Where is the enjoyment for the DM?

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The trend with the latest versions of the game seem to me to drain any enjoyment out of idea of being a DM. I may be reading things wrong but it seems like the players run the game and the DM is just there to cater to the players whims and run the encounters desired by the players.
I guess its more about how games are being run, rather than a fault of the rules.
This is what I'm seeing:

The players are encouraged to squeeze every last single ounce of juice out of the rules to optimize their characters. If you fail to make a super optimized character because, oh I don't know, you want to make an interesting character, it is seen as a frustrating failure on the players part because the DM can't balance his encounters. Plus the DM has to deal with the frustrations of the other players because the character isn't optimized for thier team.

Players are encouraged to create magic item wish lists, and in some cases just left to 'choose' which magic items are in a treasure. Magic items become just another feat for the character. If the DM fails to grant the wish list because he has specific ideas about magic in his game world, then the palyers are going to get frustrated with him because they aren't getting their 'feats'( I mean magic items).

Players dictate the scope, direction and content of the game world. The DM is left with no reason to create a rich world because the players decide what they get. I am aware of the problems of railroading, but the idea of a free form world holds little appeal.

I know I am preaching some very broad generalizations, but I'm not see a way I could be interested in DMing a 'modern' game.
I don't want to come across as someone just badmouthing the game and the style played. 
What am I seeing incorrectly about this?




 

 
Do you speak from experience?

If not, play the game.
If so, try a new group who may embrace your prefered playstyle.

None of the things you list are in the rules, so it has nothing to do with the 'latest versions of the game', as you put it. It's purely what the group chooses to make of it.
The trend with the latest versions of the game seem to me to drain any enjoyment out of idea of being a DM. I may be reading things wrong but it seems like the players run the game and the DM is just there to cater to the players whims and run the encounters desired by the players.
I guess its more about how games are being run, rather than a fault of the rules.



Does this mean that enjoyment for you as DM is derived from running encounters that aren't desired by the players?

The players are encouraged to squeeze every last single ounce of juice out of the rules to optimize their characters. If you fail to make a super optimized character because, oh I don't know, you want to make an interesting character, it is seen as a frustrating failure on the players part because the DM can't balance his encounters. Plus the DM has to deal with the frustrations of the other players because the character isn't optimized for thier team.



The level of optimization and how interesting a character is have nothing to do with each other.

Players and DM should discuss the level of optimization to be employed for any given game prior to playing. People who aren't on the same page with this could cause issues with the game.

Players are encouraged to create magic item wish lists, and in some cases just left to 'choose' which magic items are in a treasure. Magic items become just another feat for the character. If the DM fails to grant the wish list because he has specific ideas about magic in his game world, then the palyers are going to get frustrated with him because they aren't getting their 'feats'( I mean magic items).



Some people don't find much of interest in magic items. Perhaps they find interest in other aspects of the game more. I could care less about them, either as a player or a DM. Wish lists are a way to help the DM and ensure that the player will actually find useful an item that is seeded for their character. Use that info and make it as fantastical an experience as you want. It shouldn't matter that you chose it or the player did.

Players dictate the scope, direction and content of the game world. The DM is left with no reason to create a rich world because the players decide what they get. I am aware of the problems of railroading, but the idea of a free form world holds little appeal.



In my view, the players and DM collaborate on the scope, direction, and content of the game world. It's not an either/or.

I don't want to come across as someone just badmouthing the game and the style played. 



How could we possibly think that?

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That has been the case for every edition. I think you might have some nostalga glasses in the way.


For reference, I've played 2nd, 3.0, 3.5, 4e, (skipped essentials) and 5e beta tests (did not playtest the newest packet).


I've read the rules for some of the older editions, and based on that will make a statement that it is every edition. 

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The trend with the latest versions of the game seem to me to drain any enjoyment out of idea of being a DM.

What's your idea of being a DM?

I may be reading things wrong but it seems like the players run the game and the DM is just there to cater to the players whims and run the encounters desired by the players.

As opposed to?

But I'd say that's wrong. DM's have plenty of input and their own whims.

I guess its more about how games are being run, rather than a fault of the rules.

Good observation.

The players are encouraged to squeeze every last single ounce of juice out of the rules to optimize their characters. If you fail to make a super optimized character because, oh I don't know, you want to make an interesting character, it is seen as a frustrating failure on the players part because the DM can't balance his encounters.

This seems to be a player-side complaint.

This is a perennial problem and I think it's because people don't realize what it is about non-optimized characters that makes them interesting: failure. Or, if not failure, the apparent chance of failure. Characters who succeed all the time are dull.

But failure is a real problem with D&D and the people who play it. Failure in D&D tends to mean that one's character has died, or that the death of the character has become more likely. This presents problems with sustaining the game, usually because DMs want to entertain themselves by "making death permanent" or some nonsense, so players who lose characters are socked out of the game until the DM can figure out how to bring in a new one. Failing in non-combat situations traditionally leads to an absolute dead end anyway, even worse than if the characters had died.

Furthermore, people take failure in the game very personally, as if it's some sort of a referendum on their worth as a player. And since parties depend on the various members, no one wants to adventure with someone who will increase their personal chance of failure.

So, there's no general upside to making anything other than the "best" character. I've been lucky enough not to ever have anyone tell me to buzz off for underoptimizing, and often people don't even notice that I've underoptimized, so I feel free to make characters who have a more challenging time of things, which is interesting to me. My DMs generally aren't prepared for me to fail, though.

As a DM, I have my players face failure all the time, usually on their terms. Their characters are highly-optimized, but are very interesting and not always successful.

Plus the DM has to deal with the frustrations of the other players because the character isn't optimized for thier team.

The DM has to do no such thing.

Players are encouraged to create magic item wish lists, and in some cases just left to 'choose' which magic items are in a treasure. Magic items become just another feat for the character. If the DM fails to grant the wish list because he has specific ideas about magic in his game world, then the palyers are going to get frustrated with him because they aren't getting their 'feats'( I mean magic items).

Sounds like the DM should have talked to the players about those "specific ideas." If those ideas are worth anything, the DM probably could have gotten the players to choose some items that really inspired them.

But there's no point in just giving players items. If they didn't ask for them, they're more than likely just to forget about them entirely.

Players dictate the scope, direction and content of the game world. The DM is left with no reason to create a rich world because the players decide what they get. I am aware of the problems of railroading, but the idea of a free form world holds little appeal.

Players don't dictate anything. The table collaborates on what they thing the scope and direction should be. The DM and the players can and should make the game as rich as they want within that scope. A bazaar in a small city can be as rich as an entire world, if that's the scope.

Without player buy-in there's also no reason for the DM to create a rich world, because the players simply aren't going to care. People care and know more about what they help create, than about what other people tell them.

It's nothing to do with either free form or railroading.

I know I am preaching some very broad generalizations, but I'm not see a way I could be interested in DMing a 'modern' game.
I don't want to come across as someone just badmouthing the game and the style played.
What am I seeing incorrectly about this?

Your skills have been made (or at least considered by many) to be obsolete. That's hard to take, and is the basis for edition wars and religious schisms. Focus on what is transferrable between games, edition, and era, such as communication and compromise. Continue to create what you enjoy creating, but don't expect anyone else will enjoy it. Instead, keep it safe until you can find a use for the useful pieces of it.

In the meantime, stop feeling sorry for yourself, because there are plenty of players with obsolete skills who still need DMs.

[N]o difference is less easily overcome than the difference of opinion about semi-abstract questions. - L. Tolstoy

I might have written something similar. To some extent, I've got the same vibe as what you're seeing. I don't see a problem with the magic item wish lists; they provide a great hook for adventure, but here's my personal (is that redundant or what???) take on some of what was written so far:

 - My take on iserith's questions -
"Does this mean that enjoyment for you as DM is derived from running encounters that aren't desired by the players?"
 - For me, at least, some of the enjoyment of being DM is seeing how the players choose to react to encounters... especially if they surprise me. Sometimes I set up a false dilemma and the players will figure out something entirely unexpected. That's fun, to me. For instance.. during the final boss minion on this outerplanar pocket dimension, I described this fiendish terrasque in the background. My intention was for this to be background noise, maybe a hint for the next adventure. The party had other plans. The fearless paladin tries killing the fiend, but realizes quickly that's not happening. After nearly being crushed, the party retreats, except for the pegasus-riding lancer, who isn't really hurting it, but creating a nice distraction and keeping the fiend from killing the nearby innocents (the loss of 1000 NPCs apparently meaning little to this 'evil DM'). The paladin decides to intimidate the fiendish gargantuan magical beast... and succeeds (apparently they are NOT immune to fear - who knew?), creating a most epic moment to my great delight, as I never saw it coming. It would have been somewhat less exciting for the DM (me) if the player told me "there should be a fiendish terrasque, and I should totally scare it back through the gates of hades".

"The level of optimization and how interesting a character is have nothing to do with each other."
 - True, but it does seem that each successive edition gets a little more and more about the optimization in-and-of itself.

