On Dungeon Masters

A DM’s judgement is the final authority in the game.

But if the DM is not running the game for the enjoyment of their players, then why are they running it at all?

Saw this quote in a discussion forum talking about D&D rules. Sage advice, that.

It boggles my mind when I see people telling stories of how un-fun their DM is. Like the one where he’d put the party up against too powerful opponents, calls every one of their skill checks failures, then, when it’s obvious the party is overmatched, would bring in his favorite overpowered NPC to save the day and wipe out the baddies. And not once or twice, but regularly.

How is that fun?

Or, to be precise, how is that fun for anyone other than the power-mad Dungeon Master?

I’m the DM for my group, mostly by default. (I’m the one who works to keep the group together; without me, there would be no group.) That’s okay. To me, the most important thing is for everybody at the table to have fun.

I’ve had sessions where the party did not follow up on any of my carefully crafted clues, or ignored several (what I thought were obvious) adventure hooks. I’ve had sessions that were a TPK. I’ve had sessions with what I thought were challenging encounters leave the characters barely breathing hard.

But when everyone is laughing and having a good time,¬†that’s a good gaming session, whether or not it advanced the plot in my grand epic storyline that only I know. And I suppose I’m doing okay, because every member of my gaming group (except my teenage daughter) is married with kids of their own. They have¬†plenty of other things they can be doing. That they want to spend their afternoon with me is the best compliment I can receive.

Microsoft Excel as a dungeon design tool

PC Magazine has an article about how to use Microsoft Excel as an architectural design tool. While not suitable for building a bridge, it’s more than good enough for laying out your deck, landscaping, or bookshelf locations. Essentially, the instructions are to resize all of the cells to form a graph-paper-like grid. Then you can use the built-in shapes and graphics or import your own.

Well, why not a dungeon? It must be better than drawing something up on graph paper and scanning it. If you’ve already got Excel available it would be worth it to try. I imagine Excel alternatives (Open Office Spreadsheet, for instance) would work just as well.

(via Lifehacker)


Dave Arneson passes away

We lost Gary Gygax in March of last year, and now that other pillar in the creation of Dungeons & Dragons has left us as well.

Wired News: R.I.P. Dungeons & Dragons Co-Creator Dave Arneson, 1947-2009

While not as famous as Gary Gygax, who passed away in March of last year, Arneson was a driving force behind D&D’s creation and his contribution to the world of adventure gaming should not be underestimated. It was Arneson’s spark that transformed Gygax’s game Chainmail into the first edition of D&D, and begat everything that followed.

Arneson had to fight to get credit for his contributions, filing multiple lawsuits (later resolved out-of-court) against Gygax over crediting and royalties. He nonetheless did return to TSR in the mid-’80s to work with Gygax again. Following that, he began a second career as an educator, working in several schools with a particular focus on how to use gaming as an instructional tool.

Arneson suffered a stroke in 2002 and was soon after diagnosed with cancer. He finally lost his battle with cancer last night, surrounded by his family, in St. Paul, Minnesota. Gamers everywhere owe him a certain debt of gratitude for his work. He will be sorely missed.