Restless, your humble Dungeon Master

This is me... if I were an Android device.

Your humble dungeon master. I'm not really a killer DM.

(Am I?)

About me

I'm a forty-something married computer nerd who hasn't gamed since the early 1990s except for a couple sessions here and there. I am trying to get back in the swing of things and since I always DMed when I was younger, I guess I'm going to end up DMing again.

That's okay. I like it.

My game of choice is, surprise-surprise, old-school D&D. We used to play a weird mish-mash of Red Box B/X and AD&D, but once I started college in the late eighties and AD&D 2e began hitting its stride I was already moving out of gaming.

Now I'm back after I ran across this article late one night while browsing Slashdot in the summer of 1997. I couldn't believe there was a fourth edition coming – I didn't even know there had been a third! It broke my brain… I wondered if anybody even remembered the stuff we used to play, so I began to investigate and found the humble early rumblings of the OSR.

This whole time I've meant to start a game but never got my act together. Now, almost eight years later of thinking about it it's finally coming to fruition.

DMing style

Here are the "merit badges" that exemplify the style of game I run (or at least, aspire to run); hover them to get more information on their meaning:

Let's get this out of the way first

The DM is in charge Rule zero is in effect: the DM is the final arbiter in the game. Let's keep the game moving by not bickering about rules or rulings. If you don't like a decision, we'll make an on-the-spot ruling and then go into it after the session is done. We can see what we can do to address it after the fact (if anything, and without retconning).

As a corollary to rule zero, rules lawyering by players is right out.

I like to tinker I am an inveterate rules tinkerer. I love making new rules, monsters, spells, etc, and changing the old ones. Expect it.

This is a beer and pretzels game Most people play the game to have fun. We're here to have a good time and keep it lighthearted, but we all know the gamer that took the game Way Too Seriously™. Please, don't be that guy. (I guess this is as good as any time to throw down a rule: don't be a dick. Nobody likes gaming with a dick.)

Here's how my game rolls

Player skill is often a deciding factor Players should bring their brains to the table. Instead of relying solely on dice rolls to find traps and secret doors, expect to actively look for their signs. Want to defeat a really difficult monster? Use some interesting tactics. Also, sometimes I put something in the game I just don't think anyone can get by, but your creativity might just get you past it and into an area that's never been explored.

Death lurks around every corner Character death is a real possibility. Plot immunity does not happen for PCs or NPCs. Your precious snowflake character concept might not make it past the first room of the dungeon, but know that if he does you did it on your own! Your characters don't have a safety net.

Be prepared to run! Sometimes you have to be ready to haul ass! Not every monster can be defeated, and not everything is “level appropriate.” If you live by the phrase “death before dishonor,” be ready to roll up a lot of fresh first-level characters… I think a more apt phrase may be “live by the sword, die by the sword.”

What you can expect from the game, content-wise

Exploration and mystery This game is something of a "West Marches" game where players are presented with a wide-open area to explore. However, as you get further out into the wilds, things may get a little wilder and woolier than you expect…

Also, like old computer RPGs from the '80s, town is somewhat abstracted in that there's not really adventure to be had there. Rather, it's just a place to rest and resupply. Adventure is out there and not in town, so let's find it out there.

As a note: I like sandboxy games where players explore and find their own adventure; however, I don't like the “let's wander around town and start shit” game where the players burn down the tavern just to make stuff happen. That drives me batshit crazy, not to mention it's the perfect way to make sure you don't get invited back.1) (Need I reiterate the “don't be a dick” rule?)

I love me some wacky Gonzo is awesome!

I like me some wacky. That's the way my world is put together. You don't get to pick how the real world is put together, so you don't necessarily get to pick how the fantasy world is put together.

I think of fantasy and science fiction as chocolate and peanut butter in that each is great but when you get them together they're even better. If you don't like them together or you're allergic to one of them… well, that's unfortunate.

Also, falling in with gonzo is the fact that not everything makes sense, or at least sense that you can make of it. If every trap has to be thoughtfully designed, if every dungeon space has to be ecologically-based, if every room that has an orc and a pie ruins your fun… then you will find things that will make you unhappy. Sorry, story-gamer, this isn't for you.

Content may be disturbing to some players; player discretion advised Sometimes stuff is just… wrong. Sometimes things make you wince and feel a touch squeamish. In short, some content may or may not be disturbing to some players, although I suspect most players won't be bothered by most of it.

I mean “disturbing content” in more of a Lovecraftian sense, but it could also be in a “Saw” or Manson gratuitous gore or violence sense, too. In general, graphic sex and sexual violence are off the table (I'm not talking about boobies; I likes me some boobies), but other taboos like slavery, human sacrifice, genocide, violence against children, etc., are fair game.

I guess what I'm trying to say is that my games can potentially be rated M for mature for violence, disturbing scenes and language. ;-)

(On the plus(?) side, if I am making the game more squeamish, it means I'm more comfortable with the folks around the table.)

Rule of the dice, baby! Normally this DM merit badge is for dice, meaning that the dice are rolled in the open and there is no fudging. I'm not so much on the rolling all dice in the open because I think it lends some tension to the game when the DM's dice are rolled in secret for things the characters could not know, but I definitely won't be fudging results. Most rolls that can be in the open will be in the open.

However, I also think of dice as an agent of randomness and serendipity. Sometimes I want the universe to speak to me, and I am just its oracle at the table. Dice, cards, random number generators, the position of light play on a surface between blinks, etc., are all means to that end.

I like to riff and improvise at the table I can't think of everything. I mean, really, we all have limits to our creativity and we often fall back on a small number of tried-and-true ideas. This means that with the amount of content that has to be made for a game there may be a bit of a rut that develops. This means that often times during games I will try to make some things up on the spot (for good or ill).

I mirror back good player ideas Hand-in-hand with the improvisation, as the game goes forward the players will often push things in interesting ways or an idea will float across the table that's just too good to pass up. Often, I will grab it and run with it (although perhaps not at that session), especially with any twists I come up with for it.

If you aren't happy, talk to us about it or just don't play anymore. We're all adults here.