I just want to write a short post in the middle of this series - for it is a series, I intend to write tomorrow about initiating the actions of the party and shepherding them into the deeper parts of an adventure.
We have got to get rid of this idea that a DM is only as good as his or her players. The players do not run the game. It is necessary for the players to support the DM, but the DM must do the work, the DM must manage the game, the DM must see to it that the players have a reasonable, respectable place to play and the DM must intervene where players argue, where players insult players, where players make sarcastic comments or bully others. I recognize that many do not see the role of DM shouldn't be that of principal or daycare worker - but those people are simply wrong. If there is no authority at the table, the game will quickly devolve into a Lord of the Flies shitstorm where only the strong and only the loud are able to enjoy themselves.
The reason DMs tolerate this is because DMs are untouchable. From there perspective, there's no need to involve themselves in the squabbles of players. They're all adults, right? So fuck 'em. If they want to fight, why does that matter to the DM. Since, after all, if any of that shit gets dumped the DM's way, that's going to either get the player's character killed or the player expelled.
This untouchability, coupled with apathy with regards to the players enjoying themselves, is a hell of a crappy way to organize any activity. It takes a fool to think that five adults without a previously established agenda can agree on anything - and an even bigger fool to think that the DM's running is an agenda the other four can follow.
A bad world is never the fault of the players, it is the fault of a DM that is too weak to take responsibility. It is that same weakness that means we'll probably never be free of DMs crying in their beer about the inadequacy of players and what players can handle. "If Only I had better players! Then I could really run a great world."
It's never talked about how quickly a bad DM ruins good players.
I wrote two chapters in How to Run about how to manage players. Those two chapters, in a nutshell, translate as 'change yourself, change yourself, change yourself.' We have no power to change others. We can only hope that as we improve ourselves, others will see the wisdom of the choices we make.