How to Deal with Broken spells

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If you have been running Dungeons and Dragons for any real length of time, I am sure you have encountered situations where a certain player seems to continually use or abuse a spell to either circumnavigate much of your efforts, or to somehow manipulate or alter the game play in such a way that it is having a negative impact on the game. This topic is going to help you address this issue, and give you several options and suggestions in how to combat broken spells, or how to prevent spells being abused.

Firstly lets look at what we are talking about when we say “broken spells”. These are spells that for one reason or another are overly powerful, or allow a player to somehow “cheat” the game. There are many spells that I consider broken in one way or another. This can be either due to their effects at their assigned spell level, the fact that they offer no saving throw, the overly long duration, the wording of the spell text and many more reasons.

One example of this in 3.5 Edition would be:

Rope Trick

Transmutation

Level: Sor/Wiz 2
Components: V, S, M
Casting Time: 1 standard action
Range: Touch
Target: One touched piece of rope from 5 ft. to 30 ft. long
Duration: 1 hour/level (D)
Saving Throw: None
Spell Resistance: No

When this spell is cast upon a piece of rope from 5 to 30 feet long, one end of the rope rises into the air until the whole rope hangs perpendicular to the ground, as if affixed at the upper end. The upper end is, in fact, fastened to an extradimensional space that is outside the multiverse of extradimensional spaces (“planes”). Creatures in the extradimensional space are hidden, beyond the reach of spells (including divinations), unless those spells work across planes. The space holds as many as eight creatures (of any size). Creatures in the space can pull the rope up into the space, making the rope “disappear.” In that case, the rope counts as one of the eight creatures that can fit in the space. The rope can support up to 16,000 pounds. A weight greater than that can pull the rope free.

Spells cannot be cast across the extradimensional interface, nor can area effects cross it. Those in the extradimensional space can see out of it as if a 3-foot by 5-foot window were centered on the rope. The window is present on the Material Plane, but it’s invisible, and even creatures that can see the window can’t see through it. Anything inside the extradimensional space drops out when the spell ends. The rope can be climbed by only one person at a time. The rope trick spell enables climbers to reach a normal place if they do not climb all the way to the extradimensional space.

Note: It is hazardous to create an extradimensional space within an existing extradimensional space or to take an extradimensional space into an existing one.

Material Component

Powdered corn extract and a twisted loop of parchment.

Why is this potentially Broken? well lets examine it for a moment.

Firstly it is a level 2 spell, which means players have access to it very early on. Secondly it allows up to eight creatures (or characters) to be almost untouchable. You can not locate people in a rope trick, short of a Discern location or gate spell, and by the time the players reach level eight, they have eight hours of totally safe sleep, and being all but impervious to random encounters, or being found. They can use it in a dungeon to continually rest between encounters and at such a low level this is just too powerful. It can also be abused in many other ways but you get the point.

An example in 5e would be Contagion.

This is a 5th-level spell that allows you to stun-lock any target (including a legendary monster) for three rounds minimum if you manage to hit it with a touch attack and do at least a point of damage each round. in contrast, power word: stun is an 8th-level spell that stuns a target and gives them a chance to save every round.

Now I am not going to go into a list of all the spells that I think are broken or why here (its for you to decide what you think are broken in your game), but I will focus on how to deal with them.

There are several approaches for this. The first one is to simply remove them from your game or self Nerf them. If you choose this option you should consult your players BEFORE play and explain to them what you have done and why. Never do this without informing them and explaining your reasoning (unless you want to create malcontent within your players). If you decide to Nerf a spell be sure to have the altered spell description on hand for the players so that they know exactly how you changed the spell and why. Weather it be a level increase, a duration reduction or the addition of a chance to save against the effects etc. Should you realize that a spell is broken or is being abused DURING game play, you should discuss it with your players at the end of the session and explain why you see a problem. Then you can alter it for the next session but will be doing so with the players understanding and awareness.

The second method is to restrict the spell from play or limit its availability. In other words, do not make it a spell that is easily acquired by a wizard, or make it a spell that a deity simply will not grant a player the ability to cast, unless under necessary circumstances. Alternatively if you use spell components, change the component or add one that is difficult to acquire and is expended upon casting. This method does not out right rob the players of the spell but limits its use.

The third method is what I call the “Bad DM method”. This is where a Dungeon Master tries to punish the players for using the spell. For example. Having the players attacked each time while in the extradimensional rope trick space, by extradimensional creatures.  While this could happen (once in a blue moon), its unlikely, and doing it will piss the players off and they will see it as a “dick move” on your part. Or lets say they are using Wind Walk to essentially get free and safe long distance travel, constantly bypassing content and are abusing the crap out of it. You could have them attacked by a very limited and rare type of monster that can actually attack gaseous form AND fly, AND keep up with it. Once again they will call BS and see it as you being a dick. And to be honest if you take this approach, you are!

In my experience (other than the third option) how you deal with it is less important than how you explain your alterations or restrictions to your players. Decent players will understand how and why you may feel that a certain spell needs to be changed, or have its effects limited. Some spells may be fine in one campaign, but not in another. You should also do this PRIOR to character creation, as some people may decide NOT to play a certain class if they are aware you are altering some of the spell choices or making changes to them.

My personal preference is to limit or Nerf a spell rather than remove it from the game. All of the spells can be handled in such a way that you can keep the general feel and effect of the spell, and yet give it some alterations to make it more balanced.

Some spells are not broken as such, but can be used in abusive ways. One example of this would be using a low level spell to render an adversary helpless so that you can perform a Coup de Grace. In these cases I will often point out to players that what is good for the goose is good for the gander. In other words If we are going to allow this to happen in game, it can happen TOO you as well as be performed by you.

Once again it is important to remember that it is not all about you. You need to be sure that your players understand and are on board with any changes you make. Remembering that you are there to serve the players and not the other way around is important here, but also remember that serving them does not mean giving them everything they want. Delivering them a great story and a fun game is your responsibility as a Dungeon Master, and sometimes to do that you have to make some changes for the good of the game…………..

 

 

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Character creation & development. Thinking outside the box.

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So we all know that in most editions of Dungeons and Dragons there are just some skills, talents, feats or abilities that seem to rise to the top. For example a fighter in 3.5 just about has to take the desired weapon focus and specializations for his weapon of choice, and feats like power attack and cleave are almost impossible to ignore. So more often than not we start too see the same old fighter, rogue and wizard rising to the surface, with only the alignment, race and the way they are role played to offer diversity. Well of course if you are going to play in a min max environment, then you are going to take whatever feats you can to make you as bad ass as possible right? Most people immediately gravitate towards making their character powerful. However in this topic I am going to challenge you to think outside the box and remember that the best part of any role playing game, is the role playing itself!

