Any hints on how to give constructive criticism to a noob DM


Advice

Scarab Sages

Long story short: I was asked to play D&D 4E (against my better judgement) to 'make up the numbers' with my eldest sons gaming group, aged 13-14.

The DM,the same player who, when I ran Master of the Fallen Fortress, killed the unarmed, unarmoured non threatening Pathfinder Society 'hook NPC' was not using a DM's screen, blatantly fudged quite a few to hit rolls against several players and also the weapon that the BBEG totally ass raped us with, a blood drinker axe or something similar 'melts away into nothing, it just disappears'. You should have seen the looks on the other players faces, as we'd been discussing selling it and all buying decent magic weapons and potions etc. I just sat there and gave that wide eyed, then look up to heaven 'I know' look to my son :D

The BBEG missed with an 11 in the second round, but hit my PC with an 11 in the third round!!! No, He wasn't bloodied and the DM says 'he just hits OK?' no explanation, with that teenage sarcasm 'whatever' voice - come on parents, we know the one, right LOL

My son told me last night that he asked the DM, his mate/best pal, why did the weapon melt away? the DM gave this answer, or something similar 'I didn't want the party to have it! 'woah, throwing toys out of the cot' i replied to my son

So....i can simply walk away and not play 4E EVER!! However, my son doesn't really have that option...I suppose I could run the Godsmouth Ossuary and tone it down as a solo adventure, but solo ain't much fun really, is it?

he, the DM, even had the balls to say 'Are you calling me a bad DM?' during one part of the overly long and boring combat encounter (the only encounter lasted nearly two hours!) I should have put subtlety aside and replied yes instead of saying what i did say.

when I GM'd if the monsters miss, the monsters miss I don't reroll for each attack. also I'm pretty sure that you don't have to roll to quaff a potion or did I miss that 'new 4E rule'....?

We've all been there as Noob DM's and I can remember my first ever DM session for CoC, I sucked - if an item looked too powerful I simply gave the monsters something else

I get the impression that the DM has skimmed the rules (the red box blatant old school rip off basic 4E rules), played NWN and watched various youtube vidoes then decided to DM - my son says that 'some things just don't seem to feel right as a player' I suggested he's like the old school DM who DM's to do over, kill, beat, grind the players into dust, not the new type that provides entertainment and reveals the world to the players

After typing all this crap in I've realised two things: Lack of maturity and lack of experience PLAYING with a more experienced GMs DOH!!!

PS need advice pretty quick - my son has friday off school and the DM is planning already. I told my son to tell him we're busy

I even thought of running Microlite20 instead!!!

Shadow Lodge

I would be a little patient (if you can), and see if things work themselves out a little. I'm not sure what the hurry is per se, (no other groups or don't want to offend said bad DM?), but it's a possibility that they might learn from the last game(s) and start improving. Especially if other's are less than thrilled with the game as well.

On the other hand, maybe it would be a better idea to either find another game/group, or simply drop out. How are the other players reacting to the game? Do they have any previous gaming experience? How long have they (and your son) played with the same group? Is your son have more fun than aggrivation?

Scarab Sages

My son also plays with my thursday night Pathfinder group TBH He has stated that he is 'fed up with 4E, it just seems to be combat' Maybe he's right.

I've not yet had chance to question the other players....

My son 'loves' Pathfinder in so much that instead of borrowing my rule book, he wants his own copy!!! Which I'm going to order next week probably


Give it time. After a few sessions he will either realize that he is the only one having any real fun and adjust or your son will lose patience and ask you to run something. Both scenarios are full of Win.
If he still hasn't gotten the point after a couple sessions, see if he'd be interested in playing a game that you or another level headed adult (or even one of his peers, like your son) runs. Teaching by example works in a lot of cases. I remember staying a few weeks with my older cousin when I was in Jr High and playing in his local game. I am not kidding when I say that the next session I had when I got back home a lot of things changed for the better. The thing that helped was my cousin and his friends were constructive in their teaching me the "right" way to play.
Then again, that was back in the 80s. My daughter is only 3, so I have no frame of reference on current older children/adolescents. He could just send a mean text message and that's the last you'll hear from him...


