Saturday, April 13, 2024

Game Mastering: Theory and Practice

I am back from my trip to the U.S. My son is really happy to be attending an American high school rather than a Korean one. I had a good visit with my parents and got to meet some old family friends, and just get a little refresher of Midwest life. But I'm happy to be back in Korea. And without further ado, on to gaming discussion. 

Recently, discussion on BX Blackrazor and The Tao of D&D has focused on how to teach someone to be a good Dungeon Master. I've been to busy with non-gaming stuff to get in on the conversation, but I'm definitely interested, since I'm nearing completion of the first draft of my TS&R GM book. 

Before I left for the states, I was thinking that it might be a good idea to do a comparison of several different editions/games, including what I'm doing with my TS&R book. I had started to look through the advice in the 5E book, and in my opinion, it may be fine for experienced DMs moving to 5E from another edition or other RPG, but for a novice, it's got the organization of the information all wrong. It starts off with all of these big picture campaign setting discussions, like what sorts of deities exist in the world. Definitely NOT where a new DM should begin. 

The writers obviously expect that the "game play mechanics" should be obvious from the PHB, so all the DM needs to do is create a campaign world. But even then, I wouldn't start with that sort of stuff. I think it's better to teach the new DM about how to run the game, why certain things are done the way they are, and how to manage the group. 

Back in grad school, one of my professors titled every single class she taught as [Insert Course Content Here]: Theory into Practice. While I found it amusing at the time, it's not a bad strategy for teaching. Start by explaining the basic theory of how the game (ideally) works and why certain mechanics are the way they are. Then move on to the concrete details of how to craft interesting encounters, dungeons, game worlds, multiverses, etc. and solid advice about how to run the table and manage the game group. After that, if necessary, deeper theory could be discussed. 

If I have some free time, I'll maybe take a closer look at how different DMGs are organized and the information presented, from the lens of an instructional manual for the game. I expect Mentzer and 2E AD&D likely are better at this than others, but that's just my gut instinct.

1 comment:

  1. I would certainly be interested in reading your take on the various instructional texts!