Should We Design Dungeons and Dragons for bad Dungeon Masters

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I've always considered the bulk of the rules exist to rein in bad disruptive players, not the DM.
"At a certain point, one simply has to accept that some folks will see what they want to see..." Dragon 387
I agree with your premise, but I'm not sure it's really what is meant when people are trying to write rules to protect against "bad DMs".

Or, at least, I don't think you can write rules to protect against "bad" as in "jerk" DMs. You can write rules to protect against unskilled DMs, to an extent, by making the fundamentals of the game clear and concise. I think the debate may lie more in to what extext the fundamental rules should be simplified. 
I think that it could be helpful if you could list some specific rules that are aimed at helping bad dungeon masters. If we do not discuss specfic rules, then the discussion can become a bit vague and unfocused.
DISCLAIMER: I never played 4ed, so I may misunderstand some of the rules.
Nobody has yet written a book that corrects foolishness. After all, religions have been trying for a long time.

Writing game rules to protect against disruptive GMs and players is futile. The only action that does work is to not play with those individuals. 
I wanted to differentiate between "Bad" DMs and "unskilled" DMs.  That was my point.  Just to make that distinction.  I think some unskilled DMs get labeled bad too soon.  If they are trying to do right and just mess up on occasion they are not bad.  They are learning.  The rules should help them but not worry about evil DMs.  A killer DM for example would be evil.  He knows what he is doing.  He is killing the group.

I think the two concepts have gotten mixed up on these boards and that precipitated my blog post. 
The whole reason that the Good DM/Bad DM thing keeps coming up is because this exchange keeps happening:

A: "I think the system would be better if a rule for X were present."
B: "In my experience, a good DM can handle that situation without having to have specific rules for X."

Neither person is wrong here, they just have different priorities and find that different things provide the most fun. The correct reply to B should be to discuss reasons why "good" DMs might want specific rules in place for more things anyway. (I do, and I'd like to think that I generally have the fun of the group in mind.) Instead, the response to B is a lot of the time "Yeah, but what about bad DMs?" If somebody told me that the primary reason to have more things codified in the rules was to protect bad players and DMs from each other, I'd look at them like they were crazy. Should we design around bad DMs and players? I think that perhaps other than not designing systems that encourage antisocial behavior, not really. But that doesn't mean that I don't think that there are advantages to having certain things codified in the rules.
Dwarves invented beer so they could toast to their axes. Dwarves invented axes to kill people and take their beer. Swanmay Syndrome: Despite the percentages given in the Monster Manual, in reality 100% of groups of swans contain a Swanmay, because otherwise the DM would not have put any swans in the game.
A: "I think the system would be better if a rule for X were present."
B: "In my experience, a good DM can handle that situation without having to have specific rules for X."

A: "So, how does a good DM handle that situation?"
B: [explanation]

A: Great!  Put that in the book!
@Lesp

Yeah I'm probably middle of the road no rules codification.  I'm definitely not a minimalist.


If someone says... I hate rule X because bad DM's will abuse it.  Then I say NO.  Bad DMs will abuse something.   Let's not lose a good rule just because a bad DM can abuse it.   Bad DM's abuse something anyway.

If someone says...We need rule X to keep bad DM's in line.  We don't.  We can't keep them in line.  We should just get rid of them and find a good one.

If someone says...This rule really helps new DMs because they have difficulty adjudicating these situations on the fly... then I'd say - hey that might be a good rule.


Let's all work to make our good DMs more skilled.  Let the DMG be about improving DM skill.  Let's not worry about bad DMs.  Other than the meeting where we plot to ban them.

And hey I'm a DM.  I assume every campaign I run is a product that my players buy or reject.  Period.  It is mine and I take rule 0 very seriously.  My objective though is fun for the party.  

 
[wall of text warning]

Great reading there Emer, this definitely opens the door for an interesting discussion. I'll be the first to admit that I'm one of those "A good DM will handle this just fine..." posters. I've played this game since 1E as a DM and only a DM. I still only run 1e/2e campaigns. I've participated a few times as a player as well having experienced both good and bad DMs/players. I think your assessment is spot on, unexperienced does not equal bad. Bad means DMs are selfish, petty and the one quality I've found that really separates the good ones from the bad is conflict resolution.