"In my view, the players and DM collaborate on the scope, direction, and content of the game world. It's not an either/or."
 - There should be some collaboration; otherwise the players may not have any interest whatsoever. I think there is a definite trend toward player-driven content. I'm not sure if game rules are merely reflective of the trend or if the trend is being encouraged by rules changes (or both). It may be an overcorrection from a trend in dungeon-masters taking the '-masters' part too seriously. A fallacy in thinking that if you had a DM who was a horrible tyrant, then the whole DM concept must be flawed, which is corrected by diluting the DM's role to something increasingly less defined (which eliminates the Tyrant DM problem, but also eliminates the many benefits of having a DM as game referee).



Apr 16, 2013 -- 4:12PM, FamousErik wrote:

I don't want to come across as someone just badmouthing the game and the style played. 





"How could we possibly think that?"


 - Probably covering his bases... some of us are a sensitive lot on these forums.

A rogue with a bowl of slop can be a controller. WIZARD PC: Can I substitute Celestial Roc Guano for my fireball spells? DM: Awesome. Yes. When in doubt, take action.... that's generally the best course. Even Sun Tsu knew that, and he didn't have internets.
The trend with the latest versions of the game seem to me to drain any enjoyment out of idea of being a DM. I may be reading things wrong but it seems like the players run the game and the DM is just there to cater to the players whims and run the encounters desired by the players.
I guess its more about how games are being run, rather than a fault of the rules.
This is what I'm seeing:

The players are encouraged to squeeze every last single ounce of juice out of the rules to optimize their characters. If you fail to make a super optimized character because, oh I don't know, you want to make an interesting character, it is seen as a frustrating failure on the players part because the DM can't balance his encounters. Plus the DM has to deal with the frustrations of the other players because the character isn't optimized for thier team.

Players are encouraged to create magic item wish lists, and in some cases just left to 'choose' which magic items are in a treasure. Magic items become just another feat for the character. If the DM fails to grant the wish list because he has specific ideas about magic in his game world, then the palyers are going to get frustrated with him because they aren't getting their 'feats'( I mean magic items).

Players dictate the scope, direction and content of the game world. The DM is left with no reason to create a rich world because the players decide what they get. I am aware of the problems of railroading, but the idea of a free form world holds little appeal.

I know I am preaching some very broad generalizations, but I'm not see a way I could be interested in DMing a 'modern' game.
I don't want to come across as someone just badmouthing the game and the style played. 
What am I seeing incorrectly about this?




 

 

I don't know much about new editions, but play the game you always have with a new ruleset. Don't give out "free itens plix". Think of yourself as a software developer. You can either cram your product as you design it down the cutomers throat, or you can try to make a product the customer wants, then adjust the peticulars toward a middle ground, a golden mean.

I personally DO encourage players to make "wish lists" early on, so i can try to direct my story in a way to provide the players their desired experience within the framework of the game I designed.

This doesn't mean they pick their treasure. They also don't pick their battles. Instead, they give me direction on how to build a story that appeals to them.

As for treasure and gold, players in my game are happy in the poor house, with under 20k gold at level 20. Why are they happy with it? Maybe Im doing enough things right, that they are less concerned about twinking characters and getting OP items.

No matter what "Game System" you use, you are actually using that "Game System" as a framework to make your own "Mod" of the game. The nuts and bolts of the system aren't as important as how you screw them together and implement them at the table.

You can take any "system" and create "any game" out of it that you want. As for your players disrupting the game, there is no such thing. Any action they choose is PART OF the game, and while it might disrupt you, remove yourself from first person and into third person where the GM belongs.

Of course they disrupted something. Then again, that inconvenient battle disrupted them if it made them use abilities to heal ahead of a big fight when they wanted to have full supplies. You disrupt each other. They disrupt your plans on creating a perfect story because unlike the actors in the story they can make choices. Build the story around those choices! Have NPC's remember things and bring them up later.

Your game needs to be adaptive no matter what system or group you are given to use. Perhaps you are less bothered by "rules changes" and more bothered by a generation gap. I share this in common with you.

I don't care for today's younglings who just want to bash and smash and twink like they are in World of Warcraft. I prefer the older kind of player, the roleplayer. When I have to deal with younger generations, I realize I can't bring them into my game. Instead, I need to teach them my game, how to play my game because it is different in context. Once they learn how to play my game, I need to use that time to learn how to DM that group. A mutuality occurs because I make adjustments to restructure the game to their flavor.

The balance you seek lies in this mutuality. You can give me Civilization 4, but I will mod it into Fall From Heaven. I will use your product to create something out of it that I want. Because you didn't create "your game" for the players to enjoy, you are running "the game" for everyone (even you) to enjoy.

Talk to your players and make your feelings known, establish boundries. Ask them what they want, and why they want it, and propose alternatives. Ask them for alternatives to what you want, tell them what you want, and ask how close your goals are to their own. This alone can often solve itself.

Within; Without.

I think I expressed myself poorly.
I'm just looking at the threads I have read and the general trend in the playstyle. All my points reflect just what I have been reading, and if thats not a fair indictator of the playstyle, then I have been amiss in my reading.

I feel that a rich world creates its own player by-in. This has always been backed by the various groups I have played with.
I would never drop magic items into the story that were not part of the story. So the items have meaning to the players and characters both. 

I have also never encountered a player( with the few 'grunt the fighter who kills stuff' exceptions) who didn't enjoy the idea of the unexpected with regards to messing with thier character background, or who and what the character is. No "lets all discuss how the DM is going to be unexpected" get togethers.

Buying into the idea that un-optimized characters are a problem only indicates to me that a 'lets skill check for everything' mindset is at play. 
"Failing in non-combat situations traditionally leads to an absolute dead end anyway, even worse than if the characters had died."
So, we aren't allowed to kill the characters in combat, and out of combat we can't let them fail at anything for fear of dead ends? Where are we actually challenging our players? Without death or failure, the game loses all flavour.



 
I think I expressed myself poorly.
I'm just looking at the threads I have read and the general trend in the playstyle. All my points reflect just what I have been reading, and if thats not a fair indictator of the playstyle, then I have been amiss in my reading.

That seems to be what's going on.

I feel that a rich world creates its own player by-in. This has always been backed by the various groups I have played with.

You can get plenty of buy in with a world you've downloaded into the players, but have you ever tried a world in which everyone was allowed to contribute details? I hadn't until relatively recently and it was amazing to me to see how much more of a grasp everyone had on the setting. I didn't have to spend time explaining, or correcting, or keeping track of things for the players because of how invested their were in what they'd helped (and continued to help) create.

I would never drop magic items into the story that were not part of the story.

No one is suggesting that you should. But wishlist items can be made part of the story, especially with the players' help.

So the items have meaning to the players and characters both.

Items have more meaning to players if they're something the player wanted. The coolest item ever can be left at the bottom of a bag of holding if the player neither wanted not needed it.

Some players like to see what they can do with any item that comes their way. Not every player feels this way, and I'd guess not most players do.

I have also never encountered a player( with the few 'grunt the fighter who kills stuff' exceptions) who didn't enjoy the idea of the unexpected with regards to messing with thier character background, or who and what the character is.

Interesting. This board is a pretty constant stream of DMs talking about how the players don't like what the DM is trying to force on their characters and the DMs not understanding why.

No "lets all discuss how the DM is going to be unexpected" get togethers.

An uncharitable misrepresentation.

Buying into the idea that un-optimized characters are a problem only indicates to me that a 'lets skill check for everything' mindset is at play.

I don't see the connection myself. "Modern" gaming doesn't advocate skill checks for everything, just things that need some deciding between a variety of different outcomes.

I share your dislike of making checks for everything, but you're connecting your dislike of that to things that are unrelated to it.

"Failing in non-combat situations traditionally leads to an absolute dead end anyway, even worse than if the characters had died."
So, we aren't allowed to kill the characters in combat, and out of combat we can't let them fail at anything for fear of dead ends? Where are we actually challenging our players? Without death or failure, the game loses all flavour.

That's precisely my point. Why not try asking actual questions about what I mean when I say things you don't understand, instead of just making more assumptions?

Don't kill characters unless it would be interesting. Usually it isn't. Many DMs recognize this and bend over backwards to prevent death and hide the fact that they're doing it, in order to retain an illusion of "challenge." I don't generally want to kill characters, but I also don't care to fudge, so I make preferences clear to my players and they work with me on it either to make survival interesting or make death interesting.

4th Edition showed me that failure is fine as long as it's interesting. So, my players fail all the time, in and out of combat. But the failure is interesting to us all. DM included.

[N]o difference is less easily overcome than the difference of opinion about semi-abstract questions. - L. Tolstoy


No "lets all discuss how the DM is going to be unexpected" get togethers.

An uncharitable misrepresentation.

Yeah, sorry. I strayed out of open discussion into confrontation.

