Friday, 7 February 2020
My DMing style is highly transparent.
I roll all dice in the open. I almost always tell the players what I am rolling for and what number will indicate 'success' (with e.g. monster 'to hit' rolls). I even do this for surprises and traps as a general rule - so when the players are going round the dungeon I will, for example, tell them when I am rolling for a random encounter, then the surprise roll if there is an encounter, then the reaction roll, etc.
I never use a DM screen.
I am happy to give the players some narrative control by asking them things like, "Where do you think the orcs you just captured were going?"
I am also happy to ask their advice when making rulings. "What do you guys think would be a fair way of judging if this PC can jump over the chasm?"
I generally let them know I am just a guy behind a curtain pulling rods and levers rather than a wizard. I am willing to be persuaded out of things and retcon when I have clearly made an error of judgment.
I am fine with saying, on occasion, things like, "Sorry that I have to do this to you, but the random wilderness encounter I just rolled up is a real bastard." But I never change the result of a roll or fudge.
I think all of this makes the players more involved and invested in the success of the session and takes a lot of the pressure off DMing. I also think it creates useful narrative distance between events in the game and the players. By making things partially non-immersive through putting the mechanics in the open, the 'feel' is more arch - one is tempted to say Vancian - and there is much less temptation to get carried away with trying to make up a story and start fudging. In this sense it is a bit like postmodern architecture - rather than hide the plumbing, wiring and so on, it's made into a centrepiece.
I have found that the more I do these things, the better and more fun my sessions are.