Despite Dungeons & Dragons being an incredibly fun and social game, it’s inevitable that you will encounter Dungeon Masters who commit these DM Sins.
Maybe it’s just a difference in expectations about the game. Maybe they really are just that difficult.
Either way, these are the DM Sins that make up 7 of the 8 Types of DM You Are Going to Meet Playing D&D.
(Disclaimer: This is mostly meant for comedy purposes and I refuse to admit which of these are hypothetical examples and which are real experiences I’ve had to endure…)
DM Sin 1: The Forever Noob
We were all new at some point and, let’s face it, there’s a lot to learn when you start playing D&D!
But at some point things should start to… click… you know?
This DM struggles to recall or enforce any rules which quickly makes the game lose any sense of structure.
Their combat encounters are often terribly unbalanced one way or the other. It’s hard to say what’s more frustrating: the random one or two zombies that this DM sends against your party of level 10 heroes or the Beholder they throw at your party of level 2 heroes.
You’ve tried bringing this up to them and maybe even got them a copy of the Dungeon Master’s Guide as a hint.
But no matter how many games you play with this DM, they just don’t seem to improve.
You figure you will stay in touch and maybe play with them again once they learn the game better. If that happens.
But you find a new group in the meantime!
DM Sin 2: The Novelist
You’re excited to start playing with this new group.
The DM told you the concept for the campaign and it sounds like a really interesting story.
To be fair, it probably is… as a book…
This DM shows you only what they want you to see and exploring their world is more similar to a trolley ride with a tour guide than actual adventuring.
Specific events seem to happen regardless of any characters’ actions or decisions. Seemingly every NPC knows the party’s quests and refuses to do anything other than point them towards the next objective.
You look at your wrists and legs to notice strings stretching up to the ceiling and back behind the DM’s screen.
This is the DM’s story. You’re just here to say the lines.
DM Sin 3: The Optimizer
It took a little bit longer to find a new group than you expected after that last guy. But this new DM seems to really have his stuff together.
He knows the rules inside and out, has well-organized notes, and seems like a nice person.
Until it starts to get a bit… rigid…
You come to the table with a character concept of a Half-Orc Bard who works as a traveling circus promoter. Why not? It will be fun to play something lighthearted.
The DM laughs for a moment before looking at you with all seriousness and saying, “But, seriously, what are you playing?”
You look down at your character sheet then back up to the DM. A type of fiery rage is clearly beginning to swell up behind his calm exterior.
You make a few quick changes to your character sheet.
“He’s a Barbarian. I don’t know why I said Bard” you say, mildly embarrassed at your own sheepishness.
As the game continues, you see that every single aspect of this DMs world is a perfectly-engineered machine.
But woe to any who don’t interact with this machine exactly as intended.
There is a “correct” way to play Dungeons & Dragons with clearly defined rules and tables. If it does not adhere to these for optimal results, this DM will be very quick to correct you.
You’ve never seen a game run so smoothly, but you’ve also never felt so… bored… At least the last guy had an interesting storyline…
DM Sin 4: The Slacker
“This is it!” you think as you prepare to join your new D&D group.
You chat with the other players a little bit while waiting for the DM to arrive. The game was supposed to start at 3 and it’s already 3:30. Where are they?
You ask the others if everything’s okay and they just tell you “it happens.”
You don’t want to seem like a stickler, but you’ve still got stuff to do later this evening!
The DM arrives at 3:45. You’re excited to start playing as everyone takes their seats.
“Where did we leave off?” the DM asks.
You think it’s a type of rhetorical question for a recap.
“Seriously guys, where are you?”
Oh no… Whereas the last DM kept oddly-detailed notes and logs of the party’s activities, this DM doesn’t even remember where the story is at!
You casually glance over and see… nothing?
No notes? No Monster Manual? Not even a copy of the module the group is running?
At least they have dice…
The Slacker shows up… eventually…
But don’t ask them to come prepared. They won’t bother reading ahead in a module to get some prep in and they certainly won’t be keeping track of the storyline.
The party just kind of meanders around in a given location until they happen to stumble upon something that sounds fun in the moment.
If stories in D&D are like a quilt, this would be a napkin.
But at least there’s dice?