It's never fun for a DM or the group to end up with a disruptive/selfish player, regardless of which edition you play. Personally, the group I play with has been at it for over 15 years now with the occasional visitor dropping in. We know each other, we trust each other and most importantly we don't have any rules lawyers, crybabies, tantrum-throwers, munchkins, etc. Over the years I made a specific point of it to just ask those people to either check it at the door or don't join us. I think for the unexperienced DM this is a skill that really sits outside the game that develops over time. It's hard enough to have your campaign set up, rules memorized, adventure ready, you start your first campaign group then 10 minutes in someone starts arguing, you overrule them or worse yet are forced to find a ruling which the selfish player sees as a sign of weakness and it goes downhill from there. For younger players that hopefully they can capture with 5e (10 - 14) it's a different experience nowadays, not only would they not want to die they EXPECT to win, it's definitely a result of MMOs and the like.

This is where clear rules really help. Do we need a rule for everything? Absolutely not. A huge part of the game is the social interaction itself and the shared experiences. However, no matter how many rules you pump out and codify more questions will pop up. There is no magic bullet for this. I would argue having fewer rules (not minimalist) for new players with examples of how something can be interpreted are more helpful than expecting the designers to write something using legal document terminology so that it can't be interpreted the wrong way by DM or player alike. Part of what made Dragon awesome back in the day was the sharing. People had questions, answers were found in the community. That still exists today and is such a no brainer I think we should lean on that. 

Likewise, bad DMs are horrible too. If you come across one of these, simply don't play with them, to even suggest that we have to somehow weed them out with rules is an insult to player intelligence. Use the power of choice and go find another DM. If your DM is inexperienced work together, give them feedback after the gaming session. Let them know privately what you liked and didn't like in terms of how things were run. This isn't to suggest arguing rules, but if you really want to, talk to them about why there was disagreement. Doing that outside the gaming session actually makes things better for everyone. If they're still being petty, letting personal quibbles interfere with gameplay or just not running a fun adventure, leave I say. 


You can't really design a rule to compensate for malicious DMs, but the whole point of a rule set is DM assistance, and a ruleset should be designed to work with an average or mediocre DM.
You can't really design a rule to compensate for malicious DMs, but the whole point of a rule set is DM assistance, and a ruleset should be designed to work with an average or mediocre DM.



Every malicious DM I know is no longer DMing.  Many are playing, but they are usually the bitter player as well.



CAMRA preserves and protects real ale from the homogenization of modern beer production. D&D Grognards are the CAMRA of D&D!
I feel that a game should have the bare minumum rules to make it function well. Then stop adding rules, or have some optional rules.

Adding a rule for all possible events in the universe will ruin the game.
@ellivaa
Good points.  

I mostly DM.  For the longest time I've had a policy of no rules arguing at the table.  I do discuss rules though outside the session and if I feel I've done wrong in a minor way I try to avoid it next time.  If I feel that I really wronged a character then I make it up in some way in a future session.  Nowadays I rarely get in that much trouble though.  But I've been at it a long time.

@AnthonyJ
When you say average or mediocre though it sounds to me like their skill level and not what I'm saying when I say good or bad.   I think rules should be as accessible as possible and no more.  Meaning there may be a few things that inexperienced DMs need to learn and sometimes learn the hard way.  I think those are very rare.  Otherwise I'm for writing rules that are as easy to grasp and adjudicate as possible.

@Ludanto
I definitely think that the DMG should provide lots of guidance for DMs.  Page 42 for example is something along those lines.  I also think there is nothing wrong with illustrative charts and tables for various things.  These are examples though and there will come a time when the DM has to wing it.  You can't have a table for everything. But a decent set of common examples would be helpful and I'm for it.  In fact sometimes an example is worth a thousands words of advice.  

 
Perhaps you could pick out a 4e and/or 5e rule to illustrate your point of a rule that was put in to deal with "bad" DMs?
"At a certain point, one simply has to accept that some folks will see what they want to see..." Dragon 387

I definitely think that the DMG should provide lots of guidance for DMs.  Page 42 for example is something along those lines.  I also think there is nothing wrong with illustrative charts and tables for various things.  These are examples though and there will come a time when the DM has to wing it.  You can't have a table for everything. But a decent set of common examples would be helpful and I'm for it.  In fact sometimes an example is worth a thousands words of advice.  

 


What the DMG needs is more than "advice" and "examples", though.  Yes, it's good to have those, too, but what the DMG needs is "DM rules".  What's a DM rule?  It's a lot like DM advice, nearly indistinguishable, really, except that it's not optional.  Rules like "Treat your NPCs like they're disposable, because they are".  "Be honest with your players."  "Don't ever say what the PCs do."  "Don't invalidate player choices."  Whatever.  Something like that.  But not advice.  Rules.  You're-a-dirty-cheater-bad-DM-if-you-don't-follow-them rules.

DMs have a lot of power, but it's not limitless and it comes with very specific responsibilities.  DMs need to know what those responsibilities are.  They might (maybe?) be above the rules, but they aren't above the rules.

