Be a Better DMPosted: August 21, 2011
I’ve read a lot of good advice so far — do this, don’t do that, etc., but I wanted to see if I could try to boil it all down to one very simple rule that would cover just about everything.
I think my basic rule would be ‘don’t be a dick.’ ‘Don’t be a dick’ could apply to so much more than DMing, but I think games are primarily a social activity that count on interaction with other humans (would apply to playing over Skype or internet). Most of the games I haven’t enjoyed have been ones where someone (or several people) were behaving like dicks.
Women can behave like dicks. When I say ‘dick’ I don’t mean like a penis — I mean being stubborn and selfish and rude all at the same time.
So if everyone gathers to play a game and you show up without books, dice or preparation and expect everyone else to sit and wait while you get ready and you need to borrow a pencil, borrow dice, borrow a book, “Oh, I lost my character sheet but, give me a moment and I can recreate it…“, you are being a dick. You are treating other people like their time doesn’t matter (stubborn/selfish/rude).
If someone else is trying to talk and you keep interrupting them or talking over them or not paying attention and then when it is your turn you need to be told what is happening and you make everyone wait while you consider all the options, again, you are being a dick. God I hate that one.
When you continue to dispute a rule or a call long after everyone else has decided to move on, you are being a dick.
If you eat and drink stuff but never contribute anything, that is a dick move. If you make a mess and don’t clean it up or don’t help the host set up/clean up or treat the host or other guests (or the place you play) with respect, then you are a dick.
If you consistently show up late, that is dick-ish. I understand that people’s schedules can be unpredictable, but some people (we all know them) are ALWAYS late. If you think there will be traffic, leave a little earlier. If you want to stop off at a store, leave a little earlier. If you figure out that you are running late, call and let people know.
If other people are completely bored because you insist on dominating the proceedings, then you are being a dick. This applies to both the DM and players. I remember one DM who would insist that the players do whatever he wanted that session… “You are going to do this quest…” even if we wanted to do something else or had gotten interested in some other quest or location. I know a player who just talks about whatever the fuck he wants to in the middle of the game even though people were at first rolling their eyes and giving hints that he was going off track, and, after he had just ignored them and kept going they would say, “Come on, let’s play the game,” and he would get huffy and say, “Don’t interrupt me!” After that, I didn’t play with him anymore. Because he was a dick.
There was one guy who would come over and just get bored when other players were doing something and he would start wandering around, pulling books of the shelf and reading them, etc. Then, after the action would move on he would come back to the table and suddenly announce that he wanted to go to the alchemist to buy something… and as DM I would tell him, “Well, the rest of the group is already traveling through the woods; since you were with them I would assume you are no longer in town — unless you wanted to stay in town, then you will have to wait while the rest of the group fights these bugbears, etc.,” and he would complain that “no one had asked him” even though he was right there but too busy going through my books to pay attention (and, seriously, if you are going to go through someone else’s stuff, ASK first. They might not want you poking through their shit).
If you don’t let other people have their turn or try to tell other players what they ought to do when it is their time to act, then you are being a dick. I was a player in one game where another player kept trying to tell me what spells I should cast. I quit playing with that group because that player was such a dick.