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  1. - Top - End - #1
    Barbarian in the Playground
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    Exclamation DM Issues: Dealing with a DM with much less experience.

    For a plurality of reasons, I find myself in a play-group with a DM that has a basic grasp of the rules- enough for a DM by most definitions- but much less experience with them then I, personally, do. (For reference, the rule-set is 3.5, the current level 1). This his led to some strain in the following situations:


    -Rules that he misinterprets in a way that I can spot: He has stated after-the-fact with regard to these situations that he does want to follow the rules and does not object to being corrected on principle. However, thus far, the various manners in which I have corrected him during play have often been met with resistance or anger.

    This is mainly a problem when I am correcting him based on supposed or assumed information that is hypothetically invisible to PC's, but that an experienced player has a good idea of in generality.

    In-play, a key occurrence of this was dealing with a trap:

    EDIT: Critical context here- We had previously spoken and he had expressed a desire for me to make sure he was handling the rules properly, and rules corrections from me had been accepted in-play on the understanding that I only dealt with issues that could be corrected quickly. His anger was not due to the fact that I was correcting him, but that I was doing so based on what he thought was information unknown to me (The Disable Device DC of the trap).

    Me: "I attempt to disarm the swinging-scythe trap."
    *rolls, gets a 19, including bonuses.*
    Him: "You are struck by the trap. Take 6 points of damage.
    Me(Internal):Hang on, traps usually only get triggered if you miss the disable device DC by more than 5. A CR 1 or lower trap most likely doesn't have a DC of 24 to disarm.
    Me: "Wait, what? I think you have something wrong, I only trigger the trap if-"
    Him: "Look, you don't know everything"
    Me: "Yeah, but under the trap rules I only trigger if-"
    Him: "Take 8 points of damage"
    Me: "Look, you don't understand"
    Him: "E-mail it to me"
    Me: "But it's-"
    Him: "Just e-mail it to me, I want to keep playing"
    After the session, I discussed this with him. He acknowledged that he had been a bit hasty, and that I was correct, but requested that I handle correcting him differently. When I asked him how I should go about this, he dithered but did not provide an answer.

    Less critical issues have sprung up with his annoyance at:

    -My selection of obscure (not overpowered, just obscure) character options.

    -My heavy use of dungeoneering gear (10-foot poles, acid, rope etc.) and similar tactics to bypass the risk of actually rolling a Disable Device check in trap-related encounters. This was initially REALLY funny, especially the part when he asked why I had listed 200 feet of rope and a grappling hook in my gear, but is becoming more of an issue.

    He has stated that he feels like he "can't keep up with me".

    The guy is really quite reasonable and I enjoy his campaign, so I'd prefer to resolve these issues rather than simply find a different group.
    Any advice for accomplishing that?
    Last edited by Drynwyn; 2014-11-03 at 07:23 PM.

  2. - Top - End - #2
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    Default Re: DM Issues: Dealing with a DM with much less experience.

    I'm inclined to agree that in the name of expediency it's best to take up rules debates after the game has ended. DMing is often a thankless enough task without having to halt the game for rules arguments.

    Since you enjoy his game and as you said, he isn't that experienced, why don't you try and take it easy on him until he acclimates? Lay off on the obscure stuff so that he doesn't have to go poring over more rules than he has to and try not to outright bypass the stuff he's planned out. If he feels like he can't keep up with you, slow down and give him a chance.

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  3. - Top - End - #3
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    Default Re: DM Issues: Dealing with a DM with much less experience.

    Well you could offer to help him out with things he's unsure of, outside of the game.

    I think in the case of the trap I'd have just let it go, or waited till the end of the session to ask the GM about it.

    As far as him getting annoyed that you're picking out obscure things and stuff, maybe instead ask him if it's ok instead of taking obscure stuff, he may not want to deal with obscure things while he's new to DMing.

    And explain to him that what you're bringing with you are dungeon tools, if your character was expecting to go into a dungeon of course they would bring the required tools to get through as safely as he can. You could even explain to him how not everything has to be a skill check using the dungeon tools as an example.

    The guys new, help him out, don't rules lawyer him into annoyance.

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    Default Re: DM Issues: Dealing with a DM with much less experience.

