Thursday, April 30, 2009

Dungeonmaster Notes

There are a few different "types" of Dungeon Master that play the game. Now, for those not-in-the-know, the Dungeon Master is the person who runs a specific game of Dungeons & Dragons. The players each have one character (or possibly more) that they control in a specific game, and the Dungeon Master controls all the other characters (called Non-player Characters), all the monsters, and pretty much everything that goes on in the world. They are the Writer and Narrator of the story, and the Referee during fights (between the characters and the monsters, not between the players. ;) ).

Two types I've already mentioned:

1) The Killer DM. This type sets themselves up as the adversary of the group. "Oh, so you beat those 12 orcs, huh? Well, let's see how you do against 20 OGRES!!" Typically they are quite stingy with the treasure too... you fight those 20 Ogres and you might get a few silver pieces out of it. They favor a gritty style of play, to my experience, with broken bones and missing limbs, so hit-location tables and critical hit tables seem to be favored by them. This type of DM can be alright for awhile, especially if you're just interested in "one-off" games, rather than campaigns, but eventually you get tired of never being able to progress a character... since unless you're incredibly lucky, or Batman (he's always prepared for everything), you'll never survive to the end of the module.

Honestly, I don't think there's any redemption for the Killer DM. People eventually just stop playing with them. That's what we did. Eventually we just told Steve we weren't playing in any more of his games. He offered to increase the amount of treasure in the games, but we pointed out that there wasn't much use for that, since we'd never survive to do anything with it. So, he became a player after that (and a rather disruptive one, unfortunately).

2) The Monty Haul DM. Yes, that's a deliberate misspelling of Mr. Hall's (stage)name. This type of DM is all about the treasure... the more you get, and the more fantastic it is, the more satisfying it is for him or her. Typically this type of DM learns this behavior from the Ooo's and Aaah's they get from their players about treasure and magic items, and they want to please their players, so they give them more. However, the rewards are typically quite larger than the risks... "Okay, the two goblins are dead, what do we find? A +5 Holy Avenger and 4000gp, plus the crown jewels?!"... and so it eventually becomes tired after awhile. You know that commercial with the poor man who has the Skittles Touch? It's like that... but not with skittles, 'cause skittles are ass. Yeah, I could have talked about King Midas, but why, when I have such an obvious pop-culture reference to draw upon... plus the opportunity to diss Skittles. :)

There is redemption for the Monty Haul, though. I was one when I first started. It just takes a bit of maturing, and realizing that it's okay to make the players fight for their rewards... and that the rewards don't have to be as fantastic (but still keep 'em good). I think I recall it being a tough transition, as I think the guys were expecting a good haul again, but eventually it all evened out. Danny, though, wow, his games were FULL of crazy shit.

My characters alone had: Glamdring (Alron), Orcrist (Geldan), Stormbringer (Geldan), "Diamond-alloy" armor (Alron), Nenya - the elven ring that Gandalf wore (Alron), two "sun-swords" - ever seen Thundarr the Barbarian? (Clarissa)... Alron flew in a spaceship, it was some kind of fighter, maybe like a Colonial Viper from the old Battlestar Galactica, now that I think about it. Crazy stuff.

I should explain Diamond-alloy, I think. This was a creation of Danny's, wherein, through magical forces, iron is infused with the strength of diamond. In the game there are several "special" metals, arranged by strength: Meteorite Iron, Mithral, Adamantite. Diamond-alloy topped 'em all. I always had the view in my head of this being crystaline armor, with facets and the like, but I guess it would be more like iron that shimmered as if it had tiny flecks of diamond in it (and it probably did). An interesting idea, but pretty funky at the same time. :)

3) Hack & Slash. This is another one of those that's not so bad, if you're just looking for a one-off adventure. This is typically how we played to start. Little or no story involved. We just swung swords and flung spells. One big slaughterfest with big treasures at the end. Nothing particularly wrong with that, but it does get a little tired after awhile. Ho, hum, another randomly thrown together dungeon with little to no reason or consequence. Why is there a dragon in the 30'x60' room, next to the 30'x30' room with the beholder? Who cares! Kill 'em both! It was kinda like a game of pirates, really. To paraphrase Barbossa: "Kill 'em all. Take what you can. Give nothing back."

4) Pretty much everyone else. Easily the most generally rewarding kind of play. A good mix of evil creatures to fight, mixed with the right amount of story and roleplaying, with excellent but appropriate rewards at the end, and usually all with a purpose in mind, and with your character's continued survival being the best interest of both player and DM. I didn't encounter much of this type until high school. I'd probably put Craig down as the closest up until then, but we didn't really run a lot of campaigns at the time. It was just mostly one-shot modules or adventures, so the story and purpose really didn't matter, overall.

Next post... I'm levelin' up!


  1. I always had the view in my head of this being crystaline armor, with facets and the like, but I guess it would be more like iron that simmered as if it had tiny flecks of diamond in it (and it probably did).So ... what you're saying is you had Edward Cullen armor? Iiiiinteresting. =D

  2. See, I thought about that when I was writing it. :D