Reading The Delvers, Sue mentioned that she liked the different perspective that the Dungeon Master had than that of the players. She also commented that she enjoyed reading the San Checks. I said thanks, but what I heard was her interest in running a game.
For our first Labyrinth Lord playtest, I printed out a copy of the Tomb of Sigyfel. As for the initial advice that I provided . . .
- Look the module over to have the big picture.
- Make it your own.
- Trust the dice.
When I started as a Dungeon Master, Keep on the Borderlands and the Isle of Dread were (and still are!) the best examples of well written modules. Sue can handle one of these, but I also knew she would spend most of the afternoon reading the whole thing.
LL: I felt I should have memorized [my notes]. – There Is No Cow Level
Kay and I were ready to play. Tomb of Sigyfel was a quick way to start a game. Creating her own dungeon would come later.
This might be an odd thing to say, but I have little experience as a player. It is a different game behind the screen. I was worried about being a bad player.
DM: That’s not how you do it! This is how you handle it.
I felt a real challenge coming up, since I am always the one in charge, so to speak.
Dem Dorfs, Man!
A learning experience arose during our first play, the secret door. Kay and I were both playing dwarves, but we were not actively looking for secret doors in Sigyfel’s Tomb. Sue kept hinting that something was there.
LL: Are you sure you don’t want to look anywhere else in this room?
DM: I don’t want to look now. We failed to find some door or something, right?
Telling the players, “If you would have just did this . . .” is annoying. It is as bad as telling the players to just kill the goblins and who does that?
There is a time gap in the campaign journal entries. The fact that I often break a single session into several posts delays anything they should not know (I wrote Sapphire Bullets in March. It was posted in May, after they confirmed destroying the gems will kill the sapphire skeletons).
In some cases I explicitly tell them not to read certain things (e.g. Barrowmaze II). In other cases I am keeping secrets from you, the reader.
Here is good example of how to spoil the fun using this website (Note: This example will fail on mobile devices viewing this with WPtouch).
Below is a well known comic strip, among Dwarf Fortress players.
I would consider myself a big fan of Dwarf Fortress. Taking that a step further, see the two tiny cats at the end of the dotted line on the side menu? Oh, look! When you click on them it takes you to a secret page!
Based on pageviews, only eight readers have discovered this so far. What else is hidden on this site? Want me to ruin all the fun?
It is much more exciting to figure things out as a player, than to have the Dungeon Master tell you what you should be doing; no DM can reward you with a sense of accomplishment, but they can easily steal it from you.
Ravyn covered this more in depth under Expositionary Hand-holding. The simple point is to let the players play the game, to not play it for them. As the Dungeon Master, you have enough work to do already.
While Kay and I did fail to discover the secret door, we were having fun and the culmination of how this dungeon played out was based on our choices, not the Dungeon Master’s. As it should be.
To those of you who follow The Delvers, no decoder ring is required. If you do find anything extra, I can at least promise that it will not be a crummy commercial.