Saturday, January 9, 2010

A Few Words About What Kind of DM I Am

I just read a really terrific post on player vs. DM expectations over at B/X Blackrazor.  Given that I am swiftly approaching the beginning of a collaboration with a new set of players, JB's thoughts about the role of the DM really struck home; I agree wholeheartedly with the sentiments he expresses in that post. 

Here is a key excerpt about the role of the DM:

The DM's role, sometimes forgotten, is one of facilitator. What the DM does is facilitate this world/story/reality creation. Adventures are designed, settings are written, NPCs and obstacles placed...and then there is acting as adjudicator and referee for the players as they explore the game world. This exploration, in collaboration with everyone at the table, is what CREATES the shared environment. NOT the DM alone.

When a DM "puts on airs" and thinks he or she is wholly responsible for world creation they are deluding themselves. Pure and simple. If you want to author a world, write a book, don't play an RPG. If your players abandon your game, all the background and backstory in the world means nothing.

AND (this is the important part) if you DO allow players free reign in your carefully designed game (in other words, if you're a good and competent DM that doesn't force your players down your own linear story arcs, etc.), they are going to muck it all up. They will go "off book." They will want to push the game and exploration into areas you haven't detailed or thought of. They will not "do what you want them to."
I hope that my blogging for the past four months about the Lands of Ara campaign setting (which will continue into the future) has not misled anyone into thinking I am one of those "deluded," hyper-narrativist DMs.  I am definitely NOT "authoring a world" on my own here; all the information I have posted on this blog about the Lands of Ara is completely open to change once Arandish Campaign 2010 game play starts in a week and a half.  Hell, even most of the stuff I know about Ara to this point was contributed by past players, was discovered over years of game play, and was NOT invented whole-cloth by any single person, myself or otherwise.  The Lands of Ara is a collective, collaborative, ongoing creation, and I cannot wait to see what these new players will bring to the table and the game world.  Via our collective efforts and, above all, shared fun, Ara is about to experience another growth spurt.

Thanks to JB for a provocative post.


  1. Yes! The player's are the star of the show. I WANT them tear through the campaign world, to run amok and surprise both me and themselves.

  2. A very good observation. I agree. In a very real sense, getting a grip on your gaming world means letting go.

  3. It's a true collaboration between players and GM. The GM is the set designer, the players the actors but together they 'story' is written.