Mini-Fluff: The DM's Fingerprint

fingerprint.jpgI have started reading David Eddings again (and I just learned from a French reference at the bottom that his wife and co-author died shortly after Robert Jordan… this is sad) and it brought back a meta-literature discussion I have had in the last few years.

I have read a lot of novels, a few hundred if not about a thousand in the last 24 years. A lot of Fantasy (Favorite ones: The first 3 Wheel of Time books by Robert Jordan, Closely followed by Edding’s the Belgariad and everything by Pratchet), a lot of Sci-Fi (Best ones: The Night’s Dawn Triology by Hamilton and Hyperion by Simmons) and also a lot of Horror Techno-thrillers, Spy-thrillers… including a few on Oprah’s list.

I have read enough books by the same author to see that they all leave a signature that is common throughout their work (If this is evident to you, please note that I have never taken a post high-school literature class, either French or English, I’m all science and geeky electives):

  • Eddings’ narrative is very dialog-driven and features and at least one character, if not all, features an unmistakable sarcastic streak.
  • Peter F. Hamilton crams a metric ton of technical details about his worlds’ technologies in what has been known as the Data Dump.
  • Mary Higgins Clark always describes what a person wears first and foremost.
  • Lawrence Sanders always describes what a person drinks
  • Dean Koontz has progressively become more and more focused on Paranoia and Conspiracies
  • Stephen King lets you know in advance when a character will die
  • Clive Cussler always has a funky often fictional vehicle appearing in his novels and makes a cameo in his own books.

RPG writers also features this, although I have much less experience about those.

  • Monte Cook often bases his material on some sort of Lovecraftian Elder Evil. He also shows a lot of love for arcane spellcasters and he designs encounters that can be very tough for non-optimized parties.
  • Mike Mearls favors mechanics over flavour and prefers martial classes with access to magic-like abilities.
  • My Nemesis, Wolfgang Baur admits to be a fluff-over-crunch type of guy and creates memorable story-lines and NPCs .

Now here’s what I was thinking about. I’m pretty sure that DMs who’ve done this long enough also have a distinctive fingerprint that shows in whatever game they play. But the thing is, listing your own style is not as easy, so I asked Yan about mine.

Here’s what he said: A distinct epic flavour: Characters are often on first name basis with the campaigns’ gods (true).

I also almost invariably align campaign themes along the classic moral-divide (Good vs Evil/Law vs Chaos). I like recurring villains and I love encounters with lots of features and exploitation of the environment by both players and DM-controlled creatures (Combat on narrow overlapping over passes with levitating Fiends abound… woot!).

What about your DM fingerprints? What are the common elements to all your games?


  1. Humorously, the group I currently play with has two guys who agree that, in my games, when they do something, it will somehow go incredibly wrong in some way that could not have been foreseen.

    Of course, I protest – that’s only true if you don’t have foresight! 🙂

    But they don’t listen.

  2. Doubles. I have clones, impostors, and even some other forms of no-it’s-not-really-him’s that I will not yet reveal!

    Also time. I love playing with time and what-ifs.

    Finally, I have a subconscious tendency, which I do not want to explore too deeply, to have monsters and NPCs do horrible things to my female NPCs (have them explode, get eaten, etc.). I think it’s because I’m hoping it will bring out the protection instincts in my players. Yeah, that’s it. Really, I’m not the Quentin Tarantino of DMing…. ;b