Don't kill characters unless it would be interesting. Usually it isn't. Many DMs recognize this and bend over backwards to prevent death and hide the fact that they're doing it, in order to retain an illusion of "challenge." I don't generally want to kill characters, but I also don't care to fudge, so I make preferences clear to my players and they work with me on it either to make survival interesting or make death interesting.



This itself is a challenge that keeps the DM challenged. Hit -2 hit points? In my game, you wake up missing all your items, bound and gagged in a wooden cage on a wagon. You will be taken to the slave market and sold. You will arrive at a nearby plantation and a corrupt noble will offer your freedom for a "dirty favor".

Sometimes, one character has to live with the consequences of another characters failures, which can serve as a "punishment" for losing, however death shouldn't be used as a punishment for poor dice rolls.

Sometimes, the dice just do bad things to your players or your game, which itself is bad gameplay when it disrupts the fun. Fixing this bad gameplay may involve working around critical failures or unplanned deaths, however with good gameplay, it can be corrected by the DM. 

Recently, my player had their character jump from the deck of an airship into a basket saddle mounted on a dragon to engage. This was a low level setting, despite the presence of the epic dragon and airship battle. The player rolled a natural 1, then confirmed it with a natural 1. Another player shouted "He falls to his death!" I corrected them all. "You land in the saddle with a broken leg, your injury gives you -4 to all physical actions and -50% speed. Your enemy makes an attack roll with a +4 bonus...

Within; Without.

I had a long response that got deleted, but here are the bare bones:

I think you may be seeing the "game as a whole" by reading more verbose and post-happy among us.  That is a trend on these forums (because Iserith and Centauri will beat you to death with "yes, and...") but it may not represent what is going on at actual tables.  There are parts I agree with these forums and parts where I don't.

I can only speak about my area and what I've experienced at conventions.  Both of those are not only different from eachother, but drastically different from what I would expect reading these forums.  I have about 7 local DMs I try to organize and their games don't have a lot in common with eachother and some don't have a lot with the idea of the DM as just a moderator.
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 - My take on iserith's questions -
"Does this mean that enjoyment for you as DM is derived from running encounters that aren't desired by the players?"
 - For me, at least, some of the enjoyment of being DM is seeing how the players choose to react to encounters... especially if they surprise me. Sometimes I set up a false dilemma and the players will figure out something entirely unexpected. That's fun, to me. For instance.. during the final boss minion on this outerplanar pocket dimension, I described this fiendish terrasque in the background. My intention was for this to be background noise, maybe a hint for the next adventure. The party had other plans. The fearless paladin tries killing the fiend, but realizes quickly that's not happening. After nearly being crushed, the party retreats, except for the pegasus-riding lancer, who isn't really hurting it, but creating a nice distraction and keeping the fiend from killing the nearby innocents (the loss of 1000 NPCs apparently meaning little to this 'evil DM'). The paladin decides to intimidate the fiendish gargantuan magical beast... and succeeds (apparently they are NOT immune to fear - who knew?), creating a most epic moment to my great delight, as I never saw it coming. It would have been somewhat less exciting for the DM (me) if the player told me "there should be a fiendish terrasque, and I should totally scare it back through the gates of hades".

I think the context of the question isn't a matter of the desire (or lack thereof) of the encounters per se, it's more of the question of having encounters that, for absolutely no reason at all, and have zero relevance to either the PCs or the players, are run for the primary if not sole purpose of having those encounters; an extremely absurd example would be having a sci-fi robot land in a medieval fantasy setting and fight the PCs for no reason at all.  A less extreme example would be players minding their own business when the city guard comes up to them, falsely accuses them of a crime that clearly none of them are capable of doing and they have no reason to be involved in, but the guards attempt to imprison them anyway.

Unexpected encounters that are at least related to whatever part of the story or world they bought into — e.g. immune ghost encounter in the forest on Hallow's Eve — do still work, even if they're not desired by the players, if only because that's what they bought into.

"The level of optimization and how interesting a character is have nothing to do with each other."
 - True, but it does seem that each successive edition gets a little more and more about the optimization in-and-of itself.

Optimization is partially a system issue, but also a group issue.

Like Centauri mentioned, D&D is rife with the problems of handling defeat, as failure is treated with "no" instead of "yes, and" or "yes, but".  By designing the game with failure as a blockage to the story and gameplay, you end up with just frustration after frustration.  This is why 4E limited skill challenge failure to just 3 attempt failures and the usual failure clause is that the story continues but on a different path, which hints to me that there was an internal debate within the design team between those who wanted "yes, and/but" and those who wanted "no" and settled on this sort of compromise as found in skill challenges.

Failure hampering real life works, but failure hampering in games and stories not only results in frustration to both the group/DM and the rules, but also prevents game/story progress, which stagnates and kills game interest.  That's why I love how GUMSHOE addresses the issue by saying that players always succeed, it's just that the path they take changes with the die roll.  Is it realistic?  Unlikely, but should realism really matter so much that the group would be forced by the system rules sacrifice fun and game/story progress to cater to that realism?

It's this fear to fail that drives optimization, which drives sales and thus encourages designers to publish more optimal game material.

"In my view, the players and DM collaborate on the scope, direction, and content of the game world. It's not an either/or."
 - There should be some collaboration; otherwise the players may not have any interest whatsoever. I think there is a definite trend toward player-driven content. I'm not sure if game rules are merely reflective of the trend or if the trend is being encouraged by rules changes (or both). It may be an overcorrection from a trend in dungeon-masters taking the '-masters' part too seriously. A fallacy in thinking that if you had a DM who was a horrible tyrant, then the whole DM concept must be flawed, which is corrected by diluting the DM's role to something increasingly less defined (which eliminates the Tyrant DM problem, but also eliminates the many benefits of having a DM as game referee).


I disagree on why that trend exists, if such a trend does exist.

The functions of a DM as mentioned in D&D 4E's DMG (page 189) are


  • storyteller

  • rules arbiter

  • actor

  • adventure designer

  • writer

  • rules designer


That's six functions all falling under one person.  Considering that this one person is responsible for ensuring that the game actually happens, wouldn't it make sense that the tasks involving these functions should be streamlined and simplified for best effect?

Some DMs would take it upon themselves to handle all six functions simultaneously, and players sometimes appreciate that and don't mind playing on rails (kinda like how I don't mind playing classic JRPGs, which are almost always railroaded like hell).  Some players find that inability to provide more input than what the DM allows as stifling, and thus avoid such DMs.

Some DMs would distribute these functions between him and his players, and in the most extreme form of this you'd have DM-less groups, where virtually everything is done as a collaborative and parliamentary discussion.  Some players are either intimidated by this approach or simply dislike having to do more than roleplaying their own character, and thus avoid the extreme groups.  However, as far as I can tell most groups fall in a more moderate form of this — with the most often given piece of advice being "talk with your DM".

Personally I think I fall more into the moderate distribution of functions between me and my players, although I maximize the rules as provided by my favorite TRPG systems (13th Age, D&D 4E):


  • storyteller. I handle the actual storytelling for aspects of the story that don't involve PCs, but the more inspiration players give to me the better.

  • rules arbiter. I make the final decision, but players can highlight and reference rules that could help me change my mind on the subject.

  • actor. I usually do this, but as suggested by 4E's DMG2 I do have players sometimes do the acting on my behalf.

  • adventure designer. Randomly created using the base rules, character sheets and dice rolls.

  • writer. I have the adventure write itself.

  • rules designer. I try to avoid doing this whenever possible, but when I do attempt it, it's always for either adding or clarifying player options.  Then again, with how 13th Age's One Unique Thing works, I get to practice rules design each time a new player comes in, and I always do it in the same way one would bargain at a thrift shop: finding the best compromise between the player and myself as DM.


I feel that a rich world creates its own player by-in. This has always been backed by the various groups I have played with. 
I would never drop magic items into the story that were not part of the story. So the items have meaning to the players and characters both.

I prefer a malleable world: one that provides enough in-world detail to inspire, but also enough space to allow players and DMs to change those details.

Best example I can think of: 13th Age and its Dragon Empire.  The devs clearly outlined major cities and the most important NPCs in the world, but at the same time left a lot of wiggle room for DMs to personalize the entire world.  Players have access to Icon Relationships (which establishes not only how they're connected to those important NPCs, but also how they can benefit from those connections), One Unique Thing and Backgrounds, all of which can help fill in the blanks that the devs clearly placed for everyone to fill.

I have also never encountered a player( with the few 'grunt the fighter who kills stuff' exceptions) who didn't enjoy the idea of the unexpected with regards to messing with thier character background, or who and what the character is. No "lets all discuss how the DM is going to be unexpected" get togethers.

I think it's called "mutual respect". I the player took the time and effort to create my character, DM took the time and effort to create the world my character will be in.  I would rather that the DM include elements from my character into his campaign, but the last thing I'd want is the DM unexpectedly messing with my character, in ways that prevent me from participating meaningfully with the game, especially if those ways are "permanent".

Buying into the idea that un-optimized characters are a problem only indicates to me that a 'lets skill check for everything' mindset is at play.

