I don’t remember where I found it because its been almost a decade, but I came across a phrase that seems to ring in my head every time I sit down to figure out what will happen to the adventurers in their next sessions.
“Game Mastering requires a unique blend of psychology and extreme violence.”
Being an author, I like to have a long, drawn out campaign. Especially since I spent a good five years creating a whole world for one of my other stories, only to realize I had only scratched the surface of the potential there. Now I get to subject three other people to the violence and intrigue spread across an entire continent.
When I think about that line, it makes me smile as I plan the horrors, tricks, traps and odd allies the group will run into. A very welcome side effect of running a D&D campaign in a world that I created is that I get to flesh it out even more than I had before. It also helps that the characters in the group influence the world as they explore, making changes and bring a level of reality and humanity to my world. I now ‘know’ a few people in each of the cities they come across, if that makes any sense at all. I know how they talk, how they react to strangers in their city or town and a few of their motivations. Sometimes the major power center in that city is effected directly, even to the point of being completely changed, and sometimes its not.
There have been times that I’ve let that saying get the best of me, though. At one point I had the group paranoid about running into children because I had created an enemy who liked to disguise himself as a child in some sort of peril and then spring a trap on the characters when they were most vulnerable. The group thought it was an interesting tactic, but when used too many times it brought on the paranoia.
I’d like to add a line to the one quoted above. “Game Mastering requires the ability to adapt, because people almost never do what you expect them too.” I learned this when I stood a menacing-looking half-giant with a large sword in front of the group and they all walked past it without even saying a word. I remembered this when I gave them a succubus to fight and one of them fell in love with her. I was reminded of it again when I expected them to take an entire session arguing about who should rule a small town after they had killed the evil mayor. That last one was three hours of my life trying to figure out DC rolls for Persuade, Search and Sense Motive that was completely wasted. Sometimes I have to remind myself that one of the people in this group was the Montana State Chess Champ at one time. Trying to out-maneuver him involves a good deal of beating my head against the table.
All in all, being a Game Master is one of the most fun things I’ve ever done. It can be frustrating at times, trying to figure out what will be challenging without going completely overboard and becoming crazy-difficult, but it’s fun. Watching other people explore a world that I created and seeing how they react to the dangers of the world is a very rewarding thing to experience.