I recently received copies of Ticket to Ride and Dominion for my birthday (see also National Holiday); I have a deep admiration for and get a sense of enjoyment from both of these games. My enjoyment of certain board games might have to do with the games design, or core mechanics. It might also come from the fact that I win a majority of the time I play them; I’m pretty sure that’s it.
Last Monday night my gaming group was a few players short so we decided to break out my new games. I had a great time probably due to the fact that I won every game. I’m not going to say that no one else enjoyed their evening but winning made it especially fun for me. At the end of the night I thought to my self “I needed this”. But did I?
Why would I need a night of laying the beat down on my gaming group? I thought I needed it because I spend week after week of getting my monsters and encounters handed to me by my players. Every week I try hard to push them to the edge, every week they prevail. I thought I needed a night where I win and they don’t. Now I don’t think that’s right; a change of mindset might really be what I needed all along.
The AngryDM will disagree with me but DM’s, my self especially, shouldn’t show up to a game with the intention of winning. Not in the classic sense of the word; not as board games are concerned. For a long time now I have been running my games in a less than effective way. I have been sitting across from my players trying to beat them, as if that were the point of an RPG. Many times I have sat at my table imagining that it is me the DM verses the player each of us throwing powers and rules across the table until one side or the other has won.
Why not beat them? Shouldn’t the DM get to enjoy the game just as much as the players? Yes! The DM should enjoy the game, but not by out maneuvering and out rolling the party but by sharing in the excitement of the story and the adventure.
New mindset vs. old mindset looks something like this:
- I am the author of the story it goes where I want it to.
- I am the monsters, I control them; if they win I win.
- I am the obstacles, if the players don’t work hard to get around me I have failed.
- I am the villain if the players defeat me I have lost.
- I control the world and the world is against the players.
- I am the narrator I observe the story and relay what I see.
- I am the mediator of combat, I judge and decide most likely what monsters would do. If the monsters lose I still win.
- I am the narrator I tell the players about their obstacles if they overcome them or find new success in failure I succeed with them.
- I know the mind of the villain but I am not him. I do not win or lose depending on how well the main villain does.
- I narrate the world but the story controls it. The group tells the story and I win if a good story is told.
If a DM can enjoy the victories of the players he/she can find enjoyment of the game with out needing to claim some kind of victory of his/her own. I would like to think about each of my games and who is telling their stories. Is the narrator some one who witnessed the events? Is he/she the proud ancestor of one of the party members? Or a historian retelling heroic events of the distant past? Would any of these possible story tellers relish in the defeat of their protagonists? No. I as a DM shouldn’t enjoy defeating my players.
While I had a good time playing board games with my Monday night group, I shouldn’t have been so ruthless. I shouldn’t always play to win, but play to have a good time. That drive to win might just drive others away from my table. If I can focus that drive to win on other goals and redefine what winning is I could really enhance my game.
I can’t promise that I won’t caught up in the moment from time to time. That I won’t get just a bit upset, inside, when the party decides to take the story in a direction I had not planned. I can’t make you any assurances that I won’t sit down from time to time and forget about this shift in thinking. I will always try to remember that I don’t have to win.
Part idiot. Part old man. All geek. Thadeous can't think of anything interesting about him self right now. Know this though if he could it would be creative and funny as well as thought provoking.