View Full Version : DM Out of practice: problem player? or problem dm?

2009-06-25, 08:28 AM
I haven't role-played/DMed in about... 3.5 years. I haven't run a solo game in a decade. I'm trying to play with my wife. She and I have VERY different ideas about D&D.

I've been wanting to play for a while now. I missed D&D day, and free RPG day, and keep a very busy schedule, so I thought if I could get a game in with her, an hour here, an hour there, that it would scratch that RPG-itch.

I want to play 4e, but I have no experience with it, and with a single player... well, I just don't feel comfortable doing that. So I thought maybe d20/3.x, but that is so rules heavy, and she couldn't care less about the rules. I thought maybe going back to basics - Rules Cyclopedia. It's where I started, and it's pretty rules lite. But then I read microlite20. Perfect! A single page of rules!

So I made 3 human characters, a fighter, a rogue, and a cleric for her to chose from. I found a simple adventure to get us warmed up - http://hamsterhoard.blogspot.com/2009/02/microdungeon-understudy.html

We sat down last night to play, and I showed her the characters, and she started by asking why she had to be a human? Ok, no problem, I showed her the m20 options: elf, dwarf, and halfling. She asked why she couldn't be one of the cool races from the 4ePHB? She wanted to play a dragonborn...

Ok... I gave her a +2 to strength and a +2 to communication skills, and changed the character sheet to dragonborn. We went over a basic background, that she was raised in a military temple thing and that she's being sent to check out a recently destroyed wizards tower to make sure there isn't anything bad that will eat the villagers. She makes it down the stairs, avoiding both the traps. Spots the dragonflys, but doesn't protect herself until after they attacked her, then smashes them. Goes down the hall, smashes another.

In rm 3 she "looks around" I have to prod her to be more specific. She finds the books and sits down to read them... She burns through 2 torches reading them. My response, in retrospect not the best, was pretty much "Really?!?" She says "Yes! It's interesting! What did I learn?" I looked at her for a moment, and said (stupid) "I don't know... stuff about dragons." I then asked her what she wanted to do. "Look around." So I go to the bug in the chest and she wants to keep it. Keep it?!? It's a 6" nasty little beetle. I remind her that it's trying to bite her, and she reminds me that a number of her pets bite her (hamsters) in real life. However, being a nasty little bug she ends up squashing it. I tell her about the treasure, and she nods. I ask her if she wants to write it down. She looks put out, and writes down "millions of gold coins" I tell her she's crushed from the weight. She asks what the ring is worth, and I have her roll. She rolls poorly, and I tell her she'll need to get it appraised.

Moving into room 4 she sees the skeleton with the hair, and says "that can't be real." I tell her she's right, and that its a wig. She "looks around" I again describe the room, and she spots the dragonfly. She turns around and walks out of the room. The dragonfly attacks her as her back is turned. She grabs it and smashes it, and then leaves.

She didn't really have fun, and I felt frustrated. I asked her about it, and she mentioned that she just wants to basically move her cursor around the room and see what glows.

I don't think she gets that I want to play D&D, not Diablo II. And I don't know how to explain it. And I'm not really sure how to adjust my style to better fit with hers, especially without frustrating myself.

Help? Please?

2009-06-25, 08:42 AM
I say if she wants things to glow in the room then make stuff glow!

When she asks what's in the room reply with "random thrash and other kinds of objects, a desk, and an amulet that catches your attention". If she wants to read a book that is not plot relevant just say that it's a boring book about X and that she finds nothing interesting in it and so on..

Different people have different tastes, that's all. If you feel you can't provide her with what she wants to play and still have fun just tell her so and wait for your schedule to clear up a bit so you can find people who want to play the same thing you do.

2009-06-25, 08:44 AM
Sounds like you appraised the situation pretty accurately: the two of you want different things out of this game. So, either one or both of you is going to have to compromise, or you'll have to do the smart thing for your relationship, which is of course not to play. Which of those you do, and how, is entirely up to you and your wife.

