Don’t worry, before you start reaching for your wallets, I just used the title of this blog to capture your attention and to provide an indication of where I got the inspiration for this waffle from. Yesterday, while scrolling through my Twitter feed, I came across a post from the infamous ExplodingDice replying to the question – “Should DMs get paid?”. It was after reading this that I started to think about the job of the DM and what I actually do from week to week in order to hopefully keep my campaigns going. So here, for your entertainment, is a sneaky peek into my week as a DM…
I’ve always thought I am more of a DMer rather than a player. I like having the creative power to develop and run the campaign and characters. I enjoy interpreting rules and reading and trying to problem solve ideas and, and I think this is the teacher in me, I do like trying to bring the adventure to life through a narrative during the role playing sessions. I’m not the best voice actor and so I do often struggle with this, but I do have a good imagination and hopefully a reasonable vocabulary so, putting these two together, I think I do a reasonable job. But, as a DM, there are certain things which happen throughout the week, in between the gaming sessions, which need to be done and I do wonder whether it was this additional work which would contribute to the idea of being paid? Again, I would like to stress that I don’t want to be paid, I am just contributing to the discussion.
Rules and Regulations – Throughout the gaming session, I try never to slow the game down by becoming ‘bogged down’ with the rules. The two games I DM are both new to me, and I am constantly learning the rules, especially as the players become more and more creative in their actions or, attempted actions. Whenever I start to become unsure about the rules, my faithful notebook comes into action. This is something which sits to my keyboard throughout the gaming sessions which I use to jot down anything which I need to look up and confirm or even investigate before the next session. The new interpretations are shared with players either through the discord channel or at the start of the next gaming session. As well as these rules to sort out, players often send me individual queries throughout the week relating to combat, armour, spells and even character progression. These all have to be engaged with and sorted out and replied to. I also try to record these new rules/interpretations within my ‘Quick Rules’ Google Doc so that I can access them easily in the next session. Although this doesn’t take a huge amount of time, it does take time but does also contribute to me becoming a better DM.
Campaign Items and Ideas – I try to devote some of my time in between gaming sessions to my campaigns. When playing and DM we dip into a world which is dynamic and evolving. Whenever I start a new game to DM I always prefer to start my own world, mainly because I like to create it, although I always forget how much work is actually involved. Take for example deities. Within the world of Mythras, theists (clerics) worship gods and goddesses and these provide certain spells. Of course, these deities need names and interactions. As the interactions evolve I think about aims and special abilities. Then someone in the game asks – do theists of this goddess carry any identification? (open my faithful notebook) and so more work needs to be done. Maps, cities, trade routes, ruling councils and even calendars all need to be created in order to add to the authenticity of the campaign. As you can imagine this takes time and energy. I do find watching other people streaming this sort of content beneficial and, when I have the chance, I think I should stream my thought process while doing this more often since when I do, the interaction with the viewer(s) does help too.
Adventures and Resources – And finally, as the number of days decline before the next gaming session, the adventure and resources need to be created. I try to use my walk to work to think about ideas although I do find that the research which was completed on doing this is correct. The research states that thinking while walking does help the creative thinking process, although it is not beneficial for consolidating ideas, just for thinking. I often end up arriving at work having thought about lots of different things but not actually confirmed the adventure for the next day! When I first started to DM everything was written out in a great amount of detail but since then things have changed. I have taken a leaf out of the pages of the great DMs and planned less and less. The key points and plot lines are there for the adventure, although what will actually happen is less defined. This is not to say that the players can go off and do something completely different – I still don’t subscribe to that magazine! – although how they engage with the adventure I have created is less defined. When I was teaching, pupils often surprised me, and when I am DMing, so do players! What probably takes up more time is the creation of the resources. What I mean by this are the maps, tokens and sheets. A lot of mainstream games have additional resources to make this easy – for example the use of the Monster Manual for D&D made this very easy, although with Mythras, it is, well not harder, it just takes more time. I am constantly looking for ways to reduce the time this takes, which I think will also allow me to be more flexible, but for the time being, this takes quite a bit of what I call, computer time!
I asked in the discord chat how much time people spend on their characters in between games. Although there was a range, basically it was what I expected. I think one of the joys of being a player is being able to turn up moments before the game starts, take a quick look over your notes from the previous week, and start. I know there will be people out there who will be saying that I should ‘wing’ it more in order to reduce the amount of time I spend on DMing but for me, if I am DMing I am providing almost a service for the players and I want them to enjoy a rich and dynamic world to adventure in. In order for this to happen, I don’t want to wing it, I want to spend time creating it and then enjoy it alongside the players. Should I get paid? Certainly not – I am not providing a service like that and, if it suddenly became a job, then I would certainly get bored of doing it or stop because it was another commitment. Although saying that – perhaps it is already a commitment and that is a topic for a future waffle…
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Have fun and I’ll catch you all later and, until then, consider yourself waffled!