After GenCon I had some time to go over the videos I recorded of my interviews, and to think about the answers to the questions I asked. It was while doing exactly that when I hit upon an idea. If you read any of my interviews, you will know that I asked every single person the same question. “What makes you a Douchey DM?” I will admit that I asked that question mostly just because this site is called DoucheyDM.com, but also because I’ve always felt that everyone has a little bit of a douche inside them somewhere. It wasn’t until after the convention that it hit me that most people probably don’t know that they are a Douchey DM in some way. It was this thought that made me decide to start a brand new article series. I made notes detailing exactly what I wanted to do, who I wanted to ask that question of, and how I wanted to organize the series. Well, that series isn’t going to happen.
Why? Well, because just as I said before, most people don’t know that they are a Douchey DM or at the very least refuse to admit it or believe it. I say this because in my notes I decided I wanted to interview several categories of gamers. Rookie gamemasters, venerable veterans, “official” gamemasters(those who run games in some official capacity), podcasters, award winners, and industry folks. The first thing I had to contend with was people not understanding the question. I would pose to them “What makes you a Douchey DM?”, and I would get a response akin to “I kill sometimes.” Killing doesn’t make you a douche, its killing for no reason or for spite that makes you a douche. Sometimes I’d get the answer of “I’m not, I let my players do whatever they want.” Pardon me for saying so, but you are a liar. I don’t care how good you are, there is something in you that comes out during your games that irritates the hell out of someone. There were even a few times when I was refused an answer. “Ask my players, I have no idea.” or just no response at all. That in and of itself makes you a Douchey DM in my book. If you are so ignorant of your relationship with your players that you can’t answer that question, congratulations… you’re a douche.
Don’t get me wrong through, I did get some great answers to the question as well ,and I will go over those momentarily, but my favorite of all has to have been Shane Lacey Hensley’s answer in the interview I did with him. He recognized that just killing people doesn’t make you douchey, but killing half your table during a playtest sneak peek at your brand new game(that people paid for mind you) was definitely a douche move. I applaud you sir, for knowing your inherent doucheyness.
I received some of the following answers that fit the theme of the question very well.
From Jason Tryon of Los Angeles, CA: “Probably the thing that is most douchey about me is that I take a perverse delight in scaring my players. I love building up tension in games and writing games that are just wrong. I once wrote a game that had characters who were based on many of the great figures of literature, The Werewolf, Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde and others.” You can listen to Mr. Tryon, also known as Jazzisblues or “JiB” on the Happy Jacks RPG Podcast. He has asked me to thank all the listeners of Happy Jacks on his behalf saying “As a host on the Happy Jacks RPG Podcast, the thing that gives our show its unusual strength is not the hosts, it’s the community of listeners who make Happy Jacks special.”
From Robert Heatherington of Berkeley, CA: “I will purposefully mislead players with false information when they aren’t quite sure what’s going on to allay their suspicions before pouncing on them with a trap. “ That is indeed douchey my good man! Although, I like it. I might just steal that, and bring it into my own Douchey little heart.
From Rick Anderson of Cumming, Georgia: “1 minute Sand Timer. My players think they are standard issue with every GM guide. “ Now this is something I have pulled out of my GM kit on more than one occasion. I have never used it exclusively though. Usually as a teaching tool. I think I would hate having you as a GM Mr. Anderson…
From Craig Yack of Fenton, MI: “…there is one situation that came up where I didnt’ feel it was my responsibility or problem to make sure the game was enjoyable by everyone at the table. There was some direct friction in play style between two players, and I didn’t see it as my place to tell them how to play their characters I think part of the responsibility of fun at the table really has to be on the shoulders of everyone involved. My part is as a referee. But if the players’ chosen way of running their characters (and by this I mean personality quirks or specific builds of their characters) are in disagreement, I prefer to leave it to the players to figure out how to interact with each other but in this case, it wasn’t working at all and it was turning into a disagreement between the players. Had it continued to escalate, I was seriously considering ending the campaign…” Ah yes, disagreements between players can indeed be difficult to deal with, but not dealing with it at all? Yes, that makes you quite douchey. Mr. Yack is the developer of my favorite virtual tabletop called TTopRPG. Its a fairly simple program that is currently available only for Windows, but is in development for Mac platform as well.
From William T. Thrasher of Frankfort, KY: “I could list a lot of things, from racist ghosts to expecting my players to be able to tell the difference between a Welsh accent and a Cornish accent, but when it comes down to it the doucheyist thing I do when running a game is building an entire scenario around a huge and seemingly unsolvable problem, then not bothering to come up with any solutions to that problem.” I can’t tell you how much this is not douchey Will. This is ideal. This is what we all should strive for, truly immersive role-playing. While I appreciate the effort to tell me your shortcomings for this article, you have done nothing more than illustrate how all the rest of us are Douchey Ms. Mr. Thrasher is a freelance game designer, writer, event coordinator, and illustrator. His work can be seen on such notable projects as Muerte al Chupacabras, a script for Cthulhu Live 3rd Edition. Sight Unseen, another script for Cthulhu Live 3rd Edition. Skull and Shackles: From Hell’s Heart, Pathfinder Adventure Path 60. He will also be the Guest of Honor at VisionCon 2013 in Springfield, MO. On a personal note, I want to mention one of Will’s other great ventures, Kettle of Fish Productions. I have had the pleasure on being part of two Kettle of Fish LARP events, and had a fantastic time at both. If you are at GenCon or Origins in 2013 you owe it to yourself to check out one of their events.
So, in closing I can say that the primary thing I learned in writing this article is that I was right. Most people have no idea what makes them a Douchey DM. Some people, like in the case of Mr. Thrasher, think that the things that make them great are what makes them a Douchey DM. I wish I could have written the original article I set out to create, but in the end I am happy with what I ended up producing.
And don’t think I forgot about myself. What makes me a Douchey DM? Lack of prep. Because I strive for the kind of game Will mentioned, I will generally just outline a game trying to have only generalities. What this ends up doing, in my experience, is leave me with almost no direction to follow. My games end up meandering a bit before either I’m hit by an idea or I blatantly steal inspiration from something a player says. Sometimes this ends up being great, and sometimes it falls flat. I have yet to find that happy medium of prep-time that allows me to get the story told in the way that I want it to happen. Yes, I too am a Douchey DM.
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