"Black Dougal gasps 'Poison!' and falls to the floor. He looks dead."

Saturday, March 6, 2010

Saying Yes Is More Fun

I DMed another session of my 2E campaign a couple of nights ago. It was a long session by my now near-elderly standards lasting 7 hours (my wife has been teasing me about my advanced age since I turned 38 a couple of weeks ago). I had a great time but was wiped by the end. As everyone was packing up I did what I always do at the end of a session and asked, "So, what did you think? Is there any feedback?"

The response from one player was what I consider a great compliment. He replied, "you are one of the fairest DM's I have ever played with."

Now, in all honestly, I think that his perspective is because I nearly always say "Yes". It might be, "Yes, but..." or "Yes, and..." but I do always try to say "Yes" if they ask me if their character can do something - it might take a roll to see if they succeed but "yes" they can try. His character was trying to do something a bit different and maybe a little far-fetched earlier in the session and I said, "Sure, roll a d20 and..."

Something dawned on me a while ago. Saying "yes" won't break the game. By "break" I don't mean wreck the mechanics or balance or other more contemporary gaming issues. Instead by "break" I mean break the fun.

"Your fighter wants to try to leap a 50' wide chasm while wearing platemail to flee from the demon? Sure you can give it a try. Roll a percentage for me. If you roll a 99 or 100 you somehow manage to catch an updraft or something and grab a protrusion on the far side of the chasm. I will then roll 1d6 times 100 to see how many feet you fell before you grabbed on. You will take half damage from the fall of that distance. If you roll anything other than a 99 or 100 you fall to the bottom and take damage for falling 1,000 feet. How does that sound?"

That is more fun than being told, "No."


  1. This is how it'd go down at my table.

    Player rolls 100! then DM rolls 1 only 100' of damage. more low dice rolls, player survives!

    "Wow! You pick your self up, dust off, platemail is a bit dented but amazingly you're fairly unhurt. Turning to look at the demon you see it disappear and reappear next to you having teleported across the chasm. Do you want to bother rolling initiative or just hand over your character sheet for the died pile."

    No one ever says I'm fair :(

  2. I agree with your 2e player, you are a very fair DM.

  3. Good point! I try to say "yes" as a GM more often than "no". Some of my fondest memories playing this game came from spontaneous maneuvers in which the players and GM both just winged it and rolled some dice.

  4. OMG thank you!

    Sorry but I'm going to get a tad ranty...

    One of the reasons I am not much of a D&D fan is that after my initial few years in the hobby, all my encounters with D&D seemed to be about the word 'No'.

    D&D GM's were all about what you can't have, do or be. Ugh. It really turned me off.

    Just the other day a friend drew his character, a Bard, for a Pathfinder game and the PC had this really awesome looking, kinda big, 'Final Fantasy' inspired harp. It didn't do anything special. It was a harp. The GM said he couldn't have it because it was too tall/big and difficult to carry.

    Who the *@^$ cares how big it is?! Its not a weapon or a magic item. Its a harp! It was cool looking. How often does a modern day player even pay attention to the fact that Bards play instruments?

    I know its wrong of me but I immediately thought to myself, "of course you can't have it. Its cool. Typical D&D thinking. Fantasy when you want it, realism when you need to kill the buzz."

    On behalf of players and creative GM's everywhere, thank you for saying 'Yes' more often than not. I'd rather say hear 'Yes' and than get hurt trying something, than hearing no you can't try.

  5. Agreed. (Though I still don’t think I say “yes” enough.) Didn’t Tom Moldvay write something to the effect of: There’s always a chance.

  6. Yes he did...