Thursday, January 28, 2010

Reflections on Session VI

Though we have finished the 6th session of our campaign, I felt that I was a little off of my DMing game. The pacing of the game, to me anyway, seemed more erratic than usual and though I try to stay loose and improvise as much possible, I also feel that that aspect was off as well. On paper (the recap) it sounds fine, and maybe it actually was, but, in practice, it seemed to me to be a bit rough. As we all know, the game experience is much different for each player as well as for the DM.

Now, am I just being over critical as a DM? Was I seeing boredom in some of the players eyes or was that just paranoia? I felt that I didn't engage all the players as much as I think I may have in past sessions. Room for improvement there? Yes, no doubt.

Upon reflection, a big part of my impressions at the table was that I felt that I, as DM, was moving the story along more so than letting my players command the game. I think that came down to having more of an agenda than in the previous sessions. Dare I say I railroaded the session a bit? I always have some idea of what might happen within a session, but I have tended to let things flow where they may.

Also, once the characters step out of the dungeon and into the city or wilderness the game tends to spread out a bit. PCs head their separate ways to accomplish their own tasks and goals. Sometimes it's a challenge to handle that aspect of the campaign. I think, when I was younger, that was my biggest fear of DMing, loosing control of the game. When you think about it, DMing is all about a controlled chaos, an improvisation at the table where nobody knows what the next turn of the page will hold for the characters.

Now there wasn't as much action or battles in that session, and there were a lot more hooks and pieces of story. Perhaps I overdone that a bit. In my zeal to give a broad-stroke of a larger campaign picture, perhaps I bogged the game down a bit.

Whether this is all true or just in my head, I can at least take what I felt were slow points or errors at the table, examine them and try to improve my skills as a game master to avoid those 'mistakes' in the future.

As I've always said, everyone at the table should be having fun and getting what they want and need out the the gaming experience and that goes for the DM as well. But players and DM should be open to improvements if something misses the mark.


  1. I haven't got much to compare you against, since the few times I tried to play pen and paper stuff in the past my friends proved to be awful DMs. However, I think you're being overly self-critical. I was very tired last session, and nearly nodded off toward the end, but it wasn't due to boredom.

  2. I'm looking at it more of where my head-space was and how to stay in a positive, interactive space. I want to be sure to stay flexible within the session. Monday evenings can be fatiguing at times. It's no knock(spell) on you or any of the other players. I'm just trying to improve my DMing skills and to look at it objectively. If I feel something is not how I want it to be presented in the game then I want to try to improve it for myself as a DM.

    I also have a public game coming up and I want to iron out some of my DMing issues.

  3. I'm sure you are doing a fine job. Your session recaps sound great. I wouldn't worry about railroading. Every GM needs an outline or plan when showing up at the table. While complete free form improv works great for jazz, I like a bit more structure at the table.

  4. I was really tired during the last session, too. That's why there were a lot of yawns from. It wasn't due to boredom. I actually think the change of location was good. While I have very, very little experience as a DM, I understand that there is a balance between keeping the game open (sandbox) and directing the game (railroading). Sometimes groups (especially our group) needs direction in order to not wander aimlessly. I think you are doing a good job of that.

  5. Paul,

    I think you've stumbled upon the big difference between modules and campaign gaming. Its EXCEEDINGLY difficult to make a module have the same 'feel' as a campaign game even if the campaign is linear or directed. I played in an open free form campaign where we would wait to see who showed up and what party we were in the mood to play. there were maybe 6 - 8 parties running around in the game world. Some only had the sole purpose of traveling and taking encounters other were focused on a specific goal (rob such and such tomb) but it was always random and unprepared for the DM. Up until I moved to Tucson I hadnt really played Modules and when a module goes bad as far as railroading goes, it can be really jarring to players. Having said that I dont think you were pushing us too hard. Pushing on to the Tomb came up in the narrative of the campaign so it made sense. I felt a little weird cause we hadnt 'cleared' the last dungeon and being a completist I would've liked to get all the carpets and rugs outa that place before leaving for who knows how long. I think we were just having an off night a bit, some were tired some were drawing and not super focused. More nudity on your part would probably help keep us focused.

  6. Don't worry, the labyrinth beneath Zenopus' tower will await your return. And I promise more nudity in the next session!

  7. Wow. Nudity. A avant-garde idea to keep player...attention?! I feel like I'm missing out on some awesome gameplay. Too bad it was so many years and miles away.