627 – Prep Work • 10

If you have a question for Dear DM, ask it in the comments below and he’ll answer in next week’s column!

Dear DM

@Alan: Dear DM, what witty / entertaining question should I ask on a blog where the webmaster / webcomic artist answers questions based on D&D / Roleplaying / Life in general?

Dear Alan,

So glad you asked! You can never really be rid of your herpes, but there are several medications you can use to make flareups less frequent, and less debilitating. As always, you should advise possible sexual partners in advance that you are infected with a dangerous, painful, and highly contagious crotch rot.

@Thelma: Dear DM, I like Dungeons & Dragons, but my favorite game is Toon. I like it better because D&D is too violent. What is your favorite game?

Dear Thelma,

If your Toon game is less violent than your D&D game, you’re doing something very, very wrong. That said, I’d have to say that my personal favorite game is… is… is… hunh. I’m not sure I can answer that. The game I play the most often is an iPhone game called Strategery that I play while I’m pooping… but favorite? I used to really love Battlefleet Gothic, but no one plays that anymore… and Pull My Finger isn’t properly a game at all… clearly I love Dungeons & Dragons, but is it my favorite? Heroclix was pretty awesome. Scrabble rocks unless Lloyd is playing. (Same with Trivial Pursuit and that LotR trivia thing we played that one time… stupid Lloyd.) Oh wait! I really like World of Warcraft. I can play that one alone or with friends. I still don’t know if it’s my favorite though. Oh! I know what it is. My favorite game is Mr. Telephone Repairman. It’s a game Lena came up with for her birthday. Um… I probably shouldn’t say anything more than that.

@ Fanseepantz: I just bought a dog. I know you like dogs and was wondering if you had any advice.

Dear Fanseepantz,

Well, it’s against my nature to give advice, but I’ll try.

First, you need to express your dominance. Now many trainers will tell you that the best way to do this is by frequently picking up your new dog, or asserting territory over the food bowl, or by blocking doorways with your body until you allow the dog through, and a variety of other methods that all take weeks to accomplish. The best and quickest way however, is to demonstrate to the dog your position in the pack. For instance, if you have a roommate, pee on them with the dog watching. (In fact it’s a good idea to pee on anyone entering the house for the first few days after you get your dog.) This will demonstrate to your dog that you are someone worthy of respect, as well as someone not to be fucked around with.

As far as other behaviors go, use your common sense. Is the dog chewing on your shoes? Electrify them. Is the dog leaving presents in the middle of the living room rug? Cork him until it’s convenient for you to let him outside. Barking at the postman? Call the Post Office and tell them that your dog only likes hot, asian postwomen. Then when the dog barks, you can run to the door in your bathrobe, which will just happen to fall open as you’re opening the door, and then the porno music starts… excuse me.

@Chuck: Dear DM, my DM never gives us any good treasure. I’m getting sick of it. What would you do about it?

Dear Chuck,

DMs, like any exotic creature, require special handling and care. DMs are not native to the United States and can suffer when taken too long from their proper environments. If your party is not receiving sufficient treasure, you first ask yourself the following questions: Is my DM getting enough beer? Is my DM getting porn sufficient to his/her needs? Is my DM getting a proper diet of chicken wings, pizza, and Cheetos? Is my DM getting laid?

If the answer to any of these questions is no, immediate action on your part can change the equation for the better. Like all relationships, you get out of it what you put into it. Seeing to the needs of your DM can make your game more fun and rewarding for everyone!

As always, if you have a question for Dear DM, put it in the comments below,

or email Kevin with the CONTACT button at the top of the page.

42 Responses to 627 – Prep Work • 10

  1. “DMs, like any exotic creature, require special handling and care. DMs are not native to the United States and can suffer when taken too long from their proper environments.”

    *falls over laughing* 😆

  2. Dear DM,

    what do you do when a player character versus player character conflict erupts in-game, but it is clearly fueled by low-level but unresolved conflict between the players?

    Specifically, how would you handle a situation, as DM or player, if the only logical choice in-game for PC#1 would be to kill PC#2, be it in self-defense or as revenge for betrayal, but player #1 can’t bring herself to do it, even if it fucks up her own character’s life, because she believes that player characters shouldn’t attack each other (unless both players have previously agreed to it and it’s a scripted fight), because that never ends well and pisses everyone off.
    Of course, now that my stupid “noble gesture” fucked up my character’s life, I’m pissed off.

      • Hm. Perhaps I shouldn’t have addressed that to Dear DM, but instead written “Dear Kevin, Lena and all you other fine, crazy folks out there”, because in this case, I need advice, not satire.

