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From user "T. Foster" on the ENWorld forums...

The "antagonistic DM" tone of much of Gygax's D&D writing is often misunderstood, in that it's actually mock-antagonistic in the manner of a tough coach or drill instructor -- Gygax envisions that a big part of the DM's job is to "push" his players to excellence (developing their player-level tactical acumen and problem-solving skills) and that that excellence will make the game more enjoyable for players and DM alike. Gygax is not a "killer DM" and has never advocated that style (and in fact preaches against it in the 1E DMG and elsewhere) but he is a "mock-killer DM" or poses as one -- he acts like he wants nothing more than to kill your characters, and feigns frustration when the party survives and defeats the challenges and like a melodramatic movie-villain shakes his fist and declares he'll get you next time, but the reality is exactly the opposite. Gygax as DM (read his various advice in rulebooks and modules, his "Mastery" books, or his Q&A threads here) doesn't want to kill the characters of players who are playing well, and considers a TPK (ostensibly a "victory" for the antagonistic DM) about the worst thing that can happen in the game. He wants to players to succeed brilliantly and dazzle him with their problem-solving skills in ways he never anticipated. But he thinks the best way to achieve that sort of performance isn't by coddling or taking it easy on the players, but rather by pushing and challenging them (and, yes, punishing them when they fail to perform or, especially, take the challenge seriously), like a tough coach or a drill instructor.

This, of course, isn't an approach that will work for everybody -- many (probably most) players are in the game to escape, relax, and socialize, and don't particularly want to be challenged or to have their "skills" honed in a crucible -- the difference between pick-up or rec-league sports and a high school or college program that's aiming for a championship season. A disconnect here can ruin the fun for everybody -- the DM frustrated because the players aren't responding to his coaching and stepping up their game, the players frustrated because the DM rewards their "good roleplaying" (i.e. playing a flighty or naive or low-average Int/Wis/Cha character like he's not part of a commando strike-team) by repeatedly killing their characters and putting them in situations they don't enjoy (they want to hang out in town chatting with the locals and developing their characters, he puts them in rooms with no exit and a lowering ceiling and gives them 2 minutes realtime to figure out a solution before everybody dies, etc.).

That's why open communication is key, and adaptability, and compromise (and, to an extent, choosing the right group to play with in the first place -- sometimes people are just going to have incompatible agendas and preferences, and in the long run it's probably better to just not play together than to constantly butt heads -- there's nothing wrong with this, it's not anything to be ashamed of; the idea that every D&D player should be able to get along and play with every other D&D player is unrealistic and naive).

Yes. :)

-The Gneech


( 7 comments — Leave a comment )
Mar. 20th, 2007 06:23 pm (UTC)

And even though I've had my "bone headed" moments, and find that my prep work doesn't seem to ever been enough... I still find it quite enjoyable. Regardless of the need to "level up." I don't know about the others, but I wouldn't even mind if it took a little longer to level up on occassion... some of us have kinda run through the levels, or so it seems to me from time to time.
Mar. 20th, 2007 07:00 pm (UTC)
Really? That's interesting! Are you talking about for my game or Jamie's, just out of curiosity? Going by WotC's "assumed standards", my game particularly is leveling quite slowly -- but compared to the old days of Gygaxian D&D, we're roughly on par with the norm.

FWIW, I've always thought you made a natural-born gamer -- so don't let any feeling "bone-headed" get you down! I've been gaming since 1982 and I still managed to create a rogue with no ranks in Search, go fig!

-The Gneech
Mar. 20th, 2007 07:41 pm (UTC)
I am okie with the one with Jaer (Yours), and Baylor (Frisk's.) Perhaps it's just when we "reset" the game with Baylor at sixth, and then I turned around twice and everyone seemed to be at ninth moving on to tenth. Although, I am much more into "solving puzzles" than hack and slash - but I think you knew that. ;)

I think what I am still expecting is to have more "carry over" sessions that take a couple of sessions to work out or fight through. Seems like the baddies go down in half a session or so. But I'm glad to hear you think that way about my plays - because I still often feel like I am struggling at times.
Mar. 20th, 2007 07:59 pm (UTC)
Some of that accelerated pace is because you guys have been going up against critters tougher than assumed for your level and kickin' their butts -- and that's without the benefit of the assumed wealth gear either.

In other words, even without the "+2 or higher" magic whatsits the game assumes 8th level characters will have, you're taking on stuff tougher than expected and beating it down. You guys rock!

-The Gneech
Mar. 20th, 2007 08:15 pm (UTC)
You guys rock!

Hmmm... okie, point taken. We work together as a team pretty well. And we compensate for other's weaknesses and help each other out pretty well. Maybe I just don't have the breadth yet of playing with others to realize how good we are together to realize it.

Something I will have to ponder. (Not that I am thinking of leaving or anything.)
Mar. 20th, 2007 08:19 pm (UTC)
Try gaming at a con sometime -- you might be surprised! ;)

"Dude! You just killed my character for no good reason!"
"My character sheet says Chaotic Evil, right here!"

Mar. 21st, 2007 03:27 am (UTC)
My main problem is that I have trouble thinking outside the box.

Although, one of the best games I was ever in was a Stargate SG-1 session that was technicly a TPK. It started off with our computer specialist crit missing before we left the base, our commander tried a diplomacy roll that crit missed, then on the mission all six members of the team ended up getting possessed and blowing up the Earth. Still dispite it all, we wound up laughing at the whole thing and had a great time dispite the tcf.
( 7 comments — Leave a comment )

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