Hard to Play When You're Always DM

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I mostly DM and very rarely get a chance to play. When I do get to play, I sometimes get annoyed with certain approaches, but of course, one has to give the DM the benefit of the doubt as much as possible. However, there is one thing in particular lately that has annoyed me.

When one of my friends DMs, he'll tend to ask for skill checks to share information. That's fine and all. What bothers me though is that there doesn't appear to be a chance at failing that check. Here's the scenario: The party encounters something - monsters, an event, an artifact, whatever. DM says, "Make an Arcana check." I roll. The result is a 6. And the DM gives me the information on the artifact. Later on, it's a Perception check. I roll a 4. And the DM gives me the information on what I see. In both cases, way more information than what a 6 or a 4 would justify.

So, okay, I like information and all. It's how I perceive the campaign world and the things going on within it. But if there is no chance of me failing the check to get that information, why did you even ask me to make a roll? What's more, if all my skill checks to get information always succeed no matter what, why then pray tell did I even bother to train that skill and where is my incentive to make that skill better through feats and items if I can't fail it? If the players must have the information for the adventure to continue, then why would you leave that up to chance? And, therefore, why would you ask for a roll?

I made my case to the DM after the game. He certainly understood and recognized that what he's doing is not necessary, but subsequent games have been a challenge for him to break that habit. He's getting better at it and that's all I can ask for. We all have our habits and they can be hard to break.

But that made me wonder of all you other DMs out there - what bad habits have you noticed in other DMs that you've felt the need to address? What are your pet peaves when you play in someone else's game? If you are frequently in the DM's chair, how do you transition easily to being a "just a player?"

No amount of tips, tricks, or gimmicks will ever be better than simply talking directly to your fellow players to resolve your issues.
DMs: Dungeon Master 101  |  Find Your GM Style  |  Structure First, Story Last  |  No Myth Roleplaying  |  5e Monster Index & Encounter Calculator
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I hate other DMs telling me what my character is doing, or giving me background on my character. That's my job when I'm a player!

But that made me wonder of all you other DMs out there - what bad habits have you noticed in other DMs that you've felt the need to address? What are your pet peaves when you play in someone else's game? If you are frequently in the DM's chair, how do you transition easily to being a "just a player?"

There are two parts to the issue, one may be the fact that he's setting the DC too low or that your skill is so high it beats the toughest DC with even a low roll.

Level one Easy DC is 10, Moderate is 15 and Difficult is 20.

Which means a level one fighter character of mine would pass an easy DC for Athletics on a 2, a moderate on a 7 and a Hard DC on a 12.
The same character would pass a non-trained skill like History on a 10 for Easy skill checks, 15 for Moderate DC's and 20 for Hard DC's.

The same character at 20th level would again have the same potential to deal with skills at this level, not including modified ability scores for the level increases which would often give the character some distinct improvements to his\her skills.

The other options available to the discerning DM is to offer a low DC for Basic information and give improved information for Higher DC's. I usually use a ratio of 10. So a basic History check at level 1with a DC of 10 would give some basic detail about a local lords family and past (family are renouned for winning a battle against an orc army, lord has led the people well etc), a DC 20 would give much better information about the lords activities (was suspected of having relations with the butchers wife and a noble lady(not his wife!!) and a DC of 30 would give detailed intimate information about the lord or his family(bastard children, the fact that his father fled the battle that he was hailed as a hero in etc).

At any game I've played in, the only one I can think of is the dreaded "you can't do that".

I haven't even seen that very much, and I'll forgive it because in both cases I saw it, it came from new DMs who were still finding their way.