    Accept imperfection. Your precision and preparedness both hint that you want things done right, and the simple fact is that they won't be, not often enough. So accept that some stuff will be wrong and keep enjoying the rest of it.
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    Bugbear in the Playground
     
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    Default Re: DM Issues: Dealing with a DM with much less experience.

    If you are trying to develop him into a good DM I'd advise slowing things down for him. 3.5 has a lot of things someone could know between all the splatbooks and even core spells can be tricky.

    It sounds like he at the very least can control a table. While it may be annoying that he was shutting you down from correcting you, he kept play moving forward. If he kept making the traps wrong after you talked to him post-session that's when I would worry and take a more hands on approach to teaching him DMing. It's a lot easier to correct things between sessions than it is at the table.

    You may actually need to gimp your character on purpose. Try sticking with a "schtick" and applying it consistently to problems instead of having a grab-bag of versatility. That way he can plan sessions better and know how you are likely to respond to situations.

    Sorry if it sounds less fun, but training up a new DM should be worth the effort.

  6. - Top - End - #6
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    Default Re: DM Issues: Dealing with a DM with much less experience.

    Quote Originally Posted by Drynwyn View Post
    For a plurality of reasons, I find myself in a play-group with a DM that has a basic grasp of the rules- enough for a DM by most definitions- but much less experience with them then I, personally, do. (For reference, the rule-set is 3.5, the current level 1). This his led to some strain in the following situations:


    -Rules that he misinterprets in a way that I can spot: He has stated after-the-fact with regard to these situations that he does want to follow the rules and does not object to being corrected on principle. However, thus far, the various manners in which I have corrected him during play have often been met with resistance or anger.

    This is mainly a problem when I am correcting him based on supposed or assumed information that is hypothetically invisible to PC's, but that an experienced player has a good idea of in generality.

    In-play, a key occurrence of this was dealing with a trap:
    Me: "I attempt to disarm the swinging-scythe trap."
    *rolls, gets a 19, including bonuses.*
    Him: "You are struck by the trap. Take 6 points of damage.
    Me(Internal):Hang on, traps usually only get triggered if you miss the disable device DC by more than 5. A CR 1 or lower trap most likely doesn't have a DC of 24 to disarm.
    Me: "Wait, what? I think you have something wrong, I only trigger the trap if-"
    Him: "Look, you don't know everything"
    Me: "Yeah, but under the trap rules I only trigger if-"
    Him: "Take 8 points of damage"
    Me: "Look, you don't understand"
    Him: "E-mail it to me"
    Me: "But it's-"
    Him: "Just e-mail it to me, I want to keep playing"
    Let's separate the issue into two parts:
    1. The fact he didn't, apparently, know the rule
    2. The way it was handled.

    (1) is of course unfortunate. It would have been much better if the DM knew all the rules all the time. Especially rules regarding something as simple and often occurring as traps.

    However, (2) is a perfectly reasonable response by the DM. Admittedly, he didn't know the specific rule, but the way he handled his own lack of knowledge was admirable. Cutting off the player so the game can continue, and encouraging them to talk after the game, is absolutely correct.

    EDIT: now that I got to read it second time, going from 6 damage to 8 (unless it's a typo by the OP) is a bit of richard-ish move. He should have gone through "email me" before increasing the damage, really.
    Last edited by Galen; 2014-11-03 at 05:58 PM.

  7. - Top - End - #7
    Barbarian in the Playground
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    Default Re: DM Issues: Dealing with a DM with much less experience.

    OP edited with some context: We had discussed the fact that I might notice rules mistakes during play prior to the trap event.

    Prior to this, rules corrections/clarifications had been accepted during play (Most notably some misunderstandings on his part in the rules for shooting into melee) without incident. His issue wasn't that I was correcting him, it was that I was correcting him based on information that, in his mind, I shouldn't know- the trap's Disable Device DC.

  8. - Top - End - #8
    Ettin in the Playground
     
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    Default Re: DM Issues: Dealing with a DM with much less experience.

    Perhaps make it clear that you don't know those things. "Hey, I don't know the exact DC of this trap, but this might be relevant." This way you acknowledge that you don't know the trap, but you are just handing out a snippet that might be helpful. I only suggest this because the DM has expressed an interest in getting better, mind you.

