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Why you, as a DM, need to grow a pair

Written by MythicParty - Published on December 30, 2013

And I’m not talking about dice.

Let me begin with the situation going on in my local gaming group.  There’s 7 members, & we’ve been playing together for at least 5 years.  Some twice that.  Now, there’s literally NOTHING else that all 7 of us have in common except for D&D.  We even sat down once to try & see if we could come up with something.  Couldn’t find any other connection.  Suffice to say, there are times when we just completely butt heads.  Even over seemingly simple things.  For example, it was only just a few weeks ago that everyone agreed to the to roll their dice in a dice tray.  Mind you, this was after countless instances of polyhedrons falling off the table or getting stuck on the sides of books.  Thankfully we’ve now advanced past that.  But the latest battle is over incorporating a new rule called {insert Dramatic Music here} Hero Points.

So here’s the background.  In Ye Olden Days of Dragon magazine, Hero Points were a daily pool of 1 per Level to add or subtract rolls. In 3.5’s awesome Unearthed Arcana (not the one with the sage on the cover) they morphed into ‘Action Points’ which did a variety of effects, such as boosting Feats. However for Pathfinder (and therefore for our group’s campaign) per the PRD in the Advanced Player’s Guide they are: “A common house rule standardized and expanded..this system allows players a measure of control over fate and random dice rolls. Rather than having the outcome of an adventure’s worth of effort come down to or be thwarted by simple bad luck, hero points grant the PCs a resource by which they can influence destiny, or at least have a second chance when they need it most.”

Seems pretty nifty right?  Like all add-on rules, there are are a few kinks to iron out but for the most part, these are pretty straightforward.  You get them 1 per Level or whenever you do something ‘heroic’ & you can use them to either re-roll a d20 or add a bonus to such a roll.  They’re meant to be dramatic & add in some tension.  Per the PRD again: “There are moments in any struggle that influence the outcome. Does the brave warrior lay low the villain before he can finish casting a devastating spell? Does the sly rogue avoid detection as she sneaks into the giant chieftain’s lair? Does the pious cleric finish casting her healing spell before the rain of arrows ends the life of her companions? Just a few die rolls decide each of these critical moments, and while failure is always a possibility, true heroes find a way to succeed, despite the odds. Hero points represent this potential for greatness. They give heroes the chance to succeed even when the dice turn against them.”

However, even with all this potential, there are a few members in our group who are just plain opposed.  To where they get so agitated that they won’t even discuss the rules or they disguise their reticence with humor.  Thankfully my DM finally agreed to include Hero Points because we’re starting a new story arc in our campaign that looks to be much more difficult than normal- Stone Giant difficult, from what our various dreams have shown. There’s also the New Year to start off something new.  Finally, there’s the fact that new rules can breathe new life into your games.  And yet still some of our guys complain.  Complain, complain, complain.

Yet despite the lack of enthusiastic responses, our DM is pressing on.  Hero Points are now in our fantasy world to stay, at least while he is DM.  This is largely because we had a conversation beforehand where he admitted that he was worried about balancing everyone’s concerns. But I (passionately) responded, there comes a time when, as a DM, you have to ‘Make it so.’ With great power comes great responsibility.  If you’re going to sit behind that screen, then you need to make the command decisions.  And sometimes, in the best interests of the game as a whole, that command responsibility means that you have to invoke DM Fiat.

Quite simply you have to grow a pair.  And your game will grow because of it.


Written by MythicParty

Dog-loving, movie-watching, pizza aficionado. Content Editor for DMing.com, Project Manager for AvatarArt.com, & player of the coolest characters in a weekly D&D game. Halflings are the real heroes.

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5 Responses to “Why you, as a DM, need to grow a pair”
  1. Nuntius Gris says:

    I have to disagree. You could be very well celebrating your influence in a decision that will split the group.
    While I agree that a GM must “grow a pair”, I really don’t find this to be a good example situation. And I definitely agree with your GM that it is part of his job (probably the most important part of it…) to balance “everyone’s concerns” in the table. If an optional rule can have such a negative impact on some of the players as to not even being able to discuss it, then enforcing it may not be a so good idea.
    In my opinion, the times when a GM has to “grow a pair” mostly involve times when a GM has to give fair but bad news to players (character dying, rules miscomprehension and abuse, etc), or when some action must be taken to prevent or revert a player from “breaking the game” (for example, removal of magic items).
    You seem to think of “growing a pair” as “enforcing your will” (a way of understanding it that I would reject in almost any context). I believe growing a pair, as a DM and in general, has more to do with “taking responsibility” and “dealing with consequences of your own actions” (for example: that some player may be unhappy because his barbarian commando died after he charged a colossal red dragon).

    Just my humble opinion. Happy new year!

  2. Darkwarren says:

    As the DM in question, I must clarify for Nuntius Gris (and the rest of our readers), that there is nothing being enforced against anyone’s will here.

    I informed our group that with the new year – and that we just started a new campaign arc – that I would like to implement a few new changes. Some included some organizing and keeping our gaming space clean, as well as a revisit to their initial character concepts/questionnaires to keep updating their PC’s hopes, fears, and motivations after a few months of in-game adventuring and personal growth.

    I also said that I would like to use Hero Points. On our message boards I have tried to explain what I like/dislike about the Hero Point rules as written and offered my own modifications for our own house rule. We have always opened such house rules for group discussion and this would be no different. There just has not been any real in-depth discussion on the topic – with the holidays and all. We’ll see what happens as we continue gaming.

  3. Darkwarren says:

    All of that said, I would be final decider/arbiter in the case of “ties” or little group feedback.

  4. MythicParty says:

    Nuntius: “some player may be unhappy because his barbarian commando died after he charged a colossal red dragon.”

    Wow. Unless he was ‘charging’ AWAY from said Colossal Red Dragon, he’s got no one to blame but himself. In fact, someone captured the barbarian commando’s last moment on Oerth:


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