Plus, you know, advice and examples and tools and charts and stuff.

I definitely think that the DMG should provide lots of guidance for DMs.  Page 42 for example is something along those lines.  I also think there is nothing wrong with illustrative charts and tables for various things.  These are examples though and there will come a time when the DM has to wing it.  You can't have a table for everything. But a decent set of common examples would be helpful and I'm for it.  In fact sometimes an example is worth a thousands words of advice.  

 


What the DMG needs is more than "advice" and "examples", though.  Yes, it's good to have those, too, but what the DMG needs is "DM rules".  What's a DM rule?  It's a lot like DM advice, nearly indistinguishable, really, except that it's not optional.  Rules like "Treat your NPCs like they're disposable, because they are".  "Be honest with your players."  "Don't ever say what the PCs do."  "Don't invalidate player choices."  Whatever.  Something like that.  But not advice.  Rules.  You're-a-dirty-cheater-bad-DM-if-you-don't-follow-them rules.

DMs have a lot of power, but it's not limitless and it comes with very specific responsibilities.  DMs need to know what those responsibilities are.  They might (maybe?) be above the rules, but they aren't above the rules.

Plus, you know, advice and examples and tools and charts and stuff.



I like that. Make rules the DM are required to follow. Like never invalidate a characters mechanical choices. Also, never tell the players that they can't try something, just tell them where it will be really really difficult (as in no setting the DC about 27 or something)...
"Unite the [fan] base? Hardly. As of right now, I doubt their ability to unite a slightly unruly teabag with a cup of water."--anjelika
1-4E play style
The 4E play style is a high action cinematic style of play where characters worry less about being killed in one hit and more about strategy and what their next move is and the one after it. The players talk back and forth about planning a battle and who can do what to influence the outcome. 4E play is filled with cinematic over the top action. An Eladrin teleports out of the grip of the Ogre. The Fighter slams the dragons foot with his hammer causing it to rear up and stagger back in pain. The Cleric creates a holy zone where their allies weapons are guided to their targets and whenever an enemy dies the Clerics allies are healed. 4E is about knowing when to lauch your nova attack, whether its a huge arcane spell that causes enemies to whirl around in a chaotic storm, or if its a trained adrenaline surge that causes you to attack many many times with two weapons on a single target, or a surge of adrenaline that keeps you going though you should already be dead. Its about tactics and the inability to carry around a bag of potions or a few wands and never have to worry about healing. Its about the guy that can barely role play having the same chance to convince the king to aid the group as the guy that takes improv acting classes and regularly stars as an extra on movies.
Stormwind Fallacy
The Stormwind Fallacy, aka the Roleplayer vs Rollplayer Fallacy Just because one optimizes his characters mechanically does not mean that they cannot also roleplay, and vice versa. Corollary: Doing one in a game does not preclude, nor infringe upon, the ability to do the other in the same game. Generalization 1: One is not automatically a worse role player if he optimizes, and vice versa. Generalization 2: A non-optimized character is not automatically role played better than an optimized one, and vice versa. ...[aside]... Proof: These two elements rely on different aspects of a player's game play. Optimization factors in to how well one understands the rules and handles synergies to produce a very effective end result. Role playing deals with how well a player can act in character and behave as if he was someone else. A person can act while understanding the rules, and can build something powerful while still handling an effective character. There is nothing in the game -- mechanical or otherwise -- restricting one if you participate in the other. Claiming that an optimizer cannot role play (or is participating in a play style that isn't supportive of role playing) because he is an optimizer, or vice versa, is committing the Stormwind Fallacy.
The spells we should getLook here to Check out my adventures and ideas. I've started a blog, about video games, table top role playing games, programming, and many other things its called Kel and Lok Games. My 4E Fantasy Grounds game is currently full.
@Ludanto
In my gaming circles the DM has all the power save one thing.  Whether the real human players play or not.  If the DM uses his power wisely he has players.  If he does not then he does not.  So whether they are "rules" or not in the way you say may not matter much.  Such rules won't stop bad DMs.   If you find me a DM that truly feels bound by any rule in the book in all situations, and you may have found a bad DM.

@zgrose
Well there was discussion of the Medusa's petrifying gaze and the fear DMs would abuse it.   This is not a perfect example as I can see players just not liking that style of play and being against it for reasons other than a bad DM.  But it was in the 5e playtest and it did prompt me to think about the subject.  A good DM will give fair warning especially if the group is at a level where spells to fix the problem are not routine.  Stone statues etc...  The ability to not look and fight at disadvantage being important, etc...

If the Medusa effect was removed because of bad DMs then I'd be against doing it.

