Tuesday, January 31, 2012

What Hat is the DM Wearing?

Yesterday's brief post about my big mouth generated some good comments - the issue of the DM or gamemaster offering advice to the players is fairly nuanced.  Is the DM's role that of an impartial referee?  Is the DM an adversary?  Is the DM a coach?  In many cases, the DM is the most experienced gamer at the table (or knows the rules the best) so one could argue the DM has a duty as coach and teacher of the rules.  Does that drop away when the players are sufficiently experienced?  How about coaching for strategy and tactics?  When the players are tossing ideas back and forth regarding how they're going to attack their current problem, should the DM interject and point out which ideas would or wouldn't work, or should he or she keep quiet unless directly asked, and let the players execute their plan, making the rulings then?

Then there's the bad poker player, the DM that's having a hard time keeping their mouth shut about that obvious thing the players are overlooking... that was me with the bear, the bad poker player.  But in this age when folks have a ton of things on their mind, distractions at the table, faulty memories, should the DM play it close to the vest at all?  These questions are a bit of a parallel issue to Stuart's GMing badges regarding game mastering philosophy, albeit these are more subtle elements of presentation.

My own position is that the DM needs to give the players space to execute their own plans; success or failure should come from their own efforts.  When they succeed, they've earned it, and they can feel great that it came honestly.  And don't fudge the dice.  If there's a crushing defeat, after the session I might spend some time tossing out some alternative approaches they could have used if the players seem stumped.  It's their game, and they need to have the freedom to play it - and sometimes that means they miss things, or choose a sub optimal tactic, or forget they're carrying the silver bullet all along.  At the same time, don't you take a lot of pride in your players when you throw everything you've got at them, and they pull out an amazing victory? I know I do.

Oh, and lest I forget - sometime's the DM should even play the fool -  this video exhortation over at Alexis's place was great:  Vlog the Fool.  We need to be able to put on that silly hat and that performer hat from time to time as well.