    Or perhaps show that you want to help them get better. Make them some flash cards, everyone loves flash cards.
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  9. - Top - End - #9
    Barbarian in the Playground
     
    PaladinGuy

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    Default Re: DM Issues: Dealing with a DM with much less experience.

    Frankly, you shouldn't have known that. There is no rule that requires the DM to provide you with level-appropriate traps - that is gamism in it's most obnoxious form. Not only does your character not know how difficult the trap was, you, the player have no way of knowing - and you telling him that he is doing it wrong because he doesn't make the same assumptions that you do was absolutely the wrong thing to do.

    A more appropriate response might have been: "Damn, guys, there must be a really expert trap-maker here in this dungeon if I missed that one!" That would a) provide the DM with an in-universe "excuse" to cover up his error (if, in fact, he made an error), b) notify the DM that you, the player, were expecting trap DCs to be significantly lower, and c) promoted your character's development, since you are clearly playing him as a veteran dungeoneer.
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  10. - Top - End - #10
    Ettin in the Playground
     
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    Default Re: DM Issues: Dealing with a DM with much less experience.

    Quote Originally Posted by Talyn View Post
    A more appropriate response might have been: "Damn, guys, there must be a really expert trap-maker here in this dungeon if I missed that one!" That would a) provide the DM with an in-universe "excuse" to cover up his error (if, in fact, he made an error), b) notify the DM that you, the player, were expecting trap DCs to be significantly lower, and c) promoted your character's development, since you are clearly playing him as a veteran dungeoneer.
    I...Actually disagree with this. I think being honest is better, as this can easily seem very passive-aggressive, snarky or just plain insulting. A good DM will probably come up with their own explanations, through if you feel the need to pitch an idea I suggest discussing it with the other characters, in character. That way the DM can snipe good ideas, but you do so while interacting with the rest of the party.
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  11. - Top - End - #11
    Bugbear in the Playground
     
    Beholder

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    Default Re: DM Issues: Dealing with a DM with much less experience.

    Quote Originally Posted by Talyn View Post
    A more appropriate response might have been: "Damn, guys, there must be a really expert trap-maker here in this dungeon if I missed that one!" That would a) provide the DM with an in-universe "excuse" to cover up his error (if, in fact, he made an error), b) notify the DM that you, the player, were expecting trap DCs to be significantly lower, and c) promoted your character's development, since you are clearly playing him as a veteran dungeoneer.
    Allow me to balance out the previous poster and say I absolutely agree with this one. It's always better to at least make an honest attempt to address a situation ingame before you go to break immersion and complain about it out of game.



    Also, remember, one man's "honesty" is another's "whinery".

  12. - Top - End - #12
    Ettin in the Playground
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    Default Re: DM Issues: Dealing with a DM with much less experience.

    Based on what the DM has spoken to you about, I'd say the best way to handle things is to do what he asked here - email him a list of things that seemed off to you after every session. That covers both his request that you help him with the rules, but keeps it from bogging down gameplay (especially in cases where he might have a reason to disagree, such as things that aren't actually rules such as encounter design and balancing - that kind of thing can turn into very long discussions which really don't belong during game).

    Edit: And yes, as a DM I prefer the in-world response to the out-of-game response. Not just because of pacing, but because 'hey, I figured something out about the dungeon based on my intuition and experience' is an awesome thing for a character to do.
    Last edited by NichG; 2014-11-03 at 07:56 PM.

  13. - Top - End - #13
    Ogre in the Playground
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    Default Re: DM Issues: Dealing with a DM with much less experience.

    Let the DM make snap rulings on anything that might be disputed during the game, and then look it up together afterward. This is important because it speeds up play, reduces confusion, prevents breaking a session, and most importantly, keeps the two of you from killing each other.

    Get together with the DM and decide on what materials he will approve for the campaign. Advise that the DM only approve materials he's got access to to prevent confusion in the future. After that, only use things from the DM's approved list of materials.

