Who I Am as a DM

I have actually done a lot in the world of gaming lately that I haven’t had a chance to post about yet. I have a handwritten draft of one about my experiences with the new Adventurer’s League, and I’ve been generating a lot of content lately for a MalazanĀ  Book of the Fallen themed D&D 5th Edition game.

It is for that game that I am writing this post. When I did my first 5e game, one of my players was a long time friend of mine with whom I have collaborated on a Malazan themed game before. Last time we settled on Warhammer Fantasy Roleplaying, and we managed one session and it just didn’t take off for all the reasons I’ve discussed games not taking off. After that 5e game we all went out for dinner and talked about 5e and gaming in general, and initially discussed playing something using Google Hangouts on weeknights with other friends we don’t get to see anymore. Malazan may or may not have come up. Fast forward some time, that friend comes to me with a party, some close to him, most close to me, interested in playing. All new people to me. I start the conversation with basics, and it comes that he and I are the only ones interested in DMing. So this is starting to look familiar, and we agree to revisit the Malazan idea. We will be alternating as DMs and hosts and are working together on the custom rules and some of the adventures.

So that’s all great, and I do intend to share some of our Malazan rules we’re working on when they’re better fleshed out, but where I am now is preparing to DM for a group of people I don’t know, and it occurred to me that they may want to know what I’m like as a DM so they have an idea of what to expect.

So this is for you, soldiers. (You’re gonna be soldiers. You’ll see soon, primer is coming along nicely.)

I went ahead and filled out my RPG Person Profile, and that may give you some idea, so take a look there to start.

My goal, as a DM, is for you to have fun. I’m generating something that I think is cool, yes, so it is tailored to me, but I am going to try my best to use it so that you have fun. To that end I try not to say ‘no,’ I try to keep things moving, and I try to make sure you feel heroic. The more of my design something is the more gritty it tends to lean, but I don’t feel like gritty is actually opposed to heroic, and we are using 5e as the base so you’re going to be looking at more you-punch-it-and-it-explodes heroics, but you aren’t going to be killing dragons and swimming in treasure. This is a war, so there are going to be humans dying all around you, and most of them are lucky if they got to eat that morning.

I have a history of liking a lot of freedom in my games. As I’ve grown as a DM I’ve turned away from that somewhat because there’s a point where a sandbox isn’t fun anymore because you can’t tell where the story is. Where I have held on to that is I try to let my players find solutions creatively, and I don’t necessarily have a single path laid out. I actually try not to prepare much beyond a one page outline and the necessary stat blocks to not make you sit there while I flip through books. I might indulge myself with the occasional text block because it makes it feel like D&D for me.

I like my adventures to be very self-contained and as modular as possible. When you’re working with a long story like we will things do need to go in order, but I want to end on end points, and start at starting points. I don’t like ending in the middle of the dungeon. To take a phrase from German longsword study, I like to run adventures in complete sentences.

I really like to both invent and try out new and different systems. Mechanics don’t concern me that much beyond the tone they set for the game, but simultaneously I see a definite value in a good system. It should be streamlined and it should make sense in the context of what you’re trying to do. Small, light, and easy is nice, but it is possible to have lots of charts and still have a “streamlined” feel. Similarly, it’s possible to have a very light system and still have it feel clunky if everyone is always confused about how the rules dictate a situation should be resolved. I mostly don’t want the rules to get in the way of the fun. I’m most likely to tweak magic rules because I think it should be weird, and alien, impossible to predict, hard to wield, and most of all, rare. If it’s common, easy, and repetitive, it’s technology, not magic, and it’s not this big huge thing anymore. In addition, I especially detest the “Vancian” magic system most of the d20 games used because I don’t like looking at my list of prepared spells for the day and thinking “this isn’t magical at all.” To that end, don’t expect me to actually reference the combat rules that often, unless one of you is concerned with a particular detail. You do come first, after all.

Finally, I always am open to feedback and I will endeavour to really consider it. I encourage discussion of any given session after it’s over. I always think I can grow as a DM.

Looking forward to playing with you all.

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