Tobold's Blog
Friday, June 14, 2024
Not escaping the DM role

Back in the days of World of Warcraft, my two main characters were a healer and a tank. That was due to simple math: A group needed one tank and one healer, plus three damage dealers. But more than 60% of the player base wanted to play damage dealers, so that healers and tanks were always in short supply. By playing a healer or a tank, I could guarantee finding a group faster. The disadvantage was that most people tended to blame either the healer or the tank when things went wrong, even if in reality the damage dealer often weren't innocent in failure.

Playing Dungeons & Dragons, especially in the last decade, I was frequently the DM, the dungeon master. Same principle really: A typical group to play D&D needs 1 DM and 4 - 5 players, most people just want to be players, and DMs tend to be the limiting factor. But in D&D the DM not only has a larger responsibility for the game being fun than the other players, he also has to do a lot more work. Nearly all preparatory work for a game falls on the shoulders of the DM, which also means that he is usually taking on more of the cost than the other players do. I haven't been looking for new people to play D&D with since my last group fell apart.

What I did do since moving into a new region is looking for people to play board games with. And I have been pretty successful with that. I have a regular board game night in the friendly local games store, and two other groups of people with which to play on weekends. And at first I thought that this meant that I didn't have to be the DM anymore. Most board games don't have a dungeon master or game master, and players are supposed to be equal.

But it turns out that if you meet a group of random strangers at board game night, there is a large number of people who are very willing to play with others, but they aren't quite sure what game, and they haven't prepared anything. And the games shop has a limited selection of games that people can play. If you want to see another game played, you'll have to buy it and bring it yourself. And if you bring a game, you should also already have prepared it, read the rules, and be able to explain it. I've been doing that, but somehow I feel that I am the dungeon master again. The choice is always the same: Either have a harder time finding a good group, or make finding a group easier by accepting more responsibility.


You sound as if you are beginning to grow weary of having to always be the one who puts in the effort to get a group going. What is the driving force behind this? Are there not other, credible people who could manage the groups just as well as you do?

Well, somebody has to do it. Hopefully over time Tobold will make friends with others who are willing and able to take on the role sometimes, assuming they are to be found in game shops from time to time.
I wonder if one day we will see an "AI" DM assistant. They could pull from established adventures and essentially do the heavy lifting done by a DM. It would know the rules are be able to explain them. Maybe it could even react to player decisions.

LLMs are making there way into almost every industry right now so it's only a matter of time until the technology is accessible enough that companies can start spinning up models for specialized things like tabletop gaming.
I’m in the same boat. There’s a nice app that actually does a good job of teaching board games named Dized. It talk everyone through setup and playing your first several turns. The walkthroughs vary a lot in quality, but overall I’ve been impressed, and it’s helped me teach my group a bunch of new games I was too busy to fully learn. I just plop down an iPad and hit go.
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