Author Topic: DM/GM 101: When does a DM/GM become a Character Assassin?  (Read 961 times)


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Offline Lord Palatine

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DM/GM 101: When does a DM/GM become a Character Assassin?
« on: May 16, 2013, 09:21:09 PM »
DMs that glory in killing off characters worry me just a little; well, some of them worry me a lot.  Gamers and game masters can be divided into many categories, there are many lists of the different types of Gamers, I'm adding two lists below just so you can see where you fit into the hierarchy.  I've seen the lists all over and seen a few names appended to them, if you know who wrote them drop me a note.

I think that many different categories apply to every player or DM/GM, but when it comes to game worlds there are two sorts: Tactical or Strategic.  Tactical worlds are less defined in details and designed for limited duration campaigns while strategic worlds are fully laid out for long term campaigning.  Hack & Slashers prefer tactical worlds and Design Zealots like strategic worlds.  I'm a design zealot.

From my experience, game masters that favor thoroughly designed worlds tend to have less character deaths, not that they cut more breaks but they are careful to leave ways for a thinking player to get their characters out of whatever they are dropped into.  Personally, I've had players who's characters survived almost one session and others that have survived almost 25 years now.  The measure of character survival has much more to do with player skill, dice rolls and clerics in my world than what I throw at you.  I've seen parties make mincemeat out of a dragon that blew its initial attack and I've seen other groups taken out by a avaricious leprechaun.

Just as I place great value on my world I tend to attract gamers that value characters in the same way.  They spend a lot of time crafting, advancing and perfecting a character and do not suffer lightly the dungeon master that goes out of their way to inflict carnage on a party.  A good roleplayer relishes the opportunity to play out a truly epic death scene after a hard fight, but they won't sit down with a DM that has them routinely filling out character sheets to replace the character o' the week.

A DM should never try to kill off or save a party, they should lay out the situation and let fate in the form of dice and player ability decide.  A good DM/GM should be like a real journalist (which you're as likely to find as a leprechaun in the real world,) you need to be neutral.  You play the NPCs to the best of their abilities and scores, you play the monsters fairly, you play the dice as they land, and you craft your campaigns so that they can kill off your characters if they or the dice fall short, but they should have a fair chance to succeed or fail.

Every DM has good days and bad, but what every DM should avoid is what I like to call Gary's Red Dragon.  According to urban legend, even Gary Gygax (co-creator of D&D and granddaddy of RPGs) had an off day; such as, announcing the random dungeon encounter as an ancient red dragon squeezing out of a normal-sized door to attack them.  According to legend when challenged that it wouldn't fit he supposedly replied to the effect, "it will if I say it will."  (See DM type 26 below.) If anyone has another version of the tale, I'd love to hear it!

Anyway... as a side note, Gary Gygax and I agree that D&D 3E sucked (and in my opinion 3.5 is unplayable except by statisticians and actuaries.  Ironic since Gygax sold insurance for years.)  "The new D&D is too rule intensive." he said.  "It's relegated the Dungeon Master to being an entertainer rather than master of the game. It's done away with the archetypes, focused on nothing but combat and character power, lost the group cooperative aspect, bastardized the class-based system, and resembles a comic-book superheroes game more than a fantasy RPG where a player can play any alignment desired, not just lawful good."

Basically, I've found that most killer DM/GMs thrive at games like WoW more than they do as roleplayers.  Roleplaying calls for interaction, its becoming part of a game limited only by your imagination.  Computer gamers are only limited by the imagination of the programmers.  A quality dungeon or game master challenges their players up to that point where living or dying results from skill and die rolls.  A good GM/DM can balance drama, action and humor, can run a game for days on end if they get the chance, and people should want to sit down and rattle dice with them, knowing that they stand a fair chance every time the DM/GM smiles wickedly at them.

