When DMs Play: Some Reminders

I will be playing in an Old School Hack game tonight, so I’m posting some reminders for myself that probably apply to most people who run a game more often than they play in it.

  • You are a visitor here. This is not your game world. Just because you think that causality works a certain way, and that NPCs and monsters should make decisions according to your criteria, and signs point to only one possible conclusion (if they were your signs), that doesn’t make it so. So, when the world behaves differently than you would make it behave, relax. Pay attention. Try to figure out if this world works differently, or if you are getting plot clues from aberrant causality. Above all, don’t try to force the world to conform to your vision. (Imagine you are a visiting tourist in a country that speaks another language–eat the food, try the local customs, don’t try to make everywhere look like where you’re from. Just be grateful you get to travel.)
  • Rationalize helpfully. We humans can rationalize anything. When you are playing in someone else’s game, try to rationalize why your character would do helpful things, not how your character must behave in ways that wreck the group-ness and enjoyment of the experience (blamed on the hand-tying “staying in character” excuse that dodges player responsibility).
  • Know your character. Sure, you can handwave and fudge when you’re running the whole game world, but here you need to know what your character can do. Don’t make things up on the fly, don’t be obnoxious asking for nitpicky rulings on something ambiguous.  Don’t expect your house rules to carry over.
  • Scale your response. As the one who often runs games, you’ve probably put a lot more thought into running the game than new DMs or occasional DMs. Please, please don’t get confused and think you’re a connoisseur who will evaluate the quality of what you are served, possibly for a write-up in a magazine. Enjoy the game for what it is, focus in on its strengths, plan to have a good time. Yes, if you feel railroaded and abused you’ll have the itch to wreck the whole damn thing and bring it down in flames, and as a wily DM yourself you’ll know how to do it. Resist the urge. It is not a contest or an exam; friends together having fun. So get together, have fun.

I’m looking forward to playing!

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2 Responses to When DMs Play: Some Reminders

  1. Karlen says:

    I know you wrote this a while ago but I couldn’t help but respond. I play in a 4e game and I have to CONSTANTLY remind myself of these rules. My DM is a returning DM from the 2nd Edition days, is relearning a whole new system, is a little afraid to improvise, and can’t seem to stray too far from the outlines in the modules he insists on running. But I still come to the games every time excited to play my character, face new challenges, and test his limits. I don’t test his limits in the sense that I’m trying to ruin his game, I just test his limits on rules and situations he isn’t familiar with or isn’t expecting in a particular situation so he’ll relax. Heh, as a result he is convinced my Halfling Monk must must die not because of my actions in game but because of the insane amount of abilities the monk has that derails his greatest plans.

    Either way it’s important to remember the border between player and GM and how to respect the different flavors that come from both.

  2. fictivite says:

    Glad this made sense to you. Yeah, I mostly DM, so when I play it’s a pretty rare thing. If I’m a pain in the rear end, it sucks some of the fun out of the game for the DM and other players, and it’s even MORE rare I’ll get to play. Putting my finger on why I was a bad player (some years back) helped me rehabilitate myself somewhat–and OSH is a GREAT game to be snarky and funny without damaging the tone and direction of the game. =)

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