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AntediluvianXIII wrote:
My son also plays with my thursday night Pathfinder group TBH He has stated that he is 'fed up with 4E, it just seems to be combat'

Your son will one day be a champion of men. I don't know if it will be a Wheaties box, a medicinal breakthrough, a solution to the energy crisis, solving world hunger or just having a superhot wife, but I expect great things based on his tastes this early in the ballgame.

Scarab Sages

taepodong wrote:
AntediluvianXIII wrote:
My son also plays with my thursday night Pathfinder group TBH He has stated that he is 'fed up with 4E, it just seems to be combat'
Your son will one day be a champion of men. I don't know if it will be a Wheaties box, a medicinal breakthrough, a solution to the energy crisis, solving world hunger or just having a superhot wife, but I expect great things based on his tastes this early in the ballgame.

I'm hoping he becomes a rock star and asks the band 'Can my old man come in and do few sessions for us as musician, songwriter and sound engineer?' :D

Silver Crusade

AntediluvianXIII wrote:
he, the DM, even had the balls to say 'Are you calling me a bad DM?' during one part of the overly long and boring combat encounter (the only encounter lasted nearly two hours!)

Yes, he is.

Fudging rolls in the open, saying "f!+& you, it's magic" because he want the rules to advantage him but not the players, enforcing stupid rules just because : it's like playing with a guy holding a cheat code button he uses everytime it could mean more fun for him and less for others.
I don't think said teenager will get or use any advice you'll give him, since he doesn't seem to estimate he has anything to learn and is already doing it right. As a player he was apparently an immature dick, and when you give power to a dick, you get an uber jerk. Was' there, saw it.
Being inexperimented isn't bad. Doing mistakes is normal. Not admitting it, being an ass and doing s%%@ty games your players then complain about on messageboards is another matter.

I don't know a lot of things about 4E, but having to roll when drinking a potion seems absolutely stupid, even if it is written if the book - which I doubt. In Pathfinder, you already have to suffer eventual attacks of opportunity when you try to take then drink a potion.

My best advice : see how it turns. Speak with other players to know what they thought about the game. Try speaking about problems and suggesting "common tips" to the DM on how to deal with some situations he expressed difficulties with, like giving powerful loot - while avoiding to make it look like criticism as to avoid susceptibility. The whole "your enemy's weapon just melted, what a shame for you" is fun when the DM knows what he's doing, and is using it to make an encounter more creepy without frustrating players too much... not so much when admitted objective is "I wanted to destroy you but let nothing behind lol". Maybe the guy will change for good and improve, maybe he will ask you to show how you would do it : either case, you win.
If nothing changes ? Find another group. The game is supposed to be fun ; not to be a one-sided variant of Calvinball where you take the balloon in the face during some hours and only the DM gets lolfunpoints. There are a lot of people on these messageboards who have stories of not getting hooked on RPGs because of a bad experience, only to get back at it later and enjoying it in a better environment with other players/DMs.

Shadow Lodge

taepodong wrote:
AntediluvianXIII wrote:
My son also plays with my thursday night Pathfinder group TBH He has stated that he is 'fed up with 4E, it just seems to be combat'
Your son will one day be a champion of men. I don't know if it will be a Wheaties box, a medicinal breakthrough, a solution to the energy crisis, solving world hunger or just having a superhot wife, but I expect great things based on his tastes this early in the ballgame.

I was very hesitant to say anything about that, but I agree. :)


AntediluvianXIII wrote:


The BBEG missed with an 11 in the second round, but hit my PC with an 11 in the third round!!! No, He wasn't bloodied and the DM says 'he just hits OK?' no explanation, with that teenage sarcasm 'whatever' voice - come on parents, we know the one, right LOL

So he's your basic, adolescent power-tripping DM. Lots of kid go through that phase. Hopefully, they grow out of it.