Depending where you are, and what resources you have access to, you might be able to hook up with a local gaming group. If you want, put up a sign at your local gaming store advertising for players. As for your wife... she might enjoy something more along the lines of a freeform game like they play PbP on these very forums.

2009-06-25, 08:47 AM
Okay, the first problem is that the two of you have different expectations of what D&D is. Now I don't know what you think D&D is, but your wife apparently thinks that D&D is just "Diablo". It isn't.

D&D (and many other RPGs) is a cross between a war game and an interactive story. Neither of those are "Diablo", and she needs to understand this.

Now the good news on this part is that your wife does seem interested in the details, in the things that glow, or that reading books would be a fascinating thing for her character to do. An adventure with lots of description and obvious thought into it would probably get her attention - which leads to the second problem.

The second problem is... what kind of adventure were you running anyway?!? Squishing bugs and lackluster descriptions do NOT an adventure make.

Don't go with a chart and rolling things up - have an idea first, well before any of your players get to a room. Heck, start with the basics - "You're in a 10'x10' room. There's an orc guarding a treasure chest." Then play "And to Think That I Saw It on Mulberry Street".

If you want to give it another try, I would also suggest getting another player or two (maybe more), hopefully people who are experienced, good players, or maybe even someone who can run things. Yes, it might be difficult, as your post alludes, but try again anyway. Go to your local gaming store and ask around for how to get in-touch with new players or how to get involved with an already established group or a new DM wanting new players.

Oh, and to answer your question - both, but the DM carries the larger responsibility.

2009-06-25, 09:01 AM
Wait, how is your player wanting to play Diablo II by exploring, reading books, and opting for non-violent solutions? Sounds more like she wanted to play an adventure game.

Also, why didn't you provide an interesting story and motivation, and more importantly, an interesting and challenging adventure?

"See what glows" is damned easy: she goes, "I look around," and you go "Well, there's X and Y and Z that look interesting." What's so Diablo II about that? That's how tabletop RPGs work - you provide clues about what's interesting (avoiding red herrings; that's one of the basic rules, because the players are going to be all over anyway).

2009-06-25, 09:05 AM
It sounded like she was trying to explore and you went along begrudgingly. She wants to find stuff in the rooms - you should populate them with stuff (or use an adventure that's got more stuff in it so you don't have to fill all the rooms on the fly).

Alternatively, why not put her in more social situations? That's still a kind of exploration but it's easier to BS than the contents of a dusty old tome.

2009-06-25, 09:18 AM
My suggestion is to shelve D&D and think of a different hobby that you and your wife can share. It is one thing to get into game arguments with an aquaintance or friend. It is another thing to get into game arguments with your wife. It seems that your game philosophies are different so you'd be better off doing something else together.

Tempest Fennac
2009-06-25, 09:31 AM
My approach would be to sit down with her to find out what sort of game she'd want to play if she's the only one in it (regarding her character, I would have personally found out what she wanted to use before advising her on how to build it while only making it for her entirely if she wanted me to).

2009-06-25, 10:43 AM
Yeah, this can only end badly. See if there's someone in your area who can run games that both you and your wife can enjoy. 1 on 1, there are obviously better games for the two of you that won't end with such dissatisfaction.

Duke of URL
2009-06-25, 11:00 AM
Before any game of D&D (or other RPG, for that matter), the player(s) and referee (if any) need to get together and determine what kind of "story" they're going to tell. If one person wants to play hack-and-slash while another wants a game heavy in social interaction and political intrigue, it's going to be hard to accommodate them both on the fly.

The better bet is talk before starting, and get an idea of what everyone wants to get out of the game. Come to some kind of decisions, and then build the game from there.

Of course, if you can't come to an agreement, then it's going to end badly. Still, it's better to know that before you sink in the effort to start playing in the first place.