great Old One
The key to running games like this is to get past the curse of Dragonlance and stop trying to write a story in advance and making it happen during play. That's not how RPG as a medium is made to work.

Please don't start with OneTrueWayism. This is totally the way RPG as a medium can be run, although there are also many other ways is can be run, sometimes even with the same adventure. It's not even black and white, it's a gradation with each table finding their balance between guidance and improvisation.

Yes, sandboxing and improvisation can be cool, but 5e published adventures are very much "Dragonlance-like" in the way they present play, with a succession of chapters to be followed more or less in order (if not even stronger railroading like in WD:DH), they are hugely successful and I'm pretty sure that a large percentage of the D&D games run worldwide are run that way.

And this is because sandboxing and improvisation not only require some experience, they are not for everyone in terms of both DM appetites and capabilities, but also in terms of tastes for the players.

And yes, I agree that not defining too much in advance saves time, there are also DM who have the time and the appetite to craft detailed adventures for their players, and it's not wrong to do this at all. Saving time is not the objective here, fun is the objective, and tastes vary a lot in the community.

Which in turn leads to the fact that the amount that the DM will talk is also not something that can be defined at all, it will vary wildly depending on the table, the campaign, the adventure, the phase of the adventure, etc...
 

"Bob, tell us about this cultist statue..."
Bob, eerr, Bobbie cant because I murdered them in the movie ratings thread.

To address the OP, I've done this on a larger scale. As where I was the only DM last year I asked three out of four players that weren't previously DMing to take the plunge and they did. So theoretically Id assume it works out about the same insofar as it reduces the DMs burden. I have in the past and still do ask for and build on player input while running games but anything more I feel would take too much control from me as the referee of the game. I think anyone who DMs assumes the responsibility of prepping and running the game that comes with it. I dont think your idea of talking less and doling out things to players is a bad idea just that the DM running the game, talking more than other players is so ingrained that it would be hard to move away from dand still be D&D. Every tables different and the OP has got me wondering how much I as a DM talk during a game as opposed to other players? If I had to guess It would probably be about equal but Ive never given it much thought.
 

jgsugden

Legend
D&D is an RPG ... a role playing game. Players run characters in a story. People enjoy different types of stories. Some are dialogue driven, and some are stopped in a lot of description and mood building. I've had excellent sessions with minimalist DMs, and had other great ones where a master storyteller DM enchanted us with the world he was describing. There is no magic formula or best answer.
 

Hiya!

First, get away from the hard-coded percentages. That's just going to annoy you and your group. Just say "Hey guys, I'm gonna do a bit less 'long speaking'. You guys fill in the details", or something like that. Some nights you may only speak 20% of the time...others, 80%. The amount spoken isn't the value...it's what's being said. Don't get pigeon holed into 'absolutes'.

Second...maybe not play D&D? Not to be flippant or anything, but D&D pretty much requires the DM do a lot of speaking and explaining, describing, questioning, etc. It's just how the game works. There are a lot of "behind the screen" stuff that a competent DM is doing all the time...for me, it's dice rolling, table consulting and note taking.

There are game systems out there that are "Player Driven". Like Dungeon World, for example. When I finally "got it" and the game clicked, I found myself just sitting back and enjoying the Players tell me a story...and describe stuff...and add stuff to the world...and even make up new rules on the spot!

BUT...if you want to keep doing the D&D thing, you need to explain the new expectations and limitations of the Players roles at the table. This relates to my first point, obviously. The "less speaking" is fine, but you need to give the Players some guidelines and responsibility. Not all Players may even WANT this. I mean, they aren't DM'ing, they are there to Play the role of a PC. That means they aren't there to hear you speak less...they are there to not have to do all that DM'ing stuff.

Think of it like showing up at a dinner party with 4 other friends, then your host says "Ok you guys, I got the pots and pans out, the knives and cutting boards, and some ingredients. You guys get in there and start cooking dinner. I'm gonna stand over here and drink some wine and offer general guidance if you want it". ;) They didn't show up to cook and create dishes...they cam to eat what they want of what you prepared. Some weird-o may even ask for ketchup for his well-done steak! (barbarians!).

Also, as a side note, I find it a bit disturbing that teachers are being told to "speak less"...but that's a different kettle of worms.

^_^

Paul L. ming
You point about the people maybe should play another game other than D&D is totally on point. The game was never designed to be anything but a complex game where the "Dungeon Master" runs the show, providing the vast majority of content. Those that somehow think that the DM is "just another player" or "should not talk that much", fundamentally do not understand D&D.
 

Vaalingrade

Legend
I think the premise is flawed.

I'm not teaching and thus not attempting to trigger memory creation through repetition and vocalizing. I'm acting as the senses of the PCs, the other characters in the world, local physics and metaphysics, on top of answering questions.

How often I'm called upon to talk is highly variable and rarely soley under my control. If there's a lot of travel and intrigue, I talk a lot; if it's a poor choices planning session, I might not talk at all.
 

ccooke

Adventurer
Honestly, I think this concept misses the point a bit. Thinking about how much the DM should speak (or GM in any other system that has a "person who runs the game") is focussing on the wrong problem.

The role of a GM is to maximise the enjoyment of the participants (including, of course, themselves). Sometimes that means they should play a load of complex PCs, describe action or scenes, maybe rarely even have two NPCs having an argument while the players figuratively eat popcorn. Sometimes that means that the GM says absolutely nothing while the players run off with ideas for an hour. Fundamentally, the GM should always be ready to either shut up and let the players have fun, or jump in with a few words of prompting or NPC dialogue to keep things rolling and the players involved.

As to involving the PCs in worldbuilding (as in defining things, creating backstories, to a lesser extent running NPCs)... it depends massively on the group. I play with several different groups, and I don't think I could put together one complete group of people who would love doing their share of the worldbuilding from them all. When I have tried involving the players more in that side, I have had very mixed results. As with most things, my take on it now is that it depends on the group dynamic. In almost all cases, I would only do group worldbuilding if all the players wanted in on it, though, because anything else is setting the game up for inequalities tension and lack of fun.
 



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