A perfect night of D&D for me is one where either a lot of plot and adventure happened, or none happened and lots of roleplaying happened instead. Either way, there is usually some component of us laughing our entire butts off at least once during the session. Like, they have to be reattached.
Crouching Stoic, Hidden Jester
Some people want immersion, realism, and a very serious tone in their D&D games. I usually drive those people insane, as I only want the first two. I still want to be emotionally invested in the story, but a DM’s plans do not usually survive a night with me. I don’t mean to do it. OK, I actually do. A lot of the time I’m trying to be funny. But I never mean it to go that far. This is not to say I’m out to amuse myself at the expense of derailing things, but sometimes I’ll choose actions I find entertaining over those that seem directly useful. Sometimes this has blown up in my face, and sometimes it pays off in shiny D&D memories I keep in a little box for rainy days.
Though my group has had a D&D game going (mostly) regularly for over a year now, it’s been a couple years since I’ve been able to play in a D&D campaign as a player. I now DM for a group of wildly imaginative players who rarely do anything I’m expecting them to, sometimes because the option seemed “more fun than the alternative”. They remind me an awful lot of me, and it is crazy difficult, and I love it.
One thing that I find strange about our current campaign is that I’ve heard it referred to as “very Matt”, which I interpreted as “freaking weird and a lot of fun”. Indeed, it is both of those things, as I hope I am. However, the campaign being this way is not my fault. Like at all.
You see, I’ve come to realize something about myself as a DM. I don’t run a D&D game the same way I play one.
The Cold Grey Cement Idea Garden
The campaign I’m running right now isn’t particularly strange on its face. Our current setting right now isn’t designed to keep the group laughing every week. They’re in a city, trying to track down stolen magic items. Is it interesting? Sure. Is it fun? Seems to be. But funny? Not so much.
When I DM, I try to lay down the main idea for the story of the night. I don’t try to set up an elaborate plot to tell a joke or put the players through ridiculous situations. Sure, there was the Plants vs. Zombies parody a few weeks back, but that wasn’t particularly “funny”. It was more just an homage. (And by “homage”, I mean “an idea I stole for my campaign”)
Given how I like to play D&D and how I like to write strange articles
when I’m completely tapped out for ideas, I’m a little unnerved at how normal the things I set out for them are. It barely feels like something I’d do at all. Of course, my players are awesome and do whatever it is they wanted with it, which usually winds up being utterly ridiculous and wonderful, but it is a little strange for me.
The Kind Of Solace I’d Imagine Garden Gnomes Enjoy
Though I am a bit weirded out by my split serious-DM-personality, it’s not as if I’m a joyless stone golem behind the screen. Though I don’t try to make a lot of jokes myself or set up deliberately ridiculous scenarios, I do make an effort to enable my players to do what they will, even if it’s weird. In doing so, I find myself making a lot of the same faces I’ve seen on my previous
victims DM’s, and seeing the same joy that I get on mine when I’m off my leash. The game works best like this of everything I’ve tried so far for us (and for me).
What I suspect may happen is that I’m going to keep practicing as a DM and get comfortable enough with rolling with anything that comes my way that I can start lobbing curveballs just like my players do. Doing so might make for some really interesting story developments and roleplay opportunities, but keeping myself from completely shooting my campaign and everyone’s enjoyment of the game in the foot is going to be a difficult task. The idea of being able to wield omnipotent power while being really weird is incredibly tempting, but I get an odd sense of worry about it like I’d be opening the Ark of the Covenant.
Maybe I’ll save my face melting off and everyone at the table being killed by chain lightning for the finale.