Wealth rules from 3e.  If the rule was put in because bad DMs are stingy then I'm against it.  Obviously the rule exists though as information too and thats fine if the game needs it.  I'm kind of against a game that needs it to be honest but thats a different discussion.

 
DMs do have a lot of power but ultimately the players hold the ultimate ace as they can leave and go elsewhere. I think having a DM "10 commandments" would be great.  
In my gaming circles the DM has all the power save one thing.  Whether the real human players play or not.  If the DM uses his power wisely he has players.  If he does not then he does not.  So whether they are "rules" or not in the way you say may not matter much.  Such rules won't stop bad DMs.   If you find me a DM that truly feels bound by any rule in the book in all situations, and you may have found a bad DM.

 


"Voting with your feet" isn't invalid, but it's not a great argument.  For one, not everybody knows that they have a bad DM.  Heck, not every bad DM knows he's a bad DM.  If bad DMs weren't a problem, there wouldn't be so much discussion of the matter.  There are plenty of bad DMs that have players, after all.

If there are DM rules like the ones I described, then if the DM chooses to break those rules, he knows he's doing it wrong.  The players might even know it, too.  It won't stop bad DMs, but at least they won't be able to say that they didn't know what they were doing.  It's the culture of "the DM can do whatever he wants" that causes the problem in the first place.  The fact that the manuals reinforce this "my way or the highway" attitude makes people accept this bad behavior as "DM privilege".

If you find me a DM that doesn't feel bound by the rules of the game that everyone has agreed to play, then you've obviously found a bad DM.
My issue, and the reason I have loved 4th - is not because it prevents bad players or bad dms.  What it did, was prevent "disagreement."  Let me explain:

In the NEXT rules we've been given -
A rogue feels he has "advantage" in this fight - and therefore should have backstab.
The DM feels he does not.

Now - it doesn't MATTER if one of these people is right or wrong.  There is a fundamental disagreement between the two of them that Next does not assist clarifying at all in its current format.  It is up to the DM to decide if the player has "advantage" - yet, there is no clear definition of what can provide this that the player can point to and go "SEE - right there. I'm doing that, so I have Advantange"

Around my game table?  This is, at some point, going to cause an argument between me (the DM) and the rouge PC player.  Not because either of us are being twits.  Not because either of us are "bad" at our respective position.  But because the rule is nebulous and open for any interpretation. 
But he is going to think me a bad DM for refusing to give him advantage.
And I'm going to think him a bad player for demanding to have it when I don't think he should.

In 4ed?  Flank is defined.  Rogue either has it or doesn't.  The rules are right there.  Black and white.
The "discussion" of "Yes I can TOO apply sneak attack" has NEVER come up at my 4ed table.  The rules are easy to read, easy to understand.  Once me and a player had to read a rule twice, to be certain if he had flank or not.  But we did it together, and there wasn't a ten minute long debate after we read the rule about who was right and who was wrong.  The rule was.  The matter was closed. 

THIS is what I want from ANY game system.  The fact my players and I play it together.  Not that I have to make nebulous rulings that they have to accept, or that they rebel against.  I'm way too old to go through having a player get mad at me for not letting him cast fireball in a crowded building without hitting innocent bystanders -  so mad he tossed a pizza box at my head and refused to play D&D with us ever again.

I want to play D&D with my players - not have them play against me.

It is up to the DM to decide if the player has "advantage" - yet, there is no clear definition of what can provide this that the player can point to and go "SEE - right there. I'm doing that, so I have Advantange"


Not entirely true.  There are plenty of specific things that grant Advantage or Disadvantage.

That said, yes, some instances of DM adjudication might be ripe for conflict.
I feel that a game should have the bare minumum rules to make it function well. Then stop adding rules, or have some optional rules.

Adding a rule for all possible events in the universe will ruin the game.



The key word in that sentence is "well." Different people have very different opinions as to what functioning well even means. For instance, with the discussions about opportunity attack rules, some people are in the camp that the rule is not needed because the DM is expected to simply not go chasing the squishies, or the DM is expected to allow the players to describe their actions in protecting the squishies and then model the enemy behavior on that. Other people firmly feel that some sort of hard rule is necessary for preventing enemies from just walking up and ganking the wizard. For people who feel the second way, if you have no rule to prevent free movement, then the rules are not functioning well at all. To the first group, it goes beyond the directive of functioning well, and should not be included.
"So shall it be! Dear-bought those songs shall be be accounted, and yet shall be well-bought. For the price could be no other. Thus even as Eru spoke to us shall beauty not before conceived be brought into Eä, and evil yet be good to have been." - Manwë, High King of the Valar

If you find me a DM that doesn't feel bound by the rules of the game that everyone has agreed to play, then you've obviously found a bad DM.



