Wednesday, October 28, 2020


It is a sad and unfortunate trend that failing to practice some aspects of life leads to less practicing of the thing...especially if said practice fails to deliver immediate feedback and/or gratification. "Working out" (i.e. exercise), for example. You get out of the habit of exercising and you just have a harder and harder time coming back to it, regardless of its benefit you your health and how much you know about the "proper" way to do it. 

Blogging, for me, is likewise one of those things. The longer I step away from the keyboard, the more reluctant I am to actually sit down and write something (and, yes, the more pressure I feel to "write something good" that makes up for my absence). This is why it behooves folks (me) to get something, anything up once in a while, just to keep from letting it fade completely from the mind. 

[for instance, I could have posted something about Lovecraft Country two weeks ago. Unfortunately, it's "climactic" tenth episode was so stupendously poor and anticlimactic...especially when regarded next to the absolutely fantastic episodes six through nine...that I just couldn't bring myself to write anything. Broke my heart to see how they messed the bed...and really, the episode even started with a bang before puking all over itself. Just sad. Really]

But I've bitched and moaned about this particular subject (with regard to blogging) in the past. Today, I was reminded of how much it applies to Dungeon Mastering, and the result was me becoming...mmm...not upset or distressed, so much as wistful. Wistfully sad, I suppose. 

I'm rusty. I've been spending a lot of time...I mean, a LOT of time...on world building theory the last few weeks. Months, maybe. And absolutely ZERO time actually playing. And while the latter isn't terribly unusual given the state of my life over the last seven-eight years, it was driven home to me this morning (in a moment of clarity) just how useless and ridiculous it is to spend time researching and worrying about an imaginary game world when there's no game being run. 

And while many, many folks (including myself) would give that statement a big "duh," I also realized just how rusty I am when it comes to actually doing the "Dungeon Master" thing. Even when I've had the chance/opportunity to run games the last couple years...or the last couple decades, now that I think about it...I've had an incredibly difficult time getting into the mindset of a campaign-running DM

Running adventures I can do with relative mastery of the rules is such that I slide into the captain's seat quite readily. But running adventures is only half...maybe only a third...of the work of being a Dungeon Master. The other half (or two-thirds) is running a campaign (or running a campaign PLUS building a world, in a three-part model). And it's been just So Damn Long since I've run a campaign. And I mean ANY TYPE of campaign for any role-playing game. 

In the past, I ran campaigns for Ars Magica and Vampire the Masquerade and Marvel Superheroes and Stormbringer and Star Frontiers and wasn't only Dungeons & Dragons. I've run campaigns for many systems in the past...starting players off with beginning characters, providing them a world to explore, seeing their characters develop over months of game play, interacting with the imaginary environment, transforming the imaginary environment with their actions.

But I haven't done that kind of thing in years. Decades.

The rust is thick when it comes to this skill set, and as I attempt to (critically) analyze my feelings on the matter, I see me beating myself up: I am older, smarter, wiser, more knowledgeable than I was in my youth. Surely I should be able to set up and RUN a campaign? Surely, right?!

I'll repeat: the rust is thick. And running a campaign isn't (necessarily) least not a "good" campaign. And there, I think, I see the crux of the problem...or at least a major stumbling block: with age I've become far too judgmental, even of myself. Too critical of even my own failings. Holding onto attachments of wanting perfection...this is a common refrain in my life these days, a constant source of irritation and sadness, a constant burden on my own sense of self-worth. Why aren't I better?

Or even: why aren't I the best? As if any person can be "the best" at anything. As If. short time for writing has come to an end for the day (kid's out of class and it's time for me to put on my "entertainer" hat. More on this later, perhaps with a little more upbeat conclusion.

I feel upbeat, though, just having written this down. It is helpful to identify problems...after all, the first step to getting yourself out of a hole is to stop digging, yeah? 

Later, gators.  : )


  1. Hello. You've titled the post "rust" but your words suggest that you're also chasing detail, precision and perfection. I'm reminded of Rimmer from Red Dwarf's story about his exams for being an officer - he spent so much time on his study planner and making it so organised and perfect that he forgot to study and failed.

    When bringing rusted machinery back to use you have to lubricate and ease it in giving it a shakedown before it's ready for some heavy load. So maybe just get yourself some players together and run a few simple vanilla dungeons well. Might help you get your mojo back and put yourself back in the frame of mind for the bigger projects.

    But remember the real joy comes from experiencing the game (either as a player or DM) not prepping it.

    1. @ Jacob:

      I appreciate your comments, but honestly I've been finding "just running dungeons well" to leave me feeling hollow lately. That's something I hope to address (and elaborate on) more specifically in a follow-up to this post.

    2. I'll look out for that post.

  2. I was going to point out something but then you brought it up yourself.

    I've also noticed that compared to when I was a pre-teen/teenager, or even in my 20s, I'm just a lot more demanding of myself when it comes to running a campaign than I used to be.

    Especially when it comes to running my own games, this hits me hard. I try to run Flying Swordsmen or Chanbara, and I can get a session or three, no problem. But building up a campaign, I notice all these little things I wish I'd done better in the rules, or the pressure I put on myself to run an amazing game (since I wrote the rules, I should, surely!) when actually my players are content with the game I'm running...

    West Marches has been the best thing I've done gaming-wise in a long time, honestly. It puts the pressure on the players to make it a good game. I just need to make the world. Next time I run FS or Chanbara, I plan to do it very sandboxy and hope that will work.

  3. I know what you mean. I have not posted anything of substance to my Atheism blog in a very long time.

    Though I disagree on Lovecraft Country, I enjoyed it beginning to end. I was also thinking of a post, but might be a couple of weeks too late.

    Here is hoping to see more from you soon!