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How to Play

Wizards of the Coast has published the Basic Rules of play online. They are also available in PDF form.

I suggest reading the Introduction (the first 5 pages of the PDF). You can safely skip the rest of Part 1, as it covers character creation, which I will guide the players through during our first session. Reading enough of Part 2 (which starts on page 57 of the PDF) to get the gist of how the game works may be a good idea. The fundamental rules aren’t terribly complicated, but having a solid grasp of them can make the game more enjoyable and improve the flow.

Robert’s DM Credo

These are the rules that I feel are important and will try hold myself and my players to. They will give you an idea about what my approach to the game. If you have questions or concerns about anything on this list, please let me know. Note that when I use the word “players,” that encompasses myself, the DM, as well.

  1. All Players at the Table Deserve Respect
  2. The Game Deserves the Attention of the Players
  3. I Will Trust the Players
  4. I Will Be Fair and Consistent
  5. The Rules Are a Tool and They Belong to Me
  6. For Victory to Have Meaning, Defeat Must be Possible
  7. I Will Not Seize Control of a Player Character Without Prior Permission
  8. Adventurers Live “Interesting” Lives
  9. When the Players Deliberate, the Characters Do Also
  10. There is No Such Thing as Meta-gaming
  11. A Player’s Ignorance Should Not Result in Failure if the Player’s Character Would Know Better
  12. I Will Not Penalize a Player for Lacking System Mastery

All Players at the Table Deserve Respect

All players sitting at the table are owed the respect of the other players and myself and should treat one another as equals. If a player takes offense at something another player says or does or is made to feel uncomfortable, a sincere apology should be offered and the offending action should not be repeated.

The Game Deserves the Attention of the Players

It is my responsibility to make the game as engaging as possible for the players, while also acknowledging that it is impossible for me to keep all of the players constantly riveted. I will take reasonable measures to reduce distractions and address them if they become problematic. A problematic distraction is one that results in a player who can’t or doesn’t respond to a game-related question or prompt. A player who feels he or she is unable to focus on the game should always feel comfortable asking for a break or excusing him or herself from the game.

I Will Trust the Players

I will trust that all players are playing according to the rules as they understand them, and is participating in the game in good faith.

I Will Be Fair and Consistent

I will strive to be consistent in how I apply the rules and in the way the world works. Things will work the way the players have come to expect them to work, and if they don’t, there is a reason. Everything in the world is governed by rules of cause and effect, even magic and even the gods.

The Rules Are a Tool and They Belong to Me

The rules are a tool that I will use to make the game as fair and entertaining as possible, but ultimately are only a tool — they are not the essence of the game. Mid-game discussions of the rules should be kept to a reasonable minimum, and I am the final arbiter of any decision that relates to the rules. If you believe I am interpreting a rule incorrectly or unfairly, please let me know, but also be ready to drop the issue as soon as I’ve made my decision. If you have a major issue with the way I handle the rules, I will be willing to hear you out fully between sessions.

For Victory to Have Meaning, Defeat Must be Possible

I will strive to build fair challenges for the party to overcome, where the chances of both victory and defeat are non-negligible. This means that failures will eventually, inevitably occur. Players should be willing to accept defeat, including the death of their PCs. My goal as a DM is not to play against the players or to kill the characters, but I am also not on the “side” of the other players either. I will do my best to interpret the established rules in a fair and impartial manner.

I Will Not Seize Control of a Player Character Without Prior Permission

I will respect the players’ dominion over their own characters. I will not force a player character to take an action that the player disagrees with. Two exceptions to this rule exist. The first is when a player agrees beforehand to certain limits on his character’s behavior; all games have ground rules, and these ground rules will constrain PC behavior in at least some limited fashion. The second exception involves powers and effects permitted by the rules which may involve mind-control, possession, supernaturally induced fear, and so on. I will use such effects against the players sparingly and with care.

Adventurers Live “Interesting” Lives

The player characters will enjoy power and privilege in some form that sets them apart in the world, but with power comes responsibility. The PCs will never have the luxury of resting on their laurels until the campaign’s conclusion (if even then). There will always be a looming problem or threat of some kind.

When the Players Deliberate, the Characters Do Also

If the players stop announcing actions for their character and strike up a discussion among themselves about a mystery or problem that has been presented in game, or to plan strategy, then that’s what the characters do also. The characters may not use exactly the same words that their players do, but the substance of the discussion and the points raised will be the same, based on what makes the most sense when filtered through the lens of the game world.

There is No Such Thing as Meta-gaming

For the purposes of the challenges that I present to the players/PCs, there is no such thing as meta-gaming. If you as a player have knowledge that would be useful, then somehow your character also has that knowledge and you can use it without shame or penalty. I will, however, do my best to craft challenges which do not require or particularly reward what is usually thought of as meta-gaming.

A Player’s Ignorance Should Not Result in Failure if the Player’s Character Would Know Better

I will do my best to give the players all information which is pertinent to a situation, which their characters would be aware of. If you announce an action which entails substantial risks that your character would be aware of but which I suspect you as a player are not taking into account, I will warn you before resolving that action. If you feel I did not warn you sufficiently or express the situation clearly enough, I will attempt to redress the situation (up to possibly allowing you to “take back” the action). Similarly, I will warn you before your character attempts the impossible if your character would be aware of the impossibility of the announced action.

I Will Not Penalize a Player for Lacking System Mastery

If you have a goal and a clear plan of action and you announce both in plain English, I will resolve the specifics of your character’s action what I perceive is the safest and most effective way, unless you explicitly override my interpretation. I will do my best not to expose a PC to danger or reduce the odds of a PC’s success based on a lack of mastery of the rules or tactical minutiae. I will do my best to make players aware of any salient options that their characters would be aware of, if I think the player is overlooking them due to a lack of system mastery.

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