EDIT to add:   from what I've seen in the "What's a DM to do" forum, I sometimes think that perhaps the DM "bad habit" from games I'm not a part of but bothers me anyway, mostly involve lack of communication between the DM and the players about things like house rules, tone and style of the setting, disruptive behavior, and things like that.
[spoiler New DM Tips]
  • Trying to solve out-of-game problems (like cheating, bad attitudes, or poor sportsmanship) with in-game solutions will almost always result in failure, and will probably make matters worse.
  • Gun Safety Rule #5: Never point the gun at anything you don't intend to destroy. (Never introduce a character, PC, NPC, Villain, or fate of the world into even the possibility of a deadly combat or other dangerous situation, unless you are prepared to destroy it instantly and completely forever.)
  • Know your group's character sheets, and check them over carefully. You don't want surprises, but, more importantly, they are a gold mine of ideas!
  • "If it ain't broke, don't fix it." It's a problem if the players aren't having fun and it interferes with a DM's ability to run the game effectively; if it's not a problem, 'fixing' at best does little to help, and at worst causes problems that didn't exist before.
  • "Hulk Smash" characters are a bad match for open-ended exploration in crowds of civilians; get them out of civilization where they can break things and kill monsters in peace.
  • Success is not necessarily the same thing as killing an opponent. Failure is not necessarily the same thing as dying.
  • Failure is always an option. And it's a fine option, too, as long as failure is interesting, entertaining, and fun!
[/spoiler] The New DM's Group Horror in RPGs "This is exactly what the Leprechauns want you to believe!" - Merb101 "Broken or not, unbalanced or not, if something seems to be preventing the game from being enjoyable, something has to give: either that thing, or other aspects of the game, or your idea of what's enjoyable." - Centauri
I mostly DM and very rarely get a chance to play. When I do get to play, I sometimes get annoyed with certain approaches, but of course, one has to give the DM the benefit of the doubt as much as possible. However, there is one thing in particular lately that has annoyed me.

When one of my friends DMs, he'll tend to ask for skill checks to share information. That's fine and all. What bothers me though is that there doesn't appear to be a chance at failing that check. Here's the scenario: The party encounters something - monsters, an event, an artifact, whatever. DM says, "Make an Arcana check." I roll. The result is a 6. And the DM gives me the information on the artifact. Later on, it's a Perception check. I roll a 4. And the DM gives me the information on what I see. In both cases, way more information than what a 6 or a 4 would justify.

So, okay, I like information and all. It's how I perceive the campaign world and the things going on within it. But if there is no chance of me failing the check to get that information, why did you even ask me to make a roll? What's more, if all my skill checks to get information always succeed no matter what, why then pray tell did I even bother to train that skill and where is my incentive to make that skill better through feats and items if I can't fail it? If the players must have the information for the adventure to continue, then why would you leave that up to chance? And, therefore, why would you ask for a roll?

I made my case to the DM after the game. He certainly understood and recognized that what he's doing is not necessary, but subsequent games have been a challenge for him to break that habit. He's getting better at it and that's all I can ask for. We all have our habits and they can be hard to break.

But that made me wonder of all you other DMs out there - what bad habits have you noticed in other DMs that you've felt the need to address? What are your pet peaves when you play in someone else's game? If you are frequently in the DM's chair, how do you transition easily to being a "just a player?"

In your example is it possible that the roll determines how MUCH info you're getting?
I addressed most of my pet peeves fairly in-depth in my 'rules for n00b DMs' thread, but I'd summarize my major issues with other DMs as a lack of enthusiasm and making players search for the plot hooks. And, you know, just running boring games generally.
I cant stand playing with closed minded DM's who wont even consider anything thats not run of the mill or by the rulebook.
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I have a few pet peeves for when I play with other DM's.  The first three here are really minor pet peeves so I don't really bother addressing them.

I don't enjoy being told that a particular action is 'not something my character would do.'  Or that REALISTICALLY my character should behave in this way.  I just want to shout -whats realistic about casting fireballs and having fast healing? 

Right now we have a DM who awards bonus XP for remembering parts of the story, I take pretty in depth notes but he won't let me use them for answering xp based questions-sorta makes taking notes a moot point.

