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Your Players Are Smarter Than You



This should be rule number one of being a GM.

Your players are smarter than you.

Always remember this. It’s sometimes easy to forget. You, as GM, have fantastic cosmic powers, after all. You’re the creator of worlds, destroyer of parties, lord of all you survey.

But your players are still smarter than you.

They will find that plot point you haven’t reasoned out all the way. They’ll find that loophole in the NPC’s deal that lets them have an all-expenses paid trip. They’ll reason their way out of having to fight your big bad and reap the XPs without having to shed a single a hp.

Because, in the end, your players are smarter than you.

And this is a good thing.

Smart players keep you on top of your game, for one thing. If you’re constantly striving to keep ahead of that hive mind of good ideas then you’ll hone your own mind in the best way possible. It will only make you a better GM. Of course, it comes at a cost. Temporary sanity. Your pride. But, in the end, you can probably live without these things and be a better GM.

For another thing, good role-playing is like improvisation. The right answer should always be “Yes, and…” Everyone should be having a good time. Good ideas should be rewarded, not punished. This is where GM pride can be crushed. In the end, it’s not the GM’s game, but the players’. And that can hurt. But in the end, the game is generally better for it.

A recent game session recently was, shall I say, interesting. I had a scenario that I thought was pretty interesting. As I started putting the PCs through it, they started throwing out some other ideas–ideas I hadn’t considered–ideas better than mine. At first it stung–I was afraid I had put out a sub-par product for them, something I try not to do. I never want to put out a lame adventure for my friends. But as I started to go roll more with what they were doing, I think (I hope) they were still having a good time–and that is the bottom line of the game.

Letting your players be smarter than you can save a lame scenario that may not be as well thought out as it could have been. It can elevate your campaign. Even if it stings the pride more than an elven-forged blade sometimes.

DnDnG: Dungeons and Dragons and Girls



This awesome documentary by Meredith Jacobson shows that girls can get into the “the world’s greatest role playing game” as well as boys–and boys can actually handle that fact, as well. Awesome stuff.

I’m actually privileged in that I get to play with my wife. She’s probably one of my most enthusiastic players. I love it. Now if I can just get her to game master…

DnDnG: A Short Documentary from Meredith Jacobson on Vimeo.

Happy Gary Gygax Day!


It’s Gary Gygax Day 2014. Here’s a commemoration of the man I wrote awhile back. Hope you enjoy it and sling a few dice today in the great man’s honor.

Originally posted on Master of the Game:

Gary Gygax

Today we celebrate the man that, in the minds of most RPGers, started it all…Mr. Ernest Gary Gygax. I wrote the following on another social media service to commemorate Mr. Gygax’s death back in 2008. What held true then continues to do so now, so I thought it appropriate to reprint it here:

In the 1970s, Gygax (with his friend, Dave Arneson) created the game Dungeons & Dragons (aka D&D).  It began as an off-shoot of the medieval table-top minature game “Chainmail“.  They added supplemental fantasy rules to this battle simulation game.  These rules expanded into the quintessential role playing game (RPG), Dungeons & Dragons.

Now, D&D, in some ways, was a flawed game.  Nearly every group that ever played came up with house rules to cover things not DnD Boxaddressed by the rules or to allow for players to perform unanticipated feats of daring-do.  I have…

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A Summer of Dungeons & Dragons

Player's HandbookYesterday, the interwebz were abuzz with the release schedule for the newest iteration of the venerable, and ever popular, Dungeons & Dragons. Wizards of the Coast is launching the new 5th edition of the game throughout the summer (and into fall). Below are some links to some pretty good wrap-ups of all the news:

Dread Gazebo: Everything to Know About Upcoming D&D 5e Releases

io9: Everything You Need to Know About the Dungeons & Dragons Relaunch

CNN: 40 years later, ‘Dungeons & Dragons’ still inspiring gamers

Like so many others, Dungeons & Dragons was how I broke into the hobby. I cut my teeth on the old “Red Box” set back in the ’80s and progressed to AD&D and then 2nd Edition in my teens and early 20s. Recently, I’ve been playing a 3.5e campaign with my friends and have been enjoying it very much. I never played 4e, but didn’t hear a lot of good things about it. Still, I find myself more than a little excited about the notion of a new version of the game I love coming out for their 40 anniversary.

