Is your Dungeons and Dragons DM out to get you? Probably not! With that in mind, I’ve put together a quick article that will help you avoid the most common traps and pitfalls that will help you have the best gaming experience possible.
People can be mean sometimes. DMs are people too. They have their own lives that take up time. Sometimes they don’t have much time to prep but do it anyway. Sometimes they run a game to get something fun in their life, not to punish you for something you did. Your DM might be a jerk (occasionally), but they’re not out to get you.
If your DM is generally a nice person and still prone to mistakes, this advice will help you have the best time possible. So lets get started with some of the most common pitfalls of playing with a DM who might not be your favorite person in the world. Remember, good DMing is like good parenting. Sometimes they have to make decisions you know are wrong to make sure “the kids” (ie the players) are safe.
7 Tips for Dealing With An “Awful” DM
Here’s my seven surefire tips to help you when playing D&D with an “awful” DM who you think might be out to get you.
1 – Learn to love the rules and the rulebooks
The rules that govern the game are supposed to help players and DMs have fun. One of the biggest blunders I see in D&D groups is for the DM to ignore the rules – because of the players whining. This can turn an okay DM into a bad DM super fast.
The rules are there to stop people from game-breaking exploits. If your DM sees you as a player who might game-break, they will be watching you more closely. If you think the DM is gonna go against you, just understand they’re trying to juggle and balance to make sure every player has a good RPG experience.
2 – When in Doubt, Don’t Shout it Out!
If you’re playing in a game with a new edition or rules, your DM might be in their own head; trying to remember the right rules to use. My first experience with 2nd edition AD&D was not fun. I was playing with a brand new group of players. A few of them were experienced players, but most were not.
The DM was a nice guy but he made a mistake. I knew it was a mistake and so did the DM. He figured out the right answer and we moved on. The other players didn’t know it was a mistake or that the DM was trying to figure out the right answer.
The other players started shouting out answers and making suggestions. I just kept my mouth shut and enjoyed the game. If I had said something, I would have been right, but it would have been met with hostility. I would have been seen as a “know-it-all” or worse, a “Rule Lawyer”.
Learn to keep your mouth shut when you’re not sure of something. If you’re in doubt, don’t risk it. Let your DM do the hard work.
3 – Have fun!
The only reason you’re playing D&D is to have fun. You’ll enjoy the game a lot more if you go in with the expectation that you might be wrong, or that the DM might be wrong. Often the rules are written in such a way that the DM has to make tough decisions.
If you believe the DM is out to get you, it’s going to make it difficult to enjoy the game. Of course, if you’re playing a game with friends and you know the DM is just messing with you, then have fun with it.
4 – Don’t try to be the DM
I see new D&D players try to DM all the time. It’s not hard to do. Many games offer tools and aids to help new DMs. I even have a few articles on my site you can use to get started.
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The problem is that people who try to be a DM usually don’t do a good job. The problem is that they’re not good at being a DM and they don’t know it. They think they’re good at DMing because they think they can run combats and create interesting encounters.
However, those things are only 10 percent of being a good DM. The other 90 percent is social interaction and writing a good story. If you’re not a good writer or don’t know how to make good characters, don’t be a DM.
5 – Don’t try to be a “good” player
I see this a lot. Because the DM is new or they don’t know the rules, the players try to help them with their game. Then the DM starts to feel bad and the players feel guilty. Then the players start to get frustrated because the DM is trying to be “fair” and “good” and not let the other players down.
Some DMs are so worried about making sure everyone has fun that they do silly things like letting all the players have a chance to do something important. The problem is that in the end, everyone gets bored because everyone gets a chance to do something.
If you’re playing with a new DM, be supportive and helpful but don’t try to take over the session. Be yourself and have fun.
6 – Don’t get involved in the meta-game
The meta-game is the game outside of the game. It’s when players talk about things not directly related to the game or when players try to influence the game through out of game actions. It’s when people start accusing the DM of cheating or of having an agenda.
We’ve all been there. Someone gets offended by something the DM did. Then they start looking for ways to prove they are right. When that happens, the game stops being fun and the DM will feel like they can’t do their job right. It’s a downward spiral that can ruin a game session.
If you’re playing with a new DM, it’s even more important to be aware of this. Sometimes DMs will make mistakes because they’re new to the game, or because they’re trying to learn how to DM. If you want to help them, be supportive and helpful but don’t get involved in the meta-game.
7 – Don’t be a jerk to the DM
If you’re playing with a new DM, it’s okay to be a bit more critical than you would with a more experienced DM. However, if you’re playing with a new DM, be extra supportive and helpful.
If the DM asks you a question, answer with the truth. Don’t pretend you know the rules when you don’t. If the DM makes a mistake, don’t be snide about it. If you have suggestions, bring them up after the game.
The DM is trying to do their best. The game will be better if everyone is supportive and helpful.
That’s it. That’s my advice on how to play with an awful DM.