Today’s Legends & Lore article from Mike Mearls delves into the DMing Guidelines document in the recently released Playtest Packet, and I have to admit that I’m more than pleased to hear of the approach that they’re coming from with regards to how D&D Next will be handling DMing.
One of the most encouraging lines in the article was this particular choice quote:
“The most interesting parts of D&D, at least in my experience, come into play when a DM must make a ruling rather than follow the rules to the letter. So, here’s our goal: We want to make it easy for a DM to improvise and use the rules as guidelines.“
What this says to me is that Mearls and the D&D Next design team is moving towards the assumption that the DM is someone who can be trusted. Certainly there will still be rules, but the game itself acknowledges that DMs can be rational, fair and trustworthy individuals that are out to have fun with the group, rather than at the player’s expense. Furthermore, DMs can and will do this even without the presence of a whole slew of immutable rules that cover any and all possible outcomes.
It’s a simple thing really, but one that I think is an issue that’s been rearing its head in all of the D&D Next discussion as of late. Some players don’t like D&D Next having too much GM Fiat because they don’t trust the GM to make a fair or fun ruling. In fact, two of the most prevalent complaints I’ve seen so far say the same thing:
- Fighters can’t do ANYTHING unless without going through “GM-may-I?” = “I don’t trust my DM to allow me to do something fun.”
- Save-or-Die is TERRIBLE and UNFUN! = “I don’t trust my DM to use this rule responsibly and in a manner that makes the story better or more interesting.”
The players that are most worried about the way D&D Next works now, are the ones who don’t (or can’t) trust their DMs.
I guess a lot of people have suffered from painful experiences of power-tripping DMs at one point or another in their past (I know I have, remind me to tell you guys about my Four Minute Cleric one time) and have since then come to the conclusion that D&D is ultimately an “Us vs. the DM” game by default.
That said, I think it’s also time for a lot of us DMs to stop and pay attention to the kind of feedback we’re getting in these discussions. Are you actually one of those DMs that players can’t and won’t trust? Maybe it’s time to do a bit of soul-searching and find ways to win their trust again and live up to the unwritten expectation that everyone in the group is meant to be having a good time in your games.