While I may agree with your specific rules and coincidentally abide by them, I wouldn't even sit down as Dungeon Master if you told me I had to follow these X rules.  I'd tell the players to pick another DM because I'm not their slave.  

I couldn't disagree more that DM empowerment is the root of the problem or a facilitator of it.  To me without DM empowerment we have nothing.  Bad DM's are a side effect of DM empowerment that we recognize exists and we strive to combat but I won't throw the baby out with the bathwater.   Rule 0 for me is absolute.  And that goes for whether I played or DM'd.   I don't want a DM that doesn't think that way.  I've never met a good one that didn't.

I think if you really tried to impose DM rules you'd lose most of your good DMs if not all of them.  Players would end up chucking these rules and going back to their DMs because they are good.  A good and skillful DM rarely lacks players.  I could replace every one of my current players twice over in thirty days without trying very hard.  It is crazy to think that a set of rules would make a DM good.  Helpful rules and guidelines will make a good DM better.



DMs do have a lot of power but ultimately the players hold the ultimate ace as they can leave and go elsewhere. I think having a DM "10 commandments" would be great.  



Not all players can, due to where I live my nephews have to play with me or not play at all. If I ever find a game out here to play in, I will have the same choice, whether to play at all or not. Its just not that simple unless you live in a nice sized city with plenty of games...
"Unite the [fan] base? Hardly. As of right now, I doubt their ability to unite a slightly unruly teabag with a cup of water."--anjelika
1-4E play style
The 4E play style is a high action cinematic style of play where characters worry less about being killed in one hit and more about strategy and what their next move is and the one after it. The players talk back and forth about planning a battle and who can do what to influence the outcome. 4E play is filled with cinematic over the top action. An Eladrin teleports out of the grip of the Ogre. The Fighter slams the dragons foot with his hammer causing it to rear up and stagger back in pain. The Cleric creates a holy zone where their allies weapons are guided to their targets and whenever an enemy dies the Clerics allies are healed. 4E is about knowing when to lauch your nova attack, whether its a huge arcane spell that causes enemies to whirl around in a chaotic storm, or if its a trained adrenaline surge that causes you to attack many many times with two weapons on a single target, or a surge of adrenaline that keeps you going though you should already be dead. Its about tactics and the inability to carry around a bag of potions or a few wands and never have to worry about healing. Its about the guy that can barely role play having the same chance to convince the king to aid the group as the guy that takes improv acting classes and regularly stars as an extra on movies.
Stormwind Fallacy
The Stormwind Fallacy, aka the Roleplayer vs Rollplayer Fallacy Just because one optimizes his characters mechanically does not mean that they cannot also roleplay, and vice versa. Corollary: Doing one in a game does not preclude, nor infringe upon, the ability to do the other in the same game. Generalization 1: One is not automatically a worse role player if he optimizes, and vice versa. Generalization 2: A non-optimized character is not automatically role played better than an optimized one, and vice versa. ...[aside]... Proof: These two elements rely on different aspects of a player's game play. Optimization factors in to how well one understands the rules and handles synergies to produce a very effective end result. Role playing deals with how well a player can act in character and behave as if he was someone else. A person can act while understanding the rules, and can build something powerful while still handling an effective character. There is nothing in the game -- mechanical or otherwise -- restricting one if you participate in the other. Claiming that an optimizer cannot role play (or is participating in a play style that isn't supportive of role playing) because he is an optimizer, or vice versa, is committing the Stormwind Fallacy.
The spells we should getLook here to Check out my adventures and ideas. I've started a blog, about video games, table top role playing games, programming, and many other things its called Kel and Lok Games. My 4E Fantasy Grounds game is currently full.
I'd be perfectly fine with the open rulesystem as they are if they had a way to adjudicate disagreements that didn't end with "I'm the DM so either play it my way or get out!"

I suggest they put a bidding system in. At the start of each session each player gets 4 bid points. The DM gets 2 bid points per player. Then if there is a disagreement a player or DM can 'bid' a number of these points. The opposing arguer can then bid higher until one or the other chooses to back down. The winner loses the number of points they bid, the loser loses just 1 point (cost for engaging in the argument). Players can join in the bidding on either side. Points are carried over to other session.

This would mean the DM could over rule any 2-3 players, but if constantly challenged would eventually start losing. Thus players and DMs would be encouraged to save their points for things they feel strongly about.

It also balances out DM fiat with player empowerment. A rules lawyer would run out of points quick where another player might not use any points.

It would also be bragging right. "I have 2178 points because I get along with my DM great."

It takes away the "DM is god" mentality and allows the game to be fun for all...