    Cut it out with the dungeoneering gear stuff. Your DM probably finds it obnoxious that your character seems to know exactly how to circumvent traps without even rolling a skill check, and you know as well as anyone at the table that you're bypassing the traps in those ways because you have prior knowledge of them.
    It always amazes me how often people on forums would rather accuse you of misreading their posts with malice than re-explain their ideas with clarity.

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    Default Re: DM Issues: Dealing with a DM with much less experience.

    Actually, why not ask him how he would like you to present potential ruling issues that would make him the most comfortable? Perhaps show him this thread for ideas that would work for him.
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    Default Re: DM Issues: Dealing with a DM with much less experience.

    Right off it might be better for you to ''play under your experience'', it is just not worth it to cause problems in the game endlessly. It is like back seat driving or second guessing.


    And the whole rules lawyer thing is always a bad idea. I flat out don't allow it in my games. If a player wants to bring something up, they can do so after the game.

    In your example, sure he was a DM that did not know any better. But an experienced DM would tell you: You can make a Scythe Trap of DC 24 and make it CR1. You can make the trap very easy to spot, but hard to disarm, for example.

    And once you get beyond 1st level, and even more so 5+, there are just endless things on top of endless things. So when you star saying this DC should be this or that AC should be that, well it depends on lots and lots and lots of things that as a player you don't know. Sure the book says on page 42 that the monster has an AC of 18, but that is not absolute. The DM could give the monster improved natural armor twice and raise it's AC to 20. And as a player, you would not know that detail. So to make a big deal and stop the game as you say the AC should be 18, will just make you look silly when the DM says it took the feats. (and if your going to say your character can ''know feats'', I'd point out there is not rule for that)

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    Default Re: DM Issues: Dealing with a DM with much less experience.

    I would expect few things to annoy me, were I a new GM, as much as a player who waltzes through all the stuff I put in front of him with a bunch of mundane items I don't know the rules for.
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    Default Re: DM Issues: Dealing with a DM with much less experience.

    Quote Originally Posted by Honest Tiefling View Post
    Actually, why not ask him how he would like you to present potential ruling issues that would make him the most comfortable? Perhaps show him this thread for ideas that would work for him.
    I like this idea in theory. In practice it doesn't really work. If someone doesn't like being corrected, even if they want to learn, that doesn't necessarily mean that they can articulate how you can correct them without bothering them. The DM may not have that knowledge and it's not fair to expect that of him. By all means, brainstorm with him and find out if there's a way to help without ticking him off. Just expect that the things he suggests are based in speculation and you'll have to try them out and see if they work.

    Other ideas...

    Point out your shenanigans to him in advance. If he knows the basics, but not the obscure, show him the new stuff you're using so he can see it coming. It sounds like he doesn't like to be surprised by things he couldn't have anticipated, so show him what you're using so he has a chance to anticipate it. It'd be kinda like playing Magic with an open hand, letting him see what you have but only sometimes figuring out how you'll use it.

    Has he tried premade campaigns or dungeons? I think GMs sometimes get too attached to their own adventures, especially when they've spent a lot of time prepping. It's easy to get flustered if the players bypass it with their cleverness. But if you're running World's Largest Dungeon, who cares if that new spell bypasses three rooms?

    I also think he should up the difficulty and not necessarily give you solvable puzzles/obstacles. One of the things I did in my early games was always write a way out of any situation. Even when the players didn't use my approach, they were solving my puzzles easily because they were already half defeated. Instead I wrote things I thought would be relatively bulletproof. This obstacles got solved too, but they were much more challenging. Even if I'm smarter than all my players, I'm not smarter than the 5 of them combined. They'll thing of stuff I won't, and that's a good thing. I think your GM needs to accept this immutable fact of the game table.
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    Default Re: DM Issues: Dealing with a DM with much less experience.

    Why would you even want to correct him if you're having fun and he's reasonable?

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    Default Re: DM Issues: Dealing with a DM with much less experience.

    I would say that it would be a good thing for your DM to learn DM rule Number 1. Communication is key.

    To me, DMing is a very philosophical thing. Not everyone can be a good DM without understanding the way they approach it.

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    Default Re: DM Issues: Dealing with a DM with much less experience.

    Do not correct a nervous DM in-game unless it's important enough to be worth causing him lots more difficulty and stress. 6-8 hit points doesn't qualify. Save it for private discussion outside the game.

