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Vanquish your fellow DMs (at least some of them)

Written by Expy - Published on March 7, 2008

I recently received an e-mail from Ben:

[…] most of my group believes that if they don’t DM a game that they are taking away from everyone else, so we have at least six games going on at a time […]

I thought it was important to turn this e-mail into an article because I can relate to this.

What’s my character’s name again?

When I was in high school and college I probably played in 50+ different campaigns. Less than 10 of them lasted more than 3 sessions. That’s 1 in 5. One great campaign out of three is what should be expected. Only one out of five making it to the fourth game is atrocious.

One of the main reason that games didn’t last was that there was always someone to suggest a new campaign, a new setting, a great new concept! We gave every single new campaign the benefit of the doubt which is very nice (it could be a superhero weakness too), but very wrong.

Giving DMs a chance – the players’ responsability

I believe that a campaign can only be successful with strong player involvement. Most players participating in many games are not as involved as players taking part in one or two games. It’s just human nature.

So before starting a new game (as a player or DM), please be considerate of everyone you’re already playing with. It’s easy to get stoked about a new character and a novel idea, but the memorable RPG experiences are borne of consistency as well as enthusiasm.

Players should always give their DM(s) a real shot at establishing an ongoing campaign before committing to other games.

Starting strong – the DM’s responsability

If you want your new campaign to last, you might want to make a good first impression. If you have 30 minutes or so, you should read the Instant campaign builder.

If your first game is in 45 minutes you should read:

DMs should always make sure they run killer games! That could solve the multiple games issue.

Alternating DMs

I believe in giving every DM and every campaign a legitimate shot, but I also believe in alternating DMs. Just don’t start a new game every week.

What do you think?

I wouldn’t mind some feedback on this. Does it make sense or am I crazy?

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Written by Expy

Meet Expy The Red Dragon

Expy is the mascot for DungeonMastering.com and the real mastermind behind Expy Games. He likes to hoard treasure, terrorize neighbors, burn down villages, and tell white dragon jokes..

No matter how fearful the legends claim dragons are, they always end up being defeated in 5 rounds by adventuring parties they encounter. That’s what dragons are – experience points for the heroes in your Dungeons & Dragon party. And this mascot is no different, hence the name Expy.

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14 Responses to “Vanquish your fellow DMs (at least some of them)”
  1. johnnyhelsinki says:

    Hi Yax – long-time reader, first-time caller.

    After a RPG-ing drought of roughly two decades, for about six months I’ve been welcomed into a good, solid group which meets weekly, playing a diverse range of games and rules. Part of being involved in the group means you have to take a turn at DM-ing at some time or another, so our regular guy (a great DM) gets a break every so often.

    This is the part I find frightening. It didn’t take long for me to get back into the player mentality, but I haven’t DM’d in twenty years either, and I didn’t run games all that often back then. I guess what I’m trying to say is it’s a relief to hear that a 33% average is good, and if the game falls flat it won’t be the end of the world. If the seventh and eighth don’t fly, I’ll hang up my gloves and take up flower arranging.

    I’ve been reading up different rules-sets; I’m leaning toward True 20 for this time out to keep things simpler (sorry guys), and I’ve got a long set-up time for the game (I’ve flagged September-October). I’m planning a four session game – a char-gen/set-up session and three acts. Anyone got any advice for the new guy?

  2. Ian Winterbottom says:

    Haven’t played for a long time, except for PBM and EMail, all of which fell flat due to total lack of player involvement; so I can agree with the article. If you don’t involve the player or he fights you at every turn, as mine did, you may as well give up.The first and simplest way is to get him/her involved in making up his own character, so he CAN’T avoid you, I think. Perhaps I was just unlucky in my choice of playing partners! I can very much sympathise however with the remark about “What’s my character’s name again?”

  3. DNAphil says:

    Our gaming group maintains 3 active GM’s running in a 3-week rotation. This is done, not so much for the fact we keep coming up with new campaigns, but because we are all very busy, and it buys each GM extra time to prep their games.

    We have pretty much decided that 3 campaigns is the largest number of games we want to have going at any one time. Any more and we feel that we won’t get to play enough, and that the gap between games would be too great for serious character investment.

    Within our 3 concurrent campaigns, when one dies and a new one is about to start, there is a lot of discussion among the group about the new campaign. The Players in our group are very critical of campaign pitches, and more than idea has been shot down by members of the group. The campaigns that do survive the pitch, tend to have very high player investment, that does help push most of our games past the four session mark.

    The hard part for me, is that I would love to run about 5 different campaigns right now, but my commitments at work and at home, have me down to just one campaign at a time.
    It’s not easy, I am very tempted when I read new games, to slip into campaign building mode, and start putting ideas together.

    I think that you are right that you cannot just launch a campaign over the first thought you have. Too many campaigns water down the experience. It is far better to invest heavily in a single good campaign then to be playing in 10 so-so ones.

  4. Alphadean says:

    I have to tell you after gaming for 30 years and being the DM most of the time, I love my new group. Besides myself we have to really solid Game Masters and a strong up and commer. We’ve been meeting now for over a year,actually headed for two. What nice is that we meet once a month for a marathon session (we start about noon and play till 1 0r 2 am)The best part of it is that we have 3 solid campaigns running. I guess because the campaigns are extremely diverse and well designed it works. And Strong DM’s don’y hurt either. Let’s start with Desprite’s Campaign, for all intents and purposes hers is not an actual campaign, its a seroes of Dungeon Crawls that usually link back to each other with at least 2 to 3 reaccurring characters…its an awesome run and a great filler when someone is tired or just needs a break from running the game.

