Friday, January 13, 2017

"d100 Dungeon Master Tips" Critiqued - Volume 1: #s 18, 27, 37

In a moment of profound boredom, I was exploring Dragon+, WotC's digital "magazine" (which is mostly them pimping their latest adventure or tie-in product, but hey). One of their more recent issues (the one with an Acquisitions Incorporated cartoon on the cover) contained an article called "d100 Dungeon Master Tips" (tabletop gamers and their d100 tables!) by one Mike Shea. I skimmed through a fair chunk of the tips: a few were helpful, some were drop-dead obvious, and many were off-base.

But, what matters for our purposes is not whether they're "good" or not, but that they give me a springboard to talk about a fair spread of concepts that matter in a concise format!

So, we're gonna try rolling up three of these "tips" every Friday at 5 and see what there is to be said. Here goes!

#18: "Before you begin adding or modifying your own rules, try running the rules as written to get a strong feel for them. Ask yourself if a particular house rule would really make the game more fun."

This is actually fairly solid advice. Bolting on half-baked house rules to a system that you don't understand is a good way to wreck yourself. (Not that I haven't tried - and sometimes succeeded!) It is also worth emphasizing that house rules shouldn't  be added just for increased realism or broadened options UNLESS this causes increased fun.

#27: "Even for combat-heavy game sessions, insert interesting pieces of history, rumors, or secrets that the characters can learn."

Understand your game world, O GM. If you have a good handle on what's going on beyond the scope of the players' narrow spotlight, it makes it easy to introduce broader bits of lore to your players and enrich their understanding of the setting. If your group gets off to that sort of thing. (I know not all do.)

#37: "Even something as simple as a quick sketch can help players understand the nuances of a combat encounter."

Ehh, not WRONG, but not a HELPFUL tip, either. Honestly, if you're running the kind of game where a player has to have a firm grasp of the relative positions of each and every combatant, you might be spending more time counting squares and gnawing nails over opportunity attacks than you need to. Combat should be as fast and fluid as you can manage, with considerations like terrain and positioning being simple and clear-cut enough to enrich the experience without needing much of a cognitive load. I usually find visual portrayals of an encounter to be extraneous, but mileage may vary for you and your group.

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