Imagine a time when Dungeons & Dragons was new to you… for me that was the early ‘80s and though I was dragged kicking and screaming (figuratively speaking of course) into my first game (thanks Craig!), once things got rolling… I. WAS. HOOKED!
Already an avid science fiction and fantasy reader, I watched as our Dungeon Master folded characters that we had created into an ever-changing epic, where we were the stars. It wasn’t long before I took my turn behind the Dungeon Master’s Screen… and I had some serious stories to tell. So serious was I, that when my players foiled the course of my narrative I became a vengeful little beast… and my wrath took forms that were many and varied as I passively-aggressively expressed my frustration at their non-compliance. We all knew that PC stood for ‘plot-corrupter!’ RIGHT!?!
“What… don’t want to go into the dragon’s lair to fight… okay then… the dragon will come to you… and bring its lair with it of course.”
“Two drow mages…. TWO!?! Both casting a fireball into a room too small for a single fiery orb… and then surviving characters run out of the room to vent their fury only to step into a precast grease spell that slid our heroes right into a pit filled with a hungry black pudding. Take that!”
At one point within the maturation process however, I realized that I had more fun… when my players were also having fun… it is then that I, with no small amount of reservation, handed over the keys to the story-telling kingdom as it were… and gave my players the opportunity to meaningfully influence the story that I had set up for them.
It became a shared tale… a messy, movie-quote laden, shared tale… but one that we all took ownership of. This was painful at first… and I would be lying if I said that I didn’t backslide now and again, but by the time I had gotten away from college, I had my steady patter of improvised NPCs and encounters that loosely followed a storyline, continuously evolving into something EVERYONE could truthfully say they had a hand in… pretty much down pat.
You might ask now… “What does this all have to do with Dungeon Master Appreciation?” Well… let me tell you, ALL DMs begin their respective campaigns with a kernel of a story that they want to tell… and then they let you come in and play and mess around with the story machine… twist the dials… turn the knobs… push the buttons… and make changes to suit your own needs as a player… and THAT is bravery personified. All creators have an inner child that is afraid of criticism, but Dungeons Masters of the world say… go ahead, make changes, throw out my ideas and institute some of your own… all in the interest, that at the end of the day, we’ll ALL OF US have memories of a game that make us smile in sweet reminiscence and tell stories of the time we tromped about our Dungeon Master’s “playground”… and we ROCKED it. Thank your Dungeon Masters for that opportunity, for it is one bravely crafted in the love of having a fantastic shared experience, telling a wondrous tale, where each of us are the central figure, and where COOL stuff always happens to US.
But every now and again, cool stuff should happen to just Dungeon Masters. Because without them, where would the players be? (Sitting around a table with a lot of dice and no one telling them what to do.) That’s why we are dedicating next month to Dungeon Masters. We hereby pronounce February (already an awesome month) Dungeon Master Appreciation Month. Don't know how to appreciate your DM? Don’t worry—we’ve got ideas. Are you a Dungeon Master who wants to earn even more appreciation? Look for some new tips and tricks to help hone your mad skills.
And of course we want to hear about your awesome DM and why you love playing in their games. Post an ode to your favorite DM on the official D&D Facebook page or if brevity is more your style, tweet your appreciation using #DnDDMA.
So let’s raise a glass to Dungeon Masters and the players who love them. Happy Dungeon Master Appreciation Month, everyone!
Feeling inspired to give Dungeon Mastering a try? Want to start appreciating your Dungeon Master right now? The Dungeon Master’s Guide is the perfect gift for the storyteller in your life.