25 types of Role Players

1. The Real Man - "Hot Diggity!! Gnoll outpost at twelve o'clock!! CHAAAAAAAARGE!!!"
2. The Real Roleplayer - "Don't start yet!! I need my two minutes to get properly into character."
3. The Loonie - "I sheathe my longsword and kiss the ogre on the lips."
4. The Munchkin - "Five arch-devils and two demigods? That's ALL?! I guess I'll only need to use six of my rings for this encounter."
5. The Coward - "Yikes! Three kobolds!! Retreat! Retreat!"
6. The Troublemaker - "Just before the Mayor gives his speech to the town, I cast 'command - vomit' on him."
7. The Novice - "I just rolled a 2 on my 'to hit' roll. Did I want high or low?"
8. The Tactician - "The archer will move silently into position behind the podium, carefully aiming at the sergeant. The mage will remain behind the door in preparation of a 'sleep' spell which will be centered at the table around which are the bulk of the guards. Meanwhile, the fighter and I . . ."
9. The Quiet Type - "I dunno . . . I lob off another arrow at the monster this round, I guess."
10. The Punster - "You know how many clerics it takes to fix a light bulb? One to cast 'cure light'."
11. The PC Infighter - "Since Ruth's been such a twit, I hit her in the face with my flail while she's casting her 'find familiar' spell."
12. Joe I-Got-the-Rules-Down-Pat - "No, if you look in the DMG, page 87, paragraph 5, you'll find this spell won't affect griffons."
13. The Whiner - "Three points?! I take THREE POINTS OF DAMAGE!?! Frank, what the hell kind of grudge do you have against me?"
14. The Bully - "Are you sure I don't make my saving throw? Are you ABSOLUTELY sure? Do you want to keep your nose the way it is, Lou?"
15. Mr. Greedy - "So it's not evil? And it's not attacking? So what! I WANT THAT XP!!!!"
16. The Cheater - "I roll an... 18! It hits!" [Quickly grabs dice.]
17. The Chastiser - "And you DIDN'T SEE THAT TRAP COMING? Hahahaha!! Just how long did you say you've been playing this game?"
18. The Kamikaze Guy - "I jump off our perch, taking careful aim to land dead center on the hobgoblin patrol. Just before I hit the ground, though, I set off the "fire trap' on all my nine flasks of oil."
19. The Good Roller - "Oh, looky here. An 03 on percentile dice. If that door was trapped, I just found something."
20. The Bad Roller - "Oh, damn it all!! *Another* critical fumble!!"
21. The Braggart - "The thought of you attacking me isn't even interesting. I could get off a 'sleep' spell and slit your unconscious throat before you even get your longsword out of its sheath."
22. The Reminiscer - "Say, y'know, this is like the time our party thief spent twenty minutes trying to lock-pick an unlocked door."
23. Goody Two-Shoes - "Wait a minute. Even if they are orcs, we just can't kill them when they're asleep and can't defend themselves."
24. The Overoptimistic Daydreamer - "After we get through this campaign, and have gained about nine, ten levels, I'm going to buy me the finest battle axe +3 money can buy."
25. Short-Attention-Span Man - "Hmmm? What? Are we attacking now?"

