We don’t have one-on-one conversations after game sessions like we used to, and it feels like the game, maybe you too, are suffering for their loss.

Last night’s game was a beautiful catastrophe. So many things went so wrong, and yet the group pulled a stalemate from what looked like a TPK. I spent a week designing the encounter, and while I’m not surprised the party didn’t wipe, I’m also not-so-secretly pleased at how comparatively minimal your losses were.

I heard your comment about how the silence effect on the room “maybe should have been included in the difficulty of the encounter…” (I’m paraphrasing), but it’s important that you not blame me for how things went.

I designed a deathtrap. Deathtraps don’t come with sizable XP tags.

My reasons for designing a deathtrap are complex and unimportant. I’m the Dungeon Master. If I design a deathtrap or a Monty Haul or a fun house or whatever, that’s my prerogative.

What we need to talk about is you, I think.

You have more responsibility than you may realize.

In a lot of ways, you seem like the player voted “Most Like A Reluctant Hero.” You’re a power gamer, and therefore the most intrinsically-motivated player at the table. However contrary the idea seems, you’re at the table to “Win at D&D.” Which has its benefits as well as its drawbacks.

Being the most motivated player at the table, the other players look to you for guidance. You’re also the senior player at this table, and you have the most experience with me personally, as a Dungeon Master or player. And I can see how you maybe … don’t want to be the party leader.

It feels like a lot of responsibility, because you have every PC’s life in your hands. There are defense mechanisms to help you work past this hangup though… you can remember for example, that everyone will play their own PC. Being the leader doesn’t take away their agency as a player. They can always say no.

Especially this group. You’ll know if you step out of bounds. I promise.

Your role as the group’s leader is also, apparently, inescapable. Again, you’re the senior player at the table, you have the most knowledge of the setting, and the most experience with the Dungeon Master.

It kind of doesn’t matter which character you choose to play, everyone is going to look to you for advice. And for direction. And this seems to be where the problems come in… ’cause you aren’t very good at any of that. Advice or… leading.

The other players at the table saw your face last night. Saw your reaction to the encounter. How you looked utterly defeated before the battle even began. That’s one side of the coin. They also saw how engaged in the fight you became once you started to see the options. Once you realized it wasn’t impossible.

Among other things, you helped a player finish a bit of character creation/level advancement that’s been left off for a long time. Good on you. Metamagic shouldn’t be overlooked.

But you need to figure something out for yourself.

Everyone is looking to you. You’re setting the pace for the entire rest of the group. They’re looking at you. On a basic level that means if you check out during the game, nobody else is going to come up with a plan.

I’m sorry it’s all on you. You don’t get a choice, “Reluctant Hero” that you are.

As the Dungeon Master, I can’t be the party leader. And none of the other players can take your place, … even if they want to — and I mean, I’ve talked to the players. There are a few who’d like to lead, but you overshadow everyone. No one listens to anyone else the way they listen to you.

That means nothing is going to get better until you figure out how to fill that role. If you’re terrible at advice and plans, then you need to figure out who in the group is good at it. And you need to listen to them. Defer to them.

It’s a leadership thing. Delegation of duties.

We’ve read Erfworld. You’re no Parson. I think in this scenario, you’re Ansom. You’re going to bring your best forces and trust in your side to win the day.

But it only gets you so far.

We brought a Parson into the battle though. Maybe a couple of them. Maybe a Charlie or two. You’re going to have to fight smarter. And that means listening to your peeps. Encouraging them.

Choose a lieutenant. Somebody who can do the job. If it comes down to delegating every position, then do it.

Somebody to quartermaster. Somebody to map. Somebody to track monsters and NPC contacts. Somebody to keep track of intelligence. Somebody to raise your army. Somebody to plan battles.

And then listen to them. Follow their advice. Because what you’re doing now … isn’t working. You’re a power gamer, you need to min-max your party.

They’re your greatest resource.