You're Making it Too Easy  

Posted by Michael Donaldson in

Has anyone else had this problem before?

You're step-step-stepping along through the dungeon and all of a sudden you come to a dead end. There's no "other path" you haven't explored - this is where the dungeon should continue and yet it doesn't. Just as the party is about to break into problem solving mode, the DM smiles and says, "You should probably check the right wall."

Thanks. I check the right wall. I make a search check. 22. Oh hey, a secret door. Experience too? Great.

Except I didn't do anything.

At its mathematical base, Dungeons and Dragons is actually a very boring concept. The game mechanics themselves when stripped of their importance are only of mediocre entertainment. It would be like playing World of Warcraft, except the main character is a two-dimensional circle on the screen - you run around a 2D plane and press some buttons as a bunch of other circles die while numbers float above th-

Actually I'm pretty sure WoW players would barely notice. Bad analogy.

Core Demographic-bashing joke aside, I seriously can't stand when a DM just hands us the solution to something that was just barely more than a skill check, anyways. It's the same thing when it comes to monsters - telling the players this crazy spider does Con damage before it ever poisons someone immediately sets the party in "that monster needs to die in a ranged fire" mode. The game fades into a monotonous set of skill checks, attack rolls, and victory themes as my experience bar climbs higher and higher.

The part of the game that challenges our problem solving skills is actually one of the more interesting and rewarding parts of the D&D experience and taking it away to ease the path for "frustrated" players is doing them more of a disservice than a service. Let us figure it out the hard way. We're big boys. We can take it.

This entry was posted on June 18, 2010 at Friday, June 18, 2010 and is filed under . You can follow any responses to this entry through the comments feed .


I agree with you more than I can possibly explain. It's so annoying whenever the DM (in DnD or any other game) just gives you the answers to a puzzle (unless asked of course). I'd much rather try and figure it out, or come up with some other far less nonsensical solution (Hey, who said a giant spiked boulders filled with crossbows was a bad idea?)

When it comes to monsters and their ability, a lot of metagaming goes on there because the players have likely seen the creature in another campaign or simply know about it from DMing or some other source. You can only hope that they limit their perspective to approach it properly. There is one guy in the game I'm currently playing that can't seem to separate that kind of thing.
Amusingly, the character I play in that same campaign is an attempt at me being absurdly naive. He's a warforged Artificer...with a 6 wisdom. The idea was to play him sort of like Data from TNG; Able to learn, but still doesn't know about a lot of things. He routinely blunders into things improperly, but often does what he needs to. Just don't ask him to do triage, it's a dangerous thing given his experiences XD

June 18, 2010 at 8:06 AM

I agree. However, when I DM, if the players spin their wheels for a long time, looking for that key thing they missed that will advance the main plot, and it seems like the fun level is dropping, I try to provide more hints, or come up with an alternative path on the spur of the moment. I let them go off on tangents, or when they think their one real friend in the world is the BBEG (hilarity ensues), but as soon as I get the sense that the fun is deflating, I try to turn it around quick.

On the flip side, tomorrow the game where I am a player, we invade the ruins of Rhest in the Red Hand of Doom. We think we have a good, unique plan. And our DM doesn't cut us a lot of slack (though one time he did turn a near-TPK into a 1/3 PK... other than that, he a hard-ass.) So I am hoping he sees the pure awesome of our plan and plays the enemies that way, and that he continues to be unforgiving if we screw up.

June 18, 2010 at 9:17 AM

When it comes to DMing, there are several different ways to roll. In Anon's comment above, the reason the "red hand of doom" game is fun is because the DM is consistently a challenge, so the players expect that they will die if they mess up.

For my players, I've typically found that the most fun comes from the problem solving situations, and that with some thinking you can feel like you've handed the answers to your players, but only half of them will have actually figured it out, and that half feels its so obvious that they won't bother to inform the other half, who is blindly trying to figure out what to do. When things really get stuck, I will give them a hand, though, usually in exchange for some sort of check (knowledge or wisdom, depending on the situation.)

June 18, 2010 at 2:39 PM

I've been reading through the Mouse Guard rules, and there's a mechanic I really like. Give them the victory, but with a twist. "You miraculously kill the bad guys, but you lost all your food." "You miraculously find the hidden door, but a stench filled wind blows out all your torches." It gives them the victory, keeps them (more-or-less) on track, but gives them a handicap.

July 9, 2010 at 3:51 AM

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