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WHY YOU SHOULD SAY "YES" TO THE DM

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I've read a lot over the years about how important it can be for a DM to say "yes" to players when they ask for something. Whether it's a request to play a nonstandard character or do something their character wouldn't normally be able to do, Dungeon Masters are advised to find a way to turn "no" into "yes." The DM is supposed to take the player's enthusiasm as a good sign and spin the concept into something workable. This way, the player will get even more enjoyment out of the entire experience - and there is something to be said for such advice.

It is all too easy to simply reject what players suggest without giving it enough thought, but with some creative effort, many ideas can be added into just about any setting or style. Now, no DM should be expected to run something they do not enjoy and no DM should be bullied into accepting every suggestion. But a DM who has a healthy give-and-take with their players can probably devise a compromise that will harm nothing and help more than one might think.

It is with this advice in mind that I encourage players to turn the situation around and say "yes" more often to their DM.

"But what do you mean, Kismet?" players might ask. "Doesn't showing up to play mean that I'm saying 'yes' to what my DM wants to do?" The answer to that is: Perhaps. Allow me to explain.

As a player, it is easy to become all too comfortable with a single setting, game, or style of play. It's what makes you happy when you arrive at the table and it requires only so much effort to get off the ground. You might figure: If it ain't broke, why fix it? But as a DM, it can be all too easy to fall into a rut and get bored with the same old fare. No matter how you spice it up, re-skin it, or change the perspective, sometimes a DM needs a break - not from running, but from what they've been doing. But when a DM approaches players about other possibilities, they often get very negative reactions and ultimately, refusals.

Not only is this demoralizing for the DM to hear, but it is also selfish for players to do out of hand. This is not to say that players should be expected to invest in every new system the DM wishes to try, as that will add up quickly. It also doesn't mean that flighty DMs don't exist; there are certainly some who cannot seem to settle for any one thing reliably. But if a game is to be equally respectful of players and DMs, and if your group is going to try to address what everyone wants at some point - and if groups would like to help their DMs avoid burn-out - then it is vital to try saying "yes" when the DM makes overtures about something they'd like to try.

"But Kismet," players might be thinking, "I hate _________ system, and I have had very bad experiences with the _________ style of game." And that is your experience, as valid as anyone else's - but it is in the past, it is not necessarily the final word, and it should not keep a DM from to trying to do it better than you've seen before. Can you remember the frustrated way you've felt when a DM has refused to consider something you want because of prior experiences or what they've heard about it? That's how it can feel when a DM's real enthusiasm is refused point-blank by their group.

By saying "yes," you're helping to give your DM a vacation from the old and to relish the joys of exploring something else. Some DMs want to keep running; they just need a change of pace. DMs who feel trapped in one style or system might show less enthusiasm even if they keep trudging along trying to keep everyone else happy - or they might stop running altogether. They might not even realize when the quality of their game begins to suffer or why they've lost the desire to continue.

Yes, this is a real issue, and I've heard comments from multiple DMs over the years about the misery they expect from pitching something they want to do to players."They'll just say no." "They won't show up, even if they say they will to be polite." "Oh, everyone around here hates that system."

I've also felt the elation of having players who are openly supportive. Every DM should get the lift that I've felt when hearing a player say, "I'm up for anything, if you're running." Nothing makes a DM fight to keep a game alive or want to come to the table like having their own needs honored.

So if you're a player, be kind to your DM. Ask them right now if there's anything else they'd like to run, even if it's very different from what you've done together before, and actually mean it when you say you'll give it a fair chance. If it's your DM's first time with that game, don't just sit through one session; give them some real time to get better at it, because few DMs are great the first time out the gate. If the DM wants to use something you've come to dislike, work on putting your old prejudices aside for a while. Really focus some effort on what can go right with this DM this time, instead of what has gone wrong or what could miss the mark.

It should go without saying, but show up when the DM has arranged to run something that isn't standard for your group instead of giving excuses so you can avoid getting out of your comfort zone. You have no idea the fun you're missing out on. Perhaps most importantly, don't sabotage your own effort to be generous to your DM. If you go into the game stubbornly set on not enjoying it, you are not truly acting in good faith and will rob everyone of a fair experience. Give your DM the best feedback you can so they can try to fine-tune things, as well. Try saying "yes" as much as you can and come up with compromises if something isn't working quite right. Your creativity and willingness can go such a long way!

If you're a DM, do your homework before asking your group to try something else. Find all the free resources you can, like quick start guides and character sheets, so your players can get a taste of what you're after. Showing them cheat sheets for the rules can help them not feel so lost. But don't overwhelm them with handouts or links; highlight a few key pieces and then offer to show or send the rest. And make it clear that you do not expect them to invest in new books or materials until and unless they like the game enough to do so. Roleplaying games can get expensive, and nobody should feel strong-armed into putting up a wad of cash just to try something they might not care for.

Don't just approach your group respectfully - get specific. Explain what you've liked about your recent adventures. Talk about what is missing and what you hope to get out of a new game. Highlight the parts that excite you the most and try to tell each player what they personally might like about it. Keep their tastes and reasons for being at the table in mind when you make your pitch. Suggest any films or shows that are similar to what you hope to achieve. If you can, you might want to offer more than one option and give your players a real choice so it feels less like an ultimatum and more like an opportunity. And finally, step back and give them some breathing space. Don't force a decision immediately; give them at least a week to think it over, and invite them to ask any questions they have during that time. Be honest about what you need and do your best not to be rude if they still say "no." If you definitely need a change of scenery, you might have to reach out and try another group of players.

But if you've been putting off having this conversation with your group, give it a shot. Plan your pitch(es) like you would a brief presentation or even an elevator pitch. "I want to try a game that is like Lost Girl meets Walking Dead, with ___________ system. The system is basically [dice and mechanic type] with [type of characters], and it's fun because of [unique mechanics] and [character options that stand out]. It'll be epic because of [something exciting about the setting], [the place you want to start], and [things that appeal to the players' tastes]. It'd be awesome if you'd look at some cheat sheets I want to send you and if you'd think about letting me run it for at least [amount of time]. I'm also interested in trying [insert second pitch here]. I have all these ideas and it would really help me to have a chance to try them out. If you do say "yes" to one of these, I'll do everything I can to make sure you won't regret it. You guys rock. Let's play."

Go forth and conquer, DMs.
Say "yes" to adventure, players.
And if you need to, share this post with your group, with my compliments. 

 
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