False.  You can roleplay with or without skill checks in play.  The problem with skill checks and TRPGs in general however is twofold, either you


  • end up with wasting a turn making a skill check that flubbs

  • depend on your own personal skills, rather than that of your character


Un-optimized characters are not the problem.  The systems failing to take into consideration those un-optimized characters is the problem.  This is why I favor the "yes, and/but" philosophies as seen in D&D 4E (at least in the DMG I think), GUMSHOE, and 13th Age's "failing forward", because GUMSHOE and 13th Age in particular do in fact allow un-optimized characters to not only exist in the game, but thrive as well.


"Failing in non-combat situations traditionally leads to an absolute dead end anyway, even worse than if the characters had died."
So, we aren't allowed to kill the characters in combat, and out of combat we can't let them fail at anything for fear of dead ends? Where are we actually challenging our players? Without death or failure, the game loses all flavour.
 

Absolutely false.

The fear of death only encourages combat min/maxing.
The fear of failure only encourages non-combat min/maxing, although if the DM eschews skill checks in favor of "roleplay", this involves more of a combination of rules lawyering, story lawyering and a very well thought out background.

Min/maxing is only a symptom of poor system design and DMing technique, as a poorly designed system would have loopholes to take advantage of in order to avoid death and failure, and a DMing style that causes players to fear death and failure only encourages players to utilize those loopholes.

Have you ever tried actually analyzing in detail what in particular constitutes your game's "flavor"?  What is it about death, failure, etc. that makes it "flavorful"?  Is it absolutely impossible to attain that "flavor" without death and failure, and if so why?

For me, failure and death aren't necessary, as the important aspect here is risk.  As long as players who engage in the game for the risks have something to lose — prestige and reputation, access to resources, the PCs' loved ones, the objectives of their adventures — there will always be that desire to win.

A good example here would be the time when one of my players rolled poorly with his dice, while he was searching for his contacts regarding a particular quest.  Instead of telling him that he couldn't find his contacts, I told him that he learns where they are, but they were running out of time, so he had to risk going in with just one companion with him, rather than going in with the rest of the party.

He wasn't at risk of dying, and there was no risk of failure, but he was still engaged with the game as far as I can tell.
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I feel that a rich world creates its own player by-in. This has always been backed by the various groups I have played with.



Sometimes this works. Sometimes it doesn't. In a group that collaborates on such things, you get buy-in every time because everyone adds to the game setting the things they enjoy and can remember. I prefer certainty in this regard and the increased engagement and buy-in that comes with that collaboration.
 
I would never drop magic items into the story that were not part of the story. So the items have meaning to the players and characters both.



If a player needs Iron Armbands of Power to get another point of DPR for his two-weapon ranger, collaborate with the player on how the character knows about said item, what legends and tales surround it, where such a fabled item might be interred. Then go on an adventure to acquire it. It doesn't matter one bit who actually picked the item or created the lore surrounding it as long as it leads to fun and adventure at the table.

I have also never encountered a player( with the few 'grunt the fighter who kills stuff' exceptions) who didn't enjoy the idea of the unexpected with regards to messing with thier character background, or who and what the character is. No "lets all discuss how the DM is going to be unexpected" get togethers.



At our table, the DM can "mess" with your background and so can the other players so long as it does not contradict existing fiction and doesn't cross any lines. The players can also "mess" with the world. There is no strict ownership of these things and, in breaking down this barrier, we end up with highly-developed and detailed results that are surprising to everyone.

Buying into the idea that un-optimized characters are a problem only indicates to me that a 'lets skill check for everything' mindset is at play.



Skill checks are only made at our table if success and failure can be interesting and the characters are under fire or otherwise in a stressful situation. Players are generally fairly to highly optimized in my regular group. I agree that many DMs ask for way too many skill checks and players expect this it seems. We never roll to see if you see something or know something or say something, unless the outcome needs to be tested and both success and failure really matter (and are interesting). Players new to our games seem to be surprised that they can just say and do things (with or without cost) without rolls most of the time. Players in our games, even optimized, also frequently roll into what I call the "middling range" of DCs which gets them what they want, with a cost, setback, or hard choice. This means a lot of what they do represent trade-offs of some kind or another, which is interesting and adds a lot to the game.

So, we aren't allowed to kill the characters in combat, and out of combat we can't let them fail at anything for fear of dead ends? Where are we actually challenging our players? Without death or failure, the game loses all flavour. 



Failure doesn't have to be a dead end. It just means a setback and change. Things are more difficult and challenging (in a fun way for the players if not the characters) going forward. The enemies are empowered, emboldened, one step ahead, or have succeeded at their goals and now Very Bad Things happen to the world, driving more adventures.

Frankly, in our games, death is the easy way out. The characters regularly fail or get only partial success. This creates drama and heightens the tension going forward.

No amount of tips, tricks, or gimmicks will ever be better than simply talking directly to your fellow players to resolve your issues.
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Don't kill characters unless it would be interesting. Usually it isn't. Many DMs recognize this and bend over backwards to prevent death and hide the fact that they're doing it, in order to retain an illusion of "challenge." I don't generally want to kill characters, but I also don't care to fudge, so I make preferences clear to my players and they work with me on it either to make survival interesting or make death interesting.

This itself is a challenge that keeps the DM challenged. Hit -2 hit points? In my game, you wake up missing all your items, bound and gagged in a wooden cage on a wagon. You will be taken to the slave market and sold. You will arrive at a nearby plantation and a corrupt noble will offer your freedom for a "dirty favor".

That could be quite cool, for a player who is bought into it. Other players might just prefer to die than be so thoroughly deprotagonized. Any of them might wonder why a monster who seemed intent on killing them wound up deciding just to enslave them.

Sometimes, one character has to live with the consequences of another characters failures, which can serve as a "punishment" for losing, however death shouldn't be used as a punishment for poor dice rolls.

Or anything else.

Sometimes, the dice just do bad things to your players or your game, which itself is bad gameplay when it disrupts the fun. Fixing this bad gameplay may involve working around critical failures or unplanned deaths, however with good gameplay, it can be corrected by the DM.

If death is on the table, you and the players have to plan for it to happen (depite a singular lack of advice along those lines in the DMG), and it shouldn't be entirely up to the DM to "correct" for the unexpected.

Recently, my player had their character jump from the deck of an airship into a basket saddle mounted on a dragon to engage. This was a low level setting, despite the presence of the epic dragon and airship battle. The player rolled a natural 1, then confirmed it with a natural 1. Another player shouted "He falls to his death!" I corrected them all. "You land in the saddle with a broken leg, your injury gives you -4 to all physical actions and -50% speed. Your enemy makes an attack roll with a +4 bonus...

Okay, though not terribly in keeping with the game, which doesn't tend to deal with broken limbs specifically. I assume the player preferred this over death, as it justified the cool move (sort of - they still wound up looking unheroic) and let them keep using the character, but what might they have suggested? What did they think failure should look like?

chaosfang: spot on.

[N]o difference is less easily overcome than the difference of opinion about semi-abstract questions. - L. Tolstoy

Yeah, sorry. I strayed out of open discussion into confrontation.

There is definitely room for discussion on this subject, but it needs to involve honest conclusions based on honest questions.

So, I really am interested to know what your idea is of enjoyable DMing. How much work goes into achieving that enjoyment? Does the enjoyment of the players scale in proportion to or in inverse proportion to the DM's enjoyment?

I realized about a year ago that player and DM enjoyment often has an inverse relationship because both tend to be happiest when they are dismantling or neutralizing the plans of the other. Sure, you'll find players who claim to love it when the DM has them completely locked down and they have to resort to loopholes that they open with unassailable logic, and you'll find DMs who claim to love it when the players smash the DM's meticulous plans. I can imagine both situations but on the whole it's an incompatible situation. Players work to minimize failure, which requires the DM to implement impossible challenges, or consequences the players really have no control over.

So, that's why I advise working with the players. Players have ideas about the kinds of failures they are and are not willing to subject their characters to. If you can understand the failures the players would enjoy, they can become part of the game. The players may still try to avoid them, but they're less likely to go to extreme lengths, and might even make them cooler when they occur. If you can understand the failures the players wouldn't enjoy, you can avoid bothering with those, and the arguments likely to arise should they be imposed on the players.

This kind of collaboration can extend to any aspect of the game.

Any questions about that?

[N]o difference is less easily overcome than the difference of opinion about semi-abstract questions. - L. Tolstoy

..."window.parent.tinyMCE.get('post_content').onLoad.dispatch();" contenteditable="true" />Min/maxing is only a symptom of poor system design and DMing technique, as a poorly designed system would have loopholes to take advantage of in order to avoid death and failure, and a DMing style that causes players to fear death and failure only encourages players to utilize those loopholes.

Have you ever tried actually analyzing in detail what in particular constitutes your game's "flavor"?  What is it about death, failure, etc. that makes it "flavorful"?  Is it absolutely impossible to attain that "flavor" without death and failure, and if so why?

