At DungeonMastering we CRAVE comments. It’s the best way to give feedback & let us know how we’re doing. We need you to tell us what you don’t like and what you don’t. Case in point, our piece about lessons from the latest Super Bowl drew a serious rebuttal from one reader, Marcus. Remembering the adage ‘for every customer who bothers to complain, 26 other customers remain silent,’ with a few dozen others who felt the same as Marcus, responding via article format seems best. So here we go…
1. “Cheating at D&D is a problem when someone is bothered by it. Most of the time my group is so much more concerned with story telling, fuzzy math is ignored.” The story is indeed important. But D&D is a game that completely originated from & still revolves around those funny-shaped dice. There are plenty of other RPGs out there who are ‘dice light’ to use a term. Heck, there are even games which are completely, totally 100% diceless: Amber, Dread, Everway, Marvel Universe, Nobilis, to name drop. But if you’re playing Dungeons & Dragons the assumption is, based on the inherent design of D&D itself, that there’s going to be a lot of rolling and a lot of number crunching. While you could hack down into a barebones d20 clone, there are other games which focus more on storytelling using mechanics such as from a bidding process for resolution to spending tokens to determine truths to literally not having a GM. Granted, these games are a lot smaller than D&D to the point of being classified as ‘indie’ (as in ‘independent’ not as in, ‘the guy named after the dog.’) But if you want true story-based, then smaller is better.
What I’m getting at is that for D&D the system to matter, than the numbers that drive that system should matter; they should be as accurate as possible. And if they really don’t matter in your group, and your numbers are usually off from where they actually should be, than why are you guys playing D&D? Why not use a much simpler engine to run your fantasy game? By the way- this is all responding to the Fuzzy Math argument. I’m going to assume that every DM is 100% against their players purposefully cheating. If not, please stop reading and go Mod your Xbox.
2. “It’s far more productive to talk about WHY someone got emotional than instituting a zero tolerance policy on outbursts. What if they’re actually facing a legitimate tragedy, and so they got angry about something trivial? Talking without listening is not good group management.” Technically what I was suggesting was actually a 2-strike policy- true zero tolerance is a One And Done, usually involving a school administrator over reacting to a young child bringing/saying something harmless yet still seen as a serious weapon/threat. So what I’m advising is that if someone has an emotional outburst, then its immediately talked about and through this process they’re hopefully helped. If not, then they most likely need to take time away from the group to get things sorted out, and can possibly rejoin when their life has gotten back to normal. Better for them that they focus on their personal issues, better for the rest of the group, and the game overall.
This of course assumes that they’re socially adjusted enough to actually care they’re seriously impacting the enjoyment of everyone else. Again, I think we need to use some common sense to distinguish between a player who is going through a rough time versus one whose personality is such that they cause constant disruptions. DMs should not deal with drama; we’re game masters, not therapists however if someone in you know (around your table or not) needs help with a crisis you should direct them to professional assistance: 1.800.273.8255
3. “Nothing will cause a group to fire their GM faster than a TPK-finale to a long running campaign. If it looks like the group is going to bite it, that’s a great opportunity to take a time out and figure out what the group wants to do as story tellers. Maybe they plan their escape, instead, maybe there’s a deus ex machina that let’s them survive, but underscores their failure; there are more ways of dealing with a hard battle than mass player death and deciding together can make every member of the group feel more involved.” As they say, you can’t be fired from a job you don’t want. If I was running a game which had a TPK (Total Party Kill) finale and the player’s were going to just quit and go home because of how the end went down, then frankly it wasn’t a good fit anyways. To be clear, I’m not advocating wanton wipeouts for the sake of declaring ‘victory’ and I want to pimp slap DMs who brag about their kill stats as if it’s a sort of badge of honor. But come on, time outs? Huddles? Do overs? Save that stuff for football.
There’s actually a ton more we could write about the important issue of TPKs, so much so, that its going to require its own separate article. Meanwhile, what do the rest of you think: how do YOU handle cheating? Have to deal with any disruptive players? Join in and let Marcus and I know.