I never wanted to be a DM: Confessions of a new Dungeon Master

I never ever wanted to be a Dungeon Master, I have been playing for decades at this point, but it never interested me. In part because I thought I lacked the creativity to pull it off. Additionally I thought the people for whom I have historically played with would tear me alive and that freaked me out.

Then a few years ago I was really starting to struggle with character creation. Nothing seemed exciting, I would create a character and have ZERO desire to build a backstory or develop their background. What was the point? I even started to wonder if maybe it was time to stop playing. To find some new hobby that might capture my interest once again.

Then I ran across the podcast Friends at the Table. The first episodes had poor audio quality, but I stuck with it, and was glad I did. Little did I know I would listen to a incredible world and cast of character be created in front of my very eyes.

It was a game rich in team development. A bard was not just a Bard with a spell list, he was a Bard who would explain how and why his spell worked. He was not merely a storyteller, he was a member of a group that collected and archived information across the world. The fighter came from a land where she would eventually have to choose between her people and her friends. A Paladin was not just a protector of his god, but possibly just used as tool by his god. Zombie pirates were not undead evil creatures, they were nearly immortal beings at a stage in the life cycle. These beings pillaged to bring supplies to their city. The world was not just there to exist enough to live in, it was given life by its characters and the imaginations of the players. The DMs job was to weave it all together into a rich tapestry of a game. For the first time I was excited to play again.

I immediately bought the book and showed it to my gaming friends, hopeful I could convince them to give it a try, they were all interested, but I could quickly tell their enthusiasm was not quite where I was or what was needed to build a world.

So it was at that point, for the first time ever, I realized it was time to take matters into my own hands. I had to find another group people that were as excited about building a world as I was. Almost all the people who are in this podcast now were the members of that original group. Quickly my concerns about my lack of creativity and my shaky confidence began to improve.

I will admit, at first I borrowed heavily from Friends at the Table, but it did not take long with everyone’s involvement in the creation of that world to slowly become something different. It also helped to have an amazing group just as excited about the land of Locke and the City of San Madque as I was. Before I knew it I was having discussions with the players about their characters round the clock. They didn’t just create a backstory they created entire cultures and pantheons, or in some cases, destroyed gods.

Just a few days into being a Dungeon Master for an intrepid group of friends and I found a fire I thought had been long extinguished. It found its way because of a desire to tell stories first and focus on the math second. To use our surroundings and go on Fantastic Adventures and to create new and interesting stories.

Some may wonder why we switched from Dungeon World a place where you can build unlimited worlds to that of Pathfinder game. For me it was one of curiosity, what if we put story first and math second in a Pathfinder game. I love the Dungeon World, but a part of me craved a little more guidance and Adventure Paths allow us to focus on character development and put them in an active outline of a story. We still get to put characters first, we still get to develop a world rich in history in our own way. We can take the guidance provided and make it our own. That excited me.

Whether or not we do it well? My dear reader I will leave that decision up to you.

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