I’m not looking to start a fight here. I would like to get some insight on the issue of DM’s making up rules. I’ve been on both sides of the screen and spent a lot of time war-gaming with no DM.
Part of the fun of D&D for me has always been exploration, and learning how the DM sees his or her world is part of that exploration. In my time gaming I’ve never had a DM who wanted to discourage players, any ruling on the DM’s part was about keeping the action and story moving.
As a DM sometimes the rules get in the way of a good adventure. Taking time to look everything up, go over errata, and then debate the Rules As Written vs designer intention takes everyone out of the mood and really cuts into game time.
In my experience these games are too complex for everyone to have the same interpretation of the rules, someone must make a decision in order to move things forward. And so I’ve always just assumed that the DM should be able to make a call and have everyone accept it as part of the game. Even if that decision is counter to the rules as written it always seemed better to have a result and get back to the game then to step outside of the game to figure out what the designers intended. It’s difficult for me to see how the game will work otherwise.
Thanks in advance to anyone who can help me sort this out. And please, to people on both sides of this don’t try and make it a place to have a big fight. I would like this thread to be a place where people who don’t like DM fiat can outline their reasons why. Any comments from the 100% in support of DM fiat should be kept to questions for clarification.
EDIT: To sum things up thus far:
Section 1 (posts #1 through #36 ) My observations thusfar:
It is an issue. There are 4 different general incarnations as listed in Nelyo's and DemoMonkey’s post above.
I think we need to draw a distinction between "DM Fiat because the written rules are inadequate" (which is an issue focused on the rules designers) and "DM Fiat because the DM want's certain things in/not in the game they are running" (which is an issue focused on the DM/Player social contract).
Very different issues.
Agreed, and we can further divide "DM fiat vs. the written rules" into "DM fiat because the rules are unclear" (i.e. there's a grey area so the DM has to make a call) and "DM fiat because the DM dislikes the written rules," and divide "DM fiat and the social contract" into "DM fiat and the campaign setting" (i.e. including/excluding elements to set tone/flavor) and "DM fiat and how the story plays out" (i.e. railroading). Individual groups are going to come to different conclusions about what is acceptible in each of those four situations.
People have different play styles, some want a rules governed game others are less concerned with this.
People want the rules as written to be complete enough that there isn’t a lot of need for interpretation or revision.
People feel that in some situations clear rules and adherence to them will mitigate some of the problems with a “bad” DM.
Section 2 (posts #37 through #76 ) Compared the terms “DM fiat” and “Rule 0”. Rule 0 can be found in the urban dictionary.
The unwritten rule in tabletop role-playing games (such as Dungeons & Dragons) which grants the game master the right to suspend or override the published game rules whenever s/he deems necessary.
Similar to a house rule; however, rule zero may be invoked unilaterally, at any time and does not have to be agreed upon in advance by the players.
When abused, can lead to an inconsistent, confusing, or frustrating experience for the players.
Bob: I climb up the wall and into the wizard's castle, bypassing the defenses. I rolled a 20, so I succeed. GM: The wall is magically warded against climbing. You fail. Bob: But a 20 is an automatic success! GM: Rule 0. You fail.
DM Fiat on the other hand is considered by many to be a derogatory term that conjures up images of the absolute worst DM imaginable. The absolute law implied by DM fiat justifies all inconsistent application or poor understanding of the rules, bias towards certain characters and NPC opponents, and railroading the story line.
The ideas presented in this post have led me to believe that many of the arguments spawned over DM fiat stem from differing definitions of the phrase.
For myself this means that I am going to use the term “Rule 0” when referring to the idea that a DM must be enabled to sculpt the rules as he or she sees fit in order to fully realize hir world and gaming experience.
This post just hits the highpoints. There’s some other great ideas and a continuing conversation that is very interesting, and helpful. The whole thread is worth reading if you have time. Kudos to everyone who took the time to post here and good job keeping the discussion mostly on track.
I just read Posts #80 - #90: some great stuff in there which kind of ties things together in a workable consensus.
My issue with DM Fiat at least doesn't have anything to do with the DM's ability to change or drop a rule to fit his game it is the lack of a default ruling to fall back on or build off of. IME this has two big problems with it.
1) From the DM perspective it makes things a lot of work. If I have to write a large portion of the game system when I want to play a game and play constant adjustment as I am trying to DM it takes way to much of my time and effort away from the parts of the game that actually matters. It's not that I can't do it (so snarky superiority complex DMs can go sit on a fork) It's that I don't want to.
2) From the player perspective it means that you don't have any idea what is going to work until the DM okays it or not. This brings up multiple issues from character creation (what if the DM invalidates what I am building my character to do?) to creativity in play (If I set up myself to do this cool thing I would much rather have an idea of the rules behind making it work).
These issues coupled with the fact that we are paying WotC to produce the game rules specificaly so we don't have to means that a system that demands fiat is just not what I am looking for in a game.
I have no idea. We avoid games that lack it. If you get it figured out, let me know.
DISCLAIMER - Everything said by anyone is absolute subjective opinion. There are no objective claims being made by me, or anyone else, unless they overtly state 'The following is an objective claim'. At this point if you choose to be offended by anything I (or anyone else) say the problem is ENTIRELY your own.
WotC won't let us give them money because they won't produce a game we want to play.
As a long time DM I don't make arbitray rules that go against the RAW without talking it over with my players. However if the rules are not clear, then its my job to make a decision and to get on with the game. Generally speaking I will rule in favour of the players unless it is obviously not meant to be that way.
If I have to use dm fiat to design the entire game system myself, then why am I buying a game in the first place? I'll just make my own version of D&D and sell it and make money for doing all the work for the designers.
I.e. I don't mind changing minor things, but if I am going to spend $40 on a book, it had best be 90% usuable and not require me to design the game I just baught that I thought the designers were supposed to do.
Depends on the purpose of the fiat. If it's used to make the game better and more interesting, then fiat is fine. If it's only happening to fix things that was the developer's job to make properly, then that's the kind I want out.