Back in the Saddle Again

I’m writing this the night before, but when this goes live, I’ll be in the middle of DMing my first real session of D&D since October 2009.  I wonder how hard it’s going to be to get back in the swing of things.  I’ve been working on my adventure for about two months now, and I’ve even playtested the major encounters twice to make sure they’re challenging without being overwhelming.  I’ve got my minis already in a little plastic bag under my spot at the table so I can set them up behind the screen.  The adventure’s printed out and I’ve double-checked it to make sure everything printed out properly.  But I’m still worried…

What if I’ve lost my touch?  I prepped a lot for this session, but I’m not usually big on the advance prep.  I like having a vague idea about where the story needs to go, the NPCs/monsters for the encounters, a map, and that’s it.  The more I plan, the more I feel locked into those plans so I can’t adapt on the fly nearly as well (and I’ve got at least two players who are really going to make me think on my feet it seems).  I mean it’s pretty straight-forward for one of my adventures, and it was designed that way.  I’ve got too many new players to have too much fun with terrain.

What if no one shows up?  I’ve only got a couple of people I know are going to be here.  My roommate obviously will.  But what about L and her husband?  I might’ve said something to piss her off when we talked tonight, and I said they couldn’t bring their dog (I have two cats who’ve never been close to a dog larger than chihuahua sized).  And M and R haven’t said a word to me, but my roommate says they’re both playing (which is odd because I thought R was very allergic to cats).  M and R are also married and have had a tendency to get into fights over M hanging out with me and my roommate – not like that, but it’s a very long story that’s frankly none of your business.  I’m making braised pork for everyone, but I don’t know if anyone’s even going to show.

And no one’s playing a Leader.  Sure, M, R, and D haven’t made their characters yet.  But my roommate and S are both playing Strikers, while L is playing a controller.  Knowing M’s personality, she’s probably going to go for a Striker too.  R could go either way.  And D’s really green when it comes to D&D.  If no one plays a Leader, what am I going to do?  I don’t want to run the game with the kid gloves on, but at the same time I don’t want a TPK.  I’ve got a couple of solutions up my sleeve that might help, but it just won’t be the same without a Leader to keep everyone on their feet.

And, worst of all, what if I completely bomb?  I suck at doing accents and voices.  I don’t know if they’ll want to interact with the NPCs much, but I just can’t think of anything interesting I can do with the one NPC they’ll be able to interact with.  I know M plays a lot of Storyteller/World of Darkness games, which are a lot more talky than D&D is.  How is that going to work out when I can’t even hold a British accent for more than a few sentences?  What if I can’t get the new players to understand the rules?  What if everyone hates the adventure?  Or me as DM?

Of course, this is just nerves.  Once I sit down behind the screen, I’ll be fine.  This happens every single time I’m about to start a session, from the moment one ends until the moment I say “Okay, so you’re…” and start everything off.  Once I get going, I’m never worried or nervous or stressed.  And once it’s done, I never worry about how well I did.  I already know exactly how well or poorly I did the second we’re done.  It’s always the next session I’m worried about.  But once it’s started, all I see is the game world, the map, and the PCs.  And honestly, that’s how it should be.


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2 CommentsLeave a comment

  1. I have a very similar experience right before I run a game, though my fears, I think, are subconscious enough that I have a difficult time explaining the specific fears I feel. I get this sense of something heavy hanging over me, a weighty responsibility to entertain everyone, and for some reason the whole affair feels like an immense task I want to weasel out of. I put off game start as long as I can get away with it, which I admit is really inconsiderate of my friends’ time investment. But then, once I finally start the game and the players make their first decisions, I remember why I enjoy this hobby so much, and by the time we get through with the session, I’m buzzing with eagerness and can’t wait until the next session.

    • Don’t put it off. Just get started and go. If you feel the need to put things off to warm up, try to get the players in character or at least discussing the game. Something as simple as “You’re in the tavern/town. What are you guys doing in your downtime?” can kill a half hour and give you time to compose yourself and get in the right frame of mind to run the game without feeling like you’re taking away from anyone’s time. If they’re in the middle of something, ask someone to recap for everyone what’s going on to make sure everyone understands the story/quest/motivation/whatever. It also gives your players a moment to work themselves into their characters.

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