Dungeon Master, Thy Name is Douche

This is another one of those “wow, it sucks when the DM is a douchebag” stories. This time, however, the douchebag in question is me.

Seems only fair, doesn’t it? Last time I ripped into Glen. This time, I put myself on the bit.

My only excuse for this behavior is that A) I was seventeen years old and B) the guy sort of had it coming.

I was in the twelfth grade at the time. Glen had moved to Nova Scotia with his mother. Chris and I were still hanging out, but he and I didn’t do much roleplaying (except in the summers, when Glen came back to visit his Dad) for whatever reason. I spent a lot of time hanging out with my local rpg shop crowd, as I’ve already mentioned.

At some point, I got convinced to run a D&D game for a bunch of these people. J&B Books (the aforementioned gaming shop) ran a weekly “gaming night,” so it worked out perfectly. Except, you know, none of those people were really my friends – in the same way that 99% of the people I used to work with weren’t my friends, just people I had one thing in common with. I wound up running a game with a party of six or seven people, which is a few heads more than my preferred group size (these days it takes a lot for me to even entertain the idea of running a game for more than four players). The group composition was all over the place two – with a couple players younger than me, a couple my own age, and one who was more than twice my age. That guy was Scott, and he’s the guy who “had it coming.”

At least, I think his name was Scott. There were three guys in that group of people that I can’t really separate anymore – they were all in their mid-to-late forties, they all had 20+ years of D&D experience, and they all thought they knew better than me (and everyone else, for that matter). One was named Scott, another was named Dave, and I don’t remember the other one’s name. One of them wound up in this game I ran, and I don’t know which. I’ll call him Scott just to keep things simple.

The problem with Scott was that he knew better than everyone. You’d have thought it was Gary Gygax sitting across from you at the table, from they way he talked down to everyone (not trying to start a debate on whether Gygax was a saint or a jerk, just saying that Scott had a very high opinion of his “expertise”) – and it really was everyone. He bullied other players, both in-character and out-of-character. He rules lawyer-ed with me, constantly arguing most of my rulings and pushing for his own way. I have no one to blame but myself, really – at our very first session, I set the tone that allowed him to get away with all that crap by letting him play one of his existing characters.

Let that be a lesson to all your rookie DMs out there – bullshit at the game table only breeds more bullshit, and it’s your job to stamp it out with ruthless efficiency. No matter where you play, the game table is your table. Never forget that. (Yes, the sacrosanct Grand Poobah-ness of the Dungeon Master is not a universally recognized truth. I’ll discuss my feelings on it some other time.)

So, Scott was driving me nuts. Nuts. And I wasn’t the only one – literally every other player at the table had a beef with him. Every single one of them approached me, privately, at one point or another complaining about his treatment of the rest of the party. About how they weren’t having fun when Scott was telling them how to correctly play their own character (one of my favorite dumbass aphorisms to come out  of Scott’s mouth was: “if your paladin lives past 10th level, then you aren’t playing him correctly”). About how it wasn’t fun when the game bogged down because Scott had to make a point about something.

The solution I came up with seemed elegant and appropriate, at the time. I took every player (except Scott, of course) aside, reminded them that Scott treated them poorly in-character as well as out, informed them that every other player in the party felt the same way, and then pointed out the incredible opportunities afforded by the 3rd Edition flanking rules, and sent them on their way.

The next session, the party “et tu, Brute?”-ed Scott. By which I mean they caught him off-guard and stabbed him to death, just as Marcus Brutus & co. once did to Julius Caesar. Then I got in on the action, informing Scott that he I was booting his ass out of the group, right around the time the party was hacking his limbs off and burying them in different places.

Let me be clear – I wish I’d dealt with the matter better. I handled it very poorly. I doubt taking Scott aside and trying to talk to him would have done much good, but I still should have made the effort. Instead, I decided to get in on the action and make myself feel good. I wasn’t a very confidant DM yet, and Scott was the old gamer who felt it was his personal role to take a shit on all the people like me who didn’t think the way he did.

So, in summary, I’m not proud of what I did, but I don’t feel that bad either. Without a doubt, however, I certainly acted like a douchebag.