    Then there is Turlock’s planescape run. Wow talk about a high powered traditional game. Think of everything you’ve love about D&D over the years and its there. He has taken all the sweetness from the beginning and heaped into 3.5 and its wonderful.

    Lastly, you have my game which is a complete departure from traditional fantasy games. The only thing that links my game to D&d as we know is the system and the core classes. Everything is else my own home brew from races to how magic functions. The only race that you might recognize are humans.

    Its really nice cause I’ll run for about 6 months then Desprite my run a crawl or two and then Turlock takes over the next six months. All the while the brew is stewing in my head for the next part of my campaign. We have a forum that log the events of each session, this way everyone is up to date…what even better is that each of us has section for own worlds.

    So my advice is to make sure you have some pretty strong storytellers who have at least a good understanding of the rules or how people work. Let everyone know if you truly mind being a DM. Not being funny, but coming from an old schoolers perspective, I can honestly tell you everyone is not cut out to be a Dungeon master. Everyone might want to be, but some people are better off being players. What’s nice about my group is that everyone is adult enough to accept their strengths and weaknesses. So we don’t have issues

  5. Alphadean says:

    Johnnyhelsinki I can give you this advice: Become as intimate with the system as possible. I love true 20 and will be using for the other group I will be starting in the next few months. Don’t even attempt to map out how long your campaign may run. Cause if you say 4, you’ll end up needing six. Players are unpredictable. Be flexible in your DM’ing and be prepared for the unexpected. Don’t try to force the direction of the out come any adventure, let the players write that portion of the tale.

  6. Micah says:

    I’m coming up on the 5 year mark for our current campaign (we started in August 2003, click my name to see my campaign…). Only one original player is still with it, although my group is really great (hence the ability to stick it out for 5 years).

    There’s no way I could have gone that entire time without having others jump in and share the GM burden. I love to GM, but I also love to play. I can’t do one or the other for too long without wanting to sit in the other seat.

    Right now, we’ve got a rotation of 3 different campaigns:

    Like DNAphil says, 3 is probably the max that I can comfortably contribute in. More than that and it’s like running in place. There’s no noticeable forward motion in any of the campaigns.

  7. Pe0 says:

    Ha the good old times when we had no responsabilities except playing rpg. We use to hang out at the local Burger King from Friday evening to sunday afternoon. Favorites part was that we bought 1 soft drink and use the infinite refill at our disposition. Like Yax said we where running a trillion games. Some didn’t go past the character creation some lasted for quite some time. I’d go back to that time of my life anytime. Yax I love you!!!

  8. Yax says:

    Wow! I got an “I love you”! That’s a first!

    Thanks for your comments everyone. It gives us a good idea of what’s reasonable and what’s not when it comes to multiple games.

  9. argokirby says:

    I’m in the opposite boat. No one else here is really willing to pick up the DM gauntlet. I love to play, but I’ve seriously in my 20 years of DMing prolly only played in 10 to 15 games sessions as a player.

    If only my players love to DM as much as I do. I would love to have 6 campaigns going. I have so many character ideas that when someone does want to take the DM hat for a bit I cant decide who to play.

  10. shekaka67 says:

    I gotta say that I am envious of you guys with multiple DMs (sharing the load)
    in your group. If I consider my extended group( somewhere in the neighborhood of 10-12 people). We really have 2-3 seperate groups with players bouncing between them from
    campaign to campaign ,but for the most part the other GM and I pretty much have total player buy in as we
    are usually the only options for games.
    But even though are players are very easy to please, things
    do indeed run better with player buy-in and committment.

  11. Ben says:

    Thanks yax! I’ll be DM-ing a lot this weekend. And this advice will come in handy. I’ll be sure to tell you how this next campaign pans out.
    I’m still kinda in shock that you posted an article from my e-mail! Your the best!

  12. Yax says:

    You’re welcome. I’m glad we all could help.

  13. Kane says:

    I have played in a few campagins, in fact right now I am playing in 3, but I feel more at home when I DM. I get alot of enjoyment telling a story and seeing how others act and react in my “world”. Its also fun when the player takes over and does stuff that you never even thought of, it helps to sharpen your improv skills (maxium of 6 ranks per level)

  14. Ian Winterbottom says:

    Hi! Yax, cannot really say I love you, as I am after all British and we have never been formally introduced; will “I rather like you” do?! Seriously, I like the site, full of ideas and involvement! In re my remarks about not playing, I am currently involved in trying to set up a local RPG group, so crossed fingers are in order!
    I like Kane’s remarks above, I also like telling a story and seeing how others act/react to it. That was what drove me crazy about the guys I mentioned in my last, both of them actually AVOIDED any involvement whatever, even to naming their character; one had (or tried to have) a Dwarf named Flash Gordon and a Modern Trucker named Buck Rogers. When asked to roll up his character he said, as I recall, “Surprise me, I’m just finishing my game!” (Civilisation, on my Computer!) He was quite miffed when I made him turn it off! Another’s idea of Roleplaying was to ignore his own character completely and to write a speech by one of the NPCs in the third person, about another NPC, insisting he was gay because “Everyone knows all Wizards are queer!”. Eventually I simply gave up.
    Without player involvement you are fighting for a lost cause!
    Alternating GMs can be a great thing, back when I GM’d it seemed to me as the “Games Club” Chairman that I was ALWAYS the one running a game, usually for the misfits who couldn’t or wouldn’t fit in anywhere else. That can lead to burnout even faster, since player attrition runs pretty high sometimes, you never get the same bunch of players twice! And more so when you are expected to spend half of every session helping to complete someone new’s Character, because the other players lose interest as they become bored.

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