I ran the first session of a new Dungeons and Dragons campaign last week. This was the game I was building while I wrote last month’s posts about how to do interesting worldbuilding for your Tabletop Roleplaying Game, and that resulted in me spending more time than usual reflecting on the place that TTRPGs have in my life. It went well, thanks to the efforts of myself and my players working to get everything ready and the world built for an engaging first session. It was a lot of fun to run for such a roleplaying-centric group! It’s not that my other groups aren’t interested in roleplaying, it’s just that they aren’t always super invested in roleplaying at the same time. Which is fair, you know? Not everyone plays Dungeons and Dragons so they can do a bunch of roleplaying. Many people play because they want to enjoy the mechanics and mix in some roleplaying between chances to roll dice. Some people just want to roll dice and do math. All of these are valid and acceptable reasons to play TTRPGs.
Because all of the players are part of the group that I’m a player in, we are all familiar with roleplaying together and are already firmly established in a co-creative practice. This was a first for me, since most of my groups are formed for the start of a campaign I’m running, and it was interesting to see the way things were different. The big one, and perhaps the most interesting and fun thing for me as the Game Master, is that there was a high degree of backstory collaboration during character creation. All of the characters know each other and have interweaving elements of their backstories that bind them together and will inspire conflict as the game goes on. I couldn’t ask for a better beginning to the campaign than the bits of information that came to light in the first combat encounter that inspired a bunch of heartfelt and emotional conversations as the party settled down for their rest later that same night.
None of this is the tension of players butting heads or the disruption of player characters coming to blows, but the kind of slowly-simmering tension that can lead to those things and all of the players are leaning into it. It’s so much fun to have players who are this comfortable with each other, who are so ready to charge the first session with drama in a way that might lead to later conflict depending on how everything plays out. I barely even know who these characters are (since there’s always a bit of settling that happens as characters move from concept to roleplay) and the players are already dialing up the drama and giving me so much to work with down the line! Every single one of them has created so many loops and hooks for me to pull on as I work on developing a fun and reactive plot for the players to explore as their characters explore the world. I can’t wait to keep playing this game!
I love my other groups as well, of course. There’s always something new and exciting when a game starts that can fade and be difficult to keep alive as a game goes on, especially as the time between sessions gets longer and longer due to my players not being as available as I and some of them would like. While I may not be as currently enthusiastic about any of my older groups, I still love each of them. There’s a lot you can do with an establish group that’s been meeting for a year or more than you can’t do with a new group, no matter how well the players get along, so I appreciate my sunday game and the weight of the world and history we’ve all built. I might not be as giddy about the next session for my Sunday group as I am for my Friday group (which has 100% changed between writing this post and the day I edited it), but I am definitely still excited to keep running the game for them.
Really, I just love running Tabletop Roleplaying Games and I can’t wait to do it again, even if it can be incredibly exhausting and draining sometimes. It feels worth the exhaustion in a way little else does these days.