Last night I hosted my first game of Dungeons and Dragons in well over 15 years, maybe longer, if I stop to think about it. Myself and four others played, and I had the best time improvising and story-telling and being surprised by where the players took the information, characters and setting that I’ve been dreaming up for the last several weeks.
There’s so much I could babble on and on about, but I don’t want to spoil anything yet to come for my players, so I’ll keep that to the barest minimum. And it’s likely the few readers my blog has left may not be interested in hearing about the nitty-gritty work of creating and running a fantasy role-playing game. But once again, as I recall from the long ago days when I played quite regularly, I remember how satisfying it is to sketch out some simple basics – a town, some interesting folk with a history and goals of their own, some economics and basic lifestyle – and have it all come to life when presented to four other creative, active minds. Suddenly my little frontier town, which until now has only existed in my head and in random sketches here and there, and in a handful of statistics from a book, is full of life and intrigue.
I’m also reminded how important it is, as the Dungeon Master, to be careful in how I describe things and what I say. My words are the primary means for the other players to interact with the world, so everything I say and do can be fuel for their reactions and consideration. And anything I forget to relate, like, say, the fact that the little reptilian creatures were reddish in color, or skipping over the dwarf’s grief, shock and horror at discovering a murder, has to get woven into the story, no matter my previous intentions. That’s part of the surprise: no matter what I had thought about and planned previously, the words and the story as it happens with the other players becomes the actual story. So I have to adjust.
But, likewise, I don’t have to be responsible for everything. I don’t want to dictate to the other players things that may relate to their own characters, so if they ask me “How long have I been in this town?” I can generate some excitement and encourage their participation by turning it around: “I don’t know, how long do you want to have been in this town?”
Really, running a role-playing game is very much like being a writer, only with the help of several other authors. And anyone who knows me or has read my blog much can probably guess that I really like story-telling.
So for now, this is a great hobby for me…