“I’m not trying to kill you. I’m trying to turn you into a hero.”
That’s the go-to reassurance I tell players whenever they start to wonder why I’m making their lives a living hell. Whether or not it actually reassures them is another matter entirely. But that doesn’t really matter. What matters is that with a few well-placed descriptions, some dice rolls and carefully curated music , they — the players — are invested in the story, and the world is real to them.
And then you drop a dragon on their face.
I started DMing seriously sometime around 2015, when my wife and a few of our artist friends wanted to jump into the world of D&D for the first time. At the time, my relationship with the game was a mix of bad experiences as a player back in college, listening to Mr. Sark and Brian Posehn’s crew playing NERD POKER, and then getting what I could from watching Chris Perkins run the PENNY ARCADE games. So I started pretty loosey-goosey with the rules, but as I got more comfortable and CRITICAL ROLE became another resource, running a fantasy game for a bunch of friends became second nature. I feel like just watching that show makes you a better DM by osmosis, thanks to the patron saint of dice rolling, Matthew Mercer.
Here’s a vlog Jad did in 2015, from our first D&D Session
Running a game is a lot like staging a play. But instead of having a small village putting on a show, you’re just one guy playing the displaced orphans, the love interests, the nameless threats. The monsters. The allies. The gods. It’s a lot more work, but it’s also a lot more control. And control is good. For whatever reason I’ve never been keen on using the countless modules that come with the games, for two reasons: 1) I don’t like the idea that the players can find out exactly where the story is headed by doing a little bit of research, and 2) I like being surprised by how the players shape the world around them. I’m a bit of a discovery writer in that I don’t have a clear idea of how things will end when I begin something. And that’s fun.
Flash forward to COVID times, and the campaign I run for my wife and our close friends is on hold due to various work and family commitments. But for now I scratch that D&D itch by running two separate campaigns that are both streamed weekly on Paperbug TV and Shmekm — both being comedy and video creators on Facebook. I’m supposed to be doing character art for both campaigns, so expect to see stuff about that here soon.
It’s a good, special kind of fun being able to reassuringly tell my friends that they are heroes one and all, as I lock them in a room with monsters.
Speaking of monsters, URBAN ANIMAL continues this weekend with Episode 78 for free-access readers, and 81 for Fast Pass readers. I’m really happy with how this season has been received despite the big risk we took for most of it, character-wise. If you’ve been reading, you know what I mean. I’ll probably talk more about that in a future entry. Peace!
UA will be on pause over the holidays so we can relax and spend time with family. We will resume on January 9th!