Now when you create your character you have a wealth of options available to you, but yet most people only concentrate on getting big stats, and feats or talents etc that make their character Mr awesome. I have had many epic characters (stat and ability wise) in the past three plus decades and many gimp ones. The most boring character I ever played was a Knight who was seriously over powered. At the time I fell foul to the same trap as many and continued to take him down a development path to ultimate power. The luster of slaughtering every foe wore of quick and what was left was the fun of role playing his personality. In contrast the most fun I ever had was with a one armed thief with poor stats. He was so much fun to role play, and the failures he had were down right entertaining, while his successes were more epic due to his minimal chance of victory.

When you create your character, other than selecting a race and maybe the base class, you should begin by write his or her back story. I know many people write the back story after the character has been created, but doing it first will change the outcome of your decisions. A point about race selection. If you are going to be demi-human then for the love of Gygax make sure your character feels demi-human! Do not play it like its a human with special abilities. Explore the culture of the race in your character creation process, and let that be a part of who they are. Go back to your characters childhood and decide on things that happened to him that shaped his personality and desires. Put thought into his past life before becoming an adventurer, and then take this well developed story and decide where he would have gone next. At this point you can begin building the character, but instead of picking the “go too” talents for your class, pick ones that make sense for him to have acquired. Spend skill points based on experiences and not just on what skills make you the most effective.  It can be challenging to do this, as often you will be picking situational abilities that may be great at times but not as commonly used as something like Dodge, and the desire to be a powerful combatant will need to be repressed.

In regards to stats. Just because a clerics prime stat is wisdom, should he always put his highest stat in that ability? what if his wisdom was just adequate, but he decided to be smart and use his head as much if not more than his divinity? What if a fighter decided to make dexterity his highest stat, and use light weapons and go for feats like weapon finesse instead? Would a swashbuckler or duelist emerge instead?

As your character develops and levels, try to think about the tasks he performed, and the situations he went through, and spend skill points and pick feats that reflect them. Do this instead of picking the next logical feat that improves his bad assness. Try selecting non common feats for your character. Feats like improve trip or improved sunder are often ignored, but they can bring a lot of diversity and fun to the game and make your character something different from the norm.

In our current Howreroll campaign “The Children of Drakhar” , we have a female monk with some interesting ability choices. I am very interested in seeing how this character develops, and already her choice of improved trip has proven far more useful than something like cleave.

With a non standard character design your options for role playing this character will change. When this happens you will find you are able to embrace a different personality for the character, and as such break from the cliche. The fun to be had role playing a weak or less than perfect character, or just being different is far greater than that when your warrior kills an ogre in one attack round.

Giving your character a few quirks, even if they offer some type of disadvantage (like only having one eye) can give depth and open new doors when it comes to role playing the character. Choosing to be hard of hearing may mean you take a penalty to your listen checks, but it could be fun in certain social situations.

The characters I remember most from my years of gaming are the ones that were different and stood out. Not because they had max stats and were seemingly invincible, but because they were memorable due to being different and the unique quality they brought to the gaming session. For example. The Green Flash was a ranger who acted like a super hero. Bruce Custard was a Halfling chef and barber who fought primarily with a sling. Thaal was a barbarian that used to rip enemies apart bare handed. Tom “Nubby” Denton was a one armed human thief. Lindsafel was an overly compassionate and gullible female Druid. Fritzgig the bull headed dwarf, that played chicken with a charging Rhino and liked to headbutt his enemies. All these characters stick with me due to their interesting quirks and not their effectiveness in a situation. In fact many times Nubby Denton failed as a thief, and his failings out numbered his successes by far. Thaal could have done more damage with a two handed axe, yet when he lost his temper and just waded in fist firsts, it was far more memorable. And the Green flash was so full of himself and loud in both personality and appearance that he stood out like a sore thumb in any wilderness setting.

In time the joys of playing a powerful character fade, and you look back and do not even remember the names of the characters you played, or met along the way. That being said some will stick with you for ever. For me it has always been the ones that broke the mold or challenged the norm. Seeing the joy those characters bring to a gaming session can not be quantified for me as a Dungeon Master, and I am always willing to work with any player that wants to bring something “unusual” to the table, as long as it is going to improve the story and enrich every ones experience at the gaming table.

My challenge to any player is “make me believe in your reality”. I want to know without asking why you performed a certain action. I want to understand who you are and why you do what you do. I lose interest in cliche characters that act based on what is “best” for themselves all the time.

Learning how to create a good character is more than just knowing what stats to put where and what feats or skills make you optimal. I cringe at the growing movement for optimal character builds, and the way people are encouraged in making their characters like its something from a video game. A pen and paper role playing game character needs to have many more levels to it than just its stats, skills, feats and abilities.

Try building your next character outside the box, and really “going for it” in a role playing sense. You wont be sorry…………………

About the Mechanics. Initiative.

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About the Mechanics is a new series of topics where we will discus and examine a particular aspect of the game mechanics and how and when to use them. Now this may seem redundant and you may be thinking “well I already know how to use the game mechanics, what is there to discuss? Well hear me out and keep reading….

In this post we are going to look at Initiative. Initiative is what determines the order in which players and Non Player Characters act in an encounter. Depending on what edition of Dungeons and Dragons you are playing, typically you will be rolling a D20 and adding or subtracting a modifier from the roll. For example in 3.5 Edition you may have Plus two from your dexterity bonus, and the improved initiative feat, giving you total plus six to your Twenty sided dice roll. Usually you roll initiative at the start of combat, and then that order stands for its duration. The Dungeon Master will roll for the adversaries in the encounter and then the order of action for all involved will be determined. Some Dungeon Masters may choose to roll initiative for every single Non Player Character or monster in the encounter, others may roll once for them all, or once for all types. I personally roll for each type and separately for leaders or key Non Player Characters such as leaders. For example if my players face four orcs, four goblins and an Ogre, I would roll once for the orcs, once for the goblins and once for the ogre. Combat can be hectic enough to keep track of without having a ton of different initiative numbers to keep track off.

