First Time DM: Episode Three. Someone Else’s Shoes!
So where were we? Oh right, by this time, I’d really stepped in it. It’s one thing to have story ideas down on paper, especially when those ideas are mostly based in collaborative scenes with the players/cast. It’s quite another when the pacing and movement of things is really all down to you.
Thankfully, there are two of us! The load is shared.
By now in the season, I had gotten into the fictional mind, so to speak, of a few characters and one–really gross–monster, but this episode I was leaning a bit more into character work.
Part of the adventure we incorporated into the session involved some pre-written characters and content from The Wild Beyond the Witchlight, so all told, I could have chosen to describe the characters, what they looked and sounded like and left it at that.
I typically don’t do voices, I don’t do accents, and it’s been so long since I’ve done any sort of theater that very few people have seen me act as another character outside of the TTRPG shows and one-shots. Even so… I really wanted to do a Goblin voice.
Did I have any idea or inkling what they sounded like? Nope.
Did I let that stop me? Not at all!
In our setting the scene, we needed there to be multiple characters to pull off the experience we wanted the players to have, so again it’s really nice that there are two of us. Because Eugenio and I get to play off of each other as well as the cast. I don’t know how lone Dungeon Masters and Storytellers keep so many characters straight in their heads!
I will always reiterate trusting in the players (and cast) because they lean in to whatever we throw at them. There’s the old joke about Black people in a horror movie saying, “Nah!” and going home. Thankfully, the Rivals head towards dangerous situations, even though they have food, drinks and books at home.
Not only did I play a Goblin NPC, but I also stepped into the shoes of one of the proprietors of The Witchlight Carnival and that was a delight. I wanted the character to feel different than other silly and carefree types of characters I’d done before and I think it came off well. What we’d written did need the character to carry to scene forward, so I worried that I was talking too much, but that’s something that I think Eugenio and I both worry about when neither of us should. 😅
Seriously, you should see our backchannel of messages during the episode. On second thought, no you shouldn’t. Ignore the people behind the curtain!
Another thing I entered with trepidation and turned out to have no worries was that feeling of setting up a game board for others, promising them it will be fun, and after the first roll of the die, no one’s that interested in playing. But barring extreme situations–your players will walk down the paths you have set out for them.
We set up a few options and vignettes for the players to engage in at the Carnival, prepared for them to have interested in one or all of them. But I didn’t really know how that would go. The events had descriptions and defined rolls to meet or beat to win, and that’s it. So I was pleasantly surprised when, after giving a barker’s spiel about an event, the player just ran with it.
Tanya, Shareef, Masood and LaTia happily narrated their activities and attempts after their rolls–success or failure–and it was a delight!
I freely admit that I go into most moments of the show not really knowing specifically what I’m going to say, only having an outline of our plan in my head. Points to you if you can spot my “panicked” faces. But between me and Eugenio, I think it works well because we are often finishing or adding onto each other’s thoughts and sentences.
I know that one day I may decide to run something on my own, and there will be moments where I’ll have brain freeze. But I’ll also know that a good table isn’t just about the DM. It’s about players who want to have a good time, and a table where everyone doesn’t need to know every person, place, thing in the lore and/or rule of the game backwards and forwards.
I am lucky in that Rivals of Waterdeep is a live streamed show. So our “house rules” are whatever we need them to be, and whatever makes for a good 2-hour show.
In real-time, we’re approaching our 5th episode, that’s halfway through the season. And in the next entry, I’ll talk about what it’s like to actually go off book and into the first part of this season’s story the two of us made up all on our own! 💖