I’m currently DMing 4 campaigns right now, and although the games are different, the groups are pretty similar. They are all biweekly or monthly for between 3 to 5 players who are mostly in their 20s and 30s with some roleplaying experience. I love running for all of them, but because I’m hooked on tabletop games, I think everyone should play, including people who aren’t so demographically similar to me.
And that’s how I found myself running a game for 10 teenagers, most of whom had never played before.
You can imagine how well that went.
To fill in the details, I volunteer for drop-in high school tutoring at a local community center. Over summer vacation this year, I instead ran a weekly, drop-in D&D game, including the session referenced above. Here’s what I learned.
I run a lot of Dungeons & Dragons, and although I enjoy high fantasy with elves and dwarves, it’s nice to play in other worlds as well. One easy alternative for D&D 5th Edition (5E) players is Pugmire, a 5E hack where everyone plays as dogs. Set on a future Earth, humans disappeared centuries ago and left behind intelligent, bipedal animals, such as dogs, cats, and badgers. These animals have formed medieval kingdoms with swords and magic. Players explore the ruins of man, find ancient artifacts, and battle the “Unseen,” demons that humans could never see but dogs always barked at.
Let me describe how adventure preparation usually goes for me.
Immediately after the last session, I have seemingly endless ideas of how the next adventure could go. Over the next week, I keep having great ideas while I’m eating breakfast, biking, showering, and everywhere else in life. Then, it is night before the next session, and I sit down to write my prep.
And then I’m stuck. I stare at a blank screen, and then realize I have been reading reddit for a half-hour and still haven’t figured anything out.
GMs can also have writer’s block, and every writer has a trick for how they get over it. My trick is to start with an adventure structure.
Many bloggers write a “Books I Read Last Year” or “Recommended Movies” post at the end of the year. Frankly, I think most people do it because other people do it and because they’re really easy to write. It’s a total cop-out for generating content.
In fact, it’s such a good cop-out that I’m going to do it, too. It’s still a nice way to review the past year and share what I did. Here are the some things that I loved from 2018.
I play all of my video games on my 2012 MacBook Pro, but recently, it has been showing its age. The 100GB Windows partition is too small, so I actually didn’t have enough space to install new games. Over the past year, I saw a few games that my computer no longer met the minimum requirements for. Also, the rubber feet on the bottom of it are falling off, which makes me wonder how long it will be before something important fails.
In 1996, Deep Blue played competitive Chess against world champion Garry Kasparov. In 2011, Watson beat Ken Jennings at Jeopardy. In 2016, AlphaGo played and beat Lee Sedol in Go. And in 2018, OpenAI Five played 2 games against professional Data 2 players, and the humans survived 2 very fun games. But in another year, I think that OpenAI Five will handily beat the best human Dota 2 teams.
After my last stint writing and publishing a tabletop adventure, I was inspired to take a shot at writing a rule system. With a few playtests and a PDF from an online Word template, I now also call myself a game designer by sharing “College Contagion.”
I spend a lot of time preparing for my Dungeons & Dragons (D&D) games. Not only do I plan the adventures themselves, but I also watch, read, and listen to advice about being a better Dungeon Master (DM). And for fun, I watch streams of other D&D games, which is also preparation because I am studying what the DM is doing in their game. Some DMs are amazing, and some are only okay. I can tell by watching them, and that made me wonder: which one am I? Continue reading “Watching Tape”