P.S. if your hiring WotC I'm looking...
"Unite the [fan] base? Hardly. As of right now, I doubt their ability to unite a slightly unruly teabag with a cup of water."--anjelika
1-4E play style
The 4E play style is a high action cinematic style of play where characters worry less about being killed in one hit and more about strategy and what their next move is and the one after it. The players talk back and forth about planning a battle and who can do what to influence the outcome. 4E play is filled with cinematic over the top action. An Eladrin teleports out of the grip of the Ogre. The Fighter slams the dragons foot with his hammer causing it to rear up and stagger back in pain. The Cleric creates a holy zone where their allies weapons are guided to their targets and whenever an enemy dies the Clerics allies are healed. 4E is about knowing when to lauch your nova attack, whether its a huge arcane spell that causes enemies to whirl around in a chaotic storm, or if its a trained adrenaline surge that causes you to attack many many times with two weapons on a single target, or a surge of adrenaline that keeps you going though you should already be dead. Its about tactics and the inability to carry around a bag of potions or a few wands and never have to worry about healing. Its about the guy that can barely role play having the same chance to convince the king to aid the group as the guy that takes improv acting classes and regularly stars as an extra on movies.
Stormwind Fallacy
The Stormwind Fallacy, aka the Roleplayer vs Rollplayer Fallacy Just because one optimizes his characters mechanically does not mean that they cannot also roleplay, and vice versa. Corollary: Doing one in a game does not preclude, nor infringe upon, the ability to do the other in the same game. Generalization 1: One is not automatically a worse role player if he optimizes, and vice versa. Generalization 2: A non-optimized character is not automatically role played better than an optimized one, and vice versa. ...[aside]... Proof: These two elements rely on different aspects of a player's game play. Optimization factors in to how well one understands the rules and handles synergies to produce a very effective end result. Role playing deals with how well a player can act in character and behave as if he was someone else. A person can act while understanding the rules, and can build something powerful while still handling an effective character. There is nothing in the game -- mechanical or otherwise -- restricting one if you participate in the other. Claiming that an optimizer cannot role play (or is participating in a play style that isn't supportive of role playing) because he is an optimizer, or vice versa, is committing the Stormwind Fallacy.
The spells we should getLook here to Check out my adventures and ideas. I've started a blog, about video games, table top role playing games, programming, and many other things its called Kel and Lok Games. My 4E Fantasy Grounds game is currently full.
While I may agree with your specific rules and coincidentally abide by them, I wouldn't even sit down as Dungeon Master if you told me I had to follow these X rules.  I'd tell the players to pick another DM because I'm not their slave.  

I couldn't disagree more that DM empowerment is the root of the problem or a facilitator of it.  To me without DM empowerment we have nothing.  Bad DM's are a side effect of DM empowerment that we recognize exists and we strive to combat but I won't throw the baby out with the bathwater.   Rule 0 for me is absolute.  And that goes for whether I played or DM'd.   I don't want a DM that doesn't think that way.  I've never met a good one that didn't.

I think if you really tried to impose DM rules you'd lose most of your good DMs if not all of them.  Players would end up chucking these rules and going back to their DMs because they are good.  A good and skillful DM rarely lacks players.  I could replace every one of my current players twice over in thirty days without trying very hard.  It is crazy to think that a set of rules would make a DM good.  Helpful rules and guidelines will make a good DM better.



So, the players don't have to follow the rules either?  Or are they your slave?

See?  That doesn't make any sense.  And that's the attitude I'm talking about.  "You can't tell me what to do!  I'm the GM!  I don't care that your rules are good and they're what I'd do anyway!  I'm nobody's slave!"

It doesn't automatically make you a bad DM, but it puts the idea of infallibility (can God create a rock that he can't lift?) into the heads of the DM and the players, opening the door to abuse by way of a lack of accountability.

If the DM is never wrong, and his players abandon him, then that makes them the a**holes, because he was just doing what he was told, regardless of what a horrible DM he might be.
My issue, and the reason I have loved 4th - is not because it prevents bad players or bad dms.  What it did, was prevent "disagreement."  Let me explain:

In the NEXT rules we've been given -
A rogue feels he has "advantage" in this fight - and therefore should have backstab.
The DM feels he does not.

Now - it doesn't MATTER if one of these people is right or wrong.  There is a fundamental disagreement between the two of them that Next does not assist clarifying at all in its current format.  It is up to the DM to decide if the player has "advantage" - yet, there is no clear definition of what can provide this that the player can point to and go "SEE - right there. I'm doing that, so I have Advantange"

Around my game table?  This is, at some point, going to cause an argument between me (the DM) and the rouge PC player.  Not because either of us are being twits.  Not because either of us are "bad" at our respective position.  But because the rule is nebulous and open for any interpretation. 
But he is going to think me a bad DM for refusing to give him advantage.
And I'm going to think him a bad player for demanding to have it when I don't think he should.