Lastly (and one that I've seen someone else address here recently) I think its stupid to have your weapon break on a roll of a nat 1.  Especially when the DM isn't handing out treasure.  I don't believe we've received a single coin of loot since the first night of level 1 and I'm down to 1 weapon and if it breaks I will be running around unarmed cause I have no gold.  Breaking weapons on a roll of 1 is pretty unfair to the players, essentially leaving them unarmed or defensless 5% of the time.  Makes you need a bag of spare weapons-which is hard to do with no gold.

Other DM's I've played for have had much worse habits.  A few months ago one of our guys missed a day and when he returned the following week the DM told him his character was dead and that he needed to make a new one.  (This DM also has a bad habit of missing and has attended less than 50% of our games in the last year).  If it had been me I'd have told him to F*** off I'm keeping my character or I'm leaving.  Apparantly hes done this before as well.

I've had DM's try to roleplay my character while I'm sitting at the table

I know I have some bad habits myself but I try to be attentive to them as best I can, I think the mistake DM's make the most isn't really a habit but a lapse in attention to detail.  I know its one that I do on occasion myself.  A while ago a DM forgot that my character was wearing a mask that completely covered his face and tried to describe my look of suprise when someone revealed something my character would have secretely known something about.  "Does he have X-ray vision?"  "uh no.."  "Then he can't see my face through the black velvet mask I've told you I've been wearing every day for a month."



...and in the ancient voice of a million squirrels the begotten chittered "You have set upon yourselves a great and noble task, dare you step further, what say you! What say you!"
My personal bugbears are around being "protected" or having a linear plot "protected" to the point that all my in character decisions and actions are meaningless fluff. Very quickly that makes me stop caring about actions my character takes.

So in my games, I try very hard to ensure choices are meaningful, and also I am a stickler for letting the dice decide events once I've set up an encounter. Because I just hate rolling dice to find out (like the OP) that good or bad result the same thing would happen anyway.
I have a tendency to backseat DM when I play too.  I started playing on the VT specifically so I could pl,ay rather than DM and I am always biting my tongue when somone makes a call differently than what I would have made, especially when I know it to be wrong by RAW.  I never am sure whether to say anything or not when that happens, so I err on the side of politness and keep my yap shut, but I always WANT to say something.
I've had the DM think that when someone is grabbed he moves into the grabbing guy's square, and that when someone is grabbed he can't teleport...
In general just bad rules calls, I always get annoyed by that, although I don't whine about it. To him.

Another time the party was losing a battle on a ship, so we went into the hold. The enemies didn't follow us. Then we were allowed an extended rest...
I was hoping to see what'd happen if we got captured, but the DM didn't want us to lose, apparantly.
Next to that, he had created characters for us to pick from, and they didn't follow the WotC powers and stuff. They had their own powers, classes and races, and some of them were poorly balanced (like having a +4 to hit by default at level 3, and having 12 AC at level 3, and no ranged attacks, on the same character). I sent him my feedback before the game, but he didn't change anything. 
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Ouch, those are some very brutal horror stories, Detox!

I guess I've been fortunate that all the DMs I've been a player for since I started DMing have started in D&D as my players, and most have never had a any DM but, so their mistakes have all been either common mistakes for new DMs (such as "you can't do that"), or bad habits they learned from me, so I'm extremely forgiving of anything they do that maybe should annoy me.

As for DM horror stories from before I started DMing that have probably influenced my own approach to DMing:


  • spotlight-hogging DMPCs - yuck!  If I use a DMPC, I make extra effort to subordinate him to the other PCs, often by starting him with a level of the weak NPC classes like Expert or Warrior (3.5 Edition) or giving him weaker ability scores, or by having him ask the PCs for suggestions, instructions, and advice; as a reaction to bad-ass DMPCs who seem to end up the center of the story, my DMPCs tend to be rather dull, unimaginative, and nerdy guys with no exciting features beyond their ability to fill in gaps in incomplete parties

  • killer DMs - those DMs who seem to think it's their job to see the PCs fail, who will bend or break the rules to make that happen, and genuinely get mad when the PCs find clever ways out no-win situations - their battle-cry is "your PCs will probably die, because I'm really good at winning this game"; because of my experience with one or two of these guys, I have come to see my role as DM as being more of a supporter and cheer-leader to the PCs in their struggle against the difficult situations I put them into, rather than their opponent

