As a DM, there is a lot to manage. Not only do you have to keep the campaign story in mind, play all the NPCs, referee all the battles and actions, and remember stats and spells, but you also have to act as Mother Nature for the world in which the players’ characters live and adventure.
The Dungeons Master’s Guide book does a fantastic job of helping you with the day-to-day life of an adventurer – the types of things that happen, how time passes, how the world affects them, etc. This information allows you, the DM, to execute those effects, and have the adventurers experience the world at an even greater depth.
These effects include Exhaustion, freezing cold and scorching hot temperatures, and more. There’s also a way to make sure that characters spend a daily amount of coin appropriate to their lifestyle (poor, average, rich, etc.).
That’s a lot to handle during a game – a lot to remember. So the choice comes…do you follow these rules? You have the choice to either put these rules into play, or to ignore them completely. So what’s more important to you?
The hyper-realism of having to take care traversing through extreme weather conditions, and of having to be able to afford food and shelter for the day – the daily cost of living, does offer some form of attraction to me. I like being able to have a world for my players in which they experience real consequences for their actions.
However, I’m the type of DM that does not enjoy having my players keep track of ammunition (to a point). For example, I assume arrows are replenished at every opportunity the character sees, so I do not worry too much about that. Javelins and daggers, though, which are not usually as plentiful, I do have my players keep track of.
So where do I draw the line of realism? I definitely do not want to ruin the verisimilitude of each session – I want to make sure my players still believe the world in which they play is real. I honestly do not enjoy breaking the fourth wall – even though that’s totally impossible in a D&D session. I enjoy having fun, and I feel like that’s even more important.
And that’s my answer. Fun is more important than total verisimilitude. I would rather my players have a fun, memorable experience than get bogged down in minutiae. For example, if I were playing, and I was forced to keep track of my darts (for my Monk character, let’s say), I would not be as thrilled. It’s more fun to be able to fling a dart when I need to.
I know there are DMs out there that feel like, “No, if you throw all your darts, then you have to get more,” and that’s fine too. There’s no wrong way to play the game, really. It’s a preference. And I also try to leave it up to my players. If they’d rather play the full-on realistic “Expert Mode,” let’s call it, then that’s fine…I will obey. It’ll be a lot more work for me, but perhaps the experience will be more rewarding.
One thing I will allow to help dictate the balance between fun and rules is story. As you might have guessed from my previous posts, I believe story is the master. If I see something happening or about to happen – that let’s say my players are doing – and it allows for a better story to unfold, you bet I’m going to do my best to allow that to happen. It’s the same with the environmental rules, and illness, and madness, and exhaustion – all that good stuff. If it makes for a better story to have to search for shelter in the freezing cold before your brain turns into an ice cube, then I’m going to set those rules against the party’s progress to see if they can succeed (especially if their own actions brought them to the situation).
And I don’t find that hypocritical. It’s my job to create a memorable experience for my players, to ensure that they’re having fun (even if their characters are dying), and to help them tell the best story possible. So, if that means using the rules, using some of the rules, fudging the rules a little bit, or throwing out the rules entirely, then so be it. I’m going to do those things.
So, while I try to stay consistent, and not bog my players down with rules, rules, rules, I do find use in these rules in certain situations in order to tell a better story.
How do you interpret the rules of day-to-day life fo your adventurers? Do you keep of their lifestyle, making them pay coin for their cost of living? Are you strict with the environment, and what its effects on the party are? How about disease, drugs, and madness? How often to you refer to the DM Guide for these rules?
Until next time – Well Met!