Friday, 20 March 2015

Typology of DMs?

I've been working my way through the 5e DMG over the past couple of days. I like what I see. Lots of random tables - including a carousing table! Reasonable advice, even if sometimes too much stress is put on a D&D adventure being like a 'story', which might set a DM's expectations such that there are heightened temptations to railroad and fudge. But, I repeat, despite that language, which is difficult to avoid, the advice is reasonable. Certainly much better than the 2e Campaign Sourcebook and Catacomb Guide - the first supplement to the 2e DMG, which itself was much inferior to the 5e version - which sometimes seems to be nothing but advice on effective railroading. Along with some sweet isometric maps...

But to go back to my last post, raising the subject of the DM's 'fun', the 5e DMG has a breakdown of different player types. I've seen this kind of stuff in quite a few places now. It's all perfectly sensible advice. The DM is advised to cater for the different player types in his or her group. The player types are described in a non-judgmental way, so a player wanting a hack and slash game is not described as inferior to a player seeking immersive roleplay. But what I want to know is, has anyone done something similar for DMs? A typology of DMs? On that *doesn't* read as a list of 'the ways in which your DM is shitty', but as a mirror image of the typology of players; 'these are the types of DMs that exist, and if you are going to be a good player at the table you will have to adapt your play to their DMing style'?


  1. I'm a Director or Stage Manager. I make sure the backdrops display the correct scenery, the props are at hand, and the spear carriers hit their marks. My role is to ensure that the players can perform, and I set the stage accordingly. Sometimes I control the spotlight and can use that to focus on a thing, area, or individual actor, but mostly I rely on my players being both proactive and interactive.

    Good points: I can run groups of a size that would make Authorial ["I want to tell my players a story"] gamemasters cringe (I've happily run games with 16-24 active participants). I have no control over the plot of story and can merely offer interesting options.

    Bad points: I need the players to be motivated and proactive. If they are reactive and waiting for me to tell them what to do the game will crash. Also, I have difficulty handling very small groups of players for the same reason. I have no control over the plot of story and can merely offer interesting options.

    1. That's a really good one! I hope that we can collect a few more like this.

      But 16-24 participants! Wow!

  2. Stuart Robertson, of Strange Magic [] added this comment on Google+:

    "I made some GM Merit Badges at one point with this idea in mind. Although after the last few years I would definitely add a few new badges."

  3. I've noticed a few DM types over the decades, but it is admittedly hard not to find "performance judgement" evaluations for DMs since they are after all the ones with the biggest audience. As a DM I'm the kind who likes to world build, prefers unstructured "off the rails" games but will happily provide direction if the players seek it, and I am a "false adversary" type of DM, which is to say I expect and want the players to win the day but I want them to feel like they worked their ass off to narrowly avoid defeat. Other DM types I've noticed include:

    The Hardcore Prepper--this DM likes to work from a script and tends to build very elaborate modules, or use published content. Some preppers have to stop when the game moves into uncharted territory, they do not usually like to wing it.

    The Freeform improv DM: I know some DMs who come to the table with maybe three ideas that are expressed as a sentence or phrase at best, and they lean heavily on prompts from the players to move the game in the direction desired. These DMs tend to excel with systems like FATE.

    I think Hexcrawl DMs are a special breed as well. Hexcrawl gaming requires a very different DM approach and even I, as someone who loves open world gaming and challenges my players to go wherever they want, have realized my style still isn't quite the same as a classic hexcrawl approach. Hexcrawling is in many ways similar to the old-school Traveller style of DMing (I've often wondered what a prodcedurally generated Traveller campaign would look like with a GM who ran it by the book). Ironically while I may be the style I mentioned earlier, as a player this is the kind of GM I want running my game.