The Dungeon Master’s Curse

Ok, so we have another late article, but for once it’s not because I have very little to talk about, I have a great deal of RPG things I would love to be discussing right now. I’ve started a new home campaign, I have a Hallowe’en game coming up, and I’m staring at a list of plans for a whole year of games at Oswestry Library ready to submit some extra dates because people are desperate to start booking in advance… which sounds like a complaint, but I’m actually really pleased.

Add to that a long list of subjects that are bit-by-bit being turned into YouTube videos, I’m sitting on a lot of scripts, preliminary notes, and a folder of images for simple video creation purposes (not that it’s making the job much easier or faster), and I don’t want to duplicate too much work.

This is something I can’t believe I’ve not addressed in the past. I’m a Dungeon Master, most of my friends are players, most of my social circle includes players in various games and campaigns, so all of the ideas that I would really love to talk about, I simply can’t because if I do I give too much away. I mention a great idea for a narrative point or a trap, or clever monster design in anything less than the most general terms, then suddenly I have no surprises left in my arsenal.

But oh dear god do I want to talk about things! I can’t help that, I’m a writer with a lot of ideas that I want to talk about, and that’s a good thing! Narcissistic, sure, but talking about ideas helps you and other people because it encourages them to share their ideas with you, ultimately building better writers and creators, we’re all learning from one another ultimately, by reading, watching, listening to anything created by anyone you learn something from them… y’know what, I’m wittering, you get the idea, art is a collaborative and nebulous thing.

So here’s a shallow dive on some of what I’ve got in the pipeline with very little context:

Killing with Confidence – I’ve been playing some Call of Cthulhu of late, a game that one expects to lose, you can only strive to do enough before you lose your mind to… I don’t know, protect the world, keep a tenuous grip on reality. It takes conviction to kill a player character, one should never be afraid that a character’s death will impact their enjoyment, and it takes some practice and confidence to kill someone’s character. Depending on the game, the death could be a glorious, noble, and heroic, or perhaps gruesome and unpleasantly descriptive, so long as the fallen player appreciates what has happened and why.

Collaboration – An idea I rather blatantly stole from Matt Colville, because “Wooh! Sharing ideas!”. Some of us have players who have left us for the other side of the country or maybe to another country, or continent. And yeah, maybe you miss playing with those people but don’t like normal online role-play, or maybe time zones are just against you? Not a problem, employ them as a powerful NPC so that your villains have distinct motivations, and might kill your party with far less remorse than you might have. Delicious verisimilitude…

Roll for Knowledge – Most games with a list of skills include a diverse range of skills that describe a character’s studies and learning in particular fields, like history, anthropology, the natural world, technology, you get the idea. You can roll multiple skills while studying the same thing, and that can and should yield different results. For example, if you are analysing a mechanism, rolling technology when looking at a computer would tell you how it works and what part serves what function, rolling psychology might help you learn something about the person who owns the computer by perusing the files, rolling arcana would lead you to every kind of wrong conclusion but all of them involve magic in some way, and as a result is fundamentally flawed.

There’s a lot of these, I stop now or I give too much away. Besides, I have to get back to work on this…