Season 4,297 of The Bachelor recently ended, and I think we can all say it was about as big of a champagne-fueled dumpster fire as we’ve ever witnessed. Blame the too-young cast or the allure of shilling teeth whitener and subscription boxes on Instagram instead of being there for the right reasons, or just the downright silly premise of the show. All contributing factors, sure, but the blame belongs squarely on the lead himself: Pete the Pilot is not a Dungeon Master.
Okay, so I’m not a Dungeon Master either, but I want to be and have spent considerable time studying them. Dungeon Masters possess many excellent traits—they’re creative, charismatic, adaptable, collaborative, and have the ability to make every bare-midriff, barrel-curled blonde with a spray tan feel like the only girl in the mansion. These are the very same traits that would benefit the star of a popular reality mating show in order to keep it all from skidding off the runway. Better luck next time, Pete.
Look, no one is watching this show for witty reflections on current events or keen commentary on global economics. I expect drama and cat fights and bronze, glittery cleavage, and sequin weggies. I am willing to suspend my disbelief over a 28 year-old, virile commercial pilot who believes it’s easier to find a wife on a televised game show than say, the Delta Sky Club at LAX. But the wheels flew off the 737 upon take-off and even Sully couldn’t successfully land this season. It’s too late for Pete, but future leads take note. Before you get on my TV screen, get behind your own. Grab your dice and take note.
Pick the Right Party: Should you find yourself searching for a wife among a gaggle of back-biting, pantsuit-wearing, gossip rag, fame whores then polymorphthem into a pile of otyugh turds and teleport them to a TLC show. Look, not everyone’s a match and there aren’t enough roses for players (literally and figuratively) who don’t share your sensibilities and long-term goals. Would you be willing to shield these people from harm at the detriment of your own health? If not, take off and find a better party.
Be a Leader:You want me to follow you down a dark, dank path littered with the sounds of hungry harpies? Well, Dungeon Master, you better make a damn good case for it! One major complaint from Bachelor viewers this season was the Bachelor himself. As a contestant on Hannah Brown’s season he was funny, charming, and passionate (yeah, yeah, he’s ‘four times in the windmill’ guy.) As the lead, however, he was childish, inarticulate, contradictory, and just plain lost. I wouldn’t let this guy lead me into the Yawning Portal on free mead day. A Dungeon Master exudes confidence (even if they’re feeling insecure), reads and reacts to a room, and doesn’t just roll with the punches– they turn them into epic roleplaying moments.
Take Your Roles Seriously: It’s not all Us Weeklysidebars and Stagecoach VIP passes. The contestants may not be there for the right reasons,but they couldn’t be there at all without you. That’s right, Pete—you’re literally the reason for the season.
Dungeon Masters allow us to gather around the table and tell our stories. They’ve agreed to take on this key role knowing it involves a tremendous amount of preparation, dedication, and responsibility for your good time. But they also recognize D&D is a collaborative experience and don’t steamroll or make decisions that benefit only them. I mean, do you ever hear Chris Harrison tell the lead who deserves a rose? And believe me, he’s got opinions.
Not only did Pete make some bad decisions, he seemed rather unapologetic and apathetic about how they affected his future brides. If you don’t treat your role with respect, no one else will either.
Roll with Change: When Pete’s piloting a plane, he follows a flight plan. He doesn’t have the option to take a left to avoid traffic or pull over at that place Yelpers say have the best waffles. Perhaps Pete needs a flight plan for life. Perhaps something like a campaign?
The most common advice I hear from experienced Dungeon Masters is to be prepared, but not overly prepared. Your players might go left when everything you prepped for is to the right. Don’t panic. Just change your perspective. They decided to talk to the innkeeper instead of investigating the noises coming from the basement? Have the innkeeper tell themabout the weird noises in the basement and ask if the party would mind checking it out. Mistakes aren’t always mistakes. Sometimes they turn into super cool storytelling moments. (And sometimes a producer set you up to make the most dramatic season ever. Not much you can do about that.)
Be Decisive: So, you drop your players in the middle of an eerie, mysterious forest and WAM! Out pop a band of goblins! Great idea, Dungeon Master! The players shriek in fear.
“Can they see us?
“Do we have cover?”
“Do I have line of sight?”
“Can we sneak away?”
And you say, “Uhhh… yeah, you have cover. No, wait, you don’t. In fact, you didn’t see them at all, but they heard you coming and sneak up behind you and hit the cleric over the head. She takes 33 points of damage.”
“Okay, nine? Six? Okay, fine, they didn’t see you. In fact, there are no goblins. You’re actually in a wand shop in the commerce district. What would you like to buy?”
One of Pete’s biggest flaws was his inability to make and stick to a decision. He drank Kelsey’s champagne with Hannah Ann, sent Alayah packing because Victoria P. said she was mean, then brought her back because Alayah said Victoria P. was actually the mean one, only to send her home again when all the other girls said both girls were mean, but Alayah was the meanest. He ignored warning signals (weird for a pilot), gets in the middle of petty drama, believed everything he heard, and sent home the most decent woman because she was trying to have fun and CHOOSING YOUR WIFE ON A TELEVISED GAME SHOW IS NOT FUN. Come on,Kelley!
Look, even the most experienced Dungeon Masters make mistakes. Chances are your players won’t notice and if they do call something out, either accept the feedback graciously or raise an eyebrow, give them an evil sneer and say, “Oh someyuan-ti are immune to poison. These ones don’t appear to be. Hmm… I wonder why.” Everything is fodder.
Focus the Game, Not the Rules: Oh, I know, we’re all very serious when it comes to finding love on a televised game show. (I’m writing this while wearing elf ears, so I know serious.) But if you are truly there for the right reasonsand believe that your wife is standing in that airplane hangar full of Moroccan-inspired hurricane candles right now, then you get to make the rules and break them and create new ones. It’s odd to say don’t worry about the rules when it comes to a game, (especially when the people who get paid to write those rules say it.) But the same refrain is constantly repeated. The only important rule is to have fun.
Remember Colton’s famous fence jump or when Brad Womack dumped both of his final two’s at the make-shift altar? You can end up with a mate or you can be the Most Hated Bachelor of All Time, but at least you did things your way and damn that was good television.
Know when to fold them: Bad relationships benefit no one and Pete definitely had his share of them. He fell in love with a teetotaling, devout Christian who was saving herself for marriage. There is absolutely nothing wrong with her life choices, but Pete’s highly social, “spiritual not religious,” four-times-in-a-windmill lifestyle, may not make them ideal bedpartners (pun intended.) Toxic relationships exist around the D&D table as well. Good people can make bad parties. If what the party wants out of their campaign isn’t in the DM’s wheelhouse it’s not just okay to part ways, it’s a necessary. Good Dungeon Masters are seldom at a loss for players. Know your worth and get out there.
Multiple studies show playing D&D can help you be a better person. If ABC knew a thing or two about RPGs, we’d have better Bachelors. Until then let’s roll for initiative– or should I say rose for initiative?