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.

Why I Game – Angel Espinoza

I was all about Saturday morning cartoons. Regardless of what time I went to bed the night before, I would start my weekend ritual at the crack of dawn in order catch the first show of my line up. There was no doubt in my mind: I would grow to be a cartoonist. I am currently employed as an Instructional Designer for a state agency. Not exactly in the animation business but my PowerPoint presentations are gorgeous. My Saturday line up no longer consist of Snorks, Muppet Babies, The Littles, Disney’s Adventures of the Gummi Bears, Punk Brewser, Dungeons & Dragons, or Spider-Man and his Amazing Friends. However, I still can recall that feeling of being part of an adventure, unraveling mysteries and foiling the villain. Those feelings still hold sway as I read a book, follow a favorite show, or on opening day of a long anticipated movie.

My mom would have never allowed a player’s handbook in the house when I was a child so I suppose it was good that I was introduced to the epic world of pen and paper RPGs in college. My first character was a lawful evil cleric of Vecna. I had the time of my life. Hanging out with a weird group of nerds that became my closest friends drinking heavily, staying up for 72 hours straight, and strategically casting blade barrier. Each new game gave me the opportunity to create a story for my characters. I was not an animator but I painted and breathed life into my creations.

Why do I game you ask? Why do you paint? Why do I host a weekly board game night? Why do you sail? It is FUN! Do you think reading is amazing? Try collaborative storytelling. Do you enjoy watching Supernatural? Roll yourself a fighter/rogue, romance it up with a cute Planetar, and fight evil alongside your tiefling brother.

Why I Game – Abigail Lammel

Short answer: I’ve always been a daydreamer. I’m a sucker for drama. And dragons. And aliens.

Longer answer: Sometimes functioning in the “real world” is an exhausting blur of work, bills, dentist appointments, and other mundane tasks or obligations. Roleplaying games let me disappear into a different place and become a different person for a few hours. It doesn’t hurt that this person is often exceptionally magical with fantastical problems.

When I was in college these games would last for several hours – sometimes all night long. As I’ve grown up we had to slow it waaaaaaay down but I still make sure I always cut a little time out of my week to game. It’s imaginative, fun, and something that you and your friends get to create together. Gaming is a way of connecting us to our inner child. It always brings up fond memories of playing pretend with my sister when we were growing up. Playing games that lasted for hours and devolved into long arguments about what a witch could actually “realistically” do.

And let’s face it – the real reason is that it’s damn cathartic having the option to light your enemies on fire instead of making nice with them at parties. Amirite?

Why I Game – Kailey O’Connor

There’s something magical about slipping out of your skin and into another. Allowing your surroundings to slip away as you submerge yourself in a place far far away. The homework, the chores, and the stress of the day fade away like dust motes in the air as you draw your sword, pick up your ax, or prepare your spells and become engulfed in the ethereal landscape of your imagination.

I grew up chasing my imagination. Whether it was picking up a controller to play Zelda, opening a book to get lost in the pages, or just staring off into space daydreaming. I spent as much time as I could in running through the creations of amazing minds and seeing through the eyes of other people. I was fascinated with overcoming the impossible and making magic a part of everyday life.

Eventually, I wrote my own stories and drew my own pictures. Creating worlds made of colorful stardust, brilliant flower-strewn fields, and towering trees filled with light. I basically consumed and produced anything I could get my hands on that connected me to these impossible fantasy realms. When RPGs finally hit my radar it was like finding a piece of my soul that had been missing all along. This culture that let me do pretty much anything as long as it fell within the parameters of the world that’s been built.

I’ve traveled our own globe, our own pretty blue and green marble that floats through space. I’ve been across Europe, roamed Asia, and sailed through the Caribbean, but it pails in comparison to the worlds I’ve seen built. Lands built from ruin, cities where people never die, realms that run on clockwork hearts, and of course the occasional dungeon riddled with monsters trying to devour me whole. All still impossibly beautiful places created by incredibly creative people.

This is why I game.

I game because it gives me the opportunity to share these adventures, ideas, and personas with other people and in turn, I get to take part in theirs as well. Like peeking behind the curtain of someone’s facade to see the vast landscape of their mind. The magnificence of seeing what they’ve built and their appreciation of your own creation.

I game because It creates a sense of community and closeness with the people around me. Acquaintances have become close friends after we’ve bonded over our love of RPGs. People I probably never would have met otherwise have become staples in my life.

I game because of the moments that are so impossibly ridiculous that it could only ever happen in an RPG. I game because of the confidence it gives me and the confidence I see in the faces around the table. I game because it lets me escape my self-imposed monotony. I game because I love who I am when I’m playing. I game because of the laughter, the love, and the heartbreak.

All of this and more is why you should game too…

Why I Game – Dustin Alexander

I will be forever grateful for the friends and family I have in my life. They are what keep me from going down the dark alley of depression, despair and bitterness which someone of my size can often find themselves falling into.

They really don’t know how big of an impact they make, and I don’t think I am great at telling them. But it is because of them that I want to succeed despite the what sometimes seems like insurmountable odds.

I am a flawed individual and if left to my own devices could succumb to my own indulgences. But I don’t. I constantly strive to improve, to be a better person, to take the high road, and to help those around me. Those are lessons I learned from the company I keep. Unbeknownst to them, they are constantly pushing me to do better and to pay it forward.

It is this some of these friends that you will be listening to each week, one who inspired me to finish my degree when I would have otherwise given up, one to be a friend when I was lonely and alone my first year of college, and one to constantly be a sounding board and geeky friend even though she lives 12 hours away.

I try to always be there for them because they have made me a better person in one way or another. They have trusted and loved me when I have not always loved myself, even when I felt I was at my worst or lowest point. It is because of that I will always try my best to be there for them when they need me. They have done more for me then they will ever realize.

Games are a way to bring my favorite people together and enjoy their company. It is a time I get to encourage them as much as they encourage me. It’s to challenge and compete and have fun and forget the things in our lives that may not be going as well.

Everytime I am lucky enough have a group of friends together I just like to take a step and try to capture the moment as best as possible. I realize that things can not get much better than this.

Games are fun, they inspire, teach strategy, create competition and camaraderie-ship, but best of all, they bring friends together. Some of my best memories are with friends or family playing games.

The Fantastic Worlds Podcast was built on the idea of having a group of friends come together and play a game. For me, the Fantastic Worlds Podcast is a chance to see the smiling faces of some of my favorite people each week. That is why I do this and this is why I love to play games.