OK so why do I feel a blog post needs to be dedicated to this mechanic? well it is not the mechanic itself that I want to discuss, but WHEN to say that well known phrase “Roll for initiative!” You see when the Dungeon Master utters those words, everything changes. The players mood changes, their attitude changes and the tension level changes. The rolling of initiative typically marks the beginning of combat. No matter where your players heads were at, unless they were already hell bent on a fight, telling them to Roll for initiative is almost like ringing the bell in a boxing match and is going to start a fight. If they were thinking of trying a diplomatic solution, or evading the encounter, being told to roll initiative kind of implies the fight is on, and will most likely stop the characters from continuing with other courses of action, and just wade in to battle. On the other hand if you do not ask your players to roll for initiative your players may perceive that the encounter may not be intended for combat, or that the Non Player Characters they are facing are not hostile. This of course may be totally wrong and then, when the Bad guys suddenly jump the players they may be upset that you did not give them a chance to roll for initiative to begin with.

Rolling or requesting a roll for initiative also drastically changes the mood and mindset of the game and the players at that point. If I (as the Dungeon Master) ask them to roll for initiative during a heated discussion, it snaps the tension bar and says to the players “OK FIGHT”! This may rob them of any continued diplomatic efforts or role playing options. In my story I never want to alter the natural flow, feel or atmosphere of the game at an inappropriate time. If I am going to ask them to roll for initiative, I want it to be the epic start of the conflict and battle and not disrupt a flow of negotiation or exploration of non combat options.

I know some Dungeon Masters that like to PRE roll initiative. They get each player to roll a number of times prior to the game session and then use them in order for each encounter (applying modifiers as needed at that time). This is not a bad idea, but I feel it also offers to take away some of the epic tension moments that arise as combat is about to kick off.

My solution is to never prompt a roll for initiative without a combative or aggressive declaration first. Either I will say something like “The ogre rushes towards you, with his club raised high, intent on crushing your skull”, or a player will declare that they are engaging in some way. At that time, I will often say “EVERYONE roll for initiative to determine the order should it be needed”, or just ask the specific individual who chooses to enter combat to roll, depending on the current situation. I use descriptive language and I roll play demeanor and intent to let my players know how an encounter is going. They can tell by my voice and actions if a negotiation is going sour and a fight may be imminent.They can then choose to act first if they wish or wait and see what happens. Either way I am not going to request an initiative roll until a blow or spell or other timed action is about to take place. It can be hard enough to get the correct feel for an encounter, without ruining the immersion by bringing game mechanics to the fore front. This is why I do not mention the initiative roll, until it is one hundred percent clear that it is now required.

Initiative can also be used in non combat situations of course to determine the speed of almost simultaneous actions. I remember one time I was running an encounter where everyone tried to rush through a door first. The situation leading up to that lead everyone to the same conclusion and each player (in turn around the tabletop) declared the same action. So I had them roll initiative to see who has the faster reflexes in that situation and got their foot in the door first. If I had said prior to the declaration of intent “OK I want each of you to roll for initiative” I guarantee they would have all stopped and hesitated, as they as players would have expected a possible combat, even though there had been nothing to suggest that to their characters. Even those that try hard not to meta game, still fall foul to a change in emotion and may act differently when lead to expect something is going to happen.

In closing, treat initiative as the mechanical resolution to an in game declaration. It should not be requested before it is needed, and the Dungeon master should do his job properly and allow the scene to imply weather or not it may be imminently required. It should be the last thing to happen before a sword be swung, a fireball be cast or a dagger thrown. If you do not care about the feel and immersion of your game, then I guess it matters less to you when to request a roll. I live to tell a story, and not play a game. I believe in immersion over mechanics and Role Playing over ROLL playing. If a dice is going to be rolled it better be for a good reason, and as it is almost always going to determine the outcome of an action, I want the appropriate tension level to be present when it is rolled.

happy Gaming……

Gorebad.

Controlling your Emotions in a Role Playing Game.

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As a Game Master or Player in any Role Playing Game, we have the opportunity to become something other than ourselves. We are afforded a chance to be a powerful wizard, a space marine, a great warrior or even a dragon. As we play out these roles we act in a manner different than our own true nature right?

Well truth be told while most of us do in fact “play” the character or Non Playing Character and give them a twist of personality, many of us inject our own subliminal character traits into said character without much thought or control. Often we will allow our own emotions that we feel as the player, directly influence the actions of the character. In many cases this is not a bad thing, as if we feel empathy to a situation, then maybe our character would too, or If we feel saddened by something that occurs during the game, maybe our character is upset also. For example. Recently during a game session on Howreroll two of our heroes were faced with a dilemma to acquire the song of a Siren. They needed it as a bargaining chip to free a fellow part member and sister to one of the characters. They made a deal with the Siren, that they would find and return to her a stolen heirloom, in exchange for her voice (that she would sing into a magical box that they had been given). Upon returning to her with the heirloom it was time for her to make good on her part of the bargain. She was very emotional about parting with her voice and as such the players began to feel guilty, So much did I pull at their heart strings (sad back ground music and all), that one of the players actually teared up. Her character in turn became very emotional and it made for a great moment of role play.

I have also had many other occasions when a player allowed their negative emotions to affect the decisions of their character. Either the player getting mad at an influential Non Player Character (or me as I am the one playing it), and then in turn their character reacts in a foolish way or in a way that really should not have been characteristic of that particular character. I have also had situations when a player who has had a bad day, projects his grumpiness on his character and as such the character is short and snappy in his responses to others. When the negative emotion of a player is allowed to affect the choices made by their character, it often leads to issues at the gaming table. Poor choices and decisions are made, where calmer and less emotional people would have chosen better ones.

The unchecked emotions of a person can have a negative influence on game play both as a player and as a Game Master. We will look at both separately, but several of the points we will touch upon apply to both sides. Then we will look at ways to help control the situation so that it does not have a negative impact on play.

Controlling your Emotions as a player.

As a player you have a character that you are in control of. This character is represented by statistics, skills, abilities and traits that provide the understanding for the make up of the individual you are playing. He may also have an alignment (in the case of Dungeons and Dragons) that lay out some basic guidelines to how he should act. Beyond that the personality of the character is decided upon and played out by the player himself. Everyone is different. Some people are laid back while others are bold. Some are quiet while others are loud and boisterous. The challenge is in playing a character that does not match up to our own personality. Its easier for a quiet and timid bookworm to play a withdrawn and reclusive wizard, just as it is easy for an outgoing and confident person to play a bold and brash warrior. For the bookworm to play the “in your face” Barbarian, that is the challenge. To see him be able to  act in a fashion that he typically shy’s away from is more outreaching. The test for a player comes in being able to separate the feeling he has as the player and decide if those feelings are appropriate for his character. To do this it requires you to be able to take control of your personal feelings and emotions and put in your own stop checks.

