Monday, May 8, 2017

Why I Became the Dungeon Master

The Dungeon Master's View
A month or so ago my weekly board gaming group were talking about Dungeons & Dragons.  We'd all played D&D way back when and we each had great memories of campaigns and stories to tell of seemingly impossible dice rolls and the resulting actions our characters were able to accomplish.

When I suggested that we should all play there was a combination of collective agreement and collective statements of, "but I don't want to DM."

See, the DM, or Dungeon Master, is the person who has to do all the work to create the basics for the Adventure the characters are going to be playing through.  It's a lot of background work to come up with the places, the people, the quests, the fiddly bookkeeping bits having to do with Armor Class and Weapon Damage and Hit Points and... well, even if you've never played D&D you hopefully get the idea.

And, really, that's only part of a DM's job.  The other big part is having to continually improvise to deal with a lot of unknowns.  Say you've designed this great character who can give the players all sorts of helpful information... and then they decide to attack him instead, killing off your plans.  Or you spend weeks building an entire town only to have the characters decide to go straight to the port and take over a ship and become pirates at sea. You get the idea.

A few days later I changed my mind.  What's more, I knew if we found a DM I would kick myself every time we played because I wasn't the DM. 

Why?  Because the DM is Brings the Story.  The DM is not The Storyteller, but the DM needs to describe what the players are seeing, hearing, smelling.  They need to create just enough of a story to get the other people engaged.  And that is what a good writer does to start off a story in their own minds.

In D&D the storytelling is collaborative.  As DM I set up and describe the environment and, yes, I give some strong hints as to what/where the characters should go, but I cannot predict what they will actually do.

To be honest, that's part of the biggest kick for me.  Once I realized my job was to make stuff up, it became much easier to make stuff up all the time.

If you've never played D&D, I highly recommend you give it a try.  It can be an immersive storytelling experience like no other.

-- Tom