[spoiler New DM Tips]
  • Trying to solve out-of-game problems (like cheating, bad attitudes, or poor sportsmanship) with in-game solutions will almost always result in failure, and will probably make matters worse.
  • Gun Safety Rule #5: Never point the gun at anything you don't intend to destroy. (Never introduce a character, PC, NPC, Villain, or fate of the world into even the possibility of a deadly combat or other dangerous situation, unless you are prepared to destroy it instantly and completely forever.)
  • Know your group's character sheets, and check them over carefully. You don't want surprises, but, more importantly, they are a gold mine of ideas!
  • "If it ain't broke, don't fix it." It's a problem if the players aren't having fun and it interferes with a DM's ability to run the game effectively; if it's not a problem, 'fixing' at best does little to help, and at worst causes problems that didn't exist before.
  • "Hulk Smash" characters are a bad match for open-ended exploration in crowds of civilians; get them out of civilization where they can break things and kill monsters in peace.
  • Success is not necessarily the same thing as killing an opponent. Failure is not necessarily the same thing as dying.
  • Failure is always an option. And it's a fine option, too, as long as failure is interesting, entertaining, and fun!
[/spoiler] The New DM's Group Horror in RPGs "This is exactly what the Leprechauns want you to believe!" - Merb101 "Broken or not, unbalanced or not, if something seems to be preventing the game from being enjoyable, something has to give: either that thing, or other aspects of the game, or your idea of what's enjoyable." - Centauri



  • spotlight-hogging DMPCs - yuck!  If I use a DMPC, I make extra effort to subordinate him to the other PCs, often by starting him with a level of the weak NPC classes like Expert or Warrior (3.5 Edition) or giving him weaker ability scores, or by having him ask the PCs for suggestions, instructions, and advice; as a reaction to bad-ass DMPCs who seem to end up the center of the story, my DMPCs tend to be rather dull, unimaginative, and nerdy guys with no exciting features beyond their ability to fill in gaps in incomplete parties





Those would be "NPCs", not "DMPCs". 
Confused about Stealth? Think "invisibility" means "take the mini off the board to make people guess?" You need to check out The Rules Of Hidden Club.
Damage types and resistances: A working house rule.
I have a tendency to backseat DM when I play too.  I started playing on the VT specifically so I could pl,ay rather than DM and I am always biting my tongue when somone makes a call differently than what I would have made, especially when I know it to be wrong by RAW.  I never am sure whether to say anything or not when that happens, so I err on the side of politness and keep my yap shut, but I always WANT to say something.



So do i. Never Its also fun to hear how other DM do things 

As for Knowledge check there may have a difference in difficulty that will reveal how much info is gained. For basic information, i often don't even ask for checks and rather assume a passive History or Nature etc... and just give it away.

@therion666, FlatFoot, & Plaguescarred


I thought the same as well at first glance, but after addressing it with the DM, it wasn't the case. He wanted to share some information. The roll was bad. He shared it anyway. Effectively he wanted to justify us knowing some information by backing it up with a good skill roll, only there was no good skill roll. But since he wanted to or had to impart the information, he had to say the roll was good. He uses the same chart I do for DCs so I know there was something awry and I was right.


All in all, not a huge thing, mind you. But it does have unintended consequences for the game. Not everything needs to be a roll. It increases table transactions and creates uncertainty in cases where it is not required. If the information is not vital to the adventure, have it be a roll you can pass/fail. If it's vital, share the information straight up. Skip the foreplay, dammit!

