Wednesday, February 15, 2012

A really good piece of advice on game mastering

Al over at Beyond The Black Gate posted something really good that I just had to share, in the hope somebody reads it that hadn't otherwise. I'll quote the juicy bits.

Lets say, for instance, the party is battling trolls. One of the players, in the midst of combat, wishes to light a torch and start burning troll bits to stop a defeated troll from regenerating back up into the fray. In a "DM vs. Players" scenario, the DM would most likely be inclined to favor getting "his" troll back into action to whup up on the PCs some more, and tell the player its going to take a couple of rounds to light the torch, a couple more rounds to effectively burn troll bits, and all the while suffering the undefended attacks by the remaining trolls.

Unfortunately, what this DM is actually doing is punishing creative play. "Get back to unimaginatively rolling 'to hit' and damage", he might as well say, "or you're going to get pounded on."
Read that again. While it might be tempting to squash that irritating player, god knows I have done it myself!, it is really crucial not to. 

That's some really good advice there for how to be a better DM/GM/whatever.

Say yes!

8 comments:

  1. It is great advice. I generally give a little bonus to accomplishing rolls for stuff when the player comes up with a good idea or description of how they do something. Inventiveness and detailing actions make for a much richer gaming environment

    Dan Prentice

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  2. Yeah, even going the extra step and giving a bonus is a great idea.

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  3. Really good advice.

    I find where DMs and Players conflict here is when the Players attempt what I call "gaming the system", which is really just a nasty blend of meta-gaming and rules-lawyering. The DM wants the players to enjoy a tough, satisfying adventure, but one player decides he wants to find a way to fast-forward and prove how clever he is.

    The problem is, of course, that there's a fine line between "coming up with a creative idea" and "being a loophole-hunting d-bag". To make it worse, to use a Coupling reference, it's the difference between "liking porno" and "enjoying erotica". It's all in the eye of the beholder (no, not that beholder...).

    I think a lot of it comes down to presentation and timing, and good communication on the part of the players and the DM. If it is clear that the player(s) keep pulling "stunts" to avoid some good old fashioned adventure and just skip to the end, I don't think that's cool. But when it's done with a sense of "We're screwed, but I've got an idea so crazy it just might work!", then I feel it becomes thematically appropriate.

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  4. I have to agree with Jack, a lot of players will try to game the system and not even with their own creative power, but with things they read on a forum or heard about or saw in other games. You have to reward creative genuine play but try to manage the metagaming. It's no fun for anyone when the fight boils down to trading rolls, but neither is it fun when players leverage 40 years of data to sidestep all situations.

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  5. Yeah, I learned that the hard way. Thanks to T&T for lighting my path. A great bit of advice!

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  6. I don't know...I'm kinda on the fence on this scenario being labelled as "DM vs. Players". What if the scenario instead read like this:


    Lets say, for instance, the party is battling a party of monsters. One of the players, in the midst of combat, wishes to cast a spell and make a monster fall asleep to stop said monster from entering into the fray. In a "DM vs. Players" scenario, the DM would most likely be inclined to favor getting "his" monster back into action to whup up on the PCs some more, and tell the player its going to take a round/couple of rounds to cast the spell and all the while suffering the undefended attacks by the remaining monsters which may disrupt the PC spell.


    I would agree with the torch example if in one case i say it will take 3 rounds to burn the troll, and in another 6 rounds...my answers should be consistent. I just don't think burning a troll during the middle of combat/combat-rounds should be an automatic one round activity that can occur with risk (of attack, etc.)

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  7. Everything should be weighted against some sense of what can be done in your world, I'd guess.

    Is it a cinematic campaign or is it gritty? If it's gritty maybe spellcasting or rumaging about in the backpack during a fight will have do be accompanied with a dodge or save in order not to be hit.

    When it comes to gaming the system I just let it flow. If a player does it repeatedly the other players are going to give him grief, or I just boot the player at once, depending on the attitude of the players. Frankly, I don't think this kind of "stunt" is going to be the first time such a player makes his move. If he is such a player, he will ahve given you grief before and should be talked to, or booted.

    Just my two cents.

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  8. I think I should add something about the gritty case.

    While you might ask for a dodge or a save, explain your ruling and start by saying "yes, cool, but ..."

    It makes a differance.

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