Becoming a DM. Part Two: Dungeon Mastering, a gateway drug to writing.
All of my roleplaying stuff was given away or sold.
I was in love, nothing else mattered. Writing went out the window. I got an apprenticeship as an Electrician and worked on growing up. No one asked me to do this, no one told me to do this. I thought it was what should be done. So I did it.
This was another moment I look back on and regret.
Not the wife and kids! It’s obvious that role playing games wanted in my life, bad. Yet I insisted on pushing them away when I felt it was an inappropriate time to be playing them.
Let’s skip forward to when I was working as a service electrician at a company that also hosted HVAC and plumbing services too. I was reading some TSR novel and it was sitting on the dashboard in the window of my work truck. A coworker, who worked with the plumbing department, came up to me and mentioned seeing the book, and asked if I played.
Here we go again…
This rekindled my roleplaying love and really made the writing bug come back strong. I had no clue how to get there though. How do you even start writing stories?
I had some great times playing D&D with these coworkers and got to DM for them many times. I created my own stories, my own world, my own adventures. I made them come up with bios. I actually got to DM Ravenloft which they didn’t like too much.
I was too evil.
I turned one of the players into a Monkeywere (the reverse of a traditional lycanthrope), she was a gypsy with a monkey familiar. One night I had the monkey eat her while everyone was asleep and assume her identity. It didn’t go down well.
I don’t get it… I thought it was horror at its finest.
I’ve been DMing since, and when my writer peer Chris Pourteau asked if I’d DM for a bunch of writers online, using Roll20, I was terrified but had to do it. The networking, the pool of knowledge I could tap. I’d scored big!
By this time, I’d learned how to self-publish through Amazon (my first story Next Up) and still had no clue what I was doing (this is a secret: I still have no clue what I’m doing). No mentor, no continued education in writing (I dropped out of high school when I was a cool punk rocker and picked up that vocational training), just the collection of amateur thoughts I’d thrown on paper. Piles and piles of paper.
So we started.
As I said, I’d written here and there, had folders of story ideas, legal pads loaded with lore, graph paper with maps everywhere, and many random receipts with confusing notes scribbled all over them, resting everywhere in my car.
I was going to DM for writers, I was terrified.
One of the writers playing was an indie hero of mine, Nick Cole, who was writing for a big publishing house. Did I mention I was terrified?
Then, on top of it all, I had to play with these guys I’d only interacted with on Facebook, now in chat. Little old shy me? This was doomed to fail, I’d be found out as a sham, my not even budding writing career was going to flop due to me lack of confidence. This was such a bad idea. I was trying to figure out a way to gracefully back out.
Then we rolled up characters.
Then the players all wrote background bios.
The stories of these characters were amazing. I was inspired. We decided to build the world together (phew, I was relieved). This was to be a mutual world where we could not only play D&D but could potentially write stories in this world, and let the real world live where our imaginations went. It was getting better. D&D was that creative, non-judgmental outlet again.
This time I had support. We all worked together on what we all wanted out of the game. Not just some bully DM, or players that wanted to work no further than showing up and rolling dice.
Inspiration ignited my fire.
I took the world well beyond what I’d ever thought it would be. With every session we’d gather to play, I’d get immediate response on my creativity, the world we’d been building together, the part of the world I’d grabbed and utilized for the campaign. A dark and deadly corner of Forsaken Ruyn (Kevin G. Summers came up with the name, very cool). A vast desert where despicable crimes were committed thousands of years ago. Acts that caused a world to plummet into a hellish age.
The kind words of my players, their encouragement, fueled me.
I get a silent thrill when my players, all writers, read aloud my flavor text, or my NPCs dialogue.
It’s a world I never want to see end. This is the game of D&D I want to eternally play. My confidence is growing in my writing (although a pesky procrastination still persists…one thing at a time).
I’ve learned how others write and the challenges they face. I’ve learned that most of their past challenges, ones that I currently have, are trivial with time. They’ve grown and gotten over them. I will (am) too.
I now have mentors that I can ask for advice, I can ask for help, or opinions. It’s an amazing thing. All from a little game called Dungeons and Dragons.
My process is a little wonky, and in no way is systematic. With the consistent need to add content to our game and the confidence building, it is getting more streamlined. I’m writing more often than I used to, a hurdle that’s been hard getting over.
Tabletop gaming is a fantastic way to get you writing, and especially get you writing more frequently. If you don’t do the work, your players will know. It’ll make the session seem odd, and it’ll lose its luster. You can feel a well prepared, well researched, and well written session in its flow.
Just like a well written story.
It’ll also teach you to shoot from the hip. Sometimes I’m good at this, sometimes not so good. I see it as a learning lesson. A gift that keeps on giving. When you’re put on the spot and have to think on your toes it’s good to be able to improvise. The same can be said for writing stories.
You’ve outlined, you’ve researched, you’ve got it all figured out… You sit down to write and the story wants to go left, you wanted it to go right. D&D’s freeform can help you counter that. Can either help you pull it back or head in the direction the story wants to go, without total derailment. I’m still learning this one, I struggle sometimes to think on the spot but DMing has helped. Every Sci-Fi or fantasy writer group should get together once a month and play. You’d be surprised at what you’ll build together and the stories that may come from the exercise. You may even have fun doing it.
I raise a goblet to my crew, Nick Cole, Jason Anspach, Chris Pourteau, Alison Pourteau (our only non-writer. The three fingered Elf ranger, Mirima), Forbes West, Jon Frater, Hank Garner, Kevin G. Summers, and look forward to many more adventures.
Hidden within our hilarious adventures, Sci-Fi Writers Playing Oldschool D&D is a writing group at its core, tune in and listen to hours of creative entertainment.