DM Sin 5: The Executioner
It is a common joke that DMs are always planning new ways to utterly destroy their players’ characters.
At the end of the day, the DM is right alongside the players in contributing to a fun and collaborative game.
This DM is friendly enough before the game begins, but the second they sit behind that DM screen… something happens…
This DM believes that Dungeons & Dragons is a game that can be won and they are going to do everything in their power to prove it.
From even the earliest levels, your character is forced to overcome challenges so brutal and unfair that it would make the team behind the Dark Souls games cry.
Game in and game out, your character will be brutalized by all manner of creature in ways that you never dreamed of. It is then and only then that your poor character may be granted the sweet release of death.
There’s fun-challenging and torture-challenging and this DM hasn’t quite seemed to realize the difference between the two.
To them, D&D will always be the DM vs the Players and the house will always win…
DM Sin 6: The Creep
You started playing with this new group a few weeks ago and things seem to be going pretty well so far. You love your character, the story is engaging, and everyone is pretty friendly.
Still, something seems… off…
You notice that a large part of every game is solely dedicated to one player.
At first, it didn’t seem like such a big deal. You had hopped in mid-campaign and maybe this is just an important arc for that player’s character, right?
But now it’s a few weeks later and you’ve only ever made a few basic rolls. You start to notice that everyone has only really made a few rolls.
Well… everyone except one…
That’s when it clicks.
The strange amount and quality of magic items custom-geared towards the specific character. The seeming inability to fail at literally anything with or without a roll. A strange amount of odd innuendos.
Oh… this is bad…
As it turns out, the game is how the DM is attempting to get with the player in question. Everyone else spends most of their time on their phones, doodling in their notebooks, or anything to distract from the fact that they have front-row seats to the most awkward show on Earth.
It’s a collaborative story and you’re all basically just the audience while the DM shoots their shot in the most cringeworthy ways possible.
It’s best to get out while you still can…
DM Sin 7: The Player
You’ve heard about this new group before joining their game. The DM has a ton of experience and knows the game inside and out.
There’s just one problem… they really, really, really want to play.
Being the Dungeon Master is a ton of fun, but it’s also a lot of work! Even the best and most passionate DMs just want to be an adventurer themselves from time to time.
But it’s easy to get stuck in the infamous trap of being a forever-DM.
Unfortunately, some DMs who find themselves in this situation try to split the difference by creating a character for themselves to join the party.
Wouldn’t you know it? This new group is going through this exact situation.
In no time at all, things are playing out exactly as you would expect.
The story quickly becomes solely about the DM’s own character. As a classic example of the Mary Sue, the world seems to bend to whatever the character wants. Disagreeing with the character is quickly met with strange types of vengeance from the world.
You feel a bit bad for the DM. They clearly feel trapped as the DM and no one else is apparently rising to the task of taking over.
That’s when you decide to take action…
You pull the exhausted DM to the side after a game one night.
“Hey, do you mind if I give DMing a try?”
You’ve never seen someone’s eyes light up like this before.
“Of course not!” they cheer.
Fast forward a few months later and your group is wrapping up their weekly game.
Everyone’s spirits are high, the characters and players are celebrating clearing their most recent dungeon, and things are just fun.
The Player DM from earlier finishes packing up their stuff and gets ready to leave, but stops for a second.
“This is seriously fun. Thank you so much!”
Maybe it was a long and, at times, awkward road to get here, but you learned a lot!
Your players love being able to make whatever characters they think will be most interesting and use your world to make their own story. Everyone was so supportive when you were starting that you ended up getting a handle on all the rules in no time at all.
You wave goodbye as everyone gets in their cars to head home for the evening and can’t help but get that tingly feeling when you start thinking about next week’s game.
This loveable band of crazy adventurers are loving the work that you put in to their games. You feel appreciated and are constantly looking for new ways to add more to your game.
You didn’t set out looking to be the Dungeon Master for a group that is uniquely perfect for you, but the group found you in their own strange way.
It’s a lot of work, but it’s worth it to spare your friends the wrath of the DM Sins you’ve witnessed and create games that your group will talk about for years to come!
(Of course, it wasn’t a bad idea at all to read Tabletop Joab’s Must-Know Tips For New Dungeon Masters!)
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