First Time DM: Episode One. It’s Showtime!
In the previous entry, I talked about all the thoughts and feelings and anxieties that rose to the surface once I agreed to the Co-DM role. And while I don’t think I’ll ever be 100% past it, it has gotten easier to manage with every conversation with Eugenio and the cast.
It’s been suggested by LaTia that we share our working notes after this season is over and I will absolutely give it some thought. But by this time our document was still in the earliest stages. Still asking questions of ourselves and each other.
- What do we want to do?
- What story do we want to tell?
- What are the big ideas and what are the small ones?
It was mostly Slack and Discord messages back and forth, and we reached out to each of the cast members with the following questions (edited for potential spoilers):
- The Rivals just (did what they did in Season 10) and there isn’t anything demanding your attention. So what does your character want to do next? You can tell us what they want to do in the near future and/or in a more general sense, whatever you think is most helpful for us to know as we plan our season.
- Possibly related question: What would your character need to do/accomplish/obtain to feel like they had “succeeded” as an adventurer? What would make them feel like they could retire satisfied? The answer can absolutely be “nothing, they’ll never retire” if that’s the case.
- What else would you like for us to know about your character that you think would be important or helpful in our planning?
We also knew that we would incorporate some content from The Wild Beyond the Witchlight, so we had some reading up of our own to do. Anything past that was either of us coming up with an idea, running it up the flagpole and seeing if the other saluted it.
I will say, it’s a delight to work with Eugenio. We frequently have “Same Brain Syndrome,” which often comes up in interviews or panels. But the give and take energy we’ve worked out playing Kent and Virgil served us well in a very honest, “There are no bad ideas,” way. Just determining if what we wanted to do was too much for what we have to work with in terms of episode length and episode number.
There are ten episodes per season, each airs for 2 hours. But there’s starting soon time, and introductions and sponsor mentions, and recaps and closing. So it really comes down to about maybe an hour and 45-50 minutes or so. Thankfully, there’s no content on our own channel after us, so slightly late starts or pushing it a minute or so past our usual end time isn’t a huge deal.
Episode 1 had us time-jump one year forward and walk the Rivals through what they did during the past 12 months. Going in, we weren’t sure if we’d play out those scenes or just let the players tell us, but we decided to lean in to some “Yes, and…” thinking and let it happen. It gave everyone a chance to catch up, flex their chops and I ran into another DM lesson: naming characters.
I won’t lie, I had a text document up with some randomly generated names and some I added myself. Admittedly I didn’t really think through using Xune as a name, since the closed captioning didn’t handle it well, but it made for some fun chat comments. Still, I had to make a note just in case they come up again in the future.
Also, it’s extremely fun and easy for me to improv a scene on the fly, what I was missing however, was in-world lore. Thankfully, Eugenio had my back, sprinkling in an appropriate reference when it was needed, which also served our Co-DM style very well.
The scene with Tanya’s character Selise using her year off to commune with Tyr was interesting. I took a page from Eugenio and used my “DM powers” to specifically set the scene and her character in a place to run through what was going on in my head. I knew I wanted to play out a conversation, but didn’t know with whom. I looked up the deity, and considered a priest or acolyte, but very much in the moment, it turned into a child.
The idea of justice, fairness and redemption being something expressed through the eyes of a child just sort of… worked. It was a fun scene to improv on the fly and it allowed us to let the viewers know that the character had changed her multi-class and Paladin’s new oath.
That part is some of what’s most interesting about doing this for the first time. It’s not just for players around a table, we’re putting on a live show. Not quite to the level of writing for a TV show, but we have to make sure that viewers and listeners understand what’s happening since they can’t see our character sheets.
Still, I made it through the first episode, my heart was in my throat for a lot of it. I know I was leaning on Eugenio to get me through, but we got through it and had fun.
As the episode wrapped up, we got to introduce a thing that I wrote as a small idea and thought might end up being a throwaway gag, then it turned into a lot more.
But more about that… next time. 💖