Firstly if you are one of those people that can be honest with yourself and are able to understand your personality, then you are far more likely to be able to take steps to control it. Some people have issues with confrontation, or have a problem keeping their temper in check as in the player I mentioned in a previous post that you can find here. Of course in that post it was more an issue with the temper of the player around the table and not that he injected his temper into his character. More frequently the issue is that the player allows his personality to affect the actions of his character. I have even seen a very negative individual try to play a Paladin, and it be one of the worst portrayals of that class that I have ever seen. in fact after only four sessions his Paladin lost his abilities and fell from grace. Sometimes even the most level headed and positive individual has a bad day. Being able to put that in check when you sit down at the gaming table is important. Bringing negative emotions to the game can literally get you killed!

It is vitally important to remember that the Non Player Character you face is NOT the Dungeon Master! If you are ticked at your Dungeon Master you should not transfer that to each and every Non Player Character he presents you with. In turn you should not be aggravated at your Dungeon Master just because a particular Non Player Character got under your skin. It is a foolish player that does this, and it will only ever serve to hurt your character in the long run.

Many people have an Ego. An ego at the gaming table is rarely a good thing. Keeping your ego in check is important, even if your character has a big ego. Your personal ego will cause you to write checks that your characters body can not cash. Understand that your ego and the characters ego should come from different places. Whatever events that happened in your life to shape your ego are different from the ones that happened to shape the ego of your character. So once again it is important to separate your ego from your characters.

Controlling your emotions as a Game Master.

As the person who is ultimately responsible for the control of the game, you can less afford to have unchecked emotions than a player. If you have read other topics on this site you may have heard me say several time that not everybody should be a dungeon master. This is another reason as to why. If you are the kind of person that can not control your emotions you should never be a Game Master. I mean it, NEVER! There is nothing worse than a Game Master that acts based on feelings towards his players or based on his emotional state that the day has caused.

As the person running the game, it is your job to serve a great game to the players and do so with fairness and impartiality. You must also have the trust of your players. If you can not be impartial you will not have trust and your game will implode. I have seen way to many dungeon masters play favorites, or due to a current negative feeling towards a player they pick on his character. I cringe when I see this. They can try to fob it off with excuses but as a student of personality and as an empathetic person I see right through it.

Here is a hint. If you ever play in one of my games, do not ever think you can fool me by reacting in a certain negative way and then trying to palm it of as “that’s what my character would do.” I see the expressions on players faces as they act, and I can tell when an action is based of off personal emotion state, or made with a level head.

For the Game Master trust is everything. If your players do not trust that your actions will always be fair and impartial then you can not have a good game. I will not play with a Game Master who clearly plays favorites, or with one who is guilty of emotional outbursts. The biggest issue (when discussing emotional control) I see with Game Masters is in unchecked egos. There is no place for an ego in a Game Master. You can be an egotistical prick in real life but if you can not park that ego at the gaming table do not run a game! As a Game Master you can do anything. You can kill the players on a whim so what is there to be egotistical about? The player all know you have the ability to kill them, so you have nothing to prove. This being said it is frightening how many Game Masters have “god” syndrome or feel they need to remind their players of the power they wield. Once again these people have unchecked egos, and they do not have the respect of their players. I actually heard a Game Master say this once. “Hey you better be nice to me, or I will upgrade those six orcs to six trolls and then your fucked!’ He was kind of joking (partially at least), but this was the kind of personality that he had. These kinds of comments are just a reminder to the players that you (the Game master) are god. Well those who think that need to get over themselves and learn what being a Game Master is really about. As I have said before you are more servant than ruler.

So we have outlined the responsibilities of both player and Game Master when it comes to emotion and ego management. It is fair to assume that some of you reading this may have difficulty at times in checking your feelings, and may even be able to own up to times when you have been guilty at the gaming table. Lets look at some ways to help you keep it in check.

  1. Create a ritual that allows you to switch into game mode, and shed the negative aspects of your day. This is one of the reasons I believe a thirty minute pre-game session is a good idea, as it lets you get the stink of the day off of you and get mentally prepared to play.
  2. STOP and remind yourself before any action that you are NOT your character. It can help you refrain from acting on personal feeling and allow you to rein back in those emotions.
  3. Remember that nothing is personal to the player during the game. The negative things that occur during game play are to the character, and not the player.
  4. Develop and practice trust. Make sure that you remember that the players and Game Master need to have mutual trust, and remind yourself of it before you act.
  5. Remind yourself that it is a game. Yes you can have personal ties to your character but at the end of the day it is still part of a game and the negative things that happen to it should never be allowed to cause negativity in the real world.
  6. Be honest with yourself. Being able to realize when you may be acting in a negative way is important in keeping it in check.
  7. If its that bad DON’T play. If you really are having a hard emotional time of it, then its better to remove yourself from the situation. No one likes missing sessions and in the case of the Game Master we often feel obligated to play even if we do not feel like it. Truth be told if you do play under these circumstances you are probably doing an injustice to your fellow players.

Because Role Playing Games are a social endeavor, it is important to understand how emotions can play such a large part in the outcome and fun of the game. Most of us know better than to be rude to a stranger in real life just because we got a parking ticket ten minutes before, yet many are OK with their character being a total ass to the first Non Player Character they meet, just because they themselves are in a piss poor mood. Remembering that during play, you are responsible for the actions of your character, and his or her actions should be based on their situations and experiences within the game world. They should be unaffected by the events of our world, and by your emotional state…………….

The Art of Story Telling Part 2.

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Part 1 Here.

In the first part of this series, we discussed how to prepare your story and how to enhance your ability to describe a setting or scene to your players in order to get the most out of their imagination and ability to visualize their surroundings. Today We will look at the use of ones voice in story telling, as well as how to be animated.

The voice.

We all use our voices a great deal. Some probably more than they should, but when it comes to story telling, mastering the way you use tone, pitch and inflection is paramount to developing great technique. No one wants to listen to someone waffle on and on in a monotone voice, or feel like they need to adjust the volume knob either up or down on the speaker. Most people truly do not understand their own voice that well, and if you listen to yourself speak on a recording you may think to yourself “Do I really sound like that’? Also most people do not like the sound of their own voice. As a story teller you need to get used to it. become comfortable with your vocal sound, and learn to adjust it. Just like a fine instrument it needs tuning from time to time. We will begin by the use of tone, or volume. Tone is used to imply the emotional element in language. In speaking as apposed to music, higher tone is achieved by the use of increasing volume, and lower by decreasing. When you speak quieter you encourage people to listen more intently, and it sets an air of tension and intrigue. When you speak loudly it becomes dynamic and dramatic. When you switch from quiet to loud you can create a sudden impact or even startle or frighten your listeners. read this next paragraph but when you do read the the standard text quietly in your head and the bold loudly.

