DM Blog 18: Episode 50


At the time of writing this, Episode 50 will drop within the next 24 hours. Episode 50. If you are reading this, and almost certainly listening to the show, thanks a lot.

Something we work towards, and constantly fail at, on the pod is to shoot for optimal play. Not only does it make for a better game, but it’s essential for an audio show. Now, I know what you are thinking … what the fuck is he talking about? Here’s what I mean.

There is already a concept in modern play that meta-talk disrupts the game. There are also many many videos and blogs listing bad player types and disruptive play. But there are not many lists going the other way, what to do, rather than what not to do. There is a good reason for that. D&D is ultimately to be played however you want to and every group will be unique. With that out of the way though, here’s how to optimize play:

An action must be stated in the simple present tense to register.
That is how to ‘make a move’ in this game. “I open the door.” Not “I think I’m gonna open the door.” Not “Can I open the door,” and not “I want to open the door.”

Apart from stating actions, other talk is dialogue.
Like the dialogue in the movie of the game. “Hey, look at that iron door.” “Seems locked, thief can you open it?” “I can try.” The best way to start this is to say out parts of the DM’s set up: ” … and you watch as the clouds gather over the castle.” “Seems like a storm is coming, we’d better move it if we’re going to make it in time … ”

Once an action is stated, you can’t turn back time.
After that simple present tense sentence is stated, wait for the DM to resolve it. No other player can dispute or discuss it.

All rolls must be declared by the player.
“Longsword +4 … that’s 16, plus four is 20.” Just like that, the roll, the mod and the result. The difference between the natural and modified result is important, and don’t make the DM ask you what you rolled a hundred times, and it promotes fairness.

Once the action is stated or the roll is made, let the DM resolve it.
Let the DM describe what then happens. Don’t interrupt or discuss other stuff at this time.

If the DM asks you to state an action, you must state it.
If the DM asks for actions it means that events are about to happen or things are time sensitive, you must state it right away. Any dithering or discussion must be punished with a missed action.

Play from the imagination, don’t break to study.
If you don’t know exactly what will happen with a certain spell, or how a certain strategy will turn out, then you should just try it to see what happens. You should absolutely not cause a break in the game for everyone while you look things up and what not.

Play Dungeon Master Discretion.
In order for the DM to go with the flow, reward good play and ideas and to balance the game, they need to make some calls. They won’t always follow the letter of the rules. Players have to accept that, and DMs then have to reciprocate by not being horrifically unfair. The bottom line though is that a player can never dispute a DMs call. Same as the no turning back time rule.

Overall, play Rulings not Rules.
The players visualize the situation and, as their characters, take actions from their imagination. If a call is necessary the DM will nominate the mechanic and guide you. You should not be asked for an action, then look down to choose something from your menu. That’s not D&D, that’s a paper version of a computer game.

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