        • Then you really don’t want to ask him!

          Okay, going forward, take a good, hard look at situations like this, and really think about what would bug you less, being “noble” and screwing up your character’s life, or acting out of character. If the answer is neither, take your DM aside and CALMLY explain that you really want to have fun here, and you appreciate their efforts, but this isn’t doing it for you. Perhaps there could be a third option?

          For now, you can either talk to your DM and give them a variation of the above… or you could just try to get over it and find something else to like about your character other than the stuff that got screwed up.

          As for the unresolved conflict, I’d say find a resolution, or at least agree to not let it enter the game. D&D is a lot of things to a lot of people, but it isn’t a tool for real life conflict resolution, and it isn’t immune to the baggage we bring to the table. If you aren’t having fun, you’re doing it wrong, and the best solution is always open discussion and honesty. It’s hard for me to be much more specific without knowing the particulars, but this doesn’t sound like a take your ball and go home scenario… so work it out. I promise that everyone will be happier.

          • Problem is, I screwed up my character’s life by having him act out of character. By meta-gaming. By trying so hard to find reasons why my character would sit idly by and dig his own grave simply because I didn’t want to have to kill another player character.

            Some of that can be explained by the fact that this was the last day of a several-day long gaming convention in a group of 8 poeple and everyone was tired; the female player was apprently still pissed off at me because we had gotten into a heated dispute the day before when she acted stupidly and got on everyone’s nerves big time); our characters didn’t 100% trust each other’s loyalties, they’d recently come into possession of powerful artifacts (my character in particular had gone through dangerous tests to gain control over the most powerful one), and we had to deal with an NPC we didn’t trust either.

            But other reactions are still incomprehensible to me, such as why those other two players suddenly decided that their characters would now view my character as a traitor and enemy, because (as they claimed) he had broken a promise (one that he had never given!) and… I don’t know, behaved in a threatening way towards them? (You know, like, by NOT blowing up their spaceship?) WTF? 😕

            Hm. Getting into further details would probably help make this sound less confusing, but would take too long.

            It wasn’t a D&D game, it was a SciFi game…. but it doesn’t really matter. Imagine that a LN character from a Feudal Space Empire was betrayed and threatened by people he had thought of as allies, and instead of reacting logically to that, he actually lied to his own superiors in an attempt to protect those other player characters’ asses (and the secrets of a bunch of “innocent” space-aliens whose lives are are intimately connected to those artifacts) because otherwise his superiors (read: the gamemaster) might decide to imprison or kill those other PCs for the sake of national security.

            Well, perhaps the gamemaster would not have done that and handwaved it away, but logically his NPCs should have. So in a way I was also trying to kindly protect the gamemaster from having to make that tough decision. But now, logically, those superiors will have to punish or execute my character for lying in his reports. Heck, the Secret Police probably already knows of his stupidity and is waiting to dust off the torture droids. While one of the other players whose characters I protected openly announced that his characters might have to kill mine next time they meet!

            If this situation had involved NPCs, not two player characters, my character would have killed them in self-defense or reported them and I would not have had problems with that. Heck, my character is not even a Terran human but comes from a human-like imperialistic culture that does not believe in “turning the other cheek”, traitors are killed, traditions are revered and where nobles kill each other with swords in honor duels. (Think a mixture of Imperial Japan and Prussian Germany, in Space.) My character has killed before (alright, once)… he executed a powerful, insane psychic in defense of the group. But he isn’t a soldier, merely a pilot with a nobleman’s training in diplomacy and bureaucracy and a hobby interest in galactic cultural anthropology… from the point of view of his culture, he’s practically a pacifist and class-traitor.

            I have written an e-mail to the gamemaster about this (he told me I could phone him as soon as he’s back from a business trip, but he also dropped hints that he might write my character out of the campaign). I will be writing another e-mail, this time to the other players and the gamemaster, but I’ve been putting it off. 🙁

          • Thank you for replying, Kevin. I mean, it isn’t even your problem, and you don’t actually know me apart from my comments here. I’m just a bit depressed lately. Well, nothing new for me. Depression, I mean.

            My subconscious mind probably decided to make me fuck up my character’s chances to make it out of the campaign alive because I was afraid of being accused of “powergaming” (see the paragraph about ancient alien artifacts in my post above). Bleh.

            • My group has had it’s share of interpersonal relationship issues. We have 9 people in this group, not counting the DM, so problems crop up more frequently than they might.