For me, failure and death aren't necessary, as the important aspect here is risk.  As long as players who engage in the game for the risks have something to lose — prestige and reputation, access to resources, the PCs' loved ones, the objectives of their adventures — there will always be that desire to win.

A good example here would be the time when one of my players rolled poorly with his dice, while he was searching for his contacts regarding a particular quest.  Instead of telling him that he couldn't find his contacts, I told him that he learns where they are, but they were running out of time, so he had to risk going in with just one companion with him, rather than going in with the rest of the party.

He wasn't at risk of dying, and there was no risk of failure, but he was still engaged with the game as far as I can tell.



Beautiful illustration, and something i learned years ago. I learned to scaffold and bracket every issue into sub issues, and learned the reasons my group hated death.

1. Death kills a time investment, even rolling a new character doesn't replace intrinsic value the player internally develops for that character.

2. Death makes the game "halt" or "change" for the worse. The party has to halt all the fun and change the game into something unfun for them. (going back to town to get a cleric, storyline in a new character, have a player wait it out, etc, etc). It just stops the mood.

3. The players, depending on the mood, might think the DM "killed you" instead of "thats how the game is won and lost and you didn't win".

Then, I thought about what "good gameplay" could do to address it. I learned how to design situations where the "ability to die" was considered part of the challenge. There is also the ability during a "everybody dies" scenario that they will all be raised as thralls against their will to commit attrocities then I narrate how 2 years later, the curse weakens and you have free will once again, and your items were kept on you to maintain your instrumental value. I realized that "death" was not an end, it was a means.

As a means, death became positive. In a game with flying unicorns, titans, magical dimensions, time travel... there was a new "use" for the dead. You might be buried, awaken as a lost soul in the spirit plane and have "3 days to find your way from here back to the mortal plane, you begin to fade...  moment by moment, fading out to nothing." Then the player makes a series of checks to determine how they re-enter the world. Low checks means you have a -4 to something because of psychological or spiritual trauma. High rolls means you found renewed meaning in life.

Death became a part of the game which is not an end, but a means to make things happen. "No Soul Goes To Waste" became my new model. Let every death be meaningful on a deeper level. The death of a character can be an experience that the player survives. They might be buried in the Necropolis and used as by a Lich until they gain their freedom, or a mind flayer, or evil wizard, a djinn or efreet might awaken their soul and offer them a bargain (djinn and efreet in my game cannot use their power in the mortal realm, only through granting wishes) so the player might get a visitor "days later".

And the "thing the players tried to stop?" That will unfold badly for their side, and the enemy will advance their cause, which will bruise the ego of the players and make them want revenge.

As for risk, you hit the nail on the head again. Risk means there is something to gain or something to lose and failure means the worse result. Designing death into the game, with risk and proper responses in mind for the worst instead of the best, I was able to take the worst and make the best of it. This was my challenge, and the players didn't figure out until way later that they were "playing the actors" and I was just "using the discourse" to move the story and keep the fun going. Losing can be part of the fun, even total defeat. That, is good gameplay at its best.

Edit: I have also had times, often where I either make a check "2 out of 3 and add the results" or "roll for degree of success" - sometimes, I told them to roll, and they got a critical success to strike their enemy, who had a critical failure to resist. When the enemy, "Hulked Up" and morphed into a tainted soul, was a shocking result for a critical success. They loved it. If I decide ahead of time they need to succeed at A to get to B for C to happen...  I will have A be a narrative, B be an objective or task and C be an event that occurs after or during the completion of that task. That way, D can be the response to their actions, and there is no unneeded "stumbling" through things that the players shouldn't fail.

Within; Without.

..."window.parent.tinyMCE.get('post_content').onLoad.dispatch();" contenteditable="true" /> How much work goes into achieving that enjoyment? Does the enjoyment of the players scale in proportion to or in inverse proportion to the DM's enjoyment?

So, that's why I advise working with the players. Players have ideas about the kinds of failures they are and are not willing to subject their characters to. If you can understand the failures the players would enjoy, they can become part of the game. The players may still try to avoid them, but they're less likely to go to extreme lengths, and might even make them cooler when they occur. If you can understand the failures the players wouldn't enjoy, you can avoid bothering with those, and the arguments likely to arise should they be imposed on the players.

This kind of collaboration can extend to any aspect of the game.

Any questions about that?



That is important, extending collabaration to every aspect of the game. I don't personally find it "work" to enjoy challenging the player to achieve a set of goals while telling them a story. I also find the more fun I am having, the more fun they are having. You have to understand fun can be broken down into higher and lower pleasure, joy vs happiness.

I might have a different kind of "fun" than they have, at different moments. The thrill of pulling off a great stunt is fun for me to describe but "more fun" for them to do, surely. Likewise, the thrill of beating the enemy is "fun for them" however it is "more fun for me" because they have the "powers on their sheet" while I have "every power I can think of whenever I want it".

Also, I agree about imposing players with an unfun condition. Every player "hates ultimate failure/loss/defeat" especially in games which aren't intended as a competition between the players where the game ends with somebody winning. In a game like D&D you really need a cooperative model where players win or lose together, and face different kinds of fun.

I can think of an example where a bandit leader, with some cronies nailed a critical hit on the player with enough damage to kill the player, based on hitting that same player with a critical hit the prior turn. The player would have died from a minimal damage result. The player was shocked when I told him "The enemy strikes your lower back hard, and you must make a fortitude save versus temporary lower body paralysis". Luckily the cleric had a solution, and I already knew beforehand the cleric could solve the problem. The enemy "should have within the system killed my player" but instead "gave the player a terrible injury, put the party a man short for 3 rounds, and forced the cleric to use a 4th level spell."

Within; Without.

That is important, extending collabaration to every aspect of the game. I don't personally find it "work" to enjoy challenging the player to achieve a set of goals while telling them a story.

Of course you don't. That's not even close to the issue.

The issue is that players don't want to be challenged. They want to minimize challenge, because challenge means a risk of failure and failure is not usually made interesting enough to risk.

I also find the more fun I am having, the more fun they are having. You have to understand fun can be broken down into higher and lower pleasure, joy vs happiness.

It's simpler than that.

I might have a different kind of "fun" than they have, at different moments. The thrill of pulling off a great stunt is fun for me to describe but "more fun" for them to do, surely. Likewise, the thrill of beating the enemy is "fun for them" however it is "more fun for me" because they have the "powers on their sheet" while I have "every power I can think of whenever I want it".

Pure rationalization of a problematic system. What's rarely brought up when people make this kind of point, is failure. Does the DM enjoy causing the players to fail? Do the players enjoy failing? Some of them do, but I think you have to concede that generally they don't and that they can't generally be blamed for that because failure in D&D is generally pointless at best and punitive at worst.

Also, I agree about imposing players with an unfun condition. Every player "hates ultimate failure/loss/defeat" especially in games which aren't intended as a competition between the players where the game ends with somebody winning. In a game like D&D you really need a cooperative model where players win or lose together, and face different kinds of fun.

No, it's simpler than that. Failure itself can be interesting, can be something the players don't mind seeing come about as part of either the game or the story.

I can think of an example where a bandit leader, with some cronies nailed a critical hit on the player with enough damage to kill the player, based on hitting that same player with a critical hit the prior turn. The player would have died from a minimal damage result. The player was shocked when I told him "The enemy strikes your lower back hard, and you must make a fortitude save versus temporary lower body paralysis". Luckily the cleric had a solution, and I already knew beforehand the cleric could solve the problem. The enemy "should have within the system killed my player" but instead "gave the player a terrible injury, put the party a man short for 3 rounds, and forced the cleric to use a 4th level spell."

Great, but really not much of a failure. Death is as easily remedied by another spell or ritual, except when DMs think death should be permanent or it loses something. And this failure still involves one side involved only in wiping out the other. What if the bandits actually had a goal, such as robbing a caravan, and being a man short for three rounds meant that the bandits succeeded. The party heals up, but there's no ritual to fix that failure. Only further interesting adventure can fix it, and might not ever be able to set it completely right. As a player, I might deliberately NOT burn every resource to prevent the robbery and argue every point of the rules, because I'm interested in tracking down the bandits. That's interesting failure, and the DM and players can enjoy that for the same reason: the game has been made interesting.

[N]o difference is less easily overcome than the difference of opinion about semi-abstract questions. - L. Tolstoy

I'm making a campaign right now and asked my players what they enjoy when playing.  I got:
-obvious places to adventure
-weak but common magical items
-humor
-good flow to play

These things will be in the campaign.  I'm not sure why you'd let your players decide what they fight or what rewards await them.  I thought the fun of being a player is exploring the unknown and overcoming things as a group.  As a DM it's up to you what happens in the world you're creating, that hasn't changed in any of the editions.

These things will be in the campaign.

Good. It's good to level set.

I'm not sure why you'd let your players decide what they fight or what rewards await them.

