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D&D 3E
A New Low 
20th-May-2007 01:22 pm
Y'know, I have pretty low expectations about the articles that appear on the WotC D&D website. And the "Save My Game" column, in particular, has been a lot of unhelpfulness. But the recent article, at http://www.wizards.com/default.asp?x=dnd/sg/20070518 , struck me as the silliest position I've seen come out of the official D&D folks since way back in the 80's, when Gygax castigated people for running games that didn't adhere to the letter of the rules.

In case you're curious, the Wizards columnist is castigating a DM for running a game that adheres to some rules, but not others. (In particular, the unnamed DM is using the "variant: freeform experence" rules on page 39 of the DMG.) The column calls him a hypocrite, among other unfriendly names, and suggests that the players tell him he's out of a job.

How is this column helpful?
20th-May-2007 06:42 pm (UTC)
It isn't. If the players aren't having fun, they need to tell the GM. If they're going to cite rules at his face -- which happens fairly often -- it's not a bad idea to say "have your reference."

Nobody likes flipping through "reference books" in the middle of a game.
20th-May-2007 07:02 pm (UTC)
Were they supposed to be helpful? I thought they wrote them just so they could claim that they were responding to their customers' complaints without ever actually doing anything about it.
20th-May-2007 08:20 pm (UTC)
If someone is seriously asking the sort of questions they answer, the answers are probably helpful to them.

They usually seem to have some good advice mixed in, and it seems to be pretty much for beginners to help them get more confidence.

The particular one you referenced was pretty damn bad though; although again, if you haven't realised you need to tell your GM you're not enjoying the way things are going perhaps someone does need to tell you. It seems like a lot of basic conflict resolution advice that applies everywhere.

I don't think the column is designed to help out people who are older and more experienced-that's what fora such as this are for:>
20th-May-2007 08:46 pm (UTC)
You know, there are a ton of posts on the Wizards boards that basically amount to player-DM disagreement. And the answer is almost always "sit down and talk about it." You'd think this would be obvious, but the number of people asking what they should do suggests that either a) it isn't obvious or b) people are stupid.

And frankly asking for paragraph and sentence number for some cases but not for others does seem slightly off. I can understand asking for a reference to a rule, but for the exact paragraph? It seems like if you're going to be that anal, it makes sense to be anal about the suggested XP tables as well. I'm not suggesting that free-form XP is bad (which yeah, the author shouldn't have implied. Bad author), but being fanatical about some rules and not others does strike me as being not right in some way. Also "You'll level up when I'm ready" isn't exactly kosher--"You'll level up at the end of the adventure" or "you'll level up when you've had some downtime" is much better. The way the poster relates it, the DM sounds like he's doing it more as a power-trip than for any other reason.

But the XP thing isn't the issue in this article. The issue is that the players aren't having fun, and the poster decided to use the XP thing as an example of why. It might not be a good example, but I'm sure that's all it is. An example. It's only a part (probably a small part) of why that player isn't having fun. And the answer to the "I'm not having fun question" is exactly what the article suggests: sit down and talk about it.

I wouldn't get too upset about it. I think giving people advice that really should be common sense is more difficult than it seems (especially when you have to stretch that to the length of a web article).
20th-May-2007 11:36 pm (UTC)

Whilst I agree the "you must run the game as it is writ" period of Gygax was bat-shit insane (has anyone ever run AD&D1e as it is writ?), I don't think this is the problem here.

From the player's remarks - and as the article points out - the player is having problems with a DM who runs a "rules-tight" game, but then won't explain why this doesn't apply in certain situations.

I found the recommendations would be helpful in the situation; the player's should colletcively raise their concerns with the DM and the DM should consider taking a break and being a player. Sound advice.
21st-May-2007 12:41 am (UTC)
I think you've rather grossly misstated the author's position, the complainant's position, and the (unrepresented) DM's position. If what you wrote as your description of the article is what you actually got out of it, I don't blame you for considering it a waste of time, but I would recommend that you consider re-reading the article.

The author appears to have made some assumptions about the character of the DM, but as an advice columnist, that's almost a requirement, unless you want to water your column down into useless dithering about what the politest, most PC answer is for any number of unknown scenarios.

