We have now had our second gamemasters session, still with the same dungeonmaster since this project only just started up. I did things that I'm not proud or happy about, but which I felt necessary and want to write about here, which is mainly rule interpretation and talking about rules during gameplay.
Our current dungeonmaster continued the story where we had to track down a fellow member of our adventuring order, a dragonborn called Lady Namur. In our quest we traveled to an abandoned farm infested with undead, to a cursed forest filled with giant spiders, and into various small dungeons. Usually, I'm not the type that talk too much about rules during the game, since the story is more important. But this specific session was plagued by the dungeonmaster continuously coming up with his own interpretations of the rules, dismissal of written rules, and new house rules on the fly. In a standard TRPG game it doesn't bother me, but when we all have to be dungeonmasters at some point, I feel that it's important that the players can expect the same set of rules from each gamemaster. I have two examples, both positive and negative, to show why this is important.
Example 1: Wild Shape (positive)
At the farm we sneaked past the undead and into a hidden cellar. The first character down was our druid, who discovered that the floor of the cellar had magical traps. She didn't dare touch the ground and wanted to let one of the other party members go down first. No party member could get past her on the ladder, so she wanted to wild shape into a spider so that the other party member could get past her. This specific situation is very unique and not described in the rules, and even though I disagreed with the dungeonmaster's ruling, it is fair enough that in such a situation he can rule that if she wild shapes, she will fall to the ground anyway.
This example shows that unique situations need the rulings of a dungeonmaster, but some rules should be decided by the majority of the party. This happened when we started to discuss whether or not a druid could wild shape into a swarm of beasts. After a short discussion we voted and we voted against that possibility, hence we all agreed how the rules will be no matter which gamemaster is running the session. When discussing rules like this it is also important that if it's not important here and now, that the current dungeonmaster moves the game along by letting the group know that it's a discussion that will be taken out of game after the session. Further investigation of the rules has revealed to me that wild shape transforms the druid into a beast and a swarm is described as being multiple beasts. I haven't found specific rules for or against, and thus it's a question of interpretation, but in this case we agreed as a group how to interpret the rules.
Example 2: Tracking (negative)
One of our party members is playing a ranger specialized in tracking, a bloodhound type of character. It was first during this session that it occurred to me that the gamemaster had no grasp whatsoever on the tracking rules and that the player had thus created a character that was really bad at tracking but that it worked as long as the dungeonmaster's rules were used instead of the rules in the Dungeon Master's Guide. When we then switch dungeonmaster and the actual rules are used, then that character would end up being the opposite of a bloodhound character, with skills and features that can't be used the way he thought and is used to. It is therefore very important that the same set of rules apply to every gamemaster.
I therefore brought this up, and also mentioned other rules, something I hate myself for doing, but felt was necessary since the dungeonmaster was clearly going against the rules as described in the core rulebooks. The player thus stopped using Perception for tracking and started using Survival instead, changing his character while the gamemaster also changed his rules on tracking.
Talking about Perception also revealed that the dungeonmaster's understanding of active and passive Perception was also something very different from what the core rules explain, and thus many situations will be very different when we change dungeonmaster. This is why it's important to run with the core rules and alterations agreed by the entire group, and not simply run the game by how the dungeonmaster thinks the rules should be. In the first example there's a very specific scenario that requires that the dungeonmaster decides, but generally this should not be the case.
Our next session will be held in a month and be run by the same dungeonmaster as the previous two sessions. This will be his last session as a dungeonmaster and one of our other gamemasters will take over. If we end the adventure too early, then we'll start the new adventure with the other gamemaster, or else we'll wait for the next session. So we're very close to our first switch, which will be very exciting, and I myself will most likely take the role as the fourth dungeonmaster when that time comes.