Aabria Iyengar is doing an amazing job as the DM of Critical Role’s latest mini-series, Exandria Unlimited. There was a moment I want to highlight as a technique that newbie DM’s need to know and veteran DM’s need to remember.
The moment is small, blink and you might miss it. It isn’t a moment where she’s making an NPC with depth and Machiavellian motivations. It isn’t a moment where she describes a magic elemental rift or a giving personality to a monkey made of fire. In the example below, she sets boundaries and lets her friends at the table know that she’s done and would like to move on.
The players have been shopping for more than 40 minutes and Aabria has been playing NPC’s, having those NPC’s cut deals and feel bad for characters, flirt with characters and quote prices for magic items (and just make items up) for that entire span of time.
Then she does this, watch for a few minutes, starting at around 2:47:18:
There isn’t enough of that in tabletop gaming. We elevate the DM/GM/Storyteller/Referee/Hollycock God above the table as if they are an omniscient party motivator/fantasy novelist. Putting the night’s fun on one person’s shoulders is a bad idea. Bad games become good and good games become great when everyone at the table takes responsibility for the table’s fun. DM’s are players too (not deities, not authorities on the rules, not judges who dispense blue lightning bolts when folk do wrong). Set your boundaries. Tell your friends that you are done with this and would like to move on.
Watch Aabria Iyengar at the table if you want to watch someone who is full of rocking descriptions, amazing NPC’s and cool fantasy ideas but will also pump the breaks and say, “I’m done with this, my friends. Let’s move on and get to something more fun.”
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