NTRPGCon: A Tale of Three DMs

This is not a full con report, and I don’t know if I’ll have time to give one, but I’d like to share my experience of the games I signed up for. I won’t use any names, but suffice it to say that these are all well-known and famous DMs.

DM the First –

This DM was running OD&D, 3 volumes only. We were all pre-gen 2nd level characters, Fighters, Clerics, and MUs. The party had a list of general adventuring equipment that we were assumed to have, and before we went to the dungeon, we were told we could get one or two reasonable miscellaneous items. The dungeon was a simple and straight-forward (though non-linear) old school dungeon, with each room as a set-piece puzzle or encounter. The encounters/puzzles were well hinted at, and while not particularly inspired, enjoyable and not unfair. Obvious ogre lair was obvious enough to not mess with, for instance. Fake vampire room was an easy enough puzzle and someone only died because we couldn’t leave well enough alone. The fights we had, we both got lucky AND made correct tactical choices, so we won them. The final set-piece encounter was a cheesy Fleetwood Mac joke. It was not a mind-blowing experience, but the DM was a nice guy, fun to be around, friendly, and I had a pretty good time. I would not mind gaming with him again, though I’d prefer more of an experience of ‘this is what it’s like to game at my table’ than ‘this is a simulation of what it’s like to game at my table’.

DM the Second –

This DM was running OD&D + Greyhawk. We were playing 9th level pre-gen characters with some pretty tough and high level equipment. This DM was an asshole. He would berate players and treat them like they were stupid for not asking enough questions and would berate players and treat them like they were stupid for asking too many questions. One door that sealed in a couple of undead trolls was apparently covered with sigils and warnings about the trolls, but, oh, we didn’t see the sigils and warnings because we didn’t specifically look at the door for them. I got yelled at for overthinking when I asked if a pair of silver manacles in a dungeon cell included both pieces for hands and for legs and was told to use it as hack-silver and divide it among the party because ‘old school’. An AOE sleep hit my character at one point, and the lady next to me said “I try to wake him up” – DM says “okay, you hit him to wake him up, and he punches you in the face”; she did one damage to me and I apparently punched her for 8. At one point, he berated the party for not mapping, the whole “mapping is a dying art” bit, despite the fact that one player HAD been mapping for the first half of the session before giving up. Turns out, the entire “adventure” was a playtest of a series of TPK monsters famous DM had been hired to design based on an early monster he’d designed. He was very proud of the fact that even the friendly-ish neutral good variant managed to kill and eat us. I was scheduled for another game with this DM on Sunday, but he was such an abrasive dick that I skipped out and we left the con a few hours early.

DM the Third –

This DM was running BECMI with 5th level pre-gen characters that also had some pretty cool equipment and unique abilities. The setting was awesome and I was really excited about it at first, especially playing a mid-level magic user with a couple really sweet scrying abilities on top of my base spells. The flying circus was in town and we were hired by the ringmaster to investigate a murder and by an asshole mayor to retrieve his hot daughter who’d run away to join the circus. Things started to unravel for me a couple hours in when it became clear that it was going to be a purely investigative game with almost nothing but talking to NPCs and asking them questions. The DM was actually VERY good at running an investigation game, and I feel bad about being so bored, but investigation games, in my experience, work best with 4 players, 6 max, and we had 9. Also, the setting was so neat that it seemed like a damned waste to be spending all of our time asking questions about the murder. I’m like “I don’t care about who murdered the dwarf bearded lady; there is a haunted train ride on an airship! Why aren’t we riding it?!” The carnie games, the roller coasters, the Ferris wheel, the menagerie of monsters were all things I desperately wanted to be able to interact with in some way, meaningfully or not, but I couldn’t. So, about 3 and a half hours in, I lost my ability to functionally interact with the rest of the group. 5 hours in, some carnie finally threw a punch at a fighter. 45 minutes after that, by the time the one encounter the game had been building towards, I had no idea what was going on, who we were fighting or why, because I’d zoned out so bad. Half-way through the encounter, several folks begged out because their next game was starting. I didn’t have another game, but used the excuse to leave the table as well.

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8 responses to “NTRPGCon: A Tale of Three DMs

  1. Number one DM sounds fun. Number three DM sounds okay… though I’m not a fan of investigative games in general since they can fall flat if the PCs don’t pick up on certain clues. I definitely wouldn’t run one for a convention.

    As for number three DM: Was there a way to rate the DM? It’d be one thing if he told you the game was to playtest some monsters beforehand (but I guess then nobody would want to play the game).

    • I don’t think there was a way to rate the GMs or the sessions. Session 2 was sold as “play an oldschool game in the setting of a DM who was there from the start”.

      • I just looked at the list of the con dignitaries. Even if you could rate some of them poorly, it wouldn’t matter, and it may end up reflecting badly on you.

        May your next RPG session be much better.

      • Yeah, hence why not naming names.
        Next time around, I’m going to try to sign up for some of the stuff with the Goodman Games crew and the d30 guy. d30 guy was nice, and my DM has become con-friends with the Dallas DCC crew. My friends who I went with had much better session experiences than I did on the whole, but I still had a great time aside from those two sessions I mentioned.

        Plus, I got to play some OGRE with Karl Gallagher and The Mixed GM, which was a real highlight of the con.

      • Also, I’m not 100% sure, because I’ve only seen pictures of him in a grainy podcast feed and he’s since deleted all of his social media, but I THINK I was in a game with Random Wizard; after it dawned on me that that’s who it might have been, I never got a decent chance to ask, unfortunately. Which sucks, cuz I miss that guy!

      • He seems to still be doing the OPD thing from the shadows. I didn’t really hear about it this year, though, as the OSR “community” seems to have become rather disconnected (at least from where I’m at) since RPGBA went away. I’m kinda bummed that he didn’t ask for me to be a sponsor again this year; I’d’ve happily contributed prizes again.

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