In 4ed?  Flank is defined.  Rogue either has it or doesn't.  The rules are right there.  Black and white.
The "discussion" of "Yes I can TOO apply sneak attack" has NEVER come up at my 4ed table.  The rules are easy to read, easy to understand.  Once me and a player had to read a rule twice, to be certain if he had flank or not.  But we did it together, and there wasn't a ten minute long debate after we read the rule about who was right and who was wrong.  The rule was.  The matter was closed. 

THIS is what I want from ANY game system.  The fact my players and I play it together.  Not that I have to make nebulous rulings that they have to accept, or that they rebel against.  I'm way too old to go through having a player get mad at me for not letting him cast fireball in a crowded building without hitting innocent bystanders -  so mad he tossed a pizza box at my head and refused to play D&D with us ever again.

I want to play D&D with my players - not have them play against me.




+1

And this is why I favor the presence of clear-cut rules over "DM Fiat"

--I'd rather get on with running or playing the game and having a good time with everyone and not devolve into a sidebar where we have to discuss whether or not something should have happened the way that it did since different people interpreted things differently.

And so, from what I've seen of 5e and what I experienced playing AD&D-4e, I prefer 4e's design ethos over any of the previous editions.
"I'm just killing time, since it's killing us." --Cyon Fal'Duur, Pathfinder Chronicler: Rogue Ascendant


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..."window.parent.tinyMCE.get('post_content').onLoad.dispatch();" contenteditable="true" />If the Medusa effect was removed because of bad DMs then I'd be against doing it.


The problem with the Medusa is not bad DMs. The problem with the Medusa is that it's a bad mechanic. There are two basic ways to use a monster with special properties: either its a trick monster that you have to figure out how to defeat (and the Medusa in 5e is not tricky to defeat, it's just a bit of a slog), or it should be a signature trick that the monster gets to demonstrate (which won't happen in 5e; there's never a situation you're better off making the save than accepting the penalty for being disadvantaged).


I want to play D&D with my players - not have them play against me.




+1

And this is why I favor the presence of clear-cut rules over "DM Fiat"




Its not an either-or proposition though. You need both or its not D&D; regardless of edition.

(edit) You don't need both all the time, of course. But moments of judgment and improvisation are expected by both players and DMs.
"At a certain point, one simply has to accept that some folks will see what they want to see..." Dragon 387
The problem with the Medusa is not bad DMs. The problem with the Medusa is that it's a bad mechanic. There are two basic ways to use a monster with special properties: either its a trick monster that you have to figure out how to defeat (and the Medusa in 5e is not tricky to defeat, it's just a bit of a slog), or it should be a signature trick that the monster gets to demonstrate (which won't happen in 5e; there's never a situation you're better off making the save than accepting the penalty for being disadvantaged).


It might not be a particularly in-depth mechanic, but it's not necessarily bad.  I'd say it is a trick monster that you have to figure out how to defeat.  Yes, slogging through at a disadvantage is one way, but you could also set a trap for it, or bargain with it, or lure a dragon into its lair or whatever.  Heck, even just figuring out how to get Advantage to offset the "looking away" Disadvantage might prove challenging.

I think a big problem is that many of us have no training on how to handle Save or Die effects, from either side of the screen (myself included).
I think a big problem is that many of us have no training on how to handle Save or Die effects, from either side of the screen (myself included).


I know exactly how to handle save or die effects: don't use them in a game where you want persistent characters. There are games where I'd be fine with using Save or Die, but in those games hitting someone with a sword is also a save or die (hey, wargames do that, it works fine).
My issue, and the reason I have loved 4th - is not because it prevents bad players or bad dms.  What it did, was prevent "disagreement."  Let me explain:

In the NEXT rules we've been given -
A rogue feels he has "advantage" in this fight - and therefore should have backstab.
The DM feels he does not.

Now - it doesn't MATTER if one of these people is right or wrong.  There is a fundamental disagreement between the two of them that Next does not assist clarifying at all in its current format.  It is up to the DM to decide if the player has "advantage" - yet, there is no clear definition of what can provide this that the player can point to and go "SEE - right there. I'm doing that, so I have Advantange"



From playing 3E, I'll tell you that "DM decides" actually prevents disagreements more so than a bunch of rules, mainly because DM decides is final. You can disagree, but you can't actively challenge it. If you're relying on hardcoded rules, then you'll have players pointing out different page numbers, and then other page numbers where the rule is worded slightly differently, and all manner of rules arguments where the player thinks they're right. And lots of time is wasted as a higher authority (the rulebook) is consulted.

