I’ve Always Enjoyed a Little Dungeon Play

In news that should be surprising to no one, I am a huge fan of Dungeons and Dragons. I prefer 3.5 since the rule system requires a bit of ingenuity to be pretty broken, but I’ll play Pathfinder if people prefer. I tend toward DMing even though I prefer to play, but that’s mostly because I’ve got so many stories to tell and I’m generally pretty clever at sneaky little plot details or creating a world that’s just fun to experience.

I tend to stick to one of those two things. For instance, in the campaign I’m running for my friends from college, I gave them a climbers kit in their second session that they were then able to use to nail vampires into their coffins two months (nine sessions) later. At the other end of things, I’ve created a world where magic is the dominant force in the world so flying ships are safer than ships on the sea. I mean, physics is completely disregarded so often that it stopped caring and, as such, buoyancy is hardly dependable. All the fish already started flying, so the mortal races took the hint and switched to air ships. Not to mention the king of the largest city (by election, of course) is done in my best “Elizabethan Rich/Noble Mother” impression. Think Mrs. Bennet from the BBC version of Pride and Prejudice and you’re pretty much there.

I like to play because it gives me a place to get a feel for some of the characters I’m writing. Sure, I could sit down and writer some stories about them, but that’s getting to know about them rather than getting to know them. Place them in situations for which they’re entirely unequipped or force them to make difficult decisions they’d never face in their world and you really get to know them beneath the surface.

There’s this old adage common to lots of religions that more or less amounts to the deity of choice not making one’s life more difficult than one could handle. When it comes to writing, that tends to be especially true. What kind of story would it be if they character just quit halfway through or died and everything just fell apart without them? I’m not talking Game of Thrones kinds of deaths either, deaths that serve the purpose of advancing a story or making a point, but deaths that are truly pointless. No one would read it. That’s exactly why I like to place my characters, especially the protagonists or the people who are the sole stars of stories, into D&D campaigns. They’re always in the wrong place and they can just die pointlessly if they make the wrong decisions.

One of the things I enjoy the most, either as a DM or as a player, is the cooperative story-telling you can get with a good DM and a good group of players. If everyone is focused, paying attention, and genuinely participating, you can wind up with a story none of you saw coming. The DM lays the groundwork, they provide the opportunity for stories to happen, and the players take the threads and weave a story with them. There will always be loose ends and there will always be missed opportunities, but a good DM can weave them into the story to create something ultimately fulfilling for all parties.

The best DMs I’ve ever had weren’t the ones who could paint pictures with words, nor where they ones who fulfilled their players’ every fantasy. The best DMs I’ve ever had, and that I try to model my own DMing after, are the ones who helped their players tell the story they wanted while still making it a mystery to them. My very first DM was one like this and he was the reason I kept playing and started DMing. I was very lucky.

My weekly D&D sessions, playing or running, are the highlights of my week. There’s nothing like getting together with a bunch of my friends and doing some interactive story telling.

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