First Time DM: Special Features

Marvel Comics The Uncanny X-Men volume 1, issue 139. Featuring images of Colossus, Angel, Nightcrawler, Wolverine and Storm all facing off against dangerous enemies. In the center is Kitty Pryde with the caption, "Welcome to the X-Men, Kitty Pryde. Hope You Survive the Experience!"

As much as I’ve been meaning to get back to this for a while, I did survive the experience of my first time being a DM, and I also survived doing it live on stage at a tabletop convention. OOF! 😳

When asked about advice for first time DM/GM/Storytelling, I have said, “Don’t let your first time be on an actual play show watched by hundreds of people.” Which, I admit, may not be universally applicable advice, but to honest, it didn’t go all that badly. I might almost be ready to handle it on my own someday.


However, I did want to share one thing that I was pretty proud of, and that was my scene or story idea for a fan convention that was taking place in their home. I had originally intended for it to be a tiny hook that essentially got them out of Trollskull Manor. The sort of meta idea being that as the “celebrities” they wouldn’t want to stick around too long. Also since Eugenio and I needed to take Kent and Virgil off the table, so to speak, it was a good reason for our characters to stay behind and keep an eye on things.

Regardless of how much you see that I wrote, I only meant it to be a small thing. But as they say, the best laid plans, etc. caused the mention of it to come right at the end of the first episode, and bless the cast, they leaned all the way into it! So it ended up taking a larger role in the second episode and I was both pleased, but nervous because we did have story beats to hit, however it was early enough in the season that we had time to adjust.

Hey! While I have your attention for a moment, I’d love to make you aware of the fact that Rivals of Waterdeep currently have an Indiegogo to help fund the rest of our story as our characters reach Level 20, something not a lot of Actual Plays do over time. Please check it out and help spread the word! Thanks! 💖

Eugenio and I had a shared Google Document, and there were times that I overdid it… this is one of those times. So without further ado (and with Eugenio’s permission to share), here is what I wrote for Rivals⚔C.O.N.

The faces of the cast as it slowly sank in? Priceless.

Scene/Story Ideas

Rivals⚔C.O.N. (aka The Rivals of Waterdeep Coterie of Notables)

“Rivals CON” for short. Admirers, well-wishers, etc. never “fans”.

Background thread: In the year since the events of last season, the Rivals have become well-known and even a bit “famous” (or at the least, revered) in Waterdeep and beyond.

Scene Premise: A group of Rivals fans and cosplayers that have rented Trollskull Manor to hold a convention. There is “official” merch and costumes (Acquisitions Incorporated), but also homespun (literally) costumes resembling the Rivals’ usual adventuring clothes. It is happening in the Manor and cannot be avoided, short of staying in their rooms all day, or leaving the Manor.

Available Hooks

  • We Love The Rivals: 
    • Selise: There are distinct Paladin, Blood Hunter, and Ranger outfits honoring Selise’s multi-class.
    • Gazrick: Planned seminar on the viability of MFTs or Icewind Dale “recipes”
    • D’Hani: Art class noting her gift for aerial perspective
    • Shaka: RivalsCON mystery/clue hunting contest
  • 100% Respectful: No one appears to be using makeup or magic to alter their skin color or appearance. Each cosplayer dressed as them is clearly doing so because they’re a similar skin tone, body type, or race (species? culture?) as the Rival they’re portraying.
  • 100% Civilians: No one dressed as the Rivals gives off the aura of “Adventurer”. If any actual Rival speaks kindly or earnestly to someone dressed as them, it may rub off on them, “Their eyes widen a little, they appear to have a bit more presence than they did a moment ago,” (and we’ll give them a name and drop a mention later in the season that they’ve become a Tier 1 class NPC).
  • Are you us?: If they get into the crowd, Perception check to make sure they’re talking to an actual Rival or a really good costumed player.
  • Should I stay or should I go?: For whatever reason, Kent and Virgil decide to stay behind. Whether out of bemused curiosity or to make sure there’s no damage to the Manor and no one straying into their rooms (again).
    • I had a side-joke idea for a “Graz’zt look-alike wet t-shirt contest” that actually drew Kent’s attention, but it seems a little convoluted to spin up.

You don’t have to go home, but you can’t stay here: As a means of escape, Brian informs the Rivals that tickets to the Witchlight Carnival have been delivered as a gift from a high-ranking Waterdeep family (pick one? Or no one?).

typewriter with a black and red ribbon. the words "stories matter" are typed on the paper.
Photo by Suzy Hazelwood on

To say that the cast “ran with it” (instead of running away from it) would be an understatement. They were all in, which is something that both Eugenio and I noted in the document, and which made it much less stressful to continue running the adventure.

There’s a nice blend between players causing chaos, but also going along with the story, and I like to think Rivals falls in line with that most of time. There are certainly moments where we focus on something the DM was absolutely not expecting, but I think we’re all cognizant of when things need to move along and when there’s time to go off the beaten path.

Thanks to my time sitting in the DM’s chair, I now have a slowly-growing document filling with story and scene ideas. I hope that I’ll get to run them one day, maybe even for the Rivals of Waterdeep. And here is where I’ll mention our Indiegogo again because while we were receiving financial support from Wizards of the Coast, their change of plans happens right as our characters have hit Level 19, and it would be a shame to just stop the storytelling with an awkward fade to black.

I’ve been inspired by my time on this show to continue having fun and doing amazing things in the TTRPG space. I hope a little window into my process for an element of Season 11 has been interesting or entertaining, and I hope to see you in chat on Sundays for our next Rivals of Waterdeep session! 💖

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1 Response

  1. January 20, 2023

    […] ideas. I’ve got a story in mind, but I need to refine it, because as you may have also seen, I over-write. We have about 2 ½ hours for the game, and we’ll be allowing charitable donations to give […]

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