AntediluvianXIII wrote:
My son told me last night that he asked the DM, his mate/best pal, why did the weapon melt away? the DM gave this answer, or something similar 'I didn't want the party to have it! 'woah, throwing toys out of the cot' i replied to my son

Welcome to 4e where the abilities of an NPC aren't necessarily bound up in any equipment that the PCs will recover. 4e's treasure drop design isn't tied to the creature you beat, it's a parcel the DM designs that can, theoretically, be dropped anywhere.

AntediluvianXIII wrote:

he, the DM, even had the balls to say 'Are you calling me a bad DM?' during one part of the overly long and boring combat encounter (the only encounter lasted nearly two hours!) I should have put subtlety aside and replied yes instead of saying what i did say.

<snip>

We've all been there as Noob DM's and I can remember my first ever DM session for CoC, I sucked - if an item looked too powerful I simply gave the monsters something else

Bad DM? Sure. Lack maturity, experience, and understanding of the RPGing process will do that. And that's what the DM should be told, not that he'll suck for all time, just that he needs more experience to be good at DMing, more understanding of the rules, more understanding of his role not just as an adversary trying to assert alpha-dweeb status on his fellow adolescent players but as a guide, ally, and referee in developing a positive gaming experience.


Honestly, I wouldn't play 4e to save my life, but to each his own.

I think the best solution is "show it how it's done" invite the group to play a game you run, for them to see how it "should" be done.

In time, either the othergame will die out, or he will improve it, based on the experience of playing on your table, I've seen it happen before.

Either way, if he asks, you tell the truth, try not to disrupt his game more than he, alone, already does. But don't be all content either, pretending everything is alright isn't nice in any part of life, it leads to disaster.

The real question you should ask to him is "Why are you DMing?" if he says it's for him to have fun, it's wrong and you should try and explain that it's a group activity, everyone has to like it and not be frustrated at the end of a session.


Your son's opinion of 4E could also very likely be colored by how his friend runs the game.

But really, talk to the kid. Any parent should know that kids are in a constant learning struggle with social interactions. ESPECIALLY at 13/14. If you just out and out bail on him, it's going to bruise his ego. And you're an ADULT; you can (or should be able to) handle the social anxiety of having to discuss and uncomfortable subject.

I would go with something along the lines of "The game is more fulfilling when you ensure that everyone at the table is having fun." If he doesn't buy in to that explanation, only at that point would I quit (because why waste time being bored and frustrated?) but, if he's trying, it's going to be worthwhile in the end.

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I'm pretty much posting to agree with Bill Dunn and Gruuuu. And to extend Gruuuu's point, this experience is likely coloring your view of 4e too. I understand a lot of Pathfinder players do not enjoy 4e, but I'm one of the few that likes both, I guess. It is possible, the rules are fine, it's up to the group to provide a good experience.

Xum's "show them how it's done" advice is also pretty good, but the current DM is likely to be defensive about this sort of thing, so you'll need to be tactful in offering it. Try to do it on a different day than he runs normally.


Petty Alchemy wrote:


Xum's "show them how it's done" advice is also pretty good, but the current DM is likely to be defensive about this sort of thing, so you'll need to be tactful in offering it. Try to do it on a different day than he runs normally.

He will be defensive for sure. There's no question there, but that may be a good thing. Competition breeds creation and improvement in some cases, and in time, even cooperative thinking.

But, since he is a child, he may do stuff out of spite, but he will learn from that too, specially if everyone starts enjoying the other game more than his, then he'll see what it means to be an RPG group. Group being key here.

Dark Archive

Ok first I would say the best way to have constructive criticism to the DM would be from your son and any of the people his age. My guess is odds are high the DM resents you being in the group. Likely he knows from your son if he has not played in your games how good you are at things. It also sounds like from what you have said he like hack and slash which is fairly common with younger people.

So any advice needs to come from his peers. I would either get your son the 4e books or a DDI description let him read the rules and perhaps read them with him. Learn the game and then let your son be the one to bring up points when the GM is wrong. Then if they get in a debate about it, you could step in with some neutral reason. Just be sure to praise any thing he is doing right. Such as...

