Tuesday, February 6, 2018


So, on Quora, I asked the question, "How can anyone giving advice about "How to dungeon master" prove their advice is competent?"

Obviously, they can't; which is my point.  What's always interesting in a question like this is the way in which people answer ... as Miguel Valdespino did.  The full comment is available on the Quora list I just posted; some of it is a joke, some of it attempts to help me as though I must be some sort of noob ... and the remainder goes as follows:
"RPG’s are a hobby and your DM ain’t getting paid for this. What’s more, these games can be played in many ways. I’ve seen everything from martinet killer DM’s to loosey-goosey hippies. Each group has it’s own feel and it’s own problems."

I don't want to disparage Valdespino here; though I must point out that his self-made description reads, "Over 3 decades of RPG's."

At the same time that he is saying there's no way to tell, he's being sure to establish his own credentials by telling you how long he's been playing.  And he's not alone.  Let me run through some other commenters that we can find on Quora, from a search for "role-playing games."

  • Ed Han, Been playing for decades. 
  • Edward Conway, played from 1st edition on, familiar with 5e and Pathfinder 
  • Thomas Pierson, I own more games than is probably healthy 
  • Inigo Gonzalez, GM for The Penumbra Extinction, an actual-play podcast 
  • Robert Anthony Ramos, Been playing RPGs since the early 1990s. 
  • Steve Waddington, Player and DM for over 40 years 
  • Rebecca Harbison, Played and ran tabletop games for 20 years 
  • Travis Casey, GM since 1980; wrote columns on RPGs, currently publishing 
  • Matt Slater, Lifelong roleplayer, 30+ years experience 
  • Steffen Hauser, playing Pen&Paper Games since 30 years 
  • Thomas Narvaez, Avid 15+ Year gamer 
  • Adam Smith, Fan since 1st Edition AD&D. Currently DMing 5th Edition 
  • Samuel Silbory, I've played and/or DMed every edition of D&D 
  • William Travis, D&D player since the red box days

And on it goes.  See a pattern?  We can argue all day that there is not "certification of competence" associated with D&D, but it is plain that if it isn't there, people will go ahead and make one up.  And as one can tell from the above, it is based on a) how long you've played; b) how many games you've played/purchased; and c) are you a DM?  Publishing and podcasting is a good secondary notation.

In my last post, I talked about how it became necessary to establish accreditation for surgeons because the number of people dying on operating tables was getting embarrassing.  I want to ask the question, how did that accreditation happen?  Do people not think that before the establishment of surgeon's colleges in the 18th and 19th century, there was a rather intensive effort for individual surgeons to create measurements for what made them a better surgeon than the cutthroat down the road?  Of course they did.

Patients not dying, obviously.  Getting a diagnosis right.  Being able to train others to do what you do.  Shared, reproducible knowledge!

Note that no DM ever says, "Have trained dozens, scores, hundreds of people how to play and run D&D."


I'm guessing most of the reason comes out of Valespino's rebuttal.  That DMs come in all shapes and sizes, and we can't know what sort of DM we're going to get until we run with them.  Game "feel" is not universal.  Game problems are not universal.  And most important of all, no one's getting paid for this.

Those are tremendously specious arguments.  What does "pay" have to do with it?  If it has, we've just discounted the first hundred years of amateur Olympic sports, where rules were rather in force, no matter who you were, not to mention the millions of people who are right now giving their time free of charge to NGOs, not only a home but also overseas, in some awfully dangerous places, where still, rules apply.  And somehow, these volunteers manage to teach other volunteer noobs how to volunteer.

But DMing is just too darn hard.

We can teach people how to talk to people in the jungles of Brazil, the urban slag heaps of Sao Paulo, the war zones of East Ceylon and Zaire, where the people really are different, where the rules really are different, where martinet killers and loosey-goosey hippies really take on characteristics of immeasurable proportion ...

But DMing is just too darn hard.

Yet there it is, the quest for credibility.  Believe my answer on Quora, because I've been playing for a long time; I've played lots of different kinds of games; I own a lot of modules; I'm a DM.

Something here just doesn't add up.

Today, just before starting this post, I asked the question, "How can the game company run D&D tournaments at hundreds of Game cons world-wide if there's no such thing as a way to accredit a DM or a Player?"

And got back this answer:

Which, nicely, came back just in time for me to get to this point in the post.

Do you agree?  Do you think "League" accreditation is indicative of being able to Dungeon Master or Play?

I'm asking four questions of Cliff, who of course has done his best to create his own aura of credibility, just as everyone does (because we're human):
  • Does accreditation as a DM originate with the WOTC?
  • Does this accreditation indicated competency and ability running D&D, or does it indicate competency and ability adhering to WOTC policy?
  • How rigorous is this accreditation?
  • How are the people who examine and evaluate the game reports accredited?

I feel these are fair questions.  They're questions we should all start thinking about.  Just as soon as we're ready to pull our heads out of the sand.

PS.  Giley has recently responded to say that this tracking method isn't an accreditation at all.  Which makes me wonder why he answered my question with it.


  1. As an engineering in training, the idea of accreditation is also a part of my identity as a want to be professional. As such, it always baffles me when people think that accreditation or some sort of ranking of goodness for peoples abilities is either not desirable, too hard, or not useful because "people are all different".

    This set of articles has been quite good at going over why accreditation is a good thing and hows its useful, and I have enjoyed them quite a bit.

    Also, I've been using Quora for a few months now and while most answers on it are rather lacking there are enough gems to keep me going. Though I haven't actually looked at any gaming related stuff on the site. Hopefully you can find the site useful for non-gaming related perusing.

  2. As you can see, Connor, it's a great way for me to demonstrate the prejudices that exist. A carefully worded question and someone with the pack mentality immediately jumps forward to explain, "How I don't understand," when this is exactly the answer I'm looking for.

    I'm evil this way.

  3. Amongst the people I know; half of them would think the worse of you for being a league GM. It shows an inability to have an original thought. Ever.

  4. Tempted to write an answer to that question...

    I've noticed a correlation between answers with certain formatting and the upvotes they receive. As though the people writing the answer know that their advice is BS, so they use bold and italicized text to draw the reader's attention; they add pretty pictures even when they're not relevant to the point being made; and they structure the whole thing as though they're writing an online or print article. Trying too hard to look professional.

  5. "Note that no DM ever says, 'Have trained dozens, scores, hundreds of people how to play and run D&D.'"

    Oh, I like that. It surprises me I never thought of that, mentoring students and residents as I do. There is respect in being an educator, but when I've talked to people about DM-ing, the indicators of competency are years playing, tables concurrently run, and rarely being compensated or published. Never how you have educated others.

    One of the major reasons I am an educator and mentor in my profession is that you learn from your students. They come with fresh book-learning that can reveal developments you have missed in the real world. And, they ask you "why" about your practices which you then have to defend. And everybody knows when you pass off some lame excuse or brush-off.

    The Baron Opal
    Apprentices Raised: 4


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