The DM Doom Pool
For Father’s Day, I got my hands on a copy of the Marvel Heroic Role Playing Game. And I’ve been Digging my way through it. There are a few concepts presented in the game that could and SHOULD be applied to D&D Next. I’m not necessarily talking about lifting rules here, just applying a good design concept to the new game.
The GM in Marvel Heroic works with the players in each scene by trading and earning Plot Points back and forth (I am grossly oversimplifying the Cortex mechanic here). Players can influence the scene (assumedly) for the benefit of their characters, and the GM can add levels of difficulty to add challenge and balance to the encounter. When the GM exercises this ability, the Players “Plot Pool” grows and in some cases the Players earn a small amount of experience. Conversely, when the player’s use their plot pool, the GM’s “Doom Pool” likewise grows. (If it is wrong to love the term DOOM POOL, I never want to be right).
This requires DMs to become more than simple rules arbiters and adventure narrators. DM’s have to learn to engage with the players, to flex the adventure and the encounter. DM’s must learn to provide more than what a computer can. The Caves of Chaos is an adventure that encourages this style of DMing (Ravenloft is another prime example). The Caves as written exposes the players to a variety of means to engage each encounter. Traps, ambushes, reinforcements, and negotiations just to name a few. What I’m suggesting here is that the mechanics of the game encourage further interaction between the GM and the players on this level.
The mechanic that I particularly like with the “Plot/Doom Pool” is that when one party (Players or DM) use the pool, the other party increases it’s own pool size by a like amount. So, if the DM spends Doom Pool points like water, he is slowly giving control of the game over to the players. Likewise, if the Players rely too heavily on their own Plot Pool, they can watch the Doom Pool grow, and understand that they’re making a future challenge that more difficult.