Friday, January 26, 2018

Where Responsibility Lies

Been a bit like being under siege these last couple of days, both on and off the blog.  It seems to be coming from this list of questions for the podcast.  Some of it is coming from new readers, who are not familiar with the tenor of the blog.  Some of it is coming from old readers who seem to have forgotten who I am or what I believe.

For example, I was approached today by one poor friend (as I growled and bit him for it) with a link arguing, "I have fun when you have fun.  If you, as a player, are not having fun in my games, then I have screwed up and I want to fix it."  And my friend asking, "Part of the question for me is, if the players are not having fun, is it time to assess if you are an impediment."

Okay, that is a trigger for me.  Because if we are running around, building our loved things, be they art or campaigns, for other people, woe be to us. Once you get on your knees and grovel to the whims of someone who does none of the actual work, because they deign to give you their time, you are no longer a creator, you are a slave.

Players want all kinds of shit.

Personally, if the players are not having fun, then they are in the wrong campaign.  I am happy to show them the door.  There are plenty of opportunities for fun that I build into my discourse and delivery. I joke, I tolerate jokes, I create funny things that happen, I am occasionally very generous and I give good, solid, meaningful rewards for risks taken.  If someone plays in my world, and sees none of that, because they cannot bring themselves to see, then they need to get out of my world.

This "responsibility" thing seems to confuse people.  Here are the three definitions of responsibility that I think might apply here:

  • "The state or fact of having a duty to deal with something or of having control over someone."  (a job with greater responsibility)
  • "The state or fact of being accountable or to blame for something." (they denied responsibility for the bomb attack)
  • "The opportunity or ability to act independently and make decisions without authorization." (we would expect individuals lower down the organization to take on more responsibility)

All right.  I do not expect as DM that I have control over anyone.  I have control over the consequences for a player's actions, which I determine, and which I take pains to make realistic, rational and believable.  I have control over the setting in which the players act.  But I do not tell the players what decisions to make about their characters.  I do not tell the players what to think, or what to find funny, or what to make a joke about or when to enjoy themselves or not.  I have no interest in having control over any of that.  I am here to provide a venue in which people come to participate in an event.  I decide the seats, I decide the ticket costs, I decide the show.  If the players have fun or not, that is their responsibility, and not mine.  If they don't like this sort of show, they should attend some other venue.

I am to blame for every consequence I prescribe and for every part of the setting I create.  I am responsible if the seats are uncomfortable or if the show is boring or if the ticket prices are too high.  I am not, however, responsible to anyone who comes a second time to see the same show, pay the same price and sit in the same seats.  If they're willing to act in said manner, then they are responsible for those decisions.  Now and then someone will come to play, who doesn't like it.  Fine, they are welcome to leave.  If I have no players at all, then yes, I might have to question myself.  But if I have players who keep coming back, despite the present circumstances, then something else is going on here, and it isn't me.

I do expect players to make decisions about their characters, their game play and their emotional states without my authorization.  I am not Mommy.  I am not here to button their coats and put their hats on and remember to make lunch for them.  They are adults and it is time they recognized if they're going to get something out of an activity, they are going to have to take responsibility for finding it themselves.

As a DM with adult players, I am not fucking responsible as a DM for my players having fun.  Sorry.  They will have to be responsible for themselves.


  1. All I can hear is the collective Whooshing sound as this post goes over heads.

    I think a lot of readers, and new ones especially, might find it pretty alien to suggest that Players should put in just as much work as the DM, and I don't just mean AT the table.

    Figuring out if/why a given game is working for you or not and how or if that can be improved just isn't something a lot of people do with their entertainment.

    I've noticed a trend among my fellow twenty-somethings especially of just discarding and moving on to the next thing, but then again most of them are primarily video gamers, which is its own medium with its own problems.

  2. From the cover of the D&D BASIC Set:

    "The Original Fantasy Role Playing Game
    For 3 or More ADULTS,
    Ages 10 and Up"

    [EMPHASIS added]

    Man, sometimes it feels like we've gotten out of the habit of acting like adults. I mean, sure, sign of the times right? Look at the childish tantrums of a certain Leader of the Free World.

    I'm chuckling as I type this (because it's so ridiculous), but sometimes it feels like we're trying to halt the Decline of Western Civilization or something. Just fucking ridiculous. But I guess we all need something to do with ourselves.
    : )

    Keep sticking your fingers in the dike, man. So many voices of sanity have bowed out of the blog-o-sphere (perhaps considering the who thing a waste of time and effort). Keep on pushing. More than a few of us appreciate the effort.

  3. I wrote a response to that Quora question. My answer has 3 upvotes, at this time; the top rated answer has 345.

    Clearly, we are in the minority.

  4. Sites like Quora are self-selecting. They drive away everyone with an independent thought, distilling out a specific true believer, who upvotes everything that sounds reassuring or positive.


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