Thursday, March 14, 2013

Scrambling for Truth

I ran the 6th session of our Dungeon Crawl Classics / (A)D&D game last night.  Even though there were only a couple guys who showed up, I was still of the mind that THE GAME MUST GO ON!!!  Years ago, I probably would have just cancelled the session if there weren’t at least three players.  But not these days.  Gaming time is too valuable now that I’m married with children (cue the Sinatra).

So yeah, it was awesome.  We were midway through an old school renaissance indie module called “Within the Radiant Dome” by Geoffrey McKinney.  Since the other guys were absent (one was sick, the other busy) I decided to test drive my D&D reference chart of random awesomeness…

It worked well.  I let it be known that strange dimensional anomalies were happening within the radiant dome.  Rooms, corridors, and caves could move of their own accord.  So, all the rolling before they opened that next door or sneaked through the next cavern made sense.

With the reference, there was just enough information to set the scene.  I read a brief description while occasionally adding a few bits of flair from off the top of my imagination.  For the next three hours, the party encountered a lot of unusual mixed with routine stuff.  For instance, a scouting party of Drow investigating a rust-colored alien plant creature in this giant cavern.  And then there was one of my favorites: a tribe of mutated Yellow-Men festively prostrating themselves before their lethal divinity – a badass magic sword!  And the gemstone rolling – craziness!  It took about ten minutes to learn about the gems their characters made off with.  But believe me, both players enjoyed the discovery process!

I also decided to take Unexpected Encounters #1 for a spin.  You can find that as an earlier post on this blog.  Worked like a charm – even the Devil-Spiders!  It was definitely something different.  The exact type of stuff which had been missing from my D&D 4th edition game over two years ago, as well as, several roleplaying sessions with 3rd and 3.5.

And yet… I don’t know how many other Dungeon Masters experience this, but no matter how prepared I am or how well things are going… I still have moments of uncertainty, of doubt.  Like a couple hours before game time, every once in awhile, I’ll have a few seconds of panic, thinking to myself “What am I doing?  Soon, I will be sitting at a table with a bunch of other grown men attempting to collectively tell a story of knights and wizards and purple wyrms as if I’m the head God of this illusory realm.  Is this utter silliness?  No, of course not.  It’s a hobby.  Gaming is fun!  Ok, assuming it isn’t too silly to throw myself into the role of DM (or head-God)… could I accept such a huge responsibility?”

In those moments, it feels like I’m scrambling for truth because the entire world rests upon our collective shoulders – especially mine.  Yes, roleplaying games are fantasy (or scifi, horror, comic book super heroes, etc.).  Obviously, there are going to be times when the world we’re building seems less real than it could be.  Or extremely real… but squirming out of control.  Multiple imaginations focused on a singular concept is a potentially powerful thing.  It’s the act of creation.  Order out of chaos!

Last night, instead of letting those brief nagging doubts get to me, I simply pushed on through with a firm decision (or a roll and then a firm decision) to the other side.  ”For the next few hours”, I said to myself, “this is my reality”.  I chose to be awesome and to DM awesome as well.  And that made all the difference.

Can you relate?  Comment below with some of your personal stories at the game table.  Is it always smooth sailing or are you occasionally plagued with doubts about the session or your abilities?  Thanks for reading!

Venger Satanis
Grognard de Noir


  1. I still tend to be extremely variable as a GM, even after a lifetime of playing. Some sessions go extremely well, some don't.

    I've gotten very good at starting campaigns, but due to players leaving and situations changing, I've only ever finished one long, overarching game. I tend to fall over after a while.

    I find it's best just to have a few good cards up your sleeve, wing it when I need to, and to throw a curve ball every now and then.


  2. That sounds like a good gameplan, tsathoggua. I haven't stopped looking for new players since starting the campaign 2 months ago. In general, people are unreliable. That might sound harsh, but yeah... players leave and situations change. That's just the way of things.

    Thanks for the comment!