Welcome to the Dungeon, Master

Well I did it, I ran my first game.  It was scary, and fun, and I recall almost none of it, but that is the nature of my brain, thank goodness its on YouTube forever!

It is here that I would like to chronicle the rise to DM and what I thought about my first time running a game.

I had been toying with the idea of running a game since the start of my D&D fandom, which was over a year ago with Critical Role. However I shied away from it almost constantly.  Even once i realized that my own initials were DM i was still cautious  about attempting something i felt that i had no creativity for, or skill in.  However despite my brains own intentions many of my friends expressed thoughts of support in the idea that i turn to the DM side of the game.  They constantly commented on my RP ability and my creative story telling in my characters backstories.  Yet i was still unconvinced that i could pull off something as complex as running rules and playing as NPCs.  I did however enjoy the idea of the story telling aspect, that is what kind of always appealed to me, like a tiny piece of metal in a river on a sunny day. There in the peripheral glinting wildly, always tempting, always teasing. So I would occasionally pour over the DM guide and ponder philosophically about the idea of running a game at some point.

Enter October of 2015.  Some spark finally took root in the dry recesses of my mind and the flame of inspiration burned bright.  I had decided i would run my current group, the marvelous Half Assed Crew in a spooky Halloween one shot inspired in a world i was creating on the side.  Pretty much all at once they were dancing with excitement and encouragement at the process, and i would tease them with little bits of the things i was working on.  I will admit that this made me very happy, and their enthusiasm helped me continue and actually think that I could do this thing that i secretly wanted to do, but let my brain constantly talk me out of.  However the wonderful “A Sinister Invitation” was not to be.  My work was rapidly approaching its busy season and my prep was slowing to a turtles pace.  Then as the game was pushed to November and we were about to finally play, my job suffered a ransom virus attack the day of the game, i had to stay and work an almost 16 hour shift to fix it and my first DM game was postponed indefinitely.

DM’ing was put on a back burner as our own campaigned slowed down and life events kept D&D squarely on the back burner for a bit.  Then Matt Mercer’s DM tips videos hit Geek & Sundry and his simple straightforward tips seemed to help reignite the flame in my belly and I longed for at least a chance to prove my mettle in the forge of a game.  At the time I had started working on a world of my own, and Sunday nights would stream map drawing on twitch, it was crude but relaxing and people showed an interest in playing in the world I was slowly building. Right on the heels of my new-found excitement and Mercer’s tips came Matt Colville and his tips.  After listening to Colville i was 100% convinced that I could do this and that with some work I might actually be good at it.  I had decided that not doing it and pining away would get me nowhere and i immediately set out to create my first adventure and grab some people to play.  Obviously life always has other plans but i did find some groups of people and set to working on the world, its settings and the first adventure in between work and my other campaigns.

As time went on and the campaign building slowed because of work I decided that i need to cut a few things to accommodate more time for my own creative endeavors and so making the hard decision to drop out of a game i had been in for 6 months i set myself to a more firm direction. DM or die.  An opportunity arose last month when, as the Half Assed Crew were planning our future games I blurted out that maybe id run a one shot based on the Acquisitions Inc training ground for some of the members if the could make it.  It caught me by surprise but I can only assume it’s because my brain had enough of putting it off and knew that if there was a fire under my ass i might actually get it done.  So i set out to tailor the module to my tastes and added a bit of flair as it would be my wonderfully ridiculous Dwarf bard who would be running the show.

Planning was a blast and I thank a few special critters for allowing me to bounce ideas off of them and fine tune my weaknesses.  i will admit it was hard work and maybe by the time of the game i wasnt as prepared as i would have liked but it might not have been played if i had waited until i thought i was ready.  Eventually i had no more time and the game was afoot, er on rather.

The game was fun, and it looked like my players were having fun as well.  I remember feeling very intimidated at the start and worried that what I had prepared would not work but once I started and fell into the groove I think i did okay.  It was probably not the best module to start with as it was mostly a skill run, with little combat and some out-of-place things that i either forgot to add, tweak or remove but it worked for the most part.  I remember being frustrated when i forgot to do something, or lost track of my notes, but i don’t think my players ever really noticed. The stress of trying to keep everything moving and remembering rules did make it so that i don’t really recall most of what happened in the game and when i critiqued myself later the ending was a little sloppy, but we had played, no one quit and everyone had fun so honestly all that means it was probably a success.

I know where my weaknesses lie, and I know where to bolster the walls so to speak.  All in all I had a blast and imagine that if I ran something that i wrote myself and built from scratch i would have a better handle on the minutiae.  I do know that i should have plenty of water, because talking for 3 hours is rough, and that trying to keep all those rules in your head and adjust on the fly is something i will need a lot more practice at.  Overall it did not discourage me from continuing and in fact gave me the confidence to at least keep going for now.  It will be nice to see how a steady campaign feels.

To DM’ing…..and BEYOND!

