Wednesday 16 January 2013

The DM with Two Brains

It’s a busy life DMing a session; even more so when you’re trying to keep kids in order as well. Sandbox sessions with their extra workload of extemporising from sketchy notes at a moment’s notice leave little time for keeping an eye on how the players are organising their character sheets, hit points, resources, oil bombs, magic item charges etc, etc.

To begin with, I sweated it all; I kept one half of my mind on what was going on behind the DM’s Screen and the other half on whether the party’s thief had remembered that he’d picked up a +2 short sword, +4 v Undead three months ago and should be using it, or making sure that the noobs used the right dice, or that everybody had taken their second bow shot that round.

After a while, I began to realise that this second role wasn’t really that important; if the players, who had been gaming for several months, couldn’t keep track of their magic items, or forgot to maximise their attacks, that was not for me to worry about. If the magic user cast more spells than they were entitled to, or the fighter used the Large damage dice when the target was Man-sized, the world wasn’t going to come to an end. My responsibility was to keep the adventure on track, make sure I used the right monster stats and delivered an enjoyable session for all (within reason).

Of course, I have an advantage – I have two brains.

I’ll explain. When Team Adventure first started, Mummy Grognard sat in -  partly to chaperone the first two players and partly to see what this D&D thing was all about. As the campaign progressed, she became a true part of the team, actively recruiting for places at the table and keeping things under control when the lads started to get distracted and perhaps a little bit…well, laddish.  As things have got more involved, I’ve also allocated her the role of caller so that we don’t have five boys trying to shout over each other in order to get the DM to listen to them. She also keeps track of the magic, gold and XP I hand out and makes sure that at the end of each session, the players’ totals are up to date, accurate and confirms if anyone has levelled up.

All this and sorting the pizzas and milkshakes as well. All praise to her for what she does and the way she stays cool under pressure. To assist her further, I’ve printed out her spell book and a contents page so that she can check more quickly what her magic user can do, what effect it has and how long it lasts without flicking through the entire PHB each time.

In a way, her administrative activities in keeping five boys under control and organised lift a heavy burden from me and ensure that the game progresses fairly and enjoyably. She also manages to bifurcate her MG and Elysia personae very effectively.

Has anybody else had experience of situations or groups where one player clearly takes over part of the admin for the DM? Did it work or was it eventually more trouble than it was worth?  Or are all your players superbly organised and need no administrative support?

1 comment:

  1. Our Pathfinder GM would be the first to admit that he's not great with complex rules -- why he's running Pathfinder is a question for another day -- so he relies quite often on the rest of us to keep the mechanics straight while he concentrates on the story side. It works quite well, as Pathfinder is probably too much for one brain, and it gives us all a sense of ownership over the game.