It looks like the game will just be marketed as “Dungeons & Dragons”, not “5e” or “Next”, as had been the play-test version. It also looks like the core rulebooks are going to be released not only separately, but months apart. This is supposedly to avoid production problems that apparently plagued the release of 4e, resulting in a lot of post-publication errata being released. I’m not sure how that’s going to enable people to start digging in and playing, but the D&D R&D guy, Mike Mearls, has indicated that “You will not need the MM or DMG to run a campaign. Or the PH or Starter Set to make a character.” It’s not clear at this time how that will work–will there be online tools to use (like Pathfinder’s “Pathfinder Roleplaying Game Reference Document“)?

Another point of controversy is the price point of the core rulebooks: $50.00 apiece. Will this price it out of the range of teens…or even dollar-conscious adults? Many games now release with a single core rulebook at $50.00. Supplemental materials are always available (of course), but you can generally hit the ground running with just the $50.00 investment. The books are gorgeous and, no doubt, chock-full of useful information. It will be interesting to see if the price ends up being more of a turn-off for fans.

At any rate, I hope Wizards does well with the release. They have a venerable and much-loved property in their care and I hope they prove to be up to the task.

A Dispatch from the War on D&D



I came across this article the other day and re-posted it on my Tumblr site. It’s a great look back to the “bad old days” in the early 1980s when the “D&D is Demonic” fervor was at its height. If you haven’t read it already, I highly recommend it.

I remember these days and the fervor. I grew up hearing about all the various means that one could get themselves involved in satanic worship. There was rock and roll (of course)–one need only join the KISS Army (Knights in Satan’s Service) to fight the good fight. Or even AC/DC (“Anti-Christ/Devil’s Children”). There was He-Man and the Masters of the Universe. There was even the Smurfs. And, of course, Dungeons & Dragons. The satanic/suicide panic against the game grew so out of proportion that even the esteemed news magazine 60 Minutes seemed to take it seriously.

Though I hadn’t really started playing until the mid-to-late 80s (man, that was a while ago), I still came across the fear of the game in the small, rural, North Texas town where I found myself going to high school. I would hear and read about all the supposed satanism in the game we played, though those descriptions never matched the fun and imaginative game I was playing. When I was playing regularly, I found myself approached by a concerned relative who gave me a copy of The Devil’s Web by Pat Pulling, hoping that I would read it and realize the error of my ways and the danger surrounding my hobby. I heard so much about these supposed dangers that I used them as the topic of the research paper I wrote for my junior-year English class. My teacher even managed to secure me a copy of Dungeon magazine to use as a source–though, she cautioned me that “this didn’t mean I should start playing the game.” I simply smiled and said “I already do” and continued on my merry way. I also remember reading about the upcoming new edition of AD&D (what came to be knows as 2nd Edition), and being disappointed that TSR had compromised against the backlash by changing their “demons” into these other races. It felt like a sell-out to me, a defeat against the onslaught of crazy.

Throughout the scare, my mom never voiced a single concern about me. She knew that I was a bright, relatively well-adjusted, teen with a vivid imagination. I had spent my entire childhood concocting adventures to play in and this was just a continuation of that. She trusted me. That is something that I’ll always appreciate and treasure.

And now we find ourselves in the Era of the Geek. Many of the things that I loved, and still love, things that cemented my identity as a “geek” and an outsider, are now mainstream culture. The satanic fever dreams of the 80s are now seen as the mob-induced panic attacks that they were. And, of all things, the grandfather of all RPGs is now produced by a multi-million dollar toy company. The game has thrived and is forty-years strong. It’s kind of a heady feeling. And a hobby that I am still proud to be a part of.


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