Special Roles of the Dungeon Master



As the DM you are game moderator, judge, jury, and supreme deity. You
are also actively engaged in actual role playing throughout the course of
the campaign, from game to game, as you must take the persona of each
and every henchman and/or hireling involved. (See also Monsters, hereafter.)
To play such roles to the hilt, it is certainly helpful to the DM if he or
she has player characters of his or her own in some other campaign.

Henchmen: Regardless of their loyalty, henchmen are individuals. Play
them for their liege just as if they were your player characters, modified by
whatever circumstances and special characteristics are applicable. Begin
creating the persona of such a non-player character as soon as he or she
appears on the scene, without recourse to the book characteristics. It will
thereafter become easier and more natural for you to re-assume the
persona as needed. The most important rule to remember is that the
henchman is an individual, with likes, dislikes, feelings, and so on. The
henchman is likely to aspire to greater things too, and he or she will tend
to look out for personal interests. Bullying, duping, cheating, and similar
maltreatment will certainly be resented. The henchman will talk about it
with others of his class and fellow henchmen and hirelings. Henchmen
will never loan out money or valuables without security - particularly if
one instance of failure to repay or loss has occurred previously. Loyalty
will certainly drop in this case, and if such action is repeated, loyalty will
be lost in most cases. If their liege is so bold as to suggest that the henchmen
should make loans to other characters, there will be flat refusal in all
likelihood. The key here is playing the henchman as if he or she were an
actual person - better still if the character is somewhat greedy and
avaricious. Interest should be paid on loans. Use of a henchman’s
valuables, such as a magic item, should be based on the holding of some
equal or better object of similar nature, certainly one usable by the henchman,
and the promise of some payment in addition - such as a minor
item of magic! (See also ACQUISITION OF MAGIC-USER SPELLS.)

Some few players will actually play their henchmen as individual
characters, not merely as convenient extensions of their main player
character. In these rare cases, your involvement with these henchmen will
be minimal. It is far more probable that the players will attempt to manipulate
their henchmen, and you will counter all such attempts by active
assumption of the role or roles. You will keep low-intelligence characters
behaving accordingly, clever ones possibly tricking their master, and so on.

Hirelings: As these characters serve strictly as employees, they should be
played as such - mercenaries interested in doing their job and collecting
their pay. Unusual indeed will be circumstances which see a hireling volunteering
for extra work/service. Rather, a hireling seeks to do only as
much as is absolutely minimal to fulfill terms of employment. If more is
desired, more must be offered. Playing such roles is relatively easy, and if
groups are involved, concentrate on the personae of the leaders. Otherwise,
hirelings can be treated as henchmen as far as involvement is concerned.

Monsters: Taking the role of some of the monsters- those who happen to
be human or humanoid - is not a difficult task for the DM, but sometimes
it is hard to get into the personae of particularly nauseating creatures or
minions of purity or whatever. Such creatures might well be beyond the
realm of experience of the referee, and understandably so. Nonetheless,
such monsters must be carefully played by the DM.

Each and every monster must be played as closely to its stated characteristics
as is possible. Clever ones should be played with cleverness,
stupid ones with stupidity, ferocious ones with ferocity, cowardly ones with
cowardice, and so on. In all cases, the DM is absolutely obligated to play
the monster in question to the best of his or her ability according to the
characteristics of the monster and the circumstances of the encounter. A
magic-using creature will intelligently select the best (or what the creature
believes will be the best) spell or magic device for attack/defense. Intelligent
monsters will make use of magic items in their treasure hoard!
Thinking monsters will tend to flee from encounters which are going badly in
order to live and fight another day. There is no reason why monsters can
not learn from encounters, employ flaming oil, set up ambushes, and so
forth according to their capabilities and resources.

Other Non-Player Characters: The host of merchants, shopkeepers,
guardsmen, soldiers, clerics, magic-users, fighters, thieves, assassins, etc.
are likewise all yours to play. Again, this is simply a matter of assuming
the station and vocation of the NPC and creating characteristics - formally
or informally according to the importance of the non-player character.
These NPCs will have some alignment, but even that won’t be likely to
prevent a bit of greed or avariciousness. Dealing with all such NPCs should
be expensive and irritating. Consider the two following examples:

    The fighter, Celowin Silvershield, enters a strange town seeking aid from a
    high level magic-user in order to turn an associate back to flesh (after a
    most unfortunate encounter with a cockatrice). His inquiries at a tavern
    meet with vague answers until several rounds of drinks have been
    purchased, and the proprietor generously tipped. Wending his way from
    tavern to wizard’s tower, Celowin is accosted by a beggar, and he is
    pestered unendingly until he either pays off or calls for the watch. Paying
    off will attract a swarm of other beggars. Calling for the watch can be
    nearly as dangerous, as they could resent a foreigner’s refusal to deem a
    native beggar worthy of a copper or two. Despite such possible misadventures,
    the fighter finally comes to the tower of Llewellyn ap-Owen, a
    wizard of high repute. However, Celowin‘s knocking is answered by a
    lesser person, the warlock Tregillish Mul, the wizard’s henchman. Mul
    informs the eager fighter that: ”Lofty Llewellyn is far too busy to see anyone
    at this time. Good day!” Unless Celowin is quick in offering some
    inducement, the warlock will slam the tower door and forget about the

    Now let us assume that Celowin’s bribe was sufficient to convince
    Tregillish mul to arrange an appointment with his master, and furthermore
    that such appointment is actually timely. Now old ap-Owen is rather testy,
    for he was in the middle of an experiment which is now absolutely ruined,
    and must be begun all over again, just because this stupid sword-swinger
    managed to convince Mul-the-lackwit that something was more important
    than a wizard’s spell research! Well, this fellow Celowin had better have a
    good reason for interruption, and further, the pay had better be
    good . . . . Celowin will have to pay through the nose, in cash and in
    magic items, to get the magic-user to turn stone to flesh once again. But
    suppose Celowin has no item which Llewellyn could use? The wizard will
    take something he cannot use personally, for he undoubtedly has all sorts
    of henchmen and hirelings who can employ these things, not to mention
    the possibility of trading or selling. In no event will money ever serve to
    replace magic items! Furthermore, if no magic is available, then a geas
    can be laid to get some!

These examples show how varying roles are played without great
difficulty simply by calling upon observotion of basic human nature and
combining it with the particular game circumstances applicable. Once established,
it is quite easy to recall the personae of frequently consulted or
encountered NPCs. If such intercourse becomes very frequent, considerable
additional development of the character or characters concerned,
and their surroundings, will certainly be in order. Thus, in many
ways, the campaign builds and grows of its own volition and within its own

richardstincer wrote:
Gary Gygax, thanks for your previous answer. It seems to me, then, that the DM is in control of: PC race, the six basic natural ability scores, adventurer-class profession, and alignment. There are two final questions that I want to ask you about. Can a DM of ADandD 1st edit. also act as a player? When I asked you if my half-orc and half-human PC can have rounded ears, I forgot to mention the ears of a full orc. You told me that a full orc has lop-looking ears, but are those lop-looking ears rounded or wedge-pointed?

Hi Richard,

As a practical matter the DM has control over everything, including the rules that govern play of the game.

It is generally not a good idea for a GM to play a character in the game. i have done that, but it is difficult, as it removes the disinterest from the role and requires a great deal of expertese to cary off successfully--that is neither aiding or hinderig the players to any meaningful extent.