    I also recommend that you drop all obscure character options. You're good enough to thrive in this guy's dungeon with the Player's Handbook and nothing else. The unusual stuff is adding to his stress level without helping you particularly.

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    Default Re: DM Issues: Dealing with a DM with much less experience.

    You may also want to like, balance out things he's doing "wrong" with things you like and feel he is doing "right".

    Most people are much happier and open to criticism if you can also give them some positive feedback. You said you're enjoying his game and such so that should be pretty easy.

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    Default Re: DM Issues: Dealing with a DM with much less experience.

    Quote Originally Posted by Drynwyn View Post
    Me(Internal):Hang on, traps usually only get triggered if you miss the disable device DC by more than 5. A CR 1 or lower trap most likely doesn't have a DC of 24 to disarm.
    To be fair, as a player (and character) why did you assume it was a CR 1 trap? Why did you assume it had the same Disable DC as the one in the book?
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    Default Re: DM Issues: Dealing with a DM with much less experience.

    Answering some miscellaneous questions:

    -The DM is using a pre-made adventure. (Specifically, the Sunless Citadel). This was part of the reason I was fairly certain the trap wasn't some sort of bizarre concoction.

    -To those who have suggested asking him about the best way to bring up corrections: As mentioned in the OP, I attempted this. It led to dithering and an absence of clear answers.

    Right now, I'm thinking about inviting him to guest-play for a few sessions in the campaign that I do DM (Shares no players with his campaign). Hopefully, this would ease tensions between us and give him a more clear idea of what I look for in a DM, as well as make it clear that my criticism comes from a place of caring. Thoughts on this plan?
    Last edited by Drynwyn; 2014-11-05 at 12:21 AM.

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    Default Re: DM Issues: Dealing with a DM with much less experience.

    More experience never hurt anybody, I say. And playing can help quite a bit.

    I first DM'ed after about half an hour of actually playing D&D (thanks to one of the players wasting the rest of the session time demanding the DM help him homebrew what eventually turned out to be "all the good things a monk has, but with paladin class features too" before joining as said class.

    Obviously the next time I played D&D again I learned quite a bit. For example, I had been doing attacks of opportunity based on movement entirely wrong.
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    Ettin in the Playground
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    Default Re: DM Issues: Dealing with a DM with much less experience.

    Quote Originally Posted by Drynwyn View Post
    Answering some miscellaneous questions:

    -The DM is using a pre-made adventure. (Specifically, the Sunless Citadel). This was part of the reason I was fairly certain the trap wasn't some sort of bizarre concoction.

    -To those who have suggested asking him about the best way to bring up corrections: As mentioned in the OP, I attempted this. It led to dithering and an absence of clear answers.

    Right now, I'm thinking about inviting him to guest-play for a few sessions in the campaign that I do DM (Shares no players with his campaign). Hopefully, this would ease tensions between us and give him a more clear idea of what I look for in a DM, as well as make it clear that my criticism comes from a place of caring. Thoughts on this plan?
    I guess the question is: are you sure that what he's looking for is to correspond to your style, or is he looking more for factual information about the rules? Inviting him over will show you what you like to do as a DM, but it may not actually help him at all with rules confusion or lack of rules experience if his goals as a DM are aimed at a different style than yours. So I think its important to be clear whether what kind of help he actually wants, because if he's asking for one kind of help and you provide another then it's very easy for someone to misinterpreted that as a form of passive-aggressive criticism on your part.

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    BlueKnightGuy

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    Default Re: DM Issues: Dealing with a DM with much less experience.

    My advice would be to ask him what he would like you to do. I'm in the same situation right now with someone who has never DMed before, and this is how we're handling things so your mileage may vary.

    I never question what he does while a session is going on unless its something incredibly blatantly wrong, like when he threw a monster at me that only ever hit with a lick attack. I thought he might be reading something wrong and maybe it was supposed to be dealing acid damage to me instead of bludgeoning, which my DR resisted.

    I keep a notebook full of the questionable rulings he makes during a game, such as arbitrarily strange DC's for simple tasks. I talk to him about the important ones of these sometime after a game, usually a few days so that he knows I'm not talking out of anger. This is also the point where I let him know when something is a really bad idea, such as his new "luck" system.