              With an issue this big, I would give the group some time to think it over, while still communicating back and forth. We had a major schism about 2 years ago and we needed to have about 3 months of down time to reboot the game.

              I hope it doesn’t come to that with you.

            • Okay Christina, the good news is that you can absolutely pull this out of the fire. The bad news is that I can’t really tell you how to do it.

              Gaming is best when it’s light, and happy, and fun. It’s okay to dip into pathos and drama every once in a while, but I’d try not to let that last more than a session at a time. Fun time simply shouldn’t have the negative connotation. It should be about playing a character that’s enjoyable, not a chore.

              So… think about that. What would make you happy about playing your character again? Writing a virus into the government computers to erase your crime? Throwing away your super-artifact? Ditching him and starting up a new class/template that you’ve always wanted to play? Think forward, not back. Don’t worry about what you’re losing, it’s in the past. Think instead about what you want out of the future.

              Also, I’d consider asking the DM if he’d introduce some version of the no-PC fighting rule. If your character must, for whatever reason, work actively against the interests of another PC, you can make that decision, but at that instant you hand over your character sheet to the DM and roll up a new one. That way the player decision has resonance in the game, but everyone feels okay about fighting the NPC. (Also, knowing they’ll lose the character makes it a more serious decision when you move against someone else at the table.)

              • Thanks Kevin for replying again. Although, that last paragraph is actually worse advice. 🙁

                Point is, I want to continue playing that character. And it’s not a game where you can just “roll up a new one”… character creation along takes several hours, not to mention the backstory I wrote. Also, I’m very attached to all my characters. Handing him over to the gamemaster as an NPC to be slaughtered by the others is a horrible thought…. in a sense, it would mean rewarding the other players and punishing myself, because I would have to create a new character while they could kill mine without having to feel bad about it. Absolutely not.

                He can’t throw the artifact away, because
                1) it’s an ancient A.I. inside a huge alien pyramid. (My pilot could decide to never go back to that planet, but he is afraid that if his superiors send someone else in his stead, the other player characters will kill those NPCs using their artifacts, while my character is hopefully immune to those artifacts due to him controlling the most powerful one. He’s not immune to energy guns, however. But he’d feel guilty if others died because he was too cowardly to clean up this mess.)
                2) the artifact is central to the next chapter of the whole campaign.

                I’ll ask the gamemaster and the other players if they really want to go down that path – characters fighting amongst themselves. I hope they say no. Question is if they’ll admit that it was them who started this whole mess. Because I still don’t understand why the heck they let their characters act like paranoid dicks.

                • Okay, here’s the thing. I am NOT trying to sound cold hearted here, or to be callous, but however long it took to roll up that character, and however much backstory you put into him, it’s just a game. The reason to play is never to spend time as that character, but to spend time with your friends. Whatever happens to that character, whatever the details of the game, who started what, it’s all irrelevant. The only thing that matters is pursuing a hobby that is fun to you and gives you some quality social time with the peeps you enjoy. One key aspect to this is never taking it to heart.

                  I played 5 different characters in the last campaign I played in. 2 died, one I had move away because he had become a little overpowered and I didn’t want to dim anyone else’s fun, one was recalled to his homeland and I felt he would probably rather go than stay with the party and earn the ire of his people, and the last I played to the end. Every one of them had very fleshed out backgrounds the DM was able to integrate into his game, and each took me hours to make. (It’s D&D, but I love to futz and fiddle.) However, when they died, (in one case destroying a MAJOR story arc the DM had set up) I simply jumped to the books and said… “Oo! I’ve always wanted to play one of THOSE!”

                  The DM will figure out a way to work around whatever happens. That’s what he’s there for. He’s running the game, not you. Any loss in the game reflects no actual loss to you at all. You walk out exactly the same as you walked in. Gaming is in itself just problem solving. Sometimes you’re solving for the fate of the universe, and sometimes you’re solving for your next meal. Regardless, it’s the same activity. Try to take a step back and look at the situation as any other game. You’re in a tight spot, so figure a way out.

                  But please remember, and I say this only because I DO care, the worst thing that can possibly happen… is nothing at all. If you have to make up a new character… so be it. Have fun doing that. If you have to write up a new background… great! Have fun doing that too! But if you can figure out a fun way to extricate your character from the situation he’s in… that’s great too.

  3. Dear Dm,

    Have you ever played or run a Ravenloft campaign?
    If so, can you give me some advice on setting the tone?


