I, God

This week we take a closer look at a recurring theme (Also, give us more questions):

I’m currently GMing a Play-by-Post game, and in a situation where according to my plans a certain NPC should be assassinated, one of the players (a magician, although magic in this gameworld and system is open and not fixed to “spells” or rituals, but is a free-form mental ability, in a Psion sort of manner) attempted to resurrect said NPC.  I told myself I’d let him try, as his Luck attribute was particularly high, and rolled a d20, allowing it if it hit 20.

Of course, it did, and so I allowed him to bring this character back to life.
I later killed the NPC off via different methods, but that’s neither here nor there. I’m just wondering what you’d have done if a player suddenly said “Varis pours all of his magical energy into the dead councilor, in an attempt to resurrect him.”

Gamemasteringly yours,

When considering this query, I think it’s important to ask ourselves one very significant question: How much whining are we willing to tolerate from players?  A lot of my decisions and even some of the house rules I’ve created are made with the express purpose of limiting the amount of whining around me.  The above situation is another spin on a question that’s come up in a lot of my blogs: Player or Story?

I feel like this quandary is one that cannot be overstated.  For the sake of not repeating too much of what I’ve already said in the past, I’m going try and keep this response short (and probably fail), but there are two very important things I want to emphasize.

1) Players are essentially your children, and should be treated as such
2) The Dungeon Master’s Word is always final, so quit complaining

The first one might seem a little condescending, but it’s true, in a figurative, and almost literal sense.  It’s fairly common to hear people referring to DMs as “God”, and we are indeed Gods of our own tiny Universe, but we are also fathers and mothers (at the same time, so get over your preconceived gender roles).  We help birth our player’s PCs as much as they do, and more than that, we provide guidance to our players. 

We have a set of rules they must obey, but we can more or less ignore these same rules whenever we feel like it.  The idea here is that we know better.  We have more information, more knowledge, more experience, etc.  We are the archetypal parent figure shaking a finger at disobediant children, saying “Because I said so.”

To my mind, this is a good thing.  Roleplaying games are games.  The rules are the only thing that set them apart from children playing make-believe.  We’re still a bunch of adults playing make-believe, but at least we have the rules.  We need the rules.  They set us apart from savages and LARPers (the modern day gaming savages.  I realize LARPing has rules, but their complexity isn’t nearly enough for me to not call them savage, and also, I use the word “savage” with the utmost respect to small-scale societies everywhere).

If we can agree we need rules, we can also agree we need someone to enforce them.  Anarchy might work in a government (or the lack thereof), but it doesn’t work with roleplaying games.  We would spend all of our time arguing about rule interpretation and fairness, and would never actually get anything done (which is probably the same thing that would happen in a government system).  Someone has to make the hard decisions so that we can actually play the game and have a good time.

This brings us to number 2.  As the Provider of Law and Bringer of Doom, the DM needs to be respected and (for the most part) obeyed.  If we say something you (the players) don’t like, deal with it.  It’s just a game kids, so don’t get your knickers in a twist or your panties in a knot or your pantaloons in a bind because things didn’t work out the way you wanted them to.  Games go on, just like life.

The main point I’m trying to make here, in a slightly round-about and convuluted way is this: If you have a plan as the DM, and you have no intention of changing that plan (i.e. your NPC must die, and will die), then tell your players tough luck.

I’m all for flexibility, DMing by the seat of your pants and player creativity, but when you know something needs to happen, just let it happen.  There’s nothing wrong with saying, “Sorry, it’s too late to ressurect him, he’s super dead.”  You don’t even have to let the player roll a die.  Or you can let them roll to satisfy their needs, and just have them fail regardless.  The DMs Word is Law.  We are God, the Father, the Mother and our players’ worst nightmare.

Yours in Godliness,
The Dungeon Master

We need more questions! Please submit if you love us. 

If you wish to submit a question to the Dungeon Master, please e-mail them to dungeonmastermind@gmail.com, or you can Tweet me a question by hash-tagging me (#askthedm) in your Tweet. And make sure to review the disclaimer.

You can also see me in action in One Die Short.

This entry was posted in DM Advice, Dungeons & Dragons, Fantasy, Geek Culture, General Roleplaying and tagged , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

8 Responses to I, God

  1. Darren says:

    I like to see the GM’s role in a novel allegory: as that of the editor, book and ink, with the players as co-authors. The book (plotline) allows the authors to write in it, the ink (rules) are the interface through which the authors write their story, and the editor (GM him/herself) is there to reread the stuff at the end and say: “Dude, you can’t base your story on an apocalyptic situation in which robot ninja dinosaurs hunt zombie pirates, smoke their flesh and eat the resulting bacon! That’s just ridiculous!”

    The dice, you ask? Who doesn’t allow for randomness in a storyline? Whenever I write something and I can’t decide between several outcomes, I roll a die to decide. Or I name a snail after each plot possibility and have a snail race.

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