be clear from the get-go that if a Dungeon Master wants to kill a party, they
will have not an ounce of difficultly in doing so. No amount of clever play
will save you or amazing build for a character will survive. If the DM is out
to get you, you are going to die. For all intents and purposes the DM is god in
the game, and that give them the ability to interject deadlier challenges until
the PCs die, they cannot be defeated. I think this fear exists in every player
that the DM at some point could turn against them and it is all over. As
Dungeon Masters, we can use this to make a more exciting game.
take on the mantle of the Faux-Adversarial Dungeon Master. What do I mean by
this? Oftentimes in my game I will state things like, “Oh, you are going to die
now.” Or maybe, “I am going to kill your character.” I FULLY have no intention on
doing so, but this makes the player fell there is a viable threat. I become the
makeshift “enemy” and they then become the team that is opposing me. This bonds
them together. When I then make the proclamation, “You guys are not walking
away from this fight!” They have that slight moment of fear, but when they
overcome that obstacle, that the all-powerful DM said they could not win, they feel
like they really accomplished something.
|Give the players this look and make them think twice.
noticed this phenomenon when I was playing dungeon crawl-like board games that
have a competitive edge to the game. I am talking about games like HeroQuest,
Star Wars: Imperial Assault, and Descent. These games mimic the Dungeon Master and
player relationship of an RPG, but the difference is that the Dungeon Master is
on their own side and out to win. In these games I was almost always the DM
figure role. I noticed that players started calling me names, like “Dirty
Imperial Scum” or “Bastard Sorcerer”. I became the personification of their
enemy in the game because I was it. I was there to try and win, because if I
won, I got cool stuff in the game too. This led to me playing hard to win and
really pushing the players if they wanted to win. I remember playing Imperial Assault
and I won the first 3 missions; I was killing it. The fourth mission they
managed to win with only one character left on the board. The Rebel players
literally jumped out of their seats they were so excited. High fiving each
other and rubbing it in my face.
difference between these two situations though is that the power of the Dungeon
Master role in the board games is limited by the rules. The power that is
afforded a Dungeon Master in an RPG is virtually unlimited. The idea of the
board game is that it is an equal playing field between the two groups whereas in
a traditional RPG there is a clear imbalance in the way the power dynamic is
structured. Thus, some kid gloves need to be applied. You cannot use this tactic
when the players are already almost down and out. You cannot use this tactic on
a player that has already had a string of terrible luck. You can use this
tactic when the players are fully rested and ready-to-go. You can use this
tactic when the players have a string of good luck. A basic guideline is to not
pile-on the player or group but antagonize them a bit when they feel superior
or immune from harm.
is that I want my players to be successful and I want their characters to do
well and grow. I do not want it to be easy for them, because the struggle is
the fun. I want my players to have ups and downs, but always feel like their
character’s life could be in danger. If I must tease them a bit to make the win
feel good, I will. Remember that a dramatic statement like, “I going after you,
because I want you to die,” and a roll to hit out from behind the DM’s screen
will add tons of tension to the game. Push on your players a bit, but do not
push too hard.
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