I know that I’m stronger in some areas of my Dungeons and Dragons 4th edition playing and dungeon mastering than others. In the pursuit of continuous improvement, I’d like to share some recent reflections on my strengths and weaknesses.
I’m a good role-player. I really enjoy crafting characters and sticking with their personalities during a game. When fellow players or the DM provide story or character hooks, I try and grab them in order to expand the story.
On the other hand, I’m pretty average with the mechanical parts of the game. After nearly two years, I still only vaguely understand the stealth and jumping rules, and I’m not particularly great at min/maxing during character creation. I don’t often embarrass myself, though, and when I regularly play a character, I usually stay on top of what he can do: I can’t remember how stealth works because I’ve been playing a plate mail wearing paladin since nearly the beginning. Ayn couldn’t hide from a deaf, sleeping and blind mule in a snowstorm.
I’m not very good at adding numbers in my head either, especially after 10 p.m.. Since we normally quit around that time, I’m usually okay, but I have been caught accidentally cheating on to-hit rolls during the closing rounds of a long solo battle. I wonder how many other times I cheated without realizing?
As a dungeon master, many of these strengths translate. I think my players find my NPCs interesting, and I think the game’s story is reasonably compelling. I feel good about my ability to run a typical combat (though, again, there’s always room for improvement), and to provide meaningful decisions throughout a game. We aren’t a sandbox play group, but no one wants to ride on a single set of rails.
I do have a history of getting too cute with the difficulty of my encounters. I once put my party of first level characters up against a vampire lord. That wasn’t a badly designed encounter, but it was not a good fit for my group of mostly new players, and I was still a rookie DM myself. Then there was the accidental near-TPK when I forgot to factor in a wraith’s ‘elite’ experience point value to the budget. I won’t even mention the two close-call encounters…
On a few of those occasions, the encounters were more challenging because of decisions made by the players, and/or would have been easier had the players made different choices. Lucky for me, my current D&D group is pretty forgiving of my mistakes.
As a D&D player or DM, what are you good at? What are you trying to improve?