    I try to back him up with knowledge I've got in regards to rules, and combining complicated skill checks, but only when he asks. Otherwise I let him make the rulings on his own. Its his game and I'm just the player.

    Also, I try to tone down my characters as much as possible so I'm not bypassing puzzles he puts in front of us.
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    Default Re: DM Issues: Dealing with a DM with much less experience.

    Quote Originally Posted by Drynwyn View Post
    Answering some miscellaneous questions:

    -The DM is using a pre-made adventure. (Specifically, the Sunless Citadel). This was part of the reason I was fairly certain the trap wasn't some sort of bizarre concoction.

    -To those who have suggested asking him about the best way to bring up corrections: As mentioned in the OP, I attempted this. It led to dithering and an absence of clear answers.

    Right now, I'm thinking about inviting him to guest-play for a few sessions in the campaign that I do DM (Shares no players with his campaign). Hopefully, this would ease tensions between us and give him a more clear idea of what I look for in a DM, as well as make it clear that my criticism comes from a place of caring. Thoughts on this plan?
    Imagine you're trying to sit down and DM a game, but you have this one problem player who's always contradicting you and slowing down play to question you or try to tell you that you're doing things wrong. Imagine that, every once in a while, on top of just telling you that you're wrong, he whips out a cheap exploit to get through a trap without taking damage, or resolve an encounter an 1 minute when it should've taken 20 minutes. It's like he's trying show how much better he is at the game than you, and obnoxiously, do it in front of the entire table like a public humiliation. Maybe he gives you a judgmental stare as he pulls one of his prior-knowledge bombs. Oh, and when you try to spice the campaign up with some homebrew or improv, he accuses you of running things incorrectly so he can keep exploiting his prior knowledge. Even his character is set up as if to remind you that he's better and more knowledgeable at the game than you, since he uses these features from books you never heard of. And now this guy's telling you, "why don't you come to one of my sessions, where I run a much better game than you do, and you can see how a real DM does things."

    Your DM could see the situation this way if he's less reasonable than you perceived him to be, or if you're being less gentle than you perceive yourself to be. My advice is to stop trying to make the DM better.
    It always amazes me how often people on forums would rather accuse you of misreading their posts with malice than re-explain their ideas with clarity.

  28. - Top - End - #28
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    Lord Torath's Avatar

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    Default Re: DM Issues: Dealing with a DM with much less experience.

    Quote Originally Posted by Vitruviansquid View Post
    My advice is to stop trying to make the DM better.
    Bite your tongue, and never say that again! (Okay, you didn't actually say it, so maybe you should slap your typing fingers instead. Bad fingers!) There's a shortage of perfect DMs in this world, so anything you can do to help those around you learn to be better is something you should do.

    That being said, be careful how you do this. Perhaps you could invite him to sit in on a session, not as a player, but in a place behind the screen, so he can see what you're doing and how you do it. I have not actually tried this, and I don't know your DM, so I can't tell you how effective it will be. Tell him he can see how you, as DM, deal with players who play like you do.

    We don't want him to show up here, or you to show up here.
    Last edited by Lord Torath; 2014-11-05 at 03:03 PM.
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  29. - Top - End - #29
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    Beholder

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    Default Re: DM Issues: Dealing with a DM with much less experience.

    Listen to Vitruviansquid, he has much wisdom. I suggest you tread very carefully here. Try to see things from his side.

  30. - Top - End - #30
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    Default Re: DM Issues: Dealing with a DM with much less experience.

    ... actually - I don't think the DM did handle it well. At least not if he said he didn't mind being corrected. It also didn't 'keep the game moving' - instead, he stalled the game to assert power by cutting you off.

    If he had let the player finish what he was saying, he could have saved time spent on several lines of argument. Cutting someone off mid-sentence almost always is more trouble than it's worth.

    It would have gone faster if he'd said "(bluff) ...yes, I know that. *mentally readjust DC to 25* Or (Truth) "Sorry - maybe next time."
    Last edited by Sartharina; 2014-11-05 at 03:01 PM.

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