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.


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.

E. Gary Gygax, we hardly knew ya

Gary Gygax died this past Tuesday, March 4. He was 69.

If you’re a geek, you already know this. If you’re not a geek, you have no idea who he is, nor why he’s such a big deal.

For those of you who are curious, Mr. Gygax was the co-creator of Dungeons & Dragons and, by extension, the progenitor of all the role playing games that followed.

I discovered D&D when I was fourteen or so. (The subject of a future post.) I played it for years, up to and including the 2nd Edition. I “graduated” to other RPGs, and then became too busy with life to stay with it, but those early years will always be special.

Hell, my friends and I still quote some of our favorite bits from our gaming sessions.

“Nothing seems to happen.”

“I listen to the door.” “The door doesn’t say anything.”

“The monster likes (dice roll) you best.”

I do miss it sometimes.

I know no one lives forever, but as each icon from my childhood falls, it only serves to remind me how far removed I am from my youth.


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