Foggy Bog is going to try something new when it comes to role-playing games. We're going to let the players read, take notes, and make personal copies of all the information normally held "DMs Eyes Only" sacrosanctly secret.
Part of the reason is that the player's invest a lot of time and emotion into their characters, while the DM is methodically efficient at being brutally vicious. One 'guideline' the DM likes to ignore is the level appropriateness of monsters for the total party level. In fact, a couple months ago, he wrote a blog citing an encounter (he and only he ran through with his own 1st level characters) where a low level party was without the use of any automatic hit spell capable of getting a slightly better than 50-50 chance of defeating a 19th level minion.
When the idea of letting the players in on the secret first appeared, the DM merely smiled knowing there was no way it was going to happen. So, we had to come up with an argument that our particular DM would accept.
"You see, role-playing is about telling a story of heroes. It's the same concept of telling stories about heroes that you see in the movies. The heroes are given impossible odds of winning against villains that appear on the surface to be infinitely more capable than the heroes themselves. For us, we provide the heroes and you provide the villains, which you are quite good at we admit. The only difference between the movies and your sessions are that in the movies the heroes almost always win, while in your sessions the heroes almost always die."
"And your point being?" asked the DM, smiling.
"It's not that we don't enjoy the personal challenge of finding ways to beat you. It's because we are missing an entire different level of the game, a level higher than the mere mechanics, higher even than the role-playing and character development. We're missing the essence. When it comes to movies, everyone knows the hero is 99% likely to win. People don't watch movies to see if the hero is going to win and they don't watch movies to see how the character develops. All that is important but not as important as..."
And then we were stuck for an answer. We didn't really know why we went to the movies other than to momentarily escape from our own realities and that argument wasn't going to fly with the DM if we wanted him to open his secret files. We needed an answer and quick.
"People watch movies to see the losers (the obviously inferior heroes to the villain mastermind) win. We don't want heroes that are obvious heroes, because we want heroes that remind us of ourselves to give us the emotional courage to go on with our own lives against our own difficulties knowing that we too can succeed. It's not that you as DM aren't doing what your suppose to be doing. We need villains that are superior to the heroes, otherwise our heroes won't be losers. And it's not that we aren't doing what we're suppose to be doing, we send our inferior characters into the battle against all odds of winning. It's just that, the point is the heroes need to win."
"Do you want me to fudge my rolls?"
"No, of course not. Where's the fun in that. We want the script so that we make the right decisions when the time comes. When one of our characters die, we want you to yell cut, just as if you were shooting a scene. And then we go back and take another take. We know the script so we stay on script. We act out the scenes and we let the dice fall where they may. We might have to have mutliple takes on some of the combat scenes, but it's all there. Further we still have our own character development. What do you think?"
"You want to role-play actors making a movie that follows a script of a D&D adventure and you want me to hand over 'the script' to you prior to the session."
"Yeah, that's right. Except everything in the game has to be directly stated in the script, things can't be implied. There can't be any surprises."
"What about mysteries, character twists, betrayals by npcs?"
"D&D isn't a game about mysteries, besides everything is a skill challenge. Just because we know where the hidden treasure is doesn't mean we necessarily get to it without first succeeding at a skill challenge. As far as that other stuff, just don't write anything out that isn't necessary for the adventure at hand. Besides there has always been a degree of metaplaying in every session."
"Well, I don't know, but if you want to try it. I guess that's what we'll do."
"Yeah, sure. Besides, I have some ideas for rules about a role-playing game about movie actors. There's a whole bunch of possibilities and challenges the actors would have to overcome to keep their careers on track. Oh... don't worry about your D&D characters though, you'll just have to replace the actor who doesn't get the part with some other actor. The D&D character is safe, unless of course the producers downgrade him to a supporting role and can't afford to hire the actor necessary to play him. You know how it goes."
The DM sat there smiling at me. I'm actually not sure whether we (as players) came out on top or not.