Sitting at my weekly (OK every other week) Dungeons & Dragons table tonight. An evening that I look forward to starting at the end of each previous game night. People have a weird opinion of D&D mostly due to misinformation spread by narrow-minded fear mongers. People really can’t understand it well without actually playing or watching a table at play, but then every table is a little bit different because of the nature of the game. I’ve played at a number of different tables since my early teens, and this is by far the best, generally.
Stop for game play…
OK, so I wrote the first paragraph of this post when the night was starting and I hadn’t dove fully in. It turned in to one of my most frustrating and disappointing nights of D&D ever. This table that I play at has been together in one form or another for 15 years or so. Long before I joined about 6 years ago. I brought a few players from my old high-school games with me eventually until we came a pretty good blend of what at one point had been two separate groups. I love this game, for a lot of reasons, and for the most part I consider the guys at this table good friends. It’s one of the few structured social gatherings I regularly participate in. Other guys do fantasy foot ball or poker night or go out for drinks weekly. It’s a relatively inexpensive past time and one that lets me get together with my friends and have fun. Only about half the night is actually about game play. The rest of it is just about a group of guys talking about bullshit, laughing and being rude and crude. The game which we all enjoy for its various aspects, improvisation, story telling, strategy, problem solving, and the fantastic sense of adventure, is just the thing that we all enjoy enough that it brings us together once a week or so.
I’m not a huge fan of everyone at the table however. Since this was an existing group when I came into it, I had existing personalities to deal with when I did. One of them who I consistently don’t particularly enjoy is our DM right now. If you don’t know D&D I’ll simplify things and say the DM is the person that if this was TV show is the writer and director to a large extent and the other players are essentially the main cast. That’s not a perfect example, but it usually gives non players an idea. Anyways the table has been butting heads with him since he started his run as DM, mostly in situations where players are trying to do something unique or unusual (what should be a common occurrence in a good game) and he didn’t want to allow fun and creativity to trump him. Sometimes this was even a situation where the rules were quite specifically against him.
Here’s what most people even most D&D players don’t realize about being the DM, your number one job is to make sure the other players at the table are having fun. There is no ”winning the game” in the monopoly sense of the world. You’re the primary storyteller of the game, you devise what adventure your players will be facing and it seems like an adversarial system, but it’s not, it’s also not entirely cooperative. You end up doing more work than everyone else and it’s usually a relatively thankless job. But the number one rule for the DM, is that if your players aren’t having fun, you’ve failed. You don’t win by killing all the players, that’s fairly easy to do because for this little game world you’re God, but then no one has fun. Similarly, it gets boring if everything is to easy and players never feel any sense of jeopardy or risk. Your players are representing legendary heroes of tremendous power and skill, but sometimes tragedy will befall them, some of them might die in the struggle but that makes the triumphs of the rest party all that more epic! I was always the DM for my friends in high school, but I’ve learned so much more about this demanding task since joining this group. I joined the table mainly so their original main DM got to be a player for a while and he and I have rotated in and out of the job since I joined, because it’s fun to be the DM, but it’s fun and so much easier to be a player.
To sum up what happened, I’m playing the party “rogue” I’m a thief essentially, and I’m a greedy one. After a battle against some invading monsters there were some dead and injured city guards. Our cleric, the party healer, was providing first aid to the injured and under the pretense of also providing first aid I tried to pick some pockets. The city Lord spotted me and instantly had me thrown in chains and taken to the town jail. For most games with most DMs this would just add a small wrinkle, either I break out on my own, not too difficult given my skill level and the wealth of this small town, or my companions break be out. Worst case scenario I plead guilty and I get branded or something. Instead of playing through those options, the DM just says that either I make a new character (as if I had died) or the entire party makes new characters! The entire night came to a screeching haul as we all collectively said WTF? And an hour-long argument ensued, until I finally left the table in disgust. It was very frustrating and disappointing. Ultimately after I left, the table decided to fire our current DM, because people were ready to quit the table over these arguments. So our main DM will take back over with what he’s been working on in his down time, and I might take a turn “behind the books” at some point.
Maybe I’ll put some of my thoughts about the game I have in mind on this blog….more to come!