To start this off, I’m going to go full disclosure: I went into this knowing almost nothing about Dungeons & Dragons. This is not at all a “guide” on how to dungeon master. In fact, this should maybe be a guide on how NOT to dungeon master! But I won’t be that harsh on myself. I understand everyone brings something new to the table (or virtual table in this case) whether as a DM or a player.
This is entirely a learning process for me; one that I was hoping to share with you! This will be a weekly series that for the first few weeks will contain multiple Dungeon & Dragons sessions or details in one article. Once we’ve caught up though, it will be one session per piece. I’ll be sharing my mistakes, “interesting” parts of the campaign, and overall, what I learned about playing D&D!
How I Got Hooked
I had never had interest in D&D. My friends had watched videos on it and some had played maybe one session themselves, but even though I had known about it for fifteen years or longer, I had never had any interest in playing. And I can tell you right now: It’s because I actually had no idea what it was.
As a side gig, I sell felted animal figurines on Etsy. During the months leading up to Christmas, usually starting in October, I quickly get overwhelmed with Christmas orders. Since I need to concentrate on work, I can’t watch or listen to anything super distracting so in past years, I’ve watched movies I had already seen a hundred times (Star Wars, Jurassic Park, etc) or listened to audio books (Harry Potter and Dark Tower series mostly).
But this year, I didn’t want to watch the movies I’ve watched for five years straight or listen to the audio books for probably the 10th time. Back in August, my friend, who I play both World of Warcraft and Overwatch with, had begged me to start watching Critical Role. I had almost no interest when he first sent it to me, but come October, I needed something to watch. So I gave it a shot.
And although it’s probably cliche to say, the show got me hooked, exactly what my friend had wanted. During my busiest days, I was easily watching 2 or 3 episodes a day. Within probably a week or two, I agreed to create a campaign for our group of friends. That’s all it took.
And instantly, I knew I bit off more than I could chew.
HOW Many People?!
I am a guild leader on World of Warcraft of a decently sized, but close knit guild. Many of us have met in real life (we took a trip to Disney last year!) and word of a D&D campaign didn’t stay quiet for long. I should have put a cap on it early, but I didn’t realize how much interest there would be. In the end, we ended up with EIGHT players plus myself, most of who, like me, had never played before.
It wasn’t long before I started banging my head against my desk when I realized the work and management that would be ahead of me. “We raid with 20 people twice a week — surely this wouldn’t be that bad!” That’s what I told myself anyway, but I already knew this was going to be too much.
However, I understand: We’re all adults. Many in my group will be called into work or have other responsibilities. In reality, we’ll probably have 6-7 players a night. And we’ll just have to work around them missing, as I’d really prefer not to skip any nights. In addition, we have two people set to “guest,” if their schedules ever allow it and we don’t have a full 8 people the night they’re available.
We’re now two weeks into the campaign, and I want to add here: It hasn’t been a nightmare. It has been a bit much at times, but, luckily, everyone has been respectful and understands we have a large group. It has worked out for the most part! But I’ll go into details on how that’s been handled in a later article.
A Bit Too Ambitious…
So going into this, like I said, my only experience with D&D was literally Critical Role and a few random videos that were suggested to me. In December, still in full Etsy swing, I started purchasing the books, with the intention of reading them over the Christmas holiday. I had been a bit ambitious in my agreement, as I was anxious to get started, and our first session would be January 8th, to go over everyone’s characters. The week after we would do a practice dungeon, so people could practice their spells and attacks, and the week after that we would start the actual campaign.
This gave me little time to actually learn the rules and learn Roll20, the website we all agreed to use. But I already had a pretty good idea of the world I wanted to create as well as the overarching story. I had notes. During the Christmas break, I wrote up names for cities, details, plot lines, etc. I was obsessed with creating the story and that obsession was definitely a possitive. If i hadn’t been, there’s no way I would have had what I needed come the first session.
Come January 8th, I had the flu. But I was NOT going to let that stop me. No voice, coughing every 30 seconds, this was happening. Over the next four hours, I talked with each of the eight players about their characters and what they needed to know about my world. By midnight, I had no voice and wouldn’t have a voice for the next 48 hours. But I was happy and so was my group. They were anxious to get started!
Although I absolutely want to talk about each of the sessions in these articles, I did want to set the tone for this series and give you a look into how this all got started and how I started DMing with absolutely no prior experience. I’ll reiterate what I said in the beginning: I jumped in with minimal understanding of the game. Knowing what I know now, I may have approached it differently, but it’s two weeks into the campaign and I’m loving it.
Next week, I will talk a bit more about creating my campaign and players’ characters but also the mistake I made of skipping “Session Zero” (I didn’t know what that was). But I hope you enjoyed this introduction to the series and will come back next week for a bit deeper dive into the planning hell I found myself in.