After having spent the past few years oblivious to the blogosphere and its usefulness, I have decided to start my own. If you are reading this, I appreciate it greatly. I hope to turn this place into a storehouse for my experiences and thoughts about TTRPG gaming, especially in the OSR scene.
Baptism by Fire
I’ve been the “forever DM” of my friend group ever since I first started DMing back in 2016 or so. I think I heard about DnD from some friends of mine. They wanted me to play, so I picked up a copy of the 5e DM’s Guide, Player’s Handbook, and Monster Manual. I devoured these three books, reading them cover to cover over the course of many nights. I was obsessed with all the different monsters I had never heard of. Reading the DM’s Guide with no example of play (at least to my memory), I was deeply fascinated with the idea of running a game for my friends.
I was invited to DM my very first session around this time (I don’t believe I had ever played by this point) and I was terrified. Back in those days, I was a maintenance worker at a church (cleaning bathrooms, taking out the trash, setting up classrooms, etc.), so I had access to a very nice facility that would be conducive for DnD. Pretty quickly, the group I was to DM for grew to around 24. I made the entire world from scratch. That first session was hellish. We started at 6p and ended around midnight, we did Character Creation together as I helped new players with that process. Took ages.
When we finally got into the game, the party was on some sort of ship or something, where an important General was traveling to the Big City of the world. One of the players tried to break into the General’s room for some reason, and ended up getting locked in the brig by security. She spent the better half of an hour trying to break out as the rest of the players sat around, waiting for the story to progress.
That campaign lasted maybe 12 or so sessions, each roughly 6 hours. I eventually found my groove, but it was by no means easy. At some point, they got me into Critical Role (which they all watched religiously). I was trying very hard to emulate their game, as anyone would with no experience running a campaign. Eventually, someone else wanted to DM, so we worked it out that we would each take half the group and people could swap between groups at will. That made it a whole heck of a lot easier for us, but there were still problems present. The campaign fully died out a few months later as I was starting college and was unable to put the immense effort into prep that was necessary for DMing a group of 12. I want to say that whole experience, start to finish, went from about December 2016 until maybe November 2017 or so.
Dorms and Disease
From there, I was asked to DM a number of times for friends at college, always using 5e published modules/adventures. I got really into The Adventure Zone: Balance around this time, and it shifted my style in a much more shenanigan-focused direction, not taking anything too seriously.
Once COVID hit, all my friends wanted me to DM for them. I decided to run The Sunless Citadel from Tales from the Yawning Portal over Roll20 for them, which went swimmingly. We all loved it, despite finding Roll20 fiddly and confusing. That fell apart right around the time we finished the dungeon due to scheduling conflicts.
Two of my local friends and I decided to keep going with a new campaign, but we wanted to try out a “rotating DM” thing. Each week, one of us would be the DM. We had a journal where we would write out all our plans for the session and whatever we had put in any dungeon. Then at the end of the session, we would take a sharpie and black out anything we didn’t get to, before passing the journal to whoever was to DM next week. They could take the world in absolutely any direction they wanted so long as it meshed with the currently existing information. No retconning, just working with what there was.
This rotating DM thing worked out great for a while, but eventually things fell apart after a frustrating session. That session exposed so many of the problems I had developed with what I at the time called “Critical Role Syndrome.” In reality, I had gotten sick of Trad Play and I felt that 5e had some fatal flaws that made combat (for instance) extremely boring and slow. I hated all the rules-lawyering that went on, along with all the handwaving to eliminate potentially interesting rules and mechanics. I found a video by The Questing Beast about HP, and was introduced by him into the OSR scene, which I have been very invested in since.
Old School Teacher
Now, I’m a Middle School teacher, running multiple games each week. I run my weekly “home game” every Saturday morning, I have a DnD Club at school that I DM for twice each week at lunchtime (we only get 30 minute lunches, 15 of which my kids spend getting their actual food), and I occasionally run the odd pickup game with people on Discord. I have a few other games simmering on the back burner with some friends in person, but availability is difficult.
These days, I typically use OSE, but I tend to forget a lot of the rules and end up figuring stuff out on the fly a lot of the time. I’ve tried to hack it a few times, but I think I need some more experience playing it as-written before I can productively hack it into something new. I only ever play very infrequently, but I always love to see how more experienced DMs do things so I can learn from them.