With "DM decides", the DM is the highest authority, and what he says goes, so there's never any reason to halt gameplay to consult books. Because there's not a right/wrong answer and it's a judgment call, it's a lot easier to just go with the DM's judgment and move on. It's a lot more difficult if you happen to know the DM is "doing it wrong" and much more prone to lead to arguments and page flipping.

It's remarkably less equal since rulings vary from table to table, but unless you're worried about having some set-up like the RPG where you want to compare different gaming groups, it's generally not something you care about.
I know exactly how to handle save or die effects: don't use them in a game where you want persistent characters. There are games where I'd be fine with using Save or Die, but in those games hitting someone with a sword is also a save or die (hey, wargames do that, it works fine).



Perfectly true, although by that logic, you shouldn't have combat in a game where you want persistent characters, either (which is why I often think D&D isn't a great game for playing persistent characters).
I find it remarkable how many people keep telling over and over again, that if a DM is bad, one just should leave.

I' ve recently had my 20 year RP anniversary, and in that time (w/o online play) have played with no more than about 20 different people.

Good for you if you can replace people that easily, but many of us can't.
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56767308 wrote:
Sadly, I don't think this has anything to do with wanting Next to be a great game. It has to do with wanting Next to determine who won the Edition War. [...] For those of us who just want D&D Next to be a good game, this is getting to be a real drag.
57870548 wrote:
I think I figured it out. This program is a character builder, not a character builder. It teaches patience, empathy, and tolerance. All most excellent character traits.
Perfectly true, although by that logic, you shouldn't have combat in a game where you want persistent characters, either (which is why I often think D&D isn't a great game for playing persistent characters).


The usual method of having character continuity in a game with combat is to increase the number of attacks required to kill someone to some number greater than 1. That's the 'hit point' model -- hit points are not realistic, injuries are realistically extremely unpredictable and not especially cumulative, but they achieve the goal of letting you have fights where people can recognize "oh, I'm losing", and retreat before they actually die. There's a reason almost every RPG uses something resembling hit points. It would be perfectly interesting to have a version of D&D that didn't have hit points -- just make a Constitution save when you're hit with a weapon -- but having only some attacks that are SoD is just bad game design.
I find it remarkable how many people keep telling over and over again, that if a DM is bad, one just should leave. I' ve recently had my 20 year RP anniversary, and in that time (w/o online play) have played with no more than about 20 different people. Good for you if you can replace people that easily, but many of us can't.



It's not so much that people find groups easy to replace as the fact that leaving is your only real option. Trying to change a bad DM to a good one just won't work. And if you're not having fun, why are you playing anyway?

And if all else fails, why not try DMing yourself. I'm sure if the DM is that bad, the rest of the group will jump at giving other people a chance to DM. Show the bad DM how it's done. The best way to teach is by example after all.
Before this devolves the way the two Player and DM empowerment threads did, I'd like to ask for a specific example.  Can anyone show me a rule that is exclusively intended to prevent bad DM'ing, meaning that it is not there either to encourage good DM'ing or to act as advice for DMs who intend on coming up with their own way of resovling something?

There are a great many problems that can be circumvented by players and DMs having a mature discussion about what the game is going to be like before they ever sit down together to play.

 

The answer really does lie in more options, not in confining and segregating certain options.

 

You really shouldn't speak for others.  You can't hear what someone else is saying when you try to put your words in their mouth.

 

Fencing & Swashbuckling as Armor.

D20 Modern Toon PC Race.

Mecha Pilot's Skill Challenge Emporium.

 

Save the breasts.

Before this devolves the way the two Player and DM empowerment threads did, I'd like to ask for a specific example.  Can anyone show me a rule that is exclusively intended to prevent bad DM'ing, meaning that it is not there either to encourage good DM'ing or to act as advice for DMs who intend on coming up with their own way of resovling something?



The first thing that comes to mind is Diplomacy in 3E. Basically the diplomacy skill was broken as hell, but the entire concept came from the idea that you can't trust your DM to adequately portray NPC reactions, so you need mechanics to let PCs wave a diplomacy magic wand (regardless of what they say IC) and turn a hostile NPC friendly.

Another rule was 3E having monsters/NPCs built with PC rules. This led to a very tedious monster creation rules set but was attempted to try to prevent DMs from creating imbalanced monsters/NPCs.

Though more so than anything it's less a specific rule and more just a mentality. The mentality that the rules are basically to be strictly adhered to (as opposed to ignored when necessary). In 1E/2E, the DM was above the rules. In 3E/4E, the rules are the ultimate authority over DM and player.