DMRT: The Geek Ken Opinion

The folks over at 4 Geeks 4E have a pretty fun podcast covering different topics on D&D. One part of the Dungeon Master’s Round Table show is taking twitter questions from listeners. As a semi-regular series of posts I’m throwing in my 2 cents and cherry picking a few questions to address:

How do can we get our game started faster?

My rule of thumb is to expect to start about 30 minutes after everyone arrives. You simply need time to allow people to chat, ask how things have been, etc. D&D is a social game. You have to allot time to allow your players to just catch up with each other. In fact, I’ d be very wary of a person that just wanted to sit down and play, without making an effort to talk with everyone else about non-game things.

So plan your start times out accordingly. If you really want to start playing at 8 PM, tell everyone to come at 7:30 (or tell them sometime after 7 PM). Folks need time to get settled in, get their drinks and snacks, and chat it up a bit. Allow for that time. Once it’s gone on a while though, don’t be afraid to tell everyone it’s time to start. Nothing wrong with getting the ball rolling and starting the session, and you’ll find the PCs more accommodating if you allow that time at the beginning to just relax and chat out of game.

Do you use any other random mechanics aside from dice (like a deck of cards)?

It’s something I haven’t explored much around the table. Essentially I think of them as props, and they can add to your game. However I’ d keep a few things in mind.

Use them sparingly. D& D has mechanics that use dice. While it might be neat to try and use something different, eventually the novelty is going to wear off. You might see your players wondering why they are drawing cards to determine if they can negotiate a better rate to use a ferry.

Also make it something the entire group participates in. Having each player required to remove 3 wooden blocks from a Jenga tower is a lot more engaging that watching one guy do it. Have the players require some sacrifice from one of them, and determine it by a lottery of sorts, drawing colored stones from a bag. Used properly these things can add a lot of tension to the game, but I think the key is to make sure everyone gets a try around the table.

If all of your players came in from World of Warcraft, how do you get them less focused on encounters, experience, and loot and more focused on story, campaign setting, flavor, etc.?

Try to emphasize the aspects of the game you want. If story is paramount, then make sure there are consequences to the PCs actions (or inaction). If you don’t want them focused on experience, stop handing it out. Keep a general tally of the XP and simply tell them when they level up. If their emphasis is on loot, consider giving out boons and favors over just doling out treasure (maybe the group can always get healing assistance from a particular god’s sect).

However, as a DM I think you need to step back. Maybe your players simply love a hack and slash game and couldn’t care less about the campaign fluff. In this case, you have a problem. And unfortunately it is more with you as the DM, than with your players. I always try to encourage everyone talking with each other. As a DM, you might have to ask your players what type of game they want to play. At the same time tell them what you find interesting and would like to run.

Maybe you all can find some middle ground. However if the group is dead set on having a game about loot, killing stuff, and heading into the next dungeon, while you are looking for some long arc of a engaged fantasy epic, you might have to switch priorities. If you can’t reconcile the differences with the emphasis of the game, maybe you need to pass the DM hat to someone else (or find a group of people that’ll play the game you want to run).


Part idiot. Part old man. All geek. Geek Ken likes games. Sometimes he likes to blog about them too.

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About Geek Ken

Geek Ken likes games. Sometimes he likes to blog about them too.

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