Friday, March 9, 2012

Top 6 Reasons I am a Crappy DM, or: How to score an empty-net goal


Like me, most of you think I'm pretty awesome.  It's my modesty, I assume, that leads people to this conclusion.  But truth be told, I also suck big-time at a lot of things, and most of those things relate to being a Master of Dungeons.  So here are a few of the ways in which I suck:

6. I don't like killing characters:  I'm not a big dice fudger or anything; if the PCs die in a fair fight or by their own stupidity that's fine.  And, since it seems to be a hot topic lately, save-or-die situations do arise from time to time.  But if the players are unwittingly walking into a situation that I think will leave their twisted, lifeless corpses strewn about, I will bend time and space to get them out of there.  This sometimes leads to run-ins with jocular purple worms, cushy pit traps, and misunderstood demon princes who, it turns out, are just a little sensitive about their weight.  The situation is only exacerbated by my another flaw of mine:

5. I don't like my monsters getting killed:  Again, in a fair fight where they've fought to the best of their capacity, fine.  But I don't like it when the players wade through a pack of kobolds as casually as if they were sifting through trail mix to find all the M&Ms, so I bend space and time to give the little schmucks some sort of advantage, or at least a chance to escape.  A frequent result of this is the infamous mid-game houserule, see below: 

4. I tinker too much:  I probably introduce at least one house rule per session, usually two or three, and usually on the fly, so that no one knows about the impending change--not even me--until it's gone into effect.  Because my players are folks I've known since the 90s, they know what kind of a doofus I am and I can get away with this.  Seasoned players without foreknowledge of my idiosyncrasies, I think, would probably cold-cock me every time I tell them that the AC value of their ringmail has changed. But my tinkering isn't confined to rules:

3. My maps are way too convoluted:  I hate the 2-dimensionalness of single-plane dungeon levels, so all my dungeon "levels" skew wildly up and down the z-axis with galleries laced with sky-bridges which overlook chambers that are pockmarked with tunnels that are linked by a spiderweb of twisting, sloping corridors that wind underneath and over each other...  Most rooms require a few section drawings to really get the point across.  Mapping is hell for everyone involved.

2. I am a horrible administrator: Tracking monster hit points, spell durations, encumbrance, blah blah... blah.  I just can't do it.  So either I don't bother and the players manage an entire 3 day dungeon excursion without ever refilling the lantern that no one is actually carrying anyway, or I hunker down and keep a detailed log of time elapsed, resources used, monsters slaughtered, tailors humiliated... and the next thing I know we're all gathered around the TV watching the Canucks give a clinic on things you shouldn't do when you just pulled your goalie.

1. Funny voices:  I like doing funny voices as much as the next nerd, but the problem is I can't seem to maintain the same silly voice for very long.  Fer instance, the PCs are trying to secure safe passage through a stretch of dungeon held by a group of  bandits.  So, like DMs everywhere, I give the bandit leader a Chicago accent for flavor.  A minute or two into the negotiations my Elwood Blues impression has morphed into a leprechaun and my players are smirking and offering tribute in the form of yellow moons, orange stars, and green clovers--inevitably followed by a chorus of "They're magically delicious!"


I wanted to go for 10 reasons but I didn't have time to review the lengthy submittals on the matter from my players.  If they really had anything important to say they'd learn to be more succinct.  


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