I Played D&D With Two DMs And It Was Awesome

Illustration: Wizards of the Coast

When members of our Dungeons and Dragons group have a birthday, we play a one-off game in their system of choice, usually with an accompanying gimmick. Last time we had a birthday, we played as an all bard party.

This time, our birthday boy wanted to combine both of his role playing group into one giant one. We needed a second DM to pull this off, and as I sipped my bloody mary during this boozy birthday D&D brunch, I realised I was being split between the two extremes of how people DM roleplaying games.

My regular group of players has what I feel is the ideal spread of temperaments for a game. Half of us like the combat and taking notes, and the other half prefer roleplaying and talking our way into getting what we want. For the big birthday D&D brunch, our DMs were also split across that divide. One of them liked doing the silly voices, and the other wanted to make us do maths.

We had two DMs was so that our large group could split the party without dividing the attention of a single DM. If one part of the group wanted to visit one town and the other part wanted to investigate another, we'd just split off into separate rooms. I had the chance to play with both DMs, starting with the roleplay guy.

I've never DMed before, but watching these two people quietly negotiate how to guide us through the adventure made me realise how much work it is. As we interrogated the dwarven townspeople, each with their own specific silly voice, I could see my DM working to figure out how to answer questions to give us the information that we wanted to know.

At a certain point he just broke character and told us to move on, even though he was clearly enjoying playing the jewellery maker that he made up on the fly. In the end, he made up another character in the jewellery shop - a gossip who had a cousin in a town who knew a guy who knew a guy.

It was a romp. The alcohol was flowing, I was shovelling a bacon frittata into my mouth, and we all felt really smart for figuring out clues just by talking to NPCs.

For the second half of my game I was with the other DM, whose birthday it was. He's a professor, and we played in his bookcase-lined bedroom while his two cats attempted to swat our dice off the table.

As pleasant as that was, he really took us through our paces. There was no trap we did not fall into, no alarms we did not trip, no combat encounter we could avoid by being really charming and passing a deception check.

Making matters worse, the two players I was playing with were both evil-aligned characters, meaning every time we were backed into a corner their solution was to stab someone, including the dwarven family that did literally nothing other than be in a house while we were trying to avoid detection.

All of this chaos was accompanied by repeatedly rolling our dice, which sucked, because none of us were rolling well. Unlike our other DM, who would often handwave some things to get to the next character he could make up a silly voice for, the birthday boy was going to force us to act in accordance with the dice rolls.

This ended up getting our entire party almost killed by a slime because we kept rolling threes and fours. I kept thinking, "Are you seriously going to make us all die like this?" Still, managing to survive these encounters made us accomplished, like we were actually weary adventurers saving the world from some ancient evil.

We brought the party back together for the big finale, and after having played with them both it was easy to see the strengths of both of these styles of DMing. Every time we needed a little levity, our roleplaying DM would find a new character for us to fuck around with and tease some lore out of, making us feel clever for piecing together clues from our dialogues.

When the story demanded structure, the other DM would make us take out our dice, creating new complications for us on bad rolls that made us try new tactics. I used to feel like I preferred the roleplaying over the dice rolling, but playing the game with two DMs demonstrated how well these two aspects of the game complement each other.

A good game of Dungeons and Dragons hopefully isn't all roleplaying or all maths, but a healthy mix of both.


Comments

    Yep, silly voices and hardcore (level-appropriate) combat encounters FTW!

    As an principal lead of a role playing/gaming club in Western Australia I always advocate the saying that there are no good or bad games, there are just games you enjoy and games you do not enjoy. Anyone trying to tell you otherwise is trying to sell you something. And an enjoyable role playing game is what the group of players and the game master want it to be...

      @ebon-hawk - That's a nonsense comment and you must be trying to "sell" the hobby by making it. There are GMs that are unprepared, don't know what they're doing, bury their head in rulebooks during play, railroad the players mercilessly and just come up with lame ideas. There are players who are toxic, unpleasant and have all kinds of anti-social issues. Sure it's possible there's a well run game that's not to a particular person's taste. However there are absolutely good and bad games.

        All those things that you have mentioned are correct yet some people will still enjoy the experience (your average Adventure League at a local gaming store is a perfect example of that).

        However, many of those things you have noted are actually a matter of perspective. One person thinks it is railroading and another person thinks it is story telling or module playing. One player thinks the other is toxic, where the other player and his/her friends do not. One person thinks that the other person is a bully, where it actually takes one to know one and the reverse is true. One person thinks that the GM is unprepared, the other knows that said GM spent half a day preparing for the event and is still learning the craft. As I have said, a matter of perspective.

        This happens, for real and I could provide you with a vast number of examples documented in Australia and on Facebook.

        Technically speaking, trolling is a valid way of playing a game (after all there are trickster related classes in games and in other media (see Loki)), it is just a way you and I may not enjoy (or tolerate) but it does not make it any less enjoyable (or valid) for others who do.

        I know what kind of games I would like to be a part of and I suspect you do too. However, since neither of us owns the hobby it is not our place to say what is right or wrong, but it is entirely our place to say what we enjoy and what we do not enjoy (or like or dislike)...

        Role playing is a little bit like a relationship, too many people stay in toxic relationships for no other reason than convenience... they will complain about it but will do very little to change it.

        In the end it really is all about what you enjoy or not, everything else you have listed could be considered as a reason for why you enjoyed or not enjoyed it :)

    I mean you can have dice rolls and silly voices, thats why they even bothered to write out deception and charm rules into the game

    You can go a whole in game week without combat and still get deep into the diceplay and math with just doing your best at being a pro investigator and charmer in town

    You realize that all you need to play Dungeons & Dragons are dice and character sheets. You can basically have fifty people pair off and fight each other in a Dragon Ball Z world tournament/knights watch training style game as a way to teach competence in the basic how to play using dice and character sheets while you as dungeon master stand around describing the background story.

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