No amount of tips, tricks, or gimmicks will ever be better than simply talking directly to your fellow players to resolve your issues.
DMs: Dungeon Master 101  |  Find Your GM Style  |  Structure First, Story Last  |  No Myth Roleplaying  |  5e Monster Index & Encounter Calculator
Players: Players 101  |  11 Ways to Be a Better Roleplayer  |  You Are Not Your Character  |  Pre-Gen D&D 5e PCs

Content I Created: Adventure Scenarios  |  Actual Play Reports  |  Tools

I'm Recruiting Players for a D&D 5e Game: Interested?  |  Follow me on Twitter: @is3rith


@therion666, FlatFoot, & Plaguescarred


I thought the same as well at first glance, but after addressing it with the DM, it wasn't the case. He wanted to share some information. The roll was bad. He shared it anyway. Effectively he wanted to justify us knowing some information by backing it up with a good skill roll, only there was no good skill roll. But since he wanted to or had to impart the information, he had to say the roll was good.




Yeah.  That's pretty much the definition of "why was there a roll, then?"
Confused about Stealth? Think "invisibility" means "take the mini off the board to make people guess?" You need to check out The Rules Of Hidden Club.
Damage types and resistances: A working house rule.

I hate other DMs telling me what my character is doing, or giving me background on my character. That's my job when I'm a player!




I actually don't mind this as long as it makes sense. I tend to only provide an elevator pitch to the DM about my character with the assumption that it gives just enough to build off of and tie into the campaign without hamstringing everyone else's creativity. If the DM throws something in about my background that I hadn't explicitly stated, but makes sense in context, I think it's best to roll with it as is or suggest a slight modification of the same. Even as DM, I don't have or want full control over the story. I'd rather the players tell the story, too. So some give and take on backgrounds or even what I might be doing in a given moment (especially when used in media res to catapult a cool adventure) is just fine provided it makes some sense. It's not a stretch if I take the cutpurse background that the DM references something in my past about a heist that went wrong to make the current adventure more poignant.

I didn't feel this way 10 years ago though. Since playing more narrative, shared storytelling games, however, that style has slipped into our games and made them a lot better in my opinion. That said, I can see it's not for everybody. 

No amount of tips, tricks, or gimmicks will ever be better than simply talking directly to your fellow players to resolve your issues.
DMs: Dungeon Master 101  |  Find Your GM Style  |  Structure First, Story Last  |  No Myth Roleplaying  |  5e Monster Index & Encounter Calculator
Players: Players 101  |  11 Ways to Be a Better Roleplayer  |  You Are Not Your Character  |  Pre-Gen D&D 5e PCs

Content I Created: Adventure Scenarios  |  Actual Play Reports  |  Tools

I'm Recruiting Players for a D&D 5e Game: Interested?  |  Follow me on Twitter: @is3rith

I have a tendency to backseat DM when I play too.  I started playing on the VT specifically so I could pl,ay rather than DM and I am always biting my tongue when somone makes a call differently than what I would have made, especially when I know it to be wrong by RAW.  I never am sure whether to say anything or not when that happens, so I err on the side of politness and keep my yap shut, but I always WANT to say something.


Ooh, me too. It's really hard not to make 'helpful' suggestions sometimes. But I just imagine if another DM were playing at my table, would I want them interjecting with sage advice during the game?

NO. 
Ooh, me too. It's really hard not to make 'helpful' suggestions sometimes. But I just imagine if another DM were playing at my table, would I want them interjecting with sage advice during the game?

NO. 



I actually don't mind if someone corrects me if I get a rule wrong. I can't possibly read up on every piece of errata and if it matters, I'd like to know for my own sake. Nobody's ever corrected me on a stylistic point which I guess in a sense I did in my example above. I can sort of see why the DM was asking for unnecessary skill checks, too - I think it harkens back to that whole "DM rolls a die behind the screen and gives some information before it stops spinning" thing. It's just not necessary. Now, the DM did say that when I run a game, I ask for a lot of skill checks. And I do, but that's actually a stylistic choice based around the fact that I have an "investigate" mechanic in the game to simulate the feel of old school exploration, poking and prodding to figure stuff out (since the players wanted to go with an old-school feel updated to 4e). Except in my case, if you don't make the roll, you don't get the info, none of which is absolutely key to moving on with the plot and exploration. I won't be using this mechanic in future games because I'll likely want a different style altogether to mix it up.

