A dungeon master in Notts
role-playing games like Dungeons & Dragons are like halfway between telling a story with a group of people and playing a game – that’s where these two meet. Each member of the group has a character that he embodies. They choose what that character does and how it reacts to different situations. And then someone at the table, usually the game master or dungeon master – depending on the game – describes the situation these characters are in, portrays the world around them, and makes decisions on behalf of all the characters not players, those who are not controlled by the other members of the group. For people familiar with video games, the Dungeon Master essentially fills the role that the computer would do. But the advantage of a DM is that they are a living, breathing person who can improvise and invent things on the spot. So whenever players find themselves in a situation where there is doubt about what is happening, where there is risk or uncertainty, the Dungeon Master steps in to interpret things and move the story forward. There is a lot of improvisation. It’s not a scripted story – no one knows where they will end, even if you had an idea of where you wanted to go when you started.
The main skills you need as a DM are a good imagination and the ability to deal with unexpected developments. Performing role-playing games is often seen as that big challenge, something that can be a little daunting. I guess it sometimes is, the same way public speaking can be. But most of the time, I’ve found that once you’re in the flow, you don’t really think about being nervous or unsure. It also helps to have a sense of numbers, as you will be the one dealing with the mechanics of the game, often more than the players. I’d say a lot of the skills that teachers have fit really well into Dungeon Mastering – I’ve met a lot of teachers who like roleplaying because they can transfer those skills very well. Coming up with new ideas is probably the hardest part of the role. Writer’s block can be a challenge. Sometimes you’ll go a week or two between play sessions for a longer, continuous campaign, and the ideas just won’t flow.
I’ve always had an interest in gaming. From the age of eight, I was playing games like Warhammer 40,000, and I’ve been into choose-your-own-adventure books since I was a kid, so I think I was pretty prepared for role-playing from an early age. Finally I came across Warhammer Fantasy role play – I was in a bookstore and was already a fan of these worlds, so I took the plunge, grabbed a copy of the rulebook and read it cover to cover other, as is my desire. I then offered to run a game for a group of friends and, with no previous experience, got right into it and never looked back. It was about twenty years ago. Because I was writing my own notes and writing my own stories, I started putting things together – a huge Word document and notebooks full of ideas. It got to a point where I started sharing them with people online, and it got me noticed by a publisher for one of the games I used to play a lot, and they offered me the chance to do it for a living. That was thirteen years ago and, again, I haven’t looked back since.
The best feeling is watching players’ eyes light up when they realize they are in control of their story. They have limitless possibilities to explore, and when they succeed, they get a real burst of excitement.
What I enjoy the most is being able to create an interesting challenge or puzzle, a situation that players don’t see an immediate way out of. All they know is that it’s going to be tough, and then they have to find a way out of it. And when they do, they come out the other side feeling like they’ve accomplished something, like they’ve beaten all odds and succeeded. The best feeling is watching players’ eyes light up when they realize they are in control of their story. They have limitless possibilities to explore, and when they succeed, they get a real burst of excitement.
Generally, there seem to be two major groups that take up role-playing games as a hobby. You’ll have people who are getting there from a gaming standpoint, where they’ve played other tabletop games before, maybe they play a lot of board games or war games etc, and they’re more focused on mechanics and harder details. And then you get people who come from more of a creative background, where the storytelling comes first and the game mechanics are just there to facilitate that. That said, I don’t think there’s anything stopping anyone from finding enjoyable aspects of role-playing. The way I see it is that human beings have been telling stories and playing games since they existed, so it’s possible for everyone to get something out of participating.
Even after doing this for years, it doesn’t get boring because every time I run a campaign there’s a different group of four to six people around the table. And they will always approach situations differently, bringing their own quirks and schools of thought. This means that even though the starting point is exactly the same each time, the end result could be completely different. Honestly, I don’t think there’s enough time in the world to run out of things to do with an RPG.
I’m in a really good place because I get paid to do what I love, which was my dream for a while. I’ve already contributed to some of the greatest sets that shaped me as a young geek during my childhood and teenage years. So at this point I’m trying to figure out where I’d like to go next, what I’d like to accomplish next – and Modiphius, the company I work for, is very good at supporting these kinds of ambitious projects. Once I have an idea of where to go next, I know I will have all the support I need to get there.