What I Enjoy as a DM

by Algernon’s Ghost

I thought it might be a good idea to share my feelings on what I enjoy as a DM, so with neither preamble nor fanfare, here we go.

Role-Play Here, Role-Play There

We are a role-play oriented server, and as such, I expect to see role-play (like duh, right?). That said, I like to see role-play extend beyond those butt-parked times around the well, or at the campfire. As a DM, passively watching people talk in one spot for hours can be, quite frankly, boring. Now before you all run away from the well into the wilderness, never to return for fear of putting me to sleep, allow me to explain.

You should note I used the word, “passively”. While the group gathered at the table drinking ale is made up of engaged folks, the invisible DM only waits for the next emote or spoken sentence to have something to read. This can be great if the DM is just awarding RP xp, and needs to do other things around the house. There are many times it can be nice (and convenient) to park the ol’ avatar and return to the computer once in a while to read thirty minutes of RP at once, then hand out some xp. To do this all the time, well….

What are you getting at you ask? Alright, I’ll tell you. I will share with you what provides the most enjoyment for me as a gamemaster.

I particularly enjoy the impromptu player’s quest – you know, the time when the Party of Four gathers to travel to the old mine somewhere in orc country in search of ores and rough gems – more for the companionship than for the mining. It’s about those times when The Stalwart Six march into the woods to seek out the rare and rarely sighted Bilboc Bird, without any concern for xp or loot, knowing they will probably never find their quarry. These are the types of quests I enjoy the most. Why? Oh, you’re still with me? Excellent, I’ll continue.

Simply put, I just love to follow a creative, on-the-spot, player-made quest peopled by those who understand that role-play extends into the wilderness as well, and to springboard from their ideas. I enjoy spicing up those fun little jaunts, it’s my chance to be active and engage with the story being told, without all the laborious planning that goes into a large, scheduled event – it’s just plain fun.

Does this relate in some way to the kind of player you like to see, AG?

My, my, the humble reader is curious this day! Yes, yes it does. You will note I am following the theme of role-play away from home base. There is no rule that says RP must be conducted in safe zones, and that wilderness areas are solely for combat. I do so appreciate the player that understands there is no division between RP time, and “hunting time”. I think it’s pretty cool to see those players who throw in some emotes describing their actions when they are alone, or who talk and emote together as they travel through the underbrush and tallgrass while they stalk the lowly goblin.

I especially appreciate the player who genuinely goes about their role-playing with no expectation of reward, but instead does it for his or her own personal enjoyment. Ironically, it’s that kind of player who is most likely to attract my attention as a DM.

Hmmm, I think I see where you’re coming from…. What about character types then, where does that tie in?

Hey, I think you’re catching on, very nice. I see one overblown concept after another, it seems everyone wants to play something “unique”, or special in some way. But, again, here’s my little secret: I just don’t like that. I like normal characters – just good old normal characters trying to do their best with what they have to make a difference in the world.

A new character doesn’t need to have some grand or fantastic history, already replete with epic adventures to be good. In fact, the new character is a book waiting to be written as life unfolds. New characters begin as young adventurers, fresh out of whatever training they received, with a basic past behind them. I enjoy seeing characters that do not start as lords and princesses, not as renowned knights and chosen ones of the gods, but as average beings going off into that big, wide world.

I enjoy seeing the vulnerability and nobility of humanity (or non-humanity as it may be) in a character’s concept. I relish seeing a character develop and change over time through contact with other normal characters – all the little and subtle ways a character is affected and altered by her or his experiences. And it is the experiences in life that shape us all along they way.

Breathe some real life into a character, and you will attract my attention. Your character doesn’t need to be a Mary Sue to catch my eye, intrigue my mind, and entangle my heart.

Hrm, ok, I’ll think about that. Is there anything else you can tell me?

Kudos for still hanging in there (whatever a kudos is…). Sure, I could go on and on and on, but I will just share what, to me, are some notable issues.

The simple one is party size. DMing for a large party is less fun than DMing for a smaller to medium party. Aside from the potential for lag, there are some definite problems with a big party. Time is one consideration. If you get a group of ten players together, the quest tends to slow to a crawl; it loses its momentum and can really start to drag. Another issue is the sheer DMability of a large group. Ten characters can pretty much mow through gobs of enemies, and the DM is forced to throw out ridiculous numbers of hostiles, or seriously overpowered hostiles to create any kind of challenge. I personally don’t like to deal with parties consisting of greater than eight members, and my favorite party size has between three and six members. There are always exceptions, like when a large group is defending a town against a small army of orcs, but generally, eight is enough.

On to the subject of items and treasures…. When I add creatures carrying extra treasures, or place treasure containers, unless the party has mutually agreed ahead of time that one person is responsible for looting, I like to see everyone given the chance to search some bodies and look in some chests. I like to see parties that honestly and evenly share the wealth at the end of the day, without petty sniping and bickering. It is really no fun to add goodies as a DM if I know one character will run off with all the prizes the moment the party has returned to safety.

Playing together is another issue I’d like to speak on – I mean really playing together. We built this world with the hope of creating a sense of true, human community amongst the players. I personally had hoped that all the petty jealousies (of items and levels and attention) would be left behind in favor of truly unselfish, mutual fun – a place where people could be happy for each other when another person’s character had a neat experience, or gained a level, or acquired a special item.

When I see that ugly, jealous monster rear it’s selfish head, I am turned off. When I see a player take joy in what someone else has gained, I get a huge hope-filled smile; that can make my day. As a DM I enjoy giving things to players, the joy really is in the selfless sharing. Cherish others more than yourselves, folks.

I don’t believe it’s about having the most uber item, or having the highest level character, or having the character that can do it all without the help of others. Characters are not supposed to be superheroes, that kind of defeats the purpose and potential of this kind of multi-player game. It’s not about showing off and showing up others, it’s about sharing and friendship. My thoughts… feelings… take away what you will.

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