Well, I finally went and did it. I am finally DMing my own game. It's awesome and terrifying. Now, I'm not just telling a story. I'm building a world and asking people to play in it. Play in it, play and hope they enjoy it. I have been wanting to DM my own campaign for quite some time. I had run storylines on roleplay forums before. But something about being a DM in a live game is different.
I started roleplaying back in college. I had a number of DMs who displayed a number of different playing styles. And after a while, I knew that I wanted to run my own game. However, I was too scared. Too self conscious. I didn't know the rules well enough to be comfortable running a game with my friends, who had more experience than me. I wasn't as familiar with fantasy or fantasy settings as the rest of my friends were. I always believed there had to be a perfect streamlined story which everyone was to follow and I did not believe that I could come up with something that anyone would enjoy. So I never opted to run a game. Just sat and wished; until finally one day I decided to just do it, fear and all.
Firstly, being a DM is way more time consuming that I had believed it was going to be when I decided that I was going to do this. Partially because of my perfectionist disposition and partially because I wasn't entirely in the know about what a DM had to do in order to run a campaign. But mostly because I took it upon myself to design the entire world from nothing. Because why make it easy on myself, right? The writer in me wanted to create and world build. This is where I have the most fun as a DM. Designing people, places, structures and ruling powers. Making an intricately complex, living, breathing landscape. I could get lost in it for hours. But this takes a lot of time. And I have to make decisions on what parts in this world are more important, meaning they will be completed first. I won't lie, I was very overwhelmed when I started out. I mean, how do you create an entire world from a blank sheet of paper? But I found out that you don't. Not at first. First, you start off small. You make a village, then a town, then a small city and continue from there as the group explores. Once I learned that, world building for the game became much easier to manage.
The terrifying part of running a game for me is the uncertainty that comes with preparing for the unpredictable. I was completely under the impression that DMs knew exactly what would happen at all times and had a plan for everything that would happen during the session. I quickly came to understand that was an illusion. I don't know what the players are going to do from one moment to the next. I don't know if they will take the plot hook. I don't know how they are going to interact with the NPCs. Or if they will even head in the direction that I have set up. For all I know, they could end up on some uncharted path that I had not given any thought to in the least. But it is this uncertainty that makes the game exciting for me as DM. The players don't know what the plan is. So they could be surprised at any moment. I don't know how my players are going to react to what I have planned. So I too could be surprised at any moment. So, instead of being anxious about it, I try to stay open and as flexible as possible.
My thinking like a DM has been slowly evolving as well. As a writer, I have complete control of the entire story. A story that centers on a cast of characters that I have constructed to fit seamlessly into my narrative. But now, I am more focused on the players and trying to figure out what would be awesome for their characters. Trying to make a narrative that everyone can participate in and feel a vested interest. I never had a "cool" character when I roleplayed. I was always outshined by someone else in the group. Someone was always faster, louder, more charasmatic, or better at minmaxing the dice. And I never played campaigns long enough for my character to have goals or something to obtain or aspire to. My character was simply just another body in the group. I don't want that feeling for any of my players. I want each person to feel like they have their moments in the spotlight. To feel like their characters matter in the story they are playing through.