I'm a published Freelance RPG writer for the now-defunct Iron Kingdoms d20 RPG; I'm a combat veteran of 2 tours in Iraq and (so far) 5+ years in the US Army. I'm a gamer and Game Master of 19+ years. I've found that my military experience as well as running games for military folks has shaped my views of RPGs, and GMing in general, over the past 5+ years.
This blog is my way of getting my ideas and words out there to people who might want or need a fresh way to look at gaming, or to provide tools and good advice to new or experienced GMs. I hope you enjoy. I think it's going to be a fun ride. --Jason
Hmmm...An interesting read and I agree to a large extent but I'd say, as an old school DM myself, that I'd handle some aspects differently.
Now I think you hit the nail on the head when you noted that, for the DM, your the star when the game itself is completely engaging. Hence a DM that is focused on making the players do what he thinks is fun is not usually a great plan.
The gist of your argument would seem to be that you should provide your players with the things that they like to do. On the surface that seems like great advice but I'd be careful with the concept. Players often don't know what they want and its very possible to provide them with what they think they want and have that turn into a lousy campaign.
In a historical sense the Monty Haul style of game from yesteryear was basically an attempt by DMs to give the players what they wanted and yet its usually not really a lasting way to play the game - to a great extent because what most players really want, in my experience, is to be challenged, to swear at the DM, and to persevere and finally overcome.
I notice that you seem to include advice to make the encounters cater to the player in with advice to try and make the campaign suit the players . I don't see these as being the same thing at all. If you have a Deva player character that wants to be a leader of men then I'd say try and work that in. But I'm much more leery about your encounter design advice.
Designing encounters to show off different players abilities strikes me as a very inauthentic way to play the game. On some level think your players are going to pick up on that and its going to, eventually, reduce their sense of accomplishment not to mention their suspension of disbelief in the campaign world. Instead I suggest that the DM focus on making the encounters true to themselves. Because any DM is going to make varied encounters the players will naturally be awesome in some of them and less awesome in others. The wizard will be able to slaughter minions in encounters where minions are present and the minions will be present in some encounters because encounters are designed to be varied and because the plot line or story of the adventure will be such that it makes sense for minions to be present here. I feel this is a better method of encounter design then one in which the players take turns being awesome - because, eventually, the players will figure out that the Paladin was awesome last encounter so its the mages turn to be awesome this encounter and that style of thinking by the players will, in the end, detract from the game itself,
None of this is to say that you should not design encounters with interesting tactical challenges, you absolutely should, its designing them with your players character sheets in front of you that concerns me here. I'm a player in a Scales of War campaign (I DM an Age of Worms game) and its been awesome so far, lots of interesting challenges and I suspect that I'd actually be less happy if I figured out that the DM was catering to us - I currently know he's not because the Scales of War AP was not designed for my group - it was simply designed dto be good. Some of the encounters are very challenging for our group where other groups might find them easier and vice versa because of the specific design of our group and honestly that adds to the fun - it also adds to our out of character discussions on tactics. We understand that the world does not cater to us and it forces us to think about how we should mitigate our groups weak points and try and show off what it is we do well as a group. Its been a blast and I'm pretty sure we'd enjoy things less if it felt as if the world new our character sheets and was designing itself to cater to our strengths and weaknesses.
Wherein I discuss sex, violence, religion, and everything else NOT to talk about in your game!
Kicking yet another Sacred Cow in the jubblies, just to see how it jumps.
Glad to see you finally took the plunge and went out and made a map of your homebrew. Gimp really is an amazing program and what's most awesome about it is you'll learn new tricks and ways of doing things every single time you sit down with it. Furthermore while your skills may never land you a job as a professional artist you'll probably find, as I did, that the basic skills have actually come in handy a number of places in real life.
Its pretty shocking how even the most untalented of us can put together pretty sweet looking material with a bit of elbow grease in GIMP. My personal favourite feature in gimp is how you can press the shift key and get straight lines - before I found Gimp nothing in my homebrew had straight lines.
I like your last article as a player and a DM, there are so many basic truths that are revealed. I even chuckled over the rules lawyer section, and how the table reacted to a new players acrobatic feat, under new players encourage your GM to say yes. I often find I do the exact oposite (to control game flow), but it gives me a frame of reference should I decide differently.
In addition to random encounters, I believe there would be a benefit to add some more formulas to the standard monster generation based on character level, to include varied encounters. Too often the DM is caught following recommendations in the DM guide explicity , versus mixing up the encounter with more creatures (excluding minions). I guess another way to put it, is get out of the 1 room = 1 encounter business, and get into the 3 or more rooms (areas) as one encounter, where you may have to place more creatures or traps of lower level difficulty, that will present a challenge over time. It is the mix of standard set encounters, random encounters, and variations of those choices that will keep players on their toes. This also allows the DM to start considering skills challenges as part of recovering resources, the main one being healing surges. So if the characters decide to penetrate the thiefs guild, part of the challenge is finding time to rest.