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by on January 16, 2020
I felt prompted to write this after some lowkey vitriol I found myself unable to let go of lately. It regards my former DM exploits and how they led me to a jaundiced view of not only DMing but also D&D in general. This is rather vent-related, which is something I don't do often because I don't find it effective OR worthwhile, but from a psychological standpoint, talking about it has a higher chance to benefit me than not talking about it at all.
What this is NOT is a cry for assistance or a request for people to "fix" things. All scenarios involved are things that have already happened, and there is nothing anyone can do to fix them. So I don't want comments asking me how people can make me feel better or berate those responsible for my experiences. You can't do anything for me. All you can do is maybe read and learn how to be a better player.
So the best way to start this is to mention that all my skills have been undervalued most of my life, by myself more than anyone else. I am the type of artist that is their own worst critic, but having a lack of people that appreciate the work that I do consider worthwhile simply expands the cracks of doubt that might be present in even my finest works. Without explaining my whole boring character backstory, I can tl;dr it to say that at some point a few years back I swapped from a rather self-deprecating complex to a Diva complex instead-I not only value my work, but I push myself to establish it as the golden standard in my eyes. Is this valid? Who knows. Is it fair for me to compare others to it? Not at all, pretty dick move. Can I reach a midline between self-deprecating and self-exalting? Unclear, ask again.
So when it comes to DMing, I started about 2014, back before I learned to appreciate my work-I pushed myself hard in my first campaign and always worried that my work wasn't enough, and in subsequent campaigns, slowly began to realize that the amount of effort I put in as a DM far exceeded what most DM's I know did, or that was even expected of a DM-and I took pride in that.
The total number of campaigns that I have run is five, four online and a sit-down. A sixth, shelfed campaign was also in development for the past three years. My highest number of people ever DM'd for was 12 people at once. I have never run a premade and all my Campaigns are handwritten and contain some amount of homebrew. My first and longest campaign spanned about a year-but was also the only one to have reached finality. For anyone familiar with the platform Roll20, I have managed to max the asset library TWICE and had to wipe it due to the amount of assets uploaded for my Campaign creation.
All this to say I take my role very seriously. However despite the amount of work I have put in, not a single campaign I have ever run has been what I could categorize as "wonderful" and was one I was happy I ran. That I would put in such great effort and be so rewarded baffles me. This isn't proper Karma.
My first campaign, however successful, was fraught with players who complained of pacing, difficulty in puzzles and monsters, and lack of plot freedom, and left me so upset I took a year hiatus as DM.
My second campaign, run alongside the first, failed due to meme-level behavior and a highly uncomfortable sexual focus.
My third campaign failed for the same reason as the second.
My fourth failed because of being required to DM for 8-12 people on a weekly basis.
My fifth failed from lack of participants.
And my sixth, planned dead in the water because I am just tired. I am tired of being a babysitter. Like many of you who are DM's, I thought this would be fun-and my experience has been anything but. So now that I have explained my past, perhaps I can shed some light on your future with some tips, for both DM and player.
<[For DM's]>~Do not budge for your players.
Being too accomodating as a DM lets your players know that if they complain, they can push you around and get what they want. Players often think of D&D like a video game-and you, the DM are simply an NPC. It is not so. It is a game of chess, the DM is one side, the players are the other. The only difference is the players are intended to win, but they still need to earn it. Let your players know complaints are taken into consideration but do not aquiesce to every demand-you may regret it later, especially if actions you take unbalance the campaign in favor of the players. Complaints about things being too hard may become things being too easy, since you respond with a buff. They need to tough it out. Items that make players overpowered at early levels may speed plot progression unintentionally. Starting gear you don't research might give some players an edge. It's an avalance situation best avoided.
~Do not plan plotlines out complete, nor too far ahead.
Your players can and WILL fuck your plotlines up. As discussed above, D&D is a chess game-this means you can not plan for your players' every move, nor assume what direction they will go. It is best to leave situations open and direct as best as you can. Only planning the next chapter after the current will prevent you from getting burnt out by producing content you may not use yet or at all. Leaving scenarios open also allows your players more freedom so they will be happier.
~Limit your group size
This cannot be stressed enough. This tends not to be relevant until battle happens, but the more people you have, the slower everything will go-and you will lose player attention. Smaller groups are easier to manage.
~Do not let yourself be disenchanted by outside media.
Many podcasts/webseries like to paint D&D as something entirely different than what it can be. When things don't go the same way for you, it can be highly disappointing and discouraging. Remind yourself that these DM's not only have years of experience, but also a more mature, well-behaved crowd that is more than likely not a bunch of memelords.
~Be open with your players.
Constantly reminding your players that there is in fact a man or woman behind the curtain and this is not just a finely tuned machine cranking out a game for them is important. A weekly session review and preview to let them know the 411 can be good, especially if you share your feelings during it.
Even if you are a vet player, they're still learning and doing their best. One of the most painful parts about DMing is that a lot of times you are not taught how to DM. You teach yourself. So be patient and give your DM the time they need to deliver a quality experience.
~Avoid arguments over plot direction and character building
Unless you have prior DM knowledge that clues you into errant behavior your DM is exhibiting that suggests they are behaving poorly or unwisely, let the DM do their thing. Just because you are unsure of where a plot is going or at what pace things are moving, you are a PLAYER-let them do their job. Chances are if you try to DM you'll gain an appreciation of just how intricate things get.
It is not in fact on the DM to inform you of everything your class can do. The DM already has to keep track of plot, maps, enemies, gear...etc. It is your responsbility to know everything your character can do. If you're failing to use this trait or that spell, it is on you, not the DM. Chances are if things aren't going well in combat you messed up in character building or simply neglected vital skills your character is capable of using.
~Don't be disillusioned
As with DMing, you can often see things other players experience in podcasts/webseries and think that is how your campaign will go. It will not always be that way. Every DM is a different flavor. Respect what the DM allows and for the love of fuck don't just try to copy some thing you saw so and so do.
~Don't be a meme.
D&D has a lot of memes, from Bards seducing everything in sight to Rogues pickpocketing every passerby. While every DM might have a different flavor, keep in mind you as a player are not only one member on a team, but part of whatever world the DM has created. The world is not YOUR sandbox to do what you like-it is the DM's sandbox, and if things don't go the way you like, you, as the player, will have to accomodate. Complaining when your actions that do not benefit the team or that are only done to be a meme will have reprecussions sometimes is immature and accepting it with grace instead of pouting is a good way to remain in a party. Exasperating a DM is never good. Being a meme is even worse if you're just doing it to be a copycat-"Well so-and-so's Bard did this in Adventure Zone can I do that?" how about you be original and do something all your own creation. It's not that hard. I once killed a Will-O-Wisp with David Bowie music. I am my own meme now.
Anyway rant over. Hopefully everyone learned something yay if not I only wasted 30 minutes writing this.
Topics: vent
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