Speaking of styles, I can live with a lot of stuff that is under normal circumstances annoying to me if it's made clear at the outset what we're doing and our goal as a game. I remember a game I was playing in about 4 years ago, 3.5e Conan I believe. The DM was and is a great storyteller (we're still friends). I can listen to the guy for hours. Not only is he well-versed in actual history, but he's good at bringing the small details to life in a way that I never could. You see his games in full color. However, don't touch ANYTHING. Certain actions and dice rolls just didn't matter if it conflicted with the story. That got to be a little frustrating because if you're playing D&D, you expect a certain measure of freedom of choice and even some mechanical consistency around which to build your character. But none of that mattered. So why are we playing D&D then? I'm perfectly happy to roll dice on the table, drink my Jack Daniels, and roleplay all night while the DM tells a story. Or we can use another rules set with more narrative emphasis. I just think it's really important at the outset to set expectations of what the game is and isn't so that everyone is on the same page. It solves a lot of problems.

No amount of tips, tricks, or gimmicks will ever be better than simply talking directly to your fellow players to resolve your issues.
DMs: Dungeon Master 101  |  Find Your GM Style  |  Structure First, Story Last  |  No Myth Roleplaying  |  5e Monster Index & Encounter Calculator
Players: Players 101  |  11 Ways to Be a Better Roleplayer  |  You Are Not Your Character  |  Pre-Gen D&D 5e PCs

Content I Created: Adventure Scenarios  |  Actual Play Reports  |  Tools

I'm Recruiting Players for a D&D 5e Game: Interested?  |  Follow me on Twitter: @is3rith

I have a tendency to backseat DM when I play too.  I started playing on the VT specifically so I could pl,ay rather than DM and I am always biting my tongue when somone makes a call differently than what I would have made, especially when I know it to be wrong by RAW.  I never am sure whether to say anything or not when that happens, so I err on the side of politness and keep my yap shut, but I always WANT to say something.


Ooh, me too. It's really hard not to make 'helpful' suggestions sometimes. But I just imagine if another DM were playing at my table, would I want them interjecting with sage advice during the game?

NO. 



I don't really have a problem with this, My saturday group has a total of 4 DM's playing in it-it could possibly include an additional long time DM very soon bringing our total to 5 DM's and 4 players.  I don't know it its because we are all pretty generally laid back or what but when rule or Dm conflicts arise we usually solve them quickly and without getting nasty about it.  Maybe we are just lucky, that or it has something to do with us all still playing 3.5e and noone having less than 10 years of experience-we all know the rules very well, even the players. 

I think this may actually boil down to maturity, I've met some DM's in the past who DM'd mostly because it gave them a power high.  These DM's made terrible players and when they did play, they generally tried brow beating the DM into doing it their way. 

I guess I can see this both ways, and honestly, as long as the game is fun I can let go of little quarrels and be a good player.
...and in the ancient voice of a million squirrels the begotten chittered "You have set upon yourselves a great and noble task, dare you step further, what say you! What say you!"
when rule callings are wrong RAW it normally irks me. 

in situations like this, he is probably just trying to give off information but wants a roll to back it up, a good suggestion to give him is to ask himself "would somone with training in this know this off the top of his/her head?"

if the answer is yes, no roll is needed; the person knows it because it is akin to doing the math problam 134+456, you know the answer is 590 if you look at it for about 5 seconds, but it is otherwise unchallanging  because you went to math class 

if the answer is no, then ask for a roll,

but if it is plot relavent information you need to develop 2 contingiencies for such a situation 1. that the players wont get the information immediatly and 2 that they get the information and dont put 2 and 2 together. 



  • spotlight-hogging DMPCs - yuck!  If I use a DMPC, I make extra effort to subordinate him to the other PCs, often by starting him with a level of the weak NPC classes like Expert or Warrior (3.5 Edition) or giving him weaker ability scores, or by having him ask the PCs for suggestions, instructions, and advice; as a reaction to bad-ass DMPCs who seem to end up the center of the story, my DMPCs tend to be rather dull, unimaginative, and nerdy guys with no exciting features beyond their ability to fill in gaps in incomplete parties





Those would be "NPCs", not "DMPCs". 