Not necessarily just decide, but at least provide input on. And the reason is that they have a much better idea of what they are likely to enjoy than a DM every could. Why not get and use that input?

I thought the fun of being a player is exploring the unknown

Then why do players so often go out of their way to avoid interesting and risky situations?

and overcoming things as a group.

That's not at issue.

As a DM it's up to you what happens in the world you're creating, that hasn't changed in any of the editions.

And having that be one person's sole job has caused problems in every edition. Many DMs already make an effort to pick up on player ideas indirectly. Why not do it directly?

[N]o difference is less easily overcome than the difference of opinion about semi-abstract questions. - L. Tolstoy

These things will be in the campaign.  I'm not sure why you'd let your players decide what they fight or what rewards await them.  I thought the fun of being a player is exploring the unknown and overcoming things as a group.  As a DM it's up to you what happens in the world you're creating, that hasn't changed in any of the editions.



Perhaps a good question to look at is:

Why do the players "let" YOU decide what they fight or what rewards await their characters?

"Trust" might be a good answer to this. But even with trust, there's no guarantee the DM will provide the fights and rewards the players really enjoy.

"Because I'm the DM" or "That's the DM's job" in my opinion is a bad answer to this. Outside of tradition, there's no particuarly good reason this must be. It can be, and it's certainly common and traditional. Given the increased participation, engagement, and personal connection the players tend to have when they're allowed direct input over these things (not to mention reduced prep for the DM and thus, in theory, more playtime), tradition can take a hike.

No amount of tips, tricks, or gimmicks will ever be better than simply talking directly to your fellow players to resolve your issues.
DMs: Don't Prep the Plot | Structure First, Story Last | Prep Tips | Spoilers Don't Spoil Anything | No Myth Roleplaying
Players: 11 Ways to Be a Better Roleplayer | You Are Not Your Character     Hilarious D&D Actual Play Podcast: Crit Juice!

FREE CONTENT: Encounters With Alternate Goals | Full-Contact Futbol  |  Pre-Gen D&D 5e PCs | Re-Imagining Phandelver | Three Pillars of Immersion | Seahorse Run

Follow me on Twitter: @is3rith

In my game, the players like their characters. Everything has a motive, every bandit a goal. Players will be "punished" for their failure back in town with more expensive prices, and the story moving in a disfavorable way for their goals. In my games, maybe I am just doing something right, but they care about their goals and how the missions are done. They don't want NPC's to die, or their "protected locations" to fall, they don't like their enemies gaining prestige and using that in the world against them.

What I am saying, is if enough things are done right, the players will find failures and successes to be meaningful in different ways. What does the player care about? Does the player care about their character or the faction they are aligned with? Does the player care about the well being of their friends and allies? Do they despise their enemies and see is as a bad thing when they fail and their enemies advance? Do they care if their hometown falls, or if the consequences to their hometown falling means dealing with a "bad leader" instead of a "preferred leader"?

There are many utilities to draw the character in, and have failure mean different meaningful things. Perhaps the motive of the bandit or lich was to enslave their kills to let no body or soul go to waste, and every so often a person will have a strong enough mind to regain their freedom; making the lich their new enemy.

Players should have a good sense of what risks a success or failure can merit, and should care about that. Sometimes, and often, death is a known or unknown risk. The sense of drama, under the rule of "Absence keeps the heart warm" means you can regulate risk levels throughout different parts of your game so that when there is a risk of death, there is more value in that.

Every group has its own needs. No two groups will be the same. I have had players who just want to re-roll a new character and be storylined in while others prefer to find a way to save their character, even if at a cost. Not all failure results in death, and death can often be "not the worst result" if living with a certain failure is worse.

This goes into knowing your players, knowing the "theme of the game" and identifying how to handle different situations. I am lucky that most of my players are kinda old school, don't care for rules lawyering and enjoy progressing through the story, they care about their alliances and factions, their goals and hate it when the enemy cause "disrupts their world". I have had rules lawyers and tame them rather quickly. They simply need to be taught that "my game" isn't about "monster thwacking", and there is a different way to win, and gain levels. Thus, those players conform to the "rule" they want to "lawyer" and still wind up "being themselves", however they do it "within my system" which is great.

Within; Without.

iserith.

Well to each their own, I'm not gonna tell you what you find fun.  But by what you're saying then the OP is right. 
But by what you're saying then the OP is right. 



"Right" about what exactly?

No amount of tips, tricks, or gimmicks will ever be better than simply talking directly to your fellow players to resolve your issues.
DMs: Don't Prep the Plot | Structure First, Story Last | Prep Tips | Spoilers Don't Spoil Anything | No Myth Roleplaying
Players: 11 Ways to Be a Better Roleplayer | You Are Not Your Character     Hilarious D&D Actual Play Podcast: Crit Juice!

FREE CONTENT: Encounters With Alternate Goals | Full-Contact Futbol  |  Pre-Gen D&D 5e PCs | Re-Imagining Phandelver | Three Pillars of Immersion | Seahorse Run

Follow me on Twitter: @is3rith

But by what you're saying then the OP is right. 



"Right" about what exactly?


"...seem to me to drain any enjoyment out of idea of being a DM. I may be reading things wrong but it seems like the players run the game and the DM is just there to cater to the players whims..."
"...left to 'choose' which magic items are in a treasure..."
"...Players dictate the scope, direction and content of the game world. The DM is left with no reason to create a rich world because the players decide what they get..."

I actually disagree with the OP but if you let these things happen then he's right.
I'm not sure why you'd let your players decide what they fight or what rewards await them.

Not necessarily just decide, but at least provide input on. And the reason is that they have a much better idea of what they are likely to enjoy than a DM every could. Why not get and use that input?



I agree the more imput the better, but letting your players run things is bad.
"...seem to me to drain any enjoyment out of idea of being a DM.



That's a preference, so there's no way to be right or wrong about it (even if said preference is based on bad assumptions).

I may be reading things wrong but it seems like the players run the game and the DM is just there to cater to the players whims..."



I don't think anyone has supported that, certainly not me. At best, it's an uncharitable mispresentation of what others are communicating with regard to the benefits of collaboration in a cooperative game.

"...left to 'choose' which magic items are in a treasure..."



What if the players aren't interested in the magic items you're putting in as treasure? What good is the DM always choosing if the players never use it or sell it for 20% of its value at their first opportunity? Where's your awesome magic item backstory then?

"...Players dictate the scope, direction and content of the game world. The DM is left with no reason to create a rich world because the players decide what they get..."



Again, this statement misrepresents the approach. The players and DM collaborate, not dictate. The DM is welcome to create as rich or detailed a world as he or she likes. But again, if the players don't give a damn about it, then I hope the DM at least enjoys the creative process because otherwise it might have been a waste of prep time that might have been better spent.

I actually disagree with the OP but if you let these things happen then he's right.



I disagree that there's any right or wrong about these things as much of it is a matter of preference. What I find more curious is why the OP would need to call into question anyone else's playstyles in the first place if what he or she is doing is working so well for them.

No amount of tips, tricks, or gimmicks will ever be better than simply talking directly to your fellow players to resolve your issues.
DMs: Don't Prep the Plot | Structure First, Story Last | Prep Tips | Spoilers Don't Spoil Anything | No Myth Roleplaying
Players: 11 Ways to Be a Better Roleplayer | You Are Not Your Character     Hilarious D&D Actual Play Podcast: Crit Juice!

FREE CONTENT: Encounters With Alternate Goals | Full-Contact Futbol  |  Pre-Gen D&D 5e PCs | Re-Imagining Phandelver | Three Pillars of Immersion | Seahorse Run

Follow me on Twitter: @is3rith

"...seem to me to drain any enjoyment out of idea of being a DM. I may be reading things wrong but it seems like the players run the game and the DM is just there to cater to the players whims..."
"...left to 'choose' which magic items are in a treasure..."
"...Players dictate the scope, direction and content of the game world. The DM is left with no reason to create a rich world because the players decide what they get..."

I actually disagree with the OP but if you let these things happen then he's right.

He's not right because as he suspects he's "reading things wrong." Edit: Players do pick magic items, and those are made part of the story, just as if the DM had rolled them off a table or come up with them him or herself. Players don't "dictate" they collaborate with the DM to create the world they want to play in.

[N]o difference is less easily overcome than the difference of opinion about semi-abstract questions. - L. Tolstoy

I'm DMing two games right now. One with a new set of players.

What I've found is that these players do not mind and actually encourage me to toy with their character backgrounds and throw the unknown at them. This is my first time gaming with these people in particular and they have loved every new twist I throw into the game.

They do also get some things they ask for, but not everything.

However,  what I often hear on this board is that players do not want these things. I'm quite honestly baffled a bit by what I'm seeing in reality and the claims made on this board by posters like centauri and iserith.

Where are these players who just flat out tell a DM "I'm not interested, later. Tell me when you're ready to put something in I like/want". Those are people not worth gaming with, IMO.

Anyway, let the fire works begin.

