Warstories: Second-guessing the DM

Posted on October 8, 2009 by

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“Warstories” is the name I’m giving to a series of short, quick articles that I want to do that involve DM’s sharing exactly that:  warstories from around the table.  I see it as an avenue for griping and venting and as a way to share solutions and answers to little things that may creep up in your games.  It could be a simple as food choice gripes, small playing spaces, or bigger issues like controlling problem players.  As always, feel free to submit your own columns for future Warstories.

You’ve got your encounters set up, your maps are drawn, your stats are in front of you and you are ready to roll… The fight starts, your monsters take damage… the players take damage… the monsters get bloodied… the players hurt a bit… monster heal, players heal… you fudge numbers a bit and *WHAM*–everything screeches to a halt “What do you mean he’s not down?  He’s taken over xx points of damage!! Hold on, hold on! Are you sure?”

You’ve been second-guessed!

How many of you guys DM that one player that sits at the table and looks over your proverbial shoulder making sure you’re doing everything by the book?  He’s  busy making sure your are applying ongoing damage to your monsters, and he’s tallying hitpoints on the monsters to make sure you are counting right, because he knows how many hitpoints they have, or at least should have…   He questions your DC’s on skill checks or AC on enemies, because he knows better than you…

You’ve been second-guessed!

Or you put an encounter together and decide that X monster is going to be part of the encounter, along with Y and Z. “Whoa whoa, what does X have to do with Z, they would never be hanging out together?  That doesn’t make sense.”

You’ve been second-guessed!

What can you do with this guy so he gets off your back and lets you DM in peace?  I think the best remedy here would be to turn the tables on him.  Ask him to DM the game for a bit because you need a break, and think he’d make a great Dungeon Master.  Then hit him with the full second-guess assault. BOOM!  Sit next to him at the table and bombard him with “I wouldn’t do that.”  “Are you sure?  It doesn’t sound right”.  He’ll get the picture.

Another remedy is to remind this guy that technically, whatever you do at the table isn’t really cheating.  The rules are there for you to bend as much as you may need.  You can certainly toughen monsters up or weaken them as you like in order to fit your particular game and group makeup.  Remind him off that outside the table.

So for this first edition of Warstories, I’m curious as to how many of you DM’s out there have faced this type of situation at the table?  How do you handle it?

I look forward to your comments.

Edit:  It seems that the ChattyDM had posted an article  about the same exact topic as mine before I published mine.  Arghh, I hate looking like a ripoff artist!  Here’s the link to his article. Let’s compare notes, and I’m sorry for the appearance of impropriety🙂

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