With Us or Against Us: The dilemma of DM vs Players

A common theme you will encounter across countless blogs and forum posts is the question of what the DM (or GM or Narrator)’s job actually is. The answer is simply, “It depends on who you ask.” Climactic right? The truth is that there is no right or wrong way to run a game. There is however, a right or wrong way to run a game for your players. Some people want to feel like they’re constantly in a battle with the DM. To those players, every encounter is a win for them in the war against this ever-present god who’s only goal in life is to destroy them. These players work really well with DMs of similar mindset who constantly design their sessions with one thought in mind; TPK, TPK, TPK!

On the flipside however, some players don’t even really enjoy the combat aspects of the game. They’re in it more for the adventure, roleplay, and character development. If you pair this player with the DM from the previous example, nobody is going to be having fun. This player would need a more story-centric DM who creates their encounters in a way you would expect to find after picking the easiest difficulty in a video game. These DMs tend to stick to very theatrical and plot heavy campaigns in which combat is minimized and true challenges are rare. So guess what happens when you pair this DM with the player from the first example. The Goliath Barbarian gets bored out of his mind and starts slaughtering random villagers despite his chaotic good alignment just to get a rise out of the DM. At least someone has fun in this example.

The point I’m making is that there are countless ways to DM and countless types of players. Most of the mismatches are nowhere near as extreme as my examples given, but it is something to keep in mind. Before you start this journey, give your players a simple answer to the question, “Are you with us, or against us?”

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