Now you be DM

There’s been an interesting division of labour at my gaming table ever since we played 4e. The players now have to carry their fair share of the rules, and vitally, the narrative.

I can only hold so much of the game in my head. I’m a committed DM and I’m not often lost for a rule or a ruling. Powers and feats are a different matter. I tap out at about 5th level (less if its an exotic class). From that point on, its up to the player to tell us all how it works. This is where 4e diverted from so many other RPGs. There was a time where the rules were largely DM only (1st ed? Combat rules in the DMG) but 4e spreads that load.

I’m not sure players know how much power that gives them, and if they do, the responsibility that comes with it.

For example, Steve plays a fighter. Some of his powers are obscure, so he reads out the rules from the card. And leaves it at that. That’s great for clarity (vital in a tactical game), not so great for flavour.

Example the second, Claire plays a wizard. Her powers have crazy names. She describes them with hand gestures and monster insults. Great for flavour (vital in a story game), not so great for recording damage.

The answer of course is to do a bit of both. I have to from my side of the screen. Crucially, I know this, it comes in the DM training manual, and from years of experience. Players don’t get this instinctively, why would they?

So, its important to say what the game needs. It needs the DMing to move with the initiative count.



Filed under RPG

3 responses to “Now you be DM

  1. I don’t think it’s, specifically, an issue with 4e as I’ve had it occur in a number of games I’ve run (and played in). Savage Worlds, for example, has quiet a few Edges and, although I’ve read the rules quiet a lot, I can never remember them all so rely on the players to remind me when the need arises.

    Likewise, you’ll always, regardless of game system, have players who “hit them with my axe using my Sweep Edge” and players who “bring my axe around, roaring expletives, and swing it around myself attempting to hit everything near me”. Personally, I’d rather have more of the latter (and have to quickly follow up with a “what does that do?” question) than the former.

  2. Argh! I hate mixing up quiet and quite! Sorry about that 😦

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