One of the most common questions I get asked when I’m running games at my local gaming store is “Do you mind if I do ________?” I like it when players ask this question as it shows me they are thinking of things they want to try. That part I am 100% supportive of and encourage people to keep doing.
The part I’m not supportive of is the asking of my permission.
Dungeons & Dragons is a game. Its something people play for fun. I’ve been playing this game for a long time and I’ve seen people experience all manner of emotions over it. Laughing, crying, happy, sad, scared, anxious, worried and even depressed – no emotion is safe from Dungeons & Dragons touch.
A big part of playing in a game is investment. Buy-in. Active participation. Whatever you want to call it, games need players to be involved else they stop being games and either end or become expositions for the other players.
When a player asks me, “Do you mind if I do ________?”, my response is usually something along the lines of “This is your game. Your character. Not mine.” I don’t want to kill that spark of imagination when a player dreams of something they want their character to do. A huge part of roleplaying is being someone or something you’re not. Most of the time that persona is something you could never be in your own life so you tend to do things that you would never do when you’re not at the table. So once that process of breaking down psychological barriers begins and a player dreams of something they want to do, then #1 easiest way to hinder or kill that urge is to tell them, “No the rules won’t let you”.
Granted, this doesn’t mean players can do whatever they want however they want it. You start by not telling them “No” and then help them find how the rules of the game can be used to fit the mental picture they have of what they want their character to do. This, to me, is one of the most fundamental parts of being a Dungeon Master. I never have liked the term “referee” when referring to Dungeon Masters/Game Masters of any game system. I don’t feel its the Dungeon Master’s job to watch the game and make sure the rules are being enforced “correctly” but I see the job as more of an interpreter for the rules. The players know what they want to say – you just help them say it in the language of the game.
As a DM, I feel we need to encourage players’ imaginations. We are all in the game together so (with due apologies to families who do play together) we’re not in a parental/child role when it comes to the Dungeon Master/Player interactions. We’re a team of equals who work together to find a solutions on how to bring imaginations into the game and have fun together.