Tuesday, January 19, 2021

The Only DM Advice in Brechewold, I Swear

A subject fraught with peril, to be sure, but I gotta admit I'm feeling good about this lil nug I wrote as part of the Brechewold intro:

This book does not present a plot. There is neither a predetermined conclusion nor a set path to follow. When DMing, I resist the temptation to think of myself as a storyteller. I am not telling a story. I am creating the conditions for and participating in a game of imagination structured by weighted chance. “Story” is what the players will tell when the game is over. I haven’t discovered a truly useful analogue to the role of a DM. Though it shares skills with storytellers, traditional game designers, teachers, theatrical directors, psychologists, and architects, it is a unique thing.

So, do not prepare a plot. Set the scenario. Provide enough information for players to make informed choices for their characters. Become familiar with the goals and personalities of the book’s NPCs, and then pay attention. Pay attention to possible conflict or convergence between players’ choices and NPCs’ goals. Pay attention when the players ignore certain undercurrents and allow NPCs to pursue their goals unhindered. Advance the scenario, updating the players with new information as their characters would learn it.

Above all, respect the players’ agency. They must be free to make any choice allowed within the confines of the setting and the comfort and fun at the table. Do not move things around in the imagined world to render their choices meaningless. The NPCs are allowed to be deceptive, but the DM is not. Err on the side of providing too much information if players are unsure what to do, but let them make the choice. Let them surprise you. Let them create chaos. Shed your preconceived notions and allow the imagined world to react naturally to players’ choices.