That's exactly the idea.  However, I know there's NPCs, and then there's NPCs who tag along with the party and act like party members to a degree... I regard the latter to be like volatile and dangerous wild animals that can seem tame one moment, and turn into monsters the moment my back is turned.  I've seen even good DMs give in to the temptation to promote NPCs to DMPCs, and then promote DMPCs into the unkillable, attention-hogging star of the show that so many of us have learned to hate.  As a result, I like to keep those NPCs muzzled and on a very short chain!



Ooh, me too. It's really hard not to make 'helpful' suggestions sometimes. But I just imagine if another DM were playing at my table, would I want them interjecting with sage advice during the game?

NO. 



I actually don't mind if someone corrects me if I get a rule wrong. I can't possibly read up on every piece of errata and if it matters, I'd like to know for my own sake. Nobody's ever corrected me on a stylistic point which I guess in a sense I did in my example above....



This is one of those things that could be depend on the degree, for me.

An occasional correction for something important, especially something game-breaking, doesn't bother me - I certainly make my share of mistakes, and sometimes I get lazy or forgetful. 

On the other hand, I'll often "wing it" if I don't know something, or improvise just to get from point A to point C without a lot of hassle at a point B that doesn't add anything to the group's fun... if I feel like I'm constantly getting interrupted to get minutiae just perfect, and it happens frequently enough to break up my momentum, it's going to get under my skin pretty quickly.
[spoiler New DM Tips]
  • Trying to solve out-of-game problems (like cheating, bad attitudes, or poor sportsmanship) with in-game solutions will almost always result in failure, and will probably make matters worse.
  • Gun Safety Rule #5: Never point the gun at anything you don't intend to destroy. (Never introduce a character, PC, NPC, Villain, or fate of the world into even the possibility of a deadly combat or other dangerous situation, unless you are prepared to destroy it instantly and completely forever.)
  • Know your group's character sheets, and check them over carefully. You don't want surprises, but, more importantly, they are a gold mine of ideas!
  • "If it ain't broke, don't fix it." It's a problem if the players aren't having fun and it interferes with a DM's ability to run the game effectively; if it's not a problem, 'fixing' at best does little to help, and at worst causes problems that didn't exist before.
  • "Hulk Smash" characters are a bad match for open-ended exploration in crowds of civilians; get them out of civilization where they can break things and kill monsters in peace.
  • Success is not necessarily the same thing as killing an opponent. Failure is not necessarily the same thing as dying.
  • Failure is always an option. And it's a fine option, too, as long as failure is interesting, entertaining, and fun!
[/spoiler] The New DM's Group Horror in RPGs "This is exactly what the Leprechauns want you to believe!" - Merb101 "Broken or not, unbalanced or not, if something seems to be preventing the game from being enjoyable, something has to give: either that thing, or other aspects of the game, or your idea of what's enjoyable." - Centauri
When one of my friends DMs, he'll tend to ask for skill checks to share information. That's fine and all. What bothers me though is that there doesn't appear to be a chance at failing that check. Here's the scenario: The party encounters something - monsters, an event, an artifact, whatever. DM says, "Make an Arcana check." I roll. The result is a 6. And the DM gives me the information on the artifact. Later on, it's a Perception check. I roll a 4. And the DM gives me the information on what I see. In both cases, way more information than what a 6 or a 4 would justify.

So, okay, I like information and all. It's how I perceive the campaign world and the things going on within it. But if there is no chance of me failing the check to get that information, why did you even ask me to make a roll? What's more, if all my skill checks to get information always succeed no matter what, why then pray tell did I even bother to train that skill and where is my incentive to make that skill better through feats and items if I can't fail it? If the players must have the information for the adventure to continue, then why would you leave that up to chance? And, therefore, why would you ask for a roll?



