moviesvirtual children by Scott Warnock

Why you want Peter Jackson as your Dungeon Master

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I was warned that this title would discourage almost all readers. So be it. The fact remains, that if you are ever lucky enough to play a character, say a dwarf fighter or a halfing rogue, in a good ol’ Dungeons & Dragons game, you definitely want Peter Jackson to be your DM.

“What on earth is a Dungeon Master?” you whine, those few of you who have not clicked on Facebook at this point. Allow me to explain. In D&D, the Dungeon Master is like an author-referee-god. He (I’ll stick with the gendered “he,” throughout; draw your own conclusions) creates and referees an environment/world/story in which the other players participate as characters. Within the game rules, the DM creates the scenarios, adventures, and challenges the others must overcome.

DMs have a lot of control. Some, likely through inherent personality flaws, basically revel in killing their players. In these games, players repeatedly create new characters only to have their warped DM/sorta-friend slay them in horrific ways.

But some DMs are kindly. They love their players. They give them whatever they want. In those games, the players become mighty heroes after a week or two. These campaigns are called Monty Hall campaigns. This site defines it well: “The Monty “Haul” Campaign derives its name from the game show Let’s Make A Deal where Monty ‘Hall’ gave away prizes to contestants who had to do next to nothing.”

(I may or may not know about any of this because of my personal experience with D&D.)

If you and the guys and Peter Jackson are whipping up a D&D game, you definitely want Peter to be the DM. You want him in charge of the bad guys and doling out treasure and goodies. He’s the guy you want your fate in the hands of. See, he’ll make sure, often despite yourself, that your characters will get fantastic rewards. He’ll make you a hero!

This is totally obvious if you watched the Hobbit movies, particularly The Battle of the Five Armies. (There are no spoilers below. If any of this spoils the plot of this third and final movie, you’re too dumb to see it.)

First, if Peter’s running the show, you can be sure the monsters won’t maximize their assets and abilities. For instance, since Azog the Defiler has a sword for an arm, you would imagine he’d use it (and be pretty competent with it!). Nah, Peter, when Azog is faced with his most hated foe, would have him use a clumsy block on a chain instead. Brilliant!

Peter will fudge the hit points and armor class of your enemies too. Throughout the whole Hobbit trilogy, people talk about how the orcs that march on the Misty Mountain are “bred for battle”; basically, they’re genetically modified warriors encased in armor. Yet little Bilbo chucks rocks at them and knocks them out left and right! At the table, you would say, “I chuck a rock at that massive orc!” and roll your 20-sided die. Peter, instead of giving you that mournful look all DMs should know well, would, through a mouthful of chips, say, “Wow. You kill him!” Your pals would clap you on the back!

Peter would also see to it that you get the distracting benefits of gaming heroism. For instance, your hapless dwarf would, no matter how illogical it is (it’s not a detail some minor storyteller like oh, JRR Tolkien, would include), gets to date the hot wood-elf! D&D guys love that stuff!

Even though you and your “party” have done little to distinguish yourself in your adventures, Peter would make sure you get center stage in the climactic battle. When you and your twelve blundering pals enter the vast battlefield, instead of everyone saying, “Why would these boobs who couldn’t even escape a bunch of goblins/elves/trolls get involved?,” the entire battle and in fact history of the land would be altered.

In mead halls throughout Peter’s land, your song would sung. And you, the player, would look down at your crinkled, pizza grease-stained character record sheet and erase that “1” next to “Level” and replace it with “20.” Swelling with pride, you would say, “Thank the great moon gods for Peter. He made a hero of me!”

By the way, in between the killer DM and the Monty Hall/Peter Jackson DM is the DM who, in collaboration with his players, creates a unique, creative story filled with danger but also with magnificent intellectual – and sometimes emotional and even spiritual –adventures. Somehow, people at gaming tables have done that for decades, for no pay, and without even a drop of overpriced special effects. Imagine that.

Scott Warnock is a writer and teacher who lives in South Jersey. He is a professor of English at Drexel University, where he directs the University Writing Program. Father of three and husband of one, Scott is on two local school boards and coaches all kinds of youth sports.
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6 Responses to “Why you want Peter Jackson as your Dungeon Master”

  1. Love it! Gave me a chuckle while enjoying my snow day! Thank you!

  2. Scott–I have no problem with your referring to the Dungeon Master as “him.” Just think of the connotations of “Dungeon Mistress”–I think of lots of leather, whips and chains.

  3. I think the world could use a little more Monty. Years of battling immeasurably hard monsters for little or no loot can leave some players withered. Not that I would know anything about that…my DM is a magnanimous soul who always treats his players with dignity and respect (wink, wink). One can only imagine how he would reward a player who sings his praises so highly. Only time will tell.

  4. Perhaps the worst blog ever written.
    And I stopped after “So be it.”

  5. And breaking news per Obama’s speech – Putin and the terrorists are beaten. Nothing to worry about.

  6. Hey Scott – Very funny, nicely written. But…a couple of points:

    – Not sure *I* am OK with the DM being just “him”. Why not use this wonderful forum you have for undoing some of this gender bias? Perhaps more ladies (than already are) would feel more comfortable playing D&D. It wouldn’t just have to be in a sexualized “whips and chains” kind of way, either.

    – You know I’m a Jackson defender when it comes to the Hobbit movies, so in his defense I have to note that Tolkien does include the “detail” about Bilbo throwing rocks at the orcs and taking a couple down before getting clocked on the head and sleeping the rest of the battle out. One of the halflings’ abilities, as defined by good ol’ JRR, is a strong and precise throwing arm.

    One more thing: Mountain goats! Those pretty much made the whole saga, for me.

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