Inspired by Facebook (and Shelly Mazzanoble)…

2010 September 2
by Dante

In this lovely informal Facebook poll, our good buddy Shelly Mazzanoble asked her friends to identify themselves into one of three categories: “DM”, “Player”, or “Both”.  I, of course, selected “Both”.  Shelly went on to ask those of us that replied in this way whether or not we had trouble transitioning, and whether or not we were more critical or supportive of other DMs.

You can read the poll to see my official reply, but I did realize something as a result of these questions.  Yes, I am more critical of other DMs because I perform that role myself.  I utterly detest railroading and can see it a mile away, even though I have been known to do so from time to time.  I fancy myself supportive but constructively critical of my fellow DMs.  I have been asked for some constructive criticism over the years by a few guys, however I quickly realized that most times even if you provide your honest opinion it rarely affects the behavior of the DM requesting this feedback.  I have found that I quickly become unsupportive of someone that asks my opinion and then fails to use any of it.

I have decided that this is because of a mutated form of Powdered Butt Syndrome.  For those unfamiliar with the term, Powdered Butt Syndrome is the inability of your parents to listen to you entirely because you are their children.  Nobody wants your opinion about anything if they’ve powdered your butt.  The same thing goes for DMing, only on rare occasion do any of your direct Dungeon Masters want your opinion as a player on how they are running the game.  Most times even if they do ask for it, any corrective actions they take are short lived.  Many times it isn’t a function of the person being unwilling to change, often the inertia of the game in progress can prevent any actual corrections from being permanent.  During the GM’s Jam at GenCon this year, I heard several stories that ended with the “I’ll never do that again, but I had to run out the rest of that campaign with the decisions that had already been made.”

That’s part of the reason I turned to providing my opinion on such matters right here at, I have found that providing your opinion in a public forum is just about the only way that people will openly seek and use new ideas without some sort of ulterior motive in doing so (at least, based on the feedback we’ve received from readers and commenters!)

Anyway, that was quite an inspiring discussion over on Facebook.  Thanks Shelly and all the other poll participants that got the creative juices a-flowin’.

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