28 Kinds of Dungeon Masters

1. Munchkin - "Having slain the hordes of Azoth single-handedly, without even unsheathing the Sword of Universal Destruction, your half grey elven/half gold dragon 50th-level paladin/MU/Cleric/Monk/Bard gazes down upon the pitiful Cthulhu who grovels at his feet..."
2. Monty Haul (variation on the Munchkin, but characters tend to be lower level) - "You are each granted one wish." "I wish to have the hand and eye of Vecna." "I wish to have the flask of Teurny the Merciless." "I wish to have..." "Poof, they appear in front of you. Now what do you do?" (This actually happened, years ago, when we first started playing.)
3. Whining Munchkin - "But, but, you guys CAN'T do that! It's my only dungeon! Waaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaail!"
4. Killer Munchkin - "You guys are dead."
5. Killer - "As you pull aside the tapestry, a green slime jumps upon you from behind it, killing you... nope, no `to hit' or saving throw allowed, it says so right here."
6. Executioner - "A hidden blade slides down the doorway, mincing the two fighters and the cleric. The thief gets nine crossbow bolts in his back, and the magic user is hit by an intense beam of light, burning a hole through his head."
7. Troublemaker - singles out one player and continually hands him/her notes which read "Don't let anyone know there is nothing on this note."
8. Cheater - "I don't care if you hit on an 18 LAST time, THIS time you missed, and I don't want to hear another thing about it."
9. Die Modifier - "Yeah, yeah, so you rolled a 20. You missed. Secret modifiers, you know."
10. Enforcer - "A blue bolt from heaven strikes Harold the Whiner, reducing him to one hit point. Anybody else got a problem with this campaign?"
11. Novice - "You rolled a 2 on your `to hit' roll. Did you want high or low?"
12. Verbose - "The door is solid oak, bound with 4 iron bands of roughly equal width, spaced equidistant along its width, and the wood is polished smooth, stained a dark brown, except for a small patch near the bottom which is blacker. The hinges are not visible from this side, but you notice the exquisite design of the lock, the faceplate of which is a starburst design, edged in gold or maybe polished copper or brass, it's kind of hard to tell with the torchlight, but the knocker is definitely cast iron and you see..." (sounds of snoring from party members)
13. Poker Face - "The slave you rescued courteously accepts your offer to accompany you and thanks you for your trust in her..."
14. No Poker Face - "The slave you rescued, hee hee, courteously accepts your offer, snort, to accompany you and thanks you for your trust in her, hah hah... boy are you gonna get it now... giggle..."
15. Timid - "The orc hits you for 4 points of damage, if that's OK with you, Steve. Really, you've got 17 hit points left and he has only 2, so you'll be okay, OK?"
16. DePalma school of blood and gore - "Your magic drill cleaves the demon's skull in twain and it literally explodes, spattering everyone with blood and brains. An unsightly green ichor drips from your face as you watch the smoldering corpse churn before you like a baby in a blender and finally settle into a puddle of vomit and excrement..."
17. Gibson school of writing graduate - "The view in the crystal ball was the colour of television, tuned to a dead channel."
18. Vengeful - "You won't go out with me Saturday? Okay, all of the were-rats attack Christine."
19. AD&D'er - "The 100 peasants beat at your fighter ineffectually with their sticks and pitchforks until you have slain them all. A heroic effort on your part."
20. Anti-AD&D'er - "The 100 peasants overbear your fighter with their great numbers and, unable to move under the weight of their hordes, you squirm helplessly as they pry open your field plate and skewer you like a lobster. You die an ignoble death."
21. Stickler For Detail - "Taking into account atmospheric conditions, the acceleration due to gravity, the low drag coefficient of your greased plate mail, your high dexterity, the gold in your backpack, your associated credit rating, the eggs you had for breakfast... and the average number of chickens who would remain inside the coop on a warm day, you have to roll 13 or better to survive the fall..."
22. No Originality - "It's a quest, see, you're trying to take this ring to Mordor, to drop it into a volcano to destroy it. No, no, honest, I thought of this campaign myself..."
23. Leading and Overbearing - "You pump the bartender for information and he tells you about a red dragon's lair to the west." "Too risky. We go to hear rumours somewhere else." "A man offers to hire you to clean out a red dragon's lair for him." "We say `no, thank you' and leave for the next village." "On the way to the village you stumble onto a red dragon's lair..."
24. Schmuck - "Oh. Can someone really do that? Okay, I'll let you have a 50% chance. Oh. Okay, 75% then."
25. Ghoul - "That's the 17th character you rolled tonight? Mouahahahahahahahahahah!"
26. Absolute Monarch - "The huge Red Dragon CAN fit through the little hole, 'cause I SAID SO!"
27. Unimaginative - "You walk into the bar and see thirty mercenaries all wearing scalemail and carrying longswords. They all sit at seperate tables."
28. Design Zealot - "I just need another 15 minutes. I only have 3 more levels to populate."


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