What I Did Wrong at D&D: May 18, 2016

Novice! That was the word I was looking for!


This was Week 12 of Shop D&D. It was not a good week for me.

Let’s start with pre-game. I knew I needed to stat my villians. I could fudge a fighter’s numbers, if I needed to, but to have good spell casters as foes, i needed to know what they could cast. And instead of doing that work, I played minecraft for a few hours. So at the table, the game was held back a bit as I jotted my notes. And looked up references. And did math. And many, many horrible DMing sins. So, First: Prepare

The second thing was something that I’ve done wrong in the past. I need to have premade characters ready to go. I need to find a way to cut the time of a player wanting to play and actually playing. I don’t think I can get away with 100%, but I ought to get it down to a minute or two. then if people want to continue, I can give tips and advice and, most importantly, homework so they have a character ready for next time.

Third: Stick with quantum party. Too long was spent in a “Come in now, come in later” debate with the new paladin. I won’t do that again. I don’t care if it would make sense for the character to wait, its not fair to the player.

Fourth: Mis-pacing. I should have accepted the fact that I couldn’t finish and play it slow. I tried a mix of rushing and carefully pacing and it ripped my story apart. While it wouldn’t have been optimum, the crypt reveal would have been better with a slower pace. And I think the players could have remembered enough.

I’m suddenly thinking the city was too sunny for some reason. No idea why.

Fifth: I need to figure out table talking. I like table talking. I think various spontaneous conversations are where friendships form, where humor happens, and its one of my favorite draws to D&D. I suspect table layout may be an issue. I may have to change how seating works. I’m not thrilled by the idea, but I think I have been neglecting newer players in part by how we’ve been gathering around the table. I will ponder this more and maybe get a second opinion, but I hope to have some ideas for the next time.

The last bits I did wrong are a confused jumble with roots nd domino effects and a lot of bad feelings. So I will untangle them as best I can, but they won’t be in chronological order or anything.

Sixth: This is what Passive perception is for. The monk snuck away. I allowed it. A player questioned it. I should have said, yes, he got away with it. Or I should have let them do the Rock-Paper-Scissors that I had established as the rule for PC interactions. Or I could have JUST USED THE IN-GAME RULES FOR DEALING WITH PASSIVE CHECKS!!!! I’ve poo-poohed Passive perceptions before. When would you ever use this? I had asked/ranted. Well now I know. You use it for situations when it doesn’t make sense for the party to make active checks.

Seventh: Don’t split the party(too finely) and Eighth: No secrets and Ninth: The True Meta Game.

Shop D&D is odd in that I feel like I can’t leave the table to go and have some private RP. Even if that is the best way to resolve the issue.  This does not have to happen if the party doesn’t really split. So I think that in the future, I will not have one PC harrying off on his own. The smallest group of PCs allowed is two(2). That way they can interact together, they have a modicum of tactical flexibility, and they’re kept honest. Well, honest-er. Well, both would have to lie. Well, they don’t have one person scooping all the loot.

Another rule on this topic is no notes to the DM. The party needs to have a unified front against the story. That’s part of the meta game. And passing me notes creates secrets, which are bad, and you should listen to the Angry DM tell you why a lot more eloquently than I. [In 2 parts]

The True Meta Game is that there are 5ish people who have characters who are on a team. These characters should trust each other, work with each other, and, in general, work towards the same goals. D&D is Not a Soap Opera. We are no lifetime drama. We don’t need misunderstanding, betrayals, and other interparty conflicts making our story. The tory is my job, as a DM. It is up to me to find ways to challenge and threaten youse guyse and I don’t need wild swinging from the peanut gallery.

That isn’t to say y’all’re a perfectly oiled machine. Look at Start Wars, a Newish Hope. While the party were all on the same team, there was plenty of jokey back talk. “maybe you’d like it back in your cell, your highness.” “Somebody get this walking carpet out of my way” and I cannot think of a snarky comment that wasn’t Leia or Han. No matter. Even with the accusing banter, they still worked toward common goals. They didn’t fight each other.

The monk had a secret desire. I know what it was, because he told me. If he had told the players, we would not have had trouble. Even if their characters didn’t know, the players would have been able to make it work. D&D is a weird flavor of acting and most actors read the script before they agree to the part. They know that their character will do something that will get them in trouble, because that’s what the character would do. We need to separate ourselves from taking character slights personally and always strive to have our characters act true, even when it’s not what we as a player would like as an eventual outcome.

On the other side of the coin, players must influence the character’s choices to proceed towards a desired goal. On any stimulus, there is not just one single reaction assigned to your character. Personality, protocol and precedent and a few more p-nouns place some limits on what responses a character can give, but, in the end, it is up to the player to decide the exact angle any action rebounds, as we jump suddenly into metaphor.

And of course, my job as a DM is to remind players of all of this, to help players deal with all of this. And I didn’t, really. Hence the whole big “Me Du Wrong” article.

If I had been on top of my game, things would have happened a lot differently. So I can’t really comment on how the plot went. But we start with an important combat next time, and I can’t wait for that! Cheers!

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