“You creep towards the casket. Your breath can bee seen as you exhale in the cold night air. As you get closer you remove the wooden stake and hammer from your coat and tremble with anticipation. You slowly begin to remove the lid SUDDENLY the lid bursts open and a grotesque monstrosity sits bolt upright!”

Reading it is not the same as hearing it but you understand the point. The use of volume is important if you wish to entice emotion and reaction. When I speak quietly I typically lean forward a little. As human nature is such that we often mimic, my players will follow suit. Then when my vocal volume suddenly increases they are startled. This is a great way to capture the right mood around the table. I may often employ the use of correct lighting too, but that is more of a prop than a part of the story telling itself.

Next we will look at pitch. Pitch is the resonance in ones voice. Pitch is similar in use to tone but a higher pitch can imply a brighter outlook, where as a lower pitch a more somber one. A higher pitch will often also increase the tone, but it does not have too. A deliberate decrease in volume can be achieved as one increases pitch if you so desire. Pitch can also be used to capture mood in storytelling. Think about reading the night before Christmas to a child on Christmas eve, and saying “not even a mouse” in a higher pitch. Or better yet,  Bilbo telling the little hobbits about the troll encounter in the first of the lord of the rings trilogy (the fellowship of the ring).

“So their i was at the mercy of three monstrous trolls! and they were all arguing among-st themselves about how they were going to cook us. Whether it be turned on a spit, or whether they should sit on us one by one, and squash us into jelly. Well they spent so much time arguing the whether too’s and the why fores, that the suns first light crept over the  trees POOF!and turned then all to stone!”

At the end when he says “and turned them all to stone”, his pitch goes up, but his volume does not. This use of pitch when accompanied by tone is the key to using voice to illicit emotional response from your listeners, and in our case our players. On Howreroll, I am not only speaking to my players, but also my viewers. It is this use of pitch and tone that I get across the desired emotional response from my audience.

Finally we will look at vocal inflection. Now while it is true that inflection is the modification in tone and pitch of the voice, and as such has already been covered in part above, it is more than that. It is used to create change in the form of a word to express a grammatical function. Inflection can alter the entire meaning of a statement. for example.

“I am all out of spells, what can I do?” If used with raised pitch at the end of the sentence implies disrepair, where as if said more like this “I am all out of spells, what CAN I do!?” it implies are more thoughtful questioning statement.

It is important to master inflection as a storyteller, as it makes for a much clearer understanding of a situation. Incorrect use of inflection can be misleading, and in the case of game play, may even cause a player to perform a different action or make a different decision than he would have. Be conscious of your use of inflection, and make sure that it is applied clearly so that your audience can gain the correct intention.

A final note on the use of your voice is in regard to voice acting. This is a passion of mine, and as I was blessed with a very varied set of vocal chords and an unyielding disregard for my own shame, I voice act almost all of my Non Player Characters and use vocal sound effects for monsters grunts, roars and other strange unnatural sounds. IF this is something you have a talent for then by all means use it. It can really bring to life your characters, creatures and your world in general. That being said, you need to be honest with yourself. If you do NOT have a talent for it then DON’T DO IT! you will end up failing with your inflections and use of tone and pitch, and will actually detract rather than add to your storytelling. I respect those that do not voice act and know that they are not good at it. You can be a good story teller without it. unfortunately I know and have watched several Dungeon Masters who simply fail at it, and it really hurts their content delivery. Some of them I know do it because they feel they should emulate those of us that do, but if you do not have a talent for it, or are comfortable enough to be flamboyant with it, you are far better shying away from its use all together.

Finally I want to look at an often overlooked tool of the story teller. The human body.

Animation.

In a story telling sense I am not referring to animation as cartoons or drawings. Animation is in the use of your body language to amplify your delivery. In a previous article (here), I discussed the differences between a physical and virtual table top, and in how I am able to be more animated at the physical table. If you watch me Dungeon Mastering on Howreroll, I am limited in my animation. This is because I am confined to a small pip camera window and can not move much without going out of frame. Around the physical table however, at times I can become a proverbial whirling dervish. When describing a scene of a combat I hurl my arms and legs around and jump up out of my chair quiet often. I move around the table and get right up on individual players when a Non Player Character would be getting close and personal with a players character. I crouch down next to them, with a squint and tilted head that moves awkwardly from side to side as he leans in quietly and says “I know what it is you seek!”. Many of us talk with our hands. That is to say as we speak to someone our hands become animated. This use of body language helps us bring a visual aspect to what we are saying and is also used to imply intent. For example. If we say ‘Hey you over there!” to a single person as we look directly at them, they know we are referring to them. If we say the same to a group of people and they all look at us we point, to clarify which person we were directing the comment towards. We throw our hands up to express disrepair or to imply we are questioning something. We may ball up our fist to express or amplify our frustration. This use of body language is a great tool that should not be ignored by the story teller. You can use your entire body to help tell your story. From demonstrating an action to tilting your head to imply that your Non Player Character is listening more intently than before.

I have played in several games where the Dungeon Master was content to sit on his ass and slough in his chair. Not one of these sessions did I ever truly enjoy. The lack of enthusiasm is a killer for me at a gaming table. In this same way I hate running games for players that do the same thing. If you are at my gaming table you WILL sit up, pay attention and be enthusiastic. If not I will send you home! For a Dungeon Master of story teller to act this way is unforgivable.

A good Dungeon Master and story teller will be enthusiastic. This enthusiasm is often exemplified in their use of body language and the level of animation they display at different times. If we are in a tense combat situation, I want to stand up and be active. Often demonstrating the thrust of a dagger, or the chopping motion of an axe. It all adds to developing, enhancing and maintaining the correct mood and emotion from the players around you.

“I’m a story teller, and my stories must be told!”

