Content of the article: "What the actual first rule of DMing is, that is also the first rule for any relationship, or group activity, ever: COMMUNICATE"
I often see DMs talk about issues that they have with their players, and their attempts at subtly hinting at the issue, or making subtle changes to the rules or their DMing to attempt to tackle the issue, without ever doing what should be done in the first place: simple and open communication.
If there's something that your players do that bother you, try communicating. It's not going to magically solve everything, but it's a first step, and is likely going to be a lot more effective than subtle hinting. Don't take it for granted that you and your players have an understanding on things that weren't clearly communicated. Always try to make clear, before a campaign starts, what you and your players want. How do you treat the rules? How do you handle death? Do you want a lighthearted narrative, or are you okay with a heavy one? How much do you like combat? What do you generally expect? "I'm going to be strict with the rules, no flexibility. Deaths are likely to occur, be prepared for that." Etc.
That's also one of the reasons I don't especially like dice fudging or DM subterfuge (outside of pure roleplay, like an NPC lying or an illusion or whatever). Instead of deceiving your players, why not simply ask them what they want and inform your decision based on that, rather than decide for them? If a bad roll comes up, and it wasn't made clear before, either due to lack of communication or player uncertainty, why not simply ask right away "Okay, this roll will kill you. Since we weren't clear/uncertain how to deal with this, do you think your character should die?"
You'd be surprised how much clarity can make players accept uncertain things such as character deaths more easily, because they will feel like they made their own decision, they feel like "I accepted that I would die if a bad roll shows up, it wasn't decided for me", and they will likely stick to that.
"But what if I don't want my players to make these kind of decisions, what if I think that a bad roll, as per your example, means that a PC dies, no matter what, and it can't be changed, what then?" Well, tell them that. And preferably tell them right away that this is what you are going to do. Because your players don't outright know that until you tell them. It costs nothing to be clear how you are going to DM, and the benefits are immeasurable. If you're going to be strict with the rules, tell them. If you want to be flexible with the rules, tell them. Make things clear. It doesn't cost anything.
Communication doesn't mean that you have to compromise on everything, and that you have to give up your own style of DMing. It simply means clarity, and having everyone know what they're in for. The more clarity, the more prepared everyone is, and bad surprises, along with displeasing situations, are less likely to happen. Roleplaying is a group activity which can be approached in a practically INFINITE amount of ways, so you NEED to be clear about how you want it to be approached. You need to be on the same page, as with any group activity or interpersonal relationship ever. It's the most fundamental thing.
- A lot of DMs seem to forget what the first rule of DMing is: what the DM says goes.
- What is an aspect of DMing ( prep and otherwise ) that you were forced to learn by doing?
- I ghosted my players
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