You run interesting combats, but like the others said. The monsters to hit rolls shouldn't change till he is bloodied. I know how easy it is to make a mistake on the math. Since bloodied comes at the half way point why not add in a number before the game so you can easily see when they hit bloodied.

Or something to that effect. Be diplomatic, talk about his strengths, talk about how easy mistakes are made and how you have and do make them yourself. The worst thing you can do is come off like you think you are better than he is. I think that would have the opposite effect.

Your only other option which isn't a bad one is use RL as a excuse to drop the game and let your son and friends work it out of their system. Playing in a game like that might encourage your son to want to run something himself the right way. Which in the long run might be a good thing.

Of course i do have to ask what do the other players think about how the GM is running things and how many others are there playing?


Most of us that GM have several metaphorical fathers from whom we learned our craft. I've learned as much from bad gms in my day as good ones. One thing I wished that I'd learned much much earlier is to make my 'game contract' explicit rather than leaving it implicit. Talking about the expectations, both game and metagame with the players is really helpful in avoiding creating a jarring assumption clash.


I'm no 4E fan, but I don't think you can blame the edition. This stuff is the fault of a bad GM, not a bad designer.


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Do what all Forever GMs must do, week in and week out.

Start running the game.

Be the hero that Gotham deserves.


Ok so small caveat, it is actually possible in 4E for someone to miss and hit with the same roll. Certain powers do provide bonuses to hit. I doubt that is what happened here, but I just wanted to throw that out there. Thats why screens are a good idea, there are things the players dont know and shouldnt know that will make them think they are getting scammed (buffs, special abilties and such).

That said, it sounds like a teenage power trip. Its not a HUGE deal, many of us have been there. I didn't dm alot as a teenager but I definately felt the power trip with characters. I was a woeful munchkin back in my earlier gaming years. I am personally glad i grew out of that. The kid needs a chance to do the same.

I agree with others that the comments on the dm are better served from a peer then from you. No dm wants to be lectured, and regardless of your intent your age makes you an authority figure in the game. This dm likely has some insecurity about his game (hence the blatent fudging and the melting magic item). So if you do speak to him, try to keep it from getting accusatory. Often new dms dont realize this behavior is wrong, and outright criticism will just put them on the defensive.

Either way good luck, and it seems your son at least is well on his way to being an avid gamer. Well done!


AntediluvianXIII wrote:
...with that teenage sarcasm 'whatever' voice ...

I can tell you just from that line. There is nothing that YOU can do. Anything you say will be filtered through the teenager vs. adult conflict. At best he will ignore you. More likely he will get worse for an "I'll show him" moment.

The only chance for a change is from the other players. Probably your son can't even make suggestions now since you were there. He is now suspect.

You can ignore it and see how it goes (that means not groaning and rolling your eyes).
Drop out of the group for a while 'work has me too busy' to see if he can lighten up when it is just the guys together.


Ice Titan wrote:

Do what all Forever GMs must do, week in and week out.

Start running the game.

Be the hero that Gotham deserves.

This!

I always felt that 4e was a lousy MMORPG port to tabletop RPGs. Edition Wars aside, He´s just being a teenager. As someone said before, hopefuly he will grown out of it.

Scarab Sages

Cheers guys...My son will continue for a couple of weeks and see how it goes.

In answer to GM'ing for him, I already have and it ended badly. My son enjoyed Master of the Fallen Fortress and so did he - i did, right up to the killing of the NPC hook character.

I've just deleted a huge paragraph!!! - the penny may have dropped.

1 - his dad is away from home for long periods of time due to working stateside

2 - his mate (my son) regularly RP's with his dad and younger bro.

3 - his mate regularly RP's with ANOTHER group

4 - his mate plays Talisman (remember that old chestnut?) regularly with his younger bro and dad.