  4. Dear DM,

    Does playing “Mr. Telephone Repairman” involve low volatage wires applied to areas that shouldn’t be that close to electricity? If so, my wife likes that game but I think it hurts. Oh, and those aligator clips she uses to connect the wires don’t feel too good, either. And I’m pretty sure that’s not where the phone plugs in, either. In fact, I’m not sure if I like this game at all. And you said Lena invented it? Can you tell her to quit talking to my wife?

  5. So glad I asked that question, were you able to answer it from your personal experience of that?

    If so, did you inform Lena?

    Dear DM,

    I have been thinking of using visuals in games. Not being as good an artist as you, any ideas where I can source images to have pictures of various characters, people, places, or monsters etc?

    Yours concerned,


  6. Dear Mr. Dear DM,

    If your players just aren’t “getting” and following clues that have been left for them (as opposed to simply ignoring them) how do you determine whether you left poor clues, or if your players are just doofus’? If the problem is poor clues, how do you go about rectifying that?

    Also: Could you tell us all a bit about the history of the DM family, like their early days and how they eventually came to the U.S. ? I’d also be interested to learn if “Dear” is a traditional name in your family and if so, who the first “Dear DM” was.

    Thank you for your time.

    • Heh, the first part of your question is one that I am also interested in. I have run, what were supposed to be investigative campaigns where the players expected to be spoonfed all the clues and answers.

      It is a little depressing, because players who don’t pick up on clues, or having to leave clues so obviously makes it difficult to run an investigative campaign, and thus can turn a campaign from a campaign into a sword and sorcery rail shooter.

    • In my experience, there are players who like solving puzzles and hunting clues (provided they can find them, otherwise they get frustrated)… and those who don’t. If you find yourself trying to run an investigative game with the latter kind, get other players.

  7. Dear DM,
    Did you ever watch the old D&D cartoon as a kid and think it was just the awesomest cartoon ever? Have you re-watched it as an experienced D&D-playing adult and thought it was the lamest show ever? What happened? How do you think it could be re-made to re-capture the awsome factor for adult fans of the old show?


  8. Dear DM, what household chores and loot have you successfully scammed by being a DM?

  9. Dear DM,

    please enlighten us as to the special feats and superpowers the DM class has granted you.

  10. Dear DM,

    What’s a good way of recruiting friends of specific skill sets (for example, programming) so that you can scam them into helping you with your own personal projects? A variable particularly noteworthy is when you currently lack any friends with such a skill.

    Also of note: kidnapping is not a viable option, for a variety of reasons including but not limited to differences in the American / Canadian legal systems, a general malaise known as a ‘conscience’ and the unlikelihood of specific skills being found in the victims of human trafficking.

    Dear DM,

    I just discovered that this is my favourite time of year. Why? Because I can buy solid blocks of white chocolate (unfortunately, rabbit shaped) for CHEAP. What is your favourite time of the year?

    • As someone who is involved in amateur dramatics, and various other voluntary things where I often need to get people with skills like carpentry, electricians, actors, and other asssorted trades, I have a little advice for you.

      Most importantly, assuming you are not offering payment, said project should be fun for all involved. People just aren’t going to help if is going to be a chore for no payment.

      If it is a potentially commercial venture, then you could make it a joint venture, with a split of any potential profits.

      Make sure that the promise of recognition will be given. If you are looking for a programmer, let them add their name to it, and put the thing in heir portfolio / offer to be a reference for them when looking for a career / be wingman for them when chatting up members of the opposite sex.

      If you are not expecting people to work for cash, don’t expect them to work in the same way as if they were being paid. Thie means that whatever your personal timeline is, you are going to have to allow for the other person to have a more generous timeline when really important things get in the way (Like gaming etc…).

      Actually getting hold of people can be difficult, so if you want someone local, hang out where people with required skills are likely to meet up and ask around. If you don’t need someone too advanced, go to a local university / college and there may be some students interested in helping out in return for food / alcohol.

      If you don’t need someone local, there are all kinds of people online who are looking for things to do. Communities of programmers often have a joint ventures section of some kind.

      Incidentally, if your project is web based with a commercial aspect, I have a certain amount of expertise in that area – particularly in design, SEO, and marketing, so might be interested in a project depending on content.


    • The surest way to get a programmer to help you is to claim that a particular task is “impossible” or that “no one is smart enough to do it”. I am a programmer and I have been duped by many a friend using such techniques. There is something about having to prove that you are smarter than everyone else that makes a programmer not only take on these tasks, but to take them on with such vigor that they get completed faster than would normally be expected. YMMV.