*walks away whistling* 
My username should actually read: Lunar Savage (damn you WotC!) *Tips top hat, adjusts monocle, and walks away with cane* and yes, that IS Mr. Peanut laying unconscious on the curb. http://asylumjournals.tumblr.com/
If what you're doing now works for you, and you don't have any questions or concerns or ever shake your head at the weirdness of some aspect of DMing, then great. Keep it up. Advocate for your point of view and ask me challenging (though honest, please) questions about mine. I will make an effort to correct what I see as misperceptions about my point of view until I get the impression that the person with those misperceptions is not being honest. I generally will not try to advise people who don't come here with questions.

[N]o difference is less easily overcome than the difference of opinion about semi-abstract questions. - L. Tolstoy

I think this has to do with acculturation.  People have their own definitions of what constitutes a good game,  and a good time in the game. Knowing how to define your game is important. I think the reason players behave a certain way is based on psychology. How can your game be contextualized in the dimension of "the experience the player wants" out of "the experience you want" is a question every DM should ask.


I don't understand this conflict between Players and DM's. I have seen a lot on the internet about this. I remember when 2.0 was out, and I was struggling with this mode where the players were out to get me, and I was trying to make the plot "survive" their chaotic behavior. Over time, I learned that all I needed to do was realize the context and setting presented to them actually was: Outsmart the DM and flex the rules to advance and gain the strongest possible character with the most pluses who can achieve everything the player wants the character to achieve. Then, I learned that I was forcing the players into constant "Morton's Forks" and creating a setting where the theme given to them was "your character better be the best, you are a hero walking among strong NPC's, guards who are only competent when harassing the parties, and a wide galore of magic items, wishes and more gold than one could find a real use for, you just trade in diamonds at some point.

Then, I had to train myself to train my players. Come 3e, I had a constant stream of events, which presented them hundreds of characters. If they walk away from one event, another would follow. Eventually, as players "hook in" or "stay away", I was able to get into their reasoning. They didn't care about the politics of the capital until their shopkeep friend who they rescued that gives them discounted items from other regions in the world got wrapped up in the politics.

Different people have different levers, and pulling those levers is fun. Every single encounter is designed to elicit a different type of response, the players are an audience and you want your encounters to have meaning. I learned how to teach the players a different style of playing, which involved building a whole new system. "Can I play a dragonian?", "I want to be a battlemage who uses kung fu and necromancy..." I decided to find ways to say "Yes" instead of "erh...".  I redesigned my own legal dragonian, designed my own battlemage, and over the course of a few games, amended both a few times. This left a player the type of character he always wanted, and best of all, functioning within the system. The player began to care about the characters pursuits, and when he called and asked if a feat combo would work because he was considering future level up options, I knew i was on to something because the player was using their own time to think about the game.

Players, instead of "working against me" began "working with me". Instead of dictating the world to them, I illustrated it. Instead of prescribing things, I described them. I let the player become comfortable with being able to interpret the world, the story, their character, their background and those things as they pleased. This player began working with me ahead of games to request certain things; specific items, background activities, secondary characters... That was 10 years ago, and today that player is a good DM.

I guess I am just trying to say that the DM is in control, and the worst kind of conflict at the table is the one that happens in the grey area between the player and DM. The world is yours to design, but theirs to choose how to live in. Even "the worst kind of player" can be a good player if the DM is patient, and emphasizes this isn't a game of "leveling and killing enemies" but "a game of heroes on their saga". 

Once the player realizes the "real rewards" are from completing quests and not opening chests, helping friends not just killing enemies, they will engage that kind of play because it yields the best rewards. They begin to know their character can accomplish something of their own in your world, and see the results of that in other areas in the game. You just have to really get to know your players ins and outs.

I am not trying to condescend anybody or argue, just to give my seasoned advice. I know a trick or two, and am happy to share them.

Within; Without.

Apr 16, 2013 -- 6:21PM, FamousErik wrote: "Failing in non-combat situations traditionally leads to an absolute dead end anyway, even worse than if the characters had died." So, we aren't allowed to kill the characters in combat, and out of combat we can't let them fail at anything for fear of dead ends? Where are we actually challenging our players? Without death or failure, the game loses all flavour.

Centauri: That's precisely my point. Why not try asking actual questions about what I mean when I say things you don't understand, instead of just making more assumptions?

 - You are making an assumption that he doesn't understand. The only assumption that Famous made here is that you meant what you were saying.

Example:

"He's (theprince is) not right because as he suspects he's "reading things wrong." Edit: Players do pick magic items, and those are made part of the story, just as if the DM had rolled them off a table or come up with them him or herself. Players don't "dictate" they collaborate with the DM to create the world they want to play in."

 - Can you see where this statement reads as a contradiction? The DM wants to create an interesting world, but a balanced one where the other players are peers and companions, not sidekicks (because a good DM looks at the big picture). One player just wants easy power and immortality for his character, and that means he needs the dang vorpal sword, and he needs it now. Does the DM give each player a vorpal sword? Or balance it out by having every NPC and monster have a vorpal sword? Or just say, "You can have any sword on this list as long as it's the +2 shortsword... because THAT's what's in the pile of treasure you found."? I favor the latter and will use an analogy as to why... the analogy of the baby and the martini.

The baby wants daddy's martini, but daddy doesn't let baby drink daddy's martini. It's not good for baby. So long as nobody puts baby in the corner, baby will be so much better off if daddy doesn't decide to 'collaborate' and give baby half his martini. The result would not be good for anyone.
-----
"4th Edition showed me that failure is fine as long as it's interesting. So, my players fail all the time, in and out of combat. But the failure is interesting to us all. DM included."
 - This statement can apply to every edition of D&D, not just 4th. Although, I will add the caveat that failure shouldn't happen simply because the DM either intentionally sets you up for failure or refuses to recognize when you find that alternate ways of succeeding exist.
A rogue with a bowl of slop can be a controller. WIZARD PC: Can I substitute Celestial Roc Guano for my fireball spells? DM: Awesome. Yes. When in doubt, take action.... that's generally the best course. Even Sun Tsu knew that, and he didn't have internets.

I'm just looking at the threads I have read and the general trend in the playstyle. All my points reflect just what I have been reading, and if thats not a fair indictator of the playstyle, then I have been amiss in my reading. ----edited for brevity ----


So, we aren't allowed to kill the characters in combat, and out of combat we can't let them fail at anything for fear of dead ends? Where are we actually challenging our players? Without death or failure, the game loses all flavour.



What did the threads you read in old school days look like? (Note there was not nearly as vibrant an online community in the days of 1e)


--


No, the game loses the competitive edge that means there are winners and losers. Thats a good thing for a cooperative storytelling game and a bad thing for combat simulators and wargames. 

"In a way, you are worse than Krusk"                               " As usual, Krusk comments with assuredness, but lacks the clarity and awareness of what he's talking about"

"Can't say enough how much I agree with Krusk"        "Wow, thank you very much"

"Your advice is the worst"

 - Can you see where this statement reads as a contradiction? The DM wants to create an interesting world, but a balanced one where the other players are peers and companions, not sidekicks (because a good DM looks at the big picture). One player just wants easy power and immortality for his character, and that means he needs the dang vorpal sword, and he needs it now. Does the DM give each player a vorpal sword? Or balance it out by having every NPC and monster have a vorpal sword? Or just say, "You can have any sword on this list as long as it's the +2 shortsword... because THAT's what's in the pile of treasure you found."? I favor the latter and will use an analogy as to why... the analogy of the baby and the martini.

The baby wants daddy's martini, but daddy doesn't let baby drink daddy's martini. It's not good for baby. So long as nobody puts baby in the corner, baby will be so much better off if daddy doesn't decide to 'collaborate' and give baby half his martini. The result would not be good for anyone.



Wish lists have rules governing them. It's on page 125 of the 4e DMG. If you're agreeing as a group that wish lists of items the players have chosen will be the treasure, you're agreeing to go by those guidelines (or whatever house rule you're using instead). You cannot then wish a vorpal sword into existence and not be blocking. Collaboration doesn't mean ignoring things you've agreed to agree on when you feel like it. It means including everyone's ideas to make the game better, in this case, making sure players get the rewards they like or can use.

And anyway, let's say you didn't all agree on that specific rule. Think of the story possibilities for saying "Yes, and..." to this player's request. Ask the player how he imagines getting such an item and also maintaining a good challenge in the game relative to the non-vorpal sword wielding PCs. Make some suggestions of your own. Build something out of it together that's fun for everyone. Will it turn out being a story like the boy pulling the magical sword from the rock and becoming great? Or a cautionary tale about those who acquire too much power? Play to find out.

In any event, if you're good at picking out items for your players and they always lap them up and ask for seconds, then keep on doing what you're doing. I like to ask them for what they want, collaborate with them on ways to earn them, and then get to adventuring. It's just a preference.

