I Did a YouTube! Dungeon Preacher is Born!
Check out my first video on Three Ingredients for Fantastic D&D!
Greetings and welcome, my flock, to the church of the Dungeon Preacher! I am Michael, a small-town preacher who loves to play D&D and all kinds of role playing games, and the author of the blog Sheep and Sorcery!
Today's sermon will be about 3 key ingredients for a fantastic D&D experience!
This is the ingredient which covers over a multitude of sins, and I mean that. Even profoundly mundane settings and scenarios can become fun if only the players’ choices are respected!
Some might put “a good story” up front here, but that is definitely not number one to me. This is language we often use to discuss what Game Masters are preparing when we talk about preparing a campaign, but to me, you don’t start with a story. Game Masters prepare a world and scenarios and then it is the players that come and make the story. It is their actions, their choices, which make the story.
In the same way, the world ought to be dynamic, responding to the player’s actions, building up around their actions. Let them create new things, discover ways to change the world forever, even let them find ways to break things! So often, we think the game is broken, when all we really need is a little imagination to see that it is not broken but instead it is new and finding ways to embrace that newness and find the wonder in it!
The Professor over at Dungeon Craft talks about game time as Communion and that idea resonates with me, not just as a minister, but as an accurate presentation of what happens during the game. You and a bunch of friends are unified together, spinning this world out of your hearts and minds. Their choices meet with your world and something new and wonderful is born. They breathe life into your world like God breathed life into dirt and made Adam. And that, my friends, is very good.
This is something I think a lot of GM’s struggle with, not just in designing their worlds but in even how they approach games in general, and players struggle the same way. What is possible? What are the limitations of role playing games? I think there are nearly no limitations! You can do anything you want! I don’t just direct that to players struggling to think outside of the box, I’m saying that to Game Masters who might be afraid of presenting players with something weird or new, and I am telling you right now, that there is nothing further from the truth.
Players love the new, we all do, something to break free from the monotony of life and play as usual. Present them with something new, fantastical, honest, something you love and something you want to share. Remember, this isn’t just your fantasy. This is communion, so have a communal imagination. Create a world that invites the players to come in and break it, change it, make their own stories in it even as you are making crazy new things yourself! This feedback of imaginative furor will become ecstatic and you can all delight in each other if even for a moment!
Another point about this for GMs is: don’t confine yourselves to genres. Make something weird and come up with simple mechanics to operate in it. The Free Kriegspiel Renaissance is a much overlooked community in RPG discourse but they have some great ideas about how super simple, adaptable rules, or lack thereof, can basically give you the freedom to run anything you like. The job of the Game Master in such circles is to present the world consistently and that usually takes care of a lot of the questions about mechanics. Characters are super simple and usually broken down into collections of words that allow the Gm to adjudicate dice rolls or even just say: “You can do that!” I’ll link some resources in the description for those interested.
The last thing I’d say about imagination is that you have to leave yourself open to new experiences. This goes for GMs and Players. Players, be open to letting your GM try a new weird system, rule, or idea. Most GMs want that more than anything in the world and it might turn out to be awesome! GMs, be open to changing your ways if your players want to do things that break the rules or don’t want to play the way you want them to play. Allow yourself the permission to just be joyful in them and in serving their fun. If you really aren’t having fun, your choices are to try and change or find a new group. Believe me, your group can tell when you are miserable.
So come with me, and you’ll see… a world of pure imagination! What we’ll find will defy… explanation!
It wouldn’t be a proper sermon without some mention of love!
GMs love your players. Players, love your GM. That would poof 99% of D&D horror stories into nonexistence. I’m not saying you should be romantically involved with your friends at your D&D table or even that you necessarily need to be the best of friends, but you need some kind of friendship at the table. If there is antagonism of any kind between people that carries over into the game space then that is like the snake in the garden.
Resolve issues quickly outside of game time. Talk to people who are struggling in private. If there are people who are not fond of each other sitting at the game table, you might need to just ask them why are they here?
Do not let someone bring evil into your sacred space. If someone is trying to resolve real life issues or inflict real life pain through the game, say no! That can go for players or Game Master, but ideally Game Masters will step up and just veto pointlessly mean-spirited or off-color acts.
If we really love people, we will not allow this time that is meant to be joyful be painful to them and we will not allow people to inflict pain on others while we are there to say: “No.”
Toss out jerks who are causing pain on purpose. Love for them means letting them know their actions were unacceptable. More than that, the pain they cause hurts them too. There is nothing good in allowing jerks to stay.
If someone might just not know what they are doing, take them aside and tell them what’s going on in private. If they persist despite your warning, kick them out!
More than that, love is not just a protection against bad actors, love is also just the benevolence towards your fellow man. In intimate spaces like tabletop rpgs, there has to be some love. Love for the game, love for each other, love for life, and if there isn’t that, if there isn’t love for this thing we are doing together on a weekly basis, then let’s stop, figure out what is wrong, and then move forward.
Love brings the GM to the table with something new and exciting to delight the players. Love brings the players to the table with fresh excitement for the new game. Love breaks down a lot of barriers that hold us back and lets us be children for a while, enjoying the zest of life, killing dragons with magic swords, scooping up handfuls of treasure, and traveling to new and wondrous lands where life is sweet and adventure is everywhere!
And the greatest of these is love!
So those were three ingredients for fantastic D&D. If you enjoyed this video, consider leaving a like and a comment! And if you want to keep coming back for more good news then go ahead and subscribe!
I’m planning on doing interviews with my favorite people in the RPG scene, telling stories about my own adventures in make-believe, and dropping more tips and ideas for ways to play the game well! So stay tuned!