Story telling is an art. Any art must be practiced. Some people are more natural at it than others, but everyone can improve and learn to become better tellers of tales if they put their mind to it. Too many people assume they can tell a story. Many can not do it well. Its like a good joke. Some people can tell a joke and its just not funny. A good comedian can tell the same joke and people will laugh their ass off. Its not in the words chosen, but in the manner in which the joke was delivered that made it funny. The story is no different. Tell a story with no passion or emotion and it is boring. Tell it with vibrantly and with vigor and it is exciting……..

The Art of Story Telling. Part 1.

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As a Dungeon Master you will wear several hats. You are the referee, adjudicator, administrator and creator, as well as playing the part of a  host of Non Player Characters and monsters. One of the most important however is that of the storyteller. In fact some Role Playing Games even refer to the Games Master position as the storyteller! Being a great story teller has little to do with knowing the rules of the game . It is about understanding how to create and deliver content to your players and bringing your world and each scene to life. In this multi part series we will look at ways to improve your ability to deliver content, and make you a better story teller.

If you have played more than a few games of Dungeons & Dragons with several different groups, then undoubtedly at some point you will have played with that dry monotone Dungeon Master. He may be well versed in the rules of the game, but reads everything as if from a script, and has little inflection in his voice. He may have been a bit stuffy and academic in his approach and as such it is a stretch for you to imagine the world around you. On the other hand you may have also been lucky enough to have played with a vibrant and enthusiastic Dungeon Master, who delivers great descriptive content and knows how to provoke, and spur on your imagination. Some players like a mechanical academic game and may be fine with the first option, but most, especially those that truly love the game and want to throw themselves wholeheartedly into their characters probably will not. As a Dungeon Master the way you deliver your content is just as important as the content itself. In some cases it is more important.

Years ago I helped a guy out that I met in a gaming store. We shall call him “Dave”. He had been a Dungeon Master for three years but he was frustrated. He had a hard time with experienced players staying in his groups, and felt like he had hit a wall in his skill set. He was thinking of abandoning trying to run games and just go back to playing. We had a good chat about his experiences, and he asked me if I would run a session for his group. He wanted me to show him everything I did prior to the game, and sit over my shoulder as I ran it. A few days later I sat down with him several hours before our planned game session. I showed him my prep work. I went over the adventure I was going to run, and each encounter. I also reviewed each character sheet and explained how I saw each character fitting into the story. He was in shock. “Wow, I had no idea you did so much work before hand” was his comment. Well lets fast forward to the game session itself. So he had six players. Each arrived and came into his home, and he greeted them and introduced me. Soon they all were sitting around the table in their favorite ritualistic spots and we got underway. Four and a half hours later we finished the sessions and all the players and their Dungeon Master were smiling and bouncing of the walls. “No offense to you Dave, but that was the best game of Dungeons and Dragons I have ever played” was one comment. Dave was not offended, he was instead full of energy and enthusiasm. After the players left I sat down with Dave and we went over the differences between our Dungeon Mastering styles. We went over the key differences and discussed how he would implement change in his game. Much of what he was doing wrong was correctable. Speaking in first person and not third person. Referring to his players by their character names and not the players names. Giving more thought provoking descriptions and describing combat other than simply saying “You hit, you miss” etc. We also drew comparisons in our personalities, and there were not many. Bottom line was we were very different people and he was not probably going to be comfortable with standing up, hurling his arms around and voice acting bar wenches. So we ironed out his strengths and worked with those. In the end however despite the personality differences, we were able to make him a better story teller, which was where he was really falling down. I continued to bump into Dave and some of his players for a couple of years afterwards, and their game sessions had vastly improved. Anyone can learn to be a better storyteller but you have to realize who YOU are as a person, and be able to figure out the best way for you to tell a story with your personality.

When it comes to story telling there are several key aspects.  Many of which can be implemented by each and every Dungeon Master, and a few that you either will be able to do well or should not do at all! Some times it is better to omit a certain aspect than do it poorly. Know yourself and be honest with yourself. If you do not have the skill set for somethings, be honest enough to admit it and avoid it. We shall now go over the most important ones.

Preparation.

Prepare your story. This is not the same thing as preparing your game session or your adventure. Story preparation is more about mentally visualizing the story unfolding ahead of time. Try to run it through your mind and imagine each character and Non Player Character. Think through and visualize each encounter. By doing this you will see it. Seeing it will help you become better at giving descriptions. You will notice the things that “pop” in your mind, and can use those to enhance your delivery when you describe the scene to your players. If you do not have a creative imagination and are unable to do this, well I am sorry to say you should not be a Dungeon Master. One thing a good Dungeon Master has to have is a vivid imagination.

Description.

Being able to describe the scene to your players in such away as to spark their imagination and create a mental picture is important. How you do this requires an understanding of how people think. You need to know how to deliver your description in such a way that they will listen to the details and visualize them. One fault many Dungeon Masters make is reading a detailed description to their players like reading from a book. DON’T! Its boring and sounds rehearsed. It is far better to describe the scene free form so that you can use your voice to inflect tension and atmosphere. Its OK to make yourself notes, but do not read them like a page from a book. Also learn to use your voice. Change the tone and pitch when describing something foreboding, be enthusiastic when describing something that should be wonderful etc. Now here is something that I learned from my vast years of experience and I am going to share with you to hopefully really help you improve your ability to create a visual picture for your players. Do not rob your players of their own ability to imagine! As Dungeon Masters we often feel it is our job to describe the scene. We take pride in going into great detail and telling our players what they see. This can be counter productive. You can go to far. It is better to give enough detail as to spur the imagination but do not try to control what the player imagines.

No two people will imagine the exact same thing the same way, and this is OK. As a Dungeon Master saying a simple phrase like “Imagine an abandoned spooky three story mansion” is more powerful than going into para-graphic depth with a description about each broken shutter and spooky looking tree in the courtyard. Allowing your players to imagine things is a great way to allow them deeper immersion, as their minds will create what they can imagine to be believable. I often start with a simple teaser like that. I am going to give you a couple of examples and then discuss them.

Example 1.

“You emerge from the edge of the pine forest and into the clearing. The bright sun hits your face and assaults your eyes as you step into the open. It feels far warmer, and several degrees hotter in the clearing than it did while you were protected by the forest canopy. You squint your eyes as they become accustomed to the light and hold your hand to your forehead, to keep the bright sun from obscuring your vision. As you look ahead you see what looks like a ruined building. It is half sunken into the ground, and covered in vines and creepers. The walls are mossy and in ill repair, one area of the left wall has stones missing, and much of the details of the architecture has been washed away by the elements over the centuries. As you move closer, and as your eyes continue to adjust to the light, you can see warn markings around the edge of the arched doorway. The marking look mysterious and possibly of an arcane nature. The door way itself sits at an angle as the left side of the building has sunken deep into the ground. You wonder what subterranean event has caused the foundation of the vast stone temple to sink in such away. You notice the lack of birds singing, and the general absence of natural sounds that you would expect to hear in a forest clearing of this kind. It is clear to you by the undisturbed plants that cover the ground around the clearing, that no one has entered the clearing in a long while. You feel apprehensive and wary as you contemplate what may lie inside the temple, or in the sunken depths of what lies bellow”.