No amount of tips, tricks, or gimmicks will ever be better than simply talking directly to your fellow players to resolve your issues.
DMs: Don't Prep the Plot | Structure First, Story Last | Prep Tips | Spoilers Don't Spoil Anything | No Myth Roleplaying
Players: 11 Ways to Be a Better Roleplayer | You Are Not Your Character     Hilarious D&D Actual Play Podcast: Crit Juice!

FREE CONTENT: Encounters With Alternate Goals | Full-Contact Futbol  |  Pre-Gen D&D 5e PCs | Re-Imagining Phandelver | Three Pillars of Immersion | Seahorse Run

Follow me on Twitter: @is3rith

thadian, I think you and I are on the same page, except that I try not to beat around to bush to find out what will engage the characters. I just ask them.

In other news, I'm going to assume that other people just don't understand because that's the evidence their posts present. And I never get tired of seeing players compared to little children. That speaks volumes.

[N]o difference is less easily overcome than the difference of opinion about semi-abstract questions. - L. Tolstoy


I'm just looking at the threads I have read and the general trend in the playstyle. All my points reflect just what I have been reading, and if thats not a fair indictator of the playstyle, then I have been amiss in my reading. ----edited for brevity ----


So, we aren't allowed to kill the characters in combat, and out of combat we can't let them fail at anything for fear of dead ends? Where are we actually challenging our players? Without death or failure, the game loses all flavour.



What did the threads you read in old school days look like? (Note there was not nearly as vibrant an online community in the days of 1e)


--


No, the game loses the competitive edge that means there are winners and losers. Thats a good thing for a cooperative storytelling game and a bad thing for combat simulators and wargames. 


And the somewhat snarky-sounding response to your online community note... The reason the online community wasn't as vibrant in the days of 1e, is because we were all playing D&D back then. It's not just snarky, though.. it's relevant. (read on)

I think his concern (mine too) is that the story should not only be cooperative, but it should also be interesting.

I have yet to see an interesting story in any literature or oral tradition from any culture throughout all of human history in which there is not some sort of conflict for the protagonists and no chance to fail. Even the people who argue for this will generally waver on the statement as soon as you call them on it, though.

So, I disagree with your assessment. Although the competitive edge I speak of here is fair competition (combat or otherwise) between NPC and PC, not DM and Player.

If I made a full-fledge character and somehow got stuck in a world so limited that it forgets to account for so basic a fact of life as mortality, I'm not sure I would be interested in playing in it... even if that is the trend.
A rogue with a bowl of slop can be a controller. WIZARD PC: Can I substitute Celestial Roc Guano for my fireball spells? DM: Awesome. Yes. When in doubt, take action.... that's generally the best course. Even Sun Tsu knew that, and he didn't have internets.
I have yet to see an interesting story in any literature or oral tradition from any culture throughout all of human history in which there is not some sort of conflict for the protagonists and no chance to fail. Even the people who argue for this will generally waver on the statement as soon as you call them on it, though.



If I made a full-fledge character and somehow got stuck in a world so limited that it forgets to account for so basic a fact of life as mortality, I'm not sure I would be interested in playing in it... even if that is the trend.



When you've stopped bandying these things about as if they were the position of the people you're criticizing, then I'll know you're ready to have an honest discussion about this topic. You've done this in countless threads. You know it's not true, and yet you keep representing the games as lacking conflict, failure, and mortality. I even offered you a chance to play in one of my games to see that this isn't the case firsthand as my highly collaborative game has conflict, failure, and mortality - the things you find interesting, I take it - in spades. (You declined.) At some point, I have to assume you have no actual interest in earnest discourse on these topics.

No amount of tips, tricks, or gimmicks will ever be better than simply talking directly to your fellow players to resolve your issues.
DMs: Don't Prep the Plot | Structure First, Story Last | Prep Tips | Spoilers Don't Spoil Anything | No Myth Roleplaying
Players: 11 Ways to Be a Better Roleplayer | You Are Not Your Character     Hilarious D&D Actual Play Podcast: Crit Juice!

FREE CONTENT: Encounters With Alternate Goals | Full-Contact Futbol  |  Pre-Gen D&D 5e PCs | Re-Imagining Phandelver | Three Pillars of Immersion | Seahorse Run

Follow me on Twitter: @is3rith

I have yet to see an interesting story in any literature or oral tradition from any culture throughout all of human history in which there is not some sort of conflict for the protagonists and no chance to fail. Even the people who argue for this will generally waver on the statement as soon as you call them on it, though.



If I made a full-fledge character and somehow got stuck in a world so limited that it forgets to account for so basic a fact of life as mortality, I'm not sure I would be interested in playing in it... even if that is the trend.



When you've stopped bandying these things about as if they were the position of the people you're criticizing, then I'll know you're ready to have an honest discussion about this topic. You've done this in countless threads. You know it's not true, and yet you keep representing the games as lacking conflict, failure, and mortality. I even offered you a chance to play in one of my games to see that this isn't the case firsthand as my highly collaborative game has conflict, failure, and mortality - the things you find interesting, I take it - in spades. (You declined.) At some point, I have to assume you have no actual interest in earnest discourse on these topics.



Unfortunately, it's a damn shame that your failure, conflict, and mortality are completely obliterated and removed by that ridiculous house rule you have.
My username should actually read: Lunar Savage (damn you WotC!) *Tips top hat, adjusts monocle, and walks away with cane* and yes, that IS Mr. Peanut laying unconscious on the curb. http://asylumjournals.tumblr.com/
I'm DMing two games right now. One with a new set of players.

What I've found is that these players do not mind and actually encourage me to toy with their character backgrounds and throw the unknown at them. This is my first time gaming with these people in particular and they have loved every new twist I throw into the game.

And it's a good thing that that's what iserith and centauri advocate: finding out what kind of games the players want and helping them make that game, and it's nice to see you agreeing with them.

http://community.wizards.com/group/lgbt-gamers

Odds are, if 4-6 people can't figure out an answer you thought was obvious, you screwed up, not them. - JeffGroves
Which is why a DM should present problems to solve, not solutions to find. -FlatFoot
Best defense that I've read in favor of having alignment systems as an option
Show
If some people are heavily benefiting from the inclusion of alignment, then it would behoove those that AREN'T to listen up and pay attention to how those benefits are being created and enjoyed, no? -YagamiFire
But equally important would be for those who do enjoy those benefits to entertain the possibility that other people do not value those benefits equally or, possibly, do not see them as benefits in the first place. -wrecan (RIP)
That makes sense. However, it is not fair to continually attack those that benefit for being, somehow, deviant for deriving enjoyment from something that you cannot. Instead, alignment is continually attacked...it is demonized...and those that use it are lumped in with it.

 

I think there is more merit in a situation where someone says "This doesn't work! It's broken!" and the reply is "Actually it works fine for me. Have you considered your approach might be causing it?"

 

than a situation where someone says "I use this system and the way I use it works really well!" and the back and forth is "No! It is a broken bad system!" -YagamiFire

I have yet to see an interesting story in any literature or oral tradition from any culture throughout all of human history in which there is not some sort of conflict for the protagonists and no chance to fail. Even the people who argue for this will generally waver on the statement as soon as you call them on it, though.

So, I disagree with your assessment. Although the competitive edge I speak of here is fair competition (combat or otherwise) between NPC and PC, not DM and Player.

If I made a full-fledge character and somehow got stuck in a world so limited that it forgets to account for so basic a fact of life as mortality, I'm not sure I would be interested in playing in it... even if that is the trend.

 And it's a good thing that iserith feels that way too, that protagonists should be allowed to fail for the sake of the story, and it's nice to see you agreeing with him.

Like in The Empire Strikes Back, sure all of the characters technically survived and only one was captured, but the ending was still a complete and resounding Failure. It was just an exciting
"How are they going to get out of this, we need to see the next movie because something bad happened again in this one" Failure,

rather than a boring
"Now we're required to stop, there's not going to be a next movie because one bad thing happened in this one" Failure.

http://community.wizards.com/group/lgbt-gamers

Odds are, if 4-6 people can't figure out an answer you thought was obvious, you screwed up, not them. - JeffGroves
Which is why a DM should present problems to solve, not solutions to find. -FlatFoot
Best defense that I've read in favor of having alignment systems as an option
Show
If some people are heavily benefiting from the inclusion of alignment, then it would behoove those that AREN'T to listen up and pay attention to how those benefits are being created and enjoyed, no? -YagamiFire
But equally important would be for those who do enjoy those benefits to entertain the possibility that other people do not value those benefits equally or, possibly, do not see them as benefits in the first place. -wrecan (RIP)
That makes sense. However, it is not fair to continually attack those that benefit for being, somehow, deviant for deriving enjoyment from something that you cannot. Instead, alignment is continually attacked...it is demonized...and those that use it are lumped in with it.

 

I think there is more merit in a situation where someone says "This doesn't work! It's broken!" and the reply is "Actually it works fine for me. Have you considered your approach might be causing it?"

 

than a situation where someone says "I use this system and the way I use it works really well!" and the back and forth is "No! It is a broken bad system!" -YagamiFire