5 - his mate regularly goes to muso shows and gets taken to concerts

so....could it be a case of mild 'subconcious' jealousy - I admit to being jealous of my DM when i was a teenager. My parents were lucky if they had £10 at the end of the month and he'd be buying rule books and supp's every saturday.

and this teenager/adult conflict could be from the time I told him 'never to speak to (my youngest son) like that again under this roof' because he's the youngest of three boys and has no XP of having a kid brother.

it may sort itself out...we'll jsut have to wait and see. but the post about the criticismcoming from someoen else is a good to go - i'll get my son to discuss it with the guys ASAP


Some thoughts...

It's not the system, it's the situation. Absolutely, positively, do not be immature yourself and criticize a teens chosen game system, either to his face or behind his back. Just smile and roll dice.

It sounds like you have some baggage with the DM, regardless of gaming and thats coloring your view as well.

It is not your job to fix the situation. That is the absolute wrong tact to take. Just smile, roll the dice, and fill up a seat. Or don't play. This is a time of growth and personal interactions are at the very heart of that growth. Your interference is only keeping the training wheels on longer.


honestly, I'd just talk to the lad (not at or just before a session). you might even pull the "look, I've been playing this since before you were even planned" card, to tell him that he simply isn't doing a good enough job. *but*, remember to make it plain that this is simply due to inexperience, not intelligence or whatever, and that these things will come with time... "but in the meantime, here are some quick tips on how to not suck so much." ;-)


Ok i am late to this party but i will throw this out:
Dm a 3 session game yourself, but not pathfinder, do 4e and make the other players (and that DM if he cares to understand) how things should be done, then there is a chance that the rest of the group will demand things from the other DM.

Scarab Sages

The same tips apply, as when giving constructive criticism on any subject; think of something positive to say, and start with that.
People are more likely to accept the bad news when they know that it's tempered with the good, and you aren't out to totally slate their efforts.

Was there anything good you can comment on?
If there wasn't, and it would stick in your craw to say so, try to think of something positive, that may not be all down to him, but can be read as you getting something from the session.

"It was good to get the dice out again."
"It's good to see a new generation playing RPGs."
"I'm glad someone stepped up to GM."

If you're really good at keeping a poker face, you could even apologise (I know, GASP!) for being a back-seat driver.
"I'm sorry I interrupted you, during the session. It's sometimes difficult to step back to being a player when you've spent a lot of time behind the screen. It's a lot to take in at once, and you deserve credit for taking that on. I hope you take any suggestions in the spirit they're meant, to help you host a better game.'

He may be so surprised that an adult is willing to apologise to a teen, that he may just take you up on it.

You can drop war stories about some of the mistakes you made in your early days, or awful DMs you had in the past, as hints to him.

"I remember this one time, the GM did [insert current GM's habit]. Oh, man, did that not go down well..."

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alexanderb wrote:
honestly, I'd just talk to the lad (not at or just before a session). you might even pull the "look, I've been playing this since before you were even planned" card, to tell him that he simply isn't doing a good enough job. *but*, remember to make it plain that this is simply due to inexperience, not intelligence or whatever, and that these things will come with time... "but in the meantime, here are some quick tips on how to not suck so much." ;-)

Please please do not pull the "I've been doing this since before you were born" thing. It must sound satisfying in your head, and that's because it's condescending. It's a terrible way to open dialogue, trying to establish your superiority to someone that has power issues.

I hope the winky emoticon indicates that the first part of the post was also in jest.


Petty Alchemy wrote:

Please please do not pull the "I've been doing this since before you were born" thing. It must sound satisfying in your head, and that's because it's condescending. It's a terrible way to open dialogue, trying to establish your superiority to someone that has power issues.

I hope the winky emoticon indicates that the first part of the post was also in jest.

no it's a great way to dominate the little brat!

...

no. obviously I did not mean for him to say that, word for word. I merely meant expressing that his experience makes him a valuable asset for tips, one that the newbie DM should take advantage of. but I don't think the OP actually understood my post as "OK I should tell him that I'm older than him and that he sucks, off I go then!" at least I hope not, as it wasn't my intention at all.

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