In the example you provided, it sounded like he wasn't being very mindful of the DCs for skills. But in practice, I do the same thing intentionally. It's deception to throw players off and make them check things more often if they're becoming lax in their attention to the game and its story. It's great fun to see a party chilling as we're going through the wilderness and then jump to as I suddenly call for a perception check to tell them that they see a tree (and even greater fun if they fail to notice what's trying to hide down the road a bit further passed that tree XD)
I have heard of DMs calling for rolls without explanation, or in-game reason, just to induce a sense of paranoia, ToeSama.  I've never tried it myself, but I hear it can be a great way to ramp up tension and suspense, when used appropriately.
[spoiler New DM Tips]
  • Trying to solve out-of-game problems (like cheating, bad attitudes, or poor sportsmanship) with in-game solutions will almost always result in failure, and will probably make matters worse.
  • Gun Safety Rule #5: Never point the gun at anything you don't intend to destroy. (Never introduce a character, PC, NPC, Villain, or fate of the world into even the possibility of a deadly combat or other dangerous situation, unless you are prepared to destroy it instantly and completely forever.)
  • Know your group's character sheets, and check them over carefully. You don't want surprises, but, more importantly, they are a gold mine of ideas!
  • "If it ain't broke, don't fix it." It's a problem if the players aren't having fun and it interferes with a DM's ability to run the game effectively; if it's not a problem, 'fixing' at best does little to help, and at worst causes problems that didn't exist before.
  • "Hulk Smash" characters are a bad match for open-ended exploration in crowds of civilians; get them out of civilization where they can break things and kill monsters in peace.
  • Success is not necessarily the same thing as killing an opponent. Failure is not necessarily the same thing as dying.
  • Failure is always an option. And it's a fine option, too, as long as failure is interesting, entertaining, and fun!
[/spoiler] The New DM's Group Horror in RPGs "This is exactly what the Leprechauns want you to believe!" - Merb101 "Broken or not, unbalanced or not, if something seems to be preventing the game from being enjoyable, something has to give: either that thing, or other aspects of the game, or your idea of what's enjoyable." - Centauri
I have heard of DMs calling for rolls without explanation, or in-game reason, just to induce a sense of paranoia, ToeSama.  I've never tried it myself, but I hear it can be a great way to ramp up tension and suspense, when used appropriately.



It does work!  Works better if you've got a copy of the character sheets and the players know it, or if you make a point of writing down everyone's Perception scores first.

Or, hey, just ask a specific person to roll a specific skill sometime.
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Damage types and resistances: A working house rule.
I'm always afraid my character development ideas will never come into fruition.  The few games I've played in always have the DM super worried about the story they want to tell, that there is little room for character growth.

I haven't played as a player for close to 6 months now.
Fear Of The Dark, Fear Of The Dark, I Have A Constant Fear That Something's Always Near; Fear Of The Dark, Fear Of The Dark, I Have A Phobia That Someone's Always There- Iron Maiden Fear of the Dark shall be feared no longer! Let him be praised instead! (Many, many thanks for all your hard work!) - darkwarlock I am Red/Green
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I often ask for perception checks just to scare my players, so sometimes asking for perception checks when the roll doesn't matter at all is justified
I'm always afraid my character development ideas will never come into fruition.  The few games I've played in always have the DM super worried about the story they want to tell, that there is little room for character growth.

I haven't played as a player for close to 6 months now.




suggestion: it might be best to talk to the DM about how you want the character to grow, so he can work it into what's going on overall- and it becomes a part of what the story in his mind is looking like.

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I am the main DM for my group but sometimes I let some of the other players DM for a bit to give me a break. I am trying to craft a majour over reaching story and so I work with them to ensure their sub arc fits in appropriately. It usually isn't much, just this dark shadowy figure you meant in the tournament drops a bag of gold on your table and tells you to meet him in the forest. (thus introducing my PC for the duration of the adventure as well) and then he completely forgot all that stuff. grrrr

Also suddenly adding monsters that were "hidden" when at times they had no cover and the description of the room left no area for them to hide.
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