Example 2.

” As you leave the forest and look into the clearing, you see a ruined temple ahead. It is bathed by the rays of the bright sun. Try to imagine a ruined temple covered in vines. It has sunken into the ground somewhat. The door way is visible beneath an arch that has markings around it”.

The first example takes great lengths to describe the scene in detail. However, if you read this to your players as if it were a page in a book, Much of the detail will be missed and will slip through their minds, and as they try to imagine the scene exactly as you describe it they will struggle. As you read it I bet most of you reached the end and had already forgotten the fact that I had mentioned part of one of the walls had bricks missing which may be an alternate way in if explored. Thus an important clue may be overlooked.

The second does just enough to provoke your players imaginations and their minds are allowed to conjured up the image.  They will then ask questions to validate their mental picture, and you can then tell them about the arcane looking symbols over the arch and the missing stones in the left wall etc. It will then be more meaningful and and observed.

Here are some points to raise about the two examples. They will know it is hot and bright it is, by the fact that you mentioned it was bathed in the suns rays in the second example, so it is not really necessary to describe it as we did in the first. You also do not need to tell them details about undisturbed plants, and by including it, you rob some players of chances to use skills such as tracking, and imply that they are all equally observant about those facts. You did not give them a chance to perform some actions prior to leaving the clearing in the first example and maybe the players did not WANT to approach the temple yet. The way you deliver the above two examples vocally, will help dictate how the mental pictures form in your players mind.

The second example (if delivered correctly) is by far a better way, and not only allows for, but encourages your players to use their imaginations. It would be OK to maybe give a hint of more detail in the second example, but I find many times it is just not necessary. Of course, you have to be ready to fill in the blanks and answer the questions that the players throw at you. Learning how to deliver the content takes practice, and you will find you may have to tweak your delivery method several times before you find the right balance between given detail and provoked imagination. If you are worried that the players will not ask the right questions as to discover the important details such as the arcane marks or missing stones from the wall, this is where you utilize a little trick. If the players ask the right questions, then they get the right answers and feel accomplished in doing so. If not you take the opportune moment to bring it up yourself. For example. When a player says “OK I move slowly over towards the arch way”, you can then interject by saying “as you get closer your eyes are drawn to strange markings carved into the stone above the arch”. These skills can make a huge difference in your ability to set the right mood and will get a different reaction when delivered in this way than if you just explained them as part of the initial description.

In the second part of this series we will talk about using your voice, and about being animated, as well as other aspects of story telling.

Happy Gaming………..

Understanding your job as the Dungeon Master.

understanding_DM

You are probably reading this topic from one of two different stand points. Either you are wanting to become or are a New Dungeon Master, or you think you already know what it is to be a Dungeon Master and are just curious to read what I have to say about the subject. In the first case hopefully I can enlighten you as to what a Dungeon Masters job really is. In the second case you will either be agreeing with me or I will be reeducating you!

This topic is not aimed at telling you how to perform each duty or action or improve it. It is instead aimed at telling you what your duties are and pointing out pitfalls. The items bellow will be covered in depth individually in other posts at other times.

So lets begin.

I know more “Dungeon Masters” than I care too, if I use this term loosely. However as it is used as a title, or to describe a position at the gaming table it really is a little misleading. The word master is often misconstrued in this situation as it implies excellence. If I take the word in the title to mean excellent, then I would say I know very FEW Dungeon MASTERS!

So many people decide to become Dungeon Masters, or are nominated to take on the role, and they never really learn about the task they are undertaking. Yes they have a conception of what a Dungeon Master is, but they usually do not fully realize what it truly entails.

The biggest and first mistake that many fledgling Dungeon Masters make is in not understanding their primary responsibility. They become so empowered by the position that they buy into this the “Dungeon Master is GOD” ideal. This could not be more wrong. In fact the Dungeon Master is a servant! The Dungeon Masters primary job is to serve the players and provide them with the best story and game session he can. It is a position of responsibility and trust. If you are going to expect people to spend a valuable currency on a product that you are going to deliver, you should be ethical enough to provide the best darn product you can. The currency is time and the product is your game session! I cringe when I hear Dungeon Masters brag about how their encounter stumped their players. Or scoff at how dumb they thought their players were when it came to solving a problem. Yes as a Dungeon Master you have a power. One that most will abuse!

Those that know me have probably heard me say the following statement at some point. “As a Dungeon Master, you are there to serve the players, and not the other way around”!

Yes you are the referee and adjudicator but that is only a duty and responsibility that you take on. When you decide to become a Dungeon Master you are taking on a work load. If you think you can just spend an hour or two reading books, scribbling down notes and throwing together adventures for your players to bumble through, well you are going to be one of the masses of piss poor Dungeon Masters out there. Is this how you run a game? Could you be better prepared? A hard thing to do in life is to examine yourself and your skills and be honest about it. Yet to be a Good Dungeon Master you must.  My first experience as a Dungeon Master was in October 1980. After a couple of years and a few campaigns under my belt I used to think I was a good Dungeon Master. I was wrong. A decade later I thought I was a veteran Dungeon Master as I had over a decade of experience. I was still wrong! Yes I was better than I had been, and I continued to learn and improve, but then I was a fanatic about improving. I played every second I could, and I was never ashamed or so proud as to refuse to learn from those that had more experience or had put more hours in. Here I am over thirty three years later as a Dungeon Master, with thousands of hours invested and only the last decade do I really think I have honed my craft. Paid offers to write adventures for people or come and run games for them now come due to the opinion that I actually know what I am talking about. Well for the most part I do but I still come from the stand point of opinion. My way is not the only way, but it is a tried, tested and proven way.

Before I continue about what the real job of a Dungeon Master is, lets look at some of the mistakes that lead to being a poor Dungeon Master or worse!

