Saying no can be such an easy thing for me given that I am prone to being a lazy, self-absorbed misanthrope. I can say no to almost anything, from lunch with the in-laws, dinner with other couples, cuddling with the wife, lap dances from strippers, household chores, to shopping for anything that isn’t nerd related. So why do I find it so hard to say no as DM? I am not talking about something interesting or creative in game, but more along the lines of player options such as races, classes, items, feats etc…. I think part of the problem, aside from my unconscious need to be liked and avoid rejection, is that there is a really heavy emphasis in a lot of gaming literature to say yes to the players wants or desires or risk
"NO FUN FOR YOU"
being called a massive douchey, control freak, hater of fun, dick DM that runs a lame game. I mean I don’t want to be lame, douchey I can handle, but not lame.
I think that this has made it difficult to set appropriate limits and boundaries. Perhaps you want to implement the new magic item rarity classification system in 4th edition D&D because you see it as step towards re-balancing the game…nope sorry you’re a dick that wants to kill fun. This has become more of an issue in modern gaming after companies began to figure out that they could make a fuck ton more money selling to the players rather than the DM’s, thereby saturating the market with character options and crunch with the inevitable power creep and unforeseen interactions that ensue, at which point the bean counters tell them that sales have stagnated and it’s time for a new edition and the processes starts over again…rinse and repeat.
I will give you an example from my online game of an instance where I felt I needed to say no. We are looking to add a new player or two. One of the new players wanted to play a Leader. Usually this not an issue and I am thrilled someone wants to play a Leader in these Striker dominated times, but there is already a Leader in the party, a friggin pacifist War Priest (don’t even get me started) no less. There was no way I even want to deal with two Leaders in the same party (particularly with 2 defenders and a striker filling the other slots), as the combats will grind out forever with no threat and it will just make encounter design miserable for me. I can also see this making the game suck overall for everyone. So I nut up and say no, which I think pissed off the potential new player and made me feel like a massive douchey, control freak, hater of fun, dick DM that runs a lame game.
One thing that gets left out in the “yes man” philosophy is that the game may need limits and boundaries to be fun for everyone, including the DM. I think the players bear some burden in this regard, as just because you can do something doesn’t mean you should, like just because we can clone a sheep’s nuts doesn’t mean that’s what we need to do. It is admirable that you can build a character that can pown the multiverse and one shot Orcus, but maybe reign that in a little bit tuff guy and think of everyone else at the table, including the DM and don’t force him to be a dick.
I think if I was to ever start another 4th edition campaign I would limit options from the start in terms of what sources to draw from, utilize inherent bonuses, and make use of the magic item rarity system. It would not be unlike my current home campaign as the players have never really read any of the materials let alone a forum thread, but a world away from my online game. Although in fairness to them there was kind of a mutual agreement from the get go, before I was thrust into the role of DM, that the game would be a smorgasbord de jour of power gaming.
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