Friday, August 28, 2015

The Dungeon Master's Study

I've recently made the transition from player to game master in my gaming group.  I must say, it's good to be back in the GM's chair.  It's where I started my role playing journey several years ago, creating a gaming group where none existed before.  Since that time I've moved to a new city, found a new table of nerds, and had the opportunity to both play and run various games.  Recently I decided that, at least for me, being the game master is simply the best way to experience a role-playing game.

One of the coolest parts about being a dungeon master is creating an environment where you can develop your campaign and build an entire world for your players.

Most of the game masters I have known have a little room secreted away somewhere.  It's where the DM goes for inspiration, reference material, and solace.  It's typically behind a heavy wooden door with a lock that can stump the most skilled rogue.  It's warded by an arcane ritual put in place by a corrupted player-character-turned-lich who now serves a terrifying evil.  It's protected by pit traps and a pair of those gargoyles who always lie or tell the truth.

It's a special place.  A happy place.  This room is the dungeon master's study.  A laboratory of secrets, lies, treasures unimaginable, and terrors unknown.  Every shelf, every surface is awash with books, dice, miniatures, maps, drawings, paints and brushes, and notebooks with illegible writings scrawled in an invented ancient dialect created for a campaign that may never happen.  This place is a monument to the mental investments that DMs pour into their games.

If you are ever invited to visit such a temple, do accept the invitation.  It's a really neat place to be.  During your visit, the DM may scramble to hide away some hastily written notes they don't want you to see.  Don't make this any more difficult for them than it already is.  When a dungeon master has a great idea for an upcoming game, it's hell holding it inside.  They want to spill the beans.  That's part of what makes a DM a DM.  They want to share what they have planned for the next game session.  Especially if the idea will fuel the characters to make choices that make them multi-faceted, conflicted, and interesting.

My gaming studio contains ideas that have been cross-pollinated with a mountain of RPG source books from various settings and systems and at least one book on historical sailing ships.  Lots of hand drawn maps, sketches and diagrams.  Fictional family crests and curious runes scrawled on scraps of paper scattered across my desk.  All of this paper-based content is balanced with a dose of technology - my computer, a scanner, some custom-written software, and folder after folder of digital photographs of ancient castles, weapons and armor, far off places and incredible landscapes that serve as inspiration when building worlds, characters and artifacts in my mind.  In one corner is a box full of dice, another is full of paints, half-painted miniatures and a multitude of tiny brushes.  These are the tools of the trade for me.

What kind of stuff is in your Dungeon Master's study?  How does it help you prepare for your games?