Wednesday, October 7, 2009

What I Want As A DM

I've been thinking a bit lately about Gygaxian archaeology (read the article in the link, some rock solid DMing advice from the dawn of the game) and the line of thought followed to thinking about how cool it would be to have a massive sandbox campaign like the legends of Greyhawk. A legendary, sprawling dungeon. A huge pool of players with multiple characters and parties and solo sessions. DMing for a group of 12 players on a wild expedition for deep level treasure.

And that got me thinking about "What do I want as a DM?" Sure, we want to keep the momentum of the game going and we want enthusiastic players, but it may be a worthwhile exercise to detail one wants in the experience, so here goes:
  • I want a world for weird D&D adventure. Multiple hexmaps full of crazy places, monsters and treasures. Dungeons. City maps. NPCs. Unique monsters. A world that is interesting and "cool" and has some sort of internal logic/faux-realism. I'm not interested in "World Building" at all, my campaign world is a Frankenstein's Monster of a pastiche...and I'm fine with that.
  • I want to have occasional EPIC sessions. All-nighters, drinking soda and coffee by the gallon. Twelve-hour grinds.
  • I want lots of players. They don't have to show up every game, and I don't really wanting to be DMing for 12 people at once. But I like the idea of a large pool of potential players with whomever show's up forming a party.
  • I want a system where anyone can drop in a session and play without involving a bunch of explaining and handholding, also involving installing an invisible force field to keep out "problem" players without awkwardness.
Basically, when I write it down I want to be the "Legendary Greyhawk Gary," yeeesh...maybe I should scale back my dreams!

What I did learn from this exercise is that although I have traditionally run a "cloistered" group (no guests/no watchers/nobody I don't know/that guy can't come back/etc, basically I'm Larry David), perhaps I should "throw the gates open" and allow the "curiosity tourists"/out-of-town friend of a player's/friend-of-a-friend-of-a-player's /"this guy from work" access to the game? The old-school "Whoever shows up plays" principle.

As much as that appeals to my fantasies of being some master "People's DM," there are a couple of issues:
  • The space I game at is small and it is at someone else's residence. Alternate games at a FLGS?
  • Problem players. How to handle them with this sort of "semi-open" game?


  1. Here in Z├╝rich, Switzerland, the shops don't have a gaming space. Booo! If you have a FLGS that will have you, go for it!

    Problem players: I suggest you write something up, add it to your social contract / wiki / new player intro sheet. I also recommend something like this: If you decide you want to quit the game and found that talking to the other people at the table doesn't help, play along for the rest of the session, go home, write a friendly good-bye email, and be done with it. There's no need to argue – sometimes people just don't fit and that's ok. It's the spice of life. Conversely, if I feel it's not working out, I'll do the same thing.

    That is, I like to avoid a loud confrontation. Talk to people, and if that doesn't help, just let everybody know what the procedure is. Nobody will be surprised.

  2. I really, really like this post because I can totally relate with it. If I had a pool of around twenty players life would be superb. Of course that would be after starting with twenty-five players and weeding out the five incorrigibles.

    Problem players have two choices: get with the program or die a lot. Until they leave. Life is a bit too short to waste time gaming poorly.

  3. I hear you on the problem players. They've haunted every attempt at an open game I've run.

  4. Having run that kind of campaign out of the back room of a game store back in the early 90s, and having had all 10 players turn up at once one time, and had the hassle of trying to get rid of problem players... well, I'm only surprised that my bald spot isn't larger than my father's was when he was my age now :P

    Seriously, that's the kind of campaign I wish I could run again - best of luck to ye.

    word verification: blessadd

  5. I don't think you're stretching that far or looking for too much. Have you read about the Western Marches?

    I think it's very doable. Running games at FLGS and joining / starting D&D meetup are both great ways to increase your player base as well as "preview" players to locate the douchebags before you invite them into your house.