 

and if your are curious you can watch my first DM attempt here https://youtu.be/EzwNOm-cXq0

 

 

Of Dice and Friends

If you had told me a year ago that I would eventually be on the internet speaking in a bad Scottish accent pretending to be a dwarf bard, I would probably have looked at you a little weird and then screamed “HOLY CRAP I WILL!!???  I HAVE ALWAYS WANTED TO DO THAT” I would then grab you ferociously by the collar and scream further “TELL ME OH MAGICAL TIME WIZARD HOW TO MAKE THIS HAPPEN SOONER, TELL ME, TELL ME NOW!”.  You would have suffered whiplash, I probably would have been sued, legal proceedings and financial ruin sending me to the wasteland to live out a sad lonely existence.  Instead none of that happened, but what did happen was magical and my life is forever changed.

In my last post I described my life and my discovery of Critical Role.  I wont waste time rehashing that.  Suffice to say that being engaged in this community has really changed my life.  Shortly after having found this wonderful show and making an active attempt to engage with the community I was really trying to figure out how I could start my own game of D&D.

My problem became immediately apparent as I was still sort of new to So Cal and my social circle was pretty small.  I basically ditched my real life Bar Trivia team because it was on Thursdays.  I had no time to fret over not being able to find a game as it was around this time that the Critters were born in full force.

Just What the Google Doc ordered

With the fandom growing and the need for D&D gameplay the Critters formed a Skype group and prepared a google doc where we all could provide input on what who we where and what we wanted to play.  This was a turning point in my search for games.  Here i ended up being paired into Group 4 with @elleine35 @tukroll @xdragon_riderx @charlesramsey13 @ruzgofdi and @MDfilmblog.  Once paired it was time to create characters.  I had decided to create a Dwarf Bard and was so excited to flesh him out and prepare him for a game. We nicknamed ourselves the Half-Assed crew, which i think came from a couple of characters being half races, but in the Skype chat it stuck.  It took us awhile to work out a schedule for playing but eventually it all came together and we started our first game .  I can tell you that the minute we got into our session and I started belting out a horrible Scottish accent I felt like I was at home.  In the few campaigns since,   we have come to learn so much about our characters, and we are still learning things today.  Becca is really coming into her own as a new DM and with each episode she comes up with more and more amazing things and ways to mess with each one of us.  I both fear and look forward to the day when Thordrens back story comes to the forefront.

We have been playing since June and i can tell you with a full and happy heart that I am a better person with these people in my life. having these adventures and sharing our ridiculous moments really does make you feel like you are a part of something bigger. I have grown very fond of my Half-Assed Crew.  Not only are we the best of D&D friends but I have met a couple of them in person and they are just as amazing.  We are always in contact and we are there for each other nearly 24/7.  I never could have expected this if I was wanted to. And even today when my life feels like it’s heading toward a dark and scary place and I feel like I can’t cope, they were there for me, and I know that they are just a Skype chat away and that makes all the difference in the world.  i never have to feel alone, my D&D friends will always be right there.

This is what Critical Role has spawned and these are what #Critters and #Hoomans are.  Just real people who understand that everyone else is a person and treats them with the respect that people deserve.  We are there when you are down, and we will help you back up.  I love my Half-Assed Crew.

A Rolling Stone Gathers No Moss

This domain has sat alone and unused for two years.  I have always had the best intentions for it, but like I have started to notice in my life, those intentions never make it very far.  

I am 35 years old and I have come to realize that I, much like this blog, have sat unused and gathering dust for quite some time.

There was a time in my life where I was passionate about everything, and that time was my pre and early teens.  I was an avid writer, comic book collector, reader and video game player.  I spent hours outside in the woods around my house pretending to be wizards, adventurers, comic book characters.  I made up fantasy worlds, wrote short stories, drew maps and created character sheets. I read books and collected D&D manuals and begged my dad to take me into distant towns to find the nearest comic books stores.  I was fierce in my love of imagination because I had no outlet other than myself.

I was a shy kid.  I don’t remember when it happened but somewhere around 3rd grade I had stopped making friends and closed myself off. My mom moved us a lot around the Bay area, I remember having 3 different schools by second grade, and maybe I decided that making friends just wouldn’t be worth it. In the middle of 3rd grade we moved and remained stable for the rest of my time in California. From 3rd to 6th grade I think I can only count 1 person as my best friend and then I promptly moved again, this time by my own choice.

 I had grown dark and brooding in a time before Goth was a thing, I had turned on myself and did things that today would have set off all sorts of alarms, things I am not proud of but have moved past. I had decided that I would live with my father and once I had moved to Washington almost everything changed. My personality was better, I felt happy(ish) and my creativity blossomed, I did however remain horribly shy.  I made a few friends from 13 to 18, but none ever shared the exact same passions.  When I wanted to share my love of roleplaying or comics I was looked at as weird, so I kept them close to my chest.  

In High School I did my best to be as invisible as I could. A lifetime of 80’s movies had filled me with fear and dread of being labeled and tossed in a garbage can or locked in a locker, regretfully none of which I ever saw happen. I secretly harbored a love of the drama department and imagined myself up there acting and pretending, but my fear kept me grounded, and embarrassment kept me chained.  I attempted to put the feelings that I had inside down on paper as short stories and creative fiction.  I remember feeling like I would burst if I did not get all of the thoughts out on the page.  Secretly I was optimistic but I was also made of glass.  The only negative criticism came from my father, at the time the opinion that really mattered, and it broke me so completely that I remember destroying tons of work.  I had learned my mistake once again, never let anyone know your passion, never share, keep it secret, keep it safe.

