I am here to say, I do not have an answer to the question of how to be a better DM. I don't. I can give suggestions on what to do here or there, how to present a given adventure, how to present yourself as a DM, how to care a little more, how to control your party a little better, why you should take it seriously and what you should expect back from your players. But all this is fluff. It is filler. It is cosmetic, and while it will help with momentary problems in your sessions, it won't make you a better DM if you are not already acceptable. This is why I said in the previous post on this subject that I'm sitting in the back feeling the bile rise in my throat. I am watching the professor write notes on the blackboard, I am watching the other students diligently copying the notes, I am watching everyone feel they are growing and changing as people, and I am not seeing anything grow or change. I'm seeing 30 years of this bullshit - don't believe for a second that it has started with the internet - and after all this time I am hearing and seeing the same repeated statements all over again. Dance like this, sing like this, wave your arms like this and everything will be wonderful.
Allow me to leap to a something tawdry that some of us might know from experience. My first wife Michelle, who rests in peace, lived and breathed music. Her father had been a music teacher in a high school and Michelle had embraced the lifestyle as early as it is possible. Training in french horn and flute, she began in marching bands - something she adored - at the age of eleven, and continued touring and marching throughout her teens. Every year she marched in a little event around here we call the Calgary Stampede, which means that I was probably in the crowd one July when my wife of ten years later went marching by. Life is funny.
When she entered university it was to obtain a music degree, which she pursued with vigor, particularly theory and composition, while continuing to play in orchestras and in her own band. She was a punk rocker in leather mini-skirt and torn top lo about 1982, and I am sorry to say I did not know her in that period. Suffice to say she was eclectic, driven, highly intellectual and wonderfully confrontational. I have never enjoyed arguments as much as I did with her.
Part of her training and drive involved spending much of her existence incorporating Grove's Dictionary of Music and Musicians into her knowledge base. Let me put that better: she effectively reduced the books into a rich paste which she was then able to introveneously inject directly into her brain. If you have not opened these books, let me explain that this is not light reading. This is extraordinarily heavy material. It is the bible of music. And of course Michelle owned a copy.
|It will only take 15 or 20 years before you're|
thoroughly familiar with this.
It happened one Christmas several years after our marriage that Michelle received a gift from my parents: a coffee table book gotten from the local big box store about ... yes, embarrassingly, music. In nice big lettering with lots of pictures. Michelle was polite about it, but that book and my parent's stupidity became a topic of conversation very often in the years afterwards, for which I cannot blame her. They knew perfectly well the level of her investment and knowledge, but that didn't matter in the fluffy world of their middle-class sensibilities. "She likes music," they thought to themselves. "Let's get her a book about music."
What's really baffling about it is my father, who is an engineer and rockhound, acquired at a very early age Dana's manual of mineralogy, which also is not a light book. If I had bought my father for Christmas a Big Book of Rocks, he would not have been amused and I doubt very much he would have been polite at all. He should have known better.
My point to all this story is that there comes a time when a little bit of knowledge just isn't enough to make reading worthwhile. After thirty-two years of playing and reading and studying and building my world and securing players and changing to suit players and re-evaluating my goals and rifting through unbelievable tons of written crappy material about RPG's (which, I am not sorry to say, the authors of which did not impress their names upon my brain), I am hopelessly and disasterously past the Big Book of GM Challenge. It's crap from end to end not because it's wrong, but because it isn't new. It is flabbergastingly difficult to explain to people that while the Big Book is pretty and full of accurate little facts, it is full of accurate little facts I acquired some twenty years ago and which no longer hold the magnificent quality of original thought they did when I was very young. It is therefore useless to me. It gives me nothing. It is dead weight.
This was my point with the goldfish essay a couple of weeks ago. The massive horde of bloggers about are still wanking themselves with this material, even while claiming they've played the game for twenty years. Really? Twenty years and this isn't shit you know already? You know, it only takes 8 years to become enough of a doctor that you can split my chest and operate on my heart. And after 20 years, you're just now learning to stand up and use your whole body to conduct a session? Holy crap.
I am here, waiting for someone to tell me something I don't know. I'm patient. And while Vizzini laughs and tells me what's what and how much of a fool I am, I'm perfectly aware of the location of the iocane powder and that he's going to tip over any moment. Change is coming. When it does, I'll be happy about it.
But O gentle reader, who's content with the way things are ...
You're already dead.