Jan 03

Newbie DM: The changing role of the DM

From the Newbie DM blog, an interesting discussion on whether the role of the DM has changed in successive editions of D&D.  I thought it was interesting given my rather outsider view of D&D 4e, but it also throws into relief the different styles of rules and GMing available in the games out there.

One thing that I’ve thought about a lot lately is the role of the DM through the years, and it came back to me because I am currently running two very distinct fantasy role playing games, with two very different roles for the DM (apart from crafting the story, of course).

image courtesy Mike Shea

Dragon Age is a game with a different approach than modern D&D.  It’s fairly rules light, and a lot of calls are left for the Dm to decide on using his judgement.  Fairly similar to the experience that AD&D, or the D&D boxed sets  provided.  The DM is a judge and arbiter, his rules are the law at the table.  ”Do I have cover from the archer?” “Sure, you have light cover, provided by the boulders, he attacks at a -2″

4e D&D, which I still run weekly, is a different animal.  There are plenty of rules for both the players and the DM to learn and memorize.  The DM’s job changes a bit then, he has to remember the rules, rather than judge the situation and make a call.   ”Do I have cover from the archer?” “Lets trace a line from the corner of your square to a corner on the archer’s square.”

Two very different ways of judging cover.  One is in the DM’s hands, the other really isn’t.

There’s plenty of interesting discussion in the comments.  I recommend having a look.

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