First Time DM: Session Zero. Time to Panic!
For anyone who doesn’t know by now, regardless of my many posts, tweets and mentions on-stream, I’m part of the cast of Rivals of Waterdeep, a long-running actual-play Dungeons & Dragons show that airs Sundays on Twitch.
One thing the show has done each season is rotate DMs, Dungeon Masters, essentially the person who crafts the story and guides the players through it. They direct the general tone of the adventure, whether made from scratch or using a pre-written adventure. They play all the characters, from the NPCs to the big bad evil monsters.
It’s fun, but it’s a lot of work. And I never really thought that work would be for me. However, as we were wrapping up season 10, and were talking about who might take the reins for the next season, the idea was introduced that Eugenio Vargas (DM Jazzy Hands) and I could Co-DM.
The two of us joined the cast at the same time and our characters are linked in-game, so it seemed like a fun way to continue our energy and try something new for the show.
I won’t lie, I was still very nervous, but I said yes. I knew it would be a lot of work, I knew I would have an excellent cast to lean on and in Eugenio, a lot of experience running games to draw from.
Even so, I’m definitely more of a player than a Dungeon Master! It’s my first time ever doing such a thing. So welcome this post and a subsequent series of posts about what I am learning, feeling, and experiencing going through it for the first time.
Needless to say, there were a lot of nerves. Sometimes so many that I had to push thoughts about working on it to the side and zone out. The nicest thing while also being weird was there were so many people reassuring me that I was going to be fine. And it wasn’t that I didn’t believe them, it was more… where is this faith coming from?
I had never done this before, so there was no baseline experience for anyone to believe in me. And that really did a number on my brain. It’s like being complimented on something you have no control over. It’s very nice, but you’re never sure how to accept it.
And… that’s a tiny lie. I have tried my hand at being a Dungeon Master before, but it was very bad.
It was back in the 80s, from the hardbound books and manuals and I wanted to try running the party through a room, not even an entire adventure, just a room. And I messed it up so hard. It was a lot less clear in those days what to read and not to read, and I ended up giving more details than I should have. As this was before any of us were meta-gamers, it didn’t go over well. I got a little bit teased for it, and I didn’t try again.
So… nearly 40 or so years later, who’s got two thumbs and is stepping into the DM seat? This guy! Get your character sheet ready and prepare to roll for initiative! 💖