The issue at hand wasn't that the DM was using freeform experience (which, by the way, is an assumption on your part, as the complainant never specifically mentions the rule being the one in effect - unless, of course, you recognized yourself as the unnamed DM in the article, in which case you would know). The issue is that the DM is, through his style (which, as described, does seem to paint him as something of a hypocrite), removing the element of fun from the players' gaming experience. The advice given, colored by the author's assumptions regarding the DM's personality and playing style, is sound. Note that "telling the DM he's out of a job" is not the only (nor even the first) option given by the author, and is, in fact, the option of last resort.

In my opinion, this is a pretty solid article, given what little the author had to go on (and no, I'm not the author, his editor, nor the complainant, nor anyone with any stake whatsoever in this situation).
21st-May-2007 02:16 am (UTC)
Thank you; I did re-read the article, and here's what I get now:

  • The player complains about the DM on a WotC messageboard. The particular issues (a) he makes us players quote rules we're using, and (b) he breaks rules. Whther the player is right or not, whiny or not, he's certainly dissatisfied.
  • The author takes the complaining player at face value (a poor choice), kvetches in commisseration about the hypocritical DM (a very poor choice) and identifies the problem as a personality conflict (good advice).

You're right, I equated the DM's "your characters get experience as I decide" with the variant "freeform experience" rule. I guess I still do.

You're right, too, that the player's post paints the DM in a bad light. But I admit to being suspicious that the player may be slanting the facts. It doesn't sound like the adventures are too hard for the party level, or that the campaign is boring.

It's just that the player (perhaps, but only perhaps, with some, but only some, of the other players in agreement) wants more experience. (If the DM were giving out levels too fast, I don't think there'd be a complaint.)

Maybe it's just that when I've been a DM, and when someone brings up a rules interpetation that sounds wrong to me, or doesn't jibe with what I remember a rule to be, I'll ask the player to look up the rule and read it to me. (And I'm sometimes right; once in a while the players remember rules wrongly to their own advantage...)

Maybe it's just that I've run pre-written adventures and I know when the module writers intend the characters to advance in level. And I've dealt with players who can't wait to make level, and who grow cranky when they don't. I've used the standard expereince system, sometimes adjusting the encounters if the characters make level before the adventure expects them to, but I can sympathize with someone who runs his game differently.

And maybe it's my irritation that the Wizards author goes beyond the player's stated complaints (the player said that the DM asked for rules references; the author agreed that it was terrible that he asked for "chapter and verse for every rule" ).

Maybe because I disagree so strongly that "If he's not required to meet his own standards, then neither are you." Poppycock. There's a lot of standards I insist my players adhere to (rolling all dice in the open, for example) that I don't meet, because my job in the story is different.

But the author is right in identifying the problem as one of style, and suggesting that the players get together and see how many of them are really bothered. My guess is that the matter might get resolved there, without even bringing the DM into it.
21st-May-2007 02:56 am (UTC)
Thanks for taking another look. To be honest, I didn't exactly trust the player's description of events myself (people are people, after all). Were it my column to write, I probably wouldn't have gone with this particular complaint, due to the lack of info presented. But who knows? Perhaps the author was hard up for inspiration? ;-)
21st-May-2007 03:34 pm (UTC)
Basically, the advice is focused on resolving issues between people. This isn't a game rules problem; it's a social problem.

When people come together to play a game, they have to agree on what the rules will be. Some D&D groups are comfortable with the "DM is God" thing. Some groups want "the written rules are Law." Most groups are somewhere in between.

It is clear from that letter that the players and DM aren't on the same page. It sounds like the DM gave the players the impression that "the written rules are Law" and then pulled a DM fiat moment when he didn't like something. If that's the case, it's a bit hypocritical or, at the very least, confusing to the players. Refusing to give an explanation is just asocial behavior.

The DM isn't special, folks. It's just one of the roles we need to play D&D. If this guy is a great DM -- but an asshole -- then his players can suck it up and play by asshole's rules or someone else can be the DM.

I suspect it's a bit more complicated. Sometimes the DM is also the person who hosts the game and no one else has a suitable place to host a group of players. When that happens, you're "stuck." But grown-ups don't take part in a bad activity just because it's the only one of its kind in town.
21st-May-2007 03:35 pm (UTC)
Oops, that's a general reply, not a response to you, ijason. I just clicked the wrong Reply button!
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