The worst kind of so called Dungeon Master is that idiot that thinks he is playing against the players. He tries to defeat them, even if not obviously or openly. He gets of on beating them. This is the moron that brags about how his encounter defeated his players or how they miss used a spell or screwed up the use of a wish. They even enjoy being viewed as a bit of a tyrant. I have zero respect for this type of Dungeon Master and do not entertain them, yet more of them exist than you would realize. If you can be honest with yourself know you are guilty of any of this, STOP IT NOW or go back to playing! This is the Anti Dungeon Master. A good Dungeon Master never tries to serve his own ego and plays WITH the players to tell the story, and not against them.

Another failing that some Dungeon Masters have is in poor preparation. They think they can wing it, and for over ninety five percent of them they are wrong. Yeah they may get through a session but they really are robbing their players of the quality game that they deserve. They fail to read a published adventure thoroughly before running it, or just come to the table with a scrap of notes and just do not have the talent or experience to fill in the blanks as they go. A good Dungeon Master is studious and well prepared.

Others are inconsistent. They change the rules to frequently or apply them differently to the players and Non Player Characters or monsters. Or they change their play style or try to emulate a style that is just not inline with their personality. A good Dungeon Master is consistent and learns his OWN style.

Some lack communication skills and do not talk to their players about the game outside of the game itself. They feel the players should just go along with whatever they line up and are oblivious to realizing what the players may actually want from the game. A good Dungeon Master talks to his players.

Some lack personality and are a little self conscious . While you can be a good technical Dungeon Master without much personality, I will argue you will be missing the ability to bring real depth and emotion to your game. Their is a reason that not everyone should be a Dungeon Master. Many should not. At the very least they should play to their strengths and accept their lack of certain skills. This is not to say that they should not attempt to acquire new skills or improve, but they should not try be who they are not. For example. I voice act almost all of my Non Player Characters, and use my voice to perform sound affects for monsters. I pull funny faces and really try to “become” the characters I present. I am comfortable with this and have some skill at it. Many I see try to do this with awkwardness, or inconsistency and to be honest it takes away from their game instead of adding to it. Not everyone is comfortable doing this or has a talent for it. If this is the case they should not do it. Instead they should focus on aspects or skills that they do have. They should also find players that are OK with a more technical game.

In order for you to be able to perform your duties to the best of your abilities you must establish a trust. Your players must trust you to always be fair and even handed. They have to believe that you will not alter the rules you put in place, and that you will be consistent. If you do alter a rule they should understand why you have done so, and know that it applies to everyone. They should know that you do not play favorites and will treat each player equally. They should be able to trust that you have done your homework, and prepared the game you offer them to the best of your ability. Above all they must trust that you will not abuse your position or in anyway serve your own ego or try to compete with them.

From time to time some situations will arise where opinions differ, or something happens in such a way that you and the players may disagree. Maybe there is a conflict between players. A rule may have more than one interpretation or may be misconstrued. In these situations you are the one expected to make a decision and adjudicate. To be able to do this and have your ruling respected you again must have established trust with your players. They have to know that your decision is based solely on the nest interests of the game and was made impartially and fairly. You are not the judge, jury and executioner. You are the even handed council that ways everything before making a decision. You should also have the social skills to never belittle a player at the table or reprimand them.

Being a Dungeon Master you are expected to know the rules. The rules are vast, so knowing each and every little detail is not realistic or necessary, but the rules that pertain to running a good flowing game is necessary for any decent Dungeon Master. The less you have to pick up a book and research something during the game session the better, so try to minimize this.

It is also your job to be the lead in telling the story. As Dungeon Master it is not your soul responsibility to tell the story, but you are the one who guides it along and manages it. The players have equal responsibility when it comes to the story, but you are expected to drive it. Being a great story teller is a skill and one that you should strive to improve or acquire.

You need to be creative. Especially if you want to make and run your own adventures, or build your own world. You need experience to do these things well so it is a good idea to run several published adventures first. If you do decide to run published material then READ IT! do not just skim over it, read it all and make sure you understand the flow of the adventure from start to finish. Do not just read the first few chapters and think that its enough to cover the next gaming session. If you do not understand the end you can not appreciate the beginning or the journey and you will fail and let down your players.

One final skill that any good Dungeon Master should have or learn is to SELL. Learn to sell yourself to your players and sell them the story. Make them believe in your world and believe in you as their Dungeon Master. You want to feel pride when your players refer to you as “their Dungeon Master’ and not as “A Dungeon Master”. I get messages on face book, or on twitter often from players reminiscing about games past. I feel great pride when a player from twenty years ago says that they still have not had a Dungeon Master since provided the same level of game as I had done. This is mostly due to the work I was willing to put in.

The most important thing any Dungeon Master can learn and realize is that he is only there to provide the game for the players. Yes this within itself is fun and rewarding, so it is not like a thankless and laborious task with little reward, but he is not there FOR his or her own fun. Selfish people make poor Dungeon Masters. This is a fact I have come to realize over the past three plus decades. Egotistical people make poor Dungeon Masters too. At least those who allow their ego to compete with the players.

Some people make (what I refer to as) good “technical” Dungeon Masters. They have a great grasp on the rules, the game mechanics and are walking encyclopedias about the subject. This being said they may lack a little of the personality to really bring the game to life. Others make great “immersion” Dungeon Masters. They have a talent for really bringing the game to life and pulling their players into their world on a deeper level, even if they are not walking rules lawyers. Some are both. Not many are suited to be both, but those that are are the potential GREAT Dungeon Masters.

Now for a quick rant.

What I am about to say may sound harsh, but with new media outlets to play Dungeons & Dragons online, I am able to observe many more games being played and many more Dungeon Masters at work than I was once able. I am typically disappointed. My disappointment does not stem from those that I view having a lack of experience, but in the lack of effort put forth or in how weak the story telling and prep work obviously is. There are a few that I enjoy however and a couple are fairly new to the task. Most unfortunately, come across as fumbling novices that would do better to concentrate on playing the game in private and improving their skills, rather than trying to broadcast it. This being said Dungeon Mastering over a virtual tabletop is very different than around the physical table. I have discussed this in another topic you can find here. This is not the reason why I do not care for them however. I feel that to many today see Dungeons & Dragons as a pen and paper version of a video game and not as a story telling social experience. The substance of their games are hack and slash, or weak story plot lines held together by combat encounters. As such few Dungeon Masters seem to bother to acquire or improve many of the skills we discussed above. If this is what you want from your game of course, that is your prerogative it just is not for me. As mentioned earlier everything comes from a stand point of opinion. Mine just comes from one with a wealth of experience and decades of hard work……