As I look back now 1998 to 2004 is a blur.  I attempted College, but instead met a girl and quickly lost priorities.  I trudged through a life of retail at big box stores and slowly wasted away.  The only saviors at the time being video games.  I would drown myself in the worlds of Final Fantasy, Legend of Dragoon, and Zelda.  I found Everquest and made anonymous friends that I had more in common with the real people in my life and I felt more alive wandering Norrath as a wizard than I did in my own life.  My head was bursting with creative ideas and wants and dreams but I kept them to myself.

It was around 2004 that the epiphany I am having today first took root.  I had reached 25 years on this planet and had put myself through and emotional wringer for most of it.  The dam had finally had enough.  I moved to Hawaii went back to school for a Geology degree.

Hawaii changed my life.  I knew no one, I was 2500 miles away from the nearest contiguous land and I had a chance to start over.  I am not sure if I consciously made the choice, or it just happened but something inside of me changed.  I was confident, I was charming and my humor had returned.  The next four years gave me some of the best friends I would ever make, I was around nerdy people and I shared my nerdy philosophies. I ended up spending almost 8 years on that island. When I returned to the continent I was a different person.

I came home with a degree in Geology and a love of science and everything nerdy, and it felt like I was on the edge of something.  I couldn’t quite figure out what was wrong with me.  I made my attempts to enter the adult world, granted a little behind the curve.  I was already in my 30’s but for once in my life I thought I knew what exactly I wanted, or at least I was close to understanding.  Geology would end up not panning out, I had a few close calls and almost a job here or there but I knew one thing for certain, I did not want to spend more money on education, and to get anywhere I would need more. Then the best friend I ever made in Hawaii and life decided to get married.

I came down to Pasadena 2 years ago this week to attend the wedding of my dearest friend.  I ended up filling in for him at his IT job while he was on Honeymoon.  Fast forward to August and he quits his job, I apply and end up getting it and boom I am packing up and moving from the Pacific Northwest to Southern California, a place I said I would never ever live.  I instantly found myself in an adult job, making adult money. I was no longer constantly broke, I could afford extra things each paycheck.  I had an apartment to myself, no more roommates (except for my dog) great neighbors and I was happy. My job is good I enjoy it but I don’t see myself here forever besides something was still nagging at me. 

This month I decided to start to do things that scare me.  It’s easy now because I literally live in a city that scares me.  L.A and its surrounding area is quite possibly the epicenter of everything I hold dear. There are conventions, comedy shows, famous people, acting and video games and comics being made or developed or presented all around me.  So I have started to engage.

 I first chose social media, I would engage strangers, comment on things and people I didn’t know.  I knew that it wouldn’t mean anything and most people wouldn’t see but it made me uncomfortable.  I am a guy who tries to go unnoticed to not bother anyone, to remain status quo.  So far it hasn’t been that bad.  Then enter Twitch.  I found twitch a year ago and started watching people never interacting.  Then I started interacting.  People can be so awesome.  I came to know some really nice people who shared things I was interested in.  I remember thinking that I wish this had been around years ago, I felt at home. These interactions did something to me, my short time in a job I liked and surrounded by more friends than I ever had sparked something. Being around like-minded individuals filled an empty spot in my soul. Something inside me was stirring. Then I stumbled quite literally into a little show called Critical Role.

Everything came together like a flash of lightning. The wave had crested and my 35 years on this planet came into crystal like clarity.  What was it about these people, these random strangers playing pretend on the internet that stirred me so? I cannot say for certain what it was exactly, but what I took away from it was this.  They were not afraid.  I am fighting back a lot of emotions after typing that sentence.  To me it’s a powerful revelation.

 Do. Not. Be. Afraid.

 I have lived my entire life afraid of creating afraid of putting myself out there afraid of never being anything meaningful.  It seems stupid now, it all seems like a waste.  It doesn’t matter what anyone else thinks.  I have a finite amount of time here on this planet and I should be able to enjoy it.  The act of creating is all there needs to be, do not be afraid of it.  Live your live create the things you love, share it with people, put yourself out there and learn who you are through the act.  Discover through the process and live a life.

 With that revelation, one gained from watching people who love each other play a pretend game online, I have decided to live my life the way I want and to not let fear stand in my way.  It probably won’t be easy, but I guess that’s the point.

The internet is a weird thing, you find people who move you to the core, stir some emotion inside of you so thoroughly that you don’t know what to do with those emotions.  They are strangers to you most of the time, but you feel these things and can’t stop feeling them, you are filled with the overwhelming need to share with these people, these strangers.  You want to show them how they helped you figure out something about yourself or at the very least how they made you happy, because of what they did. That is what I am doing here.  Telling a group of strangers who do not know me, that they have taught me, or at least opened up something inside myself that has helped me discover who I am and who I really want to be.  

For that I am eternally grateful.

#CriticalRole